Ubisoft Releases Assassin’s Creed: Heresy And The Essential Guide!

It is fair to say that I am in love with Assassin’s Creed.

Krull and BB-8 aren't actually art of Assassin's Creed...I just have them there.

Krull and BB-8 aren’t actually part of Assassin’s Creed…I just have them there.

Ubisoft hit that sweet spot for this particular retro-loving gaming aficionado when the first title was released. That hook was History. Moreover they reeled me in with the storyline right off the bat. As a player finds themselves plunged into a war that has taken place between two powerful and secretive factions through the ages. Two orders that desire above all things…peace. They just have a very different way of achieving that goal.

The Templar Order have a viewpoint that if humanity is to know peace. It must be guided with a firm hand. So that order and reason will prevail. Of course this also means that they feel world control is a viable choice to that end. A task made easier as they’ve become a global corporate power known as Abstergo Industries.

The Assassin Brotherhood on the other hand desires to protect free will. Believing that the Templars will in fact harm humanity by attempting to shepherd it. They also have set themselves as guardians to oppose tyrants and defend the weak. Naturally this sets them on a path against the Templar Order.

In addition when these two factions cross paths it gets rather violent…quickly.

To say nothing of the fact there is a science fiction story running through the entire game series. The Assassins and Templars both covet the surviving technology of the Precursors. A lost civilization that was technologically superior to the point of being worshiped as Gods. That technology has a tendency to affect human thoughts and behavior. So you can easily see why both sides would want to claim these items.

While the series started in the Third Crusade, the 9 core game releases since have expanded the periods of history you can visit. Vastly. From the Renaissance to the October Revolution of 1917. Add to the fact you have iOS game titles, comic books as well as novels, you can see how the lore has become deep.

Which is why it is was a great idea to collect all of that lore into a handy single volume. Hence Ubisoft’s release today of Assassin’s Creed: The Essential Guide. A 216 page collection that is perfect for not just first time players but longtime fans of the series.
Assassin's Creed

It covers the historical settings in the the games, the important characters, and insider information. After browsing the book you’ll be in the know on everything from the Animus to what the true fate was of Anastasia Romanova.

Now that would certainly be reason to rush out to your local bookstore…but there is more. Much more. Ubisoft today also released Assassin’s Creed: Heresy, the brand new novel by Christie Golden.

An Author that I have a great deal of respect for to say the least. I have followed her work since back in 1991 when she penned Vampire of the Mists for Ravenloft.

I have continued to follow her work through the World of Warcraft novels as well as Starcraft. Which is why I pretty much begged Ubisoft to allow me to share the news of her latest novel with you all.

One of the key aspects of the game series in terms of the lore has been showing that both factions, the Assassins and Templars are not wholly good or evil. Well…perhaps the Templars do tend to rank a little more on the villain scale. Which is why Golden’s new book is such a treat. It’s not told from the viewpoint of a member of the Assassin Brotherhood. We get to experience the point of view of one of the Inner Sanctum of the Templar Order. An historian by the name of Simon Hathaway, the head of Abstergo Industries’ Historical Research Division. He has taken up the task of locating the sword of none other than Joan of Arc. Which is believed to actually be a powerful Precursor artifact. Along the way he uncovers secrets about the legendary Saint of soldiers and of France as well as himself.

With the permission of Ubisoft here are some excerpts from an interview with Golden about her new Assassin’s Creed novel.

Photo Credit Elizabeth Golden

Photo Credit Elizabeth Golden


So I very much hope that you are ready to head out and pick up these new books from Ubisoft or order them online. But I feel I should let you know in the case of Assassin’s Creed: Heresy you have two options. You can choose the softcover edition or go with the Special Edition. If you go for the hardcover edition you also will have access to exclusive art sketches and behind the scenes interviews, as well as a special code to unlock Assassin’s Creed rewards through Ubisoft Club’s loyalty program!

So why not delve into the captivating world of Assassin’s Creed today? You can get prepared for the upcoming movie this December!

