Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Major Scare

For OSU fans today was potentially catastrophic.

When Beanie Wells fell to the ground in the 3rd quarter grabbing his foot and writhing in obvious pain -- my heart sank. First, because Beanie is a hell of a kid who everyone loves being around and he was so thrilled that he was finally 100% -- which he never was last season. Second, because without him, OSU's chance of playing in the BCS title game is slim. Possible, but slim.

Turns out Wells has a minor injury that might sideline him next week but he should be ready to go by USC.

I've been watching football for a lot of years but how many times have you seen a player helped off the field, carted into the locker with a towel covering his face, and then watch him return walking on his own power (in a walking boot) and chatting with his teammates'? It was surreal.

By all accounts Wells is going to be OK which is a huge relief to him I'm sure, as well as every Buckeye fan.

Oh, yeah, and That Terrelle Pryor kid -- he's got a shade of talent.

As for Michigan, sorry Todd. It's gonna be a long year bud.

Friday, August 29, 2008

NFL Head Coach 09 review

Forgot to link this --

Everyone have a good holiday weekend.

Stardock's Gamer Bill of Rights

On Display at PAX:

The Gamer’s Bill of Rights from Stardock.

  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
  6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

That would be sorta cool, eh?

Michigan Football: A New Era Begins

With all the work/home nuttiness of the last month the fact that college football season is about to get under way has snuck up on me. I didn't realize until today that they kick off the season against Utah on Saturday. Figures that a keeper fantasy football league I'm in has their annual screw session and rookie/FA draft that afternoon. Thank goodness for DVRs. (A "screw session," if you're wondering, is when we try to steal players from a competitor's team by offering a better "salary" then they're currently getting. There's no actual fornication involved.)

With the first significant regime change at Michigan in 40 years, the program's under a great deal of scrutiny. There's a lot of doom and gloom from the ever-chirping (and rarely correct) talking heads on TV. I've long ago tuned these people out. Is this going to be a down year? Truthfully, I'm not sure what constitutes a down year when you've only beaten OSU once in the last however many years and have only won a couple of bowl games during that same stretch. I mean can it get much worse than The Horror of losing to Appalachian State? (Technically, yes, but that would require the kind of collapse that would qualify as unprecedented in Ann Arbor.)

Personally, I think we're still looking at an above .500 team that'll go to a Bowl Game. Beyond that, I'm not making any bets. The offense and defense are both in transition and Michigan's lost a lot of good players to the draft. (Sorry, Boren and Mallet, but nobody with half a brain gives two shits that you guys transferred.) So that doesn't bode well. On the other hand, Michigan's gameplans have been as predictable as they come for a long, long time and the fact that that's sure to change this year ought to make things a smidge tougher on the other teams.

The conditioning program at Michigan has also been reported to have been wildly inadequate, something born out with a lot of 4th quarter collapses over the years. There's been a lot said about the new strength and conditioning guy, Mike "Eeeek!" Barwis, but the notion of an inadequate S&C program isn't among them and the players who stayed are already converts of the Barwis gospel.

Given all that, I think Michigan's going to be capable of surprising people if they can somehow manage to execute all their new gameplans in a way that doesn't involve unloading both barrels of a shotgun directly at their feet. (Time will tell, I guess.)

In any case, I think Michigan football is going to be incredibly fun to watch this year just because we're going to see such a radically different product on the field.

I should note, though, that as much as I seem to be knocking Lloyd Carr and the past, that's not my intent. I'm a big fan of what Lloyd Carr has meant to Michigan. I think he brought *a lot* of incredibly valuable assets to the Michigan program over the years and a lot of memorable seasons. I know his national reputation is that of a curmudgeonly, grumpy son of a bitch, and some of that may be true, but there's a lot more to the guy than, for example, those times he was rude to a press contingent whose opinion couldn't have mattered less to him. That said, I'm hardly in the minority in thinking that the team he put on the field these last few years didn't live up to its potential and that the gameplanning left a lot to be desired. It was simply time to go, which is something I think he also understood and something for which I give him a lot of credit. As always, MGoBlog sums it all up best.

There is something to the sometimes annoying “Michigan Man” thing. There is a mindset, an attitude, some characteristics that are shared by enough people that they characterize a program and a fanbase. (The annoying part is when people pretend all these things are positive.) Carr was of this and in more than a decade came to define some of it. Kipling and Into Thin Air and The Long Walk were part of the fabric of the program.

Few outside of Michigan fandom understood this or anything about Carr. How could they? Opposing fans took the opportunity provided by Carr’s cantankerousness at press conferences and one inopportune photo after a loss against Oregon to label him classless. Neutrals just thought he was a crab, because they experienced him as a crab. A month after the Bo memorial service at which Carr spoke, I found myself in a conversation with Orson Swindle of EDSBS fame. At some point I forwarded the video (part one; part two) of Carr’s speech to him. The response: “It's enthralling, actually. Lloyd is downright eloquent.”

The surprise was evident.


I’m happy that the empire of the fallen has finished its long slide into the sea. I’m happy it’s been replaced with something young and vivacious and very likely successful. But on Saturday something that lived for forty years sees the last shovelful of dirt on its grave, and I wish it hadn’t come to this.

True that.

A Job Well Done

Here's the video of Obama's nomination acceptance speech. If you missed it (as opposed to if you avoided it), you owe it to yourself to listen to what the man has to say, regardless of whether or not you believe any of it.

I hope to have some time to write up some coherent thoughts tomorrow. For now I'll just say that... man, I don't know. He got up there with the bar already set astronomically high and he cleared it with room to spare.

On this night I'm particularly proud to be an Obama supporter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where's My Muse?

So there's been an obvious lack of posting from me of late. I wish I could say there's been a good reason for that. There's not. Yeah, work's been unbelievably busy, home life's been nutty, whine, whine, whine. The pathetic reality of things is that I just flat haven't been doing any of the things that I usually do to spark my inner muse (or my inner bitchy Lewis Black wannabe persona, depending on how you see my particular brand of ranting).

I haven't been to any movies. Haven't been watching a lot of TV or reading any books (aside from my day job stuff). And GenCon aside I haven't touched a game in about three weeks. So all that's as big a part of it as anything. This is also probably as long as I've gone without gaming since my kids were born. Fallout 3 will change that in a month or so. In the meantime, I guess I'm gonna have to find something to fill the void. (Not sure if I can justify paying out the extra scratch for Spore or not.) I've had Jade Empire (PC) sitting on my desk for a month or so now. Maybe I'll give that a shot if I have some time to kill. You can't go wrong with a Bioware game, right?

I was thinking about writing up a bunch of stuff about the Dem's convention, but I've missed a lot of the big speeches so far (Hillary Clinton, Biden, Schweitzer) and I guess I just don't see the point in agitating readers who lean more conservative than I do. I will say, though, that I was monumentally impressed with Michelle Obama on Monday night. I'd like to think the speech would take her off the table as an object for criticism and derision, but that's probably too much to hope for in this political climate.

Anyway, it's gonna be another crazy week next week, but after that I hope things start to calm down a bit so that I can get back to a more regular posting schedule. Besides, at some point somebody's gonna say or do something to monumentally piss me off and spark that inner muse.  ;)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Talking Head Coach

I'm going to do an interview with designer Josh Looman about his experience being a part of the HC team, what the team learned, what they wish they had done different, etc.

If you have any questions for Josh -- let me know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Warriors of God

If you even have a passing interest in reading this here blog you know that while both Todd and I love videogames (well, really good ones, anyway) board games are a pretty big deal, too.

The reason why I love a good board game is because I grew up with strategy games on the PC -- turn based strategy games. Board games bring me back to that because the days of the turn based strategy game are slowly dying (they are out there you just gotta know where to look).

So, with that, I'll be doing a write up of a game of Warriors of God that I am playing with my wife. We're playing the actual game but I can easily write up the session report via pics from the VASSAL module.

We'll be doing the Hundred Years War scenario with me playing the French and her as England.

She's sure to kick my ass.


I'm trying to secure with EA PR a post release Q&A with the Head Coach Team. We'll see how that goes. My review is slated for Friday. For those expecting Tiger Woods impressions, well, I don't have the game so it's kinda hard to do 'em. When (if) I get a copy I'll let you know. I'm not reviewing Tigger this year but I still wanted to see the finished build after playing it at E3.

In other news I got a total tease on Warhammer online. I got into the beta -- for a day. Now servers are down for 2 weeks readying for launch. It was fun, though.

I have soccer practice tonight and my 6-7 year olds are becoming a well oiled machine! OK, maybe not, but I'm having a blast doing it.

Doing Something Right

Last night, towards the end of dinner, Ana (4.8) showed me that I must be getting something right as a parent when she asked me, "Daddy, can we watch Dr. Horrible tonight?"

That's my girl.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Head Coach to get Patched!


My HC time has been nil of late with other work stuff but this is great news.

From designer Josh Looman:

I got the Ok to officially say that we are doing a patch. I've wanted to say that for a week, but we had to make sure of a few things first.

Here's an update on our progress with the patch:
  • We have fixed the Play Creator/Injury Bug.

  • We have added the ability to call plays during the 2 minute drill. You guys better thank Bekins for this. Normally, this would have been a feature that would have taken forever to get in, but the kid killed himself to put it in there to help everyone out.

  • We have added Favre's stats back in the game.

  • We fixed a bug you guys didn't know about that allows me to change team philosophies in the roster update. Woo-Hoo! This lets me get the teams where I think they should be and correct some ratings issues that way.

  • We fixed the contract bug (where scrub players would ask for a ton of money when re-signing).

  • We fixed the Draft Day trading bug (where you could force every team to trade their pick by asking them to trade and then backing out)

  • We fixed the ability to change a QB to WR and change him back to QB again.

  • We fixed the bug where teams would not kick a FG at the end of the half.

  • We are investigating a fix to make fumbles better. Staymates found out that a fatigued player would be getting larger penalties than expected to their attributes, including their carry rating. We are greatly reducing this so that fumbles should happen less. This is going to need some more testing since a lot of different factors influence fumble chances.

  • We are also investigating a fix for CPU teams subbing out fatigued players quicker in-game so that backups get some carries. Our thresholds for subbing a guy out were too low, so we are raising those. This also needs mucho testing.

  • We are fixing any crashes we can reproduce including the issues found on PS3. I don't have a date for when this will be delivered to you (we are working very quickly). Once we are done with it, it typically takes a couple of weeks to get through everybody else before it makes it's way to you.As I've said before, I'm sorry for these bugs. As you can see, we are making it right.

This really made my day. Awesome, awesome news.

Gearing up for Brakke Con

Todd and I aren't just blogmates, we're pretty good friends.

I can't say "great" friends because deep down -- Michigan / Ohio State -- we can only go so far, ya know?

But usually twice a year we meet up for a week or long weekend and hang out with our entire Familial Clans. This Halloween it's our turn to drive over to Indy to spend a weekend at Casa de Brakke for a few days of boardgames, and this year -- trick or treating. Why Halloween?

It's OSU's bye-week.

Priorities, people, priorities.

I like to believe that I was a big reason Todd took the boardgame plunge a few years ago. Once we showed him the big box version of Railroad Tycoon, he was hooked. In the past I've introduced games like Shogun, Mare Nostrum, RA, and Age of Empires III during our game vacations.

But what to bring this year?

I've been heavily into wargames of late. Being a history geek, I'm fascinated by them. Take the Hundred Year's War game Warriors of God. My knowledge of this era of is pretty foggy. I know the basics. But after playing the game several times it got me really curious to dig a bit deeper and I started by reading The Wars of the Roses, which is really at the tail end of the Hundred Year's War. To see these little counters in Warriors of God (although for a wargame the counters are huge) that represent certain nobles and then to read a narrative history about these same men -- it's engrossing stuff.

Problem is, WoG is a 2 player game (England V France).

So, for Todd, although I guess you can read this too..this is what's coming to Brakke Con '08:

Friedrich. A 4-player game covering the Seven Years War. (Prussia against Europe, basically)

For a fantastic review of this game, check out this take on BGG. This one will take a big chunk of the day so we should plan accordingly! But this is a classic.

Rails of Europe -- because even though Todd's played this one, you can never have enough Railroad Tycoon.

Pandemic -- A fast 4-player game where the players play as a team to stop the spread of nasty viruses from destroying mankind.

Star Wars Original Trilogy Risk -- Best. Risk Variant. Ever. We can play this in 60-90 mins and blow up planets with the Death Star.

Nexus Ops -- Another great Sci-Fi game that plays in about 60-90 mins. Plus the creatures are day-glo and look like candy.

Cutthroat Caverns -- Yet another game (great with 5-6 players) that we can get through pretty quickly and will surely leave everyone mad at each other. The idea? "Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win." That sums it up. Total backstabbing.

Lastly, Todd -- did you ever play Arkham Horror?

I doubt we get to all of these (no way we will...) plus Todd brought the new Touch of Evil game home from GenCon which MUST hit the table on Halloween weekend.

Should be a good time.

Dragon Age Q&A

Busy day today with a lot of content flooding in so I wanted to make sure you saw this Dragon Age Q&A with the lead writer that we just posted. Really good stuff and not just about Dragon Age (which looks freaking awesome I might add) -- I love it when the subject starts to go off into other areas and the bit about HK-47 is pretty darn funny if you know the character.

Oh, and before I forget -- check out these new Blood Bowl screens. Blood Bowl is one of my all time favorite boardgames. Truly wonderful. It looks like they are really doing it justice (visually at least).

Ok, sorry for the quick and dirty post but I do have a job, ya know.

Really. They pay me for this.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Prepare to join the WAAAGH!

Congratulations, you have been selected to join the Warhammer Online Beta Test.

NOTICE: The Warhammer Online Beta Test is currently under a strict Beta Test Agreement.

The only permitted disclosures at this time are:

  • The fact that there is a Warhammer Online Beta Test currently underway.

  • The fact that you are a member of the Warhammer Online Beta Test.

Woo hoo!!!

NHL 2K9 360 Demo


August 21, 2008 – While dedicated hockey fans eagerly anticipate the first puck to drop for the start of this year’s NHL season, 2K Sports today announced that a free demo of NHL 2K9 is now available for download on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. The demo will provide fans an early chance to experience the new simplified controls and relive the excitement of this past season’s thrilling Stanley Cup™ Final for a brief three minute period as either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

NHL 2K9, developed by Visual Concepts, brings the fun back to hockey video games with all-new features including user-friendly controls, an exciting Zamboni® mini-game, playoff beards, a revamped fighting engine and much more exciting action than ever before. Complete with fresh new in-game commentary, improved franchise mode, and upgraded online features, NHL 2K9 is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and older by the ESRB, and will be available on September 9 for Xbox 360, Wii™ home video game system from Nintendo, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system. For more information about NHL 2K9, please visit


Brings back the fun? Didn't NHL 08 sorta do that?

I am one of the few that actually liked NHL 2K8, but when you're fact sheeting stuff like Zamboni mini games and beards? Really?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting Jiggy with Dragon Age

As I mentioned yesterday, the best thing about being on the floor at GenCon this year was the behind closed doors Dragon Age demo. (By closed doors I mean that they only showed one group of people at a time, not that the demo was closed to the general public.)

Bottom line: If you're a fan of Baldur's Gate II then this is the one.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

Basically what they showed was the very beginning of the game. You are on the verge of joining the ranks of the Greywardens, who are basically guardians against an ancient evil (or some such thing), the Blight. If you've ever read George RR Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series (excellent), the Greywardens seem analogous to the men of The Wall (excepting that the Greywardens presumably aren't composed almost exclusively of castoff vagabonds and criminals).

The Blight, from what we see in the demo, are basically your standard menagerie of Tolkein beasties (Orcs, Trolls, etc.). But there seems to be some question among the powers that be (in the game world) of how serious a threat they are. (Who didn't see that coming?) The fact that most don't see The Blight as a threat lends to a couple of the characters in the demo being less than cordial toward the Greywardens.

When the demo begins you arrive at a castle with your mentor/boss type figure and find the King of Faerun (?) has come to greet you. The king is friendly, but pompous, full of grand visions of leading his people into battle against The Blight, which is cliche, but he breaks out of that a bit in the demo because he's also competent in his planning and execution when battle arrives. (If he'd gone all weak in the knees the second the steel started flying that would've made him an unbearable cliche.) He's also one of the few remaining supporters of the Greywardens, so he appears to be an ally, assuming he lives through the first battle.

After this initial encounter with the King, you're left to your own devices for a bit as preparations for the upcoming battle with The Blight are made. I should point out that the attention to detail in this world is astonishing. From the armor people are wearing to the varying crests on shields to the architecture of buildings, Bioware appears to have constructed a convincing three dimensional world for us to go and inhabit.

Back to the demo. At this point we walk over to see a man being held prisoner in a cage. He was put there for stealing a key to a chest containing, of course, some magical (or at least valuable) items. He hasn't been fed for a long time and is starving and because he still has the key (he swallowed it and, with nature taking her course, it has returned to his possession) he's willing to give it to you if you get him some food. Here we're presented with our first choice. Get some food for him, leave, or kill him and take the key. The Bioware crew left it up to the audience and in both demos I sat through the bloodthirsty ones in the crowd won out. The nearby guard pitches a fit when you off the prisoner, but ultimately does nothing, which struck me as weak plotting, *but*, the guy giving the demo was less than subtle in intimating that there would be consequences further down the line for killing the prisoner. If so, that's the kind of stuff Dragon Age needs a lot of. Having too much consequence free actions and dialog were a weak point of Mass Effect.

From here they fast forwarded to the attack of the Blight, which is spectacular. (Actually, there's another scene in between with some battle planning, but I don't remember the details of it very well.) Yes, it's the same as the video sequence they released at the time of E3, and yes it's very much like the Battle for Helm's Deep scene in The Two Towers, but in an RPG PC game? It's still pretty unprecedented. Anyway, your character has been charged with lighting a signal fire, which means you're not in the meat of the battle. (Boo!) As I'm sure you can guess, however, your plans to just saunter over to the right location and light a match do go awry. So, wait for it, you'll have to fight your way to the tower where the signal fire awaits.

Bioware showed off a fair bit of the combat model, which is reminiscent of a much better looking Neverwinter Nights. There is a lot more interaction between combatants than in that game, but I think we've got a ways to go tech-wise before we see combat in this type of game that looks really authentic. Anyway, not unlike a World of Warcaft game, you have various combat skills at your disposal that you can deploy, like attempting to knock your opponent to the ground. What's nice, and this is in one of the online vids if you look around, is that you can play from a 3rd-person over the shoulder perspective, or you can do it the way god intended and play from a distanced isometric view. From that view the combat, which is pausable real-time, is just like something out of an Infinity Engine game (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, etc.). Lovely.

Once they got our hero and his merry band (there were three followers) to the tower they switched over to show the mage class. The spell effects for the mages are just bad ass. When they cast the Blizzard spell in a wide open room, it looked like their was a damn snow storm in there. Niiice.

I particularly liked that spells that have an area of effect allow you to see what area you're going to affect before you cast it. So, if you're going to cast the cone of flame spell (the actual name eludes me), once you select it, you'll get to visibly adjust the angle of its use to maximize its impact and avoid hitting your party members. Trying to keep your party guys safe from your own spells was always an issue in the Baldur's Gate games, so it's nice that they've addressed that here.

Anyway, after a pitched battle with a great big, nasty beastie (the same one from the online E3 videos), the signal fire is lit and the game goes into a canned sequence from the battle below. The king's life is threatened and then the screen goes to black. End of demo.

Ultimately, if you watch a lot of movies or read a lot of books in the fantasy genre, you might be left with the impression that this world is pretty standard fare. And from that perspective, I suppose it is. But I can't name the last PC RPG I played that showed this kind of scope and attention to detail. So, while Dragon Age could easily be dismissed as Bioware's attempt to recreate The Lord of the Rings in their own IP, I say what the hell is wrong with that? We need more of that old school PC RPG goodness in the world dammit!

Tide of Iron and Wings of War to XBL



Fantasy Flight Games partners with Big Rooster to publish select games for the console video game market.

Plans first releases to be Wings of War: Famous Aces, Tide of Ironfor Xbox Live Arcade and Sony PlayStation NetworkIndianapolis IN (August 15, 2008) –

Fantasy Flight Games announced today that they have partnered with videogame developer Big Rooster to create electronic game versions of board and card games."We searched long and had to find the best company to work with us in our first big step into electronicgames," said Jeremy Stomberg of Fantasy Flight Games. "Tim Gerritsen and the rest of the team at Big Rooster are who we've been looking for, and we expect great things to come from the partnership between our companies."

"We're absolutely thrilled to be working with a company of Fantasy Flight's stature and bringing their games to life for video game audiences," said Timothy Gerritsen, Executive Director of Big Rooster, LLC. " The quality and caliber of Fantasy Flight's products are a terrific fit for the burgeoning downloadable console game market."

The first games in production are Wings of War: Famous Aces and Tide of Iron. "We worked with Big Rooster to find games that have different themes and mechanics," said Christian T. Petersen, founder and CEO of FFG."We're thrilled to have the opportunity to bring them to the wide audience of Xbox Live and the SonyPlayStation Network." Wings of War: Famous Aces is scheduled to be available for download in Winter 2008, with Tide of Iron following in Spring 2009.


Tide of Iron is a lot of fun, but it's fiddly and very hard for me to find people to play with. Mary loves to play 2-player games with me, but ToI didn't fly. -- this might fix that.

Here's Mike's review of ToI from an old LCD article.

Head Coach Salary Bug Workaround

This is a pretty crazy bug that some people (including me) have seen.

Here's the deal and the workaround thanks to Dan Bekins at EA:

I've confirmed the salary bug, and have come up with a workaround.I'd like to say thanks for everyone's patience on all of the issues we've had so far. This bug sucks, and the bottom line is that we have no excuse for it.

=== The bug ===

After loading a career, free agents and players with expiring contracts will request huge salaries.

=== The cause ===

Some statistical data is failing to initialize properly after loading a career.

=== The workaround ===

The easiest rule of thumb is to always save on Friday night. The bad data will be correctly recalculated in time for the next round of signings. The following are also safe, with noted exceptions (for the exceptions, save your game on Friday night):

* Immediately before and/or after your game, unless it's a Thursday game.

* Saturdays and Sundays, except in preseason week 4 (uggh).During the off season, it is always safe to save on Saturday and/or Sunday and this will solve all issues.During the season, this will solve all re-signing issues and 99% of free agency issues.

=== Notes ===

A good rule of thumb is to save when the "Game Reminder" comes up before your game, and/or when the "Box Score" comes up after your game. The only exception to this is Thursday games. Don't use autosave. It unfortunately saves on Tuesday morning, which is the worst time to save in regards to this bug. The issue is loading, not saving. If you save in the middle of the week, don't worry. Just play on until the weekend and save again.I take full responsibility for this bug. It's unacceptable. I hope that the workaround is not too hard to keep in mind and is sufficient to keep the game fun.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

GenCon 2008

So GenCon was fun. Actually, I should amend that. The after GenCon festivities with some of the dignitaries and community members from Gamers With Jobs was fun. Really fun. As in, these guys know how to stock a hotel bar and provide a metric ton of quality gaming entertainment. They also knew enough to let me win. A lot. But modesty prevents me from bragging further. (That and I know it was a fluke of epic proportions.)

What was GenCon itself like? It's cool, if you're a game geek. I mean, I really enjoyed walking the show floor and seeing what sorts of board games (new and old) are out there. I didn't sit in on any demos, but I picked up a game called A Touch of Evil that was from the guy who created Last Night on Earth. Haven't gotten to play it yet, but it's production value is top notch and I liked LNoE, so I figured it was worth a shot.

That said, the older I get the less I seem to handle being around a massive throng of other people. Even people as entertaining as the GenCon crowd. (There was a group wearing genuine-looking Mass Effect armor for crying out loud. How awesome would that be to have on Halloween?) Just makes me uncomfortable in the same sort of way Martin Blank (John Cusack) can't sit with his back to a window in Grosse Pointe Blank (a favorite that I re-watched last night). Not sure what that says about me, but it is what it is.

The highlight of the show itself was, without question, sitting through the Dragon Age demo a couple of times. It was about a half hour demo given to about two dozen people or so at a time. I'll write up another post about that a bit later, since they showed off quite a bit from the beginning of the game. (Probably the same demo they gave to E3 attendees, but it's still more than we've seen from the videos that have been circulating the Internet.) I'll also write up a post on some of the games I played Friday night with the GWJ crew (Gangster and Jamaica were the highlights).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Head Coach, Soccer and Tecumseh

Yeah sorry for the slow posts of late. Been kinda busy with work and getting Ashley ready for school and coaching her soccer team.

I really enjoy coaching the 6-7 year olds. We're having a blast. I'm making the practices fun and the kids are really taking to it. The big lesson I have learn3d : No drills that make 6-7 year olds stand in line! Always keep 'em moving.

Anyway, my Head Coach review is written and will go up tomorrow. I ended up giving the game a B+. Yes,. I know of the bugs, the 2-minute offense silliness, etc. But what it comes down to when assigning a final "grade" is how much I'm having.

I'm having a blast. So, B+. If there is a HC 2010 I expect all of the glitches to be fixed just like I expect them fixed in NCAA and Madden but HC 2009 i s a winner in my book despite its issues.

OH -- I totally forgot about this and wanted to mention it. Last week we took Ashley to the nighttime performance of Tecumseh. Man..if you are ever in southern Ohio and want to take your kids to see something amazingly cool -- go see this. Canons, Indians, battle scenes...awesome!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Clone Wars

I haven't seen the movie and have absolutely no desire to, but this review line from Entertainment Weekly is great.

"George Lucas is turning into the enemy of fun."

Friday, August 15, 2008

GameShark Stuff

The rule of thumb for me pimping articles to GShark has always been -- I link the stuff I think is cool. We update the site daily and's not all Gold, ya know.

Today, though, check out Brain Rowe's hands on look at Dead Space. This looks really, really fun.

Todd's GH: Aerosmith review is up and it's late and it's my fault. Finally, on the front page there's a staff blog section with video walkthroughs for Braid. Not my kinda game but a lot of people seem to enjoy it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NHL 2K9 Demo up for PS3


While dedicated hockey fans eagerly anticipate the first puck to drop for the start of this year’s NHL season, 2K Sports today announced that a free demo of NHL 2K9 is now available for download through the PLAYSTATION Network. The demo will provide fans an early chance to experience the new simplified controls and relive the excitement of this past season’s thrilling Stanley Cup™ Final for a brief three minute period as either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The same demo is also scheduled to be available next week through Xbox LIVE® Marketplace for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

NHL 2K9, developed by Visual Concepts, brings the fun back to hockey video games with all-new features including user-friendly controls, an exciting Zamboni® mini-game, playoff beards, a revamped fighting engine and much more exciting action than ever before. Complete with fresh new in-game commentary, improved franchise mode, and upgraded online features, NHL 2K9 is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and older by the ESRB, and will be available on September 9 for Xbox 360, Wii™ home video game system from Nintendo, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system. For more information about NHL 2K9, please visit

Cliff Harris on Game Piracy

This story's all over the place, but I'm gonna wade into it anyway.

If you've never head of Cliff Harris or his company, Positech Games, well, get in line. At least, I'd never heard of him. But after he went out and petitioned the pirate community to learn the different reasons why they pirate he drew quite a bit of attention for himself. While I think just going out there - wading into some pretty hostile waters, no less - is pretty cool, what's really impressed me is the post he put up at his company's website that aggregates the responses he received and his reaction to them. Some of his conclusions, whether accurate or not, are remarkably frank and incredibly open and forward thinking. If you are even a casual gamer you owe it to yourself to read what he's got to say. Just click your way over here.

Here's a snippet:

My games aren't as good as they could be. Ironically, one of the things that reduces your enthusiasm to really go the extra mile in making games is the thought that thousands of ungrateful gits will swipe the whole thing on day one for nothing. It's very demoralizing. But actually talking to the pirates has revealed a huge group of people who really appreciate genuinely good games. Some of the criticisms of my games hit home. I get the impression that if I make Kudos 2 not just lots better than the original, but hugely, overwhelmingly, massively better, well polished, designed and balanced, that a lot of would-be pirates will actually buy it. I've gone from being demoralized by pirates to actually inspired by them, and I'm working harder than ever before on making my games fun and polished.

For the record, if you steal games, you suck. I'm not gonna lie and say I've never done it, but it's been a very, very long time. And when I did it, I sucked. Just don't embarrass yourself by trying to justify it.

Head Coach Injury Bug Update

The latest:

OK guys, we think we have finally figured the infamous injury bug out. Special thanks go out to one of our dev guys who has actually moved on to another team already (Tim Juckett is the man!)...he is the one who figured this whole mess out.

Background for those of you who are not aware of the current injury issue:Some players in your career would all of the sudden never come off the injury report. This was not all the time, it seemed to be random.Well here is what we (Juckett) discovered...If you enter play creator during a career from the coach clipboard, it will turn off injuries [which makes sense cause we don’t want injuries to occur while in play creator.] But because of a logic bug they never get turned back on.

So the injury table becomes frozen, no new injuries will occur and anyone currently in the injury will never come out of it. Good NewsHere is the good news. There is a workaround. You can STILL create plays in-game and that does NOT affect injuries in any way that we know of. You can STILL create plays/formations from front end, and then take that playbook into career mode, also with no injury effects.Bad NewsThe bad news is this, do NOT go into Play Creator off of the Coach Clipboard (both off of the static clipboard and as well when it comes up as a live event in the clipboard itself). If you do enter into the play creator, the current injury bug rears its ugly head.

Bottom line here is this, we are currently looking into fixing this bug via a patch or some sort of game update. However, this is not a guarantee at this point; we are still investigating the logistics of doing a patch from our end...Stay tuned.We wanted to get you guys this information, so we could at least have some sort of workaround here in the short term for you guys. You can still create plays in your career, that functionality still exists thank goodness, which was one of the biggest deals of this whole situation. Hope this helps stop the random injury bug for now. We know this is far from an ideal fix, but it should at least get us beyond the randomness of never knowing if your career was going to get hijacked by the injury bug or not.Now you know how to avoid this at the very least.

-- Donny (HC designer)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Head Coach Rosters and Stats

The roster update is ready on XBL.

Oh -- before I forget thanks to all that let me know about the formatting issues of the Madden review. All fixed. Damn database.

I've been simming seasons in HC today to get a final feel for how the stats are going to look year in and year out. There's good and bad, but next year I hope the team fine-tunes this part of the game. It's passable. But, well, you'll see what I mean.

In the 5 years simmed every season one QB either breaks the 5,000 yard mark or flirts with it. Same with WRs -- every year someone either breaks Rice's receiving yards record or comes damn close. The high end stats are HIGH. Reggie Wayne's 114 catch 2100 yard season was eye popping but someone does that almost every year.

Rushing numbers look good. Sacks are ok, too.

The biggest issue I have with the stats are the QB ratings and interceptions.

There are way too many picks each year. On average you'll have about 20 QBs throw at least 19 or 20 picks a year. And usually 3-5 throw at least 30 -- one year Brees threw *40* picks. That is obscene. The low end stats are just BRUTAL. It's very common for the low rung QBs to hover around a 45 QB rating. Tavaris Jackson one season had 41 INTs and followed that up the next year with a 41 TD 26 INT season where he threw for 4600 yards. It's just bit scattered.

Trent Edwards of Buffalo ended 2009 with a 48.3 rating. 12 TDs and 33 INTs and like a 48% completion rate. Ouch. At what point does Buffalo just bench this guy? Walter in Oakland had a 48. Chad Henne a 51.

The QBs are by far the most odd looking stats wise and everything else looks pretty good. But the screws do need some tightening.

These tests were all PRE roster update. Dunno if that will do anything or not.

Things I Learned This Weekend

We got back from Michigan late Saturday after attending the visitations and funeral for Angie's grandmother. It was a difficult couple of days for the family, but all went as smoothly as one could expect. I did, however, learn a few things from my 3 and 4 year olds this past week.

  • Great-grandma is going to sleep with the flowers. (The cemetery was loaded with them.) Never ceases to surprise me what details of a situation my daughter will choose to focus on.
  • My old cat, Cirrus (died last March), is apparently still sick and with the vet. (Try as I might, I can't get her to wrap her mind around the notion that the little furball isn't there anymore.)
  • Stairs are remarkably entertaining. We were at the visitation for two 2.5 hour blocks and the kids asked to go to the bathroom about every 15 minutes just so they could go up and down stairs. Who needs a stairmaster?
  • Apparently it's okay to strip naked at a wake so you can go swimming in a pool with water temperature somewhere in the vicinity of absolute zero. (I was not involved in this decision, but in fairness, it was a very casual atmosphere and they weren't the only kids jumping in. Also, there were -eventually- swimsuits.)

Anyway, with that ordeal dispensed with, hopefully things will start getting back to normal. GenCon is coming to Indianapolis this weekend. The thing I find interesting about GenCon is that it's the one weekend of the year in which I get to feel like... well, not the cool one in the room, because in my life I have never been cool. But... well, when you're surrounded by people wearing shirts that say, "This T-Shirt gives me a +2 to Charisma.," suddenly you feel a little more mainstream, which isn't my thing either, but it's a nice change of pace. (Which isn't to impugn the guy wearing that shirt or the one next to him that's dressed like a hobo version of Gandalf. To each your own.)

I'm only planning to attend the show on Friday this year and follow that up with a get together with a few of the folks from the Gamers With Jobs community. It was a real blast getting to know some of them last year and it'll be a lot of fun to see 'em again.

Fun with YouTube: Pac-Man: The Movie

Came across this while browsing Joystiq this morning and it's just too damned funny.

Madden Review

I did in fact settle on a B-.

A few things to consider here. I don't think there is any saving franchise mode this year; that will take a complete redesign and a complete rewriting of the AI so screaming for a patch for franchise mode is a waste of breath and forum finger cells. Let's hope that next year Madden brings this feature home. I don't think it needs to be Head Coach 09 mixed with Madden. Just cut out the dumb stuff. It's not about complexity with Madden's franchise mode -- it's about the AI teams acting rationally. Sometimes simpler is better.

If EA does in fact patch in the CPU sliders (and they work...) then I'd boost this grade to a solid B. Patch the AI game decision making and the out of bounds stuff and you're flirting with a B+.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, August 11, 2008

CNN on Madden

You think game sites are sorta "easy" on sports games? Well, check out CNN's review of Madden. I have absolutely no problem with a critic calling a game a Must Buy, even if I personally don't agree with it. Reviews are like, well, everyone has one...

But read that review. There is ZERO evaluation in it. It's a regurgitation of the PR Fact Sheet. Point by point down the list: easy for newbies, feature by feature -- but without any discussion of whether or not the person writing the article LIKES it -- or why. See, if this was a movie review it would get rejected by any editor worth a damn. Batman is awesome because it has The Joker!

But it's games.

And editors consider it trash reporting and bank on the fact that the people won't actually, you know, care.

I rarely lob hate grenades at other reviews but frigging CNN? Aren't they like the first name in news or something? And this is the best they can do?

A Note on Reviews

Tomorrow you are going to start seeing a lot of reviews for Madden and Head Coach pop up. My Madden review is basically done, but I still need to test some stuff, but I should be able to hook up with my online football buddy tonight to test out the multiplayer. I know the league stuff is nowhere near what a lot of us want -- a Round Robin format with no NFL scheduling. That means if you have, say, 30 guys in a league you'll have to play 29 games. Yeah, I don't get that either.

In the end I think Madden is ok. Some good, some bad, some design decisions I simply don't agree with, but if you are a 2-player gamer you can have a blast with it. Solo franchise guys? It's still a mess. What irks me most about Madden is that the focus was clearly on the casual gamer. Hardcore football and Madden fans seem to be put on the back burner. That's EA prerogative, but damn.... right now I am leaning "B-" as a grade. I think that's fair. An above average videogame.

As for Head Coach, the game simply takes much longer to review so expect to see that later this week, maybe as late as Friday but if you read this blog you know how I feel. Head Coach 09 is one of the most significant sports game releases in a long, long time. It's not perfect, it's got some flaws, but it is incredibly deep and entertaining and I HOPE that EA Sports sees this game for what it is -- a game that fills an important niche to its fan base. I hope is sells like mad and that EA looks to increase this series into other venues. NCAA Head Coach, NBA Live Head Coach, NHL Head Coach...I'd be down for all of that.

Head Coach

Ha. No, not that head coach. Tomorrow marks my journey into coaching youth soccer : 6-7 year olds.

I'll start off with running suicides and maybe work on perfecting the 4-3-3.

The OTHER Head Coach is still great fun, but Josh and the team are still searching for that elusive injury bug.

Don't forget -- we may get a roster update tomorrow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Notes on the Injury Bug; Some Stats

Ok the good news: the injury bug is NOT something that will happen during every career. What triggers it? Josh and Team HC will look into that Monday. I started a new career and the injuries worked fine. So hopefully EA can get this fixed bug in the meantime just keep an eye on your injured players to see if they're healing properly.

In testing this injury bug I was able to sim a season and get a look at the stats. For the most part, it looked fairly good. I basically just looked at the leaders in various categories but it wasn't too crazy. Reggie Wayne nabbing 2,100 yards receiving was a tad extreme. Wayne destroyed Rice's single season mark of 1,848. Manning also flirted with Marino's single season yards record, but failed by 35 yards.

I think there were eight 4,000+ yards QBs, only 11 1,000 yard rushers, and Tom Brady led the league in completion percentage with 65%. There were a lot of QBs with 40+ TDs, though. By a lot I mean maybe four or five. That's pretty high considering throwing 40 TDs has been done only five times in NFL history. I think Manning had 45 TDs and 24 INTs.

So, will the sim engine blow you away with its amazing and uncanny accuracy? Probably not. Granted, the one season sample size is pretty pointless to judge the engine by..but hey.

More importantly: is it good enough? That's a question you'll need to answer for yourself.

The First Real Head Coach Issue?

I'm going to verify this with Josh on Monday but there seems to be a bug with injuries. I don't know if they are limited to injuries suffered in preseason or not, which is what I need to find out from Josh.

Basically, no one is healing. I started to sim my season to see some stats and how the league was shaping up and McGinest, Dorsey and Winslow are all still out and we're now into Week 5. These players were all hurt Week 1 Preseason and only McGinest's injury should have lasted this long.

It's the same with CPU teams. No one is healing. Every player on the Injury List has no season stats which leads me to believe these happened in the preseason.

I'll get an update posted as soon as I hear from the Head Coach team as to any potential workarounds, if they're aware of this, etc.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Browns 40 Redskins 21

Finishing up Madden for the night and this was a weird one. I was down 21-20 at half and this is the first time I have shut a team out in a half in Madden 09. The reason? 5 picks.

Campbell was 19/32 316 3 TD 5 INT.

The vast majority of the incompletions were due to catching the ball out of bounds. Well, and the 5 INTs.

The reason for the picks was for some reason the AI went deeper this game than it usually does. Playbook, maybe? The passes all were not moonballs as I mentioned in the earlier post. I dunno what was going on. Portis carried only 16 times for 41 yards.

Anderson was 20/30 227 2 TD 2 INT and Lewis had 30 carries for 112.

The story of the game was the turnovers, though. I think Brandon McDonald my 2nd year CB has like 6 picks in 6 games. Dude is a machine.

Giants 30 Browns 26

This game didn't see RoboQB like the Bengals game. Eli was 19/30 for 232 and 3 INTs. Yet I lost because I kicked FGs. I was in the Red Zone *8* times. DA was 36/52 for 410 yards.

Here are a few things you may want to know/consider about Madden before firing it up Tuesday:
  • Lower your Run Defense sliders to 0 except for Tackling. I have mine around 25. If you play near default settings the AI cannot run the ball at all. By lowering Reaction and Shedding to 0 you give the AI a chance. It does fairly well.

  • The most you will want your QB Accuracy is 35. Any higher and you never see off throws. I'm considering going lower than that after DA is putting up crazy numbers in the first 5 games.

  • The AI is very effective at short passing. It's "ok" at throwing medium 10-12 yard passes. It *sucks* at throwing 15-20 yard passes. The problem is one of velocity. When you are playing QB you can zip the ball on a frozen rope for a 20 yard gain. When the AI throws a 20 yard pass it's a moon ball every single time. It's very easy to pick (see Eli's stat line). I get upset at the RoBo Qbs from time to time but if the AI went deep more often it would get ugly -- fast.

  • If you want to keep the QBs in check you MUST learn to take control of a DB and swat passes away. If you don't expect 70% and up completion rates.

  • The Pass Rush slider doesn't do anything.

  • The WR Catch slider doesn't do much, either.

  • The Rushing sliders do, though. On default running the ball is extremely hard this year. You can fix that with slider tweaks. Mine are across the board at 65 right now. (Fumbles at 50, though.)

  • Sideline awareness is really poor. I think this is going in the first patch, and it's a good thing because no one knows where the sidelines are in this game.

  • I really, really hope that next year Tiburon puts the CPU sliders back in the game and that they work. The game *really* needs them. The Madden IQ is a feature that long time Madden vets will basically ignore because every one of us will put the sliders to "custom" and tweak them as needed.

  • The Backtrack feature is really neat.

  • Unlike most, I like Rewind, too. I use it as a Home Field advantage tool. I deactivate it in road games and when playing in Cleveland I give myself one "Do Over" a game.

  • I thoroughly enjoy this game playing head to head. Two games in this mode and both have been great fun -- much more so than playing against the AI.

One of Those Madden Games

The game against Cincy was one of "those games." I was at the mercy of the AI when I was playing defense. Carson Palmer goes 19 for 19 in the first half for 230 yards. I'm running dimes, presses, zones, doubles, focusing on TJ and Johnson....nothing worked. My sliders are at 100 DB reaction and 100 pass rush. Palmer ended up 36/44 for 400 yds 3 TD 0 INT. I still won 38-28. But the Bengals ran the ball 8 times. The games against Pitt and Baltimore had a nice flow to them, this game felt like the AI was playing me rather than the other way around. Moving onto the Giants game...

Sticks and Stones -- Without the Sticks

Well, my eyes work. Woo for eyes!

After going to the eye doctor -- as an aside, my eye doctor is in a band. They just signed to a label. How cool is that? I love going to get my eyes checked because he always has these new bands for me to listen to via eMusic. It's, "Can you read the lowest line on the chart? Oh, we're playing a gig next weekend at a coffeehouse, bring the family. "

Anyway here's the MySpace page for The Smith Bros. No idea why they're called that because my doctor's name of Dollenmayer. Musicians.

Oh, yeah, stones. After my trip to see the Rock and Roll Eye Doctor we went and picked out a ton (literally) of Flagstones for the walkway. They're to be delivered today so that oughta be a blast to do.

With all that going on, and my eyes being dilated I played zero Madden and Head Coach yesterday. Sorry. But today I plan on playing the next game in the Madden franchise to see if I can continue to keep the CPU QBs in check.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Monster Madness!

Ok--I know nothing about this game. Literally zero. But Southpeak wanted to give us copies to give away and who am I to say no to free games? So if you're interested in winning a copy of the PS3 version, go to our contest page and go nuts.

My eyes are still kinda blurry after being dilated at the doctor's office today, so I think I'm going to chill for the rest of the afternoon and hopefully get some Madden time in tonight and if all goes well -- Game Two against Pitt in HC.

Day of Errands

Slow day for Madden and Head Coach stuff. I have an eye doctor appt at 11 and then have to go to a landscaping company to get gravel delivered for our walkway. We've been in our new build for a little more than two years now and we're still walking up to the front door via square stones covered in weeds. I like the country life but this is ridiculous.

Yesterday was a day of HC so this evening I'm going to try to get back into Madden and hopefully it'll continue to get better as my previous day with the game was a heck of a lot more fun than the first few.

That said, I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of the great job the Head Coach team is doing talking with the unclean masses. This is such a huge part of customer service that often times gets overlooked by large publishing houses. Getting in the trenches, answering questions, is really important even for a big dog company like EA. I dunno what's going on with them but there has been a much greater presence from the actual designers in forums of late and I for one hope that trend continues.

This is what I mean. This is lead designer Josh Looman responding to what I said about some of the quirks in Head Coach 2009 over on OS.

I really appreciate your honesty, Bill. As I mentioned before, there will obviously be some issues but I'm glad that the positives outweigh the negatives for you. I'm also pretty excited that you haven't even seen 90% of the cool stuff we added into the game. I can't wait until you get a little bit further.

The weather thing is weird. It uses this system that maps out the average temp, precipitation and highs and lows for the city each week and then randomly picks from a range. It's usually accurate but I'm still damned if I don't see it snowing in Houston once a year. ugh.

As for the throwing deep stuff, they should go into attack mode at the end of the game and use plays designed to go down field. That may be an issue with teams that don't go vertical a lot. I know we built a lot of vertical routes into the Browns playbook, but I don't think there were a ton in the Cowboys playbook.

The lack of an audibles system was a design mistake that I take full responsibility for. We had an idea early on to let your captains call audibles but when we prototyped it, Peyton Manning would audible into another play every down it seemed so we took that out. The hurry up issue was always a sore point that we never really figured out how to handle well. That frustrates me to no end.


I'm going to withhold the cliches of pigs flying and Hell freezing, but I find comments like that shockingly refreshing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I Don't Like Pumpkins

Good stuff.

Head Coach Quibbles

As I said in the earlier post, there are a few things about HC that could use some work so in the spirit of fairness, here's a quick list of Head Coach Bloopers.

  • When you are offered a player in a trade you can't click a button to see that player's contract. So you have no idea if he signed a huge deal with his former team. Program Lead Dan Bekins offers a workaround for this: "Unfortunately there is no way to do this. I agree this is tough to manage during a live trade negotiation.What I always do is put the sim speed on "slowest" and check out the Trade Player screen for that team before entering negotiations. All of the contract information and player grades are listed there.Then you can decide in advance who you'd be willing to trade for/away.If you really like the guy they're offering, you can also take the opportunity to put some more of your own players on the trade block before entering negotiations."
  • The game handles injuries in a strange way. For example, in Week 1 of the Preseason Winslow messed up his knee and was out for 5 weeks. By the time week 1 of the regular season rolled around, Winslow was listed at 95% ready but still could not be activated to play. I have guys on the roster ready to go who are worse off than Winslow but if you're guy suffers an injury that puts him "out" he has to be 100% healed before making a return.
  • On to some gameplay stuff. This might be fixed with the August 12th roster patch but out of the box the field goal kickers are woeful. Browns kicker Phil Dawson struggles to make 40 yard FGs -- and they're usually short. A boost to the FG slider helps, but it's still kinda wonky. Dawson's limit is about 52 yards in real life, and I know of no NFL kicker who can't kick it 40 yards.

  • There is way too much falling down by the D Line on pass plays. Madden fans will know just what I am talking about here. This is not to say that there are no sacks-- there are. I got to Romo three times in the opener. But there are also times when the entire Dline gets pancaked and the QB has, literally 5-6 seconds to throw. Five seconds is a long time. Imagine your QB has dropped back -- now count out "Five Mississippi." That's an eternity.

  • There are no defensive audibles. You can call for Hot Routes when on offense but if the CPU goes hurry up you are at the mercy of your previous play. You can make adjustments (drop back, press, line shifts, etc.) but if you're in an OLB Stack Blitz and want to get into a Cover 2 you need to call a timeout or hope for a stoppage.

  • I can't tell if players are suffering from fatigue during games. I'll check this more closely against Pittsburgh.

  • The game uses a modified version of the Madden 08 engine. I think it does anyway. And with that you will see things in the game that look odd at times. The the DB that stands in place and spins for no reason. The linebacker who doesn't read the play and lets a HB run right past him on a toss, that sort of thing. Physics that look -- creative. Things like this do not happen every play but you need to have some reasonable expectations with this stuff. On a TD today my CB was guarding Owens and he caught a pass in the end zone and my DB never turned to face him the entire time. His back was turned and he was content with that. You just have to deal with stuff like that every once in a while and move on.

  • It should never snow in Cleveland in early September.

  • Then there are the things that are still a mystery. Player retirement, aging, player progression, season simmed stats, that sort of thing. I simply have not played it far enough to see those things just yet.
So there's some early stuff that you should know going in. Week 2 against the Steelers is next!

Head Coach Week 1: Browns 42 Cowboys 21

So week 1 is in the books.

I started and restarted this game about 5 times. I was wanting to test a few theories and mess with some settings. The first time I started the was snowing. In Cleveland. On September 7th.

The next three games saw Jamal Lewis fumble at least three times every game. At first this was a pretty big concern as Lewis is not a fumbler. Plus, he has a 93 Carry rating. Turns out Lewis isn't 100% healthy. In fact he's at 81% but he isn't listed as probable, which you'd think he would be. So for the 'real' game I decided to platoon him a bit rather than run him like a dog.

Also in every test game Romo was a MACHINE. The Browns defense is better than '07 but still very average and Dallas moves the ball at will on me.

It should also be noted that not every game was a 63 point shootout. Dallas usually scored a lot. This game I just happened to.

But the game this morning was a bit different. I was up 28-14 at the half thanks to 2 red zone turnovers. (A Barber fumble and an INT)

The 2nd half started rocky as the Cowboys punted and Cribbs fumbled on my own 20--but I challenged the play and it was overturned. Whew. We ended up winning rather handily. I'll post stats below.

This game did show, I think, one of the AI quirks with HC and it's something that has plagued Madden for years. See, in Head Coach, the AI can throw deep effectively so it should try and use it more often. With 4:00 to go I was up 35-14 and Romo was throwing 8-10 yard passes. I was dropping back in a deep zone and Dallas ended up marching down the field, draining the clock as they went. Dallas needed THREE touchdowns to get back in it. 8-10 yard completions aren't going to cut it. Finally with a minute to play they threw a 15 yard wheel route to Owens who ran the extra 15 himself for a score.

They did onside, and failed to recover, and Lewis closed it out with a 40 yard TD scamper.

Here's how it came out:

Anderson: 16/26 263 yards 2 TD 0 INT -- 54 yards on one play to Stallworth
Romo: 34/56 420 yards 2 TD 2 INT (for those keeping score at home he was 18/35 in the 2nd half)

Lewis: 15 carries 97 yards NO fumbles
Backup Jason Wright 9 for 20

Barber 8 measly carries for 29 yards and a fumble. Dallas was playing from behind most of the game.

Edwards: 6 catches 84 yards
JJ 4/47
Stallworth 3/88
Winslow DNP

Crayton 11/100
Owens 7 /121
Witten 8 /89
Glenn 4 /39

Those dudes are tough to stop.

Later this evening I am going to go over some of the stuff to keep in mind when playing the game. Like all games, Head Coach has it's annoyances, and as much as I have gushed over it, it's only fair that I talk about the things that aren't as gushworhy.

Diablo III vs. The Death Nerds

I know I said a couple days ago I wouldn't be posting this week, but this one begs to be linked. Along with about ten billion other hosers, I'm a fan of the Penny Arcade comic. Today, though, they've outdone themselves. What's this about?

Last night I mentioned Dragon Age is my #1 most anticipated game of the next year or so. Number 3 on that list is Diablo III... granted, that may not be out for two years or more, but I'm all aflutter just to know it's coming out eventually. (For the record #2 on my list is Fallout 3. The list ends at three titles.)

As you probably know already, after Blizzard announced Diablo III (last month) and showed off some sharp-looking footage of it, a certain segment of the fan base, henceforth to be known as The Death Nerds (a reference from the online comic for Dr. Horrible), went indiscriminately insane. Why? The game was too bright. There was too much color. Worst of all, at one point there was a very subtle rainbow in the midst of an outdoor chasm. And, as everyone knows, the inclusion of a rainbow means your game is designed for pussies and dudes who like other dudes. And, girlfriends, that just ain't how the D-train is supposed to roll.

Naturally, up went the online petitions to Blizzard to Goth up the game. (I won't link to them, but I kid you not. There's at least one online petition over this.) You know, because grayscale is compelling and because Diablo II never ever used color or bright environments.

See what I mean? Total darkness.

Anyway, I'm digressing. One of these concerned citizens of the Intertubes (TM) went so far as to take screenshots of some of the gameplay footage and Photoshop them up for the Blizzard folks so he could show them how they can better do their jobs. Generous, some folk are.

In addition to drawing attention from the guys at Penny Arcade, I was glad to see MTV's Multiplayer Blog was all over this, getting a Q&A with Blizzard designer, Jay Wilson, who -while more civil than the wonk who made the shots- pretty much tore them to shreds in spectacular fashion. Okay, it's not that extreme, but I love it when the pros strike back at wannabe's who don't know half as much about game design as they'd like to think they do.

Plus, I really want these Death Nerds to shut up. I don't have a problem with people criticizing a game that's been published or having concerns over an upcoming game's direction. Discussion and debate is good. But wailing like banshees, gnashing teeth and filing online petitions are a whole 'nother pathetic level.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


You know, there is a downside to living in rural Ohio.

No, really.

There is. I know it sounds crazy you don't have to tell me...but I mean it.

When the folks at EA invite you to a big ol' press event in California to see NBA Live, FIFA, and a lot of other EA stuff and you can't find a way to get there--it sorta sucks.

I was really impressed with the NBA Live E3 demo and while I am well aware that E3 demos are the demon seed of Davy Jones when it comes to actual game was a damn good E3 demo. And I really want to see how the game looks now. But...Ohio.

I miss out on a lot of that stuff which is a frustrating part of living where I do doing what I do for a living. I've been writing about games either as a freelancer or as an editor as a full time gig for about 13 years now. Good lord did I just type that? I really do need to find a real job one of these days. But doing that in the Heartland of America is especially tough. Game companies don't live out here. I'm looking out my window right now from my office and I see some deer. (Seriously...three deer are outside) and a lot of trees and my neighbor's horses are always in plain sight, too. It's getting late, they should be put in by now.

I don't see any videogame companies.

Companies do press tours and hold press events all the time and unless they fly me out there, which does happen on occasion -- I'm in central Ohio chillin with the Governor. And the deer.

So, expect to see some previews popping up soon on various other websites about hands on time with FIFA and Live 2009 and when you do think about me and the fact that I really did want to see those games but that I am way too cheap to buy a plane ticket.

Browns 27 Ravens 20

More stats from the latest Madden game:

DA: 17/30 280 2 TD 3 INT - Including a 60 yard TD to Stallworth and a 40 yd TD to Edwards. And again 2 of those picks by me...user error. (i.e. I'm an idiot)
Flacco: 22/36 228 1 TD 2 INT

Lewis: 25 carries 93 yds
McGahee 15 carries 41 yards

Pretty darn good. Another tense game and once again -- no RoboQB. I really hope Ian and the rest of the Tiburon guys can in fact fix the running out of bounds issue. This time it may have cost the Ravens the W.

Dragon Age Nuggets from Greg Zeschuk

The MTV Multiplayer blog has a new interview up with Bioware's Greg Zeschuk about my #1 most anticipated game of the next year or so: Dragon Age. It's full of juicy nuggets and worth the read if you have even the smallest amount of interest in the game. Here's a snippet:

Multiplayer: You guys are always big on choice in video games. That’s one of the fundamental things that BioWare does. How does choice function in this game and how does it differ than it did in “Mass Effect” which is a lot of people’s last point of reference for BioWare?

Zeschuk: We always think of choice as one of the key things we do. The concept of non-linear fiction or narrative that branches is one of the things that sets videogames apart. We believe it is fundamental to making it an emotionally impactful art-form. “Dragon Age” is similar to our other games in the sense that you are making a lot of choices. They’re big. They’re impactful. I think we may have amped up the emotionality of it a little bit. We feel players will have a very personal experience with the game. .. Because of the way the game works you’re going to have a different feel depending on how you started and the choices you made [in the origin].

Madden: Browns 24 Steelers 17

Head Coach freaks -- please be patient. I do plan on getting back to that today. I'm just messing with Madden trying to find the right balance, and I think I'm slowly getting there. The light is starting to come on a bit. Now, that doesn't mean you won't see the AI do boneheaded stuff because you will. The late game oddities are going to need a patch to fix, imo. Hopefully Ian and the team can tweak the AI for a patch just like the NCAA team is attempting to do.

But here's the Steelers game stats after a few more slider tweaks.

DA: 19/26 260 2 TD 1 INT
Ben: 15/26 148 0TD 1 INT

Lewis: 23 carries 86 yards
Parker 21 carries 103 yards

Pretty darn good, really. Of course the game isn't all about stats, but this was pretty tense. Playing Man to Man and even certain Combo defenses are the key, I think, to stopping RoboQB. I didn't call one zone. That, and I am learning to swat passes away as the DB. Still hard to do, but I'm getting better at it. I mean look...15/26 for 148? Hell if anything that's not good enough.

Oh, and my buddy had a good idea about the Rewind feature. Now I know on its face that's sort of an odd feature, but maybe that's a good way to institute home field advantage? I've played boardgames that did similar things and maybe give the home team 1 Rewind and if a team is REALLY good at home give them 3? (You can't give a team 2 which is ...strange.)

And Back to Madden

The interesting thing about these early thoughts is that they can change. You learn things and adapt to how the game needs to be played. I am learning a few things about Madden.

Now, I told you about the clock management issues. Some games it's fine, some games not. I have no idea what triggers it but I do know that the designers are looking into it, which is a positive step.

I started a franchise today for the first time as all of my games before were Play Nows. I play 8 minute quarters and lost...12-7 to Dallas. Yep. 12-7. Here's what I am learning about the game:

The QB accuracy slider works better than I originally thought. I set mine to zero and did manage to throw a few very bad balls and was picked 4 times by the Cowboys. Now three of those were blatant mistakes by yours truly and the other was a REALLY bad throw by Anderson combined with a poor route by my #4 WR.

Still, the slider did its thing. I ended up something like 19/34 for 251 and the 4 picks. The accuracy suffers more on deeper passes, which I think is perfectly acceptable. Lewis ran 18 times for 80 yards. So on my side of the ball I thought it was a very well played and very believable game. The picks were high but like I said when the user throws into double coverage...hard to blame the game.

When the Cowboys had it at first it was a lot like the old games in Play Now mode. A lot of quick underneath passes. Then I started to watch the replays. It's the zones. The zone coverages are very lax, giving receivers way too much space and the AI takes what I give them--even when it shouldn't. (like on 3rd and long) From the 3rd quarter on I called nothing but straight up man to man coverages. Not the same defense but everything was Man.

Romo started throwing deeper. He missed throws. He was picked twice. He ended up 20/29 for 181.

Now the CPU still struggles with running (Barber was STONED all game long) but I think I can help by lowering by Shed Block slider because on default the CPU doesn't block too well and the Dallas line is no joke. So we'll see how that goes.

The next game I'll run all Man, mess with the Shed slider and see how it looks. I really, really wish EA had kept the CPU sliders in, but that Dallas game was pretty darn entertaining. And that sorta is the point to all of this, after all.

When it Rains it Pours

So, I'm behind on getting some Gameshark reviews written. I'm behind on getting books developed for my day job. I'm behind on getting around the house stuff done. And, most significantly, Angie's grandmother died yesterday. This is the short version for why I probably won't be posting much (if at all) this week, as we'll have to blow town for a few days to help with family. No worries, though, you're all here for Bill's Head Coach 09 impressions anyway, right? (God knows, you should be. The game sounds frigg'n fantastic.)

Anyway, stay safe out there and I'll talk at you all next week! :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Just when I think I'm out...

The PLAN was to start the regular season tonight against Dallas. My Monday night hoops game was over early tonight -- Monday is 18 and over night which always runs me absolutely ragged. Tuesday is old man 30 and over night. Much more my speed.

Anwyay, we won the Bears game 21-19 -- the backups did nada with the ball in the 2nd half.

After the game it said "10 days until week 1" or something like that. I figured no problem...I'll zip through the week and then play my game. Well, no. As I am beginning to learn about this game, stuff just pops up during the week.

Well, first off, Josh Cribbs, my special teams demon, busted his head diving off the high dive at his house. It was one of those head slapping moments of, "Are you kidding me?"

Then a new screen pops up telling me how many Preseason goals I failed at accomplishing. Doh. I was supposed to get certain player's Knowledge lvl (the playbook...) to a certain % and I failed to do that. My approval rating starts to tumble.

Then I get to upgrade my staff! This is like a skill tree in your basic RPG. Sorta like upgrading skills in World of WarCraft or Diablo. You can *really* customize your coach. Not only that your assistants earn skill points, too, all the way down to the damn Trainer. So that took a while doing the upgrades.

Then I get new goals! The owner wants me to re-sign Jamal Lewis and Sean Jones. Easy enough. The fans HATE my GM. I find that awesome. I can get a fan approval boost by firing him. But...doing that before week 1...pass. The fans also really want me to "crush Pittsburgh" in week 2 and to beat the Giants on Monday Night Football. Good lord did they not WATCH that preseason game?

I then have to promise my boss (the owner) what we'll do this year. I tell him "Playoffs, baby!" I'm already listed as being "on the hot seat" so I think if the Browns screw up -- my life as an NFL Head Coach will be a done deal.

Then the damn media chimes in. They want us to finish in the top 10 in offense. I guess having the media on your side is a good thing, unless you are, well, most NFL coaches.

Ok 3 more days til Dallas! Let's go!

Nope. Not yet. Adam ..whatever his name is, the dude from the NFL Network pops on the screen talking about players in the upcoming draft -- his Top 5 players. I was curious how the game would handle that, seeing as we're now in the realm of fictional players. Adam rattles off names, positions and schools and then gives the AP Top 5 teams. No Buckeyes. Game is obviously broken.

Ok he's done talking --then the Draft Preview screen pops up with potential sleepers and busts along with a star grade for the depth of each position in the draft! The 2009 draft is apparently very weak at CB (0 stars) but loaded at DT and Wide Outs (both 5 star). How cool is that?

By now it's been well over an hour. I need to go to bed. Dallas will have to wait.

Now This is Good News

Not sure how I missed this but Ian Cummings the design lead for Madden 2010 (and a very nice fellow, btw) posted this over at OS.

We've had some recent news that I thought I should share with you all.

If you've been paying attention to NFL Head Coach 09, you're probably aware of Donny Moore, one of the designers responsible for many of their features. Donny has been at EA for nearly 10 years and is the best in the business when it comes to details. He was responsible for both NCAA and Madden rosters from 2002 to 2006, and has had many influences over designs, from Franchise to gameplay to online. You may also know him as 'Commish Don' from the EA Sports fantasy experts group, where he has been instrumental in driving fans to use that service:

Well, the good news, Donny has been brought over to Madden NFL 2010, with the objective of using his Head Coach design experience to take full ownership of the future design and direction of Franchise mode. To clarify...this news doesn't mean we're going to automatically have all of Head Coach's features or anything like that...we honestly don't know our exact direction yet (Donny is working on designing it out as we speak). Anyway, I thought most folks would be happy to hear this news. Donny is an awesome designer with a ton of experience and a hardcore sim background, and I'm stoked to have him on the team.


Really, really good news as far as I'm concerned.

Browns 21 Bears 6 - Halftime (Preseason)

Quick update before my 6:00 basketball game: This week DA is bouncing back bigtime -- torching Chicago to the tune of 10/14 for 129 yards and 3 TDs at the half. Edwards reeled in a 45 yard post that was wide open and even the run game is back on track as Lewis has 51 yards. Remember the 5 fumbles vs New York? This week, no turnovers at the half.

Again -- variety.

It's such a crucial component of a sports game and Head Coach appears to have that in spades. The Giants were all over me but after a week of practicing, focusing on the passing game, we're back in business.

I need to get Winslow back on the field, though...

Madden. Remember Madden?

With the awesomeness of Head Coach dominating my time right now, Madden took a back seat for a few days.

While you guys know that I'm not a fan of the game vs the AI for various reasons, the head to head game fairs much better. The majority of Madden's issues are with the AI -- no CPU sliders, sky high QB Accuracy, poor clock management, that sort of thing. That goes away when playing against a buddy.

Playing head to head on the same machine with a long time football cohort of mine, to me, showcased the way Madden is meant to be played -- against another person. Seeing as the sliders only affect the human player, it makes for a much, much better game.

The DB coverage is nowhere near as lax as it is in a game like NCAA and combined with the more realistic pass rush, it was impossible to just throw those 7 yard crossing routes all game long and move at will. In NCAA, which I still play online with my Navy buddy as we wait for the patch, we only fail to score when we throw an INT. It's just so easy to move the ball in that game. Madden head to head isn't like that.

And, maybe it was just that one game but the lower QB accuracy slider for the human players was evident in our game. Derek Anderson missed an open man. I was floored. I ended up 13/25 for the game-- which would never happen vs the AI.

As I sit back and take everything in re: Madden it seems as if this was the basic idea. The solo game appears to be tuned for new players, the Madden IQ feature coming off as an entry level type of design idea. The game for serious players might be online in the new league feature.

I haven't tried that yet of course but if the multiplayer side of the game holds up as well as our first game did, it might be by far the best way to enjoy Madden this year.

Giants 35 Browns 7


Just a horrible game for the Browns. Our backups made Andre Woodson look like a Pro Bowler.
Quinn was sacked 6 times, Anderson was 9/18 for 85 yards and a pick. Just nothing worked all game long. A complete and totally different experience from the Jets game.

The Browns fumbled 5 times in the first half and were called for 7 penalties. I didn't fumble after that and had no fumble issues with the Jets. 4 of my fumbles were by wide outs. Just a bad, bad game.

I saw my first gameplay issue that needs to be addressed via the roster patch or via sliders (the game has the full set of sliders, btw).

FG kick strength is way too low. Kickers are struggling to kick 40 yard field goals. I boosted the slider up to 70-75 and the Giants kicker hit the bottom crossbar on a 50 yarder, which is a bit better, but this is an area that will need tweaked.

Still, even losing was fun.

Quick Update: Browns/Giants Preseason game #2

Just a quick update; playing against the Giants in preseason game #2, end of the first quarter and this game feels *nothing* like the Jets game. 7-0 Giants.

Cribbs fumbled the opening kickoff. Giants had 3rd and 14 on the 25 and I went into a Quarter defense and that forced Eli to throw short to the HB. Sean Jones had to make a play, and he whiffed on the tackle and Droughns took it 25 yards for a score.

There is a feeling of great frustration when you are sitting there watching your guys fail to make plays. It's frustrating but in a very good way. It has to be what a coach feels like. Damn it Jones

Anyway the Browns are flustered. We've fumbled three times in the first quarter, Anderson just threw an INT on the goal line, and again it looked extremely realistic. Anderson dropped back (we were at the 20) and Edwards ran a post and the Giants safety (Phillipps) was playing center field and came out of nowhere to pick it off. This was not your "canned Madden pick" animation. The safety caught the INT on the run, running towards Edwards. Looked very realistic.

I have -5 rushing yards so far. Lewis had huge holes against the Jets but running on the Giants is proving...different.

The draft and FA stuff is fun, no doubt, but coaching the games is truly fabulous. For example, I could see Manning going through reads. On one play he looked at Burress and then moved down his progressions.

When Anderson threw his pick he was 100% locked on Braylon. You could see it. He had Lewis open on a swing pass and had no intention of doing that. It was going to Braylon, no matter what. And it was picked. Really, really cool stuff.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Draft Over -- Notes

The draft is over, I really went fast for the last 5 rounds but you could spend friggin days doing the draft. I spent an hour just putting my draft board together and I wasn't done, I just wanted to get to the draft

Now, there are things that I see that I think are odd. It could be a value thing but the Giants took a QB in the 3rd round, which was weird, and the Packers took Brian Brohm in the 2nd, I guess signaling that Aaron Rogers can get bent. Or do they plan on a 2nd round pick being a bench player? Not sure what's up there. I didn't look at Rogers ratings...maybe he sucks?

Edit: I was reminded that in real life the Packers actually DID take Brohm! How's that for irony?

Other notables:


Drafted Mendenhall in round 1 and followed that up with RB Kevin Smith out of UCF in round 2. After that they stole DT Sims from Auburn and then took Justin King out of Penn State. That 2nd HB pick is a head scratcher.

Miami took Chad Henne in round 2 and then another QB in rnd 6.

The Rams took Dennis Dixon in rnd 3 and then the QB from San Diego in rnd 4. (Dixon groomed as a Slash type player?)

Atlanta took Matt Ryan and then serial killer John David Booty in round 5. Sorry, that dude has a serial killer name.

Philly drafted 2 wide outs in the 2nd round (not too strange) but then took a FB in both rounds 5 and 6.

On the whole, the draft AI looks to be a million times better than Madden and most games, even some good text games, have draft AI that's a bit odd at times. But the above picks are the ones that stood out as a tad strange. Overall, not too bad! I still don't like the multiple QB picks, but compared to Madden this is a lot better.

Plus, the draft was a total blast.

Round 2 Quick Note

I'm doing rnd 2 right now and wanted to share real quick.

We're at pick #45 and I was approached again to trade. I don't have a 2nd rnd pick with the Browns and I moved next year's 2nd round pick and a 6th rnd pick to get back into round 2, pick #45.

Stewart is still sitting there. I then noticed an error that needs to be addressed with the roster patch. Stewart is listed at 5'9 170 pounds, which is about oh...sixty pounds light. ;) I see why he's still there. I don't want him either. His negatives are size and durability. They have him as a scat back who can't stay on the field. Uh...pass.

Now during the scouting combine, pro days, etc. you can increase your "Percent scouted" number for every player. Unlike some games, where if you don't scout a player you have NO IDEA what they're able to do (which is completely silly), here you do get some clue, it's just the more time you spend, the more the % goes up.

My GM said Ray Rice was a potential steal, so I scouted him, interviewed him , saw him at the Sr Bowl. and went to Rutgers' pro day. Ray is 100% scouted and is listed as an 81 overall with pros as "Toughness and vision" while his negatives are "elusiveness" and "upside" -- I guess that means he is what he is.

Jamal Lewis needs a number two and Ray fits that bill and he'll never get back to me so the full court press scout job came through and I got myself a dependable running back as a result.

However, my GM implored me to take the WR from Kansas State, Jordy Nelson. And, all things considered I would take him as my WR depth is crap, but for testing purposes I'm taking Rice just to see how he works out since I scouted him so much.

After taking Rice, my rating with my GM dropped. I guess that pick pissed him off, eh?