Movie Reboots – Hollywood Needs New Ideas

Hollywood has run out of ideas, it’s no big secret. Gone are the days of inventive new passion projects and now we are in the age of blockbusters. Whether it’s giant robots, epic space operas or one of a dozen superhero films to come out in a year, they are all massive blockbuster events. To compliment this massive blockbuster trend, studios are now doing something even worse, the diverse reboot of a beloved movie/the sequel to an 80’s film that’s 20-30 years too late. The worst thing is that these reboots rarely work, The Mummy, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation, Superman Returns, Ocean’s 8, What Men Want and now Hellboy (2019); these are all attempted reboots and/diversification recasts of classic films that flopped. There are plenty more examples but these one are the most prominent in my mind, well those and Josh Trank’s Fant4stic… ugh. This week I’m going to look at some failed reboots and Hollywood’s incessant need to try and re-animate dead franchises.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Original theatrical release poster

Oh boy, I had such fond memories of the classic Indiana Jones trilogy, and this one just ruined it… I remember being 7 years old and my buddy Malcolm and I watching The Last Crusade while eating chips and drinking pop out of shot glasses because we thought it made us look cool, I stand by our decision! I digress… The Last Crusade which was the final film in the original trilogy was released on May 24, 1989 and ended the original arc perfectly. Flash forward to 2008, when this trash heap of a film was released. It, like the previous trilogy were directed by Spielberg, but I feel like this one screamed of the studio wanting another film and Spielberg finally caving and giving them what they wanted so they would leave him alone. I’m not sure on this but that’s what I hope is true, otherwise I have no way to justify the film… It follows Jones and a young man named “Mutt” as they journey to Peru and the Amazon in search of the lost City of Akator and the fabled Crystal Skulls. Instead of the Nazis challenging Jones and his compatriots, as in the original films, this one takes place in the 80’s and thus the Soviets are the villains to constantly vex the heroes. It ends with them finding the city and placing the skull on one of 13 giant crystallized bodies. These bodies reanimate and then reveal themselves to be aliens, the aliens pull some fancy light show magic and disappear in their flying saucer, no joke. That’s how it ends.

Normally you can justify a film being bad because the script writing was terrible, or the CGI was overused and bad, the acting was terrible or even the final plot twist made no sense. Most movies have one to three of these issues, but this one… it hit all four right on their heads. Harrison Ford delivered a phoned in performance of Indiana Jones that showed he was just there for the pay cheque, much like his appearance in The Force Awakens. The rest of the cast was okay, Shia LeBeouf was over the top as always and Cate Blanchett just looked wierd as fuck as a Soviet with terrible bangs.. The dialogue was terrible and stilted, the CGI monkeys and scenery looks like they were ripped from a straight to video B-list action film, and aliens? really? Fantasy has a large place in the Indiana Jones films, I admit that, but aliens? In a world with the Ark of the Covenant as an example of divine power, and the Holy Grail being able to cure any wounds, why did you feel the need to include aliens? It just felt very out of place and once again screamed of Spielberg caving to studio pressure and pumping out a terrible film.

THE MUMMY

Original theatrical movie poster

No, I’m not talking about the classic 1999 Mummy movie starring the vastly underrated Brendan Fraser; I am referring to the shit show that was supposed to start the whole “Dark Universe” for Universal Studios. The Dark Universe was Universal Studios’ idea to try and compete with the gargantuan MCU and the floundering DCEU. Universal owns the rights to all the classic movie monsters and resolved to bring them all into a singular shared universe and then have some sort of a team up film? however that would work. Originally it was supposed to start off with 2014’s Dracula Untold which starred Luke Evans in the title role. Due to Dracula’s lackluster performance at the box office and it’s impression on the critics and fans they decided to start again fresh with The Mummy. Prior to the release of the movie Universal went ahead and cast every member of their Dark Universe to help strengthen their position as “having it all figured out”. Russel Crowe was cast as Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde, Javier bardem was cast as Frankenstein’s Monster, Johnny Depp was cast as the Invisible Man, and these characters would join Sofia Boutella who was cast as the Mummy. The glue to hold this universe together was going to be Tom Cruise who was cast as a man named Nick Morton, he first appeared in The Mummy film as the main protagonist but would act as the common thread that would tie the whole thing together.

Dark Universe cast announcement photo

The movie itself wasn’t as terrible as it was made out to be. The cast did well with what they were given, but the story just didn’t work. Not to mention the weird inclusion of Dr. Jekyll who has been hunting monsters and cataloging them throughout history? It did exactly the same thing as Batman V Superman and Justice League did, it tried to hard to build an entire connected universe right off the bat instead of letting it happen organically as they did with the MCU. Sofia Boutella delivered a good performance with the tools she was given but she acted far more like a demonic creature than a reanimated princess. Tom Cruise gave a varied performance where some it was authentic and real and other parts were corny and hamish. There were some nice Easter eggs to the 1999 film including the Book of the Dead in Jekyll’s library and the mummy making her face appear at the forefront of the sandstorm. The finale of the film provided Tom Cruise with the Godly powers of the Egyptian God Set and set him loose on the world. He resurrects his dead friend that he started the whole ordeal with and they start off on a new adventure in the deserts of the Middle East. Ultimately the film failed to deliver on its core premise of being an action thriller film and became more of a 2 hour long power point presentation to set up the universe as a whole.

HELLBOY

Hellboy (2019) theatrical poster

11%. The new Hellboy film by Lionsgate starring David Harbour in the title role has a whopping 11% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 different reviews. I am not one to put faith in Rotten Tomatoes as a whole, just because of how biased it can be, but this does not bode well for the reboot of Guillermo Del Toro’s great duology starring Ron Perlman. The film hasn’t released to the public yet so details on the plot are sparse, we do know that it centers on a Celtic witch played by Mila Jovovich and her attempts to gain power. Hellboy and the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) are tasked with stopping her. Many of the critics have sighted the incomprehensible story and the shoddy pacing as core reasons of the film’s lackluster performance. The studio went for an R rating and ramped up the gore, probably in an attempt to cash in on the success of Deadpool and Logan. Harbour’s performance has been praised by many but even his take on the character isn’t enough to save the film. This film was marred in controversy back in the casting stage when they cast Ed Skrein as Ben Daimio a rugged military member of the BPRD. When the character’s ethnicity was brought to light, the character being a Japanese-American, the film and casting team were slapped with a whitewashing tag. Within two days of the character’s ethnhicity coming to public knowledge, Skrein withdrew from the role and posted this statement on his Instagram and Twitter accounts:

Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement and I must do what I feel is right.
It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.
Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.
I am sad to leave HELLBOY but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference.

