Great story on the history of the Madden video game franchise

22 Apr

Could this be the next Madden cover? All Brownies' fans hope so.

Click here to read this sweet ESPN: Outside The Lines recap by Patrick Hruby on the history of how EA Sports’ Madden franchise rose to prominence in the sports & gaming world.

 
 
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Funny clip from The Onion: ‘Warcraft’ Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing ‘Warcraft’

12 Apr

Gotta love The Onion: ‘Warcraft’ Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing ‘Warcraft’ video is hilarious

The sad thing is I actually think there might be a gamer or two who would buy this LOL

Gamers launch class action lawsuit against EA for its exclusive license on Madden & NCAA games, allege the license led to overcharging

8 Apr

Electronic Arts is being sued for its exclusive license on Madden, NCAA & Arena Football League games from the past several years (presumably starting with Madden ’06 & NCAA ’06). 

If you purchased certain Electronic Arts brand football video games between January 1, 2005 to the present you may be eligible to join the lawsuit!

Thanks to Peyton Hillis & online voters, we will actually get to see a Browns player grace the Madden cover in 2012. Amazing. I was starting to think the only way that would happen is if EA Sports was so desperate for new ideas it started using kickers (Phil Dawson) or longsnappers (Ryan Pontbriand) as the face of its NFL game.

EA will probably defeat the claim against it b/c antitrust cases often force the plaintiff to put on quite an impressive amount of evidence proving the game developer truly closed competition in the market.  This civil suit standard is technically called a preponderance of the evidence (51%), which sounds relatively easy but is usually not the case in the land of antitrust litigation (this regards competition & fairness in the marketplace). 

While most gamers obviously wish other vendors like 2K Sports & Midway could make NFL games to compete with EA, it’s not like EA runs the entire videogame universe & is going Tony Soprano, telling all other game developers they’d better not think about making a football game or there’s going to be trouble.  In fact, those Blitz: The League pro football games came out, & no one is stopping another game developer from following in Midway’s footsteps and making its own unlicensed game using retired NFL players or players not part of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association). 

Midway featured former all-pro linebackers Lawrence Taylor & Bill Romanowski’s likenesses/voices as “Quintin Sands” & “Bruno Battaglia” in its Blitz games with fictional teams to overcome EA Sports’ exclusive license with the NFL.  I’m sure few people think those types of games are anywhere near as good to play as the Madden games, & I’d agree with that.  Still, those games got released & the first Blitz game obviously did some business or else Midway would’ve have bothered to make a sequel.  This may make proving competition was closed a tough sell, but more power to ’em! 

The great thing about this lawsuit is that it may make EA & the NFL think twice about pursuing another exclusivity license when the current one expires in 2012 (assuming it’s not renewed beforehand or extended further by a season-long NFL lockout in real life).  Lawsuits are bad press, & paying legal fees to defend yourself gets old fast.  Plus, most gamers hate this exclusive arrangement, so it’s a black eye for EA & the NFL.

Imagine if the NFL just lets the deal with EA run out, how great would that be?  This would finally mean diversity in the marketplace again, taking us back to the glory days of 2004!  Who remembers the joy of having your choice of:
1) arguably one of the best editions of Madden ever – Madden 2005, &
2) NFL 2K5.

Madden ’05 debuted the hit stick, & still let athletic QBs run & throw the ball accurately 70 yards down the field.  This wasn’t an extremely realistic passing attack, but was a blast to play.  That “big play” offensive model came off the heels of the Michael Vick-friendly Madden ’04 title.  Some Madden enthusiasts, including myself, still regard Madden ’04 as the most fun copy of Madden ever.

On the flip side in 2004 you had NFL 2k5, which had the fantastically low $19.99 MSRP & featured a relatively authentic ESPN broadcast presentation for the time.  Some people even thought this was a better game than the Madden edition that year.  I wouldn’t go that far, but who cares?  The point is Madden had some legit competition back then, & all was right with the world.

What does this mean for 2012 & beyond?  Video games are logically better when developers know another game has the chance to beat them in a competitive genre if each developer doesn’t bring its A game. 

So do we really need a class action lawsuit to get a better football video game?  It’s pretty clear that having multiple NFL videogames released each year would be the real victory for gamers, and we don’t necessarily need a judgment & court order to do that if the NFL takes action. 

All the NFL would have to do is decide exclusive licenses are too much of a hassle & make sure it can get more money collectively from all the football game developers than it could make from EA alone.  Once that happens, diversity in the marketplace returns, and it’s a touchdown dance for the consumer.

As for this lawsuit, EA will probably win b/c other football titles do exist.  Even if EA loses, most class-action plaintiffs will probably only get like 75 cents or a free download of “NFL Labor Dispute 2014” or whatever new idea EA rolls out in a demo the year this case is resolved.  “Labor Dispute 2014” could be like the ill-fated “Head Coach” EA series, where you attend meetings, run an office, fill out paperwork, manage a schedule…basically an awful, boring football RPG every 14-year old Madden fan will put down in favor of finishing his homework.

Whether EA wins or loses, the lawyers are probably still getting paid…so we can all look forward to that.

Here’s the details from the web page link that was emailed to members of the class action:

GEOFFREY PECOVER and ANDREW OWENS v. ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.
U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.)
Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW

 

If You Purchased Certain Electronic Arts Brand Football Video Games
Between January 1, 2005 to the Present
You May Be a Class Member.

 

 

Membership as a class member in the Electronic Arts Litigation is the result of a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division (Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW).

What Is This Class Action About?

The class action lawsuit alleges violations of California’s antitrust and consumer protection laws in connection with the sale of certain football video games. Plaintiffs, purchasers of Electronic Arts’ football video games, claim that Defendant Electronic Arts entered into a series of exclusive licenses with the National Football League (NFL), National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL), which Plaintiffs claim foreclosed competition in an alleged football video game market. Plaintiffs allege that this series of exclusive licenses caused customers who purchased certain football video games to be overcharged. 
Defendant Electronic Arts has denied any liability and all allegations of misconduct. The Court has not decided whether the Defendants did anything wrong, and this Notice is not an expression of any opinion by the Court about the merits of any of the claims or defenses asserted by any party to this litigation.

Who Are Class Members?

The Class includes all persons who, during the period January 1, 2005 to the present, purchased the Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football League brand video games published by Electronic Arts with a release date of January 1, 2005 to the present. Excluded from the class are purchasers of software for mobile devices, persons purchasing directly from Electronic Arts, persons purchasing used copies of the relevant football video games, and Electronic Arts’ employees, officers, directors, legal representatives, and wholly or partly owned subsidiaries or affiliated companies.

What Should I Do? (Getting Further Information)

If you believe that you may be a class member (see above “Who Are Class Members”), you should get more detailed information about the class action and its potential effect on you and your rights. Further information can be obtained by going to the following website: http://www.easportslitigation.com. Additional information about the lawsuit may be obtained from Plaintiffs’ Counsel website at http://www.hbsslaw.com, or by calling Plaintiffs’ Counsel at 1-206-623-7292.

To Remain a Class Member

If you are a class member and you do nothing, you will be bound by the court’s rulings in the lawsuit, including any final Settlement or Judgment.

To Exclude Yourself from the Class(Deadline to Request Exclusion: June 25, 2011)

If you are a class member and you want to exclude yourself from the class and keep your right to sue Defendant, you must take further action before June 25, 2011. By that date, you must request exclusion in writing to this address:

Electronic Arts Litigation Exclusion
P.O. Box 8090
San Rafael CA 94912-8090

Or submit a request for exclusion electronically at the following website: www.easportslitigation.com

For further information about excluding yourself from the class go to the following website:
www.easportslitigation.com

Please do not telephone or address inquiries to the Court.
April 6, 2011. By Order of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.).

Your football fix for early April: Breaking down the zone blitz

5 Apr

Chris at SmartFootball.com did a nice job of analyzing Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz scheme, with plenty of pictures and some video to boot.  He also breaks down how Dom Capers implements the zone blitz for your education & enjoyment.

I’ve interviewed LeBeau & attended a Capers’ presser – both are defensive genuises who are a lot of fun to learn from.  It’s no surprise these seasoned NFL vets were the last 2 defensive coordinators standing at season’s end, facing off in the 2011 Super Bowl.

Chess Match: These defensive masterminds leave most Xs & Os vets in the dust.

Click here to read the article.

Blue chip recruit Stanley McClover says he received money & sex at OSU, then even more money from Auburn

31 Mar

O-H…

Ut-oh!

Jim Tressel spent over an hour yesterday apologizing for disappointing OSU alumni & fans after being suspended for witholding emails from the NCAA & his own athletic office in Columbus.  The emails detailed star QB Terrelle Pryor’s involvement with a tattoo parlor dealer who was at the center of an FBI probe last April. 

Tressel kept the emails private until after the 2010 regular season was over, leaving OSU to try to buy off the NCAA by imposing 5-game suspensions on Tressel, Pryor, & 4 other players who violated NCAA rules. 

Tressel’s university-imposed suspension started at 2 games, then OSU upped it to 5.  It’s unclear whether the NCAA will make OSU increase its offer.

Luckily for OSU & Auburn, no real-life equivalent to Ed O'Neill's suspicious sports writer character in Blue Chips existed on campus back in 2003 to document any of McClover's allegations, so his claims have yet to be substantiated. Still, McClover's story would make one heck of a solid sports flick!

What is certain is that Tressel may have to schedule another press conference to address a completely different matter involving players under his watch & a recruit back in 2003.

In a story straight out of the movie “Blue Chips,” ex-Auburn DE Stanley McClover claims he was offered booster money & sex during a 2003 recruiting trip to OSU hosted by Buckeye star WR/CB Chris Gamble, who has played CB for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers since 2004.

McClover took up the offers, but then chose Auburn after asking the Tigers for “a lot” of money & allegedly getting it delivered in a backpack.

Wow. 

All we’re missing is Nick Nolte, a Lexus like Shaq’s character received in the movie, & a tractor delivered to McClover’s father & we’re all set for a “Blue Chips” sequel!

From South Florida.com, with Steve Gorten of the Sun Sentinel reporting:

McClover told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Jan. 12, 2003 that he had orally committed to Ohio State after an official visit. According to the SportsbyBrooks transcript, McClover’s decision had to do with more than a gut feeling. McClover told Andrea Kremer in the interview that during his official interview to OSU, he received money handskakes from alumni of about $1000.

“They send girls my way. I partied,” McClover reportedly told Kremer. “When I got there, I met up with a couple guys from the team. We went to a party and they asked me to pick any girl I wanted.”

Kremer asked McClover if they offered sexual services. “Yes,” he answered.

Did you take them, she asked. “Yes,” he said again.

Here’s Gorten’s full story:

FORT LAUDERDALE – Former Dillard High defensive end Stanley McClover, who reportedly admitted to accepting improper benefits from Auburn and Ohio State during recruiting, didn’t appear to have Auburn on his radar until very late in his recruitment.

McClover’s allegations were made in an interview with HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumble earlier this year. That interview, part of an overall story on corruption in college sports, is to air tonight at 10 p.m. Three other Auburn players allege NCAA violations by Auburn and other schools. The news was first reported by the website SportsbyBrooks.com. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel received an advance copy of the show.

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel on Jan. 12, 2003 that he had orally committed to Ohio State after an official visit. In the HBO interview, it seemed McClover’s decision might have been more than a gut feeling. McClover told Andrea Kremer that during his official visit to OSU, he received money handskakes from alumni of about $1,000.

“They send girls my way. I partied,” McClover told Kremer. “When I got there, I met up with a couple guys from the team. We went to a party and they asked me to pick any girl I wanted.”

Kremer asked McClover if they offered sexual services. “Yes,” he answered.

Did you take them, she asked. “Yes,” he said again.

McClover committed to Ohio State right after that weekend. He told the Sun-Sentinel at that time that former Dillard player Chris Gamble, now with the Carolina Panthers, was his host for his official visit at OSU. The Buckeyes’ 2002 roster featured two other players from South Florida – receiver Santonio Holmes (Glades Central) and guard Bryce Bishop (Miami Killian).

When he orally committed to Ohio State, McClover told the Sun-Sentinel that the University of Miami had been his second choice and that he would not be taking a visit to UM or Florida later that month. McClover did not mention Auburn as one of the schools he was strongly considering.

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel in January 2003 that the outcome of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, in which Ohio State beat Miami in a controversial ending for the 2002 national championship, “had a lot of effect on my decision.” In explaining why he chose Ohio State, he noted:

“I always had Ohio State as one of my top choices – you can recognize a good team – but I found some more respect for them when I saw how they played against Miami. It was, like, ‘Maybe these boys are for real.’ Instead of just being good, they’re great. And they’re bringing back the same guys next year, so we have a chance to repeat it.”

That changed 17 days later when he told the Sun-Sentinel that there was a 50 percent chance he’d sign with Auburn

“I’m still committed (to OSU), but I’m torn between Ohio State and Auburn,” McClover said on Jan. 29. “I’m going to end up making that decision on signing day with those two scholarships in front of me. I’m just going to go with my gut feeling when I wake up.”

McClover ultimately signed with Auburn.

McClover told Kremer in the HBO interview that he asked Auburn for “a lot” of money and he received that, delivered in a bookbag. The exact amount was unknown.

Kremer asked McClover what he thought when he opened the bookbag.

“I almost passed out,” McClover told Kremer. “I literally almost passed out I couldn’t believe it was true. I felt like I owed them.”

“You felt obligated to them [Auburn],” Kremer asked McClover.

“I felt totally obligated,” McClover responded.

“Because of the money?” she followed up.

“Yeah.”

McClover told the Sun-Sentinel at the time that he had started to sway from Ohio State and consider Auburn because it was closer to home and had shown interest in him since his freshman year.

“I guess we get caught up in the hype at one moment,” McClover told the Sun-Sentinel of his commitment to the Buckeyes. “Everything is going good, you go ahead and commit. Then when the smoke clears you think, ‘Dang I might have rushed it.”

sgorten@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @sgorten

//

Cavs send LeBron back to South Beach with a Heat loss, 102-90

30 Mar

For Cavs fans, beating LeBron’s Miami Heat just made this season a whole lot better. 

It’s like if Buckeye fans had to suffer through a 1-11 OSU football season…if that 1 win came against Michigan.

LBJ got the cold shoulder from Cavs players, fans & gameday workers, then left his old city with a loss. Take your talents back to South Beach LeBron.

The Cavs led by 23 (a fitting # given LBJ’s old uni in C-town), gave it all back, & still punked the Heat when Miami desperately needed a win to keep pace with Boston.  Right now Miami is stuck in the 3rd spot, headed on a crash course with the surging Philadelphia 76ers, a team no one is too excited about playing right now. 

Unless Miami somehow runs down the Bulls for the top spot in the East, they’ll be forced to face either the 76ers or the Knicks in the 1st round, yikes.  Either one is capable of pushing the Heat to 6 or 7 games, which is the last thing the Heat needs before a potentially brutal 2nd-round matchup with Boston (where the Celtics will likely have home court advantage).

