Monday, November 08, 2010

Updates! And a taste of TRO!

My apologies for the very late update…

The Editing Process… a Painful Decision

- Geoff and I have finished our work on the pieces that were edited by Paul Skowronek (skiltao). I sent another batch to Paul, along with an offer to pay for his work. Three measly dollars per edited piece is all I can manage, but the bill will eventually come to $300 by the time Paul is done. Not much, I admit, but I can afford it at the rate he has been turning them out – roughly a piece a day.

Pretty easy, huh? At the end of the week I send him $21 via PayPal and on to the next batch. The question is, will he do it for so little? And if he does, will he have time to do them?

For those of you with a mathematical bent, Paul has already edited approximately ten pieces gratis. That leaves 97 pieces. Divide that by five (an average - let’s be honest, he is not going to do seven pieces every week) and you have… twenty weeks before the writing is at a level where we can publish it without committing seppuku immediately afterwards.

That’s five months. And we’re being optimistic here, because holidays are coming and everybody has troubles – Paul will not be able to edit steady for five months. But who knows? Maybe he can do two pieces a day. Maybe. That would cut the time down to two, maybe three months.

We Need the Time

We need those months of time, brothers and sisters. I am slowly catching up on my bills, but we have at least four more pieces of art to complete – and if I can afford it, an overhaul of the Federated Commonwealth’s Werefox vehicles. They have all the charm of the Clan ‘Mech drawings in TRO:3050. That comes to at least six additional pieces.

All of this – the writing, the quality art, the solid designs – is pointless unless we have a layout man with imagination, experience with InDesign and an intimate knowledge of BattleTech. We had one, but he took sick and I have not heard from him in a long time.

Meanwhile, Bill Burt has jumped into InDesign. He began his schooling by creating a PDF-based magazine for his airsoft team. Not much to do with BattleTech, I admit, except that he IS using the InDesign for Dummies I bought, and his expertise has already been turned on our layout.

Here is an example of the work he has managed so far:

PLEASE - I know there are errors. This is a prototype where we learn to look for, and fix, crap like that. Just take a look and watch as Bill's skills increase...

Production Values

We have hammered out several decisions since beginning the actual layout work…

First of all, we decided the following:

- There will not be a full color version in PDF and a separate black and white version with color plates for dead tree printing. We realized that a full color version would result in a ginormous file, something we would have to send through the mail on a CD-ROM. Bill proposed a low-rez version for quick download and the hi-rez for those of you who wanted it, but we shelved that. It is a lot of work for not much added value.

- We decided that the original black and white print model in high and lo-rez versions would probably be the best compromise – the lo-rez would be small enough to download (about 30 megs) and still remain suitable for viewing. The hi-rez version would be for those of you who want to print their own dead tree copy, and as mentioned before, we would simply mail it on a CD-ROM.

- Bill doesn’t like to lose the full color option, but there it is. He suggested instead that we provide a zipfile with all the Heavy Metal Pro files inside – something you users of HMP will appreciate. Remember, this TRO is filled with machines you will want to put on your gaming table. So getting around the chore of entering the readouts into HMP is a bonus.

Our apologies to all the users of Solaris Skunk Works, but we don’t have files ready for that just yet. Maybe if you volunteer to do the data entry, we will provide it.

Heap O' Labor

If this sounds like a lot of work, rest assured - it is. But getting things right is more important at this stage that getting it out fast. After all, it has been three years since I began this project.

As I write this, I am sitting at a little card table in the far corner of the Juanita High School Gym, right under the fight song banner. It is Sunday and my son and his drum instructor are part of a group of 350+ drummers who are attending Woodstick – the Big Beat 2010. This year, I had to pay $10 for the privilege of watching a bunch of drummers having fun. I am not a drummer; nor a wannabe, so it was a perfect time to catch up on my writing.

One other thing I will do is begin compiling the HMP files for Bill’s Master List. Most of them were designed (or their data was entered) on this computer, so it’s just a matter of working at it. I may collate them with the Record Sheet Annex PDF files to ensure I don’t overlook any variants.

[A wee bit into the process I began to bog down. It seems I do NOT have all the designs on my trusty laptop, and the data entry was eating up time. As I plowed through reloading the data from the PDF sheet into my HMP program, I realized the writeups would have to be loaded into the ‘Mech data sections for the HMP files to be complete. And the writeups are not finished yet…

No matter. I will continue to create the HMP files, and load the writeup/variant data in as it becomes available.]

What’s Cooking….

- Stephen Huda has is working on the Draconis Combine’s Katana and Revenant, as well as the Outworlds Alliance’s Werewolf VTOL. Depending on the cash available, I may ask him to do the last BattleMech, the Draconis Combine’s White Knight.

- Karl Olson is still working on the Taurian Concordat’s Auroch Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

- Chris Seymour has finished the Draconis Combine’s Nemera – refer to the image at the top of this blog entry

- Ian is working on the Tomahawk. (Still).

- Lee Madison has fallen out of touch again. AGAIN. I sent an ultimatum of sorts – either set a deadline (and fulfill it) or lose the commission. It’s a shame – he does good work – but this falling-silent-for-months-at-a-time shit has got to stop. I can’t work with it.

Seriously, we should have some new work rolling in soon. Everyone seemed to slow down in October, which is why you saw a distinct lack of updates.

- As you know, my wife’s dental work and subsequent replacement partial is costing us a bundle. I am trying to pay people as quickly as I can:

Karl Olson has been paid for his work.
Stephen Huda has been paid up to date.
Eric has been paid as well.

However, there is still some art that has been completed and whose payment is outstanding:

Interior plates - $70 remaining to David Dryburgh
Seven internal color renders - $48 remaining to Terrance Wong
Chris Seymour - $30 remaining

I am hoping to clear those up by next payday, possibly by the end of November.

Control Line!

I have been working on and off with the Jumpin’ Bean plane. I assembled the wing sections and sanded everything, but have not yet made the horizontal or vertical stabilizers.

Below is the Jumpin’ Bean wing in its stock form. I stood the fuselage up so you can get a feel for the plane’s proportions.

And this is what it looks like with the center section added and another engine laid out.

That is quite a bit more wing, and there will be a third fuselage in the center. In fact, I have been thinking about turning those two fuselage pieces into engine nacelles and extending the center fuselage back so that the plane resembles a British Mosquito more than a P-38.

You see, I am worried I will not be able to get the two-fuselage design to line up properly without a jig and I have no time or place to build one. But a single fuselage would be a snap and I would not have to worry about alignment beyond the basic 90 degree angles…

However, I will have to extend the stock fuselage back quite a way to correct the existing proportions and increase the horizontal stabilizer area. I will also have to add plywood stiffeners to the fuselage area around the trailing edge of the wing. That area is notorious on Jumpin’ Beans for snapping in a crash.

One more issue: the tanks are too long to fit between the existing ribs.

I will have to install another rib to mount the tank, then remove the original. Odd spacing, but I don’t think it will sacrifice much strength.

My First Attempt at an Illustrated Work

I was digging through the closet when I came across the artwork and layout for a little book I wrote for my son in 2000, ten years ago. John was five and Daddy had been gone for six months and I wanted to send him something that told a story about my ‘adventures’ while out at sea. It kept me busy and mostly sane.

Believe it or not, this actually happened on our ship. I build a box kite from sticks I made from cut-up mop handles (plenty of those around!) and plastic from the jet shop and tape from the post office. It was held together with epoxy (I worked in Hazmat at the time and there was no shortage) and the joints pinned for strength with thick copper wire from the Motor Rewind Shop.

I won second place (we were not able to get my kite into the air long enough to beat a guy who’d gotten out there an hour before) and still have the T-shirt prize I gave to my young son when I got home.

The artists were a quirky pair from the Print Shop. I paid them $5 per illustration, and they plugged away at it until they got bored, which was about halfway through the project. My mother thought the topic was too drawn out and complex for a five-year old, but what the hell? It accomplished its goals – I kept busy, learned a lesson about hiring artists (handy for this TRO) and learned how not to write for kids. Or so I hope.

Thanks for stopping by!



 Ashley said...

Well it is great to see a post, as I was starting to worry you had fallen off the planet. Good looking PDF and I won't make any comments, all minor anyway, until asked for (if at all, as I'm sure you have your own ideas).

Updates on that story I guess is being optimistic, but don't forget you have your riposte to one of my blog posts, which I am very much looking forward to in due course.

You take care now, and all the best to your wife, as I can't imagine that dental work is that much fun.

Karyudo said...

Not sure about the drop shadow on the Griffin but the pages look good. Can't wait to see the whole thing. I've been so busy lately I almost feel lost not having anything due anywhere! Good to see you're making progress though.

Doug said...

Perfection takes time. When it is done, it will be *perfect*, not even a missing comma.

Your the base player on the band, right?

Make sure you keep that computer backed up x2, pretend you are working on your third master's thesis (in art history), or second doctoral dissertation (in philosophy).