Posted by Jonathan in EQUIPMENT, GAMING on 05-19-11 No Comments
Sports gamers looking for the cool Kinect vibe, but without the $150 sticker shock, will almost certainly be getting some good news soon.
A company called Omek Interactive said its software will be used by the newly announced iSec Sports & Entertainment Center — which is turning out to be a LOT like the Kinect. No word on the pricing and other stats for the iSec.
But clearly it’ won’t be long before a game shows up in a Walmart near you.
Here is the press release.
Posted by Seth in GAMING on 05-19-11 No Comments
The way development is going for this year’s version of Madden football from EA Sports, we may not need an actual NFL season.
The game will be hitting stores in August, right around the time the players and owners probably will be hitting critical mass in the courtroom, and there are plenty of details emerging about new tweaks. The franchise mode will be taking on a whole lot of new features, including variable player ratings that will rise or fall from week to week based on how well the player performed and what his confidence level is. So if your all-world running back fumbled on the goal line last week and his confidence took a hit, his player rating will decrease for the following week’s game
You’ll also have to decide what players to cut during training camp, you’ll have to bid on free agents and you’ll be able to trade future years’ picks during the draft. Perhaps more importantly, teams controlled by the computer in franchise mode will act like their real-life counterparts. As Madden 12 senior designer Josh Looman told ESPN.com, “If you’re watching the draft and the Raiders are on the clock and they are picking between a receiver with good hands or a burner, they’ll always pick the speed guy.”
So virtual Al Davis will act more like real Al Davis.
All the bells and whistles are cool, of course. The realism of the franchise mode is what keeps a lot of sports gamers interested. But I always wonder how much is too much. I mean, at a certain point, I just want to pick up the controller and play without having to do so much pesky thinking.
Posted by Alex Dalenberg in GAMING on 05-18-11 No Comments
I might not have guessed this seeing as online Call of Duty inspired my college roommate to invent whole new categories of swearing, but a study from the University of Huddersfield in England has found that sports video games elicit a more emotional response than shoot-em-up games.
Researchers tested players for heart rate, perspiration and brain activity with one test group playing a soccer game and another playing a shooter. They found that killing someone in a game elicited very little response, while scoring a goal sent their instruments haywire.
The results mirrored an earlier study by one of the same researchers involving auto racing games. Driving gets us worked up, emptying a clip not so much.
Of course this adds another layer to the whole debate over whether violent video games actually cause violent behavior. One of the study’s authors, Dr. Simon Goodson, told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, the study shows that such fears are over blown:
“There is much concern over the effects of violent video games and how these contribute to general aggression However, this research indicates that ‘killing’ someone is not as ‘real’ as playing a sport and the brain recognizes this and doesn’t react in the same way.”
Of course this hasn’t stopped some from inferring the opposite tack, witness the headline “Football video games make players more aggressive than violent ones” (the actual story is more measured). I’m not exactly sure what “aggressive” is supposed to mean exactly. I guess if we have a rash of urban youths running out and slide tackling old ladies in the street because they’re jacked after a game of Pro Evolution Soccer we may have a problem.
All in all I’d say it’s probably good news for humanity if we can better envision ourselves making corner kicks than sniper shots and good news for the folks at EA Sports et. al. if they’re pumping out something that might actually be scientifically more exciting than Modern Warfare 2.
Posted by Alex Dalenberg in GAMING, MOBILE on 04-24-11 No Comments
Anybody who played video games in the 90s should know that EA Sports reviving Midway’s realistic basketball simulation NBA Jam last year was a stroke of genius. The 2010 redux showed fealty to its venerable source material — Tim Kirtzrow screaming IS IT THE SHOES while LeBron / Kobe / Whoever dunks a flaming basketball from 20 feet in the air — while throwing in enough new wrinkles to keep things interesting.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see an iPad version of NBA Jam land in the App Store last week, joining the iPhone and iPod Touch versions released earlier this year. At $10 it’s one of the more expensive than your typical mobile game but, if you’re looking for new and better ways to waste your time, I can safely say that, like its console predecessors, NBA Jam for iPad is a slam dunk.
This isn’t a stripped-down version a big boy game that you can run at home on your tablet when you’re not at home to play the real deal. The essence of NBA Jam is all here: ridiculous arcade-style play, big-time stars with giant heads dunking basketballs from the free throw line, a quick-play mode and a 36-team campaign where you work your way up from the NBA’s scrubs (sorry Timberwolves) toward a showdown with the Magic/Bird Mega Team. And the whole thing looks and sounds awesome with plenty of little touches like the dunk-faces your players get after posterizing an opponent or your team’s mascot pumping its fist on the sidelines.
The touch controls take a little getting used to, especially if you’ve been programmed since age eight to mash down on the turbo button, but after a couple beatings from the likes of Kevin Love I found myself back in my early-90s groove, having the the big guy dish it in mid-dunk to my dead-eye shooter beyond the arc. The game makes some use of the accelerometer — you can shake the iPad to throw your elbows — but I found that sometimes my screen ended upside down which usually ended up with a 360 jam for the other guys.
In true EA fashion you can also unlock bonus players and abilities by knocking off certain teams or completing challenges like dunking 10 times in a game (Ronny Seikaly) or scoring 100 points in a game. You unlock Detlef Schrempf by just turning the game on for the first time, and the Beastie Boys team by adding your own music with the iPod feature (and if you play long enough you can unlock players that aren’t white). Of course, if you’re a lazy bastard you can skip all that and just buy packages of classic players or 99 cents apiece from the online NBA Jam store.
One downside: while there is a local multiplayer option (you can play on the same WiFi network or with a bluetooth) you can’t play online. So if you’re like me and you’re the only guy in the room with an iPad you’ll most likely be flying solo on this. That being said, seeing as the console version will cost you about $50 this is a more-than worthy substitute.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, INTERNET on 04-21-11 No Comments
Because I didn’t grow up with a video game system, and because I have no hand-eye coordination to speak of, my favorite sports video games emphasize strategy over simulation.
I played Micro League Baseball and Old Time Baseball and Mac Pro Football, which apparently is so old and obscure at this point that a Google search failed to find any reference to it. These games used real-life players and teams and let you make all the in-game decisions.
Video gaming has come a hell of a long way since I last played any of these games, but all the game-makers seem to have done is muck up strategy-based sports games with a whole bunch of incredibly boring nonsense.
EA Sports has gone big into these games with its Play4Free offerings on Facebook. And this baseball season, Sega launched MLB Manager Online. On the surface, these seem like cool ideas, allowing you to manage teams and play sports games without needing to master all the button and stick work it takes to play console-based titles like Madden NFL or MLB 2K11
But instead of keeping the emphasis on in-game strategy and gameplay, some of these games get themselves confused with God of War. In MLB Manager Online, you start off with crumb-bum major leaguers and you have to complete tasks to earn points and then you use the points to train up your motley crew so they get better and you can earn enough points to buy better players. The actual baseball game almost seems secondary.
Maybe there’s not enough excitement in just calling pitches, deciding whether to swing away or bunt or whether to run off tackle or up the middle. Maybe gamers’ tastes have become more sophisticated over the years. All I know is I killed many an hour playing Mac Pro Football, watching little X’s and O’s — not fancy-schmancy graphics — on one of those tiny black and white screens the original MacIntosh computers had. That held my interest. But powering up players got old after about 15 minutes.
This is the same problem that doomed EA Sports’ ill-fated NFL Head Coach, which tried to do sports strategy in a console game. It was a great idea, but it didn’t take long to figure out they didn’t execute it very well. The first thing it made you do was start at the beginning of the offseason, and then you had to go to the scouting combine. The real-world scouting combine is boring as hell, so imagine how exciting it must be to work your way through a simulated one.
Maybe it’s just the nostalgia-loving side of me, but today’s strategy-based sports games will just never come close to the old-school favorites. Man, I miss my Micro League.
Posted by Jonathan in GAMING on 03-13-11 No Comments
Got 10 minutes? The uber geeks at MIT have decided that the world needs some primary data on folks who play sports video games, so they have created an online survey. It’s easy, kind of cool and you get to fill out a form that some sports nerd reads in Singapore. What could be better?
Just hit this link. Of course, they don’t pay. Hey, this is MIT. It’s all about them. But at least somebody is doing some hard research on what makes a great sports game.
You get the satisfaction of helping figure out how to make, say, Madden2016 rock.
Posted by Seth in GAMING, TELEVISION on 02-21-11 No Comments
It was Hockey Day in America on Sunday — a celebration of the game at all levels. Unfortunately, we think Hockey Video Game Day in America might catch more people’s attention.
We don’t mean that as any sort of slam against hockey. On the contrary, I’m an unabashed fan — an NHL Center Ice subscriber, an avid fantasy hockey league player. But there’s no denying that the NHL is phenomenally enjoyable in its video game form, yet it has trouble translating that into a mass audience on TV or general interest among sports fans.
I listen to a lot of national sports talk radio. They don’t get into the NHL. Even when something controversial happens — like the Long Island Massacre between the Penguins and Islanders — you don’t hear the national talk shows get into it. The NHL is the only one of the big four pro leagues in North America that doesn’t have a deal with ESPN. Hence ESPN’s myriad talking heads talk precious little hockey.
But hockey video games — in all their incarnations over the years — have always been addictive, and have crossed lines that the real game hasn’t. It’s in pop culture. Think about those guys in Swingers. I can’t find a clip, but there’s a scene in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins — a movie in which the entire cast is African-American — where they’re sitting around playing one of the EA Sports hockey games. For a host of cultural and lamentable socio-economic reasons, hockey attracts few black players or fans. Yet there they were playing the game.They could have used Madden NFL or an NBA game in the film — or whatever game they wanted. But they didn’t. And that goes hand in hand with Dan’s story on our recent podcast about he and his black classmates on the school bus debating which teams were the best to use in one of the old-school Sega hockey games. The games are just plain fun.
So what is it about video game hockey that works? The speed, for one thing. And, as Dan mentioned, the “cartoon” element of the game. EA Sports has made its game much more realistic over the last few years, yet it remains so fast-paced and fluid that it has mass appeal. Even with all the extra functions and moves they’ve built into it over the years, at its core it can still be played with a directional stick, a pass button and a shoot button.
The Hockey Day in America concept is an attempt to highlight the game’s roots in the U.S. The problem is, those roots aren’t too deep. During NBC’s broadcast of the Penguins-Blackhawks game on Sunday, announcer Doc Emrick cited a number that says it all: The Penguins have 10 American players on their roster. In 1970, there were seven Americans in the entire NHL. As narrow-minded and provincial as it sounds, the low number of American players in the league has hindered interest in the NHL. American fans don’t feel like they “know” these guys because they come from such different places and sometimes have names that give copy editors nightmares. NBC’s hockey broadcasts have had trouble reaching 1 percent of U.S. television households.
But on your video game console none of that matters. You can skate fast and hit hard, and if you set the difficulty low enough, Sidney Crosby can have a 100-goal season. And that never gets old.
Posted by Dan in GAMING on 09-23-10 No Comments
OK, well, it isn’t quite like that: Your virtual player will get to meet a virtual president. NBA 2K11 is coming out on Oct. 5, and as we talked about in an earlier podcast, it will have all kinds of goodies. The big hook is the ability to finally get to use Michael Jordan in a modern NBA video game. And apparently, if you win the NBA championship in the game, your virtual team that you slaved over a console with gets its trip to the White House to meet the baller-in-chief. Personally, I think it is a pretty good likeness.
Posted by Seth in GAMING on 08-05-10 No Comments
The new version of Madden NFL football from EA Sports is hitting the streets, and a bunch of retired players are hitting back with a lawsuit.
This one has been brewing for a long time. For years, Madden games have included great historical teams from the NFL’s past. The current teams in each year’s Madden release have up-to-date rosters, including the players’ names. But EA Sports doesn’t have the rights to use the names of the players who were on those teams of yesteryear, so they do everything short of that. The player renderings include the guys’ heights and weights, and the player attributes are set to reflect the performances of the real-life players. To shroud things a little, they change the uniform numbers, but that’s it.
Some of us industrious gamers who have nothing better to do have gone in there and edited the names and uniform numbers on those historical teams in order to give them a greater sense of realism. But that is incredibly tedious. So, come to think about it, it would be nice if EA Sports would just cough up whatever dough is necessary to keep the ex-players happy. It has always felt pretty cheesy firing up the 1988 San Francisco 49ers and seeing Joe Montana wearing No. 19 instead of No. 16, or looking at Walter Payton on the 1985 Bears wearing anything other than No. 34.
So come on, EA Sports. You guys are the kings of sports video games. Surely there’s a little coin to go around, no?
Posted by Seth in GAMING, GENERAL, INTERNET on 06-21-10 No Comments
Last week, Blum and I had a little debate over the usefulness of sports broadcast packages delivered via gaming consoles after ESPN announced a partnership with Microsoft to stream ESPN3 content via the Xbox 360.
I thought it was a pretty cool idea, but one of the concerns I voiced turned out to be well-founded.
Over the weekend, Major League Baseball ran a free preview of its MLB.tv package via the PlayStation 3. It was the first chance I’ve had to check out live streaming content over a gaming console, and while I still think this method of content delivery has some promise, there are definite drawbacks to it as well.
The MLB.tv package definitely delivers an HD picture, but something about the image quality wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but it just didn’t look as good as a true HD TV feed. Blum tells me that what I was noticing was the difference in the amount of signal compression between the feed delivered via the Web and the one delivered through my DirecTV dish. It was still a nice, bright image, and definitely watchable, but just not at the full clarity I’m used to.
On another note, I do think the package had better interactive features than Blum gave it credit for. You can rewind a game to any point, and as you’re rewinding, the line score pops up on the screen and it highlights what inning it is. So on Sunday, I missed the Pirates’ two-run rally in the eighth inning that led to their 5-3 win against Cleveland. I rewound the game until the bottom of the eighth was lit up in the line score and was able to stop it right there and watch what I wanted. There’s also an archive, so you can go back and watch games you missed, which is a nice perk. And that rewind function lets you sift through all those games and quickly find the action you’re looking for. One thing I didn’t see was a box score/stats display. That would be extremely useful.
Overall, I was fairly impressed, though I think the compression issue is something these packages will need to solve in order for them to really gain traction.
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