ESPN.com has more from the AP:

CLEVELAND — As he left the arena, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott smiled and accepted fist bumps and congratulations from security guards lining the hallway.

“Coach,” one of them said, “we’re going to talk about this one all summer.”

And probably for many more.

Cleveland got the win it wanted most.

Take that, LeBron.

Despite blowing a 23-point lead, the Cavs battled back to beat the Miami Heat 102-90 on Tuesday night, getting a small dose of satisfaction against James, the franchise’s biggest star who was making his second homecoming visit to Cleveland since bolting last summer.

J.J. Hickson scored 21, Anthony Parker scored 20 and unsung center Ryan Hollins threw around his weight for the Cavs, who were embarrassed by the Heat 118-90 on Dec. 2 — a night when Cleveland fans unleashed pent-up hatred on James, the native son who scorned them.

This time, it was James who left the floor beaten. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds and had to endure another night of constant booing from fans who once cherished his every move but now view him as a bitter enemy for betraying them.

James took the loss in stride, giving the Cavs credit they deserved.

“Anytime we play anybody, we know we’re going to get the best out of them,” James said. “They came out and played extremely well. It was a good win for them.”

It was more than that for Cleveland.

James’ departure was a crippling blow to a city that hasn’t celebrated a championship since 1964, and a region desperate for something positive to happen.

For at least one night, Cleveland rocked again.

“This was for the fans and for their support,” Cavs guard Daniel Gibson said. “They’ve stayed behind us and this was a way of saying thank you.”

In the closing seconds, the sellout crowd of 20,562 cut loose at a victory even the most loyal Clevelander couldn’t have imagined. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who accused James of quitting in last year’s playoffs after the two-time MVP announced he was joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in a poorly conceived TV special, high-fived anyone within reach.

Gilbert also posted on Twitter, “Not in our garage!!” a reference to James’ difficulty passing through security at Quicken Loans Arena earlier Tuesday.

On the floor afterward, Parker, whose last 3-pointer with 2:47 left capped a 12-0 run and put the Heat away, addressed Cavs fans.

“You guys deserve it,” he said as the fans erupted.

Later, Parker said the Cavs were out to fix what went wrong on Dec. 2.

“The first time we played them here, we were embarrassed and they took a little from us,” he said. “This is the night that we wanted to get that back, for us, but more for the fans. That was great getting it back for them.”

The Cavaliers were a different team — literally — from the one that laid down against the Heat here in December. Injuries and trades have reduced Cleveland’s roster to a shell of the one James played with and helped win 60 games last season.

The Heat rallied from a 71-48 deficit, tying it at 83-all on Mike Bibby‘s seventh 3-pointer with 7:03 left. But Miami, which wasted a chance to move into second place in the Eastern Conference standings, went scoreless for 4:24, allowing the Cavs to get just their 15th win — and most lopsided this season.

Wade added 24 for the Heat, who had their winning streak stopped at five.

Cleveland shot a season-high 56 percent from the field, a number that made coach Erik Spoelstra’s skin crawl.

“The majority of time in this league you get what you deserve and we got exactly what we deserved,” Spoelstra said. “They played harder than us. They came out with much more desperation and sense of urgency. This pattern started two games ago, and we’re a little confused what our identity is.”

Baron Davis made his first start since coming to Cleveland in a trade, and the veteran scored 10 points and provided floor leadership. The Cavs also got a big lift from Hollins, who had 13 points, three blocks and played physically — something none of Cleveland’s players did in December.

Hollins stopped one of Wade’s drives with an elbow, exchanged words with Miami’s guard and knocked James’ headband off under the basket.

“I feel like if they’re more concerned about me, then that’s a good thing for our team,” Hollins said. “That’s the way I wanted to play tonight.”

There wasn’t the same venom and hatred that shrouded James’ first visit four months ago. The crowd was energetic but not as outwardly angry toward James, who was booed every time he touched the ball. Security was extremely high, but there were no reported incidents.

The teams took turns going on extended runs in a wild, back-and-forth third quarter.

Cleveland scored 18 straight and opened a 71-48 lead, sending their fans into a frenzy and putting the Heat in a deep hole. But Miami was a long way from done as Wade hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points in a 19-1 spurt that pulled the Heat within 72-67 on James’ jumper.

Christian Eyenga‘s 3-pointer with 2 seconds left put the Cavs ahead 75-67. James flung a 3-pointer from a few steps beyond halfcourt to end the quarter, a shot that was initially ruled no good but changed after the officials reviewed TV replays between periods and determined there was a clock malfunction.

After the game, the NBA released a statement saying the shot actually should not have counted, but it was too late to change the score.

James arrived at the arena that was his pro basketball home for seven seasons at 5:12 p.m. Wearing headphones and a shirt with the inscription: “Long Live The King,” James went through security and waved to a few guards before ducking into the visitor’s locker room for the second time.

James wasn’t sure what he would be facing, but he was confident things would not be nearly as hostile as his previous visit.

