Archive for April, 2005

Short, Green, Angry

Testy Rebelstar Aliens Pissy Laser Squad Aliens

More aliens up to no good — and they look good doing it, too. Julian and Nick Gollop, the folks kind enough to give us the legendary X-Com, are back with a vengeance this year and they brought a truckload of pissed off greenies with them. This month, we get Laser Squad Nemesis online turn-based squad goodness for PC (above right). In late August, we get Rebelstar: Tactical Command mobile turn-based squad hotness for GBA (above left). It’s been a long time, but this more than explains the absence.

Why do the aliens have to be all up in our grill like that, though? What ever happened to high-5 slappin’ Close Encounters greys? Now we’ve got all these strapped War of the Worlds types. Destroy All Humans has the antagonistic bigheaded spacemen rap going, too. Can’t we all just get along? Yo, peace green people!

sexy coverart grabbed from insidegamer and amazon

Paraphernalia Included

We all know Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a great party game, but it’s not been clear just how great until a recently — when a promotion at the Union Square Circuit City promised the inclusion of a bong with every copy. Now that’s service! So much for Nintendo’s kiddy image.

photo via jellisvga

Pollen on the Tracks

Flowers everywhere at 103rd & Broadway

After that ridiculous winter, we’re pretty much due some nice weather by now. Seeing flowers starting to bloom on cherry blossom and pear trees is one thing. Watching those flowers floating into the subway is quite another. This rain can’t last forever. The good stuff is coming.

photo via jellisvga

Acela Excess

Ah, Amtrak how you’ve let us down over the years. From abysmal on-time records to overpriced fares to misuse of funds to unsafe trains. No wonder nobody rides. How dare you beg for a hand-out. Subsidize this level of incompetence we shall not! The rail era is dead, let it die.

Or so the story goes. Reality is none of these statements are particularly well-founded. And the conclusion, though intuitive for many, ignores some critical (and apparently little-known) facts about how transport works in the US. Continue reading ‘Acela Excess’

Found Time and Ransom Notes

What happens when people get obsessed with photographic letters and numbers? They start using them to say things against their will, that’s what. And there are no better examples of this when it comes to computing technology than the “found characters” projects by Erik Kastner and Blu Dot.

Kastner has repurposed Flickr photos to spell whatever you like. Seriously clever use of tags. Think of it as a modern version of the original Mac’s San Francisco font. Then, it was about using the power of bit-mapped graphics to write ransom notes. Today, it’s about writing ransom notes through the emergent power of tags that allow us to harness seemingly random collections of community-generated data. It’s all about kidnapping, really. Try it at Spell with Flickr.

The good folks at Blu Dot, on the other hand, have become infatuated with patterns of numbers — they see time in everything, everywhere. To prove it, they’ve created a working clock based on “found time” photos. It’s diverse, creative stuff. Use it for a day and you’ll never look at random jumbles of numbers the same way again. Talk about spreading the obsession. Download the clock and check out the accompanying video.

Visual remixing for the masses. And, in the case of Spell with Flickr, from the masses, too.

thanks for the clock pointer, veer

On New Games Journalism

Edge in context

The “new games journalism” is everywhere. Hell, even the typically late to the party New York Times picked it up. But what exactly is this new take on writing about games? From looking at the examples that have come into vogue (like Ian Shanahan’s Bow N-word, which appears on the verge of becoming the sub-genre’s defining work), it looks like it’s about visceral first-person writing in videogame context. The Guradian’s definition may be best: “a highly subjective approach to videogame writing in which the player?s own experiences within the game environment are brought to the fore.” Tom Wolfe in the house.

One can’t help noticing, though, that the Guradian crew’s oft-quoted list of unmissable NGJ works, good as it is, presents a bit of a cracked mold. The cited Prince of Persia Time Extend article, for instance, isn’t in the expected immediate, stream-of-consciousness style. In fact, it’s just an exceptionally well written article. Merely exceptional.

While this could surely be an oversight on the part of the authors, it could also be that the new games journalism isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) so rigidly defined. Take this quote for example:

This is where the game’s living landscape, its hero’s irrepressible momentum and its bewilderingly imaginative bestiary meet. Together, they create spontaneous, physical comedy that has never been bettered in games. It’s unapologetically low comedy of course, but it is unusually native to the game. Whereas other classics of videogame humour (Monkey Island, say) have jokes written in to them, the best jokes in Yoshi’s Island issue directly from the gameplay, and involve the player. The designers set them up, seeding the world with carefully-timed comic possibilities — a monkey spitting melon seeds here, a trough of slippery mud here, a balloon carrying Shy Guy with a bomb — but it’s always your fingers that deliver the punchline. That’s what makes it one of the purest, most native expressions of comedy in the videogame form.
Edge #148

Is this new gaming journalism or just exceptional writing? I think it’s both. And this is not to say that NGJ has no meaning. NGJ means a great deal — it means that Continue reading ‘On New Games Journalism’

Galactica Goes Legit

Battlestar 1978 keeps it real

Who would have thought a remake of a classically campy late-70’s flop could actually serve up some of the best science fiction to air in years? Sure it’s still a little campy, sure it has stolen ideas everywhere from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to Alien to *cough* Voyager *cough*, but heck if this new Battlestar isn’t really great television.

The character acting is mostly good and it improves significantly whenever Olmos or McDonnell is on screen (they tower). The special effects are stellar in their visceral shaky-cam style — making up for what they lack in technical prowess with sheer imagination (and making you wonder if you’re really watching the same channel that’s airing sfx bellwethers like Snake King every week). What really sets the show apart, though, is that it has taken what was Wagon Train (or Mormons?) in space in the original show and turned into a genuine drama with real political intrigue and, at times, the kind of thought-provoking parallels that the best science fiction aspires to. And of course there’s some quality action. What this amounts to is that, well, you don’t really end up feeling like you’re watching science fiction — at least not in that Star Trek, Babylon 5 kind of way. The show is somehow not nearly as self-conscious as those, even in its first season.

All this isn’t to say that Galactica Revisited is absent rough edges. Some of the acting feels a bit over the top (the doctor and his in-head Cylon buddy come to mind). Not all of the sub-plots work so well, either. And what the heck happened to having at least a token semi-major African-American character? (Spiritual advisors don’t count!) Hell, even the original Battlestar got that one right. Considering, though, how far the show has come from the somewhat shaky miniseries to the green light to a bang-up season finale, it’s clear we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

For more, see creator Ron Moore’s blog

image via fark

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