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Frost Giant

Werthead's page

1,776 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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The TV show is better than the books in a few areas: Robb's relationship was better depicted on-screen than off (even if it was cheesy), the Red Wedding was that bit more brutal on-screen (even if we lost all the fan-favourite supporting characters who bought it as well), some of the pacing is better and there's more focus on existing characters than constantly bringing in new ones. Characters like Margaery, Osha and Shae are also a lot more interesting on-screen than in the books.

However, the books are better than the TV show in the overwhelming majority of cases. Most of the characters are better (Loras is much more interesting and complex than the gay, occasionally effeminite fop the TV show has reduced him to; Sansa has a bit more depth and Littlefinger is vastly subtler and less obviously villainous) and Stannis is vastly superior. It's a tribute to Dillane's acting that he can still get people's sympathy, but the book version of the character is so much richer and more interesting:

Spoiler:
He's an excellent example of a character being defined by POV: Cressen and Davos don't think Stannis has a sense of humour, so the reader also doesn't think he has one. But then as the books progress you realise he does, it's just incredibly dry, laconic and only comes out at certain moments. Jon spots it in an unguarded moment so his assessment of Stannis and subsequent relationship with him is rather different to those other characters'.

It's rather worrying that Benioff and Weiss have said they don't like him very much and see him as more of a villain than the ultra-grey, ruthless but occasionally heroic figure of the books. A shame as 'Blackwater' (not written by them, notably) seemed to get him so much better than any episode since.

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Wait a minute. You're telling me that a given writer can actually use "It's Magic, I don't have to explain s***" as an excuse if people like their book enough?

Nope, the writer has said, "It's magic but there is a logical explanation for it and it will be given in one of the later books in the series." Which I think is fair enough. We can moan about it later if the explanation turns out to be rubbish :)


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The problem is that it's expensive. Fantasy takes place mainly outdoors and outdoors filming compared to a climate-controlled set with reliable weather is VERY expensive, even before you add in any effects or prosthetics work. The reason GAME OF THRONES costs c. $7 million per episode (more than three times the cost of a regular network American TV show) is the mind-boggling amount of location filming required per episode (in 3-5 different countries, depending on the season) on top of the sets, the enormous cast and the effects.

If you look at MERLIN, they were only really able to make that show because they were fortunate to have a huge French castle which let them film it there relatively cheaply (they realised, correctly, they'd get a huge increase in tourism instead) and a controlled number of surrounding forests they could use with impunity. Which sounds great until you realised in Season 5 you could start recognising individual trees because they'd been reused so much. XENA and HERCULES did something similar (substitute bits of New Zealand for France).

If you look at an SF show like BSG or the ST series, they had big standing sets they could use and just let some effects and a couple of guest actors pick up the slack, and every few episodes they could then afford a big blow-out. And of course regular shows can get their costumes and props off-the-peg.


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Now I'm not saying our system is the best in the world, nor am I saying that America sucks, it does many things better than where I am from. But healthcare is not one of them. You pay more for a system that does not cover everybody and generally offers inferior care to most people.

Yup. And what's really ludicrous is that Americans pay more of their taxes towards healthcare than we do. But we get a free health service out of it and they have to go off afterwards and spend huge amounts more on medical insurance. Then, when the insurer wriggles out of paying for an operation because the small print says they don't have to pay for operations on days ending in a 'y', they have to go and find the money to cover the full cost of the procedure.

This is a situation that that is quite blatantly ludicrous, and it's beyond me why anyone - left or right - puts up with it. There are solutions from both sides of the political spectrum which would be preferable to the current one (either full social health care or fully private health care which is not subsidised by taxes).


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One occasionally-mooted suggestion is that Noah two representatives of every animal type on the ark, rather than every single species and subspecies. However, I believe it's been pointed out that this merely reduces the number of animals on the ark from millions to a still-impractical several thousand.


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Then again, we have to consider Robert Jordan as well -- in which case there is no finished product.

Apart from...the finished product?

Sanderson finished the series off, but based closely on Jordan's notes and with a fair bit of Jordan-written material scattered through the conclusion (including the very last chapter). So that's not a terrific comparison.

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you would be waiting a long time. As of now it 17 years since he wrote the first book. It took Tolkien 12 to finish his series and that was during the war.

18 years since the first book came out. 23 years since he started writing the series (in July 1991).

The comparison to Tolkien is a little weak. THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the whole thing, is only slightly longer than A STORM OF SWORDS and A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by themselves. On pages-written-per-year, Martin is way ahead of Tolkien who often took months on end off because he didn't know what to do next with the story. And of course Tolkien took 66 years to write what turned out to be a relatively short 450-page book (THE SILMARILLION), published after his death.

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I truly believe he wont finish the series. He doesnt seem to be in the best of health

GRRM is in pretty good health. Obviously, he's overweight (though he was actually at his biggest around the time AFFC came out, and is down on his weight since then) but that doesn't mean he's going to drop dead tomorrow. GRRM is, obviously, hugely wealthy and has a very good health plan. He and his doctor also monitor his weight (and he points out on his blog that he makes efforts to lose weight, which are hampered by his job, which is not conducive to it).

There certainly isn't a 50% chance he's going to die in the next two years! I have family members who were larger than George who happily made it into their late 80s and passed away from totally unrelated causes. Gene Wolfe is a bit on the rotund side and is now in his early 80s. Jack Vance was fairly big (not as big as GRRM though) and made it to 96. You also had Robert Jordan, who spent quite a few years overweight and then lost most of it on a strict diet, only to almost immediately develop a totally unrelated cardiac condition and pass away at 59. Or Aaron Allston, who appeared to be in good shape before having a series of heart attacks and dying at 53.

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For a trilogy i would think a 5-7 year window wouldnt be unreasonable.

That depends on the size of the books. Three 300-page books are a very different prospect from three 1,000-page ones.

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If i were the publisher i would require updates throughout the year, place limits on other activitys and extend if needed. Sure theres creativity involved but at the same time publisher has deadlines as well.

GRRM sends each chapter, as it is finished, to his editor who edits it and requests changes on the spot before it is finalised. So the process isn't that the whole book is done in one go, edited in one go and then published, but a constant, ongoing back-and-forth between the writer and editor.

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she never promised another novel, and she published a bunch of short stories to appease the hardcore fans like me, so maybe that's a poor analogy.

Clarke did say that she was writing a sequel focusing on less-prominent characters almost as soon as JS&MN came out, and there has been no word on it since.

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In contrast, Jack Vance wrote the Durdane triology in two years, and the third volume was, if anything, infinitely superior to the first. The 4-volume Tschai series took two years, and the 3rd book is the highlight. Lyonesse took him 6 years total, and Cadwal 5. His 5-volume Demon Princes series is the oddball, having been completed on a random basis from 1964-1981.

Well, there's also DYING EARTH, which was written over a period of 40 years, with a fairly substantial cliffanger between Books 2 and 3 that was left hanging for 16 years (and Vance even allowed a desperate other author to resolve it as a stopgap through official and published fanfiction before he continued the series).


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ADWD is an interesting book. It does, contrary to hyperbole, push forwards quite a few storylines substantially. However, because of the timeline issues this is not constant for all characters, and some characters only get 2-3 chapters whilst others get 9-12, but they almost seem to get the same amount of development (i.e. the lesser-appearing characters get very busy chapters and the more frequently-appearing ones get slower or even 'filler' chapters). There's definitely a weakness to ADWD stemming from the split, and that's even more pronounced in AFFC which feels weirdly claustraphobic as a result, as if it's happening in a bubble unconnected to the wider world. ADWD is also odd in that it's very focused on past events and revelations about them. Whilst all the books have expanded on the series backstory, none of them come close to what ADWD does. I did some research for the publishers recently which required rereading all five books and counting statistics, and ADWD has four times as many major backstory/mystery revelations as any other book in the series, a lot of which is important to the present-day storyline as well.

