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Valve crosses the Rubicon. Adds Pay 2 Win elements to DOTA 2 in the DOTA Plus subscription

DOTA 2 has been listing for a couple years now, after 7.0 hit player count has either treaded water or slowly sank ever since for a host of reasons. Not that unusual for even the greatest games. Growth can't last forever and DOTA 2 has never been good or even seemed to really care about onboarding new players. Eventually they were going to have to confront that (the new-ish Turbo mode inspired DotA's -apem was a very good addition recently) when they hit their player count ceiling.

Part of that changing reality meant that a change to the business model was probably inevitable. Eventually people probably have the hats they want, and the only way to sell a meaningful amount of new ones is to get new players. And if you can't get new players, then well you gotta sell something else.

Unfortunately Valve broke perhaps one of the key tenets of what made the game great. Today valve released DOTA Plus, an ongoing subscription that replaces the old Seasonal Battle Pass structure. All well and good so far. I want DOTA to be financially successful and if they need to charge a sub fee to maintain the game at a high level, so be it.

The problem however is the contents of what they are selling

The right hand column is what matters here. In particular
The right hand column is what matters here. In particular "Real Time Comparative Analytics" and anything that says "Suggestion"

And DOTA is now near dead to me as any anything other than an occasional social play.

What Valve has essentially added into the game is free Ai machine learning driven coaching and access to live stats on the fly during matches that non-paying players don't get. [EDIT: removed inaccurate information. Hat tip to @krayzeegloo. Thank you for the catch]

For full details of what is included in DOTA Plus see their webpage here:

Now Dotabuff, opendota etc all have been around and are available to players today, but unlike this that was something you could really only analyze outside of the match (yes you could have a window open with it, but it doesn't tell you what to do on the fly generally). And while coaching slots are built into the game allowing people to pay for outside help in unranked causal modes, DOTA Plus Assistant as far as I can tell is currently available in all modes, including Ranked. Not to mention it's a lot more convenient to use DOTA plus than coordinating a coach.

It also remains to be seen how useful any of this AI advice is but I don't see how you can argue that this doesn't at least intend to put free players at a disadvantage. If it didn't, why would anybody buy this? Why mention it as a selling point? Clearly they want to give the impression at least that this will help you win games.

Is it really any more acceptable if this only provides a small advantage? To me, it isn't.

To me this symbolizes that Valve doesn't value the principle of fair play enough that all successful sports operate on. It is a sign to me that going forward Valve may go further down this path and will likely focus new and best future features on subscribers primarily as they are financially incentivized to do so.

YMMV may vary if this bothers you, but I personally don't like to invest time into games that forces me to pay to stay competitive. It's why I don't mess with stuff like Hearthstone. You never know when they are going to jack up the price on you further and eventually price you out of being able to play well. And frankly I think it kills a game's sustainability when it does this.

I'm hopeful Valve makes some changes to this, but the fact they released this at all doesn't give me a lot of confidence that they understand or care about implications of what they've done here.


A massive Sea Change is underway in the gaming industry that few seem to have noticed

While many of us have understandably been wrapped up in EA's Lootboxcalypse, gaming as we know it may have changed in an even more profound way.

Thanks likely due to PUBG's meteoric rise in China, English speakers are now but a fraction of Steam accounts.

No Caption Provided

an absolutely seismic shift in the space of a single month. Are the numbers reliable? I don't know truthfully. They do come straight from Valve although I don't know their methodology in obtaining them.

but it is consistent with numbers & trends I've seen reported elsewhere. E.g. in 2015 Steamspy estimated that there were 5 million Chinese Steam accounts, earlier this year that was up to 17 million and that was before PUBG went absolutely bonkers. This month likely isn't a blip as much as it's an acceleration of an ongoing trend.

It's way too early to know exactly what this means and how durable & significant this change will be (maybe those chinese players like PUBG and PUBG only. Or maybe they just don't spend as much as Americans even if they are on Steam in greater numbers) but it isn't hard to think of some of what it could mean when the nature of the consumer base changes that drastically. And it's hard to think that the Status Quo (three console makers + Pc + eventually mobile) as we've known it since the Xbox launched nearly twenty years ago will be unaffected.

For better or for worse, pretty much all of our lives Video games have been designed with primarily English speaking American culture and consumers in mind. From setting to character design to gameplay to marketing, you name it. And if the US wasn't the primary market it's basically always been at least the secondary, the market you hope to strike it rich in. But if the US is now only a 1/5 of your market (really even less when you subtract the UK, Australia, NZ etc from the English speaking numbers) does it really make to sense for a AAA company to cater wholly to that market?

