Archive for February, 2012

Ni No Kuni Status: February 26, 2012

Feb 27 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Again, I only played in the middle of the week, but at least I’m chipping along. We found the girl we were looking for, and fought a nightmare. Then we went back to the fireworks maker; she turned out to be his daughter, and made some big fireworks for us.

We went back to see; the fireworks made it past the storm, and we arrived at the next city. It looks like some sort of mining town or something, with pig people?

The battles seem to be getting tougher; I guess my skipping battles and not doing anything serious with items may be starting to bite us. Also, I was surprised that there wasn’t any dungeon in the casino city. (Though there was a battle arena for Imagines that I skipped.)

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Rock Band Status: February 26, 2012

Feb 26 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

The main unusual event that happened this week was that I replaced the strings on the guitar for the first time. Electric guitars are different from other instruments that I’ve dealt with, because the strings are a lot stiffer; I wish I’d wound the bottom two pegs a bit more, but they seem to already be holding their tune fine, so I guess I didn’t screw things up too much?

This weekend’s pro guitar pieces:

  • Werewolves of London: an alternate tuning, and the music itself was mostly boring but with a few bits that were harder than I’d like mixed in, all of which added up to something I didn’t enjoy.
  • Me Enamora: It started off with single note bits that were fun but a bit too hard for me, then strummy bits that I had the wrong pick for (I would have liked a thin pick, but I couldn’t have played the single notes with that), then a solo that was definitely too hard for me, then repeating some of prior bits. I like the song; right now it’s too hard for me, but I hope that eventually I’ll come back to it and be able to do rather better on the single note bits in the start and somewhat better on the solo?

That was the last of the solid songs, so next on to moderate:

  • Working for the Weekend: Really really fun, absolutely one of my favorite pro guitar songs. Though I didn’t take good notes on it, so I’m not exactly sure why I enjoyed it so much; I’ll definitely be playing it again and will find out more. It also sounded quite good plugged in.
  • Hey Man Nice Shot: Full of fast dropped D power chords, changing constantly instead of repeating the same chord over and over again; the upshot was that I couldn’t hit them properly, and didn’t particularly enjoy the attempt.
  • More Than a Feeling: Arpeggiation that started out a bit too hard but where I eventually started getting used to it; chord bits that were pleasant, and a surprisingly accessible solo. I should return to this one, too.
  • I Can See for Miles: Surprisingly accessible and pleasant. It had unusual chords, but not too many different ones and they weren’t too difficult. And that made it quite interesting to play when plugged in, hearing what those chords sounded like coming out of the amp.

I also went through five (I think?) songs on Pro Bass. I’m actually on the moderate difficulty tier on both instruments now (though noticeably further ahead on pro bass), and bass is giving me trouble more and more often, though it’s still generally a bit easier than guitar.

Liesl and I also finished going through all the on-disc vocal harmonies content; that’s been a lot of fun, and while there are songs that I have no desire to sing again, on balance it was good to have an excuse to branch out more than normal. I was amused to see that we’re in the top 1% of the harmonies leaderboard: so now I’m there on pro keys, pro guitar, and harmonies, and pro bass is certainly attainable. Pro drums, not so much; and, while I haven’t checked, I doubt I’m particularly close to the top 1% on solo vocals, I think there’s a lot more people who have done a few songs on harmonies than who have gone through all the songs. (Also, Liesl is a better singer than I am.) Still, we have gotten gold stars on many of the songs; in fact, I think the “5 star every song on expert harmonies” goal may well be attainable for us?

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Ni No Kuni Status: February 20, 2012

Feb 21 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Another week where I didn’t play Ni No Kuni at all on the weekend but at least I chipped away in the middle of the week. Though I was quite tired that day when I did it, and it was a very dialogue-heavy section, so I barely know what happened!

I went to the casino city, looking for this fireworks guy. I think he wanted me to find his star pupil, so we went looking for her. We started in the casino, but we couldn’t find her; Gyro quite liked it there, but Maru was of rather the opposite opinion. We went to the inn after that, and must be about to trigger a plot point, because the game saved automatically. Rather than sleeping, though, the other two left; I needed sleep in the real world, however, so I stopped there rather than trying to figure out what was going on.

The other Ghibli experience of the week was going to the new Ghibli movie, The Secret World of Arrietty. In the lower tier of Ghibli movies, I would say, but their lower tier is still pretty good.

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Rock Band Status: February 20, 2012

Feb 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I was getting over a cold this weekend, so even though it was a three-day weekend I didn’t play as much Rock Band as I normally do (and didn’t play piano at all); but I did eventually get in five songs on the guitar. Specifically:

  • Sister Christian: Fun power chords, combined with some nice flips and other variants. (Training mode didn’t warn me about that, but I was pleased to discover I could sight read them.) The solo was a bit beyond me, but will be good to return to when I’m better. And I was shocked to be ranked at #74 on the leaderboard, no idea what was going on there.
  • The Con: It had you strumming odd subsets of the strings, and I’m fairly sure it was using an alternate tuning. The result was that I didn’t feel like I was actually playing the song, just a gamified variant of it; I didn’t even try to see what it would sound like plugged in.
  • False Alarm: In general, I’m not much of a punk fan, but it was fun to play (albeit noticeably faster than I would have liked). In particular, it changed up the power chords, moving around a bit on the lowest string of the chord, which made it more interesting than it would have been otherwise.
  • Don’t Bury Me … I’m Still Not Dead: I was worried about the chords where you only play the A and G but not the D string, but they sounded fine when plugged in. It was a bit faster than I’d like, but not too bad, and was fairly power chord heavy. I used a medium pick on this, which I’m noticing myself doing more often: songs with fast chords but also with single note runs.
  • Living on a Prayer: Honestly, in some sense I think this is the perfect Rock Band song. Total rock anthem, guitar part with a pleasant mixture of power chords, bassy bits (maybe a bit too many bassy bits, to be honest), a solo that doesn’t overstay its welcome, in the middle of the difficulty spectrum, over the top chorus, reflexive lyrics containing a euphemism for a guitar, ridiculous key change. So glad they redid this for Rock Band 3—not really so much my style of music, but it’s archetypal purity in the context of the game more than makes up for that.

The other thing that happened this week was that I broke a string for the first time. I didn’t have any spare strings (whoops! Normally I’m better about advance planning than that), but fortunately I have a whole spare guitar, so I could keep on going.

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VGHVI Minecraft: January 26, 2012

Feb 18 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Pictures from the January VGHVI Minecraft session. First, some general photos:

Cows hiding behind the ice

A strange spire in the distance

A pig is riding the rails

No more mountain? Sad.

Sunset behind the mandala

Next, we played hide and seek; Miranda got annoyed at me at some point and started throwing lots of eggs, which turned into chickens.

Jonathan examines the chickens

Chickens by the door

Chickens outside

After that, I strolled around a bit more, and came across a warm, welcoming bed:

That looks comfortable!


That was a mistake


Pat built a glass tower out in the sea:

Glass tower

Tower at sunset

The top of the tower

Inside the tower

Looking down at the water

And Miranda started work on a platform nearby, though I don’t think she’s done with it yet:

Purple platform under construction

Closer view of platform

Bottom view of platform and tower

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Ni No Kuni Status, February 12, 2012

Feb 14 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Like the last several weeks, I didn’t find time to play Ni No Kuni over the weekend, but fortunately I’d played it a bit in the middle of the week. I went to get on the boat; before that, though, I recruited another party member, a thief named Gyro. And Shizuku retired from battle, preferring to take an advisory role. In battle, Gyro has a distance attack, meaning that all three humans are better suited for the back row; one could doubtless come up with a class/race based reading of that apparent desire to send the Imagines up to the front lines to absorb all the damage…

And then I got on the ship! Which opened up the world map; you don’t just teleport from place to place, you have to control the ship. And right off the bat, we ran into a big storm, which forced us to change plans, going to a resort casino city to stock up on fireworks ammo or something. The down side of that trip was that the seas are full of wandering monsters, and, unlike, land, you can’t see them in advance to avoid them. Not quite Skies of Arcadia levels of annoyance, but not great, either.

I was being sloppy and had my first full-party death during this process. It turns out that the game revives the whole party with full HP/MP when you restart after a death; I like that decision, and it’s keeping in character with the game’s generally quite forgiving nature.

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Rock Band Status: February 12, 2012

Feb 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Some general practice notes:

  • I’m up to 70% speed on that arpeggiation lesson; and it’s revealing that, not only am I not good enough at shifting to F chords, I’m actually not as good at shifting to G chords as I think I am. (And I did badly on the tremolo lesson this week, not sure what’s going on there.)
  • I created a guitar practice playlist, to make it easy for me to go over my current batch of songs that I want to practice every week.
  • I’ve started writing down key chord progressions for some of those for use when practicing outside of game, instead of trying to remember them. Which got me used to the notation of chords with a dropped note on the bottom, and also had me realize that the weird barred C chord in Take On Me is actually an E chord with a G# on the E string. Interesting.

This week’s new guitar songs:

  • Have You Ever Seen the Rain: I’m only playing it now because I just downloaded it, it’s deservedly warmup, but I liked the moving bass part to move it into the practice rotation.
  • I Need to Know: mostly plays around on the seventh fret, with a bit of arpeggiation thrown in, I can tell that the difficulty is increasing.
  • I Feel Good: Different chords than I’m used to (more R&B / funk), but I got used to that soon enough, and I was surprised how much I liked the sound when plugged in. I need to work on scales more, though.
  • Riders on the Storm: pleasant noodling around that felt more like a bass part than a guitar part. And then some annoying vagueness on the high frets.
  • Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before: some pleasant chord variants, I didn’t do so well on the arpeggiated bits.
  • Need You Tonight: there were three different modes of the piece: some 9th fret chords, some rhythmic alternating strumming, and a bassy bit. All of which added up to something I enjoyed.

I went through a few songs on bass, too, and Liesl and I sung for maybe two hours? We were going through some on-disc songs that we hadn’t sung; and we seem to be getting better, we’re getting gold stars surprisingly often.

Quite happy with that amount of practice, given the number of other things I did on both Saturday and Sunday. And I was good about piano practice: I practiced on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. I’m on my second pass through the 6-Part Ricercar in the Musical Offering; it’s going quite a bit faster than I expected, though I’m also starting to realize just how little I understand the different voices in that piece.

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Ni No Kuni Status: February 5, 2012

Feb 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I’ve played Ni No Kuni over the weekend: Rock Band is a higher priority and is taking more and more of my time, so if my weekend is at all busy, Ni No Kuni falls by the wayside. And, indeed, that happened this week, too, but I’m getting caught up enough on my blogging that I found time one evening in the middle of the week to play.

I was in a port, where I’d just learned how to combine items from recipes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have very many, but one local quest involved learning a few of them, so now I have a few. The ship there wouldn’t give me a ride, though, because I didn’t have permission from the queen, so I went back to the previous city. (I’d been wondering why I couldn’t get into the palace!)

The queen turned out to be a sort of giant or something, and she wanted food. She reminded me of somebody in the first world, so I went back there and found that that person was a cheese fan; returning to the second world, I cast a spell on the milk fountain and made cheese. That did half the trick, and then I gave her a perseverance heart piece, so now she’s better; she gave me permission to ride the boat, and taught me two spells.

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Rock Band Status: February 5, 2012

Feb 05 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Busy day on Saturday (we went to The Pitmen Painters in the afternoon and I went to 915 Cayuga in the evening), but I did get in a bit of guitar practice in the late morning. I gave the lessons one more try, and I managed to make it through the easier arpeggiation lesson: once I started paying attention a bit more, I realized I was moving my fingers off of the D chord a bit early. The other remaining arpeggiation lesson is still rather tough for me: not so much because of the arpeggiation but because it requires me to quickly and forcefully shift to an F chord, which I’m not great at. The other lesson I haven’t succeeded at yet is the tremolo lesson—I’ve gotten 98% a couple of times, so clearly one of these weeks I’ll luck out and get 100%, but not yet.

My list of songs to practice is getting longer and longer. Yoshimi continues to get better; the main area where I’m having trouble in it is quickly shifting to that same F chord I mentioned above, so clearly that’s one of my next hurdles to focus on, I should add that chord sequence to my nightly unplugged practice. Also, I managed 4 stars on Take on Me, so my barred C chord practice is paying off: I’m still not at all comfortable with that shift, but at least I can succeed at it some of the time.

As to the new songs I’ve done: my left hand hurt when playing Centerfold, but the chord sequences seem pretty reasonable, I should add them to my practice routine as well. 20th Century Boy had these fast single note/chord combos, and I wasn’t sure what weight of pick to use there; eventually, I decided to compromise on a medium pick, which turned out okay. It sounded surprisingly non-awful when plugged in, given how many notes I was missing; I think the point there, though, is that I simplified the piece rather than flailing around at random, so while the game didn’t like that so much, my ears were less unhappy.

London Calling got me worried, because my Xbox froze up several times while practicing that. But eventually I realized that it was freezing up in the same training segment, so now I think something in that segment is triggering a bug in the game and OS, rather than it being a sign of my third (fourth?) red ring of death being on the way. That training segment was, unfortunately, one I could use the help on, though actually it’s hard enough that I’m not sure that going through that segment more really would have helped; it didn’t sound too bad plugged in, but that was for the same reason as 20th Century Boy, namely that I didn’t try to play that part at all accurately. Other than that, it had some interesting chord variants where I had my hand in the same basic position on the top four strings but had to move my fingers around a little.

That was yesterday; today I played through some Pro Bass. Get Up, Stand Up was fun, with only one hand position transition providing a bit of challenge; no reason for me to miss any notes there, though I didn’t quite get that far. Humanoid was some interesting hopo practice and required periodically jumping to the 15th fret. King George was probably the toughest bass song so far: lots of fast notes, and getting the third star took both time and luck. And Been Caught Stealing also had fast notes, but they were in sets of three notes with space after them (and in fact I could have treated the third note as a hammer-on if I’d wanted), so they were more manageable.

And then Liesl and I sang together for probably a couple of hours? It’s been way too long since we did that, we should really try to do that every weekend. We finally got 100% on Expert Harmonies (on Outer Space, I guess my practicing that on guitar has rubbed off subconsciously); quite surprised to see us at #22 on the leaderboard for that song, but I won’t complain.

I practice piano a couple of times (and once or twice in the middle of the week): I’m now done with a first pass through the 6-Part Ricercar, but I’ll need a second pass before I feel like the notes are at all starting to get into my finger. And I’m still not thinking about the 3-Part Ricercar as much as I should. I’m thinking I might also do another run through the Ghibli book—I went through the NausicaƤ songs on a lark, and they’re really pretty—though notes are sticking when I hold down the pedal, so I’ll probably want to have that looked into first.

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