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It’s a Trap!

It’s a Trap! published on No Comments on It’s a Trap!

In the real-life story this comic is based on, the husband actually bought his wife a spatula for her anniversary–having already done one spatula-centric comic I made the vacuum edit.

Let this strip serve as a cautionary tale to all you insane Black Friday shoppers. Yes, the giant TV is half off… but you should really be looking at jewelry.

With that friends, it’s time to begin baking, beating, and roasting.

Happy Thanksgiving from Unicorn Soup.

Jack

It's a Trap!

It’s a Trap!

It’s a Trap! published on 1 Comment on It’s a Trap!

RESEARCH
So for a few days prior to actually tackling a script, I’m studying how (for example) Threepio’s head is shaped, and how his joints bend (or don’t), trying different approaches to rendering his shiny finish.  This is the research stage.  These aren’t drawings that make it into the comic, usually they aren’t even good.  They’re notes that help me remember the details that make Threepio recognizable, and not just a generic humanoid robot.
If we’re referencing a game I own, I put it in and play for a little bit.  I pause the game, or set characters up in corners and sketch them until a zombie comes along and eats their brains.  I look up playthroughs on Youtube and pause the video to sketch environments. The goal is to get familiar with the characters and settings I’m going to be using.

Running in Place

Running in Place published on 3 Comments on Running in Place

Dear DICE,

The Soup kids because we care.

Battlefield 3 is a brilliant achievement. Frostbite 2 allows gamers to blow the bejeezus out of gigantic levels.  No other shooter series does what the Battlefield series does for me.  I think it’s the visceral sense of destruction that I love so much.

So why the critique?

DICE has begun listening too closely to gamers’ whims. I have no doubt their intention in adding so many unlockables to B3 was to inspire gamers to create diverse and fully customized loadouts.

In practice however, the system inspires stagnation.

I can’t fathom why DICE decided to make gamers unlock mirror image equipment on the Russian and American side, it feels like good game design was trumped by some executive in EA’s Marketing Department.  Forcing gamers to unlock everything twice, may double the number unlocks a game can boast, but it’s painful for your audience.

Actually, that’s not even accurate… gamers have to unlock each upgrade for each gun which becomes absolutely maddening.

There’s little incentive to explore newly unlocked guns because their totally stripped of all upgrades. Particularly, given that the upgrades give players such a marked advantage. The choice becomes either: play only with one’s initial loadout, or suffer through being hamstrung with a gun that may or may not be any better.

Is it any wonder that so many gamers have opted to step off the treadmill via the EOD Bot boost?

Clearly not.

Nor is it any wonder that EA/DICE recently banned and/or wiped the stats of “hundreds” of these gamers. At this point, they’re committed to a badly implemented treadmill system.

If I had the patience to boost I would. I would step off the treadmill–understand DICE the Boosters love your product.

They simply want to play the real game. The real game begins when players have the full and extraordinary collection of tools you built into Battlefield 3 at their disposal. A collection where, for every pair of scissors there’s paper and a rock.

Too often, the current design has me feeling like paper–with no rock at my disposal.

Cheers,

Jack

[poll id=”3″]

Running In Place

Running In Place

Running In Place published on 2 Comments on Running In Place

My father once told me “Sometimes you have to learn despite your teachers.” In a similar way, sometimes you have to enjoy a game in spite of itself. I’m having a good time playing BF3 with my friends, but not because of the unlock system. And certainly not because of those damned flashlights! For me, dangling a carrot in front of the player is not a good replacement for game design that feels rewarding. Luckily, I find the time spent chatting, joking, complaining and occasionally winning with my friends incredibly rewarding, so I don’t have to worry about that carrot.

It’s So Big

It’s So Big published on 2 Comments on It’s So Big

Ah, back to our roots with a nice dick joke strip.

You’re welcome readers.

Confession time, I haven’t played Skyrim yet.  The reality is, I probably won’t until sometime in 2012.

Between a new baby, career, comic, and another holiday “Game-alanche” (that’s a combination of “Game” and “Avalanche” which I’m now trademarking) I’ve got a lot of unfinished games.

I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with Battlefield 3, though the treadmill is absurd and meaningless to me.  Dark Souls has me up against a wall, I need to spend time grinding for souls to progress–but I have no time or desire to spend grinding.

Then there’s Uncharted 3, my God I love that series.

If only the writers at Naughty Dog had written Indiana Jones IV, and saved us from the calamity that shall not be named.  Nathan Drake may find himself in some wacky predicaments, but I swear they’d never put him in fridge.

A fridge.

More on Uncharted 3 in the coming weeks.

Oh, and the answer to last week’s poll question was Trandoshan.  Which somehow most of you knew… *cough* Cheaters! *cough*

Damn you Wookieepedia .

Cheers,

Jack

It's So Big

It’s So Big

It’s So Big published on 3 Comments on It’s So Big

Personally, I’m not a collector’s edition purchaser. To me it’s silly like worrying what color your computer case is. I’m not going to be looking at the case, I’m going to be looking at the screen! Besides, I hate dusting, and by extension, knick knacks.

Rocksmith

Rocksmith published on 1 Comment on Rocksmith

I picked up Rocksmith this weekend, and I didn’t even have the game running for a minute before I got several messages from friends asking how it was. So apparently there’s interest in this game, but also a lot of doubt. Which is understandable, considering what it claims to do. I’ve played it for only three or four hours so far, but think I’ve got the gist of it enough to comment on it.

According to the official website, Rocksmith is the “first and only game where you can plug ANY real guitar into your Xbox 360® or PlayStation®3 system, and actually learn while you play.” It requires a real guitar, and a guitar-to-USB cable. The game comes bundled with the cable for $80 (I’ve seen it on sale online at $70). There’s also a bundle that comes with a guitar for over $200. So it’s comparable to Rock Band pricing. While you’re getting a real guitar, and not a plastic miniature, I’m sure it’s not the best guitar money can buy. That said, my first guitar cost roughly the same and was a perfectly serviceable axe for me to get started with, so it may not be a bad deal. Those Chinese are getting pretty good at making guitars these days.

I’ve been playing guitar for seven years. I’m by no means a great player, I’ve come a long way since that first instrument. I take lessons every other week, switching between guitar and bass. I own several instruments, and have even assembled and finished my own “partscaster.” So it’s safe to say I’m familiar with the theory and technique for playing rock guitar.

There are some technical issues that one has to deal with to play Rocksmith. Ubisoft recommends connecting the audio directly from your Xbox to your sound device– go straight to the receiver, and avoid routing through any other devices. They also recommend you use an analog signal– this means no optical line. They recommend this because digital audio has to be processed, and the nanoseconds it takes for the game to process the guitar signal, added to the nanoseconds taken to digitally encode, transmit and decode the audio signal at your receiver result in a delay of milliseconds in gameplay, which makes the game feel decidedly awkward. I tried out the game with my original setup just to see if there would be a problem. There was. So I rerouted the audio per the game’s recommendation and reduced the lag to a negligible amount– barely noticeable if you are listening for it, but with no real impact on gameplay.

There’s a setting in the game’s options menus that allows you to tweak the display to match the lag in audio as you play. This is crucial, as an improper setting makes playing the game a confounding mess. Unfortunately, there’s no immediate feedback with this setting. You have to change it, then load a song, then play the song to see if you’ve set it correctly. If not, you have to quit the song, exit to the menu, and try again. An annoying hassle, and it took me a good half hour of fine tuning to get a comfortable setting.

Once the technical issues are ironed out, the game works well. Notes you’re required to play advance from a vanishing point, much like Guitar Hero. The way the notes are visualized takes a bit getting used to. It’s not as intuitive as Guitar Hero, but then we’re not just talking about 5 buttons anymore, are we? The layout is logical, but as songs move around the neck, it’s easy to get lost at first. The game starts out very basic, asking you to play perhaps 1 in 10 notes, with your guitar tone blended in with the original recording. Songs are divided into sections; verse, chorus, bridge, solo, etc. As your accuracy improves over any given section, the number of notes you’re asked to play in that section increases. The change is seamless and gradual, until there’s no guitar but your own played over the backing tracks. The game doesn’t judge you as harshly as Guitar Hero. There’s no horrible string noise when you hit a wrong note (aside from the horrible noise of your wrong note), the crowd doesn’t heckle you, and the song doesn’t end prematurely if you miss too many notes. The game doesn’t punish, but subtly rewards you with more difficulty until you’re playing the song all by yourself, which is a wonderful feeling.

The tracklist is large, but all pretty much verse-chorus riff-based rock music. The repetitiveness of this music works quite well with the teaching style the game takes.

So what’ll I tell those friends who asked me how the game is?

I’ll tell them it’s good. I’ll also tell them it’s not really a game, but really more of a practice tool, and an easy way to learn new songs.

But it’s no substitute for a teacher, and it’s no substitute for playing with real people. There’s no theory imparted in the game. If you’re completely new to the guitar, you’ll come away knowing how to play “Satisfaction” note for note. But you won’t know what those notes are, nor what key the song is in (or why that’s important). If Rocksmith was your only source of instruction, you’d only be getting half of what you need to know to play with other people. But that in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s a good start; it’s just not the whole story.

We’re in the middle of a very crowded video game season, but with all the different titles vying for my attention right now, the game I want to play the most is Rocksmith. Because I love playing the guitar, and Rocksmith creates a great space to play within. For me, this game is a blast. If you have experience with guitars, the game is good fun and I recommend it. If you’re looking to start, this game could be a good start, but keep in mind that this game is really just a supplement to learning to play, not a replacement for proper instruction.

Hobbit Feet

Hobbit Feet

Hobbit Feet published on 2 Comments on Hobbit Feet

I’ve got more to say about my process, but it’s going to wait another week to be paired with a comic that clearly illustrates the next step. This comic is a little different from the others in that I produced it in the middle of the week. I was scheduled to be out of town on the coming weekend, and didn’t want to fall behind on the schedule I’d set for myself. So it was produced over a few evenings after work. Consequently, I think it shows how drained I am when I get home; creative work at the end of the day is always more difficult than first thing in the morning for me. It’s one of the reasons we chose to only update weekly. After work and dinner, I don’t want to draw, I want to shoot digital men in their digital face. It easier to destroy than it is to create. (Antonio Banderas said that.)

Hobbit Feet: Reflections on Nerd cred

Hobbit Feet: Reflections on Nerd cred published on 5 Comments on Hobbit Feet: Reflections on Nerd cred

Nerd cred is more often than not given for what a person knows.

Like, in what episode did Captain Kirk get it on with the green chick?  Please don’t answer, I truly don’t care.  I’m just making a point.

Jim gets a substantial amount of credit for what he doesn’t know.

When I sent him the initial script for this piece he responded that even though he didn’t know who Tom Brady was the script still worked, and that it was even better after he Googled him. As I drafted the piece, I was worried that my Tolkien reference that fell outside of the Holy Jackson Trilogy might be problematic.  It never crossed my mind that the wildly famous, married to Gisele, three time Super Bowl winner would prove to be the obscure reference.

I’ve long fancied myself as something of a Nerd Royal–a Nerd King even.  Jim’s response was so pure that it’s caused me to questions my royal lineage.

Perhaps I’m just a Nerd Steward, which would cast Jim in the role of the unwilling Nerd King forced to reclaim his crown.

Ugh… identity crisis.

An unabashed display of arcane nerd lore will help my ego, I hope all of you fail so that I can feel special again.  By your failure I am made stronger 🙂

Check out the poll below and NO cheating.  I’ll post the answer early next week.

[poll id=”2″]

Gimme Your Gamertag

Gimme Your Gamertag published on No Comments on Gimme Your Gamertag

In my day job I’m a teacher.

An eternal truth in education is that students are completely incapable of imagining their teachers existing in “the Real World.”

I was no different as a teen.

The adolescent mythos is that teachers have a small cubbyhole under their desks where they are placed and  powered down at 4:15 by the night custodian–only to be revived at 7:30 the next morning. While my Union affiliation forbids me from either confirming or denying the “Cubbyhole Hypothesis” I can confirm that I’m allowed out of the school from time to time.

There are few things more amusing to me, and apparently my students, than being seen in public–without a tie, jacket, legal pad, and perhaps even wearing a ball cap. With genuine glee, my students will approach me the next day to inform me that I had been buying groceries the previous day and that they had no idea I liked broccoli so much.  It’s endearing and truly funny… in a way only kids can be.

The curiosity about the contents of my shopping cart is dwarfed by the curiosity about me as a gamer.

It’s flattering to be the subject of such curiosity, but a curious truth about XboxLive, MMO’s, and really any socially driven gaming community is that over time the old adage that, “Birds of a feather, flock together” seems to be true. With few exceptions my gaming friends are in their mid-to late 20’s and 30’s. My gaming experience would be sorely diminished if I had to constantly censor myself or exclude myself from discussions of gender, politics, religion, tc.

All that aside, it’d be tough to explain to parents during conferences why I was firing RPGs at their children in a simulated game environment.

Cheers,

Jack