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Guitar/Bass Review Process

From RBN Documentation

Please note that whenever guitar is used, it also applies to bass, unless otherwise noted.

Checklist

This is a list of the key things you'll need to look out for while reviewing a song. Following this list is a longer explanation of these issues, and why they're issues.

  • Is the authoring consistent throughout the entire song on all difficulties?
  • Is expert a literal transcription of the song rhythmically?
  • Is the intent of the guitarist authored, rather than any sloppiness?
  • Are forced hopos functional and reasonable?
  • Are there green-orange chords, three finger chords, or jumps from these gems on the hard difficulty? There should not be.
  • Can you reasonably use the whammy bar on all sustains?
  • Is the difficulty of the song acceptable for each difficulty?
  • Does the guitar stem cut out when the gems are not being hit successfully?
  • Are guitar solos placed correctly in the song? Are they the correct length?
  • Does a guitar solo end directly before a Big Rock Ending? It should not.
  • If applicable, is the Big Rock Ending functioning properly? Is there at least one gem after the Big Rock Ending lanes?
  • Are there sustains after a Big Rock Ending? There should not be.
  • Is the guitarist animating properly with the song?
  • Is the bassist plucking the strings in the correct method (fingers or pick)?

Explanations

It doesn't matter what order of difficulty you view a song in, and there's plenty of ways to go about it that all make sense. For instance, I personally like to play the song on expert myself, and then bump down to easy, and autoplay each difficulty going in order from easy to expert.

It's important to note that you should not be playing along at all times, nor should you be autoplaying at all times, either. There are quite a few things you'll likely miss while you are playing along, but if you autoplay everything, you might not get a feel for the song. Even if the gems look right, you might notice something is wrong when you go to actually play it. However, if you're not capable of playing every song on expert, that's okay, too! Work in a setting that you're comfortable with. It is by no means crucial to be amazing at Rock Band in order to be able to tell if a song in Rock Band is playing right.

After you have played through and/or watched the song a couple times, you may notice that you can't clearly hear a part as well as you want to. If only you could solo the track like you can in Reaper! Fortunately, you can get pretty close to isolating an instrument with the in-game options.

At the Main Menu go to Options -> Audio/Video Settings -> Adjust Audio. From there turn all the sliders to the minimum level except for "Instruments," which controls the volume of the part you are playing. Don't forget to set them back, though, since you shouldn't be playtesting with this audio setup at all times.

For more in-depth information about guitar and bass authoring standards, check out the Guitar and Bass Authoring page.

Difficulty specific issues

For the sake of this document, we'll start with expert and work our way all the way down to easy. Most of the problems I'll mention on easy and medium exist on both difficulties, so they will be grouped together. Additionally, there is some overlap to expert and hard, so they will be grouped together, as well.

Expert and Hard

On expert, the song should be a literal rhythmic transcription of the song, except under extreme circumstances where there is too much going on for the game to handle. These extreme circumstances are very rare. The authoring document for guitar covers all of the rules for expert, but here are some of the important ones.

First, chords should remain consistent as much as possible. If a power chord is authored a specific way, it should be authored that way at all times, and nothing else should be authored as that. Of course, there are extreme examples of where this isn't possible (like when a guitarist uses 19 chords in a single song, for example). "As consistent as possible" is a good rule to use.

Also, it's important that the intention of the guitarist is authored. If the guitarist missed that beat by a few milliseconds, that's fine. It should remain on the grid as it is. There are exceptions to this in our authoring (for example, the guitar solo in Blue Collar Man), but they're rare. Trying to play to the sloppiness of the actual guitarist usually leads to a less-than-awesome experience.

For hard and expert, the same care should be taken to view the difficulty of the song, as well. While all five gems are in play on both of these difficulties, there are rules in place to dictate just how hard or easy a song or should be (yes, even on expert).

Once you get to hard, all five gems are present, but the song shouldn't be as hard as expert. There are a few important ways this is accomplished. First, green-orange chords and three-finger chords aren't used on hard, and there shouldn't be fast jumps from single green gems to single orange gems, as well.

On the higher difficulties, one specific issue you will want to look at is the use of hammer-on/pull-off notes (which will be referred to as “hopos” from this point on). Most of the hopos in the game are created by code, but the author has the ability to force hopos on or off to give the song a more natural feel. One of the more popular uses for forced hopos is when a guitarist is sliding up and down the neck slowly, so instead of one long sustain, the long sustain changes at reasonable times, with a forced hopo added so that you don’t have to strum again.

However, sometimes a forced hopo (or a forced strum, as the case may be) may make sense musically, but have a negative impact on gameplay. If a forced strum is added in a quick rhythm, for example, it can lead to a part being more difficult than it should be. Figuring out what is “good” or “bad” is very subjective, and just about everyone will have their own opinions on the subject. Forced hopos are generally used sparingly, but if you notice one in a spot that seriously hurts gameplay, report it. We like to keep the feel of making music in the forefront, but the song still has to be playable.

Another issue with forced hopos is when a forced hopo exists after the same colored gem. For example, if a riff has an orange gem, and it is followed by another orange gem that has been turned into a hopo, this gem won't work as intended. You'll have to lift off the orange and press it down to hit the gem, or you can strum twice. Because of this, repeating gems should always be strummed. This issue tends to appear frequently on hard, due to the way authors will scale back the song, but can also happen on expert.

Medium and Easy

One of the most important authoring rules for these difficulties are that easy should focus on red, green, and yellow gems, and shouldn't have any chords, and medium should focus on red, green, yellow, and blue, and never use a green-blue, green-orange, or red-orange chord.

Second, sustains tend to be problematic on these difficulties. An acceptable length for a sustain on hard or expert may not be an acceptable length on easy or medium. What ends up happening often is that there will be short, stubby sustains that have no functional value to the game. A good rule of thumb to use outside of the realm of musical notation is to ask yourself, “Can I reasonably be expected to use the whammy bar on this note?” If the answer to this question is no, the sustain is probably too short.

Third, you’ll want to get a feel for the difficulty of the song. There are many rules in place for the song’s author to maintain a level of musical feel while also making the game playable and enjoyable for people playing on these difficulties. If you find yourself thinking that the parts are too hard, or you don’t feel like you’re playing what you should be, that’s a problem, and you should report it as such. The main thing for these difficulties is that you should be playing the notes with the most emphasis to the music.

Non-difficulty specific issues

First and foremost, make sure that the guitar is cutting out when a note is missed. Sometimes authors mix up stems while compiling, so if you start missing notes and no longer hear the vocals (or any other track), that's a very serious problem, and it needs to be addressed. Thankfully, this is very easy to check.

An important thing to check is how guitar solos are marked. There can be various issues with them, some of which are worse than others.

The light blue solo section should begin at the same time that the solo begins. This can be a subjective issue, but in most cases there’s a pretty clear beginning to the solo.

In the same regard, the light blue should go away at the same time the solo ends. However, there is a caveat to this. If the solo is at the end of the song (or directly before a Big Rock Ending), it should end shortly before the actual end of the song, even if it’s still technically part of the solo. Sometimes there will be a graceful way to do this, sometimes there won’t. It is important that this happens, since the solo bonus may not display properly if it’s running into the end of the song, or it will cover up the counter for the BRE, which is especially an issue when the BRE is short.

Also, if there’s enough space between the end of the solo and where the main portion of the song picks up again, check to see if the blue is ending quickly enough. It tends to look awkward when the solo is running directly into the next note when it doesn’t need to.

Solos should be in acceptable places. If something isn’t marked as a solo, but pretty clearly is, report it! On the other hand, if something is marked as a solo, but seems like it’s too short, isn’t really all that improvisational, or whatever else you can think of, that’s an issue, too. In short, make sure that solos are only happening when it “makes sense.”

Make sure that Big Rock Endings are functioning properly. First, make sure that you can actually score points on each of the five lanes during it. (Generally, if it breaks, you won’t be able to score on any of them). After that, make sure there is at least one gem after the BRE. There has to be something to hit in order to trigger the bonus points!

Also, make sure that there aren’t any sustains after a Big Rock Ending. This isn’t something that Magma currently checks for, but it can have a negative effect on the game if it is there.

While checking guitar/bass, you may also want to observe the animations. Our animations are not 100% accurate to what the guitarist/bassist is actually playing, but it should look real enough. The most important thing is to make sure that they’re animating at all, and not just standing there checking their watch or tuning their instrument.

Specifically to bass, you will also want to check how they’re playing their bass. There are specific text events to make the bassist appear playing with either their fingers or with a pick, so if you can easily tell what they are playing with, you should make a note of it. This can be difficult to pick out if you’re not familiar with the different tones produced by various methods of play, so don’t worry about it too much if you’re not sure.

That's about it! Good luck!