Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MLB The Show 17: Design, Realism, and Fun

Enormous Bottoms, now in AAA, had a chance to win both the HR and RBI titles with four games to play in his season (now playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas after his original team foolishly traded him away).

He had 30 HR, one behind the leader. He was comfortably ahead in RBI, with 95, but wanted to reach that magic century mark.

Well, in those four games, his team put exactly zero runners in scoring position while he was at the plate. Zero

So what did he do? He hit four home runs (three on consecutive at-bats in one game), and one of those homers brought home a runner from first.

That's going big, Bottoms style.

34 HR and 100 RBI. League leader in both.

This was perfect. He wasn't rated highly enough to call up to the Majors, but he was good enough that he would destroy AAA until he built up a huge bank of training points.

One week later, he was traded.

He went from a beautiful ballpark to an absolute dump, but there was a short porch in right field, and when he hit a routine fly ball that turned into a home run in the season opener, it looked like it might not be so bad after all.

In the second game, in the first inning, he tore his MCL.

Out for the season.

In the offseason, hewas picked up by the Astros in the Rule 5 draft (one of many arcane rules in baseball). A Rule 5 pickup must stay on the major league roster for an entire season or he reverts back to his previous team.


Now healthy but far weaker than the other outfielders on the Astros roster, Enormous Bottoms gets fifteen at-bats in the first thirty games of the season. On the rare occasions when he plays, he presses and performs poorly.

Now, in one sense, this is just incredible game design, because it's an uncanny mirror to real life. I felt frustration, and anxiety, and even a little anger.

You know what, though? It's not very much fun.

I'm torn. One of the things I did in Gridiron Solitaire (which was ludicrously realistic), one of the things I prided myself on, was that the game would organically generate all the crazy momentum swings and emotions of real football, and it did.

Sometimes, though, as in real life, those momentum swings were downright punitive, and quite frustrating.

So I know how difficult it is to make a sports sim seem realistic, and what The Show has done in career mode is absolutely amazing.

I could have had more fun, though.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Zelda (BotW)

After I don't even know how many hours (40? 60?), let me just reiterate that this is an incredible, unbelievable game.

I'm still finding all kinds of new things in the world, and everything in the world is entirely consistent with everything else in the world, to a degree I have never seen before. It's a staggering achievement, and before this game, I wouldn't have thought it was possible.

The rain still drives me crazy, occasionally, but that is a minor annoyance in a brilliant, stunning experience.

A Big Week

Eli 15.9 has two final tryout skates this week, and by this weekend, he should know if he made the team.

This is the last open AAA goalie spot in the state, as far as I can tell. If you're wondering what happens if he doesn't make it, I can't tell you.

He's played extremely well in tryouts, so he's done his part. Tryouts can be wacky, though, and roster spots can turn on seemingly small things.

Like I said, though, we'll know by this weekend, at least.

He also went to Saginaw for Selects last weekend. It was a confusing tryout, because there were three districts involved, and they take kids from each district, but there was no way to tell which kids were from which district, so no one even knew who they were competing against.

We find out about that by May 3. "If I don't make it this year, I'm going back next year and kicking the door down," Eli said.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and I have a deep affection for pinball, even though I was never very good at it: The curious story of Magic Girl, the would-be greatest pinball machine of all time.

From Steven Davis, and this is staggeringly beautiful: The Egg Painter.

From C. Lee, and this is a fascinating article: The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI. This is an excellent read: Me and My Troll. This is tremendously interesting: Engineering the Perfect Astronaut. Next, and I think we all knew this (not really): Has the Queen's English Become Frightfully Common? This is intriguing: There are 19 types of smiles but only 6 are for happiness.

From Wally, and this is a terrific read: The man who catches marathon cheats - from his home. Next, and this is excellent, it's Notes on Games with Sequential Moves.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hue And Cry Noticeably Missing

From Deadspin:
Mallory Pugh, the blazingly fast and wildly skilled winger who played with the U.S. women’s team in the 2016 Olympics, is leaving UCLA to turn pro, according to a statement released by the school. The 18-year-old enrolled at UCLA in January and would have begun her freshman season in the fall. Instead, she decided to take her talents to the professional ranks before she ever played a competitive game for UCLA, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering U.S. Soccer just reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the women’s players, guaranteeing some players upwards of $200,000 a year. Turning pro means she can cash checks from U.S. Soccer as well as pick up endorsement deals.

