Jedi Fallen Order Part 15: Disney Broke Star Wars

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 26, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 220 comments

Like I said last time, Rian Johnson used The Last Jedi to explore and mess with Star Wars tropes. I found it frustrating, but other people loved it because it gave them wonderful moments that weren’t possible in the old framework.

If you listen to the folks who love / appreciate the movie, you’ll find all sorts of comments like, “Star Wars never showed us [thing] before, and it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to see!” My favorite is this video from Jill Bearup, who basically went out and pursued stage fighting as a new career / hobby based entirely on her love for the throne room fight against the Praetorian Guard in The Last Jedi. I didn’t appreciate the movie, but I do appreciate how much other people appreciated it, if you see what I mean.

In any case, Johnson’s fondness for punking the audience with their own genre expectations creates room for a sort of meta-level analysis that pokes fun at the genre itself. “Yes, you expected A to happen because A is what these stories always do, but really B makes more sense, except it feels like it doesn’t because we’re used to A, but doesn’t B sort of render the whole thing nonsensical? But does that mean the genre itself is nonsensical?” It’s a style of movie that draws attention to its own genre and deliberately breaks your immersion to think about the fact that you’re watching a movie. See also: Spec Ops: The Line

Q: Why do I have to stupidly drop white phosphorus on these people? 

A: Because you always do this kind of thing in these sorts of games, except here you’re getting a “more realistic” outcome.

Okay, fine. You don't want to train her. Can you at least not be a complete asshole about it?
Okay, fine. You don't want to train her. Can you at least not be a complete asshole about it?

I love this sort of thing. I think it’s fun to examine a genre through trope perversion / subversion. Heck, half the jokes in DM of the Rings were pitting the tropes of High Fantasy against the completely incompatible tropes of tabletop gaming.

Having said all of that…

Genre demolition is not the sort of thing you do in the context of the second act of an ultra-traditionalist story, you absolute LUNATICS!

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Jedi Fallen Order Part 15: Disney Broke Star Wars”



Much Ado About Star Wars

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 23, 2020

Filed under: Movies 376 comments

I just want to thank everyone who participated in the thread on The Last Jedi. It was great to hear people critique the movie for reasons that never occurred to me. It was great to hear from fans of the movie, who had lots of good reasons for enjoying Rian Johnson’s unorthodox take on Star Wars. And most importantly, it was great to hear from both sides without anyone being shouted down or insulted.

That thread is now one of my favorite discussions in the history of the site.

But I’m not here to talk about Last Jedi. Today we’re going to talk about…

The Rise of Skywalker

This movie felt like its own terrible videogame adaptation.
This movie felt like its own terrible videogame adaptation.

I should have watched The Rise of Skywalker before writing about The Last Jedi / Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order EA™. But I really didn’t want to.  I knew it was supposedly bad, and who wants to spend time watching something bad? This isn’t like Mass Effect where I had a strong attachment to the original and I needed to see how it turned out. I was largely indifferent to Rey, Finn, and Poe. I was content to know their story was over and I felt I didn’t need to know the messy details.

But there I was on Saturday afternoon.  I’d just finished my second binge through The Mandalorian, I was in a Star Wars kinda mood, and I figured I might be able to have some fun if I went in with my expectations sufficiently lowered.

This movie was… an experience? I guess that’s the most diplomatic way of saying it?

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Much Ado About Star Wars”



Jedi Fallen Order Part 14: The Legacy of The Last Jedi

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 19, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 540 comments

Last time I said I was going to talk about what makes something “feel” like Star Wars. However, there’s no way we can get near that topic without talking about The Last Jedi, and I’m always wary of bringing it up because of how divisive it is. So before we get started, I need to head off the fight that’s been simmering since 2017. Specifically, I need to give the shove to the angry nerds and culture warriors who have made Star Wars fandom yet another front in their goddamn global slap fight. 

We can divide these folks into two overly-broad and reductionist categories:

  1. “Everyone who hates The Last Jedi is a sexist manchild that’s afraid of female empowerment and just wants endless remakes of the original trilogy!”
  2. “Everyone who claims to like The Last Jedi is an SJW cuck shill who only likes the movie because it shoves their ideology down everyone’s throat!”

These arguments take many forms. There’s the direct assault of, “Your opinion shows that you are a bad person who hates art / people.” Then there’s the more indirect attack along the lines of, “Clearly you weren’t paying attention, or you’re ignorant of Star Wars, or you don’t understand how warfare works. Therefore your opinion is invalid.”

To be clear: I’m fine if you love the movie. I’m fine if you hate it. I’m fine if you’re indifferent or you haven’t seen it. We’re friends! It’s all good!

What I absolutely cannot bear are the people who feel the need to project insidious motives onto the opposition, or who see their appraisal of the film to be some sort of position of virtue. I’m not going to mince words: These arguments are not welcome here. If you get anywhere near projecting stupidity / malice onto the opposition, or if you drag in any culture-war arguments, or if you’re obviously pissed off and spoiling for a fight, then I’m going to delete your comment without warning. I promise to be unreasonable and trigger-happy about this, because this argument has been driving me up a wall since the movie came out and I’ve basically lost my patience with the entire mess.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Jedi Fallen Order Part 14: The Legacy of The Last Jedi”



Diecast #322: Watch Dogs Legion!

