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Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Month of Rocksmith

Exactly one month has passed since Santa Clause left a new XBox and Rocksmith game under our Christmas tree, but we've really only had access for a few weeks. First, we went out of town for a week the day after Christmas. Then there was the latency issue, now mostly resolved. So, we've really only been playing Rocksmith for something like two weeks.

We may still have some minor adjustment to do on the audio-to-video latency. If I watch the video while playing, I seem to be "off" just a bit. If I don't watch the video part too closely and just listen to the back-up music and vocals, I do fine. Of course, I can't do that until I've learned the song somewhat. I'm sure we can tweak this using the adjustment provided within the game, but it's livable as is.

I've got an industrial-strength callous on the tip of my left index finger that goes down to the subdermal layer. I've even got a pretty good callous on my left pinky finger. In short, I've played more guitar since Christmas than I've played in the combined 35 years since I bought my first guitar. Say what you like about whether Rocksmith is an effective teaching tool. It's a darn fine motivator to pick up a guitar and play, which is ironically what many detrators of Rocksmith advocate as "the only way" to learn.

In 35 years, I've never been able to do much more than strum a rather limited selection of chords. As of today, I've worked my way pretty well through a dozen whole songs - chords AND single notes - to a point where I'd play them in front of people. As I indicated, I've owned and played at the guitar for many years. But, my son has not and he's also learning (with a few often ill-received pointers from me). So, it works for young beginners as well as adult learners who half-way know their way around the frets.

Bottom line: Rocksmith is a ton of fun and will teach you to play songs on your guitar. Will it prepare you for Julliard? Probably not. But, keep in mind that most successful rock musicians never formally studied music - at Julliard or anywhere else.

Here's the status so far:

Local Support Act (Level 4) with roughly 1,600,000+ RSP (Rocksmith points, I assume).
Played 4 gigs so far, two with 2 songs each plus an encore or two and two with 5 songs plus another couple of encores.

Quite a few of the fifty or so songs that come with Rocksmith are songs I've never heard before. For that matter, most of the artists represented on Rocksmith were completely new to me (indicated with *'s below).

Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
My Next Girl - The Black Keys *

In Bloom - Nirvana
Higher Ground - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Go With the Flow (encore) - Queens of the Stone Age

Vasoline - Stone Temple Pilots

Slow Hands - Interpol*
I Can't Hear You - The Dead Weather*
Surf Hell - Little Barrie*
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon*
Angela (encore) - *

Unnatural Selection - Muse*
Outshined - Soundgarden
Number Thirteen - *
Playing with Fire - Rolling Stones
Where is My Mind - Pixies *
(encore) -

Encores are sort of like bonus songs that get thrown at you at the end of an Event if you don't totally suck. In my case at least, the encores were songs I'd never played - or even heard - before, so my encores didn't add much to my Event scores.

Which brings me to my first major gripe with Rocksmith. It's not a deal-breaker, but it does tie into the navigation issues I have with the game.

There is no E-stop. No way to quit something once you've started it. No do-overs.

This week I was presented with my fourth set-list (above). By some twist of fate, I managed to qualify two of these songs for my 4th Event on my very first play. In fact, these were not just the first time I'd played these songs but the very first time I'd ever heard them. I qualified the remaining 3 songs within 3-6 plays through. Mind you, qualifying is one thing. Actually knowing the song and being able to play it well is another thing altogether.

So it was that I ended up accidentally playing Event 4 (The Red Velvet Room) after having played - and heard - about half of my setlist only once in my whole life. As I've pointed out previously, once you qualify a song for an Event, it no longer appears under that event. In order to practice it, you have to scroll through the whole song library in the main menu. I don't like this quirk. All songs on a setlist should stay in the Event until the event is done. On top of that, I'd prefer it if the game at least kept a record of your Events, setlists, and scores. I do this myself in a notebook, but it would be nice to have that feature in the game.

So, somehow while attempting to practice for Event 4, I accidentally clicked on my Event when I intended only to bring up the setlist. Once I did it, the show was going down. There is simply no way short of a cold shut-down to stop an event or even a practice run through a song once it begins. Thus, as you can imagine and since I didn't play at all Wednesday night, Event 4 did not go too well for me. Frankly, the fact that I got an encore song makes me suspect that you ALWAYS get at least one encore no matter how bad you suck.

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