Wednesday, December 30, 2009

GameShark 2009 Year End Awards

I posted these on Monday but with friends and family at the house this week, I forgot to mention it here. Enjoy.

I actually have some features in the oven that should be posted after New Year. Our 2010 Most Wanted, The 50 Games That Shaped the Decade, and the Best Games You Didn't Play in 2009.

And of course Ashley's Top 10, always a crowd favorite.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

First order of business. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and all that associated stuff to all of you.

I'm heading out of dodge for much of the next week and won't be posting much (if at all). This doesn't make things around here much different than they already have been for the last month (and year, really). I know. I suck. I've not been a great blogger this year. Too many distractions, too much procrastination, etc. etc. So, primary (only?) New Year's resolution is to get back on the stick with the whole blogging thing. Time will tell, of course.

In the meantime I hope you all have (had) a wonderful (and safe) holiday season!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Basketball -- 3rd grade Girl Style

Today is game #2 in Ashley's league. They play at 3:45 today and I will get a post game report up, likely tomorrow.

I smell a 10 point 5 assist 5 steal day today!

No pressure Ash!

Monday, December 14, 2009

King's Bounty and Basketball

First off my take on the King's Bounty sequel was posted Friday. Fun game.

Ashley's first basketball game was Saturday and her team lost 22-7.

At this age all it takes is one girl who is taller than everyone else, can actually get the ball TO the rim, and get all of the rebounds to turn a game into a route. Basically the other team had a 10 year old version of Kareem. And when half the girls still don't know what defense really means...that's a recipe for...well for 22-7.

Ashley is the point guard and she had a blast. She did get an assist and she played really good defense and I have never seen her so INTO a game before. Soccer is different for her. I get the feeling she actually enjoys basketball whereas soccer is just something to do with her friends.

Mary and I are doing a good job, we think, of not being "those parents." You know the parents who tell the coach what to do, yell at the kids from the bleachers and generally act like a 3rd grade girl's basketball game is Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

If you do not have kids let me assure you: these people exist and they must be weeded out of the gene pool for the sake of our survival.

But Mary and I both have basketball backgrounds so when we are watching practice and the coach is telling the kids to set a screen by basically acting like they are boxing out with their arms extended, which in every form of basketball is highly illegal, it's hard to bite my tongue. But I do. When I coached soccer I KNOW I was likely messing stuff up and I would have felt like crap if Mr. Soccer Star came up to me and told me I was doing stuff horribly wrong. But damn...teaching illegal screens?

So we both just sit there and clap and encourage the kids as best we can because regardless -- Ashley is loving it and Mary already informed me after the first practice that we were both coaching next year.

Knowing Mary, I bet she'll have them running suicides.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Madden Ultimate Team

Well, I really do have a lot of things to talk about as I haven't blogged anything substantial for a while.

But for now, I'll say that EA sent me a build of Madden Ultimate Team for the 360 -- and the embargo is in place until Dec. 14th and the press sheet even says "no first hand impressions."

So, there you go.

Last weekend we made the yearly trek to Indy to see Todd. Baroo showed up as well and we basically spent 48 hours playing boardgames -- Small World, Chaos in the Old World, Rails of Europe and a brilliant 6 player game of Battlestar Galactica.

You think you're a middle aged hobby nerd? Try spending an hour pleading with your wife that you are not, in fact, a Cylon. That hits home let me tell ya.

I continue to hang my hat on the fact that my jump shot is as smooth as spun silk. When that leaves..I'm in trouble.

Ashley is playing on her 3rd/4th grade youth league basketball team -- they have her at point guard, which she is totally loving - she gets to call the plays and bring the ball up the court. She's very much like her mom.

Mary played HS basketball on a very, very good Division IV team. Mary was going to be a walk on at Marietta college in Ohio until she blew out her knee. She could play.

Check that -- she could play DEFENSE. Mary was that annoying defender who stuck to you like glue, and got her points on steals and transition baskets.

Me? I have the speed of a chain smoking turtle and the defensive ability of an anvil.

But I can come off a screen and shoot three pointers. With my ankles being what they are today, the days of penetrating are all but over -- but leave me open and I'll show you that while this white man cannot jump (at all) he can shoot.

Ashley resembles Mary. Quick, plays defense, steals a lot of balls and can't shoot a lick. Sort of the ideal 3rd grade point guard! She's having a blast and I can't wait for her first game -- this Saturday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Picard Will Put On Zeppelin and Eat Cheddar Cheese

This Star Trek TNG – uh – video thing, has been making the rounds today, so chances are you’ve seen it already, but if not it’s worth taking three minutes to watch. It may just be up there with The Vader Sessions. (Not Work Safe – Language)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 Impressions (360 version)

Note: I’ve read that the PC version of this game plays much differently than the 360 version in terms of difficulty and balance, so keep that in mind as you read.

I picked up L4D2 during release week, but because I’ve been out of town for a week I’ve only had a couple of chances to play. Bill, crew, and I have done a couple of Campaign runs, one on the carnival scenario and one on Dead Center as well as a handful of Versus runs. My overall impression?

