Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Break

I'm not sure what Todd is up to but I'm going to be offline a lot this week and will be back with regularly scheduled cynicism on Monday.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not Really Revenge But...

While it's a blip of a consolation, I gotta admit, it feels good to beat Florida I don't care if it's in Conasta. A convincing 62-49 win makes it even better.

OSU is starting to come together on the floor -- just in time for Big10 play.

In other have to love the rules of the NCAA.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When Plans Go Awry

So my casual week off of work has pretty much been a bust. My kids (Kyle, 2 and Anastasia, 4) both got hit with ear infections last Friday. No problem. Got 'em some antibiotics and all was well. My plan was to leave the kids in daycare Mon, Wed, and Fri and have one each home on Tues and Thurs to help me with some leisurely Christmas shopping. (Seemed like fun that way. Plus, I'm keeping 'em home all next week.)

All went according to plan at first. I got a lot of quality Rock Band time in, got some College Hoops 2k8 in, watched Superbad (McLuvin!!!), which was some good fare if you liked 40-year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. And then came Tuesday night as my daughter spiked a 102 degree fever. Thanks to that I ended up keeping the kids home both Wednesday and Thursday and not doing any Christmas shopping at all, plus very little gaming (a cornerstone goal of the week).

Today, of course, the fever was still in full force (despite this, Ana's been acting mostly normal) so I broke down and scheduled a dr. appointment. I had a plan. Drop Kyle off at daycare, finish Christmas shopping and get Ana checked out. Have a lazy afternoon. It started out okay (Kyle got dropped off), but then I got yanked into tech supporting an acquaintance's computer. Apparently her husband got sucked into downloading all manner of those fake virus/spyware programs that actually install all that crap onto the computer rather than remove it. This is what happens when you follow security warnings that come up while looking for free Internet porn. There goes an hour and a half, but I press on with the shopping. It's only about 10:30 and I have until 1:15 for the dr. appt. It seemed like plenty of time... until I hit mall traffic.

Long story slightly shorter, I get to cut short the shopping trip for the dr. appt. then go back to the mall (30 mins. from the mall to the dr. and 30 back to the mall, thanks to traffic). Ana's ear infections are in full-on assault mode, so I've gotta get a new antibiotic, which means adding another stop. Plus, I've completely forgotten about Christmas stocking stuffers, something I forgot about last year too and caught a lot of grief for. The stores are all, of course, nightmarish. Ana's sick of being dragged around everywhere (and I don't blame her). She only threw one fit, but naturally, that was in the middle of a women's lingerie department. By the time all is said and done it's 5:00 and I've got to get right back up to daycare to pick up Kyle. So much for leisurely shopping and a lazy afternoon.

As for the aforementioned gaming, Rock Band remains a AAA++ title. I got to play some World Tour mode finally and that's just gravy. Your mileage will vary with College Hoops. I'm really tired of this game. And despite claims to the contrary in the pre-release conference call, if you just want to pick it up and play a fun game of hoops it's a complete and utter nightmare. This game is for those that want a basketball sim that forces you to do pretty much *everything* both on and off the court. I'll elaborate on this in another post.

Anyway, my posting will probably continue to be sporadic through the holidays, but I promise to get back on track come January.

Friday Airing of Grievances

I have a lot of stuff going on today, getting ready for Christmas, so I need to keep this short. But explain to me how Joe Thomas does not get a Pro Bowl spot in the AFC? The Browns, since the first game when Charlie Frye took FIVE sacks -- the team has only given up 12 since then and Joe Thomas has been responsible for...NONE of them. The Browns are 9-5 for many reasons, and a big one is the play of the O-line. I thought Winslow got snubbed but keeping Thomas off that team is just crazy.

ESPN and the rest of the sports media was quick (GASP!) in reporting that starting OSU CB Donald Washington was suspended for the title game. Turns out, that isn't the case (it's a freshman backup for a team rule violation). Hey it's ESPN. Why worry about getting it right?
The WVU late push to keep DickRod was real but it didn't work. From what my WVU buddy tells me the reason he left was because of the AD -- he broke promises to Rod and he had finally had enough.

Michigan may have their man..I really have no idea and as much as I love The Vest we didn't think he'd be THIS good. DickRod just FEELS more Cooper than Tress, and any Big10 fan will know what I mean by that.

But here is something to chew on: Before the meat of the Big East left the conference (Vtech, Miami, BC) West Virginia was a .500 team wallowing in mediocrity. After they left and WVU started playing what was left in that conference, all of a sudden they're like 30-5.


I think this guy is going to quickly realize that the Big10, despite what the national media says about it, is not the Big East.

"Big one, huh?" Rodriguez said Monday, when asked about Ohio State. "The hecklers (at the West Virginia airport) let me know that as well. They were doing that OH (-IO!) thing, whatever that was. I understand it's one of the greatest rivalries in college football. Michigan is unique. I didn't know it, but you got three rivalries -- Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame." (He seriously didn't know that? Seriously?)

That's one immediate difference with Tressel -- he knew what this rivalry was all about from day one. From birth. John Cooper didn't. Never did get it. Rod appears to be just as clueless. "It's a big game." Heh, yeah. Ya think?

Next year, when he takes Michigan into Ohio Stadium he will be very, very familiar with the OH-IO "thing." Bring earplugs, Rich. The 'Shoe isn't like playing at Rutgers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NCAA 08 Patch Impressions

No, not from me. Jared at DSP has some thoughts posted, so check 'em out. Jared ranks as one of the very few people whose opinion on sports games matters to me (the rest of you people -- I gotta lotta problems with!) , so give it a read.

Age of Empires III Boardgame Review

I've played this one several times -- I even showed it to Todd on my trip to Indy (Todd is terrible at games, board games in particular). Anyway, here's some thoughts.

Being a veteran PC gamer and working in the gaming industry as an editor and freelancer for going on 12 years, I was eager to get my hands on Age of Empires III. Being a huge fan of the entire AoE series, going back to the original Bruce Shelley design, the idea of pitting nation against nation in a struggle to colonize the New World in boardgame form was one that I simply couldn’t pass up.

What I found was something completely different than what was expected – not necessarily in a bad way, but it took me a few games to wrap my head around what the game was trying to do. This was not in any way a translation of the PC game into plastic form. It’s really Age of Empires by name only. I’ve read where Mr. Drover was influenced by games like Puerto Rico as well as classic computer games like Gold of the Americas (a personal favorite of mine back in the early 90s); this is a much better comparison than to anything related to Age of Empires.

The first thing that struck me was that while the rulebook mentions the various nations, there is no difference at all between them other than the color of the plastic figures. This is very un-AoE like, and while looking at it from a design perspective, I can understand the reasoning behind it, it does take away some of the AoE luster. Again, this is only a flaw if you look at it from the perspective of what the PC game is all about. There’s no special units, no special nation-based techs, nothing like that. In game terms: England is red and Spain is yellow. Or maybe they’re green? It doesn’t really matter.

Once I was able to get past the fact that this has nothing at all to do with the PC game I started to enjoy myself a lot more; yes, as many other reviews have stated, this is in a lot of ways a blending of various European designs sprinkled with some surprising luck factors that may turn off some gamers who like their games to avoid wild swings based on chance – I’m not one of them and I appreciated the combination of rigid planning while at the same time being forced to adopt a new tactic if the winds of change blow my way—if an opponent starts to build up troops while another opponent starts to load up the Discovery box; these things can change your plans and I like being forced to alter my strategy based on what others are doing. I think it’s one of the game’s strengths.

There are a lot of plastic figures in the game along with several very nice hard plastic merchant ships, but they seem out of place. Part of the way in which you earn money is by collecting “sets” of trade goods be they rice, sugar, fish, gold, whatever, and the ships are used as “wild cards” for making these trade good sets (as well as a turn marker?); it just seems like a waste of good plastic when a smaller (cheaper) merchant counter would have sufficed. The plastic figures are also hit and miss. Some look fine but our entire group gets the merchant and the colonist figures confused at least once per game – they look a bit too alike.

The board is of high quality with nice artwork but I wish there was a bit more room inside each area to place the figures; for some areas this isn’t a problem but around the Florida area things can get a shade cramped if there’s a lot of players vying for control. There is a lot of wasted space on the board which could have been used to make the various areas bigger.

Another small board gripe is the scoring track which like many games circles the entire board – why isn’t every scoring block numbered? Why have artwork actually blocking some of the spaces? In a game like this every point counts so why not make the score track as clear and as unobstructed as possible?

Finally there’s the money – the game uses gold and silver coins for currency and they are fantastic. They clink. I love the sound they make when dropped together on the table. Again, a small complaint – gold coins are considered “10” while silver are standard “1” but why can’t we get a “5” coin? It seems like there should be some bronze coins here somewhere…

AoE III isn’t a rules heavy game. It can be explained in full in about 15 minutes. Learning how best to play the game is another matter entirely, but knowing what to do and how to do it is fairly simple.

This is basically a placement game. You start with a small set of five colonists and choose which “action”: you’d like them each to perform each game round. This can range from things like changing the turn initiative (going first can be crucial at times), gathering available trade goods, buying a Capital Building (more on these later), creating advanced units like soldiers or priests, just to name a few.

Play starts with one player placing one colonist where he/she wants it. This is the meat of the entire game. You need to decide what you want to do – the placing of your colonists in many ways *is* the game. If you decide to go for trade goods, someone else is likely to get first crack at buying a Capital Building. If that happens, player 3 will likely get first crack at getting the advanced unit he wants – a priest, soldier, merchant, or captain, each possessing special abilities. (Priests help population growth; soldiers help loot expeditions and kill other player’s colonists, etc.) Player 4 might then start to fill up the colony ship, which has a limited number of slots available in order to start colonizing available areas of the board.
The best part of this game, in my mind, is that it forces players to decide what is the most important action for them to take. You have several choices to make, and much can depend on the actions of various players. What if player 2 is hell-bent on attacking you? Do you stick with your current plan of discovering new territory or do you start to send additional colonists to your colonized region in order to maintain control of it?

There are various ways in which to win the game; the end game goal being to obtain the most victory points. I have seen players win via many different methods: discovering new lands (which earns you points as well as cash), colonizing like crazy, winning due to being the money man (you need certain buildings in play to make this work), or even playing the role of war chief and massacring colonized regions and cherry picking at the end. (Combat in the game is extremely simple.)

The Capital Buildings, well, you’ll either love them or hate them. They cost gold to purchase and some are monstrously powerful. They are randomly chosen at the start of each game turn and as the game progresses through various ages (one of the very few real links to an AoE game) the buildings become more and more powerful. So powerful that they can swing a game in one fell swoop. The Third Age buildings are extremely potent, and I can only assume that this is the reason that the Third Age only lasts two game turns while the other ages last three. Three full turns with the benefits from an Age Three building would simply be unfair. Some are that good.

You can look at this in one of two ways. It’s either something that throws the balance of the game out the window, or it means no one is ever truly out of the running even after a bad start. Personally, I tend to not like games that practically eliminate one player after a third of the game is over and this allows people to get back in the mix to a certain extent. On the other hand I can see the point about bad play being rewarded by the luck of a great Capital Building (of course you still need the cash and the opportunity to actually buy it...good players won’t allow these great buildings to sit idle)
We usually play with 4-players and now that everyone is very familiar with the rules (which aren’t that complicated at all) games last about two hours. Downtime is fairly minimal unless you are playing with one of those players who simply take a long time to make a basic decision. With our group, turns are taken quickly and the game moves at a good pace because of it.

It took me a couple of games to warm to Age of Empires III mainly because it wasn’t what I expected. I didn’t follow much of the design history of the game even though I am familiar with Glenn’s previous games. The Age of Empires name is still somewhat misleading, but once you get past that, there’s a pretty darn good game here. Yes, I wish England had a few differences compared to Portugal but it is what it is.

Our gaming group will play pretty much anything. Games like Railroad Tycoon, RA, Arkham Horror, Citadels, Catan and Fury of Dracula are games that hit the table with regularity.

Age of Empires III is another. I don’t think it’s the best game of 2007, but I’m certainly glad in it’s my collection.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Smoke and Fire and WVU?

Rumors are flying around like mad tonight that Rodriguez is considering coming back to WVU. Seeing as how I'm not an insider, but that I am a perfect rumor monger, I thought I'd post it. This info is based off WVU Insiders who are connected to the program. There is a movement inside the athletic dept to get him back from UoM, so the rumors goes.

Does this have legs? I have no idea. I do know that these WVU insiders are indeed connected, but to what extent this is all true, I dunno.

Now, if this DOES happen...well I'll sit back and let Todd respond if it does. ;)

OSU over Cleveland State tonight in hoops. We're back baby!

DickRod and WVU Tussle Continues

This is getting sorta...interesting. I'm starting to think this move had a lot more to do with his relationship with WVU officials than it had to do with Michigan. Michigan, being the elite job that it is (I say that begrudgingly but it is true) was the perfect parachute.

"They baited and switched him. Rich was boxed in by a university and athletic department that was arrogant, mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt."



I'll post my DickRod thoughts soon, but check this out.

That can't happen...can it?

My Thoughts on Rodriguez

I've had a few days now to read up on Rodriguez, watch the full press conference at Michigan yesterday, and digest it all. Bill's foreboading warm fuzzies for Rodriguez and Michigan aside, I've gotta say I find this a more intriguing hire with each passing day. It seems the rest of the Michigan nation would agree. I have yet to see anyone in the media, from the program or from the blogosphere slam the hire. Other individuals with past ties to him have been equally full of praise.

My gut feeling is that Rodriguez will be good for the school. Michigan has struggled mightily the last few years to keep up with other programs from the perspective of on-field innovation and off-field facilities. That's finally starting to change. The team will soon, finally, have its own practice facility. Michigan stadium itself is getting an upgrade. And under Rodriguez they'll soon -finally- have stuff like strength and conditioning coach whose program doesn't consist entirely of heavy lifting. Make no mistake, Michigan has fallen radically behind in recent years at developing players and that will start to change under Rodriguez.

It also helps that every account I've read from people who don't have a vested interest in a strong WVU athletic program, is that Rodriguez is a good man. He's certainly personable and fast enough on his feet. When asked about being Michigan's third choice (which presumes Miles was a choice and that Ferentz was not) he said something to the effect of also being his wife's third choice. More importantly, he was honest and direct in answering questions. When asked about being the job needing to go to a "Michigan Man" he replied, "Gosh, I hope not. They hired me."

While honest, I actually think that's the wrong answer. I know it's cliche, and the Wolverine haters are free to roll their eyes at any point, but being a Michigan Man isn't about where you came from. It's about who you are and what you do once you're there. Bo wasn't a Michigan Man when he rolled into town. For Rodriguez, sure, he's got to have success on the field, but he's also got to run a clean football program that's above reproach. Passion for the institution itself will come in time. Of that I have no doubt.

Though, it would've been nice if he'd had a stronger answer ready for the inevitable Ohio State question. He was being sarcastic when he answered, "Big rivalry, huh." But still. He moved so quickly past the question, into an easily remembered recitation of the axis of evil (Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State) and onto the next question that you have to wonder if he gets just how seriously he needs to take that rivalry. One thing Tressel made clear at Ohio State when he was hired was that he got just how big the big game is. He got it and I'm not sure Rodriguez does... yet. One thing is for sure, if he doesn't, Tressel will education him both quickly and painfully.

As for the games played on the field. I'm not concerned about the spread option stuff as it pertains to Michigan's offense. They'll get that stuff nailed down and adapt where they need to. Michigan's real problems with the spread are on defense. They've got to get that figured out, without losing the ability to slug it out in the trenches with teams like Penn State and Wisconsin.

It will, without question, be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few years. I think it's going to work out well. Of course, my idea of working out well won't match those of others. I'm not looking for the farcical notion of national championship contention every single year. Maybe every other year. For me, he's got to be able to win the Big 10 with regularity and post at least *AT LEAST* a .500 record against Ohio State and in bowl games, while consistently winning at least nine games per season. (The occasional eight-win season is permissible, but not condoned.) If he can do that, and do it while running a clean program that doesn't embarrass itself, he'll have done okay in my book.

Monday, December 17, 2007

NCAA 08 360 Patch

I haven't been online today to see, but I guess EA released an NCAA 08 patch to fix the INTs and lob passes.

Anyone try it?

The Monday YouTube Post

I have an Age of Empires III boardgame review that I have been sitting on for a while that I'll post tomorrow. Today, here is a string of videos relating to the dexterity game Crokinole. This game has been around for ages, and is still a lot of fun to play. I would not want to play against this guy, though. This is just insane. They get progressively more ridiculous.

