Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tightening up on the writing.... and some art.


Mike Sullivan has approved the ‘Red Crinos’ for use as a color plate. Now I have to scrape the cash together to pay for it! Two down, one to go. I am not sure when the Velite will make an appearance, what with the computer troubles Mike has, but he is doing his best. It will probably be at least a month. Meanwhile, I introduced him to an old friend (Gregg Giles of old-school Traveller fame) who may have some additional commission work. Good luck to them both!

Geoff has delivered four edited writeups – the Blackjack, the Bandersnatch, the Durendal and the Praetorian. This last is a modified Centurion meant to augment Militia units in the Outback. Between school teaching and exploring Japan with his sweetie, Geoff is already very busy. Several of these ‘Mech writeups have run afoul of canon works and it is understandable that he needs extra time to make them extra good.

An example? Sure. The Praetorian was originally a modified Centurion (CN9-D2) which the Federated Commonwealth intended to send to the Outback and act as a ‘pocket heavy’ for cash-strapped militias contending with both the Civil War and the depredations of pirates on the Periphery. At least, that is what the writeup says.

Despite the 3025-era warload, however, the CN9-D2 featured both endo steel structure and ferro-fibrous armor. These are not in themselves that great a challenge for a militia to purchase and maintain. What jacked the price up and complicated support was the extra-light (XL) fusion engine, a decidedly pricey and maintenance-intensive powerplant which forced the cost of this ‘Mech to nearly ten meeeelion c-bills. In retrospect, not what a militia supply depot commander wants to see. Yet I blithely wrote it, patched over the inconsistency with a sentence or two, and moved on.

The real trouble, you see, was that I had underestimated the poverty of the Federated Commonwealth's militias and the truly desperate situation of the cash-strapped AFFC itself . These guys were years behind in getting the militias re-supplied, and now they had a civil war on their hands. Yet here I was, bouncing along like any other happy-go-lucky player thinking "gee, the Outback seems kinda poor, why don't we give them some new toys from the House Davion pot?" Only Geoff, who had actually read the sourcebooks for that era, knew how much this 'Mech did not fit. So he fixed it.

Geoff tweaked and kneaded the design, downgrading both the engine and the armor (making it much slower in the process – 4/6/0 as opposed to the original 6/9/0). I initially rebelled against changing it, as I felt speed was paramount to the success of the design. But lined up against my ‘feelings’ were several quite unalterable facts about the Federated Commonwealth in 3063 (as well as common sense). Mainly, that the money and the technical training and the supply lines required to keep the damn thing running just did not exist. The design as it stood was distinctly at odds with the writeup and the warload and there was a problem - despite the fact that the design had come first.

Normally we would massage the writeup - or just junk it and write another. But the setting for this machine was important. Without the setting, it was just another fanboy's experiment with Heavy Metal Pro. You players out there, you know what I mean. "Nice Centurion variant, fella. Put it over there with the others."

Within the setting, the Praetorian became a godsend to desperate soldiers who were getting creamed while they slogged alongside old Sentry 'Mechs, hoping against hope they would not have to match up against anything larger than a tank. Knowing they would die, and worse, lose if they did. No one wants to give his life for nothing.

Obviously, keeping the setting was more important than maintaining the design, something I knew in my gut but did not have words for until now. It now runs about three and a half million c-bills, well within the purchasing power of a militia. We renamed it for the soldiers assigned to Roman emperors, the Praetorian Guard. Sure, the new ‘Mech is slower than the original, but it’s also a lot tougher now that the side torsos are engine-free.

Geoffrey pointed something out to me a while back. I forgot it in my drive to bring the stompiest ‘Mech possible to the Outback. Players pay little or no attention to a ‘Mech’s C-bill cost, being mostly concerned with battlefield efficiency and the all-important Battle Value. After all, they want to win a game and use the BV to determine each side’s force strength. However… writers who place that ‘Mech in a fiction setting must pay close attention to the things real-world soldiers would find important – cost, technical support and mission profile. The player is trying to win a game – the writer is trying to tell a good story. The two don’t always share the same goals.

