Archive for the UltraStar Category

New Site Launched!

Posted in UltraStar on October 1, 2012 by kokairu

Hello!

Sorry for the lack of UltraStar/Vocaluxe updates people. The good news is that they have now all been updated and improved on my new site: UltraGuide.net. I’ve also added a few new sections on Error Management, Playlists, and Song Creation.

Enjoy, and keep warm!

UltraStar Update: Vocaluxe (Beta)

Posted in UltraStar with tags , , on February 27, 2012 by kokairu

“Vocaluxe,” an entirely new take on open source karaoke software, has now been released in beta status. I’ve just been excitedly playing around with it, and though it is not very stable yet (it crashed a couple of times on me), it’s a glimpse into the future for all fans of UltraStar.

Song files for UltraStar will still work for Vocaluxe, so you can see for yourself how it compares:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/vocaluxe/

I particularly like how you can set up profiles (including pictures) for all potential players. I never really bothered entering player names before, but I can see it being a lot easier to switch between names when new people step up to take the ultimate singing challenge. This means that the high scores will now mean something!

Vocaluxe also supports duet mode, which is definitely one of the better later additions to UltraStar. I’m glad it lives on!

On the downside, there’s no Party mode yet (and I do love my Party mode!). However, there’s nothing to say that this won’t be added at a later point.

I’m also a bit dubious about some of the graphics – there doesn’t seem to be a way to change how the text lights up during game play for one. I liked the way it used to lift up or enlarge in UltraStar Deluxe – it made it a lot easier for those with eyesight problems to see it properly. At the moment, it just changes colour.

Moreover, the song selection screen isn’t quite as snazzy as it was in UltraStar. But the last two points are nit picky – they don’t exactly affect the gameplay itself much. Plus, I’m aware that a few people are working extremely hard on this – asking for no money in return – so it’s not at all within my right to moan about it. I am eagerly awaiting the first proper release!

 

UltraStar: Creating a Song List

Posted in UltraStar on September 6, 2011 by kokairu

Please note: my UltraStar guides now have their own dedicated website on UltraGuide.net. An updated version of this article can be found here

Wow, it’s been a while since I got around to doing more UltraStar guides. There are only a few things left to cover: acquiring cover art for songs quickly and easily, song creation, and creating a song list. As you can see from the title, I am going with the latter today; in my experience, it can be an incredibly useful to have a printed list of songs when playing UltraStar with your friends. What’s more, there is one invaluable tool that makes it very easy for you: UltraStar Manager, which I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, is good for many things, such as Playlist creation and .txt file organisation. It is available to download on the link below:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/uman/files/uman/1.8.x/uman-1.8.0-win32-setup.exe/download

To get started, download and install this tool if you haven’t already. You should then specify the various directories that it requests on its first start up: the main UltraStar folder (usually C:\Program Files\UltraStar Deluxe by default), the playlist directory (usually C:\Program Files\UltraStar Deluxe\Playlists by default), and the song directory (usually C:\Program Files\UltraStar Deluxe\Songs by default). Depending on how many songs you have, it may then take a while to load up.

Once this is done, you will see a list of your songs arranged by folder. The best thing to do with this program is to play around with it, though be warned: there are a few options that will edit all of your songs automatically, such as correcting the capitalisation of the song titles.

To get started on the Song List, click on the ‘Extras’ tab and then the far left option, ‘Create Report.’

You should then select all of the fields that you want included in your Song List: ‘Artist’ and ‘Title’ are a given and pretty much the only ones you’ll need, but it’s up to you if you want to include something extra, such as ‘Edition’ (to help identify songs that have been taken from SingStar) or ‘Video file exists?’ (if having a background video might be important to you or other players). Do remember, though, that this list will most likely be printed off on a portrait orientation, and it therefore might not be viable to have too many fields.

Once you’re happy with the selection of fields, there are two options to click on. For those that want to get the job done quickly, click on ‘HTML Report.’ For those that are more perfectionist, and have Microsoft Access installed on their PC, go with ‘Text Report.’

For those that went with HTML Report, choose a place you want to save it, and the file will open, listing all of your songs. There you go. Just need to print that off now. The main disadvantage here, though, is that there’s no ‘fine tuning’ what’s been produced – you can’t add or remove songs from that list manually, nor can you apply the tricks that you will see with the other option below. But, as I say, it’s cheap and cheerful, and it serves its purpose.

