Category Archives: Sports

Thursday notes

Just a quick post to let you know that I’m still alive.

Still dealing with some issues with getting our house in Wisconsin sold, but we look to be very close to having the family back together again.

Outside of that, I’ll be posting my impressions of Football Manager 2015, which releases tomorrow, at some point in the next week.

Lastly, the funeral for my grandfather was a difficult time but I thank all of you who sent notes to me for your concern.  I greatly appreciated all of your kind thoughts and words.

Talk to you all again soon.

Tuesday notes

- Long time, no see.

– A week and a half ago, I closed on our new home in the Atlanta suburbs and have been doing a bit of work on it since then.  Nothing really major needed to be repaired, but it’s been little things like replacing a shower head, fixing a light switch that had a lose connection, removing bidets that were installed on every toilet (seriously, bidets) and getting the place cleaned.  The people really didn’t treat the place with any sort of respect for a property that they owned.  It was as if they thought it was a rental and just used it up until they sold it.

Once we’re done with it, it will look great though, so that’s a good thing.

– The Brewers season went out with a massive whimper as they completely stopped hitting down the stretch.  The pitching held up their end, but they were constantly getting beat 3-2 or 2-1.  Personally, I blame myself for moving away.   At least now I don’t have to feel bad about missing any potential playoff games.

– Excited that the NHL season starts up next week and I will be signing up for NHL Gamecenter again to make sure that I can catch all of the Islanders games.  It’s a bummer that there isn’t an NHL franchise down here in Atlanta any more, but from what I’ve heard from people here, no one ever really cared about the team.

Still, I have options to get to visiting Islanders games if I want to make a drive to get to Carolina, Florida, or Tampa Bay.  (Not that any of those are short drives.)

– Lastly, it is incredible to look at the Premier League table at ANY time of the year and see Crystal Palace ahead of Liverpool.  Dan can give me grief for mentioning it, but it has been great to watch the Eagles play as well as they have over the last few weeks.  From what I have found, the last time that the team was this high in the table was at the end of the season in 1992.  So, there is a bit of a cause for enthusiasm there.

– I’ll be back with a few posts in the next day or so talking about FIFA 15, the PES 15 demo, Destiny, and Edge of Tomorrow.

NHL 15 thoughts

I’ve only been able to play a few games but here are my very early thoughts about NHL 15.

– After 3 games, I had already seen a repeat video introduction (by Doc Emmerick and Eddie Olczyk) at the beginning of the game.  That doesn’t bode very well for how quickly you’re going to want to skip through that particular pregame feature.

The NHL on NBC presentation throughout the game is very well done and does look quite a bit like an actual game broadcast, so that is definitely an enhancement to the game.

– Visually, the new physics engine is quite impressive and does a great job with the replication of how players bodies react to hits.  There are still some times where players move in a robotic fashion that doesn’t look right and when those moments happen, it is quite jarring.  There are times when you see a CPU player try a tricky stick move to slide a puck past a defender that are incredibly cool though.  It’s in each of those moments that you feel like the game is really moving towards something special in the future, sadly there are a lot of other issues that make you think that we could be waiting a while to get to a point when the game is really feature complete.

– Crowd audio doesn’t really seem in sync with how the game action is taking place.  In one of my games I put a tremendous hip check into a player and was there wasn’t a bit of crowd noise for the hit.  Other times, a period would end and the crowd wouldn’t make a noise for a few seconds then, all of a sudden, they would react like the team scored.  So, there are definitely some audio issues there.

– My early experiences with the game play have been terrific.  In my first game (the matchup that you have to play between Los Angeles and New York once you launch the game) I fell behind quickly due to some bad defensive lapses, but was able was able to put a few goals together quickly to be able to make a game of it.

The pro level, that the game defaults to, does seem to allow for a good deal more scoring than in years past, so if you want some more arcade style scoring, that might be the way to go.

This may be due to the fact that goalies don’t seem to be superhuman at that level and are susceptible to getting beat by shots high to the stick or glove side.  I’ll play more at some of the higher difficulty settings later to see if that adjustment brings scoring to a more accurate level, but the pro level does allow for some fun, high scoring matchups.

– The Be a Pro feature needs some serious patching.  By default your player moves directly into the starting lineup for your team (regardless of rating,) which just seems wrong for a mode such as that one where you are trying to build yourself to be a superstar.

There are other minor issues, such as the fact that if you pick a jersey number it will change it to the next highest number when you are drafted by a team, rather than letting you select a different one.  (Like I said, it is a minor issue, but damnit I want to wear number #38.)

The biggest issue with the mode is the fact that you have to sit and watch the entire game when you are not on the ice.  People might say that it’s more realistic this way, but the mode didn’t play this way in the past.  When you were off the ice, in previous versions, it would let you press a button to skip to your next shift.  By doing that the games took a great deal less time.  This way, the games take a good deal longer than if you a playing as the entire team as the game doesn’t accept any of your button presses while you are on the bench, so you have to just sit there and watch players grabbing each other after every whistle.

– Lastly, there seems to be a great deal more focus on fighting in the game.  After almost every single frozen puck there is some sort of scuffle between players where a fight can begin.  I’m glad that fighting still exists in the game, but there are so very few instances where fights occur 5 or 6 times in a real NHL game, and I have seen at least that times where a fight could begin in each of my games thus far (including in the Stanley Cup matchup, which is just wrong.)

– With the state that the game is in right now, it’s hard to recommend a purchase of the title.  I’m glad that I took a chance on the game as a rental, because there are parts of the game play that are quite good, but the lack of feature parity with previous generation versions of the game, along with some of the poorly implemented new features really suggest that people wait until next year to try the game again.

Sunday notes

- So, I’ve entered year number two of avoiding college and professional football.  After this long, I have to say that it becomes easier and easier each day to skip football.  The people at work seem absolutely flabbergasted that I don’t watch it, but that’s probably because it’s such a huge part of the culture down here in the south.  Some of them seem to be taking it as a personal mission to get me back into the sport and no matter how strongly I tell them that I won’t be following the game, they just won’t listen.  Eventually they’ll have to give up on me though, right?

– If I wanted to be a very superstitious person, I could think that I’m to blame for the Brewers losing 11 of 12 games and completely falling out of the playoff pictures, because of my move to Atlanta.   But even as awesome as I am, I can’t make an entire team stop hitting and make an entire pitching staff fall apart like they have.  At least I’ve been able to keep watching the games via MLB.TV though.  Even though they are losing games, it’s still nice to see Miller Park and Wisconsin.

Even with the division title completely out of contention now, at least I can pull for them to try and crawl back into the Wild Card picture.  That’s what a good fan does, I guess.

– International competition week this early into the Premier League season really stinks.  I know that they are part of the larger world of soccer, but man, it would have been nice to have been able to see some soccer anywhere on TV this weekend.

– Seeing as how we are nearly 11 months from the launch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4, it is astounding to see how badly EA Sports has handled the launch of NHL 15, the first hockey game available for the new generation of consoles.

Polygon has taken a look into the features that have been removed from the previous generation of games and it is nothing short of shocking.  How they can try to justify the removal of all of those game play modes and settings and still try to convince users that it is a worthy purchase is beyond me.

– If anyone is picking up Destiny for the PS4 and hasn’t already added me to their friends list, go ahead and do so.  My PSN user name is Psunami.  I’ll be picking up the game at midnight tomorrow, because I don’t have much else to do, do I?

– Have a great week everyone.

One year

What a difference a year makes.

I know that I’ve detailed quite a few of the things that have changed in my life over the past year, from work to personal life changes, but last Saturday probably had to be one of the most stark realizations of the changes that I have made in my life, when it comes to my feelings about sports.

My family is still living in Wisconsin and since I’m living in Atlanta, out of a hotel and alone, I have a tremendous amount of free time to fill.  The house that we are buying doesn’t close for another week, so I spend a great deal of time in my hotel room trying to figure out something to do until I go to bed and repeat the process the next day.

Last Friday night, I was reading through some Premier League news sites and saw that the Premier League is playing a single match live in movie theaters every week of the season, and as luck would have it, this week it was the match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.

When I lived in Wisconsin, these sorts of events were almost always held in theaters that were located roughly 7 days away and would require a sherpa and a ritual sacrifice so that you could track down the specified theater, but in Atlanta one of the theaters was 10 minutes from my hotel room (more sherpa’s and lambs to kill in this area, apparently.)

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I was giddy with the excitement of being able to watch Palace on a huge screen.  The expense of going to see a match in South London is quite a bit more than I can absorb at this point, so this was probably going to be one of the best Palace experiences that I could put together (since seeing the friendly in Columbus a few months back.)

I pulled up to the theater and noticed a pretty empty parking lot, but seeing as how I got there about 10 minutes early, I didn’t think much of it.  I went to the ticket booth, paid my $12.50 (which did seem a bit high for a 10 a.m. soccer match showing) and went in and took a seat in the theater.

When I walked in, my eyes immediately scanned the seating area looking, anxious to find a Palace or even a Newcastle supporter.  Alas, the entire theater was empty and it stayed that way for the entirety of the match.

While it felt a bit comical to be the only person in a theater watching a live event, as time went on, the match felt more and more intimate because I was the only person there seeing it.  Being the only person there meant that I could cheer, or jeer, as much as I wanted.  I could rant at the screen when Frazier Campbell came off the post, in the 74th minute, and allowed Aarons header to get by him to tie the match.  It also allowed for me to swear loudly when Newcastle took the lead in the 89th minute.

The American in me nearly walked out of the theater at that point, because that’s what most American sports fans do when your team gives up the lead when the game is nearly over, but for some reason I thought I should sit back down (after some more swearing and pacing) and sit and watch whatever would remain of the game once extra time was added.

I was rewarded for staying with a wonderful strike from Wilf Zaha in the 95th minute to tie the match and I left the theater with a massive smile on my face as Palace rescued a 3-3 draw from certain defeat.

Later that day, Wisconsin played LSU in Houston and I went to bed not having seen a single minute of the game, nor caring that I had missed it.

When I think back, it has been amazing to think that the two sporting events that have given me the most joy over the last 6 months have been two Crystal Palace matches that ended in 3-3 draws (The Liverpool match from May will always have a special place in my sports memory.)

One year ago, I couldn’t have imagined sitting (for part of the match) by myself in a movie theater, in Atlanta, cheering when Crystal Palace scored a late goal that earned them a draw and then 12 hours later falling asleep having no interest in the Wisconsin football season opener.

What a difference a year makes.

Madden NFL 15 Impressions

Now that I’ve had a bit of time to play with Madden 15 for the PS4, I wanted to detail a few of my impressions for the game.

The first thing that I want to address have to deal with the loading times.  It seems like as the years have gone on, games load more and more slowly, and Madden seems to be no different.  Having said that, here are the loading times that I’ve experienced to this point.

– From starting the game from the PS4 dashboard to the “Press any button” title screen: 36.7 seconds

– From the “Press any button” page to the actual game menu (This second loading period is filled with loading your profile, the community gameplay recommendation, etc.) : 36.8 seconds

– Time to launch an actual game: 50.5 seconds to the pregame

– Time to skip to the kickoff from pregame: 16.7 seconds

– Time to get back to the main game menu when exiting after the completion of a game: 14 seconds

None of these loading time issues make the game any worse, but I do find myself walking away from the system or getting distracted by my phone just due to the fact that there is that waiting time built into the game.  The loading time that is probably the most frustrating is the one right at the start of the game.  Why send you to a screen where you have to press a button just to launch the game?  There is nothing else that you can do from that page, so it just seems to be a page to send you to just to break up a single longer loading time that you cannot avoid.  It’s just a silly and frustrating thing to start each game session with.

Beyond that, once you get into an actual game, there are some really nice changes on the defensive side.  For starters, the defensive line gameplay changes (along with the new camera angles on defense) really make the defensive side of the game a great deal more enjoyable.  As a person who almost always takes a defensive lineman, the snap-jumping and the new abilities to shed blocks are well received changes and add a great amount of depth to a segment of the game that seems to have been neglected in the past.

The tackle cone is another new feature that was added and while it may have seemed like a good idea, I found myself turning it off after a few games because I just found it distracting and haven’t felt that I was having a hard time judging when to make a tackle in the past.

If you are looking for large changes when you are in control of offense, you really won’t find too many differences from previous revisions as it seems that the lion’s share of the work in the game was spent on defense.  The one thing that you will notice when throwing a pass is that the passing accuracy for the QB’s has been adjusted so that some of the “lesser able” QB’s will tend to throw more incomplete (and erratic) passes than someone like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  That change alone makes the game a bit more realistic, but I have already noticed a few times where good QB’s make some terrible throws when WR’s are wide open, so there is probably some tuning and adjusting that needs to be completed on that new feature before it’s all dialed in.

Another change is the newly added community recommendations that you can see during play selection.  When you go to select a play, the game presents you with data that they have collected to show how effective that particular play has been for you, along with how effective it has been for the entire Madden community.  While that feature does add to the loading times when you launch the game, it is a nice addition to see some of the data that EA Sports collects being presented back to the user.

Beyond the gameplay changes, the presentation for the game has gotten an overhaul and those changes are a bit of a mixed bag.  New sequences before and after plays really give the game a much more realistic broadcast feel and are nice additions, but what I didn’t care for was all of the new pregame and post game show material.  For the first few games they feel fresh and interesting but, like every sports game that I’ve ever played, they become tiresome and annoying after playing 10 or 15 games.  The halftime show in particular stands out because it can’t be skipped easily with a simple button press as you have to wait until it starts the highlights for the first half, and then press a button, before you can skip to the beginning of the second half.  Not a huge issue, but it is just another moment that adds more time to your game that wasn’t there in the past.

The connected franchise mode, which is probably at the heart of most people’s game experience with Madden, as it lets you play online or offline leagues, has been adjusted to include player confidence as a means increase or decrease player ratings as the season wears on.  Confidence is impacted by how well or poorly you play on the field as well as by the new Game Prep feature.  The Game Prep allows you decide which players or parts of your team that you want to focus on before each game.  In theory it seems like an interesting concept, but once I played a few games I started to let the CPU handle it for me because I just wasn’t seeing the value in it.

I can’t say too much about Ultimate Team changes, as I have some internet issues due to my move, but there seem to be more ways to collect cards outside of purchase that haven’t been there in past editions due to new objectives in the mode.  Those might be worth a look if you’re more of a solo player.

Based on my time with the game, I would say it’s definitely worth a rental, but if you really like the defensive side of the ball, you might want to pick it up as the changes there really make the game worthwhile.  If your main focus is Ultimate Team or the Connected Franchise, you might want to take a pass on it this year and stick with last years game.

MLB.TV is awesome

So, now that I’m in Atlanta, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for MLB.TV knowing that I could finally watch Brewers games on my PS4 or on my laptop or phone.  I signed up on Monday night at a time when the price was $24.99.  I figured, even for one month it was worth it for that price.  Little did I know that the next day they would drop the price to $12 for the 12 year anniversary of the service.

I sent them an email asking for a refund of the difference, figuring that it would go nowhere, but amazingly they sent me back an email with a credit for the entire $25 and let me sign up for the service for $12.

That is just awesome customer service and has probably won me over as a customer for next year as well.

Oh, and it is great to be able to watch all of the games now (except probably Braves ones, but I wouldn’t have been watching those anyway.)

Riding the Pines – Interview with Seann Graddy – Madden NFL 15

Today we bring to you an interview that I conducted with Seann Graddy, Senior Producer for EA Sports Madden NFL 15.

Here are a few of the topics that we covered in the interview.

– Changes in NFL involvement with the title over the years
– Camera changes
– Differences between Tackle Cone and Passing Cone
– The focus on defensive changes for this season
– What sorts of information they get from their telemetry that helps guide the game in the future
– Changes to the presentation for the game
– Ultimate team/Connected franchise changes

We hope you enjoy the interview!

Thursday notes

- So, we put in an offer on a house down in Georgia yesterday.  Hopefully we’ll hear something back on it shortly.  One week until I make my way down there.

– Dan beat me in the twitter race.  He hit 100 followers last week, while I’m still at 92.  This makes me sad in some way, but Dan rants about the NE Revolution a lot, so people probably enjoy that sort of thing.

– I started playing Fez this week, due to it being available for every Sony platform under the sun via Playstation Plus and I have to say that it is a very charming puzzle/platforming title.  The cross-save capabilities for the game are awesome as I can transition from the PS4 to the Vita version without any issues.  I love that feature and pray that Nintendo can put something like that together eventually for the WiiU and 3DS, but I won’t hold my breath on that happening (since there is only one Cross-buy title available at this point for Nintendo.)

– Tomorrow is my last day at work, so I’ll probably do a bit more posting next week as I have some more time during the days, but I am sure that I will end up sitting around eating Bon Bon’s and watching “my stories” instead.

Madden 15 deal at Best Buy (starts on 8/10)

Stick with me on this one kids, it does involve a few steps.

Next week, Best Buy will be offering $25 in trade-in credit for Madden 25 (for the PS4 and Xbox One versions,) plus a $10 coupon to be put towards Madden 15.

So, if you already have a copy, you can acquire Madden 15 for $25.  Good deal, huh?  It gets better if you do a few other things.

If you pre-order Madden 15, you can receive a $10 reward certificate when you pick up the game, so that takes it down to only paying $15 for the newest version of Madden for the PS4 or Xbox One.  If you have Gamers Club Unlocked, you get the game for $48 (after the automatic 20% off,) plus the $10 reward certificate, so you get the new version for only $3 after the trade-in, coupon, and reward certificate are all factored in.

Probably the best deal I’ve seen for getting a new version of a sports title in a while.

FIFA World Cup 14 (PS3) – $24.99 or $14.99 (PS Plus)

Considering the fact that Gamestop is still selling the 2010 FIFA World Cup title for $39.99, it’s a huge deal to see the newest edition of the World Cup games for $14.99 via the Playstation Store (if you have PS Plus ($24.99 if you don’t,) which you just should at this point.)

Most of the online reviews state that it’s more of a “fun” soccer simulation than FIFA 14 was, so it might be worth a go to hold you over until FIFA 15.  Of course this is all predicated on the fact that you might be interested in taking on the tournament for yourself.  If not, then please disregard.

Monday notes

- Grr.  Stupid database errors.  Database just keeps crashing.  Linux is not my friend sometimes.  Oh, well.  Learning as I go.

– The Brewers season has been a bizarre one, to be sure.  They played lights out in April and June, average in May, and terrible so far in July.  Still, they enter the All Star break with a 1 game lead on the division.

My heart goes out to the family of Jean Segura though.  I can’t imagine losing your child, especially at an early age like that, and I wouldn’t fault him if he decided not to come back to playing the game.  Just an absolutely heartbreaking ordeal for him to have to handle.

– Seeing as how it was my first World Cup where I truly paid attention to it throughout, I was sad to see it end.  I was able to find heroes and villians throughout and loved the entire thing.  Really hope that the U.S. gets a chance to host it again in 2022 (if and when they pull it from Qatar, like they should.)

– Lastly, I have confirmed my tickets to take my daughters to see Crystal Palace play the Columbus Crew next Wednesday night in Columbus.  My oldest daughter desperately wants to see Chamakh now that he has resigned with the team, but I’m trying to impress upon her the fact that usually it isn’t too easy to meet an athlete at a match.  Still, I’m glad that she’s so excited about going to the match (as am I.)

Things for the U.S. to take from the 2014 World Cup

- First off, Tim Howard was a stud yesterday.  The fact that someone changed the Wikipedia entry for the Secretary of Defense and replaced the position with Tim Howard was a testament to how great he was in net yesterday.  The game could have been over before reaching extra time without his efforts.

– The U.S. needs Premier League/La Liga/Bundesliga level talent on their squad if they are going to expect to complete on the world stage.  While they might be able to get out of the group stage with the MLS talent that we have been sending, it’s clear that Belgium had a different level of players on the pitch and it showed in extra time.

Sidenote: When Belgium brought in Lukaku late in the game the only thing that I could think to myself is, “Holy crap, how deep is this team that he was on the bench until this point?”

– Julian Green is the future.  The U.S. needs to start developing more players like him, or create a time machine to have more American servicemen father children back in the late 80’s, if they really want to compete beyond the round of 16 in Russia in 2018 (or in 2022, wherever that World Cup might be as Qatar is in doubt at this point.)

– Don’t listen to anything that the grizzled old sports-writers say, soccer has arrived in the U.S.  The amount of enthusiasm for this World Cup was tremendous and people were talking about it everywhere you went.  When my parents and sister wanted to come over to the house for a match-watching party, that was a great indication of how far the game has come in the last few years.  If the U.S. would have pulled off an upset yesterday, the country would have gone ballistic on Saturday for the game against Argentina.

The game is incredibly popular for children and will continue to be so for as long as the NFL and Football struggle with the issues of head injuries that swirl around that sport.

– The future looks bright for American soccer and it should be fun to watch going forward.

 

 

 

Tuesday notes

- Um, there is a pretty big soccer match today (outside of Argentina and Switzerland which was pretty boring for 115 minutes, but crazy exciting at the end.)  Dan and I will have more to say about that later.

– Thanks to the GOG.com sales last week, I’m now a proud owner of yet another copy of the entire Wing Commander series, but this time in digital form. (Only cost $6 during the sales last week, well worth that price tag.)

One of the great things about the internet is that you don’t even have to work all that hard to configure the titles to run nearly perfectly on any system now a days.  People on Youtube have done a tremendous job showing you all of the files to edit and settings to put in place so that you can get the games working beautifully in a very small amount of time.

The thing that they can’t help you with is the fact that asteroids are just horrible in the first game.  I’ve died twice on missions where I’ve fragged multiple Kilrathi, only to have a giant asteroid undo all of that good work in seconds.  Definitely frustrating, but part of playing a 25 year old game.

– Amazon has NHL 09 and Madden NFL 08 (the last two releases of each for the PC) on sale for $2.  There is a pretty good modding community for NHL 09 and they have been updating teams, rosters, and schedules since the games release.  Worth a look for the price.

– Enjoy watching the match!

Monday notes

- First a quick exchange between my daughters.

Youngest: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if you were the queen of soccer?’

Eldest: ‘No, way! If I was the queen everyone would be paying attention to me, and then none of my teammates would get the attention that they deserve.’

I think she is being taught sports the right way.

– Yesterday was a first in  my house, as my parents and one of my sisters came over to watch a soccer match.  Never would have seen that happening in the past, but I guess the World Cup does a tremendous job in bringing that out of families.

Given the fact that they have no real concept of the rules, they did a great job of asking questions at the right time and did seem to genuinely enjoy the match.

The draw was a killer, but it is great that the U.S. controls their own destiny for moving to the next round.  I will be stunned if the match with Germany is anything but a draw.  There is absolutely nothing that either of the teams has to play for and should just focus on making sure that no one gets hurt.

– Took the girls to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 on Saturday and we all loved it.  Not to give anything away, but there were plenty of smiles, laughs, and tears from the girls.  Definitely worth the price of admission.

– I’ll have some post E3 notes coming up either later today or tomorrow (hard to believe the week went by without posting anything… but things have been crazy.)

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