My Headcanon

When writing about the Star Wars games that I played, I noticed that almost all of them are pretty old by now. So I got to work to create some kind of timeline of what I consider the important books, comics, and games of the Expanded Universe and the result I got is this.

You can get the 90s Kid out of the 90s, but you can’t get the 90s out of the 90s Kid. It really seems like the golden age of Star Wars to me, which is not terribly surprising given how old I was then. If I would have been into anything else, I probably would still vonsider the 90s to be the best period it ever had.

Another thing that surprised me in hindsight that there were six years between the release of Episode 1 and Episode 3. Such restraint! It almost seems like they were making those movies one at at time. Which seems incredibly slow by today’s standards. At least I got to be relieved that the time between 3 and 7 was not nearly as long as the time between 6 and 1, which by this point would no longer have surprised me. Still, in trade school I have classmates who were not even born when Episode 1 was out.

The Force is strong with this one

Impressive. Most impressive.

If you played the game, you recognize that this isn’t just a Star War movie, this is a real Tie Fighter movie. I’ve played this game and X-Wing to no end and this one was clearly done by someone who has not just seen it, but knows how it feels to play. I’ve never seen such a smoothly done attempt at representing game mechanics in a movie. If you haven’t played the game, you probably won’t be able to spot the moments that emulate it.

Very nicely done.

My Game List

In a roughly chronological order, as far as I can remember it.

  • X-Wing: (1993, PC) My first “proper” videogame that I played at my home for serious amounts of time. After having first played it at a friend’s place after school for dozens of hours, it was the very first game I got for myself when we got our first computer. Wonderful game that I still never completed.
  • Tie Fighter: (1994, PC) Much more polished than X-Wing with better graphics, a much wider variety of ships, and a much stronger campaign. And to my knowledge so far the only game that lets you play as a loyal Imperial from start to end. This one I did actually finish.
  • Rebel Assault II: (1995, PC) An okay arcade game that I played quite some time when I didn’t feel like X-Wing or Tie Fighter, but ultimately it was forgetable.
  • Rebel Assault: (1993, PC) I got this one because it was a Star Wars game and I needed more! Of this one I remember almost nothing and I didn’t play it much.
  • Shadows of the Empire: (1996, PC) A game that I think is objectively pretty poor and probably aged terribly by now, but back in the day I thought it was really awesome. A fun third person console shoter that captured the style of Star Wars pretty well but had a really weird 3D-Engine that handled perspective in a rather wonkey way.
  • Rebellion: (1998, PC) This is a strategy game that was very different from the Command & Conquers and Warcrafts that were the mainstream of that time. Pretty much the whole game takes place on a big map of the galaxy on which you place orders to produce ships and train troops and send them to guard or attack various systems. There is a 3D space battle mode that lets you command your ships in a way somewhat resembling Homeworld, but it never worked well and took really long and you always had the option to simply let the computer calculate an outcome for the battle instantaneously. Still, as a strategy game it was pretty cool and I played it a lot.
  • Rogue Squadron: (1998, PC) This game has lots of big fans, but I am not one of them. I just wanted more stuff like X-Wing and this one is more of an arcade style console game. And I thought it also looked rather ugly with its very limited range of sight and pretty small combat areas.
  • X-Wing Alliance: (1999, PC) This game looks much better and sophisticated than Tie Fighter, but in the end it left me somewhat lukewarm. I still played it all the way through two or three times, but the campaign just couldn’t compete with Tie Fighter.
  • Episode I: (1999, PC) This is one of the worst games I ever played, and certainly the worst one that I finished. It’s just awful in every way and I was actually very hesitant to get it, but it was a Star Wars game and I needed it!
  • Racer: (1999, PC) Making a Star Wars racing game that is really just a reskin of Wipeout sounds like a terrible idea, but the end result was actually really great. It’s really fast, as you would expect from Podracing, and the tracks are just gorgeous. When I got Wipeout HD for PS3 a while back I was actually really disappointed how poorly it held up compared to the cool tracks of Racer. I might actually hunt down an old N64 just to play this game on a big TV.
  • Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast: (2002, PC) This game is awesome! Kyle Katarrn is awesome! And you run around slicing stormtroopers to pieces with a lightsaber! The plot and the villain are crap and the levels not very pretty, but fighting against Dark Jedi with lightsabers is just such amazing fun. I actually played this one online for quite some time, which was always a blast with pretty much every match having force jump and force push set to maximum.
  • Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy: (2003, PC) And this one is even better! You don’t get to play Kyle Katarrn and your new generic Jedi apprentice isn’t that interesting, but the level design is much prettier and the various levels have a lot more variety. And more lightsaber action.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: (2003, PC, Xbox) Widely considered to be the best Star Wars game ever made. And for good reasons. It’s a pretty standard BioWare RPG and actually the first of the post-D&D games style that has now become the standard with Mass Effect and Dragon Age. For some reason I completed the game only once when it came out and started a second short-lived attempt years later. Now 14 years later I am finally giving it another go. (And so far it doesn’t disappoint.)
  • The Force Unleashed: (2008, PS3) This game really is just a Star Wars reskin of God of War/Devil May Cry. And I have to give it to the game that it is pretty fun to play. But as a Star Wars story it’s just terrible. The plot and especially the protagonist are just completely bonkers and have no place in Star Wars. Unlike what I hoped for, this game is in no way a substitute for Jedi Knight. (Still got a Platinum trophy on PS3.)
  • Racer Revenge: (2002, PS2) I got this game when I first heard that Racer was also available on PS2. Though only kind of, as it turned out. It’s the same engine, but this game has completely different tracks. Which just nowhere come close to the awesomness of the original game. A straight up port would have been much better.

Upcoming

These are games that I have not played yet but plan to do so, or which have been announced and that I am looking forward to to see how they turn out.

  • Republic Commando: (2005, Xbox) I’ve heard pretty good things about this game many times and always planned to try it myself some day. Until just recently I never realized that it’s actually been out for 12 years now. I finally got the game and play to give it a try after I finished my new KotOR run.
  • Battlefront 4: (PS4) Battlefront 3 is the most impressive looking game I’ve ever seen and I’ve been planning to give another shot at serious online playing for a while, but all the reviews for it just made it sound too simplistic to invest more than a few hours into it. With Battlefront 4 I am hoping that they won’t be repeating the same mistakes and the announcements for the campaign actually sound like something that could potentially be pretty interesting. Not expecting much from it, but it’s something I want to keep an eye on.
  • Visceral Games RPG: (PS4) I know very little about the game except that it’s an RPG that is being made by the developers of Dead Space and has the director and writer of the Legacy of Kain and Uncharted series. And as a huge bonus it is set during the Rebellion era, which means it probably is going to ignore the Clone Wars and New Wars material for the most part. This could potentially be huge.

Battlefront 4 Campaign Trailer

When Battlefront 3 had been announced I was quite interested in it. I am not much of an online shoter player, only having played Counter Strike, Jedi Outcast, Quake 3 to any real extend and a bit of Battlefield 1942, and those were all obviously a long time ago. Battlefront 3 seemed like a good opportunity to give it another try, but reviews and popular opinion of that game were just so poor that I skipped it. Though it’s certainly a very pretty looking game. The best looking one I’ve ever seen.

So I am quite looking forwards to Battlefront 4. If they manage to fix their mistakes from the last game, it looks like something I’d want to play.

I just found out that this game will also have a campaign. I’m not expecting much of it (though I do really like the campaign in Bad Company) but it certainly looks like an interesting idea for a story.

The hero is a female imperial special forces commander who is send to Endor to put an end to that ridiculous Ewok problem at the shield generator when suddenly everything goes to hell. The Emperor dead, the Death Star destroyed, Vader dead, Piett dead, and the Executor gone. That’s the moment when things start not looking good anymore for the Empire. This could be an interesting setup for a story.

I wouldn’t expect too much from it, though. It might very well be only four hours long and most likely she’s going to join the Rebels halfway through. Which is in fact the main topic everyone is complaining about in the comments. When was the last time that you actually played a genuine Imperial character in a game? As far as I know that was Tie Fighter in 1994, which I believe was also the only time. If they can manage to make a halfway decent Bad Guy campaign it would certainly be welcome.

Another thing to point out is that the protagonist is a mid-30s brown woman. When did you ever see that in a mainstream action game before? But at the same time, this is 2017! Why is this still something worth mentioning? That you can praise a company for doing this is really an embarrasment for everyone else. When was the last time we got a non-fantasy action game with a female hero? The only ones I can think of are Metroid and Tomb Raider. Which started over 20 years ago! Seriously? The early 90s were less conservative than we are now? What a shame. I hope we’ll be seing some more of this before the end of the decade

Moderately hyped

This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 28th May 2017.

I’m not really keeping up with video game news these days and the last time I heard about Star Wars games was when LucasArts became defunct and Battlefront 3 ended up being a gorgeously looking disappointment.

