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 -----

[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.