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  Jude Buffum’s Pixel Paintings  
Posted 2006-06-05 by Tony Walsh
Jude Buffum’s Pixel Paintings
"Jihad!" by Jude Buffum.
Artist Jude Buffum creates "synthetic paintings" by printing low-resolution pixels onto real canvas. Mashing up colourful, retro videogame graphics with quirky social commentary, Buffum's work is both poppy and punchy. Themes appear to include American politics, imperialism, and consumerism. Sadly, Buffum's "About" page is currently under construction, or I'd offer more information about the artist. Currently, I'm seeing him as the next Roy Lichtenstein. If I'm right, you'd best grab yourself a few of Buffum's prints, which each teeter around the $35 USD mark.
  Re-Wrapping Books in ‘The Elder Scrolls’  
Posted 2006-06-01 by Tony Walsh
Re-Wrapping Books in ‘The Elder Scrolls’
A re-skinned book jacket by Phoenix Amon in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
Guilded Lilies discovered an unusual modding project for the most recent and past edition of The Elder Scrolls series of adventure games. Artist and modder Phoenix Amon is hard at work replacing all of the book-covers found in Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with carefully-crafted, unique versions. Amon previously modded the book jackets from Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.

A project like this is a hell of a lot of work, but the payoff is so sweet, it almost seems worth it. One of my dislikes of adventure and role-playing games is the "generic" look of items (most crates, books, chests, and scrolls look identical, for example). The developers of a game never seem to have time to add the minute levels of detail that make a fantasy world seem more believable. Phoenix Amon's mod might be mistaken for a minor addition to the game, but the presence of unique books is sure to please those looking for a high level of immersion. Be sure to check out her gallery, the images are quite impressive.
  Virtual-World Mashups  
Posted 2006-05-29 by Tony Walsh
I've encountered several interesting virtual-world mashups lately. A mashup, which comic nerds know as a "crossover," is the media-equivalent of combining chocolate and peanut butter (or sardines and peanut butter).
  • Second Life meets Myst with aDen Ennui's "SL Myst." When Uru Live closed down, a number of refugees from that space ended up in Second Life and built Myst-themed areas. There are still a few Myst and Uru-themed groups in SL.
  • Second Life will meet World of Warcraft in Jerry Paffendorf's upcoming SLoW project: "A first attempt towards uniting both ends of the virtual world spectrum by providing a temporary bridge (or at least a window) between them."
  • And, on YouTube, World of Warcraft meets Guild Wars in an excellently-edited video mashup to the tune of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This."
  Leeroy Jenkins Immortalized on WoW Playing Card  
Posted 2006-05-29 by Tony Walsh
Gabe of Penny Arcade stardom revealed artwork last week for a Leeroy Jenkins addition to the official World of Warcraft card game in production by Upper Deck.

Leeroy Jenkins, a player-character in World of Warcraft, rose to infamy thanks to a humorous video clip of his berserker fighting tactics, resulting in the demise of his raiding party. His battlecry "Leeeeeeroy Jenkins!" resounded across the internet, in cybercafes, and even in a downtown Toronto movie theatre. Such was his impact on gaming culture that Leeroy's name was used in a Jeopardy clue in 2005. It's pretty wild that he made it onto his own playing card.
  Linden Lab Grants $4,000 Fellowship to Chicago Art Students  
Posted 2006-05-24 by Tony Walsh
Two students of Chicago's Art Institute will receive a $4,000 USD fellowship from Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world Second Life. The first of its kind visual and performing arts grant will fund a proposal submitted by Simon Spartalian and Mike Beradino to transform their virtual items into physical objects through milled foam or wax. This technology has already been demonstrated by Eyebeam Research, and Ogle Models and Prototypes. The two students, reported Mark Wallace of 3pointD last week, will be offering milling services themselves starting June 1, 2006. The students list Eyebeam and OGLE has benefactors on their blog Recursive Instruments. In handing a grant to an established project, it seems Linden Lab is betting on a sure thing.

In an official press release, Linden Lab's VP of Community said that "Through this project and its resulting exhibit, we believe the art and design communities at large will be inspired by the potential of Second Life for artistic expression, and will join us in bringing that inspiration to life." The students hope to create an "import/export zone" that will serve as a bridge Second Life and real life. Linden Lab's fellowship was first announced in Februrary, 2006, and required that "The project funded by the fellowship must be completed within a semester, make use of Second Life tool-set and capabilities and be available for view or exhibit within Second Life."
  Machinima Salon in ‘Second Life’ This Thursday  
Posted 2006-05-24 by Tony Walsh
Still in its early stages compared to other filmmaking techniques, machinima involves making digital movies using low-end 3D engines such as those found in video games like Halo or virtual worlds like Second Life. Appropriately, a seminar with two notable machinimists will be held inside the world of Second Life this Thursday, May 25. Paul Marino, author of The Art of Machinima and Executive Director, Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, will join Pierce Portocarrero (a.k.a. Brad Henderson), chief creative behind the upcoming documentary Ideal World, in conversation. I can only vouch for Henderson, as I've met him personally--he's a very interesting and well-spoken guy with an obvious passion for his art. You can catch him and Marino at 5pm PST somewhere on Media island tomorrow. Sadly, I won't be able to attend--too bad Second Life sessions can't be time-shifted.
  Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’  
Posted 2006-05-19 by Tony Walsh
Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’
A modified 'PCD Lounge' bears horrific fruit.
I've turned the virtual Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge into Silent Hill. The online nightclub, intended to market music and other products to teens, can easily be altered on the client (user) side. Currently in beta testing, the PCD Lounge runs on the Torque game engine, licensed from Garage Games to San Francisco-based new media company Doppleganger (formerly Evil Twin Studios).

The small virtual environment created for the PCD Lounge has limited appeal. Only 300 users can fit into the area at once, and I haven't spotted more than 61 members logged in at any given time (over 400 users are registered on Doppleganger's PCD Forums). Faced with a stale, virtual space laden with billboard ads and zombie-like teens, I decided to poke around the source files for the client software.

In a nutshell, the client-side files are extremely simple to modify. Modders can easily access and completely alter the graphic images that comprise the material surfaces in the world, including the sky, walls, billboards, and even the skin of user-created avatars. Additionally, sound effects can be re-written in Ogg Vorbis format. Other aspects, such as environment parameters and NPC names can be changed by putting some files through a text editor. Given this level of freedom, I decided to mod the PCD Lounge into the sort of environment seen in the Silent Hill series of games, turning the Lounge's attendees--even the Pussy Cat Dolls themselves--into disfigured monsters. And, just for fun, I replaced all the billboards with images from Frank Fairey's Obey Giant campaign.

Continue reading: Horrifying the ‘PCD Lounge’
  ‘Broken Saints’ Gets Mainstream Backing  
Posted 2006-05-12 by Tony Walsh
Broken Saints, an independently-produced Canadian motion-graphic comic series, has been picked up by 20th Century Fox Home Video. Formerly available exclusively online, the series picked up a rabid, worldwide fan base, resulting in a re-mastering of its original artwork and addition of professional voice-acting in an initial run of high-quality indie DVDs. The methodical, artistic series grabbed the attention of a Fox exec, who watched the entire 24-episode, multi-disk set in only three days. "When his Disc 4 jammed, he called in a frantic state…asking to have a new one shipped OVERNIGHT!!!" writes a breathless Brooke Burgess, Broken Saints' lead visionary.

According to Burgess, the series will be re-authored again. The upcoming DVD set, which will be released August 1, 2006, will feature "fully re-mixed 5.1 [soundtrack], new chapter art, additional voices and music, 53 new commentaries, new interviews, and more!!!" This is a huge deal for Broken Saints, and may lead to spinoff products--could a movie, TV series or game be on the horizon?

I've written about Broken Saints in the past for Shift Magazine and Exclaim! Magazine: See "Broken Saints," and "Canadians Get Spirited Away."
  Using ‘Second Life’ In Concept Work  
Posted 2006-04-21 by Tony Walsh
Last month I was contracted by Toronto-based Xenophile Media to create mockup screens for a proposed project involving a historically-based game-like environment. Xenophile Media is an innovator in the cross-media space, having produced two seasons of the award-winning ReGenesis Alternate Reality Game (I was involved as Game Designer), the convergent feature documentary Beethoven’s Hair, and numerous iTV gaming shows.

In developing their latest proposal, Xenophile wanted to simulate a 3D environment in mockups, but few tricks of design or illustration will achieve this effect. The only convincing way to simulate a game environment would be to use 3D graphics. I chose the virtual world of Second Life as a production tool, and was able to convincingly portray a game-like environment within a very reasonable time span. Following are my reflections on the process, which assumes the reader has a grasp of Second Life's basic landscape and features.

Continue reading: Using ‘Second Life’ In Concept Work
  Ian Bogost Interviewed  
Posted 2006-04-03 by Tony Walsh
Videoludica contributor Matteo Bittanti spotlights author and persuasive-game designer Ian Bogost through the lens of Unit Operations. An Approach to Game Criticism, Bogost's new book. "Unit operations are expressive techniques that build meaning out of configurations of encapsulated parts, or 'units,'" Bogost told Videoludica. "The book is fundamentally about comparative criticism, and unit operations is my attempt at a concept that allows critics to read literature, film, games, art, and other media as processes."

As an occasional game reviewer, I found Bogost's comparison of the study of literature and games interesting. He told Videoludica "Literary theory has a long tradition of close reading. This is something I find lacking in game studies in general-we don't see enough sustained, detailed readings of games. Obviously, we can't just adopt the literary model directly...But we can adopt the perspective of the literary critic, who is really interested in getting to the bottom of a work's meaning at a very high level of detail." Unfortunately, a vast majority of games are meaningless--this makes creative interpretation and criticism easier, but doesn't position games on the same level as more mature vehicles such as books. There's no reason games can't be a vehicle for deep meaning, but I feel the medium is still quite immature.
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy? get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

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in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

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