Friday, December 31, 2010

Nier: An Adventure Game About Playing Adventure Games


Nier is a game tailor-made for gamers who grew up losing themselves in the worlds of the 3D Zeldas (Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twlight Princess) and 16-bit/32-bit action-adventure games (specifically Landstalker, Alundra and Brave Fencer Musashi). It is also a game made by fans of Team Ico for fans of Team Ico (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), capturing the melancholic feel of those games through its adult fairy tale-style story, overblown lighting, sparse environments and overall art direction.

The Story

A father vows to save his daughter from a curse. The player controls the father. To say more would be to take away one of the greatest joys of experiencing Nier.

The Gameplay

Nier is an action-adventure RPG, with its gameplay most closely resembling Landstalker at its most simple and Brave Fencer Musashi/3D Zelda games at its most complex. This means lots of hacking at enemies, using powerful spells and solving simple puzzles.

There are a few towns to explore, fields to traverse, dungeons to conquer, bosses to fight -- everything one might expect from a classic Japanese adventure game.

The Legend Of Nier

Nier is loosely structured after Ocarina of Time, with a central hub, plains that act as a Hyrule field substitute (complete with drifting boar instead of Epona), and towns which give way to further dungeons. The puzzles never become anywhere near as complex, and the game world is not nearly as detailed, but it is clear the 3D Zeldas were an inspiration and influence on Nier. Those familiar with Navi will have their ears burn when a specific townsperson says 'Hey, listen!' once spoken to. And if that little reference isn't enough, there's a moment when a character retrieves an important item in a dungeon and holds it up to the camera -- all in a parody of the 'item found' pose from the 3D Zeldas, complete with unintelligible grunt and catchy jingle.

The Graphics

The graphics, which have often been referred to as 'generic' and 'mediocre' by both reviewers and players, are actually more appealing to me in their simplicity and general lack of detail than many of the big budget games currently available. I personally find that too many games of the current generation opt for incredibly busy graphics and overly-detailed textures, leaving almost no room for the imagination.

The look of Nier does far more for my imagination than most of the games I've played since the Dreamcast days, with notable exceptions being the aforementioned Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. There's also a certain thickness to the graphics that make it look like how I would imagine a Dreamcast 2 game to look like, in the very happy alternate dimension where that console exists. In other words, it looks how Dreamcast games tend to look in my fond memories of them.

The Music

The heavy use of vocal tracks can quickly become repetitive and grating, which is my biggest complaint, but I do find it interesting that one of the lowest points of the game for me tends to be one of the most loved aspects for Nier's defenders. The instrumental music, however, is almost always charming and beautiful, with a special oddness to the sounds and arrangements.

The Fetch Quests

The endless fetch quests in Nier are awful, focused almost exclusively on inane grinding and farming. They're entirely optional, of course, but really shouldn't have been in the game in the first place.

In The End

By combining its influences in clever ways, the whole of Nier becomes a game that is altogether unique. If only it had been marketed as such and not as a Devil May Cry-style clone. I highly recommend Nier to fans of atmosphere and originality, and of course to fans of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Landstalker and Twilight Princess.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Top 5 Albums of 2010


1. Autechre - Oversteps

Autechre take the best of their glitched beats & ambient washes and add an accessible spin to it all, resulting in my favourite album of 2010.

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Already a contemporary classic, this album somehow feels like it's been around for ages. Despite the reserved positivity of some of the lyrics, it really just makes me want to leave the sprawl even more.

3. Envy - Recitation

Lots of pained screaming and kitschy, melodramatic post-rock instrumentation in a quirky Japanese wrapper (love the traces of Christmas carol melodies).

4. Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle

Blonde Redhead go electro-pop with what has to be my second favourite album of theirs, after the lovely 23.

5. Autechre - Move of Ten

More material in the vein of Oversteps, though lacking the textural hooks of that album.

And for some context, and because I love lists, here is my Top 10 Albums Overall, with the albums presented in alphabetical order:

Arovane - Lilies
Autechre - Draft 7.30
The Knife - Silent Shout
Ladytron - 604
M83 - Saturdays=Youth
The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
Mogwai - Mr. Beast
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
The Organ - Sinking Hearts EP
Radiohead - Amnesiac

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spera: Blood


Spera: Blood is a brand-new, full-length 24-page comic available right now on Spera-Comic.com! Pira, Lono and Yonder, now full-fledged adventurers in the realm of Spera, seek out the valuable blood of a band of horned demons. By selling this blood the trio will gain enough income to eat for two months. But is it really worth taking the lives of others to improve their own?


Blood was drawn by Matt Marblo and features cover artwork by Leela Wagner, a backup comic by Belicosa, a pin-up by Nick Edwards and a design by Joel Hentges.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Escape From Suicide Wolf Forest

Click here for an interview I did with the comics blog.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sam Beck for Spera-Comic.com


Be sure to check out Only So Much, Sam's online comic. From Sam:

Only So Much is a webcomic about some kids that happen to possess some unique abilities while attending a fancy boarding school. It is also a story about friendships; more specifically, it is about the limits of trust and the consequences of trusting someone too much. It’s about the lack of a definable good and evil or black and white; it is an exploration of the grey area, when everywhere is grey.

Anna Wieszczyk for Spera-Comic.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spera: Volume II

This is Kyla Vanderklugt's promo piece for the new four-issue Spera series that will begin coming out in print by the end of the year.

Yup, Spera is finally continuing -- and not just in beautiful, printed issues bursting with art, but also online via free short comics! Watch out for shorts by Cecile Brun and Missirina on the Vol. II page of Spera-Comic.com. Both the issues and shorts will comprise Volume II of the story.

The story is a direct continuation of Volume I (Parts I-IV of the site) and finds the characters coming to grips with the large, odd and action-packed city of Kotequog.

Keeping with the spirit of Spera-Comic.com, each issue from the mini-series will be illustrated by a different artist: the first by Giannis Milonogiannis, the second Kyla Vanderklugt, the third Afu Chan and the fourth by Timothy Weaver. The cover for each issue will feature art by Afu Chan and will be designed by Joel Hentges, designer of Spera-Comic.com.

Included in each issue will be short comics by artists such as HamletMachine, Paul Maybury and Julia Scott, along with pin-ups by artists such as Jack Teagle, Luke Pearson, Nick Edwards, Harvey James and Angie Wang.

Also included will be a lot of action, humour, drama, monsters, animals with eye patches, drunken adventurers and evil clerks, along with the usual giant flaming dogs and troublemaking princesses.

Please keep an eye on this blog for further information and news!

Joan Casaramona for Spera-Comic.com


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Neon Horses: Yaoism


Yaoism is the story of a girl obsessed with yaoi -- or boy love -- comics. And movies. And videogames. And music.

Sometimes this girl wishes she was one of the love interests. Sometimes she kisses the holographic poster of her favourite singer before bed. Sometimes things come to life that should not.

Yaoism is the third and final story in the trio of science fiction love stories known as Neon Horses. The super cool illustration is by saicoink.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Neon Horses: Slush


Although Laon rejected its creator, it is still left with a certain longing, its software and hardware aching for its own personal (mis)understanding of love. With this all too human desire the android sets out to find a soul mate on the cityship of Chiago 2, a strange place that becomes even stranger the more Laon tries to understand it.

Slush is the second in the trio of science fiction love stories known as Neon Horses. Ariel Stater created the stunning portrait of a cool and determined Laon that serves as this story's illustration.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Neon Horses


A cityship drifts through space, pushing past the ashes of a long-dead god. Surrounded by such vast emptiness, the citizens onboard learn the only real way to survive is to find true love.

The Sea is the first in a trio of science fiction love stories arriving under the title of Neon Horses. In The Sea the brilliant but eccentric conceptualist Vicente searches for love and, when that fails over and over again, attempts to create it.

This first story is illustrated by Sam Beck (Only So Much, Softcore World, Spera) and was proofread by Marisa Williams. New installments of Neon Horses will appear biweekly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jake Hill for Spera-Comic.com

Zombies In The Sky: Part 1


What could be worse than rain falling on an already dreary day? How about a zombie? How about a lot of zombies?

The Battler is faced with Clot City's most overwhelming zombie invasion yet in Zombies In The Sky, a new story written and created with Ramón Sierra. Helping the Battler are the mysterious orphan Jacob and angelic Crystal, two characters I created in childhood.

Zombies In The Sky is the third and final story in the Battler trilogy (with Respect The Dead and The Battler being the first and second, respectively). Reading the other stories is not required to enjoy Zombies.

In addition to co-writing the story, Ramón Sierra also created the many illustrations that complement the two parts. Part 2 will be released next week.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Many Faces of Yonder


Yonder from Spera-Comic.com as seen through the eyes of Sarah Ferrick, Ray Jones, Matt Houston, Afu Chan, Sourya Sihachakr, Angie Hoffmeister, Timothy Weaver, Bettina M. George, Muura, Sam Beck, Kristin Mukai, Luke Pearson, Eva Vercauteren, Stephanie Holmes, Hotcoffee, Julia Scott, Jack Teagle, Ramón Sierra with Gisel Gonzalez, Gabrielle Rose, J. Arashi Hara, Olivier Pichard, Michael Dialynas, Oliver Hull, Cynthia Lim, Valerie Chua, Vlad Gusev, Paul Maybury, Nick Edwards, Olli Hihnala, Anna Wieszczyk, Giannis Milonogiannis, Eva Eskelinen, Inés Estrada, Sloane Leong, Bruma Gris, Yana Moskaluk, Matt Marblo, Mel Stringer, farfocle and HamletMachine.

The Many Faces of Heph


Heph from Spera-Comic.com as seen through the eyes of Sarah Ferrick, Matt Houston, Afu Chan, Sourya Sihachakr, Jack Teagle, Katri Kallio, Christina Siravo, Ramón Sierra with Gisel Gonzalez, J. Arashi Hara, Olivier Pichard, David Grimshaw, Dado de Guzman, Sallamari Rantala, Kyla Vanderklugt and Olli Hihnala.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Many Faces of Lono


Lono from Spera-Comic.com as seen through the eyes of Sarah Ferrick, Matt Houston, Joanna Krótka, Afu Chan, Sourya Sihachakr, Angie Hoffmeister, Timothy Weaver, Bettina M. George, Mikkel Sommer, Muura, Sam Beck, Kristin Mukai, Luke Pearson, Eva Vercauteren, Stephanie Holmes, Hotcoffee, Julia Scott, Jack Teagle, Katri Kallio, Christina Siravo, Ramón Sierra with Gisel Gonzalez, Gabrielle Rose, J. Arashi Hara, Olivier Pichard, Michael Dialynas, Cynthia Lim, David Grimshaw, Valerie Chua, Dado de Guzman, Vlad Gusev, Paul Maybury, Rachel Saunders, Nick Edwards, Sallamari Rantala, Kyla Vanderklugt, Olli Hihnala, Anna Wieszczyk, Giannis Milonogiannis, Eva Eskelinen, Inés Estrada, Sloane Leong, Bruma Gris, Yana Moskaluk, Ingunn Dybendal, Matt Marblo, Mel Stringer, farfocle, Polly Guo and HamletMachine.

The Many Faces of Pira


Pira from Spera-Comic.com as seen through the eyes of Sarah Ferrick, Ray Jones, Matt Houston, Joanna Krótka, Afu Chan, Sourya Sihachakr, Angie Hoffmeister, Timothy Weaver, Bettina M. George, Mikkel Sommer, Muura, Sam Beck, Kristin Mukai, Luke Pearson, Eva Vercauteren, Stephanie Holmes, Hotcoffee, Julia Scott, Jack Teagle, Katri Kallio, Christina Siravo, Ramón Sierra with Gisel Gonzalez, Gabrielle Rose, J. Arashi Hara, Olivier Pichard, Michael Dialynas, Oliver Hull, Cynthia Lim, David Grimshaw, Valerie Chua, Dado de Guzman, Vlad Gusev, Paul Maybury, Rachel Saunders, Nick Edwards, Sallamari Rantala, Kyla Vanderklugt, Olli Hihnala, Anna Wieszczyk, Giannis Milonogiannis, Eva Eskelinen, Inés Estrada, Sloane Leong, Bruma Gris, Yana Moskaluk, Matt Marblo, Mel Stringer, farfocle, Polly Guo and HamletMachine.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spera: Part IV Now Online

Every escapist fantasy must end sometime, and for Pira, Lono and Yonder that end comes in the form of a horrific reality. A battle for freedom ensues that will physically and mentally change the princesses. It is a change that will colour all future adventures to come.

The fourth and final part of the collaborative fantasy comic Spera is now online at Spera-Comic.com. Part IV features the artistic talents of Louise McLennan, Rachel Saunders, Nick Edwards, Sallamari Rantala, Kyla Vanderklugt, Olli Hihnala, Anna Wieszczyk, Giannis Milonogiannis, Eva Eskelinen, Inés Estrada and Sloane Leong. The site was designed and coded by Joel Hentges.

But it can't really be the end, can it?

Spera will be continuing in various forms in the future. Think of the four available parts as Volume I.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Old City Blues


Everyone (yes, everyone) should check out Old City Blues ( OldCityBlues.com ), a sci-fi thriller webcomic by the impossibly amazing Giannis Milonogiannis. Noir detectives, robot ninjas, badass mechs, violent cybernetic crime scenes, intense rooftop action, New Athens -- any of those would be reason enough to get excited, and Giannis combines them all in Old City Blues without breaking a sweat.

The comic is being released monthly, online and completely for free, in full, thick issues of stunning black and white. The first issue is up now, so if you want to be one of the lucky readers who can say they've been there since the beginning, now is your chance.

Is one of your favourite comics / animations (in any of its iterations) Ghost in the Shell? This is the comic for you. Do you still find the time to watch Blade Runner at least once a year? This is the comic for you. Is one of your favourite videogames the Hideo Kojima adventure Snatcher? This is the comic for you. Do you get the slightest pleasure from anything even remotely cyberpunk? This is the comic for you.

HamletMachine for Spera-Comic.com

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Conversations with Oliver Hull

Oliver Hull has an interesting project going on at CK++. Different artists are given the same piece of art (created by Oliver) and asked to respond to it as though it were the opening line of an artistic conversation. Their response comes in the form of another art piece. Oliver then responds to their response with another piece, and so on and so forth, until the conversation either ends or trails off. Seeing how the different artists react is fascinating. A highly recommended experiment.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A 10-second Pira sketch by Paul Pope


One of my many treasures from TCAF, including a non-stop succession of great new memories and friends.

Matt Marblo for Spera-Comic.com

Ingunn Dybendal for Spera-Comic.com

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

TCAF

I'll be walkin' around at TCAF on Saturday if anyone wants to meet up.

On Ambient Films


On Ambient Films
(Text and art excerpted from the narrative essay Softcore World, viewable in its entirety at JoshTierney.com. Art by Sam Beck.)

An ambient film is largely plotless, focusing on character through a more objective yet also more intimate viewpoint. In ambient films we see characters live their lives in long takes that are typically soundtracked with diegetic sound. There are only a few pages of dialogue to be found in these films, the characters preferring to speak when spoken to. More discerning audiences are able to see the character as nothing other than the actor broken down to his or her barest elements: we have Ana Torrent in Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive, Lee Kang-sheng in Tsai Ming-liang’s What Time Is It There? and Yo Hitoto in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Café Lumière as examples. By watching the characters/actors go about their daily routes, accompanied by what is often mistakenly referred to as ‘silence’, the audience is more easily able to acknowledge the fact that characters are also actors, real people asked to do real things.

These films are referred to as ambient rather than minimalist as the minimalism is done in service to the ambience and not vice versa. We are able to experience the serenity of a small town in Spain, along with the bustling cities of Taipei, Paris and Tokyo on their own terms – by following these characters/actors as they quietly make their familiar treks, we are able to visit and breathe these locations with them, as opposed to films which relegate their settings to half-seen flashes of artifice.

What prevents all this from crossing over into documentary is the seemingly universal approach to gorgeous cinematography of ambient films: the camera tends to be set up for the framing of a setting rather than the framing of a character, while the character is there to balance out the composition and add humanism to the shot. With locations having the most major role in these films, they are filmed as lovingly as a genre film’s stars.

Along those lines, when non-diegetic music is incorporated into ambient films, it is used to complement the scenery rather than as a link to the emotional state of the characters – examples here would be Luis de Pablo’s score for The Spirit of the Beehive and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Ennio Morricone’s score for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven.

To watch an ambient film is to enter the time and place in which it was made; not only are they objective experiences but also the purest form of escapism I have yet to come across. They are made to reflect upon us as we reflect upon them.

Ten examples of ambient films, in no specific order:

Café Lumière - Hou Hsiao-hsien (2003)
The Spirit of the Beehive - Víctor Erice (1973)
Linda Linda Linda - Nobuhiro Yamashita (2005)
What Time is it There? - Tsai Ming-liang (2001)
Days of Heaven - Terrence Malick (1978)
Small Change / Pocket Money - François Truffaut (1976)
Syndromes and a Century - Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2006)
L'eclisse - Michelangelo Antonioni (1962)
Flight of the Red Balloon - Hou Hsiao-hsien (2007)
Whisper of the Heart - Yoshifumi Kondo (1995)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Softcore World


The narrative essay Softcore World has been added to JoshTierney.com. The piece is several things: it is an essay on the act of watching a movie, a short story where the locations are as important as the characters and a screenplay for an ambient film. Each of these aspects relies fully on the others.

Sam Beck illustrated each segment of Softcore World with a series of art pieces presented as frames from the titular film. Through the painstaking attention to detail and atmosphere in these frames the film becomes utterly real.

Please visit JoshTierney.com for our latest project.