It’s Frīġedæġ

And it couldn’t come soon enough.

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Today Sophycles of Histastrophe! fame posted the above news and I have to say I was initially ready to dump on the idea due to the movie being a disaster and the fact that they’re still pushing a sequel to it. I won’t lie, I sometimes have a hard time separating my hatred for one part of a property from something that may not have earned that level of ire yet. The more I thought on it though it actually seems like a fairly fresh idea regardless of how saturated the market is with superhero properties, both excellent and horrifying. While Suicide Squad the movie may have had a rough go of it I can actually see myself getting excited about seeing it as a game property and thats before we even touch on the pedigree of Rocksteady and their history with the Arkham games. While not all perfect you’d be hard pressed I think to find any superhero that has been done justice like Batman was in that series of games. So for now at least we can rest that the idea of a Suicide Squad game or series of games is in the best hands it can be and I am excited to see what they come up with.

Personally I hope that they find an interesting way to work in the squad aspect of the property because even with recent releases like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 we haven’t really had a truly current or next gen ensemble experience. Grand Theft Auto 5 I think had one of the best iterations of an ensemble cast in recent memory and I’ve been waiting for another game to elaborate on it. Suicide Squad I think might be the perfect opportunity to explore that strange area of Me, Myself and, I couch co-op. I can’t say I’d be angry if they included actual co-op either online or local but I still think there is more that can be done in that weird solo co-op space.

Now for the really important question, as far as starting roster of characters goes… who would you want?

I don’t honestly think that my first pick needs any introduction but for our leading badass I’d love to see none other than Dr. Harleen Quinzel a.k.a. Harley Quinn

The cover of Batman: Harley Quinn #1 — For my money it’s unfortunate there is no version of this cover sans the Joker, at least that I know of. It’s one of my absolute favorite depictions of Harley. Either way it’s a stunning piece of art.

I won’t waste your time with a list of reasons why but suffice it to say if you’re my age and you grew up with Batman The Animated Series then Harley Quinn should have a special place in your heart. Other than that I don’t know what to tell you, she’s awesome and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching her grow as a character over the years. I hope this is yet another step in her journey that we can all enjoy.

Second pick for me goes to King Shark

I’m not even sure he can read.

I’m going to be straight with you, I didn’t get a chance to own any Street Sharks toys as a kid and I don’t think anyone even remembers the show anymore let alone wants to make a video game of it. And no, Maneater regardless of how hilarious it is, doesn’t count. So this is as close as I’m going to get and I won’t let anyone trample on my dreams.

Give him to me, Rocksteady, you know you want to.

Third I think I’m going to have to go with a woman who needs little introduction, Enchantress

I tend to have a soft spot for characters who struggle to control an evil aspect of themselves while trying to do good. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy characters like Venom so much in their strangely cruel but helpful ways, even Joker occasionally has a redemptive moment amidst the string of horrific crimes he commits. They are characters that will continually tease along that little bit of hope that one day they might overcome their darker sides and live a life of good. Naturally it will never happen but the point is that it could. The Suicide Squad is definitely a home for some perfectly ridiculous “villains” but Enchantress is definitely one with a better story and characterization than most.

Lastly the fourth spot for me is a bit of a toss up where I can’t help but want to even out this team of mostly close range brawlers with someone like Deathstroke or Deadshot because otherwise they won’t be able to raid worth a damn. On the other hand I kind of want to see Power Girl in the game, boob window jokes aside, just on the off chance we get to see a take on one of my favorite comic covers–

As odd as it seems Power Girl did spend an arc with the Suicide Squad and her interactions with Harley were always a real highlight and I think seeing them both in a game together would be fantastic. To be perfectly honest there are a myriad of characters you could throw into that fourth slot that be okay but hopefully Rocksteady will give us a varied roster to choose from so we can mix and match our own squads from the history of the comics.

I think that was the biggest news I wanted to touch on this week, other things that piqued my interest were a show called Lovecraft Country

I am a big fan of Lovecraftian lore and this looks right up my alley for numerous reasons including the cast and overall feel. Very excited to check it out in a couple weeks.

The other thing was that Horizon Zero Dawn released on PC and while the reviews for it have been a little mixed on the technical side it was one game I have not yet played but would really like to. It’s been on my to play list for a long time and I should probably remedy that.

I hope you all have had a good week and can look forward to a little down time and relaxation the next day or two.

Stay safe and until next time, have a great weekend!

  • Anthony

It’s Not Friday But the Week Is Over

Once upon a time when the end of the week rolled around I tried to do a wrap up of a few things that piqued my interest but didn’t really necessitate an entire post on their own. I scrolled around last night and today to see if any tasty carcasses had washed up on my news feed that I felt like commenting on but alas, not really. I don’t really feel the need to talk about the whole Tik-Tok controversy or Avowed supposedly being a new, denser Skyrim.