The other option, then, is to click on ‘Text Report’ instead. Choose a place to save it, then click ‘save.’ In its current form, it may seem pretty useless, but rest assured that file contains everything it needs for the likes of Excel and Access to understand it. Some of you may be familiar with fixed width .txt files; in which case, you can skip some of the next few steps.

First of all, close UltraStar Manager and open Microsoft Access. My screen shots are from Office 2010, though hopefully they will help with an older version even if the two methods vary slightly.

Once you’ve opened Microsoft Access, create a new database and then click on the tab ‘External Data.’ After this, click on the ‘Text file’ option as demonstrated below:

In the pop up box, specify the text file that you want to import (the one that you saved using UltraStar Manager), leave the first option selected, and then click ‘next.’

On the next screen, leave ‘fixed width’ selected, and then click ‘next’ again.

The next part is a little bit fiddly, but it’s not too hard to get your head around. Access is now giving you the option of selecting where each column stops and starts (you can simply click where you want the columns to separate). There’s a lot of stuff there that you don’t need, though – the best thing is to isolate those bits into separate columns and make sure that ‘Artist’ and ‘Title’ only have the relevant text in them. This can be achieved by clicking just before the text for ‘Artist’ starts, and right before the ‘|’ part starts, as demonstrated below. Do the same for ‘title’, and remember to scroll right the way along to the side to cut off the ‘|’ part on the far right, as demonstrated in the second image.

You also have some dud rows here, but that can be sorted out at a later point. When you’re happy that you’ve successfully separated the columns (though if you do it wrong, you can go back and try again), click ‘next.’

The next screen gives you the option of naming the columns. As only two of these interest us, make sure that Field2 is named ‘Artist’ and Field4 is named ‘Title.’ This can be achieved by physically clicking on the respective columns and labelling them in the ‘Field Name’ box.

On the next screen, select ‘No primary key’ and then click ‘next.’

Change the name of your report if you wish, and then click ‘Finish’ followed by ‘Close.’

As you will see when you go to open the newly created table (found on the left hand side of the screen), the format is a little bit of a mess, but it’s starting to look more like a proper list:

The next step is to open the table’s design view, by right clicking on the table as below:

You then just need to click on the irrelevant fields (i.e. those not titled) by right clicking on the appropriate rows and selecting ‘delete.’ You should just be left with the following:

Double click on the table on the left hand side to view the table normally (save changes when prompted), and it should look something like this:

Much better now! Just need to sort out those bothersome rows at the top. Easily done – simply select them both, right click, and select ‘Delete Record.’

We’re done with Microsoft Access now. You just need to select all the records in the table by clicking on the square in the top left hand side (to the left of the ‘Artist’ tile), and then right click on any record and select ‘copy.’ You should then open Microsoft Excel and paste the records into the new spreadsheet. Rearrange the columns in a manner that fits across a sheet of A4 paper with a portrait orientation.

As it’s your songbook, there are several different ways in which you might want to order your song list. I’ve noticed when I’ve been to karaoke nights that song books are traditionally printed arranged by the title of the song, rather than the artist. To arrange this, select column B, go to the ‘data’ tab, and click on the A-Z icon. Make sure you select ‘expand the selection’ on the next screen.

For the rest of this example, however, I will be showing screenshots sorted ascending by artist (the default setting), as that’s my preferred way of doing it. When sorting it this way, however, there is a little trick for counteracting the “The” problem, i.e. band names that start with the word “The,” such as The Beatles or The Cardigans. I for one am used to my iPod automatically disregarding this word, making finding the artist I want much simpler. We can have it this way, too – it requires sticking a formula in column C. Select cell C2 and paste the following mumbo-jumbo into it:

=IF(LEFT(A2,3)=”The”,MID(A2,5,20),A2)

Then copy this formula down to the bottom (hovering over the bottom right hand side of the icon until a little ‘+’ appears, and then double clicking, is the fastest way to do this).

This will return the same value as that in column A, except if the first word is “The,” in which case, it will simply return the remainder of the Artist name, e.g. “Beatles” or “Cardigans.” We can then order the list by column C in a similar way as described above. Once you’ve done this, you can delete the details in this column as they’re no longer required.

The next step is to make sure that the column headings are reprinted on each page for easy viewing. To do this, click on the page layout tab, and then click ‘Print Titles.’

In the ‘rows to repeat at top’ box, enter $1:$1, or select row 1 manually.

