Week three! Not long ago I was worried if I could actually grow a moustache, and now I’m grooming one and trying to get it to not poke me in the nostrils.

Fundraising is at a great level – $635. However, donation frequency has dropped pretty significantly. My minimum goal this year is to beat last year’s collection of $765. I will certainly pop a monocle or two if we get to the secret goal of $1000. Now is the appropriately dramatic time to donate. I’ll even sing your praises to the opposite sex regarding the timeliness and generosity of your donation.

Head on over to mobro.co/BrettW if you’d like to help out.

Last week was a little busy, so unfortunately I couldn’t produce posters on my usual schedule. This one, however, is a monster. Oh did I say one? I meant TWO! TWO SEQUENTIAL POSTERS!

Models owned by Valve. Image made in Source Filmmaker. Arrangement by me, Brett Witty.

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We’re still trucking along with Movember. My moustache has been described as “getting dapper”, which is an upgrade from the previous “what moustache?”

CORRECTION: I had previously said today’s poster was both scatological and accurate. Unfortunately I was only right on the first bit. D’oh! Today’s homework (for me, and you if you like) is to read the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia‘s page on the prostate and actually get your organs correctly placed and referenced.

Medical inaccuracies aside, if you like the posters, feel free to share them with your friends.

Feel very free to donate to Movember at mobro.co/BrettW. Money goes to prostate cancer research and beyondblue, two worthy causes.

Prostate cancer is poo. Let's wipe it out! Support Movember at mobro.co/BrettW

Arrangement by me, Brett Witty, using GIMP.

My folks are visiting this week, so posters may be a bit slower than usual. I have a few neat ones in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

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Did I mention I was doing Movember? And making posters for it? Pretty sure I did.

If you want to help out with Movember, please consider donating at mobro.co/BrettW. Every little bit goes to this great cause. Thanks to all the generous – and may I say it – attractive people who have donated already.

If you want to look at a sweet poster, here’s one I prepared today!

Deploying Moustaches! Help your fellow survivors @ mobro.co/BrettW

Models owned by Valve. Image made in Source Filmmaker. Arrangement by me, Brett Witty.

We’re one week into Movember and already people have been extremely generous. It warms my heart, it does. We’ve broken $300 in donations thus far, which is great. Hopefully we can keep it up for the rest of the month.

If you’re currently slapping your forehead and going, “Now I know what I forgot to donate to!” then just head on over to mobro.co/BrettW and sort it out, quick-smart. You can also see horrifying pictures of a proto-mo being created.

People are enjoying the Movember posters, and rest assured, there’s more coming. In fact, here’s one right now!

Depression is a killer... But Moustaches Can Turn It Around!

Models owned by Valve. Image made in Source Filmmaker. Arrangement by me, Brett Witty.

Feel free to point your friends here, or share the link/image on Facebook.

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I’m fundraising for Movember 2012. To encourage people to send their money to a cause I believe in, I’ve decided to do a set of posters that are hopefully entertaining and a little educational.

One in eight men suffer from depression. Support your teammates. Support Movember. mobro.com/BrettW

You can donate at mobro.co/BrettW.

Models owned by Valve. Image made in Source Filmmaker. Arrangement by me, Brett Witty.

As soon as Valve give us access to some of their non-TF2 models, I’ll be ready to go with the female version of this.

Previous posters: Medic.

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I’m fundraising for Movember 2012. To encourage people to send their money to a cause I believe in, I’ve decided to do a set of posters that are hopefully entertaining and a little educational.

Today we kick off with the first one: The Medic.

Doctors can help treat: bullet wounds, arrow wounds, pyrotechnical exposure, ingested rockets, spy-related spinal injuries, punched-out blood, depression, prostate cancer, general men's health. Help him help you. Support Movember at http://mobro.co/BrettW

Donations can go to mobro.co/BrettW. Models owned by Valve. Image made in Source Filmmaker. Arrangement by me.

More to come over the month!

I’ll tell you straight up – I don’t really like metal. The music, that is. But maybe I hadn’t given it a fair go. Maybe I had approached it wrong, or had it prosthelytised by the wrong people. So I asked my metal-loving friend Bender for a mixtape of metal appreciation. I’ve listened to it, and I thought the report might make a neat blog post. And like a classic metal song, it’s long!

powered by Fotopedia

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After a long series of delays, Runic Games’ Torchlight 2 has finally hit Steam. I played it a bit yesterday, and I thought folks who were Diablo 3 fans might like to know how Torchlight 2 compares.

Torchlight 2 by itself

If you’ve played Torchlight 1, or any of the Diablo series, you know what you’re in for – killing all the dudes and getting all the loot. There’s a pseudo-Steampunk angle to the world so you’re just as likely to fire a gatling gun as draw a bow. You’re also blessed with a pet from the very start of the game which has a remarkable impact on gameplay.

