Synthesia 0.8.0

Archived development update discussion from past versions
Archived development updates.
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Post by Nicholas » 10-15-10 12:54 pm

Over the last few days I've been starting down the scoreboard rabbit-hole.
  1. In order to add an online scoreboard, I need a play mode where things are a little less variable. (Fixed speed, no FF/RW, no looping, etc.)
  2. In order to add a new mode, I need a little more room on the Play Settings screen. Both just for the button, and to describe what each of the three modes ("Melody Practice", "Rhythm Practice", and (the new) "Recital") actually do.
  3. In order to make room, the other elements on the Play Settings screen need to go somewhere else... like the play screen. (I refuse to add any more screens between the title and play! If something must be added, something else must go away. ;) )
  4. To include more things on the play screen, I have to re-format the little button bar on the bottom to make things more compact and less visually noisy. Switching from the normal style of button to the "menu item" style used on the new track settings screen should do.
So, everything but the actual song mode on the play settings screen will now be editable in real-time during play. I've already made the play toolbar more compact, moved keyboard zoom level there, and am nearly finished moving key/note labels. Changing sheet music between flip/scroll mode during the song will be interesting, but that is next.

When everything is moved (and I fix a few other lingering bugs), I'll put up a preview.

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Post by darkman » 10-15-10 1:09 pm

Yay ! =D 0.8.0 Rules =D I hope you will post a preview soon =)

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Post by maccer » 10-15-10 4:24 pm

Great to hear that you've started with the "Changing Settings during Practice" feature! :)

But are you saying that there will be a screen with only three buttons - one for each play mode? That sounds a bit unnecessary to me. As the track selection screen usually won't have that many tracks (mostly 2) it should be possible to add a row of play mode buttons to the top or bottom of that screen.

You already have tooltips describing the modes - don't you think that will do? There could perhaps be a small "hover over the button to see an explanation" text.

You could label the steps with something like
1. Choose tracks
2. Choose play mode
Nicholas wrote:everything but the actual song mode on the play settings screen will now be editable in real-time during play.
If you have chosen the new Recital mode you of course shouldn't be allowed to change it during play, but in my opinion you should still be able to switch between the two practice modes (that's even in the description for "Changing Settings during Practice").

The problem is that the scoring won't work across the modes – but sometimes you don't care about the score, you just want to learn to play the piece without having to exit the song, switch modes and then try to find the correct position in the song (sure, you could create a bookmark but that takes time).

As changing the practice mode is one of the changes that will break the scoring, you'll need to show a "Changing the practice mode will prevent you from getting a highscore for this playthrough. Are you sure you want to make the change?" warning the first time you try to do the switch in the current session.
Songs learned using Synthesia:
CT: Wind Scene, The Trial | FF7: Prelude | SMB: Overworld, Underwater | Tetris: Theme A | Zelda: Lost Woods | Other: Für Elise

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Post by vicentefer31 » 10-15-10 4:36 pm

maccer wrote:But are you saying that there will be a screen with only three buttons - one for each play mode?
I hope in the future it can be with four buttons for four Modes:
1) Melody Practice
2) Rhythm Practice
3) Arcade Mode
4) Recital

The Arcade Mode is the best idea in years for this project.
Picasso: I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

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Post by Nicholas » 10-15-10 4:58 pm

maccer wrote:Great to hear that you've started with the "Changing Settings during Practice" feature! :)
Hehe, it's inadvertent, but some of it must be done ahead of time. Though not everything. You won't be able to switch track settings during play yet.
maccer wrote:But are you saying that there will be a screen with only three buttons...
Like I was telling Aria just recently (in some other post), the Play Settings screen will eventually be going away altogether some day.

I actually expect the play modes will be on the title screen(!), but that's later. ;) ... and don't worry, while I don't expect them to be changeable during play anymore (there is more going on behind the scenes than just scoring differences), you won't have to press ESC like 4 times just to change the mode. :D

I don't have any mock-ups yet (or time to draw them! :( ) but imagine the type of guided "checkout" experiences you get at stores like Along the top is a band with something like "1. Cart > 2. Shipping Info > 3. Billing Info > 4. Confirmation". Depending on how cool the store is, they'll let you click those items to jump around.

Well, clicking "Melody Practice" on the title screen(!) will pop you into the song library, and along the top of the screen you'll see: "(Home) > 1. Melody Practice > 2. Choose Song > 3. Track Settings > 4. Play!"

And the #2 item will be lit up. You'll be able to click around to any of them (even straight to Play if there is already a song highlighted in the library!) The exception is if you click the #1 entry, it'll just pop up a little menu where you can pick it in-place without changing screens. And, because this banner will follow you along to every screen, you'll be able to change it any time.

I was hoping to get that into 0.8.0 but there really isn't going to be any time. The "navigation across the top" design was literally in my original sketches for Keyboard He-- er... Piano Her-- wait... I mean Synthesia back in 2006.

If you already know the tracks are set up right, save yourself a click by going straight to play. The play settings screen is gone, so you *always* save that click. Hopefully the flow will feel very fast again.

The title screen will become the sort of activity hub where you choose what it is you want to do... the various practices, this arcade thing vicentefer is talking about ;) , the chord library, etc.

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Post by vicentefer31 » 10-16-10 4:39 am

It looks that Nicholas doesn't like the Arcade Mode, so I'll have to find other people who can be interested in it.
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Post by Nicholas » 10-16-10 12:37 pm

I'm still trying to figure out how to make it useful for beginners. Knowing where to place the bookmarks for the auto-loop-continue sections isn't easy.

It seems like the Song Library Feeds might introduce an opportunity to have an expert place them for the user (along with fingering information!) so the beginner doesn't have to know how to do it.

So, I'm still mulling the problem over in my head... I like it idea though.

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Post by swalker133 » 10-16-10 5:36 pm

is it going to be like anyone can put up any midi file that they want on the score board or is there going to be a list of songs that everyone can try to play and post their scores?

also, maybe you could add a new section to this forum where the game automatically posts the scores..... just an idea, i don't really know if thats possible or ideal though..
Learning, creating, recording, and performing music on the iPhone and iPad...

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Post by Nicholas » 10-16-10 11:59 pm

You'll be able to post scores for any song. So, if someone else has the same MIDI file and sets the same tracks to "Played by You", you'll both show up in the list in the game.

Website integration won't be immediate... just because time is so tight right now. But, that is definitely part of the plan. At first the only scores you'll be able to find on the site will be for "known" songs. That's just until I figure out some of the technical limitations involved in showing them all.

Otherwise, the sky really is the limit here. I hope to some day include in-game metrics right here in your little name box to the side of each one of your posts. That won't be for a while, but it will be really cool when it does happen.

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Post by Nicholas » 10-24-10 3:33 pm

Despite the relative silence, there is a ton of work going on. ;)
profiles.png (31.08 KiB) Viewed 12087 times

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Post by Nicholas » 10-25-10 4:17 am

aria1121 wrote:TELL US MOAR :)
How about I just show you instead? ;)

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Post by Nicholas » 11-01-10 4:03 am

This past weekend was a little busier with family-event (and holiday) type stuff, but I was still able to get plenty accomplished. In the next 2 or 3 days I should have a preview ready with the scoreboard. I'll be calling for all testers to play a particular song recital (most likely both hands of Big Bad Goblin Blues) so we can see how a particular scoreboard looks and behaves with more than a few entries.

That's it before release. So with any luck, 0.8.0 should be out before the end of next weekend.

EDIT: Also, after the release I'll be updating the front page video with a handful of the new items that have been added since June. I'll be using a screen-shot of the scoreboard I mentioned above to show off the online stuff. So, here's your chance to get your name on the front page of the site. :D

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Post by aria1121 » 11-01-10 5:15 am

Nicholas wrote:Also, after the release I'll be updating the front page video with a handful of the new items that have been added since June.
Wich software do you use for this?

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Post by Electrode » 11-01-10 8:57 am

I've just had a chance to fire up this new dev version, and I must say I like the profiles. I have a couple of thoughts on them:
  • It would be nice if different profiles could have different watchable folders, so I could set profiles and folders up for each of my students with only songs they can play (so they aren't distracted by the appearance of more songs than I've actually given them to learn, and/or won't get tempted to try more difficult songs than they are capable of at the current time, thus risking potentially disheartening situations for my more sensitive young students).
  • It would also be nice if I could enter my real name into my profile along with my Synthesia Talk username (which is also my gamer-tag), and have my real name showing up on the local scores, with my gamer-tag showing up online. Having my gamer-tag show up both online and offline seems to make Synthesia feel too "online-centric" to me. Don't get me wrong, I do understand that online play is going to be an integral part of Synthesia, but for teaching purposes and for purely offline play or practice, I'd prefer either to not have my gamer-tag show up, or perhaps instead have my gamer-tag show up in brackets after my real name.

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Post by Nicholas » 11-01-10 1:28 pm

aria1121 wrote:Which software do you use for this?
Beyond the ubiquitous "Photoshop" that is part of virtually every single process, the video was made almost entirely with After Effects. I guess I did the sound fading in Adobe Soundbooth... but I could have used any app for that.

I had just picked up their (crazy expensive) video editing suite and it was the first time I'd used After Effects in more than 10 years. Anyway, the (re)learning curve has been surmounted. Now it's easy again.
Electrode wrote:It would be nice if different profiles could have different watchable folders
Yeah, eventually profiles will be a lot bigger than they are now. Right now they're literally just the name that goes on the scoreboard. No other settings (play settings, watched folders, options, video settings, etc.) are involved at all.

I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but being in a hurry to make my various monthly deadlines, I've had to cut back on some of the extra polish a little. The pressure will be off here in a week, so hopefully I can go back to really finishing things up nicely.
Electrode wrote:Having my gamer-tag show up both online and offline seems to make Synthesia feel too "online-centric" to me.
Now, I haven't thought this through as much as I'd like to have a chance to yet, but the idea behind the "educational organization" (or "classroom") keys is that they'll eventually support something exactly like this. In fact, they'll basically replace everything that feels "online-centric" with things that will feel "classroom-centric". Recital will submit scores to a local server so students will only be competing against other students. Or, instead of showing everyone's score (which starts to become synonymous with "grade" at that point), it might just submit, show them any improvement they might have achieved since their last submission, and simply make the score available on the instructor's computer.

My plan is that all the server components (however that will work) and the instructor app will be included free -- really, they're included in the extra cost of the organization keys. I'm expecting most environments will prefer to keep their info local just out of not wanting anyone else to have student data. Though, at some point for people that don't want to deal with the hassle, I might offer a service where I'll host it too (securely and separately from all the other scores and whatnot).

That way instructors will be able to set things up using a student's real name.

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Post by Electrode » 11-01-10 4:43 pm

So, for private instructors such as myself (at least at this moment in time, anyway), the only solution would be to do what I'm currently doing - which is to set up a separate simple profile for me for offline use, and also have my "Electrode" profile on there for purely Recital Mode use. I'd use my offline profile for offline stuff, and only use my Electrode profile for online play.

I think a Classroom licence would be overkill for me personally (as I only teach one student at a time, for the time being anyway), but I can understand the logic behind the direction you want it to take. Server-client models are best for group teaching, indeed. Having everything centrally-located makes for much speedier and less confusing administration - especially with the future possibility of instructor-specific stuff like HTML or Excel exporting for collating mid-term reports or exam results or whatever.

Oh, and by the way, yay for Unicode profile names - hopefully this paves the way for localisation too?

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Post by Nicholas » 11-01-10 10:47 pm

Yeah, it's challenging to have every new feature simultaneously support every mode of use. Especially when simplicity is an overriding goal.

This time around I wanted to make sure I definitely covered the use case that Raymond mentioned here: friends/family sitting next to each other, taking turns trying to beat each other. That felt like it would come up a lot. That's why you can change profiles right at the last second before you start the song.

Also, just using non-forum simple profiles with just first names (and maybe an initial: e.g., Ashley K.) would have almost the same effect. Especially if your students are primarily playing things you've handed out to them. Because most-likely there won't be any other scores on those pieces' scoreboards, it will sort of be an exclusive area for just your students.

I haven't detailed how it will work yet exactly, but even simple profiles are these sort of persistent entities. That is, if you continue to improve your score over time on the same computer using the same simple profile, it will only show your best result. But, if you make a simple profile on your computer with the same name as mine, they'll show up as two different entries. The details there are that each computer hangs onto a totally random number the first time you start Synthesia. And that number sort of becomes that computer's ID. It's submitted along with simple profile scores so the same "only show my best" behavior can be obtained.

It sort of breaks down after that (say, trying to use the same simple profile name at home and in your classroom)... that's where "real" accounts take over. I didn't want to force everyone to sign up on the forums, but I'm hoping to add enough extra stuff (like friends lists, way more stats and graphs, etc.) to make it worthwhile.
Electrode wrote:yay for Unicode profile names - hopefully this paves the way for localisation too?
We're getting closer all the time. Most-recently around 0.7.3(?) when I finally removed all of the "old" font rendering code in favor of the new stuff, I think it's been viable from a technical standpoint. Now it's a matter of pulling every bit of text out into an easy-to-switch interface. That is a much larger task.

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Post by Nicholas » 11-04-10 9:25 pm

I have been stricken with some sort of head cold. It's pretty bad. I'm going to sleep 6 hours earlier than usual right now. ;)

This will most-likely (unfortunately) push 0.8.0 back another day or two. Still, I've made good progress in the meantime right up until this hit last night. Hopefully I'll be useful again soon.