Twitter Creeps Steadily Towards Facebookification

Following on the heels of news about Twitter executives trying harder to make the social media platform generate more income, Twitter has begun to move away from the one thing that truly set them apart from the competition.

The raw feed known as the timeline, unlike Facebook, was always available in its entirety. Users were free to adjust that raw feed as they saw fit (if they saw fit) with third-party apps like Tweet Deck, lists, and mute. Where Facebook chose for its users how many and which posts from any given person a user is allowed to see on their feed, Twitter wisely kept their nose out of such matters.

First, the “while you were away” and “moments” features were introduced. They were annoying additions but still easy to ignore for the most part.

Now, however, Twitter has begun limited release of a “feature” which distorts the chronological timeline of the Twitter feed. Vague comments from Twitter about challenging their own beliefs and wishes to promote the “best” content fail to address the heart of the matter: Twitter is getting ready to start to pick and choose which Tweets (and by extension, which users) get to skip to the head of the Timeline and receive the most visibility. Why is that so important? Aside from the intrusiveness, when taken in context of Facebook’s long and sordid history of such maneuvers, it’s not hard to see what might possibly be down the road.

Facebook’s seemingly-innocuous forays into this territory eventually resulted in the pay-to-be-seen policy, where users willing to cough up money were guaranteed to show up in their followers’ feeds much better than users who didn’t wish to pay. People who didn’t buy better “reach” saw up to 90% decrease in engagement from their followers. Such a move could have even more repercussions on Twitter, as there is no distinction between business and personal accounts on the latter.

Even assuming Twitter doesn’t require payment for visibility, complex algorithms often tend to favor people who spend more time learning how to game the system over those who try to bring quality content and genuine conversation.

Most of all, Twitter seems to be ignoring one of the biggest reasons people choose Twitter: Because it’s not like Facebook. Trying to become “other Facebook” is a move that will alienate more of their users than Twitter seems to be anticipating.

I like the people I follow on Twitter. I like hearing about their day-to-day lives. Twitter has no place telling me the “best” Tweets–be they purchased or trending–are more important than whatever hi-jinks my friend’s cats just got up to or the screencap a guildie sent from World of Warcraft. I curated my follow list under the assumption that I was being trusted to search out the “best” content for me, the user.

Krampus Was Nice, But The Director Was Naughty

THIS CRITIQUE CONTAINS MULTIPLE MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE KRAMPUS, INCLUDING THE ENDING.

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Michael Dougherty’s Krampus was an excellent concept that stumbled on execution, due in large part to the ending. It was a film I really wanted to love, and it was for the most part and enjoyable movie. But there were a few things that really dragged down what could have been a holiday horror classic.

Krampus chose to walk a fine line between humor and horror. Think Return of the Living Dead rather than Night of the Living Dead. In and of itself, that wasn’t a poor choice. Humor and horror have usually paired well with each other. But towards the end, the humor in Krampus often dulls the fangs of what should be more climactic and emotion-driven scenes.

The film opens with a long slow-motion montage of Black Friday mayhem in a large store, with people beating each other senseless to the incongruous yet highly effective Christmas music. Though at first it merely seemed like a funny way to encapsulate the already morbid turn Christmas has come to take in our society, it was brilliant setup for the story to come.

The festive carnage enacted by grim-faced consumers segued into the aftermath of a fight between Max–one of the main protagonists–and a classmate who spoiled Christmas for younger kids by telling them Santa wasn’t real. Max tries to explain to his mom his reason for getting into the fight, but his defense of the Christmas spirit by engaging in fisticuffs doesn’t exactly engender her sympathy, especially as she is preparing for the onslaught of a visit from her sister’s difficult family.

The sister, Linda, and her husband Howard are the typical Christmas movie ‘redneck relatives.’ Their entire family was cribbed rather heavily from movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (albeit much surlier) but the acting was good enough to save the concept from being too cheesy. Max’s cousins bully him mercilessly, leading him to shred his letter to Santa and toss the pieces out of the window.

The next morning, the family awakens to a blizzard and power outage. Max’s teenage sister Beth, for some unfathomable reason, is allowed to leave the house and go check on her boyfriend several blocks away. She ends up running for her life from Krampus only to be attacked by a “present” he leaves behind just as she thinks he’s abandoned his pursuit.

