Now Playing KOTOR: Search for Bastilla II

Last time, we ran into the classic convoluted RPG quest line in order to find Bastilla.  She was captured by a lower city Tarisian gang known as the Black Vulkars, who are offering her up as a ransom prisoner prize at the next swoop race.  In order to participate in that race on behalf of a rival gang, we need to break into the Vulkar base by infiltrating through the sewers and reacquire the prototype accelerator they stole…so we can win the swoop race.

We continue towards the under city by heading towards the elevator…

…to see some lower city gang politics at work.

This scene exists for a few reasons:  (1) To establish Davik at the top of the food chain when it comes to lower city gang politics.  (2) It shows the ambitions of the Black Vulkar gang are not limited to Brejik himself (and may possibly be an extension of his influence on them).  (3) We get an early look at Canderous Ordo as “guy who is not to be fucked with”.

We’re not bothering with the rakghouls and the related quest regarding the serum for reasons that they are not relevant to the main plot.  Also, the choice of who to give the cure (selfless doctor who creates easily accessible cure for the masses vs. evil crime lord who sells it for profit) is rendered irrelevant by the Sith bombardment of the planet.  The rakghoul disease is only a threat to NPCs (and low health player characters), as all it does to the party is provoke a fortitude save when they’re hit by a rakghoul.  Fail the save and a poison debuff is applied, one that’s easily cured with an antidote item (but the same can’t be used to manufacture a cure…why?  Gameplay/story segregation).

Wookiepedia says rakghouls were the result of a Sith bio-engineering process from an old Sith Lord but I can’t recall that ever coming up in the game.

The quest itself (that of people being taken over by some mysterious disease and the player being in charge of curing them) is a Bioware staple.  It shows up here, in Jade Empire (the creatures near the inn in the forest near Tien’s Landing, where you find Henpecked Hou), Mass Effect (The Thorian) and Dragon Age (the werewolves in the Dalish Forest).

We head down the elevator…

I guess they didn’t try this scam on Sith patrols.

Five credits is small change, so we’ll pay the toll.

I guess being able to see the sun, sky and stars would be nice if you lived in a closed environment where the only light you had was electrical.

Shaleena will direct us to a couple of other NPCs in case we wanted more information but we know we’re looking for Mission and Zaalbar.  A Wookie and a Twi’lek shouldn’t be that hard to find.

Shaleena is also the hook for The Promised Land quest.  She doesn’t start the quest but she does direct you to the guy who does…

The Promised Land quest involves finding a bunch of journals from Rukil’s “disciples” that can be found all around the under city and sewers.  Find all these journals and Rukil will lead the village to find the “Promised Land” (literally, all the village NPCs vanish).  Essentially, the promised land is a self-sufficient fallout shelter with droid servants.  The fate of the outcasts is revealed in The Old Republic.  The Sith bombardment knocks out the power and also results in a toxic radiation leak that slowly contaminates the inhabitants over the centuries until they all die out.  The rakghoul serum helps them survive for a bit but the supply runs out and the survivors realize babies can’t be born with the immunity.

Old Republic really sucks like that.

We head outside the village following an encounter with the rakghouls…

Lucky for us, we don’t have to spend an update (or two) looking for Mission.

Instead, we’re going to have to find Zaalbar (which isn’t too hard).

I realize this is to make Zaalbar look formidible but gameplay-wise, it doesn’t make much sense.  Wookies can’t wear armor and Zaalbar’s dexterity and AC scores are subpar.  Even if he has a +6 on his fortitude save, if the rakghouls hit him enough, he’s going to get hit.  Wookie biology probably works differently than a human’s (perhaps they could handle the rakghoul disease better?) but still, even Zaalbar should have thought twice before going around the under city.

Gamorreans are the ugly boar-looking creatures that served as palace guards for Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.

Not very light side to ask “favor for a favor” in a situation like this…but it is very practical.

Mission’s not really in a position to say “no”, after all.

The sewers have two entrances, one is very close to the village and accessing that one is the fastest way to find Zaalbar.  Before we head down there, though…

I suppose one would be rather distant if their best friend was kidnapped and about to be sold into slavery.

We asked this question before at Javyaar’s Cantina and got a vague non-answer.  Mission will be a lot more forthcoming about how she met Zaalbar here…

Note how she says Zaalbar is her family here and remember it at the end of the conversation.

I like the dismissive third option.  Why ask someone about a personal life story if you’re not all that interested, unless you’re trying way too hard to be a dick.  A better way to handle it would have been when you notice that Mission seems rather distant, there’s a dialogue option to either coldly ignore her to tell her to focus on the task at hand.

Mission gets really defensive here but I thought it was a legit question.  If Zaalbar is her family and she’s 14 now (and was much younger when she met him), was she really surviving on her own until then?

We decide to drop the conversation before her teenage mood swings again.

We can infer that something happened between Mission and her brother, something so severe she no longer thinks of him as family.

We head down into the sewers from the entrance near the village and find Zaalbar after exploring, like, two rooms…

Good to know that Mission is good for something other than teenage sass.

Carth mentioned we knew a remarkable amount of alien languages but this is another indicator of something strange with our player character.

The game engine usually centers the conversation on whoever is speaking.  Some places (like the sewers here) occasionally don’t do this.  So, what we get is situations like this where Zaalbar is talking but the camera is focused on Mission (who’s giving an excellent “are you sure about this?” expression here).

Zaalbar has a thing against slavery, which will crop up again when we go visit Kashyyyk later.

I like how the game captures the feel of the original Star Wars and all but some references feel shoe-horned in, like the “walking carpet” dialogue here.

This isn’t entirely true.  If you go dark side all the way through, you’ll find even a Wookie life debt has limits.

While we appreciate the gesture, our main focus is still to find Bastilla and escape Taris.  It’ll be hard enough trying to escape with just Carth, Bastilla and ourselves…add another two to the mix?

One of my favorite dialogue options in the game.

Mission’s required for the trip to the Vulkar base, at least up to the force field.  She’s pretty useful in infiltrating the base as well if your character doesn’t have skill ranks in stealth.  We can also only have two party members with us at a given time, so we’ll send Carth back to the apartment and journey with people who have actually been in the sewer system before.

A rancor is the creature Luke Skywalker fights in Jabba the Hutt’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, after he’s fallen through the trap door after failing to assassinate Jabba.

Mission obviously doesn’t exactly know the location because just a few lines ago, she said it was in the north-east.

After fighting through Gamorrean patrols and rakghouls, we come to the force field…

After deactivating the force field and heading down the subsequent sewer passages…

With Mission in the party, we can make her invisible (she comes with a stealth field belt)…

…place a grenade and synthetic odor (the former we have plenty of from looting, the latter from a dead body conveniently found outside the rancor’s lair) in the corpse pile…

…and wait for the rancor to eat a grenade.

Past the rancor lies the entrance to the Black Vulkar base…

We kill all the people in the base (save an innocent serving wench).  The base is two levels deep, so this should really cripple the Vulkar’s gang operations for the foreseeable future.

Finally, we come to the room with the prototype accelerator, guarded by one of Brejik’s lieutenants.

I didn’t kill an entire base of gang members to negotiate!

You can listen to his offer, which is to kill all the people in the Bek base.  It’s the dark side option and offers more XP…but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Again, we just shot/hacked our way through an entire base of Black Vulkars…why would we join them now?

After eradicating the last of the Black Vulkars…

…we finally acquire the prototype swoop accelerator!

“Plus, you’re the main character and thus, have plot armor.”

Gadon doesn’t really have all his bases covered.  He already noted we wouldn’t stand a chance at winning without the prototype accelerator, so presumably his other racers won’t win either.  Really, we’re his only hope since he’s unwilling to risk the lives of his gang members.

The race isn’t on a fixed time table so the player can go faff about with side quests before returning to Gadon to begin the race.

But we’re ready now so…

“It won’t be a problem – I hope” is always something I want to hear from a mechanic.

The swoop bike tutorial explanation is pretty lengthy because it’s something you can do for fun and credits on other planets.  Taris is the only time we have to race.

