All Aboard for Gen Con 2015!

It’s finally happening guys! Gen Con 2015 is upon us! Our bags are packed, costume bits have been shipped, and our dice are itching to be rolled. This year is extra special, as it’s the very first time that we’ll be covering the Best Four Days in Gaming as a member of the official Gen Con press corps. It’s going to be a very busy and, hopefully, all-around awesome few days and we’ll be bringing as much to you live from the dealer hall as we possibly can.


Woot for live coverage! What can we expect while you guys are in Indy?

We’ll be arriving in Indianapolis on Wednesday evening and will be covering the entire four days of the convention. Aside from a few logistical/fun updates, our actual coverage from inside the convention center will begin at approximately 7am EST on Thursday, July 30th.

Where can we find your newsfeed? Will it be here?

All of our live coverage will be on our social media pages only. We’re going to do our best to link all of them together so you don’t have to worry about one page containing more information than another. However, if you’d like to select one social media page to start with or use as a base of con-following operations, we recommend that that page be our Twitter account.

So, will any Gen Con information make it back here to this site?

Definitely. We’ll post a giant convention wrap-up within a week or so of us getting back from Indy similar to what we’ve done in previous years.

I'm going to be at Gen Con too! Can I find you and say hi during the con?

Sure thing. We'll be providing live updates on the social media pages. If you do happen to see us, by all means come say hi!

Can I stop by your panel?

We'd love it if you did! Our panel, "It Takes a Village to Make a Game" will be taking place on Thursday, July 30th at 8pm EST in Pennsylvania Station A of the Crowne Plaza hotel.

What day or days will you be cosplaying as Steampunk Hawkgirl?

Steampunk Hawkgirl will be making her big debut all day Saturday, August 1st. I'm planning on being in full costume for as long as possible that whole day and will be participating in the annual costume parade.

It's so soon! Ah!

<<giddy squeal>> We look forward to bringing you all the news from Indianapolis!

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This Week in Geekdom

Ok guys, we're at the FINAL COUNTDOWN! A little over three days from now the doors will open for Gen Con 2015. The GIR and I are in the midst of packing, shipping out some of the components for Steampunk Hawkgirl, and trying to staunch the small-child-on-Christmas-Eve levels of excitement that are abounding in the house. There will be a separate post up early next week detailing our full schedule and how you can find us/say hi during the con if you'll be joining us in Indy. In the meantime, as a nice little distraction, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!

Games

10 years after its release, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II got an official update.

The Electronic Sports League announced on Thursday that it will be implementing a drug-testing regimen for those seeking to compete under its name.

It's a question that's come up more than once among gamers: Are there too many titles on Steam?

Movies/TV

We know we're a bit biased, but this may be the greatest video mashup in the history of mashups


These are the 10 minutes that convinced ABC to make a new prime time Muppets show.


We may be seeing Benicio del Toro in Star Wars: Episode VIII.

Science/Technology

Ok, so it's the year 2015 and more than one person has asked, "Where are our flying cars?" If the MIT-affiliated company Terrafugia has anything to say about it, the answer may be this.

Lexus is trying to take the concept car to a whole new interactive level with this one-off vehicle that uses biometrics to display the driver's heartbeat. 

NASA, fresh off the discoveries of the past few weeks, announced that they had been able to locate what is the most Earth-like planet we've seen outside our solar system to date.

It was a mystery that stood unsolved for 300 years, but we finally have hard evidence that Saturn's moon, Iapetus, is actually half-light and half-dark.

Researchers at the University of Alberta are toiling away at the development of a pill that would allow those afflicted with celiac disease to be able to tolerate gluten.

Speaking of grains, the latest issue of Nature contains this research indicating that a new GMO strain of rice not only produces very high yields, but also significantly less greenhouse gasses.

Google's new Timeline feature will show you everywhere you've traveled (and just how much information Google can collect from you).

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

What if Star Wars had been animated as a set of ukiyo-e woodblock prints?

This week we learned the official cause of the explosion that led to the failure of SpaceX's CSR7 mission. Yesterday, Kerbalnaut Scott Manley created this dramatic re-enactment of the launch and fateful explosion using everyone's favorite Space Program.

If you're a pinball fanatic and happen to be in the vicinity of Ronks, Pennsylvania then that town has a train that's pretty much custom-made for you.

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

Happy weekend everyone! We're in the very last stages of preparations for Gen Con 2015, which itself is a little surreal. The countdown now somehow stands at single digits, costume pieces need to be shipped, and bags will soon need to be packed. At this point next week Steampunk Hawkgirl will be 100% complete and, hopefully, on her way out to Indianapolis. In the interim, there will be at least one or two more posts that speak to the making of that costume and probably one other post describing where you can find the GIR and I if you're going to be joining us out at Gen Con. In the meantime though, let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Books

Star Wars: Aftermath, one of the first new canon novels in the Star Wars universe, depicts the tragic fallout after the destruction of the second Death Star. The book will be available on September 4th. 

