Friday, 28 October 2016

Slayaway Camp - A Review: Member 80's horror movies? Ooh, I member.

One day not too long ago, today in fact, I was watching a video by the wonderful Jim Sterling on that YouTube website you may of heard about. It was a 'Jimpressions' video where the man himself voices his opinions on various video games that have been unleashed upon the world. Now, the video game Jim was discussing at this particular time was a newly released game on Steam that I haven't heard anything about before today - It's name? Slayaway Camp.

Slayaway Camp is a game that immediately drew me in thanks to its use of morbid humour, strangely adorable art style, and of course, the many fantastic references to the greatest horror movies of the past few decades. The most obvious homage that you will no doubt instantly recognise (thanks to the banner image for this review) is to Friday the 13th. You control Jason Voorhees Skullface, a violent mass murdering kind of guy as he navigates a range of locations, mostly based upon a summer camp, on a mission to disembowel, maim, and completely fuck up the days of many unfortunate teenagers.

While the gameplay itself is rather standard, it still manages to be an incredibly fun experience. Having only played two hours of Slayaway Camp at the time of writing, I find myself eager to continue instilling terror into the lives of these teens, but hey, articles don't just write themselves now, do they? The aim of the game is simple - you merely have to choose the correct path to navigate through in order to destroy these people and then escape the area before the fuzz arrive (in some cases). Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is. ...up to a point. Jeez, some levels have had me racking my brain over just what the fuck I'm doing wrong, and then I realise just how much of an idiot I am, get onto the right path, and move onto the next killing ground.

It's fairly obvious that the most entertaining part of Slayaway Camp is the imaginative, gruesome death-scenes. I mean, c'mon, you can literally crush somebody's head with a book using a kill-moved called, what else? Yep, "Face Booked". There is a healthy number of ways to dispatch the victims, though one of the downsides which I should mention is the fact that you will see many of the death-scenes multiple times which quickly start to feel incredibly repetitive and thus make them lose quite a bit of entertainment value. It's easy enough to look past, I guess. It is but one flaw in an otherwise terrific game.

My favourite aspect of this game is not found within the gameplay, nor is it the creative ways to send people into the eternal darkness that is Death's realm. No, it is the main menu. What better menu is there for a love letter to retro horror than a video store?

The videos that you see in the image above actually form the various levels of the game, and each one so far has unlocked a brand new killer. I genuinely love this feature, it really fits with the overall theme of the game and somehow even manages to invoke an odd feeling of nostalgia. I can recall being a child visiting the various video stores, it was like being in Heaven. I loved just wandering around looking at all the movies, and if I could, I'd try to convince my parents to get me a video. Horror was my jam. I've always been a big horror buff, even from a young age. There's something so uniquely wonderful about being scared shitless (whilst remaining entirely physically safe of course).

During the credits, played whenever you fuck up, there is a huge list of famous horror characters (that I won't spoil here), and I'm currently unaware if they're there purely to reference their status as horror icons, or if they are unlockable characters for the player. I know that I am definitely holding out hope for the latter. 

I would be entirely remiss if I failed to mention the exemplary work done in terms of the music for the game. A band called Gnü Truntion has provided the soundtrack for Slayaway Camp, and let me tell you, they have done a terrific job. In general, the instrumental music featured absolutely manages to perfectly emulate the style used in those old horror movies that we all know and love. While those songs are all well and good, I should mention the theme song and the track that plays over the credits: "Only the Strong Survive", and "Love is Like a Machete". These two tracks are standout. I think you guys will enjoy them, I certainly did.

But anyway, here we are at the end of the review. So, to wrap up, I suppose I best offer my overall thoughts on the game. Well, it won't come as a surprise to you at this point that I loved it. Slayaway Camp has great replayability value, truly enjoyable cut-scenes and sense of humour, I adore the art style used, and can easily see myself spending many more hours playing through this game without getting bored. For £4.43 (usually £5.99), what do you have to lose? Yeah, okay, £5.99, sure, but in my opinion, this game is worth the cost. Kudos to Blue Wizard Digital for their highly enjoyable game.

Slayaway Camp is now available on Steam.
Image Credits: Blue Wizard Digital.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Punisher #1: A Review

Well, it's finally here! A series that I have been waiting for since Marvel's ANAD line-up was announced: The Punisher. I have been a fan of The Punisher comics for a good few years now, with my first introduction to the character being the 2004 series "The Punisher" by Garth Ennis, a truly brutal, riveting read.

Let's start at the very beginning, the first thing we see of this new run: the cover.

Spooky scary Punisher
I have to say, I really like it. I mean, look at it! Of course it would depict a skull, what else would it have been? We see Frank Castle's cold eyes staring up at us, ripped over the skull, seeing red. Even if you have never heard of The Punisher before, you know full well that this will not be a story for children, y'know, if the parental warning wasn't a big enough clue.

I suppose now would be a good time to start discussing the content. First off, it just wouldn't be a Punisher comic without cold-blooded, savage murder-sprees. When the Punisher finds his target, there's no stopping him. Enhanced via a drug that "turns $# %@-ass shrimps into soldiers with one toke", a couple of guys try to take down the man himself. Ha! They must be on something to think they ever stood a chance, enhanced or not. The Punisher dispatches the pair quite brutally, which, let's be honest, is one of the prime reasons for us to read these comics, right? Though I do find it confusing why they freely depict intense gore at the same time as censoring swear-words.
We are also introduced to Face, CONDOR's second in command, a man that would've loved to meet Scott Snyder's Joker. Punisher villains do tend to have violent hobbies, but this guy really goes for it with his private collection.

In terms of story, there's not really much to say at this point. It's the usual Punisher set-up, Punisher kills, the law turns up late, drug manufacturers are evil, and questions are raised. Let's be fair though, it is only the first issue, and we cannot judge the whole story based upon one chapter. I can't say there were any moments that really stuck out to me, nothing that I'm sure to remember in the months to come, but what we were given deserves a chance to evolve into something bigger, bolder, unique. I'm genuinely looking forward to discovering more about the characters introduced here as we go on.

Moving on to the art, well, what can be said? If it wasn't for the fact Steve Dillon can only draw one face, I'd enjoy his art (and yes, I do find it amusing that there is a villain known as The Face in a comic drawn by a man who can only draw one). I don't like to bad-mouth a person's hard work, but for the sake of this review, I must offer my thoughts.

Art-style is a crucial part of comics, and Dillon's inability to vary facial features is incredibly distracting. If you're a fan of the Punisher comics, you're no doubt familiar with Dillon's design for the character; for me, well, I find it horrible. The Punisher is a man who goes around slaughtering criminals on a daily basis, I feel like Steve Dillon's design (face) is a little too cartoony for the character. Compare this with Leandro Fernández' art style for the 2004 run:
This is a page from one of my favourite arcs in the 2004 run. This is the style I love for the character.
Frank is PISSED!
Anyway, onto the more positive aspects. Aside from the facial issue, I don't actually mind Dillon's style. Sure, I may not like how he draws Frank Castle, but that isn't to say that the man cannot draw, because he clearly can. He is not afraid to offer up a healthy portion of blood and guts, which is good because, y'know, The Punisher. I have to give kudos to Dillon for the final page of #1, what a great visual to leave us on.

Overall, this issue was a good read. It could have been better, sure. Did it feel like a first issue? No, not really, but still, Ms. Cloonan is off to a promising start, and I look forward to seeing where she takes one of my favourite comic characters. I would love for Cloonan to introduce us to some truly memorable moments and adversaries that go down in Punisher history. Punisher #2 cannot come soon enough, and I hope you guys will join me in reading it and message me your thoughts.

Well, that's me done, dear readers. I hope you enjoyed reading my opinions on this propitious series. I'd like to continue writing reviews, especially for The Punisher (2016-), so I would be incredibly grateful for any feedback offered. What did you like? What didn't you like? Am I talking out of my backside?

The Punisher #1 is available now. Written by: Becky Cloonan, Art by: Steve Dillon, Cover by: Declan Shalvey.
Image Credits: Marvel Comics.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Why Game Development, Oli?

The power of entertainment media astounds me. The fact that a person can get completely immersed in a new world, be it digital, or in your own mind (induced by the written word) is amazing.

One of the reasons I became focused on game development is because when I was having a difficult time, I was constantly looking for ways to lose myself, and entertainment media helped me so much. I could forget all about any problems I was having, I could be someone else, I was someone else: A hero, a villain, a lovable rogue (depending on which game I was playing).
Video games became one of my main escapes. I think a lot of people underestimate just how much video games in particular can help a person who needs an outlet. Sure, TV shows and movies can help with escapism as well (LOST will forever hold a special place in my heart), but there's just something so personal with gaming. You are involved, interacting, and in some cases; actually shaping the world, rather than simply watching things play out with no input from yourself.
Anyway, back to my point, I'm focused on game development because I would love the opportunity to make a video game that helps people who need that escape, who need to forget themselves for a time. Not a game specifically made for such a purpose, perhaps, but as long as something that I worked on helps someone feel better, even if it's just for a while, it'll be worth it.

I Submit to Peer-Pressure

Over the past few weeks, I've started to learn how to model using 3D software (specifically Blender). As I've mentioned before, I am aiming to be an artist for the gaming industry, so learning 3D is essential.

Luckily for me, there are a butt-load of tutorials all over the internet, or y'know; YouTube. I've been using these tutorials to make models of dinosaurs, houses, fields, low-poly landscapes, and I've recently started working on a lightsaber. To be perfectly honest, most of the models I have made so far are, in my opinion, terrible. SO TERRIBLE IN FACT, THAT THEY SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY! Hence the the title of this post. One of my friends has told me that I should actually go right ahead and post screenshots of anything I'm working on.
Most of these models are still works in progress, and really don't look very great, but hey, I'm only a beginner, and I'm putting in the work to improve.
Anyway, enough of my babbling bullshit, here are a few examples of what I've been working on so far:

Okay, first up is the throne of Erebor. This was actually the first model I worked on without the aid of a tutorial. This image is slightly out of date as I've now replaced the floor. I'm going to sort out fixing the textures whenever I work on this next.
If I had the money, I'd commission someone to sculpt me a real Erebor throne.

Okay, next up is a low-poly lonely volcano in the middle of a sea. This was purely intended to be practice for lighting, water, and node-compositing. I feel the lighting is a bit off here, but overall, I'm happy with how this has turned out so far, particularly the water. I think I'll add more features to the volcano and lava.
I don't think I'd like a volcano lair. Too much maintenance.

Finally, here's the lightsaber that I've been working on. This is my current project, so it's far from finished. I still need to add textures, improve the lighting, and piss around with the nodes. Obviously the blade is supposed to have a much more impressive looking glow to it, but I haven't reached that stage yet; that's done in compositing. I'm happy with how this is going.
I'd also like a real, working lightsaber, but I doubt that'll be happening any time soon.
I'd show off the 'work in progress' T-Rex, and Hobbit-Hole, but they still require a lot more to be done.
So yeah, there are three examples of what I'm working on, and hopefully soon, I'll have the completely finished versions to show you, as well more 'in progress' models.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Billy and the Cloneasaurus

When I was a child, I was captivated by a unique theme-park. What made this park unique, you ask? The attractions. It wasn't your traditional theme-park with rollercoasters, waltzers, and bumper carts, no; this park had dinosaurs! I know you know which park I'm talking about!

Alton Towers.
I cannot tell you just how many times I watched Jurassic Park growing up, I think it was my most watched movie ever until I discovered The Godfather movies. It was this movie alone that embedded a life-long fascination with dinosaurs within me.
Over the years, the film received two sequels. One I found hugely enjoyable, and one that... well, let's just not.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park, I've never had an issue with, I very much enjoyed it growing up. I thought it was a good sequel with many enthralling sequences (the hunters chasing the herbivores for example; outstanding!), though there were parts which could, and probably should have been omitted.
The third movie, I know I'm not alone in my dislike for. If it's on TV, I'm fine with sitting down and watching it if there's nothing else on, but they messed up so badly. It seems that a common complaint is the communication between raptors, but I never really had an issue with that. I love the raptors. Hell, I wasn't even that upset about the Spinosaurus killing off the Tyrannosaur, though I would've liked for the Rex to live. My main issues with the movie were the humans, and the plot. It didn't even really have a proper ending. It just sort of ended. The Spinosaur ran off, the raptors ran off, the surviving people ran to the beach. "YAY RESCUE!", roll credits. Alan Grant is a fine character, Sam Neill a fine actor. I feel like they were both wasted assets in JPIII.

"Wait, remind me, why did I agree to do this?"
Anyway, enough of that, I'm sure you're aware that recently a fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise was released to the world. Yesterday morning, I was first in line, and first to find my seat in the cinema. Words cannot express how hyped up I had become. I often try to avoid any hype because surely you're setting yourself up for disappointment, but with this movie, I couldn't help it. The trailers, the recently released soundtrack on Spotify, I had to see this movie.

I was in awe throughout the entire 124 minutes. I'm sure I had a smile on my face the entire time. It was just something to see John Hammond's dream fully realised, and completely operational, until, of course, it wasn't. The instantly recognisable themetune of Jurassic Park playing as we pan over the crowded Jurassic World gave me goosebumps. I was overwhelmed by the music, the visuals, the nostalgia. This entire movie experience is something that I'll remember whenever I rewatch it.

Jurassic World has a healthy dose of references to the previous movies, including what appears to be a cheeky 'fuck you' to a certain Jurassic Park III moment, and it was so brilliant to see the queen of Isla Nublar once again. Naturally, the film contained a number of references to the first park, as it takes place on the exact same island some 22 years later. I don't doubt that fans will probably notice even more 'easter-eggs' during rewatches; something that I'm looking forward to.

Jurassic World should definitely be seen as a direct sequel to Jurassic Park rather than JPIII, which is why I'm glad they named it as they have, rather than Jurassic Park IV.
I recently read a post by a Redditor who described Jurassic World as the second quest of a main storyline, whereas The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park III are the side-quests. I love that, I think it sums it up perfectly.

Speaking of games, we definitely need an Operation Genesis sequel. ...Please?
Like all movies, there were a few inconsistencies and low points, but I feel like they are easily forgivable. Though there was a particular moment towards the end that I think should have gone differently, it just kind of stuck out to me. You'll probably know which part I'm referring to when you see it.
The older brother initially bothered me as well. He seemed like a stereotypical teenage character. Disinterested in the world around him, a bit moody, always on his phone. I don't care how many times you've seen a dinosaur, who the Hell spends their entire time on their phone when you're surrounded by these creatures?! It's fine though, that doesn't last too long. Once he and his brother see the Mosasaur, he starts to enjoy the park.

Whenever a Jurassic Park movie is revealed, there are always people on the internet moaning about the way the featured dinosaurs look; how they should have feathers, and all that kind of crap. C'mon, people, it's a film, it doesn't have to be 100% realistic.
In Jurassic World, Henry Wu (the chief geneticist for InGen) finally defends the animals' appearance in this series. He explicitly states that these creatures are genetically modified species, they can be made to look however the geneticists want, and if they actually went ahead and created them realistically, they wouldn't look anything like what they do presently. I am so pleased this moment was included.

You are aware this is a work of fiction, right, guys?
Jurassic World doesn't directly set up a sequel, though it does plant the seeds for one. I think it appears to be fairly obvious which direction they want to take the franchise if they do go ahead with another film, and to be honest, I'm a little worried about it, but hey, that worry is for another time. As it stands, Jurassic World was a tremendous success in my eyes. The 'professional' critics can say what they want. They can bitch about the plot, focus on the few minor inconsistencies, but who gives a shit? I think the fans of the Jurassic Park universe will love this worthy sequel.

I would have loved to see a mid-credits scene of Ian Malcolm or Alan Grant watching a news report about the incident at Jurassic World and just face-palming, or shaking their head like they expected this kind of thing to happen.

To wrap this up, I cannot recommend this film highly enough to the fans of the original movie. I hope to go see JW a second time within the week. Let's see if I love it as much as I do after a second viewing.

Hard Boiled Fury - The GDB TTG Success Story

Last Thursday morning to Friday afternoon, I took part in Hull University's Windows 10 Three Thing Game. In TTG events, each team is allocated three words, then given 24 hours to produce a playable game in accordance with those words. They are always enjoyable, and I encourage everybody to take part if they have the chance to.

My team and I (The Game Dev Bastards Brothers) were given the words 'Food', 'Much', and 'Many', so naturally, we based our game around food, a lot of food. We began by throwing out a few ideas as to what our game could involve. Ultimately, we decided to go with a Worms based game.

The time had come; Windows 10 was installed on the computers, Unity 5 ready to go, and a hoard of junk food purchased, so much junk food! So much so that our given words could be applied to our supply.

We decided that the game world, as well as weapons, and characters should all be based around food. Machine guns we called 'Peppersprays' (guess what they fired), pineapple grenades, banana-bombs. Currently, the only playable food character is an egg (Frank Reynolds would be so pleased), though if the production continues, more will be added. During the 24 hours, we only managed to include a single level; a candy world, lollipops, candy canes, a custard river. The platform itself was made up of cake blocks with pink frosting.

Over the course of production, we found ourselves repeatedly playing the game just because of how fun it was already. Bare-bones in terms of gameplay, but it was still very enjoyable.

Once the 24 hours were up, it was time for everybody to go around and try out the other teams' games. Frig me, there were some hugely impressive games, amazing work. The judging panel also went around testing out games for themselves. Thankfully, they seemed to enjoy our game.

Time and voting past, we all made our way to a lecture theatre for the results. Amazing, our team was in the top six! I've never placed in the top teams in a game-jam / TTG before. So happy. Finally, after the top six finalists were announced, it was time to reveal who made it to the top three. Oh, shit me! I can't believe it, we actually made it to second place! For the first time ever, I've been in a team that placed in both the top six finalists, and the top three! What an outcome. I'm so happy.
The team that won first place (and a pair of XBox Onesies) were very deserving winners; they had a game that looked hugely impressive that I hope they publish.
In my opinion, the top three (and six) places could've included any of the games produced this year, it must've been extremely difficult to judge.

I'm looking forward to working with the people in my team again soon. Cambridge is coming up next, let's hope we achieve success there as well.

I'll leave you with a video demonstration of our game (which will explain the gameplay mechanics so much more than I have in this post), narrated by the brilliant Sam Spain(.com):

Monday, 30 March 2015

Hello there.

Today's task: Introduce myself.

Hello (again). I'm Oliver, or Olly / Ollie / Oli, whatever you'd like (within reason).
I'm a graduate from the University of Hull, where I studied computer science with games development.

Now, why am I starting a blog? Simple, it has been advised multiple times throughout my time at university that we should all write blogs to get ourselves out there. I know, I know, I've graduated university and I'm only just now starting my blog. Well, there's a good reason for that; I felt like I had sod all worth saying. I'm going to try now though.

I'm going to attempt to fill my blog with any artwork I've created; thoughts on various video games, movies, shows; as well as a load of old bollocks about whatever is on my mind.
    ...Yeah, you can expect a decent amount of that last one.

Anyway, I hope you'll find my ramblings amusing, and here's hoping that I can keep myself entertained enough to keep this blog updated.