Thursday, September 22, 2016

Zootopia Mini-Review - 5/5 Stars, One of the Greatest Animated Films of All Time

I originally wrote this for Netflix. Unfortunately, their review platform restricts how long your review can be and so I had to cut this down drastically for it to fit there. For that reason, I am copy-pasting the original here.


Zootopia may just be the greatest animated film I've ever seen, and I've seen many. And I'm including the films by Japanese juggernaut Studio Ghibli in that, too. The reasons for this are many fold. There's the obvious; The animation is simply beautiful and perfection. You can tell that a number of very talented people poured their heart and souls in this, dedicating a substantial portion of their life to giving us this master piece of artwork. To give you an idea just how much effort went into this, Judy Hopps, the lead, has around 2.5 million animated hairs. That is ground-breaking, both in technique and in technology. The attention to small details is astounding and is a recurring theme in the film. A great example that you'll see early on in this is the train. A simple stage we will only see once and only briefly. Normally it would be relatively bland of detail, because why focus on such an unimportant (in the scheme of things) setting? But they did focus on it and there are tons of small things, such as security cameras (which helps set in your mind that this world mirrors our own, which is important in some portions of the film where security footage is used).

Then there's the voice acting. Simply perfect. The choices were great, of course. The voice actors fit their characters well, working to match themselves to their animals. This is shown in very small ways, such as Judy Hopps speaking quite fast, being over energetic to fit with the idea that Rabbits are fast. It's a small detail that adds a lot to the character, and every character is like this. Every single one.

The humor is there, too. With plenty of small gags, that are brief and fleeting. Then there's the larger gags that span the whole film, even if you don't notice it. You'll wonder why a Sloth is named Flash, and you'll think it's just an ironic name. All will be revealed, though. Like I said, a recurring theme of the film is the attention to small detail. It builds a world, and it builds humor. As time goes on and your mind notices and collects these small details, the jokes and gags get funnier as they make more sense within the context of this world that you are learning about.

There's not just humor, either. When you see the Disney opening at the beginning of the film, you think it'll be a simple child's movie with not much to it. That's not true. Far from it. It deals with a myriad of topics that you would think that Disney would want to stay away from. Some of these I'll get into later, but an example of this is love. And I mean real love. Not the Disney princess falling for the underdog who isn't a prince but sure acts like one, while the real prince goes after the princess and has a horrible personality. Two opposing personalities forging their way through the world with a past that has molded them into who they are, trying to find a way to be happy and not lonely and stumbling upon each other without expecting to. It's something I cannot explain in this paragraph, so I won't try to. But this is just one example of the deeper topics the film deals with.

And that brings us to the overall theme of the movie; Racism exists and it's bad. Unfortunately, some people (such as a reviewer here on Netflix) see this and take it face value, assuming that's it. For some reason they get so caught up in themselves and their preconceived notions that they can't see past this. I'm not sure how to exactly put this, so I'll try my best.

To put it very, very simply, within the film the Prey animals are essentially meant to reflect white people. The Predators are then meant to reflect the minorities. It is mentioned several times that the Prey vastly outnumber the Predators. This is further reflected by the fact that within the film, the Mayor of Zootopia is a Lion, a predator. Who could this be meant to reflect? Our current black president, Barack Obama. I believe this is here to show that while the Predators are, for the most part, the sole animals who partake in unsavory actions (such as the real world statics showing that minorities are responsible for a lot of crime, especially violent crime).

Major spoilers ahead.

The big crime to be solved in this movie is the number of missing Predators, and then what is causing the predators to go 'savage' (commit serious crime). Keep in mind that from this point forward, when I use parentheses I am making real world allusions. Now it is found that the reason these Predators are going 'savage' is because of a plant that when it comes into contact with an animal (Prey or Predator), it causes them to go crazy, aka 'savage.' This plant is being harvested by a certain group of Prey animal, who are then refining it (and turning it into a blue substance within a lab setting, a neat nod to Breaking Bad) and using it to infect key Predators and turning them savage. These Predators aren't important people, which is important because it shows that Predators are liable to go savage, at least that's how it is being presented within the news, causing many Prey who normally would have no issues with Predators to fear them.

Do you see where this is going? To me, it's fascinating the wide range of topics this film covers and how deep they go. Layer after layer. They add up to a story that reflects our real world in a way that most real-world, live-action films fail at. The writing for this was top-notch. I personally feel like these are important topics that need to be discussed and this is a great way to introduce children to something that may very well define their generation. Topics of racism, race profiling (For example, the Fox lead being profiled as a cunning con man, even if he is, and being refused service or not having his word taken seriously when he has important information on a crime), and race violence.

Now, you may think it's pretentious for me to assume all this. And perhaps it is. I haven't talked to the writers and I honestly have not read any reviews or interviews or any media on this film. So I could be wrong, I suppose.

In the end, I'm simply going to say that this is one of the most satisfying films I've ever watched. From the humor, to the beautiful animation, to the deep plots and topics that kept me thinking all throughout. Kudos to everyone who worked on this masterpiece and I look forward to what comes next from this studio, these writers, and the directors. Thank you for your hard work and the enjoyment you gave me. I regret the fact that I skipped the movie while it was theaters and waited all the way until it was on Netflix before watching.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Re: What makes AN MMO unappealing to you?

 Originally posted on reddit.

