Posts Tagged ‘dead end thrills’

Alien Nation: Going ‘Nowhere’ With Duangle

By Duncan Harris on April 2nd, 2014.

This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

A mindbending, mesh-distending life sim set in some vast alien abyss, Nowhere is awesome in the way Spore once was before it mutated into an existential Happy Meal. No such danger with this game, though, the husband-and-wife team of Leonard and Sylvia Ritter [together known as Duangle] now deep into a project that’s content, much like its shape-shifting ‘Nowherians’, to evolve naturally. Quite how it manages to map Maslow’s hierarchy of needs onto a universe full of amoeba people is just one of countless irresistible unknowns.

It’s a weird ecosystem, though, this modern crowdfunding. Almost every aspect of Nowhere’s development is exposed to its potential players – not least its developers who have to adapt to the demand for public alpha builds; competitive promo art; and their unique brand of trippy, nervy video newsletters. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wherefore Art? The Strange Places Of Noctuelles

By Duncan Harris on March 19th, 2014.

This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

Somewhere in the region of the demoscene and modern game jam is Noctuelles, home of mysterious New Zealander Orihaus and the ‘strange places’ he calls ‘games’. Ghostly ‘megastructures’ of stark, sometimes procedurally generated geometry, his Unity-powered projects can seem a million light years from purported genres including flight sim and survival horror. Then you get Xaxi, “a virtual memory palace of sorts, designed to teach Aliceffekt’s Conlang Traumae, and examine the possibilities of learning and memory in interactive virtual environments.”

All of which begs the question: is Orihaus really happy making places for their own sake? We, of course, are getting comfortable with the idea, funding and exploring worlds and ideas that often far outstretch any explicit gameplay – and why not? But what does the future hold for Noctuelles, and what are we supposed to think of it in the meantime? Read the rest of this entry »

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Bug Powder Lust: Destination Tangiers

By Duncan Harris on March 5th, 2014.

This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

It’s not every day you find yourself nodding to every comment under a news story, to the point of trolling yourself. But if we pretend for a minute that my buddy’s mother does indeed make $68 an hour on ‘the internet’, that’s precisely what happened when Adam raved about the latest screenshots of Tangiers on Monday. Much as it does look like a stealth game dialed into the furious dystopian frequencies of Lynch, Burroughs, and Cabaret Voltaire, it also kinda looks like a bunch of Dutch angles and Instagram filters slapped on a load of warehouses. Then again, what else should the videogame Videodrome look like?

Maybe Tangiers will be this year’s answer to The Void. Maybe [twirls moustache] it’ll be this year’s answer to Thief, eh?? And maybe you’ll grow a controller-shaped tumour about two months after you’ve finished it that unlocks the DLC. For answers to none of these questions and more, here’s Andalusian lead Alex Harvey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Citizens On Patrol: Arnold Tsang’s APB

By Duncan Harris on February 19th, 2014.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

Not only can I straightfacedly say that I enjoyed playing APB, I even have this document to prove it. Being what felt like a voice in the wilderness back then wasn’t what was frustrating, though, it was knowing that the trolls so vocal in the game’s own chat channels weren’t wrong. Such were this MMO shooter’s problems – the anarchy not just of game, you felt, but production – that no amount of charity was going to save it from the bloodlust of gloating critics.

As someone who loves a good character editor and was floored by APB’s ambition, I had a hard time dealing with the bait-and-switch of the game’s customisation modes. (What you built in the editor looked next to nothing like who you played in the game.) Clearly the game couldn’t deal with it, either, which is why much of its landscape is wallpapered in the work of a concept art dream team assembled by Webzen and Realtime Worlds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Total Recall: A Chat With Stephan Martiniere

By Duncan Harris on February 5th, 2014.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

With the galaxy’s biggest sci-fi movies using ever more effects houses and artists, it can be hard to pinpoint today’s Ralph McQuarries and Ron Cobbs. They’re out there, though, often known more by work than name. At the top of the pile is Stephan Martiniere, one of those illustrators and art directors whose work is so envied by just about any sci-fi project going that’s he levelled up to ‘Visionary’. Put simply, people want the stuff in his head on their books, in their movies, at their theme parks, and, as luck would have it, in their games.

Examples? In movies, Martiniere’s applied his signature style (eye-popping ‘Golden Age’ snapshots of civilisations in overdrive) to the worlds of I, Robot, Tron: Legacy, Star Wars Episodes II and III, Star Trek, The Fifth Element, the Total Recall remake, 300: Rise Of An Empire, Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. *and breathe…* Read the rest of this entry »

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An Unexpected Journey: The Life And Dead Of DayZ’s Chernarus

By Duncan Harris on January 22nd, 2014.


This is the latest in a series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

An irony of Chernarus, the fictional-yet-you-can-somehow-cosplay-there home of DayZ, is that the older the game gets, the younger the map should grow. The awesome ArmA machines for which it was built – planes, helicopters, tanks, boats, guns, the Lada – will fall into disrepair. Some survivors might have the specialist tools to fix them, but more will have the skills to steal them. Those bandits maybe won’t fix them, and this post-Soviet state will suddenly start to look very pre-Soviet indeed. Though this natural outcome seems unlikely for a mere computer game, it’s what’s so exciting about DayZ being Early Access. We get to watch its apocalypse unfold.

This must be a rather strange prospect for Ivan Buchta, the Bohemia Interactive designer who grew up in the northern area of the Czech Republic the map so closely resembles. To the current DayZ Standalone team he’s the “Ambassador Of The Republic Of Chernarus”, which makes plotting the death of his birthplace an unlikely part of his job description. But then that’s the other thing about DayZ going Early Access: it’s a job he seems to share with just about everyone, from his workmates to the players who think they should ratify the game’s every move. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gold In Them Hills: Skyrim In 2014

By Duncan Harris on January 8th, 2014.


This is the latest in a series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

An occupational risk of Christmas is that the great mead (Jaffa Cakes) hall of my in-laws’ living room will inspire me to reinstall Skyrim, post a few fancy screenshots, and sure enough get a few emails asking for some mythical mod guide. Then comes the abuse: “He doesn’t want anyone to have his secret sauce!” Or: “His Skyrim doesn’t look like that – *snort* – those are Photoshopped.” Only they don’t capitalise Photoshop because they didn’t have to sit through that publishing meeting, lucky old them.

They’re almost right about one thing: my Skyrim doesn’t look like that. Likewise, when someone asks me what English weather is like, I don’t answer: ‘It’s like that evening drive between Dorset and Wiltshire when a torrential downpour gave way to just the best sunshine that lit up the faces of distant historic buildings and cast painterly shadows across dale and field.’ What I tell them is that, nine times out of ten, ‘it’s shit.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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Little China Doll: How Spicy Horse Imagined Alice: Madness Returns

By Duncan Harris on December 18th, 2013.


This is the latest in a series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

Alice: Madness Returns is a very special action game, a piece of Lewis Carroll fan fiction conceived by an American (named American, naturally) and illustrated largely by the Chinese, a people not known for their absurdism. Unfortunately it’s also a classic victim of checklist game criticism and marketing, not to mention it’s the worst possible thing to reviewers working under deadline: long. Make no mistake, the business of game reviewing is a lot like the business of eating large amounts of Jacob’s Cream Crackers in hot and rowdy East End basements. To put it another way, all games get tiring when you play them past your bedtime.

The sequel to American McGee’s Alice isn’t great (8/10), solid (7/10), flawed (6/10) or average (5/10) – it’s none of that nonsense. It’s a living art book, an Alice novel with the ratio of words to pictures spun around. Inspired by such wild and offbeat things as Burning Man, Dave McKean, Zdzislaw Beksinski, The NeverEnding Story, The Dark Crystal and the Brothers Quay, more than anything it’s a tribute to the mechanical and the handmade. Dolls, miniatures and puppets crowd the dreams and nightmares of its Wonderland, while its ‘real world’ Victorian London would be right at home in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Read the rest of this entry »

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X Marks The Spot: Fun With Microsoft Flight Simulator

By Duncan Harris on December 4th, 2013.


