The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

What up fools

So I took a week off. Sue me. I’m back in action, though, with some all-new venom and bile!

Mass Effect 2. You played that? I’ve talked about it once or twice. I’m doing it on replay to finish a few things off, and do some stuff I missed the first time through, and I notice I get to keep all my guns. That’s good. But apparently I don’t keep the upgrades. You know what that means? That means I get to fly around the galaxy mining for fucking iron ores all over again.

Here’s what I’d like to see, Bioware. I’d like to see you make a game — just once — that doesn’t display such an active hatred for your audience. We get it, guys. You’re probably all Adbusters nitwits and you’re just doing this to show your moral superiority to all of us consumerist sheeple. Or maybe you’re just idiots who think this sort of thing is fun. Who’s to say? But knock it the fuck off.

My Mass Effect 3 wishlist:

• Sex scenes more like the first Mass Effect, which is to say: present at all.
• Ditch the ammo. Or at least allow weapons to cool (i.e., regain ammunition) gradually over time.
• At least one team member who is a Volus, an Elcor, or a Hanar.
• At most no team members who are Batarians.
• Cheer up a little. I’d like a return to the heroic space opera motif; every damn game is dark and edgy. Being bright and heroic really set the original Mass Effect apart.
• Refine the skill system so that I don’t end up with one point I can’t spend. That’s just frustrating.
• Less dune buggy. More less iron ores.
• Give me a hub world like the original Citadel, and a main quest structure that doesn’t seem as random and disjointed as in Mass Effect 2.
• Both games so far have talked about the Elcor Hamlet. Now it’s time to show it!
• Did I mention more less iron ores? Because, seriously. Fuck iron ores.

February 28th, 2010 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | no comments

Most Overrated Games #5

Tetris (Every fucking platform, every single year)

Do I even need to tell you why Tetris is overrated? No I do not. Every single human being born since June 6, 1984 knows intuitively exactly why Tetris is overrated. Tetris is overrated for exactly three reasons, and, just for the sake of form, I’ll spell them out for you:

1) Tetris keeps getting released and released and released ad infinitum. I mean, hell, Civilization was pretty good, but I don’t recall every game company in the world making a Civilization clone for every platform that’s ever existed.

2) Tetris choked and murdered the puzzle game genre. For about fifteen years, every puzzle game anybody made was just goddamn Tetris with a new coat of paint. The only reason that’s not the case anymore is because Bejeweled came out, and now everybody’s ripping that off instead.

3) Recently — and hilariously — people have begun attempting to enforce intellectual property rights to the name "Tetris," which has the same sort of logic as Bayer suddenly trying to crack down on all these assholes calling their product "aspirin."

I mean, Tetris is a fine game, I suppose, if you’re a big fan of games that just keep going on and on until you lose. Nintendo was very smart to pack it with the original Game Boy, since, hell, it’s a decent enough time-waster while you’re on the train, and I guess a Flash version you can play at work is reasonable, but that’s really about it. And yet, some idiots keep putting it at or near the top of "best game ever" lists, where it clearly does not belong (aside: holy dick is that a ridiculous top ten, IGN). It is an amusing novelty that sold seven billion copies. There’s nothing wrong with that, but come on now. Best? Game? Ever?

I’m trying to be reasonable here, but, seriously. There are exactly seven pieces, and exactly two ways of manipulating them (translate or rotate). So you do the exact same two things over and over again on the exact same seven pieces until — and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet — you inevitably lose. There’s no goal at all, there’s no positive way to end the game, and there aren’t even any goddamn goombas or anything to stomp on. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that any serious candidate for best game ever has some type of stomp-on-able mushroom men.

February 28th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | one comment

Tiny baseball illiteracy

Yahoo sports is reporting on Stephen Strasburg, who they allege throws a "slider/curveball hybrid."

Hey gang, just a heads-up for you: there’s a word for that. You might want to learn about these things if you’re going to write a web site about baseball.

February 21st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Baseball law update!

New MLB official policy: "individuals are prohibited from possessing deadly weapons while performing any services for MLB." No word yet on how the game will be played now that official rules prohibit the possession of baseball bats.

