Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Review


It has almost been two months since the seventh episode of Star Wars saga was released, and almost a month since I have seen it. With that said, I believe this gives me every right in this world, Internet, and universe to discuss the film in whatever manner I may choose without any regard for spoilers.

Haha! Throwing caution to the wind never felt so good! ]:)

First thoughts?

Well, there is a lot of same old same old, been there done that. It seems like recycling. Names might be different, places might be different, main characters might be different but it is the same film as Episode IV, except worse because we have seen it all before, and most of the changes that were actually made, feel so contrived and without any solid explanation that it just ruins any kind of sense of immersion.

So what is good about the film?

Finn. This is where it stops for me really.

He is one character that is completely new. That is good thing, he is not there to fill any other pair of shoes than his own. Like all the others. He starts as a Stormtrooper whose training and brainwashing that went for years somehow failed. Not a 100% success rate like clones, I wonder if it was the budget cuts in military spending that forced the Empire, pardon me, the First Order to try this new method of obtaining children and training them as professional soldiers. We've seen something like that in the Soldier, where Kurt Russel plays Todd 3465, a failure shocktrooper that finds himself on an abandoned junkyard planet where he finally is able to reconnect with his humanity. But where Todd's training seems to have been effective and he can only shake it off as time passes and he is actually accepted into society Finn is a simple coward from the very beginning. Why the brainwashing failed with him, we never find out, probably never will, it is just a thing we are expected to swallow and move onward in order not to let story fall apart.

His relationship with Rey is one of a chick and a hen. For Finn Rey is the first person in a whole wide galaxy far far away that ever gave him a look and actually saw him as he was, useless. And thus he imprints on her like a small fawn imprints on its mother and follows her forever and ever. Well, he first tries to run away from everything, but the nature overwhelms him, and he needs his mommy Rey.

Rey on the other hand is just too much. She's a Mary Sue. A boring character who can do everything on her own, without everyone else, and has no flaws. She is perfect in every single way and thus most boring character of them all. Kylo Ren is pathetic, Finn is a coward, and Rey? No flaw at all. But don't make a mistake, her sad orphan story is nothing, just a filler, a background, she has no purpose, there is no character development awaiting her. She already has it all, and just needs to hone her abilities more, when she as an amateur beat the hell out of a Sith training for years. Her problem is that she does everything better than people who actually trained and specialised in that thing. She can beat Kylo Ren in a Force duel, she can fix ships better than any mechanic, master the Force on her own like no one ever before, pilot better than old veterans and ace pilots even though she never left that desert planet of hers.

And she is not the Superman of her story. While Superman is superior to all his internal conflict comes from the fact that he is actually holding back because he does not want to abuse his power. It is this internal struggle that makes Superman great. He has the power, and the ability to crush anybody, but he still chooses not to because of his strong moral compass. In comparison Rey has no struggle of her own to resolve. She's supposedly on a quest to find her family, to train as a jedi but all that is meaningless. It is like completing a useless side quest because you have no plot line to follow.

She is just a character on the rails forced into the story, she is empty character, a blank slate.

That brings us to Kylo Ren. While the first two of the trio are part of the Resistance, Kylo suffers from bad parenting and decides to become a Sith. That is interesting because the other two characters are orphans. The first time he took off his silly mask I burst out laughing, and I was not alone. While he has a sad sap-story he is a pathetic villain. There are people who will make excuses, that this is not fair, he is still young, learning and such things. Whatever, he is a man grown throwing a hissy fit like a toddler. He disgusts me. He doesn't inspire either fear or respect, he lacks presence. When you saw Vader, Tyranus, or even Darth Maul there was always either fear, respect or a mix of both involved. From the very beginning you knew they were force to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly. When you see Kylo Ren you wish to slap him and send him to corner until he calms down. Pathetic.

Now that we are done with the three main characters, lets go through some details. For example learned skills. Swordsmanship is something you have to learn, practise, train. It is not something that you just happen to "get" the first second you find yourself holding a sword. And this particular detail annoyed me to no end. And they didn't do it with lightsabers alone, same goes for shooting, driving spaceships, and using Force. We'll get to that one.

In the film they try to telegraph to viewers that Rey knows how to wield a lightsaber because we see her cracking skulls with a quarterstaff. They try the same thing with Finn when we see a stormtrooper using some sort of an electric mace or baton. Just because that one stormtrooper knows how to use it, does not mean Finn does. And most importantly, just because you know how to use a particular weapon does not mean you know how to use another one, especially lightsabers considering they are rare as real food on a junk planet. It takes time to master a weapon, years of training. This goes doubly so for lightsabers because of their special nature. Unlike all the other weapons Finn and Rey might have encountered there was never anything like it. That is because lightsabers don't have any weight. How are you supposed to master a weapon that you don't even know how to swing properly?

Same thing goes for driving a bloody spaceship we all know was modified so hard that nobody could do it but him. But don't let that get in a way of the story...

