C’est la Divertissement Vie. (That’s the Entertainment Life.)

Games:

I may seriously never purchase another game from Konami again.

mgsvYes, I’m late to the party. But their last great game, Metal Gear Solid V, was never given the chance to be completed. The game was delivered in an episodic fashion that spanned 50 missions. 51 was supposed to effectively be the game’s final boss battle. Cut material from the collector’s edition showed a half complete last episode, which would have been an excellent note to satisfy one last dangling plot thread and go out with a bang.

It was never released. And according to Konami’s spokesmen, never will be.

This information was never quite clear to me given the layouts of story-focused wikis, or the strategy guides and commentary boards that avoided discussing the plot for fear of spoilers: I only just learned of the mission conclusion after completing 89% of the game. But imagine, if you will, the Harry Potter series sans the final battle with Voldemort and the epilogue. Or Star Wars: Return of the Jedi without the Battle of Endor.

Others have covered the likely cause of this sad state of affairs better than I have, but the likely culprit was the Konami/Kojima split. I’ve played several Kojima games in my life and I know that he would never willingly leave a story incomplete. Of those titles were Zone of the Enders and its sequel, as well as Metal Gear Solid, Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater. While he always had more stories to tell, leaving the current arc incomplete was simply never his style.

Of the game itself, I could see how it was almost a masterpiece. Almost. The game play constantly brings me back again and again for its completeness, it’s total immersive elements. The depth of strategies is profound in and of itself, where no item or weapon ever seems to have just one purpose. Every game play session, I learn something new about how to combat my foes; some trick, a tactic or vantage point I never considered before. Even without the cut ending the story was somewhat weak, but this was countered with dozens of great moments that constantly made me forget vulnerabilities in the overall tale. Mission 51 would probably make me condone this, but I will never know for certain.

That being said, I refuse to give up after coming this far. I’ll see this through to the end but that is all, despite my disappointments and reservations.

Movies:

The Professional: Golgo 13golgo13 feels like something that could and should have been better.

Golgo 13, sometimes known as Duke Togo, is Japan’s answer to James Bond: an ageless, ongoing assassin whose stories often have to entertain without ever developing the man himself. Instead, the creators rely heavily on crafting sensational plot twists, over-the-top sex scenes, backstories for his victims, visually insane villains or researching mind-boggling but physically possible acts of sniping such as ricocheting a bullet off an ocean wave. Anything to avoid piercing the titular character’s stoic demeanor and mysterious allure.

In this film, Mr. Togo is contracted to end the life of Robert Dawson. However, it happens at a sensitive time during a company coronation, when Robert is dubbed the new CEO of a massive, massive enterprise. Although Togo succeeds, the contract’s legacy turns sour as the would-be CEO’s father (the current CEO Dawson) seeks revenge for the death of his son.

The beginning feels almost distracted by another contract that Golgo accepts, which concludes with him being chased by the FBI, CIA and Pentagon. All these agencies under the employ of Dawson himself, who wields his company’s power in a way that the Sherman Antitrust Act was exactly designed to prevent. Despite the threat, Togo seems oblivious to the danger and completes another contract. Only then does he realize how unrelenting the government’s hitmen are, as Golgo’s informants are either killed or turn on him.

The visual style of The Professional was somewhat distracting. While the action scenes were straight forward, coherent and well handled, Director Osamu Dezaki seemed determined to punch up even basic dialogue with flair unnecessarily. The movie also used some CGI animations to handle some helicopter assault scenes, but the technology was simply too immature at the time to effectively tell a story. Likewise, the story concocted several Bond-level villains for Golgo to fight as well, the story actually suffers from the introduction of too many antagonists to effectively develop in its 90 minute running time. However, the final plot twist at the end was somewhat satisfying (highlight to see spoiler): It turns out that Robert Dawson ordered the hit on himself, an act of suicide because of his fear of being unable to live up to his father’s expectations.

Television:

I gave up on Orphan BlackAmazon’s sci-fi series about clones.

“Where’s this madness going?” I asked myself after the ninth episode of season two. The plot consisted of most of the characters milling about in circles. Once again, the protagonist’s daughter had been kidnapped, after a long season of hiding about the countryside to no real effect. Meanwhile, antagonist Helena was stolen by some strange religion-meets-genetics commune who took her eggs. After she escaped and then willfully came back, she threatened a harsh nanny for mistreating the children under her care, not long before Helena sets the compound on flame regardless of the lives of the kids inside.

Characters portrayed by anyone besides Tatiana Maslany became less interesting, and except for concerns regarding a genetic disease amongst the show’s many clones, the entire season felt like little more than “filler.” ggrThe show felt like it willfully resisted growth despite a strong first season. Only Maslany’s skillful acting kept me going this far, as she slips in and out of versions of herself in a believable manner.

On the plus side however was Good Girls Revolt, an amusing and unexpected show actually made me realize how bloody boring Mad Men sometimes was.

I can see how Good Girls Revolt was probably stiff-armed by Amazon for years until the latter show came to an end. Mad Men was/is the Oscar of television, but sometimes didn’t feel like it wore enough of the sixties (at least the pieces we wanted to remember) on its sleeve. GGR certainly does, but the other huge difference is that the series focuses around one major climax that the main characters built towards through behind-the-scenes politicking and subterfuge.

The girls seemed to truly wrestle with their guilt; a sharp contrast to the occasional acts of Mad Men’s cruel, tragic and unapologetic attitude.

The bad news however is that the show isn’t going to get a second season, at least not on Amazon. One aspect downplayed is that GGR is built on real events, namely Newsweek’s EEOC lawsuit in 1969. Although the name was changed to the fictional “News of the Week,” the historic aspects are still very highlighted. It’s safe to doubt that Newsweek enjoyed someone dredging up a nearly 50 year-old legal filing that put them in a bad light. And I could see why Amazon might not want to start a mudslinging contest with the news outlet in all in the name of entertainment.

Heat is On

Heat is On

Some news has come down the pipe… and as such I am preparing for the next few weeks with a new and aggressive writing schedule. The past few weeks, I’ve been lazy with writing, putting a few days aside to play Titanfall or hang with friends, then writing a little.

But I have a number of very large writing projects going on now. I’ve mentioned before about a few super hero novellas that my friends and I are working on. I got the thumbs up on what I consider a “starter” novel. And there are a few short story deadlines between now and the end of the summer that I have to attend to.

As such, I want to make an effort to write a little every day. Just an hour, even if it’s as little as plotting out the synopsis or doing some research or editing an existing piece. There are things that have external deadlines and others that don’t. My plan is to focus on grinding forward at all times. If I hit writer’s block against one subject (unlikely since just about everything has a complete or near complete synopsis) then I’ll fall back and try something else.

This means I currently have four writing projects on around the same time. Risky, I know. But there are red-and-green light moments between them. But here’s my usual break down:

Short Stories: Usually take 4 to 5 hours to write, plus up to 2 hours of research time, plus 1 hour to rewrite due to beta reader reactions and suggestions. Additional hour for the synopsis. So 8 to 9 hours, maybe 10 if the research is extensive (historical fiction.)

Novellas: Sketchy, but approximately 3 hours for the synopsis, 3 to 4 hours research time if needed, 8 to 12 hours writing time plus unknown re-write time. So no less than 17 real hours of work.

I don’t even know how long a novel really takes me. I’ve started two novels before. The first got fifty pages in with no synopsis before dying. The second got a filled synopsis and three chapters finished, but no green light to continue. My latest has a complete synopsis and the vast majority of my research finished, with about two and a half chapters in first draft stage.

Super Powers

Super powers have been a major focus as of late in my work. And I’ve realized… When I introduce an element, it’s less about the intrigue of the subject itself and more about the rest of the world’s reaction to it. As I pointed out to my friends earlier today, it’s less Marvel comics and more like Metal Gear Solid for me.

What’s the difference you ask? Well Marvel comics has always had that sense of amazement surrounding the character. The Incredible, Hulk. The Amazing, Spider-Man. The Uncanny, X-Men. For some reason, comic book super heroes have tended to evolve towards these tiring black and white morals. They rarely make any attempt to accept a more down to earth grey, just trying to get by and perhaps discovering that the world, for whatever reason, won’t let them.

MGS2However, the genius of Hideo Kojima’s signature series (Metal Gear Solid) has been more around how such abilities would be applied to the real world. In Kojima’s view, the only place for such morbid and unusual talents tends to be the military. MGS is filled with characters bearing unexplained powers… a man who can summon hornets from his body or another who can heal from sunlight, a telepathic or one who is seemingly a vampire (only partially explained through nano-machines.)

These unbelievable foes are always part of special operations units, rare and unseen to the rest of the world. When the player encounters them, there isn’t much awe factor… just an X-Files like acceptance that there will always be strange things, and there won’t always be a scientific theory to explain them away.

This comparison and branch of thought came from an earlier source. Rather it was our buddy Alec who was the genesis of the idea, when he sent us a compelling thematic concept last week. His contribution to the project added something potent and memorable, setting us up differently than almost all other super hero stories I’ve read.

We’ve been borrowing each others’ ideas. Andrew, for example, came up with a number of characters that we each borrowed from. I’ve concocted an agency and have had no trouble letting other authors play with, creating a myriad of perspectives regarding it. From Jonathan, I’ve borrowed a faction and have carefully been modeling an intriguing philosophy with the involved villain. Alec has presented us with a universal theme that we’ll all find ways to use. Finally, Robbie has provided us with a brand of weapons and tools that will impact stories to come.

As it stands, we have enough material for the first wave of novellas. There’s plenty of world building elements in place to get started. I think the final product is going to catch some eyes for certain. But tonight, it’s all about the work.

Oh What a Night

The Soldier doing CPR wrong.

The Soldier doing CPR wrong.

What a night.

Yesterday, I cracked open my Playstation 2 to try and realign the laser as well as do a spot of cleaning. I found a handy guide for it as well as a few Youtube videos. What sucks about that guide is that they were having picture problems yesterday, but I remembered enough when I first read the guide to repair it.

Sadly, my efforts didn’t bare much fruit. The PS2 games are working, as Metal Gear Solid 3 ran swimmingly. Vagrant Story didn’t boot when I finished although it did run earlier, and Escape from New York ran just once. Still, I don’t need the DVD player (I have another). I’d be content if the PS and PS2 games ran. I’m going to try some rubbing alcohol to touch up the laser next time.

Maybe I should consider a Playstation 3. They recently dropped the price to a tidy $250. I guess I worry about when it’s coming and how much the Playstation 4 will cost. I also want to play Metal Gear Solid 4 and a few other games, but Hideo Kojima is still being a tease about Zone of the Enders 3.

Earlier in the night I played more Team Fortress 2. My performance hasn’t been great lately, with a kill-to-death ratio of 1:1. When you factor assists into it (which I personally score as .5 kills), I’m not doing terrible. Still, I want to get better. Although the Pyro is still my favorite, the Soldier has really been growing on me as I start using the Equalizer and rocket jumps. What gets me about the Soldier is that it’s the perfect class for both beginners and experts, since the rockets are easy to understand but rocket jumps and the rest of the Soldier’s arsenal require some experience. That and making people’s heads a ‘splode.

Ahahah, Strong Bad. Maybe I should check out Poker Night at the Inventory. Oh, and Back to the Future. Damn you Steam!

Another 10 Music Pieces

So immediately after my last post giving 10 pieces of music for writing, I started another post with more music. It takes a little research to find good music with little or no lyrics, while trying to avoid re-using artists I have already mentioned before.

  1. Nothing Else Matters, by Apocalypta.
    “What, no Apocalypta?” MisterEd asked on the Shoutbox immediately after my last music listing. Self-induced cranial knockings commenced afterwards.
  2. Blade Runner Ending Theme, by Vangelis.
    You may find this hard to believe, but Ridley Scott is actually looking to do another movie set in the Blade Runner universe. I honestly don’t know how to take the news given that the sci-fi/noir flick is one of my all time favorites, and that Scott doesn’t seem to have ever done a sequel in his life. We will see what comes of this. Until then, enjoy the original sound track.
  3. Escape, by Craig Armstrong.
    Just when you think it’s over, they’re still coming after you! Run, you fools!
  4. Canabalt Theme, by Danny Baranowsky.
    Canabalt is a simple flash game that came out sometime back. All you do is jump, timing yourself to avoid obstacles and land safely on buildings. Click the link to play, but watch the clock: Your day could disappear playing this.
  5. Factory, Vagrant Story OST.
    Vagrant Story was a one of a kind game. A dungeon crawler influenced by Shakespearean plot writing with supernatural elements.  I have heard talk and discussion of sequels to Ashley Riot’s story, but looking at the direction the Final Fantasy series went after the tenth or eleventh title, I’m not interested.
  6. Escape from the Tavern, by James Horner.
    Willow. Now there’s a movie time forgot. Let’s face it, Hollywood has only started to be kinder to the fantasy genre in the last decade or so with stuff like the Harry Potter series. Still, there maybe some treasures in the soundtrack, if one is willing to look for them.
  7. Give them a shot. You may find your new favorite band.

    Give them a shot. You may find your new favorite band.

    Babylon of the Orient (instrumental version), by The Shanghai Restoration Project.
    The Shanghai Restoration Project is a great band whose discography continues to grow. Most of their music has some lyrics to it and always has an Asian flair. You may also want to check out the lyrical version of this piece.

  8. Just For Today, by Hybrid.
    Oh man, I actually almost don’t want to share Hybrid simply because of how amazing their work is and how much it inspires me. Still, if I like a band I should support them by passing the word along. This song makes me imagine flying and fighting, but if you want something trance and dark, try Dreaming Your Dreams.
  9. Metal Gear Solid 2 Theme, by Harry Gregson-Williams.
    The Metal Gear Solid series continues, but will be doing so without Solid Snake. I can’t blame Hideo Kojima. He was probably scared to death of some other producer butchering his favorite character. Still, damn good music though.
  10. Promise, by Akira Yamaoka.
    My favorite of the Silent Hill series of games was Silent Hill 2. But the music overall has never disappointed. Spooky and eerie, like a ghost tale told properly.