Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Twilight and acceptance.

Hi all, FOC back again

You asked for it and now I'll post my opinion:

From what I know of Twilight I do not care for it.

That's all I need to say.

Now I know what you are thinking, "Hey FOC! I was expecting a rant!" Well sorry to disappoint you but I'm not going to do that. Why? Well let me tell you a story.

Mrs Camelot is awesome and as such she agreed to make the pilgrimage with me to San Diego Comic Con a couple of years ago. I'm going to assume that you know what SDCC is, if not you can Google it. The day before the Con started we went to pick up our tickets only to get confronted by a queue the size of a small country. It was huge and it literally took us 90 minutes to get to the end.

During the wait I got chatting to some fellow queuers. They were really nice people who had travelled from the mid west to make the trip. The reason for their visit? Twilight.

Now I could go into why I think Twilight sucks but that's all been said before. That's not interesting to me. What does interest and concern me is the sheer hate that this bit of pop culture ephemera has been subjected to. At some point it has morphed from legitimate criticism to hatred of the fandom. Now I ask you, what harm does an admittedly badly written book/film do to you? What drives people to actually wish death on the followers, even in jest? It's geek elitism and that I find bizarre. My fellow queue buddies do not deserve that.

Not too long ago Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Gaming were mocked as the hobbies of losers. Now as Geekdom has become mainstream you are beginning to see a stratification of Geek culture between what is acceptable and what is still open for mockery and hate. Console gaming is OK, Tabletop less so and LARP is still open to ridicule. Why?

Here's the thing, my fandom is not better than anyone else's, my opinion no more or less valid. There is a place for everything, even if you think it sucks. So if you like Nicky Minaj or Justin Beiber or Twilight or dressing in a fur suit then good for you! You pursue that interest as far as you can because I'd rather people have diverse interests and variety makes the world a better place.

There's a place for everything, the stuff you like, the stuff you love and even the stuff you think sucks a hairy fat one. I'm glad Twilight exists because it made people happy and we should have more shit like that.

Your resident understanding dude

Fall of Camelot.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Star Trek vs. Star Wars: The 5 best bits!

Hi all FOC here,

So going back to our previous blog post Star Trek has a 3:2 lead when examining the very worst parts of both franchises. Now we examine the best parts. Will Star Trek maintain it's lead or will Star Wars come roaring back?

Let's see, on to the good bits:

6) Wow factor

Star Trek The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek Deep Space Nine vs. Star Wars Episodes 4-6

The point I realised that Deep Space Nine was going to be good was the season 4 opener "Way of the Warrior." This was a turning point, not because it was a magnificent episode (I'd rate it as pretty good but not spectacular) but because it was when Star Trek pulled the gloves off. Up until this point any fleet action had taken place off screen and on screen combats were reserved for 3 ships max. "Way of the Warrior" threw that out the window. "Hell" it said, "Lets have hundreds of ships kick it up." It pioneered that wow factor that many of the better scenes in seasons six and seven had.

Wrath of Khan has similar awesome bits. It doesn't look like much today but the genesis device transformation sequence was groundbreaking in its day. Also the battles between the Reliant and the Enterprise are masterworks of tension and suspense.

But seriously. Let's face it, Star Wars totally owns here.

If there is one thing that Star Wars does well it's the wow factor. from the first shots of the series we know that this is going to be epic. The first shots of the Star Destroyer are then trumped by the Death Star. We get AT AT's, epic lightsaber duels, speederbike chases and all manner of incredible set pieces.

Star Trek does some epic stuff but Star Wars is epic stuff.

Point to Star Wars

7) Aliens and universe building

Klingons and Romulans vs. Mos Eisley Cantina

Science Fiction doesn't necessarily need aliens but I must say I'm a sucker for them. Star Trek is populated by some iconic races, the Klingons, Romulans and Borg to name but three. The problem is that the races in question are always seen as having the same traits. Klingons are angry warriors, Romulans are devious, Cardassians are treacherous, Ferengi are crap that sort of thing. Bizarrely for a series that is all about different spacefaring races they don't get much in the way of development. For example we rarely see a Klingon that's not all about combat and being angry (except Alexander I suppose, but seriously, fuck Alexander he's shit.) It's all a planet of hats and if you are a member of that race you wear that hat.

Star Wars goes out of it's way to produce more nuanced alien races. In the expanded universe we have seen treacherous Wookies, honourable Trandoshans and Mon Calamari commandos. The Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba's Palace were incredible menageries of alien races all with their own backgrounds and objectives. They were glimpses into a galaxy of countless races and not every member of these races acted the same way or had the same traits.

In short the Star Wars Universe is more complex and varied than the cookie cutter aliens of the Star Trek franchise.

Point to Star Wars

8) Beliefs

Federation vs. the Force

I find it highly ironic that America produced a series like Star Trek. Basically it's about a group of communist space hippies living in a space commune wandering around being smug at people. It's not exactly the American Way in space.

