paul nicholson

Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Predators 08-09 Roster Finalized

In Games, Hockey, Nashville, Sports on August 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm
(Warning: This article is full of sarcasm)

The Predators roster is still anyone’s guess. Personally, i take David Poile at his word that, right or wrong, they will plan on relying on prospects to come up and fill vital roster spots at the forward position (to be more specific, i think they’ll at least wait until camp and then make a free agent signing or trade based on what we need). Others like The Forechecker think (or at least hope) that the Preds will make another move before camp begins.

But of course all that is just talk. Those amazing hockey insiders at EA Sports have apparently used CIA level spying techniques (or maybe a time machine) to give us info that others can only speculate on.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is your NHL 09 Nashville Predators roster:

Jason Arnott, Radek Bonk, Jean-Pierre Dumont, Martin Erat, Vernon Fiddler, Martin Gelinas, Jan Hlavac, David Legwand, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, Jerred Smithson, Steve Sullivan, Jordin Tootoo

Greg de Vries, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Greg Zanon, Cody Franson

Dan Ellis, Pekka Rinne

So what can we glean from this?

  • Alexander Radulov, though under contract with the Predators, isn’t going to be in the NHL this year (he isn’t listed as a free agent either – just not in the game). He has been erased from existence (cue ‘Back to the Future’ clip here)
  • The Predators may lose Radulov, but will somehow talk Jan Hlavac out of signing with a Swedish Elite team and into coming back to Nashville. Wise move.
  • Steve Sullivan will be back on the ice, though skating a bit slower (or at least taking up a roster spot).
  • The Predators will resign the ageless Martin Gelinas despite all outward indications to the contrary. This is best explained by his ability to get a little press coverage every time the anniversary of the Great Gretzky Trade rolls around.
  • Despite going through all the hassle of arbitration and subsequent signing of Ville Koistinen to a new one year, one-way contract, the Predators will apparently buy him out with no trade in return and instead opt to go with minor leaguer Cody Franson. They will therefore have absolutely no offensively focused defensemen on the roster, which makes sense of course, given the obvious glut of scoring power at the forward position.

Wow. Just a heads up, if you try to play with this Predators roster, you’re gonna be in a world of hurt (not to mention have little resemblance to the team that will actually take the ice this year). I know the Predators won’t be favorites to win the cup, but at least we can take solace in the fact that we probably won’t be this bad. I hope…

Other notes of interest:

  • Greg Zanon (Mr Body Sacrifice to you) is still listed as the 15th best shot blocker on the Predators (yes, Jordin Tootoo, Jed Ortmeyer and Jason Arnott are clearly the team leaders in this category).
  • David Legwand is rated as the 6th fastest player in the NHL. That’s right folks, Steve Sullivan only looks faster because of his size apparently.
  • Martin Gelinas can also make his 38 year old knee, fresh from injury and surgery, propel him to the 3rd fastest spot on the roster.
  • Jordin Tootoo is the 7th toughest player in the league (hey Dallas, i though he was supposed to be a whiner?)
  • Overall Legwand is apparently our superstar in hiding. He is in the top three on the team in Speed, Acceleration, Deking, Agility, Offensive Awareness, Puck Control, Deflections…and probably a few more categories. Jason Arnott is really good too.

For the full Preds roster with all stats in fully sortable Google Spreadsheet format, check here.

As for the game itself, my big complaint last year was that few of the Predators players looked anything like themselves. Well, this year things aren’t looking much better, though it’s hard to say for sure. The NHL 09 website screenshot section features not a single picture with any Predators featured. The videos i have watched so far only had a single brief glimpse of Ryan Suter with his back turned to the camera. The only picture of a Preds player’s face from the game that i can find is on this IGN page (picture at right). I can’t tell for sure, but i can only assume from the “A” on the jersey that ends in the number 1 that it is either supposed to be Dumont or perhaps Legwand. Too bad it looks absolutely nothing like either of them. Meanwhile Paul Kariya, Vinny LeCavelie, Sindey Crosby, etc all look like themselves…at least a little. It looks like once again the Preds will be staffed by the generic-faced masses.

National TV Coverage

That lack of respect and consideration does fit nicely with the new TV schedule though. The NHL released the National TV schedule a few days ago (the FSN local TV schedule has yet to be released) and the Predators are all but absent. Out of 196 games scheduled to be televised on TSN, NBC, Versus, and Hockey Night In Canada – exactly 4 of them will feature the Nashville Predators. Now, i understand that the league wants to promote the Penguins and the Red Wings are always a huge draw, etc… and HNIC and TSN will naturally gravitate towards games with Canadian teams, but those teams have to play someone, right?

