Tag Archives: Valérian

The stage of a game

We all have an idea, some have the idea of a life time, but I cannot make that claim, not because I do not have one, but because I have too many. Yes there is the call to make remasters (Knights of the Sky), there is the call to reinvent the wheel (System Shock by Nightdive Studios), or there is the need to take it to the next level, a next level that was not possible in the past, mainly because technology did not allow for it.

This is how I always saw Pirates (by Sid Meier), there was a chance where Black Flag was a nice tribute, but it was the dawn of PS4 and Xbox One and Ubisoft took a cowardly way to progress a franchise on a lack of factors. So as I initially played Black Flag, my mind went racing. And then I remembered another pirate game, a board game with additional bluff cards. So what happens, when w take the foundation of Black Flag and make it more towards the original the Sid Meier made? The map would be well over 20 times the size, a lot more like the actual map of the Caribbeans in those days, the game would not be some fruity assassin, it would be your version and you get to live the life of a cutthroat, a buccaneer, a privateer, it is up to you, to go from a small skiff to a full-grown galley or slave ship if you are good enough. You see, there is something totally awesome about the way the game Elite Dangerous is designed (by David Braben). There your life does not matter, the game does not care, nor should it and it is time to set that stage to RPG and a pirate RPG makes a lot of sense. You cannot always be a captain, you start as a simple sailor. And in this you could get to a rank if you are good enough. 

So how do we go about it, we tend to look towards the wars of adjustment, yet there are so many wars the were never on the radar, the Dutch independence wars (which took close to 80 years), the age of piracy and lets not forget the Sudan wars (Mahdist War 1881-1899), all places that seem to be forgotten. Who remembers the siege of Khartoum? Some are so set in a stage of winning, the we sometimes forget that half the fun is surviving, so how far will you get? The original siege went on from 13 March 1884 to 26 January 1885, so what happens when you are in charge, how long will you last? Games are so much about winning, the we forget the enduring is nothing less. To make it to the date or even past it would be a victory and a half. It is so American to be the victor the most of them do not understand ‘the Last Samurai’, it is not about winning, it is about not losing, or better stated, the way you live towards the final days matters more, we forgot about that part, didn’t we?

We can set any gaming stage, but it is how we play where we see if we measure up, not if we merely tap the mile poles in a game. I reckon that the achievements made us all a little complacent in games. We can go in any direction, a Hindenburg flight simulator, yet in there we will always come up short against the Microsoft flight simulator, it makes more sense for them to add the Hindenburg. Yet what happens when we turn the script? What happens when we set the stage to a simple thing, what if the player is a no one, yet his/her grandfather was Hades, Poseidon or Zeus? What happens when we map a place like Monte Carlo completely and get him to retrieve a relic that one of the 2,261 millionaires or 50 billionaires has. Is it in a house, is it on a boat or is it somewhere else (like a museum)? We can simplify any game for as much as we can, but in the end we need a healthy story and for the most Wars tend to do that (an unhealthy endeavour if ever there was one). I saw the need of a game on mines, and remembered some bomb defusing game on the CBM-64, so where to go from there? The stage of a game is important, because it sets a vested interest of the gamer, Ubisoft had the down to perfection in Assassins Creed 2 and Brotherhood and after the they lost the plot, they almost won it back in AC4 Black Flag and they definitely got it back in Origins. I would think the a Battlestar Galactica RPG is one the would be favourable with the BSG fans, but not much outside that, the same can be said for Babylon 5, the Star Trek fanbase is huge, so that tends to be a close win any given day of the week, but that does not guarantee a good game, the issue is seen when an idea with a small base entices a large following, that is the stage we all seek. CD Project Red did so with Witcher and seemingly is about to do it again with Cyberpunk 2077.  It is the setting the fuels the story, and the story is everything, I have always believed that, it is the power of an RPG. It is because of the that we see out the great stories (Tolkien), yet I wonder what happens when we try this with Herbert on a larger scale with Dune, not merely on Arrakis, why if all the other places become involved? Perhaps a visionary will see that option with the next Dune movie (2020). In this books have been the strongest source of inspiration, mainly because there are so many of them. Yet most of us go to the same source, why? I agree that it is appealing, but there are so many nations with alternatives. That is something we saw when someone created the Untitled Goose Game, brilliant t in its foundation, as such I wondered if someone had considered the same thing with a cat (Minoes, Annie M. G. Schmidt), a writer the has a following of millions in the Netherlands and Belgium. In that same setting, as Skyrim became such a hit, did anyone ever look towards the famous Spanish Comic books of the Mercenary by Segrelles? It has all the makings of a much larger game, a stage where some are set not in multiple games, but one game with a season pass and several DLC’s.

Then there is the comic hero Rork, by Andreas, or even the Trigan Empire by Don Lawrence. I remember growing up to these stories and the stories of Ravian (Valerian), I am a little surprised that the Trigan Empire never made it to the silver screen or the computer, Don Lawrence has a flair for imagery and the computer always needs this. So what is the stage of a game that will be set next? The is the question and the is where players like Sony and Google/Apple will find themselves. Microsoft might be acquiring the brands (Bethesda), yet they do not have the stage alone and the next innovator might be just around the corner. For me, the idea that the $7,500,000,000 lemon the Microsoft acquired (not Bethesda mind you) would backfire largely and loudly and the would be OK with me.

As I personally see it, Microsoft pissed of true gamers and that group of people doesn’t pull punches when they play with their idols, we do not fault Bethesda in any of this, but aligning with Microsoft was not the best idea, as some say, you are only as good as your next game and Bethesda had plenty of winners, but what is next? We look not merely to the stage of the game, but to the next stage of gaming and I believe that they are too often hiding behind terms like ‘hype worthy games’, yet that is a setting from the mind of a marketing department, they predict that people who play games, will think this is a hype. Yet true hypes come from games the are on the edge of what is possible in gaming, the Witcher 3 is the perfect example there. Cyberpunk is also on the stage, neither of them are Microsoft games. Yet it was brilliant to buy Bethesda, but the also means that those who do not love the Microsoft console will look to the borders and see what else is possible, optionally setting the stage for the $7,500,000,000 lemon, not because of Bethesda, but because gamers have a lack of trust in Microsoft and the fact that some had the numbers that only 1 out of 3 considered the new Microsoft console, the gives me the impression that Microsoft has a much larger problem and buying software houses will not solve it, making visionary games do and the is the lesson Microsoft has not learned. They opened the door for Sony to look what else is out there, what else could become an exclusive and the is where Sony will win and gamers will win. Because it is on the edge of possible gaming where new gamers will be born, new games will be born and at the end of my life I see that there are options coming towards gamers, games the will create new gamers, it will create new creativity and new thinking through gaming and this is a good thing. The simple truth is the there is real gaming beyond Ubisoft and Microsoft, true gaming is never soft, it is challenging and the is where we need to look, we need to look where they are not looking. That is how I got most my IP in several fields. Not by being some bullet point presenter like all the others, but by looking in a direction they decided not to bother looking. That is how most revolutionary IP is created, and it is funny as this is the way Microsoft and Ubisoft started, to look where no was. Too bad they forgot about the part of the equation and I reckon the Sony is waking up to that lesson at present.

 

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About Entertainment

I stumbled upon an article by Gilbert Cruz called “The Lone Ranger Represents Everything That’s Wrong with Hollywood Blockbusters” (at: http://www.vulture.com/2013/07/lone-ranger-is-everything-wrong-with-hollywood.html). It is actually quite a nice read and the conclusions that I personally do not completely agree with are still well supported and seem to make sense.

His ‘unease’ with franchises are well accepted by many including me, as we read and have spoken out against these reiterations often enough. when addressing the origin story problem he states “Give us a story that works and then, if you’re lucky enough to earn a sequel, you can give us flashes of an origin tale down the road, as opposed to weighing down your first movie.” That is one view, yet it is the view of the director that counts. It should be about the vision of the director. Perhaps it is less about the origin story and more about having a visionary director. My view is supported by mentioning the hidden gem ‘Margin Call‘. I think that this is a movie any economic student should watch. It watches like a story, yet there are layers of events that give it all an actual strength. The fact is also about a story portraying the initial stages of the 2008 financial crises are set in a movie.
Can anything be more dull then that? And even though this movie is pretty much all star, it required a visionary director to pull it off. That is how I see the origin story as well, without vision it is a presentation. It does not matter whether we watch a movie containing a Wild Wild West version of Sparrow, or the start of the lone ranger. the same for Thor, Spiderman and so forth, how they ‘became’ is part of the movie, but how to address it?

This dilemma is approached within the slogan of TV channel ‘FX’. “The story is everything!” I think when it comes to TV channels; it is the most brilliant slogan ever. Yes, we remember the special effects, we see the stars we love and idolise, but without the story…. (Imagine the sound of a flop!).

This is also why (for now) I stayed away from the Hobbit. I loved the lord of the rings. I have been a fan of Tolkien since long before I was at the legal drinking age. So seeing the movie was a massive moment in my life for me. Like many fans I did mentally object loudly when the freeing of the shire was missing (as this is the moment the hobbits experience what those around them went through), yet to see the book on the big screen was a moment I loved. To see the Hobbit was indeed something I was looking forward to, yet to see a 320 page book in 3 movies of around 3 hours each is stretching it all a bit thin.

So as most might agree with, is the fact that a good story requires a visionary. Perhaps this is why James Cameron has been so successful? 2 movies bringing in almost 5 billion is just insane! We should not forget that timing is also extremely important. I feel that this is shown when looking at ‘Dances with Wolves’ and ‘a man called horse’, which was a shining moment for Richard Harris. Perhaps the world was not ready for the ‘going native’ view in the 70’s.

The article stamps out a side I actually never gave much notice of. He states “So in order to ensure sequels and appeal to the maximum number of people, it must be rated PG or PG-13. Good luck finding an R-rated summer blockbuster.” He makes a fine point here. I want to see a movie that is good; I am not all in favour of bloody or bloodless movies if they hinder a sense of realism. Although I was never a fan of zombie films, the ‘realistic’ view ‘the Waking dead’ brings, is why I am eye locked to the small screen. So, the ratings requiring certain lack of levels of gore would be counterproductive to me. I do not believe that it is about gore and blood-letting. This is why I enjoyed the movie ‘the A-team’, where with 17,000 bullet you see no one gunned down (keeping in pace with the original TV series), yet the opposite of ‘Act of Valor’ is a gem as it is about the efficiency of making every bullet count (Navy Seals apparently are not about wasting time). So my stance floats a little with the movie I am watching, again, the story makes it happen.

This is why the hammer on ‘The Lone Ranger’ feels a little harsh to me. If it is about entertainment, then the Lone Ranger provides, yet the points the article brings up should not be ignored either. This is a Disney movie and Disney factor is important as that brand has a following with an audience they need to protect. Consider that the (Grand) parents, with younglings on a day out will see the protection that the Disney logo brings and as such a gore driven Zombie film with a Disney logo is unlikely to ever happen.

The final part where I slightly disagree with the views Gilbert Cruz offers, is when he mentions The Phantom and The Shadow. These 90’s movies failed because there was a lack of vision (as I see it). The characters are well established through the radio shows and the comic books. If we consider the slogan of FX and if we consider a slightly more Frank Miller themed view, then consider Howard Chaykin’s ‘The Shadow: Blood & Judgment’. That was more than just a mere piece of comic book. That was graphic art on an entirely different level. As much as Baldwin failed to portray the Shadow, the blame should fall to the lack of vision the director showed (perhaps with a small degree of ‘technology lacking’ options). Consider what Tarsem Singh achieved with ‘Immortal’, now let him have a go at ‘The Shadow: Blood & Judgment’. The result could be a lot more than a cult movie that we will remember for a long time. The result could be a blockbuster R-rated movie. Again, it is about timing and for 2013-2015 the timing seems right to take these old ‘heroes’ off the shelves and give them to visionaries, not to the directors that come from the ‘Hollywood blockbuster template machine’. In that regard we all hope that Luc Besson will achieve to revive the French hero that should be seen as an international landmark. As he is remembered for the Fifth Element, this visionary could make the heroes Valérian and Laureline truly immortal. As franchises go, a trilogy of these two characters could reshape the way people see comic book heroes. The only sad fact is that this movie arrives almost 40 years after I read the comic books. Even now, I still remember the art of Jean-Claude Mézières. What is also intriguing is that the art you see in ‘The City of Shifting Waters’ had a lot of similarities that the TV-Series ‘Revolutions’ showed almost 35 years after the comic book came.

It is also interesting that, considering the success of the lord of the rings and the implied upcoming blockbusters that the Hobbit seems to become, that not a larger net was cast on the type stories that have this epic view. We all remember Flash Gordon. Some trough the view of Ted (a McFarlane sense of humour), some through the exquisite music by Queen, however I still think back to the comics as drawn in the 60’s and 70’s. In that same style there are the stories of the ‘Trigan Empire’. It seems so strange that these successful works of art still have not made it to the big screen.

So I believe that there are plenty of options out there, it just takes faith (and funding) in one visionary to take that step forward.

 

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