Saturday, December 31, 2011

Incoming 2012

Favorite image of the year.
I think we're all waiting on Jack Black
to advertise for the WoW Pandoria release.
Another year has passed. Like many of you, I can't believe that it's going to be January 1st starting tomorrow. And as April 4th, 2012 I will have had this blog up for 2 years. A new record for me and for the posting world. According to Blogger stats, the average blog will last for about 6 months before the "author" stops posting updates, creates a new blog, or moves on to other internet projects. Yea me for sticking with it.

But it's been a good amount of fun for me. Sure I ramble and I rant a lot, but who doesn't these days? This has been a great outlet to collect my thoughts about a topic that I have loved since the day I could hold an Atarti controller in my hands.

So a thank you to all for continuing to support and read. I know the comments are few and far between, and that's ok. Looking as stats, I know there are readers.

No this isn't a good-bye post. I don't plan on giving this up anytime soon.

Instead, it's a flashback to some of my favorite/amusing/depressing posts of the past year. Enjoy!

January - Yoji Shinkawa at a live art show drawing Metal Gear Solid.
February - Video Games Are A Business.
March - Only 5% of the games on the market are rated M.
April - Tough month to narrow down. I wrote a lot of good topics. But we'll go with the Compelling Argument for "useless" games.
May - How I would run a study about violent video games.
June - A Really Crappy E3.
July - I nearly lost my mind without my computer.
August - 5 Controller Destroying Momenets, and a sad attempt to get Kotaku to hire me.
September - My 10 Favorite Games...Ever!
October - Men are not men because of games. Wha?
November - ESRB for mobile games.
December - Blaming the gamer, not the games through a backwards blog title.

Have a wonderful and safe New Years Eve to all that are going out tonight. Me? I'll probably be playing TOR or Skyward Sword.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

You Know It's The End of a Year...

When Top 10, Top 20, Top 100 lists are spamming the internet. Seriously. Try to google a video game news story right now. I bet you the first 3 pages are filled with "Top Something-Something" lists.

Instead I bring to you a developers point of view that is rarely seen. The struggles of being a dev and adjusting to the trends of the gaming world.

Spicy Horse, the insane studio behind America McGee's Alice, is attempting to transition into social media gaming with a title called BigHead Bash for Facebook.

"In terms of the business model, it's been a struggle [to shift our development focus], that's for sure."

And it really is a big shift when you think about it. Console games can take anywhere from 2-10 years to develop (depending upon the studio). Social gaming is a fast-paced system. If you don't release your game once it's been buzzed you won't ever see the return on your investment. People expect social games to be here and now. They don't want to wait.

That's why Farmville has lasted as long as it has. They responded to issues as they happened in the game. They gave people a direct link to developers to make changes as soon as possible instead of a patch a year down the road through XBox Live. It's not an easy transition and it's nice to see some people openly admit to that; not as a means of sympathy but rather as a fact of the business.

Spicy Horse is still working out the logistics, such as how this game is going to make money, but hopes to have it release in the early quarter of 2012. Gaming still be a business.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Harmonix Getting Paid

After a long-term dispute, Viacom is expected to pay $383 million to Harmonix, the guys that made Rock Band, for failing to provide bonus payments based on sales of their products. As to be expected, Viacom is attempting to overturn the ruling made by court-appointed arbiters, which if you read my post about Sony's new Online TOS, trying to overrule an arbiter is pretty damn impossible.

As part of their deal for buying the studio, Viacom gave Harmonix $175 million up front and agreed to make bonus payments later based on sales. Viacom has paid over $150 in bonus payments, but claims that Rock Band never brought in revenue due to it's high production costs, so they stopped sending money. It's a lot of he said, she said, and fine print reading. The bottom line is that it's good for Harmonix in the sense that the money will supposedly be redistributed to create new titles. How likely that is? Who knows.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reality TV Wants Geeks!

A new show is in the works called Fandom Rising. The header of the website states "From the Masterminds behind 'Jersey Shore' comes a New Vision for the future of television."

Oh lord.

This can't be good.

Popular Productions is looking to cast 8 people for what they call "The Big Bang Theory Meets Jersey Shore." Did anyone else just throw up a little bit in their mouth? Making sure it's not just me.

This is legit, for anyone who may be wondering. This is a casting agency that has worked with MTV on multiple projects in the past as well as other reality television shows, such as Auction Hunters. Yep. Even the shows that "appear real" really aren't.

Here's the thing about reality television, there are a lot of editors and production people who help create the stories on those shows. You can be the most sane, normal person in the world, but they will find a way to craft a story. Take The Real World for example. Scroll about a third of the way down, past the "cast" list and you'll find the crew which more then doubles the number of people who have appeared on the show.

And with the popularity of being over the top crazy, if you're normal you won't be picked. As indicated by Fandom Rising's PDF on how to make a tape, "Have lots of ENERGY." They want you to be loud, proud, and crazy because that's what people want to watch. They don't want to see normal geeks. They want the over the top insane ones that make up less then 1% of our fandom. I made a long post about it previously when another company attempted America's Greatest Otaku. I'm glad that one didn't pan out. But this one with the type of monetary backing that it has? Be prepared to have more people laugh and misjudge us. No matter how much you try to resist it, if you are one of those chosen, you will give all geeks a bad name.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gaming Music Another Perspective

I know I discuss gaming music a lot in my blog, but I feel it can make or break a video game just as it would with a movie. To me, the best songs are the ones where you will remember them long after you turn off your system. You can imagine yourself playing the game all over again at that specific area where the song first appears, and remember exactly what you were doing. Music is a very powerful tool that can help drive a story.

With that, here is a good piece from another blogger/writer about the ups and downs with contemporary video game music and what made the old MIDI stuff so awesome.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

You Got Flash In My Apple

It's no secret that Apple products and Adobe Flash have had an odd relationship, in that there hasn't been one. Amusing considering that Apple loves Adobe products when it comes to artistic and video editing programs.

There have been numerous attempts in the past to get Flash onto the iPhone, iPad, and other iProducts after the multitude of complaints by customers. There are tons of apps out there, and even Adobe had made an attempt, but they've all been missing components. Some won't play web based games, others won't allow you to access videos or music. They are able to do one thing, but not everything flash related.

But now there is an app that actually works with Flash just like your PC with Windows. Browse2Go Flash does video web browsing and gaming. I had the chance to fiddle with it yesterday and it's pretty nifty. I know my mom isn't into gaming, but just the prospect that her phone can now do all the things that it's meant to do is nice. So there you go you crazy iPhone users. You have Flash that actually works. I'm going to go back to my Android phone now that never had this problem in the first place. >.>

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's New?

So if you're a normal reader of this blog, you probably noticed that my postings are coming much later in the day then usual. For anyone that cares, it's because I have a new job. Full-time. During the normal working hours of 80% of the U.S. Which is nice. Horrible drive home though. My god. If there's even one accident or if it rains/storms/sleets/snows/or looks super bright outside, it takes up to 2 hours. -_- People can't drive around here.

I'll do my best to stay up to date with the news and happenings in the gaming world. I want to thank everyone for their continued support and for reading.

And now! stupid thief stories. This one is so bad that it didn't need any embellishment. Two men were arrested for attempting to sell stolen video games to a store that buys and sells games. In fact, the police were at the store ready to greet them and were fully aware of their plan. How, you may ask? Well one of the men had unintentionally butt-dialed 911 and the operator recorded the entire conversation for over an hour. They went into full detail on how they were planning to do it, and where they would sell their loot. /clap Darwinism at it's best.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Gamers Are Buying

The digital frontier is finally kicking in with video games. In the last quarter, more money was spent by gamers through means other then traditional retail stores. This would include digital purchases, used games, rentals, subscriptions, and the like. Overall profit is down about 11% in comparison to the 2010 numbers, but this is a shift a lot of us have been waiting to see.

With so much of our world focused on getting things NOW and not later, digital distribution has been expanding. Even EA Origin, as much as I hate the service, is becoming a power house for gamers as a means of getting their products. Though I believe Steam is still the top seller with Amazon right behind it.

Even with this transition to digital, I'm sticking to my boxes. Though I'm still disappointed at the lack of a manual in SW:TOR, there's just something about having that physical copy to hold in your hands. A new game smell, if you will. It's something that is mine, not locked away on a cold server somewhere that I can access. If you smell a Sunday musing about this topic, you might be right.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gaming Motion Sickness - A Real Concern

And not just with 3D gaming.

Andrew Emery of the UK Guardian talks about his own issues with motion sickness when it comes to playing video games, something that 10-50% of the population experiences in varying degrees (the most extreme being in that 10%). Emery can't last more then 30 minutes without getting the full wave of motion sickness; as such gaming is something he really can't be a part of.

While the U.S. Army and some medical facilities have been researching it, the only results they have found is that short bursts of playtime can help lessen the symptoms of motion sickness.

But it's interesting to see what research Emery has dug up. Even testing some drugs to help ease motion sickness, like many people do before going on a boat. I'd be interested in seeing more research about this. I have to wonder if the immersion into the gaming worlds is causing this sort of reaction to happen, or if there are other elements of game play. Such as Call of Duty or other FPS where the camera doges, bumps, and jolts you across the screen, vs an RPG where this rarely happens.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

To Counteract With The Awesome of SW:TOR.

We'll just add some dancing into the Kinect Star Wars game.

Enjoy the video. Yes people really did put Star Wars to just about everything they could get their hands on.


Also if you're spazzing about the grace period info posted on Kotaku, it's not correct.

Initially there was not going to be a grace period offered by BioWare. They would turn the servers off Monday night and turn them back on Tuesday when the game officially went on sale. If you don't have your physical or digital copy in hand to enter your code, you won't get to play until it arrived.

But now there's a 2 day grace period for those of us that chose the slow shipping, excluding Amazon customers since that arrived early. Basically you can keep on playing for 2 more days until your game comes in the mail. They won't extend it beyond that, which is cool. Your first 30 day freebe trial will not be counted towards these first 2 days of the game's release.

Kotaku is reporting that people who don't enter their game code during this time will lose all of their character data and have to start from scratch. This is INCORRECT. So please don't believe it. Not everything on the internet is correct. You can see in the SWTOR post linked above that there is no mention of character deletion at all. Because that's silly. The whole point of a head start is to give a bonus of early game play before everyone else and work on your character(s). Nothing in BioWares or EA's clauses says a thing about characters being deleted if you don't get your product key in at release.

So don't freak out.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Amazon TOR Shipments Early...But There's A Problem

I got mine today. I was expecting a manual the size of the bible considering how much more I was paying compared to most MMO's. Nope. Just a box with 3 CD's and the product key. Wow. Thanks BioWare/EA.


Amazon shipped the game early after getting an ok with BioWare and to help ease up their X-Mas shipping.

But if you got the Collector's Edition, you might run into a problem. Some people are stating that their boxes arrived without the game and product key. You know. The thing you NEED to keep playing after Early Release. One person noted on the forums that their box only contained the game case. All of those bonus goodies they paid $100+ for are MIA.

BioWare has posted to contact their Customer Service center. Their wait times are UNGODLY right now so good luck with that. No reports on the other editions of the game being "damaged." Mine is in one piece. But a pity manual would have been nice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Damn. A Politicaion That Gets It!

The Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt joined up with the ESRB to provide safe holiday shopping advice to the citizens of his state. Why? I'm not really sure, but he's one of the few people that gives the facts and doesn't dump on games.

He made his statement clear and simple. The ESRB ratings are there to help, not to hurt. They tell you exactly what kind of content is on the box before you purchase and play the game and they have an easy Letter coding system on the front.

I still dislike all of those people who say "well I didn't know what was in the game!" It's on the box lady. Please learn to read. You're setting a bad example for your children.

The president of the ESRB said it best that gaming has evolved and publishers produce content for all ages. That's why it's important for people to check the label, and they're grateful to have the attorney general's support.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

George Takei - Ambassador of Star Peace!




So if you didn't know, there's been a silly web battle fight between Carrie Fisher and Bill Shatner over who's Star franchise is better. There has always been this ubiquitous who is the best among the fans but the actors and production crews tend to keep themselves quiet on the subject. They crossed over the neutral zone.

George Takei says enough. We need to unite the Star groups to fight against a more powerful evil that exists in the universe: Twilight.

Gate, Battle, and Dust are welcome to join in. Star Peace must unite to keep good science fiction alive!

If anything, the video is worth watching to hear Mr. Takei say "sparkle."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oh, the VGA was on last night?

I still stand by my initial blog posting I made about the Spike VGA over a year ago. I will not watch that show ever again. Even with it's odd, fancy light-up table set and having more of a Golden Globe atmosphere for game devs and celebrities.

I can just review the recaps! The only things I'm interested in are Miyamoto accepting a Hall of Fame award for 25 years of Zelda (what the f is up with that trophy? o_O) and Kojima and MGS Rising. The other 2 hours are a waste of my time and sanity. Oh and it's being taken over by Platinum games. You know. The guys that did Bayonetta, MadWorld, and Infinite Rising. Lots of violence and blood and action! MGS Rising could probably do ok in their hands.

That's it. No more VGA talk. If you'll excuse me, I have to finish my morning coffee.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Phase 5: Where do I go and what do I do?

Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.







The Sarlac Pit! Just outside of a Republic base. Convenient, no?


An excellent question for any new MMOer. Or even us old ones. It’s a Star Wars universe. You know the first thing you want to do after getting your lightsaber or blaster is to jump on a ship and head to Tatooine and visit the Sarlac Pit. Yes. There is a Sarlac Pit. Sadly no you will not get digested for 1,000 years if you jump in, however you do die and you kind of have to go back to a medcenter. But other then, it’s kind of amusing to see.

While you can leave your starting planet at level 1 if you really want to, odds are you are going to get pummeled to death either by the opposing faction or enemy NPC’s.

There is a system in place that is similar to other MMO’s that allow you to progress gradually and see new planets as you go. You start out on your “home” planet. Well it’s not really a home planet to most of the jobs, but it’s where you got to go to begin your journey. Tython – Ancient Jedi Temple, Ord Mantell – Warzone for Trooper and Smuggler, Korriban – Sith Homeworld, Hutta – Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent operations.

You learn all of your basics on those planets. What to do, how to aim, how to trade, how to buy things, and learn how your personal class story works into the SW saga. To progress through leveling just follow your story. You’ll have a quest tracker on your top right hand corner telling you where to go and what to do and you can pick up more quests along the way to help you level. If you want a WoW comparison it’s like starting as a Night Elf and you’re in Teldrassil. You do the starter quests to get a feel for a game before you move on to the next town and more quests. Eventually you’ll reach the sea and can explore other aspects of the world…of warcraft. FFXI: Start as a Tarutaru in Windurst, do your fetch quests, and move on to explore the rest of the realm. You have to learn the basics before you’re allowed to move forward. Not like Galaxies but not all that unheard of for MMO’s these days.

Coruscant just outside the Senate Hall.
Simply put, if you don’t want to be bantha fodder just follow your class mission log, pick up quests along the way, and you’ll be fine. At level 10 you can unlock your advance classes to progress with leveling further and do Warzone PvP (special areas where players can combat with one another using different rulesets-I personally like Huttball).

All fine and good there, but what is there to see in TOR? Lots of stuff!

Most of us SW nerds will probably want to check out the basics. Tatooine, Hoth, and Coruscant (Republic only, sorry folks) to make sure everything is the way that it should look. (While we’re on the topic, there are some planets that are for Empire only and some that are Republic only. It’s a nice break if you’re into PvP and takes advantage of the story, so it’s not all bad. I mean really if there is a war and you’re a Sith the chances of you getting to Coruscant are non-existent.) Yes Tatooine has two suns. It didn’t during the very first beta build and we all got on the art teams cases about that one. That’s Star Wars 101. But a lot of the tropes from the movies can be found on these planets. Before you ask No. Luke’s home on Tat is not there. Why? Because the game is set 3,000+ years BEFORE the movies so please don’t do the nub thing and ask about it in chat. But you can see giant Jawa Crawlers, sandpeople, and lots of other cool stuff you’d expect to see.

Hoth...it's really freekin' white.

The other planets are a little out there that you may or may not have heard of, or even remember but they’re pretty nifty. Alderaan for example is an independent planet that both Republic and Empire can visit. You know Alderaan right? That planet that got blown to bits in Episode 4 by the Death Star? It’s a really pretty place with some finely-tuned music. You might end up chuckling at some of the bad foreshadowing by NPC’s regarding Alderaan’s future demise. “Oh if they only knew what happened 3,000 years from now~”

It had been a few years since the orbital assault,
so the environment took over.
There’s Taris, a planet trying to rebuild after an orbital bombardment. Think Datoine with less marshes and random smells. There are moments where you’ll look up at the former skyline and think how awesome of a job the design team did at making this planet come alive.

Voss-Ka, capital of Voss.

My favorite is Voss, an independent planet with two indigenous groups trying to ensure control over the planet and its beings. But they aren’t apart of the greater galactic war. Nope. They insist that the Empire and Republic play nice together. XD So your job ends up being prove why the Republic and or Empire is bad news and the Voss should join your side. But it’s a really, really pretty planet. It makes me wish that the Voss were a playable race; they have some interesting facial features and textures not seen on other aliens, but that would kill the entire story-line so that won’t happen.

Nar Shaddaa, Central Promenade
What’s there to do on these planets? Well that’s still a work in progress. You can visit the locals, talk to random NPC’s and take lots of pictures. Interaction with the worlds is still limited but something that dev’s have mentioned they are incorporating over the next few months after release. What I’m looking forward to are the casino’s on Nar Shaddaa. NS is a neutral planet but controlled by the Hutt family. You might hear from past testers that they dislike the planet. I actually enjoy it. The way that it was designed works quite nicely to keep Empire and Republic separate from leveling areas but still allows them to meet in the middle. I remember when it was a pretty flat design. It was just another planet along the way. Then bam! One update later the planet became alive. So much light and color! There is a floating casino that everyone has access to but right now it’s a little stale. We’ve been asking for months to get something going in there. It’d be a great place for people to meet up, do some harmless gambling, and make it a social hub that the dev’s were looking for. In due time I suppose.

You can't deny that this looks like a fun place.
 As you progress in the game jumping from one planet to another, your final destination will be Ilum, a 50 only zone that you can not unlock until you have finished certain pre-reqs. It’s a free for all death zone for both factions. Kind of a nifty looking planet if you don’t mind the massive amounts of death surrounding you.

One thing you’ll probably notice when you first start playing is that the worlds don’t feel as crowded as they should. Ok well not for the first planet. That’s going to be ass crazy busy the first week of release, but the rest will seem tolerable. TOR works on a series of instances. You can have 1,000 people on one planet but its split until multiple instances so you may only see a few hundred at a time. However, you can communicate with everyone on that planet so there’s no loss of human interaction. You can also use your main map and change instances to meet new people or to join your other group members.

For those who haven’t been in testing just a few general rules to planet hopping:

~Get to level 10 on your first planet (it’ll save you headaches in the long run).
~Try to pick up every quest marker you see as you travel.
~Don’t get ahead of yourself. If you see a planet is listed as level 40 and you’re 25 don’t go there. You will get annihilated the moment you leave the spaceport.
~Be prepared to have your camera ready.
~Don’t be afraid to explore! There are lots of hidden goodies and SW jokes laying around that most people will probably overlook. And there are xp bonuses for exploring all areas for a map.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Touch My Katamari?

Oh Namco. You and your game titles. Touch My Katamari has a new trailer out for it's incoming PSVita release in February 2011. With an odd billiards tie-in. We knew it was coming ever since this years TGS and now we have more footage available, even if it's just 30 seconds after the end of a 2 minute billiard session.

So what's different? Well from the game play it looks like the same worlds that were in the Xbox 360 Beautiful Katamari. Seeing the Disney-esque ferris wheel theme park and Eiffel tower combo it matches exactly with the 360 levels once you reach global mode. And that scene with the large tv cameras and knocking into the green fence? Yeah that happens in the 360 game too. :/ I'm disappointed. I was hoping for some new content. I know, I know. There's only so much new stuff they can do with a Katamari game, but rehashing some okay Xbox 360 levels wasn't the way to go.

The only thing that I am interested in seeing are prices and trying the game for myself. The new aspect is that since the Vita offers touchscreen, you can physically stretch your Katamari out to pick up multiple things at once. Or! you can squeeze it to fit in-between tight spaces without losing your speed to get those pesky little objects you may have missed. It's a new element of game play that's kind of cool. But some new levels would be appreciated.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Miyamoto Wants To Work On Smaller Projects?

Busy week for me. I've been in overdrive mode looking for a full-time job, even if it's just temporary. In the current job climate having one degree, let alone two, is not a good thing. :/ At this point I'll work at just about anywhere, even at a McDonalds. Ok, maybe not that far. Just someone hire me please! :(

On that note, yesterday's story on Wired caused a big hoopla. Miyamoto retiring? No official conformation or denial as he and Nintendo are issuing conflicting reports.

The titles of the articles didn't help ease the calm. It's not as bad as people are making it out to be. Miyamoto has been saying around the Nintendo offices that he wants to retire from his current position, BUT still WORK for the company on smaller projects and with newer game designers. He's not quitting the business, but just wants to do something else. He's already stated in a past interview that he'll die before he completely retires from games. So don't go crazy on us Nintendo fanboys and girls.

The man is nearly 60. He's had a pretty awesome career by any practical business standards. If he wants to step down from his current position and work on other things, who are we to say he shouldn't? He'll still be making games and I'm cool with that.

Of course Nintendo is now countering the Wired article saying it's not true. Let's make it even more confusing for everyone!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Blame the Games Not the Gamer

This is one of those thinking articles. Though I did chuckle when I saw the title "Blame video games for everything?" and then a picture of the EA Headquarters logo.

In summary for those who don't want to read, it asks people why some games such as GTA and Manhunt have been getting the blame for violence in people and others like Dante's Inferno slide under the radar. Basically if there is an issue with violence content shouldn't it be universal and not to one particular game? The writer states a study was made that video gaming was just as common as wearing sneakers, and trying to correlate one to another in the terms of committing a crime is silly. Now where that study is, I'm not sure, but the principles still apply to the point he was trying to make: just because you're wearing sneakers doesn't mean you are a criminal. Substitute sneakers for video games and there you go.

The question I wanted to discuss was this:

why are the other people who bought and played the game not mentioned?

Aka, why is the focus on the people who have been caught breaking the law and not the other 99% of the gaming populace that is totally normal?

Simple. The media likes violence. If it bleeds it leads and all that junk. As much as the news stations try to make themselves out to be better then "we are looking for the bad stories", the reality is that's what they show because that's what people want to see. In the last decade media reports on crime and violence have increased by 160%. Which is funny when you look at the national crime rate in the U.S. it's been pretty steadily declining, even in today's world of no jobs, no money, no food. The proportion of what's said on the news doesn't match with reality.

Some might argue that it's because we are a society influenced by violence, but if you look at just about every country in the world they all have a pretty bloody past. We had the Wild West, Cowboys and Indians, but I'm sure the Europeans would beg to differ that their feuds were more violent. But our news here in the U.S. is slanted to instill fear in us. And it works. It keeps us watching and buying all of the stupid crap that's out there to make us feel safe from everyone else.

That's why violent video games get a bad rep. Circumstantial evidence and fear created by the media. By all accounts, I should be the most violent human being alive. But I'm not. I get freaked out by a number of bugs and can't harm them. I can't even scoop them up into a cup to take them outside. Yeah, I'm a scary person. >.> Don't give me a game to play!

But media doesn't care about me. I'm too "normal" by their standards. They want to go after the criminals and want to know why. Their target is always against themselves, and video games are the newest iteration.

For further examples, check out news stories involving violent games, television, and movies as the key factor of blame, only to be found false later (and never reported any retractions!).


Edit: It just got hilarious. I never knew of this but apparently Final Fantasy 7 was claimed by some in the media to have influenced the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 after the scene with the bombing of the first reactor in Midgar. I shit you not. This takes desperation to a whole new level.

Please note I am not mocking the victims of that day or the incident itself. Rather the news and media are being made fun of here for their lack of sanity.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Birmingham Students Earn Game Time In School

A program called Kid's College, a national program created by Learning Through Sports, is starting a new trend in Alabama state schools. Kids can early up to 30 seconds of video game play time on a computer after answering 5 questions. And then it's back to 5 more questions, followed by more game time!

Confused? I am a bit too because I don't know what to make of this.

The program is focused on kindergarten through 8th grade in low performing schools. It's meant as an incentive to get kids to perform better on answering questions, such as the ones that mimic the state's standard math and reading exams. I see the pattern already, it's to get better scores on the state tests to get more money for the school. Anyway, after a set number of questions, which teachers can program, the student is sent to a sports game and can play up to 30 seconds. After which they are scored, can see their rank amongst their class, earn certificates, and the like.

The tools allow teachers to research and see what their students know or need to work on. And they allow them to tailor to each child's needs. So if a 5th grader has a 3rd grade reading level, they can select questions for their level. They can also be used at school or at home; the program is web based.

According to the article they have seen improvement in children's test scores as most recently as 2010, and hope to apply for more grant money to expand it out to other schools.

It's instant gratification for doing a good job on your math work. The games themselves don't have hidden problems to solve, or ask you to read complex sentences to determine the verb. They are easy to use flash games for entertainment purposes only.

I'm torn. It's nice to see results when a program works to help improve education in this country, something desperately needed. And I know one aspect I wish I could have received more as a child is someone telling me instantly if I was doing a good job or if I needed to correct my mistakes. Typically you don't know if you got a question right until one to two weeks later when the content is no longer needed.

On the other hand, it's helping reinforce short attention spans. Take a minute to answer a question, flip to a game for 30 seconds, back to a question, and then a game, and then a question again. If anything that is the exact opposite type of behavior we need to be teaching our children. No harm now, but 5 years down the road when they're in high school and taking the SAT's they won't be able to sit through the 2 hour session. Wait is it 2 hours? *looks it up* Oh sorry. It's 3 hours and 45 minutes. No breaks else people are concerned about cheating. Is it still no breaks? *looks up again* Well apparently it's a break after each section. Wow. Times have changed. No wonder it's a nearly 4 hour test.

