Tagged in: games

Something Lawful: Geeky Legal News 04-15-13

Not all legal news is geeky and not all geeky news has to do with the law, but some things fall in the sweet, sweet center of that Venn diagram. If it has to do with the intersection of copyrights, trademarks, privacy, licensing, internet regulation and games, movies, tech, comics, books or the world of entertainment, I am on it. Here is the rundown of news from the past week:

  1. Night Shade Books  Plans to Sell Their Authors’ Contracts; Uproar Ensues Night Shade, a publisher of science fiction, fantasy and horror novels from authors like Jeff VanderMeere, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Kameron Hurley is not doing so hot. The publisher is in dire financial straits, and the company looking to buy out their back catalogue raised some hackles by lowballing their initial offer. After many of the authors spoke out in places like Facebook and io9 spoke about being offered a raw deal, the buying publisher increased their proposed royalty rate. (via Twenty Palaces)
  2. Scott Turow Laments the Decline of the American AuthorAccording to the author of One L, fair use, libraries, and E-books have created a toxic cocktail of copyright poison that is slowly killing off the class of successful American writers and he has taken to the New York Times to complain about it.
  3. I Ain’t Sayin’ He’s a Copyright Infringer. Producer. Rapper. Designer. Lover of Fish Sticks. Kanye West can  now add “Defendant” to his long list of titles, as he now gets to defend his song “Gold Digger” against allegations of copyright infringement in federal court. The issue is West’s use of  “Get down girl, go ‘head, get down” which the plaintiffs claim infringes their copyright in a 1974 song “Bumpin’ Bus Stop” by a group called Thunder & Lightning. the complaint also includes a racketeering claim under RICO that West and Roc-a-Fella Records, Bad Boy Records, Stones Throw Records, Bomb Hip-Hop Records, Autumn Games, Activision, Caroline Distribution and The Island Def Jam Music Group have conspired in an “illegal copyright infringement scheme and criminal enterprise involving the unauthorized, willful sampling of plaintiffs original copyrighted music on a massive scale.”
  4. The Mystery of the Disappearing Rights.  The game No One Lives Forever felt like Austin Powers, James Bond, Metal Gear:Solid, and the original Half-life were shaken together in a sterling steel martini mixer. It was a great game, but it looks like any reboot or long-lost sequel is hamstrung by the fact that no one quite seems to know who owns the rights to the franchise after 13 years of mergers and acquisitions according to Activision’s Dan Amrich. Looks like some legal intern will be digging through the basement archives this summer to run down the paper trail.(via Rock, Paper, Shotgun)
  5. The Saga Apple Doesn’t Want you to See. Last week readers of brian K. Vaughan’s kick-ass space opera Saga  were unable to buy the digital version of Wednesday after it was pulled from Apple’s main comic store app Comixology. Cries of censorship and corporate squeamishness accompanied what at first appeared as Apple refusing to allow a comic with semi-explicit depictions of gay sex. It turns out that Comixology proactively pulled the title from its submissions because they decided to save Apple the trouble. In the end, the comic went out to Ipad users, but the fracas highlights one of the dangers in the move to digital media for comics: no one can fully depend on their preferred format and provider to keep the comics coming.

Three Things That Realigned My Electoral Demographics Last Week

X-Com: Four to Six Alien-killn' dudes.

1. XCOM Enemy Unknown

This game dug it’s hooks into me in a way that few games in recent memory have. I’m talking “stay up until 5:00 am because I need to play just one more mission and then I’m back at base and maybe I should just finish researching that one weapon tech, but oh no the global satellite alert just kicked in and sectoids are attacking Sao Paolo so maybe I should just real quick play that one too, only I have to restart that mission because my support dude from South Africa walked face first into a thin man ambush….” The turn-based nature of the game makes you feel like a tactical genius as you lay your forces out in an unstoppable line of crossfires and over-watching ambushers. That feeling lasts about as long as you go without encountering the enemy, as the game is intensely punishing at the harder difficulties and losing even one man can make it impossible to finish the mission. Things spiral out of control quickly and the wrong placement of a heavy gunner can mean the difference between victory and six dead dudes. That’s not even getting into the long term strategy of building out your base, researching alien technology, and training soldiers. You have a finite amount of resources and failure to use them wisely means that the countries that bankroll your alien-fighting unit will pull their funding. Launch more satellites!

2. Cloud Atlas

This movie is an adaptation of an unadaptable book. Love it or hate it, you have to admire the sheer craft that went in to creating such a dense narrative that interweaves six completely different narratives. The result is something that you can definitely see the seams on, but the fact that it holds together at all is amazing. From the creepy buck-toothed grin of Tom Hanks’ 18th-Century poisoner to the just-a-little-too-much patois of his post-apocalyptic shepherd every inch of the film is imbued with a stark attention to detail that honors David Mitchell’s novel even while it completely reworks the structure. Clocking in at three hours, the film does challenge you to keep all the separate threads straight but it is worth the effort.

3. The U.S. Presidential Election

It’s been a long, long, long slog to the finish line and it is finally over. Whether the outcome had you dancing in the streets with joy at the thought of four more years of glorious progressivism or rending your garments and gnashing your teeth as you booked your flight to Canada to avoid the soul-crushing slide into a socialist hell, I think we can all agree that we are glad to be off the electoral roller coaster at long last. People who paid attention to the raw numbers weren’t terribly surprised by the re-election of President Obama, but election night was still a fun chance to watch CNN’s Minority Report-esque holographic projections and touchscreen number crunching. Donald Trump’s massive meltdown on twitter following the election results was my personal highlight but the best thing about the election is that (after about 3-4 days to let the anger and resentment bubble out) it will be safe to go on Facebook again.

Skyrim: My Dragonborn

Baby got it goin' on.

I’m coming in for a landing on Skyrim, and it is a truly masterful game. The sheer quantity of stuff to do boggles the mind. Wanna be a mercenary? A thief? An assassin? A chef? A bard? You can do any of these things. More confusingly, you can do all of these things. Skyrim is more about texture and immersion than narrative. The cast of characters you encounter are actually pretty one dimensional. Most of the quests you undertake have little bearing on the world around you. People you extort and steal from happily turn and engage you in some cheery conversation before selling you health potions. You have to create your own narrative, and reconciling the full and complete player experience of running all over Skyrim doing different jobs with the overall storyline of a prophesied warrior taking up arms against ancient dragons is tricky business. Here is my attempt:

After his exile down south, Orren the Red wasn’t back in his Nordic homeland for more than an hour before he found himself bound and sentenced to death for reasons he still isn’t clear on. The damned imperials would have been the end of him had it not been for the timely intervention of a beast from out of forgotten legends. The dragons were coming back to the land of Skyrim.

A rebel leader helped Orren escape amidst the confusion and tried to draft him into the Stormcloak underground, but Orren was a young man more eager to learn to fight than get involved in politics. He set out to join the Companions of Whiterun and became a mighty warrior during his adventures with the group. A mysterious encounter with another dragon awoke something strange and ancient in Orren, but he did his best to ignore the strange powers he was developing and refused to answer the mysterious call of the ancient Greybeards.

He threw himself into his adventures with the companions, but after they inducted him into their inner circle he became horrified at the truth: they were werewolves and they had infected him with their lycanthropic blood.

Orren fled the Companions in fear. After some random wandering, he found himself on the streets of Riften, stealing to survive. The Thieves Guild soon recruited him and he rose through its ranks with surpassing swiftness, first entering the elite order of Nightingales and eventually becoming the Guild Master in a ceremony beneath the streets of the city. Orren had more money than he had ever dreamed of, but nothing could stop his hunger for blood. He had a tendency to end a job with a high body count no matter how careful he was. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

It was while working for the Guild that he first came across the Daedric Princes. They frightened him almost as much as his own nature.