So we’ll take it slow this week and just talk about a game which has kept me coming back for a couple weeks now–

Ghost of Tsushima

It’s rare these days, at least for me, to run into a game title that there is little to no controversy about. It’s teased, it’s released and the general consensus is that it is excellent and we all move on. No real surprise in that games both terrific and terrible tend to fade from the topic of discussion much faster than ones which are inherently divisive. Ghost of Tsushima has to proved to be one of the former for me, it’s great.

What else can I say?

Not much unfortunately because I feel like it deserves to have something said about it, even repeated by those who have enjoyed it. To let the developers at Sucker Punch know that they succeeded in the best way possible, in my estimation, because people are too busy playing it to be picking it apart. I do not believe the title itself is revolutionary either in it’s mechanics or story although it does provide a few key improvements on certain RPG staples like it’s Divine Wind feature. We’ve all become painfully familiar with things like quest and objective markers in games as they are nearly ubiquitous as a design inclusion. They help you move smoothly from place to place in the game by never letting you get hung up or confused on what there is to do. Ghost of Tsushima dresses up these usually unimaginative HUD elements as the non-proverbial wind at your back as you run or gallop across the landscape. Admittedly it is a small thing and yet it adds so much to the overall seamless feel of the game world and how we interact with it.

The one thing I did want to touch on specifically was a particular mythic quest which are a small handful of long and somewhat difficult missions to unlock additional powerful equipment and abilities. Based on stories and bits of information you hear in certain locations around Tsushima by a musician named Yamato. One of these in particular I finished the other day was called The Six Blades of Kojiro which is a series of duels you fight all over the island. It’s hard for me to articulate exactly why but this series of battles was one of the most engaging things so far in my twenty plus hours with the game. Each one a beautiful set piece and challenge to overcome coupled with small bits of dialogue between Jin and his opponents. In the overall scope of the game the encounters themselves are brief but still manage to stand out even among some truly great story duels that are not optional.

I think for my money that is where Ghost of Tsushima truly hooked me by taking the time to give me these intensely personal moments amidst the ever mounting, almost comical, mountain of bodies left behind as Jin and I march north to confront the Khan. After all that I still find myself leaning forward and scooting to the edge of my seat when a duel comes up.

Like I said at the start there really isn’t much to say in general about the game, I could spend a long time nitpicking or trying to find the tiny nooks and crannies that haven’t been loved on by everyone else but there’s no point. If you have the time, money and, ability to play this game you should. Even if it doesn’t end up being your favorite of the year or even top five, although I can’t see why it wouldn’t be, for one reason or another I have no doubt you’ll at least enjoy what time you do spend with it.

When it comes to spending my own money that is all that I can really ask.

I don’t know what next week is going to bring but I figure I’ll leave you with some mini-painting progress pictures and what is up next for those.

First up is another set of stormtroopers although the bases are still unfinished, I haven’t decided exactly what I want for the flocking but it’s on the to-do list. Suggestions are always welcome, do we want some jungle terrain, desert, forest or god forbid… snow?

As far as what is coming next I figure we’re probably past due for some good old father-son bonding time.

Given the lightsabers and the uniqueness of the models I’d like to really focus on small details and lighting to make sure I do them justice, I have a few ideas that are just untested so we’ll see what happens.

I bit the bullet and bought my copy of DOOM so I can sit down and watch it, make notes and start cutting footage I need for the post. It’s still a bit down the road but the prep-work has started.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you all have a good rest of your weekend!

Talk to you again soon.

  • Anthony

Bright Lights, Big City

Authors Note: This was written originally around the release of the long gameplay trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. However like my usual self I couldn’t get it quite right and shelved it for a long time. While I think I am finally happy with it I did not change any out of date references or phrasing. I hope you enjoy!

love Cyberpunk.

Clever readers may notice this is coming out suspiciously close to the gameplay reveal for CD Projekt Red’s upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077which I am absurdly excited for. You’d be right in assuming that is what prompted this post but I’ve been mulling over writing it for a while, especially since talking about my preference for Sci-Fi overall.

But why? Although I think the question is silly, because just look at the game, I do think it might be fun to talk about why this genre just does it for me on every level. While I wont place all the credit for it on this little tidbit I have to say that it provides me with some great synergy for my passion–

Minnesota writer Bruce Bethke coined the term in 1980 for his short story “Cyberpunk,” which was published in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories.

From – Wikipedia

I’m not one to just loosely throw around the word “destiny” but a writer from my home state published the story which named the genre in the year and month I was born? How cool is that? Sure, he technically made the word up three years prior but it also took me nine months to gestate so I’m calling it a wash.

My fate aside, as Bethke points out in his own post he doesn’t claim, nor should he be given credit, for creating the genre itself even though being the genesis of its name is no small feat. He correctly points out years ago in a short missive called The Etymology of Cyberpunk that there are plenty of authors who came before and after who define the genre and few more than William Gibson.

One of those authors is Mike Pondsmith who I’m going to turn you over to for a few minutes to tell you about his baby, at least in regards to the fiction that the game itself is based on. As he mentions in the video one quote by William Gibson really describes the heart of a cyberpunk setting to me moreso than body mods and mega-corporations–

The Street finds its own uses for things – uses the manufacturers never imagined.

Looking back on growing up in the 80’s and 90’s this sentiment really resonated with my memories of the early days of the internet and how much of it was built by individuals thinking up new ways to use old concepts. Or in some ways completely inventing new methods for a landscape that was functionally the wild west. Going back even further to the 50’s, 60’s and, 70’s to the culture of Phreaking and it all strikes me as very street-level cyberpunk. The folks who engaged in these hobbies, and even perhaps largely because of it, didn’t have much but they made the most of it. Sometimes it was so effective that it actually garnered the attention of the corporations who for so long were too big to notice or care. When you have the time read up on the history of people like Kevin Mitnick or John Draper aka “Captain Crunch”. When I look at these guys I see Doctor Solomon Eddie from Minority Report using technology just a century or two away from being a scene out of that or Blade Runner.

I love a lot of what Pondsmith says about getting the feel of it just right because it is an extremely evocative setting. It’s one of the few where you see a picture of a scene out of it and immediately you know what you’re looking at. It’s one of the many contradictions of the setting that I so enjoy getting tangled up in, that it is so easily identifiable and yet so deeply complex. A future where technology is rampant and available and yet the human condition stubbornly persists. Kept in this constant tug of war between moving towards a better future versus being bound interminably by our baser instincts. For however technologically advanced we become we will never leave behind our roots in spite of believing for so long that technology will be our salvation. It flies directly in the face of some of my favorite Science Fiction like Star Trek which endeavors to show the best that humanity can be in spite of themselves. I enjoy idealistic fiction that seeks to outline our grand potential but there is something alluring about settings that embrace our flaws–opting to go wide on the concept of humanity instead of simply high or low.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner – 1982

Let Us Not Go There, ‘Tis a Silly Place

dystopia

[dis-toh-pee-uh]
noun
  1. society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.

You see this word associated with cyberpunk more than just about any other with the exception of maybe neon or body-modding and for good reason. The cyberpunk setting is one that most reasonable people would probably opt to not live in because for the vast majority it is unpleasant to say the least. All the things which make up the definition of a dystopia are usually present along with a whole lot more, so why is that so appealing to me? Because I think underneath the neon sheen, cybernetic mods, mind-bending maze like cities the cyberpunk setting tells a perhaps unpleasant truth about us. There is an area I live not more than twenty minutes from and every time I’m down that way I can’t help but think of it as a microcosm of what we’ll eventually become. At one end of a road that curves through several shopping centers you can see the most recent in business architecture and design with all the stores and restaurants you would expect to find there. The longer you go down this road however the further back in time you travel like layers of a living archaeological dig. None of the buildings are abandoned, in disuse or even look like they aren’t being maintained but the strata of years is unmistakable. The dystopian cyberpunk setting is a tacit admission of the evil wrought upon our world and ourselves but also a clear statement that we as a society have no plans to stop or even slow down. We merely continue to build up, out and, away from things that remind us of a moral responsibility we continually try to leave behind. In some of these settings like Richard Morgan’s 2002 series Altered Carbon humanity is not even confined to a single planet any longer and yet the rot simply follows them outward into the galaxy even though the lowest places on Earth are never abandoned. Humanity continues and thrives through sheer stubborn ingenuity and because I know I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t, you could even say that…

We know, Ian. We never learn but we know.

Cyberpunk is almost Gotham-esque in that way that it shows a setting that is both attractive for its eccentricities and repulsive for it’s brutality. The question isn’t really about whether or not you would want to live there but rather how those with no choice survive and thrive for lack of any other option.

Outside of the moral bankruptcy that has built this dystopian future it is often stunningly beautiful to look at. Watching movies like Blade Runner and even the sequel 2049 there are plenty of Star Trek: The Motion Picture like glory-shots of the landscape, such as it is. Where many would rightly marvel at long panning nature shots in things like The Lord of the Rings movies, I love looking at the Escher-like makeup of Mega-Cities and imagining each stage of its patchwork construction. In spite of what my mind knows I’ll find there I still want to explore every skyway and sub-street to see what they offer. Even the neon which you would think suffers from invoking the tacky nightmare that is the Las Vegas strip instead piques my curiosity and even looks inviting against the often dreary backdrop. The bright dancing colors provide a certain reprieve from the dour rain-slicked surroundings to the point of looking happy regardless of the reality contained within. This piquing of my curiosity was the main reason that the cancellation of Star Wars 1313 hit me so hard, because we had come so close to being able to explore the planet of Coruscant which was home to the Galactic City. Five thousand one hundred and twenty seven layers of city sprawl built up from the original surface of the planet; the game itself was so named for level 1313 where the criminal underworld of the planet thrived. It was a near perfect confluence of two of my most cherished settings.

A book called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson has some of my favorite descriptions of this setting running the gamut from privatized rural burboclaves, Uncle Enzo and his Mafia management of Cosa Nostra Pizza all the way to the sovereign micro-nations like Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong. The names of each suggesting a story of their origin and by association describing a tiny portion of the setting’s history. For me cyberpunk has a way of letting you sight-see through a long and complicated past without holding you down and force feeding you long diatribes. Like if the educational movie scene in Jurassic Park was made exclusively for masochists by the people who put together the Encyclopedia BritannicaSnow Crash itself suffers from a bit of this which as a fan was disappointing but I would try to get everyone curious about the genre to at least read the first 150 pages.

Cyberpunk is not about saving humanity, it’s about saving yourself.

  • Mike Pondsmith

(Super?)Human

One of the other things I love about this genre is the approach it takes to augmentation and creating what are essentially super-humans by mixing technobabble that would make Star Trek writers balk with a little side of body horror–

Body Horror
Gameplay from CDPR’s upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077

A similar scene to this also played out in the movie Minority Report which to this day still gives me the shivers.  Aside from making me uncomfortable I like that it doesn’t shy away from the obvious cost, outside of monetary, that these modifications would extract. Most of the body-mods we see now are aesthetic in nature but we’ve also started experimentation with implantable technology. I’d be lying if I said I don’t desperately wish to still be alive when humanity gets this far into experimenting with melding technology into our bodies. There are so many fascinating moral and philosophical questions that come along with the entire concept of changing our bodies so fundamentally. It probably ranks right up there with one of my favorite philosophical discussions regarding the transporters in Star Trek. Is the person who materializes on the other end still the you who left? How would you know?

In Altered Carbon human consciousnesses are often needlecasted from location to location and into other sleeves (bodies) but are all presumed to be the same person regardless of the number of transfers. The societies rich use clones and backups of their consciousness transferred at regular intervals to prevent permanent death. For as admittedly fascinated as I am in the concept part of me still feels a great amount of anxiety about not knowing for sure what would happen to someone who undergoes such a procedure. On one hand it is life, we just can’t be absolutely sure it’s the same life.

Philosophical questions abound in a setting where the lines between the biological and technological are constantly blurring. In no small way are these questions put in sharp relief by the ever advancing technology of the real world all around us. Prosthetic limbs are becoming bionic, A.I.s are becoming smarter and more widespread every day, automation continues to creep. Even virtual reality has taken some pretty grand steps over the last couple of years and will only continue to improve.

The Final Frontier

Die Hard
Yippie ki yay, motherfucker.

Cyberpunk to me is the ultimate expression of life being what you make of it. Nothing is given, everything is taken and if you were a champion Hungry, Hungry, Hippos player in your youth, you would fit right in. It beautifully contrasts depictions of unrestrained greed and the tightrope balance of maintaining the status-quo for the “good” of everyone.

If the upper echelons fell would a utopia rise in their place elevating all humans to perfect equality and prosperity? The reality of the street says no. Their institutions would be torn down, picked clean and life would continue as it always has with new power replacing the old. A cycle as old and as cynical as life itself and one humans are ill-equipped to overcome.

Hope remains because it is the ever present human condition as we look to our imagination, the horizon or even the stars and think to ourselves, what if. Entwined with the delusion of the powerful that how they exist benefits humanity it is a system that feeds itself until it burns out and begins again.

Many people may rightly call this description pessimistic or depressing and I don’t think I could properly argue why it isn’t. What it is to me is honest in a way that I don’t believe we can ever truly be with ourselves as a species. I can look at Star Trek and marvel at what a united humanity could achieve if we left all our innate pettiness and greed fall by the wayside. Even then in it’s most honest moments the humans of Star Trek still fall prey to all the things they had purported to leave behind with only a valiant few willing to stand up and be better. These undertones exist because to suggest anything else for humanity would be unbelievable to the point of being slapstick.

Among the towering mega-cities of capitalistic excess, the savage reality of the sprawling, forgotten metropolis below there is a beauty which I cannot help but be enthralled by. Although if I am perfectly honest, I don’t think I would ever want to see it become a reality.

I am however more than willing to explore a version of that life in an immersive RPG like 2077, so for now I’ll focus on that and less on the existential dread of our collective future.

See you in the MetaVerse.