Beth’s encounter with the jack-in-the-box was an excellent teaser that ultimately failed to deliver. We were set up to believe, “Well, this is serious. Kids can die in this movie.” But Dougherty didn’t commit to that, instead leaving anyone who fell victim to the minions of Krampus in an underwhelming limbo. Beth, as it transpired, wasn’t dead (supposedly?), being heard shrieking off-screen when her father and uncle managed to dredge up enough enthusiasm to go look for her.

This wouldn’t even have been the worst of it, but the adults in the film never seemed to take the disappearance of Beth nearly as seriously as they should have. The audience takes its cues from the characters in situations like this. The parents failed to treat the disappearances of the kids with urgency, and so that lack of urgency was passed on to the audience. When we realized that the kids were likely not dead but merely captive, there was virtually no sense of relief because their captures had been thoroughly downplayed and upstaged by other events at every turn.

This error in judgement comes, I think, from the characters being written as if they had the filmmaker’s knowledge of how events would turn out, rather than as parents whose children had been taken by unspeakable monsters. Despite repeated silly posturing from her uncle Howard to her father Tom about how “a shepherd takes care of his flock,” both men were content to abandon their search for Beth after returning to the safety of the house, despite a) hearing her screaming and b) encountering a mysterious creature in the snow that brutally savaged Howard. Her mother and aunt seemed equally blasé about leaving her to fend for herself in a blizzard stalked by monsters.

While the parents reacted a little more believably to the losses of the other children, the treatment of Beth set up an unfortunate precedent in how the audience should expect to feel after such events. The loss of several of Howard and Linda’s kids was then rather upstaged due to being followed by an admittedly hilarious scene where Howard was chased through the kitchen by psychotic murderous gingerbread men wielding a nail gun. The other adults encountered similarly humorous monster toys including a savage teddy bear, a spooky angelic doll, and a red-eyed robot of some kind.

Eventually we learn about Krampus from Max’s grandmother, Omi. Relayed in an animated segment that couldn’t quite decide between two different visual styles, Omi tells of when she was a little girl and unwittingly set Krampus after her entire town because they had forgotten the spirit of Christmas.

After Krampus eliminates the rest of Max’s family, he confronts the monster, first offering to sacrifice himself. When Krampus merely laughs and has his cousin thrown in a fiery pit, he says the magic words: I’m sorry.

And in the worst move I’ve seen from any movie in recent memory, the reset button was hit and everything that the audience spent and hour and half watching was relegated to being little more than a big dream sequence. The Doughtry tried to offset this by having Max receive a bell with Krampus’s name etched on it, but it was far too little, too late. It’s hard to imagine repeated viewings of this movie will be very enjoyable when the audience knows that there were zero lasting consequences and that all the characters would wake up to a happy Christmas morning of unwrapping presents.

 

Early Look At Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked

Don't Starve Shipwrecked IntroDon’t Starve, the whimsical roguelike sandbox game that has drawn many comparisons to Minecraft, released the Early Access version of its new expansion on Steam.

Though I’ve seen a few people on the forum mention crashes or minor bugs, my experience so far has been completely smooth and stable. It must be pointed out that as yet there is no ability to manipulate the frequency of material or mob spawns. There is a very noticeable scarcity of many basic materials like gold, flint, and saplings. That is a feature, not a bug. Players who relied heavily on the ability to add extra materials via the world settings in the base game should be prepared for a struggle.

Don't Stave New Pig Houses

There are new mobs and materials in keeping with the island theme. The three most obvious mob additions on land are parrots, monkeys, and snakes. Parrots are simply the replacement for regular birds. Monkeys are a big nuisance; they will follow the player and attempt to steal any nearby materials. They can be attacked, but they will fling poop in retaliation. Snakes are the most troublesome. They are fairly persistent, and can poison players. They can be found both roaming freely and attack players who cut down trees, bamboo, and thorny bushes.

