Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Show Roster Update

Knight should be done with his base set tomorrow.

TheAub posted what he's going to edit as far as player attributes go:

Pitchers:

Knock down pitch control
Knock down K/9

Hitters:

Knock down plate discipline
Fix durabilities if needed for certain players
Knock down fielding reaction
Knock down baserunning aggression/baserunning ability

I'll be done probably on late Saturday night.

I'll let you know when he posts that. All of that stuff is needed, IMO. Some of it drastically so.

Quote of the Day

Was just perusing my blog roll when I ran across this Daily Kos post called, "Lessons Learned." It led off with the following gem that I just wanted to pass on because I thought it was funny as hell (in an ironical sort of way):

Things I have learned during this campaign season:

In a race that includes a former First Lady of the United States and a multimillionaire Republican senator rumored to share up to eight residences with his wife, the black guy from Chicago is unforgivably elitist.

How is GTA4 Not an AO-rated Game?

I'm not a big Grand Theft Auto fan. I enjoyed playing GTA3 and Vice City, but it didn't take long for the game to lose its charm and I pretty much ignored the release of San Andreas. Doesn't matter if it's games, movies or books, I just don't get into the whole mob/criminal underground genre. I'm not even a big fan of The Godfather. (It's a great movie, don't get me wrong. Just not my cup of tea.) That said, while I'm not planning to pick up GTA4 I'd be lying if I said the hype wasn't starting to get to me.

Yesterday, though, I started seeing various posts about a "GTA4 Hooker" video on YouTube and that it was very much not safe for work. My curiosity piqued, I checked it out when I got home last night. Uh, wow. If you thought the "sex scenes" in The Witcher went too far -in which you see a smutty pin-up card and a very blurry image of two shapes kissing- this is on another level entirely.

In GTA4 when you pick up a hooker you not only choose the service you want to pay for -hand job, blow job, or The Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast (I love's me some euphemisms)- you actually see the act being carried out. No, you don't see your avatar's tiny little prick, but -pending what you paid for- you do see the fist pumping, head bobbing or girl bouncing.

Now, I think in the early days of this blog I made it pretty clear my view of sex in games is pretty liberal, but there is such a thing as reaping what you sow. And if Rockstar wants us to be able to see our avatar pay to get blown, complete with a hooker's head bobbing up and down in the front seat of his stolen car, that's certainly their choice. I'm not going to make an ethical argument against it. But don't tell me that something like that, something that's more at home on Cinemax after 11pm on a Friday night, isn't deserving of an Adults Only (AO) rating from the ESRB. Hell, it makes The Witcher look like a Pixar film. (Well, almost.)

The Hell?

I was playing some more MLB '08 last night (since I've "discovered" the button that shows the batter/pitcher matchup, complete with hot/cold hitting zones, my pitching has been worlds better) and had one of those moment that just defies explanation.

I'm in another 1-0 game (losing), pitching in the sixth inning. There's a man on first and the hitter hits a hard grounder just to the right of second base. The second basement doesn't move an inch to try to glove it, but whatever. Probably wouldn't have gotten to it anyway. This is where it gets weird. The ball rolls to a stop in the shallow outfield and both the right and center fielders close in on it. They're about five steps from being able to pick up the ball and they just stop. I stare at the screen for a moment, completely dumbfounded, only to see the catcher emerge from the bottom of the screen and go racing into right-center field to pick up the ball. Of course, by the time he does both the runner and batter have scored. I was... non-plussed.

Fortunately, my team bailed me out and pulled out a 5-3 win in the late innings. I really hope that I don't see anything like that happen again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The NHL Absolutely Sucks

I say that as a longtime fan of the NHL and Red Wings hockey. And when they're not sucking, they're blowing. They're the MegaMaid of sports leagues.

What has my ire today?

Tonight's Game 3 between the Wings and Colorado Avalanche doesn't start until 10pm EST. A frigg'n second round *playoff* game isn't starting until I'm an hour from going to bed? Seriously, what the hell? And the NHL has been doing this for years to Detroit fans in particular because Detroit is the only Eastern Time Zone franchise in the NHL that plays in the Western Conference... and regularly makes the playoffs. (Hence, the Columbus Blue Jackets and their seven year run of never having made the post-season are excluded.)

It was bad enough that the NHL put the Wings in the Western Conference to begin with, what with the crappy start times for road games. It's just that much more frustrating in the playoffs. Then there's the way the NHL has tried to manufacture intra-divisional rivalries with a ridiculous number of intra-division games, while allowing legitimate Original 6 rivalries to atrophy. Couple all that with the league telling the Wings that their personnel are no longer allowed to twirl an octopus thrown onto the ice before the game -a longtime franchise tradition- and it just makes me want to tune out the NHL altogether. (I won't, but I should.)

No, it's safe to say that Commissioner Gary Bettman is not on my Christmas card list.

Deep Route Almost Ready

For those that remember, I mentioned Deep Route Football back on the old blog.

Well, it's just about ready. It's a career, text based, online-only football sim from the man that made the awesome horse racing sim at www.simulatedsports.com.

Thing is, GameShark can't touch this game with any sized pole because my dad created the playbooks, tested the AI and basically co-designed the game. He's worked on this for well over a year (closer to two). So um...GameShark can't review it. That would be wrong and if I slammed it...well, Christmas would just be plain awkward. But I can blog about it.

That said, the game looks great. Just great. Dad came up this past weekend and sat me down to take the interface for a spin and to watch the AI in action. Dad and Mike Wallace (the brains behind the operation) wanted to ensure that since you cannot actively call plays (this is an online sim game) that the playcalling AI needed to be absolutely top notch. Dad had me pull up a game log of any game I wanted to see how the AI handled everything. After about 20 minutes of watching a few games -- it looked rock solid, calling timeouts as the proper time (even calling one right before the 2-minute warning to take advantage of the free stoppage.)

I could talk a whole lot about the game and what dad has shown me thus far but the website is live and they have ran various beta leagues with great success. People really seem to dig it. I can't wait to play it.

From what I know, there will be two versions: a free play and one that costs a fee (what that fee is, I dunno yet). If you play in the free leagues you can't trade players, set draft parameters or edit your playbook. But you CAN play. I also know that there will be various league set ups that should fit into everyone's schedule. Weekly leagues, nightly leagues, you name it. The game comes with an optional salary cap function as well as other perks. They're trying to make it as user friendly as possible.

I'm really proud of dad for doing this; it was a massive undertaking. And dad's work on the playbooks is just ...insane. They're really, really good and not just because my father created them. He's a former coach so he does have a clue as to what he's doing and he's done a marvelous job with them. I can tell he's happy (and excited) with out it turned out.

Anyway head on over to the site and take a look. The forums are also hopping. There will be a blog league so I can whip Todd on a weekly basis.

MLB '08: Learning Something New

I was all set to write up an annoyed post about MLB '08 not getting pitcher of record stats correct. I've had multiple games now where I got a loss for games for which I did not allow the winning run, and it was always my understanding that the pitcher who allows the winning run gets the loss. Here's an example:

In a game against Bowie, I allowed one run in my six innings of work. (This is Road to the Show mode.) In the seventh, a reliever allowed another run, making it a 2-0 game. In the ninth, my team (Erie) finally put up a run and we lost 2-1. Despite only giving up one run, I got the loss, which I thought was totally wrong. So, I looked up the rule on MLB.com and here's what it has to say about the losing pitcher of record:
(d) A losing pitcher is a pitcher who is responsible for the run that gives the winning team a lead that the winning team does not relinquish.
So, if I'm reading that correctly, because I surrendered the lead and Erie never recovered to at least tie the game, that's why I get the loss. That still doesn't seem right to me, and I can't believe MLB never discussed this with me, personally, but them's the breaks. At least MLB '08 appears to have gotten it right and I got to learn something new.

Still, The Show ain't perfect. In another game I was pitching in a 0-0 game; I allowed a lead-off hit, followed by a home run. The score moved, correctly, to 2-0. So, why when the next hitter reached the plate was their a runner still on second base? I didn't even notice him until I gave up a hit to the next guy and the runner on second scored for a 3-0 game. I was dumbfounded for a few minutes while I tried to figure out if I blacked out during an at bat or something, but nope, the game put a runner on base where there should not have been one. I promptly turned the console off and started over. Fortunately, after having played about a dozen or so games, this seems to have been the only time this has occurred. Still, it was damned odd.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MLB 08 The Show Roster Update

I'm still not playing my franchise yet and the reason is the massive roster project from Knight and Jim at OS. Here's the latest update:

Anyway....three...four days TOPS I'll be ready to give you the "completed" version. By this I mean FULL MINOR LEAGUES.....All teams with the correct 40 man rosters....set to opening day.....all lineups and rotations set(MINOR LEAGUES ALSO). That set will have over 1000 players created by Jim and I!

If you're not worried about edits to the SCEA MLB players....you can go with that one.

Then 'theaub' will do edits to the Major league players(he's listed them)....they are the edits I was going to do, but Aubrey was AWESOME enough to take that on for me and give me a much needed break.(I totally appreciate that Aub)

Then 'strut' will fix the stances and windups.....(Kudos once again to another fine member of O.S. coming up big)

Then RaZRr will do some pitching edits to correct some incorrect pitches and pitch speeds(Thank you as this will make the set ULTRA-realistic!)

This is the roster I would wait for to do a franchise Hope that clears up some stuff....

M.K.Knight165

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Draft Day, Bonaparte, Boren, and Books!

Ok so last night's dinner at The Melting Pot went a lot better than expected. That place is awesome. Granted, it was like $110 but hey...you only have one Ten Year Anniversary, right? Well, I guess you could have more than one but I think that's fairly rare. Ash loved cooking her own food. She got a big kick out of that.
Today is Draft Day and wow...I don't care. See, the Browns did their thing already in the off season and we have no picks in the first three rounds so I'm basically going to have the draft on but I doubt I watch it too closely unless Phil Savage works a deal to get us back into the first. That's unlikely.

Mario Manningham reportedly got a SIX on the Wonderlic test. This has no bearing at ALL as to whether or not he'll be a good pro. None. At all. It's a ridiculous test to give football players. I think he'll be an average pro because he's a head case and was never a true standout in college--but it DOES show that not all 'Michigan Men' are smarter than your average bear. I remember Chris Gamble got like an 8 on his test so there's no glass house stuff going on here -- but UoM is just like any other bigtime program -- they do what they have to do in order to get the best players. If you think than Mario Manningham would have been accepted to Michigan (or Chris Gamble to OSU) without their ability to catch a football and run really fast wake up and smell the BCS money.

In other football news, I never did get Todd's reaction to the fact that former Michigan starting guard Justin Boren not only left the program because of Rich-Rod's "colorful" personality but he has now officially transferred to OHIO STATE. He's not even going to be able to be put on scholarship because it's a transfer within the conference. So, basically, Boren would rather pay his own way to come to OSU than to stay on schollie at Michigan.

Good times. Here endeth my stick-prodding of Todd today.

