The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Clutch update

You know who is super unclutch? Fucking Tom Brady, that’s who. He’s the least clutch dude ever. Or so says Dan Wetzel anyhow, based on a sample of exactly four games. Which four games?

Wetzel’s conclusion? That Tom Brady is a gutless choker because he lost three of these four games cherry-picked over four years. Does it work like that? It counts as a "recent trend" if you have to bend, spindle, and mutilate four years of data to come up with four data points?

And, wait, what about the Broncos game? Does that one somehow not count, then? You remember that game. That was the one where Tom Brady tied the all-time record for touchdown passes in a playoff game en route to a 45-10 slaughter of God’s chosen team. Threw for 363 yards. He was ridiculous. You’d think that might be more important in terms of "recent trends" than a wild card game in 2010, but apparently you’d be wrong. And get this:

Then there are the ugly five touchdowns against six interceptions – disastrous compared to his 4.1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (153-37) during those four years.

His four-playoff game passer rating is a weak 69.5, a precipitous drop from the 107.5 he posted during those same regular seasons.

Would somebody at Yahoo please explain to this man what "sample size" means?

It’s also, as time passes, easy to forget that this happens to the best of them. Montana lost three consecutive playoff games with the San Francisco 49ers from 1985-87 in which he threw zero touchdown passes and a combined four picks. The next season he won another Super Bowl. Two years later he won it again.

Oh, so Montana wasn’t clutchless and finished because he had three bad games? Who would’ve thought? Glad you wrote this article anyhow.

Still, what to make of Brady’s mini recent track record?

There’s no simple answer here. There isn’t even a simple question.

Wrong and wrong. The simple question is "does this matter at all?" and the simple answer is "no it does not." Four games is a uselessly small sample, and explicitly choosing only bad games doesn’t make your argument better. Here, watch as I prove that Edgar Renteria is a better shortstop than Troy Tulowitzki using your logic:

Edgar Renteria, last playoff series: .412 / .444 / .765 / 1.209, 2 HR
Troy Tulowitzki, last playoff series: .250 / .278 / .375 / .653, 0 HR

You willing to do this, Dan? Renteria for Tulo, straight-up? Tulo may be better in the regular season, but it’s now been scientifically proven to your exacting standards that he doesn’t have what it takes to win in the playoffs! His most recent four games were just awful.

In New England it’s always started with Tom Brady. There’s never been a doubt that he’s the team’s most valuable player, its heart and soul, its unqualified leader. The supporting cast comes and goes. Brady stays.

Yes, Dan, he is the quarterback. Do you know much about football?

So while, yes, everyone does need to be at their best, the Patriots stand little chance if Tom Brady plays like he said he played against the Ravens.

Didn’t the Patriots win that game? Oh.

January 30th, 2012 Posted by | Games | no comments

Must-play games of 2011

So I guess I’ve put this off long enough. Here’s the official, authoritative list of games you absolutely must play or else you’ll get sent to internet Hell. If you disagree with any of my choices, well, that’s fine; there’s plenty of room for disagreement… in Hell!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

Skyward Sword is not just one of the best games of 2011 — it’s one of the best games at all. It’s finally 3D Zelda done right. It has a hell of a learning curve and a really sinister game-annihilating bug, but it’s worth it. The dungeons are fantastic, the world is beautiful, the dialogue is great, and Groose won’t bring you down. The only negative thing about this game — aside from the aforementioned soul-shattering bug — is that there are three "silent realm" areas that are 100% not fun at all, but that you can’t skip. But there’s a lot to love when you’re not doing that!

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)

The original Witcher was a really, really thorough Neverwinter Nights mod. Witcher 2 ain’t like that at all. Instead, it’s more like a melee-centric Mass Effect 2 mod. The game is a direct sequel to the original Witcher, and follows Geralt on his continuing adventures to hack drowners to pieces and then get laid. The graphics are top-notch, the world is interesting, and the cutscenes are interactive enough that they don’t get too horrid. Plus this game contains the word "lesbomancy." What more do you need?