February 19th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | no comments

Most Overrated Games #6

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that pretty much everybody remembers fondly. We were all crazy-excited for it while it was in development (for a then-unprecedented two whole years!), everybody bought it and played the shit out of it, Gamespot gave it a perfect 10, and it provided a great source of ammunition for the "N64 does so have RPGs!" fanboys who couldn’t tell the difference between Dragon Warrior and an action-platformer.

The real problem is this. If you think about Ocarina of Time, your train of thought probably goes something like "yeah, that game was awesome. Well, except for the overworld. That was pretty lame and boring. Oh, and the first dungeon was just some dumb training level with nothing much to do. And the second dungeon was all about going through the same rooms over and over again trying to get all the elevators turned on. And I guess the third dungeon was that stupid fish dungeon with the chick you have to carry around. The fourth dungeon… oh, right, the fucking maze of locked doors with that sliding block puzzle. And the fifth dungeon…" and you’ll never ever be able to name a part of the game that was actually good. So we’re left with two options: either Ocarina of Time is a game that has some unique and magical ability to be a lot better as a whole than the sum of its parts should allow, or else it’s an average game coasting on a whole lot of hype and nostalgia. I guess it’s clear which side of the issue I’m on.

The overworld is lame, and the dungeons are lame, but what about sidequests and such? Well, yeah, it has those. Mostly they’re endless fetch chains or stupid minigames where you have to jump the horse over some hurdles, but the controls are really twitchy and sometimes it just won’t go even though you’re sure you were lined up right that time. Or maybe you have to throw the stupid bombchu through the hole in the board. Or figure out who wants which mask. Did you solve the second mask without looking it up? No you goddamn didn’t.

Also there is fishing. Just like every game.

The ocarina itself seems pretty cool — you actually play the thing using different buttons for different notes, and you can even use the shoulder buttons to bend pitches if you want to — but it doesn’t amount to much in the long run. There aren’t very many songs, and almost all of them either trigger scripted events at obvious event triggers or else just warp you to dungeons. And since the game pauses while you’re playing, it’s not even like you need to learn to play in tricky situations; ultimately, by the end of the game, you probably wish you could just pick the song off the menu instead.

Some of the boss battles are excellent; they’re definitely the game’s greatest strength. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the game’s final boss. I think the fight was supposed to be cool. It seems like it. Ganon (omg spoiler!) does his thing, turns into a big pig, and then he golfs your sword away to the other side of this wall of fire. Then you need to dodge around him until you can get your sword back and kick his ass. It seems pretty fun, but the real problem is that, for whatever reason, Nintendo left a glaring hole in the design: he knocks only the Master Sword out of your hands. So if you’ve done the endless series of fetch quests to get the Biggoron’s Sword, you’ll still have that one. And you can just kind of ignore all the actual fight mechanics and slash him to death. It’s super anticlimactic. Fuck the heck is that all about anyway, Nintendo?

The next Zelda game to come out was the truly shitty Majora’s Mask, so, compared to that, Ocarina of Time is an amazing masterpiece. But on its own, it’s about 40% game and 60% hype. And those great fairies will scare you shitless the first time you see one.

February 17th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | no comments

Oh, Steve

He’s at it again. And by "it," I mean "being wrong about baseball."

By nearly any measure, the Red Sox ought to be well into a dynasty unseen since the Yankees of the 1950s. That it hasn’t exactly worked out is less a failing of manager Terry Francona, his players or the cerebral front office than a testament to an ultra-competitive division. Those pesky Rays. Those damn Yankees.

Well, no. Actually it’s because of pitching. Remember pitching, Steve? It’s a thing that exists in "baseball." The Red Sox have had awesome offenses for the last decade, but their pitching has been highly unremarkable. It’s had moments of brilliance, and those moments coincide — not surprisingly, mind — with the years the Red Sox won the World Series. But Pedro got old and broken-down and then left, Beckett’s always hurt, Daisuke has been pretty average, Buchholz hasn’t been very good, Schilling was old and hurt… the list goes on. The Red Sox have been piecing together their rotation from scraps every year and hoping it holds together. Sometimes it does, and they do very well. On the other hand, sometimes it’s 2006.

