Shadow of the Colossus

Last Updated 18.02.06

a PS2 game by Fumito Ueda

a majestic journey through ancient lands to seek out and destroy gigantic mythical beasts.

Shadow of the Colossus is a game which succeeds in conveying an atmosphere of purity and refinement, partially by means of its sense of aesthetics and gameplay, partially because of its technical achievements, and mainly because it avoids or even twists most of the common places in videogames in such a way that it is unique without being pretentious. There´s no hurry to reveal the story too quickly, nor unveil it completely, and no interest in adding elements alien to the core of the design to lenghthen the game. These decissions are certainly risky, but they pay off by making the whole look coherent, special and more than just a game (less is more, they say). Sometimes finding the beasts can be tedious, the camera angles unreliable and certain fight patterns frustrating. However, those are small shadows out of a truly brilliant whole, from which two highlights overexcel: the beasts, which are the most incredible creatures I have ever seen in a video game, and the music, great in both how it is made and what it adds to the overall experience. Together with ICO, which shares most of its values and quality, Shadow of the Colossus stands as an all time masterpiece of digital art.

Update 18.02.06 Link to a recent interview with Fumito Ueda and Kenji Kaido.

It´s raining tags, alleluia!

Last Updated 28.02.06

I have been interested in tag clouds since I first knew of them, as they are a very effective way to highlight relevant elements among a cluster. As you may see in the cloud I added to the Archives section, there´s a number of words which correspond to topics I have written about. At a glance, you should be able to know which ones are more relevant, the more frequent ones the bigger and brighter, and clicking on any of the words will get to the list of related articles. Continue reading It´s raining tags, alleluia!

Dogma05: Experimental Gameplay

Our philosophy that complexity is not necessary for fun, and that it is possible to have fun even with basic primitives given a compelling interaction and goal.

Born by the initiative of four students at the Carnegie Melon University, Experimental Gameplay is as much a project as a manifesto by which the participants commit themselves to make games under three constraints: one person, one week, one topic, an attitude which parallels that of the Dogma 95 filmmaker movement.

In a situation where mainstream videogame developing is quickly moving towards the same practices of film industry, with evergrowing companies and games which aspire to comprise as many different experiences as possible, it seems a paradox that some young creators want to refine their skills by putting boundaries to their work. However, there are in fact many benefits in doing so: a seven day deadline underlines the need for accuracy and self criticism, both in analyzing the problem and giving solutions to it; that the work must be all done by oneself forces to face all the elements of game creation, which will result in a better understanding of the teammates in bigger productions; and limiting the subject focuses the problem, thus stimulating creativity and putting the technical and craftmanship skills to a test. Moreover, an emphasys is made in that the main goal is not to show off those skills, to output “tech toys”, but to make playable games: wise words! Continue reading Dogma05: Experimental Gameplay

Let´s make a mini-me! now, in 3-D

People Putty is a tool (and also, a toy!) that allows you to make your very own interactive 3-D character, then use it to play dress up or act as a tour guide for your own web page.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, in fact it´s true and, even more, it´s fairly easy to accomplish. Right after you start People Putty (try to read the funny descriptions while loading), you face… no, well, actually a 3D character faces you, a nice girl who quietly stares at you while behaving in a very realistic manner. (actually only the face is represented, though it is possible to get full bodied characters from the company) . This is already quite impressive, but it´s only the tip of the iceberg. The interface to the program is self explanatory, intuitive and very well documented, comprising all the stages which take part in the creation of a character in a single row, from top to bottom: skin, shapes, emotions, accesories and theatre. Continue reading Let´s make a mini-me! now, in 3-D

Keep on movin´, it sounds good

the betasound version of sodaconstructor is an extension to the current sodaconstructor beta version, including all new functionality like fixed bar springs, variable model area etc. In addition it offers a new sound feature, enabling hi-fi stereo sound generation in realtime response to model motion.

Soda constructor has been out there for quite a long time (more than I can remember; the first models in their records point to October, 2000). For those who may not know what it is about, the constructor is a java simulator where you can create 2D models made of masses and springs, whose movement you can control by means of a simple interface. Over the years there has been a constant flux of new, amazing machines and critters, with initiatives like sodarace preventing the project from coming to a standstill. The latest of these refreshing ideas, betasound, improves the sound capabilities of the system up to hi- fi levels, by means of two different sound generators which act like choirs, each of their voices associated to an element of the model: “each spring and node of a model has its own voice”. Besides the classic controls, there are some new sliders that can be used to tweak certain parameters in the generators, and are intuitive enough to play with without bothering about the technical details. The whole is still too constrained, since one of the generators uses sine waves, while the other uses “more complex waveforms” (which isn´t saying much, since sine waves are the simplest ones). However, even with these limitations the results are already very interesting and highly promising. It´s amazing to perceive the organic correspondence in between a model´s behaviour and the sounds it produces, which are sometimes cloudy, sometimes percussive, and at least as interesting as the models themselves. Installing the simulator is really simple, and whether you are interested in sound or cOol ideas, it really worths to check it out.

Look up the lights, you know my number

Design is very often, perhaps even mostly, a struggle in between aesthetics and function. The masterpieces of design would then be those which excel in both aspects without compromising any, but usually though, tradeoffs are made in favour of either one or the other; the success of the result depends on there being a good reason for the imbalance, one which makes the bias worthwhile, and the ultimate proof of its success, the ability of the users to feel, even better verbalize, said reason.

I hope that the paragraph above will give a new perspective on the deep meaning of the at times blamed as shallow term “cOol”, as in: why do I like so much a clock so hard to read? because it´s sooo cOol!!! ;P

Ps: Actually, I found a different breed of “visual clock” that is easier to read : the TIX Led Clock.

Glest 2.0-rc1 released

At last, Glest 2.0-rc1 has been released. The version is not the complete 2.0 though, some icons are missing and some animations will be improved; However it includes most of the features that will be present in the final version.

– New Magic units:

– Tower of Souls: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Golem: Defensive unit, needs EP to walk, can’t attack air
– Daemon giant: Heavy melee unit
– Drake rider: Light ranged unit

– New Tech units:

– Aerodrome: Building for producing air units
– Air ballista: Air defense building, attacks air only
– Horseman: Fast medium unit
– Ornithopter: Light air unit
– Airship: Heavy air unit, can’t attack air

– New Magic upgrades
– New Tech upgrades
– New animations for existing units
– Loads of balance changes

New units really change the way factions are played. The Magic faction now has a new defensive unit, the Golem, that makes them stronger at the early stages of the game. The Tech faction now has air units, but should be less powerful because both factions have new anti air defenses too, which make towns very difficult to attack with air units only.

To play this version, download the data and win32 binary packages from sourceforge. Linux users can still use 1.2.1 source code with 2.0-rc1 data.

Origami Wreaths and Rings

a book by David Petty

In these pages you will find over 100 inventive variations around a circular theme using modular origami

If I were to describe this book in as few words as possible, I would choose these: easy, modular, organic origami. Easy, because the folding instructions are very clear and each of the pieces can be made in a few minutes by people with none to very little knowledge in origami; modular, because you create the models by assembling several small identical units together; and organic, because the result is a whole which looks much more complex than the sum of its parts: actually, many of the spiky stars and rings remind me of living sea stars and urchins. I came to this book after having seen several models a friend of mine had done, and I recommend it to anyone interested in any of the key themes mentioned above, as it will be a pleasing and rewarding discovery.

Update: I just found out that the author has made available several models with instructions here.

The postman keeps on ringing

The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost. The main line is: if you send a postcard, you’ll receive at least one back, from a random postcrosser somewhere in the world.

Postcrossing comes not long after after the well known bookcrossing, which I would define as an organized trend where people decide to free books they have read, leaving them out in the wilderness, tagged with a tracking number so that their path (with the subsequent readers´ help) can be followed. In this case, the subjects of free trade are postcards that you can start either sending and receiving as soon as you request an address from the aforementioned site. The process is easy, well described, and the site feels both professional and amusing. It particularly worths to say that this is a one person work, that of the portuguese Paulo Magalhães, who confesses to have been surpassed in his expectations by the rapid development of the initiative.
Since a postcard is something you write on your own, sending them to unkowns is a beautiful metaphor of giving oneself to another. My hopes are that Postcrossing keeps on growing, as representative of this spirit and as a kind of poetical justice towards the infamous chain letters. In times of email floods, give yourself a reality bite! 🙂