However, almost none of that material is present in the TV series (or, if it is, it's fairly trivial), which gives them quite a lot of material they can shave off.

The best solution is to read AFFC and ADWD as one super-book (there's some great lists online showing how to do this), at which point they both improve immeasurably.


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Someone please explain it to me.

The statistic that got me is that Americans pay a slightly higher percentage of their taxes towards government subsidies of the supposedly-private healthcare system than people in the UK do. However, we get a fully-functioning (when not being starved of resources by the Tories so they can claim it's failing and then try to privatise it, as in the 1980s and now) and pretty good national health service out of it, whilst Americans have to go and pay a ton more money in insurance and/or direct hospital fees on top of that.

That seems to be insane. Not paying any money at all towards health care out of taxes - because it's all private - makes sense. Paying taxes and not having to pay more towards healthcare afterwards makes sense. Doing both is crazy.


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QTEs are weak design because most of them are simple one-button prompts. They're as much gameplay as clicking 'START' to start the game. If a QTE gave you four options with different effects, they'd qualify more as gameplay, but they never do. So if a QTE falls mid cut-scene it's about as useful as a prompt coming up saying 'CONTINUE CUT-SCENE Y/N?'.

This is made worse when QTEs use different controls to the rest of the game. IIRC, TOMB RAIDER at least let you use the actual normal controls during cut scenes, which was a bit better.

Even worse are when QTEs only happen once in a game. SPACE MARINE is the worst example of this: there are no QTEs at all in the whole game until the final boss fight, where you have to kill it with QTEs using buttons and controls not normally used for combat in the game (plus it's a rip-off of the Gandalf/Balrog fight, but that's another issue).

There's also the issue of laziness: creating a pre-determined cut scene where the player has to press one button is more straightforward than programming a long, multi-result conversation option scene, or a combat scene where the game designer has a specific result in mind regardless of what the player does.

I think it's possible to do good QTEs - DEUS EX: HR's conversation cut scenes where you can choose different dialogue options with radically different results on how the rest of the cut scene playes out is a good example of the sort of thing they should do more often - but overall they should be treated with scepticism.


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A major difference is that Scotland was once an independent nation so why should it not regain that independence - as Ireland did.

True, but there is also a difference there: Ireland was conquered and colonised by us over a perod of many centuries, whilst Scotland was an independent country which chose to join England to form the UK. Scotland wasn't coerced into it.

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For a socialist federation of the Britishiznoid Isles!

Every time we've gone more socialist, the results have been disastrous. Mind you, every time we've gone more conservative, the results have also been disastrous.

That is why we drink.


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The fan community for Outerra - a graphics engine capable of rendering high-quality terrain images from relatively sparse data - has recreated Tolkien's Middle-earth using the software. This has resulted in some stunning and impressive views, especially considering this is only an alpha version.

You can see more pictures here and here, and a discussion on the Outerra forum here. The dedicated Middle-earth project website can be found here. Plus there's also a tech demo video.

This could be the next big thing for fantasy cartography. Westeros or Faerun or Malaz (or Golarion?) next?


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Both games have been upgraded by GoG to work fine on modern machines. DK1 certainly is fine on a W7 machine. DK2 might be a bit flakier because it's a full 3D game (DK1 is 2D only; there was a 3D-accelerated version but I don't think the GoG version is it) and might clash with modern graphics cards. But so far DK1 has played very smoothly.


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GoG are giving away FREE copies of Dungeon Keeper and its expansion, The Deeper Dungeons for the weekend, and offering a monster 75% off discount on Dungeon Keeper 2 (reducing it to just $1.68).

For two of the best games ever made, this is a steal, especially compared to the godawful tablet/moble version EA released a few weeks ago which requires you to spend vast sums of money to do almost anything at all in the game. This is really the no-brainer alternative.

DK1 and its expansion will work on PC and Mac. DK2 is PC only.


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Finished it and it was, by far, the weakest game of the three. It was still fun and still enjoyable, and the new CSI: Gotham mode was quite a lot of fun. But beyond that the writing was below the standard of the first two. There were moments which really shone, like the Joker 'bonding' with Batman whilst being interrogated by Harley Quinn (though I didn't like that they changed the dialogue from those interviews from what we heard in ARKAHAM ASYLUM, as it would have been a good way of selling the 'prequel' aspect of the game, which otherwise was weak to the level of pointlessness), but for the most part it was subpar.

I also felt the city was too big with too little to do. It was mostly the ARKHAM CITY map with some new bits, but it feels like the game did a much poorer job of where it placed missions and quests, and the optional collectable stuff got much more tedious much more quickly. At this stage, I think they'd benefit from a GRAND THEFT GOTHAM approach, have Batman shooting around in the Batmobile doing missions but also being able to jump out and stop crimes in progress.

The final problem was the absolute avalanch of bugs. Doors refusing to open, the game not registering half of counter-presses, stealth prompts not triggering (particularly noticeable in the final fight with Bane) and, most disastrously, the 'grapple to perch' option not triggering quickly enough. Sitting atop a perch whilst guys shoot at you with shotguns and you're waiting patiently to be able to grapple to another location is not fun. And if you hit the button to early a big NO sign comes up and flashes, and you have to wait until that clears as well. Given that I didn't encounter a single bug in either ASYLUM or CITY, this was just sloppy. The most-bugged AAA release since ROME 2 but, unlike ROME 2, the post-release patches seem to have done sweet FA to fixing them.


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DRAGONFALL, formerly known as 'the Berlin campaign, will be out on 27 February. Its campaign is apparently significantly longer than the base game's and it will (huzzah!) have a 'save anywhere' feature. That will also be patched into the base game as well.


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Stoic have told King to do one, and pointed out that a key definition of the word 'saga' means a story of Viking origin, which fits their Viking fantasy game a lot better than a game about candy and the crushing thereof.


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ETERNITY stat screen.

So many crunchy numbers and stats. That's what a character sheet should look like :-)


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Hayley Atwell

And she's already campaigning for the role.

Plus, she'd be pretty good. She's already done action stuff (in CAPTAIN AMERICA), she's British, she's got a LOT of fan support and she's a reasonably big name and well-known enough to do it. The only thing that might count against her is her age (32), since the new film is rumoured will be based on the new games which depict Lara at the start of her tomb-raiding career, in her early twenties. However, that would also rule out all of the other-mentioned actresses as well.


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I now have this image in my head of Anklebiter being the Frank Sobotka of teamsters, except presumably not so involved in organised crime.


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I'm not surprised that the BBC is leery of spinoff shows; neither of Russell's are with us still...

For totally unrelated reasons. THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES stopped because the lead actress died, which is kind of difficult to overcome. TORCHWOOD would have continued on Starz, but Russell T. Davies's partner became extremely seriously ill and he returned to the UK to stand by him. If he recovers, apparently there are options on the table for TORCHWOOD to continue in some fashion.

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When you kill off 2 of your characters at the end of the second season, then make each of the next two seasons into one long story arc, people don't like it that much

One of those two seasons - CHILDREN OF EARTH - is by far the most popular and critically-acclaimed season of TORCHWOOD to date, so I'm not too sure about that theory.


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Well, that was an incoherent mess. I know Smith wasn't supposed to leave this soon and Moffat thought he had another year to resolve his storylines and was caught on the hop a bit, but even so he should have been able to come up with something better than this. Hell, he could have even made the 50th Anniversary and the Christmas Special into more of a two-parter and really gone to town on it.

As is traditional with Moffat, the emotional beats almost worked (until they were let down by the gaping plot holes) and there was no shortage of great ideas (a cynical religion which shifts believes in step with its followers is a fascinating concept), but there was also some very weird sexism ("Now THAT's what I call a woman!" - huh?) and very little made any sense. There only appears to be a couple of hundred people in the village at best: why not just evacuate them via the TARDIS and fly off to another space and time? Also, jamming Amy into the finale seemed rather disrespectful to Clara, who just got to stand there like a lemon.

