Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bubbling from the Depths

There was a post recently on Planet Philip about images that "inspire map ideas" and it got me thinking: just what is my next map going to be like?

The whole topic is really up in the air at this point, but I can tell you right now it's not going to be for Global Offensive, partially because there isn't even an SDK for it yet, but mostly because no one would play it, they're just going to be playing de_dust like they have been since 1999.

Most likely it'll be a Portal 2 puzzle or if I'm feeling really stuffy and old fashioned, it'll be another one for Half-Life 2, because in case you forgot: I hate change. I've just never seen a compelling reason to go to a more advanced version of the engine. Why should I? Vanilla Half-Life 2 has all the bells and whistles: HDR lighting, env_beams, 3-D skyboxes. The works.

That might not sound like much to you kids but the Source Engine has always been incredibly robust and despite rumors from those disease-addled punks on the fora it still looks gorgeous. Mission Improbable is all the proof I need in that regard.*

But what kind of map would it be? Well I've really been wanting to do a race car driving map recently. Imagine a dozen or more Combine APC's just barreling down the road, shooting rockets willy-nilly. There would be fire traps along the road that the player has to avoid and large swaths of the track would be soft sand that Antlions would burrow out of to attack. I think this idea has the potential to be incredibly silly, like some twisted spawn of Mario Kart and Cube.

And yet I can't get any of my associates to be the least bit enthused about this. It feels that way about all of my little projects really. The moment the words "Killbot" or "Ceres" are uttered it's like a magic spell that makes people's eyes glaze over and Steam Chats mysteriously fall silent. Well you know what? We don't need them, dear readers. It's obvious I'm on my own on this one, so like always, I'll be doing all my planning in secret.

Because it's all a conspiracy, they pretend to be disinterested because they know it'll just make me tell them about it more. Why? So they can steal it for themselves.

I think it's time we face the facts: we are living in a post-Paranoia world. Will the next map be abstract? I can't rightly say. Most likely it will be, but so many of my associates have been bleating over and over again, "Tylerrrrrr, we want you to make a scary map! A real one this time!"

So many people want a proper horror map. Can I really give that to them? Am I really capable of it? I feel like that base has been covered with mods like Nightmare House 2, why bother adding another one to the sea of grimy, blood-stained abandoned hospitals?

What really interests me right now along with the race track idea was that awful April Fool's Joke. Sleep Apnea. What if I actually did make a full length map, but as horrible as I possibly could? It would rely on one thing: that I take every cliche of bad mapping; flat, saturated lighting, blocky featureless environments and just general clutter and confusion and make it work.

For now I'm going to be compiling a scrapbook of inspiring pictures. Hopefully Planet Phillip will have more soon.

* Okay, maybe Dear Esther too, just for good measure.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's Bunday


We will return to your scheduled programming soon.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

MEGADAMAGE: 80's Edition

Is it a coincidence that just a few days after I write a post about Tripods, the spacecraft carrying the Curiosity Rover is making it's final maneuver over the planet Mars? Could it be that maybe, just maybe I'm an agent from the future here to warn the Human race about an impending Martian invasion using vague codewords in blog-form?

If I am I'm not doing a good job if it because I've been reading reviews about movies for most of the day, so sorry about that people of the future.

Speaking of movies, the 80's certainly was an crazy time for movie monsters. It seemed like everywhere you looked, there was a hyper-aggressive killing machine right around the corner, just waiting to tear you to ribbons or lay eggs in your stomach. I've been contemplating 80's movie monsters for a while now. For some reason, everything from this era seems so blood-thirsty, so implacable. Why? Was it all the cocaine and voting for Reagan? Maybe the acid used to wash everyone's jeans drove them all mad.

In any case, it makes one wonder what would happen if you got all these 80's movie monsters together in one room. When they all inevitably fight to the death, who will be left standing? For today's simulation I have gathered what I consider to be the best examples of 80's movie monsters and pitted them in mortal combat. Before we start however, in order for this simulation to work we have to assume the Alien Versus Predator movies never happened, mainly because they were horrible.

With that, we start our voyage into the mist of time.

The year is 1986, the place: Los Angeles, California. The air is thick with smog. Men in white coats strut around without any socks. Jheri curls threaten to eat everyone's head and everything smells of hair spray. Suddenly, a bright blue light appears in a darkened alleyway. Huge bolts of lightning shoot out as a sphere of reflective energy forms in midair. A large Austrian man jumps out, the look of death boring it's way out of his steely, faintly glowing eyes.

Completely by coincidence, a spaceship flies overhead and drops a tall, dark figure on a nearby rooftop. With neither Daniel Glover nor Gary Busey anywhere to be found, this interstellar entity, this...Predator quietly makes it's assessment of the city and spots it's prey: the strange naked man babbling about some "Sarah Connor".


At first, it looks like the Predator has the clear upper hand; there's no end to the silly weapons he has at his disposal. He has a razor sharp frisbee, ninja stars, those crazy wrist blades and if that picture is anything to go by some kind of...blow dryer on his shoulder?

Okay, it actually shoots molten hot plasma, but I'm sure there's a lower setting. He has to take care of that tentacle-hair somehow. Meanwhile, the Terminator has...nothing. One of the stipulations of Terminator-style time travel is that you can't bring anything back in time unless it's covered in meat. Why inorganic matter can't go back in time, I'm not really sure why. But in any case this leaves our potential Governator defenseless until he finds a bumbling gun store owner to hand over all his weapons.

So it leaves the question, can our robot from the future find some clothes, some boots and a motorcycle before his head is sliced off by an alien in fishnets? We're going to assume it can, so now we have a heavily armed Terminator with all kinds of shotguns and sub-machine guns hidden in it's coat and some very suspicious LA citizens wondering what's going on.

Suddenly, the Predator leaps down from a nearby rooftop and pins Arnold to the ground. There's a loud metallic clang as his long, serrated wrist blades shoot outward and are plunged into the Terminator's chest. Blood starts oozing out. As far as the Predator's concerned, it's real. Everything about this poor sap looks like a real person. Our interstellar hunter, thinking himself victorious, starts thinking of a handsome place on it's space-mantlepiece for it's skull.

But something's not right, this is generating too much heat to be a normal person and in spite of having two huge hunks of metal sticking out of it's chest it isn't dead.

Suddenly a strange noise, like heavy-duty hydraulics muffled by layers of synthetic flesh fills the air as the Predator is grabbed by the neck and hoisted into a nearby shop window. Struggling to get up after falling on a store mannequin, it feels the strong grip of robotic hands pull it up again, trying to crush it's neck.

It meets the cold, impassive gaze of the Terminator. A faint red glow spills out from it's eyes, so intent on killing it. The Predator uses it's blow dryer gun to get free from the mechanical death grip. Still in the store it was hurtled through, it opens fire. Beams of hot plasma burst through the air, setting the entire building on fire. In the confusion, the Predator leaps outside and starts doing a little victory dance.

The smell of burning nylon is oppressive, and shrapnel from exploding hairspray cans fly though the air. But it seems that this mysterious serial killer from the future is finally dead.

But then this happens.

The Predator is stunned, it's mandibles hang wide open as it sees this robot skeleton-thing walk out of the fire, virtually unscathed.

"You're terminated." It says at it lifts it's gun to fire.

The Predator escapes using it's cloaking device, but it's still hit in the hail of gunfire, leaving a trail of luminous green blood as it flees into the streets of LA. It's already too late. It's the first rule of combat: if it bleeds, you can kill it. The chase is long and bloody, hundreds of innocent civilians die as these two otherworldly titans of war grind each other down, but at the end of the day, there lies the Predator: dying, gasping for breath. It's weapons lie smashed by it's side. Over it looms the impassive shape of the dented and scorched death-robot. As it raises it's metal leg to smash in it's skull it tries to dial in the code for it's self-destruct device. But it's too little too late.

The point goes to the Terminator!


Los Angeles lies in ruin. As day turns to night, huge fires burn on the horizon. Riots start to break out. Just when things couldn't get any worse, Micheal Douglas appears and starts a vindictive rampage across the city, taking his revenge on lunch hour cheeseburgers everywhere. Worse yet, the Terminator is still out there and it wants everyone's blood. It cuts a swath of destruction across the city, it seems like nothing can stop it's death march.

But suddenly the killbot stops in it's tracks. Still holding a baby in it's cold, unfeeling robot hands it stares off into space. Little does the world know that something is interfering with it's transmissions from the future, something sinister, a machine intelligence that rivals Skynet for sheer depravity and malevolence.

"H-h-h-h-hey th-th-th-there Mr. Coffee." The voice says after it hacks into the Terminator's brain.

With no warning, Max Headroom assumes direct control of the Terminator and starts his own war against Humanity.

"C-c-catch the wave!" He says as he unleashes a barrage of missiles, destroying a Pepsi truck. It seems all is lost. Without any space-Jamaicans to defend them, the nations of the world are powerless against the machine armies of the future. It seems like the only thing that could destroy this silvery war machine is another machine, equal in destructive power, but still able to feel Human emotion. What they need is something with, dare we say, a soul.

RoboCop might stretch your definition of a monster, but the details of his creation are gruesome enough so I'll allow it. In any case, he confronted the smashed, barely functioning Terminator. Recognizing similarities in their technology, Max Headroom offered an alliance. But RoboCop wasn't having any of it. He broke the law, killing innocent civilians, thus he needed to be brought to justice.

"Dead or alive, you're coming with me." He said.

The Headroominator lunged forward and tried to claw at RoboCop's face. But he punched it with his Robofist, sending the already damaged machine falling backwards into the street.

"You have the right to remain silent." He said as he picked up the crumpled remains of the death machine. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." With the combined force of all his actuators, he threw the robot through a brick wall.

"You have the right to an attorney." RoboCop picked the Terminator up again and started crushing it in his palms.

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you." He said as he threw the robot through another wall. The remains were in a crumbled heap outside, completely devoid of life.

"Do you understand these rights I have just read to you?"


RoboCop is left standing in the middle of the street, his job basically done. But suddenly his sensors detect something. There's a rustling behind some old trash cans. Then he realizes it: a set of teeth, sparkling under the street lights. With a hiss, they separate into a big, toothy grin, only to reveal even more teeth.

A huge black shape lunge out from the darkness. A black, smooth body with a long sinewy tail ending in a long blade. He throws the creature to the side and draws his gun to fire. He stands his ground, trying to read some expression on it's eyeless face.

But the only thing it registers is an otherworldly hunger.

"Your move, creep." He says.

The alien lunges at him and starts tearing at his metallic armor. RoboCop fires into it's elongated head, spraying it's sickly yellow blood all over the alley. As he struggles with the angry creature he realizes with horror that small streams of smoke are erupting from his chest. He's melting.

His leg joints give way and he falls to the ground. The alien is standing over him, thick saliva drips from it's mouths. It's tail is poised to run through his head. RoboCop's vision starts to fade, the last thing he sees are teeth. Dozens of teeth rushing towards his face.


Los Angeles is going up in flames as the night drags on. More and more Terminators pour in through the gap in space time. Dreadlock bedecked space aliens drop from the skies in ever greater numbers, turning the city in their own personal game preserve. Now, slavering, inhuman monsters are on the loose, looking to turn unsuspecting Humans into an incubator for their disgusting larvae. It seems no one can saved the Earth from it's inevitable destruction.

But one angsty teenager challenges this fate. She wants revenge, because in the midst of this horrible crisis a crime has been committed. These aliens and enemies from the future are guilty of forgetting her sixteenth birthday.

Molly Ringwald: Alien Slayer. With the M41A Pulse Rifle she plundered from the future, she guns down the alien that killed RoboCop. Then, she goes to the prom, but only because there's more aliens to kill.


Molly arrives at the prom. "Big surprise." She thinks. Everyone here is already dead, even Brad the linebacker. In life, he was the most gorgeous boy on the team. She never had the courage to speak to him, even when she saw him staring at her from his locker. Now, he was laying on the ground, cold and lifeless. The sparkle in his eyes had left, replaced with a dead, uncanny stare. His rip cage was torn open from the inside out. A trail of blood drew from his body to the front exit. Whatever tore itself from his chest, some kind of chestburster, was running through the streets, looking for more victims.

The only sound came from the skipping record on the turn table, playing the same chorus over and over.

Forever young, I want to be, forever young...

The banners are all torn. The punch bowl has been shattered, glass shards lying on the basketball court. Everyone was dead, except for a single figure. Silently hunched over, looking forlornly at the desolation. Cautiously, Molly approached the figure. As she got closer, she could here a faint chirping coming from it's fleshy mandibles. Up close, she could see the slimy texture of it's sickly, pale skin.

"Youth is a precious thing." It said in a rasping voice. It was grasping a girls arm in it's long talons. Molly had no idea where the rest of the girl was. "I'm sorry this happened."

"This is your fault?" She said.

"No, but I was working on a technology similar to what Skynet is using. I made a turned me into this..."

The creature motioned to it's hairy, misshapen body. She looked into it's black inhuman eyes, watching her own reflection as it stared at her.

"My name is Seth Brundle." It said. "I was once a man."

"What...what happened to you?"

"It was an accident. But when I tested my teleportation pod for the first time a fly was in the test chamber. When I preformed the experiment, our genes were spliced. Over time I turned into...this." The BrundleFly sighed. "That's chaos theory..."

Molly's head was spinning. In just a single day her whole world had turned upside down. So many thoughts were racing through her head. Skynet. Teleportation. Even, time travel? That wasn't possible, was it? To think, just this morning the worst thing she thought could happen was her parents forgetting her birthday. Now here she was, maybe the last girl in the continental United States and she was talking to a mutant fly.

This really is the worst day of my life
, She thought.

"I don't get it, why all this? Why now?"

"This world has been chosen as a battleground." The BrundleFly said. "See, we're not the only Universe out there. There's infinitely many alternate realities, where every choice has been made. For every choice you make in your life, reality splits. The Universe is constantly splitting into more and more convergent realities. Infinitely many!"

The BrundleFly motioned to a glass of punch with it's long talons.

"See how the liquid drips down the side of the glass? Because of microscopic imperfections in the glass, the droplets will never follow the same path twice. In our Universe, it drips to the left, but in another, it drips to the right."

"That's chaos theory?" Molly said. The BrundleFly shook it's head.

For a while, they both sat in the gym, watching the glass. The two last sane beings on a dying Earth.

"It's only fair to warn you," The Fly said after a long silence. "This isn't the worst to come."

"What could be worse than, like, robot skeletons?"

"There are things from even worse planes of existence. They're converging on this Universe. When they come, these...things, then that's it. Checkmate."


Los Angeles was in ruins. All the buildings were burnt to the ground, roving bands of Terminators weave their way through the streets.

A saucer loomed over over the city, scanning the destruction below. A cruel intellect sits at the helm. A mind so utterly alien and without compassion it defies Human conventions. It is an entity completely without sense of pity. It lives to assimilate all life, turning the Universe into more of itself. Worse yet, there is no way to stop it. Every single cell of it's being is totally devoted to complete intergalactic conquest. As long as a single particle of it survives, we are all at jeopardy. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are it. It is an entity of such manifold depravity that words fail to describe it. There is no name that it can answer to.

We can only call it The Thing.

As it descends to Earth, everyone lowers their weapons. They know the war is over; some flee, others choose to self-destruct. The Triffid legions wither and die at the sight of it. The Terminators shut down, seeing any further resistance to be illogical. Those that still fight are slowly picked off, one by one, and absorbed. No one knows who to fight, because the Thing hides in perfect imitations. It seems life, after so much blood shed and so much war, has finally come to an end.

But suddenly, there's a flash of light in the distance. The Things disregard it as an errant bolt of plasma.

Then another.

With a thunderous crash, a bright, silvery vehicle appears out of the time vortex. A car; tires sputtering as they land on solid ground, trailing huge streams of fire as they screech to a halt. A series of loud beeps signal it's arrival: the time machine.

With steely conviction, the Things across the world prepare themselves for whatever is inside. As the gull wing doors open a cloud of steam pours out. Millions of teeth, tentacles, claws and plasma guns all wait, poised to rip and tear. As the smoke clears the time traveler is revealed and the Thing recoils in horror.

With a single word, the time traveler announces it's arrival...





Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tripod Terrors

Right, it's time to get back to business.

Specifically the business of giant walking death-engines. See, there's been plenty of depictions of the Martian fighting-machines since The War of the Worlds was first published in 1898. That's plenty of time for hundreds, nay, thousands of designs to surface. But how do we go about picking the best one? Maybe there isn't any one design that we can consider the epitome of Martian war technology. But because this is a Wednesday and I have nothing else planned we're going to try and find one anyway.

Here's a good place to start. This is Henrique Alvim Corréa's interpretation for a 1906 edition of the novel, fighting the HMS Thunderchild. Or maybe it's a water tower, I'm not too sure.

Here's one that's always baffled me. Why is there only one heat ray for all those tripods? Did the others forget theirs on the trip from Mars? Why are they all gathered around to watch the one in front demolish some guy's house? Why do they have googly eyes!?

Frank R. Paul was the man back in the day. The sheer body of work he put out was staggering, practically a bottomless well of creativity. He did the illustrations for virtually all of Hugo Gernsback's publications in the 1920's and helped define the aesthetics of speculative fiction for years to come. So when The War of the Worlds was published in Amazing Stories in 1927, the task naturally fell on him to design the Martian war machines.

I like this design, the tentacles, the tiny head on top, the little basket for captured Earthlings, it's all good. But what's up with those legs? If I was invading an alien planet I think I'd want something better than those rigid pogo sticks. Look at the one in the background, it looks like it's about to topple over.

I'm going to call those legs a fashion faux pas. But the chrome makes up for it so I give this design four out of five heat rays.

It's true, you can't go wrong with that classic saucer shape and I like the transparent hood that reveals the mysterious inner workings of the fighting-machine. But I scorn these tripod's lack of tentacles. Seriously, what's up with those hands? They don't look like they're good for anything besides holding the heat ray. What if it drops it? War's over I guess?

Two heat rays out of five!

Ah yes, the 1953 version. These are a definite departure from the classic tripods, but a welcome one. These new fighting machines are sleek, stylish and just so sinisterly alien. My favorite part is the flexible death ray on top, like a snake hitching a ride on a giant manta ray.

"But Tyler!" I hear you bleating. "They're not tripoooooods!"

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but according to an early version of the script these fighting machines were held aloft by three beams of electrical energy, allowing it to eerily float across the landscape. You can even see where these beams were supposed to emit from on the underside of the machine.

So where are they? Well for a single scene near the beginning of the movie you can actually see those contact points sparking and making these ghostly electric arcs, but the props were so dangerous to work with that they decided to just ditch the idea for the rest of the movie. They were basically little tasers after all.

So the legs are still there, just invisible...and deadly. Five heat rays out of five!

What? Does it surprise you that they made a musical based on The War of the Worlds? Listen for yourself, it's real!

Yes, as hard as it is to believe there's actually a prog rock musical about Martians invading Earth. Apparently it's very popular in England. But it's easy to see why; their stage shows have actual life-sized tripods looming over the audience, shooting lasers and smoke. It's basically the entire book, but told in a groovy soundtrack, like something by Yes or Pink Floyd. The only problem is that it isn't in America!

Oh well, as for their tripod, it's very good. It has rigid, jointed legs like the Frank R. Paul versions, but these ones look like they can walk around with much greater mobility. Plus, those creepy compound eyes at the top are very unique and iconic to this design. All in all, it's a good, retro look. Thus, I give it four and a half heat rays out of five.

It would probably get a higher score if I ever got to see one of their shows in real life. Seriously, just look at that crazy thing.

2005 was a weird year, in that it saw three adaptations of The War of the Worlds released around the same time. The best known of course is the Speilberg version (Which we're getting to soon!) Then there were the other two movies which, statistically speaking, none of you have heard of.

This tripod was in the Pendragon Pictures version, a movie that was by all accounts a complete, dismal tragedy. Make no mistake, their hearts were in the right place, and their intentions were pure: the plan was to make a movie that was completely faithful to the original book. This meant that all the action takes place in Victorian England and focuses on the Martian invasion and all the calamity it entails.

They had it all, heat rays, black smoke and even the Martians were exactly like how they were described in the book. So what went wrong?

You can probably guess just by looking at the picture that the special effects were a The CGI was like something out of a video game from the 90's and all the tripods moved with this ridiculous looking, ungainly shuffling. They looked like they were hastily pasted over all the scenes they were in, so they didn't really walk around as they did an awkward animation, scooting around in the sky. Plus, all the acting was horrible and instead of filming night scenes at night they did them in broad daylight with a purple filter over the screen.

It was horrible. It was embarrassing. But they tried and that's what really matters. And I'm not being sarcastic. They did their best to capture the original spirit of The War of the Worlds, it's just that it got lost in translation, hidden by absurd special effects.

As for the tripods themselves; I like the bent, insect-like legs. The mirror-like heat ray at the top is very nice (and accurate!) and the chain-like tentacles are very cool. Over all, the greenish copper metal is a very good look. One get's the impression of a giant preying mantis, supposedly H.G. Wells' favorite insect. Just please, for the sake of their dignity, don't try to find videos of them in motion.

I give this design three out of five heat rays.

Then we have the other, other adaptation that came out in 2005. The universally loathed Asylum version. For those of you who don't know, The Asylum is an ultra-low budget film studio that does nothing but make awful, cheesy rip offs of more popular movies. Seriously, their entire business model is ripping off better movies and releasing something with a title just similar enough to confuse people but not infringe any copyrights. So thanks to them we have such gems as Snakes On A Train, Transmorphers, Sunday School Musical and of course this mess. I wish I was making this up.

As for their "tripods", they have six legs and resemble crabs more than anything. This in itself isn't bad. But the rest of the movie more than makes up for it. I award this version no heat rays, it gets a magnifying glass instead.

Here we are, the Spielberg version. Make no mistake, I still hate this movie, there's no doubt about that. But this adaptation has perfect tripods and around here, that counts for a lot.

Everything about these fighting machines is perfect. They're like giant cybernetic cuttlefishes. The distinction between machine and semi-organic alien is almost nonexistent. Everything about them is so futuristic and inhuman. Of all these tripods, these and the 1953 versions look the most like something an extraterrestrial species would make. Plus, their weapons are one of the only honest-to-goodness death rays I've seen in a recent movie.

And then of course, there's that sound. You know the one.

That's all for now, but remember: these represent a small fraction of the designs floating around out there. Fans all over the world have been making their own tripods since the turn of the century and they're worth a look at.

"Don't forget Striders! We have union contracts!"