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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Iron Sky Trailer

Iron Sky Details

In 1945 the nazis went to the moon, in 2018 they are coming back - that's the magnificent premise of Iron Sky. The film is bound to be of educational value to us all, come the inevitable uprising of comfortably distant extremist ideologies. With its visuals and fascinatingly ridiculous subject matter seemingly designed to tractor in the grazing geek, Iron Sky instantly sucked me in, despite furtive attempts to avert my gaze and attention by using tabbed-browsing. If you're a member of the gaming tribe, Iron Sky will probably spark pangs of familiarity within you. I've spotted the callsigns of some of my favourite games - Fallout, X-com, Wolfenstein - and I'm sure you'll develop a list of abductions you think Iron Sky has committed upon our culture. So it's with an entirely failed effort to create tension that I remark that it's a shame Iron Sky isn't going to be made into a computer game... oh but it is!

Details regarding the Iron Sky game are sparse. Unusually for a game developer, rather than throwing a few crumbs for the internet to swoop on and speculate over, Energia are inviting the winged community to the dinner table where their foul manners and rancid input are appreciated. Energia are the Finnish creators of Iron Sky (their previous project was Star Wreck), so perhaps their nationality serves to explain the unfamiliar and alien way they've chosen to respect and value the opinions of their fans. Whatever the explaination, Energia's exotic culture deserves an entire refrigerator dedicated to it at the supermarket. Shame there's no more details.

Tension sucessfully created! If you goose-step this way, we have an interview with the director of Iron Sky - Timo Vuorensola.

Splines: I love how you're encouraging community input on Iron Sky, and you seem to have created a culture of sharing on your forums, your blog and on Wreck a Movie in which the importance and impact of the individual is upped. How do you feel, as director of Iron Sky, about relinquishing control over the creative process?

Vuorensola: I'm not worried about that, because eventually I still have the control. More than handing out creative control, I'm extending my brain and using the community as an extended hive mind to ponder matters I need ideas for. But eventually, it's my decision on which stuff ends up on the film.

I think that Iron Sky's visual imagery is its strongest dimension. I'm a little concerned because the images on your website are restricted in that they only portray Nazi space technologies. Jarmo Puskala writes on his blog, "we want to create a whole world- with history, future and unlimited posibilities", do you think Iron Sky will be able to grow to meet this aspiration? For example, could you tell our readers how the history of Earth in Iron Sky differs from our own timeline - are the world's governments prepared for the lunar orbitskrieg?

What Jarmo there means is that we want Iron Sky to be not just a movie, but more of a sandbox where people can in the future start building on the things we throw in the air with Iron Sky. Therefore we build Iron Sky in a very open-ended model, paying a lot of attention to details and reasons, much more than we would if we were just making a film - we want to have a working universe for people to build on, and think that our film will hopefully just be a kickoff for a landslide of hundreds of stories that can be told in this world. We haven't yet revealed anything more about the history timeline of Earth.

Do you intend for Iron Sky to extend its space flight of fancy beyond UFOs and into the realm of other outlandish Nazi mythologies such as the reich's meddlings with the occult?

We haven't revealed these details either.

Discussion then veered towards the Iron Sky computer game:

You've crafted a pen-and-paper roleplaying game for Star Wreck, and now Jarmo Puskala says that he's hoping there will be a full-blown computer game to accompany and extend the Iron Sky universe. What stage of development is the game in right now?

We started to work on the Iron Sky game about a year ago in a very conceptual level, finding a good partner to do it and finding out funding sources.

Puskala states as fact that the best game ever made is UFO: Enemy Unknown (I can provide evidence that this is indeed the case) -can we expect the Iron Sky game to bare any similarity to UFO?

I don't want to rule out that possibility, but more than that we are looking into the world of good old adventure games, which all of us as Energia seem to love so much.

The Iron Sky movie will be distributed to theatres and directly to your fans via the internet. Would you consider a purely digital distribution method for your game? In your opinion, can film or game creators earn a greater reward for their efforts if they neglect traditional retail methods?

Nowadays the media depends on the traditional distributors and their valuechain, and breaking that chain is always hard, and should be led by those responsible for the distribution, and not so much by those responsible for the content itself. We took the whole chain in our hands with Star Wreck, and it led us to a success, but it's not to say that it could work again, since handling those chains is an art itself, and we've seen many more failures there than successes. Therefore, anything about Iron Sky or Iron Sky game distribution hasn't been decided. We care now only about producing the quality content, and keep on looking for the most intelligent distribution options and possibilities.

Thankyou for your time and sincere responses, Timo, and best of luck with Iron Sky!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Review: Mass Effect

Mass Effect could benefit from more corridor combat. The shooter - a genre with which Mass Effect clumsily flirts - is oft criticised for its use of corridors to channel the player from one point to another. Bioware's new-found territory has people-funnels in abundance, yet, like the oilfields of Nigeria, Mass Effect's resources are misused by those who have taken charge of development. For example, rather than coupling claustrophobic corridors with the shock-value of a wall-bursting insect warrior, Bioware have chosen to relegate the man-shafts to the role of safe zone, and conversely every (disfunctionally common) lobby area predictably becomes an arena. Safe zones provide a welcome respite and a chance to save progress - there's no saving during combat, or even if there's a faint whiff of enemy - yet as only the deranged would deem Mass Effect a linear game, I would have expected Bioware to take advantage of the immediate quality-of-life benefits a modern corridor can offer.

