“Jadzia Strange (remake)” – Pages 28 & 29

Well, here are pages twenty eight and twenty nine of “The Adventures Of Jadzia Strange“. I quite like how these two pages turned out, even if some of the dialogue is slightly small on page twenty eight.

Oh, if anyone is curious, the “Baghdad Batteries” mentioned on page twenty nine are actually real things. Check it out on Wikipedia (seriously, this is one of the coolest archeological discoveries ever made. Basically, it’s likely that someone actually invented a very basic electrical cell in 3rd century Iraq/Mesopotamia).

Plus, following on from one of my earlier articles, I’ve found a way to include a hectograph in one of my comics too.

As usual, these two pages are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 28" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 28” By C. A. Brown

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 29" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 29” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Bugs (Series One)” (TV Show)

Well, since I watched series two of “Bugs” before I watched series one, I thought that I knew what to expect. However, for the first half of this series at least, it’s almost a completely different show. This isn’t a bad thing.

In case anyone hasn’t heard of this amazing show before, “Bugs” is a 1990s thriller/sci-fi/detective shows which follows the adventures of a London-based group of technology experts and semi-official private detectives called Ros, Beckett and Ed. They have a lot of vaguely futuristic spy gadgets and they are usually up against villains who know a thing or two about technology too.

One of the first things I will say about series one is that it has a fairly different tone to series two. Even though the last few episodes (“A Sporting Chance” and “Manna From Heaven” spring to mind for starters…) have fairly outlandish storylines and a slightly more fantastical atmosphere, the first half of this series at least is more like a serious and vaguely realistic high-tech thriller series than a 1990s near-future sci-fi show.

This caught me completely by surprise, especially since the very first episode begins with a ludicrously over-the-top helicopter chase (where someone fires about seven or eight shots from a revolver [without reloading] and other ludicrously unrealistic things). But, this aside, the first episode is absolutely outstanding and it actually contains more characterisation for the three main characters than the entire second series does. Not only that, but the plot of the first episode is surprisingly compelling and it actually feels like something close to a realistic spy thriller show.

Although the episodes have a vaguely similar structure, there is a fairly innovative variety of storylines in the ten episodes which make up this series. Like with the second series, series one of “Bugs” also contains a fair amount of humour too – most of this consists of groan-inducing puns, but there are a few genuinely funny moments in this series (especially in the first episode).

Another interesting thing about series one of “Bugs” is that there is a lot less unintentional humour than there is in the second series. In other words, the show takes itself very slightly more seriously and includes some real drama. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to you. But there are a couple of fairly scenes in this series, such as when Ros is trapped on a commercial airliner which is being remotely operated by the villain of the episode which are just a lot more dramatic and suspenseful than anything in the second series.

The settings in this series are fairly good too. The show was filmed around the London dockyards and, although the outdoor settings still look very 1990s, they still also look plausibly modern too. Not only that, in this series, the main characters’ base of operations is in Ros’s flat rather than the slightly futuristic office they move to in the second series. This, again, gives this series of “Bugs” a slightly more realistic atmosphere too.

In addition to this, series one of “Bugs” has some fairly good special effects too. Yes, most of the effects involve explosions, basic 1990s computer graphics and lasers. But, for a BBC show from the 1990s, the effects are superb.

All in all, series one of “Bugs” is fun and thrilling, with a few genuinely dramatic episodes. In many ways, this series is actually slightly better than the second series of “Bugs” was, although it has less of the unintentional comedy and outlandish storylines which made the second series “so bad that it’s good”. But, if you are looking for something entertaining and you miss the geekier side of the 1990s, then series one of “Bugs” is essential viewing.

If I had to give series one of “Bugs” a rating out of five, then it would get four and a half overall (five for nostalgia and fun, four for drama and storytelling).

Introducing “PekoeBlaze Uncut”

Detail from an exclusive drawing which will be released on "PekoeBlaze Uncut" sometime in early October.

Detail from an exclusive drawing which will be released on “PekoeBlaze Uncut” sometime in early October.

Since I try to write this blog for a fairly general audience, there are occasionally articles, drawings, comics etc… which I decide not to publish on here, since they would probably be “inappropriate” for this site.

Well, rather than letting them languish in my sketchbooks and on my computer, I’ve decided to set up a blog called “PekoeBlaze Uncut” to publish all the things I create which are too risqué for this site.

Unlike this site, “PekoeBlaze Uncut” probably won’t be updated daily or on any kind of regular schedule. So, at most, it’ll probably be updated every couple of days.

So, yes, “PekoeBlaze Uncut” is a site for more mature readers (to use an American analogy – this site is fairly “PG-13” and the uncut site is fairly “R-rated”) and it is almost certainly Not Safe For Work. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

“Jadzia Strange (remake)” – Pages 26 & 27

Well, here are pages twenty six and twenty seven of “The Adventures Of Jadzia Strange“. I wasn’t feeling too creative when I drew these pages, but they still turned out fairly ok, I guess.

As usual, these two pages are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 26" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 26” By C. A. Brown

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 27" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 27” By C. A. Brown

Five Ways To Avoid Cheesy Fake Product Names In Your Story Or Comic

2013 Artwork Fake product name article Sketch

For various reasons, many writers come up with fake product names for items and services in their stories. This is probably more common in comics and on TV than it is in prose fiction, but I’ve seen examples of it in all three of these formats.

Sometimes writers will use real product names and sometimes writers will make a point of using obviously fake or generic product names (as a protest against product placement/consumerism or to avoid lawsuits).

I’m not entirely sure of all the legal aspects of this whole subjects, since it covers trademarks, libel/defamation laws and copyrights. Whether these are an issue or not probably varies from story to story (eg: portraying a real product in an inaccurate or unfavourable way is probably more likely to end with a lawsuit than in a story with a more favourable portrayal of the product in question.)

I’m not an expert on this subject and you’re probably best doing your own research about it. But, if in doubt, use fake names rather than real ones.

However, if you use fake product names in your story, then you have to be very careful about choosing them. This is mainly because good storytelling relies on the “willing suspension of disbelief” and obviously fake or unrealistic product names are likely to make your readers less immersed in your story. So, here are five basic tips for coming up with fake product names which will sound vaguely realistic.

1) Translation: This one is really simple and it can work fairly well for most of your readers. Basically, just go online and find a foreign-language word for the product you are trying to name and then use this as your fake product name. It’s usually a good idea to use dead languages like Latin or to use languages which readers in your own country are unlikely to know.

For example, if your story involved your main character buying some cheese, then giving it a name like “Fromage-brand” cheese is probably going to sound obviously unrealistic. Since, if you live in the UK, then there’s a good chance that your readers will know that this is the French word for cheese. Likewise with using Spanish words in stories set in the US or aimed primarily at American audiences. So, instead, go for something like “Kaas-brand” cheese, which is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for cheese.

One major drawback with this approach is that at least a few of your readers will know the language which you have used for your product name. After all, in any country, you’re going to find people who speak a myriad of different languages (either as first or second languages).

2) Generic names: If possible, it can be a good idea to leave brand names out of your story entirely unless they are relevant to the plot in some way or another (eg: if a character only drinks a particular brand of cola for some reason). In this case, just use the generic name of the product if it’s fairly well-known and widely-used anyway.

Likewise, for food and drinks, you can use geographically-protected names like “Champagne”, “Cheddar”, “Stilton”, “Parma ham”, “Scotch whisky” etc… (since the labelling laws surrounding these only cover people who actually make and advertise these products).

For example, in your story, it’s usually better to say “I walked into the shop and looked at the cheese rack before picking up a large block of Jarlesberg ” than “I walked into the shop and looked at the cheese rack before picking up a large block of Deilig Jarlesberg”.

3) Sound-alikes: You have to be slightly careful with this one, but another idea for fake product names is to come up with product names that look obviously different from real product names but which either sound slightly similar or use similar imagery. This is probably the most difficult type of fake product name to do well, but it can add a sense of realism to your story if it is done properly. Of course, if you’re actually selling a product with a sound-alike name, then you are likely to end up in legal trouble.

For example, I watched an episode of “NCIS” quite a while ago where part of the plot revolved around analysing several cigarette ends found at a crime scene. Anyway, by using various scientific processes, the detectives were able to work out which brand of cigarettes the suspect had been smoking.

The brand in question was called something like “Talboro”, if I remember rightly. This name is, of course, very reminiscent of a real brand of American cigarettes, but it is different enough to count as a fake product name and to avoid potential lawsuits or accusations of product placement.

4) Don’t use names ending with “o”: This seems to be fairly common in old comic books, where people would come up with a fake product name by just adding “o” to another word which describes what the product does. Personally, I think that this looks obviously fake, old-fashioned and cringe-worthy.

However, this seems to reflect reality to some extent – especially with cleaning projects. I came up with what I thought was an obviously fake product name to use as an example of this and, out of curiousity, entered it into Google. Guess what? It was an actual cleaning product.

5) People, place names and animals: Many products are named after people , places or animals and this can be a good source of realistic-sounding fake product names. However, be sure to enter your fake name into a few search engines to make sure that you haven’t inadvertantly come up with a real product name.

If you are using a person’s name in your product name, then using the name on it’s own will sound more modern (eg: “Henderly Wax”) whereas using “- ‘s” and/or adding extra descriptions will give your product a more old-fashioned feel (eg: “Henderly’s Astonishingly Good Moustache Wax”).

——

Anyway, I hope that this article was useful 🙂

“Jadzia Strange (remake)” – Pages 24 & 25

Well, here are pages twenty four and twenty five of “The Adventures Of Jadzia Strange“. Whilst I quite like the writing on these pages, the art in most of the panels was slightly rushed.

And, yes, I know that the plants look nothing like an Agave Americana (even a mutant one). It’s kind of an extremely obscure in-joke/reference (anyone who did a GCSE in ICT in the early-mid 2000s might get the reference though).

As usual, these two pages are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 24" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 24” By C. A. Brown

"Jadzia Strange (remake) - Page 25" By C. A. Brown

“Jadzia Strange (remake) – Page 25” By C. A. Brown

This Looks Cool :) – “Zombies Hate Kung Fu” By Ricky-Marcel Pitcher, David Velasquez and Leo Au Yeung

Image from: http://www.verygraphicnovels.com/pressimages.html

Art by David Velasquez

Well, I recently got a comment mentioning this comic project which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

I was initially slightly sceptical but, when I read the press release, it actually sounded like a seriously cool comic with a fairly innovative take on the zombie genre too (seriously, I’m surprised that no-one has ever thought of combining martial arts and zombies before).

Here’s the plot synopsis from the press release:

“…it covers a self contained story, introducing a Kung Fu expert called Mann and a horticulturaly gifted slacker named Ziggy. The two form a unique partnership, combining their disparate skills and allowing them to thrive in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Mann and Ziggy’s ‘easy’ life of growing, trading and fighting is suddenly disrupted when they run into a scientist who has her own theory on the origin of the ‘zombies’, and how to deal with them. Reluctantly, Mann and Ziggy get thrown into her adventure of scientific experiments and running battles with a mysterious band of heavily armed strangers, along with their regular tangles with zombie hordes.”

One of the innovative things about this comic is that a Wing Chun master and fight choreographer called Leo Au Yeung will design all of the fight scenes in the comic. Not only that, most of the fight scenes will apparently be rotoscoped from footage of Master Leo and his students too. So it seems like the Kung Fu in this comic may be fairly realistic and accurate too.

Also, the fact that Mann is wearing blue gloves in a lot of the art from the comic seemed a bit puzzling at first (and I thought that it was a “Firefly” reference). However, I suddenly realised (in a moment of what TV Tropes would call “Fridge Brilliance“) that he probably wears these to stop himself from being contaminated [with a possible (?) zombie virus or just ordinary bacteria from the zombies] if he grazes his fists whilst fighting the zombies.

If Pitcher and Velasquez are able to put such a clever detail into the promotional art alone, then the comic is probably going to be filled with interesting and realistic stuff like this…

So, if you are interested, check out the Kickstarter page.

Review: “Virus: It Is Aware” (Playstation One Game)

Since I recently got a second-hand copy of this game, I thought that I’d review it. I should probably point out that I’ve only played it for a couple of hours, so this review only reflects my initial experiences of the game. However, in all honesty, a couple of hours of “Virus: It Is Aware” is probably more than enough. I think that this may well be my first truly cynical review on this blog. So, yes, it will be long and it will be sarcastic.

The thing is that, despite all odds, I wanted to like this game. Yes, it was a movie tie-in (and this type of game doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation) for a sci-fi/horror film called “Virus”, but the cover art looked amazingly cool and the intro movie was also amazingly cool too. Even the menus looked wonderfully dark, cyberpunk, gothic and futuristic too. I was excited and I was looking forward to playing this game. What a fool I was.

Little did I know that these are probably the best things about this lamentable 3rd person shooter game. From what I gather, this game doesn’t follow the plot of the movie (which I saw about half of on TV about seven or eight years ago) but takes place sometime after the events of the film.

Anyway, you play as Joan – a police officer without a surname – who, along with her partner Sutter, has to infiltrate a hotel because it has been filled with zombies and cyborgs which have something to do with the villain in the film. As I said earlier, I’ve only played this game for a couple of hours, but any connection to the film seems to be tenuous as best.

Although I say that I’ve only played this game for a couple of hours, what I mean is that I’ve only got halfway through the second level. The levels are fairly short and it still took me a couple of hours to get to the second level.

This is mainly on account of the fact that the game is frustratingly difficult in all sorts of obtuse ways – Joan can take a lot of damage very quickly and the only health power-ups you will get are when Sutter randomly decides to heal you at a couple of points in the first level. Not only that, but there are a few “instant death” moments where unless you’ve worked out exactly what to shoot or exactly where to stand or run (through lots of labourious trial and error), then you’ll end up dying in less than three seconds.

Now this might not be so bad if “Virus: It Is Aware” had a decent re-start system which allowed you to try again (from an earlier point in the level) a few seconds later or to re-start the level instantly. But, no, that would be logical. That would be fun.

Instead, it displays an animated “game over” screen, then it spends a while loading the main menu again. After that, you can start a new game (and go through the 3-4 pages of introductory text again) or you can load a saved game.

If the difficulty curve of the first freaking level was reasonably fair, then this wouldn’t be an issue. But, since you’ll end up dying ridiculously often in the first level, this process gets very annoying very quickly.

As for the gameplay, I’ve already mentioned the “instant death” moments in the first level, but the other frustrating thing about this game is how repetitive it is. Whilst I don’t really mind this too much if the gameplay is reasonably solid – when you’re fighting the same three enemies in pretty much the same room for the third time, it starts to get a little bit dull.

In fact, “fighting” isn’t even the right word. Since you start the game with two fairly weak pistols which you can’t re-load whenever you need to (ok, I’ll give the game points for realism here) and you are faced with enemies that will pretty much halve your health bar if they get within a metre of you, combat in this game mainly consists of running backwards and tapping the “fire” button as quickly as you can.

Fortunately, this game has a fairly intuitive and almost automatic aiming system, so the designers obviously put a tiny bit of thought into trying to make the game playable.

However, the gameplay and combat also suffers from another major flaw. You can’t strafe. Yes, I’m serious here. This is a fast-paced shooter game with no strafing in it. I’m serious. Whether it’s a first-person shooter game or a third-person shooter game, it’s a pretty well-known fact of gaming that moving sideways is an essential part of gameplay. Hell, even games which were made four years before “Virus: It Is Aware” gave the player the ability to strafe.

In addition to this, “Virus: It Is Aware” contains a few interactive ‘in game’ cutscenes. Now, this might sound pretty cool and forward-thinking for a game made in the late 90s, but there is no way to tell whether a cutscene is interactive or not until several enemies are already attacking you. Not only that, but when the cutscenes end, the camera angle and/or the player’s position will sometimes suddenly change. This can be disorientating and distracting to say the least.

In fact, during one part of the first level (where you have to outrun a wall of water and climb up a ladder) the camera completely changes direction halfway through this fast-paced and time-sensitive sequence. In fact, the only way I was able to get through this part of the level was through dead reckoning (eg: making sure that I ran along a line between two rows of floor panels in the corridor) and a lot of time-consuming trial and error.

The dialogue in this game is done entirely via text boxes too. This is probably a good thing since I still dread to think of what kind of quality the voice-acting would have had if it had been even twice as good as the dialogue itself. Honestly, it seems like some of the dialogue has been badly-translated into English from another language. This probably wouldn’t be an issue if the dialogue was interesting and contained proper characterisation, but most of Joan and Sutter’s conversations in the first level are as generic and utilitarian as some of the robots they are fighting.

I can’t really comment on the settings, since I only played one and a half levels before abandoning this game out of sheer frustration, but the first level is set in a vaguely-futuristic and very generic sewer. This is probably a good metaphor for the game itself too.

All in all, the box art might look cool and the intro movie might give “Resident Evil” a run for it’s money, but the only people who might be genuinely interested in playing as much of this game as possible are game designers who want to learn what kind of mistakes to avoid when making a game.

If I had to give this so-called “game” a rating out of five, then it would get one and a half. And the only reason it gets one and a half rather than one is because of the cool intro movie, the realistic (albeit badly-handled) reloading system and the cool menu design.