Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Let's Get Kickstarted in Hah!

So if you don't already know due to ignorance, a series of consecutive family emergencies, or simple apathy, game development studio Double Fine has broken $2 million in Kickstarter donations as of this week. If you've never heard of them, they are the makers of such games as Costume Quest, Brutal LegendPsychonauts, and others. You've probably never heard of their games either, and that's the problem. The company is headed up by veteran game designer Tim Schafer, and though their games are not without issues, they are consistently stellar. Imaginative worlds filled with incredible characters, all hilariously offbeat in tone, a new Double Fine game is always something to be excited about. But despite their critical acclaim, very few of their games are runaway financial successes. As a result, they sometimes have trouble getting the financial backing to create new games.

I guess not everyone wants to play a game in which you enter the mind of an anachronistic 50's milkman to battle the personifications of his paranoid psychosis. And that is what's wrong with America.
So when Double Fine decided to make an old school point-and-click adventure game, they turned to crowdsourcing via Kickstarter.  Initially, they asked for $400,000 to make the game and film a documentary of the process. They explained on their page that this was a fairly modest sum for even a small game, but that it was doable. Flash forward to about two weeks later, and they've made a couple of million dollars, with 19 days of donation remaining. Double Fine announced that they would now be able to add voice acting, foreign language translations, and multi-platform support to the game. To recap, they are now able to make a full scale adventure game entirely free of studio oversight, and deliver it directly to their fans.

And that is awesome.

The game could be 10 hours of this and NO ONE COULD STOP THEM FROM MAKING IT.
Other industry professionals are taking note, and soon there will be several more projects like this on Kickstarter, because now designers can make the games that they want to make, funded by the gamers who want to play them. In the case of Double Fine's adventure game project, a $15 donation gets you a copy of the completed game and access to the documentary. As a huge fan of point-and-click adventure made by awesome people, this is a small price to pay for me, especially since it's comparable to the going rate for smaller downloadable games.

And with non-physical media becoming increasingly legitimized, the sky is really the limit here. Big budget games often have to play it safe in order to ensure financial success, but this could be an entire market sub-culture built on the interaction between gamers and designers, where ideas from either end can kick off the creation of full scale games.

So if this sounds as exciting to you as it is to me, get a piece of it! Visit Double Fine's Kickstarter page and pledge your 15 bucks. And if you're an old school adventure fan like me, why not play these free King's Quest remakes to tide you over?

What do you guys think of crowdsourcing games? And are there any games you'd like to see made this way? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The One With The Comic Reviews II: This Time, It Happens Again!

The passing of another Wednesday heralds the coming of a new review post!

I'm experimenting with melodrama. Anyway, I wanted to post my thoughts on the comics I picked up this week. After giving it some thought, I decided I might try a shorter format. I don't really want to write an entire paragraph or three about each title, and I'm pretty sure that you don't want to read all of that. So, in an effort to streamline the reviews, I'm tweaking the format. The One Word Review and the Most Awesome will stay, but the TL;DR section of each review will be replaced by Least Awesome. Not bad, mind you, just the least awesome part of any given book. I am still trying to keep things positive, after all. Engage!

The haul:

This week it was all DC titles, in case you couldn't tell. And I forgot to pick up Suicide Squad like an idiot, so I'll be lumping that one in next time.

Batgirl #6
One Word Review: Endearing
Most Awesome: A touching scene that offers a brief glimpse of the softer side of Growly McBatSharkRepellent
Least Awesome: Batgirl's dialogue can often get a little corny, but with a character so relentlessly effervescent, it's forgivable

Batwoman #6
One Word Review: Disjointed
Most Awesome: Batwoman reveling in the coolness of her new suit upgrade
Least Awesome: Guest artist Amy Reeder does her best to maintain the books style, but after being spoiled by five issues of gorgeousness, it just isn't the same

Demon Knights #6
One Word Review: ACTION!
Most Awesome: Did you see the cover?! It was that!
Least Awesome: The characters and their interactions with each other are finally becoming more clear, and it only took 6 issues!

Green Lantern #6
One Word Review: Awww...(<--sitcom style)
Most Awesome: Hal engages in some impressive heroics without the use of his ring
Least Awesome: Another guest artist complaint, but Mike Choi's art looks more webcomic quality than big name comic quality; however, there are a few really nice panels

Resurrection Man #6
One Word Review: Finally!
Most Awesome: After delving into his sordid past, this issue spotlights Mitch Shelley, indomitable force of justice! At last, an issue that lives up to the promise of issue 1!
Least Awesome: The worry that this was only a bright moment before the series descends back into a weird mediocrity

Superboy #6
One Word Review: Almost
Most Awesome: Superboy taking new and strange developments with his powers in stride
Least Awesome: Another cool character design reduced to Chunky Boots

So that's it for this week's reviews. What did you think? This time I'm feeling like I wrote too little. I'll keep puttering around with it. Need me to elaborate on anything? Agree? Disagree? Or do you have anything you'd like me to write about next? I welcome your suggestions!

