Monday, August 31, 2009

Michigan Football: We Talk’n ‘Bout Practice?

Ah Allen Iverson practice quotes, you do make me smile.

Also: Character Assassination:

the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in that person

Let me just say that I am shocked – SHOCKED – to find out college football players at a major college football program have been pressured to put in more time on football related activities than NCAA guidelines allow for mandatory work. I am less shocked that Detroit Free Press opinion columnist Michael Rosenberg published an investigative story about the practice in which he eviscerates Michigan and, more specifically, Rich Rodriguez.

Here’s the bottom line on the Rosenberg article – it’s a hit piece. It just is. I’m not saying that no rules were broken as I have no earthly idea, but there is an agenda here. This guy is an opinion columnist, one that I liked for quite awhile, but you don’t let opinion columnists conduct investigative reporting when they’ve already spent more than a year lambasting the target of the investigation. Make no mistake, Michael Rosenberg hates him some Rich Rodriguez. The good news for Michael is that a lot of people hate them some Rodriguez, so it’s not too hard to find people willing to step behind a curtain of anonymity and lampoon the guy.

Now, I’m not saying Rodriguez is not a dick. He’s a college football coach. Often times that’s a pre-requisite for the job. But he’s also not an idiot. Any college football coach in his position knows what the rules are and how to push them to the absolute breaking point and I’ve no doubt he’s done just that. But I also doubt he’s doing anything that’s not common practice at any other school with a major football program and that the primary reason he’s in the crosshairs right now is that there are some very vocal people who don’t like him.

To be honest, I’m indifferent to Rodriguez. I’m a huge fan of the school he’s coaching so I naturally want him to do well. But at the same time, I’m not convinced one way or the other that he’s the guy for the job. I mean, really, how would I know? I’m a fan. What bothers me about this media firestorm is that it’s not about concern for the “kids” involved or the program, it’s about a grudge against the guy running it and that’s cheap.

Anyway, if you’re following this story you owe it to yourself to read the articles linked above as well as some of the posts coming out of MGoBlog over the last 24 hours. Yes, Brian and company at MGoBlog are partisan, but they’re still more credible than Rosenberg… and better writers too. 

http://mgoblog.com/content/jihad-second-practical-matters (a look at the allegations and the rulebook)

http://mgoblog.com/content/jihad-second-mike-forcier-mike-schofield-deny-allegations (two parents of current players on the record)

http://mgoblog.com/content/jihad-second-they-dont-know-rules (more analysis of the rules and the lack of credible journalism on display)

Also, former QB Chad Henne had a few words.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Mad Catz Rock Band Toys

Being the company man that I am...

Ok these do look damn nice. I saw them at E3. That replica is HEAVY.




Rock Band 2 DLC and Being Careful What You Wish For

Over the past year Harmonix has released two DLC tracks for Rock Band 2 that I’ve desperately wanted to see on the platform. The first was Journey’s Don’t Stop Believ’n. Yeah, I know, but it’s such a great song. The thing with that one is that I never really gave it a second thought until an October evening in 2006 when a buddy of mine (Mike In The D in the comments) scored me and a couple other guys tickets to the series clinching Game 4 of the Tigers’ opening round playoff series against the Yankees. Single best sporting experience I’ve seen first hand. And, of course they played that song as the celebration took place on the field. Yeah, I know, almost every sports venue trots that song out these days, but dammit, when it’s 40,000 jubilant Detroiters singing the line “Just a city boy, born in raised in south Detroit” in unison, it’s so much cooler. 

Anyway, the other DLC track is Tom Petty’s Running Down a Dream, which Harmonix just made available this week, along with another Full Moon Fever track, I Won’t Back Down. (Full Moon Fever, btw, is on my Top 5 list of CDs I’d need with me if stranded on a desert island.) I have been wanting some Tom Petty for my fake plastic guitaring experience since I played the first Guitar Hero, Running Down a Dream in particular. I can’t believe it took this long, and sure it’s only two tracks, but I’ll definitely take it.

So what’s the problem? 

It’s the shame. I can play about 90-95% of RB’s (1 and 2) tracks on expert. Maybe not well, but well enough to muddle through with judicious use of Overdrive. But not these two; not my two favorite songs in the game. So humiliating.

With Journey I can’t get through that first burst of notes that lead off the guitar track. With Petty I can’t survive the solo at the end. I spent an hour on that solo in practice mode last night and there are two parts to it where I can’t even get the sequence down when playing at 70% speed, let alone full speed. So sad. So maddening. Normally I would just pretend these songs don’t exist in the game, their penance for exposing my feebleness on a plastic axe, but I cannot let this injustice stand. I will play this track until my fingers bleed (like Bryan Adams!) before I give it up.

Or I suppose you could say, “I wont’ back down.” (Yes, if you don’t already, you’re allowed to hate me for that pun.) 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Items of Note

I haven't done a bullet list in a while so here you go:
  • Still haven't played Madden for a bit. Waiting for opening day rosters.
  • Middle-Earth Quest arrived last night. Should get a chance to play over the holiday weekend.
  • I will be doing a somewhat rare boardgame review for GameShark of Chaos in the Old World.
  • Games Workshop is remaking Space Hulk. Drool.
  • Mitch, one of my freelancers, says Batman on the 360 is A+ material.
  • Mad Catz sent me 3 microphones and 3 mic stands in preparation for the Beatles Rock Band review. Yeah 3-part Harmony! Now to get them to send me the new Telecaster! Eat it Binky!
  • The Jefferson City Ragtime Nine have now taken their rightful place in the world. Todd's team is now in last place. The sun is shining brightly in the NCBL.
  • Tonight is my Blood Bowl league match against a Lizard team. I have no idea how to play against those guys.
  • Last night was 30 and over basketball night at the rec center. I have been playing there for about 6 years every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Well, not *every* -- but as often as I can. When I started playing in the 30 and over night I felt like I had the upper hand -- now -- nearing 38...I feel like the veteran about to get cut.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Best Games of 2009 (so far)

Forgot to post this Friday but we did a round table staff discussion on our picks for the best games of the year heading into the holiday rush.

