Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Has your technology waived your privacy rights? (part 2)

Is Alexa or Google Home a violation of our right to privacy? According to Joel Reidenberg, the director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School in NY, "So reasonable privacy doesn't exist. Under the Fourth Amendment, if you have installed a device that's listening and is transmitting to a third party, then you've waived your privacy rights under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act." Basically, if you have chosen to put a listening device in your own home, anything you say there can and will be used against you. So far, maybe you only have to worry if you commit an obvious crime such as the Arkansas homicide mentioned yesterday, but free speech hasn't exactly been so free lately, has it? With political correctness, hate speech, and other “thought crimes” being widely monitored these days, a few careless words can easily be misconstrued and a person quickly condemned, with jobs lost over inappropriate posts on social media or even from mere accusations lacking any proof beyond hearsay.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Has your technology waived your privacy rights? (part 1)

Amazon's Alexa (or Echo) and Google Home are devices that many are putting into their homes. These devices have a speaker, a microphone, and an internet-connected AI system that responds to your voice commands. The idea is to hook this hub into various parts of your home, using it to play music, order pizza or Uber, help with recipes, check weather or traffic, translate languages, control smarthome devices, or even ask it random questions. However, these devices listen to all the conversations in your home, and this information is archived. Third-party organizations have access to this data and can use it to better market their products to you. Amazon and Google insist that their devices aren't constantly recording you—only after you activate their “passive listening” with a command word such as “Alexa.” If this provides any comfort about the device, it is important to note that police in Arkansas subpoenaed someone's Alexa records in connection with a homicide at his home. In this case, Alexa was being used to provide evidence in a murder trial, but how else might it be used?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Solar Echoes Video Comic (part 5)

I'm only into the first few pages of the script so far, and I already have over half of the voice actors I need in just 1 day! Things are starting to roll fast with this project now, and as always with these things, once I start talking about them, they start to become real and take on a life of their own. I feel the pressure to get this script finished and polished, and I'm already working on artwork prep on Photoshop, but might get some help with graphics from a friend of mine who will also be voice acting the female Krissethi in the comic. Once I have a few scenes ready, I'll be dropping the character art in with the various expressions I need for the dialogue, and I'll be pasting the text into those dialogue frames for each character. I'm trying to optimize the procedures as I go, making graphical assets I can easily re-use and modify as I go. I might also be dropping in some sound effects and possibly original background music! There's a lot involved. I hope this little video ends up being a fun window into the fun sci-fi universe that is Solar Echoes!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Solar Echoes Video Comic (part 4)

I'm looking forward to trying a few ideas with the video comic, using little graphical events to embellish the progression of the story. Once I get things together and start working with the video tools, I may have to alter course, but I have been thinking of ways to have a few more graphical interactions beyond expression changes. Subtle things, maybe, like a light shining on a console and then a character stating that there's an incoming call. I usually figure things out and innovate once I get working with all the tools that are involved, so visualizing every last detail right now will likely overlook other potential details that might avail themselves. If I had an artist working alongside me, it would be a lot easier (but a lot more expensive), so I'll have to do my best to fill that artist's shoes and work with what I've got. Hopefully it will come together and look solid, using the artwork I've already commissioned in addition to my marginal skills with Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Solar Echoes Video Comic (part 3)

One concern I have about the video comic is sound. I would love to have voice actors saying the lines of the characters, and there's a small possibility that I might have a few people interested in trying. If I do use voice acting, I'd need to send out the script to each actor/actress and have them send me back clean audio recordings of their lines. Then I'd mix it in with a video editor as I put together each frame, timing it properly so the text could be read along with the lines. I'm probably not going to have equal sound levels across the different actors if I do this, though, because everyone will have access to different levels of recording equipment quality. Hopefully that won't make this approach too problematic. If you think you have a good voice and have some acting skills, please contact me and maybe we can have your voice star in this video!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Solar Echoes Video Comic (part 2)

My plan for the video comic is to include the team of characters in the free Operation: Flash Strike demo. These characters are also in the Solar Echoes Character Pack, which includes details of their backgrounds. I'll loosely base them on these individuals. It will be fun to get to know these characters and see how they interact with each other as a team—they're sort of a dysfunctional family trying to get along and do their job as Union Guard agents. My plan is to have them go through the Operation Flash Strike mission together, and I will draw from my memories of what different players have done when playing this mission. I've run many demos, so it will be fun picking the funny highlights and clever choices various people have made. Then, I'll roll those best parts together and try to create a fun and engaging short story about this team of alien misfits. If you have played Operation Flash Strike and remember something that happened you'd like to see appear in this story, please share it with me and I'll see if I can fit it in to the video somehow! You can download Operation: Flash Strike for free here, direct from my dropbox:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Solar Echoes Video Comic

I'd like to have your feedback. I've started working on the video comic for Solar Echoes, which will feature John Fell's alien character artwork (with their various facial expressions) and a short story. The team of alien agents will go on missions, and their dialogue will be shown at the bottom of the images in a caption box that I'm working on. This is all in the style of a Japanese RPG, where story is communicated through various character stills. I have several options for backgrounds, though, and I'd like to get your help. Typically, in JRPG's, artwork backgrounds are used behind the character art. In the image below, you'll see a sample of my ideas for two other options. Artwork is expensive, and so the various locations the characters will need to visit could cost a lot for an artist to design. However, one of my ideas is to use actual photos instead of artwork. I can doctor these photos a little in Photoshop, too. The third option is to use photos of actual Solar Echoes gameplay, with miniatures, maps, and other objects. I think this would be great for showing tactical positioning during battle scenes. Here are a few rough images of the three options. What's your opinion?