Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Avengers

First, please go here:

The Avengers – See the trailer

Now, you've seen it - go back and watch it again.



Good wasn't it?

Yeah, I know.. watch it again. It's okay. I did.


Oh go on then, one more time... I'll wait.

So, if you haven't seen Iron Man, then why are you still here? If you have, then that trailer just excited you - and - hopefully - you've also seen Thor and Captain America (both awesome for very different reasons) but seeing them all together, and knowing it's just the beginning.. well, that's something else!

Does this give RDJ a reason to keep wearing the suit? Probably not, and that's a HUGE shame - but I know there are at least 7 more Avenger-based films coming (either individually based, or sequels) and for me, that's just the best news I've heard all year.

Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

PC versus Console gaming. Or, PC Gaming: "Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggurated"

I can, these days, call myself a "wannabe gamer". I have the consoles and a decent PC and have a bunch of old retro machines as well. I love gaming.

However, life being what it is, and being in my thirties, I find it extremely hard to find the time - or worse - justify the time to play these days. So, I find it fairly easy to see it all from "outside the box".. so to speak.

You can be a PC gamer. You can be a Console gamer. Within that, you can be a 'fanboi' for either the Xbox 360 or PS3 on the console side (we'll ignore the Wii for a minute) and on the PC side you can be an Intel or AMD fan - or argue the merits over AMD or NVidia's implementation of 3D. But that's your lot these days - unless you pretend that iOS is the best thing to game on, in which case, go away. Now. (Yeah it has it's place, especially casually - but a 12-way LAN party will never happen on a 10inch touch screen).

But, before PC gaming there was the argument over whether your Amiga was better than the Atari ST - and, hell, even PC gamers tried to get stuck in with their fancy "256 Colour VGA graphics".. heh, yeah, if you could afford the £1000 price tag and put up with Adlib sounds.

So, I'm a gamer. I don't really care what I play on as long as the game works for me.

But things have changed hugely over the past 10 years. Prior to the PlayStation in the late(ish) 1990s, consoles were the place to be for cutting edge gaming for the masses, in front of the TV. You loved SEGA or Nintendo - and that was that. Amigas and PCs were usually relegated to the bedrooms and back rooms of the house, but in the living room, it was a console world - and that's pretty much why I never bothered with them. Too limited. Too.. casual.

Once Sony got in on the action, things changed. I very much remember my Bro and I buying a PlayStation between us and marvelling at those 3D graphics (remember that dinosaur?). That was the first time I really got interested - but even then, no matter how clever, I was a computer gamer.

When the XBox hit the scene - when Microsoft (you know, they make Windows and Office) decided they could make a console (fools! it'll never work! it's Microsoft!) - well, that was when things changed. Whether you agree or not, that's a fact of gaming. SEGA were already bowing out of the console market at the time. Nintendo had started to fail. Sony was on a roll and the PS2 was close - but a bitch to code for - and Microsoft came along with this DirectX sporting box that could. Perhaps they were lucky, perhaps they picked the right time - perhaps... who cares? It happened.

That was when I really got interested. I bought one on release day in the states (as did the Bro) and we're both now long-time owners of the XBox franchise.


We never gave up on the PC - and I have to say, that in those days we were very much in to the early days of MMOs (Massively Multi player Online games) such as Neocron and Star Wars Galaxies.

In 2005 we got the Xbox 360 and soon after, the PS3. I've only recently gotten a PS3 - and it's a great Bluray player. It's also a so-so game machine with few exclusives worth buying (and due to it also being a bitch to code for, it gets the short straw when it comes to ports, too). The 360, though, despite it's tendency to eat it's graphics core, still sells well after over 5 years on the shelf, and can just about produce some gob smacking games and graphics.


We never gave up on the PC. During those years I've picked up a fair few games - mostly exclusives like Gears of War, Halo (see previous blog) or Forza - and very much enjoyed them. However, the likes of WoW kept me PC gaming and the pure flexibility of the PC kept me coming back (it can, after all, provide pure FPS gaming with the well known WASD and mouse combo - and use a 360 controller for anything else).

And now, as the current console generation starts to wane, and we're being told not to expect the next-gen for years (another 5.. I don't believe it), I am moving back to PC gaming - using such systems as Steam and Origin to digitally purchase and download the game I want. I can choose the resolution. I can choose the control method (mention Kinect.. it's coming to the PC as well!), I can have triple-screen gaming support (available if you have three Xboxes) and to add, because Windows and DirectX are evolving, I can have higher-resolution textures and frame-rates too.

