This is this year's A Band Apart video for the ATIV Tournament. You can view last year's video at this link if you'd like.

The inspiration for this years video came from a Stay Frosty propaganda wallpaper I did back in 2013.

Stay Frosty "Anarchy" Wallpaper

Which in turn was inspired by a Lucifer's Hammer wallpaper I did back in 2011, which was sorta kinda based on an ad I did that ran in EON Magazine back in 2010. So yeah, the idea/concept/inspiration goes back a long way.

But the real idea was to encapsulate the spirit of adventure and daring-do that our entire Alliance shows each and every day. Plus our sense of humor, or my sense of humor, however that works. All that matters is that it turned out good.

I think. Who knows. At least it's done now.

Rixx in Words

Rixx In Words Portrait

This is a portrait of Rixx based on his avatar using only words. I've been wanting to do one of these for a long time, but I wasn't 100% sure how to do it. So I spent the last two days watching a few tutorials and seeing how other people make them. Thing is, most of the work I watched was frankly horrible. There are some really cheesy effects out there that people are passing off. Ultimately there is no way to make this easy, it takes a lot of time and effort to get the right effect.

To start with I had to make a "word cloud" based on the contours of the portrait. The idea is to use words to not only outline the features of the face, but also to build contours, highlights, etc. This process took me about 6hrs in total.

Here is the final word cloud.

Once that was finished the rest was easy. (!) You take the portrait and make a grayscale version and then lightly blur it and then save it as your displacement map. Then you can re-apply it Photoshop using the Distort > Displacement filter, which grabs the grayscale and applies it to the image. After that its only a matter of making the image look the way you want using layer effects, lighting, etc.

All in all I'm very happy with the results. If I ever do something like this again I'd build the word cloud in Illustrator instead of photoshop, I think it would take less time.


Steel City Eve: Aftermath

A Band Apart member Grimmash hand-made me a hardcover of Empyrian Chronicles!!
This past Saturday was the first annual Steel City Eve event here in Pittsburgh. Which also happened to coincide with my own 50th birthday. My wife and I have been planning the event since about this time last year, so its been gestating for a long time. Pretty much since we got back from Fanfest to be honest. Would people come to an Eve event in Pittsburgh? We had no clue. But we went ahead and did it anyway.

The week leading up to the event started to feel a tad tense, we started getting a lot of last minute cancellations. Work schedules, family events, changes in plans, all very normal stuff. But they really started to add up. At the very least we figured it'd be us hanging out all day at the Park. And how bad would that be? We need not have worried. After everything we had 25 Eve peeps show up and I'm not counting Narook's cute little 10 month old. So 25 and a 1/2 maybe?  It was mostly my fellow fleet mates from A Band Apart, but we also had a Pandemic Horde pilot and a high-sec mission runner and a few others show up. Morg came in from St. Louis! David and his brother drove their motorcycles down from western New York. The Space Princess came all the way from New Jersey. And Narook brought his family in from Cincinnati. Plus everyone from the Pittsburgh region. So all in all it was a great turnout for our first event.

We decided early on to try and keep things as low-key as possible. We rented a building at North Park for the entire day. An all-day rental isn't very expensive and it makes for an easy set-up. Otherwise it was just food and items for the Swag Bags. I had posters and stickers made, but we also included some EveBet codes donated by EveBet, and 20 Bhaalgorns donated by Eve-NT. I also included some Giant Ideas easter-island pens left over from my agency closing. I found an entire box of them while we were moving. And CCP Guard was nice enough to send us some fab CCP loots to give away! All-in-all we spent right around $400 for everything. Lots of planning and thought went into it, but we kept our budget. We're pretty proud of that.

We are going to be hosting the event again next year, so go ahead and start making plans to be there!

With the attendance and the cancellations we think we can expect about 50 people, which is pretty amazing. So next year's event will be even better and we already have ideas along those lines. I liked the concept of having the event in the Park and just hanging out all day together. It made things very relaxed and enjoyable. We had a lot of time for great conversations and getting to know each other, so I believe we'll keep that idea going forward.

Thanks to everyone that came and for making it a very special day. We hope to see you all again next year!!

Keep the courage.

Full Metal Valkyrie

Full Metal Valkyrie Poster
Click to embiggen

Just having some fun with helmets.

Some people seem to be struggling with this one. First of all this is not a recreation of the famous Full Metal Jacket movie poster. Recently another artist (Orlando Arocena) did two poster recreations for Star Wars Rogue One that are very, very good. But they were recreations and tried to capture the exact spirit of the original posters from the Stanley Kubrick film. I could have gone in that direction, but considering that he had already done it, it felt like I would be copying.