Swoop racing is really similar to drag racing.  It’s not like pod racing where people race on a circular track for a number of laps having to worry about other contestants.  Instead, we race by ourselves and try to reach the finish line as fast as possible.

You can ask him how the swoop accelerator is holding up after each heat.  Really, as long as you don’t hit every obstacle on the track (of which there isn’t that many anyway), you’ll only need two heats.

We can see Bastilla in the cage but can’t interact with her.

Good to know the announcer is on our side.

38 seconds is really easy to beat.  Of course, after you beat it the first time, you have to beat a second time (which is around 27 seconds).  It’s not hard to surpass either.  Do that and you don’t have to race anymore.  Out of five attempts total, the swoop race shouldn’t be hard to win.

So, Brejik, leader of the Black Vulkars, is going to present the prize to a guy racing on behalf of a rival gang?  I’m sure no hijinks will ensue…

There are no rules regarding prototype accelerators (that we know of, anyway) and Brejik was going to use the damn thing himself.

We did sorta kill off an entire base full of his gang so he won’t have the manpower to pull this off.

She then roundhouse kicks the guy with the double-bladed sword…

Bastilla immediately blurts out that she’s a Jedi.  She’s a bit impulsive, arrogant and overly confident…as we’ll see on plenty of occasions.

The low-level Black Vulkar guys are worth taking care of first.  After all the shit we went through to find the prototype accelerator, they’ll go down after one or two hits (especially true if you play soldier).  Then Bastilla and yourself can take down Brejik.

The resulting conversation takes place over Brejik’s corpse…

A long story, indeed.

Bastilla pauses when “You’re…you’re one of the soldiers with the Republic fleet.”  She has to remember that this former Sith Lord has a new identity.

Bastilla’s ego flares up again.

We can string out this conversation but in the interest of shaving a few pictures off this update, let’s pretend I highlighted the third option.

She admits here that we were, indeed, here to save her.  A far cry from what she was saying just a few moments ago.

At least she admits it.

Now that we’ve found Bastilla, we can focus on getting the hell off the tutorial planet!  Next time:  We infiltrate a Sith base and gain access to a crime lord’s estate!

Now Playing KOTOR: Search for Bastilla I

Last time, we survived the Sith attack on the Endar Spire and crash-landed on the planet of Taris.  We’re now looking for the Jedi Bastilla, who also crash-landed albeit in the planet’s under city.

We can deduce from Carth’s earlier scouting (and from the fact that the Republic escape pod we were in is within walking distance of the apartment) that that is the reason for the Sith inquiries.  Also, note the Sith leader’s field uniform and how similar it is the early 20th century German Army.  Star Wars has a rich tradition of using Nazi motifs to make the bad guys obviously evil and KOTOR is no different.

The comment about humans hiding out with aliens being an oddity is less a reflection on Sith prejudices and more an introduction a planet-wide theme.  We’ll see more of Taris’ alien prejudices throughout this update.

The evil dialogue options were always too blatant for my tastes.  Why would you pick option 3 unless you were going out of your way to be an asshole?  We’re doing the light side canon playthrough, although we will not pass up any opportunities to snark.

I do like this scene and think it establishes sympathy towards the aliens (and hatred towards the Sith) better than the original movie.  In Star Wars, we see Jawas (who are OK with ripping off moisture farmers by selling them droids with bad motivators) and the aliens of Mos Eisley (who pick fights and either ignore an old man sawing off a guy’s arm with a laser sword or tip off the Stormtroopers about Docking Bay 94) and none of them are endearing.  In fact, the only alien the audience cares for is Chewbacca, who is known to rip people’s arms off when he loses at recreational games.

Even if we count the later movies and add Yoda, Admiral Ackbar and the Sullistan co-pilot…we still have the Trandoshan bounty hunter (and other aliens The Empire hires…so much for discrimination), the Ugnaughts (who don’t do much of anything but power the equipment that carbon freezes Han Solo), the entirety of Jabba’s court and the Ewoks to counter-balance their positive influence.

In this sequence, however, we have aliens who are willing to help the party.  They sheltered them from the previous Sith raid and were going to do so again.  He even agrees to help hide the bodies (and does a good enough job to prevent any further Sith inquiries).  This scene had two goals:  Establish Sith villainy (as if we didn’t already know that) and empathize with the plight of Tarisian aliens…and it met those objectives.

The upper level of Taris in all its glory.  Taris is a city-wide planet like Coruscant or Nar Shaddaa and it has some elements of both in it.  Like Coruscant, the upper levels of Taris look clean and habitable (if you can stand the prejudice against the aliens).  It was once an intergalactic hub.  Unfortunately, new hyperspace routes have caused Taris to undergo severe urban decay.  The deeper you descent into Taris, the more the planet becomes like Nar Shaddaa.

To our immediate right is the Republic escape pod we crash-landed in…

Crash-landing on an urban planet didn’t leave Carth too many options of where to hide out, especially since he had to worry about our unconscious body.  But scouting about and returning to base on a mostly alien apartment definitely attracted the attention of the Sith.

Speaking of Carth, we don’t know too much about him.  KOTOR will give you these prompts every so often with party members if they have something to talk about, although they’re only scripted to occur at certain places I think (this spot before you enter the path to the cantina is one such location).

I feel it’s kind of random to ask to know a little more about someone with no lead-in, so we’ll see what Carth knows about Taris…

The game seems a little unclear about the duration of the Sith occupation.  We know the Sith only blockaded the planet a few days ago, in the aftermath of the attack on the Endar Spire.  Yet, Carth’s comment here implies the Sith have been in control for a lot longer than that.

The Mandalorian Wars started about a decade before this game and only ended 4 years ago.  It was immediately followed by the current Jedi Civil War.  If Carth’s birth year on Wookiepedia is correct, he would be 38 years old right now.

Carth’s home world is Telos IV, a planet the player will see more of in Knights of the Old Republic II.

Because the Sith who bombed Telos IV were also Jedi (or Republic soldiers) that Carth fought along with in the Mandalorian Wars, he has a lot of trust issues stemming from this event.  It’ll take a long while to find out all the exact reasons, however…such as his former teacher being the Sith admiral who gave the order to bomb Telos IV.

Carth suggested we get supplies and information…and we can acquire both by heading towards the cantina on the city’s upper level.  At the cantina, we can just talk to every named NPC who isn’t in the entry lobby (those guys are usually pazaak [i.e. card] players).

You can talk to every other patrolling Sith soldier and they tell you to “screw off” (essentially).  In contrast, Sarna is awfully forthcoming about who she is and what she does…a real chatterbox.

You don’t need Persuade to get through this dialogue successfully.

Most of the locals don’t even have names!

A party invitation from a Sith soldier who will probably leave her uniform unattended (and who is voiced by Grey DeLisle)?  How can we say no?

There’s other stuff to do in the cantina (dueling ring) but I’m focusing only on the main plot.  Otherwise, there’d be like 600 shots per update.

We head towards the other accessible upper city area…

…and get our first look at Davik’s crime syndicate.

Carth whispers a little too loudly because Davik’s two goons immediately spot us following this.

I was content to ignore this situation.  It’s not very light side to ignore a guy getting hassled by the space fantasy equivalent of the mafia…but then he probably should have known the risks before he borrowed money from the space fantasy equivalent of the mafia.  The “Davik doesn’t like witnesses” comment implies we’re going have to fight our way out of this so we might as well.

After dispatching the thugs…

We could offer to pay him back (at no loss, since you can loot the exact number of credits he owes off the two guys we just killed)…but since this whole planet is doomed and this guy never shows up again, we’ll just leave him be.

The other area of Taris’ upper city.  Across from us is the apartment where the humans stay at (and is the location for the Sith party).  Instead, we take a left and…

…get accosted by drunks!  Who don’t know the cantina is on the other side!

You can fight them but I figure it’ll attract unwanted attention.

Further down the way…

…We encounter a would-be prophet heralding the destruction of Taris.  He’s actually a huge bigot with some grudge against the aliens.

The only other areas of note are a droid shop (to the left of the above shot), the Sith military base (inaccessible at the moment) and the entrance to the Lower City…

…which is guarded by a lone Sith soldier.

