Tuesday 29 September 2009

Science Fiction and Fantasy – how many ways do I love thee?

There’s 6 ways, actually.

1. I can make use of the imagination I’ve been blessed with. I like to rot my brain watching senseless television and braindead movies every now and then, but when my mind is stimulated by ideas and creations it gives me a thrill.

2. It allows me an immediate escape if I’m stressed or bored.

3. In the case of science fiction it makes me wonder what could be, and that makes for some pretty freakin’ awesome daydreams.

4. If it’s done right, fantasy reminds me of when I was a kid being entertained by fairy stories and that’s a good thing. I think a lot of fantasy these days either tries to emulate the grand megaplot-ness of Tolkien or they try to be alternative and edgy, or ‘dark’. Whatever happened to wistful journeys into the lands of fey?

5. It’s better than the shit I have to put up with day after day. Constant crap with work getting on my nerves and stress from the recession and lack of sales and all that rubbish, and then turning on the television and watching news reports about death and destruction and terrorists and murder and poverty and all the shit that blares out from that little cathode-ray tube chapel that sits like a glass and plastic box of doom and misery, puking out stories about how the whole world is shit and that we’re all going to die in excruciating pain, alone and in the dark, with nothing but the wailing pain of 7 billion other souls screaming into the night looking for relief from their anguish.

6. Robots.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


I'm edging closer to actually getting a long-term Dragon Warriors campaign off the ground. At the moment, though, I only have one player. That hints at one of two things; either Dragon Warriors isn't high on people's 'to play' list, or I suck as a GM. I'm leaning towards the latter.

I've been looking at what kind of game to run and I really like the Dragon Warrior's setting 'Lands of Legend'. I want to run a game set in that kind of world, when the Crusades were at their height and the world was swamped in superstition and religious fervor. Then I thought - why set it in a total fantasy world? Why not set it in the real world, and just add fantasy elements? I've always harped on about how much I'd love to do my own game with a Robin of Sherwood flavour - so why not just do that? I know enough about the period, after all. I read about it to make my own fantasy games feel more authentic, or at least try to.

'What does history have to offer that a fantasy setting doesn't?' I hear you cry. Are you out of your tree? Wars, political intrigue, economic and social upheavel, invasions, clashes of religion, whole cultural and political histories stretching back hundreds of years... history is far more colourful and detailed than any fantasy setting. So your PC won't be able to change the major events of the world - what RPG setting allows you to do that anyway?

Yeah... actual historical roleplaying. With some low-key magic. That sounds like my kind of game.

Thursday 17 September 2009


And the award goes to....

The Elf archer Crow, from the utterly shit (or genius) movie 'Hawk the Slayer'.

Because he said very little, looked cool and shot arrows as fast as... well, it looked like some editor did some pretty fast cutting, but no way man - that shit was real.

Nah, it's not shit. It's genius. Look at it, for God's sake! LOOK AT IT!

Tuesday 15 September 2009


This is one perfect for late-night viewing, when you know you don’t have to get up for anything the next morning.

‘The Thing From Another World’ is a 1951 classic. Based on the John W Campbell Jr. story ‘Who goes there?’, the movie has an excellent ‘you’re trapped and there’s Jack Shit you can do about it!’ plot. A mix of military personell and scientists all gather at a remote arctic base, only to be cut off from civilisation by the weather. How convenient. Add to that the discovery of a flying saucer and it’s thawing inhabitant… it’s just a recipe for disaster. And a great movie.

After the incredibly creepy opening – the title literally melts from the screen - the script is the first thing that leaps out at you. The conversations are crisp, curt and snappy, with several characters talking over one another, usually about different things. It’s like the director, Christian Nyby, stuck a camera in the room and told the actors to make their own cues. It’s very clever and adds a sense of realism you don’t find in many 50s sci-fi films.

