Qt3 Games Podcast: sluggo and Rock Band 3

Sal “sluggo” Accardo almost blows it before he’s even introduced. But by the time the podcast is over, you’ll understand why Sal is Qt3′s hardest core Rock Bander.

Man, Tom, the last couple weeks you’ve gotten the best possible guests for the respective games. Keep it up.

What he said.

Now we need a sports themed show to keep Tom confused.


I’d have to nominate Xaroc for NHL 11 then.

I understand why sluggo got special dispensation to move his turn up for this game, as people would much rather hear him talk about it than me, but I can’t help being a little upset.

Interesting to hear the hardcore, scorehero take on the game. Part of me wants to jump into Expert Pro keys and rack up some score, and the other part of me wants to just kick back and play some music.

Sluggo, have you ever thought of using lower difficulties as part of the learning curve? I’ve been playing pro keys (no musical instrument experience to speak of) and I’ve gotten to the point where I can sightread at medium difficulty. Would you think finding at least some of the notes of a chord would be helpful or is it all expert, all the time?

I mentioned this in the RB3 thread, but I find that even on Medium, sightreading Pro Keys is still frustrating. I’ve given it a shot and find I can muddle through, but still make 20 silly mistakes even on simplified parts due to the challenge of figuring out notes on the fly, and I’m not really interested in sitting through Practice mode to figure out notes on Medium.

And I’ve found that Medium does little to prepare you for Expert, as simply knowing the key won’t help you survive a flurry of three-note chords you don’t know the exact arrangement of. I find it’s far more efficient to go straight into Practice or Training instead of playing on the lower difficulties.

I also think I’m extra biased towards an Expert-or-nothing mentality on Pro Keys. On non-pro stuff, it’s just a matter of what your skill level is and what you enjoy playing. But with Pro Keys, since the idea is that you’re learning the real parts, I don’t want to drop down and learn watered-down versions of the song.

Hard Pro keys on easy songs is about the extent of what I can handle (after using practice mode to arduously cover every section until I can get >80% at 100% speed), and I think going to expert on most songs is simply going to be a non issue until my accuracy on the controller improves quite a bit. Which may never happen. I still think this is a great direction for the series, even if they did cut out real pianists who don’t want to bork their training by playing in two octaves.

I have to disagree with Sluggo on the whole difficulty curve thing. The lower difficulties are a great way to learn your way around the controller. I started at easy and now I am just moving up to hard from medium.

I have a much better sense now of just the layout and spacing of the keys. I do agree that you need to learn each song to some degree, but unlesss you have some fimiliarity with a keyboards layout I think jumping into expert is a suicide mission.

I’ve had precisely the same experience on pro keys as Sluggo. The only good way to figure out the notes is Learn a Song and Practice mode. Learn a Song is really helpful because you get a chart of the notes, and even better, they tell you the key of the song. I find myself playing by ear and guessing chords based on context more than I’d like. Adding chord names would have taken out a lot of the guessing, and it seems like it would have been possible, given that pro guitar does that. It would also help non-musicians learn chord names.

I shouldn’t complain too much, though, because the whole thing is so well done overall.

My main point was that Medium isn’t really useful in preparing you for Expert. If you’re still working your way up to Hard, you haven’t seen that yet. The charts are different enough that they might as well be different songs.

But yeah, if you’ve never played piano before, the lower difficulties are going to help you figure out what’s going on, and if you’re having fun, that’s the important thing, no matter what difficulty you’re playing.

So, I listened to most of this in the car today, on the way to and from work, and I must say, even going back to the GameSpy days, I always assumed you were called sluggo in honor of this fine fellow:

Nope, although I am a big Mr. Bill fan. :)

Something random I forgot to mention: when I first joined Qt3 back in '03, for some reason I used all lowercase letters, although it was completely unintended. To Tom’s credit, every time I can recall him using my nick on these forums, he’s always used the lowercase “s,” which shows an attention to detail you typically don’t even see in most game reviews, let alone forum posts.

Also, it was nice to hear about your background as a professional musician. It makes your Rock Band scores so much less intimidating. You’re not some freakish guitar-playing robot, you’re just a savant. And I mean that as a compliment. It humanizes you.

Although I’m still at a loss as to how to catch you on some of these songs. So far, I’ve only been able to make it to #64 on the Subdivisions vox leaderboard.

I only touched on this briefly during the podcast, but I’ve always believed there’s an exceptional and greatly underappreciated “game” in the design of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, that the usage of star power/overdrive adds a brilliant strategic angle. If you’ve ever played head-to-head, you know that star power usage can easily be the difference between winning and losing, and getting high scores on the leaderboards is all about finding the “optimal” path for each song. It’s amazing that a game that’s so casual-friendly also has so many layers of depth at the highest levels.

And while vocals aren’t anywhere near as popular as guitar or drums, there is a small but very competitive community of Expert vocalists who use techniques that would make your head spin. Not only do they map out optimal overdrive paths, but many of these involve split-second activations at the last possible second so that they can overlap another overdrive phrase or pick up a few more ticks at the start of the next phrase. I love it. :)

I was figuring that had to be the way, but I don’t really care to expend that much effort chasing scores. I’m happy just to 100% a song.

Still, I am pleased to still have a share of #1 for Cosmic Dancer, even if it’s not the most difficult song out there. That Gaspar Lewis guy who shares the top spot with me seems a formidable, dare I say almost sluggo-like, opponent.

Yeah, I can see that. Though I think that the same could be said for guitar. Medium guitar tracks are so stripped out that they bare basically no resemblance to the expert track.

I always assumed that the lower difficulties were for acclimating to the peripherals, and still having some fun doing it. To that end I think the lower difficulties work pretty well.

I started on expert pro keys and my hands were just completley lost. I dropped down to medium (easy was just too nothing), and that’s helping me learn the keyboard. I suppose I could just do practice runs at slow speeds, and I can see how that might deliver results faster. I guess I like to hear the music though so working my way up through the difficulties is more fun for me than just tons of slowed practice tracks.

I do see your point though.

The perspective divide here is musicians who already know how to play piano/keyboard versus the rest of us. Since pro keys involves actually playing a real instrument (albeit only two octaves), of course people like sluggo are going to approach it differently. But for me starting on easy and working my way up was definitely the way to go. Even medium was very intimidating at first due to having to play chords, if it wasn’t for easy mode I might have given up. That said, I wouldn’t recommend non-pro keys for anyone. Go straight to pro keys. The only reason I can see for them having that other mode is if you’re trying to play it on the five button guitar but otherwise it’s just not the same experience at all.

What has been surprising is that even with having no musical background and still mostly playing on medium and just now moving up to hard, I’m still able to score top 100 or even top 50 on some songs. I have no business being up that high but the leaderboards are surprisingly soft. Eventually the actual musicians will completely dominate, maybe they’re waiting for the midi peripheral to come out so they can play it on the keyboards they already have. Or the game just isn’t selling, I don’t know.

I think the two octave cap is really limiting people who would otherwise be dominant from participating extensively. But that’s based entirely on anecdotal data.

I think the things you have to accept and adjust to in order to Rock Band drums are just as awkward and limiting for a drummer as Pro Keys is to a keyboardist. Completely ignoring the left foot and playing cymbals and drums on the same pads is quite odd, but I think a ton of drummers work around that and it didn’t keep them from participating and doing quite well.