In fact, after Day of the Doctor's success - better plotting and characterisation, Clara finally getting some excellent moments based on character development rather than being a Macguffin - Time of the Doctor was a fairly major letdown.

Still, Capaldi looks like he'll be brilliant. They just really need to replace Moffat as well and bring in some new blood.

LazarX wrote:

The show has reached heights of popularity it has never had before, not even with Tennant and Baker. It's been on the cover of TV Guide, and it was even referenced in this Anchorman 2 outtake.

Clear evidence of failure on Moffat's part.

The show's ratings are down on the Eccleston/Tennant Era. Smith's era has had to rely on the Christmas specials and the 50th anniversary to raise the average ratings to what Eccleston and Tennant got on a much more regular basis. Smith's era has also had some of the weakest ratings since the show's return (dipping close to the sub-5 million mark a few times).

The show's international profile has risen, yes, and it's better-known in the USA than it has been at any time previously. But that doesn't make much odds to the BBC: the way the BBC is funded means that the show being a reasonable international hit may benefit the BBC overall but not the show itself. It's fame and success in the United States is also a little bit overstated: it's gotten BBC America's biggest-ever ratings, but that's still only 2.5 million people or so.

Critically, the show has had a much more mixed reception since Moffat took over than at any time since its return. There's still one or two stand-out episodes per season, but also much more consistent criticism of the show. The BBC themselves have also slashed the budget of the show over Moffat's objections and refused him permission to develop spin-off projects. It's also clear that the BBC 'trusts' him with the brand far less than they did Russell T. Davies. If it wasn't for the show's growing international success and the simultaneous success of Moffat's SHERLOCK, I think it's questionable how long he could remain in the role. Unfortunately now, he's probably there as long as he wants.


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Book 3: The Warrior's Apprentice

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Miles Vorkosigan is the son of one of the most powerful men on Barrayar, but is also a cripple, cursed with fragile bones and occasional hubris. When his pride overrides his good sense and leaves him too injured to take part in entrance examinations to the Barrayaran academy, Miles is washed up and left without a future. Intrigued by a mystery involving his bodyguard, Bothari, Miles decides to take an offworld trip...but nothing goes to plan and before long Miles's fast-talking has earned him the command of a fleet of starships, thousands of mercenaries and involvement in a civil war which is none of his business. Miles has some explaining to do.

Whilst chronologically The Warrior's Apprentice is the third volume in The Vorkosigan Saga, for most people it's where the series really begins. This is the book where the main character of the series, Miles, debuts as an adult character and it also represents a notable tonal shift from the previous two volumes, Shards of Honour and Barrayar. Whilst those two books were fairly serious (aside from brief comedy-of-manners episodes), The Warrior's Apprentice is more rambunctious. It's a bit of a romp, actually, with Miles' fast-talking mouth and off-the-cuff inventiveness (i.e. lying his head off) getting him in and out of trouble so quickly readers may experience whiplash trying to keep up with it.

It's a novel which can be firmly filed under 'fun', although there is a tragic core to the novel involving the character of Bothrai. Bujold writes this mystery so it works from two angles: if you've read Shards of Honour and Barrayar, you know what's going on long before Miles does and Bujold milks the tension effectively as Miles investigates the matter. If you haven't read those books and are as much in the dark as Miles, it works just as well. The tragic interlude (and the finale, which involves a brief dash of political intrigue) are a bit out-of-keeping with the book's overall tone, but Bujold shows impressive mastery of pacing in allowing the narrative to organically shift to integrate them before moving back to a less serious feel.

The result is a novel that is often quite funny, but also reflects the central character very well. Miles is a ball of energy that tends to drag people along behind him into various crazy schemes they'd never normally want to be a part of, but his momentum somehow keeps everything afloat. The novel works this way as well, with the plot taking increasingly ludicrous turns but it not mattering because Bujold infuses the novel with so much energy and verve you just want to read along and find out what happens next. Bujold's skills with characterisation also help define the book's setting much more clearly, with even briefly-appearing secondary characters getting fleshed out into three-dimensional people within just a few paragraphs.

Negatives? The narrative sometimes feels a little too silly for a book that actually isn't an out-and-out comedy. The concluding section on Barrayar is also perhaps a little too neat and tidy, and there seems to be a narrative disconnect between Cordelia's treatment by her own people on Beta Colony in the first two books (where she was treated as a criminal) and her well-regarded position here. But there are fairly minor issues.

The Warrior's Apprentice (****) isn't high art or hard SF, but it is entertaining, fast-paced and well-characterised, with just enough pathos and tragedy to add some depth to it. It is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Young Miles omnibus, along with the novella The Mountains of Mourning and the novel The Vor Game.


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Only Tom Baker and Colin Baker I think have had REALLY big problems getting work post-WHO. Almost all the rest of them were actually reasonably well-known before and have had no problems getting work since.

That said, THE FIVE(ISH) DOCTORS reboot is brilliant for spoofing this perception. Peter Davison even has an alter-ego character he trots out at conventions of an old actor bitter that his best-known role is decades behind him. In reality, Davison's one of the most well-known actors from the role and has rarely been out of work since he left the role.


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More info. Sounds promising: the 15-level mega-dungeon is in and insanely big. Apparently one of the approaches is to periodically return to it throughout the game since it is far too tough to clear in one pass.

On the length of the overall game, apparently one of their testers took a full working day (presumably 8-10 hours) to complete just three quests. It certainly sounds like the game will be huge.


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PROJECT ETERNITY is now PILLARS OF ETERNITY, complete with some highly promising gameplay footage. No release date, though a window of mid-to-late 2014 is still expected.


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If there is one company Bethesda DON'T want to look for inspiration from for PR, it's BioWare. The sheer number of PR disasters they've had in the last few years has been quite remarkable.

CD Projekt Red, inXile or Obsidian would be much better examples, I think. Especially CDPR. The way they've just done enough to excite people for CYBERPUNK 2077 even though it's still two years from release without getting frustrating has been impressive.


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In YOUR opinion there was a "major dip" in quality. I saw none, and loved the series from start to finish, as does everyone I personally know. The ending was, to me, the logical conclusion in lieu of an endless space convoy.

Obviously everyone has their own opinion. But it should be noted that the ratings went down a lot in the last two seasons and caused the show to end a year early (originally Moore had planned five seasons). Apathy towards how the show ended also seemed to negatively impact both CAPRICA and BLOOD & CHROME.


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Erm, the newer one is, anyway, not the original which is almost 36.

Anyway:

Ten years ago, on 8 December 2003, the first part of a new Battlestar Galactica mini-series aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States. In response to strong ratings and rave reviews, an ongoing series was commissioned. The series eventually concluded in 2009 after four seasons, 75 episodes, two TV movies, a Hugo Award, a Peabody and a slew of technical Emmies.

BSG was an attempt by its writers to rejig TV science fiction for an adult, mainstream audience. Most of the creative team - most notably showrunner Ronald D. Moore - had previously worked on the Star Trek franchise and had grown frustrated at the limitations on realistic human conflict they could portray on those shows. BSG threw out a lot of the rules of TV SF by featuring no aliens, more realistic spaceflight physics (the first show since Babylon 5 to do it on a large scale), being more ruthless and featuring more morally ambiguous characters. However, the series also focused on the classic SF trope of humans versus AI, and if it is possible for biological and machine intelligences to co-exist.

