The Dividing Bell

Pink Floyd is in the news again, but for all the worst possible reasons. As part of a celebration of the 50th (now 51st!) anniversary of the release of Dark Side of the Moon, a short film animation contest was held by Pink Floyd – go ye forth and make a short film for each song on the album. Out of 900 submissions, 10 finalised were chosen.

The winners for each song would receive £10,000 for each video that won, according to Pink Floyd’s website, with further terms stating that additional prizes would include £100,000, £25,000, and £10,000 – prizes which were eventually won (respectively) by Rati Dabrundashvili (£100,000), David Horne (£50,000), and Monica Fibbi (£25,000), as reported by Mary Varvaris at

However, this is where the story blew up.

As reported by Bleeding Cool: “Ten winners were announced by Nick Mason. However there may be an issue with one of them. The winning video by Damián Gaume for Any Colour You Like was created, according to Gaume, using Stable Diffusion AI software. There was an immediate backlash and reaction against this video online, which overshadowed the other nine winners and the planned overall winners intended to be announced tomorrow. Some condemned one of the judges Gerald Scarfe, especially as the cartoonist and animator most associated with Pink Floyd’s album and movie Another Brick in the Wall, which included intricate hand drawn animation, based on his cartoons, and considered a true classic.”

In the midst of this absolute shit sandwich, one contestant, the German artist The Insaneum, who submitted a short film for the song Eclipse, revealed he’s spent a year working on his contribution with his girlfriend. And what he submitted was nothing short of remarkable – a hand-rendered science-fiction retro artdeco video that beautifully interpreted the thematic and visual themes from Pink Floyd’s Eclipse.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter. Once again, I think it’s important to remind everyone that AI “art” can be put into the same category as NFTs and cryptocurrencies: short-term grifts designed to bezzle the unsuspecting and display a grotesque act of social [status] flexing.

Sure, you might think you can make something cool and unique – but it’s not you doing it – instead, you’ve simply outsourced the actual creation of art to a program that will trawl the internet and amalgamate assorted images to match specified keyword parameters with no understanding of how any of them relate.

Or said less nicely: it’s theft. It’s stealing images and videos from all over the net and amalgamating them into something that gives the appearance of creativity but which ultimately doesn’t understand what it’s even rendering, because there’s no underlying ontological system in place to understand how any of the objects and people relate to one another. It’s simply mashing things together like an ugly stew, with no regards to or understanding of style, design, or aesthetics.

How many “AI-tweaked” book covers have featured grotesque hands, nightmare roses, illegible and unreadable text, jagged and asymmetrical doors and gates, nonsensical proportions, physical objects layered onto a scene with no understanding of perspective or proportions?

It’s all nothing more than a short-cut to paying actual humans actual wages to put actual skills that they’ve honed and trained for years to culturally meaningful and productive use. So it’s disheartening that an iconic rock group like Pink Floyd, who’ve placed so much emphasis throughout their career on original creative output, would instead nominate a video that didn’t even require any real human skill.

Now: benefit of the doubt. Maybe Nick Mason and co don’t understand how AI platforms sample from other artists without permission. Maybe they don’t even understand that there’s almost a total lack of skill involved and just went on pure, superficial looks. And hey, Nick Mason is 80 years old. It’s entirely possible he had no idea he was looking at anything rendered by AI software and lacks any understanding of the charged discourse around the topic.

If that’s the case, hopefully someone in his social circles will be able to sit him down and walk him through how bad a decision it was and do right by some of the other artists who actually put their own blood, sweat, and tears into making actual human-made art, and nominate a new winner to replace Gaume’s submission.

There’s still time to do the right thing.

Dark Alliance assault

After a twenty-year wait, fans of the 2001 isometric action RPG Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance will finally be able to enjoy this Black Isle classic on the PC.

PC Gamer reported this morning that Black Isle Studios released a tweet (because that’s how news breaks now, the revolution will not be televised, it will be…tweeted) that the “PC port of BG:DA is in the works and coming later this year. We’re also hoping to ensure it has online co-op using Steam’s remote play”.

While this is certainly good news for ARPG and Forgotten Realms fans in general, the timing of the release will no doubt cause marketing departments no small amount of headaches on account of that other action RPG coming out later this year – Forgotten Realms: Dark Alliance.

What could possibly go wrong, releasing two similarly-styled games with the exact same sub-title in the same year?

Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness

“Chaos and despair spread throughout the Kingdom of Isilmerald. Its desperate people cry out, praying to the gods for help. But the force they face is no mere plague of the undead, or demonic attack… Something far more sinister, far more primal is afoot. Avarice!

Law and order quickly collapses as everyday citizens turn outlaw, attacking anyone unfortunate to cross their path…all for a few more gold coins. From high-born to low, greed spreads. Infecting the land like some divinely inspired disease, intent on purging the world of men. And it comes for you next!

Will you yield to the dark tendrils of desire coiling around your heart? Become an agent of greed and usher the kingdom into chaos. Or rebuke its seductive advances? Vow to discover the truth of the madness and restore the kingdom to its rightful glory? The choice is yours.”

Welcome to Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness, which takes players on a journey through the fantasy world of Yerengal.

A Kickstarter-funded single-player game developed by Austrian and Hungarian videogame developer GrapeOcean Technologies, the isometric cRPG takes more than a few cues from the Black Isle and Bioware games that inspired it – including the title, which has the same initials as Baldur’s Gate. No doubt intentionally.

Featuring real-time with pause mechanics, an isometric camera angle, an original rules system, and a mix of conventional and original high fantasy races and factions, the game has been in development since early 2018 and is expected to be released to PCs, Linux, and MacOS operating systems on both Steam and GOG.

Having clearly taken a few cues from more recent isometric cRPGs such as Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin II, the interface will no doubt seem a bit familiar to players of those games – which is arguably for the best, as both titles built took the ideas established by Bioware and Black Isle and enhanced them, by including features such as a party war chest and crafting skills and options. It’s not surprising then, that Black Geyser would do much the same.

Despite having been publicly backed by prominent industry figures such as Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart and InXile CEO Brian Fargo, the game has maintained a strangely low profile the last few years. Despite having a dedicated website and a semi-active presence across their Facebook, Youtube, and Kickstarter pages, there’s been very little active marketing for the game–which is unusual, given GrapeOcean’s intention of releasing the game some time in 2021.

Hopefully this relative silence will change as the game approaches completionm, as this game deserves the biggest audience possible.

At present, beta demos have been issued to backers of the project, and the company itself has released several free-to-watch demo previews on their Youtube channel (see below). They’ve even released some music that will be heard in the final game.

Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness is scheduled for release in 2021.

D&D Strikes Back

(Vintage AD&D art right here, folks.)

Remember Dungeons & Dragons? It was a fun, goofy, and lovingly-made passion project of writer/director Courtney Solomon. It came out almost exactly a year before The Fellowship of the Ring (D&D: 8 December 2000, Fellowship: 19 December 2001), and was not a financial or critical success. You may remember its rather interesting cast, which included the likes of Justin Whalin, Thora Birch, Marlon Wayans, and of course, Jeremy Irons – who ate the camera whenever it was pointed at him.

It spawned two direct-to-DVD movies: Wrath of the Dragon God and The Book of Vile Darkness, which failed to make much of an impact among anyone other than die hard D&D fans.

So wind the camera forward to the year 2021, where a new D&D project is about to begin filming – with an equally interesting cast. This time around, our principal actors include Hugh Grant (playing the villain Forge Fletcher), Chris Pine, Sophia Lillis (playing a character named Doric), Michelle Rodriguez, as well as Rege-Jean Page (seen most recently and excellently in Bridgerton) and Justice Smith (Pokemon Detective Pikachu, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).

An interesting pattern reveals itself: both Dungeon and Dragons films feature established American actors acting alongside established British thespians.

The writer/directors this time around as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the writer/director team on Horrible Bosses, Vacation, and Game Night.

There’s no indication that this new film will have any ties to the previously-released films. No release date has yet been announced for the Dungeons and Dragons film, with filming intended to start in North Ireland in the next few weeks.

The terminator is back. Again.

We’re getting another Terminator. But this time it’ll be animated.

As reported by Polygon, Netflix is producing a new animated Terminator series that will “approach Terminator in a way that breaks conventions, subverts expectations and has real guts”.

Famed Japanese studio Prouduction I.G., whose credits include the Ghost in the Shell series, will be working together with Netflix and American film production company Skydance to produce this new animated series – a first for the Terminator IP.

As stated by John Derderian, the VP of Japan and Anime at Netflix in a recent news release:

“Terminator is one of the most iconic sci-fi stories ever created — and has only grown more relevant to our world over time. The new animated series will explore this universe in a way that has never been done before. We can’t wait for fans to experience this amazing new chapter in the epic battle between machines and humans.”

A release date for the project has not yet been announced.

Dragon Age IV finds its single-player mojo

In what can only be deemed a good decision, Bioware and EA have made the very wise decision to remove all multiplayer components from the still-in-development Dragon Age IV, to focus on a tight single-player experience. Bloomberg broke the story this morning.

Following on the heels of two critical failures in a row – Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem – Dragon Age IV is widely seen as being absolutely critical to Bioware’s reputation. As a studio famed for its excellent single-player games, including Baldur’s Gate I and II, Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic, the Mass Effect trilogy, and the Dragon Age series, attempting to include multiplayer components in their games have been less successful. Though Dragon Age: Inquisition features a multiplayer component, it never quite attracted the number of players and interest that the studio and its parent company EA had hoped to see.

Dragon Age IV has itself seen a number of creative design shifts, including a previous pivot towards more multiplayer features. That change, back in 2017, led to the departure of creative director Mike Laidlaw, and resulted in several employees dubbing the game “Anthem with dragons”.

However, on the back of the success of Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, Star Wars: Squadrons, and the critical and financial failure of Anthem, the pivot back to a single-player focus will hopefully restore fan faith in the company and appease unhappy staff members.

Dragon Age IV is currently in development, with no firm launch date set at present.

Spider-Man III now has a title

After several cute fake titles from the cast were teased, the official title of the next Spider-Man movie has finally been announced.

Spider-Man: No Way Home.

A delightfully charming video was released that announced the official title, which you can see below.

Mission: Impossible 7 to hit streaming 45 days after cinemas

As announced on io9 this morning, Paramount Pictures have decided to debut Mission: Impossible 7 on Paramount+ 45 days after the movie’s arrival in cinemas, as a result of (naturally) the pandemic. With the majority of cinemas still closed at the moment across North America, it’s clear that film studios are trying to find new ways to maximise audience engagement and revenue streams.

In io9 writer Germain Lussier’s own words:

Mission Impossible 7 starring Tom Cruise is currently filming and aiming at a November 19 release, which would put it on the streamer in early January.

So expect the still-untitled seventh instalment in the series to be on streaming platforms in early 2022.

Anthem’s swan song

Well, it’s game over for Anthem.

EA and Bioware have announced that they will no longer be working on Anthem 2.0, otherwise known as Anthem Next, and will instead, redirect all energies and focus to Dragon Age 4 and Mass Effect 4.

Christian Dailey wrote, in an official Bioware blog post:

“In the spirit of transparency and closure we wanted to share that we’ve made the difficult decision to stop our new development work on Anthem (aka Anthem NEXT). We will, however, continue to keep the Anthem live service running as it exists today.”

A famously troubled production (originally codenamed ‘Project Dylan’), Anthem lacked a strong direction and focus for several years while in development, and ultimately launched to the worst reviews and sales in the history of Bioware.

Anthem was one of several SaaS games that emerged on the market during the 2010s, alongside No Man’s Sky, Destiny, Destiny 2, The Division, The Division 2, and more. Despite some excellent design ideas and an absolutely magnificent soundtrack by Sarah Schachner, Anthem never quite found an audience, and featured content that had clearly been gutten to hit a release date.

Hopefully, Bioware have learned from the mistakes of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, and release games worthy of their name and legacy.

Daft Punk announces “this is the end”.

Variety published a headline-grabbing article this morning, announcing that Daft Punk were reportedly hanging up their electronic helmets and calling it a day after 30 years together.

Whether or not this retirement is actually the next phase in a new set of musical projects for either members of the duo is entirely unclear.

The duo themselves released a 7 minute long video entitled Epilogue, (see below) which features, well, why spoil it for you?