Saturday, March 18, 2017

System Saturdays: Am I Joining the Darkside and becoming PC Gamer?

If you were to set the current gaming world against the Star Wars universe console gamers would see themselves as the rebels and Jedi, against the PC gamers Sith and Imperials (as for the arcade game purist I could only suggest another sci-fi franchise, Dune perhaps, “Tell me about the environmental cabinets of your homeworld Maud’Dib!”). After all modern PC gamers do see themselves as a little superior with better systems and graphical capabilities than console gamers. Console gamers on the other hand see themselves the direct descendants of true home gaming, and as those who experience games as they should be played. Of course there is no real clash of light sabers here, since console gamers would rather argue over XBox vs Playstation than go head to head with PC gamers, but none the less the rivalry exist. Over the past few years the phrase “PC Master Race” was jokingly tossed out by console gamers, and the world of PC gamers have adopted the phrase as an endearment by their console brethren.   

So it’s official, on Monday afternoon of last week the large box containing my gaming PC arrived. It was the culmination of several weeks of research on modern systems, and something that had been in household discussions since last summer. The last time I’d looked into gaming systems had to have been around 2002 when I had to buy a simple laptop for grad school and drooled over Alienware’s latest gaming laptops. In those days 100 GB hard drives were considered massive, and having a microprocessor putting out nearly 2 Ghz was extremely high speed. Over the past 15 years the game has changed a little, but many of the old rules remain. There’s a wider variety of microprocessors than ever, although they are still made by the same two manufacturers AMD, and Intel. Graphics cards have also become an absolute must and there’s a huge variety of them as well, yet like microprocessors they’re only manufactured by two makers, AMD again, and NVIDIA. Lastly, as always the more RAM and hard drive space the better. The only differences between now and how it was back in the day, is the use of SSD’s (Solid State Drives) in gaming, and the technique’s of water cooling, and/or overclocking.

If you’ve read my blog before you may remember I mentioned that in the 90’s while the “Console Wars” raged on I was a PC gamer, above and removed from Nintendo’s and Sega’s (and also as I mentioned a few weeks back Atari’s) petty console arguments. Of course I didn’t start out with anything as grandiose as a gaming type computer back then, but rather a low to medium powered student special meant to help me write reports for school, and occasionally play games on. For the most part that old Packard-Bell Legend 126 held it’s own, and I got to experience many great games on it. With that said though games like Strike Commander and Subwar 2050 however, did vex me and made me wish I had something a little more powerful to play them on. Once I turned 16 and got a job I eventually added a sound card and CD-Rom drive, and opened up my systems potential a lot more. Although the RAM and hard drive space would elude me for a bit longer, until I turned 18 and was able to work a little more a get a credit card to help me finally build up the system. From there on I began to have software issues.

After a few years of hardware and software issues I will admit that I missed the simplicity of console play. Being able to plug a game in and just play without booting up, messing with memory allocation, and the other joys of PC gaming in that era, seemed like a more enjoyable way to play games even if the games at that time weren’t as complex and fulfilling. By 1999 I would return to console gaming thanks to the PS1 and a little game called Gran Turismo, but I didn’t completely convert back to console gaming. Thanks to a new PC, and a laptop I would experience The Sims, Command & Conquer: Tiberium Sun, and many other great PC games of the late 90’s and early 00’s.  

When the PS2, and it’s generational little brother the original XBox would arrive on the scene momentum would shift to console games representing the best gaming had to offer. Since then the descendants of the PS2 and XBox have had almost as much power and gameplay capability as PC’s of the same era’s, and many so called AAA titles (i.e. the hottest new titles) appear on all three platforms. In the past few years though PC gaming has began to make an unanticipated revival. Services like Steam, GoG, and Origin have given PC gamers access to game play opportunities that console gamers don’t. In addition to this PC’s are beginning to once again prove to be more powerful than console systems, and upgrading systems is proving to be more user friendly than ever.