It's not inconceivable to me in 5-10 years that may no longer be true for the majority of popular titles. Or perhaps even sooner. Little things American gamers might take for granted like English language translations and Voice Overs might be less common, maybe f2p gachapon/lootbox games becomes the norm for everything as Chinese gamers might be receptive to that business model than paying upfront having cut their teeth on iOS games, perhaps American centric games could conceivably become more of a console exclusive kind of thing while it's only the PC becomes dominated by games aimed at primarily an Asian audience as consoles historically don't have a lot of penetration in China, maybe Niche japanese games don't get ported to the States at all in favor of China, maybe little actually changes as Chinese players end up preferring existing Western IP, maybe entire new exciting genres are created as games are designed from a completely new mindset. Let alone the more fundamental aesthetic and design changes for games now designed for a completely market and culture in mind. Furthermore there's the potential for whether or not the Chinese gov't becomes the de facto arbiter of consumer rights and permissible content in games as they might become the primary market. The default every game maker tries to appease.

Hard to say how it will all play out. I will say if I were a AAA company, I'd be trying to make a title with the Chinese market in mind immediately since PUBG has now proven you actually reach that market now. There appears to be tremendous untapped potential there. You'd be pretty foolish not to try to cultivate a wide open market of that size.

And it's a tricky thing I think for Western companies given that the Chinese government hasn't always been a fan of gaming or that interested in allowing foreign companies a chance to compete on equal footing.

E.g. I don't think it's a given, that the Chinese gov't continues to permit Steam to at least even quasi-operate over there indefinitely. In my mind Tencent's recently revamped WeGame Storefront (formerly called TGP) competitor to Steam could very easily become a dominant force worldwide and possibly displace Steam. Last I looked they were shooting to take it global and already have hundreds of well known titles on it like Don't Starve and Rocket League (there was a furor earlier this year when Rocket League launched as a f2p game on WeGame and was simultaneously completely removed from the Steam store in China as Tencent had purchased exclusive rights to the game). Tencent's current services through their various wholly owned IP like League of Legends (Riot games), Clash of Clans/Clash Royale(supercell) and Arena of Valor (which is allegedly the most profitable game in the world this year) already boasts a userbase far larger than Steam's and to boot it owns WeChat which can be used as a payment service like paypal if I understand it correctly. Not to mention they own minority stakes in Epic and Activision Blizzard. They probably also are much more likely to receive preferential treatment from the Chinese government operating in that market than an American or Japanese competitor platform I'd think. Whatever happens I think it's safe to assume WeGame is going to try pretty hard to make waves worldwide in the next 24 months. And there's other chinese companies like NetEase which are also growing rapidly have their own ambitions. So who knows?

It's easy to read way too much into this sort of data, but at the same time there's more and more evidence that something big is happening and I can't help but wonder if the games industry is about to change forever.

EDIT: November Numbers only continue the trend

No Caption Provided

Chinese Language Users are now nearly 2/3 of all Steam Accounts!


Be Like Ryan Davis

There are some momentous things in life you remember in minute detail where you are and what you are doing when it happens.

9/11 was a day like that for me, so was the day I learned I was going to be an Uncle. Today is going to be one of those days for me and I suspect for many of us here.

I can't say that I knew the man or ever met him (although after consuming what feels like 1000+ hours of media with him in it it's hard not to feel like I do) but it doesn't take a genius to see the massive outpouring of support to see just how great and special Ryan really was.

4500+ comments on the Giant Bomb story, Traffic bursts that have brought the site down so many times it's taken me more than 8 hours to be able to post, Dozens of much better written blogs than mine her on Giant Bomb, Massive threads on Neogaf reddit and other gaming forums, Tribute articles from the biggest names in gaming media, mentions in national media such as Reuters & The New York Times and for awhile the number three trending topic on twitter for entire World. Many more that I'm sure I don't know about.

All for a guy who hosted a podcast about video games and random nonsense. On the outside looking in that seems insane. Significantly more famous people don't get anywhere near that kind of notice and especially not this kind of universal acclaim. But if you knew Ryan Davis or even know of him it makes total sense. The man was beloved for good reason.

Because this is a man who lived life the way it should be lived. He was totally unafraid to be himself and totally unafraid to express his feelings positive or negative in a way that very very few people ever do. WYSIWYG with Ryan. He was 100% genuine, if he thought you mispronounced "executable" in a really stupid way he'd let you know it (loudly), if he thought your shit was great you better believe he let you know it as well. But most of all he was fun. He loved to laugh and have a good time. His twitter is 100% full of things Ryan found amusing, and judging by the volume of his tweets Ryan was a very amused man.

The story of Giant Bomb's founding is a well known one now. But Ryan's role in its' founding is perhaps sometimes underlooked if such a thing is possible. Ryan in many ways I felt was the heart/engine of this place, you could really feel his true belief in Jeff and what these guys do. When he hosted podcasts it felt like he was not only hosting but pushing things forward. His feelings and respect for Jeff were palpable in his goodbye blog at gamespot

Would Jeff and the gang even with all their talent been able to pull the greatest comeback in gaming journalism without Ryan's supportive-ness and ebullient enthusiasm? I sincerely doubt it.

And that's the kind of man he seemed to be to those who knew him well from all accounts. Behind the larger than life personality and barbed wit was also a kind, welcoming and loyally steadfast man.

Looking in from the outside he was the validation, the believer that gave Jeff and the rest the resolve to take the risk and be themselves in a way that made them who they are. To cut loose and fuckin go for it. He was the enabler of awesome.

He was the tastemaster, if he liked something it became a thing here. In many ways he subtly set the tone and tenor of the place that became Giant Bomb's community. He was the alpha of energy, his laugh was so infectious that any who heard couldn't help but smile. And when he hated something, somehow his jovial way of doing so also you made you smile. There was no malice in the man. But most of all you couldn't help but enjoy Tuesday nights, when his familiar baritone announced the beginning of three hours playful verbal riffing in the best podcast known to mankind.

Ryan is gone now, but it's us who is our poorer off for it, not him. He S-ranked the time he had here on Earth. I have no doubt he would have preferred to have had more, but what he did have, he lived to the fullest.

Another GiantBomb user I follow I saw posted the question of " Where do we go from here?

For me I feel like I know

We live it up the way he'd want us to while toasting him and his memory.

We should all live our lives the way he did. We should love like he loved, share like he shared, welcome like he welcomed and especially laugh like he laughed.

We should all be like Ryan Davis.


Make Your Next Gen Predictions Here!

Boldness encouraged, Accuracy & explanations not required

Now that E3 is nearly here and the consoles have been revealed but not completely revealed, it is the perfect time to make predictions. We know just enough to make some fun guesses, but not enough to really completely discount anything.

So look into your crystal balls and let loose your mad theories here Giant Bomb!

No Caption Provided

Here’s mine

Console Wars

Console Winner - None

The theme of this gen will be fragmentation and contraction. Gaming will ultimately be stronger and healthier once we reach the other side of this gen but getting there will be rough.

Each platform will siphon off segments of the gaming population to the point that none will “win”. Xbox will take the mass market, Sony will take the old time console hardcore, Nintendo will reposition the Wiiu as a kid’s toy and take the kids market enough to save the company, Steam and other PC platforms will take the future as they bridge the gap to TV. The Ouya will be a forgotten oddity in a few years like the N-Gage and the 3D0.

But what is unusual this time is that fewer gamers double dip on multiple consoles, which causes them all to struggle (Save for Steam) like they haven't this past three gens.

Console Survivors - Sony, Steam , Player to be named Later

Microsoft will largely exit the gaming business because they will find the TV entertainment business more lucrative. Nintendo will quit the console business since they realize gimmicks aren’t enough, unlike the wishes of most they will still publish only on their platforms which will handhelds and very underpowered cheap Ouya like min-consoles. They will become the Tiger Electronics of the future, low powered low priced portable gaming machines. Stuff you see in discount bins at 7-11.

Sony will be the last man standing and will try the traditional gaming console one more time with the Playstation 5. They may try to bundle a digital only Playstation 5 inside their TVs

Steam and the other digital PC services will be full competition for Sony as the ease of PC gaming on the TV becomes easier and easier.

Someone else will enter the gaming market, most likely Apple or possibly Google or maybe even Yahoo. And they will be strong enough to make another go in next next gen but they won’t win this round.

Vita crossplay will be a bigger success than anyone could have guessed

After a drastic price cut Sony’s Vita will finally start to catch on with young kids and parents who want to play classic games and don’t have much tv time. The Vita against all odds will battle back to relevance against the 3DS.

Microsoft will halfheartedly position a Windows Phone vs the 3DS and Vita as a portable gaming system

It won't be successful, due to lack of clear consumer rationale. But will find niche oddball use as a Fantasy Sports crossover with the X1

Steam will start acquiring competition and will buy out Desura and GoG.

Desura brand will be retired, but GoG will continue to operate as a separate brand although their policies will start mirror Steam’s.

The Business of Games

Publisher Bankrupticies- Activision, Square Enix

Activision will finally overplay its’ hand on it’s mega hits and will be the big shocker. But once Call of Duty and World of Warcraft finally falter and Kotick retires, the publisher will make a rapid descent into a quick chapter 11 bankruptcy as they will fail to replace their money machines. Activision will survive but will be forced to sell Blizzard to a Chinese company to pay off creditors.

While most would assume EA was the one in dire straits, their willingness to change allows them to survive and thrive.

Square Enix will overplay their hand in desperation to save the money pit that is FF XIV and will be forced to break up the company. The remains of Eidos (Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman) will be acquired by Ubisoft. Final Fantasy and the Squaresoft brands of old will be acquired by Capcom. Nintendo & Sega will acquire the Enix properties such as Dragon Quest and Star Ocean.

Nintendo & Sega merge-

In a case of the weak combine to become stronger, the once hated rivals merge to become the ultimate gaming force among young children and pre-teens. Nintendega will focus primarily on being wholesome kid friendly , but parent friendly wallet friendly entertainment. They will make handhelds and Ouya priced mini consoles that are closed environment for TV. Most of the Sega corporate culture and personnel will be jettisoned.

Used Games, DRM and their impact- Gamestop and Best Buy go under

The DRM the publishers mandate will be just strict enough that Gamestop will lose it’s primary appeal to consumers faster than anyone realizes, which causes their major profit center to collapse taking them with it. The digital future is much closer than the console makers realize.

Best Buy will be brought to heel by showrooming and severe mismanagement. Best Buy will survive as primarily as an appliance company, but much smaller than they are today. The twin killing of these two gaming retail giants will cause massive disruptions in the hardware supply chain. The Console makers will scramble to find new channels to get their consoles to people as Target and Wal-Mart start to use their new leverage on themto squeeze their margins for better deals.

Sony will make the transition to digital day1 AAA releases faster and better than Microsoft which will help them survive to the next round, although they will have trouble moving hardware until they sign an exclusive distribution deal with Amazon. Betting on the right horse in the e-commerce race Sony will rapidly take market share. Sony will close their remaining Sony Style stores as part of the Amazon deal.

Microsoft having burned bridges in the indie community who are digital heavy will make the transition as well but struggle for titles in the transition period. They will attempt to get their console in unusual brick and mortar retailers such as grocery stores, pharmacies and Home Depot, their Microsoft stores and a web store of their own, but their refusal to bend over to Amazon’s demands will cost them dearly in terms of install base in the long term as gamers move their buying more or less completely online.

New game prices drop to 39.99 midway through-

Once the digital only future arrives early due to retailer bankruptcies, consumers balk at 59.99 for something they can't resell. In desperation to lure them back Sony and Microsoft begin a desperate price war and ultimately do win most back. Developers respond by pushing more and more content to DLC initially and trying to use episodic gaming where creatively possible.

DLC stays around and grows stronger-

After one too many customers gets burned by a Season Pass left unfulfilled, Microsoft steps in and sets hard mandatory content and pricing guidelines for all DLC. Sony as usual of late gets to play the good guy with publishers but still benefits. Consumers win, and overall DLC is a better experience next gen

Gamera will also have the option of buying just the single player or multiplayer component of games once Publishers feel confident piracy is less of a worry than present.

F2P never makes it work on consoles-

The console viewing experience for whatever reason just isn't impulsive enough for the F2P crowd. As a result most of the F2P games never pass quality control for the consoles and the ones that do have very sparsely populated communities which kill them off quickly. They remain primarily on mobile and PC and continue to grow rapidly there

New AA Publishers-

The biggest surprise of next gen is the revival of AA games. As games go more digital their prices become more elastic allowing mid budget games a chance to thrive once more now being sold in the 25-35 dollar range. Most Sports and Puzzle games now fall into this realm.

Indie games will lose a lot of prominence as result but will still exist.

Trends and Gameplay

Gen defining Gameplay Innovation – VR and the return of single player gaming.

No surprise here. The Oculus rift and things like it will change the ways games are played. They are something the consumer instantly gets how it makes their gaming experience different unlike the multimedia functions of X1 or the streaming services like Gaikai of the PS4. . But it’s a very solitary experience and one that de-emphasizes achievements and social networking. VR will be very rough at first but will be really getting going by the end of the gen.

Gaming will return to its’ escapism roots.

New IP will abound-

Partly part on the VR revolution and partly by new AA publishers and new foreign publishers. We will see tons of new titles. Most of the hits of tomorrow will be not be the hits of yesterday.

Mass Enemy Du Jour – Mutants/Chimaeras/Clones

Gone are the day of the Zombie. As gene splicing and cloning tech improves worldwide, the public’s fascination and fear of them will percolate over into entertainment. Zombies and other supernatural threats will fade from popularity to be replaced by Science abominations. The Graveyard will be supplanted by the Mad Corporate Scientist Laboratory.

Gaming Mechanic Du Jour – First Person Parkour and Face Reading

Somebody will figure out how to make movement fun in vr. Mirror’s Edge will be a tantalizingly vision of future Action Adventure games.

As visual tech, mo cap and things like it improve we’ll be asked more and more to “read” NPC faces to guess their characters inner thoughts and feelings as a common basic mechanic. Whether it be for Phoenix Wright crime dramas or Bioware/Quantic Dream like character interaction.

Games and Genres

Most Popular Genre – Survival Horror and Racing, Flight Sim

Survival horror will surprisingly supplant First Person Shooters as the most popular genre. The Oculus Rift and its successors will make Horror games and survival games engrossing and terrifying in a way they’ve never been. VR will be the motion control of its era and will have the most “wow” factor to the average consumer.

Racing will finally get a compelling First Person mode thanks to VR, which leads to a huge proliferation of them.

Rising New Genres- Forsenic mystery, Interactive Drama

The oculus rift and things like will give birth to a whole set of new genres we’ve never seen before and will revive ill thought of and nice genres such as Adventure games

A whole Slew of solve the case CSI like games actually become fun and popular as La Noire like improvements to Ai plus VR make crime franchise port over to games off of Tv.

Heavy rain, Beyond Two souls and the Walking Dead are just the precursor to the further fusing of TV and video games. While VR will recruit many casuals into the hobby, Interactive Drama will be what keeps them there.

Franchises that die/fade- Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Mass Effect, Call of Duty, Metal Gear

Ubisoft will run that puppy into the ground. They already are. Assassin’s Creed will be the biggest missed opportunity of the gen as the mechanics of the gen will suit it well. Next Next gen it will come back.

Square will put all its’ eggs in the FF XIV basket will backfire causing their single player games to be badly underproduced and will crash the company, taking Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest with it. (for awhile)

Without the Doctors’s leadership, Bioware will lose their vision for Mass Effect and the franchise will drift into mediocrity before going dormant. Dragon Age may or may not go along with it

Call of Duty will suffer Madden fatigue, while it won’t go away it will become stale and significantly less popular. Destiny will lay out a new shooter blueprint that makes call of duty seem like old news. Battlefield will handle the change better as EA will change their formula more readily.

Metal Gear’s death will be a slow one. The endless hype train and non-finale games will eventually wear out even the most passionate Kojima fans. But it will be gradual.

Franchises that Revive- Mega Man, Silent Hill, Prince of Persia, Burnout, F-Zero, Sports Games

Capcom, finally exhausting the annual Mega Man machine and out of ideas, turns the franchise over to western hands. Mega Man experiences a Retro Studios Metroid Prime-like reimagining to great critical and financial success.

Capcom promptly kills the good feelings by promptly re-annualizing Mega Man and rereleasing versions of it every 6 months

Silent Hill will become a mega hit due to the Oculus Rift’s impact on horror games, it or something like it will be the Call of Duty of the next gen.

After creatively running out of ideas for Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia will find new life yet again as a Mirror’s Edge like clone in VR.

As racing Games become in once again thanks to VR. Pretty much they all attempt to come back to some degree as fighting games did this gen. But Burnout will take the cake as it meshes the thrill of driving with arcade insanity.

Nintendo in their desperation to save the Wii-U and love of gimmicks will embrace the Oculus Rift first and use F-Zero and Wave Race as proof of concepts. The Nintenwheel will be their latest neat peripheral that doesn’t have enough good games..

The integration of X1's fantasy Sports capabilities + the lower pricing of Sports Games will help them achieve Mega popularity once again.

Nascent Franchises that become Mega Hits- Dragon’s Dogma/Deep Down, Dark Souls,As of yet Unknown Chinese titles, Destiny

Dragon’s Dogma II will fuse the best of Monster Hunter, Dark Souls and Skyrim gameplay into a smash hit. Japanese gameplay plus western design aesthetics creates massive worldwide appeal.

Chinese developers will start to eye the west and will start to port their titles over with little success at first but will improve rapidly. They will have an inherent advantage over Western and Japanese developers as they will be given increasingly preferential treatment by the Chinese gov’t allowing them effectively dominate China free of foreign competition giving a base market and cash flow to outspend their competition. The Chinese gov’t will also fund them, in an attempt to help spread China’s cultural influence.

Destiny is made by Bungie, they will do what Bungie does which is make great games. It will be the redefinition of FPSes we’ve been waiting for.

Persona 5 will finally release in 2015

Random Predictions

The Age of Lawsuits and Kinect-

There will be tons of lawsuits mainly involving Kinect. Whether it be Kinect spying too much (recording sensitive conversations between congress people, recording affairs) or not enough (heart sensor noticing heart attacks in users but not calling paramedics), Microsoft will fight an endless legal and PR war over the device.

The Oculus Rift will cause the most Mass Media Hysteria not Kinect

Tieing the Age of Lawsuits, VR will actually kill people or rather there will be many more gaming deaths because some people will become complete shut in their virtual world and forget to eat etc.

VR will be blamed for everything from Diabetes to Divorce on the nightly news. Pundits will decry that the youth of today are anti-social conveniently ignoring the fact that Gen Xers will perhaps like the device the most.

Steam will suffer a major Reputational blow

as their older games stop functioning enmasse with Windows 10 Steam will not compensate users for it. Microsoft deliberately coded Windows that way to punish Steam as competitor. People will lose some faith in some of Steam's promises as a result.

Game for Windows Live will be retired, Microsoft will use the Xbox brand across all their platforms for games.

China will overtake Japan in terms of game design influence worldwide.

Chinese developed games will represent 3 out of the top ten selling games if the gen in the US by the time it’s over.

DOTA 2 will slightly overtake LoL in worldwide popularity and will be shown as a sport on ESPN.

Brazilian developed games will start to trickle into the US as a niche thing at the end of the gen.

Nelly will be the next old rapper to star in his own video game

Food Carts will no longer be a Thing and the word "Xtreme" will come back into fashion


Peyton Hillis- victim of the worst Madden Curse of all time?

In about a week voting will open for the cover player for Madden NFL 13. If you love your team at all I beg you to vote for a player not on your team's roster. Last Season (likely soon to be former) Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis graced the cover as winner of the second ever Madden fan poll beating out Michael Vick.

and I think no one has ever been as Madden cursed as he has been.

So who is Peyton Hillis and what happened to him? Well let me share with you a Cleveland fan's perspective.

From Zero to Hero

After a productive yet unremarkable 4-year career as a Fullback and return man at University of Arkansas, Hillis was taken in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. While with Denver Hillis scarcely played and was riddled with injuries, despite occasional flashes of brilliance. He was unceremoniously dumped by the Broncos to the Cleveland Browns along with a 6th round pick in exchange for under-performing QB Brady Quinn in 2010.

With Cleveland in 2010, Hillis quickly ascended to the starting Hb role in Week 3 after injuries decimated the roster. For the rest of 2010 Hillis put gaudy numbers in Eric Mangini's run centric offense. He won AFC offensive player of the week in Week 9, becoming the first Brown in nearly twenty years to win the honor and ends up being runner up in MVP voting.

2010 Stats


In addition to his performance, Hillis' good ole boy hardworking blue collar nature persona (and enormous biceps) made him a fan favorite. For his breakout season Hillis was voted by Madden fans to the Cover of Madden NFL 12.

From Hero to Zero

Almost immediately things started to go wrong for Hillis.

