Monday, 22 October 2012

My Life as a Video Game - A Kickstarter for a New Webseries

My Life as a Video Game

A Brand New Action-Comedy Webseries

Creator PETROS L. IOANNOU (Final Fantasy: Zero, Union Square: A Love Story) and co-star BRENT "BRENTALFLOSS" BLACK (What If Video Games... Had Lyrics?, Nostalgia Critic: Moulin Rogue Review) present to you a brand new and exciting series for the web that celebrates gamer culture, pokes fun at the tropes and explores our love for the interactive arts and why we play them.


Don DeWitt (Petros L. Ioannou) is man with extraordinary potential but zero determination. If you looked up slacker on Wikipedia; there'd be a picture of him. He's always been fine getting by, just by the skin of his teeth. Don's only real love ever has been playing video games.

One day he is pulled into amazing circumstance, he is now in an alternate reality where the rules of Video Games are the rules of the world. He is in a fight for his very survival as he must manipulate the rules of the games he understands better than anyone to survive in this new crazy world

Here he meets Kera Althorn (Jennifer Polansky), fallen Princess of a Space Empire who you might say got fed up of "being in another castle" and took it upon herself to take back her father's Empire. Along with her trusted A.I. sidekick the "MENU System" (Brent Black) a cocky floating head on a computer screen, Don joins Kera in the fight hoping that she might help him get back to Earth.

Together, as they leap from Beat 'Em Ups to First Person Shooters, RPGs and Survival Horror, they begin to raise an army of the heroes of the various video game worlds against the usurper of Kera's Empire, General Atticus Dynas who seeks to unite the villains on his side. It's now that Don must use that potential he's always had and become the hero he was always meant to be, if he ever wants to find a way home.


The various perks can be seen on the right but the reason we need this...

It ain't cheap to make a show. We've gone indie because we want creative control, we don't want interference from a studio and we love the web. We want to create something that is free for people to watch, whenever, wherever they feel like it. More than that, we want a community, an audience who is invested in it as much as we are.

The money contributed will go to paying for professional actors, the equipment, the crew, the effects, and the location rental costs, all of which, amounts to quite a bit. However it's all necessary in order to raise the funds to create this monumental show that we think can really blow web-created content wide open and make this one of the most fun and entertaining shows on the web to watch.

     WHO ARE WE?

We have a very talented cast and crew, professionals from all walks of life, those who have worked with the best and frankly, are the best.


PETROS L. IOANNOU - Petros is a writer/actor from London who graduated from the New York Film Academy with a Masters in Screenwriting. He is perhaps most famous for the creation of "Final Fantasy: Zero" a fan made RPG production and the short film "Union Square: A Love Story". Petros wanted to create his own show specifically for the web and as such created this show.

BRENT BLACK - Brent is a comedic entertainer best known on YouTube as "brentalfloss" for his "What if Video Games had Lyrics" series that has generated over 150,000 subscribers. He also appeared in the Nostalgia Critic's "Moulin Rouge" review and has possibly one of the best comedic timings known to man.

JENNIFER POLANSKY - Jennifer is an actress from Canada, Jennifer has been in numerous film, TV and web productions. Including 2012: The Web Series, and I Hate Toronto: A Love Story.


NICK M. HOMLES - SERIES DIRECTOR - Son of double Tony Award winner, Rupert Holmes, Nick is a very talented director with a wealth of knowledge and experience under his belt beyond his young age. He's recently finished work on the short film "A Manhattan of My Own" and a teaser for feature film "Reject Road". His short film Marco Polo is set for release in Q1 2013. 
KEVIN PENKIN - MUSIC COMPOSER - Kevin is one of the biggest rising stars in video-game music composition having just recently collaborated with famed 'Final Fantasy' series composer Nobuo Uematsu, writing music for the Japanese PSP title "Jyuzaengi Engetsu Sangoku Den", which saw release on the 24th May 2012. He soon set to work on the music for upcoming game "Norn9" once again with Uematsu.


  • $30,000 - The Standard, if we raise this money we make the first ten episodes of the show which will comprise season one. This is the standard goal we're aiming for.

  • $50,000 - Extended Cut, if we manage to get this together we can make the episodes longer and add an additional five making a fifteen episode season. We'll also be able to hire more cast and crew to make the shoots easier, quicker and get the final product to you sooner. In addition we'll be throwing a huge launch party in Los Angeles for all who contributed to attend and meet the cast and crew. In addition, every person who donated will receive a digital copy of brentalfloss' first album "What if this CD... had Lyrics?"

  • $70,000 - Super Season, if we get this this goal, we will produce a huge amount of TWENTY-TWO EPISODES for this season and still have some money extra to pay even more cast and crew to get this production done to the absolute best quality possible. This includes a HUGE season finale set in a Fantasy RPG world where the heroes must battle against an ancient dark dragon that threatens to destroy the world.

  • $100,000 - THE ULTIMATE SEASON, if we reach this incredible goal we will produce perhaps the most astounding web series ever made. TWENTY-SIX EPISODE SEASON, extended cuts on all episodes with some damn fine special effects and maybe even a few very high profile names too and bonus "Space Battle" episode. In addition to that we'll be throwing launch parties in Los AngelesNew York and London for anyone who has contributed to attend for free! 


I’ve always been fascinated with video games. Not just for their entertainment value, but as an art form. It’s often been questioned if they even are one. Do they offer something to us that is more than just pure entertainment? After all, something may be entertaining but for it to be art, it has to give something more to the audience, something to add to their lives, to discuss and perhaps change their outlook on certain things. To many of us ‘gamers’, video games, or ‘the interactive arts’, have done just that, much in the same way the theatre, novels, television and film had done for previous generations. In many ways with this series, I hope we can explore this question and celebrate it. Celebrate gamer culture from Platformers to RPGs, Beat 'Em Ups to First Person Shooters and the whole spectrum of gaming. This comedic take of a man who plays way too many video games and one day finds himself trapped in a universe where the games he played are now reality, will be created for the web, a culture almost synonymous with gamers and geekdom. It is the perfect home for an exploration and celebration of the art form we call video games and one I hope you will all share with me and enjoy. 
- Petros L. Ioannou (Creator)  


Even if you can't contribute to the effort, though anything will do, please just spread the word about this project. We want to get this thing off the ground and really get it rolling and we need your help to do it. We need a community.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Inception: A Screenplay Analysis


Screenplay Analysis by: 

Petros L. Ioannou

Inception is a 2010 film written by Christopher Nolan to be directed by him.. It was released hot on the heels of the film that hurled Christopher Nolan from “good director” to “this director can do no wrong”, an adaptation of the Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight”. The Dark Knight grossed over a billion dollars making it at the time the fourth highest grossing film of all time. As such Nolan became so well received as a director that he was given a virtually unlimited budget to create a completely original concept film. Now as far as I can find, this has only happened once previously in history, with James Cameron, who after Terminator racking $500m at the box office got $175m to make Titanic and then after that smashed the box office to the point that is made well over double Jurassic Park, the top grossing film of all time, he was given the money to make Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time to this date grossing nearly a billion dollars more than even Titanic. So you can imagine the faith that Warner Bros had placed in Christopher Nolan after his success with The Dark Knight. Inception was an original concept that could either turn out to be the next Titanic or Avatar or it could be a complete flop.

Well, it didn't make the kind of money that Avatar or Titanic, in fact it didn't actually even reach the box office gross of The Dark Knight. It reached similar critical acclaim, with Inception being nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, both of which it lost out to The King’s Speech. It made $825m at the box office, a huge success also but still not quite as much as The Dark Knight, a film that’s often considered one of the biggest Oscar snubs in history. Now I will make often comparisons to The Dark Knight in this analysis; the reason being is that both were massive budget action films, written and directed by the same man with similar critical and financial success. On a basic screenplay basis Inception is unusual for Christopher Nolan as he usually co-writes his screenplays with his brother Jonathan Nolan, even adapting Memento a short story by Jonathan. This is Christopher Nolan’s first solo attempt at an original screenplay for a bigger budget film, his first and only other attempt was “Following” a British Neo-Noir, so obviously a much smaller scale movie.  I find it quite interesting to compare and contrast the screenplays of Inception and The Dark Knight to see the differences; the first of which is obviously that Inception is an original screenplay and The Dark Knight is an adaptation of an existing work.

Inception is a very good film; it’s also a film which, much like Avatar, was hyped to shit before its release and very much during and as such as received something of a backlash for not living up to many people’s hype. However this does not detract from the fact that Inception tells and interesting story with some interesting characters, even with the flaws it has. Just as with Avatar I will defend this movie to my dying breath as I believe both are good films and certainly not ‘bad’ as many people seem to have developed the opinion of, Inception being a great one perhaps.

Dom Cobb is an expert at going into people’s dreams using an unspecified device. He’s an expert at reading people, all their subtle movements, which in this case are thoughts. He’s made a career of stealing information from people’s minds by subtly influencing their thoughts and by proxy their dreams. He mentions secrets and the “dreamer” will automatically fill a safe full of their biggest secrets. He’s also made a large number of contacts in this ‘industry’ over the years. All of this is in Cobb’s character introduction in the first five minutes of the movie. He’s also very smart and has a ‘reputation’ for being the best as he not only goes into a dream but a dream within a dream, which becomes further complex later on, as a trap to get rich businessman Mr. Saito to reveal his secrets to him that a private company has asked him to get. Cobb however is not a bad guy, despite his criminal activities it’s soon revealed to us that he’s been wrongly accused of a crime and can’t return. He’s a family man who loves his kids and his dead wife so much that she’s stuck in his subconscious mind. Mal his deceased wife is a character only inside the dreams. She now representing his doubts about reality and self-loathing for everything he’s done. We eventually learn that Cobb is accused of the crime of murdering Mal, despite the truth being that she killed herself. We learn that Cobb and his wife were experimenting with dreams and in the process ended up stuck down in “limbo” a shared dream space of nothingness for decades as time moves slower more dreams within a dream you’re in and limbo is a dream state four stories deep as it were. Mal became obsessed with the idea that her world wasn’t real and even when Cobb and his wife got out of limbo that idea, “the most powerful thing in the world”, is stuck in Mal’s head and she becomes driven by the idea that the world they live in is not real either and as such she kills herself trying to escape the dream. However the twist is that Cobb planted that idea himself; he is technically speaking responsible for her death, not in the literal sense that he murdered her with his own hands as the police believe but in the sense that he planted the idea that Mal’s world wasn’t real in an attempt to try and bring her back to reality. The idea of creating an idea inside someone’s mind is called Inception.

Inception is considered impossible to do as the subject is always slightly aware they’re dreaming and as such planting an idea inside someone’s mind can never be real as they’re always aware of it. Unless you go deep into their subconscious by going from a dream into a dream into another dream. Three levels down if the scenario is engineered well enough an idea can be planted even an artificial one and the dreamer will believe they came up with this idea themselves. Inception is also, as the title would show, the plot of the movie. Cobb is given a chance by Saito to have his record expunged and the chance to return to his children in America for the first time since Mal died. All Cobb has to do is go into the mind of a businessman who soon will control pretty much all the world’s energy supply and plant the idea of breaking up his father’s empire. He must perform an Inception, something that the last time he did it; cost him his wife.

So this is Cobb and his dilemma that will drive the plot; Cobb is an extremely well thought out character, he has an interesting past and over the course of the movie he will develop and learn to get over the death of his wife and the guilt that plagues him as he gets the job done for Mr. Saito. The supporting cast however are well set up but not very well developed. Arthur is his friend, confidant and possibly even protégé given their age gaps, he’s the ‘point man’, he’s smooth, he’s smart and he’s efficient with a unique class of taste as we see based on the design of both his created dream spaces. There is also Ariadne, the cute young college student who becomes a dream ‘architect’, who even develops a five second sub plot of romance with Arthur. She also acts as something of an audience surrogate, the person to whom all the information about this complex plot is exposited to. There’s also Yusef, ‘the chemist’ and Eames ‘the forger’, who is quite fun and cocky with something of a minor rivalry with Arthur. Fischer is the subject of inception; he goes through some development as he is incepted with the idea to break up his father’s corporate empire.

So what’s wrong with the cast? Well Cobb is really the only character is goes through any form of an arc, Fischer does also but that’s only because there’s a subject. Everyone else is really very superficial; any character that has minor development is almost discarded and never really looked into. Arthur and Ariadne’s relationship is dropped upon during the plot as they kiss but then never expanded upon. Arthur and Eames’ rivalry has a few comical moments such as the one with “dreaming a little bigger” and the grenade launcher but again is never really questioned or brought up. Let’s look at The Dark Knight for a second. We have Bruce Wayne; a man who lost his parents to a desperate thug with a gun, wrapped by guilt because of his fear and inability to act he travels the world learning how to fight, be a detective and upon returning to his home city of Gotham, takes on the symbol of the thing he fears most Bats. As such, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman; possibly one of the most complex and well written characters in literature and often not given the credit he deserves because he’s an adapted character from comic books. He develops in The Dark Knight as he tries to find a way to end his crusade and become a normal man with a normal life but slowly realises that’s never going to be possible when the love of his life is murdered by The Joker. As such Batman becomes an eternal symbol of fear for criminals in Gotham being not a man by a symbol who can be accused of murder and take the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes. There’s The Joker, a psychopath who we never truly understand his back story but know he’s a psychopath who goes from robbing mob banks to finding his true purpose in tormenting Batman. Alfred, Wayne’s butler, goes from loving friend and confidant to hiding secrets from Bruce to protect him. District Attorney Harvey Dent; the white knight of Gotham who becomes the evil murderous Two Face after watching that same love of his life die literally seconds after agreeing to marry him. Finally there’s the incorruptible Lieutenant James Gordon who learns from Batman to do what is necessary, faking his own death to bring down the Joker, receives a promotion to Commissioner and learns that his actions in trying to bring down the mob have consequences, like the death of Rachel and the change of Dent. This is an amazing supporting cast and better written and developed than the Inception cast.

Now here’s the interesting question; is the lack of development in Inception’s supporting cast intentional? It could just be bad writing as some assume and shows that Christopher Nolan whilst a man with a talented set of ideas might need his brother Jonathan in order to full crystallise his ideas into more cohesive screenplays. Or it could be intentional based upon the ending. In the ending Cobb spins his spinning top “totem” but we never see if it topples or not leading us to wonder if Cobb is in a dream. Now if Nolan wants us to believe that Cobb is in a dream then the supporting cast don’t matter, as that’s what it’s like in a dream, you’re the focus of attention and no-one else really matters beyond the minor details. In this case it’s probably an amazing case of writing and huge risk; he’s intentionally letting the audience think the characters are underdeveloped to leave the hints that Cobb is dreaming. There’s also a ton of times that it’s hinted in the movie from Miles saying out of context in a conversation “Come back to reality, Dom.” To when he wakes up from using Yusef’s compound and tries to use his spinning top but it’s interrupted and we never find out and never see him use it again. This scene also comes right after someone saying ‘why would you care if it’s reality’ referring to a dream. His kids at the very end are exactly the same age as before as though no time as passed. It’s all these little hints that aren’t really noticed until you watch the film or read the screenplay a second or third time. Could he even be inside Mal’s dream and Mal has woken up by killing herself? Did she incept him? Afterall the spinning top’s exact weight and spin was known by her also and a cardinal rule is that no-one should ever know your totem or else its effects could become redundant in that person’s dream. It’s hundreds of little hints throughout the movie or the screenplay. They might even be a double bluff designed intentionally to make us feel like it’s a dream but actually reality.

Overall the question about the ending for me can be answered in one way. Does it even matter? Cobb is happy, he no longer cares, if it’s a dream or reality and really just Nolan screwing with us as I believe, Cobb is happy and no longer cares about dreams and reality, just that he gets to be normal again and I find that ending almost romantically beautiful in that sense. Inception is a movie much like The Dark Knight and whilst I favour The Dark Knight personally and think it’s a better film overall, Inception created an opportunity in Hollywood to create interesting science fiction films with original concepts that have high octane action as this and The Dark Knight do. It’s an excellent film really any way you look at it and even if it never quite reached the success of The Dark Knight, it’s certainly a film to be remembered for quite a long time.

Hope you enjoyed this Screenplay Analysis, please check back every Sunday for a new post. Also check out the previous Screenplay Analysis of "Network".

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Case for an Expansion Bay

Hey kids? Remember back in the back end of the 2nd millennium there was this ancient piece of interactive technology called the Ultra that only aliens with three hands could use, causing it's rival the Suny StationPlayer to sell waaaay more units?


Well that's probably because you don't live in the future and are looking back on this from some kind of warped perspective where the Nintendo 64 wasn't one of the greatest gaming devices ever invented. Seriously, I can't think of a single games console that made as much of an impact as this one. The original NES created the D-Pad, the PlayStation used discs, the Wii had motion controls but the N64 had a ton of awesome things, the first real analog stick, the C-Buttons that were used for camera control and later evolved into a second stick primarily used for camera control. The 3D graphics that at the time on the PlayStation people just couldn't make heads or tails of, were utilized by Nintendo in a Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and other games in ways that are still used to this very day. It gave us the first real trigger button with "Z" and GoldenEye was the game that launched a thousand FPS's. It had four controller ports built in, which became the standard on every console until wireless controllers came about. So why is it that the thing that impresses me most is something that simply isn't around on consoles any more. That's right, I'm talking about the expansion bay.

Not the thing on the back of the controller but the thing on the front. It's most used application was to use the  Expansion Pak to give the Nintendo 64, 4MB of extra RAM (shut up it was a big deal back then). With varying games consoles and rapidly increasing technology, it surprises me that home consoles don't come with an expansion bay any more. Like, seriously, you've got PC's which are way more popular than Macs among gamers because you can upgrade them, stick in some more RAM, a new graphics card e.t.c. Well one big advantage of consoles is that they are pretty much a standardised model for games, you don't need to worry "Will my game work on my PC?" because - YES, it will work. 

Every game you buy for a home video console will work for it. Sometimes you need a peripheral, like a Wii Remote Plus but the console will always play the game. However a major problem with a console like the Wii was that it simple couldn't graphically keep up by the end of this generation of consoles and as such really lost support. Sure there were some really incredible games at the end of it's life like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Xenoblade Chronicles, the combination of the two makes probably two of the best games this generation in my opinion. But generally speaking the Wii lost support, to the point that FIFA 12 and FIFA 13 are literally the same game with player changes. And I'm not talking like the incremental changes yearly released that FIFA, PES and Call of Duty make but I'm talking literally not a damn thing changed because EA just decided really, no one is buying this on Wii - why bother?

So why have something like an expansion bay on a home console if the reason people buy home consoles is because they are set standards that developers create for. Well the reason is this, on a PC nowadays many games have "lower settings" on graphics so people with shite PC's like my own, can play them. Probably the game that was most famous for using the N64's Expansion Pak was The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It needed those 4MB of extra RAM to process the game. But now-days we've seen that games don't actually need to be a "set model", they can have varying graphical levels. Why not use an expansion bay to keep costs down. You can have the set model which plays all games but an expansion bay that will allow consoles to keep up with PC's on a graphical level without consumers having to pay literally hundreds potentially thousands more to get a better PC every couple of years. Look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim, the visuals on the PC version are infinitely better than they are on the 360 or even PS3. With an expansion bay, the game could be played at a lower version or an upgraded version. Take this to an extreme and a console like Wii could have even played it with an expansion upgrade.

And what happens when the next line of consoles come out. The Wii U despite being more powerful than the PS3 and 360 (and it is, the specs are very clear) will probably lag behind the next Sony and/or Microsoft games consoles in graphics, an expansion bay on the Wii U could have provided a way to keep up with the others. Even if an Expansion Pak U (yes I'm calling it that) costed $150 that's still cheaper than the alternative of buying a $400 minimum NextBox or PS4, games could still be played on Wii U, so long as they have a lower settings mode, which they're already programming on PC versions.

Now why a case for an Expansion Bay as such. After all they can still do this for the Wii U if it has a USB port right? Well, yes but it would be incredibly clunky and annoying sticking out of the back, attached to a wire, not to mention USB 2.0... not that fast by comparison to directly installed, there's bound to be hundreds of issues.

Hope this has been an interesting talk about random crap for you. Check out the other stuff I've written on my blog. I update it every Sunday afternoon.