Tag Archives: StarCraft II

A Rock in a Hard Place: Dustin Browder’s Interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun

I am clearly a guy who likes Blizzard games, if my opinion about certain other company’s products and their art direction is any indicationStarCraft II in particular was a game I began craving ever since its announcement in 2007. I waited a long time, people, and as those three long years passed I became fairly acquainted with Dustin Browder, the title’s Game Director.

Mr. Browder is a man who had some pretty positive opinions about destructible rocks, which the gaming community has had a fair amount of fun with. The guy’s got a sense of humour, too, if his battle.net moniker is any indication, and his enthusiasm for the whole scene is well-supported by how badly he wants people to agree with him. Nobody’s perfect, though, and the following exchange occurred over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun during an interview last week over the upcoming Blizzard game Heroes of the Storm: Continue reading

A Culture War Report: The 2013 StarCraft II WCS Finals

The 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series Finals. How exactly does one sum up an eight hour event, one that largely consisted of staring at two South Koreans waging war against each other with virtual armies?

It was, in a word, great.

Yours truly opted to stand behind the VIP seats for the better part of the event. My legs were killing me.

A friend and I arrived at the Toronto Congress Centre a few minutes before 1:00 PM, and stepped into an immense room that was already largely full. There had to be at least 1,500 people there when we arrived, and hundreds more would wander in as things began. Everyone was concentrated either on the stage, if they had good seats, or five four-foot-wide screens on the left and right, or the huge screen you saw upon entering the venue, in front of which were seats for VIP members only. Continue reading

Shame Day: Negativity

As some of you may know, I played a lot of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm last week. Having played the campaign from Tuesday to Friday, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was many, many times better than its predecessor, Wings of Liberty, and I only had good things to say about it.

Now, I am a person who thoroughly believes that a discerning eye is needed when approaching anything. Millions upon millions of people ate Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises up with a spoon, and shower it in praise. I haven’t personally taken the time to write this all of this out, but I’ve discussed it with friends for hours, and can leave it up to Christopher Sebela of Comics Alliance and “first black comics editor” Christopher Priest to speak on my behalf. Suffice to say, I was not terribly impressed.

You read that right. I did not like The Dark Knight Rises.

And, since The Dark Knight Rises was a film I thoroughly disliked, I should mention that I am very willing to find flaws in the things I love. The Avengers was a film that I really, really liked, but I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that Hawkeye really got the short end of the stick, and that [SPOILERS] the Chitauri just flopping over like a bunch of Trade Federation droids probably deserved some sort of explanation.

To get to the reason I decided to write this post. When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out StarCraft Legacy writer Gradius put together a very extensive review of the single-player campaign, and he was not very gracious. I remember reading it three years ago and agreeing with him on almost every point, the story needed quite a bit of work.

Then maybe four or so hours ago I read his review of Heart of the Swarm, and he ripped it a new one. While I will admit that he peppers his review with positivity he ultimately ends up damning its entirety with faint praise. It leaves no stone unturned, and takes time to dub the game’s creators as being “juvenile” and utilizing “fridge logic.” I finished it and felt sick to my stomach.

I wish I could edit this to have Kerrigan shedding a single tear.

Why was I so upset? I have argued extensively about why I think a widely beloved film is objectively bad, does this make me a hypocrite? Have I taken something that other people hold dearly and spat on it, making them feel as I have?

No, I don’t think so, and it all has to do with how you say what you’re saying.

There exists a very popular series of YouTube videos reviewing the Star Wars prequels done by Red Letter Media. My housemates in college adored them, and I distinctly remember them watching the Phantom Menace review and having a really great time doing so. I didn’t really share in their enthusiasm.

The honest truth is that the reviewer acknowledges where the prequel films went wrong, and makes some incredibly insightful comments about simple storytelling structure within film; there’s some great stuff there. The problem for me was that his videos are dripping with sarcasm, disrespect, a smattering of immaturity, I could go on. It’s a fantastically written analysis packaged in a format that I found really unappealing.

When my friends and I saw X-Men: The Last Stand back in high school we walked out and broke down how it could have been improved. Highlight the relationship between Bobby [Iceman], Kitty [Shadowcat], and Rogue [does anyone call her by her real name?], make the mutant cure more of a topic of discussion among the X-Men, creating divisiveness within the team, etc. We did a lot of the same things that the reviewer did for The Phantom Menace, but we did so by focusing on how it could be better instead of why it was so awful.

We did.

I am a huge proponent of people thinking hard on what sort of media they consume, and processing whether or not it was actually good. On top of that, I also strongly value the ability to find the good in everything [The Last Airbender had good . . . costume design . . . there, I found something]. My mother told me for years that “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.” I slightly disagree. If you have nothing good to say, say it in a way that isn’t dripping with snark. Say it in a way that will convince people to see that no, it wasn’t good, and this is exactly why, and this is how it could be.

There are some things I downright disagree with in regards to Gradius’ review of Heart of the Swarm, but at it’s core I see a huge fan of the franchise who has ultimately been disappointed by Blizzard’s first two installments in over a decade. That being said, he doesn’t so much throw the baby out with the bathwater as he just chucks the whole tub out the window.

I love reading reviews. I love reading what other people have to say about films I’ve watched or comic books I’ve read. What I hate is when negativity seeps in, and when it actively seeks to prevent me from legitimately enjoying something that I once did. I appreciate your opinion, and I generally want to hear about it, but I also want you to give it to me straight, free of your spite and vitriol.

No Post This Morning [What Does That Mean?]

Hey guys and girls, I really wish there was a more casual way to refer to members of the female gender that was on par with the term “guys.” I mean, honestly, I’m at the point in my life where I’m 22 and I no longer know whether I’m supposed to tell my friends that I saw a girl or a woman on the streetcar earlier in the day.

Anyway, to get to the point, this week has been a kick to the body as far as the blog goes. I’ve had a lot of work to do, and when I wasn’t doing that I’ve been playing through the Heart of the Swarm campaign. So it’s just been a big ol’ kick to the body.

A kick. To the body.

That being said, I haven’t even looked over the posts for this whole week, which I always do to fix all of the typos in Gordon’s posts and making sure he’s tagged them “Gandhi” and not “ghandi.” I will be doing all of that tomorrow, and I will also be finishing up said StarCraft II campaign.

I may have a post up late tomorrow. No promises.

My productivity has bowed before THE QUEEN OF THE BLADES.

Fame Day: StarCrafts

gjscStarCraft, undoubtedly one of the best and most important games of all time, at least according to Wikipedia. This is an RTS [real time strategy game] that commands legions of fans, and its sequel, which launched in 2010, now commands many of the same legion of fans.

But the competitive online scene for any game is not an exceptionally friendly place. There’s the stress and pressure of playing against other players to achieve ranks, and that’s not at all helped by players who are BM (bad manner[ed]). This rudeness can even be found among pro-gamers themselves (see: many of IdrA’s interactions with other players).

Enter Jonathan Burton, also known as “Carbot” and the creator of the YouTube StarCrafts. Set entirely in the world of StarCraft II each episode presents various units from the Terran, Protoss, and Zerg races engaging in a battle that is, in a word, adorable.

Here is an artist’s rendition of the Zergling as it appears in-game:

And this is a gif of what the Zerglings look like in StarCrafts:

And they’re more than just heartwarmingly lovable, they’re also hilarious. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the game will lose it when they see a Zealot dancing from side to side to defend a choke, and people who didn’t understand what any of those words meant are still going to chuckle when they see the baby-like Marines running [almost always away from something]. Add to that the fact that almost all of the soundbites used are from the game itself and you have a very impressive piece of work on your hands.

The following is probably the best entry into the series, and it showcases the dangers of letting yourself get . . . overzealous. Cue classic CSI scream.

What’s really great though, is how I don’t even really have to be writing this post. StarCrafts has received the recognition it so greatly deserves, and episodes have been featured fairly often on the Blizzard [the game's creator] site. What’s even more exciting is how they were also aired during game breaks at the first ever BWC [Battle.Net World Championship] in China. A special episode was also created for NASL [North American Star League].

I strongly encourage all of you to check out a few episodes. Even if StarCraft II isn’t your thing [and really, it's not for everybody] maybe this can help you relate just a little to all the die-hards out there. At the very least, you’ll have spent a few minutes watching an excellently produced video by a very talented man.

YouTube Channel: youtube.com/user/CarbotAnimations
Facebook Page: facebook.com/CarbotAnimations
Twitter: @CarbotAnimation
Personal Site: carbotanimations.com
Updates every Saturday

The Avengers and New Footage Fatigue

Mild spoilers, if you’re not constantly watching for comic book movie news [like I do].
                                                                                                                                                                      

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to see The Avengers this summer. The thing is, I may as well be watching it for the second time.

Joss Whedon’s biggest directorial experience to date will hit in a little under three weeks with a running time of 155 minutes. After all of the trailers, previews, and TV spots I’ve seen I think that only leaves me about half an hour of footage to experience in the theatre for the first time.

Seriously, though, today I found out that Maria Hill and Nick Fury will have an argument of some sort. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be about, but I know that it will happen because of an interview Cobie Smulders [playing Hill] did with David Letterman. I also know that Captain America will tell the Gamma-Powered Goliath to smash something. At some point in the film I know that Black Widow will soundly thrash a general and his cronies, because a 43-second clip was released by Marvel.

I don’t mind that Marvel has been advertising this film with everything from Dr. Pepper to Wyndham Hotels. Pixar’s Cars made something like $462 million in the box office, which isn’t bad. What’s even better, though, is the $5 billion they made in merchandise. Movie tie-ins that include toys and such are not at all what worry me. What worries me is knowing too much about the movie before I see it on the big screen.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was what the summer of 2010 held for me, and while waiting for in the ’09-10 academic year I spent a great deal of my free time trying to find out more about the game. In the process I became privy to information on seven or eight missions. That’s about a third of the game. Not only that, but I also perused a site that had posted unit models, robbing myself of experiencing them in the game first-hand.

We live in a world where information is at our fingertips, and leaks and spoilers of any kind can be found within seconds. At this point in time I have no idea what the image on the right is of, only that they are part of Loki’s army and the primary antagonists in The Avengers. I don’t want to know what they are until I see the movie, and it’s getting harder and harder to when I daily visit sites such as ComicBookMovie.com, ComicsAlliance, and io9 [the latter even has a daily feature called Early Morning Spoilers].

From this point on I refuse to watch another TV spot for The Avengers. There’s only so many seconds of new footage they can cram in there before I’ve seen more of the movie than I wanted to. I’m going to see if I can hold out until May 4, and I hope that when I finally see it in theatres I’ll be able to enjoy every second of those 155 minutes like I’m watching them for the first time.

Guilt in The Congo and the Koprulu Sector

Fairly spoilery.
                                                                                                                                                                      

No matter the medium, there have always been dominant themes in literature. Whether it be the theme of adulthood in About a Boy or the exploration of childhood in Calvin and Hobbes, writers have long voiced their opinions in their work, stating their viewpoints on universal experience. This can clearly be seen in the real time strategy game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the novel The Poisonwood Bible. Though [literally] worlds apart in format and subject matter,  the two are bound together beneath the overarching theme of guilt.

Wings of Liberty‘s Jim Raynor is a man haunted by the ghosts of his past. The sector’s current tyrant, Emperor Mengsk, rules with an iron fist and sits proudly upon his throne due to the former-marshal’s aid in the first war. This despot betrayed Raynor’s love, Sarah Kerrigan, by ordering her to place a device on the capital planet which would lure in the voracious Zerg like moths to a flame, and then abandoning her to them. The Zerg would later transform Kerrigan into a creature known far and wide as the Queen of Blades, a malicious killing machine who would later terrorize the sector and kill Raynor’s closest Protoss ally and friend.

Four years later Raynor is taking steps to topple the government he helped establish. His band of rebels is working to right the wrong that is the Terran Dominion, but even in spite of this the loss of Kerrigan and his guilt over her abandonment remain. These feelings are exacerbated when his old friend Tychus Findlay walks back into his life. Years earlier Tychus took the blame for both of them and was incarcerated for nine years. His reappearance in Raynor’s life brings back countless memories of the good ol’ days, and Raynor is forced to constantly defend his friend against the suspicions and accusations of his crew.

As victories accumulate an opportunity arises, a chance to reclaim the Queen of Blades and restore Sarah Kerrigan to her former self arises. However, the source of the offer is Mengsk’s son, bringing him dangerously close to the man he wants dead. The gripping conclusion of the first chapter of the StarCraft II trilogy involves Raynor having to choose between two regrets, two immense sources of guilt, and his decision holds the fate of their world in its hands.

The Poisonwood Bible is the story of the Prices, a Baptist family who moves from Georgia to the unfamiliar wilds of the Congo. Narrated by the five women of the family, the tale is seen and told through the eyes of Orleanna, wife of preacher Nathan Price, and their daughters, Rachel, the eldest, Leah and Adah, the diametric twins, and Ruth May, the youngest. Originally planning on only staying for a year, their missionary tenure in the village of Kilanga is set awry by political upsets, many of which are caused by their own government.

The Prices do not adjust well to life in Africa, and the strain of life in an unfamiliar land is evident in their interactions with one another. While guilt is not present in their lives from the get-go, things take a sharp downhill turn once Nathan Price begins to force Christianity upon the villagers in a manner which borders on antagonistic. Their lives are placed in danger when political unrest begins to encroach on the borders of their existence in Kilanga and natural disasters such as a drought and the resulting famine cause many of them to wish they had never travelled to the Congo in the first place. Guilt’s immense weight finally falls, however, at the death of one of the Price daughters. None of the narrators are exempt from this event, and all are bowed beneath its burden as they move on with their lives, never quite leaving the past behind them.

The second wave of guilt is felt only by some, and it directly involves the once-hopeful nation of the Congo. America’s desire for cheap diamonds and cobalt leads to a scheme that will put the leader they want in charge of the country, a plan which will overthrow the newly-elected Patrice Lumumba, voice of the Congolese. Western guilt lies leaden on the shoulders of most (but not all) of the Price women, the actions of the Belgians in the colonial era and the actions of their own American countrymen in the post-colonial. Lives and hopes lost at the hands of their Western brethren force them to reconsider who they are as people, and to try their best to come to some sort of reconciliation.

Jim Raynor and Orleanna Price both have lines which, while appearing simple on the surface, speak volumes about who they are and what they’ve done with their lives. Facing his final decision Raynor says, “We are who we choose to be,” a line almost stupidly simple at first glance. In it, however, these seven words manage to encompass his decision to turn away from a life of crime to become a marshal, and then a rebel freedom fighter, a path Tychus looks upon scornfully. These words contain within them his choice to set aside revenge for closure, to save lives instead of sit back, and, finally, his decision to choose between what appears just and what could be redemption.

Orleanna, in the first few pages of the book, tells the reader, “One has only a life of one’s own.” This straightforward statement means more and more as the narrative progresses, yet from the beginning it reveals that she does not really feel needed or loved, and thus has only herself as company. As the novel goes on Orleanna makes her own pivotal decision, one that directly affects her remaining daughters and their lives to come. Opting to set aside her weak-willed self and to put on strength and intensity, she becomes a woman motivated by the eventual safety of what family she has left.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and The Poisonwood Bible both feature protagonists who are riddled with guilt and yet seek freedom from it, who are forced to face it and move on, and who make their largest decisions in the midst of disaster, panic, and betrayal. Both have lived lives full of regrets, yet firmly choose to make one less mistake, for the sake of others and not for themselves.

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Flamingo, 1998. Print.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. V 1.0.1.16195. 31 July 2010. Blizzard Entertainment. 31 July 2010.