A Blog about the things that keep geeks from getting old

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Thats what keeps geeks from getting old

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Can Online Dynasty Save Sporting Games?

Since 1996, I have played every yearly version of Madden football as well as many of the NCAA titles. Over a decade of playing these games has left me with diminishing returns on how much I enjoy these games. It had gotten so bad that last year I didn’t even complete a single season on Madden. I sold my copy a month after buying it. It had gotten uninteresting for me.

A few years ago I tried to play some games online. There wasn’t much there for me as it was always one game verses one player. Sure you could climb the leader board with a good win/loss record but more often than not this was a exercise in frustration. If you were winning people would quit the game on you, or you would play some one who would exploit some flaw in the game. It was never fun for me.

This year has brought the much needed change. Now I know online dynasty was around last year, but NCAA Football 11 has taken online play to the next level. You and up to 11 other people can now play a whole dynasty week after week for multiple seasons. They have also included a online hub for your dynasty’s so that you can keep track of all your leagues.http://www.easports.com/dynasty
Here is my hub:

The hub is a interesting concept in the social networking age. You can write stories about your team, comment on other teams, or talk smack, all while posting to face book or twitter. You can also manage the calling of your recruits from here. Stuck at work? You can make the in game calls on your PC. Friends made you go out? Hope on your iphone and get to dialing. EA is making a bold move here incorporating smart phones and social networks into the console gaming world. It’s a transition that was inevitable and I think EA has done a good job of utilizing it.

As someone who has moved around quite a bit in the last few years, I have friends in many different states. Online dynasty allows me to continue playing against them as we once did . I have a dynasty with my first roommate after college and it’s a lot of fun and helping to keep us in touch.

Having the human competition not only helps to make recruiting prospects to your school more challenging, but it also makes it more fun. Recruiting against the computer provides little challenge. Against a human requires completely different strategies. When you and another player go for the same player it can get a little heated, and someone is coming away with bragging rights.

I highly recommend this mode for any long time sports franchise player who is feeling the games have gotten old. I look forward to the day when I can get in a full 32 league Madden. The off-season will be more entertaining than the games.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Parallel Thinking in Classic Games: Dig Dug and Mr. Do

Be it a book, a movie, or a cola additive, whenever something resonates with the public, it isn’t long before a host of ‘me-too’ products hit the market. In the golden era of the 1980s, it would greatly benefit the earning potential of a game if it bore a resemblance in to an existing heavy-hitter. For example, Pac-Man inspired a host of thinly-veiled clones with minor tweaks meant to piggyback off of the amber orb’s crowd appeal. Ladybug, Lock ‘N’ Chase, and Mousetrap are just a handful of knockoffs that stole the core mechanics of Namco’s cash cow. A side-by-side comparison shows the swiped inspiration, despite the addition of gimmicks such as swinging doors or collectable items.

Sometimes, though, companies released games that were eerily close to one another in a time frame that made the possibility of idea theft unlikely. Namco’s Dig-Dug and Universal’s Mr. Do fit this mold, being released within a few scant months of one another. Considering most classic games had a development time of over a year, it doesn’t seem possible that one title stole from the other. Still, one wonders if there was a corporate spy feeding secrets from one company to another.

Both games feature a character able to dig both horizontally and vertically in the dirt, leaving a jagged-edged trail. In Dig-dug, the player can drop rocks on multiple baddies for additional points. Likewise, Mr. Do, can release giant apples onto monsters below. In both games, food items appear in the center of the screen, each offering a chance at a bonus.

The monsters of Dig-Dug aren’t bound to their physical bodies. When trapped in a tunnel, they can become ghostly specters that penetrate the sod in their pursuit of their helmeted adversary. The demons of Mr. Do similarly have the power to unfetter themselves from a dead end. They become veritable berserkers, becoming even more clawed and crazed, able to tear the packed earth asunder and ever closer to their prey. Both games endow the player with an impractical but effective weapon, and have comical protagonists and villians. The game of Dig-Dug arms the player with a bicycle pump that can be used to inflate and pop living kickballs known as Pookas and fire-breathing dragons called Fygars. Mr. Do, conversely, has a bouncing energy ball that ricochets through the maze until it defeats a demon or is caught again by the hero.

How are these seemingly carbon copies entertaining in starkly different ways? It all boils down to focus. Dig-Dug gives the player a solitary goal: defeat all of the enemies before they consume your player. Mr. Do lets you finish a level in one of four ways: killing the monsters, collecting all of the cherries, finding a diamond, or hitting the letter targets spelling ‘E-X-T-R-A’. Dig-Dug offers refinement of play control and purpose, a narrow scope of pitch-perfect joy. Mr. Do grants open-endedness, the freedom to complete the level in a way of the user’s choosing. Dig-dug plays intuitively, embodying the old ‘simple to learn, difficult to master’ credo. Mr. Do requires a bit more trial and error, offering more variety in gameplay and techniques to master.

Dig-Dug may be the favorite of the nostalgic crowd, boasting far more sales in terms of the original title, remakes, and retro merchandise, but Mr. Do deserves his due as a hidden gem. Both games are wildly entertaining, and worth an impartial play with an open mind. It’s sort of like listening to a song covered by two different artists. The notes may be the same, but the feel, the energy, and the interpretations create different end products that each fully stand on their own merits. It just goes to show that every artist has their own take on an idea, and the very differences in tastes, experiences, and happy accidents shade the outcome. It truly shows the power of small details.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Telivison Cop Shows

For some reason this seems to be the summer of cop shows - and judging from the fall previews it looks like it might also be the fall of cop shows. For someone who enjoys a good old fashion cop show, I say, bring it on!! Here is just a quick run down of the cop shows I am watching right now.

TNT - The Closer - I am a fan of this one. The new season just premiered a couple weeks ago. There is something about how Kyra Sedgwick portrays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and her squad that does leave me waiting for next weeks episode. TNT has been splitting this up into mini-seasons though so I usually feel pretty ripped off when the season is over after only a few weeks. The cast I think is what makes this show - each character adds a certain element to the show that would not exist if they weren't there. While each episode is mostly self contained there are several story arc's that run throughout and always seem to leave you waiting for more!

TNT - Rizzoli and Isles - As I tweeted earlier this week, after only two episodes I am hooked. Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander make a great team both on and off the clock. Another thing I enjoy about this show is that it takes place in Boston! There is something about a show 'taking place' in my own backyard that I do find intriguing, even if I do continually find myself yelling at the TV that there is no such place. Rizzoli seems to have deep Irish family roots and the Celtic beginning to each show is a nice change. I just wonder if each episode is going to end with either Rizzoli or Isles constantly finding them in life threatening situations as the first two episodes have.

TNT - Memphis Beat - Am I sensing a trend with TNT - they know Drama but I wasn't aware Drama only involved cop shows. This series takes us down south where things are done with an extra helping out southern hospitality. After My Name Is Earl I didn't really see Jason Lee as a Memphis detective but he is delivering in his role. The show itself seems to really lack anything extra in its offering. There is no real wow factor and it tends to make me wonder just how this cop show, in a sea of cop shows, is going to manage to hang around.

FOX - The Good Guys - Off to Dallas for this one. I feel this show is trying too hard. I feel like its the Odd Couple meets Dragnet. The entire premises seems kind of week and to be truly honest I have more unwatched episodes sitting on my Tivo right now then episodes I have watched. I think for me, at least, cop shows need to have some level of believability. This show just doesn't seem to have that for me. Am i really to believe that Stark (Bradley Whitford) consistently sleeps with the victims? I also find the believability factor tarnished as they drive around from crime scene to crime scene in a 79 Trans Am - seriously? I have a similar issue with Memphis Beat.

FOX - Lie To Me - I'm listing this because I think it is just a cop show in disguise. Don't get me wrong, I love this show. Tim Roth does an excellent job in his portrayal of Dr. Cal Lightman. To be truly honest when this show first premiered I didn't think there would be any way it could last past a few episodes. But given the fact that it isn't a straight up cop show they are able to do story arc's that don't involve finding out if the accused is in fact the murderer. That I think it what has given this show stay power - and so far - they seem to be doing a good job of keeping it fresh.

CBS - Flashpoint - I didn't even realize this show got picked up for a second season. While nothing spectacular this is one of only a few cop shows that doesn't focus on the crime, the investigation, and the hunt for the bad guy. This is just straight up SWAT response and how can they neutralize the threat. I think it is for that reason that I am slightly turned off to this series. I think this is one of those shows where the only thing that seems to change each week is the location and story behind why someone had gone of the deep end and now has a sniper rifle pointed at their head.

ABC - Rookie Blue - I actually have yet to check out this show. The promos did not wow me. It is on my 'To Do List' on my Tivo. To be honest, with so many other cops shows to choose from right now, if the promo didn't sell me on it, there is really no reason to watch it. Add to that its ABC which has a reputation of being more family friendly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scarlet Review

Scarlet - Written by Brian Michael Bendis Art by Alex Maleev

Marvel’s super heroes may have entered the heroic age, but Scarlet is setting out to be the anti-hero. I wasn’t sure what to make of this book but I was drawn in by the cover art. Maleev’s heavy lines combined with the nice color job really made this book jump off the rack. With absolutely no expectations I read this book as soon as I was home.
The imagery, writing, and coloring set this as a very dark book. The story even opens with the heroine strangling out a corrupt cop. You’re not quite sure how to feel about Scarlet off the bat. But after the how and why are eventually explained you get it. That’s when you feel yourself being pulled in. Scarlet actually addresses you as she tells her back story. Bendis uses this perspective to gives the book a interactive feel. The story is something I’ve seen a time or two before but it does stand on it‘s own. If your looking for something different I would truly give this book a try. Maybe you will be as surprised as I was.
Rating 5/5

Sunday, July 11, 2010

For the Pearl Jam Fans, the greatest site ever.

If you are a Pearl Jam fan like me, you spent much of the 90's recording concerts and special broadcasts off of the radio. In your closest you have 20 tapes lying around of unreleased and rare songs. You've been wanting to listen to them but who has a tape deck anymore? Well now you can. I cant believe it took me so long to find http://www.gremmie.net/. It has just about every track you could want and best of all you can download songs for free! Demos, live performances, covers, Christmas singles, even Eddie's bad radio songs. If you don't want to download click on the gremmie radio station and set it to shuffle. I highly recommend Sayin' No, Sonic Reducer, Angel, and Brass in Pocket. Be careful though, you can get lost here real easy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ESPN and the mistake

ESPN is ruining sports for me.
For starters they only care about the sports they have a vested interest in. Although it makes sense of the surface, you claim to be a SPORTS network so why ignore the audience for these games? Now they have turned more into a entertainment network then a reputable sports station. Between Brett Farve’s yearly retirement drama and Tiger Woods scandals it’s almost like ESPN has a TMZ division.
But now they taken it even further. The National Basketball Association is in the midst of one of it’s best free agent groups ever. I don’t think a better class of players has been available. Amidst this, ESPN has gotten into bed with one of the leagues biggest stars Lebron James. It’s not enough to report on his every move and rumor, but they actually had a web page devoted to his possible destinations. Such a thing had never been done before by a reputable “sports news network”. It’s almost like Lebron is more celebrity than sports star. Maybe that’s why he’s never won a big game.
I just heard that James has picked his new team. But unlike every other free agent signing ever, he’s not having a press conference. He is having a 1 hour show on ESPN to announce his decision and have all the network toadies gush over him. It’s quite disappointing. How did players get bigger than the game?
How much of this is our faults? I think in a sense we are all to blame. We pay these outrageous prices. We let players get away with behavior that otherwise would land them in jail. And reality TV debauchery has taken over what was good about the games. There is enough drama in every game why do we need the added gossip? It’s detracting.
Please don’t watch this TV show that LBJ is putting on. He’s a phony and we are only encouraging this to get worse.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Avengers and New Avengers Review

The last few years have been unkind to the Avengers. First Civil War tore every one apart, then Invasion and Seige left everyone wondering who to trust. Now Marvel has entered the Heroic Age and I for one could not be happier. The Avenger books are being re-launched and that means new squads and new story arcs.

The Avengers -Written by Michael Bendis-Art By John Romita Jr.

If writer Bendis is trying to take the Avengers back to their roots, picking the classic trio of Captain America, Thor, and Iron man was a good start. Hawkeye and Spiderwoman were also good choices for the new team, however I’m a bit perplexed by the use of Wolverine and Spider Man. Sure this makes for a interesting mix of new and old Avengers, but where are the Vision or the Black Panther? This would have been a great time to go with a more classic line up. They did try to recruit Wonder Man, but he declined due to the recent dark history of the Team. He even alluded to possibly battling the Avengers if necessary, which could make for a nice twist. Right after the team has formed up, the Avengers find their headquarters invaded. It’s none other than longtime Nemesis, Kang the Conqueror. The blue faced, time travel terrorist has come back with a warning, claiming the Avengers own children will someday destroy the world. To convince the Avengers to help him avert this, he has stolen a doomsday device that Iron Man had invented in the future, and threatens to use it. Kang informs the Avengers that their next member holds the key to their time travel. Kang was a excellent choice to start the series off with and Bendis truly leaves you with a cliffhanger. And boy do you want more.
Rating 4/5

The New Avengers-Written by Michael Bendis-Art by Stuart Immonen

The New Avengers feels just like it’s named, a new begining. Luke Cage has been given this team along with Avengers mansion to go back to doing what Avengers do best, saving the world. Cage then went about building a team of his family and friends. His wife Jewel, long time partner Iron Fist, and old buddy the Thing were brought on board. Spider Man, Hawkeye, and Wolverine will be in both books and all have worked with Cage plenty as Avengers. Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel are the final pieces of the squad. The feeling you get as you read this book is this is a close knit group. There is a great scene where they are all sitting around eating and it’s hard to make such a scene interesting but Bendis and Immonen pull it off. The action in this issue comes from the developing plot involving Doctor strange and problems on the Astral plane. We never get the whole story but it’s enough to whet the appetite. This series has potential to really pull in the reader with a eclectic but great mix of personalities.
Rating 4.5/5

So far the only complaint I can lay on these books is the cross over of characters. I know I’m in the minority but Marvel needs to ease up on the use of Wolverine and Spiderman. It’s the same reason no body watches All Star games anymore when you see someone every day, it just gets old. There is a lot to like here and if you ever were an Avengers fan or would like to be, now is a great time to get on board.