OK that's not exactly fair but one of the big ideas (if not the big idea) of Star Trek is its belief that humanity has evolved beyond the need for money and has banished war. Which is of course horseshit. Deep Space Nine does a good job of de-constructing the ridiculousness of this idea without really addressing it. If we all pursue our respective muses and give ourself over to higher thoughts, who cleans the sewers? Every crappy job can't have been removed so who volunteers to do them without incentive?

Worse than this is the horrendous level of smug that oozes off the screen in the first two series of The Next Generation. "We have evolved bitches!" they say. "All lesser species are barbarians for believing in money and war, which we of course don't even though we have incredibly heavily armed warships traversing the galaxy doing science." This is one of the only series I have seen that actively calls it's own audience barbarians.

Star Wars delves into philosophy through the force and frankly a mystical energy force that allows you to telekenetically lift rocks is still better thought out than the Federation. Actually this does Star Wars a disservice. Star Wars never pretends to be social commentary, it's a fable built on the bones of other fables throughout history and that's why it works. It deliberately evokes a fairytale atmosphere and as such the magic that the force represents is not out of place. We are not expected to take Star Wars seriously so the force is fine. Besides the beliefs of the Jedi are interesting to examine and maybe I will do that at a later date.

Both series contain nonsense but only Star Trek expects you to take it seriously.

Point to Star Wars

9) Drama

Star Trek the Next Generation and Star Trek Deep Space Nine vs. Star Wars Episodes 4-6

One of the reasons I love science fiction is the fact that it allows you to tell stories that you can't tell in a more mainstream milieu. Sure there's a lot of silliness and nonsense but at it's best Science Fiction truly examines the nature of existence and humanity.

Star Wars never does this. It is unashamedly pulp. Sure there are dramatic scenes, the confrontations between Luke and Darth Vader are well done, the romance between Leia and Han is well written and touching and you really feel for the characters. But there is never a point that makes you sit back and think.

Star Trek at it's most ambitious does this. Star Wars does not have anything that matches the dramatic intensity of episodes like "The Inner Light", "The Visitor", "In Purgatory's Shadow" or "The Measure of a Man". Star Trek is braver in it's choices and whilst sometimes this causes issues and false steps the occasional payoff is worth it.

Point to Star Trek

10) Characters

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

Both these series have epic characters. On one side you have Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader on the other you have James T Kirk, Jean Luc Picard and Neelix (heh only kidding). All of these characters (except Neelix, fuck Neelix) are icons, towering colossi in the genre so it's difficult to choose between them.

The fact is however that the strength of Star Wars is also it's weakness here. Star Trek does a far better job of developing it's characters than Star Wars. This is however deliberate. Star Wars does not need character development in the same way that Indiana Jones doesn't need development. Star Wars relies on iconic archetypes- the Wise Old Master, The Naive Farmboy, The Cocky Rogue- to progress its story and that's fine because it does not need any ambitions beyond that.

Star Trek characters change. Kira Nerys is a different character at the end of the Deep Space Nine than at the beginning. So is Picard at the end of The Next Generation (he's no longer a dick for example). Character arcs change and develop as events occur and as a result the series as a whole changes often for the better.

The answer to which approach is better is a tough one but I have to say that I prefer the Star Trek approach. I like to see a character grow and as a result the point goes to Star Trek.

Point to Star Trek 


So we have a 5:5 tie here... Well bugger. I've cocked this one up haven't I?

Actually I think that I have come to a conclusion... The worst bits of Star Wars are worse but the best bits are better. You are also not comparing like with like no matter what the superficial similarities may be. Star Trek wants to say something, to be taken seriously. Star Wars on the other hand wants to be an epic. These divergent approaches achieve both great heights and great troughs. But I must say that I enjoy their different ambitions equally.

That's the message from this. I like the experience of Star Wars equally to the journey taken by Star Trek. Sure there are some bits that suck but the best moments are truly glorious and I'm glad to have experienced both.

Your resident reviewer

Fall of Camelot

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Star Trek vs. Star Wars. The 5 worst bits!

Hey all FOC here

Never work with children or animals and never mention politics or religion. Seems like I broke my own rules, won't be doing that again.

Anyway back on to more pleasant things. Namely Star Trek, Star Wars and how much they suck.

Now before I get a ton of vitriol poured in my direction let me make it clear that I love both of these franchises. They hold a special place in my heart. But as I was recovering from the sheer storm of controversy my last blog post caused, my friend Matt Lang said jokingly that I should do Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Frankly, that's not a bad idea. So how do I examine these two pop culture behemoths? Well by borrowing from some of the best of course.

The Nostalgia Critic has an ongoing series that looks at remakes and examines which one is better: the original or the remake. It's called Old vs. New. How he does it is by looking at different aspects that are the same or similar in both movies, characters, plots and so on. He then chooses the film that does the better job with each aspect as the winner in that category. At the end he tots up the scores and declares one the winner over the other.