“I expect the worst,” he said. “But worse than last time, Dec. 2? No.”

He got something else he didn’t expect. 

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Why do achievements / trophies not exist on the Nintendo Wii? Another victory for Sony’s PS3 & Microsoft’s XBOX 360

24 Mar

Do you enjoy letting your friends know you just unlocked the toughest PS3 trophy or XBOX 360 achievement for Call of Duty: Black Ops or another game everyone is playing?  It’s sort of like that saying about whether the tree falling in the forest really makes a sound if no one is around to hear it.  Accomplishing something difficult or unique in your game just isn’t that cool if none of your friends know about it.  I’ve always been puzzled as to why this same system-wide trophy concept is not available for the Nintendo Wii – perhaps it makes too much sense?! 

Nintendo has historically been very invested in their own ideas, not usually offering a response to what its competitors are creating until it’s really forced to do so by significant consumer demand for change (remember mild console flops like the GameCube, & major ones like the Virtual Boy that forced Nintendo to go in other directions).

Here’s a great article by IGN.com‘s Craig Harris from late 2009 about why Nintendo really needs to offer an achievement/trophy system for the Wii:

“Wii Need Achievements”

Nintendo was late to the online party, & now seems disinterested in offering system-wide accomplishments. It's getting to the point where 3rd-party games are almost pointless to play on the Wii. It's looking more & more like the only Wii games worth buying are those made by Nintendo.

Late last week I came home to my roommate playing Cars Race-o-Rama on the PlayStation 3. This game, released a couple of months ago, is not good – our official review of Cars Race-o-Rama put the game at a 5 out of 10. He wasn’t casually checking it out, either – he was deep into the game’s progression, almost to the point of beating it completely. The conversation went like this:

Me: You’re playing Cars Race-o-Rama.
Him: Yep.
Me: You’re playing Cars Race-o-Rama just to get the trophies, aren’t you?
Him: Yep.

This word-for-word dialogue was essentially the catalyst for this editorial. It’s been something that’s been on my mind for months now: love the idea or despise it, Nintendo is missing a huge opportunity by dismissing persistent online accounts that track individual game accomplishments. The fact that a gamer in my household was playing a crappy game just to get credit for it is a testament to the need for this feature on Wii.

For those who haven’t been following what’s been going on outside of the Nintendo camp, Sony’s Trophies are essentially the PlayStation 3 version of Xbox 360’s Achievement system. When players hit certain accomplishments in games – completely determined by the developer and unique to the game in question — they’re rewarded with a “token” that’s noted in their user account. These badges of honor are not just accumulated as a rating or score, but they can also be viewed by other players, either on the system or through a web page.

PlayStation 3’s Trophy web list is pretty snazzy.

The most significant innovation in this generation is easily motion control, and we have Nintendo and its Wii remote to thank for getting this ball moving; both Microsoft and Sony are playing catch-up in this regard, but they’re at least making some headway to out-do what Nintendo has done to change the playing field.

But arguably Innovation Number Two has to be the creation of accumulative achievements, and it was Microsoft that set this standard with the debut of the Xbox 360. Like Wii and its motion control, the Achievement system was something that started from Day One of the system’s debut and it is a standard that hasn’t changed since it began back in 2005. Since Microsoft made the move other companies have followed. Individual games have incorporated the “achievements” idea into their designs as an alternative checklist of what’s been completed. Even World of Warcraft has embraced achievements as a standard part of its experience, which will reportedly be rolled into a persistent account using its Battle.Net system.

Xbox 360’s online user game list can be pulled up by anyone.


Sony chose to add Trophies partway through the life of the PlayStation 3, so it’s had some growing pains to worry about; since it wasn’t available from the start, many early games do not have support for Trophies. But as of January 2009, Trophy support is a mandatory inclusion for all PlayStation 3 games, both in retail and in digital distribution.

The whole idea of an Achievement Score or a Trophy collection really is just a way for gamers to show off how much they play videogames. Some people call it an “e-penis,” and just like a regular penis, the bigger it is the more powerful and important you feel, right?

Some may dismiss the idea of an accumulative gamer score, and that’s perfectly fine — if a game can’t stand on its own, no amount of trophy hunting can make it any better. However, it’s hard to ignore the sense of gratification that’s felt when you’ve hit a certain milestone in a particular game, and a rewarding “Bing!!” is followed by the badge of honor that notes your accomplishment. Even if you were playing the most dreadfully designed game, that little token of acknowledgement is a wonderful release of endorphins that makes the awful experience a bit more pleasant.

Personally, even I’ve been known to play a game well past completion just to score as many Achievements and Trophies the design has to offer. An immensely fun game is made even better if there’s more to shoot for, and it’s sort of a driving force to grab all there is in a game just to prove to yourself, as well as the entire world, that it was one of your most favorite experiences on the console.

Now, this isn’t a commentary of which achievement system is better – Greg Miller chimed in with his choice last week, and Charles Onyett claims both are dumb. No, my point is how Nintendo is losing out by looking the other way. Nintendo tends to focus on its own innovations and only be reactive to strategies when it’s absolutely required – online support, for example, is in the Wii, but it’s certainly not an absolute integral part of the Wii experience in the way that Microsoft and Sony have embraced it.

It just flabbergasts me to see Nintendo taking such a blase attitude towards the growing support and backing for the system-wide, persistent accomplishments. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, I asked Shigeru Miyamoto if Wii Sports Resort’s “stamps” was Nintendo’s way of addressing achievements, and possibly a taste of things to come for Wii gamers. According to Miyamoto, “I’m not a big fan of using the carrots to motivate people to play,” he said. “I want people to play because they enjoy playing and want to play more.”

Wii Sports Resort clearly had a team that understands the idea of Achievements.

My roommate’s Cars Race-o-Rama play session is evidence that gamers will play even the lousiest of games if there’s a carrot dangled in front of their nose. One of the biggest issues with Wii third-party support is the lack of enthusiasm to play anything that’s not made by Nintendo. However, Miyamoto makes a good point – but it’s a point from the perspective of someone whose games are seen as the best of the system’s best: of course people are going to play your games, Mr. Miyamoto.

But look at the rest of the system’s offerings: even the greatest third party games are being overlooked because, well, they’re not made by Nintendo; Zack & Wiki is a fantastic example of a game that’s one of the best the Wii has to offer, and yet failed to attract any sort of number on the sales level. We may never know for certain, but if Nintendo’s Wii had some sort of online persistence that not only touted to friends and colleagues that they were playing it but also awarded players with stamps that added to their gamer presence, perhaps we’d see more players tracking down a copy of Zack & Wiki. Sort of a virtual word of mouth…without saying a word.

Again, even the worst games would get played (bought, even) if there were an incentive to boot it up.

Later in the year, Miyamoto once again addressed the issue of Achievements and Trophies, this time taking a much more defensive position. At a roundtable discussing New Super Mario Bros. Wii, when asked if the Stars system in New Super Mario Bros., where certain accomplishments are rewarded with star badges in the user’s game profile, Miyamoto stated “playing the game in a certain way and have something that unlocks is something we’ve been doing for years.” He went on to note that he’s not familiar with what Microsoft’s doing because “I don’t have a lot of time to look at what other people are doing.” That, Mr. Miyamoto, is very telling.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s star system is a nice try, but oh so dull.

Wii developers have added in-game achievements in their projects for years — Retro Studios, for example, incorporated “tokens” into Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and then brought that idea back for the Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes ports for Metroid Prime Trilogy. But those achievements are locked down to the games, so while there is a sense of satisfaction in securing these awards, it’s only a personal one with very little opportunity to show it off.

It is, admittedly, a technical hurdle if an achievement system was added to the Wii this late in the game. Just like Sony’s growing pains by incorporating the idea more than a year after the PlayStation’s release, if Nintendo started with its system now we’d see similar problems, which most notably would be the early lack of support due to a slow push to a standard. And with Nintendo’s current “no patching games after release” policy on Wii, existing games couldn’t even be updated with the feature outside of re-issuing a brand new disc with the support. And while the enticement of achievements might be a good drive for gamers to double-dip, I’m sure many players would have a hard time paying full price a second time just to get the badges.

But the Wii at least has the basics for an achievement system – it just needs to pull the trigger to get it done. While there’s no way of “logging in” with user accounts in the current Wii firmware, the Wii can be linked to an online account via Club Nintendo and the Wii Shop Channel. And at the very least, as the Message Board and Nintendo Channel prove, the Wii records which games are being played and how long gamers have been playing them. There’s a basic foundation here for a full-on accomplishment system, but Nintendo needs to take it one step further.

Returning to Wii Sports Resort for a second, the “Stamp” system isn’t just a good start, it’s also a great name if Nintendo ever decides to embrace the idea of persistent achievements. My passport is “stamped” every time I enter a country, and I see my document booklet as a partial, personal achievement record: I’ve entered Japan, I got my stamp on September 17th, 2009. If anything, I’m on board with the “Stamp” naming structure.

Just look at what’s happening in Microsoft and Sony’s corner with its persistent accounts. Players can post their badges on Facebook and MySpace. They can check out friend’s scores on their iPhone.

Do I expect Nintendo to surprise us all in 2010 with a brand new firmware update that opens up an achievement standard on Wii? Not at all. I personally believe that those at Nintendo R&D, or the decision makers that call the shots on system wide features, don’t understand the importance something seemingly insignificant as an “e-penis” gamer score.

But there’s no doubt in my mind that the Wii system and random third-party games would be treated a lot more seriously with an achievement system in place.

Ohio’s annoying Buckeye fans drive Herbstreit out, moves to tax-friendly Tennessee

22 Mar

This story sounds like it belongs in The Onion, but it’s actually true..Herbie up & left Columbus for Nashville, surprising many in the 614 area code – all he was missing was the Baltimore Colts’ yellow & green Mayflower trucks.

The Buckeye football hooligans who presumably razzed Herbstreit (& perhaps his family) for Kirk’s attempt at being an objective college football analyst finally drove him away. 

Here's Herbie in front of the house in U.A. where he used to call home...why not move back to Centerville or just bunk up with Chris Fowler & Lee Corso?

It probably also didn’t help that the IRS finally decided to put a stop to the fire training deductions in U.A. (the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington) that let homeowners there knock over an old house & gain a massive tax deduction before erecting a new mansion in its place.  Nashville is a much easier place to make a living than Ohio, thanks to no state income tax in Tennesee (though TN does have a 6% tax on income received from stocks and bonds not taxed ad valorem)

From Bob Hunter at the Columbus Dispatch:

Kirk Herbstreit and his family moved out of central Ohio yesterday, a change that the ESPN college football analyst said he had pondered for three years. Herbstreit said the move to Nashville, Tenn., was because of the constant criticism he has received from a vocal minority of Ohio State fans who don’t understand that his job at the network demands objectivity and fairness.

“Nobody loves Ohio State more than me,” said Herbstreit, a former Buckeyes quarterback. “I still have a picture of Woody Hayes and my dad (Jim, a former OSU player) in my office, and nobody will do more than I do for the university behind the scenes. But I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to continue to be fair and objective. To continue to have to defend myself and my family in regards to my love and devotion to Ohio State is unfair.”

Herbstreit said he and his wife, Allison, visited several cities before deciding on Nashville. He will continue to do his Monday radio show on WBNS-FM (97.1) in the fall.

“From a sports perspective, this is rough,” he said. “I love Ohio State. Love the Blue Jackets. Love the Reds. Those are my hobbies. I don’t like moving. I love living here. I don’t want to leave. But I just can’t do this anymore. I really can’t keep going like this.

“Eighty to ninety percent of the Ohio State fans are great. It’s the vocal minority that make it rough. They probably represent only 5 to 10 percent of the fan base, but they are relentless.”

Scottie Pippen calls early ’90s Detroit Pistons’ teams classless & unathletic

16 Mar

Pip didn’t mind taking some swipes at Detroit’s “Bad Boys” from 2 decades ago, calling the Pistons a “classless” organization & team.  The Pistons eliminated the Bulls 3 years in a row (’88, ’89 & ’90 playoffs).  It took the Bulls a while to break through DET coach Chuck Daly’s “Jordan Rules” defense against CHI – good thing Pippen isn’t still fired up about it.

Thankfully for Pippen the Bulls swept the Pistons in the ’91 Eastern Conference Finals, so he wasn’t called upon to make any game-winning shots (it was a different story 3 years later against the Knicks, where Toni Kukoc bailed him out). 

Also, everyone forgets that while most of the Pistons did walk off the court with 8 seconds left in 1991’s Game 4, Joe Dumars, John Salley & Vinnie Johnson did stay behind to shake the Bulls’ hands.

Pippen still calls the Bad Boy Pistons classless for leaving their bench...ironically Pippen has been called classless for staying on his in crunchtime against NY in the '94 Bulls-Knicks Game 3.

Here’s the report by Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press:

It was supposed to be a joyous celebration in Chicago over the weekend, the 20th anniversary of the Bulls dethroning the Pistons, but Scottie Pippen went all Bobby Hurley on the Bad Boys.

“The Pistons were a nasty team,” Pippen told the Chicago Sun-Times. “… They’d go out of their way to be mean and try to hurt you. And because we had better athletes, coach Chuck Daly just let them play the way they had to play to win.

“Bill Laimbeer was no real athlete. The same for Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars and James Edwards. We were faster, quicker, more competitive and smarter.”

It’s enough to give you a migraine. But Michael Jordan’s caddie wasn’t finished.

“It was gratifying to see the Pistons walk off the court before that last game ended,” Pippen said. “We didn’t expect anything less because they were a classless organization and everybody saw they were a classless team.

“I didn’t care to shake their hands anyway.”

NFL labor dispute: Union claims NFL’s offer ‘a front’; NFL fires back

14 Mar

Apparently the NFL & its owners don’t realize how replaceable pro football is.  Any Browns’ fans who followed the team prior to its move to Baltimore after the 1995 season remembers life without the NFL.  Sure, there were games on TV, but they didn’t include any teams you really cared about, so after awhile you just stopped watching.  Browns’ teams since haven’t been a whole lot of fun to watch either for the most part, but at least we have a team to follow. 

The days when Sunday was about getting homework, business work, or chores around the house done don’t seem that long ago.  The first few weeks you would remember that football was on, but be a little sad you didn’t have a team to cheer for that day.  Incredibly, within a matter of weeks, new hobbies, ambitions, and interests sprang up.

And now, all those options are better.  There are more sports, more TV stations, most everything offered in high definition too.  We’ve got games to play on the Internet, and on our cell phones for that matter.  There’s MMA, competitive eating, amazing online gaming, and movies in 3-D…all things that practically didn’t exist back when the Browns left in 1995.

Yeah, we're not too excited about the work stoppage either. Attention owners & players: The average fan does not like to watch millionaires bicker about how to get even more millions.

Want a more current example?  It wasn’t that long ago the NHL had a big labor dispute, and the sport is still trying to recover.  Their games used to be played on ESPN, now you have to hunt around to find them on Versus.  ESPN replaced the NHL games with college & NBA basketball, & seemingly upped its reporting for the latter two while diminishing its NHL coverage.  Hockey would love to be relevant, but people are so used to life without it on a major channel several nights a week that it’s hard to be a factor anymore.

So now NFL owners apparently want a “safer” league where players play more games.  The more games you play, the more chances for a concussion.  This does not sound like a plan to make the game safer.

We all know the owners want a bigger slice of the pie, b/c they’re taking all the financial risk.  Nevermind the players are taking all the health risk.  Adrian Peterson runs “all day” now, but in 15 years he may struggle to walk into a room.  Worse, once he gets there, he might forget what he went in the room for in the first place.

Hopefully at some point the NFL administration, its owners & players will come to a new labor agreement & we’ll have a normal draft, training camp period, and regular season.  If they don’t, they’ll likely be shocked at how quickly everybody just moves onto something else. 

After all, some of us have better things to do than spend 3+ hours watching 4-5 minutes of live game action (when you add up the few seconds each play takes – the rest is mostly just talking heads & commercials).

I happen to be watching some great NBA basketball right now & enjoying it.  NFL what??

Here’s a nice story on the NFL labor dispute from ESPN.com: 

WASHINGTON — Had enough of the he-said, he-said rancor between the NFL and players? Don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

The outcome of the league’s first work stoppage since 1987 could be decided in court; the first hearing on the players’ request for an injunction to block the owners’ lockout was scheduled for April 6. In the meantime, there probably will be more of the same as Monday, when Kevin Mawae — president of the NFL Players Association, the now-dissolved union — accused the league of spreading “complete falsehoods and complete lies.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, on the same conference call as Mawae, said the owners’ final offer Friday “was all a front.”

“I think it was all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, other than just to say they made a proposal — that was no different than anything else that they proposed over the last couple years, couple months, couple weeks,” said Brees, a named plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Brees and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, also a member of the players’ executive committee, complained that the players were not given enough time to assess and ask questions about the proposal owners made Friday morning.

“It just seems odd you would wait until Friday to put out a 20-point proposal, when each point has a number of different details in it,” Saturday said.

The NFL’s lead labor negotiator, Jeff Pash, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Friday’s proposal contained various new provisions. He said owners offered a 10-year deal.

“I was frankly surprised that the [owners’ labor] committee supported an offer as forthcoming as that was,” Pash said.

He also said the league would have been willing to agree to a third extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which originally was due to expire at the end of March 3, before two delays. But another extension, he said, “wasn’t really discussed in a serious way, because it was perfectly obvious they weren’t interested.”

By the end of Friday, talks broke off, the union announced it no longer would represent players, Brees and others filed suit, and the owners imposed a lockout at midnight.

“If they were saying they were not going to negotiate, under any circumstance, after 4 p.m. on Friday, don’t you think you have to ask yourself: Who was it who was in Washington putting on a show?” Pash said.

“We answered all the questions they had at the time, and we never put a deadline on it. We’re not the ones who were filing a lawsuit at 5 o’clock,” Pash said.

For all the things the owners and players disagree on, the two main sticking points are clear: how much money owners would get up front before dividing the rest of $9 billion in annual revenues with players, and the union’s demand for full financial disclosure.

“If we’re going to talk about ‘trust,’ maybe you should ask the owners if they trust each other to see each others’ books,” Mawae said. “I think that’s a greater issue than the players trusting the owners.”

Under the old CBA, owners received more than $1 billion to cover certain operating expenses, before other money was split with players. When negotiations began on a new deal, the owners sought an additional $1 billion off the top. Both sides acknowledge there was movement in that area.

But as the NFLPA’s lead spokesman, George Atallah, put it Monday: “The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is we really, really weren’t.”

Because the NFLPA says it no longer is a union, but rather a trade association — a distinction the NFL calls a “sham” — Atallah said any decision to return to negotiations would be up to the lawyers representing the players, rather than NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Asked whether there would be talks before the April 6 hearing, Atallah replied: “As of now, no.”

An NFLPA source seconded that notion to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday afternoon. The source expects a ruling on the players’ injunction request within a week of the hearing.

“No chance whatsoever,” the source said when asked if a settlement was possible. “There is no union anymore so it is impossible for collective bargaining to occur and there will be no settlement or even the discussion of it before this injunction is ruled on.”

The league, meanwhile, would prefer to return to the negotiating table. Starting Feb. 18, the sides met 16 times at federal mediator’s office.

“We would get back together with them tomorrow if they wanted to. We’re not the ones who walked out. We’re not the ones who renounced our status. We’re not the ones who filed litigation,” Pash said. “So we would get back together with them tomorrow. And if they have questions about our proposal, we’d answer them. If they have alternatives they want us to consider, we’d consider them.”

Mawae said that if the NFL contends the union walked away from mediation, “that’s a fabrication and a lie. We sat in that room … Tuesday and Wednesday of last week for 16 hours. … We met face-to-face a total of 30 minutes.”