Friday, November 19, 2010

I Won't Be Eaten By Atlanta Zombies Either

My last post was about how I'm smarter than your average Norwegian vacationer and as such, would not be falling prey to Zombie Nazis any time soon. Now that the Walking Dead is burning up the air waves, I find it necessary to quiet the raging concern that I might be eaten by Atlanta zombies when shit goes down. After all, I live about 30 minutes north of Atlanta and that's where the Walking Dead takes place, so put two and two together and you have reason to be concerned.

1. Location, Location, Location
There are a fair number of housing developments in the suburban towns surrounding Atlanta that are built right next to churches. More importantly, they're built right next to cemeteries. As with any major, metropolitan area, sprawl can be a problem and often times new shit gets built next to the old shit. Around Atlanta, many times the old shit is either a church, a trailer park, or a church trailer park. Many times there's a cemetery there too. Usually more with the churches than with the trailer parks, but I wouldn't be surprised. Many the times have we driven past these new housing developments and I say to my wife that there is no way in hell I would live to such places as when the zombie outbreak occurs, those people in the housing developments are the appetizers. I ain't about to get munched on by no zombie just because I wanted a swim and tennis community. Fuck that. I don't even play tennis.

2. Life in the Country
My county is pretty dang rural. In fact, not five minutes from me it turns into horse country and while horses have shown to be tasty snacks for rampaging zombies, they tend to live in areas that aren't very population rich. I'm not saying I live out in the boonies or anything, there is a SuperTarget about ten minutes from my house, but we don't have a lot of zombie rich environments: namely cemeteries and hospitals. All I'm saying is that when the zombie outbreak starts, I'll have plenty of notice before I start seeing walkers roaming up my driveway.

3. I Know All About Headshots
In trying to paint a realistic rather than campy image of a zombie outbreak the Walking Dead appears to take place in a universe that doesn't have fictionalized zombie outbreaks. I bet that for the majority of people reading this site, if I were to ask you how you kill a zombie, the answer would come out immediately: destroy the brain. The folks in Walking Dead don't seem to know this which I find odd. This seems to happen a lot with supernatural themed media. In vampire and werewolf movies, the only person who seems to know how to dispatch the beasty is some grizzled dude who has been hunting them his whole life. The rest of the people in the movie are all like "Really, turns into a wolf? That's so weird!" Supernatural seems to be the only show that tries to place itself in our universe, a universe that is steeped in monster fiction. I think it's part of why the show succeeds so well, as they can use the fictionalized aspect of monsters, silly tropes and all, to play with their version of monsters. But I digress. Bottom line is that I know how to fuck a zombie up and I ain't about to waste time while doing it.

4. Slow Jams
The one thing I have learned about Atlanta residents in my five years here is that they can not, to a person, drive to save their fucking lives. Traffic here is horrible, many times because Atlanta drivers become functionally retarded upon getting behind the wheel. I have hit traffic jams, like ground to a halt traffic jams, at the strangest of times. When Rick moseyed up into Atlanta (and yes, they actually filmed in Atlanta), and there were zero cars on the highway into the city, motherfucker should have known that the city was not where he wanted to be. If I'm heading into Atlanta and I'm not stuck behind some asshat who can't be bothered to put down his phone long enough to use his blinker, I know something's up and I'm turning around and going the other way.

5. OTP, Yeah You Know Me
In Atlanta, there are two types of people: people who live ITP, or Inside the Perimeter and people who live OTP, or Outside the Perimeter. In this case, the Perimeter is I-285, the freeway that encircles Atlanta proper. I live and work OTP and have very little reason to ever go ITP, except for the occasional rock show or cultural event. ITP folks and OTP folks usually don't hang together as it takes about three hours to go from one to the other. Plus, there are so many towns OTP that you don't have to go ITP for really anything, except the occasional rock show or cultural event. If a zombie outbreak were to happen here, you wouldn't catch me going ITP for shit, not even if I thought there were a refugee camp. Plus, CDC ain't even downtown so it's not like that's going to help. I'm sticking OTP where there's fewer people and more SuperTargets. I bet the toy looting will be epic.

So don't worry, gentle readers, I don't plan on being eaten by zombies of any stripe any time soon. Murdered by rampaging hordes of GI Joe toy looters in an abandoned SuperTarget? That seems more likely.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Will Not Be Eaten By Zombie Nazis

Or Nazi zombies for that matter. I never know how to phrase that. Nazi zombies make it sound like someone rose from the grave and then joined the Nazi party whereas zombie Nazis connotes Nazi who became zombies. Either way, I shall not die at the hand, or teeth of such undead fiends, and here's why.

This is all coming from my recent viewing of "Dead Snow" a Norwegian horror film that pits a group of monumentally stupid Norwegian people against hordes of undead Nazis. As a horror movie it was "eh". It wasn't ever all that scary, something I think is fairly important to the genre. It was more of the dumb, gory kind of horror a la "Evil Dead 2" and less of the "Sweet Jesus I just pissed myself" kind of horror as in "The Descent" or "Beaches" so as long as you know that going in to it, you'll do fine.

As a zombie film it wasn't bad. Nazis are always good villains because everyone hates them, including Nazis themselves. Turning the Nazis into zombies gives us even more reason to hate them and for those that lived during WWII, I'm sure there were times that the Germans seemed like an unstoppable force of evil, imagery always associated with zombies. At the same time, anyone who lived through WWII probably isn't spending their time watching "Dead Snow" so instead we have to just be happy with two great evils that taste great together. I will say that the movie kind of fudges a bit with the whole zombie lore. Not in a "28 Days Later" or Left 4 Dead way where the zombies are infected people but more of a "I'm not really sure these are zombies" kind of way. Clearly they looked dead but they also bled, steam came out of their mouths during the snowy bits (probably just as much due to low budget film making than an outright creative decision) and you could dispatch them without busting up Ye Olde Braine Pan. The end result was that they seemed like Nazis who just never died, rather than the undead, an unimportant distinction when being munched on by one of them but I felt it needed to be made.

Regardless, based on what I've seen in "Dead Snow", here's why I won't have undead Nazis wearing my guts for garters any time soon.

I Do Not Hang Out With White People Who Have Dreadlocks
Do you know a white person with dreadlocks? That person makes poor decisions. They are a bad decision maker and if you are in a situation that you feel will result in your safety being threatened, you can write that person off for helping you in said situation. If they feel that dreadlocks look good on them, or any white person, they are dumb. That's it. There was a white woman in the movie who had dreadlocks and the minute I saw her I thought "Oh, you're the dumb one" and she was. In fact, she was so dumb that she ended up paying for her stupidity with her life. Upon successfully escaping from the zombie Nazis she returned to the cabin where her boyfriend and his friend were fighting the undead legions. Her boyfriend was in the midst of a murderous rage, wildly hacking apart a Nazi's head with a hatchet. Rather than hanging back a safe distance and letting him finish his grim task, and then calling out his name to get his attention, she decided instead to walk up and grab his shoulder. He promptly turned around and buried the hatchet in her neck. See? Dumb. As she died he watched her pass, no doubt trying to find the words to say "You always looked stupid in those dreadlocks."

I Do Not Camp
I do not camp. Not ever. I abhor camping. This strategy would have saved the lives of multiple people in this movie. If you and I are going on a vacation and we stop the car on some remote road and then you tell me that our eventual destination is at the end of a 45 minute walk through the woods, I will punch you, take the keys and leave you to be consumed by the shambling hordes. If I have to walk 45 minutes through the woods to get where we are staying, it's a pretty safe assumption that this place doesn't have a) power, b) running water and c) cable. I am not a Neanderthal. I am not a bear. I am not a cougar or a hedgehog or a coral snake. I am a civilized human being and I will not spit on the advances made by our ancestors and shun the comforts that they worked so hard for. If the zombies attack me while I'm staying at the Holiday Inn then so be it, but I'm not about to tempt fate by staying in some remote cabin far away from a Coldstone or a Target. I mean, come on. Similarly, if I know that the mountains are haunted, I'm certainly not going to pitch a tent in said mountains. I'm not even going to pitch a tent in my own backyard. If my kids want to camp they're on their own. I hope they remember to bring shotguns.

My Zombie Repellent is Semi-Automatic
Everyone knows that a shotgun is the best form of zombie repellent. Everyone. Shotguns have a wide spread, ensuring total cranial decimation and they have excellent stopping power. Everyone should know that your shotgun has to be semi-automatic or you might as well have a puppy in your hand for all the good it will do you. In the movie, our hapless vacationers are visited by Scary Old Dude who then tells them that there's Nazi's in them thar hills. He then proceeds to camp in them thar hills and when he hears mischief outside of his tent he grabs his shotgun, a useless double barreled manual jobbie. Well dude, I hope for your sake there's only two zombies coming after you because they're not going to wait for you to reload. When the zombie apocalypse comes, and it will come, mark my words, there's going to be two kinds of people in this world: those with semi-automatic shotguns and those that are dead. Well, and the undead so that's three. Come to think of it, kids probably shouldn't have guns so I guess that's four. Or the elderly, they probably shouldn't either. Ok, so when the zombie apocalypse comes there's going to be five kinds of people in this world: those with semi-automatic shotguns, kids, the elderly, those that are dead and those that are undead.

I Know How To Fire A Weapon
Now I'm not saying I'm Frank Castle up in this bitch but I can hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun and I'll spray a zombie's white meat all over creation as it's running towards me as fast as you can say "Shaun of the Dead". I know that America has all sorts of gun crime and accidental gun deaths but when the zombie apocalypse comes, what country do you think will fall last? I can give you a hint: it ain't gonna be Norway. Not if the entire country shoots like these morons.

I Will Not Have Sex In An Outhouse
Yes, this is a thing that happened in this movie and there wasn't any nudity so it was nothing but ick, especially when the chick put the dude's finger in her mouth right after he had just wiped himself. In a movie where a dude climbs a mountain using a zombie's intestines as his rope, the fact that the outhouse sex scene was the most disgusting thing says a lot. I'm not saying I wouldn't have sex in a bathroom. Hell, my master bathroom is bigger than the room I lived in during my college years but a bathroom is not an outhouse. Bathrooms have nice counters and, more importantly, running water to take the poo and pee away to a happy place called Shit Meadows where the human waste can frolic in fields of filth. An outhouse is basically a shack that sits atop a shit filled hole. Maybe I've been married too long and the promise of regular sex has dulled me to what it was like to be young, in my twenties and so desperate for nookie that you're willing to have sex at any time, even when straddled over a still steaming pile of your own filth but I don't think so. True to the "first person who gets laid gets dead" rules of horror, the woman who did the deed was promptly then pulled into the poo pile by the zombies. She did manage to escape though and as she stumbled to the cabin, caked in shit and desperately trying to hold her guts in, all I could think of was "Ooooh, that's going to get infected."

I Know All About Pirate Gold
At its heart, "Dead Snow"is not a zombie movie, it's a pirate gold ghost story movie. You know the kind. Pirates get gold, they get cursed, they disappear, someone finds the gold and the pirate ghosts then terrorize everyone until they get their gold back. The same thing is going on here only instead of pirates it's Nazis. See back in the day, the Nazis occupied some Norwegian village and did bad things like steal the villagers' gold. When the tides turned against the Nazis the villagers said "Fuck that shit" or the Norwegian equivalent (fuck det der, loosely translated) and rose up and either killed the Nazis or drove them into the mountains, I don't remember. Oddly enough, they didn't get their gold back first. The dumb ass vacationers then find said gold and even though they had been told about the gold by Creepy Old And Poorly Armed Dude, and even though you could clearly make out a giant, gold SS eagle they were still all like "A-durrr, what's this? Derp, derp, derp." If some dude tells me a story about stolen Nazi gold and then I find a chest of it in the cabin I wouldn't be staying in because it's out in the fucking sticks, you best believe I'd be chucking that gold off of the nearest cliff with a quickness. Happy trails you zombie fucks, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

I Do Not Ski
The first, and only time I've ever gone skiing, I almost fell off a mountain. I have been terrified of skiing ever since. If I don't ski, I can't try and ski through the mountains to get to a cabin and meet my boyfriend there. If I'm not skiing through the mountains, I won't get attacked and eaten by undead fascists. This ain't rocket science.

And finally...
I Am Not Dumb
I may not be the brightest bulb in the bulbarium (you know, the place where they grow the light bulbs) but I'm not nearly as stupid as the people in this movie. Granted, that's what you expect in horror films, to see dumb people making bad decisions and getting their faces eaten off for their dumb troubles. Still, the humans in this movie are so blindingly stupid that it becomes increasingly hard to feel anything but contempt for them and, as a result, start cheering on the zombies in the same way that if you were to watch someone climb into the tiger cage at the zoo, you'd be more inclined to see how it all plays out rather than rescue the guy from his own terminal stupidity. At least I would. Well, me and Katt Williams any way. (As an aside, that bit is one of my top ten favorite bits. Katt Williams is a fucking genius and if you can't see that, then there's no hope for you.) So yeah, I may not be the paragon of intelligence, but I can tell you this: if I get to the woods and there's a sign that says "Warning: Zombie Nazis Afoot" you can best believe I won't be sticking around.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NBA 2K 11 Review

Posted this morning.

It's on the long side so Todd gets to yell at me.

Another great sports release and I am serious when I say in the review that picking a sports game of the year will not be easy. A lot of GREAT stuff in 2010.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Secretariat Film is a Pass

The Secretariat movie was beyond disappointing.

I understand poetic/creative license when doing a historical film like this.

But this movie got SO many things just plain wrong that it was distracting to anyone who knows the story of this great Thoroughbred.

They turned it into classic Disney Hollywood schlock.

They turned good people into villains for no good reason other than every story needs a bad guy.

They filmed the damn movie at Keeneland -- this would be like filming a movie about the Daytona 500 in Indianapolis, and leaving in the symbols of Indy in place. Hey guys, we have technology to erase the KEENELAND signs.

They got SO much wrong. For no reason at all. The dialogue was cookie cutter and the directing was like a made for TV movie.

They got one thing right: Secretariat was a nationwide phenomenon and won the Triple Crown in 1973.

Good job guys.

NBA 2K11 Review Monday

Review is pretty much done at this point.

So many things to like/love about this game and still so many things that need work. I think this is about as "complete" a 2K game as we have ever seen, but there are still a lot of head scratching decisions that were made by the developers.

In all, it's highly recommended but with caution: the main one being you better have some serious gamepad skills to get the most out of what this game is trying to accomplish.

It's the hardcore flight sim of sports games.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cut Scenes From Hell

I hate cut scenes in sports games.

Despise them.

NBA 2K11 loves them. With all its heart.

I am playing on full 12 min. quarters and games are taking a LONG time, because, well, I'm on 12 min quarters but also because every play stoppage, every sub, every free throw, 2K wants to show me how "TV Like" its game is.

I DO NOT CARE who the Sprite Player of whatever is, or the Gatorade whatever moment is. I do not need the Gatorade sub screen to show me who is coming in and out of the game. A quick flash of subs is all I need. I sure as hell don't need up close shots of players after a play.

Now, you are supposed to be able to turn that shit off, but in the presentation menu I only see a few options for such things and I still get to see these intermittent cut scenes far too often in this game.

GET ME TO THE ACTION. I don't give a shit if this is "just like it is on television."

This isn't television. I have shit to do. I am wearing out the A button on my controller pleading with NBA 2K11 to stop showing me stuff that has nothing to do with me playing the game.

As for the game itself, it's good, it's bad, and I hate Michael Jordan.

Seriously, it is a very challenging game when playing on the "PRO SIM" mode. I lost to the 76ers 104-101 as Boston in overtime. I didn't care to see Even Turner killing me with 3s because ...Even Turner shouldn't do that, but overall it feels pretty authentic.

I STILL think t egame is best played by gamepad gurus who can master a million different moves, and I still hate that slow PFers who get caught in rotation on Rondo can guard him like they are John Starks...but hey..

Monday, October 4, 2010

NBA 2K 11

Been playing this one a lot today -- got this too late to have a review up tomorrow -- but it's coming ASAP.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Civilization 5 and Its Artificial Unintelligence

So, if you’ve listened to this week’s Jumping the Shark podcast you got a plateful of Civilization 5 thoughts. At that point I had about six hours or so in the game and had a generally favorable impression. Now that I’ve had a full week with it (and about 20 hours), it has soured somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going back to Civ IV (yet). There’s a lot of stuff I like a great deal and, if I don’t get lazy, I’ll write about that too, in a later post. That said, I’m really distressed by the level of incompetence I’m seeing and reading about with regards to the AI.

Here’s the thing. I really want to be sympathetic about the game's AI issues given that the combat model is a total revolution (no pun intended) in the Civ series design. But I can't. This is something where Firaxis knows they're making this big change -probably right from the beginning- and they have to *know* that military AI will have to essentially be re-built from the ground up. That's something they have to get right. A few holes is one thing (and inevitable), but this isn't a game that, long term, can absorb having a toothless AI against an experienced opponent. And it is toothless. It apparently can't conquer a city state without a Herculean effort. How is it going to beat a human player once said player has grown comfortable with the rules and mechanics?

It would be one thing if the AI itself got better on higher difficulties, but from what I'm reading it really doesn't. It just gets bigger and better bonuses. (That’s a totally unverified assertion; your mileage may vary.) If what you see with the AI at the Prince level (where the playing field is totally level) is what you get, then they really have some work to do.

In my first game, played at Prince (4) difficulty, I achieved a science victory by 1985 (not totally unreasonable at that level), while the AI was still floating around in frigates and finding out gunpowder was kinda neat (way too inept at a level where the playing field is supposed to be level). Militarily… well, here's an example from that game, which I completed last night:

I'm (as the Americans) on a continent with the Persians and Greeks. I take out the Persians pretty early on. They never had more than a couple of military units and they threw them away by attacking the teeth of my invading forces (composed of archers, chariots, and spearmen; no siege units at all). With no siege units, conquering their two cities took a bit of time, but it was a speed-bump since Darius could not defend himself.

Later I went up against the Greeks, who were of equal or greater size to my civ, but were less advanced (later on, significantly so). I fought them, basically, in three stages.

The first phase of the war was fine. I attacked him where he was over-expanded and at his weakest. (He plopped two cities in a line, bisecting my empire in two.) No big deal that I easily won that confrontation. I should have, given my tech advantage and the fact that I had horses and Darius did not.

The second phase is where it was obvious the AI just didn't know what it was doing. When I started up hostilities again, Alexander had been picking on two city states (Stockholm and Venice). He'd mostly given up on Stockholm because I went in and positioned my own units around the city to protect them, so he appeared to have turned his full attention to Venice. And when i say “full attention,” I mean very nearly that. He left a couple of military units behind, but not nearly enough to protect his turf. So when I moved in, I basically had free range to roam his countryside and position myself around his cities however I liked. Bear in mind, any human player would have seen this coming. I had units all over my border with him.

Now, he's got at least four military units up to the north, basically laying siege to Venice, which was on a peninsula, sans actual siege units. I did not go to his capital straight-away, so even discounting my invasion was telegraphed a good five to ten turns ahead of time, he still had time to bring his forces back. Maybe even heal them up a little. As I took out my initial target (Sparta) he did nothing of the sort. I ended up taking his capital with nothing there to defend it because he was all about Venice. Again, I didn't even need siege units of my own. I just relied on my, now huge, tech advantage that had me running over his turf with Knights and Muskets.  (I couldn't build trebuchet's if I wanted to, since I lacked iron.) He did eventually pull units back as I moved north, but once his capital fell it was beyond too late. Once I had conquered all but two of his cities I took a peace deal so I could deal with unhappiness from all these new puppet states.

The third phase was just mop up. Alexander had no means to build enough units in ten turns to mount any kind of defense.

Ignoring my ability to build a big early tech lead despite not yet being familiar with all the new gameplay concepts, what really bugs me is that it seems clear the AI is incapable of moving to defend itself, even when it has the means to do so. This is not the kind of thing that can be justified by, "well, it's a new combat system."

Alexander focusing on a city state while he’s got hostile forces marching on Athens is just not acceptable. Also, just to be clear, I'm an experienced player, but not a particularly good one. And that’s an important distinction because you don’t have to be one of the savants at CivFanatics to badly exploit this game. You just need enough experience with the game to understand how the different mechanics work. That’s just a function of time.

Now, balancing that is a host of stuff I really like. The Social Policy system is really interesting, even if I do think I like the old Civics system a bit better. I *love* that cities can now defend themselves to some degree. AI aside, I love the new military model. It’s so much better than the stacks of doom model of previous Civs. I like how culture works. I think I like the new global Happiness model that essentially replaces stuff like corruption and healthiness, although I’m not convinced it’s well-balanced yet. (Others seem to think there’s a lot of ways to exploit happiness, but this is probably more a concern for players more skilled than I. Still, Firaxis may have oversimplified in relying on that mechanic to dictate empire growth.)

And also, to be fair, I did see the AI do some things that were, well, if not especially smart, certainly correct. Long after I vanquished Alexander, Napoleon came trolling from across the sea. He surrounded the city state of Stockholm with galleons (I think). I was not looking for war with France, but I also did not want to lose Stockholm as an ally. So, I exploited my giant tech lead by gifting Stockholm with a destroyer. As soon as that ship was in Stockholm’s port, Napoleon wasted no time in pulling back, rather than fight an uphill battle. That’s good. (Also, there’s a perverse thrill to be had from launching a torpedo attack from your sub on a nearby frigate. BOOM!)

I think the take home is ultimately that this game is a load of fun early on where you're just learning how it's evolved from CivIV (or learning it for the first time). Firaxis took a lot of chances and tried a lot of new things with this game and I respect that *a lot*. That said, long term, it really looks to me like Firaxis has a ton of work to do to get this game balanced and running the way it needs to. Their history says they will, but until they get a legit patch in the field, you should buy the game knowing that long term enjoyment from the gameplay is probably limited for the foreseeable future. (And by long term, I mean in the 40+ hour range. I put about 15 hours into my first game on a standard size map and game length and am far from tired of it. I can just see some of the writing on the wall.)

Yes, you can up the difficulty, but personally, I don’t enjoy the game as much when I know I’m getting beat just because the AI has ridiculous production and research advantages. I like to be challenged on a level, or only modestly tilted, playing field. That’s something I got from the previous games that it looks like I’m unlikely to get here. I’ve started a new game on King (5) and we’ll see how it goes. I hope to be proved wrong.

OH-IO!

Just wanted to share this picture I took at the Ohio State / Miami game a couple of weeks ago.

Our seats were awesome -- and this picture was taken right at the climax of Script Ohio.

Not a bad pic for a Droid phone...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

FIFA 11 and Backbreaker

Been a while since I wrote anything not work related.

Sorry about that.

In the meantime, here's my take on FIFA 11. Good game. Really good, actually.

In other news, my back is killing me. Played in my Monday night hoops league last night and had a rough, rough night.

If you play sports, or played sports, you know that there are people who simply have your number. I played against my nemesis last night. Whenever this guy guards me, I struggle.

He's taller and faster than me and for a guy who makes his hay coming off screens and shooting three pointers, that's a tough matchup. The guy just refuses to let me shoot and he's tall enough to take on screens and still affect my shot, which forces me to do one of two things: step back and shoot particularly long threes, or try and drive past him, or simply not look to shoot and play as decoy. (where's the fun in that?)

This brings us to my ankles, which is why I rarely drive past anyone anymore.

Well last night, after about 20 minutes and a grand total of 3 points on about 1-6 shooting I decided I had to try and change it up.

In our league I am known for three things:

1. Realistic range of about 20 feet
2. An inability to play moderately good defense (thanks ankles)
3. A scoop shot that I have perfected over the past 25 years. I can get this scoop shot off from anywhere in the paint -- it drives big men INSANE because everyone wants to block that shot, but rarely do.

I don't go near the paint much anymore but when I do you can almost guarantee that a scoop is coming.

Last night, I HAD to try and get past this guy guarding me because I was basically taken out of the game. I come off a screen, reverse drive around the screen, which trapped the defender, and I make my way into the lane where a 6'5 guy is waiting for me and I flash the scoop at him -- but fake the shot, keeping the ball in my extended hand.

He's salivating because he wants to block this shot -- but as most big men are -- he' s a tad over anxious and not too bright (I kid, I kid) so he leaps expecting to throw the ball into the stands and lands--

on me.

My back goes "pop". I'm now the one feeling stupid.

And old.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brandon's Weekend Sports Wrap-Up

All hail the beginning of football! And not college football. Please. I went to a hockey school. I think we had football. Wait, I'm sure of it. Yes, their hallmark rivalry was with a team they played for a pair of shoes. Yeah I don't get it either. Bill and Todd handle more than this blog's fair share of college football complete with busing up some poor team from East ByJesus U to get their ass whipped on booster weekend all before dozens of bored sports reporters vote on who the best team is.

On second thought, that game for the shoes is beginning to make more sense.

No, I'm a professional football fan, namely a Washington Redskins fan which is funny because the Redskins haven't been professional for years.

So, did I watch the Dallas game on Sunday night? Hell to the no.

First of all, I'm old and old people can't stay up late. Second of all I get up very, very early and I already stay up late one night a week for the podcast. Two nights a week, one of which at the beginning of the week would very likely kill me. Third of all, this is the Redskins. Against Dallas. Had I watched I would have stayed up late, become very tired and all for some dumbass botched call and some last minute score that gets taken away by an equally last minute penalty.

You can imagine my surprise when I watched the highlights on SportsCenter this morning (for the record, I had no idea how to even find SportsCenter on my cable box so little do I watch ESPN) and that very same mix of shitty decision making and drive killing penalties happened only not to us, but to Dallas. Given the number of near heart attacks I had in that three minute game recap, had I watched the whole thing I probably would have died on the couch.

So here's how my football weekend started and ended: with me on my knees in my bedroom having just watched Dallas implode in our house and saying to my wife "I can't believe we beat the Cowboys." She's used to it by now so I think she said something to the tune of "That's nice dear. Now put on some pants."

So for the next week I'm going to enjoy being on top of the NFC East because based on our schedule we won't be there for long. The schedule makers at the NFL must have transposed our wins and losses from last year because our schedule looks fairly difficult unless Houston's rush-a-thon over the Colts on Sunday ends up being a fluke. Then we have Rams, Eagles, Packers and then the Colts. The Rams may suck but that has never stopped us from losing before. The Eagles are questionable and the Packers and Colts will be difficult when you can't put more than six offensive points on the board. That's not a stretch of games I'm looking forwards to, especially considering that the next three are 4PM games which means I can watch the games, for better or for worse.

Still though, we beat Dallas, in Washington and Tony Romo doesn't have TO or Jessica Simpson to blame it on and that's worth quite a bit. I plan on enjoying it while I can.

My Weekend Sports Wrap Up

I was at the OSU/Miami game. Seats at the 40 yard line, C Deck with a view of the entire field. Perfect seats, really.

We had to suffer through a few bouts of rain, but it was well worth it.

