Life is Strange

Im not one for being totally current and with it, so today I finally got around to playing “Life is Strange” a game I’ve been meaning to play since 2015.
Absolutely wonderful, i really loved everything about it, with some caveats that I’ll mention first,  so I can get on with the gushing praise.

Firstly, the subject matter is not totally my cup of tea, you play a teenage girl hipster, with a emo friend, and the language therefore is excruciating, so full of one liners and “cool” expressions, that its extremely obvious that the scriptwriters, not only have never been anywhere near these type of kids, but actually have “made up stuff” that they think kids might say. like the Blue haired emo keeps saying “hella”  as in “thats a hella cool thing…”  or ” I got a hella fucking headache”… I know its supposed to be “hell of a” but is hella even a thing? Maybe Im the old one? There lots of this.. and it grates.

But the pretty ordinary story of bullying and teenage depression/suicide, drugs in a poor, run down nowhere town, is quite convincing, and the one single weird “game play thing” being that the protagonist “Max” can rewind time, which helps in most of the puzzle section. This works well and is actually extremely cool in  one or two cases.

Graphically it’s just gorgeous, not super realistic characters, but the lighting and colour and depth of field is fantastic, and very filmic.

And thats the whole point of Life is Strange, its a REAL, PROPER and very successful interactive story. We just make choices for the characters, there almost no “computer game” physics, you get to choose where to walk about in a few places, but on the whole it’s about branching storylines and a story that can vary quite considerably. At the end of episode 2 a girl throws herself of the roof of the school and I failed to save her. I replayed this section to see if I could, and I could, which was nice. The protagonists ability to “turn back time” help in situations where you accidentally shoot your friend while playing with a gun, but big story line changes are mostly about your decisions.

The end of each episode gives you a run down of the decisions you made with percentage “score”. On the whole basing a good score on “being a good person” ethically.
the music i lovely, not my cup of tea again (me being electronic noise repetitive beats and maybe mumbled effected vocals) with very American Hipster coffee bar indie rock, but it works, and the extended ambient cutscenes force you to sit back and listen and watch.
Its not a very hands on, button masher of a game, so might be deemed boring to the… well… to the target group. But maybe the target groups isn’t really the “cool kids” depicted in the game but us parents of the same, re remember the retro clothes of the “alternative 80’s” we were there when grunge popped up from Seattle and are “with it” enough to know that smoking dope and blue hair isn’t the end of the world for our kids, but are concerned enough to engage in the issues that our kids have to face, like internet bullying, spiking of drinks, putting embarrassing videos on YouTube, and uncertain futures and incomes. etc

Im only at episode 2, so lots to go… There’s the missing girl Rachel to find, the tornado that we have dreamed about will hit the town in a few days time.
Love it.

Fractal Films 2

Having a lot of fun with this now.
The rendering takes forever though. This film, called Islamicfly took 4 days to render.

But now I have my PC set up as well, I can render on both! Its pretty clever, as long as both machines can see the same network folder, they dont over write each others files, so Im rendering a png sequence and depth matte (forgot that on the above film) and each computer tackle alternate frames.

Inescapable animation in video by Jennie Vee

Old friend of the Cranes, Jennie Vee, has released a video with some of my animation in it.
Great song, a collaboration with John Fryer, who coincidentally once engineered a remix by Ivo Watts Russell of a Cranes song.
The animation footage was nicked from an old video for the song inescapable, there’s even a few frames of MY HAND playing the violin in it ha ha.

We first became acquainted with a very young Jennie, when she was to young to get into our gig at Lee’s Palace in Toronto and stood outside the fire exit with her frozen ear to the door.

Through the Woods

So Through the Woods…
I`ve been looking forward to this game for a while, its kind of because its the game I never finished making myself. More about that later.
Set in Norway you play a Mother, who on a trip to the cabin in the woods, sees her son get abducted by a bearded man on a boat, after diving in and swimming to the island where the boat went, she must follow the trail of reflectors the boy drops along the way, to ultimately catch up with the boy and his captor at the end of the game.
Along the way she learns of the terrible fates of the previous island inhabitants, who are to be found dead, strewn around broken down villages and encampments.

The game is built up of levels, and is extremely linear, it is simply walking from one side of a map to the other, meanwhile avoiding a series of Norwegian style enemies. Various types of trolls, a very scary female “Huldra” which is a woman with a cows tail, in the game depicted a little like a Satyr, which is not quite right. Some evil and tricksie Wolves, and the main villain, “old Erik”!
An interesting element is the voice over technique, as well as the “in game” sighs and mumblings, there is a post event narration with a different eq, like its a recording taken later, her reminiscing on the terrible ordeal… I liked this a lot. Unfortunately, the English voice-acting was pretty terrible, so I switched it to Norwegian and that seemed better, unfortunately still not great. This storytelling vehicle, basically because it was in the past tense, allowed for some interesting descriptive text to accompany scene switches or new challenges, (“When I saw the cave, I knew I needed to enter, but was afraid”) without it being too unrealistic (“looks like a cave, I should probably go in..”)desktop-11-03-2016-22-00-25-02
Durig the course of the story, the Mothers attitude changes, at first she is anxious, as you would expect, but this is juxtaposed with some awful revelation that she never really wanted her son, or that she didnt love him at first. She becomes a bit more angry, more Lara Croft for a while, becomes distraught (some SERIOUS voice action issues here). Talking to Dan Wakefield, it appears that her moods are supposed to represent
the five stages of grief. Ill quote Dan.
“So there’s the shock of losing Espen, then denial in stage 101 as she runs through in disbelief. She gets more and more angry as the goes through the three levels that make up stage 2, to the point where she wants to kill Erik. She bargains with the wolves for her life, and she hits her lowest point when the witch shows her her terrible past.”

I must say the environments are fantastic, and Dan tells me the work of one man, Torje Dreng Andersen… now as this is kind of MY FAVORITE THING TO DO, making rocks and hills and valleys etc, I was stopping all the time and having a good old look at all the details, and my god there are many… fucking millions of rocks, loads of twigs, sticks, logs, tree stumps. the paths are sometime a bit OVER rocky, so that she (the mother) doesnt seem to walk so smoothly, and the joins between maps are often a bit crap, you know.. you going down a tunnel, fade out, fade in, you are in a new place, with some rocks behind you, but no tunnel… a few are sneaky but ok, Like the good old technique (Also used in Firewatch) of HAVING to drop off a rock into anew area, so you cant get back heh heh.. been there done that… BULK REMOVE Previous level!
Its not WITHOUT bugs (See above, poor Troll stuck in a rock) I walked off the map a few times, and got stuck a few times, but then again I was “Playing to break” really by always trying to look at the edges, or how he hid something. Theres a bug with the final scrolling titles and the music too guys… music stops if you hit pause.
“Why would anyone hit pause during the titles?”
I hear you ask? well.. obvious really
Yep us Kickstarter guys ill be pausing that title! OH nice Kickstarter book of names “in game” too.. I guess the people ho paid more.

OH.. so I as gonna write somthimg about TRUTH.. but didnt get around to it.. later maybe… TV calls.

Hololens meetup, first immpressions

I’ve been experimenting alot with my new Oculus Rift, trying to get my head around what VR actually is… or what I want to use it for. Getting somewhere with that, but this post isnt anything to do with that. My “meet-up” group had a special arrangement yesterday to check out the Microsoft Hololens.

Admirably demonstrated by group member Edd Smith, he explained that although Microsoft are billing it as a “Mixed Reality” device, that its really just AR (Augmented reality) with glasses. Speaking as someone who has always been a bit *meh* about AR, I was very interested to see if it being full face and immersive with the real world would help some… and would that feeling bring to me any ideas for the USE of AR apart from dancing dinosaurs on the breakfast table, or pop up directions on the road.

First let me outline my misgivings with AR. Firstly… there is already too much visual NOISE in the world, I really do NOT want to add more, permanently to my field of view. I dont want ads popping up as I walk past shops, I dont want TV touch controls on the sofa cushion and I dont want “helpful” dancing paper clips, telling me how to use a kitchen appliance.
AR has always been about quite cheezy and ad-centric things, we´ve even considered its use at work, for creating a “virtual” Teacher that can pop up around the workplace, and give you tasks, quizzes, directions and rewards… Never happened though. Just too expensive and yes.. cheezy.
But then along comes Pokemon GO!, and the world goes AR crazy…
Firstly, Pokemon GO! is a great game, well thought out, interesting features and a new application of… AR??? NO.. a new application of GPS. Its NOT a AR game AT ALL… ok, its cute that you can turn you camera on and SEE the pokemons in the living room/street/Playground, however, AR is not CORE GAMEPLAY. Its NOT needed… infact, I noticed that Nikolas, my son has turned off that feature, and just uses the pregenerated backgrounds. (maybe a battery saving action) NO.. the REAL game-play is in the unique use of GPS, the fact that you MUST walk to hatch an egg, is genius, that you must wander about to grab them poke-balls, is fab… that you can fight against others (anonymously) at Poke-gyms, and leave your “Winner” there is super-cool., and there is no doubt that P-GO! is a great game… but its got nothing to do with AR… didnt need it!!!

So yeah… AR.. Convince me…

SO, to the Hololens!

So Im going to put on these $3000 glasses and see 3D objects in the room with me? Ill be able to make gestures in space to interact, and Ill be able to talk commands to it?

Well not so much.

Firstly, the field of view is TERRIBLE… its a tiny 30degree square in the middle of your field of view, so things disappear over that edge ALL THE TIME… the only way to look at things is to, stand along way away, or go in close and only look at one small thing. This to me is the biggest drawback, if its not FULL SCREEN, its basically useless, there is no difference to me in looking through glasses at a tiny square of AR, than holding up an iPad in front of my face.
Secondly, and I admit I hadnt thought of this…no BLACK! So no shading and no shadows! OF COURSE! As the view is NOT a screen, but glass (that is a difference between iPad AR where the background real world is ALSO an image, on a camera, whereas on Hololens its glass, see through glass) so all images are colour and bright overlays on reality, not added to reality. Now, its pretty good, but you wont see a SOLID object, you will see a transparent object.
I must say, that this is also such a big immersion killer for me, that I might have tried to use for example, dark glasses which have a default level of “dark”.. then use brightness to bring up reality to normal, add objects, but still be able to NOT add brightness to areas that should be shadows, but Im sure they cant NOT have thought of that, so its probably unfeasible.
Thirdly and fouthly, the input methods. gestures and speech. Speech seemed to work pretty good despite a noisy room, but I could NOT get gestures to work AT ALL!!! I must say this is probably just practice, as Edd was having no trouble.
OH and Fifthly… THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS??? OK I get this is just for Rand D folk right now, trying to get in on the ground floor, incase its the next big thing, and it may be.. just not now, with THIS tech… its just not very good. The future, might be interesting, but if its just gonna be all about advertising, architectural modelling, and directions.. I dunno… someone has to come up with something REALLY cool for this to be useful or worth it, for example, Ive seen a pretty interesting video about controlling the Behringer Deep Mind synthesiser with the hololens.. could be good… again… expensive add-on for a average synth… as in a bout 5 times MORE expensive than the synth… anyhow…
Pokemon GO! is gonna be fucking great on it though!

Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger