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Beautiful? Yes. Playable? Somewhat...


I've never taken hallucinogenic drugs. I've always kind of wanted to experience the type of transcendent, out-of-body experience I've heard other people describe when on them, but I've always been a little too concerned with the potential long-term effects on my brain chemistry. But now I've played Dyad, so I'm no longer so concerned about what I'm missing out on.

Playing Dyad is like diving to an interactive version of the Star Gate sequence from near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. An ethereal avatar sits at the bottom of a long tunnel of neon-colored enemies that are constantly flying out toward the screen. The avatar can rotate around the edges of the tunnel to avoid those colored enemies, or "hook" herself onto them to pull herself down the tunnel more quickly. While the first few levels are sparsely populated with just a few well-spaced colored dots, the tunnels quickly fill up with new, more threatening enemies and features like speed-boosting zip lines and invincibility spheres.

The levels each have varied goals—racing through a tunnel as quickly as possible, staying alive as long as possible, killing as many enemies as possible while invincible—but they all rely on carefully riding a razor's edge line between risk and reward. Crashing into enemies will cause a momentum-killing collision, but sliding by just to the side can give you energy for a dashing lance attack. Riding a speed-boosting zipline will get you to the next checkpoint faster, but limit your movement and make it that much harder to interpret what's coming quickly.

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

Nothing moves faster than light, right? True as that may be in theory, a team at MIT has developed a method for visualizing its propagation to amazing effect in practice.

Slowed down and turned into film format, an illuminated tomato goes from ordinary to uncanny as a snaking arc of white light approaches in a billionth-of-a-second burst, then deforms to move across it, with an unrivaled FPS rate.

And the impact goes beyond making neat little films: “Beyond the potential in artistic and educational visualization, applications include industrial imaging to analyze faults and material properties, scientific imaging for understanding ultrafast processes and medical imaging to reconstruct sub-surface elements.”

So how does it work? Per their abstract: “The effective exposure time of each frame is two trillionths of a second and the resultant visualization depicts the movement of light at roughly half a trillion frames per second. Direct recording of reflected or scattered light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect ‘stroboscopic’ method that records millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints. Then we rearrange the data to create a ‘movie’ of a nanosecond long event.”

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[ By WebUrbanist in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

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Alan Wake header Alan Wake Bits


Description: Stephen King in Twin Peaks with a gun and a flashlight.

Conveniences: Next checkpoint indicator alleviates the lack of maps; glowing arrows hint at secret ammo stashes.

Annoyances: Constantly losing equipment during chapter transitions; no way to automatically read the pages of the novel as they’re collected.

Standouts: Fantastic visualization of “the darkness” and the Pacific North-West.

alan wake 1 Alan Wake Bits


  • Combat relies on illuminating opponents to dispel shrouds of darkness; once the shrouds are gone, the enemies can be shot with mundane weapons. Dissolving these shrouds is typically done by “focusing” Alan’s flashlight, which quickly drains its energy. The flashlight is always on and never completely runs out of juice, but the focusing mechanic requires a steady supply of batteries (especially during prolonged combat sequences).

alan wake 2 Alan Wake Bits

  • None of the enemies drop any items, so the player is stuck with statically placed collectibles for replenishing his arsenal. This is fine for the most part, but some sections contain optional or infinitely-spawning enemies that can trick the player into wasting ammo and leaving him defenseless.
  • Seemingly random slowdowns take place as enemies appear or are dispatched. These “breathers” help the player dodge attacks and quickly swivel around to analyze the battlefield, but they’re too infrequent to be a reliable tool.

alan wake 3 Alan Wake Bits

  • The enemies’ vulnerability to light creates some interesting scenarios that play on typical shooter conventions, e.g., flares stun apparitions (although they also make it more difficult to spot and shoot them), exploding gas tanks create a flash that disintegrates the darkness, spotlights behave like machine gun turrets, etc.
  • In addition to a handful of human enemy types, the ubiquitous darkness can also possess inanimate objects and fling them at the player. This is actually a neat way of adding variety without having to create a slew of new animations, but it’s used rather sparingly and with too few objects types.

alan wake 4 Alan Wake Bits

  • Mines, lumber mills, junkyards, energy plants, and many other locations make the town of Bright Falls feel like a real place. There’s still plenty of nonsensical spots where firearms can be found, but Alan actually acknowledges this issue by insinuating that the darkness is the ’cause of electricians carrying flashbangs and many other oddities.

alan wake 5 Alan Wake Bits

  • Various in-game TVs can be used to watch shorts originally filmed to promote the game. It’s a neat idea, but the live-action videos — especially those featuring Alan — tend to break the suspension of disbelief.
  • Chase scenes through forests littered with bear traps, driving segments, battles featuring friendly companions, Alamo standoffs, and numerous other scenarios help keep the gameplay varied.

alan wake 6 Alan Wake Bits

  • Finding scattered pages is a great motif that’s tied into the game’s story. The pages tell of future events, making them a bit spoiler-ish, but reading their contents is optional.


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