Tag Archives: art

Concrete Genie Takes Too Long To Get To The Fun Stuff

When I started Concrete Genie, a new PlayStation 4 exclusive out now from Pixelopus, I was swept into its world. The game’s setting is lush and alive, its narrative heartwarming: A latchkey kid named Ash constantly revisits the ruins of Denska, the once-thriving port town he grew up in, to doodle. Denska has been abandoned and overtaken by Darkness, a mysterious force with the physical form of thorned purple vines, but Ash can’t stand to let the town go. He’s faced with the opportunity to take action, given a magical brush and a mission to restore the ghost town’s beauty. With a masterful sense of visual storytelling, the story is charming in its simplicity, full to bursting with warm, colorful memories and touching moments.

This piece was first published at midnight.

The gameplay never quite lives up to the loving design of the ramshackle town. After maybe 10 hours scouring for secrets and messing around in free play mode, I wasn’t pulling my hair out. I just got a little bored with it. That did make it painful when I reached the short-lived final act, a total upturning of its mechanics, and realized that the gameplay was actually getting good.

Ash progresses by moving through city streets and across rooftops with the aid of his Genies, creatures he’s drawn in his sketchbook. Each setting—a derelict lighthouse or a deserted hydroelectric plant, for example—features similar objectives. You must paint walls adorned by lightbulbs to illuminate them; find pages of your destroyed sketchbook, which can include new designs for the walls or the Genies themselves; and find spots to create new Genies. In the process, you can find newspaper clippings that provide extra context about the city of Denska, the environmental disaster that totaled it, and the tough-as-nails townsfolk who stuck it out for as long as they could before having to leave. Denska is still full of signs of life: leftover bottles and cars, neglected storefronts with stacks of CRT TVs, cheerful advertisements fading to a sullen gray. While finding one newspaper clipping, Ash remembers aloud the moment his family realized it was over: “when mom realized there was no place in town to buy milk.” It’s a simple story, expertly told.

The problem is, playing through the game gets boring. After your first encounter with the Genies, you’re able to graffiti up most of Denska’s walls using either motion controls or the right stick. At certain locations, you can create new Genies with a similar interface, starting with the body and adding designs like horns, ears and tails. While there’s not an incredible amount of variety across the several bodies you get, the creatures are a clear nod to Where the Wild Things Are and carry with them a real charm. The landscape options, anything from redwood trees and storm lilies to mushrooms and balloon plants, all look good, as do dynamic effects like the rain, which continues to fall whenever you pass by the wall. Butterflies and birds flutter outward from your brush, to your Genies’ great delight. But you get a total of 48 of these options to mess with, 12 each between four areas, and in a post-Little Big Planet world, it wasn’t enough to justify how much repetitive painting I had to do across wall after wall.

At the end of each area, you’re invited to paint a “masterpiece,” a larger mural, where your Genies will have suggestions about what to put up. Despite the monotony, doing this is fun and sometimes happens in cool places, like a section where you climb high above the city and can see the entire town. Along the way, you can also find billboards to spruce up where you need the correct design. Completing puzzles like this unlocks rewards like concept art, which, unsurprisingly, is stunning.

Each of the three Genie types has its own powers, which can do things like set parts of the environment on fire for you to pass through. Puzzles largely consist of clearing Darkness so that your Genies can get through and magic away environmental obstacles. Sometimes, you have to paint a design the Genie requests in order to get them to help you, but that doesn’t add much and ultimately feels like a chore. Seeing some of the Genies’ interactions with your landscape paint is cute, but when the puzzles are already tedious, having to draw, I don’t know, some grass before your Genie will cooperate gets old.

Concrete Genie rarely requires any real problem solving. This is one issue I can just barely excuse because it seems to have been made for a younger audience. Puzzles are straightforward, and the Genie you need to progress is always the next one you find, precluding any real puzzling beyond exploring and finding new areas. But undermining this is the fact that the gameplay often feels undercooked. Even as an adult, I found myself occasionally confused about how to progress. The game aggressively offers hints, which felt like a bandaid on moments of loose design. The puzzles generally featured only one way to progress, and the way forward, no matter whether that was using a water valve or flipping a switch, was generally to interact with the one interactive thing and then call your Genies. That was occasionally marred by the fact that it wasn’t always clear, for example, when a Genie would be blocked by Darkness given the nonlinear way they move through walls. Ultimately, it felt like there was this rich, beautiful world and too little to do in it.

You sometimes have to avoid bullies as you progress. Learning more about the kids who torment Ash with Senseless Kids’ Movie Thuggery is interesting, but the “stealth” really just requires you to jump on any nearby rooftop and you can’t be caught. Like the rest of the game, it works well narratively but fails to be fun.

I felt this frustration most when I got closer to the end, where the gameplay…actually got cool. After a certain point, the mechanics entirely switch and you’re in pursuit and combat situations, with abilities like “Paint Skating,” which allows you to glide around the town more quickly, and you get fireballs to shoot enemies with. Without giving too much away, you have to fight and then tame beasts using a number of offensive magical powers you get. You even get a dodge roll to use, which was far better than trudging around the streets of Denska like a regular, non-magical pedestrian. The action section is far more fun than sneaking around Ash’s bullies and painting by number. The story continues to pick up here as well as Ash confronts his tormentors in a deeply affecting, earnest final act. Unfortunately, this part of the game is short-lived after the slog it takes to get there, but the decision to end on this note was a smart one. If only Concrete Geni had gotten there sooner or stayed there longer.

The story of Concrete Genie is well-told and relatable, a classic bullies-turned-friends story of empathy and growth with some real storytelling flair, including striking illustrations and a masterful, coherent use of a variety of art styles. The account of environmental disaster and a fishing town struggling to survive is rooted and told well from Ash’s young perspective. Pixelopus has a clear understanding of what makes a story work, even a story done as many times as this one: bullying, empathy, reconciliation. The fact that the game is gorgeous goes a long way, too. With the amount of love and care poured into the storytelling, I wanted more from the gameplay. If the first part of Concrete Genie were more tightly done, it could have easily been one of my favorite games of the year. But like the fishing town of Denska itself, it faded before I could really appreciate it.

This piece was first published at midnight.

Source: Kotaku.com

Rogue Leader, Standing By

Fine Art[Fine Art](https://kotaku.com/c/fine-art) is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some art you’d like to share, [get in touch!](mailto:[email protected])  

Leonid Koliagin is a concept artist from Russia.

You can see more of Leonid’s stuff at his ArtStation page.


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Source: Kotaku.com

The Art Of Borderlands 3

Fine Art[Fine Art](https://kotaku.com/c/fine-art) is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some art you’d like to share, [get in touch!](mailto:[email protected])  

Borderlands 3 is out, so tonight I figured we’d take a look at a bunch of art that went into the game’s production.

Below you’ll find a cross-section of works from throughout development of the game, from the earliest sketches through to completed character art. And while it’s not everything from everyone involved, it’s a good showcase of stuff that’ll give Borderlands fans a cool look behind the scenes of where everything in the game came from.

You’ll find links to each artist’s portfolio in their names below.


Jens Claessens

Danny Gardner

Source: Kotaku.com

Blizzard, Please Put Link In Overwatch

While this animation video looks exactly like something Blizzard would release, as part of some dream Zelda x Overwatch crossover event for the upcoming Switch version, it’s amazingly/sadly just the work of some fans instead.

This is actually the third time I’ve posted about this design, imagining Link as a playable character in Overwatch. The first time was when we led with Jeremy Vitry’s original artwork for his Fine Art feature. The second was when Aaron Walker turned it into a 3D model.

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Now, though, in collaboration with Vitry, Walker and some other folks (Stéphane Vidélo and Philémon Belhomme), VFX artist Etienne Pov has turned the art into a full-blown animation, complete with special moves and Zelda-specific loot box opening.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Art Of Control

Fine Art[Fine Art](https://kotaku.com/c/fine-art) is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some art you’d like to share, [get in touch!](mailto:[email protected])  

As someone who grew up in a city dominated by brutalist office and government buildings, I’ve got a real soft spot for Control’s art design, which we’re going to be showcasing in tonight’s Fine Art.

Below you’ll find a cross-section of some of the work that went into the game’s conception, production and marketing. It’s not everything from everyone involved in the project, but it’s enough to give you a good idea of where the ideas for the finished product came from.

You’ll find links to each artist’s portfolio in their names below.


Source: Kotaku.com

Off-World Palaeontology

Fine Art[Fine Art](https://kotaku.com/c/fine-art) is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some art you’d like to share, [get in touch!](mailto:[email protected])  

Yury Ostapchuk is a concept artist from Ukraine who works at Plarium, the Vikings: War of Clans guys.

You can see more of Yury’s work at his ArtStation page.


Source: Kotaku.com

I Love The Posters Found In Control

Control is a wonderful game. I can’t stop thinking about it and I can’t wait for the weekend to end so I can get back to playing it instead of working. But while many are talking about the incredible visuals or exciting action, I want to take a moment to showcase a small part of the game that you might not have noticed or didn’t look at for long. I want to talk about the fantastic posters found all around the game.

Almost immediately after starting the game I noticed some of these posters, which looked ripped out of the late 70s. Their artwork, their font and their overall look all screamed “retro propaganda.” At first, I didn’t really notice them or pay attention to them. But eventually one caught my eye for some reason and I realized these weren’t normal posters telling people to “Never share a password” or “Always report any suspicious characters.” Instead, these posters feature messages referencing haunted staplers, evil mold, and other strange things.

These posters are a perfect encapsulation of what I adore about Control. The game takes the mundane and mixes it with the fantastical and supernatural. Posters like this have existed in workplaces and military bases for years. But rarely do they warn employees to not eat mold.

It’s this mix of boring office imagery and otherworldly sights that really help build the world of Control. It often reminds me of The X-Files and how that show mixed dull FBI cars, suits and paperwork with ghosts, aliens and monsters. I could totally see Mulder getting a kick out of these posters.

Here are all the posters I’ve found so far and some thoughts on them. If you have spotted any I missed, share them in the comments below.

Within the fiction of Control, Altered Items are objects that have parantural abilities or traits. This is definitely one office you don’t want to steal paperclips from.

Even in a wacky and strange government agency that monitors supernatural events, management is still a bunch of assholes.

See, I disagree with the poster from before. If I’m wandering around a giant ever-changing building, trying to find my office, I’m working. It’s not my fault that management and the government decided to place my office in this mess. If I spend all day trying to work, I deserve to get paid.

I don’t want to tell the folks at this super-secret and powerful agency how to do their jobs, but that doesn’t look like mold. It looks like a piece of poop with a face.

This just feels like a rule put in place to allow managers and supervisors to freely read personal emails and texts. “Yeah, I’m totally working! Don’t even try to check on my computer or you will be breaking the law!” 

I see the Boomers have been allowed to make a poster for the office.

You know that’s a lot of pressure to put on people. Also, that guy has a shotgun. I think he’s good. I do enjoy someone voicing their opinion on this poster with a big Post-It note.

This is a bit different than the other posters, but I wanted to include it because I love how normal it starts out and then it suddenly gets strange. Specifically, rule six.

Source: Kotaku.com

A Collection Of Beautiful, Hand-Drawn Maps For Video Games And RPGs

Fine Art[Fine Art](https://kotaku.com/c/fine-art) is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some art you’d like to share, [get in touch!](mailto:[email protected])  

We’ve got a very cool feature for tonight’s Fine Art: the work of Francesca Baerald, an Italian artist who has drawn gorgeous fantasy maps for companies like Square Enix, Fantasy Flight, Games Workshop and Dark Horse.

You can see more of Francesca’s stuff at her personal site and ArtStation page.


Source: Kotaku.com

Gaming Hardware Artist Turns Nintendo Famicom Into A Retro Computer

Swedish designer and craftsman Love Hultén transforms existing gaming hardware into dreamlike pieces of functional retrofuturist art. His latest work, the FC-PVM, combines a Japanese Famicom console with a Sony Trinitron monitor to create a self-contained retro gaming system with an old school terminal vibe.

The FC-PVM is a Japanese NES in a box, with its own monitor and a pair of original controllers modded to have wireless functionality. It’s also much more than that. It’s what the Famicom might have looked like if the modern age that technology futurists imagined in the 1950s and 1960s had come to fruition.

Love’s designs are always as utilitarian as they are striking. The wireless controllers store inside the unit behind a removable panel when not in use. The power and reset buttons are a pair of keyboard-style switches topped with red keycaps. In this photo of the set, the teal color of the Japanese Rockman 5 cartridge complements the retro design. The top of the unit has several cartridge storage slots, integrating the quirky Japanese cartridge colors into the design.

The FC-PVM is a piece of custom hardware that my fingers ache to touch. I want to place it in a room with corn-colored wallpaper and brown shag carpet and play with it while sitting on the floor, my grandmother’s cigarette smoke hanging in the air. As it’s not for sale and my grandmother passed away when I was 17, the best I can do is watch Love fiddle with it on video.

Check out Love’s Instagram and website for more of his glorious retro tech creations.

Source: Kotaku.com

Look At This Gosh-Darn Pretty Gaming PC

All photos by Michael Fahey

If I wanted to, I could put together a gaming PC with many of the same parts as this desktop by boutique system builder CLX, but I could never make it look as good. From the striking patterned pink outer shell to the gleefully glowing innards, CLX knows how to make a gaming rig look amazing.

CLX is the gaming division of Cybertron PC, a Kansas-based company that’s been putting together PCs since 1997. I first encountered the company back in 2016, when I reviewed one of its smaller systems, the “Scarab.” Though much smaller and lighter than the full-sized “Ra” model I recently tested, the Scarab packed a whole lot of power and a great deal of Egyptian-themed pretty into a compact package.

In the three years since I reviewed the Scarab, Cybertron PC has strengthened its CLX gaming brand, distancing it from the endless Transformers jokes that plagued early reviews (mine especially). When I see CLX at a trade show or gaming convention these days, I immediately know that I am going to see something gorgeous.

Case in point, the massive glass-and-metal beast that occupied my desk for several weeks. Look at that reflective metallic finish on the Phanteks Evolv X chassis.

The custom paint job costs $300, with an additional $50 for the “Jasper” pattern. CLX took a $200 case with a nice tempered-glass side window and some nifty integrated RGB lighting and turned it into a $550 work of art.

See the green light peeking out from inside the system on the left side of the photo? Let’s take a closer look.

My goodness, that is pretty. Custom water cooling pipes. That gradient coolant reservoir. A total of seven internal fans. The four 8 GB DDR4 memory sticks glow. The heatsink covering the Intel Core i9-9900K CPU glows. The side-mounted Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080Ti graphics card glows. And all of the glow is customizable, with different colors and effects adjustable via remote control.

The only bad thing about the look of the CLX Ra here is that I sit with my computers to my left, so I don’t get to enjoy the light show while I am working and playing.

What I love about the CLX system, which runs around $3,300 as configured and decorated, is that its internals are almost the same as the personal PC I use for work every day. Same CPU, same video card. The CLX system has 32 GB of RAM to my 16 GB, but otherwise, it’s not far off. It’s a powerful computer capable of running all the games at 4K with all of the ray-tracing everybody keeps going on about.

It performs nearly identically to my personal system, but it does so with grace and style far beyond that of my home-built PC with its relatively utilitarian NZXT H510 case. Where my system is a mess of wires, the CLX system is a series of internet-like tubes. While I haven’t figured out how to hook up all the RGB-lighted things I gathered for my personal system, CLX’s Ra is completely tricked out. My fans rattle slightly. The Ra has seven fans and is whisper quiet, aside from the occasional pleasant trickling sound of its coolant circulating.

The CLX system is so gorgeous that I didn’t even notice I forgot to take out a bit of the foam the company packed inside the system for shipping. Did you notice?

Yes, even with one of its case fans not spinning at all because some dork didn’t remove a bit of packing foam, the CLX Ra performed like a champ the entire time I had it, and looked gorgeous while doing so.

Source: Kotaku.com