With love and hope,

Ed Skrein

This move was praised by many for allowing someone of Asian heritage to portray the character in the film, a role that eventually went to Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost and Hawaii Five-O). Will this controversy contribute to it’s lackluster performance? Potentially. But more than likely, the reason behind it’s potential performance is that the target audience still feels robbed of the third film in De Toro’s trilogy that was scrapped in favour of the reboot. I know that I did really enjoy Del Toro’s films, even if the first time I saw the Golden Army in theatres I fell asleep… I had just got off a double shift at the base and was in a cold dark theatre in a comfy chair, sue me!

When I did see the whole thing through, it was very apparent that a third movie would be needed to round out the story and finish it on a great note. I, like many others, were super excited when a third Hellboy film was announced thinking it to be the great end to Perlman and Del Toro’s run, only to have our hopes dashed with the giant “Reboot” stamp slapped over it.

Like I said at the beginning, Hollywood has run out of ideas, like really run out. To the point that they’re going as far as to release the exact same movies as before just with the gender roles reversed. There’s so many things wrong with this approach that I can’t even begin to identify them all, but the main one is that they aren’t even giving women their own original stories. They’re just slapping a gender reverse on a movie they know did well in the past with a male lead just so they can say “we released a female led movie!” It’s insulting and shallow for studios to shove that crap down our throats rather than giving us meaningful new creative stories. Stop trying to cash in on popular 80’s film and TV shows and come up with some new ideas! Reboots and re-hashes are the bane of any movie goer’s existence. We’ve had 3 Hulks, 3 Spider-Men, 6 Batmen and 2 Supermen all in various reboots and re hashes of the same character. Honestly, how hard is it to come up with an original story? Not very. Hollywood needs to wake up and stop peddling the same shit over and over again. End of rant.

See you next week!

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Self Sacrifice And It’s Role In Comic Media

Tragic backstories, incredible feats, super powers and self sacrifice, those are the things needed to create any superhero. Whether they’re male or female, black or white or any shade in between, super powered people need those qualities to really be considered heroes. Which is something that I find kind of absurd, and I’ll tell you why, self sacrifice? Why is that on the list? Look at any superhero and at one point or another they have sacrificed themselves for the greater good, every single one. The really sad part is that some of them did it in terrible runs (Civil War II) or it didn’t really have any effect (Spider-Man). This also flies in the face of the death problem in comics. How someone can die and you just have to wait about a year before they’re back in printing. Everyone has done it, at one point or another. This week I’m going to take a look at some of the pointless sacrifices in modern comics and highlight some that I believe to be rightfully deserved.

Let’s start with the bad…

*This post will be photo heavy. I apologize in advance*

CIVIL WAR II

Let’s run down the body count of the heroes involved in Civil War II and what it meant:

War Machine: He sided with Captain Marvel and had his spine punched out of his body THROUGH his armour by Thanos. He died to give Tony and Carol a reason to fight.

Bruce Banner: Died by Clint Barton firing a specifically designed arrow through his head. He died to increase the stakes on both sides as Clint sided with Tony and She Hulk (Jennifer Walters, Bruce Banner’s cousin) sided with Carol.

Tony Stark: Died to allow Riri Williams to take up his position and add more diversity to the Avengers. He isn’t technically dead, just in a coma.

Rhodey’s Death at the hands of Thanos

Rhodey and Bruce’s deaths served no actually purpose except for to antagonize the sides against each other. In the original Civil War, Goliath (Bill Foster) was killed by the rogue Thor clone, Ragnarok, and both sides immediately stopped fighting. They held a funeral for him so they could pay their respects and refused to fight on the day of his funeral. Bruce was killed and the only thing that happened was Hawkeye went on trial for it, a trial in which he was acquitted.

Tony’s death served to introduce us to Riri and allow her the space to take up his mantle. Instead of Jarvis or Friday, she has a Tony Stark AI imbedded in her armour, which can also project a 3D model, that helps her with her tasks. Tony’s was the only death that served an actual purpose and like I said before, he isn’t actually dead.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/ SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN

This one might confuse some, but I did like the Superior Spider-Man run. That being said, I also recognize that it was a completely ridiculous death and we all knew it wasn’t permanent. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius succeeded in switching his and Peter’s consciousnesses. Otto was left in Peter’s superpowered younger body, and Peter was stuck in Otto’s older dying body. Before he passed, Peter instilled in Otto his sense of responsibility and his memories, swapping his place in the memories for Otto’s. Otto realizes the error of his villainous ways and vows that Peter is not leaving the City and it’s people in the hands of a villain. Throughout the beginning of the run you are led to believe that this change is permanent and that we are going to have to get used to this new Spider-Man, but that’s not the case. At the end of one of the earliest issues, we are shown a spectral Peter alive and fighting in Otto’s subconscious so that he might regain control of his body. While the whole run was great and gave us some great Spider-Man moments, for me, it felt like there was a giant ticking clock on every issue counting down until Peter regains control. Not really spoiler alert at all… he does, and Otto makes the final sacrifice to let Peter retain his body and duties as Spider-Man.

Peter instilling his values and beliefs on Otto Octavius prior to his death

Peter’s death appeared to be permanent, for all intents and purposes he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I do believe that Marvel received a LOT of flack for this decision which is what prompted the return so quickly. I cannot say for sure, but normally someone isn’t returned to life so quickly after a run, it takes some time. Wolverine’s recent resurrection via the Space Stone, is a prime example of this.

SUPERMAN

The Death of Superman… What. A. PUBLICITY STUNT! I was a whopping 2 years old when DC Comics pulled this event out of their ass to sell more copies of their Action Comics title, over six million copies to be exact. It was ranked as the top selling comic in 1992 from any single publisher. Superman comic sales had been on the decline for several years following some very lackluster arcs and more interesting characters getting their time in the spotlight. The original idea was for Superman to marry Lois lane, but when the television show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman produced an arc of the same type, the writing team wanted to do something different. They decided to kill the big blue boy scout which was completely unheard of at the time; this arc also marks the first inclusion of Doomsday into Superman mythology. DC Comics gave the writers and artists the go ahead and the death of one of their flagship characters was crafted. It involves Clark’s first encounter with Doomsday and his sacrifice to stop the monster. After going blow for blow across the majority of the United States, the fight ended up in Metropolis where the final few punches were thrown.

Superman’s Death

The arc ended with Superman and Doomsday both delivering a fatal blow to the other and the Man of Steel falling to his enemy. A funeral was held for him, his adoptive father suffered a fatal heart attack at the news, and he was buried under a massive monument to him. Thing is, he wasn’t dead. He was in a coma, where he remained until one of the imposter Supermen, claiming to be him reborn, stole his body and hid it in the Fortress of Solitude. This is also where we were given the Black suit fans were clamoring for in Justice League, as well as that God awful mullet that he sported for nearly a decade…but we just won’t talk about that. This death, like the others I’ve mentioned was just a pointless publicity stunt. There was NO WAY that DC Comics was going to kill one of their Trinity, and even if they did, not leave him dead. Before the end of the run, Superman is back to life and kicking ass with his Tennessee Tophat (mullet) in tow.

DESERVED SACRIFICES

JOHNNY STORM aka HUMAN TORCH

I will say, I’ve never really been a fan of the Fantastic Four. It has nothing to do with me disliking them or their powers, I just never got into their stories as a kid. I have seen all the movies… ugh. But when I heard of Johnny Storm’s death at the conclusion of the Three storyline, I was intrigued as to the circumstances and how it was handled. The basic rundown of the arc is that there were three events that the Fantastic Four needed to stop, due to these events happening simultaneously, they split the team. Reed and Sue were off doing their own mission and Johnny and Ben were left to deal with the Cult of the Negative Zone. The Cult had infiltrated the Baxter Building and opened a portal to the negative zone unleashing an Annihilation Wave through the portal at Johnny, Ben (currently de-powered) and the children of the future foundation. Franklin Richards managed to use his powers to kill the insectoids that had come through and with the help of the other children, they deduced the only way to close the portal was to do it from the Negative Zone side. Whoever wen through with that would never come back. Ben began to step through the portal saying he would be able to hold them off long enough to close the portal and for the kids to say bye to Reed and Sue for him. Johnny grabbed Ben and threw him back into the building, stepping through the portal and hitting the over ride to close the portal. As the portal closed the last thing the kids and Ben saw was Johnny igniting himself and declaring that he wasn’t scared of the million to one odds.

Johnny accepting the odds

Like I said, I was not as familiar with the Fantastic Four as i am with other heroes, but this is something that sticks. Johnny sacrificed himself to save his best friend, his niece, nephew, and a bunch of other children. Not to mention the whole universe! The Annihilation Wave numbered in the billions and would not be able to be stopped easily. Respect to the writers for this, it really helped to show that underneath his brash exterior johnny cares deeply. Johnny obviously didn’t stay dead, but his death lasted for a while.
*Following the reading of Johnny’s Last Will and Testament, wherein he asked Spider-Man to take his place on the team, Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four and received his future foundation suit.*

Johnny’s final stand

BARRY ALLEN aka THE FLASH

Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, and it’s his speed that earned him one of the most memorable deaths in comics. During the storyline for Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry was retired from being the Flash and living in the 30th century with his wife. As the Anti-Monitor began his attack on the multiverse, a series of natural disasters began occurring in the future. Barry returned to the 20th century to warn his friends that something was wrong because despite the futuristic technology created to stop them, the natural disasters continued to occur. As he arrived and was about to warn Batman, Barry was pulled into the Antimatter Universe by the Anti-Monitor. Barry was tortured by Psycho Pirate and forced to watch as the Antimatter cannon was prepared to fire at his universe. Barry managed to break free by using Psycho Pirate to turn the Anti-monitor’s servants against him. He began to run around the canon so fast that he was able to strip the outer casing off destroying the canon. Barry needed to run so incredibly fast to accomplish this feat, that he disintegrated and absorbed into the Speed Force. Barry’s sacrifice single handedly allowed for the heroes to triumph over the Anti-Monitor and win the battle. Due to him being absorbed by the Speed Force, there were no remains to bury. A funeral was held in his honour with a gravestone placed in new York City. Barry’s sacrifice was known the world over and served as the catalyst for Wally West (Kid Flash at the time) to take up his mentor’s mantle and become the new Flash.

Barry beginning to unravel the Anti-Monitor’s canon

Barry’s sacrifice is probably the most influential death in comics as a whole. His willingness to sacrifice himself to protect not only his friends and family but the entire multiverse is what cements Barry as one of the best heroes ever created.

Barry destroys the canon and dissolves into the Speed Force

*Following Barry’s death, he was absorbed into the Speed Force and became a bolt of Speed Force Lightning. This bolt traveled back in time and was the same one that struck Barry all those years ago giving him his powers. Yes. Barry gave himself his Flash powers.*

GREEN ARROW aka OLIVER QUEEN

Oliver Queen/Green Arrow has sky-rocketed into popularity with the show Arrow starring Stephen Amell in the title role. Most people don’t know how massively different the television Oliver and the comics Oliver are form each other. Television Oliver is much more of a Batman style, Dark and Brooding and very little humour. Comic book Oliver is much more outspoken, humourous and political. Ollie’s death may not have been the most glamorous or the most impactful but it still shows us a death done right. Oliver was recruited by the NSA and asked to infiltrate and eco-terrorist cell known as Eden Corps. After he earned their trust, he began a romantic relationship with the group’s leader Hyrax. Through his connections Ollie learned that Hyrax was loading abomb onto a plane bound for Metropolis. The yield of the bomb was large enough to destroy the City itself and everyone in it. Ollie boarded the plane and through a nasty firefight and battle with another undercover agent, Ollie was the only one alive. He attempted to disarm the bomb, but his arm became trapped in the device. Superman arrived on the plane and tried to help, but Ollie had triggered a fail-safe which would detonate the device if his arm was removed. As the plane neared Metropolis the only option appeared for Superman to dismember Ollie by ripping his arm off. Not wanting to become an amputee Ollie told him know and removed his hand from the device triggering the explosion. Superman was largely unharmed by the explosion but Oliver was completely vaporized. With nothing left to bury, a small ceremony was held in his honour with his son Connor firing an arrow into the air, where it landed marking Oliver’s final resting place. Connor decided to take up his father’s crusade and become the new Green Arrow.

Oliver refuses to let Superman rip his arm off

Oliver’s death was one of the events that didn’t affect many, but those it did, it hit hard. Hal Jordan, specifically, was hit very hard by Oliver’s death. So much so that when Hal went crazy and became Parallax, he used his power to bring Oliver back from the dead. This new Oliver lacked his soul, which was still in heaven and became very political in his vigilantism. Oliver may not be the most liked but he is by far one of the most left leaning heroes. His adventures had started becoming more and more about defending the disenfranchised and the downtrodden like Robin Hood, the character he was modeled after.

Death in comics is not permanent, or rarely is. Certain characters have remained dead for years, but most of them find their way back in one way or another, whether it’s a complete universe reset, Alien shapeshifters that kidnapped them years before, time travel or magic our Heroes tend to not stay dead for very long. I don’t mind when heroes bite the bullet and fall in their pursuit, I think it actually makes them more realistic. It shows that they aren’t invincible Gods that can shrug off any damage and keep going. That being said, if you’re going to kill of a character, do it for the right reasons and by God… DO IT WELL!

See you next week!

Story – One Thing You Should Never Skimp On

For this week I decided to take all of my interests and try and condense it into a topic that covers everything, Story. A good story obviously has a lot of elements to engage the consumer and maintain their interest no matter the cost. I’m going to look at examples of my favourite entertainment mediums and highlight when stories have worked and when they’ve flopped. There are obviously exceptions to every rule but as a general stance, story is something you should never ever compromise. I’m going to highlight one failure and one major success for each category, let’s dive in…

GAMING

Oh gaming… I could write a full post about games that were supposed to be great and dropped the ball *cough* Anthem *cough*, but I’m going to focus on two games that I’ve played extensively, Witcher 3 and Destiny. First let’s look at the one that botched the story, Destiny.

DESTINY

The inaugural piece and focal point of Bungie’s deal with Activision/Blizzard (a deal that has since fallen through), really shit the bed on the whole story telling front. While you would play missions through the game, unless you were paying attention to the barely audible dialogue of your ghost (your companion), you missed everything. I know some players who played over 40 hours in the game and still can’t tell you what the main focus of the story was. It appeared that you were fighting the Fallen (aliens), only to switch and fight the Cabal (more aliens), then switch to the Hive (even more aliens) and finally end up killing a Vex God (another race of aliens). What made it worse was that the majority of the story and the background lore was only accessible through Grimoire Cards. You earned these cards by playing the game but had to go to the Destiny website to actually read them. Ya, you had to do homework to understand the story of the game… Not only did they botch the story, but the best part of it, the fact your Ghost was voiced by Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame), was removed in their first update! They took out Dinklage, due to scheduling conflicts with Game of Thrones, and brought in Nolan North! I mean, respect to Nolan North, he does some great work, but you don’t replace Dinklage with him. They also replaced Nathan Fillion with him as well! Fillion voiced Cayde-6 (one of the Vanguard Guardians, and my favourite character) and provided most of the humour for the game. In Destiny 2 he was replaced by North and then they just straight up killed him! I am not a happy camper about that…

Ghost from Destiny

WITCHER

It’s no big secret that I love the Witcher games. They’re expansive, lore filled, and actually follow a comprehensible story. From the first game that was released on the PC way back in 2007 to the Wild Hunt which was released in 2015 (now holding the most awards for any single game at 251) the story has continued to captivate audiences since its release. The main protagonist is Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher (Monster Hunter) and focuses on his various adventures detailing his exploits and his training and protection of Ciri, the daughter of the Emperor. Each game delivers a new and exciting story to the Witcher mythos and entices consumers to expand their knowledge on the subject by buying the graphic novels and original works by Andrzej Sapkowski. I remember seeing the trailer for Witcher II: Assassins of Kings, in a Gamestop with couple of friends during a trip to Kingston. As the TVs show a rotation of current and upcoming trailers, the trailer for Assassins of Kings came on and everyone stopped to watch. I do mean everyone. Myself and my friends, the employees, and the other patrons all stood stock still watching this trailer. I have never seen anything like that until the explosion of the MCU and their genius marketing campaigns. Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment:

FILM

Films are actually notorious for skimping on story for some big blockbuster action sequences. Films like the Michael Bay Transformers franchise beat this practice to death… Not all film franchises do this, but there are quite a few that fall into this practice.

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Justice League… oh what could’ve been if not for studio interference… I know I have praised this film before on this blog, but the nostalgia glasses were pulled off my eyes long ago and I have seen the light of truth… it’s a bad movie. Do I still like it? Yes, because liking something and it being considered “good” are not mutually exclusive. I LOVE the Marvel Ghost Rider films, are they bad? Obviously! But because of my love for the character I can look past it, the same thing can be said in the most part for Justice League. Here’s the problem with Justice League, the story makes no sense! Literally none. When WB got wind of Zack Snyder’s plan and his vision they got scared because of the lackluster performance of Batman V. Superman, and frankly, can you blame them? Zack was eventually removed from the project, whether by his own volition or the studio and him parting ways and Joss Whedon was brought in to revitalize the movie. People give Whedon a lot of flack for the film, and some of it is rightly placed, but he didn’t really alter the story at all. He added pretty much ALL the humour in the movie and added some more character interactions to make the League appear as more than just wooden and emotionless demi-gods. I have long said that WB and DC comics make movies for comic fans whereas Marvel makes comic movies for everyone. The main issue with not only Justice league, but Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman is that DC assumed everybody knew the characters. Which a lot of people didn’t. The core characters obviously, but not the secondary and background ones that influence the plot. They assumed you knew the motivations and back story of all the characters and only chose to highlight the ones they deemed important. These large assumptions meant that the story was gutted and replaced with more action which is one of the MANY reasons the movie failed.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

This is Peter Jackson’s crown jewel. The theatrical cut makes perfect sense and the extended cuts for the purists deliver all the extra content in spades. This is the ONE book to movie adaptation that nobody has any complaints about.

Perfection.

Enough said.

COMICS

CIVIL WAR II

Civil War II Issue #1 cover

I’ve already done an entire post on this run so I’m not going to dive to far into it. To be frank, it was really ridiculous and unnecessary. Marvel Comics and DC Comics seem to have this idea that there needs to be some sort of “event” or “crisis” every year to keep readers interested. I understand their thinking, but when you have so many events that you have to start putting “II” after it because you ran out of original ideas, it’s time to just take a bit of a break. The story line involves an Inhuman named Ulysses that can see the future. Nobody is sure how reliable his visions are but Captain Marvel and her side think that Ulysses’ visions are enough to warrant arrests and pre-emptive attacks; whereas Iron Man and his team want to test the reliability of the visions first and think the crime needs to be committed before the punishment can be dealt out. Captain America said it best in Captain America: Winter Soldier “I thought the punishment came after the crime?”Not only was it ridiculous, but the story line seemed to be there just to remove certain characters from continuity to make room for a more diverse line up. The original Civil War was probably Marvel’s best event and its ramifications can still be felt in the comics. This second one though, it was just a cheap sequel to try and cash in on the success of the first massive hit.

BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN

This masterpiece by comic legend, Jeph Leob, was released in 1996-1997 and still remains as one of the best Batman stories ever written. It starts on Halloween night and continues through all the major holidays as Batman races to solve the mystery before more people die. It introduces us to great characters like Calendar Man, and long time favourites like Catwoman, Joker, Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. The iconic art style really helps to complete the story as told by Leob and immerse the reader in the tale. The story is not predictable and throws you for twists and turns as the victim pool grows. We are shown some iconic images from the Batman mythos and the descent of certain characters into madness. All in all it’s a gripping story that grabs your attention right away and refuses to let go. I found myself unable to put it down. I read the entire thing, all 13 issues, in a matter of hours and was floored by the ending. First and foremost, this is a mob story. The main characters are those of the Gotham crime families with Batman, the GCPD and other masked individuals scrambling to either pick up the pieces or get out of the way of the inevitable gang war. Leob weaves an intricate tale of deception and double crossing to deliver one of the most commercially and critically successful Batman stories of all time.

Batman: The Long Halloween massive print Paperback

Story is THE most integral part of any type of media. Movies, games, comics, even music; all tell a story and when you sacrifice that for some more flashy elements, your creation suffers. I wish some companies would realize this and stop putting out garbage products which serve no purpose other than to try and make them money. They can’t be proud of what they produce and as a fan I can probably say, the fans really aren’t either.

Until next week!

“Whatever It Takes” – Avengers Endgame

I spent a large portion of the week waffling over two separate ideas for this week’s post and then my oldest friend Malcolm sent me a golden nugget that I could use… the new Avengers Trailer! Now for those who haven’t seen it, this isn’t a regular teaser like the last one they published, with all the heroes looking defeated, this is a full blown trailer! Check it out below:

Oh boy! So many goodies! Let’s dive in!

THE TRAILER

This one like the previous teaser starts with an exposition by Tony as he drifts through space following the defeat of the Avengers on Titan. He reminisces about how everything started with him 10 years ago (which we now know is false, thanks Captain Marvel) and how it’s going to end with him alone in space. He expands on how he has let Pepper down and hoped he would be able to pull one last amazing surprise out of the bag for her (implying his evading certain death on multiple occasions), but this time he sadly won’t.

While this exposition is going on we are shown black and white shots of Tony after he crashed during his initial escape from the Ten Rings in Iron Man from 2008. The interesting thing is that despite the rest of the shot being black and white, every instance of red is vibrant to show a great contrast.

Black Widow and Ronin/Hawkeye

We switch perspectives to see Steve’s beginnings with Peggy Carter voicing over saying ” The World has changed… none of us can go back. All we can do is our best… and sometimes the best we can do is to start over”. We are then shown shots of Steve in a support group for survivors of the snappening and a nice wholesome shot of Clint Barton (Hawkeye/Ronin) teaching his daughter how to shoot an arrow like him. This is a great shot that further highlights Clint as a family man and a nice Easter Egg to female Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) in the current Marvel comics. The final shot of Steve’s sequence comes from Peggy’s funeral where he was a pallbearer. Again, with keeping in the theme of Tony’s exposition, it’s in all black and white except for the colour red on the flag draped over Peggy’s casket.

Hawkeye training his daughter

Thor’s exposition comes accompanying black and white shots of Asgard, his father and him, and him watching as the other heroes disintegrate following the snappening. The colour red is again amplified in the bleak black and white frames.

We shift back to Steve saying that he has been telling everyone they should move on, but then he finishes with saying “…some do, but not us”. The colour returns to the trailer to show him sitting at a table in Avengers HQ with Black Widow and Bruce Banner. We see Scott Lang standing in front of his ex wife’s/ daughter’s home which looks like it hasn’t been touched in a while and staring at some missing flyers posted to the telephone pole.

Widow delivers a great line saying ” Even if there’s a small chance, we owe this to everyone who is not in this room, to try.” We are shown some various scenes of the heroes looking angered and resolved that they are going to try to set things right.

Steve responds by saying “We will. Whatever it takes”; which is echoed by Widow, Hawkeye, and Tony voicing over shots of them each individually. The Avengers theme blares through the trailer as we finally see the Avengers walking through the hangar at the Avengers HQ wearing their white Quantum suits. Cue the title card! The purple Avengers symbol is now being put together as the title ‘Endgame’ appears in a flash of purple light.

The final shot of the trailer shows Thor walking up behind Captain Marvel, her turning around and standing her ground as he calls Stormbreaker to him. When she smirks at him as he stands there resting on his hammer he looks up to the others in the room and says “I like this one”.

MY THOUGHTS AND PREDICTIONS

Oh boy. This trailer gets me super excited to see this movie! Although, for the first time in a LONG time, I will not be able to see it opening night. I’m going to have to wait a full 4 days before I’ll be able to see it! I digress…

First thing that’s very evident from this and the previous teaser is that despite having lost everything the Avengers are not going to let this slide. That should be evident, because they’re the Avengers, but this shows that while they may accept that they finally lost a fight, the war is far from over.

Captain America in his Quantum suit with Nebula in background

It’s sad to think that this is going to be the last time we see the original Avengers on screen together. We know all of their contracts have officially run out. There may have been some back room extensions on certain contracts (Scar Jo and her Widow solo film), but Chris Evans has stated that he is officially done as Captain America. RDJ is amazing as Tony Stark but let’s be honest, Marvel can’t afford to keep him around much longer. We have Captain Marvel and Black Panther set to take over as the leaders of the team following the departure of the founding members. They will be joined by newcomers: Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Scarlett Witch, Ant-Man, Vision and maybe Hulk will stick around.

One theme that is running throughout the Marvel comics is the belief that the Avengers are invincible. This belief is held by the population of Earth and even some of the Avengers themselves, that no matter what happened they will pull through because of who they are. The MCU has taken this concept and incorporated it into their version of the team.

Infinity War showed us that while they may be Gods among humankind, they are far from infallible. Thor’s hubris led to Loki’s invasion of Earth, Tony’s narcissism created Ultron and despite their best efforts, they could not stop Thanos from getting all the stones and causing the snappening. As I’ve said before, they may be down, but they are far from out.

Tony said it best in Avengers from 2012, ” You’re missing the point. There is no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.

BONUS

Rocket and War Machine

My new favourite power couple from this trailer is Rocket and War Machine! I don’t know what they’re looking at in this scene, but if Rocket is smiling it’s either really really good or really really bad, there is no in between…

Avengers:Endgame is released on April 26, 2019. See you next week!

Abeloth – The Terror Of The Star Wars Universe

I was going to write a post about the Oscars on Sunday night and how Black Panther didn’t actually get snubbed like most of the twitter-verse thinks; but, I figure enough people are covering that so I don’t need to. Instead, this this week I’m going to write about something I recently became aware of in the Star Wars universe from a YouTube video I watched by EckhartsLadder titled 5 Scariest Things in Star Wars Legends. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, Halo and other related Sci-Fi material, I recommend you check their channel out.

The topic I’ve chosen for today is Abeloth, an ancient evil Force creature that is uber powerful and has a penchant for consuming Force sensitive beings. It should be noted that while this was considered canon until 2012 when the House of Mouse purchased Lucasfilms, once the deal went through, Disney disavowed all the Expanded Universe material. They provided it a new title of “Legends” and concentrated on the core films, Clone Wars TV series, and the films and shows released since the acquisition went through. They have started slowly including some of the old Expanded Universe content into their canon universe, but it seems unlikely that Abeloth will make it there anytime soon.

WHO IS ABELOTH?

Abeloth was also known in the Expanded Universe as The Bringer of Chaos and Beloved Queen of the Stars, despite what she may have turned into, she actually started out as a benevolent being.

The Ones, Son with Mortis Dagger, Father & Daughter

Over a hundred thousand years before the battle of Yavin (100,000 + BBY) Abeloth was created as a servant to the Ones. The Ones are the physical manifestations of the Force, there’s the Son who represents the Dark Side, the Daughter who represents the Light Side and the Father who represents the Balance between the two. Abeloth was created as a mortal woman known as the Servant and helped to keep the peace between the Son and Daughter. As her life continued she aged and became known as The Mother, a new addition to the family. As she continued to age and her family remained ageless, she began to worry about losing them and what she could do to grant herself immortality. In a desperate attempt to remain with her family she drank from the Font of Power (A Nexus of Dark Force Energy) and bathed in the Pool of Knowledge (A Force Nexus), her actions caused her to become insane and transformed her into the Dark Side entity known as Abeloth.

Mad with her power and not wanting her family to leave, she demanded they bow before her. Horrified at what had happened, the Father stepped in and took his Children from Abeloth. They abandoned her on their unknown jungle planet and resettled on Mortis (the planet Anakin, Obi Wan and Ahsoka were stranded on for days during the Clone Wars TV series). Fearing the power she now had, the Son and Daughter offered their knowledge to an ancient race that helped to build Centerpoint Station and Sinkhole Station.

Centerpoint Station was a massive space station with a powerful enough tractor beam to move planets and other celestial bodies like Black Holes through space.

Sinkhole Station was smaller than Centerpoint Station but still massive in scale and was used to hold the Black holes in place.

“The Maw” A prison of Black Holes in the Kessel Sector
Map showing Location of Maw and Kessel Sector

The Son and Daughter used the stations to manufacture a spherical prison of black holes surrounding Abeloth’s planet to keep her contained and to stop outside people from discovering her. They named this area of space “The Maw”. The Maw is located in the Kessel sector of the Star Wars universe and played a large part in Han Solo’s reputation.

*It is very likely ‘The Maelstrom’ from Solo: A Star Wars Story is actually the outer edge of the Maw. The Creature they encountered is called a Summa-Verminoth, which are large space faring entities with numerous tentacles and eyes that consume all material they can get their hands on *

WHY IS ABELOTH SO SCARY?

A Massive Dark Force entity that is so powerful she has to be contained on her own planet in a prison made of black holes? Still not enough? Okay… How about every time Abeloth broke free of her prison, she brought untold destruction onto the galaxy until the Daughter and Son returned from their exile to force her back into her prison. How was she able to break free? When the “Current of the Force” (the flow of time) was altered, it provided enough of a break in the universal energies for her to escape and bring chaos and destruction down on the galaxy. This cycle of breakout, destroy, imprisonment and waiting until breaking out again went on for thousands of years until the death of the Ones in 21BBY. It wasn’t until the years following the Galactic Civil War that Jedi Grandmaster, Luke Skywalker, discovered Abeloth and the threat she possessed.

Not only is Abeloth a living breathing uber powerful entity that likes to cause widespread destruction and havoc, but she also is able to inhabit the “Beyond Shadows”. This is a realm that powerful force users are able to access by separating their minds from their bodies (like Dr. Stange with Astral Projection). She would instill in the Force user a “need of companionship” which would compel the user to enter the Maw and find Sinkhole Station. Once there, they would enter the Realm Beyond Shadows and Abeloth would consume their life essence, killing them. There was a time when Luke Skywalker and his son Ben Skywalker discovered Sinkhole Station and entered the Realm Beyond Shadows. During his first trip into the Realm Beyond Shadows, Luke saw Abeloth, but when she beckoned him to come closer he refused and left the realm with his son unharmed.

Abeloth in the Realm Beyond Shadows

IS SHE STILL AROUND?

So, after Luke and Ben were tempted by Abeloth they left Sinkhole Station and the Maw entirely. As her powers grew, she began to cause a sort of “psychosis” among Force users in an attempt to draw more to the Maw so she could feed off their life essence. Sinkhole Station was beginning to fail because it’s counter point, Centerpoint Station, had been destroyed in the Yuuzhan Vong War. This failure allowed for Abeloth’s influence to felt by Force users across the galaxy instead of just within the Maw itself. To combat this threat, Luke Skywalker and some members of the new Jedi Order allied with the reborn Sith to end Abeloth’s threat once and for all.

The attack force confronted her on her planet at the center of the Maw and pursued her into a cave system. As they fought she continued to use Force projections to try and convince them to lay down their arms, to no avail. Eventually, the Sith warriors present tried to betray the Jedi and imprison Abeloth under a control web. Abeloth broke free and fled through the cave system with the strike force pursuing. She was confronted again by Luke and attempted to use illusions to trick him into seeing his long dead love Ming and his close friend Dyon Staad. Luke saw through the illusion and stabbed Abeloth masquerading his friend in the chest. As she died, Abeloth tried to use one last massive force wave to kill Luke and the strike team, but it failed. All the Force sensitive individuals under her control were released and her presence disappeared. In the aftermath, it was discovered that Luke had indeed killed his friend and Abeloth had fled her prison and the Maw using Staad’s likeness as her own.

Abeloth vs. the Strike Force

She continued to terrorize the galaxy and plague Luke for many years. One of the Sith strike team members even tried to use the Pool of Knowledge to find out where she was. When he submerged himself in the pool, he succumbed to the raw power of the Force and began to turn into a being similar to Abeloth.

She eventually used her powers to get herself elected as Chief of State, under the disguise of an individual called Kem. She had allied with the Sith and used her influence to subject the people of Coruscant to her rule. Luke and a Sith named Darth Krayt confronted her in the Realm Beyond Shadows and dueled her there. As her illusionary bodies were being destroyed across the galaxy she grew weaker and eventually Luke and Krayt defeated her.

Luke knew she could never be defeated by conventional means due to her immense power and resolved to find an ancient Force artifact called the “Mortis Dagger”. The Mortis Dagger is an ancient artifact created by the Father which is capable of killing the Ones and any other living beings, Abeloth included, it was last wielded by the Son on Mortis before his death in 21BBY.

Abeloth continued to plague the original Expanded Universe for several years until Disney’s purchase in 2012. Since then, her status has dropped into a legend but she still remains as one of the greatest terrors in the Star Wars universe. Hyperspace Madness, The Yuuzhan Vong, and Malachor V have nothing on her or her abilities. She is so powerful that only a singular artifact crafted by the physical embodiments of the Force itself can kill her, that makes her seriously OP. Not only is she crazy powerful but she looks creepy too. She resembles a very pale woman with white hair, a mouth stretching from ear to ear with razor sharp teeth and tentacles for fingers.

Abeloth’s true form

I’m not going to lie, a small part of me wants Kylo Ren and the First order to find her in Episode 9 and just get slapped by her to show that they’re nothing compared to the power of the Force itself.

That’s it for this week’s post. I’m hoping to get my YouTube channel up and running soon and turn some of the more popular posts into videos, so we’ll see how that goes. See you next week!

Independent Developers And The Opportunity They Have

This week, I will be explaining how small independent Developers are beginning to rise in the industry as the massive Triple-A Publishers start to decline. This will be a companion post to my piece from last week titled The Decline of Triple-A Publishers,which you can find on my site.

I would like to thank my friend Alex for suggesting I do this as a follow up piece. He runs his own site and YouTube Channel where he vlogs about his life in British Columbia. His latest video can be found here:

As Triple-A Publishers begin to decline and the gaming market begins to crash, this could and most likely will allow for smaller independent Developers to expand and take over the market. There are plenty of examples of indie Developers making it on their own but first, I’m going to talk about an independent Developer that is a favourite of mine, CD Projekt Red.

CD PROJEKT RED

CD Projekt Red is a Polish video game Developer and Publisher best known for the Witcher series of video games. It was founded in 1994 in Warsaw, Poland by Marcin Iwiñski and Michał Kiciñski who both worked as video game retailers before founding CD Projekt Red. Their first project was to translate major western video games, the Baldur’s Gate games, into Polish. When the project ultimately fell through they used the coding from it to begin their own original project, Witcher, based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. Their first stab at the Witcher, universe didn’t prove as fruitful as they hoped it would and the company was nearly forced to declare bankruptcy; the 2007/2008 Financial crisis also had a lot to do with the threat of bankruptcy. Through their own perseverance they produced the second game in the series Witcher II: Assassin of Kings and the small studio began to increase their success. When the third installment was released, Witcher III: Wild Hunt the company received global praise for what they had done. They were named developer of the year with their game being named game of the year. They released several free DLC packs for the game along with two free full expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, the latter being widely considered one of the best DLC expansions ever made.

The company expanded opening a second office in Wrocław Poland in March of 2018, to assist in the development of their new IP, Cyberpunk 2077.

WHAT MAKES THEM DIFFERENT?

CD Projekt Red has long said that the players are their priority. The support and praise from the fan base helps to drive them forward and to encourage them to constantly develop new and expansive content. They also consider themselves to be “rebels” in the sense that they do not partner with any of the Triple-A Publishing companies. Instead they deal with all aspects of game development, publishing and distribution themselves. The studio follows the work philosophy which was made famous by Rockstar Games, rather than having a lot of small projects splitting your workforce, the entire studio focuses on one project to deliver the best possible content. They focus on quality over quantity and believe that by delivering a quality product the revenue will return due to the appreciation of the fans. Open communication is a large aspect of the company’s core values, this means that all financial details on project creation (development, marketing, distribution) are public knowledge.

” The moment we start becoming conservative [and] stop taking creative risks and business risks, and stop being true to what we’re doing, that’s when we should worry. And I am not worried. Our values and our care for what we are doing and – hopefully what gamers would agree with – care for gamers is what drives this company forward. It’s my personal horror to become a faceless behemoth of game development or publishing or whatnot. As long as I am here I will be fighting for this not to happen.

— CD Projekt Red founder Marcin Iwiński

EPIC GAMES

Epic Games was founded by Tim Sweeney in 1991. It was originally called Potomac Computer Systems but changed its name to Epic MegaGames in 1992. They focused primarily on computer games from their founding up until 2006. In 2006, the game industry was suffering due to copyright infringement cases from various parties and the bloom of video game piracy. The company decided to branch into console games and in 2006, the delivered Gears of War. The Gears series would go on to become one of Xbox’s biggest properties and earn the company dozens of awards and accolades for it’s content and style. Prior to their fame with Gears, Epic was known for the manufacturing of the Unreal Game Engine, and the Unreal game series. Mostly though, people know Epic Games for one singular property which has been plaguing the gaming community for almost 2 years now, that would be Fortnite Battle Royale.

Epic Games focuses on third person shooter games, which is prevalent given their library of releases. Recently, as in December 4, 2018, Epic launched their own digital game store in contention with Valve’s Steam which has been operating for many years already. Steam has long held the title of PC gaming store front, and is now having to compete with the new Epic Games store. Compete may be a strong word, tolerate is more accurate. For the most part Epic has tried to stay away from large Triple-A publishing companies instead choosing to focus on smaller more independent companies for publishing purposes. While they have partnered with the likes of Atari, Microsoft, and EA in the past, their two most successful properties have been developed and published in house.

WHAT MAKES THEM DIFFERENT?

The main thing that make Epic Games different from other Developers and Publishers, is their new Epic Game store. The store itself is nothing spectacular, like at all. If anything, it’s a far cry from the Steam store which has fine tuned the necessities of an online digital game store. The main thing that the Epic games store has over the Steam store, is their profit sharing. If a Developer wishes to release a new product they’ve been working on for years on the Steam store, they must allow Steam to take a 30% cut of the sale profits of that product in order to sell it on their site/app/program. To most Developers, 30% is nothing. Some companies spend more than that just on advertising alone, but to smaller indie Developers, that can make or break their release. Epic has realized the gap and in order to provide a competitive market and a space for indie Developers to deliver their content to a large fan base, their store only takes a 12% cut on sale proceeds. This cut means a much larger return to the Developers to ensure they continue to produce quality output. This smaller cut has allowed them to obtain exclusive contracts with 4A Games and Ubisoft. The former putting their new release Metro: Exodus on the new store and the latter putting Division 2. While these games may eventually make their way to the Steam store, they won’t be permitted to arrive there until at least this time in 2020.

There are a lot of people who are not happy with the move by 4A to the Epic Games store. So much so, that there was a large portion of the player base willing to boycott the game simply because of the exclusivity deal with Epic Games. It wasn’t solely about the exclusivity, it was about the deal coming to light mere weeks before the game’s release date. Not to mention one employee tweeting about the “whiny gamers” and going further to say “If this is the kind of reaction we get from PC gamers then we just won’t make PC games anymore”.

THE OPPORTUNITY

I know I’ve been rambling a bit about these two companies but I swear it will tie together…

Okay, so as I said this post is a companion piece to the one from last week about the decline in Triple-A Publishers, which is becoming more and more prevalent as the months tick by. Activision Blizzard is facing a huge dip in their stock prices and only have two major properties due out this year, which means they’re going to double down on their predatory monetization schemes. Already, they’ve introduced gambling style pay to win loot crates in Black Ops 4. This is all coming after they laid off hundreds of employees, signing a new CFO as well as coming months after the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has launched an investigation into loot boxes in games. Here is an article by Kotaku regarding the subject:

https://kotaku.com/the-ftc-says-it-will-investigate-loot-boxes-1830714932

Black Ops 4 Loot Crate with Pay to Win mechanic

So, with these large companies now under a microscope and bleeding money on crumbling practices that gamers are no longer accepting, the opportunity comes for smaller independent companies to make an impact. Some of the greatest games in the last 20 years came from small independent companies that partnered with large Publishers to expand their product, Halo is a prime example. Bungie was a relatively unknown company before it partnered with Microsoft to make the first Halo game and it spawned one of the largest franchises in gaming history. But the likes of CD Projekt Red and Epic Games show that while things may be easier with having a massive Publisher to help push your game, it’s not necessary and you can make quality products with a commitment to the work and fans rather than the almighty dollar. Companies like Paradox Interactive, Mojang, Rovio, Paladin, HALFBRICK, MDHR and SpaceChem prove that you can make quality products that fans love, without the interference of large Publishing companies. If more studios follow the examples set out by CD Projekt Red and Epic Games we could be seeing a large influx of quality independently developed games in the coming years. This influx could gift us with some great new franchises that might last for years to come and help to show Triple-A companies that they need to stop using the gaming community like an ATM machine with no limit.

Any questions or comments leave them down below! See you next week!

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!