Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Darth Malgus: Phase One

With the upcoming launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the work I'm doing on 3 RPG Campaigns, the holiday season, and the funding and planning of a wedding in the next 15 months, doesn't now seem lik a great time to start work on another costume?

I knew you'd agree with me!

This is Darth Malgus; the main Sith villain for Star Wars The Old Republic.

He's quite a bad-ass undertaking.  Heavy armor, hooded cloak, make-up...oh, and thankfully not only is he bald, but he's also got this awesome resperator-thing that would just about perfectly cover up my goatee, so I don't have to shave it.

He's got a unique lightsaber, one that could be a little tricky to aquire or make.  And by "tricky", you should read that as "expensive".  I've got some ideas how to do the armor;

I'm going to probably go with EVA foam and build it out.  Perhaps do some resin or sintra custom pieces for the details.  For the Gauntlets I may try Sintra; I'm not sure about the availability of a Vaccuform machine for making this suit.

One of the more entertaining part will be the gauntlets.  Malgus has all these illuminated buttons and panels all over his armor.  I'm probably going to need 4-6 EL Wire inverters or similar electronics just to light this guy.  I really don't want to have one inverter running all these lights.  While it may work and be handy to have it all on one light rig, I'm worried about wires getting snagged in joints and getting torn.

Another complication are the cloth parts; Malgus has this Vader-esque undersuit.  Kinda pleather/vynil, and quilted.  He's also got the Vader Cape, with a traditional Sith Lord hood.  Attaching that to the armor is one complication.  Another is working with it so I don't step on it too much and making it strong enough because it's actually supposed to be long enough to gather on the ground.

I'm putting together a parts list now, seeing what I can start to gather.

Here we go again...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anxious Anticipation

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t post about The Old Republic.  So for anyone who’s been waiting for it, here it is.

I wish I knew what it was about Star Wars; the stories, the visuals, the characters, the music.  I don’t know what it is that runs through me as soon as I see that legendary phrase appear on the screen.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

The blank, black canvas replaced by those glowing yellow words, receding into the distance amidst a John Williams created fanfare.  It grabs me, every time.  It hooks onto a part of me and my childhood, every time.

The more interaction I can get with the media, the more it pulls at me.  That’s why I love the various video games that have come out for Star Wars over the years (yes, even the bad ones).  Each one of those either let me adventure as one of my heroes, or allowed me to create one and join in on the epic space opera.

I wish I could explain what it is.  Is it reliving my childhood?  Is it a wish for adventure?  Is it a reliving of something I’ve just “bought into”?  I’ll be the first to admit that I give Lucasfilm way more leeway than they likely should be getting from me, or anyone for that matter.  I don’t know why, but they’ve got me.  Hook, Line, and Sinker.  I am their target audience, and they should just hook up a vacuum cleaner to my wallet, simply to cut out the middle man.

Squadron 11-11-11

It’s been about two weeks since I was finally able to get a taste of that delicious interactive narcotic that is Star Wars, The Old Republic.  For those who have been living under a rock for the past 3 years, or simply trying to ignore me, SWTOR is set about 3,700 years before the Original Trilogy of Films.  It is the descendant of Bioware’s previous jaunts into the Old Republic era, Knights of the Old Republic, and Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords.  It takes place in a time where the Sith Empire has returned, beat up the Republic, settled for an armistice, and now appears to be on the brink of ignoring that peace treaty. 

You play a Jedi, or a Republic Trooper, or a Smuggler, or a Sith, or an Imperial Agent, or a Bounty Hunter.  There are 8 unique storylines, one for every class.  More so than every other MMO I’ve played, you almost want to be an “Alt-a-holic” and make at least one of every character to play through it just to do the storylines.  I can already tell the Jedi Knight’s storyline is going to be epic.  Like “Luke Skywalker across all three films” epic, with his own finale scene against the Emperor (…am I still taking about Luke, or the Jedi in TOR?).

Anyway, on Friday the 11th, I logged in to play.  Apparently, every Weekend Test that had come before was assigned a “Squadron Number” by Bioware.  I’m not really sure why they stopped the practice with this test, but they did.  So the community named themselves, and dubbed those testing that particular weekend as “Squadron 11-11-11”.  So with the rest of my “wingmen”, I logged into the game, went to the character creation screen, and made myself a Jedi Knight named Vyktor Khoth.

And then the screen went dark.  And the phrase appeared.  And the fanfare started.  And once again, I bought into it all.

Technical Stuff

Gameplay in TOR is about what you’d expect from a modern day MMO.  Move with the WADS keys or the mouse, look around by holding down the right mouse button.  Strafe left and right.  You’ve got your radar, and your tool bars filled with various powers and abilities, consumables and attacks.  It’s still in Beta, and I’m hoping they’ve fixed some things, like the fact that the “Follow” command wasn’t working.   Anyone who’s played City of Heroes for any length of time knows the easiest way to get to melee combat range with a mob is to “Follow” the damn thing.

Combat was smooth.  REAL smooth.  Bioware has gone nuts, making it so your character reacts and responds to various attacks.  If something with a vibrosword runs up to you and swings, your character model with drop into a guard and try to parry the thing.  A series of attacks between you and the opponent reveal a beautiful dance of strikes, parries, and counter-attacks.

Powers are fun and balanced.  You feel like a hero, being able to take on multiple opponents at a time, but is still challenging.  Companions are a huge bonus in this game; after level 8 you get to have one of 5 companions follow you around, helping you our in areas you're deficient.  You can play and level a healer or a tank easily (or easier) in this game becuase your companion could be a tank, protecting you from harm, or a Damage machine, pumping out lightsaber attacks or blaster fire to help take out your opponets.

Meh, I could go on about the Tech stuff for a while...but I won't.


What gets me about TOR is that the storyline is compelling, and it matters.  In previous MMOs, you talk to quest givers, get the plot dump on why you're going off the kill Lord High MucketyMuck, or gather 15 reagents for the Potion of Awesome Stabbing, but that's it.  In TOR, you engage in dialouge; fully voiced from both the NPC's perspective and the PC's perspective.  During every interaction you generally have 3-8 chances to choose your response, and your response matters.  Your choice could earn you progress along the Dark or Light side paths, improve or worsen your relationship with the NPC (or your own companions).

It helps with the immersion.  The ability to "buy in" to the Star Wars experience.  You really get a sense that your choices matter, and that the story is truely influenced by what you do and say, even if it's only an illusion.  I'm sure that if I roll-up a bunch of Jedi Knights over the time I'm playing this game, I'll be able to see that my choices in my main quest dialouge don't really matter all that much with how the story unfolds.  But that's well in the future, this is now when the game's all shinney and new and full of awe.

The Last Squadron

I mentioned the whole squadron-thing the Beta Testers have had.  This coming weekend represents the last Beta Test Weekend for The Old Republic.  After Monday the 28th, it's on to polish, refine, and set up for the big Early Start weekend, beginning on December 15th.  I've got whatever time I can squeeze in from Friday the 25th until sometime late on Monday the 28th to absorb all the excitement, and play experience, until the official launch on December 15th. 

It's crazy; it feels like Bioware put visual narcotics in their game.  I can't get enough of it.  I've always considered my biggest Sin was Gluttony, and no, not because I'm an over-weight nerd (although that's a related factor).  I want to overload my senses, I want to take in so much I'm full, and then I want to take in more.  I want my cravings satisfied, and it seems like they never can be.

That is certainly the case with The Old Republic.

I'm not going to quit my job to play all the day until my money runs out.  I'm not going to neglect my responsibilities as an adult, nor my RPGs, my hobbies, and especially not my fiancee.  What I am going to do is try to take in all I can of The Old Republic, when I can, and as often as possible.

I'll be doing that this weekend, getting in all the TOR I can.  If you're playing this weekend, or any time after the 15th, drop me a line.  I'll let you know what server I'm on.

And as my buddy likes to say, "See you with a name over your head".

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Longshot: Go Big or Go Home

I'm returning to discussing the development of a new Star Wars Campaign, Another Longshot.  For those who may not know, this is a sequel campaign to one I ran back in 2005.  Ending in 2007 a few months before one of the players moved to Georgia on "temporary exile", the game had simply intended to be a "welcome back!" reward for when his life-choice responsibilities finished.  It's slowly growing beyond that, and it's not even slated to get on the table until the summer of 2013*.

Histroy Lessons

The original Longshot Game, run in the previous Revised Core Rules for D20 Star Wars, took place in the Rebellion Era.  It centered around a doomed-but-hopeful mission for the Rebel Alliance to steal an old, moth-balled Venator-Star Destroyer.  This particular ship was part of General Kenobi's Open Circle Fleet, bring it to Mon Cala, and have the Mon Cala shipyards restore it to fighting condition, along with it's original paint job.  The ship would then serve as a symbol from the Republic Era, and as an ambassadorial ship to travel the Outer Rim gathering support for the Rebel Alliance (and the New Republic after the Rebels won at Endor).

