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Frost Giant

Werthead's page

1,816 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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A report on playing ELITE: DANGEROUS with the Oculus Rift for two weeks. It sounds awesome, apart from the Rift leaving red marks on your face afterwards.

This is due out on 24 March 2015 and seems to be one of the most heavily-anticipated CRPGs of the year. There's a 35 minutes gameplay video highlighting the new open world (which is significantly larger than SKYRIM's, and vastly prettier), combat and some quite extraordinarily good music for the game.

Oceanshieldwolf wrote:

Totally, completely not liking the non-3D approach of Pillars of Eternity.

I want to see Pathfinder/Golarion in rotating 3D like I experienced Neverwinter et al in NWN/NWN 2 and like I have seen in PFO.

3D is much, much more expensive and time-consuming than 2D, so it's quite likely that if they go Kickstarter, the Pathfinder CRPG will also be 2D.

Seeing what DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN has achieved on a comparable budget (possibly even lower) than PILLARS is interesting, although D:OS appears to have far fewer maps and its 3D is fairly limited.

Wasteland 2 is made by inXile (the same people doing the new Torment), not Obsidian. ;)

inXile and Obsidian are collaborating to some degree on both WASTELAND 2 and TIDES OF NUMENERA. inXile is actually making them, of course, but Obsidian's Chris Avellone has written character stories and quests for both games and NUMENERA is using PILLARS OF ETERNITY's engine. Both companies also arose from the wreckage of Black Isle and their people all worked together back in the day. Obsidian's Chris Avellone and Colin McComb from inXile (and formerly TSR) were the two main writers on PLANESCAPE: TORMENT, for example.

Both companies have also spoken about merging at some point, saying it would make sense but they're happy remaining independent but closely-allied for now.

The PS3 and XB360 have serious memory limitations which makes it difficult for them to have big environments. The Bethesda games and the likes of GTA5 have clever streaming and other ways of getting around it, but that's technically challenging and very expensive. Quite a few games go the THIEF route of simply having smaller areas but using a lot of verticality and limited routes to hide how small they are. DISHONORED did the same thing, but did a much better job of it, as did DE:HR (I think DE:HR also had hidden level loading bits).

I never encountered anything in NV as bad as some of the stuff in FO3, most notably the crash-happy, stopping-the-game-working stuff FO3 seemed to delight in throwing up from time to time, especially on the DLC. That said, I didn't play NV until a year or so after launch, whilst I played FO3 pretty much on release day.

The one bug I did regularly encounter on NV was that the game wouldn't load save games from the front screen. Which is actually kind of major until you realise you can just hit 'Start New Game' and then instantly hit Load when the gameworld loads up. Adds about 3 seconds to the load speed, so almost completely negligible.

To be fair, NWN2 when it first came out? It was awful dude.

Fair enough. It's still on my Steam list. I had friends who played it co-op the week it came out and they never reported any problems, and looking online it doesn't seem to have the same buggy reputation as NV and AP on release.

I'm assuming the colour coding is a reference to the way stealable items glint like miniature supernovae are going off (the game's way of saying, "YOU CAN STEAL THIS") or the map gets covered in handy-but-confusing markers. You can actually turn all of that stuff off.

I'm sure they'll do absolutely everything possible to avoid slipping it to January - from the estimates I've heard from ex-colleagues who went to work at game companies, missing the Christmas time frame would probably lose a game developer something like 50% of their sales.

What's nice about Kickstarter is that the game was pre-paid-for and essentially already profitable, so they're not quite as reliant on that. Still, you're right that they would get more sales if the game hits before Christmas. I think they'll probably make it, it's only August and the game is in beta and they probably don't need to spend quite as much time on balancing as multiplayer games do.

Mind you, that was also the thought on WASTELAND 2 and they've been in beta for quite a long time.

all of their games are buggy as all hell.

Apart from SOUTH PARK: STICK OF TRUTH, DUNGEON SIEGE III and NEVERWINTER NIGHTS II and its multiple expansions (unless I'm missing something).

The bugs on the other games have all been pretty much fixed: ALPHA PROTOCOL is the only one that's still flaky, and even that's perfectly playable and completable.

Like, I thought Bethesda held the record for "Most bugs in a AAA title" until played New Vegas and I was like "WE HAVE A WINNER".

NEW VEGAS was fixed pretty quickly after release, to be fair, and now it's completely fine. Unlike FALLOUT 3, which is temperamental to get to work on Windows 7 and 8, which is ironic, especially given how reviewers didn't mention FALLOUT 3's many bugs on release but went to town on NV's (for reasons more throroughly explored in the other thread).

After playing through a few hours of the game (shortly after its release), I finally threw in the towel and left that pile of steaming rubbish to decompose without me. It's not just that they've changed the voice actor--they've changed the character.

This is actually intentional:

You're not actually playing Garret from the original game. You and Basso appear to be either descendants (with the same surnames) or freaky reincarnations of the original characters. The game itself is set hundreds of years after the original trilogy.

This is not immediately clear in the game until later on, when people start mentioning some of the other gangs and factions from the first games and how they've been gone for centuries.

There have been about 5 Babylon 5 movies already.