The next step is optional, depending on whether you would like to have file dividers in your song book or not, as in the picture below:

You will need to set realistic page breaks wherever you want the text to separate, e.g. between A and B, C and D, S and T-Z, etc. This can be achieved by clicking on the ‘View’ tab, and then selecting ‘Page break preview.’ You then just need to drag the markers until it separates the rows appropriately.

You may now want to double check through the print preview that everything fits nicely across a portrait page of A4.

I think that’s just about everything – make sure you get permission from whoever pays the printer ink bills before printing this beast off!

Here’s one I made earlier:

UltraStar: An Alternative Guide

Posted in UltraStar on July 19, 2011 by kokairu

I uncovered this website the other day via USDB and thought that some readers may find it a useful alternative to my guide – Chriso has written an entire PDF, and has covered things I haven’t managed to get around to yet. It also seems to be phrased very nicely:

http://test.chrisonline.biz/?page_id=910

UltraStar: .Txt Files in More Depth

Posted in UltraStar on January 27, 2011 by kokairu

Please note: my UltraStar guides now have their own dedicated website on UltraGuide.net. An updated version of this article can be found here

By now I think I’ve covered the main ins and outs of UltraStar, so guides from hereon are more likely to be bonus materials.

Whilst I’ve talked about the primary aspects of .txt files, it may be of interest to some people to understand exactly what the finer details of the files mean. They’re actually very straightforward files and aren’t difficult to get your head round. This is one of the many things that make the game work; I guess it encourages people to create songs for the game. Sadly, I won’t be able to produce an extensive guide on how to do this. I’ve made a handful of .txt files using the MIDI conversion tool within UltraStar itself, and I will talk about this at some point. However, this method does have its flaws and I think it is falling out of popularity with the more ‘professional’ song makers out there.

So, as I’ve mentioned before, each song file starts with a series of #tags. Those highlighted in red are necessary for gameplay. Those highlighted in green are not necessary.

#TITLE: Title of the song
#ARTIST: Artist behind the song
#MP3: The name of the MP3 being used for this song. Must have a .mp3 extension included here
#GAP: The amount of time, in milliseconds, before the lyrics start. This allows for any instrumental (or other type of) introduction to the song. It is important to note the number of the first note below. If it is not 0 (which is rare) then the #GAP will be less straightforward. If the lyrics aren’t set to start until 8 beats into the song, but the singing starts straight away, then the #GAP may need to be set to a negative number, to force the lyrics to start early.
#BPM: Beats per minute. This signifies the rate at which the text should display. Put simply, fast songs have a higher BPM, slow songs have a lower BPM. To complicate it slightly, the BPM can be upped for slower songs as long as more beats are added in the main body of the song below. If the BPM of a song is high then it generally means a good, smooth .txt file with more attention to subtle changes in tone. But if that means nothing to you, then you don’t need to worry about this tag. If it is a good .txt file, then it won’t need changing.
#GENRE: The genre of the song. As UltraStar has a ‘sort by genre’ option, it’s a useful tag to use. That, and the search option uses the word(s) in the #GENRE tag when you’re on the song selection screen, so you can automatically find all ‘rock’ songs, for example, if you use this tag.
#EDITION: Typically refers to the SingStar edition, if applicable, that the .txt file is taken from. For organisational purposes, it’s good to leave this tag in.
#COVER: Typically the single/album art appropriate for the song, to be displayed on the song selection screen. This is not necessary but it does brighten up the look of the game (and makes certain songs identifiable when not selected). This must be in .jpg format and the .jpg extension must be displayed here.
#VIDEO: The name of the video file used for this song. Must have the file extension included out of the many types of video file that UltraStar accepts.
#BACKGROUND: If you don’t have a video file, then you may prefer to have a background image displayed instead of a plain background or visualization. This must be in .jpg format and should have the .jpg extension attached. If the song is set to have a #VIDEO file and is linked in properly, then this tag is disregarded. If the .txt is set to have a #VIDEO but the video is not linked in properly for whatever reason, then the game will automatically display the background image.
#RELATIVE: This is an unusual tag that I will talk about later. It is simply set to YES or NO. If it is set to YES, then it specifies a particular format of .txt file that functions in a different way to a typical .txt file. If the tag is absent, or is set to NO, then the .txt file functions as the others do. It is essential for this tag to be applied on a relative .txt file (these are rare. If you find one on USDB then the tag will be readily applied anyway).