It's a rite of passage for me and my father to attend an OSU game every year, and we aren't going to do it sitting in the corner of the end zone. We were at the Texas game and the USC game, which didn't work out as planned. But we were also at the 2002 and 2005 Michigan games, the 2002 Washington St game, the 2003 Washington game, and many, many other games where OSU rolled on to victory.

Saturday's game was one of the strangest games I have seen in a long, long time. 36-24 OSU and it could have been closer than that OR could have been a blowout for the Buckeyes. Miami returns two kicks for touchdowns, OSU picks off 4 passes, settles for 5 FGs -- 4 of which were red zone field goals and had a TD called back on a hold.

It was a huge win for OSU as the Bucks needed to get that early season OOC match up monkey off its back. That won't stop Mark May from calling OSU too slow to compete against teams from the south..or the east or the far east, but whatever. He's a tool.

Oh, yeah, the Browns managed to lose another 2nd half lead. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NCAA Patch #3. Oh Yes!

Currently out for PS3, 360 coming soon:


Title Update 3 (TU3)

* The pump fake exploit was resolved. The entire defense will no longer rush the QB after a pump fake.

* Resolved an issue with setting SS/ FS to QB Spy and then blitzing, virtually unblocked.

* Increased the Overall rating for incoming freshman. This resulted in one and two star freshman coming in at a higher overall rating.

* In Season Progression is back! Players once again have the ability to get a slight boost to their ratings during the season.

* There was an issue with Hawaii's home schedule causing conflicts with particular teams. This has been resolved. In particular, teams in the Pac 10 and the WAC will now have the correct number of conference games.

* Resolved an issue with the Rush Defense slider where they were only impacting defensive line special moves. They have been adjusted to also impact win/loss chances for blocking.

Live Tuning Pack 3 (LTP3)

* Kick Power/Kick Accuracy progression for Kickers and Punters was adjusted to be in line with the new incoming freshmen. Kickers and punters will now progress in line with other players, but will start with a higher average overall due to the improved recruit ratings in the patch.

* Increased Awareness progression for all positions.

* Increased progression slightly for Elusiveness, Spin Move, and Juke Move for Wide Receivers.

* Increased progression of the Tackle rating for Corner Backs to be in line with WR skill ratings (Juke, Spin, and Elusiveness).

* Reduced the frequency of defenders successfully jumping the snap. Also adjusted how frequently they would jump early when the offense performed a fake snap.

* Tuned Man Coverage so defenders will not jump in front of routes so early. They will still jump the route, but not as early, or frequently, as before.

* Adjusted in season progression to be in line with higher rated incoming freshmen.

* Tuned Incoming freshman to better match the spread on the default rosters.

* Tuned team prestige progression to be in line with the changes to incoming freshmen.

NHL 11

Is pretty damn good.

Boise St...

... is why you can't take college football too seriously until there is a playoff format. Just have fun with it. But take it for what it is--a terribly flawed, uneven system setup by people with no sense of fairness or purpose outside of lining their own pockets.

In many ways, I suppose college football is like life.

After their win over a very overrated VTech team, Boise's road to a national championship game now runs through the mighty Oregon State Beavers.

Can this Boise St. team play with the "big boys?" Of course. They have proven that more than once.

Is it easier gearing up for two big games a year with the rest of the schedule filled with Power Puff Girls?

It kinda is, yeah.

Give Ohio State, Alabama, or hell even Michigan that schedule and watch as the Wolverines rattle off a 9 or 10 win season.

But congrats to the Broncos. They are half way home now to a potential title game appearance.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Digesting the Michigan Game

So, I’ve spent a couple days digesting the Michigan game. I went into the year unsure of what my expectations should be. In general, I expected that Michigan would have an offense that would rank in the upper half of the Big 10 and a defense that would remain in the lower half.

What I saw on Saturday was *really* impressive. It’s easy to just say, “Well, it’s only UConn,” but 48 hours ago a lot of people, both on TV on and off and including myself, thought the Huskies had a legitimate shot of coming to the Big(ger) House and walking out with a W. It would be par for the course after three years of The Horror (Appalachian State), Utah, Toledo, etc.

There’s plenty of reason for concern, no question. Bill’s right. Denard cannot carry the ball 29 times a game on a Big10 schedule. I was starting to get upset he was still in the game into the fourth quarter. I was also really pissed that when Denard went out in the 3rd after dinging his hip that true freshman Devin Gardner came in. The game was still potentially in doubt and we’re running out a guy who’s never taken a college snap instead of the guy who started and played most of 12 games last year in Tate Forcier. Just how bad must this kid’s work ethic and attitude have been this past off-season for him not to have seen the field after being a reasonably effective freshman quarterback last year (given he played half of it injured). And, frankly, if UConn had shown any competence whatsoever in the passing game this turns into a shootout.

Now, to be fair. I think you have to give the Michigan D some credit for being disruptive. There were a lot times when the Dline put pressure and hits on the UConn QB (Frazer?). Also, for all the times UConn tossed an errant pass or dropped a ball, there was also a young player in Michigan’s secondary breaking up a pass or causing a fumble. If  you’re going to point out a dropped third down pass in the first quarter that would’ve given UConn a first and goal, you also have to point out their second quarter fluke passing conversion on third down that did lead to a late touchdown. The game could’ve just as easily been 30-3. Good teams with experienced quarterbacks are going to shred that secondary this year. No question. I’m just saying it wasn’t all a fluke in M’s favor.

Offensively, I really think those guys are for real this year. Yes, Michigan leaned too heavily on Dilithium Robinson racking up a single-game QB rushing record 195 yards, but the man was also something like 19-22 passing on Saturday. That’s absurd even if it’s a low per pass average. Every time he threw the ball it was at an open receiver or put in place on the numbers. There were no flukes. If it turns out this guy can be an effective passer on passes over 10 yards, which he was on multiple occasions yesterday, what are you going to do as an opposing defense? You can’t stop the conventional running game (which, granted, ended up underwhelming a bit after a good start), the passing game, and the Shoelace. Also overlooked yesterday is the offensive line, which is now experienced and has Molk back. They were was superb against UConn. Barring injury, Michigan is going to score points this season.

So, belated prediction time, now that I’ve had a chance to see this team play for real. You’re gonna say I’m a homer and that I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. Maybe I am. But I think *if* you see this team win at Notre Dame next weekend you’re going to see them get off to a 6-0 start (UConn, at ND, Mass, Bowling Green, at Indiana, Michigan State). I’m probably underselling MSU, but let’s be honest, that team exists to disappoint its fans. After that, I think they win two of the remaining mid-season games (Iowa, at Penn St., Illinois, Purdue) before dropping their last home game in Wisconsin and, of course, getting beat in Columbus. That would be an 8-win season that all but ensures Rodriguez is back next year.

The big question in that is whether or not the defense improves as the freshmen in the secondary gain experience. If they do, Michigan will get tougher to beat over the course of the year. If it turns out other teams get better at exploiting them, then it gets dicey. ND and MSU could easily end up as losses and that could prove disastrous.

Is the ship finally about to be righted? Dare to dream.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is Michigan Back?

I must say that I am happy for a little college football sunshine in Todd's life. The man needs it.

Michigan played its best game in years yesterday, with a QB that runs the West Virginian's offense to the letter. What an amazing game by Robinson.

I have thus revised my prediction from a 5-7 season for UM to 7-5. I have no idea if 7-5 saves the man's job, but I do see 7 wins on that schedule. (UCONN, ND, UMASS, IU, BGU, Illinois, Purdue)

I think with Tater Tot playing UM may very well lose that game vs UCONN, and I think they beat ND Saturday, I really do. And hope they do.

The issue?

Robinson is going to get killed, eventually. I hate offenses like this because physiology tells you that if a kid takes THAT many shots something is going to eventually give. He got nicked up yesterday and as the season rolls on that's only going to get worse -- and *everything* hinges on this guy for Michigan to succeed. Even if he's not "injured" will this be the same guy in week 7 as in week 1? The grind of the Big10 is brutal, and Robinson doesn't have Slaton/Devine to take the pressure off. And the defenses in the Big10 are better than what WVU faced in the Big East.

I still think that defense sucks. UCONN failed to take advantage of plays that better teams will not miss out on -- UM matches up extremely well with a team like that. UM started 4-0 last year, too, so before you start punching Rose Bowl tickets I would advise some caution. But I am a firm believer that the Big10 is better when Michigan and OSU are both elite level teams, so congrats to UM for getting out of the gate.

A question: Was RichRod playing cat and mouse by not declaring Robinson the starter earlier? Or is the guy that poor of an evaluator? What took so long to give this kid the keys?

Friday, September 3, 2010

More Elemental

If you have been following/playing this one, you need to read this.

Reason #876 ESPN Sucks

College football kicked off last night which means all is yet again right with the world.

What was the story last night?

Let's play Pick the Website that has this as the lead :

1. "Looking for the first upset of the season? Look no further. Jordan Wynn throws for three TDs as Utah beats No. 15 Pittsburgh 27-24 in OT."

2. "Immediate Impact: Utah Edges #15 Pitt"

3. " Buckeyes, Canes ready for each other - The start of college football is here at last, but it doesn't provide much of a test for Ohio State or Miami. That challenge comes next week when they face each other."

4. "Off And Running USC opened a new era by hanging 49 on Hawaii"

These headlines are taken from SI.com, The Sporting News, CBS Sports line, and ESPN.

Which one is from ESpin?

If you chose 4, you realize how embarrassing ESPN is to the sports world.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Elemental

Troy's take was posted yesterday.

It's such an odd game -- and I agree with Troy's opinion pretty much right down the line. It was released way too soon, has incomplete and undocumented features and an AI that simply doesn't put up much of a fight.

This genre is in my wheelhouse, and I'm shelving it until most likely this winter, when Stardock manages to finish what they started.

What I REALLY want to talk about is NHL 11.

But I can't.

But I really want to.

I love this game.

Monday, August 30, 2010

JTS Episode 33

It's a very special Jumping the Shark this week as we get into why we play what we play. This is what happens when we can't get guests or come up with interesting topics. Navel gazing! Seriously though, I quite liked this episode as it gave me an opportunity to see where my cohorts are coming from. Knowing how Bill got into sports games makes his opinions on them much more understandable rather than the incoherent rage it usually sounds like. Kidding!

Here's the show should you want to get it.
  • Mafia 2 is very, very disappointing. I'm coming up on a bit of a lull of sorts and this game looked perfect to fit the bill however I have no desire to spend most of my time driving. That is when I'm not dealing with shitty checkpoints. The checkpoint save system needs to die screaming in a fire as a warning to any that would come after it. I still have the demo on my 360 and I still want to play it to see the good parts but that's pretty much all I'll do. I wonder if Danielle's comments about having a shortened time to put in actual gameplay are at all on the money. Only 2K knows for sure. Here's Bill's final review. It ended up being one of his better ones. I give the man shit but I forget how well he can make those words dance.
  • Elemental sounds really, really interesting but I'm sure I have neither the brain power nor the computing power to handle it. As I get older, I fear more games are going to fall into that category however for the former reason, not the latter.
  • I wonder if Gold's Gym had a lot of input into the game with their name on it. Having a dance workout game that involves bull fighting and kangaroo boxing sounds like something that didn't get an OK from corporate until it was too late. They should team up with Cabela's for the next game and have you jogging away from crazed grizzlies as you try to line up a shot on a caribou. You're welcome Gold's Gym.
  • I played some Scott Pilgrim with friends at lunch today and man, that game is hella chaotic with a bunch of people. I think I died more with teammates than by myself. It certainly is useful to have them give you all of their money towards Scott's rental fee, but there is a lot of friendly fire going on which can make things difficult. Still though, I'd much rather play it with other people than alone, however without support for Live co-op, once the review is up I won't be doing either. If I don't get the ending where Scott and Ramona live happily ever after I can only hope her next suitor doesn't have to go through the same bullshit for her affections.
  • And Yet It Moves is a very enjoyable game if you like kooky puzzle games.
  • Knowing the kinds of games Danielle prefers, I totally understand the whole adventure angle. Mowing down waves of soldiers or terrorists may be good for escapism or venting some anger but it's not very adventurous. Not in the same way as something like Mass Effect or Super Mario Galaxy. My tastes tend to run the same as Danielle's however I do like the occasional foray into the more realistic for things like GTA IV or Red Dead Redemption. I am defining realism very loosely here but you get the idea.
  • Those Ultima games sound badass. If I grew up playing those and then played Fallout 3, I'd be pretty pissed too. There's something to be said for going back to the older style of video game story telling where you had to have big ideas to make up for the limitations in your ability to tell the story. People are so enamored with graphics nowadays you can get away with horrible writing like "ten shitloads" and not think twice about it as long as the character delivering the line follows it up with chainsawing someone's nuts off.
  • I have no idea if Locust have nuts. Given that the Beserkers are the females, I hope for the sake of the male Locust that they do not. On second thought, I don't even want to go there.
  • I think it's funny that Bill was, as a young lad, so eager to play board games with his dad and I can't get my kid to focus long enough to play Chutes and Ladders. Then again that's not that funny. Chutes and Ladders is a horrible, horrible game. A blighted hellscape with no ending. No wonder my kids hate it. Seriously though, my son isn't big on rules, which are helpful for games, so board gaming isn't his thing. I'm considering starting him on the new streamlined 4E D&D however I'm not sure how well that would play with two people. At least with that game I can change up the rules to match his capricious whims.
  • I realized after the show that I got the name of the game in my story wrong. It was Trauma Center: Under the Knife. Trauma Team is the sequel for the Wii that came out recently. I'm sure the game isn't as bad as I'm making it out to be but, at the same time, were I to play it now I'd probably flash back to long Russian nights and Coca-Cola that tastes like pepper. Better to just leave it alone.
  • In truth, my love of Zelda has nothing to do with my son and instead has to do with the ability to hook up your GBA SP and go treasure hunting with Tingle. Oh Tingle, what a colossal freak you are.
  • I gave Todd hell in the outtakes, but it does come from a loving place. Todd and I occupy the parts of the show that involve the bulk of the technical work (with Todd doing the bulk of that bulk) yet we don't have the listener draw of Bill or Danielle. I know that I've enjoyed the camaraderie that has come with it and I express it by giving him shit and lots of it. Sometimes that expresses itself by threatening to put a Nerf dart through his skull but it's a Nerf dart of love tipped with friendship, or something like that. Plus, what you don't hear are the litany of "sex with your mom" jokes he throws my way so don't get too teary eyed over my abuse of poor Todd. The man is a deviant and, from what he tells me, possibly my step-father.
So that's it for this week. I think we're down a member next week as Danielle is road tripping but at the same time, we're recording early so maybe she'll be there. We should have Troy Goodfellow on regardless which is always a hoot. Troy is hella smart and very sarcastic which makes for good conversation. As long as there's beer, I'm happy and I aim to make myself very, very happy. As happy as Todd is with my mom.

Mafia II Sleeps with the Fishes

So, I didn't like Mafia II.

The other big release I am messing with is Elemental, a game which we will have a review for tomorrow. Troy's review is very fair, as you'd expect from him. A very frustrating game -- I think there's a great strategy game buried underneath the obtuse UI and the weird AI and the flavorless world. But like many Stardock games it will need another few months of cooking time.

I'll talk more tomorrow after I post the review.

NHL 11 is in the house (it came a day after NHL Slapshot.) Both games we cannot talk about due to embargo limits. But we will have reviews for both games on the 7th. I'm doing NHL 11 and, as noted earlier, Todd is handling Slapshot.

Only three live reviews for NHL 2K11 Wii even though it has been out for a week which leads me to believe 2K Sports was very stingy with their review copies. Looking at those scores, perhaps that is not a coincidence. I'm just sayin'.

Finally, the new JTS is live. It's a good show. In fact this is the "very special episode" where we talk about our past and have a big group hug at the end. I smell Emmy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Cook, The Scorer, His Team and Their Victory

Today we get our usual post-release game of Whirlyball. If you are unfamiliar with Whirlyball, allow me to blow your mind.

Imagine a basketball court, only take away the hoops the wooden floors and the highly skilled athletes. Replace the hoops with a plastic disc wired to a buzzer and situated behind a hole in the backboard. Replace the wooden floors with a metal floor. Finally, replace the highly skilled athletes with unskilled office workers. Oh, did I mention that everyone is in bumper cars?

Yeah that's right. Fucking bumper cars.

The point of Whirlyball is to score. To score you use one of those scoop on a handle things we all played with as kids and you then scoop up a softball sized whiffle ball and chuck it at the scoring panel. You do all of this while traversing the court in and making bone crushing hits with your bumper car.

It is quite possibly the greatest sport in the history of mankind.

In our office, the QA department, of which I am a member, has not lost one single, solitary outing of Whirlyball. Not one. We may have lost a game here and there, but when you tally up the final scores, every time we come out the victors. We are able to do this by recognizing one very important fact, a fact that is a bitter pill for many to swallow but is true nonetheless, namely that not everyone can score.

I am one of those "not everyones". I can not score to save my life. I can't play basketball and shooting in Whirlyball requires the same smooth wrist movements and ability to aim as needed in basketball. Being able to shoot a basketball while hauling ass in a bumper car helps too. What I can do, to make up for my lack of scoring, is everything else. I can get rebounds, take 'em on a breakaway and then pass them to our top scorer so he can make the points. I can knock someone upside the bumper car as they're about to shoot, thereby screwing up their shot and I can block the path of any one looking to do the same on our guys. In short, I am a Whirlyball position player.

It's a position I'm not only comfortable with but happy with. When I have to score I choke, pretty much every time. When I am providing support, no such choking occurs. The very same thing happens to me when playing most MP games so by now I'm used to it. If we're playing Team Slayer and I'm on your team, allow me to apologize in advance. If we're playing CTF and you need a driver, I'm your man. I can't play the Soldier or Leader class for shit in Transformers: WFC but I'm a decent scientist, flying in to deliver heals and buffs and then getting the fuck out of Dodge. I'm not good enough to handle all of the responsibility of winning, but I do well in support roles that help the team win.

In the end, it's not about glory, it's about winning. Let my coworker take the shot that I fed him. Shit, I'll feed him all day. Call me The Cook or Top Chef or Dude Who Works The Griddle At Waffle House. I don't give a shit. At the end of the match, if the number for our score is bigger than the number for Dev's score, then we all did our jobs and nothing else matters. A great man once said that he doesn't want to be The Guy, he wants to be the guy that The Guy depends on, or some similar nonsense. Ask Todd, I'm sure he can quote it exactly but the point is that by my age, you need to know if you're The Guy or the guy The Guy depends on and be that person to the best of your abilities. It may take some ego lowering to realize you're not The Guy any more, but once you figure that shit out, it ain't nothing but smooth passes and bomb ass bumper car hits from there on out.

To the bumper cars!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Games Games Games!

After a nice little break from playing stuff for review, and getting a MASSIVE case of Fallout 3 burnout (tune in to the podcast next week for that story) new games have arrived!

  • EA has sent NHL Slapshot for the Wii which I thought was incredibly cool at E3. Todd is doing that review. Embargo is 9/7 but I will check with EA to see if we (well, Todd) can blog about it beforehand.

  • I'm working on an NBA Elite Q&A, look for that soon.

  • 2K sent Mafia II a couple of days ago, which I am reviewing and will post some thoughts on that soon.

  • Elemental is out from Stardock, a game which Todd and I have been clamoring for since, well, a long time now. After a VERY rough launch I have warmed to the game quite a bit. It's very brown. Anyway lots to talk about over the next few days to stay tuned.

  • Oh, 2K did not send NHL 2K11 for the Wii. Shrug. Not sure why.

Monday, August 23, 2010

JTS Episode 32

It's Monday. Woohoo! It's also the day my kids go back to school, which is even more of a woohoo! I work about ten minutes from home so now that my brood isn't hanging around the place, I can go home at lunch and play video games. Sure, I could have done that before but then I'd have to let them watch and Red Dead Redemption ain't exactly the game you want the second graders gathered around. Plus, were I to come home during the summer to play games I'd have to answer all sorts of uncomfortable questions from my wife about why I'm able to come home for video gaming but not to take the kids out to lunch and off of her hands. Explaining that one is a thing that I want to do while the other is not would not go over well so best to just avoid the whole thing and place a three month moratorium on lunch time gaming. Those questions could easily come up now, but if I'm lucky I can get down into the basement and into the Cone of Silence before they arise.

This week's episode was not planned as a guest episode but Bill had some last minute obligations that had to be met and as a result Mitch took his place. Mitch is always a good host because he's easy to talk to and, more importantly, he plays more games than all of us combined given that he writes for pretty much every outlet imaginable. The dude writes for Best Buy's games magazine for Christ's sake. Still, even with Mitch in the chair, Bill's presence was missed as is the case any time one of the regulars can't make it.

Here's a link to the show before we get on with the bullets.
  • Listening to the show I wish I had realized how completely dense I sounded during the Battlefield conversation. I don't know why I didn't get the fact that you had to blow up the control points, but I didn't. I thought that you blew them up so that other people couldn't capture them so that you then lost slower. Seriously, this was my thinking. In retrospect, that's just stupid and I should have kept my mouth shut. Now that I think of it, that describes about 90% of my interactions with other people.
  • The decision to take online co-op out of Lara Croft and the Light Whatever is seriously, one of the dumbest decisions to come down the gaming pike in some time. Yeah sure, it's a great co-op couch game, but seriously, who has people over to play co-op games? I'm 38 fucking years old. I'm not in third grade. I'm not going to ask my friends to come over and play Lara Croft. I don't care how great your game is, it's not going to happen. It's entirely possible I'm not the audience for this game, and I get that, but still, taking out online co-op was just plain stupid and in this hobby, asking people to wait a month for something like that is like asking them to wait a decade. By the time the co-op feature is available, people won't give a shit any more. I hope I'm wrong as it sounds like a good game and I'd like to see the people who made it rewarded for their efforts.
  • To Todd's Starcraft point, pretty much every game that has a multiplayer component does a horrible job at preparing you for said component when you play the single player, but in the case of Starcraft where things like build order and tech tree management is so important, along with a highly developed twitch response, I can see it being even worse. In shooters, the single player campaign is going to have you learning the basic mechanics of MP, namely shooting at dudes who are also shooting at you. Crank up the difficulty and you have to do a better job at shooting them, even if it's not as good as a job as you'd have to do in MP. In RTS's, if you have a mission that emphasizes the use of a particular unit, getting really good at that unit won't mean jack shit if Homeboy on the other end has a strategy that makes your unit useless. I'm just sayin'. Of course, having a useless unit is something Todd should be familiar with by now, so I don't know what he's complaining about. Zing!
  • I'm not kidding about the bears in RDR. They are frequent occurances, presumably because, unlike many of the other animals in the game, they only show up in one geographical area and that area is a very small subsection of the map. As a result, they pop up all of the time. In fact, elk and big horn sheep also show up there and unlike every other hunting challenge in the game which will make your current target of choice impossible to find even if you were ankle deep in said creature not seconds before they became your target, I had no problems getting enough elk meat and sheep horns. I also killed over 20 bears while doing so and this was in the space of about 45 minutes. This is not an exaggeration.
  • I wish Bill had been on the show to agree with me about Rock Band 3. I feel like we disagree a lot, or can't speak to each other's opinion so this may have been our only chance. I'm sure the game will be great, I just don't like the idea of starting all over. Plus, the achievements are not appetizing at all. I usually don't take achievements into account for rhythm games as I suck on pretty much every instrument, but with the Pro mode and the keyboard, the amount of points I can get is even further reduced. Yes I'm a slave to my score, and no I don't have a problem with it. I think Harmonix will do just fine without my 60 bucks.
  • As for Halo: Reach, I've been killing the Covenant for like ten years now. It'd be nice to shoot something new.
  • Hydrophobia looks interesting, even if the trailer is suprisingly bereft of water power action. See for yourself.
  • I'm with Mitch on Fable 3. I played both of the previous games and got all of the points in the second one, but I could give a shit about making my kingdom's subjects happy. Plus, the game simply will not deliver on what it promises and will instead shoehorn some shitty design invention into everything and take away from the interesting stuff as a result. Not to mention that they have some seriously shitty character design. I'd rather not spend another 40 hours with a female character that looks like the offspring of Frankenstein and an East German swimmer.
  • Danielle was not kidding about her room at E3. It was disgusting. It smelled like you were living in someone's armpit. And that was after Danielle watched the cleaning staff clean the place.
  • I still don't understand playing updated versions of old games for the sake of nostalgia, much along paying for the experience. As Todd has said before, I hate old games and this is pretty much true. Either do something really new with it or don't even bother. Hell, I don't even want to play updated versions old games I haven't played so much do I hate old games. Die old games, die!
That's it for this week. Hopefully we'll have everyone at the table for the next show as Danielle may be out for two weeks at the beginning of September so it would be nice if we could have full attendance before her departure. I may have to agree with Bill on whatever he says to make up for him missing the Rock Band 3 discussion. I fear this may lead to some troublesome revelations.

Madden Update News

Ian Cummings has updated the Madden blog with some tidbits.

The money quote:

Moving forward, we are working on addressing some of the most common feedback in upcoming title updates. You all already know that we are planning on releasing an update to enable old-school pre-play controls right around the start of the NFL season, which also will include the brand new Madden Moments LIVE feature where you can replay the top games from each week. In that update we will also have numerous art, gameplay, and stability fixes included as well. Along with that, we have also planned a second update to come towards the end of September. Below is a list of the top priority issues we seem to be hearing the most about that we are looking at:

- Fixing a bug to allow friend invites to ranked games

- Generally making pass defense more effective

- Reducing number of broken tackles

- Fixing user blitz exploit(s)

- Tuning injuries

- Tuning CPU & GameFlow play-calling logic

- Improving play action blocking

- Improving kick return blocking

- Improving online connectivity issues with kick meter lag, media streaming, etc.

- Random stability improvements

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Elemental

Life isn't just about first downs and the Tampa 2.

Take a read of this 5 page mega Q&A with Stardock CEO Brad Wardell as he talks about the upcoming 4X strategy game, Elemental : War of Magic.

Can't wait to play this next week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

JTS Episode 31

It's Monday, which means a new JTS. Whee. It also means that I blather on about said new JTS. Double Whee. Fuck it, let's go Triple Whee. I'm feeling saucy.

Whee whee whee, all the way home.

This week saw the gang all back together which was nice. When you do the show every week it becomes easy to forget what each person brings to the table but the minute they're not there you instantly remember. Like if Todd's not there we don't get any 80's movie jokes, if Danielle's not there we don't get to hear about Mass Effect, if Bill's not there we don't get any anger management issues and if I'm not there Bill has no one to get pissed off at, a point we'll get to in a minute.

This was also the first week that our podcast hosting provider Libsyn migrated us to their fancy new publishing platform. I had read horror stories of the migration process so I wasn't looking forward to it but so far things have all gone smoothly. They did change the URL of all of our past shows but insist that old links will work. I'm too lazy to go back and check but if the download numbers drop off this week then I'll know that they're all filthy liars.

You should probably go and get the show before I start breaking it down. Go ahead. I'll wait.
  • Jeff McAllister was our guest this week and Jeff is one of the most laid back dudes you'll ever talk to, as you can tell from the show. Part of his speaking style came from being nervous that Bill was going to yell at him. Wonder where he'd get that from. Jeff has wanted to be on the show since day one and we've been lazy in asking him to come aboard so I'm glad he finally got to be on. I liked the topic too, what with BioShock Infinite being announced that day.
  • Speaking of BioShock Infinite, I think the response of the gaming press bugged me more than the announcement of a game that's two years out. The latter is something that happens all of the time so it's not a big deal but the former seemed to be a whole bunch of incredulity that people would dare be disappointed that Irrational is going back to the BioShock well. I get it, it's a new city and the theme is different but it's still a dude with a gun and powers. Does that mean the game won't be great? Not at all but for folks hoping to see a new IP from Irrational there are reasons to be disappointed. The "trust us, we've seen it" twittering that came afterwards bugged me even more.
  • Monday Night Combat sounds interesting, but so do a lot of things that I end up not playing so that I can instead spend 45 minutes looking for bobcats to kill only to have one spawn on the roof in a Mexican hideout. True story.
  • Speaking of Red Dead Redemption, hoo boy, we sure lit a fire under Bill on this one. I think my new rule is going to be to not play games that Bill is playing, or at least find out if he had issues with the game before I play it. If I'm not playing a game for critical purposes I tend to let a lot of things go, or at the very least just say "yeah, fuck this" and quit so my anger level doesn't really get too high (Dragon Age DLC not included as you'll hear in the outtakes). Can I be a better critic if I look at all games that I play critically? No doubt, but that seems so much less fun for some reason. Bill and I chatted about this one day and he likes seeing everything critically to the point where things like Bonnie jump out whereas I tend to want to just go with the flow and have a good time. For recreational games both approaches work, however when the time comes to be critical I have to flip a switch whereas he doesn't and I can't say that the switch always gets flipped as soon as it should. In reality, I fucking hate gaucho pants so I'm glad the bitch left.
  • I also hate capri pants but that's a talk for another time.
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin is a hoot, if only because you get a score at the end of the day and can then hoard that over your kid for the rest of the vacation. Nothing like a seven year old driven to tears because only the high scorer gets lemonade. Suck it Timmy!
  • My kid is not named Timmy, his name is Ben and I did not withhold lemonade. I'm just putting that out there.
  • The Snoop Dogg game I was talking about was called Fear and Respect. Here's a link to a copy of the mag with Snoop on its cover. It's funny, but I remember a time when the review of a game would be on the cover, not a preview, but I also remember Zips and that makes me incredibly old. I think Jeff and Todd's point about coming up, saying "hey, we're making this game" and then leaving is an excellent one. Two years out, what else do you need to say? I do wonder if people cheered at the end of the Irrational reveal. I bet they did. Boo, game journalists! Boo!
  • Here's a fun fact: Canadian Smarties are actually UK Smarties which are like M&M's and are not available in the US. US Smarties are small, sugary tablets wrapped in cellophane. With this knowledge, Jeff's comment makes more sense because I was originally thinking that Smarties are kind of lame and who gets that excited about Smarties, but if they're like M&M's in Canada I completely understand. Neither manifestation of Smarties explains why Bill doesn't know what they are. That level of candy ignorance is unacceptable in modern society.
So that's another episode in the can. I have no idea what next week's episode is about, but I should probably get on that as I've been pushing for a schedule of topics rather than our current method of doing jack shit until Thursday morning and then scrambling around for something relevant. This is all part of my plan to impose greater levels of control over the show until people get irritated and leave, allowing me to hog the spotlight. Hopefully Todd will still edit the show when that happens. It's not like he has anything else to do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

NCAA 11 Tuning pack #2

The new tuning pack is out for NCAA 11.

The fixes are many.

This one caught my eye:
  • Tuned Kick Power and Kick Accuracy of progression of kickers and punters in Dynasty Mode
Hot damn! That was my #1 issue with Dynasty mode!

The problem? It's still 100% broken. This tuning pack does ZIP to address the real issue.

OK, let me try and make this as clear as I POSSIBLY can:

The issue is not just "progression" -- the issue is:

THE FRESHMEN KICKERS SUCK!

THEY COME IN RATED AS LOW AS 45 OVR WITH THE ABILITY OF MY 9 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER! THEY LITERALLY CANNOT MAKE EXTRA POINTS!

Sigh.

In 2012 USF still signs 1 kicker who is rated a 46 overall and can't make an extra point. Until THIS gets fixed Dynasty Mode, for me and a lot of others, remains useless. Utterly useless.

The Patch notes end with this:

This update is for you Mr. Passionate-NCAA-Football-Gamer.

-Russ Kiniry
Designer NCAA Football

*Insert forehead into open palm*

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Requiem For A Horse

Dapple, my horse in Red Dead Redemption died the other day.

I was doing the Tumbleweed gang hideout and I don't remember him getting in the line of fire, but when I came out of the main house after killing the bandits in the basement, I started looting some corpses and there he was, lying on the ground. Well, technically he was lying in the ground so it's possible a clipping error killed him but regardless my horse, my best friend in all of New Austin, was dead. It bothered me that my trusty steed was dead however I had been running on the autosave for a couple of hours by then so reloading to bring Dapple back would have meant losing a bunch of work. So while I loved Dapple, I didn't love him enough to reload and he stayed in that stable in the sky.

We had a lot of good times, Dapple and I. There was that time we rode all over hell to find flowers and he got killed by a cougar. Then there was that time we were hunting boar and I got killed by a boar. Then there was that time I got killed by a boar and he got killed by a cougar. There may have been a wolf there too. Seriously, it was like the ending of Reservoir Dogs, only with wildlife. Then there was that time he helped me cheat at cards. Ok, so that didn't happen but in my mind I see him sticking his head through the saloon window and then pawing the ground to tell me what kind of cards the other guy has. That game would be awesome. I would pay big money for that game.

Whenever a game offers an animal companion of great significance I find myself drawn to it over whatever human companions exist in the game. I loved my dog Homer in Fable 2 but never raised a family. When the time came to pick your choice at the end, I chose the option that brought my dog back. In fact, had there been a fourth choice where the world is burned to a cinder and you and your dog fly off into space on a rocket ship I would have taken that one. In Fallout 3, my only companion was Dogmeat and any time he died, I reloaded. Dogmeat dies a lot in that game so I reloaded a lot. During all of Broken Steel I sent him away so often was he dieing. Once I was done with that game for good I made sure to first go get Dogmeat and then save the game in my house in Megaton because I didn't want to think that Dogmeat was eternally waiting at the vault for me to come back. I took the Mabari warhound in Dragon Age in my party from the minute he could join and he never left. I also named him Dogmeat. Dogmeat, son of Dogmeat if you want to be specific.

So yeah, I tend to get a little attached to my animals.

Red Dead Redemption does a lot of things right and it does a lot of things not so right. I think the shopkeeper in Armadillo should work on beefing up security given as many times as he gets robbed. On a side note, I always feel bad buying from him what with him constantly badmouthing Jews. One time I didn't help him when he was robbed and he got killed. I have to admit, I didn't feel all that bad. Herbert Moon is a very unpleasant man. What the game does right, at least for me, is give you a connection to your horse. Granted, not enough of a connection to pass up several hours of work because your horse tried to take out some gang members but enough to where I care about the well being of my horse and actively try to keep it alive.

That is until it's time to kill two cougars with your knife. By the time I was done with that I was knee deep in horse flesh. I chalk it up to still grieving and being afraid of keeping a new horse in fear that they wouldn't compare to Dapple. In reality, getting knocked off of your horse by a cougar is easier to recover from than being knocked down by a cougar. I don't understand it either, but having had both done to me at least half a dozen times by now, I'm somewhat of an expert in cougar attacks. So the new horses became cougar bait, giving me enough time to recover, roll up on the cougar and stab them. The downside of this is that when the cougar then tries to run away you can't chase it very well due to the inherent difficulties found in riding a dead horse. You can however lasso the cougar and then stab it again which, I'm sure, is entirely realistic. If there was a way to break a cougar and then ride it around after lassoing it, Red Dead Redemption would be the greatest media property of all time. That and card cheating horses. Take notes Rockstar. I smell a sequel.

Once I get the achievement for not switching horses at a hitching post, provided I can get it by never having hitched my various new horses, I'll head out to the plains and break a new horse that I will then bond with like I did with Dapple. I'll honor them like I honored Dapple. I'll protect them like I protected Dapple. I'll love them like I loved Dapple.

Right up until the bear hunting starts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Proud Papa Moment

So, Saturday.

For the past several months Ashley has been going to 4H. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of 4H -- here ya go.

Ashley's group works with dogs with the culminating event being the Hartford Fair Dog Show where the kids do their best Westminster impersonation.

Ashley has been working with our 5 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Skipper. We think he's around 5. We got him at a local shelter a couple of years ago. Being that I work from home Skip attached to me immediately and Ashley was frustrated because he became more my dog than hers.

This was the whole point of doing Dog 4H. Ashley wanted to try to bond more with Skipper.

So we'd take the 20 minute drive every week to dog practice where Ashley would work with Skipper, learning how to show him and how to work with him in a formal "dog show" setting.

It wasn't easy and required daily hand feedings by Ashley so as to train Skipper to both listen to commands and to trust her. Months or practice.

We had been in a few "practice" shows over the summer, getting ready for the fair and Ashley did ok. There is the dog show part and an oral exam part where she has to answer questions from the dog handbook. She's a really smart kid but tends to get worked up when taking oral tests.

So anyway Saturday was Fair Day and the dog show lasts from 9 til around 4 so we were there literally all day. Ashley and Skipper performed so amazingly well Saturday that both Mary and I were stunned. So when Ashley was awarded the 1st place trophy and the blue ribbon for winning her Jr division it was one of those surreal parenting moments -- much like what a father feels watching his son score the winning goal or hitting the late inning homer.

I was filled with pride after she won because she had worked so hard on this for months on end.
I was shocked she placed first not because of the ring performance (she and Skipper really nailed that) but she also did great on the exam portion. Even Ashley couldn't believe it.

I think the best part of all, though, was when Ashley went over to her friend who also showed her dog and that dog flipped out due to being in close proximity to cows that were being shown the next day and stabled nearby.

Her dog simply would not perform. This little girl was devastated. Ashley walked over, after giving me the trophy and ribbon to hold, and basically consoled her for the next 15 minutes. It's just the kind of kid she is.

As parents we all have moments with our kids that we know will stick. Ask me what Ashley did over this summer or last summer and it's all a blur. Ask me 10 years from now what Ashley did over the summer of 2010 and I will immediately tell you: That's the summer she and Skipper bonded and won at the fair.

It was definitely one of those moments.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Madden 11 Review

It's live and ready for perusal.

Tomorrow I plan on sharing with you the totally awesome Saturday that I had.

One of the best days of my entire life.

But that's tomorrow.

JTS Episode 30

So a while back I asked Bill why he doesn't post about the show any more and he "harrumphed" and said something about people here not caring about the show. So then I asked Todd why he didn't post about it and he said that Bill doesn't so he doesn't.

Do you see what I have to work with here?

Episode 30 is now live for those that do care. The full crew was still on hiatus with Danielle out sailing the Caribbean seas however we had Tom Chick and Michael Barnes sitting in so that we could talk about Metro 2033 and ask if it was better than Half-Life 2. We never got to a definitive answer on that topic which is my fault as host but you can add that to the list of failings as host. It's a long one. Here are some points about the show to peruse as/before you listen.
  • Along with being our 30th show, this marks six months in the podcasting business for us. When we first started this, had you told us we'd be doing it six months from now I think we all would have laughed at you. Then you would have gone to prom any way and ended up killing us in a blood soaked, telekinetic nightmare.
  • We had to go with the Skype feed as some of the individual audio tracks were messed up. I give Todd shit all of the time but his insistence on audio redundancy has saved this show on more than one occasion. The day we lose an entire show is coming and when it happens we'll have Todd act out Dr. Horrible in its entirety in the show's place. We all know he can do it.
  • Michael Barnes is, hands down, my favorite guest on the show because the man is an absolute force of nature once he gets started. On the one hand, it's like trying to corral a tornado but when you see someone so passionate about games, it's hard not to get caught up in it. I want to make a ringtone of him saying "Gordon Freeman!". It would probably also act well as one of those super-sonic mole deterrents.
  • I'm glad to have Tom back on the show because Tom is one of those people who makes you better at your job simply by talking to him. It's very easy in this job to get caught up in the "fun" and think a game is great because it's fun, and fun certainly has it's place, but Tom makes you think about why you like the things you say you like. I remember walking back from E3 with him and talking about Epic Mickey and when I told him what it was about, his response was "So it's just a platformer?" He wasn't dismissive, just probing to get me to think about what it was about the game that I liked. We don't have enough people like that in this business, and I include myself in that deficiency.
  • Speaking of Tom, I'm so glad Todd asked Tom his thoughts on being a contrarian. It is easy to remember the high profile dislikes of any reviewer and come to the incorrect assumption that they don't like anything. I know I've done it as I'm sure we all have. Getting Tom's take on things was great.
  • Since recording the show I have played Bonnie's last mission in Red Dead Redemption and I still don't get it. I guess Miss McaFarlane just didn't resonate as deeply with me as she did with others. Now that guy who likes to sleep with horses? We need more of him.
  • As I mentioned before, I we didn't come to a consensus on which game was better, Metro 2033 or Half-Life 2 but that wasn't really the point. It's like when the news tells you that there's an item in your house that can kill you and they mean some obscure food item that causes cancer and not the rack of unsecured shotguns. In talking about Half-Life 2 though I remembered how much I ended up not liking that game by the end of it. The two episodes afterwards didn't help much as playing Strider tag was an exercise in supreme frustration. I wish I had liked Metro 2033 more so that I could see these awesome set pieces and this amazing ending. I guess Metro was my Alan Wake in that I'd like to see the story but I don't want to have to play it to do so. For the record, I was able to make that distinction without calling Metro a "piece of shit." Not that anyone on the show did that with Alan Wake. No sir.
I think that's enough blathering for one episode. I don't want to wear out my welcome on the first day. If you like the show, don't forget that you can subscribe to it as well as rate and review it in iTunes. All hail the Apple hegemony. I have no idea what episode 31 will be about. Open world gaming maybe? It's only Monday. Way too early to be thinking about what Thursday's show will be about. Check back on Thursday, say thirty minutes before recording.

Howdy

Hello all.

This is Brandon. I'm going to be writing here with Bill and Todd however right now I'm not sure how my name will appear in the opening credits. "Special guest", "featuring" or and "Brandon as Brandon." The agents are working out all of the money details. You know how it is.

So, yeah, a little about me. I work for Bill at GameShark, I have now shared two hotel rooms with Todd and we're all on the same podcast together. I'm married, have two kids, two dogs and live north of Atlanta in a house that is still bereft of ponies. It wounds me to this day. I play a lot of games, probably more than Todd and Bill combined, however with the exception of Tiger Woods for the Wii, not a one of them is a sports game. I don't know anything about college football and, to be quite honest, don't understand the allure one bit. Then again, my school was better known for hockey however I don't care about that either. I am a Redskins fan thereby completing the "Shitty NFL Trifecta" that Todd and Bill had previously 2/3 full.

I'm glad to be here and am honored that Bill and Todd would allow me to be a part of this site. I had my own site for some time but it eventually fell apart due to lack of use and I look forward to bringing the same slacker mentality here. Seriously though, maintaining a site on a daily basis is a tough thing, especially when you're only doing it for "fun". Working with these two clowns will allow me to flex my writing muscle yet not feel like I'm letting anyone down by not posting daily. Plus, this way I get to make fun of Todd publicly.

That Todd, what a gullamaroon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Browns 38 49ers 21

Another enjoyable game this morning as I got a much needed win against San Fran. If you have been following some of my games of late I have been in a huge offensive slumber which I awoke from today on the coast.

The stats

Grasu (49er rookie QB, with middling ratings) 15/36 242 1 INT (43 of those yards on a last dribe hail mary)

McCoy 13/24 174 1 TD. McCoy's best game in many a week.

Gore: 20 carries 155 yards. Could not stop him. He broke off a 79 yard run in the 2nd quarter.

Harrison: 20 for 162. Finally got Jerome back on track. First play of the game he went for a 59 yard sweep.

The games are starting to show a lot of variety which I love. This was the complete opposite of the Titans game I played the other night. A total 180.

After 10 games (I am 7-3 right now, in a 3 way tie with Pitt and Baltimore) here are some AFC team rankings for the Browns. Remember this is the 2011 season, not this year.

  • 1st in Team Rushing. Again, don't chuckle at this. The left side of my OLine is brilliant, Thomas, Steinbeck and Mack are all 90+ rated linemen and I run behind them constantly and Harrison only lacks tackle breaking and awareness but with me controlling him he's a top 5 back with 90+ ratings in speed, acceleration, etc. The little dude is hard to catch.

  • 9th in the AFC in passing. McCoy is having an OK year. I have been sacked 22 times in 10 games, btw.

  • LAST in Pass Defense. Yeah...sorta suck but we are getting better as I am learning what defenses we are better at running. I'm also doing a lot of zone in the middle of the field because the AI loves those over the middle plays.

  • 8th in rush defense. I love not being #1 here. The AI can run the ball in this game. No doubt. And my only real beast on the Dline is Rogers. Everyone else is a 70 something rated player.

  • However we are 2nd in sacks. I tend to blitz a lot...which also contributes to me being last in pass defense...

  • Finally a huge reason I am 7-3? +10 in turnovers. We have recovered 14 fumbles in 10 games.



    Anyway, I don't know if I will be able to get the review posted on Tuesday because I still have some online testing to do. But as for solo play I am reaching the conclusion that while I still wish the feature set was a bit different the on the field play is growing on me at a pretty fast clip.