Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
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 news..you have to love the rules of the NCAA.
Friday, December 21, 2007
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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!
"They baited and switched him. Rich was boxed in by a university and athletic department that was arrogant, mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt."
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
Sunday, December 16, 2007
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!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
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.
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 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 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.)
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.
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
“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?
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
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
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.
- 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?
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)
Saturday, December 8, 2007
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 04...it 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
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.
(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 nj.com story) that -if true- appears to scuttle the Schiano possibility. Bill (Abner, not Sailboat) must be enjoying this.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
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.
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, dice...it'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!
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
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!
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!
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.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
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
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.
- 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.)
Sunday, December 2, 2007
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
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 mgoblog.com. 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.