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Capcom

The Producer of DuckTales Remastered

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Capcom

Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes—it's a duck blur
You might solve a mystery or rewrite history
DuckTales, Oo-oo

If you’re a child of the '80s, chances are good that you don’t need any more lyrics to finish that song all on your own. Disney’s classic animated series, based on Carl Banks’ Uncle Scrooge comic books, only ran for four seasons and 100 episodes, but it’s one of the most beloved nostalgic treasures of the 1980s.

In 1989, Capcom took their side-scrolling Mega Man game engine and applied it to the Disney hit to create DuckTales for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It soon became one of the console’s most memorable games.

Now, Capcom has created a gorgeously animated update of the classic platformer called DuckTales Remastered. Imagine all the fun of the original game with brand new high-definition graphics, additional storyline, and great voice acting from many of the cartoon’s original actors.

Out now for PS3, Wii U, and PC (and releasing on Xbox 360 on September 11), it’s like a little nostalgia time machine. DuckTales Remastered producer Rey Jimenez talked to us about reviving the classic DuckTales game, why the property is remembered so fondly, and some of his favorite games growing up.

What prompted you guys at Capcom to bring DuckTales back to life?

It was the fact that DuckTales the NES game and the show still have quite a lot of fans at both Capcom and Disney. We’ve also received a lot of requests over the years from fans saying that they love DuckTales the game and would love to see it come back again.

Can you tell us briefly what sets DuckTales Remastered apart from the original DuckTales, aside from new graphics and sound?

We’re really bringing the show to life using the NES game as the framework. Aside from the graphics and sound, the storytelling and VO work makes the game feel like long-lost episodes of the show. All the while, the team has gone through great strides to make sure the gameplay kept the charm of what made the NES version so iconic.

How important was it for you guys to get the original voice actors from the show back to work on DuckTales Remastered?

I don’t think there was any other option for us. That was all Disney’s doing. They suggested adding VO to the game and they contracted all of the actors and did all of the recordings. I think, to feel as authentic as possible, getting the original actors is the best move possible and the Disney voices group does a great casting job. For those actors no longer with us, I think their replacements do a fantastic job of filling in.

This game has gotten more buzz online than many other recent live arcade game releases. It seems like you've really tapped into folks' childhood memories. What do you think it is about DuckTales that has been different in that sense? Why has this game become such a fondly remembered experience for so many people?

What I’ve gotten from talking to people is that everyone above a certain demographic fall into 3 categories. They love the NES game, they love the show, or they love both. Plus, the memories they/we have are all positive. Whether it’s Saturday morning cartoons—which unarguably were awesome in the late '80s/early '90s—or playing one of the best NES games ever made, there’s just no bad memories around DuckTales. I think the deeper question is why are people attracted to the adventures of a stingy, curmudgeonly, old duck? Disney magic!

 

Capcom has an extremely deep list of beloved classic games. Does the creation of DuckTales Remastered bode well for possible other remastered games? 

Anything is possible really, especially if DuckTales is well received by our fans. There is definitely an interest in doing more.

Do you have a personal favorite character from the DuckTales universe? If so, who is it and why?

It’s gotta be Gizmoduck. If only you could take Fenton out of it. I never really liked him but a roboduck was right up my alley … although I wasn’t a fan of the unicycle design. It always bugged me to guess where Fenton’s feet went when he became Gizmoduck.

Are there any plans to expand the game to iOS as well or will it be strictly PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and Wii U?

If we decide to do it, we’ll make a formal announcement about it.

And, finally, it can be in-game, behind the scenes, or whatever you like, but what's your favorite memory of working on DuckTales Remastered?

I think it’s when the music that plays during the first two cutscenes of the Transylvania level got implemented into the game. For some reason, that track really resonates with me. When I heard that, I was instantly taken back to watching cartoons in the '80s because it reminded me of drama music in G.I. Joe. That was a turning point for me when the game felt like DuckTales brought to life, instead of just an update to an NES game.

DuckTales Remastered is available now on PS3, Wii U, and PC while the Xbox 360 version releases on September 11.

Can you out-fact the Facts Machine? Go to this post and leave a comment with your own amazing video game fact. If your fact is deemed sufficiently Amazing, you could win the mental_floss t-shirt of your choice.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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