In that vein I am going to compare similar elements from both franchises and decide which one is the best in each category. That way we can come up with a clear winner and solve this conundrum once and for all (yeah right). In my next blog post I will cover the best bits of the two franchises, the bits that reach clear heights. Today I will do the fun bit, the bits of these franchises that suck ass.

1) Horrific scriptwriting

"Get that cheese to sickbay" vs. Every piece of romantic dialogue from Episodes 1, 2 and 3

So yeah. There's this episode of Voyager where Neelix (more on him later) almost destroys the entire ship by making cheese. I'm not making this shit up. It contains the immortal line "get that cheese to sickbay" which is one of the biggest moments of fail for the entire series. It's stupid, nonsensical and worst of all involves Neelix.

The Outrageous Okona from Star Trek: The Next Generation is another example of fail. I've already mentioned this episode in a previous blog post but I'll just leave Troi's description of him here:

Troi: "His emotions suggest he's mischievous, irreverent, and somewhat brazen! The word that seems to best describe him is 'rogue'."

So a wanker then? Got it.

That's a pretty tall order for Star Wars to overcome but they really go for it. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you clunky romantic dialogue!

How about this for starters

Padme: Hold me Anakin. Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo when all we had was our love

Or this little exchange:
Anakin: Don't be afraid. 
Padmé: I'm not afraid to die. I've been dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life. 
Anakin: What are you talking about? 
Padmé: I love you. 
Anakin: You love me? I thought we had decided not to fall in love. That we'd be forced to live a lie and that it would destroy our lives. 
Padmé: I think our lives are about to be destroyed anyway. I truly... deeply... love you and before we die I want you to know.

Or this cringeworthy moment:

Anakin: Are you an angel?

Anakin invokes sand as a chat up line. Clearly the point goes to Star Trek

2) The unbearable precocious kid:

Wesley Crusher vs. Anakin Skywalker (episode 1)

Both of these are totally insufferable. Wesley Crusher was an obvious stand in for Gene Roddenberry (his middle name was Wesley) and everything Annie does is shot through with cringeworthy dialogue and nonsensical characterisation. In short they both suck.

These two characters suffer from something I like to call the "Short Round Principle." Basically it comes down to this. If you have a kid character in a show or movie they had better be useful to the group on terms that make sense. These two characters represent two extremes of the problem. Wesley is useful to the group but his special insight makes zero sense whereas Anakin is just basically dead weight and only achieves things by accident except when he is showing a level of competence that is years ahead of his actual age.

Having a kid around who is dead weight is annoying for both kids and adults. For a kid it is patronising and for adults it seems to be pandering to a younger audience. On the other hand having a kid around who is always saving the day is totally unrealistic and comes across like an annoying know it all. Compare these two characters to Nog and Jake from Deep Space Nine. Nog and Jake are two of the best written kid (and later teenage) characters in any Sci Fi franchise. They have no specific special abilities but when they appear in a story they are bright and intelligent without appearing like special flowers. In short they hit the sweet spot, not too precocious, not too useless. In a rare show of competence Voyager also had a non annoying kid character in Naomi Wildman so kudos for that. Never let it be said I don't give praise when it is deserved.

Which brings us back to Wesley and Annie (god I hated it when someone called him that. Darth Vader is not called Annie.) Which is worse? Honestly they are both bad but I think I have to give it to Annie here. Wesley is awful in the first two series but as he got older there were a couple of decent episodes that focussed on him. Plus TNG's first two series were generally awful so he kind of gets a pass there. Annie on the other hand is the worst thing about Episode One. Nothing he does contributes anything positive from a storytelling standpoint. His mere presence drags down the whole movie. Whilst Wesley is undoubtedly bad he didn't drag the series down by himself, nor did he destroy the aura of cinema's greatest badass. Wesley was more a symptom of general bad writing than anything else.

Plus it must be said that playing Wesley Crusher didn't destroy Wil Wheton's life. Jake Lloyd wasn't so fortunate. So there is that.

Not a good start for Star Wars. Point goes to Star Trek

3) Mangling of science

Technobabble vs. lack of science

Both Star Wars and Star Trek have the distinction of being Science Fiction. Now I have heard many people say that these don't count as Science Fiction because they are not sciencey enough. To those people I have a four part suggestion:

1) Go to your local bookstore
2) Find the Science Fiction section
3) Notice the Star Trek and Star Wars books
4) Shut the hell up

Kay? The truth is that the term Science Fiction covers a whole multitude of different genres and Star Wars and Star Trek are two of these slightly different styles.

Star Wars covers science by not really covering it. The science they do put out is laughable (the Kessell run in less than 12 parsecs? Please.) When they do use science they use it in the one place it's not needed by explaining the Force and thereby stripping it of it's mystique. Good going George. By and large though there is an absence of science because it's not really needed.