The series was also notable for its more relatable aesthetics: no jumpsuits or impractical onesies here but shirts and ties and more convincing military uniforms. The Galactica didn't stay in the same shape each episode but got more broken-down and damaged as time passed. Its stock of Viper fighters and trained pilots dwindled (despite a handy mid-series resupply). Each episode gave a count of how many survivors there were from the Cylon attack, and this number dropped (sometimes by quite a lot) as casualties were sustained. Characters died, sometimes heroically in battle or guiding stranded ships through radioactive clouds, but sometimes committing suicide after reaching tragic breaking points. It was a series that - for the most part - did not pull its punches.

The characters were familiar archetypes turned into more realistic human beings: hotshot pilot Starbuck has family problems; executive officer Colonel Tigh is an alcoholic; President Roslin is suffering from a terminal illness; Apollo is a great pilot but is unsure of his future; and scientist Baltar is the biggest walking collection of neuroses you will ever see on TV. Even stoic, unflappable Commander Adama finally breaks down from the pressure at the worst possible moment. The actors, from seasoned hands like Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell to newcomers like Katee Sackhoff and former model Tricia Helfer, relished their complex, unpredictable roles and the meaty storylines they could get stuck into.

In terms of visual effects, the show was a substantial step forwards in quality. One of the earliest shows to take advantage of HD, it featured astonishing, imaginative space battles and some excellent spacecraft design, sometimes drawing on the original 1978 show for inspiration and at other times going its own way. The use of CGI to convincingly portray beings who were supposed to be physically present in scenes, such as the robotic Cylon centurions, was ahead of its time as well.

Of course, not all great things last. From the opening part of the mini-series to somewhere around the fifth episode of the third season, the show was almost flawlessly excellent. The writing was tight, the actors were great and the show had a real sense of momentum and purpose. The long-running story arc unfolded logically and even sub-par episodes, like Black Market or Sacrifice, were still eminently watchable. Some problems appeared during the confused 'New Caprica' arc, with the decision to jump forwards some sixteen months from the end of the previous season creating a disconnect in character development which was never really fixed: the behaviour of some characters, most notably Roslin and Apollo, became random and lacking in motivation following that point. The New Caprica arc, though visually exciting and featuring some strong moments of drama and characterisation, also seemed to trip up on the show's own press. The apparent desire to invoke comparisons with the contemporary war in Iraq was laudable, but also confused: were the colonials the Iraqi insurgents or the Cylons? Or vice versa? As an analogy, it lacked substance.

In terms of the plot, the series and ongoing storyline also seemed to lose coherence as it went along. The Kobol arc, which dominated no less than nine episodes, was completely forgotten about within a few weeks and the revelations from that story that was supposed to lead to Earth were disregarded, or referred to only in a very confused manner, in later episodes. Listening to Ronald D. Moore's commentaries, it is shocking how often hugely major story points were developed 'because they were cool' with no regard for how they fitted into the big picture. Sometimes these storylines were begun only for the writers to lose interest and get rid of them as quickly as possible. Lame retcons and wince-inducing continuity errors came to dominate the last two seasons, sometimes minor and easy to ignore but sometimes major. The show remained extremely well-acted to the end, and great episodes still cropped up towards the show's finale, but BSG's once-unassailable quality level dipped quite alarmingly in those last two seasons. The finale summed up these issues with some terrific moments of acting and some brilliant effects and space battles, but an actual ending that ranks amongst the stupidest ever put to screen. For a show that, at its best, never shied away from complexity and having different points of view, the resolution was far too pro-Luddite for it ever to convince.

Still, these major dips in quality aside, BSG was a great show. During those first two-and-a-bit seasons it was easily batting on the same level of quality as contemporary shows like The Wire, Rome and Deadwood, and was a lot better than the likes of Lost or the relaunched Doctor Who. It couldn't quite sustain that quality level to the end, but when BSG was on top form, it was the best space opera ever made. We're still waiting for the space opera that will come along and build upon BSG's successes, but until then revisiting the original is still, warts and all, worthwhile.


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Well, that was disappointing.

The irony now would be if Bethesda did announce FALLOUT 4 and it turned out to be rather less interesting than the ideas thesurvivor2299 had.


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Inevitably, there is now a Kickstarter for a new-but-faithful version of HERO QUEST.

They've already smashed the Kickstarter target (they asked for $58,000 and have already gotten $327,000) so this is definitely happening, with a fair number of extras on top.


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it ceases being a D&D movie and becomes a "that character" movie.

Quite right, and desireable. It becomes a movie set in the D&D universe. That's what D&D as far as films or books is concerned: a common universe. There's no such thing as a 'D&D story' (three films has made that clear) unless it's a GAMERS/ZERO CHARISMA thing featuring people actually playing the game in RL. The mistake the previous three (!) movies made was trying to make an 'archetypal D&D movie' and discovering there's no such thing.


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Except that to the general public, Drizzt really isn't that much better known than any of the other FR characters. Heck, if you're going for publicity and renown factor, you go with Elminster; he's as well known as Drizzt if not more and is a cool mage to boot with a story a lot more interesting.

Salvatore has considerably sold more novels than anyone else in the setting and more novels than D&D itself has sold gameing books. He's outsold Greenwood at least 3-1, if not by a lot more. Drizzt is considerably better known amongst the general fantasy readership (i.e. the SFF readership outside of gamers) than Elminster. Elminster's probably the second-best-known FR lead character, agreed, but it's a fairly distant second place. I'm not even sure who'd go in third place. Probably Minsc, as once you drop below Greenwood you're looking at books and authors who have sold a lot less than the FR computer games.


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Alastair Reynolds is very good. He writes hard SF mixed in with more speculative elements (one of his novels is a cross-genre mix of SF and steampunk; another is half hard SF, half noir thriller set in 1950s Paris), but his hard SF is VERY hard. He has no FTL travel in most of his books and uses time dilation and sleeping capsules to get people from planet to planet in reasonable timeframes.

You can read his stand-alones in any order, as they have no sequels or prequels. PUSHING ICE is a good one to start with as it's a classic 'big dumb object' SF story. CENTURY RAIN is more offbeat, with half the story being set in the future and half in 1950s Paris, and the way the two stories come together is a bit contrived. It's still entertaining though. TERMINAL WORLD is the SF/steampunk hybrid and features a very, very clever twist to the setting (that in my estimation only about half of readers seem to pick up on). HOUSE OF SUNS is the only one of his novels I haven't read yet but by many accounts is his best book to date. It's about a woman who clones herself hundreds of times over to explore the Galaxy at slower-than-light speeds over the course of thousands of years. There's also ZIMA BLUE, a short story collection.

His current series, POSEIDON'S CHILDREN (consisting, so far, of BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH and ON THE STEEL BREEZE), is pretty good but a bit oddball for him. It's not finished (the third book is due in late 2014 or early 2015) and I don't rate it among his best work. It's certainly readable, though, and he has some interesting ideas about how Africa will undergo a massive, China-style econoic boom in the next century as more and more work and industry is outsourced there.

Reynolds's signature work is the REVELATION SPACE universe, in which humanity is threatened by self-replicating machines known as Inhibitors. It's excellent stuff, though confusing. I have a chronology here. The simplest thing to do is to start with CHASM CITY (also a strong contender for the title of his best book) and then go through the trilogy (REVELATION SPACE, REDEMPTION ARK, ABSOLUTION GAP), the short story collection GALACTIC NORTH, which actually concludes the story from the trilogy (bit of a bad idea there), and then the prequel (THE PREFECT) and the novella compilation (DIAMOND DOGS, TURQUOISE DAYS).


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Yo.

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"It’s going to make us look at Eternity as a brand. What else can we do with it? I want to hook up with the Pathfinder guys and see about doing a Pathfinder Eternity world book thing. It sounds a little weird, but… A card game. A board game. I’ve already been chatting with Cryptozoic Entertainment. We have nothing going on specifically, but they have a lot of experience in board games and card games. That’s what’s going to be transformative."


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Obsidian were saying that Paizo were their first choice for doing P&P books for their PROJECT ETERNITY game. Maybe that could go both ways? :-)


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If they want to make a D&D movie that people will actually want to go and see, they're going to need to use a setting and character people actually know. As I've said before, the Drizzt books have considerably outsold the actual D&D game products (all of them, over all editions, ever), and his name recognition as a D&D character is probably greater than any other one. Make a generic D&D movie and you'll have a fairly small audience (as was proven in 2000, although the movie sucking didn't help). Make a Drizzt movie and you'll get a hell of a lot more interest. The other option is to make a DRAGONLANCE movie, but then you're talking a lot more money, a longer commitment and a slightly smaller audience.

Now this is purely from a commercial standpoint. From a creative one, I think you can make a very solid and enjoyable movie based on THE CRYSTAL SHARD and maybe even the next few books. But I agree there's more interesting parts of the D&D setting to be mined: I'd love to see PLANESCAPE: TORMENT - THE MOVIE, but it'd cost more than AVATAR and would get 1% of the audience, so that's never going to happen. What I'd hope is that a new D&D movie franchise would be successful and we'd eventually see other films in other settings, maybe an EBERRON one, maybe a DARK SUN one and so on. You use the franchise's biggest guns - and no matter how much some people may dislike them, that's Drizzt and the Realms - to open big and then go to more interesting places later on, hopefully.


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Countersuit!

Sweetpea Entertainment - Courtney Solomon's production company - has counter-sued Hasbro for ownership of the D&D movie rights.

To recap, Sweetpea is the company which made the D&D movie in 2000 and its two zero-budget, direct-to-DVD sequels, WRATH OF THE DRAGON GOD and BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS. Last year, Sweetpea and Warner Brothers struck up a deal to make a new, big-budget D&D movie for the big screen.

Hasbro has been developing its own D&D movie project with Universal. According to Hasbro, Sweetpea's rights have expired due to them not upholding their contractual obligations. Most notably, the original agreement between Sweetpea and TSR allowed Sweetpea to retain the rights as long as they put a new D&D movie into production every five years. Sweetpea argue they did this by filming the second film in 2004 for release in 2005, and by producing the third film in 2010 (though it didn't come out until 2012). Hasbro assert that the rules only count if they made actual films; the second film was technically a TV movie (as it debuted on SyFy) so counts, but the third does not because it was a straight-to-DVD release.

Hasbro now want a judge to rule that Sweetpea's option has expired and they cannot make a new D&D movie, allowing Hasbro and Universal to proceed with a new project (rumoured to involve existing D&D properties, speculated to be a Drizzt film). Sweetpea's counter-claim demands that they be recognised as holding the sole rights to D&D and preventing Hasbro and any partner studio from using D&D branding or copyrighted material in any film project.

A hearing will be held on 25 March, 2014.


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This one is the best one I've seen. I'm not sure on its canonicity, but it's reasonably close to the official map in outline.


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Storyline trailer, complete with OTT voiceover. "Some call him 'taffer'. I call him...Garrett!"

Inevitable and possibly unfair photoshop job.

Interesting collection of quotes about the game from developers:

"Jumping, bouncing up and down, kind of broke the immersion,” says Schmidt. “We didn’t want you to be the master thief and you just tend to fall off stuff all the time."
-Schmidt justifying contextual jumping
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"…By ‘ghosting’ do you mean, like, going through walls and stuff?"
-An Eidos spokesman at the Eurogamer Expo responding to a question as to whether the game will support Lytha-style ghosting
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"Thief will no longer make use of an XP system because it was reducing the incentive to actually steal things."
[http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/128774-Thief-Cuts-Experience-System]
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"Infiltration is just fun, playing with them [the AI], driving them crazy, it’s just cool. But if I give you ice cream every day… you know. We want to change the rhythm."
-Stephane Roy justifying the exploding building QTE escape sequence
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"If I give you the possibility to shoot the rope arrow everywhere…. I will have to reduce our intention for the narrative"
-Roy justifying the contextual rope arrows
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"With the next-gen, with the smartphone, with the tablet, with the indie developer, it’s really, really cool because now we have a lot of different types of players. There is a type of people that like to have that kind of indicator, because… they don’t want to fight with all these mechanics. They enjoy the story, they want to progress, they want to feel that they are good."
-Roy explaining the need for magical slow motion highlight powers
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If you want to go through the entire game as a ghost without being seen by guards, I'm sure that's an option.

Presumably not, if there's an unavoidable cut scene in which an entire building blows up with you sailing dramatically out of a window just ahead of a fireball. I suspect some guards might take notice of that.

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Does it bother you that a video game does not accurately emulate a real combat situation?

When the game is supposed to be providing an emulation of a real combat situation, sure. It's not ARMA, clearly, but the whole appeal of CoD originally was that it nodded a bit more to real combat tactics than MEDAL OF HONOUR did.

More to the point, it's a major problem when previous games in the series did it better. CoD 1 and 2 didn't use this infinite wave tactic unless it made sense (i.e. in the middle of the Battle of Stalingrad with thousands of soldiers on each side, or announcements of reinforcements arriving in areas you'd previously passed through). CoD4, on the other hand, would have you on the roof of a building shooting at enemies pouring through a hole in a wall 20 feet in front of you. Logic dictates that you should eliminate the enemies in range, clear the area and then advance. The game instead had never-ending enemies pouring though until you advanced, out of cover and into a hail of their fire, and reached an arbritrary trigger point near the hole in the wall, at which point the enemy advance would cease and you could advance. This is poor game design, and similar things happened multiple times in both COD4 and MW2 (which is as far as I got in the series).

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So you mention Far Cry as an example of a franchise that used to be open world, without bothering to mention that Far Cry 3 (barely a year old) is still an open world game, and that Far Cry 4 probably will be, too?

FAR CRY was made by CryTek, and CRYSIS is its spiritual successor from CryTek (CRYSIS, in a somewhat different guise, would probably have been FAR CRY 2 itself if EA hadn't paid CryTek a vast sum of money to lure them away from Ubisoft). So there is a clear progression of FAR CRY - CRYSIS 1/WARHEAD/2/3. They even have the same structure (a linear sequence of missions) that FAR CRY 2 and 3 (which are fully open-world games) do not have. So yes, CryTek have very much simplified their original game design. You can see that in the CRYSIS series itself, even leaving out FAR CRY. CRYSIS 1 and WARHEAD took place on large, open levels with multiple paths to objectives and CRYSIS 2 and 3 took place on closed streets and in corridors with only minor variances possible.

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Cover systems are awesome

They've gotten a lot better recently. When they were first implemented in the mid-2000s they were rubbish. MASS EFFECT 1's is probably the worst I've seen, with multiple deaths resulting from the game simply not letting you let go of the wall. By ME3 it had become a better system. As I said already, DEUS EX: HR had a superb one, because it pulled double-duty as a stealth mechanic as well. MAX PAYNE 3's was also pretty good, even if it did defeat the point of the series (bullet-time being the already-existing mechanic for avoiding getting shot). MAFIA 2 and GTA4's cover systems were completely useless, however, and I never bothered using them and completed both games straightforwardly.


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To me, Force Commander and SW: Rebellion marked the end of the 'LucasArts Era.'

REPUBLIC COMMANDO was pretty good, to be fair. GALACTIC BATTLEGROUNDS was also 'okay', in a "This looks like a mod for AGE OF EMPIRES II" kind of way.

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC 1 and 2 were also great, but of course they were only released by LucasArts. The actual programming was done by BioWare and Obsidian.

In a similar vein, JEDI OUTCAST and JEDI ACADEMY were both really good, but again developed by an outsider company (Raven, in those cases).

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Out of curiosity, was I the only one that liked the Wing Commander movie?

I enjoyed it in the "it's so bad it's good" kind of way. It actually didn't seem to have much space dogfighting, which is weird as that's the main point of the thing. And changing all the ship designs from the game seemed a complete waste of time. And the Kilrathi looked rubbish. And Freddie Prinz Jnr. was terrible.

Some of the other actors were pretty good. Jurgen Prochnow is great in everything he's in. They did waste David Suchet though.

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I still thought the first Freespace had the much better plot than the second - which is not a knock on the second game, because the first game was impossibly good. The Terran-Vasudan War to start, the first appearances of the Shivans, the race to save the Avenger prototype, and later the counteroffensive. The loss of the Galatea. The turnaround, then the appearance of the Lucifer (which still gives me chills). Every 3-4 years I dig out the original game to play it again.

I can respect that, but for me the second game trumps it. The original is very much THE HOBBIT to the second game's LORD OF THE RINGS (and plenty of people prefer THE HOBBIT). The second game is bigger, the story is more epic and far more full of twists and turns and the gut-punches are much harder:

Spoiler:
The Colossus going down, the Shivans destroying the entire Capella system and its population of millions of people, the betrayal of the renegade human faction and so on.

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I have fond memories of Tachyon; not the most in-depth flight simulator but fun, light and humorous story.

And the main character being voiced by Bruce Campbell :)

Bruce Campbell makes everying better (even SPIDER-MAN 3, very briefly).


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If Korvo can beat up everyone in sight and smash his way into buildings without being stopped, why is stealth even an option?

Because Korvo is an assassin and a bodyguard in a much more high-tech, steampunk city. Violence and affinity for combat are in the job description. He also comes equipped with far more area-of-effect weapons (mines, grenades) and a more substantial range of lethal, long-range weapons (explosive crossbow bolt launchers, guns) for carrying out varying degrees of murdery. He is a versatile character built for both confrontational open combat and stealth, the steampunk equivalent of a special forces agent.

Garett isn't.

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If Adam Jensen can beat up everyone in sight and smash his way into buildings without being stopped (even funnier here, since Jensen can literally smash his way into buildings with an upgrade), why is stealth even an option?

Adam Jensen is a mid-21st Century combat specialist in a vastly more high-tech cyberpunk city (several, in fact). He can be armed with missile launchers, miniguns, machine guns or explosive mines, and is capable of hacking networks to turn auto-turrets and robots against enemies. You also can choose to make him into a tank, a silent infiltrator or a hacker extraordinaire, just as you could with his predecessors in the previous games in the series.

He is a versatile character built for both confrontational open combat and stealth, the cyberpunk equivalent of a special forces operative (not to mention being a former SWAT agent).

Garrett isn't.

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If Batman can beat up everyone in sight and smash his way into buildings (also something Batman literally does in the Arkham games) without being stopped, why is stealth even an option?

Because Batman doesn't use guns because of his personal moral/philosophical code, so cannot effectively engage enemies at range. He therefore requires stealth to close to melee before he can unleash violence. Actually, since Batman's self-appointed job is to put criminals behind bars, it'd actually be less true to the character and series to completely stealth past criminals without neutralising them.

Garrett isn't Batman.

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Could it be that the developers are (gasp) providing players with a choice of how to play their game?

That's fine, when it makes sense. Taking a character who through three previous games struggled when confronted with more than one enemy at a time and turn him into a powerhouse who can take down three bad guys in seconds and then dodge massive explosions does not.

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Oh, look! I, too, can link to images of laughable disparity between level design complexity! Please, tell us more about how FPS level design is being "dumbed down".

Sure. Modern FPS games throw infinite waves of enemies at you until you move on and do what the game wants you to do (CALL OF DUTY 4) rather than letting you wipe out the attacking force and then move on (MEDAL OF HONOUR: ALLIED ASSAULT), as you would in any real combat situation. Modern FPSs like sticking massive signs on the screen (like "FOLLOW") to ensure you follow the NPC in front of you who is actually doing most of the cool stuff in the game (all of the modern CALL OF DUTY) whilst you stand and gawp. Games in series which were previously open-world, or almost (FAR CRY, CRYSIS), offering tons of different paths and ways of doing things, are now closed-down, linear corridor shooters (CRYSIS 2 and 3). Games now have elaborate and often-badly-implemented 'sticky cover systems' rather than just letting you just 'duck' behind something (DE:HR actually gets props for having a cover system which also doubles as a really good stealth mechanic) which worked fine for years. There are also modern shooters where you spend more time in unskippable cut scenes than actually playing the actual game (MAX PAYNE 3).

And, in almost no modern FPS (DE:HR gets props for this as well, though some might not count it as an FPS) can you quicksave at will, instead often having to use questionably-placed save trigger points.

Against that, there are some very good modern FPS games: the METRO series (where the linearity has a built-in explanation and adds to the atmosphere), FAR CRY 3 (even 2, where the execution was poor but the ideas excellent) and the last STALKER. Also, despite their problems games like CRYSIS 2 are enjoyable despite being dumbed-down.


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Looks interesting. There hasn't been a true space-fighter sim since Freespace 1/2 (which is still amazing even 10+ years later).

STARLANCER, X-WING ALLIANCE, I-WAR 2 and TACHYON: THE FRINGE all came out after FREESPACE 2, and the first two (at least) were very good. There's also the X series and FREELANCER, although the space combat in both was iffy (and it's not the main focus of either game, which is trading).

FREESPACE 2 was the last truly great, truly brilliant space combat sim though.


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I don't see any indications that Thief is being "simplified". I see indications that it is being changed (and, really, it's a little baffling that people are seeing developer quotes like, "We don't want to force you to play through as a traditional thief," and immediately coming to the conclusion that they're curtailing player freedom).

The indications are very clear.

1: You cannot jump at will.
2: You cannot use rope arrows in any wooden surface, only pre-determined 'trigger points'.
3: The first three games de-emphasised combat. The new game emphasises it by allowing multiple ways of killing and taking down enemies, even multiple enemies. There will probably be achievement awards for this. In the preview linked below, the reviewer disables three guards in simultaneous melee combat despite not knowing how to block.
4: The game features dramatic, pre-scripted events that the player cannot avoid, avert or control. QTEs will feature to a degree. One preview level had the journalist escaping from an exploding building by tapping keys in response to on-screen prompts.
5: The game features apparently open levels with multiple paths to the objective. However, these are illusory, as the paths funnel back down to the same areas where unavoidable set-pieces/cut-scenes/QTEs take place.

All of these point to significant 'simplification' of the game compared to the first three titles in the series, and taking away of player agency so the developers can shoehorn more 'exciting' scenes down the player's throat. [/mixed metaphor]

In fact, the comparisons to DISHONORED seem to be off the mark: THIEF 4 seems to feature significantly less freedom and player choice than DISHONORED. At this point the game ending up as free and reactive as DISHONORED would be a good thing.

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On the bugs: New Vegas' were significantly more detrimental to the game than FO3's or Skyrim's were. In FO3 or Skyrim you might get the occasional quest glitch or enemy randomly flying off into orbit. In New Vegas you would get crashes every 5 minutes and fairly frequent save wipes for the first month or so after release.

FALLOUT 3 also had significant numbers of CTDs in the first month of release (and actually quite a few BSoDs, which I never had with NEW VEGAS), it had Games for Windows Live forcibly installed with all its attendant baggage and crashes, and the DLCs crashed a lot as well (or, more randomly, the screen would go completely black but you could still move around).

Of course, both games were fixed and patched up within a few months, but I still get multiple problems with FO3 (when I can actually get it working with Windows 7) and only one recurring issue with NEW VEGAS (sometimes the game will freeze if you load from the main menu, so you have to start a new game and then load from the worldspace, which fortunately only takes about 2 seconds). Yet NEW VEGAS is the only one of the two that was criticised for its bugs on release. This is very curious.

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Games have changed, and Thief is too valuable of a property to be left to a niche.

Why is THIEF a valuable property? Because of its critical acclaim. Why is it critically acclaimed? The gameplay.

Also, THIEF cannot simultaneously be both valuable and a niche. If it's a niche, no-one would give a toss and Eidos wouldn't be interested in remaking it. It is valuable because it's a well-regarded, moderately well-selling series with interesting gameplay. So stripping down the gameplay doesn't make any sense, apart from one reason:

What actually appears to be happening is that Eidos is tapping the name-value of THIEF to create what is effectively a new, action-oriented gaming franchise with blockbuster production values and easy gameplay for a mass audience, whilst throwing a few bones to the hardcore fans. Since this worked with DEUS EX and FALLOUT - using those games' 'legendary' critical acclaim to hook a mass audience into a reboot - they clearly want to do the same with THIEF. The problem is that what they appear to be doing with THIEF is far more excessive than what they did with either DEUS EX or Bethesda did with FALLOUT.

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Go take a look upthread, I told Hama to do outside and size up the world around him, and ask himself how much jumping up is going to be necessary for him to move across the environment. You could do the same. The reality is that jumping all over the place is a pretty weird thing to do and makes games (especially games with any kind of behind-the-head third-person perspective, and first-person games to a lesser degree) seem unrealistic.

I don't need to jump a lot whilst wandering around in real life because I'm not a thief in a medieval fantasy city. OTOH, if I was a parkour free-runner I'd be able to tell you that running is an invaluable part of my skillset. So your raising of this comparison is inane.

THIEF is a game where you have to avoid detection, shimmy up buildings, hide behind walls and fences etc. Being able to jump in such a world at will and on a semi-regular basis is a logical and realistic thing to do. Sure, bunny-hopping on the spot for ten minutes might be unrealistic, but then that's up to the player. If the player wants to do that, why not? They are supposed to be playing the game in the manner they want, after all.

Caveat: a lot of the discussion has focused on early preview builds, some of them from many months ago. The final game may well be far more stealth-oriented and reactive than the previews suggest. But based on the information released so far, things are not looking so good on that front. The final product may well be a solid, enjoyable game if taken purely on its own regards, but it may not match up to the aesthetics or gameplay of the franchise to date, which fans of that franchise have every right to criticise.


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Metacritic scores that place it in the top 20 games of the last generation count as better than "reasonable", methinks.

Metacritic scores should be taken with a dash of salt, especially when you were actually arguing on the basis of sales.

NEW VEGAS outsold FALLOUT 3 and was certainly the better game; the review scores were slightly lower because, for reasons that remain satisfactorily unexplained, reviewers did not mention FALLOUT 3's significant bugs whilst they did mention NEW VEGAS's (and likewise, they would not mention SKYRIM's a year later). There is also irony here, as FO3 now doesn't work on Windows 7 or 8 (at least not for a lot of people, and not without faffing around), whilst NEW VEGAS works fine.

From a creative standpoint, NEW VEGAS was also certainly the better game, and better because it actually adopted so-called older, more 'hardcore' and old-fashioned styles of gameplay, such as having a much more reactive storyline which closed off entire quest lines if you annoyed the faction giving out the quest. So if it's a better game, and it sells better, whilst also being more 'old-fashioned', then that casts doubt on the idea that THIEF 4 will be good (or at least as good as the originals) when it is removing significant elements of the gameplay from THIEF 1-3, and also on the idea it is needed to make a game acceptable to a modern gaming audience.

The whole situation is more bizarre because HUMAN REVOLUTION (made by the same studio as THIEF 4, though not the same team) also stepped back from the more simplified choices of INVISIBLE WAR and institued some greater design choices and freedom harking back to the original DEUS EX. HR was of course a huge success.

tl;dr - I don't think that 'simplifying' or 'streamlining' a game for a modern audience is always necessary or always results in greater sales. FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS and DE:HR both seem to have benefitted from greater complexity, reactivity and freedom than their predecessors, so the argument that THIEF 4 needs to be dramatically simplified on the scale that Eidos have apparently carried out seems questionable.


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Fallout 3 is actually a perfect example of a game that refreshes a long-dormant franchise in a way that modernizes it and manages to be excellent in the process.

It streamlined the game and made it more playable, sure. It also got reasonable reviews. However, it also took out a lot of the reactivity and player agency the previous games had. It also had a hugely-criticised ending as well.

NEW VEGAS, which combined the streamlined and more user-friendly approach of FALLOUT 3 but also restored the reactivity and player agency of FALLOUT 2 (unsurprisingly, as it was made by a lot of the same team), was better-received creatively (though the initial, long-fixed bugs caused more negative press) and outsold FALLOUT 3 by a considerable margin (almost twice as many sales in the first month, 5 million to 3 million).

That to me suggests that combining the old-school ethos of a franchise's core characteristics with more modern and more approachable gameplay is a more successful approach. DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION also did this very well (bossfights aside, and those have been fixed in the new edition that came out this week) by restoring some of the freedom and reactivity of the original DEUS EX in a modern and approachable gaming context.

THIEF 4, on the other hand, seems to have removed rather more from the core gameplay of the series than would be warranted. Introducing takedowns, a more intensive (or intrusive) storyline etc is fine, but not allowing jumping and use of rope arrows at will in a logical context seems highly limiting, and more down to creative problems than anything else.

In particular, it is partially the job of sequels and reboots to improve upon the original games and introduce more options, or reboot a convoluted mythology. THIEF 4 needs to answer why it is removing player agency and choice when that is the cornerstone of the franchise.


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Video games have always been hampered by a lack of reactivity: you do something the game designers did not account for, and it has no real impact. SKYRIM avoids this (as did FALLOUT 3) by making its key NPCs immortal: ambush the Stormcloak leader and he'll fall over, but you cannot kill him, because the game won't let you 'break it' in that fashion. This in itself breaks immersion. A DM, of course, can react to what the players are doing far more quickly and plausibly.

Something that Black Isle/Obsidian were and are very good at it is the illusion of reactivity. They go much deeper in making the game adjust itself to what you want to do. So in FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS you can wander into the main bad guy's camp at any time, Level 1 or 50 or anywhere inbetween, and try to kill him. If you succeed, great, he's dead and the enemy retreats. The game cheats a little bit: when the enemies return for the final battle they are led by a pretty similar new general, but it's the fact that you CAN kill the bad guy at will and the game acknowledges it (dialogue has characters reacting to you doing it with awe) that is impressive.

You can do this to any NPC in the game (aside from one robot vendor in a bullet-and-bomb-proof booth). There's consequences - quests are shut down, their faction turns on you - but the game does allow you to do exactly what you want, even to your own detriment.

More game should do that. DEUS EX (the original) did and it was great. MASS EFFECT made a good fist of it, but then spoiled it by collapsing the myriad different choices into just one of three slightly differently-flavoured endings (as did DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION). WASTELAND 2 is promising to take it to even more extremes.

The reason such freedom is not usually given is because of franchiseitis: having wildly-differing endings means that the next game has to pick a single ending as canon and run with that, rendering the whole point of the choice in the previous game pointless. The alternative is to craft a sequel that acknowledges all of the previous variables, which is possible if you design the series with that in mind from the start (MASS EFFECT, to a lesser extent DRAGON AGE) but otherwise would be prohibitively expensive.


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The BBC are mounting a big-budget, seven-part adaptation of Susanna Clarke's seminal 2004 fantasy novel. The series starts shooting in a few weeks and will be filmed in Montreal, Leeds and Venice. It will air in 2014.

For those not familiar with it, the story takes place in an alternate 19th Century England where magic returns to prominence after a practicing magician, Mr. Norrell, goes public. He takes on an apprentice, Jonathan Strange, and they work to help England in its war against Napoleonic France. Strange and Norrell later have a falling out and become rivals.

Bertie Carvel, a noted British stage and musical actor, is playing Jonathan Strange. Eddie Marsan, recently seen as one of the stars of THE WORLD'S END, is playng Mr. Norrell.

It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off. The book is long and complex, with numerous storylines and a large cast of characters. Squeezing the 1,000-page novel into just seven episodes is going to be an impressive feat.


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Sleet Storm wrote:

I've only recently seen the playtest for DnD next. I know I'm way late, but still ,my verdict on this is :this won't save DnD.

Also read up on where the DnD brand stands within the Hasbro company and it looks like they value it somewhere inbetween the dirt under their fingernails and the dust on the floor.

So hypothetically,if Hasbro decides they won't bother anymore and get out of PnP RPG's completely, would Paizo even be interested?

I think a year or so ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Hasbro does not value D&D very highly. And it's true even now that as a P&P game, Hasbro sees it very much as a niche product.

According to some reports, Hasbro grades its products on what makes them money every year and if a product line does not make them $20 million minimum, it's very likely to get shelved. And D&D as a P&P game never made them that much (except, maybe, the first couple of years of 3E). Previously WotC got around this by having all of their products graded together, so D&D and MAGIC and STAR WARS and everything else was lumped together. This is why some people say that MAGIC subsidised D&D, because it basically did. At some point WotC's product lines had to stand up by themselves, and when that happened D&D's financial situation became clearer.

The only things that saved the day, AFAIK, are the novel sales which have always remained strong, and also the computer games. There is also the situation with the long-gestating 'proper' D&D movie. Hasbro's policy is to exploit some products through selling film rights and then using that to boost their profile. This is how they brought TRANSFORMERS back into becoming a flagship line after years in the doldrums. This is their current main policy with D&D: to get a big-budget movie made. This is why they're now engaged in legal discussions over the rival Courney Solomon big-screen project.

If the movie bombs or never happens due to the legal issues, Hasbro may look at benching D&D to bring it back a few years later with a big media frenzy. Licensing it to a rival doesn't seem to be part of Hasbro's ethos.

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There is no value in shelving a brand name if you can sell it.If it doesn't actively make money right now its a liability and needlesly binds money.

Hasbro are prepared to play the long game and bench a property for years if they can then bring it back with a huge fuss. They kept TRANSFORMERS going at a very low ebb for several years before the ENERGON/CYBERTRON explosion of the early 2000s and then the Bay movies.

If Hasbro concluded that the brand did not have any value at all, yes, they might consider selling it off. However, the D&D brand has value for the novels (D&D has sold many times as many novels as it has RPG books), the computer games (NEVERWINTER seems to have done better than expected; even the BALDUR'S GATE re-release has been successful) and of course, the hoped-for film franchise, which could make Hasbro millions or billions if it is a huge hit.

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Haha:) get ready for DnD the ENERGY DRINK.

Steven Segal has an energy drink. Drizz Do'Urden could easily have one :)

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Exactly, especially when utilizing their rights requires further investment into a product line that has already shown a low performance in the past.

But it doesn't. Creating 5E costs money, sure. If it bombs, then they can shut down the RPG department, fire everyone there but keep the novelists and the editor on. They can also keep the computer game liaison people, and the people involved in the movie deal. But the RPG department can simply be shut down (let's hope it isn't, of course), removing that investment cost.

I think the problem is that you are primarily seeing the value from the D&D brand name in terms of the money the RPG itself brings in. I don't think that's been true since the late 1980s at the latest. Since then the novels have always been far more profitable. I think in the period 1998-2005 (or so) the computer games also made a lot more money. D&D may have started as a roleplaying game, but that is not what has made Hasbro the most money out of the franchise.

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DnD is obviously worth much less so no they wouldn't want 100 mil for the rights I don't think.

D&D as a brand and franchise would be worth a lot more than $5 million. You look at the books and computer games it's shifted in the past, and it comes to way more than that. The book-publishing arm alone probably generates a lot more than that in profit in a good year.

The RPG doesn't make anywhere near that, true. But as has been said many times, the RPG game is not what D&D means in Hasbro's eyes.

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The movie licensing thing doesn´t really convince me.Theres been two movies already and they sucked donkeyballs both artistically and at the box office.I think people underestimate the importance of actually having the game out that is associated with the brand.DnD hasn't shown itself to be a crowd magnet,they tried.

Well, Hasbro has a deal right now with Universal, so clearly both Hasbro and a major Hollywood studio disagree with you. They are also taking legal action to block Courtney Solomon and Warner Brothers's own D&D movie project, which they wouldn't do if they didn't see value in it.

Everyone agrees the three D&D movies (yes, there's a third one; technically four if you count the DRAGONLANCE cartoon, but that was a Hasbro-approved product AFAIK) are terrible, but also that they are badly-written, badly-directed and they were poorly marketed. Hasbro didn't have anything to do with the previous projects and didn't bring to bear the kind of creative and marketing firepower they did with TRANSFORMERS to make it huge (even though it was also terrible). If they did that, a D&D movie could be pretty big. If they did a movie of THE CRYSTAL SHARD and brought in the massive Salvatore/FORGOTTEN REALMS fanbase who don't give a toss about the D&D game, that would also help enormously.

A movie would be potentially massive if done right. The existing movies are a good example of how not to do it right.

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What I am saying is that the Brand has no "draw" outside of the gaming industry.

D&D's brand draw is definitely lower than it has been before, possibly ever. However, FORGOTTEN REALMS, Drizzt Do'Urden and DRAGONLANCE are all still big and notable brand names. NEVERWINTER NIGHTS and BALDUR'S GATE are also still quite well-known and respected. They are names that are worth more than D&D itself right now, frankly.

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True ,but the new movie about Orcs and Goblins in [insert random and/or nameless fantasy setting here] would probably be as well recieved by the general public as the new movie about orcs and goblins in forgotten realms.

Yes, but that's why you don't do that. If you instead do a Drizzt movie it would be much more impactful. Salvatore's books have sold over 30 million copies worldwide, that's more than all the D&D core rulebooks for each edition combined. The first two DRAGONLANCE trilogies have sold over 20 million copies and the same thing applies there (though they'd be more expensive, and require multiple movies from the off whilst Drizzt could start with a one-off adaptation of THE CRYSTAL SHARD to test the waters).


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I had all sorts of rotten experiences with Forgettable Realms. It really set me back on official settings. I was really apprehensive about Golarion but it turned out ok. A lot of that is probably the group I have now.

As someone mentioned upthread, the power to make a setting work in a gaming context is down to the DM. I've played in, and run, some awesome FR campaigns. I've played in, and run, some that have sucked. Same for other settings. The DM and the group have a lot to do with it. Problems in the setting itself are only problems if the DM chooses to employ those problems: that the Realms over-emphasises Drizzt as a signature character most people seem to agree is dull, but it should have zero impact on a campaign unless the DM chooses to roll out Drizzt and emo dark elves every five minutes.

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Anyways, I see the settings as being a boon and a bane for Next. On one hand, the old settings have a following. On the other, you have your fan base split amongst so many settings its difficult to sell a lot of material to the base.

I don't see this as a problem. FORGOTTEN REALMS is and will be the #1 setting that WotC support for D&D. It's by far, in terms of both P&P material and spin-offs, their biggest-selling and most popular campaign setting. Nothing else in the D&D line touches it for campaign settings and expansions sold (or novels or computer games, for that matter).

What they do beyond FR for 5E I believe is up in the air still. Possibly EBERRON will make a reappearance and DARK SUN will depend on how well the 4E version did (I don't think it did great business). DRAGONLANCE they might bring back because it's the 30th anniversary of the setting and the original novels next year. But they will always prioritise the Realms because the fanbase it has eclipses that for everything else they do.

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