Top 10 Media Dealing With Tough Subjects

Media, such as films, games, tv and literature, has always had to share with us some great stories. Whether it’s a story of friendship, power or love, we’ve always had a story we can sit back and enjoy. But not every story is the same – Not every story has happy endings. Indeed, not every story was written to make us comfortable. Instead, it’s a sharp, stark reminder of what the real world can be like. This week, check out our Top 10 Media Dealing with Tough Subjects.

Media, such as films, games, tv and literature, has always had to share with us some great stories. Whether it’s a story of friendship, power or love, we’ve always had a story we can sit back and enjoy. But not every story is the same – Not every story has happy endings. Indeed, not every story was written to make us comfortable. Instead, it’s a sharp, stark reminder of what the real world can be like. This week, check out our Top 10 Media Dealing with Tough Subjects.

WARNING: Going into this one, we will be discussing some difficult subjects in as clean a manner as we can. However, if any of the topics are a bit too much for you, please skip it!

Continue reading “Top 10 Media Dealing With Tough Subjects”

Playing Lawful Neutral

When we step from good but do not reach evil, we must instead discuss what is justifiable, and law, chaos, or whatever other ethos you use becomes simply a means to an end.

While there are those who fall within Lawful Neutral’s umbrella who see the law as the end to which all means are necessary, and blindly pursue upholding the law as a duty in itself. Still others are simply searching for a peaceful life, or the pursuit of their own goals within the confines of the law, or in accordance with some code of conduct or ethics. LN characters are not necessarily interested in saving lives, nor are they necessarily out to enforce their law upon others, but in their actions they are constantly guided by an outside force. Continue reading “Playing Lawful Neutral”

Babylon 5 In Depth – What Makes Humans So Special

The gates of Babylon 5 opening places humanity firmly in the middle of the space-faring races. No longer completely green around the gills, they’ve helped topple one mad genocidal force, narrowly avoided genocide in mysterious circumstances, and are now seeking to help forge peace among the disparate races and factions of the galaxy.

Naturally as creators, we create based on what we know, so aliens in B5 are broadly based on human cultures or some animal traits given sapience – more on them next week – but there are particular features of humanity that distinguish them from any other species, often commented on by main alien characters in awe, deference, disbelief, or disgust. Today I’ll be looking at what makes humans so special. Continue reading “Babylon 5 In Depth – What Makes Humans So Special”

Babylon 5 In Depth – A Primer

Why do people always ask “Star Trek or Star Wars”? That’s a question that overlooks some real tyrants of the sci-fi scene and there are more than enough of us who can rattle off a few dozen series, films, perhaps books, and even computer games (why not, it’s a valid art form) that equal or exceed them both for quality.

Over the next few weeks I want to take this stage to showcase one of the titans of science fiction and a personal favourite, J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, addressing its depth, its cultural impact, its influence on sci-fi that followed, and beginning today with a quick primer on exactly what it is we’re discussing. Continue reading “Babylon 5 In Depth – A Primer”

Go To Hell

I’m not religious, but there’s no denying that religion and mythology are some of the richest fields of artistic inspiration. Across a vast proportion of the world -and most notably in the English-speaking parts of it – Christianity is the dominant religion, and so naturally has the greatest influence on all forms of artistic expression. Hell itself makes for an excellent antagonist, its’ myriad agents whispering into the ears of mortals, the evils that lie in the heart of all of us, not to mention that demons are fun to draw. Continue reading “Go To Hell”

Game Design With Timlah – The Story

For the upcoming game that I’m working on, I’ve been hard at work studying the themes of the game. WARNING: The theme really won’t suit everyone!

Last time on Game Design With Timlah, we thought about the protagonist and the antagonist. We thought about the motives of the protagonist and now that we’ve had some time to flesh it out, it’s time to figure out the theme of the game along with the story. The next Game Design With Timlah which will be in a fortnights time, we will have some assets made for the game and begin looking at Unity on how we’re going to make the game work using some stock assets.

One thing that the last edition taught us: We’re going with a relatively risky theme. We’re using religion and possession as the two major themes of the purpose of the game. Let me break down this religion, the research I’ve done and initial concepts.

The religion

I didn’t want people to feel like I was mocking a religion. I also didn’t want real religion, in any case. A game of this kind isn’t a smear campaign against, or even a campaign for religion. Instead the major focus of the game is about a persons faith in general, about what one will do to stand up for what they believe in or what they’re willing to stoop to. As such, the first (and possibly most important) element of this game is the motivation. Why does your character step out of his or her cosy role as a brother/sister of their religion, to go and pursue some bad individual?

I wanted this to be a relatively silly game, but I wanted it to have a serious undertone. As such, the world the characters live in will have a fair bit of politics. Before you all think this is going to be a heavily political game, that’s not right either: I just want the state of the world to be quite obvious and a much discussed element of what goes through these characters minds. The religion is of significant importance to this world, so they would be discussed outside of the holy grounds.

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Hopefully they don’t pray for this!

Whilst designing the religion, I decided to do some research into four real life religions, to see how they would impact our in-game one. Check out the super cool table below to find out more!

Real-World Religion

How it influences ours

Notes

Christianity Prayer and a “holy building”, wine, One Lord (Trinity, see notes) The Holy Trinity is represented in this game by the God of the game being an unspecified being. Instead, although it is just one God, it does have several “states”.
Deism No miracles, One God There’s not much to say about Deism. It was a bit of an old school religion and I thought I’d look into it. It seemed interesting and it shared the concept I had in mind, of “One God” that wasn’t specified.
Taoism States of being, defining good and evil, alchemy..! Taoism is about inner harmony, peace and longevity. As such, our religious folk enjoy the company of one another, sharing their food and drink as well as providing natural remedies*
Wicca Dance, Sharing food and drink Wiccans believe in the God and the Goddess. To address this, our One God is genderless and can be represented however. During ceremonies, our people come together for dance and to share in good food and they drink responsibly.

With all of this research done into existing religions, I’ve got to design what our religion is going to look like, but how will they be referred to in game? I was going to make a name for it, trying to bring the notion of unison into the name of the religion. After much deliberation, a friend said “how about Unity”, to which I retorted: “Yes, I’m using Unity to make the game.” This confused them for some time and it gave me the idea to refer to the religion in game as “Those of Faith”, or “The Faith”. Faith would always be capitalised, allowing people to make the religion whatever they wanted to.

Our people come together in prayer and dance every week, so it’s obvious to me the game should start by introducing us to The Faith. Those of Faith will come together in The Sanctuary and a player will be able to see what they get up to when they all come together. This gives the player the incentive that: Okay, this is what my character likes to do and in fact, they work at The Sanctuary as a brother/sister of The Faith.

FSM

I’m no professional animator. I’m also no professional artist. Heck, I’m certainly no professional programmer either. I’m sticking to simple sprite sheets to help with this part, which will have a way to skip the scene (and ask for the player to confirm it). If someone has played it once before, sitting through the starting scene might not be too exciting. Our order will have a divine symbol which they pray to, rather than a traditional book to read from, or scripture of any kind.

How the world perceives this

There’s going to be three major splits with The Faith. There’ll be Those of Faith, then there’ll be those who oppose The Faith and finally those who are on the fence. Of course, we’ll not be spending the game trying to recruit anyone, that’s besides the point. Instead, the information people will provide the player, along with how the player interprets the information will determine the future of the characters belief in The Faith.

Now, it’d not be me if this was too serious. As if the picture of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster above wasn’t self-explanatory. I’ll be adding in my own sense of humour here and there, so hopefully it’ll translate well in the game. If it doesn’t, then so be it! Our character is going to be optimistic, but depending on the actions you take throughout the game, your character may change slightly.

I am far too serious, aren't I?
I am far too serious, aren’t I?

The antagonist is going to be stealing your faiths Holy Symbol, which affects the ability to pray. No one has ever stolen the Holy Symbol before, under the belief that humans are all inherently good beings, with only some corrupt individuals being the root of all evil in the world. This gives our character the drive to go and retrieve the Holy Symbol, whilst the rest of The Faith are in blind panic over the loss of their relic.

How does this sound as a concept so far? Have I thought too hard about the religion, or do you think that since it’s what drives the game, that I’ve done just enough research into religions and the likes? Do we want more political views of The Sanctuary throughout the game? Comments in the section below, over on Facebook or Twitter and give me some ideas for this game. If you have an idea that can fit the themes of the game and I like it, I’ll let you know I’ll be implementing your idea and you’ll be in the credits of the game. Thanks as ever for reading, see you in a fortnights time!

Top 10 Mythological Creatures

A mythological creature here is defined as something you would see within myths, that wasn’t a unique myth. An example of a unique myths includes Anubis, the god of embalming and the dead. With that definition out of the way, it’s time to begin – but before we do, we have a pre-top 10 honourable omission to get out there…

For the first time in a few months, Joel and I decided to bring back our Top 10’s. So we didn’t want to come back and do things in our usual way. No, we wanted to out-do ourselves by going for a topic that was just so big, it had to be larger than life. We thought long and hard about what to do on the return to Top 10’s and this is what we came up with, our Top 10 Mythological Creatures.

Before we start this post, let us get one thing out of the way with. A mythological creature here is defined as something you would see within myths, that wasn’t a unique myth. An example of a unique myths includes Anubis, the god of embalming and the dead. With that definition out of the way, it’s time to begin – but before we do, we have a pre-top 10 honourable omission to get out there…

Continue reading “Top 10 Mythological Creatures”

Fullmetal Alchemist – 2003-2004 series

Regulars of this website might have noticed I am a fan of cosplaying a certain undersized, midget whelp of a man called Edward Elric. It’s okay, he’s not here to defend himself right now. So what about the series he came from?

Plot

Without ruining too much, I’ll explain the premise of the start of the series:

Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse Elric are two gifted alchemists from a very young age. They lost their mother and wanted to bring her back to life, as two loving sons would want. They studied night and day to learn the forbidden alchemy – Human transmutation. The ability to bring the dead back to life, for one.

Upon activating the ritual, things weren’t quite what they seemed. They had gathered the ingredients which make up a human, sure – But they forgot about one important element: A life for a life. Alchemy is the science of equivalent exchange, what you give must be of equal value to what you get back. The ritual tried to take the younger Elrics (Alphonse’s) life, Edwards right arm and left leg are taken in the process. Edward using his own blood created a seal to bind his brothers soul to a suit of armour before it was too late.

Years later and the two had been taken in by the military, they became known as the Elric brothers; Edward being named “Fullmetal”, due to his newly made Automail arm and leg. They go in search of the philosophers stone and the secrets behind it; but what dark secrets await them?

Who’da thought this smiling kiddo would be a wrathful fellow?

Although well documented, it’s worth noting that this series doesn’t follow the manga story that well. This is because this series was being aired around the same time as the manga. Inevitably, this series started to speed past the manga, so they had to use a bit of creative freedom to guess what was going to happen. So we had characters unseen in the manga, such as this version of Wrath appear. For the record, I really liked this version of Wrath – It didn’t work as well story wise as the mangas version, but to give them credit, they clearly had a good vision for this character from the get go.

Art

The art of the series is beautiful with cleverly designed characters. From Fullmetal himself to his brother Alphonse and from characters such as Gluttony to Envy; there is a huge variety in the characters presentation.

There are the people from central who don their military attire, then there are the Homunculi. Not forgetting the Ishbal (Or Ishval) people such as Scar, another important character throughout, you see plenty of variety in the depiction of humans and the “creations”.

Scar. Named so for the scar on his head. See? Clever.

The art in this series isn’t quite as good as the art in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, but that’s a story for another day.

The backdrops in this series are some of my favourite in any anime ever made. Everything is so clean and so easy to follow, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of anime or not: This series sets itself apart thanks to its appearance and amazing special effects. It’s no wonder then that this was rated so damn highly on “top animated shows” lists, time and time again.

Music and voices

So as always, we’ll talk quickly about the opening theme tune of the original series.

This opening made the series feel like it was going to be a lot more than just a cartoon. The theme made you feel like you were watching an adventure which had deep meaning, an adventure of discovery and glory abound. Okay, perhaps not glory – but certainly an adventure of discovery.

The dramatic music within Fullmetal Alchemist always made me feel more tense and is one of my favourite mood shifters of any series I’ve seen.

As for the voices, they were cast well. With Vic Mignogna voicing Edward Elric in the English version, he made a good choice to play Edward. He certainly has one of the best “Young guy screams” in the industry.

From the chaotic sounding Envy, to the rather sexy voice of Gluttony Lust, you can tell each person was cast after a good selection period. I could be wrong, but it sounds like they put a lot of thought into their voice casting process.

 

Overall

With a brilliant contrast of funny and very serious moments, this series can appeal to just about anyone. It has plenty of action for those who want a good combat centric anime, yet there’s plenty of discussions such as religion, the lengths man will go for power and even the human condition. This makes it more heavy watching than a series such as Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo, which has no heavy-value at all, but the humour separates this series from other series that fill the action-hole.

Fullmetal Alchemist remains one of my favourite series of all time. I’d argue that for me, this was the anime that sealed my love for the art… However, there is a one up to this series. Many years later, they released another series of Fullmetal Alchemist which follows the manga way more to the book.

All in all then, Fullmetal Alchemist gets a whopping 4.5/5 from me… So what does the “follow-up”/”Reboot” get for its troubles? Join us again next time when we review Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Have you seen Fullmetal Alchemist? What did you think of it? Was the story too dark, too light, or just right? It gets pretty graphic at times, but there are also way worse anime for being graphic, such as Berserk… But for the type of series it was; do you think it was “just right”?

Would you change anything about this original series? What would it be?