There are just so many discrepancies that we as the viewers are simply expected to swallow and move on, we just there to enjoy the ride, to hell with details. Who cares if all the bolts are screwed all the way, who cares if we crash and burn? Ignorance is bliss, and the film is betting on the viewer to engage in nostalgia from so long ago and just let things slide for old time's sake.

Special effects might have gotten better over the years, but the storytelling got a lot lot worse.

You want an example? Think of Captain Phasma. How much convincing did it take for her to betray the First Order even if we are told that she is crème de la crème? Too easy. How about Rey actually rescuing herself from the clutches of the First Empire? How? Well, she just thought of this great idea to tell the guard to release her and he did it. Because she can use Jedi tricks that otherwise take years to master.

I mused during the film that Force Awakens is an ode to Nature in a Nature vs Nurture debate. Just think of it, all the characters that spend years training, and mastering something are beaten by a complete amateur who is just natural talent. Kylo Ren vs Rey is best example. Or Han Solo vs Rey. Or Finn and Kylo Ren's failed attempt at indoctrination and being raised properly. It seems that Nurture by itself is useless, all the glory belongs to Nature alone according to Episode VII. Maybe that is the Force Awakening...

Monday, 23 November 2015

No Sympathy for the Devil


In recent days we could see how Kotaku laments them being blacklisted by some of the bigger names in game development. And when you read their post, no matter how hard they try they don't fool anyone. If they ever were in game journalism business, they are not for some time now. These days their main function is agitprop.

Now, let us analyse their cries and determine if they have any weight behind them, or are they as usually just another empty sack of bad air that Kotaku is famously known for.

Being Blacklisted

Surprise, surprise! Being sent copies of games in advance to review them is not your right but instead a privilege. You get this privilege by being an established game reviewer. It is entirely on the good will of the game studio to send you an early copy of their game. What is more, they always send it with the expectation that this will not come bite them back in the ass. This only works as long as the two parties involved are being honest with each other.

If the "journalist" abuses this trust he can rightfully expect to be blacklisted. Why should the developers keep playing ball with you, when you continually abuse their relationship? Leaving you on your own is the only rational solution here. You have proven yourself to be unworthy of their attention, and thus established to be a bad investment because you care more about your own profits than healthy relations between the developers and the journalists.

Kotaku is correct in their assumption that they serve their audience and not the game companies. Good on them. But that means they are incompatible with the interests of the game companies, and as such should not even bother complaining about it. It's like a hyena crying foul when antelope decides to run instead of waiting for hyena to kill it.

Moral of the story: If you want it, earn it. And to be honest, Kotaku can afford buying their own games. I would even encourage it, so that they stop complaining about everything but how salty the prices for half-finished games really are. But let's not get distracted here.

You Reap What You Sow

I will freely admit I have no love for Kotaku. In my honest opinion they are garbage not worth iota of my attention. And to be honest, it feels like a poetic justice that the developers have decided to leave them on their own. If anything, it sends a strong message. You might be a force in this industry, but you are nothing if you decide to make an enemy both of public and the industry at the same time.

Kotaku spent years sowing discord, inserting their politics into their posts, and trying to alienate its readership. Not to even mention that their train of logical thought is taking some of the most impossible turns just to hammer some random point that has nothing to do with whatever they are writing about anyway. This was common for them, and I am sure it still is. But to each their own as they say, and if people enjoy it, who am I to stop them.

Ethics in Game Journalism

Ah yes, we finally arrive here. Kotaku is here playing victim when in fact they are the wolf wearing sheep's clothing. If you decide to be a beacon of integrity, you would know you have forsaken in that very moment any kind of goodwill you might have had with the game developers. If you had the integrity, or have been ethical you would not have cried for not receiving free copies of a game from the game's PR and marketing department. If you were all about ethics you would not care about the profits, and would instead focus on what really matters. But I'm afraid that any regular reader of Kotaku will misinterpret that because they expect for the world to adapt to their view of reality and not the other way around.

Honestly, Kotaku should look at this as a blessing, not a curse. They have been given an unique opportunity to show the world how much the very beacon of ethics in game journalism they are. And instead they decided to squander it by crying foul when there is none in the first place. Just the logical consequence of their own actions.

Talk about throwing pearls before swine...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Decline of Subscribers and the New Hope


There I was, smiling, I am sure I was not cackling when I saw how the subscription numbers of World of Warcraft plummeted in the last six months. Nobody could really expect almost 50% fall to a little over 5 millions. Well, maybe some did, but on my part it was mostly just wishful thinking, that such steep fall would make them fix everything they were doing wrong for some time now. Mostly since Cataclysm. Isn't that just the right ominous name to call an expansion? To explain, in football I used to root for FC Bayern. I'm still their fan, but ever since Guardiola became their manager, and started changing everything that was good and well in Bayern and implementing his own vision I am rooting for Bayern to lose. To kick Guardiola, and then return that what they used to be. Same feeling with World of Warcraft.

