Monday, May 26, 2008


I bought a book the other day: "The Art of Mass Effect." As this is one of my top 5 games and a very real influence on The Assemblage, I thought I would put piclens to work and find some concept art that will help us paint our future world.

I should probably take a drawing class.


Are awesome, I need to learn how to draw them. So many works have ripped off the idea: the matrix, power rangers, lego watever-the-hell -things. Large bipedal suits piloted by a human inside... Hell yes. Ultimate coolest thing possible. While these more traditional robo-heroes are interesting and WILL be featured in The Assemblage (USA) our main characters should be more believable (hah!). But I posit: if you had the technology to pull off a gundam, wouldn't human/mecha hybrid units be the way to go? Throw in some human-flesh-replacing nanobots for realism's sake and you have the idea behind our (three) heros: the gray border between man and machine, the chaos that emerges from synergy. Yes it has been done to death, everything has.

Why not? Robots are awesome.

I pulled this image off of deviantart, couldn't find a source to site. He's (she's?) just an idea, a marker in the direction that we need to go.

Oh and this is a gundam:



A Lesson is Learned has picked up its game recently. The strip started out mildly, but has developed into something pretty cool (Note: sticking to something pays off!). Jagged graphics, powerful coloring and carefully placed panels create an incredibly affective media:

The emotions that David Hellman and Dale Beran play with are powerful, they produce the most moving web-based single page graphic works I have ever encountered. It's fantastic. This particular comic's use of color to highlight moments in both time and emotion is pretty impressive; fight scenes in The Assemblage could use this tactic to highlight the three combatants' perspectives (view screens?).

Yes, our creative work has been titled "The Assemblage" and yes, we are going to try and throw in as much Mille Plateaux as possible. There will be fighting. A lot of it.

Anyway, Hellman/Beran started out pretty slow:
Picked up speed / learned about perspective blending and placement:
And now have a wonderfully developed style of their own. I would consider these guys (along with DresdenCodak) some of the greatest webcomic artists working today. Their creations indulge our senses visually and play with us emotionally at the same time. It's really the same effect, one brings about the other:
What if I Joomlaed their use of color in text bubbles/panels into my own stuff? Aren't they just copying Marvel (Deadpool does the same thing, or did for awhile). Opinions?


Apparently take more than a day to learn how to use. I also don't understand coda, or CSS. My Joomla page is a joke. We will be using this website until further notice. God damnit.

XKCD love

Our boy Munroe is getting some attention in the New York Times today, check out the article, they do him some service, but focus a bit too much (for my liking) on the programming aspects of his work. Yeah yeah, that's his shtick, but there is a deeper communication going on underneath the Unix jargon. So yeah check it out, and also take a look at these rad photos from Mars picked up by our buddy Pheonix.

So I am the official web editor for two different organizations... but I don't have my own site. So i went and bought and prepared to make it a kickin version on this site with room for creative works to be posted along with more detailed message boards, etc.

Then I remembered that I do not know how to code. And I despaired.
then I remembered content management systems, which allow you to pull in components from other sites and put together a professional-grade site piecemeal.

I loaded Joomla onto the site, and that took over my life for awhile. Needed a program to upload/ edit/explain code: coda. Needed a really expensive way to edit images: photoshop. I wrote an essay on Joomla and the ways in which it effects authorship and creativity on the internet, heres an excerpt:

"Automating the tedious processes involved is not always a great idea, however. Van Gough was a “master” because he started with a blank canvas and created everything himself. Further abstraction and automation, while making user interaction easier and inciting communicative progression, further hides the discrete binary code (the actual happenings of the computer) from human understanding. Many users, myself included, will now be able to write professional-grade websites by looking up the few lines of necessary code. We will be able to understand what the CSS and HTML are doing, but only so far as it affects the finished product. Any questions or concerns can be submitted to the Joomla! community; with enough time and research most projects can be completed without any "mastery". Digital literacy is expanding, but the works are largely plagiarized. It will be up to the next generation of truly literate web designers to push coding methods to the next plateau. Once they have, it will be their responsibility to teach the rest of us how to copy/paste their work."

So I can't really take credit for it's creative design, but feel free to visit "my" site I guess I'll transfer all of these articles over there. Then again, I kindof like this layout better. It's standardized, simple and clean. But hey, gotta get that internet street-cred up with my own domain name you know?

