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:

Friday, March 03, 2023

"Arrival": A Meditative Exploration of Language, Time, and the Cyclical Nature of Beginnings and Endings

Denis Villeneuve's "Arrival" is a masterpiece of science fiction cinema that delves deeply into the mysteries of language, time, and the cyclical nature of beginnings and endings. At its core, the film is a meditation on the power of communication and the profound impact that language can have on our perception of the world.

The film follows linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, as she is recruited by the military to help communicate with extraterrestrial beings who have landed on Earth. As Louise works to decipher the alien language, she begins to experience strange visions of her own life, seemingly out of order and disconnected from time. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Louise's understanding of the alien language is intimately tied to her ability to manipulate time itself.

The underlying theme of language in "Arrival" is both complex and profound. Through Louise's experiences, the film suggests that language is not just a tool for communication, but a fundamental aspect of how we experience the world. The film also suggests that language has the power to shape our perception of time, blurring the lines between past, present, and future.

In addition to its exploration of language and time, "Arrival" also delves deeply into the cyclical nature of beginnings and endings. The film suggests that, just as language can shape our perception of time, our understanding of beginnings and endings is also shaped by the language we use to describe them. In the film's haunting final moments, we are left with the impression that every ending is also a new beginning, and that the cycle of life and death is an ongoing process that is always in motion.

"Arrival" is a remarkable film that explores complex themes of language, time, and the cyclical nature of beginnings and endings. Through its masterful storytelling and stunning visuals, the film challenges us to reconsider our understanding of these fundamental aspects of the human experience. Ultimately, "Arrival" is a powerful meditation on the nature of communication and the ways in which language shapes our perception of the world around us.