08/02/2016

Splitting reality.



So in the recent history of video-gaming there has been some serious talks about nipping and tucking content. It started with Day1 DLC and similar. Something that most people feel miffed about (but most often to me seemed to be a bored art and asset team putting in a few extra hours.) and while we did not really see the nightmare scenarios materialize. But it is not open to debate that we today have a culture of micro expansions and other forms of DLC in pretty much every game. Enter Telltale Games. The by today crowned masters of episodic content re-wrote much of how games would be released. They proved that a good idea did not need a complete game. Rather they took a cue from TV and told their story in small bite sized chunks.

With this came a new dawn. One we are just seeing the effect of. More and more companies try their hand at carving their games up and selling them ala carte. The biggest names right now being the FF7 reboot and the upcoming Hitman game. Now I have no real problem with this approach as long as the design from the start is to produce the game episodically. Since you really need to have the pacing down to a pat. Each episode having its own narrative structure. To see if Sqeenix can do that with the FF7 game will be interesting, because that game will need all the help it can get. If nothing else it will be a horrid train wreck and we all go back to playing the original.

Now as for hitman you would think the design of the game would make it perfect for episodic content. Make each contract an episode. Fill it out with the overarching story and let the player do them at their own pace. If well designed Hitman contracts have several solutions and paths to said solutions. But here is the thing… The game in question have changed model about twice a day. So to now carve up a game that was not designed for episodic content to begin with can lead to some very awkward storytelling and really poor pacing. It also tells of a really poor confidence in the product. Now going forward this could turn in to a really annoying trend, because companies love to lower the barrier of entry and being able to do so without the stigma of F2P must sound really tempting. But it is also a very different way of making games and I doubt that many companies have the agility and flexibility to pull it off.


But what I look forward the most is when the asset flipping early access trash that populate the dark side of Steam figure out this… Not only will they sell you shit games, but they will sell you shit game chopped up like a game tartar. 

That will be glorious. 

02/02/2016

Dividing the Division



So I had the opportunity to take a look at Ubisofts now shooter franchise called the Division as they did a stress test this weekend. The game is a third person shooter, which is to say that the camera in the game is placed slightly above and behind the player character. So you will always see the world as a little drone flying behind your in-game avatar. Beyond that you pretty much just use a variety of guns and shoot at a variety of humans that for some reason seem to have a disagreement with you. You find new stuff and level up in classic role-playing fashion as you follow a set story. That is the short of it.

Now if one where to flesh things out a bit more one would start with talking about the story, what little we know about it. Basically some form of bio weapon goes off in New York on black Friday in a not too far future. As panic and pandemonium rise “the Division” springs in to action. A covert agency with sleeper agents formed in to small cells their mission is to secure the city and restore order by any means possible. You are one such agent. This is about all we know right now but as we get closer to the release I guess more info will be made available.

So you start out as a newly activated agent, given some basic equipment and told to secure a foothold on Manhattan. The stress test was limited to a small section around Chelsea Pier and up to Madison Square Garden. But the full game will include a slightly scaled down version of the island of Manhattan. Once you get the HQ up and running it will be your hub for missions, upgrades and all the cozy home improvement an agent could need. The game more or less have two modes. The first you encounter is a single player instance that let you and some of your friends work through the story. This thing is instanced and no random players will show up. The other part are what is called the Dark Zones. These areas have much higher levels of contamination and act as player against player areas as well as regular computer controlled opposition. Going in here ill-prepared will lead to a quick and merciless death. But this is also the place to get the best gear and other rewards.

Now as I mentioned the game takes place in Manhattan for now (no word on when or if other parts of New York will be added.) and this is not some random jumble of buildings with a few landmarks thrown in to sell the illusion. No this is sometimes an eerily close recreation of the areas in the beta. Sure we still see most work go I to the landmark areas and they are a picture perfect recreation. But the rest of the map seem to be close enough that you could use visual confirmation and google street view to navigate. The rest of the visuals are as impressive. The weather look good from the sunny days to the full on snowstorms that set your vision to about a few meters. Now my computer does not have the power needed to render this in it´s full glory but i´l provide a small clip here to show you what it might look like.


The game also has some really impressive AI that act much like a player would, trying to avoid your attacks and flank you. They also tend to look for better cover when you move on them and should you overpower them sometimes they turn tail and run. Another really impressive thing I how your bullet interacts with the many cars that are spread over the maps. I did at one point manage ti line up a shot through three cars and in to the tire of a truck, not only did the tire pop but I could trace the patch of the bullet through the windows of the cars. These small details does a lot to immerse you in the environment


Now it is hard to tell if the game will become repetitive and how well the story pans out but so far I have seen a good variety of side missions ranging from repairing antennas to tracking down a missing person. As far as gar goes the game so far have done a good job at making the guns and equipment not only feel useful hut also unique. There is a distinct difference between the m-4 and the ak-47 beyond the visuals. Same goes for the skills and gadgets you pick up along the way, they all have their use and promote one type of gameplay or another. This way your character plays different and customization goes more than skin deep.
Now that bring me to the skin you inhabit in the game. I did not play around very much with the physical editor to much as I was short on time but once in-game there is a slew of modern clothing to make your avatar stand out from all the other backpack tooting gun nuts trying to retake the city. These are cosmetic and have no impact on your stats so you never have to give up that awesome beanie you just found because that headband had +2 killing on it.


So to sum it up, the Division seems to be a solid game and while some cuts had to be done since the first reveal such as tablet controlled drone strikes and the slight downscaling of Manhattan it is massive step forward for games published by Ubisoft. So I simply tip my hat to Ubisoft Massive and wish them the best. 

26/01/2016

#WheresRey they say.



Toys are serious business and i agree that toys marketed to a specific gender is a horrid idea to begin with. But the issue that has have been sweeping the western world is why Rey have been underrepresented or even nonexsistant in the market. Disney and Hasbro say it was to avoid spoilers and thus pushed the Finn character as the main one for the movie. Now understanding that a toy can take about a year if not more from design to production the fear of spoilers is real for Disney. So it makes sense to tuck away the big plot points. If anything the fact that Disney felt that Rey was such a big impact point tells us a lot about how they view the Star Wars franchise. No longer has a boys club it is now opened to all.


But ofc it got spun all out of proportion, the “press” made it out like there are no toys at all, and I agree she is missing form some collections and was missing from the Monopoly. Now I have some limited insight in to these sort of things, being a big toy geek myself and I have no problem accepting the idea that spoilers forced Disney/Hasbro to act like they did… After all Rey has at least 9 different toys including two Lego sets and her own Infinity figure. There is also another one coming based on her outfit by the end of the movie (this also lends substance to the “no spoiler” theory)

Now with all that said we do have a big litmus-test for this theory coming up on the 13-16 February when the New York Toy Fair happens. If Hasbro and company shows off new Rey toys we know they did in fact tell the truth. Simply because there is no way they could have whipped them up in the time from the outbreak to now

Now I agree that we still have some way to go when it comes to toys, but I feel this thing got blown out of proportion by people who as usual had no insight in to the process and just reacted with their gut cheered on by “journalists” and bloggers trying to score some quick hits.  Combine this with the usual short packing and retailers stuck in their old ways and you have something of a clusterfuck.


Now my bet is that we will see a lot more Rey toys (and perhaps even some Black Widow ones) going forward, and should I be wrong. Feel free to tell me so. 

23/01/2016

Cape and cowls week 3 2016 (Spoilers ahead…)



So with the back half of the DC TV imperium kicking off and welcoming the new kid to the sandbox we are dropped right in to the action.


Supergirl: The show opens up with old man Schott approving his own early release by the way of a Yo-yo. As fun as that might sound this introduction to the character of Toyman is downright creepy, as it should be when you are dealing with a murderous inventor with a stone to grind and no real regard for human life. Now some of you might say… Schott... That sounds a tiny bit familiar. Turns out this is the estranged father doing time to Winn Schott Jr Catco´s resident it support and all around tech wizard. So the episode mostly deals with Winn having to confront his own fears about becoming like his father and his feelings for Kara. It goes about as good as one can expect. But Toyman gets tucked away and while Winn finally admits how he feels to Kara it only serves to further complicate their relationship. In the other main plotline we see D.E.O (they smell so nice…) chief Hank break in to Lord Industries in order to find out what he is hiding there. Turns out it is a sort of comatose girl that looks very much like Kara. Now it has pretty much been confirmed who this is, and it is a take on the classic Superman villain Bizzaro. I did at first think they were going to do the Powergirl character but that might be saved for later seasons. So for those who do not know who that little rascal Bizzaro is… The character is usually a zombie-esq mirror image of superman that sometimes hails from a universe where everything is opposite. So love is hate and happy is sad… Other times it is a scientific experiment, more in line with the story I assume they will go with here. Any way it will in essence replace the kryptonians as the “strong enough to pose a threat” for a while. The episode ends on a real cliffhanger as we see Max Lord spying on Kara and Alex by way of a bug he planted on Alex bag while she was out on the town with him (as a distraction to get him to leave Lord industries) and I can´t but help that the writers got a tiiiiny bit lazy here. After all I find it hard to believe that a trained agent of D.E.O would not go through her clothes and other things to check for this sort of stuff. But as it stands he now know… well… Everything (or as much as the plot needs him to know). This series is picking up steam and sort of finding its stride. It has more work to do but all in all it is turning out for the better. Going to be very interesting to see the direction they take this half of the season.

The Flash: In this episode we find out if slow and steady really do win the race as we meet the Turtle. A man so slow he cannot be caught. Beyond that this is a very classic “everything is falling apart” episode with several shifts in relationships. But the main plot revolves around a metahuman who can, for a lack of a better word drain the kinetic energy from his surroundings. In essence slowing everything down. It turns out that Cisco have been on the case of this guy and several other metahumans unbeknown to Barry. Now in order to stop him Barry have to overpower the slow-power of the Turtle, this tying in to him further developing his powers in order to be able to beat Zoom. Beyond this we had a literal smorgasbord of emotional fuckups. Jay is dying from plot… Wells is slowly going insane, Patty is leaving town to pursue an education as a CSI (the fact that she was kidnapped did not exactly help either.) Joe and Wally have a breakdown and a sort of understanding and Barry... Well… He just keep on being Barry.
To add some extra WTF to this episode we see Eobard Thawn aka Dr Zoom/Reverse flash pop up again… So all in all this episode was a lot of setup and very little payoff. But the series itself keep doing much right and very little wrong.


Arrow: Dark dark dark angry angry angst and some amazingly poor decisions making… That pretty much sums up this episode. We see Anarchy popping up again and in what can only be described as an astonishingly shortsighted move goes for the throat of Damien Darkh by taking on his family, or what the girl and the woman he has been seen with are. Oliver on the other hand is dealing with Felicity being shot and paralyzed. He does this with the grace and deft touch of a wrecking ball... As usual. So after murderifying a few of Damiens ghost soldiers and both setting Anarchy on the loose and then promptly losing track of him it is up to team Arrow to one again pull his arse out of the fire. Fortunately the rest of the team is on the ball and team Arrow can manages to stop Anarchy from killing Darkhs family and not get killed by an enraged Dark in the process. Again this episode was a lot of setup for things to come. Arrow as a series has this problem with Oliver being about as stubborn and boneheaded as mule, now this is very true to his character in the comics, as a very dear friend pointed out “he is no Batman”. But the constant shifting from one extreme to another does get a bit annoying at times. Now we have a lot of interesting things coming up and I still enjoy the series but I I am not all that sure they will be able to keep the steam up for the entire season.


Legends of Tomorrow: The new kids on the block can be summed up as follows. Time jumping arsehat steals time machine and then lie his arse off to gather a team of historically insignificant persons under the pretenses that they are destined to become legends. All this to save his family. Hilarity ensues… Actually it is far from that bad. I do like that the setup we had shown to us just was a rouse and that Hunter is in fact about as damaged as the rest of the team. Anyway… Timetraveler Rip Hunter gathers the Atom, Firestorm, former black now White Canary, the Hawks and the oh so shippable pair of Heatwave and Captain Cold. The goal is to go back in time and take out Vandal Savage. (yeah… his back… Not really like he was going to stay dead now anyway.) In essence we have a Taskforce X in time and space. The team go back to the 70´s to talk to the only Vandal Savage expert in the world. Turns out he is a child of the Hawks from an earlier life. We then get a very effective demonstration of “thou shalt not try to fuck with time for your own personal gain” and poor dr Boardman dies and the team is forced to flee as a time jumping bounty hunter almost take them out. This is part 1 of a two part “pilot”.
Now while this show is about as surprising as vanilla ice cream. The writing for especially Heatwave and Captain Cold is really funny and both actors do a stellar job delivering what is in short comedy gold. They end up carrying a lot of the show in this episode. Now that is not to say the rest of the characters are not well written. In fact this series does not really seem to take it self all that seriously, in a good way. For an example we have the scene were dr Stein is trying to convince Jax that they both need to go. Jax refuse and dr Stein simply choose to drug and kidnap him. This will not be a series of boy scouts and honor students.


So with the end of these seasons on the move things are looking bright but not entirely unproblematic. We will see were we land by the end of it. But I am sure it will be an entertaining ride to that point. 

18/01/2016

Going Forward.


So after some thinking and tinkering i have come up with how i will handle updates on this here space.

The blog will update Mondays and Fridays regularly. Mondays will be my general subject spot. This can and will be anything and everything that catches my attention. Fridays will be the DC nation where i look at the DC tv-shows (Supergirl, Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow)

I will mostly focus on story and fun little tidbits and trivia. There will be spoilers.

On top of that there might be other less regular updates if something happens that i feel is time sensitive enough for em to not save it for the Monday update.

Among the things to look forward to is a review on Deadpool, my take on Shadowhunters vs City of bones (the movie)

So a very short update today but there will be a much meatier post come Thursday.

So until then, be nice and stay safe.

09/01/2016

Marvels Jessica Jones - a solid punch to the gut. (Spoilers… Duh)



So with Netflix rising to become an entertainment giant and Disney want to have their Marvel property in, on and around every place on earth the multi series deal that spawned Daredevil was not unexpected.

What was unexpected was how seriously Netflix took the deal. Daredevil was a very well-produced series that set the new bar for in my mind not only superhero series but any kind of fantasy drama. So when the teasers for Jessica Jones started to drop the “buzz” was real. But as a comics fan and as someone who is fleetingly familiar with the character of Jessica Jones I had some reservations. Mostly because Jones is a broken human being, used and abused in the worst of ways. How would Netflix tell that part of the story? The answer in hindsight should have been clear. They simply told it as it were.

So for the people not familiar with the story it goes thusly. Jessica Jones is a girl with superpowers, flight, super strength and some limited rapid healing. Like most people who get powers in the marvel universe she decides to be a hero. In the comics they wrote her in as a background character, someone who had always been there but never seen. But she had not even taken down her first Batroc before she fell under the control of the villain Purple man (aka Kilgrave/Killgrave). A sadist with mind control powers by the way of pheromones. Both in the series and the comics what follow is a period of mental torture and well… Rape. But it ends with her breaking free of his control and slowly trying to put her life back together. She hangs up her cape and goes in to private investigation and heavy drinking.

The series picks up at this point and tell most of the backstory in flashbacks, including a live action version of the outfit she used in the comics. The series love to toss in this kind of Easter eggs. In fact the very first scene in the series is a picture perfect recreation of the opening scene in the comics.


I mentioned earlier that the series does not pull any punches or really make any excuses for the way Jessica acts. They just drop her there and tell us to deal with it however we like. This is refreshing and lends a certain level of realism to the story. The series also does a very good job I have been told of portraying someone who have lived with abuse and trauma. While I have very little in the way of reference myself it felt very genuine. Now with this being Netflix and thusly not regulated by the American TV-censor board everything is a bit more gritty. While not as in your face gory as Daredevil, Jessica Jones has its fair share of both blood, sex and drugs. But I never feel they go overboard with it. It still fits very well in with the theme and mood of the series.

Now Jessica Jones is backed up by a real nice cast of characters including childhood friend and former childactor-turned-radio host Trish Walker and bulletproof bar owner and sometimes fuckbuddy Luke Cage. Trish in many ways become Jessica´s flip-side. Someone who also have faced trauma and abuse but choose to put on a façade of normality rather than choosing Jessica´s “fuck all” attitude.
As for Luke he does not get as much development, mostly because he is next up for his own series on Netflix but the series do an apt job of making him a believable character and a stellar job of bringing the comic hero to life.  Also the sex scenes between Luke and Jessica are as comedic as they are tragic.

Now it would be a grave error to not bring up perhaps the best portrayal of a villain in the Marvel cinematic universe. Kilgrave is as scary as he is pathetic. The fact that he sees himself as the victim of his own power and honestly do not see any problem in how he bends peoples wills. He simply sees himself as superior. In fact Jessica is the only known case of someone resisting his control. This have made him obsessed with her and the length he goes to in order to play mind-games with her is downright scary. At the same time he is at the core just a very broken and scared man. Afraid to be left alone and forgotten. Like Kingpin his motivations are clear as a character and they are maybe not relatable but at least they are things we can understand. These are the same traits I think made Loki such a good villain, we can all understand rejection and obsession. The seeking of approval and that is what makes it so effective when Kilgrave goes to such extreme lengths, because we all have at one time or another wished we had that very power to bend others to our will.


So I say go watch Jessica Jones and Daredevil on Netflix. It will be worth a month´s subscription. (also if you do, check out Orange is the new Black. A very good series in its own right.) 

06/01/2016

The house of El. Supergirl episode 1-9 in review



So the not-superman show that is made by partially the same people that are doing the not-batman show have just come back from its mid-season break and I feel this is a great time to talk a bit about how Superman´s  cousin fair this time around.

Now do note that there will be  spoilers … So if you have not seen the show you have been warned.

The show start us off with a Kara Zor-El hiding her powers trying to fit in, working as the assistant to Cat Grant, as self-made media mogul and “queen of the media”. We quickly get the sory of how Kara was chosen to look over the baby cousin Kal El on earth she is blasted in to the phantom zone and well… arrives a bit late. She is placed with the Danvers family and spends most of her time as a regular person.. as far as one can with near godlike powers. Soon hi-jinx ensues as Kara´s sister is in mortal danger and she have her call to action. She is introduced to a transplanted Jimmy Olsen who we later learn is there on Superman´s behalf to keep an eye on her. We also meet Winn Schott Jr The office tech expert and “nice guy”. We get a really funny montage of her making her costume and then the show sort of goes in to a trifecta of clumsy hi-jinx, workplace comedy and monster of the week. We are also introduced to Alex Danvers, Kara´s sister and secret agent for the government’s alien protection/observation/neutralization unit DEO. A lot of weird things happens and we get the feeling that not everything is as it appears. Now as if the plot was not complex as it is we meet Mex Lord´s. A inventor and xenophobe without a moral compass. The first half of the season was slow and a bit unsure of itself.

Ok last chance… now we go in to real spoilers…

The show wrapped up with some really big hitters… We got introduced to T.O Morrow and Red Tornado in his pre-hero role of angry android and we get a big slew of backstory and super people punching each other in the form of Astra In-Ze the sister to Kara´s mother Alura. A Kryptonian eco-terrorist. And as if this was not enough the show finally revealed that the head of the DEO is no other than the Martian Manhunter. This had been hinted at for a few episodes but it is really going to be interesting to see what one of DC´s real powerhouses as far as well.. power… will do one the current story arc plays out. (for those unaware of the Martian Manhunters powers they include.. Telepathy, flight, shapeshifting, density shifting, super strength and  rapid healing. But he ls pyrophobic.) Now if episode 9 is anything to go by we will soon see another classic Supergirl enemy/allied  Powergirl. A sometimes clone of Supergirl that in the comics and other media tend to be under some kind of brainwashing. This time around she will most likely be. It is that or Bizzaro Supergirl  (Bizzaro is another sometimes clone of superman that looks like a zombie and speaks in opposites as happy meaning angry or sad and friend meaning enemy  and so on… ) or maybe a fuzion of both the characters. It is also going to be interesting to see how Winn will develop seeing how he is the son of DC´s Toyman a very twisted tech genius. It does explain though how Winn is not just a tech expert but almost supernaturally good with tech. I´d love to see him throw down against Felicity. =)

For me this show does share some traits with Marvels Agents of shield that its first season so far is all over the place and have some pacing problems but it does have much more interesting characters