[Via] 20th Century Fox

Justin M. Salvato's Vintage Computers And Retro Video Games
Carrie Fisher - Sega Center

Carrie Fisher at The Sega Center in Fox Hills Mall (1977)

Carrie Fisher in this brief 1977 interview from The Making of Star Wars, where she is seen playing 1975’s Anti-Aircraft from Atari at a Sega Center is going to be one of the coolest things you will see all day!
Sega Center - Carrie Fisher
Filmed at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City, California – I can’t help but dig the appropriately Star Wars themed cabinets that we can see Carrie playing before the interview begins. These were obviously specially made for the Sega Center arcades as you can tell by looking at the standard edition on the arcade game flyer below – courtesy of The Arcade Flyer Archive.

Image courtesy of the Arcade Flyer Archive.

Image courtesy of the Arcade Flyer Archive.

In this clip Carrie Fisher discusses some of the elements of Star Wars that she enjoyed and what she didn’t care for while filming the original movie. I might have to blame this on my advanced age but I do not recall ever seeing this particular clip before from The Making of Star Wars although I believe it might have also been shown when the Fox channel did their little special to celebrate the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy to theaters…well…the “A few new surprises” or Special Editions I mean.

[Via] Benovite
I found an article from 8 Bit Central that states they believe the Sega Center featured in that interview with Carrie Fisher was later remodeled into a Time Out Tunnel which would eventually be converted to the Time Out arcade. This brand of arcade was able to survive and thrive until around 1995 when after being sold to The Edison Brothers company, they were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – which was then bought by the Namco corporation which is why you can still find Time Out arcades in various malls.
Time Out - Namco - Arcades
I’m not sure what the Time Out arcades were like in your neck of the woods but the one that was in my local mall still had a few arcade games and even one or two classics titles like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man although the younger children were brought in by the redemption games.

Toy and Model - Sant Rosa - Rohnert Park

A Toy & Model Shopping Bag. The Best Thing I’ve Found In Weeks…

I’m at The Dig right? So I’m there and I look over to my left and a dude that I’m fairly friendly with is using a Toy & Model shopping bag to hold his Dig findings…I was like, gobsmacked. I could not believe it.

If you aren’t from the area here, Sonoma County, Toy & Model was a small chain of Toy Stores here in the area. There were I believe 4 stores, one in The Coddingtown Mall, one in Montgomery Village, one at The Town and Country Center and one in Rohnert Park.

Toy & Model in Montgomery Village was the closest Toy Store to my house and was thus the one that I went to the most. It was a really great store. They had Action Figures and Models and Dungeons and Dragons dice…I loved that place…It was where I bought all of my Super Powers figures as well as my first set of D&D Dice.

I went there a lot. Like all the time. I loved that place so much and was super sad when the chain shut down. I don’t know what happened but all of a sudden they shuttered their stores and that was that. I never thought I’d have a part of it in my life again. How could I? It was 30 years ago.

Anyway dude has the bag and I just about fainted when I saw it. I immediately recognized it for what it was but man, I hadn’t seen one of these in years and really never ever thought that I would see one again. How could I? The store shut down forever ago and only the oldest of the Santa Rosa heads even remember that it existed. It’s sadly a distant memory.
Santa Rosa - Toy and Model Bag
I just did a sort of short/lazy web search in hopes of finding a picture of the store and found out if you enter a search for Toy & Model Santa Rosa all you get is pictures of that dude who runs the local Toy Shop that I’m not really that keen on. That’s practically a slap in the face to Toy & Model’s memory.

I’m hoping by writing this and sending it in to Vic Sage at The Retroist that maybe we can help to push these pics of the sack up to the top of Google Toy & Model searches…

Anyhow, I just couldn’t believe it. There it was in all of it’s yellow and brown glory. I had to have it so I strolled up to dude all dizzy and said “Can I have that bag?” He, having no attachment to it at all said “sure” and handed it over. Later I realized that I didn’t explain to him at all why I wanted it or what it meant to me. I just asked for it, took it and stumbled off. I wonder what he made of all that?

For real though, this is a great find. It’s not valuable, it’s not anything at all like that but it’s something really important, it’s something that shouldn’t exist.

It’s too fragile and too old and really too unimportant for someone to hold onto. Shopping bags get used for things like school lunches or to pick up dog mess when you’re out walking the hounds.. You don’t put them away for later.

Some folks do I guess, but they often wind up on Hoarders…

At any rate, However it managed to make it, I’m happy it did and I’m super happy that somehow it managed to make it to me who will put it away for safekeeping…

Hold on, gotta go, the phone is ringing. I think it’s the folks from Hoarders…

Robin Williams - Walter Cronkite

Do You Remember Disney’s Animation Studio Tour with Robin Williams?

Image courtesy of the Disney Wikia.

Image courtesy of the Disney Wikia.

If you visited Disney MGM Studios back in 1989, this is the sign you would have seen as you entered the park.

I remember going to Walt Disney World and Disney’s MGM Studios shortly after it opened back in 1989. It was exciting to visit a new Walt Disney World park that was based around movies. It even had a working Animation Studio.

Image courtesy of .

Image courtesy of WDW News Today.

I loved visiting The Magic of Disney Animation attraction where you got to see how animation was done and where you could see actual animators working on an upcoming Disney animated movie.

At the entrance, while waiting for the attraction, guests could see Animation art and awards.

To start the tour, guests were seated in a large auditorium to watch a short feature. Walter Cronkite interviewed Robin Williams who was posing as a guest at Walt Disney World. Robin then proceeded to talk about his favorite Disney animated movie.

Here’s a video of the History of the Disney MGM Studios that includes this clip with Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite. Walter Cronkite appears about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the video.

[Via] MartinsVidsDotNet

This attraction used Robin Williams to show how cartoons were created. It was a great way to start the animation studios tour. Robin became one of the Lost Boys with Peter Pan and became the star of Back To Neverland.

Image courtesy of the Lasertime Podcast.

Image courtesy of the Lasertime Podcast.

After this film, guests walked through a hallway where they could look through glass windows and see real animators working on the next Disney animated move. After that, guests saw a video of animators talking about the joy of animation and then they entered the Disney Classic Theatre to see clips from past and future Disney animated features.

Finally, as with all good Disney attractions, everyone exited through the gift shop.

This studio produced some great animation: Roger Rabbit shorts: Roller Coaster Rabbit and Trail Mix-Up, the Be Our Guest sequence from Beauty and the Beast , Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear.

Unfortunately, the working Disney Animation Studio was closed in 2004. The Magic of Disney Animation Attraction later evolved and added The Animation Academy where a Disney animator would show guests how to draw a Disney character. My family got to do this and really enjoyed it. Our drawings did not look like the animator’s version, but they were fun to do.

The attraction closed on July 12th, 2015.

I’m a big fan of the Disney Animated Movies and Disney characters so I feature them regularly on my blog, Between the Pages. Check out these amazing Disney Cakes.

Leonard Nimoy - In Search Of

In Search of ‘In Search Of…’ – Episode 2: Ancient Minoans in New Hampshire

In its second episode, seeking the source of ancient ruins, the series hands over the reins to a consultant… problems ensue
Image 1 - In Search Of
In this ongoing series for the Retroist, I’m reviewing every episode of In Search Of. For the background on this project, have a look at the first installment.

‘Strange Visitors’*
Air Date: April 24, 1977
Alan Landsburg Productions

Story: Hans Holzer
Written Narration: Hans Holzer and Robert L. Long
Produced: Hans Holzer
Directed: not identified
Photography: Paul Desatoff, Jeri Sopanen
Music: Laurin Rinder and W. Michael Lewis
Researchers: Herb Rabinowitz, Jeanne Russo
Acknowledgments: Robert E. Stone and staff of Mystery Hill ; Geochron Labs

A key detail attentive viewers note regarding In Search Of, episode two, is that Hans Holzer, the story’s primary source, is also the writer and producer. I’ll return to this detail again, later in this article. A director’s credit is absent in this episode.

Episode Summary
Image 2 - In Search Of - Nimoy
The teaser opens on blue waters, both above and below, where rock formations ripple in the currents. Leonard Nimoy, the series narrator, says we are looking at the walls of a once-great city whose architects left it and “took root in a new land.” Who built it? And why?

Dissolve to a field. In a reenactment, a loincloth-clad human is building a wall of his own. Men like this one, Nimoy says, built what is now known as Mystery Hill, in New Hampshire. Who built Mystery Hill and for what reasons?

Following the theme music and credits, we are promised new evidence suggesting America was colonized long before the birth of Christ.

The stone walls of Mystery Hill are located near Salem, New Hampshire. Its walls, and lanes between them, form a fairly elaborate complex. Seventeenth-Century colonists first found them, says Nimoy, and now, 300 years later, investigators have begun to solve the mystery surrounding their origin.

Walking among the stone lanes are two men – Robert Stone, a Bostonian who bought the land to preserve it, and Hans Holzer, a professor, a “noted author, and a student of antiquity.” He will attempt to answer the questions surrounding Mystery Hill’s origins.

Stone (Left) and Holzer (Right)

Stone (Left) and Holzer (Right)

But first, who didn’t build Mystery Hill?

Nimoy says that New Hampshire’s tribes did not build with stone. Dismissed, in turn, follow a number of other possibilities regarding the place’s construction: Southwestern tribes; the makers of Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel stone calendar; and European explorers of the 10th-15th centuries.

Moving to a lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, scientists tests charcoal material found wedged into the rocks of Mystery Hill. The charcoal dates back some 3,000 years.

Enter Osborne Hill, cousin of Robert and curator at Mystery Hill, who shows Holzer features of the site that correspond with astronomical events – monoliths that mark sunrises and sunsets across the year. Druids erected similar monoliths, and grooved stone slabs found at Mystery Hill suggest sacrificial surfaces. But then, did Colonial settler bring old gods with them in those early days?

Rather than either option, Holzer points to an oracle chamber – a primary pointer to Mystery Hill’s origins. He believes the sacred grotto, complete with speaking tubes, echoes similar sites constructed long ago by Mediterranean cultures. Holzer visits Barry Fell, described as a Harvard archaeologist. Fell is controversial among his peers because he maintains the inscriptions at Mystery Hill are those of the Minoans, descendants of the Phoenicians, founders of Knossos, capital of Crete. Minoan sailors, he suggests, were first blown off course, finding the Americas by accident, and then started navigating to the new land with settlers’ intentions. The prompt to migrate, Nimoy narrates, could have been a period of earthquakes in the area of Knossos, circa 1600 BC.

Barry Fell

Barry Fell

Back at Mystery Hill, Holzer and Osborne consider a carved stone – the inscriptions resembling a letter G – and Holzer says the stone is without question the product of a carver who knew the ancient Phoenician language and the Minoan culture.

“Everything feels right and seems to fit,” Nimoy intones. The masonry and layout of Mystery Hill are similar to Knossos; the lab carbon-dating puts the site in a pre-Christian timeframe, and another rock feature – a long, curved shape on one stone, briefly pointed out earlier in the episode – seems to suggest the hull of a boat.

While skeptics may object, says Nimoy, the solution is part of a growing consensus among experts. The conclusion of the episode places the Minoans within a continuum of other early visitors to the continent.

Developments? Debunked? Debate?
Image 5 - In Search Of - Stone And Holzer
Contemporary readers can visit Mystery Hill in New Hampshire; it’s open year round under the moniker America’s Stonehenge. The site is still the subject, in recent years, of newspaper features and blogs.

That being said, Mystery Hill is apparently a mess, archaeologically speaking, according to recent reports. Quarry marks on the stones date to the Nineteenth Century (one theory is that the site is the 1823 homestead of a New Hampshire shoemaker), and owners in the 1930s altered the site at least once. The consensus suggested at the end of the episode has not, it seems, come to pass.

Additionally, most of the principals depicted in the episode warrant some contextualization.

Hans Holzer: Though he titles himself “noted author, and a student of antiquity,” Holzer was primarily a ghost-hunter. He achieved some notoriety in the late 1970s thanks to investigations and writings about the Long Island house that inspired The Amityville Horror movies and books. Holzer died in 2009.

Robert Stone: After leasing the Mystery Hill circa 1958 (buying it in 1965), Robert Stone’s work at the site persisted for years. He passed away in 2009. Dennis Stone, his son, now owns the operation.

Barry Fell: A professor of invertebrate zoology at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Fell’s theories about pre-Columbian visitors to the Americas were seldom well-received by colleagues and archaeologists during his lifetime. Fell published several books on the subject. He died in 1994.
Image 6 - In Search Of - Geochron Lab
As for the carbon-dating in the episode, it was conducted by Geochron Labs, which is still in business. One might consider, however, and it has been noted elsewhere, that the tracing of charcoal to a timeframe of several thousand years ago speaks only to the age of that specific sample, and not to the stones and materials around it. In other words, old and new things can get mixed together over time in the wilderness.

The Takeaway: ‘Strange Visitors’

According to his obituary in The New York Times, Hans Holzer was a consultant to In Search Of. In the case of episode two, he was much more than a consultant – he steered the whole ship, in large part, writing and producing.

The resulting take on Mystery Hill is a bit of let down, especially when it veers into defensive territory at the end – “skeptics abound in every culture,” Nimoy reads, adding that many will find it hard to believe the implications of the research and carbon dating. But in the late summer of 1976, we are told, two distinguished researchers have joined the ranks of a growing movement that supports pre-Columbian Mediterranean explorers on the continent.

It is defensive territory occupied by Holzer himself, of course, and by Fell – or Holzer has assigned Fell to it – and while both men were evidently serious about their beliefs, neither were “distinguished researchers” in the field of archaeology. This is problematic. For example, it’s disingenuous to introduce Fell as a “Harvard archaeologist” in the narration. Truth is, he was a zoologist with an avocation in archaeology and most academics found his conclusions dubious.

All this in mind, the disclaimer at the start of the show does do its intended job – i.e. In Search Of doesn’t claim it’s presenting final answers to the mysteries it presents – even if it has to work overtime in this case. Meanwhile, Desatoff’s photography (joined by Sopanen, this time) creates a signature look for the show: it’s moody, full of shadow and atmospheric textures.

And, finally, one can’t help but think Nimoy has a bit of a twinkle in his eye when he says a penultimate line regarding future explorers to the stars…

Next Up: ‘Ancient Aviators’ digs into what mysterious designs on the ground in Peru could reveal about extraterrestrial contact in long-ago times.

*Episode Credits/Air Date Sources: in-video credits and IMDB.Com

Atari 2600 - Defender - 8bit Generation

Easy To Learn, Hard To Master – The Fate Of Atari Documentary

A couple of days ago, fellow Retroist Author Justin M. Salvato sent me this link to a Kickstarter to raise the necessary funds to complete a documentary about the history of Atari. Something that I bet if your a visitor to this site you have more than a passing fondness for, right?

I can say in all honesty that Atari is a name that still means something to not just me but for the Arkadia Retrocade, why else would Shea Mathis set up that little section of the arcade for Players to experience the magic that is the Atari 2600?
Arkadia Retrocade - Atari 2600

The documentary is being created by 8-Bit Generation, it is their second retro documentary in fact. To say they have managed to interview some true legends of the gaming industry is something of an understatement. You have Ralph H. Baer – the Father of Video Games who helped create the Magnavox Odyssey as well as Milton Bradley’s Simon.

Image courtesy of 8-Bit Generation.

Image courtesy of 8-Bit Generation.

Nolan Bushnell who besides founding Atari itself helped to usher in the Golden Age of the Arcade Games to name just a few of his many accomplishments.
Nolan Bushnell
Al Alcorn who designed a little game known as PONG and had input on the Atari 2600’s development.
Al Alcorn - Atari
But also in the documentary you have the likes of David Crane (Pitfall, Activision), Minoru Arakawa (Nintendo of America), Walter Day (Twin Galaxies), Manny Gerard (Co-Chief Operating Officer of Atari), Eugen Jarvis (Defender, Robotron: 2084), Raymond Kassar (CEO of Atari), Joe DeCuir (Video Olympics), Howard Scott Warshaw (Yar’s Revenge), Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Apple) and many more!

So if you are a fan of not just Atari but the Golden Age of Video Games, why not jump on over to Easy to Learn, Hard to Master – The Fate of Atari Kickstarter page and see what you get for your pledge!
Atari Logo