Thursday, 13 December 2012

Filmographies

As we near the end of 2012 that means we get another stirring Filmography video from Gen Ip. She has crafted another superb compilation video that elevates all the films within to a higher level simply through great editing, music and shot selection. Below are the new 2012 Filmography and the one from last year as well. But check out her Genrocks (Gen Gen Gen) page for more.



Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Boardgame Renaissance

It would seem we are in revolutionary times when it comes to what were once humble boardgames. There are the very old games like Chess, Go and a horde of card games, the classics like Monopoly and Risk but now a whole armada of clever games armed with new production values and clever mechanics to make the gameplay so much better than it has ever been before. So while digital games are really doing incredible things with today's hardware and software - in the background we have a new renaissance on the tabletop.

The GamerChris blog has a nice set of posts that cover boardgame basics in this new world as well as theme, mechanics, conflict, cooperation and the role of luck (Boardgame Basics: An Introduction to Modern Boardgames). Gaining impetus from the German/European passion for boardgames we now have the likes of Mice & Mystics, SmallWorld and Defenders of the Realm.

[Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures pic from the GamerChris blog]

Tonight we will make our first foray into Descent 2E...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Luminocity and Hypersurface

The Faculty of Built Environment had a few large shows at the end of this year for UNSW. We had several exhibitions as part of the Sydney Architecture Festival with some very groovy Hypersurface Architecture installation walls at Customs House followed by LuminoCITY with all its lectures, events and the graduating student work.

Here are a few videos and images from the events that showcase the work (both the content and in creating events like these). First some of my pics, then some vids from Youtube.









Make sure you check out all the student work in the various Graduation Catalogs on the LuminoCITY site.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Octopi Family

The request was a pic to go on the front of a home-spun diary for the grandparents - somehow that inspired this little image of us as octopi. This was a pencil sketch in the normal A5 sketchbook, scanned then coloured in Photoshop. Nothing too tricky here, apart from some work on the sketch multiply layer. I enjoyed the process of this little piece, something without a larger intent as with the concept art work. I was thinking of having versions of us in some form, then somehow the idea of an Octopus popped up and hey presto...


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Microsoft Surface Love Hate

OK, I have been playing on and off with one of the new Microsoft Surface RT tabletty laptopy doodads for a week or so and have been having a very mixed experience.

When I ordered the machine there were only black keyboards, so I have the standard machine with the quite clever latch on keyboard that protects the screen very nicely and works as a keyboard quite well while lending a softer more tactile feel to the device. I still would have liked a funky coloured keyboard though.
Anyhow, the hardware itself is nice, with the much trumpeted kick stand and a small array of ports including a USB. One of the key benefits here is that we have Windows 8 running on the tablet - yes only the RT version in this case which does impose a suite of limitations (see later), but it is here and running. I still applaud Microsoft for trying to unite our devices in this way, but having the RT version feels limited. We get a preview version of office 2013 (well parts of it) which means we can run actual Word and Excel.
So there are positives and some of the metro apps are starting to look good.

[Promo Surface RT image via the Microsoft site]

OK, time to burn my way through a raft of frustrations then.

SPEED
The ARM processor in the RT version of the Surface just isnt up to the task of giving me the Win 8 functionality needed. My basic notes doc which for this year was at 50,000 words is barely useable and even if I hack off 3/4 of it it still isnt a nice experience.

APPS
Yes, the whole point of the RT version is to hold us to the metro Win8 apps - that may be ok down the track, but right now that means no dropbox, Lync, Outlook and a score of other helpful things that I have running nicely enough on my HP 2760p.
The apps we do get are a little flat in many places as well - the MAIL app has some nice things but is a far cry from Outlook or the GMail interfaces. The onsceen keyboard is nice - but gets in the way of some actions such as entering a WiFi password...

OTHER
Some things feel very 'version 1'. The rotation sensor is very sensitive and I keep needing to re-orient the discplay. Sometimes the brightness is way too low or it takes too long to sense that a change is needed. I fail to find settings for things much of the time - configs and interfaces are different for each metro app and system prefs are harder to navigate through than ever (maybe I should just be searching).
The dual Metro/Desktop interface thing is still awkward - at least app switching should ignore this differentiation as that would help unify the experience. Why would I switch to Desktop to get to an application running there?

