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Malik (4/23/12)

It's been a crazy week for me. It's like all of the good things in life wanted to hit me simultaneously. It's not a bad thing, but I feel just overwhelmed by so much awesome at once. I mean I had a Microsoft Play Test/Usability Study last week, saw Rise Against play in my hometown of Kent, WA, had a weekend of nothing but sun and warmth, and got to spend a fair amount of time finally getting into Darksiders.

As for the Microsoft thing, it's all NDA (non-disclosure agreement) from head to toe. However, the one part that's not under NDA is that I finally got in a usability test for the first time in a couple years. This is one of those things that make living around the Microsoft headquarters a great thing. You basically play a game that is usually in development, drink a bunch of soda, and get some free gifts (gratuity items) in exchange for your time. So, for three and a half hours of testing a game and filling out some surveys, I was able to go home with a MS point card, an Amazon gift card, and the three pack of Trials, Limbo, and 'Splosion Man. Not a bad deal and really reminds me of why I love having Microsoft only 25-30 minutes away from my home.

I would go into how awesome it was to see Rise Against for a second time in about a year, but either you like their music or you don't. The one thing I can really say is that sound crews at concerts have a very important job. It's never as obvious as to how crucial these people are until they royally mess up the levels and cause too much distortion and reverb by cranking the sound beyond what the venue and the equipment can handle. Still, Rise Against sounded pretty good...but the two opening bands (whose names are not worth repeating) sounded like pure crap as the bass drums and vocal levels were turned all the way to 12. Cranking it up to 11 makes it louder and better. Cranking it up to 12 just makes it loud and lame.

I also got a nice dose of reality with the concert. Being in the pit is a good way to remember you age. I am convinced the pit adds about 15 years to your life for the night. I was easily feeling like I was in my late 40's by the time the night ended. At least the pain and the reminder of my mortality were worth it.

As for Darksiders...I plan to talk about this game for some time. However, I'm still early (approaching the first boss fight after about 6 hours of playing). I can say that this game is what I think we'd see if God of War and Zelda had a child with all of the best attributes of each parent. You have the great narrative structure and exploration of a Zelda title, but with combat that really applies the concepts of combos and the fast response needed from a GoW game. Then it picks up some habits from it's other relative; Demon Souls. I don't mean it is hard...I mean it has an atmosphere that is dark and amazing. Put those together...and you have pure awesome. I still can't believe I let this game go under my radar for so long when this is exactly the type of game I've always wanted (and just didn't know it existed).


Malik (4/26/12)

Today is the start of the final dose of NFL fun until the end of the summer is rolling around. Today is the time when the 2011 season really comes to an end with the redemption of failure coming in from the draft. Honestly, the draft is only exciting to people who are likely to over analyze the stats of players instead of how a team comes together. I mean there is nothing overly exciting, and it is definitely not as amazing as the start of free agency, but I cannot help it. I, just like many others who just shouldn't, love the draft. It's the culmination of two of my loves in one package; college football and the NFL.

I will not get into too many details about what the 'Hawks need. Really, assuming Matt Flynn is as good as he looked in his two games, the Seahawks are on their ways up. The defense is pretty solid (lacking maybe one starting linebacker now that Hawthorne is with the Titans, and a solid pass rusher or two on the line) with one of the best secondaries I've ever seen in Seattle. The offense will be great if Flynn is solid and if the O-line can hold together (even with injuries, 2011 saw a great line with second string guys). The receiving corp is solid, and will be amazing if Rice and Mike Williams can both stay healthy. The Seahawks are honestly in a good spot and will probably take a pass rusher in the first round and a linebacker in the second. Beyond that, it's all frosting on the cake.

A few predictions, however, need to be said. It's obvious that Luck is going in the #1 pick to the Colts, RG3 is going to the 'Skins in the #2 spot, and Tannehill will be a Dolphin with the #8 pick. The predictions I have are a little more from my love of the NCAA side of the game.

First off, the big names from my favorite teams (UW all the way, but I do like the style of the UO Ducks and the Boise State Mustangs) will all be sleepers.

Chris Polk (who is probably the best damned rusher to come out of UW) will not go until the fourth round or later. He will get picked, and he will be an amazing surprise for his team when the starting runner goes down for a game, or even for a down. Polk will be a surprise with his speed and his ability to just keep pushing through holes. In fact, I'd love to see him as the small threat when Lynch is not on the field for a down in a 'Hawks game. Speed, small size, and brute force make him a nasty little surprise. I'd say, if anything, Polk will go in the fifth round.

LeMicheal James will also be a great addition for a team who needs an backup in the running game. He did at Oregon what Polk did at UW, but even more impressively. Oregon only got the the championship game two years ago due to his ability to force a ground game out of nothing. When you add in his toughness (I don't mean how he dislocated his elbow, but rather how quickly he would come back from such a blow), he will give a hell of a lot of effort when it's needed. However, I see James going about the time Polk goes. In fact, I think the two will be a bit of a toss-up for a GM to pick and whichever goes frist, you can be assured the other is the next back picked.

My favorite in the draft, however, is Kellen Moore. I've said this since several months back; Moore will be a beast of a QB in the NFL. The talk of size being an issue (he's 6'0") is just wrong. Moore will play solidly despite his size, not "he'll play as well as he could for being so tiny." Moore has the best win record of any college QB...ever. He took his team far every damned year. Moore will be a solid QB in the NFL who will probably start as a third stringer. I can see it now; Moore will not play a single down in 2012 and will only get a couple quarters of pre-season. However, when he finally gets his shot in a game, he will amaze. I feel the same way about Moore as I did about Andy Dalton last year (another QB who was considered not worthy of a high pick in the draft and would have been the rookie of the year if not for Cam Newton). I followed both of them in college and could see amazing things brewing under the surface. I wanted the 'Hawks to take Dalton last year, and look how things turned out for the Bengals (who had one bad team until a rookie under-rated QB and a rookie receiver came in together).

This year, the 'Hawks have Flynn, the impossible to get rid of T-Jack in 2nd, and Portis in 3rd (I still think Portis should be able to show why he deserves to be 1st or 2nd in the pre-season), so Moore is not needed. However, a team like the Broncos, the 49ers, or Arizona would all be smart to take a gamble on Moore. They all could use a solid back-up (actually Arizona needs a whole new approach since Kolb and Skelton are just not what a wise GM would want to be fielding in this league) and that will be Moore...until he wins the starting spot the same way Vick took the Eagles or Skelton showed some minor value in Arizona.

In the end, I see Moore falling to the 4th round and being ignored for the next year. Only an injury in the teams starter will give him a shot of playing. As a fan of his style, I just don't want to see him go to Green Bay, the Saints, or the Panthers. When a starting QB is one of those who just seems above the chance of injury, I'd hate to see Moore sit forever. Actually, the best for Moore would be to go to the Browns, since we all know damned well that they need a QB...and Colt McCoy is not the real McCoy.


Malik (4/27/12)

I always seem to forget the fun of the NFL Draft when Pete Carroll and John Schneider are in there. Most draft "experts" also seem to forget. Carroll and Schneider both have that amazing ability to pick someone no one would expect any team to take in the first round. So, with that in mind, the first round pick for Seattle, at number 15 in the draft, is Bruce Irvin. I don't know who this guy is, but I figure I'll just put my trust in the hands of Carroll and Schneider. They are building a stronger team each season, and 2012 is looking like the year for the 12th Man to come out strong.

Anyway, I finally got more time with Darksiders and faced Tiamat (the first boss). Man, Darksiders has the Dark Souls idea down pretty solidly with making big bosses that look entirely too intimidating. Not to mention how strong these bosses can be. Luckily, it's easy to dodge Tiamat's main attack (fireballs), but they sure do cause a nice chunk of damage with each hit. It you ever stop being on the defensive side of things and go all out on offense, the battle can end pretty damned quickly.

I don't have much else to say today since my life is getting pretty chaotic (but in all the right ways). When things go bad at work or home, you may be given time to wallow in the depression of failure, but when things go too right, it's amazing how you can be running like a mad man with no hope of a chance to relax and enjoy it all. That's me right now; too much good and no time to enjoy the fruits of the awesome.


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