“It’s obvious from the way you’re dressed…” hint hint

His comment about authorization papers is also something that will come up by the end of this update.

Yeah, thanks, Carth, I got it.

We head to the Sith party at the human apartments…

So much for “don’t be late”…

Tarisian ale (or, at least, the ability to brew it) will come up later as a side quest.

The next morning…

That yellow backpack is what we need to acquire…

…a Sith uniform!  I suppose the Tarisian ale would give the Sith here a major enough hangover to prevent them from remembering Revan’s exact description.

The Sith uniform opens up alternative dialogue options with just about everyone.  People will randomly call out anyone who goes around looting their belongings…unless you wear the Sith uniform.  Then they’re all intimidated and do anything to avoid trouble.

You can also talk to the patrolling Sith NPCs, although they still don’t have much to say.

“Patrolling this planet almost makes you wish for an orbital bombardment.”

And we can get by this asshole.

Upon entering the lower city…

…we’re introduced to the lower city gang wars.

You fight the Vulkars (who are scripted to win this cutscene fight), including the guy with the shock stick.  He’s a rather nasty wake-up call for certain builds.  A successful attack with the shock stick provokes a fortitude save that can be tough to meet.  Failing that save paralyzes the subject for a couple rounds while the other Vulkars are free to wail on you.

We dispatch the Vulkars and move on to the cantina…

The one rule seems sensible enough…

…too bad everyone seems to completely disregard it.

Poor guy doesn’t realize his only purpose in life is to establish how badass Calo Nord is.  Some players may have had trouble with the Vulkars upon entering the lower city…

…but Calo takes them down with a flashbang and three blaster shots in the ensuing confusion.

Calo leaves the cantina and we can try talking to him…but he’ll just count down until you leave him alone.  If you persist, he kills you (it’s scripted that way).

Instead, we’ll just leave him alone and find other named NPCs to talk to.

This “little girl” is 14 years old, so she’s in that “I’m not a kid but I’m not really an adult either” phase of life.

Indeed.

We talk to Mission and hope she doesn’t command Zaalbar to pull our arms out of our sockets.

Up until now, all of the aliens we have met have been speaking in their own language (the English subtitles show that we can understand them).  Still, this exchange comes off as a bit weird.  Since the game is based off d20 rules and galactic Basic is established as the galaxy’s trade language, it would make sense that everyone can speak/understand it.

Usually, the game engine centers itself on the person speaking…but this cantina is a bit awkward.  This is Carth talking, by the way.

We take Mission’s word about her street smarts and since she would have given us a tour (under non gang-war circumstances), we’ll ask her a few questions.

So, we know of a ship that might break the Sith blockade and the only way to get access to it is to join the local crime syndicate.  We won’t question that it’s a second-hand rumor.  In RPGs, everything rumored is true.

This comment and the subsequent dialogue establish the Hidden Beks to be the “good” gang and the Vulkars to be the “evil” option.

Gadon Thek seems to be the next person to meet.  We can’t speak to Brejik, the Vulkars attack random civilians and everyone else in the cantina works for Davik but can’t do anything to get us to meet him now.

The Hidden Beks is a horrible name for a gang.  The location for this “Hidden Bek base” is also bad, as it is within eyeshot and walking distance of the cantina.

We put up with some shenanigans from the bouncer before we’re finally let inside…

…only to put up with more obstructive bureaucratic security measures.

Thankfully, Gadon is not very fond of those obstructive security measures.  He prefers convoluted quest lines, such as the one he’s about to give us.

Good thing we’re not wearing the Sith uniform…

“You’ll never find her.”  If only because the area she’s being held isn’t accessible from the game world.

Of course, there’s always a catch…things can never be simple in a RPG.  No, you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to fulfill a sidequest for some guy so you can progress with the main plot.

From what we’ve seen, Mission’s street smarts directed us to Gadon…but she only appeared to be a source of information.  Also, she’s completely reliant on her Wookie companion.

We don’t have much choice.  Even if we get by the Sith guard ourselves, we still have to retrieve Bastilla from Brejik…and the only way to do that is to participate in the swoop race, apparently.

Next time:  We murder our way through an entire gang to acquire a prototype swoop accelerator so we can win a race to get our Jedi back!

Now Playing: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic

About a decade ago in the very same galaxy we inhabit…

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

The early 21st century was a dark time in the

galaxy.  ATTACK OF THE CLONES had been

released in theaters and was ill-received by

fans of Star Wars.

The MICROSOFT XBOX was in similar straits.

The killer app HALO was the only title worth

playing on the console for roughly 18 months

after its launch.

But there was hope amidst the despair.  For

game developer BIOWARE was developing

a title that would appease both audiences…

 

Poor imitations of the Star Wars opening title crawl (such as the above) are one reason why I’ll never write-up the Star Wars d20 campaign.

Anyway, Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic was a computer RPG developed by Bioware and released in 2003 (July for the Xbox, November for PC).  It was well-received for its writing (notably one of the most famous plot twists in any video game ever), faithful adaptation of d20 Star Wars rules for gameplay, multiple ways to approach a given way situation (brute force combat, Force powers, skill usage) and the amount of player choice one felt over their character and the story.  Most criticism was leveled at the combat, which would’ve felt clunky compared to a contemporary Star Wars game like Jedi Knight II:  Jedi Outcast/Jedi Academy and the repetitive alien voice-acting.  Regardless, the game was a smash hit and achieved widespread critical acclaim.

Unlike other Let’s Plays, I’m not going to focus on the gameplay.  Instead, we’re looking at the story, writing, references, CRPG tropes the game codified and things of that nature.  Because Knights of the Old Republic is over a decade old, the attitude regarding spoilers is going to be laissez-faire.  Indeed, I’m going to spoil the major plot twist right away by naming our character Revan.  Because FRAPS doesn’t record the video cutscenes in KOTOR (for some reason), I’m just going to have to get those screenshots from somewhere else…or just describe them in text.

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

Four thousand years before
the rise of the Galactic
Empire, the Republic verges
on collapse. DARTH MALAK,
last surviving apprentice of
the DARK LORD REVAN, has
unleashed an invincible
Sith armada upon an
unsuspecting galaxy.

Crushing all resistance,
Malak's war of conquest
has left the Jedi Order
scattered and vulnerable
as countless Knights fall in
battle, and many more
swear allegiance to the new
Sith Master.

In the skies above the Outer
Rim world of Taris, a Jedi
battle fleet engages the
forces of Darth Malak in a
desperate effort to halt the
Sith's galactic domination…

 

Interestingly enough, Bioware was given the option to do an Episode II game.  From a ComputerandVideoGames.com article on Wikipedia:  “LucasArts came to us and said that we could do an Episode II game,” BioWare CEO Raymond Muzyka said.  “Or LucasArts said we could go 4,000 years back, which is a period that’s hardly been covered before.”

While a Bioware-produced Episode II game would make an interesting what-if discussion (would it have averted the problem with licensed games like EA’s Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers did?), I much prefer them going with the “4,000 years before the prequels” setting.  One nitpick regarding Star Wars is that most of the Expanded Universe literature, despite having a considerable time frame to work with, has most of its stories set in the time of the original trilogy (give or take 20 years).  Compare the number of publications in the Rise of the Empire/Rebellion Eras to other times here…  It makes the Star Wars universe feel small and condensed rather than something impressive.

Both of these dialogue options seem kinda silly.  When in doubt, pick the most silly or serious option…  It’s a bit odd that Trask and Revan would work opposite shifts and not see each other.  It’s also strange that, if the Jedi Council were fearful that the former Dark Lord of the Sith would regain his memories/powers, they’d have a low level Republic soldier watching him.

Trask’s comments are based on what class you picked during character creation.  Pick soldier and he’ll comment on how your character is a badass recruit.  Pick scoundrel and he’ll mention that you’re a renowned smuggler of spice and illegal weapons.  All of them are cover stories concocted by the Jedi Council after they brainwashed Revan…although it makes one wonder who decided what and why.  “Hey, let’s make the former Dark Lord of the Sith’s new identity a spice smuggler!”

