viktor_haag: (Default)
... but I'm getting a bit tired of Hollywood categorizing yet another "paranormal" themed product as "science fiction". I mean, it's certainly fiction, but where the heck is the science?

Bah!
viktor_haag: (Default)
... but I'm getting a bit tired of Hollywood categorizing yet another "paranormal" themed product as "science fiction". I mean, it's certainly fiction, but where the heck is the science?

Bah!
viktor_haag: (Default)
After watching the pilot, and oh, about 23 minutes of the second episode of "Bionic Woman" I have a really hard time imagining that this show will last past a full season, if that. The dialog is so very stilted, and the plots (so far) also a bit rickety. I'm all for shows packed with strong female characters, but wouldn't it be better if they were better?

If you want to start up a new genre show (especially one that's a remake of a not particularly good show from the seventies), I understand that it would be important to pack the first few episodes with all the standard bits and play out all the characters basic stories, like you're framing a house. But it would seem to me really, really important then, to make sure that (a) the characters are compelling, and (b) the dialog sparkling.

This new re-tread can't really claim success on point 'a', and as for point 'b', it passed success on the highway three days ago, headed back in the opposite direction.
viktor_haag: (Default)
After watching the pilot, and oh, about 23 minutes of the second episode of "Bionic Woman" I have a really hard time imagining that this show will last past a full season, if that. The dialog is so very stilted, and the plots (so far) also a bit rickety. I'm all for shows packed with strong female characters, but wouldn't it be better if they were better?

If you want to start up a new genre show (especially one that's a remake of a not particularly good show from the seventies), I understand that it would be important to pack the first few episodes with all the standard bits and play out all the characters basic stories, like you're framing a house. But it would seem to me really, really important then, to make sure that (a) the characters are compelling, and (b) the dialog sparkling.

This new re-tread can't really claim success on point 'a', and as for point 'b', it passed success on the highway three days ago, headed back in the opposite direction.
viktor_haag: (Default)
According to SciFi Wire, Melissa George says that the vampires in 30 Days of Night are "frightening, but also stylish". I'm getting so very, very tired of vampires that are stylish. Or sexy. Or gorgeous. I understand that repressed eroticism is an underlying theme of the vampire mythos, but I hereby propose that this mine has been tapped out. It's time to move on, people. We are not Victorian England. Our society is permissive (and post-modern) enough, surely, to begin to examine the vampire figure in another light. Aren't we? Please, say yes.
viktor_haag: (Default)
According to SciFi Wire, Melissa George says that the vampires in 30 Days of Night are "frightening, but also stylish". I'm getting so very, very tired of vampires that are stylish. Or sexy. Or gorgeous. I understand that repressed eroticism is an underlying theme of the vampire mythos, but I hereby propose that this mine has been tapped out. It's time to move on, people. We are not Victorian England. Our society is permissive (and post-modern) enough, surely, to begin to examine the vampire figure in another light. Aren't we? Please, say yes.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Apparently, the boffins have decided that Freema Agyeman will help out Torchwood for a half a season before she returns to Doctor Who next season. Catherine Tate (from the Runaway Bride christmas special) will be the Doctor's companion for the fourth new season.
Bah. I can't say I'm happy about this. The last half of season three showed a pair just hitting the stride with one another and the script writing come through quite strong, so now that we're on a winning streak, of course, is precisely the time to mix things up.

I'm not very pleased about it, but we'll see where it goes.

I thought that the character of Rose Tyler had pretty much run the course, although I rather liked Billie Piper. But it seems to me that Agyeman has barely been given the space to fit into Martha Jones' shoes properly, and then, boom! she's off to another series.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Apparently, the boffins have decided that Freema Agyeman will help out Torchwood for a half a season before she returns to Doctor Who next season. Catherine Tate (from the Runaway Bride christmas special) will be the Doctor's companion for the fourth new season.
Bah. I can't say I'm happy about this. The last half of season three showed a pair just hitting the stride with one another and the script writing come through quite strong, so now that we're on a winning streak, of course, is precisely the time to mix things up.

I'm not very pleased about it, but we'll see where it goes.

