Double Fine Games came into super extra megaton popularity earlier this year with their monumental Kickstarter that launched the excellent Double Fine Adventure game now codenamed REDS along with the so far six episode documentary Doublefine Adventure from 2 Player Productions. If you aren’t already a backer on that and getting to enjoy the awesoment development, art, production and stories on this future old school inspired modern adventure point n click adventure game from the mind of Tim Schaefer and as of now featuring the art design of Peter Chan, Scott Campbell and most specifically Nathan “Bagel” Stapely, there’s still time with their Slacker Backer program. That isn’t what this is about though. In the continued interests of opening of their doors to all, Double Fine decided to take their annual two week new idea/prototype development session a public event. Titled Amnesia Fortnight, previous years have brought forth prototypes that gave us games such as Costume Quest, Stacking, Trenched and Once Upon A Monster. Now this year we’ll be seeing five new prototypes, but for the first time these prototypes will be shared with the public. Well that is if they buy into the Humble Bundle for the program. Not only will one get these 5 new prototypes though, they’ll also get three old prototypes if they give at least the minimum top price suggested on the bundle. Humble Bundle gives to charity as much as it does itself and the developers, you get to choose how much you give for how much you get and how it gets allocated. The three prototypes available are Happy Song (which became Once Upon A Monster), the original Costume Quest and a game called Brazen which was made in last years Fortnight and is now being prepared for further development. Along with the prototypes you’ll also get documentary episodes of the daily progress on the development produced by 2 Player. On top of all that there is also a live stream from twitch, running from 10 AM-6 PM PST. It has been running since last week and shall continue along till the games are ready to be shared in the two week process. Each of the five games being developed were actually whittled down from 23 pitches from various Double Fine employees which were voted upon by fans who discovered the Humble Bundle project on day one and wanted to be right on the ground floor. It could be said the five best choices were selected, but some of the games not being worked on this Fortnight definitely deserve exploring at some point and I believe this is honest being considered. Of the five games I personally am excited for the two artistically envisioned games, but from the work shown on all them they should all be awesome. Here’s a list of the five, short descriptions based on my personal understanding, and a cool progress image that shows what I think is exciting. More images can be seen on the Doublefine Tumblr and the Doublefine forums. The White Birch: A plat-former with exploration, there won’t be foes, but the protagonist must continue climbing and exploring to reach the top of a strange tower where an actual White Birch tree sits with a prize and I assume the only way home. I believe the prizes and exploration will change in repeated playthroughs as there will be multiple paths to the top, but not ways to actually go back and explore the other paths once you choose one. Here’s some early concept art from Derek Brand.
Black Lake: From the mind of Levi Ryken, this looks like it’ll be a 3rd person top down perspective. You’ll be playing a mythical animal hunter who doesn’t actually hunt, but uses some type of dream control mechanic to capture these supernatural beasts in a combination of action/adventure and another mechanic not fully explored. Levi’s art concepts are what really attracted me on this one. Here’s a final version of the lead protagonist he designed.
Autonomous: The brainchild of Lee Petty, the same man who gave us the ingenious STACKING, this is set to be a first person game (the first 1st person game from Double Fine they keep saying, although I thought that the cancelled SPECS was first person). In it your character programs, but does not control Automotons… also known as robots. Through basic input these bots will help the character explore and survive the world he has found himself in. The team is hard at work on robots and especially making really awesome looking arms that would be the main inputting. Here’s Lee’s early arms design that 3d modeller Ray Crook has been building furiously.
Spacebase DF-9: A simesque game that being pitched/promoted as Dwarf Fortress in Space with graphics (and I assume simpler mechanics). You’ll be building a spacebase, hiring employees, setting up shop, and placing characters in situations and then watch what happens, with each playthrough creating a virtual fiction/story that I assume can be easily shared. I have to admit I am still not sold completely on where the fun is here. I understand some people find this fun and once upon a time I actually thought the idea of games like this sounded like the most fun ever, but I’ve changed. What I feel shall be one of the saving graces of this game is the creative minds of DF instilling their humorous creative juices and also that Nathan Stapely is working on the character designs that will if anything make the game fun to look at. I know I keep using the word game, instead of demo and/or prototype… as none of these will be full games, but a game is still something someone can play and hopefully have fun with, so… game. Spacebase doesn’t really have any mockup graphics to show off that make me go “Oooh…” but the twitch.tv stream showed Bagel working on the characters and they look great.
Hack n Slash: A NES/SNES Zelda-esque game in which instead of slashing away at stuff, you actually try to hack the game using codes, glitches and various secrets to find your way around monsters, walls, and more. Team leader, head programmer Brandon Dillon really seems to have most of the game figured out mentally, so it all comes down to the programming itself. Mark Hamer has come up with a great character design and Raz has conceptualized an awesome background, so visually this game is looking awesome. I actually at first really couldn’t even see how this game would work, but I really do look forward to it.
So get in on the ground floor now for what could be the next best great Double Fine game to come after the upcoming The Cave from the mind of Ron Gilbert, the iOS superhero management sim Middle Manager of Justice, the sequel to Double Fine Action Theater known as Kinect Party, Double Fine Adventure and who knows what else they have up their sleeves. If the 2012 Amnesia Fortnight is any hint to some of the ideas running around, expect awesomeness.
At NYCC I had the privilege to sit with actors Hank Harris, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Jamie Clayton to discuss their interactive web series DIRTY WORK, part of the very awesome and amazing Rides.TV from Fourth Wall Productions. During the talk lots of subjects were discussed from acting in a role which required a bit of a different style because of the elements involved, to the particulars of Jamie’s character and her landing the role. Mary Lynn also mentions she’ll be in the upcoming Arrested Development episodes on Netflix. Here’s hoping she got to have scenes with both her former co-stars in David Cross (on Mr. Show) AND Jeffrey Tambor (on Larry Sanders).
At the end of this I’ll be posting the video of the roundtable interview for all to see in full.
Firstly, let me just discuss RIDES.TV quickly. This internet only channel features shows of varying types and length, but all in the premise of interaction and immersion. When you provide the site your cell number, it connects when you watch a show and you’ll receive txts, images and phone calls that add to the experience with inner thoughts, voice mails, or side information that builds the plot & gives you information that now only you and another character knows but that the others don’t. It’s an innovative and exciting way to present information. What’s awesome is most of the shows can be enjoyed without that phone concept as they’re well written and very well acted. Currently the site has a motion comic/cartoon, a few dramatic/comedy shorts and a Wall of Suspense & Horror that reminds one of episodes from Twilight Zone/Tales from the Darkside. Most recently they added a short with Ethan Embry and Michael Ironside.
The series that I found most enjoyable of course was DIRTY WORK, an ensemble comedy about people who clean up after crime scenes. After that investigating and all that jazz, someone has to come in and clean up all the blood & guts not taken into evidence. So far there were only three episodes, but they are really funny 23 minute episodes with amazing bonuses and extras. All that out of the way, here’s the interview.
The future of comics is a precarious place, as print is still alive and well and should be for awhile, the digital format is making great leaps and bounds. From the advent of Comixology and its build in sales, not to mention Marvel’s success with their digital subscription, the winds of change have been blowing.
Kurt Christenson and Reilly Brown really began the rally in my eyes of what might be possible with the digital format through their comic POWER PLAY. Although Motion comics aren’t a new thing altogether. Even before Marvel started doing their motion comics, companies like Bryon Preiss Multimedia were playing with the idea of combining sound and motion in comics and during its existence Crossgen also worked on it, but the new tablet/mobile format, as well as advances in technology has pushed things to another level altogether.
Two new companies are at the forefront of the movement, MADEFIRE and NARR8 and currently both are offering their applications, as well as their associated books for free. I attempted in speaking to PR people for both companies to get a better understanding of how they got their investment capital and what type of profit return exists in terms of the future of the business, but to no avail. Saying that I did learn a lot of other things about each company and will explain why both are worth your time and quality of life to experience.
Madefire is the brainchild of marketing genius Ben Wolstenholme, founder of Moving Brands, long established comics artist Liam Sharp and Mobile Technology/Cloud Computing Guru Eugene Walden. It features some of the most well known and talented comics creators of both recent and legendary status with features that run from superhero to noir. Some of the folks involved are Dave Gibbons, Robbie Morrison, Jimmy Broxton (or James Hodgkins as rumors state), Sheperd Hendrix, Dougie Braithwaite, Angus McKie, Mike Carey and an assortment of other folks that any comic book fan truly worth their salt should at least marginally know of. The application currently features six series, my personal fave being what is also considered their lead feature, a book based in noir, horror, and war action in a wonderful pastiche of concepts from the one non comics guy on the brand, co-founder Ben Wolstenholme (although assisted by Liam). I’m also very intrigued by the Gary Erskine illustrated sci-fi story written by former video-game producer turned comics writer W. Haden Blackman tackling his first original IP. I am hoping in the future some of Blackman’s understanding of interactive entertainment may be used in Madefire’s future. The infrastructure of Madefire as a whole is actually truly fascinating. Moving Brands unsurprisingly helped a lot with the development of the product and its marketing and there’s an awesome web page dedicated to it in their portfolio.
On the other end of the spectrum NARR8 is a complete start-up full of unknown artist studios based in Russia. The website states that the founder is Alexandr Vashchenko, with the main investor being IMI.VC and naming Igor Matshyneko, the lead at IMI.VC as the CEO of NARR8. Alexandr is also the lead at one of the main arms of IMI.VC, mobile gaming company GameInsight. This suggests to me that they are all one company under the head of very creative, intelligent men and woman with headquarters in Moscow and San Francisco. At New York Comic Con I was more than fortunate to sit with the head of public relations on Narr8′s part, Alisa Faber and get a bit of a more hands on look at NARR8 and I have to admit, as much as Madefire is awesome because of it’s immense lineup of quality ,well known creators, NARR8 ups the ante in terms of interactive application and a new way of reading comics, novels and even magazines. In terms of the magazines they have a popular science magazine titled PARADIGM and a historical one called CHRONOGRAPHICS. In this issue of Paradigm, which was the first episode of season 1 (this is how they are marking issues, as episodes of a season) it showed off the optics how different animals view the world. Through an excellent combination of animation, interaction, well-written text and fantastic photography I could see how birds, butterflies, bulls, and insects among more see with an added bonus at thend of showing how each spieces would see the same exact scene. It was both fun and informative, which can equally be said of the history magazine. In the second episode of that series, the topic is a very vast look titled “Cortez and the Conquest of Mexico” which takes both a very serious look at the history, while evoking some fun with it through very clever animations. The work is broken down into date segments and almost has the feel of when reading through those historical txts in Assassin’s Creed games where you choose to emerge yourself in the world and accidentally get educated, here you choose to get educated, but also have fun while doing so. Below here’s some soundless video that shows off Paradigm and Chronographics “in action”, just to give you a small taste of the awesome available. The same work and energy went into the comics I speak of the next paragraph.
The comics I got to see were Final Feat, based in mythology and JAM, which is a mangaesque story based in Video Games and also features some awesome 8-Bit music. One of the cooler features is that when you stay on a panel long enough you’ll get to see some animation and in some cases clicking on the page will show off another interactive element. This was even more clear in the two prose features I got to scope in FEAR HUNTERS and MULTIVERSE. Multiverse actually really holds onto a tried and true concept on some of my favorite sci-fi novels, the random footnote, but displaying it through much more interesting and intriguing means, such as pop-ups or video animations within the screen itself. I am highly impressed that all this work is being developed from script, to art, to technology, music and animation as well as the proprietary engine within the Narr8 page which runs the HTML 5 data or in certain cases Unity.
Narr8 will hopefully be launching sometime soon, with over 11 titles which you should definitely check all of them out. Unfortunately at launch it will only be on iPad, but Android tablets will come next, followed by mobile and according to what I see, on the website itself as well. This last one excites me personally most, as reading comics while sitting at my desk is ideal.
Being a trained chef who prior to getting an expensive education read and studied cookbooks for fun means that I now infrequently use such books. Although I do turn to them when needing some new pointers, or a very popular or famous chef compiles their favorite original concoctions along with personal anecdotes and now as a technophile I actually checking out cookbook apps and software when I can or when offered a look.
I have tried out Better Homes and Garden’s, Cooks Illustrated and more, and the biggest issue I found in them was that you have to have an internet connection always running to get to the recipes. Yes, we are talking about iPhone/iPad apps so the idea that you’d be offline is pretty crazy, but what if you’re doing a barbeque in the Ozarks and for one second you decide… “Hey, this potato salad is so boring… what else can I do with potato salad?” and in this imaginary situation you have access to any food or food item you want, but no internet and you’re flavor profile mind isn’t just kicking in. So an app which you can download recipes to before you head to the Ozarks is best right?I’ve been sampling a few that were okay, but had many flaws I didn’t care for and have missed a few that fascinated me but were truly out of my price range and there’s some that haven’t come out yet. There are a variety of interesting celebrity sponsored apps such as ones from excellent chefs and television personalities like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver and when looking for something very specific they come in handy. There’s even a version of Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything”, but that is much more a guidebook to cooking and less so a cookbook collection.
That’s what the app iCookBook can help with. Although it’s much more than that. In terms of layout and design I’ve liked it much more than any of the others. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the best of the recipes though, despite being many of them and I mean any. The collection is of all Brand name recipes, things from boxes of products ranging from Kraft, Hershey’s, Pace, Wish-Bone and more. Of course you wouldn’t have to use the name brand product if trying a recipe, you could use something similar and probably get the same results.
The app has monthly free downloads adding new recipes along with optional paid recipe options based on themes and styles.
The setup is as easy as many, you get your ingredient list and then follow very simple instructions. You can find recipes via filters such as method of cooking, theme, time of creating the dish, theme of the dish, and more. For someone like me I’d be using it as just a pointer, but it’s definitely a good pointer and much easier to use than any of the other apps as I said and more versatile. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover something new and interesting too, with over 2000 recipes available on download and many more there’s going to be something I didn’t ever learn in school or post school studies.
It also has easy access to items such as conversion charts and substitutions, the ability to create a shopping list and offers customer service.
It might be public knowledge that I am a Canadaphile, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ever bear repeating. I’m not just talking about liking certain bands or television shows that have gained release in America or Internationally though, a lot of people like the music of Neil Young, the acting of Michael J. Fox and David Cronenberg films. My love goes as far as not just Degrassi, but all Canadian teenage shows that have appeared on Disney, Teen Nick, The N, ABC Family, etc and more so the ones that only aired on Canadian Family, CBC and other Canadian Networks (and in cases the UK and Australia), but never made it to the US airwaves.
All this is to preface my excitement when I heard about the new iPhone/iPad app Totally Amp’d, a Canadian produced “web series” with similarities to shows such as Instant Star and 2Gether, both Canadian produced shows about discovering and promoting young talent. Produced by Smokebomb Entertainment, a Division of Shaftesbury, the show was created with Smokebomb’s three creative heads Jarrett Sherman, Daniel Dales and Jay Bennett who all have quality resumes. The program and app features music written by C.E.O. of Jingle Punks Music, Jared Gutstadt and features all kinds of genres, giving it a something for everyone feel in the sound department. On the writing team is Karen McCellan, previously of Being Erica and on three out of 10 episodes, Christin Simms who was a major part of Jimmy Two-Shoes, Clone High and Dino Dan.
What is most exciting aboutTotally Amp’d though is the amazing cast. The big pull on the series in terms of who they are marketing to mostly would be Cristine Prosperi. Cristine is currently a major player on Degrassi, coming in on season 11 as a new foil character attracted to the very popular Eli played the extremely popular Munro Chambers. Cristine gained a following immediately like most Degrassi cast members, but it is a deserving one as she is both gorgeous and talented. For the slightly older fan though there’s a major draw too in Ashley Leggat who became famous on “Life With Derek” which ran from 2005-2009, there she garnered a fan base in Canada and America and has made appearances in popular Shaftesbury shows such as Murdoch Mysteries and Aaron Stone, including an appearance on Cartoon Network’s Unnatural History. The third known commodity on the show is Demetrius Joyette, best known from the Canadian Teencom “Wingin’ It” which has unfortunately never aired in the U.S. Rounding out the cast are newcomers to television Amanda Thomson and Brock Morgan, as well the very experienced yet youngest member of the cast Camden Angelis (who has even done an episode of Scare Tactics). The show also features the talents of James A. Woods (no relation to the other actor of the same name) who has a expansive resume.
There are two other talents not in the initial marketing of the show to make note of. Shemar Williams, a very popular and talented dancer who actually had a dancing training segment for kids on TV and Dewshane Williams who had major roles in Baxter and Being Erica.
All the promotional hype out of the way, how is the actual final product? Excellent. The songs are fantastic, actually the main shining light more than anything. The characters are awesome too. It should be noted that while there are 10 appisodes, each appisode isn’t more than 6 minutes each, creating an about one hour short film. It’s a perfect length for the iPhone though where this show is made to live. Although it also fits the new professionally made web series format.
What makes the app part special are the unlockable karaoke format songs, the editable music videos and the highly entertaining dress em up. There are seven songs that you can record your own vocals for and then input them into a remix which you can pick and choose the elements including original vocals, drums, guitars, bass and percussion. There are five videos which you can choose the angle shots to create your own version. Both the kraoke and video edtiors are simplistic in nature and would be exciting to have a more fleshed out ability, but this isn’t a music app or video app, it’s an all around concept in which on top of a full length professionally created show exclusive to the iPhone you get some really fun extras. Then there’s the design studio which is the bread and butter of the app segment, something app developer XMG has truly excelled at. It’s truly a total package at $5 for the full season (free to try and test with the first episode) and truly worth it.
I’m hoping for a second season and that with it hopefully a longer story and more expanded applications, but this first part of Totally Amp’d is highly recommended for anyone with an iOS device running 4.3 and above. For those without an iPhone, the album is also available on iTunes and the Youtube channel has a lot of great stuff.