Dead Can Dance: Grim Fandango Remastered, PS4, Review

written by Student 16 April 2015

Jay Haney By Guest Blogger, Johnathon Haney
Bachelor of Science, Media Arts & Animation Student
International Game Developers Association member
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division

Contrary to popular myth, some works of art need time and distance to be appreciated properly. Movies are the most obvious example. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is now hailed as his greatest film, quite possibly by many of the same critics who lambasted it at the time of its release. It took the medium of television to transform the reputation of two box office bombs called The Wizard of Oz and It’s A Wonderful Life. So it is with one of the last great adventure games ever created by LucasArts, Grim Fandango.

While receiving initial critical acclaim and fondly remembered now by game enthusiasts, this game was, in fact, a financial disaster that helped to put an end to the adventure game era of the company. So it is quite surprising that the same game has now been re-released and updated.

The Plot

The story itself is amusingly engaging. You are Manuel “Manny” Calavera, an afterlife travel agent working off his sins. His particular office specializes in making sure souls get to the Ninth Level of the Underworld, a place of eternal bliss. It’s a journey that usually takes five years but, with enough of the right karmic credit, you can get there a lot faster…and in style. For such souls, the Number 9 train is the ultimate prize.

Unfortunately for Manny, he’s on a serious losing streak. All he’s been getting are middling clients that leave him without any commissions toward his time served. So he decides to take matters into his own hands via a little corporate skullduggery. The fallout of that reckless decision starts him on his own journey to the Ninth Level—and to discovering the real reason he hasn’t been catching a break.

The story itself references everything from The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca to Glengarry Glen Ross and the beat movement. You may not know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s going to be outrageous and a blast to watch!

The Setting, Characters, and Interface

The setting of Grim Fandango draws inspiration from Día De Los Muertos (which itself is highly influenced by Mayan and Aztec cosmology) and film noir. Most of the characters are skeletons with distinct personalities and fully dressed in modern clothing. They’re juxtaposed with grand architecture that recalls not only ancient Central American civilizations, but also a bit of Art Deco. The exceptions to the character designs include the occasional demon, such as Manny’s vehicle-obsessed sidekick Glottis, who proves to be both help and hindrance on the journey.

The interface is simply elegant—the ultimate expression of Lucasarts’ trademark SCUMM engine. True to the original, if Manny can interact with something in the environment, he looks at it (something that was carried over to Konami’s Silent Hill series a few short years later). He keeps his entire inventory inside his jacket pocket, which the player can look at any time they choose. Best of all, there is no such thing as a wrong dialogue choice, and picking any dialogue option can give you the fun you want.

The Verdict

While the basics of this game are solid, it’s the innovations that were added that make it spectacular. At the time of the game’s release, it’s high-end hardware requirements kept it from being playable and thus sellable. So it’s ironic that innovations in lighting and graphics (which oddly needed little reworking) were a huge part of the re-release, and are actually instead showcase the PS4’s ability to create wonderful environments. Along with the director’s commentary and a concept art gallery, these impressive environments are what make the game worthwhile.

It’s rare that anything in the arts gets a second chance to make a first impression. But Grim Fandango has more than earned that chance. Any serious gamer who loves adventure games owes it to themselves to give it a shot!

Want to know more about programs in the area of Media Arts? Explore what you can learn at The Art Institutes and find out what school was recently named among the Top 5 Undergrad Schools To Study Video Game Design by The Princeton Review!

The information and opinions expressed and/or any artwork displayed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the individual faculty, student and/or staff and do not represent the opinions or ideas of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.

See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/204 for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

You’re Invited: April Student Events

written by Georgia Schumacher 2 April 2015

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The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division is buzzing with fun and exciting events this April! Register now for these online events and find even more webinars on the Campus Common Events Calendar!

Upcoming April Events

The Lodging Industry – From B&B’s to Luxury Hotels
Tuesday, April 7, 2pm ET
15 year Marriott Hotel veteran Lee Heron will discuss the lodging industry from bed & breakfasts to luxury hotels. Discuss the different brands and learn about the many types of positions: front office, housekeeping, sales/marketing, human resources, food and beverage, revenue management, and security. See actual positions open right now and explore the overall growth and development of hotels.

Culinary and Hospitality and Events, OH MY: Let’s Talk Job Positions and Skills!
Wednesday, April 8, 7pm ET
Do you have what it takes to be in the Hotel Sales, Culinary, Hospitality, and Event business? In this faculty-led workshop, you will learn the different types of job titles and businesses in which you can work. We will also review the skill set and personal attributes a person must hold to be successful in these types of positions.

Writing an Effective Hospitality Resume – Tips and Tricks!
Tuesday, April 14, 7pm ET
Ever wanted to know how to write a resume that will make you stand out? This workshop will review the purpose of a resume and the basic rules for writing a resume. We will identify resume types that are industry specific and help to define skills, experiences, and educational background for effective resumes.

The Fun Side of Finding a Job in the Creative Field: The Little Extras that Can Make All the Difference
Tuesday, April 14, 7:30pm ET
This faculty-led workshop will primarily focus on ways to get yourself noticed and build your brand, including how to create a resume that reflects who you are as a designer, ideas for amazingly different business cards, and fun leave-behinds for interviews. We will also discuss unexpected places to find jobs and unexpected careers for designers (and others).

Meet a Sommelier and Discuss Wine and Food Pairing!
Wednesday, April 15, 7pm ET
Stefano Buttò from Northern Italy will share his experience as a wine consultant and broker in California including Europa Village Winery, Miramonte-Winery, La Bella Vita Restaurant, EAT Marketplace and Cellarz93 Restaurant. He currently manages Meritage at Callaway, a restaurant that specializes in local and organic ingredients. This workshop will discuss wine and food pairing and latest trends in wine.

Meet the CUL-HRM Online Program Directors
Thursday, April 16, 7pm ET
Meet the Hotel & Restaurant Management and Culinary Management Program Directors – Gaye Warren & Seth Selke—in an open call in townhall forum! Introduce yourself and discuss anything on your mind, including concerns, questions, and ideas regarding your program experience or portfolio.

All about R&D – How to Get Your Product to Market!
Wednesday, April 22, 7pm ET
Did you ever wonder what it takes to bring a product to market? This workshop will review the research and development (R&D) process. Chef John Fuente is a current R&D Chef with 28 years of culinary experience. Faculty member and Chef Alisa Gaylon is also an attorney, and, together they will discuss the legalities of creating and developing new products.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Chef Certification
Thursday, April 23, 7pm ET
Join us for a presentation by faculty member Chef Collen Engle, CEC (Certified Executive Chef) and CCE (Certified Culinary Educator), to learn more about American Culinary Federation certification, the different levels available, what it represents, and how to achieve it.

Foundations Student Orientation: How to Succeed
Monday, April 27, 1:30pm ET
Recommended for all students taking an Art Foundations (FND) course, get helpful study tips, learn how to write critiques, and get a jump start with course expectations. Take a guided tour of where and how to get help when you need it.

Portfolio Prep Q&A
Tuesday, April 28, 8:30pm ET
This event is focused on Graphic Design/Digital Design students, but faculty members and students from other programs are welcome. This webinar will include:

• How a portfolio is used in the graphic design industry
• General expectations for a portfolio 
• When and how to prepare for your portfolio course
• Examples of professional portfolios and relevant resources

Weekly and Recurring Meetings

Graphic & Web Design Career Series
Thursdays at 7pm, ET
The Web & Graphic Design Department is hosting weekly webinars during the month of April for the annual Web & Graphic Design Career Series. This event features top industry professionals and designers speaking on critical industry topics and creative inspiration. Get the full details here.

Math LIVE!
Mondays at 7:30pm ET, Thursdays at 11am ET, & Saturdays at 11am ET
Each webinar is a 60-minute informal study session with a full-time math faculty member in which you can ask math questions, enrich your grasp on the class material, and gain useful assignment guidance. By attending a Math LIVE! event, you may also be eligible to receive bonus points in your math course.

The Mad Professor's Drawing Room
Sundays at 3pm ET, Wednesdays at 5pm ET and Fridays at 12pm ET
Login to your computer, put on your headset, and take part in an open studio with faculty member Nina Stanley! Spend the first 20 minutes drawing short gestures, then work on a long pose for another 45 minutes or so. Come for the whole time or just for a little bit – the choice is yours!

International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
Wednesdays at 9pm ET
Learn more here about IGDA meetings and why all students interested in game design are encouraged to join! Design Bootcamps This month, our bootcamp events include

• Illustrator Bootcamp 2: Drawing, Color, and Type
• Photoshop Bootcamp 1: Presenting Artwork
• Photoshop Bootcamp 2: Basic Designing

Remember, you can register for all of these events and find pre-recorded events on the Events page in the Campus Common!

To request disability related accommodations for a virtual event please contact the event organizer in advance at jminnaugh@aii.edu.

You’re Invited: March Student Events

written by Georgia Schumacher 6 March 2015

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There’s never a dull moment at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division! Register now for these online events and find even more webinars on the Campus Common Events Calendar!

Upcoming March Events

Online Library Orientation
Sunday, March 8, 9pm ET
Brand new to the Online Library? We recommend this orientation session, hosted by library staff and introducing everything our Online Library has to offer.

Meet the Program Directors
Thursday, March 12, 7pm ET and Saturday, March 14, 12pm ET
Come meet the Hotel & Restaurant Management and Culinary Management Program Directors – Gaye Warren & Seth Selke -- in an open call in townhall forum! Feel free to introduce yourself and discuss anything that’s on your mind, concerns, questions, and ideas regarding your program experience including any Portfolio concerns.

eBooks in the Online Library
Sunday, March 15, 9pm ET
Attend this session to find out how to search, read, save, and download eBooks. The Art Institutes Online Library offers over 150,000 eBooks on a variety of subjects including culinary arts, technology, web design, fashion and more.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Chef Certification!
Thursday, March 19, 7pm ET
Join us for a presentation by faculty member Chef Collen Engle, CEC (Certified Executive Chef) and CCE (Certified Culinary Educator), to learn more about what is American Culinary Federation chef certification, the different levels available, what it represents, and how to achieve it. This workshop will also discuss the cost and the time needed to achieve certification.

Image and Video Collections in the Online Library
Thursday, March 19, 7pm ET
Become skilled at searching and selecting images, as well as printing, saving, and reviewing copyright information. Attend this workshop to learn how to get the most out of AP Images, Graphic Stock, Image Quest, and VideoBlocks. Learn how to access and download royalty free stock images, royalty free stock footage and motion backgrounds.

Sound and Audio Collections in the Online Library
Saturday, March 21, 2pm ET
Need royalty-free stock footage, sound effects, or production music for your school project? This workshop will show you how to search for and find these resources, and discuss how you can use these resources legally and ethically.

Web Design Q&A
Thursday, March 26, 8:30pm ET
Our Q&A Student Webinars are intended to provide greater insight and support in three key areas: Portfolio Prep, Freelance & Internships, and Web Design. Content and general discussion will be directed to Graphic Design/Digital Design students, but faculty members and students from other programs are welcome.

Weekly Meetings

Math LIVE!
Held Mondays, Thursdays, & Saturdays
Each webinar is a 60-minute informal study session with a full-time math faculty member in which you can ask math questions, enrich your grasp on the class material, and gain useful assignment guidance. By attending a Math LIVE! event, you may also be eligible to receive bonus points in your math course.

The Mad Professor's Drawing Room - Live Online with Nina Stanley
Held Sundays at 3pm ET, Wednesdays at 5pm ET and Fridays at 12pm ET
Login to your computer, put on your headset and take part in an open studio with faculty member Nina Stanley! Spend the first 20 minutes drawing short gestures, then work on a “long pose” for another 45 minutes or so. Come for the whole time or just for a little bit – the choice is yours!

International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
Held weekly on Wednesdays at 9pm ET
Learn more here about IGDA meetings and why all students interested in game design are encouraged to join!

Remember, you can register for all of these events and find pre-recorded events on the Events page in the Campus Common!

To request disability related accommodations for a virtual event please contact the event organizer in advance at jminnaugh@aii.edu.

Hell of A Good Time

written by Student 20 February 2015

Jay HaneyBy Guest Blogger, Johnathon Haney
Bachelor of Science, Media Arts & Animation Student
International Game Developers Association member
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division

Saints Row IV: Gat Out of Hell, Deep Silver/Volition, Game Review

The Saints Row series started off as a Grand Theft Auto clone in its first two installments. But it’s since carved out its own unique niche by embracing the crazy.

Indeed, Saints Row IV went completely over the top in this regard, making references to everything from The Matrix and They Live to Streets of Rage and Metal Gear Solid. If you came for a serious storyline or gameplay that was a Mt. Everest of difficulty, you’re in the wrong spot. If anything, the Gat Out of Hell downloadable content (DLC) campaign takes the nuttiness of the main game to its logical conclusion.

The story is its usual state of thin: because the President of the United States (the main player character in Saints Row IV) has caused more death and destruction than any other human in history, the devil has decided to marry him to his daughter, Jezebel. After the devil snatches the President via a Ouija board at a birthday party for Kinzie Kensington (don’t ask), longtime right-hand man/hardcore thug Johnny Gat “persuades” the Ouija board to send him after his boss. The birthday girl herself, an ex-FBI agent, plays the birthday card to come along for the ride.

So what does this version of Hell look like? Well, it looks remarkably like a small portion of Steelport from the two previous main games, albeit with infernal trimmings. Husks of the damned wander the streets, demons patrol in monster trucks with police lights, and Shakespeare (yes, that Shakespeare) DJs a nightclub called the Tempest. There’s also a few old friends from previous games that you’ll run into…I’ll let you discover those on your own.

Like Saints Row IV, you do have your own set of powers, which in this case are powered by Lucifer’s cracked halo. A word of caution: while there is a resemblance to the powers of the main game, they operate in a completely different fashion here. This is especially true for the flying, where you have to learn how to soar on singed angel wings to get around.

There are plenty of infernal twists on the weaponry but the best has to be the Seven Deadly Weapons. Modeled on the Seven Deadly Sins, each of these are true to their vice, be it the armed recliner that is Armchair-Mageddon or the hideously expensive submachine gun called the Diamond Sting. Each of these Easter egg weapons can be found in an appropriate venue if you look for them.

To be fair, the main story is way too brief, even with the game’s leveling up mechanic of Satan’s Wrath. If a player just follows the main story path, they’ll be done within two hours easy. Still, there are 3 things to keep in mind with that caveat. First, it’s a freaking DLC, people! You want the next full game, wait with the rest of us. Second, the story cutscenes themselves are outrageously funny. Some details are glossed over courtesy of storybook narration provided by Jane Austen (again, don’t ask) but there is a musical sequence worthy of Mel Brooks or Matt Groening that could literally be called the Little Mermaid from Hell. It’s hard to get angry at a game that cracks those kinds of jokes.

Finally, there is just so much to do above and beyond the main story, be it the flying races that are Hellblazing, shaving off a few thousand years of damnation for husks with Torment Fraud, taking over teleportation spots at the Marshaling Grounds or knocking Tri-Omega frat boys into portals with Pledge Rush. The main story doesn’t even cover a tenth of these activities, so there’s plenty to explore.

All in all, if you’re looking for a twist on what you loved in Saints Row IV, this is the game for you…at least until we see Saints Row V!

The information and opinions expressed and/or any artwork displayed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the individual faculty, student and/or staff and do not represent the opinions or ideas of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.

See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/204 for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

Tips for Getting Great Winter Landscape Photos

written by Georgia Schumacher 18 February 2015

Do you love snow-covered mountains and icy lakes? Spring will be here before we know it, and, for those of you in colder climates, there may only be a few weeks left to capture this breathtaking winter beauty.

Winter landscape photography can be fun and rewarding, but can also bring a unique set of challenges. These challenges include the need to find contrast and patterns in a snow-covered setting, to use appropriate exposure levels, and to protect yourself and your equipment from cold, snow, and dampness.

1. Expose Snow Correctly

Snowy landscapes are difficult to photograph well. In an attempt to avoid overexposure, camera settings often reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor, resulting in snow that looks drab and gray. Adding +1/3 or +2/3 exposure compensation forces the camera to let in more light, bringing the snow back to pure white, which can be very effective in high-contrast winter scenes.

2. Look for Contrasts and Patterns

Photos of winter landscapes need more than snow to make them interesting. Look for dark elements that contrast with the whiteness of the snow, such as evening shadows or the bare skeletons of trees, and include them in your composition. Also, keep an eye out for interesting patterns, such as criss-crossing branches, rocky features, rough tree bark, and long shadows, which can add texture to your photos. Landscape photography classes can teach you how to compose images to highlight the most interesting elements of a scene.

3. Stay Warm and Comfortable

You’re unlikely to take your best photographs if you are shivering and your fingers are numb with cold. Wrapping yourself up in gloves, a hat, and sturdy boots before heading out reduces the risk that you will have to cut your photography session short due to extreme cold. If you’re driving in snowy conditions to reach the perfect shooting location, bring a charged mobile phone, blankets, water, and snacks in case you break down and need to call for help.

4. Protect Your Equipment

Rapid transitions between very cold and warm environments can cause condensation to build up in your photography equipment. When you come in from a winter shoot, wrap your gear in a towel so that condensation can be absorbed as the equipment gradually warms to room temperature. This simple step protects your camera equipment from the harmful effects of moisture so that it will stay in good working condition for many seasons to come.

Interested in studying photography? Explore our photography programs!