Friday, July 23, 2010

Progress, Picture by Picture...


Progress this past week has been incremental but steady.

Thus far…

- Ian Stead is holding on to the finished Roland image and is having another fellow do some background art on it.

- Geoffrey Butler is working on still more Notables, both ‘Mechs and Vehicles.

- Daniel Cherng is working on the Katana... and making good progress.

- Paul has given the three writing samples I sent a clean bill of health. I am awaiting his decision to tackle more text in the near future.

- No word at all from our layout man. I have been sending an email once a week or so but have received nothing from him since late June. The Curse of 3063 appears to be doing its work – I will contact his understudy to see if anything has been done as a team.

I have pinged Karl Olson, Chris Seymour, Mike Sullivan and DaveCrypt. They are all due for updates.

- Chris ‘Kurbound Seth’ Seymour’s Mongomery II has passed to the secondary sketch stage; there are several issue with perspective but the overall design is promising, as is the level of detail even on the sketch.

- Karl Olson is working on the Panzer X and has submitted a rough draft that looks very good. He has firmly established the scale and will include additional troops and scenery around the tank, which is a very nice design.

- Mike Sullivan has scheduled a rough draft by Monday. However, he is very busy with work and long hours as well as wrapping up other projects and caring for his son. He is one of our more talented artists so the wait should be worth it.

- DaveCrypt has gotten back my version of the Nemera with several suggestions. I have just heard from him and am waiting to see whether he can make the changes that I requested.

- I have located an artist (thank you, Ian) to do the Urugan, an atmospheric fighter. I have not seen his work yet but Ian assures me he is capable and willing. We are in the midst of discussing the commission; I will let you all know if it pans out. Meanwhile, I am looking around for another artist to take the remaining commissions for various vehicles (I believe there are only two left).

[Update: Looks like Karl will step up to do the San-Ku-Chu LMTV and some others...).

- Vlad posted $50 to the PayPal button! Thanks, buddy! I have already sent it to David Dryburgh. Only $120 left to go!

The Evolution of an Illustration...

This is the original submission for the Panzer X.
Note the big black side guard, something I sketched
in to illustrate what I wanted.

This is the first of three prototypes. Note
the cannon is nearly pointed at the viewer.

The second prototype shows a bit of turret
rotation, but the barrel is still foreshortened.

Now we have the barrel with a better side
view, but it is too simple and tapered. Not
what I would expect to see unless I was
looking at something from the 1930s.

Mmm... better. The barrel has lost its
taper and has something of a modern
feel to it with the sleeve.

Now for some scale. Soldiers in a winter setting.
However, the tracks are too smooth...

Here they have been roughed up a bit,
much better for getting through the snow.

This is the feedback I gave to Karl, the final
touches. Extend the track guard back a bit
and move that soldier out of the line of the
main gun to balance the picture. Center the
tank in the frame, delete some space from
the right and add a bit of scenery on the left
and hey! presto.


Our battle in Seabeck was mixed. I got to use my M-14 in combat (at last!), and scored at least four kills. However, the playing field was very small for twenty people; most of them hunkered down and waited for someone to wander by. My son was quite frustrated. He has a good gun and lots of determination, but the woods were an unending wall of green broken by very few trails. Walking a trail was a great way to catch a pellet. Forging through the woods merely announced to the world where you were. There were a lot of deadfalls and dry branches, blackberry thickets and so on. But our host was very accommodating and overall, we had fun.

My friend Bill had his work cut out for him – his G-36K did not operate and all he had left was a sniper rifle and a pistol. He still had fun, though, which just goes to show how much a good attitude has to do with enjoying the game. He pegged me once – but I nailed him twice! I gotta get some black tape to put over that orange muzzle cap on my rifle….

The organizer held a target-shooting contest – out of a possible score of 50, I got 45, but was beat out at the last moment by a fellow with a 47. However, he used a fence to brace his gun while I fired from a kneeling position, so I don’t feel too bad about getting second place.

Catalyst Games

Not much is happening on the CGL front, at least in a legal sense. It appears they have an extension on the license which will carry them through GenCon (in August, I believe) and allow them to publish a few more books. One of these is the TRO:3085, which has illustrations provided by many of the talented artists you will find in the TRO:3063! That is one reason our art has slowed a bit. I have seen a few of the smaller PDFs they have been selling – a lot of it seems thrown together and not really intended for general use. On the other hand, CGL really has little choice if they are to raise the funds to actually print books for sale.

August 9th they will go back to court. I don’t have high hopes – Coleman is dealing with others of his kind and knows his way around them very well, I’m sure. But who knows?

Rumor has it they have pulled fan writers into working on the new TRO. The results can’t be any worse than what they’ve done in the past. Hope CGL paid them up front!

Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Day in the Life...


Progress this past week has been incremental but steady.

Thus far…

- Eric Ou is still working on the Isometrus and is about halfway finished.

- Ian Stead has some money in his account and I expect the finished Roland image within a few days.

- Geoffrey Butler is still busy re-writing certain Notables sections; the most recent are the Fafnir and the Panzerfaust. They look good. Not only do they reflect events current in 3063, they are more focused on battle accomplishments. Several of our Notables sections have concentrated on quirky personal characteristics and this is NOT Geoff’s fault, as I instigated several of them and approved of them on a wide scale.

However, Paul Skowronek (Skiltao) over at Skiltao’s Xanga ( pointed out that the Notables sections should be about the pilot/Mechwarrior’s ability as it directly related to combat and represent a pilot one might actually meet in the field. Any quirks included were fine, so long as the major thrust of that section was combat-oriented. So Geoff has a new direction and I have learned a valuable lesson BEFORE the TRO goes to print!

- Karl Olson has been hard at work on the Lyran Panzer X. He has been beating away at it, intent on a masterpiece and I can only hope he does not get sick of it before it is done. This has happened with a few of the other artists – the commission has been returned for correction so many times, they are heartily sick of seeing it when it is finished.

- Chris Seymour is working on the Lyran Mongomery II. He submitted three prototype designs and I selected the one I felt held the most promise, added several suggestions and sent it back. Doing tanks is not easy!

- Mike Sullivan has some personal issues to resolve but is meanwhile hard at work on the Draconis Combine’s Katana. No firm date from him as to when he will finish it, but he has promised a prototype in the next few days. Good going, Mike! Stay with it, buddy!

- DaveCrypt did the original art for the Draconis Combine’s Nemera, and has expressed interest in selling the piece. I am sending him some changes to his original that will hopefully not be too hard to implement. He may just decide to sell the rights to the image and let us work with what we have. I hope not, as he has done very good work on the original.

- Speaking of Paul Skowronek, he responded a couple of days ago and said that while doing reviews on a commission basis had not occurred to him, he was not sure he could manage 107 writups! He suggested that I send him three samples and he would see what was involved before committing himself in any capacity. I obliged with two ‘Mechs and a Vehicle. He is a busy man with many irons in the fire, but last night he sent me an email giving those three pieces a clean bill of health. I can only hope he will consider taking on more. We write well, but our organization could use some polish.

Spit and Polish

For those of you who are not writers, let me elaborate: it is not just getting words on paper, though that is the first step. We have to write stuff which is interesting, informative, not redundant and which does not violate most canon (the enormous established body of work which already exists for the BattleTech universe). Once all of this is attended to, we also have to make sure we get the right information into the right sections of the entry.

When I finished the original introductions, I submitted them to Geoff, then made corrections and sent them to another proofreader, who added his stuff. I was pretty happy with the result. Then Paul got hold of it and the next thing I knew, I was hammering away at a truckload of corrections I had never even considered. I don’t know – maybe I just don’t have the trained eye. But I could tell from each correction that Paul had a point, it was a good one, and that the only appropriate response was to make the change and fast, before I lost his attention.

As a consequence, the introductions are as good as, or even better than, the kind which come from the game company itself. To be honest, I expect similar results with the individual writeups but look forward to any changes Paul suggests. I wish he were working for Catalyst Games, because he has an exceptionally clear eye when it comes to structured writing - which is the essence of a good TRO.

There are a few other Vees that still await art commissions. I have not had the time to get out and nail down more artists, but would frankly prefer to pay down the ones that are in the works before starting on the final pieces. Meanwhile, Daniel Cherng has submitted a choice in tanks for the replacement of the Katana.....


We are going out on Saturday morning to battle over in Seabeck with about twenty other players. This will not be the massive multi-day gathering we are accustomed to, but a more comfortable scale which should last four or five hours. I have decided to replace the new M-120 spring in my M-14 (*sniff*) because it makes the gun too hot for play in the big groups. 427 fps with .20 pellets may sound great, but over 400 and you can’t legally shoot anyone closer than 100 feet. And my M-14 is not a sniper rifle.

With an M-110 spring, I should drop to about 380 feet per second, but keeping the .26 pellets will ensure that while I do not have the range, I will still retain the accuracy of my long rifle and can use it in close quarters. I will not change the spring until after this Saturday, however, as their rules do not include checking the gun for speed.

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, July 05, 2010

The Fourth Brings Some TRO:3063 Fireworks!


Progress during the week leading up to Independence Day has been good.

- Our layout man has contacted his assistant. I have asked for clarification as to what, exactly, the plan is for the layout. Having seen first-hand the complexity of planning the TRO itself, I feel safe in suggesting the layout will be no less complex. Here are some typical questions to which I have no answer:

- What will be the basic background for each page?

- How will the PDF and print versions vary? I know what I have in mind – what has the layout man decided? It makes a difference, as some art will transfer from color to black and white with no problem while others…

- Will the page numbers be centered? To the outside edge of each page?

- Will the introduction to each section require House-oriented art? How much? How big?

- Will weight class categorize each entry? Will this require more art to distinguish one weight class from another?

- Some art comes with two ‘poses’ for the same vee from different perspectives. Will we have room for both? Or just choose one and get the biggest illustration possible in there?

As you can see, there are a lot of things still undecided. Yes, we have prototypes from the previous layout man, but there were simple proportion issues even then which had not been resolved before he dropped from sight. A lot of the answers are going to depend on our new layout man and his assistant, who have the vision and the art talent to bring it off. I can’t dictate until I have something to work on, and so far nothing has been forthcoming.

Not that we are laying fallow while waiting for Josh to heal….

So Far…

- Eric Ou has finished a preliminary sketch for the Isometrus and it looks quite good. I have asked him to ink it and have sent his payment.

- Ian from Merry Olde England has begun putting the finishing touches on the Roland Omnitank. It has already appeared on several BT-related forums, but the final version dispenses with the open launcher and short main gun barrel and opts for a longer barrel and an armored missile rack. I think it is the bee’s knees. Ian is now working on the markings and other details that will bring it firmly into the Federated Commonwealth fold (or what’s left of it).

- The Capellan Battleaxe writeup is done and is ready to go. The art is already in place.

- My partner in writing, Geoffrey Butler, is even now reviewing the writeups for certain Draconis Combine ‘Mechs and Vehicles to ensure they are in keeping with the rest of the writeups and the general history of the Inner Sphere in 3063. I have absolutely no doubts that he will improve the final product – he just seems to know when an element of fluff conflicts with something we’ve written or which is canon. I am sure there will be more to follow – and eagerly await the chance to send them for review.

- The White Knight art has been cleaned up and now needs a background. I am contemplating which artist to commission the work.

- We received an enormous PayPal donation from Bruno in France (!), $200, and I promptly sent it off to David Dryburgh, Eric Ou, Ian Stead and Chris Seymour. We are down to $170 owed to David and $50 to Eric. Thank you, Bruno. That makes a grand total of $300 you have donated and I appreciate it far more than mere words can express.

- As noted in the previous blog post, Alex Iglesias has graciously provided a new Percival illustration in black and white at no charge, replacing the original piece we got from Vlad.

- Karl Olson has just accepted a commission to produce new art for the Lyran Panzer X. He did a stand-up job on the Panzer IX and the Cobra BattleMech, so this should be more of the same, only better.

- I have offered a commission to Chris Seymour for another tank, the Lyran Montgomery II. I have not seen his work on tanks yet; some people are good at them and some are not, so we’ll see.

- I have offered a commission to Mike Sullivan to re-do the Draconis Combine’s Katana. No firm date from him as to when he will do it, so crossed fingers, everyone! Mike dropped off our artist rolls late last year due to personal issues, but as you can see from the Crinos I on our banner, he knows what he is doing and does it very well indeed. I am very glad to have him back on the payroll, as it were.

- I approached Paul Skowronek (‘skiltao’ over at the forums) and suggested our writeups could only improve under his withering editorial gaze, but the request was done in a skewed, half-assed fashion. Some of you may know him – he is the fellow who essentially re-wrote the House, Vee and ‘Mech introductions. We went through three drafts before he was happy with the result, and I have to admit I learned a lot. However, it may not have been enough.

Paul, if you are reading this blog post, 107 entries is a lot but we could sure use your critical eye. Ever think about taking a commission to proofread/edit these pieces? You could charge on a per-piece basis and stop whenever you like. I cannot offer more than about a dollar per piece, but you only have to correct really egregious errors, such as bits in the Deployment section which belong in the Configuration section – stuff like that.

There are a few Vees awaiting art commissions. We still have the Tomahawk, the Urugan and the San-Ku-Chu. All of the current art is warmed-over versions of modern military machines.

The TOC, Index and Page Count have been updated to reflect our new machines. I have consolidated some folders as well as sundry other paperwork tasks (like DVD backups). After reviewing the new ‘Mechs, I installed PDF record sheets of each type as well as sheets for any applicable variant in the Record Sheet Annex.

The Battleaxe variant BKX-8IF is particularly interesting, as it features no less than ten LRM-5 launchers backed by four ER medium lasers and five tons of ammunition. Very good at deploying minefields, let me tell you. I shudder to think of the effect it will have at long range plinking.

Fourth of July!

Where to start? I got a line on a butcher who would sell me fifteen inch-and-a-half thick rib eye steaks for $70. I asked the boy if he had some friends who would like to spend the 4th at our house. I got some killer potato salad at the deli across from my workplace. Rustled up some romaine lettuce and dressing and the invitations went out. $150 worth of reservation fireworks, several walk-ins with huge fireworks packages and eight boys later, we had a pretty good celebration.

These boys (all about my son’s age of 15) shot off all manner of loud fireworks from 2pm to 6pm, when we broke for a big dinner. Around 7pm they were stuffed, so we cleared the table and resumed. Having shot off all the loud stuff by 8:30 and not wanting to waste the pretty stuff until darkness had fallen, we retired to the front yard where my son refurbished two boffers (foam padded ‘swords’) with packing tape. The usual scenario was that each kid would beat the hell out of his opponent, but I had run out of tape and we didn’t want to worry about ‘warrior madness’, so we tried something from back in my SCA days.

A marshal watched each match. You tag your opponent’s leg, the marshal calls halt, your opponent drops to one knee and keeps fighting. This sort of play – losing your arm and having to shift to the other before resuming the match – was easier on the boys, the boffers and much, much more of a challenge. Strength and speed were only a part of the fight. A good time was had by all, and some surprising plays emerged. I even got a few licks in, though my son is much faster than I.

Darkness fell and we went in to get Momma. She and I sat outside as the boys put on their light show, with mortars and rockets and fountains. I was honored when my son, who had save the best for last, offered all six of the last mortars to me for lighting off. What a great show! The boys, being boys, could not resist playing ‘Jack jumped over the candlestick’ with the fireworks fountains. One of the mothers of a guest showed up to watch with Momma and me – she alternated between taking pictures and biting her hand at some of the antics these young men got up to.

What she did not see were these same eight boys all industriously sweeping up the street and sidewalk every three hours to keep the trash, paper and used fireworks under control. They did a stand up job and I was quite proud of them all. Thanks, guys! We all had a safe and very enjoyable 4th! And we still got to blow shit up!

Thanks for stopping by.