So instead I decided to do an original version using the iconic film posters as inspiration. As anyone who has been following me knows, I've been using the Valkyrie helmet recently in other pieces. Including the recent Avatar that won the forum contest. I think it is extremely beautiful and iconic. So it seemed like a natural place to start. So I painted one. For me, that was really the point of this exercise. But I also wanted to create a poster with the image and I'd had the Full Metal Jacket idea in my head for about three months now. So I created my own original poster intentionally using iconic FMJ elements, like the font, "Born" helmet scrawl, and peace sign, but also incorporating new elements as well.

It is certainly supposed to remind you of Full Metal Jacket. But it is, I believe, also able to live on its own merits. As always, it is art, so feel free to have your own opinions about it. The intentions of the artist are only one interpretation. Once loosed into the world, art takes on its own numerous meanings.

Steel City Eve: This Saturday

In only a few short days my wife and I will be hosting our first ever Eve meet. Steel City Eve will be an all day gathering at beautiful North Park here in Pittsburgh. We've never done anything like this before, at least with Eve. In the past I've had several employee events and I've certainly helped to create more than a dozen charity events, client events, and even one cross-country motorcycle event - but I only imagined and directed those. For each of them there was a larger team involved. This sucker is all us.

We have no idea what we are doing. And we knew that when we made the decision to do it last year. So we've tried to keep it simple stupid. Since we have no idea how many people may or may not show up, we avoided renting a place that would require some knowledge about numbers. The building at North Park can easily handle several hundred people if need be, but also be a great spot for a dozen people to hang out. There are also lots of activities in the Park itself, so we're not on the hook to provide abundant entertainment. We can essentially let the event run itself.

Which doesn't mean we don't have things to do. CCP Guard was good enough to provide some juicy Eve swag and I've thrown in a few pieces of my own. In addition I created a Limited Edition poster (see the header) that the first 50 attendees will be getting their hands on. As well as a few surprises I'm not going to mention ahead of time. I wanted everyone that attended to have something to take away from the event. If we have more than 50 attend? Well then, they can take their chances in the swag raffle.

Mostly though, we just wanted a great day hanging out with our Eve friends. Hopefully the weather will cooperate (looking good so far!) and give us a beautiful Summer day at the Park.

The only criteria for success is that everyone have a good time. If it ends up being me and a handful of Eve nerds hanging out and getting drunk and playing horseshoes for twelve hours - then so be it.

Its my birthday after all.

No Man's Sky: First Days

I got the PS4 version of No Man's Sky on Wednesday and have been playing it off and on since. I didn't wait for the PC version because I don't own a PC. Like many people it seems like I've been waiting an eternity to get my hands on this game. Unlike many people, judging by some of the early reactions, my own expectations seem to have been based more in reality than fantasy. I'm not sure why people got themselves worked up into a frenzy, I thought the trailers and promotional propaganda made the game seem exactly like what was delivered.

Either way, its here now and we can all judge for ourselves. My thoughts after three days and about ten or twelve hours is about 75% WOW!! and 25% "Why won't that thing stop beeping at me!?!"  No Man's Sky is incredible and the procedurally generated star systems, planets and life forms are awe inspiring works of math within a naturally confined set of invisible walls. There are limits. And some of those limits can be a tad repetitive from time to time. But who cares? There are a quintillion worlds to explore!

Hello Games has promised to keep developing NMS and releasing updates along the way. I hope they do. Some of the game-play is a tad annoying at times. You are under constant warnings about something or other, even when you are not in any immediate danger. Things beep, whistle, and warn a LOT in this game. There should be some way to set your own limits on when you want to be warned of danger. It also annoys me that the Space Station office is on the second floor of the Space Station! This is a minor annoyance at first, but dock in twenty different stations and see how you feel about having to run up there every time.

I saved someone from Pirates once. Which is funny. I also died to Pirates once, which was also funny. I got almost all my stuff back. Which was nice. So far combat in NMS is mostly of the RUN AWAY variety, but maybe that gets better once you get your hands on much better ships. I'm still working on that. Although I do have much better guns and a much better suit now.

NMS is a relaxing game. It takes some time to get your head wrapped around the non-competitive nature of it. It isn't about beating anything. It is all about exploring and enjoying the universe. And survival. But don't worry so much about survival, there is always another thing around the corner. NMS packs a lot of things for you. So you don't have to worry so much. After you travel a bit you'll start to understand. This isn't about packing as much as you can, but about slowly learning what you need to pack. And when.

I'm loving it. And I can see myself returning to it again and again. But it isn't the answer to life's mysteries. It is yet another big step in gaming. And for that, the developers deserve all the success they will be getting from this game.

Those are my thoughts after a few days. I'll check in again later and let you know how its going.

Rogue One Trailer

Sign me up!

Steel City Eve - Pittsburgh Player Meet

On August 20th my wife and I will be hosting the first ever Steel City Eve player meet here in often beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And you are invited to attend! You can find all the details over on our Eve Meet page: HERE

We've never done this before, so we decided to make it as easy on ourselves as possible. We've rented a large pavilion in North Park that can serve rain or shine. There is plenty to do in the Park, from boating, zip-lines, tennis, and much more. We have the pavilion all day and a liquor license. The event is intended to be a relaxing, day long hang out with Eve players. Suitable for the entire family. We don't have any scheduled events, or presentations, or notable devs showing up. This is our first event and hopefully won't be our last. And heck, I'll be there! What more do you need?

I do have a nice selection of Eve swag from CCP Guard to give away. And I've made some one-of-a-kind pieces to make the day even more better. The image above is a Limited Edition Event Poster and only 50 of them will ever be made. They, and a few other surprises, will be given out to the first fifty attendees. And yes, I will be around to sign yours if you'd like.

If you live in the area consider stopping by for a bit, or hanging out with us all day. We'll have food, games, and you can bring whatever drinks you'd like. Or whoever. Or whatever. The idea is to relax and enjoy some good company.

We hope to see you there.

PS: It is also my 50th birthday!

Suicide Squad: When Bad Ain't Bad

There are some films that are good because they are plainly bad. These are the guilty pleasure films that are obviously horrible, but in a good way. Suicide Squad is not one of those. It is another kind of movie. A good movie that is pretty bad. Not horrible. Not as bad as many critics have made it out to be. Flawed would be a much better word for it. But also very good at the same time.

I've been a movie critic before, I used to be on the Rotten Tomatoes list. But I don't consider myself a movie critic. I'm a fan of film. A consumer of film. And a person that knows a lot about how films are made. I'm also a reader of film history. Really, I like a good story well told. To me this is what makes a good film, or television series, or anything, good or bad. The story and how it is told. Either it works or it doesn't. Those things are all easy to say, but let's be honest here, there is a lot of gray area. Suicide Squad is full of gray areas.

Suicide Squad needed to be about 15 minutes shorter. It needed about 2 less musical cues. It needed two less scenes about motivation and things in people's necks. It needed a very good editor for the last thirty minutes (The editing at the beginning is not the same as the editing at the end). It needed Amanda Waller to NOT shoot the people in the control room. (That was unnecessary and wanton in my opinion, we already established she was a badass - now she's a murderer?) And I would have cut that scene of Deadshot finding the folder. Didn't need it. Frankly, other than that, I liked Suicide Squad a lot.

Critics are wrong about a lot of things. Turns out Joker is in this movie more than ten minutes. Turns out him being in the movie isn't just 'whatever', but he is important and represents an entire thru-line all the way thru the movie. That was an annoying realization after reading and listening to so many complaints about the Joker. He's fine. He is no Heath Ledger, but he is miles better than Jack or any other Joker who isn't animated. (Mark Rules!) The introductions and back story elements are well done and placed throughout the film. The level of humor is good. Its no GoTG, but its not supposed to be. The audience I saw it with laughed at all the funny bits. Another thing I heard a lot of? There are no consequences? Tell that to Slipknot.

Ok the bad guys Brother was pretty terrible. And I'm as tired as everyone else regarding lights shooting up into the sky and stuff revolving around the clouds as your big ending CGI fest. Ghostbusters did it waaaaay back, so we should probably stop now. Come up with something else please. Stop being lazy.

Harley is great. Will Smith is very good and not very Will Smithy. Amanda Waller is awesome, except for that murder spree thing. And everyone else does ok with what they have. Its an ensemble piece, not everyone is going to get equal time. Nor should they.

I tweeted this after seeing it, I don't want DC making Marvel movies. Marvel already does that. I want DC to find their own voice and make DC movies. I believe there is room in this world for many, many interpretations and myths surrounding the super-hero genre. Just like in real old fashioned comic books! And I think Suicide Squad, while certainly not perfect, is a big step in that direction. I hope people will see it and decide for themselves. I don't understand the pile on this time, this is not the same thing as Batman V Supes. Its not even close.

I sincerely hope that Wonder Woman is an even bigger step in the right direction.

Until then, we have Doctor Strange to look forward to.

What a time to be alive!

Bulletin Videos

These in-game bulletin board videos are a great idea. This is one I just finished yesterday for A Band Apart, I also did one for Stay Frosty (which is already up and running) as well as the Hat Emporium one. All in all I've created nine of them for various organizations around New Eden. I think they add a "lived-in" and dynamic extra little something to the hangar.

+1 CCP.