Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finished: Knights of the Old Republic

Last Sunday night - well, very early Monday morning - I finished playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. That only took six years and a $10 release on Steam to make time for. Gotta say, I continue to be amazed how so many other people seem to get Star Wars so much better than George Lucas gets his own creation. Seriously, look at this Old Republic trailer from Bioware and tell me you wouldn't want the people who put this together to make an actual Star Wars movie. Whether it's Bioware, or the Zahn books, or the original two volume animated Clone Wars series from Genndy Tartovsky is there really anybody at this point (including Brandon's left nut, as he so elegantly phrased it on Twitter) that doesn't get what makes a Star Wars story Star Wars better than George Lucas?

Ah well. Back to KOTOR. The game certainly isn't without flaw, especially compared to more modern games, but Bioware continues to impress me with their ability to create characters I get attached to and weave a narrative that keeps me playing when I shouldn't be, not unlike being hooked on a good book. I don't want to say I ignored my kids this past weekend to play the game, but I certainly spent more time on KOTOR than I should have, especially on Sunday when I had to know the character of Bastilla's fate. In the face of that, negative stuff, like the fact that talking someone down from the darkside is the equivalent of saying, “Carol-anne, come back to the light"!” and having them respond, “Okay!” just doesn’t matter much to me.  (Also, to be fair, convincing NPCs to see things your way is done far more convincingly in KOTOR than it’s done in, say, Fallout 3.)

A second perk of the game is that it kept me busy while I await review code for Dragon Age, something I still don’t have. Sigh. I so wanted to get an early start on that game and throw it in the face of all you shlubs, but no, I’m down slumming it with the rest of you. (I kid, I kid.) Actually, it’s worse, because I’m also buying the game despite (supposedly) getting review code and I’m unlikely to have that until the end of next week. What can I say? It’s a game I want to support, so I ordered the CE from the EA Store. (I must have the cloth map. Being an Ultima whore, I’ve a bit of fetish for cloth maps in RPGs.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Evidently I Need to Watch Castle

I’ve known for awhile that Nathan Fillion is on the ABC show Castle, and because my favorite space cowboy/psycho demon preacher is its male lead I’ve always felt kind of guilty about not watching it. Watching the first 60 seconds of this clip makes me feel even guiltier because this is just too awesome for words. I think I’ll add its first season it to my Netflix queue forthwith

Kid: B. Didn’t you wear that like five years ago?

Castle: So?

Kid: Don’t you think you should move on?

Castle (defensive): I like it.

Sniff. I still miss Firefly so, so much. Makes me wish I’d thought to do that as my costume for a Halloween party I’m attending this weekend (my first costume party since like the 8th grade).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Info on 2nd Madden Patch

Thanks to Nutweasel reader Jeff Pinard for this tidbit:

Before I post the news, which you may have already seen by now seeing that it's a few days old, I STILL think something is in the water at EA Sports.

This is still, in my opinion, a SERIOUS case of Invasion of the Game Studio Catchers.

The post release attention Madden has received -- and seemingly will continue to receive is just flat ABSURD. Read the notes below and tell me that doesn't sound like a developer that...well, cares about its game. Can you *ever* remember an EA Sports game getting this much attention post release? I can't. This is the sorta stuff fans used to LOVE Team.366 for when High Heat ruled the roost.


Madden NFL 10 - 2nd title update preliminary details
Posted On: Oct. 16, 2009 6:19 PM EST By: EA_IanCummings 0 Comments

Hey Madden fans - wanted to introduce a designer that is beginning to take over some of the community efforts (especially on the gameplay front) - Larry Richart. Larry has been with EA for many years, and also is one of the most accomplished athletes that is also a game designer - playing quarterback at the University of Florida and winning a National Championship while he was there. I'll hand it over to Larry for the details on the latest additions to the 2nd title update. We don't have an exact timeline on when the 2nd title update it will be released, only that it won't be in October. :)

KEEP IN MIND - THIS LIST IS NOT FINAL!

Over to you Larry...

In this second title update we focused on some of the more debated topics from our loyal and passionate fan base.

We appreciate all the feedback so please keep it coming! In this update you will be happy to hear that we have tuned our Flat Zone assignments to cover the flats more effectively. Defenders will not chuck a WR if another receiver is running a route towards their zone. This will help the defender be in better position to react to a quickly throw flat route and allow him to make a play.

The flat zone defenders will also play the ball better if a pass is thrown behind the line of scrimmage as well as taking better pursuit angles after the catch to prevent the ball carrier from being able to get around the corner. This has been one of the top complaints that we have heard about and realized it was definitely something that we needed to address.

Along with tuning the pursuit angles for flat zone defenders, we have also improved the pursuit all defenders take - especially during a catch animation. This will help them get in better position to make a tackle on the receiver after the catch has been made.

Another feature we have gotten a ton of feedback on is "Throwing out of Sacks". We scaled back the height of which the ball is released when throwing out of a sack. By randomizing the trajectory of the ball to be lower, it helps cut down the number of interceptions thrown when trying to throw out of a sack.

We have also added better arm tracking to determine if it should be an inaccurate or uncontrolled throw. For example, the further you are in your passing animation when you get hit, the more likely you will get an inaccurate pass versus an uncontrolled pass.

Inaccurate passes are just like they sound and will more than likely be passes the go lower and right into the ground towards the receiver you are passing towards. However, uncontrolled passes are more likely to go higher in the air and have a better chance of being intercepted. The final part of our Throw out of Sack tuning focuses on the CPU QB. We have heard several people mention how difficult it is to sack the CPU QB, so we increased the chance of the CPU QB to hold the ball longer and actually take a sack instead of being able to get a throw out of sack pass off before he is brought to the ground.

We have also addressed some issues involving receivers in the passing game. The first one involved fixing some instances where a receiver would be ruled inbounds even if he only got one foot down on a catch. Another issue we resolved is a rare problem where under certain circumstances the ball would actually pass through a player when he dropped the pass.

In this update we have also fixed some annoying exploit issues. The first one we made is adding an initial move to the RB on the HB direct snap plays so he can’t immediately take off after receiving the snap. We also forced a QB drop initial move to force him to set up for a pass on Shotgun play action plays when you canceled the play action by hot routing the running back.

This will keep the QB from being able to take off running right after getting the snap. Another change is not allowing the user to be able to move any front line players forward on kickoffs to keep them from being able to actually block the kickoff. We also resolved the exploit of being able to motion a receiver after flipping the play which caused the defender to go the other way. This allowed the receiver to be wide open against man coverage. You will now have to wait until the receiver is set before you can motion him. And finally, we fixed the bug where the QB could drift through the center when you repeatedly hot routed with certain quarterbacks.

This update will also have a fix for the clock running at incorrect times after an incomplete pass went out of bounds. The clock will not stop correctly as it does on any other incomplete pass.

We’ve also focused on some other important, non-gameplay related fixes as well including Uniforms, Franchise Stat tuning, Presentation, Online, Replays, and Scriptable Cut Scenes. I'll fill in the rest of the details in these areas as soon as they are finalized.

Thanks again for all of your feedback and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

- Larry

**

In years' past this fix list WOULD BE THE NEXT GAME.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beatles Rock Band Abbey Road

It's official: The Abbey Road Medley for Beatles Rock Band, which is available today, is arguably the best 14 minutes of game playing I have enjoyed all year.

NCAA Basketball 10 Q&A

I have a Q&A in the works on EA's college hoops game -- let me know if you want me to ask a specific question.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So, Yeah, About That Dragon Age Thing

As Bill noted my Dragon Age preview is online. I tried to convince him it was a feature because, well, it just sounds better and I think big (for such a small mind), but the guy is a stickler for the little things. Can’t believe I had to sit on my hands for two weeks before we could post this. Ah well.