A brief change of clothes later…

Maybe it’s standard protocol for living quarters on a ship to be locked down during an attack but we also see that the next corridor is also locked down.  Perhaps it’s looking too deeply (i.e. trying to find meaning in something that isn’t there) but a room that’s double-locked in case of an attack?  Says something about how valuable the people who occupy that room are…

Trask’s comments are most likely not meant to be taken literally…but it does suggest that the crew of the Endar Spire is full of green, raw recruits.  According to Wookiepedia, the Endar Spire is a Hammerhead-class cruiser with an operating crew of 300.  It can carry another 400 passengers.  We later learn that the Jedi Council was hoping they could re-trigger Revan’s memories to find the Star Forge…  If so, it’s a bit odd they wouldn’t have a more experienced crew capable of handling a (weakened) Sith Lord…unless the Jedi saw them all as expendable and figured if Revan did somehow convert the crew to his Sith cause, he’d only have some low-level flunkies that the Republic could easily dispatch.

One of the renowned praises of Knights of the Old Republic was how well Bioware captured the feel of the original Star Wars.  The tutorial sequence is one of the best examples of that.  Compare these shots to the opening in the original movie (aka A New Hope).  The helmets of the Republic soldiers strongly resemble those of the Rebel soldiers.  Also, we can see the faces of the various Republic soldiers, knowing we can relate to them vs. the faceless mooks of the evil Sith.  Of course, the Sith here could be mere creations of the Star Forge and thus not really human at all.

I always wondered why this Jedi died here.  She’d have been a perfect choice to introduce players to Jedi gameplay mechanics rather than have them play for a few hours before finding Bastilla.  Perhaps they didn’t want to throw too much at the players at once.

Star Wars is more “space fantasy” than “science fiction” but I have to draw the line at “swords with a cortosis weave being able to withstand a lightsaber.”

The Dark Jedi is actually Darth Bandon, Darth Malak’s Sith apprentice.  He’s worth mentioning here because when you encounter him later in the game, you can bring up that he killed Trask and be quite upset about it…despite the fact that most players barely remember an NPC from the tutorial they played 20 hours ago.

The game tutorial isn’t unforgiving the way Baldur’s Gate 1 is…but it’s still a d20 based game and we’re playing as a low level character.  Dying is a strong possibility, especially if you’re frugal with medpacs or play as a scoundrel with a low constitution.

Carth is on the other side of the room, so it’s a bit of a dick move on his part to leave you to fight the Sith alone.  What I’d like to have done is reprogram the droid and coordinate a sneak attack with Carth…the droid and I could open the doors to attack and when the Sith focus on it, Carth could open his door and shoot them from behind.  The resulting crossfire would mow everyone down.  But I guess those communicators are a one-way transmitting device.

Both of these dialogue options are a bit silly.  The tutorial isn’t really the best example of the game’s writing.

Sure enough, we escape the Endar Spire just in time before Darth Malak’s Sith fleet blows it up.  Interestingly, this scene does foreshadow Taris’ fate.  Have the Sith found Bastilla yet?  No?  Well, they might as blow up the ship/planet she’s on!

I believe the bed used for the game’s dream sequences is on the Ebon Hawk.  I originally ran through the tutorial after cheating myself to be a Jedi.  It went pretty well until I got to this sequence, when the game booted me to an Ebon Hawk that had no party members and no way to use the galaxy map.  Perhaps it has something to do with the game’s scripting?  I’m not tech savvy enough to answer that.

Anyway, the dream Revan has is of a Jedi (Bastilla) dueling someone with a lightsaber.  We later find out this is shortly before Revan was captured on his ship by the Jedi.

I’d like to ask Carth, “What kind of worse spots?”

In Star Wars d20, the number of languages a character speaks is limited by their race and their intelligence bonus.  Thus, we can presume Revan is pretty smart.  That or he used the Force equivalent of Comprehend Languages.  After all, when we encounter the Rakata on the Unknown Planet later in the game, we learn that Revan learned the native language by ripping the language from the leader’s mind.  If he could do it to them, why not the various other species of the galaxy?

The million dollar question…

…that we need to ask twice in order to get a proper answer.

Battle Meditation shows up as a Force power in Knights of the Old Republic II.  It gives allies a bonus to attack, damage, will saves and health regeneration (everything you need to fight better) while enemies failing a will save receive a penalty.  Also, any Jedi party member can learn it although only the main player character can use it to influence a military outcome like Bastilla does.

Carth’s claim that the Sith won’t be looking for common soldiers is total horseshit, as we’ll find out at the start of the next chapter.

Also, while Bastilla’s public enemy number one, I’d question Carth’s claim of being able to move around easily.  Carth is a renowned Republic war hero whose former mentor (Saul Karath) is the commander of the Sith fleet currently orbiting Taris.  Keeping a low profile would help, as does the fact that every Sith we encounter on Taris ends up dead, but wandering around the Upper City of Taris would get him spotted by Sith surveillance.

Revan would get a pass because it’s been over a decade since anyone saw him outside of his iconic mask.

Carth being spotted by Sith surveillance is proven correct in the next entry, when we’re attacked by a patrol inquiring about Republic fugitives hiding out with aliens.

More foreshadowing regarding Revan.

Highlighting this to note Carth’s pause when he admits the Sith are looking for Bastilla, not a couple of grunts.  Carth feels a bit inadequate around Jedi, mainly because they are way more powerful than him and make his dual blaster build completely useless with their lightsaber laser bolt deflection.  He also harbors a bit of resentment towards Bastilla and the Jedi Council because they basically commandeered command of the Endar Spire for a mission he doesn’t know the full story behind.  Finally, Carth has a lot of trust issues stemming from most of his Mandalorian War buddies/comrades joining the Sith and then bombing Telos, his home planet.  Carth’s probably thinking that this entire situation, all the deaths of those Republic soldiers, wouldn’t have happened if the Jedi hadn’t taken charge.

Next part to be posted Tuesday, barring major catastrophes.  I intend to finish this game so I can give Gabe his copy of KOTOR back after holding on to it for much of the past year.

More on Oscar’s Best Picture Bias

So, uh, wow…

I don’t watch the Oscars because it’s nothing more than an evening-long party where Hollywood pats itself on the back.  So, when looking up for the results, I had to check three different sources.  The Hurt Locker over Avatar?  I never saw Hurt Locker and thought Avatar was overrated (and am really glad it didn’t win) but it’s still surprising.  Looking at the past 25 years of Oscar, whenever the number one box office hit was nominated, it was most likely going to win.  Titanic was the highest-grossing film of all-time when it won, why wouldn’t history repeat itself when Avatar won?

Hurt Locker‘s win is also a bit perplexing because it lacks mainstream appeal.  Seriously, the film does not even crack the top 100 in box office…  A “Best Picture” worthy film has a balance of everything.  Those components include excellent acting, writing, directing and generally some form of mainstream appeal.  To borrow Chinese philosophy, is a great film “great” if no one sees it?

Anyway, to coincide with the Oscars, here’s an expansion to the previous rant about the Academy’s hesitation to nominate the year’s biggest blockbuster for their most prestigious award.  Whereas last rant concerned itself with only the top-grossing picture of the year, this overview will include all the year’s blockbusters.  This rant will define “blockbuster movies” as films that grossed over $100 million at the box office.  If a movie is listed in italics, it was nominated for the Academy’s Best Picture award.  If a movie is in bold and italics, it won Best Picture that year.  Best Picture winners, nominees, their finish at the box office and the money grossed at the box office are also listed for convenience.  Keep in mind that all monetary amounts listed after each film’s title are in the millions and come from Box Office Mojo.

Feel free to look over and wonder why the Academy nominated “y” over “x”.  For example, why the fuck did Frost/Nixon/Milk/The Reader get nominated over Dark Knight?  Why the hell Kiss of the Spider Woman or Prizzi’s Honor nominated over Back to the FutureNote how weird it is for years where two (or more) blockbusters are nominated and the lower-grossing one tends to win (1990-1992, 1998-1999, 2001-2002, 2004)…

1983
Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi
Terms of Endearment

Winner:  Terms of Endearment (2, $108.4)
Nominees:  The Big Chill (13, $56.3), The Dresser (not in top 50), The Right Stuff (33, $21.1), Tender Mercies (not in top 50)

1984
Beverly Hills Cop
Ghostbusters
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Gremlins

Winner:  Amadeus (12, $51.5)
Nominees: 
The Killing Fields (25, $34.7), A Passage to India (34, $27.1), Places in the Heart (24, $34.9), A Soldier’s Story (47, $21.8)

1985
Back to the Future
Rambo:  First Blood Part II
Rocky IV

Winner:  Out of Africa (5, $87.0)
Nominees: 
The Color Purple (4, $94.1), Kiss of the Spider Woman (not in top 50), Prizzi’s Honor (32, $26.6), Witness (8, $68.7)

1986
Top Gun
Crocodile Dundee
Platoon
The Karate Kid Part II
Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home

Winner:  Platoon (3, $138.5)
Nominees: 
Children of a Lesser God (32, $31.8), Hannah and Her Sisters (30, $35.3), The Mission (not in top 50), A Room with a View (44, $20.9)

1987
Three Men and a Baby
Fatal Attraction
Beverly Hills Cop II
Good Morning, Vietnam

Winner:  The Last Emperor (25, $43.9)
Nominees: 
Broadcast News (18, $51.2), Fatal Attraction (2, $156.6), Hope and Glory (not in top 50), Moonstruck (5, $80.6)

1988

Rain Man
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Coming to America
Big
Twins
Crocodile Dundee II

Winner:  Rain Man (1, $172.8)
Nominees:  The Accidental Tourist (35, $32.6), Dangerous Liaisons (32, $34.67), Mississippi Burning (33, $34.60), Working Girl (11, $63.7)


1989
Batman
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lethal Weapon 2
Look Who’s Talking
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Back to the Future Part II
Ghostbusters II
Driving Miss Daisy
Parenthood

Winner:  Driving Miss Daisy (8, $106.5)
Nominees: 
Born on the Fourth of July (17, $70.0), Dead Poets Society (10, $95.8), Field of Dreams (19, $64.4), My Left Foot (not in top 50)

1990
Home Alone
Ghost
Dances with Wolves
Pretty Woman
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Hunt for Red October
Total Recall
Die Hard 2:  Die Harder
Dick Tracy

Winner:  Dances with Wolves (3, $184.2)
Nominees: 
Awakenings (23, $52.0), Ghost (2, $217.6), The Godfather Part III (17, $66.6), Goodfellas (26, $46.8)

1991
Terminator 2:  Judgment Day
Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves
Beauty and the Beast
The Silence of the Lambs
City Slickers
Hook
The Addams Family
Sleeping with the Enemy

Winner:  The Silence of the Lambs (4, $130.7)
Nominees: 
Beauty and the Beast (3, $145.8), Bugsy (25, $49.1), JFK (17, $70.4), The Prince of Tides (16, $74.7)

1992
Aladdin
Home Alone 2
Batman Returns
Lethal Weapon 3
A Few Good Men
Sister Act
The Bodyguard
Wayne’s World
Basic Instinct
A League of Their Own
Unforgiven

Winner:  Unforgiven (11, $101.1)
Nominees: 
The Crying Game (20, $62.5), A Few Good Men (5, $141.3), Howards End (48, $25.9), Scent of a Woman (19, $63.0)

1993
Jurassic Park
Mrs. Doubtfire
The Fugitive
The Firm
Sleepless in Seattle
Indecent Proposal
In the Line of Fire
The Pelican Brief

Winner:  Schindler’s List (9, $96.0)
Nominees: 
The Piano (38, $40.1), The Fugitive (3, $183.8), In the Name of the Father (not in top 50), The Remains of the Day (not in top 50)

1994
Forrest Gump
The Lion King
True Lies
The Santa Clause
The Flintstones
Dumb and Dumber
Clear and Present Danger
Speed
The Mask
Pulp Fiction
Interview with the Vampire
Maverick

Winner:  Forrest Gump (1, $329.6)
Nominees:  Four Weddings and a Funeral (21, $52.7), Pulp Fiction (10, $107.9), Quiz Show (not in top 50), The Shawshank Redemption (not in top 50)


1995
Toy Story
Batman Forever
Apollo 13
Pocahontas
Ace Ventura:  When Nature Calls
Goldeneye
Jumanji
Casper
Seven
Die Hard:  With A Vengeance

Winner:  Braveheart (18, $75.6)
Nominees: 
Apollo 13 (3, $172.0), Babe (28, $63.6), Il Postino (not in top 50), Sense and Sensibility (39, $43.1)

1996
Independence Day
Twister
Mission:  Impossible
Jerry Maguire
Ransom
101 Dalmatians (1996 reissue)
The Rock
The Nutty Professor
The Birdcage
A Time to Kill
The First Wives Club
Phenomenon
Scream
Eraser
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Winner:  The English Patient (19, $78.6)
Nominees: 
Fargo (not in top 50), Jerry McGuire (4, $153.9), Secrets and Lies (not in top 50), Shine (41, $35.8)

1997
Titanic
Men in Black
The Lost World:  Jurassic Park
Liar Liar
Air Force One
As Good as It Gets
Good Will Hunting
Star Wars (1997 Special Edition)
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Tomorrow Never Dies
Face/Off
Batman and Robin
George of the Jungle
Scream 2
Con Air
Contact

Winner:  Titanic (1, $600.7)
Nominees:  As Good as it Gets (6, $148.4), The Full Monty (44, $45.9), Good Will Hunting (7, $138.4), L.A. Confidential (24, $64.6)


1998
Saving Private Ryan
Armageddon
There’s Something About Mary
A Bug’s Life
The Waterboy
Doctor Dolittle
Rush Hour
Deep Impact
Godzilla
Patch Adams
Lethal Weapon 4
The Truman Show
Mulan
You’ve Got Mail
Enemy of the State
The Prince of Egypt
The Rugrats Movie
Shakespeare in Love

Winner:  Shakespeare in Love (18, $100.3)
Nominees: 
Elizabeth (not in top 50), Life is Beautiful (35, $57.2), Saving Private Ryan (1, $216.5), The Thin Red Line (not in top 50)

1999
Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace
The Sixth Sense
Toy Story 2
Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me
The Matrix
Tarzan
Big Daddy
The Mummy
Runaway Bride
The Blair Witch Project
Stuart Little
The Green Mile
American Beauty
The World Is Not Enough
Double Jeopardy
Notting Hill
Wild Wild West
Analyze This
The General’s Daughter
American Pie
Sleepy Hollow

Winner:  American Beauty (13, $130.0)
Nominees: 
The Cider House Rules (41, $57.5), The Green Mile (12, $136.8), The Insider (not in top 50), The Sixth Sense (2, $293.5)

2000
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Cast Away
Mission:  Impossible II
Gladiator
What Women Want
The Perfect Storm
Meet the Parents
X-Men
Scary Movie
What Lies Beneath
Dinosaur
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Erin Brockovich
Charlie’s Angels
Traffic
The Nutty Professor II:  The Klumps
Big Momma’s House
Remember the Titans
The Patriot
Chicken Run
Miss Congeniality
Gone in 60 Seconds

Winner:  Gladiator (4, $187.7)
Nominees: 
Chocolat (32, $71.5), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (12, $128.0), Erin Brockovich (13, $125.5), Traffic (15, $124.1)

2001
Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring
Shrek
Monsters Inc.
Rush Hour 2
The Mummy Returns
Pearl Harbor
Ocean’s Eleven
Jurassic Park III
Planet of the Apes (2001 remake)
A Beautiful Mind
Hannibal
American Pie 2
The Fast and the Furious
Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider
Dr. Dolittle 2
Spy Kids
Black Hawk Down
The Princess Diaries
Vanilla Sky

Winner:  A Beautiful Mind (11, $170.7)
Nominees: 
Gosford Park (59, $41.3), In the Bedroom (68, $35.9), The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2, $313.3), Moulin Rouge! (43, $57.3)

