Of Phasers and Sabers

My enforced vacation from work brings some good news: some personal projects have moved much farther forward in the last month. I finally repaired Thunderchild, made progress on a video project, reorganized bookshelves in the bedroom and living room, and now I’ve finished a pair of games sitting in my collection since 2004: “Star Trek: Elite Force 2” and “Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast”. (Yeah, I really burn through the games, huh? This is why, despite my love for a good computer game, I don’t buy them very often.)

Star Trek: Elite Force 2

“Elite Force 2” is the second game where you take on the role of leader of Voyager‘s Hazard Team, a group of highly-trained survival and combat specialists. I love this concept in Trek, as it suggests that Starfleet knows you need folks like these sometimes, without suggesting that the fleet has an entire militaristic arm waiting for warfare. Had the idea existed when I was on Pathfinder or Yeager, I’d have lobbied for this to be added to our roleplay.

Unfortunately, while the game is prettier than the previous one, and contains more play time, the writing is weak compared to the first game. “Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force” had a script and plot superior to many televised episodes of Voyager (faint praise, eh?), but this sequel consists mainly of grinding one’s way through waves and waves of “Alien” clones. I was particularly offended by the redemption of an alien scientist who causes the gruesome deaths of thousands (including many of your crewmates and often almost you) through vain dreams of power and the affection of a girl, but eventually says he’s sorry and all is forgiven. Ever notice how, in post-DS9 Trek, the heroes are always punished for poor choices or bad luck, but the antagonists generally aren’t?

Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast

The Dark Forces franchise has held up a little better. While Mac users had to skip the second game in the series due to a lack of interest in a port, both “Dark Forces” and “Jedi Outcast” take the player back to the days of “A New Hope” and “Empire” far better than anything George Lucas has written in the last decade. The developers produce expert recreations of both specific locations and places hinted at by the movies, the sound effects and music cues immediately evoke the original experience, and even the short romance subplot in the more recent game is handled far better than the prequel movies do. I won’t lie – I found “Outcast” to be quite difficult, but worth my patience.

Instead of space bugs, you’ll face Stormtroopers of the Imperial Remnant left over after the death of Emperor Palpatine. A fallen Jedi has tired of the Light Side, and has allied with the Remnant to produce – well, let’s just say you’ll need to learn those lightsaber skills. Much fun.

Now, I need only finish “No One Lives Forever” and “Tron 2.0”. Probably won’t be soon, because I do have several more interesting things on my plate than shooter games…

Sahn ticha lay. Manitampitach manichita.

Randomly landed on “A New Hope” on Spike HD. Wow, that movie never gets old. Shame about the unfortunate editing error in this copy during the Greedo scene.

20 SF Movies

There’s a “25 Things About Me” meme going around Facebook. Rather than just re-post it here, I was inspired by John Scalzi’s column to write “20 Memories of Sci-Fi Movies of My Youth”. Agreed, it’s not quite a catchy a title, but I can live with that.

1) The first SF movie I saw in the theaters was “Star Wars”, when I was seven. I remember seeing the commercials and thinking, “Meh, might be okay.” Yeah, underestimated that one a bit. I do not remember “Episode 4” atop the opening crawl. The John Williams soundtrack spent long hours in the following months accompanying my pretending to blast TIE fighters from a laser gun turret.

2) The next one I recall seeing in the theaters was “Starcrash”. This would only have been a good movie had I been old enough to enjoy Caroline Munro’s outfit. I can’t remember too much about it now, which may be a good thing, but I’m tempted to find a copy and enjoy the badness from a whole new perspective.

3) “Close Encounters” confused and frightened me, especially the part where Richard Dreyfuss starts losing his sanity. I didn’t understand the ending at that age, either. In fact, to this day, there’s a lot of unexplained bits having to do with the aliens, which is just as well; I suspect that any explanation from Spielberg would have been far lamer than the mystery.

4) While we’re on such movies, I was mildly traumatized by the laser surgery and ‘cannibal’ robot in “Logan’s Run”, and I didn’t understand the whole “Carousel” thing at all. That’s another movie which is probably unwise to watch before puberty, especially in a midnight showing in a darkened house.

5) “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”: Wow, new Klingon ships. Whoa whoa, new Klingons! Triple whoa: I am in love with the new Enterprise model! Okay, excellent, what’s going to happen for the next ninety minutes? Oh. Not much. I’m glad I never took it in to my head to get myself one of that movie’s uniforms.

Fifteen more behind the cut

Next box has the Ark of the Covenant

Local weather is trying to be obliging. “You don’t have a light jacket right now? Okay, we’ll just drop the morning temp to 45 degrees so you can wear your winter coat, does that help?”

Had a very weird dream the other night where I climbed down a narrow drainage pipe to find myself in a secret underground studio where they were filming the return of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to the cable channels. I was privileged to sit in on one of the sessions where they watch the movie and write the jokes; I started ad-libbing along, and they hired me on the spot, causing me to draw the wrath of one of the other writers for some reason. Any dream interpreters wanna take a shot at that one?

In the ongoing Stuff Reduction Plan, I did some heavy game materials archaeology yesterday. I found my copy of Amber Diceless, a fascinating take on RPG mechanics that uses no random chance at all; Star Warriors, a fast-paced, careening tactical game of Star Wars fightercraft; and Ogre, light infantry and vehicles against a robot tank the size of a small city block. I’m keeping those. (Actually, I fear the Ogre set may belong to rattrap.)

Going away is the stack of official Star Trek fan magazines, which will be probably be trashed; and raininva has dibs on the bigger stack of West End Star Wars RPG and Indiana Jones RPG books. Battletech 3025 scenario and source- books are going; Battletech ‘Mech listing books are staying. I’m not sure whether I’m keeping Castle Falkenstein, or the hardcover first-edition copy of White Wolf Mage. (Starr, a onetime Vampire LARPer, may give me permission to keep that.) However, I will divest myself of the two Last Unicorn Star Trek RPG hardcovers, and the Traveller: A New Era core book. I have a lot of gaming stuff.

Last treasure unearthed: my Wireframe Babylon Project books and GM screen. The savvy fan will find the names of jsciv, yubbie, and impink within; and down in the playtesting credits, a listing for some doof that goes by mikailborg online. Yeah, I’m keeping that one.

The Soul For Getting Down

meiran posted this. It’s silly, it’s fanservice… and it’s joyously wonderful.

Brief updates

  • 11:51 .67 miles again this am. Working my butt off. Also, found a pic of G.Lucas wearing a “Han Shot First” shirt. tinyurl.com/5ms88t #
  • 13:30 20 min. into lunch: not a good time to find that Quiznos no longer carries my favorite sub. Prime rib cheesesteak okay, but too much onions. #

Sent subspace radio by LoudTwitter

Firepower

Of course, the main reason that a Star Destroyer can blow the Enterprise to smithereens in a heartbeat is that while Trek pays lip service to power consumption realities, Star Wars doesn’t even bother. It’s fairly dubious that, with the given technology, a Next Gen shuttlepod could even manage orbital velocity (which they are seen to do several times in the series), but a similar-sized Star Wars vehicle is a hyperspace-capable deflector-shield-equipped combat craft. And the colossal power requirements of the Death Star are barely worth mentioning here.

Now, the high-tech of the Lucas universe is thousands of years older than that of Roddenberry’s, so perhaps that’s part of the explanation. But that just underscores the fact that we’re comparing apples and oranges; the USS Dallas and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus are both submarines, but I fear that our brilliant inventor is in for a tough time against computer-aided passive sonar and homing torpedoes.

Here be your over-analyzed geek argument of the day.

Information High

Questions from rattrap have activated the cloaking device

Another “point of view”, Luke

Everyone’s been linking to this page, and it goes quite well with my uncontrollable urge to deeply analyze the underpinnings of the Star Wars movies. The page asks: which well-known movie character was the top field agent for the Rebellion between Episodes III and IV? It may not be who you’d think!

More Star Wars Thoughts

Cinemax has been running six-movie Star Wars marathons all month. We just watched Empire while waiting for raininva‘s WoW raid to start… I’m amused by the fact that Vader contributes to his own failures in this story. He’s so determined to be eeeeevil, and show everyone how eeeevil he is, that he pushes Lando too far and loses Luke, Leia, and Chewie in the process. If he’d just backed off a tiny bit, he’d have made a clean sweep.

His lightsaber technique’s a bit shabby near the end, too. Maybe the fact that Luke’s involved is clouding his judgement. To quote Sarek: “My logic falters where my son is concerned.”

I have to keep reminding myself that the Falcon‘s a freighter. This isn’t nit-picking, I’m completely willing to believe that Lando, Han, and Chewie have done things to it that its designers would be horrified by… but watching it fly through those asteroids is like watching a Peterbilt 18-wheeler compete in FormulaOne racing. That’s one heavily-modded cargo hauler!

I mentioned to Rain that the Falcon and the TARDIS have a lot in common… heavily-modified antiques capable of impossible things, but rarely completely functional. This movie also reminds me that the Star Wars universe is a lousy place to be a sentient droid. Clearly, they have pain-analogue circuitry, and feelings to boot, but nevertheless they’re really physically abused and treated like crap by both heroes and villians. Do you suppose Bail Organa ordered memory wipes on any of his other troops that knew of Luke and Leia’s birth?

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