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Game shows

interceptor-3BWell, that’s not to get your hopes up – Interceptor isn’t returning. But I’ve been indulging in the show again lately, so the titular villain is back after a double appearance way back in this blog’s early days. I can assure you, he’s still going to track you down by helicopter, he remains very mean and nasty, and his infrared projector continues to work rather like a television remote controller.

I tried to fill this with eighties airbrush zing, opting for standard Photoshop soft brushes, radiance, and a heap of saturation. I actually veered toward this midway through Kate Bush, and since sought out a tutorial on the subject. It’s still not quite there, though; certainly it would have benefited from a stronger sketch (and cut), but I appreciate that it at least looks a little different. Different is good, and it was fun, so it seems worth another bash at a later date. Perhaps the same can be said for Interceptor one day, TV people?

crystalmoss-00How thrilled I was to hear that Richard Ayoade has landed the Crystal Maze gig, with a new series coming later this year. There are many qualities of Richard that I think give him great potential as Mazemaster – a fresh one, too, and not a pale imitation of Richard I (O’Brien). They’ve also recruited James Dillon, designer of the original Maze, to work his magic once more, which is equally exciting. My hopes are high!

futuristic01I don’t normally post works in progress, but this is rather a large work, and so the progression might warrant a change to the usual. After much needless hesitation, I have finally set about recreating the glorious Futuristic Zone of The Crystal Maze in 3D… the proper, cranky Futuristic of the nineties, that is, not the boring white void that is the new Experience’s blueprint. Behold, for what we are looking at is an abandoned space station of the 23rd century…

It made sense to start at the space station’s ‘entrance’ and work from there. You see, it wasn’t just a case of picking where to start and mopping up crystals from there – the teams first had to enter the Maze by passing an obstacle outside their first zone. With Aztec sending people overboard boats, and Medieval putting them gingerly over a rickety portcullis, Futuristic’s ‘answer a Key Stage 2 Science question to unlock the door’ always felt a bit underwhelming, but it did at least allow for a bit of throwaway banter between the host and star of the Futuristic zone, the keeper of knowledge and guard of gateways, The Computer.

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Progress.

An intriguing but outrageous mish-mash of goodness knows how many appliances and cables all welded together, this omniscient contraption certainly was the most time-consuming part of this exercise. I completely under-estimated just how long it would take! It started to deviate from the real deal a little toward the end, but I don’t think that’s too bad a crime  – its essence is there. It was freeing to just throw pieces together, it prevented the process from ever becoming a frustration. It was very therapeutic, actually. There’s more to come of this ilk throughout the zone, so I look forward to doing it again!

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Hmm…!

I’m already spotting important little bits I’ve missed, so there are a few things that need doing before I can move into the zone itself. Three days in, though, this has been a hoot so far – I only hope my own computer, not nearly so powerful as Futuristic’s behemoth, will play ball with enough generosity for me to complete the zone!

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I’m almost finished, look!

More to come in the future, hopefully! This looks to have all the makings of a nice long-term project; I shan’t bore you with minutiae, but will endeavour to log major developments here. For those deprived souls who know not of the Futuristic Zone or even The Crystal Maze altogether, the clip below should give you an idea of what the heck I’ve just been waffling about, and a look into some wonderful set design.

Keep on rockin’!

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You got twenty-five more letters than you asked for!

I was a little bored, and, cool cat that I am, this invariably means I fall back on ropey old game shows. This time, it was the turn of Blockbusters, the student quiz hosted by the delightful Bob Holness and nobody else ever.

Away from its questions and incredible opening and theme tune, I had long been eyeing up the nice digital-style cut used for both the logo-type and letter slides of the game board. I’d never been able to locate the exact font itself, so I decided to take to Illustrator and have a go at making my own en hommage. The razor-sharp edges made it relatively painless to reach the level you see – essentially blocking (and busting!) squares and right-angle triangles together. Some letters look a little off – ‘S’ and ‘Y’ are troubling me the most – but it was a lot of fun.

I could spin the lettering out into various posters bearing witty slogans pertinent to the show, but why do that when you can sum the programme up as follows: goodness, weren’t those kids hilarious?

blockbusters-1-01I’d made a template of the game board long ago but with the wrong font, so fixing this was a must. Let’s play Blockbusters!

blockbusters-1-03As I imagine is the case with just about anybody who ever saw the programme, I now have an excessive lust for hexagons, the cheeky, geometric eye candy they so obviously are. There are just so many possibilities and interpretations, as Victor Vasarely celebrated to the point of tease. I wonder if he ever caught Blockbusters?

Rifling through, I found these relics from early last year, which, while apparently unfinished, show some fun being had with the shape’s versatility. What started out as simple pinwheels begin to masquerade as shapes of a different dimension.

What endless fun one can have with handsome hexagons. Thanks, Bob!

The Crystal Maze makes a return to television this Sunday as part of Channel 4’s Stand Up to Cancer season.

This alone, I confess, has been hard to get too excited about; filmed at the Live Experience inside an office block, I’m naturally expecting an episode somewhat less spectacular than its namesake is noted for. The appointment of Stephen Merchant as host doesn’t fill me with much optimism, either, but we’ll have to see how he does. (It didn’t really help that the press broke the story promising David Tennant – how marvellous he’d have been.)

What is intriguing me, though, is that a new, much larger maze has conveniently started going up in Manchester. Hmm! Do they know something we don’t? I remain somewhat apprehensive of a full-scale TV revival – it’s difficult to wonder how any update or format tweak could make The Crystal Maze a better product. Perhaps offering some brand new zones – Arctic, anyone? –  would give it distinction and dilute the inevitable comparisons, but I’d think that doubtful, as you’d risk upsetting a load of the audience from the beginning. They will need to know what they’re doing, paying due respect to the original without confining itself to its shadow.

Still, enough fretting before the event. The news has inspired me to make some more Maze graphics. Off the back of all my 3D works, I’ve long been toying with the idea of recreating the zones in full. Well, I sort of did that; here’s a recreation of the diagram that flashes up in the journey between zones, as Richard and the team navigate the various tunnels, stairways and rivers en route to the next location. This map was enjoyable to me as a child because it confirmed that The Crystal Maze really was the vast, interlocked world it appeared to be. It was even greater to find later on that the diagram came from messing around with the maze’s floor-plan, and the set, the largest in Europe at the time, actually was linked together as shown. Magical!

To be a bit different, I toyed with added details emblematic of each zone and items in the game cells, but have since come to the conclusion that this is little more than superfluous clutter. It looks stronger without.

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To Sunday, then. Browsing the TV schedules and spotting The Crystal Maze is sweet, and something I didn’t think ever likely to happen unless I won the lottery. It’s unlikely to put on the same show, but let’s hope the special – and any developments that may follow – can capture at least a measure of the spirit and fun we remember so very fondly.

new11The show is back on the road! After being thoroughly counted out in recent weeks, it seems felicitous to return to the digestive biscuit embrace of Countdown. As much a joy as a convenience –  I shan’t lie! – it has spurred just about the only thing I’ve created since my last post approximately ten years ago. I know, I know… it’s not good enough!

With typical over-excitement, Richard Whiteley spent the last Countdowns of 2002 banging on about the new set coming the following year. This would have been the first real cosmetic change in a near decade of viewing, so it did pique my curiosity – I had visions of the show being completely changed: all computerised and shiny, a charmlessly futuristic number done on the clock and everyone wearing spacesuits to fit in.

I was, of course, drastically overestimating the Countdown budget, never mind the appeal of spacesuits. What we did ultimately get didn’t do much for me, frankly, though I suppose your summation will depend on how you rate an assault of bright pink and magenta. Perhaps it was all an attempt to make Richard’s jackets appear less garish? Maybe they were the inspiration to begin with – I can appreciate it that way!

Designer Andy Walmsley is also credited with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? – a masterful design that has travelled the globe. A valiant fist of Countdown was made; well-meant and surely unique, but just a bit over the top and ill-fitting for me. Thank goodness the game’s simple beauty shone brighter than any set piece!

Now that I’m done slagging off the set, I’d best talk about the process. This was a redressing job, working with my original graphics and essentially sticking cuboids around the carryover elements. While perhaps not easy on the eye in reality, it was fun to play with intense colours and semi-transparent material in 3D – though, as I whinge about every encounter, these features did heavily impact on render times, on this occasion even creating some issues in animation, with nasty strobing on the stripes… hmm! I think I really have generated something resembling the real deal!

Maybe my indifference toward this whole look is compelled by the fact that Countdown was sprawled on the ropes, reeling for much of this period. Feeling bloated after the extension to forty-five minutes, it was then thrown back an hour to 3pm, immediately robbed of its sizable student audience (including me!) and raising doubts about its future. Of course the most monumental blow came in 2005, with the very sad passing of Richard; this beckoned two lacklustre runs with Des I (Lynam) and II (O’Connor) as chair – both were presenting while apparently scanning the studio for the quickest exit. Thank goodness Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley came along in 2009, waking the thing up and restoring Countdown to the integrity and modest vigour of the good old days.

There’s only one more ‘era’ of Countdown to cover, really – the nineties, the era I remember most warmly – so I mightaswell give that a go. One day, when I’m thrown a conundrum.