Soooo, here we have a device with plenty of potential but lots of issues for now, I am really hoping the PRO version is exactly what we all really want - alas it is still 'coming soon'. The real selling point of Win8 on a tablet is the application richness of Windows (including Office, Adobe, Autodesk etc) so the RT Surface fails to claim that territory - bring on the PRO. I do like the picture unlock - that is a nice addition and as the metro apps mature my start screen is looking more and more interesting. I will keep going with this baby for a while yet though, see if I can find workarounds for the speed and application holes.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Stunning CryEngine3 and Crysis 3

One thing that the Crytek engine is famous for is the visual fidelity that it can muster is gorgeous real-time. While mortals may struggle to develop assets of the quality on display in the new tech demos for CryEngine 3 and the early 2013 Crysis 3 - the Crytek wizards have crafted some simply remarkable visuals - and it is all in realtime dont forget.

[CryEngine 3 promo screengrab via the official site]

First up the Crysis 3: Powered by CryEngine 3 Tech Demo where we see the sheer splendour that can come  pouring forth from the CryEngine. The environment is richer, denser, more detailed and inviting than ever before and the inhabitants integrate with that environment and just look remarkable all on their own.
Add to this some of the other details shown off in the following videos and you can see why we love this engine.



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Unity 4 and Serious Games

Yep, Unity 4 has arrived and comes armed with "a new animation system, graphics, special effects and performance optimizations" plus more. See the full list of New Features for all and sundry which includes all those nice visual enhancements.


This video shows off the new animation systems powerful use of Blend Trees, State Machines, IK and more.


Plus here is a little snapshot of the DirectX 11 features in the new version.


Serious Games

Apart from all the nice games that Unity can power, the Unity Serious Games Reel shows off how the engine can help with a whole range of more serious endeavours. While I might have been thinking real games a fair bit recently, I do like the idea of bringing these technologies to more and more places.

There isnt an embeddable version of this video yet - so just FOLLOW THE LINK to see the fun!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Coop Games and Card Creation

I have gone on something of a spree so our gaming groups can try out a suite of coop games. Apart from the Moths and Butterfly concept I have been working through - I took quite a few tangents involving drunken dwarves, ninja dancers, golems, elementals and even zany mutations. I will scan in and post up lotsa the concept sketches for these , even if the game mechanics notes arent ready.
Apart from Castle Ravenloft that is already hitting the table, we now have Descent 2E, Defenders of the Realm, Elders Sign plus Mice & Mystics - all of which I am sure will be stunning!
One thing not on the list yet is Zombicide, I think zombie AI works very well as the common enemy as they arent very smart and are quite predictable (not alot of scheming goes on in a zombie mind)

Anyhow, here is a neat little video showing one way to create a game card - with a 3D framework that is textured and then bringing in the 2D art and layering effects. This sets the bar pretty high.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Board Game Mechanics and Kickstarter

Over the weekend I generated quite a few notes and schemas on possible game mechanics that could form part of Valley of Wings which not only impact gameplay but are also helping to flesh out the world itself and its inhabitants.
The idea of curing a Corruption being the objective of each game session has merit, having a variety of these Corruptions that each not only change the end encounter but also gameplay throughout. Add to that a Trait which colours the corruption and that is heaps of variety. The idea of a campaign instead is still worth exploring, but would mean a different type of interaction between the players at the beginning.
One of the key narrative gameplay elements that may work is assembling and levelling the personal story of your 'party'. Getting a group together that can combat the Corruption but also put aside their animosity for the other side should be fun.

---

Anyhow, while I work on the details of some of these things, how about a little peek at a few of the interesting board games active on Kickstarter at the moment. Crowdsourcing could be a real boon for board games...


A few pics from Kickstarter as well:


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lego pop-up buildings

The mighty Lego bricks have spawned oh so many wondrous pieces of design and here is another that is sure to make you gasp. Here are two videos showing the work of talapz who created these quite incredible pop-up Japanese houses using lego. This new video on the top even shows how to build one if you had all those pieces.



And just to finish up he also has a video of a Rube Goldberg Lego contraption.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Valley of Wings - Board Game Inspiration List

With more and more thinking about how to translate the world and narrative of my Moth and Butterfly world to a board game - - I have been looking (too much) at a range of games that would be fun as well as good research into mechanics, presentation as well as theme. Several of the ideas in Valley of Wings point towards cooperation (coop gameplay) like the coming together of the Butterfly and Moth individuals to stop the nature-destroying 'corruption' as well as the finding a way to cease their warring.
A major challenge (and decision) will be whether the game can be narrative based - not a simple thing for board games to deliver. Maybe things like Descent and Mice and Mystics can help me explore that frontier.
I like the idea of a game mechanic that changes things on a day/night cycle as the Moths will benefit from one and the Butterflies the other. Customised avatars are a must, the amount of character that meaningful variation brings to a hero (or a race as in Small World adds) is great to play - not just once but replayability goes way up as well. I like the idea of chapters/scenarios/adventures/quests, but they should really alter the way we play, not just be a slight variation in the end encounter or victory condition.

Anyhow, this post is also a quick list of the games that really have my eye at the moment because they tempt me for play and research reasons! So many games - so little time!

----- Descent 2E -----

homepage
[just got it, looking forward to seeing the campaign in action]


[Descent board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- D&D Castle Ravenloft -----

[played a bunch of 2 player games, very clever coop]
[Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt are equivalent]


[Castle Ravenloft board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Defenders of the Realm -----

[groovy pandemic mechanic but oozing theme and all those minis]


[Defenders of the Realm board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Arkham Horror -----

[The grand-daddy, would love to get into a game with this depth]


[Arkham Horror board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Mice and Mystics -----

[newcomer and looking simply gorgeous - with narative to boot]


[Mice and Mystics board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Elder Sign -----

[got this a little while ago, need to rotate it into GAMENIGHT]


[Elder Sign board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Zombicide -----

[zombies work so well for game AI and this looks like a clever version]


[Zombicide board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Shadows over Camelot -----

[heard good things, traitor mechanic could go either way]


[Shadows Over Camelot board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Super Dungeon Explore -----

[different take on the theme - serious mini heaven]


[XXX board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- Legends of Andor -----

[I trust Fantasy Flight to do even more good and look there's a tower]


[Legends of Andor board game images via BoardGameGeek]

----- World of Warcraft: The Boardgame -----

[big scope, rich theming plus horde vs alliance team play]


[World of Warcraft: The Boardgame images via BoardGameGeek]

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Petchkovski 3D print art

There is something extra groovy that technology now allows more easily than ever before, bringing digital thinking and models into the real world as unique prints using very cool new 3D printer options. Greg Petchkovsky has created some cute pieces, but showing us how it was done is extra cool. The article on CreativeBloq has more of the details of his work using photogrammetry, modelling in 3ds Max and Zbrush leading to 3D printing. I love the sandstone block made of lego idea and how wonderfully integrated into our reality it is.



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Small World

With Tuesday GAMENIGHT being super fun over the last few months, I thought it was worth a mini review of Small World that has dominated our play sessions - we just cant stop. Days of Wonder are something of a board game powerhouse at the moment and mighty Small World is one of the reasons for that success. TableTop was my first exposure to this game of light hearted brutal conquest and that is one of the fascinating qualities the game has - somehow it stays light hearted and friendly despite the onslaughts that might be taking place.


We are now playing with all the expansions in play (above ground) except for the Necromancer Island, so that makes for a dizzying array of race and power combinations and with the zany event cards there is so much replayability as well as strategic complexity. As always BoardGameGeek has all the info you could ever want on the game and a slew of other reviews and images.

We have played games with from 2 to 6 players and the game works very well, even with the extra person (just added to the 5 player board, no special rules used). I adore all the table-talk as people try to think through who is winning, who might be going to win and who needs to be controlled, all while trying to collect points for yourself - very social the way we play.

[Small World promo pic from the Days of Wonder site]

Even though the box might say the game takes 80 mins, I think all of our games have been over 120 or 150 minutes - but lotsa fun minutes in there. Even though the game is all cardboard, the artwork is full of character and creates all manner of 'roleplaying' opportunities around the table. I love the surprises as some strange race combo under an odd circumstance way out-performs our expectations.
I am glad there are the little storage pockets for the zillions of counters, saves us on the setup and packup time.

All up, Small World is a wonderful game, esp with more players - the friendlier the group the more fun as the social elements come into the playing of the game.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Unity, Butterflies and Moths

The shiny new Unity 4 engine is poised to be released and we have the first demo of the new capabilities in the form of The Butterfly Effect short film. Passion Pictures have teamed up with Unity to create this real-time rendered little film which clearly push things pretty far with a dramatic sequence with nice visuals for this engine. The directx11 effects, lighting and such really help here as well as some nice camera animation.

Here we have stills, the film plus a making_of video:


[Promo images from The Butterfly Effect via the Unity site]



The winged critter theme doesnit end there though. Massive Black have spun together a fascinating little world using Unity 3.5 where you are a moth and can control a 'body'. The result is a confusing little realtime level you can download to play which has plenty of little flaws but is still a pretty groovy thing - here is Mothhead:



[Mothhead screenshots]


While neither of these projects are particularly relevant to my Moths v Butterflies work, esp now that I am keen to do a board game with the world at present. That said, I did enjoy using Unity for my Cartographer project and it still has merit. In a real-time world I would want my butterfly or moth avatars to fly much more smoothly than we see here in Mothhead, it doesn't feel natural here, the world is very cool, but the controls awkward.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Media Leviticity Scale

While I have been working through options and scenarios for a Valley of Wings board game (Moths vs Butterflies world) one of the key decisions is how light/comical the mood should be. This idea of a scale measuring something's seriousness is interesting to me, yet a suite of web searches did not yield much at all on the topic.
To illustrate the point, a live action tv show will live on a continuum from being extremely comical and light hearted to deadly serious, which is similar/related to but different from its level of realism. Most cartoons are right down one end of a levity scale with shows like 24 up the other end of such a seriousness scale.

However it turns out to be not quite so simple. Firstly there is how seriously the characters themselves are taking their activity and then another layer which is how seriously the show/novel/film depicts those endeavours. I have gone back and forth on this notion a few times, but the distinction seems to need some thought as The Clone Wars has serious characters in a quite light hearted cartoon and the same goes for the Avengers. That said, perhaps this important point is covered by other factors in a scale, thus making this idea of having a rating a touch easier.

I had the same debate over World Realism, Does the magic in Merlin make the show less more or less 'light' than Bones - maybe not - so any difference in lightness comes from other factors. Are Black Hawk Down and Avatar the same in terms of overall levity despite the more fantastic setting of Pandora?

So, I think we have worked out that the Visual Accuracy is significant, how cartoony the depiction is does have a real bearing on the 'lightness' of a piece of media.  Bugs Bunny at one extreme and The Bourne Identity at the other (note that with more increments in the scale even these wouldn't be at the ends).

There are perhaps three things vying for attention still, Emotional Impact, how much feeling there is in what is expressed to us as the reader/viewer and how much is felt by the characters.; the foregrounding of the Morals/Message and lastly a simple measure of the Comedy vs Seriousness of the piece. While there are examples where all of these differentiate, if we make a call and allow the first two to be captured by the third then we end up with this grid version.

Yep, here is an attempt at a Media Leviticity Scale with two dimensions:


So the Comical/Serious scale covers the overall mood while the Depiction scale is how it looks and is something like:
1 Extreme cartoonishness
2 Human-like but clearly not real
3 Hybrid cartoony and realistic
4 Photographic but with visual liberties
5 Looks real (true to that world)
I filled in one set of interpretations in the image and if I had to make a call now as to where Valley of the Winds would fall, I would pick D2 the same as the Clone Wars.

Note that 'fiction' here could be a novel, film, tv show, computer game, comic, cartoon, board game, play or other medium for the telling of some form of story/tale.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Groovy new RMIT Building

Universities are often great places for exciting pieces of architecture to spawn because of their more adventurous nature and their ability to use buildings as advertising of their research and teaching. The new building for the business school at RMIT brings a wonderfully zany feel to the place. The architects (Lyons) look to have delivered on a very playful and skilfully crafted structure both inside and out.
Check the full DEZEEN article for more in the RMIT Swanston Academic Building.




[new RMIT building by Lyons, photos via DeZeen]

ps - Lyons Architecture is very Guild Wars 2ish in my head (Lion's Arch)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Moths, Butterflies and Board Game Destiny

Since I/we have been playing many more board games over the last two months and having a heap of fun doing so. I have been thinking about porting over the Moths vs Butterflies realm to a board game instead. Apart from the fun of designing and then playtesting such a thing, the world now has a suite of ways to compliment the realisation of such a thing. We have stunning ways to print in both 2D and 3D as well as funding mechanisms like the now runaway success of Kickstarter.
I am keen to explore some mechanics that would embellish the world, the concept here would not be to re-skin an existing game or system, but to generate a new game that flows from the ideas already developed for the MvB world. What might some of these elements be, well we have both the 'races' plus the threat of the world itself. The idea that battling the mutating landscape could be powerful and naturally progresses the game towards an epic conclusion. Perhaps the game is cooperative but with limited scope for the Moths and Butterflies to really help each other until later. The backdrop of the conflict between these two races is essential, having to overcome the animosity there sounds like a mechanic already. The setting of the valley could make for an interesting board - long and thin perhaps.

Reference games.
These are some games and mechanics that I will delve into a bit more, see how they might fit into such a transformation. The D&D board games like Castle Ravenloft which use a fully coop mechanic are fascinating and also include things like Arkham Horror, Zombicide and Defenders of the Realm - all of which are dripping with theme as well. Extending from there is something like Descent which adds a player taking on the role of the antagonist while retaining a largely cooperative game. The idea of a campaign or an evolving story is something very tempting here in either format.
While things like Talisman or the fun of Small World etc have lots of interesting elements, in the end, the current lore for MvB is driving towards a coop solution.

Digital Media
As far as it fitting with the Masters of Digital Media (COFA), the interface would be in the generation of the 3D models that would form all the game pieces, such a cool way to have cool board game components. There is also all the board, box, token, manual artwork that could be generated and a cool CG trailer to top it all off. I am not sure where CryEngine would fit into this, I would like to keep it, but the fit is less clear.

There could be two other ways to include the digital elements. One is to bring an tablet INTO the game board itself - having the tablet generating gameplay elements as well as embellishing the visuals. This idea has a uniqueness to it that I like, imagine a board with a screen at the heart that you interact with as part of the board. So not an iPad or something sitting on top of the board, but make the board 3D and encapsulating the tablet so only the screen remains. Perhaps with a curved border making a dark pool at the centre of the forest. Anyhow, the second way would be in playtesting, creating simple software that could iterate through random elements to see how games may play out. This may need some AI to help it along, but at minimum could generate card sets and dice rolls if they are part of the game.

Finishing up with a gameplay pic from Descent via boardgamegeek:

[Descent game play pic via boardgamegeek]

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Win8 progress and the ASUS TAICHI

I have the release copy of Windows 8 running on my HP 2760p and it is a little cleaner again than the previous iterations. I still have 'issues' with how the machine handles Win8 in tablet mode - so I dont use that, but as a touchy laptop it seems to be working ok. We still have the whole dual interface complexity though, running a mixture of metro and win7 apps is far from smooth and friendly.

One of the things I liked about Windows 7 was that applications functioned in a fairly predictable fashion, I could find help, get to settings, full screen etc with buttons generally up the top. Enter the Metro world and every app looks different and behaves in its own way. Plus most of the apps arent utilising their icon/tile in the  main menu view. Even the Desktop tile doesnt show a pic of your desktop, let alone others that should like the twitter apps or skype.

I have been playing more with the Store though and have a suite if interesting experiments from a host of vendors.

---

[ASUS TAICHI via the official site]

Hardware wise, we are waiting for our first Microsoft Surface to arrive, that should be interesting. In the meantime I like the idea of the ASUS TAICHI which instead of dealing with flippy screens, they just have a screen on both sides of the lid. It does take a pen (not a WACOM solution, but still 256 levels of pressure) - see the TrustedReviews article for more on that. One thing I am disappointed by is that the inner screen isnt touch - I really like touching the screen on my little laptop now, and as people start using things like the Surface by touching the screen even in laptop mode it will be missed.
While not quite available yet, it looks like it is going to be expensive here in Oz - soaring over $2K.
Despite all of that, I love that we are another step closer to having screens on all surfaces...
More info and their promo vid:

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Win8 laptopy tablety fun

I applaud Microsoft's attempt to bring their OS to a spectrum of devices, even though so far I have been using my Windows 8 machine just like a Windows 7 one with touch added. The is plenty of dynamic volatility in the Laptop/Ultrabook/Tablet/Etc market normally, enter a new OS that lures touch to all of them and we are in for some interesting times. It would be fun to see what kind of hardware Apple could create to run Win8 actually - but we will have to go with the regular crowd with one notable addition, Microsoft themselves.

Launch time is a scant day away now and articles like the Field Guide to Windows 8 Hardware showcase the exciting times as far as choice and potential innovation go with the new OS, touch and technical possibilities. I am hoping that some vendors can rise, deliver truly inspirational computing to us all.

I am keen to see the Microsoft Surface first up, even though the pro version is still 'coming soon' - I really should wait for it as it runs the full Windows8 version and carries the i5 chip as well. I think it is a good play for Microsoft to enter with hardware, to show off a product that energises interest and can inspire their partners to invest in hardware, even if it isnt traditional desktop computers.



[Micosoft Surface hardware via C-NET]


I like this Movement ad, even though it isnt about the experience but about a magnetic hinge :-)

Anyhow, here are some of the images from the C-NET article that shows the breadth of Win8 Touch hardware we might want to explore - cool times. (Sony's 20" tablet - I like it)







[Various Windows 8 hardware form factors via C-NET]