You may remember last week's post: Video of the Week: Song of the Damned (Army of the Damned). Despite all my best efforts I kept getting a 99% FC. I say "FC" because I had managed to keep my combo throughout the entire song (getting "awesome" at the end of every phrase and never seeing a visual break in combo) but ending with a percentage of 99%. Never having encountered such an issue in the other Rock Band games I played, I assumed this was a bug. I wasn't sure if it was a bug with the song itself or with the game, but I assumed it was a random issue with the game because the scores on the leaderboard for this song showed SOMEONE had FCed it.
So I posted my videos and my blog and I got A LOT of responses, help and feedback. My issue wasn't a bug at all, in fact this problem had been encountered in other Rock Band games I never purchased (Rock Band: Beatles & Rock Band: Green Day), so it's been around for a while actually, but being that I wasn't a fan of band-specific games, nor those particular bands, I was afforded the luxury of being ignorant to its existence. Those were happier times.
Well what WAS the problem then? Why was I only getting 99% instead of FCed despite never breaking combo? Well apparently it is all a matter of filling the little "pie" (the circle next to your combo in vocals). It would seem that I never filled it completely in a few places during all my runs. It was full enough to tell me "awesome" but not enough to give me credit for it.
As I said before I got a lot of feedback in regards to my 99% FC issue. I was told to "try to fill the pie" completely, I was shown a screenshot of someone getting an FC on the song (I never doubted the song itself could be FCed, as I suspected it already had) and I got a message from the great BillTVShow himself explaining to me a bit more about how the RB3 vocal engine works. (Thanks Stephen! ♥)
Apparently calibration was a bit of my issue, the pie was more likely to fill faster if my system was perfectly calibrated. I'm not quite sure exactly how or why that is, but it seems to be a hot topic on scorehero and something Dogfood has been trying to explain to me for some time (his post about it here).
My gripe with that is this: Why tell me "awesome" then if I didn't fill the pie? I can't answer that question, that is up to Harmonix, but I do know I HATE it. It isn't often that I grind for an FC, but honestly, if I AM going to sit there and grind, I want to know that I broke combo right away (so I can start over) rather than thinking I'm in the clear until I get to the percentage screen to be shot down.
If the vocal engine was going to be so picky about precision then surely the use of "Perfect" (like in Lego Rock Band) would have been the way to go. Adding something to reassure me all was well and I was on my way to 100%, but telling me "Awesome" (and being the highest rating at the end of a phrase) then not giving me a 100%, well that is just harsh.
My only guess to the reasoning as to why Harmonix would do this is for the same reason I assume they did away with score duels etc: to return the game to a level of fun rather than competition.
I understand the sentiment, but I disagree with the execution. There's always going to be that niche of more competitive players, and unless it was really hindering the production of the game to leave those modes or mannerisms for judging score (in this case the "awesome"/pie thing), I see no reason to remove them.
The fact that calibration is so important is also a bit of an irk as well, but I'm not sure how much of that is really in Harmonix's control (my guess is not much). However, previous to Rock Band 3, I NEVER calibrated for vocals.
In my particular case calibration is a headache. I have a set up for my usual "I'm playing just to play" and my "I'm recording for youtube". To give you an idea of what my set up is, let me run you through it.
- Xbox plugged into my HDTV using the HD component cables. I have an HDMI cable but I don't use it because..
- Audio cables from my HD component cables, are plugged into a splitter/switch device that allows me to have everything (all my consoles) plugged it at once, that lead to my stereo
- Xbox plugged into my HDTV via the splitter/switch device using the RCA cables resulting in no HD.
- Y splitters on the splitter/switch device allowing the video and audio to be plugged into my Dazzle capture device (non-HD) (the Y splitters are always in the splitter/switch to make life easier)
- Audio cables in the splitter/switch device that lead to my stereo
How would I know when calibration was good?
For that I used the good ol' scientific method (see kids? you WILL use this stuff one day, even to play video games). I hypothesized (busting out the big words today) that once my calibration was fine, I would be able to 100% FC Army of the Damned, the song that previously had me stuck at 99% FC despite multiple attempts.
I'll admit that I had a bit more variables than is preferable. Calibration was to be the only variable and Army of the Damned the control. Sadly in this instance the human voice is ALWAYS a variable because it's extremely difficult to replicate the same exact sound as before, so as I said, it wasn't ideal but it'd have to do.
I slightly adjusted my calibration (seeing as I had 99% I figured I couldn't be that far off) and tried to FC that song over and over and over. I hit several 99% FCs and adjusted as necessary. I swear it took me about THREE hours before I finally got it.
Sadly another variable was my ability to even FC the song. Sometimes I would miss by quite a bit ("weak" "okay" "strong") which wasn't a fault of the calibration, but myself for just being off. (I'm terribly inconsistent) By the time I did FC it, my voice was dead, and I had been through millions of emotions and curse words towards both myself and the game. My reaction was one of joy and disgust: Calibration was complete but it took me all afternoon.
-88ms Audio and 105ms Video.. calibration numbers I will cling to for my youtube recordings. The worst is I have to do it again to sort it for HD, but I don't plan to do that anytime soon...
As promised, here is the 100% FC of this song (I'm putting the other videos on unlisted). My voice isn't so great, it was dead after singing for so long and at the same time I sang pretty flat and boring in order to desperately try not to break combo. I'll have to do a cover one day because the song really deserves to be sung as best as I can.
It does feature split screen but the lighting was bad, as I said I worked on it for hours and by the time I got it, it was already dark outside. You can't really tell but I geeked out on the shirt with a WoW reference to the song. I wore my Knights of the Ebon Blade Death Knight shirt. The song made me think of my Death Knight and the spell Army of the Dead. Yes I know, it's a nerdy gamer reference, oh well, deal with it :P.
Also if you've noticed you can barely hear the vocals when capturing directly on Rock Band 3, I countered by turning down the music and crowd in the sound options. I think I might have turned them down a bit too low though, next time I'll know better.
Army of the Damned 100% Vocal FC