BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover

A few weeks ago I visited Spitfire Audio’s website and completed a survey that would allow me to download the Discover version of the BBC Symphony Orchestra sample library for free after two weeks. I finished downloading the library and got a chance to listen and play around with the samples. So far, I haven’t written anything with it, so this week, I’ll just be writing about my first impressions with the library.

The first thing that I noticed about the library is how small library size was. Compared to different sound libraries that can be up to hundreds of gigabytes this library was only a few hundred megabytes. However, this is just for the Discover version of the library. If you had purchased the Professional version of the orchestra it would be almost 600 gigabytes. The small file size is because they don’t give you as many different options for things like microphone positioning and articulations in the Discover version. Despite that, the samples that they do give you in the Discover version still really good in comparison to most of the samples in Logic.

Starting with the strings, I would say that the BBC Orchestra strings sound a lot more real compared to the studio strings in Logic. However, you still have to make an effort with how you write out notes in the MIDI for long notes, otherwise the notes won’t sound quite right in transition. Despite sound better, the BBC Orchestra doesn’t have as many different articulations as the ones in Logic.

Next are the woodwinds. In my opinion, the woodwinds are probably the weakest part of the library. Sometimes the tone between the notes for instruments like the flute can be inconsistent. Additionally, most of the instruments are in unisons of three, so if you wanted to play four different notes with the flutes you’d actually be hearing twelve flutes playing at once. I’d say you’d have to be careful not over orchestrating certain instruments in order to make them sound natural.

After the woodwinds are brass, and I think that for the most part they sound pretty good. I would say that they have a lot of resonance even without putting any reverb on them, but I don’t think that should be a really big problem. I like how bass trombone was included in the library because it allows for more flexibility which wasn’t available in Logic.

Last is the percussion section which I really appreciate because the percussion in Logic is not the best. With the BBC Orchestra there are so many different types of sounds that sound great. Additionally there’s tuned percussion like bells and xylophone which also sound really good. A harp is also included which is interesting as well as a celeste which was the instrument used for Hedwig’s theme in the Harry Potter movies.

Overall, the BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is an amazing sample library for being free. The downsides can easily be overlooked and you can’t really complain because what they give you already sounds great. If you wanted something better, you can consider upgrading to more expensive libraries on the Spitfire website like the full versions of the BBC Orchestra or their collaborations with composers like Hans Zimmer.

Valorant’s Full Release For June 2

Valorant has been one of the most popular online games for the past month despite it currently being in its closed beta phase. Initially the developers Riot Games had planned for the beta to continue for a few more months for a mid summer release, but just this week they announced that the game’s full release will be coming on June 2nd. The closed beta will end five days before the release on May 28th. A new map and agent were teased on release with a new gamemode soon after. This week, I’ll be writing about what I think of Riot’s decision on an early release for Valorant.

I’ve been playing Valorant for a few weeks during the closed beta so there’s a lot of different things I’ve seen in terms of bugs and broken game mechanics. Personally, I don’t really think that the game is ready for a full release yet. There are several things that make the game sometimes frustrating to play. The game is poorly optimized, the hitboxes are inaccurate in the latest patch, weapons have desync issues, and certain agents have exploitable boost abilities which allow for insane speed across the maps.

When lots of abilities are being thrown down and several players are shooting there’s a very good chance that your frame rates will start dropping. One character using all of their abilities can drop the amount of FPS you get by over 100. I’ve had times when my game has practically frozen in large gunfights only for my frames to come back after I’ve already died. Other people have also pointed out the issue to the developers, and while they’ve already optimized the maps, there are still some issues whenever the action starts.

Another one of the issues are the current hitboxes in the game. Sometimes you get visual recognition that you’ve headshot a player but you deal zero damage. Many people have videos where you can see sparks flying off of their opponents heads but the game registers them as body shots. It can be frustrating because there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it.

A third problem that came with one of the more recent weapon patch is when you spray your weapon and the bullets don’t go in the direction the weapon is pointing. Initially, looking at the barrel of your gun was one of the only ways to control recoil, but now it can be completely random no matter how hard you try. It can be so bad to the point where the bullets are going in the complete opposite direction of the barrel.

The last thing that I find terrible is how players have found ways to boost other characters across the map with different agents’ abilities. Depending on how they’re used, you can send players flying across the map right from the start of the game extremely quickly. When you see it happen it’s almost comical and clearly wasn’t an intended game mechanic.

Despite all of these annoying mechanics the game still feels somewhat solid. However, there are still some balancing issues with the agents that have been in closed beta since the start, and when Riot says that they plan on adding another agent on release it worries me about whether or not they will cause more unbalance within the game. Currently there are still some agents that many people consider underpowered and some overpowered.

Overall, I’m sure they’ll be able to fix some of the bugs that are currently in the closed beta, but at the same time Riot plans on adding even more content on the date of release. I just don’t think that the game is in a good state for full release especially in terms of agent balancing. If they try and tweak them within the five days between the end of beta and release, there won’t be any chance for player feedback. In the end though, we can only see how the game will turn out at the start of June.

Spitfire Audio LABS

Last week, my music teacher showed me a free sample library by Spitfire Audio called LABS. It includes lots of different types of sounds like strings, pianos, synthesizers, and percussion. After downloading them, I had a chance to play around with a few of them, so here are my thoughts on Spitfire Audio’s LABS.

The first sample I tried out was the Soft Piano. Like the name suggests, the sound of the piano is a lot softer compared to the ones in Logic. Apparently, they managed to get the sound by placing pieces of felt between the strings and the hammers. I think that it sounds really good even without using any EQ changes and the built-in reverb is amazing. The one thing I don’t really like about it is how the lower end starts getting a bit muddy. However, laying the Soft Piano with another type of piano can help make it sound fuller.

After the Soft Piano, I tried out the drums which weren’t as great as I had hoped. In my opinion, they just don’t sound that different than most of the kits already in Logic. I think that I’d have to EQ the instrument in order to find something that I’d like, especially for the toms.

I also took a look at the Frozen Strings and Scary Strings. These string samples have very unique sounds, and I feel like they’d only work in very specific themes. They don’t really sound anything like the normal or Studio Strings in Logic. The LABS also have normal strings which come with some new articulations that I didn’t already have. In a few weeks though, I should be getting the BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover library which I’ll probably also write about.

Other than those, I didn’t really look into too many other instruments, but the Choir, Opia, and London Atmos sounded pretty good from the demos. The LABS has so many different types of sounds that are available for free, and they definitely sound better than most of the sounds you’d find in something like GarageBand.

Overall, Spitfire Audio’s LABS has a lot of different and really cool sounding sample libraries that you can download for free on their website. Some of them have interesting stories behind them, and you can probably find a unique situation for each library to fit into in order to use them to their best potential.

Comparison Between CS: GO & Valorant

For the past few weeks, I’ve been playing a lot of Valorant with my friends and many people online have been comparing it to CS: GO ever since its development was announced. While playing I’ve noticed both similarities and differences between the two games, and this week I’ll be sharing them.

One difference between the two games is the weapon and combat mechanics. In CS: GO every gun has a set recoil pattern meaning that the bullets will always follow the same path as long as you are standing still. This means that if you practice the pattern for a specific gun, you should be able to get an accurate grouping of bullets. However, in Valorant, weapons will start with a simple pattern for the first few bullets until they begin randomly swaying left or right. This means that in Valorant, you can’t rely only on muscle memory when in an aim duel. Instead, you can look at the barrel of your gun when shooting to see how you should adjust depending on the direction it is in. In Valorant, it is also easy for moving players to hit accurate shots due to less moving inaccuracy.

The biggest difference between CS: GO and Valorant is that the latter allows players to choose unique characters with different abilities each game. This expands possible gameplay situations and in my opinion already makes the game drastically different from CS: GO. Different character’s abilities allow for creative opportunities much like the grenades in CS: GO.

Aside from the different characters and abilities, I find that much of the rest of the gameplay in Valorant is very similar to CS: GO. The objectives of both games are similar, having a 5v5 environment with one team defending sites while the other attempts to plant a timed object on those sites. Each player has money that they receive every round. The amount depends on what happened in the previous round and it can be spent to buy weapons.

Throughout Valorant’s similarities and differences with CS: GO, the only thing that I don’t particularly enjoy about the gameplay is the tag slowing when you get shot. Both games have tag slowing where your movement gets slowed whenever you get hit. The slowing in Valorant is way higher than in CS: GO and you’re pretty much stuck in place when you’re getting shot. This means that if you ever get hit by another player you pretty much have to commit to the engagement. From my understanding, the amount of slow is supposed to be part of the game, but it gets pretty frustrating having to sit down and spray my weapon for every fight.

Overall though, I can say that both games are similar but different at the same time. Both can be enjoyable in their own ways. I know that Valorant is the type of game that caters more towards casual players because its gameplay is more forgiving. For me, I’d probably bounce back and forth between the two games because it gets difficult to adjust to the different weapon mechanics for each game.

School Closure Continuation

Around a week ago the YRDSB announced that school closures would be extended to May 29th when they will reevaluate the COVID-19 situation. In the meantime, they’ve provided some updated information and online learning is continuing. Here are somethings about the current school situation that I’d like to share this week.

The first thing is one of the statements that the board has on their “Novel Coronavirus FAQ” page regarding school marks. They say that “end of year marks can only remain the same or increase based on work completed from April 6 and onward. This means that no matter how badly you do on your future assignments your mark cannot go down. In my opinion, this seems like a very strange move to make by the school board because it doesn’t give students much motivation to continue on with their school work. I know some of my friends don’t really feel the need to do school work if they already have high marks. For me, I’ll still continue the work, but it feels like sometimes I’m just wasting my time doing the work.

A complaint I have about the lessons and work that I’ve been getting. I feel like the amount of work that’s being assigned from teachers is completely different from before. For some subjects, the amount of work being assigned each day is sometimes too much. It gets annoying sometimes when the teachers don’t make things easily accessible to see because sometimes I find out that there was something assigned that I didn’t even know about.

Another thing that I personally don’t really like is how communication is done. Whenever I email my teachers about a question I have, I always get really vague feedback or they just repeat whatever’s written on the lesson post. Sometimes I even see classmates ask questions on assignment posts where the teacher hasn’t even responded in days. I’ve also had to deal with tasks done in pairs where my assigned partner doesn’t respond to messages or emails. I messaged my teacher and only then did I get a response from my partner even though the task was overdue.

Overall, I’ve found this online learning to be a total circus. Every day it’s like the teachers are just trying to throw material at the students so that they get through the curriculum. I feel as if I’m not learning anything, and there’s zero motivation for me to continue working.

Blue Protocol

A few months ago Bandai Namco announced that they were hosting a closed beta testing for one of the games they’ve been working on called Blue Protocol. Blue Protocol is an MMORPG where players complete various quests and clear dungeons. Last weekend, the closed beta started and lots of gameplay has already been recorded and livestreamed. This week, I’ll be writing about what I think of Bandai Namco’s Blue Protocol.

When the closed beta was first announced I was interested because compared to other MMORPGs I’ve seen, the visuals seemed less tiring on the eyes which I’d had a problem with in other games. For example, in Black Desert Online, the UI had a lot of things going on and it was really difficult to figure out what all the different things on the screen were. Additionally, the overall environment was very detailed and although everything looked nice, it was hard to find things like monsters from far away.

While I didn’t make it into the closed beta, the storyline of the game seems really easy to follow at the start of the game from what I’ve seen on livestreams. At the beginning of the game, the main quest line is focused on a lot and the introductory NPCs have their own voice lines which makes them memorable. I think that helps players get more involved with the story instead of going off on their own doing random quests at the beginning of the game.

Like most MMORPGs, Blue Protocol has classes that you can choose in the game. I’m not sure if Bandai Namco plans on adding more, but at the moment there are only four playable classes in the game. However, it looks like you’ll be able to switch between classes later on. The four classes are a shield an sword user called the Aegis Fighter, an axe duel wielder called the Twin Striker, a bow user called the Blast Archer, and a wizard/witch type class called the Spell Caster. Personally, after seeing how all of the classes play, they all seem pretty familiar. The only thing that I find interesting between these classes is how the Blast Archer’s targeting mechanic works. When firing at an enemy, a Blast Archer user can either lock on to the enemy or use their own aim to attack their target. In my opinion, it seems like the lock on would be way more advantageous. I guess it would make sense that if you used your own aim you’d have better visibility since the centre of your screen wouldn’t be focused on one enemy. Other than that though, I don’t really see too many issues with the classes.

In addition to the different classes, each class has their own skill trees with plenty of different skill points. I’m not too sure if you’ll be able to unlock every single skill for each class though because if skill points have a limit then you’d have to choose which types of skills you wanted to level up. There are definitely quite a few different skills, so it will probably take some time before people come up with the most effective skill combos for each class.

Overall, Blue Protocol is looking like a really promising game and the people playing the closed beta seem to be enjoying it. I’ll continue watching more closed beta content for the time being. Whenever the game hosts its next closed beta I’ll definitely register again, but for the time being, waiting for the official release is most likely what’s going to happen.

Valorant

For the past week or so, I’ve had the chance to play Riot Game’s new project called Valorant. It’s a pretty popular new game at the moment, but for now, it’s still in closed beta. My friends and I have been playing the game quite a bit, and this week I’ll be writing about my experience so far with the game.

Riot Game’s is most popularly known for being the developers of the game League of Legends which is a competitive 5v5 MOBA game. MOBAs are Multiplayer Online Battle Areas where each player chooses a character with their own unique abilities. In order to win, one team must destroy the other team’s objective. Personally, I don’t really play too many MOBA games, but that’s the main idea. However, the point is that Riot Game’s specialty was League of Legends, so people were surprised when they heard that Riot was coming out with a First Person Shooter game in the form of Valorant.

Unlike most First Person Shooters, there are different characters that players can choose at the start of each game similar to Overwatch. These characters have different abilities and tools. The objective of the game is very similar to Counter-Strike where one team defends multiple sites while the other team has attack a site and plant a bomb. A lot of the gameplay features in Valorant are identical to Counter-Strike with the exception of specialized characters.

To be honest, when the closed beta was introduced I wasn’t really too interested, but once my friends started to get into the game I decided to try it out. I’d seen a few videos of the game on YouTube before I started playing, so I already had a general idea of how the game worked. To my surprise, I found that my experience with Counter-Strike transferred over really well. The only thing that I still find a bit confusing is how to best use each of the different characters’ abilities. For now, I’m only using one character and trying to use their abilities the best I can before trying to use all of the rest.

After a few games, it gets really fun to play especially if you have friends who are also learning the game with you. When my friends and I started playing, we were all already familiar with standard first person shooters, so it was fun finding out about what each of the characters could do and the abilities they had.

The game is still in closed beta though, so there are still some things that I think they could change. One of the things I don’t really like is how far away you can hear enemy footsteps. When a player runs they can be heard from really far away, and it makes rotating from one site to another take a lot of time if you don’t want to be heard. In terms of the character abilities, I think most of them are pretty balanced although there could be some small changes made to specific abilities.

Overall, Valorant has been a really fun experience and it’s different from the games I’m used to playing. I think in the near future my friends and I will be playing more of it. I’m pretty sure there are also some professional Counter-Strike players that have switched over to Valorant already. It should be interesting to see how strategies and gameplay develops competitively.

CS:GO’s First Gameplay Update After End of Operation

Yesterday, Valve released the very first update since the end of Operation Shattered Web. For the past few months, the game’s community has had a few concerns in terms of weapon balances and map updates. In this recent update Valve has tried to address some of those things, and this week I’ll be writing about them.

The biggest change that was made in this update was to the SG553 which is one of the main rifles on the terrorist side. Before this update, the SG553 had undergone various amounts of usage despite not having it’s statistical values changed. In a past update, a change in price was made for the gun, creating more opportunities for players to use it. People soon realized its potential and it became apparent that the weapon needed to be changed in order for it to be more balanced. Valve did just that by reducing the fire rate and accuracy of the weapon, but now there’s concern that they may have overdone it. Now, the SG553 has become almost unviable in a lot of eyes.

Another big change that Valve made in this update was towards the Desert Eagle pistol. Being one of the most infamous pistols in the game there wasn’t much conversation about changing the weapon before the update. In fact, some would even argue that it was already overpowered. Instead, it was decided that the jumping accuracy of the weapon was increased. Now, it’s possible to hit very accurate shots while jumping in the air. Jumping and shooting have never been really synonymous to the Counter-Strike franchise, and the pistol’s update is quickly being compared to the R8 revolver update which was known for being quite terrible in terms of balancing.

Valve also decided to reduce the price of the counter-terrorist side’s M4A1-S which is an alternative version to the M4A4 which remains at its original price. For the time being this change doesn’t appear to be that big of an issue, but later on after more usage due to a reduced price; it is possible that rebalancing may need to occur. Personally, I’ve switched from the M4A4 over to the M4A1-S just to see how it compares, but so far the price difference hasn’t made that big of a difference in my opinion.

Overall, the only other notable things included in the update were small map related changes and a slight buff to the Tec-9 pistol and PP-Bizon SMG. I think that this update has definitely already shifted the weapon choices that players make, and we’ll most likely also see further changes in the following weeks. Right now, I think that Valve has tried to balance the old META, but they’ve already created new problems for themselves. As of now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Online Learning

Due to schools being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are now being required to learn online starting next Monday. We’ve been given instructions on what to do, but I think there’ll still be some issues. This week I’ll be writing about how our online learning system is being used.

For the past few weeks, the school hadn’t given much information on what to do in terms of learning. At the start of March break some teachers gave out a small amount of work, but that was about it. However, as of this week, it’s been announced that we will begin online learning using platforms such as Google Classroom. Supposedly teachers will post class material in the morning, and students will have the rest of the day to work on what has been posted. This allows for students to choose which subjects they want to work on first.

Posting the classwork for every single class all at once happens at the beginning of the day at around 9:00-10:00. I’m not too sure how it will affect my workflow, and which subjects to work on first, so we’ll see how it goes. Students should be able to ask questions to the teacher through email which would be helpful since the whole online learning thing is quite new.

In one of the emails the school sent out, they stated that high school students will receive “three hours of work per course per week”. From my interpretation, that means that class time will effectively be cut in half since the usual class time is 70 minutes. In my opinion, I feel like this is quite strange because each day you’d only be working for around two and a half hours each day. That seems quite little since we’d usually be at school for six hours. The material will either have to be really efficient to process or else we’d be slowing down on the curriculum. With my experience of my last semester, each class was planned out so that we could get through the entire curriculum before exams came up. By cutting class time in half I’m not too sure whether not we’ll be able to get through the material in the same amount of time.

Another thing that I’m curious about is how things will turn out if students don’t do the work. Some students don’t even do their work at school, and now that teaching is being done online, it’d be up to the parents to make sure that students are doing their work. With everyone staying at home I’m pretty sure that some people are going to end up not doing their school work.

Overall, the online learning plan seems to have some holes in it, but I think that there will be improvements to the system as time goes on. However, I think the main question will be whether or not classes will be able to progress through the curriculum according to schedule while also having the students understanding the material.

FACEIT

For the past few weeks, my friends and I have been playing a lot of games together, and one of the games we’ve been playing is CS:GO. It’s a game that I’ve been playing for almost five years, so it’s really nice seeing some of my other friends starting to play. One of the main problems that we’ve been facing though is with the game’s matchmaking system. However, we were able to solve it by using something called FACEIT.

FACEIT is a separate client from Steam which is the platform that hosts CS:GO. When you use FACEIT, you are still playing the game off of Steam, but you are playing the game on FACEIT’s servers. The FACEIT servers are pretty much an alternative version of Valve’s official matchmaking system.

I’ve used FACEIT in the past before, but only to play a few games. However, the reason why my friends and I are using it more now is because of Valve’s matchmaking system. With the official servers, players that want to play together have to be within a certain skill ranking of each other. Since I’ve been playing the game for much longer, my rank is a lot higher than the rest of my friends. This means that we aren’t able to play together unless we have a full premade team of five people. Often times this proves difficult, and so we’d always be missing one person to fill the last spot on the team.

Fortunately, FACEIT fixed this problem for us because since I’ve never really used my FACEIT account too much, my level is around the same as my friends who’ve just made new accounts. This lets us play together without having to go through the hassle of trying to find a group of five people.

Playing with your friends isn’t the only reason why other people use FACEIT though. A lot of the people that play on FACEIT servers are looking for a more competitive experience, and the skill ceiling in FACEIT is considered much high than the official matchmaking system. Some players currently playing for big-name organizations used to play in FACEIT’s pro league. FACEIT servers are also run on 128 tick servers which are more responsive than the official matchmaking servers.

Some issues we’ve had with FACEIT though is the fact that you don’t always get to choose which maps you want to play on. CS:GO has different maps with different layouts, and since most of my friends aren’t too into the game they don’t know how to play some of the maps. In FACEIT, each team has team captains and they go back and forth banning different maps until there’s only one left. The map that wasn’t banned is the one everyone plays on. Sometimes you don’t get to be team captain, and sometimes the other team bans the only maps you know how to play. This sometimes results in devastating losses where our team just can’t play as well as the other team. To us though, it isn’t really too big of a deal since we’re mostly playing for fun anyways.

Overall, FACEIT has been a good alternative to the official CS:GO matchmaking system for when my friends and I want to play. There is a bit of a trade-off, but to be honest it’s a lot more convenient to be able to play with whoever I want without being held back by skill difference.