This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone and best wishes for a happy long weekend to those who've been able to configure such a nice unofficial start to summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Today's post is going to be a bit on the short side, as I'm currently participating in my very first MegaGame today. My fellow gamers and I will be reacting to the first extraterrestrial contact here on planet Earth in the campaign Watch the Skies! It should make for fun times and you can follow along in our adventures via our Twitter or Facebook accounts (or via the in-game blog I'll be running: the Global Technology Journal). Before we get down to chasing aliens, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Games

This is the story of how Colossal Order reached out to frustrated fans of Sim City and built a brand new simulation phenomenon.

Nintendo would like you to know that it does, in fact, have indie games on its roster. They're just not anything that's been made all that recently.

Movies

We talked yesterday about the glorious insanity that is Mad Max: Fury Road, but here's a new tidbit for you guys: this is how they made a real-life fire-spurting guitar.
Image Credit

Science/Technology

The Next MacGyver competition, designed to help encourage women to enter into STEM fields, is now underway.

This is what happens when a star hits a supernova.

On Thursday, the Large Hadron Collider set a new record for levels of energy released by the smashing of protons.

We had more to fear than their sharp, pointy teeth, but rabbits, and the ailments endemic to them, may help researchers uncover new ways to make more effective vaccines.

Speaking of pointy dental structures, have you ever wondered what it's like to be a walrus? Now you can have a first-hand look at a day in the life of the giant marine mammal.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed this extremely controversial bill that removes budget-allocating powers from the National Science Foundation and gives those abilities to Congress itself. The bill also put hard limits on what research pertaining to fossil fuels could be used to guide energy policies in the United States.

Meanwhile, the government of New Zealand spent its week ruling that animals will be legally recognized as sentient beings.

Feats of Nerdery

How to turn an NES into a PC.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Movie Review - Mad Max: Fury Road

Oh guys, I wanted to write this pretty much the second the GIR and I left the theater and I had to reign myself in so I could go to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s been a week and I’m still ridiculously excited about Mad Max: Fury Road. Seriously, I may go see it again this weekend if it's at all possible.

**This will be a spoiler-free review. Any linked content will be marked in BOLD if it contains spoilers.**


For the first time in thirty years we return to the barren, desolate wasteland that characterizes the Mad Max universe. We’re told via a brief mashup of news highlights that the severe scarcity of certain resources, namely fossil fuels and potable water, have driven various nations to go to war with one another and it’s strongly intimated that nuclear force was employed in at least one of these conflicts. An indeterminate amount of time later, we get our first glimpse of nearly lifeless post-war Australia. That initial panoramic vista serves as one of the very few quiet moments in the entirety of Fury Road. After a somewhat unsettling introduction to the eponymous Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy)...did he just eat that live lizard?...the film is off the blocks and hardly slows until its conclusion.

Max comes to arrive in the Citadel, a massive fortress ruled over by the tyrannical, Vader-esque Immortan Joe and his raging ranks of War Boys. Ordinary citizens of the Citadel are desperate, deeply broken bits of humanity who flock to their glorious leader largely because he controls one of the few remaining viable sources of water. We see Joe charge what appears to be his favored lieutenant, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), with the task of driving a massive armored tanker truck, or war rig, to a nearby refinery to collect gasoline.

Mere minutes into her trip, Furiosa veers the rig off course seemingly for no reason. The alteration sends Joe into a panic and, as he careens through his chambers, comes to realize that his five Wives have gone missing and are almost certainly in the rig. Enraged, Joe personally leads the entirety of his War Boy forces in pursuit of Furiosa, bringing an unwilling Max along for the ride.

The chase involves this and no car chase will be the same again
The remainder of the film is almost entirely the resulting car chase. But make no mistake, this is unlike any car chase you've ever seen. We careen through the desert at breakneck speed and encounter other human clans along with superstorms that give us a taste of the destruction humanity must have sown to have yielded such things. As mentioned earlier, Fury Road barely slows in its pacing from the outset and the handful of slower scenes serve largely as appreciated opportunities to catch one's breath before plunging headlong back into the fray. Between jawdropping maneuvers and screen-engulfing pyrotechnics we learn why Furiosa is absconding with the Wives and what she hopes to accomplish by this daring act.

In conjunction with laying the base narrative, Fury Road unfurls a deeply fascinating mythos from the otherwise completely insane imagery. The sheer amount and depth of worldbuilding that the film tears into being is incredibly impressive, doubly so given the paucity of actual dialogue. If you want to learn more about what's going on then you'll have to pay close attention. The cult that Joe heads is replete with bizarre rituals wrought from an unholy fusion of Norse mythology and a paint huffer's fever dream. We garner just what humans will accept as normal when the essentials are in short supply and ambient radiation has curtailed the average lifespan to Dark Ages brevity. Conversely, we also get to see what happens when that status quo comes into question.

The cast puts forth admirable performances throughout with only one or two moments that felt out of place or otherwise awkward. The characterization is just as intense as the action, allowing us access to a few more snippets of information about the surreal dystopia they inhabit with only a handful of remarks. There's been much ado about Furiosa and her role in Fury Road. All I could say is that it was high time we got to give Ripley and Sarah Connor some company in the Pantheon of Badass Sci-Fi Ladies. She, like Max, is capable in a manner that you'd expect from people living amidst such scarcity. You have to figure that, in order to survive, you either have to be incredibly competent or incredibly willing to surrender your agency to someone who's the former.

