Wednesday, 1 May 2019

May '19 Monthly Update

Star Wars Month has come to an end, giving a solid look at Celebration and not much else. Well, there were the two posts of Equipping Ideas to Battlefront, but aside from that there were only videos. Both Battlefront 2s got focus, with the EA game showing off Capital Supremacy and the Pandemic game putting some focus on Capture the Flag.

I also had a video showing off a full play of the Mercenary Activity mission from Jedi Academy, and had intended to do a write-up of my thoughts on the game. I gave a brief idea in the video description of what I thought, but felt there wasn't all that much I could say. It's a good game with some decent combat options. There was also meant to be a write-up of the new novel Master and Apprentice, but I'd been busy reading the two Battlefront novels that I've only just got around to starting that new one.

And speaking of novels, my own Space Race Championship was released to the Kindle Store last month. It seemed fitting to release it during a Star Wars Month, and it would also mark the second anniversary since I first started pushing novels to the Kindle Store. Next up on my list of novels is a return to Halesowen, which is going to spread itself across most of the second year of the media students with a focus on their futures. That will emerge sometime in the future, as should a push for some more content on Wattpad.

This month will be a quiet one in terms of things being released. I had planned to make this month another event month, but that can wait until July. I had been planning to tie a What I'm Waiting For into that event, but I think it would probably be better to get a look at all previous mentions first, with maybe one new game getting some focus.

There's not much else I can give, but I should hope I can get some other things done.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Equipping Ideas to EA's Battlefront - Part 2

EA’s Star Wars Battlefront games have seen a lot of good, even if there’s glitches within the gameplay. Last time in Equipping Ideas I talked about mechanics, which leads the way into modes. Galactic Assault is a fun mode, though with command posts there’ll be a few changes. Heroes vs Villains is also going to see a change. Then there’s conquest and my new mode.

For Galactic Assault, each team has two permanent command posts that always move with the phases. A third would appear when needed. The two that are permanently on the field hold only ground forces. That third command post holds all vehicles including the transports during transport defence phases. No starfighters will be available in Galactic Assault. There’s conquest for that.

In terms of phase switching, the defender’s CPs will move as soon as a phase shift happens, with the attackers having their CPs move after thirty seconds. When the phase includes a transport defence over a large area, the command post holding the vehicles will remain in place throughout the entire phase, but the other two will always move once the transport reaches a checkpoint.

The objectives remain the same, though I’ve got some new ones to add to freshen the mode up and make sure it doesn’t get as repetitive in objectives as some maps were [Death Star II I’m looking at you]. Transport defence, hack, capture and hold, set charge and hold, and destroy objectives will still be within the mode, with four new ones being added [with an extra one or two possible through DLC maps as destroy was with Crait].

Retrieval would involve the attackers fighting through the defence to pick something up then bringing it to their base. Critical Target would have the attackers needing to take out an important NPC [or more than one in some cases]. Withdrawal would turn that around with the attackers needing to defend numerous AI targets as they evacuate to a transport. Final assault will always be the end phase of the maps it gets placed on, as the defenders will get a reinforcement count of 100 with the attackers having to deplete that using whatever reinforcements they’ve managed to keep throughout the other phases.

Hero modes have been a bit of a mixed bag with EA’s Battlefront, with Hero Hunt being an impossible win against someone who can effectively use a hero. Heroes vs Villains – the main draw of hero-based modes – was quite fun in the first EA Battlefront, though the second reduced that fun slightly with the target system [though the rules are changing next month]. While I haven’t been on Hero Showdown, it offered a more confined experience with only four players. Hero Starfighters held a system similar to that of the 2015 version of Heroes vs Villains.

It’s difficult to really implement a balanced heroes mode, as the balance of such modes is in the heroes themselves. Heroes vs Villains could become great again with whatever changes DICE bring, but I’ve got a bit of a change to bring myself. I’m not ever going say bring it back to how it was in Pandemic’s Battlefront 2, as that time has passed [though it would be fun to see how it would play with EA’s systems].

Rather, the game would be a 10vs10 match, with each person randomly spawning as a hero, and upon death are respawned as a new hero. There’d be a point count that would increase by one upon each kill, with a set amount of points to reach. For those who would rather not deal with the randomness of such a system, there would also be a ruleset that allowed for the choice of a hero, but once defeated you cannot spawn as that hero again.

There’s also a new hero mode I just want to mention, inspired by the 2015 Heroes vs Villains and Ewok Hunt. It would be a 5vs5 mode, with era-locked heroes. One side plays as the heroes, with the other being the opposing grunts. The heroes have to survive being hunted for ten minutes. If a hero is defeated, that player becomes an opposing grunt, working to take down the rest of the heroes. If even one hero survives, they win.

With those modes out of the way, it’s time for conquest. There’s a concept that the original Battlefront 3 was working towards in that space and ground were interconnected. A player could start on the ground, hitch a ride in a ship, take it up to space and roam around, then enter the enemy cruiser and blow it up from the inside, using an escape pod to head back down to the ground and finish up the battle.

Elite Squadron recreated that concept as best as it could for the hardware it was on, reusing a lot of what that Battlefront 3 was meant to be. Whether through the hardware limitations or a lack of balance, that scenario I just said is pretty much a sure-fire win in Elite Squadron. It’s been almost ten years since that release, and such a concept can be done a lot better.

The maps themselves would be less symmetrical than those of Elite Squadron. And rather than just one central point of ground-to-space weaponry, there would be three. They’d be less powerful than the orbital cannon of Elite, but you’d still be as protected while using it [not very]. Cruisers up in space – one for each team – will have cannons of their own to blast those on the ground. Both will also be able to swat at starfighters.

The cruisers can be controlled by a person to place them in a new position. While being controlled, shields recycle faster [think on Pandemic’s Battlefront 2 and repairing the shield generator of a cruiser to restore its shields] and weapons have more power. The cruisers can be boarded by the enemy team when the shields are down, where they can then go for the power core [which will have more health than what they did in Elite]. Critical systems on the cruisers can be attacked to reduce its shield capacity and reduce the usability of it. A destroyed command bridge will stop someone from taking command, destroyed engines will stop it from being moved, and a destroyed sensor relay will reduce the effectiveness of the weaponry.

If you’re inside the cruiser and want to get out, there are starfighters in the hangar that – while you cannot pilot directly – are able to be used to select what you want to go out in. Heading into a hangar will automatically pull you out of the starfighter once just within it. And while you cannot land on the surface of the planet, you can exit from it and drop to the surface. Or you could go from cruiser to planetfall in a pilotable – or at least semi-controllable – escape pod.

And all these transitions won’t result in a cutscene. It’ll be instant. A chaotic battle on many fronts and not a transition scene in sight. And as much as DICE like to keep these fights 20vs20, a large mode such as this really needs 32vs32 players. And only one hero per side, that can be stopped depending on which command post they came from. One hero per command post, and if that command post is taken by the enemy, the player as the hero is instantly defeated. Hero starfighters are separate from this, but can only be used as long as the communications array is still functioning. Again, only one per side.

The winner of the mode will be the team that reaches the set point total. Each kill is worth a point, with a starfighter kill worth two. A hero kill is worth three, and it also counts if they get defeated through a command post takeover. Taking a command post is worth five points, reducing the shields to zero is worth ten points, and destroying a critical system is worth twenty points. Destroying the power core gives one hundred points, so it’s worth trying to go for it. The command posts in space then disappear as the cruiser is destroyed.

On the ground, along with those three command posts with the ground-to-space weaponry attached, each team has two command posts to call their own. A forward base and a main tactical base. The forward base acts as a regular command post for that team to easily get into the action and can be taken by the enemy team. The tactical base is different in that it is powered by its own shield and has its own power core to be taken out. Once it is, that tactical base can no longer act as a command post and the team that destroyed it gets 100 points to their total.

By having these connecting systems, each area of the battle is still important. In Elite Squadron, it always felt that the best strategy to any match was to take the orbital cannon and wipe the shields of the enemy cruiser, then board it, destroy the power core, then shoot back to the surface in an escape pod and wrap up the ground battle. With what I have said, I would hope that the ground and space engagements are equal in their opportunity and that the strategy isn’t as straightforward.

Planetary Warfare is the name of a mode I have been toying around with. It would feature three or more maps based on the same planet that are able to be travelled to on the spawn screen. There’s two versions of it I have been flitting between. I gave a bit of development to both of them, so that I could present them here.

First, though – why not just one large map instead of several smaller ones? Each map would be in different areas of the planet – so with Naboo you would have Theed, the plains, and a Gungan city. There would also be a starfighter map included. Second – what are these two versions? The first would be an open conquest across the maps. The second is a more objective based version with attackers and defenders. Both versions would use a perk system that makes the maps valuable to control.

The open version would have a reinforcement count for both sides, with each map having five command posts. One that is team-locked and three open. By controlling the majority of the command posts on that map, your team would get an active perk. The perks in this version are designed to keep your team active for longer by increasing the health each unit has along with a reinforcement boost for as long as you control it.

The objective-based version would be like Galactic Assault, except all phases would be active at the same time. The defenders would have all the perks to start with, designed to help them keep the objectives safe. They would be active only for that map. The attackers would have a reinforcement count, which would be boosted by fifty for each objective won. If the defenders lose a map, that perk is lost, and the attackers gain a perk that will help them across all maps.

The only thing I am uncertain of is how balanced they would be. There’d be a cap on the amount of players in each map, but even then I’m not certain how effective in terms of fun the mode would be. Perhaps if the concept was put into action, changes could be made to evolve it into something great.

It’s clear that I put greater focus onto conquest than my own mode, but I feel there isn’t really much that I can talk about with it as it currently stands. But conquest would be the main attraction of this third Battlefront, as it certainly allows for the most open warfare to take place.

Whenever and whatever this third Battlefront is, I hope it can see a great improvement over what the two previous games have given. Not to say they weren’t good, but there’s always room for change and betterment.

Equipping Ideas to EA's Battlefront - Part 1 / Part 2

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Star Wars Celebration Chicago: Episode VI - Ending of the Celebration

The Celebration at Chicago proved to be a good one. But for the 20th of Celebration, it seemed a little… sparse. There was certainly a celebration of The Phantom Menace, but aside from its beginnings there seemed little about Celebration itself. It also doesn’t help that this year there seemed less going on during the livestream. It seems bad to say so, but it felt like Anaheim in 2015 – the first Celebration to have a livestream.

Panels that would have been entertaining to watch were missed out even with large gaps of roughly two hours where they could have easily slotted in. The interviews with the guests were good to listen in on, but there were times where they were recapping events we had just seen. Of course, this could just be me missing the spectacular amount of panels they managed to squeeze into the livestream of Orlando in 2017, but then – that was the 40th of the entire franchise. Even if there was just one more panel per day, I’d have been happier.

The content we did get was good, however. The Rise of Skywalker looks to be a solid end to the trilogy. The Mandalorian sounds like it’ll be a great addition to the franchise when it arrives on Disney+, but The Clone Wars inches ahead slightly in terms of excitement. Resistance I haven’t seen much of, but I’m hoping it comes to Disney Life soon so I can watch it with few breaks. And I'm sure when the second season comes to the UK I'll be waiting to tune in.

I have to mention Jedi: Fallen Order, and how I hope it lives up to the expectations people have. This will be the first true single player game since The Force Unleashed 2 back in 2010. From what I can see, it should deliver from a character standpoint, but it’s the gameplay that really needs to stand out. Respawn have been behind the Titanfall series, which has solid mechanics, so I’m hoping the same feeling of fluid movement is present with this title.

There were a number of things not on the livestream – that never make it onto the livestream. The novels and comics and other books of the franchise. Just as with the last two films of the sequel trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker will also be getting a Journey to… series, with more info to be revealed. I’ve got all the novelisations of the films, so The Rise of Skywalker will be another grand addition to my collection. Whether I take to any of the other books in the series depends on the focus.

In terms of what has been revealed, we at least have some info on the Age of Resistance comics. We’ll see Finn as he was before The Force Awakens, Rey and Chewie will have their journey to Ahch-To documented, with Phasma, Hux, and Poe also getting their own books within the series. There will also be Age of Resistance specials, with the first seemingly focusing on Admiral Holdo. I’ve been out of the comics for a while, having started on the main series and picking up a few others, but I might just come back to see what these are like.

Of course, I couldn’t be ending this without talking about Galaxy’s Edge. There’s a huge focus upon that Black Spire Outpost, with several books coming to reveal more about it. A Crash of Fate will be one of those, with the cover being shown off at Celebration. The five-issue comic series called Galaxy’s Edge will feature Dok-Ondar as he appears within the park, with a focus on his possession of some of the antiques available from it. How Black Spire Outpost appears in the series is “impossibly accurate” to how it will look at the park.

As for the park itself, it would be amazing to be able to go and visit. To feel as though I’m really inside a part of the Star Wars universe. And since Celebration is returning to Anaheim in 2020, would it not make sense to hold an exclusive event within Galaxy’s Edge for those at Celebration? If I could, I would absolutely go even if there wasn’t such an exclusive event. After all, tick two dream events from the list in one holiday.

I’ve always said at the end of covering Celebrations that I’d love to go to one, but such a dream has not yet become a reality. Being within the event and meeting all the guests and making new friends and just feeling the energy such an event brings with it. Revelling in the moment to moment interactions, and taking in the whole of what Celebrations offer.

It has been a good one, Chicago, but I have a feeling that Anaheim 2020 will be a big one.

Celebration Chicago Series
The Starting Celebration / Rise of the Heroes / Spirit of the Universe / A Shining Joy / The Fun Celebration Memories / Ending of the Celebration

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Star Wars Celebration Chicago: Episode V - The Fun Celebration Memories

The final day certainly felt like the final day. It was a day of looking back and the final celebration of many 20s. The Phantom Menace, Resistance, and the Closing Ceremony all took the time to look back at all the fun that’s been had with various aspects of Star Wars, and at the end of the day the announcement of the next.

The Phantom Menace panel took a look back at the film, with some of the production staff coming up to talk starting out, creating the effects and designs, and working together to bring these worlds and characters to life. As well as their favourite moments of working on it. There’s a good number of things said during this half, with two of those on stage talking of their cameos within the film.

Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park get on stage to talk landing the roles, crafting the characters, and stories from the set. Ray Park talks his cameo as a Naboo guard and both talk about the fan reaction to the characters. Ahmed Best and Anthony Daniels join them to discuss the same things. As ever when Anthony and Warwick get together, there’s friendly jesting at every opportunity.

The start of Celebration is also talked about, with a few stories of that first event that both Ahmed and Anthony were a part of. The production staff are brought back and a message from George Lucas is played. Warwick thanks those people on stage by recognising their accolades from The Phantom Menace and beyond. Except for Anthony at first, who Warwick pretends to have forgotten.

Ian McDiarmid talks fan reaction to the laugh at Rise of Skywalker, a bit about getting onto Rebels, and how this evil dude is universally loved, and James Arnold Taylor riles the fans up with a “Hello There”. There’s also a Dianoga cosplayer around.

The Resistance Season 2 panel starts by bringing all the guests out and starts from the beginning of the show during the first ideas of it. The actors talk characters, and are even so like them that it comes across in their actions. They also talk about recording sessions. Talking favourite episodes of the first season and the season as a whole, they then move to discussing the second. That we on the livestream don’t get to see.

Warwick Davis hosts the Closing Ceremony panel, starting by checking in with the other stages for highlights of the events. On the Star Wars Show stage, members of the 501st Legion come out to honour the contributions of Andi and Anthony to the Star Wars community by making them honorary members of the Legion. The Galaxy stage gives their thoughts, with a clip from the Star Wars Let’s Play panel that looked a riot. I’d have really wanted to see the entire thing. They thank the crew that put the entire Celebration together.

Back at the Celebration stage, Warwick talks about the panels that happened there. He shows The Clone Wars trailer again upon reaching that panel. He saved The Rise of Skywalker for last and rolls that trailer again. A highlight reel of what’s been happening over the four days was played, showing the community spirit of the fans. To announce the next Celebration, they do a recreation of the hallway scene of Rogue One by including the fans at the panel by having them pass a giant datachip and lightsaber in a race back to the stage. Anaheim 2020.

For the last word, Warwick gives a big shout out to the people that help organise the Celebrations and run them, that the fans have had a great time and made plenty of memories, and thanks again the people on the other stages. It’s then back to the Star Wars Show stage to thank the fans, crew, and builders of the sets around Celebration, and fire off the T-Shirt cannons one last time – filled with celebratory confetti.

It’s been a great ride, and a lot of fun watching from home. I’ll have one last post giving some final thoughts, so be sure to check that when it comes.

Celebration Chicago Series
The Starting Celebration / Rise of the Heroes / Spirit of the Universe / A Shining Joy / The Fun Celebration Memories / Ending of the Celebration