Jamestown (PC)

So it’s a top-down shooter, right? Nothing unusual about that. What if I told you it’s set on Mars? Still nothing? Okay. How about this: seventeenth-century colonial Spanish Mars? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! Jamestown has a prodigiously awesome story about searching for the remnants of the Roanoke colony on Mars, which is all the funnier because a shmup is the very very last kind of game that needs a story. And its over-the-top story is backed by brilliant SNES-with-a-bigger-palette graphics and perfect shmup gameplay. There are four ships to choose from (eight with the "Gunpowder, Treason and Plot" DLC, which I bought on the strength of the name alone), five difficulty levels, unlockable extras, and local co-op! Damn, this game delivers.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

The name, she is not so good. Never mind that, though, because that pooper of a name is wrapped around a truly excellent game. This is a "new school" 3D Mario game, which is to say that, like Mario Galaxy, it focuses on actual platforming rather than on 3D scavenger hunt adventure 64 mechanics. The game looks and sounds perfect — just like a Mario game should — and makes brilliant use of the 3DS’s 3D screen by giving you tons of really, really long drops that look a surprising amount scarier in 3D than you’d think. If there’s a flaw here to pick out, I’d say it’s that the game is too aggressive about making sure anybody can beat it; die in the same location three times, and on your next attempt there will be a block next to your spawn point containing a leaf that makes you invincible for the rest of the level. Yowza.

Portal 2 (PC, X360, PS3)

I’m "that guy" — you know, the guy who wasn’t totally in love with Portal 2. Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a great game — but I think it points to a fundamental weakness in the Portal concept, which is: the original Portal, in three hours, managed to exhaust absolutely everything fun there is to do with the portal gun. Now, to their credit, Valve is bright enough to realise this, and Portal 2 relegates the portal gun almost to a support role, where the portal gun is the thing you use to move around the level, but you actually solve the puzzle by using laser-redirect cubes or magic bouncing pudding. Still and all, the environments are great, and the characterisation is great, and the gameplay is sufficiently good to hold it all together.

Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 2: Retribution (PC)

I was worried about Retribution at first. It’s a significant departure from the Dawn of War 2 series, in that it moves back toward the RTS standard of resource-gathering and squad-recruiting, the absence of which was, in my opinion, a large part of why the original Dawn of War 2 was so great. But it turns out it works just fine — the implementation is sufficiently clever that your army will gradually grow as you play the map, without at any time becoming grind city USA of the future. There are six different campaigns, sort of; they’re basically all the same levels with small variations here and there, but the units and the storyline are entirely different. As an added bonus, Retribution is finally divorced from the wretched Games For Windows Live service! Hooray!


Hey now, wasn’t VVVVVV in last year’s roundup? Why yes it was. Oh, and I did screenshots last year? And got it out on time? Tsk. Can’t be arsed to fix it now. The difference between last year’s VVVVVV and this year’s model is not quantity of V’s, but quantity of D’s (hey-o! Was that joke lame enough? I’ll Leno this shit up if you’re not careful) — it’s the exact same game, but with the backgrounds and dialogues tastefully three-deed by Nicalis. If you liked VVVVVV, you should buy this one too, and then maybe I won’t be the only goof who’s bought it four times. If you didn’t like VVVVVV, well, there’s still room available in internet Hell. So don’t push me.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

I played World of Warcraft for six years, you know? So I wasn’t going to get this one. Figured, hey, I’ve done the MMO scene. But that’s the brilliance of SWTOR: in its heart of hearts, it’s a single-player game with some optional group content. Remember in WOW, how stuff would start out being normal solo quests, and then there’d be an elite quest, and a dungeon, and if you want to finish the storyline before you know it you need forty people for Molten goddamn Core? SWTOR doesn’t do that. The "storyline" quests are all steadfastly single-player — at no point do you need a group to finish what you’re doing. Group quests exist, but they’re optional "extras." And would you believe you can play any dungeon in the game with just two people? Because, hey: you can. This is truly an MMORPG designed with grown-ups who have jobs in mind.

