Game blogging update and Baseball HOFs

I’m going to move future game blogging to my Patreon page. I will occasionally make comments about non-gaming (i.e. sports stuff) here, but the gaming stuff fits more over there. I’ll be starting my YouTube channel soon, so keep an eye out for that!

As far as the Hall of Fame voting, in all honesty, there weren’t that many surprises, unless you count Pudge sailing in despite the controversies of his career. I was pleasantly surprised to see Manny surpass 25% and Bonds and Clemens to break 50%, which means good things for their candidacies. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman now look like locks, although the 2018 class has some strong first time candidates (Chipper Jones and Jim Thome strike me as definite first ballot guys, and I expect Scott Rolen will get in eventually). My favorite case for next year is Jamie Moyer; he won 260+ games, so we’ll have to see what kind of voting he gets. Vizquel will get traction, but probably not make it the first time.

Jorge Posada did better than I expected, getting almost enough to stay on the ballot, but I’m surprised Drew or Orlando Cabrera didn’t get a vote. The Boston thing must not be as strong as I thought.



Life and times of Avindian

I have once again been absent for some time. In particular, I’ve yet to write on the Hall of Fame election, which I plan to do in the not-too-distant future. Similarly, I have some overdue thoughts on Madden 17 to share.

I am thinking of properly starting my YouTube channel soon. I’ve gotten a little bit of experience doing some videos; once I’m a bit more comfortable, I will start posting videos. Until then, my friends!

Hall of Fame Coverage

I deeply apologize to you, dear readers. I have been quite busy with other projects and have failed you. We have two Hall of Fame ballots to discuss for baseball and I haven’t talked about either one! Shall we? Yes, I believe we shall!

Author’s note: They went and elected people to the HOF while this article was in draft mode, the jerks. Therefore, I will keep my original Veterans’ Committee piece, but will say who won at the end (so you don’t try to cheat).

First, the Veterans’ Committee will consider the “Today’s Game” Ballot, which includes players from 1988 to the Present. Like the normal HOF, you need 75% of the vote, which means 12 ballots. There are ten candidates:

Harold Baines: Baines was a very good player for a very long time, but if you’re a guy (or gal) obsessed with peak, he’s not your pick. He’s well regarded, which is a point in his favor, but he barely cracked the 5% mark. He’s a better version of Tony Perez without Joe Morgan in his corner. Compared to other OFs, he’s terrible, and he’s not a good enough DH to make it ahead of Edgar Martinez. Baines, offensively, just wasn’t a huge force. 121 OPS+ just isn’t hugely impressive. Pass.

Albert Belle: Belle is the opposite of Baines in many ways. Belle was awesome at his peak, especially 1995. He was also an asshole and made few friends. Belle’s peak is noteworthy. By rate statistics, Belle is an amazing offensive hitter. He only had two seasons of under 100+, and in one of those, he had all of 25 PAs. That said, his career was extremely short. If he’d played five more years, he could have approached 600 home runs, and this would be a much more interesting conversation. The combination of his personality and short career will doom him. Pass.

Will Clark: I kind of like the idea of Clark in the Hall of Fame. He was actually surprisingly good (I genuinely didn’t remember much about him before going to B-Ref). He’s not outstanding, but he’s a better candidate, arguably, than Baines or Belle. He was even pretty decent defensively, winning a Gold Glove. He’s even better than the average 1B in the HOF (although Perez is one of them, so…) That said, he’s not remarkable enough to really make the Hall. He lacked overwhelming power, and that’s almost sine qua non for a Hall of Fame 1B. He had one season of more than 30+ HRs, a career slugging percentage of < .500, and an OPS+ of only 137. Pass.

Orel Hershiser: Hershiser was solid. He peaked young–1987-1989–but was a perfectly serviceable innings eater for much of the rest of his career. He’s well regarded and pitched on a memorable team in 1988. That said, it’s hard to get excited about a pitcher with an ERA barely over league average and some frankly terrible FIP numbers in the 1990s. Pass.

Davey Johnson: Johnson, as a player, is not in the conversation. As a manager, he had an amazing career with the Mets, but settled into being quite good overall. In 17 seasons, he had 14 seasons over .500. He got into the playoffs seven times, but never quite reached the heights of 1986. His playoff record is a significant negative, however. Pass.

Mark McGwire: Big Mac was really, really good at hitting homers. Everything–good and bad–feeds off of that. He’s done a decent job of rehabilitating his name, especially his bizarre interview with Bob Costas. His offensive capabilities are undeniable, and in a neutral world, he’s a definite Hall of Famer. The question is the slippery slope argument: if McGwire gets in, you’ll have to let in other confirmed cheaters who were better players (see Clemens and Bonds). I would let him in, but I’m not sure the Hall will. Hit… but likely a pass from the actual committee.

Lou Pinella: A long career of barely above averaging managing. He was on some bad teams, some mediocre teams, and a single World Series title. He’s a better case than Davey Johnson, but only because of his lengthier career. Pass.

John Schuerholz: As a GM, he’s one of the best all time. Hit.

Bud Selig: I can’t imagine him not getting in. He essentially ended labor disputes, presided over significant expansions in the number of teams and playoffs spots, and saw baseball’s popularity explode. Hit.

George Steinbrenner: As an owner, it’s hard to think of a more successful individual. He took the Yankees when they were a joke and made them into a juggernaut again. Hit.

My ballot: McGwire, Steinbrenner, Selig, Schuerholz.

So who actually won? Click below!

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Browns down to 53

Cleveland cut their roster to 53 players in preparation for the season opener. Since I’ve watched all four preseason games, here are some thoughts about the final roster, including some of the more surprising (or not surprising) cuts.

Quarterback: RGIII has looked pretty decent this preseason, and I think he’ll be a good starter for Cleveland. McCown as the backup makes sense. Kessler has been somewhat questionable, looking lost at the big stage, but he was a bit of a project anyway. I think he’ll turn out to be serviceable.

Running Back: Carrying four on the roster seems excessive. Crowell will probably get most carriers, followed by Duke Johnson. Watson is there to be a goal-line back. I’m not sure what role Mostert will play.

Fullback: We have a fullback named Malcolm Johnson. Now you know as much I do.

Wide Receiver: Terrell Pryor has natural chemistry with RGIII; I’m impressed with him more than anyone else on the offense so far. Coleman was hurt for part of the preseason, but I’m hoping he’ll be fine. Andrew Hawkins made it, but he’s so similar to Coleman that I think he’s mostly around for “veteran presence” than out of a skill set. All three other rookies made the team, which I did not expect. Cutting Taylor Gabriel strikes some as surprising, but it’s not that a big shock because he and Hawkins were so similar. We were bound to keep one or the other, not both. Marlon Moore was a good special teamer but had little else to offer. Darius Jennings was Marlon Moore with 5% more upside.

Tight End: Barnidge had communication issues with RGIII early on in the preseason, but those seem settled. Randall Telfer is a blocking tight end. Seth DeValve has Antonio Gates-levels of potential, but he didn’t show much in the preseason.

Offensive Line: Austin Pasztor won the right tackle job, which was not surprising, but I hoped for more from Spencer Drago. Drago did make the team, but he’ll be a backup, as will Shon Coleman and Alvin Bailey. Erving looked acceptable at center; we’ll miss Alex Mack, but I think Erving has made some impressive strides and could be a good one. Del Greco will start at RG, Joe Thomas at LT, and Joel Bitonio at LG. No surprises there.

Defensive Line:  Danny Shelton was one of the most invisible players during the preseason. I’m a little concerned that he didn’t make more of an impact, but there were no serious contenders for his job. Carl Nassib, on the other hand, was brilliant and will be a wonderful addition to the team. John Hughes III is okay, I guess. Jamie Meder has a lot of speed and showed some solid work. Xavier Cooper also has upside. We signed a guy named Stephen Paea and I have no idea what he does, but maybe he’s okay?

Inside Linebacker: Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey will start, and that works for me. They’re the best possible pair. Tank Carder is a great special team player, but he’s not too inspiring otherwise. I don’t remember hearing the name Dominique Alexander at all. Scooby Wright has a lot of sleeper potential; I like the cut of his jib, although he’ll mostly be a backup to start.

Outside Linebacker: Emmanuel Ogbah was a beast as a pass rusher (along with Nassib). Nate Orchard is going to get some more reps as an everyday player, which I think is wise; he’s not just a pure rusher, although he’s good at that. I’m not sure who the other two guys are.

Safeties: We’re carrying five safeties, which is just bizarre to me. Ibraheim Campbell and Jordan Poyer are heavy hitters who are underwhelming in coverage. Derrick Kindred had some good hits as well, and he’s a little more of a ballhawk. I’m interested to see if he gets regular playing time. Rahim Moore is there for veteran leadership and not much else. He’s the Andrew Hawkins of the secondary. Don Jones is not the love child of Tom Jones and Don Johnson. Beyond that, I don’t know what he brings to the table. Pierre Desir was a meh corner without much speed, which made him a decent candidate for safety, but he’s not very good at that either. Maybe he needs a better team, since he got cut.

Cornerback: Oooooof. This is not a great unit. If he’s healthy, Joe Haden is top notch, but the rest of the lineup is underwhelming. Tramon Williams plays well if he cares. Jamar Taylor is a reclamation project who got torched a couple of times. Trey Caldwell is a rookie. Tracy Howard is a football player, supposedly. Charles Gaines got cut because he sucks (really, really badly). Trading Justin Gilbert to Pittsburgh I don’t entirely approve of. Gilbert wasn’t outstanding by any stretch of the imagination, but I liked him more than Williams, and a 6th rounder wasn’t great value for a former first rounder. Then again, Dawgs By Nature suspects he was going to get cut, so a sixth rounder is better than nothing. If any team can salvage Gilbert, it’s the Steelers.

Special Teams: The new kicker is Patrick Murray. I liked Travis Coons from last year, but while he was decently accurate, his leg wasn’t the best. Murray’s got a lot more power. Andy Lee was already traded for being a shitty tackler (I don’t love the deal, but we did get better pick than we did for Gilbert), so our new punter is Britton Colquitt. Colquitt is good, if not outstanding.

All in all, I’m not surprised with how the roster ended up. One  of the rookie wideouts will get cut when Josh Gordon comes back from his suspension, so they’ll be fighting hard to impress. I think there’s some potential here.

Where’s the Penguatroll?

You may be asking yourself, “Where’s that handsome gentleman who provided great content and has not at all been slacking with the content, not even a little?” I’ve undergone a rebranding in connection with my campaign to, one day, become a YouTube sensation with ALL THE VIEWERS AND SUBSCRIBERS. If you want to help me reach that goal, you can pledge some of your hard earned cash to do just that. What a bargain!*

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Game design and Uplink [A partial review you can use [TM] ]

In the Steam Summer sale, I picked up an upgrade for Prison Architect that also got me the entire back catalog of Introversion. One of those games was Uplink. Uplink is a hacking game; it’s somewhat similar to Hacknet, which is much newer and text based (and in my opinion, the better game), but there’s an odd design flaw in it. At least, I consider it a flaw.

One of the story missions has you hack into somebody’s LAN. Every time you access the main file server, the system admin will sign on and kick you off. The problem is that there’s no way to avoid this, because you need files off the server. What frustrates me is that it’s repetitive and dull; if you know what you’re doing, it isn’t the least bit dangerous, just dull.

I mention Uplink for another, better reason: unobtrusive tutorials. Now, back in the days of yore, I was an aficionado of the printed manual. The SimAnt manual remained in my possession far longer than the game did. Today, that’s replaced by a tutorial. Now, sometimes tutorials can be terrific: for example, the intro to Skyrim is really well done. The idea of being thrust into Big Things Happening feels very dynamic and fresh. Prison Architect’s campaign mode is a fun little tutorial that gives you the basics without holding your hand too much. The same thing is true for Uplink (and Hacknet). There’s plenty to discover, even if you’re not quite sure how things work.

Since this is a review, I should probably tell you whether or not to get Uplink instead of just musing about it. Uplink is a little dated but a quality title. If you’re clever, you can make the game ridiculously easy, but until then you will have plenty of entertaining failures. The story is surprisingly dull, to be honest. In fact, you can miss the story entirely without trying too hard. That doesn’t make it a bad game by any means, and it has enjoyable moments, but the replay value is somewhat minimal.

So long, Barkevious

I am an acknowledged fan of Barkevious Mingo, both in Madden and in real life. However, apart from his ridiculously awesome name, he produced surprisingly little on the field. He is now a New England Patriot for the price of a fifth round pick. The Patriots think he can contribute on special teams and/or act as depth. I myself suggested Mingo was a pure pass rusher and not likely to provide much else of value; it turns out he couldn’t even do that very well.

That was a pretty lousy draft for Cleveland, which is fair given the number of picks we had, but at least Armonty Bryant turned out to have some talent. He’s suspended for four games, but he’s far and away the best player from the class, so… yay?

Penguatroll on the move

We’ll be moving at the end of this week. It’ll be a little bittersweet to leave Kansas, but it’s just time to move on and find something a little better for us. Probably no posts from me for a while, so hopefully you find Kevin’s posts on computinating brilliantly entertaining!

This War of Mine: The Review You Can Use [TM]

This War of Mine is the hardest PC game I’ve ever played.

I do not mean that it’s difficult, although it is. I mean that some of the most heart-wrenching moments I’ve ever experienced in gaming occurred while I was playing it.

This War of Mine is a fairly simple premise: you control a group of up to five survivors trying to live through a civil war. The specific war is fictional, but it is pretty clear that the game is inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo. As a setting, it’s certainly unusual, since only GTA IV (of all games that I know) covered that conflict with even the lightest touch. You have one goal: survive until the ceasefire.

The actual gameplay is quite simple; it works well on a tablet (only $2.99 as of this post on the Android store!), so on a PC, it runs buttery smooth. You click on a character, then click on what you want them to do, whether it’s cook, work on the shelter, grow vegetables, or bait a rat trap with fertilizer.

The day/night cycle is what makes the game the work. During the day, you stay in the shelter and work on stuff. During the night, you scavenge for supplies, guard the shelter, or just sleep. Each character has a special skill that is of value. My starting three were Bruno, Pavle, and Katia. Bruno was a former TV chef (and a good cook), Pavle was a fast runner (I don’t remember his background), and Katia was a journalist with the ability to make better deals when trading. Other characters have other skills; you can have up to five in the shelter, but the most I ever got to was three. You start with a random three, then gain new survivors randomly.

Note that I said “was” for all three of them. My first full playthrough was a failure. I made it to around 40 days of survival, but “survival” is used very loosely. Only Katia made it to the end, and by “made it”, I mean that all the people she had murdered in order to survive, the friends she saw die in the shelter, and one final raid by criminals caused her to kill herself. Katia spent most of her last week alive trying to treat and save another survivor, who had a horrible illness; he was fatally wounded in another raid.

The most gripping moment in the game, the one that made me stop and think for a moment, was being desperate for food. One of the scavenging locations is a house owned by an elderly couple. Katia snuck into the house to rob as much as she could, but when I tried to steal their food, I surprised the old couple. They initially just asked me to leave, but when I stayed, they got their son. I killed the son and a his father with a shovel, while the elderly lady cried over her dead husband. I killed her too, just on the off chance she might have a little more food. Katia was depressed for almost a week, but we survived.

I’ve killed millions, possibly billions of people in video games. You probably have too. But for some reason, killing the elderly couple bothered me.

I highly recommend this game, both because it’s well designed and very slick, but also because it’s an amazing emotional experience. The music is amazing, yet understated. It’s so different from most war games that it’s worth playing. Purely as a game, it’s remarkable deep, and that’s without the “Little Ones” DLC, which adds children to the game (although I had one in the base game). In one of the nicest touches, if you buy that DLC, a portion goes to support orphaned war children. You can even just use Steam to buy the War Child DLC, which donates $1 to the charity and adds some street art to the game.

Why I’m giving up on Morrowind (again)

I learned a new internet acronym the other day: FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. It’s the phenomenon that occurs when everybody talks about a new form of entertainment, be it movie, TV show, music, comic book, video game, etc., and you don’t want to be left out of the conversation. As a result, you consume media you would not normally consume just so that you can keep up with the virtual Joneses.

I’ve documented my love/hate relationship with Morrowind in the past. I played it a long time ago, found it arcane and confusing, then never played it again. I got further in this time before tapping out. The main reason I’ve uninstalled this time is to free up hard drive space, but a few things still bother me about the game.

One of the biggest problems is a problem that existed in the original Witcher (which I loved): trying too hard to abstract D&D combat rules. There is little skill in combat. You approach a bad guy and click buttons until they are dead. There is little strategy. Because magic can (and does) fail, it’s an unreliable weapon at best.Archery seems suboptimal because aiming is strange; I can’t always predict what will hit and what won’t, which some might call a feature, but it means that every time you loose an arrow, you could be incurring monster wrath for no benefit.

Stamina is my other major complaint. It’s too limiting. Every action in the game uses stamina to a greater or lesser degree, so if you don’t carry lots of potions, you’re more or less screwed. You don’t heal over time, which also makes potions vitally necessary, especially since if you cast a healing spell and the spell fails, you lose stamina, which makes you more vulnerable, ad nauseam. Later Elder Scrolls games did away with this (entirely appropriately, IMO). Mods can correct this latter problem, and if/when I do reinstall the game, I will certainly consider more mods.

The reason I keep coming back to the game is mostly FOMO at this stage. Some people I know love Morrowind and speak very highly of it. I can see glimpses, here and there, of why they enjoy it. The world is small but dense and surprisingly detailed. Perhaps if Skywind is ever finished I’ll come back to Morrowind, but for now, I’ve got other games to play.