Fallout 4 Trailer – Bethesda Drops a Bomb

So, it’s everywhere on the Interwebz but we wouldn’t be doing our part if we didn’t share it here as well. Check out the new trailer for Fallout 4 from Bethesda. Not much has been revealed about the game, expect more to come on June 14th at E3 during Bethesda’s Press Conference (their time-slot is 9PM CST.)

This early trailer is already getting some criticism regarding graphics quality but we don’t really know if the footage is final or an early beta. I personally feel as though the Fallout franchise has never really excelled at character modeling but it makes up for it in the world building and story line aspects of the game. This is one I will definitely pre-order. What do you think?  Check out the trailer after the jump.

Narrative Risk-Taking And The Walking Dead

Narrative risk-taking is something that most games seem to shy away from. We’re talking hard, conflicting, emotional choices here—the kind of decisions that resonate with gamers, and that are ultimately tough to walk away from. Since Telltale’s adventure game adaptation of “Game of Thrones” has been generating some buzz for its most recent episodes, and because “The Walking Dead” prequel “Fear The Walking Dead” (well, sort of prequel) is set to premiere this summer, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” adaptation, and why it’s still one of the better examples of video game storytelling and narrative risk-taking that I’ve seen in a while.

Spoilers: I’m going to chat about the game’s first two seasons (side note—season three of Telltale’s game is definitely coming, but we still don’t know when exactly), so if you haven’t played the game yet—spoiler alert!

Think of a big, flashy, Michael Bay-style title like “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” Sure, it’s a fun game, but was there ever a point during the game where you made a decision that affected you emotionally? One that engaged you on a level that went beyond bang-bang-die? One that stuck with you for more than a few minutes? Maybe. But the more recent “Call of Duty” titles aren’t about storytelling or conveying emotion—they’re more about showcasing unique locations, showy gadgets and blockbuster-style action pieces. And that’s fine. There’s always a time and a place for that sort of thing (I’m a pretty big fan of terrible B-action movies, so I’m not exactly criticizing games that are purely about having fun).

But since Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” is an adventure game with a heavy emphasis on point-and-click play and dialogue—well, that’s pretty much all you can do in the game—storytelling is placed front and center. And when that happens, the story needs to stick with players—it needs to be something that they’ll remember once they step away from their computers or consoles.

For instance, though this sounds a little odd to say, I was almost glad to see that Telltale was willing to let the main character from the first season, Lee Everett, die during the final episode. Lee was a flawed, but genuinely likable character, and losing him actually hurt—it told me that no one, not a single character, not even the one you’re supposed to root for and care about, was truly safe in this world. And since Telltale had placed such an emphasis on Lee and Clementine forming a loving connection with one another, I felt Lee’s need to rescue Clementine at the end as being crucial and timely. And when a dying Lee charged through a mess of zombies to rescue Clementine? I was rooting for him every step of the way—I honestly cared what happened to him, and I couldn’t put the game down for a single minute.

Telltale is well known for putting players on the spot, forcing them to make tough decisions that aren’t clear-cut in the slightest. During the game’s second season, when Clementine had the option to feed Sam, the starving feral dog, was a hard one, and the end result was both gruesome and unsettling. Whether you, as the player, decided to put a dying Sam out of his misery or leave him in agony was a difficult decision. Was it right to have a little girl kill a dying animal? Or should an innocent animal be left to suffer? But that choice, while hard, carried some emotional heft—it reminded players that the game’s world is unfair, and that Clementine was losing her innocence rapidly. Most games would have been content with letting Sam live—just as most games would have avoided telling a story from a young girl’s perspective, or ensured that Lee somehow survived his mortal wound during the first season.

When a game takes risks with its story—or, in other words, when a game forces a player to make a decision that carries plenty of emotional weight—then the game itself is better in the end. Playing it safe ensures that any sense of real emotion will be lost. Without emotion, without a need to relate to the game’s character, all you have are overdone gimmicks and showy graphics—and those never stand the test of time.

Geek Feet – Geeky Shoes Make Us Smile

To quote the venerable Forrest Gump: “You can tella lot about a person by their shoes.”  