I guess we can’t complain too much…the Panthers, Coyotes, and Hurricanes are all on TV only 4 times (along with the Preds), while the Ducks and Kings are only on 3 times ,and the lowly Columbus Bluejackets are only featured on national TV 2 times out of 196 games. With no exposure at the national level, is it any wonder why these franchises are struggling? I know it’s a chicken-or-the-egg kinda problem, but this TV scheduling doesn’t help them out any.

basic building blocks

In Entertainment, Games, Me on March 6, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Thanks to Brittney for posting a pic of this great new Lego ad:

click to en-biggen

Fabulous ad that shows Lego as they are meant to be used.

Too bad that the company’s product group has forgotten what their ad agency knows so well.

It is getting harder and harder to find buckets of raw pieces in stores. Only Lego fanatics, willing to go online and take time to custom order parts, can find them anymore. If you hit Wal-mart looking for a quick Lego fix, you’re only going to find these ridiculous sets that border on basic modeling kits.
I always ignored the directions showing all the different houses and things you could make with the generic kits anyway. That is the fun. Gimme a buck-o-pieces and make me use my mind. But when half the pieces have decals and designs on them and are custom molded nose-cones, it just ruins the fun.

Having said that…the more custom character pieces can be fun…especially when i can have my favorite character from the Star Wars Lego video game on my desk at work.

LAN Party!!!!

In Cool Tech, East Nashville, Entertainment, Friends, Games, Me on February 20, 2008 at 11:13 am

It’s that time of year again: My good friend Matt and I are celebrating another trip around the sun (my birthday is March 7th, his is March 1st). So, we’re going shoot each other. :-)

Yes, we are throwing another LAN party!

dark picture from last year’s party

This year we’re going to try to make things a little more coordinated. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to base the day’s gaming around the Valve Orange Box and games distributed through Steam. Specifically, mods for Half-Life 2, but we’ll probably throw some Team Fortress 2 in there, and may break out Quake 3 Team Arena, Battlestations: Midway, or any of the other free demo games on Steam.

Depending on who is there, we may end up playing some Tribes 2 (now free online), or some RTS or other (Battle for Middle Earth?) and we may even devolve into playing some console games (like 8-player NHL 08 on my shiny new PS3). But we’ll mostly stick to stuff on Steam.

The party will be March 8th at my place in East Nashville, from 1:00pm to… late (probably around 10:00pm or 11:00pm…)

Here’s the fun part – you’re all invited!

What you have to bring:

* Your own PC (with monitor, keyboard, mouse, and headphones!)
* A running copy of Steam and Half-Life 2 installed – before you arrive if possible
(the full Orange Box package is a plus, but not needed)
* $5 for pizza

We’ll provide snacks and drinks, as well as seating, tables, power, and network connections.

If you are interested in attending, then let me know by either commenting on this post or direct message me on twitter (just post to Twitter “d pwnicholson: i want to come to your cool LAN party”) and i will get you directions. If you are some really random person i’ve never heard of before, i may want to at least…ya know…talk to you first. But all my rad blogger buddies are certainly invited, male and female alike (of course, be warned: to have fun at this party there is something of a requirement to be a gaming geek at some level).

If you can only come to part of the party, that’s certainly fine. Several people are already planning on being there for “only” 4-5 hours. It’s cool.


In Entertainment, Games on November 28, 2007 at 8:21 pm

Normally i’m not the type, but i just had to say when i read this, i thought “i told you so” (and by “you” here i mean ‘the interwebs’).

Definitely has me wondering if i should lay off getting it until they get production stabilized. Thankfully (?) i think my budget will make that decision for me for a while longer.

Rock Band: First Impressions

In Entertainment, Games, Music, Reviews on November 1, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Update: this review wasn’t based on the final version of the game, as it has only today (11/5) “gone gold“. So the vocal issues may have been addressed in the retail version. Unfortunately i think it’s a little too late to do anything about the guitar controller. We’ll see.

Just got back from hanging out with my wife and sister, doing some shopping. Once we wrapped up finding what my sister needed, i forced them to follow me to Best Buy to try out Rock Band. I had heard on Engadget that many Best Buys had the demos, so wanted to see if ours did. It did!

So…how was it?
Not so fabulous.

First, the good:
The graphics looked great, and the parts were well written. The game also sounded good (as good as it could sound at an in-store demo). The song selection we rocked in store included “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, “Say It Ain’t So”, and “Main Offender”. The demo also had “Suffragette City”, “Tom Sawyer”, and a few other tracks we didn’t get to.

As a drummer, i was very skeptical that the drums would “feel” like drums, but i will say, it was remarkable how fast it felt like i was back home drumming. It was actually pretty funny, on the ‘Beginner’ settings, i found the drums very difficult, mostly because it over-simplified the more complicated rhythms (triplets, etc) to songs i knew well. I kept trying to play the “real” rhythm and getting being marked wrong. Once i upped the difficulty though, it was a lot of fun. But since i was already playing on ‘Hard’ on the demo in the store without breaking a sweat, i don’t think drummers should look for a challenge in this game. The drum controller also felt like it could really take a beating (a good thing for a drum simulator). I will note: the in-store demo didn’t have the foot pedal controller (though i was playing the kick part on the floor anyway to keep myself honest, and i really found that easier anyway), so no promises there, it could be flimsy.

Now, the bad:
The new guitar controller, which i was excited to play (with its extra 5-frets keys), was a major disappointment. It felt flimsy, and worst of all, proved to be so. The strumming switch (is that what it’s called) was already toast. It wasn’t registering strums unles you really mashed down on it hard. The whole guitar just felt lighter and flimsier than the Guitar Hero 2 controller i have at home – which is strange since i think it is also a little bigger. It was so bad, we actually couldn’t play with the guitar. We kept failing every song, even though we had it on easy. It would only register about 1 in 3 notes. Bad bad sign, since this in-store demo has only been there for about 48 hours, and the Guitar Hero 2 demo that has been at the same Best Buy for months was still up and rockin’ perfectly.

Equally disappointingly was the vocal gameplay. My sister and wife are both singers – and i don’t just mean they lead Christmas carols with the family. They both majored in music with their vocal chords as their ‘instrument’. We’ve played SingStar (a console karaoke game) too, and did very well (even i did). But over and over again, the vocal track failed out on both of them, even on ‘Easy’. Now, there are a lot of people out there who are going to be horrible singers, but will want to play this game and have fun with their friends. On ‘Easy’, it should require absolute silence to fail out of the vocal track as far as i’m concerned. Maybe it was a problem with the mic, but if so, that again doesn’t bode well. Same problem as the guitar – this Best Buy’s SingStar demo has been running just fine for months. If this mic was dead after just 48 hours, that really doesn’t bode well.

So…do i want this game? Would i recommend it?

I have to honestly say, not so much anymore. I’d love to play some of those songs on Guitar Hero, and playing drums was fun… but for $170+ this game was very, very disappointing over all. Fabulous concept, obviously. I just think there will be a lot of frustrated vocalists and down right furious guitarist in January as their controllers start dying. I’m actually going to remove it from my wish list until i have assurance that the game doesn’t fall apart inside of a few months.

(I am kicking myself right now that i didn’t take any pictures with my phone to make this a really good review. But if you want to see what the game looks like, check here)

rock band hero

In Entertainment, Games, Me, Music on October 29, 2007 at 11:07 am

The “final” list of songs for Rock Band (minus the unlockable songs) just got released. Here are the ones i’m the most hyped about playing (full list is here):

Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”
The Who “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Boston “Foreplay/Long Time”
David Bowie “Suffragette City”
Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper”
The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”
The Clash “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly”
Metallica “Enter Sandman”
Weezer “Say It Ain’t So”
Garbage “I Think I’m Paranoid”
Soundgarden “Black Hole Sun”
The Hives “Main Offender”
OK Go “Here It Goes Again”

Great stuff.
This got me thinking the other day… If i could make a list for Rock Band (or Guitar Hero) what would it include… Here’s what i got so far (in no particular order):

Booker T and the MG’s “Green Onions”
Ben Folds “Rockin The Suburbs”
Jimi Hendrix “All Along the Watchtower”
Jimi Hendrix “Foxy Lady”
All Star United “Big Rock Show” (or maybe “Theme From Summer”)
U2 “Beautiful Day”
Rolling Stones “Paint It, Black”
Smash Mouth “Road Man”
Earth Wind and Fire “September”
Electric Light Orchestra “Four Little Diamonds”
Electric Light Orchestra “Birmingham Blues”
Dandy Warhols “Bohemian Like You”
Santana “Oye Como Va”
The Clash “Train in Vain”
POD “Boom”
Simon and Garfunkle “Mrs Robinson”
Foo Fighters “My Hero”
Foo Fighters “Everlong”
Robbie Williams “Let Me Entertain You”
Weezer “Buddy Holly”
Weezer “Keep Fishin”
Sum 41 “Fat Lip”
Jamiroquai “Feels Just Like It Should”
Jamiroquai “High Times”
Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison Blues”
ZZ Top “La Grange”
Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”
Felming and John “I’m Not Afraid”
Stevie Wonder “I Wish”
Bob Marley “Jamming”
The Monkees “Last Train to Clarksville”
Switchfoot “Chem 6A”
Switchfoot “The Loser”
Cake “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”
Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”

While we’re at it, whole albums i’d love to see:

Weezer [Blue album]
Switchfoot “New Way To Be Human”
The Clash “Combat Rock”
Nirvana “Nevermind”

Of course, many of these would be better (and this would be much longer) if there was a keyboard/piano/organ controller.

And i’m leaving tons off…i am going to be embarrassed when i come back and look at this later, i know. But hey, i’m just doing this on my lunch break for fun. Sue me.

Portal for everyone

In Entertainment, Games on October 12, 2007 at 10:12 am

So, i’ve been really busy this week. Checked out a community Bible Study group, watched the Preds game, went to the Preds game last night, and of course…i’ve been playing Portal.

The rest of the Valve Orange Box came out at midnight pacific on Wed. I’ve only been able to squeeze in a little bit of Portal since then (didn’t finish it, but i’m fairly near the end from what i understand) and haven’t been able to touch Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

A couple of notes about Portal:
1) This game is really cool, but was way too basic early on. For a game that is part of a bundle that is rated “M”, the first half of the levels in Portal are way to basic. I understand the need to have a few teach-players-how-to-use-portals levels early on, but after that, make it challenging fast. The levels ramp way too gradually, and there wasn’t ever really a point where i was frustrated with the game (though more than a few times where i realized later “i did that the hard way” and can go back and improve my performance for achievements later.) That leads me to #2.

2) Portal is essentially a spatial IQ test. It’s not a first person shooter in any way really. This is a first person puzzle game. You can take your time with all the tests (in fact, if you do, you get to hear more of the goofy things the AI computer voice says throughout the game) and you are never in danger of eminent attack (only if you miss a platform and drop into toxic waste, that kinda thing). The problem is that everyone that plays the game, myself included, recognize that this is an intelligence test (which is reinforced by the fact that it is presented as a test throughout the game). This leads to the fact that many people – very much including myself – under inflate their play time even more than usual. When a game comes out there are always geeks that say “oh this just took me 6 hours to play” or whatever. With Portal, people are being very casual about how easy the game was for them and it only took them an hour, etc. I know i just did when talking with Matt on the phone. I told him i wasn’t quite done, but had only played for an hour or so. In reality, thanks to my Steam Community Profile, i know that i have actually played for about 2 hours.

Ah well.

3) Having said that, it is very very clear that it will be very simple for users to rapidly start spitting out map-packs of their own with new levels to play. And a multi-player hack will be out in…i’ll say 8 days (from release). Given that someone else hacked Half-life 2 Deathmatch to basically be multi-player Portal months ago (Excite Mod), it shouldn’t take too long to get a cleaned up version running now that the real thing is out. This game is not so much a game as an introduction to an engine, which will spawn hundreds of hours of playable levels rapidly.

4) Lastly, for those who are interested, or who just want to test their spatial IQ Portal-style, here‘s an awesome flash game that someone took way too much time to make. Obviously it is a little more simple than the real Portal game as it is just 2-D instead of in full 3 dimensions, and you can see all the map instead of being stuck in a 1st-person point of view. But you’ll get the idea. PORTAL: The Flash Version. Much fun

random geek and game stuff

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games on October 4, 2007 at 10:37 am

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m going to the game tonight, can’t wait for real hockey to get going, and i’m pumped! (thanks to my parents for spotting us tickets for opening night!)

Now… to this post.

Lots of random linky-ness and cool techie stuff.

Many awesome new products at ThinkGeek including the famous/infamous 8-bit tie that was originally an April Fools prank on the site, a maternity “geek inside” shirt, a new bag that you don’t want to try to use as a carry-on for your next flight, and a collection of funny bumperstickers, including my new favorite cross between on religious and geek bumperstickers. Last but not least – the natural evolution of mini remote control helicopters: weaponized mini remote helicopters. Unfortunately still no sign of a KeepOn.

In other geeky news: There is now at least some sketchy ‘scientific’ proof that my wife’s new-found gamerness has real-world upside.

And in other gamer news: More announcements of tracks for Guitar Hero 3.
While i couldn’t care less about Slash or the other “legends of rock” that are supposed to be bosses in the game, i am really looking forward to playing many of these songs. Here’s the list of the ones that have me chompin’ at the bit.

  • La Grange — ZZ Top
  • My Name Is Jonas — Weezer
  • Paint It, Black — The Rolling Stones
  • Sunshine of Your Love — Cream
  • Cliffs of Dover — Eric Johnson
  • Black Magic Woman — Santana
  • Pride and Joy — Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Bulls on Parade — Rage Against the Machine
  • Devil Went Down to Georgia — Charlie Daniels Band
  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot — Pat Benetar
  • Barracuda – Heart
  • Cult of Personality — Living Colour
  • Mississippi Queen — Mountain
  • Slow Ride — Foghat

And ok, ok…in the interest of equal time, here the list of songs i’m dying to play in Rock Band.

  • Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
  • Here It Goes Again – OK Go
  • Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters
  • Say It Ain’t So – Weezer
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage
  • Suffragette City – David Bowie
  • Main Offender – The Hives
  • Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones
  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult
  • Brainpower – Freezepop
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Enter Sandman – Metallica
  • Gimme Shelter – Rolling Stones
  • In Bloom – Nirvana
  • Mississippi Queen – Mountain
  • Tom Sawyer – Rush
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Of course in addition to all of those, entire albums will be made available for download/purchase after release, including The Who’s Who’s Next and Nirvana’s Nevermind.

And yes, those of you that know me know i can’t stand Rush, but i have to admit it is going to be fun to play Tom Sawyer, especially if i can mute to vocal track. I particularly look forward to seeing how they do the drum part for “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters. That, plus “Everlong” were tracks i used specifically used to work up my chops when i was drumming more. Higher levels there are going to be tough!

TF2 Review

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Pictures, Reviews on September 30, 2007 at 1:26 pm

I keep meaning to make a post about Team Fortress 2. Unfortunately, ever since it was released made available for beta testing to people who pre-ordered the Orange Box, i haven’t stopped playing it long enough to make a post about it. I haven’t been playing it a scary amount, but given the choice of using my spare time to blog about TF2 or actually play TF2… the blog kept getting put off.

Sufficed to say this game is immensely fun. And i don’t mean it is well done and engrossing and realistic…i mean it is FUN. Goofy, laugh-out-loud fun. Don’t get me wrong, it is also engrossing and immersive and all of those good things that games should be. But most importantly it is the one thing that so many games aren’t these days – a real pleasure to play. This game isn’t about realism. It is about chaos, ridiculous situations, rocket-jumping, bunny hopping, and all those other things that made old-school deathmatch gaming so fun – but with great team dynamic and balanced gameplay like i’ve never seen outside of Day of Defeat. Over and over again while playing this game, i find my self laughing outloud – usually when i’ve just been blown away. That tends to happen when the ‘death cam’ shows you the person that just killed you looking like the screenshot on the right. Any player can instantly put their character into a ‘taunt’ at any time. It’s great fun to hit that button right after you kill someone so you know they are being forced to watch you dance. There are also many times when the game will also helpfully identify the parts of you that are laying at your enemy’s feet (see image at the left). These shots also show off another cool aspect of getting killed – the game always gives you updates on what you’ve done well. The game is a statistician’s dream and tracks the amount of damage you do, kills you get, kill assist you get, healing you perform, captures made, buildings made, buildings destroyed, etc, etc. After you are killed it told you what was particularly good about that last round, for you. You may be like me and stink at the game, but hey, you got closer to your record for damage in a round as a soldier that time than you’ve been in a while. Playing this game and being killed manages to be a constantly rewarding and reaffirming experience, without being condescending.

One of the other things that is really nice is the concept of the kill assist. The most obvious version of this is when a Medic is healing a Heavy or some other player and that player kills someone. The Medic clearly made it possible, so they get partial credit for the kill and receive points. The other, really nice kill-assist is when you’ve done a large portion of damage to an opposing player and one of your teammates comes along to help and finishes them off. Well, you may have done 250 points in damage to that Heavy (who has 300 hit points) but in most games your teammate that did the final 50 points damage would have gotten sole credit for the kill. In TF2, you both get credit. Your name gets flashed along with your teammate’s.

Another fun/competitive element thrown into the game is the concept of a “nemesis”. If someone kills you 5 times without you killing them, they are said to be “dominating” you and they are now your “nemesis”. They will now have a special icon above their head (only for you) and you’ll get double points if you can manage to kill them (a “revenge kill”). I’ve had the pleasure of being on the giving and receiving end of these multiple times and it just adds another layer of fun to the game.

My one request/complaint is that they took away the nifty muzzle flash effects we saw in the trailers. This whole game as a very cartoonist, straight-outta-Pixar look to it (but is surprisingly easy on the system requirements). In all the trailers – right up to a few weeks ago – all the muzzle flashes were very cartoonist as well. However, in the ‘beta’ version we’ve all been playing, they decided to covert the muzzle flashes to use the same nifty particle effects technique they developed for the Pyro’s flame thrower.

Original muzzle flash effect

New muzzle flash effect.

There are dozens of other awesome things i’d love to say about this game. It has a great commentary track from the makers of the game, cool intro videos you can watch to help you understand the basics of each map before loading them, a really nice achievement system…and don’t get me started on the intricacies of playing the engineer. But…i’m gonna go play more now.

If you want to track my personal game stats, you can always see them here.