A freshman (and only a freshman because she enrolled early) leaving to turn pro? Well, I expected a flood of editorials saying that she needed to stay for the college experience, that she wasn't emotionally mature enough to turn pro. What if it doesn't work out? She won't have anything to fall back on because she didn't go to college!

Instead: crickets.

Are the usual members of the outrage cotillion not upset because it's a white woman instead of a black man? I'm sure that's part of it, but I don't think it's the most important part.

The most important part, by far, is money.

Pugh going pro in women's soccer isn't going to cost the NCAA a penny in the larger scheme of things. Nobody cares if she's prepared, emotionally and physically. It's not something that anyone would even think of mentioning.

Young men and women graduating from high school and playing pro tennis, or pro golf? No one cares. No one would even think to bring up the argument.

High school graduates going to play minor league baseball instead of college? No problem.

Let's go to college football and basketball now. The money sports, the two sports where the revenue from television rights is absolutely gigantic.

Oh, now there's a problem.

Anything that would hurt the quality of the product that television networks pay for--well, it's all about the kid right? And the kids just aren't ready for the pros. It's actually exploiting the kids to let them skip college and go earn a living.

Good grief.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Minor Cut

Eli 15.9, The Boy Who Would Be Goalie, took a break yesterday to make these:

He clearly has strong cupcake game. 

"I cut my finger slicing tomatoes," Gloria said. 

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said. 

"It's nothing," she said. "Very small."

"Those are the ones that kill you," I said. " 'Following Local Woman's Minor Cut, Funeral Services at Noon at Waxworthy Funeral Home.' "

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MLB 17: The Show (Update)

This lighting issue is quite baffling.

Here are a couple of pictures that (not terribly well)illustrate what I'm talking about. The first one is the actual batting view:

Like I said previously, there a a ton of different lighting conditions, but for all minor league parks (haven't reached the majors yet), but early in the game, almost all of them are dark to some degree. 

However, if the game cuts to a quick flavor bit, the lighting is much better:

That was on the same at-bat as the first picture, and it's a totally usable lighting level. So why is the batting view so freaking dark in comparison?

That's not even the darkest lighting that I see. It's even worse at times, and it generally doesn't get better until the late innings when the lights are fully on. 

On rainy days, though, the lighting is fine. So this is appears to be a case of the developers falling in love with the many levels of sunlight, but somehow misapplying them to the game. 

Also, like I said, quite a few of these lighting levels look like ass. They don't showcase the game. It's both a bug and a design mistake.

Now, it's possible that this is only an issue for people with PS4 Pros. It might even only be a problem for people using the PS4 Pro with 1080P screens.  

Whatever it is, though, it's annoying as hell.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Tunguska Event, With Chocolate

Gloria surprised us with Easter bags filled with chocolate yesterday.

"Hey!" Eli 15.9 said.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"Dad's bag has more candy than mine! And I know he already ate some, so it's even worse!"

"I never get more candy," I said. "Dads never get more of anything."

"This is an outrage," Eli said. "Oh, and what happened to those dark chocolate eggs I had downstairs?"

"Those?" Gloria asked. "I didn't think you wanted those, but I kept them for you. They're in the drawer in the kitchen."

"Wait, do you mean your secret chocolate drawer?"

"Uh..." Gloria said. Eli burst out laughing.

"It's not secret!" she said.

"No, it's just the place where you store chocolate with hand towels," I said. "Nothing to see here."

What the...

As of two days ago, all the trees on our street were bare.

We woke up Sunday morning, and suddenly, there was this:

Apparently, about 10,000 trees did this overnight. Very impressive, sneaky trees.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is awesome: Playing Against Type: The Typewriter Orchestra. This is fascinating: Making Waves - A framemaker re-engineers a 17th century artform. This seems dead-on: If High School and College Textbooks Were Honest - Honest Ads. This is incredible:  Comparison of Lunar Module Navigation computer with an iPhone 5.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is tantalizing:  Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has the Basic Ingredients For Life.

From Wally, and this is fantastic:  This May Be the Most Accurate Han Solo Blaster Replica Ever Created. Finally: Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science. I never want to be on one of these (ever): The monster ships that changed how we travel.

From Mike Gilbert, and I've tried several of these: Photo of all the Dr. Pepper knockoffs.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: In this ant species, 21% of the colony has major injuries from war. Next, and these are cute but so remarkably strange: The World’s Only Scaled Mammal Is ADORABLE. This is excellent: Godzilla speaks! Interview with 12-movie veteran kaiju actor Haruo Nakajima. This is quite bizarre: When Marie Antoinette Pretended To Be A Milkmaid. This is fascinating: Small-brained birds get killed by cars. I'd buy at least half of these: Crazy cool product ideas designed by Japanese Twitter that we wish were real.

From Craig Miller, and how very 1984 of them: How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's the Most Miserable Time of the Year

Tryouts started last night.

Four skates on consecutive nights this week. Two skates the next week, and two the following week.

If you're a parent, tryouts are the worst time of the year.

The best time? The day after tryouts are over, if your kid makes the team. That's a relaxing day.

You may be thinking that it shouldn't be such a big deal, because there are lots of teams, right? Technically, that's true, but if Eli 15.9 wants to play D1 in college--and he does, very much--he has to play AAA this year. 16U is the biggest recruiting year, by far.

Largely, kids at AA don't get recruited. High school kids don't, either (the best high school hockey in Michigan is the equivalent of high AA). There is a huge gap between AAA and AA, so recruiters are going to spend 90%+ of their time at AAA games.

Then there's the squeeze.

Some kids Eli's age played 16U last year (they played up), so some spots on any 16U team are already filled by kids who played up last year. In Eli's case, one of the goalies on the 16U team was playing up last year, so he's guaranteed a spot.

That leaves one open spot.

There aren't really open spots on teams in the Detroit area. I think one team has one goalie position open--all the others are already filled.

This is make or break, really.

Last night, there were 80+ kids on the ice, split between two sheets. Twelve goalies, although those are all the kids trying out for both the 15U and 16U teams. Huge tryout.

The skate lasted 90 minutes. Eli didn't give up a single goal.

Not in the opening drills, where you're seeing a shot every 2-3 seconds. Not in 3x3. Not in 4x4. Not in 5x5.

It was stellar, but other than me, I don't even know if anybody noticed.

There aren't any goalie coaches evaluating the goalies (which is standard for any tryout), and the coaches have to spend the vast majority of their time watching the skaters, because there are so many of them. So there's no way to know how much the coaches even saw.

I do know one thing, though: they didn't see him give up a goal.

I like the coach. He's very down-to-earth, he's fair, and he sees Eli working at the rink all the time. I hope all of that works in his favor.

This whole tryout process makes parents (including me) incredibly nervous, but the one person who wasn't nervous was Eli. "Dad, nobody's taking this away from me," he said. "I got this."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Other Mall

I didn't mention this last week, but we went to a second mall in Minnesota.

Not mentioned in the post about Mall of America was how normal everything seemed. Lots of different kinds of people, a consumer melting pot. It was the quintessential American mall experience, just 10X the size.

The second mall? The whitest mall in America.

Luis Vitton. Coach. Lululemon. Vineyard Vines.

Wait, those are super snobby stores, but what makes it the "whitest" mall? Well, 99% of the customers were white, which is a strong indicator. Also, men walking around in sweater vests and ties to shop.

I half-expected a yacht on wheels to come sailing through, with its breezily knotted, sweater-wearing passengers lifting champagne flutes as they rolled by.

Really, it was kind of horrifying.

We passed a store named H.O.B.O. Their website says "Our possessions should reflect our journey".

This is not satire. No way could I make this shit up.

"Is that the most tasteless thing you've ever seen, or just in the top ten?" I asked.

"It's way up there," Eli 15.9 said. "Not gonna lie."

"Next, a store created by rich white people called 'Homeless'," I said. "You know that's coming."

We didn't stay for more than fifteen minutes, and both felt even that was too long.

When we got back to the parking lot, I burst out laughing. "What?" Eli asked.

I pointed to a double row of cars in front of us. "Look," I said, "it's not just the mall that was white!"

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