For PC gamers though the main argument that PC’s are making a resurgence is in the area of performance. One of the key terms in this debate is FPS, or Frames Per Second, which tends to be higher for PC games, and delivers a smoother and more movie quality like form of game play. Although a lot of console gamers seem to have doubts over the validity of this argument, side by side comparisons do tend to show PC gamers might just be correct. As the combination of multi-core microprocessors, and graphics cards grow ever more powerful the frame rates grow larger and game play smoother and even more real looking.

On top of that PC gamers also point out the upgrade difference of PC’s versus consoles. Their argument is, and rightfully so, that consoles such as an XBox One or PS4 can’t really be easily upgraded and/or modified later on down the road. Modern console users have the options of either getting modifications done professionally and a great cost and risk to the base system, or waiting to buy an upgraded system like the PS4 Pro or the XBox One Scorpio. As to where video cards, RAM chips, hard drives, and microprocessors can be switched out throughout the life of the gaming PC, with relative ease.   

So why did I decide to buy a gaming PC? Although I game more heavily on consoles nowadays, the new and wider variety of game types on PC now is fantastic, as is the access to classic game types such as RTS’s and space flight combat sims. Some of these games do have console versions available, but having been originally designed for PC they can sometimes be limited in game control and features. Game’s like Minecraft for instance have huge features and mods only accessible on the PC. My late Fall time thief Star Trek Online, also has many features available on PC play that couldn’t be ported over to the XBox One and PS4 counterparts. Although I loved STO on the XBox One, watching PC gamers play the same levels with better gameplay features and options did make me a bit jealous. Admittedly though, one of the reasons I wanted a gaming computer was to get Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak which is the newest entry in the 3D RTS Homeworld franchise, and prequel to the first Homeworld game. It’s also a game that requires a fairly powerful PC to operate correctly, and smoothly.

Of course many of my reasons for getting the gaming computer aren't totally self motivated. Last summer when the idea of a gaming PC entered household discussion, it was as a possible birthday present for my eldest son, who wanted a slightly more powerful system to play Minecraft and Space Engineers on. Space Engineers, Minecraft as well as the still fairly new Kerbel Space Program are all great programs for kids of a certain age, and often help bring kids more fully into the STEM and STEAM programs offered by schools to advance science, mathematics, and technology skills. Since first playing Space Engineers last year on my slower office computer, my son has learned a lot about space and physics, and I know on a proper system he can learn so much more from it.

So will getting a gaming PC change me as a gamer? I honestly have to say, No! Perhaps I will see the graphical virtues of the gaming PC in action, and what PC gamers have been talking about this entire time. When it comes to games though there is one thing writing this blog and collecting have taught me and that is that when it comes to gaming every system and game-play method has something to contribute that makes gaming a little better as whole. I've seen console games derived from old PC games, and vise versa. Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2 despite being tremendous hits on the Xbox 360 and One consoles have roots in RTS’s that started out and still mostly inhabit the world of PC gaming. On the other hand many PC gamers can thank consoles for helping to flush out and build up many of the shared AAA franchise titles, especially since the PS2 era. Shared XBox, PlayStation, and PC titles have gotten to be the major productions they are now days thanks  to the massive amount of funding studios have coming in for these titles from all three sources, and that money has been poured into better production quality and game-play. Windows 10 PC’s can also that their XBox cousins for access to the XBox’s controllers which allow many gamers to experience a hybrid of console and PC gaming for better overall game-play.

I will admit that there is a bit of a culture shock with the lighted gaming monster on my desk, and the sudden ability to return to hardcore PC games after years of being away, but I’m ready.

Monday, March 13, 2017

8-bit Fridays: The Website

Hey All,

I very excited to announce that The Grand Emperors Retro Video Game Blog, is going to be moving off Blogger soon and on to it's own website at . If you've read my blog then you know I've been trying to move to a full fledged website for a while now. Right now we are under construction but hopefully we will be up and running within the next two weeks. will not only be home to all my original gaming content, but I will be bringing in content from my vinyl record blog Diary of an Amateur Record Collector, as well as my Route 66 blog Route 66 Family Fun & Fresh Perspective. I will also be partnering with Minecraft and Space Engineers legend Zorro900 to bring in content from his blog Zorro's Minecraft and Beyond. I also hope to eventually feature content on classic toys of the 80's and 90's as well.

I look forward to seeing you all there. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

System Saturdays: Welcome to Generation 9 - An Outsiders View of the Nintendo Switch

Yesterday March 3rd, 2017 Nintendo launched the Switch, a next generation version of its WiiU, but with the portability of a 3DS. I wasnt' lucky enough to get into the pre-order for this system, and feel ever so slightly left out. It’s not a complete downer though, since I heard a podcaster make a good point yesterday that it may be best to just wait and let the early system overcome it’s growing pains. In a way I can see the logic in that since the WiiU had a lot of battery issues with its display system after coming out. At the same time though I can’t but hope to run into a Neon Switch this weekend.

Anyway, as I posted on Twitter a little while ago this weekend, while everyone else is opening a Switch, I’m opening a PS4. And while everyone else is playing Breath of the Wild I’m playing Halo Wars 2. Please keep your smart ass comments to yourself about “just getting a Gen 8 system now” or “how a XBox One game won't work on a PS4”, I’ve had a XBox One going on two years now, and a WiiU a few months longer than that.

With that said the question that needs to be asked is if the Nintendo Switch is the first entry in the ninth generation of home consoles? The Wii and WiiU for instance heralded the start of their respective gaming generations, even though in both instances Microsoft and Sony would put out superior systems within a year or so of the launches of the respective Nintendo systems. So are we expecting the same out of Microsoft and Sony within the next year or two now? It’s hard to say but I have a feeling we will get a hint of things to come for both manufactures at the 2017 G4, and/or CES. Considering that Sony launched it’s VR add-on for the PS4, and Microsoft it’s XBox One S in the last half of 2016 one has to question if either is ready to move into the next generation yet. Microsoft's Project Scorpio, which has a projected launch near the end of 2017, may provide us with clues as to when we will see the rise of Gen 9. So far the Scorpio is just said to be a highly powerful full 4k XBox One, but could the success or failure of the Switch change the course of the Scorpio before it’s released? By that I mean to say would a modicum of success on the part of gen 9’s first system, the Nintendo Switch, cause Microsoft to turn the Scorpio into it’s ninth generation entry. So far the Scorpio only promises to be an overpowered XBox One, which in a way seems almost pointless and begs for next generation gameplay.

As long as I’m talking about power, there is something else I’m a bit curious about. Before the Switch was formally announced, and before it’s true nature was leaked to the general game playing public Nintendo hit us with something different called the NX. I don’t know if you remember this or not but the NX was suppose to be Nintendo’s, XBox One, and PS4 slayer. Like Ford with its F1 “Ferrari Slayer”, Nintendo was going to return to its powerhouse SNES days and give languishing Nintendo fans a serious system to shut down Microsoft and Sony fans with. When I first heard the stories on the NX I too was excited to see what Nintendo would do, since Nintendo hasn’t really been taken seriously by hard core gamers since the SNES. So when the NX project turned out to be the Switch it was a bit of a let down, since the Switch just turned out to be a minor evolution of the WiiU.  

Of course I still wouldn’t mind getting a Nintendo Switch with all that said, and the more I read and watch about the Switch the more intriguing I find the thinking behind its development. I myself believe the Switch is the vanguard of ninth generation consoles, however I don’t expect Sony or Microsoft to take any lead from it since they haven’t with regards to past systems.

If you got a Switch yesterday or today, I hope your having fun with it, and I also hope you provide the rest of us with your honest opinions on the system.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

System Saturdays - The Brief and Odd Life of the Sega 32x

The Sega 32x is one of the most unusual consoles to have ever been on the market. First of all the system wasn't sole supportive like any other consoles, and required the Sega Genesis (Maga-Drive) to operate. As strange as it may sound though for the time it wasn't out of the norm for many systems of that era. The Genesis, Atari Jaguar, TG-16, and later on the Nintendo 64 (but only Japan) all had CD-Rom add-ons that required the base console to function. The odd part about the 32x unlike those other add-ons, was that it was a cartridge based system and not a CD-Rom add-on, making it all the more unusual.

Hooking up the Sega 32x up to the Genesis via it's cartridge slot is the easy part. After that it also an S-video to S-video connection between the 32x and the Genesis. It also needs it's own power too, separate from that of the Genesis, and must be directly connected (via it's own RF switch) to the TV. It's a quick and easy installation project, if you have open access to the back of your TV and Genesis, otherwise it's a bit of a pain and the equil of hooking up a free standing console. To start gameplay all one needs to do is turn on the Genesis and everything goes from there, if you hooked it up the right way. As far as playing the 32x it's as easy as playing the Genesis, as matter of fact you use the same controllers and controller ports the Genesis and Sega-CD use.

"I know nowadays it's easy to knock the 32x, PS1 or other systems of that era for their janky and sometimes ridiculous graphics, but at the time it was cutting edge stuff and the vanguard of the 3D world to come"

So what was the point of the 32x? Well, much like the Sega Game Gear I wrote about the week before last, the 32x was once again meant to be a way of Sega one-upping it's competition, while also attempting to get a new system out the the door first. Whether most gamers choose to believe it or not, Sega considered one of it's biggest threats to be the Atari Jaguar. Often times when we think of the "console wars" we think of Sega vs Nintendo, and that was accurate for the 16-bit era, but moving into the 32 and 64-bit eras we more realistically see Atari vs Sega. In my article about the Sega Saturn some months back I detailed how the Sega Saturn was developed with concerns about beating the Jaguar, and with very little attention paid to Nintendo. The 32x was designed with the same general mindset, Sega wanted something that was very next generation and could compete with the Jaguar, and then rushed to get the 32x out the door, even if it was a year later than the release of the Jaguar.

The only problem was that well the 32x was being developed so to was the Sega Saturn. The Saturn was meant to be Sega's next full console, and also a way of competing with the Atari Jaguar and its new CD-Rom add-on. This is where the controversy surrounding the 32x and Saturn began, and as well as the slow demise of Sega as a console maker. Sega, to push the 32x  as "the next big thing", marketed it pretty heavily towards the end of 1994,  that it ended up overshadowing the Sega Saturn's release in early 1995. The Saturn was so poorly marketed that many retailers were shocked to find Sega's newest systems on their loading docks in May of 1995, since very little was done to spread word about the new systems release. This lapse in marketing lead to the Saturn having one of the worst launch dates in video game console history, and some of the worst sales of all time.

When Sega executives were asked why the Saturn's marketing was so poorly, or why the 32x had to be released at all with the Saturn on the way, they responded with a somewhat more modern, and unexpected answer. Sega, apparently wanted to market the different systems at different price points and thus expand the purchasing audience. The logic was that the 32x would be aimed at those who didn't have the ability to buy a new console like the Saturn, and the 32x would allow them to play more modern games while reusing their Genesis hardware. The Saturn would be aimed at those who could afford to buy a whole new console, and would compete with current systems, as well as future ones. In many ways it's reminiscent of the current XBox marketing strategy of selling the original XBox One at a lower price, and selling its new 4k XBox One S at another, which has worked well for Microsoft in the past few months.  

No matter how modern or unique Sega's sales strategy may have been, the fact of the matter was that it ended up failing and the Saturn ended up being one of the poorest selling systems ever in North America and elsewhere despite the fact that it is a very well made system. To many the story of  "price points" seems like an after the fact excuse to cover the debacle over the Saturn's marketing. Having read a bit of Sega's history, I hate to say that it's easy to see the holes in the "price point" explanation, especially when Sega had a history of rushing items onto the market, simply to beat competition much like they did with the Game Gear.  

