A number of NASA’s ‘blooper’ reels from older space missions are up for auction. Which means we get to see all the photos, and they are very cool. — Sploid
After traveling for 9 years, NASA’s New Horizon’s craft is out of hibernation and closing in on Pluto. Even though it may not be a planet, we are about to learn a lot about the little icy rock on the fringe of our solar system. — NASA
On the 85th anniversary of Pluto’s discovery, New Horizon took photos of Pluto and its moons, Nix and Hydra. While the craft is still over 100 million miles away from the celestial bodies this is the best ever view we’ve gotten of the moons. — NASA
Released across multiple platforms in 2014 by Ubisoft, Child of Light is a beautiful combination of a 2-D platformer and RPG rolled into one. It follows the story of Princess Aurora, who is mysteriously kidnapped away from her family in the middle of the night.
Mindy’s Thoughts: We begin with Aurora, a girl from 1800’s Austria, who wakes up in Lemuria. Lemuria is a mythical land ruled by the Dark Queen, who has stolen the sun, moon, and stars from the world. Aurora is told if she manages to recapture the celestial bodies, she can go home to her family and most importantly, her beloved father the Duke. We spend the rest of the game exploring Lemuria and all its different areas and inhabitants.
On a high level, Child of Light is a side-scrolling, 2-D platformer with RPG elements. Throughout the game you gain interesting new allies that will join your party, some that specialize in certain things (white/black magic, physical attacks, healing, etc). There is a leveling system for each character, with a talent tree that allows you to personalize everyone to your preferred play style. You gain experience and items by doing battles with monsters, like your average RPG.
High level aside, the most stunning thing about Child of Light is the art style. Playing through this game feels like playing a beautiful, living, watercolor painting. The game is constantly moving, the trees, the air, monsters, even Aurora’s hair and dress are constantly fluttering in the breeze. I wish I could include a hundred more photos of the background landscape for this review, because I feel that it is such a strong selling point on it’s own, but you can just take my word for it. The art director, Thomas Rollus, stated in an interview about the game, “we really put forward the watercolor effect. We wanted to give the impression of being awake in an underwater dream.” It worked, Thomas!
If you upgrade to the deluxe version of the game it comes with a 24-page art book as an accompaniment, because the art is so distinctive and beautiful. The deluxe version also comes with a poster and a keychain; full disclosure, I did not get the deluxe edition.
Child of Light’s battle sequences having a learning curve to them, but as you learn, they become easier. This is not a game that will have you grinding levels all day long, your battle interactions are pretty sparse unless you go looking for a fight. The basic idea is that two people within your party fight 1-3 monsters in each battle. Most of the monsters are pretty nasty and have specific ways they prefer to be attacked. Attack a magic monster with their elemental magic type and at best you will only hit them for a few points, at worst they could counterattack and kill you. Most physical monsters have some kind of counterattack as well.
The game also includes an active battle timer, which you can influence with spells and Igniculus. Learning how to properly use this timer system is the most crucial part of battle engagements within Child of Light. While in battles you will need to control Igniculus plus your one or two other characters (that can be switched out mid-battle), all at the same time, so get ready to multi-task!
A second local player can co-op play Igniculus while you run around as Aurora. This might seem like a throwaway mechanic at first glance, because why not allow co-op play as a different character instead? However, I think that Ubisoft took a chance with incorporating Igniculus as a fun and important part of the game. Even during solo play, you use him constantly, to slow down monsters, to light up dark pathways, to solve puzzles, etc. I played a short amount of time with another player as my Igniculus and the reaction was mixed. The game pacing seems non-ideal for most kids (or adults with a limited attention span) as it involves some coordination between players.
Like any good platformer/RPG game, Child of Light has puzzles incorporated into the game at certain points. These puzzles are challenging, but not impossible. In my experience, it was fairly easy to figure out what they wanted me to do, but sometimes challenging to get that accomplished. One of my favorites is in the below screenshot, where you are lining up colored gems with Igniculus as the light source. I really enjoyed the puzzles and thought they added a thoughtful touch to the game.
Despite being a shorter game, Child of Light really packs in a condensed story, full of very vivid images, characters, and emotions. I don’t want to get too far into the story as it could spoil it for some, but I’ll say that there were a few times where I was genuinely happy/sad/angry/elated by events in the story line. It manages to draw you in, especially if you had/have a close relationship with your father. Child of Light is a fairytale, and as such the story gave me flashes of other fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Hey, don’t act like I’m the only one that ever cried to The Little Mermaid because Ariel had to leave King Triton at the end!
Overall, Child of Light is a very fun, unique, gorgeous, and heart felt game. I was not happy when I finished the game, not because it wasn’t enjoyable, but because it was over and I wanted to keep playing in the world of Lemuria. My only actual complaint with the game is that it isn’t full length (I clocked about 20 hours of play time), but Ubisoft is aware of that and it is priced to reflect the shorter game time (when I purchased it, it was ~$20 from the Xbox store, versus $60 for a full title release). Unfortunately Child of Light doesn’t have a lot of replay value but it’s possible that we may see a sequel, eventually. However, if you are interested in beautiful imagery and side scrolling RPG type games, you need to play Child of Light. You will not regret it!
While in the finishing stages of Castle West I started scouting locations for my next build, and didn’t need to travel very far before I found the chunk of mountain pictured above. Lava flows, connecting bits between spires, waterfalls, it was perfect.
I went to work on the bridges first and let them shape the building of the castle. The top tier bridge you can see barely changed from the raw to finished versions (above and below), while I added a middle tier bridge and a bridge/entrance to the main floor.
The ground level bridge actually extends backwards so you can approach it from either direction (pictured below). Once the bridges were in place I started carving out the insides; a process that included many, many revisions and a lot of time. In the end, I carved three floors out of the western spire of Castle East and two floors carved out of the eastern spire.
Below is the grand entrance to Castle East; this is on the ground floor and is the only direct entrance to the castle, so I spent a lot of time tweaking it to perfection. In the picture below you can see a doorway (with torches surrounding it), which is a secret passage into the stables and village area. If you go up the stairs (on the right) you will gain access to the bedrooms (see the glass windows in the above few pictures? Those are bedrooms!) and throne room. Behind the central pillar is a ladder to the second and third floors, as well as the rail hub leading to Castle West.
Specifically for the decoration and lighting of Castle East I used a lot of lava; you can see here that it is behind colored glass and acts as my main light source throughout the castle.
Up the stairs into the throne room, I love this room! I went a little crazy with it, but it’s Minecraft, so why not? The “throne” itself is made of various cuts of quartz, the floor tiles are carpet/wool, and again I have lava lighting throughout — though each room had a different pattern for the stained glass.
Floors two and three were mainly built out into giant storage hubs for my entire world. All materials from previous locations were painstakingly transported through nether rail and regular rail hubs to the central storage here. I also included an indoor food garden, utility blocks, and more lava lighting on the second floor (below).
On floor three you can see more storage, utility blocks, the alchemy sets and even a small plot for netherwart to grow. If you look closely at the “back” of the picture (central) you can see additional lava lighting and the doorway to top bridge. The tube of lava lighting went through both floors two and three, very cool.
I unfortunately do not have many pictures of the East spire, but I do have one from before anything was built there, taken by a friend on the server (below). I included different kinds of stained glass, giant lava flows that were used for lighting, and several entirely glass/lava floors. This was also the area I ended up using for a library/enchanting table.
That is all for this entry; I hope you enjoyed my walkthrough of Castle East. Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been building lately!
Above is the first color photo taken of 67P from the Rosetta space craft. Even in color 67P looks black and white! — BBC News
Philae had Cometary Acoustic Surface Sounding Experiment sensors recording onboard the lander when it bounced onto the surface of 67P. Want to hear what a comet sounds like? — CNET
Recent findings from the VIRTIS instrument (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) on Rosetta were published. They found that 67P is one of the darkest objects in our Solar System. That we know about at least! — ESA Blog
While no one really knows where Philae is resting, ESA believes that by May it could start receiving enough solar energy to wake up. You know, before it is fried by radiation. — ESA Blog
The Chalmers University of Technology captured the sharpest astronomical image ever taken at long radio wavelengths, of the Messier 82 galaxy. The Messier galaxy sits 11.5 million light years from Earth. — Gizmodo
Cassini has been hanging out with Saturn for a bit, taking some really awesome photos and teaching us all kinds of things about the outer planets. Check out this picture of Saturn and its moon Rhea. — NASA
Could the orientation of Quasars lead us to some great cosmic answer? Scientists in Belgium are trying to figure out how and why quasars are aligned with each other despite being hundreds of millions of light years apart. — IFLScience
Evolve, set to release Feb 10th 2015, is the latest character driven, level-up shooter from Turtle Rock Studios and 2k Games.
Rating: 4/5 Giant Lumbering Monsters
Dixon’s Thoughts: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Evolve beta. While Turtle Rock’s bread and butter has been online, class based, level-up shooters such as Countersrike and Left 4 Dead, I didn’t really know how they’d pull off a sci-fi shooter. After dealing with the recent letdown of Destiny, I was pleasantly surprised to find a very accessible, fun-to-play game that was as engaging as it was rewarding. Fans of past Turtle Rock productions won’t be disappointed, but there isn’t a lot of new ground broken with the basics of Evolve. You play a character, leveling it up as you gain experience and unlocking variants of whatever class you are currently sinking time into. The beauty of Evolve lies in it’s inherent, natural feeling teamwork aspect. Evolve is a primarily online-only game, much like Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. There are 4 Hunter Types available to players, Assault, Medic, Trapper, and Support. In any match, all 4 character classes are required.
The four of you must work together in what is essentially a giant battle arena to track the fifth player, the Monster. The online matchmaking interface focuses on your preference of Hunter or Monster, and which Hunter class you wanted to be. To find a game, you would list your preferences in a 5 item, first-to-last list. The game then attempts to find 4 other people who’s preferences allow you to play your preferred class choices. In about 50 matches or so, I almost always got my first 2 choices right away.
The dynamic between each class is pretty important to the gameplay of Evolve. Each class has a very unique and diverse set of abilities. The medic, for instance, has a healing “gun”, as well as an oh-shit AOE heal. Additionally, it’s given a long-range sniper rifle that punches holes in the Monster’s armor, giving the rest of the team a huge advantage over an otherwise very difficult enemy.
His other weaknesses involve invisible pizzas and speaking in public. RAWWWWWWR!!
Despite the cool teamwork aspect, there isn’t really much that’s groundbreaking about the classes that I was able to play. The Assault class…assaults things, meaning you get TWO guns that can dish out damage to the Monster class, as well as an AOE invulnerability ability. Support class is actually my personal favorite, as it’s a hybrid DPS and buff class that can shield other players from damage. The Tracker is the game’s most unique class. It’s primary role is to track down the monster in the huge battle arena, which is done through an amazingly adorable hunting “dog” pet. Each Trapper variant has a different pet, but they all serve the same purpose, which is allowing the team to actually find the Monster.
While every class is different, they all play relatively in the same manner. Each class has a primary attack/function, as well as a secondary attack or utility ability, and a longer cooldown button that either dishes out damage or prevents it from happening. Playing the monster, on the other hand, is completely (and refreshingly) different. When you play as the monster, your primary goal is to stay undetected long enough to eat as much wildlife as possible and to evolve to the highest level possible. Doing so gives you massive upgrades to your health, strength, and abilities, and makes you much harder to kill. The monster class itself had 2 variants in the Beta, the Goliath and Kraken. The Goliath was a land-based, lumbering hulk who grew to fantastic proportions. A sort of King Kong/Godzilla hybrid, his main attacks were jumping on people’s faces, throwing huge rocks, and breathing fire on people.
Barely edging out “shouting rudely and aggressively pointing”
I didn’t get the chance to play the Kraken, but I did play several matches against it and it was kind of insanely terrifying. It was a lot like being assaulted by a flying, electrically based squid demon, but with more shrieking directly from the seventh level of the underabyss.
“Horrifying electrical sea nightmare that haunts your dreams” was just one of it’s rejected names.
The Beta allowed us to play 2 kinds of games. The first type was a single-game type campaign in which the 4 hunters fought against a single Monster in a one-shot game. At the end the player’s preferences can be adjusted, and a new arena/match area can be selected along with your own character customization. While players wait in the lobby, a top-down battle map displays a sped-up display of the battle that you just finished, complete with deaths and beast movements. It’s fun to watch, but also allows you to observe your opponent’s strategies as they move across the map. Clever players will note other player’s patterns and adapt.
The other game mode was a 5-game mini-story. Here, the hunters play 5 successive rounds on various map spawns against both the Player Monster and a small horde of mini-monsters, and are aided by several environmental bonuses such as automated turrets, extra NPC hunters, and drones. In this mode, winning or losing changes the next match. For instance if the hunters win a match, they might get a bonus to all of the NPC drone or Turret damage, or a 5th hunter player. If the hunters lose, however, the Monster gets dangerous bonuses to strength and damage, or an even larger horde of NPC monsters, along with other map-based bonuses. It’s a high-stakes game that spans a long period of time and is a lot more engaging than the single shot missions. I found that having 2 very different game modes, on top of the ability to play as the Monster or one of several hunter classes results in a game with a lot of replay value. We put together a short set of class-specific playlists that highlight some of the basics of each class. Unfortunately, the Monster footage was lost, but there are dozens of gameplay videos at this point and if you’re really interested, you’ll find them.
