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We talk Deus Ex announcement, a Five Night's at Freddy's movie, and of course Jurassic World.
by Michael Martinez Photos by Abbie Willans Michael Smith may not live in a galaxy far, far away, but he does have a piece of one in his garage. A lot of pieces actually. Smith is building one of the most iconic characters in Star Wars history: R2-D2. To be clear, this droid he’s creating will be far more than a simple stationary replica. Smith’s own R2 will be fully functional when it’s completed and will include all manners of moving parts, playable audio and lights. Wheels on its legs enable it to drive around rooms, and its head is able to swivel independently of its body. The hologram projector that famously displayed Princess Leia even made it into Smith’s robot, but unfortunately isn’t capable of projecting Leia. The audio is straight out of the movies as all beeps, dings and buzzes are official audio clips from Lucasfilm. Smith is especially proud of his R2-D2’s ‘hacking arm’, which he says is difficult to craft and fit into the already cluttered insides of the droid. While he has certainly poured a significant amount of devotion into his R2, he’s anything but alone in this hobby. Smith is a member of a group known as the R2-D2 Builders Club, a community of builders from around the world who are just as passionate about building R2 robots as he is. For those building their own droids, the group is a haven of similarly passionate individuals. They can share tips, blueprints, parts or just discuss their love for, and opinions on, one the world's most well-known movie series. With almost 10,000 members from around the world, the Builders Club is an expansive and diverse community. As if making your own robot wasn’t cool enough, several builders have had their creations featured in official Star Wars promotional work and at charity events. Two members have even received contracts from Lucasfilm to oversee the R2-D2 model that will be used in the upcoming movie. Smith shares similar aspirations, hoping to see his completed work make a difference in the lives of those that may be struggling. “I read about these [R2 builder] guys doing their hospital visits in particular,” Smith said, “and I thought ‘What a great idea. What a cool way to do something so cool. Like, build a droid, I mean who doesn’t want an R2-D2, right? What a cool way to do all that while also being constructive and positive in helping other people.’ If you see what kids do at the hospitals when they see the droids – it means a lot. It makes a big difference for them I think.” Smith, a mechanical engineer, husband and father, has held a passion for Star Wars since his first viewing of the original film in theaters. His creation may appear to be nothing more than a simple extension of his fandom, to him, however, the potential for the project is much greater. While his love for the series is what initially inspired him to undertake this, even loftier hopes, such as using his droid for charity, motivate him through the lengthy process. The reward of completing and using his droid to share his love for Star Wars comes at the expense of a considerable time and financial commitment. He’s been working on his R2 since 2012. It’s been an effort of love, patience and learning. He made a number of the droid's parts himself or reused parts from other builders who had no further use for them. This has helped keep his costs down. Even if he does purchase new parts rather than making his own, they often must be modified or fitted to work in his droid. If everything comes together as he hopes, Smith estimates the final budget for his droid may not be much more than $500. He does say, however, that some builders’ droids exceed $10,000 if they are buying high-end electronics and brand new parts. Even if a builder is purchasing many of their parts new, there is still a significant number of things that must be created by hand, or existing parts that must be molded to fit specific purposes. “It’s not like you can just buy this as a kit… it requires a ton of research, a lot of decision making and considerable skill,” Smith said. One of the most interesting aspects of Smith’s droid is that he’s made very little effort to keep it in pristine condition. Sure, he avoids letting parts break, and steers clear of situations that may cause serious damage, but what he doesn’t mind are little nicks, scratches and dings that give it a more authentic weathered look similar to the R2-D2 that was noticeably banged up in many of the films. Taking on such a project is no small endeavor, but Smith’s support for the project is larger than just the builders group. His family has stood by him as well. While he says his wife is more of a Doctor Who fan, she has become enthusiastic about the project, and sees the charitable potential of it as a worthy cause. His daughter loves the idea of having a working R2-D2 in the house. A Star Wars fan herself, she’s been regularly watching the animated show Star Wars Rebels with her father. Smith doesn’t have a specific deadline set for the droid’s completion, but he would like to have it ready before the premiere of Star Wars: Episode VII in December. As far as he knows he is the only one in the area that has an R2-D2 and would love to use it at a premiere event for future Star Wars films. Will Michael Smith’s R2 be completed in time? It’s hard to say right now, but one thing's for sure: the force is strong with this one.