So that’s that! Those are all the games that an internet committee appointed by me and consisting entirely of me commands you to play. I may be able to fit the whole internet in my mouth at once, but that doesn’t mean there are no gems I’ve overlooked — feel free to clog my commentpaths with suggestions of your own!

January 18th, 2012 Posted by | Games | no comments

If this is Wednesday I must be famous

I assume you’ve all heard about this SOPA brouhaha. The entire internet is shut down because of it! But you know me — I’m a notorious capitalist after all, so what’s the use of a protest if I can’t make a quick buck off of it? So here’s my plan: today, while the whole rest of the internet is shut down, I have updated my blog! The way I figure it, since there are no other web sites anymore, I’ll get 100% of all the traffic and become rich due to the multiplier. No, that’s how it works. I checked.

This may not seem like much of a blog post. In fact, the more astute among you may regard this as a useless "filler" post. There’s a story there. See, this was meant to be an erudite discussion of Curt Schilling’s new game "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," but it won’t run on my computer due to not supporting 1024×768. What the fucking fuck, Curt? I guess millionaire baseball players can afford to get a new monitor every ten years, but this one still works just fine thank you! Besides, if 1024×768 was good enough for the Lord God to create the World of Warcraft in, it’s good enough for anybody.

So I can’t review the game, but you know what I can review? The title. It’s pretty goddamn generic. "Kingdoms," generic fantasy name that at least doesn’t contain an apostrophe or a Y, colon, scary word that implies murder. That title could have been shat out of the Official Fantasy Game Title Shitter-Outter without using enough processing time to put a dent in Bioware’s shipping schedule. Here’s a better title for you: Curtis of Schillingforth: Sock Warrior. At least then not playing your game because of unstoppably weird system requirements would be 15% more fun!

Edit: Curt Schilling responded to this post, and he didn’t even swear at me even though I’m a complete asshole. I guess I really am famous!

January 18th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | no comments

Wasting my time

I really wanna see an end to unskippable physics-engine-logos taking front seat in game title sequences.

Jasper Byrne said that on Twitter earlier today, and it got me to thinking: I, personally really wanna see an end to unskippable anything. Not just in game title sequences, either; I mean anywhere in the game. As far as I’m concerned, anything I’m doing while I’m playing your game that doesn’t involve actually playing the game is you wasting my time. So here are things:

• Intro titles: I get the idea behind the titles; branding is not a foreign concept to me. But it’s getting ridiculous. Games these days often have like seven or eight mini-movie plugs you have to sit through before the title screen and attract mode even begin. That, to coin a phrase, is shit. I’ve actually had to look up — on the internet, so thank god for that — where games store their intro movies so I can go delete them and actually get into my damn games. There is absolutely no excuse for this garbage to be unskippable! At least take a cue from Relic and only make it unskippable the first time. That still sucks, but at least it only sucks once.

And everything I just said goes triple for you, Square Enix. No, I have not forgotten that Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals doesn’t even let me skip the attract mode. I seriously had to sit through like six minutes of crap before I even got to the main menu.

• Loading: I know. I know that load times are, to an extent, inevitable. I know there are solid technical reasons why a 20 GB game will have to load data. But.

There is absolutely no excuse why, if I die during a level, I have to sit through the entire loading process before I can respawn and try again. I’m talking to you, Mass Effect 2. Also, why is it that, here in 2012, we have MMORPGs clever enough to prefetch data to create large, broadly seamless environments, but single-player games can’t learn this same trick? I can load up World of Warcraft and run all the way from Winterspring to Ahn’Qiraj without seeing a single loading screen.

• Options menus: I’m not advocating getting rid of options; lord knows I can’t stand one-size-fits-all interfaces. But your options menus need to be designed with usability in mind. Ideally, I should be able to open the options and figure out what all the options do and configure everything all at once. That means you need goddamn tooltips, and it means you need sensible organisation. In particular, if your key bindings give me more than about a dozen actions to bind, they need to be paginated and categorised intelligently, not just dumped in a list at random, like they are in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Here’s a picture of the movement bindings. Categories are nice, but holy shit, Bioware, sort those maybe.

Also, hey Magicka, it is incredibly offensive that I can’t change my key bindings without quitting the game. Especially since you don’t let me save anywhere; if I discover I want my keys bound differently, I have a choice between finishing the level with suboptimal bindings or dumping my progress and starting over. And that’s terrible.

• Cutscenes: You knew it was coming. Now, contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually want cutscenes abolished. I get that there do exist out there people who play games because they really enjoy long, stupid movies with terrible dialogue and bad acting, and, more to the point, I acknowledge that cutscenes, properly used, can definitely enhance the game-playing experience. What I’m saying is that cutscenes are way, way, crazy, murderously overused. And there is no excuse in the atmosphere for them not to be skippable.

Now, I’m not talking about Bioware-style conversations. Those are actual gameplay elements. You see how you can interact with those? Actually make choices that influence the game? No, what I’m talking about is the endless bits of watching polygons talk to each other and having no ability to influence the game at all. A horrible offender in this way — and I’m not even going to discuss anything by Square Enix — Is Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Episode Two was especially egregious because the previous Half-Life games had all been excellent about allowing their narrative to be player-driven instead of relying on constant canned exposition. But here’s what happens in Episode Two (spoilers, obviously):

  • Gordon is pinned under a house and can’t do anything but watch when the hunter attacks Alyx.
  • Gordon can’t help with the healing ritual, so he just watches the Vortigaunts.
  • The ritual cutscene is interrupted by a different cutscene, involving the G-Man. Inception-y. At least this one’s interesting.
  • Gordon finally locates an Advisor… and gets paralysed and can’t do anything but watch until it leaves.
  • Upon arriving at White Forest, Gordon stands around and watches Alyx and Eli discuss the plot.
  • Another advisor. Gordon spends the whole encounter paralysed again — if they liked it once, they’ll love it twice!

What the hell, Valve? Why not let me participate in this somehow? If I’m locked out of playing the game and can’t do anything but watch, there’s no way to build suspense or tension. I know I can’t do anything, so why care?

For further illustration, let’s compare the beginning of Half-Life 2 with the beginning of Bioshock. They’re both paced the same; you start out riding transport, and then you wander around an unfamiliar environment for a while before suddenly finding yourself in danger. even the danger’s the same; in both games you’re under attack by enemies you don’t understand, and you have no means of defending yourself. But here’s where it gets different. In Half-Life 2, you’re climbing up through an apartment building, being ushered through apartments by residents who don’t want civil protection to catch you. The whole environment is very dynamic; as you run down hallways, CPs come in at the far end and close in on you, but then a door opens up and you get herded through to another place. Eventually, you wind up jumping from rooftop to rooftop as they shoot at you from the street. Then you finally get trapped, and the CPs begin to beat the shit out of you, but Alyx shows up for the rescue just in the nick of time. It’s really, really effective.

In contrast, Bioshock is very insecure. It doesn’t give you a large, open environment to run through — instead, you’re trapped in a bathysphere while a splicer attacks you. There’s nothing dynamic around you, either; it’s just an unchanging bathysphere. And to pile on even more idiocy, Bioshock doesn’t even let you struggle and get claustrophobic; you can’t move or act at all during this sequence. You just sit in the bathysphere and look straight forward out the window as the splicer attacks you, and then eventually Atlas kills it with a turret. Only after the danger is completely gone are you permitted to interact with the game at all. This is especially insulting since, as soon as you get out of the bathysphere, the game begins making Half-Life 2 references — if you fools were aware of Half-Life 2, why didn’t you learn anything from it?

January 8th, 2012 Posted by | Games | no comments