Wednesday 25 June 2014

Hunting the Mimics

I got interested in the Mimics from Edge of Tomorrow because the moved in a way unlike anything I had seen before on film and begause they had a really good design, the endlessly-screaming 'faces' burning with some strange inner fire were especially good.

They remind me a lot of the Sentinal face rom X Men comics. Probably the only time tha pink has been scary.

The first stop is this interview with Bill Desowitz asking questions of Dan Kramer.

Desowittz has his own interesting site under the link.

This is the best interview from my point of view as it talks about how the thing was actually done. I will try and quote to a minimal extent so I don't rob his pageviews.

As Sony saw concept artwork, the Mimics got darker and darker and it occurred to Kramer that the material they were leaning toward was obsidian

"We built all these sharp, angular segments and shaded them to look like obsidian; we also mixed in the color amber toward the body to make it look softer and less dangerous. The ends of the limbs were slashing weapons. There's no deforming of geometry going on in the limbs: it's deforming spine with rigidly placed segments of obsidian down the line, so it's almost like a rope of crystal segments bound together. In that way, it could use them as weapons."

There is actually a minor design controversy about this interview, and by minor, I mean there is one comment by Cody Childress and it disagrees with the origin of the CAD programme used to make the mimic in an interesting way.

From there we move to Estaban Diacono.

The originating point for the Mimics seems to be when the Director Doug Liman saw this video by Esteban Diacono. As you can read in the above interview it seems to have been the effect of aggressive mathematics and lack of conservation of mass.

(Which you can't embed in blogger either because googlyoutube denies it or because Vimeo is too snotty to allow it but take a look.)

This was part of a collaberative project, you can find more details in the link.

You can tell Esteban is cool becasue there is a picture on his tumblr of him on a Y shaped electric scooter, in which he still manages to look very suave. Thereby demonstrating the contempt of the wise for the fears and troubles of lesser men. 

(And who turns up in the comments? Cody Childress, my dark shadow.)

From there we go to the blog of Kev Jenkins, who talks about his involvement here.

Nick Davis was the visual effects supervisor. He mentions 'Ivan' who 'did some incredible clay sculpts'

I think Ivan is Ivan Manzella.

I have not got any closer to finding the origin of the alien face, I suspect Jenkins as he worked on Thor 2 and they remind me of the masks. Probably Codly Childress is there ahead of me like Belloq.

Friday 20 June 2014

Paetron False Machine

I have been considering doing a Paetron for False Machine and this is an attempt to work through in my head how I would do that and ask what you would think.

So what would I do if people were paying me to do it? It wouldn't be enough to just run the blog. It would have to be about something. Not exactly a Job, but an effort directed towards some outside goal.

It would have to renew month-by-month as the amount of effort I could put in would vary considerably if, for instance, I got a job.

Essentially I  would try to find out about form. That's what I'm most interested in at the moment.

I would start with sculpture and mini's and work out from there.

The more money I get the more forcefully I would pursue it, partly because the money allows me to, but also because of the moral weight and spurring effects of guilt. Despite the fact that I fucking hate Thomas Hobbes with a passion my internal world is quite Hobbsian. There is only fear and the absence of fear and if someone pays me actual money to do something then I can’t fuck about on it.

In between doing that I would probably fill up the spaces of the blog with my usual rambling about whatever I am interested with like I do now. If I read a book and it's any good I wold try to do a proper review or something rather than just dropping quotes. (The problem with really big, dense, good books is they have too much interesting stuff in them to do a ‘light’ review and have it be anything other than a pastiche. If you do a two page review of ‘Democracy in America’ you may as well just have kept your mouth shut and given it five stars, because you won’t have anything meaningful to say about it in that space.)

If I do a bunch of interviews I will probably put them together in a book. (I would do this at no profit of course, it wouldn't feel right taking money for someone elses words.)

I would be kind of like a reporter, but a reporter dedicated towards a general theme or self-assigned subject. Like a shit version of Bldblog.

Right now, at this moment, my interest in gaming & D&D is at an ebb. This  might be for a number of reasons.

- Lots of already-made stuff clogged in the out-pipe and its turning toxic.
- Summer depression coming up. (Expect this one to be a bit worse than usual.)
- Just changing as a person maybe?

It would have to be done on no money so only with:
- Email interviews.
- Stuff I can read online.
- Stuff I can access in Liverpool.

that's limiting.

Also. What people really want from this blog is basically funny stories and random tables, the stuff about art they don't care about as much.



This is the main theme to which everything else connects. Its the theme of making shapes out of things.

This is like the stuff you have already seen. Mini sculptors and designers are prolific, accessible, inventive and use a wide range of design processes and  production techniques. There is a dearth of interviews and analysis not of the mini's themselves, but of the design of the mini's.

Essentially: people look at real buildings from the bottom up. They look at model buildings from the top down. Although one is meant to simulate the other . They are in fact utterly different things and not many people seem to talk about this.

One part of this is wargame buildings needing bold rooftops profiles more than  useful doorways. Another is real building being roof-dominant in real life because everything is planned by and sold by a process in which a group of people look down onto a tiny building. What does it matter if a building had a cool roof that looks good? Answer: it doesn't that much. Get the doors right, get the gutters right. That’s what people will see. What does it matter what a building looks like in the bright source-less light of a computer simulation? Answer: it doesn't. In the UK the majority of its real existence will have the same building in slow dawns, long dusks, grey skies, light rain, pale endlessly modulating light. Design for that. Design for gloom.

I am not sure what I would write about this. There is a fair amount of it about in Liverpool at least. The first thing I have noticed is that equality seems to be quite bad for monumental sculpture. As you go back in time the sculptures in Liverpool;

A. Get bigger.
B. Become more personal ie more related to a particular person or action.
C. Are better.

Example- one of the oldest in Liverpool’s monumental district is the big fucking tower for Wellington. It's huge. It’s about one guy. it has a list of where he was at particular times. The most recent is a monument to "all victims of Oppression". Its a bit of slate with the above words cut it. That's it.

Groups of people designing things for companies. Not much work done on the aesthetics of this. Or the theory (I am sure you will let me know in comments if/how I am wrong about that.)

Privateer, GW and..  the others. Always more you can find out about these guys. Especially shifts in production techniques and the use of moulds. Design processes. A big interest I have is how shifts in materials and production change models and alter for the structure of imaginary worlds. (ie the 40k universe in the 90's was a more confident place because to run the pewter through a mould it has to act like a river, its easier to cast longitudinal sections 'across' the line of the mould instead of 'into' it so that leads to a lot of mini's standing like disco dancers with a weapon held in each splayed  arm, weapons and arms all on the same axis.)

The people who make aliens and masks are another example of people who do a LOT of creative work at an intensive level but it isn’t considered 'art' because blah blah blah.

The Stan Winston Workshop. The 'mimic's from edge of tomorrow, the masks from Thor 2 etc.

There is auteur theory which is about how one clever bastard forces a bunch of drones to obey his vision, but there is no gestalt theory about how someone infects a bunch of competent specialists with an idea and then they slowly accrue details and inventions, the thing becoming a powerful cohesive whole while being passed back and worth through the hands of many individuals, which seems to be how good things are produced in companies. So I suppose I would invent that theory and find out how it worked, though that would probably be the longest and hardest of these things to actually do to a reasonable level.

I have written a little about the use of constraints in creation before but, if I did look carefully at processes across a wide range of creators, I would probably/maybe be able to work out if there are patterns shared between interesting people.


This is the hot new sauce in terms of production. There are probably a shitload of people already writing about this all over the internet. I don't know how many of them are looking deeply into the art aspect. In terms of mini's 3d printing lets you do some interesting stuff that challenges convention. You can print stuff like linked chains or forms within forms. You can link the purchaser directly to the design process and give them exactly what they need exactly when they want it.

Will that make Mini's better? I have a feeling de Tocqueville would say 'non'. A bunch of nerds getting what they want will produce boring mealy shit. But maybe you are wrong Alexis!

I did have the idea that good designers could produce 'shape libararies’ so if, for instance you want something designed with the feel of Jess Goodwin or Naum Gabo then you just go to the Gabo library and build you thing out of the shapes and forms you see there. So you get an original thing but it has the 'feel' of a particular creator.

And licensing pure shapes and lines is something copyright has never had to deal with before. can I build a library of Henry Moore volumes and lines and sell access? can I build a Barbra Hepworth tool for my CAD program that won't let me draw a line she wouldn't draw and them build things with it?

This comes from the Grossman interview. Right towards the end she mentions that almost every made thing around us is the result of the Mould. I looked into industrial production methods and she's basically right. To make something you either get a solid thing ad cut it to the right shape, or you make it liquid or soft and use a mould. Which means every created thing carries inside it the logic of gravity and fluids in certain states. Everything plastic glass or metal was once a fluid.

3d printing threatens to change that for the first time. It builds objects with complex internal structures, not as constructions, but as basic elements. Of all the changes printing objects will bring I think this is the most important and also the most difficult to see and understand. How do you even see the hidden unifying logic in everyday objects? How can you think about what happens when that changes?

Also I had the idea you could 3D print food and the makeup of it is usually granular like the base used for metals. Grain and rice and sugar and flour and whatever are just particles. Not sure what you could do with that? Pre-assembled complex foods? Foods with highly complex internal forms?

I don't really know anything about this yet. The reason I started thinking about it was that I had the idea that fashion and naturalistic sculpture are kind of like strange relatives. They are both concerned with form and with shape. Sculpture creates or builds the shape out of space and material. Fashion starts with the assumption of form, then alters or interprets it with a soft and flowing surface. Fashion is like liquid sculpture.

Not sure what I would do here. Invent alien bodies then try to find out how they would dress and how the imaginary movement and shape of them would affect what they wear in the hope it would reveal unknown truths?


What do you think? Would this be a good idea? Is it something you, or anyone, would want to see?

If anyone has used paetron, does it work? What should I ask payments for? Per post? Per week? Per month?

Is this a crazy or stupid idea?

Thursday 19 June 2014

Star Trek Nebulae Investigators.

A while ago in a conversation about somethingorother..I think it was about Robots, giant robots, and the female form. And it’s hard to make a super-powerful heroic female form without sexualising it a bit because female characteristics are (generally) also sexual characteristics and if you emphasise or enhance them then you are also sexualising them, or at the very least 'allowing' them to be sexy.

Oh yeah, can you have social novel/space opera fiction?
other things I was thinking

The Mutari Nebulae, where, as you know, shields will be useless. And you can't see each other very well. Space ships instead of acting like Sea Ships from the sail instead act a bit like submarines from Red October.

Space Captain Jenny Hammer

A Star Trek ship patrolling a gigantic Nebulae would have to act in a very different way, and, in fact its morality would be quite different because Starfleet morality is built around having big white ships that are hard to kill in one go. They have shields. Like a Knights morality is different to a peasants morality because the Knight is armoured to fuck and their life is actually worth money.

The Nebulae would be alive and would be socially connected, a pantheon of mutual alien minds. These connections would be changing always and must be investigated. Worlds and systems would be hidden in the Nebulae and be revealed for strange purposes. The 'geography’ of space in this area would be mutable, the product of a vast interstellar soap opera running parallel to the main plot, but only occasionally glimpsed. The relationship with space would be social as well as dynamic.

The living clouds of the Nebulae have different origins

1. Vanahan.
An intelligent sun gone supernova, its spirit inhabiting the cloud of atomised gas it has become.

2. Tochzal.
A post-singularity star system consumed by nanotech and reduced to intelligent dust.

3. Ercongotha.
Motes of Pure consciousness drifting through from some higher plane* (thanks Phillip Pullman)

4. Summerdust.
Crystallised time from the edges of a disappeared black hole.

5. Uenongo.
A colony of vaguely-psychic spores that drift through space and start life on dead worlds when they hit one.

6. Chanognaegn.
A blizzard of apocalyptic alternate realities, each tied into a dimensional knot inside the planck length. When an alternate universe dies, a new mote appears.

7. Ochaar.
The still-active micro-defence systems and ashy remains of a fleet of Rama-Sized world-ships that were annihilated in a long forgotten war. The micro-guards heard the flecks of dead ash like sheep, protecting it still.

8. Sessurea.
A cloud of tiny micro-cameras forming a trans-galactic telescope designed to spy in detail on the evolution of an ancient galaxy for an unknown observer.

9. Adat.
The body of a celestially-primordial star-god, hiding and sleeping in a dispersed stasis, waiting to be awakened and congeal once more into its active form.

10. Cu na Cuailgne.
Heavily radioactive gold. Poisonous and transformed by some unknown force. Impossible to recover. Holding ultradense  predators from the bellies of gas giants. Like a thick poisonous sea.

* Motes of Pure Consciousness is obviously NOTHING LIKE having a Magic Man outside Space and Time, that would be irrational. Whereas  special dust that makes you aware is completely reasonable.

Sunday 15 June 2014

My Girlfriend Doesnt Know Anything About Star Trek

Girlfriend - "What if there was going to be a new Star Trek, new Capin' new girl in mini skirt, new redshirts, everything, all of them. Who would you cast.?"

Me - "I don't want to think about that."

Captain Jenny Hammer

Karen Gillan is CAPTAIN JENNY HAMMER, a fresh promotion who no-one entirely trusts but it turns out that the crucible of firey combat transforms her into a Brilliant but Dangerous radical who can Think Round Corners but everyone is afraid may Go To Far. During tevery episode it always looks like she is going to lose then at the end it turns out she was Always One Step Ahead.

Commander Manu Coils
Dylan McDermott is FIRST OFFICER MANU COILS, one of a series of rapidly-grown clones who are super intelligent and can solve any problem but also intevitably betray everbody. The crew decides to decant and him and the series follows him for a while as everyone wonders 'will he be evil?' it looks like he won't and maybe this one will be good, but then at the end turns out he will. But Jenny Hammer has Thought Ahead and Takes Him Out even though it Kills her To Do It becaue are they Really So Different? Then next episode something terrible Threatens The Ship and they need to decant another one.

Doctor Pug Tyler

 Peter Dinklige is DOCTOR PUG TYLER, the doctor from a planet where everyone is SWAG as fuck. He is SWAG but also gets drunk on alien wine. He is a Xenoalcohilic with Sometimes Hilarious Results but also there is also Tragedy and Addiction.

Quin Books

Jason Momoa is QUIN 'FEAR ITSELF' BOOKS, the last member of a race plagued with DEADLY NANITES. He is safe on the ship but if he enters a planets ecosphere he turns evil and DEADLY NANITES try to take over the world. But he is a chill guy who likes art. People don't respect him becasue he is a bit of a hippy but then maybe he understands them More Than They Know so he is always there to offer Emotional Support. He has sexual tension with Captain Hammer but they can never bone becasue he is full of DEADLY NANITES. In one episode everyone is trapped on the Doom Planet and only Quin Books is left to save them, what will he do?

Ensign Boomer Dogs

 Duan De Haun is BOOMER DOGS, the Cryptic Helmsman who is Spiritual but also a Zen Hotshot. He sees alien ghosts but Tells No-One becasue they would Think Him Mad. At the end of the first season it turns out that the ghosts are really the ghosts of the crew from the future and they are trying to Warn Him Of Disaster. Which he Averts At The Last Moment. Next season he starts seeing even stranger things.

Jade Condition

Natalie Dormer can be JADE CONDITION, the Sexy but Dangerous security officer with a reputation for the Preemptive Response and maybe is a Closet Facist. in the evil mirror universe she is the Captain of the evil version of the ship. Everything is painted black there and people wear a lot of PVC. She is also a Deadly Duellist with a keen sense of Personal Honour. Every season an alien would Insult Her Honour and they would have to duel and then learn a New Respect so she becomes Less Racist.

Serenity Kong

Kathy Bates is the voice of SERENITY KONG, the Ships Comupter but also the uploaded death chorous of an alien biosphere killed by the DEADLY NANITES inside Quin Books. She hates him but when Danger Threatens All Civilised Worlds they may have to Work Together  to Save Everything. if the computer is ever turned off she will be Destroyed Forever and all memory of her world will Fade From History.

Lucinda Succotash

Kirsten Bell is LUCINDA SUCCOTASH, the Cheeky Black Marketeer with a secret Heart Of Gold. Captain Hammer wants her Off My Ship but then when the System's Down it looks like she might have Just What You Need.... For A Price.

Traveller Gunfight Analysis

(This is from Traveller 2nd Edition, Book 1, Characters and Combat 1981.)

1. Determine if either party has the element of surprise.
2. Determine the initial range which separates the parties.
3. Determine if escape or avoidance for either party is possible or warranted.
4. Resolve actual combat using a series of combat throws.
A. Each character indicates his or her movement status.
B. Each character indicates his or her attack and target.

Well thanks for clearing that up Traveller,  seems simple but let’s check later.

A Round lasts 15 seconds.



The surprise rules here specifically state that if you get surprise then you can avoid contact. This is an old-school touch compared to Only War and even Cyberpunk. Those games tend to assume that Surprise is used in-combat and not to avoid combat.

Gunshots and screams end the surprise but 'laser weapons and guns in vacumn do not make any noise when fired'.

'Surprise continues until it is lost, and may thus continue indefinitely.' That is very old school and actually more ruthless than any other game so far.

Ranges are Close, Short, Medium, Long and Very Long. Encounter range is decided by a single roll with modifiers for terrain type.

There is a lot more stuff about the actions of the opponent and their reaction baked into the encounter rules compared to other games. With the rules as written, it’s possible to encounter a small party that you outnumber at long range, they get surprise, see you and roll a 9+ to escape. So the encounter 'never happens', this is never even considered in other games.

Before each round, state your 'movement status' there are four of these. Evade, get closer, get further away, or don't move. All movement is assumed to be simultaneous.

The Attack.
Combat resolution. Select a member of the opposite team and roll an 8+ to hit. Nice and simple RIGHT???


"The basic throw of 8+ is subject to a variety of applicable die modifiers, including armour/weapons relation, range, strength of attack (combat or weakened blows), movement status, attacking and defending expertise, and other aspects." So no, more calculation.

Being untrained with a weapon means a -5 when attacking. All PC's automatically have an expertise at Zero (0) with all weapons shown in the book. This zero value is sufficient to avoid the non-expertise penalty but not enough to provide a positive DM. SO WHY DOES THE UNTRAINED -5 MOD EXIST???

In case a monkey or a cavemen picks up a gun? Or you find a supergun you don't understand?

You hit, so.. 'Consult the Wound Column on the Range Matrix' oh old-school games, your simplicity is but an illusion. There is an armour/weapon matrix where each type of armour reacts differently with Each. Particular. Weapon. Want to fire your Laser Carbine at someone wearing Reflec armour while they fire their Shotgun at a group wearing  combat armour? Have fun with that one.

But you should have this info because you know what weapons you have and what crap you added to them and kept a record of it.

Wounds are applied straight to Stats. On a temporary basis. Each of the die rolled is applied to a different stat. So if you have a 4d weapon and you hit, you apply those dice to Strength, dexterity, endurance and maybe strength again?

The first wound is applied randomly and can daze or even kill. This infers (it is never directly stated) that for other hits the Defending player assigns damage die where they want them to go.

If one Stat hits zero you are unconscious, two and you are seriously wounded, three and you are dead.

There are rules for waking up and they are the same regardless of how you suffered the damage. Bear trap or grenade, it doesn’t matter, you are back up in three hours.

There are Morale rules for PC's so you don't get to decide when you run away.

To Move and fire once;

- Declare your movement status. Easy.
- Pick a target.
- Work out your modifiers. You will need, on your side; Weapons qualities, your attribute bonuses and how that combines with your stats. From the DM; range, but that’s decided at the beginning of the round. And how the targets armour combines with your *particular* weapon.
Add and subtract a bunch of stuff.
This gives you a single mod.
- Roll 2d6 and get 8+ to hit.
You hit.
- Roll your damage die.
- Is it the first wound for that Target? If so, I *think* you add the total of all the damage die you rolled to one random stat. If not I *think* they apply the damage from each individual die to each stat.

Ok so traveller is some radical shit. There is NO initiative roll mentioned that I can see. This is either next-gen genius or madness. Everything happens at once so everyone can shoot everyone and no-one is safe. So it doesn’t matter in what order you go. If you are killed with the first shot of a round you can still kill with the last shot of a round. I kind-of like this. It feels like you are bi-located in time, looking down on your characters gunshot-riddled body and simultaniously preparing to fire one-last-shot at the guy you already know killed you. Of course your condition can change during a round, if you get hit and lose agility your ability to-hit can go down, do you use your old pre-gunshot agility? or the new ive-been-shot agility? probably the old one, but good luck remembering that.

Having a solid simple to-hit number sounds good, but as usual it just leads to hidden complexities elsewhere and strange cryptic negotiations.

Info design is generally better in old-school books compared to FFG but not as much better as you might think. There is still a lot of complexity hidden and squirreled away in odd places. RPG books are themselves like Minotaur Mazes, you must prove you are able to find the hidden vital information to play the game optimally.

Gunfire is an insoluble problem in RPGs and there are only two answers.

Answer A - Be a teenager (probably male) who doesn't mind rooting through huge books and obsessively learning complex systems so you can chew through the conflicting rulesets at the speed of a computer


Answer B - Be in your late 20's - early 30's (or probably female) and have enough emotional RAM that you can face the possible loss of a PC you care about in complex and inconsistent circumstances while negotiating rationally and not having a freakout.


Answer C - Be a hippy and blah blah bah narrative blah blah hard to die from gunshots easy to hurt your emotions, I have tried this and it worked ok for me, when running it at least.

Also generic systems dont focus enough psychic energy to make them good games. They can be good games but not good Games. It is like a car without fuel, or maybe just with nowhere to go.