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Malik (10/24/11)

This weekend was the start of one hell of a bad time for Seattle. One of the largest highways through Seattle is closed for the next week, during a time when storms are expected, which is a lot like just declaring that I-5 through Seattle will have a 15 MPH speed limit. However, that seems pretty tame compared to sports this weekend.

First the Huskies played in Stanford. It was the chance for UW to avenge a complete demolition of the team against Stanford last year. However, instead of seeking revenge with a far stronger line-up this season, UW fell apart. If the Huskies scored a single field goal, they could have won...assuming UW first tripled their own score before said field goal. Yes, Stanford had more than three times the points. The worst part is that Stanford kept most of their starters in the game even after their victory was assured. This meant instead of giving a chance for Luck's backup to get some experience, they just kept up the pressure. Even after UW pulled Price and brought in the backup QB of Montana, Stanford kept pushing. To run up the score in this manner is not just bad form (Oregon was good enough to pull most starters after they were up 29-0 at the end of the first quarter in Colorado), it also limits the play time of a backup roster that could also use a chance to get their names known for future NFL dreams.

It only got worse when Seattle Sounders FC played a game with absolutely no meaning. Seattle had the 2nd seed in the Western Conference and nothing could change that. Despite that, and despite the playoffs in the immediate future, Seattle played some starters who could use the rest. In particular, Rosales, who spent most of the last two months injured (and is one hell of an amazing player) was starting the game. He could have used more time to rest his knee before the playoffs begin. Now he is once again in a world of hurt after having to be taken off the field on a stretcher in the first part of the match against Chivas. The Sounders may have won, but when the outcome doesn't change the standings, it's easy to say a 3-1 victory in this case is really a defeat when Rosales may not be able to help the team when it matters.

The only thing that could make all of this sting worse is the Seahawks game. It's one thing to lose to the Browns. It's another thing to lose to the Browns in a sad and lame 6-3 game. It was a baseball score at the end. It's even more depressing when Seattle (in the form of Red Bryant) blocked two field goals in one game and still could beat a team going 2-4 in field goals due to Seattle (surprisingly) good special team defense. Then it just gets sad and depressing to a new level when the refs have too much impact on changing the game. Seattle could have won if not for some really bad calls. I mean if Jim Mora is announcing and he's taking Seattle's side (the team that fired him with no real chance to prove himself) to the extremes he was, then there are problems. I mean Leon Washington had a 89 yard punt return for a TD rejected due to an incredibly sketchy block from the back (one that made me think of MLS play more than NFL with how bad of a flop the Browns defender took). There were also two missed pass interference calls that would have helped Seattle and a lame offensive pass interference that never happened that was called on an important fourth down reception. The only part of their destiny that Seattle really seemed to control and hit hard on a potential win was when Red Bryant turned from hero to ass on a baited unsportsmanlike call when he head butted a Brown after the play ended...and essentially allowed the Browns to run down the clock instead of having to give Seattle one last drive in the final minute of the 4th quarter.

At least with all this crap, I was able to finish Mass Effect 2. Although that feels a bit sad since I was really enjoying this game. I want more. I really don't want to wait until 3-6-2012. I want more now. So many awesome decisions were made in my game, and I really want to see how Bioware pulls it all together.

Until 11-11-11, I am looking for a game to play. I will be obsessed with Skyrim starting on the 11th of next month. In the meantime, I am going to soon return to my rhythm game enjoyment. After seeing a couple of ads for Rock Smith, I decided to place an order with Amazon. The game looks like something made for me. I have had guitars in my life for more than a decade, but usually end up floating between wanting to improve and learn better skills and then ignoring my instruments for the next 2 years. It's a bad habit, but one I think I can help with another habit (games). Hopefully it is as good of a trainer as it looks. I also hope it shows up soon since I have between now and 11-11-11 to get into a new game or to not have the interest in place when Skyrim comes along.


Malik (10/27/11)

Yesterday, after dealing with a hellish run at trying to get Amazon to ship me something, I decided to just hit Gamestop. The eventual punch line of this joke that Amazon was pulling on me (telling me my shipment was "preparing shipment" and "shipping soon" for several days) was my obtaining of Rocksmith.

I'm not far enough in this...errrr...let's just call it a "game" even though that seems entirely wrong. The game starts out pretty good at showing someone how to use a guitar. However, the lessons and tutorials quickly turn from simple to difficult in almost no time. I don't mean difficult like beating some White Stripes perfectly in no time, but there is a definite bonus to already knowing some guitar before plugging one into Rocksmith.

Having not touched a real guitar for about two years, I definitely got a nice work out immediately. It also doesn't help that my fingers still have a dose of "muscle memory" tied in to the size and spacing of a Rock Band guitar fret. Going from that for the last two years to the actual sized lower frets on my lamest guitar is not a simple transition.

I should add that I said what I did. I have several guitars lying around, but I decided to start things off with my first electric guitar. This thing is far from a solid piece of craftsmanship. However, in my house, my lame guitar tends to be pretty near the setup for my gaming, so it was a quick thing to grab to start the game. Also, with the constant threat of changing the tuning on the guitar in Rocksmith to match alternate styles used in some songs, I definitely wanted to skip my Ibanez with a floating tremolo (which usually means a good twenty minutes goes down when I need an alternate tuning).

Anyway, my first thought with Rocksmith is that it's a damned fun "edutainment" game. My second thought is that I need to change the setup for my 360. I am running everything off of a single HDMI cable (into my receiver and then another HDMI into the TV from the receiver). Normally this is an ideal setup. Rocksmith doesn't have an audio lag adjustment (which would be strange with a note ringing off the guitar and the speakers at a different time), but instead Ubisoft recommends using analogue audio cables. This leaves me with two options; buying an analogue audio out for the 360, or using my old component cables and running the video off of analogue as well as the audio. I'm not a fan of either, but something will have to give for this thing to be as fun as I think it can be.

I'm a little early in the game to have much of an opinion otherwise. I've played four songs and have liked the assortment of music so far. However, I haven't tried any of the training minigames yet, have not heard more than 90% of the songs in the game, and haven't even read the instructions (which are in the game...the physical instructions are two pages that essentially tell you to use the game to find the real instructions). I'm hoping to form a better opinion of the game after playing some more tonight and probably a fair bit between football this weekend.


Malik (10/28/11)

I had to do it. After playing some Rocksmith and having two other potential players of guitar in my house, I had to buy another Real Tone (the Rocksmith guitar 1/4" to USB) cable. How can you turn down getting another cable, considering the fact that the game has co-op and you have potential players?

I don't know how it is, since the cable arrives tonight. However, I do know that I'm having fun with Rocksmith. I also know that I haven't picked up a real guitar in seriousness for nearly two years. That brings some comfort and some lack of comfort when I hear how much my skills have degraded. I can take comfort in knowing that I am rusty, but it also makes me a bit sad to see how much I've lost a fun skill set.

The important thing to know on Rocksmith is that the game makes you work to unlock the minigames. You don't start with any open, and you must slowly unlock them by advancing through the...ummm...story mode? The game will make you learn to play a few songs at a time, at least in a novice format, before you can advance. When you unlock new songs in this mode, you then learn new skills...usually you're told of these new skills and note styles after you first encounter them. This leave you wondering "what the hell is a note with an arrow in it?" However, it then will soon allow you to open a minigame which is based on this skill. Do you want to play the baseball minigame? It requires bending strings, so you will need to encounter string bending first to unlock the game that will help you to improve this skill set. It is a good way to encourage progression.

Another feature to encourage progression is that a song will start in easy mode when you first play and it will only advance as you prove you can play the song. This isn't as much a game for people who are masters of the axe, but rather a game for people wanting to master guitar. Of course, you'll need more than Rocksmith to become a master, but it does give a good foundation to get you on your way.

The only real downside of the game, as I've seen so far, is that it is light on lessons. If you don't understand some basics before playing Rocksmith, I can actually see people learning bad habits rather than good skills by being good at the game. You are not told how to read tabs (hint: tablature, which is guitar sheet music, has the low E string on the bottom, not the top of the "staff"), how to really understand finger position (you don't always slide your hand just because you feel weird using your pinky on the highest fret in a section), and how to speed up your playing (strum up...and down). Still, it does a good job of helping with skill progression when coupled with a foundation in the basics (I recommend Guitar for Dummies...great basic guitar book, and the Dummies series of guitar stuff is all pretty fun for a novice).

On a different note, the Seahawks play the Bengals this weekend. I am sad to see this game since I was of the mindset that Seattle should have taken Andy Dalton in the draft. Well, he is not getting the recognition of Cam Newton, but he is looking like one of the best starting rookie QBs in the NFL in a long time. He is also playing with a very bad team around him. I really would have liked to see Dalton instead of T-Jack, but what can a fan do? Just watch and cry into his/her beer. I don't that every Sunday.

With T-Jack probably out of action for another weekend (a muscle injury like his requires a lot of rest or else it will be followed by a ton of rest when he's injured for the entire season). I don't want to see Whitehurst. I've never wanted him as a starter (except in place of T-Jack). I would love to see Whitehurst pulled (minor injury in the first drive?) and for Josh Portis to be given a chance. I don't think Portis is the QB of the future, but I think he's the best chance the Seahawks have for now. At least he's young and has room to grow. T-Jack and Whitehurst have no more real growth potential in them. This is as good (or bad) as they get. Give the rookie a shot to see if he has potential to be the 2nd string QB of the future...or even room to be a starter? It's not impossible.


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