Last week saw the timely U.S. release of “United Passions,” a film about errant soccer association FIFA, funded by errant soccer association FIFA. This was a vanity project to top all vanity projects, an attempt to rehabilitate the image of an organization now best known for its corruption and destructive nature. And, in the United States, it came exactly one week too late, following the arrest of several top FIFA officials and resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
“United Passions” reportedly made $607 dollars in the United States over the weekend. There’s no missing digit, no missing “thousand” which would make that number less embarrassing. Six Hundred and Seven Dollars, so little that someone probably had to make a call on whether to report how many cents it made over $607. Even given the recent controversy–which probably made more Americans think about FIFA than ever before–no one wanted to see FIFA’s movie about FIFA. And it’s really no wonder, since it has 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and (as of this writing) a legit 1 on Metacritic (again no digits missing there).
But, c’mon, you’re curious, right? That’s where I come in.
Today the Cardinals called up career minor-leaguer Ed Easley for what is sure to be a single-game appearance with Jon Jay returning this weekend. Rather than write a blog post about it, I made a short visual novel. You can play it in your browser or on your phone at this link: Ed Easley’s Wonderful Day
While you’re at it, if you like visual novels, go check out Serafina’s Crown on Steam Greenlight. I wrote about 1/3 of the dialog (the creator of SC is doing the music and portrait art for The Closer). It’s not my usual style, but if you like my video game/sports writing, give it an up-vote to speed up the greenlight process. Thanks!
If you’re a Cardinals fan, you know that there are a ton of Cardinals fans who want to turn Matt Holliday into a first baseman. Their goals are noble and fully understood. Holliday didn’t come to the Cardinals as the best of left fielders and he hasn’t gotten any better. Despite putting up consistently great offensive numbers for half of a decade, some people seem to remember him best for a defensive miscue back in 2009. Matt Adams has started 2015 with an uninspiring performance, and the Cardinals have a glut of intriguing outfielders. Moving Holliday to first, giving both at-bats and defensive opportunities to Grichuk, Bourjos, Piscotty, etc. sure sounds nice. There’s only one problem.
Matt Holliday has never played first base as a professional. In fact, he has over 200+ games at third base in the minor leagues but not a single professional inning at first. But is that a problem? First base requires the least mobility of any position on the field. It’s poorly-sourced common knowledge that anyone can play first base. It doesn’t require range. It doesn’t require much of an arm. A first baseman needs to be able to catch the ball and react quickly. But those are skills generally required of all positions. So, surely, Matt Holliday can play first base?
If you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that there is only one way to answer any question about players out of position. It needs to be simulated in MLB: The Show.
Yesterday, the National Football League announced that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would be suspended four games as a result of his role in the Great Football Deflation Scandal of 2015. This was a big deal, not just to the Patriots or the entire league, but to Tom Brady himself. You see, Tom Brady is an intensely competitive man. You might even call him a “competitor”, if you were an NFL announcer and had to fill several hours of airtime with the sound of your voice without saying anything meaningful. Tom Brady isn’t the sort of guy who will take to sitting on the sideline. Instead, he’s going to do something drastic. He’s going to join the professional sports league where tampering with the ball is a storied and celebrated act.
Tom Brady is going to play Major League Baseball.
On Monday, the Cardinals announced that Adam Wainwright would be out for the season with an achilles injury, which made Lance Lynn the de facto ace of the team. Some people might debate this and say that Michael Wacha headlines the rotation, since he’s been pretty much untouchable throughout his short career. But he’s not proven. Not just yet. Others–crazy people–might elect to call John Lackey the number one starter. While Lackey is perfectly useful, he’s not the pitcher he used to be. He gave up three runs to the Phillies, after all. And then there’s Carlos Martinez, who has electric stuff but is better known for his NSFW twitter fav skills than his pitching. The ace is Lance Lynn, to the extent the Cardinals have an ace. And that’s terrifying to anyone who has watched the team for longer than a year. Lynn put everything together last year, but he’s hardly been a model of consistency. I like Lance. I’ve always liked him. But the frontline starter? Yikes.
All of this coincided with the Cardinals experimenting with some very interesting defensive alignments. For at least a couple days this weekend, Pete Kozma was the backup catcher. He didn’t play there but the possibility still loomed, with ol’ Petey just a single errant foul ball away from donning the tools of ignorance and demonstrating his #framing abilities. Meanwhile, Mark Reynolds headed out to left field for literally his first appearance in LF and his sixth career appearance in the outfield EVER.
I had to do something. I had to try something–combine these two events into something special. So I fired up MLB: The Show 15 and put the new Cardinals ace, Lance Lynn, into the ultimate trial: a complete game, with an entire lineup designed in the spirit of Pete Kozma the Catcher and Mark Reynolds the Outfielder. So it begins.
The rules were simple. The lineup above would backup Lance Lynn, Cardinals ace. No one was at their proper position. Lefthanders were positioned in the infield. Chaos. Absolute chaos. To make matters worse, I set the game in Petco Park, the largest ballpark in baseball, so each out of position player would have to cover the most ground possible. The weather would be rainy, surely a boon to drought-blighted southern California, but yet another obstacle for the Cardinals ace. Obviously, this could go real bad real fast, but Lance Lynn would have no way to escape. He was going to pitch the entire game. I turned off injuries so even a strained oblique couldn’t save him.
This is the passion of Lance Lynn.
I killed four bosses yesterday. The first was a giant, shambling pile of corpses. It had given me fits late Saturday night, obliterating me in one with a flash of red light that was only telegraphed if the game camera was pointed in the right direction. Its name was The One Reborn. I had to grind out a few levels of vitality to be able to withstand the red flash. Once I could do that, he went down in one try.
The second boss was a towering man with a scythe who lives on top of a castle. With a swing of his blade, he tosses bloody skulls my way like he’s a Mortal Kombat character. He wears a crown but I don’t think he’s a king, because his name is Martyr Logarius. I summoned help to beat him. Ringing a bell just outside of his domain brought another player into my game. We took turns drawing the ire of Logarius while the other tore into his back.
The third boss was the smallest one yet. Smaller even than my character. It looked like the classic alien gray, with an oversized head and withered body. As it shambled around its domain, it summoned identical-looking minions to attack and protect it. They swiped at me and then they shot lasers at me. This one was called the Celestial Emissary. It was probably the easiest boss I’ve faced so far and I still died a couple of times. My bad. I was doing so much damage to it that I got careless. I thought I could end the battle quickly. I did end the battle quickly, but not the way I wanted to.
The fourth boss was a man with his head in a cage. He yelled at me about how I could open his eyes. His arm turned into a swarm of tentacles when he was cornered and he summoned skeletal marionettes to fight on his behalf. I had to chase him through a series of cloudy hallways and drop down on him from above when he tried to put a gate between us. His name was Micolash, Host of the Nightmare. He caught me off guard a couple times with a new attack that staggered me and nearly left me for dead. But in the end I put my blade through him. Maybe that was what he wanted. I still don’t know.
I have a weird relationship with adventure games. I should like them. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I believe that video games can tell compelling stories. And, for the most part, the best (or at least best-regarded) stories in games have been told in adventure games. The Longest Journey. The Walking Dead. Grim Fandango. And so on.
There’s only one problem: many adventure games are incredibly unpleasant to actually play. Because games are supposed to have gameplay of some sort, adventure games are saddled with the idea that they have to be challenging. Instead of just allowing the player to experience the story, these games throw up tedious minigames or, worse, unintuitive puzzles.
Recently I played through the remastered version of Grim Fandango and found myself aghast at the game’s bizarre expectations. Everything else about Grim Fandango–the writing, the art, the voice acting–is fantastic. But it’s shackled to a series of incredibly arbitrary gameplay sections. I hesitate to even call them puzzles. You run around the environment, collecting items and then using those items in a specific order in specific parts of the environment. Some of these make a certain amount of sense, like luring birds with bread and then scaring them when they pop a balloon underneath. But others, like the bizarre shit with betting stubs at the cat racing track, is even more difficult to describe than it is to figure out. I played through the entire game with a guide and, while it made me feel a bit like a loser, I think I enjoyed my time with it way more than if I went in legit.
Licensed games rarely take risks. Just look at all the titles I’ve played so far. X-Files: Resist or Serve was a PS1/Code Veronica era Resident Evil game re-skinned with Mulder and Scully, arranged around a few plot points lifted straight from the X-Files movie. Star Trek was a co-op third-person shooter that was somewhere on the spectrum between Gears of War and, hell, Resident Evil 5. Both were such unabashed ripoffs that they prominently featured zombies instead of anything resembling the usual villains of either series. And Sopranos: Road to Respect? While it (oddly) had a few loose elements that could be seen as precursors to systems in Sleeping Dogs and Alpha Protocol, there was nothing meaningful to the game other than a rote brawler. The environmental attacks and dialog system were thin veneers that ultimately amounted to nothing.
Reservoir Dogs is a different story.
If there is any creed that I strive to live by, it is this: do as Hideo Kojima would do.
So when I was presented with the question of how to continue to promote my upcoming game, The Closer: Game of the Year Edition, there was only one thing to do. I needed to make a playable teaser.
Last year, Hideo Kojima rocked the world of video games with P.T., a brief and mysterious free game released on PS4 with little-to-no explanation.
Despite the fact it was only a promotional tool, P.T. was so effective and weird that numerous reviewers ended up naming it one of the best games of the year. It’s a great idea for promotion: a short game that is entirely divorced from the story of the main title, but can express the themes and ideas in an easily accessible (and free) manner.
To follow in Kojima’s footsteps, I had to distill the humor and existential weirdness of The Closer into something that could be played and understood by anyone. A text adventure, maybe. Or just a Twine game.
I made a Twine game. Go check it out.
I started watching Star Trek when I was seven years old. The year was 1992. I didn’t know it at the time–or if I did, I didn’t understand the significance–but Gene Roddenberry had died just a year before. Star Trek: The Next Generation was winding down its heyday, Deep Space Nine was months away. I was immediately hooked. I devoured new episodes, re-reruns, previous films, and VHS tapes that I could rent with a couple of episodes from the original series. Back then, it was all great. I even read the licensed books. God help me, I read the licensed books.
I know exactly when I stopped caring about Star Trek. I can put a year on it–1998–because that the year Star Trek Insurrection came out Voyager fully committed to its bizarre obsession with its new character, Seven of Nine. Those were my breaking points. I kept watching Deep Space Nine through its end in 1999, but after that I was done with the franchise.
My instinct is to say that I grew out of Star Trek, but I don’t think that’s fair. That instinct is based on a positively inexplicable embarrassment I still have about being a former trekkie. It’s hard for me to admit how much I liked Star Trek, and especially that I’d probably still like it if I went back and revisited the right parts.