I am finally wrapping my brain around Bonaparte at Marengo. It's not that this is a terribly hard game but it's so different to every other wargame I have ever played that I need to rethink a lot of stuff. What attracts me to this game is that there's no dice, no combat tables, no hex grids -- just a map of the battlefield and a lot of cool wooden pieces.

The game looks, as I have said before, like an old map or like a documentary when they show the red and blue army bars facing each other. It's like playing a game with those pieces -- and it's wickedly cool. To give you an idea of what this game is like, check out this sample game with pics from the Simmons website. There's an ebb and flow to the game that I find thrilling.

OK books. I'm currently reading some history books of note. One is Soldiers and Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity. This is a fascinating read as it details the way the ancient Romans and Greeks killed one another. Throw me a book that talks about Alexander the Great, the Spartans and the Roman war machine and I'm in.






Friday, April 25, 2008

Li'l Brakke, On the Road to the Show

I decided to skip over the franchise mode of MLB '08: The Show and start a Road to the Show player instead. (If you're unfamiliar with this, you create your own ballplayer and start him out in the minor in an attempt to build him up to a major league hall of famer.) I decided to go with a starting pitcher in the Tigers organization and I proceeded to play through all of spring training in a single evening. (Playing out each of my appearances without skipping any.)

Li'l Brakke (like Li'l Penny, only totally different) had a decent spring for the big league club considering he has no skill whatsoever and has a fastball that tops out around 84mph. (I don't like that you have to -apparently- build up your velocity from scratch. I don't think a lot of future fireballers start out in the minors struggling to hit 85mph on the radar gun.) I think I finished out the spring with about a 4.xx ERA. I gave up a metric ton of hits, but relatively few runs all considered and my strikeout to walk ratio was insanely good given my lack of control. (Something like 15:3.)

Once spring training was done I signed a one year deal to be a middle reliever for Detroit's AA club, the Erie Seawolves. At this point the game starts giving you goals to meet in terms of training your player up, like improving your fielding ability. This is done using points accumulated for being successful when playing in games. (Having a low ERA or inducing a double play, for example.) In roughly five appearances I've been having quite a bit of success, including a 2.11 ERA and continued success striking guys out despite not having any pitch velocity to speak of. (I've got a killer 12-6 curve, though, and it's been a monster strikeout pitch.)

You also get emails from your manager that let you know what he thinks about your play and you have the ability to take career actions like retire or complain about your position on the club. I had the option to complain about not being a starter, but I decided to be the patient rookie that I am. In my final game last night I was called in to start the top of the eight inning of a tied ballgame. Five innings later, having not allowed in a run, Erie pulled the game out and I had a glowing email from my manager informing me that I was going to get a shot in the starting rotation. Oh happy day!

Needless to say, I'm enamored with the Road to the Show mode in this game. It's my first experience with it (having not played MLB '07) and it's a wicked amount of fun so far. I was amazed at how much pressure I felt as a middle reliever to come into a game and keep guys in scoring position from making it home. In one game I was called in to a close game with the bases loaded and only one out. I proceeded to strike out the next two hitters and get out of the inning, which had me on my feet cheering Li'l Brakke on. The experience has actually given me newfound respect for the guys with the thankless job of middle relief.

More impressions to come.

Ten Years! I Did It!

As of today, I have been married TEN years.

And tonight I'm going to cook my own food at The Melting Pot. Woo hoo. I'm going to PAY someone else so I can cook my own food at The Melting Pot.

The Melting Pot was not my idea.

But I agreed because -- I have been married TEN years and I have learned like the good padawan that I am.

Todd Writes a Review!

Yes, it's true!

Todd has reviewed Assassin's Creed on the PC! Woo!!!

Also, Troy Goodfellow has written our latest Top Ten -- Ancient Games. I don't agree with everything here but Troy is a lot smarter than I am so my opinion is invalid.

I'm currently killing Union soldiers in Ageod's Civil War game and also trying my best to learn Bonaparte at Marengo (boardgame).

I'll use a Simpsons line from this weekend's Abnercon when I was trying to explain Shogun to Baroo.

"Uh oh, I don't know what this guy is talking about. I wish I was at home with a big bag of potato chips..."

Right now that's how I am with BaM. Lots of stuff to figure out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hump Day Music Break

A little diddy from Emma Pollock. Another somewhat crappy video, but hey...it's about the music, right?

Lost Cities Now Available on XBL

Well, I bought it and I played 3 games of this afternoon.

Basically...it's Lost Cities on the Xbox 360. How's that for detail? Of the boardgames that are currently on XBL: Catan, Carcassonne, and Lost Cities, this is my least favorite although I do like it -- LC is more of a "filler" game. A game meant for quick plays when you have 20 minutes to kill. It's nowhere Catan level -- which is one of the seminal boardgames. This is much more casual.

The rules are right out of the card game. My beef with it is that the AI is pretty loopy and I beat the "hard" level 2 of 3 games and the reason I lost the other was pure luck of the draw.

I see that the AI likes to play expedition cards and then throw a 7 (or higher) on them to start, which is pretty ridiculous if you know how to play Lost Cities. My first game on "Medium" had the AI end up with a score of -87. That's bad.

What will make or break the game (which runs 800 points) is the multiplayer and Todd and I as well as Baroo will put it through its paces soon enough.

Todd?

Anyway, I love seeing these "gateway" games make it to XBL, but I think it's time to open things up a bit. Enough of the tile laying Carcassonnes and the Knizia card games. So many BG's would translate beautifully to the 360 --.of course next on the docket is another family/gateway game, Ticket To Ride. I guess that makes sense due to its popularity. I'd never bring TTR to the table unless playing with complete boardgame novices, though.

Still, gimme some XBL Citadels or XBL BattleLore or even XBL Shogun! That would actually be super sweet. Of course you'd have to put a timer on it when people are making province decisions. One thing about Todd -- fastest Shogun player -- EVER.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Post in Which Todd Lands a PS3

For the last couple weeks I've been talking up to my wife how good Bill thinks MLB '08 is on the PS3. She doesn't care, but it gets the whole PS3 conversation rolling. So, of course, while at Bill's this weekend we made a point of playing the game and I made a point of saying, "Like, this is so awesome," over and over again. (I'm subtle that way.) I didn't expect much to come of it, but much to my surprise, with our anniversary being yesterday, Angie gave me the green light to procure a Playstation 3. Now, we really don't need a PS3 in our house, but I'm also not exceptionally stupid, so I jumped on it, also picking up a copy of MLB '08: The Show last night. My thanks to Bill for helping me drive that "need" home.

Now, I haven't really played any of MLB '08 yet, but I'll get some impressions up once I do. I will say that the PS3 is mostly a marvelously designed piece of hardware and it's an exceptional Blu-ray Disc player. The speed with which it boots and loads discs, relative to our Sony BDP-301, is remarkable (and a relief) and the thing is unbelievably quiet. Love it.

I did run into a couple of things I don't like, though. One, the Sony BD remote (sold separately) is Bluetooth only. Which means almost no universal remote on the market is going to control this thing, and certainly not my Harmony 688. There is a Nyko remote that includes an IR USB adapter that I may pick up for it, but still, it's disappointing that Sony either didn't realize or didn't care that this thing will be a lot of people's primary Blu-ray player and include an IR receiver (like the Xbox 360 has). The other problem is that you can't utilize the component and HDMI outputs at the same time. Since I'm set up to send an HDMI signal to my TV and a component signal to my video projector, this omission isn't insurmountable, but it is a pain. Regardless, the rest of the unit is so good, I'll live happily with that particular misfire.

Hopefully I'll be able to really dig into MLB '08 by the end of the week. I've got some all-day and into the evening work events this week, so we'll see. Based on the one game I played at Bill's this weekend, however, I have to agree with Bill that this is the best baseball game I've seen in years.

Abnercon '08 Postmortem

The thing about playing boardgames is you sort of expect the people you're playing with to, you know, give you a game. Baroo was all over the place at Abnercon 08, winning a couple games of Settlers of Catan and Mare Nostrum. Mary crushed the field in Shogun. I absolutely owned Rails of Europe. Hell, even my wife, Angie, got in on the action with Citadel. Now, I don't know what Bill's particular deal was, but you don't expect your host extraordinaire to just mail it in like that. It was very disappointing. I can forgive him because he and Mary fed us incredibly well, but I hope that when (if?) we do Brakkecon '08 later this year that Bill is able to give us all his real "A" game because that performance was just shameful.

In all seriousness, what a great time that was. Four days of shooting the shit and playing great boardgames is an experience that just can't be matched on Xbox Live. I've gotta say that the I love -LOVE- the Rails of Europe expansion to Railroad Tycoon. The European map on which you play this expansion is so much more well thought out and challenging than the American map that it's not even funny. I just wish we'd had time to give it another go.

Mare Nostrum, too, was a fun experience. You never know when just playing a game once if the mechanics will break down upon repeat plays, but I liked the combination of resource gathering, combat and the inclusion of the mythological in this game, which centers around the major ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea.

This Just Never Gets Old



Willie the Pimp!

Surviving Abnercon '08

Well, we finally have our house to ourselves again! Four days of Todd is enough to destroy the will of most mortal men, but we have trudged through and made it out alive.

Actually, the weekend was a a great time as Mary and I enjoy hanging out with Todd and Angie a great deal and then when you add my old college buddy Billy Baroo you have a recipe for a LOT of laughs. I learned a lot this weekend, though:

I learned that despite all my yapping, I am apparently horrible at boardgames. From Thursday through Sunday afternoon we played Catan (twice), Citadels, Shogun, Mare Nostrum, Qwirkle, The Europe Expansion for Railroad Tycoon, PitchCar, and Ivanhoe. I won exactly zero of these games. Now, I still had a ball, and we started to openly laugh at my misfortune, but come on...ONE game? Can I win ONE game?! Come on!!

Anyway, it was a great time and hopefully we can do it again soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's This? A Winning Streak?

Given their 2-10 start, I've been refraining from saying a thing about the Tigers. It's the kind of thing that, when talked about, only makes it all seem worse. Fortunately, the kitties seem to be warming up alongside the weather. Last night they pounded Cleveland 13-2 (with a rook on the mound, no less) to get to 5-10 overall. If you had told me before the season this was the kind of start they'd have, I'd of told you that you were... well, beyond stupid, really. Shows how much I know. Regardless, that lineup was too good for them to not start scoring some runs and if the bullpen can settled down -which it's showing signs of doing- I think the Tigers will be above .500 by the end of May. (I just won't hold my breath over it.)

Anyway, in a few hours we'll be packing up the car and the kids (yes, the kids are getting packed away) for our trip to EuroDisn- er, Bill's. It's always a recipe for fun and frivolity when I get to shamelessly demolish Bill in a variety of boardgames that I'm seeing for the first time that he's played to death.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Hump Day Music Break

I love The White Stripes. Overexposed or not -- they're just plain brilliant. Today I'm posting two of my daughter's favorite songs (live versions) by Jack and Meg.



The Fortwo?

OK so my parents just got back from Rome. This by itself was a stunning development because my father had never left the US in his life -- and said he never planned to unless it was specifically to go to the horse races. This was the first trip my father has ever taken (that I can recall) that did not involve a trip to the track. A milestone, believe me. Dad is actually part owner of a horse that was on the Derby Trail until he had an injury setback so the timing was right to go.

Well, they both had a blast (another shocker). My parents enjoy history and Rome drips of it so I guess it's not that surprising. The biggest letdown for them was -- oddly enough -- the food. In Rome? Yeah, in Rome. Weird. Anyway so they get back and my dad calls me and says he's buying a new car. Wha??


Turns out he fell in love with this little mini roadster thing that is all over Italy called the fortwo. It's small, compact, and gets like 55 miles per gallon and since they pay around $9.00 a gallon in Rome the thing is literally everywhere.


My dad's an impulse buyer -- when he wants something, he gets it. He's been like this since...forever, really. His plan is to buy one -- Saturday and the only place that sells them in Ohio is a dealer that is 10 minutes from my house. He's a retired steel worker who, despite his spending habits, worked wonders with his money. I really have no idea how they did it. So this weekend Todd and his family are coming as is my old college buddy -- and now my parents are coming in on Saturday to buy this new car.

I'm going to be booked.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Assassin's Creed Impressions

I've now put about 12 hours into Assassin's Creed (PC version) and I think I've been pretty lucky to escape some of the many problems that are apparently plaguing other users. The only crash I've had with it was in the first hour. Since then it's been a completely smooth, glitch free experience. It's a shame so many other people are having problems.

That said, the deeper I play the more this game feels like an exceptional tech demo and a pretty pedestrian game. Even if you can accept the basic conceit (that you're reliving the memories of one of your ancestors), which I have, the implementation of this story just seems incredibly ham-fisted. For example, every time you assassinate a designated target (not just a nameless guard, but an actual target) there's a death scene in which said target expounds at length about one thing or another. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers.) It just doesn't fit. I mean if you want every target to give a dying speech, that's fine (well, it's passable), but set it up so you're not killing the target in the middle of a crowded square with a half dozen guards all around you with swords drawn. Apparently they're just as interested in these speeches as your character is because no one's putting a blade in your gullet while you're sitting there listening to the whole schpeel. Also, if the developers hadn't been so focused on the highly repetitive gameplay (and it is shamelessly repetitive) they really should've let these narrative sequences unfold as part of the assassination mission itself, rather than have each and every target speechify you to death.

It just doesn't feel like they took the time to make the story and the events in this game fit the world they created, which is a shame because it's a wonderful world. Take the near-future scenes that are meant to be present day for the player character. We're set up to believe you've been abducted by this all-knowing, all-seeing company. Yet, their security system is based on ID pens that are easily lost or pilfered? Have they not heard of biometrics? Then there's the assistant woman who speaks freely about things that have happened to her at the company and even lets you access her laptop in full view of a half dozen security cameras. Is *anyone* at all monitoring those things or are they there for show?

Yeah, there's an extent to which I'm nitpicking the game over stuff like this, but little things like that are happening constantly in the game world that break the story's credibility and it's disappointing given how unbelievably cool the game concept is, not to mention the loving attention to detail in the game engine itself.

What Day Is It?

On Saturday a buddy of mine hosted a party to commemorate the opening of his new basement barcade. Now, I've only know the guy for a short while, so when I received the invite I had assumed we were talking about a finished basement with a bar, home theater set up, and maybe a pool or foosball table.

No, what this guy has put together was a frig'n awesome barcade. Evidently one of his hobbies the past few years has been buying and restoring old coin-op games. His basement is decked out with about a dozen different arcade cabinets of mostly 80s games; stuff like Joust, Ms. Pac Man, Galaga, Star Trek (the awesome sit down enclosure), etc. It's just an amazing setup.

More fun, though, was bringing along Rock Band to set up with his video projector. Nothing like a dozen or so tipsy to blindingly drunk people taking turns at Rock Band. I'm not sure if the highlight was me trying to sing Roam (yes, I downloaded Roam, so sue me) or our host trying to sing that Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld song. In any case, Rock Band was meant for events like this. The only downside was my band, Green Eggs and Mayham, lost a lot of fans on this night.

Anyway, after the Rock Band portion of the evening had started to wrap up, I went back down to the bar area to chat with some of the people who were too cool for plastic guitars and pretend drums. It was at this point that I inquired about a drink that had been handed to someone a couple of chairs down from me. The guy handling bar duty asked if I wanted one...

This is where I'm gonna channel my best Mike Birbiglia...

So, what I should've said was, "No thanks. I'm fine." (Or nothing.) What I said was, "Yeah sure."

Long story short, it's now Tuesday morning and I'm only just starting to feel like a 3-dimensional, living human again. I don't know what that f#@er put in that cup, but from now on I'm sticking to beer and wine.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Exiting Assassin's Creed: The Video

PC Gamer did up this awesome YouTube video showing just how much work (yes, work!) it is to exit the PC version of Assassin's Creed. The theme music that goes along with this video alone had me rolling.

New Top Ten: Xbox 360 Achievements

I didn't write this one but Brandon did a great job with it. Check out our new top ten feature -- the toughest 360 achievements. These are either really hard or Brandon is just a terrible gamer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Assassin's Creed PC and Bill Gets Two Bits Right

So Bill got two things right in his last post:

1. I am reviewing Assassin's Creed
2. I am an exceptionally poor blogger.

On the other hand, I am also ridiculously good looking and that keeps me pretty happy. (Hey, who reading this can prove me wrong? Shut up, Mike.)

I've put about five hours into the PC edition of Assassin's Creed. My chief complaint? It's ridiculously hard to exit the game. It is, quite literally, the first game I have ever played that you have to exit three times before you get back to Windows (or a DOS prompt for that matter).

