Saturday, 16 January 2077

Support The Wertzone on Patreon


After much debate (and some requests) I have signed up with crowdfunding service Patreon to better support future blogging efforts. You can find my Patreon page here and more information after the jump.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Sam Esmail adds to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 3.0 confusion

Producer Sam Esmail has taken part in a video interview with Collider about the upcoming new Battlestar Galactica TV show, on which he is working as an executive producer.

This new project has been described by Esmail as a continuation, or at least set in the same universe, as Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the second version of the franchise which ran from 2003-09 and spawned two spin-off projects (prequel series Caprica and prequel TV movie Blood & Chrome). He reiterates in the new interview that he spoke to Moore (currently helming both Starz's Outlander and Apple+'s For All Mankind) and got his blessing for the project.

However, the new show's actual head writer and showrunner Michael Lesslie, has previously indicated that the new show will be a fresh reboot/remake of the original premise, something which NBC's publicity seems to have agreed with.

Although there is scope for further exploration of Moore's BSG iteration, it would probably not involve the titular Galactica starship herself and might involve a fairly deep dive of the mythology behind the show. It is unclear if NBC would be interested in a reboot of the show which did not involve the "classic" elements of the series, such as Viper fighters, Cylons and characters such as Adama, Apollo, Starbuck and Baltar.

NBC's parent company, Universal, are also simultaneously developing a totally fresh, ground-up movie version of Battlestar Galactica with X-Men movie ruiner Simon Kinberg and Planet of the Apes reboot mastermind Dylan Clark and it's unclear if they would want two versions of the same story airing simultaneously. It's also unclear if they'd want two different universes/takes on the same story going on at the same time, maybe feeling that might get confusing. However, it's not unprecedented, with both Netflix and Constantin Films developing two different takes on the Resident Evil franchise in different continuities, with both projects now greenlit and in pre-production.

The third TV iteration of Battlestar Galactica is currently in the planning stages and is due to debut on Peacock, NBC's new streaming service, in 2022 or 2023. Esmail hopes to start shooting the series this year, but notes that may not be possible due to various delays stemming from the global pandemic.

JOHN WICK writer tapped to develop DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS TV series

Hasbro and their inhouse studio, eOne, have tapped John Wick writer Derek Kolstad to develop a Dungeons and Dragons TV series proposal for them.

Hasbro are eyeing transferring the popular Dungeons and Dragons fantasy multiverse to the screen in the form of a mixed media approach consisting of video games, films and TV shows. A number of video games are on the way, including Dark Alliance and Baldur's Gate III (both tapped for a late 2021 release), whilst Paramount and eOne are in negotiations with Chris Pine for him to star in a feature film slated to begin shooting later this year in the Titanic Studios in Belfast (where Game of Thrones was previously based).

Hasbro began developing a TV series a couple of months ago and are apparently looking for multiple pitches, with a view to putting several projects in development simultaneously.

Kolstad is best known for his work on all three John Wick movies. He has also written several episodes of the imminent MCU TV show, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and is working on the script for the long-gestating Just Cause movie.

The multimedia approach for Dungeons and Dragons is a lot more appropriate than for most properties. D&D, despite its reputation for standard fantasy tropes, actually spans a multitude of very different worlds, including the more traditional Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings, the post-apocalyptic Dark Sun world, the dark horror of Ravenloft, the surreal multidimensional Planescape universe and the steampunk setting of Eberron.

Friday, 15 January 2021

RIP Storm Constantine

Word has sadly broken that British fantasy author Storm Constantine has died at the age of 64, after a long illness.

Born in 1956 in Salford, England, Constantine attended art college and was the manager of several bands. She began writing stories as a child, developing a strong interest in Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology, as well as the Tarot. In the late 1970s she began developing a fantasy series revolving around a new, hermaphrodite post-human species that would arise to replace humanity. This idea evolved into the Wraeththu Chronicles, a trilogy starting with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit (1987).