Engineer Profile

In Entertainment, Games on September 11, 2007 at 2:45 pm

I haven’t updated everyone on the awesomeness of Team Fortress 2 in a while, so here’s at least one more post before 1) i get lost in hockey season, 2) the game actually comes out

The profile video for the engineer came out today. Awesome. Simply awesome. This is definitely the class i think i’ll play most often. Between being on a slightly slower connection and just not having the insane twitch reflexes i used to (when i played FPS’s 2 hours a day in college) i am not going to have the skills needed to pull off the Scout or Sniper, etc. I’ll don’t like moving slow, so the Heavy is out, and the Pyro…maybe. But the Engineer doesn’t even have to be in the fight. It’s all about strategy and setting up traps and defensive positions and enabling your teammates. Very much more my style.

And for those that missed the previous videos, here’s the Heavy and the Soldier.

One more comment about the game in general – i think i like the really old-school gibs, splats, and non-realistic gameplay. This is all about fun. But…it looks like they are taking a very similar splat/gib system over to Half-Life 2: Episode 2…not sure it belongs there. HL2:Ep2 is also suddenly looking very dated when compared to Far Cry 2 and Crysis, and it isn’t even out yet. Oh well. The story and game play should still be second to none. That’s why i’m a huge Valve fan. I just want Valve to make a game on the new Cry engine. Please?

Fantasy Hockey is On!

In Games, Hockey, Sports on August 29, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Well, i have lots of other things i want to blog about but i’ve been way too busy…more later. Until then…

DROP THE (virtual) PUCK!

I’m starting up another Fantasy Hockey league with Yahoo’s free system. My wife and a bunch of friends from work (and outside work) all played and i think we had a lot of fun. Well, all of us except Kevin. Worst luck i’ve ever seen man…

Anyway, the settings worked well last year, running with the same settings again this year. Just a once-per-week roster set (like football) so you don’t have to constantly micro-manage your team. Pretty much just draft your team (it will auto-draft a good team if you don’t know who to set) and then watch for injuries and you’ll do decently well.

This is a no-cash, bragging-rights-only league. Most of us are not hockey experts, just fans. I started it last year to make myself learn more about the rest of the league and it worked well. A whole lot of fun.

This is a ‘private’ league, but it is open to anyone that wants to join.
Just visit-
when prompted for the league ID, enter 15408. Password is “mason” (without quotes).

Game on!

The Gimmies

In Cool Tech, Games, Me on August 17, 2007 at 5:19 pm

If Rock Band wasn’t enough to convince me i wanted a PS3 this Christmas (it is already on my wish list), this just sealed it.

Not that i am likely to get one, mind you. We are going on a cruise for our Anniversary/Christmas this year (our anniversary is in June, yes), so not exactly a lot of loose change flowing.

Taking donations to the Paul-and-Christy’s PS3 fund now though :-)

nhl 06-7-8

In Entertainment, Games, Hockey, Reviews, Sports on August 10, 2007 at 10:13 pm

A quick post combining two of my favorite pastimes. Hockey and video games.

I first bought NHL 06 for my PC as i really started getting in to hockey. I think i played it at someone elses’ house or something and decided to play it more. For the record: i advise this for anyone who wants to get in to hockey – playing the video game version is a great way to learn the basics of the game (penalties, etc) – though you will never advance beyond the very basics of course.

That was the real rub. NHL 06 was fun to play, but EA obviously put out a very half-hearted effort compared to NBA or Madden. But hey, i’m in sales and marketing. It’s money. I get it.

When it was time for NHL 07 to come out, i was pumped. They were promising this new ‘skill stick’ change and amazing new graphics. I saw the trailers and was very impressed. So i went out and bought a copy soon after it was released. I was horribly disappointed. Not only did i not have the skill stick on the PC version, but i also didn’t have the improved graphics. Essentially the PC version was simply a port of the PS2 and Xbox versions – not the “next gen” PS3 and Xbox 360 versions that all the trailers had been for. The only difference i could tell between NHL 06 and NHL 07 was that the goalies sometimes played butterfly style now instead of always stacking their pads. Yeah, that was worth $40.

Now i see trailers for NHL 08.

First, amazing graphics. To be expected, but worth noting. These looks awesome. The crowd still looks horrible, but the players look and move better than ever. Second, they really tweaked the custom/create mode. You could create customer players before, but you had one default head to choose from, with very very limited customization. Very poor by most game standards today (especially on PC – i should be able to import skins dang it!). The new NHL 08 looks like it will be much better in that department. It also adds the ability to create your own team, including selecting from a preset choice of logos (PC import option please?) and a full color pallet to chose from. This video highlights these changes…and then showcases video of the team pictured on the right. Any copies of this game they may have sold, just disappeared. Why. On Earth. Would anyone make a team look like that? It would hurt your eyes to play a whole game like that.


Most importantly, they are also touting improved collision/hitting physics and adaptive AI. These address the two biggest weaknesses in the game. The collision physics used to be determined entirly by two factors: balance and speed. So a player who’s balance and agility stats were high, was hard to knock down. One who’s stats were low, was blown over by a passing butterfly. Worse – small, fast players (like Steve Sullivan for the Predators) routinely lead the team in hits, and can deck anyone on the ice simply because they move so fast. It is all about speed. The new version is supposed to take mass/weight/momentum into account. Yay.

They have also supposedly fixed or at least improved the AI. The AI used to be horrible. I can run the same play over and over again and score about 7 out of 10 times. I regularly run up stats and get 4 or 5 players hat tricks per game when i play NHL 07 on easy. On hard it just makes the opposing goalie block a higher percentage of your shots, your goalie sucks more, but the defenders never learn a thing (on either side). The new version is supposed to pickup on repeated plays or positions and adjust to be ready for that cross-ice pass from the corner that used to be so easy. We can only hope.

The one thing i was horribly disappointed in is that the uniforms will apparently all be last years unis. Unless they are going to completely recreate the models, they are all still wearing the old-style baggy sweaters, not the new fancy tighter-fitting RBK jerseys. What, bringing them out in the Olympics last year and the all-star break this year wasn’t enough time? Even if they try to change the skins to match the new patters, the fit is all wrong. That is actually a pretty big selling point to me, and they are totally missing the boat.

But here’s the thing i’m really waiting to find out: is the PC version crippled again? They are making PS2, P23, Xbox 360, and PC versions of this game. Now, a top-of-the-line PC has more processing power to put to this game than any console, but i understand most modern gaming PC’s lie in the Xbox 360 range of power. Either way – the PC should get the
best features available. I know this probably won’t happen, because EA Sports PC games are always just sloppy ports of the console versions. What is more frustrating on top of that, is that all game review sites that bother to even review the NHL games, always just review the console version! Not even a note of ‘this game is the same on PC’ or ‘the PC versions is actually a Gameboy Color port’. Nothing.

Why? Why must i endure this pain? I would go over to the other PC NHL franchise… but… wait… there isn’t one. Curse you EA! Curse you!!!!!!

(sorry for the long post – i needed to get that one out)

gaming update

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Me on July 8, 2007 at 8:30 am

Time for an update on my favorite games that i haven’t even played yet.

The Half-Life 2 Orange Box is coming out soon. Soon-ish anyway. October 9th. I finally actually believe this date because they have at least released the cover art, as well as just put up a new site to cover it.

For those that don’t know, the Orange Box is what you need to buy. It is Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.

Of course, the irony is that 90% of those that that do know what the Orange Box is, you won’t be buying it. You already own HL2 and HL2:Ep1, so you will do like i will and buy HL2:Ep2, Portal, and TF2 over Steam. Why Valve isn’t releasing each of those games in their own retail boxes too, i’m not sure. It is a battle for shelf space at Christmas guys – get with it!

Anyway, i am really pumped. Especially when i saw this new screenshot from Episode 2 that is on the new site (at right, click to enlarge). Will the character animations really look like that when you croutch and shoot over a wall? What are those little glowing things on the ground? Are they coming from the Hunter (the thing in the background)? Is the Hunter shooting that electricity? Or is that a Vortigaunt shooting at it?

Yeah, i’m a fanboy and i can’t wait for these games.

In related news: Playing a new game.

Basically it is yet another awesome, free, user-made mod for Half-Life 2. This one takes the Coutner-Strike (terrorist/counter-terrorist) in to a real-world situation (Iraq) and makes it much more realistic (iron sites instead of crosshairs, etc). It is also based on real-world locations in Iraq. Real cities and the layouts are supposed to be fairly accurate. It is very well made and a lot of fun, but boy do i suck at it. It goes for realism, so it is very much a one-shot-kill game. Not an arcade game by any means. (New patch just got released this morning). Go check it out.

Last, the other game i’m waiting for is Left 4 Dead.
Normally i don’t go for the tons-of-Zombies genre of games, but the new elements they are putting in this game are really cool. The work they did on the AI isn’t in the enemies (they are zombies after all) but rather in the game layout. Everytime you play through will be different. The game moves where traps, zombies, etc are located withing the level. The buildings don’t change, but the experience does every time.

It also very much encourages team-based play (not just shooting everything on your own), and it introduces some really cool elements that make it more cinematic. Example: When you are hurt you start limping, then when you are really hurt you can only lie on the ground in one place until a friend helps you up. You can still shoot, but you can’t move. It looks really cool. Just like something out of a movie.

Enjoy video here (if you like lots of gross zombies in video games)

$400,000 in 12 seconds

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games, Videos on May 22, 2007 at 4:12 pm

This is hilarious.

I was really hyped about it before. But if they are going to have this sort of content surrounding the game, then this is just fun on top of fun (not blood on top of blood the way so many games are now).

