Monday, December 27, 2010

There I Will Sing All Their Names

The last great unknown has passed from my life.


Ok, indulge me, though.

After deliberately delaying and avoiding it for several years, I finally reached the clearing at the end of the long, long path laid down by Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. This was a series I began reading sometime in elementary school, when I was around 9 or 10, borrowing the beat-up copies from my dad's bookshelf. The sudden end of volume three, The Waste Lands, was my first encounter with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger at the end of a story. I would go into the Waldenbooks store in the mall and occasionally ask the employees if they knew when the next volume would be released. They never did. Waiting for that fourth volume, Wizard and Glass, was my first experience in eagerly anticipating a media release. When it finally came out I believe I bought it as a "gift" for my dad, but you better believe I read it as soon as he tore the wrapping off.

(When I asked my dad why he let me read Stephen King's books at that age, he thought about it for a minute then replied, "Well, there wasn't anything in there I thought you couldn't handle, I suppose.")

I re-read the books a few time in the next few years, and when I found out several other King books tied into the Dark Tower mythos, I read them as well. When the last three books were released six years later, though, I didn't buy them right away. I suppose I just didn't have the money at the time, and I ended up checking out Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah from the library. I tore through them and then just... stopped.

The series had been a part of my life for so long that I didn't want it to end. Roland and his companions had occupied a place in my mind for so long, and I had imagined how everything would end up so many times, that the journey had become more important than the end. Roland was after the Tower in order to save his world, but I knew flipping that last page would mean, in my imagination at least, an end to that world. I had grown comfortable with the mystery of what lay at the top of the Dark Tower.

At the same time, books five and six just weren't very good. They lacked the strong and lasting imagery of the earlier books: the slow mutants under the mountains; the lobstrosities; Shardik in the forest and Blaine the Mono; Rhea of the Coos and the thinny. Nothing so memorable was found in these two volumes. Song of Susannah doesn't even function as its own novel like the previous five books. I could understand an ending to an epic saga not living up to expectations, but what if it was just flat out bad? Stephen King's novels are not known for their climaxes. It's the stuff leading up to them that you remember. What if he just couldn't pull off the ending? I have no doubt the same thoughts probably passed through his own head as he wrote, but that didn't diminish them in mine.

So I passed on the last volume. Message board discussions of the series were avoided and Google searches that might have led to spoilers were only made when strictly necessary. It wasn't until last year when I started reading the graphic novels and some jerk on Twitter spoiled me on the recursive nature of the ending that I began to think I should just suck it up and find out how everything turns out. I really liked the graphic novels, but didn't want to risk being spoiled on the end, despite being prequels. And, you know, at least this series DID get its ending. Unlike Dune, Wheel of Time, and at this point probably A Song of Ice and Fire, this was one long-running series where the author got to see it through to the end.

I acquired all the books and began reading from the start for the first time since 2004. It took two or three months to get through volumes one through six again. When it came time to begin the end, it was physically difficult for me to turn to that first page. I stared at the artwork on the cover for a long time. I turned the weighty tome in my hands over and over. I found the copyright page particularly fascinating. Reading the table of contents and seeing bizarre, foreign terms that would fit right in with The Lord of the Rings helped a bit. What did devar toi, can'-ka no rey, and ves'-ka gan mean? The series had a bit of its own peculiar terminology and quite a number of memorable dialects in dialogue, but these new phrases were both ominous and inviting as I whispered them to myself. I lingered over the page with "19" and "99" printed in large type, pondered the words REPRODUCTION, REVELATION, REDEMPTION, and RESUMPTION on the next page, closely studied the black and white illustrations from Michael Whelan on the next two pages.

And, you know, once the loose ends from Song of Susannah were tied up, all was well. The birth of Mordred and his first meal marked the return of the macabre fantasy the earlier entries had done so well. Once things got moving, I found it very hard to put the book down at night. It's amazing how much suspense is built when the author tells you ahead of time a beloved character is going to die. Maybe it won't happen, right? Narrators can be unreliable. But like a monorail crashing through the end of its track, there's nothing you can do one way or the other except to watch everything unfold. With Lovecraftian horrors, devious vampires, and a surprising confrontation with the Crimson King marking the way, this was the ending given. While I don't think it was perfect, it did feel right. Ka is a wheel, and it always rolls back around to the place it started.

