Monthly Archives: February 2012

SWTOR: Romancing a Jedi

Nadia, my Jedi Knight, received her first Dark Side points last night. She made it all the way to 45 without a single incident.

I didn’t have her kill someone or take the easy way out of a situation.

I let her marry Doc.

When I first learned about the romance aspect of SWTOR, I was intrigued. I’m a major fan of The Sims games and all of the fun relationship angles those games permit. I hadn’t tried SWTOR-style love out on any of my characters until now. Nadia was the first who gained a companion where that was an option. I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to romance Doc because of the Dark Side point factor. When I created Nadia, I didn’t picture her as the straight and narrow Jedi. I wanted her to have a bit of an edge.

Instead of working on Voss, I decided to raise the relationships with my companions. That unlocked some quests, giving me about a fourth a level. Not bad at all, really. I gave gifts to my companions, mainly Doc and made several trips to the ship for conversations. It’d be really helpful if BioWare did something so that the conversations with companions would work in cantinas. It’d save on time.

During my conversations with Doc, I had several opportunities to take the romance path but I didn’t. I wonder if the outcome would have been the same if I’d gone with the “let’s have some commitment free fun” instead of dragging out several conversations and raising his affection level.

Finally, Doc proposed. Good timing too, as I was on my last Courting and Luxury gifts (items he prefers). I debated it for a couple minutes before agreeing to it. The funny thing was while Nadia had flirted, they had yet to kiss.

What happened next surprised me: BioWare actually showed the ceremony. When my husband’s Sith Warrior married Vette, all he saw was a black screen for a moment and that was it. I figured the same thing would happen with all the other characters, which may have contributed to the lack of push to explore the romance angle. Not with Doc and Nadia. A gold droid appeared (looked like C2) to lead the ceremony, “I do” were said and vows declared. How awesome is that?

In addition, Doc’s proposal was probably one of the most entertaining ones I’ve ever heard. I wish I’d known it was going to happen. I would have made a video of it.

Now that my Jedi’s taken the forbidden path, I’m glad I followed that story option through. The Dark Side points are somewhat annoying, but she is a Knight of the old Order. Love is a big no (even though someone important is breaking that rule). I can live with the 50 points and subsequent others for the sake of the romance. I’m curious as to how it will play out later in the game. Will the other companions aboard the ship notice something? Is Kira going to tell the Jedi Council? I hope some type of conflict occurs. Nothing soap opera-like, of course, but an interesting twist. For example, given Kira’s past with the Sith Emperor, she owes the Jedi Knight character quite a bit. Is that enough to keep her quiet? I can’t see anything happening, but the possibilities are fun to ponder.

Showing the actual ceremony gave the game something extra. It made the characters seem a little more interesting. The companions sometimes go off on missions of their own. All players see is a black screen for a second, 99 percent of the time. There was one with Kira that involved actually traveling to Nar Shaddaa. Being able to see what was going on between Nadia and Doc made a huge difference in play.

This development easily makes the list of my favorite moments in the game so far. I can’t see it being knocked off, either.

Most importantly, it put romance into the TOR story. I’ve discussed before about how importance romance is to a story. Arguably, the most important characteristic of SWTOR is that it feels like Star Wars. It feels like it during battles or missions, but adding romance completes the package. It wasn’t enough to allow players to select a romantic interaction. Actually seeing it made the story more concrete. How many times have readers complained about a major romantic moment happening off-camera? (Example: Jaina and Jag’s reunion in Vortex

A quick YouTube search revealed that other classes show a ceremony also, like the Smugglers and Imperial Agents. I’m glad to see that BioWare included these weddings in the game.

Now if only we could see those strange Twi’lek wedding rituals Vette spoke about…

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Filed under romance, SWTOR

Han Solo book hitting shelves Winter 2012 and other book news

According to the Star Wars Books Facebook page, Timothy Zahn’s Han Solo book will hit shelves in Winter 2012. Dare I say that 2012 is going to be a good year for EU fans?

