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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Crowfall

Just in case you haven’t noticed this, but there’s a new big MMO Kickstarter presently running with a full head of steam.

Crowfall

It seems good, and some of the pedigree is great (Raph Koster, J. Todd Coleman are ones that caught my eye).  It picks up on ideas I’ve written about before, and would still love to see in a big MMO.  It looks great, more like Wildstar, WoW or perhaps Torchlight rather than FFXIV or Guild Wars (I like dodging the Uncanny Valley, but I do love GW2’s more painterly art direction).  It could be a great game.

I want to be excited about it, but I’m feeling sort of amputated from the game world.  I worked there for almost ten years, and still love game design, but since I have almost no time to play and I’m sort of retired from the industry due to circumstance, it’s all just sort of… attenuated.

Still, Crowfall could be really good.  Go check it out.

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Avatar: Aang and Korra

I really like Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Aang’s story is solid, and the core cast all get great moments like Katara’s “The Painted Lady”, Toph’s “The Blind Bandit” and Sokka’s “Sokka’s Master”.  Even Zuko’s arc works really well.  It’s not a perfect show, and it has its weak episodes like many shows, but for every beach party episode, there’s a gem like “The Boiling Rock”.  For every facepalming moment like the musical hippies, there are great character moments like Sokka reflexively covering Toph on a crashing airship or Iroh counseling a mugger.  There are even really great subtle worldbuilding touches like the trains in Ba Sing Se.  (And oh, Iroh’s Tale.)

It’s one of the very few series that I have on DVD, in the august company of DuckTales, Stargate SG-1 and MacGyver (classics, all, and though also cursed with the occasional stinker episode, the good far outweighs the bad).

So, when it came to the sequel Avatar series, Legend of Korra, I was really looking forward to seeing some cool new ‘bending tricks or even combo uses (like Chrono Trigger’s team-up Tech attacks) for the magic in that world.  I thought it would be great to see how technological advancements might happen in a world with magic, and how the two might compete and cooperate.  The world really has a ton of rich potential.

Unfortunately, I wound up disappointed with the characters, writing and meta manipulations of the series creators.  The animation is often great, and the flashback two-parter in Book 2 where we see the origin of the Avatar is really, really fine work.  I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on a lot of what bothered me, though, until I stumbled across this Tumblr:

Poorly Written, Poorly Executed

It’s true that there’s no shortage of criticism and nitpickery online, but almost every single entry I’ve read over there resonates with concerns I have with the series.  This one is perhaps the best place to start, though, looking at it through my perspective as an aspiring writer and experienced artist, since it underlines the backbone of the trouble; the creative staff.  (See also: the Star Wars “prequel” films, and how a rein-free Lucas squandered some of his goodwill credit.)

My single biggest complaint with Korra is that there is so much wasted potential.  The bad writing and character assassinations throughout are like a persistent cough, but the lost opportunities are really what bug me.  The series really could have tackled things ranging from social considerations of magic (one of the stronger themes in the series, but undermined by Amon’s big reveal), the importance of spirituality in the Avatar world, liberty vs. the State (OK, Book 3’s baddies were mostly well done), nascent dictators and assorted other considerations in a world where magic is relatively common but with wildly differing power levels.

There’s so much there to mine, but no, we got relationship drama, disjointed storytelling, burned bridges, relationship drama, character assassination, pointless drama, character assassination of the previous series’ characters, and relationship drama.  There were certainly high points, so the series isn’t devoid of value, but it could have been so much more.

One other big thing that bothers me is something that seems to be a concern in a lot of popular media.  Once the creators start engaging an audience, things can often go sour.  Far too many little beats in Korra came across as either fanservice or trolling that it became less of a legend and more of a performance art experience.  Maybe that’s fine for what some people want, but I think that the Avatar world deserved better.  There’s certainly a good reason to be aware of your audience, but I think there needs to be a barrier there, or else the creative work suffers.

I think I can still recommend Book 1 of Korra’s Legend, but really, it’s best just to go watch Aang’s Airbender stories.

Edited to add:  I ran into another Tumblr that reminded me that the group dynamic was better in Season 1, Bolin was better, and man, they really needed to make a team work like Aang’s crew.  They never really did that well at all in Korra.  They could have, but failed.

Korra’s Team

Man… that’s really the downer of all this.  It could have been so much better.

