June 22

Geek Stuff | Fortnite

Come on, you know you wanna try it.

 

Fortnite, Fork Knife, the greatest game ever created, the bane of our collected existence. These are just some of the names given to the world’s most heavily played video game at the moment. Fortnite’s origin may have started in the tower defense genre but after witnessing the rise of the Battle Royale phenomenon known as Player Unknown’s Battleground, Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) decided to copy PUBG’s entire model, leaving out minimal features. The only discernable difference between PUBG and Fortnite are the material collecting/building,  vehicles and the obvious cartoon/arcade style that Fortnite utilizes. Originally, I was a diehard PUBG player, especially now that it’s on mobile. But the times they are a changing and after a week spent nestled in the crevasses of Dusty Divot, Flush Factory and Tomato Town, it’s safe to say I am absolutely crazy for Fortnite!

 

Of course, this wasn’t the case a few months ago. Fortnite was an obvious clone of PUBG, just less realistic and almost impossible to get a kill in. I was sniped left and right the first time I tried playing which ultimately led me to give up the game completely until the beginning of season 4. A few of my coworkers with kids were discussing playing the game and all the random nonsense that was happening around them. From tree snipers to random dance parties, all of their stories made me laugh with curiosity. They didn’t seem angry or bitter about constantly getting murdered before they even had a chance to find a weapon, they just couldn’t get over how funny it was having an open dance party in the middle of a corn field. So I bought the $10 battle pass (because what’s the point of leveling with zero rewards?) and kept my fingers crossed I wouldn’t regret it by the end of the night.

 

What followed can only be described as overly amusing antics. I stuck to my squad like glue those first few matches. I had managed to find a way to stay alive for longer than two minutes but my problems still rested with finding a weapon quickly. After ten matches I decided to stay in squads but break off from the rest of the group because, well, kids and young adults suck at life and communication. It was on one of these solo squad runs that I decided to start hiding in random places, dancing the entire time until someone found and killed me. I started referring to myself as “The Hide n’ Seeker”, a person whose sole existence is to hide and dance until someone finds me. The ridiculous thing about all of this though, half the time the opponents who found me ended up hanging out with me, dancing until someone else came along and killed us both. I’ve yet to find more than two people willing to party down with me in-game, but it gives me hope for the future. I in no way take this game seriously, unlike all the rage fueled children currently playing the game, and that’s exactly what YOU should do. Regardless of your age, Fortnite has something to offer everyone in its own absurd way. You just need to take more than ten minutes to find your niche and I guarantee you’ll never say “Fuck Fortnite!” again.

-DD

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June 4

Geek Stuff | FLCL Progressive

This past weekend saw the resurrection of one of Anime’s weirdest, most beloved series, FLCL.

Pronounced Fooly Cooly, FLCL originally aired in Japan back in 2000 with an American dub later on in 2003. I’ve tried in the past to sit thru these six episodes to no avail. Fortunately, with Adult Swim re-airing the first season every Saturday night I was able to manage a half hour a week for what is no doubt one of Japan’s harder to comprehend animes. And trust me, it isn’t the easiest thing to follow. In short, the plot revolves around a boy who gets hit by an alien with a guitar and then proceeds to try to be normal despite the robots that keep growing from his head no thanks to the alien with a guitar. There’s heavy sexual overtones, weird references to things I’m not totally sure exist, violence and the overall sense that this is supposed to be a coming of age story for the main character, Naota. All of those things are great but they hit you at a sprinter’s pace until the episode ends and you’re left scratching your head like Krusty the Clown declaring “What the hell was that?!”

FLCL: Progressive is the long-awaited second season to all the aforementioned above. And while it had a more focused feel to the storyline, one thing was for certain: this is still a very weird and sexually charged world.

The episode opens with a mysterious girl walking thru a tattered landscape. Everything is in black and white with the exception of a sharp horn growing from the girl’s forehead. She somehow finds herself in front of a giant red eyeball before waking up. Thru the course of her day, we learn that her name is Hidomi and she spends the bulk of her time ignoring the waking world whenever possible. Her neon blue cat ear headphones (which are always affixed to her head) represent her refusal to acknowledge anyone before they have a chance to get to know and subsequently reject her for whatever reason. We meet a few of her classmates, who are obviously part of the sexual overtone of the show, her mom and a brand new guitar wielding alien who rides in the back of a self-driving low rider instead of a bright yellow Vespa. Like Naota in the first series, Hidomi gets struck by the self-driving car and before the end of episode one, finds herself in the exact area where her dream took place.

Before the new alien with a guitar parts ways with Hidomi, she remarks “It looks good on you.” referring to the bright red horn growing from Hidomi’s forehead. The next day in school, Hidomi is left reflecting out the window as it’s revealed that her teacher is actually the original alien with a guitar from the first series. The class cheers, Hidomi looks hesitant and I feel a lot less confused by this FLCL than the one that came out over a decade ago.

The hallmark of this series is the music. The Pillows are the original J-rock band who composed an entire album just for FLCL 1 and it’s safe to say that they have done it again! One of my favorite parts of this show is the song “Little Busters”, a song that when it starts playing, signals to the audience that the episode is almost over. Every other track is brand new just for FLCL: Progressive and it feels like The Pillows never fell out of love with the series (Although I really wish “Ride on Shooting Star” was still the ending credits theme). Hopefully as the show goes on there will be more to enjoy, but for now, I am sated, mainly because we have new The Pillows to look forward to but partly because I know exactly what the hell is going on this time around.

-DD

 

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April 18

Geek Stuff | Gimme The Loot!

In the past year, the concept of loot boxes has risen and fallen only to rear itself once more. Some of us think they’re great while a larger portion of people think they’re the worst possible thing a game company can do to its customers. Before I get into my personal opinion, let’s start at the beginning. I’m sure by now you’ve asked yourself “What the hell is a loot box and why should I care? Is that like Loot Crate, the company that use to put together really cool mystery gift boxes?”

In a way, yes, but instead of getting randomly curated pop culture products, loot boxes are a form of micro transactions. Micro transactions, in the gaming world, are digital items that you pay real world money for. These items range widely depending on the game you are playing but what they all boil down to is paying real money for a randomized item that could be really great or really terrible (like you want an AK-47 for your solider in Call of Duty but you end up with a brown helmet instead). The upside is not all micro transactions cost money, you could grind away at whatever you are playing until you earn enough in-game money to buy a loot box and be done with it. The item you receive might be garbage but who cares cause you didn’t spend anything real. Unfortunately, not all people have the patience for level grinding and would rather pay outright for the chance at a gold level pick-axe. Like all of our societal problems, this one starts and ends with opinionated people who don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions.

Over the course of the last year, companies have come under fire from all walks of life calling loot boxes immoral, a money grab and dishonest among other nastier things. And while most of these people are cry babies who want to complain because they bought way too many loot boxes with real world money (check out the article Kotaku wrote about some dipshit kid who spend over 10K on loot boxes), companies have been bending over backwards to try and accommodate gamers who have problems with game companies making money past the initial 60 dollars you pay for the game. EA originally had micro transactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 until enough people complained and they removed them all together. EA is bringing them back (thank god) but this time around you can only spend in-game money on their brand of loot box. The latest game to introduce loot boxes is Animal Crossing for iOS. Kotaku already had one of their flunkies write an article about how terrible this is, but honestly, is it? Is it wrong that game companies want to continue making money on a property that took them forever to produce and will take even longer to support? Nope! Is it immoral to offer people a hard way and a quick way of doing things? Not at all. Are these companies guilty of creating an addiction machine that is liable to ruin people with gambling problems? Naaaaah! All you have to do is not buy into it, that’s all. Every single game that has been outfitted with loot boxes has the option to buy them with earned in-game money, so stick to the plan and you’ll never go wrong.

If you’re one of the many people who wasted their money because they wanted to try and get ahead of everyone else, you have no one to blame but yourself. You’re well aware of the randomized chances of getting something good and even after getting crap box after crap box you still buy into it because you don’t want to spend honest time working towards that one item that will give you the edge on the competition. Like Verruca Salt, you want it now! And to the parents who think game companies are evil for this practice, how about you take 5 minutes to investigate the game you just bought Little Johnny Good Student because you know damn well they have no concept of money and will drain whatever bank account you thoughtlessly linked to their system.

So yeah, that’s my two cents. You have nobody to blame but yourself for getting caught up in loot box madness and I suggest instead of complaining about EA or Blizzard or Nintendo or Microsoft or Insomniac or Activision or Epic Games or Ubisoft, you take a hard look at yourself and remember, it’s called a grind for a reason.

-DD

 

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April 22

Geek Stuff| Comics in Review

Even if you live in a third world country, you know about Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead’.

 

During its thirteen-year run, the little zombie book that could has picked up more accolades and fans than any other independently published comic book to date. With 153 issues under the belt, you would think that there isn’t much left to the story or that Kirkman’s storytelling capabilities have gotten stale as his survivors continue to forge their way through the post-apocalyptic world. Fortunately for us, The Walking Dead is stronger than ever with a brand new installment written and drawn by two of the industry’s top talent.