I thought that the character of Rose Tyler had pretty much run the course, although I rather liked Billie Piper. But it seems to me that Agyeman has barely been given the space to fit into Martha Jones' shoes properly, and then, boom! she's off to another series.
viktor_haag: (Default)
I'm about a third of the way through this new edition of the Star Wars rolegame. On the whole, I'd say that this is a well-written book, but it has a few small glitches and if I were editing this or helping develop this game, I'd have made several suggestions:

• Please be more up front about your scale, especially if you're going to try to cross-pollinate this game so heavily with the minis line. It took me a fair amount of page flipping before I discovered that a square was 1.5m in size. D20 diehards, and D&D/SW mini diehards, might have thought that was second nature, but those of us "new to it" would certainly not have known that.

• Please be more explicit about what a "Skill Modifier" is with respect to task checks. One of the huge streamlining factors made in this incarnation of the D20 rules set is that you no longer have skill levels: you either know a skill or you do not (there is no try). If you do have training in a skill, you can add your Lvl+5 to the task roll; otherwise, you only get to add your Lvl. However, in opposed skill checks the "higher skill modifier" wins ties -- what does this mean? After much thought and page flipping, I came to the conclusion that "Skill Modifier" meant "everything you add to the D20 roll that doesn't come from outside circumstances" (i.e. DC modifiers). This means, plainly that a first-level trained individual will lose to a seventh level untrained individual, all other factors being equal: I think this is probably consistent with the genre, but it does give me a bit of the heebies.

• Your index sucks. You shouldn't even have bothered to include it. I can think of, off the top of my heads, three different ways you could have more profitably included the information your index does contain, and also a better way to use that page. You have a 285 page rulebook, and your index, on the face of it, is a single page? That in itself is a joke. When you consider that 80% of that index is consumed with a list of talents(!), the actual useful content of the index is pathetically small.

• For a simplified skill system, you have a huge mountain of complexity hidden below the surface that might bite a group in the ass: untrained use. There is ostensibly only one skill in the list that's not usable without training: Mechanics. But wait! Each skill in the game has several defined sub-uses: in many skills, not all of those sub-uses can be used without training. So really, your game doesn't have a list of 20 skills, it has a list of, say 100 skills gathered in a simple, two level tree! The character sheet and the skill summary table are next to useless at providing players with a quick reference to (a) what these sub-use "skills" are, and (b) which of those can be used untrained. How is this /simpler/? (Answer, it is not.) In actual play, it might work out to be very smooth and fit in well with the genre, but from my own experience with RPGs, I can attest that this kind of trickily defined sub-use system is hard for a group of casual players to implement. At the very least, before I play this game, I have to make up my own useful skill reference sheet that spells out for players what they can and cannot do with each particular skill, as defined in the game's rulebook.

• The classes seem at first glance to be uneven. The Noble in particular seems very short-shrifted. This is unabashadly a game (in the basic book, anyway) about kicking stormtrooper butt. Your Noble class is, to that end, rather like the Bard: useless as a front line character, and exists only to support other players. There are encouraging signs: some of the Noble's talents lead one to believe that the class would make a useful leader, negotiator, persuader, and so on. But the focus of the game is so clearly not on politics or character interaction (do those 'troopers even have a face under those helmets?), that one wonders what the Noble class might actually be good for amongst naive groups of players. Also, why the heck do we have a Scout and a Scoundrel? With the talents system in place, I think a single Scout class with "scoundrelly" talent trees as an option would have been better. Frankly, I think this game would have worked a heck of a lot better with only three classes: those who live by their wits, those who live by the Force, and those who live by their blasters. Let talents provide more specific character definition beyond that. Oh well. (Rather, it seems clear that what they did was build one character class for all the observed core characters in the SW movies, so once again, "plays well to specific genre", but if you want to tread off the beaten path...)

• For all that this is an "introductory rolegame" there's very little indication in it about what you'd actually do with this game. There are a smattering of actual play resources in the NPC templates, writeups of movie characters (I have an entire rant stored up about whether you should clog up your core game book with that crap -- to be brief: what in game use do they actually serve?), but no introductory adventure, no really useful information about "what your group will be doing/playing with your new shiny characters". The hardest part (to me) about playing D20 only gets a single page of information: how do you, as a GM, construct adventures with Challenge Levels and Encounter Difficulties and all that to model the kind of play you actually want? What should you do for your first adventure? How much content actually goes into an adventure? At what pace should you bring along your players and how do you work the system to achieve that pace? There seems to be very little assistance in this regard...