Roland's past was fleshed out fairly well by the graphic novels. While it bothers me that more are on their way, and that King has mentioned he's thought of writing an eighth Dark Tower novel, any mistakes that may or may not be made in the future won't detract from what exists now: an epic masterpiece that spanned worlds and decades, and whose presence has been felt for a large percentage of my life. I miss the mystery and anticipation of the unknown, but knowing has its own satisfaction. As silly as it sounds, I think I can move on now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

One Of Us One Of Us

To my vague horror, the past two weeks have been spent playing almost nothing but World of Warcraft. Sure, some Rock Band 3 has been consumed for IRL social-interaction, but for the most part, I've been questing my way through the world of Azeroth.

The thing that frustrates me is that I'm not really sure why I feel compelled to play. I do enjoy the exploration of each zone, uncovering and filling in the map. The art style is wonderful (though I do wish the game looked like the glittering cinematics produced for each expansion). An amazing mix of pathos and humor runs throughout the game's quests and characters. At the same time, the basic combat mechanics are incredibly boring at low levels while fighting random monsters running through the wilderness. The crafting and gathering professions are a grind with no intrinsic depth to them. The only times the game has truly shined for me have been the rare occasions I've tackled bosses with a few other players. It feels to me as if this is the true way to play so that you can see how the different classes, abilities, and even races interact with one another. Everyone has a role to play, there are specific actions to take at specific times, and the rush of collectively bringing down an elite monster is undeniable.

Unfortunately, most of the time I play it as a gigantic single player RPG that happens to have a few other players running through it. It's almost like playing Fable 2 with the online player orbs turned on, except you can see the actual characters. While the updates in the Cataclysm expansion made some zones of the game feel incredibly dynamic and even, occasionally, made me feel like I was actually participating in an epic adventure, many of the other zones are the same old pointless grind with nothing holding it together. Several story threads seem to drop off with the local guy in charge saying, "It'll be awhile before we'll be ready to tackle this big bad guy. We'll call you later." What this seems to mean is, "There will be a high level raid dungeon for you to enter in 40 levels." While the flow of quests and the paths you take seem smoother and less meandering than in the past, there are still dozens of "kill X number of Y monsters to collect Z organs" quests. With all the talk of lessons learned in the past six years of WoW's existence, it's astonishing that so many of these quests still exist. While one or two in the beginning of a zone can function as introductions to the types of enemies you'll be facing in the area and unlocking the first few areas of the zone, there has got to be a better way to consistently keep a player engaged.

The problem is that this is still something that seems to work. 12 million subscribers are playing the game, and I'm one of them. I'm supposed to be playing Persona 3 and Epic Mickey and working on my gargantuan backlog of games, yet I have a list of quests in Booty Bay a part of me feels compelled to work on. There are always more quests to do. Is that all it takes for me? Give me a never-ending to-do list and I'll happily march to your tune until the end of time? I haven't participated in any guilds. The two times I tried playing in random dungeons through matchmaking were somewhat horrible experiences. I've ignored the majority of the game's social aspects.

There are two games I've consciously made a choice to stop playing because they were too addicting. One was Civilization Revolutions, and the other Rome: Total War. Both feature the well known "one-more-turn" hook to keep you playing well into the night. WoW seems similar in that I find myself saying "one more quest" quite frequently. It seems pathetic that this is all that's keeping me playing, but I seem unable to figure out what else it could be. The loot grind isn't nearly as compelling as in Diablo. It seems I'm a slave to my to-do list. Maybe I need to do a better job of creating one for my real world problems, and thus solve my procrastination issues forever. Surely it can't be that simple?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Which Button Do I Push?

Harmonix is on a roll lately, recently releasing the excellent Rock Band 3 across multiple platforms and Dance Central for Kinect on Xbox 360. I'll just go ahead and shamelessly link back to this post about Rock Band's user interface, and I also wanted to link to this post on Ars Technica about how Harmonix designed the menus in Dance Central. As someone with an interest in human computer interaction and user interface design, I find this kind of stuff really interesting. I haven't picked up the Kinect, and don't plan to any time soon, but the changes Microsoft made to the Xbox 360's Dashboard software to accommodate navigating by voice and "touch" are interesting. I'd like to try Kinect out for a few days just to get a feel for the choices they made and the issues they attempted to overcome. For giggles, I read the Windows Phone 7 UI Design and Interaction guide, and while it felt like a bizarre religious document at times, it's interesting to see justifications for why the user interface on those new phones behaves the way it does.

Just some light reading for your Wednesday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clicking In A Technicolor Dreamcoat

Double Rainbow
The first Diablo has a very local setting. The game starts and ends in the town of Tristram, and the sixteen-level dungeon lies entirely within and beneath the cathedral on one side of town. The colors are dark and dreary. The music in the dungeon is unsettling and contributes to the oppressive atmosphere. Screams and moans echo through the halls, pathways are often twisting and narrow, and the low resolution means ranged attacks frequently come from off-screen unseen demonic beasts. No matter what, you always feel like you are going further down into the beating heart of terror. The jangly acoustic musical theme in Tristram is an audio relief every time you return from the dungeon. 

The bits of color found in the game come from the impressive magic spells, and certain areas contain bright rivers of water, acid, or lava. It is certainly not a game devoid of color, and the use of light is judiciously used to enhance the overall atmosphere.

The world of Diablo 2, in contrast, practically bleeds with color. While rainy, the first Act of the game is a lush green field. Act 2 takes place in a bright yellow desert. Act 3 takes place in a darker, more frightening jungle environment, but it's not until the fourth act, in Hell itself, that Diablo 2 returns to the claustrophobic feeling of its predecessor. Obviously, the size of the world you explore in Diablo 2 is far larger; the return to Tristram is merely a quick stop along the way in a much bigger adventure.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clicking Repeatedly

Going In Circles
One of the selling points when Diablo was released was how "replayable" it was. The game randomly generated the 16-level dungeon every time a new game was started, and certain quests and enemies would only be seen on second or third playthroughs. What caught me off guard was how the game essentially forced me to replay the game in order to progress to the end.

The dungeon in Diablo is divided into four areas of four floors each. After getting through the first four cathedral floors with my melee warrior, I was immediately overwhelmed in the new catacombs area. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, but after consulting the manual I realized that the game expects you to take an existing character through the game several times in order to level up and acquire the appropriate gear to take you to the end. After replaying the first four floors, I had to restart again on hitting the caves at the ninth floor. Once I made it to hell, I had to restart a third time. It was only on that fourth playthrough that I made it to the end and killed Diablo himself. This of course lets you see new enemy types and try some different quests, but it never really sat well with me. It was too videogame-y for my tastes and felt like a lazy way to pad the game's length. There's no narrative reason given for the ability restart at will, and it's a case where the gameplay completely steamrolls the plot. While I was playing Deathspank, the recent action RPG from Ron Gilbert and Hothead Games, I laughed when a character implies that the magical underwear the titular character is wearing is the reason he is able to resurrect at the nearest outhouse upon death. It doesn't matter that the reason is ridiculous; it just matters that a reason is given at all.

Despite my complaints above, I didn't really mind too much while playing. I was addicted to buying new gear for my character by this point. Each time I restarted the blacksmith seemed to have particularly good gear for me to buy at that initial start. There's also the undeniable satisfaction of easily slaughtering monsters that previously gave me trouble. The biggest problem was that after a while, lower level monsters no longer gave me any experience points. Experience is given out on a sliding scale depending on the player's level and the monster's level. On my third playthrough, I didn't earn any experience until the seventh floor or so. On my fourth playthrough, it took until the tenth floor to start earning experience. There was no point in killing earlier monsters, so I found myself running through each floor looking for the next staircase down until I got to a point where I thought it might be worthwhile to start killing things again. This was tedious.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


A bit late to the party, but I recently completed both Diablo and Diablo 2. I believe Diablo was the game that had been on my backlog the longest, so it was nice to finally get through it and its sequel. I thought I'd compare and contrast the two games and go into what I thought about the design decisions made in each. I'll take a few posts to discuss different aspects that stood out to me.

I had tried Diablo three or four times in the past, and never got far. I was always hoping for/expecting an RPG with a fairly deep story, and killing monsters in dark halls for hours never kept me engaged for very long. It wasn't until Torchlight came out last year that I began to understand the "right" way to play these games. The emphasis is on improving your playable character through improved stats, weapons, and armor so that progress can be made through increasingly difficult areas. When I realized that character progression was the point of these games instead of particularly deep stories, I had more fun playing. In the first Diablo especially, the plot of the game is extremely simple and only really hinted at in books and some quest text. What threw me off was the manual's pages and pages of backstory and lore. I assumed the game itself would spend as much time on those aspects of the universe as the manual did. I was wrong. Torchlight adjusted my expectations for Diablo, and it made all the difference in my enjoyment of the game.

Friday, May 21, 2010


It starts with the preorder. After reading about the concept, seeing some screenshots, and watching the gameplay video, I know I want this game. I will pay the $60 and it will be glorious.