Jeremy Pea must fix the gun barrel on the Diatryma and add some background detail. Then it will be ready. It looks pretty good.

Karl Olson has nearly finalized the Panzer IX, and it looks quite imposing. He has added some interesting scenery, most notably a pair of Lyran Fenrir battle armor. Impressive!

No response from Lee Madison on his two remaining commissions; I hope everything is going well for him. He has been rather busy with real life of late, so perhaps a bit more time and he’ll have some sketches for me.

Eriance has closed off all possibility of new commissions until the Christmas break, but has stated he will finish the Anvil in the near future. No mention was made of the Vulcan II, so it may never get his special treatment. Schoolwork is especially trying for him this semester and that is far more important.

Jeff Kamper has pointed out at least one promising source of the third interior plate and I will contact that fellow to see what he’ll charge. I have abandoned all hope of getting my own ideas illustrated; I cannot afford the skills required. It will have to be whatever the primary illustrator comes up with, suitably colorized by another fellow Jeff located who has a talent for that sort of thing.

I am juggling bills and other financial concerns while finding room for one or two payments to my hard-working artists. It’s not easy, but I extended the commissions and thus, they are one more bill on the pile each payday. Work is going well; I am lucky to have a job in this current economic climate, but office politics occasionally gets in the way. I have no talent (or stomach) for it, so I try to pass each day as quietly as I can. Mike dropped three commissions and I will find artists who will do them, but they will have to wait until I can free up some funds. Right now I am stretched to the limit catching up on current obligations.

The cold and flu season are upon us, and I have been feeling poorly of late. I suspect this will affect the final stages of the TRO as well, as our various artists and writers contend with their own illness. It’s likely we’ll have to push the street date of the TRO back to December. I don’t like it, but then, I am not doing the art, editing or layout by myself. This is just part of the deal. I can keep you posted via this blog, but it goes as fast as it goes. The final stages are always the slowest, it seems.

I removed a song and added a new one. Love the vocal harmonies on 'Tiffany Blews'.

Finally, is it me or does the turret on that Hammerhead II we've put at the top of this column look a little off? Now that I stare at it, it looks very unbalanced. Oy, another image to fix...

Thanks for stopping by.



Shepherd Gunn said...

So looking forward to this. All the hard work is definitely going to pay off, I can tell.

Karyudo said...

And here I thought you were "mostly" done. Can't wait for the final result though either way.

Since you ask the turret does look a bit weird. At first I thought it was because there's really not much to the back half of the tank. Though the bottom of the turret base looked like it'd meant to be round, but isn't. Then yes, the turret is actually to far left. Digitally those two are easy to alter if unintentional.

Steven Satak said...

We ARE mostly done!

100% of the designs - complete.
100% of the writing - complete.
100% of the ancillary writing - ditto
90% of the 'Mech art.
85% of the editing.
80% of the proofing.
85% of the Vehicle art.

But the last part requires time and active participation by artists and writers who have other stuff going on. And it also takes money. And we want to get it right so there are no face-smacking moments after the PDF hits the street. We will not have the luxury of an Errata sheet.

So - things are slowing down. But you are still getting blog updates, right?

Vlad has the dope and presumably is working on the fix.

Doug said...


Did you ever think about putting up a PayPal donate button to help fund the project? Even if you only get $100 it might help you out so you don't have to pay everything out of your own pocket.

Steven Satak said...

Paying for it was never an issue - I knew from day one when I sent $50 off to Eriance that I would never see it again except as art. But that is what it took to get the good artists working for the TRO.

And it is still what we need. So I am taking your idea for action. I wish I knew more about HTML so I could make the box more clever or larger, but hey.


Steven Satak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For those of you following the blog and seeing the few art pieces that have been posted on various but stratches the surface of what the finished project will look like. :)