  • Late 2010 - Early 2011 - His coach Eric Mangini was fired by Club president Mike Holmgren and replaced by Pat Shurmur, a coach who runs a pass heavy West Coast Offense. Going into Camp Hillis was informed that his role was likely going to be changed in the new offense and that he would need to improve his blocking. The NFL players are locked out preventing Hillis from learning the new offense
  • Early 2011 - Hillis fired his agent Jimmy Sexton and hires Kelly Masters, in July she is fired and he hires Kennard McGuire, making McGuire Hillis's third agent in 2011.
  • Summer 2011- Once in camp on the advice of McGuire, Hillis begins to grumble on and off the record about the Browns not offering him the extension and raise he wants. Club president Holmgren claims he is trying "like crazy" to sign Hillis. Hillis who makes $500,500 in 2011 is believed to be asking for $12 million in guaranteed money. When another Brown gets an extension, Hillis starts to go public with his feelings about being "disrespected" by The Browns. Reporters start to cover the Hillis story closely. The Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes him as saying later on- "You feel unappreciated because you want to get something done and nothing has gotten done at this point. As far as that goes, you don't know the ultimate feelings in the end of what's going on up top. You take it with a grain of salt and you keep moving on."
  • late Summer- Hillis struggles to pick up the new offense due to the NFL lockout shortened camp. The new offense requires more blocking and outside the tackle running for Hillis, neither of which are his forte. Hillis tweaks his chronically weak hamstrings late in camp.
  • Weeks 1-2 - Hillis is largely ineffective in his limited appearances, his effort is questioned by Browns beat reporters. Head coach Shurmur reduces his workload in practice on concerns Hillis is over working himself.
  • Week 3 - Hillis sits out of the Miami Dolphins game at the last minute on the advice of his agent, due to fear of him getting hurt since he was recovering from "Strep Throat and Flu-like symptoms". The Browns narrowly win a close game against a perceived inferior opponent and some of the team internally blames Hillis. Hillis tells the media it was his agent's fault.
  • After Week 3 - Qb Colt McCoy and the offense hold their first intervention team meeting with Hillis about his attitude and commitment to the team.
  • Week 6 - Hillis pulls his hamstring early in the Oakland game. Browns PR personnel fail to report this to the tv media covering the game and announcers mistakenly conclude on air he has been benched. Hillis is inactive for several weeks, ultimately he misses 5 games throughout the season. During one of the weeks he is "rehabing" he secretly goes to Arkansas to get married. Browns mgt is not pleased.

  • Mid October/Trade deadline - Browns Gm Tom Heckert and head coach Shurmur hint that they are no longer certain they want Hillis Back in 2012-2013 season, Browns first deny and then entertain to trade offers for Hillis. Hillis is not traded.

  • Early November - Hillis skips a Halloween charity fund raiser for the Cleveland Boys & Girls Club with no explanation. Co-host and Former Cleveland browns Center LeCharles Bentley strongly criticizes him publicly. Hillis blames his brother Kyle Hillis (and business manager) for not telling him the correct time.

  • Early December- In a press conference stating that he wants to return to Cleveland and retire as a Brown, Hillis instead talks mainly about endorsing Ron Paul for president in 2012 which cause more angst in parts of heavily democratic Cleveland.

  • Late season - Hillis seems to reforms his attitude, refuses to talk about his contract issues any further and performs well in the remainder of the season, including a 100+ yd game against Baltimore. The Browns finish 4-12. Despite early in the season denying the existence of the Madden Curse, Hillis now blames his poor performance in the season on it. The Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes him as saying- "No doubt about it," Hillis finally admitted Thursday. "Things haven't worked to my favor this year. There's a few things that happened that made me believe in curses. Ain't no doubt about it."

  • Post season- Browns pass on franchising Hillis for 7.7 million, Heckert say Hillis is welcome back at "the right price' (I.e. a lot less less money than the franchise tag). Hillis fires agent Kennard McGuire. [UPDATE 3/1/2012 - Hillis apparently has contemplated retirement (and may still be) to pursue a career with the Central Intelligence Agency- no joke]

2011 stats


Change from 2010


It's been a circus for Hillis and Browns fans for a year now. For most seemingly affected by the Madden curse usually one aspect of their career suffers a setback. In Peyton's case not only Hillis' on the field performance suffer, his health suffered, his wealth suffered as the likelihood of him getting a big money contract from the Browns severely diminished and his reputation among fans and peers was severely tarnished.

If nothing else this season probably cost Peyton Hillis tens of million so dollars in potential lifetime earnings. I think most expected a come back to earth season for Hillis, but this is incredible.

And that's why in my opinion no cover player of Madden has yet suffered such a complete collapse in prospects and reputation as Peyton Hillis has in their cover year.


Kinect Support coming to the PC, Feb 1st

Ballmer just announced this at the Consumer Electronics Show keynote today.

looks like a follow up on what Patrick reported a couple months ago.

Here's the relevant bit of the update via Barron's, for those who care

...We’re getting a demo of using the “Kinect” controller to interact with episodes of Sesame Street. The young assistant on stage demonstrates using a throwing gesture to help out Grover by “throwing” a coconut that appears to land in Grover’s box of coconuts I the episode playing on screen.

Ballmer announces Kinect will be coming to Windows on February 1st.

And that’s pretty much it. I closing, Seacrest asked Ballmer what he thought the future would bring. Ballmer, in a spoof of his legendary boisterous style, remarked “Metro, Metro, Metro,” referring to the name for the Windows 8 user interface. Then he added, “Windows! Windows! Windows!


Video Game Lava Buoyancy Physics is Wrong

Ya know Wired Science writer Erik Klemetti brings up an excellent point, which I hadn't thought in the context of video games previously.

Lord help if you fell on Lava, but chances are you wouldn't really sink into it.


Molten lava is nothing like water. Sure, everyone thinks that liquid rock (magma) is going to behave like any other liquid (e.g., water), but there are some key physical properties that tell us it just isn’t the case. Let’s compare!

  • Water has a density of 1000 kg/m and a viscosity of 0.00089 Pa*s.
  • Lava has a density of 3100 kg/m and a viscosity of 100-1000 Pa*s....

Do you suppose throwing yourself into lava would have the same effect as falling into a lake? Probably not. The average human has a density of ~1010 kg/m, so a little bit more dense than water.....If you are less than one-third the density of basalt (and you are, admit it), it is going to be next to impossible to sink into that liquid.

This is going to bug the crap out of me now every time I see something like this


Playing Starcraft 2 may improve crisis response & multitasking

Now this, this is very cool research work being done on Starcraft 2.

Apparently somecognitive scientists are reviewing SC2 replay files to see how players learn and how it affects their cognitive abilities. One scientist in particular, Mark Blair from Simon Fraiser University has a study ongoing called "Skillcraft". Seems like early indications are that high level sc2 play could actually be pretty beneficial in improving multi-tasking function and staying composed in a crisis. Not all studies show this though, so jury's still out on what the cogntiive community's consensus will ultimately end up being.

most studies like this that I've seen have usually focused on FPS games, so it's neat to see someone look at an RTS. Given the competitive play, replay, and sheer number of players SC2 does seem like a fertile ground for this kind of thing.

my favorite parts of the SciAm story

“From the perspective of the cognitive motor system, StarCraft is the most interesting thing you could do online,” Blair says....

In the last decade, however, some experiments have begun to suggest that video games might indeed teach transferable skills. Cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier at the University of Rochester and her colleagues have used video games to investigate what kinds of learning humans are good at, and along the way they’ve turned up some promising, if modest, examples of brain training...

Early results suggest that gamers may have faster visual reaction times, enhanced visuomotor coordination, and heightened ability to visualize spatial arrangements. They may also be better at rotating an object in their minds and may distinguish more deftly between the trajectories of moving objects. Players might also have an edge when paying attention to several objects at once.

One of the studies mentioned in the article (this one by Josh Lewis at UC San Diego), also concluded that having high APM is one of the essential factors to winning.

They tracked several measures, including how many actions players took per minute and the distances between the locations where actions occurred across the map. Not surprisingly, they found that players who made the most moves tended to win. Of more interest was the second calculation. Distributing actions more widely across a map, which the authors argue reflects a player’s ability to distribute attention, also correlated highly with winning.

read the rest at:

The Skillcraft project is here


Recently Quick Look-ed Kinect Game Sales

I love the quick looks here and I actually enjoy the ones of bad games and games I've never heard of the most.

But it does make me wonder who actually buys these Kinect/game show shovelware games? So I was curious and looked some sales #s up.

NPD stats you have to pay for, but has some estimates (can't say how reliable they are). But if remotely accurate

all I can say is Yikes, some of these guys have to be really hurtin'. Pays to be Disney I guess!

gameUnit Sales to date for Xbox 360
Kinect Disneyland Adventures110,402
Family Feud 2012 Edition11,607
The Black Eyed Peas Experience19,451
Self Defense Training Camp1,998
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 201235,741
Grease Dance10.927
Twister Mania7,202
Power up Heroes23,513
Jimmie Johnson's Anything with an Engine7,356
Yoostar on MTV2,411
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