Thursday, April 30, 2009

Madden Wii

This may look really silly (it does)

But I think it's a good idea.

NDAs Suck but Maybe Quick Hit Football Won't

The one game I really want to talk about I am not allowed to talk about.

I hate that.

I'd LOVE to talk about it. Really. Because it's really, really good.

Really. (It rhymes with Flood Mole)

However, we'll have to settle for this -- Quick Hit Football.

Now before you go all "Dude another online football sim..." here's the kicker:

Quick Hit's CEO, Jeff Anderson, is a 15-year veteran; he's spent time at EA and was CEO of Turbine (Lord of the Rings; Dungeons & Dragons online) before founding Quick Hit. The lead designers on Quick Hit Football worked on Madden '06 and '07, as well as the NFL 2K series and ESPN NFL series.
So. Check out the website and I'll be getting a phone call guided tour of the game on Monday with a full report coming shortly thereafter.

Maybe it'll be the be all end all of online football sims with neat graphics?

Or.....maybe not.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday Morning Jane's

Nothing like a little lunch time Rock Band 2 Ocean Size to cheer me up.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'd Rather Listen to Mel Torme

I don't know why teams spend all this money and time with hiring "scouts" and doing "interviews" and watching "game tape" when everyone would be thrilled if they just went down Mel Kiper's Big Board (tm) and picked right off of that.

Remember what Mel said about Mike Williams: "See you in Canton, kid"

I wish these expert football analyst guys would just stick to telling me about a kid, and not whether or not a pick was good or bad -- because they have no flippin' idea.

The Browns had their "WTF?" moment but in the opposite direction as the norm. This time they did a helluva good job. It was weird, and unexpected but I loved the trade down tactic and I loved the players we got in return and I loved the center pick even though my OSU Biased Heart wanted Beanie.

I guarantee you this: if New England does the exact same deal as the Browns these 'experts' would be hailing it as yet another genius move by Belichick.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lions, Draft Day 1: A Strange Thing

So, the Lions finished 0-16 with the sort of defense that makes one want to crawl into a closet, curl up in the fetal position, stick your thumb in your mouth and whimper, “Please make the bad men go away.”

They have two first round picks (first overall and #20), plus the first pick in the second.

So, defense, defense, defense, right?

Yeah, not so much.

Pick #1: QB Matthew Stafford (and a rookie record $40M contract to boot)

Pick #2: TE Brandon Pettigrew

Pick #3: S Louis Delmas

Stafford was not a surprise even if the money was (didn’t stop idiot Lions fans from booing the pick; don’t go to NY and then boo your team), and Delmas’ name had come up in recent weeks as a recent target. But Pettigrew at #20?

What’s a strange feeling to me is that I’m fine with it all. First of all, I’m very content with the knowledge that, as fans, we don’t know shit. The question on draft day really isn’t who your team picks, it’s whether or not you trust the people making those decisions. Perhaps it’s the battered and beaten fan in me who just has to believe in something –anything- after eight years of Matt Millen in charge, but I’ve liked almost everything Lions GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have done leading up to the draft.

Granted, there’s not a lot W’s to be found in the dead of winter, but the way they’ve handled free agency and the build up to the draft was a far, far cry from the Millen days. I really knew nothing about Mayhew when old man Ford tapped him for the GM role, but from the standpoint of public perception (which is all any fan can observe), he’s handled himself extremely well up to this point. In the days leading up to the draft he said the roster was much too thin to quibble over what position a guy was or what side of the ball he played on. They needed guys who can play.

So, there’s really nothing that can be done but trust that when these guy looked at Stafford they saw a QB that they can build around for a generation; that when they took Pettigrew that with everything they saw on film, at the combine, in workouts, that passing up the acknowledged most complete tight end in the draft for a player they were less confident in, would’ve been folly. And for Delmas? That dude’s from Western Michigan, so it’s all good. You can trust a Bronco. Trust me.

Ultimately, the cliché is true: Time will tell us if Mayhew and Schwartz know what they’re doing. God, I hope so. Because, god as my witness, sir, I will not abide another toe. (Or something like that)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blood Bowl PC League -- June

OK so a while ago I mentioned Blood Bowl. A few times. I think.

Well, there is currently a closed PC multiplayer beta going on and I am not supposed to say if I am playing in it or not or that (I hear..) it's absolutely awesome.

But I can start to gather names for the PC league that we're going to start sometime in June when the game is supposed to ship.

The good news is that it's sure to be a great time full of bribed refs, chainsaws, Trolls who are too dumb to move, and lightning fast Wood Elves that my Orcs will summarily crush with an iron fist.

The bad news is that I only have 4 or 5 spots open. The league supports 24 teams and I already have a lot of people ready to go.

So -- if you want in the PC league you need to email me and let me know. Soon.

Draft Day!

Well, it's Draft Day -- and you can rest assured the Browns will do something today, either a trade or a pick, that will make all of Cleveland say, "WTF!?"

It's life as a Browns fan.

If we take Sanchez: WTF?

If we trade Edwards and only get the Giants 29th pick in return, essentially losing 1 WR for another (assuming they draft Crabtree at 5) and dropping 24 spots in the process: WTF?

If we take some linemen from LSU: WTF?

If we take a NT from Boston College when we already have Rogers: WTF?

Look for a real WTF moment today from the Browns.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Done with Sergio!

Harmonix and MTV Games announced today Nothing’s Shocking, the second album from eclectic alternative rock group Jane’s Addiction will be added to the Rock Band® Music Store of downloadable content next week for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and Wii™ home videogame console from Nintendo.

This makes me happy.

Really Cool Q&A

One of my staffers, Danielle Riendeau, conducted a great interview with Pit Stop's John Sanderson. Sanderson did the sound for House of the Dead Overkill.

This interview is a fantastic read as it goes into the process behind working on game sound.

Plus he likes to cuss.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Somebody Buy This Guy a Beer Tonight

Here’s a story in the Columbus Dispatch about a Wings fan who managed to lob an octopus onto the Columbus ice on Tuesday night. It’s a good story that includes Gary Bettman sounding like an ass and you just can’t put a price on that.

Goloborodko said he was detained by arena security, threatened by angry Jackets fans and enjoyed a chance encounter with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before being escorted from the building.

"As I was being held downstairs, Gary Bettman and his security guys walked by," Goloborodko said. "Like any good hockey fan, I recognized my commissioner and yelled out, 'Hey, Commissioner.'

"I heard Bettman say, 'I'm not happy about this one bit.' I don't know if he was responding to me or talking about something else."

If I can be a walking sports fan cliché for just one minute: Hey, Gary! You suck!

Ah. I feel better now.


I know most people don’t get the whole octopus tradition with the Red Wings and I’m quite sure even those who get it, hate it and think all Wings fans that embrace it are obnoxious. …oh well. That’s life, people. It ain’t going away anytime soon, no matter what Bettman (Ass) does to legislate against it. Besides, it makes those of us that do like it feel all warm and fuzzy inside when the slimy beast ends up splattered on another team’s home ice during a crucial playoff game.

Go Wings!

PS – Mr. Bettman, if you could kindly strike some kind of TV deal that doesn’t mean fans miss out on half their teams’ first round playoff games that’d be just super. I pay DirecTV $100 a month as it is, so no, I’m not ponying up extra to them or your stupid online site just so I can see the first round. Nobody should have to pay extra to watch their team in the playoffs.

PPS – DirecTV, I’d pay for your stupid sports packages if you’d let me pay less than the obnoxious amount of money you demand so that I could see just my own damned team’s games. Like I care about getting Thrashers or Ducks games? Besides, last year I sent you bastards $200 to watch the Lions win a total of zero games. How the hell have you not offered me a refund after that? It would be the best PR move in the history of the world… if you’re me.

PPPS – The cake is a lie.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Blogging, E3, and My Gaming Blackout… Also, M Go Blog Excellence

One of the things that sucks about my style of blogging, in which I just document whatever the hell is stuck in my head at a given time, is that when I’m not at liberty to write about something, then I really have nothing whatsoever to say. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the last week has, in fact, been an eventful one. Unfortunately, it’s not all good fodder for this blog. Well, it would be… if I were an anonymous blogger writing under an assumed name of a fake name behind a stolen identity. But I’m not, so I guess those epic tales of heroism and tragedy and stuff will go unwritten. Bummer.

That said, I am jazzed. I finally got my E3 press credentials request approved. You have to fill out a background check in triplicate, submit for retina scanning, endure a proctological exam and sacrifice a goat. It’s frigg’n complex, I tell you. At any rate, I’m approved, which was a huge relief. This morning I booked my flight and I am good to go. I’m truly excited about this, if you can’t tell. The only part I seem to be forgetting about is getting through the month of May. In the immortal words of Paladin in the first Wing Commander game, “Faith lad, that’ll be a challenge.” (I have no idea how that line just popped in there. We’re talking about a game I haven’t played since the days of the elder Bush.)

In terms of actual physical gaming, I have done none. Zilch. Zero. Like I said, it’s been a bit of a week. I also have to pen that Guitar Hero: Metallica review before Bill makes the trip from Columbus for the sole purpose of slapping me up the back of the noggin Jethro Gibbs style. He’s just the type to do it. But that’s okay. It won’t change the fact that in three round one playoff games the Wings have outscored his Blue Jackets 12-2. Outstanding. I’m just bummed I didn’t get to see the game last night (yes, after all my complaining yesterday)… stupid Vs. HD.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this post at M Go Blog. It’s not about anything in particular, just a commentary on the demise of the Ann Arbor News and the implications of it. Brian’s excellent writing always seems to be at its best when he’s waxing philosophic on stuff like this. I wanted to pull a quote here for a teaser, but the best stuff in it doesn’t work well as a pull quote, so just go check it out. It really is worth the read.

EDIT: Here's another link. This one about the Wings/Blue Jackets from IwoCPO at Abel to Yzerman. It's crass as hell, but damn is it funny (and true).  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Friggin Age

A few quick hitters from me today:

  • My E3 flight, hotel, and media registration is done and approved. So I am officially LA bound again in June. Only this time with Todd and Mr. Binky. God help me.

  • Tomorrow night I am playing DemiGod with several media folks from Team Crispy Gamer. Troy, Tom Chick, Mr. Keefer, James Fudge and others. I will attempt to be a beacon of hope as I play The Oak God. Chances are you have no idea what I am talking about.

  • I am BACK on the shelf this week. It's Tuesday at 6:45 which normally means I am raining three pointers on fools. But Sunday I managed to fall about 5 feet on my shoulder as I was driving to the hoop -- I was undercut and whoosh. Down I went. My shoulder decided to go "pop" which means I can barely lift my arm over my head today. I should be good to go in a week. But today--not so much. Lesson: STOP DRIVING TO THE BASKET YOU OLD DUMB ASS.

  • So I'm doing the review schedule from now til May 12 and look at this.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2
Velvet Assassin
Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Puzzle Kingdoms
Patapon 2
Jagged Alliance DS
Puchi Puchi Virus
Battlestations Pacific
Pirates v. Ninja Dodgeball
Sacred 2
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2

Murderer's row that aint', although I do want to see Sacred 2 on the 360.

Let's hope OOTP X drops within that time frame, though.

Why is it that…

Every frigg’n year the braintrusts of the NBA and NHL refuse to pick up a phone and end up scheduling multiple Pistons and Red Wings playoff games to play at nearly the same time on the same day? True, the Pistons are gonna get swept this year, but still. If they were a #1 or 2 seed I guarantee you they’d still be playing opposite the Wings tonight. There’s just something inherently dumb about that and it irks the hell out of me nearly every single year.

Anyway, go Pistons! Go Wings!

Monday, April 20, 2009

MadWorld Walkthrough

Brandon's Guide to All Things MadWorld is up today.

Brandon and I also chatted about why games like MadWorld sell like refried poo on the Wii. 160K units for a game like MW ain't good.

Anyway, as for me I am knee deep in DemiGod right now. Sweet game, folks.

As for the OOTP league we're finalizing the remaining uniforms on the league page.

You can still sign up for the league but you will be added to the growing wait list. We have about 9 guys on said list but it never hurts to get your name down. In these online leagues people come and go -- it's part of the deal so don't let a 9 man wait list deter you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Elven Legacy Review

I solved the crash problems I had earlier with the game and was able to play through it without too much trouble.

Review time.

Should have a DemiGod review soon.

We posted more uniforms on the OOTP League blog and things are moving along nicely. We have the most colorful league since MLB circa 1984.

My latest Virtual Groin Pull is about ready to go. I'm talking about the NCAA football series.

Oh, yeah -- keeping in mind that I never, ever watch ESPN unless it is carrying a game I need to see, I read that the Worldwide Leader of Shit Filled Sports Coverage chose not to retain Stephen A. Smith.

That's a good first step.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wrapping up the Week

As Bill noted, not much posting from us this week. I can only plead that it’s been a bit of a thing getting through the week. I’ll post more about that later, but suffice to say it’s not been a banner week.

I did finish Guitar Hero: Metallica. I really hated the last two tiers of songs; the last tier in particular. The game insulted the hell out of me by forcing me to drop to medium difficulty to finish some shit song from Slayer. Seriously, there has never been a song, going back to Guitar Hero 1, that I couldn’t at least finish on Hard. There’s something that’s just not right there. Either way, I’m relieved to be done with the game. I just don’t enjoy playing thrashy metal, which is what constituted the last 10-20 songs. I guess, not being angry at my dad, I just don’t get it. (To be fair, I don’t hate all those songs, but I sure as hell do hate playing them. It’s just not fun for me.) Anyway, the game is pure Guitar Hero, so if you don’t like that, don’t play the game. If you do, you’re fine. I’ll write a review soon that will give the game something in the C to B range. (Probably closer to a B, but we’ll see how the review comes out.)

The Wings beat up on Columbus last night in the first game of the first round of the playoffs. (Ha, Ha, Bill.) I’m glad the playoffs are here, but with the Wings there’s always a sense of trepidation about the first round. You know they should win. They know they should win. So the only thing you get from seeing them win games in that round is a profound sense of relief. I do have to say that Osgood was the balls last night. Absolutely on top of his game, which is of even greater relief after his lackluster regular season. That guy is always at his best in the playoffs, which explains why he’s the Wing’s franchise leader in playoff wins by a goalie, with something in the neighborhood of 60.

On Saturday I head to a buddy of mine’s barcade party, which basically means booze and lots and lots of Rock Band. How much I’m looking forward to just cutting loose for an evening I cannot put to words.

Finally, I sent in my credentials for E3 this week. I’ve been to the show four times before, but only once in the last ten years. It is a lot of work, but at the same time, it can be a hell of a lot of fun and it’ll be the first time since ‘98 that Bill and I have covered the show as part of the same team (as it were), so I’m really looking forward to that.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

We Are Alive

Sorry for the slow week -- I really have been busy with updating gameshark, editing, hospital visits (I'll spare you the details there) and futzing with both my Deep football team and our OOTP league.

I will be emailing everyone who signed up and missed the cut because we have a full 30 team owner roster.

But check out our crazy colorful league -- and that's only a few teams.

Todd has Noblesville (and you can't see it there but his team is the Hops, and I love the barley logo)

And I am the Jefferson City Nine -- and yes we wear bowties.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

OOTP X League

Only four spots remain. If you want in the league now is the time.

OOTP X is not out until May, but when the league reaches 30 teams, we're done accepting new owners and you'll be wait listed.

On High Fidelity, Good Music, and Digital Music Libraries

The other night, the Cusack classic, High Fidelity, was on HDNet Movies. First of all, just a great, great movie. Love it. Love. It. I can’t even tell you why I love it exactly. I’m not way into music, like the characters in this film. I like music, of course. I’m not made of stone. I’m just not under the delusion that I understand music. I understand film. Whether I like a movie or not, I can usually tell you –empirically- if it’s good or bad at what it does, regardless of my own personal feelings about it. Not so with music. I’m utterly clueless.

Anyway, there’s a scene in the movie (embedded below) that caused me to take up a long abandoned project. (Also, it reminded me how underappreciated the concept of the album is these days.)  The project? The re-ripping of my CD collection, while at the same time re-organizing how it’s all stored. My digital music collection has been something of a mess for a long, long time. 

(There is an f-bomb in this clip, so it's not totally work safe.)

---At this point, this post derails into mindless rambling. I really have no point to all this so read on at your own peril.

When I first started ripping CDs to MP3s, hard drive space was a precious commodity, so I’d only rip a handful of songs; not to mention the fact that I ripped so much of it 128 kbits/s. Times, obviously, have changed.

Last year I got fed up with the notion that roughly a third of the music in our collection wasn’t actually in our media library (not to mention the bit rate quality issues), so I started re-ripping whole CDs (while also going to a much higher bit rate). That process lasted a couple months before I fizzled. During the summer last year I had reached the K’s somewhere and hadn’t touched it since. So, this weekend I decided it was time to finish the job. I spent nearly all day Saturday and Sunday deleting and re-ripping content.

More fun, though, was accepting the fact that my music library structure was completely FUBAR. I used to have everything organized by artist\cd. It was simple. It was elegant. A couple years ago, though, I deluded myself into thinking it would be fine to have all my music just stored in one folder in Windows. No subfolders. Vista has a lot of ways to easily organize a folder’s contents, so I figured having a subfolder for artist and CD was kind of pointless. I could have everything in one place and just sort/search for what I needed. In theory it really wasn’t a bad idea.

Epic. F’ing. Fail.

Windows does not like it when you have like 3,000+ files all stored in one folder. Sorting on any particular column took forever. Eventually, I got sick of it and tried to organize everything by artist. That’s been problematic, though. Compilation CDs become a nightmare. I mean should I throw the song Not Dark Yet on the Wonder Boys soundtrack into the Bob Dylan folder, or should I put everything from that one disc into its own folder? I put it in Dylan. But that’s a lot of laborious sorting work when you get a new compilation CD or if you, say, plan to re-rip your entire collection. Plus you end up with a bunch of artist folders that have one or two tracks in ‘em.

Throw in the emergence of digital downloads (as a viable legal option) and that’s still more problems. I never really got into the Napster craze, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any music on my system that wasn’t legit. (To be fair, most of it is from mix CDs provided by friends, but there’s still stuff I do not own.) Over the years it’s become more important to me that everything I have be legit, so it’s bothered me more and more that I didn’t know exactly how much of my collection is from CD, from a legit download, or other.

This weekend I came to the conclusion that, in terms of organizing the files, themselves, the source mattered as much as anything. iTunes can sort it all six ways from Sunday for when I’m listening to stuff, so the folder structure needs to be about the accessibility of the physical files. So, I spent many, many hours going through and reorganizing everything into a set of source\artist\album folders (compilations go to a various artists\album folder). 

This is the kind of work that makes my day job of reading tech books seem exciting. Fortunately, I’m largely done now. There’s a bunch of Christmas, Celtic and misc. classical stuff of Angie’s that’s not done. I think I’ll go back and add those on a case by case basis. In the meantime, ripping everything from every CD to my digital music library has about tripled the size my music library. A lot of it is stuff I won’t ever listen to, but I’m sure there are some gems in there that just never got a fair shake. I’m looking forward to rediscovering my collection again.

Damn Twitter

Had to remove the Twitter Feed widgets because they kept asking readers for username/pword stuff.

get on that Todd.

Ms. Boyle

Have you heard about this?

"American Idol" isn't the only launching pad for aspiring singers. Across the pond, "Britain's Got Talent" scored a huge boost in the Buzz after an unassuming contestant gave an amazing performance.

Susan Boyle (remember that name) became a Web phenomenon after singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. The performance brought the audience to its feet and left the judges (including Simon Cowell) either speechless or in tears.

Before going on stage, Ms. Boyle admitted some self-deprecating facts about herself (she's never been kissed and lives alone with her cat, Pebbles). For those reasons and more, audiences were expecting the female William Hung.

They were wrong.

Lookups on the sudden star posted huge gains. A no-name just the other day, Ms. Boyle quickly surged into our top 5,000 overall searches. Blogs and gossip rags went wild. The Mirror jumped on the story, reporting that while Ms. Boyle thought she "looked like a garage" on TV, she received a standing ovation when she showed up at her local church.

Other sources write that as a child, Ms. Boyle was the target of bullies because of a disability. But, with her newfound fame, she is getting the last laugh. In fact, she's already meeting with officials from Mr. Cowell's Sony BMG label. This may have been the first you've heard of her, but it certainly won't be the last.

Monday, April 13, 2009

OOTP League Update

We have 24 players signed up which is enough to set the league but I will take new owners until we get to 30.

However I don't want an odd number if I can avoid it.

The game ships in May so we should be good to go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Madden 10: Adaptive AI

Ian's new blog is up, discussing some of the AI patterns.

I think this is a good step, but I think we have heard similar things in the past -- not just re: Madden but the whole "the AI learns what you're doing" thing. (Liquid AI, anyone?)

However if this will really prevent money plays from being, well, money then I'm all for it. That said, it's a tightrope walk. Does this mean that if I call play X a few times in a row, then change it up and run play Y, will play Y be wide open? We have no way of knowing obviously, but programming AI has to be a real bitch. I don't envy that task.

What if we find a money play and only run it a few times per game? Will the AI know that it's coming?

Still, I think they need to do pre-snap AI. I've talked about this before (just a few days ago in fact) but the AI should know my PERSONNEL. It should know that I have a workhorse running back or a golden armed QB.

It should not only adapt to the plays and routes I am calling but also to the players who are performing them.

If I'm playing as the Browns (yes, glutton for punishment that I am) the defense should be all over Braylon Edwards. Right now he's the only real threat they have -- Winslow is gone. JJ is gone. Stallworth is headed to the pokey. The Browns #2 wideout is either Syndric freaking Steptoe or 80 year old David Patten.

Shouldn't the AI see this and cover Braylon (assuming he's NOT in fact traded to the Giants) with a safety nearly every play? I'm thinking yes.

Anyway, read the blog but for all that is good and holy on this Easter Sunday -- don't read the comments. When the first comment after a post about Adaptive AI is,
"Hey I want to know more on what are you going to do to the franchise and also superstar mode, and the accessories for the players, as in more team colors for the cleats."
You know you are in for a bumpy ride.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Out of the Park Baseball 10 League Forming

The New City Baseball league is reforming after a 3 year hiatus!

Back in the day -- which if memory serves was from 2003 - 2005 I ran an OOTP league with 28 teams which ran for 24 league seasons. It was, quite possibly, the most fun I have had playing an online sports game. Our league developed a life of its own and I still remember many of the players and the rivalries that were born out of playing so many seasons.

It died when OOTP went the Sports Interactive route and people didn't want to make the switch (myself included) and it just sort of fizzled out. But still -- 24 seasons is one hell of a run.

But OOTP 10 looks pretty damn impressive and I think it's the perfect time to get the band back together. The game drops in a couple of weeks and I'd like to start to fill out the owner list as soon as I can. We'll build a league website, etc. It'll be a hell of a good time.

Just so you know before signing up:
  • The league is 100% fictional (hence the name) so no Yankees, Mets or Marlins. The teams and the players are fictional.

  • There is no DH because the DH is the demon seed of Charlie Finley

  • We will likely simulate 2 weeks worth of games every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night (this is not set in stone but this was the old routine)

  • Only sign up if you are willing to participate: this is especially true when replying to trade inquiries. Nothing can make an online OOTP suck more than players who ignore league emails. The league isn't a huge time sink for the owners -- you can get into it as much as you like, but just make sure to reply to emails and even a simple "Sorry, no thanks" will do when an owner offers a trade. Just don't be a phantom owner and you'll do fine.
So if you want to match baseball wits with the likes of me, Todd, Billy Baroo, freelance writer and baseball geek Troy Goodfellow, former EiC at Computer Games Mag Steve Bauman and my sports game obsessed father -- now's your chance.

Email me if you'd like to join or if you have any questions-- you can leave a comment but it might get lost in the shuffle so it's best to drop an email.

Finally, there is absolutely no prior OOTP experience needed to join. We can walk you through it and unless the online play has dramatically changed, it's not terribly complicated. You just need to be a baseball fan.

Saturday Stuff

Thanks to all who emailed me regarding the goat story as well as the feedback on the Virtual Groin Pull sports column - it's appreciated.

The neighbors came home last night and we talked for a couple of hours. They're about as happy with that vet as you'd expect. When I know more about his fate I'll let you know. My hope is that getting all of that out will help Mary find some semblance of closure. This has really messed her up and I am being as supportive as I know how. Being in that room would screw anyone up and she's still not sleeping very well.

As for the column, I'll reply to the emails I got later today but a quick "global" reply: yes I think that the hard percentages numbers would work and no I don't think it would spoil any potential outcome. How would that work online? I have no idea. How's that for an answer? :)

I hope everyone signed up for the Blood Bowl beta. You did, right?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Virtual Groin Pull Vol I and The Pitt Guide

Brandon's Guide/Walkthrough to Fallout 3: The Pitt is online today.

And my Virtual Groin Pull sports column starts today at GameShark and keeping with the Fallout motif -- I talk Fallout Football.

Songs Named After a Girl

Even if you hate the show Family Guy –and seriously, if you do, what’s wrong with you?- you have to admit this clip is pretty damned funny. (Not the Beethoven bit. Kinda a lame, that. But the rest is gold. Gold, Jerry. GOLD!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A True Story (Long and somewhat graphic)

We’re speeding down Route 62 heading toward the heart of the “city” of Johnstown, Ohio trying to make it to the local veterinarian before it’s too late. It probably already is.

“Dad is she still alive?”

I look down at the cold baby goat who is bundled in a bloody towel, lying on my chest, her eyes glassy but still fixed directly on me, her hair covered in dried blood. She’s still breathing, barely.

“Yeah, she’s alive.”

My eight year old daughter Ashley looks into the backseat of our beat up red ’98 Contour. Lying on the seat is a full grown female goat that is still in shock from the day’s events. She’s breathing heavy, her eyes wide open. She is otherwise completely silent.

My wife is driving, tears streaming down her face.

“Mom, this isn’t our fault,“ My daughter said in an attempt to comfort my wife. I remained silent and continued to cradle the now wheezing baby goat who was born a mere two hours ago but who had about three minutes left to live.

My wife was still in a mild state of shock herself and when I think back she should have been holding the weak baby goat and I should have been driving. She would later say she doesn’t even remember the car trip.


The day started like any other when our neighbors are out of town and we are responsible for taking care of their animals. This usually happens once or twice a year and we’re more than happy to do it. They have a slew of animals on their property; we live in the country so it’s not all that uncommon to have animals but our neighbors are basically playing Noah’s Ark without the flood.

The roster consists of five horses, four dogs, five goats, a cow, a mob of chickens and ducks, three cats, some fish, and a parakeet. We get up around 7 A.M. throw some old clothes on and some boots and tiredly stumble over to their house to feed the animals, let the horses out to pasture, and so on. In all it takes a little over an hour each morning and evening but it’s really no trouble – our neighbors would do the same for us, and they have on many occasion when we leave and have to leave our two dogs behind.

On this trip, we were told that one of the female goats was pregnant but wasn’t due until the week that they return. She had had babies (kids) before so if she does go into labor it shouldn’t be a problem. Most likely we’d come into the barn one morning or evening and see two little kids running around.

They left Saturday morning for spring break in Gatlinburg, TN.

Tuesday night we noticed that the pregnant goat was sitting still on a haystack and assumed that she was either about to go into labor or was just plain tired. We entered the barn Wednesday morning to do our usual routine and noticed that the female was in fact in labor. We could see a small head sticking out. It was motionless.

“That’s not good,” I said.

“We need to call Judy, now.” My wife grew up on a dairy farm and while she was no goat birthing expert she had seen stuff like this before. The kid was dead and we now needed to get the mom to a vet ASAP.

My wife called the owner and we were told to call a specific vet who would come out to the house to take after the goat. There are two vets in Johnstown, but she said this vet would make a house call.

Mary called the vet, who is about a 35 minute drive away, and was told the Dr. could not come out today – and that we had to come to them. My wife and I discussed this – should we go all the way out there or go to a local vet? Judy was very clear that this vet was the ‘horse and goat’ vet so we decided to load up the goat in our beater car – the red Contour-- and make the drive.

It was a decision I would deeply regret a great deal two hours from now.

The drive was uneventful other than we thought we were lost only to finally see a sign that eased our worries. We were driving into an area that we’d never been in – a half hour from my house in the country and into an area much deeper in the country. We were now out where the buses don’t run. But after about 40 minutes we arrived. The mother goat seemed fine, a little frazzled by the unexpected car ride but otherwise stable.

Upon arriving at the Feeder Creek Vet Clinic (Yes, Feeder Creek) things seemed amiss. Perhaps a bit too “casual” for my liking. We had called ahead and reported the situation so I only assumed someone would be waiting on us with some means of transferring the animal into the clinic. This isn’t a huge goat – but a pregnant one with a dead baby head sticking out of it. This wasn’t an annual checkup.

Mary went inside and I stayed outside with the goat and with Ashley, who wanted to stay and keep her company. . Mary was able to get a vet assistant to come out and help. She aggressively grabbed the goat by the horns and pulled her out of the car.

“Hey easy there,” I said. “Is she ok?”

“Yes, she’s fine, but I need to secure the horns,” said the woman.

The assistant then asked Mary to hold up her rear while she had the front and that they would carry her into the clinic together. Why she asked Mary I’m not sure, but Mary didn’t hesitate and lifted the mother along with the vet assistant and off they went with me and Ashley behind – Ashley repeatedly asking what was going to happen next.

They carried her into what looked like a staging area – not really an operating room but a room for “staff only”. The goat looked relieved to be put down. The Doctor then asked Mary to grab the goat’s head – the assistant was now at the rear of the goat. The Dr. then put on gloves that went all the way up to his shoulder.

“Ashley, let’s go,” I said.

“Can I watch?” she asked.

”No, let’s get you out of here. Mary are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said.

As I said before Mary grew up on a dairy farm so this wasn’t a completely new thing for her, even though I found it incredibly strange that they asked her to help and didn’t grab another vet assistant. This was a country vet but it was fairly large and there were several people milling about.

I escorted Ashley out of the room via two double doors with a small window in the center. We looked around the office, walked over to pet the massively overweight “office dog” – a Golden Retriever that had to weigh at least 120 pounds, and then wandered over to the rabbit cages. I was talking to Ashley about the schooling you need to become a vet – which is currently her dream job, when I heard a noise that will stay with me for a long, long time.

The mother goat let out a wail that can only be described as torturous.

I told Ashley to stay put and walked over to the window on the door and I could see Mary, her face silk sheet white. She saw me and her mouth was agape.

“Keep Ashley out of here!” she insisted. Ashley had snuck up behind me and was trying to peek in and I grabbed her and took her back to the obese dog.

“Can someone help me out here?” A lot of the people by now had gone to lunch and the lady behind the desk was of no help whatsoever. I wanted to get Mary out of that room because things were obviously not going according to any plan we had anticipated.

About that time I heard Mary say, “Oh God no!”

“Ashley, do not move one muscle. Stay right here.” She knew I meant it and simply nodded at me, her eyes now concerned and wide.

I jogged over to the double doors and Mary came out, blood was on her shirt and she looked dazed.

“She’s going to die,” she said.

“What? Mary are you ok? What happened?”

Tears began forming in her eyes.

“The mom is going to die. Her uterus is ripped.”

“Oh no…”

She then stopped crying and started to get mad.

“Bill, it was brutal. That “doctor” had to have ripped it himself. It was the most sickening thing I have ever seen. First he cut the head off of the dead baby goat in order to pull out the body. I’ve seen some crazy shit but I wasn’t prepared for that. I told him this goat had had kids before but that her canal was small – he ignored me and he shoved his arm inside her in order to pull out the other baby. It was agonizing. The mother was writhing in pain and then he told me the uterus was ripped and that she would most likely not make it. My God, what do we tell Judy and Brian?”

“The truth,” I said.

About this time Dr. Mengele comes out of the room, and proceeds to tell us that the other baby goat is alive and that Ashley could go in and see her.

“What?” I said.

“Yes you have a baby goat – that’s her crying, “he said.

I can feel the blood rushing to my face but about that time Ashley tugs on my shirt and asks to go see the baby.

“Just stay here, let me take a look. Stay here with mom,“ I said.

The scene was macabre.

The baby goat was indeed alive, but still a bloody mess. The mother was basically passed out, her insides still in shock from what just happened and strewn about the table. I leave immediately and go back to Ashley and tell her it’s not safe to go in yet because the baby needs cleaned up.

At this point I have two options: confront this man, and allow it to get to the point where I possibly get arrested for assault, or allow myself to cool down, check on my family and get the fuck out of there. I’m already kicking myself for even allowing Mary to be in that murder room, but she’s a grown woman and has been in rooms during cow births and had no idea what was about to transpire. Still, I’m pissed at myself and am so mad at this vet quack that I know it will be very difficult for me to speak to him without flipping the hell out. So, I allow rationalization to win and I simply swallow it.

We are then told that we have to take care of this new baby and also to take the mother goat back to the barn with a bottle of Penicillin to stave off infection because there was still a chance she could live. We have told these people that this isn’t our animal and that we have no earthly idea how to take care of a baby goat that can’t get milk from the mother (she was in no condition for that). Of course, they don’t have the materials to do that there – I mean it’s only a VET CLINIC for God’s sake.

So we get a 5 minute crash course on how to take care of this baby goat. We need to feed her every 2 hours – for the next 48 hours. We have to stop at the local feed mill and get the proper milk substitute as well as small nipples, everything a growing baby goat needs.

I am handed the baby goat at this point. She’s tiny. She’s got dried blood all over her hair and she’s baying like crazy. She’s also cold.

“We need to get of here and get her some food,” said Mary.

The mother goat is then loaded up in the car, still in a massive state of shock, and I get in the passenger side with the baby goat in my arms, wrapped in a towel and cradled inside my Ohio State jacket. We speed off for the feed mill, leaving the death camp vet clinic in the rear view mirror.

“This baby has to survive, “said Mary. “Above all else we need this baby to live.” I can already tell Mary is blaming herself for all of this. None of which is true – this isn’t our fault but the fact that this has happened on our watch is something Mary is going to have a tough time dealing with. I try to console her with empty words like “we didn’t do this” but I know my wife. The baby needs to live.

We can’t find the feed mill. We’re still in unfamiliar waters and it’s not where the guy said it was supposed to be. A call to 411 is made to get the number of the feed mill in Johnstown – we need to get back to friendly territory – fast.

Ashley takes all of this in stride, asking very point blank questions and statements like, “Are they alive?” and “I hope they live.” But so far there is no crying or any sort or trauma on Ashley’s face. I start to thank the heavens that I took her out of that room.

We get to the Johnstown Feed Mill and try to find what the baby goat needs. We secure all of the powder, a nipple, a small bottle and mix it up on the spot. She won’t eat. She’s baying, but she’s weak and she refuses to even take the nipple.

“We need to go – right now,” I said. “Let’s take her to our vet here in town.”

Mary agrees and we speed off again. Johnstown being a small village with a population of about 4,000 people getting from one end to the other doesn’t take too much time and we’re at our vet in a matter of about 5 minutes.

We all race inside with the mother goat about half conscious in the backseat of the Contour. Our vet immediately tells us, “She’s too cold. “

She won’t feed because her temperature needs to be raised – she’s deathly cold and we need to heat her up. We recount the story of the clinic to my vet and she almost starts to cry. “Report him, “she tells us. “Report him to the OVMA. (Ohio Veterinary Medical Association). That seems like sage advice and a much better way to get back at this guy than me kicking his teeth in but right now we need to get back to the house and take care of the goats.

We get back to our house and leave the mother in the car and give her some water which she eagerly starts to drink. Mary grabs the small space heater from the closet and we put the goat in front of it – trying to get it warmed up without actually hurting it. It bays every once in a while but still will not feed. Mary is starting to panic and runs out of the room and comes back with a bowl with a few drops of milk in it

“Mary…did you get this..”

“Yes from the mother.”

I say nothing. I know when to shut up and this was one of those times. Mary tries to get the baby to at least taste the mother’s milk but it’s not working. She’s not reacting to any of this even though she is starting to warm up a bit.

I then decide to call Judy – she needs to know what’s going on with her goat. She takes the news, seemingly anyway, in stride and tells us to go to the other local vet – she has so many animals that she knows every vet within a 20 mile radius. We call ahead and tell this vet that we‘re coming.

And off we go again, racing down Route 62 with a dying mother in the backseat and a slowly dying baby goat in my arms.

We arrive in a matter of minutes, and I start thinking: “Why didn’t we go here in the first place?” Before we can get out of the car – the baby is dead. I could feel its life just…leave. This was a first for me. And while not nearly as shockingly traumatic as what Mary went through back at the clinic, it its own way this was just as stunning. The goat literally rested in my arms, staring at me, and then wilted.

The atmosphere at this vet was a complete 180 from what we experienced at Feeder Creek. They actually seem to – well – care about the animal. The fact that we all look like hell at this point likely helps to get the point across that we’re in no mood for bullshit.

The Dr looks at the mother and immediately tells us that we should put her down.

We need to call Brian and Judy before making that decision, though, and Mary by now was in no state of mind to talk to them. Both babies were dead and the mother had only moments to live.

The phone call went better than expected. Brian apologized to me over and over again for putting us through this (not to mention the goat) and that he wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news to their daughter, Sammy. But that we had done all we could. It was of no consolation for Mary. The vets and the assistants again told us to report the Dr. from Feeder Creek. They were all equally shocked at how he treated both the goat – and us.

We slowly drove home, a blood stained backseat as a reminder of what had happened in the past two hours. I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the stains. They’re not all gone.

My wife is still a mess. It’s unclear to me if it’s because of what happened – or how it happened. Being in that room with the sadist vet is something that would affect anyone – even a farm girl like Mary. Of all of us, it’s Ashley who has already put it behind her. It’s odd.

Later that night, when Ashley and Mary were upstairs watching a movie on DVD and I was downstairs alone, trying to get that little goat’s face out of my mind, Billy Baroo calls wanting to play Left 4 Dead. I call Todd – he’s not home. Mike is online playing Rock Band 2 and doesn’t answer my request. Inside I’m sort of happy for that. I’ve seen enough real blood today and seeing more, even of the fake zombie kind, isn’t the best medicine. I need to sleep.

And hopefully not dream.

Red Alert! Women and Mogs First!

I’ve really been trying not to let it happen, but god help me, I’m getting excited for the new Star Trek movie. No, not just excited. I’m on red freak’n alert with phasers set to kill. I can’t help it. The first couple trailers did nothing for me. The most recent one was like, hmm, this is starting to look interesting. Then came this week.

First, there was the screening of the flick in Austin. If you hadn’t heard about this, it’s all flavors and shades of awesome. People thought they were going to see a screening of a restored print of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Instead they got six minutes of Wrath of Kahn before the film broke down. Everyone acts pissed off. Onto the stage walks Leonard Nimoy with a film can in his hand. It is, of course, the new film, which they then screened instead of Kahn. Pretty ballsy when you consider how much Trek fans love Wrath of Kahn. I mean if the new film blows, people there are gonna go apeshit. Fortunately, if you read Ain’t it Cool News, you know that the impressions rolling out of there of indicate the new flick is –at worst- a pretty decent Trek film and –at best- just a monumentally kick ass movie.

Yesterday I also read about a couple of short clips now making the rounds. I tried to avoid ‘em just not to be spoiled, but I failed my Will save this morning so now I’m going to challenge yours, because these clips are f’ing gravy. I’ve embedded the first one below. It’s Kirk and Uhura at a bar. If you’ve seen the most recent trailer, this is appears to be what instigates the bar fight to which the trailer alludes.

Go ahead and tell me that Chris Pine is not James T. Kirk in that scene. Go on. I dare you because that s$%t is 100% pure Kirk awesomeness. If you try to tell me it’s not, then I’m calling Pine and he’s going to come kick you in the nuts. You and six of your buddies. Chris Pine, if you deliver in the rest of that movie like you do in that scene, you’ll have made a lot of Trekkies very, very happy.

There’s a second clip of Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy that is equally good. God help me, I’m getting really excited for this flick.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Friendly Fire in L4D

There’s a lot of comedic Left 4 Dead videos floating around out there, some pretty good, some not so much. I caught this one via my Facebook feed and there’s a friendly fire sequence in it that is absolutely hilarious (because it’s 100% true).

Mike – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s Louis in this video that won’t get out of the damn way. I led the way in friendly fire incidents last night because of you, dammit! 

Guitar Hero: Metallica – WROCK! …I guess

Because Bill thinks that his supreme powers as chief wank of Gameshark content permits him to torture people mercilessly, I’ve been assigned to review Guitar Hero: Metallica edition.

I am not a fan.

Fortunately for him, I’m a professional, or at least professional-esque. Kinda.

The game actually made a decent first impression. When I reviewed Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which sucked, I made the argument that if you’re going to do this sort of band-themed music game then you really need to play with the formula and revel in it. (Even if it is Aerosmith.) At first, it looked like GH: Metallica was going to do that. The first two-song entry sequence into the game showed all sorts of custom stage work for the band; pyrotechnics at just the right moment, a roadie bringing out a new axe for Angry Lead Singer Guy (I forget the name and am too lazy to look it up at the moment) between songs, etc. Then the game enters a sequence in which you create your own rocker (I assume in the same vein as GH: World Tour) and create a band that serves as the opening act for Metallica. 

At that point I was thinking, hey, they might be experimenting with the usual GH format here. I was intrigued. Yeah, not so much. From there it’s a steady process of five-songs of non-Metallica stuff with your user-created band and five songs of Metallica stuff with the “real” Metallica rockers. (I think Jeffrey Lebowski said it best when he said, “Bunch of assholes.”) It’s straight out of the Guitar Hero formula, dating back to the first game. Or at least it appears so thus far, I’m about 50-60% through the track list at this point.

As for the actual playing of the music. Dare I say that it’s improved? My impression of Neversoft-developed Guitar Hero games is that they suck at note charting, most importantly when playing at higher levels (Expert). It always feels like they’re just throwing colored dots around to make the song more difficult to play, with only loose consideration given to how the song should actually play. I’ve seen some of that with this Metallica edition, but far more than is usually the case I’m actually forgetting about where those dots are showing up and just playing the song. That’s the feeling I get when playing Rock Band that I’ve always thought made that game far superior. The thing is, I notice this most consistently when playing the Metallica content. When I play the non-Metallica stuff I tend to notice the random-dot feeling more, which makes me wonder if perhaps Metallica got a little more hands-on with the implementation of their stuff. Or it could just all be my imagination and I’m just a whore for Rock Band. These things are, bizarre as it may be to contemplate, possible.

Ultimately, if you like Metallica (a lot), and if you like the standard Guitar Hero formula, then it’s worth the price of admission. If you’re looking for a game that really plays with the GH formula and the concept of focusing on the musical content of (primarily) just one band, then look elsewhere.

Why Do They Do That?

"If you’re a hardcore turn-based strategy fan, feel free to disregard this review (Of Elven Legacy) and seek out the opinion of someone more schooled in the genre."

Seriously. Why? I guess points for honesty count.

Foiled Again

This cracked me up today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blood Bowl Homepage Ready to Go

And it looks great.

If you have been wondering "WTF is this all about?" because I keep harping on it, the new site will help as it discusses, briefly, the races and how they work.

Also -- MP Beta registration..hurry hurry.

Madden 10 Franchise Stuff

If you have not read Josh Looman's post about franchise tweaks -- check it out.

It's like the Madden team is slowly checking off every gripe I have had with Madden for the past -- well since Madden.

Player progression, rookies, player signings, draft logic -- it sounds good on paper, at least.

Let's hope the implementation is as good as the idea.

Madden WR/DB Interaction

Did you see this pic from Ian's Madden blog? Are the days of the Super Leaping DBs in Madden gone forever?

Because that looks fantastic.

The result of this play was an incomplete pass, btw.

Monday, April 6, 2009

MLB 2K9 / MLB 09 Stat Tests

I have a 5 page feature online today discussing the sim engine for 2K and Sony's games.

I simmed 5 seasons with each game and rambled on about what I saw.

One game saw Washington win three (3) NL East titles...


Vampires, Game Writing and Kitchen Sinks

I’m a strong believer that there is no such thing as a good pun, but I was going to achieve fame and immortality by titling this post, “Interview with a Vampire Writer.” Okay, that sucks too, but I like it anyway because I made it up and therefore -awesome. Then I went back and re-read the title of the post to which I was going to link, “Interview Without a Vampire.”

So much for that.

Moving on. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has an interview up this morning with Brian Mitsoda, a writer for the shoulda-been-a-classic PC RPG: Vampire: Bloodlines. I still need to track down a copy of this game and play it. I like vampire stories (Twilight excepted). I like PC RPGs. The only reason I never made time for it was its rep for being unforgivably buggy. Another one for the wasted potential Scott & Jean file, I suppose. –sigh- I’m digressing again. 

Anyway, the point of all this (hey, that only took four paragraphs to get to) -in addition to being an interesting read overall- is that Mitsoda has a great, great quote about the game industry’s failure to separate good writing from good gameplay. (Cue my rant about Fallout 3 winning a writing award.)  Here’s the quote, but be sure to check out the whole interview:

I think if critics are going to focus on a game’s writing, they should analyze not only the marriage of the narrative to the gameplay, but set some higher standards for what they expect from characters, plot, and dialogue.

A good scene, a good line, and/or a decent character do not make a game’s story great. Bad writing is bad writing – it might not matter if the game is fun, but don’t score the story higher because the game mechanics were tight or the setting was novel. Ultimately, the writing really isn’t that key to a fantastic game, but for those that do make it a crucial part of their game and hype it as such, those are the games the gaming press should be a lot more critical of. And for those that identify themselves as game writers, critics and fans should absolutely hold feet to flames ad infinitum, myself included.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What I want -- Addendum

I want to go into more detail on this topic later -- but this from from the OBR's story on Braylon Edwards:

"Edwards will be a marked man because the Browns traded their other big threat, Kellen Winslow. Winslow was shipped to Tampa Bay for a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick next year. Unless the Browns improve, Edwards can expect to be double-teams virtually every play."

To me, this is a critical step that sports games need to take.

The computer controlled teams need to know who they are playing against -- regardless of the sport.

If I'm playing a basketball game and my team has one legit scoring threat then the AI should know this, right? I should see double teams or some sort of plan to slow down my main guy.

The CPU shouldn't allow me to win with my only player.

In a football game the AI needs to know that I have an All Pro/All American running back but no passing game. And I should be staring at 7, 8, even 9 men in the box until I can prove I can throw the ball.

If I have a great passing game and no run game the AI should know this too, and look to double my All Pro WR and take him away from me gameplan if an all possible or try its best to get to the QB to force him to throw early.

You don't see much of that in today's games.

And I really want to see that remedied.

Deep Route Football Journal

I am about to take over a really bad team in Deep Route Football and since I think this game is pretty freaking amazing I thought it would be fun to do a mini journal of how the game works and my experience as a new owner of a really bad team.

Once I get the team assigned I'll do a brief write up on the roster and my thoughts going into the live draft.

I also have some OOTP 10 league news coming.

Some Things I Want

  • My old copy of Great Battles of Alexander to work under XP. It requires Windows 95.

  • I'd like to find a game about Alexander that was not made during the days of Windows 95.

  • I'd like a new college basketball game: one that is better than NCAA Basketball 09 but not as time demanding as College Hoops 2K8. Recruiting should not feel like work. Seriously what was wrong with the old NCAA football model? Fast, easy, and realistic enough. I hate recruiting in CH2K8. Hate it. I hate it because it isn't fun. And I'm not a fan of the NCAA model now either. I don't care about picking certain pitches to players -- just get the hell on with it.

  • I'd like any time spent on Mascot games in any college sports game to instead be devoted to something that is not stupid.

  • The GameShark redesign to go live. It's a ways away, but it looks super cool and I want it live. Now.

  • I want to be able to finish Painkiller on Expert guitar. 70% is my high water mark at the moment. Green Grass and High Tides remains further out of reach...

  • I'd like to sit down for 2 hours with the development team of Madden 10. Just me. No one else. No other media people.

  • I'd like the features that are being put into Madden to go into NCAA: THIS YEAR.

  • I'd like to get my sports column done that I have been putting off for a month. This one may actually happen...

  • I'd like today's sports games to use board games as a source of inspiration, but that's a topic for another column.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Layers of Funny

I find this picture funny on a few different levels -- most juvenile.

Is she the funny part? Or the dude in the background and his reaction face?

Milestone Reached

It happened this week -- I have marked it on my calendar.

Ashley beat both me and Mary in a boardgame that wasn't solely designed for children.

Yes, she's won at games like Gulo Gulo and Chicken Cha Cha Cha and even traditional games like Sorry.

But the other night we played Qwirkle -- it's a tile laying game with various colors and shapes, and takes some planning, some luck, and some observational skills. We have played this game at least a half dozen times with her but it had been about 6 months since our last game and it was like the light came on. She knew HOW to play and not just what the rules were.

We did "help" her one time when she cost herself only a few extra points, but for the most part it was all her -- beating the two of us. I was happy and sorta sad. I don't know, I guess it signifies her growing up. She's already to the point where Dora is for babies (which is fine, I hate that damn show).

I have been waiting for her to age a bit so she can play some games with me and Mary and that time is fast approaching, it seems.

So is Teenage-ism.



"In an April Fool's joke that left everyone but the contestant laughing, the Magic made a fan think he was shooting a half-court shot for $100,000 at halftime. The fan was blindfolded, and the crowd was told beforehand to cheer as if he made the shot. The young contestant, named Dan, missed badly but believed he won and danced around the court in a frenzy. Before being told it was a joke and showed the replay he said, "I just got laid off at work." He was given a 100 Grand Bar of candy instead but was not laughing. ... The Magic eliminated the Raptors in the first round of last year's playoffs, winning the series 4-1. Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press."

Ha ha?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Hate April 1st

Not for the lame jokes, the GOTCHA! moments that always happen when a prank works -- but because April 1st always shines a bright spotlight on my idiocy/gullibility.

The Vision Cone thing below? Yeah, that was an April Fool's joke.

It's obvious now that it's been revealed. Green being worse than yellow had both Todd and I chatting to each other, "WTF is that about?"

So yes, I went hook line and sinker and every year I get hooked at least once. It's my trusting nature. Yes, that's what it is.

God, I'm just that stupid.

OK -- real info from Ian. At least I think it's real! I admit I'm glad this was a prank, though. Josh Looman you are the devil.

Here's some real info about sideline catches or something. My mind is all a flutter.

Blood Bowl DS Screens

These look pretty darn good.

Madden 10 QB Stuff -- Heart Rate Increasing

A new Ian Blog Post is up today, discussing Vision 3.0 in Madden 10.

I'll get to that in a sec.

But earlier, back in Feb he also discussed new QB ratings in Madden 10:

Here's a snip:

Our next big change for the QB position was the addition of some new ratings. For countless years we've basically had Throw Power, Throw Accuracy, and Awareness as the only ratings for the QB position, so it's very hard to differentiate the players correctly and have them perform more like their real-life counterparts with just those few. For example, a superstar like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning would previously have a very high Throw Accuracy rating like a 98, well that had to be the case for a 5 yard screen or a 65 yard heave! Here are our new ratings:

1. Deep Ball Accuracy: Determines the accuracy on deep passes (streaks, deep posts, etc)
2. Medium Passing Accuracy: Determines the accuracy on medium passes (outs, corners, etc)
3. Short Passing Accuracy: Determines the accuracy on short passes (quick smash, flats, etc)
4. Throw on the Run: Creates a modifier to accuracy when the QB is throwing on the run. Every QB will take some sort of accuracy hit when throwing on the run, but a QB that has a high rating here will take a smaller hit.
5. Play Action: Determines the 'effectiveness' of Play Action for a QB, i.e. how often they can fake out or freeze the defense (which is obviously weighted against the defenders Play Recognition ratings)

With Donny's new philosophy on ratings, the addition of these ratings immediately made the game play VERY differently than in years past. Chucking up the deep ball with a QB with high throw power but bad accuracy is definitely a recipe for disaster!
Now, I have no idea of Ian and Team Madden can pull this off. I really have no idea what to expect.

But this is the number one issue I have had with Madden and NCAA's gameplay for years now -- QB accuracy -- or lack thereof.

This is a BIG, BIG deal. For me, anyway.

It says that these guys "get it" -- who knows how well they can do this stuff, but they clearly get it.

Here' sa quote from the Donny Rating post, "Every position and every rating has been re-scaled to expand the range of numbers we are dealing with. The Overall Rating for your average NFL player has dropped. Your Joe Average linebacker who was 80 OVR is now dropped down to 70. "

That is spot freaking ON.

And this: "In Madden NFL 10, WR SPD range is currently 70-100…CB is currently 75-99. So as you may or may not tell, the SPD range has been pushed down, in our opinions, to better reflect the “sim-gameplay” style that Ian and Phil have been telling you about all winter long. This SPD change has been updated for each position, so it makes a huge game play affect. Ian and I had a game the other day where Earnest Graham broke one up the middle for a 55 yard touchdown run… and he could not be caught!…E-Grahams’ Madden NFL 10 current SPD rating….80 SPD. That should give you a good sense of what is possible with the new ratings."

OK back to the QB stuff.

I don't want to cut and paste this whole thing -- you need to see the pic yourself, if you haven't already. Scroll down to the part about 'accuracy 'algorithms' right after the new ratings I posted above.

Will this fix the "every damn deep pass is right on the money" problem that has plagued Madden/NCAA since the dawn of man? I don't know.

But I love what I am hearing.

The new Vision cone is back and...colorful.

Here's the kicker -- this is all tied back into those new QB ratings. I disagree with making yellow more accurate than green as it flies in the face of all gaming logic -- green = good, right?

Who knows how all of this will mesh together, and while I have always like the cone in theory but I always found it clunky to use, the changes the team is making this year show me that they really are trying to take Madden to another level -- and I have not been this excited about an EA Sports football game since NCAA made the next gen leap and landed on its face...

Ok bad example...

My Scott & Jean: Wasted Story Potential (Part 2)

Yesterday I introduced the topic of the Scott & Jean and talked about how mine is wasted story potential. Today I bring to you my top five. Enjoy! 

5. West Wing Season 4 to 5 Transition: This is my all-time favorite TV show. I can watch the first four seasons of West Wing over and over again. And I have. You quote it and odds are I’ll know the line and be able to quote the next one. Chances are I’ll be able to tell you which episode it came from and, failing that, at least which season it was and where it is in the story. Pathetic? Yes. But, hey, some of you probably like American Idol, so I refuse to be criticized. Anyway, at the end of season 4, President Bartlet’s daughter, Zoey, has been kidnapped, he’s invoked the 25th amendment and –because of the VP’s recent resignation- the Republican Speaker of the House (played by the always awesome John Goodman) has assumed the office of the president. Awesome sequence of events (if, admittedly, a little contrived with the whole lack of a VP thang) . The problem? That was the end of show creator Aaron Sorkin’s run as the show’s lead writer. I don’t know the name of the person or people who took over, but they were not Aaron Sorkin. They completely and totally botched this beautiful setup and did not nothing with it. I’m sure they tried, but the enormity of the task crushed them like Nerds (the candy) caught in the soles of your shoe at a movie theater. The plotline fizzled. I gave up on the show about 10 episodes into Season 5. Still, at least it got four good years.

4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. When it comes to film adaptations of books, comics, etc. I’m not a zealot. I understand details must change to better fit a different format. I was totally onboard with the changes to Fellowship of the Ring -no Tom Bombadil, Arwen’s increased role, Aragorn actually saying goodbye to Frodo- because these things made the movie better (or at least didn’t hurt it). For my money it’s as close as you get to a perfect adaptation. The Two Towers was not. (Nor was Return of the King for that matter, but TT was worse.) Peter Jackson had all the pieces in place to blow people’s minds and he blew it by wasting time with Aragorn’s “death” scene and fallout thereof, something that was not in the book because it’s a horrible idea and a horrible waste of time. Did anyone actually believe Aragorn was dead? No. And the changes to Faramir’s character are a complete betrayal of that character. At no point does Faramir covet the ring. It’s what makes him distinct and, dare I say, better than his brother. I understood the need to drum up the action and tension a bit by having him try to take Frodo to Gondor, but good god Jackson, you could have had it both ways. You could’ve done it without completely changing Faramir’s character make up. He’s a guy with huge daddy-pleasing issues. Have him say outright that trying to possess the ring is folly, but that he has no choice but to accede to his father’s will. It would still have been a departure from the book that would’ve brought the action scenes Jackson wanted to include, and at the same time not been a complete betrayal of the character. Finally, if I ever have to endure another extreme close-up or Liv Tyler crying it’s entirely possible that I will achieve posthumous fame as the first verifiable case of spontaneous human combustion.

3. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Take a step back away from the keyboard on this one. We all know and agree the prequel trilogy sucked. And yes, that trilogy in and of itself is a walking testament to unfulfilled potential. But the third film, the one they had to nail, that was the king of it all. There is good stuff in that flick. Lots of good stuff. So much good stuff that you can’t help but want to drive a pen into your skull using a Fisher Price hammer (wow, the visual!) each and every time the film manages to suck you in only to have Lucas and Co. do their best Lucy and yank the football away. Take the scene where Vader get his suit. There’s Anakin on the table getting treated. We seem him as the helmet descends, the score is rising, and we see that perfect look of terror on his face just before it becomes a permanent fixture. Then what? He asks about Padme, is told he killed her and then staggers forward like frikk’n Frankestein and wails, “Noooooooooooooo,” like he just stepped out of a scene from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

2. X-Men 2 to X-Men 3. Fans of the X-Men comic know this one. We get X-Men 2, arguably the single greatest comic book movie ever, and it was finished with that absolutely perfect final shot and voice over in which the camera zooms over the lake where Jean Grey has died and in the water we see the shape of a phoenix as Xavier talks in the voice over about evolution taking a giant leap forward. No fan of the X-Men didn’t see that and not jump the fuck out of their chair and exclaim that they couldn’t wait for the next movie. Perfect fucking setup for the Phoenix Saga storyline. And then what happens? We lose Bryan Singer as a director. Since he was the driving force on the first two that was a bad omen, but you can replace directors. They’re not perfect. Hell, Singer went on to mess up the Superman franchise re-launch with Superman Returns. (Speaking of wasted potential, Kevin Spacey was a perfect fit for Lex Luthor. Wasted.) But then Brett Ratner was attached and you immediately had to know that X3 wasn’t going to fulfill the promise of X2. And it didn’t. In fact if there’s some kind of inverse black hole potential to expectations in which a high expectation can be changed to represent the exact same value but in a negative space, that was X3. I mean they made Dark Phoenix a side plot to yet another anti-mutancy magic syringe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dark Phoenix is a side plot to nothing!

1. Firefly: This show was on its way to being the best thing Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) had ever done. I really like those previous shows. At times I outright love them. But there’s no denying that they were the TV equivalent of playing golf. Many, maybe even most, of the episodes were kinda above average to average, with the occasional awful one thrown in for good measure. But the good ones, they were as good as TV got. Like a good golf shot, they kept you coming back. Firefly? Of the episodes produced (and released on DVD – go buy it) each and every one of them was awesome. I mean Jaynestown? Out of Gas? Objects in Space? Our Mrs. Reynolds, for god’s sake? Fox stuck Firefly in the Friday night death slot and cancelled it after… what? Eight episodes? It’s been years since I first watched Firefly and it still pisses me off to contemplate what could’ve been and wasn’t because Fox had no freaking idea what they had. “Two-by-two, hands of blue,” you motherfuckers!