Sleepy Hollow Needs to Get Back on Point

Season two of Sleepy Hollow started off almost exactly the way I wanted it to: going full-tilt crazy. What I love about the show was how much of it is forward momentum and how little time it spends dithering around. The season premier gave almost no damns about anyone who hadn’t watched before, and even big fans like us were all, “wait, did we somehow miss an episode?” because of how fast and crazy the proceedings were going. Whereas some shows would take the elements in the previous season’s cliffhanger and keep drawing them out, we had pretty much all those plot points wrapped up by the end of the first new episode. And then, to address one of the remaining ones, we built Ben Franklinstein’s Monster.

But in the last couple of episodes things have slowed down and, in my opinion, some missteps have been made. Sure, even at the first season’s breakneck pace there were some clunky, filler-ish episodes, but those at least served the purpose of establishing that Weird Stuff was going on. That’s been well established by now. To have John Noble’s Horseman of War sitting back and doing dumb Mister Mxyzptlk or Ethan Rayne stuff when he has an Apocalypse to usher in is just a waste of talent. And while Spook of the Month isn’t a bad side trip to make, why import in a German one when there’s a lot of old American folklore you can explore?

But the most disconcerting trend is the appearance of two new characters, Leena Reyes and Nick Hawley.

  

Reyes is the new Sheriff, taking over for Irving, who is still incarcerated. One of the things I liked about Irving’s character was that, although he was The Angry Police Captain, the show didn’t lollygag around in getting him on board with the situation. He saw weird junk, saw that Mills and Crane were handling it, and he was down with it. But now he’s in the clink, and has been replaced by an even Angrier Police Captain, who doesn’t want Crane working with Abbie and doesn’t want Jenny around either. Separating the main characters (Katrina is also away, but not due to Reyes actions) doesn’t do anything except slow the pace way down, which I would argue is the worst mistake this show could make. In addition, so far Reyes doesn’t make up for this in any way. The added complications to the plot haven’t been offset by any kind of new angle or contribution by the character; so far she is simply a speed bump. To have lost Irving (who wasn’t even in the season premier) in favor of Reyes hasn’t paid off at all, even if Irving’s family side junk was the weakest point of the first season.

Then there’s Nick Hawley, a/k/a “Indiana BROnes”. He’s some kind of freelance mystical geegaw finder who’s a bit of a roguish mercenary and also a bit of an obnoxious pain in the ass. He’s only been in two episodes so far and I already hate it when he’s on-screen. Again, we already had a better character who does what he does — Jenny — who has been pushed aside in favor of this dude who adds nothing but “tension” to the proceedings. Here’s the thing: this is the story of a small group of people trying to avert the Apocalypse; I think your tension needs have been taken care of already.

Sleepy Hollow’s first season was a short one, and they had no idea if they’d get renewed or not. This probably contributed to the refreshing feeling of momentum on the show. Having won a following and more time (a second season and a longer one at that) I don’t want to see them plop down into an easy chair and settle in for a long ride. I understand they’re not eager to get to the end any time soon, but I really think the show will lose what makes it fun and special if they drop the pace they established last season. I’ve already seen too many scenes of Katrina overhearing plans and feeling threatened. I want to see her and the others do things. Don’t leave Franklinstein waiting out there too long.

Posted in TV | Tagged

Kickstarted to the Curb

On Friday I backed Eminent Domain: Microcosm on Kickstarter. I’m not a fan of Eminent Domain, but this isn’t an expansion, it’s a separate game set in the same “universe”. A copy is only $10, and it looked like it could be cool, so why not?

This morning I un-backed it, canceling my commitment.

What changed? Well, this weekend I played two games that I also backed on KS which arrived on Saturday. There really isn’t much of a need to go into exactly what they were; it’s enough to know that neither was particularly good. Along with the eternal Kickstarter issue of poorly-written and vague rulebooks, the games themselves were just nothing special. In neither case did I see this as something I’d play over and over again, or even think about much.

Several months ago I decided to go ahead and back a few tabletop games on Kickstarter, just to see what the fuss was all about. I picked games that were inexpensive, had interesting themes, and looked pretty good. I admit I didn’t do a lot of due diligence such as pre-reading rules when I backed them, but that’s mostly because I seldom can get a feel for a game from reading rules. These games I pre-ordered have started coming in and I now have all but two of them in my hands. And out of the six I have so far, one (Marrying Mr. Darcy, which is not a great game, but it’s a lot of fun) I like a bunch and a second (Coin Age) is kind of neat. The rest aren’t terrible, but aren’t anything special. Certainly I haven’t felt like I would have missed out on anything if I’d let them pass by.

Normally, all that would tell me is that I need to choose projects I back better, but I’ve also recently played things backed by friends of mine and again, there’s been absolutely nothing special there. It’s almost always overproduced and half-baked games that won’t be remembered three months from now.

It’s true that there have been some huge Kickstarter success stories. I own Battle Merchants, Flash Point, Triumvirate, Dead Man’s Draw, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, and a few more. I recently got Ground Floor and Battle For Souls, which both started as Kickstarters and I liked on my first plays. With all of those, however, I purchased through regular game-acquiring means instead of backing on KS. I was in no need to get them quickly, pay more for them, or feel like I was helping make the magic happen. And I certainly didn’t need a bunch of sparkly gee-gaws added in as an afterthought because there’s no better way to use money above and beyond production costs than to supply backers with solid brass start player tokens the size of a hubcap. With maybe the exception of Battle Merchants, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by getting them through normal channels instead of backing on Kickstarter.

What I’m finding is, when I filter Kickstarter by “Tabletop games > I’m interested in > That are well-done > At that cost > I need as soon as possible”, well, that’s an extremely small number of projects. Take only a couple steps back and you’ll be hard pressed to tell that the needle is above zero at all. So I’m good for now. I can let Kickstarter do its thing and when it produces a decent game I’ll find out in time without too much trouble. And in the meantime I won’t have to waste time on the large amount of chaff.

Kickstarter lets people avoid the traditional gatekeepers of the industry. I guess I’m okay with having those gatekeepers.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged

I Had That! #34: Skylab Pop-Up Book

We’ve established that, as a kid, science fiction was the theme that appealed the most to me, even if it was a vague sort of science fiction. That is, I loved SF, but it wasn’t like I was a regular viewer of Star Trek or a reader of SF books.

So what about Science Fact? I was born a year before we landed on the moon. Growing up in the 70s and 80s meant living through a funded, active, and popular space program. Surely that had an impact on Young Dave.

It did, to some extent, but although the first manned Moon mission was in 1969, when I was 1, the last one was in 1972, when I was four. So although humans walking on the moon were a very recent concept, and we didn’t know that we wouldn’t to it again for over forty (and counting) years, it wasn’t like these things were that pervasive. I don’t know for a fact, but it seems to me that after the high of 1969, NASA was already experiencing a slump during the 70s. The only evidence I have is Skylab.

I don’t know when or where I got the Skylab pop-up book, but I found it fascinating. Not just because it was a pop-up book, but because it was about people living in space in a space station! For real! Rocketing to and from it, orbiting Earth, living in zero-gravity, doing experiments. It was amazing! And yet, outside of this pop-up book, no one ever talked about it. We had a freakin’ space station that nobody seemed to care about. Instead of the news closing every night with, “Oh by the way, we have a goddam space station with people on it right now,” I heard nothing about Skylab until it fell in 1979.

Maybe it was the Space: 1999 aspect of Skylab, where you are being sold an amazing view of the future but what you get is clunky-looking industrial-grade technology and Martin Landeau. Instead of a majestic spinning wheel or a space fortress we got a metal tube with solar panels. It wasn’t much to look at. Still, it was a space station! It should have been huge!

But it wasn’t, at least not in my eyes. This pop-up book, as fascinating as it was, may as well have been a tie-in to some forgotten science-fiction TV series than a description of an actual thing.

By 1977 my vague science-fiction interest would have a focusing point and by 1980 NASA would also have a rallying point.

When did I get it? The book was published in 1973, the same year Skylab launched. I honestly don’t have the slightest idea when I got it, but it was a regular read for me in the mid-70s.

Do I still have it? I don’t. At some point I must have gotten rid of a bunch of my “kids’ books” and it was part of that, despite being an interesting and well-made pop-up book.

Posted in Books | Tagged

This Delicious Week


Shared bookmarks for delicious user
legomancer

Posted in Delicious

Xbox Roundup!

When last we spoke of the box of X, I was morosely trudging through Skyrim. Not long after that I bagged it. I can’t even say I lost interest in it; one can not lose that which one never had. I may try it again some day if I think I’m in a more receptive mood towards standard fantasy junk and playing as a jerk. Hedruga will not be getting her pie.

Instead I grabbed Dishonored on the cheap. As is so often the case, I started out with the best of intentions and tried to be a reasonable person, but before long I was surrounded by corpses. The whole “stealth” angle had been lost on me. You can play that way, but I wanted to do it nonviolently, so I re-started and soon I had traded slashing throats for simply choking people from behind until they pass out and disappear.

I enjoyed Dishonored a lot, even though throughout it my entire plan for saving a plague-wracked city whose empress has been assassinated involves putting a twelve-year-old girl on the throne so maybe I shouldn’t be involved in the politics here. Nevertheless, the stealth and sneakery is a lot of fun, especially the teleporting you can do. My kill total was 1 for most of the game (and seriously, eff that guy) but towards the end it rose to I think 8 as I got sloppier. When I play again, I’m going to pretty much fill the streets with blood.

Xbox Live Gold celebrated me buying Dishonored by then offering it for free with Gold, which sucked but reminded me about other free games I’d gotten and not played.

Deadlight, a puzzle-platformer was next. Despite not wanting anything to zombies, I found the game to be pretty cool, and the “how to get from point A to B” aspect of it is something I enjoy. Unfortunately it had two major hits against it. First, the script and voice acting are just terrible. I realize this was made by a non-English company, but I can’t imagine “it’s the survivors that tell the story of a battle” sounds less dumb in Spanish. Secondly, the controls are maddeningly unresponsive. There are scenes where you have to run to escape a helicopter and this involves jumping fences. Your guy will get to the top of the fence and just hang out, with no control inspiring him to move and not be shot. They also decided there should be at least four different ways to open a door, and if you choose the wrong one you just stand and stare at it. This game should have been a lot more fun, and I did finish it, but it was a slog.

The next of the free games was Lara Croft: Guardian of Light. Despite this game not being titled “Tomb Raider” it’s non-stop tomb raiding, as opposed to other games we could mention which ARE called “Tomb Raider”. A third-person isometric game, it gave me lots to shoot at, puzzles to solve, and secret things to find. I wasn’t really expecting much from this game, but I turned out to really enjoy it, and would like to play more games of this ilk.

I was starting to jones for some shooting, and I was tempted by Destiny, but held back on it for now. Instead I decided to finally grab Torchlight for the Xbox, and got further along in it than I ever did on the PC. However, as great looking as it is, it’s kind of dull. It’s pretty much just the same thing over and over, the environments are all functionally identical, I’m level 20 or so and have never died. It’s just kind of there. It’s possible that Borderlands has spoiled me on shoot-and-loot, but there’s no sense of wanting to see what’s over the current horizon with Torchlight, in regards to monsters, weapons, or locations. It’s all pretty much just more of the same. I haven’t finished this yet, but I probably will, eventually.

Becky had been wanting to do a two-player thing, and I remembered I had actually bought Lego Batman 2 ages ago. It had gotten lost in the shuffle both because the Lord of the Rings Lego experience was so bad and because I’ve gradually moved from finding Batman to be somewhat interesting to kind of being tired of Batman to never wanting to see Batman again to smothering Chris Sims in his sleep. It turns out to be not quite as bad as LOTR, but having a major bug in the very first scene, as well as sudden lockups, in addition to maddening controls (particularly involving flying) have dulled the experience some. I’m not crazy about them adding voices to the Lego games, and some of the cutscenes go on waaaaaay too long, but it’s nice to see little Lego Black Canary and Cyborg and Martian Manhunter (who is sadly untroubled by Lego fire). Since this game released there’s been Lego Marvel Superheroes (who I care about even less than Batman) and the Hobbit, as well as The Lego Movie game. I’ll probably pick them up cheap, as they are fun to co-op on.

The big upcoming news is next week, when Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel drops. I’ve pre-ordered that, so as soon as it arrives everything else will be pushed aside.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged

Kathy Sierra on Trolls (Read This Now)

I’m linking to this because it’s a powerful encapsulation of the bullshit that women in the tech industry have to go through every goddamn day for ten years from assholes like the #GamerGate morons. Kathy Sierra is a software developer who was the victim of a massive harassment campaign several years ago which nearly drove her out of the industry. This is the exact kind of campaign that women such as Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and others still have to deal with. What she’s had to deal with should appall and sicken anyone, but the kinds of people who were behind it just recently got Intel to pull advertising from some game sites to avoid making them upset.

I would have added this to my weekly link roundup, but Sierra is going to be removing it from this link soon, so it needs to be shared as soon as possible.

Wired magazine has reposted it (with her permission) but in their wisdom they put the standard comment section underneath it, and you already know how that’s gone.

Well done, Wired. Way to be “helpful”. Wired apparently feels we need to hear both sides of constant aggressive harassment so we can form a more valid opinion on it.

So don’t go there, read it at Sierra’s site while you can.

Trouble at the Koolaid Point

I especially cheered for this:

Yes, sure, “don’t feed the trolls” has been the standard advice, a bullshit talking point propagated by trolls to blame their targets. “You brought this on. You don’t want this? Don’t engage.” Except that’s not actually true. It’s the opposite of true, once you’ve been personally targeted.

As any parent of a two-year old can tell you, ignoring the child usually leads to escalation. Cry harder, scream louder, and in the most desperate scenarios, become destructive. Anything to get the attention they crave. Simply moving on is not an option for the haters once you’ve been labeled a Koolaid server and/or a rich source of lulz. Ignore them, and the trolls cry harder, scream louder, and become destructive.

Posted in Link | Tagged ,

The Berenstain Bears in: “Too Many Boardgames!”

Last night I played games with the Tuesday night crowd, and had a pretty good time. We played Cypher, which is a not-bad AEG microgame, Chaos & Alchemy, which was a light and inconsequential Kickstarter thing, and Abluxxen, which is a fun card game from Kramer/Kiesling which hopefully means they’re back on good games again. But that’s not the point.

I added them to this list where I track the new-to-me games I play, and I am appalled. In 2013 I played 67 games that were new to me. In 2014, it’s only barely October, and I’m already at 81. Eighty-one. Even figuring in my first-ever trip to GenCon that’s insane, and I’m not entirely thrilled about it.

I like trying new games, but I don’t want to play a bunch of flavor of the month junk that we’ll never touch again, and that’s a lot of what’s on the list. Part of it is being polite; one of my groups has a Kickstarter Enthusiast and both have some “Cult of the New” folks, and part of being in a group means sucking it up and playing things you’re not particularly excited for but someone else is. I’m actually lucky that a lot of the people in my Sunday group also play together elsewhere so I am spared even more elegantly intriguing games with innovative mechanics that no one will even be thinking about in two months because Uwe Rosenburg put out another game about tilling.

I’m thinking about hosting once-a-month game days of only played-before favorites; no new stuff allowed. Maybe some of the games I have and enjoy will actually get played if Spice Farmers of Manila isn’t even invited in the first place. Snowdonia deserves to be played once and forgotten. These us doesn’t.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged

SNOT Rocket

At last the final version of this can be revealed!

For the past two years I’ve been in a building slump, so to get back on track I decided to practice the basics. I’d heard that SNOT (Studs Not On Top) building was a popular technique, so I wanted to hone my skills at that. The result? The SNOT Rocket, a Classic Space-ish model with nary a stud on top; in fact, pretty much the whole thing is upside-down. Is that SNOT enough for you?

Here is the original image I blurred before. As I said, this was just a proof-of-concept to see if I had the pieces to actually make an upside-down spaceship. Once I confirmed I did, I scrapped a lot of it and worked on making it look nice.

In the process I also re-sorted all my Legos back into color-separated bins, though larger ones than I had before.

Speaking of, do you know how many of this piece I have?

Answer: more than this many

Please enjoy SR826-77, a/k/a the SNOT Rocket. If it confuses you, you’re not alone.

Posted in Lego | Tagged , ,