The Beginner's Guide is a game that doesn't want to be written about

The co-creator of The Stanley Parable has a new game that uses game design space in expressive, subversive ways.

Last chance to grab gorgeous Wendy Pini art book


Though famous as the co-creator and illustrator of Elfquest, artist Wendy Pini's career stretches from 1960s zines to cyber-horror, with many strange and wonderful detours along the way. A kickstarter campaign is ending later today for three art books about her career, and I'd like to bring your attention to the one that isn't going to have (many) elves in it.

Line of Beauty: The Art of Wendy Pini, a massive, deluxe hardback volume , is yours for a $50 pledge. Not everything in it will be Omni-esque retro space fantasy like the above and the below, but I'm hoping for rather a lot of that.

Only 500 signed and numbered copies will be printed, by art book publisher Flesk: 306 pages, 9x12 inches, with "premium quarter binding with special onlaid plate on the front cover boards with slipcase."

The Kickstarter's already surpassed its goals, but this is going to be the best of the set and it's not getting quite the same attention as the other two volumes on offer.

Adds Elfquest co-creator Richard Pini: "This is stuff either no-one has ever seen, or hasn't been seen in over 30 years, and never in print."

Here's the official blurb:

The term “line of beauty” describes, in one sense, a certain way of arranging lines and shapes in a drawing or painting to suggest motion, dynamic balance and grace. But in a deeper sense it can also speak to the visionary spirit that drives the creation of a piece of artwork.
Read the rest

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15 things I love about Tokyo DisneySea


Yeah, you’ve heard of Disneyland (that’s the one in California) and you were probably dragged to Walt Disney World (that’s the one in Florida) when you were a kid. And, possibly, if you give a rat’s patootie about Disney theme parks, you might have heard they have them in other countries, but you’ve probably never heard of Tokyo DisneySea.

“TDS,” as the Japanese call it, is what is known as a Disney resort’s “second gate.” If you’re a WDW person, then Epcot is the second gate; if you’re a DL person, then Disney California Adventure is the second gate.

In 2001, when The Walt Disney Company built Disney California Adventure, it spent one billion bucks for the park, the Grand Californian Hotel, and Downtown Disney. The same year, when The Oriental Land Company (who owns the Tokyo Disney Resort—The Walt Disney Company receives a royalty and percentage) built Tokyo DineySea, it spent three billion dollars just for the park. The Imagineers who conceive all this amazing stuff for Disney, most of which rarely gets built, got the chance to see their best creations realized. I could write a book about Tokyo DisneySea, but here are just 15 really cool things.

1. Drinking a Kirin Frozen Draft while standing beside the Nautilus. Yes, they serve Japanese beer with a frozen “head” right next to Captain Nemo’s killer sub. Nice when it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity.

2. A quiet street in a small Italian town … except it’s really in a theme park near Tokyo. Read the rest

Secret Coders: kids' comic awesomely teaches the fundamentals of computer science

Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes's Secret Coders is volume one in a new series of ingenious graphic novels for young kids that teach the fundamentals of computer science.

Zeroes: it sucks to be a teen, even with powers

Scott Westerfeld's YA canon is huge and varied, from the Uglies books to the excellent vampire parasitology book Peeps to the dieselpunk Clankers trilogy, and the new one, Zeroes, breaks new ground still: it's a collaboration with Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti about teens with powers.

An online Java course for kids, taught via Minecraft


At the beginning of the summer my son Ronan, age 12, and I built him his first high-powered gaming PC. Me being a dad and all, I did so happily, but with one proviso -- he’d have to dedicate time every day to learning a programming language. He was slightly sceptical of this, having taken a few less-than-interesting intro to programming classes in the past. Prepared for this, I recommended that we enroll him in Youth Digital’s comprehensive Java course called Minecraft Server Desgin 1. This got his full attention, as he had dreams of creating his own custom servers and gameplay modes to host Minecraft sessions with his friends.

We signed him up and dove in. Our immediate impression was that site and course are smartly designed and easy to navigate. All material is introduced through clear, well-produced, often funny videos that didn’t talk down him, but instead did a great job of walking him through new concepts, then pausing while he took pop quizzes and did hands-on coding exercises.  

The course includes a year of server hosting, 24-hour tech support (that was fast and helpful the few times he’s needed it), and perhaps best of all, a browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) for editing the game, player, and team Java files. Within this Codenvy IDE (Windows and OSX only), you can launch the updated server with one button, which makes it fast to test code and correlate newly learned concepts with the “real world” Minecraft results.

He chose one of the four pre-built maps, learned to modify the default server file description text, whitelisted a few friend, and launched his Minecraft server within the first hour of instruction. Read the rest

Water on Mars, NASA reveals

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate from the walls of Garni crater on Mars. [NASA]

NASA says these streaks are proof that water flows on Mars. NASA

Well, this is big. NASA today revealed that new findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.” Read the rest

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Saga Volume 5: proving you can do big SF with crazy aliens and deep politics

Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan have been blowing the lid off of comics for nearly five years now with their Image title Saga, a comic about intergalactic war, politics, sex, death, betrayal, true love, parenting, reality TV and alcoholic hack writers.

Missing: Saudi prince accused of sexually abusing women held in his $37m Beverly Hills compound


The 'despicable' Saudi prince accused of sexually assaulting 'multiple women' over 3 days in a $37 million Beverly Hills compound has disappeared. Read the rest

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, a fantastic middle-grade adventure comic

Daniel Jackson Lim is the youngest kid in a huge family of overachievers, and he hardly surfaces in his family's consciousness -- which is a good thing, because he's just found a kid in silver underwear who can't remember anything before the moment he hurtled through a hole in space and hit the ground so hard he made a crater, but didn't hurt himself.

Dustin Yellin's stupendous, life-sized glass-pane humanoids made from NatGeo clippings


Earlier this month, I attended a two-day meeting at Pioneer Works, an art and innovation center in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The center is both physically beautiful and filled with interesting people from many disciplines doing work in open workshops. It was founded by sculptor Dustin Yellin, and the lobby has one of his remarkable, life-sized three-dimensional humaniform sculptures, composed of thousands of collaged magazine clippings pressed between many sheets of glass.

Gallery: Outside the Lines Too, more adult coloring brilliance


Souris "Hustler of Culture" Hong has followed up on her amazing 2013 coloring book Outside the Lines with a second edition: Outside the Lines Too. Read the rest

The new Glowforge laser cutter is amazing


Laser cutters are machines that cut and engrave flat material – such as plywood, acrylic, chocolate, leather, cardboard, seashells, glass, even sheets of dried seaweed. Today, Glowforge introduced a low-price laser cutter that blows away the competition at a much lower price.

Glowforge is a game changer in many ways, and I haven't been this excited by a technology in a long time. The things you can make with one (see images below) are orders of magnitude better looking than things you can make with a 3D printer of the same price, and the Glowforge is much easier to learn how to use than a 3D printer.

Dan Shapiro, the founder of Glowforge (he's the creator of the Robot Turtles game), gave me a Skype video demo of the machine in action earlier this week. He showed me how to make a votive candle holder out of two different materials. He placed one sheet of thin walnut and another sheet of frosted acrylic on the Glowforge's cutting bed (which has a 12-inch x 20-inch working area). He opened his iPad, which had a live image of the cutting bed displayed on it (the Glowforge has a camera and is conected to Wi-Fi). Dan then dragged the cutting patterns for the pieces of the candle holder onto the video image of the walnut and acrylic pieces. This neat software solution for aligning material was developed by Dean Putney, who was a contractor for many years at Boing Boing, and now works for Dan in Seattle. Read the rest

In Undertale, you can choose to kill monsters — or understand them


Like a lot of roleplaying games, Undertale asks you to become a child. When you fall down a hole into an underworld populated with monsters, your path seems clear: set off on a brave journey across a hostile land, destroy the evil monsters you meet along the way, and emerge a hero.

Then, almost immediately, you meet a monster who doesn't want to fight. Its name is Whimsum and it is very frightened, ready to burst into tears at the mere sight of you. So it's your choice, hero: do you spare it or cut it into pieces?

Welcome to Undertale, a game where every battle is a choice between the complex morality of compassion, and the simplicity of the sword.

Other monsters you encounter are more aggressive, but just as complicated. One is simply depressed, weeping tears that drip down the screen and wound you drop by drop. One is deeply insecure and just wants someone to laugh at its jokes. One lovingly coats you in lava, believing for all the world that its fiery ministrations are healing you. Another, you're told, simply has a hard life.

Whatever else a monster is in this world, it's also a person, and every foe you encounter has its own fears, anxieties, and dreams. Maybe they're attacking you, as bullies and trolls often do, because they're hurting as well. Or maybe they're attacking you because they've always been told that monsters and humans are enemies, and that they're supposed to kill each other. Read the rest

That Arctic doomsday seed vault? There's backup copies of cannabis in there, too. Lots.


This week, the "doomsday seed vault" (as it's known in headlines, anyway) made the news because scientists made the first "withdrawal" from the remote arctic store. But there's another reason to be excited about the underground vault on Norway's Svalbard archipelago. Weed! And when shit gets real, we're gonna need it. Read the rest

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