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Pixels & Pieces would like to share another video in our speaker series on board game design with our speaker, Sean McCoy of Tuesday Knight Games, co-designer of Two Rooms and a Boom and the upcoming World Championship Russian Roulette. Last Thursday, Sean joined us to discuss the process of self producing a game and the logistics of production, manufacturing, and delivery.

 

Join us Thursday nights from 6pm-8pm in the Media Library (Chilton Hall Rm. 111) for Pixels & Pieces, and allow us to help you turn your tabletop game ideas into a reality.

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Our Pixels & Pieces speaker series is back with our newest video on board game design. Our speaker, Jason Kingsley, is the designer of Ophir, Lanterns: The Emperor’s Gifts, and the upcoming Professor Treasure’s Secret Sky Castle, as well as the artist for Lanterns: The Harvest Festival, Dead Men Tell No Tales, and World’s Fair 1893. In this video he discusses with us the process of creating and commissioning illustration and graphic design for board games, how to communicate with the producer and designer, and how are fits into the production of a game.

Join us Thursday nights from 6pm-8pm in the Media Library (Chilton Hall Rm. 111) for Pixels & Pieces, and allow us to help you turn your tabletop game ideas into a reality.

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The Black Orchestra: a connection of German government members in WWII who sought to overthrow Hitler. Can you work with a group to formulate and execute a plan that will eliminate the Nazi leader for good?

This week we played Black Orchestra from Game Salute.

The year is 1944. As a member of the German government, you have been given clearance to attend one of Hitler’s conferences. You have obtained a briefcase containing a bomb, and believe you might be able to get close enough to Hitler to kill him in the explosion. You compatriots want to take out Himmler and Göring at the same time, but they are not here. Do you make the attempt, or wait for better circumstances?

This is the game of Black Orchestra. Each player takes on the role of a member of the actual “Schwarze Kapelle”, or Black Orchestra from World War II. As the game progresses, Hitler and his deputies move across the board, performing key actions pulled straight from the history books. Hitler’s support will rise and fall based on these actions, and your own involvement, but do not do too much, or else suspicion about you will rise.

Through this game, Germany will grow in size and power. The players will cooperatively try and avoid prison while they gather support, materials, and undermine the Nazi regime, all while trying to formulate a successful plot. If the players are successful, Hitler dies and the players win. If at any point, all players are in prison, or the “Documents Located” card is drawn, signaling everyone’s identities as Black Orchestra members becoming known.

In our playthrough we teamed up as General Ludwig Beck and Henning von Tresckow of the Wehrmacht, General Hans Oster of the Abwehr, and civilian Erich Kordt. Early in the game, Oster began manipulating the political climate by conspiring, and using his additional actions to fill his hand with cards his allies could share. The other players spread out to procure resources, and attempt to find a plot card we could work towards. Our first attempt at assassinating Hitler resulted in failure when our suitcase bomb was too far from him when it went off, leaving Erich in prison. As the game progressed, Hitler’s military support skyrocketed, causing each member of the Black Orchestra to fear failure of each plot drawn. Finally, however, the Nazi hosted a Party Rally in Nuremberg. The drop in Military Support allowed General Beck to derail the train bringing Hitler to Nuremberg. The die roll was against the players, but all dice surprisingly all landed with target symbols, allowing for an early success.

 

 

We all had an absolute blast playing Black Orchestra. The tension in the game was real, and as Hitler gained power, we became a little more desperate to act. Some players took tons of risks to progress our play, others held back and floated under the radar. The mix of play styles worked well together, and we quickly were able to raise each player’s motivation to the committed level. The historical facts woven into the gameplay really adds to the immersion, and even though our game ended quickly, each player felt they contributed to our success. The game seems complex, and definitely allows for tactical decisions to be made, but the co-operative component and ease of action choices makes the game accessible to a wide range of players.

In all, we would highly suggest Black Orchestra as both a fun co-op game, and as a teaching tool.

We would like to thank Game Salute for this great donation.

If you would like to give Black Orchestra a try, or another selection from Game Salute, they are available for check out here, at the UNT Media Library.

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Our Pixels & Pieces programming is in full swing for the year, and with the spring comes our yearly game design contest.

Through the fall and the beginning of the spring semesters, our students work hard to develop games which can be submitted to be critiqued by a panel of community members and professional game designers. Winners of the contest will receive the professional printing of their prototype which can be brought to conventions and shown to producers.

To qualify for the contest, the submitter must be a student or a team consisting of at least one UNT student. The submitter/s must have attended at least half of the meetings leading up to the submission of their game.

This year we had some great designs submitted by some of our talented members. It was a difficult decision between the submissions. In the end, though, only one design can be declared the 2017 Pixels & Pieces Design Contest Winner. That submission is Hoverbike Racing by Jeffrey McCulley!

Hoverbike Racing

Hoverbike racing is a game less about winning your race, but instead about impressing the crowd. Being fast enough to win the race will score you some points, but as you complete your laps, you must also pay attention to how your opponents are playing, and at times sacrifice speed to perform a trick. Tricks will score a small number of points for the player, but can easily make the difference between finishing first or third moot if the fastest player fails to keep the audience as entertained.

The game is played by playing cards from your hand. Each card can either be used to move the player’s hoverbike forward in a lane, to activate a power to tactically effect the game, or to perform tricks by creating sets.

The game ends when the second to last player crosses the finish line. In the meantime, players who have already completed their laps may make a victory lap to increase their favor with the crowd and prevent other players from stalling out to rack up on tricks.

The game currently plays 3-4 players, and takes 20-25 minutes to play.

Congratulations to Jeffrey McCulley! We cannot wait to see what becomes of this game!

Thanks to our judges for their hard work, and the valuable critiques they offered for our designers.

For any of our readers who might be interested, Pixels & Pieces meets most Thursday nights during the school year from 6-8pm. All over the age of 14 are welcome to attend.

Posted by & filed under Board Games, Hollywood, Movie Recommendations, Video Games.

As we move into March, we take the time to acknowledge some of the women in media who helped shape their industry. Often having their credit stolen, overlooked, or forced out of a male-centric industry, women have played huge roles in the progression of all forms of media. Today we highlight a few of these matrons of film and gaming.

 

Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché is the first female film maker and is responsible for creating, in 1896, one of, if not the first, narrative films. Guy’s career of 24 years of directing, writing and producing films is the longest career of any of the cinema pioneers. From 1896 to 1920, she directed over 1,000 films, some 350 of which survive, and 22 of which are feature-length films.

She is revered as the first female director and writer of narrative fiction films, and is seen as a great visionary who experimented with Gaumont’s Chronophone sound syncing system, color tinting, interracial casting, and special effects.

Guy was one of the first women (along with Lois Weber) to manage and own her own studio, The Solax Company. Few of her films survive in an easily viewable format (primarily those involving Charlie Chaplin), although preservation and recovery efforts are ongoing because of the documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché.

 

A number of Alice’s films can be found in our collections at the UNT Media Library.

Dona Bailey

Determined to break into the game making biz, Dona Bailey received a position as an engineer at Atari in 1980. As Carol Shaw had already left for Activision, Donna was the only female game designer at the company. There she co-created and designed, along with Ed Logg, the classic arcade hit,​ Centipede.

After its release to instant success, Donna disappeared from the video game industry only to resurface 26 years later as a keynote speaker at the 2007 Women in Games Conference. Donna admitted it was the pressure and criticism from her male counterparts which drove her from the business.

Today Donna encourages women to pursue careers in games and works as a college instructor, teaching numerous courses, among them game design.

Centipede can be played on our retro gaming console station in the Media Library.

 

Elizabeth J. Magie

Elizabeth J. Magie was an American game designer and Georgist. She invented The Landlord’s Game, the precursor to Monopoly, to illustrate teachings of the progressive era economist Henry George.

Her game, with two rule sets: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents, was patented in 1904. The game was intended to demonstrate that the first set of rules was morally superior, yet it was the monopolist version that caught on.

When Parker Brothers started selling “Monopoly” in 1935, they marketed it with the inspiring story of how struggling salesman Charles Darrow created the game in his basement to support his family during the Depression. Darrow earned a patent for Monopoly in December 1935, and neither he nor Parker Brothers mentioned The Landlord’s Game. Thanks in part to a 1970s patent dispute between Parker Brothers and “Anti-Monopoly” game designer Ralph Anspach, the true origins of the world’s best-selling board game were unveiled again.

Check out one of our version of Monopoly at the Media Library.