Low-budget TV/DVD movies. JMS is talking about a relatively big-budget theatrical release, minimum budget $80 million or twice what SERENITY had.

4 was where the balance of the budget was blown on and 5 never would have been built, if the Minbari hadn't decided to donate to the cause.

It always amuses me how much insanely bigger Babylon 4 (and 1-3 if they'd been finished) was than B5. It was 'only' half again longer but massively wider, so its volume was much greater than B5's.

Yup, TORMENT is still a good year away, maybe a little bit more. But WASTELAND 2 is next month, ELITE: DANGEROUS is likely October or November and PILLARS in November or December. I wouldn't be surprised to see it slip slightly to maybe January, but I doubt it'd be any more than that. In recent interviews it seems to be pretty much done and they're moving heavily into bug-squashing and optimisation.

Nikosandros wrote:
Pillars of Eternity is currently slated for last quarter 2015.

Not by Obsidian, who have it listed for Winter 2014. The game enters beta next week, it's not going to be in beta for a year.

Triphoppenskip wrote:

Hope the CRPG isn't in the too distant future. I'm not getting any younger :(

I suspect they will move onto it once PILLARS is done, so possibly entering production in early 2015. Likely they've got some pre-production done already (as that team is no longer needed once PILLARS enters the home stretch of development).

Possibility it'll be a Kickstarter funded thing: Ugh, really? Enough kickstarter. Do it or don't. "Give me money now and I'll give you something maybe, sorta acceptable in a couple years." Pushing the funding risk off on to the consumer trend needs to stop.

There's no publisher logo on the picture, so either Paizo and Obsidian haven't reached a deal with one yet or they will be going it alone to retain maximum creative freedom. In the latter case, they will almost certainly go with Kickstarter again. PATHFINDER's been successful, but probably not to the tune of the $4-5 million minimum even a PILLARS-style 2D RPG will need to develop, at least not easily.

I could see someone like Paradox coming on board to help distribute the game, though. They've got a fair bit of integrity for a publisher and are working with Obsidian on the physical release for PILLARS. But then Paradox also aren't that big a company either.

I should probably start saving up for a new desktop now. I figure mine won't have the oomph needed to run the Pathfinder CRPG when it does drop. But still I WANT IT NOW! Patience is not a virtue I possess.

I think the likelihood is that the CRPG will be a 2D-style game in the vein of PILLARS OF ETERNITY and inXile's TIDES OF NUMENERA, so it won't be that graphically demanding at all.

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Following on from the previous thread:

Obsidian have said that once they release PILLARS OF ETERNITY (by November at the latest, I think) they will be looking at another Kickstarter, potentially a licensed one, for early 2015. PATHFINDER would seem an ideal fit for that.

How is Obsidian's track record with Add-on content? I'm kind of tired of pay-once-then-keep-paying revenue models.

Obsidian's record with after-game support is pretty strong. Their expansions for NWN2 were arguably stronger than the base game and their NEW VEGAS DLC was amazing.

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Fallout New Vegas is generally considered far better than F3, from what I've gathered. Maybe just within the community that liked the older Fallout games though.

NV got worse reviews on release because Bethesda let it be known they wouldn't punish any magazine or website that gave NV negative reviews for bugs by pulling their advertising (whilst with FO3, OBLIVION and SKYRIM, all heavily bugged on release, they made it clear they would). This was because if NV sold a certain number of copies and got a high enough metacritic score, Bethesda would have to give Obsidian a substantial bonus (seven figures, apparently). NV hit the sales target with insane ease - it sold 5 million copies in its first month compared to FO3's 3 million and is Bethesda's second-biggest-selling game behind only SKYRIM - but missed the metacritic score by one point, so Obsidian didn't get their bonus and Bethesda saved a lot of money.

Ironically, NV is now all patched up and works fine whilst age has not been so kind to FO3, which can be very hit and miss on Windows 7 and 8 systems. Certainly in critical reappraisals, there seems to be a strong preference for NV over FO3, for the vastly superior writing, reactivity of the game, freedom of choice, consequences of decisions and the better companion characters (who are actually characters with their own storylines, motivations and goals, not just extra backpacks and guns), not to mention the much stronger DLC. The areas where FO3 is better than NV are very limited: FO3's opening hour or two are a lot better and newcomer-friendly (NV's opening town is dull as hell) and that's really about it.

And don't start with the publisher-excuse. That's old and worn out and it's something I will always, ALWAYS think of when I think Obsidian (Obsidian? The guys who are always blaming their publisher?)

Well, it's a matter of record that Obsidian were screwed over massively by Bethesda, and would have been worse if the studio arm of Bethesda hadn't protected them, and they were badly mistreated by Sega, who released a buggy beta build of ALPHA PROTOCOL after refusing to pay Obsidian to do the final game polish. OTOH, Obsidian's relationship with Atari (PILLARS OF ETERNITY started as an ICEWIND DALE III pitch to Atari which was turned down), Square Enix and Ubisoft appears to have been very good.