Most of the PCs were fighter pilots in some capacity (some were better than others), flying a variety of Alliance fightercraft.  The initial attack on the shipyard went belly-up the moment the ships jumped into the system.  The Corellian Corvette that was carrying the command staff and crew for the Venator blew up due upon arrival dueto sabotage.  The PC's fighter carrier suffered a similar fate mid-way through the raid.  The shipyard was well defended, much more than anticipated, with a Victory II Star Destroyer maintaining watch over the battle and swarms of TIE Fighters coming out of the woodwork.  Somehow, the PCs were able to cover the escape shuttles from their dead carrier to the Venator, power it up, and jump out using the Star Destroyer's back-up hyperdrive (the main one was removed long ago).

No shields, only a back-up hyperdrive, no guns, a barely functional flight deck; it's no wonder the survivors of the raid dubbed the ship "The Longshot".  It would take the Longshot fourteen months to get to Mon Cala in it's current state, and it would have to do it on a multi-jump trek to take on food, water, and supplies at regular intervals.  The Rebel Alliance wanted them to scrap the mission, stating they didn't have any more resources to devote to this "malfed-up mission", but the PCs and the command staff NPCs were able to talk the Alliance Command into letting them try.  The PCs, more resourceful than anyone expected, were able to assist in getting the Longshot to where she needed to be.  Chased by Imperial Inquisitors, bounty hunters, and Imperial seek-and-destroy fleets, the group made it to Mon Cala sixteen months later with the Longshot mostly intact.

The campaign was kind of "Battlestar Galactica meets Hunt for Red October"; that's how I ran it anyway.  The players loved it.  They all had a grand old time and looked forward to the next session.  More so, they looked forward to playing the sequel, already promised when Alex left for Georgia. 

As with all great stories (or preceived great stories), the legend grew, and more people wanted in on the sequel to "The Longshot Campaign".

Many more people.


Names That Mean Nothing To Many

I did an inventory of the players from the original game; Andrew, Joe, Sarah T, Bob, Pete, Kimber, and Special Guest Tim W.  Then there's the list of the potential players to add to the party; Erich, Ann Marie, Heather, Sarah G**, Brett, and Jeffo.  There's also the list of the "Unknown Horde", folks who may want to be in this game but are not yet considered; Random, Tim B, Whitney, Johanna, Sam Witwer***

Given these numbers, I could be looking at a 10-16 person party.  That would be an excessive number of PCs, way more than I've ever had or even wanted to have.  I could write it like the Dawn of Defiance campaign, and run it three times.  But that means that every session is scripted, with little opportunity for PC action to send it far off the rails.  Or if I let that happen, I'm going to end up writing three campaigns that vaguely use the same antagonists and story line.  At that point I might as well cut to the chase and just write one big campaign and have two parties of 6-8 players that are all working towards the same goal, just through different means... that sounds like a kick ass campaign.

Prelude to an Epic

The thought of running a multi-party campaign in the Legacy Era of Star really throws a ton of fuel onto the Fires of Inspiration.  Two parties, one more Galactic Alliance and Jedi focused, the other more Empire-In-Exile focused.  Each operating agaisnt the Sith Empire.  Both sharing stories and objectives, actively or in-advertently helping the other team with their goals.  Big Bad Evil Guys that threaten both teams.  NPCs that like some characters but not others.  Plus, there's the opportunity for "cross-over" teams and "special guest stars".

This screams "Comic Book Super-Team", doesn't it?  Cuz that's what it certainly feels like.

Were I to plan and run a game like this, it would pretty much necessitate the ending, or indefinite hiatus, of all my other Campaigns (maybe with the exception of my Earthdawn game, because I may need a change of pace, and I don't see me being able to get that to it's conclusion in 18 months.)  I'll be running two seperate campaigns, but more than that I'll be juggling the connective tissue between the two campaigns, tracking how actions affect the overall plot, and coming up with ways to make each team affected by the failure or success of the other.

So Order 65, you're on notice.  Brothers in Arms, your time is nigh(-ish).  I will have to finish both of you by Summer Blockbuster Season, 2013.  I have a campaign to write, dammit.

 A potential PC Party...?

* "Coming Summer 2013"...sounds like a movie teaser trailer.  Note to self; make a teaser trailer for Another Longshot...
** I hold out hope against hope that I can get her back to the table.
*** Why the frell not invite him, am I right?  I hear he's got a girlfriend who lives in MA...