Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

[Warning: there are some TV Tropes links in here.]

I have confessed to contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies: if you do not commit to something/one because s/he/it may not be around for long, s/he/it probably will not be around for long. So how do you invest yourself in something when the producers have a left a wake of unfinished and canceled projects?

The Chris Carter Effect is the hesitancy to start watching a show (or whatever) because you cannot reasonably expect (1) the creators to tie up their loose threads. The second season of Lost is an example of this, when you realized at some point that the writers were making it up as they went along rather than revealing some grand mystery they had conceived. The second season of Heroes is not an example of this, when you realized at some point that it was not very good anymore. See also: why I never started The Wheel of Time.

Joss Whedon is a creator with a reputation driven by several cancellations in quick succession. I am not sure how fair that is, with Buffy getting seven seasons and Angel five, but then Buffy had to switch networks to stay alive and Angel was canceled during the one season where they finally felt comfortable writing a multi-season story arc. And then Firefly and Dollhouse arrived and left quickly. And during the mass cancellation, Joss Whedon was working with three shows at once, plus a comic book or two, plus a movie script or three, so he was delegating a lot and some of those delegations went better than others and okay, that might be a fair reputation. At least he is turning down new projects while Disney has his contract.

The impending death of Reader leads some to ask how much we should rely on Google to keep these useful but revenue-free projects going.

Very few Western MMOs have shut down. They may have minimal support, but as long as someone is willing to log in, someone will keep the servers plugged in. Turbine keeps tiny Asheron’s Call 1 going (and even rezzed Asheron’s Call 2), and Anarchy Online is still online. Back in its first telling, A Tale in the Desert worked out how few (under 1000) paying players it needed to stay alive. Brian Green has kept Meridian 59 alive even when revenue is less than the cost of electricity and bandwidth.

After Auto Assault, City of Heroes, Dungeon Runners, and Tabula Rasa, how much confidence do you have that NCsoft will let a game survive without being a hit?

: Zubon

English (language) spelling conventions are kind of horrible at times. We spell “canceled” with one L on this side of the Atlantic and they use two on the other, but we still use two for “cancellation.”

16 thoughts on “Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft”

  1. RE: The Google Reader situation.
    I will no longer be committing to use any future Google apps. After this latest Reader fiasco I am limiting myself to search and gmail. I think Google is a perfect wakeup call as to why we should not be so reliant on the “cloud”.

    On a positive I discovered the excellent “RSS OWL” cross-platform RSS reader. Thank you Google for indirectly helping me discover this reader. ;)

  2. On Joss Whedon:

    Angel actually only lasted five seasons. Angel (the character) left at the end of season 3(?) Graduation. Buffy finished in 2003 and Angel was cancelled in 2004. Yes, I’m a Buffy buff.

    Firefly was canceled way too soon by Fox, after less than a season, the reasoning given was that reality TV was cheaper.

    Dollhouse lasted two seasons, cancelled midway through season 2 again by Fox. Interesting Whedon said after that he would never work with Fox again. Apparently they gave ‘assurances’ that he would not be cancelled prematurely.

    He is now at ABC (I think.) Apparently doing some kind of Avengers TV series if what I read a few months ago is right.

    For me, Whedons reputation is intact, Fox on the other hand?

    Another interesting point is that Dollhouse was two seasons, which to my mind doesn’t make it a failure. It doesn’t make it a wild success either. But how many seasons are needed to ensure a show isn’t regarded as having failed?

    Whedon’s fiction is intriguing to me, as is JJ Abrams work. Whedon does seem to ask interesting questions of his audience. Dollhouse for example is a brilliant blend of the ideas of selfhood, are we just our memories, and what happens when technology that is being researched even now allows us to mess with that, and the ethics associated with all that.

    On NCSoft:

    I have no faith in them at all for long term. NCSoft is the Fox of the MMO world. Something doesn’t perform above expectations, expect them to cancel it. Except perhaps their flagship games, GW, GW2.

    On reliance on the cloud:

    To my mind the cloud itself isn’t the problem. Reliance on one big-arse company is. Google is now too big, and have too much power over the internet.

    While on one hand the shut down of reader annoys me because I now have to find another service that may not be as good, on the other this is probably a good thing becuase it removes some influence from Google (unless they find a way to penalize sites that use RSS.)

