The Halo TV Show Embraces Everything Wrong with Hollywood Adaptations

Or, how I got my site canceled by CBS (that, if you’ve not heard, is a jab at CBS issuing takedown demands at Youtube reviews for their new show that were, shall we say, less than glowing).

Hollywood has a long, and shall we say, storied reputation when it comes to adaptive works. Particularly when it comes to adapting properties from the medium of video games. While there have been success stories they’ve both been few and far between as well as confined to the last few years (and often outside of Hollywood’s clutching grasp), leading to … Well, let’s just say I’ve had theories on how Hollywood has managed to take again and again something that seems like a sure bet and screw it up in a way that seems too inept to be anything but deliberate.

Now, with Paramount+’s (already a real fount of originality there) new Halo series, I must once again note that my theory seems more accurate than ever.

I’ll be open up front: This show is a mess.


Actually, let me start with something before that, simply to stave off CBS’s most common current defense, which has been ‘people just don’t like it because they’re desperate fanboys who can’t handle something not being 100% faithful to the original.’

Yes, I grew up playing video games (parents attempts otherwise notwithstanding). Halo came out when I was in high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed it in college and to date still have the Master Chief Collection installed on my PC. I put a ton of time into Halo 5, put my thoughts on Halo Inifinite right here on the site, and so yes, I’ve been a fan of the series for a long time.

However, I am also an author, and no stranger to the rule that yes, you do need to make some concessions when adapting things from one medium to another. I have no “demand” that video game adaptations in film or shows be one-to-one with their counterparts. For example, one of my favorite video game movies to date is Sonic the Hedgehog, which admittedly did have to roll back their utterly horrifying design, but after they did so delivered a great, fun film that was full of heart and laughs while also still being true to the series elements that spawned it. Where there changes? Yes. But those changes worked and we designed in conjunction with the elements that were kept in order to make both come together to a harmonious whole.

Detective Pikachu is another movie that handled this well, staying very true to the elements of Pokemon that could be put on the big screen, while telling a slightly different—but no less fun—plot from most of the games.

Point being, I know sometimes you need to change things to make a story work in a new medium. I also know that there are plenty of time people get their hands on something and change it just to try and make it their own, without regard for whether or not those changes enhance or detract from the final product.

In other words, I’m more than willing to set aside devotion to a “core” setting and embrace changes for a new medium provided those changes are for the betterment of what the audience recieve.

And the Halo show? Hoo boy … This … This is not that. The Halo show is full of changes, and none of them are good. In fact, they’re more on par with “narrative disaster” than anything else. These wholly feel about “change for the sake of change” with no thought or regard to even the show’s own setting and the impact the changes have on it. The end result is a mess of show full of poor direction, plot holes, narrative inconsistency, and changes to the plot that are frankly boggling in their foolishness.

Buckle up and hit the jump, because this is going to be rough.

But at least it won’t be as rough as actually watching an episode of this show.

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OP-ED: Not Every Popular Thing Goes with Every Other Thing – Or Why We Should Stop Shoving Dark Souls into Everything

This piece is going to aggravate a few people. I’ll state that up front because I know it’s going to aggravate them because I’ve already expressed this opinion elsewhere and had some people express very much that they disagreed with it.

But it’s a pretty straightforward opinion, and I’ll back it up as best I can. It basically boils down to a recent gaming experience (a rare reminder of one of my hobbies) that could be best summed up as “Stop shoving Dark Souls into everything, especially where it doesn’t fit!”

If you’re not familiar with the title offered there, I’m going to note that I don’t have a problem with the game itself. Dark Souls is a series (as well as a style) of game developed by FromSoftware that’s built around a very punishing, precise, methodical style of play. Your character is not agile and limber, but stiff and committed, unable to break free from an action they’ve committed to. Enemies are tough and on equal or better footing to the player. The result is a gameplay style where you must make very concise, clear, methodical choices—usually about when to roll, block, or strike—with a very limited window for error and even less leeway for actually making an error.

Effectively, every enemy is a sort of “trial and error” experience of learning when to strike and when to roll out of the way, with the message “you died” being a frequent companion to the player. You learn to watch every enemy’s tells, and you learn precisely when to counter, dodge roll for i-frames, or attack … or you’ll die. Again and again.

Here’s the thing: FromSoftware has devoted a lot of time to making this punishing, methodical style of gameplay work. It’s a game style that lends itself to a lot of rough edges, from cheap shots to badly designed combat encounters. And I make this bit clear: FromSoftware has worked very hard to make these rough edges as smooth as possible, taking out cheap shots, making sure enemies fall victim to the same physics that the player does, etc. The result has been a very successful series, to the point that a lot of players who are fans of it consider it the “original” hard game (to which those of us who played something like Ninja Gaiden Black just chuckle and roll our eyes). If you’ve heard anyone talking lately about Elden Ring, well that’s because it’s FromSoftware’s newest release in the market, and it’s tearing up the charts as it is a very well-realized evolution on the formula that’s made them such a success. Millions and millions of copies sold, the latest in a line of popular stylized combat games.

Now, I’ll state something up front before diving into the meat of this discussion: I don’t mind that these games exist. Dark Souls and the like are certainly not my cup of tea, with their slow, plodding combat, i-frame design (a practice I’ve never liked in almost any game I’ve played) and the design of being locked in whatever action you most recently set out to do. But I don’t mind that others enjoy the polished experience that FromSoftware provides. That’s fine. You play Dark Souls. I’ll play the liquid smooth, tough-as-nails Ninja Gaiden Black instead.

What I do have a problem with is every other developer out there going “Hey, this game is really popular. Why don’t we shove that gameplay into a game that has no reason to have it? It’s popular, right?”

It stinks of executive meddling or developers not understanding their own game, and I hate it.

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Halo Infinite: A Home Run, a Bunt, and a Strike All at Once

Yep, it’s a gaming piece.

I don’t feel too bad about this because I don’t often talk about my other hobbies on this site, so I figure breaking the mold every once in a while is fine. Maybe some of you aren’t interested, but that’s fine.

Plus, this post is a little late. Halo Infinite has been out for over two months now (between the campaign and the “free” multiplayer). Granted, the post didn’t come up before now because by the time I’d gathered these thoughts, I was on vacation, and I was not breaking that to post my musings on Halo Infinite.

But hey, the vacation is over now, and while this post might be a bit late rather than near launch, at the same time there’s a single advantage to that. See, the first few weeks after Infinite came out it was hard to find anything negative being said about it that wasn’t immediately dogpiled by ravenous fans who were just happy to have a Halo game again. But now that the honeymoon is over, more and more leeway is being to express discontent with some of the frankly baffling decisions from the newest Halo title.

Of which there are many. Personally, I find Halo Infinite to be almost exasperating in its competent, yet insane execution. I say insane because there’s almost no other word for it. It’s hard to otherwise articulate the amount of failure packed inside this package alongside spot-on success, bundled together with elements that have been fully omitted in favor of a “We’ll get to that later, we promise” note from the devs that frankly, no is certain we’ll ever get.

Comparatively then, Halo Infinite is akin to a car from a manufacturer like Lamborghini, only upon receipt of the car we find that while the engine is a work of art, the transmission is from an old 1940s Chevy, the tires are from Wal-mart, and half the instrument panel doesn’t work, but we’ve got an IOU from the manufacturer that promises it will be along before long and maybe even for a low price!

It’s a home run, a bunt, and strike, all at the same time. Let’s talk about it.

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OP-ED: Why Starcraft II’s Campaign Design Isn’t That Great

So yeah, this post isn’t going to be about writing. This post is one that has been on my backlog for around six months and I just never got around to it because there were other things to write about. Calling this is a “non-issue” is pretty accurate, really. Almost, but we’ll get into that. Starcraft II has been out for almost eleven years at this point, and there aren’t many people picking it up new.

However, because it’s been out for that long, I’ve had enough time to play through the title in question more than once and note the subject of today’s post.


But before I get into that, some quick news updates. First, Starforge. Starforge work continues to be the number one thing I’m working on right now, and I’ve almost finished up another major section. Likely will have by the end of this week/start of next week. Stranded remains a weekend project, as does another project, but once again I’ve been having burnout struggles, mostly because Starforge is a titan of a project that’s a bit all-consuming of my every thought and focus.

Speaking of which, I’ve now had multiple people in the real world notice that I’ve been “off” for a few weeks and tell me I need a vacation. Which … yeah I can’t deny. So I might be taking a week off sometime soon, just for mental health reasons. Though even that’s dicey because I’ve got so much to do …

Yeah … I think they’re all correct that I need a break of some kind. But Starforge! Both the cause and the solution, I think. After this, I’m going to write a few small books to relax.

In other news, speaking of small books, Axtara continues to review well, as do the rest of my books. Sales have hit a bit of a slump lately (someone suggested “summer” and people hoping quarantine was on its way out as possible reasons) but across my work the reviews are staying high. And outside of that? There really isn’t any news. So back to the rest of this post.


Okay, so this is one of those rare posts where I talk about one of my other hobbies, in this case gaming, and I want to talk about Starcraft II today. Now, as I said, this is an old game, but it still gets brought up a lot because it’s one of only a few RTS titles that still manages to have a decent following (the genre being somewhat dead these days).

Now personally, I’m not a huge fan of Starcraft II‘s approach to the genre. It’s a game that takes rock-paper-scissors balance to an extreme conclusion, an edge where a unit will do 250% damage (or more) to a specific unit it’s meant to counter, making army composition a case of “one-upping” the other guy with hyper-specialization (for the record, I prefer Relic’s Dawn of War approach where unit type bonus never exceeds 25% and other factors like accuracy and cover come into play).

But one thing I did enjoy was Starcraft II‘s (SC2) much-lauded campaign. At least … the first few times. But I still see it brought up as a stellar example of RTS single-player achievement whenever people bring up RTS campaigns. On the one hand, that’s good … but then on the other, I worry developers will take the wrong lessons.

Enough beating around the bush. Let’s dive into the meat-and-potatoes of SC2’s campaign and why it’s not as good as everyone remembers.

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Microsoft Just Shot the Series X in the Back EDIT: Someone got to a medic in time

UPDATE: As of a short time ago, and due to massive public outcry, Xbox has announce that the Xbox Live Gold price hike is no more. In addition, they’re going to be opening the platform’s online play up more to those who don’t want Gold, including announcing that all F2P games will no longer require Gold. It’s a start! Thank you to everyone who made their unhappiness known!

As for me, I actually passed on buying a Series X during this whole deal (in my cart and everything). So yeah, up front, it cost them a Series X sale. Now that it’s been resolved, well … I’ll start looking again.

Thank you, Xbox folks, for realizing how bad an idea this was, for listening, and for responding,

Original post below:


Well, I didn’t expect to be posting this today. But in fairness, Microsoft has blindsided everyone with this move, from fans to prospective buyers. And in the process, during the launch period of their own console they’ve basically shot it in the back.

Let me explain. Microsoft is one of the juggernauts in the game console space right now, alongside Sony and Nintendo. In December/November of 2020, both Microsoft and Sony launched their newest hardware iterations. Both are vast improvements over the underpowered hardware that the prior generation delivered, and both were high on people’s shopping lists. In fact, until this morning, the Series X was high on mine. Now? I’m not so sure.

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OP-ED: Xbox Live is Now a Legitimate Reason Not to Purchase an Xbox

I don’t talk about my gaming hobby on here too much (recommendations for titles like Subnautica notwithstanding) but from time to time it comes up. And from time to time, I do have something to say about it. Today, what I have to say is … weird. A pointed observation, but one that I want to put out there.

Xbox Live is now a legitimate reason not to own an Xbox.

This might seem strange (or if you’re unfamiliar with the names here, confusing). So let me offer a bit of background.

The Xbox is Microsoft’s gaming console. The first one launched in 2001, made a name for itself with titles like Halo, and has since become one of the three mainstream consoles most people think of when they think of games. A console, by the way, being a set-top box, like a Blu-Ray player, that plays games. Think of a small, specialized computer that’s built to do one thing: game.

Now, Xbox made a name for itself in several ways. But one of the areas where Miscrosoft lead the pack was in bringing online play to consoles as a mainstream feature rather than a peculiar oddity.

Online play is the ability for players to connect with others over the internet, engaging in cooperative or competitive play. To most of you, this isn’t new knowledge. Xbox was the first to bring this ability to a console by default with “Xbox Live,” a service that you had to pay for but let you play Halo with your friends across the country.

For a while, this was understandable: Consoles weren’t PCs. The games were only there. Pay a little extra to play online? Weird from the perspective of a PC player (where this ability has been around for forever) but for a console. Okay, sure.

Except in the last two years … this “pay to play” mentality has become a bit of a sticking point against the platform, rather than for it.

Why? Well, Microsoft has made major pushes to “unify” their gaming platform. All their first-party titles now come to PC, with the company putting an emphasis on making it as easy as possible for game-makers to release their titles on both platforms. They’ve even worked to make cross-play possible, so players on one can play with people on the other ecosystem.

Oh, and then they took it one step further and started making purchases cross over. Buy a game like Forza Horizon 4 from a participating digital store, for example, and play it on both your Xbox or your PC, wherever you want.

Buy once, play where you want. Sounds pretty good, right? Except this is where the problem arises.

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Why You Should Play … Subnautica

So, before I get started on today’s post, I have something to say regarding WordPress, the company that I pay to provide hosting and my site’s toolset for writing.


The new block editor is not good. No, it’s worse than that. No intelligent company should have forced this on their users. Block editor follows the “recent” trend of “take functional tools for a user and destroy them in favor of the one user who thinks they’re too complicated or not pretty enough.” Then they hand you something colored in pretty colors and designed for someone who wants to take pictures for instagram rather than use it.

It’s not a good alternative. It’s slower to load, lacks basic functionality, and is all around terrible. Oh, and as a cherry on top, when I accidentally contacted customer support to complain about being unable to go back to the old version as a default, they shoved some “trademarked” level canned responses at me and then closed the channel.

And to top it all off, you can set the old editor as a default with a plugin that has—already—over 5 million downloads. However, you can’t use this plugin unless you pay WordPress for the exclusive ability to use plugins. Which is $300 a year. EDIT: And just clicking the button to see what that premium thing was added it to my cart and put me one click away from accidentally billing myself. That’d be alike any Amazon product adding itself to your cart because you looked at it. Not cool.

Which seems like a case of deliberately hobbling the product people are already paying you for in order to try and “coerce” them into giving up more money.

I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising to me that several of these new “blocks” in the block editor are dedicated to money.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt what would have started off as simply a post on Subnautica, but upon loading my site today, I discovered that I no longer had a choice between the functional “classic” editor and this new garbage the company is determined to shove down everyone’s throats because why would any of their customers know what they wanted or needed to do? They’re just semi-ambulatory money sources, right? It’s not like they use the tools or anything? Right?

Look, I get that there may have been improvements on the backend or new tools that someone wanted to introduce, but right now, in order to do something that used to be a single click of the mouse, I have to click a “block ediotr” (or whatever it’s called) open, then do a seach, an actual text-based search, for the same thing, find it in the search results, and then click it. That’s four steps instead of the old one step.

Or as people with intelligence call it: steps back.


Now, my rant on this new editor will now be put on hold until the next post, at which point I shall mock and ridicule WordPress once more (because this is seriously bad). Because I want to talk about Subnautica, and why you should play it.

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OP-ED: The Gears of War “Movie”: Games and Hollywood

Hollywood has … problems.

Okay, that’s kind of a lame lead. We all know that. Everywhere has problems. Is Hollywood unique?

Well … yes. Most of their problems are pretty specific. And a lot of them are of their own, self-inflicted making. If you want a fascinating hour, go look up a podcast on how things like Academy Awards are determined and you’ll be exposed to an almost insane feedback loop wherein people make movies to please the academy so that they can win awards to make movies to please the academy.

Yeah, Hollywood is weird. But one of their more puzzling “problems,” the one that I want to talk about today, is their obsession with “fixing what isn’t broke.”

That’s right. I want to talk about video game movies.

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The Gears of War Tabletop Report: Finale

So, you guys may have forgotten about this, but once upon a time on this site I did a small series talking about my experiences running a custom ruleset tabletop game for, of all things, a game based off of Microsoft’s Gears of War. Ultimately I stopped doing the session reports because they were digging into my time a little too much (I needed to be writing more important things, like the next book and whatnot), but the sessions themselves didn’t stop.

Until this last Tuesday, that is. Tuesday evening was the final session of the campaign. I won’t say it was a great one, because it was my first time being a DM, and it was a completely custom system that I built and had to do on-the-fly adjustments to … but there were definite fun moments and our team did have some good times.

So how did it end? Well, the players managed to prevent a surviving faction of UIR soldiers from setting off an experimental heavy-metal bomb (atomics, something the Gears universe isn’t very familiar with) in the middle of the COG defensive line on the Jacinto Plateau. Basically, they almost died, but saved the day, and in the end, were rewarded with a ship—something they’d been looking for all campaign. Sure, they had to fight for it, but with a gratuitous selection of high-powered weaponry, the players were able to find it, defend it, and then lay waste to everything that approached while loading it up.

The best campaign ever? Not by a long shot. But … they did have fun. And I did too.

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The Tabletop Report: Gears of War Campaign Update

So, I doubt any but a few of you noticed, but there hasn’t been an update on the Gears of War tabletop campaign in a few months.

It’s not because the tabletop game stopped, or the campaign ran out of gas. No, it’s actually been moving along at a good weekly clip, with the players really getting the hang of things and figuring out the system. Which doesn’t mean that there haven’t been a few missteps: There have been a few systems I’ve made small changes to, and the system has turned out to be a little overly complicated in some situations. Some streamlining could be done.

At the same time, however, it’s proven fantastically flexible in adapting itself to a wide array of player choices and actions. Players needing to make multiple successful rolls to pull something off, for example, as opposed to just one make-it-or-break-it roll has led to a lot of interesting moments and tense countdowns among the players. Enemy encounters remain threatening as well, with the players often coming quite close to not making it out alive.

So why did the tabletop reports stop if the campaign has actually been going quite well? Well … pretty much because no one was reading it, so it wasn’t worth the time investment. Writing up these weekly reports about how the campaign was going was fun, but at the same time it was a fairly large time investment once a week on top of how much time I had to spend being ready for each weekly session, plus work and everything else … And when it was only garnering one or two views a week (yes, that few) it was clear that I should just focus on getting each week’s session ready rather than providing updates on the adventures of my gaming group.

That said, for those curious, no one has died yet … though they’ve certainly come close. They’ve also put themselves in some hair-raising scenarios due to underestimating the intelligence of their foes: The week before last they tried to set an ambush, not realizing that their ambush they were trying to pull was inside of someone else’s ambush … Theirs! Which they then escaped by, I kid you not, slamming the boom of a construction crane atop a skyscraper into another nearby skyscraper and running across it. With safety clips so that they wouldn’t fall nine hundred feet to their deaths if they slipped … which several characters did.

Their opponents responded to this by blowing up the base of the crane, which led to the players frantically running down the boom and into the next skyscraper over … and the boom twisting and falling away, leaving the last two swinging out into the abyss, connected only by their safety rope (yay for that!) before being pulled in.

Is it a perfect roleplaying system? No, there are definite flaws to it. It’s a little complicated in places for one; I’d definitely simplify a few things before doing a second run. And there’s a lot of pressure on the DM when it comes to leveling, unlike something like DnD.

But it’s working so far, and the players have been having a good time adventuring through the ruined world of Sera. Don’t expect weekly updates to resume, but know that it has been a fun weekly adventure thus far.