All posts by mark

Wooden People Update

I have been working on the Wooden people a lot recently, due to having had my knee operation. The people are all but finished, just need to make their boxes. Of course, everything “mark-ish has to come in a box. This tim I might make it that the people CAN be removed from the box. Not sure exactly what they will look like, But Im thinking simple wooden and stain wood, with doors, small windows, where you can “see through” to the faces maybe? Also IM investigating the technique of Laser cutting so i can maybe burn lots of text onto the outside… This is a secret though..

New Studio!

I have gotten myself a studio at Nesoddparken. Its a amazing room, in fact a bit too amazing, hoping for a cheaper one when one comes up… somewhat annoying that no sooner have I moved in, than I have to got to hospital for my knee operation. Darn it!

Mostly Im going to be doing my modular music there, but Ive really been enjoying the wooden people so maybe It will kick start my art stuff too…

ELITE – Dangerous (Finally succumbed)

OK well I finally bought Elite Dangerous.
The long awaited re-make of the famed game that I was hooked on the Spectrum and obsessed with on the Amiga.
Basically the whole of Wings of Joy was recorded with Elite in the background.
James and I had pages and pages of notes of share-prices of what slaves cost on Sol in comparison to Bernards Star.
The new one.. is difficult. But I remember the original had a bit of a learning curve too, I remember the docking computer was the most important item to buy right from the start. And sure enough I have been crashing around on the launch pads in E-D trying to line up correctly. All the reviews say I need a Joystick, but I refuse to buy some specialist hardware just to play a game (Except perhaps occulas?).
I must say that the intro is terrible, what game, after downloading basically FORCES you to go off and watch 11 YouTube videos.
I think an interactive tutorial is basically a necessity with a game as complex as this, some kind of ramping up of needs and functions. Oh Sure… there are about 10 tutorial missions, but due to the multifarious ways you can configure your whole keyboard (Yes almost every key does something) they can’t say, “PRESS I FOR INVENTORY” Its “PRESS the key you have mapped to left screen UI focus” Phew…

Plus there are a few things that don’t seem to be explained at all! Oh sure, they are explained on fan-made youtube tutorials, and I have spent about 60% in youtube compared to 40% in game…
…but the graphics are great… not TOO great.. they still run on my machine, an old and clunky mac. Im happy with that, and the rumour is that due to the procedural mapping and planet creation method, one day… the dream of the old versions will happen… we will be able to fly down to planet surfaces. YAY!
So… Im diving, tentatively, in… I did a little quest, I shot down ONE bad guy, got thanked by the federation… got blown up by another, lost a contact when he said “follow my trial” (didn’t know what THAT meant) and spent a lot of time trying to fly around a sun, cos my target was on the other side… no idea how to do that.. an hour with my finger on W did nothing as far as I could see.
But slightly looking forward to it all becoming clear… I loved this game as a kid, maybe it will light a spark again?

Three games

I played 3 new games this week, well one wasnt so new… not for me.
Lets see how I liked them?

Dreamfall Chapters – Red Thread Games
Been meaning to play for a while. HAVE NOT played any of the others. I know they are well loved, and highly lauded. And I would very much do all I can to support the company, having broken away from FunCom to do their own thing.
But sorry, this is horrible. Ill push on, but the endless cutscenes, listening to this annoying Im so cool girl… I just dont get the fuss… Its getting more interesting now that Im suddenly in a prison, and no sight of the girl, but then I got stuck as the game is really just a pixel hunt.. find the hotspot kinda game

Her Story


Very Interesting, shot on VHS video, Made in Portsmouth. Its 100 Police interview tapes… kind of a whodunnit, not really a game apart from the annoying ket words thing, (you have to enter key words to find the clips, but if you dont know a keyword, you cant play it) but wow.. who’ed a thought this would work? Ive talked about fragment storytelling in regards to my own game TRUTH, but this was proof of concept for me… Ill just mention, the timed entry of the chat box… changed the whole thing for me.. was about to quit… but didnt.
But ok… got a bit boring after a while, and.. it is just police tapes, no resolution… id have liked a resolution…or dare I say it… a twist?

Lifeless Planet


Not quite as beautiful as Journey (just as sandy though) but more “game”.. just enough jumping and jet packing, just enough clue hunting, and nice voice acting (for a change), intriguing and exiting and fun and everything a game should be for me…
Wonderfull.. My favourite game in ages..

Vectr Noiz

More Vectr. This time a bit noisier. Basic patch is x controlling VCO1 and Y controlling VCO 2, but this time i have both VCOs going into a VCA where the volume level is controlled by Z (or proximity to the screen) So I can fade in sounds by moving hand closer or further away.
The cool thing is that when you record, the Z is recorded too.
Z is a bit different to the other axis because it has a slow fade down, so it can be used as a manual ADSR.

Vectr Solstice

Here I am demonstrating the time quantising on the Vectr. Recorded live on the night of the Summer Solstice. Not that I care two hoots about that.

Patch Info
Roland D2 (drums) sending midi to Futurelabs Mobius, which is sending clock to Mutable Instruments Grids. 2 channels are sending triggers to a Frequency Central SystemX ADSR and a Frac rack Paia ADSR. A Doepfer A110 VCO and a Blacet F350 Morphing terranium have their pitch affected by the X and Y outs from Vectr, which is synched via its REC in socket to a Deopfer Clock Divider, which is receiving clock from Mobius.
The out from the A110 is going thru a Frequency Central Raging Bull Filter/VCA, which is modulated by the aforementioned SysX ADSR. That out is sent to desk. The F350 out is going through the PAIA ADSR and sent to desk. One more thing, the Morph X input of the F350 is receiving stepped voltages from the very wonderful Blacet Binary Zone, that is also clocked from Mobius.
Pretty simple really…

Demo of Through the Woods

The backers of Antagonist Games received a demo of the start of their Kickstarter, Through the Woods this week.
Finally the mac version became available and I was eager to try it. As previously posted, I was dismayed but resigned to the fact that 2 games are being made that step hugely into the area to The Road Up to Hell, so, as before I will write this review as both a huge fan and friend of the Antagonist guys, but tinge it with some slightly tongue in cheek “sour grapes”

Firstly I must say that my poor mac was not nearly man enough to handle the game, I hope they can optimise it a bit later, for the final product. I had to reduce the graphics to LOW just to get it to run. I must admit that I have had similar problems in TRUTH, but seem to have succeeded a little better than Antagonist, now I can only really improve my game by getting the pro version of Unity, which I can not hope to afford any time soon. I can feel in the lag that they are doing something, the frame rate drops when approaching buildings and the non torch view seemed sluggish, I suspect the post effects, but sitting and waiting for a second seemed to help, which makes no sense, its not YouTube… but I could get through, so I tried to ignore this, but for some reason you get a really stuff wrist from it…

To the game itself. The voiceover, being a post story interview with a Psychiatrist, was pure genius! And for a change the voice acting wasn’t bad. The recording was well done with the Shrinks voice being a little “off mike”. The accent of the Mother was also quite spot on, as Norwegians speaking English often get this really weird tinge of American to their voice, but IM pretty sure she WAS norsk.
It starts slow, which I like and the sound effects are good, I wish they were louder to be honest, the voice comes in so loud in comparison. Also, its NOT that quiet in the woods, and silence doesnt seem scary to me, its calming.. a more dense and compressed sound picture would have been better IMHO.
The idea that the kid had an endless supply of reflectors that guide you was a bit far fetched to me, but who cares, I can hardly say that shining magical deer that lead you to weird spiky hills with telescopes on top is exactly realistic (A spoiler from my game) and kids DO collect all kinds of shit in their pockets.So Ill accept that… But I thought they missed an opportunity here, if the trail had been a trail of stuff her kid dropped, she could have picked them up and used them, so it would have been like the kid was “helping”. I know it doesn’t work with Antagonists UI model (as in, there ISNT ONE) but it didn’t need to be like TRUTH with an inventory and interface, it could just have been, “I used the yoyo string on the door handle”. But I guess they are determined to stick to their “Amnesia” template (no wait.. theres a inventory there too).. Their template.. and not deal with.. “oh no I have to go all the way back and fetch the yoyo” issues…
The modelling was pretty generic… The houses felt similar to some asset store packs I have and IM not sure but they definitely used the same environment packs as me , I obviously have no problem with doing that, but it did make it look very similar to mine in places. The terrain texturing was very poor however, although this might have been as a result of my low low settings… but I spent alot of time tweaking (without knowing what the hell I was doing) the terrain shader, to use normal maps and that helped alot. There were also terrible bush billboards, which rotated to face me while I was very close, again, probably my settings, but lavender? Never seen lavender in a Norwegian Wood.

The atmosphere built quite nicely, and I had no problem with the door open fails, Im sure I would have enjoyed exploring more if it wasn’t for the frame rate. I lost my way a couple of times and found myself going back down the path the wrong way, an audible hint might have been fun here… its a very linear game after all, so a variable trigger with a voiceover.. ” I retraced my steps a little to see if I had missed something” would have been possible, but too many of them would get generic, maybe?

The moment when the door shut behind you and she screamed, well the scream was a bit too much at that stage… I would have preferred a muttered “oh my god”.

But then the (Spoiler Alert) Troll attack. funnily enough on my first play through it worked fantastically… For some reason, the growling and a clear path encouraged me to run, so without even getting a glimpse of the troll I ran into the cave, stopped, turned around, and jumped out of my skin as the Troll was there and dropped a stone on the entrance. FANTASTIC!!! What a brilliant thing… I didn’t get a too good look too early (Amnesia keeps you from seeing the monster for ages, soon as you do, funs over) and it was a jump scare, but now I could only go on… but I didn’t…heh heh… being a geek, I quit and started again… but unfortunately the next time I got to that bit of the wood I hung a round looking for the Troll… and there it was lumbering towards me, and thwack.. dead… spawn. Meh… was more fun the previous time… But how could they have done that? Force MY first experience? Easy!…well simply NOT spawned the Troll till I was in the cave, forced me so stop.. fall over for example, look around, Troll feet, Rock BLAM darkness… eyes adjust to cave… torch on again… LEVEL TWO.. but seeing the troll so clearly was less scary and more… “ok here comes the game”.

On the whole was was quite impressed with my own game, TRUTH looks better, plays better, and will have much more things to do, but is lacking the strong normal “story” that Through the Woods has, very strong, very usable and makes me very keen to play the rest. Of course my game is a totally different thing with my proposed multi player storywriting feature, and less obvious, but weirder locations.

But this is just the start scene, an I have a good feeling that Through the Woods is going to be a great game!

very much looking forward to playing

So go and back them now…

Vectr firmware version 2.0 soon…

vectrIve been working with Matt from HackMe electronics… OK “working with is a bit arrogant”… bugging him is more like it, about neat features I wanted in the Vektr firmware, and I got a beta copy last night, and it seems totally fantastic!
The version 1.0 software which was a bit more than a tri-ophonic theremin thingy, or synth controller and frankly a bit tricky to use in a real world situation (but still lots of fun). But now with 2.0 the sequencer is tightly locked to the incoming clock, and I suggested other ways for it to synch up, such as auto punchout of record, so you can specify how long your recording with be, 16 bars 8 bars etc. You can also “round up” you recording, so when you punch out manually, it will wait for a multiple of 2,4,8,16 etc whatever you have specified, before closing the loop. All this was inspired by the EDP looper.
In addition, although theres aways been pitch quantise, so the note will not slide all over the place, now you can link the pitch to the clock, so will force changes in pitch on beats.
And more… I got him to change the major scale to minor… and scale the octaves from C to C (rather than C to B as it was before).

The combinations of these new features with some of the old are quite interesting too. For example, the old “twirl you hand to speed up a sequence” gesture, is now linked, very tightly I might add, to multiples of the clock timebase, so you can record, and then your hand twirl left will speed up your sequence to double speed (right will halve the speed) further hand twirling will quadruple the speed and so on… I think the clock out reflects the altered clock so in affect you can use it as a gesture controlled divider (although I haven’t checked this yet, just thought of it… Im sure it works like that).

I think Im going to have to make some videos of this, get some sales for poor Matt, who has been working his arse off for a month now, I think hes getting pretty jaded now, might stop development to become a monk.. who knows?

FRUSTRATION!!! (Having your game idea stolen…)

One of the annoying things about trying to develop games on your own and with a day job, is that it takes an unbelievably long time. I get about an hour an evening and less at weekends, and thats shared with my Modular Synth building obsession.
Over the course of the 4 years Ive been doing this, I have yet to release one game (whatever “release” is gonna mean if I actually finish one) Ive never been interested in the tiny “retro” style games that are churned out for mobile or on “Game Jams”. Im always for the BIG IDEAS, and the COMPLEX STORIES.
So when my game “Aunty- A metaphysical Mystery” failed to get funding (twice) from the film fund, and then a game, seemingly with the same idea was anounced, and was bing heralded as “the next big thing” and had millions positively flung at it… Well “sour Grapes” comes to mind.
Of course Im not suggesting for one moment that “Among the Sleep“was a nicked idea from me, my god no… And in the end of course, it turned out to be nothing like Aunty was ever going to be…
However, the annoyance was enough that I dumped the idea, for the moment, I will probably return to it when I have finished T.R.U.T.H.
But there, now I have been working on THAT NEW GAME now for two years, finally there comes along ANOTHER bunch of things that could be called similar! Again from “proper” Norwegian companies, who will no doubt finish their games and get on with their next one, way before Im done with mine.

So baring in mind that my game is…

Set in a remote Norwegian Valley and concerns mysterious strange activities that could be taken from Norsk folk lore, religion, superstitions and experimental science. A FIRST PERSON fragmented mystery, where the goal is to find out for yourself what you think is going on, but never ultimately really understand due to conflicting information and clues, and points of view… Including, A Strange old lady and her missing mentally challenged son, Biblical Prophecies, A secret scientific laboratory, and underground caves and tunnels, a newcomer to the village, where you get the feeling you are always being watched?

In an attempt to NOT get all uppity and pissed of, I instead will use this post to BIG UP my competitors and let them know that far from being annoyed I AM TOTALLY PROUD AND VERY IMPRESSED That Norway has so many cool and exiting games being made, (oh and if you wanna give a 51 year old wannabe a job.. then…)

I do wonder if this “spate” is infact a bit of a reflection of some of the criteria that the NFI use when dealing out money to projects, because during my failed attempt at getting anything from them for Aunty, I do remember a mention of Norwegian Culture and language bing favoured.

The first is “Through the Woods” from Antagonist Games

Through the Woods is a third-person psychological horror game set in a forest on the western shore of Norway about a mother and her missing son. Through dynamic narration, you play the mother’s re-telling of the events surrounding her son’s disappearance in a setting heavily influenced by Norse mythology and Norwegian folk tales.

This looks very cool, quite dark and scary, seems to be a bit more “supernatural” and possibly involving fighting monsters. I met one of the guys from Antagonist, he was very nice about what he had seen of TRUTH, and told me a few home truths about the cash situation they are developing under..
Ha! Kids! How they can live on almost nothing is very endearing..

The next game is from the new darlings of Norway Red Thread Games, who came into the scene with a blast for the latest instalment of The Longest Journey, Dreamfall Chapters. I havent played that one, I didnt like the originals, but their new piece is Draugen And is…

Draugen is a first-person psychological horror adventure, set amongst the deep fjords and towering mountains of Norway’s awe-inspiring west coast.
The game is a dark and disturbing journey into the pitch black heart of Norwegian national romanticism, as seen through the eyes of an American nature photographer, botanist and entomologist.
Inspired by Scandinavian literature, legends and fairytales, along with Norse mythology and the Icelandic sagas, Draugen is set in the early 1920s and delves into the deepest, darkest secrets of a remote fishing community where every single soul has mysteriously vanished.
As the player explores the tiny settlement, gathering clues and memories, and unearthing the truth behind a terrible tragedy, they will learn more about the history of the village and its inhabitants. And they will come to see that behind even the most innocent of facades lurks the potential for malice.

OK great… again looks fantastic, and remember these are the big boys, as they are all ex Funcom dudes, that know what they are doing, bastards! Heres the clip…

But really.. Norway.. mysteries… missing people… ghosts and legends… sigh…
I better pull my finger out…

Art College ramblings digressions and what not

I just read this interesting article about the Art College in Brighton during the 60’s
Brighton College of Art in the 60’s
And it reminded me alot of my experience at Portsmouth College of Art and then the Fine Art Dept of Portsmouth Polytechnic. I thought it would be nice to write down a few of my memories.

I remember that I was literally the first interviewee in a bunch for my place at Portsmouth College of Art. I was interviewed by Mark Harrington, who was to be one of my first year, foundation lecturers. I still remember him saying ” Well this is good stuff, less of the Roger Dean shit and you´ll be fine… welcome!” And that was it! After a nerve wracking 5 minutes where he just perused my folder of school Art class stuff, I was in!
I relaxed a little at school for the remainder of the year, maybe a little too much?
I arrived, a long haired hippy type, with patched up jumpers and holy (as in with holes) jeans, to be confronted with a bunch of the scariest and most way out looking punks and goths and new romantics. It took a year before my hair became black, and it has stayed dyed ever since… Im 51 now! It was frightening, but totally inspiring! I had NO IDEA (I still dont) what “kind” of Art I should do, and the foundation year was designed for me to find out. A bit of everything, drawing, painting nudes, graphics, printing, plastic, metalwork and photography. I LOVED IT! The only hinderance for me at the time was that I was “commuting” from Petersfield everyday.
By the second year I had moved to Pompey and really took advantage of life as an Art Student. Going to shows, staying till we were thrown out of the video suite or darkrooms (look them up you youngsters).
Im not sure how much talent I ever had (or have actually) but I must say that at Portsmouth I did get the interest to try many things, and that has stayed with me to this day. Not really a good thing really, but maybe. I don’t think Ive ever become really outstanding at anything really, technology always seems to whizz past before I really feel I have done all.. For fuck sake I was experimenting with hand dying film, when video came in, I was faffing with making quicktime VR circular poems, when I should have learned programming… Ja.. Programming thats the one thing I really regret never to have mastered. I mean I cant play guitar, but Ive toured the world in a famous band, I don’t know much about film, but Ive probably directed more actors than anyone in Norway… I don’t understand electronics but I have a pretty huge modular synth that I soldered myself… see a pattern here?
Anyway… I followed a girlfriend into a jewellery course, and loved it… but gave it up after a year, it just wasn’t… arty enough… silly really… I made some lovely rings, by a technique known as fusing, where you don’t really use solder, you just wait till the silver melts, and JUST before it goes BLOB into a runny mess you pull away… twas cool as hell. and to be honest.. I wish I still did that. If I hadn’t twatted about with video feedback, and got hooked on experimental video I would never have had to sit through 6 hour meetings about HSE or HR or…fucking CSR. I wouldn’t know what a company design profile was and I wouldn’t give two hoots about visions and values…
Where was I? Video… yep lots of re-filming off screens, recording buzzing noises, burying TVs in the beach, draping apartments with white sheets and, projecting on houses. Then zippady doo dah, over I pop to the Polytechnic and join the real arty mob in the…
Fine Art department
“Your stuff is too… er slick… Mark”
they wailed…
“It must be all that time doing graphics…!”
while at the same time handing rolls of film to students who came back with black totally underexposed films (“I filmed myself masterbating at four in the morning… I left the lens cap on as a statement about pornography”)
I was stuck between two poles, I was all design-y and pop video-y and yet when I was at the Art College it was all craft, and technique…and there they said I was too weird, didnt stick to the brief…too mess… ahh well…
But it was OK at the Poly, I made a fun film, with lots of holes punched in it, I filmed some melodramatic goths poncing about on a freezing winter West Wittering, and set it all to backwards distorted guitars and techno beats. Ace! Also met James my on and off collaborator for… well… we still dabble now…
Then it was over..
I was out…
The World
not so much as a ” Well there this grant…”
“Heres some place that might show you films if you sent them”
“Have you thought about pop videos”
oh no.
It was… “Dole Office is down there on the left… let us know when you have a retrospective of your earlier work at Aspex Gallery in Southsea, and we´ll come and drink your wine…”
So it was Bread Pudding and coffee in a cafe in Albert Rd for 2 years discussing “scripts” with James… occasionally rehearsing with this new band I got asked to join… a one off trip to Thailand on a documentary film, taught a bit in a video course of my own devising,
and then…
good old John Peel.. may he rest in peace…