Monday, April 23, 2012

Quality Commentators

As a fan of wrestling I have to listen to commentators for hours at a time and there are a lot more bad commentators than good ones. What made me start thinking about this was that I was watching UFC 145 and got to listen to Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan do commentary which to me is exactly the kind of commentary a fight should have, and the kind of thing that applies to MMA and wrestling equally.

Both men have a role that they play on commentary. Goldberg handles the backstories of the fighters, the fights, and what the fight means for the fighter. Rogan handles the details of the fighting which he is great at because he's a big fan of the sport, and used to be a fighter, albeit not for an extended time. Both of them can do both things, and you'll hear Goldberg comment on maneuvers or Rogan give commentary about the story of the fighters, but they stick to what they do best and give a great product. Goldberg also knows that Rogan, and the details of the fight have the higher priority over what he's talking about and cuts himself off, but does a great job of picking back up when the fight slows again. The most important part is that they work well together and probably have a good relationship outside of the job as well, although that is just speculation on my part.

The biggest difference from UFC's commentary to WWE's commentary is that they don't prioritize the in ring action unless it's the main event, and sometimes it only matters once they get to the PPV. So much of the commentary is about selling the product and not selling the action in the ring. What the WWE commentary needs more of is the Rogan aspect of commentary. A person who can call the action well, and explain why a wrestler is doing what they are doing to viewers. A portion of your viewer is going to understand, but there are always small things to point out that teach the viewer, and help to develop how smart the fighter is performing, something that can be used to play up the abilities of wrestlers who aren't as strong in the ring as others. They may not be great at a ton of things, but if you highlight the small things they do to make their moves more effective they seem like a better fighter.

As wrestling is centered more on entertainment than MMA is the sports they like to go with a heel/face dynamic with their announcers which is done to varying degrees of success from Bobby Heenan to Michael Cole. Heenan often used comedy to play down the faces, but mostly played up the actions of the heels to emphasize how smart their cheating is instead of how dumb the faces are which is what Cole does. Heenan, and Lawler when he was a heel, and not being sexist, were capable of acknowledging the smart things that the faces do, because they would appreciate the quality of the performer which Cole never does. I'm fine with wrestling commentary without the heel/face dynamic, but if WWE feels the need to use it the heel has to be talented, know wrestling, and be entertaining.

Currently WWE commentary often lessens the product that is being watched instead of enhancing the viewing experience. Michael Cole makes listening to the commentary unbearable, and Lawler isn't much better and I've taken to listening to music while watching wrestling instead of listening to commentary. Something I wouldn't think of doing over a UFC show. The commentators need to compliment the in ring action and not take the focus from it which is something the WWE could learn from UFC, or perhaps the WWF.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reading and Kind of Reviews

I've been reading a lot lately and grabbing different books from the Library.

I got some Clive Cussler novels first to try going through the Dirk Pitt series again and seeing if I still liked them as I had when I first read them. I read Flood Tide and I think it's safe to say I don't enjoy the Dirk Pitt books anymore. Granted this one didn't follow the same structure as the ones I remember. There isn't a sunken treasure for them to locate until the end of the book and it plays almost no role in the plot of the novel. The things that turned me off the book was the racist and sexist feel to the writing. The basis of the novel was mass immigration from China to the US that would allow them to split the country, and had lots of negative portrayal of Asians. The female was often viewed deragatorily, by Dirk. I might try something like Sahara later to see if it's better. The writing is okay although the descriptions of characters lets you know whether they are good or bad. In shape attractive people are good, overweight people are bad. That pretty much goes for The Chase the other Cussler book I picked up, although this one is in the Isaac Bell series. I did find this book more interesting, but it does drag on a bit. Cussler's books have simplistic plots and they should really wrap up more quickly than his do. He also has a tendency to go on about how vehicles work, especially cars. The Chase has a lot of description of a car being driven, and a train engine which don't do much for me, but don't really take away from the experience.

After that I made a much smarter choice and picked up a couple of Elmore Leonard books. I read Road Dogs and Bandits. Road Dogs was interesting because it had a supporting character from the only other Leonard novel I've read LaBrava. I first heard of Leonard from watching Jackie Brown, and took too long before I read his novels because they were phenomenal. Both the books I read build up the heist that the characters are planning only for everything to go sideways and the plot gets resolved in an unexpected, but still satisfying way. The plots for the book are an important part and make it feel like a genre piece, but the most important part of the books are the characters as the plans don't work out, and are resolved in the last couple of chapters while so much time is invested in the characters and making the reader care about them and making them seem like real people. I'm definitely looking forward to reading some more of Leonard, but I had to take a break from the noir style for a bit.

The last book I finished is Bernard Cornwall's The Last Kingdom. This was an interesting piece of historical fiction and the kind of book that is tough to put down. At times the Uhtred rushes through his early life, but it's still interesting. The depiction of the past embraces the brutality of the time and the characters celebrate in the violence, but the book doesn't really do that too much. At times the violence gets intense, but that's during the combat and to relay just how brutal the fighting is instead of just to be about the gore. Uhtred changes his loyalties several times through the book, but it's all done in a way that portrays a consistent character and all the changes make sense. From Englishman to Dane, and back and the variances he has within them. There are positive and negative portrayals of characters on both sides. It's fun to see the character complaining about Christianity because it's boring compared to the religious celebrations of the Danes and the Norse gods. Beside Uhtred the book creates the super badass Dane Ragnar who is awesome in every way. He's a great father figure for Uhtred growing up, and a strong leader that makes the reader sympathize with the invading Danes as they commit atrocities on the civilians of the land they conquer. This is the first part of a series and I can't wait to pick up the rest of the series and see how things end.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mass Effect 3 DLC

Most of the talk about Mass Effect 3 on the internet is all about how the ending sucked. I don't feel that way, but I'm not here to argue about that. I want to talk about the awesome multiplayer mode that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, except by Bioware who is delivering 2 new maps, 6 new characters, and 3 new weapons all for free.

The choice of free is good for them since they allow people to buy packs with real money as well as money earned playing the game as well. The kind of freemium setup that works so well for computer games and it's cool to see it coming to a big console release, as Gotham City Imposters used it as well, but as an X-Box Live only release it doesn't have the huge fanbase like Mass Effect. If it's the kind of setup that keeps getting me free DLC I'm fine with it. I'll play the game to get my money and buy my packs that way. If I could buy guaranteed objects like most other freemium games EA would probably be seeing more of my real money, but thankfully they haven't yet.

With freemium games I am always happy to be the person who plays for free and takes advantage of the people who are willing to shell out money for stuff they can earn with a bigger time investment. If the model of having the game being free, but players being able to pay for more characters and customizable appearances I'm all for it, because I'm always willing to try new games, just not a big fan of shelling out money to try them. Hopefully Mass Effect continues to use the paying players to fund my future DLC.