Commodore 64 (C64) Nostalgia Review: Starflight

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

As you can see, I didn’t manage to get any writing done Friday or Saturday.  I didn’t even feel well enough on Friday to get out a blog entry–sorry about that.  I’m still also trying to fine-tune my “process.”  I think I have too many projects, especially since Summer classes are about to start and they tend to be these intense periods of “crunch” time because you’re trying to cover a semester’s worth of stuff in 4-8 weeks.  I trying to decided if Project Skye or Project Independence is the one I want to focus on for May and then I’ll shift the other for June.  I do want to keep working on the graphic novel in the “background” (on weekends?), but I’m not really sure when to fit this in.  I’ll cogitate on it and try to decide on a course of action in the next two weeks before school starts.

Late to the Game

I’m not sure that I have all that much to talk about when it comes to Starflight published by Electronics Arts (before their rebranding as EA.  This was an early space ship explorations/simulation game, heavily inspired by TV shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica (the OG shows, not the newer modern reboots.)  In it, you controlled a spaceship and chose which worlds to visit and explore.  As I recall, you could choose destinations and fly your ship there, land on planets, and (I believe) scavenge for resources and discover aliens.  Just browsing through the manual, it looks like you could create, train, and utilize crew members on your ship.

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Screenshot, Image Source: Moby Games

Uncharted Territory

As i mentioned above, I don’t really recall that much about the game.  It would probably have been one that I played and enjoyed and would have probably been one of my favorites, except, as I recall, Electronic Arts didn’t publish this on the C64 right away.  If memory serves, this was a PC game that absolutely “blew up” in popularity.  It wasn’t talked about so much outside of gaming circles, but from what I remember, this was “hot stuff” in the world at the time.  The C64 port came sometime later and people think that modern day Ubisoft “downgrades” graphics are bad (i.e., shows an enhanced game during their presentations of the game and then “downgrades” the graphics so that the game will actually run on current hardware), but the game’s graphics were truly watered down–so much so, that my uncle nicknamed the main character sprite/avatar “Caspy” after “Casper the friendly ghost.”   

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“Caspy.”  Image Source: Lemon64.com

More Time and Space

Unfortunately, this meant that I didn’t get the game until the very end of the C64’s life-cycle in our household.  By then, CD-Rom systems like the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation were beginning to be talked about in the gaming magazines, and the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo ruled the roost at that time (if memory serves), so a hack-and-slash game like  Golden Axe was more in-line with what I was playing at the time and I didn’t really devote a lot of time to “Caspy” and his adventures (even though I’m a spaceship sort of guy.). I don’t want to turn off modern gamers, but I remember it being a old-school version of No Man’s Sky (which I actually don’t think is as bad as everyone who hates on it, says it is–it’s just slow and more about survival.)  I would actually have kept my copy had I not been in grad. school–I realized that even though I would be able to tolerate it and have some fun with it, but it just took too long to do anything and that I just didn’t have the time to invest in learning its systems and getting really good with them.  That’s sort of how I felt when playing Starlight.  Electronic Arts really should have had a port ready for the C64 much sooner–or if they did, they needed to have advertised it better so that I could have made it a priority Christmas/Birthday request.  As it was, it was a good game that I just didn’t get to put a lot of time into because the “gaming” world had moved on by the time I got to it.  I could only find a DOS play through and not a C64 play through.

Here’s hoping you have a good week!

Sidney




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Mini-Review: Netflix’s Lost in Space

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Image of Netflix’s Lost in Space, Robot and Will Robinson, Penny and Judy Robinson.  Image Source: Film Daily

A Great Start

So, last week I finished watching Season 1 of Netflix’s Lost in Space, a 10 Episode Science Fiction show reboot of the original 1960s show and the 1990s movie version and I have to say that I really enjoyed it!  I watched it a 2nd time over this weekend in lieu of Avengers Infinity War in order to help take my mind off the car trouble that I had over the weekend and it held up over a 2nd viewing.  It is classic science fiction, but unlike most modern shows (this includes pretty all genres), the science is fairly crucial to the story.  While not overblown or overbearing, the fact that the new show portrays the Robinsons as mostly a family of scientists and doctors (the father is now a marine vet. who is better at combat than at pure science–but even he has his moments), they actually use the skills and knowledge that they are supposed to have in much the same way the detectives and lawyers on Law and Order use their skills find the perpetrator of the crime and use the law to get a conviction.  This makes the show feel grounded and more realistic than other recent sci-fi shows that I like and watch.