Too grindy. I don't mind if there's some grinding, but I hate it when the grind is the 'content' of the game. This is what turned me off of Black Desert. All of the content was just grinding. Money grind, gear grind, level grind, skill point grind, CP grind, etc... You grind just so you could grind some more.

Too gear based. I like the idea of upgrading my gear. I don't like the idea that I have to spend tens of hours grinding just to get a single piece of equipment so that I won't be completely obliterated in PVP. I liked Darkfall and Mortal Online because all of the gear was relatively easy to get. Sure, there were some 'premium' options that took a lot more effort, but they honestly weren't worth the effort. The standard sets of armor and steel weapons were more than good enough to be on par with the rest of the community, allowing for a nice even play ground where your ability to play did more than how much you could grind. This turned me off of Black Desert and ArcheAge.

Generic Stories. I hate it when I have to do a world-saving quest... that every player does at some point. That's why I tend to prefer sandbox games. You can be an amazing player and a huge part of the games history, but not because some sub-par game writer set up some quest that every player is going to do, making them all into the Chosen One. This is why I can't stand most themepark MMOs.

Bad Crafting. I hate generic, copy-paste crafting systems that almost every single MMO has. The type where you go out and grab a resource from a node out in the world, go into a menu, select a recipe, and then click for the product. I like it when there's some challenge... Like the PVP in Darkfall, the interesting mechanics of Mortal Online, the vastness and complexity of Wurm.

Persistent, non-changing world. I hate it when the world is always the same. No matter how many times players defeat the epic end-of-game raid boss, or how often two large guilds that contain 30% of the servers population go to war. This is why I can't stand playing themeparks for too long. Things don't get changed, the game gets stale, and I have to move on.

Reply: Istaria?

Originally posted on reddit.

 Posted by Laleeloolee
So tried this game out for the first time today. Seems decent. Has an EQ feel to it but with better crafting. I'm really liking it so far and I'm kind of wondering if I should invest my time into this game and would ask anyone who has experience with it to share their thoughts? How big is the world? Seems kind of small from the map on the wiki. Any big disappointments I should prepare for?

Also if anyone is interested in giving it a try with me, shoot me a message.

My reply to this thread was as follows;

Playing a dragon in Istaria isn't comparable to any other MMO experience I've had. I've never been much of an RPer, but I about five years ago I played a dragon on the Istaria RP server. I dabbled, but never really got into the RP community (a majority of which were content with logging on just to RP in the chat rooms and forums). However, I did still have a blast.

Leveling up in that game has a very nostalgic feel, because it's basically the embodiment of old school themepark. But the experience of going from a hatchling, to an adult, to an ancient is one of those gaming memories that will stick with you. Others are right in that it was grindy, but each step of the grind felt like it had a purpose, something most games can't manage.

The album uploaded backwards for some reason, so start from the bottom. I'm not sure, but I believe you can attain a similar experience as we did. I met the two other hatchlings that I ascended with early on. Both were more dedicated than I was, but we bonded because we had a similar goal. I've yet to have such a click as I did with those two in any other game. Sure, I've had great guilds and fantastic friends, but what we had in that game was more basic.

I knew nothing about them, they knew nothing about me. Yet we spent months together playing and enjoying the game. We were almost like siblings, which is something odd to say. The only game where I've managed to have interactions so pure was The Endless Forest, where there is no typing for communication. It was a true journey and achieving ascension to adulthood was a true quest. I'm doing a bad job of fully explaining the experience, but it's not something that can be really put into words. Almost like how a screenshot of VR can't really portray what the experience is truly like.

There was also a couple of older dragons, who I wish I could remember. I'm fairly certain they were German and a couple in real life. I could be wrong. But in-game they were always together. They acted as a sort of guide for me. They helped me a great deal, especially with some of the harder quests. They spent a lot of time sitting around in certain locations in the game, such as their lairs. Despite being able to PM them whenever, more often than not I would just visit the few places I knew I could normally find them and would talk to them in-person instead.

Another memorable player was a biped who I got help from repeatedly. He lent our group money so we could finance our first lairs. Myself and the other male of the group could pay for it ourselves, but the female of our group was a lower level and hadn't yet amassed enough gold in her journeys. I always felt bad that I never got to pay him back before I ended up quitting. He English wasn't the greatest, so trying to interpret what he was trying to say was an interesting experience.

The only reason I quit was because I moved to a different state and it wasn't until a few weeks after the move that I was in a position to start playing MMOs again. By time that happened, I had a much better computer. That, combined with the extended break from the game, made me more inclined to want to play other MMOs. I don't necessarily regret it... I ended up playing Mortal Online and arguably had more meaningful experiences in that game.

The world is... of a decent size. A lot of the game world seems rather barren, but that's because there is a land ownership/housing system. The games population isn't very big, so that means there's a lot of places that would have normally been populated left empty. During the months I played, though, I got the feeling I had only become familiar with a fraction of the locations. That could just be perspective, though.

As for disappointments, I would say there are two. First, the games population is quite small. Dedicated, but small. And second, the people that own and 'develop' the game are mostly in tweak mode. They aren't large enough or active enough to introduce much in the way of new features. So, that means if you like it when a game is constantly being updated and getting new content, you'll be disappointed. These two combined can make it feel like a dead game. I still suggest you at least try it, though. Preferably with a friend.