Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wreck-Age Staker

Here's my first painted Wreck-Age miniature, one of the Stakers:

I decided to keep her fairly earthy colours as I figured she be wearing more home-made clothing than any of teh other factions. To avoid her being completely brown (this isn't the 70's) I added the ex-army type pistol belt and yellow hat.

Fun mini to paint, and she can be yours through the Wreck-Age store or by backing their Kickstarter - only three days to go!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Games Day Australia 2012

So here is my report from today’s Games Day Australia 2012 in Sydney.

First up were some changes to the venue – they’d improved the layout and positioning of the various events and stalls, as well as keeping the Forge World pre-orders separate, so thumbs up for that. The gaming area was shrunk to free up more space for the studio crew and hobby area, so overall the whole central area felt much less congested.

Don't know if attendance was down on last year, but it felt a little quieter. Mind you I spent almost the whole day in seminars so...
Parking was much easier as we weren’t competing with Young Talent Time auditions.

I missed the Black Library seminar (again), so went and said hello to Jes Goodwin, who signed my Compilation, which was pretty rad.

He had his original design sketches which were amazing and drool-worthy (the Sslyth was phenomenal! Makes me want to buy one, lol). When I asked he said he preferred no photos of them as he’s been burnt before by his designs being copied by “those companies that spring up making little bits”. Understandable, but I’m sorry I couldn’t share them with you.

 The original is so much better...

I stood in line for a bit waiting to look at the Golden Daemon, got bored, left the queue ran into a friend who had apparently not been home since seeing Apocalyptica last night, and was still pretty plastered. He’d apparently accosted Alan Merrett earlier about there being too many queues and it being confusing, ha ha.
And speaking of Alan, he didn’t speak at any of the seminars like last year, but was floating around and rather oddly directing the lines at the shop…

So then it was time for the first seminar of the day – and boy was it a big one: Forge World with Mark Bedford.


- The way he sees it, GW is like cake, and Forge World is like putting cream and cherries on top… well maybe not cherries but cocaine (yes, that was his analogy).

- Flooded with Marines? Well, they sell. Surprisingly everyone was very, very open about this fact and didn’t try to hide it in any way shape or form.

- Warlord Titan? Big kits are a balance of cost in time vs how much they’ll sell realistically. For instance the Manta took one and a half years for Will Hayes to produce, during which time he wasn’t getting much else done. Could he have made fifteen other kits that would have sold more in that time? That’s the numbers they run and why big kits are rarer. They do want to make a Warlord though.

- All they FW guys collect and play, and that’s often a trigger for nostalgia (“remember the X?”) and re-creating older units.

 The other side was all Baneblades

- Their design process is very flexible and reactive. They can go from nothing to production in the space of a month, but that is rare.

- The designers often do things of their own volition at home. The Tomb Stalker came about when Will Hayes brought it into the office and said “look what I made, reckon we can sell it?”. They decided to give it a go and have since sold “bucketloads”.

- Mark used to work in greenstuff, but now uses Super Sculpy as it doesn’t dry until he wants it to.

- Forge World was the brainchild of Tony Cottrell, who had been making some custom turrets that people were eating up. They hired on some freelance crew and started producing the first vehicle kits and the statues/busts. While the statue market slowed, the vehicle kits exploded.

- Apocalypse was the best thing to ever happen to Forge World, and nearly killed their production staff (in a good way).

- They would like to do what they did with Dark Eldar and release companion kits soon after a Codex launch more often.

- The terrain and Epic kits were discontinued due to sales not justifying them. They do have a permanent terrain guy now though, as with the Realm of Battle tiles and fortification rules they can tie the terrain pieces into the IA books more.

- General disparaging of people who don’t allow Forge World units in games :p

- Running joke: Bionic Hedgehogs.

Imperial Armour

- That Bran Redmaw mini seen but not released? Gone. Mark wasn’t happy with the quality so asked for it not to be released. Another sculptor has taken over the character.

- They monitor the GW studio release schedule to avoid putting something out just before a new codex (ie why Necrons are due now, not last year).

- Some units are designed for a specific book, some are designed just for the hell of it.

- They deliberately put extra characters in books, Badab being a prime example, so that if they have a spare moment they have a backlog to draw on for ideas.

- Next book is Necrons, Minotaurs and Death Corps of Krieg.

- “So we’ll be doing a big Necron vehicle.”
“It’s not just going to be a bigger pyramid, is it?”
“No… it’s an upside down sandcastle.”

- A Dark Eldar superheavy would fit their raider aesthetic, but still be big, “like and ocean liner”.

- I asked later about the low content of xenos in some books (particularly corsairs in IA12). Mark’s reply indicated there will be more in the Dark Eldar book, and that sometimes they hit time constraints or ideas just don’t work and they don’t have time to redo them.

Warhammer Forge

- The books are harder to write, as “you can’t kill off the Empire… ok, you’re all Nurgle now”, while in 40k you can blow up planets, systems or sectors with no worry. It’s also harder to explain why Khemri would be fighting Lizardmen in the Forge World format.

- Working on a Blackfire Pass book

– Orcs, gobbos, dwarves and empire (? Sorry, didn’t hear the last one and aren’t too familiar with Warhammer lore).

- They want to do variant army lists like in 40k – a Slaanesh knight list was the example given.

- What units they use can be tricky, due to Forge World’s more pricy nature. Hobgoblins, for example, would be impractical as they would require too many guys for their cost in real money.

- They do, however, want to explore Cathay and such, but in the future.

  Horus Heresy 

- “Will you be making the Primarchs?”
“If you’ve read the Black Library books you’ll understand when I tell you ‘I can’t say’.”

- They want to make all the weapon options/units available they can to “stop little companies springing up in Poland”.

- The Marine armour variants were testing the waters for a HH series, which they have been working on for a year or so.

- They are working closely with Black Library to include bits of each other’s work (the Caestus appears in Fear to Tread for example). This also means they don’t mess anything up, and might even lead to BL characters appearing in mini form.

- Mechanicus? Almost certainly, but not for a while - it’s something Mark really really wants to do.

- They know it can’t be all marines all the time, and there will be xenos and non-marine forces dealt with in time.

- First book will begin at the start of the Heresy, but the lists will be designed to show off pre-Heresy forces and their fighting styles, as no divergence into chaos had happened yet.

 - The Horus Heresy series is going to be ongoing, much like the Imperial Armour books, and each line will have a separate team working on it.

- The HH series is designed in such a way that people can use their existing armies as much as possible.

- Running quotes: “It’ll be like Christmas… it’ll blow your minds.”

This seminar was literally just under an hour, and it was straight into the design team one with Jes, Kevin Chin and Jeremy Vetock.

Design Seminar

 - Jes loves plastic. LOVES it. If he could he’d do everything in it as for a sculptor it’s far better with almost no distortion or deformation. He foresees a future with only special characters being finecast, and generic characters all being single frame plastics like the recent Warhammer releases and the limited Dark Vengeance Chaplain.

- They want to continue putting every unit option on a frame where possible. And lots of head options.

- They’re aiming to expand the digital aspect of the company. Jeremy got very excited about the prospect, but no specifics.

- Don't call the background "fluff" around Jes. One guy did and he corrected him, pointing out that it was Jeremy's job to create that, and calling it fluff devalued it. The questioner corrected himself by saying "the expanded universe background setting", which pleased Jes no end.

- A young lad asked the following “How come Tau and Space Marines are ‘battle brothers’?” and got a huge cheer and round of applause from the audience. The reply was that yes, Tau and Marines often murdered each other on sight, but there were enough times when they didn’t to justify it. The allies matrix is there as a guide, not a proscription.

- "Why did they swap Marine chapter symbols from right to left shoulder?"
"I don't remember."
One of the attendees ventured that it was so (in universe), that when advancing the enemy would see the chapter symbol on a PA guy and know who's killing them, while terminators shoot one handed, so keep it on their right.
Jes thought that was a superb explaination, so he was going to accept that. He then went on a ramble about contradictory history and so on for a bit.

- If they can they would like to introduce 40k Dogs of War type units to use as allies to bring in lesser races. One of the reasons they brought allies back.

- There is a mathematical formula for points cost, based off a man (Warhammer) or a Marine (40k). This is then adjusted by feel for how the unit works within a given army or theme of the army.

- No release date/info for Sisters, but they definitely aren’t canned and will be re-done properly.

- A lot of the discussion was about the creative process and such, so not easy to describe. They were all very funny and there was a lot of laughter, so much of the discussion fall into the “you had to be there” category.

Dark Vengeance 

- All attempts to draw out any release data on Dark Angels or Chaos were skilfully avoided.

- Dark Angels were chose because it allowed them to include Deathwing and Ravenwing rather than generic units. Chaos were in because they’ve done ‘nids and Orks. “Now we’re out of bad guys so I’ve got no idea what we’re going to do next”.

- Cultists were in, despite not being in the codex as they needed to create new things when they get the opportunity or the game will stagnate.

- For designing Chaos Jes said there are too extremes: the renegades, recent converts and represented by regular marines with spikes on; and the warped, those totally mutated ones. Both are equally valid and he’s hoping to have more warped ones like in Dark Vengeance coming out. For vehicles it will mean more daemon engines on the table.

 Jes had a solo seminar, where I accosted him about his constant use of topknots on minis (he likes the feral yet combat ready look, it allows Eldar to have hair but not be too slicked down, it helps with multi part minis to have long hair as if it isn’t tied up you can’t pose the head, and he thinks they’re cool).
The fallout of this is that I have to send Jes a photo of my hair in a topknot when it is long enough.

 I also talked to him about sculpting female minis, and he said that he dislikes the all to frequent chainmail bikini look and has copped some heat of the muscular Wyches. Regarding Lelith his concept was all about emphasising her athleticism rather than sexualising her with “huge tits… but Juan is a butt man anyway…”

And that’s what I’ve got!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

D20 Mass Effect RPG

I was recently contacted by João Santos, supreme overlord of the Mass Effect D20 project & forums. He asked that I give his project a broadcast boost, so here it is.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the D20 system is the open source core rules for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, so the MEd20 system builds off an established rules system and conventions and is broadly compatible with a wide number of third party expansions.

Having read the beta document, all 260 pages of it, the design team and forum playtesters have been very thorough and quite clearly have a great love of the universe. Additionally João tells me that they have a professional designer doing an improved layout on the document for future release.

So if you're either an RPG or Mass Effect fan (or both!) head on over to the Mass Effect D20 forums and have a look!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kickstarters: Good or Bad for the Hobby?

So, with Reaper’s Bones Kickstarter winding down with just over three million dollars pledged, there is certainly a great buzz about crowdsourcing for wargames. We’ve had a spate of companies large and small hopping on to produce new lines and there have been some fantastic (and not so fantastic) offerings.

But is it good for the hobby?

The reason I’m asking this question is a comment from EldarGal on the BoLS lounge in regards to Dreadball by Mantic:

“17 miniatures for 80 is frankly absurd right when Reaper are offering 200+ for one hundred and Dark Vengeance will be coming out with 60 odd for a similar price. 33 or so for 150 isn't any better. The sculpts aren't that nice either. Even taking into account that this is a board game, Sedition Wars provided 51 lovely miniatures for 100.” 

 My reply was:
“I think you're being a little harsh here. Those other Kickstarters only reached that number of minis after they'd started and gotten a crapton of cash to enable the mass production - they initial mini to dollar ration was much lower. GW also already has the capital and business model to mass produce and potentially loss-lead on Dark Vengeance.” 

