Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - TRO Art and Minis

Thank you for your patience, everyone.

The Miniatures Arrive!

We have received the three miniatures of the JR7-X from Shapeways. They were done in white detail. Bill has two and I have one; we have been futzing with them for several days and have some information we’d like to pass on to the rest of you who might be considering a purchase of this mini or others like it from Shapeways.

- The minis are made from a process neither Bill or I know of, but which gives good detail. The sculptor (in this case, Dorian Sherratt) did a good job not only with the detail but also with adding large, deep sockets and long pins for ease of assembly.

- There are step lines on each model which speak of a machine or process which uses a coordinate system (X-Y-Z axis) to control the laser or whatever is doing the sculpting. These will have to be smoothed. We don’t know yet whether a second coat of primer will do the job of ‘smoothing’, but the first seems to bring these step marks out and dry-brushing will certainly accentuate the appearance. That said, the marks can only be seen if you are closer than four or five inches to the model.

- Each model had to be gone over with a dry toothbrush to remove the excess gunk. I cannot think of a better way to describe this material – it is almost dry but not quite, like gel. Or snot. You have to brush it out of the crevices and crannies and holes in order to assemble the mini and get the detail that was designed into the model.

- This gunk is on every surface. It is on the pins and in the holes that receive them – I spent several minutes with a paper clip and my fingernail removing it well enough just to fit the parts together. I don’t know if it is water-based or not.

- Bill has complained that the ankle joints are the weakest. He says it is the material which is flexing, but I suspect from my own experience that this is not so – if you do not clean the gunk away from the joint area, you will essentially be supergluing gunk to gunk, and that will flex and fail very quickly.

- Gunk aside, the hip to body joint and the leg to foot joint should be drilled out with a pin vise and then pinned together with copper or brass rod. These are the weak points in any case. I am going to ask Dorian to revise the design so that the hip-body joint has a larger pin and a deeper socket to mate more securely. These parts will still be able to rotate in the X-Y axis.

The ankle joint I will leave strictly alone – it is necessary to leave it as-is in order to permit reposing as needed. That said, I do not recommend posing this miniature standing on one leg. The joint, even pinned, is weaker than if it was made of pewter and will not stand any sort of stress (such as when packing and moving the miniatures to a game).

I am going to spend about $30 on an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner to see if that will remove the crappola which seems to coat the entire mini. Of course, not knowing what the mini is actually made of (Bill thinks it might be cornstarch!), there is a chance I will end up with a puddle of crud where my mini parts used to be. I will experiment first with the launchers – which I will be replacing in any case with the more slender versions Dorian has posted on his Shapeways site.

Replacement Art

Some time ago – about four years, to be precise – I decided it was worthwhile to begin replacing a few of the pieces Vlad did for the original version of the TRO. As the art piled up and the writeups began to take on some polish, this need for better illustrations grew and grew. I made a few mistakes in choosing and paying artists, so some of the work we did over – has to be done over again. And paid for – again. As it is coming out of my pocket, this is the price I pay for being hasty.

There are some pieces I commissioned which were intended for the TRO interior plates, but they will not appear because the mood they evoke is not appropriate for a TRO. I am saving them for the next project, an Infantry Primer to be used in playing infantry in BattleTech. No sense wasting money more than I have to!

Some of you may have noted that Eric Ou offered sketches as the basis for replacing art that clashes with the copyright laws. I have not taken him up on these for that reason, but in order to replace sub-standard pieces that are on hand but no longer meet the quality standards of the bulk of our art. This will take some time, but then so will Bill getting back to the drawing board and finishing his layout duties.

Current Progress

- I am in the process of paying Stephen Huda, Karl Olsen and Matt Plog for their artwork. I am also trying to catch up on the last of the money I owe to Paul Skowronek, who did an outstanding job editing the entries for this Technical Readout.

- Dorian Sherratt is waiting on my cuts for the Werefox line of miniatures. We have been in a bit of disarray here; I am currently shifting hours at work and Bill is going under the knife for knee surgery. Dorian has nearly finished the entire line while I have been skylarking – take a look at what we have so far.

- Karl Olsen is still working on the backgrounds. He has also been commissioned to create a new Stingray and a new Bengal. These two ‘tanks’ Vlad did were inspired by the work of ShamanX over on deviantArt and while they might make great subjects for the cover of a sci-fi novel, they ain’t BattleTech.

Even so, we might have used them if we’d been able to find a way to clean up the art. We did, finally, thanks to David White, but could not get the required software and decided the best course was just to re-do both pieces.

- Matthew Plog has presumably finished inking our piece for the Quiang-ton and is currently awaiting payment. When he gets his dough, we will get the art.

Entry #108

I swore over a year ago this would not happen, but there is going to be a new machine added to the TRO. We saw some of the pieces Eric Ou had laying about and decided to make use of one. It just looked really good. Darn you, Eric! Your stuff is so tempting!

The machine we designed was too heavy for the art, and Eric obliged by sketching something new. We are still talking it over, but the design itself is a definite ‘go’. It is a really solid addition to the game, looks like it will be fun to play and actually performs its intended role. We’ll get art for it one way or another. I have already sketched out the basic writeup and sent it off to Geoffrey for fill-in. When we have beaten it into shape, we’ll send it to Paul.

This new addition is something we do not yet have in the TRO – a genuine aerospace fighter. (The Urugan does not count, as it is conventionally powered and is atmospheric only). The reason we have insisted on keeping this new design is because it looks to be very effective but does not duplicate the mission or warload of any other fighter in its weight class. It is quite unique, and unless I have missed something, should be popular with the folks who would like to add a little aero to their game but have not found a solid reason to do so.

[Update: Dorian and his sweetie took just two of these fighters to a game yesterday. I believe on the first pass, they nailed a nearly fresh WoB Grigori. To borrow a phrase from that funny BattleTech/Hitler video, it went down faster than a Clanner on the third date.

Needs more ammo, check. Some AMS, check. Change the SSRMs to SRMs to widen the ground attack profile, check.]

Thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Welllll.. maybe not all of them :(

{ This space for rent!}
We'll have a new header up soon!

I had an epiphany over to visit last night.

This one had a name: Bill Burt, the fellow doing our layouts.

Bill came by (bum leg and all) to visit and shoot the breeze. And he talked with me about some alarm bells that went off when he saw the Battlemaster as one of the proposed TRO ‘Mechs to be sculpted in the near future. Some of you may be familiar with him as Sounguru on the forums and elsewhere as the Fat Guy. You've seen his sig:

"When all else fails, call out the Fat Guy."

Well, my common sense was obviously failing, so this was Good Advice. And Bill gave me some additional advice during the four hours we smoked and talked.

As a result, I have decided not to support making miniatures of what I call the Named BattleMechs based on the art found in the TRO: 3063.

What does this mean? It means anyone who decides on their own to sculpt a so-called “Named ‘Mech’” does *not* have my permission to base it on my commissioned artwork, nor do they have permission to associate such a miniature with TRO:3063 - or me.

Before you get totally bummed, let me explain our position.

A Tricky Position

The Named 'Mechs are machines which have names belonging to Catalyst Game Labs - Jenner, Champion, Battlemaster, Bandersnatch, etc. Some of our own TRO art has much of the look and feel of existing company images and, by extension, the Iron Wind Metals miniatures. That was intended. In the past, the company has turned a benign eye on such efforts by its fanbase. But those efforts almost universally consist of art and text accompanied by a carefully worded disclaimer. Here is mine, well in advance:

The TRO:3063 is NOT an official CGL publication. It has the look and feel of one, but it is not. It is not for sale. No one will profit from its release. In fact, I will be in the hole for five grand by the time it is done.

If we publish and are not slapped with an immediate Cease and Desist letter, that is because the folks in charge have been gracious enough to permit us the use of their names and ideas as part of fan-produced material. Not for sale, but to be given away freely to all fans of the game.

Not Crossing The Line

Producing the art of the Named ‘Mechs in our fan TRO as miniatures for sale anywhere would cross a line I very much do not want to cross either before the release of the TRO - or after. The folks making the miniatures would almost certainly get a Cease and Desist letter, as they're essentially using intellectual property which is not theirs to make a profit for someone besides CGL or IWM. And the connection would be the TRO: 3063. We would get dragged into it and I do not want that to happen. Not now, not ever.

It is not just an issue of names, either. Some have suggested we play cute and list the mini as something else and so perhaps get away with it. Not so. The look and feel of a fan-produced miniature sold for profit that is based on fan-commissioned art that is based on the look and feel of official company art is still infringing. It takes money from the pockets of the companies producing the originals and food from the tables of the folks making those products.

My son’s design – the Nimravus – is based on the company’s own Lynx. It won’t become a miniature with my permission or knowledge because the art is very close in appearance to the parent design. This should not be a problem for most of you. Little John played for two years with a kit-bashed Lynx and he was content. I encourage the rest of you to do the same. It doesn’t matter how much I’d like to see the new Champion as a miniature. I would – a lot. But I won’t do it. I won’t assist those who do.

The Exceptions...

If a particular piece of art from the TRO:3063 using the name of a Named 'Mech looks little or nothing like the original company art (and there are several of those), artists are free to make a miniature based on that art. (This is why I changed the header piece, by the way... Shane got permission from me several months back to use the art of our Champion II.)

Please do NOT use the company name.

Please do NOT associate it with the TRO: 3063.

Otherwise, *I* have no objections. (Of course, others may. LTBB and YMMV.)

Re-establishing My Position

As I have stated many times over the course of four years on this blog, I do not want to violate Topps or CGL intellectual property rights. I do not want to take any business away from them, nor be associated with anyone who does so in an illegal manner. It only makes sense - if these companies can't make a dollar selling BT minis, they go under and that is bad for everyone. This is their livelihood. They are not going to let anyone infringe in a way that affects their bottom line, and I for one do not intend to try.

Machines abound in the TRO which are our own design. There is no shortage of 'Mechs and vehicles to model, so they will go ahead as scheduled. The Privateer is one of those. The Churchill Mk XX is another.

My Sincerest Apology

I am sorry, but the production of a Centurion or Catapult miniature based on the art in the TRO: 3063 is not legally possible at this time. I will not permit it unless I get permission from the owners of the license, and that is not likely to happen for reasons already mentioned. I am sorry for those of you who are disappointed – hell, I’m disappointed. But not very disappointed. And I should have realized this was the situation before I posted the last blog entry. You will notice the changes I made to that post already.

This business with the miniatures was not a stunt to get new donations. Believe me. If I had wanted to get more money from the PayPal button, I would have been one shilling SOB for the past four years: this project has at times put me in tough financial straits. However, I can understand if some of the more recent donors feel rooked. It will be hard, but if those of you who donated via the PayPal button in order to see a particular Named ‘Mech produced feel cheated, I will refund your donation. It will take time, as I am still in the process of paying for new art. But I will do it if you ask.

Meanwhile, we have been making progress on the Privateer minis. Here are the prototypes.

A Capellan PV-2L. We'll spruce up the pose - or you can make one of your own!

The current PV-1K - the Dragon's choice for outfitting Dispossessed mercenaries.

Current Progress

Aside from the splash the miniatures made, we have been busy here.

- Stephen Huda finished the Werefox line of AFVs. The last two, the Martel and the Charlemagne, are done. Excellent work, Stephen! I believe our sculptor, Dorian Sherratt, is taking a stab at making miniatures of the entire series.

- Karl Olsen is busy at work on the backgrounds of several machines that sorely need it. What you see here is a prototype only – we plan to clean up the art a bit before presenting it.

- Matthew Plog has been kind enough to work a commission for our TRO. The Quiang-ton will be ready in a couple of weeks.

- Paul Skowronek has finished up the last of the editing, bar one – the Mastodon. I sent it off to him yesterday. I am combing through, reading and deciding which need more Notables or Deployment information, as well as addressing the issues Paul found with the Periphery Vehicles.

Well, that is all for now. Have to get going, pay some bills, wash the clothes, vacuum and like that.

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, April 04, 2011

They're coming.... from the pages of the TRO!

From the Mercenaries section of the TRO:3063

Yes, indeed. They are coming soon. One at a time, but they are definitely on their way.

But which ones?

Good question!

Someone out there asked for miniatures based on the art from this project. Several someones. I chuckled at the time. Silly fans, don't they know how expensive a miniature is to commission and produce?

Well, things have changed over the past two years. Some people have done a bit of 3D work, but it's been expensive.

Serendipity strikes and suddenly we have a new source, and he works fast.

And is reasonably cheap.

So.... wouldja do poor old Steve a favor?

Go back into the archives of this blog and tell me - what do you want to see as a tabletop miniature when September rolls around? I am not pageview whoring here, I am serious - dig back. Everything that will go into this TRO has appeared at one point or another on this blog over a period of nearly four years. You can find it.

When you do, let me know right here in the comments. We'll do what we did with the prototype - file it and use it to determine priorities.

More later!

Stay tuned!

Candidates So Far:
Privateer PV1-K

Privateer PV-2L

Klat, I turned your donation right over to the sculptor in England, who has agreed to put the Privateers both on the short list. Thank you for the donation!

And in case folks are worried this is only for 'Mechs....

You want to get that with fries?

Get a pair of these - along with parts for all the variants: