Posted by Anthony Mowl in GAMING on 08-25-11 5 Comments
Won’t anybody please think of the children? Geocaching sounds like a harmless enough activity that encourages family time. Until you realize that parents are giving their kids a kiddie-GPS and encouraging them to get lost in the woods looking for buried treasure. Is it just me or does this sound really dangerous? As if we don’t have enough nut jobs out there waiting for an opportunity. Not only are companies selling geocaching tools for children, but elementary schools are sanctioning this with geocaching clubs. Geocaching clubs can be found on every academic level, from elementary school through college.
I can only see two possible ways this is going to turn out. Either geocaching is going to be relegated to “Chess Club” status, and these kids are going to be set up to be picked on and teased by the jocks. Or it’s going to grow into a competitive sport and we’ll have kids taking Adderall and other performance enhancing drugs to become extreme geocachers and dig up caches for scholarships. Either way, it doesn’t end well.
In this post-9/11 world, we don’t need more reasons to get kids in trouble with such an open-ended game with no boundaries. This guy found out the hard way when he got arrested for hiding a geocache under a bridge, and the police found it and thought was a bomb. Or how about the couple that’s wanted for questioning after digging up a geocache planted on school property? Let’s keep our kids on a field that’s fenced in, or if you insist on having your kids trek through the woods, be good parents and accompany them. There’s enough crap in this world as it is.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, INTERNET on 08-17-11 No Comments
I’m all for innovation when it comes to fantasy sports. The games can get stale after a while if you don’t shake things up a little. The folks over at SportsGunner have a new take on fantasy sports, and although the initial introduction of their game really rubbed me the wrong way, I can see some value in what they’re doing.
SportsGunner is a market-style sports fantasy game, and there was a statement in the email they sent us last week that made me cringe:
“SportsGunner is the first social compete platform to bring investment strategies to fantasy play across every major sporting category … SportsGunner was developed by a team of gamers, Wall Street analysts and sports fans.”
Investment strategies? Wall Street analysts? The first thought I had was that statement might have been the single dumbest thing I had ever read in my life. Forgive me if I wasn’t brimming with enthusiasm. I pictured complicated models and exotic number-crunching that I wouldn’t understand even if you drew me pictures. No offense to the Wall Street guys, but we’ve read Too Big To Fail, and we don’t need any of that in our fantasy sports, thank you very much.
A closer look at the game reveals that it’s actually pretty simple. You buy shares in a team and speculate whether that team will move up or down in the weekly rankings. The interesting thing here is that you’re not focused on how individual players are doing, you’re looking at the team and who its opponents are and whether you think the team will win or lose.
The only problem here is that SportsGunner takes its rankings from CNNSI or ESPN or — in the case of college football and basketball — the AP poll. So your ability to win or lose at the game is based on the subjective rankings of folks at Sports Illustrated or ESPN. I poked around on Sports Illustrated’s website and couldn’t find anything that resembled MLB team rankings, so I’m guessing ESPN is what they use for baseball. Of course, everyone who plays the game is at the mercy of this subjectivity. So it all equals out, I suppose. But unlike traditional fantasy games, you can’t really do anything to impact the outcome. You can speculate and hope that the rankings go your way. Your team might win and not move up very far, or at all, because some dude at ESPN doesn’t think it should.
Our Wall Street friends might say that unpredictability is what they had in mind when they designed the game. And they can’t figure out why America hates Wall Street guys. Sure, individual player performances are unpredictable too, but not to the same degree these rankings are.
What do they tell you when you invest? Past performance isn’t necessarily indicative of future results? Somehow I’m not sure I want that from a fantasy game. But this is a cool idea and would be fun for people who don’t have the time, patience or player-by-player knowledge that you need in order to compete in a traditional fantasy league.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, MOBILE on 07-21-11 No Comments
We all know that Apple aspires to world domination, and I say if they’re going to do it they should quit doing it little by little and just rip the Band-Aid off already. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be that lucky, and they have apparently co-oped EA Sports as a co-conspirator.