Then I stop thinking about it. Oh I might read a developer interview, or make sure the release date hasn't changed, but my mind is made up. I won't even play the demo. Demos are always too short, anyway. Can't get a feel for a game from the tutorial.

A couple weeks later, I get an e-mail. "Your order has shipped" Yessss.

The next day, while running simulations, populating spreadsheets, and glancingstaring at TweetDeck, I'm keeping an ear cocked for the sound of the doorbell. I almost never answer the door for visitors at work, not wanting to be bothered, but today I do. Once it arrives, I walk back to my desk, flipping the package over in my hand. It's the same size as the DVD case inside. The lack of padding worries me, but perhaps UPS is told to handle these packages more carefully. I slide my finger under the flap, gently pulling the glue up along with stray bits of brown paper.

I pull the case out and gaze at the box art. I still hate the obnoxious green color of the DVD case and the garish green and white Xbox 360 logo at the top of the front. Flipping the box over, I gaze at the screenshots I've already seen a dozen times on Kotaku and Destructoid posts about the game. I read the text on the back. Nope, my grandmother would have no idea what this game was about if she just picked it up and looked at it on a whim. I get my nail underneath the tiny flap of plastic on the top of the case and pull up, then down and to the left. Now I have a small opening in which to slide a finger and pull the plastic in an ever shrinking ribbon from around the case. I pull the bottom half of the plastic off, then gently pull off the security stickers. They used to be a pain, but I've learned the exact angle to slide a nail in and how much force to use to get it up and off. They're quickly crinkled and stuck to the stray plastic wrapping.

Inside is the token manual. A controller button layout, some boilerplate info about Xbox Live, and the warranty. A card with a code for 48 hours of Xbox Live Gold service also falls out. I probably have enough of these for a couple weeks of service now. The disc sits tight on the other side. I pry it out, wincing at how it bends, and make sure there are no scratches on the back. Satisfied, I put everything back in the case and set it aside for the rest of the work day.

Driving home, I remember that there are still coins to be found in Super Mario Galaxy. Maybe I should play a little of that first. Oh, and I'm still only about 2/3 of the way through my 7th playthrough of Half-Life 2. It feels wrong to leave that game unfinished. It's so great. Maybe I should do those first.

But no. No. I've been waiting for this game all day. It would be perverse to continue denying myself. I turn on the Xbox, and pop in the disc. I navigate to My Xbox, press Y, and begin copying the game to the hard drive. While that's going on, I find the proper alphabetical spot by console on the shelf for the game. I move the other game cases over by one and slide the new one in. I look at it for a few moments and see how that tiny strip of new color plays with the rest of the strips on the shelf. I pour a glass of milk and a small bowl of Goldfish crackers.

Done copying. I boot up the game. For the first and last time, I sit through all the splash screens for the various developers, publishers, and middleware tools used to make the game. I hope I can press A to skip these next time.

Press Start to begin.

Check to see what's under the options menu.

New game.

Choose a storage location.

Here we go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In Which I Rant About Science Fiction Fans

Well, science fiction is not, and traditionally hasn't been, about the future, science or technology. It's about us. Now. - Joel Kelly


Lately I've been getting more and more aggravated with so-called science fiction “fans” on the Internet. It began when the series finale to Battlestar Galactica aired. Unsurprisingly, there were all sorts of opinions about the finale. I liked it overall, though I was disappointed by some of the unresolved plot threads. The mystery behind Starbuck's return from the dead and the identity of the “head” versions of Baltar and Six were chalked up to God sending angels to directly intervene in the affairs of the characters. With the angels' purposes fulfilled, they vanished. It felt like a cop-out from the writers. They couldn't seem to come up with a satisfying explanation, so they simple brushed it aside with a bit of religious mumbo jumbo.

Still, BSG remains my favorite science fiction show of all time, and probably holds my personal top spot for any show, period. It presented believable characters in a horrible situation and examined how those characters, and the remnants of their society, coped with losing their entire civilization. It avoided or subverted the typical tropes of most sci-fi shows today: the alien or monster of the week; snarky characters bubbling with repressed sexuality; the believer and the skeptic; the nutty professor. It was most interested in how real humans find the will to survive.

Sadly, some have taken this show for granted and for many people the ending is a travesty they can't forgive. This hit home for me when I began trying to discuss the new prequel series to BSGCaprica, with folks on the Internet. I'd start a discussion on a message board about the latest episode and invariably one or two people would post about how “terrible” BSG's ending was and how they would never watch another show from this group of writers. When I pressed them to better explain their feelings, the basic explanation was, “The writers have established a universe where at any moment they can just have God swoop in, wave his hand, and save the day. The prospect of a Deus Ex Machina is never far away.”

Suddenly everything made much more sense to me.

Remember that Caprica is technically a prequel to Battlestar Galactica. It shares a setting and a few characters, but in every other aspect it is a fully standalone show. No knowledge of Battlestar Galactica is required to enjoy Caprica, though watching Caprica and knowing that that entire civilization is doomed does add an extra layer of texture to the experience. The writers on Caprica take some of the central ideas of BSG like what it means to be alive, the role of technology in society, how people cope with tragedy, and religious fanaticism leading to terrorism and examines them through a more intimate and down to earth lens. Battlestar Galactica had a more epic scope, while Caprica keeps things personal.

Most science fiction media has devolved into a pale shadow of what the early masters like Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, and Dick explored in their stories and novels. What I consider pure science fiction is about exploring ideas from an altered perspective to make them more palatable to the reader. Big ideas like the nature of humanity and what it means to be alive were explored in fantastical settings that made you willing to go along on a journey and open your mind to something bigger than yourself. These writers told good stories, but they were also interested in and concerned about the direction toward which humanity was heading. Their stories acted as warnings, philosophical ruminations, treatises, and exclamations of hope. Science fiction is about ideas, and is about us. A moral quandary faced by their characters in the future is really a moral quandary we face now.

At some point, however, science fiction began following in the footsteps of fantasy and became absorbed in building huge universes and detailed encyclopedias of lore. Maybe the release of Star Wars and its brand of space opera spurred this on. I don't know. Science fiction became less about ideas and more about the lasers and spaceships that originally surrounded those ideas. I recently tried reading David Weber's Off Armageddon Reef. I had to give up on it before too long because the author devoted page after page to detailing the history of his world, the political bodies and personalities behind it, and the family histories of the main characters. It was almost bizarre how much the author expected me to give a damn about his universe without introducing any likable characters or other reason to care. It also followed the now-tired premise of a band of scrappy rebels taking on a massive empire.

The shift from big ideas and believable characters to self-centered world building has been the downfall of many a science fiction series. The Matrix is a prime example. The first movie dwelled on the nature of reality and free will, and also managed to be a stunning action and science fiction movie with clever writing and good characters. The sequels degenerated into self-absorbed anime pretentiousness. While I enjoyed the sequels for what they were, they didn't come close to approaching the first movie's intelligence.

Star Trek fell into this same trap, along with simply running out of new ideas. Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation originally built themselves around a what-if? scenario each week. What if there was a society that executed its citizens for the smallest infraction? What if there was a race of beings completely absorbed with making money at any cost? What if there was a machine race that grew by absorbing other societies? What if you found out you had been genetically engineered to be perfect? The characters in these shows perhaps played second fiddle to these scenarios, but they grew over time, became more fleshed out, and most of us grew to love them as time went on. Star Trek usually had a point to make about our own society. Unfortunately, by the time Star Trek: Voyager ended and Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled, the franchise had become mired in the decades of lore it had built up.  The producers of the show were unwilling or unable to genuinely shake things up for fear of alienating those obsessed with continuity (we can't have anything that contradicts how we "know" the warp core works!), and the same tired ideas were endlessly recycled (the machine who wants to be human).

I believe it's possible for a balance to be struck between ideas and lore, and the third Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine, achieved this the best of any of them. The majority of the show focused on a galaxy-wide war between the generally peaceful Federation and the sinister Dominion. This war spanned more than half of the show's seven seasons. However, it used this premise to examine the effects of war and how far people are willing to go for victory. The morality of the show was often gray. In the season 6 episode "In The Pale Moonlight," Captain Sisko and another character, Garak, concoct a plan to trick the powerful Romulan Empire into allying with the Federation. Sisko tries to convince a Romulan senator that the Dominion plan to invade the Romulan Empire. When the plan goes awry, Garak detonates a bomb on board the senator's shuttle, killing him and making it look like a Dominion attack. The Romulans join the fight against the Dominon. Sisko eventually accepts this as a small price to pay to stop the Dominion. Religious themes and examinations of how an oppressed society handles regaining its freedom were also heavily prevalent. It was a premise enhanced by knowledge of the show's lore (the history between the Federation and the Romulan Empire is well established within the various Star Trek series), but still managed to make it about characters and individual morality.

It's no surprise then that the lead show-runner of Deep Space Nine, Ronald Moore, was also one of the principle minds behind the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. The remake took the original campy '70s space opera, extracted the original genuinely horrifying premise, and turned it into a serious and thoughtful military and political drama examining what it might really be like if the entire world ended and the survivors had only the barest hope of a mythical lost home to keep them going. It took that premise and constantly asked what if? What if you had to leave behind or even kill thousands in order to ensure the survival of thousands more? What sort of government would arise from the ashes of this society? What would make the “good guys” turn to suicide bombing? How would people react to being told by their leaders that their arch enemies were now their allies? The first line of spoken dialog in the opening miniseries is, "Are you alive?" It's a frequent question throughout the show. It had a cast of believable and complicated characters trying desperately to survive while also struggling to be worthy of that survival. Some rose to the challenge, while others did not. One of my favorite plot lines was of the young lieutenant stranded with a group of mechanics in hostile territory. The officer was utterly incompetent and couldn't act as a leader for his team. As the situation worsened, he became progressively unhinged until he finally ordered his team to participate in a suicidal attack. It was a fascinating way to look at the incredible stress and pressure of military command under fire, and thankfully didn't have the typical gruff but loving platoon leader.

In this way, Battlestar Galactica was a return to form for (sort of) popular science fiction. Like the earlier Star Trek shows, BSG used science fiction as a means to explore humanity in the here and now. It's easier to watch our heroes act as terrorist insurgents on a far away planet than it is to think about what leads disillusioned and hopeless Muslim men and women to strap bombs to their chests and blow up crowded markets. Even the widely and deservedly reviled "Black Market" episode had an interesting question at its core: what would the criminal underground look like in this post-apocalyptic society?

Battlestar Galactica's misstep was to shift away from the ideas and focus on the lore. Once the show began dwelling on the Final Five Cylons during the latter half of the third season and who they were, why they were important, and what they meant, the show stopped being about us and started being about the writers' universe. While the show dropped Lost-style mysteries right from the beginning, they weren't the focus of the show. Even the search for Earth was less of a central plot and more of a means to motivate both the characters and viewers to continue. While it was interesting in theory to show how the Final Five reacted to learning their true nature, in practice they mostly just moped around. The one exception was Tory, who used it as a nihilistic excuse to give up her humanity and morality. The show regained its footing briefly during the mutiny storyline after the fleet finally discovered that Earth was nothing but a radioactive wasteland. Felix Gaeta's tragic character arc ended here, and was probably the best of the show. Only a few episodes later, though, the writers pooped out an episode where nearly the entire backstory of the Final Five and the reason for the twelve Colonies' destruction was finally revealed from one guy's mouth while he was stuck in a hospital bed.

The problem with the finale, then, was that it didn't focus on the lore and mysteries to the same degree the last season and a half did. It was concerned mostly with wrapping up character arcs. Most of these were satisfying to me, but even I had bought into the central mysteries of the show and was disappointed when they were left dangling at the end. Fast-forwarding 100,000 years to show our society was almost required and could have been cool, but the writers instead decided to jump back to lore mode and throw in more obtuse references to God (who apparently doesn't like to be called that) and ended with an awkward robot montage that seemed to act as some sort of warning against... AI? Technology as a whole? It wasn't really clear.

Having said all that, the issue I have with the people who feel the ending “ruined the show” is that they ignore all of the brilliant work that came before. The morally gray situations, the complex characters, the stellar music, and the believable writing have been swept aside by these “fans” just as much as the writers swept aside their lore for the finale. Claiming that the final 20 minutes of the show invalidates all of the 80 hours that came before is ridiculous. If you stuck with the show all the way to the end, I can't believe that it was the vague hints at divine intervention throughout that kept you hooked. It had to be the characters, and the writing, and stories that worked their magic on you. Some shows' finales deliberately sabotage the audience's expectations. I don't believe that Battlestar Galactica's is one of them.

So for those of you who refuse to give Caprica a chance, get over your misplaced sense of betrayal. The writers employed science fiction the way it was meant to be: to let us critically examine ourselves from a safe distance. Caprica is continuing that tradition. It isn't perfect. It's a show in the process of finding its feet. But to dismiss it outright is to give tacit approval to the weak and shallow Warehouse 13sHeroesStargates and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallens of the world. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

I'm Doing A Thing

Yeah so instead of adding anything new to this blog for the foreseeable future, I've decided to write about my experiences playing through the entirety of the main Final Fantasy series. You can check it out here:

I'm up to Final Fantasy II, so I still have a ways to go. However, I am committed to getting through all of them, so there will be several months of content coming. I hope you enjoy it or find it interesting.
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