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s just not possible or appropriate to sport your favorite geek allegiance in t-shirt form. For instance, you wouldn’t wear your favorite Horde hoody to that big job interview, what if the boss man was an Alliance fan? Fret not, you can always class things up a notch with some geektastic footwear. Your shoes can be the window to your sole (see what I did there?)  Check these out:

Some Fierce Frozen / Adventure Time Heels – By ESKJ.Shoes.Art geeky_shoes_04 geeky_shoes_01

 

Check out these Retro Mario Vans slip-ons by CustomPlainJane

 

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Basically anything at Bobsmade is worth owning. Here are some sweet Pokémon shoes followed by some custom painted World of Warcraft kicks.

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There is a great sub culture of custom shoe painting happening all over the internet. If you can dream it up, someone will most likely be happy to create some custom kicks just for you. A quick google search for “custom [insert favorite fandom] shoes” will return plenty of inspiration and purchasing options!

What’s on your feet?

 

 

For Just $100,000, You Could Own A Star Wars Battle Pod

The Star Wars Battle Pod, the first Star Wars-themed arcade game to be released to the public in years, is definitely worth getting excited about. However, if you’re not one for standing in lines, you can actually buy a Pod of your own. Namco Bandai plans on making the arcade game available in Japan, Europe and the United States.

There’s a premium model that’s priced at about $100,000—I know that’s pretty steep, but the unit comes with a bunch of fancy features. The premium Pods feature one of two designs: a Rebel helmet version or a Darth Vader-themed one. They boast movable leather seats, carpeting, a custom owner’s manual and a special plaque with the owner’s name (the owner’s name will also pop up in the credits scroll too).

If you don’t happen to have an extra hundred grand lying around, you can always shell out the dough for the standard model, which is priced at a cool $37,000. That’s still a hefty price tag, but the Pod does let you take part in some of the greatest Star Wars battles ever depicted in film. That’s worth a few grand, right?

[Source: Kotaku]

The Groundbreaking History Of Star Wars Toys

(via io9.com)

When Star Wars released in 1977, the face of science fiction in popular culture was changed forever — but a year later, the movie helped transform the toy industry as well. Since then, Star Wars and the toys it inspired have been forever linked, a story that can just as easily be told through figures as it can the films.

Top image from the cover of Stephen J. Sansweet’s Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection.

An Unexpected Alliance

When George Lucas and 20th Century Fox were trying to market Star Wars, they planned for something almost entirely unprecedented at the time — a marketing deluge, and a full scale licensing project that would see t-shirts, posters, lunchboxes and yes, toys, covered in the movie’s characters, hit shelves. In a move that, in hindsight, was incredibly shrewd, Lucas negotiated with Fox to take the bulk of revenue from merchandise sales, with neither side believing that the movie’s tepid response before release could lead to much in terms of profit.

The lukewarm reaction spread to licensees too. Lucasfilm and Fox first offered the Mego Corporation — whose 8” licensed dolls of DC superheroes, Star Trek and more had made them one of the most powerful toy makers of the 1970’s — the deal to create Star Wars dolls, but the company passed, unimpressed by the movie. After attempting to shop the license around to other toy makers, in 1976 it fell to Kenner, then a subsidiary of General Mills. Kenner President Bernie Loomis saw an opportunity to make good toys with the license (especially in the then relatively new space of 3.75” scaled action figures, cheaper to produce than the larger toys), but expected Star Wars to be a fleeting venture for the company.

Little did anyone involved know how wrong they would be.

The Early Bird Gets The Gift Certificate

Star Wars released in May 1977 to rapturous approval, becoming an overnight sensation — and kids didn’t just want to see the movie; they wanted toys. Kenner were caught flat-footed at the demand, finding that they wouldn’t even have figures out for the lucrative Christmas period of that year. To do nothing would have meant losing out on millions of dollars.