It was at Image Expo 2015 when Image and Brian K. Vaughn’s digital publisher, Panel Syndicate, went public with “The Last Crossover You Ever Expected”. At the time, the image used to depict this merger was a simple line up of zombies with our favorite Private Investigator walking into the fray at the far end of the panel. I, like every other BKV junkie out there, immediately thought “The Private Eye within the world of The Walking Dead?? Fuck yeah!!” It took ten long months for this issue to see the light of day and while P.I. is nowhere to be found, what you are left with is an interesting interlude set in the continuity of The Walking Dead.

The best thing about this one-shot entitled ‘The Walking Dead: The Alien’ is that it finally answers the question: Did the zombie outbreak happen all over the world? Our story takes place in Barcelona, Spain two weeks into the zombie epidemic. Our main character, Jeff, is waking up on a scaffolding as the city continues to burn around him. He is quickly joined by our only other protagonist, Claudia, sporting a suit of armor circa the Knights of the Roundtable. The two escape to her posh uptown apartment where Jeff quickly learns Claudia is working out a plan to escape Spain all together. Using the sewer system as their route, Jeff and Claudia find a boat and escape but not before tragedy ensues. All and all a fun read if you are a TWD super fan, however, this comic geek has a few qualms.

Ultimately, this story felt too short. It follows a very tight plotline of boy meets girl, girl plans an escape, boy and girl escape. The only real character development/surprise twist involves the realization that Jeff is Rick Grime’s younger brother. Other than that, it’s a simple, short jaunt about a boy and a girl easily (too easy if you ask me) making their way through the thrashing hordes. Marco’s depiction of his hometown is stunning in black and white while Vaughn does a great job getting us from point A to point C… but with no character development outside of “My name is Jeff/my name is Claudia” and a complete lack of zombie confrontation, this “one-shot” fails to hold in your memory. I’m happy to have read it but I’m even happier that I didn’t pay to read it.

 

– Dann D.

 

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March 19

Geek Stuff | Comics In Review

In honor of season 2’s release, I went out looking for old school Daredevil comics. My local shop had a random assortment but nothing that really stood out at first glance. That’s when I found issue 208. What makes this issue interesting is that it’s written by legendary authors Harlan Ellison and Arthur Byron Cover.

The story sees Daredevil lured into a house of spikes, snakes and other traps designed to block Matt’s heightened senses. After making his way through the elaborate maze, Horn Head reaches a recorded message from low-rent villain Death-Stalker’s mother, blaming him for her son’s death. Daredevil narrowly escapes before the entire estate blows up in a fiery heap. After a quick change at Black Widow’s apartment, it’s off to court where Matt’s last words “… And I’m safe” echo as the explosive distraction that lured DD into danger at the beginning of the story looms in the background of the final panel.

A fun read and a neat collectible if I do say so myself. I’m familiar with Ellison and Cover’s work in science fiction but never knew they had ever written anything for the Big Two. I’d definitely suggest grabbing it if you see it lurking in the back issues bin.

 

… Now back to the binge!

 

– Dann

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October 4

Geek Stuff| Game Review

Rejoice, children of the original PlayStation, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is back with a vengeance! Since 1999, a time before Sony started putting numbers on their systems, Pro Skater dominated the sales charts with its fresh take on extreme sport video games. Now, after a decade and several spin-off games, THPS is back with new levels, new challenges and a new roster of top talent that includes the likes of Chris Cole, David Gonzalez, and Nyjah Huston. If you grew up playing the Pro Skater series religiously then you more than likely bought the game without a second thought. Unfortunately, we all should have given it a second thought. While your experience is sure to vary from my own, I think any true fan of the series will feel the same way I did, ripped off. There is so much wrong with this game I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s start with the tutorial, my first inkling that this game was different from its predecessors came in the form of movement. You don’t just simply push forward anymore with the directional pad, you can also push by holding R2, the left dual stick or you can simply hold down the X/A button until you’re ready to Ollie. Really, Tony? Four different ways to push the board around? I got used to using the R2 button, theoretically, you could hold down the R2 button the entire time you are in the game and never have to worry. Tricks are basic and held at the standard push up, down, left or right while pressing the square/X or circle/B buttons. The right stick is virtually useless. After getting spoiled on SKATE’s excellent brand of controls it took some time to realize “Oh wait, you don’t flick the stick to Ollie into a trick, you just push a button then push two more buttons”. The skill required for grinding has been reduced to “slamming” down with the triangle/Y button so long as you are directly over a rail. Regardless of which direction you are facing, you will slam down on an edge with the greatest of ease. It took all five tutorial trials for the feeling to come back but let me tell you it felt damn good once it did, if only for a moment.

 

Moving into the main gameplay, it was disheartening to find out there are only seven levels total (there may be a secret level but I doubt I will own this game long enough to find out). With the exception of The Berrics, all the levels are completely made up with a weird skate anywhere feeling that launches you from one end of a stage to the other. Fake stages are fine, in fact, some may say they are a hallmark of the series, but couldn’t we at least have one more real-life stage? Burnside or Tampa or anything other than a fake skate park built within a phony world. Each stage has a set of “missions” that you must complete. You get 15 objectives with each mission set, unfortunately, 5 of those are locked and will only unlock once you achieve a ‘sick!’ rating on all other objectives, which isn’t easy by any means. You must collect 15 stars from each stage before you are able to move on to the next. This sounds like fun, however, the missions are basic and follow you from level to level. That’s right, each mission set for each level is exactly the same! They have variations like high scores get even higher and races get even longer or you may get a grind objective instead of a manual objective, but overall, each stage has the same exact missions from the stage before it. You no longer race around under the gun of a 2-minute time limit trying to score as many points/objectives as possible. Instead, you skate around in a free world environment where you merely skate up to a mission, hold the square/X button and begin. Or, for the lazy skateboard aficionado, you can simply hit start, select missions and then choose from the list. While THPS4 introduced something similar with the free-skate mode, this feels awkward on an entirely different level. Collecting things like SKATE and COMBO are still present, however, they are considered “free world objectives” and have no bearing on your progression throughout the game.

 

Let’s talk about the “free world” for a moment. Much like the multiplayer found in SKATE, THPS5 utilizes the open area multiplayer connectivity to promote gameplay and comradery between players. Unfortunately, I have yet to take part in anything multiplayer since the game demands a seven-gig update as soon as you load the game. Seven gigs?! If this were memory being downloaded onto your hard drive I could understand, but this is a seven-gig update file released on launch day. How the hell do you expect customers to flock to your franchise when half of them are still waiting on the download to finish? If the free world is anything like an actual skate park, I foresee an endless amount of people getting pissed off at the overcrowded area chock full of posers, amateurs who get in the way of your lines and kids who think scooters are still in fashion. You can play in a single player session but you have to select it from the menu, otherwise, you are stuck in the free world with everyone else. Lame, thy name is multiplayer.

 

Finally, let’s talk customization… There isn’t any!! These days the phrase “You can customize your own character in-game” means something. I fully expected the same style of customization that we got in Tony Hawk’s Underground. By the time Underground was released, customizing your own character was a regular practice and you had many options to choose from. I remember creating myself right down to the black frame glasses accompanied by my favorite pair of DC shoes. THPS5 doesn’t just miss the mark on customization, they murder the unfortunate by-standard they accidentally hit trying to hit the mark. In custom mode, there are three categories you can choose from to create a player: Head, Body, and Board. Every option is set up like a card system in which you unlock various cards for heads, bodies, and boards by completing different missions or buying them outright. The worst part of all of this is, if you want to create a skater, you will have to sacrifice one of the pros within the roster. Instead of a skater with their own stats, you simply swap one of the pros for your custom character whose stats are identical to the pros. So far, I’ve turned David Gonzalez into a hipster cyborg, Lizzie Armanto into the lead singer of FallOutBoy and Riley Hawk into a dirtier hobo version of himself. On the plus side, the create-a-park option is unique and enjoyable but until we all download that seven gig update file, it’s pretty much a useless feature.

 

Overall, THPS5 isn’t worth it, period. It genuinely feels like Activision saw what EA did with SKATE and decided to copy everything except the control scheme while putting their own flair into the mix with a soundtrack that panders toward a generation that never played the game growing up. It doesn’t work on any level. When you strip a game of all the things that made it great, what you’re left with is a steaming pile of regret and false-heartedness. Whatever you do, don’t buy Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5. If you already have, trade it in towards a game you know you will love (like Fallout 4, Black Ops 3 or Star Wars Battlefront). Until EA decides to produce SKATE 4, we have THPS 1 in HD to enjoy. It might not be much, but it’s infinitely better than the dreck that is the latest installment to a deeply fond memory.

 

– Dann D.

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July 16

Geek Stuff | 2015 The San Diego Comic Con Recap

If you’re like me then you too missed out on another amazing 4 days in San Diego as comics best and brightest celebrated and carried on without a care in the world. Fortunately for you, here is a breakdown of some of the major highlights from SDCC and what will be happening in the months/year to come. You can find all of the original postings on CBR and News-A-Rama.

Marvel Stuff

– Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness are set to create Spider-Man/Deadpool. Debuting in fall of 2015, the book will team Spidey with Deadpool as they fight an unknown evil. While Marvel hasn’t specified if the series will be an ongoing or a miniseries (my money is on a mini) they have revealed that a “major surprise” is in store for people who pick up the 1st issue.
– Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl will carry over into the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel era with a new No. 1 issue (Yay?).
– Tim Seeley of Hack/Slash fame will join artist Logan Faerber to create a new Blade on-going series that will see the day-walking vampire slayer team up with his long-lost daughter, Fallon Grey. You can check out an interview with Seeley and preliminary character art here. Marvel as Seeley tells reporters that Blade will not fight vampires in the new series and that Fallon is not a rip off of Buffy.
– Humberto Ramos is leaving Spider-Man to draw Extraordinary X-Men.
– For a closer look at Hasbro’s SDCC exclusives for Dr. Strange and Ant-Man go here. In less than 24 hours since Comic-Con concluded, both sets have made their way to eBay for upwards of $200 (I know, it makes me sick too).
– Marvel is planning to revisit their ‘What If?’ line of comics starting with Thanos and the Infinity event from 2013. The series will run for 5 issues and will explore new stories in the shape of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inhumans, and Norman Osborn. Joshua Williamson is set to write all 5 issues.

DC Stuff

– J. Michael Straczynski will write The Flash: Earth One. Slated for a 2016 release, JMS says that his story will focus on the Barry Allen Flash and that “it’s a very different take on the character”.
– Frank Miller will be providing cover art and some interior art for The Dark Knight 3: The Master Race. Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson are still set to pencil all 8 chapters of Miller’s grand finale to The Dark Knight Returns.
– If you love Steven Amell and everything going on with DC’s live-action shows, check out live footage from “A Night of DC Entertainment” here.
– Dan Abnett and Paulo Siqueira will launch Titans Hunt on October 21st. The book is described as “the secret history of the Teen Titans” and will feature a never before seen team of super-powered teens.
– Grant Morrison revealed that he will be returning to Batman: Black and White with “big name talent” providing art. Morrison will also return to the world(s) of The Multiversity with ‘The Multiversity Too’. Be on the lookout for my article entitled “Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Read the Multiversity Too” in the near future.
– At the DC Upstarts panel, it was revealed that the forthcoming arc of Grayson “returns Dick to the DCU at large” with issue #12 sending him back to Gotham.
– Tim Kring revealed the official trailer for Heroes: Reborn and it’s absolutely amazing. Watch it several hundred times here.
– DC revealed their upcoming line of action figures. You can check out the first images here. Figures include characters from Arrow, The Flash, Batman vs Superman, Arkham Knight and the Snyder/Capullo Joker amongst others.

Indy Published Stuff

– It was revealed at the Kodansha Comics panel that Tony Moore (original artist of The Walking Dead) will art a variant cover for Vol. 16 of Attack on Titan. You can check out the artwork itself and a closer look at the deck of playing cards that will accompany the special edition of Vol. 16 right here.
– Both Grant Morrison and Stan Lee are elated to bring their latest independent creations to Humble Bundle. Both creations will run under the “pay what you like” method, however, if buyers pay above the average amount they will also receive Stan Lee’s ‘Chakra The Invincible’ #1-8, ‘Chakra The Invincible Short Stories,’ ‘Deepak Chopra’s Buddha: A Tale of Enlightenment’ #1-6 and ‘Black Tiger’ #1. For those willing to pay $15 or more, Grant Morrison’s ‘Avatarex’ Chapter 1, ‘18 Days’ #1-10, and ‘18 Days: The Illustrated Hardcover Scriptbook’ will also be included in the bundle.
– As a special incentive for all their loyal fans who couldn’t make it to Comic-Con, Lootcrate has put one of their 2 SDCC exclusive crates on sale. Supplies are limited so you better act fast! Click here to find out how you can get one for yourself.

Other Awesome SDCC Related Stuff
Here are some links to other epic things that happened at SDCC 2015.
The Walking Dead season 6 trailer and details
Agents of Shield on Secret Warriors and the upcoming season
Jenna Coleman discusses season 9 of Doctor Who
Spider-Man and his amazing friends won’t quit

And just like that, it’s all over (again) until next year. Time to start plotting and scheming for SDCC 2016! Be sure to check back next week for all new updates, stories, and events.

Dann D.  — @kidgetnice on twitter & Instagram

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