Lady EG responded that Sedition Wars came with more miniatures initially (50) and many others have also. I work in retail, so this reminded me of a common thing I call Gotthammer’s retail 101:

People are greedy cheapskates who won’t want to pay a cent more than they have to and expect perfection in response. 

If you’ve ever worked in retail you’ll no doubt agree. The reason I ask if crowdsourcing in the Kickstarter vein is a bad thing is that people might get used to getting high quality miniatures for 40 cents a piece. There are of course other factors in why some Kickstarters are better value than others:

- Pre-existing logistics

Reaper are already an international company, and their offerings are recasts using and already existing medium. They’re simply making moulds and producing these guys. With a locked in number of pre-orders it will be simply a matter of cutting moulds, ordering more plastic (bulk discount!) and shipping. It will be a lot of work, but the framework is already there.


 - New frontiers / business

Wreck-Age is a new startup. They don’t have the connections an existing company like Mantic or even Studio McVey have to get stuff made. Even comparing Sedition Wars to Dreadball, perhaps the McVeys know people in the games industry who can get them a good deal on the board pieces to save costs (this is pure speculation, but it’s Aly and Mike McVey – I’d do them a solid).

In one of the Order of the Stick Kickstarter ($1.125 million raised) posts creator Rich Burlew commented that pledge bonus items were delayed due to the initially contacted printer taking too long, and needing to find a new one. Long term business customers can often get better deals or, like Games Workshop, save even more money by doing everything in house.

 - Stars in their eyes

Aka thinking that Kickstarter is an unlimited trough of money to draw from. Reaper got three mill, surely people will have money to spare for me, right? In what I consider a disturbing, or perhaps just ill thought out, move a group has recently put up a bid for money to make an admittedly awesome sounding series of dioramas.

Now the highest levels do net you either a piece of the diorama itself ($650, limited to 15), or a painted mini/vehicle ($70/$160) so you’re either getting overcharged for their commission service or this is essentially a fancy advert for their painting service. The lower levels get a making of video and tutorials. Again, this gives me an uneasy feeling as many companies may be eying these funding options as a quick way to make cash. Or, as a commenter of HoP put it:

"So, they're making dioramas and asking money for it? Hmm. Are the dioramas being auctioned for charity or anything? It seems to be just one massive hobby project they want money for. That's fine but it feels like crowd funding has gotten a little out of control."

“Well, mighty Gotthammer,” I hear you ask, “that’s what they’re for aren’t they?”
Yes, yes they are loyal minion but I ask you this: what if Games Workshop decided it was going to release the next army book / codex through a Kickstarter campaign? Raise five million or Tau won’t get re-done. You no doubt scoffed at that – GW is a global company with a huge line, its own production facilities, distribution and so on.

Well… so’s Reaper. What's to stop GW from doing it that way?

Food for thought, certainly. I don’t much like the idea of a pre-existing, well established company relying on crowdsourcing for its basic operations (I consider Bones an expansion out of Reaper’s normal territory), but there may well be some thinking that that’s the way to go. There is only so much hobby money floating around and, going back to the original quote, people are looking for value for money. It's an awful big risk to put your company's future and your customer's goodwill when there are other more traditional, albeit less flashy, routes to go.

The company I work for is engaged in a seemingly never ending price war with its nearest competitor, driving prices of many items ‘down down’ (for you Australian readers). Problem comes when the prices go back up to normal, or are forced up by uncontrollable events.
As an example we recently had flooding and various other weather phenomena that have played havoc with local produce. For a brief while some items were ridiculously cheap – both through oversupply and artificial reasons. When this becomes untenable the price goes up, often tripling or more. To say some people are not happy is an understatement.

See, people like good things for cheap – I know I do. And they get used to getting things for cheap. Think the stereotypical ‘back in my day X only cost Y’ old guy rant and you’ll be on the right track. So sales of that item slow as it isn’t ‘good value’ anymore or is ‘too expensive’.

Now, imagine if you will all those minis you just got from your $100 pledge to Reaper (I don’t mean to keep using them, but they’re really good for illustrative purposes). Now imagine paying full price – even at the bones price they average around $1.80 or so – and you’ll be paying around $400 or so. Would you buy spend that much for those minis normally? I imagine Reaper is really hoping so as they’re going to be investing a lot of money in this line.

If it becomes ‘normal’ to get such good value for money with minis it does paint a rather dark future for small indie producers. Perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic there, but in the world where minis cost $5 each (and some are as large as a Relic Knight) will people decide that a company like Hasslefree (or even Reaper themselves) isn’t ‘good value’ anymore?

I think the key is to always compare to 'normal' miniatures when looking at value for money, not other Kickstarters. Seeing the great discounts Reaper can offer with all that cash will make anyone look like rubbish next to them.

I do think Kickstarters and other crowdsourcing do have great potential – obviously given my shilling of some here over the days – but I do think people looking at diving in should weight up their options and not just assume they’ll have an instant winner. They’re all going strongly at the moment, but they’re also new and shiny and exciting. I’ve already seen talk of ‘pledge fatigue’ setting in, and then when this recent spate starts rolling in people are going to have mountains of minis to paint so might be put off even great deals when they come along.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check out Wreck-Age.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Priests of Mars

Having just finished (New York Times bestselling author) Graham McNiell's latest Black Library offering Priests of Mars, I felt I should offer up my thoughts on the book.

It tells the tale of a nominally Adeptus Mechanicus expedition into uncharted space to find a long lost explorator fleet. I say nominally because not only is there the AdMech, but a Rogue Trader, some Imperial Guard, Space Marines (Black Templars) and some freshly pressed ships crew getting their slice of the pie.

So a rather motley crew.

Our main characters are the aforementioned Rogue Trader, who far from being a dashing rogue presents a more thoughtful, if rebellious at times, take on that archetype. His motivations are not entirely clear and may even put him at odds with his shipmates

He has a card playing, womanising, smart ass Han Solo-esque sidekick of course

They are bringing along a talented stelar cartographer whose work is vital to the missions success

Butt heads with serious company types

Meet a variety of crazy characters

And they all have the best summer ever

Not quite...

This is 40k after all (and the Eldar get a look in too).

Without getting into too much of the plot, this is the sort of book I hope to see more of from the Black Library. It is a book about the characters, rather than a book about things happening to characters. They drive almost the entire plot, from the inception of the expedition to the petty (and not so petty) power plays that form the bulk of the interaction.

My beef with some BL novels has been that they've shoehorned in combat almost as if they feel it's expected to have some explosions as, hey, it's 40k right? A Thousand Sons had that weird bit with the Psychneuein and Cain often will ahve random mooks to fight, but Priest of Mars has a few pages of fisticuffs in a duel, and a bit of combat towards the end, but the novel wouldn't be drastically thinner without it.

I like that the BL is progressing beyond the need to have combat be all we see in the 40k universe, as there are many other aspects worth exploring besides war, and what better way than a good novel? I think that A Thousand Sons, Mechanicum and Outcast Dead have been some of the best recieved novels (from what I've seen and heard) shows that the fanbase is prepared to accept these novels as well.

But I digress.

The expedition generally goes pretty smoothly, but they may really have someone unseen pulling their strings

The book itself maintains a great sense of tension throughout - getting towards the end there was a very real expectation that it was all just going to go horribly pear shaped and end up with everyone dying horribly, especially when they start the actual exploratoring

Of course I won't say what happens exactly, but the one fault of the book is that it feels like the ending is pretty strong sequel bait (or a setup for a new series even). While I wouldn't be opposed to this, and would very happily buy any continuation, I am somewhat wary.
As with Prometheus, Priests of Mars ends with just as many questions as answers. I'm not entirely opposed to this as everything, while not finalised, is settled. It is a matter of personal taste but I've been feeling very much over the tide of sequels and remakes in almost everything lately (movies are my other great love aside from books). It irritates me no end to pick up a book, look at the back and like the synopsis only to see it's book three of the whatever dodecadology, first of the whocares cycle.
I blame Isobelle Carmody for taking forever to write the rest of the Obernewtyn books, personally.

Where'd I leave that tangent picture..?

Eh, doctor looking skeptical will have to do.

So anyways, Priests of Mars is a great book, and has terrific insights into not only Mechanicus society and mindset (there's a wonderful discussion of it between the Rogue Trader and the cartographer on the subject), but a few other nuggets, most notable of which is comfirmation that Sororitas (at least Hospitallers) can get married and a link to the Horus Heresy (rather spoilery, highlight between the pics to read:

- the Kaban machine is still kicking around in some capacity

So get this book if you liked any of McNiell's recent offerings or have a hankering for the non-dakka side of the Imperium. Even if you don't get it, as it will likely change your opinion.

Final score: 9.5/10 lost 1/2 a point for the sequel bait - sorry Graham, I still love you!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kaidan Alenko & Shepard (extended cut)

So I finally finished Kaidan and decided how to do the bases for my minis. Every character will have a logo / icon on their base relating to that character.

 So Kaidan get the Paragon icon, being the voice of reason and goodness - for instance if you shoot him on the presidium his reasoning for not moving is that he couldn't let you at someone who couldn't defend themselves. Pretty paragon IMO.

 Shepard gets the N7 logo, or part thereof. I've also jazzed Shep's armour up a little, making it more game-accurate in colour scheme with some lighter grey parts and the N7 on the collar. I also repainted her gun to closer match the Mattock's colour scheme.

 Better view of the bases.

The plan for the others are:

Ash - Alliance Navy logo
Garrus - Citadel icon
Tali - logo derived from the shape of the Quarian ships
Liara - data streams as befits the Shadow Broker
Miranda - Cerberus logo
Jacob - somehow making fun of the Priiiize
Kasumi - something relating to money
Javik - he has no need for such primitive identification. To use symbols in the Empire was punishable by death. He should throw his base out the airlock (Renegade icon).

Still got to figure something out for the Normandy:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut

So the Extended Cut of ME3 finally came out the other week, and I have played it through a couple of times now. Personally, I enjoyed it very much and thought the team did a great job (though it is the job they should have done in the first place...). It adressed the biggest issues (for me at least) with the ending - namely lack of closure both with your crew and lack of information about what you achieved.

"Hey, Vega?"
"What's up, Kaidan?"
"You know our guns?"
"We probably shouldn't have left them all on the truck, should we?"

It's by no means perfect - many people unhappy with the catalyst are annoyed it's still there, though the dialogue is significantly expanded with it, and a fourth 'refuse' option is added. I also like that if you take your LI along for the final charge you get a final goodbye:

It's a little unclear but the choices are: "I'll always love you" or "You'll only slow me down".
Oh, Shep, you so bipolar.

The final existing cutscenes are expanded, explainging Joker and the Normandy's 'running away', as well as how people got back on the ship. The voice acting is as great as always, and never feels 'tacked on' - the final narrations are spot on, though I thought EDI's was a big overdone on the isn't this all amazing and wonderful front. Hackett's speach was a truely great one.
Taking different squadies gets you different dialogues. Liara's is rather heartbreaking...

But while his lines are delivered perfectly, the animations lose some of the effect for Vega:

Ah well, still all good. On a more relavent note I did some painting of my ME minis - but it was actually to do some work on Shep than finishing anything new, then I got really sick, so whoops there. Should get to do some this week though.

And I'm sure this will come as a complete surprise to you all, but I made a Mass Effect vid - this time with Nightwish:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Synir og dughters í snjó

I finished Astrid of the Stones from Red Box games:

and added some basing to her and her compatriots:

The snow is just a baking powder / white glue mix. I tried using GW's stuff and it works great for texturising bases, but as snow - not so much. And in the theme of barbarian madness:

view it in fullscreen HD! :D