Archive for the ‘Ars Technica Videos’ Category

An extended interview with Atrus himself, Myst creator Rand Miller

February 21st, 2020

Video shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Aulistar Mark. Transcript is still processing and will be posted as soon as it's ready (should be within 24 hours).

A couple of weeks back after running our War Stories piece on Oddworld, we took a chance and published an extended cut of the interview with Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning. Readers responded very well to the extended interview, so we're doing it again—this time with Myst creator Rand Miller.

To produce our War Stories video on Myst and its CD-ROM-based design challenges, we spent more or less the entire day at the Cyan offices in beautiful Washington state, where Rand and his team were the very soul of hospitality (they even insisted on buying coffee for the crew while we were shooting). The pastoral setting—everything looked so much like Myst island!—brought out the storyteller in Rand and, as usually happens with these things, we got way more stories and tales of game design out of him than we ever could have crammed into a 15-minute video.

So here we are, with Rand unleashed. Hear more about the creative process behind The Manhole and the magical tool that was HyperCard! See Rand talk about Cosmic Osmo and the transition from black and white to color game design! Feel the... uh... OK, there's no tactile component to this whole deal, so you'll have to come up with something on your own to feel. (Maybe grab a Myst box and give it a squeeze, or, you know, whatever you're into.)

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An extended interview with Oddworld’s creator, Lorne Lanning

January 30th, 2020

Directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Transcript is still in progress and will be ready in the next few hours.

In December, we ran a "War Stories" video on the Oddworld series, an unusual 90s-era adventure/platformer title that sees the player inhabiting the role of escaped factory slave Abe in his quest to avoid being turned into canned food. Filmed with the help of Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, the video turned out to be very popular—doubtless because Lanning makes for a damn compelling interview subject.

We've gotten a lot of feedback on the video since it aired, primarily asking for more Lorne, and so we're going to try a bit of an experiment: rather than try to scrub through the original and pull out some more highlights, we've just exported the whole nearly-three-hour shoot for you guys.

Highlights for the full interview here include a fuller origin story for Abe, crazy stories from Lorne's father about disappearing world leaders and famous people on Arctic submarines, and some discussion about drug-fueled motion graphics design.

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Video: How Myst’s designers stuffed an entire universe onto a single CD-ROM

January 28th, 2020

Video shot and directed by Justin Wolfson. Edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

Although the passage of time serves to make the past seem sweeter in recollection than it might have been in the moment, it's impossible to deny that there was something special about the gaming landscape of the 1990s. Every year in that decade brought a torrent of titles that were destined to become classics—including the often-imitated-but-ultimately-inimitible Myst.

Myst came to market in 1993, which was a banner year in PC gaming—1993 also brought us X-Wing, Doom, Syndicate, and Day of the Tentacle, among others. It's fascinating that Myst happened the same year that Doom launched, too—both games attempted to simulate reality, but with vastly different approaches. Doom was a hard and fast shotgun blast to the face, visceral and intense, aiming to capture the feeling of hunting (and being hunted by) demons in close sci-fi corridors; Myst was a love letter to mystery and exploration at its purest.

A few months back, Ars caught up with Myst developer Rand Miller (who co-created the game with his brother Robyn Miller) at the Cyan offices in Washington state to ask about the process of bringing the haunting island world to life. Myst's visuals lived at the cutting edge of what interactive CD-ROM technology could deliver at the beginning of the multimedia age, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, fitting the breadth of the Millers' vision onto CD-ROM didn't happen without some challenges.

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Video: YouTuber Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach reflects on his video history

January 16th, 2020

Video directed by Morgan Crossley, edited by Dylan Blau & Louville Moore. Transcript will be available in the next hour or so (it's still processing).

We're going to try something a little different this afternoon. Some of Ars' highest-performing YouTube videos have focused on gaming topics—like how designers created Dead Space's grab-tentacle or how Amnesia: The Dark Descent tricks players into terrifying themselves (though we've also done well with non-gaming topics, like exploring the phenomenon of flat earthers and even interviewing famous NASA people).

Which leads us to Mark "Markiplier" Fischbach. He runs one of the most popular gaming channels on YouTube, with (currently) just a hair under 25 million subscribers.

The Condé mothership informed us late last month that they had gotten some time with Markiplier and wanted to know if we were interested in filming something with him—and we took the plunge. Markiplier has a loud personality and is best known for his mugging at the camera while doing "Let's Play" videos on jump-scare games, but we wanted to see if we could capture a calmer, more introspective Markiplier than most folks might be used to seeing, looking over the past several years of the YouTube content creator landscape and discussing his successes—and his not-so-successes. It's an interesting glimpse into a world that a lot of regular Ars readers (myself included) might not be that familiar with—an alternate reality of content creation, where YouTube comments actually matter and trying to figure out how to maintain engagement is critical to success.

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Mini 4WD is an electrifying race series for makers and tinkerers

December 10th, 2019

Video shot by Justin Wolfson and John Cappello, edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

We're going to try something a little different this morning. Partially in response to several requests for more maker-focused videos and partially because my executive producer is head-over-heels in love with Pocket Circuit racing in Yakuza 0, we're bringing you the first in what we hope to make into a series called "Mini Motors," and it's all about tiny cars going really fast.

RC racing in all its various forms has always been a maker-y kind of hobby, and Mini 4WD serves as an excellent genre example to start with. You take a 1:30-scale battery-powered car, spend days carefully and patiently tuning the crap out of it, and then you set it loose on a curving track as fast as its little wheels can make it go—up to 40 miles per hour (about 65km/h). The Mini 4WD that wins does so by a mixture of careful planning, careful engineering, and a big heaping of pure luck.

Must go faster

For this video, we spent time talking Mini 4WD with Randy Holt, owner of the HobbyTown store in Toms River, New Jersey. The biggest factor that sets Mini 4WD apart from other RC cars is that Mini 4WD cars are hands-off during the race—once the green flag waves, the cars are on their own. They zip around the track, steered by the cars' built-in bumpers and rollers pushing against the track walls. Though the track appears to have multiple lanes in parallel, it's actually a single lane that spirals around the circuit, connected by a jump-over. This ensures that all the Mini 4WDs on the track are all racing the same total distance (because otherwise the inner lanes would be shorter than the outer lanes).

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Video: How Oddworld solved its narrative problems with mind control

December 3rd, 2019

Video shot by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Click here for transcript.

Some games entice you into playing them with loud marketing campaigns, sexualized cover art, or the promise of ludicrous over-the-top violence. But then there are games like Lorne Lanning's Oddworld series—games that don't lead with muscle- or bikini-clad heroes and defy easy categorization. Games like Oddworld tempt you into playing by promising a different kind of experience. There are guns and violence, sure, but the setting is strange, the plot is filled with gray, and the hero—well, Abe isn't exactly sexy, or really even, you know, human.

But players who gave the original Oddworld a chance back in 1997 found themselves stumbling through a unique and fascinating world that was equal parts surprising and subversive, and the series has gone on to acquire legitimate cult-success status. With the approaching release of Oddworld: Soulstorm in 2020, we thought it was a good time to pay a visit to Lorne Lanning and his team at Oddworld Inhabitants, and talk about our favorite meat processing factory worker and his long journey from design notebook to screen.

“Write what you know,” they say...

We interviewed Lanning at the Emeryville, CA headquarters of Oddworld Inhabitants, the studio he co-founded with Sherry McKenna in 1994. For Oddworld fans, the office was a magical place, stuffed with the kind of memorabilia that amasses over more than two decades of game design. Lanning walked us through his journey to become a game creator, starting from his poor beginnings in what sounds like an unstable family. He got into video games because his father had a job at Coleco, and Lanning thought gaming would be a good way to meet girls.

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Video: A chat with Mac Walters on the unsolved mysteries of the Mass Effect universe

November 7th, 2019

Video shot by Justin Wolfson and Raoul Bhatt, edited by Aulistar Mark. Click here for transcript.

Our “War Stories” and “Unsolved Mysteries” gaming videos have gotten us some amazing interviews. We’ve talked to folks like Dead Space’s Glen Schofield; the power duo of Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, who made Star Control and The Ur-Quan Masters; and even Lord British himself. But BioWare was one company that I never expected to actually answer our e-mails—until, one day, they actually did.

So, in early October, we loaded up our film crew and made the flight across the Canadian border to Edmonton, in the northern reaches of Alberta. Our mission: to visit the enigmatic studio behind the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises and to throw a bunch of Mass Effect lore questions at creative director Mac Walters—and to see what interesting information he’d be willing to let us have.

It was a special trip for me, as one of Ars’ two resident Mass Effect crazypants fans (the other being Kate Cox, a true BioWare aficionado). I’ve reviewed the series, talked about the best romance choices, and even snuggled a Garrus body pillow or two—but taking a pilgrimage to the Mecca of Mass Effect was a capstone experience.

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The Greatest Leap, part 3: The triumph and near-tragedy of the first Moon landing

July 18th, 2019

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

A vast, gray expanse loomed just a few hundred meters below as Neil Armstrong peered out his tiny window. From inside the spidery lunar lander, a fragile cocoon with walls only about as thick as construction paper, the Apollo 11 commander finally had a clear view of where the on-board computer had directed him to land.

He did not like what he saw there. A big crater. Boulders strewn all around. A death trap.

To make matters worse, Eagle had limited fuel reserves. If Armstrong couldn’t find a safe landing site soon, he would have to ditch the bottom half of the lander and burn like hell for lunar orbit in a dangerous and risky abort procedure. Otherwise, he and Buzz Aldrin would not only become the first humans to land on the Moon, they’d become the first humans to die there, too.

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The Greatest Leap, part 2: The 50/50 bet that won the Space Race for America

July 17th, 2019

Video shot by Joshua Ballinger, edited and produced by Jing Niu and David Minick. Click here for transcript.

By the summer of 1968, a sense of deep unease had engulfed the American republic. Early in the year, the Tet Offensive smashed any lingering illusions of a quick victory in the increasingly bloody Vietnam conflict. Race relations boiled over in April when a single rifle bullet took the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Two months later, as Bobby Kennedy walked through a hotel kitchen, he was shot in the head. The red, white, and blue threads that had bound America for nearly two centuries were faded and fraying.

Amid this national turmoil, senior planners at the country’s space agency were also having a difficult year. Late that summer they quietly faced their most consequential decision to date. If NASA was going to meet the challenge laid out by President John F. Kennedy, its astronauts would soon have to take an unprecedented leap by leaving low-Earth orbit and entering the gravity well of another world—the Moon. Should they do it?

Such a bold step could provide a glimmer of hope to a fractured nation. It would cement America's lead in the "Space Race" against the Soviet Union and remind Americans of their potential for greatness on the world stage. But a romp around the Moon also carried tremendous risks. If NASA failed, its Moon dreams would expire. The agency might, too. NASA had already lost three astronauts during a launch pad fire in early 1967. Neither the public—nor Congress—would accept three more dead astronauts.

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We asked, you answered: Rebecca Ford reviews your Warframe frames

June 26th, 2019

Video shot by Sean Dacanay, edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

About a month ago, Ars posted a couple of calls to action in our forums and on Reddit: we wanted to take your coolest Warframe designs and get them in front of the game's developers at Digital Extremes to see what the company thinks of the community's creations. Digital Extremes told us they don't have a great way of sorting through all the different player designs on the backend, so we asked you to show us what you got.

It took a bit to get things filmed, but this morning we're happy to present Digital Extremes Community Director Rebecca Ford with some analysis of the submissions. We last heard from Rebecca just about a year ago when we ran a video featuring her and game director Steve Sinclair answering questions about Warframe's lore and unsolved mysteries, but this time we had an extra ask for her: after dissecting some community frames and their build strategies, would she be willing to show us what she flies around in? (Spoiler: it's purple. Very, very purple.)

Thanks to Rebecca for being such a good sport and playing along—and also congrats to Warframers RekiSanchez, pacading, rytlocknroll, ninjakivi2, and Bedchuck for being picked. Special shout-out to ninjakivi2 for having an all-around awesome set of customizations—I particularly dug the giant pile of Ayatan sculptures. You're a decorator after my own heart.

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