Visual Arts

The Demoscene, as it currently stands

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Remember those whacky demo groups back in the late 80s-early 90s? If not, they basically wrote art pieces for the computing systems they had at hand (Amiga, Mac, Win95 etc.).
Write art? That’s a weird choice of words! But yes, they basically code as efficiently as they can, to create audio-visual demos in the tiniest space possible.

I’ll leave it up to you to read more about it, but yours truly is mainly interested in the 64k category. That is, the entries have to be within 64 kiB. This includes the video engine, the audio engine, the audio score, shaders, everything.

So, summing up, the above video is a direct capture of what a 64 kiB binary does. No hidden libraries (well, except for standard ones that are on your machine already). To put it in a neat perspective, that latest Mortal Kombat game comes at a whopping 60 GiB, and it’s basically a 2D game with mostly non-pre-rendered cutscenes.

More entries here.

 

Not necessarily gaming-related, but certainly artsy!

A tourist’s trip through games (Ancient Egypt)

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Yep, this is how i play games… don’t laugh. Yes, i am like that excited asian tourist with a big camera stopping every couple of steps to take a photo. And yes, i am advancing slowly through games… but you know what? I’m having a lot of fun seeing these amazing worlds. And how often does one get the chance to visit not just Egypt, but ancient Egypt?

PS: yes, this is Assassin’s Creed: Origins, haven’t had such a great visual treat since my visit to to 1789 France in AC Unity (maybe not quite that level though) and parts of the Witcher 3 expansion which also looked very good at times… but from what i’ve seen so far not quite on this level. And the BIG surprise of the experience is that it actually offers somewhat of a similar experience in interacting with the world through a mixture of little stories and exploration.

All Elder Scrolls Trailers 1994 – 2014

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Wow, what a journey through time! I can’t believe even I didn’t live the first ones. Also makes me wonder when we’ll start to see the slowdown in game-tech so we’ll be more like movies with the difference being more in content than visuals, as I was expecting to see a huge slowdown in the last ones but the leaps were IMHO still big.

The Art of Shadow Warrior 2

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Haven’t yet played the game for fear of grindiness however the artwork looks intricate and one day I do intend to play it as I once upon a time enjoyed the old 90s Shadow Warrior’s differentness of approach.

Mad Max Design Talk

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A nice fireside chat about the game and world design of this often overlooked rough and dirty gem, which despite it’s problems, still did some extraordinary things.

7 games in 7 years

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This article is not so much for gamers, as for people who enjoy artwork in all it’s forms. The kind of people who pick up a good book and look forward to the magic how with every page they sink deeper into the wonderful world it describes. To people who like to see amazing paintings that fire up the imagination, and marvel at the beauty of sculptures or wonder in awe at amazing architectural monuments that come to us through time and across the centuries, telling stories of ages past. To people who enjoy listening to immersive music, weather classical or modern, quiet ambiental or engaging, music that moves and creates a great atmosphere. And to people that enjoy movies, with great characters and fantastic adventures, and interesting story twists.

To all these people I write, as I am sad to know that some of them still avoid games even today. Maybe it’s because they have never seen how all those things are present in (some) games of our times, made by possibly the best artists & creators of our generation. Or maybe because they say they don’t know of such games, and all they’ve seen are time wasters where people test only their reflexes or are only worth experiencing when having fun with friends. Or maybe they feel like they don’t have time for the many games, even just to pick the good ones out of the sea of mediocrity and wouldn’t know where to begin this huge field. My attempt to help is to create a list of one game to play per year. Since we are in 2017 I’ll try to thus name 7 years, from 2010 to 2016, with the current year still incomplete. If in each of these years you had experienced just this one game, I believe you would’ve already tasted something fantastic from this great new world we live in and I for one would already consider you cultured in this field where so many are sadly still illiterate. Also I am hoping that going back in time over many years, besides the fun of the journey, there will be games that anybody can play, even people with older computers, access to older consoles only, or simply people who only have a less then powerhouse laptop around to play with. I will also try to name for each year a second-best, in case the main proposed game isn’t found, doesn’t work for you or you simply would like something different… or maybe you feel you could play more than one game per year ?!?

Obviously the list is subjective and is just my best attempt and there are many other great ones, but one’s gotta start somewhere. Each of the titles I picked I think realizes something extraordinary, spectacular for that year and enduring for many years later, a unique experience that you shouldn’t miss if you are lucky enough to live in this wonderful 21st century, where magical worlds exist just for you to explore, worlds more fantastic and more real, more beautiful and more complex than the best best novels of centuries past, painted down to every detail, just inviting you to experience them.

 

This game is a great bringing to life of an old wild west type movie, managing to have a lot of interesting characters, some wonderful story twists, and to tell a moving story from the age when the American wild west was slowly beginning to be swallowed by modernity, but the old world still continued, thus having also that kind of book’s conflict between worlds and ages story.

Backup: Fallout New Vegas. It tells a retro-futuristic post apocalyptic story, the story of a messenger who unwittingly gets involved into a series of events much bigger than himself, and through his eyes you get to discover a whole world, destroyed yet abundant in opportunities, full of choices, including some quite difficult morality questions.

 

Though part of a bigger series, worry not, it’s it’s own encapsulated story and world. And yes, it’s enough to last you a whole year should this be the only game you manage to pack with yourself before you get yourself stranded on an island. The story here manages to be modular enough to allow you to go in any direction and explore anything you want in this original high fantasy world. There’s everything from major story arcs to minor series of stories, to tiny narrations told through journals of text found in lost caves you might wonder into in your curiosity imbued exploration

Backup: if you feel like travelling to the beautiful 16th century Constantinople, at the edge between the western and the Arab world, I’d invite you to try out Assassin’s Creed: Revelations while if you feel like exploring a much darker purgatory-like world and are willing to experience even atmospheric frustration Dark Souls was a gem that appeared in this year, a world in which your own struggles while playing mirror the struggles of the character in this world, all bathing in implied deep philosophical themes.

 

Creating a memorable original universe, happening in a mixture between an artistic vision of a distorted victorian industrial revolution mixing with supernatural elements, this game is remarkable in many ways. The stylized visuals with impossibly high proportions makes one feel like he’s moving through a painting at times, while the fiction creates a wholly original mythos.

Backup: Farcry 3. Essentially a brutal “growing-up” story, the game tells the experience of a group of rich spoiled young people who in their partying travels to a beautiful exotic island find themselves hostages and forced to be either victims or to fight back forgetting their civilized education. The beautiful island, complete with amazing locations and plant and wild life is just as much a character as the friends and their charismatic antagonist.

 

Yes, you’ve probably heard of these games, and if all you know of them is that lame friend who’s just enjoying driving cars and blowing up things I can understand your scepticism to see this game on a list of artistic games. But the reason despite the prejudice that I’d still put this game here as the one special game to play if through some horrible time travel accident you found yourself in 2013 (or hardware of that time) is that on top of all that simulation is built a truly memorable story, with 3 characters which each stand out in his own way. From the old movie loving, problem husband and father, middle age crisis Michael to the more than disturbing chaotic personality of Trevor each of the 3 characters has his own view of the world, and together they go through an adventure worthy of the best action movies, while still managing to have many insightful social and political commentary at modern life.

Backup: Bioshock Infinite. No longer the underwater dystopia of the original Bioshock, this new game manages to tell the story of another man made paradise went mad.

 

You know I was almost about to write down 2014 as a year where nothing truly remarkable came out. I couldn’t find it by year because this game didn’t get the best reviews due to it’s buggy launch, but now if you go back to it, and even then if, like myself, you cared more for the spirit of this almost too ambitious an attempt, I think you may find this is a truly worthy title for the year. Where else do you get to travel back in time and get to see 1789 Paris during the French revolution, complete with buildings that don’t even stand today. The story is good, but it almost pales in contrast to THE CITY, the time, the people on the streets, their clothes, the great monuments, the shouts on the street (IMHO best experienced in French should you know it). And it’s a world that keeps on giving, even past the main game and the great locations, even down to the intriguing little detective stories with subtle hints that you can solve as a total side project. But above all, the city, oh, what a city, what a time… every once in a while I jump back into this world just to wander the streets and to marvel at the beautiful churches and the dynamics of the crowd.

