Tuesday, October 11, 2016

So, as it turns out...

Whelp, Devin Faraci has been accused of sexual assaults he had apparently done in the past. As I have said before, I never agreed with a lot of what he said, but I respected his opinions. Now I must withdraw my respect of him. Why?

Because it's my personal choice to do so. The reasoning behind my decision doesn't really matter, but as a human being I cannot condone what he has done. And no, I will not discuss my reasons here. This is a nerd site, and I am determined to keep it that way. No politics & no religion. I created this blog to be a safe zone for us nerds. 

However, one of my blog posts has dealt with Devin, and I felt I needed to address that. While it dealt with his profession and not him as a person, and while I believe in my readers' ability to tell the difference, there may be those who may choose not to parse out that difference due to personal belief. 

So I wrote this so that I may assure new & longtime readers who come to this site that I don't tolerate this kind of behavior in myself or others.  

That post will remain up, as a reminder that I make mistakes, but this post will also remain up, as a reminder to me to own my mistakes, and apologize for them.

Thank you for reading.


Friday, September 2, 2016

No Man's Pie In The Sky

It has been 2 weeks since No Man's Sky came out, so let's look at the state of play in this particular part of the nerdspace. According to Steam, it was the top seller before it came out, and player count topped 212,000 before it dropped to it's current 3,000 player count. I expect that type of drop on a game like Evolve or Star Wars: Battlefront, because both those games were multiplayer only, had only 10 maps, maybe, and not a lot of content to keep the player's interest. But this is No Man's Sky. It has 18 quintillion planets and procedurally generated wildlife (you can name the planets & wildlife), crafting mechanics, and a story that takes you to the center of the universe. These sound amazing.

That is, until you found out that the names you give the planets and wildlife disappear after a while, the crafting mechanics are a little weird (you can feed iron to animals & you have an extremely limited inventory), and the story is dependent upon you keeping Atlas Stones that you may mistakenly sell to free up inventory. And new problems keep cropping up , such as preorder bonuses breaking the game. 

Add to all of this the fact that Hello Games, the developers of No Man's Sky, at the least were communicating their overreach in their goals for the game or at most outright lied about what was in their game during the hype that preceded the launch of the game.

Everybody has had their say about this game, but I don't see my viewpoint being communicated, which is why I'm posting this. My view is that this whole thing has been a disappointment. In fact, I warned about this very situation in my facebook post from May 27th:

And surprise, here we are. 

Do I believe that Hello Games' reach exceeded their grasp? Yes. That's not a bad thing. But do I believe they lied about what the game would contain? Also yes. And that is a bad thing. Certainly the features the game has now was not worth $60. Minecraft had just as many features as No Man's Sky (possibly even less) but sold for $27 (the same price it is now). That's another problem right there. If the game had sold for $30, no one would have felt ripped off. 

And let's not leave the fans off the hook. As I warned in my post, we as gamers must remain vigilant, and part of that vigilance was not buying too much into the hype that accompanies any potentially good game. Fans did not heed that lesson, and we had groups on both sides arguing loudly about whether the game was good or bad. I didn't even know about this game until it almost came out, and even as the fervor reached a fever pitch I never bought into the hype. I've been burned by too many bad games, and I don't have the money/time to do it. 

The sad part about all this is that there are people who have enjoyed, and still enjoy, this game (warts and all). And I applaud them. And I now join my voice to those who enjoy the game. This game actually has potential. If this gets frequent updates like Minecraft did as it went alpha, No Man's Sky may potentially be just as enjoyable and just as awesome as Minecraft. And on that day, I will buy it, and reward Hello Games for their hard work with my money. 

But for now, this game feels like Star Trek without anything interesting, like the characters, the aliens (humanoid or not), story, plot, or anything else for that matter, though it does look pretty.

[For the record, yes, I know it has aliens and a story. But the key word in that last statement was interesting. Felt the need to point that out, sorry.]

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

PokemonNO TRACKING

Niantic recently disabled the tracking feature on their PokemonGo game app. After a few days of silence, Niantic finally explained why, saying that the feature was “confusing and did not meet our underlying product goals”. They also said that they had “limited access by third-party services which were interfering with our ability to maintain quality of service for our users”. You can read the whole statement here.