EA is going to release its soccer game, FIFA 12 for the iPad. Take a guess at what you’re going to have to use as a controller. Here’s a hint: It’s an Apple product.
That’s right, the iPhone and iPod Touch aren’t just for talking on the phone or listening to music anymore. This is me trying to contain my excitement.
Now, speaking strictly from a gaming perspective, this is a pretty cool idea. Your controller, which has been simply a piece of plastic with buttons since the days of Pong and Space Invaders, now has a visual interface that opens up lots of new doors for interacting with the game. In fact, it’s such a good idea that Nintendo has a whole new console coming out next year based on the concept. The Nintendo Wii U will come with a touchscreen controller.
But there’s still something about this that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not enough that you plunked down $500 (or more!) for an iPad, now you need to have another mobile device from Apple so you can play games on it?
To be sure, this trend is going to send Sony and Nintendo scrambling to keep up in the mobile gaming market. Knowing what we all know about how things usually go for Apple, the cool factor of gaming on the iPad will turn Sony’s PSP and the Nintendo DS into items destined for the department store discount bin.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, INTERNET, TELEVISION on 07-18-11 No Comments
Following up on my fanboy fawning over MLB.TV, there was news that came out a few days ago about the NHL’s online streaming package.
NHL GameCenter Live, which streams more than 1,000 games per season, saw a 31 percent increase in subscribers and an 83 percent increase in renewals during the 2010-11 season. GameCenter Live is available for Apple, Android, Nokia and BlackBerry devices, as well as the PlayStation 3, Roku and Boxee. It provides games in HD. There’s also a big archive of games from the last couple of seasons and classic games of the past, which is something MLB.TV should add.
However, it seems GameCenter Live should add one key element that the MLB.TV package has in abundance: Quality.
The NHL package debuted on the PS3 last year, and predictably there were some bumps in the road, as evidenced by this thread on the PlayStation Community message boards. It seems there were a host of problems with streaming live games via the PS3, and according to folks who posted on the thread, no refunds were available because the NHL said the games were still viewable on the computer. That is a complete crock for anyone who planned to watch on their TV, and the NHL should be embarrassed to offer that as a response. Even if the problem was on Sony’s end, they’re in this together.
Another issue here is the price point. It cost $159 for the season last year, but actually you can tack on another $10 if you want to watch on the PS3, because that’s what Sony charges you to download the app you need to view live games. It’s free for PlayStation Plus users. Again, the NHL should take a cue from MLB, which offers a free download of the software the PS3 needs to view baseball games. Even at $159, that’s almost as much as it costs to buy NHL Center Ice on DirecTV or cable/satellite providers. MLB.TV is only $120, and the baseball season has more games.
GameCenter Live has gotten some rave reviews for its quality and the depth of its content. But it sounds like it’s a little too expensive, and concerns about the quality are making me hesitate whether to go with it this fall. The question is whether a hit-and-miss experience with games in HD on the PS3 will outweigh the nightmare of watching hockey in standard-def on Verizon Fios.
Posted by John Hamlin in GAMING on 07-13-11 No Comments
The world of computer-versus-computer chess competition took its first step toward becoming a modern sport, and maybe even being interesting.
In quite possibly the nerdiest controversy outside of Dungeons & Dragons, the International Computer Games Association stripped Rybka, a chess-playing computer program, of its four World Computer Chess Championship titles. In a 5-0 decision, the ICGA ruled that Vasik Rajlich, an American-Czech dual citizen living in Poland, used code from two other chess programs without attribution in writing Rybka.
“Vasik Rajlich is guilty of plagiarizing the programs Crafty and Fruit, and has violated the ICGA’s tournament rules with respect to the World Computer Chess Championships in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010,” said an ICGA press release. ”Furthermore, it seems to the ICGA that Vasik Rajlich clearly knew that he was in the wrong in doing so, since he has repeatedly denied plagiarizing the work of other programmers.”
