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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I understand that now.

You read the news and perhaps feel like we are doomed. Then you laugh with friends or family and think about what’s for supper tonight.

Sometimes, the good and the bad in life twirl around each other, leaving each its space. You step away from ruin to witness beauty. There in the midst of suffering and war, life goes on.

Welcome to England circa the Norman invasion. While modern America’s economy spits and sputters, there remain pockets of innovation and prosperity. One such field is simulations of historical periods for the purpose of entertainment. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla stretches from Norway to Britain and soon to Ireland as well.

Between responsibilities and political sparring, I like to ply my photography eye to these virtual environments. Perhaps you too could use a momentary distraction these days.

Landscapes are the low-hanging fruit for photographers like myself. The challenge is less to notice scenes worthy of consideration than to limit captures to more extraordinary visions and to seek the best perspective.

In olden days (a mere decade ago), taking screenshots in video games was a lesson in frustration. Characters and lighting wouldn’t be still. Intrusive interfaces covered half the screen. But with modern photo modes, the game world can be paused and the HUD cleared away. If only real-world photography was as convenient.

Light and shadow are more interesting in games today. Powerful hardware and innovative techniques are only beginning to approach realistic simulation of particle physics. The scenes shown here do not take advantage of the latest ray-tracing paradigm.

They do however demonstrate the complexity of overlapping systems, such as sunlight passing through an ever-changing patchwork of clouds and a curtain of raindrops to illuminate a medieval church built beside a relic of Roman occupation.

Day/night cycles, dynamic weather, wandering wildlife, and much else can make familiar scenes new again.

It’s never clear what the future will bring. The next year could be better or worse than the one before. But even when life sours there remain areas of improvement or clarity. Imagination sprouts from experience. Thus, every beauty discovered in virtual worlds is only derivative of the real recurring lights which no evil can purge from the good Lord’s creation.

Published in Entertainment
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There are 11 comments.

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I’m trying to imagine what that game will look like in 10 years…

    • #1
  2. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    I’m trying to imagine what that game will look like in 10 years…

    My thoughts of the future don’t cover such long spans of time…

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Red Dead Redemption is wow too. 

    But tonight I’ll be in Los Santos

    • #3
  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Red Dead Redemption is wow too.

    But tonight I’ll be in Los Santos

    Red Dead Redemption 2‘s presentation is stunning. But Ubisoft’s worlds are so much more accessible than Rockstar’s. RDR2 is clunky and awkward, just like GTA

    Eventually, I will give RDR2 another try, odd controls and all. 

    • #4
  5. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I think I’ll take a vacation in space:

    Perhaps visit the Horseshoe Nebula and Barnard’s Loop

    Yeah, Elite:Dangerous lets you travel throughout a realistic galaxy.    Ever want to see a neutron star up close?  (This is not my video, I can’t really do video capture, and I have not visited the Crab Nebula yet)

     

     

    • #5
  6. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Great looking photos! Valhalla looks like another game with stunning art design (Odyssey had amazing art design as well).  Red Dead 2 was huge and beautiful.

    Many keys have been pounded about Cyberpunk but the art direction was stunning. I always liked looking at everything I saw. 

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I enjoyed Star Trek Online for a while too.

    Of course last weekend, I was doing this in the virtual reality 1.0: My Imagination

    http://www.seenar.com/doku.php?id=game_systems:game_systems:call_of_cthulhu:masks_of_nyarlathotep:diary#cairo_capers

     

    • #7
  8. Tyrion Lannister Inactive
    Tyrion Lannister
    @TyrionLannister

    Great photos.  The game that evokes those emotions the most for me is still the hopelessly outdated Skyrim.  I still think it’s the most immersive world I’ve ever seen.  I still play it from time to time.  You can’t go home again though, the only thing you take with you are the memories. 

    • #8
  9. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I feel this way about Bioshock: Infinite, and have pangs that I can never discover it anew again. I also fear that the increasing sophistication of the virtual draws our souls away from the corporeal, but that’s hardly a new worry. But mostly I am impressed by a new art form, taking shape in our lifetimes before our eyes, as important as the invention of movies, and far more intensely immersive.

    • #9
  10. HerrForce1 Coolidge
    HerrForce1
    @HerrForce1

    I don’t understand the technical side of this nor do I have a gaming system. However, your weaving these elements into today’s context is delightful. Thank you for taking the time to create and post this.

    • #10
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I feel this way about Bioshock: Infinite, and have pangs that I can never discover it anew again. I also fear that the increasing sophistication of the virtual draws our souls away from the corporeal, but that’s hardly a new worry. But mostly I am impressed by a new art form, taking shape in our lifetimes before our eyes, as important as the invention of movies, and far more intensely immersive.

    What I love about the Pen and Paper RPG is that it is always new. New games, new discoveries. No computer can compare to the group imagination!

    • #11
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