Parting joke!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doctor What Now?

As I mentioned in my first post, I have never seen a single episode of Dr. Who. If you didn't read my first post and are only now feeling outraged at me about this, go ahead, let it all out. I'll wait.
I know, sir. Yes, I'm very sorry...
All right, now that we've got that out of the way, I'll continue.

I knew a little about Dr. Who. It's kind of hard to use the internet and not pick up at least some information about the show. Here is what I knew, or thought I knew, about the show:

-The Doctor is an immortal alien who is reincarnated into a new body when he dies, because the writers apparently decided that the James Bond franchise already had the market cornered on utilizing the "Meh" approach when it came to explaining a constant lead actor rotation
-He travels through time and space in the TARDIS, a ship much larger inside than out, and cleverly disguised as a police call box, which is incredibly effective camouflage
-The Doctor possesses a portable deus ex machina device known as a sonic screwdriver
-The primary antagonists on the show are an alien race known as the Daleks---sentient trashcans with guns glued to their faces
-The Doctor always travels with a companion, typically an attractive human female
Science Fiction: Legitimate genre
And that's it. I've heard nothing but good things about the show from a variety of sources, and I'd always meant to start watching. I just never got around to it. But after Scott commented on my first blog post, forbidding me from writing any more posts until I did so, I decided to give it a go. Even though most people have told me I needed to watch David Tennant's run on the show, Scott recommended I begin with Christoper Eccleston's tenure as the Doctor from 2005, when the show was relaunched. Since I am nothing if not chronological, I decided to begin there. So I pulled the first episode up on Netflix, and gave it a watch.

My initial impression:
Look out! The world is ending!
But let's not be too serious about it.
But really, though, this is bad.
And that's pretty much it. I had seen Dr. Who lampooned many times, but I wasn't prepared for those parodies to be so close to what the show was actually like. It was B-movie grade! The acting was ridiculous! It was just too silly!

And yet...

There's something kind of charming about it, isn't there? I mean, yeah, it's goofy, but there's some legitimate intrigue, some hint of greater character depth below the surface. And the clips from the next episode look a tiny bit interesting...I mean, it would be unfair of me to judge the show after only one episode. I'll just watch one more...

Ok, that was just bizarre. And the special effects are weird. And what is the tone of this show? One minute we're being all cavalier and joke-y about Earth blowing up, and the next we've got our serious face on as we watch someone slowly and gruesomely die. I mean, it was interesting, but...oh, looks like they go to 1860 in the next episode and meet a weird ghost. That actually looks kind of cool...

And that's the thing. Yes, it has all of the flaws I've just pointed out. Maybe more, since I've only seen two episodes so far. But when I let go of all of my expectations, all of my modern sensibilities and the things I demand of modern entertainment, I realized that I was having fun watching this show. A lot of fun. The kind of limitless creativity that can come from having all of time and space to explore is the same kind of freedom you had playing made-up games as a kid. Watching Dr. Who was like watching some precocious children play in the sandbox of their own imaginations. And I dug that.

So, there it is. I finally watched some Dr. Who. Did it blow me away? No. But will I continue to watch it? Probably, yes. Everyone could use 45 minutes of fun and adventure from time to time.

What do you think? Should I keep watching the show in order? Should I jump ahead to David Tennant? And what has been your experience with the show? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The One With the Comic Reviews

So, another Wednesday has come and gone. Ordinarily, this would be meaningless to me, but ever since I got back into reading comics this past summer, Wednesday has rapidly become my favorite day of the week. And since my arbitrary work schedule has rendered the relative meaning of any day of the week essentially moot, I now mostly think of Wednesdays as New Comic Book-day. In the spirit of regularly scheduled weekly excitement, I present to you the first installment in a (hopefully) ongoing segment: Comic Reviews*.

*Segment title and format subject to changes at whim.

First, this weeks haul:

Why yes, I am an amateur photographer! Thank you for asking. I find carpet to be a very satisfying universal background.
You will be seeing a lot of carpet, is what I'm saying.

Let's get started!

Action Comics #6
One Word Review: Dense
TL;DR Version: Don't get me wrong---I'm really enjoying Action Comics. Despite some weirdness from Rags Morales's art and the occasional bit of strange story pacing, I've been on board with this reworking of Superman's early career from the get go. This was one of the books I most looked forward to. And when I heard Andy Kubert was going to be taking over the pencils for issues 5 and 6, I was psyched. Then I realized that those two issues were going to interrupt the main story line, rather than continue it. Basically, Action #4 ends on a climactic story beat, and then the next two issues decide to talk about something else for a bit. Something that is seemingly completely unrelated. That's weird story structure to me. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes of this decision, all I know is that this is the second month in a row that I haven't understood a single thing that happened in Action Comics. I would like to lift a couple of lines of dialogue directly off the page for you to illustrate my point (spoiler-ish?):

"Nimrod the Hunter used a teleport rifle to fire a microscopic lead pellet into your brain. The pellet's hollow, and inside, there's a Tesseract space big enough to fit 30 people. I need to access your memory immediately."

That little nugget is courtesy of Saturn Girl, who is apparently a member of the Legion of Superheroes (along with Snowjob, perhaps? Don't quote me on that). But here is the thing: as a casual comics reader, those few sentences might as well have been Farsi to me. Now, I get the basics of it...someone fired an inhabited time machine into your brain. That's bad. But there's a lot of things that elude me. Who is Nimrod the Hunter? What is a teleport rifle? What the hell, any of this? That chunk of text basically represents this couple of issues of Action for me, in that I get what is loosely going on, but I feel like I'm missing out on the nuances of the story and what they have to do with anything. I will be glad to pick up next month's issue when the main story resumes.
Most Awesome: Superman gets VIOLENT Kryptonite poisoning. It's intense. You will believe this stuff is lethal.

Animal Man #6
One Word Review: Tangential
TL;DR Version: Another comic that takes a little vacation from the main story this week is Animal Man. In an effort to (I assume) give penciller Travel Foreman a bit of a break, this book brings in a guest penciller to handle all but the last few pages of the book. I think they wanted to make an effort to maintain a sense of artistic continuity in the book, so they opted to turn this issue into a viewing of Buddy Baker's (Animal Man) superhero indie film, Tights. It's an interesting device, but I came into this issue expecting another week of full-on Animal Man weirdness, and this wasn't it. This is a one-shot story that serves as a bit of a breather from the typhoon of crazy that has been assailing the Baker family (<---legit writing). It's an interesting enough read, but it just didn't do a whole lot for me. The films opening credits indicate it was directed by an Aronofsky type, and that is exactly what it feels like. This issue is essentially a reimagining of The Wrestler, and that's about it. Until the last few pages, that is. Eventually, the real world starts to disrupt the film world, and you realize why it is exactly that you've been "watching" this movie, and with whom you've been watching it. It's a nice move on the part of Jeff Lemire that has me even more invested in Buddy and his family, and ready to see them through whatever dangers await.
Most Awesome: I think I've seen this movie...

Batwing #6
One Word Review: Gripping
TL;DR Version: Batwing is an awesome series. If you are not reading it, I highly recommend that you pick up the previous issues and jump on board. This book is so much more than "Batman, but in Africa," which is what I initially wrote it off as. Compelling characters, an engrossing story, and unique artwork make Batwing much more than just another Bat-book. In fact, I would have to say that my least favorite parts of this book are the times when Batman shows up. David Zavimbe (Batwing) is a conflicted character with a legitimately disturbing past and a believable struggle for redemption, all of which is brought to the surface as the unstoppable Massacre continues his agenda to assassinate Africa's greatest heroes. Batwing is beginning to understand how to combat Massacre, and perhaps even who might be beneath the villain's mask. But somehow, with either meta-human resources or just an indomitable will, Massacre always seems to gain the upper hand. This interplay between the two feels consistently fresh, never predictable, and as the mystery behind Massacre's agenda deepens, I find myself waiting impatiently to discover what will happen next.
Most Awesome: Massacre's single-minded determination allows him to throw one hell of an explosive monkey wrench into Batwing's rescue attempt. If Batwing wasn't so cool, I'd be rooting for Massacre at this point. The dude is a BAD ASS.

Detective Comics #6
One Word Review: Meh
TL;DR Version: Detective Comics #1 was awesome. Grim, moody, and intense, you were riding shotgun with Batman, and he was having a ROUGH day. But with each successive issue, I find I care about what's going on less and less. All the characters blend together into an amorphous grey lump, and I find myself wondering about things like how Batman can so thoroughly furrow his brow through his mask, instead of being invested in what is happening. Like Action Comics, this is another book in which I feel like I don't understand what is going on. But this time, it isn't because the writer is going over my head. It's because Tony S. Daniel is telling a very muddy story. An important(?) character is pretty brutally attacked in this book, and while I responded viscerally to the brutality, I didn't particularly care about the characters predicament. The best thing I can say about this title is that it portrays Batman as ruthless and driven; you really can understand why criminals would be terrified by his presence. But does he do any detecting in Detective Comics? Not really. I have a sentimental attachment to this series, since the first comic I ever experienced was an issue of Detective. But I'm already reading Batman, which has been consistently impressive, so if Detective Comics doesn't turn around soon, I'll probably be forced to drop it.
Most Awesome: Batman "indirectly" causes a self-inflicted shotgun wound and then is all like, "Yeah. Deal with that."

Swamp Thing #6
One Word Review: Disturbing
TL;DR Version: You know, for a book in which the titular character has yet to appear, this series is kicking some serious ass. Yes, Alec Holland is the star, but he has yet to transform into Swamp Thing. The Rot makes for a horrifying force to be reckoned with, and between Swamp Thing and Animal Man, my nightmares should be fully stocked for the next few years. The urgency and the danger in Swamp Thing are ever-present, and that in itself is pretty cool. When I say this book is disturbing, I mean on several levels. Visually, yes, of course, but also in ways that affect your human core as you're reading. The last few pages of this issue are haunting and lonely, and despite the specifics of the situation, evocative of emotions that are immediately familiar to anyone. That's a cool thing to experience when you're reading a comic book. With the epic Red and Green vs the Rot showdown looming, and the cards seemingly stacked against the good guys, there is no reason to not be reading this book. Especially if you're willing to experience some aggressively weird things, because good lord...
Most Awesome: Abigail's creepy little brother tells a 2-page story about a chessboard for seemingly no reason, until you and Alec simultaneously realize what he's driving at...

Reed Gunther, the Bear-Riding Cowboy #6, #7, and #8
One Word Review: Funtastic; Clever; Awkward
TL;DR Version: Let me plug Reed Gunther for just a moment, since I really believe in what these guys are trying to do. Reed is an all-ages book. Not a kids book, but a book that is legitimately enjoyable for any age group. Think of it as a Pixar movie in comic book form: there's more than enough here to entertain anyone, young or old. And for that reason, you should give this book a try; or better yet, give it to someone you know who has never read a comic before. Having said that, I recently read the trade paperback which collected issues 1-5, and while I enjoyed reading them, I was not terribly compelled to keep going. But so many people I know continue to sing the praises of this book that when I saw issue #8 had come out this week, I picked it up, along with 6 and 7. I figured the least I could do was give it another shot, since brothers Shane and Chris Houghton are attempting something admirable with this title. I read #6 and enjoyed it very much. It's a cute origin story for the characters, with the series trademark expressive artwork and good-natured humor. There were some genuinely funny moments, and I was thinking that maybe I had been too quick to judge the title. Until I read issue #7. It was a clever story, with the same elements present that were in the previous issue (albeit a rather rushed conclusion), but something was missing. Issue #8 was even worse. Without getting too spoiler-y, one of the characters acts extremely differently for unclear reasons. At first it appears to be put on, but then you come to realize it's genuine, and it honestly just doesn't make sense. I get that the stories are supposed to be light and fluffy, but it's such a sudden and marked absence of any sort of psychology that I just couldn't get past it. Maybe I'm expecting too much from this title, but I don't think that's the case. It feels more like sloppiness in the writing to me at this point, and that is something that might disappear as the series continues and the creators get a bit more comfortable. For now, I can recognize that Reed Gunther is an entertaining book with a lot going for it, and I would definitely recommend it to others. It just isn't for me.
Most Awesome: Young Reed discovers the definition of "guff"; real men take shots of whiskey with bullets in them!; Sterling gets in touch with his feminine side

So those are my reviews. Already I don't think this will be my on-going review format, but hey, I tried. Some of these got a bit long-winded, huh? Well, thanks for reading this far, and please feel free to sound off in the comments. Anything you liked, or didn't like, about my opinions or my format? I promise to keep things's kind of my thing. 

And since I apparently need to cease any and all blogging until I have seen at least one episode of Dr. Who, that is exactly what I shall do (<----awesome rhyming). Join me next time to see what that experience was like! Or will have been like? Maybe after watching I'll learn a bit more about time tenses.

EDIT: My buddy Jason has posted an advance review of the upcoming graphic novel Womanthology over at Fanboy Comics. You should check it out if you want to learn more about this book: