Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Cosmic Rebellion Unleashed: Zack Snyder's 'Rebel Moon' Sets to Ignite Netflix This December

Mark your calendars for a cinematic extravaganza as Zack Snyder’s latest creation, “Rebel Moon,” is gearing up for its grand release on Netflix this December 22, 2023. This space opera unfolds the captivating tale of Kora, a former soldier who has carved out a peaceful existence on the agricultural moon of Veldt. However, tranquility is short-lived as Admiral Atticus Noble and his Motherworld army land on Veldt, threatening her peaceful life and reawakening her warrior spirit. In a daring move, Kora joins forces with Gunnar, a local farmer, rallying a ragtag team of rebels to counter the oppressive might of the Imperium and its malevolent leader, Regent Balisarius.

Adding to the anticipation, “Rebel Moon” is a two-part saga. The sequel, “Rebel Moon — Part Two: The Scargiver,” is slated for release on April 19, 2024. The journey begins with “Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire,” which will grace select theaters in a special one-week 70mm screening from December 15-21. This cinematic treat will be available in iconic theaters such as the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, Village East Cinema in New York, Music Box Theatre in Chicago, and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Too bad it won't be available nearby for me.

The recently unveiled trailer (above), dropped on November 12, 2023, teases an exhilarating revolution led by Kora and her eclectic team. The film boasts a stellar cast, featuring Sofia Boutella as the formidable Kora, alongside notable talents like Charlie Hunnam, Djimon Hounsou, Staz Nair, Doona Bae, Ray Fisher, and E. Duffy. Adding a touch of mystique, Anthony Hopkins lends his voice to a mechanical knight errant, a character still clinging to the echoes of a legendary myth.

“Rebel Moon” promises to be a thrilling cinematic journey. Stay tuned for its debut this December - it's a spectacle not to be missed! 🍿🎬

Monday, November 20, 2023

Making Of THE CREATOR (2023) - Best Of Behind The Scenes, Set Visit & Special Effects


Behind the Scenes of "The Creator" - A Glimpse into the Magic of Movie Making

In an era where blockbusters are often defined by their visual spectacles, "The Creator," a film by 20th Century Fox, stands out as a beacon of storytelling and visual mastery. This behind-the-scenes look offers a fascinating glimpse into the making of a movie that blends sci-fi with deep human emotion, set against the backdrop of a war between humans and robots.

A Visionary Director at the Helm Gareth Edwards, known for his ability to blend spectacle with storytelling, lead the project. Renowned for injecting compassion into the sci-fi genre, Edwards operated the camera himself, preferring long takes that challenge and engage his actors. This approach resulted in a deeply emotional and visually rich narrative.

Embracing the Emotional Core "The Creator" revolves around a soldier who discovers a unique robot in the form of a young child, a theme that explores what it means to be human and alive. The film questions the nature of love and its ability to transcend divides. This profound exploration of humanity is captured through the eyes of characters played by John David Washington (Joshua), Madeleine Yuna Voyles (Alphie), Gemma Chan (Maya), Ken Watanabe (Harun), and Allison Janney (Colonel Howell).

A World Built on Authenticity Rejecting the conventional green-screen approach, Edwards and his team embarked on a global journey, shooting in countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, and Thailand. This decision not only brought authenticity to the film's visuals but also allowed the crew to integrate the vibrancy of real-world locations into the sci-fi setting. The film benefits from the blend of practical locations with sophisticated visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic, creating a believable, futuristic world. The alternate history presented to us projects us into a near future where AI became prevalent much earlier then in our reality.

A Symphony of Visuals and Sound The film's visual artistry is complemented by a stirring soundtrack, with contributions from the legendary Hans Zimmer. Zimmer's music adds emotional depth, enhancing the film's narrative and elevating the audience's experience.

A Reflection on AI and Humanity As AI technology advances, "The Creator" poignantly reflects on its potential future integration into society. The film's exploration of AI as a metaphor for 'the other' offers a fresh perspective on human-AI relationships and challenges preconceptions about artificial intelligence.

"The Creator" is more than a sci-fi spectacle; it's a heartfelt journey into the essence of what it means to be human, and how we will need to face AI and the singularity. With its blend of emotional depth, stunning visuals, and thought-provoking themes, the film is memorable experience for audiences worldwide, reaffirming the power of cinema to move and inspire.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Mastering the Basics of "Surviving the Aftermath": 5 Essential Tips for New Players

"Surviving the Aftermath" is a post-apocalyptic survival game that challenges players to build and manage a colony in a world devastated by disaster. After eyeing the game for some time, I finally got my hands on a free copy, thanks to the Epic Store promo. This guide, as outlined below was provided in the above tutorial by @PartyElire, aims to equip new players with essential strategies and insights to thrive in this unforgiving environment. 

Hoping you may find it useful as much as I did.

Understanding the Game 

At its core, "Surviving the Aftermath" is about resource management, strategic planning, and adapting to unforeseen challenges. Whether you're dealing with natural calamities, hostile bandits, or resource scarcity, your decisions will significantly impact the survival of your colony. 

Key Strategies for Success 

1. Emphasize Storage and Resource Management 
  • Storage is Critical: Differentiate between producing resources and storing them. Adequate storage for essential resources like water and energy is crucial for weathering disasters. 
  • Know Your Indicators: Pay attention to the user interface, especially for water and energy. These indicators show surplus production, not the amount stored. Always aim for a surplus to cover consumption during shortages. 