So they made a decision that was, by all accounts at the time, completely ludicrous: They sold people an empty box. The Early Bird Certificate was a box containing a cardboard display stand featuring the characters from the film, stickers, and a certificate for kids to mail away to Kenner to receive four figures in 1978: Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, Princess Leia and Chewbacca. The box was savaged by the media, and although sales were poor, the move kept Star Wars figures in the public’s mind, ready for their 1978 release.

Your First Step Into A Larger World

When the Star Wars line first hit in 1978, any damage that criticism of the Early Bird Certificate could have done was wiped out almost instantaneously. Joined by another eight figures, and with playsets and vehicles following later in the year, Kenner’s toyline was a smash success, making over $100 million in its first year alone — with demand often outstripping supply. Kenner’s toy line became the icon of the new era of 3.75” figures.

The following year, the company capitalised on the announcement of a sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, with another mail-away campaign: one that proved to be far more controversial than the Early Bird Cerificate.

In the new promotion, kids could mail four proofs of purchase from any Star Wars figure and get a sneak peek of a new Empire toy, the mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett, who had made his first appearance the year prior in the infamously atrocious Star Wars Holiday Special. The figure came with a heavily advertised rocket-firing jetpack feature, but shortly before Boba Fett went to market, a rash of health-and-safety fears caused Kenner to make a late decision to glue the rocket into the backpack securely. Kenner has always maintained that they never released a rocket-firing Fett into the wild, but several such figures (as well as early production prototypes) have made their way into the hands of collectors over the years, making it one of the most valuable Star Wars toys ever made, selling for upwards of $2000 when one appears at auction.

By the release of Return of the Jedi, the line had expanded to contain 79 figures, with oodles of playsets, vehicles and creatures released. But without movies to support them, sales slowly began to dwindle. Kenner attempted to offset the decline with brief lines based on the animatedDroids and Ewok cartoons, the first non-movie Star Wars toys ever made, but it was too late. In 1985, after 250 million Star Wars figures had been shipped over the world, Kenner ended the toyline. Plans were even made for a spinoff line the following year, The Epic Continues, featuring new characters based on a storyline created by Kenner in an attempt to reignite interest in the toys, but Lucasfilm rejected the move. For now, Star Wars as a toyline was over.

A New Hope

But it only took a decade for that to all change. By the mid 1990s, George Lucas had announced his intent to create three brand new Star Wars films, prequel movies to the originals, and specially remastered editions of the classic trilogy were being prepared to hit cinemas once again. Kenner, now owned by Hasbro, decided to capitalise on the excitement surrounding Star Wars by going back and creating new figures, a spiritual sequel to the Power of the Force Linethat ended the original toyline in 1985.

The figures were a massive success, but collectors and fans of the original figures were appalled. The initial Hasbro/Kenner toys — published under the Kenner name rather than Hasbro to capitalise on nostalgia — only included one extra piece of articulation (they could turn at the waist), but more egregious was what Hasbro had dubbed the “Hero Age” sculpts. The initial figures were muscled up to the point where they were unrecognisable (even Princess Leia, whose figure was quickly dubbed “Monkey Leia” by fans for her awkward pose and poor face sculpt) and with a weirdly wide-legged stance that made it impossible to get the figures to properly sit in vehicles and ships.

But nevertheless, the new figures were immensely popular, spurred by the release of the Special Editions. Hasbro upped production on the Star Wars line once more, and even began incorporating elements of the then-fledgling Expanded Universe. Characters from the original Kenner line like Yak Face and Hammerhead were given their EU-sourced names (Saelt-Marae and Momaw Nadon, respectively), and for the first time, characters from the novels and video games were turned into toys, like Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade, or the bulky Dark Troopers fromStar Wars: Dark Forces.

The Phantom Preview

But Hasbro’s focus on the original movies soon gave way to the insane anticipation for The Phantom Menace. This time, they opted not to go for a mail-away campaign. Instead, in an unprecedented move, they sold two new toys in 1998 to stoke excitement for the film: a figure of Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu (complete with a blue lightsaber, ahead of the character getting a purple saber in Attack of the Clones) and a deluxe figure of a Battle Droid on a STAP speeder bike. Both figures came in special packaging, teasing the release of The Phantom Menace in 1999, and gave fans some of the first proper looks at new characters. They were lapped up over the year, and excitement for Phantom Menace toys reached fever pitch.

Aside from a surge in popularity due to the new movie, Hasbro decided to tie the toy line closer to the films by ditching the “Hero Age” sculpts, opting for a neutral and more naturally-bodied stance. The Phantom Menace figures also came with a voice chip accessory that, when used with a separate toy based on Jedi Master Qui-Gonn Jinn’s communicator from the film, played lines of dialogue from the films.

Attack Of The Super-Articulated Clones

But despite the success of the new toy line, and an invigorated public interest in Star Warsmerchandise thanks to new movies coming out, Hasbro faced pressure to evolve the toy line even further. A common critique was the figures’ lack of articulation, something that had hardly changed since the original Kenner days, compared to other figures on the market — something Hasbro decided to rectify with their Attack of the Clones line in 2002. The first ever “super articulated” Star Wars toy, a Clone Trooper, went on sale in 2004, and was so popular the figure continued to be a part of Star Wars lines for the next half a decade.

Hasbro brought the increased articulation to a wider range of figures for its Revenge of the Sithtoy line in 2005. Although excitement over the prequel saga had diminished since the late ‘90s, Hasbro made a huge push with what it thought could be the final years of the Star Wars toy line. As with The Phantom Menace toys before them, sneak preview figures were released (General Grievous, Utapaun politician Tion Medon, a Wookiee warrior and the R4-G9 astromech droid), but Hasbro also pushed midnight releases of the product line across US toy stores, encouraging fans to queue up in costume and celebrate the release of the toys.

Black And Blue

Despite the lack of a new movie to keep fans interested, the Star Wars toy line did not come to an end as Hasbro had feared. The success of the Revenge of the Sith toy line, mainly thanks to the improved sculpting and articulation it included, spurred Hasbro to go back to the previous films and make new figures that included the extra articulation and detail (they also added premium features like cloth clothing — earlier toys sculpted clothes out of plastic, and in the case of the first Kenner figures, vinyl sheets were used for cloaks and robes) they had previously lacked. The figure line would then be bolstered by the announcement of a new animated series,Star Wars: Clone Wars in 2008, but by and large Hasbro’s Star Wars line closed out the 2000s in relative normality.

However, times were changing in the toy industry. Action figure popularity was on the decline (in favour of an emphasis on construction toys, like Mega Bloks and Lego), and the rising price of oil had a severe impact on manufacturing costs. The heavily detailed and articulated figures that Star Wars had become known for were becoming too expensive to produce.

Instead of cancelling the line however, Hasbro made the decision to split it in two. For the first time in Star Wars toy history, figures would be produced in the 6” scale. Announced in 2013 and dubbed “The Black Series,” these figures would keep the high articulation and improved detailing and be aimed solely at the collectors market, with higher prices to match (prices doubling from the usual $10-12 to $20-25).

The Black Series, however, came at the cost of the long running 3.75” line. Now aimed solely at younger children instead of trying to balance between appealing to kids and diehard collectors, Hasbro decided to cut the super articulation and detailing introduced 8 years prior withRevenge of the Sith to keep costs down. Many fans bemoaned the end of an era, but with Hasbro’s Star Wars toys grossing nearly six billion dollars since 1995, there was plenty proof out there that there was still an audience for both kinds of toys.

The Merchandising Awakens

So where does that leave us in 2015? With a new era of Star Wars movie making upon us —following Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars license and Episode VII on the way this December — toys will once again play an important role in how fans discover the new Star Wars universe. As it was with The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith, the toys will be part of the earliest looks fans will see of the new movie (outside of teaser trailers, of course) when The Force Awakens merchandise is launched on September 4th, as part of a heavilymarketed “Force Friday” celebration. Three months ahead of the film may sound unbelievable to most, but as we’ve seen in Star Wars’ own past, it’s rather restrained.

Even with nearly 40 years between the Early Bird Certificate and these new toys, the relationship between Star Wars and its action figures is stronger than ever.