What do you guys think, which layout is better!?!?! OMG INTERACTIVITY.

Dresden Codak

My favorite web comic site. Hands down. But only because I am so lame. Which is awesome.

Continental philosophy + futurism + robot ethics + geek culture/video games + anthropology / sociology + THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COMIC LAYOUT ON THE INTERNET = Dresden Codak.

Notice how the frames seem to blend together? Aaron Diaz (Dresden is a pseudonym) plays games with the viewer's gaze by taking advantage of perspective, suggestion, and the blank space between panels. The blank space?! Yes, the reader's mind fills in the gaps between one panel and the next. Set up a good beginning and a good end, and the middle is filled by imagery perhaps more powerful than that found in novels. Not convinced? Let's see what McCloud has to say about this one, as well as more examples of how layout can affect the reader.

By plotting out graphic sequences with care, Diaz leads the reader to create their own "closure" on a epic scale. The art is soft and detailed, allowing the eye to feast as it is subtly guided through the panels. Go here for more examples of Diaz's work.

Ray Kurzweil shout-outs aside, I am also a fan of Dresden's cast, which features "tiny carl jung" as a reoccurring character : "One of the fathers of modern tiny psychology. Famous for the development of tiny dream analysis, as well as the concepts of the tiny shadow half, tiny archetype, and tiny collective unconscious." (All of the other characters are Myers-Briggs labeled of course).

Diaz knows what he's doing. He's a genius. You know that something is worth reading when it constantly inspires readers to wikipedia niche philosophers. Every comic takes 1.5-3 weeks to come out; the quality shows, and you have to respect the guy for resisting the usual format of (consumerism-driven) tri-weekly updates. I'll leave you with something beautiful:

Creative Limits

I cannot hope to ever create anything as beautiful, hilarious, or long lasting as Achewood.

Simple, complicated and built firmly upon itself, the comic uses character development to humorously point out flaws in modern society. Here's a recent strip:
Read that, then read this and then this. Now you have an idea, kindof. I have to admit I haven't read all of it, theres so much to go back and consume. I am told that the series is 100x better if read from the beginning, as the humor is reoccurring. What can we learn from achewood? Persistence matters. Start with an idea, carry it out well, rewards will come.

Ah how fear of failure strangles the mind...

Dino Comix

DINOSAUR COMICS is a deconstructionist, post-modern web comic written by Ryan North. Why po-mo? Basically because they use the same images over and over again to tell a different story every time. The only variable is the text! The humor is pretty tame, and uses a pretty common statement--> comment --> statement --> counter-argument --> statement -->punchline formula.Go here if that's too small to read. Anyway the three main characters play off of t-rex's absurd realizations. Whats amazing is the amount of content that North has been able to generate; his creativity works within these set boundaries and doesn;t seem to miss a beat. If this much story, meaning and mildly entertaining humor can be translated in simple reiterations of the same media......then there must not be any limitation to the number of stories, interpretations, and truths that can be communicated through literary works (simple comics and novels alike). What I'm saying is that Dinosaur Comics inspires me: there is no limit.
I don't think I will use any of the methods from this one in my work, the meta-comic thing is cool, but can only communicate in short snippets. I want to write an epic.

Age Of Conan

So our web comic story thing is going to function as a video-game script. There, I said it. It is important to set parameters within which the story can be refined. To continue my research in the field, my obsession will become Funcom's new massively multiplayer online role-playing game Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.

The game features pretty impressive graphics (closer and closer to reality every day), an interesting combat system and enough storyline to play around with for years to come as the game is based on Robert E. Howard's fantasy novels from the 1930's. Also interesting will be the cultural undertones featured in the game, as Funcom's team is based in Norway (their PR guys are terrible to listen to, god thing they have these guys:)

I am most curious about two aspects of the game:

First, combat has been changed from the traditional runescape-esque click and hit format to a more dynamic blocking/counter-attack system coupled with first-person views for ranged classes. If you don't know what this means, basically the extent to which you are able to interact with combat scenarios has been improved significantly. Or has it? We'll see. (what does this have to do with a web comic?! very little directly, except that the same plot devices and uses of digital media will apply, as I believe many digital media genres will merge in new and beautiful ways in the future).

Second, the game is very, very adult. Rated M, it features nudity, gore and depravity in concentrations never before seen in a massivley multiplayer game. Their world is dark, dseased and sexy. Perhaps they are making the world more "real" by allowing vice. Will this attract a lot more players (adult males being the target) as they see their friends slaughtering topless amazons in dynamic combat? Yes. Is that a good thing? Hmmmm...

I will play the game (as a ranger), but Dragonlord is still out of commission. More about this alternate world soon.

Computer Games

I am going to play Age of Conan, and I am going to take notes. One of my essay topics this finals period is to figure out how mature content adds to AOC's immersive qualities (cleavage+fatalitites = profit). Dragonlord, my computer, is still less than functional. I built him so that I could play vanguard, the beautifully failed World of Warcraft competitor, and now I am ready for the next game...

As this blog is about the creation of a graphic novel / video game sotryline ,I guess I should explain my history as a gamer:

City of Heroes:

It started with the terrible family pc and a little java-powered game known as Runescape. I joined the game when there were three servers, brought my friends in and we summarily killed people. The game had a magnificent quality about it: the "wildy", an area filled with treasure, rare creatures and people to kill. The catch: Everyone was allowed to kill everyone. The screwing around that the wildy facilitated has defined my idea of enjoyable gaming. Remind me to talk about the "wildy" some more, as the same system should be used in our project.

Then there was Acheron's Call for a bit, CS, Halo pc, battlefield 2, BF 2142... but non matched COH:

City of Heroes is an MMO in which you and a group of ventrillo-enabled friends become superheroes and beat on villany. The game featured amazing costume creation, no itemization (focus on gameplay) and the coolest travel powers I have ever used. (You can fly, 2nd life is a cheap immitation).

Anyway the point is that I lost myself. I was lifeguarding and playing this game, all day, every day. My social life remained stable; my best friends played with me... AS SUPERHEROES. This is what people fail to understand: MMORPG's, played with people you know from reality (or not, takes longer to make friends) are almost as viable a social interaction as reality-based conversation. Sure body language isn't there, but (generalization) males tend to function better in group-based activities. Like saving the world. World of Warcraft soon followed, I played a Tauren Warrior and had a blast executing gnomes.

My year spent without a computer was good for me. I hung out a lot, I enjoyed the MMO that is reality. Life has been enjoyable. Yet I crave the drug that is immersion. I miss exploration on a scale that this world can't quite provide. More than anything, I miss the team.

So is Dragonlord holding me back from playing Age of Conan? Can I afford to live two lives again? What will happen if I gain free access to my drug of choice?:

No, Yes, and I will make full use of the little time I have to enjoy myself.


This post is written for me, forgive the lack of pizazz.
When I was very small, all I wanted was a Nintendo 64. My parents bought a family computer instead, with which I dominated Dark Forces 2, Red Alert, Tribes 2, Sim Copter and a variety of other semi-classics. But then games started requiring faster graphics and sturdier memory. Tie Fighter lagged. All I wanted was to seamlessly merge with the media I was consuming. Lag was my reality, but Dragonlord was my dream.

Dragonlord is my computer, I named him six years before he was built. He was assembled from pieces while I was in Europe and the manufacturer sent his monitor to the States. Six months of staring at my glowing, GTS 8800 powered, water-cooled fantasy followed. The monitor was eventually shipped over, and seized by customs. Another couple months. I went home for the summer, left him, decided to stay in the states and only collected him this may. (I still have yet to play a game on this damn computer).

The story is actually pretty good if you're still with me. FedEx dropkicked my glorious machine, stripping every screw in the case and allowing everything to bounce around on its way across the Atlantic. I opened the package and despaired. Then I went to work.

All the pieces were structurally sound, the coolant hadn't leaked, all was well. I assembled it, he eventually turned on.... but no video output. Took another computer, swapped graphics cards, swapped power supplies, ended up swapping motherboards to find out that not only were both sticks of RAM toast, the motherboard was as well.

And now I sit here, Dragonlord complete with parts amputated from a lesser machine, and it appears that I have forgotten the administrative password.
I don't know the password. I have been struggling for 2 days to bring Dlord back to speed and now only a password holds me back. All I want to do is play AGE OF CONAN, all I have ever wanted to do was immerse myself in an alternate reality for awhile (after finals), but somehow I remain happily tethered to this reality.

I'll get the keys and open him up, it's just the ironic reality of reality that gets me sometimes.