We Are Royale, Artolution Bring Refugee Kids’ Art to Life in Animated AR Mural

Creative production studio We Are Royale has partnered with Artolution, an international community-based public art organization, to bring its latest public mural to life with augmented reality. Located in New York City’s East Village, the mural highlights the stories, struggles and dreams of immigrant and refugee youth seeking safety in the United States.

Fifteen teenagers and children from Central America created original artwork for the mural under the mentorship of Artolution artists. The project provided an educational and therapeutic experience for the children, who are clients of KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), a non-profit that provides pro-bono legal services to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children.

The AR experience launched during a public event on August 28 in front of the mural, located on the Key Food supermarket on Avenue A. Using an iOS and Android compatible app (in English and Spanish), visitors can hold their smartphones up to view the mural, and the characters in the artwork will emerge from the wall, moving and dancing — and learn more about this meaningful initiative.

Artolution tasked We Are Royale with bringing vitality the youths’ art through animation and AR. The project marks the second partnership between Artolution co-founder Joel Bregner and We Are Royale, following the mural-based teaser campaign Amazon Prime Video series Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton.

“This project was an incredible experience for all of us who were involved,” said Bergner. “I enjoyed partnering with [We Are Royale ECD and Partner] Brien [Holman] and the whole Royale team as we guided our youth participants in the creation of their own characters, which were manifested through the mural, mask-making, and performance. The animation and augmented reality elements were especially exciting, as this is the first time that an AR mural has been created with youth, so we all had the sense that we were making history.”

For We Are Royale, this project brought together many of the studio’s skill sets and passions: contributing time and resources to social awareness projects, and fluidly designing for various mediums, from character and app design to UX and AR. To create the character animations, We Are Royale took inspiration from the video footage the team shot of the young artists doing their dance choreography at the close of the mural unveiling event last month.

“We wanted to faithfully recreate what the participants created,” said Holman. “While we provided some guidance on how best to design their characters for the animation and AR aspect of the project, the youth actually took the lead in directing us. Ultimately, this was about empowering them through art. It was amazing to see how everyone opened up in the process — and all the credit goes to Joel and his team at Artolution who dedicate their lives to making beautiful initiatives like this happen.”

Bregner concluded, “This creative platform that the project has given these young people is especially important given the challenges that they’ve faced fleeing from violence and conflict, and starting over in a new country. It’s critical that we create these opportunities for displaced children to build community, shape their own narratives, and begin the healing process after the trauma they’ve experienced. The arts and technology are powerful tools to achieve this.”

Artolution

Artolution

Artolution is an international, community-based public art organization based in New York City which seeks to ignite social change through collaborative art-making, bringing together diverse communities in the face of conflict and social exclusion in order to address the trauma and challenges that they face. www.artolution.org

We Are Royale is an award-winning creative production studio with offices in L.A. and Seattle. Founded in 2007, the company is known for its end-to-end creative solutions, diverse capabilities and fluency across platforms. www.weareroyale.com

Animation Magazine

PlayStation Vita | PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale Review

It’s easy to be cynical about a game that borrows so heavily from a well-loved franchise. And there’s no question that, on the surface at least, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale bears more than a striking resemblance to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. But this is a game where appearances can be deceptive. Underneath its collection of classic (and not so classic) characters, four-player battles, and tongue-in-cheek franchise mash-ups lies a fighter that eschews button mashing and over-the-top special moves for a deeper, more technical fighting experience.

That’s not to say it’s a better fighting experience because of it, though. There are three attack buttons to choose from–which don’t directly correspond to punches, kicks, or the power of an attack–and each of them can be modified by using the D-pad or analogue stick. That already gives you quite the combination of moves to choose from, but the game layers on more complexity with jumps, throws, blocks, rolls, dodges, taunts, items, and super moves. The sheer number of attack options available to you can be overwhelming, particularly during a heated battle.

It’s a complex system that stands in stark contrast to the game’s eclectic collection of characters and cute, colourful arenas. But it mostly works–if you’re willing to put in the practice. Button mashing isn’t an option–at least if you want to win a fight–and you won’t see the kind of outlandish, high-energy effects and special moves typical of other team-based fighters like Marvel vs. Capcom. In some respects that’s a disappointment, but your pugilistic powers do leave room for more strategic forms of combat.

Making sense of that strategy with well-timed punches, kicks, and throws, particularly amid the chaos of four-player fights, is where the challenge in Battle Royale lies. Getting a grasp on things is made all the more difficult by each character having a unique way of handling, to the point where learning to fight with one character rarely translates across to another. Kratos, for instance, moves and attacks much like he does in God of War, flinging his Blades of Athena around with a brute force that results in some slick, impressive-looking combos.

But someone like Parappa the Rapper is a trickier proposition. Chaining his moves together requires more delicate timing, and demands multiple directional commands to execute uppercuts and sweeps or to wield his skateboard to fling opponents into the air. The unnervingly cute Toro (Sony’s official mascot in Japan) can change clothing during a match to switch from a karate champ to a ninja to a helmet-wearing hothead, and each outfit completely changes the types of moves he can perform.

Such complexity means that, at least initially, the only way to succeed is to try to master a single character. And even when you do it’s disappointing to find that the game never reaches the silky-smooth, fluid heights of a truly great fighting game; there’s simply a lack of finesse in how the characters handle, how their abilities are balanced against each other, and how their punches meet that makes for unsatisfying combat. Numerous tutorials that cover everything from basic kicks and punches to full-on combos and combat trials that put those skills to the test certainly help make sense of Battle Royale’s technicalities, but never to the point where you can overcome how stilted everything feels.

There are other idiosyncrasies to contend with too. For starters there are no health bars; matches are instead won by racking up kills, either to a set goal or by simply getting as many as possible within a time limit. The only way to get kills is by building up your AP (power) meter via combos and unleashing super moves: the higher your AP, the more powerful the move. It’s an interesting twist on fighting game mechanics, and changes how you approach battles.

Without the constant pressure of a health bar, you can be more reckless and go on an all out attack without fear of reprisal, especially at the beginning of fights when AP is low. When everyone’s AP Is higher, and special attacks are ready, it’s wiser to take a more cautionary approach. But even then the game never really approaches the sort of tension levels you might expect from a fighting game. There’s none of those last second, down to the last of your health bar moments that are so tense, and so appealing.

Like the rest of the combat, gathering AP for special moves is tricky. Each character handles differently, going beyond simple differences of short, medium, or long-range attacks. Some level one supers can be interrupted with attacks and throws; others can’t. Most level two supers can be countered only with other supers. Some level three supers kill everyone onscreen, without any input from you, while others require you to hunt down your opponents. Suffice it to say, the learning curve is steep.

GameSpot’s Reviews

PC | Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants Review

We tend to think of the Age of Sail as a time of swashbuckling pirates, lusty women, and fortunes to be made in Inca gold, but the truth is that most of the time, it was a pretty basic, scrape-to-survive lifestyle for the people who really lived it. They owned shops, traded stuff with each other, had the occasional setback, and generally woke up every morning to a day that would be substantially similar to the last. In that sense, Port Royale 3 is an accurate simulator of Age of Sail living for most people: not much happens, ever.

You’re a sea captain, working (at least initially) for Spain. You can choose to play the main campaign as a trader or as an adventurer: the latter option ostensibly makes this a fire-and-brimstone, crossed-cutlasses action game, while the former is for those players who prefer microeconomic challenges. In point of fact, though, you spend most of your time in either game mode simply looking at an overhead map of the Caribbean and aimlessly sailing around. While Port Royale 3 spends a great deal of time on tutorial videos, hand-holding, and tooltips for the control system, it totally fails to give you a sense of context for what you’re doing.

For example, there’s a complicated popularity system for your alter ego, both with individual cities and the countries that control them, but it comes off feeling like an abstract number that goes up and down based on simple, controlled stimuli. Get your popularity high enough by trading the right goods and avoiding the wrong ones, or by doing missions, and you unlock the ability to construct buildings in a town, or hire more sailors there. If it’s really low, well, not a whole lot happen. Your fluctuating popularity, like so many other aspects of Port Royale 3’s gameplay, doesn’t feel organically integrated to a larger ethos, but instead feels tacked on.

When you’re not confused as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, you find yourself confused as to where you’re supposed to be going. Often, combat or search-and-rescue missions have you head to a general area (“southwest of Corpus Christi,” for example) to seek out a target. But this target is often himself in a moving ship, and you have a very small circle around your own vessels in which such ships are revealed on the map. This means that you spend far too long sailing in an endless loop, searching for the proverbial needle in the oceanic haystack of the Caribbean, while your money and time drain slowly away. When you do finally get into a fight, you find that combat, like just about everything else in Port Royale 3, is competently handled, but not particularly exciting. It’s heavily based on statistics, like how many guns you have in your convoy and how many sailors you have per gun, and has little to do with how you prepare for and control the fight, so you feel very divorced from whatever action there may be.

If you prefer, you can avoid fighting pretty much entirely and simply focus on trading for a living instead. Here, however, Port Royale 3 stumbles in its attempts to create a realistic economic model. Buying high and selling low is the name of this particular game. You can buy a certain number of the two dozen trading good types at any port, and some ports produce certain goods and demand others. However, Port Royale 3 has a ridiculously sensitive supply-and-demand mechanic working in the background: if you start to buy up goods at a particular port, even a port that produces those goods in quantity locally, the purchase price rapidly rises until you cannot possibly sell the goods you’re buying at a profit anywhere else (no one in the world of Port Royale 3 has ever heard of futures contracts, apparently).

This means that, because ports have everything in tiny supply compared to your average convoy’s cargo capacity, you always find yourself buying very small amounts of goods and then searching desperately to find a port where you can offload them without bringing the sale price down to nothing as the buyer’s supply increases. The upshot is that it takes forever to make any kind of serious money by trading, as no matter how big your fleet is, you can never get a decent supply of goods at a decent price. It can take hours of real time to earn mere thousands of gold pieces in a game where tens and hundreds of thousands are necessary to have any real impact.

Bottom line: trading in Port Royale 3 is a terrible, slow grind that sees you spending your time moving sliders back and forth ever so slightly so as not to affect the price too much, and getting very little reward for your precision. And since ship-to-ship fighting and treasure hunting are so hit or miss, you spend most of your time in Port Royale 3 trying to decide between being bored selling goods or being bored searching for something interesting to do. Multiplayer, though technically available, will likely serve as cold comfort, as it’s all but impossible to find an opponent.

The saddest part of all this is that Port Royale 3 looks good and plays smoothly. It also, at least in theory, has a lot of facets: trading, ship-to-ship combat, ship-to-shore combat, two separate story campaigns, and multiplayer. But none of these offer anything that’s much fun to do.

GameSpot’s Reviews