This is the latest in a series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do how-to guides because there’s seldom much to say, but this one doesn’t count: I don’t actually suggest you do this at all. It’s a how-not-to, then. A how-ton’t. See? Even the jokes are a mistake.

You get used to this kind of logic when playing with Flight Simulator X mods, where the mods aren’t quite mods and the playing isn’t quite playing. Not in the case of Tileproxy, anyway, which is so special and problematic a thing that I just had to remind you it exists.
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The Suite Science: Paul Weir Talks Generative Music

By Duncan Harris on November 20th, 2013.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

When Paul Weir gave a talk at GDC 2011 about GRAMPS, the generative audio system he designed for Eidos Montreal’s Thief, the games press took notice. Not so much of the contents, though, or indeed the subject, just Thief. Here, finally, was a chance to get something on this oh so secretive game. Maybe, while prattling on about ‘sounds’ and stuff, he’d toss them a headline or two, get ‘em some clicks. Suspecting as much, Weir recommended to his audience that anyone just there for Thief nooz should probably leave the room. Some people did.

We can often seem deaf to game audio in the same way we’re blind to animation. Maybe it’s because the best examples of both are so natural and chameleonic that they blend into a game’s broader objectives. Maybe it has to be Halo ostentatious or Amon Tobin trendy just to prick up our ears; or make the screen flash pretty colours. Or maybe Brian Eno has to be involved, as we’ll come to in a minute. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sound Garden: The Aural Landscape Of Fract OSC

By Duncan Harris on November 6th, 2013.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

In the Tron-like synthesiser world of Fract OSC, dead code awaits the healing touch of the user. Towering polygonal geodes hide the tools for making music, and somewhere in each vast structure is a way to power it back up. Bringing it back to life, though, is often the other half of the puzzle. For that you’ll have to compose.

Phosfiend Systems’ first ‘proper’ game comes via an IGF award-winning prototype, backing from the Indie Fund, Steam Greenlight, but most importantly creator Richard Flanagan’s passion for synthpop and its hardware. His background in web and analogue game design doesn’t hurt, either. Indeed, perhaps the most striking thing about Fract OSC is how its synaesthesic interface – text and prompts are swapped for directional lasers and electro power chords – gets equal billing to its puzzling and exploration. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Beautiful Game: Inside OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

By Duncan Harris on October 30th, 2013.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

How better to celebrate 25 years of Mega Drive than on a site dedicated to PC games, via a game synonymous with Xbox-powered coin-ops? Not so fast, RPS! This copy of the seldom-bought PC version of OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast protects this feature. [Holds up empty hand.] No, wait, these copies! [Turns to empty shelf.] Aha! These copies! [Fires up empty web page.] Nngh! They were right here! Get this straightjacket off me!

Okay, so it’s not actually possible to buy this game any more due to expired Ferrari licensing. Not that it matters here. There’s always a fistful of reasons to talk about OutRun, not just the coincidence of Mega Drive’s birthday which I only heard about this morning. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Edge: A Chat With Robert Briscoe

By Duncan Harris on October 23rd, 2013.


This is the latest in the series of articles about the art technology of games, in collaboration with the particularly handsome Dead End Thrills.

Robert Briscoe is obviously not the only great environment artist in games, and it’s a bit weird to say he has a singular portfolio after working on just two titles. What makes it a lot easier is if you think in terms of levels: The Shard, Jacknife, Reflex, Velocity (from Mirrors Edge and its DLC); The Lighthouse, The Cave, The Beacon (from Dear Esther). All masterpieces up there with BioShock’s Welcome To Rapture, Half-Life 2′s Point Insertion and – quick, think of something slightly less distinguished to prove worldliness – that level in Robocod made out of Penguin bars. Read the rest of this entry »

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