Apart from the monster being a tall guy in a bad suit the film is exceptionally well made. There are two major moments where I get goosebumps – when they find the flying saucer under the ice and make a ring to judge the size of it, and when they’re observing the plants later on. Brilliant setpieces in a well-realised and made film.

John Carpenter made a fantastic version of it in 1982 and made full use of gore and psychological torment, and even the X-Files did a trapped-in-arctic-who-is-the-killer episode in their first season, but this is the best. It’s the best because it did it first, and because a very clever and atmospheric bit of filmmaking got into the minds of audiences by disguising itself as a 1950s sci-fi B-movie.

(insert obligatory 'Watch the skies!' quote here)



I liked that guy.

Monday 14 September 2009


So, Sam Raimi is slated in to direct, is he? That's a pretty good choice. He's a bit mad with the camera and there's a definitive crazily-designed high-fantasy style to Warcraft that I think he'll have a lot of fun with.

I've got ten questions for him, however. Warcraft gameplay is a bit unpredictable, and it cuts a lot of corners when it comes to certain things so that players have fun with the game. How will he handle these 'certain things'?

So, Mr. Raimi, answer me this:

1 - Ressurection. How on earth are we going to be on the edge of our seats during massive battle scenes when we know that any deaths will result in ressurection? 'Oh, no, Baldin's dead! He was the hero of us all! He was the rock... no, wait, here he is.'

2 - Mounts. Are you going to have them stabled like normal animals, or are you going to have the characters magically summon them? 'We're being chased! How will we ever escape? SShhrrrrr... flash.... ggrrowww... Jump on!'

3 - Friendly In-Game Banter. Will any of the characters in the film be called 'fukking n00b'?

4 - Appearance. Will all the characters look exactly the same but in different clothes?

5 - Character Development. Will the characters grow as the story progresses? Not in character, but in the acquiring of Epic items?

6 - Details. Will you be releasing several smaller movies every few weeks to patch any gaps in the plot?

7 - Sequels. Will any further movies detail the adventures of alt characters, doing exactly the same thing but with different powers?

8 - Intermission. Will there be a break in the movie, and if so will there be people in the cinema offering to sell us gold?

9 - Connecting with the plot. Will the film suddenly stop part-way through, and will the audience have to walk out of the theatre and then back in again before it restarts?

10 - Quality. It's not going to be shit because it's a movie of a computer game, is it?

I await your response.

Wednesday 9 September 2009


The wonderful Mark Newbold of http://www.lightsabre.co.uk/ has sent me this review of 'District 9' - I can't wait to see this...
There are some movies that arrive on Earth and make an indelible imprint as soon as they’re projected onto the screen. Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner are obvious examples and now you can add to that short list District 9.
Written and produced by South African director Neill Blomkamp - the man who brought you the Citroen Transformer-style adverts a few years back – it tells the story of an alien race who pitch up above Johannesburg in 1982 lost, alone and 3 billion light years from home. But these are no ordinary E.T, these are worker drones from a mining civilization who have become detached from their leadership and now, malnourished and weary, have simply nowhere else to go.

Pity for them that they park above Joburg as the old apartheid ideals soon kick into action swiftly and the aliens are herded into what is known as District 9, a ghetto on the edges of town where the Prawns, as they become known, are exploited by Nigerians who want their body parts and by Multinational United (MNU) who have their hands on the alien tech but can’t use it as it is genetically coded specifically to the Prawns DNA.
Enter Wikus van de Merwe, an MNU field operative assigned to lead the relocation of the aliens away from District 9 to District 10, far away from Johhanesburg.
In a brilliant turn by newcomer Sharlto Copley, van de Merwe becomes accidentally embroiled in the fate of the Prawns – specifically an alien named Christopher Johnson and his son - when he is sprayed with a black liquid that starts to swiftly turn him into one of the Prawns, and subsequently makes him the most wanted man on the planet as he is now able to use the alien weaponry and make MNU billions on the weapons market.
What is so fantastic about the film – other than the deftly shot documentary footage, the flawless special effects and the strange fact that swearing in a South African accent is inherently funny – is that Wikus is never portrayed as ‘the hero’. In a story that echoes The Fugitive in many ways, he is on the run trying to find food and shelter and constantly petrified when he sees the next step of his evolution. It’s a brilliant performance by Copley, from his almost nerdish first appearance as an MNU operative to his final shot as…well, that would be telling.
There’s no doubt Blomkamp is here to stay with this first effort. Peter Jackson produced the film after their failed attempt to bring computer game Halo to the screen, and showed Blomkamp a lot of loyalty by standing behind his decision to adapt his short film Alive in Joburg for the big screen. But it’s paid off, with a unique and tough vision of an alien arrival gone terribly wrong marking his entrance into the big leagues. And with a budget of only $30 million and a worldwide return of $120 million he’ll soon be back with a bigger budget and name stars.
Then again, having seen this first effort work so brilliantly don’t be surprised if his next is the same budget with a cast of unknowns and he weaves some more magic on all of us.
And what of District 10? Blomkamp has hinted heavily at a sequel, which seems very likely as Christopher Johnson and son leave earth promising to return in 3 years. If these are the worker class, what of the next level of Prawn bureaucracy? Will they return to earth in peace or anger? And what will they want? Domination, or cat food…

Mark Newbold

Tuesday 8 September 2009


Oh, great, yet another movie in which famous landmarks get totalled.

I'm not sure how many times I can watch great big buildings get twatted in highly amusing and original ways whilst tons of people run away screaming and/or stare into the skies with awe. Still, I'll give it a chance as long as Bill Pullman doesn't give any speeches.

That looks pretty tough on the poor monks. Where's Goldblum and his alien-tech compatible laptop when you need him?

Monday 7 September 2009


I don't usually go for machinima movies as I find the majority of them a little dull and somewhat tedious to watch - except for Red Vs. Blue which continually makes me piss myself... in a good way - but I came across this little gem on Youtube whilst looking for EVE Online gameplay movies.

The clever bugger who made this has animated his characters using Half-Life 2 and combined his footage with EVE Online stuff. With a good story and dialogue the movie is incredibly entertaining and fun to watch. There's a second episode up as well, so make sure you check that out because the quality only gets better.

Friday 4 September 2009


I've been thinking about what would make a great sci-fi horror RPG and I even had a stab at creating my own called Those Dark Places (the playtest version is available on my website http://www.farsightgames.com/) but now that I think of it I might as well stick to the tried and tested system for horror - Call of Cthulhu.

All you'd need is rules for spaceships and what that entails and you're done. The sanity rules are there, the system is there, it's all there. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Basic Roleplaying, the generic RPG using the same system, already has tons of rules in there for spacefaring games.

I should have thought of all this before I started to mess about with Those Dark Places. Dick.


Well, it's not so much a review, more of an opinion as to why everyone should watch this movie, regardless of their film preferences.
I first saw this movie when I was about 13/14 years old. It was being shown on television and I wanted to watch it but my mum, bless her cotton socks, didn't like the idea of me watching a 'scary movie'. I managed to convince her that I needed to borrow the spare television from the kitchen because there was other stuff I wanted to watch whilst I wrote a story I was working on and so, after much whining, I got the set in my bedroom. This TV was black and white as it was just a small portable television and I settled down, with the sound turned right down, to watch a science fiction movie.

Now, science fiction for me was simple - it was Star Wars and Star Trek. Big heroes, big adventures, space battles, princesses, cute bleepy robots and all that kind of shit. So, I sat down expecting a movie about a space monster the heroes had to battle and ultimately defeat. Probably with lasers. As you can tell, I never saw a full trailer for the film and knew what it was about only from reading about it in the TV listings.

Safe to say I shit my pants. Not only was I watching this film in the dark I was watching it in black and white! Alien in black and white! Have you seen how many shadows and dark places there are in this film? Black and white only helped to enhance those shadows, turn them even darker. In fact, next time you sit down to watch Alien, turn the colour right down to black and white. You'll see what I mean. Shatpantsville.

This movie changed my whole perspective on science fiction movies. I'd seen Blade Runner not long before and I didn't like it, mainly because all I saw was Han Solo running around a badly lit city talking to himself. No fistfights? No lasers? Bullshit! After watching Alien I revisited Blade Runner and saw it in an entirely different way. Now it's one of my favourite films. This was followed by Outland, Silent Running, 2001: A Space Odyssey... all the films I'd dismissed because it didn't emulate Star Wars were now finding their way into my lovetrunk now that I had seen Alien from beginning to end and it had shattered my juvenile concept of what a science fiction film should be. In fact, Alien probably changed my stance on movies in general. It was like a coming of age, a first step into a larger world (ding!), a realisation that quality is not defined by the number of explosions, firefights and robots on the screen. Alien made me grow up.

So why should you watch this film? Well, it's simple. This film contains everything a movie needs.

- Great direction. The look, feel and atmosphere Ridley Scott invokes is second to none. His use of handheld puts you there, in the ship, with the crew. The man is, without doubt, a genius.

- Amazing soundtrack. Even though Jerry Goldsmith highly disliked what was done with his original score, I have to agree with the decision of the film makers to change it. It's haunting and dark.

- Incredible performances. The natural, ad-libbed dialogue is fantastic in it's ability to make the conversations feel natural and the character dynamics and interaction is a wonder to behold. There are some scenes that make the movie like a documentary.

- Solid special effects. This is pre-CGI and they were on a budget so they made big models, even bigger sets, and played with light, shadows and fog machines. It's an amazing feat.

- Amazing concept that sticks in your mind. The Alien is so... well, alien... in what it does and how it does it that you have no earthly conception of it. The unknown - in this case being out in deep space, on a hostile alien world, inside an organic alien starship and being chased by an inconcievable killing machine - is what scares us the most. Sure, it makes us jump but, be honest, any movie can do that. When Darth Vader turns on Luke's lightsabre when they're talking on the Endor base just before he takes him to the Emperor in Episode VI ('VOOOOSH! I see you have constructed a new lightsabre')... That makes me jump. It's not supposed to, but it does. But that jump is fleeting, as it is in most scary flicks, it's the anticipation and the shock itself that makes you giggle nervously. Not so with Alien. You jump and it stays with you! It stays because you're thinking about the reason why you jumped, and what's in store for you next. And you can't predict what is next because the rules have changed. You're not in a high school, or in a haunted house, or in a babysitter's home. You're not in an environment you recognise and which may give you some form of comfort in knowing where things are or what they do. Everything, everything, is different. You're way out of your comfort zone. It's a perfect setting and it makes you feel uncomfortable. That stays with you long after you've seen the movie.

I'm not going to address the following films, and I have had the memories of the recent 'VS' movies burned from my brain, but I will stick my neck out with this - As much as I love the sequel 'Aliens', I do feel that James Cameron managed to dispel the horror-inducing mystery of the Alien itself, the aura of the unknown that the first movie created. We had no real-world comparison for what the alien could do, why it did it, it's life cycle, anything. That's what made it terrifying. In Aliens, Cameron decided to take the reveal a step further and he introduced the Alien Queen, laying eggs like an insectoid matriarch, served by her drones and workers. And there you had it, your real-world analogy. Gone was the unknown, the mystery - in a hail of 10mm explosive-tipped caseless standard amour piercing pulse rifle rounds and expletives we saw the alien as an insect hive. A giant ant's nest. They were like bees, or wasps, or termites. The mystery was gone, and with it the horror of the imagination. The alien had been reduced to action sequences and moments where you'd jump from your seat and giggle about it afterwards. The alien had become another scary movie.

Alien is my favourite movie. It's my favourite movie because it changed the way I saw not just science fiction but movies as a whole. That's a hell of a thing to happen to a 13 year old boy.

Thursday 3 September 2009


It's all over the net by now and fans of the series are already quoting the episode in their daytime real-life environments and giggling quietly to themselves, but I thought I'd post here for those of you who didn't know, or (God forbid) don't know about The Guild.

This is the Season 3 opening episode - and it SUCKS! Yeah, that's right! It's a massive pile of steaming poop! What the hell, man? What the hell happened? The Guild, I believed in you! You were my life! I watched you and laughed and cared for your characters, and you do this to me? Screw you! Screw you and the video webfeed you streamed in on, you bastards!! And Wil Wheaton? You suck! You suck like a big sucky thing! Yeah! YEAH!

And by sucks, I obviously mean it's a work of genius and I'm just upset at the fact that I've got to wait for the next installment. Great stuff.

PS: The above rant about it sucking and that Wil Wheaton sucks and the comment about sucky things is obviously an attempt to garner attention and hopefully have people say stuff like 'Oh - he actually liked it - this guy's funny, in a he-doesn't-actually-mean-what-he-says kind of way'. This has been done in the hope that this gets me noticed. You can even quote me on the 'it sucks!' parts if you want, and that'll no doubt drive more people to my blog to leave abusive messages in my comments. I don't give a shit - I just want the attention.

Wednesday 2 September 2009


What the hell is this? There's a new movie coming out called Pandorum.

It certainly looks interesting, but all I could think of when watching the trailer was 'Dead Space'. Still, I'm a fan of sci-fi horror films, so I'm interested.


Now, I quite liked Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. The mix of humour, action and tongue in cheek dialogue was fun and the shows never took themselves too seriously. Yes, there was major drama and some shocking leg-breaking stuff, but this was melodramatic for an over-the-top show and the material worked for it. They were fun.

Now, along comes a new fantasy show by the same producers, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert - Legend of the Seeker.

Based on Terry Goodkinds 'The Sword of Truth' series of novels (that I've never read) It's a bit more serious than Hercules and Xena, although it is shot in New Zealand against Lord of the Rings-type scenery like those two shows, and as such it's easy to see the influence that the previous Raimi/Tapert shows and the Rings Trilogy have had on this. Visually it's taken a few cues from Lord of the Rings, with a few tinted shots and some great sweeping visuals of the New Zealand landscape, and it seems to have the sensibilities of Hercules/Xena, with fast-action fight scenes and some small sets substituting large towns. The costumes are excellent - I especially like the design of the armour the bad guys wear - and the special effects are (thankfully) minimal.
The actors all play their parts well - special mention here about Bruce Spence, who makes an excellent wizard - but there's nothing outstanding about their performances. I'll put that down to early days in the series (I've only seen up to episode 8). There's old tried-and-tested male/female leads in the will they/won't they situation. I could have done without that, that's kind of an old and tired concept. Something else I could have done without is the slowdown during the well-staged fight scenes... the action slows when there's about to be a strike or a special 'jump through the air with your sword in the air like you just don't care' move. It was quite effective in the first one or two episodes. Now it takes place in every fight scene, and it's a bit annoying.
All in all an enjoyable show, one that I'll carry on watching and see where it takes me. I hope the characters are fleshed out a little more and that the action slowdown is saved for battles that actually mean something and are not used up on average swordfights against generic stuntmen.

Tuesday 1 September 2009


I've joined a nice Guild of World of Warcraft gamers and I'm having a nice time. They're helpful, funny and seem genuinely nice. I seeemed to have found a WoW Guild that I enjoy being in.

And now I'm considering packing in Warcraft.

I play it too much. I always sit down to do some work and always think 'I'll have a quick blast on WoW...' Three hours later I'm cursing the clock and wondering where all the time went. How am I ever going to write my novel, design my games and be the creative genius I hope I am if I'm spending my time playing MMORPGs? So, I'm thinking of cancelling my subscription. No break, no 'time out'; a clean slate, with characters deleted and everything.

Or I could try something else. I hear Warhammer Online is good...