36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

September 12, 2014

NFL: So, maybe marijuana ISN’T worse than beating your fiancee

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:28 pm

Josh Gordon has been suspended for only eight games instead of the entire season. Instead of having absolutely no hope, Cleveland now has infinitesimal hope.

Arkham Origins: The review you can use [tm]

Filed under: Reviews you can use [tm]!, Video Games — Tony Demchak @ 4:56 am

Do you like Batman? I like Batman. Both Kevin and I have written about Batman pretty frequently.

If you like Batman and video games, there are the excellent Arkham Asylum and Arkham City to grab your attention. Arkham Origins isn’t quite as good as those, but still very Batman-esque.

The story: Black Mask hires eight assassins to kill Batman, for a prize of $50 million. You punch them in the face. A lot. Finis.

There are some very entertaining plot twists and a moment that actually made me tear up a little. The gameplay is fine, with a couple of annoying glitches. Combat remains excellent, based on rhythm and strategerousness instead of pounding buttons. No real new wrinkles except the remote batclaw (which is a lot of fun) and shock gloves (you punch harder, and every hit is worth 2x for your combo instead of 1x). The remote batclaw is superior; you can use it to throw fire extinguishers at people or even hook them up to gargoyles without you being near.

Most of the boss battles are challenging without being unfairly difficult (except for Deathstroke — I HATE HIM SO MUCH — and for whatever reason, Bane was a tough one). You still have the Riddler and collectables, but now they’re bits of audio files that reveal extortion data on various thugs around the city instead of trophies.

On the whole, I’d rate it the easiest of the three games. The side missions are rarely difficult; solving more mundane crimes is a nice change of pace.

Roger Craig Smith (that is, Ezio Auditore) plays Batman; this is a younger, much angrier Batman, who you can tell actually struggles with not killing people. He’s not Kevin Conroy, and to his credit, he shouldn’t have tried. He turns in an entirely believable and excellent performance.

Troy Baker is also a talented voice actor (recently Booker deWitt in Bioshock Infinite), but I didn’t like his Joker as much. Since Arkham Origins is a prequel, this is a Joker that’s never met Batman before; their first encounter is absolutely glorious and brilliantly done, and the game delves very well into the Joker’s psyche. But Baker himself is only passable; he’s not really playing the Joker, he’s playing Mark Hamill playing the Joker.

As far as other villains are concerned, it’s a good mix of old and new. You’ve got Bane, the Joker, and the Penguin, but also Deathstroke, Copperhead, Firefly, and Shiva. Mr. Freeze’s origins are detailed in a DLC I chose not to purchase.

Arkham Origins caught a lot of flak, but not deservedly so in my opinion. There are glitches, but nothing game breaking. Batman is familiar, but different, as a character, maybe for the first time in a while. It’s fun to see how the Arkham Universe envisions the origins of certain characters. However, I do have to admit the series is finally getting just a bit stale. The stories are still engaging, but the gameplay isn’t getting better with new directions. This is partly because the original system was pretty great, but partly because Rocksteady didn’t develop this one.

There’s no reason not to play this if you liked Arkham Asylum and/or Arkham City. If you didn’t play those, I actually recommend this one more, since you’ll build up to the other two games very nicely.

September 11, 2014

Early impressions of Madden NFL 15

Filed under: Reviews you can use [tm]!, Video Games — Tony Demchak @ 12:15 am

I haven’t put a huge amount of time into Madden yet. I bought it release day (on a happy fluke, I was going to trade in games for a preorder and ended up buying Madden) but just finished the preseason and will soon begin the regular season.

– The Skills Trainer is really, really great. It taught me things about the series that I should have known a long time ago but never quite sunk in. It actually teaches you how to read defenses. Can’t say enough good things about it!

– The new tackle… cone? … is equally terrific. It gives you a quick visual on where your tackle will end up when you go after somebody, so you can judge if a diving tackle is worth trying, among other things. Another desperately needed visual upgrade is a kicking line that shows three different possible trajectories for your kick depending on how badly you screw it up. 

– AI QBs are still way too accurate. Jay Cutler had a nearly perfect day against me, but then again, he only played one quarter, so perhaps I’m not being fair. The biggest AI issue remains the DB-WR battle, which I’ve heard is already the priority for next year’s game. If true, it’s desperately needed: the DB wins these battles all too often.

– It’s nice to see Owner Mode make a comeback, and with much needed improvements. Among them is knowing what stadium upgrades actually give you. Franchise relocation is back too. No barley pop, which may or may not be good. 

– Presentation seems solid. Commentary remains hit or miss, but it’s not actively irritating. They really need to completely redo it.

– I did have the game freeze twice, and lose saved progress once. This, more than anything, is why I haven’t played it a lot (that and Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed IV). I think the latter was less a bug than me just not paying attention. 

– EA has been great about making fixes for Online Connected Franchises (so much so that I’m seriously considering making a new franchise to take advantage of it), already making three updates. If you don’t want to stay online all the time, you have to wait for a patch. There are apparently some multiplayer issues too. As I play more, I’ll post about my findings. 

– EA’s also openly reporting ongoing issues on their help page. 

September 9, 2014

The team from Baltimore does something reasonable and the NFL does too

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:32 am

Ray Rice is an asshole. We are all agreed on this, yes? Good. I have not seen the video in question because abusing spouses or spouses-to-be angries up my blood. 

Ray Rice’s video showing him (apparently) beating the ever-loving hell out of his fiancee has resulted in him getting cut and the NFL retroactively banning him “indefinitely.”

I’d like to beat the ever-loving hell out of the moron who initially thought “Hmm… spousal abuse? That’s totally a two game suspension. It’s not like he used weed or anything truly heinous.

August 29, 2014

100% of the people reading this post are reading this post (and other lies about statistics)

Filed under: Economics, Schooled!, Science!, Specific Stupidity, Technology — Tony Demchak @ 5:10 pm

A friend recently shared an article about the Ice Bucket Challenge that claimed only 27% of the money raised is going towards research. Here’s the article. 

Here’s the headline: 

ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE: ALS FOUNDATION ADMITS LESS THAN 27% OF DONATIONS FUND RESEARCH & CURES

$95 Million Later: Only 27% Of Donations Actually Help ‘Research The Cure’

I was pretty angry. The tone of the article is really awful too, slamming the ALS foundation for these heinous crimes. Yet, there’s some additional facts tucked away in a pie chart that give the lie to the headline. 19% of the funds raised go to patient and community outreach; a viable use of funding, don’t you think? 32%, the largest chunk of the funding, goes to public education. How dare they spend the money trying to make people aware of the disease and its effects! That’s what Wikipedia and webMD are for! Oh, and the $95 million figure they quote isn’t what they actually break down in the chart either — it’s only the expenses for the year ending January 31, 2014.

Given that pie chart, in fact, 79% of the donations go directly to aiding sufferers of the disease or increasing awareness; that’s pretty good. The foundation is rated very highly by Charity Navigator too. 

The salary for the CEO is pretty insane — $300k+ is nuts for a non-profit. However, it’s only a tiny slice of the total pie, and not nearly as bad as scaremongers would have you believe. If we, in the United States, don’t want to use tax dollars to contribute to health care, funding of organizations like this one is a great way to contribute. 

August 28, 2014

Josh Gordon is better than an air traffic controller

Filed under: Science!, Specific Stupidity, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 3:46 pm

I’m not surprised that Josh Gordon’s 1 year suspension was upheld. Here’s what I did find surprising, courtesy of Dawgs by Nature:

ESPN’s Outside the Lines first broke the story of the impending suspension on the second day of the NFL Draft back in early May.

 

Later report near the end of July revealed that Gordon had tested positive for marijuana, but that the level of THC metabolites were 16 nanograms per millimeter (barely over 16.01 parts per billion) in one of his samples and above the league’s absurdly low threshold of 15 ng/ml to consist of a “positive.”

 

That threshold is higher than any other major sport, including the very strict IOC, which stands at 175 ng/ml. Even air traffic controllers can have a level up to 50.

 

However, due to what effectively equates to a coin flip, the NFL’s standard testing procedure is to randomly select one of the two samples provided by the player. The first one is tested and if it comes up positive, above the threshold, the second sample is tested merely for the presence of the same banned substance, without regards to the threshold. If the first sample comes up negative, below the threshold, the second sample isn’t tested.

 

Gordon’s first 16 ng/ml sample sparked a test of his second sample. The second one came up 13.6 ng/ml. Based on this procedure, it confirmed what the league considers a “positive.” And the rest is history.

Well, it’s good to know he’ll be able to find a job directing air traffic while he’s suspended. A much less stressful job than catching footballs, apparently. 

August 21, 2014

Batman and the villain who hates him

Filed under: Television and/or Movies — Tony Demchak @ 3:55 pm

It may seem to you, dear reader, that I am undergoing some sort of metaphysical experiment, devoting this entire blog to troll Kevin and provoke a response from him. That’s a filthy lie. 

However, I did happen to find a couple of articles about the Man of Bats (not to be confused with Bat Manuel) and his principal villain, the Joker. 

First up, we have a ranking of everybody who has ever played the Joker. Noting that I’ve seen relatively little of the animated series, I think any list that has Nicholson over Ledger is just, well, wrong. Mark Hamill as number one… Kevin will, almost certainly, agree with this assessment (I believe he’s done so before). Based on the video games, I will say that he’s done a remarkable job of capturing Joker’s essence, even if he’s just a tiny bit more cartoonish than I’d like my Joker. 

Second, we have a report of a disaster nearly averted: Pierce Brosnan as Batman. I like Pierce Brosnan. I really do. The Thomas Crown Affair was a great flick, and he’s my generation’s James Bond. He was even great in Remington Steele. What he would be awful as is Batman. At no point in his film career have I seen intensity, and intensity is a sine qua non for Batman. Christian Bale had it, Val Kilmer had it in small doses (even if it was more imperiousness than intensity). Michael Keaton had at least some of it. Brosnan has zero. He’s spent so much time playing “cool, calm, and collected” that it’s completely mad to think of him genuinely losing his shit, or just barely hanging on. 

Ben Affleck can have a vindictive asshole type personality — see the brilliant Dogma — which means that he could bring that level of “he might lose his shit” to Batman. Maybe he’ll fail, but as I’ve already argued, Batman movies rarely succeed or fail based on who plays Batman.

August 20, 2014

Yay sanity

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 6:22 pm

It may not be sexy, it may not sell as many tickets, but Pettine made, in my estimation, the right move: Brian Hoyer will be the starting QB for the Browns. Manziel needs some time to be seasoned, to learn the offense, and to develop both as a mature adult and as a quarterback.  

August 15, 2014

Please, Mike Pettine — reconsider

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 1:12 am

I really, really want Johnny Manziel to succeed. A key part of that success is learning the NFL on the sidelines. And yet… there are reports that if Manziel has a monster game on Monday Night Football, he could start for the Browns against Pittsburgh on September 7. The last sentence of the article tries to backtrack some, but I fear what might happen if there’s too much pressure on Johnny too early. 

I hope Pettine knows what he’s doing.

July 30, 2014

Woo marginal improvement!

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 7:30 pm

In a trade that shall rock the very foundations of baseball for eons to come, the Indians traded Justin Masterson for a pretty decent outfield prospect. His stats on Baseball Reference are promising, and he’s been tearing up AA. Might even get a September call up, although it’s far more likely we’ll see him next season. He strikes me as Michael Bourn, but healthy and with a contract that isn’t horrific. That’s if he doesn’t develop power. If he does, we could be looking at a Mike Cameron with better plate discipline. Sign me up for that!

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