Comics

Did the concept for Spider-Man's costume come from a 1950s era child's Halloween costume?

Archie Comics will be bringing the Ramones into their paper-and-ink world in 2016.

10 actually comics-based announcements from San Diego Comic Con.

Games


Movies/TV

We posted the trailer on our social media pages earlier this week but, in case you missed it, here's our first glimpse of the X-Files reboot.

Artificial Intelligence has been a recurring theme in movies for decades now, but which films treat this technology correctly?

The saga of Dr. Doom's struggle to break into the Marvel cinematic universe.

Science/Technology

One of the biggest science stories of the week was undoubtedly the first images of Pluto that were sent back to us from the New Horizons probe. Here are some of the incredible pictures from our most distant neighbor in this solar system. 

Speaking of NASA-originated awesomeness, these are the ideas being bandied about for a post-Hubble deep space telescope.

The other headline-grabbing bit of science news we were treated to this week was this discovery out of CERN that researchers have discovered a new subatomic particle: pentaquarks. 

It's nothing like the summer camp your parents may have been sent to: this is the NSA's cybersecurity summer camp.

Buckyballs, not just a fun desk toy that's been pulled off the US market, but a tool that is still helping researchers unravel long-standing mysteries concerning interstellar space. 
Image Credit

The latest edition of Nature Communications includes this bit of research about a novel type of ceramic developed at the University of Tokyo that holds onto heat until the release of such is purposefully triggered.

Speaking of novel substances, scientists at Rice University have successfully combined titanium and gold to create the first itinerant antiferromagnetic metal.

We talk a lot on here about the sometimes-unsettling advances in the field of robotics. Well, researchers at the University of Hertfordshire are trying to allay our fears a bit with their efforts to teach robots to play soccer.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

San Diego Comic Con, the Musical.

If you've been reading here for a little while, you're likely aware of just how much we love Mad Max around here. So we were extra giddy when we came across this fan-made, Doof Warrior inspired ukelele.  

Adam Savage and Chris Hadfield went to Comic-Con incognito while cosplaying as astronauts. Jaime Lee Curtis did the same at EVO 2015 while cosplaying as a Rule 63 version of Vega from Street Fighter.
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Cosplay: the Thing With Feathers

We are under two weeks out from Gen Con 2015! Holy mother of the Avatar. Aside from the flurry of preparations, the last-days-before-a-convention nightmares have started in earnest. You know the ones; you arrive at the convention woefully unprepared or having forgotten/lost/broken some critical component of your cosplay kit. Those are just going to be a regular feature of my sleep cycle for the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, the construction process is well in hand, so we can chat a bit more about Steampunk Hawkgirl and how she came together. If you’re just joining us now and would like to catch up, you can read about the corset, the leggings, the worbla bits, and the wing fundamentals using those links (though, honestly, the order in which these are read doesn’t matter especially much).

Today we’re going to cover how to make the feathers, how to attach them to the ‘bones’ of the wings, and how to get them to fan out like those on a real bird’s wing. Fair warning, there is a LOT of repetition in the building of this part of the costume, so your best bet is to line up a good TV series, movie marathon, or excellent song playlist to keep you company.


As you can imagine, keeping the feathers as light and mobile as possible is the name of the cosplaying game. There are a couple of ways you can accomplish this: making the wings out of canvas or similarly sturdy fabric, out of paper or cardstock, or out of foam. After some initial experimenting, I chose craft foam, as it was both lightweight and could hold a shape nearly of its own volition. What you end up selecting will likely depend on what your wing ‘bones’ are made out of and where you plan to place your feathers. For example: wings that center on your actual arms can bear canvas feathers quite beautifully. If you do end up also choosing to use foam, I'd recommend getting at least three rolls of approximately this size to ensure you have enough for this project.

Once that decision had been made, it was a matter of actually making the feathers. To do this, I laid one of the wings out on the floor in its fully extended position. I then cut a roll of easel paper into 3” x 36” (7.62 x 91.44 cm) strips and arrayed the strips over the wing in a fan-like pattern, then trimmed them into varying lengths to mimic a real bird’s wing. This process was repeated with a second layer of feathers 2.5" x 24" (6.35 x 60.96 cm). Once I had a full “set” that covered all portions of the bones as I wanted them to, I copied the designs onto the craft foam twice so both wings would mirror one another. I ended up making a handful of wider feathers for the very bottom of the wings to create a more organic overall appearance, but it's entirely up to you if your project will have need of these.

The paper templates
First pass with the foam feathers


With the future wing covers in hand, thus began the long process of turning plain white foam strips into something that actually resembled feathers. After priming everything with gesso, I used ordinary hot glue to apply 1/8" (0.32 cm) dowels of balsa wood to each strip, then painted them with acrylics in the patterns I wanted. The dowels are necessary if your feathers are close to the dimensions I used in order to provide a bit of structure; omitting them will result in floppy feathers. As mentioned earlier, this process can be extremely time consuming, so a good bit of background noise will likely be very helpful.

Once all your feathers have been painted and buttressed you can begin mounting them to that they lay against the bones. The way I did this was to cut this aluminum screening into two strips 28” x 10” (71.12 x 25.4cm). The aluminum provides a sturdy surface on which to hang your feathers without adding too much weight to your rig. I bent the strips around the primary vertical bones of the wings, then held up each feather to where I wanted it to rest, marking the screen at this point with a sharpie. Using the punching tool from this kit, I cut 1/4” (0.64 cm) diameter holes into each feather and, with the help of a pair of tin snips, did the same at the sharpie-marked points on the screen. After that, it was a matter of aligning the holes in the screens and the holes in the ends of the feathers and joining everything together with some of these grommets. The grommets are also lightweight and allow the feathers a degree of movement if you’d like them to fan out or otherwise deploy. This whole process was repeated with the second, shorter layer of feathers.

Once all the foam had been attached to the screen there was the small matter of ensuring that the feathers would stay open and beautifully fanned out. To accomplish this, I joined each feather to the one above and below it with some carefully tied (and painted over) lengths of fishing line. This process is also extremely time-consuming, but definitely worthwhile as the finished effect is stunning. It also helps spread out the weight of the wings over the full surface of the 'bones' so you minimize the potential for stress-related snafus during wear.



Over top of the screens I molded a few strips of Worbla both to cover the former and to create a metallic, steampunky effect on the wings themselves. For the basics on how I worked with the Worbla, visit my earlier post on what thermoplastic can do for you. For pieces this long, however, it can be useful to work in small sections at a time (though it can be tricky to ensure that all sections are heated evenly as a result). Also, these steps were necessary for my particular project, as I needed the wings to be able to break down so I could ship them out to Indiana ahead of Gen Con. You can experiment as you see fit, especially if you’re ok with your wings having a more permanent configuration.

After the Worbla had been added, it was just a matter of priming it with gesso, painting it, and adding fun details to make it look like real metal. Just a heads up: Worbla is not at all a lightweight material even before you add things like primer and pain, so if you’re planning on adding any details to your wings it’s a good idea to keep them to a minimum.

We're almost to the end of this series! See you guys in the next installment!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend, especially if you're one of those nerds lucky enough to be at San Diego Comic Con right now. This week's entry is going to be a bit on the short side as I'm elbow deep in costuming still and the other, non-cosplay preparations for Gen Con are now in full swing. We're almost two weeks out! But ok, enough convention talk for the moment; let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Comics

IDW Publishing will be making a readable reality of a combination that you may have only acted out with your action figures: Batman and the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Games

On Friday, Beandog announced that they will be releasing a 25-hour expansion to Baldur's Gate titled Siege of Dragonspear. There is no release date attached to the title yet, but Beandog confirmed that the expansion will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux.

In what may be a perfect example of A Realization Too Late, Sega's president admits that the quality of individual games may be a thing of reasonable importance.

Movies/TV


Are you in full-on Walking Dead withdrawal? Well here's the season 6 trailer.


Star Wars: Episode IX will be directed by the man who gave us Jurassic World.

Speaking of Star Wars, here's what SDCC-ers got to partake in regarding Episode VII.


Here's our first look at Nathan Fillion's forthcoming web series, Con Man. That is all.

Ben Affleck's take on Batman was that the Caped Crusader is a bit of a burnout. Also, Affleck will be directing the next Batman film.

Science/Technology

Despite SpaceX's recent troubles, NASA is moving forward with plans for the first manned commercial mission to space and selected four astronauts to fly these initial missions.

NASA had themselves a busy week, as they also released the first images from New Horizons showing the surface of Pluto's moon, Charon.

11 years of Opportunity's journeys around the surface of Mars condensed into an 8-minute video.

In what is surely a fabulous idea and won't play at all into the forthcoming overthrow of humanity by robot-kind, a team of Harvard researchers has taken to giving soft, skin-like coatings to their robo-creations.

If the Earth is rapidly heating up, where is all of these ambient heat going? According to a new study by JPL the answer is into the oceans.

How to survive in the coldest place on Earth.
Image Credit

Aside from potentially untangling the thorny issue of computing in quantum states, IBM is also making ultradense computing chips that boast a maximum capacity some four times larger than today's most powerful chips.

Researchers at Yale believe they have discovered a black hole so massive that it's outgrown its galaxy.

One nifty benefit of the ongoing drought in California is that researchers can now readily access the wreckage of a B-29 superfortress that crashed into Lake Mead in 1948.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One, thinks humanity would be a-ok in the event of an alien invasion.

The zombie apocalypse is both entirely feasible and extremely unlikely.

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's...a beagle hunting the Red Baron?

French artist Christophe Guinet made this incredibly detailed suit of Batman armor out of tree bark.

In what may be the most epic of tributes, one Star Wars fan walked 645 miles (in full Stormtrooper armor) to San Diego Comic Con in memory of his wife.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Cosplay: All About Worbla

All the cosplay posts! Ok, not literally all of them, but I’m all about following through on my promise to you guys to spill the remaining details about how Steampunk Hawkgirl came/is coming together. If you’re just joining the conversation now or missed out on any of the previous installations pertaining to this costume you can read about the corset, leggings, and the support rig for the wings using those respective links. Today we’re going to go into all the little details of the costume that involved the use of thermoplastic. These included a breastplate, gauntlets, covers/toppers for my boots, the hawk crest necklace, and the helm portion of my mask/helm/goggles mashup.


We’ve talked about thermoplastics a couple of times, namely how to work with closed-cell plastic and now to shape lengths of acrylic into fun swords. What we’ll cover in this post pertains mainly to Worbla and other sheet-form, closed-cell opaque thermoplastics. Worbla is one of the single biggest buzzwords in cosplay right now, and it’s not hard to see why. With a bit of planning and a splash of heat, Worbla can take on just about any shape you can imagine. Want to re-create Zelda’s pauldrons or Kayle’s armor or Daenerys’ Qartheen belt? Worbla (or similar thermoplastics like Wonderflex) will help you make it happen.

That sounds awesome! How does it work?

First, you’ll need a few things, namely the Worbla itself, but also a heat gun, a Sharpie or other durable pen/marker, scissors, and craft foam. The easiest way to procure Worbla is online. Fair warning, it’s not the cheapest of costume-making materials, but if you buy in bulk you can save yourself a bit of cash in the long run. I always end up buying the largest sheets available both for the potential savings and the fact that the plastic has to come from Europe, which often translates into shipping times of at least a few weeks. Heat guns are a bit easier and cheaper to come by, as many models are available in most hardware stores (plus Amazon, which is where I got mine from). If you can, try to get a heat gun with a high and low setting, as this will give you the maximum amount of control when working with the thermoplastic.  All the other items are optional and dependent on the type of project you’re working on. I will make the following recommendation about cutting implements though: if you’re making something particularly complex or that just involves a lot of pieces you may want to splurge on a nice set of tin snips. Your hands will thank you if you spend any extended period cutting through the sometimes-uncooperative plastic. 

Once you have your materials it’s time to discern what shapes you’ll need for your project. For Steampunk Hawkgirl I used the clingwrap and masking tape method to draft patterns. All you need for that method are exactly those two items, a pair of scissors, and a marker. You wrap the part of your body you want to model or will otherwise be wearing your intended piece in plastic wrap, then do your best mummy impression and cover the wrap with a layer of masking or marking tape. Aside from becoming what will be your pattern, the tape offers two tactical benefits. First, you can draw directly on it with your marker to give yourself a concrete idea of shapes, designs, and potential decorations. Second, the tape will be a bit constricting, which will provide a great simulation of what it will feel like to have the thermoplastic on your body. Once you're happy with your designs, carefully cut the tape and plastic wrap off yourself, then trace the resulting shapes onto your thermoplastic and/or craft foam. Adding a layer of craft foam to your pieces helps give definition and structure to the finished product, but you should certainly experiment a bit to see if your particular project requires this step.

As the majority of endeavors involving Worbla or similar thermoplastics do require at least one buffering or structural layer of material, the rest of this post will focus on the techniques used to achieve that. If you're not layering your materials, the steps for warming up and shaping the Worbla are still the same and completely applicable. After you've cut out all your shapes and patterns (this should include anything you're using for decorative purposes as well as what your foundational pieces), it's a good idea to also cut out several long, thin strips of Worbla. These little strips can come in handy when finishing the edges of your pieces or for correcting areas that didn't turn out quite as planned. A safe bet would be to cut these strips to be twice as wide as the thickness of your thickest material.

Ok, so you have your shapes, your craft foam, and your edging material. Now it's time to prep your work space. I tend to like working on a piece of cardboard that I've covered with at least one layer of aluminum foil (with the dull side facing up, but this doesn’t make a huge difference). This helps protect the underlying surfaces, but also helps you recover the Worbla once it's been heated up since it can get pretty sticky. Handy things to have within easy reach include a sharpie/durable marker, a ruler, and a pair of scissors. Lastly, you’ll need your heat gun. I have a small square of granite that I keep under the heat gun just for another layer of protection, but having a dedicated resting place for your gun is completely optional.


***MOMENT OF SERIOUSNESS: HEAT GUNS CAN BE DANGEROUS; USE CAUTION WHEN HANDLING OR WORKING WITH THEM!***

Many heat guns have two settings: a lower heat and high heat. You’ll want to employ the highest setting your gun has when initially warming the Worbla. Also, this is an ideal time to orient your Worbla in order to make your crafting life easier in the near future. Worbla has two sides: a rougher side with a texture reminiscent of fabric and a smooth, shiny side. The latter will be more adhesive once the material is warm, so it’s almost always the side that you want to apply to the inside of your garment (or apply directly onto your craft foam, if you’re using it). I always have the Worbla lay with the rough side facing up at me from the aluminum foil because doing so allows the ‘glue’ of the shiny side to heat up gently, thus creating better behaved thermoplastic. This is just what I’ve found works for me though. You should definitely experiment to get an idea of what will serve you best.

Lay out your Worbla as you see fit and apply the heat from your gun as evenly as possible; using small circular motions tends to be very effective. You may notice that the Worbla will change to a subtly darker tan/brown color as it warms up; once your piece has completely taken on this hue, that’s usually the sign that it’s ok to begin shaping it. Carefully peel your piece off of your work surface. The Worbla should be very pliable, sticky, and hot, but not burning, to the touch. You have 15-30 or so seconds to mold the Worbla into your desired shape before it begins to cool and harden. To get your desired form, apply what was the shiny side directly to your foundation material (usually craft foam). Manipulate the Worbla with your fingers until you’re satisfied with the shape, then leave it to cool. If your first attempt at shaping didn’t go quite as planned, you can reheat the Worbla to make it flexible again. While you can repeat this a few times, try not to go overboard on the corrections, as it is possible to scorch the thermoplastic (it will turn white-ish and start to flake).

Once you’ve built up your desired piece from the Worbla, let it cool entirely. In the meantime, gather up any scrap thermoplastic you have leftover and set it aside in a safe place amongst your other crafting supplies. You never know when you may need an odd shape in a future project and, given the cost of Worbla, it can be handy to have extra bits on hand. After your piece has cooled and hardened, you can finish it as needed to achieve your desired look.

For the Worbla portions of Steampunk Hawkgirl, I primed each piece with four coats of gesso then painted directly onto the dried gesso with standard acrylic paints. This was to give the pieces a weathered, textured look in keeping with the Steampunk aesthetic. Sanding the gesso or using other agents in addition to the gesso, like wood glue, will give you a more polished and smooth finish if that’s what you’re after. For the trim, I used Rub N Buff in a few different shades (related aside: I highly recommend picking up the sampler set if you're going to invest in that specific finish). Rub N Buff is a wax-based paint that, while sometimes messy to apply, gives you an incredibly realistic metallic shine and works beautifully with thermoplastic.


If you're going to add straps or extra foam to help adhere your piece to the rest of your costume (or your body) I'd recommend using rubber cement on all surfaces that share an edge with the thermoplastic, as hot glue will likely cause distortions. Other than that though, you can add pretty much anything to the Worbla, including more Worbla.

It's an excellent material and lots of fun to experiment with. You'll get to see the 100% finished pieces in the very near future. In the meantime, best of luck with your costuming adventures!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone and a belated Happy Independence Day for all of you who celebrated yesterday. Aside from the pomp and awesomeness that usually attends the 4th, we've been pressing full court on preparations for Gen Con. I promise there will be so, so many posts in the very near future, specifically entries covering the construction of Steampunk Hawkgirl, who is tantalizingly close to being done. In the meantime though, let's get down to the week in Geekdom.

Games

After a 3-year hiatus, one of the most popular racing games to ever grace a mobile platform, CSR2, is nearly here. Here's a sneak peek of what's in store.

Movies/TV

Get ready to chat up your hand again. It's been confirmed that a new Vampire Hunter D series will be developed.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (and possibly the most awkward movie title of all time) is still actively being developed, but we have these descriptions of what the film will likely feature.

Science/Technology

As part of our delayed celebrations of the 4th, here's the physics behind last night's fireworks displays.

In a show of true patriotism (or just a brilliant analogue to today's final game of the Women's World Cup), the USA has challenged Japan to a duel. The weapons? Giant robots.


The latest issue of Psychological Science contains yet another study linking the playing of certain computer games with the attenuation of PTSD symptoms.

Last weekend was an extremely tough one for our favorite would-be Bond villain, Elon Musk, and his aerospace concern, SpaceX. However, here's why SpaceX is likely to bounce back and soon.


If light can't escape the clutches of a black hole, how does gravity do it?

An exoplanet? In our solar system? It's an outcome more likely than you may think.

What if your eyes could perceive all the asteroids in the vicinity of Earth? It'd probably look something like this:


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

It's Sunday again? Seriously? Well alright then. Now that we're 30 days out from Gen Con 2015 my days have pretty much been all costuming all the time. You guys will get to see the fruits of those labors and get the details of how everything has come together in the very near future, I promise. However, for now, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

Image Credit
It's official, Miles Morales will be Spider-Man in the upcoming post-Secret Wars run featuring the webslinger. 

Top Cow Productions has confirmed that Witchblade will be coming to an end this October.


Games

After over two decades on the market, Settlers of Catan will be getting a new look and a new name with the release of its fifth edition.

Can't wait until November to get your fix of Avalanche's Mad Max game? They were kind enough to give us this trailer to help tide us over.


Take one part SpaceChem and one part absurdity, then add a heaping helping of felines and you've got The Cat Machine.

Apparently Rocksteady learned nothing from the experiences of Ubisoft as the former has temporarily suspended sales of Batman: Arkham Knight to address the myriad of issues that have been plaguing the much-anticipated PC version of the title.

Table flipping has now passed from ubiquitous psuedo-meme to a live, playable arcade game.

One intripid Redditor attempted to pre-order Fallout 4 by shipping over 2,200 bottlecaps to Bethesda. This week, the company decided that was a fair exchange.

Do you feel that Doom is too violent a game! Really? Bethesda has this to say to you.

Want a jetpack in Grand Theft Auto V? Fear not, for modders have given you exactly that.

Movies/TV

Some of the biggest names of the cast of the new Star Trek films have signed on to return for at least two more sequels.

We're going to see Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shift away from its current trajectory in season 3 in order to tie-in more closely with the comics.

Here's why you won't see Will Smith in Independence Day: Resurgence. You will, however, see Jeff Goldblum.

Hawkgirl will be the next character from the DC universe to get her own TV series.

We have an official trailer for the live-action Attack on Titan.


Science/Technology

Londoner Nicky Ashwell was the recipient of the "BeBionic", what's been touted as the world's most precise and anatomically accurate prosthetic hand.

Meet MoDe:Flex, Ford's eBike that can alert you to potholes in the road and break down to fit in your trunk.


Researchers now feel that vaccines made in the 1960s made those who received said inoculations more susceptible to getting chlamydia. Now they believe they've solved the mystery as to why that was the case and what it could mean for the development of future medications.

Novartis, the makers of Excedrin, have teamed up with Oculus Rift to create a simulation that will allow 'players' to experience what it's like to suffer from migraines.

The latest edition of Ecology Letters includes this contention that Darwin's finches have reached genetic equilibrium.

Two years ago a Dutch artist was charged with coming up with a way to dampen ambient noise levels surrounding Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. This is the solution he came up with.

General Awesomeness

Do you love Disney princesses? Did you see Jurassic World and now you can't get enough dinosaurs? Behold, the Velociprincesses.


Feats of Nerdery

This incredible Starcraft 2 fan film just might give you pause the next time you unleash a Zergling rush on a Terran outpost.

Speaking of Starcraft, check out this record-breaking Minecraft 'tapestry' made by artist Thorlar Thorlarian from 1.1 million of the diminutive digital blocks.

It took over a year and $10,000 USD worth of materials to build, but this fan-built rendering of Scrooge McDuck's money vault is gobsmackingly, insanely accurate.

A Japanese Mad Max fan wanted to share the film with his son, but the 5th grader is too young to be admitted to the theater. Solution: build a Doof Wagon model completely out of Lego.

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

Hi everyone. We're closing in on one month out from Gen Con 2015! Between our con preparations and keeping abreast of the news streaming out of E3 it was a busy, busy few days. So, without further ado, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

DC has confirmed that perennial villainesses Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are officially a couple.

Games

Redacted Studios gave us this trailer for Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma. The game will be available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 later this year.


Watch the AI Marl/O introduce itself to Super Mario Bros. and teach itself to play the game.

Blizzard announced that it will release a completely free three-mission single-player mini Starcraft 2 campaign titled Whispers of Oblivion. The missions will bridge the narrative gap between Heart of the Swarm and the forthcoming Legacy of the Void. Blizzard did not provide a date of availability for Whispers, but you can follow the game's development (and sign up for the Legacy beta) here.

Need a little post-apocalyptic fix to get you through to November and the release of Fallout 4? If you have an iDevice, you can give Fallout Shelter a try.

Speaking of Fallout, if you're a fan of modding your games then you may be pleased to know that your PC mods will be fully transferable to the Xbox One.

And while we're on a Bethesda streak, here are the first five playable minutes of Doom.

Thirteen years after we last saw an installment of the Pro Skater franchise, Robomodo will be bringing us Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5.

Shenmue 3 became the fastest Kickstarter project to reach the $2 million funds raised mark.


Movies/TV

It's official: Starz has greenlit a TV series based on Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods.

38 years after it was first screened, Episode IV was finally released to cinemas in China.

Science/Technology

Curious about how the Earth might look, climatically speaking, in the year 2100? NASA has put together these projections to show us exactly that.
This Vermeer is not what it seems

In addition to those thermal maps, NASA put together this composite to celebrate the 20th birthday of the Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD).

The Philae comet lander called home to Earth this week not once, but twice.

Joris Laarman is on a quest to put his company, MX3D, at the forefront of 3D printing technology with his line of robots that can print bridges in mid-air.

In what may be a revolutionary leap for the creation of prosthetic limbs, researchers at Linz University in Austria have developed an artificial leg that's capable of 'feeling' sensations.

Amazon has launched their new review system that is inherently intelligent and capable of learning. If anyone had Amazon in their 'Will be the source of real-life Skynet' pool, go collect your prize.

Universities throughout the U.S. are on a quest to bring back fully flavored and satisfying strawberries.

The BBC is developing the BBC Concept, a headset that will allow TV viewers to change the channel with a mere thought.


Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have developed a cellulose-based, biodegradable semiconductor chip. Yep, that's a computer chip made of wood.

The latest issue of Cancer Discovery includes this research on a novel test for prostate cancer.

Physicists at MIT have been able to get the gaseous form of sodium potassium to within a hair's breadth of absolute zero.

General Awesomeness

Behold the Hot Wheels garage where you can see the real-life counterparts to your favorite models.


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Want to Play: a MegaGame

File this one under things I Desperately Wanted to Finish and Post a Week Ago. It’s come up a couple of times in the past few entries, so you guys might be aware that for the past few months I’ve been dealing with a decidedly un-fun set of health issues. I won’t bore you guys with the details, but symptoms and path to recovery have done a number on me, so the otherwise ordinary task of drafting up a post ends up taking far longer than it used to.

But no medical malady was about to keep me from participating in my very first Megagame.  
Wait, I think I’ve heard of those. Aren’t Megagames kind of like model UN?

Sort of. One thing is for sure: the name is especially apt. Take one part model UN, one part LARP, and one part board game on steroids. Blend in the company of 30-50 new friends over the course of six or so hours and you end up with a Megagame.

That sounds amazing, if maybe a little intense. What’s it like to play?

Short answer: awesome, if also delightfully exhausting.

The longer answer could probably do with a little setting of the proverbial stage. Megagames are the brainchild of a group of British friends who have been coming up with the large scale playable scenarios since the early 80s. Scenarios, which comprise both the fundamental rules and the core narrative of the game, can vary significantly in terms of the subject matter covered and the roles made available to individual players.

Whether the thematic narrative involves clashing Celtic tribes or scheming Renaissance era Italian barons the basic mechanics remain largely the same. Players are assigned a role, each with specific abilities and functions, and are usually tasked with leveraging those to the benefit of whatever team or faction they are placed in. Some players are given access to and control of one or more colossal board game-ish setups, which usually represent combat and/or tactical interactions with the forces of other factions. A combination of interactions in those giant board games and skillful roleplaying will yield a winner, though winning seems to be less a concern than just performing well and producing memorable experiences.

Image Credit
Our theme was ‘Watch the Skies’, a scenario in which teams of five or six players would represent current nations in the lead up to and fallout from humanity’s first point of contact with extraterrestrials. Each ‘country’ had a leader, a vice-presidential type role, a science officer, a military commander, a representative to the UN, and a utility role. Players could also be placed with the invading/visiting aliens or take on the role of a member of the media attempting to report on the historic events as they unfolded.

If you guessed that last one was the role that I got to play, you’d be correct. While it wasn’t too much of a stretch to play a fact-hungry blogger, taking control of the Global Technology Journal gave me a unique vantage to see just how a Megagame worked while still being an active participant. The rules for the media were surprisingly robust and added an interesting dynamic to the game as a whole. Not only did the media players have to try to keep up with, and provide accurate citations for, the sometimes chaotic happenings around us, but we had to do so before any of our media brethren could land the scoop themselves. Balancing the need for timeliness with the accuracy (while simultaneously trying to curry favor with the individual countries) was definitely challenging and made the game go by in a flash. There were precious few moments of downtime and, in all honesty, there was enough content within the media role that it could easily have been split between two people.
 
Aliens have landed!
The other players seemed like they had similarly engaging tasks. Both the science and military officers spent the majority of the day perched over their respective game boards. The board gaming aspect seemed like some of the tactical turn-based combat from XCOM (for the military players) and the tech tree progression you might see in the Civilization games. You can see variants of these in action in this Shut Up & Sit Down video. Officers controlled individual units with unique abilities and had to respond to various challenges and confrontations, which themselves varied from round-to-round.

Wait, back up a second. What’s this about rounds?

The game itself is played in up to five or six rounds, exactly how many of these depends on how quickly the players progress through their given objectives or how much of the narrative they uncover. For sovereign nations, each round requires the management and deployment of a finite number of resources (team members being one such resource, but financial capital being the most significant factor). Representatives must be sent to the UN where, as you might guess, all formal diplomacy takes place. Scientists and military officers are deployed to their respective game boards to carry out agreed upon plans and the almighty budgets must be balanced. Money becomes especially precious in the later rounds, which allowed for several underhanded and interesting mechanics *cough cough* bribery *cough*. Where once well-cited stories were tough to come by there was a sudden deluge of state secrets at our media disposal…for a price. 

Our particular game moved along at a slower pace; we reached only the end of round four. Despite this, those four rounds packed in a lot of action. Aliens landed, other unspeakable horrors were conjured, alliances were forged and shattered, backs were stabbed, and various Earthly entities were abducted into extraterrestrial custody. Our gamemasters (or game weavers as they’re termed in a Megagame) revealed the ‘winners’ along with a breakdown of what was actually going on, including various storylines that we didn’t have a chance to play out.

There were a few bumps during the course of play, but that was to be expected given that this was the first full Megagame run through for our game weavers, and these were generally minor (e.g. a few roles needed additional clarification). The layout of the space where our game took place also presented a few challenges, but those certainly didn’t detract from the overall experience.

LARPers, former debate teamers, model UN veterans, or just fans of human psychology/team dynamics/problem solving will enjoy Megagames. You’ll definitely have the chance to untangle some thorny situations, so make sure that diplomacy skill is maxed out (and maybe deception too, if you’ve got the build points). Snacks and the caffeine source of your liking will also come in handy, especially after hour 3 or so. It’s definitely a unique gaming experience that’s worth sampling.


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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend guys. Hope you've all had a great week and a suitably excellent weekend (and that you're not broke as a result of the Steam Summer Sale). There are a few hours left to get in on our Street Fighter IV giveaway too! Ok, you got your entry in? Let's get down to the week in geekdom!

Books

The onslaught of all things Star Wars ahead of the release of Episode VII is building to a crescendo. Disney and Lucasfilm will be adding to this on September 22nd, at which time they will release three new novels retelling the original trilogy from new viewpoints. You can get a sneak peek of this forthcoming goodness by reading this excerpt.

The daughter of the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett has confirmed that Shepherd's Crown will be the last novel in the Discworld series.

Comics

If you're a Star Wars fan you will almost assuredly enjoy this web comic depicting the backstory of Green Leader.

Secret Wars #3 let us finally see the face of Dr. Doom.

Games

Are your dice balanced? The following video will show you how to determine if you've got a fair die or if your complaints that said die was cursed and plotting against you were true all along.


Movies/TV

Have a tissue or three ready for Peter Jackson's tribute to Sir Christopher Lee.

On Monday we got the first episode of Bruce Timm's new animated series: Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles on Machinima. If you haven't seen it already, here's a sample of what the series is offering. Also, here is Mr. Timm's take on making the series and taking some of the most classic DC heroes into brand new territory.

We've known it all along, but now we have definitive, written proof that Han shot first.

This was a week of awesome new movie trailers. We now have a look at Hunger Games: Catching Fire Part 2 and the Martian.




Science/Technology

The Large Hadron Collider has been successfully running at full capacity for a bit now (and already giving us astounding data). Given that we haven't been plunged into the depths of a black hole as a direct result, maybe we can take some time to discuss the philosophy underpinning this lancet into scientific discovery.

Or, if philosophy isn't your thing, there's these findings in the latest edition of Nature that detail the discovery of the Bs0 meson.

It's been 39 years since Carl Sagan proposed the concept of a solar sail, but this week that musing became a reality (and Bill Nye is psyched about it).

Think you've exhausted all that Google Maps has to offer (and mastered Geoguessr as a result)? Google is upping their live mapping game by expanding into the sea.

Speaking of new visual frontiers, NASA will be bringing us video feed to YouTube in 4K resolution.

Thanks to SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket the DSCOVR module has gone from very expensive space junk to fully functional monitor of solar storms.

Until that channel is launched, however, we can content ourselves with this set of images from Ceres.

The new Nature Scientific Reports details the work of Chinese and Singaporean physicists who appear to have demonstrated violations of local realism.

The latest edition of Nature Nanotechnology includes this research out of Harvard that allows for scientists to 'spy' on the functionality of individual neurons.

We're inching closer to the release of Oculus Rift, but we're getting more virtual reality goodness in the interim. Introducing the Oculus Touch controllers.

Ever wonder why the trip home usually feels shorter than the journey to get to your destination? Here comes the science.

We've talked at length about Elon Musk's proposed Hyperloop, but now we're getting sneak peeks of what it might look like.

IBM's supercomputer Watson: excellent at Jeopardy, terrible at biomedical research.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

We have our first official glimpse of the toys associated with The Force Awakens.

Real life Grand Theft Auto V. Enough said.


There's being a fan of Elder Scrolls and then there's investing $50,000 USD into a remodel that transforms your basement into Tamriel.

This Magic: the Gathering card sold for nearly $15,000 USD.

I'll leave you guys with this footage from YouTuber styropyro and his latest creation: a functional 40W laser shotgun. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead.


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