A revolving door at shortstop should end with the signing of scrappy, late-blooming Marco Scutaro.

I’d have written that sentence as: "A revolving door at shortstop should continue revolving right past crappy, late-to-swing-at-fastballs Marco Scutaro." Scutaro is 34 years old this season, and he’d never had a good year until 2009. He’s not "blooming," Steve, he just had a lucky year. They happen. He’s not half the player Julio Lugo was, and Boston hated him.

Veteran elite defender Mike Cameron was brought in to play center field, enabling Jacoby Ellsbury to move to left and provide a significant defensive upgrade over Jason Bay.

"Veteran elite defender?" Is Mike Cameron a Civilization unit? And, yes, this move is a defensive upgrade over Jason Bay — a pile of bricks shaped vaguely like a hand would be a better defensive left fielder than Jason Bay — but I’m less confident than Steve that this will overcome the significant offensive downgrade.

Adrian Beltre, perhaps baseball’s best glove man at third base, replaces tough but brittle Mike Lowell.

"Tough but brittle" is a contradiction, Steve. You go to hell. And, hang on, I need to call Evan Longoria (career UZR/150: 19.6) and let him know that apparently Adrian fucking Beltre (career UZR/150: 13.9) is the best defensive 3B in baseball. CHONE, for what it’s worth, predicts that Beltre will be worth 2.7 WAR in 2010.

Cameron and Beltre have pop but don’t hit for high averages.

Adrian Beltre, career: .270 / .325 / .453 / .779, 105 OPS+
Mike Cameron, career: .250 / .340 / .448 / .788, 107 OPS+

Not seeing much pop, Steve. Cameron will take a walk, which is nice, but… what’s good about Beltre? Especially when you consider he hasn’t hit his career averages in any recent season.

Just for fun, Mike Lowell, career: .280 / .343 / .468 / .810, 109 OPS+

Scutaro’s lifetime .721 OPS makes him a No. 9 hitter.

Yes, he just beats out Beltre and Cameron for the position. This .721 OPS is tied to the reason why the door should not stop revolving just yet, by the way, Steve.

The starting rotation could push the Red Sox to 100 wins or drag them down to 90.

It could drag them down a lot farther than that, Steve. Remember when they won 86 games in 2006, for example? That’s lower than 90, isn’t it? And their offense was way better that year.

February 12th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Most Overrated Games #7

Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat (Arcade, 1992)

Here is a true fact: when I was eleven years old, my brother and I and a friend decided it would be the ultimate act of punk badassedry to go out into the street in the middle of the night (which, to us, was like 9:30) and yell "Mortal Kombat!" at the tops of our lungs. So that’s what we did. Absolutely nobody cared, as you’d expect, but it made us feel like righteously bad dudes. That’s the kind of game Mortal Kombat is: the kind of game that’s designed more for shocking your neighbours than for actual playing.

As shock factor goes, Mortal Kombat was pushing the envelope back in 1992. The game was brutal. It was full of blood and gore, and featured the now-legendary "fatality" mechanic; each character had a special move he could perform after defeating his opponent that would dismember the poor fool in some absurdly graphic fashion. At provoking a reaction, the game was superb: parents were outraged, teachers were outraged, outrage-centric political action groups were outraged, the First Lady was outraged. Which is why the people who created Mortal Kombat are certified geniuses: all this impotent outrage provided them with tons of free advertising, and it was the most effective kind — the kind that makes kids think they’re being rebellious by sticking quarters into the machine. And this is exactly what occurred.

The parents or legal guardians around the nation were so busy being outraged, and the kids were so busy being righteously punk, that nobody bothered to notice that the game’s a piece of shit. There are not very many characters to choose from, they don’t play very differently from one another, they don’t have many attacks, the stages are fairly nondescript, and the structure is absolutely standard tournament-fighter nonsense. Street Fighter 2 had been in arcades fully eighteen months by the time Mortal Kombat came out, and it was a vastly superior game in all respects. Except, of course, that you couldn’t rip your opponent’s head right out of his body and watch his spine twitch around.

Now, a lot of you are probably thinking "hey, Mortal Kombat 2 was pretty good." And you’re right; Mortal Kombat 2 was pretty good. This is mainly because they built a game to transport the gore that time around. The first Mortal Kombat, however, was bland and uninteresting as a game, and had really stiff controls on top of it. And as if that weren’t enough, Mortal Kombat is also to blame for inflicting the ESRB on us: attempts had been made for years to establish a ratings board for video games, but they always failed because Nintendo held out. A ratings board without Nintendo’s cooperation would not be good for much. The reason Nintendo was holding out wasn’t what you might think, though; they didn’t want a ratings board because they were afraid it would create precedent for gory, sexual, profane, or otherwise non-family-friendly games, which they simply did not want around. In keeping with this policy, Nintendo insisted that the SNES port of Mortal Kombat be cleansed of blood and gore and guts and intestines, and it got completely demolished in the marketplace by the Genesis port, which allowed Sega to regain a decent chunk of its then-dwindling market share by advertising that the Genesis had the "real" Mortal Kombat. Nintendo quickly rethought its position, the ESRB was born, and now video games are saddled with the same moralistic groupthink bullshit that movies have been for decades. So fuck Mortal Kombat.

February 10th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | no comments

A double-dose of Steve!

Steve Henson has written some summaries of the Tampa Bay Rays’ and Ft. Louis Fatinals’ offseasons. After he reads this article by me about his offseason, he sure will wish he hadn’t! Written his own, I mean. Shut up. That’s hurtful.

Protecting a ninth-inning lead is no time for an audition. And it’s not a variety hour. When seven different pitchers record multiple saves in a season, there’s a problem.

Well, maybe. I mean, if some of them are bad at it. Using different pitchers isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, Steve. In fact, it can even be a good thing, since the idiots on arb boards and the free agent classifiers look at the raw "saves" number when evaluating a relief pitcher. So using a bunch of dudes can make them cost less.

The lowest ERA by a Rays (or Devil Rays) closer in the 11-year history of the franchise was 2.86 by Danys Baez in 2005.

ERA is a really, really bad stat for evaluating a dude who throws maybe 70 innings in a year. It’s way too coarse for that. Baez’s other numbers aren’t exciting — 1.327 WHIP, 1.70 K/BB. I mean, I get your point: the Rays haven’t produced a lot of superstar closers, which I guess is somehow different from the number of superstars they’ve produced at other positions.

Roberto Hernandez notched 101 saves from 1998-2000, yet he also was shaky by turns at that point in his career.

Saves are stupid. "Shaky by turns" is a nonsense-phrase. You fuck right off.

Even in the magical 2008 season, the miraculously resurrected Troy Percival was no sure thing, walking 27 in 45 1/3 innings before manager Joe Maddon began giving the ball to Dan Wheeler, then to rookie David Price.

Troy Percival’s magical resurrection was lacking in two things: magic and resurrection. This is because Percival was stunningly mediocre, and because the reason Maddon eventually took the closer’s job away from him is because he had a season-ending injury, you crazyass. It had not a fucking thing to do with how many saves he had, and everything to do with how he couldn’t play baseball anymore because he was dead.

That history lesson makes the acquisition of Rafael Soriano from the Braves by GM Andrew Friedman both extraordinary and obvious.

Your homework for the day: imagine that you live in a world in which that sentence has any meaning. What would it mean? Would it be:

a) Trite
b) Stupid
c) Extraordinary
d) Obvious
e) Both C and D

Another year of J.P. Howell for a while, Grant Balfour on a given day and Randy Choate in a pinch wasn’t going to cut it in a division populated by Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon.

I’m getting the impression that Steve doesn’t really know what closers do. Does he think that, if the game is tied up after nine, the closers have to face off in a cage match to determine who wins? While that would be awesome, it’s not exactly the case; closers aren’t really affected by other closers very much. Better, probably, to name like some opposing batters they might have to face, yeah?

Oh, here’s a fun fact. In 2008, when the Rays went to the World Series, they featured that exact closer setup. And the division was still "populated" by those two gentlemen Steve names. Did anybody else spot the part where he explains why it worked then but won’t work this time?

It normally is not like the Rays to take on that kind of salary [$7.25M for Rafael Soriano].

You mean, based on their long history of being a championship organisation? Which began exactly one offseason ago? When they signed Pat Burrell for… hey, look, $7M/year? Maybe do some research next time, Steve. Or, like, be less drunk so you can remember the very last big move this exact organisation made.

Soriano notched 27 saves and struck out 102 in 75 2/3 innings. The only caveat is his history of injuries.

Also his proclivity for walking nine shitloads of dudes. That is a caveat. But look at all those saves!!!

The Rays only will be able to recapture their 2008 glory by playing better away from Tropicana Field.

"If the Rays expect to win more games, they need to win more games." Thanks, Dr. Baseball!

Back by popular demand, two Cardinals sluggers. And every effort will be made, presumably, to continue the employment of a third, although we are getting ahead of ourselves.

We are also writing a giant fucking turd of a sentence.

Locals are also happy with the hiring of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. The baseball community at large has rejected McGwire’s admission of and apology for steroid use because of his ridiculous assertion that the performance-enhancing drugs didn’t enhance his performance.

For reference, McGwire actually said the steroids didn’t enhance his performance in any way except by helping him recover more quickly. Which is… what they do. So, hey Steve, he wasn’t exactly wrong. Just FYI. And the baseball "community" consists mainly of morons who think saves are meaningful.

The large sum paid to Holliday meant little else could be upgraded. Brad Penny, injured and inconsistent in recent years, will replace the healthy, steady Joel Pineiro in the starting rotation.

Joel Pineiro is awful. At baseball, you know? His steadiness index is off the fucking charts, I’m sure, but at baseball he is not so good. The Angels gave him 2-and-16, which is completely fucking insane for Joel Pineiro. The Cardinals did well to let him go. Penny is very likely to be meaningfully better.

Third baseman Mark DeRosa, reserve outfielder Rick Ankiel and sage swingman John Smoltz will be replaced in-house.

Third baseman Mark DeRosa spent most of his time with the Fatinals battling a nagging injury, and finished with a whopping 83 OPS+. Reserve outfielder Rick Ankiel was at 76. And sage swingman — which is not a thing — John Smoltz posted a 96 ERA+. DeRosa has already signed with the Giants for 2-and-12, Ankiel signed for 1/$3.25 with the Royals, and Smoltz is about to sign with the Mets for something like $30M/year. So what’s the issue there? Matt Holliday > all these things combined.

For now, though, the Cardinals employ Pujols at the relative bargain rate of $16 million.

That’s assuming the club doesn’t subsidise his HGH at all.

You know. Allegedly.

They are again favored to win a division in which the Cubs are scuffling and the Reds, Brewers and Astros would need everything to fall in place to contend.

This is almost the exact same Cubs team that won like a thousand games in 2008, Steve. Not exactly "scuffling." And the Astros need things to fall into place, yeah — specifically, they need grand pianos or maybe safes to fall onto everybody else in the division. Then they could contend.

And Pirates? Steve says "fuck you." Nothing personal, you understand.

McGwire helps Julio Lugo rediscover that pull power he displayed in Tampa Bay once upon a time and it’ll have been a banner offseason.

Tarzan helps Steve edit column and it’ll have been a great column! Tarzan Steve friends.

February 9th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Don’t fire Jim Pohlad

Dude gets it. Dude just fucking gets it.

Pohlad said the Twins aren’t interested in the possibility of deferred compensation as a way to make a rich long-term contract like Mauer’s work.

"They make you feel real good at the time, and then later on you wish you hadn’t done that," Pohlad said.

So, wait, consumption on credit… isn’t the path to prosperity? I guess this is why Jim Pohlad is a hugely-successful millionaire businessman and not a bumbling congressional dipshit trying to borrow-and-spend the country out of debt.

He also indicated an openness to signing Mauer for nine or 10 years, if that’s what it would take. First baseman Justin Morneau’s six-year contract signed two years ago is the current Twins record.

"I don’t think six is a magic number," Pohlad said, adding: "Total value is what drives it. We do not have a term policy."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. So you actually, like, do research and evaluate contract value? You don’t just, like, establish arbitrary rules and stick to them? Dammit, Jim, that’s just not the baseball way. Don’t be too surprised if the other owners all vote you off the island for this.

There’s a small dark cloud on the horizon here, but I prefer to view it as typical executive tough-talk rather than something Pohlad actually believes:

"All new ballparks have their peaks, and I’m sure the initial years will be very good to the Twins," Pohlad said. "Then it’ll be up to us to sustain it after that, but the ballpark itself I think can sustain it for a long time."

Well, Jim, I won’t say you’re wrong, since, well, you might be right. But I do think it’s important to point out that if Target Field itself materially increases the Twins’ income after its honeymoon period is over, well, that will be unique to it among all major-league ballpark construction projects. As I’m sure Jim is actually aware, the ballpark itself will provide a huge revenue spike for the first year (maybe two if they’re lucky), as the casual fans are more likely to go to a game so they can see the new park. After this period, it’s going to level off, and they won’t be moving any more seats than they used to. As I say, I’m sure Pohlad knows this, and the reason for the gung-ho attitude is that, otherwise, all he’d be able to say is "hey Hennepin County taxpayers? We just took you to the fucking cleaners. I have a much snazzier office, and you have… well, public debt and higher taxes. Ha ha!"

Other than that one tiny little detail, Pohlad actually comes off like he knows how to own a baseball team. He’s unwilling to micromanage, he’s unwilling to adopt short-sighted policies like deferred contracts, and he doesn’t make arbitrary rules. You guys ever wondered why the Twins are always abnormally successful given their market share? I think I have an idea.

February 8th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Most Overrated Games #8

Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D (PC, 1996)

Duke Nukem is the third in the "holy trinity" of old first-person shooters (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D). Everybody played Duke, and it’s not hard to see why: the game looked incredible in 1996, and the levels of gore, swearing, and sex pushed the envelope for video games — they’d even be considered cutting-edge now, fourteen years down the road. To top all of it off, the Duke Nukem character is one of the most easily-beloved in gaming, with his instantly-recognisable pumped-up G.I. Joe appearance and liberally-ripped-off B-movie one-liners. The game also shipped with the Build editing utility, so players could make their own levels right out of the box, which proved highly popular. Did anybody not make the "big room full of naked women" map when he was fourteen? No. Nobody didn’t do that.

The gameplay, unfortunately, was getting on toward dated by the time the game came out; Duke 3D was a rather late entry in the old-school FPS genre, back when it was mainly a cross between rail-shooters and scavenger hunts. Goldeneye and Half-life were right around the corner, and would totally redefine what a first-person shooter should be with their focus on tactical thinking and stealth; Duke Nukem was still stuck in the old run-and-gun, search for the key mentality. Worse still, Duke takes it a step farther than most such games; you don’t just have to search for keys, you also have to search for weak spots in walls to blow up (and hope you have some rockets left when you find them), riddle out proper sequences to press buttons in, and find numerous "secret passages" that involve walking straight through seemingly-solid walls.

And of course there’s fall damage. If there’s anything that just simply isn’t fun, it’s a game that includes a jetpack and also fall damage, so you can zoom way the hell up in the air, but then you have to land super-carefully or you’ll get hurt. Not only is there fall damage, there’s a shitload of other types of environment hazards; when people make fun of video games for including giant rotating gears that crush you to death if you don’t time your movements just right, well, they’re talking about Duke 3D; it’s pretty much the game that started that shit.

Duke 3D was a fun game, but almost in spite of itself; the setting and the character and the interactivity and the sex were all fun, but the gameplay itself was hopelessly lacklustre. The real tragedy of 3D Realms’ closure is that they had a chance to take the style of Duke 3D and transfer it to a more well-developed game concept, but it never quite happened.

February 8th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | one comment