But this week I became aware that there appear to be new Star Wars games in development, which to the rest of the world has already been known for a year. After having sat throught the last two movies besides my better judgement I made the descision to banish pretty much everything post 1999 from my headcanon (except for Jedi Knight games and KotOR) and didn’t really have any hopes of anything new coming out that I would care for. But the details about one particular game in production did get a curious raise of an eyebrow.

The game is being made by Visceral Games, who made Dead Space (“interesting”), with the team being led by Amy Henning who was also in charge of Legacy of Kain and Uncharted (“nice”). And it’s being set some time before the first movie, putting it straight into the Classic Star Wars period (“oh, sweet!”).

This could end up being not terrible and worth playing.

However, rumor has it that it’s going to be an open-world game and I absolutely hate those. Though that’s not actually true. What I hate are sandbox games where you do nothing but lame fetch quests and collecting crafting materials with some lame story tacked on that gets swamped by the busywork. It seriously harmed The Witcher 3 and was the main reason I never even bothered with Dragon Age 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda. However, even with an open-world, The Witcher 3 has a great story with actual nice characters very much unlike a Bethesda snorefest and Baldur’s Gate, Gothic, and Stalker are actually all open-world games as well. They just aren’t shitty sandboxes in which “you can do everything you want”, except for playing a good story. So I am not writing this one off as pointless junk yet. The ability to roam in two dimension instead of just one is not at all an inherently bad game element in itself. The Witcher 3 actually used it really well, except that the world was way too big and the density of meaningful content much too low. When this game is out, I’m probably going to at least read some reviews to see what people think about it.

Two decades ago, on a tiny TV in a city not far away

This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 4th May 2017.

It’s May the Fourth, and not just any 4. May. 40 years ago, in May 1977, Star Wars was first released in theatres. The public had not seen it yet, but it already existed and the hype was already on.

For me, it’s also my 22nd May the Fourth. As far as I am able to piece it together, it was some time in spring 1995, around my 11th birthday, when I had just moved to a new city and went to Hamburg to visit a friend from my old class for a weekend. I remember quite well how my dad dropped my off at the train station where I got picked up by my friend and his mother. But before we drove to his home, we still had to go to the department store across the street because my friend wanted to buy a toy. It was a pretty weird looking toy and in the car I asked my friend what it was. His reaction was pretty much “Dude, you’ve never heard about Star Wars?!”

From what he told me it sounded quite interesting and once we got home he went to show me his collection of Star Wars toys. All the times I had been to his place before after school we mostly played Super Nintendo. And all those little weird figures looked really cool and we ended up playing with them the whole afternoon. And eventually he asked his mom if we could watch Star Wars on video in the evening. Which we did!

I can still quite well remember the room with the small TV that probably wasn’t bigger than 15″. I think I was quite excited by that point and from the moment that Star Destroyer thundered on the screen nothing would ever be the same. I was hooked. Instantly. I’ve known fairy tales and The Hobbit all my life and I can’t even remember a time when we didn’t watch Star Trek practically every day. But this was something completely different. It was simply awesome. In every sense of the word. When it was over I was thrilled and so we just went on watching The Empire Strikes Back right after it. I don’t think we asked if we were allowed to watch videos that late. The next morning we watched The Return of the Jedi and the rest of saturday and sunday morning was all Star Wars.

That same year I finished elementary school and in my next new class I made a new friend who also loved Star Wars. And his dad had a computer but was at work during the day. And on that computer we played X-Wing. A lot! I think for months we spend at least one afternoon after school per week at his place and a lot of that was playing X-Wing. When we got out own first computer, X-Wing was the first game I had to get. And then Tie Fighter.

And then came 1997. Star Wars was rereleased in cinemas. Of course we had to go. My dad thought it was okay. My mother quite liked it. And my brother was just as blown away by it as I was. Then we got it on video as well. And here I am, still gushing about it 20 years later. I can safely say that Star Wars changed my life. I liked Star Trek before and fantastical childrens books, but seeing Star Wars on that little crappy TV on the floor opened up a whole new world for me and came to define my imagination and passions. I am as much a fan of Star wars as one can possibly get before it becomes embarassing. To this day The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie ever and all creative work I do is filtered through that movie. This website exist because of it. All because of that little blue and white plastic trash can.

Noooooooooo!

My Xbox 360 died, that old fosil. Just when I was fighting through the two droids that guard the first star map on Dantooine while playing Knights of the Old Republic.

It took me 15 hours to get to this point, right when the not so great prolog ends and the fun main part of the game begins.

I got a replacement very cheaply on ebay, which arrived after just two days, but recovering any data from that hard drive would require buying new cables (which I had but threw away a few months back because I never used them in the decade I had them) and that’s just not worth the trouble. So back from the beginning. Again.