Friday, March 31, 2006

Clearing from the Wreckage

Before I forget, addition to my list of promised future topics: on resurgence of popular media in the past few years.

Let's talk about the good old NCAA basketball tournament, shall we?

So a lot of people's brackets aren't looking so good. Mine, for instance. I correctly predicted zero of the Final Four teams. So did my dad. But it wasn't unreasonable, in my opinion, to pick most of the Final Four teams. LSU, a fine choice. Lost of people were expecting lots of good things from the Tigers, and those good things materialized. Given that a team could beat Duke, most other potential matchups wouldn't be that much of a challenge. So after picking LSU to beat Duke, maybe a bit of an upset but not an unreasonable one, picking them to win the region makes sense.

UCLA, also perfectly reasonable. It's never unreasonable to pick the #2 seed to win the region. The regional final, a classic 1-2 matchup. Sure, Memphis impressed people with their athleticism, but you can't discount the experience and background of UCLA. Florida, nothing wrong with that pick. The #2 seed in the region got there by winning the Big Ten, and as much as I like the Big Ten, they're just not that strong a basketball conference lately. So Florida beats Ohio State (or gets Georgetown to do it for them) and skates into the regional final. At that point, it becomes a tossup between Florida and Villanova.

So, by themselves, those picks make a lot of sense. Put together, it's a gutsy bracket that bets against Duke, Texas, Memphis, Gonzaga, and Villanova at the same time, but it's at least a sensible one.

Now show me a bracket that had those three teams, plus George Mason. Heck, show me a bracket that had Mason and any other three teams.

I have to think that the word "Cinderella" has never been used so often in conjunction with an early American patriot and statesman, but if the shoe fits... (dear God. Horrible pun absolutely unintended.) And I think I know why. Yes, they're only the second #11 seed to reach the Final Four in tournament history, but even more significantly than that, people love to see teams like UConn and UNC lose. If only the Patriots could also have faced Duke.

Review: Oblivion

You might have noticed that, although I promised a whole lot of interesting-sounding topics last week, among them a review of Oblivion, none of that has come to pass until today. That's mostly because I've been playing the game and having no time to review it. I predicted last year sometime that when Oblivion came out, I would lose all semblance of a social life that I might have thought I had. As it turns out, Mock Trial has been more responsible than anything for destroying my social life, but Oblivion is coming in a close second.

Simply put, this game is magnificent. I can't sing its praises highly enough. Everything is done exactly correctly. And so, rather than attempting to tell what the game is about, and how it works, I will give a summary of everything bad about the game, and every other aspect of the game can be assumed to be somewhere between "excellent" and "outstanding."

The first and most obvious problem with Oblivion is its performance requirements. I'm running P4, 1 GHz ram, 256 Mb video card, and I get an acceptable frame rate most of the time, a good frame rate in locations with little activity, and in the open world when fighting, it's pretty jerky. To fully experience this game (which entails not reducing any graphical settings, because they're that good), you absolutely need as much ram as you can stuff in your machine, and the highest-powered video card you can buy.

Secondly, the openness and lack of linearity can be a little overwhelming to players at first. Trust me, though, it was worse in Morrowind. Fast travel and the revamped quest log system make it a lot easier to remember where you are going, why you are going there, and what you're supposed to do once you arrive.

Who should play this game? Obviously, fans of the Elder Scrolls series. You know how every series has its stubborn purists? I've yet to run into anyone who liked Morrowind who doesn't also like Oblivion, which is saying something. For that matter, any RPG fan in general--be it MMO, console, tabletop, whatever--needs to play it. And heck, even if you're not into RPGs at all, but do like other video games, give Oblivion a try.

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