Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Blood Bowl Achilles Heel


I have moved from "it's ok" to "it's not very good."

I am reading other forums and some seem to notice this brain dead behavior while others don't -- I suspect players new to the game aren't noticing some of the oddities, but if you know BB--it's pretty blatant.

I am now 11 games into my campaign with the Skaven and we're 10-1. The one loss coming in my 2nd game. and it was due 100% to exceedingly bad die rolls and not brilliant (or even solid) AI tactics. Since then, we are on cruise control. It is *very* rare that the AI scores on me.

And that's the #1 issue -- offensive AI is *abysmal*. Last night I was playing against the humans who had a good shot at scoring. A big scrum broke out at midfield and somehow the AI Human Blitzer emerged with the ball and I had a lone Skaven Lineman trying ro run him down. I was able to get into his Tackle Zone but that was it.

The Human player was about 5 paces from scoring so I knew I was in trouble.

In this situation, the AI has only two real options.

1) Try and get another player to assist block so that the Blitzer can "blitz" and use 2 dice and then run into the end zone.

2) If no help is nearby, simply blitz my Skaven lineman, and then move toward the goal. Human Blitzers have the Block skill (the Skaven Lineman do not) so the ONLY result on the die that hurts the Human is the Single Skull. ANY other result = TD for the Humans.

What does the AI do?

It tries to DODGE out of my Skaven's Tackle Zone. And fails. And its turn ends. I scoop up the ball and the half ends.

This is BASIC Blood Bowl principles, not some tricky nuanced maneuver. The AI MUST be able to handle that situation. EVERY time.

So today I continue the campaign and play an Orc team. The Orcs hire Star Player Varag Ghoul Chewer. This is a brutal player -- an Orc Blitzer with skills like Jump Up and Mighty Blow.

I would say for half the game Varag was on his back. Why? Well, the AI INSISTED on lining him up across from my Rat Ogre, the now star studded Wildrat Ivan. Ivan now has Juggarnaut as well as Piling On. He's a tank. Every turn Varag would get up, and Ivan would clobber him. It was a huge waste for 300K or whatever it costs to hire that guy.

However, near the end of the game, the Orcs down 2-0, they had a REALLY good chance to score. By now a had a few players KO'ed and 2 Badly Hurt so the Orcs were winning these final 3 turns via simple attrition. I was retreating with my Gutter Runners and trying to form a wall to prevent an easy score.

I made a tactical error, leaving a clear path for the Orcs to get a late game TD. Below is a picture of the setup prior to the Orc's FINAL move.

As you can see, the Orc Thrower has the ball -- Varag -- that Star Blitzer is next to him. The AI again has only 1 option -- hand the ball off to Varag and let him rumble -- he'll have to Go For It (sprint) but odds are good that he's gonna score.

What does the AI do?

It sends Varag on a Blitz move and blocks my lineman. The Thrower then moves as far as he can near the goal and the game ends.

Again, BASIC stuff. And the AI simply cannot handle it. And truth be told it's starting to make the Solo Game pretty stale.

Blood Bowl League Gearing Up

The First (not at all Annual) Nutweasel-Quarter to Three Blood Bowl Tournament is about underway.

This is a 28 team tourney with 2 divisions and 13 matches for each team. We currently have 21 teams signed in with the rest coming soon. Todd (finally) got his copy so I'll have to teach him the basics so when he loses he will have no one to blame but himself. The cool thing about the online league setup is that your team, when it's over, keeps its stats, its record, and its player progression. So if you want to play another tourney with that team you can just keep on plugging away.

I'll post some league results and pics and maybe post some game replay vids once we get started.

Here's our current team roster -- all newly made teams with no XP.

Mt. Bloodhorn Skullz - Orc
Mudville KickAxe - Orc
Fire Stompers - Orc
Da Jawbreaka’s - Orc
Lustria Heatlamps - Lizard
Zigguratic - Lizard
Roc Starz- Lizard
Swamp Gash - Lizard
Capri Pant Dandies - Human
Unlicensed Proctologists - Human
Brutish and Irate Liars - Human
Quakebells Crushers - Dwarf
McMaster's Malcontents - Dwarf
Dwarf SMASH! - Dwarf
Laff Riot - Goblin
Lowland Kamikazes - Goblin
Corporate Chaos - Chaos
Peppered Beef - Chaos
Eglantine Zephyrs - Wood Elf
Rules Lawyers - Wood Elf
Rusir's Rats - Skaven

I don't know if the game will allow me to break teams how I want into the 2 divisions (I hope so for time zone reasons). We'll see. opr those keeping score at home -- we have only one Skaven team -- which is really weird. Dem Rats can play!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Small BB Update

New patch today:

To enhance the performance of the game on your computer, the game resolution has been decreased. You can change that parameter later in the game options.