When the tags finish, then the main data for displaying the lyrics and notes, at the appropriate times and for the appropriate lengths of time, begins. That is, unless the song is a duet song, which I touched on briefly in my last entry. If it is a duet, then the file should start with P1, with P2 appearing somewhere in the middle.

As you will see, the .txt is sort of divided into 5 columns from hereon, with spaces separating each one. Take the first line of the .txt below, for example. The first column is :, the second is 0, the third is 2, the fourth is 12, and the fifth is Tee. Each row of .txt applies to a different syllable or note. Multiple syllables should not be included on the same line; in the example below, “Teenage” takes up two separate lines. The exception to the rule is when the note is a freestyle one, because no points are available then anyway.

Sometimes people do add more than one syllable to a line, but it technically shouldn’t be done and means that the .txt is imperfect. It’s not really possible to sing two syllables without breaking up the note. There are some exceptions, though, as you’ll see below: where it reads ‘family’ below, it is set to 2 syllables, rather than 3. This is because Mika sings ‘fam-lee,’ rather than ‘fam-il-ee.’

: 0 2 12 Tee
: 2 2 12 nage
: 6 6 12 dreams
– 12
: 12 2 9 in
: 14 2 7 a
: 16 3 12 tee
: 20 3 12 nage
: 24 4 16 cir
: 28 3 14 cus
– 32
: 32 2 16 Run
: 34 1 16 ning
: 36 2 16 a
: 38 4 17 round
– 42
: 42 2 16 like
: 44 2 14 ~
: 46 2 12 a
: 48 2 12 clown
: 50 2 14 ~
: 52 4 16 on
: 56 3 11 pur
: 60 3 12 pose
– 64
: 64 1 12 Who
: 66 2 12 gives
: 68 2 9 a
: 70 4 12 damn
– 74
: 74 2 9 a
: 76 2 12 bout
: 78 2 9 the
: 80 1 12 fa
: 82 1 12 mily
: 84 4 12 you
: 88 4 16 come
: 92 3 14 from?
– 96
: 96 1 16 No
: 98 2 16 gi
: 100 2 16 ving
: 102 4 17 up
– 106
: 106 2 16 when
: 108 2 14 you’re
: 110 1 12 ~
: 112 2 12 young
: 114 2 14 and
: 116 4 16 you
: 120 4 11 want
: 124 3 12 some

The first column

This can be one of 4 things: :, *, F, or -. Here’s a rundown of what they mean…

: Regular note
* Golden note
F Freestyle syllable
– Line break (separates lyrics into suitable lines).
Line breaks are different to other types of row, in that they consist of a hyphen ( – ) and either one or two numbers. If it contains one number, it determines the beat at which the previous line will disappear. For example, in the first line of the song above, the ‘Teenage dreams’ line disappears as soon as it’s been sung, on beat 12. If the line break contains 2 numbers, the first number determines when the first line disappears, and the second determines when the next line will appear. There is no example of this type of line above, as it’s a fast moving song with no proper breaks from singing – line breaks containing two numbers are generally for songs with a large instrumental break in them. Two numbers aren’t at all necessary, however, as the game automatically puts the next line up when it is approaching – it’s only if you want to control when it happens that you need to worry about the ‘second’ number.

So, effectively, the first column states the nature of the note, or if it’s a line break. It’s pretty straightforward.

The second column

This specifies the number of beats into the song at which point this syllable appears. The higher the BPM, the sooner the beat will appear. This isn’t something you can really adjust without an image representation of the notes, but it’s the way that the game understands it.

The third column

This states the number of beats that the note goes on for. The longer the note, the larger the number. Technically, the length of the note in question should finish before the next beat starts. ‘Tee,’ for example, in the first line of the example, goes on for exactly 2 beats, and the ‘nage’ syllable picks up on beat 2, immediately after ‘Tee’ finishes. If they overlap, then scoring full points for the song is rendered impossible, as you can’t sing 2 notes at the same time, even if they only overlap fleetingly.

The fourth column

This contains a number code for the pitch of the syllable. Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of which numbers correspond to which notes, though I believe that ‘0’ is C1, so I guess you work either up or down from there (negative numbers are accepted).

The fifth column

Contains the text to be sung at that very syllable. As I’ve touched on, this should specifically refer to one portion of text for any words that are over 1 syllable long. In many cases, singers extend the syllable that they sing to show off their vocal range, and as you may have noticed, the standard format to represent this is to use ‘~’ to show that you are extending the syllable to a different pitch. In the example above, ‘you’re’ would normally be a single syllable, but Mika sings that first part and drops his voice slightly towards the end, so it will read as ‘you’re~’ on the game itself.

One of the most important things to bear in mind with this column is that UltraStar will automatically join the words together. You therefore need to include spaces at the end of each word, but do not include spaces for syllables in the beginning or middle of a word.

So, in the first example, if no spaces were included after each word, the song would read like this in-game:

Teenagedreams
Inateenagecircus
Runningaround
Like~aclown~onpurpose

If you copy and paste the text in the first example, you will see that spaces appear at the appropriate points to stop this from happening, such as after ‘age,’ and ‘ing.’ Spaces are not necessary just before line breaks, but you can still use them.

Conversely, if you put a space after every syllable, it would read like this:

Tee nage dreams
In a tee nage cir cus
Run ning a round
Like ~ a clown ~ on pur pose
Perhaps this error isn’t quite as bad as the first one, but it should still be avoided as it looks… stupid. Remember only to include spaces at the end of a word, not at the end of a syllable.

Finally, it is very important to include ‘E’ at the end of the song, to tell the game when it finishes, or it will not work:

: 1602 2 12 We
: 1605 2 12 are
: 1608 2 12 not
– 1611
: 1611 2 12 what
: 1614 3 12 you
: 1618 2 12 think
: 1621 2 12 we
: 1624 3 12 are
– 1628
: 1628 1 12 We
: 1630 2 12 are
* 1632 5 12 gol
* 1638 3 12 den
– 1642
: 1642 2 12 We
: 1645 2 12 are
* 1648 5 12 gol
* 1654 9 12 den
E

Do not include anything after the E, such as an extra line break, or the song may crash the game. Also, avoid putting a line break just before the E – this can confuse the game, too.

Relative .txt Files

As I mentioned earlier, .txt files with a #RELATIVE:YES tag included are of a different nature to normal .txt files. To be perfectly honest, I hate them. If they contain errors, they’re difficult to track down and fix. However, given how different they are to normal ones, it wouldn’t be as extensive a guide if I overlooked them.

#ARTIST:Beyonce
#TITLE:Crazy In Love
#MP3:Beyonce – Crazy In Love.mp3
#BPM:198,4
#GAP:15500
#VIDEO:Beyonce feat. Jay-Z – Crazy In Love [VD#0,0].mpg
#RELATIVE:YES
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 4 4 57 oh
: 8 2 62 uh
: 12 3 57 oh
– 15 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 2 2 57 oh
: 6 2 57 oh
: 8 2 58 no
: 10 2 57 no
– 14 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 4 4 57 oh
: 8 2 62 uh
: 12 3 57 oh
– 15 16
: 0 2 62 Uh
: 2 2 57 oh
: 6 2 57 oh
: 8 2 58 no
: 10 2 57 no

As you’ll see, each line in the song counts from 0, rather from the very start of the song. These types of files are fewer and far between now, but there are still odds ones that you may come across.

I think I’ve covered the various aspects of .txt files now – most of it, of course, you’ll never have to understand, though it may be useful to know a little more about them for troubleshooting purposes, and if you fancy making your own songs, this will serve as a good starting point. Like I said, I can’t help much there, but I will do an entry soon sharing what I do know about song creation that may help to get you going.

UltraStar: Playing the Game

Posted in UltraStar on December 5, 2010 by kokairu

Please note: my UltraStar guides now have their own dedicated website on UltraGuide.net. An updated version of this article can be found here

As I briefly outlined in my introduction to UltraStar, there are a few different ways to play the game. This can depend on the version of UltraStar that you’re playing; I’ll go over the normal version first, but there is also another version called the ‘ChallengeMod.’ This isn’t quite as stable as the former, nor is it as smooth, but it still runs very well and has a lot of features that aren’t available on the normal version, which I will explain later in this article.

UltraStar Deluxe

‘Normal’ Play

On the current, ‘regular’ version of UltraStar Deluxe, you can select ‘Play’ on the initial menu; when it produces the players, you can rename them to you and your friends’ names, using the left and right keys to highlight a given player, backspace to remove the existing ‘Player 1’/’Player 2’ etc, and simply type in your real names instead.

By doing this, you’ll be able to identify players on the high scores menu. Remember, to change the number of players, you can go into ‘Options’ and then ‘Game.’