We talk about Star Wars, a Titanfall Sequel, and everyone's favorite walking tree.
We talk the new Batman game, Lara Croft's new movie, and Inspector Gadget coming to Netflix.
We talk Yo Kai the Pokemon killer, Fortress Fallout having a Fallout, and George tells some secrets from Game of Thrones
Marvel's universes collide, Sony settles on a lawsuit, and DOTA gets banned from internet cafes.
The room was lined with long desks covered in wires, tools and chunks of disfigured metal in various states of creation.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a lot like a cool car with a janked up engine. From the outside it looks great and will leave you wanting more, but after a short drive you won’t want to be behind the wheel much longer. Traversing through an old-world city has never been more beautiful than it is in Unity, and a number of new gameplay mechanics stand out in a strong way. Unfortunately, some overwhelming issues ruin what easily could have been the best new-gen experience to date.
Cost: $8.50 and 8 hours Year: 2004 All right ladies and gents, time to dust off that PlayStation 2 or Xbox that’s been sitting in your closet and swing into a comic classic.
By Michael MartinezCost: $8.50 and 8 hoursYear: 2004 All right ladies and gents, time to dust off that PlayStation 2 or Xbox that’s been sitting in your closet and swing into a comic classic. From the current Marvel domination of Hollywood, to DC’s ever expanding TV shows and outstanding Batman: Arkham games, comics have taken all forms of media by storm. Taking a step back through time, there is a lesser known superhero game: Ultimate Spider-Man. This game lived in the daunting shadow of the Spider-Man movie games, coming out right after Spider-Man 2, but is nonetheless well worth the pocket change to pick it up.The immediate thing anyone playing this will notice when picking up this game up is the striking art style. Dubbed by the developer Treyarch as “Comic linking Animation technology”, a form of cel-shading similar to what you’ll see in the Borderlands series. The comic book feel doesn’t end with the visuals, as the rest of the game screams it every chance it gets. Even though it’s now two console generations old, this game still has simplistic yet colorfully vibrant charm, which is incredibly pleasing to eyes.While the start can be a bit slow getting into the swing of things, the game soon starts throwing campy, yet ridiculously fun, scenarios at you. One mission has Spider-Man taking on a 15 foot-tall robotic Rhino as he plows head first through buildings and tosses cars around like nothing. Another will see you swinging after and battling a hulk sized Green Goblin that can shoot balls of fire out of his hands.As fun as the rest of the game is, the cherry on top of it all is getting to play as Venom. After every handful of missions as Spider-Man, the game’s narrative changes perspective, putting players in the role of the symbiotic monstrosity himself. Venom’s missions all take place at night, as opposed to Spider-Man’s that takes place during the day, making him all the more menacing as he launches himself across the cityscape.Far stronger than Spider-Man, Venom can chuck cars across the city, jump clear over tall buildings in a single leap, and devastate enemies with his long-reaching tendrils. All of these powers make Venom feel like his own character, and playing as him is an entirely different experience than when playing the web-head. After the game’s conclusion, free roam mode is unlocked for Venom, which essentially amounts to just rampaging across Manhattan trying to avoid the ever increasing authorities until the heat goes down, a lot like Grand Theft Auto’s famous five-star system.Unfortunately, a number of missions can be quite repetitive in structure and some have random spikes in difficulty that will often warrant a handful of retries to get through successfully, especially the numerous chase sequences. An occasionally uncooperative camera, and the random glitch here and there, only make this issue more obvious. The story itself isn’t one you’ll likely be raving about either, but it is a great representation of the Ultimate Spider-Man universe overall and one that any Spider-Man fan will enjoy, even if the voice acting can be bit corny at times. These issues aren’t anything that will ruin the experience though, and for so cheap, Ultimate Spider-Man is worth every penny. While most of today’s interpretations of comics have taken on a darker, more realistic tone, Ultimate Spider-Man embraces the beautiful campy insanity of its source material. Sean Marquette, who voices Spider-Man (as well as Mac from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, so there’s a nostalgia trip for you), adds to this with his cheesy, but funny banter that the comic Spider-Man is known for. This, mixed with a story written by Brian Michael Bendis, the author of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series, creates a light-hearted fun experience any Spider-Man, comic book, or superhero fan, will love.Images: GalleryHip, Torrent Games
We love games, and if you’re reading this it’s very likely you have a passion for themas well. It’s also likely that you have at some point heard, or held your own, criticismsof them for how they depict stereotypes, genders, and sexuality, among a slew ofother things. From over-sexualized women, to the heteronormative portrayal ofrelationships, issues do exist.Does this mean all games are problems and are incapable of setting goodexamples? No, of course it doesn’t.The notion of video games being a medium of worth has been debated since thetime of their inception. Their faults are often perceived as creating a lot of problems,but are these faults really the source, or merely symptoms of larger societal issues?Just as every other medium we consume, they are a product of society and as suchoften fall prey to the ideas society instills in their creators, and frankly, all of us.While societal structures may certainly be present in their design, video games beingan experience built of creativity affords their creators the opportunity to question,challenge, and at times, outright defy those very structures.Where do games made simply for enjoyment fall into this topic though? Are gameswith grizzled, emotionless, straight male warriors slaying space dolphins whilewinning the love of an overly-sexual female dodge ball queen still OK?
By Michael MartinezWe love games, and if you’re reading this it’s very likely you have a passion for themas well. It’s also likely that you have at some point heard, or held your own, criticismsof them for how they depict stereotypes, genders, and sexuality, among a slew ofother things. From over-sexualized women, to the heteronormative portrayal ofrelationships, issues do exist.Does this mean all games are problems and are incapable of setting goodexamples? No, of course it doesn’t.The notion of video games being a medium of worth has been debated since thetime of their inception. Their faults are often perceived as creating a lot of problems,but are these faults really the source, or merely symptoms of larger societal issues?Just as every other medium we consume, they are a product of society and as suchoften fall prey to the ideas society instills in their creators, and frankly, all of us.While societal structures may certainly be present in their design, video games beingan experience built of creativity affords their creators the opportunity to question,challenge, and at times, outright defy those very structures.Where do games made simply for enjoyment fall into this topic though? Are gameswith grizzled, emotionless, straight male warriors slaying space dolphins whilewinning the love of an overly-sexual female dodge ball queen still OK?Image from GameSushiThey’re entirely OK.Hell, we’d like to play that game, and we’re not even sure what a dodge ball queenis. Is she just crazy good at dodge ball, or does she have some kind of wild dodgeball related super powers? Who knows?But I digress; games such as this are absolutely OK, because these types of peopledo exist. Certainly not to such an extreme as in this example, but there are men inthe world that are tough and there are women that consider themselves very sexual.And this is OK, the same way it’s OK for any person who doesn’t identify with thesetypes to exist.It becomes a problem when these types of people are portrayed as being the‘normal way’ and the ‘right way’ of acting.It becomes a problem when these are the only types of people we see.So how do video games inspire us to move past these very problems? The answeris easy: Connections.Actions, ideas, beliefs, can all be born through our connections with others. When anidea that we may not agree with, or simply have no opinion of, is presented, howwilling we are to listen and understand it is significantly greater when it comes fromsomeone we feel connected to. This is where games come in.The beauty of games is their interactivity. Presenting a story is one thing, andsomething any medium can do. Molding an interactive world - a universe - that is notonly interesting, but makes the player feel they are inside of it, a necessary piece ofit, is something entirely different. These interactive worlds are filled with charactersand ideas that players can connect with in ways that are rarely seen in traditionalstorytelling.It is not simply a well-constructed world or story that brings about a strongconnection between a player and their character. What’s important is that thefoundation of this connection is built through the player feeling that they have helpedcreate and influence the story, sharing the experience of doing so with the character.So where do things start to go wrong?Well, negative and harmful portrayals of women, sex, and violence, to name a few,have been prevalent in media as a whole, with games being no exception, as longas media has existed.Is solely focusing on the problems of games while ignoring what they’ve done rightthe answer, though?It’s time for us to take notice of and value the games that have risen beyondstereotypes, giving us meaningful characters worthy of our connection, as examplesthat should be set for the industry at large, while learning from them ourselves.Do these games justify the so many others that have harmfully depictedstereotypes?No, of course not.Does that mean we should not recognize and respect them as a source of change ofthese very stereotypes?Again, no.Possibly the most discussed issue in games, and rightly so, is their portrayal ofwomen. They are prominently featured as oversexualized, weak, and incompetentcharacters, often being depicted as an object for what many consider a mostly maleaudience.This couldn’t be farther from the truth.The reality is that the number of female gamers has vastly increased, with womenmaking up 45% of all gamers in 2013.We spoke with Jackie Crofts, an indie developer and artist for the comic Nutmeg,asking the opinion of someone working their way into the industry why these ideasexist in games.“A lot of it is about how much money [studios] are going to make… It’s risky.Traditionally gaming was male dominated and I think it comes from that. There’sworry that it won’t sell as much. It’s risky to leave the norm,” Croft asserted, “Gamesare not just targeted to kids anymore; everyone is playing game for education or fun,so if we’re gonna grow up playing games, we should play games where there beinga female character is normal, that person is just a person, or different races, it’s justnormal. They’re just people with good background stories.”Jackie continued on to discuss what she believed could be done to prevent harmfulstereotypes from existing.“It’s important to talk about it, not be afraid or hostile about it. Having an opinion isnot a bad thing. It should keep being discussed because that’s the only way to getpast it,” Crofts stated.So what games get it right? What female characters are built of something morethan stereotypes and clichés?Several titles come to mind. Alien: Isolation was recently released (check out ourreview here!), telling the story of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of SigourneyWeaver’s iconic character in the 1979 film Alien.In Alien, the director, Ridley Scott, gave us a film dripping more social and gendercommentary than blood, a hard thing to do given its classic gore shower of a dinnerscene. This was done while still managing to scare the living hell out of viewers withits tense atmosphere, hypnotizing suspense, and humble amount of on-screen timefor the Xenomorph.Ripley’s character in the movie was no exception to this commentary, being aresourceful protagonist that was not bound by the limitations some perceive womento have. In many ways this translates to her daughter’s character in the new game.“The traits that we see in Amanda are very much the traits you see in her mother inthe original movie. Fans will see those mirrors. I don’t think anyone would bedisappointed in the way we’re portraying Amanda. She’s an emotionally powerfulheroine, but we’re putting her in a situation where she is physically under-powered inthe face of the alien, as is everyone,” said Will Porter, a writer for the game, in aninterview with the LA Times.Amanda’s character is not forced into the typical perceptions of women that we oftensee today, nor does she reach the clichéd point of tomboy tough girl. She simplyrepresents a person determined to do what she must.Nope. Definitely nothing bad about to happen here.Amanda Ripley isn’t the only one either. We see it in The Walking Dead withClementine, who, depending on the player’s choices throughout the games maybecome an exceptional strong, leader, survivor, and moral character, despite being avery young girl. The stereotype of young girls being incompetent is refreshinglyabsent in Telltale Games’ well-received series.The ability to choose a female character in Mass Effect, Faith Connors of MirrorsEdge, Ellie from The Last of Us, and Alyx Vance of Half Life 2, are all examples of agame developer creating something more than the common portrayal of women.Stereotypes are not solely the burden of women, however. With the majority ofgames featuring male protagonists, they are also consistently represented as beingunreasonably tough, violent, unemotional figures, with misogynistic and prejudicedvalues. It is obviously detrimental to view all men in such a way, so what gamesescaped this trope?The Last of Us has done just this and more. The amount of barriers broken by thisgame are too many to list here, and its relentlessly gritty portrayal of the humancondition is beautiful with the protagonist Joel taking center stage.As the player guides Joel, initially a very average, tough male, through the story theywitness his path twist in ways few would expect. His moments of weakness,something the game doesn’t shy away from showing, are elegantly used indeconstructing the stereotype of his character.In these moments, it’s a 14-year-old girl named Ellie that ultimately saves thetypically strong man, in more ways than just physically. Even after being beaten,exhausted, and brought nearly to the point of death, nothing is nearly as damagingto Joel as the possibility of losing this girl.(Warning: Some spoilers for The Last of Us are in the next two paragraphs, including the image)Through his years of surviving an apocalypse, Joel loses nearly everything he hasheld close. From the death of his daughter, to his closest partner Tess; Joel is a manwith nothing. As the end of the world bears down its crushing weight on hisshoulders, humanity’s most significant chance at curing the world-ending plague liesin the fate of Ellie and his ability to protect. Joel’s connection to Ellie becomessomething powerful throughout their journey, and in many ways grows to resemblethe love he had for his daughter.The typical tough emotionless man becomes so attached to her that even afterothers makes sacrifices, even die, to ensure a cure for the infection is found, it willmean Ellie’s death, something Joel is unable to accept. With so many gamesportraying men as an invincible hero, always there to save the world, TLOU standsas a shining example that it is not a man’s physical strength that makes him strong,but the choices he is willing to make, and that even tough guys can be afraid ofsomething.‘This everything you were hoping for?’ ‘It's got it ups and downs. You can'tdeny the view, though.’ (image from Kotaku.com)The idea of men not having to be physically strong is also present, albeit moreobviously, in Outlast, which does an excellent job with its atypical representation of amale character. In an absolutely terrifying experience, players take on the role ofMiles Upshur, a journalist in a horrifying setting filled with danger and aggressiveenemies. Miles is, however, entirely incapable of combat, running and hiding at thefirst sign of aggression like any other person of reason. Unable to even fight backagainst the nightmarish beings that assault him throughout the game, Miles isbrought to the point of simply running and hiding as soon as an enemy appears.With so many aggressively action-oriented male characters in games, one thatstands apart from them is refreshing and very relatable for so many of people.Just as with atypical representations of gender, most games tend to stray away fromdepicting any atypical sexual relationship, while some have openly flaunted their useof non-heteronormative characters. While playing Mass Effect 3 the player has awide choice of romantic partners of a variety of genders. In The Last of Us(Warning: Spoilers for The Last of Us) it is heavily implied that a side character ishomosexual, and in the game’s DLC, Left Behind, the lead protagonist is shownkissing someone of the same gender. In Gone Home, the main character discoversher sister is dating another girl and runs away from home to avoid her parents’criticisms. Same-sex relationships are one of the most controversial topics in today’sworld and one that hits home in Indiana, Byte’s base of operations, having recentlylifted its ban on same-sex marriage.Image from The Last of Us WikiIntolerance and bigotry have shamed so many away from feeling the freedom toexpress their sexuality in our world, whereas games can become a place of escapefrom these tough realities, while inspiring others to accept themselves and thosearound them.We certainly think games can do this. We love games for the endless amount ofentertainment and fun they bring us, and seeing some step so above and beyondthe issues of stereotypes, social norms, and gender biases, is an amazing thing. Anamazing thing we’ll hopefully see a lot more of.If you guys can think of other games that tear down social norms and stereotypestweet us @BYTEBSU, or let us know how these games have affected you in thecomments below!Header by: Meghan Duffy and Jake Leonard
By Michael MartinezUnderstanding something as serious as depression and death is a difficult task. A Song for Viggo is doing just that, telling the story of a family that loses a son when he is accidently killed by one of his parents. The game is played in the style of point-and-click adventures, and made almost entirely out of paper. We spoke briefly with the developer, Simon Karlsson, who gave us some insight on his process and some of the emotions behind the game. Michael Martinez: What’s it like making a game through crowd funding? Was there ever a fear you wouldn’t reach your goal?Simon Karlsson: I'm so happy that the campaign is over, it's been a fun and interesting experience, but putting all your work out there, hoping to get funded is really scary. I never slept a full night when I had the chance to sleep, I woke up about every hour checking my phone if any new backers had pledged. And the days where the progress stood still, it was like ”oh well, the project is going to fail” and suddenly when someone pledged 10 dollars it was like running around screaming ”yay we're gonna make it!”So it is a rollercoaster, a really scary one. Just finishing game design school and planning for a Kickstarter, your job is depending on the good hearts of the people. And they do have big hearts, thankfully.MM: How often, if ever, did you have to remake characters or pieces of the sets that would break?SK: Ah! Well, I think the main character broke off three times. First I made it too small, then I made it out of wood and crappy glue, and then I made it out of clay as a base. Right now I've acquired armatures, which I plan to add as a base, so that will be the 4th time I build them. But every time you fail at something like building, you learn big lessons each time. My cat has gotten into some scenes and crushed some models, but that's often not a big problem, but she does look cute when trying to sit on a miniature chair and crushing it.MM: Did you instantly realize you wanted to use paper for the game, or were there any other materials you experimented with?SK: I had some ideas at first of doing it out of wood or clay, but clay is a bit too messy. Wood is kind of impossible.MM: Was there anything you really wanted to do with the game/story/characters that you just couldn’t because of the limitations of paper?SK: I don’t think so. It's quite a versatile material, and if it's too soft then you basically make it sturdier with cardboard as a base. Of course animation does take its time, retouching stuff (small wires and other things in the way when photographing the scenes), so in that case it's not too fun. But in all the other aspects, it is quite a nice material.MM: Are there any unexpected turns the player might find the story taking?SK: I'd be so boring if I just said no. And I can't say yes because that would be a spoiling stuff. So I'll just leave it at that.MM: You’ve said that during research you interviewed parents whose kids had died, some by the parent’s own accidental fault. What was their response to you making a game about this taboo subject?SK: Yes. It's a difficult and heavy subject, and I'm so very grateful for those who helped out with the interviews. The main response has been that they find it interesting, in raising awareness with their own story, to help others relate. Many have just wanted to share their stores, ventilating it. It's something that many have an urge to talk about. And I believe that by talking about really difficult things, we heal a bit.MM: What was the most inspirational or surprising thing you learned about parents dealing with the depression that comes from losing a child?SK: That they are so incredibly strong some times. Being able to rise from the bottom to accepting grief and life itself is a really hard thing to do. I commend them in every way.MM: What was the darkest thing you learned?SK: I think it’s hard to talk about ”darkest” things as if it was a competition. Everyone who has experienced something as difficult as the loss of a loved one has its darkest moments on a personal level – it's not for me to point out the darkest one.MM: Has anyone that’s gone through this, or a similar situation, reached out to you since you started developing this title? If so, what did they say?SK: Many have reached out to me when the project went live. Telling me how ”brave” I am making an interactive story about this subject – but I think the people who actually reached out, telling their stories are the brave ones in this case.MM: The other children in the family, how does this tragedy impact their life, or their relationship with their parents?SK: From my experience, talking with parents – such things have a huge impact on everyone, on every aspect in a life, on everyone. I can only imagine that siblings feel neglected and confused (especially younger siblings). But everyone involved is affected by the trauma, but also by the whole depression that may follow.MM: Are there any parts/aspects of the game that you feel a strong personal connection to?SK: Having struggled with OCD in my life, it is something that's close to me. Also depression in general hits home. That's how it started basically, depression and a means to expose yourself to the anxiety [of these emotions] by doing this project.MM: Are there any emotions or thoughts you've had while creating this game that you didn't have before or that you haven’t shared with anyone?SK: Of course. Not sure if I've shared it or not – but it is still a struggle trying to work as an indie developer at your homestead, with a bunch of discipline. There is probably tons of stuff I haven’t shared but well, discipline is a big challenge for me.MM: Is there anything important to you about this project that you feel others haven’t seen or noticed?SK: I think that it’s good for the project as a whole to focus on the overall idea of depression. That the story is not only about parents, or the loss of a loved one, [but how] much focus lies on the neurological issues relating to depression – on how depression affects us all – I think that’s the main thing I'm interested in while creating this game, how fragile life can be. Keep your browsers to Byte for more on A Song for Viggo as it becomes available, and check out the Kickstarter video below to hear more about it from Simon.images: SheAttack!, Creepy Gaming, Just Adventure