Assassin’s Creed Movie Filming in September With Two Cast Members?

Poster for Assassin's Creed I
I have deliberately avoided reading anything about the upcoming film version of Assassin’s Creed game from Ubisoft. One reason has to do with Nolan North, it is his voice I hear when Miles speaks in my mind, just as it is his verbal utterances I hear when thinking of Nathan Drake, another has to do with the watering down of the game in the franchise. The news that filming is due to commence in September this year, with an apparent cast of two, is surprising to say the least.

Michael Fassbender, whom I’ve been a fan of since the Brit horror film Eden Lake, where he played a chap who did everything wrong early in the film and the equally English TV show Hex, may make a great Desmond Miles, although not as great as Nolan, in my humble opinion. The actor will also, again in my own humble opinion, never top his android David from Prometheus.

As for Marion Cotillard being the female scientist/assistant who aids Desmond? I am not really sure that she is who I envisioned as Lucy in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cotillard, so much in fact that I actually sat down and watched another French film; last year’s Two Days, One Night.

Michael Fassbender via @Pinterist
Michael Fassbender as Desmond Miles?

Another reason I’ve not read paid much attention to the big screen version of the game also has to do with the video game itself.

When Assassin’s Creed first came out, my daughter bought the game from Game in Ipswich. Her Christmas present had been a PlayStation 3, something I knew that I’d get plenty of use from, Dad’s no fool, and when we first plugged the game in, and waited ages for it to upload, we were not too overly impressed with the graphics.

Then my youngster got a better TV, an HD one. When we watched the scenes of Assassin’s Creed unfold on the screen of this new telly, our eyes did not seem big enough to take everything in. The graphics were incredible and so real. The story had already become a favorite, Altair’s fall from grace, his having to start over and the slow realization that not all is as it seems trumped what many called the repetitive game play.

The game spawned a glut of sequels, including the annoying Ezio Auditore who took over as the franchise hero. Even though my love for the game declined with each new version, I miss it. When I moved from England I sold my (sob) UK PS3, and my Xbox. I still have some favorite games, Uncharted, all of them, Assassin’s Creed, et al, all lovingly stored in a box…in the shed…sniffle. I have yet to get a replacement for either of these long lost consoles and it kills me.

For that reason alone, I’ve avoided any talk of games to movies, but also because of Naughty Dog and their Uncharted franchise’s move to film their game’s story. When they initially decided to have the game adapted to the big screen, the company opted to relinquish creative control. While fans of the game expected either Nolan North to play Nathan Drake, or at least Nathan Fillion, the filmmakers had decided to cast Mark Wahlberg as Nate.

IGN mockup of Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake
Fillion and Drake, 2010 dream casting idea.

After a few choice expletives and OMGs, the news then came that Bradley Cooper was the main choice, Fillion was considered “too old.” On top of all that, it seemed that the film version would also not have Emily Rose as Elena and Sully was to be scrapped in favor of characters who did not exist.

The last word on Uncharted the film, has Seth Gordon down to direct, according to Wikia and while IMDb has the film opening in 2016, there are no cast members listed. Thankfully, Wahlberg’s name is absent.

It will be interesting to see just what the film version of Desmond Miles and his adventures with the Animus will be. Since filming has not started yet, it will also be interesting to see who will wind up in the final cast list. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for incredibly cheap PS3 and or Xbox replacements, cheap as in free…if you get my drift.

2 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Video Game Trends; it’s Short but Look it has Multi-player

I was semi-participating in a “round table” (although in reality it is more of a rectangular shape) between Meg and Max and their dissection of what is wrong in the video game industry at the moment.

There were some great insights brought up this morning, mainly because Max has been introduced into the mix. Meg and I tend to re-hash the same ideas, just with a slightly different angle of presentation. The addition of another “player” has allowed us to represent old ideas and discuss new ones.

The main consensus was that most games coming out right now (and last year) are all much shorter in duration than previous games and they seem to be relying upon the addition of multi-player to justify their curtailing of the main game.

A good example of this is the last iteration of Hitman. Fans of the Hitman franchise have been eagerly awaiting the emergence of a PS3 HD version of their favourite assassin for years. The development of the latest chapter in the Hitman verse was given a lot of publicity and updates of the “proposed” game play was on YouTube.

I could not wait to play it. I even paid full price for the collector’s edition (mainly for the Hitman statue) just because I could not wait for the cost to go down. I popped the disc into the PS3, waited for the latest update to load and started playing.

Eight hours later, I was finished. I sat looking at the end credits (which lasted almost as long as the game) feeling disappointed, let down, and yes, cheated. I know that a lot of hype was given to the fact that you could play the game on-line and “take contracts out on your friends and family.”

Yawn.

I do like on-line multi-player games, I play CoD a lot (I’ve clocked a lot of hours on Black Ops II) but some games just don’t “fit” the on-line arena. It just seems that games companies automatically assume that if their game is a “shooter” (either first or third person) it’s suited for a multi-player aspect.

*Of course it’s not just “shooters,” Assassin’s Creed started participating in the on-line experience with Assassin’s Creed II and the protagonist’s generally use sharp implements and only rarely shoots anyone.*

I am sure that a lot of gamers like the interactive concept of competing against their friends and neighbours. Competitive gaming is good, if you like that type of competition. But again, only some games really fit that sort of game play; war games especially fit the multi-player scenario. You’ve probably noticed that I have not mentioned WoW or any of its first or second cousins. That is because that type of game has never interested me and it never will; despite the fact that Felicia Day is a player.

Competitive game playing is fun, but there are different levels of competition. Most games involve competition of some kind even if it is just competing against the actual game and not another person. Of course there are exceptions; Flower, for instance, has no competition at all.

The only problem with on-line gaming is the emergence of players who “cheat” or hack the system. Anyone who has joined a game only to die repeatedly while their weapons don’t even scratch the opposing team members knows the frustration of playing in a match where the odds have been skewed to the other teams favour.

I don’t want to get on a multi-player rant here, so I’ll get back to my original point: actual game play being shortened. I loved the PS2 generation of games that took over 20 to 40 hours to complete and they did not rely on multi-player access to extend the “life” of the game.

The never-ending game…

Admittedly there are some games out there that do have a lot of game play hours. Skyrim, for instance, brags that you could conceivably never finish their open world game. But again, that is not my type of game. I personally do not find games that rely on swordplay and ye olde English dialogue mesmerising.

We all agreed that the new shorter game times were the companies attempt to appease the non-gamer market. The major complaint from this new market demographic is that existing games are too long. “I don’t have time to play a game that is over 20 hours long. I have to: work, clean, cook, iron, take little Timmy to school and pick him up; the excuses list for not having time to play is just about endless.

So the gams companies are, once again, catering to the non-hardcore gamer instead of  developing games that appeal to all gamers equally. Their answer is to tag a multi-player aspect onto every new game in the hopes of getting the real gamers to log on and shoot out. That way they can cut the main game’s running time down enough for the new or casual gamer.

These “new” gamers are an anomaly. Most of them are playing “because everyone is doing it” not unlike the race to lose your virginity when you were in high school (although arguably it appears to be happening much earlier these days) because of peer pressure. Since game companies have shifted their focus onto the “family” gaming market they’ve changed the face of gaming.

Not only have games become shorter, but they’ve become easier. It is a lot harder to get killed or die now-a-days. In fact you kind of have to work at it. In keeping with their new demographic of consumer, game companies don’t want to make the actual game play too difficult, they might lose money.

They will still put out the odd difficult game like Dark Souls where the game play actually seems to be hard just for the sake of it instead of there being a reason for the level of difficulty. They are also changing existing games in the area of genre just to increase their marketability.

Dead Space 3 for example now appears to be more of an action/adventure shooter, losing a lot of its appeal as a horror related shooter. Presumably this shift of focus will allow the more casual gamer to be interested. It is the only explanation for the change of genre that makes any sense.

Gee, all that’s missing is grandma and grandpa…

The introduction of the Xbox Kinect, the Sony Move and all of the Nintendo Wii shows that the game business is all about “family” entertainment now. Presumably every family will participate in fun short games play where everyone from great grandma to little two year old Timmy can spend a limited amount of time playing “group” games. Games that are really last generation arcade type games that used to be playable in the local arcade, bowling alley, or outside Wal-Mart.

I am all right with that whole concept.

But…

Let’s not forget the core of the gaming market. The real gamers who love a long properly challenging game; a lot of these guys are in their 30’s and 40’s (and older) now and unlike the new gamer will make the time to play a longer game. Even if it means only getting to spend a half an hour at a time playing it; because real gamers will not begrudge spending three to four weeks (or longer) getting to the end of their game.

Because real gamers are going to be around a long time yet, long after these new casual gamers have moved on to the next peer pressure driven past time; one that has dictated that family gaming is dead. Hopefully that will mean that game companies will go back to their roots and develop longer games with a bit less emphasis on the multi-player experience.

In the mean time the new casual gamer has all those flash games and Facebook games to keep them busy while we wait for some good “old-fashioned”games with length and difficulty.

Look out for the chainsaw guy and hours of game play…

The Old Man’s Hands

The old man sat in a row of empty chairs in the waiting area of the bus station. He was the only live occupant in an area filled with dust bunnies, cobwebs, and deserted candy wrappers. Every time the entrance door opened with a sigh, pushed by the swirling ubiquitous wind, the bunnies and wrappers would shuffle away from the door and then slide back when the wind died. The cobwebs moved, in a kind of sympathetic sway to and fro; shakily as if they were so fragile that to move too much would make them lose their anchor and sail away.

The wind did not appear to bother the old man. He sat looking at his hands. Hands that despite being wrinkled and liver spotted were huge. They were cracked with blunt sausage fingers, the nails were cut to the quick but still showing a touch of year’s worn grime under the nails themselves that no amount of scraping or brushing was going to remove. Sometimes he would make a fist. Both hands curled up like a bare-knuckle boxer. He would turn them this way and that, still scrutinizing them as though he had never seen them before.

The wind pushed the door open again and Sam behind the ticket counter looked up for what must have been the hundredth time. He seemed incapable of not looking. He would raise his eyes and cock his head quizzically and if he’d been a dog, one ear would have cocked forward. As his eyes drifted back down to the crossword puzzle in front of him, they detoured to the big old man who seemed so fascinated by his own hands.

Footsteps came up behind Sam and he spoke without looking. “Hey Leanne.”

“Hey Sam.” Leanne headed to the only other chair behind the ticket counter. “Slow day, huh?”

Sam nodded slowly, still concentrating on his crossword, which was almost finished. “Oh yeah; if it wasn’t for Mohammed Ali’s cousin over there, this place would be dead.”

“Who?” Leanne glanced over at the old man in the waiting area.

“The old man sitting over there with those big old boxer’s hands.” Sam nodded in the direction of the bus station’s only occupant in the waiting area.

“Has he come up to the counter,” Leanne asked.

“Nope,” Sam said, still more interested in finishing his crossword than talking about the old man. “I don’t even know when he came in. I just looked up and he was there. Made me jump, I don’t mind telling you.” Sam put down his pencil, “The next bus ain’t due for another two hours and he’s been here at least that long already.”

“Well, you know Sam, you could have tried asking him what he wanted.” Leanne’s tone was dry. “He might have grandkids coming in to visit or a son or daughter coming home.” She shook her head in disgust, “But I suppose that would have taken you away from your precious crossword.”

Reaching in his back pocket, Sam pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose, loudly, and then spent a couple of seconds sniffing and wiping the end of his nose. “Well, if it was that damned important to him he would have said something wouldn’t he? Besides, he ain’t hurting anything and he’s been real quiet. He hasn’t moved from that chair. Just keeps looking at his hands like he’s never seen ’em before.”

Without folding it, Sam shoved the handkerchief back in his pocket. Glancing back down to his crossword, he scowled. “Hey Leanne, what’s a three-letter word for old sailor?”

“Tar.”

Leanne and Sam both jumped as the old man said it again, “Tar.” They looked at each other, struggling not to laugh nervously; Leanne checking the crotch of her jeans because she could have sworn she’d wet herself just now. Sam nodded and said, “Thanks Old Timer.”

The old man grunted and went back to inspecting his hands.

Leanne leaned close to Sam and whispered, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary, he just scared the shit out of me!” Sam leaned back and putting his hands behind his head to crack his knuckles, nodded. “Me too.”

“Didn’t he sound kind of familiar? You know, like someone you know, or is that just me.”

“He just sounded old and gravelly. Like he has rocks in his throat or chest; in a few more years he’ll start sounding all wheezy and whispery. I mean look at him, he must be 90 if he’s a day.”

The wind blew again this time it was a real howler. Wailing and gusting aggressively the wind smacked the entrance door open. Sand, litter and the odd scorpion were blown into the waiting room. The dust bunnies and empty candy wrappers swirled up and away from the old man’s row and for a second looked like a miniature dust devil. The cobwebs strained against their anchored ends and held on. Clenching his fists, the old man did not move one bit. Even his clothes seemed to be unaware of the wind and dust that was swirling around.

“Leanne!” Sam pointed to the still open door. “Go close that damned thing before it breaks and put the latch on. There are two of us here now we can close up and watch for the bus. I don’t want to be stepping on scorpions and tarantulas in here!”

Leanne bolted from her seat and with her eyes squinted against the grit in the air she slammed the door shut and turned the bolt. “Is that good enough for you, your highness?”

Sam didn’t even bother looking up. “Great. Wonderful. Put yourself up for a commendation. I’ve got a whole drawer full of gold stars. Why don’t you pin one on your ass.” Leanne, shot him the finger and Sam chuckled. “Yes dear, I know I’m number one. Thank you for remembering.”

“George C Scott.” Leanne jumped and whirled around. The old man was looking at her with eyes that looked kind and tired. “That’s who folks tell me I sound like.” Leanne smiled. “That’s it! That’s who you sound like. My boy was watching some cartoon where he did the voice. You sound just like him.” He redirected his eyes to his hands and seemed to forget she was there. Leanne watched him for a moment thinking he might say something else, but he remained mute.

Spinning around she headed back toward the counter. Just as she reached the counter, Sam looked up and past her.

The old man rose slowly from his chair. As he got to his feet he reached behind him with both hands as though he were going to massage his back. His hands reappeared with two of the biggest guns Sam had ever seen. They made Dirty Harry‘s .44 Magnum look like a pea shooter.

Sam’s eyes widened, “Leanne, Look…” Sam’s face erupted in a geyser of blood and bone and flesh, his body toppled backward on the chair and only stopped when it met the floor. His pencil was still gripped in his right hand and it marked the floor a bit as he twitched once or twice.

Leanne felt someone punch her in the back, hard, as though she’d been hit by a baseball bat; she automatically looked down and saw a section of her spine blow out of her stomach. It was the last thing she saw as she lost consciousness and fell to join Sam’s lifeless body on the floor. The big old man walked slowly up to the two dead bus station employees.

He stood looking at them and put the guns back in his waistband behind his back. He leaned over Sam and cleared his throat. Sounding just like George C. Scott he said, “Shooter’s hands sonny, not boxers, shooters.” He turned on his heel and strode out the entrance leaving the door to swing in the wind.

Michael E. Smith copyright 2013-01-08