Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Everything of 2014

This is it, folks. The last day of 2014. A day when we sit back and reflect on all of the awesome things we saw and did this year. We hope it was as awesome for you as it was for us, and thanks for tuning in each and every day to the Ace of Geeks. We couldn't be doing this without you, and we appreciate every since one of you guys. Next year, look for brand new content, new shows, more articles, and more coverage of conventions around the world. But for now, let's look back and reflect on the best of this year. Here, by popular vote, are our staff's picks for the best of 2014:

Could Krypton be DC's gate to a Larger Universe?

There is no denying it; Marvel is winning the blockbuster movie wars.  Even with two to three studios working on Marvel titles, which range from pretty good to amazing, Marvel's commitment to quality is keeping it ahead of the curve. DC is still a new challenger with lots of potential.

However, in terms of live-action TV, DC seems to have the lead.  Arrow and Flash have legions of fans and amazing ratings.  Gotham, for all it's non-Batman-ness, gets a good amount of ratings and fans as well.  Constantine, surprisingly true to its main character, is not dead yet.

Marvel has Agents of SHIELD, which at its best is an above-average high tech procedural, since it seems to (unlike the movies) embrace the very large universe it belongs to.  The Arrow and Flash-verse embraces that.  Even Gotham, in its isolated universe, seems to revel or play around with it.  Sure, the Netflix miniseries dedicated to the Marvel denzines of Hell's Kitchen seems promising, but for now, like Marvel is in the movie game, DC's doing pretty well.

Then, the announcement for Krypton came out.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Librarians and the Apple of Discord Recap, Guest Starring Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

I enjoyed this week's episode "The Librarians and the Apple of Discord" so much that it was hard to write this without rambling - so bear with me, there's a lot to cover. The energy is still really fun, and the regular cast is delivering great performances. I especially liked Lindy Booth's performance this week - a little bit of the crazy lady showed up, and it was great! Spoilers ahead, of course.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Five Things to Binge On for the Rest of the Holiday

Christmas is over. Hanukkah's over. Your obligations to your family, hopefully, are over. And now you're sitting in the house, wondering what you're going to do until New Years. Now's the perfect time to start binging on your favorite geek entertainment. But there's so much to choose from these days - what should you watch or play or read, and what's a waste of your time? Here's our top five recommendations, as put together by the Ace of Geeks Staff.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This Christmas, Don't Try to Change People with Presents

Anyone who knows me knows that, if there's one thing I take very seriously, it's Christmas presents. I've been considered the "good gift buyer" in the family for years, and I take pride when I can find a great present for even the toughest potential giftee. (I'm looking at you, Mom. ) There's something about finding that one thing that the person didn't know existed, but really speaks to them as a person, that fills me with a particular type of joy. The secret, of course, to any great gift is knowing the other person - listening to what they have to say. The nuggets that come out of their discussions about their personal lives are a roadmap to the perfect gift.

Thankfully, we geeks are easy these days. The last decade has seen the People Who Manufacture The Stuff finally notice us as a marketable entity, and there is a plethora of awesome merchandise for pretty much any flavor of geek in your life. But for a lot of people, this time of year is a time to hide who they truly are, not celebrate it.

This is the time of year where adult males don't ask for My Little Pony toys. Where young boys don't ask for dresses, and young girls for pant suits. There's an image that people are expected to keep up at Christmas, and a lot of people feel like they can't be themselves, for the fear of being judged by the gift givers. This, frankly, sucks. The whole idea of Christmas is one of acceptance and love - this time of year is designed for us all to tell each other how thankful we are to be in each other's lives. That's what presents are meant to represent. It's not a contest or an obligation, but a way to express your love for another human being who means something to you.

So this Christmas, I'm putting out a personal appeal to the families and friends out there who are buying gifts for someone considered a little "different" by the idiotic, mainstream society we're all supposed to follow. Don't buy your kid that sports jersey because they need to "toughen up." Don't buy that little girl who wants to be a scientist a barbie doll set. Listen. Listen to what they have to say, listen to the subtext they may be trying to hide from you. Don't use Christmas day as an attempt to mold someone into something they're not. Use it as a time to celebrate what they are.

People assume that the most selfish people are the ones who are excited about receiving presents. But sometimes, that selfishness comes from the people who are giving them. Learn to love your friends and family. Don't try and change them.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and Podcast Co-host of the Ace of Geeks. He knows when you've been sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He has no idea if you've been bad or good, that's kind of subjective, don't you think?

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

IAAPA Day 4: Kung Fu and Stockholm

Wake up: DayQuil, coffee, breakfast, busses, tradeshow, yada, yada, yada, lobster bisque.

Day four is my second day at the show, and time for a bit of a solo act. I stroll into the wrong side of the pavilion again and head on a route towards some booths I’d missed the previous day. 

I took the long way around the northern edge of the show, past the shop of horrors and the alien space-craft, when I hear a young man’s voice call out through the din. “Nice Hat!” I rather like my hat, having saved it from the monsoon not two days earlier; I was feeling particularly protective of it. I thanked him for the compliment and shook his hand. “Hey, I’d like to show you something.” Oh dear, I’d been caught. Our gentleman friend guided me over to his booth and began and began a very nice showcase of his customer survey software.  It was nice. The problem is I’m a mechanic and not the one to be talked to about this sort of thing. We have Marketing people for that. I continued to listen. He showed me the system in use. When did I get my hand back? It was actually very nice. Suddenly, I’d been there all day. I was working the booth with him. My name was Tanya.

Would you like to hear about our software? It’s actually an amazing product. You see, It’s a very simple to use touch screen system that interacts with your customer and asks questions in a very friendly way… I had to get out of there.  I took his card, a brochure, and I said this, “You sir, are very good at your job. Thank you.” He thanked me for the compliment and I moved on to other things.

Slightly shaken from my brief bout with Stockholm syndrome, I head to familiar territory. Back to the Coin-Op Pavilion! I needed to punch, kick or otherwise damage something to regain my original identity. It’s now time for my second review: Kung-Fu Panda Dojo Mojo. It’s not just a movie it’s a redemption game. This means that you not only play, you win tickets.

I sidle up to this machine and give it a good once over. There’s a giant flat screen, several light up pads on the outside and a majestic pagoda above the whole thing. I watch a young woman hesitantly bap the pads while making little Karate sounds. Amateur. I stroll up to the machine and enter Dojo Mode. Your job, strike the targets as quickly as possible. The problem, some of the targets are big metal spikey balls that you really don’t want to hit, avoid them. I wait for the game to begin, the crowd looks on. I exhale slowly, dropping my heart-rate to just above that of a fresh corpse. I unfocus, things begin.

A vase pops out of the left corner of the screen. I hit the top left pad. It is destroyed. A pizza, bottom right. A noodle bowl, bottom left. This is easy. Something jumps out from the side, I swing at it: Spikey ball. Not good. Suddenly Po is paralyzed. He’s hopping, holding his foot, bouncing around like he just stepped on a tack. Well, He did just kick a morning star with his bare foot. I’m not really surprised. The action starts again. I am a blur. I pass the first round, the second and I’m onto the final showdown with Master Shifu. He’s popping out from every direction, in one hand a Chinese dumpling is delicately held in a pair of chopsticks. Your job, eat them all. Top, Bottom, Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Left, Right, Middle Left, Middle Right, STOP! I got 31 dumplings. I needed 32. I straighten my tie and turn around. One of the gentlemen showing off the machine is staring at me. His mouth is open. “I’ve never seen anybody play that fast!” “Thank you sir, I’m a professional.” I move on, thoughts of surveys now completely gone. The game is awesome. I wouldn’t tell you about anything that was really crap. Why waste your time? If memory serves me, it’s about $11K for the base model, another thousand if you want to get the Pagoda. What’s $12K among friends? We’ll take one with the pagoda, thanks.

I’d wasted a lot of time running around moving crossways in no particular order. Over the course of the day I’d probably walked about twelve miles. I should take a pedometer to these things. It was nearing 5pm and one of The Compatriot’s contacts invited us to another vendor event. Ho-hum.

I give him a call and try to confirm a meeting place for us. I’m what you would call directionally impaired. If there’s a wrong way to go, I’ll take it. Maps help but only so much. I really could use a personal Sherpa. “Where are you? I’m on the south side. You’re probably on the north, aren’t you?” “Oh Yeah I’m in the north, I’m by Coke.” “Ok, I’ll head your direction.”

So I walk. And walk. And walk. I’m still walking. I go the 1200 feet from one end to the other, trying to get a bead on the Coca-Cola booth. It feels like a mile with all the people dodging I do. Ten minutes pass. I pull out my map. I’m 5’6” and the map is bigger than me. Let’s see, I’m at booth 5695. Coke is at 4800… I’d just walked as far away from the Coke booth as was humanly possible without leaving the show floor. He’d sent me the wrong way. I use the map and chart as direct a course as possible to my target: The Compatriot. I’m now a little depressed that we couldn’t bring anything sharp or stabby on the plane. I take a bundle of brochures and roll them up like an old newspaper. Someone’s been a bad puppy. I come up behind him and raise the punishment device. There was a disturbance in the force. He turned around and raised an arm, easily blocking me. I really didn’t swing that hard. “This is the north! I’ve walked the damn floor twice and my feet hurt before I called you!” “How was I to know? I thought you knew where Coke was. I thought it was south.” I took three steps back, raised my arm and pointed to the left. Directly behind him was a 25 foot long sign that said: Northern Concourse.

“There better be some good food at this party.”

Well, the event was within walking distance and we thought another mile in our shoes wouldn’t kill us. We sat outside a restaurant for a while. We are overtly punctual, so much so that we’re often sitting around because we show up early. We were the first people to enter after the hosts. It was very nice. We were at the Hilton right next door to the convention center so travel wasn’t that bad. The hors d'oeuvres were Fig Jam with Gruyere slices on Dark Toasted Rye. Salads and cheeses were ubiquitous. Mains were Beef tenderloin (overcooked for my taste but I am ever the savage) with Béarnaise sauce, heavy on the butter, and slider buns. What took the cake here? Open Bar. The Compatriot had several Manhattans. My beverage of choice is Ginger Ale. I don’t drink but I do appreciate when people go the extra mile. A vendor came up to us, touting his new management position and smelling slightly of good scotch. I love Florida.

A friend of ours from ages past was there. She’s a sales rep that has worked all over the industry. “You may not think it but you guys are a big deal. Trust me, you guys are big.” I look at myself as a working stiff. Sure, I’m good at my job but I don’t think of myself like that. She gave us hugs and talked about lots of things, past and present, all the jobs we’ve done, new things we were up to and what we though the next few years would be like. She paid our cab fare back to the hotel. Why? I’m not sure if you’re aware, but we’re kind of a big deal.

Ego well in hand, I welcomed another night’s sleep.

The Lopez is an Amusement Park Industry Professional, Artist, Gamer, LARP GM, Member of the Gamer Geekus gaming troupe, and occasional guest star on the Ace of Geeks podcast. You can find Gamer Geekus at or email him directly at

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Librarians Episode 3 Recap: Santa Campbell!

Last week's episode "...And the Horns of a Dilemma," was based on the Minotaur and Labyrinth mythos. I wasn't impressed with it - the dialogue was boring, and the situations were predictable. I started to lose hope for the series, and wondered if my fun ride was over already. Happily, it is not!

In this week's episode, "... And Santa's Midnight Run," the dialogue is much better than it was last week, and the writing overall is better. The cast is really starting to gel - their performance as a group actually feels more like a family than a bunch of strangers thrown together. Their roles are becoming much more established - the weird uncle (Jenkins), the mom (Eve), the big brother (Jake), the little sister (Cassandra), and the kid brother that you just want to slap sometimes (Ezekiel).

I really enjoyed this one - I had to pause the DVR towards the end to catch my breath during one particularly moving sequence, because I realized that I was actually feeling something. I was pleasantly surprised when I figured out that I was actually worried about the situations in the sequence, and then relieved when it all resolved.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Episode 131: Christmas in Ankh Morpork

It's (almost) Christmas, and Mike, Jarys, Mae Linh and Melissa gather around the fire to share some Christmas Spirit - kinda. Mostly they discuss The Battle of the Five Armies, how Sleepy Hollow is like the X-men, how Gollum is like a cat, dog sizing, and professional wrestling!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Attack on FurFest Convention: An Atmosphere Of Hate

Some disclaimers off the bat; I did not attend Midwest Fur Fest (MFF) and I am not writing this from any firsthand reports. This piece is being written while the Police investigation is ongoing and the story is developing.

As you are may be aware, at MFF there was an incident involving a release of chlorine gas injuring 19 attendees that is being investigated as a deliberate attack.  Wherever that investigation leads, as a furry and a longtime convention volunteer I am worried. Not for my own safety, but for the fandom. Earlier this year, someone posted a terror threat to twitter against Anthrocon, another Furry convention, in Philadelphia. Now, every con gets some level of similar mischief, but this threat came from an account who's profile pic was that of Lemonade Coyote, a much beloved soul who, out of suit, was an EMT dedicated to saving lives until his was tragically lost. This was one of the reasons the FBI took it so seriously. As of this writing, I am not aware of the results of the FBI investigation but the Con went off without incident. As a Furry I am unfortunately accustomed to a certain level of disapproval, but this year, it looks much scarier. Furries have been the punchline of jokes among Science Fiction fandom for decades. Lines like “If you take away the drama, furries will suffocate” or “Trying to understand furry drama is like trying to smell the color blue” abound. However, this is something more. This is the willful targeting of a marginalized population which has a chilling effect on a free association. I have been careful in my conversation to not use the T-Word (despite that hesitance feeling like an internalized message of unworthiness) but when you see the pictures of the attack's aftermath...

When the news first broke I braced myself for one of two possibilities from the media. So far, most of the coverage I have seen has been respectful, except for one glaring example:  Mika running off set on Morning Joe. 

Now, here are my problems with this clip. First off, they are mocking people who had just been attacked in the dead of night! These people deserve compassion, not ridicule. Second, who in the booth decided to rub salt in the wound by cutting to Mika running down the hall? You were running a video package, just keep the loop rolling another 5 seconds and come back with a two shot at the desk. Finally, I wonder what they whispered in her ear that provoked such an extreme reaction and the effect that may have on her further coverage and the perception that will reinforce in the viewing public.

FaceBook, in the 24 hours after the Chicago attack, rang with “If they want to make themselves targets” which sounds to me uncomfortably close to my Uncle saying “If you stay in the closet you won't get bashed.” This may sound like I'm on a civil rights soapbox...because I am. I'm not claiming that furries are a suspect class, but rather that we have the same rights to free association as anyone else, and these incidents are only going to make people more frightened of leaving their own homes, which is likely the point. Thankfully, even in this post Ferguson/Staten Island/Cleveland atmosphere, nobody blinked at cooperating with the Police. In fact as this comment from the article on Raw Story about the event (link) suggests the Police even made an extra effort to cooperate with the attendees:

mercedeslackey2 days ago

Be aware that this is all hearsay, but being pretty well plugged into fandom in general, my husband got the following information.

There are suspects being investigated. They were "first timers" who registered with the convention and the hotel using their real names, and vanished immediately after the chlorine powder was discovered.

Used to disorganized conventions, the police were pleasantly surprised to find that the con chairman was waiting for them with the full registration lists which include real names and addresses, and had cleared the hotel to provide the police with the Convention registered hotel guest list. (Attendees of the Convention get a discounted hotel rate, so the hotel had their own list).

Attendees were instructed to cooperate with the police, and did so. The police who wished to "fit in" were provided with ears and tails so they could do so. The police soon began to actively enjoy themselves (as much as could be said of someone investigating a crime scene and a terrorist action) and were seen taking many selfies with costumed attendees.

To the people dismissing this as “those people got scared, nothing to do with me” I counter “We aren't just furries. We're lawyers, teachers, cabbies, firemen, and military personnel.”and any time something like this happens it happens to human beings. Another dismissal I have heard, “So somebody set off a stink bomb. So what?” Here, in a better rebuttal than I would be qualified to give, Skyedancer a retired soldier also comments on the incident on the Raw Story website:

As a Chem Ops Specialist as well as a furry, I don't find this act funny at all. chlorine gas even chlorine powder is lethal. I have friends who were attending that con and when I found out about this I was worried about them. It was used in WWI and WWII to kill enemy soldiers from a distance. it was the first chemical agent used in war. they used mortars to deploy the gas and often caught their own troops in the gas and it killed thousands. if you think this is funny then why don't you go into a room full of this gas and see how funny it is as you're rushed to the ER with extreme difficulty breathing. I hope that the 19 people who went to the hospital will be OK...”

If I can step forward for a moment, I want to plainly address what I've been dancing around, using words like “free association” and “suspect class”. When brainstorming this piece I kept coming back to the reaction I saw online. And I wonder why are we still this, why are we still a country, a geekdom, a species that finds an attack on it's fellow beings the setup for a punchline? I don't think I'm making more of it than it is. I simply don't know who we are anymore. I know people older than me who will look at this and say, “It was ever thus.” But damn it, that doesn't mean it always must be so! Nineteen people were hurt...physically. How many more were hurt far more deeply? That's the point I want to leave people with; we're all in this together and an injury to one is an injury to all.

MalKontent Blizzard signing off.

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Telltale Games and Mojang Announce Minecraft: Story Mode

Earlier this morning, Mojang released a pretty funny little interactive web app called "Info Quest II." Those who played through it were rewarded with a special announcement: Mojang and Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, Wolf Among Us) are partnering up to make a Telltale-style adventure game set inside the Minecraft universe.

Telltale is well known for playing well in other people's properties (see all of the games I listed above), although their games recently have been in nature. It seems like they'd be a poor fit for a Minecraft game, until you take into account their point and click adventures from years ago. Anyone who's played the new Sam and Max games or their Strongbad game can see they'll have no trouble adapting to the more family friendly Minecraft. And the game should still be very funny. The only real question is how they'll find a story in a world that is designed to be a blank canvas.

We know only one thing for sure. It won't involve Steve.

Poor Steve.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Hobbit - The End of an Era

This past Monday I decided to take a half-day off work, walk a few blocks to the AMC Metreon in Downtown San Francisco, and sit my butt down for nine hours in a comfy, assigned seat and watch The Hobbit trilogy in IMAX 3D.

And let me tell you, in its entirety, it was pretty glorious. Some minor spoilers to follow.

We all got posters and matching badges.  I've gotta remember to see if the Metreon has extras!

The amount of camaraderie from just being surrounded by fellow Tolkien fans was truly heart-warming.  We had all come together one last time to experience what will likely be the last of Jackson's portrayals of Middle Earth.

Prior to Desolation's showing during the marathon, audience members were given a sneak peek and behind-the-scenes look at The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies premiere in the UK just a week prior.  After the second intermission but before Battle was queued up for its run, audiences were also treated to a special message from Peter Jackson himself.  He thanked us for being there, challenged us to watch both trilogies in a row, and stated that Battle was his favorite in the Hobbit trilogy despite the fact that it was the most difficult to make.

And he's definitely not wrong.  Battle had to tie up loose ends from the first two installments, it had to be a sturdy bridge for The Lord of the Rings, and it also had to be entertaining.  The pedestal was set high, and I think for the most part Jackson has delivered.


The Desolation of Smaug ended with the monstrous and paranoid Smaug leaving Erebor in a hurry to go and decimate Lake-town.  Battle picks up right in Lake-town with the citizens beginning to worry about the cacophony coming from the mountain.  Bard the Bowman, having been knocked out by Alfrid and Lake-town's Master in the previous feature, was locked in a prison cell and abandoned by the guards once the fire drake was flying overhead.  Most of the dwarves were still at the Lonely Mountain and could only watch in horror as Lake-town was being incinerated; the remaining dwarves (and Tauriel) were tending to Kili's wound from the Morgul arrow.  Gandalf had been captured while forcing Sauron's hand at Dol Guldur and was seemingly losing on this faraway front.

This opening sequence of Battle from start to end took about 20 minutes and felt more like the conclusion of Desolation than it did the beginning of a new chapter.   Smaug took a final dramatic plunge and then the title of the film was revealed without much grandeur.  Although I can understand leaving Desolation on a cliffhanger so viewers are more compelled to see the third movie, Smaug's brief arc in Battle feels disconnected from the rest of the story.  The amount of screen time the dragon receives in Battle leaves us a bit unsatisfied with his ultimate demise because the tension has been lost in the gap between the two films.

After the survivors of Laketown make their way to shore, and Bard steps into a more prominent leadership role, Tauriel parts ways with the dwarves and joins Legolas in a side-quest.  We cut back to Gandalf in Dol Guldur who had summoned aid from Galadriel, Elrond and Sarumon.  A spectacular fight breaks out between the White Council (although not expressly called that in the film) against the former human ring-bearers, and the clash forces Sauron to reveal himself.  Galadriel, although too weak to send Sauron back to the depths from whence he came, was at least able to send him eastward toward Mordor.

This exchange was particularly enjoyable for our theater audience.  We got to see Elrond in full battle attire kicking some major Nazgûl butt along side Sarumon, who was surprisingly lithe and spry for an old white wizard.  The crowd literally cheered when the Lady of Lothlórien dropped some Turn Undead on the ringwraiths and applauded when Sauron was (albeit temporarily) incapacitated.

The story turns to the ruins of Dale, where the citizens of Lake-town had sought out refuge for the time being.  We end up pulling back from the small one on one interactions and get an opportunity to see what is occurring on a macro playing field: elves in golden armor have appeared, dwarves with weighty shields and battle boars come overtop the hills, and hundreds of orcs begin rallying for the upcoming battle.  Even the population of Lake-town begins to train and take up arms for the impending fight.

But why the fight to begin with?  The short answer is because Thorin is plagued by the same illness that his grandfather had succumbed to; he isn't willing to part with the treasure like he had previously promised he would.  Thorin's obsession with the treasure in Erebor is second only to his obsession with finding the Arkenstone.  Richard Armitage's portrayal of Thorin truly recognizes the shift in Thorin's character from a stoic leader to a maddened king.  There are a few instances where you can even hear Smaug's words seeping in through Thorin's bold and paranoid statements.

Bilbo (whom we haven't seen too much of in this installment so far) finally comes back into play.  As always, Martin Freeman perfectly characterizes Bilbo Baggins with his witty expressions and modest demeanor.  After seeking counsel from Balin regarding Thorin's state of mind, the hobbit decides that the best way to attempt to diffuse the tension and prevent a war is to give the Arkenstone to Bard and Thranduil as leverage against Thorin.  This ends up not going according to plan and the pressure only escalates from there.

The big fight finally rolls around when the orcs make their entrance.  Jackson did an amazing job in The Lord of the Rings trilogy staging large-scale combats, and has proven himself again with the choreography in this finale.  Many people were dissuaded or became cautiously optimistic when Jackson announced that there would be a 45-minute fight sequence in Battle.  If you enjoyed the combat in previous movies, you'll be sure to relish in the war presented in Battle; if you aren't a big fan of combat, there are still other opportunities spaced throughout the fighting for you to look forward to.  The long fight sequence isn't constant combat.  The parties split, resulting in different points of views from the various fronts during this skirmish.  However, there are a few fights that will leave you staring at the screen going "that's really not how that works, there's only so much belief I can suspend" (*cough*Legolas*cough*).

Several of the characters that we've grown attached to over the past three years didn't make it through to the end of this movie.  This was mostly to be expected, because even if you haven't read the books you've seen the future in The Lord of The Rings.  In most cases these deaths were tragic, and some were even heartbreaking to the point of tears.

There were a few points that didn't quite make their mark.  Bilbo, although the star of the first two films, takes a backseat to Thorin (and arguably to Bard) in this final installment.  The original working title of the film was to be "There and Back Again", but for one reason or another the focus had shifted to a single chapter from the original tale and only barely touched on the return to The Shire.  It was also sometimes difficult figuring out who the five armies actually were - elves, men, dwarves, orcs...and more orcs?  The eagles?  What?  Lastly, the showing that I viewed was in IMAX 3D at 48 frames per second, which made some of the animated characters and scenes look like extremely high-quality video game cut scenes.

All in all, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies set out on a mission to be an entertaining finale and bridge and I think it did a decent job of it.  There are still some questions that were left unanswered (Why did the orcs side with Sauron? What happened to Tauriel after Thranduil found her?  Where do Elrond and Galadriel go after their fight with Sauron?), and there are definitely some tie-ins that fans can appreciate (We finally get to see Belladonna Took Baggins stealing Bilbo's spoons as mentioned early on in Unexpected Journey).  Although I'm sad because it's over, I'm elated to see the series complete and I'm sincerely glad that it happened.

If your question is whether or not to go see The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies - go see it.  And invite me too, because I'd love to see it again. And now I leave you with the final number of the Middle Earth movies - Billy Boyd's The Last Goodbye.

Stephanie Cala is an avid board, tabletop, and video gamer, who streams regularly on her Twitch channel. She's the Ace of Geeks' Empress of Events.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IAAPA Day 3: Show Open

See Parts 1 and 2 of our IAAPA coverage here!

The head cold is still going. So everybody: Dayquil, coffee, coffee, biscuits, gravy, coffee, bacon, sausage, fruit, OJ, coffee, GO! Cholesterol, sugar and protein are excellent cure-alls. At least they are in my book.

The show opens around 8am EST with a beautiful ceremony involving speeches, women in tight dresses, speeches given in heavy foreign accents and a live show of some sort. Last year there were some German stunt people and a rather lovely female contortionist, although not at the same time. The contortionist’s costume was what I would call diaphanous. Most would call it transparent. Most men would just make panting sounds and rude gestures. I’ve learned a great deal of self-control over the years so I kept all my impure thoughts just as such. This year was no different, I’m sure, though I was asleep at the time, so I don’t really know what happened, but I assume it was lovely. The combination of jet lag and a head cold can ruin your mornings if you don’t do your best sleep them off.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dragon Age Inquisition is a Beautiful Piece of Crap

Well hello there, Ace of Geeks readers! I've been away for a while but it feels great to be back with another unpopular opinion! Didn't ya miss me?  Now, just to be clear here, the Ace of Geeks has already reviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition. But I had such a vastly different experience that I begged my editor in chief to let my opinion be known.

When I completed the story missions in Dragon Age: Inquisition with my level 21 Rogue, I couldn't help but just stare at the screen. I had spent more hours than I'd like to admit roaming the world of Thedas, slaying demons and faux French soldiers (wondering why there are more French accents in a Dragon Age game than Assassins Creed Unity, which takes place in France, but that's a story for another time), and of course, hunting Dragons. I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't got lost in this world, trying to find every piece of Elfroot and Bloodstone I could find, saying to myself "just one more quest" for hours and grinding my way up the levels so I could fight that dragon who kicked my ass the night before. And I was enjoying myself, immensely, while doing it.

Still, it was during the last third of my play through that I slowly started to realize what was happening. I was playing an extraordinarily bad game. Despite all the improvements from Dragon Age II, the shiny "Next Gen" graphics (which I will get to in a moment) and addicting game play, its a hollow shell of a game from a developer that used to give us deep and engrossing worlds and stories and characters. BioWare has lost it's way and I hope they can right the ship before Mass Effect 4 comes out.

So what, exactly, are my problems with this horribly overrated game? Let me tell you.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Episode 130: A Young Man's Game

Picture Mike's still out and about and doing plays this week, but the podcast rolls on! Jarys welcomes Gamer Geekus's Dylan back to the show, for a professorial discussion of some of the many thoughts that cross their mind. They'll discuss the merits of teaching PE, pooping in someone's backyard, the film Reefer Madness, and much more!

Episode 130!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Watch Stephen Colbert Interview Smaug the Terrible

It's known that Stephen Colbert is just a bit of a Tolkien fan. So much so that he's dedicated an entire show this week to promoting the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. So who did he bring in as his guest for the show? Martin Freeman? Peter Jackson?

Nope, Colbert interviewed a live dragon on his show. Hit the jump to see the video.

The Force Awakens Character Names Revealed!

It seems that Lucasfilm has decided to help with the long, long wait until Episode VII hits theaters in a year by giving us little drips of information, one piece at a time. First, we get the epic trailer. Now, thanks to Entertainment Weekly, we know the names of the characters from that trailer! And they are all very Star Wars-y. Hit the jump to see the gallery!

Why the Future of Professional Wrestling is the Death of Kayfabe

It's a Friday night in Oakland, California. The Metro Operahouse is packed to the brim with over eight hundred people, all shoving their way towards the stage. A metal band screams and wails on guitars. And in the center of all of this madness, underneath a cloud of smoke of indeterminate substance, sits a beat up ring. Inside that ring, Scorpion from Mortal Kombat lifts up a woman in a Ms. Marvel costume and slams her to the mat. The crowd starts chanting, "This is real!"