In the preview I don’t talk that much about the gameplay so much as I do the game and the property as a whole. On the plus side that means hardly anything remotely spoilerlicious, on the other hand if you want to know how the console version controls or what types of characters you can collect for your party, you should look elsewhere. I’m sure plenty of other previews cover that ground.

This game fascinates me. Sure, it just looks damn good. With the 12 hours or so I was able to put into playing it, it is pretty much exactly the game I wanted it to be when I first heard it was in development. What I find more interesting, though, is the number of different plans Bioware is putting into place to branch out with it, practically right from the start: Books, a pen & paper RPG, board game, card game, and who knows what else (not to mention the module-making community, DLC, and sequel).

For an IP that’s only just being born that’s insanely ambitious. I can’t name another game property that was launched with these sorts of plans already laid out. Warcraft is as big a property in this space as there is, but it didn’t launch as an RTS, MMO, board game, card game, blah, blah, blah. It grew into all that over the space of years. It’ll be interesting to see, over the next five-plus years, what Dragon Age, as a property, becomes.

Dragon Age Hands On

As promised, Todd's preview.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Todd goes MORE INSANE on Dragon Age

Don't miss tomorrow's report from Todd -- his full hands on preview from Edmonton with DA as he gushes like a schoolgirl and makes a complete fool of himself.

FIFA 10

Been playing it all week.

Green light.

This game is awesome.

2009 has been, without question, the best fall lineup of EA Sports games -- ever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

So...

I watched my father get Baptized and my launch Xbox 360 finally died with the infamous Red Ring.

What did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Todd goes INSANE on Dragon Age

I just got Todd's Dragon Age Q&As via email -- this 3 part series of interviews is 16 Word doc pages long. 8,000 words.

It will be laid out as follows:

Part 1: Mark Darrah: Executive Producer
Part 2: Mike Laidlaw: Lead Designer
Part 3: Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk: Bioware Co-founders

Stop by Gameshark tomorrow for the goods.

Todd did a hell of a job with this.

Bye Bye Braylon!

So Braylon Edwards has been traded to the Jets for a 3rd, a 5th, a special teams linebacker and the Jets #2 receiver.

If Edwards thought it was tough in Cleveland after dropping more passes than anyone in the league -- wait til the NY fans get a load of him.

Todd and I really don't get into the whole OSU/Michigan thing all that much. I hate Michigan. He hates OSU and it's pretty much an understood thing and we just go on about our day. We don't even smack talk about The Game.

But Braylon Edwards is a cancer. A primadonna who is vastly more concerned about Braylon Edwards more than anything else as it relates to football. And my dislike of the guy has nothing at all to do with him being from Michigan. The Browns have had plenty of UM players who were fan favs. It has everything to do with him running his mouth while destroying the Browns 2008 season last year after dropping 20+ passes and then crying that the fans hated him because he went to UM. Grow up.

The Browns may suck -- ok we suck -- but we continually keep trading/cutting away players who I cannot stand. Winslow, Edwards, Shaun Smith...as bad as we are it's getting easier and easier to root for them again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NBA Live 10 Review

At CG this evening.

NBA Live v. NBA 2K10

I have played Live extensively over the past week or so and just got 2K10 today.

The FIRST impression battle goes to NBA Live.

Now, that doesn't mean much as I have played a grand total of 2 games of 2K10 but on the 360 the frame rate is SHIT. Total shit. I can get it to play OK thanks to a tip over at OS about zooming out in Broadcast view but I HATE playing with the camera that far out. Argh.

As I said before Live isn't perfect but so far I'm having more fun with it than I am 2K. I may need to edit sliders for 2K because out of the box there is no defense being played at all by me or the CPU.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Bioware Trip; Or, How I Learned to Hate Embargos

As Bill noted, I was off this week getting a couple of days, hands-on, with Dragon Age. I got back into town last last night, but unfortunately, due to the embargos (yeah, it’s such a big game there’s more than just one!) the most I can really say is, whoa. (That’s said in my best Ted –of Bill and Ted- voice.) Keep in mind that is said as someone who is most definitely not a fan of the marketing of the game over the past six months or so.

Some things I learned that don’t directly involve the game:

  • If you have to change planes at some point on your return trip, do not allow yourself to get booked with a 45 minute cushion between flights. My plane, on which I was in the very last row of seats, was 30 minutes late to land and my gate closed before I could get there. Fortunately, I got on standby for a flight just an hour later.
  • Always have your coat with you (everywhere you go) when visiting Edmonton in the fall. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re going outside because you never know when someone is going to pull a hotel fire alarm in the middle of a demo and you’ll have to go wait outside for 30-minutes. Yikes.
  • You can get a novelty bottle of beer through customs, but you do have to check it.
  • Edmonton has as quality an Irish pub (O’Byrnes Pub) as I’ve ever been in. Seriously, that place is frigg’n great.
  • Also, game journalists can drink. (But then I knew that already.)
  • Also, also, it’s a damn good thing I remembered to bring some Tylenol. ‘Cause damn.
  • With regards to the game, again, whoa. Hopefully it’s not pushing it to say that Baldur’s Gate fans can rest easy.

Odds and Ends and NBA Live

It's been a week of 'busy time' for both me and Todd. As I said Todd has been in Canada playing Dragon Age for 2 days...I'd be jealous but hey...I gave him the assignment so I was happy to see him get away and relax a bit.

Todd's a ball of stress, if you didn't know. Angriest man in game journalism. Just ask him.

Todd's DA article is embargoed until next week but I have no issue at all telling you that he really likes it. A lot. Both Todd and myself are big RPG fans -- and both huge BioWare fans so having Todd IM me with "It's Baldur's Gate 3" makes me smile a big, happy smile.

OK NBA Live. Reviews are starting to come out and while little old me is still under embargo until 10/6 all I will say is this without getting too specific:

NBA Live 10 is the best version of NBA Live since NBA Live 2000. And considering the technology back in 1999, that pretty much makes NBA Live 10 the best version of NBA Live, ever. Flawless? Lord no. Worth playing? Oh, yes.

My full review will be at Crispy Gamer on the 6th with Todd's GameShark review following shortly thereafter.

But yes, I like it.

I have no clue how this will relate to NBA 2K10, a game that has always been better than Live but has also suffered from a lot of gameplay stagnation over the past few years.

I am very curious to see how that compares.

But I absolutely have to hand it to EA Sports, a company that I have been exceedingly rough on since well...let's say 1995?

The reason I have been so tough on EA is that I always felt the company catered one audience while ignoring the other. Add in the fact that they print their own money over there and it was a company that consistently frustrated me.

There was a time when 2K Sports throttled EA Sports across the board in every single genre --let's add Konami and soccer (Winning 11) and Access Software (Links) and golf as well. There was a time not so long ago (4 to 6 yrs ago) that EA Sports was the king of ZERO sports titles. None.

Football: 2K
Baseball: 2K with Sony starting to get close
Soccer: Konami
Basketball: 2K
Hockey: 2K
Golf: Microsoft/Access

And now?

Football: EA (specifically Madden. I still think NCAA underachieves)
Baseball: Sony (by a huge margin)
Soccer: Pick em -- Fifa has made enormous strides
Basketball: Undetermined (But EA is right there -- I'd rather play Live 10 than 2K9, I know that much)
Hockey: EA (Although I think 2K's game is underrated)
Golf: EA (Tiger needs a series reboot ...)

Exclusive licensing sucks. On that you will get no debate from me. I'd love to see 2K back in the NFL and the college hoops business (I really miss that series) and EA back in the baseball business. But the notion that it would lead to the worst era in sports gaming has been, thus far, proven to be incorrect.