UltraStar also gives you the option of selecting a difficulty. You may notice that on the ‘Hard’ level, the notes displayed are much thinner than those in the ‘Easy’ level:

Easy
null

Hard
null

This is because the game tolerates less difference between the notes you’re singing and the actual notes you’re supposed to sing (a difference of two semitones is  tolerated in Easy, 1 semitone in Medium, and no difference is tolerated in Hard). Given that I can’t sing very well, I usually go with Easy, and I think your fellow players might find it a bit more fun if they’re under the impression they’re doing well…! Each to their own, though. If you’re playing this with the Operatic Society, the players may want more of a challenge…

Once you’ve set up the game options, you can scroll through the songs and select one to sing. To search for a particular song, press ‘J’: a search box will appear, and you can type in the artist or song title (it will also bring up a particular folder that the songs are saved in, if you so wish). The number of songs on the screen will then be limited to those that meet your search critera. Select the song you want, and play it as per normal. Another keyboard shortcut that you may wish to use on the song selection screen is ‘R’: this will bring up a song at random. You can press this multiple times until something comes up that you want to sing.

Regarding the general gameplay (the following applies to nearly all modes), beyond, of course, the idea to sing the lyrics at the point in which they’re highlighted, there are a number of quirks: Firstly, if you hadn’t noticed/didn’t know already, the notes take the form of a sort of piano scroll. It’s a bit hard to read it as sheet music, but you can judge, at the very least, whether the note should be higher or lower than the last one! The aim is to fill the colour of the notes by hitting them correctly. The more you do this, the higher your score. Not all of the lyrics, however, count towards your score. If they appear in Italics, no notes will appear on the screen – this is usually because they are not sung, but instead, rapped or simply spoken. These are called ‘free’ notes, and you’re welcome to talk/rap along if you wish, though it’s not necessary. There are also ‘golden’ notes, which are distinguishable (see the screenshot above for ‘Easy’ mode) by their shining appearance. Hitting these notes will be worth double the usual amount of points.

Party Mode

In my personal experience, unless you and your friends are dying to do a particular song and therefore have one in mind, the process of choosing a song can be faffy (“Let’s do that one!”/”I don’t really know that one…”/”OK, how about this one?”/”Mmmm…”/”What do you want to sing?”/”What’ve you got?”/”A lot of songs, what do you like?”/”Have you got anything by Anonymous Socks?”/”No, how about The Beatles?”/”No, I don’t really like The Beatles…”/*Drops microphone* “Screw you guys, I’m going home”). It is much more fun, in my opinion at least, to play ‘Party Mode.’ This mode takes place over several rounds, with different modes of play. Players form up to 3 teams (this depends on how many microphones you have set up: 3 microphones=3 teams), and each team can have a number of players. For each round, the game ‘calls up’ certain players to sing (for this reason, it’s advisable to actually name each of the players here, so you don’t lose track of who’s who), one from each team grabs a mic, and UltraStar will choose a song (either from the entire pool of songs, a playlist, or a chosen folder in the song directory) at random. This narrows down the faff considerably – if one of the players really protests, then each team is allowed 5 ‘passes’ (or ‘jokers’) that will force the game to pick a new song; however, only 5 passes are available across all of the rounds, so they need to be used sparingly! At any rate, trying to sing a song you don’t know is just… well, hilarious.

Party mode, then, wipes away your inhibitions and gets people going! Before going into more detail with Party Mode, it is worth mentioning ‘playlists’ at this stage. Whilst it can be amusing to try and sing a song you don’t know, it is more preferable to try one you can at least recall the chorus of. It may be a good idea to tailor the pool of songs used to that particular group of people. Playlists can be created by going to the normal song selection screen, finding the songs you want, pressing ‘P’ on each one, and adding it to a given playlist. It is easier, however, to download a program called UltraStar Manager. This is a great tool for many reasons that I daresay I will come back to in later entries. Using this software, you can drag and drop multiple songs at a time into a playlist. UltraStar Deluxe will recognise it when you next load the program. Failing this method, you can organise your song directory into folders, and you can choose one folder to use in the party mode. In each of the rounds in Party Mode, (2-7), there is the added element of the differing styles of play. The game will assign these modes to each round at random.

Duel mode: Quite simply, the player/team with the highest score at the end of the song wins the round

Team duel (AKA “pass the mic”): Everyone gets involved, not just the players who are called up for that round. As the players are singing, the game will inform each team whom they must pass the mic onto at given points. The team with the most points at the end of the song wins the round

Blind mode: The notes are not displayed onscreen; again, the person with the highest score at the end of the song wins

Until 5000: A race to 5000 points – the first player to achieve this wins, and the song finishes

Hold the line: There is a bar onscreen with a mark halfway across it. You basically need to keep your singing standard above this mark – if you falter, and it drops behind, then you automatically lose. The team who manages to keep their line above the mark will win. The song will end when there is only one player left standing.

For each win, a given team is assigned 1 point. The team with the most points at the end of all of the rounds wins the game.

ChallengeMod

If the types of gameplay described above float your boat, then the regular version of UltraStar will be just fine. What I particularly like about the newer versions of the normal UltraStar game is the fact that you can set visualizations to play when there is no video available – it’s also faster and more stable. The ChallengeMod version, however, is certainly improving with every release. I’m hoping that, at some stage, the two versions will be combined, but it may be a while before that happens. At any rate, I have both versions on my computer: the normal version for Party Mode or normal play, and the ChallengeMod for medley mode and duet mode.

Medley Mode

Medley Mode, available in the ChallengeMod version, is a very interesting addition to UltraStar. On the normal song selection screen, press shift + D. The game will then pick 5 songs at random, and play, in a row, the choruses from those 5 particular songs. The players build up a score across the medley, and the winner is the one with the most points at the end. For each song, the game eases you in, by initially playing the lyrics in italics (no points are available) so that the players can familiarise themselves with the song. It counts down to when the chorus begins, and then the players can start to sing if they haven’t already. It’s definitely a fun one – in this case, if someone doesn’t know the song, it doesn’t matter too much!

Duet Mode

I was very pleased when this aspect was added – it’s one of the main things that SingStar had over UltraStar in the past. This mode requires a certain type of .txt file that divides a song into two parts: one for Player 1, and one for Player 2. When this is successfully in place, lyrics that are for Player 1 to sing are displayed at top of the screen, Player 2 at the bottom. For songs that are duets themselves (usually with a male and a female part, though it may also be divided into ‘lead’ and ‘backing’), this mode works very well – the lyrics can ‘overlap’ each other, so that Players 1 & 2 can sing different things at the same time. Many of the SingStar games contain duet songs, and most of these are available for UltraStar. USDB contains a number of duet songs, and the admins have nicely classed these songs under a specific edition: ‘[DUET] Songs.’

There is one particular thing you need to do when you download these files, however. All of Player 1’s part is listed at the top of these files, and Player 2’s underneath it. All you need to do is place ‘P1’ just before the notes start, but after the #tags, as demonstrated below:

#TITLE:A Whole New World (Duet)

#ARTIST:Aladdin

#LANGUAGE:

#EDITION:SS Disney

MP3:Aladdin – A Whole New World.mp3

#COVER:Aladdin – A Whole New World [CO].jpg

#VIDEO:Aladdin – A Whole New World [VD#0].avi

#BPM:240

#GAP:8125

P1

: 0 7 66 I

: 8 3 64  can

: 12 8 67  show

: 20 3 66  you

: 25 5 62  the

: 31 17 57  world

You also need to tell the game where Player 2’s part begins. This is easy to find… scroll down the .txt file, and you’ll notice that the numbers on the left are ever increasing (these are the beats into the song… I’ll get around to explaining .txt files properly at some point!). At some point, these numbers should suddenly revert to something lower. If you know the song well, you should be able to identify player 2’s lines, too. In between the high number and the low number, you should add ‘P2,’ as demonstrated below:

– 1897 1920

: 1940 13 60 You

: 1953 6 58  and

: 1959 12 57 ~

* 1972 109 57 me

P2

: 693 2 66 A

: 697 6 67  whole

: 704 6 71  new

* 711 33 69  world

I hope this makes sense. At some point, maybe this won’t be necessary, it’s just that USDB automatically removes these when a .txt is uploaded.

When this is done, and you’ve loaded up UltraStar ChallengeMod, you can edit these songs in the usual way. Whatever you set the #GAP to indicates when the first player will start, usually Player 1. You can press shift + tab to switch to player 2 and ensure that their part fits, too – though the #GAP will still refer to Player 1.

Because of the nature of duet songs, I’ve got two copies of ChallengeMod on my computer (as well as 1 copy of normal UltraStar) – one that links to the normal song directory (for Medley Mode), and one that links purely to a folder of duet songs. That way, if someone fancies doing a duet, I can just boot up that version. Duet songs won’t appear in Party mode, anyway, but it makes things a bit more organised. If you’ve already got some .txt files that you would like to turn into duets, this is easily done. Open the .txt file for the song, and for each of player 1’s lines, add P1 above it. For each of player 2’s lines, add P2. If you come across a line that both parts sing, add P3 in front of it.

UltraStar: Adding Videos

Posted in UltraStar on November 24, 2010 by kokairu

Please note: my UltraStar guides now have their own dedicated website on UltraGuide.net. An updated version of this article can be found here

Sorry it’s been so long since my last UltraStar updates, but I’ve been very busy with the program itself, getting it ready for Christmas!

Note: I have no idea if these guides are proving useful – looking at my site stats, I notice that I’m getting a handful of hits a day from people trying to find out how to set up their microphones etc. It would be great to hear from you either way… tell me it’s been useful, totally unhelpful, or perhaps some elements need further clarity. That, and whilst I’m no expert on the game, if you want to fire a question or two at me then I’ll be happy to help if I can.

Now that we’re done with the bare necessities of the game, we can move on to the bonus tutorials. This section will look at how to add video files to the songs. Video files are not necessary, but many people prefer to use them as they definitely enhance the experience of the game. As a result, and this is something that you’ll probably want to note, many people make .txt files that match the video version of the song, rather than the album version or the radio edit. Quite often, this doesn’t make a difference (music videos normally use the same version of the song in question), but on a number of occasions, it can. For example, I was adding ‘Rock the Casbah’ by The Clash the other day, and the text didn’t match the lyrics towards the end of the song. I added the video version instead, and the problem was rectified.

Many users on USDB won’t specify what version of the song their .txt file refers to, so this trial-and-error process can be quite common. It’s worth looking at the comments at the bottom of the song – these can quite often be in another language, primarily German. If you don’t speak the language, paste the comment into Google Translate, and you can normally get the jist of things. It is often stated which version of the song you’re supposed to use.

As well as making the game more fun, adding video files can make obtaining the songs you want much easier. For example, I actually really hate Cheryl Cole’s ‘Fight For This Love,’ the song that I used in my adding songs tutorial, but I decided to put it on there, because some people like it (failing that, a lot of people at least know it), and I want to widen the appeal of my collection as much as possible. I don’t want to buy the MP3, because I won’t be adding it to my iPod. The sound quality generally isn’t as good, but when you and your friends are screeching your hearts out over it, you probably won’t notice!

Your first stop for music videos, of course, is YouTube (though DailyMotion is a good place, too). Using the download helper add-on for Mozilla Firefox, it’s possible to download videos in .flv format to your computer. Once you’ve downloaded and installed this feature, visit the video of the song you want, and eventually the (new) icon next to the address bar will begin to move. This means that Firefox has detected the video on the page, and it is possible to download it.
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Click on the arrow next to the icon, and select any of the options referring to the video (it doesn’t matter which one, I don’t think, but correct me if I’m wrong). The video will begin downloading, though you should navigate away from the video on the browser first, or you’ll be waiting there all day.

Now that you have the video file, you’ll also need an mp3 containing the same audio used in the video file (you could try adding the normal mp3 if you like, but getting it to synchronise with the video can be tricky – if you want to have a go, the #VIDEOGAP tag in the .txt file specifies when the video should start playing, and this is independent of the normal #GAP tag, which specifies when the audio should start). There are a number of tools that will create an mp3 based on your video file. Those downloaded from YouTube are usually .flv files, but you can get .mp4 files from DailyMotion, and these are much easier to contend with!

For .mp4 files, I’d recommend downloading DBpoweramp. Once this is installed, you can simply right-click on the video file, select ‘convert to,’ and create an mp3 file in the same directory. This will also work for a number of other file types, both audio and video (not .flv, sadly).

For .flv files, you can use a number of .flv convertor programs, plus some online facilities that link directly to the YouTube video itself, such as www.flv2mp3.com.

Once you have a video and an audio file, place them both in the same directory as your .txt file, and link the two files in the .txt file using the appropriate tabs, for example:

#ARTIST: Cheryl Cole

#TITLE: Fight For This Love

#MP3: Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love.mp3

#VIDEO: Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love.flv

The next step is to open UltraStar Deluxe and test the song – does the video file load? If not, make sure you’ve spelled the filename correctly and used the right file extension. To get the text to synchronise with the lyrics, use the same method with the built-in editor function that I described in the adding songs section. Enjoy, and please let me know if this was useful or not!