Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Adventures in Nottingham

One of the highlights of this summer was my trip to Derbyshire, not least of which was because on the way I stopped in Nottingham. I took the opportunity to hook-up with some friends and colleagues and managed to stop at both the GW and Mantic HQs as well.

I had first visited Lenton, where the GW office is based, in early 2005 and it was nice to see the old place again. While there I met up with the nefarious John Blanche and ex-White-Dwarf-editor-turned-games-designer-extraordinaire Jake Thornton. After a drink in Bugman's Jake and I browsed the Warhammer World museum and we gazed, rosy-tinted, at the wonderful bits of GW history on display.

Just to prove we were neutral (or, perhaps because we were spies) we then went to Mantic HQ to meet with Ronnie. We got some exciting sneak peeks at the new Warpath minis. Alas I am sworn to silence over these but all I can say is that they are stunning and you'll love them.

There's much in the Tears of Envy studio pipeline so please stay tuned for WIPs and new work over the coming weeks.

My drinking companions that afternoon. Tears of Envy wears: Standard-issue Imperial aquila, post-war German raindrop pattern rucksack and a mischievous grin. Jake Thornton, games designer, wears: D6+3 charisma and +4 strength. John Blanche, heretic and apocalyptic visionary wears: dust from the ground bones of the sinners who died in the virus-bombing of Istvaan III and he carries a necro-chronometer which he is using to calculate the time of death of his cyber mastiff.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Slow posting

Having just returned from a wonderful weekend in Derbyshire I am now prepping for the biggest reenactment event of the year. Consequently, posting will be a bit slow over the next week so please bear with me.

I leave you with some inspiring snaps I took amidst the wonderfully evocative broken stone walls of the Peak District.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Tears of Envy HQ

I thought I would take a couple of snaps of my flat in sunny (and, more recently, war-torn) Hackney in East London. It increasingly resembles a kunstkammer as, over the years, I have dragged home many bonkers things.

The full set of pictures is here.

Did you spot the sniper rifle?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Ashley Wood does Gundam!

Master of the slightly-bonkers-military, Ashley Wood, has re imagined the Zaku Gundam in the way he does best (ie. with lots of grime). It looks like this fellow is a prototype for a production toy so watch the threeA site for more info. Good luck on getting your mitts on one though - their stuff sells out within hours of going online.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Hoplite Association at Broadlands

A week or so ago myself and my fellow Ancient Greeks turned up at the Broadlands estate in Romsey to attend their annual Blast from the Past reenactment event. It was a really lovely weekend with some excellent displays and we were blessed with very fine weather. Below are a small selection of my best snaps and you can see the full album here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cookie-cutter monster movies

A quick post to say I have just read an interesting article on today's online edition of The Guardian debating the state of creature design in modern movies.

I know lots of you readers are quite well versed in this arena, many of you having done creature design as a job in one form or another.


Monday, 15 August 2011

New work from John Blanche #7

I have something very exciting to show you all following my last post on GW's Confrontation. Below is an image which John Blanche produced for the Confrontation project back in about 1990 but which, I am pretty sure, was never published. This is therefore the first time it's been seen outside the Studio.

The inspiration for this Imperial dignitary is the "mad, bad and dangerous to know" Lord Byron. The Romantic excesses and lavish lifestyle of the rebel poet are an admirable basis on which to portray a denizen of the baroque and brooding future-universe. Here the noble stands, indignant in his louche outfit in the aftermath of a scuffle with some less fortunate creature. His doublet is unbuttoned to reveal his naked chest replete with Latinate tattoo, and he is accompanied by a dwarf whose costume is both a mimic and mockery of the duelist.

They stand before a triumphal arch so huge that parts are wreathed in mist. However, this form is itself lost in an even vaster hall - a Hive world hab dome so big it might support its own micro-climate.

This piece is in Blanche's detailed-pencil style. His schedule of the time was such that producing full-colour work was less feasible so he opted for similarly grand images rendered only in monochrome. The detail for which he is known is still very much present, with the hairs on the body individually drawn and each stud on the ornate cuffs shaded.

"The busy have no time for tears."

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Riots and how Games Workshop has been involved

Some of you have kindly asked if I was OK in light of the recent London riots. The answer is; yes I am fine, but things were a bit 'hairy' for a while. I live in sunny Hackney in East London which has been one of the hot-spots for trouble over the last week. Thankfully the unrest didn't quite reach my 'manor', but shops have been barricaded shut, the roads were full of riot Police vans and the sky filled with helicopters. The Met, as the London force is known, did a pretty good job of getting to grips with things as far as I can make out and we seem to be on a much more even keel. Things aren't quite as rosy outside the capital, with riots continuing in various large cities.