This game is frigg’n hard.

I can’t decide, though, if I think it’s *too* hard. My gut is that it is. Our primary four-man crew has been playing the first game since around January. We are not particularly skilled, but we’ve at least finished all the L4D1 scenarios on Advanced difficulty so we’re hardly rookies. In L4D2, however, we’ve had real trouble just reaching the the finale on Normal, let alone surviving it. Mobs everywhere. Specials, bunches of them, coming out of the woodwork at almost any moment. I’ve found that by the time the clock passes midnight the game has started to feel more monotonous than fun. I am enjoying it, but in that same way that Taco Bell tastes really good until you hit your fifth or sixth taco and then you want to curse the chain’s very existence.

It seems like the difficulty levels now only affect how much damage you do and take and not the number of zombies in need of a good shooting. It makes for a much more demanding game that changes how you need to play it and I haven’t learned how to be effective playing with the “new shit” as it were. It’s definitely set up so that it’s nigh impossible to find cover when the horde arrives. You can try, but the new specials like the Spitter and Charger pretty much guarantee that if you don’t get your feet moving you’re going to get torn up. Players that can shoot and move well at the same time are likely to do okay. My problem is that I’m a player who likes to catch his breath. Left 4 Dead kept you moving, sure, but if you wanted to hole up in a modestly secure area for a couple of minutes you could get away with it. L4D2 not so much and I’m not sure I like that.

This is just as true, IMO, in Versus mode in which you’ve got equal number of players playing as infected and survivors. I’m okay with the infected having an advantage in this game. That is as it should be. At the same time, I’ve been a part of four Versus mode matches and have yet to see the survivors make it to a safe room; and you can just forget about anyone coming even remotely close to surviving the finale. Somewhere there’s a line between challenging and punitive and I’m not sure L4D2 is on the right side of it.

As I noted above, it does not mean I don’t like the game. There’s still a lot to love about it. I love the new weapons. I like all the settings I’ve played through so far. The carnival scenario was just a wild, wild ride. And as much as they’re a pain in the ass, the new special infected do make the game more interesting. Seriously, the first time you Jockey a survivor into a horde of undead or bowl over a tight group of survivors as the the Charger… well, it’s pretty awesome. And who knows? Maybe as I get used to/better at playing the way the game demands I’ll change my tune on the difficulty.

I’m less sure I’ll change my tune on the new survivors, however. There’s nothing eminently wrong with them, but I like the original crew better. Ellis, in particular, needs to be shot in the head. He’s funny the first few times he goes on and on about some dumb thing, while in a safe room, but unlike the Bill character from L4D1, Ellis’s shtick gets old. Bill’s “I hate xxx” (trains, farms, stairs, etc.) every 30 minutes is beautiful in its simplicity. Ellis’s constant, long-winded rambling? Pass.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Day in Rhode Island

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I was happy to get out of dodge for a week by spending it with my mom’s side of the family in Middletown, Rhode Island (very near Newport), which is quite possibly my favorite place on planet Earth and also the first time I’ve been out there in over six years. I also got to bring Kyle with me, which as an added bonus. (Who knew a four year old could be so incredibly well behaved while being stuck in a car for 16 hours over two days?)

Despite the fact that the sun didn’t come out once during the week that I was there and on most days it was constantly raining it was a hella good time getting to see my grandparents and the aunts, uncles, and cousins that I’ve not seen for so long. I’m actually the oldest of my grandparents’ eight grandchildren and of those living in the continental US (six of us), I’m the oldest by a good 20 years. Given that the last time I saw most of them, they were toddlers and early elementary aged kids, it was quite a shock to the eye to see how much they’ve grown up and there’s definitely a sense that in being away for so long that I’ve missed out on a lot of memorable times. It made coming home last weekend, not knowing when I’ll next get the chance to go back, a difficult thing to do.

It’s also weird to be the only grandchild at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table throwing back glasses of wine like like I’m Paul Giamatti in the movie Sideways. Fortunately, such behavior didn’t separate me much from any of the other parents at the table. I really don’t want to know how many bottles of wine and champagne were consumed on that day, but I’m sure it was not a small number.

In the evening we all sat down to watch the movie Christmas Vacation, which is the first time any of the kids had seen this wonderful flick. Watching them all gathered round and just dying of laughter in some of the scenes was as perfect a moment as one can have. Makes me wish I could just move out there, but reality is reality, and such a move isn’t really an option anymore. Ah well.

Anyway, over the course of the next week or two I plan to write a bit more about Dragon Age. I’m starting a second playthrough this week, this time running with the mage origin, so that should be interesting. I don’t recall the last time I finished a game this long and restarted immediately after it was over. (I did attempt that with Fallout 3, but the attempt may have lasted about six hours.) I’ve also been able to put some time into Left 4 Dead 2 (360 version), so I’ll need to write up some thoughts on that as well.