Jeremiah McCoy

Geek For Hire

Category: Pop Culture

This is where I talk pop culture things that catch my interest.

Mass Effect Andromeda Review

So, I “beat” Mass Effect Andromeda, which is to say, after 95 hours of play (in a week and half), I faced the climactic battle against the big bad. I still have some unresolved missions, but it lets you resolve them after that. I could have had the fight much sooner, and still gone on and done the other things. It would have made sense. “You saved the cluster, but there is still work to do” is a theme after the action. That kind of sums up the game in general. Exploring and building is the job, saving the galaxy is something you had to do along the way.

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Weekly Comics Show Round up

It is that time again. Time for another round-up of comic book shows..

 

Let’s start with Gotham.  It still feels like the show is rushing along too fast. We have full on supervillains all over the place. The Riddler is exposed, complete with his signature question mark, and promptly arrested.  He may not be sporting the outfit, but his basic motif is there. Same with the Penguin, who goes back to his villainous ways. Dinner with Cobblepot is the reality show no one is asking for. If anything, he is more brutal than ever. This would be great if Batman existed yet, but at this point it all feels rushed.

 

Supergirl was a bit overstuffed this week. Too many balls in the air. They offhandedly introduced Maxima, and then moved on. Myriad is on line, Non(the low rent Zod) shows up, people are thrown off buildings to get the classics superhero choice moment, Indigo shows up(presumably to vamp), and there is the cliffhanger ending. The show definitely didn’t take time to let things breathe. Maxwell Lord shows up and make choices that they laid little foundation for. The show has been a mix of wonderful, and ham handed all season. All of that said, I still enjoyed the season finale.

 

Agents of Shield was fine. This is a transitional episode through most of it. The episode did not seem to be set for much action, but giving us insight to various character backgrounds. Malik’s a bad guy, but like most bad guys, he doesn’t see himself that way. We are given a bit of bait and switch on how the episode was going for him. The new Hive/Grant Ward bad guy is bad at villainy.  He has the whole cruelty thing down, but he has overestimated the value of fear. Some things trump fear. Also, fear can lead to irrational panic. He is way too arrogant. The cliffhanger ending does not look like it will end well for our heroes. Next episode should be interesting.  We get our full on Secret Warriors group rolling. Not quite avengers assemble, but it should still be fun.

 

Lucifer was largely a crap episode until the last 15 minutes. I am so bored by the mystery solving aspects of this show. The bits I do like are the parts where it gets weird and supernatural. After a few solid episodes, this one was merely okay. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t find anything interesting to say about it.

 

Legends of Tomorrow was a fun western romp. Hanging out in 1877 in disguise goes about as well as you might expect.

Saloon brawl…..Check.

Staring down an evil cowboy….Check.

A bunch of modern city kids knowing how ride a horse….Check?

Discussion of impact on history trumped by doing the correct thing….Check?…Sort of.

Jonah Freaking Hex!!!!!….Check!

I am a little sad we didn’t get more of the classic DC Western Heroes, and there were a few bits I wish had been better, but it was a fun episode.

 

rob-thomasiZombie is one of my favorite shows ever. The two part finale delivered on the promise of the season. The various people have had arcs. The bad guys are really terrible. They brought poor Rob Thomas into this. They saved they full on zombie apocalypse for the end. High body count and jokes galore. They maintain a sense of humor without losing the stakes. That is the genius of this show. It is a fun and humourous show, but still manages to maintain the darkness. There is an innate reality to the motivations of the characters, and the humor that is there is largely incidental. There are of course a range of in jokes, as well. The whole Rob Thomas thing is there because the head of the show is also naled Rob Thomas.

 

The next season looks like it will be interesting. The finale clears out one problem, and sets up the problems of next season. No spoilers, but it is a nice reveal at the end.

 

Next week is the return of Arrow and Flash.  I look forward to seeing how they round out the season on both shows.

More Comics Shows Round Up

So, Gotham….This was the episode I was waiting for since the beginning of this series. Seriously, this was why you set a show in Gotham. Not for Batman, or the Joker, or all the freaks. You set a story in Gotham because it is a crucible that makes those kind of people. You make a show like this to see people like Matches Malone, and how they make the world around them, and are made by the world in turn. Also, my world was lacking in enough Lori Petty. She is amazing in this. In the bar scene and the music playing, they played scenes of Jerome on the wall behind her. I do find it fascinating they are exploring lots of different aspects of Joker though lots of different characters.
jerry

The Agents of Shield have gone on a full on X-Men riff. Seriously, take pretty much all the X-Men movie themes, mix them in a pot, and now you have the latest episode of Agents of Shield. I swear, if one of the characters into a dark space god, with the power to destroy stars, I am gonna cut someone.

Lucifer was a step back in quality this week. Not bad, but not as good as the previous. The overarching devil story is not getting the attention Lucifer would like say it needed. The human story is super predictable.
Catching up with Supergirl, this show is constantly on the edge of being more than it is. It is a solid show and has a good emotional heart. The writing is just not that interesting. I want it to be really good storytelling to match that good emotional heart. Maybe I am just letting my expectations bother me. It is an enjoyable show, just not my favorite. I am working my way current, but I am couple of episodes behind. I am super excited about the coming cross over with flash.

As to Daredevil, I will be posting about it separately. That will take me a bit to work through and probably deserves a separate post.

New Zombie Orpheus stuff

I watched the two latest entries from Zombie Orpheus, and loved them.  Human’s and Households is about people living in a fantasy world, who play a game where they imagine characters in our mundane one.  It is a hoot.

Gamers: The Natural One is a thinly veiled excuse to have some of the Gamers crew playing a Shadowrun type game.  It was fun as well, with some gamer humor.

It is done by the guys who did Gamers 1, 2, and 3.  I am fond of those films and one of the things I enjoy about them is they are getting better with every installment.  These are shorter bits, but worth the time.

 

Check them out here http://www.watchthegamers.com/

Man of Steel

Superman is not an easy character to get right. Many people have taken approaches at him, and few have succeeded.  Snyder’s approach was actually fairly new, and I am not sure if he succeeded or not, but if he failed, he failed in an enjoyable manner.

Superman is a legend, a god that has feet on the ground like a man. He is the invulnerable, and unstoppable man. That is often the problem, as he is so powerful, it is awfully hard to give him a challenge he can’t rise to.  More than that, he is big boy scout, always, and today’s audience is often seen as having a problem buying in to the character which has a perfect moral compass.  Our heroes must be flawed, and tortured people just trying their best.  We can’t have people who just instinctively know what is right and wrong.  That is seen as boring, and too unbelievable, more unbelievable than a man who can fly.

Man of Steel poster

Man of Steel poster, Copyright Warner Bros

The Superman in this movie starts out in the middle ground.  What was a five minute montage in the 1980’s Superman film is the heart of this movie.  This movie is about Clark/Kal trying to figure out what kind of man he wants to be. It is not the hero’s journey, really, but it is more of a familiar coming of age story.

When you are a young adult, filled with power and potential, but no idea who you are going to be, you have to find it through trial and error.  Clark/Kal is doing that, only more so. He is aware of the man Jonathan Kent raised him to be, but not sure how to get there.  This is Superman figuring out how to be Superman, which could have been enough on its own.  But they don’t stop there.

This movie also has a strong immigration theme to it. Is Clark really just an American boy, his father’s son, just because he was raised in America, or is he his race/ethnic group, his father’s son, member of a people left behind. They walk an interesting line there, and ultimately it has a message of American inclusiveness, which we maybe don’t see enough of in the real world.

The film’s final act is where it begins to fall apart for me.  There is something that happens which I won’t go into, for fear of spoiling the film, but it pretty much broke a lot of my goodwill towards this production. It feels like the first theme got thrown to the wolves in the interest of making a hero people will find “believable.”

That is a shame, because there is a lot of good in this movie. I know some people didn’t like him, but I thought Henry Cavill’s performance was spot on.  He was not campy, but believably human, while showing genuine empathy. Russel Crowe was a pleasure, as always. The Kent’s were perfect; I would take nothing from them. Lawrence Fishburne was an excellent choice for Perry White, and it is completely believable why people would be very loyal to this man.

In fact, I will say the surprise of this film is the humans.  This is a movie about Superman, and you never forget it, but the humans are not just there to be saved.  They are active movers in the story, and much of the heroism in this film comes from the humans being awesome.  Arguably Christopher Meloni has not only the best moment in the film, but the best line. Most of the humans who spend more than 2 minutes on screen are definitely awesome at some point or another.

Sadly, this Lois Lane is not great. Part of that has to be chalked up to the previous examples to follow. Most of the previous examples of Lois were brash, head strong, and independent to the point of being almost a detriment.  Amy Adams is a fine actress, and she gets a few moments to do stuff, but at no point does she feel like the very strong character we have grown to expect. Her performance was more subdued, and suffered for it.  Lois Lane is not supposed to be subdued.

Also, the villain is not up the challenge.  Zod is played by Michael Shannon, and he chews up the scenery, but he feels not quite right. He is maybe egomaniacal, or maybe deluded. His rage feels manufactured, and never really seems to flow from anything that make sense, but they also never really sell him as crazy, either.  He is nonspecifically evil, with little of the charm we saw from the previous actor inhabited the role.

So…was it good? There is a lot to like in this movie. There are some great moments, the visuals are amazing, and the fights between superpowered beings was amazing. As an experience, I loved it. Despite its flaws, I think it is well worth watching and I would watch again. Do I think it is a good Superman story?  Ultimately, no. I think it had a lot of potential to be a good Superman story, but spoiled it towards the end. That said, I do believe it is a good set up for another Superman film, one that could very well be better. They leave room for some interesting stories and I hope to see them continue, despite my disappointments in this film.

Many shades of black

Tonight’s Hannibal inspired me to write some things. Forgive me if I ramble.

One of my all time favorite TV shows of all time is Millennium.  It was done by some of the people behind X-Files and Space Above and Beyond, and it actually crossed over with X-Files at a couple of points. It was nominally about a guy who can see into the minds of evil, to help find killers. This is a premise that has been done often to varying degrees, but usually with a sort of typical police procedural feel. Millennium was not that model.
It had a deeply melancholy theme running through it, a level personal darkness one doesn’t see on TV very often, and had the perfect protagonist in Frank Black, played perfectly by Lance Henrickson. He was so dour and so human. He wasn’t the caricature of the hero who is somehow quirky, but still heroic. He was a man, flawed, weak, and the weight of what he dealt with is written on his face.

So, Hannibal is also a show with a lot of similarities. Will Graham, who is not the namesake of the show but the hero, is being broken down by his ability to see the crime scenes of serial killers the way they saw them. He has a sort of super empathy, but it is ultimately terrible for him. Hannibal Lector is the, not yet discovered, mass murderer, who sadly is also Will Grahams friend. This can only end in tears. This show has a deep and personal darkness to it, but the touchstones are different. Where Millenium had a lot of its demons carried in Frank Black’s relationship with his family, the demons in Hannibal are carried by the slow break down of Will Graham. They share a similar format, and the level of storytelling in both is excellent, they are very different shows on the same wavelength.

This was brought to mind tonight, when Lance Henrickson made a guest appearance on Hannibal. I won’t spoil things for folks who haven’t seen it yet, but he turns in a fine performance.  Watching it made me think of Millennium, which I haven’t done in a good number of years. It made me think about the lovely ways that people can pull such diversity, with the same pallet of colors. I have other thoughts on both shows, but I think that will wrap them up for tonight.

Schlock Mercenaries

About a month or two back I started reading Schlock Mercenary from the beginning. It is pretty good, actually, though the art at the start is a little painful. Thing is, I will be reading for a while. There is over 10 years of daily comics here. I have been reading it for a while now and I still have more than 10 years to go. I am not going to lie. It is bit daunting, even reading a month’s worth every couple of days.

Schlock Mercenary

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the social problem of MMO’s

A thing that has occurred to me. I play a number of MMO’s. I play them for two reasons. One, my career path requires a certain amount of keeping on top of things, and more importantly, I want to play with my friends. That is the point of an MMO, to me.  MMO’s are rarely as much fun solo, as a good single player game.  I want to play with other people, preferably with ones I know.

The problem is, it is often hard to get that going.  Part of that is on the players. A lack of coordination in when and where to meet up is something that the players can work on their own, but part of it is also on the MMO’s.

So here is the thing that occurred to me.  Whatever the next big MMO is, they need to work on making it easier to find your friends. It is a fine line to walk, trying to preserve your privacy, but also making information searchable enough to make you easy to connect with.  Maybe they could on work integrating social networks or the like so when you look at your friends tab, you see people you potentially know, so you can connect with them.  Maybe integrate a calender function, so I could invite my friends to a game night, online and they can respond or not. I recognize that those are not perfect suggestions, but they might be starting places.

Currently, if I don’t know your character name, I cant find you a in a lot of games. That means if I log on to go play with my friends, I have another hoop to jump through.  If I spell it wrong, then I am still not seeing you.  Make it easier on me.  Allow me to share a button on line, and my friends can just click on it and when they log on, they have me listed on their friends list and vice versa.  Allow me to share all my characters at once, so when I share with my friends, it doesn’t matter what I am logged in as, my friends know.

There are problems with getting something like that in place, and I understand that, but they are resolvable.  One of the quickest ways for me to lose interest in an MMO is to find no one I know is playing. That is something that effects churn, and it is worth some time and effort to come up with a solution for it.

Just a thought.

defining worlds for the game

Do you ever look at a TV show or a movie, and think to yourself, I could absolutely play in that world?  Plenty of gamers do.  I suppose it is the same sort of inspiration that fan fiction writers get.  There is something about looking at a well formed world, that make you want to play there.

I recently watched the first season of Lost Girl, and I had that reaction.  Now the show itself is not super awesome, but it is entertaining.  It is a bit sex heavy, like a paranormal romance. There is nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it can be off putting if you are made uncomfortable by sex scenes. The cast is generally pretty interesting, and they do a good job of building a world. Lost-Girl

The heroine in the show is a succubus, which is a sort of Fey. Fey are like the fair folk, or Tuatha de Dannan of Irish myth. All the supernatural beings in that world are considered some sort of Fey. This is the first world rule that you can look at for game world design.  This simplifies things as it makes everything fit into a familiar framework.  The succubus, vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, and basilisks are all Fey, and you don’t need to cook up a new backstory, and metaphysical origin, for each.  Having a framework is something that simplifies the world and helps give it parameters.  That is important in fiction and in game design.

Most of the Fey feed on humans in some manner.  This shapes their relationship to humans, and it helps define their differences.  Each of them also has a power, usually related to how they feed, but not always, and weaknesses unique to their breed.  They are not immortal, but ageless for the most part. These points make it easier to define the individual characters.  In designing a game for this setting, you would want to require the pc’s choose what they need, what their power was, and maybe a weakness as well. That weakness can be a difficulty in controlling their urges like the protagonist, or maybe silver as is the case with the werewolf. If I were doing this in Fate system, for instance, the High Concept would be their type, and powers would be acquired, and the weakness would be an aspect.

The Fey fall into two camps, for the most part.  The Light Fey are ostensibly are for the good aspects, and protecting humanity.  This is not always true, though.  A lot of the Light Fey look at humans as pets or annoyances. The Dark Fey are all about the nastier side.  Humans are cattle put there for the Fey’s amusement. They are decidedly not friendly but they are not always kitten eating evil. They all see humans as beneath them. They obey rules and compacts that exist to keep them from going to war again. Many of these compacts were set in place by a peace making Blood King a 1000 or more years earlier.  These societal rules, and history elements, make the world feel more real.  It grants a level of verisimilitude to have factions with definable traits and expected behavior.  You can break those expectations, but it should only be done as something you draw attention to the oddity of it.  The heroine in the series is unaligned, but it is made clear, this is not only unusual, but it brings its own complications.  When defining the game elements, you would want to makes sure those defined behavioral expectations are known, and also the consequences for stepping out of them.  If a Light Fey kills a Dark Fey, or vice versa, a war could result that might kill a large number of humans as well. The consequences are well defined and that will help govern behavior, for PC and NPC alike.

Converting a world from one medium, like a TV show, to a game world is a fun exercise. It can provide you with fun worlds to play in, and it can also help you further refine your own skills at world design. Even as an intellectual exercise, the value is definitely there.  The decisions you make in the process with will help you make better world of your own, whether it is for writing or gaming.

The Hobbit The Unexpected Journey

I saw the Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey.  It is good, very good in fact.  It is not perfect, but very few things are.  I like how they handled the added elements and from everything I know about Tolkien’s middle earth, which is actually quite a lot, they did not stray over much from the cannon found in appendices and his other writings.the_hobbit_movie_wallpaper

It was nice watching Sylvester McCoy playing Radagast.  He is a lively and expressive actor, which I suppose you need for that sort of character. All the actors are good, and while there is just an edge of too much silly at times, it doesn’t quite cross the line.

I saw it in 3D with the High Frame Rate. I am actually a little disappointed I couldn’t find a non-3D HFR version showing. The effect is odd.  The HFR makes it not look right, at first. I got over it about 20 minutes in, but the initial impression was, “This is not film.”  It was like watching a video tape of someone acting for film. Like I said, after the first 20 minutes I just stopped noticing. It just looked like the movie from then on out.

There has been much hey made of the fact they split it into three films.  I get the complaints, but ultimately, I don’t disagree with them.  There is enough story in the book of The Hobbit, that it would be hard to fit it all in a standard film story format.  They would have had to cut some stuff.  Instead they went the opposite direction and added in all the hinted at bits, the supplemental material from sources that would never get filmed.   I like what they have done and the first film is off to a good start.  I definitely recommend the film.

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