The awkward one was LucasArts, which seems to have been a misunderstanding: Obsidian asked for an extra 6-8 months to finish KotOR 2 and make it a bigger and better game and LucasArts said yes but didn't adjust the contract. LucasArts then checked their budget and saw they couldn't do it and said they needed to hit the original date, by which time Obsidian had already reset their production schedule, and had to scramble to cut out the extra stuff again and get the game out on time. Obsidian should really have gotten the deadline extension in writing before doing anything, but they decided to take things on trust instead.

they lost a lot of fans with dragon age 2. why they so radically changed there biggest selling game ever, I will never understand.

DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS was in development for over five years. BioWare have never said how much they spent on it, but it was certainly vastly more than they should have and it was only having other teams making other successful games in the meantime (JADE EMPIRE and the first MASS EFFECT) which prevented it from becoming a major financial drain. When EA took over they were apparently so aghast at what they saw had been spent that they demanded console versions of the game (despite BioWare's promise it would be PC-only) and also ordered a quickie sequel on a minimal budget and less than a year's production time which would help recoup the costs of the first game. This so upset DA:O's lead designer that he quit the company altogether.

Considering the circumstances it was made under, I quite liked DA2. They took a very bad deal and ran with it to make a reasonably entertaining (and, by BioWare's standards, somewhat experimental) game.

I own New Vegas on the PS3, and it damn near crippled the poor machine

That's the GameBryo/Creation engine and the problems it has with PS3 memory. The same thing happens on OBLIVION, FALLOUT 3 and SKYRIM if you play them for long enough. Eventually the PS3 can't cope with keeping track of all the changed states you put in the world (remembering where every fallen arrow and moved book is) and falls over and dies. The X-Box 360 version does the same thing, it just takes a lot longer.

Also, a development studio in my city is working on a digital Pathfinder project? How interesting.

Hey Scott, didn't you go to the Obsidian party for when they got the Kickstarter money for PoE?

The main game wasn't even Fallout anymore. It was 'sometimes after the whole thing',

Er, that is what FALLOUT is about. WASTELAND's vibe is more post-apocalyptic, but FALLOUT is post-post apocalyptic. It's been a long time since the nuclear war, the worst of the fallout and the battle for survival is over and people are starting to rebuild and reconstruct. FALLOUT 2, 3 and NV are all set 200+ years after the war, so an immediate post-apocalyptic society doesn't make any sense (and FO1, set 100 years after, still had society moving on). That's why FO3 is so weird, it looks like the bombs fell just a few weeks earlier and DC is all but still smouldering. 200 years after the fact, it should be pretty much all gone back to nature.

NEW VEGAS does much better with that vibe, with the only really questionable thing being if Hoover Dam should still be standing. But it is said several times that various factions have managed to keep the thing repaired and standing in the interim, which at least addresses the issue.

It's important to note that JMS has raised $200 million for his Studio JMS project and is already working on other films and TV series (most notably SENSE8, his new collaboration with the Wachowskis). So this is actually probably going to happen. The previous attempts fell through due to funding, but JMS already has the means to fund it himself.

Whether it's a good idea or not is another matter. There's part of me wondering if JMS is doing this to get Warner Brothers on board so the film can lead into a TV series reboot, maybe done alongside someone like Netflix to give it the budget it really needs whilst also the time needed to make it work (and B5 might benefit, especially S1-2 and S5, from having only 10-13 episodes per seasons rather than 22). It would be weird for one of the first heavily-serialised TV shows which helped usher in our current 'golden age' of TV to ditch what made it great just to get some shinier VFX.

Ultradan wrote:

Not really a story issue but...

Babylon 5... The way that at the end of it's run, they kept switching days and time slots of the show without much notice, then said that they cancelled the show because of bad ratings... lol... It was playing on Tuesday nights around 12:20am at one point!! Ugh!


They always planned to finish with Season 5. The difference was the 'main' story finishing in Season 4 early due to the threat of cancellation and then more filler being introduced into early Season 5 to make up for it. But the general ending and the final episode were all planned a couple of years earlier.

Still I loved the series, I wish we could have seen the entire shadow war plot stretched through the 5th season as originally planned.

The Shadow War was always going to end in Season 4. In JMS's original plan, the Shadow War would have probably ended somewhere around Episode 10-11, with a couple more battles and a few more elements stretched out (Garibaldi wouldn't have been so easy to find, IIRC), and then the war for Earth would have begun. Season 4 was originally supposed to end with the episode where Sheridan is interrogated non-stop for 44 minutes and ended on that note.

The big change in Season 5 was that the battle for Earth would have been in the first ten episodes, the telepath crisis would have been two or three episodes at most and then they'd have straight been into the Centauri conflict. Season 5 would certainly have benefited from that.

What ever happened to Mr. Straczynski anyhow?

JMS has written several comic book series and movies, and is now the co-showrunner and co-writer of the Wachowskis' new TV series, SENSE8, which is currently filming.

Melee works, but only if you really focus on it to the exclusion of everything else (most other character types you can divide into two focuses, like stealth/archer, but diverting attention from pure melee to anything else seems to just gimp melee). It also doesn't really fit in with the ethos of using the environment or terraforming the environment mid-battle with magic, since then you're just going to splatter your melee character with the enemy.

I use my archer to soften up the enemy at range (and Ricochet to deal out multiple hits) whilst my main mage slows them with oil slicks and then blows up said oil slick with fire (which can also slow them down), then my secondary mage (Jahan) shocks them with lightning. For fire-based enemies I switch to a Rain/Lightning combo which has the same effect, or just free them. Medora I keep in reserve for when the enemies reach the party, which hopefully is rarely. Also having her stand out front means she acts like a damage soak, with potions and the two mages able to keep her going.

The toughness of this game cannot be overestimated. It's suggested that you do everything you can in town before leaving (they recommend getting to Level 3, but at 3 this only reduces the threats outside town to 'rage-inducingly difficult' than 'totally impossible') and they are not kidding. Killing two zombies (named 'Rob' and 'Zombie') within sight of the town gates with four characters was a bit touch-and-go, and dealing with five orcs at once a bit up the beach (one of them a shaman) is still apparently beyond my party's ability. Instead have plundered the town cemetary and descended into the lesser-undead-infested catacombs underneath, which are more manageable.

I also encountered a dog whose owner had died and he was sitting next to the grave Greyfriars Bobby-style. However, when I talked to him the dog reported this wasn't out of dumb loyalty but because the smell from the grave is wrong. It turns out the original body has been stolen and replaced with a sheep corpse! A fresh mystery and quest awaits!

Oh yeah, in other news I found a mystical stone that opens the gateways between universes and has given me access to an interdimensional base of operations from where I can commune with a woman representing the entire tapestry of time and history, who has suggested that my characters are the reincarnations of once-powerful guardians of all of creation and it is our destiny to seal off the Void that is threatening to consume everything. But whatever, I'm still trying to help out the cat romance thing and now this dog quest has come up as well.

Definitely get the Pet Pal talent, the game is so much more fun with it. I found a clairvoyant bull ("Bull") who could foretell the future but when I asked what my future held, it screamed and tried to run off. It's friend ("Bill") helped him get over the shock and advised I give him time to recover.

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Been doing odd jobs in Cyseal, got another level in and recruited my two NPC party members. My current quest is trying to set up the inn's tomcat and the mayor's rare-breed feline who are desperately in love but tragically divided by class inequality.

Also saving the world from a gateway to oblivion that is threatening to destroy the universe, but the cat thing is my top priority at the moment.

Encountered a sentient clam on the shores of the sea.

"Call me Ishamashell..."

I booted it into the sea.

Game of the Year.

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I've printed out this guide from Kotaku (it's 11 A4 pages with the images and comments taken out). It's not quite as hardcore as some of the guides out there and covers the bases without spoiling everything.

The game has that thing that XCOM has of almost encouraging you to mess up first time out to learn more stuff for your 'proper' playthrough. Which is great if you have 200 hours to spare on the game, not so much if you don't. The Kotaku guide is useful for pointing out basic things so you don't completely gimp your party to the point of unplayability before the game even starts (which is quite possible without any advice). For example, you can pick up a tank character and a water/air mage pretty quickly in the game, so the Kotaku writer focused on an earth/fire mage who doubles as the main party spokesperson and trader, and a sneak-oriented bowman and crafter as their primaries.

Crafting seems to be vitally important, as your equipment degrades in the game (bows more than anything else). Being able to fix stuff is vital. It's also a great idea to find a spade ASAP as a lot of loot is buried and the game is ridiculously frugal with spades later on. It's also a good idea to get the invisibility stealth skill for the aforementioned painting thefts and the Pet Pal skill to talk to the animals. This sounds bizarre, but apparently there's a ton of side-quests and potential ways to finish other quests by talking to animals and getting them on your side. It's also hilarious.

It's also worth noting that the game's UI is rather unintuitive. Each character actually has 3 hotbars. There's tiny little arrows to the left of each hotbar which cycles through them. Also, you inventory is bigger than you think and scrollbars will appear when you reach the bottom of the grid. You can also press 'Alt' to highlight usable things on the screen (a bit like Ctrl in the Infinity Engine games) which can be quite useful.

Important safety tip: blood conducts electricity. So if a fight's been going on for a while and everyone's splattered with blood, letting off a lightning bolt is a really bad idea.

This is a weird idea. Harmony Gold are way past their glory days, but you'd assume they could still raise the funds to do this themselves. Asking the fans to do it seems a bit cheap of them. If they can't get the interest to do it privately, maybe it's because ROBOTECH's time has passed?

The miniatures wargame Kickstarter at least made more sense because it was by a small company and was a massive initial outlay. This, not so much.

Miller is 48 and Thomas Jane is 45, so it does work out. A lot of the publicity pictures the websites are using are from when he was in PUNISHER, which was over a decade ago, or HUNG, which was half a decade ago. He looks suitably more grizzled now.

PACIFIC RIM 2 will be released on 7 April, 2017. There will also be an animated spin-off series.

The Producers said they cut the LS storyline because they don't know what to do with it yet.

I believe there's still some discussion about what's going on with it, which is why they couldn't tell the director what was happening.

