Halo

Halo Composer leaves Bungie…

Anyone that’s ever played Halo knows that aside from setting the bar by which other multiplayer console based games are judged, the iconic music set the tone for every ambitious step taken into that universe. Martin O’Donnell, distinguished himself within the gaming industry as the creative force behind that music and an integral part of Bungie. He was part of the team and you couldn’t have one without the other.

When Bungie parted ways with Microsoft to pursue other non-Halo related ventures, O’Donnell followed. It was believed, as we have now learned that their next great endeavor would and does include the talented work of Mr. O’Donnell. As he had proven with the Halo franchise, he is integral to their team.

So it came as a bit of a shock this week, when we learned that O’Donnel had been “terminated without cause” from Bungie. Little information about the exact nature of the parting has been released, aside from the fact O’Donnell’s music will be included in Destiny, set to release later this year across multiple platforms.

Until we learn more, if we ever do, we’re left to speculate about the reasons for the parting of two long terms partners. I won’t attempt to venture a guess. I don’t feel it’s my place to turn whatever limited insight I might have towards what little information is available. What I will say however is that I doubt O’Donnell will be out of work long. Someone with his talent, will surely be snatched up by another studio quickly. I wish him the best of luck in the future and look forward to whatever creative endeavor he turns his attention towards next.

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Better, but still not enough…

Beginning April 1, Hitman Absolution will be available through Xbox Games with Gold. Hitman is a Square Enix title, one of my favorite publishers, and I missed it when it was originally released, so I’ll definitely be picking it up. Hitman Absolution was released in 2012, so it’s not exactly a new title.

On April 16, Hitman Absolution will be replaced with Deadlight, an XBLA title also from 2012. While it was well received, like Hitman, Deadlight is over a year old not exactly at the top of anyone’s radar.

Microsoft continues to fall behind in comparison to the titles being released via Son’s Playstation Plus. In January, Sony made Bioshock Infinite available for free to Playstation Plus subscribers. Bioshock Infinite is barely a year old and is largely considered to be one of the best games released last year. Among the titles being released this month via Playstation plus, is Batman: Arkham City.

I’d be interested in seeing the numbers behind the Games with Gold program to see how many downloads are actually being made. At any rate, Microsoft should consider opening up the safe and letting go of the few exclusives they still have. Give us Halo 4, or at least Halo Reach, and Gears of War Judgment. Or if not some new games, then start dishing out some of the older fan favorites like Crackdown or Left 4 Dead.

Step it up Microsoft. You’re not winning this fight and if you don’t start making some moves soon, the ref is going to call it.

Halo at E3

It’s not even March yet and already rumors are circulating about what we might see at E3 this summer. One thing we now know for sure will be there, is Halo. In a tweet from Microsoft Studios’ Vice President, Phil Spencer, “Halo news will be coming at E3. 343i has a great plan in place, will be cool to share with everyone.”

Halo_5(Halo 5 –  customizable poncho’s: Confirmed!)

What this ‘plan’ exactly is and in what way we might get our next Halo fix, remains to be seen. After the brief showing of a Halo teaser at E3 2013 and the less than stellar performance of Halo Spartan Assault, there are a lot of fans eagerly awaiting something a bit more substantial from 343. Whether that is the rumored anniversary HD revamp of Halo 2, or a proper sequel to Halo 4, remains to be seen.

Video Game Movies: The Next Generation

by Jon Michael May

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A bitter and often vocal complaint among video game fans, is that films adapted from or inspired by Video Games, have always and will always be terrible. The opposite is said as well, in that movie tie in games are often poorly executed and rushed to market. The Forward Onto Dawn prequel film to Halo 4 and N64 Goldeneye adaptation of the Bond film can be sited as rare exceptions to the rule.

While both ‘rules’ can be argued ad nauseam, the former is ypically more lamented, or at least more common. As the film rights to Game IP’s are snatched up by Hollywood Studios that don’t fully understand what they’ve purchased or why it’s even profitable, the capitalization of a trend is set in motion. We see this in double dose films (Armageddon & Deep Impact) as well as the exploitation of viral videos, memes, and internet celebrities. They’ll even snatch up the rights to a Twitter account and make a show of it, Shit My Dad Says. The perception a new property or trend can make money based solely on its popularity, blinds those in the position of calling the shots, as to why the property is popular to begin with or what’s even worthwhile about their new acquisition.

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My Dad says, “it’s good you got paid up front, cause this show sucked.”

 Video game movies, when taken on their own, usually exist within the ‘so bad they’re good’ manner of appreciation. While I don’t mean to belittle the effort put into them and believe no sets out to make a terrible movie, for whatever reason, the end results speak for themselves. Where comic movies were once in this same grouping, we’re now in a generation of Comic inspired and adapted films that can stand toe to toe with other critically acclaimed films.

A new generation of writers, directors, and creative talent who grew up with comic books, now have the opportunity to pay justice to the source material they hold dear. Thirty years ago, few comic books movies existed of decent quality without Superman or Batman taking center stage. It took a new generation of comic book fans to transition into film makers, before comic book movies could mature into something respectable.

Video Games must make the same transition, but in a slightly different manner. The video game movie often fails because the video game experience doesn’t translate directly to film. It’s not possible to condense the story, if there even is one (Battleship) into a two hour film. The original experience is lost in translation and what results is a watered down version of story, inspired by a Video Game.

While still a relatively new art form, Video Games are in the same stage as those early comic book moves. Roughly around the Tim Burton Batman era. We’re just now getting into a generation where adaptations of games can be done correctly. Forward Unto Dawn may be one of the best examples so far of a game universe being properly transitioned onto film, though a number of fan efforts deserve credit as well. Portal: No Escape and Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which led directly to Mortal Kombat: Legacy, merit mentioning as examples of Video Games source material translated into a well received film/series.

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Forward Unto Dawn achieved what others couldn’t, because of the way it approached the story it told. In addition to treating the source material with the necessary care and respect it deserves, 343 Industries didn’t try to recreate any of the games. They took the material that previously existed and created a new story set in the established Halo Universe. That is where the future of video game movies can exist and prosper, not in trying to recreate the experience of a game on film, but to take the world the game created and to tell a new story set in that world.

It’s still a tricky endeavor and plenty of mistakes are left to be made, but with the right talent and depiction on the source material, it can be done. If you haven’t seen Forward Unto Dawn, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a video game/Halo fan, it’s worth checking out. It’s a fine piece of military sci-fi in its own right.

 

The New Haven Chronicles – Oribital Defiance exert

Here is an exert from orbital Defiance, the first book in the New Haven Chronicles series.  It’s heavy military sci-fi, so if that’s not your bag, than you likely won’t enjoy it.

Click this link, apparently to behold the PDF wonder.

Orbital Defiance

E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is happening this week.  Here are some hastily composed thoughts about what I saw online Monday.

I missed the end of the Sony conference because my internet was down, so I’m catching up now.  That Destiny game play on the PS4 looks sick.
Also, Beyond Two Souls looks cool and I really want to see more of The Division.
I love this move towards large persistent open world games that can continue to grow and change, not only while I’m not playing, but months or perhaps even years after they’re released. In the demo for The Crew, it was implied that you could drive across the United States.  So forget cities, we’re talking about roaming across entire continents now.  GTA VI: America! Or Europe.  I’d take either one.

I was also pleased to see what Respawn had been working for so long.  For those that don’t know, Respawn is the company created by the developers that left Infinity Ward, who are credited with making Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare…arguably the best iteration of that particular series. So Titanfall is multiplayer, with single player aspects…it’s not strictly deathmatch, with more team based and story driven elements…also giant ass mechs.  And from the look of it, they’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting the look, feel, and usability of the mechs to work well with FPS controls, all the while there are people running around on foot shooting at you.  You can kill people just by stepping on them.  I’m sold.

The Halo 5 tease was nice as was the Star Wars Battlefront tease.  I’m surprised we didn’t see anything at all from Epic, which has been a long time supporter of Microsoft.  I know the new Gears game is still fairly recent, but they have that other game, Fortnite.  The could have also padded Microsofts fanbase by showing Shadow Complex 2.  I want that game.  Also, with all the talk of new game engines, it was sort of strange that no one mentioned the Unreal Engine which powered a large percentage of current gen games and will likely continue to do so in the future.
Also, I want Fallout 4.  I don’t care about The Evil Within, that Bethesda is working on.  It could be amazing, but I want a next gen, persistent massively open world Fallout game.  Not an MMO, though there can be some co-op elements.  I want a proper single player story driven Fallout game developed by Bethesda, not Obsidian.  They’ve finished Skyrim, they need to put what they learned there to use and get on it.

Also, at this point they can stop showing clips for the Last of Us and Watchdogs.  If you haven’t made up your mind to play those games already, then you’re likely not going to based on anything else they show you.  I need to buy a PS3.  How much blood can I sell?  A kidney maybe?

As for the larger issue…

Both companies are taking steps to move towards an all digital marketplace where there will likely be no used games at all.  We’re caught in the middle of a bad transition right now and Microsoft is taking much of the brunt of the bad press, which may allow Sony to come out a head because they look like the alternative right up until the time they quietely mention they’re doing the same thing.  So in the end, Microsoft may benefit from leading the charge if they can recover from all the bad press…much of which I don’t agree with or care about.  If they can deliver on their promises and have no major problems, like Xbox Live going down for several months, they should be fine.

Nothing Microsoft has said, has been a deal breaker for me.  Yes, servers go down and internet service goes out, but its not like playing games is the only thing I do all day.  I think I can manage to weather a bit of occasional down time.  As for the DRM and used games, like I said, digital is coming and they’re likely to get rid of used games completely rather than allowing you to resell a digital copy, so people may as well get used to it now.
They could have certainly handled it better, but in the end, both systems have games I want to play…and will do other stuff to that is sort of nice.
As for the Kinect being required to use the console, I’ve heard it can be turned off or you can just turn the thing towards a wall, so the sensor/camera can’t see you.  And if they want to watch me sit in my underwear while I play games, go for it.  Whatever rocks your jollies.

The thing that annoys me about the whole argument, is the appearance online that it’s over right now and that Sony has won.  They’ve made a big splash by countering Microsoft, but the consoles aren’t even out yet.  Compare the 360 that we’re using today, to the one that came out originally and what you can do with them.  At the time, DLC and game update/patches weren’t even a thing that existed on consoles.  Now they both rely on them.
Both consoles will have a long life span and continue to evolve and develop new features to meet the changing market.

I also think that the always online feature (and I would be surprised if the PS4 doesn’t slip this in quietly and not tell anyone….you’re online anyway, so what’s the harm?) is in part, a push to make ISP’s upgrade the infrastructure, at least in America.  Streaming is available through moderate broadband as it is, so there is no real push to improve things, but if there was suddenly a spike in demand for higher speeds brought on by tech that could only thrive on high speed internet, then the ISP’s might be forced to get their butts in gear and upgrade their services.  It would take a huge corporation with a lot of capital and weight to make that happen, which Microsoft has in spade.  So if Microsoft can make that happen, I’m all for it.
Ideally, I would like to see Microsoft partner with Google to make Google Fiber available nationwide.  If they could lock up a deal like that with some sort of exclusive contract, where you get the Xbox and Google Fiber, which also brings in a digital cable stream, all for one monthly price…sign me up.  I doubt that will ever happen, but I can dream.