Meandering Ponderings

How I Got to Elite: Dangerous

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Steam informed me recently that a game on my wish list was on sale. I don’t add items to that list often, but there are a few I forget are there. I checked it out and found that it was Elite: Dangerous.

I didn’t know much about it off the top of my head, but investigating the store page reminded me of the appeal. Open world. Milky Way galaxy recreation. Massive scale. MMO. Flight simulator.

So I bought it…

But first, let’s start in the mid-90s. For the record I was unaware until recently that Elite: Dangerous had previous installments during this time period. Had I known this the story would be different.

Anyway, I happened to pick up Lucasarts’ space combat simulator X-Wing when I was a kid. The box art and screenshots entranced me. I too would get to experience the ultimate freedom of space travel and get to blast Tie fighters into sparking fragments along the way.

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After several disks worth of installation (this was the original DOS version), I was ready to play and within minutes I was in the cockpit of the X-Wing, adjusting shield levels, engine speeds, and aiming at various vessels. This was what I was waiting for. True freedom.

This sense was quickly dashed, if only momentarily, when I noticed that those stars and galaxies and planets far off in the background were merely that, background. There would be no interstellar travel for me. Just intense space combat, and the promise of thrills like the films.

This series was quite popular as it turns out, spanning into the next decade with its sequel Tie Fighter offering the best experience in my opinion.

Still, there was that desire to fly among the stars that gnawed at me.

Let’s flashforward several years to the late 2000s. This is when I first tried EVE Online. This, I thought, was it. This was what I had always wanted. An entire galaxy to explore replete with space stations and starships, enemies and allies, and everything in between. Yes, it truly offers all these things.

Here I had my chance to be a renowned star fighter, but I could also be a pilot, a space miner (and perhaps have a daughter who would wrote a song about such things), an industrialist, or even a scheming CEO of a corporation filled with other real people to manipulate and command.

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The options were endless, but so was the path to progress it seemed. Now don’t get me wrong, EVE Online is great at what it offers, but it’s also demanding. And slow. And cutthroat. Eventually everything becomes a point and click affair, even space travel, which is more about navigating menus rather than space itself.

It’s not hard to admit that I enjoyed the game, generally but it is hard to admit that perhaps it’s a little more daunting than I would like for something that I want to truly enjoy.

At the end of the day, EVE Online offered quite a bit, more than I imagined in fact, but it still missed that certain something.

There were other games that came close, like Star Trek Online, with its arcade-ish space combat and the ability to lead away teams on planets. If you’ve wanted to be a Starfleet captain, or even a Romulan or Klingon, this is your chance. It’s a lighter version of EVE Online, to be sure, but its content is still entertaining and the fantastic setting is a bonus.

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After years of playing games, it’s safe to say that some of my earliest wishes have been buried under layers of reality and disappointment, but fortunately they have also been augmented by gaming experiences that have truly been enjoyable in unexpected ways.

So there I was the other day, loading up Elite: Dangerous. I tried the training missions, thinking that this really is a very similar game to EVE. Except that I was sitting in a cockpit. And that I could fly to any available star. And fight. And dock with space stations.

Then it hit me.

No, not that asteroid I collided with because I was still calibrating my controls.

No, it was something else: the realization that this is the game I had been wanting to play for almost twenty years!

Even better is the fact that Elite: Dangerous’ developers have already declared (not speculated as in the case of EVE) the kind of content they will roll out, like planetary landings and such. This is more than thrilling, and I feel like I’ve finally come full circle with those expectations born from the back of the X-Wing box all those years ago.  

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So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prep my ship for travel to see either the Sol system in way I’ve never been able to or what lies beyond the other side of the galaxy’s core.

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Katya Hammered and Sickled My Heart to Pieces

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Since first viewing Rupaul’s Drag Race, I have become voraciously engaged with the show. It’s a sad truth that a reality television show has done this to me, but I have no qualms about this. Unlike other shows of this nature, Drag Race doesn’t exploit its subjects, and in fact it does a lot to elevate drag queens, who have long been the mascots and sometimes scapegoats of the gay community, to a more accepted status.

