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“Red Dead Machinima” or “John Hillcoat Delivers”

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

John Hillcoat recently created a 30-minute length short film based on the Red Dead Redemption universe. he is famous for directing movies such as The Road and The Proposition. You can watch the entire movie embedded below. Although I would suggest you view it in HD on YouTube, this blog only allows minuscule versions of YouTube videos to be embedded.

Enjoy!

Categories: Machinima

“Health Bar Watching for the Serious Enthusiast” or “Healers Have the Worst View of Fights”

June 8, 2010 3 comments

I have played a Paladin all six years of World of Warcraft. I have also played a few alts:

  • A mage: Pantheon
  • A Hunter: Xanthus
  • A Warlock: Tereminus
  • A few other lower levels alts just to get an idea of the other classes

But at the end of the day, home base has always been the Paladin class. It is where I feel the most secure, it is the class I enjoy the most, and despite my frustrations with the lack of love for the class from Blizzard in the past, I continue to cling on to it like a desperate Republican supporting the likes of Sarah Palin for fear of the Democrats taking office.

I digress. Within the Paladin class, I have clung on to the Holy tree like socks on Velcro. In fact, I have played the Holy Paladin with such singular devotion and dedication that I have have absolutely no idea how to play either of the other two specs. Being an old-schooler, and despite ample evidence to the contrary, the phrase ‘Paladin DPS’ always strikes me as a bit of an oxymoron, so much so in fact, that I have never had a Retribution spec. I used to tank a little in The Burning Crusade, when Paladin tanking actually became viable, but that too was sparse, and completely abandoned in Wrath of the Lich King.

Larisa’s article (Why Tanks Have the Best View in the Game and other Summertime Musings) jolted me out of my perpetual need to stick to the Holy Paladin class, and made me realize that WoW has a lot more to offer in this highly versatile class than I give it credit for. The most convincing aspect of this realization is what Larisa points out in her entry: tanks have the best view in the game, and by contrast, healers have the worst view.

Yeah, you try enjoying the scenery with THAT!

I can’t recall most of what any instance looks like. I have a vague idea, but the fact of the matter is that I couldn’t tell you if Onyxia looks any different from Sartharion. Or if the Anub’Rekan in the 5-man instances looks the same as he does in 10/25 version of the encounter. Or what the inside of Lord Marrowgar’s room looks like. I have a vague idea, but I just don’t know for sure. And the primary reason for this is the fact that I am almost always looking at one part of my UI: the health bars of all the idiots relying on me to keep them alive.

In any given fight my eye never leaves that portion of the screen. Sure I move if there is AoE in the area, or if the fight dynamics require me to haul ass to ensure success and phat lewts, but at this point that has become more of a muscle memory than anything else. I hear “BONESTORM!”, I keep my eye on the health bars while trying to keep away from Lord Marrowgar using peripheral vision. I see walls of fire approaching in the distance, I relocate to a safer location, and even during that movement, toss out a Holy Shock to someone in need, hoping for a crit, so that my next Flash of Light will be an instant, and none of those precious, precious health bars would suffer.

Other factors notwithstanding, this is one of the biggest reasons why being a healer in WoW sucks more balls than a Bubble Tea addict on a binge: watching those godforsaken bars for hours on end, never taking in the sceneary, or enjoying the smaller pleasures of endgame raiding in the game.

Time for a spec/class change? You betcha.

More on this in upcoming posts.

Article of the Week: “Game-to-Movie Conversions” or “Chesty Jake Ain’t No Persian Prince”

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

CNN.com had an editorial up today penned by Scott Steinberg, head of video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, as well as the founder of GameExec magazine and Game Industry TV. He also recently penned a book, Get Rich Playing Games, and runs a not-so-modest-sounding blog called “The Video Game Expert“. [Sidenote: I can't find a website for TechSavvy Global, GameExec magazine or Game Industry TV. Am I missing something here?]

The article is a candid look at the tumultuous and frangible relationship between the gaming industry and Hollywood, and why is it that no one can seem to bring a successful video gaming franchise to the silver screen without it seeming more like a retarded afterthought than an respectable adaptation. The article also explores some concepts without much proof to the support the arguments, such as juxtaposing ‘dense, layered, movies’ against ‘one-dimensional video games’, essentially painting a fairly categorical black & white picture of the two obviously different and unique genres.

It’s worth a read, just to get some additional perspective into what a self-proclaimed video game expert (the video game expert no less) believes the biggest problem with video game to movie adaptations. Take a few minutes to read it here if you’d like. If you are pressed for time, I have provided a short list of bullet points below for your convenience:

  • Movies based on video games stink.
  • Things often come down to money, as studios will green-light best-selling games for silver screen adaptation, instead of making the decision based on a franchise with the most cinematic potential
  • A compelling universe and a fascinating cast of characters are what most video game adaptations lack
  • Most game-makers give development preference to multiplayer modes or better graphics, than spinning a compelling yarn
  • Very few studios have writers working full-time
  • Plot serves as a device in video games to drive players from one action sequence to the next, and not necessarily to tell a compelling narrative
  • Most game-makers can’t capture the subtle nuances of films like ‘Juno’ or ‘Lost in Translation’
  • God of War III is a compelling narrative and a literate piece of work
  • Movies are complex, dense, layered; video games are one-dimensional
  • Movies are passive; video games are interactive
  • The gaming industry is slowly finding its roots by investing in storytelling again

There are several points in here that one can readily agree with, such as the fact that movies are a passive activity, whereas video games demand interaction to be qualified as such. Or the fact that most game studios lack full-time writers, which makes little to no sense, considering literally every game is driven at its core, but some form of narrative. I also belong to the same camp which believed that Hollywood foolishly green-lights any franchise which has done moderately well for a silver screen version, without paying any heed to actual cinematic potential. Resident Evil is a great video gaming franchise, but translated to the silver screen it becomes two-dimensional, hollow, almost devoid of any personality or substance, overly-saturated with jaw-dropping stunts and rampant CGI. And somewhere along the process, you lose sense of what made Resident Evil so popular in the first place: survival horror. Couple that with the Matrix-style of the upcoming fourth adaptation, and you will start to see what a terrible idea this series of adaptations was.

Back to the editorial at hand.

Steinberg then starts spewing some conjectural arguments, pudding with no proof in it if you will, that I either completely disagree with it, or it infuriates me on a primal level, or both of the above. The most frustrating of these unfounded arguments was the statement that movies are complex beasts, providing the viewer with unprecedented depth and powerful narrative open to interpretation; whereas video games are largely one-dimensional, devices that focus less on central narrative and more on fringe elements such as multiplayer modes etc. Mr. Steinberg, with all due respect to the “one billion people” who have sought out your consultation services, that makes about as much sense as a squirrel in a cardboard suit playing Beethoven’s Fifth.

In his attempt to cement his argument with no factual basis and ample generic quotes from people in the video gaming industry, Steinberg forgets to consider one important element that may often lead to flopped video-game-to-movie-adaptations: a complex narrative to begin with.

Consider a game like Mass Effect. Aside from the central narrative of Commander Shepard representing the human race in a universe that is largely mistrustful of the species, against the backdrop of a rogue agent acting under the control of a powerful being of aliens spooling up for their newest galactic genocide mission, there are subtleties and side-stories and undiscovered nuances that set the game apart from its competition.

Take the Krogans just as an example. Here is a warrior race that mass-procreates and thrives on conflict. To combat their spread and inevitable conquering of other species (post-Rachni Wars of course), the Turians introduced the genophage, a genetic disorder that only allowed 1 in 1000 Krogan babies to survive. This forced the Krograns to become ever-protective of their species, eliminated their numerical advantage on the field of battle, and produced a new species from the ashes that was tougher, stronger and more resilient than their ancestors. This is but one, severely summarized version of a single side-story in Mass Effect.

Continuing the Mass Effect example, I clocked in close to 60 hours in the first game, and over 45 hours in the second game by the time I was done. That is over 100 hours of combined playtime in the Mass Effect universe. While I am curious to see what kind of an adaptation they come up with, I sincerely doubt it will be able to capture the essence of what makes the Mass Effect universe so special: an intricate, multi-faceted, multi-layered story with numerous inter-connected stories, all spooling into their own respective yarns. The series has already spawned two full-length novels, and a graphic novel.

So when Steinberg claims that movies are the complex genre, and the video game genre is what needs more than a single dimension, I have to vehemently disagree. I can agree with the fact that a lot of video games lack the central narrative that should serve as the backbone and not as a marginalized afterthought. However, this doesn’t change the fact that for games with incredibly powerful narratives, such as Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, or World of Warcraft, the exact opposite is true. There is no silver screen adaptation that can capture the true essence of these worlds in a 90-minute movie laden with eye-popping special effects and record-shattering stunts.

The rule that applies to books, also applies to complex, narrative-drive video games here. I can’t really think of a book that was faithfully and compelling transformed onto a powerful story in Hollywood, save, maybe, Watchmen. (Don’t say Lord of the Rings, that wasn’t a 90-minute flick, it was a 11-hour-23-minute saga, and only then was Peter Jackson able to capture a fraction of Tolkein’s universe).

The bottom-line is that video games, although still suffering from an acute shortage of dedicated staff writers, is by no means a ‘one-dimensional’ interactive beast incapable of achieving the complexity modern cinema can produce. In a lot of cases, the contrary holds true, and Steinberg should recognize that.

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