Home Secured

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me. I’ve now been a homeowner for a little over a week and two days. Sam and I have finished moving in. The rental’s been cleaned out and the keys handed over. We’ve already had a variety of new home projects, including the removal of carpeting (and tiles plus linoleum in the foyer) to expose original hardwoods, the DIY installation of home security, and the very-much-so-left-to-the-professionals needed electrical work to update our panel and breakers and outlets. In the midst of this, we also had to have a cable technician come out to complete cable setup–turns out, the cable company didn’t have a cable line running to our house, and instead it was another company’s coaxial cable that ran in through the exterior of the house (the customer service rep I spoke with on the phone tried to offer me a credit for the inconvenience of having to have a technician come out anyway after I tried to self-install, but the cable company’s system literally would not allow him to give me more than two bucks in credit, which is just some extraordinary corporate bureaucracy).

Some of the rooms are coming into shape, but there’s still a lot of stuff to be put away. Thankfully, the projects we’ve been tackling have been mostly fun and, in general, rewarding. And it will of course be rewarding to get the house tidied up. I like the energy spent on these projects, and we already have several more projects planned for the near-, mid-, and long-term. Homeownership is pretty fun, and I’m glad that we’ve had the privilege of this opportunity!

It’s not so fun to actually move, though, or to clean out a rental, or to re-paint said rental. And there’s the pressure of the move-out deadline. We got a reasonable amount done, and it looked nice enough, and now we can put that part of the process out of sight, out of mind. Which means, while the projects will continue apace, we can have some room to breathe.

Maybe that means I can finally get through the rest of Stranger Things 3

“It is to be commended. What is its number?”

Despite some delays, we’re still holding out hope for a closing at the end of this week on our first home. While a delay of a few days or a week wouldn’t be a big deal, it would be especially nice to close and take possession this week because it’s also the week that my work site has a summer shutdown. Regardless of whether we can actually start moving this week, we’ll at least be getting ready for it, packing and removing some of the stuff we won’t be taking with us.

It’s also a good week for catching up on other things I’ve been putting off. One of those things has just been keeping up with the Clone Wars rewatch, so last night I was binging several episodes, and tonight will get me back on pace with the once-a-week recaps on the official Star Wars website. In the rush of episodes, one small detail stuck with me.

In the episode “R2 Come Home,” R2-D2 must rescue Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker from a lethal trap by escaping pursuing bounty hunters and contacting the Jedi Order. In the beginning of the episode, R2 is briefly partnered with Mace’s droid, R8-B7, before the latter unit is destroyed. But wait. R8? It looks like an identical model to R2. Why the different designation?

It’s a silly thing to get hung up on, but droid designations have long been really confusing to me. In the films alone, it’s easy enough to decide that the designations might be partial serial numbers or something to that effect. But at least in the old Expanded Universe, droid designations came to represent both the model and unit. For instance, there was a whole R-series of astromech droids that included R2 models, R4 models, R8 models, and so on. (Higher the number, newer the model release.)

Again, there’s nothing in the films, at least that I can think of, that would dictate this interpretation. I think it’s an artifact of the Expanded Universe’s impulse to extrapolate general characteristics from very limited anecdotal film details–like that all Hutts are gangsters, all Rodians are bounty hunters, all Twi’lek women are dancers, and so on. (Thankfully the EU moved more and more away from that, and the new canon doesn’t seem too guilty of that outside of casting the Hutts once more as a Space Mafia race.) And I’m sure that a lot of those generalizations are a result of the need to gamify elements of Star Wars; so much of the broader lore originated with West End Games and was spread in supplements created by WEG and the publishers who filled the tabletop publishing niche in the following years.

The idea that a droid’s name always starts with its model number doesn’t even really make a lot of sense, unless one assumes that there are a lot of droids designated R2-D2, or that owners are picking random elements of a much longer serial number to supplement the droids’ names. It feels more right to imagine a generic droid series, the “R-series,” for instance, with many models and unique designations under that. (Still, I bet there are other so-called R2-D2s rolling around in that galaxy far, far away.)

I got hung up on R8 in particular because that would have been a model released much later in the old EU, but also because the designation seemed to have no practical effect on the droid’s appearance. As usual, I seem to be late to the party. Wookieepedia’s Legends page for R8-B7 has a behind-the-scenes section referencing an old Star Wars Insider issue (58) that apparently explained that droid names are fragments of longer designations. (Without a copy of that issue, I’m just going to have to trust the accuracy of the source. For my purposes, seeing the existence of the proposed theory is sufficient, even if the source is incorrect.) That was before the unified canon reboot, but that seems like a very plausible explanation.

I still want to put too much emphasis on those model numbers, though. I remember as a kid reading about them in Star Wars Gamer issue 3 (“DROIDS”!) and the “Droids” chapter of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Core Rulebook during the publishing reign of Wizards of the Coast. Something about that was formative enough to lock it in as a thing I “knew” about droids. It’s a hard thing for me to unlearn–even though nothing says that those model numbers aren’t still canon. It’s easy enough to reconcile model number designations with inconsistent droid names under the serial number theory. Searching keywords related to this subject, I stumbled on a Reddit thread that points out that the personal designation of a droid could be pulled from anywhere in its serial number. So even the apparent rule-breaker R8 could really be R2-B17998R8-B7743, or something like that. Still, if that’s true, why even grab random numbers at all? Why not just name your droid “Frank” or “Scruffy” or just call it “Astromech”?

It’s really not something that needs more explanation, because there’s not something truly broken here. It’s just silly, is all.

Securing Home

I think, I hope, that we’re far enough along in the process to say that Sam and I are buying a house. It’s an exciting experience for us, but also, as one can imagine (or remember, if you’ve been a first-time homebuyer before), it’s an incredibly stressful one. Ever since I’ve opted to leave law, my anxiety has largely subsided, but this has been a nice kick to remind me that it’s always waiting for the right moment to resurface!

As such, the past few weeks have been defined for me by difficulty focusing. I’ve been reading less, not for lack of time but for lack of engagement. I’ve been hopping between books, and I’ve been turning to Star Wars more than I should, not spacing it out as I typically try to do. I’ve watched fewer interesting movies and spent more time disengaging with nostalgic favorites and reality TV (we are not planning any immediate home renovation projects, and yet Property Brothers is streaming all too constantly). And despite the truly horrid national news, I’ll admit that I’ve sort of stuck my head in the sand this past month. With concentration camps, planned ICE raids, the threat of impulsive and unnecessary further war, and even more reports of the president’s personal sins in the news, I know that it’s a time for citizen engagement and activism. But I’m where I’m at.

It leaves me feeling a bit guilty and more than a bit vapid, but it’s keeping me calm, keeping my anxiety mostly under control, allowing me the mental space and energy to deal with the responsibilities of work and home life all while going through this drawn-out buying process.

(I should take a moment to say that I’m quite happy with the experience overall, I feel I’ve had good service experiences, I haven’t had to do all that much, and other than one delay everything is moving smoothly. None of that can stop catastrophic thinking.)

I imagine that with better coping strategies, I wouldn’t need to detach myself somewhat from the world to get through a stressful period, especially one seen as such a routine milestone in adult life. But Sam and I are getting through this all together, my work performance isn’t suffering, and I’m not putting on more weight, so I’d say it’s going well enough.

I thought I might talk about the Dick Cheney biopic Vice tonight (great performances and interesting surreal storytelling that offer a tale that is often both wickedly funny and gut-twistingly dark), but my heart’s not in it (if you’ve seen the film, I hope you’ll see the humor in that turn of phrase). I thought I might talk about any of the books I’m currently reading, but I’ll save that for reviews down the line. I find that I don’t have much I want to say this week. So I’ll leave it at that.

Free Time with The Sims 4

EA is offering The Sims 4 for free, to download and keep, through May 28. So that’s become the top activity for my wife and I this beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve played at least one of the games in every generation since the original Sims, including each of the main numbered releases, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a fan of the franchise. If not for this particular opportunity, I probably would have never even bothered with the fourth main entry, but I’m glad I did. The varied, branching aspirations and multitude of personality traits available, coupled with greater autonomy, imbue the Sims with more identity and vitality than ever before. You can still hop in and micro-manage the hell out of them, still apply the heavy thumb of a fickle god to their lives, but it’s now often fun to just sit back and let them run through their days, as though you’re the owner of a human terrarium. I feel more like I’m nudging them at the right moments, pushing them toward the completion of their lifetime goals, a benevolent deity that they couldn’t prove for sure is ever really there. And sometimes I push them right into a whole lot of drama–sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally–and in those moments, my Sims must be convinced that there can be no god at all.

As has almost always been the case, building my Sim families is still my favorite part of the game. There is so much customization, with virtually everything, including gender, coming in multiple spectra. Then there are all the aspirations and personality traits that I mentioned to round them out as people, not merely bodies. (If we can already run simulations this convincing, it’s hard to shake the implication that we, too, could be operating within a larger-scale sim.)

It’s crazy to realize that The Sims 4 released in 2014. I’m sure that now that I’m playing it, we’ll see an announcement for the fifth installment any day now…

But if you, like me, never bothered with The Sims 4, it couldn’t hurt to pick it up while it’s free!

Back to Star Wars, Hard

The true Star Wars faithful gathered for Celebration in Chicago over this weekend. I was not one of them. Yet the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker was enough to light the fire in my heart once more. It never really goes it. Sometimes, it settles to embers, but there’s always been something to reignite it.

So while I was not in Chicago, I still had a weekend that was overly devoted to Star Wars. After seeing the trailer at work on Friday, I struggled to stay focused on anything other than Star Wars, and I watched Return of the Jedi when I got home (between the second Death Star and Palpatine, it was Episode VI that the new trailer most put into my mind). I’d already been reading the Ahsoka novel, so I read some more of that. I dived back into Battlefront II and Empire at War. And now I’m writing a post about Star Wars again.

That trailer looks so good to me! There are so many mysteries, and I’m eager to see it. Experience has shown that I’m more excited for new saga films over anything else in the franchise, and the trailers for these movies are always great. Each time, it takes at least the first teaser to get me to finally acknowledge how excited I am. I’d actually been saying last week or so that I felt like The Last Jedi felt like a fair conclusion to the sequel trilogy and would have been an acceptable place to end the saga, so while I was curious to see what they’d do, I didn’t feel like anything was missing or unjustifiably incomplete. Now, though, there are so many tantalizing details, and I’m really eager to see what kind of story is being told here!

The other Star Wars announcements mattered less to me, as usual. I’ll probably get to much, though not all, of the new stuff eventually. The Jedi: Fallen Order game looks disappointing to me. I think there are already enough stories about Jedi on the run during the Dark Times, and the trailer felt very much so like a Light Side version of The Force Unleashed, a game I didn’t really get into at the time. And the protagonist appears to be another bland white dude. That all said, I’m sort of starved for a narrative-focused Star Wars game, and while I’d prefer an RPG, I’ll take this! Which means…maybe I’ll be looking into another console sooner than I thought? I love the Switch and Switch games, but it’d be nice to play more of the Star Wars games coming out. If I do get another console, it’ll probably be a PS4. I’m more interested in the exclusive titles available there versus the Xbox One.

Oh, speaking of Star Wars RPGs, VG247 had an article about Obsidian Entertainment’s planned plot for Knights of the Old Republic III. I really wish that game had happened. The Old Republic was reasonably fun, but I’ve never cared for MMOs and have always preferred single-player experiences. A mark in Fallen Order‘s favor is that Chris Avellone, formerly Obsidian writer for games like KOTOR II, is one of the writers for this new game.

Last thing I want to get to: I played a shocking amount of Empire at War this weekend and finally beat the Rebellion campaign. Yes, it was on Easy, but now I can mark both of the main campaign modes on my list of completed adventures (it was years ago, but I’m pretty sure I won the Empire campaign on Easy too). I mostly had fun, and I just pushed through the point I normally get burnt out. The gameplay just doesn’t mesh with the Rebellion-on-the-run feel that the setting, and the game’s story, establishes. But I’ve complained about that before. (Although I could complain now about some story issues I had, mostly related to the larger continuity. Just for instance, this came out after Revenge of the Sith and benefited from the expanded lore and setting of that film, but it didn’t include Bail Organa in the formative rebellion in any substantial way, and it had Captain Antilles affiliated with Mon Mothma instead of Bail for some reason, switching over to the Tantive IV only towards the end of the game.)

There is, however, something very interesting thing that the game did: after Alderaan’s destruction, the Death Star immediately set course for Yavin IV. I barely got Mon Mothma out in time. I defeated the Death Star’s support fleet, but with no Red Squadron, I still lost the moon. The Death Star then destroyed Wayland (a planet I’d conquered after the early story mission, because why not, and which I successfully defended from a later invasion attempt). Finally, Han showed back up with Luke and the droids, and I could send a sizable fleet to win the battle and leave the Death Star’s destruction to Luke. That final fight played out in the stellar wreckage of Wayland. There are three reasons why I like those developments:

  1. Everything happening is so sudden, shocking, and unpredictable. It puts you in the mindset of the fledgling Rebel Alliance as it faces potential devastation, with no obvious way out. I expected Luke to show up, I expected a warning before the Alderaan destruction cinematic, I expected the game to be predictable and give me time like it had at every other stage. I couldn’t rely on convention or the film’s narrative. It made me feel a little anxious and desperate, then really relieved when Luke finally showed up.
  2. It clearly established this narrative as an Alternate Universe. Sure, this was before the canon reset, but the implication up until that point is that we might have been playing a game that was supposed to be telling a definitive story of the Rebellion. Even if we had to ignore the gameplay and the narrative-defying conquest of the galaxy in the name of the Rebels, the core story being told could be seen as “truth.” The ending relaxes those rules and says, no, this is just a fun story, hope you enjoyed playing with the toys. Any galactic conquest mode to follow is more playing in the sandbox, no more or less “true.”
  3. It actually disrupted the conquest-focused gameplay and returned the emphasis to Rebels barely staying a step ahead of an over-powerful Empire. Too bad the rest of the game isn’t like that…

That’s more than enough about that game, but before I drop the subject entirely, let me quickly show you a story in four images:

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Now, will I ever play the Forces of Corruption campaign? Maybe. More unlikely things have happened (like finishing the Rebellion campaign), and my Star Wars appetite is currently insatiable and probably will remain so through December!

Why not release Detective Pikachu on Switch?

So, Detective Pikachu comes to theaters in a month. And Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy was just released for the Nintendo Switch. Yet there seem to be no plans to release any version of the Detective Pikachu game on Nintendo Switch.

The timing seems right, but nothing seems to be happening. Then again, it surprises me how quickly the time between some game announcements and releases has been for the Switch. Maybe Nintendo will still capitalize on the film release with a port, remake, or sequel of the game for the Switch.

I never played Detective Pikachu. But there’s a decent chance I would if it came to the Switch.

Either way, though the movie looks absurd, I imagine that it will be one my wife and I see in theaters. She’s really looking forward to it!

(P.S. Sam, I know that Yu-Gi-Oh! will always be the TCG closest to your heart, but these early-screening-exclusive booster packs for Detective Pikachu might just get you even more amped up for the movie!)