Thursday, November 4, 2021

Gamigo, Amazon Prime And Netflix Walk Into A Blog...

An odds and ends day today, I think. I can sense one or two larger topics looming out there in the mists but I can't quite make them out just yet, let alone line them up in my sights. I guess we'll just have to see what loose ideas I can find rolling around in the back of the land rover and make do with those.

How did I get into this metaphor and how do I make it stop?

Maybe it was listening to Gamigo's extremely bizarre opening pitch for their new MMO. Yes, apparently they're making one. Or someone is. I was under the impression Gamigo mostly bought the games other people had made, usually in some kind of fire sale. At least, that's how they got hold of Rift and ArcheAge and Trove

How's that going for them, then? Trove is probably doing quite nicely. It usually seems to be. Rift is languishing in the same maintenance limbo where it's been for about as long as I can remember. And ArcheAge has just been sold to Kakao.

Well, I say "sold". I can't actually see any figures in any of the press releases or news stories. They all say something like "Kakao Games will act as publisher for Korean developer XL Games!" or "Kakao Games is the New Publisher for ArcheAge" without explaining how that came about.

Given some of the harsh things I've read about Gamigo's custody of the Trion portfolio so far, I imagine a lot of ArcheAge players will be quite excited about the change of publisher but as an outside observer I'm more interested in some background about how and why it's happening. Did a contract expire? Was the game not making enough money to be worth continued investment? Was this an opportunity to resell at a profit? Was that the plan all along? Does it make it more likely Rift could be shunted off to yet another owner?

We rarely get to know the background to these moves. We just get to jump through a whole set of hoops when we transfer our accounts from one set of faceless landlords to the next. No word on that yet but I'm sure it's coming.

In the meantime, Gamigo just spat out the first gobbet of information about a new mmo they're going to be hosting. I say "mmo" rather than "mmorpg" for the simple reason that as yet we know almost nothing about it, not even what it's called.

It's a tried and trusted approach, the mysterious, staggered reveal. We've all seen it before. If you don't have a big IP to wave in everyone's face, it's a reliable way of building interest where none existed before. Gamigo look to be playing that card for everything it's worth and then some.

So far all we have is a video. A video that lasts six minutes and shows... absolutely nothing. The entire thing from start to finish consists of a single, static shot of a planet and a star. Over the course of the video the planet moves very slowly from right to left until by the end the star is occluded by maybe thirty per cent of the planetary mass.

That would be a meditative, calming, almost zen-like experience if it wasn't for the voiceover. As the planet crawls almost imperceptibly across the screen a really rather good actor reads a moderately well-written horror story in which a mother sacrifices her child in order to kill a demon. Or something.

It's a lot more nuanced than that. There are some odd, intriguing hints as to the setting and a discomfiting twist at the end. I am not going to attempt to summarize it. It's embedded above. No need to watch the screen while you listen.

And that's all we get, for now. Gamigo's Twitter feed promises more if people join in the fun: "Every 10 retweets will reveal more from this mystery." I'll wait for the summary, thanks.

If I had to guess, which I don't but I'm going to anyway, I'd say it's going to be a hack-and-slash horror-inflected gorefest themed around demon-hunting. If so, hard pass. The storytelling in the first teaser is good enough to make me withhold judgment until we find out more, though. One to keep an eye on, for now, at least.

What's that you say? It's not my show? Pardon me, but I think you'll find you're wrong.
The second season of Stargirl ended yesterday. Well, it did where I am. Probably already finished somewhere else. We tend to get most of the superhero TV shows late over here.

I really liked it although it was certainly less fluid and well-constructed than the first season, which was quite tightly structured by comparison. Season two also looked visibly cheaper than season one, which would be because less money was spent on it. I know, obvious. Doesn't always follow, though.

The show passed from the now-defunct DC Universe to the CW between seasons and you can tell. The CW never seems to have much of a budget for anything but in a way I think it helps. I like their take on fantasy and superhero storytelling in part because of the way they turn necessity into virtue. The lack of any budget for big, spectacular special effects and long drawn-out super-powered slugfests means they have to focus a lot harder on the characters and particularly their lives out of costume. That's always been the aspect of super-heroics that interests me the most.

The CW trades on teen soap operas with a superhero skin is what I'm saying. Most of their shows I've seen could be Beverly Hills 90210 with spandex and super-powers. Whether that works or not depends more on the strength of the acting and the script than who can punch who through a wall and mostly the both the scripts and the acting are of real comic-book quality.

That's a compliment, by the way. I'm a comic-book fan and a super-hero comic book fan at that. A mainstream super-hero comic book fan, even. I like cheesy dialog and plot twists that would never happen. I like logical inconsistencies and predictable outcomes. 

This is my anxious face. At least I think it is. Honestly, I'm better at the happy stuff.
I particularly like stylized characters who represent archetypes and Stargirl is chock-full of those. Some of the regular characters might struggle to show more than three emotions. Or as many as three for that matter.

That's what I'm looking for in something like this and Stargirl provides it reliably. The lead character (aka Courtney Whitmore, played by Brec Bassinger) is just ridiculously likeable, as is her stepfather, Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson), the ex-sidekick formerly and embarrassingly known as Stripesy. There are moments in Season Two where each of them is tasked with showing us their dark side and in both cases it's one of the least scary transformations I've ever seen.

Which is absolutely perfect. The two of them are the living embodiment of that version of the American super hero that has no dark side. No amount of provocation can bring to the surface something that isn't there to begin with. It does rip giant holes in the plot but who cares? It's what those kind of comics were always meant to be about and it's super-refreshing to see that inner light shine instead of the darkness at the heart of the rotten souls festering inside as exemplified by the likes of the Titans.

The real darkness, both metaphorical and... well, I guess also metaphorical albeit an entirely different metaphor, rests in the unlikely hands of a child and a very old man. Both Milo Stein, as the eight-year old avatar of big bad Eclipso and Jonathan Cake, as immortal not-so-black-as-he's-charcoalled villain the Shade, steal every scene they're in. 

Scariest thing in the whole show. Trust me.

Stein is either a superb actor for his age or someone is a magnificent director of children. He puts more nuance into a single line than most of the supporting actors manage in their entire character arc. Cake, meanwhile, plays the Shade with such arch camp as to appear to have arrived in Blue Valley not from another country or another dimension (both of which he has, in fact, done) but another production entirely, possibly a revival of Blithe Spirit.

Usually, when a season of a show I like comes to an end the first thing I do after the credits roll on the final episode is google whether there's going to be another season. I'm exceptionally happy to report that this time I didn't need to do that. The show ended with a caption announcing a third season entitled "Frenemies".

Since they'd spent the lengthy coda firmly establishing that just about everyone, including all the villains except Sinestro (Who, SPOILER ALERT! finishes the final episode as a piece of half-burnt toast. Yes, really.) were not only hanging around Stargirl's home town but setting up home right next to (or in one case inside) her house, it did seem the stage was being set for the next chapter. I'm just very glad that, for once, those scenes were written with the contracts already in place.

One thing that might be hard to explain to an audience brought up with the MCU or even the Batman and Spiderman movies that preceded the superheroification of cinema is the sheer joy of seeing characters from the comics brought to life on screen. It's something I grew up imagining would never happen. To a disturbing degree it doesn't even matter how well it's done. It's the old dog walking on its hind legs trick. Just to see it done at all is something.

I'm guessing the Dallas has to take whatever movies it can get.

Stargirl, which I guess is at least a peripheral part of what's awkwardly known as the Arrowverse, is almost profligate in the way it throws its references around. Drawing on the decades-long history of the Justice Society of America, there's no shortage of names to drop and characters to introduce but it's weirdly thrilling to be able to watch not just the new, teenage wearers of the Dr. Midnite goggles and the Wildcat claws but their older, timeworn forebears as well. And as for what's playing at the Blue Valley movie theater, well, I'd have to call it fan service - if I thought Prince Ra Man had any fans left. Or had ever had any to begin with.

Stargirl shows on Amazon Prime over here and as we all know Amazon is making strides towards becoming a force in gaming. Competing streaming platform Netflix appears to be harboring ambitions in that direction, too. This week they took their first steps with the release of five games for the platform. I knew it was coming but I got the news by way of what's becoming one of my more reliable news sources for game-related developments - the New Musical Express.

Okay, it's been just NME for a while now. I imagine plenty of people with the website in their feed don't even know or care what the letters stand for any more. It would be passing hard to guess, too, given almost half the items seem to relate to things other than music, especially video games.

As the article says, the initial tranche of games (Five in all.) includes two Stranger Things titles. I was a late-comer to Stranger Things but when I finally found it I was mightily impressed, particularly with the riveting third season. The thought of a game set in that milieu was more than a little intriguing, certainly interesting enough to get me to the Google Play store to check it out.

Funny. I must have missed the episode with all the gnomes.

Unfortunately, having looked as closely at the two titles as it's possible to do without going so far as to download and install them, I decided they weren't for me. They also don't appear to be new games, although I admit to finding the whole thing totally confusing on that score. There are YouTube walkthroughs for Stranger Things: 1984 from as long ago as 2017 and even the current Netflix version was apparently available in Poland back in August, while according to IMDB, Stranger Things 3: The Game came out in 2019.

I'm not quite sure why we should be expected to get excited about Netflix making some old mobile games available on its platform. I was expecting something a bit more impressive. I suppose if they'd been games I'd wanted to play it might have made a difference but even with the Stranger Things connection I do not want to go back to the kind of graphics and gameplay that I suffered through in the period the show depicts. There are quite a few things I miss about the '80s but eighties video games are not one of them.

I didn't look at the other three games, all of which look even less like anything I'd ever care about. I'll wait until Netflix offers up something more suited to my tastes, which I fully expect to be never.

And that'll do for now, I guess. Probably better think of something for tomorrow where I can use some genuine screenshots I took myself. I don't think screen grabs from TV shows count for IntPiPoMo even if I did take longer choosing and editing them than it took me to write the while damn post...


  1. I seem to recall Gamigo fumbling some of the promised ArcheAge updates after they bought Trion's assets, so I am pretty sure XL Games just refused to renew and went with another offer. I am sure we'll get the real story at some point long after most of us care, but that is my bet.

    1. Oh yes, I'd forgotten about the updates Gamigo missed - there was a news story about that. I guess when Gamigo bought Trion's assets they got the full rights to the games Trion made but just the remainder of the licenses for whatever Trion were publishing for a third party. The whole "Developer/Publisher" thing can get very tangled, particularly as to who's calling the shots - as we found when EG7 bought Daybreak and apparently got Standing Stone as part of the package. Still not clear what was going on there...

  2. I too am finding Stargirl quite decent, definitely better than Supergirl, and that little (evil) kid gets the best lines! Also wanted to say this show has my favorite version of Sportsmaster so far.

    1. Still waitingg for Supergirl over here although I had heard the final season was problematic. Also, news to me there are any other versions of Sportsmaster but I have yet to watch any of the Green Arrow or Flash series.


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