Gazing Upon the Upcoming

[p]Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year period – hopefully somewhere in between the pressing social commitments of family and friends you had some time to put your feet up and relax.

[p]With the start of a new year comes to opportunity to both reflect on what happened and to ponder what will be happening in the next 365 days. Given that nostalgia and reflection can be a bit dull, let’s instead turn our eyes forward to look at what might occur in 2004.

[p]The big one (well, at least for everyone at CoH Warcry) would of course be the potential beta and release of CoH. Opinions of those who have played CoH in its current state is fairly positive, with those forum members lucky enough to play demo sessions in Dallas coming away fairly buzzed by the experience. This is good to hear – the last thing any of us geriatric forum members want to hear is that CoH doesn’t even cut it in the first few minutes of play! It has to be remembered that MMOGs are games that need to be enjoyable over periods of 5, 50, 5000 (and greater) hours and that no-one outside the dev team have yet had that experience, but still it is good to hear that the early sections of the game are very playable.

[p]Also good to read is the first official beta release from Cryptic, even if the tester comments were relentlessly positive. A little negativity won’t hurt to hear – recognising a bug or design flaw publicly at least gives us a dose of realism to ponder about. After all, if CoH was working flawlessly, they’d released it by now, right?

[p]The next twelve months holds some ‘big’ titles for computer gaming. Both Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 are planned for release, but the chance always exists they will pull a Duke Nukem Forever and delay release again. Everquest 2 and World of WarCraft (among other MMOGs) are planned for release in 2004 as well, but as ever in the MMOG development world these dates can (and do) slip. A number of solid console titles also loom in the distance, with my Xbox looking forward to things like Fable and Jade Empires (again, if they get released!).

[p]More comic movies are coming in 2004. February sees Hellboy released onto the big screen. The Punisher is also due out in April, Spiderman 2 is due mid-year and I’m sure others are coming out that I’ve forgotten about. Hopefully these films will keep up the quality seen in most of the comic films released in 2003 and not decend to the dark, dark depths of Batman and Robin.

[p]As for the comics themselves, well, they’ll keep coming out. The industry still isn’t as healthy as it should be to all reports, but it has improved. One concern may be the over-reliance of certain companies on pop culture licences – things like ThunderCats, GI Joe and He-Man have some nostalgic appeal to me, but I’m never going to buy them. I enjoyed them as a kid, but having watched what happens as series are updated to ‘fit the times’ I don’t want to see things ruined (at least by my standards). Besides, I believe I can get better quality from original material rather than in retreads of old cartoons.

[p]Anyway, here’s looking to 2004. At the very least, let’s hope we’ll be playing CoH before the clock turns its way to 2005!

Comic Watch: Empire

[p]I really enjoy the concept of Empire: that of a world where the bad guy has almost succeeded in taking over the world. The question of what it cost him to achieve this goal and how such a world works is explored in part in this series.

[p]Golgoth is a Doctor Doom-like figure, encased in armour and determined to conquer the world. The difference here is that he is succeeding. We learn early in the series only Greenland is holding out against Golgoth and that he plans to conquer that country shortly as well. Once he’s done that all will be okay… apart from also having to deal with his scheming lieutenants, all of whom plot against both him and each other. Somewhere between beginning and end you’ve got murder, sex, suicide and a chance to see the iron will needed to conquer the world.

[p]Despite having moments of near soap opera quality (in the “who did what to whom” type vein) as well as a large cast of characters that you may not remember, especially when it comes to their roles in the narrative, Empire tries something different and mostly succeeds. Empire very nearly died when its original publisher went belly-up and it is great to see that DC picked it up, even if just as a six-issue mini-series. Hopefully it will return to comic book shelves shortly.

[p]Just realised I haven’t mentioned the author – it’s Mark Waid, also known for his writing on Kingdom Come and many other great titles.

[p]Check out Empire. It has got adult themes (I’ve noticed a lot of the comics I collect do) but it does something that is a bit different to the usual superhero tale.

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