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Philip Pullman has written (and possibly completed) The Book of Dust, a prequel and sequel trilogy to His Dark Materials. It starts with Lyra as a baby and explores how she ended up at Oxford, and then jumps forward to 30 years after the original trilogy. Pullman has indicated that numerous other characters from the first trilogy will return and the focus will be on a confrontation between totalitarianism and liberty.
This started off as a very modest companion book/short story collection over a decade ago, but it sounds like the story grew in the telling.
Book 1 will be out in October.
A new DUNE movie has been greenlit with Denis Villeneuve (ARRIVAL, BLADE RUNNER 2049) to direct.
The plan at the moment is for a movie (or two) of DUNE (and maybe more for the sequels) and a spin-off TV series at some point.
I'm hoping for a two-film adaptation of DUNE, maybe another film each for Books 2 and 3 and then kind of forget that everything else exists (and certainly don't touch the non-canon sequels-and-prequels-by-other-people with a 50-foot bargepole).
Obsidian have announced PILLARS OF ETERNITY II. It will take place shortly after the events of the first game and be set mostly in the Deadfire Archipelago far to the south of the Eastern Reaches. Mechanically it seems there will be a big focus on multi-classing and mixing up previously-separated class abilities.
The game should be out in 2018.
Hoorah, I guess. I found the first game rather underwhelming (I actually enjoyed TYRANNY far more) and still need to get back to finishing it. My main complaint was the tiny environments and the rather dull phase-based combat which really took away from the Infinity Engine feel they were trying to achieve. The storyline was also extremely forgettable. Still, some of the characters and quests were quite decent.
The problem with the first game, I think, was the general level of blandness to the title. I was hoping for humour, for offbeat weirdness and more character, but it looks like that all got leeched out during the development process. Hopefully the second game can have a bit more character to it.
SHADOW TACTICS: BLADES OF THE SHOGUN is a pretty nifty game. I bought it yesterday after playing the free demo (remember when all games had demos? Good times).
This is a real-time tactics game focused on stealth, infiltration and using characters with desperate skillsets to complete missions in large, sandbox levels. You have an objective and it's up to you how you do it. It's very heavily influenced by the first two COMMANDOS games, DESPERADOS: WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE and ROBIN HOOD: THE LEGEND OF SHERWOOD. A more recent example, although rather less hardcore (but still lots of fun) is the cyberpunk game SATELLITE REIGN. However, SATELLITE REIGN allowed you to walk into targets all guns blazing. BLADES OF THE SHOGUN makes that a lot more difficult, so the focus is firmly on stealth.
The game is viewed from a fully-rotatable overhead isometric viewpoint. You can only control one character at a time, although you can give delayed orders so characters will act simultaneously. The game rations which characters appear on which levels, so sometimes you'll have access to all 5 and sometimes only 2. The levels are HUGE. There are only 13 of them, but some could take 2 hours+ to clear on a first playthrough. You can also hide in wagons, disguse yourself as a civilian and distract people with the help of animals (or anger a cow so it kicks a passing samurai in the face).
There's some excellent emergent gameplay as well: one guy on Steam reported throwing an unconscious body off a building and it landed on top of a passing guard, knocking him out as well.
The game is heavily reliant on lines of sight, the use of bushes, buildings and rooftops for concealmeant and hiding slain enemies. You can knock people out but they come around after about 5 minutes, so a complete non-lethal playthrough is highly improbable (but apparently possible). You do get bonus marks for not killing civilians, remaining undetected and speed runs.
Enemy AI is impressive. They will note when guards have disappeared from their posts, raise the alarm if they see a dead body, help an unconscious person back to their feet and can even spot your footprints in snowy levels. You can kill enemies using daggers, swords, shurikens, traps and even primitive guns (one of the characters has a matchlock rifle and can provide fire support if you get him into a sniper's position), but mass combat is not advised. Your characters are quite fragile and not able to withstand a stand-up fight.
I really like it. It's a smart game which ticks a lot of the same boxes as DISHONORED, DEUS EX and the earlier COMMANDOS/DESPERADOS games. It has a fantastic art style, excellent acting, engaging characters and an interesting (if somewhat generic) storyline.
There's some very good reviews around:
You can pick up the free demo here (it's also on GoG).
The company has earmarked $270 million as 50% of the production budget for three films. They will be looking for international partners to pick up the rest of the budget, which given who they've worked with in the past (they've co-produced everything from Iron Man 3 to Looper) probably won't be hard.
The first two movies will be The Way of Kings and Mistborn: The Final Empire. Exactly how they're going to boil those books (especially Way of Kings) down into a single movie remains to be seen. They've already appointed writer-producers to Way of Kings and are prioritising the project on a fast-track to the screen.
I haven't played them, but they've picked up masses of critical acclaim so I'm definitely going to check them out. Anyone else tried any of the games?
This one is going to be set in Colorado and a have a much more powerful engine. It will have vehicles and multiplayer co-op, along with fully voiced dialogue and cinematics.
The game has an interesting funding model. They've gone with Fig rather than Kickstarter, as Fig entitles people to a slice of the profits of the game rather than just a copy of the game, which they thinks will get people more interested.
They're also only crowdfunding about 25% of the game's budget. The rest will come from profits from Wasteland 2, which seems reasonable.
This is out today (unlocks in seven hours) and I broke my rule to pre-order it. The reviews have been outstanding and the technical appraisals suggest it's very solid on PC. It's done by the same team who did the PC versions of both THIEF and DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, so it should be absolutely fine.
I'm enjoying hearing there are no boss battles and a lot more options for stealthing and ghosting, although HR was pretty good on that already.
As anticipated, SyFy has let the old WILD CARDS movie development deal lapse and there was a scramble of interest in picking up the rights to GRRM's Wild Cards series of books. Unexpectedly, SyFy (or at least a producer there) has reacquired them, alongside parent company Universal and its cable productions wing. This is interesting as it gives them more flexibility: the project may end up at SyFy again or it could go somewhere like USA or even Amazon (where Universal co-produces Mr. Robot).
George isn't directly involved (due to book commitments) but series co-editor Melinda Snodgrass will be an executive producer and potential showrunner on the project.
Interesting news, and the buzz this time is that this is probably going to happen, unlike the movie project which lost most of the people pushing for it at an early stage. I could imagine Universal and someone like Amazon being interested in an edgier, different take on superheroes.
Julian Gollop, the original creator of X-COM (along with LORDS OF CHAOS and LASER SQUAD, and advising on the new Firaxis XCOM games), has announced a new X-COM-esque strategy game called PHOENIX POINT.
The game will play in a similar way to the original X-COM, with a world map from which you can organise research, recruitment and procuring equipment and then a turn-based battle mode where you fight the enemy in procedurally-generated landscapes. In a twist, there will also be procedurally-generated monsters and enemies, assembled on the fly from dozens of body parts and types to form hundreds of potential enemies.
The plot is that the melting permafrost has released a virus known as "the Mist" that mutates both people and creatures into terrible monsters. The Mist has also spread across much of the globe, destroying civilisation and reducing it to pockets surviving in Mist-free enclaves scattered over the globe. There are numerous factions of survivors, some of whom are more interested in fighting each other than the Mist, and you have to guide your faction - the titular Phoenix Point - to victory by arranging strategic alliances or even outright conquering other factions to help gather resources to drive the Mist back.
Gollop has taken inspiration from several sources: the original X-COM (and the third game, APOCALYPSE) for the strategic layer, which will be more involved and dynamic than the Firaxis games. The other factions will be fighting one another, researching and doing other stuff regardless of your actions, so if you kick back too much you might let other factions wipe one another out but you might also end up out-resourced, outnumbered and outflanked. The second inspiration is ALPHA CENTAURI, for the very different factions and their goals and ways to appear them. The third is survival horror: although the game has lots of combat and action, the monsters are disturbing and genuinely monstrous, constantly mutating and evolving to adjust to your tactics. The Mist is also active on the battlefield, capable of warping or mutating your soldiers if you don't find ways of defeating it. Some of the monsters are also absolutely huge. The final inspiration is the modern XCOM, which Gollop has praised for its approachability and accessibility, but thinks there is a way of getting a more complex and malleable game underneath. PHOENIX POINT will have at least 3 wildly different endings (possibly more) depending on how the campaign unfolds.
PHOENIX POINT's release date will apparently be in 2018 on PC, with console versions possible.
The previous legal difficulties have been resolved, and a major TV studio has optioned the WHEEL OF TIME rights. We should know who in the near future.
Prior to the legal kerfuffle between the Jordan Estate and Red Eagle, Sony TV was interested and based on the short period of time that's elapsed since the legal problem was resolved (last August), it seems unlikely someone else will have had time to have done anything. But never underestimate the ability of Netflix or Amazon to make things happen with mountains of cash. If it is Sony, I would be surprised if they didn't join forces with AMC again (like they did on BREAKING BAD), since their own epic fantasy show would augment AMC's enviable line-up of genre programming (alongside THE WALKING DEAD and PREACHER). But that's all speculation. We know it won't be HBO (they've never double-dipped in the same genre at the same time) but beyond that the field is wide open.
Obsidian and Paradox are collaborating on a new CRPG called TYRANNY. This game will use the PILLARS OF ETERNITY engine and casts you as a Fatebinder, a servant of the Dark Lord Kyros who has conquered the world (the premise being that the ultimate battle between good and evil has been fought and evil has already won).
Unlike PoE, this game will not be crowdfunded (Paradox are funding it in full) and it's already pretty far down the line, with a release in late 2016 currently being expected.
More interestingly, this will be Obsidian's first-ever RPG that has been made with no input at all from Chris Avellone, who has decamped to Larian to work on DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN II. Obsidian's other writers are pretty good so this isn't a mortal blow, but I'll be interested to see what they come up with.
Harebrained Schemes have announced that a new BATTLETECH video game is in the works.
This game will feature turn-based strategy and RPG elements, allowing you to build your own mechs and take part in an open-ended campaign where you choose which mission to take on next (this feature is partially inspired by the MECHWARRIOR MERCENARIES games). There'll be a Kickstarter in the autumn.
The game is being made by the same team behind the SHADOWRUN RETURNS games (the last of which, HONG KONG, arrives on 28 August), including of course Jordan Weisman, co-creator of the BATTLETECH/MECHWARRIOR franchise. Based on the quality of SHADOWRUN RETURNS, this should be good.
Well, at least a pilot, anyway. Amazon Prime have released it to see the response before going to series.
The good news is that the critical and popular acclaim for it has been universal, so it's quite likely to make it to series.
For those not in the know, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is considered one of the greatest SF novels ever written. It's written by Philip K. Dick, who also gave us (by way of movie adaptations) TOTAL RECALL, BLADE RUNNER, A SCANNER DARKLY and MINORITY REPORT and is often said to be his finest novel (although this is disputed). The book is set in an alternate history where Germany and Japan won the Second World War (helped by Germany developing nukes long before the USA) and have occupied the United States, partitioning the country along the Rocky Mountains.
Based on the clips (being in the UK, I can't see the full pilot yet) it looks absolutely excellent. If this makes it to series, I'll be a day one viewer.
The Creative Assembly have - rather accidentally - confirmed that their next game will be based on the WARHAMMER fantasy licence. It's the first game in the long-running strategy series to be based on a licence, and their first move outside real history.
The game will likely be released in late 2016.
X-Wing and TIE Fighter are being re-released later today on GoG with updated modern-PC friendly editions and include both the original versions and the 1998 special editions and all their expansions. Which is nice.
We're also getting updated versions of Sam and Max Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Knights of the Old Republic today. Apparently this is the start, with GoG bringing a total of 30 LucasArts games to their service in the next few months. Discounting the console-only titles and newer games that still work fine, that has to be almost all of them.
And to cap it all off, Sega are also apparently going to be releasing a PC version of Valkyria Chronicles.
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.
That's right: a bear! You can go fishing, beat up pigs and crush butterflies for no discernible reason. You can engage bees in mortal combat and pick berries.
And the end of the video suggests there may be a more to it than that...
It will be a sequel to ARKHAM CITY, picking up a year after the events of that game. The primary villains will be Harley Quinn, Two-Face and the Scarecrow. The game will also be set on the streets of Gotham City proper, featuring wide streets and long boulevards. Why? So you can drive the Batmobile down them, of course :) The playing area will also be substantially larger than ARKHAM CITY/ORIGINS.
The game will be exclusive on consoles to PS4 and XB1; there will be no prev-gen versions. The game will also launch on PC. Release date unconfirmed, but probably October-November.
Rocksteady, who made the first two games, are back for this one. It is unconfirmed who the writer is.
An article by io9 which lists the 24 most embarrassing and pointless D&D character classes.
A lot of these are indeed a bit pony, but some of them actually seem fine: Arctic Druid sounds pretty viable, for example, although I'd love to see a D&D party including a 14th level clown. "I gain XP by killing enemies with custard pies whilst balancing on a unicycle."
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.
This could be the next big thing for fantasy cartography. Westeros or Faerun or Malaz (or Golarion?) next?
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.
Hollywood actor/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt and David Goyer are to co-produce a movie based on Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN graphic novels. Goyer will write an outline for the film and may write the script (though that seems less likely at the moment). Gordon-Levitt is so far only producing, but is also open to directing and starring.
Based on comments by Gordon-Levitt, the proposed film sounds like it will directly adapt PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, the first SANDMAN graphic novel.
This is the latest in a long line of attempts to bring Gaiman's signature character and series to the screen. However, this has more traction than previous efforts due to the profile of those involves. Gaiman has also apparently given his tentative approval to the project as well.
Erm, the newer one is, anyway, not the original which is almost 36.
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.
Sony Pictures Television has ordered a pilot episode for a TV series based on the controversial, violent PREACHER comic series by Garth Ennis. If it goes to series, it will air on AMC in the United States.
Interesting. I think they're going to have their work cut out for them on this one. Both HBO and Sam Mendes have had goes at doing this and not gotten anywhere. I'm not sure if, erm, Seth Rogen (yes, that one) is going to have better luck.
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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