Something from the vault today! And no it isn’t a Borderlands final boss. Here are some photos of one of my much older projects: a cosplay of Chell from Valve’s Portal 2. This dates from 2011 and was probably my first “proper”costume attempt. It was very much trial and error: there’s so much that I’d do differently were I to attempt this costume again now (including working out; which is something I do regularly now but didn’t back then – and sadly it showed!) So it’s not great, but I thought I’d share it anyway for two reasons: (1) I’ve always found it quite interesting to see how other people’s cosplay efforts have evolved other time (2) I’m still pretty proud of what B and I achieved here with only a limited idea of what we were doing and an even more limited budget!
Chell cosplay by AddAltModeR
More pics and commentary after the jump…
It’s been a while since we did any music-related posts on here, so let’s rectify that. Now, my taste in music as a whole runs rather towards the bleak: gothic metal, post rock, dark wave, that sort of thing. My Dad once described an album I was listening to as “the sort of thing that would get rejected from Leonard Cohen’s funeral playlist for blackening the mood.” So, yeah, I’m a bit of a musical miserablist overall, but when I’m ready to go to my aural happy place there’s nothing I enjoy more than listening to chiptunes.
Which isn’t to say all chiptune sounds are upbeat. Chiptune isn’t really a genre so much as a way of producing music, using the technology and sound chips from old 80s consoles and computers. There are some wonderfully downbeat chiptune soundscapes out there too, some of which we may showcase another Tuesday. But let’s start with a project that does feel truly joyful in its nostalgia for the world of 8-bit gaming… Bring on Demoscene Time Machine!
Demoscene Time Machine band logo
Type of game: Point and click graphic adventure
Developed & Published by: Telltale Games
Year: Episode 1 Zer0 Sum November 2014; Episode 2 Atlas Mugged March 2015; Episode 3 Catch a Ride June 2015
Played on: Steam
Well, I love point and click adventure games, and Borderlands is my favourite game franchise ever. But not all great tastes go well together: I also love coffee and cider but I wouldn’t want to mix them in one mug. So I bought my season pass for this new episodic adventure from Telltale Games with excitement but also – I’ll confess – some trepidation. The blackly comic sci-fi frontier world of Pandora is a wonderful setting, but in the Borderlands FPS/RPG games the main way to interact with this environment is by shooting stuff and looting better guns in order to kill bigger stuff and loot even crazier guns. I couldn’t quite imagine how the Borderlands vibe would translate into the kind of narrative / consequence-heavy experience that Telltale are so adept creating.
Only one way to find out…
Game title screen: clicking finger at the ready!
There will be 5 episodes in total, but here are my thoughts from having played through the 3 parts of this game that are currently released…
TL;DR version: it works and I loved it.
More considered opinion after the jump. I’ve tried to avoid any major plot spoilers here but this is the kind of game that it’s tricky to discuss in any depth without mentioning a few events, so consider yourself forewarned. I’d rate this review as 25% of a Rodimus on the spoiler scale I’ve literally just invented.
A long time ago, I posted about customising a toy into Mismatch, the cannibalistic Decepticon from defunct MMO Transformers Universe. I’d been too involved in other projects to make much progress, but recently I’ve been back to it. Here’s a fresh picture before I go into the final stages.
Mismatch in car mode, mostly painted. Inset: Mismatch’s custom head.
Actually, it’s been a bit of a struggle to get all of the yellow parts covered: Not all of them are easily accessed without extensive dismantling. Some customisers prefer to do this, and I’m beginning to see the wisdom in this method.
Another thing that became apparent when as I worked on this project was that I could have made a better choice of starting figure: there was a black re-deco of this mould released as “Night Shadow Bumblebee“. If I’d planned better from the start, I’d have picked up one of these along side the yellow mould that I did get, and used the grey parts from standard Bumblebee with the black parts from the Night Shadow version, I’d have only needed to paint the green bits. Still, this was my first heavy customisation project, so it has been educational.
Mismatch is well on his way to completion: I’ve just got to paint a few more areas, ink in a few details, push his new head into place and give him a faction symbol (sticker) a quick coat of lacquer. I’m hoping to finish him in a couple of weeks.
How do you prefer to buy and read your comics? There are (by and large) no right or wrong answers, so long as you’re reading and enjoying them it’s all good, but there are plenty of options to consider…
A binge you say? Swerve approves!
Title: The Alchemy of Stone
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
First Published: 2008
Robots tend to be imagined as being pretty tough and durable. Even those machines that aren’t specifically built for war or heavy labour are often depicted as having super-strength or the ability to withstand great pressure (check out the TV Tropes page Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids!) This is understandable: metal is stronger than flesh. But when authors diverge wildly from this stereotype the results can be intriguing. Mattie, the mechanical protagonist of this steampunk fantasy novel is one such divergent creation. She is an (allegedly) ”emancipated automaton” with a clockwork core; less sentient tank and more whalebone-ribbed living doll – with all the frailty that implies. She even has a delicate, porcelain face that is prone to cracking.
It’s refreshing to see a more vulnerable robot for a change; refreshing, but also heart-breaking. Think about how much prejudice and intolerance we see towards sentient machines in other sci-fi and fantasy works and now imagine a creation singularly ill-equipped to defend herself against such abuses. “There are a few intelligent automatons around,” Mattie explains ”…But you know, nobody likes making them. And they… we don’t even like ourselves.”
As this quote suggests, The Alchemy of Stone is a beautifully melancholy read, blending the sensibilities of a dark fairytale with an allusive commentary on real world issues of gender and racial inequality and – as is common in steampunk-inspired fiction – an exploration of the conquests and casualties that are inherent in the unstoppable march of progress. Sedia’s vivid imagination and beguiling way with words kept me intrigued to the end of Mattie’s story, but I have to admit, I felt this novel’s world-building was finally more captivating than its plot.
Simulators are strange. That they stand at the crossroads between games and educational tools isn’t weird in itself, many games do that. What is odd about so many simulators is that they occupy this particular mental space by choice.
A screen-capture from Farming Simulator 2014 by GIANTS software. Inset: Screencaptures from Dovetail Games’ Train Simulator 2015 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
Whilst a simulator can be used as a training tool when used with a well-designed set of exercises, it can also allow people to experiment and explore situations without consequences when users simply play around with it.
In the recent Steam Summer sale, I was intrigued that Goat Simulator by Coffee Stain Studios was available for a trifling £1.74, so I laid down my money and decided to learn what I could about goats, and about Coffee Stain’s native country of Sweden, from this fascinating piece of software. This post might get a little bit outré, so don’t read on if you’re easily disturbed. Continue reading
So, there’s a brand new Pixar film on the horizon: Inside Out. I say “on the horizon” but it’s actually already been released in the States. Here in the UK we have to wait a couple of weeks longer: it will be landing on July 24th apparently. As a minor, gripey aside, why do a lot of Disney releases still keep on with the staggered release dates? In these days of online connectivity it seems ridiculous to make some countries wait weeks when a film is already out elsewhere, it just seems a recipe for spoilers and / or piracy. I haven’t forgiven Disney yet for making us wait MONTHS for Wreck It Ralph. I was so excited for that film but while the States got it in, I think, October / November, it was something like February before it reached our side of the pond and I’ll admit my enthusiasm was waning by that point. So a couple of weeks delay here is a vast improvement, but why any delay? We get Marvel films simultaneously (indeed, we got Age of Ultron first!) I just don’t understand the logic.
Release schedule grumbling aside, let’s talk Pixar, then.
They’ve produced some of my all time favorite films over the years, especially during the period of the late noughties, which – looking back – seemed a bit like a Pixar golden age. Yes, there’s a retrospective, possibly even nostalgic, tone to that statement, because I have to say I haven’t been so impressed with the studio’s output since 2010. It felt like the magic was lost when they started churning out too many sequels and prequels. But my interest has been rekindled a little by Inside Out: an original story – their first for a while – and, from what I’ve seen and read about it so far, an interesting choice of subject, set inside the mind of a young a girl and featuring her personified emotions. The film’s overall message, that a little sadness is necessary in life, seems a brave and important one to emphasise in a family film. So I’m reasonably interested to see it, although I’ll admit the scene in the trailer which showcased Dad’s inner emotions (which mostly consisted of ignoring his wife and tactlessly misreading the situation) felt a little too much like it was playing up to crass stereotypes. I hope the rest of the film is a little more nuanced than this scene, but you know, even if it isn’t, at least they’ve released this and not Cars 3.
The imminent release of Inside Out seems like a good time to reflect on Pixar releases of old. So after some chin stroking, I’ve put together my Pixar Top Five. I think most of us have a Pixar film or two that inspires particular fondness, so comparing lists is a good way of comparing tastes. I’ve love to know how your preferences stand against mine….
A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.
—Lucius Annaeus Seneca
3D-printing is an amazing technology; it is finding medical uses, making industrial prototyping an awful lot easier, and putting gadget personalization into the reach of just about anyone with even a basic amount of computer literacy.
However, today at AddAltMode, we’re not here to talk about all these amazing world-improving technologies. We’re going to talk about the use of 3D-printing to make custom accessories for action figures. And guess what? There’s a thriving community of Transformers fans, arming their robots with unique 3D-printed weapons. Today we’re going to pull some 3D-printed blades off the sword-rack and look at them in detail.
All Hail Megatron! Maybe it’s a shocking confession, but we didn’t actually have a Megatron in our collection before (other than the teeny one that “hatched” out of a Kinder Egg). Since we’ve only been buying Transformers (again) for the last couple of years, there hadn’t been a Megatron released during this time who really appealed. We wanted a large Megsy, a figure with some gravitas, the sort who nobody – except probably Wheeljack – would dare to call “Megsy.” But most of the more recent toys of this iconic Decepticon have been smaller sized ones, and we weren’t about to the pay the silly prices for which some of the older, larger figures now sell. So I was pretty excited when I heard a new Leader class Megatron was on the way as part of the Generations Combiner Wars line. We pre-ordered this big guy way back in January, but I only just got my hands on him last week. His ship date just kept getting put back and put back. But finally here he is!
A Leader Class Decepticon Leader
Was he worth the wait? Let’s have a closer look shall we?