Month: July 2014

Early Access: Sunless Sea

Early Access: Sunless Sea

Adventure stories were more potent in the days before the internet. The mystery of simply not knowing what lived in the world’s most remote islands, deepest forests, and vast oceans provided fodder for active imaginations. Now, with a wealth of knowledge constantly available at our fingertips, creating a suitably awe-inspiring adventure requires a bit more creativity. Failbetter Games has managed to rise to this challenge with Sunless Sea, a game intent on subverting our knowledge of history and biology to recreate a sense of mystery and wonder.

In the world of Sunless Sea, cities have vanished underneath the waves of a vast ocean and the sky has been blotted out by what I can only theorize is a giant overhanging rock formation. National landmasses are now islands within an enormous cave, haunted by swarms of vicious bats and lurking sea creatures. The player takes the role of a captain who sets out with a crew of “zailors” across the wide, dark “zee,” hoping, depending on personal choice, to find great wealth or knowledge. If this premise sounds silly, it’s only because Sunless Sea is so intent of disorienting its audience—forcing them to re-learn how the world works—that it’s happy to introduce strange jargon. Fortunately, Failbetter Games’ writers are talented enough that the prose used to describe the bizarre setting in Sunless Sea’s many text adventure-style sequences comes off exceptionally well. The paragraphs that greet players upon arriving at new islands or while speaking to the game’s cast of weird characters are carefully written and evocative. The text pairs well with Sunless Sea’s minimalist visuals to conjure up a gloomy, foreboding atmosphere seemingly plucked from a Gothic novel.

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While navigating written menus makes up a large part of the game’s mechanics, players are also asked to fight battles and control their ship during their attempt to explore—and survive—the ocean. Fuel, food, and crew terror are the three main ship attributes to manage. While the first two are fairly straightforward, Sunless Sea’s terror system is more inventive. Remaining in the darkness of the sea for too long, running away from attacking enemies, and encountering events too frightening for the crew to handle will eventually raise the terror level, causing crew members to abandon ship or begin acting erratically. A weakened crew causes the ship to lose speed, making it easier for giant crabs, living icebergs, pirates, and clouds of bloodthirsty bats to descend on the player.

Once this occurs Sunless Sea transitions to a real-time RPG battle system where both the ship and the enemy enter commands into an action queue. The goal of every combat instance is to ignite flares, illuminate foes, and attack them once they’re visible enough to be fired upon. These battle mechanics encourage a welcome level of strategic thinking, but are influenced a bit too heavily on the ship upgrades the player has been able to accumulate. A crab monster can be vanquished in seconds (despite taking a minute or two to actually defeat) while an overly powerful enemy can sink the player with one well-placed shot. Since currency—“echoes”—are so scarce in the early game, it often feels impossible to upgrade sufficiently and contend with the powerful monsters and rival ships patrolling in unexpected places.

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This level of difficulty can lead to a bit of frustration, but learning to live with a handful of short-lived captain careers makes committing to the game’s many moment-to-moment decisions (should you fight that monster or run? Is it worth it to walk down the dark road of cannibalism in order to avoid starving your crew?) fraught with the kind of tension they would otherwise lack. The easier manual save system made available in the main menu strays too far from what makes Sunless Sea so interesting to play, but also helps to make the game a bit more accessible to those without the patience to replay introductory quests again and again. A happier balance between the unforgiving challenge of the normal mode and the less exciting “easy” mode would better allow Sunless Sea’s design choices to shine without overly annoying players.

This is one of the only aspects of the game that make its status as part of Steam’s Early Access program noticeable, though. Certain story paths may be locked, but, given the size of the world and the number of quests and ship-building customization options already available, the current version of the game already feels remarkably complete. Players with a taste for adventure and fantastic storytelling will find a lot to love in Sunless Sea. The high level of difficulty may make exploring the game’s extraordinary world more frustrating than it ought to be, but, just the same, Failbetter’s unique vision of a grand, mysterious world is compelling enough to compensate.

 

How Long Can Call Of Duty Stay On Top? - 2014-07-31 13:18:54

How Long Can Call Of Duty Stay On Top?

Summer vacation is half done, and all eyes are turning to November, when Call of Duty releases its latest iteration, Advanced Warfare. This year, as with past years, when the game hits shelves, at least 10 million people around the world are going to buy it for whatever machine they own. Activision is already digging up several holes to make room for the new pools full of money they’ll be swimming in, while lighting up victory cigars with $100 bills. There’s simply no question that in terms of sales, COD is the king. But for how much longer?