There was talk briefly of sending in the Army. Although the boys in green would have been very efficient, I am glad we didn't have to resort to drafting them in. Doing so would have signaled that the streets had indeed been lost (and when this happens a government can no longer be said to be in control) and more people would almost certainly have been killed.

The second reason I post about this is because there has been a slew of wickedly funny internet mimes and mash-ups on the subject. Check out Rioters Vs Photoshop, photoshoprioter, photoshoplooter, and, the coup-de-grace, this hilarious piece from the acerbic Daily Mash about disappointed rioters returning goods to Games Workshop. As chucklesome as these are, please don't forget that people have died, lives have been ruined and futures destroyed. London is now a different place.

Pax Imperialis.

Friday, 12 August 2011

gothic punk - a John Blance tumblr

I realised the other day that I have been woefully neglectful in giving proper mention to the excellent gothic punk tumblr page. Phil (AKA phiq), The Man With The Plan, is doing a sterling job of amassing a respectable repository of JB's images. I must confess, he's been so diligent that there are many I had never seen before (especially covers from the early-to-mid eighties).

Check it out, bookmark it and get the RSS feed!

New work: Sedition Wars; Battle for Alabaster cards

In this last post on the new Battle for Alabaster game from Studio McVey I want to show you the stat cards I produced. Each model or troop type has its own card carrying details of how the character functions in the game. I wanted to make these cards look like passports or ID cards, so I was keen to include things like holograms, passport photos and the QR code. I also included feint purple overlays in the vein of those dot-matrix printed stencils one finds on produce these days.

Following from the 80s theme that emerged for the game board, I was really keen to add some retro touches to the cards as well. I think the use of the LCD screen was really successful, and the stat grid is based on vintage calculator buttons. The quote field at the bottom is modelled on the design of the face of an 80s Casio watch.

The astute amongst you will notice that these cards are generic and unfinished. Mike from Studio McVey asked for template files he could tailor as he needed.

That's all of my work for Battle for Alabaster for the moment, but following the highly successful reception it received at GenCon, Mike has big ideas for the game so you will no doubt be seeing more developments in the months to come.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sedition Wars; Battle for Alabaster reviews

A quick post to say that there's been a great response to Studio McVey's Battle for Alabaster demo at GenCon. Check out the Hopeless Gamer's brief but favourable review of the minis and the Beasts of War video below.

Tomorrow I'll post my work on the game's cards.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New work: Sedition Wars; Battle for Alabaster board

Continuing with the Battle for Alabaster week I am proud to show you the board I created for the beta rules.

This is rather a departure for me in terms of style as a result of the constraints on the job. Mike from Studio McVey wanted a board which could be printed onto a large poster (the thing is three feet long). Using bitmap artwork for such a large print would have entailed many problems, so we opted to use vectors instead. Following from this we scoped the idea of the board being less photo-realistic and more of a schematic (akin, in particular, to the blueprints we see briefly in the film Aliens). Clearly TRON: Legacy was also an inspiration, but I enjoyed working elements from vintage computer games and 80s 3D artwork into the piece too.

Mike has been dishing out copies of this floorplan at GenCon so those of you who made it there might have been lucky enough to nab a copy. I look forward to showing you the character cards next, which were similarly 80s-inspired.

In the words of Hudson, "Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen - found em!"

Monday, 8 August 2011

New work: Sedition Wars; Strain logo

Continuing with the Battle for Alabaster week I am proud to show you the logo for the new Strain faction. Mike at Studio McVey describes the Strain as an infectious organism which re-purposes both cellular and non-organic material to evolve into a more useful and deadly form:

Originally a benign nano-tech system – the Strain were created when the systems technology was merged with an ancient alien bio-organic artifact. Now it is a terrible life-form without mercy. A force of un-nature bent on mankind’s eradication.

Relying on a distributed self-governing network of creatures called exoforms, the strain preys on organic and technological systems. The sentient collective mind of the strain has become one of humanities greatest enemies. Using its grotesque exoform organisms and nano-infection as its vectors, the Strain is intent on contaminating all of human civilization and absorbing it into the Strain Construct.

The foundation of the Strain is the intelligent spore-like vector that creates them. This nano-spore can reanimate the dead, turn living hosts into new strain “constructs”, and also act as a deadly vector for infection. Without this nano-spore, the strain are crippled, unable to expand, and unable to convert the living or the dead into more Strain.

Mike wanted the Strain logo to evoke ideas of cellular activity, nexuses and DNA while not being overly organic. It actually went through several phases of development before being rendered the first time. When we both looked at the render we realised it looked a bit too reminiscent of another well-known logo, so we had to go through another couple of rounds of revision before we settled on the one you see here.

In BfA the Strain are the main enemy and have infested a basement which Vanguard troops must defend. I'll be posting the stat cards used in the game and the beta board I did over the next few days.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

New work: Sedition Wars; Battle for Alabaster week

Gen Con 2011 sees the launch of Studio McVey's beta version of their new game: Battle for Alabaster. BfA is set in their Sedition Wars universe and is a tile-based skirmish game. I have been working with Mike from the Studio to produce this title, and at this very moment he is demo-ing it to excited fans at Gen Con.

Throughout this week I'll be posting the work I've done on the project, so stay tuned.

I leave you with a still from this YouTube video where Mike gives and interview about BfA and you get a sneaky shot of the beta board I have produced for the game.

Edit: If you look there's a random line of text at the foot of the screengrab above that, at first glance, looks pretty offensive. It's actually an attempt at humor by the person who posted the video, but the magic of the written word clouds his intended irony somewhat. Go the internet!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Confrontation in Necromunda

The Hive world of Necromunda appeared fairly early on in the development of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I suspect it first emerged as one of the named recruiting worlds for the Imperial Guard. However,  the world came to prominence a couple of years later when it was chosen as the setting for the skirmish game Confrontation (not to be confused with Rackham's game of the same name). It's the background of the original GW game I want to talk about.

Confrontation was the precursor to GW's Necromunda, which is still in publication today as part of their Specialist Games range. Confrontation is a set of detailed rules published in sections in White Dwarf, beginning in 1990. Although WH40K was still in its skirmish-based fist edition, various new rules were pulling the game in the direction of mass combat. Confrontation was a response to this and focused on the creation and development of small "gangs" of individual fighters.

A recent re-reading confirmed to me that the descriptions of the Hive world are as evocative and original as I remember them being. All the bare bones of the background we know today is there - the towering hives with their rotting sub-structures, the ash wastes and the lucrative black market in Spook (a contraband drug). In this first incarnation the clan structure of Necromunda had not been defined ("Clan gang" was a catch-all option). Instead a broader picture of the hive emerges, with Scavvies, Brats, Techs and Mutants being given equal attention. In later editions Necromunda focussed more on the Underhive (the lawless underbelly of the city-spires) and one gets an overwhelming impression of Mad Max; Beyond Thunderdome. Confrontation, by contrast, is broader in its scope with transit tubes, shanty towns and spire penthouses being described.

The layout of the original published articles is spartan by today's standards, with little in the way of spot artwork or page borders. The few illustrations are wonderful and John Blanche's contributions really help evoke the world. I'll leave you with some of his beautiful pencil sketches from Confrontation and suggest you head over to the relevant pages on GameHobby.net to check out the background.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ian Miller - publications

Following my last post about the amazing Ian Miller I want to talk more about his published work. As I mentioned, he is immensely prolific and his images have graced hundreds of covers, so rather than attempt the Sisyphean task of cataloging his output I'll concentrate on his monographs. I'll do this in the order of my own preference.

All these books can be picked up from ebay or second hand on Amazon for reasonable prices. Alas I have never read The Luck in the Head, so it does not appear in this list.

Ratspike - This is a join monograph with the awesome dystopian tag-team that is Blanche and Miller. This is my favourite collection of Miller's work for three reasons; he gives an excellent introduction to himself (describing his upbringing and influences), the range of work reproduced is huge and because the print quality is really good. This is a must for any Miller collector.

The City - This is based on a James Herbert story and takes the form of a graphic novel. It follows the journey of a dour infantryman as he returns to the ruins of his home in a search for his family. It is an utterly depressing and unpleasant tale and Miller's work is entirely apt. His Genius is immediately evident when one flicks through the pages - the colour scheme of the story changes as it progresses. A must-have for Miller fans.

Secret Art - I only got a copy of this recently. It was published by Roger Dean's Dragon's Dream company and is an excellent compilation of Miller's work from the 70s. In the manner of the day the pictures are accompanied by a verse by Barry King, which I must confess I have not had the stamina to read. The reason why this is number three is the print quality. Admittedly my copy is nearly 30 years old, but the images are somewhat blurry and this is not kind to Miller's tight, detailed style.

Green Dog Trumpet (and other stories) - This is a weird one. It's another Dragon's Dream publication and was originally intended to have accompanying text. In the end this narrative was stripped out and one is left with the distinct impression one is missing something. Again, the print quality isn't great and the plates are rather small on the pages (no doubt they were reduced to accommodate the story which was pulled). It's beautiful but is somewhat marred.

The Guide to Fantasy Art Techniques - Not a monograph as such but this compilation features interviews with fantasy artists about their techniques and there is a fascinating section on Mr Miller. It was edited by Martyn Dean (Roger's brother) and published by Paper Tiger (the successor to Dragon's Dream). Any fan of Miller will find this invaluable. The fact it covers other artists like Jim Burns, Patrick Woodroffe, Syd Mead and Chris Foss makes it a must-have.