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Historic detours

We all do them, I do them a lot. On any course from A to B, I tend to take detours every day. For one, I walk a lot and I like the scenery to change, it might not make much sense if you are the avid automobile fan, yet when you walk it makes a lot of sense. It can be that one route has a cinema and I want to see what is coming. That thought makes less sense nowadays, but in the past there were windows with photo’s of movies coming and movies playing. Then thee are the detours the mind makes. Those tend to make a lot less sense, even to the wielder of that brain. The Brain wants to let you know something and it tells you in its own way. Through the dream state when you are asleep, through a day dream or even through a small jump away from what you were thinking. We all have them, we pay attention (at times), we will it away or we ignore, we tend to take different strides with any mind jump. 

This happened to me today when I was doing something meaninglessly simple, mind-numbing and the brain just took over. I was at a school, not sure which one, or where. The kids spoke English, but I did not connect to the location and I have no kids, so I am at a loss on that part. The kids were eating food and a I saw a ‘pretend it is Mexican day’ sign. The sign was troublesome in a few ways but that does not matter. It was then that I noticed the food. I thought they were all enjoying enchiladas. The rolled or is that wrapped food in a thick tortilla, it was then that I took notice of the smell, the sweetness, the stuffing and then things started to make sense. The kids all had rolled up pancakes, rolled like a tortilla and the stuffing was not that of an enchilada. It was filled with fruits. Then I saw others with some kind of chili, but it was I think cranberry mash with berries, bananas and stuff, the enchiladas had some kind of jam, dried fruits, tangerine parts and I think apricot slices. They were all having fruit dishes all shaped and imaged after Mexican food, the sign made more sense now. And it makes sense, the detours allowed me to design the 5G solution I created, this is not the same, but set to a similar premise. The mind can fill voids, but it can also label and identify things it is aware of. So what if kids see the same shape as a bowl of chili, as a enchilada yet not the same. What if the apple served can no longer hold the attention it once had? What if the premise needs change? It is not unheard of, it is not even that weird. The detour can serve as a journey marker and that is how we get to the actual stirrer of the trouble I saw. 

Two headlines needs to be shown. Once gives us ‘Amazon is ‘nearing a deal’ with EA to produce a Mass Effect show’, the second one is ‘Ex-Bioware Writer Explains His Concerns About a Mass Effect or Dragon Age TV Series’. They matter, but not the way you think. There is one clear truth that I never steered clear of. The Mass Effect series (1-3) is one of the 10 best stories to ever grace the ENTIRE video game industry. In 2007 they started something that had not ever been shown before and the universe of gamers took notice. It was a few years later that we were treated to a sequel which was nothing less than one of the best games that would ever launch on a console. Yes, Mass Effect was big and even as there were rumblings on episode three, I never joined them, the story as a whole was amazing and that story can still compete with almost anything today. They screwed it up with Andromeda, but the original was and will remain a legendary achievement. 

Soon on console and TV

So whilst I do not know if there will be concerns, if there will be issues, if there will be larger ‘fears’. Consider the first game, when we go beyond the game, the setting that we forget is that the Citadel is well over 4 times the size of Manhattan, optionally a bit bigger and that implies that there are 3-4 seasons ready to be made. 

Consider Doctor Michel, getting extorted, running supplies to a merchant in the Lower Wards in order to avoid a “secret” of hers getting out. A 5 minute mission, easily converted to a full episode, or as a sideline in larger storylines over two episodes. Now consider that the first game alone has over 60 side quests, all optional stories in their own rights. We might not care about some of them, but the truth is we were never given to goods so that we would care and that matters. Just consider that we remember the stars of a show, yet how many can give us the sidekicks in Buffy? The sidekicks in Bones? The sidekicks in Battlestar Galactics? Dexter? Now consider that Spike (from Buffy) was supposed to get killed off in the beginning. Yet he stayed around for 7 seasons. The writers had something to work with and they were handed time to show value in a character. That could happen to Mass Effect as well. The benefit (for Amazon) is that they get handed something with a proper foundation, a story that can go places. And in this we see a larger stage evolving, the games are starting to set the need for TV and movies. We knew about movies, we all saw Jolie (aka Mrs Smith) in Tombraider, but the stage is now altering, games are making a larger headway into TV and the solver screen. I wonder if this is to the well of creativity drying up, or is it that games bring optional a million plus fans to the TV screen and that startup is interesting to producers. I am not sure what the answer is, because I never really considered that setting before. Yet if that is true, then the settings for Bethesda will alter a lot over the next few years. And that too matters for gamers, because the franchise that grows tends to evolve and gamers love a game that truly evolves (not iterates like Ubisoft). In this there is no telling what Ubisoft can do with their AC franchise. 

Yet in all this, I wonder what we will be treated to next. I am not siding with the worry population, I will see and judge when it hits the TV or big screen. I have seen enough on both sides to worry up front, and we all saw our fill of ‘failed’ series. Yet plenty of those ended up being true gems (Dollhouse 2009, Firefly 2002, Rome 2005, Star Trek 1966) and it is interesting that Star Trek ended up with 9 spin offs and 10 movies. So taking the word of the critics is debatable from the start. 

I hope that Mass Effect will get the proper audience and get the right stage for people to care about a good story, because the story is everything, especially in TV. 

So why this detour?
You see, what we see and what we perceive is not the same. What we see is what we are offered to see and what we perceive tends to be based on the presentation of others and the ‘critics’ as well as ‘critics’ who have other venues to promote are the fake news bringers, especially in this day and age. Some of these ‘critics’ know that people have one purse, they can only spend money ONCE, so they are getting more and more careful on what they spend money on and Amazon Prime knows that (its a Netflix issue), so they need to get the larger population on board sooner, and some ‘critics’ have friends at Netflix and other places too, so they are eager to promote one and push down the other for whatever reason they hand us and they have a larger digital market to push their view, their need and the need of their friends. That is the stakeholder game and it is hitting TV series as well, yet only now will the push be more pronounced then ever before. But that is merely my view on the matter. 

Will Mass Effect succeed? I cannot tell, I will not give my answer one way or the other, but take notice. It comes from one of the truly great stories in gaming and that matters. I reckon we will see something real in 2023-2024. 

Have a great Sunday.

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The path overlooked

Yes, we all overlook paths, options of choice, you, me, we all do it. It has nothing to do with intent. Most of the time we forgot that the option was there. Yet this time around it becomes an essential part, you see 2021 will offer a larger stage, a stage where Microsoft has an advantage (Bethesda, Bioware, EA), they might be in denial and some will make carefully phrased denials or reconsiderations with last November “PS5 will still get Bethesda games — but they’ll be ‘first or better’ on Xbox”, now, the first part is fine, Microsoft paid $7,500,000,000 for that privilege, it is the ‘or better’ part that I have a problem with, as such I set out and designed (conceptual design) of a new RPG to be used freely by Sony in previous blogs, but that is not enough. There is every indication that Mass Effect might not make it to PS5 either and that too is fair, it is a Microsoft stage and I worry, because Mass Effect remastered will contain Mass Effect 2, which is pretty much one of the best games in history, anyone denying that is nuts. So I need to have to be creative and set the stage for Sony too. Now, Sony has its own stage of exclusives and they are way good, but to set the stage that an independent software house can freely use for a PS5 exclusive is not the worst idea, I am a writer, not a game programmer. Intelligence and business intelligence yes, games no, I am a simple guy (to some extent). 

As such I started to work and after half a dozen ideas (that looked too much like something that existed already), and after I had set the stage of a completely redesigned Murder on the Zinderneuf (optionally now with a different title) and a completely new approach to Seven Cities of Gold, I found the setting I forgot about (all whilst I also made an approach towards Fallout Shelter, yet not the same game, but now set on a space station called Babylon 5) I found the solution in this in an approach taking a coin from the TV series Smallville. Yet this is not a game about Superman, Superboy or Tom Welling. Consider a city, I would say Any city and perhaps that is apt, you see there will be 4 towns, the size of Lancaster, PA. In these towns (you get one randomly assigned at the start of the game). We have a town with 12,000-18,000 NPC’s, we will also have events that impact the town (not unlike the TV series Haven), but not the same, anyhow, you start as a boy (or girl) as a sophomore and you will have abilities and there you can make a directional choice. But here the complication starts, the powers you have have limitations, they drain after use and take almost a full day to recharge, yet as you use a power, you make the power stronger and as such it can be used faster (up to 3 times a day) and as you use one power new options will evolve. 

SO you need to be wise in its use and also consider the option of being clever and find another solution. This will not make it easy, but that is the challenge, get to the end of high school and win all challenges. We have seen a partial setting in Buffy, Angel and Smallville, but no one considered to make a game out of it. 

So why will it work?
I believe it will work as the game maker needs to evolve the NPC part of the game way beyond Ubisoft ever achieved to do so. You need to keep track of up to 18,000 people and their family, if one person will not make it, it will affect at least a dozen people and as you fail to save people, there is a chance that the police will start to investigate you as an optional criminal. 

It sets a new stage where you need to plan your steps ahead, it is no longer fly by the seat of your pants, it becomes fly by wire and you are the Boeing 737, as far as I can tell, it has never been done before and if the makers pulls it off, it is the setting for an almost legendary achievement. And let’s face it, these series have had its settings of antagonists, in this we get the setting that we make some of these antagonists heroes. Some of them have been unfortunately in that regard.  A nice example is Sandman (Spiderman), Alicia Baker (Smallville), Amy Madison (Buffy), Sylar (Heroes), the list goes on and on and no one considered to set this approach of abilities in another frame and not merely there, there are a few more settings. 

Why this path?
Well, we can have another run through the story games like there are so many, but games like Spiderman (PS4, PS5) are successful, not merely because they are perfect, but because they offer choice, we get to go into the game in whatever direction we want to take it. We know that at times we need to follow the main story, but the large stage of freedom is why these games are so adored and replayed. We never considered to take that stage and evolve it. Yet we must also see the path of originality, which is why I merely gave examples. I saw ‘inFAMOUS Second Son’ as an average game, not because of the start, the start is pretty fantastic, a smoke ability? The issue becomes that the game based in Seattle becomes linear way too soon, so as you mark of all the missions per district, as you clean up each segment, you end up with enough power-points to immediately upgrade whatever power you unlock, the stage of choice is great, but always per district and always linear, that is why it is not a great game, but a good game, and the concrete power at the end is not used to the larger stage. Laser power is too powerful. All stages of near hits, but still an original game. A 90%+ game that ended being a mere 80% game, such a shame, such a waste. In my mind I am setting  stage that avoids that, and a stage where the town becomes the sandbox and the NPC’s are the triggers that starts missions (optionally puzzle inclined), and as I do this, I am wondering what happens when we remaster Soul Reaver to a new stage, enlarged, interacted and also take away the weakness the first one had (repetitive and a little shallow). Sony has great IP, I wonder who was sitting and considering what they hd only to fall into the same trap Microsoft is in (it needs to be new, it needs to be cool), and all that time, Sony has access to IP 20 years old that was regarded as an original game. It needs work, no one denies that, but it is something Microsoft does not have, as such we need to consider it, because the more exclusive games, the less chance Microsoft has and we need to acknowledge that the Bethesda deal gives them an advantage, not enough, but why give them that much leeway in the first place?

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The insanity of Trolls

I have had my issues with many things, in some cases I was on one side where I lashed out at Yves Guillemot to some extent, not because he did something ‘wrong’ but as CEO, he is the main in charge, the buck stops at HIS desk! The fact remained (as I saw it) that an amazing concept like Assassins Creed got squandered in several ways. My criticism was always with a level of decency and it was always supported with evidence, evidence as I saw it. There were never any death threats, or threats against the person, because in the end, it is just a video game and I reckon Ubisoft broke its own glasses of profit, which is the jest of it.

Today I viewed the article ‘Joss Whedon Quits Twitter; James Gunn Responds‘ (at http://geeknation.com/joss-whedon-quits-twitter-james-gunn-responds/). I am slightly beyond outrage at this point. To illustrate this, we need to look at some of the achievements of Joss Whedon.

Buffy, seven seasons of amazing excellence, vampire movies were taken to a new level and Sarah Michelle ‘the Slayer’ Gellar would become the idol of many men and even more women. The series is still rerunning on many channels on a global scale and every now and then forums bump back alive the desire for a high resolution remastered Blu-ray edition.

Angel would become a first spinoff, not as successful, but still respected in the fantasy world. Whedon puts together a cast that rocks solid and it would herald the continuation of a lifelong career of David Boreanaz beyond Angel who is still going strong after almost 20 years.

Firefly is the result of creativity from creator Joss Whedon and the cast that would reunite in his projects again and again. Scrapped before its time, studios are still learning today what a stupid mistake they made, like Buffy re-runs of this series are ongoing and the fans remain loyal beyond measure. Nathan Filion and the Firefly caste are still the highly sought events in every Comic-Con, even now 12 years later.

Serenity is the movie that tied a lot together and should be regarded as an amazing gesture towards the Firefly fans (it was no box office hit)

Dollhouse is perhaps the least understood diamond in the crown of Joss Whedon. It was dropped by executives who seemed to have a limited brain capacity and no comprehension beyond mind controlled ‘sex-dolls’. Whedon shows here how technology unleashed could be the end of us and end many ways of life. What was likely to have been a 4 season gemstone showed a second season trying to fit it all so the fans had a decently complete picture. Amy Acker, Eliza Dushku, Dichen Lachman and Olivia Williams are the female titans each with a role to play, the male side with Harry Lennix, Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz and later Alan Tudyk show us a story that is almost unparalleled in depth. It is a story with a ‘neuromancer ‘ difference, one that sounds almost plausible enough to be scary.

Joss Whedon was able to add ethical undertones to the story that makes this gem an absolute must.

Now we get to the first Avengers movie. It is the second true superhero comic (with multiple hero’s) that comes to life in many ways (after the X-men). The story was amazingly good (for a comic book) and the interaction was like seeing comic books actually coming to life, I saw it in the cinema and after that a dozen times on Blu-ray. Like in the comic books we see ego and strife taking part in the story on the big screen too. Like the comic books, we see events that are just too good to ever forget. Many people will forever see Loki who is playing Tom Hiddleston with virtual Mark Ruffalo, played by the Hulk who picks up Hiddleston and makes him ‘one’ with the concrete floor, the ‘puny human’ quote gave way to loud laughs in the cinema. It will remain a priceless gem forever! The Avengers showed to me and too many others that comic books can come to life (through special effects). We all agree that the cast (all of them) did an amazing job, but we all know that without the visionary view of Joss Whedon, this movie would never have been the success it became. It ended up being the third most successful movie ever (source: Box office Mojo), with only Titanic and Avatar surpassing the financial Avengers results.

Now we have Age of Ultron. Here we see the team growing through the same actors, the same visionary director, whilst adding the three Avengers we missed the first time around. The Maximoff’s (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), both excellently played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elisabeth Olsen. It is hard to compare to the comic books, because the Avengers have been around so long. Missing is Ant-man (but he is coming in his own movie first), Wasp, Black Panther (another upcoming person in his own movie first) and Black Knight. There are so many more members as the team evolved from the 60’s onwards. The movie is an excellent piece of work, there are many sides and even though these movies survive by special effects, we are never visibly drowned in those special effects forsaking acting quality.

It is hard to judge whether two is better than one, important is that there is an evolving storyline as we see in the comics. Joss Whedon delivered!

So when I saw that Joss Whedon got hate mail and death threats, I could not believe my ears (or my eyes for that matter). You have to read the story for yourself, but overall, I massively disagree with James Gunn, not because of what he did, but because of the premise that he had to (which in itself is a good thing).

Joss Whedon is a visionary. He brought to life something millions of fans dreamed of seeing in their life time and my generation as such would be alive long enough to see it truly happen on the big screen. He did it with Avengers and does it again with Age of Ultron. I am 100% convinced that he would be able to surpass his previous work if he would be making the two Infinity Gauntlet movies, but that is not to be, it seems (according to IMDB) that this falls to Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the people behind Captain America, the winter soldier. Or as we can voice it, that movie where Captain America gets slapped around by his former best friend. The movie is an excellent achievement and the subterfuge of Hydra is well portrayed by former Mr Brubaker (a Robert Redford reference). In all these movies, as well as her introduction when Iron Man is a little over his head dealing with Mickey Rourke is Scarlett Johansson who sets down a mean Black Widow. As I see it, she was, is and remains a very strong character. I do not get the hatred over any of this and as such, I very much opposed the words of James Gunn when he writes: “Anger makes us feel “right”. And powerful. But it also usually exacerbates whatever the underlying, more uncomfortable feeling is”.

I would to some degree accept these words, but I saw some of the tweets Joss Whedon received. (a few at https://storify.com/Astojap/wehdon-twitter-hate). The message “@josswhedon ALSO WHY THE FUCK DID YOU JUST PUSH ASIDE NATASHA? YOU COULD HAVE USED HER IN SO MANY GOOD WAYS AND INSTEAD YOU USED STARK“. As well as “@josswhedon I bet you like homestuck you fucking garbage asshole” and these are not even the worst tweets!

They seem to be written by people who are clueless in many ways, some perhaps frustrated and angry for other reasons. I do not care as to the why, I just think that no one needs to accept the abuse Joss Whedon was subjected to.

When I see the accusation of ‘Misogynistic’ and we see Buffy with Buffy and Faith, Dollhouse with Echo, Sierra and November, Firefly with Zoe, Inara and Kaylee. In serenity, we see River getting ‘enthusiastic’ which leads to the quote “Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90-pound girl ’cause… I don’t think that’s ever getting old“. I am clueless how Joss is voiced as Misogynistic.

The hatred for Joss Whedon is not just unfounded, it is wrong in many ways. Joss has always given us strong women (not all evenly sane, like Faith in season 3 of Buffy, but that is not the issue). In Age of Ultron we see ‘Black Widow’ Johansson having a soft spot for Bruce Banner and why not (apart from the fact that I am a better dancer then Mark Ruffalo)? And as for soft love interest, when the action starts, she states ‘I love you, but I need the other guy’ and shoves her love interest over the edge of a cliff, and out comes the Hulk, an excellent moment to giggle over!

We should not ignore Elisabeth Olsen either, especially as all but one member of the Avengers get introduced to her ability to boggle their minds, which gets crushed when at the end, when we see the ‘real life’ (the non-Comic book version) view of what Scarlet Witch is able to do.

So, I do not see any valid opposition to the visionary work of Joss Whedon, I also oppose James Gunn, not because what he said and how well he said it (one of the more eloquent writings this year), but the fact that he had to do it. These trolls and hate mail senders are not using their right to free speech. These people are guilty of Psychic Assault (in Common law Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada). In the US we see a similar situation, where California has California Penal Code 422 PC, where we see how it defines the crime of “criminal threats” (formerly known as terrorist threats).

A “criminal threat” is when you threaten to kill or physically harm someone and
that person is thereby placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his/her safety or for the safety of his/her immediate family, the threat is specific and unequivocal and
you communicate the threat verbally, in writing, or via an electronically transmitted device.

Criminal threats can be charged whether or not you have the ability to carry out the threat…and even if you don’t actually intend to execute the threat.

I think it is only fair that the FBI, arrests no less than 50-100 of these people and convict them accordingly. You see, what those ‘voicers’ seem to forget is that these movies are a massive slice of the tax collected, when people like Joss Whedon have had enough and they go somewhere else, then these people thinking in their own small minded self that they executed their ‘right” to free speech is costing the government millions. It seems only fair that they are taking to the district courts and are allowed to experience the consequences of their criminal behaviour.

In my view trolling has been going on for way too long, Anita Sarkeesian, Sara Payne, Claire Cohen, Nicki Minaj, Helen Skelton and now Joss Whedon joins the ranks of trolled people (mostly women mind you). In this list I must take time emphasize two names. The first one is Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne. Can you imagine this? A mother dealing with the murder and the funeral of her own daughter getting trolled! How sick can people get? In the second there is Helen Skelton she used to present the BBC children show Blue Peter. Yes, it seems that those relying on ‘free speech’ have done this for an unacceptable amount of time and it is now becoming more and more essential that trolls get introduced to the criminal courts in a very non-virtual way.

I reckon that true fans, now losing out on their idol speaking on Twitter will be an additional source of inspiration in finding out who those trolls really are.

 

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