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Hello, Is It XP You’re Looking For?

Hey gang,

Rock Band Rivals has been out for about a month now, and we just wrapped up the fourth Weekly Challenge, which sent you 30 years in the past to rock out to some great 80’s tracks. It’s not even just the community that’s been enjoying Rivals Mode, as we have some crews inside Harmonix that are getting pretty catty with each other.

But nothing makes us happier than seeing you playing and enjoying the titular mode of the expansion. Watching everyone get crazy-competitive at the top tiers gives us that great feeling you get when you… uh… make a feature in a game and see people enjoying it and getting really competitive over it, assuming it’s a competitive feature, which in this case it is. Okay, I guess that wasn’t a great analogy. Moving on.

When it comes to Rivals Mode, you probably know that you’re ranked based on your Spotlight Score and your total XP. The mini-elephant in the room (Elephants have calves, right? Can we call it the calf in the room?) is that the XP system isn’t working quite the way we want it to. When the designers here were working on Rivals, they were really trying to give you a reason to explore your library, playing songs that you play really infrequently, maybe discovering songs you haven’t dusted off since playing /Rock Band 4/ for the first time last year.

Here’s our current system:

We award XP based on song difficulty/star count in line with this table:


In addition to the above XP, we give a bonus for a Full Combo (on any difficulty), in addition to a reward the first, second, and third time your crew plays any song (per instrument).


With this system, the most efficient way to earn XP (after burning through the 1st/2nd/3rd Crew Play bonuses) is to replay the shortest song in the challenge over and over. And over. And over. With the same XP awarded for a 2-minute song as a 6-minute song, there’s so much more of an incentive to play shorter songs. We saw this happen in full force in the second Challenge when crews played “Charlene (I’m Right Behind You)” (a 91-second song) hundreds, sometimes thousands of times. This kind of does the /opposite/ of encouraging you to play through your whole library. One song over and over for a week at a time doesn’t just miss our “library exploration” goal, it straight-up isn’t fun for most people.
On top of that, there are some people cheating / exploiting to take advantage of the current system, ruining the top tiers for the people competing through legitimate means. We’ve detected a handful of Crews that earned a promotion into Diamond tier because of cheating, and we’re going to be reversing their promotion, instead demoting these Crews to Gold tier, as a punishment for their first offense. Future exploiting/cheating can be punished by anything up to and including a full ban of your account.

Since these Crews didn’t deserve their promotion, we’re instead promoting five crews that made the cut for Diamond after removing cheating Crews. Congratulations to the following Crews for their late-breaking promotions to Diamond!

* Go Burn in a Ditch
* Fell Off My Pants
* Draven’s Loft
* Less Than 3
* Xx Fists Full of ROKK xX

So, let’s talk about the future! Ignoring the obviously overdue hovercars, jetpacks, and food pills, we have some changes to the XP system on the horizon. We’re adjusting it to hit our goal of encouraging library exploration, in addition to closing some loopholes that people were using to game the current system.

For starters, we’re normalizing XP based on song length, giving a certain amount of XP (in line with the table earlier in this post) per second of a song. Here’s what that table looks like:


So, with this system, here’s the base XP you’ll get for a sample of songs, assuming you get 5 stars on Expert:

“Charlene (I’m Right Behind You)” - Stephen and the Colberts (1:31) - 61 XP

“I Still Believe” - Frank Turner (3:45) - 150 XP (This is roughly the average length song in our catalog, so we wanted this to be equal to XP in the original system)

“American Pie” - Don McLean (8:36) - 296 XP

“2112” - Rush (20:34) - 823 XP

We’re also going to be normalizing the bonuses for 1st/2nd/3rd play and Full Combo, since we don’t want to give preferential bonuses to shorter songs via these rewards, either.


These changes make it no more rewarding to play shorter songs than longer songs, but something’s still missing. Even with this, a good strategy could be to play /easy/ songs on repeat, especially if you can get a Brutal Full Combo on a 0-dot song. So, we’re also instituting an XP decay system. Balancing this was challenging, as we wanted it to be virtually invisible to Crews that haven’t been grinding one song, but still enough to discourage top Crews from focusing on one song. After looking at a lot of play data from Crews across all tiers, we’ve settled on the following system.

Plays 1-3 get the bonuses listed above. Plays 7-10 are scored normally. Starting with play 11 (per instrument per song), there will be a 1% decay to XP until reaching play 100, at which point a 90% decay will remain (subsequent plays will earn 10% of original base XP).

So, to illustrate this with “I Still Believe,” which earns 150 base XP for 5 stars on Expert, here’s what those plays will look like over time:


All in all, we think normalizing XP based on song length combined with song decay is the best XP system for Rivals Mode moving forward. This encourages the library exploration I talked about earlier, rewards players of all skill levels with a meaningful way to contribute to a Crew’s success, and limits the reward from playing the same song on repeat. This new system is in testing now, and we’re hoping to roll it out in the coming weeks.

In more pressing news, the first crews will be hitting Bloodstone very soon, and I’m so excited to see who makes it there first!

Keep rockin’, Josh