So it looks like the next big thing after the boom of superhero movies is to adapt famous anime to live action blockbusters. There have been some in the past, with varying degrees of success… the most notable of these at the moment is the Scarlett Johansson version of Ghost in the Shell. Taken on its own, it was an OK sci-fi action movie; however, when compared to the original critically acclaimed anime, the movie fell completely flat. The deepest portions of the storyline were glossed over or outright changed – even reversed – for the live action movie, likely in attempt to make it appeal to a broader western audience. A major philosophical theme in the original Ghost in the Shell revolved around what differentiates a living person from a robot/AI, and at would placing a person’s consciousness/spirit into an entirely synthetic body or computer network make that no longer a person? Furthermore, how does this correlate to AI – if you have a “living” person’s consciousness in one synthetic body, and a high-functioning AI in another, what is the difference between the person and the machine? The original movie actually presented these concepts in a way that suggested that the loss of individuality may not actually be a bad thing. The new, live action movie turned that on its head, and carefully protected the idea of individuality – something very important to western culture.
Ghost in the Shell’s refusal to stay with the concepts in the original movie resulted in a less-than-stellar reception overall. The movie seemed much less deep or intelligent than its source material, and despite high production values and an honestly decent cast, the movie flopped. Paramount seemed inclined to think this was primarily due to the “whitewashing” controversy of casting ScarJo as the lead. I think a lot of people would have been able to accept that if they hadn’t turned the story itself on its head, though.
Hopefully, the same issues won’t plague Alita. I remember reading some of the Battle Angel manga, and I believe seeing an anime of it as well, and really liking it. The trailer here looks like it preserves a lot of what I remember, down to Alita’s creepily large eyes. Hopefully it comes out better than GITS though.
It all kicked off roughly a month ago, when EA Games released news that Battlefront II would include a loot box system that would include gameplay-altering elements such as damage increases, faster movement, better weapons, or even speeding you to unlock more powerful characters. What’s more, you didn’t simply earn these loot boxes by playing – people with plenty of money and little self control could buy loot boxes with real money, basically buying their way to surpass players who wouldn’t or couldn’t spend the extra cash. It effectively turned the game into a “pay-to-win” scenario… and the internet exploded.
Surprisingly, EA reversed course, and pulled the loot box system from the game, setting all the players on equal footing. They initially stated this was a temporary move while they re-evaluated, but now it’s sounding like the loot boxes may be gone for good. As a result of the loot box scandal being so public that it actually hit mainstream news, EA stock dropped $3 billion in value.
Granted, EA’s reversal was most likely due to the fact that Disney got involved, and they probably received quite a bit of pressure from Disney to stop pulling negative press for the Star Wars franchise so close to the release of The Last Jedi, but Disney would not have applied that pressure had there not been a public uproar, so you can probably still count this as a victory for gamers against blood-sucking corporations.
Now, this week, Bungie has entered the fray, causing a pretty significant public uproar involving the first expansion for Destiny 2 – Curse of Osiris. There’s a small controversy around a new weapon available in player vs. player modes that is effectively an instant kill against anyone who gets in the way – the Prometheus Lens fires a continuous energy beam that refills its magazine as it gets kills – and it kills in no time at all. The new weapon has been a random rare drop in high-level missions, which means few people had them, and those few were guaranteed automatic wins. The gun’s power is apparently due to a bug, but rather than issuing an emergency patch to disable the weapon or something until the bug can be fixed, Bungie’s solution has been to make the gun available for *all* players to purchase in-game, with plans to fix the damage problem next week. That’s gearing this weekend up for some pretty ridiculous competition as everyone swings their instakill lasers around.
But that’s not the real problem Bungie has. The big problem is that with the release of the Curse of Osiris, the level cap has been raised. Along with that, the minimum level requirement to play many of the end-game raid missions, such as Nightfall strikes and prestige raids, has also been raised. The only way to reach the new level cap is to buy the expansion. This means that players who only own the base version of the game can no longer play missions they have been able to play since the game’s release. Bungie has effectively removed the end-game content from the game, and is forcing players to re-purchase it if they want to keep playing. This is a distinct difference from how most any other games typically work. Games will typically release an expansion, but will only lock new content away from players who don’t buy it. They don’t actually remove old content and force players to re-buy it.
Many players are bizarrely defending the move, in what seems to me like a pretty obvious sort of Stockholm syndrome, claiming that this is “just how Bungie operates.” They point out that Bungie did exactly the same thing with Destiny 1 – removing access to content players could previously use, and making them buy the newest expansion to get it back. However, Destiny 1 was not available for PC, while Destiny 2 is. What’s more, the game was barely out on PC for one month before the end-game content was locked, whereas with Destiny 1, players typically had closer to a year to play everything before Bungie took it away. This is obviously not sitting well with players, and when you add it to the fact that Destiny 2 seems to be widely regarded as inferior to the first game, Bungie might just have stepped in over their head this time. Hopefully they reverse course, and regardless of whether this is just “how they’ve worked” in the past or not, provide access to the previous missions they locked away.
A project at National Singapore University has come up with an interesting new way to mess with your senses – and maybe let people enjoy some of their favorite drinks without all the calories or hangover.
The virtual cocktail glass, or Vocktail, combines light, scent, and electrical stimulation to fool your brain into thinking you’re drinking something you’re not. The light color and intensity can be adjusted to give the drink a similar appearance to what you would expect – for instance, a pale yellow for lemonade. Three scent cartridges in the base of the glass can also be programmed in mixtures of different amounts to simulate a wide variety of smells, and when the glass detects that you’ve tipped it to take a drink, it sends a puff of this programmed scent mixture across toward your nose. And finally, a set of electrodes on the outer edge of the glass can stimulate your tongue to provide the sensation of tasting something salty, bitter, or sour. All of these technologies combined can apparently make plain water seem like lemonade, or customize your mojito with chocolate, banana, or mango, without the additional calories.
The glass settings can all be controlled through a smartphone app. Apparently, they’re also working on ways to simulate fizziness and texture, and are working on setting it up for mass production. I don’t know that I’d want one though – it does look kind of bulky and awkward, and even if it’s less healthy, there’s just something about drinking the real thing. Fake anything is usually pretty easy for me to detect – I haven’t found an artificial sugar yet that doesn’t taste like chemicals, and in my experience, things that fool the senses may come close, but they always fall short. Still curious just how well this glass works though.
[via New Atlas]
With The Last Jedi releasing just a week from today, it seems as good a time as any to post this. A Disney artist, who has worked on movies like Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, and Tarzan, has come out with a whole lot of mashup comics starring Kylo and Vader. Based on what we know about Kylo Ren, he figured Kylo was probably a… difficult… child, much like Calvin. Imagining Darth Vader as Kylo’s imaginary friend cemented it.
Lots of memorable Star Wars scenes are recreated in typical Calvin & Hobbes fashion, from “Han shot first” to a particular scene reference to a particular death from The Force Awakens. All of the comics are pretty great, but what makes it even better is that when you really start to look at them, the metaphors in many run much deeper than you realize at a glance. And at the same time, there’s still plenty of whimsy in them.
Thanks to Bored Panda for the collection… click through here for quite a few more I personally liked, or visit Bored Panda for a lot more.
After the blatant references in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, you know this had to be coming… and it’s finally here. A fully mashed up trailer for Mary Poppins, starring Yondu, thanks to How It Should Have Ended.
I feel like I’m watching a business world version of Godzilla vs. Mothra or something. Two of the largest corporate giants in the world, Amazon and Google, have apparently been going at each other pretty directly recently, each trading financial blows to the other, and Google may have fired its most damaging shot yet at Amazon. Google is removing support for Youtube apps on all Amazon Echo Show and Fire TV devices. The Youtube app that these devices ship with will no longer be able to access Youtube.
This comes after a fairly drawn-out – and quite public – fight between the two megacorps. Back in September, Google actually did remove Youtube access from the Echo Show because the Echo was blocking what Google considered “critical features.” This latest move, extending the block to Fire TV, seems to be directed at Amazon’s choice not to sell Google hardware, including Chromecast, Google Home, and some of the newer Nest products on its website. Additionally, Amazon has refused to make Prime Video available for Google Cast, since it is in direct competition with Fire TV. As large a sales outlet as Amazon is, when Amazon refuses to sell a product, even a company as large as Google is going to feel the hit to their bottom line, so now Google is fighting back by taking away access to what is arguably the largest online video service in the world.
Amazon device users will still be able to access Youtube through the standard website, but that often does not run nearly as well, or as high quality, on weaker devices like phones or tablets. Who knows how long this fight will draw out, or who will back down first – if anyone. Each company could ultimately end up building walled gardens for themselves that completely sever ties with each other. For my part, I do kind of wish they would stop with all the arbitrary blocking of each others goods or services, and stick to competing to produce the best products. If they choose to keep competing by walling each other out, everybody loses – including their customers.
[via The Guardian]
Compaction is basically the process in which individual particles will arrange themselves to fill the available space as efficiently as possible, removing gaps and things. When you pour sugar into a jar, you can tap the jar on the table to help it pack down so you can put more in. Well, a group of physicists decided to see what would happen with 25,000 dice. They dumped all the dice into a large plastic tumbler, and then rotated the tumbler back and forth repeatedly around once per second to shake the dice. What ended up happening was that, unlike irregular shapes that pack down somewhat irregularly, the dice formed themselves into nice, neat concentric circles. I’m not sure anything of significant value was learned from this experiment, but it’s sure fun to watch… and for people with OCD, maybe even slightly reassuring that in at least one type of situation, chaos can organize itself into order more or less on its own. Now if we can just do something about getting all the pips into nice patterns too.
[via Science Alert]