Sunday, 15 January 2017

Saturday, 14 January 2017


I've been lucky enough to delve into the world of VR of late. In the words of Lincoln Steffens, "I have seen the future, and it works." Though it may be too early to tell, while cinema was the art form of the 20th century, VR may very well be the medium of the 21st. This bitesize documentary from VICE UK looks at the latest trends and addresses some of the physiological and ethical issues with VR.

Friday, 30 December 2016


Hawken was in development for quite a while (I first blogged about it in 2012) after going through various devs and publishers. It's in open beta on Steam and I'm embarrassed to say that it's only now that I've actually played it. It was primarily the visual design which attracted my attention, so that's what I'm going to talk about here.

This mech FPS game does a great job at mining a decayed hard-sci-fi look which is popular at the moment - think Neill Blomkamp meets Kow Yokoyama with a bit of Star Wars thrown in. The arenas are wonderfully gritty with lots of hazard markings stencilled over rotting metal plates. There is a great level of atmospheric haze too which serves to add realism without obscuring the detail. In this interview lead developer Khang Le talks candidly about the pragmatism he employed when designing the look of the game and cites Yokoyama as a major influence for the mech design.

On this note, Le worked with artist John Park to conceptualise the mechs and the environments and you should definitely check out Park's portfolio page for Hawken. The mechs are satisfyingly clunky and realistic while retaining a charm that gets you attached to yours. They are compartmentalised so many of the assets can be swapped, which, far from being repetitive, actually gives them a real-world vibe of mass produced parts configured in radically different ways. This facilitates the almost infinite customisation which is fun (if a little impenetrable at times). Beyond your female trainer, the pilots are left unseen, though some ground crew in the hanger cinematics lead you to believe they might be faceless shemagh-wearing types which are in vogue at the moment.

Hawken is free on Steam, Xbox One and PS4. I'll leave you with some screenshots and some of John Park's awesome concepts.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

New tumblr theme

A while ago I opted for more of a linear tumblr theme with high-rez images vertically stacked, but ultimately I think some of the power of the collection was eroded. I've switched back to a mosaic so you can now enjoy the monochrome unity of the inside of my head.

View it here. The new theme is this one.

Super-Fan Builds D&D table

This is a great build of a fully fitted-out RPG table. What's fascinating is the fusion of modern and traditional craftsmanship. The team employs traditional carpentry, upholstery and physical sculpting with Z-Brush, laser cutting and 3D printing making it a truly hybrid work. It'll be really interesting to see over the coming decades if these new methods of fabrication become cheap enough to be employed to do any of the 'heavy lifting' and replace things like wood work.


Saturday, 24 December 2016

2017... now in colour!

As 2016 draws to a close there are no doubt many people drawing a sigh of relief and hoping that '17 will be... well, just better. For my part I'm planning some big changes but I'll talk more about the if and when they happen. You're going to see a bit more about video games on this blog too.

In other news, those of you who remember my 'Blanchitsu' miniatures work will recall that most of it was decked out in vibrant and cheerful shades of black. The [Black:Clad] phase, as I've dubbed it, I think is over now. It's been a great aesthetic to explore but I'm feel like I'm done with it for the time being. I'm bouncing to the other end of the spectrum (no pun intended) and am more interested in saturation - the kind of colour combos that were popular in the '70s. Examples I'm drawn to are the work of Roger Dean, the films of Dario Argento and the graphic covers of non-fiction books of the day. On a tangential, but related note, there's a vein of very sophisticated 70s design (and in particular product and technology design) that I'm getting into - forget the vomit coloured flower prints and hand drawn owls of the period and think instead of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 (yeah, I know technically it's '68) interiors and the tech in Saul Bass' Phase IV.

I'll leave you with a few image mosaics - most (if not all) of the [Black:Clad] series, and some inspiration I'm mining for the future.


PS My tumblr is still almost entirely monochome. I'm not sure if this will change as I'm still enjoying posting to it. My Instagram is pretty polychrome though!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The films of Nicolas Winding Refn

It's rare for me to have a 'favourite director' as it often seems that directors I like change tack during their career and loose their appeal. Feature films are also complex, expansive beasts and are vulnerable to studio interference, marketing derailing and so forth all of which directors largely lack control over. Thus past favourites like David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Ridley Scott have produced varying fair during their careers. Lynch had a hard time after Fire Walk with Me, Cronenberg shifted his focus to more human dramas rather than the body horror I loved and Scott moved from sci-fi to big budget historical and military epics which are hulking, risky affairs that I've struggled with.

Like many I discovered the Dane Refn after his 2011 hit Drive with its awesome soundtrack by Kavinsky. The images of a timeless, lurid neon LA complete with low-life criminals and movie stunt men captured the 80s retro junket we've been on for the last decade. I've gradually explored the rest of his catalogue and, with his most recent offering, The Neon Demon, I have to say I'm now hooked.

His use of cinematography and particularly colour is stunning, and he has the Kubrick-ian ability to create cult images which not only capture the zeitgeist but survive to become embedded in popular culture. As Clockwork Orange's mascara'd eye and bowler hat will sum up the violence of dystopian-scarred-youth, the back of Refn's silent, scorpion-embroidered-baseball-jacketed anti-hero from Drive will be associated with car crime for decades to come. I believe Tarantino has this quality too (think thugs in black suits with skinny black ties) but that's a topic for another post.

What a lot of my favourites share is mixed reaction - they are often 'Marmite' and Refn is no exception. If you don't like slow, production-design-driven movies featuring are long periods of silence then his work is not for you. The Neon Demon has really divided critics and it's an excruciating watch at times to be sure, but that only made me love it more. It's also a very good film about women, albeit the most dreadful and dangerous kind you're likely to meet.

I'll leave you with some images from his movies and hope you'll give his work a try. But don't blame me if you don't like it.

Bronson, 2008, where English eccentricity meets ultra-violence courtesy of a feral performance from Tom Hardy
Valhalla Rising, 2009, sees Mads Mikkelsen chew his way through one of the most bleak and terrifying visions of the dark ages committed to film.

Drive, 2011, with that jacket. And that soundtrack. Languid neon low-life in a bleak, late 20th century hinterland.

Only God Forgives, 2013, swaps LA for Bangkok and techno for karaoke. Seen here is a beautiful mural that epitomises the set design.
The Neon Demon, 2016, where the violence against and between women is taken to an extreme and beyond into a sickening realm of gothic horror.