The series was highly successful, sparking a prolific period lasting into the late 1990s and consisting of the Artemis and Grigori series. However, although she maintained strong sales in the USA, Constantine found sales in the UK dipping and publishers losing interest in her work. In 2003 she founded Immanion Press as a way of keeping her work in print and publishing new work, such as a Wraeththu sequel trilogy. She also published work by other authors, including numerous works related to paganism, myth and mythology. An immense fan of fellow fantasy/horror author Tanith Lee, she republished some of Lee's back catalogue as well. She also founded and edited the Visionary Tongue magazine in the 1990s.

During her career, she published one novella, nine short story collections and twenty-five novels (one in collaboration with Michael Moorcock), as well as collaborating on the Wraeththu roleplaying game.

Her work was notable for breaking new ground in the treatment of gender and sexuality in fantasy fiction, as well as being an author unafraid to embrace fanfiction. Many fans who wrote fiction set in her worlds were encouraged to submit to official anthologies she published, and she encouraged them to seek professional careers in the field. She will be missed.

Amazon Prime releases concept art for the WHEEL OF TIME TV series

To celebrate today's 31st birthday of the Wheel of Time fantasy series, Amazon have shared some concept art for the upcoming TV series.

Showrunner Rafe Judkins introduced a slew of artwork showing how the TV show will be bringing the late Robert Jordan's vision to life.

In the first image (above), two characters - possibly Rand and Mat - are in a narrow valley staring down at a settlement below. This doesn't seem immediately like anything from the books but could be during their long journey overland from Shadar Logoth to Caemlyn..

The second image is more readily identifiable as the village of Emond's Field, possibly during the Winternight celebrations. In the first Wheel of Time novel, The Eye of the World, the actual Winternight celebration takes place off-page. Actually seeing it, and the tumultuous events that follow, is a reasonable change from the page.

The third image is likely of the Tinker caravan, where Perrin and Egwene seek refuge after the events at Shadar Logoth.

This image seems to feature our main group of characters travelling through a forest towards a distant tower. This is most likely just before the group arrive in the ruined city of Shadar Logoth.

The final image is likely of the ruined, eerie city itself just before trouble erupts.

The first season of Wheel of Time has concluded shooting, although there has been some confusion over whether the season wrapped on schedule or was forced to wrap early due to greater COVID restrictions in the Czech Republic, with a few scenes left to shoot. This has an impact on the show's airdate. Assuming they have everything they need, Season 1 of The Wheel of Time could potentially air in the next few months, otherwise they'll have to wait until they can pick up those last shots (which possibly won't happen until they shoot a second season).

More news, of course, as we get it.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Brian McClellan's POWDER MAGE TRILOGY optioned for television by STARGATE producer

Joseph Mallozzi, the former producer of the StarGate TV franchise and more recently Dark Matter and Utopia Falls, has optioned Brian McClellan's well-received Power Mage epic fantasy series for TV.

Mallozzi is teaming with Canadian company No Equal Entertainment and Frantic Films. No broadcaster or streamer is yet attached.

The Powder Mage Trilogy consists of the novels Promise of Blood (2013), The Crimson Campaign (2014) and The Autumn Republic (2015) and revolves around a world where the gods have returned after a long absence to find time and technology has moved on without them and the people have developed 18th Century levels of technology, including gunpowder and campaign. The story revolves around "powder mages" who can combined the powers of gunpowder and sorcery in an unusual way. The series has gained some positive critical notices and sold almost a million copies since it was published. A sequel trilogy followed in 2017-19.

As usual, this is a speculative option by a producer company, not a greenlight by a big streamer or network, so it's a long way from going on-screen, but it's another sign that the fantasy genre remains hot and many TV and film studios are interested in developing new properties.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Lucasfilm ends EA-exclusive deal for STAR WARS games, announces new title from the makers of THE DIVISION

The new Lucasfilm Games brand is kicking off its existence with a slew of announcements. On Monday Lucasfilm announced the new brand existed, yesterday they confirmed a collaboration with Bethesda and MachineGames on an Indiana Jones title and today they've confirmed a collaboration with Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment on a new Star Wars title, which also means the end of Electronic Arts' exclusive licence to develop Star Wars games.

Lucasfilm previously developed a large number of Star Wars games either inhouse through Lucasfilm Games (rebranded LucasArts in 1990) or through partnerships with external studios, including BioWare, Raven Software and Totally Games. In 2012 the company was taken over by Disney, who shuttered LucasArts the following year and signed an exclusive deal with Electronic Arts to develop multiple Star Wars games (apart from various Star Wars Lego games, produced under a pre-existing licence with Warner Brothers). EA promised an ambitious slate of many games, bringing the full firepower of their multiple studios to bear on the franchise. However, eight years later they've only actually released four games: Battlefront (2015), Battlefront II (2017, both from DICE), Jedi: Fallen Order (2019, from Respawn Entertainment) and Squadrons (2020, from EA Motive). Battlefront II was harshly criticised for trying to nickel-and-dime customers through the use of "loot boxes" which were condemned by some governments as encouraging children to take part in gambling with real money, which resulted in one of the game's developers achieving the unenviable record of having the single most-downvoted comment in the history of Reddit.

EA have also cancelled many more games, starting with First Assault and 1313, which they'd inherited from Lucasfilm; an Uncharted-style action adventure from Amy Hennig; an open-world game set on Tatooine from Visceral Games; and a single-player-focused Battlefront spin-off, similar to the Bad Company and Hardline spin-offs from the Battlefield franchise. In addition, they had apparently considered working on a new Knights of the Old Republic game at BioWare (either a sequel or reboot), but had decided not to proceed.

EA's strategy, although criticised, has resulted in financial success: more than 40 million copies of their Star Wars games have been sold in the last five years, and Fallen Order and Squadrons had a strong critical reception. According to rumours of varying reliability, Respawn are working on Fallen Order II and DICE have been working on Battlefront III as a bigger and more epic title, not connected to a film release, whilst EA are still evaluating Squadrons' performance to see if a sequel is warranted.

EA's exclusivity period ends in 2023, but it appears this solely applies to release dates, not development. The Ubisoft project is only just spooling up and will be very unlikely to be released before 2024 or 2025.

The new game is being worked on by Swedish developers Massive Entertainment, who made the phenomenal strategy games Ground Control, Ground Control II and World in Conflict. They were bought out by Ubisoft and subsequently provided development support on Assassin's Creed and Far Cry titles before releasing the highly popular online action-RPG The Division in 2016. They followed that up with The Division 2 in 2019. The two games have sold more than 20 million copies. Reportedly they have almost concluded development of a game to tie in with James Cameron's Avatar sequels, but they have faced several delays because of the movie's delays.

Reportedly, the new Star Wars game will be an open-world title with action roleplaying elements, very much like The Division. Lucasfilm and Ubisoft have not confirmed it will be a multiplayer-focused game, but given the pedigree of the people involved, that sounds likely. 

This may be just the beginning of the opening of the floodgates for a whole ton of new Star Wars games from different studios. Some of these prospects are tantalising. Could Blackbird and Gearbox get a licence to make a new Star Wars space-strategy game? How about a hardcore Star Wars action game from FromSoftware? The possibilities are intriguing.

Official summary for Amazon Prime's LORD OF THE RINGS show leaks

The One Ring has secured a copy of the official summary for Amazon Prime's Lord of the Rings TV show, which I have been unofficially referring to hitherto as The Second Age (although its final title remains unconfirmed).

The One Ring's early reporting on the new project was spotty - insisting that the show was about "Young Aragorn" long after that idea had been rejected - but their recent reporting has been more reliable, revealing several pieces of information before it was confirmed by Amazon, so this appears to be reliable.

The synopsis leaves out a lot of information - such as the show's actual name, since just calling it The Lord of the Rings will be confusing - but it does confirm a lot of the information that's been released over the past year and a half or so. The show will indeed be set in the Second Age of Middle-earth and will deal with the island kingdom of Númenor, the elven kingdom of Lindon and the first rise to power of the Dark Lord Sauron.

Not confirmed in this summary, but now overwhelmingly likely, is that the series will deal with the forging of the Rings of Power by Sauron some 5,000 years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The series as a whole, which Amazon envisages as spanning five seasons, may cover a period of many centuries or even millennia, spanning the long-running conflict between Sauron and the elves of Middle-earth, aided by their redoubtable ally of Númenor, a great island-empire in the western ocean and forerunner to the later kingdom of Gondor.

Lord of the Rings: The Second Age (tbc) is currently filming in New Zealand, with the production based in Auckland. Filming took a break over Christmas and the New Year but is due to resume shortly. It is unclear when the show will premiere, but with production expected to run for several months (having been underway since September, with the first two episodes shot back in February-March) and extensive post-production being required, it may be that the series will not debut until 2022.

More news as it emerges.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

WOLFENSTEIN developers creating an INDIANA JONES video game for Bethesda

Further to the announcement yesterday that Lucasfilm were resurrecting the Lucasfilm Games brand, they have now confirmed their first brand-new project. A new Indiana Jones game is being developed by Bethesda, via their MachineGames Studios. Elder Scrolls and Fallout head honcho Todd Howard is attached as a producer.

MachineGames is a Swedish developer founded in 2009 by several former employees of the well-regarded Starbreeze Studios. MachineGames was acquired by Bethesda in late 2010. Their games have been Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014), Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (2015), Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017), Wolfenstein: Youngblood (2019) and Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (2019).

The new Indiana Jones game will have an original story and won't be related to the fifth Indiana Jones movie, which starts shooting imminently with James Mangold directing and Harrison Ford returning to the role. That film is aiming for a July 2022 release, although that date being pushed back is possible.

With Bethesda being owned by Microsoft, it's possible this new game will be exclusive to PC and X-Box, but that has not yet been clarified.

Howard is also currently leading development of two single-player CRPGs at Bethesda Game Studios, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI, the sequel to the bestselling Skyrim.

Lucasfilm Games returns from the dead

In surprising news, Lucasfilm have resurrected their defunct gaming division, Lucasfilm Games (known from 1990 as LucasArts). The division was shuttered in 2013 when Lucasfilm and Electronic Arts negotiated a ten-year agreement for EA to develop and publish video games based on Lucasfilm properties, particularly Star Wars titles. But now it's back.

Lucasfilm/LucasArts Games developed dozens of titles between 1983 and 2013, including: Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders, LoomThe Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island II: LeChuck's Revenge, The Curse of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Day of the TentacleGrim Fandango, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, Their Finest Hour, Night Shift, The Dig, Full Throttle and Outlaws. Their Star Wars games included beloved classics such as X-Wing, TIE Fighter, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, X-Wing: Alliance, Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Shadows of the Empire, Rebellion, Rogue SquadronRepublic Commando, The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II.

At the time of LucasArts' dissolution, they were developing an ambitious game called Star Wars: 1313, set in the underbelly of Coruscant and featuring ambitious gameplay and narrative ideas.

The Lucasfilm Games "sizzle" video above heavily leans on the recent EA-published games Battlefront (2015), Battlefront II (2017), Jedi: Fallen Order (2019) and Squadrons (2020). This suggests that, for now, Lucasfilm Games is a brand that will be applied to further Star Wars titles as they are developed. However, it may also indicate more ambitious future gaming plans, including setting up new development teams in-house.

EA's handling of the Star Wars licence has been mixed. Battlefront and Battlefront II were heavily-criticised for nickel-and-diming players through shady reward schemes (although the two games have sold more than 30 million copies, a very healthy figure in the current market). However, Fallen Order and Squadrons have had a much warmer critical reception. It has been rumoured that EA are currently developing Battlefront III and Fallen Order II, with an option to fast-track Squadrons II should the game's sales be satisfactory.

Many more games have been cancelled in development. An attempt at BioWare to get Knights of the Old Republic III underway was apparently also shot down by EA management, to the irritation of fans.

EA's licence to publish Star Wars games reportedly expires in 2023, so it'll be interesting to see if they re-sign with Disney or Disney are putting plans in place to develop games internally once again.

More tantalising is the idea that Lucasfilm might also be considering reopening their vaults and developing new games from their immense stash of long on-hiatus IPs, such as the Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion series.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes.