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Science-Fiction Weekly – God Of War’s Star Wars Roots, A New Theory About Rey’s Parents

If someone asked you where the inspiration for the newly announced God of War game comes from, most of you would probably say The Last of Us. The connection between Kratos and his son echoes that of Joel teaching Ellie how to survive in a harsh world. Odds are developer Sony Santa Monica is drawing heavily from The Last of Us, but Cory Barlog, the game's creative director, says that the inspiration for a more humanized version of Kratos comes from a canceled Star Wars television show.

In an interview with Venture Beat, Barlog, who worked at LucasArts for a brief time before God of War projects, says he was invited to Skywalker Ranch to read the scripts of the show. "It was the most mind-blowing thing I’d ever
experienced. I cared about the Emperor," he said. "They made the Emperor a
sympathetic figure who was wronged by this f–king heartless woman.
She’s this hardcore gangster, and she just totally destroyed him as a
person. I almost cried while reading this.”

A television show that focused on the Emperor? My initial reaction was "that would be awesome," but after much thought, I'm glad George Lucas and his team at Lucasfilm didn't move forward with the project. Some characters are better left in the shadows. We don't need to know everything about every major character. Sheev Palpatine (yes, that's his real name) is one of them. The funny thing, through Barlog's inspiration, I suppose we'll learn a little bit more about the Emperor as we see Kratos' new life unfold.

In other Star Wars television news, if you didn't watch Star Wars Rebels as it aired, the second season hits Blu-Ray and DVD on August 30. Along with all 22 episodes, these discs include a number of bonus features, including a video feature called "From Apprentice to Adversary," in which executive producer Dave Filoni dissects season two's big finale.

In a less serious part of the Star Wars universe, Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures kicked off its first season on Disney XD and video-on-demand services yesterday, and I absolutely adored it. Disney is airing a new episode every day up until June 23.

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Before I dive into a new theory about Rey's parents, let's leap to another universe to talk about Star Trek. One of the most unexpected surprises at this year's E3 was Red Storm and Ubisoft's Star Trek: Bridge Crew, a virtual reality game that places you on the bridge of the U.S.S. Aegis (NX-1787) with three other players. This is a cooperative experience that demands teamwork, as each player has a specified role on the ship. I was an engineer in my playthrough, tasked with routing power, activating the warp coils, and teleporting people onto the vessel. The only things I had to do were listen to the Captain, who is controlled by another player, and interact with just a handful of buttons on the terminal in front of me. It sounds simple, and it is, but once the action starts, and the Captain barks out commands to other players in helm and tactical, the experience turns surprisingly intense. Every second matters on the Aegis. Andy McNamara (who was piloting our ship as a helm officer) and I managed to keep the Aegis intact and transport every civilian aboard successfully. Ubisoft said it was one of the cleanest playthroughs they've seen, even after I asked the Captain if I could transport Andy to a nearby asteroid. He said I couldn't, but thought it was a great idea and would bring it back to the development team.

And now it's time to flash the SPOILER alert. If you haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet (who are you?), turn back now. Additionally, if you don't want to know anything about Star Wars: Episode VIII, stop reading.

The next rumor to surface is supposedly from a script leak. I wouldn't put too much stock into it, as we see fake leads like this all of the time, but this one opens up a different line of thinking than I think most people have had when trying to figure out who Rey's parents are. The safe bet I hear the most (one that I believe to be true) is Luke Skywalker is Rey's father. Given just how powerful with the Force Rey appears to be, I suspect her mother is an equally powerful Jedi. I'd love it to be Mara Jade, but I doubt Disney opens up the Expanded Universe that much with the new canon in place.

I've also heard that people think Rey may be a descendant of Obi-Wan Kenobi, perhaps his granddaughter. I like this idea too, but I don't think Obi-Wan (or his family) will be a part of this trilogy. A few people out there also think Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia. If you're not laughing at this idea, you should be. It's absurd. No chance this happens. I'd put money on Jar Jar Binks being the dad over Han Solo.

The newest rumor suggests that Rey may be related to the first of the Jedi. That's why she commands the Force so easily. The supposed leaked script says that the Force was contained in a single tree and was eventually freed and spread throughout the universe by a brother and sister. The boy was consumed by the tree's dark energy. The girl came from the light. Rey could be the reincarnated version of that girl. "The One" that the Jedi have been looking for.

The idea is a little silly, and the writing in the script isn't great, but I do like the idea of Rey potentially having old Jedi blood coursing through her veins. It makes me think Snoke could be from a similar era. Theorize away, people. Let me know who you think Rey's parents are in the comments below. I still stand with Luke being daddy, but I do like the old blood angle too.

