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Malik (10/8/12)

First off, the obvious; the Seahawks beat the Panthers on the East Coast. This is pretty rare to see happen...the East Coast thing. Seattle has been bad on the road for the last 4 years, and bad on the East Coast even longer. For them to pull out a win about as far from home as possible (not counting the Florida teams) is just amazing. For the 'Hawks to keep Cam Newton in a land of absolute stagnation is more than amazing. When you consider the Panthers actually help the Falcons last weekend to the last few seconds of the game, then this just boggles the mind.

I have to say it is good to see Wilson finally be given the green light to throw a few long passes. I mean if the offensive game is entirely based on short screen passes and Lynch running, then the defense has an easy job in just stacking the line. When you introduce a downfield threat, the offensive game can finally open up. Of course, it doesn't matter when you see Tate pickup about 60 yards on a long deep throw and have it brought back in by Giacomini.

The stupid penalties from the Seattle O-line have become more than a joke. These penalties cost the Seahawks valuable opportunities to pull out a win. If not for Giacomini, I think the Seahawks would have beaten the Rams last week (close game that was hit by an especially damaging late-hit/unsportsmans by Giacomini for 15 when momentum finally was building for the 'Hawks). Of course, you have to find some fun in this situation, and since I was watching with my in-laws, I did find some fun. My least favorite offender is Giacomini, while my father-in-law goes with Okung. So, on any good play, we'd both be guessing how soon the flag would come out and then I'd say it was Giacomini and he'd go with Okung. I think I won in that game...a game that makes even the winner feel like a loser.

Anyway, the Seahawks will need to enjoy their winning record while they can. Next week, the Pats come to town, and this will be an ugly game. Unless the Seattle defense (which is awesome) is better than they look (they look awesome), Brady will just tear apart the team since the Seattle offense cannot compete with many points on the board against the Pats.

On a final note of a different nature; tomorrow is XCom day. I'll finally have a new game to play that should be a true time killer. I put Darksiders 2 on the backburner since I am just not feeling the action/adventure genre right now.

I did play and complete To the Moon and loved it...but that's a slow paced movie of a game (game is not what comes to mind first with To the Moon...more of a movie or illustrated book) and was only 5 hours long. Still, if you need a quick game hit before XCom, To the Moon is not a bad way to go. $10 for 5 hours may sound short, but the content in this game is beyond description. I don't dwell on plots after I finish a book or movie, when I like the plot. I loved the plot to this game and am still dwelling on it two days later for how well the details were explained...and better yet, how well the details were explained without making anything blatantly obvious. Either you get it and enjoy the little things, or you miss it and you will not have the game explain it to you.


Malik (10/9/12)

Two days of posts in a row? Wow. I'm surprised in myself.

Beyond the obvious (XCOM is here today), I have another new toy. I have been wanting a tablet for a while. Not a big oversized tablet, but something more in the 7" range. I just want, more than anything, something I could use to browse the web in my house while away from my PC. If I'm in the garden, I may want to look up information on when to harvest a plant. If I'm in the kitchen, I may want a recipe. If I'm watching football, I may want to check the scores and stats from around the NFL (or NCAA if it's Saturday). I just want something to complement my activities...but having the ability to play some games is not a bad thing.

Well, after reading many reviews, it looked like I had the option of a 7" tablet from Amazon (Kindle Fire HD), B&N (Nook Tablet), or Google/Asus (Nexus 7). All have had great reviews, but all have some problems.

The Kindle Fire HD has a problem of being tied to the Amazon App store. When you've been using an Android phone for almost a year (well, 9 months), having to join a not quite compatible store environment sucks. Then when you see how an Android app is free (with some ads...I'd rather go the ad route on something like a Rovio game than pay the non-ad price) but the Amazon App version is $2.99 (look up Bad Piggies for example), I am not digging the price for having a limited selection of apps.

The Nook Tablet had the same general problem as the Kindle family, but with the Nook App Store, which could bump up the price more (I could be wrong, but my mother who has a Nook Tablet claims Bad Piggies is $3.19) and be even more limited than the Amazon App Store. So, I'd rather have a full Android tablet than something being controlled by a company that wants money, not a company that wants money while giving the illusion of free (Google Play is that way).

This left either the Nexus 7, or the gamble of trying something like the 7" Galaxy Tab lineup. Then, looking over the CPU specs, the Tegra 3 on the Nexus helped push me towards Google. Finally, with the tablet being Asus, I was sold since Asus is the only manufacturer of motherboards I've used who didn't supply me with a motherboard that died before the PC it was in became irrelevant. Although, I do have to say the lack of expandable memory (no micro SD slot) makes me a bit sad...until I just pick up a larger USB thumb drive and with one $3 app, I will have the same general thing as a 32GB micro SD, but in a slightly less friendly of package (external versus internal).

All of that being said, I was sad to order my Nexus last Thursday. Google had a nice little promotion going of a $25 Google Play credit if the Nexus 7 was purchased before October 1st, 2012. I missed the deadline. After getting my Nexus 7 yesterday, I attached my Google login and was set to try out the tablet, when I got an email from Google. It was one of those "welcome to the family" type emails...which also said to have fun exploring the Google Play store with my free $25 credit. So, with that bribe in hand, and with so far a really smooth time playing with the Nexus 7, I have to say I love this tablet.

I do have two things that I still need to try out on the tablet. I have a micro USB to standard adapter, and want to try out my 360 controller on some games from the Tegra Zone designed for controllers. I also need my case/cover to show up since it will allow easier use while cooking (prop up the tablet and use it as a cookbook).

I have to say, despite the memory expansion limitation (needing an app, or rooting the Nexus 7, and an external memory stick/card reader), I love nearly everything on this tablet. The only two things I would really like to have seen is for there to be a camera on the back (I'm more like to want to take a quick picture than to Skype) and for the thing to go horizontal when I rotate the tablet (it only goes horizontal on apps designed to be horizontal, like Rovio or Kemco horizontal browsing in Chrome).

Now that I had a fun night with the Nexus 7, I think I'll not be touching it much for a while. I will not do much, beyond getting this posted in a hurry, and then it's off to XCOM until my obsession dies down, probably in a few weeks.


Malik (10/12/12)

I've spent the last few days playing XCOM. I think this may be one of the best single examples I've seen of what I call "nostalgia gaming". By that, I mean this is, without a doubt, a style of game that just doesn't exist in the minds of many developers and publishers who don't go by the name NIS or go by the concept of indie gaming. Let's face it, besides the Civilization games, turn based strategy is not something you find in the gaming market for the last dozen years with any idea of commercial success and critical acclaim.

Saying that, XCOM is amazing. It's also an interesting specimen of a game that does not cater to new players and instead just thrives on giving you a challenge every second. XCOM is nice enough to include a tutorial that does a great job of helping to explain the basics, but once that tutorial ends, the game stops any idea of hand-holding and throws one challenge after another into your face. In fact, in a weird way, XCOM reminds me of Demon Souls (probably Dark Souls as well, but I never played it) in how a situation can get well out of control in an instant if you stop focusing on the game or become impatient. You are not playing a squad of insane super are playing a squad of guys who are just as fragile as you'd expect a real soldier to be. Which is to say that if the first shot doesn't kill you, then the next one will probably finish the job.

XCOM builds upon that fragility quite nicely with including some emotional randomness from your guys and even from the enemy. If one of your squad is shot dead in front of a fresh rookie, you can expect that rookie to freak out for a turn or two. When a squad member panics, that's when things can just keep spiraling out of control. One soldier dead, another panicked, and without any enemies in his sights, he shoots the nearest viable target...being your veteran. Then, while you're working hard to heal the troops with med packs, the enemies are moving into position. Even if you make it out alive, with a fraction of your initial 4-6 squad members, you then have to face reality that those who survived may be laid out for the next one or two missions as they recover after the mission.

Then you have the large picture part of the game where you have to manage technology upgrades, building out your base to maximize output of new weapons and equipment (as well as satellites and interceptor aircraft to take out UFOs), making sure your training school is the best it can be for making a better squad of guys, and all the while you need to keep panic from spreading around the globe or else countries may pull out of the XCOM alliance (which then cuts your available budget). Put all of that together, and you have a nuanced strategy game that you cannot ever take lightly. You also have a budget to work with that makes you have to look at some really hard decisions that include questions of what to sacrifice or what nation to sacrifice.

If this sounds hectic and unforgiving, it is. If XCOM doesn't sound fun despite the brutality it subjects you to, then you missed the entire point. XCOM is one of the best strategy games I've ever played, and probably my favorite game for 2012. However, you cannot go into the game assuming it will be easy. I haven't tried the easy difficulty yet, but normal (the second easiest of four difficulties) is pretty damned hard. I mean I even had to restart the game last night after I realized I was basically screwed. If some small things go wrong in the early game, expect then to snowball out of control by the middle of the game. There is simply no time you can shrug off a loss or a problem. However, isn't this what strategy fans live for? The thought that EVERYTHING matters. The means and the ends are of equal importance.


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