Sorry but “Unreal Engine” is not an art style

Style is the answer to everything
– Charles Bukowski

A lament: consider how it might seem that some developers need reminding that “Unreal Engine” is not an art style

In the blind, uninterrupted pursuit of every increasing graphical fidelity levels and its dimly attendant Cinematic™ Realism, a keen sense of art style andor direction are too often bypassed entirely in immediate favour of often subtle, yet essentially simplistic application of coloured lights and ‘gritty’ metallic surfaces / textures

While every choice one makes in-engine can conceivably considered artistic, they are often entirely free of the truer, infinitely more expressive Style expressed by, eg. Team Fortress 2, LSD: Dream Emulator, Killer 7, Return of the Obra Dinn

*Sigh.* Virtually Nothing in terms of art direction is happening there. It’s all seems about the empty spectacle of tech to the (neural) computational expense of everything else. Yet as the Abstract Encounters group correctly states, “Technically Impressive Isn’t.” If one drags oneself away from the (apparently) overwhelming majesty of how ‘cool’ everything looks for a second, its soon easy to realize that such a space is almost entirely devoid of Style – hey maybe it doesn’t need any, but there’s still cause for artistic concern, considering the amount of devs which switch to Unreal

Outpost 23 - where style got wrapped in shiny plastic
Outpost 23 – where style got wrapped in shiny plastic

“Tech Über Alles: all other Artistic priorities rescinded”

The only message to devs being shouted by such scenes is “Cool, huh?! I know, right?”

Now let’s take a look at Malcolm Flak, see what he thinks he’s doing

"Malcolm Flak"
“Malcolm Flak”

Oh. Very little as it turns out; notice how Malcolm is dressed in the latest active Deathmatch Arena armor, which shows off some very pretty highlights

Complete with his warm green woollen cap, Malcolm looks ready for anything – anything that is, except for the threat of immanent Style. Despite his slick look, Malcolm’s as generic as the techno-blandscape which (literally) spawned him. Poor fool

Rather than surpassed, unfortunately it seems “Brown Games” have been merely been sublimated and the conceptually dubious torch of “Technical sophistication and Fidelity Level in the service of Cinematic Realism” merely passed on to a new generation of rendering engines and the devs which use them / get used up by them



The Static Speaks My Name: best digital play experience of 2015

To consider developer Jessy Barksdale’s “The Static Speaks My Name” as the best abstract digital play experience of 2015 so far. Baudrillard would have loved to play this game on his VR headset

One is reminded of 2:22am, and of ‘.jam’ Videoettes generally

TSSMN seems a statement on making (often difficult) decisions without immediate meaning; meaning here is forever differed, delayed, sublimated – indeed, unexplained symbolism appears a psychological defence mechanisms against the very threat of meaning and full engagement with its consequences

No convenient mythology available here for easy purchase; just a context without a story, a scene without a setting, an experience without a location or a reply button. All that ‘exists’ is a disconcerting state of fractured soul in a state of intense hyperreality-flux

In this regard, TSSMN seems positively Xenomorphic in its ontological universe of self-enclosed symbolism – the two desert island palm tree motif seems particular effective; there is charge here, but also the impossibility of release

Suggested narrative tweaks for The Static

More odd noises scattered throughout the level as one explores – a Sapphire And Steel like hauntology

The ability to interact with more objects like in Gone Home

It might of been good to be able to try – and fail – to paint a picture of the two trees on the easel with janky hand physics

The section with the computer could have been slightly different for different players; one gets the chat session text, another plays a strange minigame, another is able to play Vaporwave musiq

It might of been scarily effective if, just as you are putting on the noose after your ‘work’ is done, an inhuman scream is heard from the cage room – “Jacob!! I’m hungryyyy!!!” – and the sound of running feet toward the bedroom

A cool game mechanic might be a need to find interesting ways to die within each dimensional microverse, in order to get to the next one

An imaginary logos for this excellent mode of play – two desert island palms

Twin Desert Island Palms
Twin Desert Island Palms

Deliretro: deliberately retro game development

Consider “Deliberately Retro” game development, which differs from games / play featuring standard “Retro Aesthetics” or that are simply Retro Themed

Rather than making a game that’s simply a nod toward Retro aesthetics of yesteryear through the use of a pixelated art style, ‘Deliretro’ play fully expresses modern day game dev advances and trends in coding, graphics, design, physics and sound, etc. – but just with an oldschool feel

Deliretro development deliberately dials back on making play / games look modern; rather than spending time on art assets or realism, the idea is design simplicity, even to make things Janky looking andor like true Crapolaware

However such Deliretroware is computationally complex – it’s simplicity in terms of presentation represents the complexity, richness and subtlety of its abstract systems

If it was finished, a good example of Deliretro would be Carrier2 – a remake of Carrier Command for the Amiga

A non Deliretro example however would be Strafe, since the Game Feel of its movement mechanics seem to come direct and unchanged from the early 90s


Digital art simulation: Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge

A digital art sim: “Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge”, 4232×3400, Gimp, 23.6MB

Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge
Celestial Empire of Benevolent Knowledge

Example Artist Statement

Imagine that this frameless enamelled picture hangs in the sound muffled, heavy wood panelled office of a doctor of alternative (to) medicine. On the subdued and melancholy trail of intelligently contorted knowledge, mistrusting nature. Smart fungal clumps of rich decay outlined in oddly luminescent pearl mood-tones of poetic doubt. Seeking the Chinese herbal outgrowth that gives insight through disquieting sense expansion and beatless desires