The Madden 10 Q&A

Ian, Josh, and Donny chat about Madden 10. At length.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Pics -- and The Real Hook of Blood Bowl

This, my friends, is called a Pitch Invasion. The fans have taken over the game...

One of Blood Bowl's hooks is the skill system. If your player earns enough XP you can customize him (it..) with various skills from various skill trees.

That little Gutter Runner alone in the distance? He's about to score -- Skaven = Fast. I still think the AI provides nothing more than a warm up to the meat of the game -- multiplayer, but I do love beating the Dwarfs.

This is the other huge hook -- your team grows over time. But not always the way you want or the way you expect. My Skaven team the Undercity Warp Rats are now 7 games into their campaign, winning the first tourney with a 5-1 record. I lost early to another Skaven team who we routed in the Cup Final 4-1. I just played a Group 1 game in the next tourney and beat the Dwarf team the Black Axes 3-0. So we're cruising right along.

But look at my roster.

While the team leaders are clearly Gutter Runner Spikey Green, who has scored a crazy 6 TDs in 7 games and the massive Rat Ogre Wildrat Ivan who leads the entire league in registered kills (4) I have some issues.

Another Gutter Runner , Three-Finger Skeeter, had his collar bone smashed last game, lowering his Strength to 1. That's not going to cut it. Skeeter may have to get cut. And Lineman Wikka Tikka just received a level up and received a fantastic +1 Agility bonus -- but also suffers from a smashed knee. He'll miss next game and is now even more susceptible to injury, and with his low Armor of 7 -- it's only a matter of time. (when you fall you roll 2D6 against your AV)

And that's how BB plays out -- your players don't last forever. They either die or get so beat up that they wear out their welcome because they cost so damn much. Three-Finger still costs 80K. He ain't worth that now. Wikka Tikka costs 40K more than an average lineman even with his knee issues. If I play long enough Spikey Green is GOING to get hurt. That AV is going to catch up to him, eventually.

And while you don't technically pay your players after you hire them their cost is factored into your team value and if you have a bunch of injured players your value will be that of a paper tiger. And that's very dangerous.

Watching your team grow and decline and grow back again is utterly addicting.

And the PC game captures that part of the boardgame beautifully.

The Madden Q&A

Got it back from EA -- the talk is with Ian, Josh Looman and Donny Moore.

And it's 5,500 words. It's 13 Doc pages.

With a chart. (seriously, an embedded a chart comparing ratings)

My questions weren't anything special -- they just went OFF.

I'll post this monster on Monday.

Some BB Pics

Fresh from my victory over a human team.

This is my Foul Appearance Skaven Stormvermin.

That's right. We are just THAT GOOD.

This is the standard play view angle. You can zoom/in and out with the scroll wheel or rotate with the middle button.

Blood Bowl!

Well, it's here. I'm a few games into my Skaven campaign and here's a quick rundown of initial thoughts:

  • First and foremost, it's great. I don't know how new players will be able to dive in, but for a veteran player, this is what I wanted. It's BB on my PC.
  • The running commentary by Jim and Bob, the play by play guys from the Blood Bowl manual, is actually really good. I swear it's better than most modern day licensed sports games -- but there isn't enough of it. This is in part because it's a turn based game (I haven't tried real time mode yet) so there's a lot of space to fill, but after one game, I had heard it all. I love the anecdotes they tell during the games though. This is right out of the BB manual.
  • The game, as fun as it is, need a patch. Some skills are not working right and a few rules seem to be screwed up. It's not crucial stuff but they need to be fixed.
  • The graphics are solid. Not otherworldy but clearly good enough. I do wish we had more custom options because it can be hard to tell players apart. (This is prolly worse for new BB players.) I picked Foul Appearance as a level up skill for my Skaven Stormvermin (Affectionately named Ratter to go along with his other Stormvermin brother, Tatter -- naming your players is a wonderful way to get attached to them, and in a game like this where your players earn XP and grow along with your team, it's a great game hook.) Anyway -- I chose Foul Appearance not because it's a great skill, but because I wanted to see how the game showed this on the pitch. Ratter walked on the field with this green stink mist clouding his entire body. Next time I'll choose the Two Head skill...
  • AI. It's "ok". It has clear flaws -- it loves to try and dodge out of tackle zones, it passes way too much with Dwarf teams, but ONLY passes the ball when it knows it can score THAT turn, the AI also picks new skills seemingly at random -- why would a Black Orc choose the Dauntless skill? In case it goes up against an Ogre? It's a wasted skill for a strong player. It also likes to make high risk blocks for no reason. Sometimes you need to make that attack roll when you are outmanned but those are normally desperation attempts -- the AI likes to do this too much. Finally, it's not great at combo blocking and timing those blocks.
  • For example -- in my last game the AI had a TD in its palm. I had one lone Gutter Runner (a fast Skaven not good at blocking) standing next to the AI ball carrier. The AI had two other players nearby and it was its turn to go. Instead of the AI moving its other players next to my Gutter and throwing a combo block and using a blitz move, clearing its ball carrier's path for an easy score, the AI decided to move the ball carrier first (a Dwarf no less)--dodging out of my tackle zone ...and my Gutter promptly tackled him. Turnover. That's a terribly basic BB principle that the AI goofed up. Still...games thus far haven't been a total cakewalk, and bad moves are part of the game and I'd be even more upset if the AI did everything chess-letter perfect. But some of its gaffes need to be patched up if possible.
  • The campaign is deep, rewarding, and exceedingly entertaining.
  • Once the online league gets up and running I'll post thoughts on how it's going. Now Todd -- buy the game already.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ahhh yes

