Skater Dater

October 28th, 2007

This circa 1965 short film is just about the coolest corny thing I’ve ever seen. It’s embedded below…

American Gangster

October 18th, 2007

So American Gangster is coming out in a few weeks. I was lucky enough to score four “sneak preview” tickets. I always thought that was a misnomer since the sneak preview seemed to refer to showings the day before opening, probably at midnight, so you were hardly getting in early. This was a true film screening though, and being a poor college student and all, that’s a pretty sweet deal when the tickets are free.

The movie is not unlike Blow in that it describes the rise and fall of a man who imports illegal drugs. In this case it’s Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), an extremely powerful drug lord in Harlem back in the 1970s. I liked it, although it wasn’t as good as Blow, which surprised me since I thought Blow tried too hard to make George Jung bad but likable. George Jung killed to get ahead but they didn’t show that in the Blow. Frank Lucas was portrayed mostly for what he was, and was more likable regardless. Still, Blow had something that American Gangster doesn’t, and I think it’s a plot. It just sort of meanders around his life as he supplies Heroin to New York and the effort to bring him down. Russell Crowe did a good job, but I’m too much of a sucker for Denzel to care when he’s on the screen and Denzel isn’t.

Regardless of my complaints, it’s still worth seeing. Worth every penny, but unless it’s the best I’ve ever seen, I always compare it to the best so sue me. Denzel is as good as ever if you like him as much as I do. Ridley Scott proves again he knows how to direct a movie. I’m not sure where the American (human?) attraction to crime figures comes from, but this is another pit-stop in our appreciation of our greatest criminals through movies.

Flash Plays Quake?

October 9th, 2007

I’m surprised I’m finding about this now, but during Adobe MAX Chicago Adobe talked about the (possible) use of other languages in Flash, including C/C++. What’s worse is they had a killer example of the technology. Quake.

It’s located here. Towards the end of the second video.

It is in fact Quake, not Quake II, unless I’m going crazy. I honestly have no idea quite how they pulled it off. Sure having a C/C++ compiler for Flash and a nice 3D api would help, but it’s got sound and everything. The only way I got sound to work in my Doom port was by converting them (the hard way) to Sound instances, but sound in Quake is streaming. Fullscreen in Flash 9 uses DirectX now, are they using the DirectX with the 3D api in fullscreen too? Are we able to stream sound, rather than convert it? I can’t quite understand how they did it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Part 3 of Minerva: Metastasis, the last part in greatest mod ever, has just been released. If you don’t own Half-Life 2, buy it purely to play this mod. If you have Half-Life 2, then you should be playing it, because it’s free. The best part is that this update brings two new chapters to the game, rather than the usual single. The culmination of two and a half years of work is complete and it shows.

What makes Metastasis so special is it’s level design. Anybody who’s played more than one first person shooter should notice that the level design is unique, but it’s really one of the best achievements in level design everybody won’t notice. In video games, everything is there for a purpose. You see a switch? At some point you will probably flip it. A locked door? It’s there for you to unlock. Game designers think about ways to slow you down in getting from point A to point B, and the environment reflects that. Why would they put in something that has no purpose?

This is not to say Metastasis is devoid of these things, it’s just better about it. The levels are designed before enemies are placed, putting you in a real building, rather than some levels connected together. You can see other parts of the level when you look down through glass floors. It may seem like a meaningless difference, but when games are trying to pull you in more and more it’s surprising how well Adam Foster does it with such subtle changes. Valve did it with Half-Life 2 by having interesting characters, storylines and spiffy things like battles off in the distance that you don’t fight. Foster does it with a slightly different look at level design and intermittent messages from the player’s anonymous master – Minerva. I’d argue that, from a level design perspective, Foster does as good a job as Valve if not better.

As Foster’s interesting manner of blogging will show you he’s a little… different. He’s genuinely intelligent and strange guy and this is reflected in his work. His numerous semi-fanatical “acolytes” imitate him too. It’s also worth mentioning that he made a mod for the original Half-Life called Someplace Else, which is also very interesting and features the eponymous Minerva as well.