Sunday, May 29, 2011

Silver Lining

OK, so let's recap all the oddities that have come and gone with Dragon Ball Kai in the last few months.
1.  The series was canceled with the end of the Cell Games saga.
2.  The original soundtrack for Kai became the subject of a copyright lawsuit and was retroactively replaced with tracks from Dragon Ball Z's soundtrack.
3.  The final episode of Dragon Ball Kai did not air on Japanese television and was removed from the official website's episode list.
4.  The altered soundtrack has already shown up in American broadcasts of Dragon Ball Z Kai.

So now that everyone's up to speed, I'm happy to pass on some good news.  A big concern among those who enjoyed Kai's new soundtrack was that the already-released FUNimation DVD and Blu-ray sets would be recalled and replaced with the altered soundtrack.  The good news is that, to date, FUNimation does not believe that they will have to do that.  So, until further notice, if you want the new Kai soundtrack and haven't picked up any of the sets yet, you don't need to desperately rush out to get them just yet.
But don't dawdle too long; the altered soundtrack showing up in the American broadcast shows that, at least, all future FUNimation releases are likely to use it as opposed to the new Kai soundtrack.  I fear it may only be a matter of time before the earlier releases are forced to be altered.
As for the missing final episode (#98), Toei Animation has confirmed that the episode will be included on the home video release in Japan and thus it should also appear on television in the western world as well as FUNimation's DVD and Blu-ray sets.  As for the episode itself, it will encompass the minor bit of the story in which Future Trunks returns to his own time and defeats the Androids of his future.  Curiously, this was already a single episode in Dragon Ball Z so I wonder how Kai will be trimming it, if at all.

On a related note, 'Part Five' of FUNimation's releases has been delayed, going from June 7th to June 28th.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some Neat Gadgets
Alright so here's some neat stuff.  The website linked above showcases some really neat and clever gadget designs.  The image you're seeing is basically a retractable electrical outlet hub.  OK, so that's not that new other than the retractable feature but some of the other stuff is pretty damn clever, so check it out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Transformers Vault

Another heads up to Transformers fan, a new item that might catch your interest is the soon to be released Transformers Vault: The Complete Transformers Universe

Now, to spare myself some time so I can get back to work on an animation, I'm going to simply quote's description:
"For the first time ever, Transformers Vault reveals the complete story of the Transformers, everyone's favorite robots in disguise. Loaded with never-before-seen images, this book is a guide to the epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons, as it began with toys and television, and continued to comics, film, games, and other media. There's something here for all generations, from classic toys that have become sought-after collectibles to the amazing, high-tech visuals of the three live-action films.

Hasbro has opened its official archives, gathering more than 250 images and several featured pieces of memorabilia. Look inside for a sheet of Generation One tech specs with a secret revealer, a rare pencil sketch from comics artist Casey Coller, an unseen character profile for Hot Rod from the 1986 film, an animation cel, and much more. Exclusive photos of Japanese Transformer prototypes, archival development art, and brand-new information about the future of the Transformers make this the ultimate package for every fan."

So yeah, looks very tempting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Final Countdown, Da nanaanaaa, dana na na na

May 21st hath cometh.
I don't know about you but I'm still here.  Apparently 6 PM is the time to countdown to.  4 and a half hours until the rapture?  Sounds pretty legit to me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Portal 2 Review

Alright, I've been putting this off because I couldn't think of an image to draw for it and other things keep coming up so screw it, I'm gonna go ahead without an image.  Wouldn't be the first time.

Portal 2 Review

Well, if you've been on the moon for the last four years, you just might not have heard of the wildly successful video game named Portal.  Released in 2007, Portal introduced a very clever world chock-full of physics based puzzles centered around the portal gun; an item that opens portals on surfaces, giving an instant link between them.  It's an idea that nearly everyone has thought of at some point but it had never before been achieved in video games to quite this degree.  The game was simple and effective in its presentation, ranging from easy to utterly grueling in its difficulty, and just a joy to play.
Fast forward to 2011, the inevitable sequel has come out.  Simply titled Portal 2, we've received another game with tons of puzzles in the vain of the original but also plenty of new elements as well.  And as it turns out, Portal 2 is a satisfying sequel in every way imaginable.  The puzzles are refreshing, new and challenging, the writing is even better than the first and the added elements are all for the better.  But I'm getting ahead of myself; let's dig into the specifics.

The writing:  Portal-developer Valve is one of few developers out there that treat their fanbase seriously and even enjoy friendly banter with them.  When one fan e-mailed Valve employee Gabe Newell stating that he planned on infiltrating Valve in order to steal an early copy of Portal 2 and asked which door he should use (as a joke), Gabe replied with "The one with the turret."  As for why I mention this in the writing section:  Valve listens to their fanbase, treats them with respect and it shows big time in the writing of their games.
Portal 2 is no exception, constantly being witty, humourous and ominous.  It doesn't hold your hand but it gives you enough information to piece together what's going on just when you need to.  In the first Portal, brief references were given to the outside world that indicated the game took place in the same universe as Half-Life.  In Portal 2, these references have been elaborated on and very cleverly integrated into the plot.
Writing about the...uh...writing in Portal 2 is tricky.  You are going to want every little twist, every last line, to be as fresh as possible when you play the game and thus I can't bring myself to spoil any of it for you.  Just trust me when I say it's bloody brilliant.

On a similar note, Portal 2 is one of few games that has gotten me really invested in the sound design.  Every bit of sound, every bit of recorded dialogue, every bit of minimal background music is placed and timed with impeccable precision.  The voice acting, which this game has quite a bit more of than its predecessor, is always top-notch.  The music creates the perfect atmosphere for every moment.  Of course, we also have the songs.
We all know 'Still Alive' by now, the song played during the credits of the first game.  Portal 2 has its own.  In fact, it kind of has 2.  There's a song that plays before the credits and a song that plays during.  Once again, I don't want to spoil them so you can look them up on YouTube if you so choose.
Additionally, there's an outside song as well.  A song written about the ending of the game which is not in the game itself.  This song is called 'Exile Vilify' by The National and it quickly made its way to 'songs I listen to almost every day'.
Oh, and the co-op play has yet another quirky song for the ending credits as well.

Visually, the game's not mind-blowing.  In fact, it's slightly dated looking not much better than the first.  There's more variety to the scenery due to it being several years later and the Aperture Science building has become very dilapidated, but from a technical standpoint, nothing shows improved graphical prowess.
However, it's still an aesthetically pleasing game.  The variety of locations is nice, the visuals compliment the same moods that the musical score entail and it's all-in-all well thought-out.

Finally, we have gameplay.  If you've played Portal, you'll be right at home when picking up Portal 2.  The core mechanic has remained largely unchanged; use portal gun to bridge locations and solve puzzles with that ability.  Things get pretty nifty once you experience the new elements to the game.
A simple new feature is the ability to see a marker of where a portal is even if you can't physically see it (basically, you can see through walls to where your portals are).  This is especially helpful if you've taken a break from the game in the middle of a puzzle or if you're just a forgetful person.
Things start getting really interesting, however, near the midway point of the game.  The new, major element introduced in Portal 2 is the "gels".  These are colour-coded substances that you can use to change the area around you and help you solve puzzles.  The first you'll encounter is the blue gel which has "Mario Spring" like qualities; drop on it and it will propel you far into the air.
There's also the orange gel, which increases your speed as you move across it, and the white gel, which you can splash on surfaces that you previously could not open portals on in order to be able to.
The game does a good job of giving you a few tests with these gels isolated to ease you in to the concept and then, it quite suddenly drops you into very intricate tests that involve using all 3 gels.
It really is astounding just how clever some of the later puzzles are, but that also brings up my one issue with the game.  Much like its predecessor, Portal 2 does not take long to complete.  A short playtime isn't too big a deal if the experience was truly satisfying however, I still wish the game would have gone on a bit longer before the climax.  It was only in the very last few puzzles that I started to get really, truly stumped and I wanted more of that.

But thankfully, this time around there's also a multi-player mode.  Portal 2 features an entirely original, 2-player co-operative mode that shows just as much cleverness and ingenuity as the single-player campaign.
The flow of the co-op mode is very similar to that of the single-player; solve some standard tests, encounter gel-based tests halfway through, solve much harder tests.  The big difference (spoiler ahead but it's honestly not too big of one) is that there's no final boss in the co-op mode.  Instead, you encounter a large group of extremely perplexing puzzles in one area.  I'll leave it at that.
Certain gameplay elements are exclusive to the co-op mode in order to increase the ease of communication and they are very helpful.  I played the game in an offline split-screen mode with my brother and even then, the in-game communication was useful.  Most useful is that you can place 'markers' to signal where you want your partner to open a portal.
The co-operative mode takes full advantage of the fact that there are two-players.  None of the puzzles are solvable with only one person and many of them require very precise, coordinated teamwork.
The witty writing is still present as well, with GLaD0S berating you for every mistake you make and even sometimes for doing things right.

In the end, this game is absolutely worth having, no doubt about it.  The price is just a bit too high, in my humble opinion, though.  However, free download content set to be released soon may make it worthwhile.
The are 2 shortcomings in this game, it ends a little prematurely, just when the puzzles are getting really tough, and it's just a tiny bit dated in the graphics department.  Other than that, it's perfect.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pre-emptive Back-Peddling

So, we've all heard about the May 21st "apocalypse" by now and, of course, we all know those who believe it are going to do some serious back-peddling when it doesn't come to pass to try (in vain) to make it look like that they were right to think the end is near but their 'calculations' were just a little off....or something like that.
Amusingly, I've seen a few accounts saying that May 21st is merely the 'beginning of the end'.  Oddly, not all of Camping's followers, nor Camping himself, seem to agree with this.  Anyway, these other people say that the world will actually, finally end sometime in October, with May 21st marking a massive earthquake.

So, a religious prediction that won't come true has spawned multiple other predictions that won't come true.  I have to say this is...pretty much run of the mill stuff when it comes to religion.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Major Setback

Well, if you happen to have read the most recent post on my art blog today, you may remember the bit about my Cintiq tablet acting strangely.  Unfortunately, it's worse than I thought.  My laptop no longer recognizes the 'tablet' aspect of it at all, leaving it nothing more than an extra screen with buttons, touch strips and a pen that do nothing.
Of course, I'm going to contact Wacom and see what can be done about getting it repaired or replaced and hope that, in the long run, it won't be too costly.  I've tried every potential solution I've seen recommended to individuals with similar problems to no avail.
As I sit here and type this, my frustration is building at quite an incredible rate because this really could not have happened at a worse time.  This is going to set back everything I've been working on and planning to work on for the last several months and may even cost me some job opportunities as a result.  And of course, I really can't afford to buy another one at this point in my life.  Every penny I have right now needs to be held onto for the sake of paying back my student debt.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stuff to Come

Alright, so with the way things are going now, I have lots of things to do and, among them, is some new stuff for my blogs.
First off, as mentioned before, a review for Portal 2 is coming very soon.  I've already organized my thoughts on it so now I just need to write it out in full and probably do a drawing for it.
Additional artwork and animations will be showing up on my other blog of course and, as long as nothing stops me, updates on that blog should be daily from now on.  Of course, I need to make up for lost time due to Blogger going down last week and forcing me to restart said blog.  With that though, I've already gone ahead and restarted it and included my general animation demo reel in the most recent post as of now.
Additional updates on here will consist of the usual fair of gaming and cartoons in general as well as perhaps a few more observations of the May 21st doomsday prediction.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Beginnings

As was mentioned recently, I've gone ahead and created a second blog meant specifically for my artwork and animation.  It can be found here:

Additionally, I also started a new deviantArt account.  That can be found here:

With that, I'm off.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Here We Go Again...

So, as I glanced at Google's Trends page, I noticed that recent popular searches are about yet another doomsday prediction.  This time, we're all going to die....this month!?
Reverend Harold Camping of Family Radio has stated that he believes the Earth will end on May 21st.  Ten days from now.  If your sides aren't already splitting from how hard you should be laughing, then take a look at this:

In particular, note this bit: "Some of them have even burned through all of their savings, so convinced are they that the world is going to end..."
This is both incredibly sad and hilarious.

Now, of course if you have the tiniest shred of common sense, you know this is ridiculous.  Hopefully, you'll also realize (especially after that 'spending their life savings' bit) that it's incredibly harmful to those who will buy into it.
I have little sympathy for the stupidity that leads people into believing this garbage but I have even less sympathy, or patience for that matter, for the people who perpetuate it.
Oh, and would you like to know Camping's credentials?  He studied the Bible for 50 years.  That's all I've found.
Look, whether or not you're a Christian, insisting that you must be correct because you studied a book with proven inaccuracies for 5 decades is beyond stupid.  But when you have the ability to influence people's decisions on a large scale, as a reverend does, and you then do just that with your stupidity as the have officially crossed the line into utter scum.
Seriously, assuming Camping even lives for another 10 days (looking at the guy, it's hard to say), how's he going to feel when some of his followers effectively ruined their own lives because of him?

Included below is an Amazon ad for Season 1 of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!  I chose this season because it includes the episode on 'The End of the World' which is extremely appropriate for the subject at hand.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reworking in

Alrighty, quick little update today.  With the job hunt on, I'm going to be taking all of the standard preparations, which will include a second blog specifically for artwork and animation.  I'll also be uploading a general demo reel soon and, as I believe I mentioned on a recent post, making some more general ones.  For now, I need to get to thinking this out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Concept Art For the Comic

Well, with college finished and the job hunt underway, I can now work on some of my own stuff without worrying about falling behind on school work.
Now, of course for the sake of a fantasy-themed story, one must have some stock creatures/monsters to throw at the heroes.  In collaboration with a fellow animation graduate, I've come up with two clean concepts of some monsters.

And on that note:  I'm actually drawing the comic now!  It's been a long time coming, I have a first chapter totally scripted (with the whole first story arc planned out) and I've finally gotten a start on drawing it.

Oh and again, expect a Portal 2 review soon enough.

Monday, May 2, 2011

And the Hunt is On

Well, for those who have noticed that I've made no updates here in the last couple weeks, there is a reason for that!  As of this past Thursday, I am officially done college, which meant that I had a lot of work to do in the time leading up to then.
I got everything done on time and I've passed all my courses.  My graduation is in June and, prior to that, we also get to have a screening for the third year films.
I am both excited and downright horrified of being finished college.  It's certainly an accomplishment I'm proud of.  Of course, I now have to begin job hunting.  Sadly, I don't know if it's entirely reasonable to immediately find a job in animation as that would require me to live on my own somewhere else since there's pretty much nothing in the field locally.  The problem being that I have a large debt to pay off now and I'd pay it off much faster living at home.
Rest assured I'll be trying my hardest to find something.
It really is a surreal feeling to be where I'm at right now.

On a much different note:  I got Portal 2 on Wednesday, beat the single-player on Friday and just beat the co-operative mode today.  It's likely I'll be writing a review on it in the near future.