Saturday, October 26, 2013

Playin' with Photoshop

A couple more images for the DC Heroes RPG: Clock King and Nocturna.

And then me playing with layers and backgrounds...

Pretty simple stuff, really... but I'm mostly experimenting with offsetting the different color channels to give a bit of a 3D effect and then putting that over a background that helps make it pop.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My current wallpaper

I combined the images from DC Universe Legacies #3 and 4 and gave it a bit of a retro look to make my current wallpaper. It features the Silver Age Justice League and Teen Titans, with outstanding art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dave Gibbons.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Batman '66: Quite Possibly the Best New Series of 2013

As DC Comics proper has gone the way of shock and schlock, with inventive storytelling giving way to more immediate sensationalistic approaches such as graphic gore and ultra-violence, disguised as being more "mature" and "sophisticated", a shining beacon of light has appeared on the horizon.

I'm still not quite sure how it slipped out. Perhaps the "powers-that-be" expected it to flop as it was positioned in the still emerging DC Digital Firsts line-up. Surely, they didn't predict that it would be the smash hit that it turned out to be.

Shuffled in with 'out of continuity' anthologies, TV tie-ins like ARROW and SMALLVILLE and the BATMAN BEYOND family of books, BATMAN '66 managed to strike a cord with readers.

Some say it's the nostalgic appeal. But keep in mind that the original '60s TV series, although appearing in syndication long after the show's demise, has still yet to appear on DVD. Well, not legally, anyway... (And it could be argued that anyone who really desired to have the series in their collection has either already patiently recorded them off television or bought a bootleg copy at a convention.)
I'm sure nostalgia has a bit to do with it but I would guess that most people who were fans of the show have either moved on from comics or given up on them ever being fun again.

Some say it's the creators involved. This, I cannot deny. Jeff Parker being given writing chores was a stroke of genius. Anyone who's read his AGENTS OF ATLAS series at Marvel would know exactly what to expect. This guy knows how to entertain with his tongue held firmly in his cheek.

The series has a rotating cast of artists doing the interiors but Mike Allred on covers adds icing to the cake. This alone would guarantee sales of the print versions, even after they've been read digitally.
If you were fortunate enough to grab a copy of the Allred issue of SOLO years ago, you would agree that he makes a perfect fit.
But even having Allred aboard would only pull in so many readers.

Some would say it's simply because it's a Batman book. And yes, there are people out there that will buy anything that has "Batman" in the name, just like there are those that will buy anything with an "X-".

But I believe what we have here is a prime example of the right elements being brought together to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

BATMAN '66 is just plain fun.

No, there's no one being decapitated or impaled for shock value.
Nor is there a character needlessly saying a curse word just so a "Mature" tag can be slapped on the cover in hopes of looking "adult" (Here's looking at you, Marvel MAX).
But, by golly... you will still LIKE it!

BATMAN '66 fills a void that some would say started to appear when the (5 year) JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL run by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis ended. Ever since then, it became taboo for a comic to be taken less than seriously. So much so that even before DC plunged into the darkness that is the New 52, they heralded the upcoming shift in tone by killing off the mascot of that era, the Blue Beetle. Many readers felt there was more to read between the lines here and that DC was saying "there is no going back".

Hopefully, with titles like Mark Waid's DAREDEVIL and Matt Fraction's HAWKEYE (both at Marvel) garnering praise and gaining popularity we're beginning to see the rubber band that has been stretched so far start to snap back.

I sincerely expect to see BATMAN '66 on the nominee list of both the Eisner and the Harvey awards next year. And I hope that it's success will inspire more titles to be made that appeal to readers who step into comics to escape from reality, if even just for a few minutes.

And while I do expect the book to be nominated, and maybe even win an award, that still doesn't amount to much as far as DC is concerned. Both SOLO and WEDNESDAY COMICS won awards and where are they now?
Meanwhile, only one New52 comic has been nominated for an award. And no, it didn't win anything. But it still sells. Because it's "BATMAN".

So in the meantime, I suggest that everyone who enjoys comics, for what they can be, go check out BATMAN '66. You can get the weekly digital versions on Comixology every Wednesday or you can wait and pick up the print edition (collecting three weeks at a time) monthly at your local comic shop. Maybe DC will be smart and keep it around for a long time. I certainly hope so.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Mixcloud Update

I've been a bit out of the loop on everything lately. I started uploading my old mixes to Mixcloud last year, under the name "kossori" and began work on some new stuff. But not long after, my computer crashed and I lost a lot of files.

Since then, I've been busy getting things back on track again.

I'm currently in the process of converting the rest of my old mixes for upload and getting geared up to make new mixes again.

For now, you can find what I've uploaded prior to the crash here.

Edit: Groove Mixx 9 is now up.

Android Games I Really Like #2

Continuing on with my list of favorite mobile games. I've played these all on Android, but should be available on iOS, as well.

2. Elder Sign: Omens (Fantasy Flight Games).

Elder Sign: Omens is a mobile version of Fantasy Flight's popular board game based on H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. The object of the game is to prevent an "Ancient One" from awakening by taking a group of four characters through various missions in an old museum. From what I've gathered, the play of the game follows the board game rather closely, with you "rolling" glyphs to match and beat obstacles.

I've never played the actual board game that this draws from. However, I did end up getting the board game for Arkham Horror after playing this. I had read several positive reviews for it, even before I stepped into the Elder Sign universe on Android. I was quite pleased (and surprised) that all the investigators in Arkham Horror are in use in Elder Sign: Omens, as are the Ancient Ones.

I've attempted to play Arkham Horror a couple times by myself. It's a very complex game and it takes a couple of plays just to get the mechanics down. And really, you should play it solo a few times. Especially if you want to teach someone else how to play.

Strangely enough, Elder Sign: Omens, while just a bit different from Arkham Horror, actually helped me grasp a lot of the core mechanics of the board game. If I were to get someone to play the board game, I would probably first hand them my tablet and let them play through Omens a few times to get a feel for the game first. It really helps.

When you purchase the game for $3.99, you get four Ancient Ones (Yig, Tsathoggua, Azathoth and Hastur), each with different levels of difficulty, and sixteen investigators. These initial characters are the same ones featured in the Arkham Horror board game, right down to the same artwork and stamina/sanity points. You also have access to a character that can be unlocked by defeating Azathoth.

Further expansions are also available to get three more Ancient Ones. These all come with five more investigators, one of which is a locked character rewarded for beating each campaign. These expansions are $2.99 each.

Elder Sign: Omens is a great game with a concrete objective to win and it can be quite challenging at times. It can be replayed as many times as you like, giving you an opportunity to try out different investigators. Plus, no two games ever run the same, as the encounters are randomly determined as you progress.

The game brings a high quality board game experience to tablets with the added bonus of not having to set up or put the board and pieces away after playing.

Another feature I really like is that it plays perfectly offline and doesn't need an internet connection unless you're needing to update or download an expansion.

I really like what Fantasy Flight did with Elder Sign: Omens and really wish they would add more mobile ports of their games. It's a great way to enjoy them alone or to learn the various rules and mechanics. I'm sure if they did, all the games would quickly be "devoured".

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Android Games I Really Like #1

Yes, I'm a gamer. Yes, I have both a smartphone and a tablet. And these both happen to be Androids. Although... I must make clear that this is not saying that Android is better than iOS or vice-versa. It's simply that I've had an Android device for so long that it would be like starting over if I were to switch. I tend to think that 75% of users of Android or iOS feel the same way about their given system and stick with it because they've invested so much into them.

So, with that out of the way, let me run down the ten Android games I currently play and why.

1. Pinball Arcade/Zen Pinball - Okay... this is really two. I'm a big fan of pinball and these are genuinely the best emulators on the market.

Pinball Arcade (by Farsight Studios) is chock full of tables based on real pinball machines by the likes of Williams, Gottlieb and Bally. At the time of writing this there are 37 tables to choose from! Tables are released in packs (usually two to a pack but sometimes one) and are separated into two seasons that can be purchased as bundles for a slight discount.

Tables on Pinball Arcade (in order of release):

Tales of the Arabian Nights (Williams, 1996)
Ripley's Believe it or Not! (Stern, 2004)
Black Hole (Gottlieb, 1981)
Theatre of Magic (Bally, 1995)
The Machine: Bride of Pin*bot (Williams, 1991)
Medieval Madness (Williams, 1997)
Cirqus Voltaire (Bally, 1997)
Funhouse (Williams, 1990)
Gorgar (Williams, 1979)
Monster Bash (Williams, 1998)
Black Knight (Williams, 1980)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (Bally, 1992)
Taxi (Williams, 1988)
Harley Davidson 3rd Edition (Stern, 1999)
Elvira and the Party Monsters (Bally, 1989)
No Good Gofers (Williams, 1997)
Scared Stiff (Bally, 1996)
Big Shot (Gottlieb, 1974)
Twilight Zone (Bally, 1993)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Williams, 1993)
Attack from Mars (Bally, 1995)
Genie (Gottlieb, 1979)
Dr. Dude (Bally, 1990)
Firepower (Williams, 1980)
Cactus Canyon (Bally, 1998)
Central Park (Gottlieb, 1966)
White Water (Williams, 1993)
Space Shuttle (Williams, 1984)
Pin*Bot (Williams, 1986)
Centaur (Bally, 1981)
The Champion Pub (Bally, 1998)
Whirlwind (Williams, 1990)
Flight 2000 (Stern, 1980)
Goin Nuts (Gottlieb, 1983)
Terminator 2 (Williams, 1991)
Teed Off (Gottlieb, 1993)
Haunted House (Gottlieb, 1982)

I first became interested in Pinball Arcade on the PS3 and had already purchased several of the tables through the Playstation Network. I was a bit hesitant at first of playing pinball on my tablet because I had gotten so used to the controls of the console. I still prefer the PS3 for multiplayer as I don't like passing my tablet around but for a more personal experience, it comes the closest to the real thing.

Jive Time and Sorcerer (from the Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection) and Ace High, Victory, El Dorado and Strikes n' Spares (from the Pinball Hall of Fame: Gottlieb Collection) can't be too far away and there has been confirmation of the Addams Family pinball game being ported in the near future.

If you go to the Wikipedia link, you can see even more information about the upcoming tables.

Tales of the Arabian Nights comes free with the download and most packs run about $5 a piece. Season 1 is about $29.99 and Season 2 is $39.99.

Zen Pinball does mostly all-original tables with more modern features like animated characters on the screen/table. They started out with a handful of tables but didn't really gain notoriety until they landed a deal with Marvel Comics to produce tables based on their properties. They increased their prominence by adding Star Wars to their stable soon after.

Currently, Zen Pinball has a total of 23 tables (with 3 more on the way):

Sorcerer's Lair
Epic Quest
Fantastic Four
Captain America
The Avengers
World War Hulk
Ghost Rider
Civil War
Moon Knight
The Infinity Gauntlet
Fear Itself
Iron Man
Star Wars: Episode V
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Star Wars: Boba Fett

Star Wars: Episode VI
Star Wars: Starfighter Assault
Star Wars: Balance of the Force

The initial app download gets you Sorcerer's Lair and the rest of the tables are priced at $1 or $2 each.

As far as missing games go, Zen still hasn't added El Dorado, V-12, Plants vs. Zombies, Mars, Street Fighter 2, Ninja Gaiden or Earth Defense to the tablet (even though their Youtube video here stated it was released two months ago).

Zen has some remarkable tables but they also have a cumbersome approach to releasing their games. There's three separate apps the tables are available on: Zen Pinball HD, Marvel Pinball and Star Wars Pinball.
For simple folks (like me) that want just one app, Zen Pinball HD would be the way to go. Although... there is one catch... The Spider-Man table is only available on the Marvel Pinball app.
Fortunately, all three Star Wars tables are available on both SW Pinball and Zen Pinball.

Another hindrance to Zen Pinball is that even though you can play your tables offline, you still need an internet connection to track or gain achievements. And the less we talk about Swarm, the better.

Pinball Arcade plays fine without an internet connection and you only need to connect to update or download new tables.

I was going to attempt to list all ten games in one post but had no idea that this one would run so long. We'll have to come back to dig out the other nine.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go play some pinball...