Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little fun with Photoshop




EDIT:

Since it's unclear what I did, here's the reference photos.

plus
via rebelscum.com

And the rest is Photoshop magic. ( and a touch of Illustrator)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter Released For Subscribers

For subscribers to the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware opened the hangar doors on it's newest expansion to the game.  Galactic Starfighter, where Republic and Imperial forces vie for air and space superiority in 12 v 12 player versus player (PVP) combat.  Currently ONLY subscribers may access the space battles, preferred status members can join the fun on January 14th, and free to play accounts can suit up on February 4th.



Your Ship Awaits

Players can initially man one of three styles of combat ships:

Strike Fighters - The nitty-gritty workhorse of your fleet.  This ship is best used when needing to dogfight, or make use of its powerful missile payload.

Gunships - Long range powerhouse.  Gunships have a powerful ability to snipe targets at an incredible range with devastating results.

Scouts - Fast, fast, and fast.  These are your go-to for quick capture of objectives as well as making great use of it's ability to close gaps against gunships, and sorties on an enemy's defense turrets.

All three ships have a wide variety of customization options, from what type of blaster cannons you use down to the color of the vapor trail you leave behind.  Many of these upgrades use an in-game currency called requisition points, which you earn by playing matches.  Other unlocks use the game's Cartel Market, which turns real money into "Cartel Coins" for purchasing digital items, including new ship models as well as paint schemes for your fighters and varying color options.  Purchasing the Cartel Market upgrades is thankfully not mandatory, but it does provide Bioware a means to make money off of what amounts to a free expansion.


Gameplay

First, a reality check.  If you're expecting a flight sim like the old X-Wing or TIE Fighter games from the 90s you're going to be disappointed.  Although there are nods to those games in that you can determine where the majority of your power can be directed (shields, weapons, or engines), the similarities tend to end there.  In spirit it feels more like the Rogue Squadron franchise from the late 90s.  The arcade aspects of the Rogue Squadron series have been used to good effect in how these matches play out.   The only current game type "Domination"  consists of three capture points in which your squadron must attempt to capture to gain points.  Once a team reaches 1000 points the game is over.    Getting to that goal is easier said than done, and takes a great deal of teamwork to keep a base secure.  The three ship types seem to balance out for the most part, Strike Fighters seem to be the early favorites, but all three have their uses. Over time I expect to see a great deal of diversity once people get comfortable with frankly overwhelming amount of modification options available for each ship.  The only downside is the inability to add joystick functionality, however Bioware's reasoning for this as sound, as no one wants to feel like they need a peripheral to even the odds.


Final Thoughts

If you've read the older posts of this blog, you may know what a fan of The Old Republic I've become.  This new expansion is exactly what I had hoped it would be.  This is truly a huge step in the right direction for Bioware and SWTOR.  My imagination goes wild with where they could take this game next, nothing seems off limits now. Pazaak? Sabacc? Speeder racing? Holo Chess? Yes please!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rebels Rumblings

I don't plan for this blog to be about rumors much at all, casting or otherwise, but I thought I'd chime in on this latest bit of info.  Numerous sites around the web starting with Jedinews, have reported that five actors have been named to providing voice acting for Star Wars Rebels. Some I've heard of, others not so much. One in particular has really got my imagination spinning.   The actors  reportedly cast are:
 David Oyelowo

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Vanessa Marshall
Taylor Gray
and Steven Jay Blum

That's right kids, Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop is allegedly a voice in Star Wars Rebels.  If you aren't familiar with Cowboy Bebop, first, shame on you.  And second get thee googling.  That show was and is the high watermark in Anime for me.  This one bit of casting got my mind reeling with the possibilities that Rebels will even remotely try to tap into what made Bebop so great.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Death of Lucasarts Breathes New Life into Lucasfilm

In an article by http://www.theinquirer.net, (via jediinsider.com) covering the Technology Strategy Board event at BAFTA in London. Lucasfilm was present and gave a small presentation on the direction the company is headed in digital graphics and technology.  Using the assets originally developed for the game Star Wars:1313 (which theinquirer.net claims is still in development), Lucasfilm envisions and end to the era of extended post production phases of movie making.  

Using a video game engine, and motion capture technology, artists at Lucasfilm are able to drastically cut down render times, as well as being able to edit digital assets within a matter of minutes and hours instead of months. Being able to swap characters and equipment on the fly, change set dressings on digital scenery, and dynamically change lighting effects using tablet apps.  The potential of this new technological shift are nearly limitless.



Once the new Star Wars films were announced, and announced to be coming in 2015, a lot of people wondered just how that short of a production schedule could accommodate something as big as a Star Wars film.  If this technology is in place now, then I think we have our answer.  If George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy showed this box of toys to JJ Abrams, that may have been what convinced him to come aboard for these new films.  Perhaps I'm putting a bit too much hope on this breakthrough, but think about it.  The Star Wars Underworld series that was shelved could very well be viable now with this kind of short turn around in the VFX department. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Month Late Reviews--Star Wars #8

Welcome to the first installment of Month Late reviews.  Before I jump in and start with this week's issue, let me first point out what I hope to accomplish with this series of articles.  First, this is a spoiler heavy zone. I will not be holding back on plot points or big reveals, reviewing these issues a month removed should provide everyone with ample time to have read the material.  Second, I'm going to be brutally honest in these reviews.  I'm not going to candy coat anything simply because it has the Star Wars logo slapped on it.  If someone has bad writing, silly concepts, or just plain dumb ideas, it's not only going to be pointed out, but most likely ridiculed highly. My reviews are not intended for the Star Wars novice, yet I'm not so mired in the EU of Star Wars where I won't myself make mistakes....from time to time (dear oh dear).  I am however, more of a G-canon purist, so most of my judgements are based off of G-canon first, EU considerations somewhat secondary.

With that being stated let's move on to the review of this week's featured issue:  Star Wars #8  by Brian Wood (writers),  Ryan Kelly (pencils), Dan Parsons (inks), and cover art by David Michael Beck


Normally I would start off with what I liked about the issue, but this issue and in fact the entire series, has a laundry list of red flags that continually pop up.  So we'll start off right away with the cover, seen above. While I really don't like to judge artists too harshly, I have to admit this is the worst cover for the series to date. Following a legend like Alex Ross would be intimidating for any artist, and I would assume that would cause someone to up their game so to speak when it came to a brand like Star Wars.  A quick google search of artist David Michael Beck proves that he's capable of much, much better work.  So I'm hoping this is due more to a rushed deadline or something, rather than just a lack of interest.  The interior artowrk doesn't fare too much much better, however I wasn't all too thrilled with Carlos D'Anda's work on the series' premiere issues either.  No artist yet on this series has really captured that Star Wars feel in the ways that  a Kilian Plunkett, Jan Duursema, or a Doug Wheatley have in the past.  Chewbacca in one panel looks more like JoJo the dogfaced boy than a Wookiee.  Stormtroopers armor is seemingly made out of a plastic similar to that of an old Kenner action figure. And Boba Fett's "mythosaur" skull is on the wrong shoulder (a cardinal sin in some circles).



That's not to say that the art is all bad, just wildly inconsistent in most cases.  The ships are drawn well throughout, and luckily there is quite a bit of space action in this issue.

Probably my biggest complaint about this issue in particular lands squarely on the shoulders of the writer Brian Wood.  The plot of this series really meanders and I'm beginning to wonder if one 12 issue arc for the Rebel mole storyline was really justified, it seems as if Wood  is simply padding out what should have been a 6 issue run, only to keep his name on the book as long as possible.  I've completely lost sight of the long term goals of these characters.   Luke and Wedge got themselves captured, then promptly stage a prison break so they can implant a worm into the Imperial network, which seems like a very extreme thing for the heroes of the battle of Yavin to be doing so soon after the Death Star's destruction.  Leia is mourning Alderaan as if she didn't have enough time for her grieveing thoughts while prisoner aboard the Death Star. And for the life of me I have no idea what Han Solo is doing on Coruscant.  

The biggest misstep for me in this issue is how specifically Luke and Wedge break out of their prison cell.

Luke Skywalker, still a noobie in the ways of the force, has smuggled his lightsaber aboard the Star Destroyer in pieces concealed in his boot. Luke then assembles his lightsaber in what is portrayed as a very short amount of time, with little effort.

This one page alone is an almost complete deal breaker for the series as a whole.  While I'm at it let me retract one of my previous statements, this one page is my biggest complaint about this issue.  This page represents a failure not only of Woods, but of the editor, and Lucasfilm's continuity department.  Being able to assemble a lightsaber is supposed to be a HUGE deal, both technically, as well as spiritually within the Jedi.  Vader's quote from RotJ "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.  Your skill are complete"  this quite boldly states that for a Jedi the construction of a lightsaber is a very big step in one's mastery of the force.  Not to mention this scene from Shadows of the Empire:
For Luke to now have reconstructed a saber in such a cavalier manner, destroys almost all of this books credibility for me, and this is Dark Horse's flagship title.  The one they hope to bring people back to Star Wars comics.  I fear it's going to do just the opposite.  I've told myself I would commit to this series through this first arc, but it's becoming tougher and tougher each month.  The few nuggets of brightness I found within the issue, Leia finding the mysterious Clone Wars era star destroyer, and Han's new gal pal Perla were nowhere near bright enough to eclipse the blatant disregard for what has come before.  And mind you, I'm not usually a stickler for strict continuity, but some things really cross a line.  This was one of those things.

I will return with my thoughts on next month's issue, with hopefully more positives than negatives to focus on. Between now and then I will be getting to Star Wars: Legacy vol 2. #6, and The Star Wars #1, which I guarantee will be much more positive.  Please feel free to comment and discuss if you think I'm wrong or too harsh I would love the feedback.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dark Horse Comics Star Wars sale


Dark Horse comics has announced a sale for the Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., and has put a select assortment of Star Wars comics for only  $0.99 an issue.  So it is definitely a chance to get caught up on both the new Legacy series as well as the Brian Wood penned  Star Wars ongoing.  Also available are  full arcs of Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, Boba Fett: Blood Ties--Boba Fett is Dead, and Star Wars Agent of the Empire.

If you've ever hesitated to buy comics digitally, this is a great opportunity to get your feet wet.  I've been very pleased with the quality while reading on my iPad, and having my entire collection available to me at a moments notice on my phone make any long wait bearable.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can We Talk About "Kenobi"?

Can we?

And I don't mean spoilers or plot points here.  I have to read the book first before I get to those kinds of observations.  No, I'm talking about the cover.

Back around the fall of 2012 it was announced that "Old Ben" Kenobi would be getting his own solo novel set between Episodes 3 and 4.  The announcement was accompanied by a decent little piece of teaser artwork.


I rather liked this artwork, it conveyed a nice tone.  A little bit of a grizzled, tattered Obi-Wan, with the twin suns setting over what I presume is the Lars homestead.   Del Rey was quick to point out that this was NOT the final cover, so I knew it wasn't permanent, but I liked the direction it was going.  In the months that followed, Benjamin CarrĂ© produced perhaps my favorite piece of Kenobi art.


THIS. This is what I imagine an Obi-Wan out in the desert would be like.  Taming the Tusken hordes one Krayt dragon call at a time.  Within this same timeline,  Sideshow Collectibles released an Obi-Wan Kenobi statue within their "Mythos" line. 

Again this hits the mark dead on of what Obi-Wan the desert nomad would be.  Disarming troublemakers along the way, his Clone Wars armor strapped to his back, just in case.  Perfect fodder for the cover of a novel about the guy.

So, what do we get?

This disappointment.  What really bugs me most about *this* particular piece of "artwork" is that it essentially hobbles a promotional photo, adds in the slightest touch with his clone wars bracers, and then uses a photoshop  to make it look like a section, just a section mind you, of Obi-Wan's hair is caught in a slight breeze.  I even managed to track down the photo the artist used.

But he's facing the wrong way! You may be yelling at the screen, but with photoshop, anything can happen! Presto!

Now, with far less time, and none of Del Rey's money or resources at my disposal, I whipped up a 10 minute version of the Kenobi cover for all to behold:

The moral of the story folks is: don't half-ass the cover art when you have over a year to do it right.  Give me the money you paid this person to do the cover, and I'll learn how to paint, AND come up with a better design.

Now I have to go and get a copy of the book, because the story sounds amazing...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

REBEL YELL or, How Disappointing the Con season was for Star Wars fans


     Not surprisingly, the most new info to come out of all of the summer conventions came from the only Star Wars dedicated convention. Star Wars Celebration Europe II.  
     The only Episode 7 related content that broke during the convention was that John Williams would, not all that surprisingly, be heading up the composing for the new trilogy.  There were some rumblings that JJ Abrams would be bringing in Michael Giacchino to score the new films, and while that would not be a bad thing in any way, it's nice to see that we'll at least have that continuity throughout the film saga regarding the musical cues.  I wouldn't count out Giacchino to be on deck for scoring duties on any of the various spin-off films.
     The only other substantial information we got was from the LucasFilm Animation division.   Producer of the upcoming animated series "Star Wars: Rebels" was on hand to give us the tiniest of peeks at what is in store for televised Star Wars.  First off, was the logo, emblazoned in black and orange reminiscent of an X-Wing pilot's uniform:
image from Starwars.com


Also highlighted were a few select pieces of conecpt art that emphasised Ralph McQuarrie's influence over the Rebels' art direction.
McQuarrie paintings used as influence on new Star Wars Rebels concept artwork.
      We also got a look at the ship that our new(?) protagonist for Rebels will be piloting. The Ghost, designed with distinct nods to WWII flying fortresses as well as Millennium Falcon design cues.


     The only other new of note to come from Celebration Eurpoe II, was when and where the next Star Wars celebration will be.  As part of the closing ceremonies, it was announced that the next event will be in Anaheim, California, in April of 2015.  For those of us in the Western United States, this news came a very nice surprise.  I for one, will be attending, and it will be my very first Star Wars Celebration, and I can't be more excited for it.


      The last hope for Star Wars fans this con season came from the Disney D23 expo, while, mostly a con aimed at fans of the more rodent-centric aspects of the Disney empire, Disney is attempting to make this con important enough to not share the thunder with other film companies at events like the San Diego Comic Con.  The highlight of this con is typically the live action feature film panel, where Disney trots out Hollywood A-listers to announce new projects, or the next summer's biggest tentpole feature.  
      Although expressly stated by the web team over at starwars.com that no new info for Star Wars Episode 7 would be revealed at the con, many wondered if this was merely to throw one off the scent, or simply to lower any expectations if they had revealed something that would be seen as underwhelming.  Many, including myself, simply hoped maybe they'd pop a nice surprise for the Disney fans.  
      That did not happen.
      What did happen, was a vague notion that summer 2015 would be the release date.  Which now has become a topic of speculation.  There were also mysterious crates on the show floor belonging to the Disney imagineering team.  Emblazoned across one of the more prominent crates was "Orange Harvest", which is a reference to the code name of "Blue Harvest" used during the filming of Return of the Jedi.   
     All we can speculate from this is that yes, there will be more Star Wars themed rides at Disney parks, and more specifically we hope in Disneyland.

     And with that, con season is effectively over.  We Star Wars fans have no organized events to look forward to in quite a while, and I believe this is by design.  I think that just as The Clone Wars were winding down, and Disney took the reigns, a concerted effort was put in place to bring exposure of the Star Wars saga down to a trickle.  To make fans, both hardcore and casual alike start to feel the absence of Star Wars.  It wont be like the "dark times" of the late 80s/early 90s, but it will be less "in-your-face".  And then when the time is right we'll be fed little by little until that hunger gains a fevered pitch, and we'll be salivating for the release of the new film.
     Ultimately, we'll just have to follow learn from our Jedi betters and practice patience.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Post SDCC, Pre CEII

San Diego Comic-Con is now in the books, and not terribly surprising there was not a lot of Star Wars news was announced.  What was announced and in some cases, available to purchase were some mighty fine Star Wars collectibles. Many, were of that famous Mandalorian armor.

Probably the one item I want the most is From Gentle Giant, this Star Wars Holiday Special Boba Fett maquette.
via Rebelscum.com


Gentle Giant also displayed their new "Snow Bunny Padme" statue


Hasbro also had a show exclusive Boba Fett with Han Solo carbonite block, which to no one's surprise, sold out before the show was even over.  These figures are from Hasbro's new Black Series, a line of six inch figures, which sport incredible detail and articulation.

Hasbro also held a panel in which they announced more new figures, and due to a struggling toy market, have gone about creating less detailed figures to keep prices down.  Limiting these figures now to 5 points of articulation, they are much more reminiscent of the classic Kenner figures from the late 70's and early 80's. I'm actually eager to see these in person, especially this guy:
To me, this is how the Kenner revival figures should have started in the first place.

Aside from collectibles, there was not much meat on the bone for Star Wars fans to chew on. This puts some added anticipation on what we might see at Celebration Europe 2 this coming weekend. Let's hope we get some great reveals.







Thursday, March 21, 2013

Star Wars Legacy: Prisoner of the Floating World


New this week in comic shops is the return to the Legacy era in the timeline, roughly 150 years after the battle of Yavin.  There may be a few spoilers for the first issue, so from here on out, tread lightly and be forewarned.

Cade Skywalker (middle) is one ugly mutha

Star Wars Legacy (the first comic series), has grown over time to be one of my favorite eras in the Star Wars universe.  I really enjoyed the massive changes to the universe while still keeping it recognizable.  Cade Skywalker, while his design left something to be desired, was a pretty cool Star Wars anti-hero, and the supporting cast of characters helped carry the weight of the lead's inadequacies.  As a whole, the series had a good, albeit rushed, ending.

Once that series had run its course, I thought that we had seen the last of that era.  Thankfully, Dark Horse has resurrected it in the form of a new "Legacy" titled series.  This time spotlighting the descendant of the Solo clan, in the form of Ania Solo.

art by Gabriel Hardman

Ania, in this series is pretty much a nobody in the universe.  She runs a junkyard, and is best friends with a Mon Calamari.  In issue one of the story arc "Prisoner of the Floating World" we are introduced to Ania and a few key players in the series.  Sauk, the Mon Cal bestie to Ania, from first impressions seems to be an amalgam of C-3PO and Chewbacca, and is reluctantly dragged into trouble when Ania finds a familiar weapon inside an unusual piece of junk. 

The first issue is painfully short, or at least reads that way.  As with the recently launched  Brian Wood penned "Star Wars" series, Dark Horse's latest offerings seem a bit anemic on the page counts.  But the story is quite good and a very nice launch point for the series. Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman's script certainly left me wanting more.

The art is a nice change from recent Star Wars comics, in that it has a roughness to it.  The blacks are jagged and blocky, and things seem obscured just underneath the the grime.  It works exceedingly well for a Star Wars comic.  The color palette is more subdued than I would have preferred, but I believe that having this desaturation is intentional to the mood.   

One of my only complaints about this book, has nothing to do with the content.  The Brian Wood Star Wars series has been including a digital copy code with each issue.  I had hoped that this was a trend with any new books, but alas this was not to be the case.  I enjoy reading comics on the iPad, and would have loved to have gotten a bonus digital copy to take with me.

If you're of the mind, definitely give this book a shot.

I leave you now with a few more concept drawings by Gabriel Hardman

 


Monday, March 11, 2013

A New (Wrong?) Direction for Lucasfilm Animation

All the official Star Wars related sites are now responding to the press release posted through StarWars.com  which reads as follows:
A NEW DIRECTION FOR LUCASFILM ANIMATION
March 11, 2013
As we enter into an exciting new era focused on the next Star Wars trilogy, Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming. We are exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or television programming. You can expect more details in the months to come.

As part of this shift, we have also made some key decisions affecting Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Detours.

After five highly successful and critically acclaimed seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we feel the time has come to wind down the series. While the studio is no longer producing new episodes for Cartoon Network, we're continuing production on new Clone Wars story arcs that promise to be some of the most thrilling adventures ever seen. Stay tuned for more information on where fans can soon find this bonus content. In the video below, Supervising Director Dave Filoni offers a peek of what is to come in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

At Star Wars Celebration VI last year, George Lucas gave fans a glimpse at the animated comedy series Star Wars Detours from Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, and Todd Grimes. Detours was conceived and produced before we decided to move forward with the new Star Wars trilogy, and in the wake of that decision, Lucasfilm has reconsidered whether launching an animated comedy prior to the launch of Episode VII makes sense. As a result, we've decided to postpone the release of Detours until a later date.

We are incredibly proud of the teams at Lucasfilm Animation for creating some of the most amazing animation ever produced for TV. Keep checking StarWars.com for new developments on these and future projects.

 So, what this means essentially, is that Detours is now shelved, maybe permanently, and what remains to be seen of The Clone Wars episodes will now have some form of alternate distribution, and no new episodes will be made going forward.  Depending on how many arcs were completed. we could see a few straight to DVD releases as mini movies, or we could possibly see a streaming or digital only release of these episodes.  Only if a full seasons worth of episodes were completed before this internal shut down, will we likely be able to see it on a television network such as Disney XD.  I think that likelihood has a very slim chance of coming true.

In the first paragraph of the Lucasfilm statement is a small sliver of sunshine peeking through this somewhat dismal cloud that rolled in above our heads.  The possibilities of a new animated series taking place in a time span untouched by movies and TV.  Now, what could this be?    The first thing that sprang into my mind was the Knights of the Old Republic universe.  It has a built in audience for fans of the game series and its characters, as well as very good opportunity to cross promote with the MMORPG, perhaps creating a new form of storytelling that doesn't end when the credits roll each week.  Even during production of The Clone Wars, the idea of adding in the character of Revan was discussed, and nearly made it into the show (and thus g-canon).
Revan Model Sheet for Star Wars: The Clone Wars

OR,  This news of a new series could be a hint that Disney intends on playing in a new time span within the Star Wars universe.  If Disney wants to familiarize us with the era and locations of Episode VII, what better way than to do an animated series based around that time?  I think it has an even smaller likelihood of happening  but it's certainly fun to speculate on.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Entry 2: Vehicles (Star Wars Where Science Meets Imagination)



Naboo Royal Starship


Y-Wing bomber

Rebel Blockade Runner







X-Wing Fighter




Sebulba's Pod Racer


The Millennium Falcon










TIE Fighter

Star Destroyer

Trade Federation Battle Tank