The Future Of Rock Band

There was an interesting interview on a couple of days ago with Harmonix’ (Guitar Hero, Rock Band) Greg LoPiccolo, talking about the future of the rhythm-based music games they produce. What I found most interesting was that a lot of what the interview postulates is exactly the kind of thing anyone who has come over to our flat to play Guitar Hero has discussed.

Obviously, you have spent a lot of time taking existing songs and fitting them into your technology. In the future, do you think the music industry may look towards releasing new CDs that have tracks on the disc “pre-formatted” to work with Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

Due to physical format issues…Having it on the same disc, I’m not sure if that would ever happen. But I can certainly imagine a future of coordinated releases, where some given band may release their content into Rock Band at the same. I think that would make a lot of sense.

Such a method, albeit homebrew, has been implemented in the PC Guitar Hero clone, Frets on Fire, where, with a fair amount of hard graft, individuals can take any song, convert it to a midi file, mess around with the guitar tracks using Fruity Loops (or, I presume, any kind of semi-professional tracker/sequencer), and, with a great deal of admiration on my part, mix it all together in a wok to create a playable version.

Another game that has taken a simplified version of this idea is Wipeout/Guitar Hero/Rez inspired Audio Surf, which “converts” any audio track into blocks which must be collected in a certain pattern over a course. Hmm, I don’t really have the brain capacity to do this game justice in words, so I’ll let the official site explain:

Audiosurf is a music-adapting puzzle racer where you use your own music to create your own experience. The shape, the speed, and the mood of each ride is determined by the song you choose. You earn points for clustering together blocks of the same color on the highway, and compete with others on the internet for the high score on your favorite songs.

Actually, I reckon I did a better job with my game-summary, and with fewer words, but I suppose they were loath to use any Wipeout or Guitar Hero comparison.

Anyway, one further expansion/diversion I’ve been thinking about, especially with the type of music I’ve been brought up with:

Any chance of expanding into other instruments? Perhaps a keyboard?

We get a lot of requests for the keyboard. Who knows? It may happen one day. It is actually conceptually pretty difficult to build in. Most consoles are set up for four peripherals, not five, which means you have to drop something. Which means that the song offering is more complicated.

You know, it is a big commitment. And then the question is, are there enough rock songs with compelling keyboard parts to make it worthwhile? And maybe the answer is yes, but we’ve been pretty busy [laughs] and we haven’t really gotten there yet.

Except I wasn’t actually imagining rock songs with keyboard parts. I remember having a Roland SH-101, which was a monophonic 32-key synth which could be hung around the neck like a guitar, or “keytar” (awful word). No, my proposal is a more keyboard orientated version. Easy songs could include early Depeche Mode stuff, with more advanced Lemonjelly tracks upping the ante a little. And then the Easy mode could be renamed “Andy Fletcher mode”, for the tone deaf or people with complete lack of rhythm (like 2 year-olds).

Playing Videogames May Decrease Your Time Spent Reading

One of the small pleasures in life is flicking through the adverts that regularly appear in our postbox. Most of all I look forward to the newspaper-format electrical goods chainstore ads, of which there are a number.

It was during one such instance of paper perusal a few days ago that I chanced upon a page dedicated to the next generation of games consoles, the Wii, PS3 and XBox 360.

The PS3 was at the top of the page, despite (or, perhaps, because of) its higher cost and low sales figures. Although I have no plans to buy a PS3 (the XBox would be my inclination for a second system), I read the accompanying blurb, which, translated, went something thus:

The PS3 is a very powerful games machine. It has a powerful cell-processor that can be up to ten times more powerful than other processors. It has a powerful RSX graphic chip…“, blah, blah, blah.

The XBox 360, without a single adjective in its blurb, is 1000 crowns cheaper. This, in my mind, gives the word “powerful” a value of about 250 crowns (£20). I only hope this is the writing of a Sony fanboy madman, whose last task at work in the real world before being carted off to make small strips of metal out of larger strips of metal was to sell the PS3 to the ignorant public, one that is apparently swayed by the repetition of powerful adjectives.

And another thing, while I’m being facetious: making a statement that the PS3’s cell processors is “up to ten times more powerful than other processors” is irrelevant. Firstly, because no-one who plays videogames should seriously give a rats arse; secondly, I could write an advert about the N64, stating the same about its 93.75MHz processor (comparing it to, say, the first generation of games machines, for example); thirdly, I’ve forgotten.

So, if I were to take away the extraneous adjectival usage, along with any flimsy filler statements, the above PS3 blurb would go something like this:

The PS3 is a games machine. It has a cell-processor and an RSX graphic chip.

Were I really harsh, I’d take away the obvious words and any techno-babble that hints of trying to impress, leaving:

The PS3.

Sadly, not even a proper sentence, but I’ll allow such a grammatical faux-pas on this occasion. Still, such logical editing wouldn’t make my advertisement reading past-time as enjoyable, though I’d get through a hell of a lot more adverts.

Fretting Over A Game

I am, as it is well-known, less fanatical about rock music than the average person. I don’t really like a great deal of guitar music in general, actually, with certain exceptions (thinking Pink Floyd as an immediate example). That said, I have mellowed with age, and I can find myself humming along to the occasional riff, or appreciating a wider variety of music than I once did in my predominantly synth youth and early adulthood.

That said, I did actually mess around with a guitar or two in my music making heyday. I even played bass in a rock n roll band when I was 15, playing in pubs and talent contests (well, contest). I think my interest in guitars grew only as Martin L Gore became proficient, and, after I saw him playing some groovy country stuff in one of Depeche Mode’s documentaries, I suppose I deemed it okay to be seen with one.

Recently, it has not only been okay to be holding a guitar, but fantastically entertaining; I refer, of course, to Guitar Hero 3 on the Wii.

We went out and bought the game plus 2 guitars when Chip was over to celebrate my birthday a few weeks ago. The £100 purchase seemed a bit steep, and I got pangs of guilt at splashing out so much on one game, though I knew I simply had to have two guitars to get full enjoyment.

Since then we have had a number of different people over to try it out, with further plans to make it a central reason for inviting other friends over in the near future, and my current week’s holiday has so far seen a number of solo sessions taking place. I am, in short, hooked.

There are enough tracks in the game to make it interesting, and enough strong tracks to make the absolute dire offerings bearable, if not enjoyable. It has also opened me to bands that I had previously not been giving a chance to, with tracks like The Who’s “The Seeker”, The Killer’s “When We Were Young” and Heart’s “Barracuda”. I find myself mumbling the riffs or various vocal lines from these songs more often than is absolutely necessary or healthy, but I’m happy with my condition.

Happy 40th Birthday To Me

Today is the anniversary of my fortieth birthday, which is celebrated accordingly in Sweden with cakes and big presents.

I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday cake, and Jo did a fine job of making a three layer strawberry & apricot affair to last us the year out. It actually felt a bit strange getting cake and blowing out the candles, as it did to have a few friends over to eat said cake and homemade pizza.

Jo had secretly arranged for Janne, Lotten, Edla and Chris to come over for dinner. It was a little bit overwhelming, in fact. Also, I think, because it is midweek I’d been expecting a quiet, early night. I wasn’t quite up for so many visitors, though I’m still glad they came.

The presents I received were absolutely spot-on. I’d been given a few items that were on my Christmas wish-list, which included The final Harry Potter book and a Fred Perry polo-shirt; the Harry Potter book is a bitter-sweet gift, since it marks the end of a long journey; the Fred Perry is an item I’ve been wanting for a while, and harks back to my Rude Boy era of the early eighties, when a white Fred Perry, black Harrington jacket, white socks and loafers were the order of the day.

The best present, one which I’d been expecting, was the Nintendo Wii. I’d not asked for anything else, despite having ideas about a bigger TV or a flat-screen monitor. The Wii was the obvious choice since a) I haven’t yet bought into this generation’s consoles b) the whole family can enjoy what the Wii has to offer.

I’ve been given an option to chip the Wii, which I don’t think I’ll be taking up. Firstly, I don’t wish to contribute to the piracy that is rife in the gaming industry, and, secondly, it feels like it won’t be a Wii, but a bastardized copy of one. I know it sounds strange, and I do not really expect anyone else to understand, but I think I’ll keep my virgin Wii.

All in all I have had a marvelous birthday, and I thank Jo and my friends for making it so.

World Of Warcraft Sucks

JRR Tolkien infamously contemplating the Bilbo/Gandalf blow-job scene.

Lord of The Rings is, without question, the best ever film to date. Before I’d seen the first of the trilogy I was extremely guarded about Tolkien’s work, my many years of D&D giving me fond memories of his part in my fantasy worlds, even though I’d never managed to read more than half the trilogy. Despite this moment in celluloid magic, I feel (and I’m certain millions of other LoTR fans do, too) that Tolkien, and thus the film, failed in one specific area: no nob-in-fanny action.

Even World of Warcraft has inexplicably missed the boat, concentrating on Undead, Trolls, Orcs and Tauren, instead of aiming for the more profitable hard-core market.

An enterprising company has, however, seen the glaring opportunity to combining many a youth’s two favourite past-times, and given us a fantasy hard-core porn episod(om)ic series to download, for a price.

, previously named Whorecraft (how many Vivendi lawyers does it take to change a domain name?), has a reasonably professional website, which gives information about the series and its characters, a story (!), and even downloadable maps of the area in which the story (again, !) takes place.

Apart from cartographers or very poor people, I’m not sure who would want to download the map, as nice as it is. The first six episodes of the first season are available for $8 each, something which cartographers, at least, could afford. Poor people shouldn’t, theoretically, even be able to afford a computer or an Internet connection, but they wouldn’t be missing anything because they would be completely ignorant of Whorecraft. Everyone, except the poor, then, get something out of it, especially the female “actresses”.