    Safe cloud use comes down to the old adage, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

  3. What in season two of Lost set you off? Granted, I’ve only watched every episode once, but from what I remember the show fell off in season 4ish, season 5 was blah, and season 6 did what it could to wrap things up.

    Also read WoT. Final book just came out, halfway through it and it’s great. The previous two books (written by Sanderson) were also very worthwhile. Unfortunately the last few Jordan books need to be slogged through, kinda like season 5 of Lost in a way. Some great moments, pages and pages of nothingness.

    1. @SynCaine I feel like I am already slogging through book 2. Are you saying it’ll only get worse before it gets better? I might want to give up on Wheel of Time if that is the case.

      1. It isn’t so much that it gets worse as it gets much more granular as the group splits up and we have to follow everybody’s story thread. For me, the bad part was that I didn’t really care about a good portion of the threads. That, as Jordan falls to standard turns of phase at some point and they really start to grate after a while. One of the highlights of the last three books was the dispensing, almost completely, with most of these phrases.

        Anyway, I am just a sprint from being done with the final book, after which I will spew forth some sort of weekend blog post about the whole experience.

      2. Books 1 through 5 are commonly considered the “best” of the series; from book 6 onward the stories become increasingly disconnected, the cliches multiply, and more “atmospheric” details crop up.

      3. If book two feels like a slog, I’d give up. 1-5 IMO are all excellent. 6-11 have their moments, but as others have mentioned, can get very slow or very detailed.

        Book 11, which is 800 pages about one day from multiple angles, is a work of art in plot non-progression.

        1. I gave up before book 1 based on the reputation of books 6-11, but I find myself intrigued by “800 pages about one day from multiple angles.” I find myself thinking that Dave Sim’s version of that with Cerebus, taking an entire year to show 1 day from 1 perspective, didn’t go so hot.

  4. I just finished watching Dollhouse on DVD last week. It’s a clever series, it has the hallmarks of Whedon’s high quality of writing (he’s one of my top three screen scribes) but I can not only see why it was cancelled, I’m very surprised it got a second season – Whedon pretty much says on one of the interviews that Fox bent over backwards to renew specifically because of Firefly, so at least they were trying to make amends. However, it was too smart and WAY too dark to attract the kind of audience a network show needs. It had a better run than most genre series (majority are cancelled after one season, if that) and the plotline was closed down in an orderly manner.

    Incidentally, the equally “way too smart for the mainstream” Aaron Sorkin seems to have found a home for a series with HBO… who also produce Game Of Thrones. You’ve got to wonder what sort of original series Joss Whedon could do for HBO.

    For what it’s worth, I gave up on Lost in season one and ditched the Wheel Of Time round about book 6. I have a low tolerance for writers padding things out purely as a form of job security or mental laziness.

  5. “[Warning: there are some TV Tropes links in here.]” Bless you.

    “After Auto Assault, City of Heroes, Dungeon Runners, and Tabula Rasa, how much confidence do you have that NCsoft will let a game survive without being a hit?”

    Define ‘a hit,’ and let’s see if City of Heroes doesn’t qualify. At least profitable…

    There’s a difference between books and television that may have a bearing on gaming: I missed the premiers of ‘The Following’ and ‘Continuum,’ and won’t even try to come late to the party. Because television is now a MMTV experience. At least with books you can start on your own and toddle along. Same with some MMO games – if you haven’t been around since the beginning, you may never catch up, the amount of material is too steep and you’re on your own in the noob areas.

  6. The Chris Carter effect – thanks for teaching me that trope. It ruins many shoes for me and now I have a better reason to declare than stating “I stopped watching because they began stretching the show”

  7. While the possibility of MMOs closing is a topic in itself, the Chris Carter Effect (nice meme) is really more significant when it comes to Google than NCSoft. It’s often the case that we adopt a new technology and then become dependent on it, to the point that the previous generation or the alternatives atrophy away. When/if the new technology is canned, we’re left in a bind unless there is a capable alternative – which will probably have to be another new technology, as the old ones have long gone out of business. Imagine if Google canned its search. Or the internet somehow canned TCP/IP.

    As for NCSoft, they’re learning an important lesson about reputation and its effects on trust over the long term.

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