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 16, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 37 comments

This week I talked to Ross Zevenhuizen, a friend, collaborator on Good Robot, and one of the developers of Watch Dogs Legion. We didn’t make it clear at the top of the show, but Ross is under some annoying NDA restrictions that prevents him from speaking freely about the development process. We were able to talk openly about our mistakes and regrets in Good Robot, but this is an Ubisoft game and we’re obliged to play by Ubisoft’s rules.

Hosts: Ross, Shamus, and secretly also Paul. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #322: Watch Dogs Legion!”



Jedi Fallen Order Part 13: The Lightsaber Tease

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 12, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 156 comments

Earlier in this series I pointed out how Fallen Order didn’t make us endure one or two chapters of the story before allowing us to have a lightsaber. But here we are nearing the endgame and suddenly the writer feels the need to slam on the brakes and have us spend a couple of hours working to re-acquire a lightsaber.

To a certain extent, I can understand the need for this sequence within the story. Cal has just reached his crisis point and confronted his inner demons. The skeletons are out of his closet, and he’s finally unleashed the emotional outburst he’s been bottling up for the last five years. Having him construct a new lightsaber is a really good way to symbolize his internal struggle. His old self is broken, and to get over his emotional baggage he needs to build something new. Star Wars has always been great at literalizing internal struggles like this.

Cal is wrong. And vulnerable. And so very human. He's so much more interesting than the Blando Calrissian I originally took him for. This is great. It's just that this is pretty late in the story to finally get to know our protagonist.
Cal is wrong. And vulnerable. And so very human. He's so much more interesting than the Blando Calrissian I originally took him for. This is great. It's just that this is pretty late in the story to finally get to know our protagonist.

On the other hand, this timing is a little weird. We’ve now been rejected at the doorstep of the Dathomir temple for the third time. Cal’s breakdown feels like something that should happen at the end of a temple. What I’d expect is that the “treasure” inside the temple is some kind of knowledge that transforms him. The way this is structured, it feels like he has his personal crisis on his way to something else.

This isn’t inherently wrong or anything, it’s just a little odd. I can’t escape the notion that we’re looking at some seams left behind by cut content or last-minute rewrites. I’ll come back and pull on this thread of cut content later in the series, but for now let’s just head for the Jedi world of…

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Project Bug Hunt #7: It Works! (Kinda.)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 10, 2020

Filed under: Programming 61 comments

In the previous entry, I talked about all the models I made in Blender. However, in that entry I kinda skipped over a step. Before I could import those models into my… game… demo… experiment… thing, I had to make my own importer, because the built-in Unity importer is a hot mess.

It’s frustrating, because the existing system is 95% of the way there. But if you want that last 5%, then you need a lot of extra code. Fixing this within the Unity source code would be pretty easy, but for indie beggars that can’t pay for source access, the importer is locked inside of a black box. Take it or leave it.

Hey, it’s been ages since the last Terrible Car Analogy, so let’s do one of those:

You have a muscle car. You want to make it way more powerful by giving all those extra parts that gearheads like to add to increase the engine’s horsepower. However, you’re not able to add things under the hood. Anything you add needs to be stuck outside the car somewhere. Your improvements are going to be ugly as hell, and not nearly as effective as they would be if you could edit the stuff under the hood.

So what’s wrong with Unity’s code to import Blender models?

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Project Bug Hunt #7: It Works! (Kinda.)”



A New Version of the Same Version

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 9, 2020

Filed under: Rants 58 comments

Like I said last week, the plan was to have Ross on the podcast and talk about his involvement with Watch Dogs Legion. Since you’re reading this and not listening to a podcast, that obviously didn’t work out. The reasons for why it didn’t work out are fairly stupid and complicated and will require the following long-winded explanation…

We use the program Ventrilo to record our show. Vent is ancient by internet standards. In its heyday it was used as voice chat by raiding guilds in World of Warcraft. The trick with Vent is that you need to pay someone to run a server for you. This means it costs money, which in turn means it has faded into obscurity as free services like Discord and Steam chat gave everyone the ability to talk for free.

For the past few weeks I’ve been getting alarmed emails from my Vent provider, warning me that I’m going to need to upgrade soon. That struck me as a little weird. I pay them to run the Vent server, so it seems like I ought to have the option to NOT upgrade right now. Just, you know, don’t upgrade my server and my client should continue to work.  Specifically, I wanted to finish the episode with Ross before doing the upgrade. It’s bad enough I force guests to install this ancient and needlessly uglyThe interface looks straight out of Windows 98. software when they already have newer alternatives installed, and the last thing I wanted was to do that to someone in the middle of a technical shake-out period.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “A New Version of the Same Version”