These are always fun to do and I was surprised we had so many different #1 picks.

Todd chose Left 4 Dead.

Because it's a 2008 game and he's a "rebel".

East India Company Review

Todd offers his thoughts on EiC today.

Friday, August 21, 2009

OOTP 10- New City Baseball League Needs an Owner!

Now is your chance to match baseball wits with me, Todd, my father, Billy Baroo, Maceman, and many others as we are in need of an owner to take over the Dayton Drakes.

Dayton is leading the damn division so you'd be taking over a solid (if a bit old) team.

Here's the league site.

If you have any interest in playing send me an email.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Beatles Geek Out

The PR just arrived in my Inbox. The 16 minute medley will be soooo great to play. Plus -- White Stripes on the way!

Speaking at Gamescom 2009, Alex Rigopulos, CEO and cofounder of Harmonix, the world’s leading developer of music-based games and a part of Viacom’s MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), today confirmed release details for the three Beatles albums that will be available for purchase as downloadable content in The Beatles™: Rock Band™ Music Store by the end of this year. Abbey Road will be released on October 20, 2009, followed by the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in November and Rubber Soul in December.

In addition, purchasers of the full album download of Abbey Road will have the option to play the famous 16-minute B-side medley as a single continuous track. The medley includes “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End."

Additionally, Rigopulos revealed that tracks from Queen, Nirvana, Tom Petty, Elton John, Iggy Pop, The White Stripes, Pantera, Talking Heads, Korn, The Raconteurs and more will be among the artists coming to the various offerings across the Rock Band™ platform.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Harris Madden Slider Project

And he's off...

I'll be trying these soon.

Madden 10 or Beatles Rock Band? Decisions, Decisions

So, did you hear that Madden 10 came out last Friday? Did you hear it might be pretty damn good (with a little tweaking). Oh, right, Bill has had that covered, hasn’t he? A good thing too, since I still don’t have the game. Dammit.

For the first time in years I *really* want to purchase Madden, so it kinda sucks that I have zero room in my budget for it. (Long story.) I keep going back and forth on just sucking it up and buying it or hoping to get it via Gamefly’s  notoriously unreliable queue. The problem with the latter (besides the whole uncertainty of getting the game from them instead of something else) is that I want to finish my current GFly game, a little something called Red Faction. Currently, I’m in Oasis, so I’d guess I’m about half way through it, which means it’ll probably be a couple more weeks at the rate I’m going.

I sent some used games to Amazon this past week that were intended to fund my Madden purchase. (If Amazon ever acknowledges receiving them, I should have myself a nice $90 credit thanks to a promotion they’re running this month.) But then I remembered that I have to have Beatles Rock Band in my hands in a few weeks and I need something to absorb the considerable hit of buying the special edition.

Why the special edition, you ask? Well, first of all, damn does it look cool. Seriously, ‘nuff said there, right? I want that fake plastic wireless bass, yo! But more importantly, my drums have been a wreck ever since a drunken friend of mine forewent drum sticks and decided they’d work better as bongos. (Ass!) My GH3 guitar’s green button no longer sustains long notes, and the tilt sensor on my wired RB1 guitar (which had already twice been replaced under warranty) no longer works consistently. Besides, I need an extra mic for those kick’n harmonies Harmonix is putting in the game. So as you can see, if I’m to go on living in this world, I need a RB hardware refresh, and the Beatles Rock Band stuff is, in the words of Ferris Bueller, so choice. (“I could be The Walrus, but I’d still have to bum rides off of people.”)

In the end I’ll probably just take the hit and buy both. When it comes to this stuff I have the willpower of Gary Busey staring down a line of coke. I have to have Beatles Rock Band. Unless it’s a choice between the game and putting food on the table, not getting it isn’t even an option. And, honestly, even in that scenario, who needs food that badly, right? Certainly not my kids. They don’t want to eat anything I make for them anyway! (No, I’m not being serious about that.)

As for Madden, even if it’s not all the way there yet, I love the direction the Madden team is taking the game and I think that should be supported at retail. I just don’t know. I’m holding out for now, but with a Target, WalMart and Best Buy all on the way home, it’s probably only a matter of time. (Unless I hear Matt Stafford has an overall rating under 97, in which case I’m organizing a boycott. Such aggression, “will not stand, man!”)

More Beatles Rock Band Songs Revealed

Woooo

PR:

The newly announced 19 songs represent a cross-section of hits and favorites that span The Beatles’ storied career from “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to “Ticket to Ride” and “Something, bringing the total number of announced songs to 44.

The Beatles: Rock Band 19 New Songs Revealed With Featured Venues:

  • “Boys” / Cavern Club
  • “A Hard Day’s Night” / Ed Sullivan Theater
  • “I’m Looking Through You” / Shea Stadium
  • “Ticket to Ride” / Shea Stadium
  • “Drive My Car” / Budokan
  • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Getting Better” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Good Morning” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Hello, Goodbye” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Hey Bulldog” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Dear Prudence” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Helter Skelter” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Something” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Come Together” / Abbey Road Dreamscape
  • “Don’t Let Me Down” / Rooftop Concert
  • “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” / Rooftop Concert
  • “I Me Mine” / Rooftop Concert

Monday, August 17, 2009

Madden Stuff From My Totally Unrelated Twin Brother

Bill really goes nuts on Madden today.

Bill calls me the Dean of Sports Reviewers. I always chuckle when I read that.

I call Bill "A frighteningly smart and incredibly nice guy who knows far more about this stuff than even he lets on."

In the end, it doesn't really matter. People always confuse the two of us every year anyway.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Madden History, NCAA, OOTP and Sinbad

First off, the Out of the Park Baseball league I am running kicked off opening day Wednesday morning.

My Jefferson City Ragtime Nine got off to a blistering...7-6 start. Hitting .233 as a team? Really? I may fire the whole lot by May.

I know we have a lot of new readers due to the Madden stuff -- but if you want a great baseball experience -- look into OOTP. Seriously. Here's our league website (built by the game). Keep an eye on Jefferson City. We smell pennant! Or at least 70 wins. I need to update the site tonight -- but it takes hours to upload everything.

So I was browsing Operation Sports today -- and stumbled across a post discussing the history of Madden's features.

This is why I like the direction Madden took in M10 -- no nonsense. No Brick Wall Defenders. Or guys with wings on their feet. No QB Vision. The Madden IQ is sort of hidden. It's just football.

Now -- NCAA dev team. Madden 10 better be your wake up call. I know I gave NCAA a decent review this season and I stand by it.

But I won't touch NCAA for the rest of the year. Maybe I'll change my mind after the season starts, but NCAA is likely a dust collector. Next year, don't give us more mascot games, more season showdowns or more fluffy features or worry about Erin Andrews.

Fix Recruiting
Fix Player Progression
Totally Redo (i.e. stretch) the Ratings
Turn NCAA into a Sim of College Football.

Trust me when I say this -- the fan base is watching. They see what happened with Madden. And they will really, really want NCAA to do the same.

Ah, yes, Sinbad.

Not the comedian.

Last night Ashley left Baghdad, making her way on a Pilgrimage to Mecca -- only to get turned into an ape by a wayward enchantress, driven insane by a shadowy figure of the sea, and then covered in angry ants which then turned to gold.

I was (as Sinbad) imprisoned by a crazed Sultan, chased by wild dogs, and then shipwrecked off the coast of China.

All in a matter of about 20 minutes.

All I will say about this is that if you have a kid (or hell just adults with imagination) and want to play a board game that tells marvelous stories set in the era of 1001 Arabian Nights then you absolutely must get Tales of the Arabian Nights from Z-Man games.

Bill Harris I am looking at you.

My Madden Time Takes a Hit + Plus Mr. Binky!

I'll have some ramblings soon but my Madden time has dwindled post review.

Now there's good reason for this. I'm waiting. Yep. This is the first year I have ever waited to start a Madden franchise for the sole reason that I want to use accurate opening day rosters. In the past, hell, it never really mattered because franchise mode was so weak. Not this year. So I'm going to do it right and wait.

Plus there's this whole "you need to move on to the next game" syndrome that critics have to do in order to, you know, earn a living. So while you guys are waiting on Madden, I am waiting to start my franchise and am about to start playing Hearts of Iron 3.

In the meantime, check out Brandon's Extra Time video for Wii Sports Resort. Don't you feel sorry for his children?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jags 13 Browns 10

Well, another loss as I keep playing ex. games and tweaking settings.

Some stats:

Gerrard: 14/27 217 0-0
Quinn: 16/31 246 0-2 (one INT was 3rd and 5 from the 4 friggin yard line...argh)

Now, 46 of those yards were from Jamal Lewis in the first half. Take those out and Quinn's numbers look even better (realism wise). Not that 246 is a ton, but 250 per game for a season and you're a 4,000 yard passer...

The HB swing pass remains WAY too easy to manipulate in Madden. It's an AI quirk that needs fixed at some point. And no, the "Adaptive AI" doesn't help. It's just too easy. Jamal Lewis doesn't catch passes. It's not his thing, but in Madden he's a serious threat to get 100 yards per game if you want to do so.

Not a problem in MP games but against the AI they never cover the HB if a LB blitzes.

Of course I am trying to keep things as real as I can so after abusing this a bit in the first half I rarely used Lewis like that in the 2nd. If I ever get a real Roger Craig-type HB on my team that will be different, but for now, Lewis runs the ball and blocks and I'm fine with that. I hate that that AI loophole is there but hey...it is what it is.

Anyway, Lewis had 88 yards on 19 carries and Drew had 85 on 15. 52 came on ONE play as I still try to fins settings I really like for the CPU run game. It still doesn't feel quite right.

Oh, and Braylon dropped a HUGE 3rd down play in the 4th. I saved the play and will upload tomorrow.

Browns fans will see this play and think, "Yep, I've seen that before..."

No Madden Saturday + Sliders

Yesterday was a busy day with Ashley-stuff and also it was game night at our friend's house. Board games til 2 AM sorta thing.

Yes, we live life in the fast lane.

I did get to play Small World, which I will definitely be bringing over to Todd's place on this fall's pilgrimage to Indy. Really fun game. Agricola nearly put me to sleep, though.

As for Madden, the impressions will likely slow down now that the game is out and places are starting to publish reviews.

My own review will go live tomorrow at GameShark in the afternoon when the embargo lifts.

My final analysis is basically this:

It's the best version of Madden I have ever played -- for a variety of reasons but this series has finally started to go down a road that I completely support. What the dev team has done in one cycle is very impressive.

Now, because of that I may be giving it a bit more leeway than I normally would because you are going to see things that frustrate you -- the wonky blocking assignment logic, the less than stellar CPU run game, the sketchy CPU 2-minute offense AI, the fact that receivers still tend to run out of bounds on pass patterns at times, and so on.

I have detailed what I can in this here blog about what you can expect when you get the game. I really do hope it helped--if not about making a buying decision but about what to expect when you pop the game in. I appreciate all of the overwhelming email feedback, both the good and even from the guys who are now convinced I am on the EA payroll.

In the end I absolutely feel the positives outweigh the negatives, and going back to my #1 general rule of thumb: I am willing to live with what the game doesn't do well in order to get to the stuff that works. I was that way with High Heat Baseball, the Show, NHL 09, NFL 2K5, etc.

As for sliders -- here's a very general idea of what I am using:

Human:

Accuracy: Human 14 or 15 (basically All Madden level) Anything higher and QB accuracy is TOO bad. I put it on 20 and it was hilariously awful. This is GOOD, though. Finally, the sliders are on extreme ends. This is how it should be. Play with the Browns and use Derek Anderson and put this to 20. Sit back and crack up.

Running: 8 -- Your mileage may vary but I was really struggling running the ball on default due to the weird blocking. Also -- and I think this is important but make sure to assign block modes before the snap. (Hold LT and choose). If running a dive, have the line fire off (Aggressive), If running a counter have them flow left/right. It might be my imagination but I think it helped a lot.

Pass Defense: 12 --

Run Defense: 15 to 20. Again your mileage may vary but I strongly suggest making run d more difficult to give the CPU a chance at establishing a ground game.

CPU:

Running: (boost these if you still have CPU run issues)

Break Block 65
Run Block 65

Passing:

Pass Block: 40 (helps pass rush a bit)

Pass Defense:

Reaction time: 65
INT: 40 (All madden passing level means a lot of picks unless you change this imo)

Run Defense:

Reaction: 43
Shedding: 43
Tackling 60 to 65 (counters the huge YAC you get otherwise)


Field Goal STR: 70 (Otherwise Phil Dawson can hit a 50 yd fg. It's 5 yds short every time..)

Penalties:

No need to do much, really. Don't take holding over 52. Trust me.

Boost PI a bit -- 60 range. Everything else is ok.

I play on 13 minute quarters, accelerated clock and get around 110 plays.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Browns - Steelers Conclusion

So, we left things at the start of the 4th quarter: 7-3 Cleveland.

It had been a real defensive struggle up to this point, but Pitt responded to my TD with a 6 minute TD drive of its own. Capped off by a 16 yard TD to Browns Killer Hines Ward.

With some 7-8 odd minutes to go, we had to answer. And I thought I took the lead on this play:



Is it me or did I just get caught from behind by the guy on the cover? Troy catches Braylon? Really? Anyway, we kept the drive alive and capped it off here -- with 2 minutes to go:



I MISSED the extra point. I was messing around not paying attention -- and yeah, you can miss em. So, anyway, 13-10 Browns. Two Minute Warning.

After the kickoff we have Pitt 3rd and 4 and decide to bring the damn house.

Not one of my better ideas.



Ok, so now we're down 17-13 with 1:35 to play. Now it's 3rd and 21 on my own 5. Quinn finds a life perserver.



:17 seconds to go. The plan to is to one more play and get out of bounds. I have no TO's left. If this play doesn't work it's Hail Mary time. I try to get it to Massaquoi. Who catches it OFF the deflection. (Don't ask why I called play action..I just didi..heh)



Clock is running and running, and I am trying to scramble to get the play off...but time runs out. Another frustrating loss to the damn Steelers.

Final stats:

Quinn: 19/28 217 1-0
Ben: 21/28 254 1-0

Lewis: 17 carries 53 yds
Parker 18/65

We each had 3 penalties, Massaquoi dropped 3 balls, Braylon dropped 1 (still caught 6 for 80) and Pitt actually won T.O.P.

Overall, a really, really enjoyable game. I just wish we could post more (and longer) vids.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Browns vs Steelers

Figured I'd recount the game I just played, which was a real dandy. I'm using a pretty heavily modified slider set to counter balance some of the run game and defensive scheme stuff that's going on.

But here's a quick recap of the first half, with some vids.

This was a classic Browns/Steelers game. Hard hitting, low scoring, with some crazy plays.

This game demonstrated that the AI can march on you. Pittsburgh started the game with a 19 play drive -- and believe me I was doing everything I could to stop it. 3rd and 6, 3rd and 7, 3rd and 12 --- and Pitt converted every one of them. Thankfully, I held them to a FG. Somehow.

Willie Parker can't catch deep routes, though.



I struggled mightily on offense in the first half; a few drops and some timely stops by Pitt's defense, and I was basically stonewalled.

Both teams were playing serious defense, though:






We would end up not scoring on this drive...thanks to a killer holding call and a sack by Harrison.



The 3rd quarter saw both teams do very little with the ball, and the 4th started 3-0 Pittsburgh when we finally got om track and went 65 yards in 6 plays with Braylon catching the go ahead TD with 7 minutes to play (12 min quarters, accelerated).



So we have 7:00 to play, 7-3 Browns.

It's at this point where things get a bit nuts. I'll post the end of the game vids tomorrow, I need to get Ashley to bed and get some Red Faction time in.

Putting the Defensive AI to "a" Test

This whole packaging thing got me thinking so I fired up Madden 09. My settings from last year were still there so I played a quick quarter with the Browns. The 88 rated Browns. Sigh.

So anyway, I called the exact same play literally every snap -- 3 wide Z Follow. Basically a crossing/underneath route to the slot receiver.

Now, would I ever do this in a 'real' game? No. I find no joy in that at all. But it is a fairly good way to test how the AI reacts to what you're doing.

In Madden 09: it doesn't react. At all. Derek Anderson marched the Browns 85 yards on 12 or so plays; Joe Jurevicius caught like 9 balls and a TD. That underneath cross route had the AI completely flummoxed. It can't guard it. It is, in the clearest sense of the word: a money play vs the AI. Need 10 yards? Call Z Follow.

Now, Madden 10. I had not played a franchise game yet, just simmed some stuff so I decided to play a franchise game (preseason) with the game I had simmed. So it's the Browns circa 2010.

The playbooks are different -- I don't have Z Follow but I do have a play that is similar. The slot receiver doesn't run as deep as he does on Z Follow in Madden 09, but he still runs an underneath route about 5 yards beyond the LOS.

I called nothing but that play. I wanted to see if the AI would notice "hey he's only running this one play" and if the AI would ever run a Nickel.

Here was the sequence:

First play I was called for holding. heh.

1st and 20: they bring out the nickel and I complete the pass for 5 yards.

2nd and 15: they call a zone/nickel. Massaquoi catches the pass for 12 yards.

3rd and 3: Base set. No Nickel back. Massaquoi gets open for a first down catch of 8 yards. LB had no shot.

1st and 10: Base D. No nickel back. The LB was lined up over Massaquoi. Quinn fires it over his head. Incomplete. He was open. Quinn just misfired. Massaquoi is now fatigued. (number in red)

2nd and 10: Cribbs checks in as slot WR. Nickel defense. Defended very well, pass incomplete. Should have been picked, really.

3rd and 10: Dime set. Massaquoi back in and is open underneath, makes the catch for 8 yards.

I punt.

I get the ball back

1st and 10: No nickel: Massaquoi catches a 5 yard pass tackled immediately.

2nd and 5: No Nickel. Quinn misses badly -- LB jammed Massaquoi taking him out of the play.

3rd and 5: Nickel defense. Nickel back blitzes. Massaquoi is wide open -- should be a first down and he has some room to run, but he drops it.

I punt.

I've played the game quite a bit at this point and I still think the defensive playcalling needs a shot in the arm -- it needs to look at your team's personnel and not just the down and distance, which is what it looks like it's doing. It will run a pass defense if you need yardage but it's just as likely to call a base 4-3 on 3rd and 7.

I also think the crossing routes are still a touch too easy (seems like every football game ever made suffers from this) and that the swing pass to the HB isn't defended as well as it needs to be. But -- it's better than Madden 09. By a lot.

Just to Clarify

Popped Madden 09 in today and yes, that game does the very same thing in terms of defensive AI playcalling/scheme. So this isn't something that is a "new" problem. I think it's exacerbated by the fact that player ratings matter more now than before. So whereas before a LB could maybe keep pace with the slot man, in Madden 10 they get destroyed.

So we have an old issue that is made worse due to the Madden dev team making the game better.

How's that for irony.

She Did It...

My wife bought (well, is buying) this car later this week. Not this exact car, but the make and model.

When she sets her mind -- no stopping her. Plus she's been driving the same Ford Contour for damn near a decade.

I do like these, though. We test drove one early this week and man...sucker can corner!

What Madden Needs To Do Better

Thus far I have tried to point out the pros and cons to this year's Madden game and for the most part I have been very pleased (sorry Jorge) with the progress shown by this edition. There are issues to be sure but, as I have said many times, it's all a matter of degree -- and what you are willing to live with.

Today I noticed what I think is Madden's greatest failing -- and it's something I would think would be easy to fix -- and I really, really hope EA fixes it.

Defensive Playcalling and Packaging.

I always try and call a realistic game -- I'm not the guy who passes 60 times a game. I will normally just call a game like I would if I were actually in charge. So I'm playing vs the Saints today in an ex. game and I noticed -- and I had noticed this before but never really put it together -- it's pretty easy to throw to the halfback on swing passes/safety valve routes.

So it's 3rd and 6 on the Saints 35 and I come up in an Ace set, 1 HB, 3 WR and a TE. The play is supposed to be a post to Braylon but the Saints send the house so I dump it off to Harrison and he races for a 35 yd TD. Hey nice play!

However, upon looking at the replay it dawned on me:

Where is the Nickel back?

The Saints blitzed all 3 linebackers. The Saints corners were covering Edwards and Robiskie. The SS was over the TE and the FS was covering the slot receiver, Massaquoi.

That's insane. So when the LBers blitzed -- no one was left to check the HB who was wide open. It's not so much that, but the fact that when an NFL team puts its offensive personnel on the field, the DC or someone similar will do something like yell, "Three Wide! Three Wide!" The second Massaquoi stepped on the field it SHOULD have triggered the Saints to go Nickel.

Why? Because a FS won't be able to cover a slot WR (very well) and god forbid you put a LB on him. It's why you have a Nickel back.

So I started checking this out -- when I got the ball back I ran nothing but 3-wide sets with no FB. What do the Saints do? Nothing. They never go Nickel. Not once. Massaquoi catches 4 straight passes because the Saints LB has NO chance at checking him -- the Madden ratings really do work..and an OLB can't cover Massaquoi -- nor should he be ASKED to.

But the game absolutely needs to look at my personnel. It has to. Otherwise you'll be able to take advantage of this over and over again until the AI decides to call a nickel or dime defense. This was an exhibition game and not a franchise game, so who knows maybe it wont do that in a real game. Or maybe the Saints were just being dumb? I'll look later today.

But come on guys, please fix this -- don't let this scar what is otherwise a very solid and enjoyable game.

Let Me Ask You

Do you think this is an honest and accurate description of what I have posted in total re: Madden 10 thus far?

It's called context, folks. When you hear someone say that, this is the kind of stuff that they mean.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Draft: Forgot to Add...and it's cool

Before I take a Madden break -- I forgot to check player ratings for those rookies and since Madden doesn't list where a player was picked on his profile (hopefully that can get added next year) it's hard to see who went where quickly.

However, I did look at roster breakdowns and here's the top rated rookies from the draft below:

  1. SS - Chi - 85 OVR (not sure where he was picked but it was NOT in the first round. The Bears took a LE.)
  2. RE - Oak - 85 (pick #6 overall)
  3. LG - Den - 84 (pick #14 overall)
  4. TE - Minn 83 (NOT 1st round
  5. WR - NYG - 83 (NOT 1st round)
  6. LE - TB - 83 (#2 overall)
  7. LT - Det - 82 (#1 overall)
  8. RG - Chi - 82 (I think this guy went Round 3!)
  9. MLB - Det 82 (Round 2)
  10. C - Den - 82 (Round 2)
  11. LE - Oak 82 (Not first round)
  12. FS - Pitt - 81 (Pick #30)
  13. DT - Mia - 81 (Pick #4)
  14. OLB - Buff - 81 (Pick #7)
  15. SS - NYJ - 79 (Not first round)
  16. WR - Jags - 79 Not first round)
  17. HB - NYJ - 79 (Pick #19)
Everyone else is under 79 to start.

As for the Browns? I was simming -- and didn't scout at all -- merely picked what the generic list said. How'd I do?

Rounds:

  1. HB 75 OVR
  2. SS 41 OVR
  3. CB 52 OVR
  4. OLB 59 OVR
  5. DT 56 OVR
  6. WR 41 OVR
  7. LR 59 OVR
Scouting = important.

Yep, the most ready to play player from that 2010 draft -- was not even taken in Round 1. Freaking. Great. For those scoring at home -- the Bears landed the #1 and #8 immediate impact rookies -- and I guess totally whiffed on their 1st round pick, some LE who is rated a 71. and was drafted #26 overall.

The above should give you a warm tingly feeling of awesomeness.

Madden Draft Notes

OK -- the draft. This was a huge sticking point with me last year (and basically every year since Madden added a franchise mode.)

Little sidebar:

Madden, for many, many years didn't have a franchise mode. It was an arcade game, period. There's nothing at all wrong with that. As long as a game knows what it is, that's fine.

In the late 90's -- I want to say 1997 -- Madden was showing at E3 and introducing its new franchise mode. If you weren't into gaming over a decade ago -- this was a time when PC sports games were still a huge business. I had absolutely zero interest in owning a console and in fact never did own a PS1. I didn't need one. I had a PC and with it games like Front Page Sports: Football. I had played Madden on the PS1 and it took me about 15 minutes to realize it was not for me...at all. But again, that was fine. The arcade crowd had its game, the simmers had theirs.

Everyone was happy.

Arcade gamers could zoom around the field with Barry Sanders and Front Page PC gamers could print out draft sheets and trade players and create plays, all using the mouse and keyboard and not some clunky controller. (Yes, I do miss those days -- how awesome would it be to be able to print out the draft in Madden 10? Pretty damn awesome and equally useful.)

So anyway, at E3 in '97 or '98 the guy showing Madden started hyping its new franchise mode and he told both me and Todd (curious if Todd remembers this) "See? Now we have the same stuff as Front Page Sports. We can draft. We can trade. We can play seasons."

After actually playing Madden and its new franchise mode it was shockingly clear that the guys designing it had absolutely no idea what made franchise mode, well...interesting. The AI was awful, the interface ridiculous, and you were limited to like 5 seasons or something like that. The fact that this fellow actually had the stones to compare that to FPS: Football was staggering to me.

So here we are over a decade later and even last year's Madden had many of those same faults. Teams drafting 3 quarterbacks, silly trades, signing FAs for no reason, stockpiling players at a position, just pure silliness. This year, with Madden's more simmish approach franchise mode is a much better feature -- as for the draft? Well, here's what I saw at the 2010 draft:

The good thing is that no teams drafted more than 1 QB. In fact most teams didn't double up at a position at all. However, 5 teams did draft 3 wide receivers. Now that is a bit much but I remember when the Browns took linebackers in rounds 4, 5, and 6 one year. Oh, how joyous that draft was. Thanks Butch.

I saw 3 trades, all of which were reasonable. The Titans traded the 26th pick in the 1st round to Tampa for the Bucs' 2nd and 3rd round pick (pick 2 in those rounds). Stuff like that.

Here's a quick R1 breakdown

Det: LT
Tampa: LE
Min: QB
Mia: DT
Cle: RB
Oak: RE
Buf: OLB
Jack: OLB
STL: FS
Tex: HB
Cin: DT
Phil: OLB
Dal: WR
Den: LG
Car: QB
GB: WR
Wash: HB
SF: WR
Jet: HB
Ari: TE
Balt: LE
Atl: RT
NE: WR
Tampa: LT
Indy: FS
Chi: LE
Sea: HB
SD: LT
NO: QB (oddest pick in the draft)
Pitt: FS

Overall, none too shabby. No crazy runs on centers or guards, teams mostly drafted for need. Not bad at all and like I said, only a few teams went nuts drafting wide outs but other than that, it was good stuff.

Player Progression:

Another BIG issue with Madden's franchise mode was player progression and while I need to play more seasons to see how this shakes out, early tests are promising, to a point

The Browns had 5 players drop at least 6 OVR points: Shaun Rogers (ack!), Ryan Tucker, Robaire Smith, St. Clair (-7), and Bowens.

What do they have in common? Age.

8 players gained at least 5: Quinn, Robo, Mass, Wright, McDonald, Rucker, Veikune, and Mack

What do they have in common? Young players -- all of them. The young guys should get better, but McDonald went from a 71 to a 77, so it's not like he's an All Pro now.

Everyone else either stayed the same or went up or down only a point or two.

This is MUCH better than previous Madden games.

I still don't think it goes far enough, but it's a big step in the right direction. I'd still like to see 30+ year old halfbacks start to slow down a bit quicker. Jamal Lewis is still an 86. He didn't drop at all. Looking around the league, Fred Taylor, 34 years old, didn't drop 1 point. He should. He's *34* -- it's time to at least show some signs of age. He's still a mid 80s rated back. He doesn't need to fall off a cliff, but it's time that Father Time started chipping at his ability.

Tony Gonzalez is still a 98 after 12 seasons. He didn't drop either. It will be interesting to see what happens to these players in the coming years. My hope is that age starts to take a fast toll soon -- like 6 to 9 point drops. If a player is still rated a 98 he should not retire. Why would he unless he gets hurt? He's a 98! If Brett Favre was a "98", i.e. playing at 1995 Favre ability, he'd be in uniform today. So we'll see what happens with these highly rated players in a season or two.

One cool thing about progression: No one got FASTER. All progression was in other areas but Braylon Edwards all of a sudden didn't gain 2 points of speed or whatever. Very good.

OK this is getting long so I'll wrap up with some 2010 preseason news. I started simming the preseason and then started looking around the league. Everything looked in order but for a few items of note:

Washington has 2 QBs on its roster: Colt Brennan and some rookie. Both are rated 55. They could sign Tavaris Jackson or Rosenfels or any of the 12 65-69 rated QBs in the FA pool. Hell sign Troy Smith. He deserves a shot. :)

Surely they aren't going into the season with a 55 OVR QB...

Denver is starting a 65 OVR 2nd year player. Now, a 65 is bad, but not Colt Brennan bad. They have one backup -- a 37 rated rookie. Yikes. They let Orson go to FA after he had a really good season -- an 84 QB rating year -- so Orton ends up signing to be the backup in Pittsburgh. Sorta odd.

But other than those oddities, teams are maintaining roster integrity, which is another thing Madden used to really struggle with.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Must Sleep

Man that 22 mile bike trail just kicks my ass.

The draft is over and I am into season 2, and I have a few pages of notes to share...tomorrow.

More Madden Stats

I'm about to go on our Monday night 20 mile, kick my ass bike ride. As my ankles continue to go, basketball has been pushed to a Tuesday night only affair atm. Damn age.

But I did check some stats from the Madden sim.

The running game is interesting in that the teams definitely share carries between the #1 and #2 (and even #3) backs. No team has ONE guy that carries every time -- and some teams split carries around 60/40, which is fantastic to see.

The catch here is that (most) backups get very few yards per carry. It looks to be a case of Madden's new rating system being a tad wonky for halfbacks. Giants HB Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 1.9 per carry over 125 carries in the test sim. Maroney in New England -- 2.1 per carry. Jerome Harrison in Cleveland: 2.0, the list goes on and on.

The reason (I think) is that these backups aren't rated too high. Bradshaw is (I think) a 73 OVR. Jerome Harrison is a 70 OVR player, so he shouldn't average 5 yards a carry -- the sim engine just doesn't see him as being a star so his numbers are simmed accordingly even though Bradshaw was a 5.3 per carry change of pace back and Harrison had 34 carries for a 7.2 YPC average and fans are dying to see what this kid can do if given a real chance. Madden just sees a guy rated a 70.

The problem is that backup running backs in the league don't average 1.9 a carry.

If they do, they are not backups in the league for very long.

So from all of the stats I have checked, this is the one real red flag. I don't like it, but hey...if you told me before shipping that Madden's biggest sim engine fault would be that backup running backs get about 2-3 yards per carry less than what they should, well, it's hard to get too upset at it.

But it is noticeable for stat heads and it is unclear how it will affect play progression.

Quick Stats from 2009 Franchise Sim

QB Stats:

QB Rating of 90+
2008 (real NFL): 9
Madden 10 2009 Sim: 11

QB Rating of 80+
NFL: 24
Madden: 23

4,000 yard passers:
NFL: 6
Madden: 6

30+ Touchdowns
NFL: 3
Madden: 6

20+ Touchdowns
NFL: 10
Madden 20

60%+ Completion Rate
NFL: 20
Madden: 19

Running Backs:

1,000 yard rushers:
NFL: 16
Madden: 13

Rushing TD
NFL: 12 RB with at least 10 rushing TD
Madden: Tops in the league had 8.
(This may be the reason we have a lot more 20 TD+ QBs)

WR:

1,000 yards Receiving
NFL: 22
Madden: 17

Team Stats:

Number of teams with 5,000+ total yards
NFL: 23
Madden: 15

Super Bowl
Steelers 28
Saints 17

Browns were 6-10 -- we somehow were 3rd in the NFL in sacks. (I need to check sack stats come to think of it)

Free Agency:

Pickings were incredibly thin. The highest rated FA was Sproles -- an 86 rated HB. The next best player was Edge -- an 81 rated HB who did not play at all in 2009. Everyone else was 79 and under. No marquee FAs. This may have to do with the cap room teams start off with -- a lot of teams have serious money to play with, including Cleveland. Re-Signing Braylon was simple. Was it too expensive? Maybe. But we have a lot of cap space so I am assuming we won't see more of an FA impact until a season or two down the road when these backloaded contracts start coming into play.

But overall, the stats definitely fall within the realm of believability. Anomalies are fine and expected, but we have no NCAA 09 QB Stat Snafu going on here. Tom Brady was a 4,800 yard 35 TD 14 INT QB. I can live with that. QB TDs are a tick too high, but so what. Nothing looks silly. And that's always my litmus test. Keep it from being stupid, and I'm fine.

I still do not like the fact that player rosters are limited. Braylon Edwards gets hurt for 7 weeks in week 1 I should be able to DEACTIVATE him and bring a player up from the practice squad.

I shouldn't have to cut a player to sign a FA to maintain roster eligibility. Madden's been like this for years, and I hope next year we get some more room to sign players and leave room for deactivated players. That's pretty important for a NFL franchise game.

The between week "recap show" is ok. I don't know the lady who is detailing the past week's games but you can tell it's cut together; her sentences don't flow too well. Still, it's a recap show and they give you stats from the games and I like this a HELL of a lot better than that fake radio show that Madden used to do. Is it as cool as NFL2K5's ESPN thing? No. That recap show had highlights. And Chris Berman before he was an ass.

Of course NFL 2K5's franchise mode was a complete mess, but that recap show was sweet.

Thus far, the franchise mode AI is a lot smarter than in year's past. Stats look ok, and besides the lack of real NFL roster management rules, I'm happy.

It's funny. I saw Minnesota finish 4-12. I wondered "Maybe AP was hurt?"

He had 47 carries on the year and sat out due to injury. Cool.

Draft is coming up next...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Some of Madden's Holes

First off, I won my Blood Bowl league match today 1-0 on the LAST turn of the game in what was a game of pure attrition. Whew. So we move to 2-0.

Ok, Madden.

There are a lot of things that Madden 10 does extremely well -- better than any version of the game before it. The direction this game is heading is a positive one. This is an important version of Madden. No doubt. But like every sports game ever made -- there are issues, and like every sports game from High Heat and The Show to NFL2K5 -- the question is:

Can you live with it?

That's really the question, right?

I received an email from a reader who hated my NCAA 10 review because I gave it a B-. He agreed with my complaints re: Dynasty mode but it was a deal breaker to him. That's a perfectly acceptable position to take, and in the end why review scores and review grades are completely meaningless. To him, the progression issues in Dynasty mode were a deal breaker. He traded in the game and moved on. That's always the question: can you live with what game X fails to do or doesn't do very well?

Sorry tangent: does it bug you when you read a review of a sports game and the person writing the review ends it with, "If you love hockey you''ll love NHL 09!" or, "If you're a huge NFL fan then Madden is a must buy!" Exactly who does he/she think is reading the review? People looking for a good golf game? Or maybe a sizzling game of Canasta? Anyway, sorry. I read one of those today and it always puzzles me.

Back to Madden.

As much as I like many of the changes to the gameplay it would be unfair (and very much unlike me) not to point out what's concerning me. After about 7-8 games, I'm starting to see a few patterns emerge.

Here's a quick video of something I am seeing a bit too often.



Pay attention to the blitzing Vikings DB. Watch how he has Lewis in his sights -- and changes direction for no earthly reason whatsoever. He still makes the tackle but after Lewis rumbles for a 1st down. I see this more often that I'd like. And this same scattered behavior happens quite often to offensive lineman. I see way too many cases where a lineman has NO IDEA who to block and ends up taking himself out of the play, blocking a player on the other side of the line or just standing up and acting like someone pulled the plug -- hello 2 yard loss on the ISO.

In this very game (and I think I saved this highlight) the Minny LG -- the 98 rated LG literally stood up and allowed my DT to run right past him--POW. 4 yard loss. I could maybe be ok with this if that was a really bad OLineman. But that was a 98 rated player who did the OLE! move.

Now, does this happen every play? No. Does it happen more than once per game? Yes.

OK, next -- WRs breaking tackles. I pass for around 300 yards per game with Brady Quinn. This is not due to Quinn being great -- believe me -- in Madden, he ain't. This has to do with the BIG YAC numbers I get game in and game out -- especially with Braylon. Here's one example:



Braylon is just damn hard to bring down, but even Robiskie gets in on the act. Usually Braylon will get one 50+ yard reception every game due to a broken tackle. After that, no one can catch him. Will a tackle slider boost help? We'll find out tonight, I hope. WRs should break tackles -- but right now it's a bit extreme.

On default All Pro the AI can't run the ball. The blocking is piss poor and the backs can't see holes to save their life. Unless the Browns have turned into the '78 Steelers , something is wrong. I was stonewalling *everyone*. The good news? The sliders help. A lot. Here...and um..I wasn't using the Vikings...



But understand: that play CANNOT happen without slider tweaks. No way. Unless you just start diving and missing tackles. So, just a heads up.

Oh, and that fight for the fumble thing goes against every other inclination found in this game. I'm playing a football sim and then I'm mashing buttons fighting for a fumble? I got the 50 point achievement and turned that damn thing off. Be gone!

Back to some good stuff. This is what happens with you play bump and run against a really fast WR and FAIL to do the whole "bump" part.



So, yeah, the game has holes. I'm sure we'll see plenty of 9 minute youtube videos of guys lamenting the fact that EA Sports has once again let them down. And hey, if that weird logic from the first video is a game killer -- that's a perfectly fair stance to take.

But this is a line (and man I can't believe I am about to quote myself) from my review of The Show '09:

A sports game must, above all else, stay unpredictable. If things start to get stale or if you start losing faith in the design because you’ve seen everything there is to see then a game can quickly lose its appeal. And that‘s what makes The Show special. Things happen.
Thus far, after several games -- this rings true for Madden 10. To me, it's what made NFL 2K5 so special despite its broken franchise play. I see new stuff every game. I have games where Quinn goes 13/30 with 3 picks. Then has a game like this one against the Vikings: 16/24 287 yards 2 TDs a 0 Int. I have games where I get 4 sacks. Then I'll get zip. I'll see a game where the CPU does everything right, then I'll play a game like vs Tennessee when the CPU misses 3 FGs. I'll have one game with 1 penalty. Then one with 10. And that's the kind of stuff that will keep people coming back. To see what happens next. It's when you go into a game -- a videogame you have played dozens of times, literally not knowing what to expect. That's really rare.

Of course, I would love to know why the Vikings DB did what he did...

More Madden stuff later tonight.

Played a few more games today -- and I'll post some stuff tonight. Some good, some bad, some ...sorta ugly.

I'm really enjoying the game but you need to know before going in --- it ain't perfect.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Video Example 2

OK now we go to another game vs the Chiefs. Custom sliders. No major tweaks, just some slight adjustments. One thing about Madden 10 -- the sliders REALLY seem to work -- noticeably.

I am limited in that I can only post a few vids at a time. Not sure how that works but I cannot upload anymore until I delete some.

So, for now, here are a couple more:

Will the AI throw deep?

Yep.



So, Brady Quinn has accuracy issues in Madden 10. Braylon can fly, and break tackles like crazy so it's helping his numbers. But man, Quinn is frustrating to play with.

Two examples:

Now, have you ever seen a play like this in Madden before? I haven't.



I wish you could see this in slow mo -- the quality there is sorta blah. But the DB doesn't do the EA Sports Super Human Ball Swat leap (that animation is in the game but toned down a LOT). Instead, the DB stumbles, looses his footing, tries to recover, but Robiskie nabs a perfect pass from Quinn. Brilliant.


HOWEVER.

On the VERY next play, Quinn does this:



And folks, that's what I'm talking about. Now this is slightly (slightly) modified settings. But that's football. That's a QB who is inconsistent making a great throw followed up with a pass well off the mark and a pass that should have been a completion.

I'll have much more video stuff and impressions during the week. I have more clips from this very game that I'd like to show.

More later.

Video Example 1

Here are just a few to get started. These first two are default All Pro -- no adjustments. Much more to come...

I can't seem to fix the size issue for these so if you want to see them non cropped, just click the "Madden 10 Video Highlight" link below.

After playing a few games with meager kickoff returns, Cribbs finally does his thing -- watch out ref! Note the weird pursuit angle taken by the Chief defender at the 48 yard line. Again, this is default lvl.



This next one is also default All Pro no slider adjustments. Here you see Quinn throw a bullet to Edwards -- but the safety -- what's he doing? It's hard to see on this void but the safety actually turns the wrong way and flows away from the play. Sorta odd.



The good news? After a slight adjustment to the AI settings I don't see this anymore.

Time to Talk Madden 10

EA PR man Rob Semsey's Twitter says re: Madden embargo:

final impressions embargo lifted on 7/27, but not reviews.
So -- I am in the process of posting several videos to show some of the very cool and some of the questionable things I am seeing in Madden 10 on the 360.

I am in no way ready to review this game but my first impressions are very good, and these videos will hopefully shoe you why.

They are uploading as we speak -- so stay tuned.