Wednesday, November 5, 2008

GH:WT Vocals, Thoughts and Impressions

I've seen some good back and forth between fellow Vocalists on ScoreHero regarding this. I tried very hard to be as objective and fair as I could be in my weighing in of this new Vocal product. It's been almost a whole year since Rock Band graced our lives, so a lot of us have become so familiar and biased toward Rock Band that objectivity isn't an easy task. At the end of the day though, this court and its honorable Judge, CEO, President of Operations and MFIC finds in favor of the Vocal plantiff, Rock Band. Guitar Hero: World Tour is hereby sentenced to 12 months in a correctional facility. May God have mercy on its soul. /gavel

Let's give credit where credit is due to some innovations that WT has brought us though. Push-button activation is something so simple and yet so powerful. I can't say enough good things about it. A true and deserving Vocal practice mode is also worth mentioning(Are you listening, HMX?).

I think a case could also be made for the ambitious things that Neversoft tried to do with the Vocals in this game, even if they weren't fully realized. The freeform sections introduced, as odd and brokenly powerful as they may be, are an interesting idea in theory. Nearly equivelant to a drum fill, the singer is supposed to create his or her own melody in line with the tune and beat of the song. Sounds great, right? It isn't. The words esoteric and misappropriated come to mind. If you sing the right notes and hold a tone in the right way, you can do well with them, too well, actually. A well-timed SP release with a maxed out multiplier over one such section can dwarf the score of the entire song. Also, not all freeform sections react the same way. I've gotten to a x8 multiplier repeatedly on some songs, and struggled to hit x3 on others regardless of length. The freeform sections seem like an interesting idea but the execution is awful.

I'll mention the hand-raising sections very briefly. If you say any noise at all in that section for any length of time you get a fixed amount of SP. This is probably what freeform sections should have been.

Talkies are an interesting beast. If you see red on a Vocal highway, that means if you say or sing anything over those, you get them. Talkies become more of a challenge in how long you can hold your breath out than anything else. Still, they are effortless, and require no special manipulation of sound or sensitivity. So, I think Talkies are somewhat of a push.

The scoring system is awful; it really is. I'm not sure what Neversoft had in mind, but with note snapping and a ridiculously punishing accuracy system, this is probably the biggest turnoff among Rock Band Vocalists. While I appreciate the difficulty in light of Rock Band 2's 'no one gets left behind approach' to Vocals, it's too much. Yes, the score at the end is a measure of accuracy, not a combo percentage, but something about seeing a score in the low-to-mid 90's for a song I nailed is just bad. I really hope that the next Vocal iteration in either franchise falls somewhere in the middle of the difficulty levels we have thusfar.

There are some other small gripes, like having the color of the ball's path turn to blue when under SP. According to Crayola, there are 8 basic colors. Pick a different one so we can see what the hell we're doing. The SP usage for Vocalists seems odd too. My multiplayer experience in WT so far has shown me that a Vocalist should virtually never activate SP. This is mainly because when a Vocalist activates, we stop picking up SP each phrase. It serves the band better to just keep firing up those bulbs every phrase and let them use it. So, we get push-button activation just in time to leave our controllers behind. =/

I'm not saying that the Vocal experience in and of itself is awful in WT. There's a lot of fun songs to be played and enjoyed if you let the score be what it is and just have fun with it. If you're even remotely interested in scoring, solo or otherwise, you're going to have a tough time with this game though. My humble opinion: this game is only as bad as how seriously you take it, but it's not all bad.

Marathon After-thoughts

Well, it's been a while since I added anything meaningful here and a couple weeks since the marathon. I really wanted to take some time afterward to do other things and stay busy so that I could reflect on what the marathon was and wasn't with a good level of clarity.

I may have been a little disappointed with the turnout during and maybe shortly after it was over. I felt like what we(Duce1621 and myself) accomplished should have been recognized more than what it ultimately was. After some time, that feeling all but totally went away. The people who were there did a lot to spur us on and help us out and I'm thankful for their support. Still, we know within ourselves what we did and how hard it was to press on and finish.

In the end, I ended up singing 250 songs over the course of 26 hours with some small breaks here and there. To those who said something like that could NOT be done on Vocals: it really can, and more. If you pace yourself and don't waste your voice foolishly, I really think 40+ hours is possible. I should note that this probably isn't possible for everyone to do. If you're a Vocalist thinking about doing something like this, please, please test yourself beforehand, see a doctor and make sure that your vocal cords can handle something like this. If pushed too far, your vocal cords can and will suffer permanent damage. I would be more than happy to speak with anyone who's thinking of going down this path and relay the steps I took to reach the decision that I could do it and what I did during the marathon to keep things rolling.

There were a few moments where my voice tightened a bit, but with some tea, throat drops and breaks I was able to bring it back to a comfortable level. My low octave control slipped a little at the end, but not enough to derail me in any real way. My throat wasn't really sore at all the next couple days(I actually picked up WT that same day and played it on Vox that night for a little bit).

I ended up with 137 FC's out of the 250 songs played. I consider this a very satisfying number considering I sang almost every song the way I wanted to. I would say of the 113 I didn't FC, more than half were -1's that I could probably FC almost every time out. I very nearly pulled out a Young Man Blues FC at hour 25. Honestly, under RB1's difficulty, I would have been hard pressed to hit 100. It's sort of a statement to the ease of RB2's Vocals, but also the flexibility.

Where the event leads me afterward in terms of what I want to do with Vocals is very unclear. My interest in RB2 Vocals was already down to almost zero before the marathon. I think if the band we're trying to put together can get going there might be something there, but for right now there's just too many other things to do. GH:WT's Vocals are way too strange and poorly put together to be taken seriously by anyone, anywhere. I'm not ruling out participating in a tournament somewhere for it though.

Saying I'm hanging up my mic would be premature. I still love to sing and play but the little competitive spirit that I was born with is not interested in fighting Vocals anywhere. It's been a tremendous ride though, and I would never have imagined just how many friends and people I would have met through a medium like ScoreHero. I certainly wouldn't have found myself in a great community like the PMS/H2O clan. So, I'm happy and content with how things have panned out. A real-life tournament win somewhere would be interesting, but in light of the marathon, I don't feel that I have anything to prove anymore. It's all about kickin' back and having fun now. :)