Sunday, June 27

Some light recording

I've been in Toronto for a whole week, but I thought I'd throw this up real quick.

The pastor of the parish where I've been LifeTeen Director for the last few months has been reassigned, and tonight we celebrated his last Mass. It was a really emotional night, and we had a lot of bittersweet worship time, and said goodbye. Literally the day that my flight left last week, I did a quick recording of a Catholic classic, Here I Am, Lord to be used in a video for him, since it's been a really powerful and important song in his life. And, because the teens are awesome, the video is up on YouTube. It's Redman's You Never Let Go, then my recording, complete with a few pictures of me rocking it mid-Mass, along with a whole lot of pictures of Fr. Tom being awesome. Enjoy!

...I need to buy/make a pop filter.

Friday, June 11

MLB 2K10 cheats.

I love baseball. I love videogames. For the longest time, the only baseball videogame I had was R.B.I. Baseball II for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And it is glorious, except that Ozzie Smith and Nolan Ryan aren't still in the major leagues. So now that I have a sweet PS3 slowly sucking my time away from me, a while back I decided that I wanted to get a baseball game. For those of you who aren't as well-traveled as I am, there are two basic choices: MLB The Show and the MLB 2Kx franchise. I went with the latter, though I find myself regretting it a bit.

I have a problem with sports videogames in general because of simple economics; it's not necessary for a game developer to put much effort into a sports game, as the competition simply isn't there and, frankly, sports fans are plenty happy with a mere simulation with pretty graphics, and on top of that, you need to release a new game every year. For reference, some of the best games ever, such as the Final Fantasy series and Fallout, take many years to develop and perfect, and the result is a stunning game that crosses the boundary into "art". But as a result of the economics of the sports game market, you usually get the same game year after year with slightly better graphics and updated statistics. But a lot of the most important parts of playing a game, namely, gameplay, sometimes get left in the dust.

And so it is in MLB 2K10. Each player has stats, which is good. What that means is, in any given play, a pitch from a pitcher to a location will result in some sort of hit or a swing and miss from the batter. All of these calculations are done in the background, but the results are sometimes not convincing. Like when you're working a batter inside, and somehow he manages to hit a fastball that's in on his hands and drive it to the opposite field. That's pretty much impossible in real life, but because the game said "this batter will hit the next fastball", location doesn't seem to matter much. Or, even worse, if you're a great pitcher, you're only going to give up little bloop hits or shots up the middle. Because the game doesn't know how to realistically portray a strong ground ball through the defense, since the defense seems to cover the entire field at times and none of the field at other times, depending on who's batting. All in all, you get the feeling that some batters are going to reach base no matter what you do, and that's a very helpless, depressing feeling for a videogame.

Way, way worse is their My Player mode. Way worse because I was so excited about it. You get to make your own player. I want to be a pitcher, so now I can be a pitcher. And it is cool that you have to slowly work your way up through the minors to get to the majors, and develop your skills as you go. What is completely and utterly frustrating, however, is that you have no control over when you leave a game as a starter, and the AI tends to handle managing decisions with all of the tact and strategy of, well, a crack-addled 12 year old. Some situations that I have encountered: I'm pitching a complete game shutout into the 9th inning, and it's not really a close game (say, 4 run lead). I'll get two guys out, then give up a base hit and be taken out. I'm in the 7th inning, have just given up two runs to make the game a 2-2 tie with the bases loaded, and I'll be left in to get slaughtered (when you're in a tight spot, your control gets terrible and sometimes you can't even see the strike zone, so you're pretty much screwed). I'm ahead in a 9-2 game with a low pitch count, and I'll get randomly taken out in the 8th after having retired the first batter I face that inning. All of those managing decisions are, objectively, wrong, and they're just some of many.

Now, it used to be easy to pitch complete games in this game. Batters have no patience, so I would routinely throw complete games with my pitch count below 90, but then they made a patch. Now, it's become extremely difficult. And it's difficult to throw a complete game in real life. For one, batters take a lot more pitches, meaning that most starting pitchers will reach 90 pitches somewhere between the 6th and 8th inning, depending. But what I hate about this game, what drives me absolutely crazy, is that it cheats. In real life, if a pitcher is having a good game, but not a great game, he will be taken out in the 7th or the 8th, and the bullpen will get the final outs. In MLB 2K10, the game checks on the 26th out, does a calculation to see how good of a game you've had as a pitcher, and how close the game is, and will either leave you in or call in the closer to get a one out save. In real life, if the game is close in the 9th, unless I've only thrown like 90 pitches, for the love of everything holy, bring in the closer to start the inning. Don't let me get two outs, tantalize me with the possibility of a complete game, then jam the closer in there in the last minute. That's just mean.

The problem is that this game bases everything on the almighty pitch count, which is something that bad managers rely on. Back before they kept track of pitch counts, starters would routinely throw 140-180 pitches a game, and would sometimes touch 200. Now, you're lucky to throw 100, in part because I think that human beings like round numbers. A better system, and one of winning managers (read, Tony LaRussa, manager of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals...), is to actually look at what's going on in the game, have a job for every pitcher in the bullpen for all possible situations, and use them accordingly. If you consistently gave a major league closer one-out saves, he'd do terribly because it communicates a lack of trust.

Also , when I throw a 98 or 99 or 100 mph fast ball, you should not be able to catch up with it. My current pitcher has an electric fastball, but guys are getting hits off of him all the time. When I go from a 99 mph fast ball to a 77 mph changeup, they swing and make contact like it's nothing. That should be causing serious problems to all kinds of batters, but it seems to only be the pitchers that I can strike out with three straight 97+ mph fastballs (with good movement!), which is not very realistic.

Also also, if you're going to make a baseball game where players can be called up from the minor leagues mid-season, then please make sure that you have actual players in the minor league affiliates. I'm tired of seeing generic players with weird names show up on major league rosters.

You have one job to do: to simulate a real-life game, with real players who actually exist. And you have a whole year to get the stats right. Do it. I'm not going to buy another game from the MLB 2Kx franchise unless they prove they can fix these issues, because it just frustrates the fans who want to play through a whole season or a whole player's career. And, for the record, the St. Louis Cardinals (or any team at all, for that matter) would never let Albert Pujols slip through to free-agency, and yet, that's happened each of three times that I've played My Player mode for a few years and there's nothing I can do about it. Twice, no other team even picked him up. Really? No team wants the greatest baseball player currently playing, and perhaps one of the top 10 players of all time? No one?

Sorry...I just had to get that out...

Saturday, June 5

With everything, with everything...

Just had an incredible adoration time. Played with my favorite youth music minister, Adam Bitter, at a Timothy 4 retreat. Played, among others, How He Loves and With Everything. Played my heart out, then played some more. Played electric, and really put my new pedal board through it's paces. Just. Awesome.

I don't really have a lot of words, so sufficient to say, it was a great, incredible worship experience. I really love being the sole electric guitarist in a band, because I have complete freedom to either add something pretty or interesting over the top of a song, or to take the song where it's going by really driving it rhythmically. And, it also leaves me free to throw up my hands and just worship sometimes.

What a great night.