Odd Ink – Kaalink

We have markers that can blend colors perfectly, and pens that can accurately copy colors from objects in our surroundings. But what if there was some way that we could have an infinite supply of ink and help the environment? Sounds strange and impossible, right? As it turns out, there’s a solution for this.

As odd as it sounds, a company in India (similar to MIT) is proposing this product as a solution to air pollution problems in Asia. What is the proposed solution though? Turning vehicle exhaust into ink. It’s unique and raises a lot of questions, but our knowledge of the product is currently very limited. What we do know, however, is that it involves what they call a “Kaalink“. The Kaalink is attached to the end of the exhaust pipe, and the device then filters and captures unburned carbon emitted from engine combustion.

 

According to the tests performed thus far, the Kaalink device is able to capture up to 93% of pollution emitted from standard internal combustion engines. That leaves only 7% for planet Earth to deal with! What about the ink itself? How long does it take to get at least an ounce? Here’s where how much you drive will come into play. It takes about 45 minutes of filtration for a single ounce of ink to be produced. So if you’re only driving around town it’s pretty likely you might not get that ounce for a while depending how long you actually have your car running when out and about.

How exactly these captured carbon emissions are processed is under wraps, but it is reported that the captured carbon comes out as high-quality printing ink that can be sold in both the consumer and industrial markets.

Currently the Kaalink devices must be individually, and manually, installed by the vehicle’s driver. Once the device is full, it can then be traded in at the lab in India. It also typically can collect carbon for up to about two weeks before it needs to be swapped out. Again, it would have to be taken back to the labs in India, thus making the availability and convenience rather… restricted. In order to be truly effective, the device also needs to be scaled up to a more significant size as well as become more supported and available in more areas.

Regardless, the idea is still quite valuable.

For further info: http://www.livescience.com/57802-device-turns-air-pollution-into-printing-ink.html

Antsy Lab – The Fidget Cube

Fidgeting is oftentimes seen as something bad. Something that you need to try not to do  in certain situations. But should it? Fidgeting is something natural that people do, and while it can perhaps be found annoying depending on what people do when they fidget, it can help those people focus, think, and help with anxiety. So, what if there was a good, ‘less distracting’ or ‘obnoxious’ way to fidget?

Well, it just so happens that Antsy Labs was able to get enough kickstarted backers to launch their project known as “The Fidget Cube”. What is the fidget cube? It’s fairly simple, nothing super high-tech. Just a regular six sided cube, but with some added features for your fidgeting needs. Each side has a different kind of interaction available. The cube’s different sides are: click, glide, flip, breathe, roll, and spin. The ‘click’ side features 5 buttons, three of which make a clicking noise when you press them, and two that you can press without making noise. ‘Glide’ has a small glider similar to a joystick on a gaming remote that you can move around, while ‘flip’ features a toggle switch and  ‘breathe’ has an indented impression for you to rub. ‘Roll’ features 3 little gears to spin, along with a ball for you to roll that also has a click feature. The last side also features another indented item to fiddle with.

As someone who can sometimes have a short attention span, trouble focusing, and can struggle with anxiety, I think that this is a pretty brilliant idea despite the simplicity of it. With each side containing something different, it provides multiple options so that you’re not limited to one option such as loudly clicking your pen, resulting in the annoyance of your neighbours, or twiddling your thumbs.

Aside from the interactive features, it also has options for a variety of colors so that you get a a fidget cube that not only helps you with your fidgeting, but is also visually appealing to you as well. The color schemes they provide on their site are: Dice (white with black), Graphite (a soft grey with black), Midnight (pure black), Aqua (white with light blue), Sunset (white with orange), Berry (white with kind of a magenta color), Fresh (white and a light green), and Retro (a mix of different grey-ish blue tones and black).

Pricing and colors can be found here: https://www.antsylabs.com/products/fidget-cube?variant=30253661068

The Art of Oxenfree

As a gamer, and designer, one of the things that catches my eye and draws my attention to a game is the style in which it is done. Now, just because a game has an appealing art style doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that matters. The story matters too! However, there are games in which the style of the rendering(s)/art helps portray the mood and feel of the game as you play. “Oxenfree”, a recently released single player supernatural adventure game developed by Night School Studio, is a great example of such instances.

Starting out as a simple, innocent trip to an island with friends, Alex (the main character) and her friends soon get more than what they bargained for. After tuning into a strange radio frequency inside a cave, everybody gets split up and things evolve from there. With strange occurrences such as on-screen glitch effects, to time loops, and weird visions, your stay on the island becomes less fun and more… foreboding. The style of the game (both artistically and musically) doesn’t give you much respite either. 

The art style is hard to describe, and it is quite pretty. But when looking at the in-game scenery, I can’t help but wonder what will go wrong. It’s an interesting mix of 3D rendered characters (stylized in a way that reminds me a little bit of Playdead’s “Inside”), and layered 2 dimensional art with unique textures to create depth and an uneasy sort of ambiance. When watching online play-throughs, or simply looking at the art itself, it’s easy for me to see that the developer knows exactly what they are doing. It’s not all nail biting and uneasiness though. There’s nice moments. Little snapshots where nothing is wrong and they are all having a good time, enjoying each-other’s company and not having a care in the world. These snapshots step away from the 3D render stylization, and into 2D territory in a way that perfectly fits with the rest of the game’s art style. Oxenfree is incredibly unique through and through, and has already inspired quite a bit of fan-made art for having released so recently. Personally I find such unique stylization in a video game today incredibly refreshing.

 

For more information, and a better insight into the game, you can follow this link: http://nightschoolstudio.com/oxenfree/

Or for a look at the music within “Oxenfree”, you can go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgjEymUAgaQ&list=PLzC-9vfwuEe7anLjq_NM2sjb1Gg_WVfo0

A Fresh Palette

There’s a lot of colors in the world and, as designers/developers, we work with them quite a bit. But it can sometimes be hard to find a color palette that looks appealing. Or sometimes we want something new but don’t really know what to look for. Well, there’s a blog for that! I happened to stumble across it quite by accident while browsing the dangerous jungle known as “tumblr”, and I believe that it can be a valuable resource not just for me, but for all of you as well.

“Color Me Curious” is a blog on tumblr that is solely devoted to posting various color palettes for anyone to use if they so wish. The blog accepts submissions, so anybody around the world can submit a color palette that appeals to them and feels like sharing. Not only does each post contain a sample image for each color, but the hexadecimal values are stated in the text portion of the post as well. With so many people and so many different views, there are endless, very different palettes to choose from. So you’ll never run out of colors to experiment with and create fresh designs.

Do you need a palette related to a specific color? Again, no worries! Aside from providing an image paired with the color code values, the posts also get tagged by specific colors as well depending on what the focus color is. So, if you need a palette that focusses on red, simply got to the blog’s search bar and type ‘red’ and you will be provided with all of the posts related to that color. Perhaps simply browsing through some of the palettes will give you the inspiration you need to get creating? Or maybe you will find a color that works just right with a character or design you’ve been doodling. The below images are some examples of palettes you may find.

The blog also encourages you to tag the art you make with the hashtag “colourpod” so they can see what you make with the palettes you use. This is not a requirement by any means, just a simple way to share your art with the blog if you feel like it by making it easy to find!

If you would like to make use of this resource, simply follow this link: http://www.colourpod.com/

You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

R.E : Biohazard – A Fresh Perspective

*Possible spoilers below!*

Capcom’s “Resident Evil : Biohazard” just dropped, and already it’s clear that it has not only gone back closer to it’s roots, but also does a much better job of building atmosphere, keeping people on edge and hyped up, as well as provides a fresh perspective in a variety of ways. We quite literally are provided with a new perspective in the franchise with the game utilizing a first person view, much like “Outlast”.

As I started following the story, it was quite apparent that Capcom is using this view to it’s full potential. They aren’t afraid to get up in your face (literally), showing off their extremely detailed renderings, and making you just a little uncomfortable with how close the tip of that knife appears to be in relation to your face. From small items and blurred view for when something is too close to your face, to characters and whole environments, realism is ever-present as a focus. Now, of course how good the game looks also depends on whatever system you are using and it’s capabilities, so that experience is of course going to differ based on that as well. But for the platforms that can handle it? It’s impeccable. If you look closely, you can see minor details such as the tiny hairs on the character’s hands and arms.

 

So, how did they accomplish this? Well, Capcom used a photogrammerty technique to tackle the development. If you are unclear about what photogrammerty is, it is essentially a facial capture technique. All 3D models, at least character wise as far as I have found, were built using the following process:

  • 3D-scan, processed with Agisoft Photoscan
  • Cleaned up, retopologized, and detailed in zBrush
  • Hair created with Ornatrix for 3DSMax
  • Rendered in Octane Render

In order to capture facial motions, they used a special headset to which allowed them to capture expressions without having to use markers. To see some more character models, or to see a demonstration of Photogrammerty, you can follow this link: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/6eXV0 .

With believable detail and depth, this new take on the series is an exciting story to follow as it ensures that you are not sitting comfortably for very long. Whether it’s a plethora of spiders jumping at you, a cockroach crawling over your hand, or a “Saw” like problem you need to solve to escape, Biohazard perfectly fits the horror genre.

DLC – The Good & The Bad

 

It is rare nowadays to find games that are fully released and do not need DLC. Now, as a gamer myself, I do not think that DLC is necessarily bad. However, there’s a right and wrong way to go about additional downloadable content for games.

Halo”, “Dragon Age”, “Mass Effect”… all of these could be considered good examples of the correct approach of DLC. You have the whole story when you first purchase the games, and the DLC only consists of content that are simply extra tidbits (ie: extra maps you can use in custom games, small side-stories, etc).  Even Capcom’s “Dragon’s Dogma”, though I feel the DLC could have been implemented a bit differently, tackled the concept of DLC in a way that makes sense. The game had a complete, fulfilling story all on it’s own, ending on a cliffhanger as a perfect set-up for an all new game. The “Bitterblack Isle” DLC they implemented, which is admittedly a bit different than a map package for “Halo” considering it’s vastness, acted like a sequel to the game. The DLC added a large amount of primary story to add onto the story of the main game, as well as a side-story on a whole new and unique area, a plethora of new items and quests, and even fixes that enhanced certain features.

The incorrect approach is best represented by the ever infamous “Destiny“, created by Bungie in partnership with Activision. Following the game’s development since the beginning, what was expected was pretty incredible and held a lot of promise. But what released, if we are to use the “hamburger metaphor”, may as well have only been the bottom part of the bun. A vast majority of the story was cut out, only to be sold later on as DLC with a vast majority of said DLC taking place in the same locations you have already been to time and time again. The DLCs were admittedly getting better, with the first having been very dry and only containing a few missions. But there’s still a sense of being cheated. To make matters worse, the newest DLC is only for new generation consoles despite the game being for both generations.

It can be good for business, but DLC should enhance the game. Not /be/ the game. And it needs to be done properly.

Thoughts? Do you think the “empty hamburger” trend for games will continue?