So what about the 32x itself? Essentially what was suppose to separate the 32x from the Genesis is what was meant to be it's so called superior 32-bit graphics. I know nowadays it's easy to knock the 32x, PS1 or other systems of that era for their janky and sometimes ridiculous graphics, but at the time it was cutting edge stuff and the vanguard of the 3D world to come. It was no longer going to be a matter of certain games with extra hardware inside producing 3D polygonal graphics, like Starfox during the era of 16-bit era, but rather moving into the world of 32-bit polygonal graphics being the standard. The Atari Jaguar, and 3DO, were also just a few of the many other systems who fell victim to this modern world of polygonal graphics which would turn from the cutting edge, to highly dated in only a few years. Much like the Atari Jaguar, and 3DO, the 32x is what I consider to have been a system that fell between generations or generation 4.5, a limbo somewhere between gen 4's 16-bit masterpieces, and gen 5's 32/64-bit nightmares. These were systems that started a new era, and pioneered what we saw in the N64, PS1, and Saturn, all while being considered to unworthy systems by later gamers.

As far as gameplay it's just like any other system, there are some really good games, some really bad and also as an unusual par for this mid-generation there are some games that look awful but play magnificently. Of the latter one pick is Metalhead, and battlemech type game that doesn't exactly look the prettiest but controls smoothly, and is fun to play. On the awful end there's the arcade port of Virtua Racing, which has awful controls and looks bad. Lastly, on the good end are games like Doom, Shadow Squadron, and Star Wars Arcade, the port of Doom is extremely good, and plays well on the 32x. The carts themselves predominantly came in cardboard boxes that allowed for the carts to be slid out in special trays, and where iconically yellow. Each cart is roughly the same height, and depth as a Genesis cart, but is about an 1/8 of an inch wider, it's not much bigger at all.

This is another Sega system I can honestly say I like. Which is  refreshing for some of you Sega fans out there to hear after my thrashing the Game Gear last week. On the flipside though I can say that I'm not entirely happy about all the extra set up. The need for it's own power, and own RF connection to the TV are things Sega engineers could have found a way around. The 32x could've gotten by with just the S-video linkup an there is even room for improvement there.

If you want a 32x, like a lot of other Sega stuff, it seems to be ever increasing in price. I got mine via a standard eBay auction for about $80 CIB, with the Doom pack-in. Currently on ebay they sell from anywhere between $30 loose without cables to about $220 CIB. The games themselves are also pretty easy to find on eBay, and range from about $5 loose to $1000 for some rare games CIB.

If you're anything like me you may feel like the 32x and Sega-CD aren't integral items to have for a Sega collection. In time though I learned they help tell Sega's story, and are both actually worth having to get a full picture of Sega and the gaming industries evolution. The 32x is a good, although unusual little system, and worth the add to any collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Organized Gamer: Revisiting Runner Apps Video Game Collector App

Four years ago I wrote an article about a collector's app I was using to keep track of my gaming collection, and since then I have used the app pretty extensively. In my 8-bit Friday's and Backlog's articles when I talk about "checking-in" a game, it means adding the game into this app after it's tested. To me once a game is added to the app it's officially part of  my collection.

My gaming collection has expanded exponentially for many reasons since the first article, and this app has been part of that. Through eBay auctions, gaming stores, and even gaming conventions, this app has proven to be a solid resource as a collector. It's saved me from buying stuff I already own, and helped me add titles I thought I owned but didn't. On top of all that the wishlist section of the app has helped me track the games I want for my collection, and provided me with "next buy" guidence. The point of this app is that it thinks about your collection all the time so you don't have to.
Wishlist Mode

Now, since I first wrote about this app, I decided to buy the premium version three years ago, for $5.99. Now, I want you to keep that in mind since I'm not getting paid or sponsored for writing this. If, however, Runner Apps decides to read this and wants to send the premium versions of their Music, Books, and Movie apps my way for free I wouldn't complain. The entire reason I went with the premium version is to take advantage of a few extra features. One is the camera scan, which adds games via UPC bar coding on game boxes and cases. Another feature of the premium version is that it also allows you to edit information for games in the database, which is useful for loose carts when the databases picture, or some of the other information is a bit off.

Before I go any further let me explain the app a bit. Like most of you when I started collecting I began to debate how to track my collection. The fallback for most of us is a spreadsheet of some kind, but to be honest spreadsheets are going to leave stuff out, plus there not all that portable. My biggest issue with collecting came with Atari 2600 games back in 2013 when I first started on that console. If you collect them than you know half the titles have space or star in the name and that can make for big opportunities to end up buying doubles. With my spreadsheet on my personal laptop at home, and the spreadsheet on my phone less than useful I decided to search around iTunes one day and came across several apps. Some were far too oriented to one system, and others were just basically mobile collectors guides. This app stood out though, and once I tested the free version the first weekend I got it, I found that is was exactly what I was looking for.

The Video Games, Collectors app is unique in that is features a database of games from multiple systems. It also features the ability to add games to your collection that may not be in the database, and provides you with the ability to attach box art and as much or as little detail on the game you wish via their comprehensive pre-made forms. Since first using the app I have used just about all of these features, from entering a game of my own from scratch, to just popping a pic of the UPC symbol, and done it all with great ease. On top of that the app can be networked to work on multiple devices by just logging into the app on them, plus being a mobile phone app you always have the ability to check and manage your collection on the go. If you really need that old fashion spread sheet though, the app does allow you to export a list out to the spreadsheet program of your choice.
Personal Notes Mode

I’ve also found the developers of this app to be really easy to work with as well and very responsive to suggestions, and technical support. As I’ve added more systems over the last few years I’ve occasionally found some of them, like the Fairchild Channel-F, not on the list of systems in the database. When I reached out to them about adding it they promised to add it by the next update, and followed through on that promise within a week or so. They also added a separate category for Steam and GoG games last year after I suggested it. As far as tech support I ran into a major issue I which my entire collection disappeared about two years ago, and they were quick to get back to me, and resolved it right away.

There are also other features that have always been with the app that I have just started using in the past year or so myself. Each game has a sub-form on the bottom marked “Personal”, that allows you to track prices, rate the game, and give completion and last played dates, as well as add notes and other items. Recently, I’ve been using this to add the last played dates, and personal ratings, and purchase price. When writing my 8-bit Fridays article so far this year I’ve considered using the 5 star rating system from this app to rate the games. They’re nice features that allow you to personalize your gaming experience.
The app sorted to Jaguar games

If I seem to be gushing about this app it's because of what a fantastic part of my collecting experience it’s been. This app actually has many other useful features as well, like various sorting options, a marketplace, and many other items I could just about right a book on. My suggestion is to pick up the free version, and go from there. Trust me you will never be dealing with an unorganized collection again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trekking Through Games: Away Missions - Star Trek: The Clone Wars?

At this point I can easily say I’ve been through just about all the Star Trek series at least 3 times on Netflix over the past year and half. Now days when it's on it’s mainly as background noise, and a kind of mental comfort food in the late evenings before bed, with revisits to Enterprise and Voyager. More or less I’ve reached the point where I need to take a break from it so as to not loose my appreciation of this great franchise. It hasn’t been easy finding something else to watch though, especially when this has been my go to programming for a while.

Among one of my favorite newer TV shows is Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels an animated series following the exploits of a small cell of rebels in the early stages of the rebellion against the Empire. It’s an interesting series that takes place within the 19 year period between Revenge of the Sith, and Rogue One/A New Hope, and often pulls from the character pools of both the original and prequel trilogies. Even though the show is only in its third season I haven’t been able to see every episode, but I’m happy every time I get to sit down and watch one. The one issue I have encountered is that occasionally characters are thrown in who I’ve never seen before, yet it seems like I’m expected to know their backstory. I mentioned this to my oldest son one day and told me that these are often characters introduced within the seven seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that preceded both Rebels and Disney’s Lucasfilm buyout, and that appeared on Cartoon Network. To say the least it peaked my attention in the old series, and later several podcasts I listen too including Star Wars Stacks mentioned the importance of the series to Star Wars canon, so I decided I had to begin watching through the old series on Netflix. To be honest I’m not exactly a stranger to the show, and had caught different episodes of it with my oldest son when it was on the air, as well as buying him the pilot movie on DVD years ago. I had also watched through the first season with him over the course of a few Saturday mornings back in the summer, but he went on to finish the series on his own. So when I set off to explore the series on my own recently I pretty much cherry picked through the first season for episodes I didn’t see or needed to be refreshed on, and then pushed into season two.

In case you don’t know here are a few things you need to know about the Star Wars animated series that are out there. First of all both shows are considered canonical, so whatever happens in them happens in the universe. Secondly, Clone Wars takes place in the three year period between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith (i.e parts II and III). Lastly, both animated series occasionally draw from the non-canonical extended universe (i.e. books and video games), making some EU characters and events part of the actual canon.

Ok, with that said your probably saying to yourself, “WTF does any of that have to do with Star Trek?”. Well I can put it this way, once you begin watching The Clone Wars certain concepts are introduced into the Star Wars universe that most fans never even thought of. In Attack of the Clones we are briefly introduced to the cloning process, but it’s left morally ambiguous since it’s actually a plot point to introduce Jango and Bobo Fett, as well as the concept of a shadowy hand working against the Jedi Council. As the series itself continues on though, the moral questions of the process of cloning are introduced, as is the questionable ability to just continue to churn out clones like manufactured other military equipment. So, what does that have to do with Star Trek?

To be honest it took watching The Clone Wars to make the connection between Star Wars clones and the Jem’Hadar clones of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine. To be honest I feel like DS9 already had to take a ration of crap over the whole Babylon 5 thing, so I’m not about to question whether DS9 ripped of Star Wars or vice-versa. After all it would be 2002 a full two years after DS9 went off, before Attack of the Clones first appeared in movies theaters, and 2008 before The Clone Wars series first appeared on TV. Not to mention the Jem’Hadar were introduced as far back as 1995, but of course one could argue a “Clone War” concept was introduced as far back as 1977 with A New Hope, although it was all of a 10 second blurb in the movies dialog.

Of course it’s not so much that both franchises have clones that I’m writing about, clones have been a normal part of science fiction for decades, but rather the use of these clones by the factions that possess them. If I describe it from a 40,000 foot view here’s what it looks like for both franchises, “A group of quasi-supernatural beings use clone soldiers to capture planets from their enemies so that they may impose their form of order on their home galaxy”. So yes when you look at it from that point of view it's utterly the same description for both franchise’s.

From the DS9 point of view the clones troopers known as the Jem’Hadar are controlled by the Dominion, a shadowy group of liquid like shape shifters who control the Milky Way Galaxy's “Gamma Sector”, with nearly an iron fist. The Jem’Hadar themselves are a reptilian like humanoid species, known for their aggression and violence in battle, an aggression which must be kept under control via the use of the drug Ketracel-White. Ketracel-White not only allows the Jem’Hadar to be controllable by their masters, but helps sustain all life functions of the Jem’Hadar.
Acting as a go between with the Dominion and Jem’Hadar are another clone species known as the Vorta, a cowardly group of “yes men”, who literally worship the Founders, i.e. the Dominion. As you can no doubt guess, with such aggressive soldiers the Dominion is hardly a force for peace Milky Way’'s “Gamma Sector”, let alone once they enter into the Federation controlled Alpha/Beta sectors.

From the Star Wars point of view the clones trooper are simply known as clone troopers. In this universe these troopers, although still treated as less than human at times especially in their ultimate fate once the Empire rises, are still at least given names once they reach a certain age. In the case of the clone troopers they are controlled by the Republic, a United States like interstellar society that wants to maintain its democratic principles of freedom throughout the part of the galaxy (a galaxy far, far away? Andromeda? Triangulum?) it resides in. The troopers are themselves human in appearance, although their maturation process is speed up. Most troopers also look alike having all been cloned from Jengo Fett, the father/brother(?) of Bobo Fett, although some seem to have different personalities, hair color, and varying degrees of intelligence. The clones are mentally conditioned to show loyalty to the Republic, part of the reason they carry out Order 66, despite their close working relationships with the Jedi. Some troopers do occasionally turn away from this mental conditioning, to go AWOL, and even start lives of their own although its a rarity.

Unlike the Jem’Hadar with the Vorta, the Clones have the Jedi as their go betweens with the Republic. The Jedi tend to respect the clone troopers, and despite Kaminion insistence to destroy less than perfect troopers during or after maturation, the Jedi’s respect for life has prevented this on a few occasions. Unlike the Jem’Hadar the Clones are designed to be soldiers and not over-aggressive killing machines, meaning at times they have been known to show compassion, especially to many of the civilians caught on worn-torn planets. Despite doing good for the Republic during the wars with the Separatist, as we find out by the end of Revenge of the Sith the clones were the Emperor’s checkmate to the Jedi.

Ultimately, in either respective franchises clones are used as a type of military leverage, even though those using them have powers beyond that of a normal mortal being. In Star Wars and Star Trek with either side, the initial use of these clones may be different but in the end the goals of each are generally the same, being a quest for ultimate power. The question of a sci-fi fan is, did one inspire and even copy from the other? The overall direction things appear in, is that there is no connection between the clone soldiers of either franchise. For instance Star Wars had a claim to use a clone army in it’s plot line dating back to the previously mentioned blurb in A New Hope between Obi-Wan and Luke, meaning once prequels were made the “Clone Wars” had to be included. As for DS9 the use of clone soldiers by the Dominion was meant to be a statement on the Founders disdain for all other living beings besides themselves. Clones represented cheap life the Founders could use to expand their empire, with an “easy come, easy go” form of life that was created for one purpose only, to kill or be killed. The Jem’Hader clones were meant to be a sharp contrast against the Federations dogma of all life having value, in a highly dramatic way.

Of course between 1977 and 2002, or the first appearance of the Jem’Hadar in 1995, a lot of Star Wars fan fiction was written and even published. In the SWEU or Star Wars Extended Universe which I will call the EU from now on, books on “The Clone Wars” were written, some of which would form the basis of 2002’s Attack of the Clones and its ensuing saga. Is it possible that DS9 writers may have drawn some inspiration from the EU? It’s possible of course since even as this article proves, a sci-fi fan can cross franchise boundaries easily, especially with the beloved nature and cultural significance of both franchises, however there is very little to believe it may go any deeper than that. In an article about the Jem’Hadar on the Star Trek fan database known as Memory-Alpha it was noted that the writers of DS9, wanted a fierce warrior race for the series protagonists to come up against, but was afraid of it having too many similarities to the Klingons. So as to differentiate them, the clone element as well as a few others differing traits where chosen, and obviously that worked since there is no confusing the Jem’Hadar with the Klingons.

On the flip side the question also needs to be asked about a whether Star Wars Clones Troopers may have had some inspiration from DS9’s Jem’Hadar. To be honest there isn’t much out there on what inspired the final on-film iteration of the Clone Troopers. Obviously, George Lucas had some concept behind them in his head long before A New Hope, let alone the prequels. The fact that the Stormtroopers combat armor seems to have evolved from the Clones armor proves this. Of course just as it was possible a DS9 writer picked up an EU book before developing the Jem’Hadar, it’s also possible George Lucas watched a few episodes of DS9 while writing Attack of the Clones.

Overall, in my opinion one didn’t sway the other as to the use of clone armies as part of the overall plot line. It is interesting to take a step back though and just see how both these franchises used the concept of a clone army in advancing the ongoing plot, even if each was used differently. So what do you think? Do you think one inspired the other in any way? Do you think it's simple coincidence and the use of a standard sci-fi meme? Let me know.