I think yesterday
was the ideal football watching day. At least it would have
been if there wasn't some stupidity with how football was broadcast
in the Seattle area. Yes, we did get to see the Seahawks take
on the Rams. Yes, we got to watch the nail biting end to the
Bears defeating the Broncos in overtime (in the same way they laid
Seattle to rest in the playoffs last season). However, the
afternoon Fox broadcast was not seen. This meant we could not,
in Seattle, watch two divisional rivals (the Cards and the 49ers)
take each other on in one hell of an overtime battle...a battle of
epic proportions that would help to define what type of lead the
Seahawks would have in the NFC West.
The Seahawks did play a
very sloppy game. I guess two things can be looked at in a
brighter side. On one hand, it was a victory...even if the
game was won only because of a very bad snap on the final Rams
possession of the game. By all logic, the Rams should have
scored on 4th and goal to end the game with a very slim 2 point
victory. However, the snap was bad (it looked like the Ram's
backup QB tried to claim the ball a little too quickly and ended up
grabbing air), and that turned the tide and sealed a 5 point victory
On the other hand, the
game did go better for the Seahawks, I believe, because of Morris.
Alexander, once again, was out due to his injuries. Meanwhile,
Morris was able to make a few amazing runs and made plenty of small
gains. He was far above his 1st string competition in how he
handled the ball. I think, if the two were allowed to play the
same game, that it would be seen that Alexander is on his way out.
He is in his 30's and is starting to break down. A running
back, afterall, does not exactly have much of a life after the big
3-0. On the other hand, Morris is younger and plays a more
tactical style of running. Morris looks for openings and uses
them while Alexander likes to use an arm to make an opening while a
lead man keeps him open. It's this style of force versus
finesse that keeps Morris in a great position to take the number one
spot on the Seattle rushing game.
In the end, the Seahawks
did play a good half of football. The Rams did as well.
Luckily, for me at least, the Rams did not return from the locker
room at half time and were replaced by lazy and inefficient versions
of themselves. The Seahawks did the opposite and did not show
their real powers until after the first half ended.
I do wish, however, that
I could have watched the Cards/49ers game. It ended in an
amazing style that showed two teams that just would not give up.
It was tragic to watch the replays of the final attempts by Arizona.
They should have made their field goal in overtime to seal the deal.
Instead, an easy kick was lost to a delay of game penalty and the
second attempt (which was still an easy attempt) went wide.
This left the 49ers to fail on another attempt...only to destroy
Warner in the end zone to recover a fumble for a game winning
touchdown in overtime. One hell of a finish...that I was left
"watching" by reading play by play on sports web sites.
On the other end of
the geek spectrum, I've been playing a mix of Rock Band and Mass
Effect. I have played enough Rock Band to wish that I had a
more constant "band" to play with. Velveta and I are now
trying our own career as a band. I'm jamming on the strings
(trying to work up to hard by taking hard on bass for most songs)
and Velveta is filling in on the other ends with drums and
vocals...not at the same time.
At least I have learned
how to change band members in a group. The important fact is
that whoever logs in first to start a band cannot be replaced or
eliminated. They are the band "leader". Everyone else
can be "substituted" by being kicked out on the Band Roster menu.
Then when you have kicked out all people, you exit the band and
reload it with only the leader being forced on the same instrument
(I suggest the leader plays guitar since guitar and bass can be
swapped on the fly).
The other thing I find
annoying about RB so far is that my avatar is deemed "not classy"
enough in name to be shown online. I doubt I'll play online,
since I find the fact that "Malik" is not appropriate for online to
be weird. The only reason for this that I can think of is
racism due to the war on terror. Malik is primarily, but not
exclusively, a name found in people of Arab countries. Well,
it's not always the case, since other ethnicities do use this
name...but the game must have been designed by Harmonix (or with
EA's supervision) to not allow names that could be "mistaken" for
At least RB is giving
me some good fun. It's great that one character can be made to
be used in many different bands. For example, my non-classy
Malik is in about five bands or more right now. That way I can
use this character in multiple bands and buy the clothes to fit in
with the theme of each group. It may not give any real effect
on the game play of the actual game, but it is well worth the fun
factor of staying in character. Afterall, we are playing the
role of musicians and you might as well get into the feeling of all
Now if only a patch
would be sent out to allow Band World Tour mode to be played single
player...which will never happen.
I know I didn't touch on
Mass Effect today. I have too much to get around to doing
today, so I'll leave that for tomorrow.
Malik (your un-classy
Yesterday I got my
replacement guitar for Rock Band. I think something is really
sad in the fact that Red Octane always made such strong peripherals
for Harmonix games (GH1 and GH2), yet Harmonix made the great
software to use these devices. It's like a bad divorce, and we
fans are stuck in the middle.
Let me backup a
bit. I got Rock Band last week (on launch day). The same
is true for three of my friends. One person I have not really
spoken to much, so I don't know his story or experience. The
other two all got the bundle and have seen their guitars go to crap
by the end of Thursday. Mine went bad after only about three
hours of playing. True, EA has a good RMA policy for these
controllers, but it does not excuse the fact that these things break
pretty quickly. For those who have been fortunate enough to
not have problems, or for those who don't know what happens, the
down strum (assuming a standard right handed usage) stops working
correctly. Mine started with the down strum double strumming,
but it later turned into it never working unless I smashed down on
the damned thing.
Also, for the
blind fanboys, this does happen. It may not happen for
everyone, but it does happen a little too often. When people
claim blindly that the only issue is with people who worship GH
claiming their guitars for RB fail are full of shit, it just makes
RB fans look bad. It's like when the 360 started to be shown
to be unreliable in many cases. I'm still on my original 360,
from launch, but I am fine with admitting that my favorite system of
this generation was not properly designed. The same goes for
the RB guitar. I love the controller, and I would not give up
RB for all the GH in the world. However, I can see that the
controller is garbage, despite feeling so nice.
Anyway, I just
want to say that EA is good on the RMA for now. If you give a
credit card number, they will UPS a new controller to you with
express shipping. Then you send in the old controller in the
same box you received, with pre-paid shipping. Your card will
only be charged if you fail to send back the old one within 28 days.
Not a bad deal in ensuring the fastest turn around possible. I
just fear that I may be doing this again. At least RB has a 60
day warrantee and this will allow for a few more exchanges if I keep
getting bum controllers. Right now I'm trying to use the
replacement guitar as much as possible to see if it's an improved
version or just another waste of plastic and wires. I suppose,
at this juncture, that only time will tell.
I said yesterday
that I was going to talk about Mass Effect today. I'll only
start to discuss it today. I just have not played it as much
as I'd like, since RB is claiming most of my free time.
However, I can say a few things in quick retrospect.
First off, ME does
not give any tutorial phase to the game. This means that you
may start the game not understanding a damned thing. You get
no review of how to fully utilize teammates, no full disclosure on
assigning tasks to utilize tactics, and no real understanding of the
slightly confused menu screens. In fact, the menus are
confusing as hell when you start and are still pretty annoying and
less than fully fleshed out when you know the game.
Most of all, the
game throws you into it's world with little explanation. You
will not understand the plot when you start. This is a shame
since the opening is really amazing, but you will not know this
until after the fact. A little slower and more explained of
introduction to the world of ME would be a great benefit to new
players. Afterall, this is not KOTOR, so this is not a world
that you will have already received any training in it's mythos or
culture. ME is a whole new setting and a lack of explanation
into what you're doing and why you're there is a bad way to start
the adventure. At least you are given the Codex (an in game
encyclopedia) which gets you going once you know how to use it.
Plus, all entries in the primary part (the important world related
part) are voiced, so you can even skip reading and let laziness take
As for the game
itself...well, just like the world, it starts fast and furious.
I hated the combat system when I started the game. Is it
because the system is bad? No. It's actually the best
system I could think of for the jab at hand. You have a lot of
control and a lot of freedom in how you can play out situations
presented to you, the player. However, you start the game in a
combat zone with no understanding of what you are doing and a lot of
potential for death. I still don't know what happens, after
about 8 hours of plying, if a party member dies (not counting if I
use a special ability to revive people found a few hours into the
game). I simply have not been given a lesson into this
information. Why? I guess Bioware didn't want players to
feel like their hands were being held. It doesn't make things
easier on the player, but I suppose it could be seen as a sign that
Bioware is respecting the intelligent of their customers.
The only solid
complaint I have after this much time to get used to the game is
that the Mako (you battle tank you use in many missions) handles
like ass. Actually, it handles like a shopping cart made of
ass. It is hard to control, poor to maneuver, and the weapons
seem unreliable, at best. Throw in a poor level of shields and
I can say that I do dread each and ever vehicle based mission.
Plus, I have a party of two other people at any time...so why do I
have to gun and drive? Why can't I get a tech expert (almost
always found in my party, and my protagonist is not a tech friendly
sort of person) drive and/or shoot while I handle the other side of
the controls. It is not fun trying to aim carefully while also
driving and using rocket boosters to avoid incoming fire. I
have enough on my hands just trying to control this thing without
worrying about being shot and still returning fire. Most of
all, the Mako is steered partially with camera sensitive directional
controls. What does this mean? It means that if I aim at
something, my movement controls are now all screwed up. Why
can't I always treat up as forward and call left a left turn?
It would be more intuitive. It would also make this thing
easier to use when the shit hits the fan and you need to shoot and
drive at the same time. If you decide to target a foe that is
not dead ahead or is moving, you can expect some trouble to follow.
At least when
you're not in the damned Mako, you do have a solid game on your
hands. This is probably the best example I've seen of
appealing, successfully, to two very different fan bases at once;
fans of RPGs and fans of third person shooters.
I'll have more
thoughts later this week. For now, I need to play more to
really have a good conclusion of what I'm playing. Afterall, I
don't want to rush any opinions without really being sure of them
I finally took
some time yesterday to enjoy Mass Effect. I did play quite a
bit last week (as in eight or so hours). I not only took
some time to look at some side missions (which make up the majority
of the actual game), but I also started to tackle some of the
primary missions of the game. I still feel about the same as I
did yesterday, but with a few minor changes in my opinions.
First of all, I
still hate the Mako. I hate it more now, in fact, than I did
when I last posted. Why? I was driving on a long
straight-ish path taking out enemies. The first thing that
reinforced my hatred of the Mako was when I could not drive in a
straight line. I could drive in a way which had the average
driving route straight...however, each time I pressed up on the left
analogue stick I found myself weaving with a slight stagger...a
stagger that makes me thing that Shepherd may need a slight
intervention. That is to say that Shepherd may be hitting the
booze a little hard. Maybe being a Spectre (Mass Effect's
equivalent of a cross between a double-0 agent and an NSA operative
like in Splinter Cell) is too much pressure for the protagonist to
take. Or it could be that the Mako drives like a shopping cart
(with that nice little wobble found on your average cart) and
nothing will make it work correctly. Either way, I either need
a new mechanic on my team (I am using the alien with a mask who's
all tech in her class) who can fix the obvious flat tire or I need
to help Shepherd find a higher calling and to meet the other parts
of the all so well known 12 steps to recovery.
My other issue
with the Mako is that damage is subjective. While a rocket
will naturally deal some major damage, I have to wonder why a rocket
will sometimes damage the shields a little, and another time it will
leave the Mako in ruins...both from the same starting shield and
damage positions. How do I know so well that damage is not a
constant set affair? I blew up at one point in the Mako when a
total of 4 rockets and 5 balls of energy slammed into me in a span
of about 4 seconds. When I reloaded, from a save only 30
seconds (and zero enemies) before that point, I took 6 rockets and 6
balls of energy in one quick burst of about 3 seconds (I thought I
was going to blow up again since I was obviously doing worse).
Instead of blowing up, I remained alive and continued on to kill the
enemies after taking another rocket or two in the process. Why
would I be counting how many hits killed me and how many I was
taking? Because I keep seeing this same damned effect. I
know the game may throw in some variables to the damage, but the
Mako has so many variables as it is. It really is not fun
driving the equivalent of a tank made from one part shopping cart
and one part Pinto. Maybe if it was made from the durability
of a shopping cart (since you never find one that is actually too
beaten up to function in some capacity) and the maneuverability of a
Pinto (not the best car, but it still handled better than a shopping
cart) it might have been slightly fun.
When you throw in
that you cannot aim worth shit if you're on an incline...actually,
that's another major issue. If you are on an incline that
raises or lowers the Mako from front to back, then your aim will no
longer matter. The crosshairs will mean nothing and the actual
victim of one of your large shots or the machine guns will instead
be some innocent chunk of ground a mile away from the dude who's
blasting you in the face. I can understand a slight change in
actual aim based on any alterations to your vehicles placement
compared to flat terrain. However, I would also expect a
civilization that is advanced enough to build your ship (complete
with cloaking effects) and personal shields into each piece of armor
would be able to use some computer program to adjust your aim in
comparison with the crosshairs you see and the actual facing of your
weapons in such a big freakin' tank.
Anyway, it's not
like it's all bad with Mass Effect. For one thing, the last
primary mission I did was some of the most fun I've had in a game
that doesn't use guitar controllers in a long ass time. I
forget the name of the planet/mission (well, I don't forget as much
as I rarely remember in the first place with so many alien sounding
names), but it's one of the initial three missions you get after
becoming a Spectre. I think the planet is something like Feros...but
it's the one with a research station and a colony being attacked by
Geth raiders, and ultimately it involves a unique sentient plant.
The mission plays out a lot like a fast paced section of Resident
Evil 4...with the main difference being that you don't have to worry
about saving and finding the right ammo for the job (which was
always my biggest problem with survival horror games). You
have the entire people freaking out issues, lots of zombie like
enemies, and plenty of good old action while trying to uncover the
true nature to a group of people acting funny and seeming to be
under a form of mind control. In fact, if more of these style
of missions are in ME, I may have to start skipping some side quests
and get more into the bulk of the game.
Anyway, to wrap
things up and to get to a different subject, I played through every
single player song on Rock Band yesterday. This matters
because I was using my replacement guitar controller that EA sent me
when my first one went defective. So far I have not seen an
issue. I hope this means that the replacements are designed
without the downstrum flaw found in the initial batch. Of
course, only time will tell on this. However, for the time
being I feel safe with the controller. Hopefully I won't have
to deal with EA's replacement plan anymore...beyond running to the
UPS store today to ship off my defective controller.
played through the solo career path fully, I have to say, at least
on medium, Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld is one hell of a
fun song to play. Not as good as the Metallica pack, but still
a good blast of pure enjoyment in the same way that Thunderhorse and
Trogdor were on GH2.
Velveta finally tracking down a copy of the deluxe (2 CD) version of
the Dethklok album, I hope we see some downloadable content for
Metalocalypse for Rock Band sometime soon. So much metal and
so much fun. The only hard part to imitate would be the vocals
since a growl into the mic tends to make the game freak out (try it
yourself and watch the tone arrow vanish)...but I still need some
more Dethklok with my guitar controller.
I have been
getting in some more time with both of the games that have claimed
all of my free time. That is to say that I've been rocking out
on Rock Band and being frustrated beyond belief with Mass Effect.
I don't want to
make it sound like ME is a bad game, but it does have some problems.
I really think the game would have benefited from an additional
month or two in development. Sadly, I think the game was
probably rushed to meet some publisher imposed deadline, since there
is no way that Bioware would have been 100% happy with the game as
it stands. That is to say the control of the damned Mako tank
and the AI issues. For example, in the tank, you feel like
you're driving the most wobbly and unresponsive shopping cart in the
history of grocery stores. Also, you're party has some issues
(as well as some enemies) in knowing the right action for a
situation. The best example of the AI and team control issues
that I've found is the Luna (Earth's moon) mission to unlock
specialized classes for your protagonist. In that mission, I
was lucky if my party obeyed a single command on the d-pad to follow
me or to move to a specified location. Usually my group will
wait outside the room I was trying to enter, despite what I told
them to do, and meanwhile I was stuck, alone, fighting a swarm of
robots armed with rockets. It's a very hard mission as it
stands, but it only gets worse when you have to fight it alone
because your squad is stuck in some weird mindset that says that
entering the combat with you is impossible.
I am enjoying ME,
overall, but this AI issue is pretty damned sad. Another
example would be how some enemies will sit there as you pelt them
with bullets. It does not happen too often, but it seems to
happen the most for me when facing boss type enemies. They
will literally sit there taking bullets (or shells from the Mako)
while wondering, apparently, wondering where the damage is coming
from...or maybe being numb to the pain and accepting the fact that
their demise will come no matter what so it's not worth fighting to
survive. No matter what spin you want to give this behavior,
it's pretty bad when a boss, who is supposed to be superior to it's
followers in combat, just sits there and takes some damage. A
few examples of how I've seen this is with the Alpha <something>
(the monster that allows you to get food) on Feros, a Geth Dropship
in one of the missions to take out a Geth Outpost, and one Krogan
Warmaster who charged at me and then froze right before he would
have torn me limb from limb.
At least the other
end of ME is fun. That is to say that the dialogue and
exploration of the back story of the game is great fun. Also
any mission that requires only a few small amounts of tactical
combat (combat in which enemies fight from cover for their survival
and don't just try to commit suicide) and plenty of dialogue options
is great fun. Especially these types of missions that could
offer some diverse alternative endings based on going paragon (good)
or renegade (not so good). Bioware has always had a good knack
for making fun choices in dialogue scenes in their games.
Not too mention, despite it being an overly simple practice, the
good versus evil aspects of their games are always good to entertain
me. Now if only the combat was slightly improved...
As for RB, I'm now
playing mainly on hard. My brother and I have our band (Full
Metal Hemorrhoids...my brother is an unusual person who likes making
unique names) on the band world tour mode. We were getting
ready for the Hall of Fame gig when we decided to quit on medium.
We just had enough of not earning any more fans and we didn't like
to stop with so many venues and cities locked. So, we just
went hard and never looked back...except on the random sets and a
few special songs. Mainly on the random song sets since the
game loved to give us Say It Aint So on medium (way too easy) and
Ride the Lightning on hard (way too hard for us). It didn't
matter how often we try the random sets, but the game always gives
us a double dose of Metallica on hard, and that's just a hair beyond
two people just working into the weird world of orange notes and a
massive jump in total notes...especially on any guitar solos.
My only real issue
right now with RB is the whole EA aspect. I don't mean that
they published the game (even though I do prefer to avoid that
creativity deprived publisher), but rather their shoddy guitar
controllers and how they treat their loyal customers. My
replacement guitar is still working perfectly (thankfully).
However, my friend Tangwich, who was the first one to show me how
easy it was to order a replacement for a defective controller, is
being screwed by EA. He does not have another guitar
controller for the 360 (he stuck with the PS2 for all of the Guitar
Hero games), and he has a very busted down strum on his controller.
So Tangwich had placed his order for a replacement guitar before I
ever ordered mine. He also went with the express shipping
option, like I did. The one difference between Tangwich and I
on this is how I got my replacement on Monday and he is still
waiting for his. Why? Because EA apparently had a
"glitch" in their system and lost his order. So, while
Tangwich is unable to play the guitar part of his game, that he did
pay nearly $200 for (Washington has a high sales tax), EA has done
nothing except put his through frustrating support phone calls and
waste his time. They could, at the very least, give him
something for this hassle. They could give him an extended
warrantee to extend his coverage for an extra few months, some sort
of gift certificate for any EA online purchase, or numerous other
things. Instead, they have a customer who is now thinking of
buying the GH3 bundle, which would give support to their rivals at
Activision, just because they are being so damned incompetent in
this whole matter. Plus, I'd imagine this would be a deterrent
to people like Tangwich (if the defective issue wasn't enough of
one) who may eventually want a second controller once the individual
instruments go on sale next year from buying EA and maybe going with
the highly superior GH3 wireless controller that also goes on sale
early next year.
The best part is
that I know a lot of people who have worked in customer
support...including Tangwich. If any of them acted towards a
customer like he has been treated by EA support, they would have
been fired without hesitation. EA has been giving one hell of
a run-around and has done almost anything in their power to overly
complicate the matter (including refusing to let the customer talk
to a supervisor) without offering anything to compensate for how the
game is effectively a two player game while he awaits a solution to
the guitar issue.
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