So I'm in the "But.. I never gave up on the PC" stage - as I await the "Next BIG thing" in console gaming.

PC gaming, or Console gaming?

Well, both are valid. Both have their Pros and Cons (price, availability, accessibility and so on) and the mass wide-spread adoption of the console has meant that games now have a much higher budget (and, with it, longer development times) that mean even "my" PC games are better than ever.

So. There is no one winner. I chose both - and within that, every variant.

Would I tell others to do the same? No. I'd say, pick a franchise and buy the console that fits it... except the Wii. Nintendo have bailed on us so-called hardcore gamers. But don't discount the PC as the rewards for a little bit more money and time invested are far better in the long run.

Oh, and if you don't believe me - wait until the juggernaut that is Star Wars: The Old Republic hits - and then tell me PC gaming is dead ;)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Films - Convince me

Films are an interesting medium for telling a story. Whereas a book can be more descriptive, allowing the reader to interpret and imagine as they see fit, film must do all of that for the viewer and hopefully capture the feeling that the story is trying to portray.

It would be foolish to say that certain films, or indeed TV shows, are "easy" to film - nothing is "easy", but certain types of film are going to be easier overall.
For instance - a film about relationships, set in the now is going to be far easier to film than, say, something set in the far future, or a period piece. This isn't just because we have to invent technology that doesn't yet exist, or try to source clothes and vehicles from times past, but because these things have to be convincing.

The last word there - convincing - is probably the most key. Go back and watch a good (in your eyes) Sci-Fi film from your past. Lets say, if you're a little older, 2001. That still stands up in most respects because it shuns most technology to tell a very much human story. Now lets look at something a little more recent, like the Matrix. That was filmed in 1997/98 and is still a fantastic movie (some would say, the perfect Sci-Fi movie) but how convincing are the effects; the technology? Pretty good?

Okay, lets move on. Both of the movies I've mentioned fit a certain aesthetic. 2001 goes clean and white to show us, perhaps, not a real future, but an ideal. The Matrix, a complete opposite. In this case, there is technology we don't have (the hovering ships, and the Matrix itself) but the rest is more in line with what we have, or have lost.
If we think of something purely fantasy, then perhaps Star Wars - or Star Trek (both compete for fans affections). Now, Star Wars is based on technology invented thousands of years prior to the story line we're told through film - and for reasons not explained, it plateaued. The big bad has new tech and it's very shiny and dark and very "futuristic".
Star Trek on the other hand is set in our future and there is almost nothing in it that we have today (let's be honest here, we're talking the movies, not the series and we don't have phasers (posh lasers), transporters or warp capable vessels).

Do either of those age well when it comes to being "convincing"? No. Not really.

Case in point is the up coming Star Wars Blu-ray trilogy release. I don't need to go in to details here but Star Wars has had more lifts and tucks than any aging Hollywood star (and, honestly, it doesn't need it - it looks it's age and is better for it).

Star Trek on the other hand is far harder to forgive.

The first films were made in the 1970s and early 1980s and it shows. The model making for the ship sequences was hugely involving (not to say Star Wars was not, by the way) and expensive and meant that some shots were reused - perhaps "mirrored" or coloured to change the focus - but reused none the less.
The hair styling, costumes and sets screamed their age and the technology was a look forward 300 years that, in some cases, we've already surpassed. Bad Star Trek!
Now, some would say I've missed the point - Star Trek was about us - as people. The Enterprise was a metaphor for the planet Earth and it's crew, the United States. So, okay, I'll concede - but it still had people fighting on lava planets and ships throwing plasma at each other (okay, not plasma... photon torpedoes).

Leaving Trek behind - this has been a problem for a long time. Computers now replace models, and actors now have to stand in empty, green rooms or, worse, become avatars instead. Our obsession with making these other worlds look real has meant that whilst they do on the day of release, they age very quickly and the gap between reality and the uncanny valley is narrowing all the time (google the uncanny - it's interesting - if you want an example; Neo fighting the masses of Smiths in the Matrix Reloaded. One second it's actor Keanu Reeves, the next it's a PlayStation animation).

So, to my point. (Yes, I was getting to it).


We probably relate comics to comic books and comic books to super heroes. Originally, and most prominently, they are indeed about super heroes, but more recently, films and TV have gone the other way (think Buffy or Firefly). Comics very rarely make a good transfer to film... mind you, neither do Computer games (perhaps a topic for another day).

The last 10 years has seen a very real resurgence of comic book movies. They didn't exactly go away - the likes of Superman and Batman have always been there (and with almost no exception, they've been terrible) but with the 2002 version of Spider man we finally got a good (for the time, great) interpretation of a comic book. Were the sequels as good? Well, the second was actually really good - probably better than the first, but the third was panned for good reason.

You may be thinking "Oi, Willis, what about X-Men? That came out in 2000!". Yeah well that sucked too. So did it's sequels. And Wolverine. Sorry - I love them too - but come on, they sucked.

So, Spidey probably had the limelight in most cases (opinion being what it is, you may disagree.. hell, you might have like Ghost Rider or Daredevil)... until 2008.

In my humble opinion, John Favreau's Iron Man was a turning point in comic book movies. Not only did it establish a character that wasn't quite so mainstream, but it also made it believable. Big difference.

Favreau had said on numerous occasions that he wanted the technology of Iron Man to be ahead of ours by "a couple of generations". He was talking about the computers, and general day to day stuff. The suit itself is doable, but the Arc Reactor is complete fiction. That's another story though.

I'd very much enjoyed Spider man and even X-Men to a degree - but Iron Man, well, I loved Iron Man. There are few films I'll buy more than once (DVD, Blu Ray etc) but other than Back to the Future - it's only Iron Man (and perhaps Serenity).

Iron Man was such a big hit that our subtly anti-hero Tony Stark appeared in "The Hulk" and his universe was expanded with "Thor" and "Captain America". Next year we'll get "The Avengers" that heavily features our favourite Avenger and, most likely, the Mk VII suit. 2013 will even follow with "Iron Man 3" if the rumours are to be believed, albeit without John Favreau - most likely because 'America, Thor and The Avengers leave the tech behind and go almost totally in to the realms of fantasy (it works mostly but makes things seem less believable).

Will we see more Iron Man beyond 2013? Most likely given the audience reaction - perhaps with more Avengers if Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, FireFly, to name but a few) can pull it off. It is less likely we'll see Robert Downey Jr continue the roll as he's likely to want to move on after four appearances (and with Iron Man having relaunched his career he now enjoys rolls such as Sherlock Holmes).

So I'm happy that these films are making the fantasy, believable once more. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Halo Anniversary

If you haven't heard of the title, or have heard of it and think nothing of it - stop reading. It's fairly pointless an endeavour to continue.


If, on the other hand you call yourself "geek" or enjoy games - then Halo fill feature somewhere in your past - or indeed, future.

This year marks the 10th (yes, tenth) anniversary of Halo. More so in the US of A and related areas of the planet as they got the US spec PAL XBox before us UK'ers - but my brother and I, well, we were front of the line. Actually, I was in Canada and was at the midnight launch in November ;)

To say that Halo had some impact on myself and my lil' bro is probably an understatement. He, and he reminds me of this fairly frequently, completed it - twice - in black and white (before we could get the correct NTSC/PAL adapters of the then-new Microsoft toy), so I think it's fairly safe to say he liked it.

Halo did something no game had ever done previously. It brought PC-style FPS shooters to the console. Yeah, sure, we'd seen them on consoles, but they sucked (and largely, still can). Halo managed to bring that to a wired, but analogue controller that felt right. It's no secret that the reason I still have that Xbox, it's sequel (and another), a PS3 and several other consoles, comes directly and solely down to those few months with the Xbox and Halo.
All this from Microsoft.. who would have thought it?

Anyway, I digress.

Halo comes full circle in a few weeks with Halo CE. The anniversary.
This is the original, 2001 game, built by Bungie (yes, we love Bungie) but brought up to "HD" standards (I hate the term, as it's not even that high a resolution), with wide screen support and.. and.. the best bit.. a button to revert the graphics back to 2001 (very much like the Monkey Island games of recent years). I love this.

Halo - or "Halo: Combat Evolved" as Bungie hate to call it (and old story surrounding Microsoft not liking "Halo" on it's own.. so they subtitled it.. not Bungie) was the best game in the series - it was the first.

It wasn't the best because it brought the universe to my attention - no, it was the best because.. well, it was simple. It worked. It dragged me in and told me a story almost over - and had me gagging for more. I wanted to know about the forerunners, the reclaimer, these covenant and even Guilty Spark 343 couldn't put me off (the sidekick.. think Jar Jar but not as bad). Ah Halo.

Of course, Halo 2 and 3 were good - 2 in many ways the strongest game in the series except for the end and ODST has become my favourite soundtrack and most real of the games since it has you being human over super-soldier. Reach is the most recent and well, it is a fantastic, hugely emotional game that has more holes in it's plot than an early James Bond movie (but, I love those too).

So if you don't know Halo. Go find out. The fan fiction is superb - and with Karen Travis on board - it's about to get really technical and it's nice to know John wasn't always 117. If that doesn't work for you go to one of these sites:

Halo Waypoint
or even the recent Halofest site (yeah it even has it's own shows now!)

In closing - it's been a hell of a 10 years. Here's to 10 more!

Note: Despite me saying the original game was built by Bungie (and it was), the update is 343 Studios and nothing (publicly) to do with Bungie now that they've moved on to new and, hopefully, bright things.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Does anyone remember Stargate? I certainly do - back in 1994 (had you there for a second!) going to the cinema and watching this bizarre movie about Egyptian alien children with snakes in their necks (where the boys look prettier than the girls.. I'm sure there is somewhere like that).

Little did I know, this was just the beginning of something far greater and wider in scope that I could imagine, and something I wouldn't revisit until Season 7 of the TV series - and only then because I'd been convinced it really wasn't McGyver (not that I disliked McGyver, but.. well, that's not about pretty-boy alien Egyptians, is it?!).

My reason for warbling on, is that very recently I watched a very-much-put-off final episode of Stargate Universe. Since the show was cancelled, I'd avoided watching the last half of the show, mainly because it really is all over now - not just Universe, but Stargate as a whole, and that is unfortunate.
It's had me thinking about the show, and it's past. I've come to realise that without me even realising it, it's overtaken Star Trek as my favourite Sci-Fi franchise (also dead in more ways than one); I honestly wonder what could replace it - and if you'll excuse me here - it won't be a show about bloody vampires, mutants or Glee.

So I guess I should explain why I left it until 2004 to get in to SG-1. Well, as with most TV shows, it was purely by mistake. I caught an episode (it would probably be the 2-parter wherein SG-1 use the puddlejumper to go back to ancient Egypt and upset the time-line) and thought "Well, bugger me.. this is good!". It hadn't been long since I'd lost Farscape, Voyager (yeah okay, but it's still Star Trek! and was about to find and lose Farscape so I was in need of something and Stargate was whispering sweet nothings to me over a brandy. Yes, SG-1 was a hussy.

Shortly after finding it, I went back and watched it all. Every last episode. Funnily enough, I now do this with some regularity (How I met; Big Bang; Dexter to name but a few) and recently I've thought "you know, I should watch SG-1 again". Stupid hussy show.

So - SG-1 crossed over and became Atlantis; a show I found (along with half the planet) very hard to love initially but before long I couldn't get enough of Shepherd and, especially, Rodney McKay - even better, we got to see all of SG-1 at one point of another in Atlantis but as it the case these days - that was cut short to make way (which was not originally to be the case) for Universe in 2009.

Universe pissed a lot of people off. Stargate got gritty.

With a current (or at least, it was at the time) trend for handy-cam work and even CGI looking "handy-cam" - Battlestar Galactica had hit, and hit hard with a completely different look and feel to most Sci-Fi shows and, most significantly, from it's predecessor (perhaps borrowing more than a little from Space Above and Beyond). Universe came along with a familiar look to Battlestart, but it was no poorer for the effort - Stargate has always been fairly light hearted - sometimes laugh out loud funny - and Universe was nothing like that. So, love lost - but not from me.
I think I was fairly quick to pick the show up and invest in it - and I was rewarded with another cancelled show. Why? Probably because the franchise has weathered for 14 years in Television format and like Star Trek, people had gotten bored of it - turned the TV over to something about parents that can't look after their children, young girls wanting to be models, the next big singer or Glee!

A few shows have their time. Friends did; I suspect Spooks probably has - but Universe had just found it's feet (unlike Heroes that came, wow'd then died horribly) so I'm sad to see it go, and even worse, MGM has given up on the franchise completely.

Will it come back? Probably. But I suspect, rebooted with a either the same story from scratch (please, no) or something radically different (again, no) just to excite the masses.. or here's an idea, just bring Universe back in 2 years - almost mirroring the story! (I show copyright that idea).

Anyway, if you've missed any of the three series, catch them. Watch them. You'll really fall in love with it all. Trust me.. oh, and it's O'Neill with 2 'l's.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

London film and comic con

The queue for this it's so long that I could well lose the will to live, however, Vader and Boba Fett are stood here so I'll let them off.
I'm hoping to see some celebs, perhaps a Doctor or Android...

Me bro...

Has his own blog. Fancy a read?
That's the latest on Planetside 2.
He likes games....

...what a loser.

Ahem ;)

Ooh, a phone app!

Android. Blogger. Done. Thanks for reading.