While in Windhelm on a job for the Guild, Orren came to attention of The Dark Brotherhood. He had grown weary of the burglary and petty pickpocketing jobs that seemed beneath his station as Master of the Thieves Guild and he saw the shadowy organization of assassins as a way to put his stealth skills to work while indulging the Beast within. It wasn’t long before Orren took over the Dark Brotherhood, mainly through an inexplicable connection to their dark spiritual patron. In time their zealotry and blithe disregard for human life disgusted even Orren. He was ready to seek something purer. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

Orren made his way the Mage’s College in Winterhold, hoping that the wizards there could cure his wolfen nature. Instead, he discovered that the scholarly mages had killing of their own that needed doing. Orren spent many years at the College, slowly uncovering the mystery of the Eye of Magnus. Although his duties as Arch-Mage were surprisingly sparse, Orren soon felt the wanderlust returning. By then, he had learned a great deal more about the demonic evil of the Deadra and their totems. There were fifteen objects in the world, tainted by the Daedric influence and Orren set about to collect and contain the items. Eventually, he found them all. He knew they could never be destroyed, so he sank them to the bottom of the Sea of Ghosts. And still, he could hear the mysterious voices calling him from their mountain top.

After a short stint as a bard in Solitude, Orren returned to the Companions of his youth. He finally came to terms with his inner wolf and returned to the companions just in time to put the spirit of his old mentor Kodlak to rest and restore the lost power of the Skyforge. He also rekindled his romance with Aela the Huntress, and the two were wed in a secret ceremony: packmates for life.

By this time, the political unrest between the Stormcloaks and the Imperials was bubbling over. Tensions between the ruling elite and the rebel forces had been high, but the increased presence of the dragons was making the populace paranoid. The entire hold of Whiterun was a powder keg.

Orren had no love for the single-minded racism of the Stormcloaks, but he had never forgotten that the Imperials had tried to kill him. Their iron rule was destroying everything that made Skyrim a free land. On top of that, Orren had a personal vendetta against the Thalmor after some business with the Battle-Born clan had gone bad and he knew they were the true puppetmasters behind the Empire. Reluctantly, Orren swore fealty to Ulfric and entered the civil war on the side of the rebels. The war was brief but bloody and when it was over, far too many Nords lay dead but those that remained had a new High King.

By now, Orren had matured. He knew that the strange voices he heard were calling him to a greater destiny. He had slain several dragons and each time he had stood over them he felt a surge of otherworldly power. As he climbed the steps to High Hrothgar he knew in his heart that he would finally learn what it meant when they called him Dragonborn…

2011: The Games I Have Played

The Grey Warden Kicks Ass

Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Origins. I started with the much reviled second entry into Bioware’s sword and sorcery franchise. When it first came out I made a good faith attempt to play the original, but I failed to get into the game and decided to cut bait after about three hours. Something about the mechanics of the game just didn’t click with me and I had trouble effectively controlling my party. But after playing my way through the sequel, I decided to give Origins another go-round and this time it all made sense. I purchased the Ultimate Edition with all the DLC included so I went dead to the world for a significant portion of the summer while I quested my Grey Warden from one end of Thedas to the other. That was after I lead my dapper rogue through a tumultuous decade of running around Kirkwall and bedding pirate queens in part 2. Although the recycled level in part two did get old, I loved the setting and characters. This whole series has restarted my long dormant love of the fantasy genre. Thanks so much Dragon Age. I thought I was done with barbarians wielding swords…

I am the Night.

Batman: Arkham City. The purest Batman experience is sadly the closest I will ever come to swinging down from a gargoyle and straight up punching a criminal in the face. The open world mechanic worked like a charm and the voice acting was top-notch. The plot was convoluted and some of the action setpieces didn’t quite work out as well as they were intended to, but overall Rocksteady knocked it out of the park with this one.

warhammer 40k space marine cover is for the weak

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. Not much to add beyond what I’ve already said, but this game was not without it’s charm and suffered from the inevitable comparisons to

The Passion of the Dom

Gear of War 3. So the saga of Marcus Fenix and his human meat tank bros finally came to an end this year. I have only played the campaigns for the three games in the Gears of War series, and I found the story of an earth-like world rocking from cataclysm after cataclysm strangely compelling. The background story plays out like the hopelessness of early Battlestar Galactica crossed with the macho posturing and general brotasticity of Predator. The gameplay was hectic and the fine folks at Epic Games know how to put together excellent firefights on a massive scale. The third installment tied up most of the loose ends and while the game failed to achieve anything approaching real pathos, the narrative never shied away from taking risks.

Call of Duty: BlackOps. Another game which I have already spoken about at length.

Cyberpunk as Fuck

Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was easily my most anticipated game of 2011. I absolutely adored the original and its sequel, and I was totally looking forward to immersing myself in the cyberpunk noir future where human augmentation had run amok and tranhumanist philosophy had created a race of nano-enhanced supermen. Human Revolution delivered the goods. The game wasn’t perfect. The boss fights felt tacked on and went against the grain of everything the game’s structure had been pushing toward and the ending(s) left a great deal to be desired but this game had texture, man. There was a grit and a lived-in feeling that permeated every aspect of the game’s world of 2027, from Jensen’s apartment to the neon fever dream that was Hengsha. This game was awesome.

Poet and a Prophet.

Crysis 2. I did not play the first Crysis, so I am unable to assess its merits in contrast to the first version of the game. I can tell you that this version was a better than average shooter whose sci-fi aliens invading New York city narrative was almost done in by some shoddy A.I. and less than thrilling enemy design. I liked the convoluted plot and the gameplay variations that you get from your nanomachine super-suit, like invisibility, invincibility, and speed but the experience never really gelled for me.

Soooo sneaky....

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Another sequel that I dove into the deep end without starting at the dawn of the franchise. This version was the first Assassin’s Creed game I ever played, and I enjoyed the crap out of it. The narrative was gibberish, but the stealth and planning elements to each hit were fun. My main criticism came when I realized that it was nearly impossible to actually die. Ezio’s health regenerates just a little that makes it difficult for even a swarm of Borgia goons to actually kill the player character. The challenge, then, comes from the mission parameters and whether you are able to sneak and stealth your way through your objectives without being seen.

The Courier True Identity Revealed!

Fallout: New Vegas. This one almost didn’t make the list because I couldn’t make it to completion. After around thirty hours of roaming the wastes with my trusty supermutant companion helping out survivors of the last great war and personally assassinating Caesar this broken, buggy, unfinished game went crashed on me and I was unable to load any of my save games. I enjoyed the experience before it came to a crashing halt, but I didn’t have the patience at the time to retrace my steps in the game so I stopped playing. I plan on buying the ultimate edition later this year, which will include all the downloadable content and hopefully a stable version of the game itself. I will give that version another try, but I am worried because war never changes.

Oh, Wheatley, you lovable scamp.

Portal 2. Easily the funniest and most well-constructed game of last year, Portal 2 was short, sweet, and to the point. It was funny and I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it.

The Semantic Drift Game of the Year: I played some excellent games this past year. Skyrim kicks so much ass, but I am still neck deep in the Stormcloak rebellion and I don’t want it to end ever. Since I haven’t completed the game and will be slaying dragons for at least the first few months of 2012, the game is exempt. That leaves Batman: Arkham City as the greatest game of 2011.

The Rundown for Wednesday, April 21st 2010

Mistress Internet reveals her hidden delights in response to my tender ministrations:

  • Video games can never be art – Roger Ebert’s Journal

    Filed Under:[art aesthetics criticism games videogames ebert ]

  • The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of books : The New Yorker
    Thoughtful article about the coming War.
    Filed Under:[books amazon apple publishing ]