The company is known as Hoodslam, and they're the fastest growing and most consistently popular independent wrestling company in Northern California. They like to brag that they've brought more fans to their shows than the number two televised wrestling company in the nation. And they've done it by accepting one simple fact: Kayfabe is dead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spider-Man COULD still be coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

....If we are lucky.

     If you are not following the Sony hack news, you may not know that a large number of emails and data from Sony Pictures Entertainment were made available online by an as of yet unconfirmed source calling itself/themselves "GOP" and "Boss of GOP". Upcoming movies were released and "salacious" opinions, sure to mar the studios relationships, were made known. However, for the Web-Heads out there, this small possibility was made known...with no indication of what is to come.

Are we only to see more of the same? 
     The leaked data showed that Sony was in talks with Marvel Studios to bring Marvel headliner hero Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This may have included a part in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie. The final deal would be that Sony would have shared the costs of a Spider-Man movie, 60% of which would be paid by Marvel, for which Marvel would regain creative control of the project. Sony seems to have passed on that deal.

Much as how they passed on this scene.

      However, new information has surfaced, from unnamed sources, posted by our friends at IGN. Sony Japan is apparently extremely disappointed with the quality of the Sony Spider-Man movies and thinks of the deal with Marvel as still in negotiation...for the sake of the quality of the product. This MAY lead to Spider-Man's participation in the Civil War title, but that is, as this all is, yet to be seen. The prospect is promising to fans who enjoyed the criticism of the Civil-War direction the Spider-Man comics provided. Not to mention the incredibly character defining scene written for Captain America in Amazing Spider- Man (Below). Could we see the "No, You Move" speech on the big screen? Well, the fans can dream...I certainly will.....

IAAPA Day 2: A Trip to a Wizarding World

The head cold is still well in effect. So I take my Dayquil with coffee and breakfast and get ready for the day.

Boss Man wanted to use his connections get us some free passes to the parks out in the area, but things don’t always work out the way we want. The passes ended up being for Sunday… travel day. So, what is a clever professional to do? Company credit card. We call Big Boss, he Okays the whole deal, and after one swipe, we’re suddenly inside Universal Studios Orlando.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

IEM and Seth Oakley both go the SAP Center...

...and only one of them leaves alive.

It was, of course, Seth Oakley who came out alive, since Intel Extreme Masters is an event, not a living organism.  That had a lot to do with it.  

IEM is a tournament and trade show type event for Intel to showcase its products to a crowd of eSports enthusiasts.  They occupy a convention center somewhere around the world, moving from Shenzhen to Toronto to San Jose, then to Cologne and Taipei and ending up in the championship in Katowice.  This past weekend was the San Jose weekend, so I grabbed three friends Scott Joe and Greg and went down to watch League of Legends team Cloud9 clean up on Sunday.  Oh, yeah, spoiler warning.  We came into the games after Unicorns of Love had a tremendous showing the previous day and upset the home country favorite, TeamSoloMid.  TSM was a quarter-finalist at the World Championship, and have a huge fan base in the US, even when traveling abroad - TSM chants are quite common during matches.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Librarians Season Premiere Recap and Review

I have seen The Librarian movies several times. They're a fun ride. I liked their energy and pacing, so I was excited when I found out that there was going to be a series and that Noah Wyle, Jane Curtin and Bob Newhart were going to be reprising their roles from the movies. I was hoping that the series would have the same kind of energy and witty banter between characters, and I admit I had very high expectations. Spoilers ahead.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Episode 129: It's Ben!

Follow us, to the wilds of San Francisco, where Jarys has trekked far and wide to track down an old friend. But will Ben reveal his perspective of Cooperate board games? Will the Jarys and the guest host come to some accord on Mass Effect? Will Jarys ever remember the name of that amazing roleplaying game they played at Big Bad Con, The Silent Year? Will these two indie press enthusiasts ever bring up Fate? Find out in this heartwarming episode of The Ace of Geeks Podcast.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Terminator: Genisys Trailer Looks...Really Good?

It's been plagued with rumors of terribleness, and a time travel plot more convoluted than Primer. And then there's that title - who thought a Syfy style misspelling of Genesis was a good idea? The Terminator series hasn't been anything to write home about since James Cameron moved on to bigger and better things in the 90s. So why would anybody hold out any hope for the sequel to be good? Short answer: we didn't, and then this trailer came along. Hit the jump to see the full thing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dragon Age Inquisition: Bioware's Crown Jewel

Imagine it, you're an elf who finds himself in the Fade, the spirit realm that hides behind the fabric of the real world, held back by the thinnest of barriers. The space you're in is all rough stone, green light, shadows, and noise. With just a second to look around massive spiders appear and begin the chase you. You hear a cry for help and spy a golden woman telling you to run as she is menaced by a shadow. You race towards her, spiders on your heels, and as you reach for the womans outstreched hand, a flash of fade fire surrounds you. You're transported to the real world in the ruins of a temple. Wreathed in green fade fire and surrounded by soldiers who stare at you as you, with more green light pouring from your right hand,  as the startled soldiers look at you, weapons drawn, you fall to the ground and everything fades to black. That is how BioWare's newest title, Dragon Age Inquisition, begins: with an exciting hook that doesn't let go.

Lessons Learned from Defeat
BioWare has not always known success with its Dragon Age titles. Dragon Age II received numerous negative reviews upon release, highlighting the various failings of the game. Complaints ran the gammut from the seeming lack of polish on the game to the repetitive levels, driving you through the same five areas throughout the game. The only redeeming quality of the game was the newer combat system, more reminiscent of the Mass Effect titles, and of course the excellent characters. The combat system was a change from the top down, quasi turn based combat system BioWare developed and showcased in Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (Kotor). BioWare would later admit that they were being rushed by publisher Electronic Arts to deliver the next Dragon Age title and promised fans that the eventual Dragon Age III would not suffer from the same problems. I am glad to report that BioWare not only kept their promise, they exceeded it. Not only is Dragon Age Inquisition  bigger and better looking than any of its predecessors, it retains the BioWare traditions of excellent gameplay and engrossing storytelling.


Bigger and Better Looking
In previous Dragon Age titles, I always felt like the levels were a bit small. Similar to NWN2 and KOTOR, the levels were generally small to medium in size and scope, with defined boundaries and definite paths to follow. Due to Dragon Age II being rushed, many of the maps were used multiple times through out the story. Thankfully the Inquisition team destroyed that previous template with a mallet and tossed all the pieces in the bin. Drawing on similar games such as Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and The Witcher II, Inquisition's maps are huge. The first region available after the prologue, called The Hinterlands, feels roughly half the size of the entire Skyrim map. Gone are the small or medium scripted map areas, now "open world" unique maps deliver topography and flora. Wandering around Thedas, one realizes all the time that the development team spent in creating these realms. Not only are they big, there are all sorts of paths to wander, so the key word is explore! Always something to find or a material to gather so wander and explore and horde those materials.

On top of the new and bigger maps, the development team kept up with the current standards of graphics. No major graphics glitches, with the exception of the hair and the occasional pixelization/bluring around characters during conversations or cut scenes. The most noticeable differences is the textures and shaders used on the evironment. Trees and rocks look as they would in the real world. There are different colored veins in rock formations, trees have realistic looking leaves and canopy. Light and shadows follow as character moves through the world. There is no change from night to day however, so time passing is non realistic, but with so much to do its kind of nice. Where Dragon Age II looked bland and somewhat flat Inquisition is bright, vibrant, and nearly real.

Characters and Combat: Minor tweaks & Marked Improvement
Character creation has always been a staple of BioWare games. For Inquisition, players have complete control on the face of the character they choose to play. Players first pick their sex, and which race they choose to play each with specific benefits: Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Qunari. Players then pick from several face templates, and then are given free reign in how they want to sculpt that face. Hair color, skin color, scars, tattoos, bone structure; its all available for sculpting. Players can also choose from two types of voices, either a casual or an aggressive voice. After finally choosing a name, the game picks up where the opening video leaves off. There are a few changes, however, that some players may not like. First, players still do not have control over their avatar's body type. Secondly, players no longer control stat point distribution. Rather as the player levels up, the stats adjust accordingly. Class specific stats are increased as different active and passive skills are chosen upon leveling up. This essentially means that while the player has less direct control over stat points than previous games, the wider variety of skills and the later class specialization options offer more tactical options for balancing out party abilities. This change is an adaptation of the system implemented in Mass Effect 3.

Inquisition's combat system is more or less a direct import from Dragon Age II. While playing in "real time", players are still fighting in the third person, slinging basic attacks while adding in spells as mana and stamina are available. Innovation to Inquisition's combat system comes in the tactical control mode. When the tactical mode is engaged, everything stops and players are given a top down view of the battlefield. the player may freely move the camera around the whole battle ground allowing for players to plan ahead . Party members may be individually moved to specific points on the battlefield to take advantage of topography. Attacks, skills, and spells may also be individually targeted and cast here, allowing for maximum micromanagement of combat. The ultimate change is that players may now see their actions unfold without leaving tactical mode. Players may allow as much or as little time to pass watching their decision unfold and then pause to give new commands or avert disasters. This update of the tactical system first implemented in Neverwinter Nights 2 gives the ultimate control to lovers of tactical combat.

Minor Glitches
In spite of how polished this game is, there are still a few glitches that will annoy players. Occasionally, during cut scenes and conversations players might notice blurring or foxing around characters similar to poor rendering of blue/green screen effects. While this is rare it is noticeable under scrutiny. The one issue that I have run into are random game crashes. Im not sure if this error is confirmed for PC or Playstation versions of the game, but occasionally on Xbox One the game will randomly crash and return to the home screen. This most often occurs when fast traveling from one camp to another within a given area, returning to Haven or entering a different realm. Since any of these events initiates an auto save, data is rarely lost. I have yet to experience another incident where these crashes have occurred. However, it is best to remember the maxim "save early and save often".

Buy This Game!
BioWare has quickly become a household name in gaming circles. There have been growing pains as well as a few failures, but despite that, they trend towards consistently creating polished and cutting edge games. Dragon Age Inquisition is not different, it contains an excellent story combined with stunning visuals and polished gameplay. Coupled with over 100 hours of content, there is rarely a lack of anything to do. Players will find themselves running around a given area until they complete everything. Just remember that Thedas is a wide world with much to do, so eventually you should leave the starting area.

David Losey is an actor, writer and stagehand living and working in the Bay Area.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

IAAPA Part 1: A Once in a Lifetime Experience that Happens Every Year

Have you ever been to a trade show? I’m sure you have. I go to at least one every year, but I’ll ask you: Does your trade show have a working Ferris Wheel on the show floor? Are there people riding it? Can you survive for the entire week solely on the free food and candy given out by the vendors? Do you get to play the latest video games that haven’t been released to the public? Have you been sold products by people that make used car salesmen seem like rank amateurs? Are your scantily clad booth models unusually knowledgeable about epoxy flooring and personnel management? If you answered yes to all my questions, then you recently spent a week out in Florida with me on the business trip of a lifetime.

I’m in the amusement park industry, which means I go to a very special trade show each year. It’s called IAAPA. That’s the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. I call it “The Show,” like a minor leaguer that’s headed to the majors. My first one was about 5 years ago in Las Vegas. It can’t hold a candle to the Orlando setup. At the Orange County Convention center, there are 950,282 square feet inside with a 40 foot high ceiling and an additional 50,000 square feet outside. They cleared a million just to show off, I expect. If it’s happening or going to happen in the industry, it happened in Orange County, Florida on the second week of November.

Well, there’s as much story in my first two hours of travel to fill an article, so we’ll be going day by day and tale by tale, otherwise this wouldn’t be terribly interesting, would it?

Day 1: Travel

Mornings are retched, bothersome things. I’m not a fan. To catch a flight at 7am you have to get up at 3:30am. That turns your standard morning into something to truly loathe. I slither out of bed at the appropriate time, ooze into the bathroom, hop into the shower, and slowly think about how warm the water is and how soothing morning rituals can be. I, rightly, turn the shower head to cold and properly wake up lest I fall asleep under the delightful pummeling my shower massager delivers. (Are you writing me erotica? -Ed) Once out, I realize the full weight of the head cold that’s been building for the last few days. Thank you darling, that’ll be two DayQuil pills and I’ll call you in the afternoon. I get dressed, kiss the girlfriend goodbye (no longer in fear of her pestilence as I’d already received it), kiss the cat, hand her a handful of treats (the cat, not the girlfriend), walk downstairs, grab my bags and hat, and walk out the door.

Thus our adventure begins. I gave myself a little extra time in the morning, since there are a few light provisions that I have yet to pick up, namely toothpaste. Nobody wants to have extensive business conversations with a man plagued by halitosis. It’s just not done. I step into the 24 hour Safeway and business is just as hopping as you would expect. I scramble to the right isle, grab a TSA appropriate tube of dental cleanser and think I’m on my way but no… No checker. Where are they? There’s two men stocking canned goods, another polishing apples, I can vaguely hear “The Girl From Ipanema” being played in the background on an alto sax but nobody here is willing to sell me this vastly overpriced miniature toothpaste tube? I take my masculinity in hand (not literally) and decide to go and ask directions. Mr. Apple Polisher berates me for not asking (didn’t I just?) and walks to the check stand.  He grabs the microphone of check stand #3 and says; “Check to 1 please, check to 1” then walks back to his apples. I'm left holding both my masculinity and my toothpaste.

Now, I’m a little annoyed and a small amount starving. I can feel the anger burning within me just waiting to be meted out on my next transgressor, like the Emperor’s Force Lightning from Return of the Jedi, but I hold it in. Also, I grab a pack of peanut butter cups because well, hunger and such. One of the men stocking cans turns out to be a woman. Must have been the haircut, my mistake. I silently apologize to nobody in particular and the transaction begins. She grabs my two items, smiles and shoves them towards the laser to get scanned. As she does this we both suddenly notice that there’s a little open space between the conveyer and our high tech friend. I’ve never had to tell anybody to mind the gap while traveling, primarily because I really don’t care if people trip or fall to a horrible death, I actually find it sort of funny. Well, my candy breakfast didn’t mind the gap and fell into the dark abyss beneath the check stand. Thank you, divine spirit. I’ll try to be nicer to people in the future. She offered to find a replacement but I was nearing my coworker’s pickup time and am a terribly punctual person. I paid $1.42 for the toothpaste, the story you’re reading, and a tid-bit of Karma.

I drive towards our pre-arranged meeting place, a coffee shop that will be open for business in twenty minutes. I pick up my coworker and leave for the airport. What, you thought we’d actually be getting coffee? We’ve no time for that.

Bag check was the usual mess. There’s a woman pointing everybody towards the touch screens while we all bunch up at the people behind the counter. There’s an old man shuffling back and forth at a speed easily outpaced by a drunken snail. It’s the slowest game of Pong I’d ever seen.

“Where do I go, again?” “Right over here, sir.” “What do I do?” “Just touch the screen.” “Then what do I do?” “They’ll call your name.” “But I’ve been here for ten minutes.” “Yes sir, just follow the menu on the screen.” “I don’t think this one is working.”

I’m stopping there. This went on for a while, and I didn’t see the whole thing since I actually followed the instructions, my name was called, and I checked my bag.

We get to the security line, and I prep myself for new travel tradition of surrendering your civil rights. I keep quiet to prevent from being hauled of as an instigator, First Amendment. There’s the video that tells you what you can’t bring: Fireworks, Knitting Needles, Bottled Water, Firearms. There goes the Second. I remove my shoes and prep for the X-ray, Fourth Amendment. Do I have anything illegal? Did I leave my bags in the possession of another? Fifth Amendment. Perhaps they’d like me to house some Marines and we could go for a clean sweep of the first five? Knock the others out before lunch, maybe?

I get the all clear which means no prostate exam. I’m thankful because I was hoping to hold out on that till I was at least 40. As I step out one of the guards leans over and grabs my left calf. I look at him, a little confused he gives me a sort of ‘Carry on’ look and I go gather my things. Do I look like a terrorist?

I tend to get a little airsick nowadays but, otherwise, the flights went well. We had Brunch in Denver and headed to our final destination after a short layover.

After a mere thirteen hours from start to finish, we arrive in beautiful Orlando, Florida. It was a roasting 58 degrees and with a humidity of only 95%. You could hardly feel the chill… I’ll stop with the sarcasm for now.

Now, when your boss calls and asks you what your plans are, at this point you think: Collapse? He wanted to have a nice dinner and by nice, he means expensive. Not that that was his initial plan but that’s just how things seem to turn out. And when somebody says pricey, this foodie jumps. We ended up at the Capital Grill, known for steaks as well as other delicious things. I’ll give you a quick breakdown: Me: Seared Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna over Gingered Rice with delightful dipping sauces, Compatriot: Gorgonzola dabbed over Medium Well Filet Mignon, Boss Man: Porterhouse served perfectly rare. Our sides were the Brussel Sprouts with Pork Belly (My recipe is actually better, I’ll give it to you sometime) and some rather delightful Lobster Mac and Cheese. This is a good way to end a day. Belly full and body tired, I went to bed happy.

Next time, we'll talk about the actual convention.

The Lopez is an Amusement Park Industry Professional, Artist, Gamer, LARP GM, Member of the Gamer Geekus gaming troupe, and occasional guest star on the Ace of Geeks podcast. You can find Gamer Geekus or email him directly at

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