I recently had the pleasure of reading Tricia Barr’s first installment of the Fireheart series called Wynde. Some of you may know her from articles written for Star Wars:Insider or read her FANgirl blog. From the Amazon description the book sounded like a Star Wars type of story but it turned out to be an impressive display of everything I’m looking for with the future of Star Wars. I must admit that after mostly reading Star Wars books this year I was a little intimidated to be reading a new author’s work of almost 800 pages. It has been awhile since I’d picked up a book that long (probably Martin’s A Dance With Dragons) and so I timidly opened the book to begin. What unfolded has the potential to become my new favorite series. I am emphasizing “my” because I am somewhat of a special case. It is difficult for me to combine two passions in my life: Star Wars and horses. Tricia Barr manages to do that and so much more. The future of Star Wars can learn from this promising new author. Read More
We’ve got a bit of an interesting case on our hands in that the “What Star Wars Can Learn From . . .” series here at Eleven-Thirty Eight generally tends to focus on other franchises entirely disconnected from Star Wars. The Jupiter Pirates: The Hunt for the Hydra is a brand-new novel by veteran Star Wars writer and esoterica enthusiast Jason Fry, who has written in his own original world but is definitely a player in the Expanded Universe that we all know and love. To that end, this article may well have been named: “Reasons why Jason Fry should be allowed to write a Star Wars novel.”
We shall try to maintain a dignified and discreet air about all this, though, because that suits our style better. But please imagine a subtext running throughout this article that amounts to a wink and a nudge to Lucasfilm and Del Rey to give this man a novel. We – that is, we ourself and not ETE proper – can also give our approving endorsement of this novel and certainly encourage our readers to give it a look.
This novel is kid-friendly in the best way: it’s written for a young adult audience (aged 8 to 12, according to Amazon, though the young adult label on the official website would suggest to us the ages of 13-18) and balances action with thoughtful world-building. It’s set in the future, but influenced by familiar history in a way that leaves the story grounded. That future is still plagued by some of the problems of today, but despite the historical tinge it’s not mired in backwards gender structures. These are all things we could stand to see more of in Star Wars.
In the previous incarnations of this series examining what Star Wars could stand to take a few lessons from, Mike Cooper examined the Avatar franchise (no, not that one) and Lucas Jackson took a longlook at the exquisitely-executed pseudohistorical freerunning-with-a-side-of-murder simulators that comprise Assassin’s Creed. In today’s article, we’ll be probing another series of popular video games: BioWare’s Mass Effect, unhelpfully defined by Wikipedia as “a series of science fiction action role-playing third person shooter video games.”
For those whose knowledge of the franchise begins and ends with that vague, kitchen sink-esque description, we’ll take a few moments to elaborate on the nature of the games and the overarching story before we move on to the meat of the article. In Mass Effect, players take on the role of Commander [insert name here] Shepard, a highly-trained marine in the military of the Systems Alliance (the interstellar arm of humanity) in the year 2183, serving aboard the SSV Normandy, a state-of-the-art prototype stealth reconnaissance frigate.
Yesterday, we offered the first lesson and sublessons Star Wars could take from Assassin’s Creed. Today, we conclude with lessons two and three.
Lesson #2: Develop character arcs for every story
You wouldn’t think this would need to be a lesson . . . but can anyone tell me what the character arc of any major hero, besides Ben, has been since The New Jedi Order? The Expanded Universe hasn’t always been very good about making sure that its stories feature heroes going through arcs and receiving character development, rather than just pushing their way through another series of events.
One of the reasons I have enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series is that its games have always avoided the temptation to be simple sequences of action setpieces. Storytelling has always mattered. Each of the series’ heroes has received an arc in each game. Desmond’s arc, stretched across his games, was to train as an Assassin, uncover the information he was searching for, and come to accept his place among the Assassins. Every game made sure to push that forward and add some new element, and even though his arc was the weakest of the leads’, the ultimate progression from bartender who had rejected his childhood as an Assassin to unwilling participant in the Assassin-Templar war to committed Assassin who ultimately sacrificed his life to protect the world based on his philosophical understanding of Assassin tenets was satisfying.
Altaïr, meanwhile, had a subtly revealed arc taking him from arrogant and dismissive of Assassin philosophy to philosophically engaged, humble, and respectful of others. He also had a nicely complex journey from dismissive of authority to respect of authority and ultimately to questioning of authority, a more subtle shift that did not move along a binary slider but involved changing his motivations, self-regard, and intellectual depth. Altaïr was later featured in flashbacks in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, which made sure to give his life an arc of duty and sacrifice as he struggled to realize how to lead the Assassins and recover from crippling personal setbacks.
In our “What Star Wars Can Learn From” series, we’ve been examining lessons the Star Wars franchise can take from other successful series. Cooper kicked off the series with a look at Avatar (the Airbender franchise, not the blue people and special effects franchise). Now I’d like to take a look at the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It is, like most things these days, a multimedia franchise, but I’ll be focusing on the triple-A video games, which are the heart of the series and the only part with which the vast majority of people are familiar.
For the benefit of those not familiar with Assassin’s Creed, it is a series of video games published by Ubisoft in which users play the role of a modern-day man (Desmond Miles in all the games up to now) experiencing the adventures of his various ancestors through advanced technology. The core of the games is in the stories of these ancestors, members of an order of Assassins who fight against Templars who wish to create a “better” and more orderly world without respect to the freedom and rights of ordinary people. These ancestors appear across a range of historical settings, interacting with real historical figures, while living out a sort of “secret history” that plays with the idea, essentially, “What if every conspiracy theory was actually true and all rolled into this one struggle?” There have been five releases up to now, following three Assassin ancestors, and a sixth coming out on current-gen consoles this very day with a new Assassin, plus the PlayStation Vita release Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, which followed an additional Assassin and will receive a full console port next year. Read More