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Malik (12/10/07)

There was no Friday post since I was suffering from an attack of bad sausages. I was alive, but I was in no mood to look at a monitor any longer than needed.  On the same note, life is giving me a big kick in the balls (actually, it's many kicks) today, so forgive me if I threw in a few minor errors.  I know what I'm talking about, but I'm in too bad of a not-giving-a-shit mood to correct when my brain and my fingers (that do the typing) don't agree.

Putting that aside, I have to say that this weekend was a great weekend. Actually, it would be better to say that Sunday was an awesome day. There was some snow coming down, but not enough to stick and make any commuting into total hell. Of course that was nothing compared to what ended right before the snow started to fall...

The Seahawks defeated an opponent in an actual game. It was not a game like with the Rams, when the Seahawks only won due to a botched snap at the end of the Rams final drive. It was not a game like last week again the Eagles, when the only thing that kept the game alive was Tatupu's amazing skill to be in the right place at the right time...and with some mighty impressive hands.

No...Arizona put up a fight and made only as many idiotic errors as the Seahawks. Both teams suffered from the same issue (bad long snappers), but both teams made excellent efforts on the rest of the field.

Right after the game started, I knew something interesting was about to happen. With Arizona fighting to keep a playoff run alive and hoping to make the post-season for the first time since last decade, they had a lot to play for. On top of that, a win yesterday would ensure that the Seahawks were, for the fourth time in as many years, the NFC West champions. Both teams had a lot riding on this game, and it was, to make it even more fun, the first time in four years that the Seahawks had a meaningful December game. The NFC West was not wrapped up heading into December, so there would be plenty of passion and energy in a game that would truly be played to its fullest.

I think the Seahawks played one excellent game. In their first four drives, the Seahawks scored. Countless interceptions (five total by the end of the game...I guess that's not so countless...just the worst ever for Kurt Warner) were made, sacks were driven in with authority, and the passing game saw a lot of excellent action from a lot of different players. In fact, the Seahawks were able to pull off four receiving touchdowns with four different receivers.

The only sad parts of the Seahawk's game yesterday was the running and the long snapping. On one hand, the rushing game looked sad and deflated. Too many times Alexander was given the ball. Yes...he did have a couple of first downs and made some excellent rushes. However, if you take away a couple of impressive runs, Alexander still looks like he did for the rest of the season; as strong and impressive as a corpse. Morris did not necessarily look much better, but like with last week, Alexander still got more time with the ball than Morris.

It is time for Morris to become the official number one running back for the 'Hawks, and for Alexander to hand off the torch. Morris has youth, speed, and a lack of injuries. Meanwhile, Alexander has a slower run, too much to worry about (recovering injuries) to take any risks, he's getting old (a rusher in his 30's is a retired rusher in many cases), and he just doesn't have the only thing that could make him look good again (some defense and cover like he got two years ago from Hutchinson). If the Seahawks do hope to make an impact in the post-season, which they are now heading towards, the running game needs some help.

The other thing the Seahawks need to work on (as well as the Cards, if they hope to fight for the number two wild card spot) is the long snapper. Stutz is a sad mistake. Going into the season, he had a reliable, but slow, long snapper. However, after he was fired from the Falcons (if they fire you and you're not a felon, there must be something wrong...we're not talking about a good team here), the 'Hakws jumped on Stutz. I had a bad feeling from the start with bringing in someone who could not be all that impressive (fired from the f#@$ing Falcons!)...then he proved my feelings right on his first time out in the Saints game...when he handed the Saints a free TD on a bad snap intended to be a punt.

The Seahawks are officially going to the post-season. That much is true. If they work hard, a first round home game is in their future. If they can continue to win (which better happen against the Falcons, Panthers, and the Ravens), they can also enter the playoffs with a nice level of momentum in their favor. However, they need more than momentum in their favor...they need to compliment an improving defense and great passing game (four awesome receivers and an arm like Hasselbeck's does not bring about any fear in my eyes...except fear in the opposing defense's eyes) with three things.

First of all, fix the Morris/Alexander thing. Send Alexander to the bench more, including at the start of the game (he is only really good once the other team has been worn down and fatigued), and let Morris shine. Morris is the more productive rusher this season, and the torch is ready to be passed.

Secondly, get Stutz the hell out of Seattle. I don't know who the 'Hawks need to get, but I know who they need to get rid of. Stutz has a huge issue with being reliable in a tight spot. He's slow (like his predicessor), he's unreliable, and his aim is something along the lines of what you'd find on a Pee-Wee team. If anything will ruin a play-off game in a hurry, I see a repeat of the Saints game (with Stutz handing over an easy TD on a botched snap) doing it.

Third...the O-line needs to give Hasselbeck some protection. Here's a question; how would you call a defensive play to rattle the opposing QB and to minimize and offensive gains? Hard to say. You'd need to know more about who the other team is, who's the opposing coach, how strong is your defense...the possible questions are nearly endless. How about I answer one of those; the opposing team is the Seahawks. Now if you didn't immediately think that you'd call a blitz, then you have not been watching any Seahawks games...or how the blitz rattles the rhytm QB that is Hasselbeck and how the O-line cannot guard against a blitz to save their lives (or maybe their post-season chances).

Luckily, the 'Hawks do have a few excellent things working for them. Obviously, since I've named it a few times already, the arm of Hasselbeck and the hands of (you have plenty of options on that one). Secondly, the hard hits of Kerney (who has exploded in the second half of the season), the careful eyes (and quick hands) of Tatupu, the ability to be everyone at once of Julian Peterson, and the other players that make up what is probably the best Seahawks defense in the last decade.

To wrap things up for today, I'll make a prediction. Since the post-season is now assured, I will take a guess at how it will play out. I hate to say these things, since I imagine saying/writing it will make it guaranteed to happen. The play-offs will end for Seattle on either a poor decision to keep Alexander in the game despite him never being IN the game, Stutz giving away our final attempt to keep the game alive (and it turning into a TD for the other team), or Holmgren will kill it all with horrible clock management (which thankfully has not come into play lately...but only because of how the games have forced time management out of his hands), especially defensive timeout usage.

I see the 'Hawks going into the second round...but no further. It will probably be Green Bay who slays Seattle (after the Seahawks take down the Vikings in the first round)...which would be perfect since Holgmren would be laid to rest by his once precious Favre.


Malik (12/11/07)

I'm still in a pretty shitty mood today. I think by just going to my day job, I'm assured to find something to turn any mood into a bad one. It doesn't help that I could swear that I'm living in the world of Office Space. Worse yet is that I actually have the nickname of "Milton" around the institute I work a hint, it's not because it's close to my real name. It's more about how I'm constantly being moved into smaller and worse work conditions.

The one part that's quite funny (I'd laugh if it was happening to someone else) about this situation is that the "Milton" of my world is actually the most productive person in the most productive team. My lab puts out more publications (which is like a big return on an investment in the world of non-profit science) and is funded by the most grants of all labs present...this is despite how my lab is the smallest lab (and the one getting the most screwed). Life is funny...or it would be if the joke was not constantly on me. more enjoyable subjects.

Last night I finally played some games. I had not played anything since last Friday (when Dr. Philosophers played a Rock Band gig to prepare for unlocking the endless set), and needed a gaming fix. I was planning to play some Mass Effect, since I need to lay that game to rest, but my brother (who makes up one part, and the bass part in particular, of Full Metal Hemorrhoids) wanted to get in some Rock Band time. So, we proceeded to unlock the Hall of Fame gig (which I had already done with my other band) and then lay it to rest.

Since the songs were primarily ones that can strike fear in the hearts of the unprepared, he played out the set on a painful medium setting. We are both good to go for hard on most songs, but Metallica, Molly Hatcher, and Deep Purple can still be a problem...not too mention the dreaded Green Grass and the High Tide. Sadly, with three troublesome songs on the set list, we were stuck playing in the painfully slow land of medium. Afterall, we didn't want to lose fans and we sure as hell did not want to get seven songs through an eight song set and then have to fail out.

At least we got through and then could get back to hard. At least we were getting back to hard when the game stopped giving us fans on hard mode. That's when we decided to take the plunge and try out some of the more basic songs (Wheezer, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Garbage, etc) on expert. I have to say that, as a person who always avoided expert out of fear, that the things I've heard on message boards are quite true...

The jump from easy to medium, according to both message boards and personal experience, is not much of a jump. Well, it is, but it's not too bad when you make the jump. On the other hand, the jump from medium to hard is supposed to be (once again, from both board postings and experience) a great deal more challenging. I heard the hard to expert jump was not nearly as much of a shock to the player, and it's true. It's not like expert is easy, and it's not like it's impossible (at least on songs that lack hardcore Metallica style solos), but it's actually a good level of fun to make that jump.

Originally, I hated that your fan limit is so low on lower difficulties. Medium has you max it out after a couple hours of playing. Hard gives you a couple days (depending on how much you play in a day). I honestly wouldn't know what it is on easy (probably only enough to finish a couple venues). However, the forced limit on fans is great. If it was not for that cap, I would have never pushed forward with trying hard and expert. I still need some work (Metallica on hard is still too much for my hands to take in), but it's great to be making this type of progress. Harmonix may have initially angered me with the caps, but I now understand and see what they were doing. I should learn to never doubt Harmonix on these things.

Also, for the record, I'm happy to say that I have a band in the top ~2600 bands on the online leader boards. Full Metal Hemorrhoids is living it up and rocking out. We're still not at our own personal cap, since he have quite a few four+ song sets and custom set lists to play that we can rock out on expert.

Anyway, tonight I aim to play more of Mass Effect. I'm approaching the final mission when I stopped playing last. I want to finish this game and get it over with. The more I play, the more I feel like Bioware has pulled another Jade Empire. They made a game that was hyped and full of potential, but there is just nothing to show for this loss of potential. The game is, as one friend nicknamed it, Mass Repetition. I am actually still excited about part two, but that's for a good reason;

ME laid forth a great world and some cool ideas. However, I think a cross between rushing an unfinished game (like Monolith's take on Bioware's KOTOR...blame goes to Lucas Arts for KOTOR2, of course) and putting too little thought in some of the more vital parts of the game. Especially, you cannot make a short game and then rush in secondary quests to pad the time to beat the game if you don't put effort in the secondary missions. Another example is how nothing in the game has any consequences. Bioware claimed each decision would effect the world, but it doesn't matter what you do...with the only exception being that one person on your team will die (and you must decide) and another person may die if you're not ready to use your silver tongue to talk them out of it. That's it.

I think the second game should have potential, but I just hope that Bioware doesn't assume they made a perfect game the first time around. Enough fanboys are raving about ME to give Bioware an inflated ego. However, if Bioware does look at things with a more critical eye, and accept that the hype machine may have been problematic, maybe something good will come along to continue the story.

That's my hope at least. I mean, how many times can Bioware let us down with mediocre games before they come back to being the KOTOR and Baldur's Gate making company we once knew them as?


Malik (12/12/07)

Last night I finally was able to lay Mass Effect to rest. It took a bit of will power to force myself through one more stage...which is actually more like two or three more stages. The final level is basically three or so levels with several challenges. All of them were pretty unique and fun to play through, but they only served to remind me that ME only shines during the main campaign.

If I was to give ME a full review, which may or may not happen, I would have to give it one of two scores (out of 10); either around a 6.5 or around a 6.

If you count the secondary goals, then the game gets a 6. Why? Because the secondary stuff, while giving a little more story/back-story, is really repetitive and bland. You continually face the same barren world that contains a few crashed probes (which you loot for...weapons?), a few mineral deposits to mine for, and one to three bases/bunkers/caves, depending on the overall goal of the stage. The only difference on these worlds is if they are hot, cold, or in between. The overall effect on the player is minimal (unless you travel on foot) and all it does is change if there is snow coming down, plant life, or pools of magma.

Worst of all, nearly every secondary goal requires you to fight a horde of enemies in a base/ship/bunker/cave that will have one of about 8 layouts. So, if you enter a bunker with a certain starting room, you can be sure of not just where the goal will be, but also where you'll find the enemies. It is really that bland. The addition of secondary missions feels as forced and tacked on as humanly possible from a game developer.

The 6.5 score would come from the game if I did not count the forced secondary goals. In that case, the game does have some fun elements, but it fails in two general areas.

Minor spoilers follow...

First off, your actions, despite what Bioware claimed, have no consequences. There is an alien race you can doom to extinction or you could chose to save. There is a colony you could wipe out or go out of your way to protect. There is a choice you can make on if you want to kill off the government or let them survive. No matter what choices you make, the only effect it will have is on the brief dialogue you share with your comrades after the mission ends. It will then be forgotten forever...or, maybe, at least until ME2.

It doesn't even matter what you say when you speak to your party members. They will always act the same, with the only exception being if you have a brief and pointless sex scene with one of two potential mates. Other than that, you can be as much of a dick or a nice guy to your team as you want and you'll never have to look back. Even the paragon/renegade (light side/dark side system) points don't have to have a specific total (in KOTOR you could not be light and dark at the same ME you can max out both "alignments") do whatever you feel is right for the moment.

The main thing that gets a 6.5 from the main quest is that it is damned short. If you play the secondary goals, then you're playing a forced random dungeon generator, and if not then you have one really short game that can be knocked out in five hours.

My favorite part in this whole game, however, was that the final boss had to be a rip-off of someone else from popular media. He has a freakish face (that looks like a a goblin mask...), rides around (standing) on a glider/wing, and likes to throw bombs. Yes...the final boss is the Green Goblin...actually, he's the Grey Goblin. Not even the final boss could be all that unique.

I still look forward to ME2, since Bioware did make a cool world for the ME games. The mythos is set in place, the world is fleshed out to have some nice history and cultural plots. However, the next game(s) will need to have a more fleshed out game system. That is to say that ME2 better have a more epic main quest that includes consequences for major decisions. It's also to say that the secondary goals (side quests) better have something more than a damned random dungeon feel to them. Also, the game needs a better inventory system (group all like weapons/armors together instead of listing them separately) with more choices to make in how to play your character. Lastly, the next ME better have team AI that makes your allies try to live instead of attempting suicide or freezer ever few minutes...maybe even a special button or command to tell the game that Tali is, once again, stuck in a rock and needs to respawn...or that Ashley is no longer following you or "go to" commands.

At least I can now get back to playing Rock Band with all my attention...and maybe I can get around to finishing Mario Galaxy. Most of all, I need that Rock Band time since I'm finally feeling good about the orange fret button.


Malik (12/14/07)

I was too damned busy yesterday to post. In the last few months, my day job has been undergoing some changes, and sadly this is felt in my daily posts. In particular, my group (lab) at work is moving to a different institute, and this makes for some really hectic days as I try to work on my own projects (that will get me published a few times...which is always cool), work on what projects need to be ended in the current institute, and work on planning the move of equipment and so forth to the new place. Anyway, I will try to keep this stuff down and away from interrupting daily posts, but I cannot make any promises.

On to the meat of this small chunks like a fancy many course meal...

Activision is now facing a class action lawsuit. It's all about the Wii version of Guitar Hero 3 being presented in mono, despite having Dolby listed on the game. I can't blame people for being upset. I played GH3 on the Wii (when my mom, who bought the game, needed help with the first boss battle) and the sound problem is noticeable to this audiophile.

However, this lawsuit is frivolous. Why? Because Activision is already working on free replacements for all people who bought the Wii version. It will not happen until the early parts of 2008, but it's in the works. When the judge assigned to this case hears about this correction being in the works, the case will be dismissed. You cannot sue someone when they are already working to get the solution, for free, into the customers' hands...well, you can, but the case will fail.

I, on the other hand, am waiting for a lawsuit against EA over the faults of the Rock Band hardware. True, you can get free replacements while under warrantee. However, what happens in another five weeks when the first set of warrantees start to expire (60 day warrantee)?

I bring this up because of two facts. On one hand, some people will not use some of the instruments much (my drums and mic are only really getting affection when friends come over to use them...and mainly I play with the most people at someone else's home with their RB gear), so the failure might not be seen for a while. On the other hand, I am one of these annoyed customers.

I had my first RB guitar fail on the first day I had the game. The down strum started to double-strum for each down click. I got my replacement quickly (unlike the vocal people who ended up with free games to compensate for the excessive time for a replacement to be sent). On the other hand, I'm now a repeat customer to the replacement plan. Last night I placed my second order for a new guitar. This time I had the spring fail for down strums and this makes it impossible to play anything with constant notes (noticed it on Dead on Arival while doing the solo hard career).

This is the type of thing that will eventually either bring a longer warantee period from EA (like Microsoft did with the 360) or it will result in a lawsuit that forces a longer warrantee or a free replacement with a working set of instruments. One way or another, it's only another five weeks before I think we'll hear something about EA being sued over this mistake.

The funny part is that EA probably went with cheaper instruments than they needed to in order to make a larger profit. However, a good deal of this profit is probably being eaten via paying UPS for express two day shipping. Considering the size and weight of the guitar and drums, express shipping is not a cheap thing.

My advice for any RB owners is simple; play the living shit out of your controllers. Make sure they hold up, and as soon as they fail, contact EA for a replacement. Do this before your warrantee fails (remember, it's 60 days).

At least this is giving Red Octane (via Activision) some extra love. Red Octane can make awesome controllers, as seen with their DDR pads, and the guitars for GH1-3. My two main controllers for Rock Band have been the GH2 controller (for my bassist/brother) and the RB controller for myself...but each failure shows me more how to love the (beyond amazing) GH3 controller. When the individual instruments are out there for each game, sometime in the next two to three months, I assure you that I will be picking up another GH3 wireless controller...unless EA can show that they have fixed their technical issues. I do enjoy the shape and size of the RB controller, but the hassles and short life span are simply not worth it.

On a similar note, but different, I have been trying to play through hard on the RB solo career. I was not a hard player on any of the Harmonix/Neversoft rhythm games until a couple weeks ago. However, after being influenced by a friend to try out hard (good advice), I now will not play anything else (except expert on a few songs and medium on Metallica, The Outlaws, and Molly Hatcher). So, I tried the hard solo game last night and came to a strong realization...Harmonix is silly.

The songs are broken up into cities/tiers. Supposedly the early tiers/cities are easier songs and the later ones are harder. For example, In Bloom is easy and in the first set while Green Grass and the High Tides is in the last tier (and is hard as a bitch). However, I feel that some mistakes were made along the way. For example, Highway Star may require a lot of stamina, but it's a lot easier than Enter Sandman...however HS is on the final tier while ES is not. On hard, at least, Ballroom Blitz is a pain in the ass, but it comes long before Enter Sandman. It seems like some of these placements were nothing short of backwards in thinking.

On another RB note, I hope they bring some Avenged Sevenfold to DLC. I thought The Beast and The Harlot was one of the best songs for GH2. Considering they have a good drum line, and some fun to sing vocals (yes, I sometimes sing along to my music while driving...I may look like a douche, but it's a good stress relief while stuck in Seattle traffic). Especially, I think Strength of the World, Bat Country, and almost any other songs on the City of Evil album would be perfect. Hopefully, since we know Avenged Sevenfold is down with the GH style games, we may see some in the future.

On a final note for today, I found this silly. Activision will not allow a patch for Rock Band (yes, I did not confuse companies) to go on the PS3 version of RB. The patch would finally allow the GH3 controller to be used with RB. Why do I find this funny? Well, people have already bought RB. They will continue to buy RB. With RB controllers having issues, now is the time for people to look at Activision for their controllers.

All that would happen if people could use both controllers for RB on the PS3 (like they already can for the 360) is that Activision may find some extra hardware sales coming their way. For now, I've known people tempted to buy GH3 on the 360 just for an extra RB controller. When the individual GH3 controllers go on sale, which is scheduled to be before thr RB controllers do the same, then people will jump on the more reliably built GH controller. This equals bonus sales for Activision. Sales for hardware that's game specific, even for the people who did not feel like buying the game that this hardware is made for. Allowing the GH3 controller to be used on RB will not boost RB sales by any means...on the other hand, it would boost Activision's profits. To block this update is not only making Activision look petty to the gamers, but it's going to potentially cut into profits.

Anyway, it's time for Doctor Philosophers (my main band on RB) to play are usual Friday night gig. Keep on rocking.


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