Versus El Diablo

It’s really hard to write much about Torchlight 2 (TL2) without reference or comparison to the Diablo series. I might as well bite the bullet and get into the comparisons.

The first thing you notice is money, in few contexts. Torchlight 2 is only $20, whereas Diablo 3 hit shelves at $60ish. You can buy a 4-pack of TL2 2 on Steam for the same price as Diablo 3. Then from the intro screen, you can tell that while TL2 got a lot of love, it didn’t get anywhere near the budget that Diablo 3 (D3) had. While the music in TL2 is fine, you can tell Blizzard shelled out for a full orchestra to really smash that opening screen. Same sort of thing for the sound – while it’s quite good in TL2, it lacks some of the variety and quality that D3 has.

Curiously, TL2 has a very similar art style to Blizzard’s biggest earner: World of Warcraft. Textures are fairly simple, colourful but evocative. D3 had that wonderful painterly feel to everything (if you didn’t zoom in too far) whereas TL2 retains a video game feel. By eschewing any dedication to realism, the TL2 guys were able to be a lot more creative with the different enemies and landscapes that you see. You cycle through both pretty quickly so while not individually engaging, it constantly feels fresh. D3 rooted itself in areas, soaking up a particular atmosphere that the artists tried very hard to capture.

The main difference as I see it is that Torchlight 2 wants to be fun, whilst Diablo 3 wants to be hardcore. I think TL2 wins in executing this and being my kind of game. One of my issues with D3 is I wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. A lot of the gameplay and theming was structured around being hardcore. Percentages are quoted to 1 or 2 decimal points. You have to prove your worthiness of later difficulties by finishing the lower ones first. Bad guys are routinely tougher. If you want to go to town you are punished by a long wait and potentially decaying loot drop chances. Every patch to D3 tries to finely balance all the different class and skill choices. Heck the whole online-always thing was to ensure a level playing field for everyone in what is ostensibly a single-player game.

But then the execution of D3 was uneven. The auction house blew away any sense of difficulty, progress or achievement if you had the cash. The very grimdark storyline was too serious yet not interesting nor carefully crafted enough to warrant it. In the midst of a very serious battle that might determine the fate of the world, you are encouraged to smash up Heaven in order to find a few extra dollars. When you save the world by beating up the Prime Evil himself you get a bit of thanks, but mostly they care about what Tyrael does next. You’re just some dude. A set of bad guys and their related achievement are named after the Three Stooges. Your character will have a serious contemplation about the afterlife whilst punching someone’s skeleton out. The NPCs have more social interactions than you do. The mix is all wrong.

Torchlight 2 doesn’t take itself anywhere near that seriously. The cinematics are cartoons, which is not to say they aren’t great, but D3’s realistically-rendered cutscenes demanded a certain amount of gravitas whereas the Big Bad Guy in TL2 explodes a few buildings with his staff on the way to punching up someone. While TL2 has the same sort of thin story that it tells fairly straight-faced, it doesn’t insist on it as strongly as D3. It revels in the secondary detail that D3 loves but is supposed to be too serious to lower itself to. For example, in one area you fight a ghost pirate called One-Eyed Willy (which is a joke in itself), but a drop you find nearby is “The Other Eye of One-Eyed Willy” which is basically a rare gem you can shove into your weapon. While D3 had similar rare champions and gag loot, they seemed out of place.

TL2 is really just there to have fun. The first 20 odd enemies I fought I could one-shot kill them (and they’d explode in a shower of gore). You’re encouraged to wield gigantic shotguns or grindstones strapped to logs. A nice way to get loot is to go fishing and the fish you find polymorphs your pet into various crazy creatures. Occasionally, just apropos of nothing, you’ll fight a phase beast enemy that will open up a portal to a mini-game. Socketed weapons come thick and fast. You are encouraged to use gems as soon as possible because they don’t allow gem combining (although they do allow you to recover either the gem or the item, but not both). Identify scrolls are basically instantaneous. Portals back to town are instantaneous and semi-persistent. The town itself isn’t a chore to navigate and basically once you’re outside the gates, it’s combat time.

TL2 allows local, LAN or Internet play and totally doesn’t care what you do. You are strongly encouraged to mod the game and use other people’s mods. While they offer much the same gameplay options as D3, you don’t have to grind for them. Hardcore and harder difficulty modes are available immediately.

You can craft your own character however you want. I have an engineer chick that has specialized in hitting things with weapons as big as her, and robots. With a different set of skill choices, I could have made her a pseudo-knight hitting things with a sword and doing all sorts of shield-bashing, or taken an entirely different route and made myself a damage sponge distracting the enemies while a horde of robots cleaned up. And this is just one class of four!