Every season brings an assortment of entertainers with various quirks, looks, and wit. While some are not easy to like, most grow on me one way or another, kind of like cancer. This season I am replete with Katya tumors and, oh my god, it’s stage four and it’s so, so, so sickening.

While her time on the show has, tragically, ended there is plenty in the future to look forward to from my favorite bisexual Russian hooker. While I longed to see Katya take the crown, or at least make the top three, a queen like her doesn’t need to win this show to make it out in the real world. Several queens from past seasons have become wildly popular without winning, and some winning queens have faded to relative obscurity (erm… Hello, Tyra?).

My main reason for wanting Katya to have made it farther is that she was my favorite part of every episode. Her personality, humor, and gloriously strange presentation gave me life the house down. Now that she has sashayed away, maybe I can start to recover, but I’d really rather not.

Cheers to Katya and her future. I’ll try to get by for the rest of the season without her. I really don’t care who wins anymore. At least I don’t have to watch her make the top three and *not* get crowned.

Here are some moments, of an infinite many, that trace the route my heart followed when it fell head over heels in love with this special queen. 

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When she walked into the workroom the first time, I was singing “Love at First Sight” like Kylie Minogue.

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This slow split was just everything. I. Was. Gagging.

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Katya was so full of quips, quibbles, and quotes that she put Bianca Del Rio’s rolodex of hate to shame.

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When she broke down and confided with Miss Fame about her addiction struggles, I broke down too.

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Now serving: rebellious illegitimate daughter of Ayn Rand realness.

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Really though… He’s an impishly cute little man.

New City

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My boyfriend booted up Sim City the other day and started building a new city from scratch. As he did so, he saw that I was watching and sheepishly said, “I never come up with names for my cities. I always leave them named ‘New City’.  I’m not that creative.”

He frowned at his perceived awkwardness and started laying roads and power plants and zones and pipes.

So I said, “There was an ancient culture called the Phoenicians. They lived in city states on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea near modern Syria and Lebanon. They were renowned mariners and even invented the alphabet that is the basis for the one we now use.

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“They had a rivalry with the ancient Greeks and established colonies all around the Mediterranean coast. Their most prosperous one was called Carthage. When the Phoenician cities were conquered and subjugated into other empires, Carthage was left on its own.

“Carthage eventually became a great power and, similar to the Phoenician rivalry with the Greeks, the Carthaginians had a rivalry with the Romans. After a series of fierce wars, and despite its maritime prowess and economic superiority, Carthage was eventually subdued by the Romans.

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“Despite being conquered, the city of Carthage has a rich legacy. Many modern cities, like Cadiz and Cartagena in Spain, can trace their roots to Carthage.

“By the way, the name Carthage comes from the Phoenician name Qart-hadast.

“That translates to New City.”

By this time, his town had begun to develop nicely. He smiled and said, “I like that story.”

Sticks: An Attempt at Poetry

My feelings are like sticks

I used to carry few

Now there are many

Some are marked as special

I can’t see them among the rest

My arms are crowded

Novel thoughts

New feelings

Old burdens remembered

Responsibilities assumed

Where is that feeling?

The one that made me glad?

Or that serene one?

Somewhere within

It’s there

But it’s lost

Sometimes I catch a glimpse

Sometimes I can almost feel it

Sometimes

The rest are sticks I have to carry

The Wheel of Time Turns on My Mind

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The recent scandal surrounding a surprising and controversial pilot episode, and the resulting lawsuit filed against author Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal Rigney, has definitely put the entire series back into the spotlight. Not since the series’ conclusion a couple of years ago has this much attention surrounded it, and my own attentions have returned once again to the stories that filled my late teens and most of my twenties with adventure, trial, mystery, and enjoyment.

As the story itself is concluded indefinitely, there is nothing else to expect from the long running series of novels, except a companion novel to be released later this year that will feature back story and information directly from Robert Jordan’s notes. This will be called The Wheel of Time Companion. Such a novel is indicative of the end game of this series. All that is left for fans to do is either move on if they can find something to fill the void, or investigate the layers of story and the innuendos that Jordan famously constructed into his storytelling in the most tantalizing ways.

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While the books purport to give us all the answers that we need, and certainly they do, they do not expose things with clarity. Instead, things are resolved and revealed by the actions of the plot, or through the limited perspective of the characters, and the true answers lie somewhere in the mix, dispersed in pieces and parts that only can be assembled by taking together several different threads.

In short, Jordan has woven a tapestry that is just as interesting to study in its construction as it is enjoyable to experience.

Much like the effect Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and other works has on me, The Wheel of Time’s lore can draw me in for hours. As someone who aspires to write, studying how the author assembled these things is akin to students of painting studying the great masters in Paris. When you can understand the strokes and patterns that are used, you can apply those techniques to create masterful works of your own.

While time has yet to decide if Robert Jordan will be considered a true master, he definitely ranks up there as an ambitious writer. Much like Tolkien, he left behind a legacy of copious notes from which could possibly be derived several more stories if someone were allowed to rummage through them and edit them into something concrete. Jordan himself even promised that there were two more books he could have written as prequels to the main series. His widow, who was also his editor, is now the ultimate arbiter of his estate, and her ensuing legal battles regarding the series’ conversion to either television, in the manner of Game of Thrones, or into some sort of movie series will likely overshadow any chance that other books that could be released.

What is ironic is that fans waited months and years between releases of the books to find out what happened next. Such a thing became an iconic feature of being a fan of The Wheel of Time. We all got used to having to wait interminably for the end, or at least the next tidbit of story that inched us closer. When the series finally concluded, I had thought that my days of waiting for any news on what to expect would happen with Rand, Mat, and Perrin would be over for good. Their stories are done. I know how it all ends.

Now, fans are once again caught in a flux of waiting as we now strain to discern what the series’ fate will be in other mediums. Will it make it to some premium channel like HBO or Showtime? Perhaps it will be a web series, something that has proven lucrative and effective. What sacrifices should we expect in such a conversion? How will all these legal proceedings affect any plans for any of this to happen? Once again we will have months and years more to see how this all will come to pass.

To wait for answers is the ultimate destiny of anyone who enjoys this series, it seems. The wheel of time turns and ages come and pass. While reading A Memory of Light seemed like the end, it was only one ending, as there are no true beginnings or endings. Paraphrasing Robert Jordan’s common description of time in his works shows just how true to life some of his work will always be.

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The Mystery of the Winter Dragon

A Wheel of Time television pilot.

For real.

It aired in the early morning of 2/9/2015, in a cloud of mystery. I myself have not seen it, but the reactions according to Reddit have been a chorus of disbelief, confusion, surprise, and dashed hopes.

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According to those who have seen it, the production values are cheap, but many claim that it could be worse. Airing in a late night time slot, Winter Dragon depicts the prologue from Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World in which Lews (misspelled Lewis in some TV descriptions) Therin Telemon is confronted by his nemesis Ishamael, who is surprisingly played by Billy Zane.

Yes, Billy Zane.

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What is going on?

Further thickening the mystery is the tragic death of the director just days after an alleged whirlwind production of the pilot. This strange revelation of events has left the Wheel of Time fan community in a daze as we are left with pieces of a strange puzzle.

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There are suspicions that this pilot was  made in order for the production company, Red Eagle Entertainment, to stake it’s claim on the film rights which are allegedly about to expire. An actual production that airs on TV may air them to keep the rights longer, giving them time to develop this into something more. With the Game of Thrones series proving to be wildly popular, many fans hope for the same with WoT.

On the other hand, this pilot may just be a petty effort to retain the rights. The lack of press and publicity, and it’s obscure premier lend credence to this unfortunate idea, and we may in fact not see anything come from this like we would hope.

Surely The Wheel of Time deserves a less dubious introduction. As the mystery unfolds, we may learn more so as our real world time rolls on. Until then we are left with the saying common to the series, “The wheel weaves what the wheel wills.”