2. Optimize Workforce Allocation 
  • Balancing Roles: Properly distribute your colonists between workers and carriers. Workers perform specialized tasks, while carriers handle resource transportation, building, and repairs. 
  • Cycle Workers Efficiently: Assign workers to critical tasks like water collection only when necessary. Free them up for other jobs once storage targets are met, but be ready to reassign as the situation changes. 

3. Strategic Exploration and Expansion 
  • Utilize Scout Towers: Build scout towers at your colony's perimeter to reveal unexplored areas. This proactive exploration helps in locating essential resources before an urgent need arises. 
  • Expand Wisely: The further you build from your base, the slower the scouting process. Plan your expansion strategically to manage time and resources effectively. 

4. Defensive Tactics and Combat 
  • Utilize Stacked Fighters: When engaging bandits, deploy multiple specialists to a single target for efficiency. This strategy minimizes damage and speeds up combat resolution. 
  • Manage Guard Towers and Gates: Man these structures only when facing imminent threats. Prepare for major attacks but avoid unnecessary allocation of manpower during peace times. 

5. Maximize Vehicle Usage 
  • Enhance Exploration with Vehicles: Vehicles provide additional range and speed, crucial for effective exploration and resource gathering. They operate on separate action points from specialists, allowing for extended movement. 
  • Maintain Your Vehicles: Regular maintenance is key. Damaged vehicles are less efficient, hindering your exploration and resource transportation efforts. 

6. Adapt and Overcome 
  • Flexible Strategies: The game’s dynamics require players to be adaptable. Regularly assess your colony's needs and adjust your strategies accordingly. 
  • Continuous Resource Monitoring: Always keep an eye on your resources. A well-balanced approach between consumption and production is vital for sustainability. 

Advanced Tips for Experienced Players 

As you progress, delve into more complex aspects like trade, diplomacy, and advanced technology research. These elements can provide significant advantages and open up new avenues for colony development. 

"Surviving the Aftermath" presents a challenging yet rewarding experience. By mastering these fundamental strategies and continuously adapting to the game’s evolving challenges, players can build a thriving colony capable of withstanding the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic world.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Transportation I Feature Highlights #3 I Cities: Skylines II

Ah, transport. If you played Cities: Skylines, you might remember it as the dance of urban planning - sometimes a graceful waltz, and other times a dance akin to stepping on LEGOs in the dark. Who among us hasn't unleashed a chaotic snarl of buses, trains, and trams, creating a masterpiece that resembled spaghetti more than a transportation system? Ah, the memories, and the digital traffic jams.

But my fellow city-builders, Cities: Skylines II is here, and Colossal Order's new video, "Public & Cargo Transportation I Feature Highlights," has given us a sneak peek at what to expect. Buckle up, because we're about to take a wild ride!

The New Symphony of Transport in Cities: Skylines II
Be prepared to channel your inner conductor, because this is one orchestra that needs a steady hand. The good old reliable buses and taxis are back, ready to zoom here, there, and everywhere. They're cheap and cheerful, but beware their Achilles heel, otherwise known as "traffic." For those urban maestros among us who've faced the tragic crescendo of a gridlock, leveling up your public transport is the way to go.

Subways, Trams, and Trains, Oh My!
Subways are the ninjas of public transport - fast, high-capacity, and stealthy underground. Elevated tracks? Yes, please! Trams have the flexibility of gymnasts and can service your growing neighborhoods. Trains? They'll transport people, and not just suburbanites, and play a vital role in cargo transport too.

And let's not forget water transportation. Those bad boys of cargo ships can haul 1000 tons. That's right, 1000 tons of anything - enough to make any mayor's dreams come true.

The Drawbacks and the Irresistible Air Advantage
Sure, planes might be more expensive than a cup of coffee at the airport, and they carry fewer passengers than ships and trains, but speed is the name of their game. Plus, unlike my attempts at dancing, they won't add to road congestion.

Keeping the Rhythm of Your City
With new tools like the Transportation Overview and Infoview, you can find the right tempo for moving people and cargo in your city. Plan, manage, conduct, and maybe - just maybe - your city will march towards greatness.

So here's to the future mayors of Cities: Skylines II. May your transportation networks be harmonious, your cargo bountiful, and your traffic jams a thing of the past. And remember, if all else fails, there's always the joy of watching a virtual citizen miss their bus. Happy building!

Saturday, July 01, 2023

10 Riveting Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Novels to Dive into After Hugh Howey's 'Wool'

Forest Biome designed for Nyan Heroes by Art Director Pablo Dominguez

Intrigued and captivated by the mesmerizing narrative of Hugh Howey's masterpiece, 'WOOL,' I find myself immersed in its pages for the third time. My first two readings were a decade ago if memory serves me well. While I appreciate the AppleTV+ adaptation and its unique interpretation of Howey's dystopian world (that ending of season one was jaw dropping!), I can't help but acknowledge the darker, grittier, and more terrifying atmosphere that emanates from the book's unyielding prose. With each read, I uncover new layers of suspense, emotional depth (that passage with Jahns and Marnes embracing in the dark...), and profound insights into the intricacies of the human condition.

As I delve into this compelling tale once again, my thoughts wander to the realms of post-apocalyptic literature awaiting my exploration once I finish reading the Silo Saga (again). The excitment of embarking on new literary journeys has always fueled my excitement and curiosity - and my itch to constantly purchase new novels. Eager to discover narratives that can rival the impact of 'Wool,' I embarked on a digital expedition, traversing the vast expanse of the Intertubes in search of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction that resonates just as powerfully. 

After diligent research, I have curated a selection of ten novels that promise to allow journeys to hauntingly familiar and startlingly exotic worlds - none of these I have read, besides the first on that list!

These gripping narratives, deliberately devoid of supernatural elements (apologies to the fans of "The Stand"), provide thought-provoking explorations of survival, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of humanity.

So, without further ado, let's dive into this list together and unveil the next literary gems that will ensnare our senses, leaving us spellbound, just as 'WOOL' has done for countless readers before us!

  1. "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart: first published in 1949, this classic post-apocalyptic novel follows the life of Isherwood "Ish" Williams, a survivor of a catastrophic pandemic that wipes out most of humanity.

    As Ish explores the deserted world, he grapples with the realization that civilization as he knew it has vanished, and he becomes determined to rebuild society. He gathers a small group of survivors and forms a community, but struggles arise as they confront the challenges of adapting to a new way of life, reconciling the past, and facing the uncertainties of the future. Through Ish's journey, "Earth Abides" explores themes of human nature, societal collapse, and the enduring spirit of humanity in the face of unimaginable loss. (US, UK, CA)

  2. "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel: Recently adapted as a single season TV mini-series, this post-apocalyptic novel portrays a world decimated by a deadly pandemic. Amidst the desolation, a nomadic theater group traverses the barren landscapes, striving to preserve the remnants of art and culture. Through interconnected narratives, the story explores the profound connections between individuals and the resilience of humanity, showcasing the enduring power of creativity in the face of overwhelming adversity. (US, UK , CA)

  3. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy: In a desolate and grim world ravaged by an unexplained cataclysm, a nameless father and his young son navigate a treacherous and hauntingly barren landscape. With no society left to speak of, they embark on a perilous journey toward the coast, their only hope for salvation.

    Along the way, they encounter scarcity, danger, and the depravity of desperate survivors (it gets really bad...). McCarthy's poignant narrative delves deep into the intricacies of the father-son relationship, examining their unwavering love, the challenges they face, and the unyielding pursuit of hope in a world stripped of compassion and humanity. If you haven't do so, make sure to watch the 2009 movie adaptation with Viggo Mortensen. (US, UKCA)

  4. "The Postman" by David Brin is set in a post-apocalyptic world where civilization has crumbled. Gordon Krantz, a wandering survivor, stumbles upon a postal uniform and begins impersonating a postman. Using the symbol of hope and communication that the uniform represents, he starts delivering mail and spreading messages of unity among the scattered communities. As his actions inspire others to rebuild society, they also draw the attention of a despotic warlord. Krantz must confront the challenges of leadership, face the consequences of his deception, and rally the people against tyranny. This gripping tale explores themes of redemption, the power of storytelling, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. There's also a big screen adaptation that was released back in 1997, starring Yellowstone's Kevin Costner. (US, UK , CA)

  5. "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler: Set in a near-future America ravaged by social and environmental collapse, a young woman named Lauren Olamina develops her own belief system called Earthseed while searching for a safe haven. This gripping tale explores themes of religion, community, and resilience in the face of chaos. Having loved her "Xenogenesis" trilogy, I'm looking forward to diving into this one. (US, UK, CA)

  6. "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller: In a world decimated by a devastating flu pandemic, Hig, accompanied by his loyal dog and a survivalist neighbor, embarks on a perilous journey in search of hope and a fresh start. Against the backdrop of a desolate and unforgiving landscape, Heller's exquisite prose paints a vivid picture of Hig's struggle with solitude, as he grapples with the haunting absence of human connection.

    Through unexpected encounters and fragile alliances, the novel explores themes of companionship and the quest for purpose in the face of overwhelming adversity. With every step, Hig's resilience and unwavering determination are tested, revealing the depths of human courage and the enduring power of hope in an unforgiving world. (US, UK, CA)

  7. "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood which, by now, most of you should know about. Set in a dystopian society where women's rights have been severely restricted, Offred, a handmaid, navigates a totalitarian regime while longing for freedom and a connection to her past. This haunting and thought-provoking novel explores themes of oppression, gender roles, and resistance. The TV-series, as well as the movie from a few decades ago, paint a dark and desperate existence against the background of a totalitarian state of fanatics. (US, UKCA)

  8. "The Children of Men" by P.D. James is set in a dystopian future where humanity faces a staggering crisis—no child has been born in nearly two decades. As society teeters on the brink of collapse, a disillusioned bureaucrat named Theo Faron becomes entangled in a dangerous plot. When a young woman miraculously becomes pregnant, Theo must protect her and the unborn child from sinister forces vying for control.

    James weaves a compelling narrative that explores themes of hope, desperation, and the lengths to which individuals will go to safeguard the future of humanity. In a world devoid of new life, this thought-provoking novel delves into the profound questions surrounding identity, morality, and the fragility of society. The 2006 movie starring Clive Owen, Julian Moore, Michael Caine & Chiwetel Ejiofor, and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, was particularly well done. (US, UK, CA)

  9. "The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" by Meg Elison, is set in a world devastated by a deadly fever, wiping out most of the population, leaving women and children dead, and childbirth fatal. A midwife awakens to this post-apocalyptic reality and must navigate the ruins of civilization while disguised as a man to survive. As power becomes the currency of survival, she seeks her purpose and discovers a role greater than mere independence—to guide humanity towards rebirth. Elison's gripping narrative explores themes of identity, resilience, and the transformative power of hope in a world stripped of its former pillars. (US, UK, CA)

  10. "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi: In a future southwestern United States ravaged by water scarcity and political turmoil, the story follows a "water knife," a hired operative tasked with securing water rights by any means necessary. This gripping and gritty novel delves into themes of climate change, corruption, and the fight for survival in a parched world. (US, UK, CA)

    And I couldn't help adding Hugh Howey's latest post-apocalyptic dystopia...

  11. "Sand" and its sequel "Across the Sand" by Hugh Howey (Blog - Twitter): Set in a distant future where civilization is reduced to scattered communities surviving amidst vast, relentless sand dunes, the protagonist Palmer, a skilled sand diver, yearns to unlock the secrets of this inhospitable world. As he ventures deep into the shifting sands, risking his life to scavenge buried artifacts and salvage remnants of the past, Palmer becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and danger. His discoveries challenge the accepted truths of his society and shake the foundations of his own identity.

    Alongside a cast of intriguing characters, Palmer embarks on a perilous journey of self-discovery, encountering hidden societies, long-buried betrayals, and revelations that will forever change his perception of the world. Howey's masterful storytelling paints a vivid picture of a harsh and unforgiving landscape, while exploring profound themes of exploration, resilience, and the lengths one will go to uncover the truth. In this gripping tale, the pursuit of knowledge carries a hefty price, as Palmer grapples with the consequences of unraveling the secrets buried beneath the shifting sands. (US, UK, CA)
As you can see, these novels offer diverse post-apocalyptic and dystopian narratives, exploring survival, resilience, societal collapse, and the human spirit. Each compelling journey seems to captivate and provoke contemplation of our world's complexities and the strength within us. As I mentioned above, I'm currently engrossed in my third reading of 'WOOL' and eagerly anticipate diving into the remaining novels in that saga next, SHIFT and DUST (which I've only read once though). 

The novels listed above promise unique and thought-provoking experiences and I look forward to diving into them eventually (except for 'Earth Abides' which I've already read years ago). For the immediate future, I've already got my list of books to read for the remainder of 2023 - 10 in total, of which 4 are novels. 

More on those later.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Exploring the Therapeutic Power of Dungeons & Dragons and RPG-like Games for Mental Health

As a middle-aged man who recently joined a group of fellow dads on a journey on Faerûn, within the world of Forgotten Realms, I have (re)discovered that engaging in roleplaying games has a significant positive impact on my mental health, anxiety levels, and overall demeanor. 

After a few memorable game sessions over the last few weeks (I'm looking at you Godrim! 😂), I came to that realization and shared it with our Dungeon Master during a private conversation at the end of our latest session. Despite having had a rough day at work and feeling a lack of enthusiasm, once I had immersed myself in our virtual session (we play using Discord, D&D Beyond, and roll20), my worries faded away, and the fun began. As a results, I experienced a complete shift in my attitude and demeanor during that three-hour roleplaying session. I went to bed with a smile on my face. A little tired, but happy and fulfilled.

And recent studies corroborate these observations. Indeed, research supports the notion that these RPG games go beyond mere recreation and offer therapeutic benefits that enhance well-being. Recent studies have demonstrated that tabletop roleplaying games effectively reduce anxiety and improve social skills. Through a 12-week study conducted by experts from the Bodhana Group and the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, it was revealed that participants who engaged in RPG sessions reported lower anxiety levels and demonstrated increased social skill scores - see all the articles I've listed at the end for all references mentioned here.

Furthermore, RPGs have provided a wide range of mental health benefits beyond anxiety reduction. They have become a platform for meaningful face-to-face interactions, even if they happen virtually through online tools. Engaging in RPGs fosters deeper connections with others and promotes themes of capability, self-confidence, and heroism. Within the immersive world of roleplaying games, we explore different identities and develop social skills in a safe and controlled environment. These games offer us opportunities for goal achievement, a sense of accomplishment, and the release of dopamine—the "feel-good" chemical in the brain—contributing to an overall positive mindset. Countless laughter-filled moments have been shared as we witnessed Godrim the Berserker, risking his Dwarvish arse in a melee with giants, regardless of the mortal danger he faced.

Another profound aspect of RPGs is their ability to provide an escape from real-life stressors. During gaming sessions, we can temporarily set aside our worries and engage in a constructive outlet for complex thoughts and emotions. The problem-solving, strategizing, and critical thinking required in these games challenges players cognitive abilities and stimulate brain development (more RPGs, more brain power!). Additionally, these experiences teach us resilience as we navigate failure within the safe confines of the game, imparting valuable life lessons and creating stories worth retelling.

It's heartening to see RPGs gaining recognition and being utilized in therapeutic settings such as group therapy, telehealth sessions, and educational environments. These games facilitate communication, enhance social skills, and improve emotional well-being. The collaborative nature of RPGs nurtures teamwork and empathy, while the roleplaying aspect allows us to explore different perspectives and facets of our personalities through our characters. The resurgence of RPGs, driven by increased media exposure (thank you very much "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" and Joe Manganiello!) and diverse player communities, has solidified their position as a valuable tool for mental health support. And you thought you were doing this just for fun! 

Beyond the undeniable fun and captivating stories, engaging in tabletop roleplaying games like D&D has been proven to decrease anxiety, improve social skills, and instill a greater sense of self-confidence in all who have the chance to experience them. These games provide an escape from real-life stressors, a platform for personal growth, and an enjoyable means of promoting mental well-being. 

Reflecting on my own journey, I can't help but be grateful for the resurgence of RPGs and the significant role they now play in supporting mental health, particularly for those who may struggle with social connections and self-expression (certainly not my case though). 

From my teenage years as an unsure and somewhat insecure kid to now, more than three decades later, I have witnessed the transformative power of RPGs in my life, and I wholeheartedly embrace their potential for others in similar situations.

Further readings:

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Cities: Skylines II - Developer Insights

 Instead of listing the developer highlights individually, I thought I'd group them here and add each new at the end of the post as Colossal releases them.

Behind The Road Tools | Developer Insights #1 | June 22d, 2023

Managing Traffic | Developer Insights #2 | June 29th, 2023

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Roads Tools I Feature Highlights #1 I Cities: Skylines II

Some interesting default features in the new Cities Skylines 2:
  • All roads (except highways) will carry water, electricity and sewage lines
  • Simplified roads upgrades
  • Quick and easy city blocks creation
  • Pre-made intersections
  • Quickly add roundabouts 
  • Sound barries, parking lots, and more!

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Making of and Behind the Scenes of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune: Part One"

Here a fantastic documentary that shows the dedication and level of detail that went into the making of Part One of Denis Villeneuve's masterpiece rendition of Frank Herbert's Dune.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Legacy of the Alien Franchise Continues with "Alien: Romulus" & "Aliens: Dark Descent"

 Exciting news for the Alien franchise fans.

With shooting having started back on March 9th, Director Fede Alvarez is currently in production on a new Alien movie, tentatively titled Alien: Romulus. The movie is set to feature young characters in peril, with the story taking place on a distant colony where a group of young people find themselves in a fight for their lives against the alien Xenomorph. While the previous Alien movies focused on adults in corporate, militaristic, and scientific roles, this ninth installment of the franchise will focus on young protagonists. The movie does not have any connection to previous Alien movies, except for the presence of the Xenomorph.

Alvarez's pitch for the new Alien movie made an impact on Ridley Scott, who is producing the movie. Apparently, Scott called Alvarez in 2021 and asked if he was still willing to make that Alien movie. The script for the movie was written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, and sources say that it doesn't have any connection to the previous Alien movies, including the Scott prequels, the adventures of Ripley, or the Predator crossovers. However, the premise of the distant colony being struck with a Xenomorph problem sounds similar to what happened on LV-426 before Ripley and the Colonial Marines showed up in Aliens.

With this newest sequel/prequel being made in the Alien franchise universe, I thought I'd do a retrospective of the history of the movies, and some of the games that we've seen over the year. The intent isn't to mention every single book, movie or game though - for that, there's always the Alien Franchise Wiki video games page!

Alien (1979)

The Alien franchise is a beloved and enduring series of science fiction stories that have captivated audiences for over four decades. The universe created by Ridley Scott and his collaborators is rich and complex, featuring intricate world-building, compelling characters, and terrifying creatures. The franchise has expanded beyond its original movies to include novels, comic books, video games, and other media, each of which has added to the lore and mythology of the series.

The story of the Alien franchise begins with the first movie, simply titled Alien, which was released in 1979. Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O'Bannon, the movie tells the story of the crew of the spaceship Nostromo, who are awakened from cryosleep to investigate a distress signal on a distant planet. There, they encounter a deadly extraterrestrial species that stalks and kills them one by one.

The movie's terrifying creature, known as the xenomorph, quickly became an iconic part of pop culture, and the franchise has continued to explore and expand on its biology and behavior throughout subsequent entries. 

Alien was praised for its claustrophobic atmosphere, innovative design, and strong performances, particularly by Sigourney Weaver as the protagonist Ellen Ripley. 

Aliens (1986)

The success of Alien led to a sequel, Aliens, which was released in 1986. Directed by James Cameron and written by Cameron and David Giler, the movie takes place several decades after the events of the first movie and sees Ripley teaming up with a group of space marines to investigate a colony on a distant planet that has been overrun by xenomorphs. The movie is notable for its intense action sequences, memorable characters, and exploration of the themes of motherhood and survival. Definitely the most action packed of all the Alien movies.

Alien 3 (1992)

The third movie in the franchise, Alien 3, was released in 1992 and directed by David Fincher, making his feature film debut. The movie takes place immediately after the events of Aliens and sees Ripley crash-landing on a prison planet that is home to an all-male population. There, she must once again face the threat of the xenomorphs while grappling with her own mortality. Alien 3 was praised for its somber tone, strong performances, and innovative visual effects. 

For the curious fan, there is also "Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay" written by William Gibson. It's a completely different take on the story that made it to the big screen, but one that is absolutely captivating. I highly recommend the Audible version, "Alien III: An Audible Original Drama" narrated by none other than Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprising their iconic roles as Corporal Hicks and Bishop, from the 1986 film Aliens.

Alien Resurrection (1997)

However, the fourth movie in the franchise, Alien Resurrection, released in 1997, was widely criticized for its lack of tension, poor character development, and reliance on over-the-top action and humor. 

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon, the movie takes place two centuries after the events of Alien 3 and sees Ripley being resurrected as a clone with mixed human-alien DNA. She teams up with a group of space mercenaries to fight against a new breed of xenomorphs that have been genetically engineered by the military for use as weapons.

Prometheus (2012)

The most recent entries in the Alien franchise are Prometheus and Alien Covenant. Released in 2012 and 2017 respectively, these movies were directed by Ridley Scott and explore the themes of creation, artificial intelligence, and unchecked ambition. Prometheus follows a team of scientists who travel to a distant planet to investigate ancient artifacts that they believe may hold the key to the origins of humanity, but instead, they encounter the dangerous and powerful race of Engineers, the alien race responsible for creating human life. 

And though the visuals and narrative were excellent, as well as some outstanding performance from the cast members, certain aspects of the movie, and some of the art direction taken fell short of my expectations.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Meanwhile, Alien Covenant serves as a direct sequel to Prometheus and delves deeper into the origins of the xenomorphs. The movie also explores the nature of artificial intelligence and the dangers of unchecked scientific progress. Both Prometheus and Alien Covenant have received mixed reviews from audiences and critics, with some praising their ambitious storytelling and stunning visuals while others criticize their convoluted plots and underdeveloped characters. Despite adding new layers to the complex and fascinating universe of the Alien franchise Covenant, similarly to Prometheus, came short of my hopes for the story. In trying to explain the origins of the Xenomorph, and their lifecycle, the movie overly simplified things too much to my likings.

Alien: Dark Descent

Besides the movies, the Alien franchise has also inspired a number of video games, including Aliens: Dark Descent (in development), Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and Aliens: Colonial Marines. 

Aliens: Dark Descent game, of which we got more news in the recent days and a gorgeous gameplay trailer (see the video below), is an upcoming real-time tactical action game launching on June 20, 2023 on various platforms (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox ONE and PC). The player takes on the role of a squad commander with an isometric view of the field and can use a bullet-time feature to distribute commands. 

The story follows a Colonial Marines detachment investigating a Xenomorph outbreak on Planet Lethe. Permadeath is a feature, but it's hoped that save-scumming will also be available. Developed by Tindalos Interactive, the game will be available for PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as PC.

Aliens: Dark Descent gameplay trailer

Overall, the Alien franchise is a fascinating and enduring series that has captured the imagination of audiences for over four decades. From its iconic creature design to its exploration of themes like motherhood, survival, and unchecked ambition, the franchise continues to inspire new generations of fans and creators alike, which is which I'm hopeful for more movies, series, and gaming content to see the day in the near future.

I hope this retrospective has provided a helpful overview of the history and evolution of the Alien franchise. With a new movie and a new game on the horizon, it will be exciting to see how it fits into the wider universe of the series and what new horrors and thrills it will bring.

Looks like we won't stop seeing Xenomorphs any time soon!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Exploring the Dark and Dystopian World of Blade Runner

The Blade Runner movies are set in a dystopian future where humanity has expanded beyond Earth and colonized other planets. The Earth is depicted as a bleak, polluted, and overcrowded place where most people live in poverty and misery.

The first Blade Runner movie is set in 2019, a time when artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where it is difficult to distinguish between humans and robots, known as replicants. Replicants are genetically engineered beings created to do the dangerous and undesirable work that humans no longer want to do. They have a limited lifespan of four years and are forbidden from returning to Earth.

The story follows Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), a retired "blade runner" who is brought back into service to track down and "retire" a group of replicants who have escaped to Earth. Along the way, Deckard falls in love with a replicant named Rachael and learns that the line between human and machine is not as clear-cut as he once thought.

Blade Runner 2049 is set thirty years after the events of the first movie, in a world that has grown even darker and more dangerous. Replicants are now used as slave labor in off-world colonies, and a new model called the Nexus 9 has been created that is obedient and has no expiration date. However, some older replicants still exist, and they are hunted down and "retired" by a new generation of blade runners. The story follows a new blade runner named Office K (played by Ryan Gosling), who uncovers a long-buried secret that could change the course of history. 

Both movies are known for their stunning visual design and their exploration of what it means to be human. They ask profound questions about identity, memory, and mortality, and have become cult classics of the sci-fi genre.

In the top video, OrangeRiver (Twitter: @OrangeRiverNW) goes into details explaining the world of the Replicants. Well worth the 20 minutes. Wish it was longer actually!

Below are the trailers for the original Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve). Enjoy!

A few months back I received the Blade Runner RPG Rulebook and Starter Set published by Free League Publishing. I plan on writing a post review in the next few weeks. Below is the trailer that was used to market the game. Seductively beautiful...

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Mastering the Art of Realistic Slopes: The Ultimate Cities Skylines Design Guide!

Strictcoaster's tutorial video provides a comprehensive guide to designing realistic slopes in Cities Skylines. 

He covers various techniques to help players create stunning city layouts, starting with examples of unrealistic slopes to avoid. The video then delves into specific slope design tips, including using slopes for tunnels, combining terraforming and bridges, creating smooth slopes for overpasses and bridges, building road switchbacks, and designing tall inclines for railroads. 

This tutorial is perfect for anyone looking to take their Cities Skylines design skills to the next level.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Master the Basics: Top "Farthest Frontier" Tutorials for Beginners

Kysen's Farthest Frontier - Best Beginner Tips!

 "Farthest Frontier" is a simulation game developed and published by Crate Entertainment. The game was released in early access on Steam in September 2021 and is currently in development.

In "Farthest Frontier," you play as the leader of a group of settlers who have landed on a new planet. Your goal is to build a thriving settlement by managing resources, constructing buildings, and exploring the surrounding wilderness. You must also defend your settlement from dangers such as wild animals and hostile aliens.

The game features a day and night cycle, seasons, and dynamic weather, which can affect your settlement's productivity and the availability of resources. You must balance your settlers' needs for food, water, and shelter while also keeping them happy and healthy.

"Farthest Frontier" has a unique art style that combines 3D models with hand-drawn textures, giving the game a charming and colorful look. The game also features a soundtrack that complements the game's relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.

Overall, "Farthest Frontier" is a promising simulation game that offers a fresh take on the genre with its frontier setting and charming art style.

As beginnings are very delicate times, I've started gathering good beginners tutorials. Above & below are the ones I've found so far. Feel free to let me know in the comments below of any other good ones I'm sure to have missed.

"Farthest Frontier - Getting Started - A Helpful Guide" by OneLastMidnight

The Only l0nzy's"The Only Starter Guide You Need! - Farthest Frontier New Update!"

"Tips & Tricks for Beginners! - Farthest Frontier Beginner's Guide" by @TakaYouTube

8 Easy Beginner Tips For Farthest Frontier | Easy Start For Farthest Frontier by Sir Sim-Alot

Monday, March 20, 2023

Transform Your Cities: Skylines City into a Realistic Metropolis with These 9 Must-Have Mods

As you may have realized by now, I think that Cities: Skylines is a fantastic game! It allows players to create and manage their own virtual city in all of its complexity and beauty. Well, kinda for the latter part since making your city look realistic can be a challenge without the right mods. Luckily, there are several mods available on the Steam Workshop that can help you achieve a more realistic look. 

In this article, and based on the very helpful video from Gaseous Stranger, I'll list some of the best mods for Cities: Skylines that will help you make your city look more realistic. You should also check out his full Visual Mod list in the Workshop.

1- Render It! is a mod that allows you to adjust the graphics settings of Cities: Skylines beyond the game's built-in settings. With this mod, you can adjust the draw distance, bloom, and other graphical settings to make your city look more realistic. This mod is essential for improving the graphics of Cities: Skylines.

2- Relight is a mod that enhances the game's lighting system. With this mod, you can adjust the color temperature of the lighting to match the time of day, and you can adjust the intensity of the lighting to make it look more realistic. This mod is an excellent addition to any Cities: Skylines player looking to make their city look more lifelike.

3- Theme Mixer 2 is a mod that allows you to mix different terrain themes and building themes in your city. This mod is perfect for creating a more diverse city with a unique look. You can use this mod to add different types of terrain and buildings to your city, making it look more realistic and diverse.

4- Daylight Classic is a mod that changes the game's lighting system to make it look more natural. With this mod, you can adjust the time of day to match the real world, and you can adjust the intensity of the lighting to make it look more realistic. This mod is perfect for players who want their city to look more like a real city.

5- Fog Controller is a mod that allows you to adjust the fog settings in your city. With this mod, you can adjust the density of the fog, the color of the fog, and the height of the fog. This mod is an excellent addition to any Cities: Skylines player looking to create a more realistic city.

6- Cubemap Replacer is a mod that replaces the game's default skybox with a custom skybox. With this mod, you can choose from a variety of different skyboxes, each with its own unique look. This mod is perfect for players who want to add more visual variety to their city.

7- Play it! is a mod that allows you to control the time of day in your city. With this mod, you can speed up or slow down time, or you can pause time altogether. This mod is perfect for players who want to take their time creating their city and want to see it in different lighting conditions.

8- Ultimate Level Of Detail (ULOD) is a mod that improves the game's performance by reducing the level of detail of distant objects. With this mod, you can increase the game's performance without sacrificing the visual quality of your city. This mod is perfect for players with lower-end computers or players with larger cities.

9- Dynamic Resolution is a mod that adjusts the game's resolution dynamically based on the game's performance. With this mod, you can improve the game's performance without sacrificing the visual quality of your city. This mod is perfect for players with lower-end computers or players with larger cities. 

These mods are excellent additions to any Cities: Skylines player looking to create a more realistic city. 

By using them, you can improve the graphics, lighting, terrain of your city, making it look more lifelike and immersive. Remember to experiment with different combinations of mods to find the ones that work best for your specific city, gameplay style, and GPU capabilities of course - not all of us have the latest RTX video card.

So, go ahead and try out these mods, and let your creativity soar in the virtual world of Cities: Skylines!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Top (and Best) Must Have "Cities: Skylines" Mods

Mods provide players with more customization options, allowing them to create a city that is truly unique and personalized. City builders can add new buildings, props, vehicles, and other assets to their city, making it more diverse and interesting, as well as add new functionality to the game, providing players with more tools and features to work with. For example, traffic management mods can help players control and optimize traffic flow in their city, while building and asset mods can provide more options for construction and decoration.

So here's my list of the Top 15 Best Mods to use while playing Cities: Skylines - I've linked each to their Steam Workshop.

1- Move it is a must-have mod that allows players to manipulate and move objects with ease. Players can adjust the position, orientation, and height of any object, making it perfect for tweaking roads, buildings, and props.

2- Traffic Manager: President Edition (TM:PE) is a powerful traffic management mod that provides players with a suite of tools to manage and control traffic in their city. It allows players to adjust speed limits, set traffic lights, and optimize traffic flow. It can/should also be used with Hide TM:PE Unconnected Tracks and Hide TMPE crosswalks V3.2.

3- Node Controller Renewal 3.4 is a tool that allows players to adjust the nodes and segments of roads in their city. It provides a high degree of control over intersections and road layouts, making it easier to create complex road networks.

4- Intersection Marking Tool 1.13.1 is a mod that allows players to mark and designate lanes and paths on intersections. This mod is useful for creating complex intersections and controlling the flow of traffic.

5- 81 Tiles 2 is a mod that allows players to unlock all 81 tiles in the game, making it possible to build huge cities. With this mod, players can create vast metropolitan areas with ease.

6- Precision Engineering is a mod that provides players with precise control over road and building placement. It allows players to align roads and buildings perfectly, making it easier to create a cohesive cityscape.

7- Ultimate Level Of Detail (ULOD) is a mod that improves the game's performance by reducing the level of detail of distant objects. With this mod, you can increase the game's performance without sacrificing the visual quality of your city. This mod is perfect for players with lower-end computers or players with larger cities.

8- Network Multitool 1.3.3 is a mod that provides players with a range of tools for managing roads and networks. It allows players to adjust road heights, set slope limits, and create custom road assets.

9- Find it! 2 is a mod that allows players to search for assets, buildings, and props in the game. It makes it easier to find specific items and assets, saving time and effort in the process.

10- Compatibility Report v2.3.2 is a mod that checks the compatibility of other mods with the game. It provides a report of any conflicts or issues that may arise, allowing players to ensure that their mods are working correctly.

11- Picker is a mod that allows players to pick and choose specific assets and buildings in the game. It makes it easier to select and place items precisely, without accidentally selecting other items.

12- Forest Brush Revisited v1.3.13 is a mod that allows players to create forests and woodlands in their city. It provides a range of tree brushes and foliage assets, making it easy to create beautiful natural landscapes.

13- Play It! is a mod that allows players to simulate and test different scenarios and situations in their city. It provides a range of tools and settings for adjusting time, weather, and other game mechanics.

14- Harmony 2.2.2-0 is a modding tool that provides a framework for mod developers. It makes it easier for modders to create and maintain mods, ensuring that they are compatible with the game and other mods. 

15- Loading Screen Mod Revisited 1.1 is a mod that enhances the loading screen of the game. It provides a range of features, such as tips and trivia, custom images and videos, and the ability to load custom assets and mods during the loading screen. This mod makes the loading process more interesting and informative, while also allowing players to customize the game to their liking. It's a small but useful mod that can improve the overall experience of playing Cities: Skylines.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Cities: Skylines 2 coming later this year!!

As an avid player of the current Cities: Skylines game, I was (beyond) thrilled & excited to hear the announcement of Cities: Skylines 2, coming later this year from the original Finnish developer Colossal Order and publisher Paradox Interactive. For those who don't know about the original, the game has been a huge success, selling 12 million copies since launch and receiving numerous post-launch updates and (tons of) DLCs, which have fundamentally rebuilt its systems for industry, education, parks, and airports.

What excites me the most about Cities: Skylines 2 is the promise of expanded toolsets and mechanics, along with advanced modding capabilities that have been a huge part of the success of the first game (Steam Workshop bonanza). According to Colossal Order, the game will have fully-realized transport and economy systems, a wealth of construction and customization options, and advanced modding capabilities.

Their dev team calls Cities: Skylines 2 the most realistic city simulation ever created, with deeper features available in the sequel. The game will feature additional options for construction and customization, allowing players to create even more detailed and unique cities. As someone who has spent countless hours building and managing my virtual city (actually, exactly 479.8 hours so far according to Steam) , I can't wait to explore the new features and mechanics in the sequel and create even more intricate and realistic cities.

I'm very much excited to see how the new game will build on the success of its predecessor and offer even more immersive and engaging gameplay. With its release coming later this year, I can't wait to dive into Cities: Skylines 2 and waste away dozens more hours of my life to this simulation, uh, I meant enjoy hours of gameplay learning about good urban planning and what makes a healthy, wealthy city thrive!

So make sure to wishlist the game on Steam!

Let's go Chirper! 

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

The Silo Saga is about to be released on the small screen - but you should definitely read the books first!

Hugh Howey's Silo Saga is a magnificent science fiction trilogy that consists of three novels: "Wool," "Shift," and "Dust". It is bloody addictive and completely immersive. You will loose track of time. 

[No spoilers ahead. I don't go into any details and made sure to stay away any specifics. Read on.]

The series is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the remnants of humanity is forced to live in a massive underground silo due to the toxicity of the outside world. The story follows a group of characters as they navigate the complex social and political structures of the silo while also trying to uncover the truth about their world.

One of the things that makes the Silo Saga such a great dark scifi trilogy is the way that it explores the consequences of isolation and confinement. The characters in the novel are all confined to the silo, and this has a profound effect on their psychology and behavior. The sense of claustrophobia and confinement is palpable, and it creates a sense of tension and urgency that drives the narrative forward. Think dark, underground bunker, concreate surroundings, artificial lighting, with some comfy corners.

Another key element of the trilogy is the way that it blends scifi with elements of horror and thriller genres. The world that Howey has created is a bleak and oppressive one, and the characters are constantly facing danger and uncertainty. The tension is often built through a sense of dread and foreboding rather than outright action, and this creates a feeling of unease that permeates the entire series.

The characters in the Silo Saga are a major strength of the series. Howey has created a diverse and interesting cast of characters, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The characters are all complex and multi-dimensional, and their interactions with each other are often fraught with tension and conflict.

The trilogy is also notable for its excellent world-building. Howey has created a detailed and immersive world that feels both plausible and fully realized. The silo is a complex structure, with a very different social and political structure then our own modern, global world, and the world outside the silo is equally fascinating and yet terrifying.

The Silo Saga has recently been adapted into a television series, which is set to be released on AppleTV+ in early May 2023. The teaser trailer looks extremely promising for the upcoming series. The trailer captures the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of the silo, and it hints at the intense emotional journey that the characters will go through. Have a look above...

Further reading: