It is the last few hours of 2014 and we swing around to another year, one full of promise and anticipation. In the coming year we will get Avengers 2 and a new Star Wars and Ant-man and that’s just from the Disney powerhouse alone. We also get Chappie, the reboot of a reboot of a comic book adaptation of The Fantastic Four, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II as well as Hot Tub Time Machine II and dozens more really exciting movies! On top of that we have amazing video games with Batman: Arkham Knight, The Order: 1886, Uncharted 4: Thief’s End, Halo 5, Quantum Sky, Star Wars Battlefront, Evolve, and most exciting for me No Man’s Sky not to mention dozens upon dozens more. So, before we get to the fun of the new year here’s the thoughts of everyone here at The After Action Report about their take on 2014.
We’ve been on vacation for the last week (though we did have a great article about Sarah’s Holiday retrospective Zombies Ate My Neighbours) but just because we rested doesn’t mean the world stopped turning so here’s your week in review for week ending December 27th, I hope yours was a fun and happy one with family and friends.
Crap V’Ger is here someone call Kirk: With the recent release of Elite: Dangerous we’ve seen some incredible world building and great level of detail but one of the most interesting things is the verisimilitude of the world created. Recently a gamer found Voyager 2 floating in deep space at the exact co-ordinates it will be by the time we hit the future of Elite Dangerous. Not only that but one of the commenters over at VG247 reports they found the first Voyager probe! That’s not all, if you get up close you can hear the recordings playing from the real Voyager! Now this is the kind of detail I want to see! (Source VG247)
I feel like this is a common occurrence but when the holidays rolled around my parents always made sure that they got the same gift for me as well as my similarly aged cousins. I assume this was to avoid jealousy at the any family get together or summer visits. I was lucky that they tailored the gift to my general interests as a kid, generally the same interests as an adult. One of these holiday gifts was the classic Zombies Ate My Neighbours. To this day, this game makes me laugh and feel very festive!
Another week another has come and gone, we are entering in to the Christmas Week and we will be taking it off here at the After Action Report (don’t worry though, next week we’ll be back with the week in review). The week has been a lighter one but it has seen some interesting activity ranging from Cybernetics to Space Sims to Sony Pictures so let’s look at this week in review.
Ground Control to Major Tom: This week saw the launch of the first title in the rebirth of Frontier Development’s Space Sim genre Elite: Dangerous. Frontier Developments also explained a bit about the story underpinning the gameplay and how to find it. You can read our First Five Review here but the reaction has been pretty favorable and even the big kid on the block Roberts Space Industries makers of Star Citizen issued congratulations on the successful launch (showing more class than many of their fans) and welcoming the solid competition and saying it is also looking forward to the upcoming release of No Man’s Sky. This is a good time to be a fan of the Space Sim, now I have to go and price out fancy throttle and stick combinations. (Source PC Gamer, Gamespot, Polygon)
Back in the “good old days” there was a genre of games called Space Sims and within those there was a subset known as the “Trader Sim”. These were games like Elite, Wing Commander: Privateer, and Freelancer. Elite was the procedural progenitor really setting the tone for the entire genre back in 1984. Using wire frame ray tracing technology similar to that in the Star Wars video game (show me a child of the 70s who doesn’t have fond memories of that arcade game I will show you a human with no soul) it created a relatively smooth and fluid environment allowing you to trade and fight your way through the galaxy.
You start the game in your piddling little Cobra Mrk III with a handful of credits and a dream, to be the biggest baddest space dude in the universe. No two games were alike, every game contained 8 galaxies with 256 planets to explore (due to technical limitations) but the composition of the star systems were random using procedural generation to create them. There wasn’t much of a plot or a story, your goal was to just get good at combat and make a ton of money buying goods in one station and going to others to sell them at a profit. Think of it like that Commodore Pet game Lemonade Stand, the goal was profit with a side order of ass kicking. It would be almost 10 years before we got a sequel Frontier: Elite II which added stellar physics and then Frontier: First Encounters two years later which added Newtonian physics, improved graphics and the addition of exploration as a driving motivator. The series was the pinnacle (and also perhaps the first) sand box game. No story beyond what you bring to it.
Lindsay Lohan is a problematic figure, a young actress who was in many ways held up as a poster child for parental interference when she left the Disney stable of talent and was considered an up and coming actress with great potential. Films like Mean Girls were examples of nuanced acting in challenging roles that showed great potential. Unfortunately between the antics of her mother and father her career began to quite rapidly spin out of control with her last several projects (The Canyons, Scary Movie 5, Liz & Dick and more) all being critically panned and not meeting with anywhere near the anticipated success. Further, this bright young actress’ work has in many ways suffered.
The Presequel was release into my greedy hands on October 14, 2014 and was developed by the folks at 2K Australia. I pre-ordered my copy and was in line on release date clutching my receipt and waiting patiently for turn.
Well another week has come and gone and thankfully after the haze of information overload that was The Game Awards and PSX things are starting to calm down. We may get a couple of weeks of relative quiet over the holidays, one can hope. Here’s the week in review for the week ending December 13th, 2014.
The man who started it all: This past week Ralph H. Baer, the man who created the idea of video games as something more than a science experiment and created the first home console passed away at 92. Baer was an inventor and scientist by trade and was responsible for the Magnavox Odyssey which gave us the core that was eventually ripped off and turned in to Pong by Nolan Bushnell. Baer is also responsible for helping Colecovision become a reality and the game Simon not to mention technology used by NASA and the military to this day.
I still remember my first time playing a video game, it was 1979 and my parents had left us in the care of a local teenager. My sister was barely more than a babe in arms and I was a 5 year old toddling around with an insatiable sense of curiosity. The teenager brought us back to his home where he and friends hung out and we were plopped in front of a TV. The smell of the ocean still fills my nostrils when I think back, the doors were open and the summer air was blowing in from the Pacific. It was bright and green outside but all that had my attention was the screen, a box with controllers was plugged in to the TV and the phantoms of danced as I fiddled with the controller. This was my first game experience and I was forever impacted by this event. Thank you Mr. Baer for your contribution not just to my life but to culture for without you Video Games would not be the same. Rest in peace. (Source The Examiner and Joystiq)
The last week has been a crazy one in Whovian fandom (yes I know I’m behind on my recaps but I’m in denial of the season ending and will be getting you the recaps of the last three episodes in the near future). The ranting and raving hasn’t been the usually “Moffat is terrible” inanity but addressing something that has been stirring in the fandom for years now (even before the reboot of the series) and proven so toxic I've dropped out of a couple of communities rather than deal with the hostility and rage against the Social Justice Machine. Both the man with the keys to the TARDIS Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat who is responsible for bringing the series to a level of popularity never before seen (as much as some Whovians may be eager to deny it) have said that it is not a case of if but WHEN there is a female Doctor.
To gauge the reaction of a segment of the fans, you’d think someone had stated the next Doctor would kill puppies and kittens regularly on every episode in the new season while making uncomfortable eye contact with the audience. The fans were up in arms stating that this was “Moffat making things up” and would “ruin the show” the problem is they gave little explanation on how the later would be the case and the former is entirely made up and not factual. This is not the first time this has been mentioned and fans have had similar reactions to other suggested potential changes raging against the "SJWs" (an acronym I'm incredibly tired of hearing). There is a kernel of potential truth in SOME of the arguments but others are patently false so I’m going to try and unpack this and deal with the underlying issues.
Tales from the Borderlands
Borderlands got its start as a sort of gritty far future setting but in a world with Rage and a bunch of other similar shooter type games that were all in development around the same time and they smartly realized they could be another brown shooter in a brown world with lots of earth tones or they could mix it up. Changing gears it went from yet another Mad Max style hyper realistic game to a cartoony game full of broad humor and big guns. There are points in the original Borderlands that I would half suspect an anvil to fall from the sky with ACME scrawled across the side.
Now this is not a condemnation of the game, in fact it’s something to be celebrated. The three Borderlands games to date have been a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise oversaturated world of Space Marines, Earnest Soldiers, and Cryogenically Preserved Keepers of Humanity. Video game shooters can be fun, but it is seldom they are funny and this was a nice change of pace. The problem is, as fun as the setting is (that Claptrap fellow is a hoot and the toss away lines are delicious) it can be a bit tricky at times. So much loot and so much shooting isn’t everyone’s “bag” and this is where Telltale enters the picture.
What started as a moderately slow news week blossomed in to a info-storm of entertainment. This week saw the results of Black Friday, the inaugural Game Awards and the start of the PSX (Play Station Experience). There has been a LOT of news coming out of Vegas this week so buckle in and get ready for your week in review!
Getting it right: The concept of Video Game Awards is not new, there are some great ones out there like the BAFTAs and DICE but neither of these get much air time in North America (and I’m pretty sure the BAFTAs for Video Games are not televised) so this has left us with sadly the Spike Video Game Awards as our only televised awards show. This has not always given gamers the best representation, SPIKE is… well SPIKE, they would have a parade of stars who have little to no interaction with video games and Samuel L. Jackson up on stage swearing… a lot. Why? Well… he’s in Star Wars right? So geeks like that let’s put him on! Add to that bizarre logic like three performance awards two for Hollywood actors in roles in video games and then one for professional voice actors who do all the heavy lifting. Sometimes people like Ice T and Snoop Dogg would give awards, and at least those two guys are serious gamers, but for the most part it had very little to do with Gaming and was essentially a platform for advertisements.
We have now entered the “Holiday Season” this official starts with the glut of turkey on American Thanksgiving and the ritualistic blood sport that is known as “Black Friday” and its geeky little brother “Cyber Monday”. Yes the decorations went up some weeks ago at the end of Halloween but it is now official and the Thanksgiving weekend is when we start to see the airing of “Holiday Specials”. The “Holiday Special” is a mysterious creature that can be very awesome or very cheesy (and on occasion both).
This year saw the trans-media giant Grumpy Cat make the leap on to the silver screen (or at least the boob tube) in her very first made for TV movie and given this convergence of geek and holiday I thought I’d take some time to hit some of the five most interesting geek holiday cross over specials.
This may surprise you good reader, but I have never gone to a midnight launch before. I'm not a big fan of people or crowds and I don't enjoy shopping (unless I have verified the object I wish to procure is in the store already and I can just go grab it). I also don't like to wait in lines, really who does? I'm an awkward human. Thus, I have avoided midnight launches, even launch days, like the plague.
When Dragon Age: Inquisition's release date was pushed back, I was disheartened. I needed the game and though it was only a month, I was overcome with the desire to play it. So I played through all of the Mass Effect games, again, and got the few remaining achievements I didn't have in Dragon Age 1 & 2. Monday came and by then I had watched every trailer for Inquisition about 10 times. I knew I was going, I couldn't wait until the morning.
There I was, standing outside as it snowed, waiting in line with a lot of guys getting the Xbox One released of Grand Theft Auto V at 11pm on a Monday night. I can honestly say by the time I couldn't feel my fingers, I had begun to regret all my life choices. We were finally let in and I got my game!
The next morning, I woke up sick. I was sick for days. Standing outside in the snow had ended poorly but I still had Inquisition! Behold, my unboxing of the game!