Revisiting CS: GO

This week, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to play a few games of CS: GO with him, and I decided to play again since I wasn’t really doing anything at the time. I haven’t really played CS: GO at all since around April, so there were some things that I think were a bit interesting playing since then.

The first thing that I noticed was how much the game hadn’t changed. Everything was still pretty much exactly the same. As far as I know the only big things that Valve added to the game this year were two new skin collections which is pretty disappointing. Supposedly, there’s supposed to be a big update coming out soon, but those are just speculations. Even then, I feel like CS: GO has it’s gameplay pretty solidified, and if there’s nothing wrong with the game then I guess there’s not really a need to make changes.

Another thing that I noticed was that it took a little while to get used to the feeling of the movement and shooting. I’ve been playing Valorant which is really similar to CS: GO, but it’s still not quite the same. Player models move faster in CS: GO and aiming feels it needs to be a lot more precise. I was ranked a lot higher than my friend when I stopped playing, but he was still doing better than I was for our first few games.

However, once I got back into the feel of the game I was doing consistently better than my friend. That probably has to due to the fact that I just had to get my aim warmed up, but also because I’ve played a lot more than he has. I think a large part skill of CS: GO definitely lies in your aim, but also how well you can communicate, your utility usage, map knowledge, and experience. For me, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past learning different smokes and flashes that I can throw that will help my team get into advantageous positions. As long as I don’t forget them, I’m still able to help the team even if my aim isn’t that good and I’m not getting kills.

I think that just goes to show that in CS: GO you can’t just be a good player through aim and getting kills alone. The same friend I was playing with this week used to complain he was getting so many kills in his games, but how his teammates were always bad and he was never ranking up. The thing is that he never bothered learning how to use his utility to support his teammates or how to communicate with them effectively. Personally, I don’t think that my aim is that much better than his, but I think that the knowledge and experience is the reason why I used to be ranked a lot higher than he was.

Overall, playing CS: GO again was definitely a lot of fun. Of course we weren’t always 100% focused on winning and more so having fun, but there were a few times where we had to step up our game for the win. Even if there’s a skill difference in a naturally competitive game, you can still have fun with the right people.

Valorant Patch 1.11

A few days ago Valorant went live with its 1.11 patch and there were definitely a few things that caught my attention. This update brings in a new agent called Skye, changes to a few other agents, and tweaks to the economic system. I won’t be able to comment much on Skye since I’ve never played her before, but the other changes I can already tell will make a difference to me.

The biggest thing that they made for me are the debuffs they did to one of the agents I mainly play which is Cypher. His main strengths are being able to lock down sites on defense and cover the team’s flanks on offense. The changes made were only towards his Trapwire and Spy Camera abilities.

Trapwire is a placeable tripwire ability that slows and stuns enemies that walk into it. Before, you were able to place your Trapwires and not have to worry about them for the rest of the round, but now, your Trapwires will be revealed and deactivated if you die. This makes a pretty big difference because one of the best things about playing as Cypher is that you could still have an impact in the round even if you died. However now, you have to play extra careful in order to make sure your Trapwires stay active. Another thing that was changed was that you can no longer carry over the Trapwires you place from previous rounds into the next. Even if nobody walked into or destroyed them, you’d still have to rebuy your Trapwires which are not exactly the cheapest ability.

The other change that was made to his Spy Camera is that its location gets revealed if Cypher dies. Spy Camera allows you to place a camera that you can use to watch areas and is really useful for gathering information. At first it might not seem like that big of a deal for it to be revealed since you can’t even access the camera once you’re dead anyways, but this means you probably won’t be able to get away with placing the camera in the same spots anymore. Once the enemy knows where you often place your cameras they’ll be able to easily check and destroy them. I feel like the changes are pretty harsh, but it doesn’t make sense considering Cypher is a really strong agent with a really high pick rate in professional play.

Another agent that had changes made this patch was Breach who I also occasionally use. Compared to Cypher, Breach plays more of an attacking role and got both buffs and debuffs instead. Breach’s Flashpoint ability which is used to blind enemies now has an increased blinding duration of 0.25 seconds. It’s not a lot, but it will help in being able for Breach to play off of his own utility instead of just supporting other teammates.

Breach’s Fault Line and Ultimate ability also got some changes. His Fault Line and Ultimate ability are quite similar in that they stun enemies that are caught in their area. Fault Line creates a straight line while his Ultimate is a much larger area. The charge up for Fault Line was decreased by 0.5 seconds, but now both Fault Line and Breach’s ultimate ability will not affect the first 8 meters in front of Breach making them less effective for close ranges. This makes it so that while it might make it easier for Breach to play off of his Flashpoints, he’ll have to be more supportive when using Fault Line and his Ultimate.

The last thing I’ll write about are the changes to the economy system. The change is focused on deterring players from saving their weapons in rounds that they may not feel confident in winning. “Saving” is a common concept in both Valorant and CS: GO where in a round that doesn’t seem winnable, players can try to hide safely in order to save whatever equipment they have for the next round. The new change makes it so that players who survive a lost round will receive less money than their other teammates who had died for the next. This is almost exactly the same way CS: GO has its economy set up for players who save which forces players to decide whether or not the equipment they have is worth saving, or if it would just be better to try and clutch the round with what they have.

There were a few other changes like debuffs to the agent Killjoy, but I’ve never played her before, so I won’t really comment about those changes. A left-handed view model was also added which is nice because it should make it easier for left eye dominant people to control recoil easier. However, since the model is just a mirrored version of the right-handed model, the direction the gun sways towards is opposite to where your shots are going. So that’s something Riot might want to fix.

Overall, patch 1.11 has some changes that are making me think about some other agents that I could try out because of the changes they made to Cypher, but I’m also interested in how these changes will affect professional play. I think saving will become a lot less common, and players will have to try playing other agents or adapt their playstyle.

Hawku Tablet Drivers

Earlier this week, I decided to switch over from the default Wacom tablet drivers to the custom Hawku driver. The Hawku driver was made specifically for the osu! rhythm game. I’ve heard good things about it, and since I don’t use my tablet for anything else, I decided to give it a try.

Supposedly, the Hawku driver reduces input latency, removes cursor smoothing, and allows for an easier time when changing tablet area. First I’ll go over the input latency. Input latency is basically the amount of time it takes for a movement from the tablet to be processed in the game. When I used to play with the old Wacom drivers I’d get between 1-2ms of input latency, but with the Hawku drivers it’s only 0.6ms. The difference isn’t really that big, and I can’t really tell a difference, but it’s faster so that’s good.

One of the other things that the Hawku driver does is remove cursor smoothing. Cursor smoothing is something that can be put into the hardware of a tablet or is provided with a tablet’s drivers. What it does is smoothen out your cursor’s movements so that lines are more uniform. This is helpful for when you’re drawing, but smoothing can change the position you want your cursor to be and can also increase input latency. The Hawku driver allows you to choose whether you want to have smoothing or not. You’re able to change the amount of smoothing applied if you do use the filter though. For me, playing without any smoothing felt a lot different that what I was used to before. Since the cursor is also moving faster without smoothing, I started experiencing some screen tearing, but I was able to fix that with playing in windowed mode. I know that some people like to use smoothing because their hands shake a lot when they get nervous, but so far I haven’t had too many issues.

The last big thing that the Hawku driver does is that it makes it really easy to change your tablet area. Tablet area is the amount of space where the tablet is active. You can can make this bigger or smaller depending on your preference, and will change how far you have to move your pen to reach different parts of the screen. The Hawku driver has lots of different ways you can set your area. One way is by inputting the coordinates of the different corners of the area you want. This is the way the Wacom drivers did things, but you can’t actually tell how long or wide the area is. By converting the coordinates to millimeters, the Hawku driver makes it a lot easier to just set the size you want and share different areas. Especially since not all brands of tablets use Wacom’s coordinate system. I decided to try a few different top players’ areas, but my own still felt more comfortable for me. However, being able to easily test out different areas was still a nice feature.

Overall, I feel like if you only use a tablet for osu!, you should give the Hawku driver a shot. My aim definitely feels a lot more consistent than it used to be now that there’s no smoothing. Even it’s just placebo, the ability to precisely and conveniently change your tablet area using an actual unit of measurement is really helpful. If you don’t like the feeling of the new driver, you can always try adding smoothing or just go back to whatever you were using before.

Main Theme From Legend of Korra

For the past two weeks, I started doing another music exercise from the show Legend of Korra, but this time instead of the opening, I’m using the main theme of the show. Compared to the opening theme, there are a lot more tempo changes and the instrumentation is quite different.

To start, my music teacher told me to listen through the entire thing first and try to figure out the tempos for different sections. Since Logic’s tap tempo system isn’t the most intuitive, I kind of just guessed and went back and forth between my click track and the music. Another thing that made mapping the tempo difficult is that at the very beginning there are strings playing really slowly. This made it difficult for me to figure out when the downbeat was, but eventually I managed to get something pretty close.

After mapping out the tempo, we started to figure out those slow opening chords played by the strings at the beginning. Figuring out the chords here was a lot easier than with the opening theme because there were fewer instruments. The opening chords are being played by a string quartet, and the timbre of each of them is really easy to tell apart. I was able to just listen and copy over the notes I could hear. If I was missing some notes, I could just use the notes that I’d already figured out and kind of infer what the chord would be to fill in the blanks.

Then, there’s a really short cello solo that comes in afterward which was pretty easy to figure out, so it wasn’t really that big of a deal. However, after that was when the music starts to pick up a bit with the cello playing an upbeat ostinato sort of thing that outlines a chord. To figure that part out, I just kind of listened for the note that was emphasized first, and then I tried to fill in the rest by thinking of the different intervals relative to the emphasized note. The cello continues the ostinato, but once the melody comes in it shifts around. It was still playing the same pattern but just a different chord. I just assumed that the chord structure for each chord change would be the same, so I moved the entire ostinato down to the emphasized note. It ended up being pretty much spot on with just one note that needed to be changed.

The last thing that we ended up doing was looking at the melody part that comes in when the cellos play their ostinato. For me, this was probably the easiest part so far because there are two instruments that are playing the melody that comes through really clearly. I just figured out which notes were being played for each phrase and then matched the rhythm after that.

Overall, that’s what we’ve done so far with the Legend of Korra theme. There was a bit more to it than just trying to listen for the chords because of how quickly the music changes compared to the opening. We’re still not completely finished with it though because my music teacher wants me to try and fill in the rest of the things that we still haven’t done like the percussion and some other harmonies that we didn’t cover. So most likely, we’ll revisit this soon.

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact is an open world fantasy RPG that was released a few weeks ago. The game features different characters, locations, dungeons, and quests for you to play through. Since the game is free to play, I decided to give it a try a couple days ago.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the game is the art style. Genshin Impact uses a pretty clean anime art style that not a lot of other games use. As far as I know, the only other game I’ve seen with a similar art style is the yet to be released Blue Protocol. I think that Genshin Impact’s visuals are a lot different compared to something like Black Desert Online, but it certainly has its own appeal.

Another thing that is a big feature for Genshin Impact is the in-game gacha system. For those who are unfamiliar, a gacha system is a common mechanic in these types of RPG games where players can use in-game items and currency for a chance to unlock new characters or items. In Genshin Impact, this is pretty much the only way to unlock new characters. Playing through the game’s story does give you a few free characters, but the rarest 5 star characters can only be unlocked through the gacha.

One thing that I feel like is pretty important to note about the gacha system is that the rates for getting 5 star characters and weapons are really low. The base rates for 5 stars is only 0.7% which is pretty low compared to other games. What makes this worse is that the items used to roll on the in-game gacha is really hard to get once you get past the beginning stages of the game. After that, the only easy way to get more chances is to spend real money and hope you get the character or items you want.

As for the in-game story and gameplay, I found it to be pretty enjoyable for the first little while, but I can definitely see myself getting a bit bored if it was the only game I played. You can switch between your different characters who have different abilities, and you can go around exploring different areas of the world or take on quests. The game does include side quests along with the main quest like most other games, but that was about all I found.

Genshin Impact also isn’t necessarily multiplayer. There’s an option to play through dungeons with up to 4 other players, but other than that, the game is pretty much singleplayer only. For, me this kind of makes the game a bit less enjoyable. I’m already not really the type to play that many story-based games unless they seem really interesting, so for me, I just really like the art style and graphics.

Overall, Genshin Impact does seem like a really cool game, and I can see why a lot of people are playing it right now. Personally, I’m not too big of a fan, but if you like singleplayer games and don’t mind the bad gacha rates I think the game could be really enjoyable. In the end, I think I might make a few new accounts for the free gacha rolls to see what I get. I probably won’t get anything good, but I think Genshin Impact can still be a game I can dabble with when I feel like it.

Figuring Out Chords By Ear

This week, my music teacher decided to try something a bit different with me after finishing up our voice leading exercise with different modes. He showed me the intro to the show the Legend of Korra which was the sequel to Avatar the Last Airbender. It was quite similar to the original Avatar intro where they say the four elements and each one has a different chord.

The first thing that I tried doing was figuring out at least one note being played during each chord. For me, it was the easiest to pick out he highest notes that the choir was singing, and I was able to get those notes pretty easily. At first, I thought that it would be simple and that the highest note would be the root note and we could go from there. However, my music teacher reminded me that in full orchestration the highest note isn’t always the root note and that you can’t automatically assume.

Since, we needed more information, the next best thing for us to do was to listen to see whether or not the first chord was major or minor. To be honest, it was really hard for me to tell especially since an entire orchestra was playing and I was hearing all sorts of different timbres. In the end though, my music teacher helped me out there quite a bit and we established which chords were major and minor.

After that, we listed different major and minor chords that included the high notes as any of their chord tones and slotted them in until we found one that fit the sound. After the first two chords we started to try and determine the key and mode. Eventually we narrowed things down to a few possibilities so that we would be able to predict what our next chords could be. Unfortunately, we had a problem when it came to our third chord because theoretically there wasn’t any chord within our possible key signatures and modes that included the high note that we were hearing.

I spent a good few minutes trying to figure out whether or not we did something wrong or if I heard the wrong note, but eventually my music teacher just told me the key was a harmonic minor scale where the 7th degree of the scale is raised by one semitone. This allowed changed one of the previous minor chords that didn’t work into a major chord and we finally had our third chord figured out. The last chord wasn’t too special since we figured out that it was just the first chord again but an octave higher.

Once we finished figuring out the first four chords, there was a second section with more instrumentation and an actual melody. Just like the first section, I didn’t have much trouble figuring out the higher notes, or in this case the melody. What was different this time around though, was that now I know exactly what key we were in and was able to fill in chords based on what the melody was outlining.

Overall, I think that even though the intro was 20 seconds or so, it was still kind of difficult to pick out specific things. The fact that there were lots of different instruments playing which makes voicings a lot larger made me pretty confused, but in the end it was a good listening exercise for me to practice with.

Muse Dash

A few days ago, I noticed that I had a few extra dollars in my Steam Wallet funds and was look for a new cheap game to play. Eventually, I found out that the rhythm game Muse Dash was on sale for less than two dollars, so I decided to check it out. Here are my first impressions on the game.

Muse Dash is a side scrolling rhythm game where different notes come from the right side of the screen in two rows. You have two keys that you can use to hit notes on the top row, and you have another two keys that you use for the bottom row. I find this kind of similar to another rhythm game called Taiko No Tatsujin, but it’s still pretty different at the same time.

I think what makes Muse Dash a different kind of rhythm game for me is that you’re controlling a character which hits the notes that come from the side. Your character has to hit the notes and sometimes avoid obstacles on the ground as they run through a song’s level.

There are basic notes that you just hit once, notes you hold down that look like music sheets, and objects that you have to hit as many times as possible in quick succession. Those are the main things that stand out to me, but there are still other objects that you come across that the game kind of lets you figure out on your own. Another thing to note is that the different objects you hit are themed to each song’s level. In one song you might be hitting clouds and another you could be hitting a combination of cars and hats. This kind of fits with the game’s cartoony type of story, but at the same time there’s no real story.

One of the things that I don’t really like about the game is how you can unlock certain characters that give you special perks. Some characters can boost your overall accuracy at the end of the song and another can make it so that you’re immune to obstacles. I feel like rhythm games with aspects like these make getting good scores kind of unfair in way because there’s no guarantee that everyone will unlock the same characters. The way it works is that every time you finish playing a song you will get an item which goes towards unlocking any random character. This makes it so that it could take a long time to get the items for a character you want or need. People that have “better” characters will have some sort of advantage of other’s that don’t. I think this takes some of the skill away from these types of games, but I know some people probably like having another game element besides the main content.

Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is that the game only has around 40 default songs for you to play unless you buy the DLC packs. The game does temporarily unlock one song from each DLC pack, and every week the song will rotate, but there’s still a limited selection of songs. There’s no community level design opportunities unlike osu!, so you won’t be able to play all of your favourite songs.

Overall, Muse Dash for its base price even without the DLCs has still be pretty fun. The levels do get quite difficult, but without community involvement I think that high level players must get bored sometimes. However, I think Muse Dash is generally more of a casual type of game which I think is still fine. I’ll probably keep playing it a bit more and see how much better I can get.

Developing Small Ideas

A few weeks ago my music teacher decided to try something new with me and I thought it turned out pretty interesting. He gave me a motif, and the motif was “four of the same note in a row.” This week, I’ll be writing about how that turned out.

So at first, I wanted to know what he meant exactly by “four of the same note in a row,” and he said that the first bar has to be four of the exact same note, at the same pitch, and of the same duration. From there, I’d have to figure out how I could develop that into something more while still keeping the motif. On the piano roll, I started with four quarter notes in the first bar. In the next three, I did the same thing but just changed the notes.

After that, I decided to have the left hand hold down different chords for each bar. At the fifth bar, things started to get a bit repetitive, so I had to change something about our four note pattern. I could have changed either the pitches of the notes or the lengths of the notes since those two attributes were what mainly stood out from the original motif. I decided to go with changing the four of the same note pattern to a three of the same note with one note different pattern, and that was only for one bar followed by three bars of the original pattern.

We kept that pattern going for a little bit until it also started getting a bit repetitive. After that, we went with two of the same note and two different notes for one bar still followed by the original pattern. Eventually though, I thought it was getting quite boring quite fast, so I switched it up to having every single note of every bar be different. Now, the main pattern was that all the notes are just the same length instead of focusing on the pitches or tones of the notes. There was kind of a melodic pattern in the notes, but it wasn’t the main thing that I was trying to go for.

Since it was just a small project, we wanted it to be pretty short. We brought it back to the original pattern until it sort of fizzled out and ended it on a final chord. After all that my music teacher wanted to try and take the piano arrangement and rearrange it for a string quartet. However, that idea kind of turned out a bit underwhelming for me since I felt like the patterns didn’t come through as strongly with the strings as it did on the piano.

Overall, I think it was nice to try something different in terms of writing new material. Usually I’d already have a melody or chord progression in mind and add other elements to that instead of having something super simple and developing that instead.

Finishing Up The Full Orchestral Arrangement Project

Before summer break started, my last post was an update on an orchestration project that I’d been working on at the time. I still actually ended up finishing it over the summer despite not writing about it. It’d be weird if I didn’t actually write about how it ended up so that’s what I’m going to be writing about this week.

In the last post, the basic layout for the climax was decided. We had the percussion playing a bit faster and the cellos and double bass were still doing the same thing as they were before the climax. We also had the violins, horns, and some winds all layering the melody with the rest of the winds doing runs. The things we added were a trumpet section that was playing chords, timpani, and a glockenspiel. I had the trumpets change chords before the downbeat in order to make them sound less square. The timpanis added more impact and the glockenspiel was just a little something extra that I felt like putting in.

After the climax continues for a little bit we started to work on how we wanted to move towards the ending. The way we went about it was building tension and then finishing with the orchestra playing one big chord. So the climax transitions into a back and forth between the violins and horns playing swells and the rest of the orchestra doing a staccato type call and response in between. For the percussion, we took out the timpani and a few other elements of the percussion to lessen the impact from the climax section. The chords we used went higher in a stepping type fashion as well as the swells. After a few measures the orchestra comes together and ends on one big chord.

Once we finished with the orchestration we worked on setting the levels of the instruments right because for some reason after we exported the track some of the instruments were a bit quieter than we were hearing them in Logic. One of the things I would probably change if I were to do this type of style again would probably be to extend the length of some of the sections. In my opinion, some parts go by a bit too quickly and you can’t really remember what each section sounds like. However, that was kind of to be expected in an exercise like this project. Another thing I would do would be spending more time with the programming of a few instruments so they would sound a tiny bit more natural.

Overall, the project ended up better than I initially thought it would sound. There were a few times were I was having a hard time thinking about what I wanted some of the instruments to be doing, but I think everything turned out alright. I ended up learning a lot more about different ways you can use the instruments in an orchestra as well as how to develop sections of a track. It definitely took a bit of while to write out, but I think if I were to do things again it would go by a bit faster now.

Starting School In 2020

A few days ago, the school board for the area I’m in started with school again. Unlike other years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more complicated in order to try and keep people safe. This week, I’ll be writing about the different measures that the board has put in place.

The biggest change that the schools have made this year is the introduction of the remote learning system. Unlike the previous year’s temporary emergency online learning, this system is supposed to be more organized. Before actually starting school, students were given the option if they’d like to participate in either full online learning or a mix of in-person and online. I ended up choosing the full online learning experience, so I’ll be able to comment more on that, but I also have a decent understanding of how the in-person side goes.

From the information that’s been sent out says, students that participate in in-person learning will be placed in groups of 15. Those 15 students will physically go to school every other day for around two hours. When they are not physically at school, they will also be participating in online courses. In my opinion, this just seems like online learning with a few extra steps that don’t really seem necessary. Students will only be at school for a little bit of time each week and will be doing online learning anyways, so I don’t really see the point. Supposedly, students won’t even get tested unless someone in their group of 15 starts showing symptoms.

As for the full online learning system, students will spend most of their time in Google Meet sessions with their teachers and the class that follow a normal school schedule. However, students that opted for a full online learning experience will be placed in classes where students are mixed from different schools and teachers. This means that you might not know as many people in your classes. So far, the board is still trying to get everybody’s courses figured out since some teachers had issues configuring their teaching platforms of choice.

Personally, the courses that I’m taking are Math, Technological Design, Careers & Civics, and Food & Nutrition. I’d say that I’m okay with all of the courses and the teachers seem alright. I actually had a bit of a problem getting in contact with my Food & Nutrition teacher, but eventually, we got things sorted out. None of my classes have actually started with any actual course material yet though, so it seems like it’ll take a little longer until we get started.

Overall, the school board’s approach to reopening schools has been going alright so far. I’m not too sure how well the in-person learning will go, and I think some of the choices they made are a bit questionable. We’ll see what happens though.