Don't Starve Shipwrecked Open Water

Most islands are fairly small and poorly stocked, so players will dedicate a significant amount of time to traveling between islands. Several boats can be made right from the beginning and do not require a science machine or prototypes. The boats themselves have health gauges. They last pretty long in most cases, though they can take damage and anybody playing on Willow should be aware that she can cause the boat to spontaneously light the boat on fire like any other flammable item.

Don't Starve Boats

There are changes and tweaks thrown in to give players more to figure out. Marine-based foods like seaweed seem to severely deplete sanity when eaten raw. There are tons of new recipes, and existing recipes are different, with several costing noticeably fewer resources. Overall, Shipwrecked does an excellent job at providing new content while retaining the spirit and character of the original game.

FanMail Subscription Box

Fanmail November crate: "Wars Among the Stars."
FanMail November crate: “Wars Among the Stars.”

In mid November I saw someone mention a mystery subscription box for lady geeks. As I never got around to trying Loot Crate I decided to give it a try. FanMail bills itself as “A mystery box designed for lady geeks (by lady geeks!)“. The November box was themed “Wars Among the Stars.” My reaction was 50/50. There were two items I really liked, and both arrived with minor defects. The rest was either filler or just stuff that didn’t appeal to me.

First up was the set of stormtrooper helmet lapel pins:

Stormtrooper Lapel PinsI’ll admit I was a bit confused by these and had to Google what to do with lapel pins, but they’re very cute. This was one of the items that arrived defective–both posts were slightly bent despite being packed with foam in a cardboard jewelry box.

Next up was a geeky coloring book:

Coloring BookI like the idea better than the execution. Coloring books are making a comeback with adult versions being very popular, but the designs in this one were extremely simple and they printed each design twice in what feels like an attempt to pad the book. They included a set of four crayons: red, yellow, blue, and green. Astute observers will note that BB-88, like many of the other pictures in the coloring book, cannot be colored in with the selection provided.

My favorite item was the Death Star soap:

Death Star SoapIt arrived somewhat mushed-looking despite the plastic wrapping, but the scent is very nice.

They included two comics, Leia #1 and Marvel’s 100th Anniversary* Guardians of the Galaxy issue:

Fanmail ComicsAs I’ve never ordered a subscription box before, I don’t know if it’s common to include issues of comics that are eight and twelve or so months old, respectively, but it seems like a poor choice; like a large percentage of lady geeks, I already own the Leia comics.

*The “100th anniversary” thing was sort of a joke by Marvel.

The shirt was a Groot design:

We Are Groot ShirtI’ll confess to being one of the few nerds on the planet who hasn’t gotten around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, so I won’t hold my apathy for the shirt against the box’s curators. The material was of good quality and the design is nice.

Finally we have some temporary tattoos for The Lunar Chronicles:

Lunar TattoosI can’t really see myself using these. I was intrigued enough to consider buying the book, which I suspect was the point.

I know part of the risk of subscribing to a mystery box is that some of the items just won’t be your cup of tea. I really liked what I saw from their previous boxes on the web site, so I’ll give it one more month before I decide if I want to discontinue my subscription.

Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon

Star Wars The Perfect WeaponStar Wars: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson is the first in a series of novellas being released as part of the journey to The Force Awakens.  It was a mostly solid entry in the series with two minor exceptions.

While the main character Bazine Netal was likable enough, she felt a bit like the Generic Strong Female Character so common in science fiction in general and Star Wars in particular. After reading Dark Disciple a few months ago, I can’t help but feel like she bears a strong similarity to Asajj Ventress, though that could also be attributed to some similarities in the narrative.

The ending felt like a bit of a let down as well, but for the sake of remaining spoiler-free I won’t go into detail. It wasn’t necessarily a bad ending but it lacked a certain sense of satisfaction.

Aside from those two downsides, it was an enjoyable read that felt right for the price; it neither seemed rushed nor dragged on, striking a good balanced pace for a novella. Bazine had effective chemistry with the other characters in the book, particularly the is-he-or-isn’t-he potential traitor, Orri Tenro.

The Perfect Weapon delved a bit into what happened to Imperial stormtroopers after the New Republic came to power, giving tidbits to whet the appetite for The Force Awakens without revealing too much. We also got a few unique locations that felt very Star Wars-y, including some fun and gruesome alien fauna.

