Monthly Archives: September 2014

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Fall 2014 TV roundup

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We’re old enough to be vaguely nostalgic for the old network fall preview shows, when B-list celebs would tout whatever was coming up in September and October. These days, the cable bigs just drop shows whenever they feel like it, but there’s still a decent crop of new shows that just started or are dropping soon. Here’s what we’ll be watching this time around:

Already running

  • Doctor Who: Mary: “I’m not overly stoked (I lost almost all interest with the arrival of manic-pixie Clara in the post-Ponds era), but people have told me the new season is solid. And I hear there’s dinosaurs, sooo.” Rob: “I’m late to the party and still catching up with this one, so I won’t get to see Peter Capaldi work it as the new Doctor for a while yet. I am super-excited to see him take on the role, as I really enjoyed him in The Thick of It and In the Loop.”
  • Gotham: Rob: “I’m encouraged by the little I’ve read about this Batman prequel series, and I love the hell out of Donal Logue, but I’m still a wee bit skeptical. I’m hoping to get to it shortly.”
  • Sleepy Hollow: Rob: “I had somewhat mixed feelings about the first season of this apocalyptic fish-out-of-water thriller, but the premiere killed it, especially when naked Ben Franklin (Timothy Busfield!) exhorted Ichabod Crane to open his mind, maaaan. And where would genre TV be without John Noble?” Mary: “I love this legend in all its iterations (I have a soft spot for New England horror stories) and that certainly helped get me on board. But I wouldn’t have stayed if it weren’t any fun to watch, and its winking humor is never exhausting.”
  • Haven: Mary: “Speaking of New England horror, this SyFy show based on a Stephen King story has spun in to five seasons of mystery. A small town is haunted by centuries-old ‘troubles,’ supernatural afflictions that often reflect some personality trait or trauma of those who suffer them. I’m not even sure I recommend it, but if you like King or dark New England eccentricity or just need something running in the background while you clean house you could do worse.”
  • Agents of SHIELD: Rob: “Yup, it’s better than it was at first. Yup, it’s still not what I would call a strong show. But the little bits keep getting better, notably in the scripting, and most of the over- and under-acting has regressed to the mean. I’m in.” Mary: “At first I felt about SHIELD the way I felt about Caprica: I love the universe in general so I’ll watch to keep the buzz going. But SHIELD is getting its legs under it better than Caprica ever did, and I like much of what it’s added to the current Marvel film canon. I’m still not buying the Skye/Coulson relationship, but at least Skye has gotten tolerable. Plus: Patton Oswalt.”

10/7/14

  • The Flash: Rob: “We’re suckers for Arrow (see below), and this expansion of that dark corner of the DC Universe looks promising. I liked Grant Gustin enough to keep watching Glee past its expiration date, and he captures a smart, optimistic vibe that could be a great counterbalance to the brooding sadfest we see every week on Arrow. We’ll see.” Mary: “What Rob said.”
  • Supernatural: Mary: “Entering its 10th season, and I’m watching the FUCK out of it because [spoiler] you guys Dean totally became a DEMON at the end of last season! Also: Mark Sheppard, the king of genre television.”

10/8/14

  • American Horror Story: Rob: “Each new season seems to get more and more comfortable with its bigger-than-too-big aesthetic, and I’m looking forward to Jessica Lange trying on a German accent. Here’s hoping it’s as thick and nourishing as her glorious New England accent from a few seasons ago! Oh and plus there are ‘freaks,’ so it’ll be fun to watch the PR shenanigans as people inevitably (and legitimately) protest.” Mary: “Outside of Orphan Black (which destroys any competition in this department), I maintain that AHS is one of the most feminist genre shows on right now. Why? This piece sums it up better than I can in a line, but essentially the women are strong (not ‘strong’). Plus: spooky circus!”
  • Arrow: Rob: “I can’t feel guilty about this pleasure anymore. Green Arrow was never this sad and haunted in the comics (expect maybe when Speedy was shooting up), but it’s still a good time for all. The fight choreography is as good as we see in most big-budget films, the fan service is surprisingly subtle at times, and the drama is cheesy enough to go perfectly with all the wine I drink while watching.” Mary: “It may be the handsome man workout hour (ladies…) but it’s also solid superhero fun. There’s danger! Romance! Evil! Justice! John Barrowman! Just watch it.”

10/12/14

  • The Walking Dead: Mary: “I’m like a season and a half behind, but I still toy with picking it back up. I dunno, I love to hate it. And it’s still the best SFX on tv. Plus: Darryl.” Rob: “I’m all caught up and looking forward to seeing where they go after the dark turn that ended the last season. I never read the comics, but that sounds as if it may be a plus for viewers. There may be a time when I stop caring, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
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Your Next Five Weekends

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GeekGirlCon
A tiny weeping angel and a Dalek at GeekGirlCon 2013.

I bet you thought convention season was over. But you would be wrong.

There are conventions happening in the Pacific Northwest the next five weekends, starting with Rose City Comicon this weekend in Portland, OR! Next weekend is Steamposium Seattle, a steampunk convention on the waterfront. The weekend of October 3 you can head to Vancouver, BC, for VCon 39, a science fiction, fantasy and games convention. Then it’s back to Seattle the weekend of October 11 for the brilliant GeekGirlCon, an inclusive con that’s also very family-friendly. And finally back down to Portland for the Retro Gaming Expo which features classic video and arcade games.

To keep up with all the cons/meet-ups/gaming events in the Portland/Seattle/Vancouver area, check out Nerdhole’s Northwest Nerd Events calendar! </shameless plug>

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Destiny data point

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If your inboxes are like ours, you and your fellow nerds are kibitzing right now about whether to buy Destiny or not. Collectively, in the aggregate, we’re on the fence—but leaning towards probably not. Or not any time soon.

Mary and I played the beta (i.e., the “beta”) a good bit back in July. Mary is recusing herself from any Destiny commentary because SHE KNOWS TOO MUCH, but here’s what I had emailed those guys after the beta, if you’re looking for another data point to steer your decision-making…

I played a good bit this weekend (got to level 6) and all I could keep thinking was “Hey, you got your Borderlands in my Halo.” Which, you know, could be two great tastes, etc. Although I’m not a big Borderlands fan, with all its incremental Torchlight-y treasure that always makes me think of Excel. And Destiny keeps some of my least favorite parts of Halo, like the fake-y iterative combats, but those are probably necessary for MP. But the game is beautiful. I had some nice moments of thinking, “Finally, Mass Effect Skyrim!”

 And I also know that we can’t expect too much gameplay innovation from a triple A studio. That’s not what the machine is designed to produce. All these games just keep eating each other’s poops and churning out more beautiful poops that are basically the same game. In addition to obviously Halo and Borderlands, you can see quite a few flecks of Far Cry. Which I basically don’t have a problem with—it’s fine to keep artisanally hacking away at making a better version of That Game. But it’s just more clear with the rise of the indies that it’s not the only kind of game we’re allowed to have.

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The Order: 1886

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The Order play roomThe Order: 1886 is GORGEOUS. The characters are as close to human as I’ve ever seen in a game, and the atmosphere is a cool, steampunky aesthetic. The trailer playing in the booth showed what looked like a cross between a zombie and a sentient werewolf, so that’s awesome, too. All that being said, the gameplay didn’t feel ground-breaking. Admittedly I don’t have a ton of experience with PlayStation and it’s also possible that the fact that I was sitting six inches away from an enormous screen skewed my perceptions. But while I bet I’d love to watch someone else play through, this wasn’t enough to convince me I need to get my own PlayStation.

I did come away with a sweet tee shirt and pin, though. A dude waiting right outside the booth immediately begged me for the pin, offering his World of Warcraft pin in trade… given my LTR with WoW it seemed like a good deal to me.

The Order: 1886 comes out in February of next year.

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Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Rogue

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Assassin's Creed booth at PAX Prime 2014

I didn’t realize ’til we watched the exclusive trailer here at PAX that Assassin’s Creed has TWO games coming out. “Unity,” which has been discussed all over the place (including here on Nerdhole) is for the next-gen consoles, but “Rogue” is for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Neither the PAX presentation nor some quick Googling explain why they’re being released this way, so I’m not sure what that’s about.

“Rogue ” is the story of an Assassin who begins to hunt others in the brotherhood. It appears to be more in line with traditional AC gameplay, with the return of naval battles as in AC “Black Flag.” According to a Q&A on Twitter  you can play the two games in any order and it won’t affect your understanding of the overarching AC storyline. Check out the “Rogue” gameplay trailers here and here.

The AC booth also had a sweet collection of costumes from the series along with the opportunity to snap a photo of your favorite one and tweet it for the chance to win some swag.

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Project Spark, neat!

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We had this vague sense that “Project Spark” was interesting–in that “oh, yeah, I think I’ve heard of that” way–and indeed, it is! It’s an internal MS project, by a small team out in Redmond called Team Dakota, and it’s both a free-to-play Xbox One game (that alone seems kind of amazing) and a whole platform for building new games. One of the community members we talked to (the inventor of an in-game “Godzilla” that Microsoft’s lawyers haven’t discovered yet) even compared that aspiration to becoming like Unreal within a few years. (Project Spark will be on the PC too.)

The demo we played was underwhelming at first, just in seeming like a conventional top-down, vanilla-fantasy arcade adventure game. Like this:

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But then we realized that this was just a tutorial for the building blocks of the system, a visual program language of “when/do” programming tiles–so we were adventuring around and finding little tiles that we could then use to activate elements in the game.

The real meat of the game is the Minecraft-y world editor, in which you can build all sorts of games, with a ton of different textures, building blocks, and custom “brains”–basically AIs built out of the code tiles. In the beta, people have made everything from RPGs to tower defense games. Even cooler (and like Minecraft), the editor is multiplayer, so you can team up with friends to build games and levels. This is also the revenue engine of the game: it’s free to play, but the “whales” will be the game designers who will pay to buy more varied and interesting world-building ingredients.

What a nice surprise! Really looking forward to this, it comes out on 10/7. Although fair warning: While Mary and I were having coffee at Monorail Espresso (another great PAX refuge, that’s where we’re sitting as I type this!), we ran into some friends who had DL’d the beta a while ago and said it was so buggy it was unplayable. Let’s hope the in-game experience is smooth in the released version.

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What Can I Say About WoW?

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If you’re new to World of Warcraft, or returning after a long hiatus, it’s a really great time to get in to it. The game is better than ever with more advanced tech and art. Plus when you pre-order the expansion, Warlords of Draenor (coming November 13), you get an automatic boost to level 90 for either a new or existing character which means you can skip the daunting slog of leveling and jump directly into the new content.

If you’re already a player, you’ve probably been keeping up with the minutia of the expansion, so I won’t go into detail here. And anyway I’m not sure how much I was able to learn in playing 10 minutes of demo that I hadn’t already seen in YouTube videos of the beta. I made a toon, started building a garrison, and killed a few beasties, but it’s hard to get a real feel of storyline and gameplay in such a short burst. (Plus without my addons and key mapping I was stumbling a bit.) Still, it was pretty cool and I’m even more charged for the release.

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Pretty great Smash Bros.

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According to our 11-year-old Nintendo research intern, Super Smash Bros. (for the 3DS and WiiU, not the DS) is pretty great. We waited for about 20 minutes to play the 6-minute demo–totally worth it for the exclusive “fight towel” swag–and discovered that the Wii Fit Trainer is no match for the combined power of Luigi, Bowser, and Greninja. The game releases on 10/3.

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