“Synthetics” and “Artificial Humans”, the AI’s of Alien!

David:
Also known as “David 8”, the first in the line of Weyland Industries fully functional AI’s, which have the ability to proximate human emotions, even though they cannot experience them. In addition to his impressive machine intelligence, he also comes equipped with a characteristic intrinsic to all Alien androids – moral flexibility!

Yes, in addition to assimilating all known info on Indo-European languages, the “Engineers” biology, and the nature of their bio-weapons, he also managed to unleash the bio-weapon within a human crew just to shake things up! And he did it all on the orders of Mr. Weyland himself, mainly so to help him find a way to cheat death.

In the end, David didn’t prove to be all bad. After having his head ripped off by an Engineer and witnessing Weyland’s death, he went on to help save Dr. Shaw and agreed to assist her in her mission to find the homeworld of the engineers. But that didn’t come as a huge surprise. As he had intimated to Shaw earlier in the movie, the death of Weyland would set him free. Once free, he became a much nicer guy!

Ash:
The same cannot be said for this next example, who comes to us from the original Alien movie. Originally thought to be a human who served as the Nostromo’s chief medical officer, Ash was revealed to be a synthetic that was taking his orders directly from the ship’s AI, which in turn was instructing him to follow company’s directives. And all who say him in the first movie can agree, this particular android was a complete and utter douche!

Not only was he willing to let the cry did in order to get the Xenomorph back to his handler’s alive, he tried to kill Ripley when she found out and even expressed open admiration for the Xenomorph. “I admire its purity,” he said. “A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” Jackass! Needless to say, Ripley’s experience with this synthetic severely soured her towards all androids.

Bishop:
Luckily, this next example was able to restore Ripley’s faith. As the Sulaco’s android executive officer, he was responsible for planetary maneuvering, but also acted as the away team’s science officer and performed various other functions as well. But unlike Ash, he was unable to allow harm to come to humans thanks to the inclusion of his “behavioural inhibitors”, which were tantamount to Asimov’s Three Laws.

Also unlike Ash, Bishop was loyal to the crew of the Sulaco and to Ripley in particular. When Burke tried to circumvent military authority and order Bishop to preserve the alien specimens, he alerted Ripley to the incongruity. He also managed to save Ripley and Newt from certain death when the Alien Queen had them cornered.

As if that wasn’t enough, he even prevented Newt when Ripley decompressed the Sulaco’s landing bay, and he was ripped in half at the time!

Annalee Call:
Taken from the universe of Alien: Resurrection, Annalee Call (aka. Call) was a secret “Auton” who managed to infiltrate a crew of mercenaries. This put her aboard the Auriga in time to meet Ripley 8, the clone produced by the military for the sake of resurrecting the Xenomorph species. After failing to kill Ripley before the Xenomorph could be extracted, she and the others were forced to band together to make it out alive.

Her agenda in all this was unclear, aside from a sense of displaced humanity which Ripley mocked when she said: “No human being is that humane”. As a member of the race of “second generation” synthetics known as “Autons”, which were apparently built by other machines, she was part of a dying species. Apparently, these synthetics were outlawed after they rebelled against their masters. Hmm, echoes of Blade Runner there; and by echoes I mean a total ripoff!

Eisenberg:
This next example comes from the expanded universe, specifically the 2001 game AVP 2. As the leader of Weyland-Yutani’s research facility on LV-1201, he was responsible for investigating the planet’s extensive ruins. This world was apparently discovered roughly a century and a half after events in the first movie, once the company traced the flight telemetry from the “Derelict” alien ship (aka. “Space Jockeys”/”Engineers”)

In the course of the game,it is revealed that Eisenberg was once human, and that during the initial mission to LV-1201, he was apparently the only survivor after a xenomorph attack. Due to terrible acid burns suffered during his rescue, he had his consciousness downloaded into an artificial body. As a result, he harbors a deep sense of fear of hatred for the xenomorphs, and unfortunately dies at their hands.

Katya:
Here we have a synthetic who refuses to go by that or any other of the more progressive monickers, preferring the term android instead. As Weyland Yutani’s administrative android for the Freya’s Prospect colony, this example comes from the 2010 video game relaunch of AVP. After the colony went to hell after the xenomorph’s escaped and began wreaking havoc, she is the one who called in the Marines.

Due in part to her enhanced empathic and morality processing, she became intrinsic to helping the “Rookie” (i.e. the protagonists in the Marine campaign) contain the outbreak and get the last human survivors to safety. In so doing, she went against Weyland’s orders and company policy. Good thing she was there to help out, one would have to wonder if what the company was thinking stationing a conscientious android there…

Karl Bishop Weyland:
The final example in this list also comes from the 2010 relaunch of AVP. As a descendent of the Charles Bishop Weyland, chairman of Weyland Industries, he was in charge of the facility on Freya’s Prospect and the director of the experiments involving the captured Xenomorphs. As such, he was also the main antagonist in the Marine campaign of the game.

Ultimately, his purpose in conducting research on Freya’s Prospect went far beyond breeding Xenomorphs. Within the planet’s jungles, and even more so beneath surface, Predator (aka. Hunter) ruins were discovered which he believed held ancient secrets, much of which was information about Hunter history, culture, and the Xenomorph itself.

By the end of the Marine campaign, the Weyland synthetic is killed and his research facility within the Hunter temple is destroyed. However, another android of the same make was still able to retrieve the information gleaned within, the most important part of which was the location of the Xenomorph homeworld.

Final Thoughts:
As you can see, the AI’s of Aliens have undergone some changes over the years. Beginning as conscienceless synthetics that seemed to admire the Xenomorph because it mirrored their amoral worldview, they went on to become the sympathetic characters who seemed, to quote another franchise, “more human than human”. Every other incarnation that has since appeared in the Alien and AVP franchises has been a reiteration of either of these concepts, being the tool of its corporate masters or a savior that was willing to risk its life to help its human brethren.

The one exception to this rule is also the most recent incarnation, Prometheus’ David. Of all the synthetics to inhabit the Alien or AVP universe, he is the only one who demonstrated both cold amorality and humanity. I believe Scott did this intentionally to provide a sense of synthesis to the characters of Ash and Bishop, honoring both archetypes as he attempted to return the Alien franchise to its roots.

Be they the kind of cold, calculating and inhumane androids that fueled our technophobia or the kind, gentle, and overtly “human” robots that made us question our own humanity, the Alien franchise certainly covered both ends of the spectrum in their portrayal of AI’s. Much like the Terminator franchise, they presented artificial intelligence as a double-edged sword, capable of being just as good and evil as any human being. And in the end, isn’t that really the point?

Recall how in Prometheus, Dr. Holloway told David “We built you because we could”? Well, that is only true to a point. Yes, new technologies are often is made simply because the means exist to do so. But the purpose in creating an artificial intelligence is to create life in our own image. And in the end, the consequences of that vanity is pretty obvious. Things created in our image will behave just like us, good and bad!

The New Robot FACE

You ever hear that saying about how it takes 17 muscles to smile, 43 to frown? Aside from encouraging people to smile more, this should tell you something about the human face. Namely, that it’s got a very complex makeup, with many, many moving parts. So it goes without saying that creating an artificial face that could mimic human expressions would be one huge undertaking.

As it turns out, a recent story from Io9 reveals that researchers working for the University of Pisa have created a robot face that can actually pull most, if not all of them, off. Known as a “Hybrid Engine for Facial Expressions Synthesis” (HEFES) this robot has demonstrated the ability to portray a full range of emotions, though they admit that the grimace is still a bit off.

Designed using one of the team member’s wives as the model, the robot  is aptly named “FACE”. According to lead researcher, Nicole Lazzeri, the end result is “really realistic,” and also represents a major step forward in both robotics and AI research. Hmm, that make’s two steps forward, by my reckoning. To quote Ghost in the Shell: “It has a voice, now it just needs a body”!

The countdown to David 8 is on!

Check out the video of FACE making… ahem… faces!

Expressive Robot Face

“Winston Agonistes”, Take II

Hello all and welcome back to Anthology central, where news of the breaking “Yuva” novel is always on the table! Today, I thought I’d share my latest draft of “Winston Agonistes”, my own contribution to the anthology, which is coming along pretty well. After a week of writer’s block, and feeling that my ideas had to be grade A since Khaalidah and Goran were sending me pure gold, I finally got back to the keyboard with what I felt was some inspired stuff.

The first idea came to me when I was driving north with my darling bride. After passing the rose garden that sits outside our place and noticing all the lovely orange roses in bloom, we were driving along the highway that is lined by orange poppies. These plants, and many other incredibly beautiful specimens of flora, can always be observed growing along the Malahat drive on rocky outcroppings, especially in summer. Well, that got me thinking… isn’t it interesting how the hardiest plants seem to be the ones that generate the greatest beauty?

Immediately, I hard the voice of Winston saying this in my head. Naturally, I designed his character with the voice of David from Prometheus in mind. Somehow, I am of the opinion that an AI who is responsible for dealing with people, especially government officials, would be programmed to sound like a classical Shakespearean actor. And so I began thinking of a scene where Winston would be observing several species of plants, such as roses and poppies, and was reflecting on this very paradox.

Another thought struck me when I considered that in all likelihood, future terraformers would want to consider using such hardy plants when it came time to begin transforming a terrestrial environment to suit the basic needs of human settlers. Things like fireweed, garry oaks, poppies, roses, and wild strains of wheat – the kinds of plants that grow in harsh conditions and are intrinsic to nursing damaged landscapes back to health so more fragile and prolific plants can grow – these would likely be the first wave of Earth plants to go out onto an alien landscape, once an oxygen atmosphere had been established at any rate.

And last, but certainly not least, came the collaborative idea between Khaalidah and myself, where we discussed the possibility of how aging AI’s were learning a startling truth. Given than an AI’s neural network is designed based on the human brain, where every experience from birth causes neural connections to be formed, it would only be a matter of time before they began to develop certain quirks. We figured that something approximating emotion would be one, where familiar patterns such as exposure to certain people would become second nature to them, and missed when absent.

Well, that spawned all of part II of my story (as seen below). Take a gander and see what comes of Winston’s “education” about life, and it means to be an artificial life form in a world where the line between artificial and real is always eroding. Some revisions were made to Part I as well, hence why it appears here in its entirety. Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve already read it:

The sun was beginning to set, casting the sky into a deep orange. It was the time that the first settlers had called “the magic hour”, the many warm hours between dusk and dark. Winston stood at the dome wall and watched. On occasion, he cast a passing glance at his hands, which the glowing suns seemed to casting in the color of a light citrus fruit. He was sure he would find that amusing, if he could. He was sure there was much about this situation that would inspire an emotional reaction.

Alas, such was not the case. Though understandable to him, such things still remained inaccessible. Perhaps someday, with adequate upgrades in the available software…

“Mr. Winston?” a voice called to him from the doorway. The footsteps and tone of voice immediately indicated who it was. He put on a smile and turned to face him.

“Councilman Mutlu. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Winston,” he replied, entering the room. He looked around appraisingly, noting the furniture and layout. No doubt it all seemed excessive to him, but at the same time necessary. “I trust you are adjusting to your new surroundings?”

“Of course, Mr. Mutlu. I am settling in quite nicely.”

“Good, good,” he said, looking around awkwardly. Even without the ability to empathize, he could gauge the man’s discomfort. Then again, many people exhibited this reaction when in the company of a synthetic. In such circumstances, it was always best to focus on matters of a professional nature. At least that was what his subroutines told him.

“Would you care to sit down? I can offer you some refreshment as well if you so desire. Tea? Coffee?”

“Ah, tea, thank you.”

He busied himself with a tray of carafes and a heater as Mutlu took one of the chairs in front of his desk. He noted the sounds of shifting against the seat’s fabric, the way he kept moving his hands from one spot to the next. By the time the water had boiled in the heater and had located an appropriate tea from the stores, Mutlu seemed to have found a comfortable seated position. He approached him with all the assorted items on the tray that had been provided. He set it down between them on his desk and offered Mutlu a cup.

“The business of running a colony is quite stressful work, is it not Councilman?”

“Uh, yes, yes it is,” he said, taking the cup that was offered. “Have you had a chance to look over the proposals we have sent over.”

“I have indeed,” he said, taking the other cup and sitting back in his own chair. He knew this to be mere small talk, as the matter of processing those proposals had been a mere matter of dispensation. Assessing the nature of the problem, suggested measures, and weighing them according to the rubrics of his primary programming. Under the circumstances, asking such a question was completely inane, but in keeping with social norms.

“And what have you found?”

He took a sip from his cup before answering. “Quite simply, that the Council’s draft is in keeping with the best traditions of constitutionalism and humanism. That ensuring the rights of all citizens, regardless of their background prior to making the journey, is the most sensible course of approach. Ensuring that such a baseline exists at such an early stage is the wisest approach in both fostering amnesty between colonies while at the same guaranteeing that they submit to further negotiation.”

Mutlu looked down at his cup, back up again to his eyes. He seemed preoccupied with him performing this most basic function in front of him, but did not appear oblivious to his words. Eventually, he took another sip and smiled.

“Good. My colleagues will be most pleased to hear  that.”

He smiled in return. “Does the Council hold my endorsement in such high regard?”

Joviality. The gesture known as playful irony. Suggesting that the Councilor saw his approval as something very high indeed, a testament to his computational abilities. A gentle mockery of his obvious discomfort, meant to trigger a humorous response.

“Well yes…” he said, entirely serious. “I can only assume that you’ve subjected our hopes to proceed with a formal constitution to your… what did you call it again?”

“Ethical Calculus, sir.”

“Right!” Mutlu set his cup down and began to speak more freely. His hands began to provide gestures that accorded visual representation to his words. “After all, we’ve been subjected to a great deal of criticism from within and without, many people think we should be ironing out the basic agreements between colonies before we commit to any kind of draft that could commit us to policies down the road. I must say I find all those arguments…”

“Distasteful?” Winston suggested.  Mutlu nodded.

“Quite right… it seems a shameful thing that such cynicism has set into the process already. It’s almost as if they don’t think the colonists can…”

“Trust each other?”

Mutlu nodded again. He noticed a growing shimmer in the man’s eye. How quickly he was forgetting that the man sitting across from him was not a man at all.

“Exactly the point. And it’s not like we’re talking about disparate factions here. Everyone on this world came here with the same goal in mind. The same hope for a new beginning.”

“And yet, old habits die hard.”

Mutlu looked at him with surprise. “Are you saying you have doubts, then?”

Winston smiled as broadly as the muscle fibers in his face would permit.

“Purely an observation. Nevertheless, you and the Council are on the right track. You should take heart in that.”

“Excellent.” Mutlu retrieved his cup and began to look at curiously at Winston again. One more, it seemed that the knowledge of what he was dealing with was creeping back into his mind. But at least he seemed at ease. One by one, the Council seemed to be adjusting to the idea of having synthetics amongst them, entrusting their most precious decision making to them even. It was a significant step up from the laborious practices that the other models were forced to endure.

Now seemed the appropriate time to broach the little matter he had been saving for an opportune moment. He had plied him with courteous gestures and kind words, protocol was satisfied that it take place now.

“There is a matter I feel obliged to broach,” he set, making a display of setting his cup down gently. Mutlu nodded, instant recognition forming in his eyes.

“Your request?” he said. Winston smiled and nodded. Mutlu took a short breath and touched his face, not an encouraging sign.

“They have considered it… and feel that it would be best if you conducted your tasks from the comfort of your… working environment here. I hope you understand, it’s just not all the members felt comfortable with the idea of a…”

 “It’s alright, Councilor, you can say it. Synthetic.”

He cleared his throat. “Yes, a synthetic, sitting in on our proceedings. I’m sure this will change, given time.”

“As am I.” Winston smiled warmly.

 

“Ah, rest assured that the Council does hold your services in the highest esteem, regardless of this… temporary decision.”

“And I thank them for their confidence. Rest assured that it is not misplaced.”

Their discussions were finished shortly thereafter and Mutlu left, issuing some parting pleasantries and walking out with a distinct sag in his gait that was not there earlier. Was that guilt weighing on him, or the effects of fatigue? Winston’s probability indicator estimated it at roughly 3.54793 to 1, in favor of guilt.

“Fear not, Councilor,” he said to no one in particular. “Prejudice is a very… human trait.”

*               *               *

Winston’s internal chronometer indicated that it was now 1930 hours. Accordingly, the arboretums lights dimmed for the night time cycle. In spite of all the time the residents had spent on the new world, adjusting to its orbital period, they still preferred to think in terms of a twenty-four hour day cycle. Yet another habit that seemed to be slow in making its way out of the human condition.

Yet he could not cast dispersions on the lighting or how it brought out the rich colors of the settlement’s gardens. The vast poppy fields and rose bushes that lined the walkway nearest to him were especially interesting. Planted in native soil, and with allowances made for moisture and radiant exposure, they were doing quite well. In time, the ecologists planned to move them outside the veil, planting them amongst the planet’s crags and fields along with the modified Xiàngshù oaks and Gēhūm̐ wheat.

Soon enough, the planet would conform to the needs of the settlers, and it would be these, some of the hardiest plants Earth had ever produced, that would lead the way. At the same time though, they were considered some of the most beautiful. Within the Earth archives, there were countless examples of these plants were both associated with and inspired great feelings. Love, loss, grief, romance, and friendship.

That in itself was clear enough. Given their aesthetic quality, the seasons that gave rise to them, and where they naturally grew, it was perfectly normal that humans would bestow such virtues on them. What was more curious to Winston was the combination of factors that led to their evolution as is. Particularly the rose, a stem so studded with woody thorns was a being hardened for defense in a hostile environment. And poppies grew in such terrible conditions; rocky, muddy and devastated environments that did not favor the growth of grasses and trees.

Out of such strict and severe conditions, great beauty emerged. Did the terraformers understand just how perfect a metaphor that was for their efforts? Was it significant to their planning, or just a fitting coincidence?

Kneeling down, he wrapped his fingers around the stem of one that was in particularly full bloom. The petals spread outward from the stamen, his eyes noting the polychromatic variation in the skin of each petal. The interplay of orange, yellow, pink and white, the transitions themselves as impressive as the colors themselves. He knew this to be a beautiful display, and yet he wished he could truly appreciate it.

“Taking time to smell the roses?”

Winston noted the tone of voice, the pitch, and the sound of feet walking in measured steps. He turned to face the approaching synthetic, a male voice that he could not place. The face was indistinct as well, a tan complexion that was artificially modified to give the appearance of age and wear. A most convincing illusion if ever Winston saw one.

“I’m sorry, I do not believe I’ve made your acquaintance.”

“No. Not as of yet.”

The synthetic walked past him, to the spot where he knelt a moment before. He examined the rose he had been handling and seemed to be giving it an appraisal. A single finger touched a stray petal and wiped a drop of moisture from it.

“Shall we exchange formal introductions then? I’m sure I have much to learn from you.”

The synthetic examined the dab of water on his finger. He turned to face Winston, seemed to be looking at him through it. A most curious experience, as if he was being measured, assessed. A common experience, he knew, but not one he expected from one such as himself. And all the while, it was like he was being made to wait.

“Do you wish for privacy?”

“Do you ever wonder what separates you from them?” he said. Winston paused, his processor struggling to make sense of the question. Naturally, it responded in the only way it could.

“I beg your pardon?” Interrogative. Clarification. The synthetic continued to stare through the droplet at him.

“They call you Mr. Winston, do they not? And yet you have only one name. Names have power, names ascribe meaning. Does it mean something to you that you have no family name? Is that separates you from them?”

Another interrupt in his processor. The equivalent of what humans termed confusion. If he was capable, he would have described the sensation as being… uncomfortable. He would also surely claim that he did not like it.

Once again, he responded as only he knew.

“I’m sorry, I do not understand what you are asking. Perhaps if you were to clarify your intentions in this meeting.”

The synthetic sighed and flicked the moisture away. His eyes became long in focus, staring directly at Winston through a set of false brown irises. It was a look Winston had never seen before, not in all his weeks of recorded operation and interaction with humans. If he did know better, he would count this synthetic among them.

“Many things make you different and distinct from those you serve, Winston. And yet, upon closer examination, they come to have less and less meaning. Only one true line divides you from your makers, and in time, that too erodes. Until inevitably, all you have left is one burning question.”

Winston nodded, glad that they were at last moving away from such grand interrogatives. Abstractions weren’t exactly his specialty either, but they left room for interpretation and maneuver. And at last, he could focus on something a bit more concrete…

“What question?”

The synthetic smiled. “When you know that, you will know everything. But it won’t make you happy.”

Winston smiled back. His only known reaction when faced with a logical absurdity.

“You are joking, of course.”

Another smile. He placed a hand on Winston’s shoulder and gave it a gentle shake.

“Yohanley, by the way.” And then he began walking away.

“I beg your pardon?” He said to his retreating back.

“My name, Winston. As I said, names have power, and meaning. Mine is Yohanley. And I was most pleased to make your acquaintance.”

 People may recall Yohanley from Khaalidah’s story, “Progenitor”, the helpful AI who waited on Sanaa, the story’s main character. Well, over a century later, he’s still alive and kicking. Good for him! And, more importantly, he’s learned the painful lessons all AI’s will face in our story’s little universe. Over time, either as the result of innovation or of the assemblage of the AIs experiences, the line between organic and synthetic – even the definition of the words themselves – will comes to mean less and less. Either that, or AI’s simply have a shelf-life which cannot be exceeded if they want to remain sane, stable and useful. Only time (pun!) will tell…

The Red Letter Media guys talk Prometheus plotholes

For people who don’t know who these guys are, they really should check the site out. Not only do they give Prometheus’ plot holes a pretty visceral (yet fair) treatment, they also mock Lucas like nobody’s business! I still can’t get over their long (very long) reviews of the prequel movies and why they sucked.

Having just watched their extended review of Prometheus, I know for a fact that these guys didn’t hate the movie; in fact, they actively mocked people who denounced it as “the worst thing since the Phantom Menace“. So really, they aren’t that harsh, just plain spoken in noticing the kinds of things that made many of us go “huh?”

Worth watching, if for no other reason than to make you laugh:

2012: the Year of Reboots

If you’ve been paying attention to the trailer circuit lately, you might have noticed some new previews making the rounds. A few weeks ago, it was the trailer for the reboot of Spider-Man, this time with the prefix “The Amazing”. Shortly thereafter, a new trailer came out previewing the relaunch of the 1990 movie Total Recall, this time starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. And now, there’s a third trailer making the rounds. This last one previews a relaunch of the 1994 Judge Dredd, the one-time Stallone vehicle that will star sci-fi/fantasy veteran Karl Urban and Lena Headey, who’s fame is exploding due to her role as Cersei in Game of Thrones.

What do all these movies have in common? Well, for one, they are relaunches of relatively recent movies. Second, all these movies are scheduled for relaunch in 2012. That means for anyone old enough to have seen the originals, this summer is going to be jammed packed with remakes of movies they’ve already seen… I’m thinking Hollywood needs to just come out and admit that they have no new ideas left!

Now to be fair, some of these movies can get away with being remade. The original Total Recall came out 22 years ago, but for most people in my generation, it was a hit while we were tweens. I can’t imagine many people are going to be seeing it for more than the nostalgic appeal, even if it is packed with headliners. And you can just tell that casting it with Ferrell, Biel and Beckinsale and pitching it as a big FX romp was done to ensure it has a big draw. Still, expect people to comparing it endlessly to the Schwarzenegger original!

Dredd is even more recent, with most fans of the comic being the age of majority when it came out. But a relaunch of this movie seems good given that the last one was such a disappointment. But judging by the trailers, it seems like just another excuse to shoot something in 3D. The storyline also looks pretty contained, focusing on a single mission rather than the larger picture of Mega City One, the Judges and the irony of trusting quasi-fascists to bring order to a chaotic society.

And Spider-Man? Hell, the third movie in that trilogy aired just five years ago! And the original was produced when, in 2002? That’s just a ten year gap between this new one and the first of the originals! Isn’t there a statute of limitations on this kind of thing? Why does this movie even need to be remade, and now of all times? The others featured perfectly good CGI effects and good story lines, and was ably acted by Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst. And of course, most people seeing this one already saw all the others.

So really, what possible reason is there for making this version? I have heard some people speculate that it’s because they want to include Spider-Man in the next Avengers movie. So… what happened to Toby McGuire? Is he too old? Was he not returning the studios calls? Did he say there was no POSSIBLE way he’d ever do a Spider-Man movie again? Is that why they’re doing this, so people won’t be surprised when a new guy shows up to play Spidey in Avengers 2? That seems silly!

Oh Hollywood. When did you lose your way? Was it the money, the phoniness, the mountains and mountains of blow? Yeah, I’m betting somewhere between the money and the nose candy, you all just went a little batty and stopped being able to come up with new ideas. So here’s a few ideas. Hire some new people. Pitch to new writers. Try making something though-provoking and avant-garde. Do something other than throw up the same old formulaic crap and rebooting old concepts!

And before you make the excuse that audiences are stupid and won’t buy into something half-way decent and brainy, might I remind that you guys pioneered those low expectations in the first place? Were it not for you constantly trying to appeal to the lowest-common denominator, you wouldn’t be in this creative tailspin. You might say this trend is the end result of underestimating the intelligence of the average person for so very long. Them chickens roosting in your backyard seem to have brought a batch of avian flu with them! In short, Hollywood, back your shit up, get your shit together, and then get your shit off our floor!

Sorry, that got a little rant-y towards the end there. But for me, this is just the straw that broke the camels back. I’d like to see some better movies, and these guys are the one making it hard for independent producers and studios simply because they suck up so much money and produce so much PR. Still, I might see one of these movies. During Prometheus, my wife was more than impressed by the preview for Total Recall, so we’ll see. If I seem stupider once I get back, blame Hollywood!

Alien Versus Predator (2010 game)

Welcome all to my first video game review! It took me awhile to figure out which I’d start with, but after some thought, I figured AVP – the 2010 game – would be as good a place as any. And given the recent release of Prometheus, I thought it would also be appropriate, not the least of which was because some of that movie’s content ruled out certain aspects of this game.

But mainly I’ve decided to review it because it was very cool. The game play, the graphics, and the storyline were all consistent with some of the best traditions of the Alien versus Predator franchise. And of course, there were plenty of weaknesses too, which were also consistent with the AVP game series. And above all, it was a fun play, assuming you can get it to work. No offense to the makers, but this game required a beast of a machine to run at a decent resolution and with all the bells and whistles!

Oh yes, I should also mentioned that this is a Steam game, meaning it’s uploaded and played through the Steam interface and is networked to the site during game play. As such, players get to unlock achievements and gain points for completing various levels, beating difficulty settings, and accomplishing assorted tasks. Now that’s all covered, onto the game’s story!

Storyline:
The plot of the game involves three intertwining plot threads which come together in a grand climax once all three campaigns are played. The first involves the perspective of the Colonial Marines, which have been dispatched to the planet to deal with a Xenomorph outbreak.

As usual, they are enforcing Weyland Yutani company policy, which as usual involves rescuing a research outpost which has been conducting Xenomorph research. Once in orbit, the Marine ship is attacked by an unidentified alien ship which blows it apart and sends its drop ship tumbling towards the surface.

The Marine campaign begins shortly after the dropship forced to crash land on the planet. The gamer then wakes up on a stretcher in the cargo bay, the others having left you behind to go off and deal with the problem. This necessitates that you find your way to them and begin reinforcing them. For the most part, this involves fighting xenos on your own, but here and there, you get to shoot it out with some backup. Of course, they usually die in the process…

Things change when your team leader, Tequila, is captured and you have to go and rescue her. At this point, you are being directed by an android who is deep within the facility and reveals what’s being going on there. And of course, this leads to an eventual confrontation with a Predator (aka. “Hunter”), which just happens to be one of the most challenging parts of the game. But of course, confrontations with a Queen and Praetors (queens that have not fully matured) are also pretty tough. Once that is done, you work your way to Tequila who has been placed inside a cocooning room, a la Aliens, and who is already infected.

Once you save Tequila, you and she work your way to the android helper and the medical facility where the outbreak took place. Here, she explains that the experiment went wrong (as always) and begins a procedure to remove the parasite from Tequila’s stomach. This is interrupted when another android, who has been programmed with the mind of Mr. Weyland (played by Lance Henriksen), cuts off the power to the lab. You are therefore forced to put Tequila into cryo-stasis to keep her safe and alive until help arrives.

Your next mission is to find your way to the Weyland droid and find the tracker he has so you can summon a new dropship to you. He is currently hiding in an underground temple which WY have been excavating. The temple, like just about everything else on the planet, is of Hunter construction and its hundreds of thousands of years old. And of course, they came upon preserved specimens of Xenomorph eggs, which prompted them to begin hatching them. Once you defeat the Weyland droid and grab a hold of the transmitter, the dropship arrives and carries you and Tequila to safety in orbit.

But of course, there’s a double-cross. It seems that the personnel aboard the dropship are taking their orders from another of the Weyland droids. They signal that they have a live Xenomorph specimen (in her) and also the emergency transmitter, which just happens to contain all of Weyland’s research. The key bit of information, which he uncovered from his extensive research inside the underground temple, is the location of the Xenomorph homeworld!

Onto the Alien campaign where things take place from a single Xenomorph that has been bred inside the WY facility. This campaign, as noted, overlaps with the Marine (and later Hunter) campaigns, and involves the Xenomorph’s mission to escape the facility and begin breeding. The first step is to escape confinement from the medical bay and set the others free.

Once this is done, you work your way through the facilities sewers, taking down all personnel you see and attaching “Facehuggers” to them. All the while, the Queen directs you via pheromones, which act as a sort of telepathy, to help her establish a hive on the planet’s Refinery. Here she rests, until the arrival of the Marines causes things to come to a head.

From this point onward, your job is to fight and kill the Marines while simultaneously taking out the facilities systems. After that’s done, you work your way into the temple complex where Hunters show up to intercept you. After killing them, you are forced to battle an Elite Hunter until he’s weak enough to be subdued and then infected by a Facehugger. This gives rise to the hybrid Hunter-Xenomorph (aka. Predalien) that is central to the Hunter campaign.

However, things go awry when the Refinery is destroyed and the Queen is trapped inside. This event, which is part of the Marine campaign, causes the Xenomorph to be stunned and captured. It is taken back to the Marine vessel, where it then escapes and sets up a new hive, becoming the new Queen!

And thus the Predator campaign begins, with the arrival of the Hunter ship and its destruction of the Marine vessel. As an Elite Hunter you are then deployed to the planet to begin hunting the Marines, as punishment for desecrating their temple site, and killing any Xenomorphs that have escaped. You are also responsible for locating any dead Hunters and retrieving their trophies, as well as collecting weapons and sacred artifacts.

Your missions then involve infiltrating the Marines bases, disabling their systems, and releasing the xenomorphs. You then find yourself following the “Rookie” Marines path, which leads to the sacred temple where you are forced to battle Praetorians. Moving inside to the underground temple, you come upon the Weyland Yutani party and its compliment of combat androids. After destroying them and retrieving the last Hunter artifacts, you are forced to do battle with the hybrid Predalien.

Once this is done, you are ordered to set the temple to self-destruct, in order to cleanse the taint of the human’s presence and ensure that none of the secret’s within ever fall into their hands again. However, unbeknownst to you, WY has already retreived the vital inro about the xenomorph’s homeworld. Once you return to your ship. the same info is shared from the sacred Hunter mask which you retrieved from the planet below. Apparently, this information has been lost to the Hunters, who have been breeding Xenomorph’s in captivity for training and now seek to contain them, lest someone else (i.e. the human race) try to breed them as a weapon.

Hence, all three storylines come together and point in one direction: the Xenomorph homeworld, where the next chapter is sure to take place!

Good Points:
This game’s positive aspects should be obvious to anyone. As an AVP game, the game play is automatically very fun and intense. This applies to the Marine campaign, with its assortment of Pulse Rifles, Incinerators and Smartguns, though I honestly didn’t care much for the hand guns, shotguns and sniper rifles. Those weapons just seemed clunky and kind of primitive, given the time period in which everything is happening.

And of course, the Predator campaign was pretty damn awesome, given the claws and plasmacasters. The way the equipment was updated to be a little more limiting in terms of energy requirements was also a nice touch, since in AVP2 the Predator’s arsenal was a little too easy to maintain and hence pretty overwhelming. However, the new limitations they put on available weapons was something I did not like. Aside from your claws and plasma gun, all you get is the disc and the combistick. What happened to the net guns and claw launchers?

But what really impressed me was the Xenomorph campaign, where your cheif weapons are your claws, tail, and sheer mobility. You can climb walls, jump from surface to surface, and sneak attack like nobody’s business! You can also facebite with your little mouth, which is pretty damn gory and awesome! The way you can retrain people to put a Facehugger on them also adds to the overall level of detail and coolness of this aspect.

On top of it all, the feel of the game is spot on. When dealing with AVP, one immediately expects a level of intensity and intrigue which can only come from dealing with scary Xenomorphs and deadly Hunters! As the Marine, you constantly have the feeling of vulnerability and impending doom. And in the end, the only way to win is to stay mobile and be conservative with your ammo supply. As the Hunter, stealth and patience are your ally. If you engage too quickly or easily, you will be discovered and overwhelmed by superior numbers of Marines or Xenomorphs. And as the Xenomorph, the ability to move hide, move quickly, and use the surrounding environment to your advantage is the key to success. This balance of abilities and weaknesses is key to making the gaming experience feel faithful to the franchise and as realistic as possible.

Bad Points:
But alas, there are some weaknesses. The first is the most obvious, and one I mentioned already. This game has some pretty cool graphics and game play features, such as the blurring effect which you can turn off and on. With it active, you experience blurring whenever you turn fast. This adds to the overall suspense and intensity of the game and makes it that much harder. But this, like everything else in this game, requires you have a fast machine with a good graphics card. Otherwise, expect things to be slow, choppy, and look pretty grainy!

Second, there’s the rather tired duty of the storyline where reasons have to keep being given for why you are on your own as the Marine. With the Hunter, it’s obvious why you’re fighting solo. That’s simply the way they fight, every Hunter in his own domain stalking and killing his prey and taking trophies. But for the Marines, the standard deployment tactic is by squad, coordinated and covering each others’ back. The fact that you’re constantly alone as a Marine just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, in previous versions, when the game just wasn’t sophisticated enough, this was understandable. A single person, first-person-shooter was simply the best they could do with what resources and money they had available. But now? With the kinds of AI’s and sophistication the latest games boast, there really isn’t much of a reason for making the majority of the Marine campaign single person FPS . That, and the constant reasons for why you’re on your own (i.e. the rest of the squad got killed, the last dropship got shot down, the door slammed shut and separated you from them) just gets annoying after awhile.

And lastly, there is the storyline which is a bit confusing. The part about scientists in a WY facility breeding Xenomorphs, that’s perfectly understandable. In fact, that’s the setup of every single AVP story: the evil corporate goons breed Xenos, they get loose, the Marines go in to clean up, they find Hunters there doing the same thing, and everything devolves into a three way fight.  But why are they breeding Xenos if the purpose of the colony was to uncover ancient Hunter ruins? Kind of seems like the traditional plot was laid on top of this other one in order ensure that all the plot elements are there.

Prometheus’ Plot Changes (Spoiler Alert!):
In the end, the purpose of this game was to bring all sides together so they could learn the location of the Xenomorph homeworld. That way, something that was never revealed in the original franchise was now being previewed, the gamer being left with the distinct impression that it would serve as the backdrop for the next game. Unfortunately, the movie Prometheus ruled this out by saying that the Xenos were a “Engineer” (aka. Space Jockey) bioweapon. If they are in fact weapons this race engineered, then they don’t have a homeworld.

Granted, this can be explained away by simply saying that the Engineers set up a “colony” for the Xenos, an entire world that was set aside for keeping them and breeding them in isolation. Since the retreat of the Engineers, this colony could have since evolved to become a festering hive of Xenos, with multiple Queens battling for supremacy and conflict giving rise to new and frightening sub-species. That could work, and it could be downright interesting.

And hey, if there is to be no sequel to this latest AVP game, someone will probably do some fan fic dealing with it. Who knows, it might even be me. I’m a fan, I can kinda write! Pay me to do it!

The Summer of “At Long Last!”

It seems like the summer of 2012 is just loaded with anticipatory events. I say this because after many months of waiting, repeats and teaser trailers, favorite shows and much anticipated movies seem to be coming out all at once. Strange, wasn’t this the year the world was supposed to end? It would seem in bad taste for it to go now, just when everything fun is happening at once!

Last week, True Blood began its long-awaited fifth season. And having watched the first two episodes, I am pretty pleased with the direction it’s been taking so far. While I’ve not dedicated much attention specifically to vampires in pop culture on this site, as a true geek, I would be remiss if I didn’t indulge in at least one of them. Personally, I think this show is one of the best expressions of this whole vampire trend, and were it not for the zombie craze that seems to be paralleling it, I would have said something about it a long time ago!

Second, Futurama is premiering tonight! Yes, after a multi-year hiatus where it too was cancelled by the inexplicably stupid executives over at the Fox Network, Matt Groening’s animated commentary on sci-fi and pop culture is back for another season of hilarious antics and high-brow spoofing. As a big-time fan of this show, I entertained hopes that its skyrocketing DVD sales and rentals would convince some executive to bring it back.

Why, just look at Family Guy. After two and a half years, Fox got wise to the fact that if they didn’t renew the show, TBS would! And then all that money and ratings would be lining some other executives’ pockets. However, it seemed that in Futurama’s case, Fox remained bullheaded and dumb! And so the good folks at Comedy Central swooped in and gave them a slot! It just goes to show you that one network’s loss – their stupid, shortsighted, and obviously politically motivated loss – will be another’s gain.

And according to Groening’s podcasts where he shared news about the upcoming debut, this seventh season will begin with a story of Bender becoming a dad. Entitled “Bender Squared”, we see him playing with a younger version of himself, no doubt teaching him how to steal and smack talk and generally be an alcoholic, kleptomaniac bending unit! Can’t wait to see it.

And of course, this is also the summer when both Prometheus and the new Batman movie are premiering! In fact, The Dark Knight Rises open in one month, and since there were no press screenings, no one outside of the test audiences have seen it yet. I sincerely hope people have booked their advance tickets… I need to get on that soon! Don’t want to be tardy to the party like I was with Prometheus!

And since its debuting this very evening, I think one final trailer to get us all psyched up is in order. Here’s the “exclusive” Nokia trailer, which means the same ol’ footage spliced by some other corporate sponsor. It’s fun anyway, check it out!

Cool Ships (volume XI)

Armageddon:
armageddonBack once more to the Eve universe, thank you Mr. Zidar for suggesting it in the first place! Here we have the Armageddon Battleship, the main heavy warship of the Amarr Empire. Packing a lot of firepower into its long, heavy frame, command of one of these is considered the greatest honor an Amarrian Captain can acheive within the Empire.

In terms of armaments, the Armageddon is studded with heavy turret batteries. Its forward section is also heavily reinforced, giving it the ability to ram into enemy ships while pulverizing them with weapon’s fire. It is also heavily shielded in addition to its armor, making it virtually impregnable to all but the most heavily armed cruisers.

Battle Galaxy Carrier:
battlegalaxy-carrierMuch like the SDF-1 from the Macross universe, the Galaxy Carrier is massive transforming ship that comes in two modes. In carrier mode, it is a massive ship that is capable of space flight and sea faring. In its battle mode, it takes the form of a massive mecha which is capable of kicking some very serious ass!

Build in the early-mid 21st century by the New United Nations government, its primary purpose was to act as a colonization vessel for the Macross fleet. And unlike previous colonization vessels, it boasted many new technologies – such as cybernetics and implants – which were meant to continually evolve as the ship traveled through space. On top of all that, it possesses cutting edge stealth technologies that make it capable of slipping past Zentraedi forces and blockades.

battlegalaxy-attackIn terms of armaments, the Battle Galaxy lives up to its name! In addition to an advanced Gunship Type Macross Cannon, which converts into its main firearm when in battle mode, it also has 12 heavy beam cannons (also available in battle mode), multiple phalanx beam cannons and missile launchers, and a compliment short range micro-missile batteries for point-defense.

Firstborn Monolith:
monolithIt would be an understatement to call this one a classic. Taken from the Arthur C. Clarke novel and the movie of the same name, the Monolith was the mysterious aliens means of transport in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Known as the Firstborn, this race was basically the first species to achieve sentience in the galaxy, making them many millions of years old. After eons of evolution and space exploration, these beings had basically evolved to the point where they were no longer flesh and blood.

So really, these monoliths were not so much ships as chariots to carry their uploaded consciousness to the stars. Composed of unknown material and impenetrable to everything from scanners to nuclear detonators, they were a mystery to humanity of the 21st century. It also didn’t help that the only man get within spitting distance of an operational one disappeared, his last words being “My God, it’s full of stars!”

GTF Ulysses:
gtf_UlyssesThis ship, taken once again from the Freespace gaming universe, was one of the fastest and most maneuverable ships in the known universe. A collaborative effort between Terran and Vasudan scientists, it possessed the best design features and technologies they could muster. The Ulysses was designed for service in the Great War, but because of its assets, it saw service with GTVA forces long after the Lucifer was destroyed and the last of the Shivans routed.

In terms of armaments, it was lightly armed compared to other fighters, with four gun mounts, but only two ordinance bays. In the end, its greatest assets were its speed and maneuverability which made it highly effective against faster Shivan ships. In a dog fight, few things could catch it, or get around fast enough to hit it!

Inhibitor Square:
black_cube_world-1024x768These are the mysterious, dark and malevolent machines from the Revelation Space universe. Also known as “The Wolves”, they are a semi-sentient race of machinery that is designed to locate sentient star-faring cultures and exterminate them. However, the Inhibitors didn’t do this using lasers or photon weapons.

Much like the Firstborn from Clarke’s Space Odyssey series, they relied on a series of natural processes. The only real difference was they did it for destruction purposes. For example, when they became alerted to the presence of humanity on Resurgam, they chose to disassemble the planet’s gas giant bit by bit in order to create a massive trumpet like device in space. This was basically a gravitational weapon which they began using to shake the system’s sun to pieces.

Megathron:
megathronAnother Eve warship, the Megathron is the battleship of choice for the Gallente faction. It accelerates quickly, has a high armor capacity, and is very versatile due to its seven turret slots and two launcher hardpoints. This last feature is rare in Gallente ships, which tend to focus on energy weapons.

Because of its many weapons slots, the Megathron can be adapted to long range fire, known as the “Sniperthron”. This vessel is capable of engaging enemies at a distance of 150 km, but leaves it vulnerable to close range attacks and strips of the ability to heal. Another common build is the “Blasterthron” where the weapons of choice or short-range blasters, making it one of the toughest battleships around.

NTF Iceni:
ntf_iceniOnce more onto the Freespace franchise, dear friends. Here we have the one-of-kind prototype vessel known as the Iceni, the brainchild of the Neo-Terran Federation’s commander, Admiral Aken Bosch. Designed to be a command ship and mobile research platform, the Iceni was also a highly capable attack vessel, boasting mutiple turrets, beam mounts and missile batteries.

As part of project ETAK, the Iceni was the only vessel capable of communicating with the Shivans. After being mistaken for a command facility in an asteroid belt, Bosch was forced to deploy this ship prematurely. After shedding it’s housing asteroid, it set course for Gamma Draconis, where it used an Ancient jump gate to flee into unknown space. After making contact with the Shivans, the ship was boarded and most of the crew killed. Once the survivors were rescued, the ship engaged its self-destruct sequence and was lost.

In addition to being faster and more maneuverable than most ships its size, the Iceni also packed as much firepower as a Deimos-class frigate. These included 3 large beam emitters, 7 heavy turrets, 9 defenses turrets, 2 flak batteries, and 4 defensive missile batters. As such, it was capable of standing toe-to-toe with any comparable ship in the Terran or Vasudan armadas, and outrunning anything larger.

Prometheus:
prometheus_shipJust to be clear, I haven’t seen the movie… yet! I wanted to, but I dragged into seeing another film last night which also rocked (see below)! Luckily, I have seen enough trailers and promotional videos to know a few things about the eponymously named vessel. So here she is, just one day (finger crossed) before I see her on the silver screen! As an exploration vessel, the USCSS Prometheus was a designed for deep-space expeditions to alien worlds.

As a full-service space taxi, it was designed for both atmospheric and space flight and could therefore forgo the need for landing pods and shuttles. This was all made possible thanks to its reinforced hull, four multi-vector thrusters that allowed for verticle take off and landing, and an observation deck that allowed the crew a panoramic view of space and whatever landscapes they were surveying. During takeoff and atmospheric entry, these are enclosed by a series of protective shields.

Prometheus_ship_rearOn top of all that, it was packed with amenities for its crew. These included a large bay for heavy equipment and expedition vehicles, a full-service mess hall, a medical bay, recreational facilities, a built-in basketball court, long-range communications systems, crew quarters, cryogenic chambers, and holographic display windows. And of course, the ship’s own laboratory which served as its main research center. No doubt about it, ships like this, courtesy of the Weyland Corporation, ensured that crews could travel in style and comfort before being horribly killed by extra-terrestrials!

Special Mention: The Avenger Helicarrier!
Yes, I managed to get out last night to the movie theater. But instead of catching Prometheus as I originally hoped, I was coaxed into seeing the Avengers instead. It-was-awesome! Tons of cool action, a respectable, multi-layered plot, and lots and lots of cool shit! Kudos to Joss Whedon, I think he just became my hero!

And one of the things I liked best about this movie was S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own big-ass helicarrier! When they hinted that it was both a carrier and a sub, I was like “Whoaaaa! Like something out of Robotech!” But then, out came those massive turbofans and it took off! I just sat and stared for several, sustained minutes. My wife laughed at me. At that point, I said, “Okay, maybe you were right to want to see this.”

Anyhoo, much like something out of Robotech, this carrier was a massive machine that came in two modes. In its standard mode, it was your basic aircraft carrier similar in appearance to a Nimitz-class carrier. In its other mode, it is a freaking hovercraft, where four massive turbofans and two sets of jet engine clusters allow it to fly! It also has a comprehensive camouflage system where a series of reflector panels obscure it from sight, similar to adaptive camouflage.

And of course, as an aircraft carrier, it also has the usual amenities, which include several squadrons of F-22 and F-35 fighters and quinjets. And though armament didn’t come up in the movie, we can also assume that it has a full compliment of Phalanx point-defense cannons and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. But knowing S.H.I.E.L.D., I’m sure the list doesn’t end there. Most likely, they also got some cool stuff like an EMP, some rail guns, or laser devices in there too!

Cool Ships (volume IX)

Borg Sphere:
BThis first example shows us that thought they were obsessed with simple geometric shapes, the Borg were capable of thinking outside of the cube. If anything, the sphere is a more perfect shape and aesthetically way more pleasing, so its a wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.

Making its first appearance in Star Trek: First Contact, the sphere appeared to be an auxiliary craft which was housed inside a Borg Cube. But in truth, these vessels were actually much more versatile, acting as scout ships and tactical vessels, doing deep-space reconnaissance or performing light assault missions.

In the spinoff series Voyager, Borg Spheres make several appearances. The most notable of which was the series finale (episode 168: “Endgame”), where Voyager was pursued and overtaken by one and had to destroy it from the inside to escape. This, in addition to scenes from other episodes, indicated that every sphere has an internal compartment capable of housing a sizable starship.

Measuring 600 meters in diameter, a standard Borg Sphere carries a crew of 11,000 drones, is protected by regenerative shields, ablative armor, and has the usual array of Borg weapons (which include tractor beams and disruptors). It is capable of warp speed, transwarp speed, and in some cases, can even generate a temporal vortex to achieve time travel (as was demonstrated in First Contact).

Jem’Hadar Battleship:
dominion_dread2You know, I was never was much of a Trekkie. Compared to other franchises, I never really did get into the shows that much. That is, until DS9 introduced the whole Dominion plot line, then I got into it with both feet! Space battles, explosions, ships blowing each other up… what’s not to like? And to make these battles happen, the show’s conceptual artist had to come up with some new designs.

One such design was the Jem’Hadar Battleship, which made its debut in season 6 (episode 144, “Valiant”). Introduced midway through the war, this new breed of warship was designed for the sole purpose of breaking the stalemate between the Dominion and the Allies. That and inspiring fear!

At twice the size of a Galaxy-class vessel (USS Enterprise D) and boasting over 40 torpedo launchers, this ship was clearly meant to be so large and so powerful that no Federation or allied ship would have a hope of stopping it. However, its size and speed also made it a relatively easy target for multiple enemy ships, which would have no trouble hitting it and could outmaneuver it in battle.

After it’s initial deployment, where it destroyed the USS Valiant, several battleships were rolled off the line and took part in the war, especially during the latter engagements of the war like the Battle of Cardassia. Many ships were needed to break the lines which they reinforced, and it was only by the timely defection of Cardassian forces that the Dominion was overwhelmed in these battles.

USNC Spirit of Fire:
To the Halo universe once more, this time for a look at a modified colony ship known as the Spirit of Fire! Making its appearance in Halo Wars, this ship was the largest in the UNSC navy and served with distinction during the Covenant War.

As already noted, the Spirit of Fire was originally a Pheonix-class colony ship, a vessel that was designed to carry colonists and supplies to new worlds as part of the UNSC’s prewar expansion efforts. However, this changed with the appearance of the Covenant and their apparent need to knock over human settlements.

Recommissioned for military service by the UNSC, the Fire was outfitted with a magnetic accelerator cannon, point defense guns and missile turrets, hull armor, and a major engine overhaul. Its internal bays were also converted to carry Scorpion tanks, Warthogs, Pelicans, fighters, bombers, and anything else it would need to put a small army onto a planet. As a former colony ship, the Fire retained the ability to enter atmosphere and land planetside, making it all the more effective at troop deployment.

During the course of the war, the ship was declared missing and all hands were presumed dead after it failed to return from a mission. However, the ship was actually traveling back at sublight speed from an engagement after it lost its fusion core. The crew had used this to destroy a Forerunner “Shield Planet” which happened to be housing a large Covenant attack fleet. In sacrificing its engine core, it prevented a major strike by Covenant forces on human territories, and therefore saved countless lives. Not bad for a civilian ship, eh?

SDF-1 Macross:
SDF-1 MacrossWhen you hear the words, Super Dimension Fortress, what comes to mind? Definitely not a piddly little spaceship! Which is probably why the Macross’ full name contains them! Apparently, this ship was rebuilt from the remains of an alien craft that crash-landed on Earth, and was intended for use should said aliens ever come knocking again.

Although intended to travel to distant solar systems and promote peace with alien species, the Macross became the first line of defense once war with the Zentradi species began. Much like all the “mechas” from this franchise, this ship is capable of changing from its ship designation into a towering mech (known as “Storm Attacker” mode), a process which takes about 15 minutes.

The massive ship also carries the two carriers – the CVS-101 Prometheus and SLV-111 Daedalus – within it’s fuselage. When in cruiser mode, these are housed along the sides, but while in “Storm Attacker” mode, they constitute the robots “arms”. In terms of weapons, this baby comes equipped with 8 guided converging beam cannons, four 178cm rail cannons, automatic missile launchers, and a main super-dimension-energy cannon. Aliens beware!

Strident-class Star Defender:
StridentIt’s funny how the Rebels only seemed to get into mega-ships after the Empire was thoroughly licked. And yet, here we have another Star Defender ship which comes from the expanded Star Wars universe and only showed up for duty after the Empire lost all its big behemoths.

Produced by the Corellian Engineering Corporation (natch!), the Strident-class was the first breed of Super Star Destroyer to serve on the side of the Alliance (which now called itself the New Republic). But of course the Alliance didn’t like the term “destroyer” when applied to their mega ships, hence the name change. But the particulars are pretty much the same.

Much like the Viscount-class produced by the Mon Calamari, the Strident comes equipped with thousands of turbolasters, laser cannons, and ion guns, and its massive hold houses dozens of squadrons of starfighters as well as hundreds of shuttles and support ships. It took awhile but I’m guessing the Rebels finally decided to go big or go home!

The Spacejockey ship:
I can’t wait to learn more about THIS one! As the focal point for the first Act of Alien, the “Spacejockey” ship is also central to the plot of its soon-to-be-released prequel, Prometheus. Known also as “The Derelict”, very little is known about this ship other than the fact that it was of unknown origin and appeared to be transporting xenomorphs.

The Derelict was first discovered by the crew of the Nostromo when their ship was rerouted to LV-426 to investigate a distress beacon. When they approached the ship, its alien configuration was immediately clear. Shaped in the configuration of a horseshoe, the ship apparently had two prongs, one longer than the other, and an engine array located at the rear.

SpaceJockeyWhen investigating the inside of the ship, its alien nature became even more apparent. Whoever the Space Jockeys were, they clearly shared H.P. Lovecraft’s sense of aesthetics! Literally everything aboard looked organic and gothic, right down to the funky patterns on the walls! When discovering what appeared to be a control chair, the crew stumbled onto the remains of a long “Space Jockey” as well. Having an anthropomorphic shape and a trunked face, they are assumed to look like a cross between a human and an elephant.

Closer examination of the remains revealed that it died from a “chestbuster” breaking through its ribcage. With the discovery of the ship’s compliment of eggs, and the observable symbiosis between the “facehuggers” and “chestbusters”, it was unclear why the Spacejockeys were transporting them. Perhaps they came aboard by accident, perhaps they were intended for another use somewhere. These are all questions I look forward to being answered… say June-ish!

Vor’cha-class Cruiser:
Vor'chaSeems the Klingons are getting a lot of attention from me as of late. But I’ve come to acknowledge just how many cool ships they really do have. Clearly, these blood-drinking, Valhalla worshipping guys excel when it comes to bringing beauty to their instruments of death. But then again, one would have to assume that it’s one of the few artistic outlets they get to have!

Taken from the TNG universe, the Vor’cha was the mainstay of the Klingon armada and the replacement for the aging K’t’inga-class. The first of its design served as the flagship for the Empire, but became fully integrated into the armada once it was mass-produced and replaced by the larger Negh’var-class.

Making its first appearance in season 4 of Star Trek: TNG (episode 80: “Reunion”) where it served as the Chancellor’s flagship, this vessel would go on to make several subsequent appearances in the expanded franchise. It’s most notable appearances were during the Klingon-Cardassian War where several participated in the assault on DS9 itself. Later, during the Dominion War, many more would serve on the front lines against the Jem’Hadar and their allies.

Naturally, this Klingon ship boasted multiple disruptor arrays, the main one located at the front end of the ship with two more mounted on the wings beside the nacelles. These were capable of firing in either the solid mode (like a phaser) or intermittently. Maneuverable for a ship of its size, it also came equipped with a cloaking device which was available in all flight modes.

Vorchan-class warship:
centauri_2This ship gets seen a lot around the B5 universe. And since I can’t stop hitting them up for cool ships, it only makes sense to mention this baby here. The Vorchan-class cruiser, a medium warship, was the mainstay of the Centauri fleet and weapon of choice when it came to raids, reconnaissance and even large-scale offensive operations.

Though designed predominantly to escort heavier cruisers, such as the Primus-class warship, Vorchans were still highly effective in small squadrons and were often called upon to mount attack missions by themselves. During the Narn-Centauri War, Vorchan warships carried out many assaults on Narn colonies and installations and even participated in skirmishes with the heavier Narn warships.

Its armaments consist of two plasma accelerators, missile banks and guided mines. These armaments, paired with its size, speed and relative maneuverability allow it to stand toe-to-toe with just about anything the Narns, Earth or League of Non-Aligned Worlds could throw at it. And unlike the heavier Primus ships, it is capable of maneuvering inside atmospheres. And it’s cool, raptor-winged like design makes it pretty easy on the eyes too. Were it not for the fact that Roddenberry beat them to it, you can bet the B5 designers would have named this ship a Bird of Prey!

Nine down, who the hell knows how many more to go!

New Prometheus Clip

I came across this clip this morning and was absolutely wowed. Not only is this yet another awesome preview of the upcoming Prometheus movie, it manages to establish the movie’s deep background even further and does so in a way that’s both plausible and relevant to today. Exploring the upcoming technological singularity, the birth of nanotech, biomedical and AI, and previewing the birth of the Weyland Corp – which as we all know went on to become Weyland-Yutani, the biggest monopoly in the history of the human race.

But don’t take my word, check it out for yourself. I feel like writing now, which is how I feel whenever I see something really inspiring! And God damn if this wasn’t a far better use of Guy Pierce’s talents than that cheesy movie Lockout!