Thursday, July 09, 2009

Salvation at last?

I must admit that when I first heard they where making Terminator 3 my initial thought was that it would be set in the future, during the war. That is I hoped it would be set in the future. Obviously it wasn't and T3: Rise of the Machines was the result, a rather lacklustre last hurrah for a franchise. Upon hearing that Terminator Salvation would be set in the future and be directed by the guy behind Charlie's Angels I though: "Oh shit."

I'm not the only one, I'm sure.

Call me pleasently surprised. Of the big three effects movies I've seen this summer, Terminator Salvation is easily the best. It may take some liberties with the franchise (i.e. mankind doesn't seem to be doing much hiding. Why hasn't Skynet used infra-red to track down their heat signatures? Or am I just being a bit too geeky?) but it ultimately succeeds where T3 failed: a worthy successor to James Cameron's original two films.

Obviously it's a set up for further entries into the franchise: Christian Bale's John Connor doesn't seem to be the leader of the resistance after all; Kyle Reese seems more a stereotypical smart-arse teen than the battle-weary scarred veterean we saw in the original; there was no mention of time travel equipment, nor the fateful encounter where Kyle and five terminators are sent back into the past, nor do we see Connor ultimately die... I wonder if McG will be brave enough to change that unhappy ending?

The future is not set, after. No fate but what the writers make...

Monday, July 06, 2009

EVE: Even virtual banks are in trouble... - EVE player steals 2 billion ISK of invested ingame cash and sells it through Real Money Traders to finance medical bills and a new house

The most surprising thing about this story is that it's reported in a fairly straight laced manner, giving it more credibility and importance than it may have received eighteen months ago or so. As virtual worlds become more prevelant and more important to more and more people I suppose that this change in opinions was inevitable. It just seems to have started sooner than I thought.

I wonder how long it will be before game developers like CCP start to pursue legal action against people who exploit RMT sites. If this guy had managed to steal more ISK from the 2.3trillion fund, could have had sold it for £10, 000? £20, 000? Even thirty thousand? At what point to developers say enough is enough and call their lawyers? Is there even a case for them outwith the terms and conditions of the game, or is permabanning accounts their only available solution?

I think it's inevitable that there will be a test case sooner rather than later... but I wonder how many subscriptions will end up being cancelled if RMT is made illegal by the courts and not just by the developers. Could they end up cutting off their nose to spite their face? Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Star Trek: Wrath of Retcon

I was brought up watching the original Star Trek on BBC 2. Every Monday (possibly Tuesday. Or any of the other weekdays. It was a long time ago) at 6pm there'd be an ace sci-fi TV show on the Beeb's second channel and I'd settle down to watch with Mother. Star Trek was always amongst my favourites, mainly because I really, really, wanted to be Captain Kirk. I must confess though that that was only because my Mum told me that TJ Hooker used to be Captain Kirk. That confused my little child mind, but I did know that TJ was the bestest cop in the whole wide world. That surely meant that Kirk was just as good! Fuck yeah!

(Actually I never said things like "Fuck yeah!" at that age. I'd've got a skelping, and they're never good. )

Over the years Star Trek was of course followed by The Next Generation (the one with the robot), Deep Space Nine (the one with the space station that wasn't Babylon 5), Voyager (the one with the Holodeck and yet no imagination) and finally Enterprise (the one with no viewers) but none of them captured my imagination like the original show. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and friends made the show what it was. The characters in the subsequent shows just couldn't match up, never mind your baldy diplomat blokes or your shouty black men.

So, geek factor nine engaged. New Star Trek movie ahoy. The old ship, the old characters, new, prettier actors and a CGI budget larger than the gross national product of Bolivia. Is it good? Well, yeah. It's a reboot, innit. Re-energising an existing franchise for newer, younger viewers to capture a whole new generation of geeks and enslave them to the brand. Boldly going forward cos we can't find reverse, as someone once put it.

As a bog standard sci-fi movie I'm sure it would work - the MacGuffinry in there could easily be expositioned away in a non-Star Trek manner - but it's somehow hard to swallow it as real, proper Star Trek. Perhaps I'm too old, too set in my ways. Perhaps I'm too used to Star Trek having cardboard sets and ridiculously inexpensive special effects. JJ Abrams brings wobbly camera angles, far more shiny things than the 1960's Enterprise ever had and lots of explosions in an attempt to "action up" the franchise. It's explained about halfway through the movie that this is an alternate timeline where literally anything could happen - a good excuse for subsequent entries to ignore the futures laid down for the crew in the TV shows, movies, books, comics, cartoons, lunchboxes and bed spreads of the last 40 years. Here we have a more emotional Spock, a Uhura who does more than answer the phone and a Chekov who is all of a sudden a mathematical genuis.

Each of the main characters have their moment to set themselves up but they all feel oddly empty. Sulu is missing George Takei's rich voice, Kirk is missing The Shat's awesome charisma and Spock just isn't Leonard Nimoy. What's worse is that when he finally appears, Leonard Nimoy just isn't Spock.

I think it's sour grapes. Or possibly regret. Regret that The Shat got old and Bones died and someone shot Scotty's ashes into space and missed. Regret that they're not making new stories with them anymore. Regret that these pretty young upstarts just can't fill the boots left for them - they cant replace, only succeed, as someone else put it.

It's not a bad movie. In fact it's probably a very good one. But for me it just isn't Star Trek.

Transformers: Robots in...oh god I'm so bored

Let me get one thing straight: I loved the first Transformers movie. Loved. It was wish fulfillment writ large, writ huge, writ gargantuan even. My inner geek got a serious woody at the first sight of Optimus Prime and repeat viewings have done little to lessen the wow factor. Yeah, the plot is complete bunkum, the characters are either annoying or Megan Fox but the special effects money shots make my little eyes go wide and shiny every time.

Also, it was, believe it or not, the date movie for me and The Missus. This makes it special.

I sat in an extremely comfy cinema seat to watch Transformers: Vengeance of the Fallen with a gigantocola, a megapopcornosaurus, a smile on my face and a lump in my shorts, certain, certain that I was about to, yet again, be blown away...


Micheal Bay should really stay away from sequels. Bad Boys 2 was immensely self indulgent, ridiculously overblown and mildly offensive. T:VotF repeats those first two sins but manages to fall on the side of schoolboy humour rather than frat boy nastiness. It's two and a half hours long for goodness' sake, at least 45 minutes longer than necessary, the irritating cast is expanded by far too many other annoying characters, the plot is even dafter... but oh, those money shots.

It'd be churlish to write the film off as a complete loss as it does offer a grand spectacle, but given that the Transformers themselves are some of the most detailed and complex CGI characters ever created it's sometimes hard to see what's going on with any great clarity - there are so many small, intricate moving parts making up each character that the whole can be lost in a muddle. When the camera moves back to allow a wider shot the motion capture takes over and these behemoths move like athletes - Optimus Prime's battle in the forest is a highlight.

Eventually, though, things grind to a slow halt and you find yourself wishing for the credits as armies of identikit Decepticons take on Earth's Mightiest (American) Soldiers (well, with a token Brit) plus a handful of Autobots. Megan Fox's part is even thinner than in the original, although if there is a Best Naked Midriff Oscar next year she's a front runner - the camera caresses her like a lover and it's hard not think of it as almost voyeuristic. Like everything else about a movie that thinks more is better, it begins to grate.

A dissapointing sequel overall, but perhaps on DVD with the benefit of fast forward (and pause for the Fox lovers out there) it'll prove a better watch.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Statecorp story

It's been a while since I thought about my EVE Diary but recent discussions with members of my EVE Online corporation have brought them to my attention again, purely becuase it looks like the corp will dissolve soon after nearly five years together. We've lost a few key players in the last few months - including myself - and it's nearly time to wind things down and move on.

The EVE Diaries where to be a play diary displayed in a library within Second Life by fellow former State forumite Always Black, but I stopped after some pretty negative feedback for the fifth entry. It wasn't uncalled for to be honest - I'd tried to relate something that we all found pretty momentous within the game but didn't do it very well.

Now, over three years since that last entry into the EVE diary I'm thinking of writing some more, retrospectively, filling in the history of StateCorp as I remember it. Obviously with myself as the hero. Obviously.

Fatherhood and gaming

Honestly, before you have a child, can anyone really say they know what's coming to them?

The best present I received on my most recent birthday was a badge that said "World's best Dad". Corny, cheesy, stupid, but it gave me a warm rosy glow and a tear in my eye. Being a Dad is truly great.

But sometimes I miss the old days. The days where I could do 48 hour gaming sessions in my pants, surviving on frozen pizza, coffee and beer. The days when all my time was my own and I didn't have this little bundle of chaos demanding attention 24/7.

Only sometimes though.

I've spent a lot of time staring at this screen recently, wondering what to do with my PC. It seems incredibly selfish now to even think of spending £30 on a new game when that gets three weeks worth of powdered milk, but I'm desperate for a new gaming experience. After four years of EVE my once wide and varied gaming lifestyle has wittered away to nothing - and now even EVE has taken a back seat. I know the missus wont be pleased when I tell her I want to resubscribe :)

My son will have a lot more exposure to gaming at a younger age than I did, even though I was playing an Atari VCS 2600 at the age of 5. I often wonder, though, how his gaming education will differ from mine. I grew up with the industry, learning the rules and conventions of gaming at the same rate that developers were discovering them. Now with genres firmly delineated and perceptions of what each particular type of game should let you do almost set in stone I wonder how easy it will be for my son to learn. I had Mario Bros - right now he has Mario Galaxy. Although the basic concept of the platformer may be little changed, the execution is worlds apart.