But alas, while I will cheer for Bayern again in time, I don't believe I am ever returning to the planes of Azeroth. I missed my train, the next expansion will probably be out in a year, and by no means will I buy Warlords of Draenor. That expansion is just the very embodiment of what is wrong with World of Warcraft today. Buying that hack of a game is not an option, not for me at least. The rest can do or did as they want or did want, but I am not buying.

That said, I am a bit enthusiastic about the next WoW expansion, Legion. We're back on our Azeroth, not the the AU monstrosity. There will be playable Demon Hunters, for now as it seems exclusive only to Night and Blood Elves. Which from the lore point of view makes all the sense. I am sure people will complain. I mean, Druids were meant to be male only class, and priests only female class among Night Elves but that never ended that way, did it?

But yes, good times. Illidan is back, Gul'dan is scheming, Burning Legion is invading, there seems to be more Vrykul and some new elves on the new continent, and Glaives!, and you are in charge of your class order. Which if you are Paladin, like I was, is epic. Surely it will be approximation of this for all other classes as well. But I think they are taking it too far with giving Ashbringer to everyone. Sure, I'd be thrilled to have it, but that is supposed to be the one of a kind weapon with no equal. And now every Retribution Paladin in existence will prance around with it on his back. It cheapens it.

Did I miss something? Well they might increase the price of the expansion because reasons. Surely there will be more new content than in Warlords of Draenor? Right? That surely means raising the price of the game is justified.

Now, does anyone know when Wildstar is going F2P? And can we get Kael'thas back? Like really back?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

No Flying, No Game


Give them a hand, and expect to lose an arm.

I could start this post with I told you so, but where would be the point. My stance on Blizzard and their number of weird, and in my opinion wrong calls of late is well known, so I don't think it bears repeating. The only good thing that we got out of Warlords of Draenor were the new models. For the rest I cannot judge because I did not buy the expansion. One of the primary reasons being not knowing if we would be able to fly or not.

To some, this might appear as trivial, to me it is essential. When Blizzard says they don't want us to skip content, I am thinking of how annoying it is to kill a bunch of mobs that you don't need. They are just annoyance, I don't even perceive them as a challenge or obstacle. They are just there to waste my precious time. With flying I can circumvent them and be on my way, doing something that actually excites me. Without flying I am back to square one. Imagine saving Kull day after day without flying. A bloody nightmare. Flying made that daily quest bearable and maybe even exciting for a bit. Even if Kull really was incorrigible jackass.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Hugos 2015, Sad Puppies, and "Controversy"


For those that do not know, and are at this point too afraid to ask there is an award on Worldcon dedicated to the very best works published in Science fiction and fantasy literature. As it happens a group of people was not happy with the atmosphere, and the nominations. This group of people dubbed themselves Sad Puppies. First started by Larry Correia two years ago, and now organised by Brad R. Torgersen. Simply put it is a list of works the two of them and their fans found interesting and worth notice. In order to vote you need to buy at least a supporting ticket for Worldcon which costs 40$. After that, you can first nominate the works you like for the award, and later on vote for the works that ended nominated in order to win this "prestigious" award.

The very prestige of Hugo awards is one of the disputes surrounding this year's "controversy". Simply put, some people don't like when "outsiders" organise among themselves and get the things they like nominated instead of what the "real fans of Sci-fi" deem worthy. It is like these people never ever saw a popularity contest. It is either their ignorance or their hypocrisy. I'll go with ignorance because you know, benefit of a doubt.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Advent of a New Era



A week or so ago, probably a bit more since I take my sweet time these days there were some announcements made. These announcements had two things in common. They were about the game engines, and they were about future of free game engines. I am talking about the announcements regarding Source 2, Unreal 4, and Unity 5.
If this was a poker I'd be waiting for a 3, 6, or an ace at this point for a straight.

As I do not really know a lot about the game engines I cannot say much about the technical side of things. What I can say though that in this case free means a lot of good things for the gaming in general. We have all probably played more than just a couple of games made in these three engines or their direct predecessors. And just from our own experience we can say that the technical side of these engines is in general nothing you can complain about.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Who's Charlie?


It has been almost a month since two lunatics decided the best way to defend their God was to shoot a bunch of innocent people for drawing bad cartoons. I cannot say I felt much of anything when I first heard about the shooting in Paris. Just another shooting I thought, what is so special about this one? Before the terrorists decided to attack those cartoonists, I did not even know for Charlie Hebdo.

But the more I read, the more I hated it. I am a firm believer in the Freedom of Speech, in fact this is one of those things where I will never accept any kind of compromise. In my honest opinion, you can say out loud whatever you want and nobody should harm you for it. Even hate speech. In my mind, the state can take care of those spreading hate speech on its own, and thus ensure that an individual's rights are not trampled under mongering of a few.