Edited again to add:  This article from Larry Correia is a great fisking of a monumentally dumb article that shows some of the mentality that I think pervaded Korra’s story.  Maybe not at first, but it seeped in as the authors engaged with the most rabid segments of the audience and catered to sociopolitical quirks of today instead of staying true to their own story.  To be sure, every work is a “product of its time” in ways small and great, but when a work of fiction becomes less about its own interesting story and more about preaching a Message, it falls apart.  This was the problem with Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land‘s third act, for example.

Aang’s journey was internally consistent (mostly, and notably, the Message episodes were the weakest), Korra’s was a mess of Messages and fourth-wall pressures, suffering from undue external influences.  It’s a good case study in what not to do, in many ways.

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Ambigrammar

I’m fond of ambigrams, and have taken a stab at making more than a few in my day.  This is the latest:

Chiaroscuro Ambigram V2

I’m just putting it out there at the moment without explanation, though.  I’d like to see if it’s readable and interesting.

What do you think?

It seems that the trick is making the thing read correctly both ways, while keeping the letterforms appealing and at least reasonably consistent.  It’s hard to make an ambigram “font”, though this sort of font shows up often:

AmbigramSample

My designs lean more to the “tribal” aesthetic than the Olde Tyme Fontography.  It gives me a bit more flexibility, though it’s not always as readable.  It’s interesting to me to see how these might work.  They often try to “hack” our natural tendency to see patterns, especially with the little bits and floating details that might be important one way but best ignored the other way.

Sometimes it’s easier with more words, too… and sometimes not.  They can give more datapoints to help decipher the rest of the puzzle.  This one is for the Alhambra Speech and Debate team, for example, and some of it works well… other bits don’t.  A lot depends on context; someone on the team would be able to read it fairly easily since they would expect it to be relevant to their interests.

AlhambraSpeechAndDebateAmbigram

If you’ve a guess at what this latest one reads, I’d love to see it in the comments.  Thanks!

Updated with this application of the ambigram… and the word: “Chiaroscuro”.  Thanks, all!

ChiaroscuroBanner

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It’s busy here in the Tesh household.  Scrambling for work and finding ways to pay the bills is less than the easy breeze through the holidays of years past, but so it goes.  In the finest online Black Friday tradition, though, I wanted to note that we’re now selling the Tinker and Rusty Tinker decks (featured on Pinterest over here) at our newish SquareUp shop over here:

Project Khopesh Square Shop

I also have a few other shops, like this one at Shapeways, where the Tinker Dice and Gearpunk Dice started and still feature, as well as a smattering of other goodies like the WoW Druid rings (some of which I need to update, so if their system freaks out, please let me know):

Tish Tosh Tesh Toys

The Zazzle shop, with goodies like the Fishbowl Aggro shirt, Mousemech and Battle Bards:

Tish Tosh Tesh Toyz

And even a few items over here on CafePress:

Tish Tosh Teshirts

…and yes, I was stretching for some of these shop names.  Sorry.  Sort of.

Anyway, goodies abound, and if you do happen to pick something up, thank you!  I’d love to make more goods available, but time will tell if that’s worth spending my increasingly stressful time with.  I’d love to be able to pay the bills with creative endeavors like these and Kickstarters, but it’s just not happening at the moment.  Maybe someday.  (If I wasn’t afraid of copyright infringement, oh, the fun that could be had with selling fan art and mashups…)

In the meantime, here’s hoping you had a great Thanksgiving, and that December treats you well too!

I’ll make a better post or two as the end of the year approaches, it just seemed a good time to get these out there.

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This is just an addendum to the photo set of the Gearpunk dice.  We’ve ordered some in a black nickel finish, and though we don’t have all of them in stock yet thanks to a factory mistake, we have a few.  May as well show some beauty photos, right?

s_D6GearpunkBlackNickel

D6GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D8GearpunkBlackNickel

D8GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D12GearpunkBlackNickel

D12GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20GearpunkBlackNickel

D20GearpunkBlackNickel

s_D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

D20SpinGearpunkBlackNickel

s_DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

DFudgeGearpunkBlackNickel

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It’s been quiet around here lately.  I’m still looking for work, and Unemployment is about exhausted.  So, I still don’t have the luxury of spending much time here, and I’m… significantly stressed. Still, this is worth noting.  The Gearpunk Dice that we’ve been waiting for since last year are finally here, so we’ll be shipping them out to everyone as soon as we can process them. Thank you for your interest and patience!

It’s worth noting that there are two photos of each single die.  This is to show them in different lighting and against different surfaces, in this case, black leather and aged painted concrete.

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9 of 10

I didn’t realize it until I ran into this latest study/poll making the rounds, thanks to TAGN’s post on the same, but I’ve been kicking around in Azeroth for 9 of the 10 years that World of Warcraft has been live.  I’ve had a few accounts over the years, so I don’t know my total /played time, but I suspect it’s probably not much compared to most who have had as long of an association with the game.  Still, my first blog post here (aside from the “Hello World”) was about WoW, so it’s not like I’m a stranger to the game, either.

Tangentially, this was an interesting find, as I was perusing my archives.  Just in case you needed a little more navel gazing.

Dead Again: Five Year Old Noob

Anyway, for posterity’s sake, here are the study’s questions and my responses.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, I have a love/disgruntled relationship with WoW.  Great art direction, animation and world design, decent game design, lousy monetization.  It’s a game I keep coming back to, but then, I play a lot of games.  It’s never a place I could “hang my hat”, as it were.  I have too many other things to do than be tied to one game.  Still, I love the sense of place in the game, and I think on balance, I like it more than I dislike it.

Why did you start playing World of Warcraft? *

2005. I was interested when I saw the original magazine ads, but the subscription model kept me away. That is a recurring theme.

What was the first ever character you rolled? *

A Tauren Shaman. I loved Tauren in WarCraft 3, and was looking forward to playing one up close and personally, as it were. The Shaman looked flexible, so I figured I’d give it a shot. My main today is a Tauren Druid (er, that I just changed to a Worgen… still getting used to that), my only level capped character, but just below that is a Dwarven Shaman, and I love them both.

Which factors determined your faction choice in game? *

I started Horde because my friend was playing an Orc. Turns out it was pointless since he was level 58 or so, and we couldn’t even group up anyway since I was just on a trial account. Since then I’ve played both factions, though my core love is still the Tauren people. They are close to neutral philosophically in the Warcraft mythos, and I appreciate that. I don’t buy into the faction pride… contention… thing.

What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why? *

Trying out Flight Form. There’s just nothing else like it in the game. My favorite place to explore is Northrend, but there are a great many beautiful places to explore in WoW, and flight form facilitates exploration in ways no other mechanic can. (And BASE jumping from Dalaran or other high spots, popping Flight Form at the last second, that just doesn’t get old.)

What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case? *

The world itself; always has been, always will be. I’ve always appreciated Blizzard’s art ability, and the world of WarCraft is what always interested me about the game. I enjoyed the WarCraft games, and really wanted to see what the world looked like from the ground. And in the air.

WoW might not have the highest resolution graphics or 3D meshes, but they make the most our of what they have with the strongest art direction in the industry. Others are catching up or edging ahead, most notably Guild Wars (albeit in a different style), EQLandmark and Wildstar, but Blizzard was there first and still manages to look great, even on low end machines (which is important).

Do you have an area in game that you always return to? *

I used to perch my Tauren Druid on the center totem of Thunder Bluff often, since capital cities allow me to conduct business and get rested. Now that he’s a level capped Worgen, he’s not really grounded, but I’m still fond of Northrend, especially Grizzly Hills.

How long have you /played and has that been continuous? *

The longest continuous streak I’ve played was two months. I’ve had a foot in WoW for about nine years, but I can’t stand the subscription model, so I just pop in on occasion when there’s something of note that I want to see.

Admit it: do you read quest text or not? *

The vast majority of the time, yes. Sometimes I’ll skip to the quest goals, but I read fast enough and like reading enough that I only do that if I’m feeling strongly pressured for time.

Are there any regrets from your time in game? *

Nothing strong. Sometimes I wish I’d played more, sometimes I wish I’d played less. I don’t regret spending time with the game, only money.

What effects has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming? *

It’s a significant component of why I bothered to start a blog, and I’ve met friends that way. The audience there also led to an audience that has given me a bit of a headstart on some Kickstarter successes, so that’s nice. Beyond that, it’s also been nice to know a bit about the game since I worked in the game industry and can talk intelligently about game design considerations based on the game. It’s an occasional cultural touchstone, too, which can be handy in some conversations.

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