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Posts tagged Fantasy

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GDC Online 2010: Mark Rein on iOS and Epic Citadel


I’m very excited about this game.  The Epic Citadel demo is fantastic, and my first thought when playing with it was, “This would make a killer Ultima engine.”  The feel of the castle is right for Britannia, I think. (Though not for Castle Britannia itself.)

Perhaps it is obvious, but there might be some iPad/Ultima folks reading this who don’t necessarily follow all the Apple news, so here it is.

Filed under Fantasy iPad Ultima

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old school

This remains my favorite computer game of all time.  No joke.  I still break it out and play it from time to time in DOSBox, and I hope to get it running in DOSPad for iPad, as soon as a) I upgrade to 4.2 and b) there’s a jailbreak for 4.2.

This video isn’t the best intro to the game, as it mostly shows the endgame, but the completion time, 4 months 12 days of game-time, is quite impressive.  I don’t remember my time when I beat it, but it was certainly over a year in-game.

Filed under Retro Computing Fantasy

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Star Wars vs. Star Trek

There’s an interesting confluence of events happening right now: we are getting a regular dose of new Star Wars, in the form of the Clone Wars TV series, as well as a new Star Trek film (to be released in May). This has brought out some of the wags on both sides of the aisle, each fan of one particular franchise disparaging the other.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right now: each series has its share of turkeys. I’ll admit I’ve never seen the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, but it’s a notoriously bad thing. Then there’s Star Trek V, which has a few redeeming qualities… very few. And let’s not even discuss “Spock’s Brain”. But every show from every genre has its clunkers, its phoned-in acting and cartoon plots.


Both franchises also have their share of fanatics, and this is not as uncommon as you might think. You know the images: the Klingons at the convention, the Jedi at the movie premiere, who have waited for untold hours to be the first to see it. The home theaters remodeled as either the bridge of the Enterprise or Palpatine’s Coruscant office. I’m not among these who has more money and free time than interest in conforming with the rest of society, though I’m hardly a casual fan, either. I’ve met two of the original Star Trek cast members; I’ve been to a few conventions; I’ve worn a Starfleet uniform. I also have at least four versions of the original Star Wars trilogy; I insisted on seeing each prequel on opening day; my son’s first Halloween costume was Yoda.

What gets me is the fundamental disdain some people have for one franchise or the other. Unsurprisingly to anybody who knows me, I love them both, perhaps equally, if such a thing is possible. They are simply different. I think it comes down to one important difference in particular: one is science fiction, and the other is not.

I think the Trekkers who are down on Star Wars regard it as silly, as very bad science fiction. The thing is, even though it takes place in space, has spaceships, laser guns, and aliens, Star Wars is not science fiction. It just isn’t. It’s fantasy. It’s set in space, sure, but the story it tells is very much in the vein of mythic fantasy, such as the Arthurian legends, Tolkien, even Harry Potter. Here’s the plot: Orphaned boy is taken under the tutelage of an avuncular old sage, discovers he possesses a special trait, and is meant to change the world. He reluctantly takes up the quest; along the way he gathers companions, and he loses his mentor. Ultimately it is his willingness to sacrifice himself for those he loves that wins the day. To varying degrees, this plot applies to every fantasy story of the last 50 years. The point isn’t the technology, swords or lightsabers, magic rings or the plans to the Death Star; the point is the personal quest. Yes, there are technical elements along the way, how the magic or the shield generator works, but that’s not the focus.

Here’s a little secret: Dune and The Matrix are two more “science fiction” movies that really aren’t. Rebels, Fremen, people of Zion, they’re all the same. And so are Luke Skywalker, Paul Atreides and Neo. (And Eragon, and Harry, and Frodo, and…)

On the other side of the coin, you have Star Trek, which is very much science fiction. Over the long haul, the story has elements of the hero’s journey—take Benjamin Sisko’s arc over Deep Space Nine)—but the real focus is on the setting. The story being told is how different technologies might affect society. What does it mean when a very advanced people interferes in a primitive planet? When a transporter accident clones one person into two (or combines two people into one)? Science fiction asks questions, and explores possible answers. It also provides commentary on current social phenomena in a more comfortable, euphemistic way. Racism, sexism, war, sexuality, euthanasia, slavery, polyamory, the afterlife-all of these have been addressed on Star Trek. Star Wars fans who diss Trek tend to think it’s too nerdy, or put down it’s production values, but they, too, are missing the point—Star Trek is about human potential, possibility, and responsibility as we advance technologically. It’s less fantasy and more extrapolated reality.

I suppose my point in any of this is to encourage exclusive dyed-in-the-wool fans of one franchise to give the other a chance to be what it is meant to be—not a poor copy of the other, but its own kind of storytelling. Because neither borrows very much from the other, (the similarity between the Breen and Boush the bounty hunter notwithstanding).

Filed under Fantasy Science Fiction Star Wars Star Trek