Sunday, April 29, 2007

XBLA review: 3D Ultra Minigolf (0/10)

Blech.

This game is terrible.

The menu system is hard to read - green with light green indicating a selection. EA must have consulted with them on that decision.

There's one course to start with in single-player mode. You have to complete a tournament to unlock it, I guess. Of course, you can't save in the middle of a game – not during a hole, not after a hole, not after 9 holes, not after 18 holes – so I couldn't put myself through the torture of finding out. I guess you're competing against the computer, but you only see the scoreboard after a hole is over, and it doesn't really say anything about a competition.

The physics are bad. Sometimes the ball rebounds off objects, sometimes it comes to a stop, sometimes it goes airborne, sometimes it just sits, and there's really no way to tell what it'll do in advance.

There are two camera angles: player's view and satellite view. There's only one sort-of fly-by with no way to repeat it during the game, no other way to change the view, no way to figure out on some holes exactly what you're supposed to do.

Some of the holes aren't bad, but others are excruciatingly bad. There's one hole that's ostensibly a pinball machine. I guess the idea is to get the ball into a hole on the playfield, not that you could tell, because it doesn't say. The flippers? You "control" them with B. Yep, they couldn't even figure out how to use two of the 100 buttons on the 360 controller. The physics model is particularly unsuited to this hole: the last time I tried to play, I gave up after 2 minutes of watching the ball meandering aimlessly on the table, punctuated by occasional presses of B (pressing B causes the flippers to flip once in sync; you can't use them to catch the ball). If you let the ball drain, it goes back to the tee.

There appears to be no stroke limit, so if you can't figure out a hole, presumably you could get into double figures. Nice learning experience.

There are some poorly-explained powerups, most of which seem to be attempts to disguise the lack of quality of the game. "Sure, it sucks. We've got vacuum holes to prove it!"

I tried to play it twice. The first time, I barely made it through 18. The second time, I quit during the pinball hole. I got tired of waiting for something to happen.

I don't know why they even bothered with this game. Don't buy it. Don't play it.

zlionsfan's rating: 0.0.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Goal!

One down, three to go. A double-OT goal by, of all people, the victim of McLennan's slash-fest. Johan Franzen gives the Wings a 4-2 series win over Calgary.

Good riddance. Between Flames fans (for his inability to get the Flames to play on the road) and other hockey fans (for his role in the thuggery in Game 5), I can't imagine Jim Playfair has too many fans right now.

Props to the Wings for keeping their composure and for pressing in the eighth period of hockey they played in two days. Next up: the Sharks or Stars.

Maybe some Calgary players (hint, Jarome, this means you) can learn a little about sportsmanship and good behavior in the offseason.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dear NHL,

I'd send this to you myself, but your website doesn't have a link for that. (Given your total lack of marketing acumen, this doesn't come as a surprise.)

I'm glad you stood up and sent a message that cheap play like we saw at the end of Game 5 of the Wings-Flames series simply won't be tolerated. After all, it took a lot of courage to suspend a star like Iginla for a pivotal game based on his late-game actions.

Oh wait, that's right. Iginla didn't get anything at all.

Well, at least you suspended Daymond Langkow for his cheap-shot sucker-punch that knocked Jeff Lebda out of Game 6 and possibly more.

Right, he wasn't suspended either.

But you certainly stood up to Hatchet Jamie McClellan. After all, a match penalty not a minute into his appearance in the game means something, right?

Five games? Right, that'll put a stop to it. Wonder what Chris Simon thought of that penalty.

The one thing you did right was fine Playfair and the Flames, although frankly, given Playfair's postgame reactions, where he did everything but challenge you openly, $25K was nothing. I wouldn't be surprised if a Calgary newspaper took up a collection to pay it. (Then again, maybe they won't. George Johnson's article in the Calgary Herald took Playfair and the Flames to task for their antics.)

One of the reasons why hockey is pretty much a joke outside its core group of fans is garbage like this. "I went to a fight last night and a hockey game broke out." You know why that joke is funny? Because you make it happen. You don't instruct refs like Marc Joannette to call penalties as soon as things get a little chippy. You don't crack down on on-ice violence, whether it's McLellan's slashing of Franzen or Todd Bertuzzi's body-slam of Dion Phaneuf (to be fair, I'm not sure how that ended up as offsetting majors). Part of the reason why we see retaliation penalties, or actions like Langkow's punch, is because players don't believe that the league and the referees will do something to stop cheap shots, especially by cheap players. (How long did Bryan Marchment play in the league? About 17 seasons too long. And what a coincidence ... his last NHL action was with the Flames.) Because they don't think the league will do anything, they take matters into their own hands, which makes things worse.

Some "old-school" fans would have you believe that in the "old days," this never happened, because enforcers like Dave Schultz and Marty McSorley would put a stop to this behavior. What they fail to mention is how those guys racked up 250-300 penalty minutes year in and year out. If that thuggery actually stopped cheap shots, they wouldn't have had to do it for very long. What it really did was add to the problem.

You have a chance to stop this. Starting next year, crack down on this behavior, whether it's late in the Finals or opening day. If that means suspending a star like Iginla, do it. If it means fining a team $250K or more, do it. If the punishment isn't painful, teams and players won't stop the behavior.

But you need to do something. Hockey is a beautiful sport to watch when it's played cleanly. Don't let it regress.

P.S. It's also beautiful to watch in HD. Next time, you might try signing a deal with a network that actually shows games in HD. Sure, no-longer-OLN has an HD station, but almost nobody gets it, and the DirecTV HD feed is standard-width. Also, NBC is irrelevant now, in case you hadn't noticed. Look for a network that covers sports and has the space to do it. Hint: ESPN.

More suckiness

So today, I've conceded that Ervin Santana is off to a bad start, as is my team, so I'm going to drop him for a better pitcher.

Except I can't, because Fox baseball still thinks it's Saturday, so all my players are locked. (Yes, their system is so dumb it can't see beyond the current day.)

So I sent in a ticket, and I'm sure it will be resolved, just not in time to make the switch. If I'm really unlucky, I won't even be able to pick up that player.

On top of that, while I was refreshing the page to see if the locks would release, it locked up Firefox. (Fox has crap on some of its pages that never finishes loading. That may or may not be a factor.)

On a much smaller scale, I have 15 items in my GameFly queue, including a few that would just be mildly interesting. None are in stock. So much for the Pittsburgh distribution center making a difference.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fox fantasy sports SUCK

I have three baseball teams this year: two in Yahoo and one in Fox. The latter league is using Fox because the commissioner works for a subsidiary of Fox.

The Yahoo leagues have been great. StatTracker is a must-buy, but even without it, they've got some really nice features. One is for roto leagues: they show you a bar-graph-type thing that shows your team, the scores in that category for the teams on either side of you, and bars for each other team in the league. Very, very cool.

Fox, on the other hand, is crap. Some days it shows the wrong schedule: for example, on Friday morning, it would still show Thursday's games and tell you that you were trying to edit a future roster. You can't see the entire set of roto categories at once: instead, you have to scroll through them. They've had scoring problems all year and are still trying to work them out.

Today, it's locked all of my players, so I can't pull injured and bad ones out of the lineup to play better players. Apparently they're "locked for this week." I guess it doesn't matter that we lock players 5 minutes prior to game time.

If this were a random league, I'd quit and never return. (Well, it's also a money league.) Seriously. I don't know why Fox would bother with such a crappy setup when there are so many other companies out there who do it so much better.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Some men you just can't reach

Women, too, for that matter.

The link is to an article in the Washington Post about an experiment: would people who are accustomed to the average street musician take note if someone of a slightly higher caliber were playing?

In short, no.

It seems to be largely about context. For example, if I were in Los Angeles and happened to run into Gina Gershon at the airport, I'd definitely take notice (and would probably get arrested trying to maintain contact for as long as possible. However, if I were watching a game at Victory Field and happened to see a woman wearing a casual shirt, comfortable shorts and a ball cap, and she happened to look somewhat like a famous actress, I'd be much more likely to give her nothing more than a second glance. Why would I expect to see someone like that in an environment like that?

No one expected to hear a world-class violinist in a Metro station, so even though all the evidence was there, with few exceptions, no one heard one. At most, they simply thought they heard an above-average musician.

I guess I can't blame them. I doubt I'd have noticed, either. I enjoy classical music, but I don't know it that well. I probably would have stopped, though, because I'm rarely in a hurry, and given the chance, I might have figured out who it was.

It would have been embarrassing otherwise. I'd hate to have a former classmate recognize me without returning the favor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hellooooo, Pittsburgh

As Tesla once said, it's gettin' better every day.

GameFly sent me a message today to let me know that they're beta-testing a new distribution center in Pittsburgh, rolling out to a few customers in the general vicinity first and then to full-scale operations.

What does this mean?
  1. Instead of an 8- to 10-day round trip, it should be more like 2 to 3 days. (Pittsburgh is about one-sixth the distance.)
  2. For a limited time, I might actually get fast service on some of the games I get because of the smaller beta group.

Time to cycle through some games. Let's test this system. Heck, between GH II and my class, I wouldn't be spending much time on these other games anyway.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ABOUT F'ING TIME!!!!

(no, this doesn't have to do with the NHL playoffs, although the title would be somewhat appropriate)

Amazing. Crapple Corps has finally realized that maybe selling Beatles songs online would be a source of revenue.

I figured if they waited long enough, by the time they got around to joining the 21st century, it would be too late: there would be so much pirated Beatles music around that no one would bother with the real stuff.

(Note: I do not approve of piracy. I have few songs left that I do not own and am trying to replace them via iTunes. Hey, half-assed ethics are better than none.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bacon links?

Because bacon is better than sausage.

I realized that I could be linking to some other blogs that I read, or that I should be reading, and that they would be better off in their own section. Thus, you have bacon links. Check them out.

The first entries are thebiglead.com, the site against which Colin Cowherd thought it would be funny to launch a DOS attack, and Fire Joe Morgan, a tribute to the man who thinks baseball history ended around 1976.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

360 review: Guitar Hero II (10/10)

"What do you want to do with your life?"

"I wanna rock!"

Suffice it to say that I won't be posting a complete review for a while. I will say this much, though:

  • The sets are not the same. In addition to adding songs not available on the PS2 (like The Trooper), they've moved songs around, so for example, Strutter and Heart-Shaped Box are now part of the first set.
  • The Explorer hangs much lower than the SG did, plus the neck is thinner, so you can hold it more naturally. (Of course, it's still much lighter than a real guitar.)
  • It helpfully comes with a kill switch - the guitar cord has a safety that will disconnect if you pull too hard. Naturally, mine wasn't completely connected, so I thought it was a controller problem. Duh.


zlionsfan's rating: 10 out of 10. BUY THIS NOW!

No, really. Now.

4/4 update
Watch the credits. Yes, all the way through (or you won't get the achievement). Pay attention at the end. ROFL moment.

With the longer strap, the guitar is much easier to tilt for star power. However, the whammy bar is still in an awkward place for lefties. How do I know this? Look at my achievements: I have the Hendrix one. (By the way, the achievements are a nice mix of solo and co-op play. I won't get all of them. Guaranteed. One guy on mygamercard.net had all of them but one on launch day.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Guitar Hero's Eve

The two-player version is sitting in the UPS Indianapolis hub right now. (The irony is that even though the hub is about 5 miles from my house, I can't drive over there and pick up my package. They'll have to drive over here, and if I'm unlucky, I'll have to sign for this one too, meaning that they'll drive over here, not find me even if I take a late lunch, drive back, and then I still won't be able to pick it up until Wednesday. Boo UPS.)

Also, my GameStop order hasn't shipped yet. I strongly suspect that it won't ship tomorrow either. Good. That'll make it easier to cancel.

Anyway, it may all be academic, pardon the pun. I'm starting work on a master's in software engineering, so I won't have that much free time at first anyway. Actually, I already started: the quarter begins today, so I already have my first assignment. (I kind of messed up my search for the books I need, but they're coming overnight from Amazon, so they'll be here tomorrow via DHL, which means I know I'll get them. $8 extra for overnight. In these situations, being a Prime member is worth it. However, one thing hasn't changed in 16 years. Textbook prices still suck.)
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