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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Qore Qan Qinda Qiss My Ass

OK, seriously.

I bought the August edition of Qore primarily for the Resistance Beta. Don't get me wrong, I think Veronica does a fine job and some of the interviews were interesting and all - but paying for the kind of information wasn't attractive without the beta tossed in.

The beta is out and all I've got is this damn Burger King ad for my troubles. Originally the beta was due "in late September", mind you. When I go to the link, I still get the unavailable error. I paid for Burger King ad. Yay.

So maybe in the second wave, or whatnot, I don't know. I don't really care. Don't sell me an issue based on a beta you can't deliver and don't give me a damn download link that I have no idea if it will never, ever work. I can get better experiences for free and, well, quite honestly from now on plan on doing just that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie Watch: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I really wanted to like this movie.

And the guilty truth is - in some ways I did. In some ways I enjoyed it because Indiana Jones is a fun character and Harrison Ford plays him just so very, very well. That's the telling truth about the movie, though, it's watching Ford recapture the charm of his performance that give the film its own - but so much of the rest that hangs around that wry smirk is a low and embarrassing pillage of a franchise that shows, if anything else, that George Lucas needs to stop writing completely.

Spoilers continue.

Let's start with the scene that most everyone has heard about by now, even if you haven't seen the movie. The fridge scene. "Nuke the fridge" is a phrase which is quickly becoming the new "jump the shark" as fewer and fewer people remember Fonzie in the first place.

Long ago I had lunch with someone who used to get the chance to help edit screenplays while they were in pre-production. One action movie had a scene where the hero is protecting a block of C-4 from various flames while running down a tunnel. He pointed out that C-4 is actually designed not to ignite under such situations. It was a pretty stupid writing blunder easily corrected with a bit of research.

The fridge scene makes that look like Ulysses. Ignoring that lead is no way a reasonable protection against the heat of a nuclear blast, surely one with the proximity required to send that fridge flying into the air safely - another action which defies the very laws of physics ... but even if it might have maintained some concept of armor that Indy would have merely been cooked like a November turkey ... we at least know in this day and age that Indy would have spent the rest of the movie dying of radiation poison at the least.

So in one hand, the fridge scene is like those funny "survive the bomb by hiding under your desk" films they used to show kids, only with a fridge instead, isn't funny and possibly makes even less sense.

That hand is already holding a pretty little pile of something stinky, but in the other hand the scene is indicative with what's wrong with the likes of Lucas these days. So in love with fancy computer graphics and the ability to edit all the logic out of a scene by distracting the audience, the fact that the screenplay is practically an insult to the audience's intelligence survives the cutting room floor.

And there's no excuse why that scene did survive the cutting room floor. It's a flimsy segue to another scene and could have been replaced with a fade and some edits in dialogue. Snap. Snip. Snap. Better movie. Better Lucas and Spielberg are like kids at their first college kegger - drunk, out of control, messy and completely oblivious to the above.

The scenes that follow cascade from this fact to varying degrees. While some, if not most, are at least fun to watch - even the best can't rise above popcorn fluff.

The original Indiana Jones captured the joy of a simple action adventure movie while never losing sight on the characters themselves. The best, most memorable, most entertaining scene of the entire franchise was shot while Harrison had a fever, was completely improved and didn't use a single frame of computer animation.

I'm the first person to wave the flag of technology and proudly try to claim new land by shoving it firmly into the ground. The sad fact, though, is that it may have helped men like Lucas rise to where they are now - it stopped helping them make better movies years and years ago.

Sometimes it even just helps make them worse.

Another View: The State Of The Mod

The regenerative cycle of modders coming and going means that few begrudge such commercial interest, even if it hampers or even threatens ambitious projects like Warm Gun and Airborn (pictured on p81). Games and their mods inhabit the same ecosystem, after all, if not the same shelves. The fate of outfits like Trauma Studios, however, the team behind Battlefield 1942 mod Desert Combat, has raised ethical concerns which are far from unique in the industry overall.
-- The State Of The Mod [Next Gen]

The "ethical concerns" are discussed a bit and somewhat dismissed in the full article - and I think that's fair. I think the industry is pretty honest with the mod community for the most part, but it doesn't change the fact that said community has become something of a feeding pool for a ravenous crowds. I think it's quite telling that the article has nothing but screenshots of interesting maps, concept designs, and otherwise artistic mod efforts - but the fact remains that these efforts are the true dying breed.

Mods, in general, will never die because portions of the industry have become to accustomed to them or have too many ties into the mod community in general. The loop now, though, is about developing young talent to be either implement free content or fill upcoming professional ranks. The same industry pressure, though, means that experimentation with genres and gameplay is risky and nearly impossible to attract the same kind of team that would be required to make a full game.

Don't get me wrong - innovation exists and it's not like new blood doesn't inherently bring new ideas ... but it's not the same kind of innovation that small teams (or individuals) used to be able to garner any attention for ... the kind of innovation which brought us Capture The Flag, Counter-Strike and more.

NaNoWriMo Around The Corner

It's about to be NaNoWriMo time, and this is not going to be an easy year for me. I'll start the month off with a conference in San Fran and end it with the normal family bonanza and we might have a vacation in Door County in between, cutting my workable nights down considerably. Sadly The Girl doesn't accept NaNo as a decent reason for her to drive while I type either...

However NaNo is not about the finish, but rather about the rather insane march into producing something quasi-unreadable in the first place. And in light of recent events though, I don't think I could not do it this year. In preparation for my probable defeat, though, I think I'll be diverging from the normal format of "string random plot events together in the hopes of a storyline" and have a variety of starting points to tell shorter stories instead. Whether these will use the same characters, be interwined, whatnot, etc - we'll see.

Currently the name is "30 Fortunes" and the plan is to use fortune cookie fortunes as the impetus for the stories. Actually, my first task will be to start collecting fortunes...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Netflix has a Blu-Ray Tax?

When adding Blu-Ray to our Television queue at Netflix for the first time, we got a message saying it would cost an additional $1.00 a month:

Seems odd - a Blu-Ray disc is exactly as easy to stuff into an envelope as a DVD. Is it the extra cost of the format itself? The cost of having a framework for deciding between the formats versus the lack of adoption?

For Sunday: Death Star Cantina

Eddie Izzard + Legos = awesome