From the official blurb:

There are plenty of mercenaries, spies, and guns for hire in the galaxy. But probably none as dangerous and determined as Bazine Netal. A master of disguise—and lethal with a blade, a blaster, or bare handed—she learned from the best. Now it’s her turn to be the teacher—even if schooling an eager but inexperienced recruit in the tricks of her trade is the last thing she wants to do. But it’s the only way to score the ship she needs to pull off her latest job.

An anonymous client has hired Bazine to track down an ex-stormtrooper and recover the mysterious package he’s safeguarding. Payment for the mission promises to be astronomical, but the obstacles facing Bazine will prove to be formidable. And though her eager new sidekick has cyber skills crucial to the mission, only Bazine’s razor-sharp talents will mean the difference between success or failure—and life or death.

 

The Perfect Weapon, despite a few minor faults, was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next few novellas in the series.

 

The Black Tapes Podcast Is Fearfully Delicious

I have to state up front that The Black Tapes isn’t a podcast best listened to while browsing, gaming, or multitasking. I tried to get into this podcast several times and failed before I fell completely and utterly in love with it.  Finally I decided to give it a try without three or four other things dividing my attention and the difference was night and day. This is a story that thrives on the eerie atmosphere it creates, and like the great radio dramas of yesteryear, the listener has to do their part and use some good old fashioned imagination.

The Black Tapes is a podcast about Alex Reagan, a digital radio journalist trying to start a series about people with interesting jobs. The first people she profiles are a group of ghost hunters and paranormal researchers. As the events of the first few episodes unfold, Alex and her producer decide to shift the focus of the podcast from a variety of people and careers to researching the mysterious Black Tapes she comes across when interviewing the famous skeptic Dr. Strand.

Via the podast’s website, the story is:

a serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her enigmatic subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both.

The production values and voice acting are both excellent and highly professional. The enigmatic Dr. Strand in particular has a compelling and rich voice that makes the listener eager for every line. He’s the sort of voice actor who could read the phone book and make it sound exciting.

I only have a few minor criticisms. At times indistinct sound effects take place before Alex explains what is going on, leading the listener to imagine the actors doing something much different from what actually happens. Now, that’s not a bad thing when they use it for suspense and humor. But on several occasions it happened for what seemed to be no narrative purpose. For example, after heated words were exchanged at one point, there are sounds like footsteps across floorboards and a door opening, seeming to suggest that one character was storming out, only for the listener to belatedly be informed that the characters were simply entering another room all together.

The only other minor criticism is that Alex’s introductory descriptions seem to veer slightly into purple prose territory on occasion, trying a little too hard to paint a picture. Generally speaking I think listeners will imagine a character’s appearance to fit the voice on their own, especially as the scenes progress and they forget the detailed descriptions they were fed. The descriptions of people often feel slightly at odds with the rest of the podcast. It’s not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the show, however.

It’s been a long time since a scary story has gripped me as tightly as the Black Tapes has. Give it a listen in a darkened room with a quality headset or sound system and be prepared for chills and thrills.

 

 

Choosing To Be Positive In Fandom

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens fast approaching and the World of Warcraft announcements regarding both the new expansion, Legion, and the upcoming Warcraft film, I find that a lot of the arguments and negative comments I’ve seen surrounding both of these franchises tend to have similarities.

Warlords of Draenor is widely believed to be the worst expansion of the game’s history, resulting in almost record breaking lows in their subscription numbers. Though the Star Wars prequels have received much more acclaim and a colossal following, they cleaved the fandom in half to an extent that few franchises have ever experienced.

Disclaimer before I continue: while I genuinely dislike the prequels themselves, I hold no animosity or disparaging feelings towards the people who prefer them. I wish it didn’t even need to be said, but in light of Simon Pegg’s comments about prequel fans on top of the general animosity they already often experience, I feel it’s important to make that clear up front. And if you’re a fan of the original trilogy who can’t make a case against a few movies you dislike without directing vitriol at the human beings who enjoy them, I invite you to kindly grow the bleep up. In the words of Wil Wheaton, don’t be a dick.

Both Star Wars and World of Warcraft are in the midst of many expectations surrounding the next installments of their sagas. Fans like myself who were let down by the prequels are hoping for a second chance at building on the original trilogy and finally re-experiencing the excitement we used to associate with the franchise as a whole. Prequel fans are hoping the emphasis on preserving the feel of the original trilogy won’t result in Abrams discarding everything introduced in episodes one through three. In realm of Azeroth, Warcraft fans are desperately hoping that Legion signals a change back to content-rich expansions and lore that has actual relevance to the main story that has been built up for the past 20 years.

I’ve noticed a lot of comments that seem to imply a dichotomy between embracing hope and managing expectations. Many people seem to think the best defense against false hope is a good offense and relish listing in detail everything that could possibly go wrong and how they won’t believe in positive changes until they see them.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” is a common mantra. J.J. Abrams promises and emphasis on real scenery and traditional SFX over pure CGI? “I’ll believe it when I see it!”Warcraft devs promise that dungeons will be more challenging and function as true end game content? “I’ve heard that before! I’ll believe it when I see it!”

I get it, I do. Hell, I’ve even been that person on occasion (*cough* Horde pvp this expansion *cough*). But I still think it’s the wrong attitude to take.

We’ve all heard and perhaps even espoused the concept of going in with low expectations in the hopes of being presently surprised. The problem with that attitude, however, is that the mind is malleable to suggestion, most especially to suggestions that come from inside our own heads. Telling yourself for months on end that you expect to be let down can have a very real effect on how you perceive something.

I’ve been let down by Warlords, to say the least (and being a newish player who only really started playing halfway through Mists of Pandaria, I recently had the depressing realization that by the time Legion comes out Warlords will have made up the majority of time playing Warcraft). But the funny thing is I had very low expectations going in; I was never a big Orc fan and Metzen’s description of the expansion as a “boys’ trip” was a tremendous turnoff. Managing my expectations did nothing to soften the blow of how awful the expansion turned out. I was perhaps a victim of hype as a tween going in to see The Phantom Menace, but I had managed my expectations sufficiently by the time Revenge of the Sith came around and that did nothing to increase my enjoyment of the film.

So I’m going to embrace positive thinking in the lead up to The Force Awakens and Legion. Spending weeks or months griping and wringing my hands and thinking up new and creative ways to be disappointing isn’t going to inoculate me with some mystical protection against disappointment. It will just mean that I have wasted weeks and months out of my life being unhappy about something I have no power to change, and that sounds like an appalling waste. I choose to spend the upcoming time savoring my happy anticipation.

At Blizzcon a few weeks ago, I was struck by how enthusiastic everyone was. All the grim predictions I’d heard about how people would surely boo Metzen off the stage or that there’s be loads of awkward and embarrassing silences whenever the Warcraft devs took the stage never materialized. And I was then equally struck by how the exact same announcements were met with endless pissing and moaning and outrage online once I got back home and started browsing the Warcraft forums.

Humans being social creatures, we take our cues from the people around us, no matter how we’d like to think we’re far too intelligent and individual to ever be susceptible to our peers’ influence. I’m making the conscious effort to spend my time and energy in places that will reinforce the positive attitude I wish to continue fostering. Things like Star Wars and Warcraft bring me joy and feed the majority of my social connections.  I have a choice, as does everyone, to focus on the good and the positive.

And in case it has been unclear, I am in no way suggesting anyone should not bring critical thought to films or games, or that they should try to force themselves to enjoy something. What I’m arguing for is a move away from the mindset of nitpicking and bemoaning the fate of a piece of entertainment we have not seen yet. There’s time enough to criticize something after you’ve at least experienced it.

There’s a lot of great things coming in the following months. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first course of a veritable feast of media juggernauts beloved by Geeks. Avengers: Civil War. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Warcraft. Ghostbusters. Deadpool. Suicide Squad. Grousing about what could go wrong won’t make you like them any more. You’ll like them or you won’t, but the time you spend feeding negativity can never be recovered.

Brick Shakespeare Builds On Classic Tales

Some things just go perfectly together: Chocolate and peanut butter. Cocoa and little bitty marshmallows on cold nights. Me and red wine. LEGO minifigs and William Shakespeare. Bear with me for a few minutes and I promise I’ll convince you of that last one (the second-to-last one is equally true, but the less we speak of that the better).

From the creative minds of John McCann, Monica Sweeney, and Becky Thomas comes Brick Shakespeare, classic Shakespeare plays retold through LEGO minifigs and bricks. This review primarily covers Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies–Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar, but there is a second volume as well covering the comedies A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew. They’re available either as two separate volumes or as a combined edition, but as the latter is probably quite heavy and ungainly, I’d suggest purchasing the two separately.

LEGOI purchased this book on the assumption that it was written primarily for children and that it would be mostly a visual treat for use as a coffee table book. I was delightfully surprised to find that, while abridged for length, the authors did not paraphrase or dumb down Shakespeare’s work. Also, it should be noted for parents considering this for children that the subject matter remains intact; Hamlet, for example, retains lines such as:

O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets

While I love the idea of getting kids into Shakespeare at a young age using popular toys, just keep in mind that this book has not been expurgated.

The authors include a healthy amount of background information about each play. Hamlet begins with an explanation about how Elizabethan audiences would have noted the symbolic struggles between Protestantism and Catholicism, for example.

This segues into my favorite thing about Brick Shakespeare. The book in and of itself is a sot of wonderful microcosm of Shakespeare’s genius. It blends intelligent writing with pop culture and never favors one or the other. Though many a dry textbook has neglected to convey this, Shakespeare’s works were the height of “pop culture” for his time, touching on current issues and layering many levels that could be enjoyed by virtually all tiers of Elizabethan society. And they endured so long and so well because he never sacrificed any of those rich layers under the misguided assumption that some existential cleave must exist between “fun” and “intelligent.”

LEGO ShakespeareAnd that brings us to Brick Shakespeare, a book that blends the simple fun of the supremely popular LEGO empire with a timeless classic. The authors sacrificed neither fun nor depth when making this tome. They could easily have gotten away with just paraphrasing the story in simple lines and still sold extraordinarily well to a LEGO-adoring public. But they chose to preserve Shakespeare’s wit and beautiful language, pairing them boldly with the simple yet charming minifigs and bright geometric scenes.

Overall the execution was solid with a few minor criticisms. On several occasions the facial expressions were at odds with the tone of the scene; swapping in a few extra heads with more varied mouths would have been an improvement. They made good use of depth of field and cropping to vary the shots even when using multiple images of a single setting. I do wish they would have added in just a few more elaborate set pieces, but it’s a minor quibble.

Shakespeare LEGOI must also commend the authors for using the medium to create fanciful images based on the rich metaphors and hyperbole Shakespearean characters so often employ. I don’t know that any director of staged or filmed productions of Romeo and Juliet have ever attempted to recreate Juliet’s suggestion to “chain me with roaring bears.”

 

 

 

Cosplaying Veteran Needs Your Help

cosplaying veteranCosplay is therapeutic for a lot of geeks. For a retired Army veteran of 25 years, Ronald Seaman, that holds even more true. After being confined to a wheelchair following a degenerative spinal condition as a result of his service, he turned to cosplay as a form of therapy.

In addition to his own cosplay adventures, he gives public talks about not allowing disability to prevent one from getting out of the house and experiencing life. He teaches people how to build cosplay suits and accessories from readily available materials.

cosplaying veteran2Ronald is reaching out to raise funds for a standing wheelchair, which will help him accomplish more and build his strength, possibly even allowing him to stand without the aid of a chair for short periods. If you have a few dollars to spare, please consider helping out a fellow geek and cosplayer who continues to help others long after his 25 years as an American serviceman.

Warcraft News From BlizzCon 2015

Blizzcon

Exciting news from this year’s BlizzCon did much to whet the appetites of Warcraft fans. I got to meet several wonderful people from my realm, take the new Demon Hunter class for a test drive, and experience the new announcements with fans just as excited as I was. The opening ceremony is free to watch on YouTube for anyone who didn’t buy a virtual ticket.

First up, the epic trailer for the Warcraft movie was released on the first day of Blizzcon. While there’s still many months of post left, it’s looking good.

 

Next, the cinematic for Legion was released as well:

A few big things stand out:

  • It’s nice to see a female character getting major screentime in a cinematic
  • There’s a bit of a parallel with Varian’s dialogue and Terenas’s voice-over in the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic
  • The suggestions of cooperation between Varian and Sylvanas seems to be setting a tone for Legion very different from the narrative that has been central to the Warcraft franchise for 20 years. “For Azeroth!”

The leveling system and open world will be utilizing the scaling tech introduced with Challenge Modes and further refined with Timewalking Dungeons. Most new zones will scale with the character, allowing players to choose which order they wish to quest in.

Classes are getting a major overhaul, with several specs being renamed entirely to give them a more distinct flavor. Talents are being significantly altered and players will have “hundreds” to choose from.

Professions are getting a shift in focus from somewhat passive activities. Instead of learning recipes from the vendor, players will have to venture out into the world and hunt them up. Recipes will have upgrades available as well. Fishing is going to get some changes; Ion Hazzikostas remarked that it should have a sense of excitement rather than players wondering what they’re going to watch on their second monitor.

The possibility of characters being able to join multiple guilds, like in MMOs such as Guild Wars 2, is something being considered but no timeline for when players could expect such a feature was given.

Sadly PvP news was scarce, and devs confirmed that no new battlegrounds would be introduced in Legion. There was no real elaboration on what players were told back in August when the Legion website went live.

I got to play a demo of the Demon Hunter starting zone, which begins at level 98. Bonus objectives are back and offer a significant boost in XP. Double-jumps and glide function in tandem with many abilities, giving Demon Hunters an unprecedented amount of mobility. It’s going to be an amazing class, and there’s several new types of demon added into the lore. People who pre-order Legion will get early access to the Demon Hunter starter zone, though exactly how early is not yet known.

As a fun bonus, Blizz set up an area modeled after the Darkmoon Faire. One of the most exciting and amazing moments of my life was to approach that iconic arch with it’s all-seeing eye gazing sternly down at entrants:

Darkmoon Faire

New Star Trek Series To Be Locked Behind Paywall

CBS has announced that shortly after the 50th anniversary of the historic Star Trek franchise, a new tv series will be released via All Access, their paid streaming service. All first run episodes will be exclusive to the All Access service.

Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS Corp, explained to The Hollywood Reporter that their new entry in the Trek franchise will be used to lure millions of viewers to All Access, and that it will be the first of multiple scripted originals for their streaming service.

As several sources have emphasized that first run episodes of the new Star Trek will be exclusive to the service, there seems to be a slight possibility that reruns could perhaps appear either on broadcast TV or other streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon. However, no source has so far hinted at any information the likelihood of such viewing options or how long after the first run episodes reruns might become available if CBS decided to go that route.

The new Star Trek will not be related to the rebooted movie franchise, but longtime J. J. Abrams partner and screen writer for the films Alex Kurtzman will be the executive producer along with Heather Kadin.

From the CBS press release:

The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

 

 

I Hate Fairyland Review

I Hate FairylandI Hate Fairyland is a new comic book by Scottie Young that launched in October from Image Comics. Fairyland features an off-beat heroine and an art style that’s equal parts creepy and cute. It feels a little bit like if Angelica from the Rugrats was transported into an especially violent variant of the Candy Land universe.

Gertrude, aka Gert, is an adorable green-haired little girl who dreams of being transported to a magic kingdom. When her wish comes true, she quickly realizes that fantasy universes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As the title not-so-subtly suggests, little Gert quickly comes to loathe Fairyland with a violent passion. Cannons, machine guns, and her own jaws are just a few of the weapons Gert wields against the Fairyland denizens in her quest to find her way home.

The story and pacing were extremely solid; unlike so many comics I’ve read recently, I Hate Fairyland felt like it had a strong beginning, middle, and ending. It ended on a very natural stopping point with a compelling cliffhanger, which is a wonderful change of pace from comics that seem to abruptly stop mid-scene just because a certain page limit had been reached.

I Hate Fairlyland is highly recommended, and issue #2 will be available on November 18th.

 

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