Rodriguez's Spread v. Michigan's Personnel

So one of the obvious gaping concern with Michigan hiring Rich Rodriguez is how his spread offense will work out with a Michigan team that may not be well suited for it.'s The Diag blog has a look at the potential that's there, and it is intriguing. He addresses the one thing I've not understood from those in the media bringing up Michigan's roster as being at odds with the Rodriguez way: Why do none of these "expert" pundits seem to consider the possibility that Rodriguez can adapt his offense to better fit his new personnel? That is what good coaches do, right?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Browns 8 Bills 0

Now THAT was fun to watch.
Pic courtesy of The OBR. Make sure to click on the pic.

Rodriguez to Michigan

It's not official, but now it looks like Rodriguez may just be Michigan's next coach. The Sunday Gazette-Mail has it that Rodriguez just told his team that he's taking the Michigan job. (This is further confirmed by local TV station WBOY.)

M Go Blog is excited. I remain indifferent. I just don't know the guy's rep well enough to be excited or disappointed. Certainly, I will have an open mind about it and I'm definitely glad that this saga appears to be coming to a close. A buddy of mine at work insisted Michigan was too cheap to pay a coach more than $2M per. I argued they would, if it meant getting an established guy. You have to believe Rodriguez will be well-compensated for leaving WVU. (Plus he's got that $4M buyout.)

Anyway, if you're not watching the Browns game, you're missing a great one. Most of the first half has *looked* to be at or near blizzard conditions. That's what I call football!

Game of the Week. Um..

Well, in the plugged in world, I guess still College Hoops, but that was also last week's GOTW and I can't bring myself to say Hellgate because I think it's monumentally mediocre even though I'm technically playing it. So we'll stick with College Hoops. Things are just dying down now that the holiday rush is over. I still cannot wrap my head around how they screwed up Hellgate.


I still think that even with all my bickering it was a very good year for games as a whole. Any year with BioShock, The Witcher, Mass Effect and Call of Duty 4 can't be bad. We hashed out our end of the year awards for GameShark, and The Darkness made the Top 5 list. I didn't play it. If you did, and feel that the choice is totally insane, blame Brandon. He's one of my freelancers. He posts here. He'll read this. He is Champion for The Darkness!

Personally, any shooter on a console sucks. There, I said it.

Last night we got drilled with snow, rain, sleet, and 50 MPH winds.

Oh..wait, NO WE DIDN'T.

I have no idea how it is where you live, but in central Ohio, winter storms make the front page of the paper and lead the 6 PM news. This "huge" storm was THE story in Columbus for like 3 days.

We were expected to get 3-5 inches of snow, layered with rain, then more snow today. We got maybe 2 inches of snow max, a lot of rain and today all winter storm warnings have been canceled. It's windy; I'll give them that. They were telling us to stock up on supplies as if we were in a time machine and back in 1978 when we actually had a blizzard.

This happens a lot here. People drive 20 MPH when we get a dusting and snow plows sell out when they predict 3 inches of snow. No wonder people in Minnesota think we're wimps. It's December. There's a ground covering of snow on the ground. Why that is the top story in the state for 3 nights running I'll never know.

Anyway, last night Ashley went next door to a slumber party (next door in the country required a drive) and Mary and I played Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and watched the first episode of season 1 of Dexter, the Showtime series about a serial killer cop. Groovy.

Big game for the Browns today. A win over Buffalo and a Titans loss = PLAYOFFS! For the BROWNS!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

And That's That

M Go Blog, via a WVU source, has it that Rodriguez is probably staying put. Bill will be so disappointed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rodriguez? I Dunno.

To paraphrase, Silent Bob in Chasing Amy, you can just about squeeze what I don't know about West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez into the grand (f'n) canyon. Bill seems happy about it, which is troubling. Brian at M Go Blog, whose post on the matter I only discovered after reading Bill's post, also seems happy about the prospect. So, like the title says, I dunno. I'll be cautiously optimistic until I find out more.

Update: This from the Detroit Free Press:
His career record is 60-26. The Mountaineers have won at least 10 games in each of the past three seasons and are headed to the Fiesta Bowl to face Oklahoma this year after just missing out on a trip to the Bowl Championship Series national title game when they lost the season finale to Pittsburgh.
Can't really argue with the record, but losing to a team coached by Dave Wannstedt with the national championship on the line?

Update II: Just to give credit where it's due, this story *may* have been first reported at The Sporting News.

Rich Rodriguez to Michigan?

He interviewed today. Interesting.


I have some thoughts on this, but I'll save them for after Todd's take.

The short version: I'd be fine with it. :)

More Friday Airing of Grievances: Rock Band/GH3 Guitars

Activision, I Have a Big Problem With You!

If you're in that sad group of folks who not only love Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but also want to play them on a PS3 (that's what? five people?) you no doubt know by now that your Guitar Hero 3 guitar doesn't work in Rock Band, despite the fact that GH3 guitars do work with Rock Band on the Xbox 360. Meanwhile, the Rock Band guitar doesn't work in any of the Guitar Hero games, regardless of platform.

Let's be clear on one thing, this compatibility issue lies squarely at the feet of GH publisher, Activision. The saga really started heating up earlier this week when Harmonix (the makers of Rock Band and GH1 and 2) announced that they'd come up with a patch for Rock Band that would allow PS3 GH3 guitars to work with their game, but Sony, at the behest of Activision, would not release it to the public.

That speaks badly enough of Activision as it is. The only thing that could make PR matters worse for them is if they decided to shoot back. This is the quote that Opposable Thumbs (see previous link) is running with:
"In fact, Harmonix and its parent company MTV Games/Viacom recently declined Activision's offer to reach an agreement that would allow the use of Guitar Hero guitar controllers with Rock Band," the statement continues. "We have been and remain open to discussions with Harmonix and MTV Games/Viacom about the use of our technology in Rock Band. Unfortunately for Rock Band users, in this case Harmonix and MTV Games/Viacom are unwilling to discuss an agreement with Activision."
Okay. Seriously. That quote's got holes in it so big you could fly the space shuttle through it. "Activision's offer to reach an agreement"? It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure that Activision's "offer" included copious amounts of cash, a couple of Harmonix employee's first borns, a signed first edition of The Catcher in the Rye and probably a lifetime subscription to Tiger Beat magazine.

Who does Activision think they're kidding with this? One developer (Harmonix) is on record as wanting an open hardware platform for music peripherals in these games and backs it up by allowing GH controllers to work with Rock Band. (Yes, they do have a vested interest in going this route. Rock Band may be superior, but GH is the franchise with name recognition.) One publisher (Activision/Red Octane) says they won't support the other's peripherals in their game because the quality sucks. As if it matters how good the guitar is if the game itself blows (the GH3 Les Paul, does indeed rock). And GH3 does blow. It's the Hurricane Andrew of the Guitar Hero series. (And the Rock Band fender is having problems, but reports are that the EA replacement policy has been triple-A good in terms of fast turnaround time for a fixed axe.)

Here's a peso's worth of free advice to Activision: just shut up. Anything you say in this debate other than, "we're opening things up so all current guitar peripherals will work in our GH games," is to scream from the top of a building, "Hi there! We're a bunch of flaming assholes!" If you don't want Rock Band fans to be able to use their peripherals in your game, that's your call. But don't pretend it has anything to do with guitar quality or Harmonix not being willing to bend over for you. It has to do with you wanting to have a closed platform such that only your hardware works with your software. Congrats, you're the iPod/iTunes of the guitar game community you bunch of gluttonous wankers.

The Friday Airing of Grievances

I gotta lotta problems with you people!

The Mitchell Report, which if you follow sports at all, is the only topic of the day and one that I find utterly laughable. 80 some odd names? That's what you're selling me? Sorry, that doesn't fly. This is ALL about Selig's legacy more than it is trying to shine light on what really happened -- and still is happening. Unless I missed a memo there is still no testing for HGH, right?

The only person with any credibility in this is the pariah. Jose Canseco. His take on all of this mirrors my own. It's a joke. A dog and pony show. Selig can now say, "Look, I TRIED." No, you didn't. What will even come of all of this? My guess: not much.

I love baseball. I love the numbers of baseball. The pace of baseball and the strategy of baseball. But baseball hates me. It doesn't respect me and doesn't care about me -- it cares about home runs and strikeouts. It cares about the lowest common denominator, and I'm just plain sick of it. I watched an all time low number of games last year -- about 20 Reds games and a few ESPN games. That was it. And, sadly, I didn't miss it. This is no longer the game of my youth; that game died many years ago. Baseball, realistically, has always been screwed up from a financial perspective; now it's just getting what it deserves.

I often wonder why I care about the doping in baseball but not as much in football. I asked myself that question while watching that ridiculous Mitchell press conference. Let's be honest here. NFL players are using, too. You think it's all weights and nutrition? Look at the weights of the 1978 Steel Curtain defense in Pittsburgh. Hall of Fame Dlinemen. Look at how big they were. Mean Joe Green played defensive tackle at 270 pounds--and he was considered a monster. Jack Lambert, one of the best middle linebackers EVER played at 220.

Know of any other 220 pound middle linebackers today? Yeah...I don't either. Browns OUTSIDE Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a tackling machine for the Browns, is considered very small for an NFL linebacker--and he weighs 235.

I think we turn a blind eye to that because of the helmet. We cheer for the uniform in football much more than we so in baseball or basketball. The players don't look human all covered in armor, their faces hidden from view. I think that gives us a different feeling about NFL players -- they can get as big as they want, we just root for the logo.

That's not fair, obviously, but it is what it is.

Baseball is losing fans like me regardless of the attendance figures -- those attendance figures are why they don't care if they lose people like me. There's two guys next to me that will take my seat to see juiced up players play like Mantle with good knees. I guess it's just one more thing for me to be nostalgic about.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hammer of the Scots Review

For your viewing pleasure.

Hammer of the Scots (HotS) has a great hook. While there are numerous games, both video and board, built around wargaming staples involving Romans, World War II, and the American Civil War – HotS not only focuses on a fresh topic, but also taps into something that many more people are at least familiar with thanks to the 1995 Mel Gibson film, Braveheart. Honestly, before that film, you could ask almost any American who William Wallace was and you’d be greeted with a blank stare. Historical accuracy issues aside, Braveheart the film made Wallace part of the pop culture lexicon and his “Freeeeedom!!!” scream at the conclusion is now part of American film lore.

Hammer of the Scots takes place during the era of Braveheart (and the decade after his death). One player plays the English lead by Edward I (and II) and the other player takes Wallace and his feisty band of rebels in an attempt to win Scottish freedom. (There’s also a 2nd scenario included called “The Bruce” which takes place after Wallace was killed.)

As wargames go, HotS is about as streamlined and as easy to learn as it gets without sacrificing playability. The eight page rulebook shouldn’t assume a lack of depth; it is a highly approachable game that can be taught in less than half an hour even to a complete wargaming novice. If you’re looking to get into this genre, this is an absolutely fantastic place to start.

HotS is a block game. There are no small cardboard chits here or ugly, miniscule cardboard pieces littering hard to digest maps. Instead, the units (nobles, infantry, knights, etc.) are wooden blocks with data on one side and a blank face on the other; the blank face is shown to the enemy to simulate fog of war to a certain degree. The blocks are well made, but you need to make sure that there are no scuff marks or any other identifiable marks on them because otherwise you may know which unit is which because of it. Also, you will need to manually place the unit stickers on the blocks. It’s not a big deal, but it doesn’t come completely assembled.

The map is of a sturdy cardboard stock – but it doesn’t lay completely flat on the table. The best option is to go to a hardware store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, whatever) and spend $5 on a sheet of thin, clear Plexiglas to ensure a smooth, flat board. This will be a particularly good purchase if you buy other games of this type or from certain publishers. Twilight Struggle, Commands & Colors: Ancients and others use this type of board so the Plexiglas is almost a gaming must if you want to venture into these sorts of games. Plus it helps protect the map from careless drink spills.

The map itself is fantastic – it’s brightly colored with notations where actual battles during the war took place with Scottish Heraldry showcasing where each noble family resides. In all, it’s very hard to complain about the quality of the components.

The game uses a combination of cards and dice. Cards are used by each player to determine group moves, or if an event card is played to perform other actions such as pillaging, moving by sea, etc. It’s pretty simple in theory: if you play a “1” card then you can move all units in one area; a “2” card allows two areas to move (and/or fight). There are more rules concerning movement across tough ground (the highlands) but that’s the general idea. Each “year” lasts five turns unless both players play an event, which ends the year immediately.

Six sided dice are used to determine combat results. Unlike a lot of games, here you want to roll low. For example, the Wallace block starts the game as “A3” with “4” Strength and a 3 Move Rate. The Move Rate of 3 simply means Wallace is fast, by game standards, and can move up to three adjacent regions unless crossing a red border (rough ground). The A is the unit’s initiative, so Wallace’s block attacks before all B and C units and all A units if he’s defending. The 3 is what Wallace needs to score a hit: a roll of a 1, 2, or 3. The 4 Strength is how many dice the units gets and it also represents unit health. A Strength 1 unit has one life to live and only gets 1 die in combat. The blocks show their worth here as well. When a unit takes damage there’s no record keeping involved, simply rotate the block to show the new Strength value. It’s a brilliant system.

There will inevitably be some large scale fights during a game so you’ll need to keep track of initiative to make sure units attack at the right time. There is a lot of planning required, and knowing when to attack, when to anticipate an attack, and when to retreat from combat is crucial in succeeding in the game, especially as the Scottish player. England just keeps on cranking out fresh troops at the start of each new year.
There is a means for combat outside of simple annihilation. The Scottish nobles, which are the key to winning the game, switch allegiance at the drop of a hat. Loyalty for most nobles changes with the breeze – in combat they are not eliminated but rather simply switch sides, and since you need nobles on your side to meet victory conditions, this game of Musical Noble Chairs becomes even more critical.
The game shines for many reasons, one of the most important being that playing each side is a very different experience. The Scots need to play a very different game compared to the English; as Edward keeps sending troops into Scotland each year the Scottish army needs to scramble to keep troops in play while snatching up nobler when possible and bringing in new units each winter. This adds a lot to the game’s replay value because you’ll need to employ different tactics each time you play.
The mechanics work extremely well and while there can be some frustrations when you get dealt a very bad hand, limiting your actions for the upcoming year, or when your opponent plays a Herald card at the worst possible time (possibly switching a noble’s allegiance) and there are always times when you want to throw the dice out the window – particularly when Wallace or King Edward is in battle and nothing but 5s and 6s appear on the dice.
Even with these swings, most games end up coming down to mistakes – moving too many units, or too few units, playing an event at the wrong time, forgetting to fortify a home area, and so on. Usually, after a game when you lose, you can think back to a point where you made a tactical error. Yes, the dice can betray you but if you lose a game of Hammer of the Scots you will always have yourself to blame just as much as bad fortune.
A typical game lasts about two hours. Downtime is negligible being a two-player game and one that requires limited actions each round. Most game rounds consist of moving a couple of army groups and then fighting, which both players take part in resolving. Once everyone is familiar with the rules it moves along at a brisk pace.

Even for veteran gamers the term “wargame” can be intimidating. Images of small charts, hard to read maps and stacks of chits tend to the scare even the most experienced hobbyist. Wargames are indeed a different breed, but Hammer of the Scots flies in the face of all of that without making it too watered down and simple like other “intro” wargames; it’s approachable, easy to learn, and deep enough to satisfy most players –wargaming grognards or otherwise, and should absolutely be in the gaming library of anyone with a hint of attraction to the subject matter.

Am I Just Old?

I'm really not that old. I'll be 36 in February so it's not like I'm ready for Shady Acres Retirement Home-- a one way ticket to Shuffleboard Town. My ankles feel like they belong to Wilford Brimley but that's beside the point. This walking boot sucks.

I was editing Michael Wedge's review of Bladestorm today and when I saw it was from KOEI it made me think of an old DOS game from them that was released about 10-12 years ago. I couldn't remember the name for the life of me but I knew it had to do with Celts. Thanks to Wiki I found it:

Celtic Tales - Balor of the Evil Eye

There's a good write up on it at this abandonware site.

When I saw the screenshots memories came storming back -- to before college graduation, when playing games was very very different than what it is now.

1995. Heroes of Might and Magic. High Seas Trader. Jagged Alliance. FPS: Football. Master of Orion. NHL 96. Championship Manager 2. Steel Panthers. Whiplash. X-COM II. The original Command and Conquer. Discworld. Crusader: No Remorse. TIE Fighter on CD-ROM.

Folks, that was a good year.

I'm usually not one of those "back in MY day" people. But I looked at games differently then compared to today. Budgets are now through the roof, developers under enormous pressure, designer creativity stifled by people who hold the purse strings and even with today's seemingly great games there's a certain degree of sameness to it all. As is my usual reaction: I blame the PlayStation.

I mean look at that ancient looking screenshot. I spent hours and hours playing that game. (Don't ask me why I couldn't remember the name...maybe it is in fact an age thing.) Part of me wishes the industry had never left the days of Balor of the Evil Eye. In truth, I don't know if I have simply changed with age or if the games just aren't as good today as I remember them being back in the days of DOS and DIP switches.

I remember playing Panzer General back in the mid 90s and getting so hopelessly addicted to it that I missed 3 consecutive days of classes in order to take Berlin. Why is it that I can't get that feeling today? Is it me? Is it the games? Is it both?

All I know is that Hellgate London sucks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2K Sports Announces Don King Presents: Prizefighter

Are you !*#$%^& kidding me?

“The combination of real-life fight scenarios, story-driven gameplay and photo-realistic graphics will set this title apart from the competition,” said Christoph Hartmann, President of 2K. “Our goal has always been to deliver the most engaging and realistic titles, and Don King Presents: Prizefighter will exceed these expectations. Based on the game’s innovative features and high-profile fighters, this title will be a ‘must have’ for any sports gamer.”

"In all my years working in professional boxing, I have never seen anything come as close to recreating the thrill, the intensity, the courage and the spectacle of the sport," said legendary boxing promoter Don King. "Don King Presents: Prizefighter is more than a game -- it is a glimpse at what life is like in and out of the ring for these incredible athletes."

Are you !*#$%^& kidding me?


Hump Day

March Madness is out today. Even though Todd and I are both sports gamers this release, to me at least, is about as significant as a toenail trim. I have College Hoops, I like it, and there you go. I don't need to see this unless I hear a huge amount of buzz. Well, or if someone wants to pay me to review it. I'm not above getting paid to play March Madness. But EA knows what kind of game this is. Why do you think they don't care that it comes out weeks after CH2K8? If they cared about March Madness at all it would ship a day before 2K's game.

I have no idea if MM08 is good, bad or otherwise (EA stopped sending me games directly long ago) but I DO know a crappy game series when I play one. I think I'll let Todd review this one. It's my way of saying Happy Holidays.

I do have a question, though. When "GameZone" says, "What was once a very good franchise is starting to become a generic rehash with a few tweaks thrown in each year to sate the need to say something new was added. Yes, it is still entertaining, but it’s not the game one would have hoped it would be."

I am all for websites, popular ones at that, finally speaking out about sports games and the annual gouging of sheepish consumers--but March Madness was once a very good franchise? Does anyone recall when that was, exactly? I seem to remember this being a bottom feeder for about a decade now.

Anyway, my ankle is still in the old walking boot. Good times. We're putting together the GameShark Awards thingy. I despise, and I mean despise, end of the year awards like this, but they do generate a lot of traffic to the websites that run them and again I am not above rampant capitilism so I'm on board.

Looking back this really was a hell of a year for gamers. BioShock, Call of Duty 4, Rock Band, Mass Effect, The Witcher, High School Musical for the DS (wait..that's my daughter's favorite..)

We're also doing a Most Disappointing Games feature because they're a lot more fun to write. My list includes Jericho, Hellgate: London, and I'm also voting for All Pro Football 2K8 because it was half a game priced as a full one. Shame shame 2K.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

As the Ankle Turns

Well, my "once every 6 months" ankle injury reared its head last night. I am officially on the shelf again most likely until the New Year. Even in my hard pad braces my ankle turned on a dime when I landed on someone's foot. My ligs are like cooked noodles.

This hurts. It's old hat for me and thank goodness I have my old walking boot from when I originally tore my ligaments. Otherwise I'd be 100% couch ridden. A smarter man would retire from doing this once or twice a year. But I'm sure in a few weeks I'll be back at it again.

Todd: Ball State...?

Monday, December 10, 2007

As Homer Would Say...

No! NO! Don't stop a ROCK'n!!!

Yes, this is my way of telling you that I have finally landed a copy of Rock Band and it is, much like Ron Burgundy, the balls.

Some initial thoughts upon beating the solo guitar career on medium, and the first three sets of vocals and drums on easy.

- The new guitar is very, very different. It's more attractive, but not as well made as Guitar Hero 3's Les Paul. Despite some chincy production value on the neck, it is more fun to hold and play. The non-clicky strummer takes some getting used to, and I'm positive that it's not as precise as the Les Paul, yet I still find it preferable. It's just the overall (larger) size of the thing, heft, and extra set of buttons on the neck (for solos) that give it the edge.

- The drums are, even on easy, crazy fun... they're also crazy LOUD. The Mrs. went to bed Friday night and I only got through a song and a half before she came tromping back out to tell me I was driving her nuts. I've seen references to attaching mouse pads to the drum pads to mute the banging a bit, so that's my next move.

- The vocals. How much fun you can have with these depends entirely on how secure you are with your singing voice. I was having a ton of fun belting out Orange Crush this afternoon until my wife got home and caught me. Then I was too ashamed to continue. I will say, even if you are completely tone deaf -on the easy level- it's very simple to sing through each tune.

- The set list is probably better than any of the Guitar Hero games (and I love GH1's set list to death). Playing Don't Fear the Reaper is like drinking mana from heaven.

I haven't gotten a chance to take the multiplayer World Tour for a spin yet, but I hope to get a couple friends over this weekend to put it through its paces. Even without playing it yet, it's obvious that World Tour is where this game will live and breath. Just the though of getting four people together to rock out makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.

In comparison to GH3, it's obvious who the winner is. And it's not because of the drums or the vocals. Harmonix just flat out gets what makes these games fun. Neversoft's GH3 is like Memorex. It's a remarkable simulation, but it's an obvious, and lesser, facsimile. In Rock Band in particular, Harmonix has really nailed the feeling of making you feel like part of a band on stage when you play. The presentation, the visuals, while you're playing the song, combined with the superior note charting, just make this game so much more fun to play than GH3.

More Michigan Coaching Follies

Michigan's head coaching search: It's the show that never ends (well). Here's the latest:

- Sean Payton. This was being reported just about everywhere, at least until Payton unequivocally said he's not interested. Credit where it's due, Payton would've been an intriguing choice.

- Quo Vadimus is reporting a rumor that Miami Dolphins HC is a candidate. You know, because he has Michigan ties and an impressive 13-0 record.... What? 0-13, you say? Oh... well, uh, at least he was successful at Indiana.... hmmm. Wait. Nope. He was 18-37. This, evidently, is the kind of record that gets you on Sailboat Bill's speed dial.

- Next up, the Brady Hoke rumors just won't die. There's not much to say here when M Go Blog sums it up oh-so-well:
Potential Catches: Potential "catches"? The whole damn thing is one big catch! Even in the realm of people who Michigan would approach after getting turned down by everyone -- EVERYONE -- there are vastly preferable candidates: Ron English. Mike Trgovic. Glen Mason. Jon Chait. Me. The Golden Retriever from "Air Bud: Golden Receiver." Mussolini, who is dead. Dick Vitale. Sigourney Weaver. Richard Nixon's penis. Sigourney Weaver's penis. All of these people and organs don't have a track record that suggests they are a below average MAC coach. It is in this way they are superior to Brady Hoke.
-Then there's... Les Miles? Really? Again? Maybe. Just maybe. At least, according to M Go Blog. Evidently university president Mary Sue Coleman may just be freezing Sailboat Bill out of the process in an attempt to actually pursue Miles (rather than faking interest, only to go yachting at the last minute). It's not totally implausible. Miles still has the Michigan buyout clause in his newly signed LSU contract. The question is what it would take to restore Miles' interest after his initial candidacy was sabotaged from within (ie - Lloyd Carr and His Amazing Friends).

As always these are merely the juiciest, marginally credible rumors floating around.

Also... the Detroit Lions suck. Hey, Shaun MacDonald! I've got an idea. How about, after you catch a first down pass in bounds with a 6 point lead and less then four minutes to go, you actually try to stay in bounds instead of going out of your way to get out as quickly as possible? Do you think that might've, just might've burned off those extra 18 seconds we needed to beat Dallas yesterday?

So How Was Your Weekend?

Mine was great, thanks.

It was a rare weekend with just me and the wife; Ashley was at a friend's house Saturday through Sunday afternoon. I picked her up around 3PM after Sunday basketball.

So that meant it was just me and Mary from noon Saturday to about 11 AM Sunday. So what do two 30-somethings who are in love do with the house to themselves?

Oh, you know what we did. (Cue music)

We played 2 games of Hammer of the Scots.

It's such an easy to play wargame and Mary had never played it. Now, in typical Mary fashion, she wants to play next weekend. I swear -- she is the most competitive person I know. She played high school basketball at a pretty high level and then blew both knees out (ACL) (which killed her chance to play at Marietta college) and this is now her way to test herself.

After the first game (I was Scotland) and William Wallace fought off the English dogs..she wanted to play again. When she won that game as England, she was able to go to bed. I have created a monster.

Sunday was great because I got to play basketball to run off the bag of chips I ate playing HotS and then was able to watch the Browns go to 8-5.

The Cleveland Browns are 8-5. Let that sink in for a second.

I'm also in the process of writing up a late review for Hellgate: London, quite possibly the biggest letdown game of 2007. That and Jericho. We're working on the GameShark awards right now.

Fun! (Not really)

The Monday Youtube Post

Well, it's the holiday season. This seems just too fitting. Weekend wrap up post coming later today; I have some work to do. Go Browns! 8-5 baby!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Saturday Game of the Week: College Hoops 2K8

This past week the game I have been playing the most...well that's probably War of the Ring. Gandalf (the Grey) died taking The Fellowship to The Woodland Realm, Saruman emerged in Isengard and attacked Rohan and Gondor is still inactive and refusing to take up arms. So Boromir leaves The Fellowship in an attempt to rally his people because Mordor has mobilized and Saruman keeps breeding Uru-Kai.

If the above paragraph makes ANY sense at all to you, you should find copy of this board game. (Picture taken from Board Game Geek)

The videogame I have been playing is College Hoops 2K8 on the 360. (Offline). I won't go over everything here but my general take is:

It's a good game with some nice additions but I just don't know if this is $60 better than 2K7. If you are like Todd and skipped 2K7 then this is a no-brainer. But you are also going to need some slider tweaks to get it to play better out of the box because on default settings your team defense will drive you insane. Defenders sag way too much and are painfully slow to rotate and play effective zone defense.

Some slider tweaks to consider:

--First grab the OS Community Rosters off of 2K Share. Man..what a GREAT new feature.

--Game Speed 55.

--Real FT% shooting ON (FTs are too easy or too hard IMO)

--Lower CPU shooting range a bit. I think I am at 48/48/46 (46 being 3 pt shooting). I am currently coaching my way up the ranks and starting at Texas State and usually teams shoot about 40% against me.

--CPU Drive Tendency to 70 (you WILL foul..)

--Team Unity to 0 (I hate this feature), YMMV.

--Human and CPU Layup Success to 55 or 60

--Lower Human shooting (mid range and close) to 48. I keep 3pt at 50.

--Raise Def. AWR for both CPU and Human to around 70.

--CPU Off. Rebounding to 40

--CPU Steals to 60, Human to 55

--Human /CPU Block Shots to 15 (way too many blocked 3 pt shots in this game)

--The foul sliders, aside from shooting fouls, don't do a damn thing. The CPU NEVER commits a foul that is not a shooting foul, so tweak these at your own discretion. I have shooting fouls at 60.

--Ball Handling to around 35 or 40 for both CPU/Human. There remains a lack of turnovers in this game, just like last year.

That's where I am now and I'm getting solid games. Oh, and I'm playing on AC lvl right now. That might change soon though.

I don't know if it's my age, lack of time or what -- but these recruiting models are starting to drain the fun out of the college games for me. I remember back when you did recruiting off season in games like NCAA was fairly quick, easy, and was deep enough to make it a cool mini game but now recruiting is a 7 day a week JOB in these games. In 2K8 they added the ABL (the summer AAU circuit) so you can spend even more time watching and playing with high school prospects. Who has time for this?

I spent, literally, 2 hours doing a month of recruiting a few nights ago when I finally stopped and started to let the AI handle some of it. I am as hardcore as any sports gamer on the planet, but good lord people --- when you replace quick and easy fun with busy work -- that's not good. I know real coaches recruit 24/7/365 but why do we need to do that in the game? I want recruiting to be fun, somewhat fast, and deep enough to make me think when I'm doing it. I'm sick of the "game in a game" thing. Maybe it's just me.Anyway. It's a fun game. Not revolutionary. But worth playing.

But with CH2K8 now out...what is the sports game of 2007?


NHL 08? NHL 2K8? NBA 2K8? Out of the Park? They're all sort of warty if you ask me.

Can we call BioShock a sports game?

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Friday Airing of Grievances

I have a lot of problems with you people!

Today I'd like to talk about my disgust with the industry in which I work: The wonderful world of videogames.

This past week there was a huge blow up over the firing of some guy I have never heard of who was an editor at GameSpot, a (admittedly popular) website that I never read. The flame up was over whether or not he was fired because of a bad review, ad money being pulled, and the website being strong armed by a publisher.

I have been in this business for 12 years and this story is as old as PONG.

Did it happen? Did the company (EIDOS) "force" GameSpot to fire this guy over a review of a game that has been panned pretty much all over the Net? I doubt it. I have no idea if it did or it didn't but it would shock me if it did. In all my years in this cesspool of an industry I have never been asked, forced, and even hinted to write a review one way or another because of ad revenue. The people I worked for are pros and would never do that. (I am available for pandering though. Email me for opportunities!) But I doubt they did that.

Now, I'm not saying it hasn't happened before. In fact I'm sure it has. You have to understand the maturity level of a lot of the people who are in charge at a lot of these gaming websites. (Not GameSpot in particular, I don't know many of those guys). But in meeting with a lot of other "big wigs" of various websites -- I am AMAZED --absolutely amazed that something like that hasn't happened elsewhere and drawn attention like the GSpot thing has. Don't kid yourself into thinking that there are not websites out there that serve as mouthpieces for the companies that treat them well.

Even more amazing is the reaction of some of the various editors around netland. Do not put your head in the sand. Our industry needs a serious wake up call. How do you expect the people to trust you when you are in bed with the companies you are critiquing? By "in bed" I don't mean giving favorable reviews to advertisers --I mean the websites and mags are dependant on each other for their own survival and it's a huge, huge conflict of interest. No one seems to say much about that.

I recall several years ago when PC Gamer ran a review of Diablo 2 -- it was a very early review of the game (by print standards) and Blizzard had the PCG team review the game at the Blizzard office! They had pictures of all of these happy, smiling, PCG staffers blasting away. It's that kind of thing that leads moderately intelligent people to think that something just isn't right. Was that Diablo 2 PCG review biased? Who knows. It scored a 95% or something and it WAS a great game. But that's not important -- it was the appearance of favoritism that is the problem. If the gaming media wants people to take it seriously -- and believe me when I say -- people do NOT take it seriously --then the media has to divorce itself from the game companies. They have to. There is no other way. The relationship should be about getting product to review, doing previews based on fact and stop acting like you're writing for Teen Beat Heart Throb Magazine. Conduct interviews that aren't the same "So, why is this game super awesome?"

And -- they have to stop taking ad money from game companies. All of it. Find another source of income. I don't care if it's mafia money -- just stop taking cash from the people that you are judging. When THAT happens -- this all goes away.

But ya know, there is one more thing that bugs me about all of this:

Do people actually care? If GameSpot came out tomorrow and said, "Yep. EIDOS asked us to take action and damn it..we fired his ass!" Would readership at GameSpot drop like a rock? I honestly don't know the answer to that question.

And that's a problem.

Schiano Gets an Interview

Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has evidently gotten farther with Michigan AD Bill Martin (who shall hereafter be referred to as Sailboat Bill), than did Les Miles. In other words, the two have actually spoken. So I guess that's something. In fact, the article (the first one I linked above) speculates that Schiano may get an offer as soon as today. I'm not holding my breath. Whether Les Miles was the right guy for the job or not, I no longer have any faith in Sailboat Bill's ability to tie his shoes, let alone make the most important coaching hire of his tenure at Michigan.

(Do be sure to read the M Go Blog link, in particular. It's maddening.)

Edit: I just came across this post at Quo Vadimus (linked from a story) that -if true- appears to scuttle the Schiano possibility. Bill (Abner, not Sailboat) must be enjoying this.

MechWarrior Lives?

I was browsing my morning blogroll and came across this story at Kotaku that indicated Jordan Weisman, founder(?) of the recently disbanded FASA, has secured the rights to MechWarrior, Crimson Skies and Shadowrun from Microsoft, for his new startup, Smith & Anvil. Sure, it'll be years before we see the fruits of anything that might come of this, but if they come up with a game that carries forward the spirit of MechWarrior 2, I'll be happy to wait.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sex in Games: Follow-up

In last Friday's airing of grievances I waxed poetic on the topic of sex in games, in particular, as it relates to the role of women and sex in The Witcher. The article that lead to that post was a review (and the comments thread that follows it) of the game at The Escapist (there's a link in the original post); a review penned by a gent named Corvus Elrod. This week, at his blog, Elrod posted an addendum of sorts to his objections to the role of women in The Witcher and in society that's worth reading, if for no other reason than to get the counter-balance to the point I was endeavoring to make. (I may be a grumpy, opinionated prick, but I try to be a fair one.)

Suffice it to say, I do continue to disagree with a lot of he says in the post. I have yet to find the dialog in the game "sexually predatory," unless you consider the mere act of a sexual advance
predatory. To me that's a pretty sizable leap and I think underscores my contention that there are a lot of well-meaning men out there who seem to assume that somehow the act of casual sex (be it in life or in a work of fiction) either takes advantage of or outright demeans women. I think that takes far too much credit away from women and the notion that somehow they're more pure of mind and body than men. Which, of course, is why trashy romance novels are such a tiny section of bookshops like Barnes and Noble or Borders.

Let's face facts. We're all human. Except for the puritanical self-loathers, we pretty much all like sex. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

You might be wondering why I'm belaboring this point. It's a game, right? Who cares? Well, that's just it. As Elrod points out in his blog, there is absolutely no shortage in today's day and age of actual, harmful sexism and outright misogyny. His example of some of the disgusting behavior that's gone on with regards to Assassin's Creed producer Jade Raymond is case in point. That kind of sh#@ needs to have attention placed on it, because it can genuinely be harmful. I think laying charges like misogyny at the feet of a game like The Witcher (rated M, by the way), a place where I really don't think the term applies, is a distraction from those places where the misogynistic shoe actually fits.

And with that... I'll shut up about it and get back to the fun stuff.

Ticket to Awesome

Last night I played a game of Ticket to Ride. Now, I don't particularly LIKE that game, especially when compared to the other games I play regularly, but last night was different. Our daughter Ashley ("our" as in my wife and I. Not me and Todd. This isn't that kind of blog. Not that I have anything against two men living together and adopting a child. But with me and Todd it would never work. Michigan and OSU...there'd be a fight.)


Last night, being Wednesday Family Game Night, I suggested a rousing game of Skip-Bo, a pretty common game for us. It's easy, helps with basic math, and is ultimately less fun than UNO which for some reason I still can't find anywhere in the house. What sort of Nuclear Family doesn't have at least ONE copy of UNO in the house?! We have a copy of friggin Chicken Cha Cha Cha--and no UNO.

But last night Ashley went against traditional wisdom and picked a different game. She said, "I want to play a grown up game." I reassured her that grown ups do in fact play Skip-Bo. But those are usually lonely people who are retired and living in Glendale Estates. She was determined, though.

Now, before I continue, I should explain that I have a lot of boardgames. That's all relative, I guess as I know people who have a collection of over 300 games -- I don't have that many. But I do have a lot. Here, see for yourself. And our basement is really one big playroom with all of Ashley's stuff, our old TV, tables, art desks, etc. And it's where we play boardgames. I have my old kitchen table that I had back in college that we use for games and more often than not I have something set up on that table that we're either playing over the course of a few days or a game that I am learning how to play solo before forcing it on others. Right now that game is War of the Ring, a huge, epic, grand scale strategy wargame with hundreds of little plastic minis, a huge board of middle-earth, counters,'s a gamer's game and not for the faint of heart. (It does look damn cool though. I'll have to show Todd this one.)

She asked to play. I'd never thrust a game like that in front of even the most advanced of 7 year olds, so we went with the ultra popular Ticket to Ride. This was the first "adult" game we have ever played with her. I guess you could count Blokus but that's still different. Ashley was able to play by the full rules (now that she can read, at least somewhat, it makes it easier) ..and she won the game. She won. She beat me and Mary in her first game of TTR. Now, I dunno what that says about Ashley...or me and Mary or hell even what it says about Ticket to Ride!

But it officially marked a new era of spending time with our daughter -- a time that doesn't involve TVs, Xbox's, or Nintendo's. And it was truly awesome.

Next week I'll bring out Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and run her over with my crazed elephants!


Well, I'm finally back on the grid. The UPS guy did show yesterday... at 6 freak'n pm. (Tuesday's notice said to expect delivery between 11:30 and 2:00. Nice.) I was disappointed to find that not only did I not get a new console with HDMI (didn't expect that, but I was hoping), but that the manufacture date on the console I did receive is -get this- 10/2005. Surely, the innards of the thing must be newer (remanufactured), but that's an older manufacture date than both my original console (which promptly went belly up) and its replacement. If this console also bites the dust in another 18 months I will be... uh, non-plussed.

Ah well, at least I'm back. Didn't get a chance to do anything with it last night but hook it up to make sure it works, but it's a start. Hopefully, tonight I can get some College Hoops 2k8 play in and post some initial impressions tomorrow. (I've also gotta get some Guitar Hero II in. Freebird, baby! Freebird!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tigers Go Crazy

Crazy like a fox!!!

My goodness. Dontrelle "Please, please, please let 2007 have been an off year" Willis and Miguel "I'm just 24!" Cabrera? Wow. I mean wow. The Tigers lineup was already among the best in baseball, now it's just... muurrrderous. (Pun intended.)

Yeah, they had to give up *a lot* to get those two. Maybin and Miller are as close to being sure things as it gets. And Rabelo and the three other farm pitchers are all quality prospects. (De la Cruz in particular has significant upside.) But that's just it, it's still all prospects and the Tigers are getting *young* guys with major league track records. Given that they were already World Series contenders, especially after trading for Renteria earlier in the off-season, this has got to make them favorites.

The amazing thing to me is still that we're talking about the Detroit freak'n Tigers. Four years ago this team lost 119 games. It just blows my mind to even think about this franchise as being one of the elite in baseball. Dave Dombrowski, name your Christmas gift and you shall have it. My first born? A BJ? I don't care. It's yours!

What Can Brown Do For You?

Hey. I've got an idea! How about delivering a damn package when you say you will? It seems when UPS left a delivery notice on Monday indicating a Tuesday 2nd attempt between "2:00 and 5:00" they were just kidding. Silly me. I thought getting home by noon would give me plenty of wriggle room, but nooooooooooo. Mr. Punctual makes the attempt at around 11:30, before I got home.

So, I call UPS with the usual "what the hell?" banter (knowing it won't do any good) and, of course, have to wait "one hour" for the return call as to when I can pick it up at their facility. (A building conveniently located ten minutes from my office... the one I had just left 30 minutes ago in the wrong direction so I could get the package at home. Yeah timing!) Two hours later they called to tell me I could pick up the package... wait for it, after 7:30 pm. Yeah, that was what I wanted to hear, given that even if I wanted to hang around my office cube for an extra couple hours I couldn't because I needed to pick up my kids from daycare by 6:00 (again, going in totally the wrong direction).

What can I say? It was that kind of day.

And just to be fair, I do understand it's the holiday season, which has to be a hellish time to work for UPS. The whole delivery time thing wouldn't be a big deal if the guy hadn't checked the box stating a 3-hour range of times he'd be here. I mean if you know your schedule is going to be chaotic, just don't check a box at all is all I'm saying.

Anyway, I'm taking no chances today and working the full day from home. (Thank goodness my job is flexible.) There's snow here in Indy, so my guess is the guy probably will be here much later in the day, which is probably a good thing, since I've got about 150 pages of Upgrading and Repairing Windows 2nd Edition to work on. F. U. N. Fun!

Hump Day - Snow Day with Pictures!

Well, there's no school today in lovely Johnstown Ohio because we received about 3 inches of snow last night. That doesn't sound like too much but in the sticks (well, semi-sticks) 3 inches can play havoc with the buses, so me and Ashley are just chillin today.

If you are a reader of my old blog haunt, you will recall my nearly two year search for an HDTV and home theater setup. I finally decided to go with the Sony 60" KDS, and I am extremely happy with it -- along with my Velodyne Subwoofer and Athena 5.1 speaker setup. Very happy indeed. I took some pics last night and I figured I'd share them with you so you could get a look at where I play College Hoops 2K8 and watch House. Note the Nylabones on the floor. Our house is littered with them.