Visually, the film is a feast for the eyes that will have you rehashing what you saw for days on end. There are so many quoteables that you'll want to incorporate into every day life. Miller weaves astounding beauty from scenes of wanton destruction and mile after mile of unrelenting desert. The cinematography works seamlessly to enhance the overall frenzied experience with shots and angles that will have you asking how on Earth did they film this? Also headshaking is the fact over 80% of Fury Road's effects were completely practical. It's a stunning and stark juxtaposition to pit Fury Road against its late spring/early summer cinematic contemporaries. As Miller stated on numerous occasions, Max is not a superhero and should not be able to defy the laws of physics. Yes, the actors did swing in 180 degree arcs from poles attached to moving vehicles (many of them are veterans or are in active rosters of Cirque de Soleil). Yes, the majority of the downright absurd-looking cars you see were actually made and could be driven. Fair warning, if you drive home from the theater you may be hit with a wave of ennui given that the vehicles surrounding you will never live up to what you just saw. 

Traffic would be so much more entertaining
More likely is the fact that you will walk away from Fury Road wanting more. Fortunately, all signs point to there being plenty more with this came from. Beginning this fall Vertigo will be releasing a run of four comics that will give us the backstories of Furiosa, Max (over the course of two books), and Immortan Joe/Nux. There will also be at least one art book detailing how the fantastical images when from concept to, in most cases, physical reality. There is a related video game being produced by Avalanche Studios that is slated to be available for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 this September. Finally, the primary cast has signed on for multiple additional films in the franchise (most sources point to two or three additional films).

George Miller, the director of all three other Mad Max film and writer of Fury Road, refuses to call this new incarnation either a sequel or a reboot of the original. Instead, he continually refers to Fury Road as a 'revisiting'. Aside from the protagonist, the base setting, some costume pieces, and a few in-line references, the entirety of the movie is a whole-hog restructuring. Even if you're leery of reboots/sequels, this is guaranteedly going to be a novel experience should you choose to go see it.

Fury Road is a beautiful, insane, high octane spectacle that is not to be missed while it's on the big screen. It's a true blockbuster to start the summer viewing season and it's going to be extremely difficult to top this experience. I cannot recommend it enough.


Final Grade: A
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Book Review: CONfidence

It’s almost like the interwebs knew we were on a quest to feature more content outside of the realms of gaming. In the past few weeks we’ve gotten quite a few new original texts that we’ll be sharing with you. We got to glimpse into the dragons’ temple and now we transition to a very different, perhaps more familiar realm of life in a high school. 

For high school is where the bulk of the action takes place in CONfidence: the Diary of an Invisible Girl, the debut novel of Paige Lavoie of Pumpkin Spiced. This coming-of-age story has a distinctly nerdy bent, with the awkward, comics-loving protagonist Barbara (yes, named after Barbara Gordon) going on a journey of self-discovery as she’s introduced to the world of conventions by way of the machinations of her school’s AV club.

The club is populated with a handful of personable geeks led by Cassie, a recent transfer to the school after a long period of homeschooling. Cassie is the self-styled Queen of the Nerds and essentially the embodiment of all Barbara wishes she could be: confident, sociable, and resplendent with pastel hair that would make any denizen of Equestria go green with envy. Cassie’s force of personality and the creative talents of the other club members make up the backbone of a YouTube channel that they run under the guise of school approved club activities (while using school AV/drama club resources). Barbara is brought into their fold after her comic-inspired sketches catch Cassie’s attention and our heroine’s life is forever changed.

That which follows plays out like a teen movie. We get Barbara’s account of the proceedings via her entries into her diary, some of which morph into detailed first-person segments before eventually returning to journal entry format. She chronicles her bonding experiences with the group, particularly her deepening friendship with Cassie, as the group creates and produces episodes for their YouTube channel. It readily conjures feelings that many of us have experienced at least once before, realizing that you’re not alone in either the types of nerdy fandoms or the intensity with which you love these things. The exploration of those shared fandoms and, in Barbara’s case, new arenas in which to meet fellow fans is presented in a similarly nostalgia-inducing way. You’ll likely find yourself recalling your own first convention experience or the first time you donned cosplay. The text is also peppered with plenty of references that will make seasoned aficionados of various geeky properties break out into knowing grins.

All seems well for the members of the AV club at first, but it soon becomes apparent that initial appearances weren’t all of what they seemed. CONfidence breaks away from similar coming-of-age stories in its development of some of the characters and the layers of subject matter that are touched upon as a result. The majority of the individuals we’re introduced to are vibrant and complex, which is no small feat given that all we ‘see’ is filtered through Barbara’s gaze. In addition to the ‘a person may have crafted a careful fa├žade to operate under, so be careful how you judge’ sentiments, there are quite a few nerd-specific social phenomena that are examined with impressive thoroughness and care. We explore the importance of having a fulfilling creative outlet, the unique and ever-changing role that social media plays in our lives, the revered but sometimes precarious atmosphere that a convention creates, how the definition of fandom is truly amorphous, and just how damaging it can be to condemn a fellow geek for not engaging with a nerdy property in a manner that we deem ‘correct’.

As mentioned earlier, at several points I felt like I was reading a film. This can be good; the narrative feels familiar while the prose is simple, super digestable, and allows you to plow on through it at speed if you so choose. However, the story arc does follow the movie-style trajectory and makes use of many classic tropes, so it can feel formulaic and potentially irk people who aren’t into that sort of thing.

CONfidence makes for a solid companion as you wait in line at a convention. It’s a fun, breezy bit of fiction that may conjure all sort of nostalgic feels and, as a potential added bonus, may inspire you to participate in NaNoWriMo (as CONfidence is the product of exactly that). If you’re planning on an excursion or two to the beach this upcoming summer, CONfidence may be an ideal book to bring along.


CONfidence will be available on Amazon beginning June 9th, but you can enter to win your own copy on Goodreads right now or follow other pre-release news via Paige's twitter.
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This Week in Geekdom

Gah, where's the pause button on this crazy thing? Seriously, the weeks are just blazing by and we're somehow already registering for events for Gen Con (good luck to everyone registering today!). Shameless plug: our panel is event ID SEM1571537! We'd love to see you if you're going to be attending Gen Con too!

Aside from Gen Con-ery, we have a bunch of fun goings-on that we'll be telling you all about in the not-so-distant future. We'll get to that soon though. For now, let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Comics

Arguably the single biggest bit of comics news this week was the long-awaited reveal of the true identity of the new reigning Thor.

Ever wish you could take a class about the history of superheros and comics taught by Stan Lee? Well, thanks to the Smithsonian, now you can (for free!).

If you were one of those intrepid nerds who ran out to see Mad Max: Fury Road and now can't get enough of it, there's good news for you. Vertigo will be collaborating with director George Miller on two projects inspired by the film (one of which is a four-issue comic series giving us the backstories of the protagonists).

Games

This is perhaps the most immersive, impressive example of virtual reality gaming that we've seen to date. <researches flights to Utah>

On Friday, Blizzard enacted one of the largest player bans in the history of World of Warcraft in an effort to curb cheating.

The collapse of Japanese gamemaker Konami took another ugly turn this week when one of its most illustrious producers launched a Kickstarter to independently make what is essentially Castlevania.

Movies/TV

Remember that time when Black Widow was excluded from all Age of Ultron merchandise? Well toymakers Hasbro and Mattel have taken the Widow-snubbing to a new level by erasing her what was arguably her biggest scene in the film.

Things have been a bit less erase-y for Supergirl, as we got this first look/teaser trailer for her upcoming series.


DC is more than doubling down on its small screen successes with this announcement that there will be an Arrow/Flash spinoff series titled Legends of Tomorrow

After more than 20 years lending his voice to various citizens of Springfield, Harry Shearer left the cast of the Simpsons.

The reboot of Twin Peaks, which was on, and then off, is now on again.

Science/Technology

The New Horizons probe has now spotted every one of Pluto's known moons and sent us back these images of the distant satellites

Apple fans who'd been eagerly awaiting the release of HomeKit, Apple's home automation software, were disappointed this week when the company announced that the Kit will not be available until this fall at the earliest.

Scientists at the University of California at Santa Cruz have discovered what may be the first observed instance of a quadruple quasar (which provided the inspiration for a very appropriate name for the course nebula).

The moonfish, also called an opah, has been found to exhibit a surprising trait: warm blood.

MIT thinks it has a way to make undersea exploration more efficient: let the robots doing the exploring plot their own courses.

Is dark matter actually the key to the formation of life?

Professor Henk Jonkers has created what may revolutionize the construction industry: self-healing concrete.

The Large Hadron Collider has been a busy bee since it was turned back on earlier this year. It's latest bit of work? Just finding a type of particle decay that's even more rare than the Higgs boson.

There are going to be seven, count 'em, seven version of Windows 10 when it's released later this year. Which version is right for you? Forbes has provided us with this handy guide to answer that question.

General Awesomesness 

Check out this astoundingly beautiful photo essay of a Guatamalan volcano eruption.

Oh look, it's a katana that was forged from a four billion year old meteorite.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Gias Games: Off-Peak by Cosmo D


Off-Peak is a first person “experience” from the developer Cosmo D which features music from Archie Pelago. It's free to download. This is Cosmo’s first foray into “game” development. In the interest of full disclosure, Cosmo D was a childhood friend of mine. He was one of the most talented musicians I have ever met, but it was quite a surprise to hear that he had decided to venture into “game” development.

The best way to describe this experience is if you can imagine the first person adventure Jazzpunk taking place in the Grand Central Station of Dark City. The framework for this experience is that you are stranded at a train station without a ticket. A kindly stranger playing music outside offers you his ticket since he does not want to leave, but unfortunately his ticket is torn into a number of pieces and scattered around the station.

While exploring the station for the ticket pieces, you can talk to a number of fellow travelers,
listen to people’s conversations, listen to the music of the various areas of the station, and see all the art that plasters the station’s walls. There is no gameplay to speak of, which is why this is not a game, and the narrative is not the main focus, so this doesn't fall into the category of a visual novel. This is about user-controlled interactions and discovering the strange world you find yourself in.

Each area has its own music. I am not a contemporary music aficionado, so I did not get as much out of this experience as others who would fall into that category would. The world itself is adorned with various types of art, which range from odd, to Dr. Doom demanding a beer, to something out of the Cthulhu mythos. There were several pieces of art that were very VERY strange which made me
say “What the f*ck” out loud, and several pieces I wish I could purchase in poster form. The people you meet in this experience are similarly varied. Some are misshapen, some are holding metallic or glowing skulls, some are watching you, but they all seem very comfortable in their extremely strange world. There are also some hints at social commentary when you talk to a woman about a discarded record collection, or talk to a sheet music salesman about how musicians are selling their instruments.

The experience can be as short as 2 minutes if you know where all the ticket pieces are, but as with all interactive experiences, the point is not to complete it as quickly as possible. Traverse the back passageways, check out the board game bar, climb the Cthulhu art ramp, ponder the thought that if John Murdoch had just started hitting acid and never stopped after the events of Dark City then you are probably playing his acid trip.

If you're up for the trip, Off-Peak can be downloaded for free here. Off-Peak is available for both Windows and iOS.


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Book Review: Priestess of the Dragons' Temple

It’s been little while since we last featured a book on here and, as we mentioned last week, we’re gung ho to bring more topical diversity your way. Woot! As an added bonus, this review builds upon the couplet of posts we featured last winter that introduced us to the lush fantasy world of Theranis. Author Amelia Smith brings us the next chapter of her Anamat quintilogy, Priestess of the Dragon’s Temple.


Before we go any further, if you haven’t read Scrapplings, the first book in the aforementioned series, then you’ll need to do so if you want to make sense of Priestess of the Dragon’s Temple. The Anamat books are designed to be one continuous narrative, so it’s not a series you can jump into en media res.

And en media res is exactly how Priestess begins, picking up the action from the very minute that Scrapplings left off. Three of the titular scrapplings: the cantankerous Darna, the hypersensitive Myril, and the otherworldly Iola, have left the behind their streetbound begging and become novices in the Temple at Ara’s Landing, the foremost of the houses of worship dedicated to the dragons of Theranis. While the Temple offers stability in the form of reliable food and shelter, only Iola actively sought to serve in it, so it takes on more of an imprisoning role for Myril and especially Darna.  

The narrative then jumps forward four years and we learn of what goes into the making of a priestess largely via inference (though we do get some critical insights into what comprises the cult of dragon worship). Instead, we’re thrust into the heart of what it means to be a human messenger to the dragons and, of equal importance, the political implications that the role entails in mortal human realm. The relationship that humanity has with the dragons is revealed to be even more tenunous than what was implied in Scrapplings, with the dragons displaying outright hostility towards their constituents at various intervals. The majority of humanity, however, has only a bare comprehension of the precariousness of their existence. There’s more than a bit of the “out with the old gods and in with the new, foreign ones” dynamic in play and the tension resulting from this is overlaid with additional complications rising from what had been considered traditional gender relations in the land of Theranis. It’s a feeling that fans of the Mists of Avalon will find familiar: a matriarchal clergy class losing power due to patriarchal outside influence. It’s a tension that’s underscored by the manner in which worship of the dragons occurs: via ritual sex.

The trio of new priestesses take to their vocation in manners as disparate as their personalities. Iola revels in the role that she feels she was born to play, Darna gripes that she is no true holy woman, and Myril struggles with the aftereffects of an ecstatic trance that leaves her catatonic in the days immediately following her initiation. The days that follow leave all three girls questioning whether the clergical life is actually the right place for them.

The girls have little time to acclimate themselves to their duties before they become privy to new layers of intrigue. The ambassadress, a priestess of rare talent selected to act as the literal messenger of humanity and live among the dragons for six months at a time, returns from her latest sojourn in a desperate state. Not only is it clear that the dragons are displeased, but it’s doubtful that the ambassadress will be physically and psychically able to make the trip the following year. The situation is complicated further by the fact that the Governor, the head of secular power in Theranis and the individual who would appoint a new ambassadress, lies close to death. Selecting successors to both of these roles is a highly political process where raw ambitions appear to outweigh actual ability. The majority of the book deals with the selection process, the corruption that runs rampant through both secular and spiritual life in Theranis, and, as mentioned, the respective tales of self-discovery for Darna, Iola, and Myril.

Priestess deals with these elements in a manner similar to what we saw in Scrapplings, that is to say a piece that can appeal to adults but also function as a work of young adult fiction. While it’s an interesting text, seasoned fantasy readers may find some plot points and the development of some, though certainly not all, characters to be a bit too neat and tidy. Another item that readers may want to keep in mind is that Priestess, like Scrapplings, is one chapter in what is meant to be a series of five books, so it helps to temper expectations knowing that this is part of a much larger story. As such, we get a lot of exposition, but more than a few mysteries will persist by the time the last page is turned.

And Priestess does an excellent job of both expanding the world of Theranis (in itself something of a feat given that the vast majority of the tale centers around life in the Temple) and building the central narrative. The book builds to a mighty crescendo that, even if some of the events therein were largely known quantities, the resulting cliffhanger will likely urge you on to the next chapter if you've found yourself won over by the series. 


Priestess of the Dragon's Temple is available via Amazon as well as through a handful of other channels listed here on Amelia's website
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! Aside from celebrating our moms (and Star Wars and Free Comic Book Day), we're buckling down and putting our noses to the Gen Con preparatory grindstone (only 79 days left!). On that note, if you were planning sending a prototype or review copy of a board game to our Playtesting Lab, we strongly encourage you to check out the Lab's summer schedule. But enough administrativeness; let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Games

Oh math and science, is there anything you can't do? Check out these statistically proven "best ways" to win at 14 popular games.

The upcoming reboot of Star Wars: Battlefront is already drawing scorn from seasoned veterans of first-person shooters as EA has confirmed that the game will not feature aim-down/ironsights.

Movies/TV

As we collectively try to temper our anticipatory excitement for Episode VII (given that it's still more than six months out from release), we can live vicariously through the reactions of this crowd of movie goers from 1977 as they watch Episode IV for the first time.

We'll be getting a second season of Agent Carter. Unfortunately for fans of Mockingbird, that series will not be moving forward in production.

Supergirl, however, got the nod from the TV powers that be, as her series was greenlit earlier this week.

We also got our first look at the cast of Suicide Squad.

It's nearly a year to the day before we get to see Civil War, but we at least know which heroes will be featured in the film (spoiler: nearly all of them).

Science/Technology

Looking for a last-minute gift for Mom? NASA is offering the opportunity to immortalize her by giving you the opportunity to name a crater on Mars in her honor.

Speaking of Mars, the UAE is aiming to be the next nation to explore the atmosphere of the red planet.

Oculus Rift has been the talk of the technological town for years now. We've seen snippets of what people have been able to do with the development kits that the company distributed, but there was no word about when we could get our hands on a set of our own. Well guys, early 2016 may finally allow us to bring home our own goggles.

Microsoft has officially come out to declare that Windows 10 will be the last edition of the operating system that the corporation will produce.

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a way to convert your smartphone into a microscope. Bonus: at a cost of only three cents.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

This excellent website brings together a host of talented artists who give us classic album covers re-imagined with our favorite comic heros.

I'll leave you guys with this fan-made version of the Episode VII trailer rendered in 16-bit animation. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!


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GiR by GIR: Lost Orbit


Even with a 3-Day badge to PAX East it’s impossible to see everything and sometimes games will slip past your radar. This week I’m here to talk about one such game, Lost Orbit, an interesting indie title developed and published by PixelNAUTS. It's difficult to pin a genre label on Lost Orbit, as it's a neat little blend of rich atmospheric storytelling, speed runner, lite-rpg, and has been referred to elsewhere as a "dodge ‘em up". Players take on the role of Harrison, a lowly satellite repair man who finds himself stranded in deep space and desperate to return home after his ship is destroyed.


Thematically, Lost Orbit is a gorgeous game with an amazing soundtrack that captures the beauty of both open space and alien worlds (the game boasts 40 levels set across 4 unique solar systems), as well as the tragedy of being lost and alone in such surroundings. Well, not quite alone, as Harrison befriends a satellite who serves as a narrator to the player’s journey. I was immediately charmed by this and was reminded strongly of both Bastion and Transistor. Unlike those games, Lost Orbit’s narration may not be procedural or dynamic, but that doesn’t stop it from being just as witty, tense, or melancholy. 

It’s almost a shame because, mechanically speaking, the main gameplay loop discourages you from enjoying most of the previously mentioned elements I enjoy so much. For starters let’s look at the rpg-lite system. Players can improve Harrison with various upgrades to existing abilities or get whole new ones such as a barrel roll, bombs, or a hyper boost. Upgrades are bought using a material called Obtainium the player collects along the path of each level and bonus amounts are awarded based on the speed they finish as well as the number of lives it took them to do so.

There is a Timed Trial mode as well as global leaderboards for bragging rights. I understand that Lost Orbit is marketing itself as a fast-paced dash through a deadly obstacle course where players will strive to get the best time while still collecting every scrap of Obtainum en route to the end, but personally I felt a strange disconnect for being given a minimal award and bronze rank for trying to take time to enjoy and appreciate what PixelNAUTS had crafted. I had gotten invested in Harrison’s story but felt as if the game was telling me if I wanted to be able to improve my skills and advance, I was going to have to start ignoring it in favor boosting through the level to get a better time and better rewards to ensure my survival. 


That last bit, the whole surviving thing, is trickier than it sounds. Harrison is fragile with no way to improve his actual durability. At the speeds the game expects you to travel, more often than not I got to experience what a bug must before slamming into a car’s windshield on the freeway. Thankfully there is a checkpoint system which seemed pretty well laid out and, while I died frequently, I was never set so far back that the resulting feelings of frustration overwhelmed me. While I DO have a pretty high tolerance for that sort of thing (Hotline Miami trained me well) I’m terrible at twitch based reflex games and started to struggle once Lost Orbit started throwing more complex elements like wormholes, intelligent enemies, and the ability to wrap around the edge of the screen at me. That said, it meant that clearing levels or having a particularly good run was always immensely satisfying.


While eventually I had to put the controller down and walk away because I could no longer stand the sound of poor Harrison hitting another obstacle like so much jam on a radar dish, I want to stress I don’t blame the game here but, rather my own incompetence at avoiding the hazards of space.  PixelNAUTS have developed an addictive and compelling gameplay loop for Lost Orbit, combined with a forgiving checkpoint system to allow even the clumsiest of players enjoy the experience. I hope that one day I’ll master the intricacies of piloting Harrison and his suit well enough I can get him all the way home. Lost Orbit will be out for PC on Steam and PS4 on May 12th

Full Disclosure: This review was written based off a review copy for the Steam version of the game provided by VIM Global Consulting.
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone. Hope you're all having a great weekend thus far. The GIR and I are still a bit giddy after our first foray into 5th Edition D&D yesterday. It felt so incredibly good to be back at a table again. We've done a handful of online-based games, but there's definitely something to be said about gathering friends around a screen and physically rolling our dice. But enough reminiscing; let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

The big buzz this week centered primarily around the release of Age of Ultron. If you or your friends were inspired by the movie and want to dive into the source comics, this is an exeellent primer to help you do so.

Check out these extremely cool custom manga covers on the Japanese translations of the Song of Ice and Fire series.

Games

The PC version of Grand Theft Auto V may be only days off the proverbial release block, but Rockstar Games has allegedly already put the kibosh on the development and use of mods.

Four years after it was released in alpha, Kerbal Space Progam touches down in the annals of in PC Gamer.

Movies/TV

One of the most fun and enjoyable scenes in Age of Ultron is the fight between the Hulk and Tony Stark wearing the Hulkbuster version of his Iron Man armor. If the trailer or the movie has you wondering just how hard Tony had to hit the Hulk in that scene, this is your answer

Speaking of Ultron, the Blu-Ray release of the film will include extended footage and an alternate ending.

News out of Dimension Jump Convention included this confirmation that the classic sci-fi series Red Dwarf will be making a comeback. Not one, but two new incarnations of the show will be appearing on the UK's Dave network in 2016 and 2017 repectively.

Director Josh Trank would like to set the record straight concerning his departure from the Star Wars franchise.

This may be our first look at Will Smith as Deadshot in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.

Science/Technology

40 years ago NASA scientists began gathering satellite images of the Earth. These are some of the time-lapse videos that came out of that collecting and they provide us with some stunning video clips illustrating the footprint that we've created on Earth's surface.
Artist's rendition of MESSENGER's last moments

Speaking of NASA, earler this week they bid farewell to MESSENGER, their Mercury orbiter, after the latter ran out of fuel and smashed onto the surface of the diminutive planet.

As the agency turned its eyes away from the center of our solar system and looked out to the farthest reaches of the latter they were met with what appears to be a polar ice cap on the most controversial of the dwarf planets.

They're also allegedly working on an ideal way to get from point A to point B by edging closer to making a functional warp drive.

IBM appears to have solved one of the most persistent problems plaguing quantum computing.

Duolingo, the free app designed to help familiarize users with another language, has added Klingon to its list of teachable tongues. 

Have you ever wanted to hack a Tesla? You may get your chance this summer at Defcon

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are hard at work developing sustainable plastics from oil products derived from algae. Their first commercial-level results? Surfboards.

Meet the latest weapon in the global fight against Tuberculosis: highly trained giant African rats.

You can also get acquainted with Chilesaurus, the newly discovered so-called 'platypus dinosaur'. 

The latest edition of PLoS Computational Biology includes this study indicating that the current rule set concerning the drafting of scientific abstracts may be missing the mark.

Researchers at the Salk Institute believe they have breached new ground with regards to the human ability to 'edit' mitochondrial DNA.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

There's loving Legos and then there's remodeling your house to accommodate your love of building with plastic blocks. Seattle architect Jeffrey Pelletier did the latter to astonishing organized and comprehensive effect.

She'll do the bedtime run in less than 12 parsecs. One particularly crafty and nerdy father built this amazing bed shaped like the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon for his (hopefully grateful) son.

Tony Stark, you may have some competition in the near future from this guy, who made a fully functional Iron Man glove.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Holy moly, it's already Sunday again. I know I often gripe about how quickly time speeds by, but it's so true! Maybe it's because we're still venturing out from our winter hibernation, but we're somehow already on the cusp of May. Must kick costume production into high gear! For now though, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

Hasbro is teaming up with IDW to release an all-female Transformers lineup. The comic run featuring these new heroines, Transformers: Combiner Hunters, will hit the shelves this upcoming July.

Frank Miller is coming back to oversee the production of the final chapter of The Dark Knight Returns. The Dark Knight III: the Master Race is due out this fall.

Games

Here is an excellent breakdown of Valve's experiment with paid Skyrim mods.

These are supposedly the best English-language games that North Americans will never get to play.

Movies/TV

This past Monday we got the debut episode of StarTalk, a talk show hosted by none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson.

We have our first official look of Jared Leto as the Joker in the Suicide Squad.

It's official; we'll be getting a second season of Daredevil.

Science/Technology
Happy Birthday Hubble!

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the Hubble telescope's launch into orbit. On this milestone week, the Hubble proved that it's still got it by sending back these images of a stellar event that defies our current classification schemes.

We're nearly a month into the regular season for Major League Baseball, but these gifs depicting the practical physics utilized in the sport are still topical (and super fun to watch!).

Our distant ancestors may have had more than a little in common with a certain Old One.

Sticklers for accuracy rejoice! Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have built the most accurate atomic clock that humanity has ever seen.

The latest edition of Pancreas includes this joint study by Purdue University, Stanford-Burnham, and UC San Diego in which scientists were able to coax cancerous cells back into standard pancreatic cells. 

Apparently even honey bees can fly drones (and doing so may be an enormous breakthrough in terms of how we grow our food).

It's one of the most referenced Laws in technology, but Moore's Law may not have actually claimed what it's purported to state.

General Awesomeness 

A 7-year-old Star Wars fan wrote a distraught letter to George Lucas asking that the Jedi Order be altered so that their Force-wielding adherents can marry. This is how Lucasfilm responded.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Cosplay: Make Me Up

Hey, lately it seems like all the posts on here are all games, games, games. That's good and all, but what happened to the other stuff?

That's a very good question. There are two reasons why games have been dominating the Care and Feeding of Nerds as of late. Reason #1 is that it just so happened a bunch of game developers we've been working with had projects reaching the fundraising/publication phase all around the same time and we wanted to help make those efforts successful (related aside: there needs to be a fun term for a group of game developers, like a cadre of devs or a raiding party of devs). Reason #2 is decidedly less nice and has been mentioned a few times in the lead-ins of other posts. This winter, quite frankly, was a drawn out boss fight for the GIR and I. There were weeks of nightmare commutes, consecutive storms, and lots of damage to our home. Add to that the fact that I've been dealing with some decidedly unpleasant health stuff for the past five weeks or so. While we walked away victorious, the battle took up almost every minute of free time that wasn't otherwise spent at work or sleep. Consequently, all the crafty, bookish, cinematic, or culinary things got shunted aside in the face of relentless snow and projects with firm deadlines attached to them.

We're aiming to shine some light on those poor, neglected parts of the site ASAP beginning with this very post. As we get back to something akin to normalcy, production on Steampunk Hawkgirl is ramping up (less than 100 days remaining until Gen Con! Gah!). Between this and participating in the 30 Days of Cosplay Challenge over on our Instagram account, we've had a few cosplay-related questions come in, one of which was the following:

What makeup do you use when you cosplay and how do I get nice makeup without spending a ton of money?

I'll be perfectly honest here: were it not for cosplay, I would still be absolutely clueless about cosmetics. Growing up, makeup was enigmatic at best and, when the occasion called for its application, wearing it was something that was endured. My mother and other female relatives weren’t big on wearing it and the vast majority of my friends were either boys or girls whose stances on makeup mirrored my own.


All this cosmetic nonchalance came to a screeching halt when cosplay became my obsession hobby. The need to transform my own face and body into that of characters with sometimes very different features necessitated a certain level of familiarity with the products that would produce those results. Well, that and the fact that wearing a costume often translates to your picture being scattered into the wilds of the internets, which would prompt many people into wanting to put their best face forward, so to speak. 

I’ll present recommendations for each category of makeup in the order in which I normally apply them to my face (applying body makeup merits its own post). Each category will also include a few options representing a handful of price points for each type of cosmetic. Generally cosplayers fall into the “I’ll reuse as many of these products as I can outside the convention halls” or the “I don’t use these products for anything else” camps, so I wanted to provide options that will work for either mentality. Lastly, all the stuff I recommend here is either what I use personally or garnered high praise from fellow cosplayers/highly cosmetically literate friends.

Eye Shadow/Primer

I’m a big fan of doing all your eye painting before beginning work on any other part of your face. Not only do your eyes tend to take a long time to apply, but they can also smear/flake/otherwise ruin things like foundation if that application doesn’t go according to plan (or does, but your mascara feels like being uncooperative and snowing down ashy flakes onto your fresh foundation anyway).

Anyhow, the very first step of my eye painting process involves an application of primer (usually with my fingers). I was extremely skeptical of primer as a concept until Sephora got me hooked with a free sample of the stuff. Let me tell you, if your eye makeup plays a big role in your cosplay, you should definitely consider investing in a quality primer. Not only does the primer make all the colors in your shadows stand out, it ensures that those colors will last you the entire day without creasing, flaking, or wrinkling. It’s for this reason that I recommend Urban Decay’s Original Primer Potion. The Potion comes in a handful of varieties, but I tend to stick to the Original for cosplaying as it provides an excellent blank canvas for your shadows (the tinted versions of the Potion, like Sin, are really fun for everyday use, especially if you’re running short on time or just don’t feel like putting on shadow).

Speaking of shadows, this tends to be one place where you don’t have to fork over a ton of cash, especially if you’re not a person who uses their makeup in their non-convention life. Even if you are a regular cosmetics user, many of the colors you’d use for a costume don’t translate easily for wear beyond the dealer hall. Because of this, I tend to go with drug store eye shadows for any bold or especially bright colors, but invest a bit more in neutrals and hues that can pull double-duty.

My reigning favorite drug store eye shadows are from Revlon. Not only do their shadows stay put for extremely long periods of time (16+ hours), but they offer both individual colors and high utility sets. I’ve become a fan of their Photoready sets, as these always have at least two distinct, complete ‘looks’ within them (a ‘look’ here being primer, highlight, and accent shades). For one-off colors, the Revlon Colorstay Shadowlinks are solid shadows that apply easily and remain true to form all day long.

If you’re going to invest in a palette of shadows, I highly recommend picking up one of the Nakeds by Urban Decay (there are three versions of this line, some which suit particular eye colors better than others) or, if you’re really up to splurge, one of the core sets from Dior.

Image by Urban Decay


Eye Liner

This is, by far, my least favorite cosmetic item and I avoid applying it unless it’s absolutely necessary. However, if you need to reshape/define your eyes at all for your costume or if you’re planning on wearing false lashes then eye liner needs to come into play.

Given that, I tend to buy drug store brands, specifically Revlon, any time that an outfit calls for a liner that isn’t black. Revlon’s Colorstay line not only has a wide range of hues that will last you all day without a problem, but the liners are available in pencil, liquid, and gel form (if you have a strong preference on your liner format).

Black liner, on the other hand, is so versatile that it tends to be worth investing in (especially if you wear false lashes frequently). If you’re up for a splurge, the Diorshow Art Pen is not only long super long-lasting, but applies easily and meshes well with nearly all brands of false lashes.

False Lashes/Mascara

Speaking of false lashes, they may have a learning curve associated with them, but there’s really no duplicating the effect they give (the application process may get its own post). There are approximately a bajillion brands of lashes out there, so selecting a pair may induce a bit of analysis paralysis. 

Basically you're looking for lashes that give you your desired shape (i.e. angled for cat eyes, very wide for anime characters, etc) in at least a semi-realistically looking way. One way to ensure this is to look to see if the tips of the falsies cut off abruptly or taper to a point (like real eyelashes do). There's much ado about lashes made with real vs fake hair bristles, but there are plenty of quality brands made with each type. Just because a set of lashes is made with synthetic hair doesn't mean that they're of poor quality, particularly if you only wear them for conventions and don't need them to look hyper realistic.
Image by Kiss Lashes

I've become a big fan of Kiss brand lashes, as they're extremely easy to apply and come in a huge variety of styles. If you wear falsies very frequently (more than a few times a month) or are just up for a splurge you may want to look into a pair of Velour lashes.

When dealing with your own lashes, however, you generally want to add color and volume. I often layer mascara on (beginning with colored products and ending with dark brown or black), especially if I'm not wearing fake lashes. To get the look of fake lashes without actually using them, I start with Diorshow Lash Maximizing Plumping Serum on just the tips of my lashes. This stuff acts like a primer while also adding length to your lashes. Depending on the look I'm going for, I'll either use Almay's Intense i-color or Maybelline's Lash Sensational mascaras. If I need to be especially fancy or dramatic, then Diorshow Extase will get to take center stage.

Foundation/Concealer

Foundation is one of those products that definitely lives up to nearly all interpretations of its name. Since it's what holds the majority of your look together, it's worth taking the time to experiment and figure out what types of foundations/concealers work for your skin type. Regardless of whether you end up using my recommendations here or if you find something else that works brilliantly, there are two basic qualities that you're looking for in a convention-ready foundation: something that gives a matte finish and a product that does not contain any sunscreen. Why? It all comes down to how you'll look in pictures. Foundations with a shiny/dewy finish or that contain sunscreen will reflect light, leaving you washed out and featureless in any pictures where a flash was used.

For drug store foundations/concealers, there's really no match for Loreal's True Match. The product line is not only widely available, but it comes in a mind-blowing array of shades so you're almost guaranteed to find the perfect compliment for your skin tone. Loreal offers both liquid and powder versions of their True Match foundations/concealers. They are long-lasting and can easily pull double duty as your base makeup outside of the dealer hall.


Bare Minerals is an excellent choice if you have oily or very sensitive skin. Their foundations and concealers may take a bit longer to apply than most liquid products, but they tend to stay in place, never oxidize, and don't migrate into any creases you may have. The only downside with Bare Minerals is that it's tough to find a version without sunscreen (but it is possible and well worth the effort!). 

Dior Airflash is my absolute favorite foundation. It never oxidizes, applies very quickly, layers beautifully, and requires no retouching regardless of what you put it through during the day. The downside is that it is on the pricey side (and if you are considering buying this, you should give thought to also purchasing the application brush). However, if you do decide to bring Airflash home it will last you at least a year, as you use only a tiny amount with each use. 

Blush/Bronzer/Highlighter  

Bare Minerals is my go-to brand for bronzer or highlighter. They produce a wide variety of colors that all look extremely natural, but can be easily layered to provide dramatic effects as needed. It's also very gentle on your skin and can be used with just about any brushes.

My last recommendation isn't technically a cosmetic, but may end up as a staple in your makeup bag. Model in a Bottle setting spray is practically sorcery. Spray it gently over your finished look and it will lock everything in place for the rest of the day. Bonus: it will ensure that you have a matte finish on all of your makeup which, as we talked about in the Foundation section, is critical to making sure your hard work translates well into a camera.

Hope you guys found this helpful! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.
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