Star Trek instead covers itself in a veneer of science. Scientific progress in Star Trek is a by product of the evolution of humanity into happy clappy space communists. The fact that humanity is said to have evolved here sums up the problem.

The fact is that Star Trek consistently gets science laughably wrong. Now I am no scientist but even a layman like me can see that Star Trek is spectacularly wrong on so many counts. It says that humanity has evolved from it's warlike roots but that's not how evolution works. It's just as accurate to say that humanity has photosynthesised from it's warlike roots. They often speak of the inertial dampers going offline despite the fact that if this happened no-one would be alive to say this unless the crew happened to have a race on board that could speak after being atomised. My personal favourite is the hole in the event horizon in one Voyager episode. This is so stupid that I actually cracked up with laughter when I first saw it.

This is the problem. Star Trek wraps itself in science lingo to effectively create magic. This would be fine if they didn't keep using scientific terms to justify themselves. Star Wars doesn't need mangled science to justify it and therefore wins the point.

Point to Star Wars

4) The godawful comic relief:

Neelix vs. Jar Jar Binks

I was a kid in the 80's and I watched a lot of cartoons. For some reason every show had the annoying comedy sidekick. It was like cartoon law or something. He Man had Orco, Thundercats had Snarf, Dungeons and Dragons had that godawful Unicorn thing, Scooby Doo had Scrappy Doo, the list goes on. As a kid I hated these characters and as an adult I still hate each one of these little shits. I also hate the Saw series of films but I would pay good money if the people getting bits cut off were these annoying bastards. As I go to bed at night I sleep soundly with the knowledge that somewhere in the world is a graphically violent Thundercats/Hellraiser crossover fic where the only characters appearing are Snarf and the Cenobites. I'm fairly certain that must exist on the internet somewhere.

Neelix and Jar Jar Binks are so much worse than this.

If I was asked to point to two characters in any medium anywhere that totally failed on every conceivable level imaginable then these would be the two. I'll have to examine each one separately because thinking about both together is frankly not good for my psyche.

First Jar Jar Binks. I can see what George Lucas was trying to do, a loveable comic relief character that the kids can laugh at and can crack a wry smile with the parents. The problem was that what we got was a horrible prat falling tosser who pranced around like a demented Jerry Lewis caricature. Because when I think Star Wars I think Jerry Lewis.

Incidentally, if there are any scriptwriters or creative people out there who are thinking of adding a loveable comic relief character to something they are working on please contact me. I will send you by return of post a Russian Spetsnaz Commado with instructions to punch you in the face if you appear to be adding anything approaching this sort of character. No need to thank me, it's a public service I provide.

Anyway the worst thing about Jar Jar is not that he is annoying, it's that he takes away from what could have been great scenes. The land battle between the droid army and the Gungans could have been awesome. There were some fantastic ideas there. Instead we got Binks jumping around like the giant dildo that he was. He even infected scenes that he wasn't in. Be honest, whilst the Jedi/Sith battle at the end of the Phantom Menace was occurring did you want them to cut back to any of the other scenes? Hell no, that was the cool bit. Instead we cut away to Jar Jar's moronic antics and that made me hate him even more.

Neelix is just as bad. Again I can see what they were trying to do, a roguish but charming interstellar trader that would act as guide and insight into the shady side of the Delta Quadrant. Because that roguish charm angle worked really well in the Outrageous Okona didn't it? Instead what they got was a bipedal orange hedgehog in a carpet. Every time this guy opened his mouth I just wanted to punch him. No scratch that, I wanted to punch every Talaxian in the galaxy for being the race that conceived this heinous hairball of misery. He's not funny, he's not charming, he is in fact a tosser. He is everything that is wrong with Voyager. I'm embarrassed every time he appears.

It's so hard to choose between these two but Neelix lasted longer. Like a fart from an elderly dachshund floating round the room making everyone's life that little bit more miserable. George Lucas at least got rid of his floppy eared waste of carbon after the first film.

Point goes to Star Wars.

5) Lack of characterisation:

Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise vs. Star Wars Episodes 1-3

Any TV show or movie relies on great characters. It is the meat and potatoes of a franchise. Would Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been quite the success it was without Willow, Giles and Xander? Of course not. Therein lies the problem with Voyager, Enterprise and Episodes 1-3. Here's a test for you, play the first and last episodes of Buffy one after the other. Name the characters from the end of the first episode who are radically different at the end of the last. I would say that they all are.

Now do the same for Voyager.

7 seasons, an epic journey across the galaxy and what do we have. Harry Kim: no change. Belanna Torres: the same. Chakotay: no change at all. In fact in 7 seasons only the Doctor and Seven of Nine have any form of character development. 170 episodes and no change. Enterprise does basically the same thing. Mayweather and Phlox don't change or develop at all. It's as if the writers picked lots to see which characters would be cardboard cut outs for the whole run.

