Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 15:04 on 18-11-2015, Arthur B
So the author of Hemlock Grove has ostentatiously outed himself as a terrible person.
at 05:30 on 06-10-2015, Craverguy
I am somewhat nonplussed to discover, given what a huge part of British pop culture the show is, that only one actor who played the Doctor has ever been knighted.

(It was
John Hurt
, if you're curious.)
at 19:44 on 05-10-2015, Fin
MGSV can be a lot of fun, but god the story is incredibly disappointing. The opening sequence in Cyprus might be one of the best sequences in a Metal Gear game and then once you get into the open world the story is told in dribs and drabs over a ridiculously long time period. I didn't get the ending until about 120 hours of playtime (compare that to about 10-20 hours for pretty much every other Metal Gear title). And what story threads were there were poorly developed, often loosely connected to each other and in one major case completely unresolved due to cut content.

The gameplay was a lot of fun but did get repetitive. You'll find yourself returning to the same outposts again and again to do the same kind of missions as last time and there simply isn't enough activity between enemy outposts to make the open world particularly worthwhile. There isn't even a decent fast travel system to take the sting of the lifeless world away.

But petting my adorable doggy and using party balloons to airlift everything I see back to my military base while listening to 80s pop music never gets old.
at 06:30 on 05-10-2015, Craverguy
I know I conform to the "only play a limited number of games a year" model, but that's because I am chronically employment challenged, so I buy maybe one game a year for myself and the rest come from birthday and Christmas gifts.
at 04:15 on 05-10-2015, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Gotta admit...seeing the trailers for these new, gigantic open-world games with all this customization, sidestories, and the like...I just wonder when people get the time to finish them. I mean, if you're holding down a part-/full-time job, family, hobbies, and the like, it seems like it'll take a month before you find out how the story ends. And let's not get into the padding and busywork.

I don't know what to make of it. Given how expensive new games are getting, are publishers assuming that people will only be buying 2-3 new titles a year, and therefore they should make their games worth the investment? Is gaming really a young man's (or young woman's) racket, and it's implicitly assumed you'll be dropping out in your 30's or 40's?

And on the subject of recent open-world games with lots of content...any of y'all taken a stab at MGSV? The reaction I've been looking at has been pretty interesting: while it's an excellent action-stealth doesn't seem to be a very good Metal Gear game.
at 13:00 on 04-10-2015, Craverguy
Having seen this video, I am giddy with anticipation for Fallout 4. Customizable weapons and power armor? Fully interactive character designer? Minecraft-style settlement construction? Little Atari-style minigames on the Pip-Boy? A new cute doggie who obeys commands and can't be killed? Shut up and take my money!

...Except that I remember that the console Fallout game I loved and hold up as a shining example of great CRPG plotting (Fallout: New Vegas) was made by Obsidian, and the one I could never bring myself to play for more than about six hours (Fallout 3) was made by Bethesda Softworks...and this new one is by Bethesda Softworks.

Hmmm...giddiness mildly tempered...
at 03:11 on 03-10-2015, Melanie
At one point when showcasing the game, a Rabbi saw the board, paused, and said that he understood what the game was about.

"I don't want to play it," he said. "You just did," Brathwaite replied.

at 09:30 on 01-10-2015, Craverguy
So, I went on a WikiWalk starting with one of the links posted in Dan's old article about Monopoly, and I ended up here:

It's like that Super Mario Maker level was specifically designed to parody this game.
at 07:45 on 25-09-2015, Craverguy
But that would require buying a Wii U, and who wants to do that?
at 20:50 on 20-09-2015, Arthur B
Anyone with Super Mario Maker can download the level and find out. (And also be complicit in all the complicity.)
at 18:48 on 20-09-2015, James D
Probably it calls you a bad person for not willing to go far for your son. Which you don't even actually have. Or the choice is just an illusion. Those "you are a bad person" games are like the schoolyard bully who makes you hit yourself with your own fist and then says "stop hitting yourself."
at 01:21 on 19-09-2015, Melanie
Now I want to know what you get if you choose the "not that far" door.
at 16:32 on 17-09-2015, Arthur B
Someone made a Super Mario Maker level parodying Serious Decision narrative bullshit "ooooh, do you see, you were the baddie all along" art-games. Brilliant.
at 03:09 on 17-09-2015, Sunnyskywalker
Well, I can definitely understand him not trusting Tony Stark. (And how do you even call Thor? Does he even get cell service wherever he hangs out?) But this does highlight how awkward it is that they have an Avengers program but, apparently, no Avengers weekly virtual meetings or mandatory Avengers training sessions so they can all get to know each other and coordinate their Avenging. Have the writers ever worked for the government? There would be meetings! With agendas! There would be an official Avengers Program Plan full of Missions and Objectives and Visions! Yes, even in a top-secret agency full of independent maverick consultants. That is just how government programs work and you can't stop them.

He ought to have spent a little more time around them than just that one time saving the world, iow, and at least initiate some helpful dialog for the viewer on how he doesn't know them well enough to risk calling them even if they did suffer through a mandatory webinar series with chat sidebar together last Friday.

I think that fic explains where Hawkeye was perfectly. Ha!
at 02:00 on 16-09-2015, Melanie
Honestly, I haven't read a single one of the comics either. There's just so much investment involved, no guarantee the story will ever wrap up properly (if it hasn't already, I mean), changes in writers, research required just to figure out where you can start reading (assuming that you a)don't want to be confused about what's going on and who people are, and b)don't feel like trying to hunt down fifty+ years' worth of back issues so you can read everything, in order), etc. So generally I only read comics if I've heard something good/interesting about a specific run and I can actually find all of it.

there's still the question of why she didn't ring up her best friend Hawkeye to help them fight the bad guys. I prefer to believe he was in deep cover while all this was going down and couldn't be reached.

I actually found this brilliant, hilarious fic along those lines (gen, short).
at 00:30 on 16-09-2015, Robinson L
Huh, I haven't really read the comics in years, but I guess I got enough background knowledge from that to figure out most of that stuff.

(Totally one of those people who goes around asking "so, what were all the other established characters in that universe doing while this was going on?" Actually, come to think, that could be a great concept for a series of one-shot comics - just explaining where all the other superheroes were during, say, Iron Man III, for instance. But yeah, you also got that in the comics, wondering why the various heroes and villains don't trip over each other much more often.)

Sunnyskywalker: "I'm pretty sure Steve knows other superheroes. Does he not trust them?"

That initially bugged me in Winter Soldier, too, but then I thought about it a bit more and I said, "hang on a minute, why would he be inclined to trust them?" After all, Fury told him not to trust anybody, and unlike in the comics, he hasn't known Bruce and Tony and the others since forever - in the movie timeline, he's met them all once for a couple of days at this point, and yeah, they saved the world together, but that doesn't mean they're always going to be on the same side. He doesn't really know what type of people they are, and their interactions in The Avengers gave him reason to have doubts about pretty much all of them. It looks like the only one he's worked with closely since the Battle of New York is Tasha, and by the time
Fury apparently dies
the film has already established that he doesn't trust her and why. We, as viewers know that she and the other Avengers are on the level, of course, but when I thought about it for a minute, I could absolutely see why Steve would be distrustful at this point.

Of course, once he's decided to throw in with Tasha, there's still the question of why she didn't ring up her best friend Hawkeye to help them fight the bad guys. I prefer to believe he was in deep cover while all this was going down and couldn't be reached.
at 05:33 on 15-09-2015, Sunnyskywalker
It probably didn't help that I haven't read the mountains of comics either, and only have osmosis-knowledge of most of the characters, organizations, events, etc.

That was another weird thing about the movies, definitely! I kept thinking, "I'm pretty sure Steve knows other superheroes. Does he not trust them? Or did he just lose their cell phone numbers because he's still getting the hang of cell phones?"
at 03:49 on 15-09-2015, Melanie
I think the thing about having different movies, or series, or whatever, be interconnected is that any specific piece is either going to be what you describe--not fully able to stand on its own because too much of it is reliant on other movies/whatever[1]--or else the connections are going to be shallow enough that there's not much payoff for having them in the same universe. Or you might get the worst of both worlds! From what I've seen, a lot of fans feel like it's the second thing. There are a lot of "what exactly were the other Avengers doing during [movie]" jokes. And, I mean, it goes further than that even, because Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and the various Avengers[2] are all theoretically in the same universe, but in practice it feels like this is only true when they want to do a crossover episode/issue. (And when they do that, the characterization can be... disappointingly off-kilter. So it doesn't even necessarily feel like all this stuff is in the same universe even during the specific episodes/issues where it explicitly is!)

[1]It honestly didn't seem that way to me, but then that's like saying a story's resolution or twist is "obvious" when you knew about it beforehand. So I have to guess that other people who didn't go into it with the same, secretly required, specific foreknowledge about that recurring plotline probably found it similarly unsatisfying/puzzling.
[2]And probably also a dozen others I'm forgetting. Marvelverse is this giant lumbering beast.
at 03:14 on 15-09-2015, Sunnyskywalker
I might feel differently if I watched it again. Or if I'd seen more than half of the current Marvel not-series. Come to think of it, I might have been pickier than usual when watching the movie because a bunch of stuff was obviously little shout-outs to the movies I hadn't seen yet, so I was annoyed that I couldn't just watch a movie not billed as part of any series but Captain America without having done extra movie-watching homework first. So when the Winter Soldier kept not showing up, I was not inclined to go looking for deep thematic reasons why the title might also reflect Steve's journey & etc. I just wanted to watch the movie the disc label promised me. But you're all probably right in this case.

It seems like Marvel is trying to have the benefits of both stand-alone and series (er, and of both movie and TV series, at that), and it just isn't working. The conglomeration of movies isn't really a series, in the sense that a random viewer will recognize it as such on casual inspection, and then easily figure out what order the movies should be watched in for maximum viewing comprehension and enjoyment. And you can kind of watch them in any random order. I mean, theoretically you could watch The Avengers without also having watched every Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc. movie out at that time. Some people seem to have managed it.

But every single one I've watched has a lot of content that only makes sense if you've seen a bunch of other movies, from the "was that a joke? I think that was an in-joke" to the "who is this major important character? wait, is he an alien or a god or an alien god I am so lost" degree. So you can't really just, say, watch all the movies featuring one of the characters--you'll still miss stuff.

And then some of the movies are barely structured as single movies rather than really, really long pilot episodes for a series that supposedly isn't a series. Full of stuff with no apparent meaning or reason for being there, which might mean something to someone who watched every other Marvel movie, or which might be totally important three movies from now.

Footnotes might actually become necessary. I bet there will at least be a fan-captioned version, if there isn't already.
at 18:06 on 14-09-2015, Robinson L
Sunnyskywalker: The way I felt while watching it was that the Winter Soldier was was barely in the first half of the movie at all and they spent a lot of time worrying about other Hydra baddies. It felt more like setup for something to happen in a sequel.

I agree this setting-up-for-a-sequel (or spin-off) business is becoming annoyingly prevalent in Marvel movies, but for me, the Winter Soldier was not such a case. Sure, he wasn't in the first half of the movie much, but in the second half, he and Steve had a nice little complete arc of conflict which eventually gives way to a measure of reconciliation. The film left plenty of room for further development between the two in a sequel film (coming next May!/announcer voice), but if for whatever reason that didn't happen, I would find the Winter Soldier's story in the movie a complete and satisfying arc in its own right. Basically, I agree with Janne. (The next Captain America movie is Civil War, so unless the catalyst for the superheroes' fallout is what to do about the Winter Soldier, I'd imagine his storyline will be taking a back seat. I'd be curious to know if other folks think that's likely.)

Janne: I wonder if at some point footnotes will start to appear when a new character familiar from a different series appear or something that happened in another movie or tv series is alluded to. Like in the comics: "See Agents of SHIELD S02E01! -The writers".

That would probably be really annoying, but also kind of hilarious.
at 12:12 on 14-09-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
I thought the thing with the Winter Soldier title was, that the Winter SWoldier bit as what was specifically about Steve's characters growth and coming to grips with his odd circumstances by having (spoilers!) something from his past that he thought was irrevocably lost turning up while a whole lot of other business was going on. The Hydra business was of course connected to Steve's escapades during WWII, but that was more business as usual, superhero/spy shenanigans and running around fighting stuff. The Winter Soldier was more personal and more about Steve's arc as the Cap.

I concur with the criticism about the Guardians. Marvel's project of making a decades long series of everything is ambitious enough, but remembering how convoluted the comics always get when things progress enough over different titles, the end result might get a bit weird. I wonder if at some point footnotes will start to appear when a new character familiar from a different series appear or something that happened in another movie or tv series is alluded to. Like in the comics: "See Agents of SHIELD S02E01! -The writers".

Thanos and Darkseid are pretty much the same character. The main difference being that Thanos dwells in Marvelandia, Darkseid in Detective Cosmos.
at 03:33 on 14-09-2015, Melanie
Mmm, yeah they basically seem to be doing a series... as a set of movies. And honestly--while I like some of the movies in it--I feel like movies, especially that kind (i.e. big budget), are possibly the worst medium to do a series with. (Not counting movies that are based on existing, finished, series, like LotR and what have you.)

First, they take so long to make that there's guaranteed to be a big wait between installments, which is annoying when you finish watching one and find out there's more that you can't have yet (plus the awareness that when the next installment does arrive, a year from now, you might not be interested anymore or have forgotten crucial details). (This can be the case with book series, too, but it feels more acceptable somehow. Maybe just because I'm used to the idea of book series? Also of course even if a book's in a series we tend to expect it to stand on its own and will be annoyed if it has large swathes of filler that's obviously just there to set up the next book.)

Second, the time between plus the complexity involved in making the movie gives a lot of room for things to go off-track. An actor might become unavailable for whatever reason and have to be replaced or even written out of the script, for example. Or if someone different is writing/directing the next movie (as has been the case for these, I think), they might have a completely different take on things you care about. You don't necessarily know you can trust them to do a good job. (Which is less of a concern for a book series written by a single author--I mean, plenty of those do go downhill after a certain point, but... in a different way, it feels like.)

Third, an individual movie is sort of... big, in a way that an episode of a tv show or an issue of a comic isn't. It's a large chunk of story, all at once, with a lot invested in it. If it sucks, it's harder to ignore it and harder to feel like maybe the next one will be good.

...Honestly, that first thing is why I'd rather watch tv shows/read comics that are already finished, when I can. Not just so I know that the end exists and that it will be actually possible to watch/read the whole thing, but so it's easier to maintain interest all the way there. Not that I don't get sucked into ongoing things anyway.
at 21:40 on 13-09-2015, Craverguy
It's a sequel hook. Thanos is going to be the big villain of the next Avengers movie.
at 07:47 on 13-09-2015, Axiomatic
That's the one thing I didn't like about Guardians of the Galaxy. Every scene it Darksied or Thanatos? Aren't they the same guy? It's just completely unnecessary and has no payoff whatsoever.