Anyway, promoting this type of answer/game rhetoric surely can't improve a child's study skills. It might work as a temporary solution to answering questions and getting better test scores but I have to wonder about the results in the long run.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Do Want!

Even though I can't use my Mii as a character, I so want this game. Oregon Trail for the Wii. Oh the nostalgia!

If you are in your mid 20's, you played this as a kid in the schools computer lab with their one crappy computer. Probably a Mac. Not saying that Mac's are bad, but that's all we had back then.

But this version is a little different from what you remember as a child. It's a full 3D realm experience that allows you to drive the wagon. Yep. You get to drive the wagon. The game doesn't do it for you, though there might be an option to do that. Not entirely sure since information about it is extremely limited.

You can also customize your wagon with multiple colors, styles, shapes, etc. and your riding crew. Again, no Mii. I think that would be kind of funny to have my Mii get dysentery. XD

You have an option to go through 3 different story lines over a series of time periods. You can fish and hunt apparently. It sounds like a well-made upgrade from the original. So much so that I want to play it. >.> And at $19.99 this might keep me preoccupied until TOR releases. lol

Saturday, December 03, 2011

More The Old Republic Stuff

I know you all will probably be sick of me by the end of the month, but I'll do my best to keep the notes limited.

Two pieces of "news" today. First, BioWare is releasing tracks throughout the month up until the game's release through their Facebook page and their YouTube channel. For direct links:

Korriban Home World - Starting planet for Sith Warrior and Inquisitor
Mandalorian Blockade - Galaxy Map

The music in this game will make you feel as though you are in a Star Wars movie. You do have some of the traditional songs like the fanfare and bits of music from the movie. What I love is that as you run through a city, the music will queue up as you move. Sometimes it has meaning and other times it's random. Or in important boss battles or fighting against Elite mobs you'll get a different battle music. Certain sectors will have their own tune. Even talking to your companions will produce a song that is unique to their character. It really feels like you are playing the movie. So cool. Anyway, enjoy the music throughout the month!

Secondly, GamePro. Yes it is sad that a magazine with such a long history in the gaming community is being shut down on December 5th, with their website going to their sister PCWorld. For so many of us in the 80's and early 90's, GamePro was all that we had! There was no internet; no G4 or E3. If we wanted to know about video games, we had a magazine. Once it got knocked down to a quarterly earlier this year I knew it would be going under soon. There will be an odd amalgamation of it via PCWorld as a gaming channel, but it won't be the magazine we have known.

Amidst that sadness, they released their review of Star Wars The Old Republic. I have to thank my friend for showing this to me, because even I have to give a big WTF. Not because I'm a Star Wars fan girl but this was just poor tastes even for them. A 1/10? Really? Did you even play the beta? Oh you did? For how long? You only got to level 13 girl 1? And you sir, only a couple of hours? And you other lady, just a few levels? And man number 2 you played 3 jobs in a few hours? Wow. Extensive reviewing there!

It is just a horrible, miserable attempt at a "review". I almost want to wager that they're doing this as a means of getting noticed. A last ditch effort to get more views and subscriptions before they are gone. But really, it just made me question their legitimacy, something I've never done in their 22 years of existence.

Go ahead. Spend weeks farming these guys.
They're like the WoW Boars. Except they can
poison and kill you within minutes. >.>
Basic rules of reviewing:

1.) Don't base a review off of a beta. Yes their are glitches. Yes things are not polished. (everyone say it with me!) It Is A Beta. This isn't the retail version that will be given to the public. Wait for that version before you start tearing into it. I know it's an MMO that's always changing, but some of the content really isn't seen until release. Some of those bugs aren't fixed, until release. When it's out and ready for the general public, have at it.

2.) Not every MMO wants to be like WoW. TOR is no different. Are there some aspects similar to WoW, sure. WoW is still on the top and people want that kind of success. But it is not a WoW clone. In fact, it does a lot of things differently from WoW and the other thousands of MMO's that exist. By trying to make that 1-2 comparison is shoddy.

3.) Know the company that made the game. This is the one area that made me wonder if they have ever played a game before. About 1:26-1:35 in the YouTube video one of the reviewers makes a remark about the cut-scenes, that WoW people will hate them, and you can't bypass them. Clearly he didn't read the pop-up tutorial in game and has NEVER played a BioWare game. You can always skip cutscenes in BioWare games. Always. So I am calling your bluff. You people really are not reviewers, else you would have known this already.

4.) Story is a bad thing? Yeah this one confused me too. Apparently none of the GamePro reviewers want a story with their game. >.> They just want to skip all the conversations and get to farming Rakghouls. Sure. Feel free to hit space bar all you want. But you just defeated the entire purpose of the game. If you want a Star Wars game without a story go pick up that Kinect Lightsaber game that hasn't release yet.

GamePro, while I am sad to see you go you all are leaving on a pretty terrible note. Again it's not because I have enjoyed my time in the TOR beta for the past year, rather your means of reviewing are just terrible. It is so bad that it is beyond words. And that is why we're talking about it and your website is getting unnecessary hits. If that was the plan, then it worked.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Character Day and A Crappy Game Movie List

Ok. Why wasn't I made aware that today was video game character day? I would have totally dressed up when I went to the bank this afternoon. That would have been great!

Apparently it's in note of the 17th anniversary of the Playstation. Why people are dressed as Sonic and Mario, who knows, but it's a nice thought.

And then there is this horrible, horrible list. 8 video game movies "we" want to see. And by "we" we mean the writer who isn't aware of any gaming movies prior to 1998. Metroid Prime I'll let slide. It has potential, but we've also seen with the latest Metroid game that if anyone other then the original team touches the series it turns to crap.

Then you scroll down and see things like StarFox. >.> Slippy is annoying enough in a game. I don't want to see a big screen version of it.

Virtua Cop, PacMan, Sonic the Hedgehog? What are you smoking mister because you need to pass it around. And Mario? You want a Mario movie? I think you have forgotten that we got one already. We really don't need another. It's awesomely bad just the way it is. Just stick to what you know in your future entries; games are not it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Richard Garriott Believes Consoles are Dying

Ignore the fact that nearly 1 million Xbox systems sold during the holiday rush last week. Mr Garriott feels that systems will be gone soon. If the name sounds familiar, it should be. He's the creator of Ultima and Tabula Rasa. Yeah those PC games of yours are doing quite well Mr. Garriott, wouldn't you agree? Ignore Ultima, but really the man has done little else other then make Ultima games.

Anyway, he feels that the convergence of multiple devices to computers, such as smartphones, I-Pads, and the like will make consoles obsolete. There might be one more generation, but after that it'll be done.

A number of people are arguing against him, though not named or quoted in the article. I'll be one of those people.

True the power of our phones and tablets has been getting stronger, but they have a long way to go before they can play a video game like Skyrim or Gears of War 3. Try playing those on a tablet. It'll cause it to fry. And Panasonic already ditched their portable MMO device. We're just not there yet technology or design-wise. It's going to take longer then another generation of consoles. I'd bet at least 3-4 at the least. Not to mention gaming is a group activity to many. The Wii for example is a very family friendly oriented system. By limiting the experience to just your phone or your personal tablet you remove yourself from that type of game play. It's not an appealing prospect. Even myself as a solo gamer I still like knowing that if I have friends over we can plug in a few more controllers and play Rock Band or co-op mode on something. You can't expect to do that on a tablet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ESRB and Mobile Games

I knew it was going to happen. Just a matter of time.

But think of it this way, better the ESRB then the government.

With the wide number of games available for phones these days, it can be difficult to tell what content is in each program. There are some guidelines on the Apple and Android store-fronts, but really, it's an open field to anyone who wants to download stuff.

Enter the ESRB and CTIA The Wireless Association teaming up with 6 major wireless providers to create a rating system application for mobile games. The ratings will be a copy/paste of what's currently available for video games in the U.S.

It'll work like this: when a developer wants to submit their mobile game, they will have to fill out a questionnaire from the storefront and their apps will be immediately given a rating. They'll also be issued a code to apply to multiple store-fronts so that the rating of the game is uniform on all platforms (since Apple's TOS are different then Android, for example).

So it's a quick, easy to use system. I'm sure there will be a few developers complaining that it's too simplified and will wrongly mark some games. That's bound to happen. But when you think about the hundreds of thousands of products released on phones each year in comparison to the disc games sold in retail outlets, you need something much more efficient and fast to rate products. Good thing? Maybe. We'll have to see how it plays out. I'm sure the major wireless carriers will forbid AO games and a number of M's.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Toilets and Games

Apologies for the lack of postings. No I didn't forget. I got caught up by the TOR Weekend beta since everyone I knew was going to be on at the same time. Now I really can't wait until the launch.

I could talk about the Cyber Monday gaming deals, but you all already know about Cheap Ass Gamer. So let's talk about something different.

Toilets and video games.

Two wonderful inventions have now been spliced together thanks to a bar in London, England.

Currently it's for men only, but the bar owner hopes it'll attract new customers and keep the old ones returning. It works like this: You go to the bathroom and depending on how long you go and your aim helps you rack up more points. >.> I think this was designed to make sure men stopped urinating all over the place.

Do we really need something like this when we go to the bathroom? Sure gaming in the bathroom might be fun once in a blue moon, but I'd imagine talking to a woman at the bar would be more fruitful for your future existence instead of how well you can aim. Just a thought...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Phase 4: Oh right. I need to make credits.

Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.

 

Note #2: The information posted below is based on the most recent Beta Build. There is a possibility that the crew skills and their intended use may change at release. Please take the following notes as advisory, and not the hard-fast rule.

 

 




They craft. You watch. Hands off approach!
Crafting is either a ton of fun or the bane of MMO’s. It’s a necessary evil if you expect to have any money in your pocket by the end of the day. In TOR they are called Crew Skills. I mentioned them in my post about companions, but now we’ll go into detail.
 
Crew Skills allow you to have more freedom in customizing your character and crew. And credits. Lots and lots of credits. Because as with any game, you need money to move forward.

Crew Skills can be obtained at level 10. They are broken down into 3 categories: Crafting Skill, Gathering Skill, and Mission Skill.

Crafting Skill – The things you make.
Gathering Skill – The primary method of obtaining materials to make the stuff in your crafting skill.
Mission Skill – Rare materials to help you make rare items. (TOR uses a color coding system for rarity: Grey-Green-Blue-Purple are the most commonly seen. Green is the most common among crafts, with Blue and Purple being rare).

Your crew can only learn a maximum of 3 skills total. That is, you and your team will have access to the same 3 skills. No, your new Wookie buddy won’t have his own set of crew skills giving you infinite resources. There needs to be some element of effort put into crafting.

From there, there are another subset of rules. You can only have one Crafting Skill learned at a time. So choose wisely. However you can have as many Gathering and Mission skills as you’d like. So you could, potentially, start out with nothing but Gathering skills and come back later on to learn a Crafting skill. Now the plus is that you can drop and learn new skills as you wish. Simply open your Crew Skill window, click the X box and Accept on the prompt to unlearn your skill, then go to a trainer and learn a new one. Now, something to keep in mind.

You can unlearn what you have learned, but you can not recapture what you have unlearned (hopefully you saw that I did there).
Current Crew Skills Window with Craft.

Example: Let’s say you chose to pick up Armstech and leveled it to 100. You decided this isn’t the right crafting job for you so you drop it. But a few days later you want to pick it back up. That’s fine. However you will not retain those initial 100 levels. You start right back at level 1. So while crafting is a simple system, there are penalties for dropping and learning new things on the fly.

To make the most use out of your crew skill, you’ll need one from each category (a craft, a gathering, and a mission skill). This will allow you to take full advantage of that particular craft you have selected. The current breakdown is as follows in the order of crafting, gathering, mission:


armormech - scavenging, underworld trading
armstech - scavenging, investigation
artifice - archaeology, treasure hunting
biochem - bioanalysis, diplomacy
cybertech - scavenging, underworld trading
synthweaving - archaeology, underworld trading

If you read the TOR website, you’ll notice that I missed Slicing. Well slicing is fast, easy credits for the early levels. It’s a nice pick me up if you are low on funds and provides schematics for crafts that aren’t available at the NPC trainers. It currently has no use in crafts.

If you are looking for a self-sufficient route, here are the jobs that work best for each craft:

Jedi/Sith – Artifice (weapons), Synthweaving (light, armor)
All non-force users – Armstech (weapons), Armormech (medium, heavy armor for aim/cunning)

And for those wanting miscellaneous stuff:

Mounts, Droid Parts, High Tech Armor (for strength based) – Cybertech (Jobs that could use: Jedi Knight, Republic Trooper, Bounty Hunter)
Stims, Implants – Biochem (Jobs that could use – Smuggler, Imperial Agent primary, but open to all jobs).

Crew crafting on the Bounty Hunter ship.
Next, Reverse Engineering. This is a process that allows you to break down an object to obtain its resources and potentially earn you a new schematic for your craft. The process is simple. Open your inventory, change to RE mode, and click on the item you wish to take apart. This doesn’t work on all objects such as implants and medical supplies, and best used on armor and weapons. Even the gear that drops from enemies can potentially be RE’d. But if you’re wondering how you learn those Blue/Purple schematics, this is how. Make a few green items, RE them, and you’ll eventually learn the Blue version. You can also find schematics through Mission Skills and Slicing Nodes.


There are a few ways to go about the crew skills trade depending upon your play style.

1.) The Gathering Hoarde. You gather. And you gather some more. And you keep gathering because everyone needs materials. Well now you’ve got plenty of them to sell off.

2.) Mission Hunter. You have enough credits to spam Missions, which yield the Blue and Purple materials for the higher end products people want to make/buy/sell. It’s a pricy way to go, but the reward could pay off big in the end.

3.) Craft for the Credits. Based on the stats of forum polls and even official BioWare polls on what people are going to play at launch, there will be a LOT of Jedi’s and Sith’s running around. So two ways to go about this: Either cater your craft to the majority OR focus on helping out the minority.

If you center on Force crafting you’re likely to make credits fast, but the market will be flooded. Expect price fluctuations and to undersell others just to get your stuff moving.

If you go with the minority, sales will be slow but you’re more likely to guarantee yourself a sale and at a higher price point then the item’s value. Why? Because less will be on the market and you’ll find people in dire need to gear. They want the best and few others are crafting what they need. Larger credits can head your way, but it does take more time/patience.

4.) Managing Yourself. You pick a craft, gather, and mission based on your needs. It’s a money saver in the long-run because you won’t have to rely as heavily on the Galactic Trade Network for your purchases. Granted you can only pick one craft so you’ll have to forage for the rest, but if you take Armor or Weapons that’ll cut half of your costs right there. Don’t forget, you can make stuff for your companions too!

5.) Slicing, slice, slice. You’ll probably read this on the TOR forums during your initial run-though. A lot of people will praise slicing as fast, easy money. Because it is. It’s been toned down over the builds and probably will be again before the game’s release. The benefit is that it’s quick, simple, and requires little attention. You will also, on the rare occasion, receive crafting schematics and lockboxes for items to sell on the GTN. Not profitable as a craft over the long run, but good for starting out.



So there you go. A crash course in Crew Skills. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section (open to all!). I wanted to give a general overview rather then a detailed play by play. You should be able to pick it up and figure out the rest quite easily.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kevin Butler King of Toasting?



Sony, please don't ever let Kevin Butler go or decide to try another marketing stunt. Stuff like this keeps games selling. Even if this one isn't on the PS3, he makes you all look good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Phase 3: There’s This Magical, Butthead NPC Standing Next to Me

Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.














Mako better heal my ass, or no digital dinner tonight!
The Companion Character.

Part of the BioWare trademark at this point. An NPC buddy to follow you on your journey of kicking ass, and providing mild entertainment.

A unique aspect to TOR in comparison to other MMO’s is that companions take on a vital role in the game. They offer you assistance when your soloing, bonus missions and special gear, and in-dept relationships. Most games it’s just you and your pet kitty, or magical fairy that does nothing but flys around and looks pretty. FFXI is the only game that I can think of where you can quest for an NPC companion to fight with you in battle, focus their tactics into one of three areas, and level them up. Even that has it’s limitations and it’s not exactly someone you’d want to bring with you to boss battles.

In TOR, you need your companion. In many cases, they are the difference between life and death in a situation.

BioWare was smart about companion characters. Over the past year the little bugs have been weeded out, and now I can’t imagine playing solo without having a companion with me. Unlike other games where you might have an xp decrease for having a buddy, with a companion you don’t. You also don’t have to do the song and dance of swapping companions to ensure they all have the same general levels. They level with you. So if you hit level 30, so do all of your companions.

Here is what the Wookie Bowdaar looks like in the TOR
Offical screen shot.
Slowly they have been adding customization kits so that your companion can have one of 9 looks (1 primary upon first receiving him/her/it, and 8 that can be purchased at NPC Companion Kit Vendors) that can adjust the skin color, hair, and facial markings. So we don’t have a world of 500 Corso Riggs’ running around looking the exact same.

Each player can receive a maximum of 6 companions; 1 is your ship’s droid which really can’t be used for much other then cannon fodder and crafting and 5 odd assortments of characters that can be used for battle. Each companion will come with a unique set of stats, armor, weapons, and crafting bonuses (they apply to your skill with an increased probability in making Exceptional Items or bringing more stuff back from gathering missions).

This is where things can get a little bit more complicated. You, the player, don’t actually get to craft stuff or go out on gathering missions. Your companions do that. Starting at level 10 you can learn 3 Crew Skills-1 craft, 2 gathering. At level 10 you can send out one companion at a time for missions and crafting. At level 20, 2 companions, and so on. It’s a good progression because most people won’t have their first 2 fighting companions until around the level 20 area (unless you’re a Jedi Knight -_-).
Here's what Bowdaar really looks like-skinny Wookie alert!

Now you have the power to harvest nodes sitting out in the world for your gathering skill, but even your companion can do that for you. If he/she/it is out, it’ll pick at the node if you right-click on it. So really, you’re completely removed from the crafting experience. That’s one part I’m still not completely on board with, because I enjoy crafting. I like the technical aspects of it. But this is a very hands-off approach to let your companions deal with it while you explore the world and get xp.

Next issue, gear and weapons. While your companions come pre-geared when they enter your group, you’ll need to update their crap eventually. Most people will probably only have one companion that they want to play with, and that’s fine. I know some Jedi Knights who are in love with the second companion and will only use that one person for their entire experience. For me, I like to swap out my companions depending on the situation I’m up against. Especially as a squishy healer. So I can’t have my level 40 companion running around in level 20 gear. He’ll get slaughtered. Instead of having 2 people to gear, myself and 1 companion, I now have 6. I don’t use the droid for fighting. He’s really that bad. On the plus, there are enough drops through your general questing that work quite well for companion gear if you don’t want to use the pieces on yourself. But you still have to manage 5-6 NPC’s. It can take a lot of time and effort to get them the way that you want.

It looks like crappy gear, but at
the time, it was pretty good stat-wise.
I don’t mean giving them crappy gear. Your companions, aside from the ship droid, are pretty powerful. They’re not throw-away NPC’s. They actually take a beating, dish out damage, or heal you quite effectively. So now it’s not just about equipping them properly, but what you’re able to afford.

And then there is companion affection. Much like with KOTOR, ME, and DA, what you say will affect how your companions feel about you. Now for every job and every gender, there is at least one companion that you can form an intimate relationship with. Not that you can see anything because it is a Star Wars game and it is still rated T for teens. Depending on your class and your choices, companions will either be all for your decisions or against them. The grey area jobs, aka the non-Force users, are the ones where you will get companions that will hate your responses. How do you mitigate those? Companion gifts! Your new companion hated that you chose a Light Side option? Shove a gift in their face and things will be better.

For class quest conversations, all companions are involved (particularly on your ship). If it’s a normal quest, only the companion in your group will be affected by your choices. Why should you care about affection? It can grant you A TON of bonus XP. When you reach certain milestones in companion affection, you can talk to you companion for a cut scene in a cantina or on your personal ship. In turn, you get xp. And with up to 10,000 companion affection points available, it’s a lot of cut scenes and a lot of xp. In the case of your very first companion, it’ll grant you additional quests and items. And the stories range from mildly amusing to pretty in-depth.

Now you don’t “HAVE” to use your companion. You can totally solo the game all by yourself if you wanted to. I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It’s not like they take away your xp or anything. They are there to help you and to enhance your general gaming experience. Part of what we love about the Star Wars movies is having this odd grouping of people coming together to save the galaxy.

Ahh Blizz. You are my favorite companion.
In terms of the types of companions, well they’re all over the board. Yes, you can get a Wookie companion and yes, you can get a Mon Calamari. If you play Smuggler. If you want a bad ass fighting droid, play Jedi Knight or Republic Trooper. Want your own Twi’lik slave? Sith Warrior. Shock collar and all. No. I’m not kidding. You have options to shock her (just don’t expect any love in return). If you want a Jawa, play Bounty Hunter (who is by far my favorite companion of them all; he tanks like a beast!). They seem quite random, but from a story stand-point, they make a lot of sense. Smuggler’s is probably the craziest, and yet fits the best. You have a former peace-brigade member with an unhealthy obsession with guns, a Hutt-enslaved Wookie, a lost pirate princess, a vengeful Zabrak Mandalorian, and a scum-sucking, conniving Mon Calamari. It makes so much sense, but there are times when I would board the ship and think “what the hell did I get into letting these people on board?”
Who'd want to shoot you?

By the way, you don’t have an option to say no. They’re boarding your ship whether you like it or not. And with the most recent update, they now talk a lot during battle and have been given more lines of dialogue if you click them. They get pretty chatty when they fight. Sometimes you want to smack them. But isn’t that what real friends do? Some days you like them. Some days you hate them. Some days you want to whack them on the head with the butt of your Blaster Pistol, but they are still your friends at the end of the day.

Those are the aspects that stand out to me at the moment. I may add to this later on, but this is the Companion Characters. Enjoy the insanity as you try to equip them!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The People vs George Lucas

Unintentionally I found the time to watch The People vsGeorge Lucas the day before the NDA on TOR released. It’s a Star Wars kind of week.

It’s a documentary that dates back to 2009, released in 2010, but did not get onto DVD until late September this year. It only just recently became available on Netflix. I don’t remember where I read about it, but the idea sounded amusing. It’s not about the history of Star Wars or how it became popular, but the love/hate relationship fans have with George Lucas told though fan films and interviews. Wikipedia notes it as a courtroom style documentary; looking at both sides of the case and attempting to resolve the debate. Is George Lucas the most brilliant man in film or the bane of all fans?

Positives:

It talks about the good and bad of George Lucas. No man is perfect, and as much as we love to idol worship, he is still human. He knows that he has flaws and accepts them. While he doesn’t admit to all of his mistakes (Star Wars Christmas Special anyone?), the film shows him as a mortal. It’s nice to see him casted as such.

In the things we love about George is that he has allowed people to openly praise and mock his work. He told the community “have at it.” He’s given the tools to everyone to allow for them to make their own versions of Star Wars, in full force (no pun intended). Star Wars fan films outnumber all others. Someone mentioned in the documentary that Dr Who fan films are second to Star Wars, and for every one Dr Who fan film, there are 100 for Star Wars. And Lucas supports it! Every year they have a fan film contest. I got to see this year’s selections and helped to vote on a winner for the fan vote-one at WonderCon and one at ComicCon. What I appreciate about this particular documentary is that it splices in multiple fan films to help progress the story. They’re not just randomly inserted, but integral pieces to the documentary. And it’s through George Lucas that such fan films were possible.

It also talks about life imitating art. George Lucas began his career doing avant garde film. He was good at it. Personally, I got into films because of what he was trying to achieve at such a young age. The problem was getting Hollywood on board with his vision. His early work such as THX1138 and American Graffiti were edited by the studios and never really captured his vision. Papa George vowed to never allow anyone in the industry to have control over his work again, and Star Wars was a rebellion (see what I did there? >.>). And because of it, movies, merchandising, marketing, none of it has been the same. For example (not in the documentary) you know that before Star Wars films had all of the credits at the beginning? They felt that people wouldn’t remember names and faces if you didn’t put the credits up front. Star Wars made the movie about the experience, and guess what? We still remember the names and faces.

But in his quest to be independent, George Lucas became a corporation, a commodity, the thing he hated. He’s even quoted himself as saying that he has become Darth Vader. And as much as a fan may hate Papa George, you have to feel some sympathy towards him in the way we do with Darth Vader. We dislike Vader, sure, but we also feel sorry for the guy. Vader wanted to fight against evil, but in turn became the thing that he despised the most. This is what the documentary does well, it makes George Lucas human.

While it sounds heavy-handed, there is quite a bit of humor thrown into the mix. With interviews from geek aficionados within the business, and everyday fans, there is a lot of love and hate thrown around at Papa George, but done in a slightly comical tone. I don’t think anyone truly hates George Lucas, but dislike some of his recent creative choices (such as re-editing the original trilogy, and Jar-Jar Binks).

It also talks about the one point of view we seem to forget, KIDS! One thing Lucas has argued with the newest films is that they were meant to be for the family; Episode 1 is the beginning and was to allow kids to grow up with Anakin and see what happens. That’s why you have the sillies that go on. And guess what? There are a lot of kids that love Jar-Jar. They see Star Wars as an all encompassing universe. They’re not aware of the differences that we, as jaded adults, are.

Another segment I appreciated is this question of who ownsStar Wars, the fans or Lucas? I won’t go into the details, but it’s a compelling argument for both sides of the case-one of Lucas as an auteur, and one of him destroying the preservation of film history.


Negatives:

It felt a little short.

Also the Lucas bashing was a little more then the Lucas love-fest. It’s a film coming from a generation who grew up with Episodes 4-6. Some of us are a little upset at what’s happened to the franchise. So I get it, but it felt a little heavy-handed about the nerd rage at times.

As a whole, it’s a great film for fans, haters, and newbies. It puts a new perspective on Star Wars that you probably never would have thought about. Worth the purchase, or at least a rental.

A special note to Papa George: Please go back to avant garde. Make the films that you love to make. I'm sure the corporate persona can take a break for a few years.