The Decline of Triple-A Publishers

Triple-A, to some it means one of the top level of hockey you can achieve before professional, to some it means being able to get roadside help in the USA; but to gamers, it means massive publishing companies. EA, Activision Blizzard, Microsoft, Bandai, Ubisoft, these are all Triple-A Publishers that have made some great and some truly terrible games in their years of operation. A couple of them, EA and Activision Blizzard specifically, have been in hot water recently over some of their practices. This week I’m going to look at some of these practices and how it will/has lead to the decline of Triple-A Publishers.

LOOT BOXES/CRATES

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, loot boxes. Now for most people who are unfamiliar with what they are I’ll explain.. Loot boxes are digital crates you either earn in game or purchase (for either in game or real world currency) that randomly gift you with different upgrades or cosmetic items for games.

Now, loot boxes in themselves can be harmless if done correctly. It’s still not good practice to have them in games, but there’s a reason for them that I will touch on later. They are meant to provide incentive for continuing to play the game, or to provide some gamers with more unlockable material to acquire. Most of the time they contain solely cosmetic items (the way your game character looks) and nothing to influence play. Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite and PUBG (Player Unknown’s BattleGrounds) all use loot boxes the way they are intended, purely cosmetic content that has absolutely ZERO effect on your progression through the game. They do offer the opportunity for you to purchase in game currency using real world dollars to obtain more boxes, but all of these games allow for boxes to be obtained simply through playing the game. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with this style of content delivery. It allows the developers to continue making interesting new skins and material for a game without adding it as a DLC with a new price tag (another practice which is ridiculous that I’ll also touch on later) but I digress… While there are games like those listed above, which use the loot boxes as they are intended, there are many who don’t.

Loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)

One of the big problems that has plagued Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) since its release was the way Dice (the developer, known for the Battlefield franchise) and EA Games (the publisher) handled their loot boxes. When Battlefront II was released it faced massive backlash because of the “Pay to Win” progression system it contained.

Pay to win involves gamers forking over real life money to purchase in game weapons, power ups, XP boosts and various other content to give them an edge over everyone else. Battlefront II (2017) was not the first game to do this, sporting games like the annual NHL, FIFA, and the 2K line of games are notorious for it and Call of Duty has started adopting this practice as well. The main problem that has been raised by mostly parents and some gamers is that this is akin to gambling. Some countries, like Belgium, believe this so much that they have actually outlawed Loot boxes in video games for anyone under the age of 18. 

Here’s the full article from the BBC on the subject.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43906306

Square Enix (of Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider fame), one of the companies that manufacture both console and mobile games, pulled three full mobile games from the market in Belgium to coincide with this new ruling. They didn’t pull them out in anger or frustration, they pulled them in respect of the new law.

How did EA handle this? They delivered a long winded speech that basically amounted to “Belgium’s lawmakers don’t know what they’re talking about”. EA adopted the model of pay to win years ago and have started to lean into it hard. The only issue is that gamers aren’t going for it anymore, which has caused massive problems for the company. When Star Wars Battlefront II released there were several hero characters (mainstays of the franchise), unlockable through either playing games and earning credits or by paying x amount of dollars and unlocking them immediately. Here’s the problem, the amount of time required to unlock the likes of Darth Vader amounted to roughly 1000 wins. 1000 wins. When a game can take up to 45 minutes to play from start to finish that’s an absurd amount of time. Or you could pay $20 to get enough credits to unlock him. Not only can you use the credits to unlock heroes, you could use it to buy Loot boxes that gave you random power ups, which in turn gave you an upper hand on other gamers who didn’t spend the money to buy the crates. Once this became obvious to the gaming community, Battlefront II faced a massive boycott by players until they fixed the issue. Which, to a very small amount of credit, they eventually did but it was too little too late.

PAID DLC (DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT)

Alright, now I’m not that old, I’m only 27 but I remember the good old days of video games. By “good old days” I mean when the game you purchased was finished, not full of bugs and came with ALL the content. Growing up, I remember getting games like Ghost Recon Island Thunder, ATV Offroad Fury, and Halo Combat Evolved, and what’s the one thing all these games had in common? They were finished games! Nowadays Publishers impose strict deadlines on Developers which cause a whole slew of problems. Most notably, the release of incomplete and buggy games. Rather than allowing the Developers more time to make a complete game, they force them to release the unfinished product and patches to fix the bug issues.

Paid DLC serves four main purposes, firstly to install bug fixes with patches, secondly to distribute content that SHOULD HAVE been included in the initial game release, thirdly to keep gamers interested and lastly to keep money coming in while the next game is created. Mostly though, they serve to milk gamers for more money on a single game.

Most games nowadays go for $79.99 +tax which amounts to $90. Then you have the option to buy a “season pass” to get the first year’s DLC for free, normally these passes cost another $40 on top of the game price. We’re now up to $130 for a single game for one year. If you don’t buy the season pass then each DLC for year one is normally $20 anyways, so you’re not saving any money. After the first year of the game, a new DLC patch will be released which will also cost an additional $40, we are now up to $170 for one game. Then another DLC will be released midway through year 2 also totaling $40 and now we are at $210 for a single game. This also goes hand in hand with Publishers locking content behind these DLC walls to force players to buy the content to continue being able to enjoy the full game.

Destiny 2 Content showing pay to win model and locking DLC content behind pay to play barrier

The Destiny franchise was extremely bad for this practice and caused a lot of players to lose interest rather quickly. Some developers like 343 (known for Halo) have openly stated that all DLC will be free and no content will be locked behind pay to play walls. They did, however, include Loot boxes but that’s the price you pay for free DLC.

Paid DLC is akin to going to Subway and paying full price for what you thought was a full sub. Then having the employee tell you it’s an additional $2 per topping and $3 for any one condiment.

MICROTRANSACTIONS

Microtransactions (MTX) are small digital content packs that players can purchase with real world currency for in game content. They are similar to Loot boxes but in this instance you know exactly what you are getting. MTX is most common in free to play games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and pretty much every single mobile game. MTX exist to allow Developers and Publishers to help recoup some of the cost for making the game free to play. This sounds acceptable right? Well if they follow the earlier example of cosmetic content only, it’s not that big of an issue, but most of these games don’t follow that. Similar to loot boxes they allow players the ability to purchase in game boosters and power ups to help them win against other people. Every time a game is advertised as “Free to Play” it is nearly 99.99% guaranteed that it will involve MTX in some fashion.

Microtransactions in Forza

Now there are quite a few games that adopt both of these practices, both the cosmetic only and actual pay to win, and there’s only one reason for it, to make the Publishers money. EA in particular uses both systems without mercy. There was a time when EA made good games and cared more about the content of the games than the money they brought in. It’s sad to say that the days of EA not being a money hungry trash bin of a Publisher are long gone.

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Basically this all means that Publishers are losing money at a steady rate and are trying to find ways to trick gamers into continuing to spend money on their crappy unfinished and buggy games. A notable YouTube channel I follow is Upper Echelon Gaming, he creates videos explaining this exact thing. One of the videos where he discusses this is below:

What he explains in this and several other videos is that for large Triple-A Publishers, their shares are dropping at an alarming rate. This doesn’t bode well for anyone, Developers, Publishers or gamers in the long run. Publishers will continue to tighten their grip on a failing practice and in the effort destroy the limited autonomy they give the developers as is.

I’m not a business or economics major, but even I can tell that within the next 2 years we will be seeing some Triple-A Publishers in serious jeopardy of declaring bankruptcy, and the thing is that they have nobody to blame but themselves. Some Developers are starting to see this trend and are fighting back against the large greedy Publishing companies. Developers like CD Projekt Red (famous for the Witcher games) have never partnered with a massive Publisher and it 100% shows in their content. They make massive engaging games, they actually listen to the players and give them what they want instead of what will make them a quick buck. Recently, Bungie (known for Halo) has split from Activision Blizzard and put the future of the Destiny franchise back solely in the hands of Bungie. Not only did they split, but now Activision Blizzard is under investigation because of a lawsuit launched by their investors. Not only are they in hot water over fraud allegations following the dissolution of their partnership with Bungie, but they also laid off nearly 800 employees most of which are game developers and support staff. This all flies in the face of them hiring a new CFO, Dennis Durkin, and paying him a handsome $15 million signing bonus… after they laid off 800 staff.

Basically, what I’m saying is that because of the ridiculous practices most Triple-A Publishers are using, they’re all going to disappear within 2-6 years. Developers will once again be responsible for creating, marketing and distributing their own material and maybe then we can get back to the way gaming used to be.

See you next week!

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The Umbrella Corporation – Probably THE Most Evil Company In All Of Fiction

The Umbrella Corporation, a staple in the Resident Evil series and probably THE most evil corporation in all of fiction, why? well… let’s find out.

FOUNDING OF UMBRELLA

The Umbrella Corporation was originally founded as Umbrella Pharmaceuticals in late 1967 in the UK by Dr. Oswell E. Spencer, Dr. James Marcus & Dr. Edward Ashford.

Marcus and Spencer had become obsessed with a 19th century encyclopedia titled Natural History Conspectus. It was written by Henry Travis and detailed his journeys and contact with the Ndipaya tribe of West Africa and their folklore detailing a flower which can imbue great powers when consumed. Spencer and Marcus conducted several expeditions into the region and eventually discovered the flower. The Drs. along with Marcus’ student Brandon Bailey, discovered the flowers contained a mutagenic virus they would later dub “Progenitor”. Brimming with potential, Spencer made it his life goal to ensure the genesis of a new race of humans using this newly discovered progenitor virus. He founded Umbrella Pharmaceuticals alongside his long time friend Marcus and their mutual friend Ashford. On the face of things, Umbrella was a simple medicine manufacturing company, some of their most notable contributions were Adravil, Aqua Cure, Safsprin, and a common first aid spray to heal wounds. Under the surface the main goal of Umbrella was to further Spencer’s research into the advancement of humanity using Progenitor and to manufacture bio weapons to be sold for research money. One such project, became known as the “T-Virus”.

In the early 1970’s, Umbrella acquired Arklay laboratories and their samples of the Ebola virus. Officially, Arklay was using the virus samples to attempt to manufacture a cure; unofficially, they were mutating the virus to strengthen it’s applications and potential use as a bio-weapon. Throughout the early 70’s, Umbrella acquired several other subsidiary laboratories and their research for use in it’s bio-weapon research and manufacturing. They would contract each subsidiary to manufacture a specific medicine but use their collective research, which was deemed property of Umbrella, to further their bio-weapon research.

Progenitor flower

For each vaccine that the Umbrella Corporation produced, they also produced a strain of the virus that was resistent to it. Thus, ensuring them a global market. A large portion of their viral research was on specific viruses and bacteria outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. As Umbrella began to acquire more and more research firms, they also branched into other industries, always with an ulterior motive. Umbrella made a huge push into tourism and transportation who’s main purpose was the transportation of biological and viral weapons out of Africa. They also founded an Umbrella subsidiary company for defence manufacturing called Umbrella Industries that focused on weapons manufacturing and Anti-B.O.W (Bio Organic Weapon) weaponry.

In 1978, the T-Virus project began to move away from its original designation as a weapon of death when it was discovered that hosts infected and killed with the virus underwent severe mutations. The T-virus caused severe mutations in the host which rendered them alive in a mentally damaged, cannibalistic and homicidal state capable of strenuous activity even after death.

DISSENTION AMONGST THE FOUNDERS

As the success of Umbrella began to take shape, the founding members of the company became at odds with one another. Ashford was actually killed in a T-virus experiment that went awry in 1968. It is highly believed that Dr. Spencer had something to do with the accident, though no connection was ever proven.

Dr. Marcus grew very unpopular with the executive board of the company for his tendency to use executive trainees as guinea pigs in his biological experiments without consent. It got so bad that Umbrella Security Service (the company’s private police force) apprehended and executed him in 1988.

Dr. Alexander Ashford, the son of the Late Dr. Edward Ashford, did not take up his father’s work in virology and thus was not a threat to Spencer and his control of the company. Alexander’s daughter, Alexia, however, did follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and helped to restore the Ashford name to prominence. Spencer grew worried of the Ashford’s once more and both Alex and Alexia were infected with a version of the T-virus code named “Veronica”. They disappeared from public eye and were believed to be dead.

Dr, Brandon Bailey now a full fledged virologist and not just Marcus’ student, was overseeing operations in Africa with the production of the T-Virus and various other biological weapons. Despite his requests to be moved to another locale, he was kept in Africa as head of manufacturing and research until he was executed by the Umbrella Security Service in 1998 to prevent a “security breach”. Several other doctors and their descendants would die under suspicious circumstances, with no direct evidence ever implicating Spencer.

BIO ORGANIC WEAPONS

NEST Facility

In the early to mid 1980’s a rare but effective immunity to the T-virus was discovered in various populations around the world. T-Virus research was doubled as well as the production of new chimeric beasts dubbed “B.O.W” (Bio Organic Weapon) began. The B.O.Ws were utilized by many militaries around the world that Umbrella had infiltrated in an attempt to kill anyone with a natural immunity to the T-Virus. By this point in time, Umbrella had grown to be a massive global conglomerate that controlled many of the most powerful nations around the world. The Arklay laboratory was the main research installation for Umbrella USA until the construction of the NEST Facility in 1991. The NEST (renamed the HIVE in the film series) was a massive underground research facility on the outskirts of Raccoon City that specialized in work with the G-Virus. The G-Virus (Golgotha Virus) was a mutated viral strain of the original Progenitor virus that could reanimate dead tissue without the negative effects of the T-Virus. It would also bestow upon the host near superhuman abilities effectively granting them biological immortality.

Jealous of the success coming out of Umbrella USA and their NEST facility, the European branch of Umbrella began work on their Nemesis Project. Project Nemesis was designed to create an intelligent parasite that could circumnavigate the brain death and loss of intelligence caused by the T-Virus. Project Nemesis ran alongside the USA’s project Tyrant to develop a superhuman weapon. In 1998, both projects were merged to create the Nemesis T-Type, a hulking B.O.W that had an AI interface to allow remote control of its actions. The only known Nemesis T-Type was dubbed “The Pursuer”, it was killed by Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera during the Raccoon City incident.

PRE RACCOON CITY INCIDENT

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s, Umbrella aggressively expanded into Easter Europe and Northern Asia. they founded, trained and armed several branches of paramilitary forces all under the control of the Umbrella company for use in outbreak events. An anti-B.O.W training facility was established on Rockford Island and was overseen by Alfred Ashford, the grandson of Dr. Edward Ashford.

Umbrella developed an intelligence division which served to keep track on the various governments of the world and their plans. The intelligence arm of Umbrella planted moles in various governments around the world, one such mole, that was planted in the USA, was Albert Wesker.

Umbrella’s influence over the governments they were selling weapons and biological agents to was extremely prevalent. When plant No.57 in West Africa suffered an outbreak, the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (UBCS), massacred everyone in the plant and the surrounding villages to prevent exposure. This cleansing was covered up by the government so nobody would know of Umbrella’s involvement. Similarly, when a human experiment went wrong at a hospital in the Arklay Mountains, there was no police investigation, no media outlet identified Umbrella as the culprit and the hospital was shut down in 1993.

In 1996, one reporter who was getting close to the truth of what was really going on, was murdered with his body being washed up on the shore of the Aimes River. No investigation was conducted into his murder and all his notes and evidence mysteriously disappeared.

RACCOON CITY INCIDENT

THE MANSION INCIDENT

By the time of the Raccoon City incident in 1998, Umbrella’s influence and power had begun to decline. The decline was attributed to 2 reasons:
1. Industrial Espionage with other companies and governments stealing Umbrella’s research.
2. Internal Destabilization from the constant fighting and back stabbing done by the Umbrella board.

In May of 1998, the facility in the Arklay Mountains had a containment breach. While the facility was quickly put on lockdown, sentient “Cerberus” B.O.Ws escaped and made their way through the mountains killing and turning hikers into zombies. These zombies then attacked and turned other civilians into zombies as well. The local law enforcement was unable to determine a cause of the deaths or stop them from piling up. They contacted the STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service), a paramilitary organization funded by Umbrella that operated independently of both law enforcement and military, to help stop the murders. Having retired from the military, Albert Wesker was now leader of an elite team of STARS operatives and was tasked by Umbrella with taking his squad into the mountains and allowing them to be killed. He was told to destroy any incriminating evidence linking the incident to Umbrella and record all combat encounters to observe the combat effectiveness of the T-virus infected hosts. Wesker faked his death and left with all the incriminating evidence he had found and fled to the rival biological tech company. Only 2 members of his team survived the ordeal, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.

OUTBREAK INCIDENT

Dr. Birkin, the head of the NEST facility underneath Raccoon City, devised a plan to leave Umbrella and hand himself, along with samples of the T-Virus and the G-Virus, over to the US military/government after he failed to impress his way into Dr. Spencer’s inner circle. Due to the deep influence of Umbrella, he devised a plan to ruin them and expose their nefarious acts around the world. In the weeks, leading up to his departure, Birkin dumped live samples of the T-Virus into various essential works around Raccoon City such as their Sewage Treatment Plant. This allowed for the T-Virus to infect the entire City in a matter of weeks. By mid September of 1998, the entire City was experiencing the effects of the T-Virus and the Raccoon City hospital was under strict quarantine. Dr. Birkin was killed when he released his “Hunter” B.O.Ws in the sewers of the city. An Umbrella Security Service team was sent to handle the problem and Birkin was killed in the crossfire. He used a vial of the G-Virus to mutate himself into a powerful monster that rampaged through the sewers and the city itself.

T-Virus

By this time, Umbrella had become aware of the contamination of Raccoon City and moved to cover up their involvement. They quarantined the entire city and attempted evacuate some of the remaining uninfected civilians. When the infection spread too rapidly, the Umbrella squads sent into the city were decimated. The remaining National Guard, Military and Umbrella forces retreated to their blockades and sealed the city shut. With the city sealed and all living people in the city presumed to be infected or soon to be, Umbrella decided to use this as a testing ground for some of their B.O.Ws. Umbrella Europe deployed the Nemesis project to eliminate any surviving STARS members or civilians in the city, to test its combat effectiveness and to avenge the disappearance of two other B.O.Ws sent in by the military to initially control the outbreak. When it became clear that the outbreak could not be contained, and project Nemesis was lost to some survivors in the city (Jill Valentine and Carlos Olivera), The President, Joint Chiefs, and the Security council opted to use and experimental fuel air bomb to destroy the city and all traces of the infection. An undercover Umbrella agent used his influence over Senator Ron Davis to push for the bomb to be used. On October 1, 1998, the fuel air bomb was deployed and the city was destroyed along with all evidence of Umbrella’s involvement in the outbreak incident.

UMBRELLA’S DECLINE

After the incident in Raccoon City, the United States government was no longer able to ignore the power that Umbrella had amassed. Congress voted to suspend Umbrella USA’s right to do business in the country and federalized all of their assets. With no evidence of the outbreak despite what some survivors were reporting to the media, the United States government was in very hot water over their bombing of the city. While several outlets were receiving interviews from survivors like Alyssa Ashcroft ( a field reporter with Raccoon City Press), the threat of bio-weaponry was covered up providing no excuse for the bombing. In response to the backlash received over the Raccoon City incident, the United States government formed the Anti-Umbrella Pursuit and Investigations Team. This team was focused on anti-B.O.W tactics and was given near unlimited power to operate within the US against bio weapons and outbreaks under the Anti-Virus Weapon Protocol No.7600.

As stock shares in Umbrella and its influence began to wain, Dr. Spencer (now the only surviving founding member) decided to shutter much of Umbrella’s viral weapons research and production. Umbrella’s African production facility was shut down and all staff eliminated to prevent a security breach.

In November after the Raccoon City incident, Umbrella’s facility on Sheena Island was destroyed along with their production facility for project TYRANT.

In December, the Umbrella training facility on Rockfort Island was attacked and destroyed by the Rival Company. The survivors fled to the Antarctic transport facility Umbrella had set up years before to distribute bio-weapons globally without interference from governments. As the survivors and the samples of the T-Virus they brought with them were deciding what to do, former STARS member and survivor of the Mansion Incident Chris Redfield, activated the facility’s self destruct system.

As the years ticked by, Umbrella found it hard to keep their employees in line. With their detention facilities on Rockfort and Sheena islands gone, and their research grinding to a halt, many employees began selling bio-weapons on the black market to make enough money to run from the company. The United States government was still covering up the bio-terror attacks, which were growing in frequency with the weapons making their way onto the black market. To combat this rise in bio-terrorism, the United States government formed the Federal Bioterrorism Commission to combat another threat on American soil should it ever arise.

Albert Wesker

In 2002, a terrorist named Morpheus Duvall raided Umbrella’s Paris facility and stole samples of the T-Virus as well as an experimental T+G Virus. The group then boarded a cargo ship as it was transporting illegal Hunter B.O.Ws to an unknown buyer in North America and commandeered the ship. The group threatened to fire missiles loaded with the T-Virus at large cities in both the USA and China unless they were paid 5 billion dollars. A coordinated effort between the US and Chinese governments resulted in a neutralization of the threat with no media coverage of the event.

By 2003, Umbrella had become a shell of its former self. Most of the nations of the world had withdrawn their support of the company and many of its subsidiaries were closed down. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when their Caucasus facility suffered an outbreak. The surrounding villages were all burned to prevent further spread of the virus and Umbrella lost their super computer that had all of their research they amassed since the founding of the company. The United States Division of Umbrella was embroiled in a legal battle, which they almost won, in regards to the incident in Raccoon City. Due to the lack of physical evidence tying them to the outbreak and the cleansing of the city, Umbrella was nearly able to shift full blame to the government of the United States. It took a defected Albert Wesker, who had copied the super computer hard drive before the Caucasus facility was destroyed, making a covert deal to provide the US government with overwhelming evidence to convict Umbrella USA for a guilty verdict to be rendered. With Umbrella USA being found to have caused the incident and being found implicit in the “sanitation” of the infection, their stock prices plummeted and they were forced to declare bankruptcy due to compensation claims.

Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and the Umbrella Corporation were forced to declare bankruptcy following the verdict in the United States Supreme Court. American and Russian intelligence services issued a warrant for the capture of Dr. Spencer, though it was several years before he was found. He was killed by Albert Wesker in 2006 before he could stand trial for his actions.

With the bankruptcy of Umbrella their only division to remain active, if even for a brief period, was their Japanese location. It remained active until its liquidation in 2014 when no company would risk their reputation by purchasing it.

Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and the massive global conglomerate of Umbrella Corporation are without a doubt one of if not THE most evil corporations in all of fiction. Granted there are some like Oscorp from Spider-Man, Lex Corp. from DC Comics or even Abstergo Industries from Assassin’s Creed that are pretty brutal in their treatment of people; but, none of them compare on the scale of Umbrella. Umbrella essentially owned your research, you and anything you produced. Not to mention they reserved the right to kill you if necessary to prevent a “security breach” or even used you as a guinea pig for some new viral weapon they were testing without notifying you that you were being tested. They condoned the massacre of nearly an entire city to test some of their own mutated weapons, and they tried to cover it all up with a bomb that destroyed all evidence linking them to the incident. This is one company that I am happy has stayed firmly in the realm of fiction.

That was an extremely condensed version of the history of the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil fame. Any thought let me know in the comments. See you next week!

Cyclops – A Fallen Hero Reborn

Recently in Marvel Comics, Cyclops, famed leader of one of their most popular properties, The X-Men, has had a rough go. This week I’m going to dive into Cyclops as a character as well as what caused him to stray from his path as a hero and turn him into a fascist militant leader of Mutantkind.

Let’s start off with a rundown of his origins and his fall from leader to criminal.

Scott Summers aka Cyclops, first appeared in X-Men of September 1963, he was created by the dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

*Despite the length, this will be a brief rundown of important events in his  past that I believe led to his downfall and redemption. *

ORIGINS

Scott Summers was born to Maj. Christpher Summers of the U.S Air Force and his wife Katherine Ann. He was the oldest of their sons, his younger brother, Alex Summers, is known as Havok. One day, while on a flight with his family, a Shi’Ar Empire scout ship appeared and in an effort to hide their presence, set the Summers’ plane ablaze. Katherine took her two boys and strapped them together on the only available parachute, pushing them out the door of the plane. As the parachute deployed, some of the falling debris caused the parachute to catch fire. As they plummeted to the ground, Scott utilized his optic blasts to slow their descent. Upon impact with the ground he suffered a head injury that removed his ability to control his optic blasts. Unbeknownst to the two Summers boys, their parents were teleported onto the Shi’Ar ship before their plane went down. Their mother was also pregnant with another child at the time of their abduction. The third Summers boy, Gabriel, grew up to be known as the villain Vulcan.

Scott and Alex parachuting to safety

Scott and Alex suffered amnesia as a means of coping with the event and were hospitalized where they were looked after by Nathaniel Essex aka Mr. Sinister. Essex took an interest in Scott and believed him to be the stronger of the two. He arranged for Alex to be adopted separately to cause Scott to become emotionally vulnerable. One night while experiencing a nightmare, Scott opened his eyes and destroyed the roof of the building with his optic blasts. He then passed out and fell into a coma for a full year. When he awoke and recovered he was placed in an orphanage in Omaha Nebraska called State Home of Foundlings. Essex continued to experiment on Scott for his formative years and well into adolescence, continuously intervening if anyone ever came close to adopting him. Essex, disguised as a specialist, actually crafted Scott’s first pair of Ruby Quartz lenses.

After an accident where he lost control and obliterated a crane causing it to drop its load. An angry mob believed Scott tried to kill them, despite him saving them from the dropped debris. He was chased out of town and fled on a freight train. Scott fell in with a bad crowd, in particular Jack Winters aka Jack O’Diamonds, a notorious thief who wanted to use Scott’s abilities for crime. When Scott refused Jack would beat him until he agreed. Charles Xavier and the FBI tracked Scott and rescued him from Jack with Xavier offering him a full ride to his School for Gifted Youngsters, and the first member of the X-Men.

Classic suit

Scott was a natural leader but lacked the social skills to bond with his teammates. He fell in love with his teammate Jean Grey but was unable to express his feelings for a long time. Eventually Jean revealed she had a crush on Scott and the two of them began to date. Following the apparent death of professor Xavier, Scott was named Trustee of his Estate and ordered to continue his teaching and running the school. Xavier was revealed to be alive and in a subsequent mission Scott was reunited with his brother Alex who joined the X-Men as Havok. The team went through an overhaul and new members Storm and Wolverine were added to the roster.

THE PHOENIX SAGA

Arguably one of, if not THE most prominent X-Men arc, The Phoenix Saga sees Scott’s long time girlfriend Jean Grey become the cosmic entity “The Phoenix”. Without getting into too much detail, after a successful space mission, the X-Men are returning to Earth and must pass through a solar storm. Jean is possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and becomes the embodiment of the Phoenix, and uber powerful entity with cosmic level destructive power. The Phoenix then goes a little off the rails and decides to eat a sun, the Shi’ar Empire is having none of this and wants to kill her. The X-Men then battle with the Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar Empire to protect Jean/Phoenix from them. Realizing that she could never control the darkness inside of her, the Phoenix sacrifices herself on the moon leaving no trace of herself. Scott fell into a deep depression as he believed the love of his life was gone forever.

ROAD TO HIS DOWNFALL

Scott came out of his depressive state and met a woman named Madelyne Pryor, who bore an incredible resemble to Jean. Madelyne was a clone of Jean sent by Nathaniel Essex to seduce Scott and bear him an offspring that Essex could use for his own ends. Scott and Madelyne were married and she eventually bore him a child which was named Nathan Christopher Charles Summers aka Cable.

When Jean is discovered alive at the bottom of the bay in Jamaica where the Phoenix had first emerged, Scott packed his things and left his home in Anchorage with Madelyne and his son to be with Jean. When he met with Jean she explained that she believed the X-Men had strayed form Xavier’s dream for the team Together they founded the X-Factor with other original X-Men members and worked to help young mutants master their powers.

Eventually Scott and Jean are married and begin a life together while both remaining active members of the X-Men. After a particularly taxing battle involving Apocalypse and some Skrulls, Scott sacrificed himself to help stop Apocalypse. He was eventually found alive by Jean and his son Nathan in a village in Egypt. They helped to restore his psyche and cleanse Apocalypse’s influence from his mind. Scott began to grow more militarized and grimmer than he was before his death. He sought out counseling from new X-Men recruit Emma Frost, which only served for him to partake in a telepathic affair with Emma . Jean and Scott took a break and both contemplated on their relationship. Jean was killed by John Sublime who had taken control of Xorn and attacked the X-Men. As she died, Scott apologized for what he had done and how he had hurt Jean. Jean, seeing Scott’s sincerity, told Scott to move on and live his life without her. Scott and Emma Frost formalized their relationship and Scott found happiness for the first time in a long time.

Following the events of the House of M story line and “M Day”, mutants became an endangered species the world over. Scott and Emma opened the doors of Xavier’s school as a refugee camp for any mutants, no questions asked.

Militaristic Suit

Shortly after M-Day, The X-Men saved the city of San Francisco from a rogue mutant known as Goddess. As a thank you, the mayor and people of San Francisco offered the help re-establish the X-Men in their city. Scott and Emma took the offer and closed Xavier’s school relocating to a new compound in San Francisco. It was also during this time that Scott’s mentality moved from the ‘defend mutants at all costs’ to ‘kill or be killed’. Scott also formed the lethal covert team, the X-Force, and put Wolverine in charge as the team leader.

In the Utopia story arc, Osborn and his Dark Avengers were forced to stop rioting in San Francisco between mutants and humans following some devastating media footage depicting a mutant baby blowing up a small town. The Dark Avengers began abducting mutants and taking them to their Alcatraz facility where their powers were being siphoned into “Weapon Omega” aka Michael Pointer/ Guardian. Scott, appalled at what was going on, had Magik teleport the entire X-Force onto Alcatraz island where they did battle with the Dark Avengers and Dark X-Men to buy Magik time to teleport all the prisoners away. At the conclusion of the arc, Scott has ‘M Asteroid’ raised out of the pacific (where it had crashed several years before) and declared it Utopia, the home of all mutantkind. Magneto joined the X-Men on Utopia swearing his allegiance to Scott stating that he had done what both Magneto and Charles never could, unite all of mutantkind.

Scott believed it was his duty to protect mutantkind at any cost and he became ever more militaristic and dictator-like to protect those living in Utopia. When the villain Bastion opened a time portal allowing sentinels through in an attempt to kill Hope Summers (Scott’s daughter from an alternate future) Scott ordered the X-Force to get Hope to Utopia at any cost. In the end it cost both Nightcrawler and Cable their lives to get Hope to safety and stop Bastion. Out of guilt for Nightcrawler and Cable’s death, and the countless other mutants who died, Scott disbanded the X-Force and buried his son. Several long time X-Men members began to resent Scott for his militaristic attitude and blamed him for the deaths of fellow teammates. When a massive Sentinel was sent against Utopia, Scott and Wolverine got into an argument about how to defend the island. Scott believed that it was every mutant’s duty to defend their home, even the children. Logan believed that the older X-Men and X-Force members should defend the island and the children should be evacuated. This led to a bloody battle between Logan and Scott, which resulted in Logan, and several other members who agreed with him, leaving to go back and re-open Xavier’s school that had been closed when the X-Men relocated to San Francisco.

SCOTT’S DOWNFALL

AVENGERS VS X-MEN

Scott was training Hope very aggressively and refused to give her an answer as to why. She grew angry and flared up with the power of the Phoenix Force. Meanwhile, across the country in New York, Nova crashed to the ground and when they Avengers found him all he said was “it’s coming”. The Phoenix Force was once again burning a path through the cosmos on it’s way back to Earth. After Captain America asked Wolverine about the Phoenix, Wolverine told him and the rest of the Avengers about Hope Summers. After seeing Hope’s ‘Phoenix Power’, Scott became convinced that it’s arrival would herald the salvation of mutantkind. So, when Captain America and the Avengers showed up to Utopia demanding Hope as a precaution against the coming threat, Scott attacked Captain America.

Scott attacks Captain America

After seeing Scott blast Captain America into the ocean, a SHIELD Helicarrier uncloaked and the Avengers invaded Utopia. Hope seeing what she had caused, and fearful of the Phoenix Force, fled. Eventually, the X-Men surrendered to the Avengers, who then began making plans to apprehend Hope and take her into protective custody. Scott and the X-Men teleport away and begin their search for Hope before the Avengers. Scott goes to Westchester in an attempt to convince Wolverine to switch sides and recruit any other mutants to fight for their own kind. Hope flees to the moon in hopes to reduce the damage the Phoenix Force could cause should it find her on Earth. The Avengers and Scott discover her location and both head to the moon. Scott brings Colossus, Emma Frost, Magik, Namor and Wolverine. The Avengers arrive shortly before the Phoenix and another fight breaks out with Iron Man trying to make a weapon to defeat the Phoenix. He inadvertently causes the Phoenix to split into 5 pieces, with each piece possessing one of the X-Men. Unable to defeat the X-Men, the Avengers regroup to come up with a new plan while the “Phoenix Five” take Hope back to Earth to “prepare her”.

Phoenix Five

With the power of the Phoenix, the Five begin reshaping the world to make it better. They outlaw wars and provide the necessities of life to everyone under their rule. The Avengers oppose them and even convince Hope to come with them, which prompts Cyclops to declare “No More Avengers”. Namor tracks the Avengers to Wakanda and went to confront them on his own, when he is beaten, his portion of the Phoenix Force leaves him and enters the others, strengthening them. The Avengers hide Hope in K’un L’un (home of the Iron Fist), in a different dimension, to buy time to come up with a plan. Colossus and Magik get into an argument and knock each other out, further strengthening Scott and Emma. Scott uses his immense power to break the dimensional barriers and enter K’un L’un to get Hope back.

Hope, appalled at what her father has done, banishes him to the moon. This pushes Scott further over the edge, knowing he could win if he had more power, he returned to Utopia to find Emma. Though he is unable to attack her, the intervention of Professor Xavier and the Avengers ignites another battle. As the battle rages, it begins to turn in favour of the Avengers and X-Men who are trying to stop Scott and Emma. Scott knocks Emma out and absorbs her portion of the Phoenix Force. As the sole owner of the Force, Scott goes insane and becomes the Dark Phoenix. When Xavier tries to shut his mind down, to end the fight, Scott loses control and kills him. Hope and Scarlet Witch manage to exorcise the Phoenix Force from Scott and use it’s power to “restart mutantkind”. They reignited the X gene on the planet allowing mutants to be born again.

Scott kills Xavier

MILITARISTIC REVOLUTIONARY

Scott was imprisoned for his actions in the Avengers vs. X-Men story line and remained there for some time until mutant hating humans killed his only friend and fellow mutant. Magneto and a small team destroyed the prison and broke Scott out, setting him on his new path. Scott went around liberating unjustly imprisoned mutants, helping them to master their abilities and offering him a spot on his new team. As he rescued more and more people, the citizens on the street started calling him a revolutionary and sporting signs and shirts saying “Cyclops was right”. This brought him into conflict once again with the Avengers who attempted to bring him in for his past crimes. Scott fled with the help of some other mutants and returned to Westchester and the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.

Cyclops vs. Wolverine

During the Incursion events leading up to Secret Wars Scott revealed that he was in possession of a phoenix egg and was willing to use it if necessary. At the battle of the final Incursion, when Earth-1610 (The Ultimate Marvel Universe) is on a collision course with Earth-616 (Main Marvel Universe) Scott uses the Phoenix Egg. At the battle of Manhattan Scott bonds completely with the Phoenix Force, now in full control of it’s power, Scott uses it to obliterate the forces of Earth-1610 and the Children of Tomorrow. As the Worlds are lost, Scott is transported onto the Illuminati’s Life Raft where he survives the smashing of the two universes and the subsequent emergence into Battleworld.

As the heroes on the life raft are forced to fight the Cabal on Battleworld, God Doom arrives to quell the fighting. When Scott attempts to use the full power of the Phoenix Force to destroy Doom, Doom shrugs off the hit and proceeds to snap Scott’s neck, killing him.

When Franklin and Reed Richards remade the multiverse Cyclops was resurrected along with all the other heroes and villains where he joined the X-Men once again. While his team was responding to a call on Muir Island, Scott came into contact with some trace remains of the Terrigen Mists. The Mists had been released by Black Bolt and his brother Maximus to spur the creation of more Inhumans, the only downside, the Mists are fatal to Mutants. When Scott was exposed to the mists, he began to die. He collapsed into the arms of Emma and pleaded with her to help him. He pleaded for it ” Not to end like this” before dying in her arms. Wracked with grief Emma used her powers to make a mental projection of Scott still alive and well. This projection of Scott was able to reverse the effects of the mists and stood down a large contingent of Inhumans. The projection of Scott was killed by Black Bolt, Leader/King of the Inhumans, and was mourned as a hero by the X-Men and the mutant community as a whole.

Scott’s Headstone on the School grounds

RESURRECTION

Teenage Cable from the not too distant future returned to the current timeline and paired with Paul Douek from Stark Industries to find a way to bring his father back. Utilizing leftover energy from the Phoenix Force, the duo were able to resurrect Cyclops. Scott needed time after his resurrection to examine the points in his life that led to his downfall and reflect on his choices and actions. During his reflection he was visited by Magneto who delivered some hard hitting advice, which helped Scott to realize his error and what he had become before his death.

Scott’s inevitable downfall came from him constantly seeing that the pacifist approach of Charles didn’t work. While Charles would advocate for action when necessary, he preferred words to fists. Watching the love of his life die (repeatedly), being betrayed by his father figure and having to bury his own son, Scott slowly lost his grip on his moral compass. He began to think that everything could be solved with the proper application of force and that by showing Mutants as a strong people, they would be respected. While his tactics worked sometimes, most of his actions caused people to distrust mutants less and less, causing them to become violent and Scott to respond to their violence in kind.

Scott’s Resurrection

Scott began to see himself as the only person actively working to keep mutants safe and felt he needed to resort to aggressive tactics to maintain that strength. He lost long time allies like Beast and Wolverine because of his inability to see the faults in his actions and caused the death of dozens of fellow mutants in his militaristic ideals.

Scott realizes the error of his past actions
Scott admits his faults

Deep down Scott is a good person, he’s flawed, but that’s what makes him such a compelling character. You need people like Superman and Captain America to always be the voice of reason and to fight the good fight, but flawed characters that make very real and relatable mistakes are more compelling and draw more comparisons to real life. For all his bluster and grand standing, at his core Scott is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He tries to keep control so he can always see the outcome and never be surprised; even though that doesn’t always happen. He knows that Xavier’s teachings won’t work in the long run but neither will militaristic action and he’s constantly trying to find a balance between the two in order to etch out a place for his people in the world.

There you have it! Cyclops’ fall and rebirth into the hero he once was! See you next time!

Interlude Chapter – Part 5

“No thanks, I’m allergic”.

“More for me then” he said as he slurped back the rest of the can of peaches. The syrup overflowed from his mouth and ran down the right side of his cheek to his earlobe. He reached his uninjured hand up, tugging on the IV line and wiped the syrup away with the back of his hand.

“Stop tugging on that or it’s going to come out, and I don’t have the supplies to fix it.” Julia said, as he finished wiping the side of his face.

“Sorry”, he said sheepishly.

“What’s your name lawyer man?” She asked.

“How did you know I’m a lawyer?” he asked. She pointed to the ground between the kitchen and the living room, right near the door where his smashed BAR certification lay amongst his shoes.

“Oh… ya, that kind of gives it away” he said as he laid back down on the cool floor.

“Not going to tell me your name?” She asked again.

“Oh, right. sorry. My name’s Garrick.”

“Garrick…Garrick, what?”

“Garrick Whyte” he replied, as Julia stood up from her crouched position and began looking around the pantry.

“What kind of a name is Garrick, especially nowadays?” Julia asked with a small laugh as she checked some of the contents of the pantry.

“My parents liked old fashioned names. You should see my sister, her name is Katelina, but she goes by Kaylie…” he trailed off as he suddenly realized that he had no idea if anything had happened to her in this attack. Did they only hit his City? Had she seen it coming? Did she get away somehow? What about his parents? He had no idea what happened to anyone in his family, his dad, his mom, or his sister, and it made him worry.

“I’d probably go by Kaylie as well if my name sounded like an 1800’s Russian ballerina” Julia remarked as she began grabbing some of the undamaged canned goods and putting them in her bag.

“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks…” Garrick said as he sat up off the floor for the first time in a while. He could feel the throbbing in his head of his body not liking the sudden change of position, but he ignored it as he rested his back against one of the shelving units that lined the walls of his pantry. “I have to get a hold of them” he finally said after a few moments of uneasy silence as Julia picked her way through the canned goods.

“Ya, that’s not going to happen bud” Julia said as she continued to grab cans of all kinds, adding them to her bag which was beginning to bulge from the contents. She turned to him and looked him in the eyes for the first time since meeting him. Garrick turned his head upwards to look her in the eyes, locking her gaze as she started speaking. “There’s no communication. Internet, Cell phones, radios, hell…even the landlines are dead”

“Fuck” he said as he lowered his head again defeated.

“Ya, right now, we gotta grab what we can and move. Yours wasn’t the last building on this block and there might be some more people who need my help.”

“Okay, I understand. Give me five minutes to get some stuff together. Can I take this IV out now?” Garrick asked as he stood up using the shelving unit for support. Julia moved over and checked his pulse and blood pressure quickly before cutting off the IV and removing it from his arm.

“You should be okay for now, I can save the rest of this for someone else. If you start feeling feint or anything you need to tell me immediately though, okay?” She said as she cut the used end of the IV that had been in his arm and packed the rest of the bag away safely in her paramedic bag that had been holding the canned food. Garrick moved down the hall past his bathroom and into his fairly untouched bedroom. There was a fine layer of drywall dust that had fallen over everything from the explosions that had rocked the building. Had the world not been ending he probably would’ve cared but it didn’t matter now. He moved towards his closet on the far side of the room adjacent to his window. As he opened the closet door, he looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw.

It wasn’t the City or neighbourhood he remembered, it more or less resembled a war zone. Debris and craters littered the street. Chunks of his building were strewn about the front of the property completely covering the small bit of grass on an otherwise barren landscape. Cars were covered in concrete dust, chunks of buildings, or they were overturned in the street. Some of the street lights were ripped down and lay across the road while others were just missing with small craters where they used to be. Water was spilling into the street from a burst fire hydrant and there was a city bus missing then entire top half of the frame on fire in the middle of the street. Mostly though, he noticed the bodies. Not just a few here and there, dozens of people strewn about in various locations. Some had obviously attempted to flee and were shot down, some were blown to pieces and some looked like they had been burned. He saw a couple of dead police officers behind their cruiser which was parked diagonally in the middle of the road in front of his building. It looked like they had tried to defend the people around them and paid the ultimate price. He tore his eyes from the street and continued grabbing some clothing out of his closet and packing himself a large backpack. As he finished packing his bag and changing into a more acceptable, attire of dark jeans, hiking boots, and his favourite retro t-shirt of a concert put on by Iron Maiden nearly 80 years before, his eyes lingered on the long case at the back of his closet. Resolving he might need it, he grabbed it and left his room to meet up with Julia in the kitchen. She had found his hockey bag and upturned the contents on the floor. She had taken all of the canned goods she could find along with the extra jug of water from the pantry and stuffed them in the bag.

“What’s in the case?” she asked as she bent down and hefted the large bag of supplies while her paramedic pack was strapped firmly to her back.

“It’s my compound bow and hunting arrows. I haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s the only thing I have besides my kitchen knife.”

“It’s better than nothing” she said as she moved to the door of his apartment. She set the bag down and crept out into the hallway. Garrick set down his bow case and followed her, making sure to make as little noise as possible. She leaned against the wall opposite his door and held her breath listening for a few seconds. Not hearing anything she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a long, frighteningly loud whistle.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Garrick whispered at Julia as he started backing into his apartment. There was a response whistle and Julia looked at him with a smile on her face.

“What’s the matter? I had to see if anyone was left in the building. Let’s go” she said as she moved into his apartment and picked up the bag of supplies again.

“How did you know that there weren’t more of them?” he asked as they made their way down the dark hallway towards the staircase past other blown open apartments while the bodies of his friends and neighbours littered the ground.

“I listened and didn’t hear anything. So I took the chance that they were gone or that the only two sent to clear the building were dead in your apartment.”

“That’s a pretty fucking big chance to take” Garrick growled under his breath.

“Zip it! I saved your ass! Don’t you forget that..”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good. Now help me carry this down the stairs and out to our truck. I’m strong but bot that strong”. Garrick placed his bow case on top of the supply bag and grabbed the one end with his good arm. Down the stairs they went, stepping over chunks of concrete, unknown bodies and missing chunks of stairs. They didn’t find any familiar bodies until they got near the bottom of the stair case. As they rounded the last small flight of stairs to the exit door,Garrick noticed the stairs were covered in bodies not just the nameless people on the street or farther up the stairwell, Garrick knew these people.

The entire Gonzalez family, that Garrick had dinner with on occasion, was at the base of the stairs by the door, Janet and David Thomas who hosted the building’s wine nights were between Jason and Tyler who lived the floor above Garrick, all of whom were halfway up the stairs their survival bags still clutched in their hands. The thing that hit Garrick the most was James Victor and his daughter Stacey who had been killed at the top of the final staircase as they tried to run back up to safety.

Garrick sank to his knees on the landing as he looked down at Stacey’s face. There was no pain in her motionless visage. If anything, she looked like she had been sleeping when she had passed. No pain, just a peaceful passing. The drying blood clotting in her auburn air, and the red stains on the back of her tanned neck and between her should blades showed it had been anything but a peaceful death.

“Is this your sister?” Julia asked as she moved over behind Garrick lowering herself to her knees and putting her hand on his right shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort to him.

“No, this isn’t Kaylie, this is Stacey Victor. She lived with her dad James two apartments down from me. She was accepted to Stanford Medical School in the fall. I helped her study for the SATs… She was so excited to go…” Garrick whispered as he reached down to move a strand of Stacey’s hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he brought his hand back he noticed it was covered in blood and wiped it on his shirt, leaving large crimson streaks down his front. ” I knew all of these people” he said as he looked about the massacre in the stairwell. ” What purpose does gunning down innocent people have?” he asked the anger rising in his voice.

“I don’t know what they are or why they did this. But I do know that you can’t help these people anymore, they’re gone. There are people waiting outside who do need our help and who are in very real danger right now, so we need to go” Julia said as she stood up removing her hand from his shoulder.

“How can you be so callous?” he snapped, tears welling up in his eyes.

“You can’t save everyone Garrick. sometimes you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter, you lose someone. That’s just how it is. So you concentrate on the people you can save, the people you can help, and you mourn those you lost.” Garrick sat unmoving staring down at Stacey’s body and slowly panning his vision to look at the rest of his neighbours and friends who lay dead around him. He took mental snapshots of each person so he would be able to remember them and the times they shared; the new tenant mixer that Janet Thomas had thrown when he had moved in, helping Stacey with the SATs, Cinqo de Mayo with the Gonzalezes and Tyler’s 22nd birthday, all great memories that he could recall to bring a smile to his face. A lasting memory for these people he had grown to regard as a surrogate family. He stood up, taking his pack off and started his work. He began moving their bodies very carefully to the sides of the staircase, taking care not to cause any further harm to them. Eventually there was a small path he and Julia could walk down to get to the door.

Wordlessly, he walked up the path and grabbed his pack, he adjusted his bow case on top of the supply bag, moving it to the center of the bag, that he had discarded so he could move his fallen friends. Julia moved beside the supply bag and together they lifted the bag and made their way down through the veritable honour guard of Garrick’s fallen neighbours. Julia put her shoulder to the door and pushed with all her might. There was a loud scraping sound as the door swung open and blinding light filled the small space.

Star Trek Discovery – Not Your Parents’ Star Trek

I was recently off work for a couple of days and decided to check out Crave (since I’m paying for it) to find something to soak up my time while off work. As I scrolled through the list of Crave’s available shows, one thing stuck out to me, Star Trek Discovery. I will say this first and foremost, I am not a Trek fan. I liked the reboot movies with Chris Pine and Co., but I was always more of a Star Wars/Stargate fan; which apparently means you can’t like the Trek?

Anyways, I loaded up the first episode and I was actually blown away at the production quality of the show. I have seen episodes of every Star Trek show in existence, my grandmother was a fan of anything Sci-fi as is my mother. So I have seen the odd episode here and there but it just never tickled my fancy. But Discovery is one of those high quality shows that has fewer episodes to really make their limited budget work, and boy does it.

COSTUMES

Most people are familiar with the Star Trek Unitards that were made famous with the original series and the sequel series’. While most of the main cast always had a two piece uniform, any supporting members of Starfleet normally sported a rather form fitting one piece. With this new series all members of the USS Discovery sport sleek and updated two piece uniforms that are distinguished by their colours and bands on the sleeves and shoulders. For example, our main character, Michael Burnham, is a science team member after she was dishonourably discharged from Star Fleet. Her uniform is the standard dark navy blue of the others, but instead of gold on her sleeves and shoulder she has silver to signify her occupation as scientific.

First Officer Saru, Doctor Culber & Chief Engineer Stamets

The main villains for the first season (and I presume subsequent seasons) are the Klingon race, but these are the not the Klingons made famous by The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. These Klingons resemble the brief view of Klingons we got in the feature film Star Trek Into Darkness. Normally Klingons have brownish skin with very pronounced facial ridges. The Klingons in Discovery vary in colour from deep black to white and their facial structure looks much different, (I’ll touch on that later in the make-up section) their clothing is also much different. In the older series Klingons wore armour exclusively to signify their readiness for battle at all times, the armour was always a black or dark grey in colour. Discovery has moved away from the stark colours and have shown the Klingons in deep reds, whites, golds, blacks, and greys.

THE TIMELINE

As I said before I am not a fan of Star Trek and most of my knowledge comes from hearing people discuss it, the movies, or the passing episodes I’ve seen. Discovery takes place after Star Trek: Enterprise and roughly 10 years before the Original Series. In one episode First Officer Saru pulls up a list of notable Starfleet captains and it lists both Johnathan Archer ( Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek Enterprise) and Christopher Pike (Captain who recruits James Kirk into Starfleet). This series sets up and explains how the Klingon race went from a fractured house state governed by 24 distinct houses to the Empire encountered in the later series’.

USS Discovery

While the technology they display is similar to other shows, the weapons of the Discovery and the crew are where the slight differences lie. The Discovery only has 4 phaser banks that fire in small bursts as opposed to the long blasts from The Next Generation, and the phaser rifles and handguns are more bulky and less refined than their ‘future’ counterparts.

MAKE-UP

The make-up for this show is leaps and bounds better than any other sci-fi show I have ever seen, it’s closer to movie level make up than for a standard television serial . I understand that at the time of their production all of the Star Trek shows used state of the art make-up and visual effects, but this show just sits above the rest. First Officer Saru is a Kelpien, a race designed specifically for this show; he is played by the amazing Doug Jones who has made his entire career by working under heavy prosthetics to bring his characters to life. The Kelpiens look like a cross between a fish and a gazelle. They have long legs and arms but their face is very much asymmetrical and and standard looking. Apparently able to sense the ‘coming of death’ most other species view Kelpiens as cowards.

Klingons

The Klingons for this show look VERY different from the original source material. The prothetics that the actors wear give them a large nasal cavity with a large crown and pointed egg shaped head. As I said before the Klingons come in all different colours and their armour is much different too. Traditionally the Klingons look like regular people with dark brown skin and facial ridges, these Klingons are much beefier and stand roughly six feet tall at the shortest one seen (as of episode 9).

CGI & SPECIAL EFFECTS

Binary Star System in Star Trek Discovery

The CGI for this show is better than some of the feature films I’ve seen. It’s a very visually stunning show with expansive backdrops and uses practical effects whenever possible. In the first two episodes, the story takes place in a binary star system. This provides a very stunning backdrop for the entirety of the two episode arc before we are placed firmly in the Discovery for the remainder of the episodes. Even being set firmly in the inside of a ship, there is a lot of moments where CGI was used perfectly in conjunction with actual prothetics. In the third episode, the crew finds their sister ship, the USS Glenn, and in an attempt to discover why it went dark, board it. Without revealing anything, the CGI and practical effects used to generate the creepy atmosphere is spot on.

CAST

Main cast of Discovery

The cast for this show is exceptional. There’s no one person that I dislike, which is rare. Normally there’s always that one member of the cast that makes you question why they’re there, but not this crew. Each member serves a very unique and important purpose. The cast is as follows:

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham: A one time mutineer set to serve a life sentence in a Federation jail. She is mysteriously conscripted by Captain Gabriel Lorca to serve on his ship the USS Discovery.

Doug Jones as Saru: The first and only Kelpien member of Starfleet. He serves as the First Officer on the USS Discovery. His character is comparable to Spock and Data from the Original Series and The Next Generation respectively.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca: Captain of the USS Discovery and a brilliant military tactician. He is willing to use any means necessary to win the war against the Klingons so that Starfleet may continue its primary directive, exploration.

Shazad Latif as Lt. Ash Tyler: A Starfleet member held and tortured in a Klingon prison, he helped Captain Lorca escape and as restitution Lorca named him his Head of Security.

Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets: Chief Engineer aboard the USS Discovery. His invention of a Spore Drive that allows for blink travel could end the war with the Klingons in favour of the Federation.

Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly: A Cadet in her final year of training she was assigned to the Discovery under Stamets with Burnham as her roommate. She is optimistic about everything and wants to have her own command one day.

OVERALL

As I’ve said numerous times in this post, I’m not a Trek fan and never really was, but this show has changed my outlook. I have heard lots of conflicting reviews of the show and what I believe it boils down to is this: If you liked Star Trek before this show, then you’re not a fan; but, if you weren’t a fan and see this show, you’ll like it. I’ve spoken to some people regarding their ideas of the show and that seems to be the die hard consensus I’ve come up with. I spoke to one fan who said that he didn’t like it because it had become “too flashy” to be called Star Trek. Star Trek was always about the stories and acting not so much about the shiny sets and the perfect CGI battles. I can both agree and disagree with that statement because I think that while classic Trek was like that, it was because they didn’t really have a choice. With the advent of new animation techniques and CGI that can be used in everyday shows, I think the flashy space shows are only going to get more flashy in the future.

The show is pretty good from what I’ve seen so far, I’m only on episode 9, but it has grabbed my attention after only a few episodes which is good right? Normally I like to give shows at least 7 episodes for them to grab my attention. I find that 7 episodes is enough that you get rid of all the “mandatory” introductions of characters and into some plot. There are plenty of shows out there that lots of people love that I just couldn’t get into (Breaking Bad and Dexter for example), but Discovery is something every sci-fi fan can get behind. It has action, plot, aliens, and some pretty amazing backdrops that help to deliver a modern and stylistic approach to the decades old franchise. I give it a solid 8/10! Give it a shot, you might just find yourself engrossed in this new fantastic show as much as I am.

Battle of the Binary Stars

My Most Anticipated Games of 2019

This week I decided to take a bit of break from the usual comic or sci-fi posts and focus on something that I’ve been watching closely, the upcoming games of 2019. With greats like God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Red Dead Redemption 2 having come out this past year, it’s going to take some serious mojo to top that list.

Let’s dive right into the list!

1.BioWare – Anthem

You’ll probably need to live under a rock to have not heard anything about this game. Produced by BioWare (of Dragon Age and Mass Effect fame) this upcoming “shared shooter RPG” is making massive waves as we near its release date of mid February. Having taken some bad press recently with their follies (Mass Effect: Andromeda to be specific), BioWare went through a complete restructuring of their development team before production on this began. The game focuses on your playable character as a member of Fort Tarsis on an alien planet sometime in the near future. In order to explore the wilds of the planet and defend the people of the fort, your character uses a Javelin. Javelins are exosuits that allow for intense combat, flight, and even underwater exploration. There are 4 main classes of Javelin: The Ranger (all around suit), The Colossus (The “tank” suit), The Storm (Wizard-like suit that hovers and uses elemental attacks), and the Interceptor (Quick and up close damage expert). Each Javelin is reportedly customizable to an extent and each player can have multiple Javelin suits of varying levels.

I personally am very excited for this game, but I, like many, have some very big reservations about a game BioWare puts out. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Andromeda… That being said, this is probably going to be the biggest game of the first quarter and doesn’t look to have much direct competition, which will help it out immensely.

2. 4A Games – Metro: Exodus

Set to release a week before Anthem, this single-player first person shooter is the next chapter in the Metro continuity. It, like it’s predecessors (Metro 2033 & Metro: Last Light), rely heavily on horror and stealth while implementing survival components to add an extra level of difficulty. Developed from the Metro novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Glukhovsky actually worked on the second game, Last Light, (having helped write the storyline) and as sole writer for Exodus. The games take place in a post-apocalyptic near future where nuclear war has devastated the globe. The population of Russia has taken refuge in the Metro and has built a vast underground civilization using the metro tunnels. A special branch of the military known as Rangers, are responsible for scouting the surface and some of the deeper tunnels which are home to some nightmarish creatures. One of the really unique points of the games is that because the people are forced to live in the metro, good ammunition is hard to come by. Due to the shortage of good ammunition, military grade ammunition is your currency; however, in a tight spot, you can load your weapons with the military ammunition to deal more damage than the sub par readily available bullets.

I’ve been a fan of this series since I bought the first game for the Xbox 360 back in 2010. I like the expansive world that Glukhovsky has built and the alternate history it contains, for example, in Last Light (the second game) you have to sneak through the front lines of a still raging Eastern front of WWII. The main character, Artyom, is also a very relatable person, he was a young 18 year old kid when he started and has since become a type of leader and hero to the people of the Metro. I’m very much looking forward to this game and hope that it will serve as an epic third chapter in a great series.

3. Ubisoft – The Division 2

Say what you will about the first game, but Ubisoft has a habit of taking something that was sub par on release and by commitment to the fan base, turning it around and making it great. They did it with Rainbow Six Siege and they did it with the Division. The first game was released to some very sub par reviews citing it as repetitive and barren as well as having a “fractured progression system”. This didn’t hinder what I thought to be a great story, which is made all the better by how plausible it is (to an extent). The story is an eco-terrorist was able to obtain a sample of the smallpox virus which he then mutated in such a way that our vaccinations wouldn’t work against it. The virus was then sprayed onto $1 bills and distributed around Manhattan on Black Friday. The virus moved its way through the city killing hundreds of thousands and forcing the government to quarantine the city. The President then activates “The Division” which is a top secret branch of the military to enter the city and find a cure while maintaining order in the streets. One of the best aspects of the game was what they called the “Dark Zone”. This was a walled off area in the center of the city that served as the PVP/PVE area. While there were high level enemies in this area, other players could also help you or try and kill you to steal your loot. Your character was only able to carry so much loot on them before having to call in an air evac. This air evac was visible to EVERYONE in the Dark Zone and attracted a lot of enemies that you would have to hold off until the evac arrived.

Division 2 is supposedly set 7 months after the first game and takes place in Washington D.C., where a civil war has broken out between the survivors and “villainous bands of marauders”.

I was a huge fan of the original game but after you got to a certain point there was a definite lull. You would be too strong to do any of the missions without difficulty and the Dark Zone was only viable if you had a fireteam; however, without the powerful gear from the Dark Zone, you couldn’t do any of the incursions because they were too difficult. I’m really hoping they’ve addressed this issue in the new game as it was one of the main criticisms of fans. From the looks of the trailer they released, it heavily resembles the first game with some notable improvements and it appears they added new weapons one of which is a crossbow.

4. id Software/Bathesda Softworks – Doom Eternal

Coming off their massive hit’s success in 2016, Bathesda/id Software’s next project is coming to consoles later this year. Coming in as the fifth main title in the Doom game series, this game serves as a continuation of the story from 2016’s Doom which in itself was a sequel to Doom 64 from 1997. At the conclusion of the 2016 game, the Doom Marine has been tricked by the Cyborg Samuel Hayden, leader of he UAC facility on Mars, and teleported away to an unknown location. Eternal will pick up after the first game with the forces of Hell invading Earth and the UAC being unable to stop the invasion. The original development team will return to create Eternal helping to ensure direct continuity with the original. One thing that I do hope they continue with is having the Easter eggs to the original games. I remember one spot in particular where you enter a door and are put in a portion of one of the old school levels with the 8bit graphics and musical score. It was a great homage to the originals that helped to pioneer the first person shooter genre. This series is known for its excessive gore and frightening monsters, something that the new series has leaned into heavily. Whether they’re Hell Knights, Barons of Hell, or possessed UAC personal, the enemies are varied and offer unique challenges to defeating each one.

I personally can’t wait for this game. I was a massive fan of the original and play it if i ever just need a game to zone out to and not think. The one thing that really captured me with this new series was the score. While most FPS games use orchestras and ambient music to generate their atmosphere, Doom lends more towards creepy Halloween style environment music blended with sci-fi and heavy metal for the action sequences. There’s nothing quite like picking up that double barrel shotgun and loading it for the first time to a massive heavy metal “dun dun… dun dun” on an electric guitar with heavy distortion.

5. CD Projekt Red – Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is an interesting prospect for this upcoming year to say the least. Coming from Studio Projekt Red who are known for the Witcher game series, this is a far cry from their medieval and magical world they got famous on. This game centers in the world 2077 wherein cybernetic modifications are the norm for most citizens. The player takes control of the character known only as “V”. V is a completely customizable character from clothing and modifications right down to eye colour and sex. While it is an RPG style of game, there are base classes that a player can choose: NetRunner (centers on Hacking), Techie (centers on Machinery) and Solo (centers on Combat). The game takes place in a city called “Night City” which is located somewhere in California. Night City is divided into six different districts that each have their own aesthetic and atmosphere. In true CD Projekt Red fashion, there will be multiple endings to the game and players actions and choices throughout the game will determine which ending they receive. The game will feature heavily on robotics, cybernetics, body modifications as well as autonomous technology.

This is one game I’ve had my eye on ever since they released a teaser trailer back in January of 2013. E3 2018, was where they showcased the first actual footage of the gameplay and it looked amazing. It blends the intricate gameplay that the studio is known for, with a distinct setting that hasn’t been touched on much, Detroit Become Human could be seen as the exception. With so much riding on this game and it being the studio’s first attempt at something other than the Witcher, this could be a make or break for CD Projekt Red.

6. Ubisoft – Skull and Bones

Alright, I’m going to be blunt with you, I love pirates. There are very few eras in history that I really enjoy and the classical pirate age is one of them. Yes, I know that piracy has been around for hundreds of years, but I’m specifically talking about the classic Pirate Lords like Captain Morgan, Charles Vance, Jack Rackham, etc. This game is centered in the Indian ocean and details the exploits of the East India Trading Company. Players assume control of a Pirate captain of their own design and set sail across the Indian ocean in a single player campaign and can take on other players in the “Disputed Waters”. Originally showcased at E3 2017, the game was then slated for a Q4 2018 release. The release date was pushed back to 2019 in order to accommodate bug fixes and 4K upscaling. Not much is known about the story of what the game will entail. The developers have stated that it will be possible to acquire other ships throughout the story in addition to the one you start with, as well as customizing the weapon loadout of your ship.

As someone who was a HUGE fan of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I’ve been longing for a good pirate game ever since. I was extremely tempted to buy into Microsoft’s exclusive Sea of Thieves, but thanks to some very observant friends who scour review sites, I did not. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed when this game got delayed, but as my friend Theo points out “If they delay it, that means they’re fixing broken things. So I’m okay with it”.

7. Capcom – Resident Evil 2 Remake

Much like what I said for Anthem, you literally have to live under a rock to have not heard of Resident Evil. Whether it’s the immense game franchise or the movie series that has been going downhill since the first one… everyone knows of this franchise that helped to pioneer the survival horror genre. At E3 2018, gaming giant Capcom surprised everyone by announcing they would be remaking Resident Evil 2 and releasing it on modern consoles. They showed a brief video of the gameplay that we can expect and it looked amazing. Serving as a direct remake of the 1998 classic for the original Playstation, Resident Evil 2 is going to bring us back to the first T- Virus outbreak in Raccoon City. Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy are the main playable characters and their Character models have been updated to coincide with some of their more modern interpretations. The main change that Capcom implemented for this remake is to change the style of camera and controls. Originally sporting “tank controls” (moving the character relative to where they are looking not the camera angle) and fixed camera angles, they have updated the interface to work with an over the shoulder third person style of movement.

When I heard that this game was getting a remake for modern consoles I was ecstatic! This is one of the few Resident Evil games that I was never able to play. It came out when I was 7 years old and I remember seeing a cardboard cutout for it at Microplay and asking my mom if I could get it. She took one look at the cutout and said “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?!” solid call on that one mom… That being said I am no longer 7 years old, so bring on the gory zombie mayhem!

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mortal Kombat 11, Rage 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant.

I feel like I should include Halo: Infinite on this list, but apart from a short video showcasing the new Slipspace engine that 343 built to run the game, we haven’t heard anything about it. The most recent information we have is that it will allow for 4 player single console co-op and have Halo: Reach style customization. I keep my ears and eyes peeled for any information on the upcoming Halo: Infinite but my guess is that it will be announced at E3 2019 for a 2020 release date.

There you have it! Those are my most anticipated games of 2019. Are there any you think I missed? See you next time!

Interlude Chapter – Part 4

It wasn’t harsh, it wasn’t cold, it was… peaceful. The darkness welcomed him like a long lost love and brought him into its warm embrace. There was something wrong though, it wasn’t how he had imagined it. Growing up in the Catholic belt of the Northern Regions, he had been spoon fed the same bullshit over and over; paradise, unending and eternal. This was a far cry from that.

It was warm sure, but there was no paradise. It was a darkness, a darkness that he had never fully believed in. It wasn’t the cold release of death, it was the darkness of the mind. The emptiness we feel when we are about to finally drift off to sleep. He spun around and sitting a few meters away was a small wooden table with a photo which was turned away from him. He moved over to the table, his limbs feeling very heavy, he reached out with his left hand and felt a sharp blinding pain, he looked down and saw the blood running down his arm. He gasped as he watched the blood leave his body falling to the ground, or more accurately the darkness he was standing on. He could hear some low clicking, and it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. He looked up from his bleeding arm and the table with the photo had moved farther away. He began moving towards it but for every step he took it moved farther away. He started moving faster and the clicking he had been hearing was replaced with the light pattering of rain on a roof. He moved faster. The table moved. He broke into a run ignoring the pain in his arm and reached out for the photo, the pattering was louder now like it was hitting a metal roof directly above him, he could hear the sounds of screaming and tires screeching but he still couldn’t see anything in the darkness but this table and the photo that was turned away. He stopped briefly listening to try and discern the sounds he was hearing.

He started running again, finally gaining some ground on the elusive table. The screaming and tires screeching became deafening and he couldn’t help but think that the voices screaming sounded familiar. He kept running, he was getting closer and closer, the voices becoming clearer and sharper. He reached out and grabbed a hold of the table. Instantly everything stopped. He kept his hand on the table not wanting it to take off again, he could hear the clear voice of a woman whimpering and calling out but he couldn’t make out the name she was saying. He reached with his injured hand and grasped the photo frame as his blood continued to drain off his elbow. The woman’s voice became clearer and he could make out what she was saying, it was one word, a name, “Shane”. He turned the photo over to find the last photo he had of him and Shane. He had his arm in a cast and Shane was signing his name in massive letters right across the top of it. He lifted the photo and looked at it closely, something was off… He remembered this photo being taken, it had been day time, but the photo showed it happening at night. He continued to examine the photo and the woman’s voice started again, “Shane? Shane? Shane?” just repeating the name over and over again. The voice was cut off by the sound of tires screeching as it got closer and closer. The woman’s voice said “I love you Shane” as a resounding crash cut off the last of her voice.

“NOOOOOOO!!!!” he shouted staring up into the darkness. “SOP THIS! WHAT IS GOING ON?”

The photograph in his hand began to shake and he looked down to see the night sky was oozing out of the photograph on his fingers that clutched the frame. The cold started at the tips of his fingers, as the ooze moved up his arm, the cold spread. It felt like he was standing outside in one of the terrible northern winters without any clothing trying to battle the sub zero temperatures. He dropped the photo and the frame shattered on the black of the floor. The entire space started to move, like a wave of black ooze. He tried to move but his legs were stuck fast in the black. He swung his free, injured arm, ignoring the pain for it to be grabbed by a tendril of the darkness so that it would be held fast. The ooze continued to move up his extremities to his core where the cold pierced his very soul. “WHAT IS THIS?!” He shouted as the darkness moved up his neck.

“We are the Drift…” a metallic voice answered, “..we are legion and we will not be stopped!”

The ooze was moving up the sides and back of his head, he tried to scream but he couldn’t make any noise. It enveloped his entire body and then went in his mouth and down through his entire body. He screamed silently as the darkness took over. There was a blinding pain in his leg and he awoke.

He wasn’t in the dark, he wasn’t covered in black ooze, he was in his pantry, soaked with a mixture of water and blood. He remembered fighting the aliens and he remembered barely winning, but he didn’t remember collapsing in his pantry. He tried to sit up but there was a sharp intense pain coming from his left shoulder which caused him to collapse back down.

“Don’t try to sit up, I have to patch your arm and give you some blood. What’s your blood type?”

” O- Negative… Wait who are you?!” he asked the woman who was crouched over him.

“Oh right, my name’s Julia and I’m the paramedic that just saved your ass. I’m with a group of survivors moving through the buildings looking for anyone alive. One of them found you and ran to get me. You flatlined, so I had to hit you with a shot of Adrenaline. I was worried it was going to be a waste on you but you perked right up. Lay down and don’t move, I need to patch this wound.” She replied as she set to work on him. She was wearing bright orange of the Critical Care paramedics designation and had jet black hair with a very fair complexion. Her movements were methodical and exact, like someone who had done this for years and was confident in their skills.

He laid back down and stared at the ceiling of his pantry as she set to work opening up an IV line and setting up a bag of blood to replenish what he lost in the fight with the aliens. “Well…”, he said out loud, “… this is definitely not how I planned on starting my day.” Julia looked at him with an expression that was equal ‘you don’t say?’ and ‘No shit Sherlock’ before cleaning up the supplies she had used reviving him. As he watched her clean up his eyes lingered on the larger needle that was attached to a syringe labeled Epinephrine. Julia noticed his gaze and smirked while saying “Ya, this is what I stabbed you in the leg with, so don’t fuck with me” she let out a small laugh and set back to work.

He looked around the small space and finally realized how much destruction his fight with the two aliens had caused. There were canned goods everywhere and coffee grinds scattered about the floor mixing with the leaking water and the bodies of the aliens. As he continued to look around the space he spied a small can underneath one of his shelving units. It was small and green, with a picture of a sunrise. He reached out with his good arm and tugged the IV in Julia’s hand.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Getting breakfast” he replied as he reached the can and pulled it out popping the easy open lid. He tipped the can back and let the delicious taste of peaches in syrup fill his dry mouth. After a long slurp where he downed half the can, he looked up at Julia gave the can a shake and asked “Want some?”