A lot of articles have been written about this, and I have a lot to say about a few of them. First, some context.Here is the original PokemonGo game trailer when it was first announced last year.

Notice at the 25 second mark that the video promises that the app tracks distance to a pokemon clearly and accurately. That’s not what we got though. Instead we got the app showing how far pokemon were by how many footprints (called steps) was shown underneath the graphic. The more steps there were, the farther they were, as this article shows.

But then the 3-step glitch happened, which showed all pokemon were three steps away, no matter how far they actually were. People turned to third-party apps that accessed the PokemonGo app and showed where pokemon were relative to your position and what they were. Pokevision was one of these apps. Soon after Niantic CEO John Hanke voiced his displeasure at the existence of these third-party tracking apps, Niantic released the update that not only disabled the PokemonGo tracking feature, but all third-party apps that accessed it. People were angry at this, to the point that many were requesting refunds for any in-app purchases that relied on PokemonGo’s tracking feature (some got their refunds).

Articles started proliferating on the net, some decrying Niantic’s actions, some applauding them. This article talked about how the third-party apps allowed people to track down the most powerful pokemon quicker and use them to defend gyms. This is cheating in the article’s opinion. The article also states that these apps also reduced or eliminated the sense of wonder that comes from exploring a new place and searching for new pokemon. This one had a letter from Yang Lui, the proprietor of Pokevision, one of the 3rd-party apps that was shut down. In this letter, Lui states that using Pokevision was not cheating, but was a band-aid on the bigger problem of PokemonGo’s lack of a workable tracking feature.

Now that all sides have had their say, let me put in my two cents. As for Pokevision being used to find more powerful pokemon easily, that is true. But what is equally true is that in order to evolve these pokemon into more powerful forms, you need to level up your trainer avatar, collect stardust, collect pokemon and trade them in for candies (this is an oversimplification). In other words, people still need to go out and travel in order to get powerful pokemon. It takes a lot of work. I don’t see how work translates into cheating.

As for removing the sense of wonder, wonder is for people who have time to go to new places and find new pokemon. There are PokemonGo fans who work and have other commitments that take time away from playing this game. If these people have limited time to play, they could remove some of the randomness that came with finding pokemon by using Pokevision. And they still have to perform the steps I laid out above to create more powerful pokemon. And at least Pokevision was a tracker app that worked, better than PokemonGo’s tracking feature, which was itself a weaksauce version of the one Niantic promised in their original trailer last year. So Niantic didn’t have the moral high ground here.


Having said all that, let me applaud Niantic for taking steps to address fans’ anger and concerns (finally). They put out a statement saying they’re working on the problem (though it’s mostly corporate speak). They have hired a community manager to speak to fans more directly and quickly.  They have given refunds for in-app purchases that took advantage of the borked tracking feature. But Niantic needs to do more to gain back the fans’ respect. To Niantic, I say this: Fix these problems quickly. Stay in constant contact to let us know what you are doing to address our concerns. And don’t hate on others who created better solutions for your fixes than you have. Learn from them. To the fans, I say this: I understand the anger, and if all this was enough to put you off this game, I don’t blame you. This game has been a dissapointment. For the rest who are hanging on to this game in spite of everything, give Niantic time (but not too much time). They are clearly working to fix their problems, so let’s ease off them so they can concentrate. In the meantime, continue to catch ‘em all.

Thanks go to Kotaku, CapitalFM.com, The Mary Sue and Youtube for providing the works I cited*. 

*All linked work is care of their respective authors, none of them are owned by me, yadda yadda, copyright law, legal phrases, fair use, etc. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why Him?

Recently Devin Faraci (columnist and Editor-In-Chief of Birth Movies Death) was invited along with other film critics to the Justice League set, currently filming in London. You can read the article on his visit here. According to him there was a subreddit on his visit, with people wondering why he was invited, despite the fact that he was a hater of the Batman v. Superman movie (hereafter called BvS). Devin says his reason right in the article that it was precisely because he was a hater of BvS that he was invited. It was to show Devin that Warner Bros. was learning the lessons that the last film taught them, and that those lessons were being implemented in Justice League.  
I find this very interesting. Warner Bros. could have invited any of a hundred film critics who didn’t like BvS to the set, but they invited him. Sure, it’s because he’s a hater, but I think there are additional reasons that go beyond him being a film critic. Before looking at the reasons below, read his review of BvS here. Short version: He didn’t like it.
Devin is a knowledgeable nerd. That is, he understands film and how it’s made and the language film uses to entertain people. And in the case of BvS, he has also read the source material from DC comics. He can engage with, and criticize the film with a more complete understanding than other film critics who may not have the comics background he does. So his reviews of these types of movies will be somewhat more insightful. This is proven by the additional articles he’s written that expands on why BvS is a terrible movie. He wrote this one about Superman’s place in popular culture for the last few generations. There’s one about why the death of Jimmy Olsen was stupid. He also wrote one about Wonder Woman’s origins when she shows up in BvS. He even wrote one about the parallels between BvS and the graphic novel Kingdom Come. Because he can engage with the DC Movieverse with this level of knowledge, Warner Bros. would need to convince him, and through him, convince the majority of the movie-going public.
On that note, another reason is that a lot of people read his columns, enough to convince others that any DC Movieverse film he doesn’t like to not go see. Whether or not he has a wide-enough influence to affect ticket sales, the fact that Warner Bros. invited Devin means that Warner Bros. thinks he does. Nerd culture is now popular culture in America. And a big reason why people go to these comic book movies is that nerds are excited for these movies and are convincing the non-nerds to go. Convince Devin that Justice League is a good movie, and he may tell nerds to go. Nerds convince non-nerds to go, and boom! One billion dollars in the bank. Or so Warner Bros. thinks.
So that's why I think they invited Devin to come see the Justice League filming. A lot of this is conjecture though. While I haven't always agreed with him (Star Trek Beyond, for example) I have always respected his opinions. Go read his articles. They're great. And read the rest of Birth Movies Death while you're at it. If you like the site, whitelist it, so the contributors can be paid for their work. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

I Have Seen It's True Face

It's a weird time to be a DC Comics fan. The movies based on those comics aren't all that great; the constant albatross that keeps hanging around the company's neck is bad for their PR image; the majority of the stories told in those New 52 comics aren't compelling; and doing line-wide reboots every few years keeps fans confused about which timeline to invest their money, time, and energy on (though DC is not calling this a reboot).

But the big secret behind this Rebirth reboot-not-a-reboot is that Dr. Manhattan (from Watchman) was behind the creation of the New 52 DC Universe. This means that Watchman is now canon in the DC universe. 

So the entirety of New 52 universe stories are a huge giant sequel to Watchman?

Does this mean grim-gritty-grimdark New 52 DC universe?

Will the Joker be the Comedian in disguise? 

Will Owlman in Earth-3 secretly be Nite Owl?

Will Silk Spectre kill Wonder Woman and take her place?

Will Rorshach fight Batman (and win)?

Or will DC Comics come up with stories far more stupid than the ones I just came up with (smart money says this will be the route they take).

This is the kind of idiocy that keeps me buying Knights of the Dinner Table comics.


The accumulated filth of all their reboots and price increases will foam up around their waists and all the DC comics executives and stockholders will look up at the fans and shout "Save us!" And they will whisper "no".


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Still On About This

I sit here, wondering why I'm so angry over Batman v Superman (hereafter called BvS). You see, I saw Captain America: Civil War (hereafter called CA:CW), and I thought it was a great film. I began to wonder, how could BvS be so bad, but CA:CW be so good?

It's not like Warner Bros. set out to make a terrible film. I'm sure nobody there sat down and thought "I am going to greenlight this movie, spend money on this project, and produce a bad film that will insult not only the intelligence of the fanbase, but general audiences everywhere! This will produce a profit for us!" No sane person thinks this. But BvS comes out, then CA:CW comes out, and suddenly we have a basis for comparison that either amplifies the goodness of CA:CW, or amplifies the badness of BvS, or both. 

How could this happen? A few theories come to mind. It may be any, all, or none of these theories. Pick whichever one that fits your worldview. Please note that I have no special knowledge or insight that explains these theories. Most of them actually reflect what I believe about business & human behavior. I reserve the right to be wrong, and to be called out on my bullshit.

1. Philosophy. Warner Bros. makes movies to make money. Marvel makes movies to EARN money. Notice the priorities inherent in those philosophies. Warner Bros. doesn't care how the movie is made, as long as it makes money. Marvel cares about how the movie is made so they can earn the money. This may be why CA:CW has earned more money in 10 days than what BvS made in the past month and a half.

2. Careless Hiring Practices. As a corollary to the Philosophy theory, Warner Bros. looked at Zack Snyder's resume, saw that he did well not only with adaptations (300 & Watchman) but in a film involving superheroes fighting each other (Watchman again). So they hired him for BvS. Then they looked at David S. Goyer, who wrote the screenplays for all three Batman films made by Christopher Nolan. Those movies made money, so of course Warner Bros. hired him for BvS. Not once did it ever cross their minds that almost all the movies Snyder & Goyer worked on were grimdark in tone, which fits when adapting Watchman and Batman, but doesn't fit with someone like Superman. And Snyder & Goyer tried the grimdark Superman gimmick twice (Man of Steel was the first attempt). 

3. Ego. I write my thoughts on this blog, but that doesn't make me Shakespere. I have no illusions about being a great writer (or even a good one). I know I have a lot to learn, so I keep writing to hone my craft. I wonder if Zack & Goyer let their egos run wild, since they pretty much had a free hand when it came to making BvS. They probably felt they could write and film any scene and it would fit. This is probably why BvS has one of the weirdest scenes in any movie, ever.

4. Corporate Directive. Warner Bros. wanted Avengers money, but didn't want to do the work necessary to attain that goal (making multiple movies to introduce different characters over a 10 year period) so instead they told Snyder & Goyer to fit the other planned heroes into BvS somehow. Maybe this is why Wonder Woman gets a bunch of youtube videos hacked from Luthor's database showing herself, Aquaman, Flash & Cyborg. Oddly enough, there are no videos on Batman or Superman, which would have went a long way to explaining how Luthor knew Batman was Bruce Wayne and Superman was Clark Kent. 

5. Stupidity or Willful Blindness. Mistakes happen. Even otherwise smart people can make mistakes. That I could understand. What I can't understand is why they released BvS in that state. A film goes through many screenings before it's released to critics or the general public. That means Warner Bros. executives had to see the finished product beforehand. What did they think when they saw the Jolly Rancher scene? Or the Luthor in prison scene? Or the Knightmare sequences? Did they think to themselves "This is the worst movie we ever saw." Or did they not care? If they did care, the least they would have done was told Snyder to reshoot scenes or edit out those scenes that didn't fit. If they didn't care, that makes them either stupid or willfully blind to the film's flaws. 

I know that I've written a lot of posts concerning BvS. This is one of those films that sticks in my mind. I hope this post finally frees me from the mental tyranny of this movie, and you, the reader, from my mad ramblings about this subject.






Maybe not.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Redemption

It's amazing, in this current age of superhero movies, how many people who sucked in one superhero movie would be great in another. Just off the top of my head, here's some examples:

Chris Evans
Anybody remember him in the first 2 Fantastic Four movies made by 20th Century Fox, when he was the Human Torch? No, because everyone remembers him as being the awesome Captain America.

Ryan Reynolds
Wasn't he in that dumb Green Lantern movie? I don't know. I can't recognize him in his amazing Deadpool movie (currently the 2nd top grossing R-rated movie ever).

Ben Affleck
Say what you will about Batman v Superman (I know I have) but everyone now pictures Ben Affleck as cool-as-fuck Batman and not dumb-as-hell Daredevil.

Amazing how good an actor can be when he has a good director bringing out a good performance from him. Or when the actor is reading from a script written by writers who know what a good story is. If all these actors did was their first superhero roles and quit immediately afterward because they were bad experiences, would we get a good Captain America: Civil War movie? Would we get a good Deadpool movie? Would we get a good Batman in an otherwise terrible Batman v Superman movie? I'm glad we don't live in a world where we had to find out.  

Bonus: Elizabeth Olsen was in the latest Godzilla movie that was awesome only when Godzilla showed up. But here she is, Scarlet Witch, in Avengers: Age of Ultron & Captain America: Civil War, both great movies. 

Know other great examples of actors & actresses in terrible movies but redeemed themselves in awesome movies? Let me know in the comments.