Friday, May 15, 2015


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

iZombie episode 9: Patriot Brains

This week's episode picks up right where last week's left us hanging - in the elevator. There were a lot of feelz in this one, and I gotta say - I hate just being left hanging when I know something isn't as simple as it seems. There was a lot more work done on the relationship between Liv and Lowell, and I was just starting to feel like maybe it had a chance - and then BAM. Maybe not.

The whole vibe for the episode this week was depressing, but in a good way. That touched me. I mean, the usual energy between her and Clive was there. It was a little weird between Liv and Ravi, but it was downright sad between her and Lowell. Major makes a mistake that nearly costs him his life, and still might - but he's closer to the truth than he realizes. The problem is, I don't think he can handle the truth! Meanwhile, Ravi is so far not a zombie after being bitten by the zombie rat - yet.

There wasn't a whole lot of focus put on the actual crime this week - a dead soldier, and a murderous computer geek. There was a lot of focus on Liv's new sniper skills. Passengers on the good ship Livwell are probably wondering what now, especially since something rather permanent seems to have happened with a fan favorite. But I've learned that things aren't always what they seem with this show, so I'm holding out for the hero to come riding back in on his steed later on - perhaps in season two.

Is Lowell gone for good? Will he rise again from the dead? Hit the jump for the recap, and tell us what you think in the comments!

Is Asa Butterfield Our New Spiderman?

Asa Butterfield, who burst onto the scene a few years ago with a starring role in Ender's Game, has reportedly been cast as the Spider-man for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel had been reported to be looking for a much younger actor this go around, and Butterfield certainly fits. It will be interesting to see an actor who actually looks high school aged facing off with Steve Rogers and Tony Start, and will definitely add a dynamic the original story, with its thirty year old Peter Parker, did not have.

The only question now is how seriously audiences will take this new Spider-man. Hit the jump to see the Instagram post from the usually-reliable Umberto Gonzalez reporting this rumor.

Legends of Tomorrow - First Look and Villain Announced! UPDATE: Now with Trailer!

Excitement has been building for the newest spinoff in the Arrow/Flash universe ever since it was first announced. And now that the team-up show, Legends of Tomorrow, has gotten a mid-season premiere set, DC and the CW are starting to tease us even more. Above, you can see the first full photo of the cast, which reveals some interesting details. And today, we got our first confirmation on what villain the team would be facing. Hit the jump for all the details.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Nintendo World Championships are Returning!

Nintendo of America announced their plans for this year's E3, and it's a lot of the usual. They're letting us play their newly announced games (this year it's Mario Maker) at Best Buy the week of the convention, they'll be holding a digital event to announce lots of good things, the Treehouse will be live on the floor the whole time...oh, and they're bringing back the Nintendo World Championships.

Wait, what?

First Trailer for Supergirl is So CW, but So Great

First of all, I know, this is a CBS show (you can see it in the logo!) But it bears all the hallmarks of the typical CW teen-aimed superhero drama - the sort of thing Arrow struggled to overcome and Flash survived because of. But man, that did not for a moment keep a big goofy grin off of my face. The trailer (which you can see below the jump, but be warned, it basically spoils the entire pilot for you) is full of fun and fantasy and looks like the same kind of formula that made the Flash work really well. Brooding when necessary, but fun in spades and full of memorable characters. I'm really, really interested to see where this show goes now.

New Mutants Movie Coming!

Before Generation X, or the New X-men, or the All New X-men, there was the original team of kickass teenage mutants. Called simply "The New Mutants," this team was the first group of second generation X-men, and they blazed a trail through the 80s that ultimately ended in them becoming the first X-force. Now, Variety is reporting that Fox has decided to launch the New Mutants to the big screen, with Josh Boone at the helm. Haven't heard of Boone? The biggest film he's known for is teen drama The Fault in Our Stars...which is actually a pretty good pedigree for something like the New Mutants, who were always known for their teenage drama.

We'll give you more news as we know more.

Diego Luna, from Elysium, Cast in Rogue One

According to the fine people at Variety, yet another lead in Rogue One has been cast, and it's Diego Luna from Elysium, Milk, The Terminal, and Y Tu Mama Tambien. While no other details have been offered on how Luna might be playing, it's really great to see another diverse cast member joining our favorite galaxy far, far away.

And look at that face. That face screams "dashing rogue." I mean, if there's one thing this film obviously needs, it's a dashing rogue.

Wizard World Philly Report!

I set out to take part in my first Wizard World Comic Con (and my first ever comic con!) on Thursday, May 7th, the kickoff day for the show. Accompanying me was my lovely partner-in-crime, Lisa. Traffic was light from New York to Philadelphia, so Lisa and I arrived fairly quickly, in about two hours. After checking in at the hotel, I started off walking the convention show floor as soon as possible. There weren't a ton of people on the first day, which didn't surprise me much because it was a weekday. Tons of merchandise stands with everything your nerdy heart could ever desire, as long as your nerdy heart wanted Funko Pop figurines. Seriously, they were everywhere. The convention exclusive Funko figurines I noticed were Stan Lee, and the Winchester brothers from Supernatural. I ended up picking up a Roger Rabbit Funko Pop figurine for Lisa. They got me. Or, rather, they got her.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

First Trailer for New, "Adult" Muppet Show!

They're back! They're back! The Muppets are back on TV! Everybody flail!

Ok, now that we've gotten that out of the way, here's the deal: As we previously reported, the Muppets are going to be making a return to prime time TV this fall with a more "adult" oriented series. This does not, thankfully, mean they're going full Avenue Q. Based on the trailer below, what it does mean is that the Muppets will be making a Parks and Req/The Office style comedy about the behind the scenes drama that goes into making The Muppet Show. This could be fantastic. It could be really awkward. Thankfully, the trailer is on point, capturing all the characters in a way that doesn't feel at all out of place. Check it out after the jump, and let us know what you think!

Assassin's Creed Syndicate trailer debuts!

We finally have it! The unveiling of the new Assassin's Creed game... SYNDICATE!

Many people know I've been a long time fan of Assassin's Creed (even through the rough... faceless... times). Among the AC fandom is constant speculation of the newest world they will tackle. For many, many years I've been begging and pleading for some Industrial Revolution crime syndicate flavor, and the Assassins have heard me! Hit the jump for the trailers and some more details!

Thor's Identity Revealed - Massive Spoilers

For months and months now, the identity of the new Thor has been a complete mystery. Comics fans have thrown out theory after theory, and after the jump we can finally confirm who she is, thanks to a leaked comic panel from this month. So who is it? There have been some great theories - Sue Storm, Lady Sif, Black Widow, and all of those are great...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cosplay Shenanigans: Building and Being Admiral Trench

When I got passes for Star Wars Celebration, I was a bit apprehensive about cosplaying at all.

I remember this story Kevin Smith told about the time when some kid went up to him and asked to take a picture.  He later found out that  the kid thought (or joked) that he thought that he was the X-Wing Pilot Porkins.

"What have I gotten myself into?!" I asked myself.  I know the modern cosplay community is very accepting and tolerant.  Hell, there's even a lot of "Cosplay is not consent" placards at Star War Celebration (though people do tend to forget it is a reminder about ALL harassment, not just creepy advances).  I heard that story, and I hear about these Star Wars cosplayer groups being very "Accurate-minded," some even inspect and accept or deny club memberships based on such factors.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Geekly Roundup for May 10th - Superheroic Mother's Day Edition!

This week on Geekly Roundup, Mark, Jon and Mike discuss 3D printed D&D Monsters, which turns into a discussion about why Fantasy doesn't seem to be able to break through to the mainstream. Then they discuss a hacker getting banned in Guild Wars 2, which turns into a discussion on continuing to consume media you hate, and why we do that. THEN they discuss Agent Carter's return, which turns into a discussion on the availability of TV, piracy, and binge-watching vs experiencing TV week by week! It's a world of fascinating tangents this week!

Friday, May 8, 2015

iZombie Episode 8: Dead Air

iZombie fans rejoice! If you haven't heard by now, the series has been picked up for a second season! It's not known yet when it will premiere or how many episodes were ordered. The first season had a mid-season debut and 10 episodes were ordered for it, so let's all cross our fingers and hope we get a full 23 episodes out of it - or at the very least, a half season of 13 episodes. Now that the good news has been announced, let's get on with the rest of the good stuff!

Last week Liv turned into Zombiemom after eating the brain of a pregnant girl, and she gained an appreciation for her own mother. She and Lowell got to know each other better. We saw lieutenant Suzuki in action as Zombiecop, and Major got more than he bargained for when he found the Candyman. Ravi conducted a clinical study on some rats with Utopium and MaxRager drinks, with an interesting - if gross - outcome. And one of the rats gets lost again.

This week, things heated up for Liv and Lowell. Major got beat up and released from jail, and Ravi saw Payton in a different light. A radio host was murdered live on the air. Liv found the lost rat, and Ravi believes for a moment that he's created a monster. I need to say how much I am loving the prop and make-up department on this production! Major's bashed up face... the delivery boy's flayed open head on Jackie's counter from episode 6... the dead rats... They can come decorate my house and do my make-up for Halloween - or anything - whenever they want!

Another of the things I am loving about this series is the continuity. While the general theme of the show is "crime of the week," there's more going on than that. It looks like Lieutenant Suzuki's story is about to expand and mingle with the storyline between Major and Blaine - did I mention there's a twist this week? Oh - and there's a really huge OMG, too.

There's been a lot of speculation about whether or not Suzuki is in Blaine's pocket or not, and this week we find out what team he bats for. And it looks like next week's episode will be a rev-up for the season finale, judging by the way this week's episode wound up at the end. My guess (and fervent hope) is that the last episode of the season will go off with one hell of a bang!

So far, the Livwell ship is still afloat. But is it me, or does Lowell seem really insightful about what's going on with Liv? I mean, he comes to the exact, correct conclusions about her behavior every damn time - even before she does. And I'm not so sure yet that bringing Ravi and Payton together is a good thing.

I really wanted to kick Liv's ass for how she treated Ravi about the whole issue, and I think I fell in love with Rahul Kohli's performances even more. That particular scene was an emotional moment that was very well played. I felt Ravi's pain. Hopefully all this shipping doesn't take the focus off the whole premise of the show - crime solving and zombie research with our new Scoobie Gang.

What do you think - too much shipping going on?  Should they just stick to the storytelling, crime scene action, and brain eating? Hit the jump for the recap, and tell us what you think in the comments below!

Episode 149: End of an Era

One more episode until the 150th Episode ever of the Ace of Geeks Podcast, and a lot of things are going to change when that drops. But first! With a nostalgic theme song backing us, we discuss the new trailer for J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowski's Netflix Series Sense 8, how much the geek world is suddenly turning on Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon leaving Twitter, the upcoming stacked cast of Civil War, and whether Iron Man is the worst Avenger!

Episode 149!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Agent Carter Returning for Second Season

Hayley Atwell will be back on our screens once more for a second season of Agent Carter! ABC has reportedly ordered another eight hours of the Captain America spin off, equal to the first season. We do not know how many episodes there will be or when they will hit the small screen as of yet. With another season of Agents of Shield also on the works and Daredevil season two set to hit Netflix next year, we may be in store for a renaissance of Marvel television. 

As we are avid fans of the ass-kicking, patriarch out-thinking Agent Carter, the Ace of Geeks will bring you any new details as we hear of them. 

Keep in touch, true believers!

Civil War has Ant-Man, is Basically Avengers 3

Marvel put out a press release today announcing the full cast of Captain America: Civil War...and it is a lot of people. There's a full team of Avengers, plus all of Cap's supporting cast, plus Ant-Man, plus Black Panther, plus Sharon Carter and whoever Martin Freeman is playing. I haven't seen a movie this stuffed that wasn't called "The Avengers" before. And since the storyline of this film involves the Avengers and the consequences of their actions, I'm left to wonder how this is a Captain America movie at all. The good news is, it's Marvel. They haven't made a misstep yet. We'll see, when the film comes out on May 6th. View the full press release after the jump.

Joss Whedon is Not Confirmed to Direct Anything, Especially Star Wars

Folks, please, take things on the internet with a grain of salt. I know we're all excited about the upcoming Star Wars trilogy, and a lot of people want Joss Whedon in the director's chair, but the honest trust is easy to obtain if you spend two seconds reading the article you're all sharing around.

One of the worst, most clickbaity "news" sites this week decided to take some random speculation from a random podcast (and as the host of a random podcast, I feel particularly qualified to speak on this), and wrote an article entitled "Joss Whedon confirmed for Star Wars." This is, of course, untrue. If Joss had signed up for Star Wars, it would be shouted from the rooftops on, Variety, Entertainment Weekly - you know, reputable news sites, not a place that literally has a "number of shares" counter ticking up on the right.

Seriously, never share anything from Moviepilot. They're the worst.

Since we're wildly speculating, I'd much rather see Disney and Lucasfilm continue their current trend of hiring up and coming young directors with a specific vision to direct Star Wars, like Rian Johnson and Josh Trank. Joss would be a fun choice, but he's already made a billion dollar movie with a sequel on the way and he's stated repeatedly that it nearly killed him, twice. When he says he wants to go "work on his own projects," I'd bet dollars to donuts he's talking about something more akin to Much Ado About Nothing than jumping into a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Void Wants to Create A Virtual Reality Battlefield

Announced today, The Void is looking to put laser tag out of business. The company is getting us closer than ever before to a Holodeck, by combining virtual reality devices (of their own design, but similar to the Oculus Rift), with real spaces designed for you to interact. When you press a panel in a sci-fi shooter, there will actually be something there for you to press. When you hide around a corner from the horrifying monster in a survival horror game, the corner will be there. As will the spider webs you have to push through to escape.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I'm Prepared to Hate the Suicide Squad

I happen to love villains.  They get the best costumes, the best cars, the best digs, and even the best songs. (Be honest, "Be Prepared" and "Poor Unfortunate souls" are your jam if you are feeling evil) It's good to be bad. I should love everything about the new Suicide Squad movie, but I just don't. Let's see if we can figure out why, together.

Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars

In what was probably the worst kept secret of all time, Disney Infinity has finally announced that their 3.0 edition will be Star Wars. Now, feel free to join me in looking at that beautiful picture up above and jumping for joy. Hit the jump for all the details and a kickass trailer!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Machinima Announces Lineup of New Shows, Including Robocop

Machinima had a huge press conference today, announcing a vast lineup of new shows for their channel. The channel, which began as a humble Youtube channel but became the digital arm of Warner Bros. Entertainment, has had massive success in the past with their Mortal Kombat Legacy web series, and is now the ninth largest video destination in the US.

They've got some huge names - Bruce Timm, Bob Orci - and some really interesting ideas coming up, including a Robocop TV series based on the original film continuity, and a reality show giving contestants the chance to create a short Starman film. See the full slate after the jump:

A Star Wars Playlist for your May the 4th.

May the Forth be with you, everybody. And while you're slaving away at your desk, dreaming of flying a starship through the heavens or battling an evil Sith Lord with blazing swords or even about kissing your sister full on the mouth, you're gonna need some background tunes. That's what we're here for - time to assail your senses with our favorite Star Wars tunes, some you've heard before, some of which were released today. Go pay some artists for their work, make a playlist, and rock out with your Ysalamiri out.

The Muppets do Acapella, Because the Universe is a Wonderful Place

Youtube Space LA, an awesome production workshop that they opened a few years ago to be used by their partners and top creators, has been invaded by the Muppets, and thank god it has. After their two excellent movies in the last few years, and the rumors that they may finally get their TV show back, we're realizing that there really is no such thing as too much of the Muppets. Acapella cover-artist Mike Tompkins got to teach the Muppets acapella, so they could perform a cover of "Cool Kids" with him, and, well, it's just amazing. Take a look.

Geekly Roundup, May 3rd: First Looks Edition

On this week’s Geekly Roundup podcast, Mike, Mark and Dave talk about Robotech, e-sports and the Final Fantasy bro trip picking up a lady! Don't miss it!

Lots of first looks and casting news this week, so let’s jump right in!

Two More Characters from The Force Awakens Revealed!

Vanity Fair was granted access to the set of The Force Awakens last year, and they've finally gotten the green light to publish the incredible behind-the-scenes photo shoot they did while they were there. In addition to revealing new worlds to discover, the photoshoot also revealed who, exactly, Adam Driver and Lupita Nyong'o would be playing. Spoilers ahead!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's Free Comic Book Day - So Go Spend Money!

It's our favorite holiday of the year - Free Comic Book Day. The day that comic book giants and independents decide that the best way to get new readers and promote their upcoming titles is to just give their comic books away. It's free! Just run to your local comic book shop, grab as many free comics as you can, and run for the hills, right?

No, not right. Because, you see, the comic book stores - the people that dispense your twenty two pages of illustrated crack for you every month - they actually have to PAY money to get these books. Not their usual prices, but they still have to ship them to their stores, and that's not free. Not to mention however much they spend on the food, entertainment, or extra staff that they provide to make your Free Comic Book Day experience awesome.

At the top of this image is my haul for FCBD this year. The bottom three comics are the "free" ones I grabbed. Everything else I paid for - it was like $100 worth of comics and trades. And while you don't have to break your wallet like I did, if you're heading to an LCS for the day, you should really buy something. A t-shirt, the newest issue of X-men, a plastic green lantern ring - just something to show your appreciation for how awesome the store is for putting on an amazing event for you, year after year.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Josh Trank Leaves Star Wars Anthology

Josh Trank, the director of Chronicle and the new Fantastic Four film, has departed his upcoming Star Wars Anthology film. The film was meant to be the next standalone Star Wars film after Rogue One, but no other details are known about the project - at times it's been rumored to be an origin story for Boba Fett, or a Princess Leia film, but now that Rogue One is revealed to be none of the things it was rumored to be, all of those bets are off the table. No real word was given as to why Trank left, except that he wanted to pursue his own original creative works. It's entirely possible that he was simply burnt out after making Fantastic Four and going straight into another major blockbuster. His full statement, and Lucasfilm's response, after the jump.

Time to (Legally) Binge-watch Star Wars Rebels

If you haven't caught up yet on the excellent Star Wars Rebels, now is your chance. Star has been nice enough to put the entire first season online from now until Monday, leaving your weekend with only one goal: Binge watch all thirteen episodes. As the episodes are only 20 minutes long, that leaves you at less than seven hours. So you can cram in a watch of the original trilogy right after and still not have taken up an entire day. Trust us, it's worth it, and you'll want to be caught up when Season 2 launches later this year.

Go watch the full season here!

Episode 148: Daredevil is Marvelous!

It's an almost all Marvel Podcast this week - Melissa and Jarys have been watching through all the films to prepare for Age of Ultron, and we break down our favorite parts of the epic saga. Plus - we do our long-awaited review of Daredevil, is Black Widow more badass than Gamora?, Agents of Shield, Groot is the Repeating Tree, the 100 and stupid teenagers, and much, much more!

Episode 148!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

iZombie ep 7: Maternity Liv - This week, Liv is Tiger mom!

First off, I'd like to clear up something. In the pilot episode, the Lieutenant was sitting at a desk with a nameplate that said "C. Abe" so I had assumed that his name was Lieutenant Abe. He was never addressed by name until this episode - unless I missed it before, and I've been referring to him as Lieutenant Abe in my past recaps. So I'd like to correct that and apologize for the confusion. Going forward I will be referring to the character correctly.

Liv gets maternal this week, when she eats the brain of a pregnant teen. This makes for some interesting and funny interactions between her and the people around her - she starts mothering everyone. Ravi is understanding but weirded out by it, Evan is annoyed by it, her mother is taken aback and even Liv is embarrassed by her actions. Later, things seem to get strange with Lowell, and Liv doesn't understand right away. Major seems to be going a bit too far by taking things into his own hands with the search for the Candyman, and that spells trouble for Clive. Evan is told to get a job, so he starts looking.

Check out the recap after the jump, and tell us what you think in the comments section below!

First Official Look at X-men: Apocalypse's Jubilee and Jean Grey!

Director Bryan Singer has not exactly been secretive about his upcoming film X-men: Apocalypse. Just like with Days of Future Past, he's decided to take every opportunity to tweet and instagram hints, teases, and outright releases from every aspect of his newest X-film. Today is no different, because today we get our first official look at Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones) and Jubilee (Lana Condor, who's brand spanking new) in costume on the set. And it's an adorable picture.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scream Queens - New series from the creators of Glee and American Horror Story to air on Fox this fall

They're at it again - the creators of "Glee" and "American Horror Story" and Fox are bringing us a new anthology series! Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck, the first season of the new horror/comedy series  "Scream Queens" will center around a college sorority. In 1995, a pledge had gone very wrong (as these things do). Now, on the 20-year anniversary of the crime, the campus is rocked by a series of murders. Someone is out for vengeance. Here's a teaser:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fantasy Adventures (IRL!) Level 2 by Justin

Ding! Congratulations on reaching level 2, nerds! Justin checking back in with some more exciting adventures from New Zealand. Above, notice the view from Bluff Hill Lookout. This is a spot in Napier that's one of the first to see the sun rise in the morning. If my geography is any good at all, all of you US readers are like a zillion miles across the ocean from this picture. Pretty sure that's mathematically accurate. (+50xp)

When we last left off, I gave a rundown of the wonderful land of Hobbits. Well, on the way back from Hobbiton my driver informed me that there was one space left for Black Water Rafting at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves the following day. How about yes? Not going to lie, it was expensive. But well worth it.

 Just jumped off of a small dock backwards in anticipation of several underground waterfalls where we'd need to do the same. (+100xp)

Oh, and you might notice that rafting is a relative term. All we had to navigate with was our own inner tube. And despite the name, the water wasn't black. It was just dark down there. So I guess it was neither black, nor rafting, exactly. Silly kiwis.

The caves themselves were incredible. Glowworms glow overhead, and at certain points the guides have you shut off all of your lights and just drift down the underground waterway taking in the scenery above you. I don't want to ruin the majesty of it in case you manage to get there someday on your own, but if you can't stand the suspense go ahead and google it. I will give you a tiny peek though:

This is the tail-end of our 2 and a half hour journey through the earth. (+200xp)

As part of the return trip from Waitomo, I also got to stop in at the Kiwi House, a place where they keep many of the birds from the country. Anyone who knows me at least a little bit probably knows that I'm not a big fan of birds. I don't trust anything that can poop on me that easily. Though most of these were flightless birds, so I guess they were alright. Kiwis themselves are kind of adorable:

Even if they do look like a cross between a porcupine and a plague doctor.  
(I'm giving myself +50xp for that joke. I kill me.)

After my time at Waitomo and the Kiwi house was up, it was back to Auckland for a bit to get ready to leave for Napier and my first actual job in En Zed. After $31 and a 9 hour bus ride through a landscape that looked Photo-shopped, I arrived in Napier, Art Deco capital of New Zealand.

Cool shit like this is all around this town. It reminds me of Fallout. Minus the whole deathly wasteland thing.

I had one night in a YHA hostel along the waterfront and in the morning went to my new place of employment/temporary accommodation, Napier Prison.

Home sweet home! Looks super welcoming, huh?

My job here is to give guided tours and do audio recording/office work for the prison in exchange for living in my own jail cell, for free. The prison itself is really interesting. It has history dating back in the mid 19th century, and is supposedly haunted. Adorably, my coworkers (in particular Ciaran-- that's right, I'm calling you out on the internet, Ciaran. Now you know it's super cereal,)* refuse to take the self-guided audio ghost tour. I did it by myself, in the dead of night on my 2nd night here. (+250xp) For the most part it wasn't so bad, though I did jump once after a stray cat meowed loudly from outside the prison wall... right when I was listening to the part about a ghost cat. Yes, there's a part about a ghost cat.

There are stories of murder, suicide, baby farming (it's not as adorable as it sounds), hangings, accidental deaths, all sorts of stuff in this prison. Even the wall above was built by the prisoners in a quarry across the road which is now a beautiful garden complete with a running waterfall. That's right, they made the prisoners build the wall that kept them in.

Hard to believe this used to be loaded with gruff New Zealand inmates. It's so purty now.

There was one minor hiccup about two weeks in when I woke up in the middle of the night and got the traveler's sickness I was promised. You don't want pictures of that (not that I took them.) I felt like a sorority girl after five too many Jager-bombs (+500xp You don't know, man. You weren't there. YOU WEREN'T THERE!)

When my month here is up, I should be heading to the south island for some hostel work. I will be sure to keep up with the photojournalism for you lovely armchair travelers. It's going to be winter for me here so I imagine snow is in my future.

They call flip-flops "jandals" which is short for "Japanese sandals." Also, swimsuits are known as "Togs." You should watch this video about it.  It's funny. And informative. Fun-formative. I also tried something called an L&P Bar. L&P generally makes this lemon soft drink that is labeled "Good Lemonish Stuff." The bar itself was sort of like lemon-infused white chocolate with pop rocks in it. That's the best description I can give. (+100xp)

Until next time, Gadget! I mean, nerds.

*Ciaran has since moved on from the time I wrote this article, (such is the nature of backpacking) and I think he finally took the tour right before he left, so the emotional impact is gone, but the intention remains.

Justin Rhodes is a writer currently on a massive adventure to New Zealand.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Steam Workshop allows mod authors to sell their work. Steam users are revolting.

UPDATE: Valve has cancelled the paid mod program. Here's is their official statement:

We're going to remove the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop. For anyone who spent money on a mod, we'll be refunding you the complete amount. We talked to the team at Bethesda and they agree.

We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing. We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different.

To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.

But we underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop. We understand our own game's communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here.

Now that you've backed a dump truck of feedback onto our inboxes, we'll be chewing through that, but if you have any further thoughts let us know.

So apparently this is big news: you can now buy community-authored Skyrim mods on the Steam Workshop, with more games planned to follow suit.

I say "apparently this is big news," because when I heard about it my reaction was "well, duh." It makes perfect sense to expand the role of the Workshop as a marketplace for community content. Making real-world livings off virtual-world goods is at least as old as Second Life, and you can already make good money on the Steam Workshop by making items for TF2 and a couple of other Valve games. Nothing about this concept is revolutionary.

I have since been informed that the fact that some mod authors may have the temerity to ask people to pay for the fruits of their labor has caused great outrage among people who believe that other people should be forced to work for them for free, and that by thus stepping out of their rightful place, these mod authors will surely upset the social order, planes will fall from the sky, dogs and cats will live together, et cetera.

Now, I'm a big fan of free software. I've used a lot of free software, and I've written a lot of free software. I love it when people make cool stuff for free and give it away. I even have a fairly casual attitude toward table scrap-pilfering grabasses who are either unable or unwilling to part with money and use stuff for free that other people have to pay for, as long as they at least feel a little guilty about it.

That said, if you feel so entitled to the fruits of someone else's labor that you'll loudly claim the moral high ground over them because their attempt to make a living off their passion project might impede the flow of free stuff from them to you, you need to go mow some yards.

I realize that it might be a bitter pill to swallow when I just put it like that, so I'll take a little more time to paraphrase and respond to some of the specific asinine complaints and concerns that I have read on these Internets about this whole thing, which in a reasonable world would not even merit a discussion.

What do you mean, I have to pay for this meal?  I cook for fun all the time!
Q: I thought modders made mods for fun? I don't get paid to play mods and whine about them on forums, why should they get paid to write them?

A: The difference between you and the modder is that the modder has produced something that is valuable to you, whereas you are producing nothing of value to anyone. See how that works? If you can find somebody who's willing to pay you to play games and be obnoxious, more power to you.

Look, not all hobbies are created equal. Some hobbies are just a pleasant way to spend time, providing some form of instant gratification with very little investment of talent or effort required. Some hobbies take the form of long projects, where months of sweat pay off with the satisfaction of a job well done. Some things that some people do as hobbies just for fun are done by other people as their full time job in order to earn a living, and sometimes people cross over from being hobbyists to professionals, or vice versa. The thing that makes it possible to do a "hobby" professionally is your ability to make something that other people want to have, and are willing to pay money for because they're unable or unwilling to make that thing themselves.

Q: Mods aren't real games; why would anyone ever pay for them?

A: If you're asking a question like this, you probably think the line between "mod" and "game" is a lot sharper than it is. A number of popular standalone games on the market today started their lives as mods, and started getting sold on their own (often with the same exact technical underpinnings) once they reached a popularity threshold sufficient to be worth that effort. There are also a lot of games that are developed commercially using engines licensed from other companies, which is essentially all a mod is -- building on someone else's game engine to deliver your own experience. Ambitious mods can represent years of hard work by multiple people. What it comes down to is this: if a "mod" provides you with the same amount of novel entertainment as a new game, why would it be worth less than a new game?

And if somebody tries to charge you $50 for a slapped-together mod that's just a new hat for your horse or whatever, well, maybe don't buy that particular mod, unless you're really into hats.

Q: What if somebody steals content and puts it into a mod they then turn around and sell? What if people want to share content freely with other modders, but then the other modders unfairly profit off their work?

A: Hey, welcome to the entire history of human creative endeavors. People have been ripping each other off since the first cave paintings. Art somehow endures, even into the digital age. Partly because, as obnoxious as copyright law can be, this is exactly why it exists.

If you want to share something with other people but with certain restrictions, like them not being able to charge money for it, there's a Creative Commons license for that. If somebody violates the terms of your licensing (CC or otherwise), you have recourse under copyright law, and if that content is hosted on the Steam Workshop then Valve is going to have a legal obligation to help you protect your intellectual property.

Q: Isn't it unfair to have the game developer taking a cut of the mod sales?

A: Just like mod developers get to decide whether they want to release their mods for free, game developers get to decide whether they want to let other people use their engine for free. Mod developers put a lot of work into their projects, but they're still standing on the shoulders of giants -- there's a very good reason that most game developers try to use an existing game engine rather than building one from scratch, and it's very similar to the reason that so many game developers start off in mod development.

There are plenty of moddable games out there, and plenty of engines that are completely free to use -- if one particular game out of all of the other available options is the absolute best at what it does and it's the perfect fit for the mod you want to make, maybe that's worth paying for.

Q: I have questions or comments not addressed here.

A: Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below and await further instructions.

Sam Stafford refuses to write a bio. Get off his lawn.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Geekly Roundup, April 25th: Playing Games With Your Heart Edition

While we don’t have a podcast this week, we’ve got some fun things, some exciting things, and some strange and unusual things to bring you in this week’s Geekly Roundup!

First, though, a serious note: our hearts go out to those suffering from the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the families of the over 1,800 killed by the tragedy. If you want to provide help, both CNN and Mashable have put together lists of reputable charities working to render aid. Forgoing one comic, app, piece of DLC, collectible, or beverage this week will absolutely be worth it for someone in desperate need right now.

With that said, it’s a Geekly Roundup and so we have to move on to less serious but still terribly interesting news — read on!

 Perlman and LeFauve to write Captain Marvel

Already well-celebrated for their excellent penning of Guardians of the Galaxy’s screenplay, screenwriting team Nicole Perlman and Meg LeFauve have been tapped to write the script for the upcoming Marvel movie Captain Marvel. Given that this is a strong character with a lot of depth that has resonated strongly with a huge number of fans, the strength of Guardians makes Perlman and LeFauve a brilliant choice for a movie about Carol Danvers.

 Hideo Kojima doesn’t appear at Famitsu

From Kotaku, an account of one of Japan’s most prestigious video game award ceremonies — and the fact that both Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame and Konami as a whole were completely absent from the event, something not at all in line with Kojima historically. The strange confusion in Kojima’s status with Konami — one which the company refuses to explain and on which Kojima has remained oddly silent — has only grown deeper, as it was recently announced that the outstanding downloadable demo for PT will be disappearing from the PlayStation Store shortly.

 JK Simmons to visit alternate universe in Counterpart

The outstanding JK Simmons portrays a UN bureaucrat who discovers his department has a secret portal to an alternate universe in Starz’s new Counterpart, as related by Deadline. The series is written by Jungle Book remake writer Justin Marks and the first episodes will be directed by Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum; the series is described by Deadline as a sci-fi espionage thriller with a metaphysical twist.

 Final Fantasy XIV re-imagined as a fighting game

What do you do when you’re waiting for the release of your much-touted Heavensward DLC? Remake a major boss battle from your MMORPG into a Street Fighter-style game, of course! This YouTube video featured by Kotaku is a showcase for some of the fun visuals offered by FFXIV’s in-game assets. As the video itself points out, there are no plans to add 2D-fighting content to FFXIV, sadly for everyone else.

 Can you survive the Battle of Hogwarts?

Continuing the recent surge in quick-and-dirty choose your own adventure games on news sites, Buzzfeed brings us an enjoyable race through the Battle of Hogwarts featuring two non-main characters trying to contribute to the massive struggle at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Absolutely worth a read if you enjoy choose-your-own-adventures.

Elsewhere around the Internet:

Japan’s maglev train breaks 12-year speed record (Science Hook)

Navy creates clear clay armor (Popular Science)

Ada Lovelace reborn in graphic novel (The Takeaway)

Harleen Quinzel gets her first lab-coated action figure (io9)

A first look at Scream Queens (Entertainment Weekly)

Second Quest: A horrifying modern graphic novel fable based on The Legend of Zelda (Kotaku)

Tokyo Ghoul’s :re cafe is a real place, and you can go there (Kotaku)

And now, Downton Abbey characters battling with lightsabers (Nerdist; Rob James-Collier/YouTube)

Each and every one of these are worth a look, but if you’re at all Star Wars and/or Downton Abbey-inclined, the last one really deserves a glance; it’s a fun and rather self-aware romp that also goes towards James-Collier’s fundraising for the London Marathon. Tune in again next week for more from around the Internet in our next Geekly Roundup!

The Geekly Roundup is a weekly Ace of Geeks feature that brings together all the interesting things we've encountered across the Internet this week.  Contributions for this week's Roundup were submitted by Ellie, Ben, Raven, and Lauren.