Graphically, the game was very enjoyable, with a large variety of alien environments and arenas. The game definitely has it’s own style and aesthetic, which I would place somewhere between Borderlands and Destiny. In a lot of ways, this game IS what Destiny should have been. It has an easy party system, and while it does have quite a few loading screens, they never feel boring or forced. Instead of looking at space ships fly endlessly into night, you’re presented with instant replay maps, short dialogue cut-scenes, and hint screens that are actually useful.
This game has a lot of promise and I personally enjoyed every second of it. There is a tendency for the cut scenes to be repetitive in the single-game mode, and sometimes there is so much going on in such a small area that playing strategically, otherwise required for success in Evolve, is almost fucking impossible. Aside from those minor setbacks, the game is a lot of fun to play. I’m looking forward to playing the full version, which will probably be reviewed here as well. If you’re looking for a solid, class-based shooter that offers short OR medium-to-long style matches, blended PVE and PVP, and a rewarding skill curve, this might be the game for you. Don’t come looking for a well-written story, or much in-depth character development. This game is clearly about shooting your friends in the face or eating them to death, and in that respect it delivers.
ESO released a new photo of the God’s Hand Nebula, located 13,000 light years from Earth. Also known as CG4, it is a sub-type of a nebula referred to as a Bok globule, the smallest type of nebula that exists, and it is very cold and very dense. — ESO
Researchers in Madrid completed a study on ETNOs (extreme trans-Neptunian objects) within our solar system and found that there may be at least two more Earth-sized planets past Pluto. It’s 2015, we landed a robot on a comet, yet we are still discovering what exists in our own solar system! You know what Papa Carl would say* about this. — NBCNews
The Dawn Spacecraft is heading toward a proto/dwarf planet in our asteroid belt named Ceres and we are seeing close up photographs of it for the first time ever. Expect more of these over the next few months! —i09 and CNET
*“Astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” — Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
In November, the Hubble telescope captured a beautiful new image of the Egg Nebula. This star was discovered only 40 years ago and is classified a “preplanetary nebula”. We are lucky to have found this star during such a brief, yet dramatic, moment in it’s lifespan. — ESA
Pulsar J1906 was discovered several years ago by a team from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. However, J1906 wasn’t any ordinary pulsar; this star had a companion star and they circle each other in just four hours. The team watched the pulsar every night for five years, before one night it just disappeared. What happened? — BBC News
Impact on Mars! There is a new impact crater in Elysium Planitia that was first discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The last picture was taken several years ago, meaning the impact happened sometime between February 2012 and June 2014. — NASA
There is not a blog entry this week because FYMFB is on vacation in the Hood Canal area of Washington/the Puget Sound! To celebrate our precious time away, I wanted to share a couple of photos from last summer’s camping trip to the same area.
We stayed at the Scenic Beach State Park campgrounds outside of Seabeck, Washington. The park itself was nice, clean, definitely well maintained, and was only marginally populated at the time we went (late August). The tent camping sites are secluded enough that you cannot see or often times hear your neighbors, unless they are very loud. Our amazing laserdog Kira had a great time camping with us as well! My only real complaint about the entire camping experience was that the tent camping sites were a bit on the expensive end at ~$40/night, which is nearly the cost of a hotel room.
It was a wonderful trip, my first time really spending time in the Hood Canal area, which is home to some of the warmest salt water beaches in Washington State! We are not camping this time around, as it’s January and fucking cold, but instead are staying in a cabin near Union, Washington which is a bit south of Seabeck.
We will resume our normal posting schedule later this week, so check back soon for new content, and next week for a new porn review!
This is a picture of my dog, Kira, and myself (my foot at least!); we were hiking around Deception Pass and stopped to take in the scenery. Kira is one of the best parts of my life, a shadow companion glued to my side at all times. Dogs have been a constant in my life and I’ve wondered for a long time, can they understand us? While some dogs are smarter than others, we can teach even the most scatter brained dog commands that they understand and follow. This video jumps into the science behind dog-human communication and is a must-watch for any dog lover. — It’s Okay to be Smart (YouTube)
Evolutionary science is one of the most fascinating things we study as humans, because it tells the story of how we came to be over millions of years. Researchers in China think they’ve found a missing gap in the evolutionary tree with a recent discovery of a land and water based reptile. — Mother Nature Network
Scientists at Wake Forest have found evidence that bats will jam the sonar of other bats when they are competing with each other for resources. They think that this might be happening with other animals as well, so this discovery could be just the tip of the iceberg! — LiveScience
Cats are jerks, so have you ever wondered about how they became “domesticated”? A new study from geneticists at the Washington University of Medicine in St Louis looks at the genes of ancient cats for answers. — NBC News