Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rock Band 3 vs. Guitar Hero 5 (and Some Thoughts On Hero Maker)

Three important facts:

1 - I play guitar.

2 - I play video games. In fact, I'm a professional new media scholar.

3 - Despite 1 and 2, I have never played either Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

This is the point at which I slam the games based on some expectation about music and games or anything like that. Simple fact is that as someone who plays video games for professional research and who robs writing time to play guitar (and to blog) I really can't afford to dedicate the sort of time I know would come of trying to learn to play a guitar based DDR-type game. DO NOT DRINK, Alice (Cooper?, In Chains?). That way lies the death both of guitar playing and of progress on my writing.

Still I can't resist the siren call of blogging about this as it overlaps on the Venn diagram of life with so many other things that I hold dear and about which I have blogged.

It's fascinating to me the way that each of these has differentiated itself from the other. As a big fan of the 'Loud' part in "Loud, Bad Guitar' I have to say that I've always preferred the Spinal Tap-esque grandeur of Guitar Hero to the alt-pop bent of Rock Band. Let's face it. GH started as a nod to the arena headlining fantasy buried at the heart of air guitar in the first place where RB has always seemed a little more of a Garage Rock experience. Now GH seems to have decided to channel it's Brutal Legend side for all it's worth and RB seems to have re-visioned itself as training wheels for the garage.

I'll admit -- as far as my own tastes are concerned I'd lean towards GH5 over RB3 because I already have a guitar and I'd rather noodle with it on my own than learn a song note for note. And I'm not interested in having to pick up another guitar just so I can hook it up to my game system and play songs from their Karaoke menu. Call me when they include Opeth or Amorphis or Enslaved, but I'm not interested in learning to play most of the stuff they feature. I'd rather pretend to be Kiss. They are ridiculous. The game is ridiculous. Dreaming of being a gargantuan rock star at 40 is ridiculous. It all fits.

That said, the Rock Band pro mode with the Squier guitar looks to work just fine according to this video. Okay, so the tuning is off. That just shows that it really was the guitar you were hearing.

Of course the Rock Band 3 deal with Fender/Squier reminds me of my earlier post about how Gibson lacks vision when it comes to the power of games like these to open up new markets. Looks like its Fender 1 - Gibson 0.

And I don't mean to bash on Peavey again, but it looks like Rock Band 3 will steal all the thunder from the Peavey/Xivix Hero Maker/Jam Party deal. It's going to take a lot to break into the market with well established competition. Unless Xivix comes up with a viable niche market that makes their product cool with a group of players underrepresented in the Rock Band playlists (country, blues, extreme metal) or incentivizes artists to partner with them I think they are screwed.

Too bad, because Peavey makes good hardware.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts About AmpKit LINK

Looks like AmpKit and AmpKit LINK are out now and people have begun reviewing them. Here's a couple vids to get you started, followed by my own reactions and comments.

TechfastLunch&Dinner gives us a video unboxing of the AmpKit LINK followed by a demo review of the free version of AmpKit. This one lets you hear the app live and watch the player on an embedded screen, which is nice. It's also good to be able to see what the free version of the app can do before being tempted to drop the cash for the full version.

BigGeekReviews gives us a two part review of the software that includes a very thorough demo of what it's like using and tweaking the (looks like) full version of AmpKit and a very useful, if brief, comparison to the iRig hardware. He goes through some backing tracks so you can hear how changes in the settings affect the tone and he includes a recording and some live playing so that you get an idea of the software's capabilities. He also confirms in comments that the hardware works with third party virtual guutar amp apps for the iPhone.

This last bit is very good news as it means that you can choose your hardware based entirely on its performance and not the performance of your software. It also means that once you choose your hardware you can comparison shop your software independently, as I explained in my previous post on the subject. As long as the hardware sends a clean signal and has no latency you can pick it up with no fear that the app software is going to become outdated if the company drops it or loses the market to another app. You can switch to the newer or better app later. If BigGeekReviews is correct, this means that the LINK is the best hardware to date for the iPhone market.

Also, given what I said earlier about Peavey's lack of visible support for ReValver, I am reassured that AgilePartners (the actual developer) seems to be much more web savvy and responsive than Peavey and they need this product more. As a result I'd trust them more than I would Peavey to keep their product on a front burner.

In short: it's looking good for the AmpKit LINK right now.