Rybka will be erased from the record books, more like an opponent of Joseph Stalin than a juiced-up MLB slugger. Plaques will be revised, and trophies will be sent to the newly determined champions.
While big computers don’t cry, Rajlich’s tear ducts may well be working overtime. He is banned for life from ICGA competition and must return all trophies and prize money. The total is unknown, but in 2010, he won about $1,400. Moreover, the news should cut into sales of Rybka, which goes for about $100 online.
Posted by Seth in GAMING on 07-11-11 No Comments
The unofficial start of football season comes Tuesday when NCAA Football 12 hits the stores. It hardly seems possible, but EA Sports keeps coming up with new tweaks and innovations that make this game a richer experience each year, even though the gameplay stays largely the same.
The first thing that caught my eye about this year’s game is that the Road To Glory mode has been expanded. In layman’s terms, this is the career mode, where you create a player and guide him though his college career. Except now your career starts with your senior year of high school, which is a playable mode in the game. Your performance in your senior season dictates what types of college programs recruit you. Play well, and you’ll end up with a school in a BCS conference. If you’re mediocre, you’ll end up in college football’s hinterlands.
If you’re more interested in coaching than playing, there are new features on that front as well. At the end of each season in the dynasty mode, there is the Coaching Carousel, where schools offer you and other coaches new contracts. You can re-up with your current school if they make you an offer, or you can hold out and see who else wants to throw a deal your way.
But the features I like the best are the ones that give you seemingly limitless flexibility in the way you manage your dynasty. First of all, you have the ability to set up the schedules and the conference alignments any way you want them. Think Pitt should be in the Big Ten so they can play Penn State every year? Move them there. Want to make the SEC the ultimate super conference? Move Texas and Ohio State in there. In a way, this sort of thing takes video gaming into the realm of fantasy gaming. There are communities out there with people setting up their own leagues.
Last year’s NCAA Football game allowed you to manage your recruiting from your PC. Now you can play your games from there too. This I love. You can be sitting at work and calling plays. You don’t actually control the players’ movements like you do when you play on a console, but it’s the next best thing and a hell of a cool idea. EA Sports would do well to implement more of this sort of thing in their other titles.
To top it off, the presentation, which has fully integrated ESPN content, is getting rave reviews by everyone in the gaming community. Long story short, there’s a lot to love about this game.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, Uncategorized on 07-05-11 No Comments
Like one of those countdown shows on VH1 Classic that are great for killing a Sunday afternoon, the folks at video game website IGN.com have been busy ranking the top 100 modern games. Modern, for their purposes, means games made for the current generation of consoles, the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. They’ve also tossed some PSP and Nintendo DS games in there as well.
There were only two sports games on the list … no, I don’t count Wii Sports Resort or Forza Motorsport, both of which made it. I’m talking about honest-to-goodness sports games here, and they didn’t pick the one I’d have expected to be there.
The two they singled out are FIFA 11 and NBA 2K11. Definitely two good choices. FIFA 11′s gameplay and customization are excellent. NBA 2K11 featured a whole mode dedicated to the career of Michael Jordan, where you could replay some of his greatest performances. This is the sort of thing more sports video games should embrace. An appreciation for the history of sports is often lost in these games.
The one they left out that would certainly be on my list is NHL 11, which came out last year and added a whole bunch of new in-game tweaks that upped the realism and a new Ultimate Team online mode. But by far the best part of NHL 11 is its fluid, fast-paced, addicting gameplay. It gives you a realistic hockey simulation while still retaining the sense that novices can simply pick up and play. And that doesn’t happen very often with the so-called modern games — especially not the sports titles.
Posted by Silissa Kenney in GAMING, MOBILE on 06-14-11 No Comments
You know what the world desperately needs more of? Apps. I mean, there’s only around 700,000 apps, according to Anindya Datta, founder and executive chairman of Mobilewalla, a web platform that compiles and ranks all the apps on the market. Scores are based on an algorithm, “which computes ratings in each store plus the volume and sentiment of the social media conversation.” With Mobilwalla you can find the best-rated apps f0r each category and platform. I played some of Apple’s top scoring sports game apps and found some winners, and some losers.
Touch Hockey FS5 (Free) Score: 98/100
This was my favorite. Who doesn’t love air hockey? With Touch Hockey FS5, the puck glides around the screen just like it does on a real air hockey table. It’s fast and responsive and you can play with friend with Bluetooth or WiFi. It also has three levels, instant replay and awesome sound effects. You gotta love that clicking, smacking sound of the puck knocking around the table, I mean screen.
iBowl Score: 96/100
This bowling app is more interactive. You touch the screen’s “bowl” icon, while tilting the device forward than back to send the bowling ball down the lane. You can place the ball along the top of the lane to hit those split pins. You can compete in bowling tournaments over the internet. I wanted to like this one, but found it a little clumsy and repetitive. I know, that’s the nature of app games, but this one just got boring.
Finger Sprint Score: 96/100
I’m sorry, what? The game is basically exactly what it sounds like. The image on the screen is a straight track. Then you “run” with your fingers. I ran 1 mile in 6.94 seconds. Ok. Really, I don’t know what to say about this one. I feel like I must be missing a cool gene that would allow me to see why this game scored a 96.
Arcade Hoops Basketball Lite Score: 95/100
You know how much fun it is to go into an arcade and play that basketball game where the balls just keep rolling at you, and you shoot as many as you can in a given time? This is the app for that. I haven’t played one of those in ages, but this app evokes that same eager excitement, albeit in a really compact way. You have a funny looking pair of hands on the screen, grabbing basketballs at your command and tossing them as quickly as possible. You can even play music from your iTunes library while you play. This just might be the laziest way to play basketball, but it’s fun.
Now get to gaming and let the time wasting begin.
Posted by John Hamlin in GAMING, MOBILE on 06-09-11 No Comments
How do you get teens to put down the controller and go play in the real world? You turn the great outdoors into a video game.
Geocaching, a sort of GPS-powered treasure hunt, does just that, and according to a new study it may hold the key to getting kids to exercise. When surveyed, 56 teens, ages 13 to 17, said “geocaching sounded fun and would be more enjoyable than walking,” according to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 58th Annual Meeting and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine.
What’s more, the adolescents expressed exuberance not only toward physical activity and technology, but also toward being outdoors. In fact, they said they’d prefer to be outside. That separates geocaching from other attempts to trick teens into exercising, such as Dance Dance Revolution and the Wii Fit.
The study did not, however, test whether geocaching would actually lead juveniles to begin lifetimes of fitness. There’s a gulf of difference between getting a teenager to agree that geocaching sounds cool and proving that he will actually go out and do it.
“Overall, our results suggest that rural youth are not getting the daily physical activity they need to be healthy and fit,” said Rebecca Battista, the Appalachian State University associate professor who headed the study. “Considering the high levels of interest in being active outside and in using technology, it seems like geocaching could be the perfect activity to keep young, tech-savvy people active.”
So, ultimately, we’ve confirmed that teens are sedentary, like technology and find traditional exercise boring. It’s a good start, but I could have told you that geocaching sounds fun for much less than $4,955.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, Uncategorized on 06-08-11 No Comments
We don’t know if Microsoft or Electronic Arts have any business connections in the field of orthopedic medicine, but if either one of them does, they may be poised to get ridiculously wealthy — like, even more ridiculously wealthy than they already are.
At this week’s E3 video game conference in Los Angeles, news came out that EA Sports is developing a few games that will utilize Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect system for the Xbox 360. There will be versions of Madden NFL football, FIFA soccer, and Tiger Woods golf that will require you to get up and start flailing your arms and legs.
Now, we’ve been down this road with the Nintendo Wii. Playing Tiger Woods on the Wii is cool for a while, but frankly do you really want to be standing and swinging your arms around for 18 holes? And let’s not forget the collateral damage that occurs if your room is not motion-gaming friendly. It was one thing to send your Wii controller flying into your TV screen because you didn’t use that stupid little wrist band like you were supposed to. And admit it, you didn’t use the wrist band, did you? Me neither.
But do you suppose FIFA for the Kinect is going to be downright dangerous? I’m seeing a lot of broken foot bones in the works because Joe Gamer got a little too close to the coffee table while he was trying to line up his shot.
Madden on the Kinect should be a pretty neat experience that may make the game easier and more accessible for some people. Remembering all the damn controls and getting all the button and stick combinations right is a huge pain that — to me at least — has made Madden less enjoyable over the years. But standing at the line of scrimmage, dropping back, reading the defense and actually making the “throw” rather than having to remember what buttons to push? Sounds like something I want to try.
It’s cool to see sophisticated sports titles being developed for the Kinect. When you look at the library of games currently available, the lack of good sports options is glaring. Sports is an obvious direction for this genre of gaming to go. So start rearranging your room and get that coffee table out of the way.
And maybe think about finding yourself a good orthopedist, just in case.
New podcasts available every Wednesday!
Episode 73: The TSC Zombies Live!
We celebrate our final show at Hothead Studios by breaking down sports video games from E3; talkin’ through some dang sports video baseball cards and then go getting into the fallout from Derek Boogarrd’s untimely death. Finally, what we have all been waiting for: Dan on latest on with Posada’s crazy, tweeting wife. Share this [...]
Episode 72: Dan’s Cool Rugby Shirt
Blum breaks down 42 miles on a bike with no chain. Evans reports on the Oprah/Nike summit. Dan’s got a rugby johns he would like to share. And some high tech tricks to baseball scouting. (26.8 KB, 27.10 Minutes) Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 71: The NFL For President!
Dan breaks down the body blow online poker just took from regulators. Blum talks up the new book about what the NFL has to teach capitalism. Seth hates yet another video game. And finally ESPN on your iPad. (25.3 mb, 25.4 minutes) Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 70: “Are You Ready to Rumble?”
MLB TV’s online service is legitimately cool. The Masters will be a non-event online. Tiger Woods plays with crappy equipment and Blum compares betting on Wrestlemania to trading corn futures. Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 69: “A Podcast Unlike Any Other”
The organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar seek to bend nature to their will with artificial clouds. Blum gloats over the NCAA Selection Committee’s epic seeding failures. Blackberry “Super” Apps underwhelm and Dan takes a crack at the new Masters video game. Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 68: “Revenge of the Nerds”
Seth and Blum mix it up with MIT over sports data. Dan reviews EA’s Fight Night Champion (virtual boxing is better than the real thing). Amar’e Stoudemire’s goggles get explained and the guys tour some physical fitness web sites. All that, plus, the week in review. Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 67: “Follow the Bouncing Blum”
Dan’s on the injured reserve this week, so Blum’s flying solo (with an assist from Seth the Tech Nihilist). In this episode: Seth breaks down March Madness On Demand, Blum wonders what gives with the crap-tastic apps that are dominating college athletics, a look into the NFL’s financial picture, plus the week in review at [...]
Episode 66: “It’s Hockey Night Tonight!”
It’s all hockey all the time for this week’s episode. Dan and Blum look at the cross-border battle between the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic as well as the Buffalo Sabres ownership change. Dan and Seth the Tech Nihilist reminisce about the classic NHL video games. Plus, how did a trade between the Stars and [...]
Episode 65: “Take This Job and Shove It”
Blum pitches his wild-eyed plan for NFL players to use social media to circumvent ownership. Seth the Tech-Nihilist gives his report on the new MLB.Com. Dan reviews NHL ’11 (it’s awesome) and digs into some racing tech at Daytona. Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg
Episode 64: “Jets Fans are Damaged Individuals”
As Blum gloats, Dan lets the Jets know they can go straight to hell. Also, the best televisions for your Super Bowl party; Dan discovers Broadcast HD; Blum shares his illicit passion for wooden baseball bats; PLUS, the best sports e-books for your e-reader. Share this post:ShareEmailPrintStumbleUponRedditDigg