look on the bright side – Greedo still misses

Starwars fans upset with Lucas, again? Nooooo!

Seriously, who is surprised Lucas made additional changes to the Starwars Trilogy for the blu-ray release? Are they really worse than the initial changes made to “A New Hope” and “Return of the Jedi”? Are all of the changes so inexcusable? Changes in this release include adding a single, shouted “Nooooo” to Vader’s dialog in the final battle with the emperor in Return of the Jedi, as he saves luke and sacrifices himself. Other changes were to replace the ewok eyes with CG rendered eyes, and a jarring change to the sound Obi-wan makes in A New Hope to scare off the sand people.

Fans have been particularly critical of the changes Lucas made to the Starwars trilogy, even though the business of changing movies for a re-release is not new business at all. There are FIVE versions of Blade Runner in the collectors edition. Lion King has been changed three times. Rob Zombie changed the entire ending of the newer “Halloween 2” in the DVD release. Peter Jackson changed his Lord of the Rings once between the theater and DVD and again for the butt-numbingly long (but good) extended editions (nevermind the changed between the print and his retelling….).

Don’t like it? When in doubt, don’t get your wallet out.

I am among the fans who did not like many changes to the original Starwars trilogy – my favorite catch-phrase after all is “Han Shot First”. I didn’t like the additional, poorly done scene with jabba the hutt, nor the changes to the hologram of the emperor and dialog. I am indifferent to the changes to the spirits shown at the very end of Return of the Jedi. (put your pitchforks down, guys). On the other hand, the numerous subtle improvements to image clarity and cleanup of special effects glitches were actually a big improvement, notably in the epic battle of hoth and pretty much every space battle scene in all three episodes. The sound is better in the new(er) editions – and being a bit of an audiophile it is hard to pass up the 7.1 stereo enhanced effects in favor of the barely two channel classic just in the name of protest.

I won’t get the blu-ray editions, but I’m not roasting Lucas and the franchise over the recent changes either. I am content with the DVD set that included both the special editions and original format bonus disks. If I want to relive A New Hope as it was meant to be seen, I can. If I want to enjoy my newer TV and stereo equipment, I’ve got the updated version. That’s good enough for me.

Concerned fans should speak with their wallets.

better late than mediocre

“A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”

In classic Blizzard tradition, the ship date much anticipated sequel “Diablo 3” will be pushed back until early next year, costing them a holiday release. This isn’t news to many fans though, who are used to waiting. In twenty years of genre dominance, I don’t think they have released a major title on time. Or too soon, as it were.

Here is a link to the original Diablo 3 teaser trailer, posted 2 years ago..

Diablo 3 Teaser on YouTube

Few game companies could afford to consistently miss release dates, or delay games for as long as Blizzard has delayed some of it’s titles. At a glance, it would seem that they risk releasing a game that is graphically or technically inferior to competing titles developed to leading edge standards in less time. Yet this has yet to make much of a difference, given that Blizzard titles are comparably “graphics-light” stood next to other eye-popping graphics-heavy competition.  Compare the graphics in the initial release of World of Warcraft next to a number of competing MMO titles that were out about the same time. Starwars Galaxies, Anarchy Online, Asheron’s Call 2 and EverQuest 2 were all very glossy, high end graphics productions. World of Warcraft was cartoony by comparison,  but demanded far less in terms of system requirements and as franchises go; left the competition in the dust.

It later closed the gap in terms of high end graphics support, while still allowing players like me with average hardware to enjoy the game with the extra eye-candy turned off.

an unbreakable record?

Time to check some really old math, again. More than a hundred years of well-proven science assume just a few things are perfectly constant; Newton’s gravitational constant and the velocity of light are on the short list. Our most treasured theories (think: everything since Einstein’s Relativity) are based on them.

These fundamental laws of physics have been called into question a number of times since, as have the theories based on them. Even Einstein revised his work based on observations in the universe that begged closer scrutiny, like Red Shift. These second glances, in turn, have also been called into question as scientists work towards a utopian grand unified theory of physics that, one day, will explain the questions our founding theories did not answer.

Most recently, particle experiments at CERN may challenge what we know about the “constant” velocity of light. CERN scientists are welcoming close scrutiny of this recent observation, which clocks neutrinos breaking the law. Here are some links to more on the subject.

http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2011/PR19.11E.html

A great 2005 Scientific American article discussed the same in “Inconstant Constants

Finally, my personal favorite set of articles challenging well-held theories including the big bang, see Dr. Halton Arp’s website

Blizzard’s 180 degree turn

Blizzard recently announced it would partner with Paypal to support buying virtual assets with real world currency from other players in the upcoming “Diablo III” in-game auction house.

Read the press release here:

http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/news/?d=2011-9#140956

This is a crisp 180 degree turn for Blizzard, who has invested much effort to combat the unauthorized sale of gold, items, characters and accounts in “World of Warcraft”.

Not dissimilar to buying premium content in single player titles like “Farmville” or numerous other successful mobile titles, this will allow players the option of purchasing in-game items they might otherwise not have the time or inclination to earn themselves. It also ups the potential for reward for any player who does acquire very rare in-game content.

Fans are grumbling, but sale of gold and items in World of Warcraft persisted despite ongoing efforts by Blizzard to put a stop to it. Dedicated gold-selling players became increasingly clever, giving rise to various sophisticated tactics used to gain access to other players accounts with intent to sell the virtual belongings for easily transferable gold, which would be sold for real world currency. Such tactics included phishing scams in email or on web sites to trick players to give away their passwords, to much more aggressive malware keylogging viruses such as the one found to have infected a computer aboard the International Space Station. (see following ZDnet article).

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/security/malware-detected-at-the-international-space-station/1806

Blizzard’s surprise change of policy towards buying gold and items may be a gamble worth taking; by giving malicious gold-sellers legitimate competition.

Christmas with the Baggins

Tis the season for elves and jolly bearded men in boots, and chain mail.

http://www-images.theonering.org/torwp/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/HBT-DWF-007.jpg

Some years back, we were treated to Christmas with Frodo three years running, four if you count the following holiday extended-edition DVD sales; I know I did. Today, Peter Jackson and team are busy on the December 2012 and 2013 releases of a two part “Hobbit” movie, and they have their work cut out for them.

Mr Jackson has the tall task of bringing to life each of the 13 dwarves, numerous supporting characters and the reluctant hairy-toed hero himself. Furthermore, to provide franchise continuity a handful of the recognizable characters from the Lord of the Rings are worked into the story, at least briefly, presumably to introduce the context the prequels are told in.

To be sure, just like in the Lord of the Rings, there will be some changes in this retelling of the Hobbit. Some of the changes are bound to anger fans of the cartoon and novel, others may even introduce new characters and content not in the classic at all. Fans are left to guess how it will play out, but we do know that the titles of the movies are based on the book Bilbo writes, “There and Back Again”, which in the story was given to Samwise at the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings, who was to finish the remaining blank pages. Who knows if the latter unwritten bit remains symbolic or is related to the pair of movies or not.

No matter how faithful to the beloved Tolkien text, the movies are sure to turn a few heads. They are being shot with equipment unlike most movies made today and will be shown at a stunning 48 frames per second in 3D, double the 24 fps standard of HD movies today. Those close to the project have spoken very highly of the improvement, and other notable movie producers (Cameron, Lucas) are showing interest in similar technologies.

http://nofilmschool.com/2011/04/peter-jackson-shoots-the-hobbit-48-fps/

Good, bad or irreverent, I am excited to see how it turns out. And yes, according to the early production video diaries, we get to see singing and dancing dwarves. No word yet on singing orcs 🙂