With all major travel-tube related gripes out of the way, it's time introduce those unfamiliar with the game to its premise. It's a lot like Spore's creature creator, in that you take into your hands a lump of un-loveable clay (that's the guy on the box art, by the way) and mould him into an irreplaceable urn of great unfurling depth, history, and insight, or even into a girl. Soon, your evolutionarily triumphant Adonis will be in space, dominating lesser species (if you chose to be a carnivore/Renegade) or helping them out, perhaps by dancing (as a herbivore/Paragon). I ended up as somewhat of an omnivore, and Mass Effect excels in that it allows you to be both a Paragon and a Renegade - there's no arbitrary dichotomy between good and evil to be found here - and you might even find yourself sympathising or disagreeing with your friend over what constitutes Mass Effect's 'baddies'.

An online friend and myself reached consensus on the issue of AI teammate pathfinding when Steve remarked, "I wanted to summarily execute them quite a lot". Your buddies will both get stuck on objects and on occasion they'll refuse to budge from an unobstructed spot, seemingly disillusioned by the realities of space war. Perhaps Wrex - the token Klingon-alike character - expected blood, guts, and the horror (the horror), rather than the clinical character of this resurrections all round future fracas. Frustratingly, friendly fire is disabled.

Frustration was not the only emotion Mass Effect evoked in me. Melancholic moments froze me - Wrex like - with dejection. I'll reveal a minor (easily-missed) experience to you, but the most heart-wrenching hinge on your own decisions and will act as great engineering works on the flow of Mass Effect's Mississipi. I found myself on a planet under siege, ack-ack wounding the sky as synthetic troops assailed barely entrenched colonists. The dead lay underfoot, so it was to my surprise that I noticed one fallen fellow's gaze tracking my movements. I approached him and at that moment he was extinguished. I didn't realise this immediately, I'd assumed he was placed there to set up a 'fetch me 7 pints of blood' mission, so I did a silly dance, circumnavigating his cooling corpse in an effort to see his neck spring into swivelly action once more. Then, the event I'd just witnessed sunk in. I moved on, my resolve to thwart the siege hardened. Conversely, I felt a pang of anger directed at Bioware when an opportunity to free indentured torture victims was stolen from me as a single jail cell was unopenable, dooming the aliens within - this is not acceptable in a game you're claiming to be superior to a console port, Bioware! And while I remain full of ire: there isn't enough of a visual impact as a result of player decisions - when I restore a colony's desperately-needed water supply, I want to see the colonists quenching their thirsts when I return to town, Bioware! BIOWARE!

Because we don't yet live in The Future, Mass Effect's facial animation and general graphics wondrousness remain only close-to-perfect. Though generally 'awesome' is both an applicable and mandatory description for many of the game's panoramas and bleepy-bloopy Star Trek Original Series deco interiors, facial animation can't quite escape the ugly Scottish ravine. Disturbingly, the transition between characters' facial animations is handled rather haphazardly, the result being what appears to be a cast of incredibly nervous people who suffer from anxious tics whenever you speak to them.

It's a shame that this is one of those games which refuses to cooperate with 'return to Windows' commands, because the music is just terrible - the tracks are short but unfortunately they repeat. I prematurely ended each of my visits to Normandy (an Earth Alliance frigate and one of Mass Effects' hub areas) because my cochlea couldn't cope with another plinky-plonky soundwave collision.

The game has been played, the plinks, plonks, bleeps and bloops have been tallied, and we have a verdict. Mass Effect isn't the groundbreaking game I'd hoped it would be - it remains a accomplished RPG with a terrible inventory and fantastic graphics. The graphics and the inventory cancel each other out, leaving gamers with a good RPG that almost any gamer will enjoy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Mux of the Issue

I've muddled through making myself a Muxtape, maybe you'll make one too? I wonder what the Muxchief does with all those uploaded mp3s - perhaps he's the supreme overseer of the newly DMCA-enabled corporate colony of Canada. We'll know for sure when the lawyers take flight on subpeona wings and a hot air current rather than foresight. Muxtape's lovely, if a little slow, rather like me.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Squeeze Mass Effect Through Your Blocked Ports

On Friday, Mass Effect was released for PC. This weekend, I've wailed at my monitor in anger, grief, and because I heard the sound of wailsong could have a calming effect. The source of my angst, besides the fact that there's never anything to eat in this house, was this response from EA regarding my activation woes - devoid of empathy or comprehension:

I wonder how Glenn supposed I was talking to him without an internet connection.

Refusing to accept defeatist Glenn's assessment of the situation, I had a poke around on the ever-wonderful internet and found a solution, which I'll now share with you.

A disclaimer: This solution will only work with legitimate copies of Mass Effect, so it's only a useful technique if you're having trouble activating the game because of overzealous port blocking at your university or army base.

We're going to create a proxy, which will bounce your vital bits all over the place - at some point they'll probably enter Sweden - eventually they'll end up activated and wiser for the experience, over at Mass Effect HQ. First thing's first - you'll need to go here and also here, so that you can download the latest versions of Your Freedom and Freecap. You might need to register Your Freedom, but it's free and easy. Next, configure your proxy settings - use port 8080 and ask your friend who knows the correct spelling of orc what you should put in the 'proxy address' box (sorry, I can't help you, it's unique to your location). For server connection options, have a gander at this:

For Freecap, use port 1080 and the default proxy which, for me, is set to, and then click File> New Application and find Mass Effect.exe in your 'binaries' folder in the game's installation directory - once this is added, right click the icon, click 'Run'. Well done! You have now earned the right to play the game you bought!

It's good to be back, Colin!

Not At All Busy

It took a little longer than expected, but now life has finally got its act together!

Reticulating Splines: Act 2 will commence shortly, please check under your seats for the special brew and emergency eye wash - together, we'll get through this.