In addition to that, Drew Karpyshyn is working on another SWTOR novel title Annihilation.

From the Facebook page post:

Republic agent Theron Shan and his Twi’lek compadre, Teff’ith (from Dark Horse Comics’ STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC: THE LOST SUNS) must contend with a Sith Empire counter-attack against the Republic, spearheaded by the lethal apprentice of Darth Malgus. Satele Shan and Jace Malcolm co-star in what will be a fast-paced and tension-fraught tale based on the award-winning video game from BioWare and LucasArts.

Unfortunately, the book news isn’t all good. The Nomi Sunrider novel was cancelled, ruining a fantastic opportunity to see a woman lead.

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Filed under Drew Karpyshyn, Expanded Universe, Han Solo, Star Wars, Star Wars The Old Republic, Timothy Zahn

Citizens of Capitols: Victims or enablers?

“Mom, why do the Hunger Games happen every year?”

“Didn’t you pay attention in school? The Hunger Games are punishment for that awful rebellion during the Dark Days. District 13 thought they could beat Capitol. Now they’re all dead.”

“But no one from Capitol goes to the Games, right?”

“Oh no, son! We know what great and wonderful things Capitol does for us. Without Capitol, we’d be like wild dogs! Imagine that, your father killing and skinning something for us to eat!”

“That boy from 4 is closing in on the pack and they don’t know it!”

*cheers*

That’s a conversation I imagined between a son and his mother while watching the Hunger Games. While reading the books, the citizens of Capitol seem like idiotic, horrible people. From their excitement over watching the slaughter of District citizens to vomiting in order to enjoy more food, Capitol’s citizens define several of the seven deadly sins. It’s easy to write them off as worthless and evil.

One of the biggest questions I’ve heard others ask about this book is how the people of Capitol can sit and cheer for the Hunger Games. Humans are violent. Countless examples through history and even occurring right now prove the point. Children see violence on cartoons almost immediately. Stemming from that idea are public executions. How many people watched a hanging on YouTube?

 

 Most know the stories of crowds gathering in Place de la Revolution (now Place de la Concorde) in Paris to watch many die by guillotine. The gladiators in ancient Rome are another example. With these events in mind, it’s easy to see why the people of Capitol see the Games as “entertainment.”

Severe propaganda is necessary to maintain the idea that the Games aren’t “wrong” and that the Districts deserve to go through them each year. Countless times have people questioned how a group of people can blindly follow a leader or government when it’s clear that the actions are wrong. One of the clearest explanations of how this can happen is in the book The Wave by Todd Strasser.

In the book, a high school teacher, Mr. Ross, finds that his students don’t understand how the Germans allowed the Nazis and Hitler to do what they did. He creates an experiment to teach the point. He starts out simple by requiring strict discipline and behavior in the classroom. Then he creates a special symbol and a motto for the class. It picks up and the class starts recruiting others to “The Wave.” The movement causes some students to change their appearance, behavior and actions.

 Eventual a student starts to question The Wave publically. Her protest leads to repercussions, specifically violence from her boyfriend. Eventually Mr. Ross realizes what his classroom experiment turned into and calls for the students to gather. He uses an image of Hitler to explain to the students that they proved how the Germans allowed the Nazis rise.

Through Katniss’s descriptions of Capitol citizens, readers see how self-absorbed the people are. The outside appearance is a huge deal. Why else would so many wear what they do and alter their bodies? From this idea, it seems as if Capitol places emphasis on the self. If a person is constantly thinking of himself, odds are he won’t be so inclined to contemplate the suffering of others. The parade of tributes forces the citizens of Capitol to focus on the show rather than the person who is probably going to die soon. Thinking about how a way to mimic the gorgeous District 5 suits fits right into Capitol’s obsession with the self.

 The people of Capitol themselves aren’t naturally evil, though they are guilty for allowing these monstrosities to take place. In the end, they celebrate the Games. Katniss has clear pity and disdain for the citizens. While I agree with her disdain, I can’t say I ever felt pity for them. As easy as they are to ignore for the big picture, they serve as a lesson to readers as to what happens when a group follows a leader blindly.

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Filed under Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games

It’s time to say goodbye to "teams"

Team Edward. Team Peeta. Team Draco. Team Zekk. Team Jacob. Team Kyp. Team Harry. Team Gale. Team Jag. When did romance become a sporting event?

Years ago, while reading the Twilight series, my friend asked me who I liked better: Edward or Jacob. (Neither one was a good partner, but then again, Bella requires others to define her.) She told me about the “teams” discussion on a forum we both visited. I said Edward because not only did Jacob drive me nuts, but also it felt like Jacob saw Bella more as a prize to win rather than a human being.

That idea right there is what bothers me the most about the team concept: the woman becomes a prize.

The perpetuation of the team concept comes mainly from marketing around the Twilight movies. While it found its way onto message boards, icons and social media, various companies pushed the “Whose team are you on?” question. A Burger King commercial ran a few years ago (think around the time of Eclipse) that completely ignored Bella, the main character of the movie, in favor of the two sides. Despite the type of flimsy character Bella is, it seemed rather wrong that she was made into some medal or trophy.

With The Hunger Games movie, scads of merchandise with the statements “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” flood the internet. The idea of team-themed merchandise could work for the movie, if it wasn’t based on romance. Show your support for Katniss, Peeta or District 12 to win the games. However, if I walk around with a shirt that says Team Peeta because I want him to win the games, the idea wrongly projected is that I’m a part of some feud.

The teams idea creates conflict. These conflicts would exist without the term, but thanks to the popularity of the word, these conflicts become larger than the story itself. Back during the New Jedi Order days, plenty of debates ran about whom Jaina Solo should be with: Jag, Zekk or Kyp. While these discussions still exist today, they don’t seem as frequent or volatile. I remember reading several arguments that largely ignored Jaina’s characterization and the actual events in the books. The same problem exists in The Hunger Games. Team discussions often ignore the main ideas of the plot.

These types of conflicts do serve a positive purpose: continuous discussion, new perspectives and character analysis. If everyone agreed on each aspect of a story, conversations would die out quickly. Taking the romance angle is just one of the many ways to look at a character.

The idea of rooting for a particular suitor isn’t wrong or disrespectful to the female character. The problem arises when it takes the woman out of the equation except for her mere presence. From Jacob’s comments and the part of Breaking Dawn that was written from his point of view, I had the impression that he was more interested in winning. He seemed to lose sight of Bella’s happiness.

Mobilizing teams the way it happened throws out the choice of the female characters. Fans don’t have to agree with it. I still don’t like Harry and Ginny together. It’s far too easy to ignore actions and essence of a character, be it the female in question or one of the suitors. One of the major differences between Edward and Jacob is that Edward was willing to stand aside if Jacob was whom Bella wanted. Jacob made no such concession. This argument rarely comes into play in Edward v. Jacob debates. In The Hunger Games, this isn’t really an issue. Katniss doesn’t want a relationship nor is it much of a possibility, what with Snow’s threats.

The whole team concept has gotten out of hand. It’s impossible to enjoy a book that has more than one romance interest without someone bringing up a team, regardless of genre. The Hunger Games isn’t the story of a love triangle. There isn’t a strong sense of “who is Katniss going to choose” throughout the series and yet, it’s rapidly falling into that trap. It’s one matter to discuss who you think is the better choice. It’s another to ignore the importance of a story and belittle the female character by turning it into a dating show.

I hate the insinuation that I’m a member of a team. It implies that I only care about who the character is going to choose. Before Explosive Eighteen, the newest book in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, hit shelves in November, I read several reviews on Amazon stating that “Team Ranger” fans weren’t going to like it. Basing the entire opinion of a book on Stephanie Plum’s love life and ignoring the rest of the plot seems rather close-minded. I don’t read the Stephanie Plum books because for Ranger or Morelli. I read them because I enjoy Stephanie’s characterization and the rich cast of characters (who doesn’t love Lulu?)

Thanks to the label coupled with Twilight, some are hesitant to dive into The Hunger Games or other works of literature that “team” crept into. If the whole “Team Edward/Team Jacob” debate annoyed you, would you go into a movie that appears to use the same idea? Probably not. While I’ve yet to see Lionsgate use the Team Gale/Team Peeta monikers, there’s enough outside merchandise to make the average consumer aware of the idea. A simple online search pulls up the Team Gale and Team Peeta concepts.

This whole team epidemic kills romance. When I viewed New Moon in theaters, I felt as if the theater was broken up into groups: Edward lovers and Jacob lovers. There was a sense of hostility in the room. It was awkward. It was even more awkward when the middle-aged women in front of our little group writhed in joy when Taylor Lautner removed his shirt (who was 17 at the time with a baby face). Take out that I thought New Moon was a horrible book and mediocre movie and it was still hostile environment.

I suppose for me romance isn’t a contest. It’s not a race to the finish line. Some love stories fizzle out. That doesn’t mean they weren’t good. Take the movie The Notebook, for instance. Just because Allie and Lon don’t end up together doesn’t mean their love story was unimportant or uninteresting. I didn’t feel as if we Jaina/Jag fans “won” in Omen after the proposal. Just because Jaina and Zekk didn’t end up together as adults doesn’t mean that their young love in the Young Jedi Knights series was pointless or a waste of time.

Romance is more of a continuous journey with no end rather than an objective based race.

Pushing the idea of “teams” onto a movie or book only causes harm. While it may be true that a group of fans band together in support of a pairing, referring to it as a team diminishes characterization, story and romance in general.

It’s time to retire the term for good.

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Filed under Harry Potter, Jaina Solo, NJO, romance, teams, The Hunger Games, Twilight

Timothy Zahn announces Han Solo book details

Via Timothy Zahn’s Facebook:

While most of the details (including the title) will have to wait until an official announcement is made (which I’m told will be sometime next month), I *have* been authorized to release a few tidbits concerning my now-officially-approved upcoming Star Wars novel.

First, it will be be set in the classic movie era.
Second, it will be an Ocean’s Eleven-type heist caper.
And third, it will star everyone’s favorite smuggler, Han Solo.

Um, yes please. This sounds fantastic!

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Filed under Han Solo, Timothy Zahn

Her Universe talks about Mara Jade shirt

Monday Twitter was abuzz with the news that Her Universe plans to release a Mara Jade shirt for CVI. (check it out via ClubJade) Odds are that this shirt will go fast at the convention. I hope that it will also become available online for those who cannot attend the convention or are unable to purchase it at that time.

I hope that the introduction of a Mara Jade t-shirt is a sign for the integration of more Expanded Universe characters. While I don’t expect to see every single female character features, it would be nice for Jaina, Iella or Tenel Ka to join the group. EU merchandise is severely lacking. The future inclusion of SWTOR figurines is a little frustrating given how long we’ve been waiting for a solid EU line.

About a year or two ago, I sat on the couch in my living room bidding on Jacen and Jaina action figures on Ebay. It took a couple of tries to win the auction. That’s how in-demand those figures were. There’s a market, no question about it.

How many Dagobah Lukes or Mustafar Anakins need released each year? Swamping out one wave of “movie figures” for EU-based ones would not be detrimental to sales.

Her Universe released Naboo gold earrings and a Queen shirt for the 3D release of The Phantom Menace. I admit, I was rather surprised that these products weren’t released two weeks or further from the movie date. I have no idea if more people would have ordered the items if they knew they could wear them to the movie showings or not, but it does cause some thought.

The earrings are gold with the royal Naboo emblem in the middle. They match the shirt, which is red with the word “Queen” scrawled across the font.” Both items are rather subtle when it comes to identifying them as Star Wars. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. On one hand, more subtle clothing and jewelry makes the items more adaptable to everyday wear. On the other hand, it almost feels like hiding. It’s a mixed bag with no real answer.

Celebration VI is still quite a ways off. I wonder if we will see any new products until them. I certainly hope so. In addition to more EU-based merchandise, I keep hoping we’ll see some handbags, necklaces or headbands.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, fashion, female geekdom, Her Universe, Jaina Solo, Mara Jade

Mockingjays and Trackerjackers, what are they?

The skin crawling, eerie, lonely four-note melody at the end of the Hunger Games trailer is the call a mockingjay picks up from Rue, the youngest tribute. Upon first hearing these four notes, I thought of the woods. Tall trees with their leaves casting a shadow over the ground. The sun peaks through, causing momentary blindness. The air is silent, save for the call of the mockingjay. The predators, both known and a mystery, lurk in the pseudo-peaceful woods.

But what on earth is a mockingjay? A mockingjay is the result of the Capitol muttations, jabberjays, breeding with female mockingbirds. Jabberjays were used to spy on the rebels, until they figured it out. The mockingjay has the ability to replicate melodies, something leftover from the jabberjays ability to recite conversations. Mockingjays now roam free, as the jabberjays did after Capitol abandoned the birds.

The mockingjay has more meaning than that four-note melody Rue taught to Katniss in the arena (you’ll have to see the movie or read the book to find out why). Katniss wears a mockingjay pin, given to her by Madge Undersee, the mayor’s daughter, before she leaves for Capitol. Each tribute can wear some type of token from her district. The mockingjay pin becomes the sign of rebellion and Katniss herself.

The mockingjay pins sold in stores and online depict the bird holding an arrow in its beak.

Other muttations come into play during all three books. Probably the most disturbing of all are the wolf-like mutts that appear towards the very end of the first Hunger Games. I hope that scene is done right in the movie.

Tracker jackers also play a role in the arena. Tracker jackers are kind of like wasps. Unlike the wasps we know who will move on fairly quickly after someone knocks out their nest, tracker jackers hunt the offender down. They sting the victims with venom that pulls hallucinations from fears buried deep into the brain. The result is pure terror and pain. The stings leave large lumps on the body and can kill someone.

Screaming monkeys, squirrels, clicking bugs, lizard-people and other types of mutts appear throughout the series. The muttations tell us much about Capitol. Think about the tracker jackers. The purpose isn’t only to kill it’s to torture. A creature with poisonous, deadly venom wasn’t enough. No, the rebels had to suffer for what they were doing.

Capitol excels in psychological warfare. The Hunger Games alone are a strong enough example of that factor. They treat the districts as if they are slaves to tend to their every whim, which is exactly how the people are treated.

*This next section contains major spoilers for the end of The Hunger Games*

The wolf mutts are the worst way that Capitol uses mutts during The Hunger Games. It’s not their ability to stand on their hind legs, or sharp talons that make the creatures so horrible. It’s their appearance. The wolf mutts’s eyes looked like those of the dead tributes. Even the coats were reminiscent. Capitol even put a collar on the mutts displaying the district number, confirming any doubt of who the mutts were supposed to be.

This action is beyond horrifying. It’s exploiting the tributes even more than they already were, which quite a feat is. Disrespecting their dead children can’t have gone over well with the families of the tributes.

*End spoilers*

These creatures are not so outlandish or unimaginable to make them hard to picture while reading. Creating new, special forms of weaponry isn’t unusual in times of war. There are countless real and fiction examples of these. That live creatures are the weapons make it seem somewhat more barbaric, though both manufactured weapons, be it the atomic bomb or an arrow, and a mutt can kill. It’s all where you draw the line.

Or, if it’s Capitol, there is no line.

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Filed under The Hunger Games