2002
Spider-Man
The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers
Star Wars Episode II:  Attack of the Clones
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Signs
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Men in Black II
Ice Age
Chicago
Catch Me If You Can
Die Another Day
Scooby-Doo
Lilo & Stitch
XXX
The Santa Clause 2
Minority Report
The Ring
Sweet Home Alabama
Mr. Deeds
The Bourne Identity
The Sum of All Fears
8 Mile
Road to Perdition

Winner:  Chicago (10, $170.6)
Nominees: 
Gangs of New York (35, $77.8), The Hours (56, $41.6), The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2, $339.7), The Pianist (80, $32.5)

2003
The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King
Finding Nemo
Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl
The Matrix Reloaded
Bruce Almighty
X2:  X-Men United
Elf
Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines
The Matrix Revolutions
Cheaper by the Dozen
Bad Boys II
Anger Management
Bringing Down the House
Hulk
2 Fast 2 Furious
Something’s Gotta Give
Seabiscuit
S.W.A.T.
Spy Kids 3D:  Game Over
The Last Samurai
Freaky Friday
Scary Movie 3
The Italian Job
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
American Wedding
Daddy Day Care
Daredevil
The Cat in the Hat
Charlie’s Angels:  Full Throttle

Winner:  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (1, $377.0)
Nominees:  Lost in Translation (67, $44.5), Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World (31, $93.9), Mystic River (33, $90.1), Seabiscuit (17, $120.2)


2004
Shrek 2
Spider-Man 2
The Passion of the Christ
Meet the Fockers
The Incredibles
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Day After Tomorrow
The Bourne Supremacy
National Treasure
The Polar Express
Shark Tale
I, Robot
Troy
Ocean’s Twelve
50 First Dates
Van Helsing
Fahrenheit 9/11
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
DodgeBall:  A True Underdog Story
The Village
The Grudge
The Aviator
Collateral
Million Dollar Baby

Winner:  Million Dollar Baby (24, $100.4)
Nominees: 
The Aviator (22, $102.6), Finding Neverland (61, $51.6), Ray (37, $75.3), Sideways (40, $71.5)

2005
Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith
The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
War of the Worlds
King Kong
Wedding Crashers
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Batman Begins
Madagascar
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Hitch
The Longest Yard
Fantastic Four
Chicken Little
Robots
Walk the Line
The Pacifier
Fun with Dick and Jane
The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Winner:  Crash (49, $54.5)
Nominees: 
Brokeback Mountain (22, $83.0), Capote (95, $28.7), Good Night and Good Luck (88, $31.5), Munich (62, $47.4)

2006
Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest
Night at the Museum
Cars
X-Men:  The Last Stand
The Da Vinci Code
Superman Returns
Happy Feet
Ice Age:  The Meltdown
Casino Royale
The Pursuit of Happyness
Over the Hedge
Talladega Nights
Click
Mission:  Impossible III
The Departed
Borat
The Devil Wears Prada
The Break-Up
Dreamgirls

Winner:  The Departed (15, $132.3)
Nominees: 
Babel (92, $34.3), Letters from Iwo Jima (138, $13.7), Little Miss Sunshine (51, $59.8), The Queen (57, $56.4)

2007
Spider-Man 3
Shrek the Third
Transformers
Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World’s End
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I Am Legend
The Bourne Ultimatum
National Treasure:  Book of Secrets
Alvin and the Chipmunks
300
Ratatouille
The Simpsons Movie
Wild Hogs
Knocked Up
Juno
Rush Hour 3
Live Free or Die Hard
Fantastic Four:  Rise of the Silver Surfer
American Gangster
Enchanted
Bee Movie
Superbad
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Hairspray
Blades of Glory
Ocean’s Thirteen
Ghost Rider
Evan Almighty

Winner:  No Country for Old Men (36)
Nominees:  A
tonement (50, $50.9), Juno (15, $143.4), Michael Clayton (55, $49.0), There Will Be Blood (66, $40.2)

2008
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Hancock
WALL-E
Kung Fu Panda
Twilight
Madagascar:  Escape 2 Africa
Quantum of Solace
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Sex and the City
Gran Torino
Mamma Mia!
Marley and Me
The Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian
Slumdog Millionaire
The Incredible Hulk
Wanted
Get Smart
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Four Christmases
Bolt
Tropic Thunder
Bedtime Stories
The Mummy:  Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Eagle Eye
Step Brothers
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

Winner:  Slumdog Millionaire (16, $141.3)
Nominees: 
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (20, $127.5), Frost/Nixon (120, $18.6), Milk (89, $31.8), The Reader (82, $34.1)

2009
Avatar
Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Twilight:  New Moon
Up
The Hangover
Star Trek
The Blind Side
Alvin and the Chipmunks:  The Squeakquel
Sherlock Holmes
Monsters vs. Aliens
Ice Age:  Dawn of the Dinosaurs
X-Men Origins:  Wolverine
Night at the Museum:  Battle of the Smithsonian
2012
The Proposal
Fast and Furious
G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra
Paul Blart:  Mall Cop
Taken
A Christmas Carol
Angels & Demons
Terminator Salvation
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Inglorious Bastards
G-Force
District 9
It’s Complicated
Couples Retreat
Paranormal Activity
Watchmen
The Princess and the Frog

Winner:  The Hurt Locker (126, $14.7)
Nominees:  Avatar (1, $720.1), The Blind Side (8, $250.4), District 9 (27, $115.6), An Education (133, $12.0), Inglorious Bastards (25, $120.5), Precious:  Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (65, $47.4), A Serious Man (145, $9.2), Up (5, $293.0), Up in the Air (38, $83.0)
2009 box office figures as of March 7, 2010

Snow Day?

Compared to a great deal of the world, Virginia does not get a lot of snow so it’s always a treat when we do get some.  Or so I once thought…  College has changed that.  Now, one is expected to brave roads dusted with one inch snowfalls that would keep public school buses in the garage.  All for reasons of college and/or work.  Damn responsibility.

EMU takes this trend to an idiotic level.  Obviously, they’re not going to close school (or even cancel classes) for a few flurries but if I was living off-campus (and didn’t know any better), it would appear as if the administration was giving me the finger.  See, EMU has a nasty habit of never canceling.  This is even more awkward when the high school just down the street is closed or JMU opens later.  Last Wednesday, for example, EMU opened at 9 AM.  JMU opened a hour later, while both public city high schools were closed.  What the fuck is the point of canceling only one class?

Tomorrow, a huge blizzard is forecast.  Most schools (including colleges like Blue Ridge) have already closed.  EMU and JMU are sitting and waiting.  I’d normally side with EMU or JMU, since schools closing before snowfall are jumping the gun (at least wait until the morning) but I’m convinced EMU would stay open and have classes.  Even if it was a perpetual nuclear winter, some jackass in the administration would build igloos for us to have class in.

Been writing for 2,012 days…would have written about the 2012 scare but what is there to say?  The Mayans had no grand belief the world would end in 2012…it’s just laziness on their behalf.  I’m pretty sure the Mayan thought went along the lines of, “We won’t need to have our calendar go past 2012 because it’s not like our civilization will be destroyed by the Spanish and someone will come along and discover our unfinished calendar and make doomsday prophecies out of it.”  In any event, EMU will still have classes.

Oscar’s Best Picture Bias

The Oscar nominations were released today.  For the first time since 2003, the movie that made the most money at the box office was awarded an Oscar nomination for “Best Picture.”  Whether Avatar should win can be debated but it definitely deserves a nomination.  See, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (i.e. the Academy) has a very odd bias towards blockbuster movies.  Since 1983, only six movies that were the highest-grossing of their year have been awarded a nomination.  Remember that films are entertainment and one way to judge how entertaining a product is is to see how much money it made.  Monetary profit does not always equal great quality but judging on the past 25 years, the Academy’s criteria apparently involves ignoring the opinions (and wallets) of the people who fund their industry.  That, or the Academy has better taste than the general public.

While the last 25 years are especially guilty in the offense of leaving blockbusters off the Best Picture ballot, Oscar’s bias has been apparent since World War II.  Looking over box office figures (from these two sites) and Best Picture nominations since 1945, a span of 63 years, the biggest box office hit has only been nominated 27 times.  The biggest money maker of each year has less than half a chance to garner one of Oscar’s five nominations?  This is silly because the Academy once had good sense.  From 1962 to 1982, blockbuster movies were well-represented at the Oscars.  With the exception of four years (1966, 1967, 1978 and 1980), the biggest money-maker was awarded a Best Picture nomination.

The following list shows the movies that were the highest-grossing of their year (according to the two sites linked above) that were awarded a Best Picture nomination.  Movies that are in bold won the award for Best Picture.  Mathematically, Avatar’s chances of winning don’t look too great but recently, blockbusters have rarely garnered a nomination.  When they have, though, those movies have usually won.

1948 – The Red Shoes
1951 – Quo Vadis
1956 – The Ten Commandments
1957 – The Bridge on the River Kwai
1959 – Ben-Hur
1962 – Lawrence of Arabia
1963 – Cleopatra
1964 – Mary Poppins
1965 – The Sound of Music
1968 – Funny Girl
1969 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1970 – Love Story
1971 – Fiddler on the Roof
1972 – The Godfather
1973 – The Exorcist
1974 – The Towering Inferno
1975 – Jaws
1976 – Rocky
1977 – Star Wars
1979 – Kramer vs. Kramer
1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982 – E.T.:  The Extra-Terrestrial
1988 – Rain Man
1994 – Forrest Gump
1997 – Titanic
1998 – Saving Private Ryan
2003 – Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

To conclude, here are the last 25 years worth of Oscar nominations.  One can decide if the Academy was right to snub the highest-grossing pictures of a nomination in their respective year.  The film following the year was the highest-grossing of that year.  Under that is whether the film was nominated and if so, did it win?  The Best Picture nominees always have the winner listed first.  The number following each film in parenthesis is where that film is ranked in terms of that year’s box office.  So, the (16) following Slumdog Millionaire means that movie was the 16th highest-grossing movie of 2008 (meaning 15 other movies made more money than Slumdog).  Years that had the box office hit winning the Oscar did not have the nominees listed because, honestly, what’s the point?  All these figures come from Box Office Mojo.

1983:  Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Terms of Endearment (2), The Big Chill (13), The Dresser (not in top 50), The Right Stuff (33), Tender Mercies (not in top 50)


1984:  Beverly Hills Cop / Ghostbusters
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Amadeus (12), The Killing Fields (25), A Passage to India (34), Places in the Heart (24), A Soldier’s Story (47)
Note:  Box Office Report lists Ghostbusters as the biggest domestic blockbuster of 1984, whereas Box Office Mojo lists Beverly Hills Cop.

1985:  Back to the Future
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Out of Africa (5), The Color Purple (4), Kiss of the Spider Woman (not in top 50), Prizzi’s Honor (32), Witness (8)

1986:  Top Gun
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Platoon (3), Children of a Lesser God (32), Hannah and Her Sisters (30), The Mission (not in top 50), A Room with a View (44)


1987:  Three Men and a Baby
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  The Last Emperor (25), Broadcast News (18), Fatal Attraction (2), Hope and Glory (not in top 50), Moonstruck (5)

1988:  Rain Man
Nominated?  Yes.  Win?  Yes.

1989:  Batman
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Driving Miss Daisy (8), Born on the Fourth of July (17), Dead Poets Society (10), Field of Dreams (19), My Left Foot (not in top 50)

1990:  Home Alone
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Dances with Wolves (3), Awakenings (23), Ghost (2), The Godfather Part III (17), Goodfellas (26)


1991:  Terminator 2:  Judgment Day
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  The Silence of the Lambs (4), Beauty and the Beast (3), Bugsy (25), JFK (17), The Prince of Tides (16)

1992:  Aladdin
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Unforgiven (11), The Crying Game (20), A Few Good Men (5), Howards End (48), Scent of a Woman (19)

1993:  Jurassic Park
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Schindler’s List (9), The Piano (38), The Fugitive (3), In the Name of the Father (not in top 50), The Remains of the Day (not in top 50)

1994:  Forrest Gump
Nominated?  Yes.  Win?  Yes.

1995:  Toy Story
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Braveheart (18), Apollo 13 (3), Babe (28), Il Postino (not in top 50), Sense and Sensibility (39)


1996:  Independence Day
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  The English Patient (19), Fargo (not in top 50), Jerry McGuire (4), Secrets and Lies (not in top 50), Shine (41)

1997:  Titanic
Nominated?  Yes.  Win?  Yes.

1998:  Saving Private Ryan
Nominated?  Yes.  Win?  No
Best Picture Nominees:  Shakespeare in Love (18), Elizabeth (not in top 50), Life is Beautiful (35), Saving Private Ryan (1), The Thin Red Line (not in top 50)

1999:  Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  American Beauty (13), The Cider House Rules (41), The Green Mile (12), The Insider (not in top 50), The Sixth Sense (2)

2000:  How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Gladiator (4), Chocolat (32), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (12), Erin Brockovich (13), Traffic (15)


2001:  Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  A Beautiful Mind (11), Gosford Park (59), In the Bedroom (68), Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2), Moulin Rouge! (43)

2002:  Spider-Man
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Chicago (10), Gangs of New York (35), The Hours (56), The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2), The Pianist (80)

2003:  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King
Nominated?  Yes.  Win?  Yes.

2004:  Shrek 2
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Million Dollar Baby (24), The Aviator (22), Finding Neverland (61), Ray (37), Sideways (40)

2005:  Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  Crash (49), Brokeback Mountain (22), Capote (95), Good Night and Good Luck (88), Munich (62)

2006:  Pirates of the Carribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  The Departed (15), Babel (92), Letters from Iwo Jima (138), Little Miss Sunshine (51), The Queen (57)


2007:  Spider-Man 3
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees:  No Country for Old Men (36), Atonement (50), Juno (15), Michael Clayton (55), There Will Be Blood (66)


2008:  The Dark Knight
Nominated?  No.
Best Picture Nominees: 
Slumdog Millionaire (16), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (20), Frost/Nixon (120), Milk (89), The Reader (82)

Raising Breast Cancer Awareness (among other things)

The main topic of choice on this journal is some form of entertainment, whether it be a video game or something about D&D.  If those topics were forbidden, however, the other option would be to write about something idiotic someone (or some group) has done.  People are a never-ending source of stupidity so it’s not like there would be a lack of writing.  Stupidity is also a very humorous, relieving topic…so long as one is not on the “receiving” end of the critique.  After all, laughter is good medicine and what better thing to laugh at than someone’s own poor judgment?

Today’s victims who deserved to be laughed at are any woman who put the color of her bra in her Facebook status.  The reason for this madness is to raise breast cancer awareness.  It’s too bad a noble cause does not excuse poor judgment.  If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to idiocy is paved with “well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”  The first issue here is that breast cancer awareness month is in October, not January.  It would have made a ton more sense to implement this idea in October!  Perhaps it was and people didn’t know when to stop, which would be just as stupid (if not, more so).

The counter argument to that is that the fight against breast cancer is ongoing and not confined to a single month.  Fine, but what’s with showing “the color of the bra you are currently wearing”?  It would have been easier to just organize a day where all women wear a pink (or peach) bra.

The real issue here is the potential for some woman to become the object of someone’s sexual fantasy…and then end up bitching about it.  A woman posting the color of her bra over the Internet is equivalent to wearing short shorts, both play up sex appeal and only that.  The issue here is not a moral guardian (“this is another instance of our society’s values decaying”) complaint but instead, an issue of choice and consequence.  Women can certainly choose to wear short shorts and post their bra color, it’s a free society and neither breaks any laws.  However, doing either can invite many lewd, sexual comments and assist in perverts devising sexual fantasies.  All too often, the lewd commenter is written off as a pervert or shallow, chauvinistic pig when the woman brought it on herself.  If a woman finds it disturbing that men will leer at her in her short shorts or masturbate to her at night once she’s posted her bra color for all the Internet to see, that makes her ignorant…not a victim.

Of course, men weren’t supposed to find out women were doing this…even though breast cancer also affects men.  Way to raise awareness by leaving out an entire gender!  Also, this was conducted over the Internet and considering how many people use Facebook, did anyone really think a man would not have eventually found out what was going on?  This “game” raised lots of things…but not awareness for breast cancer victims.  If anything, those victims were ridiculed when women decided to e-flash their Facebook friends.  If women don’t want to think that some guy(s) slept soundly to the thought of them in a certain color bikini, perhaps they should think of the consequences of their choices in the future…instead of bitching about how perverted man is.

Assassin’s Creed 2

There are some games that are never worth the price.  Other games could be considered at a discount.  A few, however, are worth full admission.  Assassin’s Creed 2 is worth buying at a discount and could even be worth a full $60.  The gameplay is excellent, if unchanged, from the first installment.  If the gameplay for a game is “excellent” and can only be considered to be worth full admission, then there must be a critical flaw in the game.  The flaw for Assassin’s Creed 2 is the plot.  A plot that had to have been written by a committee of Dan Brown, L. Ron Hubbard and Al Gore.

Well, that’s a rather odd combination…especially since none of them had a direct hand in the game’s writing.  When the game’s plot is analyzed, however, these three names and their ideas can be found.  For instance, Dan Brown’s “contributions” can be found in the overarching plot.  Like the first game, Assassin’s Creed 2 is not about the adventures of an individual in a historical setting.  Instead, it’s about the distant descendant in 2012 reliving those memories via computer generation.  What’s really going on in the game is an age-long rivalry between the assassins and the Templars.  The Templars have “covered up” historical truths to placate and control the masses while questing for Pieces of Eden…which are powerful artifacts they will use to placate and control the masses.  The idea of a millennial plus long conspiracy involving Templars sounds eerily familiar to Dan Brown’s work…it doesn’t help that the game tries very hard to be convincing of this conspiracy.  All the in-game puzzles to unlock “the truth” tell the player every event (the atomic bomb testing, landing on the moon, among others) was to acquire a Piece of Eden.

That is, obviously, not true and seems silly that people could be convinced of it.  However, that’s underestimating how stupid some people are.  How many people bought into the “truths” of The Da Vinci Code, despite that it’s obviously a work of fiction?  If I was to get into teaching, I wouldn’t be surprised if, while teaching a high school history class, a student listed “Rasputin stealing Czar Nicholas II’s staff” as the beginning of the 1905 Russian revolution.

L. Ron Hubbard’s influence can be seen in the sci-fi elements of the plot, but is most obvious at the end.  The end reveals that there was another alien civilization that predated humanity.  This “civilization” then created humanity in their own image, although both sides fought each other when the humans rebelled against their alien masters.  The humans won out, thanks to a natural disaster, and afterwards, both sides work to preventing such a disaster from occurring again.  Oh and these aliens take the names of Roman gods…

The disaster that weakened humanity and L. Ron Hubbard’s intergalactic gods was, in fact, a solar flare.  This is laughable, more so when the protagonists hype up the sun as a bigger threat than the Templars.  True, the sun burning out would suck, but that’s a couple billion years away!  Solar flares are more of a danger to astronauts/spaceships and the very idea one could “reverse the polarity of the earth’s magnetic field” is right there with Al Gore’s claims that global warming climate change is melting enough ice to flood the planet.

Metal Gear Solid has long carried a reputation for fucked up plots.  Assassin’s Creed series has taken that title and wears it proudly.  Good writing indicates a sensible plot and likable characters.  Both Assassin’s Creed games lacked this and it diminishes what would otherwise be a game worth full admission.

New Year Rambling

New year, another chance to bring some life into this desolate place?  No promises.  Ramblings are the equivalent of a fight with no rules.  If concise, orderly, correct and (perhaps) great writing is what you’re looking for, somewhere else might be a better look.  Plus, EMU takes up tons of time.  The kids at orientation scoffed at being told they were expected to complete around 30 hours worth of schoolwork.  Had the workload been that intensive, how many would still have attended?

EMU’s also the first school to critique my writing ability (not that there’s much evidence to be seen here in the archives).  Every paper returned had, in red ink, something about how “I hadn’t found the proper voice.”  What exactly are they looking for?  If teachers are looking for something more professional, they aren’t going to find it.  Academic writing is boring, as is reading it.  Informality allows a variety of twists to be employed, allowing one to get away with things they couldn’t in a more professional environment.  This does not bode well for a career in writing but I wasn’t planning on a journalism major and if everyone plays by the same grammatical/writing/formal rules, how is anyone going to stick out?

So that, added with the lack of writing worth posting, has been on my mind.  I’m also enjoying being living laid-back on campus.  So, laziness is to be blamed here as well.  Instead of looking for or typing something to post, entertainment and sleep have been far more preferable.  Whenever something does catch my eye, it’s usually a link on Facebook…which only requires a paragraph (or less) to write.  Maybe that will change come May…

New Year’s resolutions have been made.  Last year’s involved getting rid of Facebook, which went very well until I decided it was a good way to keep in touch with Jackie and Sandy.  Not going to repeat that this year but I have found the reasons I deleted my account in the first place were legitimate and it would have stayed deleted had Sandy not randomly commented on a post back in April.  That has factored into this year’s resolutions…

This rambling is going to cease because I’ve been up over a day, mostly playing Assassin’s Creed 2, and this has all been on my mind.  Best to ramble in an echo chamber then let these thoughts fester in the head.  Like Captain Jack, I wash my hands of this weirdness.  Last years’ weirdness, in fact, and prepare for the new year…

The True Story of Christmas

It’s a simple fact that people do not like to hear the truth.  Truth hurts while lies comfort and that’s why many people are ignorant to the true story of Christmas.  People will say the real “reason for the season” is Jesus’ birthday but these people are not only ignorant of Christmas’ origin, but of their own religion.  The real truth about Christmas stings and is not reading for the faint of heart.  If anyone wishes to remain clueless so they can “enjoy” the holiday, now would be a good time to surf elsewhere on the Internet.

People are shocked when they hear that Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas.  It’s rather hilarious to see such shock, especially when the Bible never gives Jesus’ birth.  All that text about a virgin birth and fulfilling prophecies and there’s no date?  The authors of the Christian Testament must not have known (or cared) when their “savior” was born.  If a Christian is celebrating Christmas as the birth of their lord, they’d have better luck picking a random date out of the year and celebrating that day.

So if Jesus’ birthday isn’t known but has been celebrated on December 25th for over a thousand years, why bother raising a fuss? Because, much like the first Thanksgiving, the origin of Christmas is nasty and has been toned down for the masses to stomach.  Christmas has a lot of roots in pagan holidays but it mainly stems from Saturnalia.  Saturnalia is a Roman holiday in which the Roman courts closed and people did what they wanted.  Roman citizens drank massive amounts of alcohol, indulged in sexual pleasure (including rape), and went from house to house singing naked (which is where Christmas caroling comes from).  Roman communities also delegated unlucky individuals as “enemies” and tormented them for an entire week before brutally murdering them.

The Christians of the 4th century would tie Jesus’ birth to this holiday.  All the customs were left in tact, so potential converts would not be turned off.  It was a simple wallpaper change from commemorating the Roman god Saturn, to celebrating the birth of Jesus.  This is everything that’s wrong with Christianity.  Any supposed divine truth has been fabricated or borrowed and the majority of its teaching derive not from a supposed man-god, but by his followers who always missed the point (the apostles) or had their own agenda to pursue (Paul).

To be blunt, Christmas is a lie.  The Bible never says Jesus was born on December 25th and something the Church never conceived until long after his death.  Even when they manufactured a holiday, they borrowed components from pre-existing pagan ones.  Is this writing a call to get rid of Christmas?  Hell no!  It’s too ingrained in the public consciousness and besides, who doesn’t want a day off?  However, the next time someone is very Scrooge-ish around the holidays, perhaps they are not so Scrooge after all.  Perhaps they know the true story of Christmas and acknowledge it.