Since 2007, the Call of Duty franchise has surprised everyone, pulling in sales of over 13 million with Modern Warfare, a massive leap from the 1.2 million that WWII-based Call of Duty 3 sold the year before. With each passing year, those sales increased, culminating in over 24 million people around the globe buying Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 since its 2012 release. The problem is, this simply can’t continue forever. There are some gamers—probably younger, or simply naïve ones with little head for business history—that might believe this is impossible. Some people can’t conceive of a world where Call of Duty isn’t now-and-forever the bestselling franchise of all time. These people believe that their great grandchildren will STILL be buying and playing COD decades from now. But no product or brand name is forever. Borders was once the most powerful bookstore in the world until Amazon came along. Apple was once the unquestioned king of smartphones until Google lumbered in with their Android OS fueled devices. And even in games, before Call of Duty was the “eternal king” of the FPS genre, that crown was once worn by another franchise that went by the name of Halo. All of which is to say that only an irrationally loyal fanboy would ever insist that from now, until the end of history, the Call of Duty franchise will always rule the sales charts.

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In fact, the opposite is already happening. As with other brands under Activision’s care such as Tony Hawk: Pro Skater, Guitar Hero and even World of Warcraft through Activision’s partner, Blizzard, sales are going down. Last year’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, while still raking in ludicrous amounts of money, didn’t surpass Black Ops 2, and this year’s Advanced Warfare is very much taking the science fiction route, having exhausted both modern and near future settings for the franchise. With soldiers that look more like Master Chief than marines, Activision’s new science fiction shooter finds itself going head not just with The Original Spartan himself and the Halo collection. COD now finds itself competing against its own sibling, who has a three-month head start. Destiny, made by none other than Bungie, the original creators of Halo, launches in September and offers a new, distinct “shared world shooter” concept rather than the same old FPS conventions COD has relied on all these years.

It almost seems like Activision itself, having suffered the effects of “franchise fatigue” a few times already, is hedging its bets against COD’s decline and preparing a new franchise to take its place. They’ve even gone so far as to state that $500 million has been invested in Destiny’s future. Meanwhile, COD, with its three studios feverishly working to ensure an annual release every year, have been crippled by the departure of key staff from Infinity Ward, creators of the COD franchise that founded Respawn Entertainment to make Titanfall. These three studios are clearly working such hectic schedules to satisfy investor demand for COD sales, not out of any love or sense of ownership for the franchise. Activision is letting Bungie pursue their dream game, while stamping out the dreams of three other studios to ensure a COD game comes out every year.

But if Call of Duty does finally fall out of fashion, what happens to all those gamers that used to buy it every year? Obviously the hardcore remain, buying whatever games they prefer in whatever genres they enjoy, but what about mainstream gamers? If they only buy COD and maybe a Madden or FIFA game every year, will they just not buy FPS games anymore and contract the market, or will they actually move on to another game? Activision is hoping they’ll move to Destiny, obviously, but there’s no sure way to predict—or control—the game an audience decides to make their next big thing. If that were the case, then Titanfall would have been COD-killer EA had cultivated it to become. 

Unusual Bonds & The Origins Of Steampunk with The Devil's Men - 2014-07-31 12:58:27

Unusual Bonds & The Origins Of Steampunk with The Devil’s Men

According to Daedalic games, the 1851 Great World Exhibition changed things. A fictional Victorian town by the seaside, a mixture of Brighton and London, played host to strange, otherworldly displays. A group of scientists embroiled in criminal activities, claiming to have sold their souls to the devil took hold of the town. Two decades passed, and the men continued their reign. Then someone began murdering the so called Devil’s Men. A woman named Adelaide becomes involved when she witnesses the death of one of the coterie. Emily, a prominent and potentially dangerous gang leader, is the only one who can help.

I’m intrigued. Hungry to learn more, I contacted Kevin Mentz, the author of Daedalic’s upcoming adventure game The Devil’s Men. It features a pair of women as leads, each taking their turn to drive the narrative forward at the hands of the player. What one hand does will affect the other in this interesting take on the genre.

 

On the Setting

The technology associated with the titular group of scientists has been repeatedly described as being “steampunk” in nature. To hear Mentz tell it, things in the town begin in a relatively straightforward and historically familiar vibe. Artifacts exist somewhere, but are of little concern to most folk. That changes as the story moves: “The deeper you delve into their world the more steampunky the story gets. The 19

th

century was a time of transition, of industrialization, of modern urbanization, etc. So in our version of that time, I wanted to show that transition also as a transition from a historically somehow real era into something fantastical. You could describe it as the origin story of a new steampunk universe.”

“The reason why I [chose a steampunk setting] was first and foremost the pure joy of inventing such a world. I always like to play around with tropes and clichés and genres in general and find a fresh and interesting take on them. In Memoria I tried to bend classical Hero Fantasy as far as I could without alienating fans of the genre. This time I want the cool stuff from steampunk, the historical and literary references, the play with alternate history, the strangeness and the classiness.

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On the Women

Our protagonists have been introduced before, but I wanted to know more about their personalities and how they’ll factor into proceedings. The first is a street thug. Emily is at the helm of a band of misfits and strays taking shelter in remains of the Great World Exhibition. “The other kids fear her because she is the only one of them with blood on her hands.” She has a reputation and somewhat of a sordid past, but it’s left to the player to decide how they want her personality and position amongst her peers to play out.

“For example, she can act cold-hearted and dangerous to keep her followers in line or she could show a more caring side, but that might also make herself more vulnerable to the attacks of potential rivals. Story concept wise she is a fully fleshed out character with certain traits and characteristics, but you, as the player, decide what part of her personality stays hidden and what she shows openly.”

Adelaide’s character develops in the same way. We know who she is when we take control: the daughter of an absent father of great stature as a detective. Her happy childhood and middle class security has been swept away, thrusting her into a life of poverty and vagrancy.

“Her experiences there taught her to be cautious and distrustful. […] She is sensitive, smart and witty, but also very self-conscious. Once again it is up to the player how this kind of character behaves, who she will trust and befriend and what sacrifices she is willing to make.”

[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]”It’s been suggested that casting women in lead roles is financially unsound.”[/pullquote] It’s been suggested that casting women in lead roles is financially unsound. With The Devil’s Men Mentz seems to be shrugging off the notion in favor of his tale. “Daedalic is very lucky to have a publisher like Eurovideo who understands and trusts our artistic vision for a game. The Deponia series was unconventional in a very different way, and still sold very well internationally, so they do have reason to trust that we know what we are doing. So when I first pitched the concept to them I was asked only once whether it would be possible to change one of the two women into a man. I hesitantly answered that it could be done, but that it would change the entire story if either Adelaide or Emily weren’t in there. And they accepted that.”

He went on to express a desire for female protagonists in games to become a non-issue. “Having said all that I do hope that having an all-female leading cast in a game should not remain something you could call “unconventional” in the future – rather just like in books and films a regular choice for any developer to make for their game.” If the positive reaction to the matter that Daedalic received at E3 last month is any indication, we’re making strides in this direction.

 

On Technical Stuff

While it’s not obvious when viewing the game in still, The Devil’s Men uses three dimensional backdrops for its scenes. Daedalic is using Unity 3D and an in-house middleware called “Mynos”, to achieve a different look for this title. “Traditionally, adventure games tend to have very static scenes and not much variety when it comes to camera work. We wanted to change that, add more depth to locations and enable a more fluent camera allowing for zooms, pans and generally what people like to call ‘more cinematic’ aesthetics. It looks cooler.”

This comes at a price, of course, though it’s one that Daedalic has deemed worth paying. “Originally it took us between one or two weeks to get a 2D backdrop ready for implementation into the engine. Now, with 3D you can double or triple the working hours. You need to model the scene and texture it and flesh out parts of the room that only come into view when the camera shifts in a specific way. So 3D is definitely more expensive than 2D, especially when you want to attain the same level of detail and quality.”

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On Choice

Conspicuous player choices and their consequences can be tricky business to feature. Everybody incorporates them differently, so I was curious what kind of effects Mentz and co. are planning around theirs. “There are big decisions that can lead to different puzzles or scenes, while others may only influence the way a certain non-player-character thinks about Emily or Adelaide. Some decisions are obvious, others are so subtle, that at first you might not even realize that you changed something.”

He describes a pair of scenes where Emily and a comrade are escaping the authorities. One involves small, relatively insignificant decisions that will affect how this other character regards her : he could continue to question her authority or learn respect. The second scene offers you a choice with greater impact on Emily’s standing in the gang. Will she sacrifice herself or willingly place her accomplice in danger? “You’re probably less likely to risk his health if he was nice to you before.”

“[…] the first scene only offers varying context and motivation for the entire situation, whereas the decision in the second scene will influence a great deal of Emily’s situation. […] Both have their relevance for the player and are important to consider, because you never really know what is the former and what turns out to be the latter.”

These consequences are not limited to side characters. Sometimes the interests of the two protagonists will conflict, and your actions with one can cause direct harm for the other. Mentz referenced a scene where Adelaide is assisting a police inspector in his casing of a crime scene. “During the investigation she finds evidence pointing to Emily as part of that specific crime. Adelaide can now decide whether to show this evidence to the inspector, thus helping her investigation, but harming Emily in the long run, or she can forge evidence and lead the policeman on a false trail. In that case the investigation gets sabotaged, but Emily will have an advantage later on.” This friction is going to be a recurring problem. “In that regard calling a decision ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is always a matter of perspective.”

Events near the beginning of the game will play out in similar sequence regardless of what you do, but this changes as you progress. “Gradually you will realize that your decisions influence more and more details that add up to larger variations to the story, making the second half of the game more and more unique.”

“Mostly the differences are related to different character developments, relationships and what you find out about the background story in general. Graphics-wise, though, you will always visit the same locations, but in different contexts and sometimes even with different puzzles.”

 

On Being German

German gaming culture is very fond of its adventure games. Mentz says that his home market is far easier to ply than that in the larger pool of American players, but they’re taking motions in the rest of the world one step at a time. “We do have a lot of fans in the rest of Europe and even in South and Middle America.[…] Deponia sold very well and we are planning to build up on that success.”

Occasionally, though, the leap abroad causes some problems. While good translation can make people laugh even if the original German joke or pun doesn’t carry across, others may simply be inaccessible to foreign players. “In fact Deponia is a word play on the German word ‘deponie’ (junk yard), but we couldn’t translate it, because we didn’t want to change the title of the game for the international market. So in this case the joke was deliberately lost.”

 

 

 

Guardians Of The Galaxy (Movie) Review 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) Review

Marvel Studios has been busy making billions of dollars out of their B-line of classic heroes over the last six years and their track record has been consistent enough to qualify as historic. Their latest effort is, at least theoretically, their biggest risk to date. The comic series Guardians Of The Galaxy has been around off and on in various forms since the 60s, but was always more of a niche title amongst the niche of Marvel fans. For the most part, general audiences might not have known much about Iron Man or Thor’s backstories before their blockbusters came along, but at least their names and costumes were iconic enough that everyone recognized them. These rag-tag collections of space-adventuring outcasts on the other hand aren’t even well known by comic book fans, beyond being dismissed as “that book with the talking raccoon,” which isn’t exactly high praise. Yet, pretty much from the moment the film kicks off, it’s clear this project wasn’t such a big risk after all. The film is a goofy and action packed space adventure that will feel instantly familiar to anyone who grew up amidst a swell of Star Wars knock offs in the 70s and 80s. It’s like watching a sci-fi adventure about a space ship full of various Han Solos and Chewbaccas and just as gloriously entertaining as that sounds.

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After a little tragic backstory prologue set on earth in 1988, we’re thrust into a creepy and barren alien landscape. A lone masked space traveler wanders into frame, starts exploring an ominous, and gorgeously designed rotted out alien temple. It’s filled with details that suggest designers spent weeks figuring out its origin and purpose. It seems like we’re about to watch a dark sci-fi epic. Then the masked character pulls out a Walkman and hits play on “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” so that he can groove to “Come And Get Your Love” while looking for an artifact. That scene pretty much sums up Guardians Of The Galaxy as a whole. It’s a film that flip-flops between being a genuine action sci-fi epic and a campy piss-take on the genre. That masked hero is Peter Quill aka Starlord aka Chris Pratt, an earthling slacker who was abducted as a child after fleeing from his mother’s cancer bed and now lives in the far reaches of the galaxy where he flies around, steals stuff for profit, and beds lovely alien ladies. The item he’s looking for on the planet is a mysterious orb containing one of the Infinity Gems that the dark lord Thanos (Josh Brolin) seeks to bring pain and torment to the universe. Once Starlord has the orb in his hands, he’s suddenly pursued by the warlord Ronan (Lee Pace), Thanos’ not-so-evil daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a talking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Rocket’s single-sentence-speaking-walking-tree-sidekick Groot.

[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“It’s space fantasy in the Star Wars or Firefly mode, not serious science fiction. It works. It works damn well.”[/pullquote]A series of mishaps and fight scenes land Starlord, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot in a prison together where they soon meet up with the hilariously literal minded Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista). After going through some space jail growing pains, the gang decides to team up to break out of prison and steal back the orb for profit. In the process, this antihero gang of ragamuffins turns into a new team of heroes. They blow stuff up real good, and interact with a variety of eccentric space characters played by eccentric character actors like John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, and Glenn Close. It might not be a superhero tale, but it sure plays like a Marvel movie. The humor is cranked to eleven, the characters are all delightfully flawed, the action explodes loudly and consistently, the actors are all ideally cast, and most importantly it’s one big giddy sugar rush of entertainment from start to finish. It’s space fantasy in the Star Wars or Firefly mode, not serious science fiction. It works. It works damn well.

The key was bringing in writer/director James Gunn who started at Troma (he even gave Lloyd Kaufman a cameo here!), then moved on to the weirdo cult flicks Slither and Super. Gunn has a very distinct voice. He loves outcasts, he loves to honor genres while gently mocking them, he loves to cast bizarre character actors, and he always finds ways of sneaking a little subversion into pop entertainment. Gunn’s voice fits perfectly into the Marvel movie machine and helps distinguish Guardians Of The Galaxy as a slightly wilder and sillier wing of the Marvel cinematic universe. His cast is wonderful with Chris Pratt adding slacker wit to his sarcastic hero, Saldana nailing her cold-as-ice fighter through layers of green make up, Cooper turning a ludicrous raccoon cartoon into a genuine sci-fi badass, and Diesel repeating his Iron Giant of being a far better actor as a barely articulate vocal performer. Yet, it’s weirdly WWE star Dave Bautista who steals the movie away as a hilariously numb-skulled muscle man who can’t understand non-literal thinking (ex: “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.”). Around the edges Gunn’s favorite actor Michael Rooker sleazes his way into a highly memorable villain role, Benicio Del Toro delivers easily one of his strangest performances, and John C. Reilly gets his usual laughs doing his thing. It’s a big movie with a lot of moving parts and despite never having worked on a project close to this scale before, Gunn nimbly juggles a massive cast and mixes tones between dark n’ moving and bright n’ funny with ease.

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There’s no denying it, Guardians Of The Galaxy is an absolute blast. It’s nearly impossible to watch the movie without a big stupid grin on you. James Gunn was an unexpected but wise addition to the Marvel family who will hopefully be in their directing and writing rotation for years to come. Yet, it has to be said that the movie has faults and most worryingly, they all come from over-familiarity in the Marvel formula. Seeing snarky heroes go through origin stories is starting to get a little dull as is the studio’s tendency to deliver villains that are little more than one note snarls in masks (hopefully Thanos will curb this trend). Worst of all, after the movie peaks with an astounding team-building prison-break sequence, it’s just a dry run to yet another climax in which giant objects fall from the sky and destroy an innocent city. Now, none of these things derail the movie in a significant way, it’s just a troubling trend to see Marvel movies getting so familiar. I suppose that was inevitable, but it would be a shame for such an inventive studio to start spinning their wheels now. That said, it’s far too early to start the countdown to a Marvel Studios meltdown. With Guardians Of The Galaxy, they just turned a D-List books filled with also-ran characters into one of the most satisfying blockbusters of the summer. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of Marvel mojo left, let’s just hope they’re wise enough to start changing up their winning formula for the sake of variety.

CGM Plays - Outlast

CGM Plays – Outlast

Wayne and Phil take a look at Outlast.

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Terrible Warriors: Wild Talents: Prototype – Episode 1 - 2014-07-18 14:03:40

Terrible Warriors: Wild Talents: Prototype – Episode 4

The final chapter in our Wild Talents campaign. Join Loner, Tempest, Saturday (not a Doctor) and Quantum one last time for an hilarious conclusion to our superhero RPG.

For more information on Wild Talents visit arcdream.com

Album art provided by galilaweslywayn

Derek, Cassie, Mike, and Big Mike join game master Tom in a superhero team up. These Warriors Are Terrible Presents: Prototype

Destiny’s Beta is a Smart Sales Pitch

Destiny’s Beta is a Smart Sales Pitch

Playable demos don’t seem to have the kind of popularity they used to. Maybe it’s the rise of easily accessible YouTube “Let’s Play” videos that are responsible for their decline. Maybe it’s due to internal marketing budgets and advertising plans that emphasize spreading the word about a studio’s new game through trailers and website banners. I can only theorize as to exactly what has caused the demo to lose prominence, but there is one thing I know for sure: they sure can be a fantastic way to sell a videogame.

I spent a handful of hours last weekend playing the Beta for Destiny, Bungie’s upcoming multiplayer shooter/role-playing game hybrid. If the description of the game I just wrote seems confusing it’s probably because there is no real way to communicate what Destiny is without either a whole lot of words or simply letting people try it for themselves. My impression of the game before playing the Beta—for all intents and purposes a demo—was that it wasn’t something I’d be interested in. I’m not a big fan of MMORPG or Borderlands-style RPG design and both of these genres have been the only real reference points for what Destiny is like. Saying that the game is similar to these games is fair enough; Destiny is very much a mash-up of MMO and RPG design styles and trying to describe it otherwise would require some pretty elaborate explanations. The only problem is that actually playing the game is different from what audiences would expect based on these very reasonable comparisons.

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Even after watching a few gameplay videos I wasn’t prepared for Bungie’s latest to play the way it does. Aside from the numbers popping off damaged enemies and the social hub where players gather to upgrade gear and chat with others, Destiny is very much a traditional shooter. Running around the Old Russia level featured in the Beta, clearing roomfuls of enemies with guns and grenades, feels a lot like a well-honed version of, say, Call of Duty or Halo’s familiar mechanics. Even after upgrading the player character’s weapons and boosting their numerical values in proper RPG fashion, fighting through mobs of aliens is closer in feel to a shooter than anything else. To me, this is a good thing. The game’s marketing has been confusing, Bungie seemingly unsure of which aspects of the game to promote and how to go about explaining them. Getting a chance to experience firsthand how Destiny’s much talked-about RPG and MMO components blend with its shooting gameplay has made me interested in this game in a way that I wasn’t before—and I doubt I’m alone. Turns out that letting players just try the game for themselves can be the best advertising method of all.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“Demos—even when labelled as Betas—show a degree of confidence in a developer’s vision.”[/pullquote]
If a game is good enough, the best way to pitch it to potential buyers may be the most obvious one: a playable demo. Demos—even when labelled as Betas—show a degree of confidence in a developer’s vision. They cut through the white noise of text previews and carefully edited trailers, allowing players to simply try the experience and see if they like it. Just like Destiny, Respawn Entertainment’s online shooter Titanfall wasn’t much more than a curiosity to me until it opened a limited-time Beta. I wouldn’t have bought Titanfall without having had a chance to double-jump and wall-run across its maps. It can be tough to communicate exactly why a game is fun and, in the case of Destiny and Titanfall, the best way to convince players that something is worth their time is to let them give it a shot. Developers who can spare the resources to make a demo available—and have a game they aren’t afraid to show off publicly—can benefit from doing so.

It seems a shame that now, in the age of digital distribution and widespread broadband connections, demos aren’t more common. It’s never been easier to provide access to samples of upcoming games and, as Destiny’s Beta shows, letting players have a chance to try an experience out can have a far greater effect than any number of non-interactive advertisements.

Big Kaijudo Giveaway [ Contest Closed ] - 2014-07-29 16:16:26

Big Kaijudo Giveaway [ Contest Closed ]

It is giveaway time again at CGMagazine. For this contest it is time to unleashed your inner duel master and get your hands on some Kaijudo prize packs. We have a selection of prize packs to get your hands on that will make additions to your or a loved ones collection.

The prizes are as follows:

Grand prize: Kaijudo Movie, 3 Starter decks, and 3 booster packs

2nd prize packs with 1 starter deck and 2 booster packs

third prize packs with 1 starter pack and 1 booster pack. 

Contest open to US and Canada Only

Big Kaijudo Giveaway [ Contest Closed ] - 2014-07-29 16:29:07
Big Kaijudo Giveaway [ Contest Closed ] - 2014-07-29 16:29:17
Big Kaijudo Giveaway [ Contest Closed ] - 2014-07-29 16:29:26

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Zero Theorem (Movie) Review 2

The Zero Theorem (2013) Review

Terry Gilliam is quite possibly the most underrated filmmaker of his generation. After providing the animation and visual aesthetic for the Monty Python comedy troupe in the 60s, Gilliam went on to deliver a wide array of distinctly bizarre films like Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. He’s at once completely irreverent yet deeply philosophical, an entertainer who strives for art, a man who dabbles in genres with little concern for their rules, and a visual stylist who somehow rarely lets the visuals overwhelm his ideas. Yet, despite the fact he’s been one of the most consistently creative filmmakers working for over 30 years, he’s rarely considered a major filmmaker. His movies tend to be too messy and funny for high-minded folks to take them seriously and often demand multiple viewings to make a full impact. All of that brings us to The Zero Theorem, Gilliam’s first film in four years that for some reason won’t be playing in theaters. Despite starring two-time Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz and offering a glorious visual experience designed for the big screen, it will be premiering on VOD and Blu-ray. That’s a real shame for Gilliam, but at least it was made at all. That’s a reoccurring challenge in this director’s career.

zerotheoreminsert1The Zero Theorem feels very much like Gilliam’s possible masterpiece Brazil as it’s a vaguely existential study of a man alienated by technology in a vaguely dystopic future. That man is played by Christoph Waltz, and he’s a button pusher obsessed with his own mortality who is assigned to solve the mathematical equation the zero theorem, which could theoretically provide the meaning (or lack thereof) to the universe. Amidst that central thread, Waltz is surrounded by the usual gang of Gilliam-flavored eccentrics like David Thewlis as a Python-esque office drone, Melanie Thierry as a digital sex worker with a philosophical heart of gold, Matt Damon as a silver haired ruler of big business/society, and Lucas Hedges as Damon’s son, a boy genius/computer whiz. As you might have gathered, there are perhaps too many threads competing for attention in Zero Theorem and not enough focus. Well, that’s absolutely true and it’s a consistent problem/strength in all of Gilliam’s work. He’s never been much of a concise storyteller. He’s more of a filmmaker who cracks open his brain and spills out every possible idea he might have about a certain theme, hoping that at least some of it sticks.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“Given how visually inventive and beautiful the film is, it’s a shame that audiences won’t get a chance to see it on the big screen, but at least they’ll get a chance to see it at all.”[/pullquote]

The biggest problem with The Zero Theorem is that it’s too much of a good thing. After multiple viewings and a great deal of thought, the film might eventually slide into clear and concise focus, but I kind of doubt it. The movie is a bit of a mess, yet it’s at least a movie that suffers from being too ambitious and that’s always at least admirable. What the film does offer is a flurry of brilliant concepts and images in search of a focus. Gilliam’s neon-lit future filled with an overwhelming array of advertisements and images is a brilliant satirical extension of our own time. It’s a world where people are more interested in examining their favorite screen than participating in life and that’s certainly a world worth exploring these days. Gilliam also brilliantly visualizes Waltz’s existential math equation as a sort of building block video game that is impossible to solve without creating new and deeper problems. It’s a clever way of visualizing a very non-visual central conceit and one that only Gilliam could have dreamed up. The supporting roles like David Thewlis’ surreal office manager or Tilda Swinton’s digital psychologist provide some of the distinctly irreverent humor that Gilliam has peddled since Python. Finally, it’s an entertaining pop sci-fi movie that preaches the meaningless of the universe in a disturbing yet carefully thought out way that rarely appears in such a goofy movie. That ultimately makes The Zero Theorem a delightfully bitter little pill to swallow (much like Brazil).

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So, this is definitely a film very easy to admire and one that is filled with wonderful sequences to tickle the eyes and feed the brain. It’s proof that glorious visual filmmaking need not lack substance and that philosophical films need not be boring. It’s hard not to fall in love with the many ingenious bits and pieces that Gilliam dreams up throughout the running time, but also equally difficult not to feel somewhat disappointed when it doesn’t quite all add up by the time the credits roll. Still, the good in The Zero Theorem far outweighs the bad. It’s a movie very much worth seeing and one that demands to be seen by any fans of the director if only because it provides a hit of pure, undiluted Gilliam. Given how visually inventive and beautiful the film is, it’s a shame that audiences won’t get a chance to see it on the big screen, but at least they’ll get a chance to see it at all. This is hardly a commercial or conventional movie and God bless Gilliam for continuing to dedicate his life to such endeavors even as he enters retirement age.



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