Blood Bowl is available. Bill is happy.

Camping was cool. Well, actually it was steaming hot, but I managed to read The Strain while I was there. Good read. Has some issues but overall I liked it a lot. Pretty damn gory.

Transformers 2 Is An Art Movie

This may be the single best movie review I’ve ever read:

Critical consensus on Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is overwhelmingly negative. But the critics are wrong. Michael Bay used a squillion dollars and a hundred supercomputers' worth of CG for a brilliant art movie about the illusory nature of plot.

That’s the lead. Whether you are interested in the movie or not, the rest is worth taking ten minutes of your time to read. The line that will be with me forever, though, is this one:

And Sam's parents go to France except that they meet a robot and then they're in Egypt.

I can’t even put my finger on why, but I read that line and I giggle. You know, in a manly way. At this point I don’t even care how bad the film is, I have to see this. I have to see just how far down the rabbit hole it goes. (Won’t be seeing it this weekend, unfortunately. Hopefully at some point later in July.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don’t worry, they added Mascot Games for us.

I was lurking the Gamers With Jobs forums today when I ran across this YouTube video embed from Jayhawker. (Nice find, good sir!) Yes, it is one of just about a billion videos featuring a ranting Hitler with funny subtitles, but it’s all in the execution with these things, and if you’ve been a longtime player of NCAA, it’s about as brilliant as it gets.



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dreading the Transformers Sequel

I’m a fan of the Tranformers. If you were a boy in the 80s you pretty much had to be. Well, you could also be cool and popular instead, but such pursuits are not entirely up my alley. So when I found out Michael Bay was making a big-budget, balls to the wall Tranformers flick I was pretty excited. I mean it is Michael Bay, so you don’t expect it to have the little things, like a plot, but when release day arrived I told myself all I wanted was 120 minutes of giant robots kicking the shit out of each other. (I’m not sure if I’m stealing that phrase from the review to which I’m about to link or if the writer stole it from me, but in either case we were oh-so-close to being completely in-synch with our expectations of the first film.)

Unlike that writer, I immediately decided upon seeing it that I was wrong. Just seeing giant robots kicking the shit out of each other was not nearly enough to justify two hours of my life lost to that epic turd. It was close. Oh so close. The effects, were indeed, amazing, but the plot, which needed to be merely unobtrusive, was a miserable experience that recalled some of the most inane storytelling since Attack of the Clones. I mean seriously, the scene with the robots tip-toeing outside Shia’s house is the stuff that migraines are made of.

So when I heard there was a sequel forthcoming (an inevitable event given the box office numbers of the first), I said a silent prayer to myself that this time they would spend just a token effort on having a story that could stand up to something a third-grader might write. When the previews started coming out I was not encouraged.

Then, today, I read this review, from Massawyrm, at Ain’t it Cool News. I know people like to poo-poo AICN reviews, but I don’t; at least, not when one of their main guys is writing it. (This list includes guys like Massawyrm, Quint, and, yes, even Harry Knowles.) Usually when one of these guys writes something, even if I don’t end up agreeing with it, I can appreciate their perspectives. These guys are legit film freaks, and I love that about ‘em. Say what you will about their insights, but their enthusiasm for the medium cannot be questioned and because that comes through in their writing, I really enjoy reading what they have to say about any film I’m interested in.

So what did Massarym –who praised the first miserable flick- have to say? Yeah, it’s pretty bad…

Here Bay magnifies EVERYTHING bad about the first. You thought robot pissing was weak? Check out robot farting, robot crying and giant, clanging robo-testicles. Oh yeah. Michael Bay wanted his big cast iron balls in the film and there they are, dangling off of Devastator in one of the film’s defining dramatic moments. I guess he couldn’t get away with a giant, limp swinging cyber-phallus, so he went with the next best thing.

With regards to the story…

And before you try to point out “isn’t that every Michael Bay movie,” let me say: no, it isn’t. He’s never been this completely incomprehensible. It’s like the script was written in one sitting on a Morphine bender, with the writer nodding in and out of consciousness, thinking that he’d already written what happened in his dreams and simply picking back up where the dream left off.

And then the one thing that drove me truly batty about the way the first film was shot is apparently alive and well in the sequel…

But the action…the action has to be pretty awesome, right? Um. No, actually. This time around it is even harder to discern than before. Bay puts all the focus on the humans whenever possible, with the giant robots doing all their fighting in the background. Most of the time the fighting is so fast and furious that it is a series of digital blurs – the audience left unable to discern which is the Autobot and which is the Decepticon.

This one just kills me because I always thought the camera during some of the first film’s fight scenes was inanely placed. You’ve got Prime and Megatron facing off in a battle royale and where is the camera? With some dumb blonde who’s not even a character in the movie freaking out by their feet? Do I care about this woman? Is she who I want to see when two heavy-weights are going toe-to-toe? Does seeing her there add any element of humanity to the flick (which I have to assume is the goal)? No. No. No! All it does is take me away from what I want to see. I can’t believe Bay apparently went that route again in the sequel. It was the single worst thing about the action scenes in the first movie. This is a story about giant frigg’n robots. What the peons in the streets are doing doesn’t matter to us. If you want us to see the human toll then show us the aftermath of it all when the fight is over.

What really pisses me off about all this is you could do something legitimately cool with a live-action Tranformers franchise and this is so not it. It’s just a waste of potential. What’s worse? I’ll probably end up going to see it anyway, if for no other reason than so I can come back here and eviscerate it myself. At least that will be fun.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Have a Good Week

We're about to leave for Kelley's Island, so everyone have a good week and there will be plenty to talk about upon my return -- Blood Bowl, the Ian Cummings Madden Q&A, OOTP X, Todd's love for Chia Pets, and more!

So be good.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day To Me!

I would like to wish myself, the self-proclaimed greatest father in the history of human civilization, a Happy Father's Day.

Thanks Bill!

Dude, you are sooo welcome.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wow. Really. Just...wow

I'll do some poking around later but Dan Spezzano, crotchety sports gamer and blog reader, told me via DSP, "According to the devs over at OS the sliders do not work and will be fixed in a patch."

He's referring to NCAA 10.

I have nothing more to add, really.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frame Rated

My buddy Jason McMaster's website, Frame Rated, is now open. It's all video all the time and it's pretty darn swanky so check it out. Plus Jason's doing our Fight Night review which will be live on the 25th.

DJ Hero will cost $120?


Brandon -- you still on board?

Game Journalists: The Ultimate Sellouts

Crispy Gamer did a story about the guys who won a contest to cover E3 for some of the Big Sites (1Up, etc.)

The story can be found here.

But what interests me is the comment made by fellow Crispy writer David Thomas:

This year uncorked the genie--that you could go to E3 as a contest winner. The catch? You have to pretend to be a game journalist.

I think this was an ugly development, and not because I think that journalists should go to E3 and fans should stay home. Rather, this is a part of the rot that has set in with game journalism where the privilege of access given to us to get the job done is being turned into an entitlement, or a goodie, that we get that fans don't.

The reason to go to E3 is because it is an awesome spectacle of delights. The reason for a journalists to go is to get work done.

When journalism outlets give out prizes that confuse the two, they show what's really going on: Game journalism is a goodie grab, the ultimate sell out to the industry. We write about games so we get to be super fans and we get to go to the front of the line and we get to wallow in the excess of schwag and developer's tickling us with pink feathers.

And how does this serve the mission of journalism to report, uncover, analyze and create accountability?

Sorry everyone, I want fans at E3, lots of fans, as many as who want to come. But if you win a contest, go as a fan. Go with a special super fan pass that gets you to the head of the line and all those pink feathers. But don't go as a journalist just to get the goodies.

Or think of it this way: If you win concert tickets to a see a band, you get a backstage pass and front row seats and a t-shirt. But you don't have to file a review by 10pm. That's some poor rock writer's job. Job being the key word.
I think David Thomas is smart.

Tiger Woods 360 and Even Less of Me

I'm going camping Monday and will be gone all week. Todd's lack of blogging motivation means ...some downtime. Honestly, you can blame E3. I'm still gassed a bit from that but our coverage is doing very well, traffic wise, so it was worth it. When I get back I'll be jumping into OOTP X assuming the patch is released. Todd's doing that review so I have that luxury.

Also, Blood Bowl will have my full attention starting 6/26. Oh yes. Yes yes yes.

In other game news I am struggling through Tiger Woods on the Xbox 360, and really not feeling it at all.

This is what I want from a golf game:

  • I want to create my persona and play a PGA Tour calendar of events, earn prize money, etc. -- Check

  • I'm OK with some RPG elements, adding to a skill set, maybe earning some special skills (expert bunker player, etc.) , that sorta thing.

  • I want to be able to play competitively right after I open up the game and plop it in the drive. This does not mean I should be a master right off the bat, but I do NOT want to be handicapped, either. This can be via an Amateur Tour, Q School, whatever. If my guy isn't Tour Pro ready, fine, let me play other up and comers. But do NOT make me struggle like mad until I "build my character" up like a god damn MMO. -- This is what Tiger 360 does.

  • I don't want to start off hitting drives 225 yards, which makes it impossible to even drive over the rough on some courses from the back tees. And yes I tuned my clubs. I started playing competitive golf when I was 15 years old. By the time I was a Sr in HS I was hitting 250-275 yard drives (not always straight...). My "Pro" upon creation is a flippin' joke.

  • I don't want to play Pebble Beach in 20 MPH winds, scrambling like mad just to make par in tough conditions and then see the AI shooting -23 under for the tourney. I shot even par in two days at Pebble and missed the cut. I don't WANT to shoot 23 under at Pebble in strong wind. That's NOT GOLF. That's Hot Shots Golden Tee nonsense. Tiger is much like that.

  • In fact that's my slogan for this game. Tiger Woods 360: Not Unlike Golf.

  • I also need the fear of the rough off the tee. It's not here. I've played several rounds, and have missed one fairway and that was due to a strong wind at Pebble. Pinehurst? Please. 14 fairways, check. I am a 13-14 fairway hitting par machine. Of course par sucks in Tiger 360, but hey...

  • Want to make it tougher? Well, you need to buy expert clubs, which costs prize money OR you can spend REAL money to buy these clubs in the XBL Marketplace. So, you are basically spending more (real) money to make the game more challenging by buying clubs that are supposed to be better than a Beginner set? WTF kind of logic is that? As Brandon said, it's like buying the New Nike F*** Your Game 3000.
Maybe online is the bees knees/cats meow. I have no clue. Does online change any of the above? If not, I'm going back to Rock Band and trying to nail Stevie Ray's Rude Mood.

That song's a bitch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thanks folks

Lots of good questions re: Madden. I had a pretty healthy list but that did help a lot. Thanks guys.

A few people asked why we didn't blog much about NCAA. We usually do that and we usually get a lot traffic as a result -- and the occasional mild death threat (that part isn't' a joke, btw.)

Quite honestly, Todd is pretty well fed up with that series (I continue to hold out hope) and based off our time at E3 we're both very excited about Madden and not as excited about NCAA. If you like NCAA -- like what the series has been like since the jump to next gen I see no reason why you won't like this one. It felt very, very similar given the 15-20 minutes I spent with it. (I think I played a quarter and a half before leaving for another meeting. )

Honestly 2x -- if all they do is fix the ridiculous defensive AI holes from NCAA 09 and the crazy speed issues/pursuit angles, I'll be happy. Seriously, just give me a playable game. A lot of the features they are touting hold absolutely zero interest to me so if those issue are fixed -- I'm good. Not thrilled. Just content. I haven't been content with NCAA in a long, long time. But after playing both my interest is squarely on Madden X.

The reason for this, when I sit back and think about it, is philosophical.

Team Madden is fundamentally looking at ways to make the gameplay authentic. Terms like 'authenticity', 'realism', believability,' these are words that the team continues to pound home. And they're damn serious about it. The notion that the high lvl members of Team Madden are looking at ways to completely reshape what that franchise means -- is a pretty big deal. I have been to a LOT of E3s and have been to a LOT of Madden presentations. I ALWAYS come away thiking...eh...it's Madden. Not this year.

They are talking about core football design concepts.

The NCAA team is talking features.

That's a pretty important difference, I think.

But like I said, NCAA this year will be a success, for me anyway, if the defensive AI no longer spins in a circle or retreats from the line of scrimmage or runs alongside a guy without trying to tackle him. If that's all fixed, basically a patch for NCAA 09, I'm counting it as a win.

Ghostbusters Review Today

And here you go.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ghostbusters Review Tomorrow

In the meantime...

Madden X Q&A

So I'm about to do an interview with Ian Cummings of Team Madden 10.

If you want something specific asked -- email me. Should be a fun interview.

As you know, I have gulped the Madden Kool Aide this year so I'm hoping everything comes together. There are tons of reasons why I'm on board this year.

But here's one. Donny Moore's Twitter: (Donny does ALL the ratings in Madden 10)

Donny_Moore: Not sure everyone got the memo....In order to stretch out the ratings, players and their ratings had to go DOWN...Not everyone can be 80+!
It sounds simple, but little things like that make me think these guys really know what they're doing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So, uh, yeah...

Well that didn't go according to script at all. Bummer. Congrats to any Pens fans reading this. After a seven game series you look at the guys holding the cup and that's the better team, so -and you have no idea how much it pains me to type this- the better team won. Enjoy it because there is nothing better in sports than watching your guys drink from the Cup of Lord Stanley.

F*ck. I was strongly considering going to the parade this year too. ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ;)

New Rock Band Goodies

Being the company man that I am I feel it my duty to let everyone know about the new RB gear from Mad Catz and that you can get free shipping for the next few weeks from the store. I mention it because I didn't know the stuff was so close to release.

See here.

The Mad Catz bass, which I own, is a must for bass players but the new wireless model comes in various colors (Sea Green!) and -- is wireless. Duh. At E3 we also saw the new stomp box, a foot pedal used to go into overdrive. Very cool stuff for the RB aficionado and I better get some free gear damn it. I need that wireless bass.

The biggie doesn't drop til this holiday season -- the $300 Fender replica guitar. No plastic. It's a REAL Fender with wood grain finish and it's freaking heavy. And yeah...it's $300. Anyway, just a heads up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Games from E3 We Promise* Will Not Suck

It's true.


Blood Bowl PC Pre Orders

Go, go go! Pre-order away!

It's coming -- 6/26.


Game 7: In Which I Have a Heart Attack and Die

Between a hectic schedule, loads of personal stuff at home, and just an overriding fear of doing anything to karmically jinx my guys, I’ve written very little about the NHL playoffs this year. (Also, I’m very lazy.) But it’s Game 7 tonight so I have to write something, right?


Or something like that. In all honesty, I wanted a better word to use over and over again than “argh” but I’ve got nothing. My brain no longer resides in the world of polysyllabic speech. I am a quivering mound of goo and there’s still four hours till game time. ARGH is just about all I’ve got at this point.

I know on some level, should the Wings lose, I’ll be able to console myself knowing I’ve already seen four Cup celebrations over the past 12 years and no other team’s fans can say that, but dammit, I will be so incredibly broken if they lose tonight. I want to see #5 (#12 overall). I want to see them win it on home ice and laugh in Li’l Gary’s face as he tries and fails to sell that shit-eating grin of his while handing The Cup to Lidstrom. Make no mistake, Gary (Ass) hates him some Wings and it’s such sweet, sweet nectar when he has to hand over the cup to a guy wearing a winged wheel, a guy representing an organization that is run 250x better than he runs the rest of the league. I want to see Osgood holding up his third Cup (as a starter) and, in doing so, tell all his detractors just where they can stick their slings and arrows. I want to see Hossa, who took less cash this year to win a Cup in Hockeytown, score a game winning goal. I want to see Sidney Crosby cry. I want to see Malkin curled up in a fetal position inside his own net. 

…I want to survive the game tonight, win or lose, without having a coronary.

More than all that, I want to see the pictures from the parade that would come, where, quite literally, a million Detroiters pack into the streets to celebrate. Another Cup won’t fix anything that ails that city or the state, but it sure as hell won’t hurt to have something to celebrate for a change.

Go Wings!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Playing Ghostbusters 360

But I'm under embargo.

So basically I'm just wasting your time at this point.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quick Hit Trailer

I saw this at the show -- and had a lot of fun coaching my team to a score.

Here's a snippet trailer.

E3 2009: A-Z

Well, it's ready (ish).

I haven't left my desk since Saturday, and there are most likely editing boo-boos.

But the 71 page Word Doc that was our E3 game report has been morphed into this.

As I say in the intro -- we didn't see every game, but damn it we saw a lot of them.

So, check out the GameShark A-Z E3 feature -- while I go sleep for the next 2 days.

The E3 coverage isn't over, as we'll be doing some editorial this week.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The E3 That Was

All day long I’ve been mulling over what to write about E3 2009. It’s my fifth E3 (I went from ‘97 to ‘99 and once in ‘05), but it’s the first time since ‘99 that I went there as press. And going as press is the way to go, if for no other reason than the fact that it got me easy access to the rooms where EA was demoing Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age. (Anyone could see these demos, but if you had a media badge they let you go in first and get good seats.)

In terms of games of the show, Bill’s right, Beatles Rock Band is hard to beat. It was the first thing we saw on Day 1, the first thing we got hands-on time with, and as highlights go it was way up there.

The Mass Effect 2 demo was just amazing. I never did catch a release date for it, but I’m assuming we won’t see the PC version until 2010, which makes that my single most anticipated title for next year. This is kind of spoilery, but I’ll put it in here anyway: Shepherd can die. Not in a reload and retry sort of way. There is a failure scenario for the end of the game and you can get Shepherd killed. If done well, that could be sixteen different shades of awesome.

Dragon Age remains my most anticipated title for this year, but I have to say, I’m already growing weary of this new “edgy” marketing campaign they’ve got going for it. How exactly does putting some video of it with a Marilyn Manson track make the game better again? And some parts of the hands-off demo I watched, in which we got to see a tired and cliched love triangle between the player character and your prototypical good girl and bad girl play out, was not exactly the stuff that gaming dreams are made of. Nonetheless, my hope is that these presentations are simply bad marketing and not indicative of hacky gameplay. That said, we did get treated to an honest to goodness dragon fight and that was all sorts of cool. Make no mistake, if you’ve been looking for the scale of a legit D&D style dragon fight since the days of the goldbox games, this is something to see.

Bayonetta. Ah Bayonetta. Bill’s already said I should “let it go.” I can’t. I really can’t. Because the demo had me. I was in its thrall. Bad ass heroine, wearing clothes for a change, goes out and does a bunch of stuff that’s… well, bad ass. The controls took all of a few minutes to start getting used to and I was having some serious fun. But I noticed something odd in the video and just had to ask that fateful question to the gentleman giving the demo, “Uh. Why are Bayonetta’s clothes briefly disappearing every 30 seconds or so?” I’m not sure what I expected from an answer, but not among the possibilities was the notion that her clothes are made of her hair and that when she uses her special abilities (which involve her hair) they disappear for a moment. You know, cuz she’s a witch and stuff. Honest to god there is just no way you can make up a moment like that. When he answered I just looked at the guy for a couple seconds trying to think of how I could respond to him without A) laughing to his face or being otherwise insulting or B) responding in such a way as to imply such a thing is a remotely cool idea. Her clothes are her hair. Thanks, guys. You’ve got an amazingly cool looking game that I can no longer show to any non-gaming friend or relation and still be taken seriously. Hey, I like women without clothes on as much as the next totally-hetero guy, but seriously, that’s just incredibly lame. It makes the pin-up cards in The Witcher seem tasteful. That said, I’ll still be playing this one.

If you’ve not heard of Scribblenauts for the DS yet, look it up. For a game I’d never heard of before walking up to the demo, this just made my top 10 games to look forward to for the rest of the year. Maybe top 5.

As cool as it looked, the demo I saw of Alpha Protocol (which was not extensive) does not offer the slightest notion that this was a spy RPG (a concept that would otherwise be all sorts of sweet).

The Silent Hill remake for the Wii makes me wish I had not sold my Wii.

So does The Conduit.

So does Tiger Woods 10.

So does Spore Hero.

Okay, that’s not true about Spore Hero, which looked lame. I just wanted another item to put there.

I’m excited to have a blu-ray player that doubles as a PS3 so that I can play a God of War game for the first time. (Graphically, this third one looks amazing.)

If you ever refer to Hard Rain in front of me as a game driven by Quicktime events then I get to slap you in the face. Just once.

If you ever try to tell me that Left 4 Dead 2 looks like a shameless cash grab then I get to slap you in the face. Twice. Not saying you’re wrong, but just because it might be a shameless cash grab doesn’t mean it’s not worth every penny! You get to hit zombies with a frying pan, for crying out loud.

SPOILER: Ozzy has a role in Brutal Legend that makes him like Yoda to Jack Black’s Luke. The gameplay does look pretty basic, but man does it look like fun.

Speaking of fun, I learned last week that Tom Chick refuses to use the word “fun” when writing about games. This is probably one of the many things that makes him a better games writer than me. Also, when sitting in a demo for Supreme Commander 2 with he and Troy Goodfellow don’t even try to come up with a smarter question than what they’re asking. You won’t. (They are both incredibly nice and gracious guys, btw.)

Speaking of nice and gracious people, Felicia Day walked right past me on Day 2 and I was too chickenshit to stop her and say hi. Okay, it’s not all me being chickenshit. I really don’t want to be one of those people who sees a celeb and has to gush all over them (like Brandon). If I had it to do over again, though, I’d of at least said “hi” and that I thought we were soulmates or something. You know, try to be cool.

Speaking of being cool, you have to hand it to Bill. When he revamped the Gameshark writing staff he not only brought in some good writers, I can honestly say after spending the week around Brandon, Danielle, Mitch, and Brian that he also brought in great people. I cannot envision having had a better time than to cover the show with these folks.

Yes, I realize I started the last three paragraphs of this post with “speaking of.” And yes, I do realize it’s this kind of thing that separates me from someone who’s actually a good writer.

Oh, and don’t listen to Bill. I’m not an angry person goddammit! The nerve of that guy!


Well I have been formatting our E3 stuff for like...12 hours now. It's almost done and should be a fun read. The fact that you most likely know what was at the show I hope is irrelevant because it's our amazing commentary that seals the deal.


Just understand this: I had a great group go this year. Mitch Dyer is 21 and looks 10 and knows more about games than I do, Danielle is a complete sweetheart and is way too nice to be hanging with people of our social upbringing, Brian is a fantastic writer and was likely wondering how he got stuck with us, Brandon is a freaking lunatic (and sort of a dick), and Todd is just perpetually angry. (Let the Bayonetta thing go Todd. Just LET IT GO.)

Now if that wide range of archetypes can't produce a fun E3 feature read then all hope is lost.

Friday, June 5, 2009


One of the best if not THE best E3's I have ever had. Not because of the games so much as the people. The GameShark writing team that made the trip absolutely made the show ...fun.

I have lots to write about and I'll get into that later, but I truly had a wonderful time.

I also really liked Madden.

A lot.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

E3 Day One Thoughts

Okay, real quickly here because who knows when I will A) Have time to sit and write and B) Have an actual Internet connection. Getting and sustaining access on this hotel’s wireless is sort of like hitting Red 23 (is that one red?) in one go round of roulette.

Okay, the two games I most want to play so far:

  • Beatles Rock Band: Sold. Seriously. Big time sold. They didn’t get much into the band campaign as it were, but they’ve done a great job on the art assets and making everything all Beatle-fied. Apparently it’ll have two sections to it that reflect the band’s rise to stardom and what Bill has dubbed the “LSD” phase when they were all experimental and doing recordings at the Abbey Rd. studio. (Or something like that. I don’t know my Beatles history.) Regardless, the tracks that were recorded at Abbey Rd. start out with you in studio and then the background fades to a “dreamscape” (acid trip) that befits the song. Seriously, I Am the Walrus… whoa. Also, harmonies is brilliantly implemented and it’s gonna be hard to resist getting the new hardware.
  • East India Trading Company: This is one of just two PC games I saw yesterday (Hearts of Iron 3 was the other) and I am all over it. It pretty much is what it says. The game world is reminiscent of the most recent Pirates! game (only much bigger, detailed and nicer graphics), which I like. But it is, of course, much more involved than Pirates.

And some other notables:

  • Brink: Looks very interesting. Big time emphasis on co-op. To me it was like a mash-up of Call of Duty (troops everywhere carrying out roles), Team Fortress 2 (multiple classes you can take on; you can switch on the fly) and a Fallout 3 (sort of a post-apocalyptic setting; only in this case it was rising oceans so you end up on a big floating city). You can play for two factions that represent an insurgency or security and the story will be reflected differently based on which side you are. Sort of a “history is written by the victors” perspective based on which side you’re on.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Utterly ridiculous, but it looks like it will be loads of fun.
  • Wet: Another Bethesda published game. This one probably won’t have wide appeal, but if you like 3rd-person shoot ‘em ups with a kick ass heroine (Ruby, who actually wears clothes), it looks like it could be a hella lot of fun. Rather then the notion of moving forward from cover to cover (like a Gears of War) this one’s based on the notion of using dexterity and acrobatics to avoid and do damage to adversaries. It’s pretty wild.
  • Madden 10: This may be my first Madden purchase in the last five years or so. The control on the field is just fantastic (especially on defense) and you can really see the improvements starting to show in areas like line blocking. I’m starting to get genuinely excited for this one. Also, online franchise play. Need to learn more about that one.
  • Hearts of Iron 3. If you are into this kind of strategy wargaming this thing looks seriously good. I am not, however, experienced with this kind of game so it’s very hard to judge.

That’s it for now. Have a good week everybody! And if you happen to find Bill’s luggage out on the street somewhere, you may want to email him. Long story. I’ll leave the telling of that up to him.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sacred 2 Review

Before I bug out, I do have a review up for Sacred 2. Fun console hack and slasher. Worth getting.

Off to E3

Well, this afternoon, anyway.

We'll be running a large E3 set of features next week at GameShark and posting screens, trailers, and news this week.

If I see something particularly cool I'll post it here as a quick hitter update.

Have a good week.