Backup: A split between Shadow of Mordor where you get to experience a personal nemesis simulation in the setting of the Tolkien created Lord of the Rings universe and Alien Isolation, a bringing to life of the kind of story/world that the 1979 invented in the eponymous Ridley Scott movie.

 

A world deeply rooted in the novels of the polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, worth experiencing and exploring due to the the many rich stories and multi-faceted characters. The main story arc, the many secondary and incidental stories, and even the many tens of pages in writing found in little notes and books and writings found across the world, are all worthy of literary greatness. All through one can sense the refreshment of the medieval fantasy through what to me felt like a sense of east-european scepticism and moral choices which are not of the super simplistic black and white variety, but rather often present difficult tradeoffs. Countless stories prove to be deep, for example I particularly remember that of the baron, which manages to touch on difficult themes from familial violence to alcoholism mixed with familial love, and even impossible subjects like abortion, all while keeping it’s medieval atmosphere. And should you find the game too “autumn rainy” it later (2016) even blooms in some wonderful expansions of which “Blood And Wine” particularly impressed by managing to maintain serious stories even while going to brightly coloured lands. But even without that this should be enough for the year.

Backup: Bloodborne. Here we have what may be to date the best materialization of the spirit and mythos inspired by the many wonderful books by H.P. Lovecraft, weather you take movies or games, as even cinefiles have jealously complained. The narrative is told more through experience and mystery than words, but yet one can feel the well developed mysterious lore backdrop that feels consistent even if it took a large online community to dig up the less obvious secrets.

 

For this year we have a split between these two sequels. Neither revolutionizing, or innovating enough to deserve the title alone but both polishing the ingenuity of the predecessors. Dishonored 2 continues in developing it’s universe mixing dystopian industry and magic, whie Dark Souls 3 reunites the existential themes of civilizational and philosophical cycles of it’s predecessors, in some ways polishing, while in others simply returning to roots. Should you in 2016 have had only time for one game, I’d suggest tossing a coin over which, or better choosing based on weather or not you got to experienced/enjoyed their predecessors.

Backup: Hitman. Again just a a return to old form of this Hitman’s story, but a pretty decently done one with good variety of locations and social situations.

2017 … ?

As for the year in course, 2017, we’ve already had big titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, the story of a tribal young girl in a post-apocalyptic nature overrun world set on a path to discover what happened to earth before her birth, or Prey, a story that takes you onto a satellite research station in space in typical classic sci-fi fashion, only to discover what went wrong, imbued with themes of questioning self identity and the nature of one’s change of self through learning, in this case machine/alien enhanced sudden flash learning. But the year is young, and traditionally the best games come to us towards the end of the year often just in the holiday season, so I have greater expectations for the year to come.

Conclusion

So, this would be the list of games I would personally suggest if you had but the opportunity to play just one game per year for the past seven years. Surely others might pick others, maybe for different story themes, better gameplay, or more social involvement, and luckily we have a lot of choice, but these are my picks for creating fantastic worlds, for excelling in multiple forms of artwork, from storytelling to visuals, be it painterly or sculptural/architectural, all on the backdrop of memorable soundtracks and giving one of a kind experiences. Given this special one game per year limitation I have also chosen meatier games, games that you can sink your teeth into and chew on for a while, with worlds that you can can go into again and again, for weeks, nay months, in the knowledge that each time you go in you will be rewarded by fresh new stories to read or live, places to see and unique emotional experiences to experience.

Did you already play these games in the past years? Then I salute you with respect and look forward to many interesting conversations. If not, may I invite you into these wonderful worlds? Even if you don’t normally play games, and even should you just play one of these games per year… I believe if you give them a chance, you have 7 great years of incredible amazing experiences to look forward to! What a privilege to be living in the wonderful year of 2017!

Horizon Zero Dawn Artwork

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Guerilla Games seems to have just released these days their artists to show a lot of game artwork & assets presentation. If you want to feast your eyes, great artists. You can check out the cool sculpts, paintings, animations and more here: https://magazine.artstation.com/2017/05/guerrilla-games-horizon-dawn-art-blast/

Prince of Persia (cover humor)

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I found this entertaining. Even ignoring the comedy I was shocked to be so impressed by the original artwork! Great style, great craftsmanship.

World of Horizon Zero Dawn

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I love timelapses and always admire a world alive enough to look good in them.

 

Impressive tech. I can’t wait to see a big open-world Killzone from these devs.

Dark Souls 2 Announcement Trailer

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An old trailer that apparently I missed in it’s time. What an interesting mind/time trick to imagine this is just announced and inaccessible, cool but you have to abstain until next year for it to be released and all the excitement and anticipation that comes with that + the knowledge that you should totally wait until it gets cheaper months/years after launch but you’re sooo tempted. It’s fun to see time in such ways IMO.

Jedi Outcast – The Movie

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A long time ago, in a galaxy still owned by Lucas….

The 2nd Death Star is destroyed, the Empire is crumbling (spoilers!). A couple of (no ordinary) mercenaries are sent to investigate a remote Imperial Remnant outpost. A menial task, at best… or is it?

Anyone who’s played Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (long title, huh?) remembers the story of the morally-grey, ex-Imperial Kyle Katarn, on his path to enlightenment (only because you can’t choose the dark side in this installment). What if some Australians took it upon themselves to bring the story to the big screens?

The group has disassembled the game’s assets and gave them a modern polish, using Unreal Engine 4 for the entirety of the project (shader, animation, dialogue, camera work etc.). Some assets (such as character animations) are lifted from the KOTOR games.

Apart from the new, modern look, the group has managed to create an “asset shuffler” of sorts, allowing for varied character outfits (Jedi Academy character creator-style).

Adobe’s VoCo is expected to be used for this, and for many such other projects.

It is currently not known when exactly the movie will be released, but, according to the team, “not this year”.

Unnatural History [Dishonored 2]

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What an interesting location, set design, props and environmental storytelling.

Titanic: Honor and Glory

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It is the year 1912, and you’ve somehow found your way aboard the largest man-made mobile structure on Earth.¬† Naturally, because it’s a plague-free couple of years, you find time to wander around the ship, bask in its beauty, and overall enjoy the view.

Oh, wait, all of this is about to be on the ocean floor in a matter of hours (spoiler alert).

The dedicated people at Vintage Digital Revival LLC are hard at work recreating the Titanic, down to every last watertight[citation heavily needed] bulkhead. Seriously.

The project is still in its infancy (the game engine seems to be at default settings based on some glitches caused by detail culling in UE4), and at this stage (much like Cameron’s “Titanic”) is devoid of characters.¬†Gameplay should feature both a ship exploration mode, and a story mode.

It is estimated to be available for purchase somewhere in 2018, so sit tight.

There are 2 demos available for download on the developers’ website (alongside a beautiful gallery of in-game shots). The devs recommend having a whopping 8 GiB of system RAM, but it’s worth it.

Uncharted 4 section looking scan-realistic

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Got to this area yesterday, I was just amazed how foto-realistic it looked.

While this area

made me think they could totally sell VR postcards of the place for virtual tourists who wouldn’t otherwise play the game just giving them the 3d locations to look around in.

This place reminded me of the amazingly beautifully cluttered streets in AC Unity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK2375XG9po for which i have the highest respect.

 

Btw, their foto-mode is the best i’ve seen in the game so far as it enables getting rid of characters and interface (there’s a bit of a bug with some flashlight bits though, but still great)

Aztec style in Dark Souls 2

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I was surprised and delighted to see this architectural style in DS2 expansion, way back then, and now too.

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