A Look at Why 1984’s Antagonists Work So Well

Hello all, and welcome back!

It has been a while since the last post, and even longer since an analytic piece. Judging by the title, you have probably already realized that this post will be just that. Once again, do not expect anything lengthy, although I do realize that many of you enjoyed one particular post so think of this as a pseudo-sequel of sorts. I also recognize that I have covered this topic in the past, but this post is more refined.

And unlike every post here, this one was actually proofread. Also, this is the 50th post on the blog!

Enjoy!

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When writing a story, a highly developed antagonist can enrich conflict, setting and the protagonist’s development. 1984 by George Orwell is one of such stories which impacts the reader’s perception of a setting through a carefully constructed antagonist. O’Brien is a character who is initially thought of as an ally by both the reader and protagonist Winston, but an organic twist reveals him to be on the side of the government Winston fights. This revolutionary attitude is challenged by both order and security, each characterized in O’Brien. The reader is impacted through doubt, as O’Brien asks if they “[are] willing to throw sulphuric acid in a child’s face” (pp. 180, Orwell). O’Brien’s malicious intent to trick Winston into confessing a willingness to criminality is where his most effective trait comes through to the reader: power. He makes Winston suffer psychologically by challenging and twisting his world-view, going as far as to claim the past does not exist as he “[does] not remember it” (pp. 259, Orwell). Winston is helpless and forced to concede, allowing the theme of hope to be crushed into nothingness. Orwell effectively showcases the effectiveness of brutality and the power of statements which carry 1984’s narrative. The fear in acknowledging O’Brien’s small part in a lager play gives weight to the omnipotence of the Party, as he “[set Winston’s trap] over the course of seven years, and ultimately breaks [him]” (paragraph 11, Hardaker). It is important to utilize an antagonist beyond being an adversary, instead using one to test the merits developed by a protagonist and building a world that may not always be how it seems.

Orwell, George. 1984. Penguin, 1948.

Hardaker, Harry. “1984 by George Orwell.” WordPress. 10 Apr. 2013.
https://hardakh.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/introduction-to-1984-and-its-author/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.

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What Makes a Good Sequel?

Day 16. The weekend is now here, and it is time to relax. Winter break has begun, and for many of us restful waters are ahead. I now have the time to create longer posts, and that should start today. We are heading towards the end of the 25 Days of Stadarooni, and it is surprising to me how far it has come since December started.

As you are aware, the past weekend has seen an abundance of analytical posts that are a bit smaller in scale. While these are fun to make, I can assure you that there will not be too much more after today, as I take a step back into storytelling and a retrospect I am excited to write and share with you all. The last story on this blog has had a great response, and tomorrow’s will have a similar tone and mood behind it.

Now, why don’t I answer the question in the title?

As I am sure all of you have a story that you adore to no end. I want you to imagine what you loved about it. Was it the characters that grasped your attention, or perhaps the setting? And if it had a stellar ending, did you want it to continue? Or is it like a Pixar movie, where a sequel is ultimately unnecessary?

For beginners, a sequel should be its own story. It should continue threads and aspects of its predecessor, but not be a continuation. This may be argumentative when trilogies such as The Lord of the Rings exist, but it is important to note that they are a grand story told in three parts rather than three separate stories. Such sequels should have a resemblance to what they follow, but it is fantastic for them to try new ideas and concepts, and evolve those from its predecessor. There are some examples of perfect sequels, one of which is The Empire Strikes Back.

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Perhaps Star Wars may be seen as overrated or overdone these days with a film coming every year for the foreseeable future, but it remains a classic for good reason. A simple story with relatable contexts to the real world, and deeper philosophical meanings hidden away in grander places. It is a classic tale of good versus evil, and it has the necessary scope, scale, and pacing to tell its plot from the dunes of Tatooine to the trench run of the Death Star.

How does The Empire Strikes Back eclipse the success of (at the time) immeasurable greatness? It is important to note that making every ‘bigger and badder’ is a terrible way to evolve a story’s formula, and can keep immersion and investment away from their audience. The Empire Strikes Back has a much smaller scale than A New Hope, and it focuses far more on its characters than everything else. It is darker in tone, as the totalitarian force of the Empire triumphs over the rag-tag Rebellion and is always one step ahead of them. This is beautifully shown in both the Battle of Hoth and the events that transpire in Cloud City, as every victory is no match for the Empire’s brutality.

There are no Darth Star-esque mega weapons or elaborate new plans to destroy the Rebels once and for all in this film. It develops the Empire and Rebels in meaningful ways and pushes the characters in areas where they can grow immensely. The introduction of Yoda is the most ingenious part of the entire Star Wars saga, and for good reason. World-building is put into center stage as the mythology of the Force is perfectly blended with Yoda’s character and Luke’s deeper character development. Luke’s character arc also culminates with one of the most memorable moments of the original trilogy, where Darth Vader utters his famous line.

The darker tone of this movie is an amazing twist on A New Hope’s more light-hearted tone, but it remains consistent. The Empire is given time to be shown as a great threat, and Darth Vader is made even more menacing and complex by his relationship with Luke and the subtleties in his character. His relationship with Luke is revealed very naturally and is a twist that does not come out of left-field. It may be shocking, but it is logical and adds more layers to both characters.

The Empire Strikes Back is a great sequel and stand-alone story, which is why it is one of a very few ‘perfect sequels.’ It further examines elements and ideas from A New Hope, continues developing the original cast in meaningful and unexpected ways, and more importantly takes risks to be different. This includes tone, the complexity of its story, new characters, and the fact that the good guys do not win in the end.

While trying new ideas are novel when making a sequel, there is a limit that can be hit. To callback once again to my first post, I present The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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Now, I believe I said Age of Ultron is a pretty good film, but it does not soar to the greatness of the first. This is partly due to the fact that The Avengers is a film that should have failed, as its plot is not very strong and is full of a hundred holes. The reason why it stands above most other MCU films is due to how awesome it is. Yes, that is the massive appeal for The Avengers. It is an awesome film.

Age of Ultron sadly is more of a ‘milestone’ sort of film for the MCU as a whole rather than a strong sequel to its predecessor and is only such as the Avengers have assembled. The scale is lowered from aliens to a rogue AI, but the sheer amount of heroes makes the film lack focus and cohesion. It attempts to weave together too many different plotlines around, but most are half-hearted and only exist as a setup for future films. Why is Age of Ultron not a better sequel?

The answer is that it goes nowhere. It stays in its own bubble and does not correlate with the events of its predecessor. It is a bit tricky to draw the line of ‘predecessors’ and ‘successors’ in the MCU due to its interconnected stories and universe, but it certainly does not have much to do with the characters and their development from the first film. It opens with a fight against a Hydra cell that is just a cool fight scene for anyone that did not know that, but the context behind its importance is missing.

Compare this with The Empire Strikes Back. It is a self-contained story, but also a sequel to A New Hope. You can watch it without any prior knowledge of Star Wars and appreciate every single detail without having to do homework on your understanding of lore. Age of Ultron is inconsequential, too safe but also too wandering, and relies too much on other films in the MCU to the point where I can say it falls flat as a nice, self-contained sequel to The Avengers.

With a sequel, don’t be afraid to be fresh. Don’t be afraid to introduce new elements to shake up your setting, but don’t change it to the point where it is completely unrecognizable. A sequel should still feel like its predecessor, but not be constrained by its existence. A layer of creativity still exists, as characters can be taken to places unexpected that still falls in a logical sense to their development. There is a reason why franchises and series’ exist, and these long-term sagas and arcs attract so many people for good reason. Some of them may be overdone, but isn’t that always the case when you love something a bit too much?

How Does Your Storytelling Medium Matter?

Day 15, and ten more to go! These introductions may be getting repetitive (yes, they already were), but I hope your excitement increases as each passing day goes by. We return to analysis once again, which seems to be the norm for this week as it were. I hope the title caught your eye, and perhaps you may be a bit confused as to what it entails.

Every story can be told in various ways. You have a book, a film, a television series, a comic, a graphic novel, a video game, and even an audio drama. While there may be some similarities within these (such as films and television shows) they all bring their own flavours with differences that may be more drastic than you think they are. A great way to highlight these is to look at adaptations, so why don’t we start there?

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The Hobbit is an excellent novel, but an uneven and cluttered movie with an impressive budget. While there may be three films, this is ultimately like The Lord of the Rings: it is one work with three parts. Of course, the question is how well the book translates into a film.

Right off the bat, you will notice changes between a novel and a film adaptation, which is inevitable. Inner thoughts of characters have no great way to be shown in a film, one cannot sit through a six-hour movie, and pacing must be much faster and consistent as a movie is not meant to be put down and picked up on later. There are issues with The Hobbit that are exclusive to the film, such as the lack of focus and misguided effort for an increase in scale.

Of course, actors are a huge limitation when it comes to films compared to novels. As the embodiment of a character, they need to be the role and not simply play it. On the other hand, extra atmosphere added by visuals and music can add to the experience in ways that novels are unable to. There are disparities between these two storytelling mediums, and one is not better than the other. The argument of ‘the book is better than the film’ is an overused and trite one, as a novel has too many aspects that cannot be translated to a film.

Some other instances include extreme violence, exotic locations, impossible feats, and stories that have no action or direct plot. Movies can be extremely intelligent and subtle, but books can pull off plots of nothingness and make it flourish.

As a certain television series based on a novel has shown, this is another medium that can be used to great effect as well. The suspense of cliffhanger endings is alleviated by weekly episodes, and self-contained plotlines can be both simplistic and deep in meaning. A continuous plot can tell a more grand tale than films can as well, but issues once again come from budgetary constraint and of course, cancellations. As I said in my first blog post, please bring back Firefly. 

Video games may seem like a time waster for those that take stories very seriously, but they can tell stories that do not work for the above mediums. A video game can have its action directed at the pace of the player, and stories that form around player choices can also exist in a meaningful way. If a novel consisted of long action scenes like in video games, it would have trouble with variety and keeping the interest of the reader. And for movie adaptations for video games… They do not have as great the means to tell their stories as their source counterparts do.

Comic books and graphic novels may seem like the same, but the difference is like that between films and television shows. Comic books have a heavy emphasis on action and are more minimalist in design. They rely on visuals to tell a tale, with dialogue and the occasional yet brief infobox as well. These stories can still be deep and impactful, but the reliance on good art is essential to not break immersion. This is perhaps the perfect combination of static images and storytelling, and a lot can be done with comics.

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When telling a story, look for what kind of story you have in mind. Action, subtleties, and visual elements can all have essential implications on what medium to use, and one story does not necessarily translate well into all of them. A novel’s plot is too rigid for a video game, and the visual elements of a comic book are lost in translation to a book. With this in mind, keep an eye out whenever watching an adaptation at the movie theater. You do not need to compare it to the original novel (do not be this person) but make sure to keep an eye out for what is uneven and does not take the ideals of a film to the fullest of extent.

Of course, keep an eye out for tomorrow’s longer post. Today’s could have had a lot more depth in my discussion, but I hope you enjoyed this brief look nonetheless. This week of storytelling analysis will definitely not be the theme for next week, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. School is almost out as well, and posts will retain lengths that are not as bite-sized.

How Important is a Good Ending?

Day 13, and more than halfway through this extravaganza.

As with yesterday, we take a look at something so small in stories that it may seem insignificant at first glance. In reality, the upcoming topic can make or break a story, as there are three impressions you will have: first impressions, overall impressions, and lasting impressions. We will be looking at the third one, as when you leave someone’s house, what is the last things you will see? It should be the whole house, and it will sum up your experience and contrast with the beginning.

Odd comparisons on the side, a good ending is what you will be left with when finishing a story. It should appear obvious that it is what will be the everlasting force upon completion, but there are far too many examples of amazing stories shattered by abysmal endings.

For dramatic effect, why not start with something so extreme it is baffling?

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For many, Mass Effect 3’s ending is infamous for how disrespectful it is for those who have poured hours into this franchise and grew immense compassion to characters over the course of five years. Mass Effect is a game where it’s story is so well done that its mediocre gameplay (that has not aged too well) can be ignored for how immersive it truly is. Mass Effect 2 may be far more character-driven, but its darker tone and satisfying third act set it into stone as a remarkable experience as well. Mass Effect 3 may squander in some areas, but it is emotionally ripe with a plethora of sad moments. I can say that despite its excessive number of them, they all pack a punch into the gut for those who have played the first two games.

Characters exist that we shape due to choices in-game, with their development and allegiance to you solidifying over the course of a trilogy. A villain shrouded with ultimate power, but we stand ready to fight to the death. The third game is a literal race against time, and there is not enough of it.

So why is Mass Effect 3’s ending so awful? For starters, it takes away choice from the player and introduces us (in the last ten minutes) to a character with an extreme ideology which the player cannot do anything to stop. In terms of story context, this type of writing is atypical for the franchise and goes against what the main character (Commander Shepard) fights for. Every decision made throughout the trilogy culminates with three choices that ultimately feel forced and dissatisfying, and there is no impactful falling action to show the results of our action. It is an ending that betrays the fundamentals of Mass Effect and feels cookie-cutter in comparison to its more complicated themes of xenophobia, AI-relationships, and companionship. It throws it out for a backward explanation for the antagonists’ actions that was thrown in last minute, which I will explain.

The Reapers are a destructive artificial race that harvests all spacefaring races of the galaxy every 50,000 years, and this is the explanation given: In order for there to be no destruction in the galaxy between organics and synthetics, we will destroy all organics instead; it is inevitable. It makes no sense from a logical human standpoint, and it also is invalidated by the very actions of stopping an organic-synthetic war earlier in the same game.

Of course, there are many other examples of bad endings, and I will list them off here and explain exactly why they fail to leave a satisfying last impression.

  • Everyone dies. For one, this is a cheap way to end a story and may be used when an artist does not know how to end their story. Unless it is used effectively and follows a thematic suite with the rest of a story, it is also disrespectful to the audience and their enjoyment prior to said ending.
  • Everyone lives happily ever after. Unless this is a Disney film (which for it works) it comes across as a lazy way to dismiss characters for the eternity of their existence and may seem to be a way to close their development for the future. One example is in Children of the Mind (by Orson Scott Card) where everyone gets married and… Vanishes to live off love or something.
  • The hero gets the love-interest. It is interesting to see a hero gain something and reflect on their actions after a climax, but them randomly ‘getting the guy/girl’ is not an effective ending and instead comes off as sappy and unrealistic. The relationship between protagonist and love interest needs to develop within a story, and not be capped on at the end.
  • Anti-climax. If a story is phenomenal, an anticlimactic ending will make a story suffer to a far greater degree than it normally would. An ending should resolve plot-points in a satisfying way, and not cut short in a bizarre way.
  • Cliffhangers. Unless used effectively to build excitement for a sequel, a cliffhanger feels oddly disrespectful for a story that does not want to close its plot-points. While it may be a complete story with an indecisive ending (which is okay), a story that feels like two-thirds or one-third of a larger story is ultimately not a good lasting impression to leave for baiting an audience.
  • A story that stops. This may seem odd, but some stories may just end abruptly. It does not feel like an ending and is not defined like a cliffhanger or anti-climax. This may be the worst kind of ending one can do and gives the impression of “we’ll finish it later.”
  • A story that does not know when to end. If the climax of a story has taken place, falling action should be used to wrap up plot points and not continue them to points that drag on an ending for too long. If a story introduces too much past its climax, the ending will be cluttered and be a mess.
  • Oh no, he’s actually still alive! For storytelling purposes, bringing back an element which has retired is backward development, be it a character, device, or anything else. If a character is fully developed and dies, or if a character has a purpose to retire, bringing them back is a very bad decision to put in an ending.

While there can be much more endings for a story, these are some which I have seen that do not work, feel disrespectful, and dissatisfying to experience. They are amplified when put in a good story, which shows just how drastic an ending will affect one.

And with that, we come to a close today. While a weekday post, I hope you liked the longer length provided today, but tomorrow’s will be much shorter due to Cadets and the inevitability of homework. Thank you for your time, and I hope you look forward to the next twelve days.

What Importance Does Atmosphere Hold in Storytelling?

With day 12 of the 25 Days of Stadarooni upon us, we are pretty much at our halfway point for this month. I thank you for the immense support over the past several days, and I welcome any new readers that have stumbled across this blogs corner of the internet. Today we focus back on analysis and talk about one aspect of storytelling that can be pivotal in creating a legendary story.

The days are getting shorter, the winter is getting stronger, and frost blankets the air. How does this make you feel? Do you think of shivering, of darkness, or of freezing? Simple words that may invoke feelings provide enhancements to writing and give an image. If one cannot express atmosphere in conventional ways, then perhaps an image is what you need.

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I apologize for the lame joke, but what is atmosphere? To many, it may just seem to be a synonym for mood in literary terms, and in essence, they do have a stark comparison as they are both in relation to emotions. The difference is that mood is the direct emotions from an artist or character to the audience, and atmosphere is the ’emotion’ that is given off from mood.

For instance, why not look at this literal picture of the atmosphere? This can be from the viewport of an aircraft, and maybe someone is in a state of bliss. They are going on a vacation to Fiji, and it represents freedom from the cold landscape of Nunavut. Warmth and ecstasy and other moods from this person, and they all relate to the vibrancy of this image and the setting I provided.

So, where does this leave us with atmosphere? The answer is that it can be of emotional joy, with light and tranquility being key in what is happening for this person. It does not have to stay restricted to this one scene in particular: it can be present throughout this film (which we will assume it is) and make it one that makes the audience feel positive and invigorated. Maybe the atmosphere will shift, but it should do so naturally. Maybe the positive atmosphere gets turned into a hopeful one, as this character spends time with the people of Fiji rather than the resorts. Either way, it should feel natural, and not change from A to B on a dime.

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Look at Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. While a great film in its own right, the crucial Battle of Endor has issues in atmosphere and mood, which stems from the Ewoks. These creatures are meant to cater to a younger audience as they strongly resemble teddy-bears. They are tribal, and make noises that spell out ‘cute.’ In comparison to the rigid and all-powerful Empire, the Ewoks are innocent underdogs which serve a purpose of appeal (to younglings) and more light-hearted comedy.

The only problem is the discrepancy that pops up in both mood and atmosphere as we see these Ewoks both defeat Stormtroopers in ‘silly’ ways, but then see the Imperial forces slaughter them by the numbers. For the defining last battle of a trilogy (especially after coming off the darker The Empire Strikes Back) this imbalance causes the tense weight of the battle to be lost. The intent of the film is not for the viewers to be left in suspense when the Ewoks are in battle, but instead for us to laugh at their childish and primitive techniques that overcome the well-equipped forces of the Empire.

The mood shifts between lighthearted and in some cases unintentionally dark, which does not match earlier scenes in Jabba’s Palace, and definitely does not match the tense confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor. This mismatch of atmosphere and mood is what really jumbles around the third act of the film, and clutters it with distracting shifts in emotion that ultimately take away from a film that plays its other pieces in a right way. It cannot choose its atmosphere between deep emotional confrontation and lighthearted warfare with teddy-bears, and this should not be a problem in the third entry of a seasoned film saga.

While shorter, that is due to the nature of these weekdays. I hope you found value in why atmosphere can create such a vivid story that remains solid throughout, and not waver into a mess of great ideas. Tomorrow will bring a very interesting topic on endings to the table, and I hope you tune in. If you have experienced Mass Effect 3’s soul-shattering ending, well… You may have a better idea of what to expect.

Farewell for now, and make sure you don’t lose your sled. 🙂

Halo 5: Guardians – A Look Further Into the Story

(EDIT: Due to time constraints, the original post for today will be posted tomorrow. This is now the post for day 10, and I hope you enjoyed it.)

Hello everyone, and I have returned to give an extra post as a sort of follow-up to yesterdays.

There are a few points intentionally left vague that have come to my attention, and I wish to give more clarification as well as a deeper look into the game’s story. I apologize for the necessity of this follow-up, but today’s post will not be affected by this. I also thank you for bringing these points to my attention, and now we shall begin.

To start with, there was an error I made in my review yesterday. While Halo 4 is the first game in which 343i took up the bulk of development, they did have a hand in Halo Wars, supported Halo Reach immensely post-launch, and oversaw the development of Halo: Combat Evolved AnniversaryHalo 4 does represent the point where 343i made the mainstream content of Halo truly theirs, but their role in the franchise does stem back to their inception in 2007.

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Another thing pointed out is the expanded universe and my standpoint on it. My idea of Halo’s expanded universe is all material existing outside of the game’s (such as books, comics, and films), with features like the Terminals and Audio Logs serving as great ways to expand on a game’s story from within. It is important to note the difference in how Bungie and 343i approach the expanded universe as well. Bungie’s idea was very in-line with how Star Wars approached all fiction outside of the core saga, (being the films) with game’s coming first in canon precedence and all other materials such as books and comics coming second. With the exception of slight variations in The Flood from Halo: Combat Evolved (which are by nature inconsequential), all entries in the Halo universe could peaceful exist. The only exception to this rule is Halo Reach, as it has some discrepancies with The Fall of Reach in exactly how the battle played out. In the novel, the Fall of Reach is presented as a Pearl Harbour sort of attack; in the game, it is presented as a month-long campaign. While 343i has made a great effort in alleviating the conflicts between the two, it should still be noted that this is a case where Bungie put the games ahead of the expanded universe.

343i is quite different in regards to its approach to the expanded universe. Instead of games>everything else, they treat every piece of canon as equal and even have interconnecting webs that link everything together. The Didact’s (or Ur-Didact for those of us that have read Silentium) backstory is presented through the novels, all leading up to his appearance in Halo 4. Buck’s transition from the leader of Alpha-Nine to a member of Fireteam Osiris is presented in New Blood, and so on. I love this concept, but I cannot ignore some of its flaws by design. For one, those who immerse themselves in the expanded universe are rewarded when everything comes together in the games, and casuals are presented to a deeper layer of Halo’s overarching narrative. However, there is the issue when important aspects in a game are not clarified from within the game, or not direct enough to leave the more casual fans scratching their heads.

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Halo 4 did not have too much of an issue with this, but it still exists in the game. The Didact’s motives are very complex, and more so than Halo 4 may imply to someone who has not read Silentium. Jul ‘Mdama may seem like a ‘big baddie’ sort of Sangheili for one that only plays through Spartan Ops and Halo 5, but his motives and characterization are not as two-dimensional for those of us who have read Glasslands and The Thursday War. The latter example is not of leaving essential facts out, but casual fans are presented with a very different character than lore fans are. The resurgence of the Covenant could have also been further explored in Halo 4’s narrative, but it is not a huge problem with the two huge plot points being the awakening of the Forerunner legacy (which I accidentally called the ‘Forerunner awakening’ yesterday) and the relationship between the Master Chief and Cortana.

In terms of plot points left unexplained in Bungie’s games, there are definitely some that exist. How did the Master Chief return to Earth before Halo 2? What is Doctor Halsey’s importance to the universe (for those who have only played Reach)? How did the war with the Covenant start prior to Halo: Combat Evolved? While these are further expanded on in great detail in the novels, (with the specific issues above being explained in First StrikeThe Fall of Reach, and Contact Harvest) they are not essential to understanding and appreciating the plots of these games. The are background details left vacant, and I will not argue if one states that Halo 2 is not a true sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved in some aspects, or that Halo Reach uses the expanded universe materials sloppily but does not necessarily require them for an appreciation of the game. The Didact is an essential part of Halo 4’s plot, and while the Terminals do an adequate job at explaining his backstory, imagine how amazing it would be if Greg Bear’s characterization for the character seeped in more seamlessly.

While the issue of connectivity between the expanded universe and mainstream media existed in Halo 4, it is a much bigger issue in Halo 5. While aspects of the game can be enjoyed, characters in Blue Team and Fireteam Osiris could have used stronger characterization within the game. I feel as if players will only truly appreciate the development and subtleties of characters such as Tanaka and Locke if they have prior knowledge of their backstories, as it weaves them together in stronger ways. Had the emotion of Tanaka’s survival on a glassed planet or Locke’s former team being ripped apart from the inside been portrayed more directly in the game without being too numbingly obvious, casual fans would have gotten more out of these characters and not put Tanaka in ‘Top 5 Worst Halo Characters.’ (Sigh.)

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Required reading may not be essential to getting the gist of these characters, but those not versed in the expanded universe will not fully appreciate them as the strong characters that they are. Fireteam Osiris is a spectacular concept and each individual character is strong overall and connect in meaningful ways throughout the game, but leaving important details to more off-the-path lines and novels have been left to more meaningful interactions with these characters that can be more directly showcased to the casual audience.

One example is where Buck is in Halo 5 as opposed to Halo 3: ODSTNew Blood explains how Buck went from point A (being ODST) to point B, (5) but it is referenced nowhere in Halo 5. The ultimate fate of Alpha-Nine is not touched on, and the ultimate fate of its members (minus Dare) are not touched on. In Halo 2, it can be inferred that Master Chief got back to Earth in the Longsword, (despite this being impossible) and some casuals just think Johnson died in the Legendary ending (which is not canon, if you did not know) and somehow came back to life back on Cairo Station. While a better explanation could have been offered in-game (and you should read First Strike anyways) I feel as if Buck’s transition from Halo 3: ODST to Halo 5 could have been greatly touched on in-game. It almost turns to Halo needing a ‘codex’ feature of sorts to catalogue its vast lore that cannot be crammed into exposition. Bits of lore like Blue Team’s history and what the Domain is (and not leaving casuals with the ‘Forerunner Domain’) could be easily spun up, and I am in all support of this idea.

In terms of Blue Team’s appearance, this is technically not their first game. Linda is present in a cryo pod in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and her and Fred are present in one of Halo 2 Anniversary’s Terminals. However, Halo 5 is their first mainstream appearance to the wider audience of the franchise. And I was incorrect in saying their place in the Halo canon is not reflected in Halo 5: it is definitely is, albeit in brief lines of dialogue. And while they appear in more than three missions, they are only playable in three. The most disappointing aspect to me is how much could have been done with these characters and how ripe they are in storytelling opportunity, and their introductory cutscene is a very effective one at showing their current relationships. It is perhaps a flaw that stems from Bungie’s reluctance to ever use or even mention these characters outside of a few loadout names in Halo Reach, as they are some of the most important characters in the Halo universe that have only appeared in the mainstream media so many years after their introduction.

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And yes, Kelly is lame in Halo 5Ghosts of Onyx’s amazing scene where she flips off an Onyx Sentinel oozes characterization that Halo 5 does not come close to imitating. Fred and Linda do not suffer too much in this regard, but at the same time, I feel as if 343i did not do enough with these characters to fully cement their place in Halo 5. This may be due to time, but I wish these characters were used in more dynamic ways. As 343i does seem to listen to our concerns, Halo 6 will hopefully alleviate my issues with Blue Team’s portrayal in Halo 5 that feels so much more stagnant than it should be for these characters that represent the accomplishment of Halo’s place beyond just games.

In terms of my issues with the ‘AI rebellion’ story commenced out of left-field, it perhaps does make a bit more sense when the term ‘history repeating’ is applied. I forgot about Mendicant Bias, and how the Primordial inflicted him with the Logic Plague. This convinced Mendicant that the Flood were the ultimate form of peace for all life, and he then turned on the Forerunner’s and caused great devastation in his wake. However, there was always a difference between humanity’s relationship with AI’s as opposed to the Forerunner’s. The latter treated more as tools than as individuals of sorts, while humans do treat them as people in a sort of way. (Despite their application as, well, tools) The mistreatment of AI’s and how they are not content with their situation of a seven-year lifespan has not been addressed at all in both the mainstream media and expanded universe and even goes against what we know. It does make sense for the offer of immortality to be appealing, but the defection of most human AI’s was not built up, unlike all the other plot-points that Halo 5 dropped into an endless void.

As well, the assertion that the Librarian planned for ‘the Created’ to claim the Mantle comes out of nowhere to justify their takeover of the galaxy.

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Another issue is how 343i wants players to believe that Cortana is a grey character in Halo 5. She is in the wrong and doing more than something we simply disagree with. While I stated that she killed millions, the activation of the Guardians did cause potential collateral damage of immense proportions, and it is implied throughout the game and Dominion Splinter that she has complete control over the Warden Eternal and the Prometheans. This means that the people of Meridian were harmed by Cortana’s actions, and furthermore, in Rossbach’s World, she may have killed off the entire populace of Sydney when a Guardian used an EMP on a ship directly above the city. The EMP’s themselves could cut off significant infrastructure that could cause further harm with medical equipment shutting down, and plenty more than people rely on from a day-to-day basis. One frightening thing is that one of the AI’s that pledges their allegiance to Cortana in the last mission is used for education, and the potentially propaganda and indoctrination is something that can shake up the entire Halo universe as we know it.

While there are many flaws to Halo 5’s story, I do believe that 343i can salvage it without writing it out of existence. Having humanity being the underdogs again is interesting, and the totalitarian threat of the Created could make a nice blend of an Orwellian story in Halo’s climate. I do hope the solution to fighting them is a lot more complicated than ‘shutting down the Domain’ or something of a similar nature, and from this past year alone, 343i seems to be vastly improving the landscape of Halo’s lore and stories. Mythos and Fractures are excellent, and Halo Wars 2 is looking to be an excellent story both as a follow-up to the first game and an introduction into this uncertain phase of the universe.

And yes, Halo’s story is ultimately told through every form of media from its beginning to end, but the games are the forefront. They shape the Halo universe for many, and I only hope 343i weaves the story more effectively going forward.

As always, thank you for taking your time to read this, and I will be back later today. 🙂

Alien Characters are Important, and Here’s Why

Day 8, and still strong. Thank you for returning to today’s serving, as it is a topic that has crossed my head many times before. This post was originally going to be more in-depth and to be posted on this upcoming weekend, but there should be a guest post to replace it. I will disclose a few more details at the end of this analysis, so kick back and enjoy!

Science-fiction. This is a genre of writing that may be associated more with fantastical elements of futurism, neon lights amongst the backdrop of space, and our ‘evolution’ in technology, biology, and our place in the universe. Many franchises like Star Wars and Halo are very human-centric, and alien species may come across as gimmicky or reskinned humans. In the case of Star Wars, the Wookies may not share human languages and features, but they share human skills and personality. Zabraks may carry a different culture than humans in Star Wars, but Darth Maul could have been a human character and nothing would have been lost in tradition.

So, what sets alien characters apart from human ones?

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While the above image may imply the bulk of this post will be centred on the Sangheili from Halo, that would be familiar territory and a bit bland when put against tomorrow’s (potentially) massive post. There is one other franchise that has an extremely popular first entry, and sequels that you will either love or hate. And for once on this blog, it is a novel series that could have been the Star Wars of books had it capitalized on its first entry.

If you guessed Ender’s Game and its sequels (all by Orson Scott Card), bingo. In specific, the second novel of the series Speaker for the Dead introduces one alien species that is, of course, relatable to humanity, but very different and very unique.

If you have read the first novel of the series (or its dreaded film adaptation) you may be familiar with the Buggers/Formics, which are an alien race connected by a hive mind. Each individual is a node for a larger network to command ships in perfect synchronization against humanity and did not know anything better than to attack due to differences in philosophy and being foreign to human morality. Each Bugger can live in enclosed spaces with ceilings that are uncomfortably low for humans, and can only communicate to humanity through telepathic abilities. Once a queen is taken out, Bugger fleets are simply graveyards.

While the ‘hivemind’ alien concept may be slightly cliché in science-fiction to this point, Card did introduce a second alien species to the ‘Enderverse’ in its second entry. They are called the Piggies, or Pequeninos. Unlike the Buggers, they are relatively unsophisticated in terms of technology and human fear has kept the Piggies outside the walls of their society. Speaker for the Dead is quite brilliant in how it portrays this race, as they initially rip a man apart and leave every piece and bit of his body in a grass field (drenched in red) outside the gates of the human settlement. This is later revealed to be how the Piggies give rituals to the dead so that they can transform into the ‘Third Life,’ and become ‘fathertrees’ in order to reproduce. The deceased man had not wanted to kill the Piggies and offered their lives instead.

To put this in a more sympathetic light, the Piggies all deal with a virus that has plagued their species for countless millennia.

After this description of sorts, why are the Piggies such a great alien race for literature in general?

Firstly, these beings are both very similar to us humans as well as foreign. They have emotions that we as readers can feel for and make judgement on, which is the same as any human character that is written to be human. They have their own distinct culture, history, and tradition that is interwoven with their plight and the plot as opposed to serving as background details. This means that these aspects of their society are just like ours: they can evolve, and make contact with ours. Perhaps most importantly, these are not alien characters that only serve to eradicate humanity and nothing more. This is a huge falling in science-fiction, as alien characters are not meant to be overdramatic villains but instead individuals with backgrounds and contrasts to human characters.

While it may seem as if I have grievances with aliens from other forms of media and entertainment, I will ensure you that Wookies and Elites are awesome. They have a distinct look and nuances that give personality. There is a wide spectrum of possibility on whether or not an alien species is different enough from humans, but it is not bad writing. It is just that these artists have not fully embraced the idea of alien characters and made something truly foreign but utterly familiar.

To end off this posts, there will be a guest post this weekend as I stated before. This is the first one since my six-week absence in August, and as I am not going anywhere, it will be a bit different. This post will be a sort of break from the norm of my writing for a single day, and I will work in full conjunction with this poster to ensure that the post will amazing when it comes live. I will not tease any of its content but be assured that you will enjoy it, and it will receive just as much attention as everything else on this blog.

Also, make sure you stay safe from the cold! 🙂

And of course, a link to Orson Scott Card’s website: http://www.hatrack.com/