But what Star Wars does is worse. Name an interesting character with more than two lines from the prequel trilogy? Anyone? Mace Windu doesn't count because he's just Samuel L Jackson in a Jedi robe. No-one changes, no-one develops and no-one has a character to begin with. So all we have is explosions and lightsabers. It's like a Michael Bay film, only not racist. Apart from Jar Jar Binks... and Watto of course... Actually scratch that, it's exactly like a Michael Bay film.

I think Star Trek wins here because really they do character development better. Even in the good films Star Wars has little character development outside Luke. Instead they rely on decent archetypes, good writing and snappy dialogue. On the other hand all of the Star Trek series had at least one character that had developed extensively during the series. Hell Deep Space Nine even developed the bad guys. I'm not saying that the Star Wars characters are bad it's just that Star Trek does character development better.

Point to Star Trek

So currently it's 3:2 in favour of Star Trek but that might all change in my next blog post where we explore the good bits of each series.

Your resident geek

Fall of Camelot

Thursday, 22 March 2012

My problem with Militant Atheism and the Cult of Science

Hi all FOC here,

J. Michael Straczynski is an atheist. He is also responsible for one of the greatest sci fi TV series of all time, Babylon 5. These two pieces of information may lead you to think that Babylon 5 does not cover religion (like Star Trek) or that there is a relatively negative view of religion in the programme. In fact Babylon 5 goes out of it's way to explore religion and spirituality in a mature and sensitive way, letting the viewer make up their own mind.

But hey that was the nineties, we have come so far backwards since then.

Every day I go on Facebook I am confronted by silly little memes and quotes that belittle religion. There's the Thor/Frost Giant one (which is totally inaccurate by the way), there's the one about a carpenter being nailed to a piece of wood (ho ho, my sides are splitting) and another I saw today about "Science not giving a shit about your beliefs" (classy). I'm sure you can point to more.

Now many of the nicest people I have ever met have been religious. Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans I know someone from a bunch of different religions. However for some reason over the last few years it has become acceptable for atheists to not only be content with disbelieving in religion but to actively belittle it. Many of these people would hate it if a religious person started preaching to them but see no problem with doing the exact same thing to religious people.

It's the smugness that I can't stand. Religion is a deeply held belief, all of the major religions are guides on how to be a better person. Jesus for example was a fantastic guy. He taught that we should help the sick and the poor, to avoid violence and try to be a good person. That is the message that most of the Christians I know try to live by. They recognise that there are contradictions in the Bible but the core message is what they hold to. Other religions have the same principle.

Militant Atheists don't get this. The whole Flying Spaghetti Monster/God Delusion position is that religion can't be proved scientifically therefore it is invalid. Effectively they are saying that if you believe in religion you are a stupid, gullible sheep and they by comparison are superior by not believing in a "Sky Bully".  Arrogance on this level is staggering but somehow this nasty superior attitude doesn't seem to worry people. If this was a religious person posting an equivalent argument on Facebook they would get rightfully slapped down so why is it a one way street?

Militant atheism is a way of blaming the worlds ills on religion. For example I have heard atheists say that religious belief causes most wars, in fact Richard Dawkins has himself said this. This is patent bullshit. The Second World War was not a religious war nor was the First, or Vietnam, Korea, the English and American Civil Wars, the Boer War, Napoleonic Wars or the Hundred Years War. Some conflict has religious overtones sure, but frankly to reduce any war to a struggle about religion is as absurd as saying the American Civil War was about slavery. The idea that the removal of religious belief would make the world a better place is simplistic and wrong.

Hand in hand with atheism is the fetishisation of science as this mystical force we should all bow in reverence to. The irony is that the co-opting of science as the totem of an atheistic way of life seems almost religious in it's overtones. Science is always right and you are wrong to try to contemplate anything outside of scientific method. I reject this. Science is important but so is music and art, literature and philosophy and of course your own spiritual beliefs.

Using religion or spiritual belief as a way to attack someone is also just wrong. But what atheists miss is that atheism is a spiritual belief. Just because you reject religion does not make you right. If you accept scientific method then you must also accept that all religions are as equally valid as atheism. There is no conclusive evidence for or against any religion and therefore science cannot prove the non existence of a religious belief. Thus attacks on religions by atheists are not in the name of science and are merely a belief.

This is my problem in a nutshell. Atheism is fine but just like any other spiritual belief it should not be aggressively thrust upon others. Think before you post militant atheist stuff or like it because it's just someone posting an aggressive religious message.

In short if you are an atheist be like J. Michael Straczynski not like Richard Dawkins.

Your resident agnostic

Fall of Camelot

How Bioware can rescue Mass Effect

Hey all FOC here

So the ending of Mass Effect 3 could be possibly be the worst ending to a game franchise in history. If things are exactly as they seem then the ending sucks balls.

Alternatively it could be one of the greatest misdirections in gaming history, a plot twist so dramatic and colossal that it will be talked of in gaming circles for decades to come. To what do I refer? Let me present the indoctrination theory...

The indoctrination theory states that the ending of the game could actually not be real. The Reapers have the ability to indoctrinate others to do their bidding a form of brainwashing that can effect even the strongest willed people. Adherents to the indoctrination theory point out a few inconsistencies that appear at throughout the game and other supporting evidence from outside the game.

1) The child: There is a child who haunts Shepard's nightmares. This child appears at the start of game 3 and is the form that the Catalyst takes at the end. Crucially however, said child is only acknowledged by Shepard. What if this child actually represents the indoctrination of Shepard?

2) Normandy in Hyperspace: As I said before, why? There is no reason for this to happen. It makes no sense. More curiously the two characters who emerge after the crash are always Joker and AN Other squad mate. This squad mate could be one that was 2 feet behind you in the rush to the beam. Lazy storytelling or something more significant?

3) The mysterious missing armour: Why does your armour disappear? Again this makes no sense.

4) The Citadel: The Citadel looks nothing like the Citadel we have seen before it seems more like... Well a dream...

5) Anderson and the Illusive Man: Both of these guys appear on the Citadel. Convenient much? This is too weird to be a coincidence. We already know that the Illusive Man is indoctrinated so what if this was also Anderson's indoctrination?

6) Bioware tweets: Tweets from Bioware seem to indicate there is more going on than meets the eye. This one in particular is extremely interesting:

"Mike Gamble already said on his twitter, if the fans knew what was in store, the reaction would be different." 


Other tweets support that there is something up and suggest keeping your save games. Hmmm indeed...

7) That cryptic Martin Sheen comment:  At the end of the Mass Effect 3 trailer Martin Sheen says the following:

“Stay Tuned. I aint done yet”

Perhaps this is not the end of the Illusive Man?

So according to the indoctrination theory everything after the beam is an attempt at indoctrination. Here's my wild mass guessing theory for you:

No-one reached the Citadel and the entire attack squad (bar Shepard) died in the assault. The reason that it did not succeed was basically because Anderson had been indoctrinated before Shepard got to Earth. This was why the Reapers knew to take the Citadel to Earth. But why did they do this? Answer. To force Shepard's hand because he is the only one the Reapers truly fear.

Your choice on the Citadel actually represents one of three possibilities. If you choose Control you submit to the indoctrination and the Reapers have won. If you choose Synthesis the Reapers are more concerned about you and decide to declare a peace of sorts with you as their Locutus of Borg type character. Destroy of course means that you reject the indoctrination.

From that point onwards the battle against the Reapers continues but with the Reapers winning and having indoctrinated most through the machinations of Anderson and the Illusive Man. Now all you have left is a few rebels trying to strike back at the Reapers led by a new character and therein we have the start of ME4. 

Now a few days ago I thought this may be the case but as I have followed this story I am beginning to doubt this will happen. I am more and more convinced that Bioware just fluffed the ending which is a sad state of affairs. I am however encouraged by the fact that Bioware are offering more closure and I will watch this space with interest.

Your resident optimistic gamer

Fall of Camelot

Sunday, 18 March 2012

How Bioware dropped the ball (again) MASS EFFECT 3 SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey all FOC here,

Well that time has come for a new Bioware game, specifically Mass Effect 3! Huzzah! I cried, my favourite game series gets a new game!

So I played it and loved it. A fitting conclusion to 90 hours of sublime gaming...Well... 89 hours 50 minutes of sublime gaming and then...


What the fuck Bioware? That was without doubt the worst ending to anything ever. Battlestar Galactica had a better ending and that ending sucked on so many levels. It took the best game series I have ever played and destroyed it in 10 minutes that rejected every idea, concept and plotline that the game had developed over the previous 5 years. It was like seeing Kermit the Frog napalm the rest of the muppets.

So I suppose I should explain for those of you who do not follow computer games.

You are probably familiar with Mass Effect 1 & 2 but just in case you have been living under a rock I'll go through it in brief. You play Commander Shepard a Badass Space Marine type who is appointed to be a Spectre in the first game: effectively a freelance agent who works directly for the Citadel Council (basically the UN of the various alien races). Humanity wants to be the fourth Council member and Shepard's Spectre status represents a big step in that direction.

In the first game Shepard finds out that an synthetic race called the Reapers are returning to destroy all organic species that have advanced past a certain point of development. The reapers do this every 50,000 years but their reasons for doing so are unknown. The second game dlc ends with Shepard destroying a Batarian colony to slow the advance of the Reapers. However this is a stopgap measure at best and it is basically stated that the Reapers will arrive at the start of game 3.

And boy do they arrive, attacking Earth in force and smashing all before them. The entire 3rd game consists of Shepard trying to drum up a resistance force to send against the Reapers. In addition to this the Resistance has found plans for a device in ancient recordings from the last time the Reapers turned up 50,000 years ago. It is said that this device will destroy the Reapers once and for all. Throughout the game Shepard is looking for the final piece of this device- a component called the Catalyst. Eventually he discovers that the Catalyst and the Citadel (an ancient space station and headquarters of the Citadel Council) are one and the same thing but said Catalyst has been captured by the Reapers and moved to Earth. With no option left Shepard leads his forces to Earth to confront the Reapers and deal them a death blow once and for all. Shepard leads the attack squad across the battlefield in a desperate attempt to reach the transport beam to the Citadel, from there the plan is to use the device and destroy the Reapers. Unfortunately the allied forces start taking fire from a Reaper, Shepard is hit with a glancing blow and loses consciousness.

Up to this exact point Mass Effect 3 was pure unrefined awesome.

After this point it goes downhill fast.

Shepard regains consciousness, gets to the beam and uses it to enter the Citadel. After dealing with the Illusive Man (a major character from Mass Effect 2 & 3, but not really important for this summary) Shepard gets taken to see the Catalyst.

As it turns out the Catalyst is an artificial intelligence who has become concerned that a pattern has emerged of synthetic lifeforms rebelling against organics and starting a war. Its solution was to create the Reapers and wipe out advanced organic life every 50,000 years allowing other races to come to the fore.

It offers Shepard a choice: destroy all synthetic life, merge synthetic life and organic life so that there is no distinction between the two or gain control of the Reapers and thereby stop the attacks. Regardless of your choice Shepard dies, the mass relay system (basically jumpgates and the only means of swift travel between systems) gets destroyed and Shepard's ship the Normandy gets marooned on a lush jungle world along with all his squadmates, friends and (potentially) lovers. A cryptic epilogue of a man talking to a young boy then plays stating that this all happened long ago and a lot of information has been lost from that time. Nevertheless the man promises to tell another story of The Shepard.

That's it. End of game.

Now there are many reasons why this sucks as an ending so I will go through them in order:

1) Lack of consequences for your actions: This is the big one for a lot of people. Your choice at the end doesn't actually matter in the slightest. The only difference it makes in game is the colour of the energy wave produced by the Catalyst (Green, Orange or Blue) and which crew member is seen clawing their way out of the wreckage of the Normandy at the end. After being promised that your choices really matter the actuality of it is that your final and most important decision doesn't make any practical difference, the ending is effectively identical regardless. Extending this further none of your actions in any of the 3 games actually matter. It all comes down to a non-choice.

2) Deus Ex Machina: After 3 whole games of awesomeness the game is ended by a band new character who comes out of nowhere and pours pixie dust on the problem to make it go away. Yup a wizard did it... That sucks.

3) The implied holocaust: The destruction of the relay system absolutely shits on the entire galaxy. Most systems have been heavily damaged by fighting to the point that they have lost great swathes of their production capacity. Others relied on heavily on interstellar trade to survive. Basically any system that is not entirely self sufficient is now screwed. Worst hit will be Earth because it has hundreds of different ships in orbit representing the fleets of virtually all the major races in the galaxy, two of which (the Quarians and Turians) don't even eat human food. As this becomes clear it is likely that the alliance that Shepard has formed will collapse as the various races scrap for survival. Elsewhere trillions will die as they slowly starve to death. A total downer ending of the worst kind.

4) The kick in the teeth: In the third game Shepard can solve many major galactic problems through diplomacy and (frankly) kicking arse. You can cure the Krogan Genophage, bring truce and friendship to the Quarians and Geth and give a resurrected Prothean reason to live beyond mere combat. In short you bring hope that after the war your friends can go back to their homeworlds to build new lives. Wrex wants to father a family, Tali wants to build a home on Rannoch, Samara wants to watch over her only remaining daughter etc. etc. To achieve this several other longstanding characters sacrifice their lives heroically.

Unfortunately at the end of the game all these people are either stuck on some random jungle planet or stuck on Earth. So yeah all that good work? Not only totally pointless but actually worse because you have created hope and then had it cruelly snatched away...

5) If it is on the level then it makes no sense: Hey there! I've heard you don't want to get killed by synthetics, so I've created a race of synthetics to kill you every 50,000 years so you don't have to get killed by synthetics.

That's basically the reasoning presented by the Catalyst for why he does what he does. Make any sense to you? Nah I didn't think so either.

Also why is the Normandy in hyperspace at the end of the game? The only reason to do this is if they had all run away. That makes no sense. In addition your team was on Earth, so how exactly did they suddenly get back on the Normandy? It is possible that the same character that accompanied you on your charge towards the beam not only miraculously survives but actually picks themselves up, dusts themselves off and then (for some reason) decides to ignore their mission in order to turn right around, leave the combat zone and go back to the Normandy with the rest of the crew. I know this because it's possible to have a companion that is with you as you are hit by the Reaper beam be the same one that is clawing out of the wreckage of the Normandy on the jungle world.

Plus after you get hit by the Reaper beam you suddenly are no longer wearing your combat armour. Why? That's an awfully specific bit of clothing damage.

And why does the Catalyst appear as the kid that you saw at the start of the 3rd game? It has no reason to do that. This makes no sense.

In short, as things stand the end of Mass Effect 3 doesn't have plot holes, it has plot chasms...

It's just awful. However there is a possibility that this could yet be one of the most ambitious and risky twists in computer gaming history. I will expound on this theory in a future post.

Your resident depressed gamer

Fall of Camelot

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cheese and cake?

Hi all,

Cheesecake. Bad or good?

No not the tasty dessert, the style of art. For those not in the know Cheesecake is a style of art, usually of women that presents them in a scantily clad and suggestive manner. Those images of women in lingerie on the front of WWII bombers? That's cheesecake.


Opinions on cheesecake pictures are divided. Some see them as exploitative borderline pornography and others see them as empowering for women. The question is what constitutes cheesecake and what is exploitative? On top of that what is cheesecake for one person is mild for others. Those two questions rage and unintentional offence can be caused by almost any picture.

From my point of view there is a line which separates cheesecake from exploitative images. I read comics, watch movies and play fantasy games. Cheesecake is very prevalent in those genres and to be honest for the most part I like it. The point is that those media are built around cheesecake for better or worse and it goes with the territory. For me it's about how the characters are portrayed. Take Black Canary for instance:

Black Canary

Now Black Canary is a good example of cheesecake. Blonde hair, fishnet stockings and pneumatic breasts. However this image is what I would classify as ok, she's obviously in a fight, kicking arse so that's ok as far as I'm concerned.

This one on the other hand I think is less cool:

Black Canary

Now that one is just an excuse to show her in as little as possible. It's not an action shot, it's a pinup shot and not a particularly great one at that. Worse it's not the character. The thin line has been crossed. Black Canary is meant to be one of the toughest martial artists in the world, on a par with Batman so she should be portrayed kicking arse. Yes her costume shows off her femininity but that's not actually a bad thing, sexy is good. However when her artwork becomes just about sex then that's not the character, she's a forceful personality and she should be portrayed as such.

One of the characters that is company sanctioned to be utterly ridiculous is Power Girl. Now before I get into this, I love Power Girl she's a kickass powerhouse who takes charge and has an interesting (if confusing) backstory. The problem is... well this:




Power Girl's cleavage is a running gag in the comics but seriously, that circular cutout is just ridiculous at this point. Be honest, would Power Girl be any less sexy if you covered the boobs? I would contend that she would actually look sexier. Plus her ginormous proportions take away from the character. Hell it's a good job she has super strength or she would have serious lower back issues by now. Ask anyone what they first think of when Power Girl is mentioned and those that have heard of her would just say boobs. She's a better character than that, she deserves more.

What got me thinking about this was the fact that Paizo publishing (who produce the Pathfinder roleplaying game) have sometimes been criticised for perceived cheesecake in their publications, specifically the way their female iconics are portrayed. Iconics are characters created by Paizo to illustrate the different classes in the game. To give you a better idea, here are the particular characters people tend to mention:




Are these cheesecake? Well a little bit I suppose. Are they over the top? Hell no.

The thing is that this is a roleplaying game. To a certain extent it's wish fulfilment. Do I want to look like me when I roleplay? Hell no, I'm 5 stone overweight and bald. I want to look like this:


In a fantasy setting the men should be handsome and the women should be sexy. If you want to play a character you want one that looks good. Now if the iconics looked like this:

Barbarian in bikini

Then you'd have a point. However the fact is that there's nothing in those three portraits that I consider beyond the pale. It is a little bit of cheesecake I suppose but I have seen a load of images with these characters at this point and I don't see them as exploitative or demeaning to women. They are sexy and they kick butt. Hell I want to be that too, just male.

Of course this is just my opinion and therein lies the problem. My line in the sand is pretty liberal. I like images of hot women so long as they are not demeaning. Any image that shows a woman in a subservient role to a man is just wrong (look up images of the Gor series of books to see what I mean.) I don't want BDSM in my fantasy thanks, if you want that then fine but it should be a niche market.

However, some people are not as happy about these images. Some would see that all these images are nothing but exploitative and wrong. It's difficult to please all the people all the time so I would stand up for what you believe on this. I love Power Girl. I love Black Canary and Starfire and Wonder Woman and She Hulk**. They are all great characters. I think the creators should set a benchmark and say "this is what we do." Trying to catch the zeitgeist can lead to this:

Fashion faux pas***

And no one wants that.

Your resident cheescake connoisseur

Fall of Camelot

* Yeah I know he's gay. So what? He's awesome, live with it.
** And Mrs Camelot of course
*** Don't get me wrong, I love the JLI but that Black Canary's outfit was just... ouch