Archive for March, 2014

Bladerunner is a Cyberpunk themed film that was released in 1982. Starring Harrison Ford as a retired Blade Runner, the film is set within a dark, gritty world full of technological advancements and shady businesses. The film is set around Los Angeles in 2019. Based loosely on the 1968 film Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep written by author Phillip.K Dick.

android (an’droid) n, Gk. humanoid automation. more at robot./ 1. early version utilized for work too boring, dangerous or unpleasant for humans. 2. second generation bio-engineered. Electronic relay units and positronic brains. Used in space to explore inhospitable environments. 3. third generation synthogenetic. REPLICANT, constructed of skin/flesh culture. Selected enogenic transfer conversion. Capable of self-perpetuating thought. Paraphysical abilities. Developed for emigration program. –Webster’s Dictionary, New International (2012)

Replicants are a key part to the film. Replicants are a human clone, designed and programmed for a specific purpose within the world, usually providing manual labour or serving within armies so that “real” humans don’t have to put themselves at risk. Replicants tend to come with a fail safe imprinted into them in the form of a 4 year life span, in which case they are then replaced with another Replicant to take up the same role as the one before.

Blade Runners are a form of police force within the world, regulating and terminating Replicants when appropriate and making sure they stick to the job that they have been designed and created to do. If a Replicant rebels, the Blade Runner hunts it down and terminates it. Replicants may have the appearance and mannerisms of a human, but they don’t have the memories or emotions of a human when they are first created, instead they develop their own attachments and emotions as they progress through their life span, almost as if they are living a normal life when really they are created so that “real” humans can have an easier life.

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Ok then so it’s early in the morning and as usual there are some thoughts whirling around the old grey matter. This particular train of thought runs along the lines of this: In a space based browser game, where resources can be acquired through mining and trading, do people still resort to destructive means to gain what they need?

I want to talk about why people in the game of Ogame, decide that they need to be a ‘Fleeter’ a player style that means they use fleets to steal resources from other players in order to further their own cause and expansion.

Above is a screen shot taken of the shipyard screen within the game. Here the player can spend their resources to build fleets of ships of varying strengths and sizes to round out their fleet for all manner of destructive purposes. They have everything from the lowly Light Fighter, which is your basic fighter style ship with a single pilot, all the way up to the moon sized Deathstar, which players can use to just brutalize the systems around them (And that is putting it mildly).

Now it is understandable that players need to have the shipyard so that they can move their resources from one of their planets to another and yes it is fun to attack other players and set them back by stealing their resources and keeping everything for yourself, but is it really necessary? Why bother spending all of your resources on ships, which you then have to keep alive by spending more resources moving them, when you can build a load of cargo ships cheaply and quickly, and just get the help you need from other players that may be looking to go through trade routes instead of attacking like a blood thirsty, treasure hoarding, space pirate.

There are several reasons for this.

1) It makes the game more interesting.

If the player wants to be aggressive and just run with a fleet because it takes their fancy, then sure there is that. It’s also rather strategic really because in the short term they will be leaving themselves short on resources because they have pumped them all into these massive fleets that guzzle fuel like there is no tomorrow, but in the long run then the resources can soon be gained back and with interest when the player takes to the stars and starts taking the resources on other peoples planets, provided they can break through the planetary defenses of course.

2) It’s a competitive game.

Yes, unfortunately there is also a ranking system within the game, with players gaining points through their building levels, the number of planets they have, the defenses built on each planet and even for the number of ships they have, with the more expensive ships worth more points. The aim is to become the number one player within the universe, with your enemies lying battered and fleetless at your feet while you rule with an iron fist if you so choose. While the game is free to play, players tend to spend real money on ‘Commanders’ which give them an edge and pushes them that little bit quicker. Of course it is possible for your fleet to be destroyed if you leave it lying around on your planet because people with bigger fleets can come along and engage and destroy them. But this is all part of the “fun” apparently.

3) Space just wouldn’t be space without ships.

Of course it makes sense to have ships in a space based game, it makes sense to send them forth and explore the universe around you and of course it makes sense to have ships that can blow up anything and everything they encounter. The game even brings along the Bomber Class ship, designed specifically to shred the defenses of even the most fortress like planet within minutes. In the vastness of space it just wouldn’t be right if we had to stick with one planet while there was plenty of space out there to build your own galactic empire, so sending forth colony ships, the player can expand their domain across the stars by colonizing new planets in different star systems.

The Negative Side of Fleeting

There however downsides to choosing the way of the ‘Fleeter’.

1) You may be a small fish in a big pond

Not even joking, if you think you have a big fleet but you leave it sitting there for even the smallest amount of time, you may log on one day to find that it’s all been destroyed by a bigger fish while your back was turned and you’ll have to start all over again. Which leads me to my next point

2) Fleet Saving

Eurgh. Just the thought of it makes me shudder with frustration. If you want your fleet to live, you have to keep it on the move, sending it from planet to planet while you aren’t logged on to make sure it cannot be destroyed, for when the fleet is in motion, it cannot be attacked, therefore it is safe. If the fleet is small, then the amount of fuel consumed is manageable and doesn’t cause any problems, giving the player the chance to move their fleet for as long as they need too. Adjusting the flight speed can also reduce the fuel consumption, but this will only get a player so far. As the fleet grows in size, so does the demand for fuel, and if you don’t have the fuel, you can’t move the fleet, so it is down to the player to make sure they have a ready supply on hand on each of their planets to make sure their fleets are safe at all times and can be moved at the slightest moments notice.

3) Fleet Crashing

There are two ways this can happen. The first way is that you’re a bit of a doughnut and misjudge the firepower of your fleet and send it crashing into a planets defenses without realizing just how screwed your ships are, watching them all disappear in the blink of an eye because the defenses have ripped them apart in seconds, not only setting you back possibly millions of resources and days of time, but of course there is also the debris field the fleet left behind, either giving the enemy player a moon, from which they can build a base for spying fleets, or they can harvest the field, thereby you have given them even more resources, resources that you couldn’t afford to give them.

The second way this can happen is if your fleet is crashed while it is sitting on your planet, as is mentioned above. The enemy can spy a planet with a probe, then if there is a fleet that they know they can crash because they have the firepower to do so, then that fleet is history while you are offline. Even if your fleet is in motion, it is possible for players to spy a fleets flight plan through the power of the buildings on their Moon, so they can organize a fleet to hit the planet at the exact same moment your fleet touches down and docks on the planet. This move is called “Ninja Hitting” because it comes from nowhere and takes out all the ships involved on the planet.

Do the Benefits outweigh the Cons?

In my mind the cons are more costly than the benefits cross out. I myself play a ‘Miner’ play style, where I build up planets and their defenses to the point where it takes a large amount of effort to steal from me. But a Fleeter has to be extra careful and plan out their account build and play style a lot more carefully due to the nature and fickleness of ships and how easily they can be dispatched by other players. In the end if the player is smart and can stay several moves ahead of their opponents, then they could end up with a fleet that benefits them more than it costs them. But there will always come a time when a player or a group of player catch you out and all of the effort and time is worth nothing because you have nothing but debris to show for your time and effort.

This is why I wonder whether it is worth the Fleeter even being a play style, because trading is much more beneficial and a way safer way to gain resources from other players and it removes the risk of them attacking you at a later date as you tend to build up a rapport with them and they are then more inclined to work with you and trade with you in the future. But then I guess there will always be that destructive and violent streak in us that sometimes proves to be too much of a pull and so we have Fleeter type players present within the game to not only make it more interesting, but also because they just enjoy causing chaos within a game where stability could quite easily rule. But then of course alliance wars wouldn’t happen if everyone just traded and raced to have the highest level buildings, instead of spending a lot of resources and having most of their rank points tied up in their ships.

During my research component of the Self Initiated Project, I have encountered different types of Augmentation and Cybernetics that enhance or control a person in certain ways. In this post, I will be talking about the various types of Augmentation and the strengths and potential weaknesses of both, along with how they could be used to potentially control the bearer.

Neural Implants:

These implants affect the brain and how it operates. While viewing the film Johnny Mnemonic I viewed several different forms of implant and this was among the first of them in the form of Neural Wet Work. This implant was in the form of a hard drive implanted directly into the brain of the carrier, the capacity of which was linked to the brain in case it needed increasing. The carrier of the implant could dump memories through the means of a disposable piece of hardware, thereby doubling the size of the hard drive in their brain.

The main strength of this kind of implant is that while you have a certain amount of storage space but are able to double it at the cost of long term memories, you are able to carry around more information, the strength of the implant of course being able to carry information safely and without having a physical component to carry around in a case, because it is already safely encased in their head. The password to the information stored within the hard drive is also a strength to the implant, as it changes with each upload of information. The carrier will utilize a lock in program that takes random images from the television and turn them into a password, the images of which are then downloaded and sent off to the information destination, which the carrier and host shall then use to download the information onto an external source.

The weaknesses are quite vast however. If someone wishes to steal the information from the carrier, there are several ways to do this. The first of which is to take the head of the carrier, store in a cooler unit to make sure the brain doesn’t decay and the information corrupted, before taking it away and downloading the information for their own means, as highlighted when several individuals within the Johnny Mnemonic film attempt to do to the protagonist.

There is also the added weakness of the password system. If the password download is lost or destroyed, or the sending of said password is interrupted, then there may be no easy way in which the information stored within the carriers head can be retrieved and they may be stuck with it in there for some time, unless of course they manage to hack the hard drive and retrieve the images that way, such as is done with the final image within the film. In order to retrieve the final image of the password in order to download the information, the protagonist has to wire themselves up to the download machine, as is seen in the below screenshot. He then proceeds to access the hard drive in his brain and hack it by destroying the security program before retrieving the password image and being able to download the information.

Below are a screenshot and the trailer of Johnny Mnemonic for a brief look into the themes behind the film along with some of the action that takes place while the protagonist is trying to download the information from his head before it kills him.

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This video below describes how technology has created a new virus that people call “The Black Shakes” and how it has harmed the people and environment of the world, but how humans can’t get rid of it because they have become dependent on it. This leads the viewer to see that while humans have the capability to rid themselves of technology and create a cleaner world or indeed could use technology to create a cleaner world, they have instead chosen to stick with their present course and instead let millions of people suffer as a consequence.

In the Matrix we see the work of neural implants once again, used by both the machines and the humans. The humans use the neural implants to send their minds into the Matrix itself, the cyberworld run by the Machines. In the mean time the Machines use the same type of neural implant when they grow humans, trapping them within the Matrix, their own mental prison so that the human race can power their city like batteries.

https://hunterp13.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/a9f78-jackingin.jpg Neo entering the Matrix.

The humans sit in specially designed chairs and have a connection cable plugged into the back of their head, where they are then uploaded by the ships hacker wherein they are then inserted into the Matrix. This gives the humans an “avatar” that represents their mind within the construct that is the Matrix. Each person that has had their mind freed can enter the Matrix this way, and because they become aware of the rules and are given training, they are able to bend the rules or break them, giving them an edge when it comes to surviving, being able to jump further and run up and along walls, the humans have to use these skills to survive in a digital world filled with programs that could very easily turn on them and kill them. And the fundamental rule of the Matrix is that if you die in there, your body dies in the real world, for as Morpheus tells Neo “The body cannot live without the mind”.

In the war to defeat the Machines or the Humans, both sides have been using the Matrix as a staging ground for their war while in the real world, each side is moving their troops around, fighting skirmishes for either destructive or survival purposes. The matrix has a security system that takes the form of “Agents” three programs that are essentially the same, these programs are directed by the machines in the real world to destroy any freed mind that they encounter, seeing them as threats, while at the same time these “Agents” have to govern the Matrix, deleting programs that are no longer useful or have met the end of their run cycle, pretty much the same as any company that brings out new software or upgrades their software to be more efficient, so it is within the Matrix that whenever a new program is created and placed within the overall construct, the avatar of the older program is hunted down and killed/deleted from the construct.

Limb Augmentation

There are several different types of limb augmentation, each with their own way to help the recipient with their lives.

Within real life, a limb replacement with a prosthesis will usually restore a function to that person, such as being able to walk again, however, within films and games, these can be enhanced and augmented to do a lot more than simply let the person walk and hold items.

In Robocop, he is extensively encased within metal filled with cybernetics and computer systems, not only to save his life, but also to enhance him and his abilities to the point where he is the perfect police officer in the war on crime within old Detroit. His strength is enhanced, he can interact with computer systems and he can see through walls with different types of vision, while at the same time losing a small amount of mobility due to his prosthetic legs as they aren’t able to work to the same capacity as normal legs can, even though he can still walk briskly and even jog a little if he has too.

In the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, after suffering a large beating at the hands of a mercenary, the protagonist has to have large amounts of cybernetic augmentation applied to his body in order to save his life and return him to active duty. Once he has been augmented, the player is able to enhance the abilities of the protagonist through the use of “Praxis Kits” specially designed kits that can increase the operations of a certain part of the body. The player can choose which parts of the body they wish to enhance in line with the type of character they wish to use and how they wish to go about playing the game. If they want to be able to hack computer systems efficiently and with a large chance of not being caught then they might enhance their hacking capabilities and then rely on stealth a lot more to move about through game missions. On the other hand, a player that doesn’t really care about hacking and more about action and completing missions as quickly as possible might enhance the parts of the body that increase the protagonists resistance to damage while helping them move quicker, thereby being able to clear areas quickly and move through them smoothly at the same time.

While augmented limbs are an advantage and the height of fashion within the Deus Ex world, there is always the chance that the body shall reject the changes, thereby killing the individual or meaning they will have to have further treatment to have their bodies restored to their original state. There is also of course the chance of augmentation addiction as is mentioned within the game, as those that can have cybernetic implants placed on and in their bodies without rejection may become addicted to them and want more and more, until their entire body is enhanced in some way.

It is always worth noting too, that the augmentations on limbs may not always be that of arms or legs, indeed there may be instances where the patron of the cybernetic part may have an arm or a leg replaced with something else or they may have a detachable part of the limb so that they can customize and alter how that particular body part works, similar to a software upgrade, but with the physical hardware instead. An example would be within Robocop 3 as Robocop is capable of replacing his hand with a multipurpose rifle that also supplies him with a flamethrower and a grenade launcher, helping him deal with threats when his semi-automatic pistol isn’t able to get the job done. It is also shown within Deus Ex as the player is capable of performing a kill take down on an unsuspecting enemy, in which retractable blades will stem from the elbows and wrists of the protagonist and they can then strike down their target and then retract the blades once the job is done.

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Blade Runner and Replicants

Replicants are the main focus of the film Blade Runner. Human clones, the Replicant is grown and programmed for manual labour and other services, including fighting in trained squads and even as prostitutes. Replicants, while appear to be human, are grown without emotions or memories when they are created, instead developing their own as they are put into service.

It is the job of the Blade Runner (Police Force) to regulate and enforce that the Replicant stick to their specific role, also checking up on them to make sure they aren’t presenting a problem to their owner. Replicants aren’t seen as people within the society within the film as they are not born, they are grown, therefore they are seen as property to be used and thrown away when their term of use runs out. Depending on the use of the Replicant, they come with a built in longevity, usually four years, so that they can work and then be replaced by either a newer model or another version of the same Replicant batch.

Ok then so this is my final render of the Ticket Office for the client project and I must say that this final product is actually pretty good, even though it did cause me a heap of trouble with certain parts that eventually were rectified, such as there were parts that were stick out and blocking the doorway, and the texturing wasn’t completely satisfactory.

But fingers crossed that is all sorted out now, the final model is in UDK, with the collision all sorted out and in place. I am surprised at how much time I spent on this building to be honest, as I thought that the basic shape and texturing would be a minimum couple of weeks job to complete, but as it turned out it was a lot closer to a couple of months, so I really need to work on my skills within 3DS Max to get my models completed a lot quicker and with a lot fewer problems cropping up along the way.

Ticket Office Final Render

Robocop is a different type of cyberpunk film in that the only person that has augmentations and types of technological enhancements is Robocop himself. He is the only cyborg in the film, even though there are other robots that are automated and have a form of A.I. Robocop is the first of his kind, part man and part machine, he not only has the strengths of a machine, he has the instinct and mind set of a human, especially when his human memories start to interrupt his programming and bringing out the dead Alex Murphy back to the fore of his new form.

There is of course another form of control happening in the world of Robocop, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) a large and corrupt corporation has become one of the leading powers in the world, offering all kinds of military contracts, household products and other such products, while at the same time trying to clear out all crime in Detroit and turn it into what they believe to be a safe haven known as Delta City. At first they try to stamp out crime with Robocop, giving the police force (Which they also own) an edge in the fight against crime. When that proves to be too slow for them, the corporation tries to get rid of Robocop and use other means to clear the citizens of Detroit from their homes, to which Robocop then stands up on their behalf, battling the company that created him.

Observations: While there are cybernetic enhancements within the world of Johnny Mnemonic, in Robocop it is taken to a whole new level when a dead cop with most of his body missing is brought back to life through the use of full body cybernetics, not only bringing him back to life, but also equipping him with a targeting system, a resistance to most forms of gun fire unless it is rocket based, and enhanced strength through the prosthetic limbs that he now has due to the fact that when he was killed, one of his arms was removed and then OCP removed his other arm to save complications.

This could lead me to create a unit, or several different units that have full body enhancements, instead of just different parts of their body, maybe some of the units have been harmed in battle, and if they are low on life, the player can then order them back to the base for medical recovery, that way they can then have them encased in armour, and have them “upgraded” into cyborgs, creating a new squad of units. I think I would like to keep them to a bare minimum, like a heavy unit, so maybe a squad of four or five together, so that they can work together as a unit instead of singular units within the game, but at the same time there is the chance that I could turn them into singular units designed to work on their own in isolated missions, but they are really tough to destroy, meaning there is a 50/50 chance that they will succeed, instead of having a slightly weaker unit and having a team of them.

In terms of weaponry, while the film was created in the 80’s the concept of a robot policeman was already pretty far advanced and ahead of its time. However I also want to consider the advancements in weaponry and the fact that there were A.I units already in production, with advanced machine guns and rocket launchers. There were also several rifles that were pretty standard for the time, along with the semi-automatic pistol that Robocop himself owns. I want to consider whether there will be advanced weaponry within my project designs, or whether I want to have older guns from the 80’s and more recent with some advancements or possible enhancements through technology.

Set within a world that has been consumed and wrecked by technology and the diseases that it has created, namely Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS). Johnny is a courier of information, utilizing a wet work implant within his mind; he can upload information of a certain size, carry it safely to the download location for his clients, and then download the information to another computer.

Technological implants come in all forms and shapes, from the wet work hard drive implanted within the protagonists head, to the artificial arm that is on the local bartender due to limb loss, meaning technology can be used to replace lost limbs, to the preacher that is present throughout the film who has had many different parts of his body augmented with some sort of technological upgrade, meaning he is stronger and faster than a normal human, at the cost of his organic parts in exchange for these enhancements or augmentations as they are also called.

Observations:

Technology: Utilizing the different ways in which I could implement technological augmentations for a person and their enhancements in strength and speed, as well as intellect, I could create several different classes of unit with in the game, with each one costing different amounts to create and train, with different researches giving the player the choice of which units they wish to unlock and upgrade as they progress through the game. This could be done through a tech tree style system, with the player choosing between defensive, offensive and Intel related researches. There could also be vehicles with various upgrades for the corporation forces, while the resistance members have their own hand crafted vehicles created from salvaged technology that they have had to piece together, and through that the resistance player could utilize the tech tree to improve their vehicles and unlock new technologies as they capture corporation held territories and facilities.

World State: Normally within cyberpunk films there is a corporation or set of corporations that are working to either control some part of the world, take over the country that they are set in or they are trying to enslave the population. In the case of Johnny Mnemonic the corporation in question is trying to kill the protagonist so that they can gain the information within his head and then subsequently make money off of it by selling a cure to NAS. Of course there is also a resistance element at work within the film that are trying to battle the corporations by hacking and sending out information for free, as is often the case within cyberpunk films. Hacking is usually a key element within these types of films, along with internet connections and various visualizations of the internet as characters within these films interact with it.

Warhammer is a turn based strategy game that takes part on a table top or on top of specially designed terrain boards of certain sizes.

 

Armies come in the form of many factions and sizes, each unit within the army having a value, making up the total points of the army, dictating the form of game the players can play, ranging from squad combat, in which armies of 500 points are allowed, to massive multi-table warfare with armies that are literally thousands of points in size. These games tend to last from an hour to a day depending on the size of the armies and the terrain table. The bigger the armies, the longer the games tend to take to complete.

Players move their troops across the board using a tape measure and moving the units a specific number of inches per movement phase of their turn, they can then fire at the enemy forces in the shooting phase, or they can move into the assault phase and launch their units into the enemy forces if they are within so many inches. There is a lot of strategy to take into consideration with Warhammer, as the players have to set up their army formations at the beginning of the game, so they have to think carefully about how they want to set up their play as it could affect the way the game swings.

It’s also worth noting that while the terrain can soon be assembled and placed on the table, the players can also assemble their own terrain and place that on the table, offering a level of personalization to the games and also offering the ability to create their own boards to play on.