Clippings: the Fighter Pilot Podcast; new Dune RTS; Anno 1800 DLC

My great audio discovery this year has been the Fighter Pilot Podcast, an interview series about military aviation. Some episodes discuss a general topic, such as callsigns or what military pilots do after retirement, while others (most?) focus on a specific aircraft.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of the podcast is how it preserves an oral history of military aviation, from WW2 to the modern day. In each episode, what stands out for me is the human element. A great example is the show’s interview with a retired Air Commodore in the Indian Air Force, who first flew the MiG-21 over 50 years ago – and whose enthusiasm shines through all these years later. For subject matter fans, the show is well worth a listen.

In gaming news, Northgard developer Shiro Games has been announced as the studio behind a new Dune RTS. I quite liked Northgard when I played it earlier this year – it’s a clever, elegant variation on the RTS,with a greater focus on building a town and managing villagers. It also has one of the rare RTS campaigns that I finished. While detail is scant, the developer’s track record suggests the new game will be in good hands.

Other than that, Anno 1800 players may be interested by Ubisoft announcing an upcoming fourth season of DLC – not bad for a game that was originally only going to have two seasons of DLC. I’m interested in the upcoming scenario mode – the first scenario is due to launch together with a patch in a few days’ time. As much as I love Anno 1800, it is a mammoth game that takes Paradox or Total War levels of time to reach the late game – I’ve been playing my current save since last year, through multiple releases of DLC. Shorter scenarios will add welcome variety.

Dune (2021) impressions

I liked it — both as a movie and as an adaptation.

Going in, I had high hopes. I am a long-time fan of the setting: I have read the books, years and years ago — long enough that I remembered the outline of events, not specific details. (That, I think, is an advantage when watching adaptations: I understand what’s going on, and at the same time, I don’t have to worry about purism.) And Denis Villeneuve has a strong track record with science fiction: Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 were both excellent.

I wasn’t disappointed. Dune is an entertaining story, well-told, and it does the setting justice. I will be back in the cinema to watch Part 2 when that comes out.

Thoughts below:

  • The movie really benefited from watching it in the cinema. It’s visually and aurally spectacular, and that served a point — the sights and sounds are important to the overall experience and particularly the worldbuilding.
  • The worldbuilding is great: it clearly and efficiently conveys the alienness of the setting, as well as the distinctions between the various groups within the universe. This is a society with a very different ethos to ours, built around pomp, ceremony, and displays of military might. Even our heroes, the Atreides, are a paranoid warrior aristocracy — and they have good reason to be.
  • The different factions can be clearly distinguished by their material cultures; for instance, the Fremen’s robes make them stand out even in silhouette.
  • While Arrakis is the focus of the story, my standout location was beautiful, rugged Caladan — I wouldn’t mind going for a holiday there.
  • Machinery and equipment, such as the harvesters and carryalls, feel tactile and real — I think the sound helps.
  • The sandworms are done right: they’re titanic forces of nature, not cheap monsters.
  • For a 2.5 hour movie, the pacing felt brisk — more thoughts below.
  • I liked the characterisations, with the members of the Atreides household — Gurney & Duncan — standing out.
  • I also loved the little details. The practicalities of a move are still the same, tens of thousands of years in the future: I appreciated the quick shots of the Atreides servants packing up the family belongings for the move to Arrakis.

More thoughts, with spoilers for the movie & book, follow:

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