Monday, January 21, 2008

Magpies and Rock Band

First I'd like to follow my idea of the last post for a moment. Please indulge me. I compared the idea of running the big two comic book companies to a sports team that constantly sells out games but never delivers a good product. I then thought up two possible outcomes - one is the quick fix that really doesn't do anything and the other is to get someone who knows what they are doing and takes the time to figure out how to fix things making a much stronger product in the end.

I used Newcastle United (the soccer team I'll be forever dedicated to) as an example of the second tact. They've recently hired a beloved former manager who had the most success with the club in the modern era. Well, I watched the game on Saturday and if I'm going to follow my metaphor then the part I need to add is that having a good manager is one thing but not having any talented contributors is another big problem. Yes, you could see them doing certain things better and different from how they were recently, but in the end the product still stunk. It's not to say there isn't any talent there at all, there certainly is. There is a lot of top drawer talent but the team has never gelled into something that works like a well oiled machine. The problem I see is that the players don't recognize what their role is and are comfortable in doing that thing well with the trust of their teammates doing the other roles well. The same goes for the comics. If there is a trust that the different books in different genres achieve their own goals well, they all play their own role, then the over all product is improved. If they are all trying to be the goal scorer then there are no goals scored. If the comics are all trying to be a part of crossover madness then no stories are told.


In other news I played Rock Band this weekend. It is phenomenal. It is probably some of the most fun I have ever had sober in my adult life. My friend bought it and he invited me and my wife over to start a band. We went on Friday and I have to say I really can't carry a tune. I might know all the words but I have zero pitch control. I could fudge my way through most of the songs and actually realized that songs with long sustained vocals allow you time to correct your pitch. So I could sing Radiohead's Creep or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Maps quite well. Trying to be dead on for the stacatto Blitzkrieg Bop was zero fun even though I love The Ramones.

I was slighly less crappy on the drums. Heck, his six year old son was better than me on the drums. I've never played any sort of percussion instrument before and I have to say that if you really want to take some beginner lessons then this is probably the funnest place to start. I did find that I was getting better the more I played, but I found the game a bit unforgiving in that I would manage to catch the beat but I was hitting it between the notes scrolling down. So being slighly off was killing me. I still liked it more than singing, which, while I sucked at it, was still kind of fun.

So the first night my wife and his wife would alternate between bass and guitar and me and him would alternate between drums and vocals. Things went so well that we got a few calls the next afternoon trying to plan us coming over again. So we did and took up some similar roles, but I ended up pulling a Pete Best and took up my place in a long line of replaced drummers. His wife took over vocals, I picked up a guitar and my wife requested bass because she found it way more fun to just hit all the individual notes (something she discovered was a heck of a lot of fun in guitar hero - moreso than the serious guitar shredding she like the beat and riffs)

And on our first song we rocked the hell out of it. His wife was almost perfect on the vocals and we were all kind of shocked. So we tried another one to see if the first was a fluke and she was better. We played a few gigs and then agreed we had found our sweet spot. So we made a new group and rocked it out on medium from there on in. And now I dream of streaming notes and ache to play again.

I did find the game a bit less forgiving on missed notes than the guitar hero series. It could just be that it's all about the perceived aesthetics - Rock Band used scrolling rectangles where guitar hero uses these oblong (forced perspective) dots. But I think guitar hero is more forgiving on hitting the notes while the guitar hero 3 songs in themself are simply harder to finish. It just takes some getting used to more than anything.

The only majorly annoying aspect of the game was the band management. It really didn't make a heck of a lot of sense. We had one band but wanted to start another, so we thought we could just juggle our characters onto the new instruments. Turns out you can't. Or, if you can, there was simply no way we could figure it out. So from my understanding each X-box live account has individual characters assigned to separate instruments per X-box account. So you might make a drummer called Mr. X but you want to play guitar. Well you can't just sign into the guitar and select Mr. X, you need to make Mr. Z. Now if someone else signs into the drums and wants to play with Mr. X, tough luck he's only available to you.

It would be nice to see a common pool for the created characters, or at least the option that lets you make your character available for other players and instruments. I understand that certain people would rather keep their own characters out of the hands of other players, but when you're trying to find out what you like to play it would have been nice to not be required to create a totally new band - well except for my wife who got to keep her original character and thus had twice the amount of cash for outfits and instruments. Although, it is great that you can use the same character for solo play and multiplayer games. And the customization aspects are a heck of a lot of fun. Hell, I would have been happy to just sit there and make tattoo sleeves on my characters for hours.

And really, in the end, it's all about getting together with a few friends and doing something together. It really shouldn't be as fun as it is to sit in a living room and play karaoke on little plastic toy instruments but sweet baby Jesus it was a shitload of fun! I mean, they have The Pixies on there - The Pixies!! That's pretty much the best thing ever as far as I'm concerned but then they added The Clash, The Ramones, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and have CCR and The Buzzcocks available for download. It's like they beamed radiowaves into my head via my fillings and made a song list just for me. Now if they would only make Drunk Teenagers and Nowhere With You by The Joel Plaskett Emegency and Don't Walk Away Eileen by Sam Roberts, I'd be exceptionally happy with the Canadian Rock content.


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joncormier said...

Wow, very nice comment anonymous. Now piss off.

Umar said...

So this is where you went after you left the Beige! Actually, very impressive to see that you had two blogs going on.

Rock band is awesome - I tried it for the first time last night. But I can't believe how lousy a bassist I am, after trying Sabotage on the hard level.

joncormier said...

Dude, this place has been around for a few years. Ottawa Beige was just making me cranky, so I had to abandon it for other pursuits.