Learn About the Details Behind the Striking Design of Upcoming Game Firewatch

Trailerpaintover
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Firewatch is an upcoming game from Campo Santo, a small studio made up of a group of friends and industry veterans. Since the game is still in development material about it is stillpretty sparce, but this week they shared a post on their blog that is fascinating whether or not you've been following their progress. It's part two of a Twitter Q&A with fans where the developers responded to questions about the game's art and visual design, and it's an interesting look at what it takes to make a game look as striking as Firewatch.

There's a lot to take in (and some of the answers are admittedly a bit "inside baseball") but they're still an incredibly interesting read... Especially if you're looking for a little artistic advice yourself. For example, when asked if it's hard to design dozens of distinct rocks and trees, they write:

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The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is Not Your Father's (Brother's) Indie Horror Game

UWWFN
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Everyone had that friend... Maybe a friend of a friend.... A friend of a friend of a friend (they go to a different school, you wouldn't know them) with an uncle who worked for Nintendo. They knew things, they'd seen things, they'd played things that you could only imagine. They could tell you how to get a level 99 Mew as your starter Pokemon, how to play as Zelda rescuing Link, how to save Aerith -- oh, did they forget to mention he used to work at Sony too?

It might seem like a strange premise for a horror game, but The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo is guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. Here's why:

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Journalist Critical of GamerGate Posts Best Critique of GamerGate Directly in GamerGate Forum

GamerGate Jesse Singal

This is probably the best critique of #GamerGate ever written by a mainstream journalist, and ironically enough, it's posted on /KotakuinAction, the central headquarters for the "movement" on Reddit. It's by Jesse SingalSenior Editor at NYMag.com, who also writes a Sunday video games column for The Boston Globe. Singal published a Globe editorial last month aruging that GamerGate is really about opposition to women and feminism in games. Unsurprisingly, GamerGaters in Reddit complained that the editorial was biased and poorly researched... and so last weekend, Jess Singal went into the Reddit forum himself and explained in great detail his sources for reaching that conclusion. It is a thing of beauty you should read in full here, but here's just a sample:

[F]aced with this complete lack of clarity [of GamerGate's purpose], all I or other journalists can do, then, is journalism: We ask the people in the movement what they stand for and then try to tease out what is real and what is PR. And every every every substantive conversation/ forum/encounter I've had with folks from GamerGate has led me to believe that a large part of the reason for the group's existence is discomfort with what its members see as the creeping and increasing influence of what you call social-justice warriors in the gaming world.

"Basically," Singal tells me, "I stumbled upon a Reddit thread from awhile back in which GamerGate people were calling me a hack, and instead of doing the reasonable thing and going on with my life because who cares, I posted a little response saying Hey, happy to actually talk this over if you guys want to. Generally speaking, when people misunderstand how journalism works – which a lot of GamerGate folks are at the moment – I do think it’s useful for us to step in and provide an explanation (assuming the accusers are acting with a baseline level of decency and respect)." After devoting a lot of time engaging with GamerGate supporters on Twitter, "I wanted to get down in one place everything that bugged me about trying to debate this movement (or 'movement')... So why not post in KIA itself, I figured?"

Since he was directly addressing GamerGate supporters angry at his Globe column, you'd think he'd mostly get angry replies. But here's the surprising thing about the response:

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Pokemon Art Academy Won't Make You Color Inside the Lines

BitBlock Pokemon Art Academy
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you read the late August round-up I wrote about the games I'm most looking forward to in the last quarter of 2014, then you probably have a very good idea of why you're staring down the barrel of a crudely drawn otter demon right now.

Pokemon Art Academy is due out this Friday and previews are already popping up to show what the game has to offer. For example, this video from The BitBlock (from which I grabbed the screencap above) is an entertaining example of what the first few minutes of play will be like. Even if you have zero interest in sketching up a Pikachu for yourself, it still might be a good way to get well-earned Monday laugh:

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It's Critical to be Critical, Whether You Like This Hyper-Violent Game Trailer or Not

Hatred trailer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Yesterday, a developer released a trailer for a game they're working on. That's not news. It's a very violent game. That's not news either. What is news is just how negative its reception has been among gamers and games writers; within hours, op-eds were springing up about how repulsive, tacky, and frankly pathetic the trailer for the game (bluntly and blandly named Hatred) seems. Of course the trailer has spread like wildfire as a result, and on YouTube it still has more "dislikes" than "likes".

There's a lot of grossness to deal with when you're talking about Hatred. It claims to be a response to the trend towards "political correctness" in games. Its developers may hold some very disturbing political beliefs. It depicts a mass-shooting days after Anita Sarkeesian and the school hosting an event for her were threatened with one. But if nothing else, the responses to all of that grossness have been very insightful and well worth reading -- especially if, like me, you've ever tried to reconcile your enjoyment of some violent video games with your utter distaste for others.

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Return of the Deep Sea Dad: Octodad's Free DLC Doesn't Disappoint

Octodad DLC Shorts
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

As much as I enjoyed Octodad: Dadliest Catch when it first came out last February, I didn't expect to be anticipating its free DLC pack as much as I was 8 months later. I thought the game's charm and the glee I felt when I played it would fade over time as these things often do.

But it didn't.

I'd been awaiting the promised free DLC for months, and when it was finally released this week I leapt at the chance to play it. In short it does exactly what the best parts of Octodad did, placing the player and the titular cephalopatriarch in everyday scenarios and essentially "letting the magic happen". Take the screenshot above for instance, shared by @mattshea369 on Twitter. That patient sure did not start out wedged in a hospital vending machine, and yet here we are. If that's not enough to demonstrate what the Octodad DLC is all about, take a look at this stream I did on Tuesday:

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Lenna's Inception: Classic Gaming Style With a Modern Gaming Twist

Lenna's Inception
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you're into indie/alt games these days then you're probably already aware of itch.io, a streamlined indie marketplace that makes it ultra-easy for developers to deliver their games to customers. Itch.io has become host to a boatload of interesting games in the past year -- some paid, many free -- and deserves some serious coverage.

It's with that in mind that I'll be reaching into my own itch.io library much more often here on NWN, starting today with a retro-inspired story of a teacher's revenge: Lenna's Inception.

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The Vanishing of Ethan Carter May Be The Most Gorgeous Game of 2014

Vanishing of Ethan carter PC Gamer gallery
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the most gorgeous games I've seen in my entire life, and PC Gamer has the massive, high-resolution screenshots to prove it. Just take a look. While screenshotter James Snook uprezzed the game and applied a 3rd party visual effects mod, in this case that's almost excessive. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter doesn't need either of those things to look utterly stunning.

I've already watched The Vanishing of Ethan Carter played from start to finish. I know the characters, I know the locations, I know the story, I know the twists... So why do I still feel compelled to play it all again for myself?

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Get Ready for Halloween by Looking at These Gruesome NBA 2K15 Face Scanning Errors

Operation Sports NBA 2K15 Face Scan
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

While face scanning technology may be gaining momentum as a tool for customizing player avatars, it seems like the process is still very far from foolproof. The face scanning in newly-released NBA 2K15 in particular has been getting a lot of attention for some of its more monstrous interpretations of player faces, some of which could absolutely pass for Halloween masks. 

Naturally people are having a very good time sharing the very best of the worst face scans. Operation Sports shared the haunting compilation above, while over on Gamespot you can find a video of how several of their staff members look through the NBA 2K15 lens. Sometimes it works well, sometimes... Less so. Even some of the better examples occasionally cover the avatars in strange bruises and smears, like the player spawned by Giant Bomb

So what's going wrong here? A few things...

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Simicide: Help Me Commit the Most Efficient Virtual Murder That The Sims 4 Has Ever Seen

Sims 4 Housekeeper 2
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

On October 1st a new patch launched for The Sims 4, and with it came the first of several planned free content additions to the game. Ghosts (which become playable sims when they join a household) along with a set of Star Wars themed costumes were added, with more long-lamented features like pools promised in similar patches in the future, rather than the paid expansions they were expected to come in. It's a pleasant surprise, and a welcome gesture of goodwill towards a community that often feels used.

Naturally I've wanted to take the newly added ghosts out for a spin. So did a friend of mine, who streamed her attempts to kill a sim version of herself so that she could become a super cool ghost. After catching on fire (and surviving) at some point her sim just spontaneously transformed into an urn full of ashes -- no drama, no tragedy, and no Reaper. She got what she wanted (to become a ghost member of her old household) but it was rather anti-climactic, as if the game was saying "You want this sim dead that badly? Fine."

So I want to do better. I want to write about ghosts in The Sims 4, but before that I want to devise the most efficient, foolproof, engine of sim death that I can. And I need your help to do it.

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