The current theories are:

LS, along with the ironborn storyline, may be dependent on the show going seven or eight seasons. In the case of eight, LS can be included and the ironborn plot can also appeared, although likely in a truncated form (as the Dorne plot sounds like it will appear in a more restrained form). In the case of seven, LS and the ironborn can be dropped altogether, maybe with a briefer storyline focusing on Yara and not bringing in Euron and Victarion (Balon presumably must still die due to the leeching scene, though).

I suspect harder discussions on that are happening now, with everyone leaning towards seven as the magic number due to recent comments.

The only problem with all of this is that without LS, Brienne's storyline for next year would seem to be lacking a decent ending, unless they decide to make stuff up out of thin air.

Each of the 3 LotR novels is substantially less than 200K words long (187K, 155K, and 131K, respectively).

LotR is one novel but originally published in three volumes due to the cost of paper in the UK post-war. But it was written and executed as one book and only divided into volumes long after completion.

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Rynjin wrote:

It's not longer than any of his contemporaries.

Er, they are, by a fair bit. The only fantasy novels published in the last decade to come even close are THE WISE MAN'S FEAR and WORDS OF RADIANCE, and even they are 20-30,000 words shorter.

The only fantasy novels in existence that are longer than the longest ASoIaF books are LotR and Tad Williams' TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER.

I'm of the opinion that if Robert Jordan can put out a novel every 2 years or so, of similar length (if not more!) on his deathbed, GRRM should be able to do it given 3-4 at least.

RJ's longest novel was THE SHADOW RISING, which was still 40,000 words shorter than A STORM OF SWORDS or A DANCE OF DRAGONS, and written a long time before RJ died. RJ was getting up to 2-3 years each for his last four books, each of which was around 250-320,000 words. And, much as I enjoyed TWoT, let's not kid ourselves those books compare even to GRRM's last two books.

Also, RJ never wrote a book on his deathbed. He was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis after Book 11 - his last one - came out and after some very early work on the next book had been done. He spend time writing notes and outlines, but not much actual fiction.

And I'm quite certain Tolkien wouldn't have taken ten years on LotR if he'd had a computer.

The primary reason for Tolkien taking that long was his infamous procrastination, self-doubt and not touching the manuscript for months (and at one point a year) at a time. He may have written a bit faster with a computer, but that was not the primary cause of the delay.

At least they were COMPLETE, and bad, instead of HALF FINISHED and bad.

Incorrect. Books 8 and 9 were supposed to be one book, and 10 and 11 were supposed to be another. RJ kept splitting them up rather than delete the inconsequential filler chapters (which in the case of Book 10 was pretty much the entire novel).

Also, whilst AFFC and ADWD have issues, they are in no way comparable to the problems Jordan had. Even AFFC's most tepid chapters tower most convicingly over the finest moments from PATH OF DAGGERS or CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT in terms of characterisation and thematic development (even if plot progress was not as strong as might be wished).

Raise the difficulty buddy.

The poor hub design changes if you raise the difficulty level? I can only imagine that doing that would make the combat even worse than it already is, which the game definitely doesn't need.

It's Harry in the books, and he only has a claim to the Vale, not the whole Seven Kingdoms. And yes, it's likely Harry won't be in the TV show at all and they'll simply use the idea of a Sansa-Robin betrothal instead.

The fact of the matter is, he has an obligation as a PERSON, not a writer, to keep to his promises. If you can't keep a promise, don't MAKE a promise.

It's worth noting that at no point, ever, did GRRM 'promise' to deliver the fifth book a year after the fourth. Even in the afterword he says it's a hope, as the fifth book is "nowhere near done." People read a bit more into that than the author ever intended.

I also find it bemusing that an author taking five years to write books that are five times longer than the average novel (80-100,000 words) is in any way controversial. It may be worthwhile criticising the author for not planning things better to have tighter novels, or for being overly optimistic when the situation behind closed doors is not great (certainly the case on ADWD, especially in the first couple of years), but raging at someone for not being able to churn out 420,000+ words in a few months is quite unrealistic. ADWD is almost as long as LotR in its entirety, and it took Tolkien 10 years to write (and 17 to produce in total) that novel.

Playing THIEF right now. On Chapter 3, so less than halfway through the game.

Initial thoughts:

Contextual jumping works okay but needs more signposting: it's often very unclear when you can jump and when you can't. It's also a bit random on what walls you can jump up and which you can't. It makes navigating the city a bit of a nightmare. In fact, getting across the city is a pain in the backside. The hub area is very, very small but they confuse the geography so much that it takes ages (and often traversing people's homes) to get anywhere. This puts me off doing the side-missions as traipsing around the hub just isn't any fun.

Generally, the stealth is well-done and the relatively high cost of supplies encourages you to steal everything in sight. I also like it that if Garrett spots some sweet loot he'll forget above everything else to grab it (and grumble if you leave without it), which reminds you that he is just an opportunist at heart. Combat is awful, which is just as well as it encourages you to avoid it.

The atmosphere and setting leave a lot to be desired. Is it steampunk or not? Clockwork robots, explosives and gas lights say yes, but no guns (at least so far), swords and coshes everywhere and the general level of peasantry seem to say no. The story is also poor and so far the characters have been absolutely non-existent.

Almost every moment of playing the game has been accompanied by me thinking that it's an inferior knock-off of DISHONORED, which given that the original THIEF games inspired DISHONORED is definitely not right.

So far, it's okay but needs to step it up a little bit and give me more of a reason for caring about what's going on.

An article I wrote for Gollancz (who are publishing the ELITE: DANGEROUS tie-in books) about the dangers of docking in the original game.

Syrio Forel was more inspired by Montoya, but Oberyn's catchesism was a bit of a reference as well. Martin is a PRINCESS BRIDE fan.

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There could be another one on its way: a LOCKE LAMORA TV show in the works.

This would be based on the GENTLEMAN BASTARD series of novels by Scott Lynch, which are very, very good. They're about a group of rogues and con-men (and women) operating on a world littered with the crystal ruins of a long-vanished alien species. Magic is extremely difficult to make work and there's a larger socio-political crisis unfolding in the background that will lead to civil war.

No word on network or timescale, but Ryan Condal (who recently adapted the weird west comic THE SIXTH GUN for NBC as a pilot, before they passed on it) is writing the script.

LOCKE LAMORA TV show in the works.

It's also looking like THORN OF EMBERLAIN is going to be delayed (not the biggest surprise in the world), but right now only to March or so.

There's nothing that bounces a new customer away like staring at a bookshelf full of incompatible books that all say "Dungeons and Dragons" with no visible indication which ones will be a waste of their $50.

The recent books are edition-agnostic and (theoretically) can be used with 5E, so that shouldn't be a problem. WotC will also likely have big standee things at first for just the 5E stuff. They'll likely encourage retailers with back-stock of older editions to put them in a different area as well. I know they did with my local game store when both 3E and 4E came out. Everything else went back to WotC or onto the bargain shelves.

Another extract from THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE.

This section tells the story of the war between the Rhoynar and the Valyrians. Incensed with the Valyrians colonising the riverbank, slaughtering the great turtles and engaging in river piracy and trade wars, the Rhoynar raise an army 250,000, augmented by powerful water wizards, to destroy the Valyrians once and for all. After a series of stunning victories, the Rhoynar march on Volantis, only to find that the Valyrians have (inevitably) deployed dragons against them. Three hundred of them.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


A middle-aged man returns to his home for a funeral, only to be drawn back into the long-forgotten events of his childhood, when he travelled through an ocean, visited another world and brought back something that did not want to leave.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman's first novel for adults for eight years. It started off as a novella and grew larger than he first intended, though at 250 pages it's still on the short side for a novel. This is a book that touches on a number of themes, such as nostalgia, memory (and how it is mutable) and how a child's perception differs from that of an adult's. The book also ties in with some of Gaiman's other work, bringing in the Hempstock family from Stardust and The Graveyard Book. This is a novel that operates primarily as a mood piece, evoking the feeling of a childhood idyll and then darkening it with a nightmarish intrusion from another place. It's a classic trope, taking the idea of childhood as a sacrosanct time of warmth, fun and protection and then violating it with a force of darkness and evil.

That said, it's a story that Gaiman seems to shy away from exploring fully. Our unnamed protagonist has a rather capable of group of allies in the form of the Hempstock family, who know everything that's going on and have a solution for every problem that arises. It's difficult to build tension when your main character has a group of powerful magic-users on speed dial (effectively) to call upon at every turn. The book's structure is also odd: the novel is short, but it's quite a long time before the evil force arrives and it departs some time before the end of the book. It's almost like Gaiman wanted to write a moody piece about childhood but then decided he needed some sort of existential threat to be introduced and defeated because, well, it's a fantasy novel.

It's all well-written, as you'd expect, and there's some very nice moments of humour, characterisation and even genre-bending (the Hempstock occasionally evoking atomic physics and dark matter to explain magical events). But it's also a slight novel, with an odd structure and some fairly straightforward plotting. Gaiman seems to have always struggled a little with plotting in his novels, oddly as it's something he does very well in his comic and TV work, and Ocean doesn't address that issue.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (***½) is a readable, enjoyable and, ultimately, disposable book. It passes the time but does not lodge in the mind the way Sandman or Neverwhere did. So, the wait for the undisputed Gaiman masterpiece novel continues. Ocean at the End of the Lane is available now in the UK and USA.

Regarding Coldhands:

One of the actors confirmed that Coldhands will not appear this season. And probably not at all, if his primary role was to guide Team Bran to the Three-Eyed Crow.

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Abyssal Lord wrote:
About Universal Healthcare in other countries like France and Japan. Do the French and Japanese pay higher taxes for universal healthcare?

Frane and Japan have universal healthcare but not single-payer healthcare, which means that people's employers and other bodies are also responsible for paying into the healthcare pot. So the individual does not necessarily pay a lot in direct taxation from their own income.

The UK has a single-payer system based around direct taxation (both from the main tax pot and a secondary tax system called National Insurance, which puts aside some of your tax against future healthcare needs and future bouts of unemployment). But even we don't pay as much as Americans do as a percentage of tax.

This is the point I was making earlier on: we pay less in direct tax and get a pretty good national health system out of it. Americans pay more but then have to pay for health insurance on top of that, and all too often the insurance companies wriggle out of paying so they then have to fork out the full cost of the treatment.

From the outside-the-US perspective, you guys look like you're getting fleeced.

Novella 3: Borders of Infinity


Miles Vorkosigan, in his guise as Admiral Naismith of the Dendarii Mercenaries, has been captured by the Cetagandans and imprisoned on a remote moon, along with thousands of other POWs. Vorkosigan finds a camp in the grip of chaos, with different groups of prisoners fighting amongst themselves and the strong preying on the weak. He has to somehow unite the prisoners before any breakout can be attempted...which is difficult to do when you have bones that shatter easily and no incentives to use.

Borders of Infinity is another short novella featuring the character of Miles Vorkosigan, this time back with the Dendarii (after a break of several stories and books, in chronological order anyway) before being imprisoned by the Cetagandans. It's a fairly straightforward and entertaining story, basically involving Miles trying to set up a prison break but being confronted by problems with asserting his authority and making enemies who want to kill him, even if it means they never escape.

The story's slightness works against it, as does a muddled tone. Funny scenes - Miles being forced to walk around naked and working with a crazy religious nut to try to win over the soldiers - are contrasted against some of the darker and more brutal scenes that Bujold has written to date. Making such a juxtaposition work is possible, but Bujold fails to achieve it here.

There's also the problem of the story being bigger than its word count. The story could easily have been twice as long, but just as it's getting started it abruptly ends, and in a rather straightforward manner as well (although the fallout does at least get novel-length coverage, in Brothers in Arms).

Borders of Infinity (***) is readable and passes the time, but is again a fairly short and slight story that feels like it's a novel that's been truncated almost to the point of non-existence. A story that's more important for what it does (setting up Brothers in Arms) than what it is, then. It can be found in the Miles Errant omnibus (UK, USA).

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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:

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.

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 :)

GRRM did okay or order every major character death (and there are a few along the way). Apparently his first experience with getting angry fan letters about character deaths came in the first triad, when even briefly-set up characters who died very quickly triggered complaints. I think one character who died only had one line, "Where's the cheese?" before buying it.

He experienced the same thing later in ASoIaF of course, not to mention working on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (although that was a bigger deal, being one of the series leads).

SyFy were developing a film version, to be scripted by Melinda Snodgrass (the - often uncredited - co-editor of the WILD CARDS books, frequent writer on the series and a former producer on ST:TNG). The problem seems to be that SyFy wanted to do it as a big-budget 'proper' film in co-operation with a big studio, and then the big financial crisis happened and no big studio wanted to risk it.

I've got a feeling that GRRM would be very happy for the rights to lapse so he could take it to HBO. If HBO ever wanted to do a superhero series, WILD CARDS would be right up their alley. Hell, it's more HBO than ASoIF ever was ;-)

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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.

Every third book in the series is a mosaic (where each story is basically a chapter in a single story). The rest are linked anthologies, where each story stands alone but some threads and ideas continue through them (and characters guest-star in other writers' stories). The first one is the most diffuse, as it spans 40 years (the rest all seem to span just weeks, days or, in the case of the third book, hours), but even that has elements carrying on from one story to another.

I still have to finish the BLACK COMPANY first :)

Wild Cards #1: Wild Cards


An alien species decides to use Earth to test a new bioweapon. An airborne criminal seizes the weapon and tries to use it to blackmail the city of New York. A former WWII flying ace tries to stop him. And, on 15 September 1946, the world is forever changed when the wild card virus is unleashed in the skies over Manhattan.

Ninety percent of those infected by the virus die instantly. A further nine percent develop crippling deformities or abnormalities, becoming known as 'jokers'. And one in a hundred of those infected develops a wondrous superpower. They become the 'aces'. As an alternative history of the 20th Century unfolds, the American government first tries to use the aces for their own ends and then, in a paranoid frenzy, turns against them, before they finally win some recognition for themselves. But for the jokers, forced to live in a ghetto in Manhattan, their road to recognition and respect will be much harder.

Wild Cards is the first book in the series of the same name, which of this time of writing spans twenty-one volumes with two more planned. This isn't a series of novels, but collections of stories written by many different authors. George R.R. Martin (of A Song of Ice and Fire fame) and Melinda Snodgrass provide editorial control, ensuring that each volume has its own narrative drive and point beyond just collecting random short stories together. The stories are set in their own milieu, with authors sharing ideas, using each other's characters and building up a consistent, coherent shared world.

The first Wild Cards book opens with a bang, with Howard Waldrop giving us the origin story for the entire setting in 'Thirty Minutes Over Broadway'. This is a terrific slice of fiction, with Waldrop fusing pulp energy with his own idiosyncratic style to give us something weird, resolutely entertaining and rather tragic in its own right. Roger Zelazny - yes, that one, the author of the Amber series and Lord of Light - then provides the origin story for Croyd Crenson, the Sleeper, one of the original aces whose powers shift every time he goes to sleep. Crenson's periods of hibernation provide a handy way of fast-forwarding through the immediate aftermath of the crisis, showing how New York, the USA and the world adapt to the arrival of the virus. Walter Jon Williams and Melinda Snodgrass then show us two sides of the same tale through 'Witness' and 'Degradation Rites', the story of the Four Aces and their betrayal by the American government. These opening four stories provide a quadruple-whammy of setting up this alternate history and doing so whilst telling stories that are well-written (superbly so in both Waldrop and Zelazny's cases, though the others are not far behind), finely characterised and as gut-wrenchingly unpredictable as anything in the editor's fantasy stories.

Later stories remain highly readable, though perhaps not quite on a par with this opening salvo. Martin's own 'Shell Games' is, perhaps unexpectedly, the most uplifting story in the book, the story of the bullied boy who becomes a superhero. Michael Cassut's 'Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace' and David Levine's 'Powers', two new additions for the 2010 edition of the book, are both decent, filling in gaps in the history. Lewis Shiner's 'Long Dark Night of Fortunato' introduces one of the setting's less salubrious characters and makes for effective, if uneasy, reading. Victor Milan's 'Transfigurations' shows how the anti-Vietnam rallies of the late 1960s and early 1970s are changed by the presence of the wild card virus (and gives us an ace-on-ace rumble that is particularly impressive). 'Down Deep' by Edward Bryant and Leanne Harper is probably the weirdest story in the collection (which in this collection is saying something), a moody trawl through the underbelly of New York (figurative and literal). It's probably a little bit too weird, with an ending that is risks being unintentionally comical, but is still reasonably effective.

Stephen Leigh's 'Strings' and Carrie Vaughn's 'Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan' (the latter being another new addition in this edition) return to the quality of the opening quartet. The former depicts the jokers' battle for civil rights, resulting in riots and chaos in Jokertown and New York that a shadowy figure is manipulating for his own ends. 'Ghost Girl' is a straight-up adventure with the titular character teaming up with Croyd Crenson to find her missing friend. 'Ghost Girl' could be a novel in its own right, with the battling criminal gangs and dodgy drug-taking rock bands providing a canvas that's almost too big for the story, but Vaughn's method of keeping the story under control and resolving it is most effective. Finally, John J. Miller's 'Comes a Hunter', in which a 'nat' sets out to avenge the death of his friend by going up against some criminal aces, is a superbly-written thriller which examines how 'normal' people can stand up against aces and jokers.

The book as a whole is excellent, with the stories entwining around real history and changing it in a way that is mostly organic and convincing. There are a few issues with plausibility here - most notably the way no-one seems particularly bothered about the proven existence of an alien race that has just tried to poison the entire planet - but for the most part the writers use the premise to tell stories about the changed history of the USA (from McCarthyism to civil rights to Vietnam) in an intelligent, passionate manner.

Wild Cards (*****) introduces the world, setting and many of its memorable characters through a series of well-written, smart stories. There isn't a weak card in the deck, and the best stories (those by Waldrop, Williams, Snodgrass and especially Zelazny) are up there with the best of their original work. The book is available now in the UK and USA.

GAME OF THRONES renewed for TWO more seasons. Because that's how HBO rolls.

Look, GRRM hasn't even said, maybe the planet's not spherical at all, maybe it's got more of a Pratchett shape to it.

Actually, he has. People asked this years ago and GRRM said it was a spherical planet, and possibly slightly larger than Earth.

I might be mistaken here, but I'm pretty sure that the seasons are ONLY wobbly in Westeros, so the concept of the "year" comes from elsewhere in the world.

Nope, Essos suffers from them as well. The winters are just not as noticeable as Essos is located further south. But if you read the latest book, there's reports of canals freezing over and the grass of the plains starting to die.

Hitdice wrote:
(How do people who live on a planet without regular seasons even invent the concept of a year? You'd have to ask GRRM himself.)

They simply count the number of times the moon circles the planet: twelve times makes one year. The jury's out on if this means their year is slightly shorter than ours or if Martinworld's lunar orbits fit the year more exactly than ours do.

Another great episode. Anyone know the exact timeline when Jaime/Robert etc took the throne and when the story takes place now. I dont remember Jaime's age coming up in the books but i would have to assume its been 20 years?

In the TV series, Season 1 is 17 years after Robert's Rebellion. Season 3 is two years later, so 19. Season 4 is still 19 until we hear otherwise, but yeah, getting on for 20. Tywin is also probably rounding up a couple of years for Jaime's age.

In the books, the first novel opens 15 years after the Rebellion and by the end of ADWD between two-and-a-half and three years have passed.

As far as government tax revenue goes, the money has disappeared off the face of the earth

In individual circumstances of waste or corruption, yes. In theory, it shouldn't. It should go on spending for the military, public services, the cost of governance, police, schools etc, all of which provides a tangible return for everyone in society.

The response to a government wasting money shouldn't be the abolition of taxes (which is basically a call for the abolution of the nation-state, a curious desire), but for the government to become more efficient and less wasteful. How you do that when the tendency of any large government is to become less efficient with the more people it has to deal with is altogether less clear. The USA and the EU certainly seem to indicate that there are severe limitations to how efficient a government can be when dealing with 250 million+ people. OTOH, the experiences in Scotland and Wales in the UK, where government spending has been much more succesful and transparent, seems to suggest devolution and putting those spending decisions in the hands of smaller authorities may be an answer.

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