Also, as you may know, I write and freelance edit for GameShark as well as do a few freelance articles for GameSpy from time to time but I'm also going to start part-time writing for a new website that launches in 2008, of which I cannot talk about due to NDA stuff. But on this new site they need a head photo of me, and being labeled as the "sports guy" I figured I'd get a picture taken fresh home from my Tuesday night basketball league. Fitting, eh? So, too informal? Do I look too happy? I'm normally not that cheery...ask Todd. I was coming off a five 3-pt shooting night so maybe that was it. Abner for THREEEE!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And There Was Much Rejoicing

So, about four weeks ago I was settling in (or standing up in this case) to play a little Guitar Hero III. I'd played through the game on easy, medium and hard levels. Well, except for the final "boss battle" with Lou on Hard. I may never beat that. Those boss battles, incidentally, are idiotic. (For the record, I think GH3 is a thoroughly average Guitar Hero experience, at best. It definitely lost something in the development transition from Harmonix to Neversoft.)

Anyway, I had finally reached -I think- the fifth tier of songs on Expert in GH3 and was stymied by the first 30 seconds of Holiday in Cambodia, by The Dead Kennedys. I failed it about three times before setting it aside to play the other songs in the tier, all of which I was able to complete. So back to HoC I went. Now, in practice mode I could handle the rest of the song without too many problems. It was just those first 30 miserable seconds that threatened to reduce me to blubbering in a corner while in the fetal position. But I went back at it, failing the song, probably another 15 times.

It was a nightmare, but finally, finally, I was able to get past that opening sequence. Right on cue, my daughter (Ana 3.10, if I can steal a meme from Bill Harris), starts screaming in the other room. I pause the game, mid-song, to investigate. It was typical not-a-real-problem kid stuff, so I calmed her down and went back to the game. Literally, just as I was reaching for the guitar, the screen goes all fritzy and a horrible screech, that sounded not unlike the creature in Alien, emits from my speakers.

The console is completely locked up.

Okay, so that blows. I mean it really blows. But sh#@ happens, right? So I re-start the console to give it another go. The console locks again, after all of about 10 seconds. At this point, you can surely see where this is going. Long story short (or at least shorter), my second 360 bites the dust. Though, this one did last a year and a half. Three cheers for quality control!

A phone call to Microsoft later and I'm out $125 repair/replacement fee -money that I had intended to spend on Rock Band- and a 3-4 week turnaround for a new console. (Since my console didn't get the red ring of death, I don't get the benefit of an extended warranty. Bastards.)

The good news is that finally, four weeks later, I'm about to get back on the grid. UPS tried to drop off a package yesterday, that could only be my new console. So today I'm ducking out early to make sure I'm home to sign for it this time. At which point, as the title of this posts says, there will be much rejoicing. And if said new console happens to include an HDMI port, I might just regard this whole experience as a bonus.

Anyway, hopefully this means I'll be able to get up some College Hoops 2k8 impressions this week. (After all, I can't bemoan the Michigan coaching "search" forever.) And if I can track down a copy two weeks after its release, no small feat that, there may also be a great deal of Rock Band lov'n in the days and weeks ahead. In the immortal words of Quagmire, "Giggity, giggity, giggity. Oh yeah!"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Michigan as Incompetent Boobs

If anything in this M Go Blog writeup is remotely true about the behind the scenes shenanigans that led to putting the kibosh on the Miles hire then you can forget anything and everything I've said about having faith in Bill Martin or the athletic department to fill this coaching vacancy.

I particularly like the "what if" posit that Sweaty McSweatervest had a hand in feeding Herbstreit his information on Saturday. It's almost certainly not the case, but if it were... god, it would be just so brilliant in its evilness that you almost want to believe it.

The USA Today Coach Poll

Here's the final Coach Poll. Um, Mr. Bowden, how is Oklahoma 10th and Mizzou 6th?

Seriously. What the hell?

Okay, Let's Review

- Michigan football loses out on it's presumptive first choice for head coach.
- Michigan basketball loses to Harvard and its disastrous ex-head coach, Tommy Amaker.
- The Lions lose their fourth straight to drop to 6-6
- Ohio State is in the national championship game

No. It's safe to say this was not a banner weekend.

To top it off I'm now divided on the national championship game. If Miles beats Tressel it'll really make Michigan fans go crazy over what might have been. If OSU wins, then it might be a relief for a lot of fans. (Not that one game really means anything.)

The Monday YouTube Post

Every Monday I'll try to find something funny, entertaining or somehow time waste appropriate for you to see. Today, in honor of the Bucks making the title game, here is a blast from Bowl Game's Past. And quite possibly the most vicious hit I have ever seen in a football game. I remember this play. I was a Senior in high school back in '89/'90. Of course, Auburn came back to win, but this hit is simply...well check it out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

And That's That

Well, I guess that's that. Miles, in his post-game press conference, finally confirmed without wriggle room that he was staying at LSU. I'm still split on this. He may have been the perfect fit for that job. He may have been a colossal blunder. Surely there's a reason for the reports of many in the old vanguard at Michigan, including Lloyd Carr, trying to prevent Miles from being the guy. Say what you will about Carr and his sometimes rude brushes with the media, but he's a stand-up guy. A good man. If he didn't want Miles at Michigan, there was probably a reason.

Anyway, the best and most detailed look at what's transpired over the last 48 hours comes, not surprisingly, from the Detroit Free Press's Michael Rosenberg. One of the few Detroit-area columnist that's actually worth a damn.

In the article Rosenberg (like Bill, but with sources), indicated Brian Kelly is not on the docket. In fact, evidently he was never on Michigan's list. And if that's true, it must surely have more to do with off-field conduct/attitude, because, on the surface, his on-field results are pretty tough to argue against.

Rosenberg indicates the top two at this point are likely California's Jeff Tedford and Rutgers' Greg Schiano. Schiano is the more interesting to me at this point, but that's just on surface recognition. I do, however, trust that AD Bill Martin will get the right guy for the job. Unless it's Ferentz. Though, while the idea of Ferentz gives me the heebie-jeebies, he's not the doomsday scenario. If Mike Debord somehow gets the job Armageddon will have officially arrived.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Curiouser and Curiouser

So this morning ESPN was reporting Les Miles was a done deal. This afternoon various sources are reporting that Les Miles is a lock to stay at LSU, following a press conference in which Miles says,
There was misinformation on ESPN, and I think it's imperative that I straighten it out. I am the coach at LSU. I will be the coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else. I've got a championship game to play, and I'm excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. And that's really all I'd like to say.
I haven't read or listened to the whole text, but if that's the strongest "I'm staying" statement Miles offered, then like the ESPN report, this is still all conjecture to me.

Truly, I don't have much of a vested interest in whether or not Miles heads north. Certainly, it seems a poetic move. Former Bo disciple comes back home. He's a coach that would likely bring a more interesting brand of football than we've had in the last few years under Carr. (For the record, I liked Carr as coach. But it was time to move on.) I also think Miles would be willing to bring in a better staff than Carr. Seriously, how is Mike DeBord the OC of Michigan. How?!?! But there's something a little too storybook about Miles and Michigan and that stuff seldomly works out. (Helllooooo Charlie Weiss.) So if this falls through, I'll be a little disappointed, but far from crushed.

That said, if the rumor mill swings back to Kirk Ferentz, I think we Michigan fans should all run out and kill ourselves. As much as I liked Carr, we need a departure from overly conservative football and Ferentz's recent record at Iowa sounds to me like a recipe for a lot of 9-3, 8-4 years.

So if Miles is out (and I'm not convinced he is), who's left? I really can't say, but from a fan perspective, the name Brian Kelly is the most intriguing. Having gone to college at Western Michigan (I was born in Ann Arbor, raised on U of M football, but didn't have the grades to attend U of M), a stone's through from Grand Valley State, I'm well aware of Kelly's championship record there. And his record at Cincinnati speaks highly of his ability to raise the level of a program.

For those interested, the site to watch in the coming days is Brian, the guy who runs it, is almost always out in front of this stuff. I don't know from where he gets his connections, but he's got 'em. He was among the first to post the Beilein hiring for the basketball program and broke the story of Carr's retirement presser coming two days after the OSU game, days before any mainstream media (MSM) outlet would touch it. He doesn't have anything on the supposed Miles contract extension at LSU, but you can be sure he will. And it'll be reported in context (rumor/innuendo vs. fact), which will be a nice change of pace from what we're getting from the MSM right now.