If you realize quickly enough that a skill choice was not for you, a guy in town will allow you to respecialize your last 3 choices. They don’t really care so much about a level playing field so all the pros are evenly matched. They want you to have a good time killing things. Speaking of levels, you gain them at a good pace, which is a great contrast to D3’s general grind.

Pets are great. You have a choice of ten different species (dogs, cats, wolves, hawks… even freaking ferrets with hats!) They’re all very adorable. While mechanically they have a lot of similarities to the paladin/brigand/enchantress you could have in D3, they feel quite different. Like in Torchlight 1, they can be loaded up with extra items and sent to the store while you keep bashing things. Interestingly, they can also buy consumables for you. The town felt like a chore in D3, whereas you can avoid it entirely in TL2.

Pets can be given very simple gear, but more importantly can be given spells to learn. While thematically weird, it means that my wolf can cast a Summon Skeleton spell while I’m summoning a small horde of spider mines. I’m rocking out with an entourage similar to my witch doctor from D3, but my character is more than able to handle herself. I could have chosen the Summon Skeleton spell for myself, but in the chaos and finite amount of mana I have, it’s great that my wolf can provide a skeleton at a moment’s notice.

While this review was supposed to be a quick TL2 vs D3 bullet-point comparison, I had too much fun pointing out the things I liked about Torchlight 2. I think this is very telling. I appreciate the effort that went into D3 and the game Blizzard were trying to make. However, I felt as a player Blizzard was keeping me at arm’s length from their game, lest I sully its very important sheen. They were building the game for the obsessive 1000-hour players and making me work for entertainment. While they both revel in the fairly mindless hack and slash emblematic of Action RPGs, Torchlight 2 wants everyone to come in, make yourself comfortable and have fun.

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Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not dead. Just busy beavering away. My main project work has been on a teaser trailer for The Day After. I got the voice acting in, and it’s pretty cool. The thing slowing me down is creating a video in Adobe After Effects that is up to snuff. Progress with video editing is pretty slow – you might do a night’s worth of work and get 6 seconds of video. Sometimes not even that – it’ll be 6 seconds of a corner of the video. Nevertheless I’m pleased how it’s coming out so far. Fingers crossed my design skills are decent enough.

Which reminds me, I need voice actors to fill out a background of chaos. You may need to scream, yell, cry, groan, growl or sound pained. Only a few seconds at most.  If you have access to a good microphone, and want to be in the teaser trailer, contact me. I’ll let you know what I need.

The new artwork is coming along. Alice has finished all the new characters and there’s some action scenes to come. I love love love the new characters. Some were really tough to work out. Some were almost Alice grabbing the images from my brain and putting them on page. I plan to update the site to showcase the new art (as well as fix some minor issues) as soon as the teaser trailer is done. Any week now.

If you want some great games to play while you wait for me to get my stuff together, try these:

  • The Secret World – Modern day MMO with excellent writing. It’s a nice blend of horror (standard and Cthulhu varieties) and conspiracy theories. The visuals are amazing. MMO aspects are standard, and maybe it’d do better as a single-player game. Nevertheless I’m having a ball going solo on most of the quests, and doing some with friends. The investigation quests are cool and have real puzzles that require you to think!
  • Argument Champion – A small game made for a weekend comp. You are a debater supporting a particular randomly-chosen topic. Using the concept web from MIT labs, you try to link your topic with things the audience likes. It’s crazy, reminds me of an Edward de Bono creativity exercise, but is neat fun. You’ll see most of the gameplay in this in five minutes, but it’s still interesting enough to play through to the galactics.
  • The Walking Dead – Oh my god. I’ve played a lot of Telltale Games before, and was getting a bit tired of them. The zany humour, the reuse of areas, the great voice actors with not much to work with. In The Walking Dead (based on the comics moreso than the TV series), they’ve fixed all that and made something quite special. The moral dilemmas are actually tough choices of conscience that have long-term impacts on your story, rather than “which powerup would I like”. The writing is dark and interesting. Puzzles are decent and it all hangs together really well. They’ve been collecting some very interesting statistics as well, though don’t look at them until you finish the episodes. Can’t wait to see more of this.
  • Team Fortress 2′ Mann vs Machine mode – All the awesomeness of TF2 with a horde mode. Robots are rushing in and trying to deliver a bomb to your base. So you need to stop them. Great emphasis on teamwork and tactics. Server selection is a bit wonky at the moment, and the game is hard as hell. But it’s still very fun and rewarding. Plus it’s free to play (or a mere dollar or so to play on the Valve servers and get lots of loot).
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I went on a walk today and invented an idea for an RPG. When I say “invented”, I’m partly concerned someone else has thought of it and my subconscious has presented memory as inspiration. Anyway, it’s not an idea I have any time to pursue, so feel free to run with it yourself.

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