Kotaku

The Girl With The Dragon...Well, DragonOleg Saakyan is a freelance concept artist who has worked for clients like social game developer Distant Orbit and board game (and increasingly video game) powerhouse Fantasy Flight Games.


Expect to see him a lot more in the future, because this guy is good.


You can see more of Oleg's work at his personal site (thanks CAW!).



To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they're big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you're in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you'd like to share, drop us a line!

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Kotaku

Metal Gear, Hitman, Splinter Cell, Deus Ex... so many great stealth games to pay homage to, but what do you do if you want to pay homage to all of them in a single video?


Why, you get clever like the guys behind this terrific fan video have, jumping from series to series in a much cleaner—and sometimes even funnier—way than I'd have thought possible.


Sneak Attack! [IsmaHAWK]


Kotaku

The Vikings Are Coming. Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids.Niche PC publishers Paradox held a big event earlier today, unveiling a range of new titles and DLC for existing ones. The one I'm most excited for is The Old Gods, a Viking expansion for my 2012 GOTY nominee Crusader Kings II.


In the game, until now, the Pagan and Zoroastrianism religions had been denied to player characters; they're now on the table, with particular attention given to the Vikings, who now get all kinds of fancy features like looting, pillaging and sacrifices, along with a new earlier 9th-century start date for the game (it previously began in 1066).


Due out in Q2, it'll cost $15.


Other things announced at the event include some new DLC for medieval combat game War of the Roses (starring Brian Blessed!), an expansion for Victoria (involving the race for African possessions in the 19th century), a tablet version of Magicka and a new game, top-down strategy title Leviathan Warships.


The Vikings Are Coming. Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids. The Vikings Are Coming. Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids. The Vikings Are Coming. Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids. The Vikings Are Coming. Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Kids.


Kotaku

Have you ever watched a plane fly overhead and wondered what it would look like if there were dozens more of them flying at the same time? You have? Well, photographer Cy Kuckenbaker has got you covered, with this awesome montage film he made of six hours' worth of San Diego International Airport departures condensed into half a minute of film.


Hope you're all doing well. Are you pumped for Fire Emblem: Awakening? You should be, man. I'm on JRPG overdrive at the moment, between that, Final Fantasy Tactics (which I'm still playing, I swear), and Ni no Kuni. Of all of those games, I think Fire Emblem might be my favorite. Check out Stephen's review, if you haven't.


Feel free to discuss JRPGs, or airplanes, or anything else, here or over in the Talk Amongst Yourselves forum. Have good chatting, and keep an eye on the skies.


(Via Laughing Squid)


Kotaku

Earlier this week, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gave a talk at University of Texas at Austin about the business and art of making video games. Today, the school has posted a full video of one of the talks.


Sit back, relax, and watch one of gaming's visionaries talk about how he does what he does, and how his company operates.


(Via NeoGAF)


Kotaku

It'll be years until we see what Star Trek director J.J. Abrams can do with Star Wars, but in the meantime, artist Gavin Chin has made this fake trailer, cutting the original films into a clip that's so full of Abrams' style—and lens flare—that you'd think it was the real thing.


Star Wars Trailer by JJ Abrams [GcPr0ductions, via Laughing Squid]


Kotaku

Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff.When you used to call the Nintendo Power Line as a kid, you'd have been excused for thinking you were talking to some kind of gaming master, a person with such an innate knowledge of the game in question they could tell you anything you needed to know.


Sometimes, they might have been, but for the most part they were just human. And humans need help.


Game Counselors on the line had access to the world's earliest version of GameFAQs, these binders which contained maps and tips on how to complete old Nintendo games.


It's a fascinating collection of material, some pieces looking "official", some pulled directly from the pages of magazines, others like they were drawn hastily by some kid in the middle of playing. Which they may well have been.


Nintendo Game Counselor Binders 1 [portnoyd, via GameSniped]


Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff. Nintendo Power Line Employees Weren't Gods. Here's How They Knew Their Stuff.


Kotaku

Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.Last week, while I was checking out Splinter Cell: Blacklist, I had a long, interesting talk with the game's creative director Maxime Béland.


Béland, who also worked on the first Assassin's Creed and was creative director on Rainbow Six: Vegas and Splinter Cell: Conviction, is an interesting guy to chat with. He's sharp, and was welcomely candid about the games he makes.


According to him, there's one easy way to see how the Splinter Cell series has changed over the years: follow the box art.


We spent a big chunk of time talking about the various ways the game is approaching torture and whether Splinter Cell is a 24 game in a Homeland world. From there, we pivoted to the fundamental nature of the stealth/action series, and the ways Splinter Cell has changed.


"We could talk for hours about the brand history, and where it's been," Béland told me, "but you know, there's a reason why Chaos Theory was such a good game, and it was the #1 ranked game on Xbox. And then the next game didn't do the same thing. There's reasons behind that."


I asked him about those reasons, and he walked it back a bit. "I don't want to extend… I don't think it's proper to… I think, if you look at the covers of the games, if you look at Splinter Cell one, Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory..." here he smiled a bit. "Then you look at Double Agent, then you look at Conviction… I think you see, right there, a change that happened in the way Ubisoft wanted to approach the brand.


"I'm sure you can do some research and check stuff out," he continued, still smiling. "Stealth games are hard, they're hard to do, they're hard [to market]. Just screenshots, for example! A nighttime screenshot… like, on a screen, maybe [it works]? In a printed magazine, they don't even want it! You know? And you're like, 'Wait a minute, the game's all about the shadows,' what do you do? It's… it's interesting. If I was a journalist, I could definitely do a lot of research on stealth, on those brands."


In the interest of seeing just what Béland was talking about, I dug up the box-art for all six Splinter Cell games, including Blacklist, and put them in chronological order. What do they tell us about the evolution of the series? Let's find out.



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Splinter Cell (2002)

What does this cover say? This game is about darkness, and stealth! In fact, it redefines stealth! Look at the lighting effects, how the light is streaming through the fence! This game will have some serious lighting effects, buddy. The official Xbox magazine loved this game! Look, they gave it a 9.6, their highest score ever!


Weaponry: Sam is holding a pistol, pointing down.


Goggles: Sam is wearing his trademark green goggles. They are covering his eyes.


What Sam is thinking: "Boy, I hope no one sees me."



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Pandora Tomorrow (2004)

There were two sets of box-art for this game, the first for the U.S. release, the second for Europe. They're pretty similar, for our purposes.


What does this cover say? This game is about darkness, but it has more color than the first game. The guy is still wearing those cool goggles, though! It's not really very different!


Weaponry: Sam is holding a pistol, pointing up.


Goggles: Sam is still wearing his goggles, but now they have a hint of lens-flare, so they're a little bit "cooler."


What Sam is thinking: "Boy, I hope no one sees me. But if they do, maybe they'll be scared of my pistol."



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Chaos Theory (2005)

What does this cover say? Are you ready to have your world turned… upside down? Because this game will do that! Sam will have some sweet new moves! The guards will never see him coming! This game is loved by Official Xbox Magazine! It has a 9.9, which is the NEW highest score ever! Also, it is the #1 Action* Franchise on Xbox! You might think that the asterisk is meant to denote that it's only an action game if you play it wrong! That is probably not what it denotes!


Weaponry: Sam is holding a knife, and is ready to use it. The guard has got an assault rifle across his back.


Goggles: Sam is still wearing the goggles, though now we can see a lot more of his face.


What Sam is thinking: "Man, I really get my best thinking done when I'm upside-down. Right now, I'm thinking about whether I should kill this guard, or interrogate him."



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Double Agent (2006)

What does this cover say? Woah. Woah. Woah! Check THIS out, kids. You thought you knew what a Splinter Cell cover was supposed to look like? YOU KNEW NOTHING. You thought that a Splinter Cell game was supposed to be about a dude in the shadows? Well now, Sam's gonna be in the LIGHT, and he's gonna be in CHAINS.


Weaponry: Sam has no weaponry, and is in fact handcuffed.


Goggles: Sam is not wearing his goggles. WHAT IS GOING ON. WHY IS HE LOOKING AT US.


What Sam is thinking: "Boy, I'm having some second thoughts about this."



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Conviction (2010)

What does this cover say? Dude, check out this action! So much action! Sam is in motion, he is ready to fire his gun. What's that in the background? Oh yeah, baby, that's the Washington Monument and the motherfucking Capitol Building on fire AND some helicopters! What's that going on around Sam's feet? SPARKS, BITCHES. This train don't stop! Look at how the text is slanted! Get out of the way, here comes Sam Fisher!


Weaponry: Sam is holding a gun, and wearing a super nifty watch.


Goggles: Nowhere to be seen.


What Sam is thinking: "I'll teach these guys to keep incessantly saying my name! I will kill every last motherfucker here!"



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Blacklist (2013, Take One)

What does this cover say? You thought Sam was tough before? Fools, you have no idea. Look at this business. Sam is about to FUCK this dude UP. Look how his chest is puffed out. Look how heavily armed he is. LOOK AT THIS SHIT. BETTER WITH KINECT.


Weaponry: Sam is holding both a pistol and a wicked-looking curved knife, and is wearing a large machine gun on his back. The guy in front of Sam has no weapons and looks kind of tore up.


Goggles: They have returned with a vengeance. They are front and center. They have returned so hard, they are even a featured part of the Splinter Cell logo. "See?" the goggles say, "We never left you!"


What Sam is thinking: "So help me, I am about to torture interrogate the living daylights out of this gentleman."



Splinter Cell Has Changed. Just Look At The Box Art.


Blacklist (2013, Take Two)

It's been pointed out that there is now another new box-art for Blacklist. So, let's add that one to the pile, because the changes from the first draft are interesting.


What does this cover say? Pretty much the same thing as before! But now he's shooting the guy instead of getting ready to torture him! More violence, less moral ambiguity! STILL BETTER WITH KINECT.


Weaponry: Sam is still holding both a pistol and a wicked-looking curved knife, and is still wearing a large machine gun on his back. This time he's shooting the bad guy, and the bad guy is armed.


Goggles: Still back with a vengeance. Still a featured part of the Splinter Cell logo.


What Sam is thinking: "Well, that's one less terrorist I'll have to torture interrogate."



What can we glean from these video game boxes? A surprising amount, actually. Turns out Béland is right—despite what other game developers might say about how little a game's box-art has to do with the actual game, or how box-art is more like labels for salad dressing, in this case, the art really does mirror the evolution of the series.


Here's what I see:


Splinter Cell: Stealth game.


Pandora Tomorrow: Stealth sequel in new setting.


Chaos Theory: More involved, more violent stealth game.


Double Agent: Likely misguided attempt to shake things up.


Conviction: Action game starring a guy.


Blacklist: Deliberate attempt at course-correction.


And what do you know, that more or less lines up with reality.


Kotaku

Fans of Secret of Monkey Island, the 1990 point-n-click adventure game, will undoubtedly remember the infamous "three trials" scene, in which protagonist Guybrush Threepwood proclaims to Mêlée Island's pirate leaders that he, too, would like to be a pirate.


Here's the iconic scene, Team Fortress 2 style. And it's extremely well done. Enjoy.


[SFM] I Wanna Be a Pirate [YouTube via Tim Schafer]


Kotaku

They Patrol Our Streets In Search For The Notorious Not-A-Game: It's Your Friendly Neighborhood Game Police Some people act as if gaming as we know it is in danger, and all of these new experimental titles—Proteus, Dear Esther, Dys4ria, Twine games, amongst others—are to blame. Usually, it's what people designate as 'art games.' Sometimes, if you're in the middle of a "but is it a game" discussion, you can almost imagine a PSA: "...perhaps you or a loved one has come into contact with these questionable titles..."


It's mostly because some titles don't fit the mold; they're not games that look or play at all like games that we're accustomed to. A recent Twitter account has popped up that makes fun of just how ridiculous/pedantic/dramatic these conversations become, that you'd almost think that people are a part of the game police or something.


Well, now there's an actual game police.













And then that conversation about Proteus developed, and...

Maybe you, too, are a part of the game police task force. We're livin' in an Orwellian world, I tells ya.


Image credit: Shutterstock


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