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The Kamoike Encounter

Abduction

Figure 1.2a – The Kamoike Spaceman (rendered by [redacted])

“…[redacted] was driving along a sidestreet on the night of [redacted], when he experienced inexplicable engine failure. Upon exiting the vehicle, [redacted] moved to the front of the car and proceeded to examine the motor.

Upon finding no immediate cause for the breakdown – no signs of overheating or corrosion – [redacted] reported feeling a strange presence directly across the road from where he stood. Turning, illuminated partially beneath a streetlight, was a figure. [redacted] took a moment to realise this was not a pedestrian, ascertaining the particular hue of this figure to be natural, rather than the effect of evening conditions.

[redacted] suffered time dilation and/or loss, recounting under hypnotherapy an extended period of time where the figure simply stood and stared, before disappearing entirely.”

Teaching art to 30-odd preschool and kindergarten students is awesome. Contrary to the above, this is actually a four year old student’s fantastic rendering of his father, rather than a Jim Henson version of the Solway Firth Spaceman.

The Cost of Adventure

IndyJonesGameCoin

A quick artefact designed as a game for the upcoming school summer camp. I’m going to lace printed and mounted versions about the leafy forest and adventure playground for the kids to find in a race against the clock and German soldiers with sidecar MG34s. The latter is subject to weather and legalities.

Lots of work-related art to come over the next few months that, thankfully, aren’t worksheets or classroom educational material.

Sahadan Exchange

Sahadan

New piece for solo project. No shading, just going with old school flat colouring and the usual non-flashy tones for expediency. 

In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, May 1915

McCrae’s rondeau is available as a free audiobook, featuring seven readings of World War One’s most famous piece of prose.

The NGAAT Duopoly Pick of E3 2014

Ah, the allure of the big top. The vibrant techno-circus we all know and love/hate. Over the mid-show hump of 2014’s E3, and while it hasn’t been a personal winner across the board, this year has me quietly champing at the bit for two specific games. This dual hegemony walks away with the inaugural, and thus freshly-esteemed laurels of being my event picks.

CounterSpy

CounterSpy01

Here’s a tasty morsel. A small team consisting of LucasArts and Pixar folk have built a stylish, retro-themed 50s/60s stealth action game; a side-scrolling affair involving all manner of tasteful action in an effort to cool an escalating cold war. Looking like a heady mix of Mr. Exit and Shadow Complex, this spy tale can be spread across a multitude of devices – tablet, mobile, PS3, PS4 and – most awesomely – the PS Vita.

Visual austerity begets a fine style, and the mission flow seems visibly dynamic. Snapping into cover propels the player camera into the level; an act that goes beyond merely slipping into the shadows to conceive the next action. Whipping a guard into a concussed slumber to spraying small arms fire down a facility hallway, the change of perspective affords a deliciously heightened sense of intimacy that would otherwise be just another platformer encounter.

Colour this title my most anticipated for 2014.

Helldivers

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Ever since Killzone: Liberation – one of the best multiplayer games in the history of the world, Senet included – I’ve yearned for another game that nails a strong, semi-arcadey isometric shooter. Many have tried, many have failed. But I’ve a feeling Helldivers will take the cake upon release.

As a follow-up to Magicka, there remains that mortifying element of your comrades being as dangerous as the foe. Friendly fire is as great a hazard to your health as the xenobiology you’ve been sent to waste. It immediately elevates the combat beyond simply another twin-sticker. There will be calls of ‘Check fire!’ and ‘Grenade out!’ and ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry!’ as myself and three others trudge across alien worlds for the glory and light of our ancestral home.

Coupling that with some sort of intriguing persistent online territory control against the alien hordes, and you’ve got a good match. Oh, and cross-platform play between PS4, PS3 and – again – PS Vita.

I’m thrilled.

Indeed, the common thread here is the platform.

The Vita is where I get my console experiences, and despite having a terrific inbound line-up, the press at large have continually sought the easy grab-bag of it being a beached system. Suffering, indeed, a similar plight to the Wii U. In any case, I go where intriguing games are.

In PC land, it’s technically always E3 – a perennial garden-bed of the exciting and exotic – so I don’t find big press events terribly enthralling or useful for the beige box. On Vita, it’s a mix of compact nobility, economy and a very accomplished library that spans the modern era, PS2 ports, indie gems and a towering superstructure built of Playstation and PSP back catalogue titles. What’s not to love?

Comrade Pete Davison elucidates far more eloquently on the position of the Vita and press complicity, so I shall simply link you to his fine wordage.

But in short? Bring forth the spy and my charred remains on a distant world.

Machines and Masters

Mech

This is very exciting. Magnificent UK artisan Ian Goldsmith, in the parlance of the young, hit me up about the possibility of a collaboration. My pithy little mechanical scribbles and Ian’s terrific oils in a match that has me humbled, reeling and unashamedly honoured. Things are underway, and even in the last few days, it has been all very illuminating. Positively illuminating. What’s more, I’m allowed a window into a style of the medium that I’ve never really experimented with, beyond a few messy classes in highschool. This is pulp and pop meets classical and romanticism.

And it’s all very cool. Go and check out Ian’s website and follow him on Twitter.

Boundary Rider – Borderlands 2 Vita

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Somewhat maligned by critics, with the expected cries of ‘lesser experience’, and ‘buggy as all buggery’, I find the freshly-released Borderlands 2 portable edition on Vita to suffer from the latter. And marginally, at best.

This is indeed the open-world shoot-mercantile that we know and love, only downsized in poly-count. I’ve spent a good few hours with it, and while I can understand the criticism of ‘better experience elsewhere’, there’s still something to be said for the monumental effort of squeezing such a hulking beast onto Sony’s portable and keeping the game relatively intact. Sure, hardware considerations were met halfway – assets in the distance can appear muddy and inelegant, clashing with the comic shading outline parameters – and there’s room for a few further patches, but this is the PC game I enjoyed prior.

Blinkers off, aiming is a touch unwieldy at times. I found dropping the vertical and horizontal sensitivities down to 4 was a good remedy and, just quietly, recalled a more Halo-esque pace. There’s still those laggy, inefficient menus that really didn’t need to be 3D. The aforementioned bugs and crashes – perhaps the most egregious – are being stripped out, hammered down and hopefully quelled. Framerate is, for the most part, solid. Hitching here and there, drops when things get pyrotechnically busy, but fingers crossed for a final pass or two of the optimisation mobile.

BL2V02

The oft-brought up argument against games and ports like these is one of legitimacy. Why was this done? Why would anyone play this, a few years after the fact and, admittedly, on hardware that *just* gets the job done? Well, I’m enjoying myself. I’m happy this port occurred – and like the Project Rainfall games making it to North America – it happened primarily because Vita owners saw a good thing and hounded developers and Sony. Borderlands is great. It could have been a discrete experience and been reborn as an isometric dual-stick shooter or – amazingly – an adventure game, but as it stands, I’m throwing around a turret and tackling nests of Bullymongs as I would on the PC. Would I like the next Borderlands game that hopefully makes it to Vita be something completely unique? Sure. Tactical turn-based strategy, please.

But for the time being, this is quite the treat. Put the kids to sleep, recline in bed and loot.

Addendum: I’ve found much pleasure in switching off music in most games these days. With the odd exception, there’s nothing more ruminative than the sound of one’s own digital feet and the wind in one’s digital ears. Borderlands 2 is certainly one of those games.

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