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The VHS collection at the Media Library seems to gain more and more notable titles each time I venture back, I wonder if perhaps my fascination with this awkward medium is simply just growing or if maybe my eyes are slowly being opened to the hidden treasures on these shelves. Regardless, I seem to be on a French film kick since watching, La Haine, 1995, last week and today I bring to you yet another incredible French film, Weekend, 1967 by Jean-Luc Goddard. This time we travel back a few more years and venture into the belly of the beast known as French New Wave. That’s right the time for diving into those off the wall, avant-garde films is here, for all you movie buffs and RTVF students who recognize this title from the poster hung on the wall of the second floor of the RTVF building I strongly encourage you to watch this film, free of devices, and to actually watch the film before enlisting in your next, I love French films discussion, at your local hip café of choice.

While this film didn’t receive too much festival attention, it has surely become a relic in the massive collection of Goddard’s canon of work and as contemporary artifact of the French New Wave period for the cinematic arts. This film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 18th Berlin International Film Festival but other than that it has primarily lived on through its artistic legacy. In order to understand what kind of film you are about to buckle down for, it is important to recognize that Goddard amongst the many directors and artist of the Existential and French New Wave periods were creating artistic artifacts such as films, with a high degree of symbolism, intentional commentary, and violent opposition to the ruling classes of their world. This allows an audience member to clue into the fact that perhaps the entertainment value of such artifacts, like this film, take a back seat to the artistic integrity and message of the artifact. This stands true to most of Goddard’s work including this enchantingly violent film.

The narrative of this films takes us through the journey of a French bourgeois couple as they make their way to meet the parents of the female lead with intentions to strip the older couple from their will at whatever cost necessary. Though the journey this couple takes very quickly becomes saturated with heavy symbolism, apparitions of historical and literary characters, and commentary on social situations in an episodic sort of structure which at first glances strikes one as confusing yet strikingly intentional. The film is filled with incredibly long sequences, including a magnificent 10 minute long scene of a traffic jam in the French country side. The film is violent with imagery and showcases its intentions through vibrant colors, surreal situations, and heavy dialogue in combination with stunning visual imagery. If any of you are a fan of the work by Kenneth anger I highly recommend you take a look at this film. While this film is overly saturated with academic and literary references and an immense amount of symbolism the beauty of the film isn’t lost to the heavily aggressive and Marxist commentary. This film is a refreshing look at what an artistic artifact of the visual kind should feel like, rules are broke, decisions by the creator are aggressively portrayed, the audience is required to actively interact with the film, and the dark Marxist tone is representative of a cultural movement which has been damned by many of us in the west and specifically in America. This film is overall captivating, devastatingly beautiful, and a powerful yet violently refreshing piece of art and available for all to see right here at the Media Library, so don’t wait!

Post by Special Projects Student Assistant Cesar Velasco

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized, Video Games.

As February moves into full swing, we celebrate Black History Month by looking back at a world shaped by people that often were overlooked at best and silenced at worst. We have made bold strides since then, and the world of media has often been at the forefront of that movement. Today, we take a look at some of the black game designers that helped shape the videogame industry into what it is today.

 

Lisette Titre-Montgomery

Lisette Titre-Montgomery is an Art Director with over fifteen years of industry experience. Her artistic skills include special effects, character modeling, and texture painting. In addition, she has also managed global art teams in Japan, China, Australia, India, and the Philippines. Lisette has contributed to some of the industry’s highest profile games, including Tiger Woods Golf, The Simpsons, Dante’s Inferno (Game 67 Xbox 360 and PS3), Dance Central 3 (Game 288 Xbox 360 Kinect), SIMS 4, and Transformers Age Of Extinction for Android and iOS. Her most recent project is with Ubisoft San Francisco on South Park’s next AAA game sequel, The Fractured but Whole.

Ms. Titre-Montgomery’s passion is being a diversity advocate for the game industry. She speaks publicly about how game based curriculums are the key to engaging today’s youth in S.T.E.A.M education and careers. Lisette has been a keynote speaker at N.A.S.A., Intel, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and Soledad O’Brien’s Starfish Foundation. She has also been named One of the Most Powerful Women in Tech by Business Insider. She was most recently honored to be invited to The White House to work on initiatives to improve diversity in tech hiring and inclusion.

 

Gordon Bellamy

Bellamy started his career as a lead designer for EA’s Madden franchise. He also served as executive director of the International Game Developers Association and serves as a judge for the Promax/BDA MI6 Awards, which celebrate the best in marketing, advertising and design within interactive and game entertainment. As an executive consultant for MTV, Bellamy provided creative guidance on the content, direction and strategic marketing partnerships for the annual Spike TV Video Game Awards show and the highly rated weekly program GameTrailers TV with Geoff Keighley, also on Spike TV. Previously, he was Executive Director of the game industry’s trade organization, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. Bellamy has also played key business and product development roles at Electronic Arts, where he was named the company’s Rookie of the Year for his work on the Madden NFL franchise, THQ, and Activision subsidiary, Z-AXIS.

He recently co-founded Hangry Studios, a consulting firm focused on quality assurance and automation for PC, mobile, and virtual reality games.

 

Jerry Lawson

As an engineer at Fairchild Semiconductor, Jerry Lawson designed the electronics of the Fairchild Video Entertainment System, later renamed the Channel F, in 1976.

Predating the release of Atari’s Video Computer System by a year, the Channel F was the first videogame machine that used interchangeable game cartridges, which Fairchild sold separately. Previous game machines like Atari’s Pong and the Magnavox Odyssey had all their games built into the hardware. Lawson’s pioneering design set the standard for the game consoles of today.

Lawson and Ron Jones were the sole black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of early computer hobbyists which would produce a number of industry legends, including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Lawson also produced one of the earliest arcade games, Demolition Derby, which debuted in a southern California pizzeria shortly after Pong. Lawson later worked with the Stanford mentor program and was preparing to write a book on his career.

In March 2011, Lawson was honored as an industry pioneer by the International Game Developers Association.

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Kathryn Bigelow is an American film director, writer, and producer. Her films range from vampire horror to action and often war related thrillers.Her most well-known film The Hurt Locker won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Picture and was nominated for the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Drama.

With The Hurt Locker, Bigelow became the first and only woman (to date) to win the Academy Award for Best Director, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director.

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“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” -Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn is currently working on a documentary film set to premiere at this years Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary discusses a police raid in Detroit in 1967 results in one of the largest citizen uprisings in the United States’ history.

In addition to that, she is currently co-directing a short documentary titled The Protectors, which will be made in VR about African elephants and ivory poaching. Check out our HTC Vive to get a little taste of the VR world.

Here is a list of films directed by Kathryn Bigelow available at the Media Library:

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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Chronicles the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden following the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of Navy SEAL Team 6.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

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US Army Staff Sergeant Will James, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge comprise the Bravo Company’s bomb disposal unit stationed in Baghdad. James is the tech team leader. When he arrives on the scene, Bravo Company has thirty-nine days left on its current deployment, and it will be a long thirty-nine days for Sanborn and Eldridge whose styles do not mesh with that of their new leader. While the three members face their own internal issues, they have to be aware of any person at the bomb sites, some of whom may be bombers themselves.

K-19 The Widowmaker (2002)

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Captain Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer has being given command of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear submarine, K-19, at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The vessel’s executive officer Captain Polenin asserts that the flagship is not yet ready for deployment. But, political pressure forces Vostrikov to sail his crew into the North Atlantic anyway, for a missile fire test that serves as a warning to the U.S. The test is a success, but a leak in the K-19’s cooling system soon threatens the nuclear payload.

The Weight of Water (2000)

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A century old double murder haunts Jean, a photographer, who travels to the scene of the crime to investigate. The sole survivor of the murders was a woman whose unhappy marriage mirror’s Jeans. Past and present collide and it suddenly becomes clear to Jean who the real killer is.

Strange Days (1995)

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A thriller set in the urban inferno of 1999 Los Angeles. Lenny Nero sells dreams and hustles nightmares available on small disks that are viewable via a compact headpiece that makes every sensation immediate. Nero replays scenes of happier days with Faith Justin, who has run off with sadistic Philo Gant. As he attempts to win Faith back, he hooks up with an old friend, Lornette “Mace” Mason, and the two of them are caught in a deadly fantasy of conspiracy, murder and betrayal.

Point Break (1991)

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Featuring Keanu Reeves, a young FBI agent Johnny Utah goes undercover at the suggestion of his partner to learn if a group of wild surfers is actually a gang of bank robbers. He soon comes under the dangerous spell of the surfers’ charismatic leader, Bodhi, a mystical mastermind who’ll do absolutely anything for a thrill– and expects his followers to do the same.

Blue Steel (1990)

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Rookie cop Megan Turner is suspended after she kills an armed robber her first night out and no gun is found at the scene. The missing gun has been snatched by Eugene Hunt, a commodities trader and a witness to the shooting. He develops a sick fascination with Megan and commits a series of murders with her name on the bullets. At the same time, Eugene begins dating Megan, but when she finally realizes that he’s the serial killer, the young policewoman is unable to convince her superiors of his guilt; she then takes it upon herself to take him down using whatever means possible.

Near Dark (1987)

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Horror film about a naive young country boy who is lured into a secret clan of savage vampires who prowl the night seeking victims.

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Terrence Malick is a film director, producer, and screenwriter from Ottawa, Illinois. His films are known for their philosophical and spiritual themes, often using voice-overs and narration of particular characters. His style is known to create contrasting reception with audiences and critics as some people find his films unique whereas others find them pretentious. Malick has received three Academy Award nominations.

Malick’s newest work includes Song to Song, a film about two intersecting love triangles, obsession, and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas. The film is set to have its world premiere at Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival this year.

 

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“Help each other. Love everyone. Every leaf. Every ray of light. Forgive.”
― Terrance Malick, The Tree of Life

 

List of films directed by Terrence Malick available at the Media Library:

To the wonder (2013)

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Neil is an American traveling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina. After visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems arise. Marina meets a priest and fellow exile, who is struggling with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane.

The tree of life (2011)

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Terrance Malick’s most critically acclaimed film.The impressionistic story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s that follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

The new world (2006)

Image result for the new world filmSet amidst the first encounter of European and Native American cultures during the founding of the Jamestown Virginia settlement in 1607. Tell the classic tale of Pocahontas and her relationships with adventurer John Smith and aristocrat John Rolfe. This woman’s journey of love lost and found again takes her from the untouched beauty of the Virginia wilderness to the upper crust of English society as we witness the dawn of a new America.

The thin red line (1999)

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This adaptation of the novel by James Jones is a realistic view of military and moral chaos in the Pacific during World War II.

Days of heaven (1978)

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A young couple who pretend to be brother and sister move from Chicago to the Texas panhandle to escape poverty. There, they work the ranch of a rich and handsome farmer, who has fallen in love with the woman.

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Back again with another strange VHS collection review. Seeing as my last viewing experience with the film Black Rain was so exhilarating I decided to venture back again into the depths of our VHS collection to find yet another hidden gem. This film in particular caught my eye because while I had heard of the French director Mathieu Kassovitz (specifically for his acting role in the film Amelie, 2001) I found it strange that the written title on the VHS was written in English and translated to Hate. This odd observation led to the interesting discovery that while this film was indeed a French film, the title was only translated to the English title Hate as supposed to La Haine (MV 9221) exclusively for the VHS release of the film. So having that said you can be assured that if you sign out this film from our Media Library you will be holding a type of collector’s edition version of this masterful film.

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This film is completely in black and white yet it has a striking power that most modern films in color lack. The organic intensity of the acting and the way the sequences are put together by Kassovitz are truly impressive and will leave you glued to the edge of your seat throughout the film. This film was received incredibly well, winning the award for best director from both the Cannes Film Festival and The Lumiere Awards in 1995, along with more Cesar Awards including best film, and best editing.

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Through the trajectory of the film the audience follows three young men living in the outskirts of Paris in the mid 90’s, they travel the city a day after a massive riot had erupted in which one of their close friends was shot by riot police. The tensions portrayed as the boys struggle to find news about their friend while also having several run ins with police continually grows through the entirety of the film finally arriving at a climactic ending in which the line “La haine attire la haine” which translates to “hatred breeds hatred” summarizes the overarching theme of this film with one last powerful blow. The film is artistic and youthful, full of risk and exceptionally executed. If you are a fan of the earlier work of Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, such as Amores Perros 2000 or earlier films from Antonio Serrano such as Sexo, Pudor, y Lagrimas 1999, I can guarantee you will love this film.

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Post by Special Projects Student Assistant Cesar Velasco