zustifer: (comics: Nivlem says See Here)
I was thinking about the blogging thing, and was considering starting a more publicky blog elsewhere (perhaps even on my own webspace! I don't know!), and then I was trying to work out how long that impulse would last, and then I decided to go play Batman.

So: Batman! I am actually enjoying the heck out of it. The low points include the horrifying (lack of) facial rigs on all the characters, and some of the PSA timing intervals. Well, and my pretty lousy fighting ability, but it is, as they say, all good. Oh, but I would like to deliver a hard stare with cocked eyebrow to the nice man who implemented the boob jiggle on Harley Quinn -- who, I might add, is wearing some kind of vinyl Hot Topic corset thing that really should not allow any jiggle, regardless of the preference of some.

Facial rigs: we (the game biz) still really suck at this stuff, and clearly this was not a priority for Arkham Asylum (to the extent that the guards all have the same (kinda weird) model), but the cognitive dissonance still clobbers one at regular intervals. Models can look pretty good in a still, but with lipsync and nothing else (rigging-wise), you have a big problem when Player is expected to stare at a character blah-blahing like an animate death mask. It's especially odd because the lipsync is half-decent, and it does deform the lower face to an extent. So the upper facial area just looks dead, and everyone kind of reminds me of the Phantom of the Opera.

Anyhoo, it's actually really a pleasing game to play, if not to admire the characters of. I am only about a third through, but I am collecting little TACOs like nobody's business. Moving around is fun, finding treats is fun, figuring out the Riddler's little clues is super fun (although sometimes gimped by his clue pointing to the most obvious thing in the room. Duh, Riddler. Try harder). Even yelling at Batman when he misinterprets my commands and screws something up is fun. "Goddamn it, Batman! No! Get back up there!" (It is third-person and thus encourages this implicitly.)

Koffing

May. 27th, 2008 08:05 pm
zustifer: (Aquabats!)
I don't know if I quite agree with this article about how condescending and coopting Weezer's youtubey goofy-ass new video is. I think the author missed the real creepy part, which is the undue sanitization and prettification they've perpetrated. Where're the real sad goofballs, like Star Wars Kid, or the deliberate culture-jamming of Leslie Hall? Some solidarity, fellows. Numa Numa guy is probably as unattractive as the video gets, but he's essentially a success story. I think.
(Also, the lyrics are I hope tongue in cheek, because they are really, really dumb.)
zustifer: (skeleton: omg!)
We went yesterday to see the Body Worlds exhibit in a science museum in San Jose, to which I'd been, weirdly enough, when I was at GDC in 2004. Not really that good a museum. The show was fairly neat though, and I was unhappy as I always am when things like this don't allow photography. I did a little sketching, but it was dark, and the best parts were the material qualities and light behavior, which are not best captured by me with a pencil.

I had a hard time figuring out the aim of the exhibit; it had scientific trappings, with a coating of art-gallery, but a touchy-feely style of writing with an inflection of religion at times. Chmmr made the trenchant observation that it was a concession to popularity; being cold and scientific about something this close to home could alienate essentially everyone, so it's probably a good idea to hit all the 'transcendent' notes you can. They also made sure to include some health messages, which were variably successful.

I didn't really find the exhibition successful as art; the pieces were often repetitive and even kind of trite (how many figures playing sports does one require?). A couple of them worked, though, like the trifurcated diver, the exploded man (doesn't the creator look like Joseph Beuys?), and even 'Angel' (a female figure with her back muscles pulled upward to vaguely evoke wings, and a blonde hair-do, which I thought was completely meritless and unfortunate until I noticed that the plexiglass case she was in had a perfectly circular hole cut in the top for her right hand to emerge from, very slightly. That made it work a lot better, and I have no idea if it were intentional). We didn't get to see the rider, which is a shame. Shaking up the human proportional scheme would have been welcome. (Link to the small photoset of a press person here, btw.)
I even found the lighting scheme better from the backs of the figures than from the front; the translucency of the materials was brought out, which I thought essential. Visitors were allowed to go around to the backs of things, but they didn't always do so.

An interesting thing was that people seemed very quick to assure one another that it wasn't really gross. They mostly seemed fascinated and a little weirded out, which I suppose points to success on the part of the exhibit. The most common conversational topic I overheard was the surgical procedures/medical problems of friends and relatives, and their experiences with medicine in general: 'that's what Joe had to have done,' 'remember when I had that knee thing? That's where that was.' This is the way people relate to anatomy, I gather, in the medical sense. (This is interesting to me because I relate to anatomy in more the motion and topological senses.)

A lot of people brought their school-age children, so they must have thought the educational value (variable, I'm sure) outweighed the chances of crippling nightmares. I respect the ability to get something like this touring in the US, really. It's something of a coup all by itself. I mean, they had t-shirts with photos of a couple of the cadavers on 'em. I so would have bought some in high school.
zustifer: (Goggalor)
So, the new Half Life episode. I can't help but notice that there are a few sucky things about the characters (not least that the NPCs are always sucking up to Gordon and asking him things as if he can answer). The worst, though, is Alyx. I can't believe how completely null a personality she is. She's like some idiot fanboy's idea of what a perfect woman should be, and she doesn't even have Dresden Codak's decency to pretend to be insecure about whatever it is the protagonist of that is insecure about. Alyx is this ideally supportive, even-tempered, perky chick, who can also hotwire a helicopter. She's so, so perfect that it's ludicrous. And (my least favorite addendum) also she is a genius. She's always sweet, she never loses her temper, she's an order of magnitude cleaner than other random jerks in the world, she tells you that you're awesome when you shoot stuff. I have a seriously difficult time imagining that any of the people who brought us the beautifully written Portal dialogue and universe had anything to do with this empty edifice of positive attributes.

The only way I can think of to fix this is this: maybe Alyx (ugh, that fucking Y) was shaped by the G-Man to be Gordon Freeman's sinister Hwi Noree. Maybe he's using her to keep Gordon in his hands, or to have a kill switch for him, or something. This would make all her goody-two-shoesing okay, because she specifically has to behave as Gordon would want (and by proxy, as many unimaginative players who don't know what real people are like would want). It would make her willingness to hang around the autistic guy with the guns somewhat more believable, as it would a wish to make him feel like he was protecting her and doing awesome things.

(I just want a record of this in case it turns out true. Also I really do think it's one of the only ways to make a relatively important NPC not totally a traitor to feminism and games at large.)
zustifer: (why can't monsters get along)


I watched some videos to make sure this was correct, and it is. The pivot for the shoulder is in the center of the spherical shoulder-armor thing. (You can see it when she lifts her arms; there's very little shift in position of the shoulder things. They just rotate. If they were just caps on top of her shoulders, they would move around a lot whenever she moved her collarbone.) Poor implausible Samus. This is all the more annoying with the latest redesign where the suit is feminized noticeably; the smaller midsection just makes it so obvious that the shoulders and even the hips aren't quite lined up right.
zustifer: (comics: Nivlem says See Here)
The cartoonbrew crowd and such are getting kind of goofy over this article, which is unfortunate, in part. Okay, the 'self-perpetuating middle-aged losers' concept is amusing, but what is this crap about referential humor ruining the source material? If you're unable to deal with two different versions of a scene, one amusing and one not, you have larger problems than laughing at the severed horse head in the Godfather (also, what a poor example! Jebediah Springfield's head is only contextually a stand-in for the horse head; if these putative idiot viewers are 1. still watching season one of the Simpsons, and 2. able to make the conceptual leap with really only atmospheric and timing cues for help, then they are probably decently well-educated in film/television and will appreciate the reference).

Admittedly, Family Guy has taken this to an obnoxious extent, which the article does address (substituting 'recognition' for 'humor') in a nice way. I can't even watch Family Guy anymore, even though I used to sometimes watch it for the One Legitimately Funny Bit per episode. However, at least in the first twelve or thirteen seasons (can't vouch for later ones; stopped watching) of the Simpsons, referential humor is usually used as a layer over an already amusing concept. At the very least, it's an entertaining way of hitting a plot point, which is generally not Family Guy's way.

I would also like to point out the egregious 'THINK OF THE CHILDREN' stinger at the end of the article. You know you're reaching when you're bringing that up.
zustifer: (leilei)
Sometime last week, someone in one of my classes brought in Cars, the newish Pixar movie. So I put it on, for us to look at while they worked and while I went around to help people out. My students seemed to generally think it was cute, but my constant complaints of 'What the crap was that?!' and 'Are we supposed to think this is funny?' and 'Who came up with this premise, a four-year-old?' and 'What makes the tractors non-sentient?' eventually started to crack their complacent exteriors.
'Maybe,' one of them posited, in an effort to resolve the lack of coherent worldbuilding, 'all humans were transformed into cars. They just turned into whatever car they were most like.' I agreed that this was possible, but then what about the inanimate cars that already existed? No one was willing to go any further with it. I sort of didn't blame them, since it was making me unreasonably angry, but I let it go.

So yesterday, I forced this movie on chmmr and unpleasant and 343. The time had come for Deep Hurting.

We all agreed that it was appallingly bad. I think the best thing about it was the great-looking environments, in which I see Steve Purcell's hand pretty strongly. Nice lighting, nice production design, nice-looking dust and FX.

Everything else worked much less well. The characters were amazingly flat (to the point of some scary stereotypes: the one (stereotyped) black character was married to the one (stereotyped, voiced by Cheech Marin) hispanic character. What is this, Plato's Stepchildren?), and too numerous. There was some love interest no one could possibly care about, and some older mentor figure who never actually did much, and a bunch of other tertiary characters that sat around being 'colorful' (alarmingly stereotypical). Oh, and The Hick. Sigh.

The protagonist's character arc proceeded from Unmotivatedly Jerkfaced Arrogant Car to Car who has LEARNED THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP. He seemed to make this change for no real reason; he just sort of eventually developed Stockholm Syndrome or something (originally he was being held forcibly in a run-down town because he did some damage to it). One moment he's being rude to all the cardboard cutouts of townspeople-characters, and the next he's all, heyy, Love Interest! Lemme just flip my switch from 'asshole' to 'awkward!' And you're my friend now, Hick! Even though I never really seem to actually warm up to you, and in fact seem uncomfortable around you most of the time! Aww, it's a treat for all ages.

Really though, the thing that just made me quiver with rage is the universe-building. Okay, we've got a human-free universe, populated instead by cars. The very first thing I wonder about, when hearing such a thing, is okay, how did this come about? [answer: No idea.] How do the cars, not exactly known for their dexterity, manipulate the objects around them? [answer: they don't, unless specially equipped. Once I saw a car use its antenna, which is a pretty serious hack.] What are cars doing with human accoutrements like desks, flowerpots, and flagpoles? Did they build them? How? [answer: uhh...] Why are there farms? Who or what is food being grown for? The cow-painted tractors, which are supposed to be essentially animals (but whose faces are not significantly different from the sentient cars), who owns them? Why is farm machinery less 'human' than road vehicles? [answer: AAGH] I think that there is still something about ever-racheting-up fidelity that demands more thought than the alternative. If there'd been vagueness in the realisation visually, maybe I would have been more forgiving. But I don't think you can have perfectly rendered dust and grime and just expect people to not to have their expectations raised for a cohesive world. I mean, maybe I'm the only one who looked at the car-shaped land formations and said, 'what the heck? Were those created? Is this just some sort of unsettling coincidence?' and I'm reasonably sure I'm in a small group with people who asked 'was this planet seeded with/by car-shaped aliens, eradicating all human life in the process?'

Sincerely, it's like a four-year-old's version of a fairy tale. Once upon a time, there was a place where there weren't any people, just cars. And the cars drove around a lot, and they drank gas, and when they broke they would repair one another. Okay, I'm bored, let's go play with legos.

In the supplemental material on the DVD, Lasseter said that he made this movie for his young children, whom he'd neglected while working on the Toy Stories. They liked cars, he liked cars, and he totally wanted to do this for them. And he did, and somehow he got everyone to go along with this.
zustifer: (Jim Jarmusch)
How can you attack American Beauty for the completely wrong reasons? It wasn't the surface detail that was annoying, it's the fact that the layer underneath it was only marginally more thought-out. Seriously, buying a sports car is character development? The plastic bag, though, I could watch a whole movie of that.
And sincerely. I will fight anyone who says 2001 is incomprehensible or boring. FIGHT. Unless your excuse involves never having seen a movie before and not really getting what this strange too-long jokeless sitcom thing that's shot in 70mm is all about.
(Not one of the Overrated Movies, but we just watched Barry Lyndon, finally, and it hasn't got a dull frame in it. It did however make me realise that Shelly Duvall is the true form of any leading woman in a Kubrick movie.)
zustifer: (Griffy as Wolverine)
Good morning, starshine, time for a strangely crapulent SpiderHyphenMan trailer. There's a strong Raimi moment (okay, aside from the symbiont sequence) almost at the very end (Sandman's face + subway car) but apart from that I am so not interested. This isn't right, trailer! Try harder! Even making Sandman sound like Godzilla at 1:36 is not enough!

The trailer (so far as I can tell between the orchestra hits and 24-frame fades to black every two seconds) does seem to make Sandman the main villain, though, with Hobgoblin just sort of being obnoxious in the spaces between major fights, which I am behind. I'd rather not see this series fall into the Too Many Villains Per Movie trap (even though I definitely have some ambivalence about this series in general, so it's not like it'll break my little heart like X-Men 3 did).

Hey, wait a minute, the trailer says at the bottom that Spidey is supposed to 'face' Venom. I didn't see any egregious mullets, so I'm dubious. I hope they don't shoehorn his ass in at the end just for the sake of checking off the third villain on the Quantity over Quality checklist (no, seriously, I guess Eddie is the blond guy, but I still have a tiny glimmer of hope that the screenwriters will just let him be a normal guy in this movie).

Most of all I love (for no values of 'love') how the trailer commits to neither Ass-Kickery nor Personal Conflict, by holding to a constant tone throughout a Please-Everyone sort of piece. The concept of the suit being somehow addictive or destructive is solely brought up through tiny truncated chunks of dialogue, and Spidey's abilities inside it are not appreciably different (let alone better) than without. Should have been left out of this trailer entirely. Kirsten Dunst's face is ALWAYS shown when she talks, despite the fact that she's the only female in the trailer's limited universe (meaning that we know it's her without looking at her (OKAY except for Aunt May)), and every time we look at her the action (and interest) stops dead and looks around vaguely, wondering where it put its car keys.
It just smacks of 'Hey ladies, remember all the Relationship Moments in 1 & 2? We totally have those! Please do not stop buying tickets!'

Also the symbiont suit looks crap.
zustifer: (Nivlem says See Here)
Okay, all you people who have a foot in the game world need to look at this and revile it for what it is: very poor advertising. This is an excellent example of the work of people who seem to have similar goals to me, but who somehow manage to besmirch the cause by aligning themselves with it (there was some kind of makinglight discussion on this concept recently but I'm unable to find it). It's an imitation of the low-budget seamless-and-diffuse-lighting 'mac vs PC' ads (which themselves are sort of chintzy, but this is not my point), only with consoles (PS3 and Wii) substituted in.

Now, conceptually, personifying something like an OS or console is sort of doomed to be pretty subjective and prone to straw-manning. It's like live-action political cartooning. The choices made by the creators of this ad are not even consistent in their message, although their mindset is very accurately depicted. Let's look at this sucker.

Okay, first shot. We have here a chunky dark-haired girl in black and blue representing the PS3. Presumably what they're trying to evoke is a needlessly bloated system, and not just playing the fat chick card (benefit of the doubt at this point). She's wearing glasses, which could either mean she's smart, or could mean she's a nerd. Smart isn't bad, and since the PS3 is being demonised here, I've got to assume they want her to look not-cool. First data point on the creators: they don't like nerd girls.

Next to her we have a blond chick in hot pants and some kind of bikini top. Also some weird striped high heel boots. She is pretty obviously The Hot Chick that is trotted out in ads pretty much constantly. The forthrightness of this could either be subversive or really brain-dead. Let's guess which! No, we don't know yet, we haven't watched the video. She's supposed to represent the Wii, so I guess our ad creators are for the Wii, since they've just heaped the 'positive attributes' onto this character. So, the Wii is, uh, naked? It's stripped-down and runs fast or something? Not too clear yet. Second data point on the creators: they enjoy blond chicks in bikinis better than nerd girls.

Okay, let's hear some dialogue. Uh, oh. I see. The 'Wii' is a dumb whore. The PS3 is understandably put off by her. Hmm, PS3 seems to have interests that most stereotypical gamers enjoy (WW2 games?). Are the ad creators not stereotypical gamers? Are they gamers at all (I'm unwilling to assume that they are sick of the same old shit, because there's no mention of it, and also because I already hate them)? Wii says she's 'as cute as a button' in response, which is an amusingly pointless thing to say. The console is cute? Does it DO anything?

It's a little clearer halfway through; the PS3 is supposed to be a sexless intelligent stereotype, presumably, even though the concept of the male viewer wanting a vibrate function (apparently for SEXY REASONS) is pretty stupid. The Wii is all sex and nothing else. Is this meaningful? Perhaps in the way that people refer to new gadgets as 'sexy', that being the most shallow way a person can talk about an object. Yes, your goddamned palm pilot is sexy. It has buttons and is new. Awesome, champ. Data point 3: ad creators like new and shiny. They own new high-capacity ipods.

There's some attention paid to ease of use, at least. Okay, valid point number one. Cost, valid point number two (although hearing Blondie the Blond Blond say 'I'm cheap' is kind of making me want to jam a q-tip into my brain).
At the END, the VERY END, they're managing to get to their point, which is almost cohesive. The PS3 has all these features you may or may not have asked for (bloating), wants to be a 'media center', and is very taken with its awesome cutting-edge whatnot. The Wii merely is what it is, I guess. Boy, I can think of probably dozens of better ways to show that.

So, okay, I sat through it again. All the way through. Apart from the points I mentioned and possibly the mapping of 'ease of use' onto 'stupid slut' (which I honestly can't be sure was intentional), this was utterly meaningless and vapid.
What's the main purpose of the Wii, in the real world? To be accessible, and easy to understand and use. This is maybe represented in the character of the Wii chick, BUT by translating this trait in this particular way, you have made the 'Wii' (the in-ad version) INACCESSIBLE by essentially the entire audience that Nintendo wants. Smooth move, ex-lax, let's alienate the entire fucking world except for your goddamned 18-45 nuts-and-gum heterosexual male fucknauts. An accessible ad for an accessible system? Fuck that! I want to look at some dumb hole giggling and slapping her own ass! Fuck the smart one I can talk to, let's paste her onto the thing we hate!

Nice one, guys, I hope you end up with the relationships you deserve in life. Even if you do like the Wii.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Miss Argentina)
Oh yes, we completely need more "girly girl" role models. The problem with previous female puppets is obviously that they weren't "comfortable wearing a dress," and possibly that they had too little glitter in their hair.

Okay, whatever, they're going for the five-year-old pink-loving disney-princess-worshipping toy-truck-swaddling little gender extremes. I wish they'd admit it rather than pretend that they just weren't covering all the bases previously. Oh, this character wasn't that attractive. This one spoke spanish or some crap. This one was orange. Obviously we have a large and ballerina-shaped gap in our cultural landscape. God.

It's also a little funny in the article how they wheel out Miss Piggy (puppeteered by MEN, we're not sure what this means but it's probably not GENDER-POSITIVE) but not anyone from Fraggle Rock. Isn't the pink puppet more than a little reminiscent of Red Fraggle, in sort of a bastardised way? Fraggle Rock had a better gender ratio going anyhow, along with a shot at more complex characters due to more complex storylines and a smaller cast.


* NYT photo caption for puppet. Oh, yippee yahoo, puppet. Congratufukkenlations.


[edit] I'm pleased to say that I successfully imagined the character's voice before hearing it. Sigh.
Anyone else notice a decline in acting level since Jim Henson was removed from the picture, too?

[Later addendum] Come to think of it, is this style of puppet even compatible with the standard cultural concept of 'beauty' embodied by, say, Disney female protagonists? These one-person-operated flap-jawed puppets seem to be able to do certain values of 'cute', but I don't think 'cute' is necessarily entirely what the Marketing Dept. is after. Disney Princess Beauty(R) appears to hinge on, facially, small features and the general lack of information that is abstracted (or actual) 'attractiveness'. Henson puppets don't seem very keen on doing this, as well they probably shouldn't; but it is a little odd that they're being asked to think along those lines. I suspect the dearth of 'pretty lady' puppets stems from the fact that without a large expressive mouth (which, shrunken down to smaller proportions would be hard to operate such that the whole face didn't deform frighteningly) their faces would look dead and empty. Eyes and eyebrows take over this job in nonpuppet characters.

The article even admits this, in retrospect, by mentioning Dora the Explorer, a non-puppet traditionally cute/beautiful little character. Big (mobile) eyes, small mouth, round head, simple design. Can Henson puppets do this? No, sir, they cannot. Please allow them to do something they're good at, kthxbye. The boy market is less fixated on beauty at that age and male characters don't have to abide by these female standards, anyway. THIS is why you don't have any girlity-girl-girl-girl lovable pink glittery beautiful princess-bots, marketing department, not because Henson is a boy's club or doesn't know how to reach out to nonmale genders. They just focus on (theoretically) personality, and hope to be a little less shallow, since that is what their medium does better.
zustifer: (1 of 11)
So, so true [may have very minor spoilers for new Dr. Who episodes]. It reminds me of the muddled lateish episodes of the Simpsons, where plot points would be tossed in any old way and left to die, because the writers weren't sure how to continue on so late in the life of the series. The difference there being that we know the Simpsons & Associates so well that it didn't hurt so much. Although it did hurt.

Things that have happened:
- I finally, finally got all my horrible homework out the door. Remaining is my final paper for Animal Cognition, which I still haven't got an idea for (we have to devise a viable experiment that hasn't been done).
- Chmmr is back from the Elecronic Eel Expo, finally.
- I got some mice from the reptile shop.

Eh. Over and out.

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Karla Z

February 2012

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