Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Riven, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com
Sequels are a notoriously difficult thing to pull off, and Riven is an example of an unequivocal success. It took Myst‘s design and built upon it rather than simply aping it, creating a completely fresh take on the existing concept. Beyond the continued storyline and identical control scheme, there is practically no resemblance between the two. It isn’t so much Myst II as it is Myst 2.0– a second release which corrects the shortcomings of an earlier version. Riven is a masterpiece, an example of what can happen when creators consider their past mistakes, aim high, and ignore the risks.
I’ve been making some vector icons for a client and one of them involved a slide carousel… not exactly something easy to draw in SVG! However, I took a quick shortcut through 3D which I’m now going to share with you. Take a look:
- I started by modeling a simple slide carousel in Blender, which took only a few minutes. I only needed the shapes, not the lighting, so I rendered it with some shadeless materials, thusly:
- I then used Illustrator’s auto-tracing function to get the shapes from the render. Since the source image was very high-contrast, the tracer did a great job for once. At this stage I also drew in many of the simpler shapes, primarily circles.
- Finally, I imported the Illustrator file into Inkscape to apply gradient fills, because Illustrator’s gradient tools are a leading cause of brain cancer in graphic designers. (It’s true!) The slide dividers benefit nicely from some clever banded circular gradients, to give this final result:
Not bad! Had I tried to draw this from scratch in Illustrator, I’d probably still be working… instead it took less than half an hour, and is about as photoreal as vector graphics can be.
This is a fateful date. You are probably already aware that it is Pi Day (especially so at 1:59) but it is also, coincidentally, the day that the Zarks were born. For it was on Pi Day in 2002 that I happened to create, almost absent-mindedly, a creature called a Zark to serve as a bit enemy in the embarrassingly-titled comic Space Kid. I’ve related this story a million times before, so I’ll just give the synopsis:
- Zarks turn out to be cooler than Space Kid
- Zarks gradually take over comic
- Zarks go on to star in video games and stuff
And so, to celebrate the first ten years of Zarkdom, I present the following show of rare and/or unseen images from their storied lineage. And if that’s not enough, I also offer you a digital copy of the complete Zirconius comics, a guide to the Easter Eggs of Into the Titan, and some old backstory: Maz’s journal. (Links are below the fold.) Share and enjoy.
So, they’ve appropriated a character who preaches not just an environmental message, but also an anti-consumerism message, and they’re using him in advertisements. Advertisements! Advertisements for cars! I don’t care if he is fictional… this is slander.
And, on a side note, how do you make a movie out of Dr. Seuss and get a PG rating? Actually, forget asking how, what about why? Also who, when and where. Someone has to account for this whole travesty.
Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t read The Book of Atrus, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy all three novels here.
Myst: The Book of Atrus was published in 1995, well into the heyday of the original Myst but still two years before the release of Riven. It appears to set two basic goals for itself: to expand the backstory of the original game and set the stage for the new one. The book is credited to Rand and Robyn Miller, Myst’s foremost creators, with coauthor credit to David Wingrove, an SF writer previously known for Chung Kuo, a sprawling epic about a future in which Imperial China rules the world. (In true diehard-fan fashion, I attempted to read the first of these volumes, with no success.) As a work of literature, the novel is probably slightly better than your average science fiction novel, at least stylistically. As a part of the Myst canon, this novel (and the other two) form a sort of backstory-bible, one which became so integral to the series that the games eventually came to depend on it.
Today I shut down the old WordPress MU version of this site by simply logging in through FTP and deleting the directory. Very efficient, but unbeknownst to me, all the images from the old blog posts were still stored inside it. So that means all the images older than last July or so are gone. Sigh. There’s not really any way to get them back, either, and it would take many hours to put them back together (assuming I can even find the source files for most of these), so I’m just going to shrug this one off. Should anyone want to see any of this stuff, just let me know and I’ll attempt to piece it together again. I should have known better, really.
As a sort of an experiment, I guess (and also because I know so little about social networking) I’ve signed up for Twitter. I don’t know whether I’ll actually use it, but I guess we’re going to find out. My user name is @JohnWAllie (assuming you’re supposed to type that at-symbol?) if you want to follow me or whatever it is people do with Twitter. (As you can see, I’m quite vague on the exact function here.) Get off my lawn, pesky kids!
Warning: Spoilers abound. If you haven’t played Myst, I suggest you do so before proceeding. You can buy it at gog.com
As Myst approaches its twentieth anniversary, it’s a good time to take a look back and try to understand what it all meant. Writing now, seven years after the final installment was published, much of the fan base has gone silent, Cyan Worlds (the creators) have turned to simple iPhone games, and the series itself has become little more than a tiny blip in the history of video games. Its initial meteoric arrival is well-known, selling 6 million copies and contributing to the rise of the CD-ROM drive. Its safe, no-dying approach appealed to small-time gamers and its uniqueness to the more die-hard breed. Myst was an anomaly in the video-game scene of 1993, and its influence was felt across the field. Still, many of those 6 million players never actually finished the game, and as we have observed, the series has languished into relative oblivion today. As a longtime fan, I naturally think this fate was undeserved, but as a critic I can’t help but see some of the factors which brought it about. Over the next few months we’ll be taking a trip through the series, beginning with the first game and ending with the last (with three stopovers to look at the novels). Now, if you’d care to join me, I have just stumbled across a most intriguing book…
Perspective is always somewhat of a struggle for me, so I’m doing some experiments to see if I can come up with an elegant drawing style that might allow me to bypass the vanishing point entirely. These two drawings represent my first foray along these lines, so expect more as this develops. These are just based on some photographs I had on my hard drive; both depict the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association in Willimantic, CT. Fellow artists, please do weigh in on these.
Unfortunately I didn’t keep track of books as I read them, so I had to assemble this list in retrospect. As such, it may be revised as I remember other things. Unreserved recommendations are in bold, but should not be interpreted as slights against other books. As you’ll see, if I’d followed through on my illustration project, I’d have a lot of illustrations now. Maybe next year?
Alexie, Sherman. Indian Killer.
Atwood, Margaret. The Edible Woman.
Banks, Russel. Lost Memory of Skin.
Carver, Raymond. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (part)
Davidson, Lionel. Under Plum Lake.
Coupland, Douglas. Player One.
Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Evans, Nicholas. The Brave.
Franzen, Jonathan. Freedom.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Handler, Daniel. Adverbs. (part)
Jin, Ha. Waiting.
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth.
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace.
Mamet, David. Oleanna.
Mamet, David. The Old Religion.
Murakami, Haruki. Kafka on the Shore.
Murakami, Haruki. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Powers, Richard. Galatea 2.2
Russo, Richard. Empire Falls.
Russo, Richard. That Old Cape Magic.
Scott, Joanna. Make Believe.
Shakespeare, William “The Bard.” King Lear.
Snicket, Lemony. The Bad Beginning.
Wolff, Tobias. Our Story Begins. (part)
Yu, Charles. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.
Favorite fiction book this year: Empire Falls. This book will keep influencing my work for a long time, I think. Strong sense of place and good character interaction.
Least favorite fiction book this year: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I can’t begin listing the myriad problems with this book. I still can’t believe I read the whole thing. Read Victor Lodato’s Mathilda Savitch instead.
Atwood, Margaret. In Other Worlds. (part)
Brunetti, Ivan. Cartooning.
Berlioz, Hector. Evenings with the Orchestra. (part)
Decker, Kevin S. et al. Star Trek and Philosophy. (part)
Ehrman, Bart. Misquoting Jesus.
Mauro, James. Twilight at the World of Tomorrow.
Ross, Alex. Listen to This. (part)
Schumacher, Michael. Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics.
Steinberg, Avi. Running the Books.
Favorite non-fiction this year: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow is full of entertaining characters and enthusiasm drawn from the historic 1939 World’s Fair. I really enjoyed it.
Least favorite non-fiction this year: Hector Berlioz’s diatribes against Chinese music in Evenings with the Orchestra. Debussy, a few years later, would find much inspiration in the same stuff Berlioz dismissed out-of-hand. (The book isn’t bad overall though.)
Brunetti, Ivan (ed.). Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories v. 2.
Clowes, Daniel. Ice Haven.
Clowes, Daniel. Wilson.
Cotter, Joshua W. Skyscrapers of the Midwest.
Eisner, Will. The Contract With God Trilogy.
Herge. Tintin and the Picaros. (read before)
Herge. Tintin: Castafiore Emerald, The. (read before)
Herge. Tintin: Flight 714. (read before)
Herge. Tintin in Tibet. (read before)
Hines, Adam. Duncan the Wonder Dog v. 1.
Karasik, Paul et al. City of Glass.
Mazzuchelli, David. Asterios Polyp. (read before)
Novgorodoff, Danica. Slow Storm.
Ottaviani, Jim et al. Feynman.
Powell, Nate. Any Empire.
Powell, Nate. Swallow Me Whole.
Shaw, Dash. Bottomless Belly Button.
Sikoryak, R. Masterpiece Comics.
Tardi, Jacques. Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec v. 1.
Thompson, Craig. Blankets.
Thompson, Craig. Habibi.
Thompson, Richard. Cul de Sac Treasury.
Ward, Lynd. Six Novels in Woodcuts v. 1
Ware, Chris. Acme Novelty Library #20 (“Lint”).
Favorite comics this year: Swallow Me Whole. Beautiful art and a haunting story of two children with schizophrenia.
Least favorite comics this year: Slow Storm. Not bad exactly, but the art’s a little muddy and the story kind of disjointed. It’s a debut, though, and Ms. Novgorodoff certainly has potential. Also frustrating: Craig Thompson’s ill-advised epic Habibi.