Archives for July 2006

Ultimate Baseball Online – First Impressions

Even though I mentioned that I had downloaded Ultimate Baseball Online months ago, it wasn’t until this weekend that I actually had a chance to play it. I must admit, though, that I haven’t played a video baseball game in a long time. I think I played a little MVP 2003, but that was only for a few minutes. I have no idea what the last baseball game I played — Super Bases Loaded? Needless to say, it’s been a while. But I’ve been anxious to try out a Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Game (MMOSG) other than Shot-Online, so I dusted off the virtual mitt and gave UBO a try.

As with every other game, the first step is the character creation. UBO’s system was pretty simple, there weren’t a lot of choices, just basic options like body and face types (EA Sports Game Face it ain’t). I made a right-handed catcher named “BMasher” and set off to do the tutorial.

As I said, I haven’t played video game baseball in years, so I don’t know how the current gen handles mechanics like hitting and fielding, but UBO control scheme isn’t too bad. For batting, you determine how much power you want to put behind a swing, which subsequently affects the “sweet spot” of your swing. The more power, the smaller your sweet spot. You have a catcher’s-eye view of the pitch. You see it coming in but you don’t know where it will cross the plate. Clicking the mouse button swings and if you’ve guesses right and the pitch falls in your zone, you’ll hit the ball. Pitching works in a similar fashion. You pick the pitch, choose a location, and a meter to determines speed and accuracy. Fielding is straight forward, as well. A little red indicator shows where you should go to catch the ball and clicking the mouse holds up your glove to catch it. Every aspect is pretty simple but there’s enough wiggle room to make it more challenging as your skill level changes.

After the tutorial, I went to the “Practice Clubhouse” and jumped right into a game. You can play a game with as few as 4 players, but in the game I played in, it was 4 vs. 5. It was a 3 inning game and we were the away team. After informing my teammates this was my first game, I led off the top of the first. I made nice contact, hit a ball towards the short stop, ran toward first and was thrown out before I was half way down the base path. It appears my speed (currently at level 7) makes me run like I’ve got a backpack full of bricks. It would become apparent that speed is plays a major factor in this game. Watching a guy get forced out at second from short left field made that very apparent.

On defense, I started the game as catcher, but it was suggested I switch to third after my first throw back to the pitcher ended up in centerfield. Fielding was pretty easy and I only commited one error. I thought a game like baseball would be BORING to play on defense, but it was actually quite engaging. I clocked about 5 seconds in between each pitch, and you don’t know if the next batted ball will be coming your way, so you’re always on your toes. Kudos for making defense playable.

The game went into extra innings, with the other team winning on a bases loaded single. Since it was 5 on 4, the CPU handles the empty spots on defense but only actual players bat. In the 4 innings we played, I batted 4 times (going 0-4, striking out twice. Yeah BMasher!). The game took about 20 minutes or so to play, so it isn’t much of a time investment. I only earned a couple experience points, but I don’t think it will take long to “level” my player. Leveling up involves earning “Parameter Points” and “Skill Points” which obviously increase your players abilities. There’d be no point in playing if you can’t get better, so the skill progression elements of the game seem pretty solid.

So far, I’m liking UBO. It looks and feels like a baseball game, and the fact that I played with 8 other players is quite cool. I’m going to give it a fair shake and play it a handful of times before I give it a final thumbs up, but so far, so good.

The Cheapest Carnival ever

It’s not to early to think about getting your Carnival submissions ready, as the August Carnival is just around the corner! Carnival #17 is being held at CheapyD’s place. So get your submissions in for the Carnival and check out CAG for all your latest gaming deals. My library is full of games waiting to be played thanks to CheapyD’s smack-ton of good deals.

What I’m playing

I haven’t done this for a while, so I thought it’d be fun to do a “what I’m playing” post. After I stopped playing EVE I had a lull in gaming overall but recently I’ve been getting back into it. I’ve been busy with other endeavors but when I do have a chance, here’s what i’ve been playing:

Mercenaries – I stopped playing Mercenaries a few months ago but got the bug to play it again and I’ve been having a blast. I find myself not even doing the missions — I just drive around exploring (and running over the occasional mafioso). Last night, after picking up a bad guy, I hijacked their tank and drove it down into the Russian Mafia section of town and starting blowing buildings up. I took down a couple warehouse buildings, a construction crane a couple gas tanks. After running out of ammo I ditched the tank and jumped in a mafia truck and high-tailed it back to safety. I’m currently persona non grata in Mafia land after I capped three of their leaders. Oops. I’m anxious to make it back into that section of town to see if the damage I caused was perament.

Forza Motorsport – I try to avoid playing games when the kids are awake, so when my daughter asks to play the “racing” game, I’m more than happy to get a little gaming in. The only catch is that I have to drive a pink Lexus IS300. With cutesy-pootsy vinyls. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for my art. I’m actually liking the simulation-style racing. Originally I didn’t care for it but it has grown on me.

Pink Lexus
That’s my pink car, right daddy?

Brain Age – I finally cracked the twenties with my brain age! I’m sporting a respectable brain age of 26 years. I’m also loving Sudoku. But honestly, the best thing about Brain Age is that the buttonWife is hooked on it, which gives me free reign over the television and the Xbox. It’s a pretty good arrangement. I had no idea the DS Lite was going to actually enable more gaming.

So what are you guys playing? I’m thinking about picking up Big Brain Academy — any recommendations on that? I’m also gonna look for a rental of NCAA 2007. Having been burned by 2005 and 2006, I’m gun-shy with 2007 but Bill Abner has been giving it good marks, so that’s promising.

Up for a game of touch football?

Because, apparently, if you bought EA’s NCAA 2007 for the PSP that’s exactly what you’re getting. (Via Breaking Windows)

How on earth can IGN give this game a “passable” rating?! The game is completely broken. There is no way this can be redeemed. EA should just give everyone their money back and bury all the discs out in the desert. Terrible.

A simple instruction manual

This month’s Round Table Discussion is a trip down memory lane — “A moment when you knew that games were to be a part of your life…” As soon as Corvus announced the topic I immediately knew what moment that would be for me. The moment is crystal clear. It happened one Saturday morning on my way to Boy Scouts.

I was twelve years old at the time (1987), and on Saturday mornings I attended our weekly Boy Scout meeting at my friend’s house. His dad was the Scoutmaster and I’d get a ride to the meeting with another buddy of mine. This particular Saturday (it was late October, if memory serves me) my friend handed me the manual to his new Nintendo game, Kung Fu.

I had already been playing video games for a couple years on my trusty Atari 2600, but that was the extent of my playing. I didn’t play it very often, just a game of Combat or Pitfall when I was bored. I was more into my G.I. Joe Headquarters than any video game. My friend had an ColecoVision and I knew what the new Nintendo system looked like, but I had never played it. Leafing through the pages of the Kung Fu manual that chilly morning, I was immediately sucked in. “Look at those graphics!” Amazing! “Oooh, I bet the Mr. X is tough to beat!” I had to play this game. All during the meeting, all I could think about was saving the girl and kicking butt, Kung Fu style! After the meeting, I called my mom and begged her to let me go over Lance’s house. That afternoon we played Kung Fu and Super Mario Brothers for hours. I don’t know if you can get Nintendo thumb from just a few hours of playing, but I’m pretty sure I did. Kung Fu was one of my favorite games on the NES and that single day cemented my love for video games.

Of course I set about making sure Santa knew that all I wanted for Christmas that year was a Nintendo Entertainment System. No G.I. Joe, no Transformers. Just Mario, Luigi, and any other 8-bit creations I could play. Santa came through, as he always does, and I haven’t stopped playing since.

Kung Fu
Where it all started

If you’re interested, you can download the Kung Fu manual here, from replacementdocs (which is where I got the image above).