In Assassin's Creed you're some near-future nobody whose been hauled into a some form of militaristic pharmaceuticals company because a distant Middle Eastern ancestor of yours was an assassin and your genes carry his memories. For some reason they need those memories very badly. You really can't make this sh#@ up.

So, the game as most of us know it consists of delving into and reliving your ancestor's history in the Middle East in the Crusades era. (If I paid any attention to detail whatsoever, I could tell you the year. No such luck, though.) If you can stretch your suspension of disbelief this far, there's an interesting game here. The cityscapes alone make it worth trying. They are, at times, breathtaking. It's just bizarre to me that to actually leave the game you have to leave the current "memory" you're in, then quit the near-future part of the game -which dumps you back to the profile log in screen- and then log back in to your profile again so that you can actually leave the game entirely. The whole process takes a couple of minutes. Whomever thought that was a good idea should be stripped to their skivvies and made to run around downtown Anchorage... in February.

As for the gameplay, it's a lot of fun. But the main thing I've digested from reading about the original console version of Assassin's Creed is that the gameplay in the first couple hours doesn't differ much from the gameplay throughout the rest of the game. And that's gonna get old. There's only so many strangers you can rescue on the streets of Demascus or Jerusalem before it's gonna get old. Only so many towering spires you can climb before you've had enough. I'm just five hours in and I've already had my fill of both of these highly repetitive tasks. True, you can skip some of this stuff, but I'm an obsessive compulsive hero/assassin, so not rescuing every damsel in distress is not even an option.

All that said, it's a gorgeous game. It may also be the first PC game I've played where you're better off using a 360 USB controller than the mouse and keyboard. The contortions you need to twist your fingers into for some of the keyboard combinations would make someone with arthritis cry. It's a damn good thing I've got a wired 360 controller, as the whole experience just works better with a couple analog sticks and a few well-placed buttons.

Assorted Things

Busy day today so I'll just run down a few things. First off, the latest There Will Be Games column is online. Great stuff. This really is a very fun read..as sad as this story is for Michael.

We also posted a 9,000 word walkthrough for Devil May Cry 4 in two parts. I'm no fan of these (on a concept level, Jeff did a great, exhaustive job) but my boss wants them and I am first and foremost a great employee! We also have a currently embargoed preview of Fallout 3 which won't go up until 11AM ET. Woo.

As for me, I'm still waiting on Jim and Knight's MLB 08 The Show rosters before starting my franchise. I have no issue in waiting as I have enough to do as is.

And yes, some of you noticed my CH 2K8 Legacy on the sidebar -- I'm almost done with year two coaching the Texas State Bobcats. With 2K9 dead in the water I wanted to really try and "master" 2K8 to see just how much legs it has. It DOES have said legs. I still agree with the lukewarm reviews, but the game is pretty darn fun, issues aside. I still think the AI is too predictable and doesn't look to score with its front court nearly enough, but I do have some great games so it's not all bad. There are more positives than negatives, no question.

I'd talk about Seven Kingdoms: Conquest but it's so bad I won't waste the skin cells typing anymore about it.

Todd is reviewing Assassin's Creed PC and he should blog about it but he's the worst blogger since Marx (who was a notoriously bad blogger from what I hear.)
In cardboard gaming news, I'm messing with Men of Iron and it's shockingly fun. I say shockingly because while I'm not "new" to wargames I AM somewhat new to "counter-based" wargames -- the kinds of games where your men are little cardboard chits rather than miniatures or even wooden blocks. These are like the text based sports games of the boardgaming industry, in a sense. Tons of data, lots of detail and depth but not the most eye catching in the genre. And that's ok. This pic is from the online module you can play. Amazing how these seemingly simple looking games can be so damn compelling -- it just takes a little imagination, sort of like watching the play by play of a baseball game.

I'll also try and keep you abreast of my Here I Stand email game; we're still in the diplomacy phase and England (played by our BG columnist Michael Barnes) is trying to smooth talk me into giving him free French mercenaries to fend off the Hapsburg player.
Yeah, right. We French don't cave so easily!
Really, we dont.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hump Day Music Break

Today we take a listen to another of my favorite current artists (although she's been doing this for like 15 years). Holly Golightly has an old school flavor to her music, and yet it still sounds fresh. Plus she had a cameo on the White Stripes' Elephant LP which is always a plus. Two samples for today, one is from her classic Truly She is None Other (2003) album and the next is actually a song on an album by the Greenhornes (2002). She does this song on Truly but this version is better and is from the Broken Flowers soundtrack. Plus the video has Bill Murray. Bonus points.



Jade Empire (PC) For $8

I haven't played it (yet), but while Jade Empire may not be the best reviewed game on the planet, it's still a Bioware production. As such, I think the current GoGamer.com 48 Hour Madness price of $8 is worth noting. I just ordered a copy. Not sure when I'll get around to playing it, but at that price, I think it's time to give it a try.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CGW/GFW Magazine: End of an Era

Just spotted a depressing post over at Jeff Green's blog. (Green is the Editor-in-Chief of Games for Windows Magazine, formerly Computer Gaming World.) Looks like they've officially shipped their final issue of GFW and that after this month the mag will be no more.

That's a shame. I grew up with Computer Gaming World. It was the original and, to my mind, the definitive print magazine for computer games. (Note that the primary editorial players for GFW will still be at 1Up, and they'll still be driving PC gaming content. They'll just be doing it exclusively online from now on.) I wasn't a big fan of the switch to the Games for Windows title, but the content they produced for it never suffered after the change. In fact, it may have gotten better in many respects.

While I'm sorry to see it go, there's no doubt they had a heck of a run. More than 20 years ain't bad for a mag about computer games.

MLB 2k8 Patch Impressions and Starting a Franchise

From what little reading I can find the patch for MLB 2k8 addresses just two issues: framerate and inability to manage the minor league rosters for the Padres. (I forget the specifics of the latter because, well, it's the Padres.) I didn't have much time last night to play a whole game with the new patch, but I did play about five innings just to get a taste. The framerate is much improved, but don't expect miracles. There are still the odd slowdowns and speedups when fielding and there are still hitches on infield throws. They're not as prevalent or distracting but they're there. A smooth 60fps game, that we were all sold on during the 2k conference call, this is still not.

On a sidenote, I've started a franchise with some user-made rosters. (2k's last roster update was at the end of freak'n February. Nice work, guys.) Seven games in and my impressions haven't changed much at all. This is a fun game, when there isn't bizarre sh#@ happening.

On the plus side, I had one of those great fist-pumping moments over the weekend. My Tigers were getting just obliterated by the White Sox (not unlike real life), 10-2. I was scratching my way back into it. 10-6 after the sixth inning. 10-8 after the seventh. Finally, in the bottom of the eight I was able to tie it up, 10-10. In the bottom of the ninth, still tied, I got a lead off triple from Gary Sheffield. (You can get a lot of triples in this game playing in Comerica Park, which is sweet.) The game proceeds to issue back-to-back intentional walks to Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera, who were having fantastic games, to load up the bases. (Again, sweet!) On the second pitch to Carlos Guillen (who was hitting in the low .200s), the White Sox pitcher tosses a wild pitch that goes back to the backstop. Gary Sheffield races to home for the win. Simply an awesome game. Had my wife not been home, I probably would've been running around the house whooping it up. (Yeah, I'm that kind of dork.)

The counter-balance? My very next game, in Boston, I've got a no-hitter going in the sixth inning with Verlander. There are two outs and I'm just cruising. One of the Sox hitters (I forget which), hits a lazy fly ball to right field. I'm under it with Ordonez who manages to somehow not catch the ball. It just drops in while he stands there. Okay, fine. There probably should be an animation for that, but errors like that do happen. There's one problem, though. No error was charged. I lost out on a no-hitter because this game flat out does not charge human teams with fielding errors. Throwing errors yes. But every time I have a fielder miss a lazy ground ball or drop a fly, there is never an error charged. In most games that's simply annoying, but when you've got a no-hit bid going and it's spoiled by something like that, it's simply unforgivable.

Monday, April 7, 2008

More cardboard...and the NBA

Today's weird combo post is about that boardgame I mentioned a couple of days ago, Here I Stand, which is about the Protestant Reformation. I'm still reading the rulebook but if this era of history interests you (it should, it's cool) then you need to check out this game report over at Fortress Ameritrash. This will give you an idea of how the game plays. It sounds fascinating, actually.

In other, completely unrelated news, it looks like the NBA and NCAA are adopting a new age policy wherein you need to be 20 years old before going to the league. This will start in 2012 or so. The question remains -- will surefire elite talent play in college for two years or just to overseas? Would have been nice for this rule to have been around when Oden, Conley, and Cok were at OSU. Well, nice from my perspective at least.

MLB 2K8 Patch is Out

I have no idea how it plays because I'm playing The Show but perhaps Todd can shed some light.

Todd?

Buy a PS3 yet? :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday 12:01 AM

The message of the day:

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is a really, really, bad game.

Really bad.

Really.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Buckeyes, Martin Luther, and Alexander

An odd trio, for sure.

Bad news from Buckeye camp as prized Freshman OT Mike Adams will require shoulder surgery following an injury suffered in practice. Many had Big Mike pegged as the starting RT so this is indeed sad news. We should find out more today about his status.

In better OSU news, Justin Boren, the starting interior O-lineman for Michigan who left the program because RichRod is apparently molesting park benches (that's the rumor!) might end up at OSU. A former starter at UM coming to Columbus? How sweet is that? Well, not for Todd, but I think it's great. Sorry Todd.

OK game news.

I'm about to get in on a 6-player email game of Here I Stand, a detailed war/political game centered on the Protestant Reformation. And seriously -- who HASN'T wanted to play a detailed game about Martin Luther and Calvin?

Continuing my wargame kick I just ordered The Great Battles of Alexander with the supplemental "Simple Rules" set. I have such a soft spot for this game because of how much I enjoyed the PC games from I-Magic back in the late 90s. OK so that's Napoleon's Triumph, Men of Iron, Alexander, and an email game of HiS. Am I turning into a grognard?

Lastly, April 18th through the 20th is Abner Con 2008! OK actually this is when Todd and his family comes to spend the weekend as well as my old college buddy who is stationed near Chicago. Really looking forward to that. Many a game will be played that weekend.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Buckeyes are Champs!

...of the NIT.

OK so it's a consolation prize. But this was a great thing for OSU -- much better than to go to the NCAA and lose in the 1st round. Of course if they had played like this all year they would have made the tourney, been a decent seed, and had a shot at a few wins.

Still, OSU won something like 6 of its last 7 games, running roughshod through the NIT, capping it off with a great win against UMASS, a team that the experts said would run rings around the slow footed OSU.

Uh, no.

UMASS is fast and can score in bunches, but OSU ran with them step for step, accepted the breakneck pace and beat the Minutemen at their own game and by the time the horn sounded it was UMASS that was spent -- cooked -- tired and OSU was still standing.

The question now is Koufos. The 7'1 freshman with legit 3-point range who after February started to play like the offensive machine we OSU fans (selfishly) expected from the get go. Koufos is a matchup nightmare and will prolly go in round 1 of the draft, so keeping him around will be a huge part of the 2008-9 team.

Man..can OSU lose two star freshmen centers back to back? Say it ain't so.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Madden PC Gets the Axe

This from Joystiq this morning.

So, no Madden 09 on the PC. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised it took this long. Based on the following bit from the article, fans of the PC versions of NBA Live and, more significantly, NHL, probably shouldn't get their hopes up for fall releases of those titles, either:
Moore notes that Madden '09 is not the only PC title receiving the axe, and that it represents a larger decision by EA Sports to cut back on their number of PC releases.
The one that concerns me is the Tiger Woods franchise. For me, the PC will always be the better platform for golf games. It always been, and barring an incredible golf game for the Wii, it will continue to be so. A good mouse swing is just plain better than an analog stick. And the PC community that has supported games like Tiger with loads of custom courses is also something that has yet to be matched on a console.

Granted, Tiger Woods pretty much sucked on the PC this year (and has for awhile), but there was always the naive hope that at some point EA Sports would get its act together and take the PC version of the game seriously again. (Yeah, I know. I'm a dreamer.)

OSU In The Final!

...of the NIT. OK, so yeah it's not the NCAA but I think this has been a great benefit to the Bucks as they are playing their best basketball right now and here it is early April and they are still playing which only a few other teams can say at the moment. Three straight double digit wins over NC Ashville, California, , Dayton, and Ole Miss leaves them a win over UMASS away from a "title". It's been a weird year for OSU hoops and I hope they can go out a winner tonight.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

DirecTV and MLB HD Price Whoring

I've been back from our Midwest Family Tour for a couple days, but hadn't made much time for blogging since there's been very little to blog about. I think I've gone nearly two weeks now without any serious gaming, which is more than a little disconcerting. I still need to finish Bioshock, so I'm hoping to make some time for that before the week is over. (I think I'm pretty close now.)

With baseball season underway and the Detroit Tigers looking like post-season contenders again this year I had planned to break down and order DirecTV's Extra Innings package. I had the page loaded up and was ready to click on the order button when I noticed that they're doing the same thing with their MLB package that they do with the NFL: putting the HD content on another tier, for which you have to pay extra.

Now $180 for a season of baseball isn't a bad value. It's not a great value, but it's six months of daily baseball at the same price of an NFL package where you'll probably only watch around 16 games. But I'm absolutely sick of DirecTV double-dipping for HD content. I already have to pay an extra $10 a month just to enable HD content, which was fine until they put HD-exclusive channels like UniversalHD, HDMovies and MGMHD into their own separate tier. To tell subscribers of these already expensive sports packages that they've got to pony up yet again if they want to see a fraction of the games in HD, I think that's just gouging. (Something I've told them in a not-so-politely worded letter.) I mean if you order HBO or Showtime, you don't have to pay a separate fee to get the HD versions of those channels.

Fortunately -unlike the NFL, which I'm canceling this year; screw the Lions- I have a choice with the MLB. So instead of going the DirecTV route, I've signed up for MLB.com's MLBTV Premium package. It's $120 dollars and includes a game mix channel (six games at once), MLB Radio (so I can listen to afternoon games at work) and some other stuff. Unlike past years, this year they've got a 1.2MB video feed that's much closer to (non-HD) broadcast quality. Since my PC's secondary display output is hooked up to our video projector, I'm thinking I can watch games all summer long while my wife watches regular stuff on the TV underneath the big screen. (It's an odd setup, but it works.)

As for the Tigers, I can't tell you how heartwarming it is to see this team competitive again. After 20 years of losing Detroit baseball, their incredible regular season and World Series appearance made 2006 just a magical year. In 2007 they had a disappointing finish (considering they had the league's best record late in July), but it was still a fun season of baseball. And with some of their off-season moves this year, acquiring Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, this year should be more of the same. Hopefully the pitching holds up because that lineup is just unbelievable.

Hump Day Music Break - The Heartless Bastards

I listen to a lot of music. When you work from home and are forced to sit in front of your PC for a good chunk of the day...well let's just say that without my music I'd me extremely grumpy. Yes, I get the irony. Shut up.

Today I'd like to share a clip from one of my favorite new bands, the Heartless Bastards out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Don't let this weird video fool you, these guys (2 guys and a gal) are brilliant. The drummer looks like my 8th grade science teacher. The entire album "All This Time" is Grade A and worth a purchase. I got my copy off of eMusic. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

War Games

I love history. I really love ancient history. When channel surfing if you show me a guy with a sword running another guy with a sword through the belly...I'm in. I recently stumbled upon a great show on the HD Theater channel called Battleground: The Art of War. The show isn't new -- it first aired in 2005 back when I lived in the gloomy world of SD. So for me, this was brand new and really, really, neat.


Here's a write up with a quick video on the Alexander the Great edition which highlighted his final battle against the Persians. I have now watched all three episodes (I have no idea if they made more) but the other two were Waterloo and the Battle of the Bulge.

I think Gaugamela (Alexander) runs again this Saturday so if you haven't seen it, check it out. Great stuff. If watching these shows doesn't get you at least mildly interested in playing a wargame, nothing will.

Sticking with the war theme, I have a couple of board games en route that I can't wait to play.

The first is from Simmons Games called Napoleon's Triumph and the other of Men of Iron, a small scale wargame from famed designer Richard Berg. The picture up top is from Men of Iron while NT is the one here to the left. Have you ever seen any old movie when generals are looming over a map with what appear to be block shaped game pieces representing the armies? That's what NT looks like. I think that's cool. Yeah, I'm odd. I know.
Life can't all be baseballs and 3-pointers.