Archive for September, 2010

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My Stab At Guild Wars Fan Art: A Sylvari

September 19, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from an acquaintance asking if I could do a drawing for him of a female sylvari, as in the botanical humanoids encountered in Guild Wars Eye of the North and Guild Wars 2.

Problem was, I know little about the Sylvari beyond a couple pieces of concept art I’ve stumbled across and from what I’ve read in the novel Ghosts of Ascalon which features a sylvari necromancer named Killeen. However, the guy told me not to worry; he wasn’t looking for anything extravagant or overly detailed. In his words, just a nice sketch of something “simple and elegant” will suffice.

Anyway, I was munching on some seedless grapes the other day, and was suddenly inspired by a fleeting image in my head of a girl with hair adorned with grapevines and leaves. I grabbed a 0.5 black pigment pen and an art marker, and quickly sketched my idea of a sylvari. In a few hours, this was the result.

The size of the paper was too big for the scanner so I had take a photo of it instead, on an overcast afternoon when the light had already shifted, hence I apologize for the poor quality of the image.

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“My Ally Is The Force, And A Powerful Ally It Is”

September 17, 2010

Every Friday I look forward to seeing what new updates the Bioware crew will have for us on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Among my favorite kinds of updates are the Developer Dispatch videos or the Developer Diary blogs. Like everyone else, I’m hungering for more on game content like species, combat or mechanics too, but I think delving into the minds of the devs can indirectly reveal information that is no less valuable. You get answers to questions about what goes into creating a game like SWTOR. How does one go about making something feel “Star Wars-y”? Who’s their audience? And a question that I’m also personally interested in — how’s their progress?

The video “Designing the Light Side” released today pretty much embodies everything I love about these Developer Dispatches. Even though I myself have very little interest in playing the Jedi classes, this update was something I had been waiting for for a long time, ever since its predecessor “Designing the Dark Side” featuring the Sith force users was released back on Christmas Day 2009. That’s almost 9 months between these two videos, and it’s amazing to me when I watch them back-to-back to see how much the visuals have improved, like more shadows on the models and more features in the environment.

Also refreshing is how much more detail the devs are willing or able to give. I mean, one minute into the Dark Side video and all we’re seeing are interviews, concept art and some stills. On the other hand, one minute into the Light Side video and people are already flying out a friggin’ airlock.

That’s…too awesome for words.

You’d think making the Jedi feel “Star Wars-y” would be a cake walk, but the fact that the two practically go hand-in-hand itself is a challenge for any developer making a game based on the IP. Only when you’ve convinced your audience that you’ve managed to capture the essence of the Star Wars universe’s most iconic figures can you possibly hope to do it for anything else. As usual, I think Bioware’s got it down to a science, everything from the look-and-feel of the armor to the color of the Jedi auras or abilities.

And okay, while I’m still not quite interested enough in the force-users to clamber up that Jedi bandwagon, I admit this video got me closer than ever.

For the most part, the topics covered mirror those from the Dark Side video. I love the “low-tech” and retro styles of the Jedi light saber hilts (I for one am completely enamored with the one shown at 2:17) and the combat movements and light saber “clashes” look very iconic…except for the effusion of sparks every time a light saber makes contact with another. I’m all for a spark or two for the sake of visual flare, but I’m not sure I’m crazy about the way they are now, showering them like an exploding power transformer. Lets hope they have a decent fire alarm system over at the Jedi temple.

Lots of new things as well; since the announcement of space combat they have included their comments about the Jedi “hot rod” ship and are a little more liberal with revealing in-game footage. Ahh, so much more in-depth than what we got for the Sith back in December, right down to the “Yoda Theme”-like music (hey, hey, Jaramukhti!) playing in the background. It almost makes me wish they would update the old Developer Dispatches it to include this level of detail.

Also of note is the Fan Friday, in which Senior Concept Artist, Ryan Dening, talks about designing the concept art for a Republic Capitol ship in the Developer Corner.

Some damn talented people they have over there.

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The Smuggler Is A Classy Guy

September 16, 2010

Someone on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums early this morning found this little gem from Machinima Realm:

Who wants to be a scruffy-looking Nerf herder?

It occurred to me that this could actually be tomorrow’s update. Well, if it is, I’m sure I’ll find more things in this video to amuse myself. Some thoughts for now:

  • Great script and voice acting, simply dripping with the cockiness and arrogance worthy of a smuggler
  • I’m liking the look of the seedy bars…in which the smuggler seems to spend a lot of time
  • Caught a glimpse of several nice looking abilities, from the dual-blaster gunslinging to lobbing some sort of explosive device to even stealthing!
  • Dost my eyes deceive me? ‘Tis a WOOKIEE at 1:01 shot putting some poor guy into oblivion
  • The smuggler running at the end there and stopping short with his blaster raised? That’s so Han Solo.
  • On what I think of the Smuggler — four words: My. First. Republic. Alt.
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My Gears For Gnomeregan

September 14, 2010

Recently, my time on World of Warcraft has been focused exclusively on my Tauren warrior, still working my way to the big 80, but I thought I should mention that this weekend I found some time to log in to my Alliance character to check out the retaking of Gnomeregan event. After years of WoW and having to sit there watching the poor gnomes bitch and moan about the loss of their home city, when Operation: Gnomeregan went live I knew at some point I just had to see this for myself.

It’s been a long time coming. You see, “Gnomeregan” itself is a word that used to bring shivers down my spine before I flee the room like a screaming banshee to huddle in a fetal position in a closet crying myself to sleep. I think I’ve done that instance all but a single time and never returned to its hellish depths again.

And the High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque? Well, besides the fact I think he has an awesome name, I never really gave him much thought. Certainly I never pictured him as a real leader. King of the gnomes he may be, but compared to the other big hitters of WoW like Varian Wrynn or Thrall, Mekkatorque to me is like Diet Coke — not really the real thing. Until now, I never gave his character or his city the respect they deserve.

Now there’s a reason to care about Gnomeregan and Mekkatorque again. And except for the part where it bugged out on our group, I enjoyed the entire event immensely. From the moment I was tasked to brainwa–er, I mean, motivate the gnome citizens, I knew I was in for a good time (you can always count on the gnomes and their sense of humor to bring the fun).

The best part was, of course, being able to ride in the final assault with the High Tinker himself. Following him into battle was an experience to remember. Is it weird that I got more insight into his character in this short span of 20 minutes than I’d ever gotten in the last four years? Great music too, and for some strange reason sounded reminiscent of the Magnficent Seven theme, at least to me. Maybe I was just feeling like a bronco raring to go.

Afterward, I logged in to my Tauren to check out the Echo Isles event. Being only a recent convert of the Horde, I was much less invested in its lore, so I wasn’t all that surprised when the initial quest lines didn’t interest me as much, even though you get to do some pretty fun things. In the end, I wasn’t able to take part in the liberation of the Echo Isles either, still being a few levels short of the prerequisite 75 — not for long, I hope.

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STO: Too Cold For Comfort

September 13, 2010

Three weekends gone by, three Star Trek Online weekly episodes under my belt. I logged in on Saturday 10 minutes before 2pm EST to anticipate the latest mission “Cold Comfort” only to find it had gone live earlier than I had expected. Several of my fleet members were online already, and I quickly jumped into a group with Tipa, all fired up and ready to go kick some Breen ass.

My excitement quickly fizzled as soon as I found out it was going to be a diplomatic mission. I should have expected as much as soon as Ambassador Jiro appeared on my screen, and heaven knows that idiot never shows up with opportunities when I want him to, but he contacts me now with a lecture about our tentative relations with the Deferi and a warning. In a nutshell, “No fighty, just talky.”

U.S.S. Taiga to the rescue.

Fair enough. Even the best Star Trek series story arcs are punctuated every so often by episodes where the characters just sit around and talk, so I certainly don’t mind a week where we get to slow down and do a mission that requires more reading and dialogue than combat — if it’ll drive the story forward.

As it turned out, “Cold Comfort” had a pretty good story behind it. Still, I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed this episode nearly as much as I did the previous two.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency!

As you recall, the Season Two update brought in the Federation Diplomatic Corps and a new system to gain diplomatic experience. I had a lot of fun with the handful of diplomatic missions that also came along, mainly because doing them actually required some effort to read, to think, to explore, etc. Rushing through those missions by simply clicking random options that you think sound good would get you nowhere. I had expected much the same from “Cold Comfort” but things turned out being pretty straightforward. Easy, even.

One of your bridge officers will pop up at some point to remind you to be tactful when interrogating the Breen prisoner, but the right dialogue options are very obvious. Unless you seriously missed the point or are so socially impaired that you can’t see why calling someone a “dishonorable failure” will piss them off, you really can’t screw this up.

Like I was saying, I enjoy diplomatic missions and think they’re a nice break from the combat. I don’t mind seeing more of them, but at the very least I wish they could be a little more challenging. It pains me a little to admit this since I’ve been loving these weeklies so far, but “Cold Comfort”, while being a well put together episode, feels too bland. Even a medical mini-game at the beginning where you had to treat Deferi patients would have been a nice touch, if nothing else, just to enliven the experience.

Off to polish the heavy cannons now, here’s hoping they’ll get to see some action next week.

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Industrial, Resourceful, Beautiful Corellia

September 10, 2010

Corellia was the latest planet to be revealed in Star Wars: The Old Republic. For those still keeping track, that raises the planet count to 15. Well, as the Corellians say, “The bigger the galaxy, the sweeter the homecoming.”

A major political and economic center, this planet is also notable for being the birth place of Han Solo. As Star Wars planets go, Corellia might not be as well-known as Tattooine or Naboo, but it’s hardly obscure, so it’s not so surprising that it would be included in the SWTOR line-up.

First thing I thought when I saw the planet was: This is not your Star Wars Galaxies Corellia. Things aren’t sounding too hot for the Corellians in the Old Republic, however. The description seems to imply that this shining beacon of the Republic has suffered an attacked from within by “Imperial influence”, leaving parts of the capital in turmoil and destroyed. Gosh, I hope that won’t stop me from getting to ride the trams.

This planet update along with the last one featuring Nar Shaddaa have been my favorite ones so far. The look of Corellia may be more subdued than say, Coruscant, but something about the images I see makes me feel an old familiarity with it. The landscape is still alien, but not in a way that makes me feel like I’m far from home. I thought the place looked like it could almost be a future earth — Corellians being one of the first human societies to develop hyperdrive starships and explore space a significance not lost on me.

Though I would love to see more strange, exotic planets like Manaan or Kashyyyk for future updates, I’m quite happy with what we got to see of Corellia. I don’t know if it’s because I’m paying more attention as we inch our way towards release, but the environments seem to look better and better with each reveal.

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Dragon Age: Origins – A Run Of The Mill “Witch Hunt”

September 9, 2010

Note: Rest assured, no spoilers until the second half of the post, after the warning and the image.

It’s been a busy week, but somehow I managed to find the time to play the Dragon Age: Origins – Witch Hunt DLC. In preparation I had allotted myself ample time, but in hindsight, I need not have bothered. It was so…short. The whole thing couldn’t have taken me longer than 2 hours to complete, even with a few breaks in between. Granted, I have never before purchased any DLC for this game so I have nothing to compare it against, but for $7 I had expected a longer campaign.

Issue of length aside, I’m not disappointed, but I’m not impressed either. I’m frustrated by its mediocrity more than anything else, considering the fact Witch Hunt was proclaimed as the final DLC for Origins. The gameplay felt needlessly rushed and took us to many areas that were previously seen before, reused for this campaign. The story behind the adventure itself was intriguing and well put together, but was quickly overshadowed as soon as it became clear that it was only a means to end — that is, to find Morrigan. After that realization sunk in, it was hard to continue the game without feeling like I was trudging through a chore.

There were plenty of things to like, of course, such as the companions. Your trusty Mabari hound rejoins you for this adventure, as well as two new characters: Ariane the Dalish elven warrior and Finn the human mage. They both grew on me, tough-as-nails Ariane who is actually quite adorable and charming, and Finn with his over-the-top sense of humor. Between the two of them, you have enough funny banter to last a lifetime. Many other humorous gems are scattered throughout the content, if you care to look.

Regardless of how I feel, I’m not sorry I purchased Witch Hunt. Like it or not, it did bring closure — Bioware’s own brand of strange and messed up closure, maybe, but it’s still closure. I hate to be cryptic about it myself, but in the end, whether or not Witch Hunt delivered all that it promised really depends on who you ask. Only read on if you don’t mind spoilers.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

After aiding me on my quest to destroy the Blight in DA:O, Morrigan revealed she had been manipulating my human female noble PC all along to further her own gains. She slipped away and then — and I quote — “was never heard from again”. That is, until now. A paltry year later. Yeah, never say “never”.

Before she left, Morrigan made it clear she did not want to be found, warned me not to follow her. That would have been fine with me (the two of us were hardly BFFs) but of course that was before I knew she had her way with Alistair, who is now my king and husband, and conceived a demon baby. That’s not something you can ever let go, no matter who you are.

Witch Hunt promised to yield answers to the mysteries of Morrigan, but not surprisingly, for every question answered, two more took its place. In this way, Witch Hunt felt more like an intro to Dragon Age 2. “Change is coming” is the message to take away from the conversation you have with Morrigan at the very end. I am told her child is safe and “innocent”, and that Flemeth is my true enemy. It is hinted that both of them may play a big role in the future of Ferelden, if not my own.

I don’t know if the answers I personally got were adequate. To be fair though, by this point there are so many possible outcomes for the player character, the resolution I was expecting  may be wildly different from another player’s. My PC’s main motivation for hunting the witch was to find out what happened to her child and what her plans with him were (at the time, it appeared the baby was left on the other side of the Eluvian by himself. Way to parent, Morrigan). For others who may have played a male character and got to romance her, their goal might have been simply to reconcile with their lost love, which apparently, you get to do if you play your cards right. After reading what happens in that ending, even I have to admit it’s a good satisfying and heartwarming (again, in Bioware’s strange and messed up kind of way) conclusion.

For me, Morrigan and I exchanged a few words and parted ways. I believe I could have killed her, which would have been an awesome ending too, but I was not out for her blood when I started this campaign. After all the chaos we’ve been through, it’s enough that the two of us ended things on good terms.

After contemplating what I know, however, I’ve decided that Witch Hunt seems to have a strong bias for PCs that got to romance Morrigan and take part in her dark ritual. It’s a path I’ve always wanted to take myself, if my character hadn’t been a female. Perhaps that’s a goal for my next playthrough.