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Welcome to Shocktober 2014

Oct 01 2014 05:35 PM | ENZO in Articles

(Note: A blog version without the trailers attached is available right here.)
October is finally here, which means it's time for Shocktober, as well. I wait all year long for this, and I've spent way too many hours over the past few days researching the following list of movies. I'm stoked.

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It's not on my list, but I'll probably end up watching Trick 'r Treat at some point.
Shocktober, for those who haven't participated in the past, is a daily challenge during the month of October to watch as many horror movies as possible. Although I've picked 31 movies, I'm not actually planning on watching a movie every single night. Some movies will get stuffed into marathons on weekends, while others will simply be pushed to another year.
More importantly, before you charge into the comments, know that Shocktober isn't about creating a definitive list of horror's best movies. "Where's Friday the 13th? Why don't you have Nightmare on Elm St.? I thought you loved Hellraiser!?" I've seen just about everything, and while some classics are part of the haul, there's only of those one per week. Feel free to make suggestions, and share your own lists below!
There's always next year.
Some of the movies are hitting theaters this month, and they've been appropriately slotted for the Friday of the weekend they're opening. Other movies are debuting through various on-demand services in October, and I've slotted them the first day they're available. Unfortunately, a few are are obscure, and not available on iTunes, Netflix, and other places where movies are one click away. You're on your own!
If you're looking for the best way to watch some of these movies, CanIStreamIt works like a charm for navigating digital services. There are even apps for phones and tablets to make the whole thing easier.
Some other programming notes that determined this year's lineup:
  • I'm tired of torture porn, which is why you don't see anything like it on here. It's boring. (One of the only movies that's managed to break that trend for me is the brutal and amazing Martrys.)
  • Alien, Critters, Halloween, and Eraserhead are this year's classics to rewatch.
  • While I've tried to avoid movies exploitative of women (a trope the genre would be wise to stop using as a crutch to generate uncomfortable tension), it's hard to dodge in movies I haven't seen.
  • There's a bunch of found footage on here because, well, I really like found footage. Feel free to replace some of those movies with other ones I've dropped in here, if you dislike the style.
  • The movies cut from this list but were once part of it include Raze, House (the one by Nobuhiko Obayashi), Under the Skin, Oculus, Warm Bodies, The Tunnel, Bereavement, Making Contact, The Frogs, Galaxy of Terror, Deliver Us From Evil, Dark Woods, The Munches, Tusk, and the WNUF Halloween Special. Plenty of them seem like they would have been worthy!
  • Movies I've seen but considered part of the rewatch included Contracted, We Are What We Are, Maniac, The Silent House (the original), Rubber, Alien Abduction, The McPherson Tape, [rec], and BBC: Ghost Watch. All come highly recommended, especially [rec]. That movie's damn scary.
Throughout the month, I'll probably be writing some reviews of these movies. These will be published as premium written articles, unless I decide to get ambitious and try to do reviews in video format. That seems pretty unlikely. I'm also talking to Alex and Rorie about trying to do a few horror podcasts throughout the month to talk about our favorites. As usual, we'll also have a much more frequent schedule for Spookin' With Scoops, and I'm working on some other features to arrive throughout the month.
In any case, let's get going. With Alien: Isolationcoming out next week, it seemed entirely appropriate to kick this year off with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, horror movie of all-time, Ridley Scott's Alien.
Happy Shocktober!
  • October 1: Alien

  • October 2: ABCs of Death 2 (VOD)

  • October 3: Annabelle (Theaters)

  • October 4: The Guest (Theaters)
  • October 5: Coherence
  • October 6: The Honeymoon (Warning: I'm told the trailer is spoilery. Beware!)
  • October 7: Beneath

  • October 8: Grabbers

  • October 9: Death Spa

  • October 10: The Houses October Built (VOD)

  • October 11: Dead Snow 2 (VOD)
  • October 12: The Awakening

  • October 13: Kill List

  • October 14: Rawhead Rex


  • October 15: Halloween

  • October 16: The Loved Ones

  • October 17: Chopping Mall

  • October 18: Extraterrestrial (VOD)

  • October 19: Possession

  • October 20: Atrocious

  • October 21: The Battery
  • October 22: Bad Milo
  • October 23: Escape From Tomorrow

  • October 24: V/H/S Viral (VOD)

  • October 25: Exists (VOD)

  • October 26: The Borderlands

  • October 27: The Town That Dreaded Sundown


  • October 28: Stage Fright

  • October 29: Entity

  • October 30: Eraserhead

  • October 31: Horns (Theaters)



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Square Enix Looks for Answers in the Cloud

Sep 27 2014 10:36 PM | ENZO in Articles

We've always been buying consoles and PCs to play our games, and the power bringing them to life happens on the machines in our homes. A popular vision for the future involves cloud computing breaking that cycle. Shinra Technologies, a wholly-owned spin-off of Square Enix, is one of those companies.
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The elevator pitch for Shinra is an attempt to move consumers away from buying hardware by having the computational heavy lifting take place in the cloud. This could, in Shinra's words, open the door to game concepts that wouldn't be possible when companies like Microsoftand Sonymust always compromise console technology to make it affordable.
Shinra is lead by Yoichi Wada, the former CEO of Square Enix. Wada left his post last year, not long after the publisher revealed it would take a huge financial hit. Slow sales prompted Wada to step down, but he became a chairman of the Square Enix board later that year.
It's not hard to imagine how Shinra might apply to online games. In an MMO, where bits of latency are less of an issue, developers could create worlds impossible to render on consumer-level hardware. All players would need is the ability to log-in and receive a video stream.
When Shinra was announced, the company released this teaser video:


You might have noticed two experiments in there. One involves a big, complicated 3D world. President of technology Tetsuji Iwasakiestimated there were roughly 20 miles of game world being shown at once, with more than 620,000 trees loaded into memory simultaneously.
"I began to think 'if we have 100 people playing together, and, up until now, they've only been putting their positioning data on the server, what if they were all playing together in a way where their game calculations were done once for those 100 people?'" said Iwasaki. "We would be able to vastly simplify the way that the game is calculated. As an example, let’s imagine the protagonist is running on everybody’s screen, and we have the animation and rendering calculation that has to be done to get that protagonist to be running. Instead of calculating that 100 times, we calculate that once and send that video back to the users."
This doesn't have to only apply to big-budget games, either. Wada views Shinra as a technology to enable a broader spectrum of games. Right now, he views development exclusively moving towards small scale creations built by tiny teams and huge projects funded by tens of millions of dollars. The middle is falling out, and Wada argues cloud computing could play a role in bringing it back.
"This is our true feeling," he said. "This is what we feel very deeply [about]. We want to open up the future of games, together with the users, together with the developers. Together, with everyone, we open up a new future for games."
Use of middleware is a relatively new phenomenon in Japanese game development, one that contributed to setbacks during the past generation. It's not uncommon for Japanese game developers to build entirely new engines for the next game, and often won't share tools between teams. While there's been great change in this area, it's certainly not to the point where one could imagine a Japanese game company sharing technology outside its offices. More than anything, this is why Shinra isn't an internal project.
"There’s two important points in splitting it off from Square," said senior VP of business Jacob Navok. "One, we need to be able to gather content from lots of developers and publishers. Two, Square Enix, as a company, needs to be free to be able to put its content on to various cloud systems, including PlayStation Now and others."

"We want to open up the future of games, together with the users, together with the developers."

When asked whether this was a heated discussion within Square Enix, Wada smiled.
"In those terms, I may not have been a typical Japanese [executive]," he said. "This method didn’t seem particularly unnatural to me. I thought this was the best, and this was the natural route to take."
Wada looks at the video game industry in 2014, and sees creative stagnation. Throughout my conversation with Wada and his team, everyone emphasized a belief Shinra could benefit game design. It's early days, however, and there aren't many games to prove this potential. It could. It might.
"My aim is to bring the cloud [to everyone], and create a very extreme game that is just mind-blowing," he said. "This is a win-win situation for the consumers and us because the consumers don’t have to invest in the machines that we will have in our data centers. Everyone will be sharing them. Consumers will be able to have these extreme gaming experiences without investing a lot on the machine of the devices."
Wada and company speak of themselves in a sort of savior role, one that's identified core issues with modern games, and technology can provide a solution. It's ironic, then, to choose the name Shinra. Final Fantasy VII players recall Shinrawas the tyrannical corporation from the series' PlayStationdebut.
Pointing this out prompted laughter from the whole group.
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"Cloudis the protagonist in Final Fantasy VII," said Wada. "As a joke, we chose something from Final Fantasy VII. Shinra was a very evil, massive company, and they always remained evil. But we are very good people! [laughs] The logo for Shinra Technologies was drawn by the artist who drew the logo for Shinra in Final Fantasy VIII. The logo in-game was black and red--evil. We took that away, and we changed it to blue and white, to not make it so evil."
The "coincidences" go even deeper.
"Our New York office is actually within the Avalanche Studios office in New York" he said. "If you remember, in Final Fantasy VII, the resistance that tries to go against Shinra in the game is called Avalanche. They battle Shinra."
Clever girl.
Shinra's business center is located in New York for talent recruitment and tax reasons, while its development efforts are happening in Montreal. Though Shinra shares an office with Avalanche Studios, there are no formal plans for the company to work on anything using Shinra's systems. That said, Wada suspects something will come of the close cooperation and interaction between the two companies.
We won't have to wait very long to see Shinra in action, either. A beta launches early next year in Japan, with other countries to follow soon after. The initial beta will feature "catalog content" (read: old games) and a stress test in the form of a simple, overhead 2D RPG.
It's not much. Technology means nothing without games to back them up, which Shinra doesn't have yet.
"We come from passion and love for the industry and a feeling of frustration about what we see happening right now--a lack of innovation in game design," said Navok. "Everything looks cookie-cutter. [There's] a lack of innovation in technology, which is resulting in products that always have to look the same because it’s the only way that they’re going to sell. We are hoping that by introducing a very different type of technology, we can come up with new game designs that will get people excited and see something new for the first time in a long time."


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Dota 2 Getting a Big Ol' Patch With Rekindl...

Sep 25 2014 04:41 PM | ENZO in Articles

UPDATE: Tweaked to reflect what's actually changing with Shadow Fiend. Thanks!
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Though Valvejust wrapped up The International 4, the studio continues to tweak DOTA 2. The latest changes come from the Rekindling Soul update, otherwise known as version 6.82. It's significant.
First and foremost, Shadow Fiend has been dealt some changes, mostly aesthetically. Here's a summary of where he's (it's?) at:
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There's an entire pagethat demonstrates the new and improved Shadow Fiend. Coinciding with Shadow Fiend's update is the availability of an arcana item set, which grants a different skin, voice, attack effects, and other ways of making your character stand out 'n look pretty.
Other changes include courier morph (which means your courier will be temporarily visually displayed), the launch of fantasy (a la fantasy football) season two, fight recap (providing a detailed statistical breakdown of matches), a new location for Roshan on the map, tweaked versions of Bloodseeker and Phantom Lancer, and a bunch of other changes that are better seen by reading the bottom of this page.
Because I don't know anything about Dota 2, I asked our expert, Mr. Shoemaker, for quick thoughts:

"This is the most radical stuff they've done to the fundamentals of Dota 2 since it came out. They're the kind of changes normal people would look at and roll their eyes--stuff like a handful of trees being in a different place. But changes like that just keep raising the skill ceiling because they give really good players a ton more options for ways to maneuver and strategize. The nature of these changes is tantamount to changing the length of a football field or the duration of a shot clock in basketball, except there isn't just one change, there's a ton of them."



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Microsoft is Buying MINECRAFT!!!!

Sep 15 2014 02:49 PM | ENZO in Articles

The companies have brokered a massive deal for $2.5 billion.
It didn't take long for rumors to become fact. Microsofthas closed a deal to purchase Mojang, which means Minecraftis moving under the Microsoft umbrella. Expected to close before the end of the year, the deal is worth $2.5 billion.

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Minecraft creator Markus Persson, however, will not be staying along for the ride. He's leaving Mojang for personal reasons.
"As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments," said Persson in a blog post. "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately. Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them. I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you."
Microsoft already confirmed existing versions of Minecraft will continue to be developed and supported. That means Minecraft isn't disappearing from Android, PlayStation, or iOS. It's unclear what Microsoft's longterm plans are for Minecraft, but it's status quo for the time being.
Xboxhead Phil Spencer released a video talking about his relationship with Persson and Mojang alongside the deal's announcement.
The company says Minecraft under Microsoft will soon benefit from "richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the Minecraft community." No timetable has been given for any of this, however.
Microsoft also expects its deal to pay off almost immediately. It anticipates the deal will break-even by the end of fiscal year 2015, which ends on June 30, 2015. That's not very far off.
It'll probably be a while before we learn what Persson is up to next.
"It’s not about the money," he said. "It’s about my sanity."




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A Game About Greiving

Sep 13 2014 05:47 PM | ENZO in Articles

"He worked really hard, he loved his job. On Sundays we would go to the park to feed the ducks. He loved ducks. They always made him smile. It was our place to be together."
When someone close is no longer in your life, it's impossible to know what might trigger the next wave. It might be the sight of a restaurant where you had dinner, it might be throwing away a t-shirt they left behind, it might be hearing a song. Fragments of Him tries to capture these quietly paralyzing moments.
Posted ImageWhen you click on the towel, it disappears. The clearing of objects and possessions after a loss is a very real, very emotional process we hardly give much thought.
In Fragments of Him, players slowly navigate environments plucked from the real-world: an apartment, a restaurant, a park. Some objects can be clicked on, and these objects trigger short narration. It becomes clear this narrator is recovering from a severe psychological trauma, one that's slowly revealed to be the loss of a longtime partner to a fatal car crash.
Fragments of Him started as a game jam project, and you can still play that version on Kongregate. The surprising response to the game jam version encouraged the team to work on an expanded version, set for release this winter sometime. This game jam was part of the internationally-focused Ludum Dare, and the theme was minimalism. Given the Ludum Dare only allows for 72 hours to develop a game, there's something humorous about a theme that's backed by a tiny development time.
"[I] woke up at four-o'clock in the morning, saw the theme for the jam, and it was minimalism," said game and narrative designer Mata Haggis. "[I] went to sleep, woke up a few hours later, and thought 'what kind of person would live in a minimalist house? Why would you have minimalist decoration in your house?'"
Haggis pitched Fragments of Him to a couple of students he'd taught at the My Academy for Digital Entertainment in the Netherlands. These days, he juggles game design and teaching. In a previous life, Haggis worked on big-budget games as a designer, including Burnout Paradise and Aliens vs. Predator. His students are part of SassyBot, a four-person team that's been collaborating on several games.
In constructing a reason for someone to remove a person's possessions, Haggis kept coming back to the end of a relationship.
"That idea of intense pain driving these actions was something that really spoke to me," he said.
The relationship that forms the narrative backbone of Fragments of Him is between two men. One of them dies. While such a relationship remains somewhat unique to games, the story hardly makes a fuss about it.
"I think it emphasizes the universality of these feelings to have that slight difference to a large group of the [playing] audience," said Haggis. "That was really the origin of all that."
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In the last few years, developers have tried to explore ways for games to express new kinds of stories. It's a trend anchored by games like Papers, Please, Journey, and Gone Home, and the approach for each was different. Games have become particularly good at expressing particular kinds of stories, and we often see them repeated over and over again. New stories demand new kinds of gameplay experiences.
"You think of an emotion you want to convey, you think of an experience you want to go through," said Haggis. "Then, you have to try and work out 'what actions would this person want to do in that space?"
Fragments of Him tries to explore the largely invisible process of grieving. In one way or another, we all experience this. When an emotional upheaval occurs, the shock is enormous. Eventually, that wears off, and the business of getting back to your daily life, a life without that person, begins anew.
As someone who's received emotional body blows the last few years, I can tell you it's the hardest part. I wear my father's wedding ring. What I'd figured would be my greatest honor is also a curse. It's a constant reminder. When the people leave us, objects, and the memories we imbue to them, are what remain.
Many games tell stories after the events have occurred. Fragments of Him is near-present, but does not indulge in shocking the viewer with a spectacularly destructive and fatal car crash. Instead, it's focused on the seemingly mundane. But anyone who's picked up the pieces after the loss of someone will tell you the same story: the mundane moments are the ones that, oddly, become the most tragic and heartbreaking.
"At some point in our life, everybody is going to experience the emotion of grief," said Haggis. "If we’re lucky, most of us experience this through a breakup. That’s some sense of grief that we have in a relationship breakup. It’s that taste of what comes when we lose someone really, really important to us forever. One of those things you get with these kinds of moments, this grief, is not necessarily your pain at that exact time which is the problem, it’s the pain that continues always. That sense of a lost future together."
Your actions in Fragments of Him remain simple throughout. Clickable objects are highlighted in yellow, and they eventually fill a meter that triggers the next scene. It's undoubtedly a clunky interface, one made more frustrating when you can't find the one bookshelf that's needed to move forward, but it works.

"At some point in our life, everybody is going to experience the emotion of grief. That sense of a lost future together."

SassyBot and Haggis knew the team was onto something when it had to start bringing tissue boxes to events where they were showing off Fragments of Him in person. It's also where they discovered how different objects would trigger different reactions from people. Though Fragments of Him tells a very specific story, it's one explicitly designed with universal appeal in how it's told.
"One of the parts from the prototype that always seems to get people is when they step into the bathroom, and they take away a towel, and they leave one towel there," said Haggis. "There’s no audio cue for this, there’s nothing recognizing you’ve taken this step, just that tiny moment of going 'oh, that person’s not coming back.' [...] I remember very clearly doing that after a breakup of a relationship once. I think I was coping pretty well until that point. It was such a tiny thing to do. [But then I felt] the enormity of what happened, all those hopes that I had, how things had changed."
The upcoming version of Fragments of Him will, again, focus on loss, but from the perspective of many, exploring how a single life can impact so many others when it's suddenly and unexpectedly extinguished.
"I’m not writing this to be over-the-top dramatic, he said. "I’m not intending this to be this massive tearjerkers. I’m writing this to be a good, honest story about emotions that I’ve felt, that I believe other people feel."
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Batman: Arkham Knight's New Date

Sep 08 2014 02:05 PM | ENZO in Articles

Batman: Arkham Knight's New Date Is June 2

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Rocksteady is being given plenty of time to prepare its farewell.
Batman: Arkham Knightwas supposed to be released this fall, but it's actually coming on June 2, 2015.
That's it. Go on with your day.


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"New" 3DS With Updated CPU

Aug 30 2014 10:14 AM | ENZO in Articles

This October, Nintendo will ship an updated 3DS in Japan called "New 3DS." This tweaked 3DS includes a tiny analog stick on the right, built-in NFC, two additional shoulder buttons, and an improved CPU.
The updated 3DS isn't expected to arrive over here until sometime next year, but the new CPU is already creating some wrinkles. For example, Nintendo announced a port of Xenoblade Chronicles to the 3DS, but it's only for this new 3DS, as it takes advantage of the CPU. It won't run on the 3DS you own right now.
Huh.
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F*** the Destination, It's About the Journey

Aug 26 2014 04:06 PM | ENZO in Articles

Editor's Note: The following is a lightly edited transcript of a story Iron GalaxyCEO Dave Langtold at a recent recording of The Nerdologue's Your Stories show. The episode was partially curated by yours truly. In Your Stories, folks are asked to share anecdotes from their personal lives based on a theme.
This time, the theme was "fingers crossed." The show was split into two parts, which you can listen to on The Nerdologue's website. At the very end of part two, you can hear me explain what the terrible movie Evil Bong III: The Wrath of Bong has to do with proposing to my wife. Anyone in Chicago can attend future Your Stories shows, and I hope to be curating another one in the near future! And with that, let's head to the Lang Zone...
In my extensive preparations for tonight's talk, which began this morning at 10:00 a.m., I was thinking a lot about hoping for the best, and it rarely, rarely coming through. I thought about much that hurt me throughout my life, and what I've done to combat that.
Posted ImageWhen it was Dave's turn, he announced he was going to stand up for his story. Of course.
Very recently, there's a good example of this
Spoiler


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Gun-toting teachers

Aug 25 2014 01:50 PM | ENZO in Articles

School district sticks to its gun policy



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ARGYLE, Tex. — It’s safe to say that one school district is ready to start the school year with guns blazing.
The Argyle Independent School District is on target to continue its new policy of allowing some teachers to pack heat on campus.
The posted sign on campus shoots straight, when it comes to the relatively new rule. It reads: “Please be aware that the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.” The signs are posted at all campuses within the district.
“I trust that the administrators of this school district will put my kid’s best interest at heart,” parent Lacey Fenoglio said.
Back in January, the district voted in favor of school marshals. Some Argyle teachers will act as the long arm of the law under the state’s Protection of Texas Children Act.
Gun-toting teachers must have and maintain a handgun license; pass a psychological evaluation; and undergo firearms and emergency response training.
Some parents say the district is right on target.
“I think if a tragedy does occur, lives can be saved by guns being in the right hands, and I think the teachers here might be able to stop something like that and life can be saved,” Fenoglio said.
Argyle ISD Superintendent, Dr. Telena Wright tells NewsFix continuous training is required, and some training even took place over summer break. However, the names and number of pistol-packing teachers will not be released for safety reasons.
So, while most North Texas districts are strengthening school security, Argyle ISD isn`t afraid to take aim on the loaded topic.

Courtesy of Fox 8 (North Carolina)

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Double Fine Will Help Publish Gang Beasts

Aug 19 2014 01:27 PM | ENZO in Articles

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If you've been watching Unprofessional Fridays, you know Giant Bomb's love for Gang Beasts, the hilariously weird local multiplayer brawler. Even better? Double Fine is making it part of its "Double Fine Presents" lineup.
With Double Fine Presents, the studio takes smaller games--Mountain, Escape Goat 2--under its wing, and provides various resources to ensure the games make it to the finish line and people are paying attention to them.
Besides showing up at PAX Prime next week, Gang Beasts will launch on Early Access on August 29.


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