Monday, August 30, 2010

JTS Episode 33

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

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

Mafia II Sleeps with the Fishes

So, I didn't like Mafia II.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Cook, The Scorer, His Team and Their Victory

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

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

Yeah that's right. Fucking bumper cars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the bumper cars!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Games Games Games!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

JTS Episode 32

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

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

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

Madden Update News

Ian Cummings has updated the Madden blog with some tidbits.

The money quote:

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

- Fixing a bug to allow friend invites to ranked games

- Generally making pass defense more effective

- Reducing number of broken tackles

- Fixing user blitz exploit(s)

- Tuning injuries

- Tuning CPU & GameFlow play-calling logic

- Improving play action blocking

- Improving kick return blocking

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

- Random stability improvements

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


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

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

Can't wait to play this next week.

Monday, August 16, 2010

JTS Episode 31

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

Whee whee whee, all the way home.

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

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

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

NCAA 11 Tuning pack #2

The new tuning pack is out for NCAA 11.

The fixes are many.

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

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

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

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




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

The Patch notes end with this:

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

-Russ Kiniry
Designer NCAA Football

*Insert forehead into open palm*

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Requiem For A Horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right up until the bear hunting starts.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Proud Papa Moment

So, Saturday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was definitely one of those moments.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Madden 11 Review

It's live and ready for perusal.

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

One of the best days of my entire life.

But that's tomorrow.

JTS Episode 30

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

Do you see what I have to work with here?

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


Hello all.

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

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

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

That Todd, what a gullamaroon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Browns 38 49ers 21

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

The stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 6, 2010

Titans 24 Browns 10

So...tonight Madden 11 received "some" sort of patch. No idea what it was (going to try and get some info from EA).

BUTafter said update...

I was DESTROYED by Tennessee. My 10 points? 7 were off a Joe Haden INT Touchdown.

This was with my custom slider set (see below posts)

Colt McCoy's stats?

12/31 98 yards 3 INT
Young was 15/30 203 yds 2 TS 1 INT
Johnson was a beast: 21 carries 120 yards
Harrison was a non factor (first time that has EVER happened in Madden 11) -- 45 yards for the game.


Now, if you have followed my games thus far you will see I never have been stoned like this by the AI defense. Granted this was with a heavy slider lean to the AI

This was either a serious case of The Placebo Effect or that update did something to he DB AI because no one was open all game long.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Browns 23 Bengals 6

The scores are finally starting to come down. The Slider Serum is working.

This was also the first game in a long while that I held a CPU QB to under 300 yards in the air and the first game that the CPU failed to score a TD. Ochocinco was hurt for this game, and that had a huge impact.

Here's the stat breakdown:

Palmer 21/27 255 yards 0 TD 1 INT (1 fumble off a sack)
McCoy 16/32 189 2 TD 2 INT

Benson 16/52 (1 fumble)
Harrison 23/88
Hardesty 8/28

Not too bad.

NCAA 11 Live Tuned.

I find it utterly amazing that after all these years we are back living in the world of post release patches. It's 1999 all over again. Time to fire up High Heat Baseball!

I am not complaining. Better to fix/tweak/improve a game after release rather than just moving on to the next version. So, EA -- well done. Post release support is a great, great way to garner a more positive relationship with users.

I'm still in Madden Test Mode but if you want to know what's going on with NCAA.

Read this. And smile. We will most certainly get impressions up as soon as possible.

Maybe I can even get Todd to do something. (Zing!)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Madden 11 Post Slider Tweaking

Before I get started I want to address a few comments from people both here and on other forums re: my earlier impressions.

  • Kickoffs. Yes, I get that in years past returning kicks/punts was too easy and really I'd rather have it be too hard than too simple. But the fact is that returning kickoffs, unless there is some trick of which I am unaware, is way too hard. Josh Cribbs, for me, is nothing more than a below average WR in my game. I am averaging, through 9 games, 21 yards per return. I have yet to return a kick 30 yards. I may as well take a knee every time I receive a kick. I don't like that.

  • The halfback screen/pass play. This is not a "money" play as it is usually defined. A money pay, to my way of thinking, is a play that works every single time you call it. That is not the case here. On default settings it IS way too easy to get a 7-10 yard gain by calling nothing but flat passes to the HB. That Oakland game was case in point. But it's not a guarantee that it'll be open. The issue is that the AI doesn't react to the fact that I am calling nothing BUT that play. Thankfully, after tweaking sliders this is a bit better than default.
OK the post slider impressions:

  • I have come to this conclusion. If not for the sliders, I would not be playing Madden 11 this year. (Offline anyway). With the tweaks I think it a much better game.

  • The item that now stands out to me most all of, regardless of slider adjustments, is defensive back awareness..or ability..or something. It's just not right. I am playing with Cleveland, and I am in year two of a franchise and my corners all have 85 ratings. Joe Haden is an 85 even though his awareness is still in the tank. Brown's awareness is good though -- 87. But I see Brown and Eric Wright making such insane movements in the secondary that you have to ask, "Dude, wtf are you doing?"

    Example: I am playing Indy and Manning is on the verge of a 400 yard day. After each pass over the middle which is seemingly WIDE OPEN all game long I start watching replays. Eric Wright (84 AWR, 80-something man to man skill) is in man coverage with Gonzo. Gonzo runs a simple 12 yard In route. Wright is completely befuddled by this. He takes a step in the wrong direction, then stops all together, then races to catch up. 15 yards later, first down Indy. This happened over and over again in my game vs the Colts. And this was with Human DB Reaction Time at 80.

    Same game I run a streak with my rookie, a WR named Abram who is no joke. Indy is in a zone. Now, on this play I did not "flood" the zone, I had Abram run a streak by his lonesome along the right hash. The CB let him go as he was playing shallow. Bob Sanders has the responsibility of picking up my WR. Sanders is totally flummoxed by this. He stops backpedaling and basically lets Abram race right past him. Sanders has to start running again but by that time my 92 Speed WR is lone gone. 70 yards later -- TD. This was with CPU AWR at 90.

    Things like this are frustrating. And they happen a lot more often than they should. Perhaps this is just the way the game has players either beat coverage from time to time -- it just *looks* incredibly silly when players are seemingly walking around with a case if head trauma. This has to be a tough thing to code, in fairness. You don't want DBs to never screw up. They ALL get beat in real life. But I think the weird DB behavior is a bit more than that.

  • You know what I'd like to see football games do? Automate FG kicks the same way basketball games automate FTs. I HATE FG kicking in football games because it simply too easy. Madden is no different. I am 11/11 on FG kicks in my franchise. The only way I miss is if it's too far and I don't get 100% power. Just let me press a button and watch Phil Dawson try to make a 45 yard's more exiting and more realistic than me pressing two buttons.

  • OK so -- slider tweaks. For me they may save the game despite the wonky DB stuff. Passes in the flats are not "as money" now thanks to a high DB reaction time. The pass rush is better, the run game isn't as easy as it is on default All Pro, and more passes are dropped and jarred loose.

    Here's some stats for you:

    My previous game vs Baltimore -- when I got JOBBED (see below post). I lost in OT 20-17. Colt McCoy had a great first half (McCoy by year two, for me anyway, is a 77 OVR with precise short accuracy and long accuracy akin to Stevie Wonder) and could do NOTHING in the 2nd. Harrison was rolling early only to get stuffed in the 2nd half as well. My defense played great until they really needed to...very "Browns like."

    McCoy was 21/37 for 211 yards 1 TD 0 INT
    Harrison had 87 yards on 23 carries (maybe 20 yards 2nd half)
    Rice 65 yards on 19 carries
    Flacco 18/38 301 yards 1 TD 1 INT

    Next game vs Indy which I won 31-28 (I am 5-2 with the Browns at this point, but 1-2 after the slider tweaks). If I played a season on Default All Pro McCoy would throw for 5,000 yards.

    I won because Indy turned the ball over on its first 2 possessions which I turned into 10 points. Stats:

    Manning 23/41 406 yds 2 TD 1 INT
    McCoy: 16/33 187 1 TD 1 INT
    Harrison: 23 carries 132 yds (Don't laugh. Harrison has GREAT ratings. 90+ where it counts)
    Addai: 55 yds on 13 carries

    Fun games, no doubt. Flawed in areas, but at least I am back to having a really good time with the game

  • The slider tweaks. Now -- I am not going to give you specific numbers because your mileage will vary with any set of sliders but this is what, I think, you should focus on when looking to tweak the gameplay:

  • QB Accuracy: Both CPU and Human need to be lowered. My human accuracy is VERY low (around 20)

  • WR Catching: lowered. Quite a bit actually for both (35- range I think)

  • Pass Blocking: Human I have increased. CPU I have decreased slightly.

  • Pass rush, slightly increased.

  • Human and CPU DB Reaction time. Boost a lot. A whole lot.

  • Interceptions: lower these both a lot. (I'm at around 20 for both human/cpu)

  • Tackling: slight boost to both

  • Block shedding: slight boost to both

  • Auto Subs. Raise these a bit for most positions otherwise your backup HB and Dlinemen will rarely if ever play.

  • More later as I continue on with the 2011 Browns season.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More Madden This Evening

Played a few more games with some major slider tweaks with some (mostly) promising results.

However -- gotta admit this pissed me off and it takes a lot anymore to really do that with a videogame. And I know this is an OLD issue with this game.

So I'm playing the hated Ravens and they have no time outs left at midfield. They throw a 25 yard pass to Heap over the middle and he's tackled at my 25 -- he goes down with :08 seconds left. They go to a highlight of the play and come back and they are all nice and tidy and lined up for a FG.

Um, what?

There is no way in hell that they could get down the field 25 yards and get the FG team set up -- even if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they spiked the ball. (they didn't) With 8 seconds left? Uh uh. Not going to happen. The half should have ended right there but no..they kick a FG and take the lead at half.

Stupid Ravens.

But can you imagine losing a playoff game to something like this? Oh the humanity!

That Starcraft 2 Thing

For my money, Tom Chick is the best writer we have in the games industry. Reviews like this are the reason why.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Enough Of This Madden Stuff

The big news (for me) today is that FFG is making another Civilization boardgame.

Sold. Absolutely sold and I hope Mr. Wilson does it right.

Also, if you have not played the 100% FREE game on Steam called Alien Swarm -- wtf is wrong with you? Seriously. Go. Right now. It's free.

Ok as for Madden I will be testing the slider tweaks tonight. I'm scheduled to play Jacksonville in week 5 so we'll see how it goes.

Early Madden Impressions

Before we get started I need to throw out a few important items of note.

  1. This is not a review. I realize that there are going to be people who read this, run off to their forum of choice, and tell people, "This guy has a Madden 11 review posted on his blog!" I do not have a review posted on a blog. These are impressions after playing the 'retail' game over the past 3-4 days. The embargo for game impressions lifted today so I am simply sharing with you my early observations. Basically I am trying to get across to you that this is a not a review.

  2. When in the main menu screen a bit of text scrolls across the bottom saying something to the effect of, "Welcome to the Madden 11 Beta. In game content is not final." What does this mean, exactly? Well, could mean a lot of things. Could mean we get a day 1 patch much the same way NCAA 11 did. Could mean nothing at all. But I think it important to state this up front -- what I am seeing in this current build may or may not be what you see on August 11.

  3. I have not been able to play any online. The new team play, etc. is as of yet still untested.
OK, so, Madden 11. Rather than just write long winded paragraphs of info (AKA: What Todd does) I figured I'd break this down into the stuff I like and the stuff I don't. Since this is not a review I can get away with some amateur formatting.

The Stuff I like about Madden 11:

  • The run game.

    In fact I like the run game more in Madden than I do NCAA 11. It's easier to see holes develop and the shedding of tackles feels a bit tighter and less random. I've had to make a few slight slider adjustments but I am getting very good rushing results with Cleveland. By "very good" I don't mean tons of yards, but Harrison can run behind Joe Thomas with pretty good success, which is fine by me as Harrison remains the most under rated HB in football IMO. EA rated him correctly.

  • Pass rush.

    I see a lot of unpredictability here which is very important. Some blitzes work, others don't. I have yet to find a 'money blitz' which is automatic. Again, ratings in Madden matter quite a bit, especially in the blocking game. The same can be said for the game in the trenches in general. I can tell a huge difference when controlling Shaun Rogers compared to, well, basically every other lineman the Browns have.

  • CPU Offense.

    The Browns defense has "issues" and this is reflected in how the CPU picks apart my schemes. I simply have a hell of a time stopping anyone. Hines Ward caught 12 passes for 110 yards in my last game. This also shows you that the AI will try to find its reliable players. Play against Arizona and Fitzgerald will get a lot more opportunities than Breaston. The CPU run game is also very solid on default All Pro settings. Again, my last game was against Pitt and they ran for 110 yards collectively. Love that.

  • Play by Play

    For the most part, I like Gus Johnson as an addition to the team. He brings the added excitement that EA was looking for, no doubt. This is the first year with Gus so you should expect a few gaffes here and there. They need to tone down the Old Spice pimpage, for example. I don't mind ad plugs at all, but 4 times a game? Gus really loves that stuff. Also, they need to edit out the lines where Collinsworth calls him "Tom" (referencing Tom Hammond from season's past.) Still, Gus gets excited on big plays, and I like that quite a bit.

  • Franchise Stats

    Very little chrome has been added to franchise mode. First off, I don't care what anyone tells you, the Extra Point stuff is in the game. It's pretty much just like last year but it's there. Most of the work on franchise mode has been under the hood in the form of stat tweaks, new hand made rookies, contract values, salary demands, and free agent factors. I have not fully tested this (the stats do look better in the 1 season I simmed). But if you are looking for a massive franchise mode update, this is not it.

  • Locomotion

    If you have played NCAA 11 you'll know what this means. I personally love this. This makes tackling and running feel very realistic.

  • Bad passes

    I love it when a QB simply misses a receiver. For me, this is like walks in a baseball game. Few games really do it but when they do I get all happy inside.
OK, so what's not to love?

  • In some ways, Madden 11 feels like a Focus Test game, whereas Madden 10, even with its blemishes, felt like a game designed by a team that went in the direction they wanted to go in. Let's take Gameflow. This feature is actually pretty neat. It's basically a more realistic way to "Ask Madden" so instead of calling base plays Gameflow looks at play style, and the new Game Planning to determine which plays to call. A defacto Offensive/Defensive Coordinator. Cool idea. But it's clearly there because apparently so many people use the Ask Madden feature over calling plays themselves. (Which I find utterly shocking.)

    Again I have no issue at all with the idea of Gameflow as a feature. It's a cool idea but it's one of Madden 11's MAJOR bullet point features -- arguably the #1 new feature in the entire game. That sort of flies in the face of the design ideas we saw popping up last year. This, to me at least and you are certainly free to disagree, feels like it should be a 2nd tier feature rather than the game seller. A feature that is a "hey by the way...this is pretty neat" instead of the "you need Madden 11 because of this." Because, frankly, you don't.

    Gameflow/planning also has some issues, especially on defense. This is not at all Madden specific but to really call plays effectively a coach needs to adjust on the fly. Sure you can have your scripted plays, your plays designed based on down and distance, but every game of football is its own self contained drama and coaches always adjust to what is happening on the field. If a team's WR is killing me -- I am going to adjust to try and take him out of the game. If a HB is getting 5, 6, 7 yards a pop I'm going to move more guys in the box. Gameflow doesn't account for this -- especially when playing the CPU. Again no game has effectively done this, but a big part of game planning and play calling is trying to take away a team's #1 strength and adjusting your plan based on the flow of a particular game. Madden's AI (in truth every football game's) needs to do this for Gameflow/Game Planning to be a really great feature which will please both hardcore Madden fans and the guys who simply Ask Madden what to do on 3rd and 12.

  • Returning kicks is futile. Using the Browns, thus Josh Cribbs, who is arguably the best return man in the history of the NFL -- I have yet to return a kickoff past the 30. The reason? My guys won't block their guys. Cribbs is the man but rarely can he avoid six players ganging up on him. Punts aren't much better. In fairness NCAA 11 has issues with this too.

  • Defensive AI behavior needs work. I have discovered that to beat the AI all you need to do is throw screens and passes in the flat to your HB. The AI just doesn't cover them well. Sometimes they do, but it's just because they got lucky and called the right defensive play (usually a flat zone.) Need proof this is a problem?

    The Browns played Oakland (default All Pro) and my HB (Harrison) caught 38 passes for 287 yards and 4 TDs. Now, at what point should the AI decide "Hey wait he's calling the same two plays every down. Perhaps we should counter that?" It never did. This is such a frustrating issue because in order to play vs the AI I have to hamstring myself and not call screens or passes in the flat -- or if I do I have to limit the number of times I call those plays, and it's not easy to ignore that option when it's 3rd and 5 and you desperately need a first down. This will affect online play less than offline, but for solo players this is a biggie.

  • Along these same lines, you will need to play with CPU Defensive back Awareness at 100. Otherwise you are going to absolutely torch the AI defense. Again, I am using the Browns. I'm not using the 1981 Chargers here and I should not score 59 points on...anyone. (This was when playing on default All Pro, FWIW).

  • As a result I have already lowered QB Accuracy to 25, WR catching to 40, and raised CPU DB AWR to 100 in order to make the game more challenging when passing because unless the pass rush gets to me, I'm going to complete the pass on default settings. have yet to play a lot of games with these new settings -- results coming soon.

  • There are way, way, way too many instances when the pass rusher hits the QB and he throws a wounded duck in the dirt for an incompletion. How often do you see that in a real game? A few times, maybe? In Madden you'll see this several times a game. In fact I'd say a fair number of CPU incomplete passes are due to this. The QB should either try and avoid the rush or just see the guy coming and throw it away or maybe even force a pass. This is really a mild complaint but I still think it needs looked at.

  • The idea that you will play a game of Madden in 30 minutes is true...if playing on default settings. If you are reading this blog you most likely do not do that. You most likely, like me, play with 13 to 15 minute quarters with the Fast Clock option turned on so that you get a realistic number of plays. If you do that expect anywhere from 60-70 minutes per game. This is with Gameflow turned on, btw.
  • The Strategy Pad. I'm getting used to it but I don't understand the need for it. Was the old system that confusing? For example: before if I wanted to put my DBs in tight coverage I simply pressed "Y" then pressed down on the Dpad. Essentially two button presses. Now I have to press the pad, select 'Coverage', then select 'Pressure'. Three button presses. Before idf I wanted to slide my Dline, it was a bumper press and a Dpad press. Now its Dpad, DLine, and Pinch/Spread. How exactly is this more efficient?

  • Big Plays. There are simply too many. In my last game vs the Steelers I had plays of 53, 59, 67, and 79. (3 passes and 1 run). Will sliders alter this? Perhaps. But this is a pretty common thread I am seeing each game I play. Big plays are exciting but right now the idea of playing a game of Madden with 110-120 plays a game and the score being 17-10 unlikely.

    I'll be testing some online and head to head games as soon as I get the chance as well as the new slider adjustments and I'll post the results later. I'm also going to sim a few seasons to see what the CPU roster management looks like.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Have to admit, I chuckled

From Kotaku's story:

Another large patch coming by mid-August for NCAA Football 11 will address some notorious balance issues with recruiting in the game's Dynasty modes, and deliver "live tuning" for necessary gameplay adjustments without waiting for a dedicated patch. Although this is also being addressed directly in the patch, a big key will be its ability to fine-tune dynasty recruiting AI, because many have noticed bot-controlled powerhouses coming in exceptionally underweight with repeated lackluster recruiting classes.
Ok, that sounds goovy. Kotaku was pointed to the EA Blog and posted its story. Of course that isn't even the real problem (Lackluster recruiting classes). But that's ok.

Of course Kotaku is apparently not one of the "many" as those pesky and 'notorious' Dynasty issues are MIA in their review. (written by the same guy, btw) Funny how that works.

OK to be fair Kotaku isn't alone. No one else said anything about it either, and really I don't know why I let this get under my skin the way it does. I'm old enough and have been around the block enough times to just let this flow under the bridge and move on.

We ALL miss things in reviews. I have written reviews in the past and then noticed a major issue a week later and it leaves a lump of pain in the pit of my stomach. I try and take this shit seriously but when I see news posts from a MAJOR game site talking about these important game issues like they were on top of the story all along -- I have to admit it's rather "irksome."

Because the "many" who noticed those issues? The gamers. The people who bought the game primarily off of reviews by websites like Kotaku. The critics absolutely failed them.

Anyway, that's my last rant on the subject, I promise.

The good news? EA is fixing the dynasty mode problems and if they work -- this will get a ridiculous amount of playtime this fall and winter. And I guess in the long run that's what matters.

Don't forget --- Madden Monday. We'll have a lot of impressions from the front line of the retail build.