LIMBO: Review

 

LIMBO is one of the most special games I have ever played.

I wanted to write up a quick review for this game despite it being about a year out of date; but recently the title became available on Steam and so I’ve finally had a chance to play this game after waiting for ages.

In short, LIMBO is a platforming and puzzle solving game with a stunning art style. You play as a nameless boy who has just awoken in Limbo (otherwise known as the edge of Hell) and to say anything else of the plot would ruin it for you. Though, that said the game is minimal in every regard, including the enigmatic plot.

LIMBO is a great example of visceral storytelling and the mute protagonist reflects perfectly, the world of barren despair and death which you traverse. This game world is a punishing one; you will die often – the developers coined LIMBO ‘- a trial and death game’. But that’s fine, the puzzles escalate to an almost punishing level by the end but once you come to the solution you might kick yourself that you did not realise it sooner. LIMBO’s gameplay is roughly 70 percent reliant on these puzzles and so it is testament to the level designers at Playdead studios that their puzzles can be only slightly frustrating but always solvable without guides. I had to only quit the game once when I was stuck on a puzzle, but after stepping away and coming back to it I worked out the solution.

I finished LIMBO in  3 sittings, and for a game that took me about 4/5 hours to complete that should reflect the addictive nature of LIMBO’s gameplay and immersive gameworld. But whatever you do, don’t be put off by the short campaign length. There’s no multiplayer but I am already excited to replay LIMBO, it is the perfect length for a game as avant guard as it is.

I must not finish without talking about the game’s stunning art direction. I have played many beautiful, cinematic games with Shadow of the Colossus being my other most notable choice for amazing art in a game. However LIMBO is completely unique and instead of being grand and epic, it is suitable poignant and minimal through it’s clever use of black and white, the dusty vignette and the constantly flickering light sources, a reminder of lights preciousness and frailty.

Overall I could not recommend this game more. It’s beautiful, addictive and totally unique.

I don’t review games enough to give it a numeric score but this is my final word on LIMBO.

Buy. This. Game. 

LIMBO is available of XBL, PSN and Steam. 

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Don’t Be Creative, Be Passionate

Now, don’t take the title too literally but consider this. Don’t come up with ideas because they are different, nurture them because they matter.

Hey Guys,

I hope everyone is having a good Monday, I wanted to write a post today for people who work in creative fields. Followers of this blog will know I’m a student, and so perhaps speak with a certain sense of optimism, but I feel my point here today is applicable to anyone looking to develop any kind of creative work.

This idea came to me yesterday, when after spending the weekend working on a couple of separate projects, I ditched them. I realised that I didn’t really care about these ideas, and I was developing them as a priority above my other work because I thought they were pretty avant guarde. Except they weren’t, they were crap. One I will admit, just needs a lot more development if I’m ever even to consider picking it up again in the future, but the other one is my primary example for this post.

Flying horses. Nay. Flying Toy Horses. My idea was this: I picked up these plastic model horses about 6 months ago because I thought I could use them for a mini-project. What I eventually tried to do, was animate still images of them with the distortion pin tool on AAE; creating a super slo-mo sequence of them jumping off of stuff. I ran a couple of renders, still not 100% but prepared to keep an open mind. Yesterday I finished two test renders, they had immaculate masks and lighting effects so they look relatively believable. My animation was good too, the motion of the legs, head and neck being key to the movement of a horse. But then I watched them back, and yeah, technically they were ok, but I was hit with two thoughts. What does this mean? And Why am I doing this? 

I was doing it because no-one else had; I’d side-tracked projects that mean a lot to me because I was in a rush to stand out. That’s not how you create art, that’s how you create shite. I took a step back, saw what i was doing and abandoned the project. I’m now refocusing my efforts of two of my large projects. In particular, my dissertation project for my final year at university. It’s sometimes hard to work on because it reflects some personal memories and intimate relationships, but so far it’s coming out well and I have no doubt that when I finish it, it will be a triumph. The project is called ‘3 Hours’ and I will add a link here when I have finished rebuilding the promo page.

This post isn’t for self-promotion though, it’s a thought on how sometimes it is so tempting to try and stand out, we breach our own values of quality. Gimmicks aren’t respected and never deemed as classics. So take your time and create the fantastic, powerful work you’re capable of. Impress yourself.

Take it easy,

Matt  :)

If I Were Trapped On a Desert Island…

Think of it as Desert Island Disks for designers.

So I had a thought today when browsing the pages of a (relatively) new photo sharing site called 500px; it’s a lovely site that has multiple functions for the modern internet savvy user. And as a side note, I am VERY impressed with the staff who since my sign up have engaged with me on a personal level not common in social networking sites (this may be in part to their relatively small size, but it’s still fair to say I was flattered all the same!). Anyway, if you like photography or have even a passing interest in photo-networking (I hope that catches on!) then sign up to them NOW and be part of a fantastic and growing online community.

ANYWAY. I have got a but sidetracked, what I was trying to say was-As I browsed through the pages of 500px the high quality of the images on show lend my mind into a stream of consciousness whereunto I came to the hypothetical question ‘If I were trapped on a desert island, would I rather be surrounded by videos or imagery?’. Now I don’t want you to write of this hypothetical as something simpler than it seems, because it’s worth thinking about. Also I want to say that I am a HUGE lover of video and creative animation and this is not an easy decision for me, my mind will probably only be made up by the time I come to that point in the article!

Lets go through the pros and cons of each format is regard to being isolated on a desert island (that for some reason also have a 50″ plasma tv)…

VIDEO.

PROS: Videos can detail a story in a much more specific way that images ever can, production values can be incredibly high-adding gloss to a story and really sucking you in, you have camera movement that can reveal something initially hidden-or track a protagonist as he moves, you can adjust focus, depth of field, aperture – all on the fly creating a range of effect, you can add even more to these effects with post-editing, adding 3D element, even viewing it in 3D, it seems that quite literally, your options are endless.

CONS: You are limited to the choices made by the production team, your level of interpretation can be restricted by the finale of a film, your senses can be over-loaded with a lot to take in all at once. However I must acknowledge that a lot of these points are minor and that the reason you like a film is usually why you like it at all, kinda like…

IMAGERY.

PROS: In contrast to video, imagery to a degree lets you interpret and choose the story of a particular still, you have a wider range of formats than video, you have: photography, painting, collage and if we’re being generous, sculptures; imagery is usually refined to the most perfect and image can be, refined and touched up untill the image is that which exactly reflects the subject matter, I’m not saying it is any more ‘considered’ than video, but each frame of a video cannot simply compare to a single photo or painting; speaking of which, the minor ‘flaws and/or imperfections’ of a painting create character, something real and tangible that reflects the craft of the painter, an insignia omitted by video directors.

CONS: An image is just that, one moment, one instance that is no more, you may get bored with an image, you may want to know more of the story, why should you have to do the hard work? As for how ‘considered’ a still is, you could also argue that a shot, or compilation of shot in video are more effective than one single image. However, as mentioned above, you will like images usually for the reasons in the ‘PROS’ section, not despite what I have mentioned in the ‘CONS’ section.

So those are the elements which I considered when thinking about this debate, and personally I am still making up my mind. Video was what got my interesting in design and creative work to begin with, it’s more accessible and usually easier to decode, which is why I enjoyed it some much when I was younger, and even more so now. However as I come to conclude, I realise which side of the fence I am falling on; images do take more work than video, and that’s why I am smitten with them, at least for now. Give me 10 images on a desert island and everyday I would construct new meaning, new back-stories and see them from new perspectives. I would put them around my island, hanging them from trees or standing upright in the sand, coming across them when I am feeling at my most blue and finding happiness in the brush strokes of my favorite painting. And when I am happy again, I would go drink a coconut smoothie and lie in my deck chair, forgetting about the 50″ plasma on the other side of the island, which is turned off.

Thanks,

Matt  :)

Top 5 Videos of the Week [20/02/2011]

So as I have been away for a while this T5V has a few entries from further back but they are still as strong as ever; this week we have the video game trailer that has everyone talking, John Malkovich being… well, John Malkovich, a stunning piece of animation work and I bit of film relief in anticipation of the Oscars, so enjoy!

 

1) Dead Island: Official Announcement Trailer

We start this weeks list off with a biggy; this trailer has been buzzing around the internet ever since it was released, and rightly so. This cinematic trailer tells the story of a family of three who are under the attack of… well zombies. The hype has been so massive in fact that the movie rights have alreayd been sold… Crazy.

 

2) The Blackwater Gospel

 

This is one of my personal favorites from this weeks list; TBWG is an animation piece centring on the paranoia in a small isolated town after the undertaker arrives. The resulting piece of work is a visual masterpiece that must be seen; watch it NOW.

