Saturday, August 6, 2011

Personal Best

Three blog posts in a single year. Shall I post again a double my own record? I have consulted my personal adviser and he states: "All signs point to no."

As always the camera was my trusted companion throughout the convention. Let us see what it caught in its digital net.

Invisible Man (we'll take the green out in post).

Fun fact: The guy in the costume is normal sized everyone else in the shot is midget.

In San Diego, it turns out.

...and Jon Lovtiz as Robin.

The middle one is the hottest, clearly.

This one is for you, Bean. Sorry it's not a panda.

Also for Bean.

I'll be honest, for ninjas, not that coordinated.

I wonder how the found each other.

...and the award for Creepiest Thing at the Show goes to...

Oh shit, now I need to change my password.

"You and I must fight for our rives."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Minutes or Less?

Now a week out the high has faded, seven days since I immersed myself in all things nerd. Amazing how concentrated it is in that time and place. Ads cover the sides of hotels and trains, there are even trucks with images of True Blood characters that patrol back and forth in front of the convention center. Then, just outside the epicenter it begins to cede. Get a few blocks away and you might see someone carrying a large bag with a logo on it, few will be in costume and most will be going about their daily business. They look at us as if to say: “Oh, is that thing going on again?”

In the convention proper, what was there to experience? Long lines and greasy, overpriced food were the most common. I braved such lines for two things, Spider-Man and The Old Republic along the way I caught sight of a few others as well.

Spider-Man - Impressive. The funny, sarcastic Spidey from the comics seems to have finally made it onto film. This was an element always lacking in the Raimi films, and sorely missed. All of the swinging shots from the extra footage were wire work as opposed to CGI, which gave him more weight. To me the digital Spidey from the Raimi films always looked like he was floating through the air, as if the web he had a hold of was a prop rather than a fulcrum. Some of the scenes were in 3D, which continues to add nothing for me beyond annoyance.

Fright Night - Despite it's subject matter being close to my heart I have almost no interest in this movie. The panel did not change my mind. It did allow me to witness something I had never seen before. In a theater of roughly 6,000 they ran out of questions from the audience and wrapped up early.

30 Minutes or Less -
What was this movie doing at Comic Con? Nothing sci-fi, comic or fantasy related about it.

Dead Island - It would be difficult to live up to the promise of that first inverted trailer. I hoped it would, it appears I was wrong. Characters lips moved in no relation to the lines they spoke. The controls felt loose and floaty and the damage numbers looked out of place for a first person game.

Batman: Arkham City - Two years ago I sat in an Arkham Asylum panel. It was only a half hour long and was before something I actually wanted to see. I sat there, arms crossed on my chest with a smug look on my face. Just try and impress me, I thought. I'm a gamer, I had seen the warning signs: a licensed property, a mix of two vastly different game styles, stealth and action. Then I played it.

Everything that was great about the original is back and more. Fluid animations, bone cracking combos and every Bat-villain that can be squeezed onto the disc. I have only two complaints: the writing and the writing. Are the old Batman animated episodes cloaked in nostalgia for me or was Paul Dini's dialogue always this terrible? I fear to watch them and find out. The second complaint is a holdover from the original: Batman's internal (or external) monologue explaining to himself how to solve puzzles. "If I throw out a smoke grenade I can slip away unseen," he muses to himself standing roughly ten feet from about four men armed with automatic weapons. Do you want me to play the game or just hand you the controller and let you take care of it yourself?

Ever since seeing the first Arkham City trailers one question has plagued me. If part of the city was walled off to create this ad-hoc prison it would imply that the Arkham City moniker is a nickname or at least a recent designation. If so, then where did all the signage come from?

Kinect Star Wars - I did not play this game, but I did watch several others as I waited in line for my next entry. As a tech demo it is amazing, as a game it is not. Animations are jittery and the enemies dull. The characters are on rails and seem to be allowed only a few actions at any time. A Force Push may seem advantageous but it is only an option when prompted for it.

The Old Republic - For twenty minutes I was granted access to this universe. Given the options I chose a level 1 Sith Warrior and set out to make my name and claim my lightsaber. Perhaps not in that order. While that third of an hour rushed by I walked away feeling let down. Combat seemed uninspired, like WoW not much more than a metagame of managing cooldowns. Graphics were cartoony but the first cutscene places a part of your shuttle in the extreme foreground, emphasizing the low res texture. Mobs seemed to have no pathing or idle animations, making the world seem lifeless and stiff. The standard 3 option response BioWare dialogue tree has been tacked on and did not add much.

It is possible the game becomes better and more innovative later, but after the first twenty minutes I cannot see it dethroning WoW or even keeping decent numbers past the initial curiosity. MMORPGs are primarily played for the MMO, not the RPG. So if your friends are still in Azeroth, that is likely where you will return as well. Perhaps I am just burnt out from my time in Blizzard's playground and can no longer find entertainment in the tropes of that genre.

"I'll never teach your monkey French."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Turns out I didn't

It had been my intention to triumphantly declare in the title of this posting that despite the many months which had passed, and the resulting collected dust in that corner of my mind, I had been able to remember my password. We are left instead with the sad truth.

That time comes round again, Comic Con and with it the annual blog post. In this year's missive let us speak of panels, an opportunity to share elbow room with our fellow geeks in uncomfortable, stackable chairs. Regardless we wait for sometimes hours for the privilege to sit in those cramped quarters and hear writers and artists and actors provide their insight and try to sell their product. Can we speak honestly? It is mostly to sell their product.

How much selling is required could be debated. If a person endures such a long queue it is likely he or she is already interested in the property being pitched. It is rather like trying to convince a gathering of evangelicals that Jesus was a pretty okay guy. We come to see something exclusive, some new footage or news, so that we might brag to our fellow nerds: "I've seen the Green Lantern throw a giant emerald fist, have you?"

The panelists make stupid jokes which are dutifully laughed at and then once the moderator has asked each one a question in turn the floor will be opened to questions from the audience. At is at this time that the panel loses all forward momentum and crashes into the dirt, rolling and flipping and tossing off pieces.

The audience questions are terrible, universally.

They are at their worst at a panel for movies and fall into a handful of categories.

A.) The most popular: "Hello, Actor X, what was it like to play Y?"

This will invariably result in a furrowed expression as if the subject is deep in thought but the answer remains ever the same: "Wow, that's a really good question. It was pretty cool."

B.) The nitpick: "Why did you choose to change X, when it was like Y in the book/comic/TV series?"

The answer will stress how seriously the source material was taken for a few sentences and then either be dodged or say that the change was required. As an aside my favorite version of the dodge was done thusly: "I never saw a version of a script with X in it." Scripts, as you may know, are never revised.

C.) The repeat: "That footage looks awesome, can we see that again?"

Allow me to don a tin foil hat and suggest that the questioner for this one may be planted by the studio.

One final note about panels. The person on the end farthest from the podium, be he or she a producer or supporting actor, will never be asked a question from the audience. I am waiting for one of them to walk off after taking their only query from the moderator.

So in a few day's time, Gods of the Lines be favorable, I will finally know what sort of an experience it was for Andrew Garfield to portray Spider-Man. I expect it to be insightful.

"We built this city on logs and coal."