• Why is cash-counting and equipment-buying such an important part of your game when it has almost no presence at all in the genre!? Can we not have better resource mechanics that are closer to what is actually done in the movies? This is a solid holdover from the game's D&D roots. Do I really want my group of players to go "equipment shopping" so they can upgrade their Blaster Pistol, to Blaster Pistol Comma Sporting? I dearly hope not. The resource mechanics should have been much more abstract here (to the point of encapsulating wealth into a talent or two, and handwaving over the entire issue of equipment).

All that said, I'd like to try this game out to see if it actually works as WotC hopes. I have a neat idea to kick start a series of adventures in the SW universe that has a different focus than any of the movies, and I'd like to see if this game can make that happen.
viktor_haag: (Default)
I'm about a third of the way through this new edition of the Star Wars rolegame. On the whole, I'd say that this is a well-written book, but it has a few small glitches and if I were editing this or helping develop this game, I'd have made several suggestions:

• Please be more up front about your scale, especially if you're going to try to cross-pollinate this game so heavily with the minis line. It took me a fair amount of page flipping before I discovered that a square was 1.5m in size. D20 diehards, and D&D/SW mini diehards, might have thought that was second nature, but those of us "new to it" would certainly not have known that.

• Please be more explicit about what a "Skill Modifier" is with respect to task checks. One of the huge streamlining factors made in this incarnation of the D20 rules set is that you no longer have skill levels: you either know a skill or you do not (there is no try). If you do have training in a skill, you can add your Lvl+5 to the task roll; otherwise, you only get to add your Lvl. However, in opposed skill checks the "higher skill modifier" wins ties -- what does this mean? After much thought and page flipping, I came to the conclusion that "Skill Modifier" meant "everything you add to the D20 roll that doesn't come from outside circumstances" (i.e. DC modifiers). This means, plainly that a first-level trained individual will lose to a seventh level untrained individual, all other factors being equal: I think this is probably consistent with the genre, but it does give me a bit of the heebies.

• Your index sucks. You shouldn't even have bothered to include it. I can think of, off the top of my heads, three different ways you could have more profitably included the information your index does contain, and also a better way to use that page. You have a 285 page rulebook, and your index, on the face of it, is a single page? That in itself is a joke. When you consider that 80% of that index is consumed with a list of talents(!), the actual useful content of the index is pathetically small.

• For a simplified skill system, you have a huge mountain of complexity hidden below the surface that might bite a group in the ass: untrained use. There is ostensibly only one skill in the list that's not usable without training: Mechanics. But wait! Each skill in the game has several defined sub-uses: in many skills, not all of those sub-uses can be used without training. So really, your game doesn't have a list of 20 skills, it has a list of, say 100 skills gathered in a simple, two level tree! The character sheet and the skill summary table are next to useless at providing players with a quick reference to (a) what these sub-use "skills" are, and (b) which of those can be used untrained. How is this /simpler/? (Answer, it is not.) In actual play, it might work out to be very smooth and fit in well with the genre, but from my own experience with RPGs, I can attest that this kind of trickily defined sub-use system is hard for a group of casual players to implement. At the very least, before I play this game, I have to make up my own useful skill reference sheet that spells out for players what they can and cannot do with each particular skill, as defined in the game's rulebook.

• The classes seem at first glance to be uneven. The Noble in particular seems very short-shrifted. This is unabashadly a game (in the basic book, anyway) about kicking stormtrooper butt. Your Noble class is, to that end, rather like the Bard: useless as a front line character, and exists only to support other players. There are encouraging signs: some of the Noble's talents lead one to believe that the class would make a useful leader, negotiator, persuader, and so on. But the focus of the game is so clearly not on politics or character interaction (do those 'troopers even have a face under those helmets?), that one wonders what the Noble class might actually be good for amongst naive groups of players. Also, why the heck do we have a Scout and a Scoundrel? With the talents system in place, I think a single Scout class with "scoundrelly" talent trees as an option would have been better. Frankly, I think this game would have worked a heck of a lot better with only three classes: those who live by their wits, those who live by the Force, and those who live by their blasters. Let talents provide more specific character definition beyond that. Oh well. (Rather, it seems clear that what they did was build one character class for all the observed core characters in the SW movies, so once again, "plays well to specific genre", but if you want to tread off the beaten path...)

• For all that this is an "introductory rolegame" there's very little indication in it about what you'd actually do with this game. There are a smattering of actual play resources in the NPC templates, writeups of movie characters (I have an entire rant stored up about whether you should clog up your core game book with that crap -- to be brief: what in game use do they actually serve?), but no introductory adventure, no really useful information about "what your group will be doing/playing with your new shiny characters". The hardest part (to me) about playing D20 only gets a single page of information: how do you, as a GM, construct adventures with Challenge Levels and Encounter Difficulties and all that to model the kind of play you actually want? What should you do for your first adventure? How much content actually goes into an adventure? At what pace should you bring along your players and how do you work the system to achieve that pace? There seems to be very little assistance in this regard...

• Why is cash-counting and equipment-buying such an important part of your game when it has almost no presence at all in the genre!? Can we not have better resource mechanics that are closer to what is actually done in the movies? This is a solid holdover from the game's D&D roots. Do I really want my group of players to go "equipment shopping" so they can upgrade their Blaster Pistol, to Blaster Pistol Comma Sporting? I dearly hope not. The resource mechanics should have been much more abstract here (to the point of encapsulating wealth into a talent or two, and handwaving over the entire issue of equipment).

All that said, I'd like to try this game out to see if it actually works as WotC hopes. I have a neat idea to kick start a series of adventures in the SW universe that has a different focus than any of the movies, and I'd like to see if this game can make that happen.
viktor_haag: (Default)
I honestly don't know what to make of this.

But I like the way they self-select: to join the Sigma group and sit at the table with Jerry Pournelle, Arlan Andrews, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, and Sage Walker, you must have "at least one technical doctorate degree". I'd be interested to know about the educational demographics of the wider community of "science-fiction writers", and also what the Sigma group considers a "techical" degree.

I also like the closing paragraphs:


Why offer their ideas to the government instead of private companies that pay big bucks?

"To save civilization," Ringworld author Larry Niven says...


Uhuh. Because "civilization" maps so neatly and completely onto "the national interest", doesn't it, Larry?

I suspect the real reason is that (despite the quote's implication to the contrary) the number of private companies that will "pay big bucks" for this kind of fuzzy think tank probably affords less chance of getting a meal ticket than with the department of Homeland Security. For some reason, I'm reminded of the stories I heard 20 years ago about all the money that the American military was spending on parapsychology consultants.
viktor_haag: (Default)
I honestly don't know what to make of this.

But I like the way they self-select: to join the Sigma group and sit at the table with Jerry Pournelle, Arlan Andrews, Greg Bear, Larry Niven, and Sage Walker, you must have "at least one technical doctorate degree". I'd be interested to know about the educational demographics of the wider community of "science-fiction writers", and also what the Sigma group considers a "techical" degree.

I also like the closing paragraphs:


Why offer their ideas to the government instead of private companies that pay big bucks?

"To save civilization," Ringworld author Larry Niven says...


Uhuh. Because "civilization" maps so neatly and completely onto "the national interest", doesn't it, Larry?

I suspect the real reason is that (despite the quote's implication to the contrary) the number of private companies that will "pay big bucks" for this kind of fuzzy think tank probably affords less chance of getting a meal ticket than with the department of Homeland Security. For some reason, I'm reminded of the stories I heard 20 years ago about all the money that the American military was spending on parapsychology consultants.
viktor_haag: (Default)
But looking at the production blog clips on AICN for the upcoming direct-to-DVD B5 project I must say that I'm not overwhelmed with anticipation that what we'll get will be any better than the other B5 movie-after-the-show projects.
viktor_haag: (Default)
But looking at the production blog clips on AICN for the upcoming direct-to-DVD B5 project I must say that I'm not overwhelmed with anticipation that what we'll get will be any better than the other B5 movie-after-the-show projects.
viktor_haag: (Default)
After watching the big Dalek two-parter, I have to say.... meh. The writing just seems somehow uncomfortable and very uneven. Precious few good dialog beats and far too many bad ones. Uneasy moments between characters. Horrid accents (how many times must we endure the Leslie Anne Warren platinum blonde? And the aw-shucks southern boy? Gah!).

There are good moments, and lots of big-set eye candy.

But on the whole, I have to say that this big two-parter is a disappointment. Especially when compared to last year's Age Of Steel. I hope the series gets better after this; the writers are running out of my patience when it comes to the new companion. I like Agyeman, I do, but they still haven't got a good fit between her and Tenant; and it feels like they're fumbling around in the dark for a rhythm that just may not be there.
viktor_haag: (Default)
After watching the big Dalek two-parter, I have to say.... meh. The writing just seems somehow uncomfortable and very uneven. Precious few good dialog beats and far too many bad ones. Uneasy moments between characters. Horrid accents (how many times must we endure the Leslie Anne Warren platinum blonde? And the aw-shucks southern boy? Gah!).

There are good moments, and lots of big-set eye candy.

But on the whole, I have to say that this big two-parter is a disappointment. Especially when compared to last year's Age Of Steel. I hope the series gets better after this; the writers are running out of my patience when it comes to the new companion. I like Agyeman, I do, but they still haven't got a good fit between her and Tenant; and it feels like they're fumbling around in the dark for a rhythm that just may not be there.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Between pandering to Rowling and Zemeckis, and the tired "lets do something with the old bard" saw, I do think that "The Shakespeare Code" is just not as good as "Smith & Jones" right down to all the silly notion that it was all the Doctor and his Companion that thought up all the bard's best bits (which neatly and sadly defuses the chief premise of the plot's resolution).

Also, I can't help but notice the alarming, parallel similarity between this ep and "The Unquiet Dead". So similar, in fact, that it's almost as if the first is a re-write of the second (as I think "The Unquiet Dead" was a far more interesting episode).

I do hope that this season gets better: it's a bit nasty to be hitting a low-point in your second episode of the season.

And as for Agyeman's doe eyed longing flung Tennants way in the bedroom scene, well, I was really hoping we could have given the whole "Dr and Companion's Sexual Tension" bit something of a rest, but it appears that maybe we haven't.

The teaser for next week has re-seated the hook, but "Code" is a bit of fluff that ranks near the bottom of the list of Davies' efforts, I think.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Between pandering to Rowling and Zemeckis, and the tired "lets do something with the old bard" saw, I do think that "The Shakespeare Code" is just not as good as "Smith & Jones" right down to all the silly notion that it was all the Doctor and his Companion that thought up all the bard's best bits (which neatly and sadly defuses the chief premise of the plot's resolution).

Also, I can't help but notice the alarming, parallel similarity between this ep and "The Unquiet Dead". So similar, in fact, that it's almost as if the first is a re-write of the second (as I think "The Unquiet Dead" was a far more interesting episode).

I do hope that this season gets better: it's a bit nasty to be hitting a low-point in your second episode of the season.

And as for Agyeman's doe eyed longing flung Tennants way in the bedroom scene, well, I was really hoping we could have given the whole "Dr and Companion's Sexual Tension" bit something of a rest, but it appears that maybe we haven't.

The teaser for next week has re-seated the hook, but "Code" is a bit of fluff that ranks near the bottom of the list of Davies' efforts, I think.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Good News: SciFi has slated a new season of BSG.

Bad News: They've expanded the episode order from a lean and mean 13 to a fat 22.

This will no doubt give [livejournal.com profile] crankygrrl pause for some concern. Personally, I think she's on to something when she says that too many episodes lead the writing time into a lot of, well, just not very good writing.

We shall see, I suppose.
viktor_haag: (Default)
Good News: SciFi has slated a new season of BSG.

Bad News: They've expanded the episode order from a lean and mean 13 to a fat 22.

This will no doubt give [livejournal.com profile] crankygrrl pause for some concern. Personally, I think she's on to something when she says that too many episodes lead the writing time into a lot of, well, just not very good writing.

We shall see, I suppose.

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