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Malik (9/20/10)

The Seahawks could have won on Sunday. Of course, before a game starts, any team can win, but the question is if this is a possible situation, or an improbable situation. It was not just possible for the Seahawks, it should have been a good close game.

The problems came down to some pure stupidity. For example, there was no reason for Thurmond to do punt returns. He only got a single chance, but it was a hell of a blown chance. If a guy is coming back from such a major knee injury as Thurmond is, I'd play it easy on him and just keep him in his regular defensive role. Plus, if you have Washington, Forsett, or the damned amazing Golden Tate all ready to take return duty, then keep Thurmond out of it. Of course, if the two minutes surrounding Thurmond's flailing return attempt were just a touch different, Seattle would have been up by 7 and the Broncos would have not had their first touch down that started the landslide of orange and blue doom.

Speaking of that part of the first quarter, the Seattle just failed on their second drive of the game. Between having Forsett's touch down rejected on Locklear's holding penalty and the interception right after that, it was clear that the Seahawks didn't bring their A game. Even with the holding penalty, Seattle should have scored, and Hasselbeck's interception was not something that could be blamed on a poor offensive line. That was just stupidity that told him to keep throwing, yesterday, into the pressure of a man covered by Champ Bailey.

However, with a small change there, the score would have been, potentially, 14 points different with a score by Seattle and Denver never having the Thurmond related punt failure to capitalize upon. Just assuming that happened and didn't give Seattle any momentum to build upon, the final score would have been 24 to 21. Then change that stupid 4th and 2 play from around the 20 yard line, and it could have been 24-24. Of course, I can't even begin to say how stupid you have to be to skip easy points on 4th and 2 and instead go for the impossible challenge of throwing to tiny Branch when he's covered by the giant Bailey.

Anyway, when it's all said and done I have only a few real important thoughts on this game. First off, why are we not playing Golden Tate? He picked up almost 140 yards on three touches. Only one was an actual reception, and that went for 50 yards. He had a 60+ yard punt return, and another smaller ~20 yard punt return. He is ready to bring him out already. Speaking of which, when can we see Washington get some more carries?

The only real bright side of the game (I don't count Tate...if you don't use a weapon, you cannot call him a weapon) was that Seattle still shows a great rush defense. I mean Seattle has always been bad on the rush defense, but this year they are showing some strength. While passing defense is still a random affair, you can now count on Seattle to own the ground on the defense.

In the end, I'm still optimistic. I don't mean that the Seahawks are going to the post-season, but that I see improvement coming and maybe, if it's built upon next year (and there' no lockout) the team could just be heading upwards and better. Still, the post-season is not impossible, but that's because for once the NFC West is as bad as it's always said to be. I wouldn't be surprised if the division champ, at the close of 16 games, is holding 7 or fewer wins. Technically, the best team in the NFC West could come out with only 4 wins (or even 3), and that looks quite possible this year.

I'm also glad to see my predictions on Seattle games keep holding true. Sadly, I've been only able to make a guess of one of two outcomes. I knew Seattle would destroy San Francisco or would lose in a close game. I also knew that the Broncos would either destroy Seattle, or the 'Hawks would win in a close match. I'm also guessing the same for the San Diego game this Sunday (close victory or massive defeat), and it all depends on if the right players are used (like Tate on returns).


Malik (9/21/10)

I'm still avoiding most geek things...not by choice. I'm still without a good TV for game playing. I do have a 26" CRT HDTV, and it would work if needed, but it wouldn't be my first choice for anything I'm in the mood for (Rock Band) since it's just a bad mood setter. However, I'm hopefully entering the final stretch of my battle with Fry's to get them to cover my TV under the extended warranty I purchased from them. If all goes well, a replacement 50" plasma should be in processing to replace my 52" DLP. A loss of 2 inches is sad, but being free of 1080i (without 720p) and of replacement bulbs in the future is a nice trade-up.

On the bright side, PC gaming is not doing too bad for me lately. Well, it's not as bad as it could be. I tried picking up Puzzle Quest 2 when Steam had it on sale a couple weeks back. This was my one not-so-bright area of PC gaming lately. I really think the $13 I paid was over what the game is worth. I always heard that PQ2 was not as good as the original...and now I know that statement was just about right. There are some new twists to the game play, but nothing that makes up for the game just feeling like a chore versus the original.

On the other hand, the new episode of The Silver Lining (the free "unofficial" King's Quest sequel) came out this weekend. It still feels a bit short, considering a release window of about 3 months between episodes. However, the game also feels like good old school KQ. Plus, for being a free game that was made out of the desires of Phoenix Online Studios to make a true conclusion of the series, you have no right to complain about length. Also, I must say the plot is turning pretty amazing with how it really does tie in all the events of the previous KQ games. This feels like it will become beyond epic by the time the story concludes in a year or so.

Also, unlike PQ2, which felt too expensive for $13, The Silver Lining is worth every cent of being free. In all seriousness, I would pay a good $10 per episode for this game if it continues being as smooth and fun as it is. The people who make up Phoenix Online Studios are putting out amazing work and I hope there is some good PC game success in their future.

I've also started to play Recettear. If you don't know this game, it's not a surprise. I only came across it by accident on Steam (which has a demo for the game). Think of a game like Rune Factory (the Harvest Moon spin-off with combat), but change farming to "running an item shop". Then throw in some visual cues of a Japanese dating RPG/sim, and a really solid control scheme for PC gamers who have a good gamepad. Between the combat being smoother than Rune Factory, and the item shop management being nicely fresh and unique, this is an addictive game. It's like a cross between a non-combat based RPG and Zelda for the dungeon stuff.

On the affordability line of thinking, it's only $20 for the entire game and free to try the demo. Definitely worth the $20 for me (I'd love to pay $30-$35 for a DS version).

Last of all, Civilization V is out today. On the not so smart side, the demo was delayed until today. This is a rare Civ game where I'd need the demo to determine it's worthiness in my eyes (and my wallet). I don't know if I agree enough with the new changes, which mainly seem to focus on making combat more epic and lowering the level of micro-management. Considering Civilization has usually been more about micro-management and less about the finer strategies of combat, I'm not a fan of this idea of change. It focuses more towards people who loved Civ for world domination, when I was a fan of how there were so many other ways to win and play.

I want to have to build naval units to transport troops, and I want to just build a limited stack of units to serve as an army. I can agree with the theory behind these changes, since building ships was too slow and resource consuming and that unlimited stacks were brokenly boring. However, I think the changes needed to be more along the lines of refining the idea, and not just removing the ideas behind them. I'm not saying I will not enjoy Civ 5, but I am saying I have strong reservations until I can give the demo a shot.

Speaking of which, with the large increase in system resources needed to run the game, I NEED the demo. I don't know how well my PC will handle this game, and if it has any problems at the start of a huge world map based game, I know later years/turns will become impossible to enjoy. So, while I know my system will run the game, I also need to know how well it will run the game before I considering shelling out any money for it. In other words, if the new changes are good, but my PC has any hang-ups, then it's still a no go in my eyes. I am stretched enough, financially, as it is. I cannot upgrade an otherwise decent quality PC just for one game.

I think Firaxis missed an opportunity with the demo timing on this. While a demo coming out at all is good, to have it arrive when the game is hitting shelves is a poor planning move. It only adds the potential for frustrated consumers when pre-orders start to be fulfilled for people who may not have a good enough system to run this behemoth. When such high (compared to usually turn based strategy game requirements) resource requirements are needed, a demo is a must have at least a week before launch.

Anyway, if Civ 5 just doesn't do it for me or my PC, I can always go back to Civ 4 and not be left wondering the most obvious question I can think of in regards to Civ 5; Where the f#@$ are the Spanish, Inca, or Vikings?! It's not like these were ever some of the most powerful and expansive empires the world ever saw. Not as much for the Inca, but they sure did a lot more with tribal style technology than other Native American and Meso-American cultures. Then again, I guess these three could never compare to the Iroquois (obvious sarcasm).


Malik (9/22/10)

I did try out the Civilization V demo for a bit last night.  I have a lot I could say, but looking online I think I see two main parties and I think saying anything just makes one side say "told you so" and the other says "well this person is just some ass-hat!"  There is no real separation I can find in the general opinions, despite how there is room for a different world view on this game.

When I played, I was first struck with one important thought; this is not my precious Civ 4, so I need to give it some time and find what is easy to overlook.  I mean, I could just say I didn't care for a city buying land (especially early on...who am I paying for this land?) and that it seems to add micromanaging to the game, when the game seems to be based on eliminating a lot of the micromanaging found in Civ 4.  I could also say I liked micromanaging in Civ4, and the limiting of it seemed to take away from the idea that Civilization has always been based on a level of detail that can only be called, with love or hate in one's meaning, a game of micromanagement.

No...I was not going to stick to some short term opinion when Civ games have always been based on the principal of "one more turn".  I don't just mean how they are addictive, but how there is always something new to find in how to play and manipulate the game.  Do you really just build armies?  No, if I play another turn I start to see how I can use diplomacy to manipulate the other players (AI players) into being my pawns in some epic battle, while keeping my hands clean.  Do I only win by playing until I build a spaceship?  No!  I can play until time expires with enough turns (assuming I want some lame victory).  Do I play until I win through diplomacy?  No!  I'll build the three greatest cities ever known to history!  At least this was Civ 4.  Playing a demo of 100 turns, I can't see how Civ 5 will turn out.

What I can see, however, is that the game has some flaws.  I can also see that the game has strengths.  If you played Civ 4, and played with world domination, through force, as your goal, then combat in Civ 4 sucked late game for you.  The limitless stacks were crap and only bogged down the game.  However, Civ 5 uses a more strategic system for combat.  It's also a system that seems to be the perfect system if you liked some more strategic of games, like the Total War series.  If you liked them, then you will enjoy seeing the turn based equivalent of that system in which just running two units into each other is no longer what combat means.  However, at the same time, if you were never of the "warmonger" mindset in Civ 1-4, then you will see a different side to the picture; that Civ 5 has a stronger combat emphasis and you can no longer fake your way through with big stacks while you try to play the culture, diplomacy, and technology game to it's fullest.  I guess you could see a third side (oh shit!  I went to that "third" side on this and now I can count on the wrath of all fanboys of Civ 4 and Civ 5) and now say that combat is a required part of the game and cannot be filtered out, so it's no longer something to ignore.

My problem; I wasn't a combat person in Civ 4 due to the issue of too-large-of-stacks making combat boring.  However, I am also not a fan of strategic combat games (if I was, I'd have Total War and a billion other good RTS games to occupy my time).  I am, in terms of game with military combat and planning, a fan of Civ 1-4, and nothing beyond.  I am more of a fan of the idea of building an empire, and I have to accept the war part.  With Civ 5, I don't have the option of accepting it, I now would have to embrace it.  At least I can say I'm not alone in not wanting to embrace it; my experience with the demo showed me the AI didn't want to embrace it either.  The AI was obsessed with using as little logic as possible and loved using entirely wrong units to attack me with and with ignoring weaknesses in their formations.

I also have to say that I feel like the interface of the game feels a bit sloppy.  It's not entirely a bad presentation.  It's more like four or five styles were used to make the interface, but they don't all seem to play well with each other.  Especially, I feel like the diplomacy screens have interface issues that don't feel right for the series.  It felt a little too much like I was a blind man stumbling in the dark for a clue at what this world leader I was facing was really interested in or feeling.  If he/she liked or hated me, I had no clue.  I just knew that it was some person with a hidden agenda...too hidden for them to be initiating diplomacy with me.

Anyway, I just feel like the game seems to be a contradiction.  They wanted to speed up the game, but units take the same long time to make (or even longer).  They wanted less micromanaging, so while some parts were limited, they added tedious elements that avoided making total sense like purchasing an unknown owner of the Earth for land for your cities.  They wanted a more functional and defined combat system, but then the AI doesn't seem to be programmed for anything beyond the Civ 4 "rush and attack" style.  They wanted to make it easier to get into the game, but then they started to add a shit ton of giant numbers in terms of gold, production, limited resources, etc.  The game wants two things at once, but cannot seem to decide fully on if it still want to be a Civilization game...or a turn based take on blending Total War with a different style of empire maintenance and building.

I am not saying I don't think the game is good.  I'm also not saying that I think it is good.  I do know that after playing Civ 1-4 and Alpha Centauri, this just doesn't seem quite like Civilization anymore.  It is a solid turn based game, but it's a different direction.  I know it's frowned upon by fanboys in casual conversation to say this (since it's taken as an insult to their precious beloved game series), but I want more (improved) of the same.  I have known Civilization since the first came along on DOS on two 3.5" floppies in a huge ass box with those nice raised letters (I type this as I hold the box of Civilization in my lap...back then Civ required an amazing 640K), and I have seen tweaks and twists in the progression of the series and this just isn't Civ.  I think it may be a good turn based strategy, but I also think it's not MY turn based strategy game.  I do want to see improvements to the combat stack issues, the fact that diplomacy was crooked (never forget a past problem...even if it's 4000 years in the past), and that other issues were present.  But I only want to see it improved and not for the game to be rebuilt from the ground up with something like a strategic combat game being one of the main inspirations.

I wouldn't be opposed to playing this game with some friends who learn the ins and outs of the game to show me anything I'm overlooking...but I'm also in the position of not wanting to shell out the $50 in case the game is what I'm seeing it for...which would be a game that just isn't aimed for me.  Anyway, for now, I'll just stick to Civ 4 if I need my empire building fun, and...well, that's about it.

I also think the review on 1-Up says it pretty well.  It's not quite matching my views, but it does say a lot of the same things and also says some interesting thoughts.  It also shows, if you check the comments, the problem of fanboys.  I'm not saying you cannot disagree with a review, but it's sad to see people saying crap like "Tom Chick has sealed his reputation as a reviewer that can't be taken seriously." Especially when the AI issues sound like one of Mr. Chick's key problems with the game (which I also felt playing the demo) and if you are playing single player, then AI is basically everything in this type/genre of gaming.

On a final note with that 1-Up review; I love comments that call this, or any review, that doesn't go with the majority to be wrong.  It's always amazing when people like seeing themselves as individuals, but then pull crap like "all other reviews say game is awesome, so this review dumb!1"  I also love people who see the "C" grade as being a bad score.  When did 7.5/10 (essentially what a C grade in school typically equals; the 70th-80th percentile) become bad?  It just means this game is not the be-all game it could have been...but it's also not crap either.  I personally see anything from a 5/10 to 8/10 to mean that your should look for more information with a critical eye and think about the game before you spend hard earned money on it.  I mean you should critically investigate the merits of a game before blowing any money on it, but the reviewer is essentially saying that instead of "trust me, and buy this" when the review is in the 5-8 out of 10 range.


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