Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I have no idea how long this will stay here, but for the time being enjoy a documentary on zeppelins.

I've always loved airships. So it deeply saddens me that the only form of air transportation today is stuffy, cramped airplanes. People flew in style in the past;  they had big, luxurious balloons to travel in, fine dining and spacious cabins. You didn't arrive as quickly as you would in a jet, but you didn't have to; not when the journey was half the reason for traveling.

While lighter-than-air vehicles are making something of a comeback, there's still plenty of bias against them. People hold onto this belief that zeppelins are just flying tanks of napalm, ready to go up in flames at a moments notice. But as that video shows that simply is not the case.

The problem is that the worst zeppelin disaster in history was probably also the most well documented. It completely transformed the public's perception of these machines, souring their opinion of them virtually overnight. Any mention of airships or zeppelins inevitably recalls it's name: Hindenburg.

Cruise ships are constantly coming back to harbor full of people suffering from food-borne diseases, but people still go on cruises. There are countless car crashes on the road every day, but we still use them. If your average passenger jet's engines fail it's going to start falling out of the sky. So why do airships get such a bad reputation?

If a zeppelin's engines suddenly fail it'll stay in the air. It will start drifting, but it's not like it's going to drop out of the sky. Because it's a zeppelin. It's buoyant.

The frustrating thing is that all the problems associated with the Hindenburg are easily rectified using modern technology: Don't use hydrogen gas, don't use flammable paint. Easy. Problem solved.

If the Hindenburg were rebuilt today using helium gas it would probably be the safest thing in the air (and that's including birds). Hydrogen was the fatal flaw in all old zeppelin designs. If they used slightly more massive helium they wouldn't have any problems with flammable gas leaks. To the contrary, they would be nigh-indestructible.

If you haven't seen the video all the way though, the British eventually learned how to destroy the German zeppelins using alternating explosive and incendiary ammo to punch large holes in the gas bags. This would let enough oxygen inside to start a fire. Using concentrated fire, they could ignite the hydrogen, resulting in the complete conflagration of the airship. You know what would foil that plan? Helium.

If they used helium gas it would be impossible to fill those zeppelins with enough bullets to bring them down. They would bomb all of London with complete impunity and no one could do anything to stop them.

Don't get me wrong; I'm glad London isn't a smoking crater. I just feel the need to point out a rigid airship full of helium is basically indestructible. Last time I checked, the 747 can't boast indestructibility.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dirty, Filthy Birds

It's Bunday, which means it's time for us to revisit our home away from home: Ōkunoshima, also known as Rabbit Island.

Speaking of which, I'm now accepting donations for the Shadgrimgrvy Relocation Fund. Your generous donations will go to a good cause: shipping me to Ōkunoshima, where I will live the rest of my life. With your help, we can raise enough to buy me a plane ticket and keep me hidden from the Japanese authorities for years to come. Plus, donations of $25 dollars or more will receive a stylish tote bag.

Every little bit helps.

But that's not all; I actually have some map related news if you can believe it. It isn't Lost Highway though, it's an entirely new project.

Someone messaged me on Steam a few months ago, describing their idea for a new game mode in Garry's Mod. Essentially what they were making was a single-player campaign, with multiple player characters who's scenarios were all part of an overarching story. It sounded good to me, but what really caught my attention was the setting, which was so unusual I eventually gave in and agreed to make a map for them.

Their plan, as it turns out, was to make a game mode based on The Birds with the player having to defend themself against huge flocks of ravenous, eye-pecking birds. They would have to scavenge ammo and equipment from around the map during the rare moments of calm before they started to attack again, with the ultimate goal of seeing how long they could survive against endless waves of dirty, filthy birds.

I've only seen a couple of demonstration videos so far, but the idea really translates into a game well. It's incredibly creepy seeing a flock of birds rushing the player, even when using the seagull and crow models from Half-Life 2. Plus, where else are you going to see a Hitchcock video game?

We've occasionally discussed his plans for the mod and it's all starting to sound very involved. Custom models, in-game cutscenes and of course programming to make the birds actually do damage, since it seems impossible to do so with mapping inputs (believe me, we've tried).

The map I've made was based on the schoolhouse in Bodega Bay. Surprisingly, there weren't very many reference photos for the interior. But going by what appeared in the movie and what little I could glean from an old newspaper I made something that might make sense, going by what I thought it would probably look like inside.

I haven't seen how well my map works as a playing field, but I haven't received any complaints yet so I assume everything's fine. I included plenty of fog on the assumption that it would hide the map's borders and obscure the bird's approach, giving them ample time to sneak up on the player and peck out their eyes.

From what I gather there's at least two other people making maps for the game mode and by now, I'm actually really eager to see what they look like. I discussed it with D.E.L.B. a few weeks ago and we both agreed there should be levels based on other Hitchcock movies too. Imagine it, fighting off swarms of seagulls at the Bate's Motel or inside James Stewart's apartment. Heck, there could even be a map that takes place on top of Mount Rushmore.

I have no idea how many people are actually involved by this point, but there's at least one person making concept art for each character and map, including mine:

I actually think his picture looks better than what ended up being the .bsp file. If I could go back and rework the textures a bit, make the grass more overgrown and unmanagable or make the fog thicker I think I would be happy. But as it is I'm actually really optimistic for this project. It sounds like a great idea and from the work I've seen so far it has a lot of promise.