Archive for videogame

State of the Hunt, week 32/2020: Not dead yet…

Posted in 30k, 40k, Blood Bowl, Chaos, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2020 by krautscientist

Oh my, it’s certainly time for another update! I must apologise for the lack of content over here: It seems like, unlike everybody else in the hobby scene, I didn’t use the Covid19-related downtime to paint 10,000 points of tabletop models — in fact, I haven’t even managed to paint more than a handful of models this year, to be honest. And while I would love to blame current events, world politics or any other kind of external force, the more likely explanation is a mix of my eternal laziness and several distractions.

But once again, my good friend Annie provided me with the motivation to get back to the painting table — albeit for a different reason than usual…

I. All good things…

Earlier this month, Annie left the blasted plains of northwestern Jhermani for one of the big Hive Cities further north. Which is great for her, but actually a massive catastrophe for my personal hobby productivity, because our joint painting and converting sessions were always a shining beacon of “finally getting stuff done”. Under no circumstances does this mean, however, that we won’t be having any painting sessions in the future — quite the opposite, I hope. The logistics will just be slightly more complicated. But that remains a problem for another day.

For now, I wanted to create something nice and topical for Annie to wish her well on her way, so I picked up a brush (for the first time in months, I might add), and made her this:






“Guten Flug” means “Have a good flight” in German, in case anyone was wondering (because y’know, that gobbo seems to be a pilot and everything…). The model itself is a Blood Bowl event model Annie gave to me a few years ago, so it seemed like the perfect choice for this occasion. The plinth was made from a piece of Zebrano wood I got from my uncle (who uses different types of wood to create his own knife handles). I’d say it all makes for a nice little ensemble — and the piece should fit right in with all of the nifty Blood Bowl stuff in the showcases at Annie’s new place.

So all the best, and don’t think you’ll be safe from me ‘oop north 😉

II. Supply drop from the lowlands:

Another shout out must go to my buddy Augustus b’Raass who sent me a lovely bitz drop earlier this year — what a delight!


To my great regret, I have yet to figure out what to do with most of those lovely bitz — but thinking about that is already half of the fun, and also seems like the perfect activity for lazy summer afternoons in the sweltering heat…

At least I have already started messing around with some of the stuff Augustus has sent me: Some of the heads from the Necromunda Corpsegrinder Cult seemed just perfect for some of my models, after all.

For instance, one of the bare Corpsegrinder faces seemed like the ideal piece to add some extra oomph to this 30k World Eater in Cataphractii armour I converted back when “Betrayal at Calth” was released:



The angry expression in combination with the tubes and augmetic plugs seem just perfect for a World Eater, yet the lack of mutations led to me using it one a 30k model, rather than a 40k one.

But fear not, my 40k World Eaters were also able to claim a skull, so to speak: One of the slightly more elaborate, horned Corpsgrinder masks ended up on the rocket launcher wielding World Eater I converted a while ago:


I kept tweaking this model for what feels like ages, swapping in head after head, but now I think I may finally have found the right part to complete the conversion.What do you think?

Oh, and speaking of World Eaters, I have finally started to paint the next member for my “Hateful Eight” project, the icon bearer based on one of the classic metal World Eaters from the 90s. I shared the conversion with you in a previous post:


Having painted the little goblin pilot shown above, I didn’t want to lapse back into utter laziness again, and seeing how I already had the red paint pot before me, I got to work…

This reminds me that I’ll have to share my current World Eaters recipe one of these days — in case anyone’s interested, that is!

Anyway, this is what the model looks like right now:


Still some work left to be done, but I think I am on the right track!

III. Visiting some Islands…

Wait, you didn’t think we’d make it through this post without a mention of my current infatuation with Media molecule’s “Dreams”, did you? Seriously, though: Just a short heads-up, because I have been plonking away at my game, “Islands”, and making small tweaks and updates based on user feedback. So regardless of whether or not the game is actually any good, it’s at least getting better and better 😉

I have also created another trailer for the game that I think gives you a pretty good idea of what it looks like. Check this out:

If you happen to have access to both a PlayStation 4 and a copy of Dreams, I would be delighted if you were to check out my game. It can be found here.

 

Anf that’s it for today. I certainly hope this update finds you all well! If you have any thoughts or feedback, I would, of course, love to hear them!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! And please stay safe and healthy!

State of the Hunt, week 26/2020: Tributes in plastic and more digital Dreams

Posted in 40k, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, WIP with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2020 by krautscientist

Time for another update, lest this blog fall into complete disuse. Be warned, though: Today’s post is a bit of a stitched-together chimera of different things. But hey, better than no new content whatsoever, eh? So step this way, please. I have some things to show you:

I. A few tributes in model form

While I didn’t have the time to work on any new models, I do have some pieces from earlier this year that I have not yet featured here on the blog, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to finally give them their day in the limelight!

First up is a conversion I am really happy with. By way of introduction, let me reiterate that my buddy DexterKong and me are basically sharing (and co-developing) the same 40k adventurescape, our little corner of the 41st millennium, so to speak: the Velsen Sector.

On top of being fun, this basically serves as a very handy resource, because the background we have (and continue to) come up with really serves as an extra layer of texture that informs our conversions and character ideas. Now a couple of years ago, Dexter came up with a character that I have been jealous of ever since. One Inquisitor Uraccen Falx, of the Ordo Xenos:

Inquisitor Falx by DexterKong

Dexter imagined Falx as a bit of a crackpot and a conspiracy-theorist — to be fair, he came up with a character at a time where conspiracy-theorists weren’t as much of a dangerous real-world political influence as they are today. But the idea of an Inquisitor who was basically a huge paranoiac, expecting vile xenos conspiracies behind everyone and everything truly appealed, and I think you can really see that kind of background in the model: Falx is an old, drawn, perpetually exhausted fanatic who will not allow himself to rest, lest “they” finally get to him.

In case you are interested, you can find out more about Falx here and here. For today, suffice it to say that this was one of those models that I always regretted not having come up with myself — until I realised a while ago that I could at least do the next-best thing and build a version of Falx for my own collection.

So that’s what I did:

For the most part, this was very much a case of trying to “colour inside the lines”, so to speak, trying to match Dexter’s original model. I diverged from the original design in one or two small ways (choosing a different tilting plate as well as a – very fitting – shoulder mounted AdMech gun. I also used a different sidearm, mostly because I didn’t have any of those ancient Eldar pistols left 😉 , but I think it’s still recognisably the same guy. The one really brilliant part of the original model that I didn’t quite manage to capture was Falx’s scrawny neck, making him look like a tired turtle, poking out from inside its shell. But oh well, I am still pretty happy with the finished model (and with having a version of Falx in my collection now).

DexterKong’s version of Falx also uses multiple servo-skulls made from xenos-trophies, to show his ultimate disdain for those vile creatures. So while I was at it, I also built Falx a little friend:


The next thing I want to share with you happens to be yet another tribute — albeit to a video game this time around:

Early this year, I blazed through the adventure game “Primordia”, which I simply cannot praise highly enough: It’s a wonderful little graphic adventure with lots of style which is both fantastically grimdark and, at least in places, rather funny. It also resembles the look of a classic franco-belgian SciFi comic series, which was what drew me to it in the first place. Just take a look at this, and you’ll see what I mean:

Oh, and if you play it with your eyes half-closed, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s basically “Adeptus Mechanicus Forgeworld – the videogame” 😉

Anyway, the game’s protagonist is a robot named “Horatio Nullbuilt”:

And I liked the game so much that I thought it might be a cool little project to built a model resembling him:



The conversion isn’t quite finished yet. Plus it only really makes sense if you know the game — otherwise it’ll just look like a slightly dodgy, off-brand AdMech conversion to you. But I’ve already had a laugh building this guy so far — especially when it came to recreating his trusty little plasma-torch 😉

Of course I also made a kitbash to represent his loyal sidekick, Crispin Horatiobuilt, a small spherical robot with a chip on his (nonexistent) shoulder:

Here’s a piece of artwork showing both of them as they appear in the game:

To be fair, I did “40k-i-fy” both of them a bit, but I think they are still pretty recognisable.

It may be some time before I actually paint those two, but I’ll be going for a colour scheme closely resembling their appearance in the game. In the meantime, I really recommend you check out Primordia, if you haven’t already. It’s very pretty – in a highly anachronistic way – and rather grimdark, too.

And while we are on the subject of video games…

 

II. Meanwhile, in the world of Dreams:

I am not going to lie to you: Most of my hobby right now is still spent messing around with Dreams, Mediamolecule’s incredibly accessible game engine.

For starters, since my previous post on the matter, I have made lots of small and larger tweaks to my game “Islands”, including adding a final, secret level and a second unlockable ending. Here’s the trailer for the game again, for those who missed it last time around:

I was also lucky enough to be able to coax fellow hobbyist and blogger Azazel into giving the game a try 😉 If you want to follow suit, I’d be honoured:

The game is listed here. Unfortunately, in order to actually get to play it, you still need access to both a PS4 and a copy of Dreams.

Mediamolecule will be hosting a digital event called DreamsCom’20 event next week and, brilliantly enough, have called for digital exhibition booths for the event. I loved the creative challenge, plus my game can frankly use all the publicity it can get, so I used the booth template very helpfully provided by the developers and made my very own exhibition space:

It’s weird and wonderful stuff like this – in addition to the sheer creative joy that is at the heart of Dreams and its community – that I believe is what makes me spent such an obscene amount of time on it at the moment.

To wit, on top of designing a complete game, I have also come up with my very first animated short (made for the “Tiny Worlds Community Jam”), called “The Bug Ronin – Search for the Light Within”:

In this case, I have uploaded the film on YouTube, so feel free to check it out here:

And I have also sculpted a male head (as part of the sculpting masterclass that is part of Dreams’ tutorials), resulting in this finished piece:

Frankly, this seems to me like something created by somebody far more talented than me (especially if you compare it to my previous attempts at sculpting a face). This time around, I have gone for a character design slightly influenced by the style of the “Dishonored” games.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is this: I have created all of this using the same suite of tools. And none of it would have seemed remotely possible to me before!

To be fair, none of this has anything to do with 40k or INQ28, so many of you probably won’t really care that much. However, I am, in fact, already thinking about how this new skillset I have been acquiring might be turned towards the 40k side of my hobby time — in fact, I would love to start by creating some digital sculptures for some of my characters — Redactor Orlant and the Countess Mandelholtz, in particular, immediately caught my eye…

For now, fellow Dreamer Alex Markov is already creating some highly impressive 40k content in Dreams:

So yeah, so much for my little heads up regarding my current projects. It goes without saying that I would love to hear any thoughts and feedback you might have!

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! And please stay safe and healthy!

State of the Hunt, week 22/2020: Dreaming of Islands

Posted in Pointless ramblings, WIP with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2020 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, seeing how the blog has been quiet for longer than usual, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a bit of an update on what´s been happening over on my end:

I am still alive and kicking, obviously. The truth is simply that I have recently been dropping pretty much all of my hobby time (as well as quite a bit of my non-hobby time, alarmingly enough) into a completely different creative endeavour. You could call it a lifelong dream, really.

Because, deep down, I have always wanted to be…a LUMBERJACK!

Nah, but seriously: As some of you may remember, video games have always been another big hobby of mine (why choose one nerdy pasttime when you can have ALL of them, eh?) And one thing I have always wanted to do was to make a real video game myself. But while there are many tools available for doing that today (ranging from the stupendously easy to grasp text adventure tool Twine to game-engine behemoth Unity), the scope of what I was able to create had previously always been limited by my inability (and/or unwillingness) to properly get into programming. So it looked like my dream would have to remain just that. And then „Dreams“ happened.

I have already talked about Media Molecule‘s mind-boggling game engine/machinima Studio/3D modeling software cornucopia in my previous post about creating a character bust of Gregor Eisenhorn, but that didn‘t really seem to elicit that much of a response. For today, suffice it to say that Dreams, with its very intuitive interface, has enabled me to create something I would have considered impossible before.

So, TL;DR: This blog has been quiet because I have been spending all of my recent hobby time on creating a video game.

If you come here mainly for the modeling, painting and 40k content, which I suspect goes for pretty much all of you, then rest assured that this isn‘t a permanent state of affairs: I will definitely be back to cutting up little plastic men (and women. And everything in between and beyond) sooner rather than later — not least of all because my buddy Augustus b‘Raass sent me an amazing little supply drop recently — anyway, don‘t fret: I‘ll be back in a bit!

Now, if anyone‘s still reading, or if some of you are maybe interested in finding out more about that game I was talking about, I would be happy to share a few details:

The game is called „Islands“, and it‘s an exploration-centered third person adventure/platformer with a slightly cinematic bent. You are playing as a mysterious wanderer on their quest to travel the eponymous islands. My main inspirations were thatgamecompany‘s Journey, Team Ico‘s/Fumito Ueda‘s games (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian) and Us Two Games‘ Momument Valley series (from a visual design standpoint). And while Islands is very obviously not nearly as good or polished as any of those titles, if you like any or all of the aforementioned games, well, my little project may just be for you… Just be advised that it has absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with the grimdark world of the 41st millennium 😉

So anyway, sorry for rambling away. But while I don‘t want to sound overly dramatic, it‘s no hyperbole to say that this feels like one of the most thrilling creative endeavours I have tackled yet. Sure, the game is pretty dodgy in a hundred places, and probably quite derivative to boot — but it‘s my baby, for what it‘s worth… 😉

So if, by any chance, you should find yourself in the possession of both a PlayStation 4 and a copy of Dreams (because both things are needed to get to access my project, unfortunately), then I cordially invite you to check out Islands — in fact, that would make me very happy indeed! Its title in the Dreamiverse is „Islands Prototype“, and here‘s a thumbnail that should help you identify the right game:

Oh, it‘s also listed here..

You could also leave some feedback, of course, which would make me even happier still 😉

In closing, I will be leaving you with a few impressions of the game. While Dreams also works as a fantastic repository of already available assets, I have decided to up the ante for this project and create all of my own graphic assets, so as to max out my learning curve. So everything you see in those pictures has been completely „scratchbuilt“, as we would say in tabletop hobbyist parlance 😉

Anyway, on to the pretty pictures:

Update, May 28th: I had to spend an hour in the car, waiting, earlier today, so I threw together a quick trailer for the game as well:

As always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more! And please stay safe and healthy!

Grimdark video games?!

Posted in 40k, Inq28, Inquisitor, Pointless ramblings, Totally worth it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2017 by krautscientist

Hey everyone, something a bit different today — I hope you’ll appreciate the variety, even if it means a lack of new painted models. So what is this about?

It’s very common for hobbyists to talk about their inspiration: Whether it comes down to creating conversions or narratives, most of us will inevitably build on influences and concepts from many different sources, such as film, art, literature or personal experiences from RPG groups. To wit, the entire 40k universe itself is based on so many different influences, and has grown into a massive, unwieldy, eclectic and brilliant mixture of a thousand references, ranging from 80s pop culture to every SciFi and gothic cliché ever.

Today’s post, therefore, will deal with yet another possible source of inspiration when it comes to get a feeling for the kind of narrative that would work in the 40k universe, and the kind of characters that would populate such a narrative. And while I draw lots of my own hobby inspiration from the aforementioned media (with sources as diverse as David Lynch’s Dune adaptation, Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan & Gormenghast and Charles Dickens as some of my favourite influences), today I would like to talk about another possible influence: the wonderful world of video games.

Now some of you may remember that I am a huge video game nerd. It’s a medium that I have been endlessly fascinated with for a very long time now, and it continues to interest aesthetically, narratively and professionally .

I could wax poetical on the many fascinating, obscure or downright grotesque features that turn digital games into such a riveting subject for me, but that’s not really the focus of this blog. So let us rather focus on a couple of games that have influenced my hobby life by inspiring characters, narratives or just a general style in my own hobby work.

Before we begin, however, a disclaimer of sorts: By no means is the following collection of titles and influences an exhaustive collection, nor is it intended to be. It’s also very possible that you know each and every one of those games, so the post could turn out to be old news to you. And finally, to be fair, this post has also been simmering away in the back of my head for quite a while now, so be warned that it may actually have moved away from actual 40k a bit, dealing – at least to some degree – more with games and game series that I find inspiring, period. That being said, if you enjoy 40k and Inquisitor and all that, and if you are interested in visually and/or narratively interesting videogames, the following titles might be worth a look. And who know: Just like me, you may even get an idea for an army, a conversion or an INQ28 retinue out of it. So let’s take a look:

 

I. Legacy of Kain series

It seems weird to me that the Legacy of Kain series seems to have become almost a bit obscure by today’s standards, when it used to be a rather common household name in video game circles – and even a veritable system seller – during the late 90s and early 2000s.

The series’ development history is rather complicated and convoluted, with different developers and teams adding their own perspective to the series, and acclaimed video game writer Amy Hennig (possibly best known for her role on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series these days) ending up with the task of somehow binding it all together into a semi-coherent overarching narrative.

Fascinating as those tribulations are, however, I don’t even want to get into the details here. Suffice it to say that the series started with Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (basically “The Legend of Zelda” with vampires), which was followed by Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (basically “Tomb Raider” with Vampires). The series deals with the vampire Kain and his rise (and fall) in the gothic world of Nosgoth, and it introduced both a pretty interesting cast of characters as well as a very distinct look and feel. Just check out Soul Reaver’s intro movie:

One of the series major narrative arcs deals with the conflict between the – seemingly completely amoral – vampire overlord Kain and his fallen former lieutenant Raziel, turned into a twisted wraith at Kain’s behest and now out for revenge — although things turn out to be much more complicated than that, as the series’ narrative is just about as convoluted as its development history. It can be a bit overdesigned and wordy in places, but it’s well worth checking out for yourself!

So why does the series appear on my list? There’s the very grimdark setting, for one: Nosgoth is a very dark and gothic place, where everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket because the man destined to be the world’s saviour refused the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – electing instead to become a depraved, immortal vampire emperor, ruling a failing empire. If that isn’t grimdark, I don’t know what is.

But there’s more: Kain’s dealings with his vampire lieutenants and their ultimate fates remind me a lot of of 40k’s Daemon Primarchs and Traitor Legions: There’s a gravitas and a sense of lost grace here that should seem very familiar to anyone who likes 30k and 40k. There’s also a fair share of purple prose (and some truly excellent voice acting) to be had, so if you want to get a feeling of what a Chaos Space Marine might feel like after millennia of corruption and simmering regret, the Legacy of Kain series provides some very good inspiration on that account!

After several unsuccessful attempts at reviving the series in recent years, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another entry. The games available so far still tell a (fairly) complete tale of hybris, revenge and redemption, however, and are well worth your time, provided you are prepared to deal with a bit of technical clunkiness (in the earlier games in particular). The entire series, minus the first Blood Omen, is still available via GOG.com, among others. The games cost about 5,00 Euros a pop, and if the series’ premise interests you, I recommend you just snatch them all up: I played nearly all of them back to back, a couple of years ago, and it really helps to get a grip on the rather complicated storyline. You can also read up on the games on Nosgothic Realm, an incredibly expansive fansite.

II. Primal

Like Legacy of Kain, Primal used to be a fairly high profile release back when it first came out in 2003. A Playstation 2 exclusive developed by Sony’s own Cambridge studio, Primal was a fairly ambitious project with incredible production values for the time. Not all that many people seem to remember it these days, which is a shame, especially since it has some rather interesting connections to Games Workshop — but we’ll be getting there in a minute…

The game’s basic premise seems clichéd enough: Perky goth chic Jen is nearly killed by a daemon who just happened to infiltrate a gig of her boyfriend’s Nu-Metal band (I swear I am not making this up!). With Jen’s boyfriend abducted, she finds herself transported to the fantasy dimension of Oblivion, which consists of four realms. The forces of order and chaos, respectively, seek to establish control over these realms, and Abaddon, Lord of chaos, has come dangerously close to toppling the precarious balance of power.

So it falls to Jen, accompanied by adorable gargoyle helper Scree, to travel to the four realms, learn how to transform into different demon forms and re-establish the balance between chaos and order.

Mechnically speaking, Primal is one of those third person action adventure the early 2000s were so very fond of (think Tomb Raider with less climbing and more character interaction). If that doesn’t sound like much to write home about, it’s important to point out that Primal’s production values, its narrative and its pretty excellent cast take the whole affair into some rather interesting directions, so it’s far more interesting than its rather cookie-cutter premise would led you to believe.

There’s yet another reason why Primal would be interesting for every discerning fan of GW’s various IPs: Travelling the game’s world, you cannot shake a general feeling of …familiarity. Take the game’s four realms, serving as its massive levels, and their respective inhabitants: There’s Solum and the Ferai (totally not slightly more lawful-neutral Khorne-worshipping Beastmen), Aquis and the Undine (totally not victims to some kind of slightly Nurglite plague), Aetha and the Wraith (totally not Slaaneshi vampires) and, finally, Volca and the Djinn (totally not worshippers of Tzeentch). The latter, in particular, seem rather GW-ish in design — to the point where the Djinn would make for excellent Tzeentchian champions or daemon princes, as you can see in this video (starting at 11:40, in case YouTube’s timecode widget refuses to work):

Those similarities are far from coincidental, however, as Primal’s lead artist was none other than Mark Gibbons, one of GW’s most prolific artists and illustrators during the early to mid-90s. You know, the guy who did pieces like this:

Artwork by Mark Gibbons

His touch is very noticeable, and there is more than a little vintage GW in the character designs and artwork as well as the art design in the game proper:

What’s more, while the four realms and their inhabitants clearly recall GW’s chaotic factions, the whole idea of of four discreet realms in the game also somewhat recalls the realms that now appear in Age of Sigmar, even though AoS didn’t come around until fairly recently.

An emulated version of Primal is still available on the PlayStation Store (both for the Playstation 3 and 4), and it’s very much worth the price of admission: It may be trying a bit too hard to be edgy and grownup for today’s standards. and it may not be great literature, but the main characters’ banter makes them genuinely endearing, and the production values are still great, even from a modern perspective. And if nothing else, it’s a fascinating example of Mark Gibbons creating something that should feel more than a little familiar for longtime hobbyists, albeit in a different medium and for a different employer.

III. Dishonored series

This next entry is a far more recent series: If you are even slightly into video games right now, chances are you’ve heard of the Dishonored series. It is also one of my current favourites. And it feels a lot like an Inquisitor campaign every now and then, but maybe that’s just me 😉

Dishonored is set in the Empire of the Isles, a setting that invokes Great Britain (in the first game) and its colonies (in the second game) during the early 19th/early 20th century, albeit with a twist: Much of the Empire’s culture seems oddly familiar, but Dishonored’s world also presents a strange and intriguing clash of fantasy, (steampunk) technology and magic. What’s more, there’s a very particular look and feel to the whole affair, ranging from the – almost painterly -realism of its character design (call me crazy, but there’s more than a bit of New Objectivity to be found in the games’ art design) to the general bleak atmosphere of the world, with decadent nobles scheming and vying for power, as disinfranchised smallfolk suffer under their cruelty. Dishonored’s world is very dark, but also quite fascinating. It poses some interesting moral questions and goes to some rather interesting places with them. The way in which the games explore the morality of nonlethal solutions to many of its problems is just one very poignant example.

From a gameplay perspective, the Dishonored games can be visceral, combat-focused revenge fantasies or elegant stealth games — or anything in between, really, purely based on your preferred way of playing. What’s so mechanically great about the games is how they accomodate your playstyle and choices and make the world adapt accordingly in many interesting ways. Like I said, it’s one of my favourite game series at the moment 😉

As for the series’ position on this list, Dishonored can also feel very Inqusitor/INQ28 at times. It would be easy to imagine Dishonored’s Empire of the Isles as a civilised world within the Imperium of Man, and as the setting for an INQ28 campaign. For instance, whenever I read Apologist’s incredibly cool world building for his “Death of a Rubricist” setting, Dishonored is one of the things I feel acutely remembered of. Plans within schemes are very much at the heart of the series, and if you are into Inquisitor and its particular way of storytelling and world building, you’ll take lots of inspiration away from Dishonored — in fact, the world building alone is basically worth the price of admission!

Dishonored 2_20161120161254

The series consists of two main games (Dishonored and Dishonored 2) and one major spin-off campaign for each of the main games. Dishonored gets “The Knife of Dunwall” as a nearly game-sized DLC, whereas Dishonored 2’s spin-off campaign, “The Death of the Outsider” was recently released as a standalone title. All of the games are available on PC, Playstation 3/4 or Xbox 360/One, and I would very much recommend to check out the entire series, starting with the first title. If you’re even a bit like me, you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of this truly breathtakingly realised world!

And while we are talking about Dishonored, let’s not forget about…

III.b …the Thief Series

Because I would be remiss not to mention the Thief series, which seems like Dishonored’s spiritual prequel (and a highly acclaimed stealth series in its own right). Thief only makes this particular list by association, it’s true, but the main reason for that is that its world is a fair bit more medieval (and thus less 40k) than Dishonored’s. Even so, fans of INQ28 and/or Mordheim in particular will doubtlessly find a lot to like about Thief’s dark, steampunk-ish world. Just to give you an idea, when I read the description of Queen Mab during the opening chapters of Dan Abnett’s novel Pariah (the first and, alas, to date only entry in the Eisenhorn vs. Ravenor series), I felt instantly reminded of The City from the Thief series.

IV. Resonance of Fate

A strange entry, this one, mostly because Resonance of Fate is a JRPG, with all the baggage and strangeness that entails: Now Japanese role playing games clearly aren’t for everybody, as they tend to have a particular tone and feel, one that is often informed by the peculiarities of Japanese pop culture. Personally speaking, I have a long personal history of playing JRPGs, however, going all the way back to the 8- and 16-bit days, so I can usually stomach, or even appreciate, the weirdness inherent to the genre.

Resonance of Fate is, on the face of it, very Japanese in many ways: It’s an eclectic combination of fantasy, cyberpunk, turn-based battles fought with guns (and almost ridiculous amounts of acrobatics) and classic JRPG tropes. What makes the game a definite candidate for this particular list, however, is its peculiar setting, Basel:

Basel is a multileveld city built around a massive central elevator. It was orginially constructed as a combined retreat for humanity and an atmospheric cleaning device, but it grew and became more complicated and essentially turned into a massive, sprawling city over the  centuries — a veritable Hive city by any other name.


And while Basel may look strange and far different from the hive cities of 40k, the game really does an excellent job of depicting a society that has developed around the basic challenge of living within a massive machine: Towns and villages are wedged into Basel’s open spaces, with giant cogs ticking away in the background. The strata of older cultures and settlements are clearly visible in many places, and most people have clearly forgotten the massive facility’s original use, content to eke out a living among its unknowable mechanisms. The rest of the setting confirms to this basic conceit: Instead of dragons and orcs, you get to fight modern bandits and runaway biological experiments.

Which is all a rather roundabout way of saying that, in spite of its copious amounts of JRPG tropes, Resonance of Fate can almost feel like a Japanese take on Necromunda. Which, in turn, can make it fascinating to check out for a fan of GW’s various 40k-related settings.

When all is said and done, however, Resonance of Fate is still a very Japanese game indeed, with all the tropes and quirkiness that entails. If you can stomach the occasional weirdness (the odd jokes, the dressup meta game, the weird gender stereotypes and the sometimes awkward pacing and dialogue), it’s a fascinating, quirky little game. The following video shows some of the gameplay, and I had an especially strong Necromunda moment starting at 6:26, with the heroes passing through the artifacts of prior civilisations while making their way from Basel’s highest level, the Chandelier, to the lower residential areas:

The fact remains that Resonance of Fate can be a bit of an acquired taste — even moreso, arguably, than mainstream JRPGs like Final Fantasy. You may want to take a look at the game’s prologue below to find out whether the general tone and style is for you:

V. Basically anything by Yasumi Matsuno

Yasumi Matsuno is a fascinating director and author because he stands for a very particular kind of RPG world and storytelling. Instead of fairy tale romps that end with the heroes defeating a mustache twirling demon lord to save the world, Matsuno’s games (and game worlds) are invariably steeped in realpolitik: They always deal with the politics going on in the background, the shady deals and painful sacrifices that keep kingdoms and empires going while creating tragedies for the protagonists. Unlike most roleplaying games, Matsuno’s titles usually don’t put you in the shoes of the idealistic hero saving the world due to sheer spunk and virtue: You just do your best while history – and politics – march on relentlessly in the background. And even if you should end up saving the world, don’t expect anyone’s thanks for it! Chances are, you’ll go down in history as a dangerous heretic…

There are also numerous shout outs to real world history: Tactics Ogre is basically a medieval fantasy version of the Yugoslav Wars. Final Fantasy Tactics (very much Tactics Ogre’s spiritual sequel) is basically the War of the Roses with dragons and Chocobos (it is also one of the finest strategy RPGs ever devised by man).

While all of Matsuno’s games are very much worth checking out, I want to point you towards some titles in particular, starting with Vagrant Story: a strange and darkly beautiful game that is one of my all-time favourites, and maybe Matsuno’s definitive piece of work:

Vagrant Story is a take on Western RPG and dungeon crawler conventions with a fascinating story about different factions trying to get their hands on the dark magics resting within the lost city of Leà Monde.


You’re cast in the role of one Ashley Riot, basically a medieval special ops soldier. Your goal is to infiltrate the lost city, rescue the hostages taken by a religious cult and prevent its members from claiming the city’s dark power for their own. You soon find out that things are far more complicated, however, and that there are more parties interested in Leà Monde and its legacy.

Vagrant Story is known for several things: Its incredible art design. Its dark and mature storytelling. Its punishing take on western roleplaying and dungeon crawling conventions. And, certainly not least of all, its acclaimed English translation by Alexander O. Smith, among others, adding an extra layer to an already incredibly elegant narrative.

I don’t even want to tell you too much about Vagrant Story, because it has to be experienced firsthand. It’s a punishing and darkly mysterious experience. If you enjoy deep, ambiguous tales and thought-provoking narratives, you should check it out. It’s quite a ride, indeed, and it can be had for a song on the PlaystationStore.

One of Yasumi Matsuno’s biggest mainstream games, set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, is Final Fantasy XII, a mainline entry in the colossally successful Final Fantasy series.

Like Matsuno’s other games, FF XII is a triumphant exercise in world building, with a setting that seems like it could actually exist somewhere and wouldn’t wink out of existence the moment you switch off your console. Once again, there’s also a lot of background politics at play here, with history’s gears very much in motion while your band of heroes is gallivanting around the world of Ivalice.

It’s a rather interesting subversion of many of Final Fantasy’s classic tropes, as well as a fascinating look at what Matsuno can get up to with a bigger budget — at least partially so, as he had to drop out of the project late into its development. The game is still quite something, though! It’s still widely available on Playstation consoles, with a remastered version (“Final Fantay XII – The Zodiac Age”) released earlier this year.

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As for its influence on my 40k hobby, among many other things, let’s just say that I am still looking for a way of creating a 40k-compatible way of incorporating Final Fantasy XII’s Judges into my INQ28 setting…

 

Matsuno’s obvious love for the classic western pen & paper RPG finally came full circle with Crimson Shroud, released in 2012 as a fairly obscure download-only title for the Nintendo 3DS (at least in the west):

In many ways, Crimson Shroud mirrors many of Vagrant Story’s story beats (and much of its general look and feel): A small group of adventurers infiltrates the ruins of a palace in search of the eponymous artifact. There they encounter not only many vicious creatures, but also a dark and tragic story going back centuries. The narrative is both concise and nuanced, especially for a smaller digital release like this.

What makes Crimson Shroud truly captivating, however, are the lenghts to which the game actually emulates classic pen & paper roleplaying — to the point where you throw virtual dice to determine the outcome of most actions in the game and all the characters and monsters are displayed as actual miniatures mounted on their own small bases and placed within diorama-like backgrounds, making the whole thing seem like an actual tabletop roleplaying session.


If that sounds weird, it certainly is, and it’s not exactly easy to pick up and play. But everything that’s fascinating about a Matsuno game – such as the nuanced storytelling and excellent world building – also make an appearance here, creating a sublime narrative experience almost on par with Vagrant Story. Plus the game is a fascinating love letter to western tabletop gaming, as seen through a distinctly Japanese lense.

 

Honorary mention: Incubation

Okay, let’s treat this last game as a bit of an out of competition entry, but I still need to mention Incubation: Released in 1997 as part of the – then pretty successful (at least in Germany) – Battle Isle series, Incubation basically worked as the first really cool squad-based Space Marine game without even being a GW-licensed title.

Incubation probably seems incredibly primitive by modern standards, but back then, it felt like a revelation: I remember loving GW and 40k even back then and hoping they would end up making a game based on their IPs that didn’t suck — but it actually never came to that, at least not back then. But a German developer made a game about vanilla SciFi-troopers (totally not Space Marines) fighting against a slightly weird alien race (totally not the Tyranids), and after playing it, I kept asking myself why GW couldn’t have come up with that kind of game — or at least given the license to these guys…

Funnily enough, Incubation is actually still available as part of the Battle Isle Platinum Pack, but I couldn’t really tell you whether or not it has aged all that gracefully. I will affirm though that it felt like an excellent Space Marine game long before GW themselves got their act together on that front, and that’s enough to be included in this list!

 

So yeah, so much for my – entirely subjective and woefully incomplete – list of video games that have fed into my hobby over the years. I would love to hear your feedback, both on the nature of this post as well as on the actual choices I have made: Was this an interesting subject, in spite of only dealing with the actual hobby in a slightly roundabout way? And did I miss any games that should be included on this list? You are very welcome to contribute your own favourites!

In any case, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

The State of the Hunt — Week 45

Posted in 40k, Chaos, Conversions, paintjob, Pointless ramblings, state of the hunt, WIP, World Eaters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2016 by krautscientist

So, like I said, I was at a conference last week, visiting the PLAY 16 festival at Hamburg and spending a couple of days in the city. I think I have mentioned previously that, in addition to being addicted to cutting up little plastic men, I am also a huge videogame nerd, and the subject also happens to factor into my professional background of working in the field of media literacy. So allow me to begin this week’s post with some comparatively off-topic rambling:

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PLAY is a festival dedicated to the artistic, creative and educational purposes and potentials of videogames, and this year’s subject was “Let’s get physical!”, so the various events, workshops and presentations dealt with the representation of bodies in games, ranging from the design of characters, archetypes and player avatars to the interactions between the game world and the player’s actual body, be it in the form of motion contol or even virtual and augmented reality. The festival was fascinating and fun, and certainly not short on highlights: For instance, I had the opportunity to try out Triangular Pixels’ VR game “Unseen Diplomacy”, which was a truly stunning experience — I hadn’t expected VR to be so, well, immersive at this comparatively early point!

Another highlight was the fact that the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is currently running a huge exhibition on the history of videogames, with many, many playable classics from 30+ years of gaming culture (I was appalled at how badly I was doing when playing OutRun on an actual vintage arcade cabinet). In addition to the actual games, the exhibition also features lots of concept artwork from modern classics like Shadow of the Colossus or Ico:

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I was particularly delighted when I discovered a whole wall of brilliant concept art from DoubleFine’s Psychonauts, a personal favourite of mine:

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So if you live anywhere near Hamburg or should find yourself visiting the city in the near future (or until the end of April 2017), and if you’re even the slightest bit interested in videogame culture, you should definitely check out the Game Masters exhibition! It’s very educational, but also great fun! Plus the museum also has many more exhibitions for you to discover, of course. I was sadly unable to check out the exhibits on Art Nouveau due to time constraints, for instance, so I might have to plan another visit soon…

Let me wind up this part of the post by showing you the room that housed the last workshop I participated in before travelling back home. This room is also located at the MKG and was once the cafeteria of German news magazine Der Spiegel:

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It also provided the perfect photo opportunity for getting material that should make for suitably psychedelic desktop backgrounds:

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Anyway, before we veer completely off course, rest assured that I did of course do something hobby related as well while I was in Hamburg: It goes without saying that I took the opportunity to drop by one of the local GW stores. Now what really impressed me was the level of painting on display at the store, courtesy of the staff and some regulars, so I snapped inspirational pictures left and right:

 

DISCLAIMER: This should be fairly obvious, really, but none of the following stuff is mine, and I don’t claim any kind of credit for it! If you should recognise one of your models and would like to be mentioned, just give me a holler and I’d be glad to edit your name into the post!

Anyway, my first port of call was this very awesome Khornate Daemon army painted by one of the store’s regulars:

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Possibly my favourite conversion was the Bloodslaughterer-based Soulgrinder:

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And while it wasn’t part of the same army, I also really love this slightly converted Maulerfiend:

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My favourite parts are the Bloodletters leading it to battle by a chain and that delicious brass recipe!

The biggest surprise was to discover something that I first considered to be a cool recreation of an iconic – and rather well-known – piece from the internet, but which almost certainly turned out to be the genuine article upon closer inspection:

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And because you can never have enough Inquisitor-scaled Astartes, there was also this beautiful 54mm Librarian (cheers to Inquisitor Mikhailovich for correcting that oversight!), based on the same vintage Captain Artemis:

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So yeah, brilliant stuff all around!

Of course I couldn’t leave the store without making a sizeable purchase. So yeah, this happened:

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The good folks at the store were nice enough to reserve their last copy of The Burning of Prospero for me, so there goes my next hobby year, I suppose 😉

Seriously, though, I am pretty sure I’ll be talking about the contents of the box in more detail sooner rather than later. For now, suffice it to say that I am actually awestruck by the quality of the casts: GW’s plastic models have been rather spectacular for quite a while now, but it really seems as though each boxed set sets a new benchmark for crispness of detail. Very nice! You can also find my thoughts on the models contained in the boxed set here, should you have missed them.

 

Speaking of which, I actually kitbashed one particular model as a kind of preparation for the release of The Burning of Prospero, incidentally:

As you may already have noticed, I really enjoy building 30k versions of my 40k World Eaters characters. Now back when it didn’t look like I would ever create any 30k models of my own, fellow German hobbyist AgnostosTheos created a 30k (pre-interment) version of one of my characters, Khoron the Undying:

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In the 41st millennium, Khoron has been a Dreadnought for several millennia, yet he has also been an invaluable adviser to Lord Captain Lorimar since before the Heresy, as he was already a veteran of the 4th company even before Lorimar won his captaincy in the fighting pits.

Khoron actually already has quite a bit of backstory – at least somewhere in the back of my head – so I do have a pretty specific idea of what I want his model to look like. With that said. there’s a lot I still love about AgnostosTheos’ version (especially the lined face he chose, making Khoron look like a grizzled veteran), but it’s obvious the model doesn’t fit my World Eaters colour scheme, so instead of painting over AT’s paintjob, I thought this would be a good occasion to build an updated 30k version of Khoron. Now I see him as a hard-as-nails veteran of the legion, so I chose an archaic suit of armour for him — plus I had already heard rumours of the new boxed set at that time, so it seemed like a cool idea to give Mk. III a try:

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The model was created by combining World Eaters’ and Iron Hands’ parts (I loved the chainmail loincloth on the IH legs, so I just had to use them). The weapons have also swapped hands when compared with AT’s version, in order for the model to mimic Khoron’s eventual Dreadnought ironform. The model has only been tacked together for now, and I think Khoron will be needing some additional gear here and there, but by and large, I am already pretty happy with the new version. So here’s Khoron next to the previous version of the character:

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So yeah, that’s it for this week. It goes without saying that I would love to hear any thoughts you might have! And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!