Tag Archives: soccer

Games of 2012: New Star Soccer

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2012 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. As I did last year, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2012 posts.

There’s something strangely attractive about sport RPG games. Pushing through a career of a pro athlete from minor league rookie to a world champion naturally lines up with RPG gameplay. It doesn’t need an elaborate story with revenge plots and the end of the world – there is enough drama that naturally comes from the competition. While the archetype soccer RPG experience is FIFA career mode (which [I struggled with last year](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2011/12/games-of-2011-fifa-12.php)), I have to point out how much silly fun New Star Soccer provides for a fraction of the cost.

It’s best to think of NSS as two parts: the matches themselves, and everything else. To that end: the matches are reminiscent of MLB: The Show‘s career mode, in that you’ll only be in control of the action when your player is actually involved in the play. You’ll patiently watch the clock tick by until a message about you getting the ball pops up, and then you’ll usually get a simplified overhead view of the field. Dragging on the screen sets the direction of your kick, and sends you into the reaction test. A soccer ball will fly through your view, or bounce off the ground, or otherwise move around you. Tap the ball and based on a variety of factors (where you tap, how high off the ball it is, how far you dragged when you set your direction), off the ball goes. What happens then really isn’t up to you – passes can get intercepted, shots can ricochet off the bar. You’ll generally only get about 5-8 touches of the ball per game, so make those chances count.

Games can fly by pretty quickly. The rest of your time will be spent in the menus dealing with the rest of your life. You have five relationships to manage – your boss, your team, the fans, your girlfriend (if you’ve managed to get one), and your sponsors. You also have five stats (pace, power, technique, vision, and free kicks) that directly effect the matches. Now you can play a minigame to keep your relationships happy or increase your stats – but they cost energy, which can be replenished with energy drinks. Drain all your energy and you’ll be left on the bench.

The meta-game in NSS is the fight to balance this cycle. Upgrade your stats so you play better and people are happy; play better to earn more money; use the money to buy items that replenish your energy better; use your energy to squeeze in more upgrades. It’s a precarious cycle – have a bad game, and you might not have the money you need to refill your energy to keep your fans happy, who won’t hesitate to boo you if they feel poorly about you. It can be crushing to miss one shot on goal and have that lead to you not seeing the field for weeks, but that’s not too far from how the world actually works.

There’s a bit of chance that creeps into the game as well with random events between games. A newspaper might say you look dumb, sapping your morale. Your girlfriend might ask to borrow your car – maybe she crashes it and ruins most of your relationships, or maybe she doesn’t. You can get told you’re being traded to a lower division team, which is terribly insulting when you’re leading the league in scoring.

Eventually, you can find a way out of the upgrade/relationship cycle. The sponsors start to come knocking, and the bonus cash rolls in. You get a bit better at the minigames, and the stat raises come easier. The relationships stop being in competition with each other and you just start rolling. You can start to buy up all the property and accessories. You’ll start hoarding the energy drinks, and then eventually you won’t even need them. You’ll win domestic titles, continental titles, maybe even a world one with your national team.

NSS probably needs an addiction warning on startup; it can be a short enough experience that you can pick it up and knock off a match in a minute or two, but you can also keep winding through seasons that hours can melt away in a play session. Even after you’ve seemingly mastered the game, you’ll still feel the urge to keep taking the field.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go. My team needs me.

New Star Soccer is available for iOS and Android. On iOS, the game is free but career mode is an in-app purchase of $1. There’s also a more complicated PC/Mac version, but I haven’t spent any real time with it – yet.

Clippings

Over the last few weeks, the writing stuff got a little hectic and surreal. I contributed to a piece in the Guardian, had another piece cited by the New York Times, and then had a NY State Assemblyman chase me down to correct a misquote in the Wall Street Journal.

In the spirit of making sure I keep tabs on all of this, I’ve thrown together a quick clippings page. It’s not every last thing I’ve written, just the posts of significance or things I liked.

It’s Safe To Stop Ignoring Me On Twitter

After fielding multiple complaints from multiple friends – along the lines of “Will you ever shut up about soccer?” – I have opted to split my Twitter account into soccer and non-soccer variants.

So: if you’re looking for occasional tweets of wit and whimsy from me, you can follow/re-follow/stop muting @Remy. If you instead want frequent updates about the Red Bulls/MLS/the soccer world in general, you should follow @GothamistDan.

Can’t promise I’m going to do the same on this blog, of course, but I get the feeling not a lot of people are stopping by here anymore.

So, About That “Mugshot”…

No, I Didn't Go To Jail

In mid-February, I changed my profile picture on most social networks to the above photo and casually mentioned there was a story that I might be able to tell in the future. Given that my glasses were off, I was in front of a white wall, and was trying to neither smile nor frown, the response was somewhat predictable: “Did you get arrested?”

No, I did not get arrested. But today’s the day I can tell the story.

Across 2011, I chipped in articles to Gothamist about the New York Red Bulls. I made a trip out to Harrison to cover Media Day before the home opener. I helped write some blurbs for “Last Night’s Action”, the daily sports round-up, in a pinch. Around September I started writing full match reports, starting with the Rafa Marquez drama and ending with getting knocked out of the playoffs.

Writing these was a fantastic mental outlet. It’s no surprise that I love to write and tell stories – I’ve been doing it here since 2000. My love of soccer and my interest in the team turned into a very natural topic to want to write about, and I even got a few pieces of fan mail thanking me for the coverage.

During the off-season, I came to the conclusion that it might be worth stepping up this engagement slightly, and after some discussion with my editor, got the go-ahead to apply for formal press credentials for the 2012 season. The oddly taken picture that had people believing I spent a night in the slammer? Actually just part of my application process for the credentials.

I was notified yesterday that my application was accepted. So my insufferable chatter about soccer will likely only get worse, as I will officially be covering the Red Bulls (and other soccer matters) for Gothamist this season. As my first formal press gig since 2001, I am eagerly looking forward to waving a microphone in the faces of a bunch of players I’ve been following closely for much of the last two years.

This does mean I’m going to be leaving The Viper’s Nest (where I occasionally penned a piece or two) on a free transfer. Heartfelt thanks to Matt, Miguel, Tim, Brian, and the rest of the crew, who not only provide a constant stream of great discussion and passion for the team, but acted as fantastic guides to the long (and rather perplexing) history of this club. I was “chuffed” and “over the moon” to get to join them, and the RBNY world is better with them in it.

So with that story out of the way – keep watching for my coverage over the course of the season. If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching this team, it’s that win or lose, there’s always an interesting story to be told.

Games of 2011: FIFA 12

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2011 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. Instead of my usual end-of-year game recommendations, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting one a day until Christmas. See all Games of 2011 posts.

FIFA 12

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with “serious” sports games.[1. By “serious”, I essentially mean “not NBA Jam, Mario Kart, or anything with motion control.”] They are rarely intuitive or come with strong tutorial modes. With manual size decreasing and annual releases churning out regularly, there’s a certain expectation that you’re intimately familiar with the series even before you touch a controller.

This is especially pronounced in EA’s FIFA 12. A scant manual of about eight pages highlights a handful of changes but doesn’t concern itself with telling you how the core game works. The game does launch with a tutorial, but mostly of a new defensive control system that doesn’t do a great job of explaining itself. Then, you are thrust into a giant menu system and left to find the mode you maybe heard about, once.

The gap between what you’re told and what you are expected to know how to do is greatest during the Virtual Pro career mode, where you join your favorite team and attempt to break into the starting XI over the course of a season. You typically only control yourself, and the first thing that will jump out at you is a numerical score next to your stamina bar. It starts at 6.0 (like most actual player rating systems do) and will fluctuate over the course of the game based on your performance. But the game never really tells you what raises your score and what lowers it. It’s pure trial and error in the hopes of eventually learning how to play in a way that the game feels is acceptable.

I understand that as the world’s best selling sports franchise, there’s little impetus in EA Vancouver spending time on a well written manual, or a tutorial mode that goes beyond “well, here’s a penalty kick, take it already, you fool!”. But I worry that so many sports games seem to be going down this road.

That said, I can’t be entirely down on FIFA 12, as it finally fulfilled my dreams of a online multiplayer sport. Shockingly, all of the FIFA 12 games I have played online have been lag free, have not been subject to any griefing or abusive voice chat, and generally have people who are not terrible playing. Strangely, it may have been the best multiplayer experience I had this year.

FIFA 12 is available for PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, 3DS, PSP, iOS, PS2, and the Mac.

So, About That Portland/RBNY Tilt

Out of the twenty MLS matches I have attended to date, that was by far the most interesting. It is also the first time I have stood with the Empire Supporters Club for the game, which involved 90 minutes of chanting, standing, and clapping.

Inside: thoughts about the officiating, the experience at JELD-WEN Field, and the inevitable hilarity that came from staying in the same hotel as the team.

Continue reading So, About That Portland/RBNY Tilt

The RBNY Walkover

ADDENDUM 7/18/11: Per an email I received from the Empire Supporters Club, the walkover will no longer be involving flares on the bridge. Direct quote: “We can no longer do flares on Bridge, FBI & Homeland Security are involved, they are going to arrest people, it won’t be pretty, etc.” So while there are alternate plans to work in flare usage in other places, please take the article below as a snapshot of what once was.


“Yeah, you went to a riot last night.”Alexandra Klasinski

Like A War Zone

Of all the traditions held by the “South Ward” – the collection of supporters groups and ultras that make up the three sections behind the south goal at Red Bull Arena – the most chaotic may be the Walkover.

Starting Over The Bridge

What is the Walkover? Take about 200 hardcore fans. Feed them lots of beer. Give them flares and smoke bombs. And then send them over the bridge that connects Newark’s Ironbound district to Harrison, the one that empties out right near the gates of the stadium.

South Ward Go Hard

The whole process takes about 30 minutes – the bridge is not terribly long, but once the crowd hits the middle there’s less forward progress for a bit. There’s a constant threat of arrest for improper use of flares, the possibility of minor burns, and the air is thick with ash and smoke.

South Ward Unity

But between the chanting, the general party atmosphere, and the crackling energy of the whole thing, it is a hell of a lot of fun to be in the middle of. The traffic cops were befuddled, the cars trying to get across the bridge were more amused than pissed off, and it was a fantastic way to get pumped up before the game.

Anyone who has the time before a RBNY home game should skip Harrison and head over to Newark. Meet up with whichever supporter’s squad you want – GSS meets at MMM Bello’s, ESC at El Pastor, or the Viking Army at Catas – about an hour before kickoff.

And bring some ruckus.

Forza Metro.

More pictures of the walkover are on my Flickr account, as part of my growing collection of RBNY photography.

ADDENDUM: Some video from “GSSDave”, who shot the walkover:

Go Read Brian Phillips’ “Your Stupid Rage”

I am here to save your life, and I’m not kidding. This isn’t about the state of discourse on the internet, or nostalgia for some imaginary pastoral of 1950s civility, or making sure I don’t get yelled at in blog comments. This is about you, and how you are going to live in the world. I mean how you’re going to live as a sports fan, but let there be no limit to the revelation: I mean how you’re going to live in every other way, too.

Brian Phillips’ screed on rage in soccer is one of those pieces I would love to force everyone I know to read. It’s through-and-through wonderful, and touches on the disturbing trend of how politics have become a sport, how internet culture has infected everything, and how miserable it is to let rage consume you.

Not to spoil the end, but this is too beautiful to not quote:

> The secret is to care, I mean really care, about something other than your club. That thing can be the game itself, or the truth, or just being a reasonable person. You can care about something other than your club and still be totallysupercommitted to your club. It doesn’t mean not supporting your team through thick and thin; it just means being able to tell the difference between thick and thin, and not thinking that your favorite forum, or your group of like-minded supporters, is so important that it throws reality on the wrong end of a greater-than sign. It means doing this for fun, and not for revenge or for a sense of deep-down defining identity, even if you’re a crazy tattooed ultra. You can be a crazy tattooed ultra and still be fine, for that matter. You just can’t be an idiot.