Friday, October 03, 2008

Beat not happening

Above: Livin' the dream

Seems like it's always two steps forward and one step back in Rock Band 2. I'd mentioned recently that I seemed to be stuck between medium and hard difficulty on the drums. At this point, drumming on medium is almost boring -- which is not to suggest that I'm hitting 100% on most songs, just that I feel like I've got a handle on it and I'm ready for something new.

On my first attempt at increasing the difficulty, I attempted challenge mode on hard difficulty. Did all right for the first couple of songs, and then got trounced by "Give It Away," making it perhaps 20% of the way through the song before failing out. I retreated back to medium.

Last night, I quickplayed a few more songs on hard, and found to my suprise that I was owning them. During "Go Your Own Way," I couldn't believe my limbs were actually keeping up. I felt like they were doing all the work on their own, with my brain acting as a spectator. I earned five stars. That was also the case on a few other of the easier songs. Flush with confidence, I returned to my saved challenge game and restarted "Give It Away."

Well, this time I only failed after about 40%. There is a fundamental conceptual shift from the beats I've been playing succesfully, and the beat in "Give It Away." It's as hard as moving to hard mode on the guitar for the first time, when you have to learn to shift your hand up and down the neck. Instead of being iteratively more difficult, it requires you to learn an all-new mechanic. That's where the challenge and the fun both come from.

I don't know the terminology -- maybe Dan Bruno can help with this -- but the problem I'm having is that "Give It Away" starts to insert the bass drum in between hits on the pads. Other songs have done this, too, even on medium difficulty, but they haven't tripped me up in the same way. Usually that's because you at least ride one of the pads the whole way. Here, you ride the blue pad most of the time, except for one hit where the bass pedal takes its place. You sandwich that kick between two other beats: the blue pad by itself, and then the blue and red pad simultaneously. I can't make this work in my head. Playing at 80% speed in practice mode helped a little.

No doubt I'll get past this, sooner than later. That's how these games usually go. By Monday I'll probably be talking about how I ripped through several tiers of songs on hard mode. At least, that's the plan. But this is the difference between difficulty that entices and difficulty that discourages. Rock Band 2 gives you endless avenues for improvement, while dangling the carrot right in front of you. When I say that Mega Man 9 demonstrates, more than anything, how much games have changed, this contrast is what I'm talking about. Games today are your friends.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried the drum trainer at all? There's a bunch of similar beats in there that you can practice on

Mitch Krpata said...

Back when I got the game, yes, but I actually haven't since trying to get through "Give It Away." You're right, I should dig through there until I find something similar. I had been working under the assumption that simply playing the songs is the best drum training I could get, but in this case it seems not to be true.

Little Danzig said...

The word you're looking for is syncopation, but there's not really any sort of easy way to get better at playing those sort of patterns other than practicing as much as possible. As a "real life drummer", I can say that retraining your limbs to behave independently becomes is the most difficult part of drumming, and syncopated kick drum patterns will challenge that capacity more than anything else you'll do behind a kit. Just keep at it and good luck!

Pete said...

I had the same problem going from medium to hard in RB1. I couldn't deal with the in between bass hits either. One day it just clicked though. I'm really not sure what happened, but since then I've even moved up to expert on some songs. Good luck sir, I believe you can do it.

Dan Bruno said...

Little dangzig is right, about both the syncopation and need for practice. We went through a very similar progression, but since I play the game so much it's been at an accelerated pace. I actually had the same experience as pete -- one day the syncopated kick "just clicked," and now I can get through most anything on the first four difficulties on Expert drums.

Clearly, the solution is to play Rock Band for several hours every day until you get it down.

Mitch Krpata said...

Little Danzig, thanks. I thought that might be it, but I didn't want to use it wrong.

Dan, all I want is to play Rock Band for hours a day until I get it down.

But yeah, it did just suddenly click, and the drum trainer did help. I think it was "tricky kicks 1" that seemed to approximate "Give It Away." I started at 80 bpm, then moved up to 100, then figured I could give the song a try again. All in all it took about 15 minutes on the drum trainer to get it right.

Of course, it's only that one specific pattern that I've gotten down. A similar one popped up in "E-Pro," and I had no problem with it. But without going much higher on the difficulty scale, I soon found other patterns that once again seemed impossible. The difficulty progression is just perfectly done.