 

3) Niteo

Ok, I’ll put my hands up, this is a bit of self-promotion. This weeks number 3 video goes to… me. I made this video a couple of weeks back and I thought this may be a good way to get it out there a little more. The ffect was very simple and cheap to make; it just took a vase of water and some glitter paint. I mounted my camera close to the vase ful of water, and as I poured the glitter paint into the glass, the glitter and paint seperated in a really beautiful way. I like it guys, please don’t forget to ‘like’ if you have a vimeo account :)

 

4) Butterflies

 

WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME ILLEGAL STIMULANTS BEFORE WATCHING THIS CLIP. I mean, technically you shouldn’t anyway, but what I’m saying is, this video is VERY trippy. Somehow it has something to do with butterflies, but in reality, this is an exercise in heavy post-editing and freaking people out. You’ve got to appreciate the level of work this must have taken, but personally… I got scared.

 

5) The Final Chapter [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

We finish this weeks list with a very special entry. Those of you who read my previous article may have already seen this, but in for those of you that haven’t, you’re in luck. I had to repost this because it really is a feat like no other; this vimeo project drew the community together on a collaborative piece of work like I have never seen before. The idea being that this whole video was filmed in segments by separate directors, each segment ends in a still, then the competition opens again and the next segment must start with the still image that the last segment ended with. It’s simpler than it sounds trust me; but that’s why I  have linked you to the blog instead of the video, so that you can read the background into the project and watch the separate clips should that be what you desire.

I hope you enjoyed this weeks list, click here to see last weeks T5V.

Some Awesome Things on the Internet [19/02/2011]

Wow, I have not posted for a LONG time; and that’s a shame because lately I have seen a lot of stuff I wish I had shared with you. BUT ANYWAY I’m back now, I will try to post at least once a week but hopefully more, and get my top 5 videos of the week going again (starting tomorrow) and I can only hope you forgive me. As for now let’s crack on.

 

So as I have been gone for a while, I’m gonna start by just posting a few links of stuff I have come across on the internet on the few weeks I was out; there’s a couple of games, some photo and of course some video, I hope you like them guys :)

 

1) 30 Motion Tests in 30 Seconds

 

This is a video from quite a while back that was promoted by Nick Campbell on his blog GreyScaleGorrilla. I can only reiterate the idea that Nick was trying to present; that ambitious designers should aim to make a lot of smaller projects instead of a few, or only one, large project. The creator of this video basically just made 1 second of animation everyday for a month, it has some excellent work and it  barely takes any time out of the your day; so it’s worth your attention.

 

2) The Ransom Note Generator [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

This is a really nifty little bit of coding which basically will convert your desired message into a random note, bu replacing each letter with a random images of the same letter from somewhere on the internet. I might be making it sound more confusing than it is, but try it, it’s pretty cool!

 

3) Some Paradoxes – An Anthology [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

Now you might have to bear with me a little on this one, this isn’t a design or photo or video focussed webpage at all, as it says on the tin, it’s about paradoxes. Paradoxes for those of you who don’t know are (usually) hypothetical questions that shouldn’t have a possible answer; this page explains in detail how a paradox works and details some of the best examples of paradoxes from history. I really recommend reading this as I found it incredibly interesting.

 

4) School Home Support [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

Ok so back to some videos; this webpage has three videos that culminate into one multi-faceted story about a mother and daughter near to living in poverty in Britain. It’s a powerful viewing experience and they’re really short too, so please check it out.

 

5) The Egg [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

This is an absolutely brilliant poem that I came across a few weeks back; I don’t want to give too much away but the theme is creation. Honestly if you only check out one of these links today, this is one of my favorites.

 

6) Flying Arrow Cam [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

So with a title like this, I shouldn’t have to write much really. Basically guy has strapped a Go Pro HD camera to an arrow and fired it. The result? Awesome.

 

7) Scrbtle [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

Let me ask you a question, do you have hours and hours to waste on the internet? No you say? Well you may think that, but when you start drawing with Scrbtle you’ll find that actually you just lost your weekend without even noticing. It’s a simple concept that mirrors your drawings in quarters and smooths out your drawing lines which means in short, you can create absolutely stunning pieces of art in seconds. Actually, I’d love to be able to see your work, if you leave a comment linking to an image of what you drew that’d be amazing!

 

8 ) Sinuous [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

Wow, I just found this one in my bookmarks and I’ve got to tell ya, this one is special. It’s an absolutely gorgeous online game that blurs the boundries between art, music and gaming. All you have to do it dodge the red dots, but it’ll be beautiful whilst you do it.

 

9) Silk [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

Not hugely dissimilar for the link above, it too blurs boundaries, though this is more of an art tool than anything. Silk  creates an evolving image of your cursor drawings, with the appearance of silk and many colours it really is stunning. Now they just need to put this technology into a screen saver!

 

10) The Final Chapter [CLICK HERE FOR WEBPAGE]

We finish off rather neatly then at number 10. And with one of the best entries on the list; The Final Chapter is the result of a community project hosted by vimeo called ‘The Story Behind the Still’. The contest required filmmakers to film a scene, end with a still shot, then another director would make a scene that starts with that image. The final result is an incredible patchwork of film from several directors who all came together in the end to create the ‘final chapter’. It really is amazing, watch it now. :)

Top 5 Videos of the Week [16/01/2011]

First things first; I’m sorry. For anyone who comes to this blog at all regularly you will notice that posts have significantly plummeted over the last fortnight, and for this I apologise. Sadly as I am in exam mode, revising and sitting different exams I am not really able to afford too much time to the blog right now. However I finish my exams this Monday and I hope to become a lot more active again, with at least 2 or 3 posts a week (including T5V). But anyway, I will not neglect this weekly segment (even if I am writing it on Friday!); this week I was actually able to collect a good range of videos, so I will not be featuring only vimeo videos this week. We have a unique band video, a park tour unlike any other and then a couple of (as I hope you’ve come to expect from this feature) fantastic concept design work, enjoy!

1. Light Works

An absolute corker to start off this weeks list; Light works is a very short video showing of an incredibly unique take on the brokeh technique to write out a quote. Not much else to say, other than we should applaud creativity like this when it comes along, one of my favorites from this weeks list.

Video: Supernormals

(Click here for behind the scenes video)

 

2. NYC – Mindrelic Timelapse

If you remember last week I was expressing an interest in time-lapse and this week is no different; this is probably my favorite video of the week. I love the music and the shots make a seemingly normal city into a work of art. Plus panning and vehicle mounts spice up this otherwise limited technique. Fantastic.

Video: Mindrelic

Music: Down to the Cellar by Dredg

 

3. Four Guys One Guitar

We’re halfway through the list and time for a little relief, here’s a quirky little video from Little Comets playing one of their songs all on one guitar! Though I must admit, the singers vocals could be a little less ‘screechy’…

Video/ Music: Little Comets

 

4. Green Lake

This is a great little video about a place called Green Lake, where whilst it functions as a park most of the year round, during the snow melt between May and July it gets filled with water and becomes something completely beatuiful in it’s own right! I would love to go there!

Video: Wolbromia

5. Envision

The thing I love about this video is that it’s filmed; I know I post a lot of animations of after effects work but every now and again it’s nice to see what can be achieved without computer simulation. When I watched this video I really imagined what it’d be like to be in that room, experiencing the colours and light and I hope when you watch it you feel the same.

Video: SuperBien

Please leave a comment saying which video you enjoyed the most.

 

Top 5 Videos of the Week [09/01/2011]

So another week has passed and it’s been a great 7 days in video. This is a special week in Top 5 Videos’ (T5V) because of one very special video on the list. Make sure you have time to watch number 5 all in one sitting as it’s a truly special experience. We also have other great entries on this weeks list with some hyper-advanced animation, a gorgeous time-lapse and a more technically focused breakdown video. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your favorite!

 

1. The Art of Drowning

This is a short animation based upon Billy Collins’ poem The Art of Drowning; if I had to guess it looks like this film was made by rotoscoping film footage as the anatomy and movement of the actor are just so incredibly vivid. The poem itself is also vivid is presenting it’s idea of what might really happen moments before your demise. Delivered in a low, monotone growl the narration fits well with the raw, sketchbook feel of the short.

Video: Diego Maclean

Poem: Billy Collins

 

2. Shapeshifter

This is an incredible piece of 3D design work following the transformation of some high-concept technology. Apparently it was not made as a commercial for a car advert but it can seem that way from the story arc of the car going through cycles of change before coming together as a vehicle again. That aside this is truly on of the most accomplished animations on the internet right now, with cinematography that’ll blow your socks off.

Video: Charlex

 

3. Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull

So recently I have become interested in time-lapses, most probably due to the fact that I’m expecting my first ever digital camera (how have I survived so long without one!?) on thursday. With new kit comes new opportunities and with that in mind I have been researching time-lapses from across the web. Once again vimeo came to my aid featuring some of the most beautiful short films you are likely to see. Though this is my favorite I still urge you to search for time-lapses on vimeo.com. This video is filmed as the title states in Iceland during the time when all that volcanic ash was ruining everyone’s good time. It’s an absolute spectacle and one of my favorites on this weeks list.

Video: Sean Stiegmeister

Music: Jónsi – Kolniður

 

4. Boardwalk Empire VFX Breakdowns of Season 1

This is one for all the techies out there; this is an absolutely fascinating breakdown of the VFX used in season 1 of the tv drama Boardwalk Empire directed by Martin Scorsese. It’s an absorbing look into how to make a time period now so dated, look incredibly convincing.

Video: Brainstorm Digital

 

5. Undercity

Now I’m putting the description above this video just to make sure you guys read it. This is a very VERY special video; it’s an absolutely captivating piece of documentary work following ‘Steve’ and a cameraman who’s also the director called Andrew. These two go on an incredible adventure from the sewers of Ney York to the top of the an incredibly high bridge. How the guide knew how to access all these spots is beyond me, but trust me, this is an adventure that must be seen to be believed. Enjoy.

Video: Andrew Wonder

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment with you favorite video.

Also, if you want to see last weeks top 5 click here.

Top 5 Videos of the Week: [26/12/2010]

Hey Guys,

This is a new thing that I hope to continue with, it is as it says in the title, a collection of the best videos I have seen over the week. Nothing more, nothing less; these are in no particular order, so enjoy…

This week was of course the week of Christmas, Matt Cardle was number one and the Queen talked about sport in her speech; meanwhile in video-land though things seldom change. This week sees us witness a new perspective in street level cinema, get up-close to see detail impossible to notice with the human eye, have some down-time with some video games and a couple of unique twists on conventional Christmas themes…


1. Driving Through Mirror City

This video is gorgeous, I’m not sure where this was shot but the video basically takes footage from a street level car and mirrors the top half of the shot. It sounds basic but it’s an incredible effect, shot on a GO Pro HD and edited in Sony Vegas Studio HD.

Music: Liquid Summer by Diamond Messages.

Video: Craig

2. December

This is an excellent short film by 328 Stories, without ruining too much just know that the editing is masterful in the way it manipulates your viewing experience.

Video: 328 Stories

3. Chimæra

This is a gorgeous piece in which we are exposed to the super-detailed vision of winter snow-sports. Here’s the directors blurb:

Chimæra is a utopia. A dream or fantasy. Mythologically, it references a fusion of forms that is the personification of winter. By slowing down our perception of reality we get a unique look at a skier’s life. Just plug in your headphones and let your senses take over.

Music: Snow Angel Summer by Voyager One

Video: Sherpas Cinema

4. Future First Person Shooter

Anyone not familiar with FreddieW’s videos may not quite understand the point of this at first, but you’ll notice him in this video as the moron running straight at the sniper. Freddie makes incredibly polished (usually action based) videos which not only are astute comments on the gaming and film industries and the people who endorse them, but also is a very talented editor and filmmaker; recreating vivid and almost cinema worthy effects just for his youtube channel. Phenomenal.

Video: FreddieW

5. Reindeer

Just a short one to finish, this is a new ‘esting‘ for the british channel E4, I haven’t seen it on the tv yet myself but this was posted on vimeo this week and I thought it was too good to miss out on!

Video: Treat,

Which video was your favorite? Please leave a comment below letting me know what you think.

Peace,

Matt  :)

Insert Coin [Amazing VFX!]

Hey Guys,

I just thought I would link back to a great little video I watched this morning, a beautiful (and I’m sure, painstaking) project called ‘Insert Coin’. Tomas Redigh and Daniel Larsson made this special video by projecting a series of digital images onto a canvas and then outlining these images with coins; the images are a homage to arcade games and their spectrum of gameplay. You can check out the video below and watch untill the end to see a brief ‘making of’.

Peace,

Matt  :)

Tips and Hints that EVERYONE Should Know About After Effects.

Click the image to go to the tutorial

Hey Guys,

Here is a repost of Topher Welsh’s tutorial featured on aetuts+ about how to streamline your After Effects operations. If, like me you are wanting to get a job in design we must all acknowledge that a lot of projects will be tight to a dealine, this tutorial helps you shave of those valuable seconds; iterating all the keyboard shortcuts and other tips to help streamline you work process. As someone who has been using After Effects for about 8 months now, I still knew less than half of the tips in this tutorial and I’m sure it will benefit a great range of people that take the time to read it. You can view the tutorial by clicking the banner or clicking here.

Peace,

Matt  :)