Danger, Will Robinson

I won’t go into spoilers, but a certain robot with a certain “catch-phrase” is back and the origin is pretty unique.  The robot is central to the plot, however, so if you’re not a robot person, then you’re not going to like the show because the robot is as much the main character in the show as is Will Robinson.  Sometimes the robot is CGI and sometimes the robot is some sort of “suit.”  While the robot didn’t bother me particularly, I know from at least one YouTube review of the show that one reviewer said that when it was the “suit,” it brought her out of the experience.  I didn’t really notice it myself, so I’ll just say Your Mileage May Vary depending on your tolerance for special effects.  I know it makes a difference as, while I wasn’t born yet when the original show came on, I could never go back and watch reruns of the original show because of the dated nature of the special effects after having seen the special effects in the Star Wars and Star Trek movies.  I really liked all of the characters in the Robinson family–each was made wildly different from one another and it was easy to differentiate between them, but their skill set and knowledge-base complemented each other.  Well done to the writers on clear and effective characterization.

Dr. Smith, I Presume

So, the chief antagonist is Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey.  Now her character is polarizing: one reviewer loves the character while another reviewer called her character a major problem for the show.  I personally liked the way she played the character.  The way the character was written and the way the story unfolded, I felt like I understood her every motivation.  Again, no spoilers, but they update Dr. Smith’s character into a “modern day” conception of a bad guy.  If there’s a problem with the character, this is where I think it lies.  I’ve said time and again that being the anti-hero doesn’t really work because at some point, the anti-hero/villain is only out for number one and will work against you when their purposes no longer align with yours, and Dr. Smith is the epitome of this philosophy.  What I think is happening is that the dislike/distaste that people feel toward the Dr. Smith character is actually their distaste for the notion that someone would be selfish enough to work against the group for their own ends so ruthlessly (which is what a villain actually does) and their transposing that distaste onto the character/actor.  Again, Your Mileage May Vary, but the “flashbacks” that show Dr. Smith’s earlier actions before crashing with the Robinson’s sufficiently explained why she acted the way she did and I always felt that I understood her motivations even if I didn’t agree with them.

Overall Score: A- (91-92)

Look, I’m not going to lie, I really liked this story.  I like that there’s a lot of science and science-based concepts in it while also retaining quite a few “science fiction” tropes that really make it interesting.  I really like that it isn’t “grim dark” and is more of a family show that kids and adults can enjoy.  I like the characters and felt that all of them (even Dr. Smith) had interesting and sufficient characterization for me to understand why they were doing what they were doing.  The only reason that I didn’t give it a solid was the fact that it did slow down in a couple of places where they were establishing the robot as a “friend” to Will and Will’s decision not to tell his father (originally) about the robot.  Not telling his father was something that seemed like the writers needing it for the plot and not organically from Will’s character because it sets up a situation later on that could have been avoided had Will told his father about it sooner.  Other than that, however, I found the story to be a fun, and interesting ride.  I’m looking forward to Season 2 (fingers crossed as I haven’t heard if it will get another season yet).

Sidney




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What’s On My Bookshelf: Star Wars: The Complete Saga

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Star Wars: The Complete Collection (box, slipcase, and discs).  Image Source: Zavvi

This collection is available from Amazon.com, however, it appears to have been rereleased later with the packaging being different than the one I bought.

The Prequels

Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of those purchases that Lucasfilm marketing and George Lucas counted on fans like myself buying.  Until Lucas sold the SW brand to DisneySW was pretty much my favorite series of all time due to the characters, mythology, and world-building.  Regardless of how you like (or dislike) Disney’s handling of the sequels, SW: TCS represented all 6 of the movies on Bluray up until that point.  The fidelity of the movies (picture quality and sound) are stunning.  While the prequels are of questionable quality based on their story and characterization, they are a masterful technical achievement with the space battle sequence of the 3rd movie integrated computer graphics.

The “Original” Story

It should be noted at the outset that if you are “purist,” you still aren’t getting the “original” release of the original SW movies with this collection–rather the “Special Editions” of those movies that Lucas recut in the late 1990s with the additional CGI material added in.  Just so you’re aware.  I prefer the original cut of the movies, but it isn’t a make or break deal for me.  I’ve gushed over this trilogy before in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that the audio and the picture fidelity is really good.  Not 4K unfortunately, but still an awesome 1080p master of the movies.

No Sequels (or Digital Editions)

So, that’s right–this came out before Lucas sold the rights to the brand to Disney, so The Force Awakens isn’t included (nor Rogue One, and now, The Last Jedi), so it really is the “Not so Complete Edition,” but at the time it was “complete.”  One thing that really bums me out about this edition is the lack of Digital Editions.  This almost was a deal-breaker for me, and I almost didn’t purchase this edition.  The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Editions did come with Digital Editions (and the Extended Editions to boot–but I don’t think Amazon is selling that “edition” anymore as it wasn’t there when I looked for this post).  Lucasfilm wanted to “double-dip” and get paid twice for the same content.  As much as I would like the convenience of digital as these are my favorites, I refuse to pay again for these movies and I do not own them in digital format, especially when their competition figured it out.   Still, to have the “complete” (at the time) set, I ultimately decided it was worth it.

Well, that’s it for today, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at another boxed set that is on my Bookshelf.

Sidney



 

 

Mini-Review: Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2)

A New Beginning

Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2) marks a new beginning for the team.  I’m not sure, but I think I purchased this issue from a spinner in Waldenbooks well before they went of business (when they were still a thriving store).  The cover date is Oct. 1987 and since comics usually went on sale about a month or two prior to their cover date (the date was “fiction” to show how “new”/”fresh” it was), I probably got it in Aug/Sept of 1987, so please forgive me if my memory is a little off.

The basic gist of the comic is that the commander of the Alien Legion squadron, Sarigar, “lost” is squad on what appeared to be a suicide mission and he was the only one to make it out alive . . . or so it seems.  This issue marks the beginning of a new storyline with a new formulation of new team members (I think it also marks a new art team, but don’t quote me on that).

Sarigar For the Win

The focus is squarely on Sarigar in this issue.  There are very few other characters–and they are mostly secondary characters by which the commander gets to show off his characterization as being someone who loves the Legion, but who loved his squad more, and is willing to risk his life to get them back.

Duty and Honor

This issue very much focuses on the idea of “duty” to one’s fallen friends, especially when they might not be as . . . fallen as first supposed.  It also has the idea of “honor” in that Sarigar is too much of a “true” Legionnaire to allow the uniform that he wears be sullied with disgrace by engaging in a bar fight with three bar room bullies.  However, when he takes off the uniform, we get to see just what a complete warrior Sarigar really is–the fight scene is only 2-3 pages long, but Sarigar wipes the floor with them easily.

The only thing I wished was that there was more interaction/story about finding the team than there is currently.  Still, its a really good read and holds up pretty well even after all these years.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney



Project “Space Trucker”

Project Space Trucker

So this will be a short blog entry today.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started the “Rough Draft” of a new project: Project Space Trucker.  Yes, I know the title is inelegant, but it is what the story is about.  Well, not literally about Semi-Trucks in space, but about the future and how a “Trucker” in the future might be realized in terms of world/setting, characterization, plot, etc.

This project has no relation to the 1996 movie Space Truckers.  I’ve never seen that movie & didn’t even know it existed until I googled the words Space & Truck for the above image.  After seeing the trailer (see below), I’ve no real desire to see the movie as it is apparently B movie in every sense of the word (bikini-clad female co-pilot and ship that apparently has a semi-truck “trailer” attached to the back of the ship).  If I ever run across it on streaming (& I have a couple of hours to kill), I might watch it now that I know it exists, but its not something I’m going to go searching for as you can see for yourself from the Trailer posted on YouTube.

Inspiration

No, this project was inspired quite a bit by my commute to school.  I often pass by Semi-Trucks on the road and I started noticing the names of the shipping companies on the trailers or the names of the transport and logistic companies on the sides of the trucks and that started me to thinking about how these companies might exist in a space/science fiction environment.

Also, along the route to school, there is a truck “pull-off stop area.”  It isn’t a rest area per se, but a small set of lanes where trucks can pull off the highway safely and sleep/rest before making their way to a mandatory truck checking area that is a few miles up the road.  This way truckers can sleep/rest and not get fined or penalized for not having taken mandatory rest breaks as required by American law.  On one trip, I saw a couple of truckers conversing with each other outside their trucks and also began to wonder how that interaction might play out in a sci-fi universe.

What’s Next?

So, I really like the way this project is headed so far.  I have a fairly clear idea of the character.  I’m working on the Rough Draft this week and over the weekend, I hope to work on character sketches for the two main characters.  Right now, I’m plugging away on the “Working Draft” of Project Poet (Poet).  I’m not sure what’s on deck after Poet as I still need to go back and do another draft for Project Skye as well, but I’ll update you next week.

Well, looks like I’m out of time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney



 

The State of Destiny (Destiny 1 and Destiny 2)

Today, I want to quickly talk about the video game series Destiny and its current slate of games (Destiny and Destiny 2).  After a strong start, Destiny 2 is currently in free-fall with its players.  Many hardcore players are leaving for other games.  The original Destiny supposedly had a slow start, but found its footing after the release of the Taken King.  Those of you who read the blog from the beginning know that for the longest time, I had a Destiny countdown clock widget on the side of the blog.  I was an avid Destiny player.  However, Bungie, the creators have made a few mistakes that have caused me to fall away–but they aren’t the same mistakes that the current “narrative” would have you believe so I’ll cover what I think are a couple of the biggest ones.

“Shared World Shooter” vs “MMO”

Bungie was quick to point out that Destiny wasn’t an MMO (which has certain connotations in the game community), but was rather a “Shared World Shooter” (implying that it was a shooter first and that it was a shared world between you and other players).  You could intersect with other players or go “lone wolf.”  Well, that appealed to me–however, in actuality, the game functioned like an MMO.  You needed a “crew” to do the best missions, The Raids.  The content they added changed the game and the paradigm, and they kept tinkering with the game mechanics, rather than creating new (better) content to flesh out the world.  They “sold” the game in marketing one way, but the presented the game in practice another.

“Vanilla” Destiny was actually better than “Taken King” Destiny

So this is one where the majority of Destiny players and I part ways: “Vanilla” Destiny, before all the myriad of changes, was actually pretty good.  Bungie got too involved in listening to criticisms and changed the game based on people who had left rather than those who stayed.  Their goal all the way through The Taken King seemed to be to “recapture” those who had left the game rather than on those who had stayed.  Those who stayed just wanted more story.  Had Bungie prioritized that over changing weapon balancing, fixing “cheeses” to bosses (ways of defeating boss characters in ways unintended by the developers), etc., I don’t think Destiny series would be in the position that it is.  They made a different mistake with Destiny 2, but the result was the same.  They focused on story in Destiny 2, but forgot that the players wanted compelling content for the endgame (additions that I didn’t care for, but seemed to resonate with other members of the hardcore Destiny community–such as Trials of Osiris).  Destiny 2 should have included all the major components of Destiny and added new components to satisfy gamers until the next major expansion, but this didn’t happen–they went back to changing systems and mechanics that worked perfectly fine in Destiny, such as having two primary weapons, etc.

Here’s an example of Destiny 2 gameplay (PvP) from a high-level, highly skilled player, “Ms. 5000 Watts”:

The Social Network is not always Right.

The point that I’m trying to make is that by listening to the vocal fans who don’t even play the game and trying to create a game for them, Bungie lost focus and helped to dilute the game for those who were still playing.  I no longer play Destiny because of the multitudinous game currencies, not getting enough story and answers about the The Traveler and The Darkness.  I’m sorry, but I’m not all that interested in the “Lore” of the Guardians–The Curse of Osiris DLC, I’m looking at you–I want to find out what the Traveler and why its Light is gone and how I can “heal” it and I want to find out what the Darkness is, why it hates the Traveler and what I can do to stop it.  I want to be able to do that on my own or with a team of 3-6 players (no less–sorry to inform you BungieDestiny is only fun by yourself or with a full”fire-team” because that’s how you designed it.  Those 2 player events are annoying!  To be honest, anything under a full 6 players is not really ideal, but I understand how hard it could be to get 6 players together to do all the content, but Bungie really should be designing with 1, 3, and 6 player/players in mind).

Basically, if anyone at Bungie reads this post, please stop listening to the forums and start listening to the people who actually play the game and to your own designers.  The people who have left the game and who are “slagging you off” in the comments are never going to be satisfied with what you create–no matter how good it is.  Your best bet is to follow the original creative vision you had to tell an epic story about The Traveler and The Darkness and let the fans who are really invested follow you along for the ride!

Sidney



Author’s Note: All Tomorrow’s Children

 

I’ve actually already written an Author’s Note on All Tomorrow’s Children, but I probably should have called it more of a “Rough Draft” Author’s Note because it really only discussed the inspiration of the story and some of the genre aspects of the story.  Now that I’ve finished the Working Draft of the story and just need to edit and polish it before I start submitting it to various markets, I wanted to do a full and complete breakdown on just what the story is just as I did for Here Be Monsters and WarLight.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – ALL TOMORROW’S CHILDREN

The Title

So this title has been kicking around in my mind almost sense I joined the Chattanooga Public library way back in 1996.  It was always around connected to a set of people using Psionics (mental powers–telepathy, telekinesis, etc.).  The original conception was around a group of kids who, in the future, were dominated and controlled by a fascist state.  They escaped and rebelled and fought agains the regime.  It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but I could never get it to come together.  A couple of years ago (my third year as a 6th grade teacher) a new idea came to me about a family of Psionics rather than a group of kids.

Theme

So, in the summer of last year, Sky News (British TV station) did a special report on JIHADI BRIDES and how many of them were lured into the camps of Jihadis based on elaborate promises made to them by these organizations.  Yes, super controversial, I know, but this is when the idea for the story finally crystalized.  What if one sister was lured into and recruited by jihadis for the cause of freeing Psionics from being discriminated vs the other sister who only came to lend her psychic talents to heal and make things better?  This is where/when I began the story in earnest.  It has undergone multiple revisions just to get to this point.  I see it as violence vs non-violence (Malcolm X vs Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).

Length

So this story isn’t very long and isn’t filled with a whole lot of details.  Outside of the mental powers, there’s not even a lot of “sci-fi” going on. I wanted to keep it short and simple, but I may have made it too short and not enough sci-fi.  On this final polishing pass, I may look for places where I can add in future technology to help distinguish as a sci-fi story, rather than a modern day story.

Time to Create

This took a long time to write–I’ve been working on it pretty in some form or another after I saw the video.  I’ve working on it in-between working on my school work, working on grading papers and teaching, working on it while doing many other things.  Also, I’ve had a really hard time writing it and a really hard time finding the TIME to write it.  That is why Jesmyn’s Ward’s advice in Elizabeth Flock’s interview Read, Write, Improve was so timely for me because she said: “Persist. Read, write, and improve: tell your stories. Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”  I realized that I’ve simply become to wrapped up in the day-to-day world of living without giving myself space to write, so every day I try to carve out a small slice of time (even if it is only half an hour) to 1) read, 2) write, 3) edit (aka Read, Write, Improve).  Sometimes I can’t do all three, but I try to at least do at least one of the 3 and all three, if at all possible.  I generally wake up earlier now–and that’s what has allowed me to finally finish the Working Draft of this story.

Research–Jihadi Brides

So I’ve mentioned it before, I had an idea, but scrapped it and based the majority of the story, idea, and characters on the YouTube video by Sky New–Jihadi Brides.  There are a couple other videos that Sky News did related to this subject that also informed this story, but by and large, much of impetus for the story comes from that YouTube video.  I hope the story isn’t too derivative, but I tried to capture both the essence of the culture and the “lure” of fanaticism that I saw in the video, just in a world where mental powers exist.  If you want to see the report, I’ve included a link below for context:

 

Characters

 I originally had 4 main characters–Yeva, her sister, Javan (the husband), and a “Spiritual Leader,” of sorts, but I rolled the leader and husband into one for this draft to simplify things for me.  I also originally had planned for Yeva and her sister to be twins with similar names (Yeva and Veya) as twins do, but it became too confusing for me to keep their names straight and if I, the author, couldn’t do it, I realized it would be difficult for readers to do so, so I changed the sister’s name to something more relatable.

Up Next

I am almost finished with the Rough Draft of a short story for the “Project Skye” short story.  I can see the home stretch/finish line with it.  It is very “rough” as I jumped in without planning and boy, does it REALLY show!  The story is all over the place.  I estimate I’ll need AT LEAST two more drafts before it even resembles something which I would be proud to attach my name to on a submission copy.
Well, that’s all I have for now and thanks for reading this long Author’s Note!  Have a great day!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.