Cry some more.

The amazing thing about this is that it is all in engine. This looks like something out of the Incredibles and it is being rendered live, in a video game! If the characters really react to going on a killing spree like that, i am going to be horrible at this game because i am going to be laughing so much.

More awesome videos here and here.

More on some other cool features of the game here.

hockey championship

In Christy, Games, Hockey, Me, Sports on March 26, 2007 at 12:24 pm

It has come down to this.

Our Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league’s championship game is this week. I am proud to say i beat the odds (and my friend Brice) to get to the championship game.

This has really been a lot of fun. Christy did it with me, as well as a bunch of friends from work (and my friend Kevin, and my friend Brice’s wife Danielle). It did what i hoped it would, and gave me a view of the rest of the league. Christy and i (especially Christy) drafted heavily from the Predators, being the fans that we are, but it made us pay attention and at least notice when major players in the rest of the league got hurt or got a hat trick, etc.

Here are the final regular season standings (click to enlarge):

And here’s the way the playoffs went down (click to enlarge)

I have to also say that Christy made a great run for the playoffs and despite her team being made of 40% Predators players, she did very well – until the Predators all got hurt. The string of injuries that hurt the Preds have just about killed her in the standings. I think she would have won at least one round in the playoffs the way she was going, if it wasnt for the injuries.

Even if i don’t win this week, i’m very happy with my outcome. I figured i’d end up in the middle of the pack.

cool tech

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Games on January 16, 2007 at 11:49 am

It’s time for an update on all the fun, cool things that Think Geek has to offer…

AA batteries that recharge in a standard USB port
   Or you can go the other way…
Standard Battery-based USB chargers
   Or you can go semi-old-fashioned
USB-based NiMH Battery Charger

Office Armaments:
USB Laser Guided Desktop Missile Launcher
Desktop Trebuchet
Palm-sized R/C Helicopter

Khet – Chess with lasers
* I just got this game for Christmas. Awesome. Highly recommended if you like to play chess at all.
Playable Atari Keychain Controllers
Pocket 20 Questions (Portable version of this. Amazing.)

PVP Stuff: (PVP is a great online comic i have gotten into lately)
Support the Pwned Bracelet
‘Sup Shirt
Han Shot First (I have the original version of this shirt)

chess blunder

In Games, Sports on November 29, 2006 at 6:24 pm

A friend of mine at work just pointed this out. Vladimir Kramnik, currently the number one chess player in the world, is playing the current top chess-playing computer, Deep Fritz. During the second game of the match, Kramnik apparently has made a huge mistake. He had an opportunity to “mate in one”, in other words, his next move could have been checkmate. Instead, he made the wrong play and allowed the computer to battle back and win. After drawing the first game that put him down 1.5-0.5. This was so big, it has already been documented on Wikipedia as a classic blunder.

Several chess experts are calling it the “blunder of the century“. As my friend put it, this is the equivalent of Michael Jordan missing an unguarded layup to win game 2 of the finals.

At the very least, i guess Kramnik won’t be accused of doping if he tries to go to the upcoming Asian games. They just announced they will be testing chess players in the new chess tournament, along with all other athletes.

the inevitable 2nd push back

In Entertainment, Games on November 11, 2006 at 2:30 pm

For those that don’t know i am a huge fan of the HalfLife series of first-person shooter games (as well as several mods). Well, bad news: the next release, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, has been pushed back again.

It was originally slated to be released for this Christmas, then pretty quickly got pushed back to Q1 2007 (Feb-ish). That wasn’t too big a deal though, because when the announced that, they also announced Portal and Team Fortress 2. These games look AMAZING and most everyone, myself included, were more than willing to wait if it meant getting these games for free along with Episode 2. Well, now they’ve pushed it back again.

Videos to check out:
Half-life 2: Episode 2 Trailer
Portal Trailer
Team Fortress 2 Trailer

For those that don’t know, Half-Life 2 itself was pushed back a year plus from its original release date, but that had a lot to do with the theft/leak of the source-code and Valve having to re-write large portions of the game.

That we know of, nothing like that has happened this time, but i sure hope they can come through on this release. I really want to play these games!

no longer concerned

In Entertainment, Funny, Games on November 6, 2006 at 6:44 am

Today is a sad day. Concerned an online comic-strip that takes place in the Half-Life universe (mostly in City 17) has ended. (BTW: it’s final comic included a reference back to its first strip.) It ran for about a year and a half and was a very funny comic, well done, and full of inside jokes for players of the game. If you’ve ever played Half-Life and Half-Life 2, I highly recommend you read through it. Of course, it’s probably best to start at the beginning.

I also highly recommend reading a few comic essays from the same guy. They are pretty old, but hilarious. Check out E-maul, Fired, and especially See Spot; Run.