See you again in seven days!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Rogue One Rumors Debunked, And A Mass Effect Wishlist

The Death Star's superlaser was aimed at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story last week, as a flurry of rumors suggested the Gareth Edwards-directed film wasn't living up to Disney's standards. The severity of rumors increased as new sources came forward, peaking with Disney apparently calling for 40 percent of the film to be reshot and supervised by Star Wars: The Force Awakens' director J. J. Abrams and Edge of Nowhere's writer Christopher McQuarrie. All across the 'net, people and news outlets were reporting on Rogue One being a potential disaster in the making.

Although Disney hasn't responded to the rumors (and likely never will given the company's stance on them), McQuarrie was quick to chime in and squash his supposed involvement in Rogue One's reshoots. On Twitter he wrote "Attn: bloggers. I'm reading some horses–t rumors tonight. You know where to find me. Do your jobs." He also talked to Slashfilm and said "If there are any reshoots on Rogue One, I’m not supervising them. For
any outlet to say so is not only wrong, it’s irresponsible. Gareth
Edwards is a talented filmmaker who deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Making a film – let alone a Star Wars chapter – is hard enough without
the internet trying to deliberately downgrade one’s years of hard work.
Who does that even serve? Let him make his movie in peace."

The rumors started a day after actor Donnie Yen, who plays Chirrut in Rogue One, revealed in an interview with Hong Kong outlet On, that he was returning to London to shoot additional scenes for the film. This is a common thing for an actor associated with a blockbuster film to say. Reshoots and pick-up shoots are common, and it wouldn't be out of line for Rogue One to have them.

A day later, an anonymous Hollywood source told Page Six "The execs at Disney are not happy with the movie, and Rogue One will
have to go back into four weeks of expensive reshoots in July.” The source also said that the movie wasn't testing well, which implied it was going through public test screenings.

Page Six updated the story with a comment from another anonymous Disney source, who said "The filmmaking team and the studio always anticipated additional
shooting and second unit work to make the film the absolute best it can
be, and the actors were aware there would be additional shooting. Coming
off The Force Awakens, there’s an incredibly high bar for this movie
and we have a responsibility to the franchise and to the fans to deliver
the best possible movie we can.”

A few days later, Making Star Wars purportedly talked to a "few" Rogue One crew members that jokingly said "everything" was being redone. Along with the report that 40 percent of the film would be reshot and guided by Abrams and McQuarrie, Making Star Wars offered additional details, such as 32 sets would be constructed for the filming, and people would be working six days a week for eight weeks during this period.

The rumors were out of control, and they were being picked up everywhere, until McQuarrie put his foot down. Entertainment Weekly also did its part with a "what's true and false about the reshoots" article. EW reached out to "deeply placed sources" at Lucasfilm to report that a Rogue One reshoot is indeed happening, and will begin this month and run for four or five months. The sources revealed that these reshoots were always planned, yet were originally scheduled for spring, and were moved back to summer to give Edwards additional time to figure out what should be added or altered in the film.

“The changes have everything to do with clarity and character
development and all take place [as inserts] within scenes we’ve already
shot," a source told EW.

This report makes the reshoots sound like an ordinary part of the process, and that there's as much fiction in the reporting of them as there is in Rogue One's script. Who is telling the truth in all of this? We'll have to wait to see, but I wouldn't lose sleep over any of this at the moment. If one piece of a report is fabricated, it's likely the rest of it is too. I'll never understand why people make up rumors, and why they are reported on without first being confirmed by additional sources, but that's the world we live in. The Internet embraces everything, and lies can turn into the biggest stories of the day, as we saw with Rogue One.

In the less stressful world of video games, we are just one week away from Electronic Arts and BioWare showing off more of Mass Effect Andromeda at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. I have a feeling this will be the "Full Monty" of reveals. And it better be. I don't think Mass Effect fans can stomach another cryptic tease or CG trailer that says next to nothing. Andromeda was first talked on November 12, 2012, and we really haven't heard much about it since then. That's a long drought of information, which is a bit surprising, given BioWare spoon-fed us details for Dragon Age: Inquisition from announce to launch.

Although we did see key talent leave BioWare recently, including director Casey Hudson, I don't think the game was ever in "development hell." Developers from the team have repeatedly said that the scale of this project is immense, which is likely the reason for the blackout on information. On Andromeda's official website, general manager Aaryn Flynn wrote "With Mass Effect: Andromeda, our team at BioWare is exploring
how far they can take this beloved franchise. Yes, we’re building the
best of what we all love about Mass Effect – amazing stories,
characters and fun third-person shooter combat – and bringing them along
with us on the expedition to Andromeda. But we’re also excited to be
introducing new features and ways you can enjoy a Mass Effect game."

Flynn hammers home the point that this Mass Effect adventure is breaking new ground. Although no precise details are given, the site also says that Andromeda offers an "unprecedented level of freedom" for exploration. This small tidbit makes me think BioWare could be heading in the direction of No Man's Sky, with the Andromeda Galaxy potentially being wide open for exploration. Those moments of landing on different planets and exploring uncharted territory were exciting, but short lived. If BioWare does go in this direction, procedural generation could come into play for the planets and discoveries. This design would obviously open up exploration to deeper wells (potentially limitless), but it does put the lore into the crosshairs. The first three games offered a wealth of details for every species and planet in the charted cosmos, and going procedural would make cataloging information impossible. The alternative is probably more of the same from the first trilogy, but on a bigger scale. The image above (from last E3's trailer) hints at larger environments.

The other ambitious angle BioWare could be taking with this installment is multiplayer integration into the story campaign. Mass Effect 3's standalone cooperative mode showed us that the game can be satisfying when played with friends. Rather than having A.I.-controlled teammates at your side at all times, those spots could be filled by other players, each controlling their created character. I would love to see this happen, especially if the game does go in the procedural route. Tracking story progress would be troublesome, but I could see the cooperative play working for charting and exploring the cosmos.

These are obviously pie-in-the sky ideas, but I truly hope BioWare is trying to break new ground with this entry. That's the beauty of the trilogy format. There are no loose ends left behind from the previous entries. Moving to a new galaxy should deliver an alien sensation, and I hope that extends to the gameplay and experience just as it does the new species we encounter.

I'd love to hear what you think about Mass Effect's future in the comments below. One thing is for sure: E3 can't come soon enough. We need those details.

And I'm going to close out this Science-Ficiton Weekly column with an odd Golden Grok reward. I'm giving it to Dangerous Golf. Yes, I know it's just golf, but it utilizes exploding balls that are controlled with the mind. That's sounds like science fiction to me. If you're a fan of Burnout's "Crash" modes, you should definitely check this game out. Granted, watching a golf ball destroy museum artifacts isn't as exciting or jaw-dropping as a truck blowing up a gas station, but there's plenty of destructive fun in Dangerous Golf. It's a nice palate cleanser of a game, and a fun "pass the sticks" experience if you have friends over.

Next week's Science-Fiction Weekly will dive deeply into the forthcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda news. Cross your fingers and hope for the best, people! See you in seven days!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Trek Vs. Star Wars

When I posted the first edition of Science-Fiction Weekly two weeks ago, I didn’t anticipate receiving a flood of negativity towards my top picks for the best movies, games, and television shows. I also didn’t foresee people taking issue with Star Wars being included in this column. The complaint they lobbied? Star Wars falls more into the fantasy genre than science fiction.

I couldn’t disagree with this assertion more, and I won’t go into my reasons here, as you can find them all over the comments and on Twitter, but this discussion made me realize almost everyone has a different understanding of what science fiction is. This revelation made me appreciate the medium more – it’s so unpredictable and untamed that it defies classification.

The dictionary calls science fiction “a form of fiction that draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge and speculation in its plot, setting, theme, etc.”

Isaac Asimov, one of the most accomplished science-fiction writers to date, said “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”

Christopher Evans, the British author of the Other Edens trilogy, believes science fiction begins by questioning 'What if?' In his excellent Writing Science Fiction book, he wrote “What if we could travel in time? What if we were living on other planets? What if we made contact with alien races? And so on. The starting point is that the writer supposes things are different from how we know them to be."

In the introduction to Science Fact/Fiction, Ray Bradbury said science fiction is “the one field that reached out and embraced every sector of the human imagination, every endeavor, every idea, every technological development, and every dream.”

One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Norman Spinrad, the author of the great “The Doomsday Machine” episode of the original Star Trek TV series, who said “science fiction is anything published as science fiction."

And finally in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!, Arthur C. Clarke famously shrugged his shoulders when he wrote "Attempting to define science fiction is an undertaking almost as difficult, though not so popular, as trying to define pornography. In both pornography and SF, the problem lies in knowing exactly where to draw the line."

The definition of science fiction isn’t something we should argue about. We should instead embrace the wonder of it – both in the stories we read and the beliefs other people have of it. We’re all in this spaceship together.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have a good, ol’ fight between Star Wars and Star Trek enthusiasts. Let's call it Warsies versus Trekkers…or Trekkies…or whatever horrible sounding name you want to give yourselves. A few people who complained about my inaugural sci-fi column were mad as hell that Star Trek wasn’t mentioned in any capacity. Sorry for the exclusion, folks, the words “best” and “Star Trek” don’t align for me. Don't get me wrong, I think Star Trek is a great vehicle for science fiction, but Star Wars is far more interesting of a universe. So is Battlestar Galactica. And Farscape. I could go on and on with science fiction I enjoy more.

I’ve watched every Star Trek movie and television series, and have even read a number of its comic books and novels, including a few penned by William Shatner. I appreciate the universe Gene Roddenberry created, and want more of it – a lot more. The upcoming television show should scratch that itch nicely.

The fascination I have with Star Trek is much different than with any other science-fiction universe. I don't want to say it feels like my father's science fiction, but it does. Even as I age, I feel like I'm absorbing some of the most intelligent and expansive science fiction out there. It's daunting in a good way. The immense scale of the cosmos is embraced in all aspects of Star Trek. Although the stories focus heavily on humanity expanding its reach and knowledge, the universe itself is unpredictable and is sometimes established as the axis for a story. Many of the stories convey a higher power or bigger stage than humanity – I always liked that. The writers do a great job of making our species feel small and insignificant. Although we are just observers, the show is written in a way that makes me feel like a part of the crew, trying to problem solve an anomaly together.

Star Trek's narrative threads are rarely backed by spectacle, however. The Enterprise is a grand showpiece of technology, but the people within it wear colored onesies and wield weapons that look like TV remote controls. I'll just come out and say it: the costumes are often terrible. Sorry, but each Enterprise crew wears a getup that either looks like they should be a part of a musical television show for children, or a mechanic who is going to change the oil in your car.

The commonness of the visuals also extends to the aliens, most of which are humanoid in makeup. The reasons for this are explained in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Chase," but it's a tough concept to swallow. The idea, which I won't spoil here, fits with well Star Trek's long-running lore, but also screams of "Costumes were kind of hard to make back in the day. Did you see how terrible our Gorn looked? Let's not do that again."

That's where Star Wars captures the imagination and Star Trek feels a little too close to home. The two universes couldn't be much different in this capacity. Most Star Wars aliens, vehicles, weapons, and armors fuel the imagination, and are intentionally left ambiguous for these reasons. Boba Fett is the perfect example of a character that you immediately want to know more about.

Even with so many different exotic types of life coming together, Star Wars' universe often feels small, almost like a backwater town in Kansas where everyone knows everyone. Luke Skywalker unknowingly teams up with his sister to take on their father… who just happens to be the creator of the protocol droid they've been traveling with. Everyone is apparently related or has history with each other. The unlikely connections extend far beyond the movies and are more egregious in the comic books and novels. In the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke apparently battled Boba Fett and Darth Vader. Jar Jar Binks even becomes a part of this Luke's story, which, correct me if I'm wrong, should be the last thing a writer ever attempts with Star Wars.

Star Trek's universe, on the other hand, feels gargantuan, rarely collapsing in on itself for unlikely cameos or cheap storytelling connections. While Star Trek: The Next Generation's writing and characters are hard to top, Star Trek Voyager's seven-year run is my favorite in the series. As Captain Janeway and her crew explore uncharted space, the feeling of isolation and uncertainty hangs over almost every episode. If you just watch Voyager without seeing any other Star Trek show before it, that impact likely won't be the same, but for fans, this run greatly expands the size of the universe, and more impressively, makes all of the Star Trek lore around it seem bigger and more meaningful. I've said this numerous times before, but Voyager still doesn't get the respect it truly deserves. That was one hell of a TV show.

Again, I thoroughly enjoy both universes – and they really couldn't be more different – but Star Wars' mythology is the crowing jewel of science fiction for me. As fantastical as it can be, it feels familiar at times; keeping you grounded as it introduces you to a universe where almost anything is possible – from magical abilities to technology being powerful enough to destroy planets. But at its core, Star Wars' story is about family, and the struggles each of us has to find our place in the world. It has heart, and is an easy narrative to latch onto. Once it takes hold, which it did for me when I was young, I wanted more from it – more than I ever wanted from any other form of entertainment. I wanted to know more about the Force, Jedi, Sith, and the history between the Rebellion and Empire. I wanted to know more about the vehicles and science. That fascination has lasted for decades. Even during the rough prequel years, my love for Star Wars hasn't diminished at all.

I am now turning the floor over to you. To reiterate, comparing Star Wars and Star Trek is a strange thing to do, but I want to know which universe you gravitate toward more, and why one speaks to you more than the other. As I briefly detailed above, both of them have unique strengths and weaknesses. With E3 looming, my time is short these days, but I'll do my best to stay on top of the comments and provide feedback. I'll see you again in seven days!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – The Best Comics, Stellaris, And More Star Wars Leaks

Before diving into the comic book series you should read each month, I'd like to introduce a new component of Science-Fiction Weekly: The Golden Grok, an award given to the best new video game release. The word “grok” comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land; a Martian verb meaning “to drink” or “to understand” or “to experience enjoyment,” among other things.

This week’s Golden Grok goes to Paradox Development Studios for Stellaris. Set in the year 2200, Stellaris is as much an engaging "4X" strategy game as it is a fascinating exploration of the universe. Diplomacy and war erupt among the stars, but the big pull that keeps me coming back for more is the element of discovery and the fear and anticipation of exploring the unknown. This gameplay hook unfolds in numerous ways, such as traveling to different stars to see what kind of life or resources are there, or investing in technology to better my species' capabilities in ways I couldn't even begin to fathom from the outset of play. Politics, trade arrangements, and mineral collecting all come into play in Stellaris – an excess of micromanaging that can be daunting at times – but Paradox did a fantastic job of streamlining the experience and making the pressing matters the central focus. Fans of Star Control and Master of Orion shouldn't hesitate in diving into this alien-infested universe. For a more detailed breakdown of Stellaris' gameplay and lasting appeal, check out Ben Reeves’ review.

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Stellaris pays homage to many of the tropes that has shaped science fiction throughout the yeras. It's fun universe to explore, but it's a familiar one, especially if you consume a healthy dose of science fiction each year. To see the universe expand in ways you wouldn't expect, I highly recommend you read Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ brilliant monthly comic book series. Vaughn says the series is inspired by Star Wars, but outside of it being flush with aliens and a kick-ass bounty hunter, I don't see the connection. To me, Saga’s story is more Shakespearean in design, focusing intimately on two core characters, two lovers, Alana and Marko, who are engaged in a forbidden love much like Romeo and Juliet. Marko and Alana are from different worlds, and their people have long been at war with each other. Alana is from Landfall, a huge and prosperous planet, and Marko is from Wreath, Landfall’s only satellite, and a world governed by magic.

That's all you should know of Saga prior to reading it. Go in as blindly as you can. Through the series’ 30-plus issues, I continually find myself thinking “I’ve never read anything like this before,” or “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Just knowing the setup and key plot points can strip the wonder from this beautifully penned tale. Saga isn't just one of the best science-fiction comics out there, it’s one of the best comic books period. From what Vaughan has been saying, this story is still young, and will change through the years, but as it is now, it's one of the all-time greats for the medium. I put it up there with Transmetropolitan, Preacher, The Dark Knight Returns, and Y: The Last Man (another of Vaughan's books). One final word about Saga: It explores adult themes and imagery. Keep the kids away from it.

Writer Rick Remender, who was recently celebrated as one of the best writers of Marvel’s X-Men books, is currently at the top of his game with two different stories he’s penning for Image Comics. The best of the bunch is Low, a look at life in a distant future when the sun expands to a red giant and Earth’s surface is no longer habitable. Man now presides in the sea. The art by Greg Tocchini is abstract, stunning, and the perfect vehicle for this captivating story. Be warned: Like Saga, Low is loaded with adult themes and nudity. I know this is a weird thing to keep calling out, but hey, I'm a dad.

I’m also enjoying the hell out of Remender’s Tokyo Ghost. If you’re wondering what a society addicted to entertainment and social media would be like, this book gives us a fun and surprisingly violent look at that world, set in the year 2089. You’ll also see the Atari 2600 and NES controllers used in a clever way in the first issue. Sean Murphy’s framing of the action (and gore) is another selling point for each issue.

If you enjoy both of these books, Remender’s Black Science is also worth a look, especially if you are intrigued by the odd mashup of Lost in Space meets Sliders meets Lost. Even if you have no interest in this book, do yourself a favor and check out the wild cover art adorning each issue (you can see one in the gallery below).

One of my favorite writers, Jeff Lemire, who I plan on cursing for all of eternity for leaving Animal Man behind at DC, is currently writing Descender. I’m not crazy about the art in this book, but the story of a young android boy fighting for life in a hostile society has been wonderful so far. It reminds me of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with intimacy and heart. I know I’m giving Image a ton of love here, but the publisher deserves it. Even Brian K. Vaughan’s strange We Stand on Guard is fantastic. He's somehow made Canadians look heroic. In this story, Canada is invaded by a robot army led by the United States of America. I know, it sounds dumb, but give it two issues before you make up your mind. Vaughan is clearly having fun with this one.

Marvel Comics’ science-fiction books are often overshadowed by the superhero and mutant titles, but the current runs in some of the various Guardians of the Galaxy titles are worth a look, especially if you like the movie (yes, it reminds me more of the movie than the previous comic book series). The flagship title Guardians of the Galaxy (led by the great Brian Michael Bendis) is off to a hell of a start, and you should still be able to find the first issue at your comic shops, if you read the physical versions. Do I think Thing, Venom, and Kitty Pride are odd additions to the team? I did initially, but I like how Bendis handles each character. Pride's relationship with Star-Lord is the beating heart of the book so far. The ancillary Star-Lord, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon & Groot series accompany the main series remarkably well, and are vehicles for backstories and character building. I sadly cannot say the same about Drax, Guardians of Infinity, and Venom: Space Knight. Avoid those three series.

Game Informer’s Matt Miller also reads a few Marvel series that I don’t have the time or dollar for, and says that Silver Surfer and The Ultimates are both worth your time. While Guardians of the Galaxy continues its excellent run of harebrained, edge-of-your-seat action, The Ultimates is the more cerebral sci-fi book in Marvel’s universe, which sees a particularly diverse group of scientists and superheroes pushing against the boundaries of the universe and knowledge.

As much as I love DC Comics – my go-to for superhero books – I recommend avoiding all of the publisher’s titles until June, when Rebirth begins. Rebirth is a soft universe reboot in a sense, offering a new jumping on point for readers with most series starting at number one. Of the sci-fi titles in Rebirth, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is the highest on my anticipation list (mostly for the Ethan Van Sciver art), and Justice League is also piquing my interest with the promise of a cosmos-spanning story about a dead world.

Speaking of avoiding things, do yourself a favor and steer clear of Marvel’s Star Wars titles as well. I know people love them, but they often make me cringe. Most of the writers on these books go well out of their way to make the universe as small as possible, often pitting famed characters against each other in battle. The only Star Wars title that I even remotely enjoy is Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin. It brings back the fun vibe of The Clone Wars, which I'm surprised I missed. The other licensed comic that has been consistently fun is IDW's Transformers. After bouncing around with a wide variety of different takes on Transformers' lore, the publisher has settled into a groove with the latest stories.

And that's going to do it for the comic talk in this week's edition. I'd love to hear your thoughts (and picks) in the comments section below. From here on in I'm diving into big Star Wars SPOILERS and leaks. Read on at your own risk. If you don't want to know anything about Star Wars: Episode VIII's potential plot, you should stop reading now.

As Star Wars: Episode VIII's filming continues at Ireland's Malin Head and England's Pinewood Studios, people have spied a couple of interesting developments, including what appears to be scenes involving the mysterious Knights of Ren. The Knights were shown briefly in Rey's Force-powered vision, and were mentioned briefly by Snoke, but Disney has gone out of its way to avoid discussing or showing these characters again. Are the Knights still running with Kylo Ren? We'll have to wait to see. The report from Making Star Wars sheds some light on the Knights' actions for this one scene, and it sounds like all hell is breaking loose. Some fans even speculate that Rey's vision wasn't a flashback, but a look into the future. I don't know if I believe Disney set this scene up as something we'd see in the next movie, but it is odd that the Knights aren't in any of the merchandise from Force Awakens. Those toys would sell like mad, and almost everyone in the film has been turned into one by now.

One of the sets at Pinewood prominently features a dead tree, which may seem like ordinary set dressing at first glance, but fans believe it's the same tree from Marvel's Star Wars: Shattered Empire comic book. In this story, Luke is searching for the remains of a tree that once grew in the Jedi temple on Coruscant. The Force flowed through this tree and held great meaning, but we don't yet know the reasons why. Luke eventually located what he was looking for – two saplings born of the original tree. Luke kept one of the saplings. He handed the second to Shara Bey and Kes Dameron. They planted their tree on Yavin 4. Luke took his to an undisclosed location. It'll be interesting to see if the tree pictured in the set leaks is the one Luke took.

I sadly don't have any new Rogue One: A Star Wars Story news to report, but someone did dig up an image of the first Lego sets that will hit later this year.

And that concludes week two of Science-Fiction Weekly. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below, but refrain from Star Wars spoiler talk if possible. See you in seven days!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – The Best Movies, Games, And New Star Wars: Episode VIII Updates

I’ve had a love affair with science fiction since my father took me to see Star Wars: A New Hope. I was three- or four-years-old at the time; far too young to watch Darth Vader choke the life out of his coworkers, and incinerate Luke Skywalker’s family. Vader initially imprinted on my young mind poorly, but the nightmares he gave me eventually led to a lifelong appreciation obsession of George Lucas’ Galaxy Far, Far Away. Star Wars gave way to science fiction becoming my favorite form of entertainment. Yes, I love it more than video games.

Thankfully there’s a lot of crossover between science fiction and video games; an inordinate amount, more than I could ever keep up with. The column you are reading (and will hopefully be returning to each week) is an exploration of all things in this sector. From the latest developments in video games to the most random factoids in Star Wars’ lore, these editorials should be crammed to capacity with a wealth of science fiction news and opinions.

This first post is a bit of a primer for what you can expect, format and all. I know many of you are probably wondering what my favorite science-fiction movie, book, game, and television show are, so let’s get all of that out of the way in this first post.

My favorite movie (science fiction or otherwise) is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Equally as thought provoking as it is exciting, no film has captured my imagination as much as this dark and brilliantly penned second chapter in the Star Wars saga. Even the rubbery Yoda still holds up surprisingly well today.

And speaking of puppets, the TV show I recommend everyone watch is Farscape, a criminally underappreciated gem that was cut way too short. Farscape takes a few episodes to get cooking, but quickly settles in with big laughs, awesome conflicts, puppets farting, spaceships getting pregnant and giving birth to baby spaceships (yes, you read that correctly), and the craziest theme song of any TV show.

My favorite science-fiction-flavored video game shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. While I have fond memories of the Wing Commanders, and Star Controls, System Shocks, Half-Lifes, Halos, Portals, Star Warses, and Dead Spaces, no interactive universe has hit me as hard as Mass Effect. Taking control of Commander Shepard’s conscience to arrange a galactic chess board across three massive games is as good as games get. Seriously. Why don’t all companies make continuations like this? And yes, I even loved Mass Effect 3’s original ending. That send off is as science fiction as science fiction gets.

When it comes to books, well, I’m going to leave my all-time favorite a mystery for now, as we’ll have plenty to discuss in the weeks ahead. You can get a small taste of what I enjoy by reading my 10 Science-Fiction Stories Reimagined As Games editorial. I also wrote a book of my own.

If my lede didn’t show my hand enough, my current obsession in life is Star Wars, and with three different films in active development (Episode VIII, Rogue One, and the untitled Han Solo movie),  rumors and news hit almost daily. The latest scuttlebutt centers on Episode VIII. Before I dive into the news, here's your obligatory SPOILER warning. Much like Daniel Craig's cameo as a helmeted First Order storm trooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Daily Express is reporting Tom Hardy has accepted a similar role to play a storm trooper in Episode VIII. Daily Express says Hardy's storm trooper recognizes Finn (who was once storm trooper FN-2187).

John Boyega, the actor playing Finn, told Variety that Episode VIII is a "different take, darker, bigger. Someone will say: 'How do you get bigger than Force Awakens?' But it’s crazy." He also revealed that Rey and Finn were just friends in The Force Awakens, but it could be a central plot point in the sequel. "The romance thing is something that’s going to be interesting in the
next installment," Boyega says. "It’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to
go."

Episode VIII filming is currently underway in Ireland. Most of the sets we've seen are scenic with green hills surrounded by the ocean. The latest development at Malin Head is no different. The Millennium Falcon is a part of this set, and fans have spied Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) getting ready for a shot. Costume details from the set reveal that Rey and Luke wear familiar garb to The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi. You can see what they supposedly look like here.

Lucasfilm announced Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's director) and Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm's president) are kicking off this year's Star Wars Celebration held in London’s ExCeL Centre from July 15-17 with a talk about Rogue One. If this presentation is anything like last year's for The Force Awakens, we'll likely get a second Rogue One trailer on July 15. If you want to know more about the film – such as character names and who the big bad is – check out this enormous leak that hit earlier today from a book publisher working on the Official Visual Story Guide for the film. Be warned, few leaks reveal a mountain of info like this one does.

And in other book news, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced the winners of the 2015 Nebula Awards over the weekend. The winners include Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker, and Updraft by Fran Wilde.

That's going to do it for my first entry of Science-Fiction Weekly. Expect plenty more Star Wars talk in the weeks and months ahead, but also plenty of science-fiction game, movie, comic book, and action figure news when it hits. Next week's focus is the science-fiction comics you should be reading.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

First Battleborn Patch Coming Soon, Balance Updates On Weekly Schedule

It’s only been two days since Battleborn launched, but Gearbox is already making tweaks and identifying places for improvement. The studio posted a brief note yesterday outlining its plans for the game’s evolution.

One element that has already been implemented is the ability to replay the animated opening. At launch, you only had one shot to see it, but fans asked for the option to see it again. Likewise, the ability to skip it entirely has now been added.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Gearbox says it will be pushing server-side balance changes on a weekly basis. Larger patches that impact client-side code will take a bit longer on console due to certification, but the studio already has items it plans to include in the first one.

Of note, Marquis’ exceedingly long range sniper shot will be getting hit with the nerf bat. No specific timing on the first patch has been announced, though Gearbox says it will be “soon.”

[Source: Gearbox]

 

Our Take
It was impressive to see a rapid server-side change to respond to fans’ interest in watching/skipping the intro. We’re not sure yet if Battleborn’s multiplayer has long-term stickiness, but weekly balance updates mean that there is likely to be a dialog between fans and devs that, if handled correctly, could help grow the player base.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Another Five Games Bring Weekly Xbox One Backward Compatibility Total To Ten

It’s been a busy week for Xbox One backward compatibility. Three games hit on Tuesday. Yesterday brought the pair of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed titles. Today sees another five hit the service.

This batch includes mostly classic games, dating back to 1982. Here are the new Xbox 360 games now playable on Xbox One:

Dig Dug
Phantasy Star II
Runner 2
Samurai Showdown II
Sonic & Knuckles

You can check out the full list on Major Nelson’s site. Our fingers are still crossed that Microsoft figures out how to get multi-disc games working on the service.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bungie Announces Three Weekly Destiny Update 2.2.0 Live Streams

Bungie is gearing up for the first major PvE update to Destiny since The Taken King launched in September 2015. The studio is planning three weekly live streams to get players up to speed on what’s coming soon.

This Wednesday, March 23, will focus on the new activities. On March 30, we’ll learn about some of the new items and gear coming in the update. Finally, on April 6, we’ll hear about the changes coming to Crucible.

Each of these live streams will start at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern. You can tune in to Bungie’s Twitch channel to watch the info rollouts live.

For more on Destiny: The Taken King, check out our review. You can also read up on the Destiny community’s response to other recent updates. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Grand Theft Auto Online has 8 million weekly active users

The headline says it all: The immensely popular game’s online mode proves a major, major hit — reeling in the players. …


Gamasutra News

The Pulse – Game Informer’s Weekly Top 10 (Mar 23, 2015)

The Pulse is Game Informer's weekly ranking of the hottest games according to our team. Each Monday we tally up the games with the biggest buzz based on number of editors playing and the time they put into them.

The big shock for this week is the removal of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Support for this handheld title dried up, and doesn’t sound like it’s coming back any time soon. The only staffer still going strong in it is graphic designer Laleh Azarshin. She says she has logged over 200 hours into the game.

Although multiplayer-focused games like Battlefield Hardline, Helldivers, and Destiny were played extensively, most of our staffers gravitated toward single-player experiences last week. Almost every staffer has gotten his or her hands on Ori and the Blind Forest now, and the episodic games like Life is Strange and Game of Thrones continue to be big draws for the staff.

Other games played this week included The Talos Principle, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Mario Party 10, NBA 2K15, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, The Order: 1886, and the Final Fantasy XV demo.

Week 7 ratings: March 16-22
1
BLOODBORNE

Last week: –

The wait is finally over. Bloodborne is here and it dominated our gaming time over the weekend. Stories of death and discovery can be heard all throughout the office today. Is it worth your time? Find out tonight at 7 p.m. PT when our review drops. We're also live streaming on Twitch at that time. Join us!

2
ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST

Last week: 1

We expected Ori and the Blind Forest to plummet this week, but numerous editors who normally don't play games of this ilk gave it a shot on PC. Everyone is an agreement that the game is amazing, but several editors found themselves rage quitting not from the difficulty, but their saves corrupting.

3
BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE

Last week: 8

Our editors were all over the place with Battlefield Hardline last week. Some only played single player, and hated it, while others dove deep into the multiplayer and had a blast with it. The only editor who didn't enjoy the multiplayer was Matt Bertz.

4
HELLDIVERS

Last week: 4

Helldivers has surprising staying power, and is proving to be a great time for groups of people who only have an hour or two for a quick gaming session. Most staffers say they see themselves playing it for at least another week or two.

5
CITIES: SKYLINES

Last week: –

Cities: Skylines is gaining momentum in the office with rave early impressions coming from all who played it. Most said that it reminded them of the glory days of SimCity, giving them the opportunity to sit back and create uninterrupted for hours on end.

6
FINAL FANTASY TYPE-0

Last week: –

Despite Matt Miller's lackluster review, several editors let curiosity get the best of them and dove headfirst into this RPG. The early impressions from them were not great, and it doesn't sound like any of them will be playing the game in the week ahead.

7
LIFE IS STRANGE

Last week: –

The second episode of Life is Strange hits tomorrow. Several editors played catch up this weekend and played through the first episode, while Kim Wallace got an early jump on the second episode.

8
DESTINY

Last week: 3

After climbing the charts again, Destiny plummeted this week when Jason Pfitzer, a graphic designer at Game Informer, said he was weening himself off of Destiny. Several staffers are still in deep, playing every day, but one person falling off will hurt Destiny's chances of climbing again.

9
MINECRAFT

Last week: –

In an event that reads like the beginning of an alien abduction story, numerous editors started playing Minecraft again this weekend. None of them had any knowledge that other editors were playing the game. Expect this game to appear periodically for its timeless appeal.

10
PICROSS ON 3DS

Last week: –

Kyle Hilliard's not-so-secret obsession with Picross gained a supporter in Game Informer's editor-in-chief, Andy McNamara. A fellow Picross nut, Andy said he wanted to help Kyle get a Picross game on the charts this week. Since Picross has five different games that are all similarly designed on 3DS, we didn't pick just one. This entry covers all five.

 

Click the banner below to check out the rankings from previous weeks.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed