Some theories on Super Mario Odyssey design influences

The Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 –  united millions of video game developers and fans this week. Nintendo’s efforts stood-out from the crowd. Their new game, titled Mario Odyssey, received some attention. We finally had a chance to see the game play.

I want to dig a bit deeper into some of the ideas and inspirations behind Nintendo’s new Sand Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. The Kingdom introduces a rusty red, cold and dry desert level.

Eagle-eyed gaming and theory enthusiasts might notice several cultural facts and references from myths influencing the design when Mario arrives in Tostarena Town.

In this post, I wanted to touch on what some of these influences are.

Samantha Robertson, Assistant Manager of Product marketing at Nintendo Treehouse, interviewed Nintendo’s developers. Robertson’s interviews reveal some of the main design influences:

  • The game play foundations stem from the dense but fascinating spaces Nintendo created in Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Sunshine.
  • The concept “Hakoniwa”, which translates into “Miniature Garden”, inspired the overall game design.

Nintendo have created a set of miniature gardens to play in.

They want to invite their fans to explore a miniature version of the real world, and it is likely their aim is to invite their fans to see the familiar world in a new, playful way.

Some Super Mario Odyssey character designs callback to past Nintendo titles. Specifically, the “Moe-aye”, inspired by Easter Island Moai statues.

“Moe-aye” are the basic sounds of the word Moai, which makes pronouncing the word easy. Super Mario Land for the Gameboy featured these statues. It is likely that “Moe-aye”
connect back to Nintendo’s early handheld Mario games.

The addition of the sunglasses is also a fun way to re-imagine the Moai statues.

Moeaye

Nintendo connects events of the past with its stylish new game in a playful way. Mario encounters a stone creature called a “Jaxi”, which resembles an ancient Mayan mask.

There is a reason for this resemblance:

It’s likely “Jaxi” combines the words jaguar and taxi.

Mario can call a ride from these stone Jaguars to get a lift across the vast red sands at breakneck speeds. This explains the taxi part of the name. But why a jaguar?

Mayan mythology regards the Jaguar as a symbol representing the energy of the sun. Similar to the sun god Apollo from the Greek pantheon, the Jaguar sun deity, called Ahau-Kin, travelled across the sky during the day.

My theory: this myth inspires the “Jaxi”

Like if Apollo became a ride share driver with his sun chariot.

Another playful idea from Nintendo that reaches back into past traditions.

Jaxi

Samantha Robertson says that Super Mario Odyssey embodies all the great experiences that the development team had while travelling overseas from Japan:

“[Mario Odyssey is] a love letter to our experiences travelling”

Kenta Motokura – Super Mario Odyssey Director, and Developer at Nintendo.

Nintendo’s Youtube channel contains all the E3 announcements from this week. Including the footage of the Sand Kingdom, and New Donk City, which I’ve added at the end of this post.

For more gaming content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

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5 arguments against overt, negative criticism of super heroes and comics

How respectable are comics, really? Comic book movies attract millions of people to cinemas. But what level of respect do these characters in costume receive?
Some might answer:
Yes, they are a respectable character archetype.
It’s not about the money the films garner.
The characters have meaning for the audience. We can look up to their example, if we want.
But others might argue that a man or woman lifting a car overhead, wearing bright colours, is disrespectful. Childish, and meaningless: a shallow stories punctuated with special-effects.
For situations where the criticism is negative in the extreme, there are several valid replies.
Here are five arguments against overtly negative criticism of super heroes and comics

1. Comics cross generations. Comics are stories that have the Same impact to an 80 year old as an 8 year old.

You might here someone say, or imply, that comics are for children. Comics connect with people of any age, or at least have the potential to reach people of any age. And media that unites generations is valuable.

2. Comics show ideas Of justice. Abstract concepts like justice become concrete and meaningful in comics.

Justice can be abstract. Abstract concepts are difficult to understand. A well researched and pitched comic story can act out and demonstrate abstract justice. They make justice concrete. And concrete concepts are easier to grasp.

3. Comics speak out against oppression.

Many different productions – novels, TV, and theatre- speak out against oppression. But comic books have gained a large platform. With that platform, they can speak out against oppression. Comics have supported the disenfranchised for decades, going back to the stories of Marvel’s X-men in the 1980’s.
Of course, no media is free of problematic issues. Some comics arguably maintain oppression. This point falls beyond this article’s scope, but is a fair point worth discussion.

4. They show us that caring about values and communities is fun.

Comics such as Ms.Marvel tell stories about thriving communities. Super Heroes in comics can care about their community. Comics tell stories that represent core values (humility, compassion, empathy) in a fun and engaging, playful way.

5. Superheroes in comics embody Communities. We follow their journeys, and gain a modicum of empathy.

By representing diverse communities more and more, audiences gain an insights. They get to know other people, and other communities we are not familiar with. Like argument number 3 above, other media can achieve this. Comics combine words and pictures, however. They can give insight in a unique and engaging way not found in other media.
These arguments were gathered from a talk held at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on super heroes and the real world, which I wrote about in a previous post.
For more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

Wedding flowers, comics, marriage, and mental load.

I attended a wedding just seven days ago, and it was an incredible afternoon and evening.

The design choices, speeches, and spirit of the event could not have been more bright and joyful.

I want to share one photo of the wedding flowers. They embodied this sense of joy; new beginnings; pure celebration, and shared love between the couple.

Babies breath, white chrysanthemum, and a light-pink rose  represented these sensations. I was definitely grateful to be there.

But where is marriage going in the future? What stresses are there on couples, and how can these be understood and solved?

To start answering these questions, I wanted to share  a short comic on marriage and relationships that was recently translated into English.

On their website, cartoonist and blogger Emma calls her comics “ugly sketches”. Regardless, the content presents a vital discussion about mental load and long-term marriage.

But you might ask, what is mental load?

It’s the finite capacity humans have for information processing.

Mental Load could also be called Cognitive Load.

John Sweller talks about cognitive load from a teaching perspective:

Humans have limited ability to actively plan, and acquire new information.

There is a finite amount of Working Memory available when processing information.

Exceeding mental load too often results in stress.

Ideally , problem solving, learning, and sharing of new information will not exceed cognitive working load (Solomon, 2015, Instructional Design).

In a long-term marriage, under the pressure of a society placing household management demands mainly on women – as Emma delineates in the comic – reducing long term marriage stress between partners flows from making a few societal changes:

  • Manage toys and gender stereotypes given to children growing up.
  • Encourage closer ties between fathers and their families by introducing more paternity leave options for parents.

Emma delineates more of these problems and solutions, on mental load and marriage, in their comic:

Source: You Should’ve Asked, by Emma

The biggest mistake I made sculpting with Gedeo Crystal Resin, and what I learned from it.

Here’s what I learned experimenting with Crystal Resins. The following post summarises my experiences.

Even though it did not turn out what I wanted (mistakes were made) it’s a learning experience.

I set out to design and create an emerald coloured, gold accented jewellery piece as a gift for mothers day. Inspired by things my mum enjoys (French province motifs, and cats) the design was going to be detailed and layered. The finished product would be stylish.

Unfortunately, I fell far short of my set standards.

It was a bit embarrassing, having to scrap the plans and find an alternative Mother’s day present. But the bright side was I learned quite a bit.

I thought that using the resin would be a gimme, considering success I had in the past making shapes out of resin for a cosplay, and then painting the shape with acrylic resin. I was wrong. It was, in no uncertain words, a mess.

Mistakes, though, are a sign of moving forward, on the right track. By making mistakes, we are just learning. They are one and the same, and are nothing to beat ourselves up about.

So for intrepid resin casting students or interested artist, here’s were I went wrong, so you don’t have to.

Philosophy aside, This was the one key mistake:

How long the product takes to set, and using proper mixing technique – this can vary, and it is worth doing a test batch.

Test batches are vital. Resins require two compounds mixed together in specific distributions to set into a solid, clear artwork (or lump). If the resin and the catalyst or hardener are not mixed together effectively, starting in one container, stirring in a second container, and then poured, the resin will not set.

Test batches are important because you can discover exactly how long the resin will take to set:

  1. Combine the resin and hardener.
  2. Start a timer, and gently mix the two products, taking care to use firm, but softer wrist movement to stop air bubbles.
  3. Transfer the mix to another container. Continue to stir.
  4. Stir until the colour of the resin starts to change. Most resins will turn slightly opaque. This is a sign the resin will set hard.
  5. Stop the clock. This gives you an idea of how long the resin will take to set (the pot life of the resin).

Smaller batches take longer to set. This is counter intuitive. You might think that a large amount of resin would take longer to set once the artist adds the catalyst. In reality, heat generated by the resin sets the product faster. The more product, the more heat. (Bruckner, Oat, and Procopio, 2010. Pop Sculpture, Watson-Guptill Publications).

Since I did not create a test batch of a the product I was working with, I had no clue how long it would take to set (spoiler: it was more than the suggested 24 hours in the Gedeo Product instruction manual).

The final sculpt was soft, like toffee, and even five days afterwards, did not set properly. This is a sign of under-mixing the resin and the catalyst element.

What I expected

Ambiance-jade_carousel_large-gedeo-copyright-Pebeo

What I ended up with

crystal-resin-testing-gedeo-product-wallflyer-CC-BY

Other observations:

    1. Suspending glitter and gold inside resin is possible. I did successfully combine crystal resin with Fimo Gold Dust, as a suspension inside the resin.
    2. It is important to keep the resin out of dust, with a cover over it.
    3. Adding a release agent, like a sculpting vaseline, is important to be able to separate the product from the mould

While it’s not an ideal outcome, it’s a learning experience. One that can hopefully be useful, eventually.

You can find more art content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer .

Starting a voice acting career with Nolan North

Nolan North didn’t realise his career in voice acting would be a big deal, or how far he would travel in a career delivering voice and motion capture roles. This post summaries the stories and advice he told on voice acting careers at the Supanova Gold Coast convention in 2017.

North didn’t believe that after recording the line “Grenade! get down” over and over again that this extension of his screen acting would be a viable option.

North continued to find roles that pushed into the new voice acting profession. Like in any profession, his passion for making funny voices caught some attention. Like in any profession, actors improve by meeting and working alongside people who have a higher skill level, or more years of experience. An emerging actor, or even an experienced actor, can always benefit from being willing to learn from new experiences.

The actors job, according to North: “To me, an actor’s job is to deliver a performance. To deliver what I am supposed to.”

Physical acting skills developed and enlisted to build character with gesture and posture, flowed into motion capture sessions. North called on his physical acting repertoire to deliver a performance.

He confides that the willingness to play make believe remains an essential part of acting and creativity.

There’s a clash, however, between the logical, bottom-line focused thinking of delivering a performance, and the creative, powerful thinking of belief and imagination that can be traced back to childhood games. Balance and flexibility, and the ability to retain some autonomy to be creative and play, even when working toward a deadline, comes across as vital in creative fields, and particularly essential to voice acting careers.

Technical skill is important – repeating movements that match up with the direction players want to send the character in with a touch to a screen, control stick, or their W, A, S, and D keys, is one example North highlighted.

Being able to crouch, walk, and sprint from zero, ninety, one hundred and thirty, and one hundred and eighty degree directions from a standing position can prove difficult. North finds that the choreography difficult to repeat, but the technical skill and endurance of moving in different directions cannot be understated. He still dislikes going from a crouching position to sprint backward – sprint 130 degrees back. This type of cardio is a tough workout on an actor’s thighs and shins.

Another reality is that voice actors sometimes fall out the loop – their character directions might change, and their are no realistic channels for the news to reach the actor.

North has found out about dramatic character changes from social media questions often long before he receives a brief or update. This appears to be the reality of a busy corporate decision making network running at a different pace to the professional life of an actor.

In summary, North says that playing iconic roles represents a responsibility to be taken seriously. Consider the other actors in the field. Ask if they are well known for voicing a certain role before. Weigh up whether it fits with your career to taken on a character voices and brought to life by another actor.

And on that topic, North comment in a few lines on his impact created through voicing Deadpool.

You can find more games and film related content on the wallflyer.wordpress.com and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer

 

 

How to treat fans well, with actor David Boreanaz.

After a long weekend at Supanova, an Australian Comics, Film, Games, and Anime expo, One of the standout moments was a QandA panel with actor David Boreanaz. This post is a summary of how David Boreanaz interacted and treated fans. He treated fans well, and some of his choices stand up as good ways to treat fans.

He invited a young fan and her mum onstage, to sit on the celebrity couch.

This young fan was happy to sit and play on her mum’s phone, but did not want to interact with Boreanaz. Neither did she want to accept any chocolate from him. No doubt, she is a smart fan.

This was impressive since there is some danger in audience participation, regardless of the context in any theatre. It’s impressive that he could put a young fan under the age of 5 at ease for an hour long panel. His did not condescend, speaking across to the audience, and to her. I think this worked toward a calming atmosphere.

He insisted that one fan call her mum, who is avid fan not able to reach Supanova, and spoke to her through the phone and microphone. Her disbelief and shock was enormous.

Another risk an actor could take at a convention is allowing outside calls into a Q and A session. With some charm (and boldly inviting himself to dinner) Boreanaz chatted through the phone, putting his fan at ease. Openness in the face of risk, and willingness to be truthful and transparent with what he felt and wanted in the moment came across in this part of the Q and A.

He was open and honest, and standing up for his experience and opinions working through controversial moments in the Bones and Angel

Without spoilers, many fans expressed varied emotional reactions to the endings of several, final episodes. In response, Boreanaz sympathised briefly with fans, but also expressed his enthusiasm for change, for new characters, for growth, and development. This could become controversial easily, but Boreanaz was diplomatic in standing up for his experience and opinions.

For example, when challenged about acting in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the content of the show described by one fan as “teeny, pop-stuff” (while the audience groaned in protest) Boreanaz replied by asking “What would Joss Whedon think?”.

With Whedon’s reputation as a writer, who delves into deeper character recesses, there is an argument against the Buffy as a superficial, fizzy and flashy show. Think back to Loki and Black Widow’s exchange in The Avengers movie, or the deeper themes of abandonment in the first Toy Story film. Boreanaz is informed about the wider context of Whedon’s work. He can defend their collaborations.

The level of openness, honesty, respect, but also confidence and diplomacy, came across throughout the panel. When asking about Tim Tams, the audience threw the biscuits to Boreanaz. They must have enjoyed the panel.

You can find more film related content here, and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.