Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reaper Bones: Owlbear

This week's Monday Miniature is another large one:  77156 Owlbear

As I may have mentioned before, I'm not particularly keen on this figure's pose (I know owlbears are supposed to go berserk in combat, but still...).  I didn't have a strong concept in mind, so I went with a basic medium brown for the fur.  The feathers are hard to see in the pictures above, but they're a medium-dark brown, with dark brown striping (which I was pleased with the effect).  I chose black rather than a bone color for the talons and beak, and I think that worked well.  I used a lighter tan/flesh color for the wing skin/membrane, though it's hard to see the difference between it and the fur in the pictures.

I had read that owls cannot turn their eyes in their sockets (which is why they move their head so much), so I tried to keep that in mind here.  Unfortunately, the sculpt has the owlbear's head looking up, so it kind of looks odd compared to where his lower limbs seem to be aiming.  This is definitely a miniature I would have painted later rather than sooner, but thanks to the Monday Miniatures challenge I can mark it as "done"!

Next week's figure is 89004 Pathfinder Goblin Warchanter.

- M:M

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Redside: Environments

As a continuation of the Redside series of articles, I want to discuss the topic of environment.  In this case, a comparison of the zones in City of Villains to the original zones from City of Heroes.

One of the more common reasons for players preferring heroes to villains was that the environments of the Rogue Isles (where the villains were located) were much less appealing than the heroes' zones in Paragon City.  The redside zones universally had an element of urban decay (though in varying degrees), and almost all of them had a much more muted color palette than the zones found blueside.

It is fair to say that the blueside zones were much more colorful than the ones redside, though I found the latter to have much more detail and interest, as well as having a more organic design.  Simply put, it looked like a place where people lived and which had grown over time, compared to the very organized (and somewhat cookie-cutter) layout of Paragon City.  For example, there was practically nothing to differentiate Atlas Park, Galaxy City, and Steel Canyon aside from a couple of major landmarks.  By comparison, every zone in the Rogue Isles felt significantly different, as well as having its own story or theme (such as the Family civil war in Port Oakes or the trapped demon in Cap au Diable).  From the gambling strip in St. Martial to the docks of Port Oakes, the redside zones were fairly recognizable no matter where you were.  I am sure that some of this differentiation can be attributed to lessons learned during the development and subsequent live phase of City of Heroes.

With the introduction of Praetoria in the Going Rogue expansion, a newly themed area was added in the form of  a slightly futuristic utopian setting.  The color palette was relatively sterile, but was not as drab as the Rogue Isles.  The developers had returned to having more colorful zones, and even the relatively run-down areas didn't see as bland of color as those found redside.

I'm curious how the developers would have redesigned the original zones in Paragon City, given the lessons learned from later development.  Faultline had been rebuilt/redesigned, though it was a changed from a Hazard Zone to a standard City Zone so it wasn't a direct comparison (though the new version was far superior to the old).  Dark Astoria was also rebuilt, though I did not get a chance to see the new version.

I also wonder what changes (if any) would have been implemented in the Rogue Isles to make the setting more visually appealing to players.  I felt the higher level zones (Nerva Archipelago and St. Martial) were the weaker ones in City of Villains, as there seemed to be a lot of unused space.  Not to say that NPCs didn't spawn there, but rather the story or theme for the area was never really used to great extent.  I would rather have seen more content in the less-used areas of existing zones, rather than new zones added.

Overall, I think the general urban blight and bland colors of villain zones really didn't appeal to some players.  However, I found the zones to be much more thematic and to have a better overall design than a lot of the original blueside zones.  I think urban blight has a place in a villainous setting, but it probably should not be spread across all villain zones.  Give villains some variety, as more well-to-do characters would not want to live in such squalid conditions!  And while it's understandable to leave room for growth in your zones (for future content), it's important not to make an area feel like it's forgotten or strangely untouched by surrounded factors (at least not without a good reason for it).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reaper Bones: Sarcophagus

My entry for this week's Monday Miniature:  77137 Sarcophagus

I went for a fairly straightforward paint scheme for the sarcophagus.  For the bronze surfaces, I first painted them dark brown and followed up with a heavy bronze wetbrush (a step between drybrushing and standard layering).  I'm particularly pleased with the effect, and it gives the surface a slightly more aged look than a straight bronze basecoat.

I used a dark blue for the sarcophagus' liner, and a light gray for the pillow's frills and flower.  The stone surfaces are a medium gray, with a light gray drybrush (though there isn't much surface detail to pick up on the drybrushing).

Next week's miniature is 77156 Owlbear.

- M:M

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Redside: An Overlord's Thoughts on Player Villains

When NCsoft shut down City of Heroes last year, I started thinking about my time and experiences in the game over the eight or so years that I played.  With the recent success of City of Titans (its spiritual successor) on Kickstarter, the game once again returned to mind.  One aspect I always found intriguing is that after the release of City of Villains (the stand-alone expansion for City of Heroes), many players still preferred to play a hero rather than a villain. I'd like to share a few thoughts on various aspects to this in a new series of articles called "Redside".

For those who might not understand the reference, City of Heroes' UI was colored blue, while City of Villains' was colored red.  As a result, "blueside" and "redside" became shorthand for playing as a hero or a villain, since the two sides had very little crossover (except for PvP zones).

Personally, I've always been drawn to the "bad guys" in any setting.  Even as a kid, I liked Cobra more than G.I. Joe; the Decepticons more than the Autobots; Skeletor more than He-Man; and so on.  The bad guys always seem to look cooler, and they don't play by the rules (or if they do, it was by their rules).  So naturally, when City of Villains came out, I was excited!  There are very few games which allow you to play as the "bad guy" (the most obvious one that comes to mind is both the Overlord series and the Dungeon Keeper series), and City of Heroes' gameplay was fun.  My goal is to draw upon my experience with various villains and combine it with my observations in City of Villains to provide some thoughts on what worked and what didn't, and what I hope to see done in City of Titans should things come full circle and villains are once again playable.

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Ghost Widow, one of the lieutenants of the villainous faction called Arachnos in City of Villains: 

But such is the nature of villainy... to do the unthinkable, to challenge the impossible, to conquer all before you and make destiny your own.

Reaper Bones: Stone Golem

The figure for this week's Monday Miniatures is 77171 Stone Golem (which finishes up the Golem set from the Bones I Kickstarter):

I am very pleased with how this one turned out!  This was my first attempt at a more complex stone technique (granite, in this case).  Previously, almost all "stones" I have painted have been a simple gray basecoat with a lighter gray highlight.  That's both quick and effective, but somewhat bland for large stone surfaces.  Since the majority of this figure is stone, I wanted to provide a little more texture.  I started with a light-medium gray, and then stippled various grays in multiple passes to emulate the varied colors and random pattern of granite.

Since it's a stone statue, I decided not to paint the adornments separate (I envisioned them as being sculpted directly on the statue).  I thought about attempting a "glow" effect for the eyes, but I decided I wanted to emulate the look of the statue of Belial from the old computer game, "Legends of Lore: Guardians of Destiny".  In the game, the statue becomes animated but has no outward signs of magic (until it gets into combat), and I think that makes it a little more disturbing as a result.

That decided, I chose to paint the gemstones around the crown of the head to provide extra interest and draw attention toward the face.  I used an old technique that I remembered from back when I played Warhammer Fantasy (it involves painting dark, medium, and light zones and then using a white highlight to create a "gemstone" effect).  Considering this was only my second time attempting it, I thought it turned out amazingly well.  I think it goes to show how a high-quality brush with a good point can really help!

The base is pretty simple (and I'm terrible about making bases more interesting); I decided to go with an earthen brown rather than a stone gray, to prevent the miniature from blending in with the base.  I didn't want him to move like the Army Men from "Toy Story"!

Overall a rather simple miniature, but one that presented the opportunity to try a couple of techniques that I have rarely (or never) used.  If my favorite part of Monday Miniatures is seeing all different ways that people paint the same figure, my second favorite part is the challenge of painting a figure I might not have gotten to otherwise.

Next week's miniature is 77137 Sarcophagus.

- M:M

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Reaper Bones: Virina, Female Demon

This week on Monday Miniatures, we're painting 77067 Virina, Female Demon.  Here is my submission:

She definitely has a "succubus" theme going on, so I wanted to focus on that and downplay the outright-demonic aspects.  Normally I would have gone with a non-human skintone for a fiend, but I thought that a succubus needed to be more alluring so I stayed with normal tones for most of her.  While I don't yet know how to do "proper" blending, I think I managed to do a decent job with the transitions between her legs and hooves.  I kept her bestial features (wings, tail, lower legs, etc.) relatively close to the "normal" skintones, rather than going for a contrast.

Originally I was going to paint the base red or reddish-brown, to fit with a more "hellish" environment.  However, I decided to paint it gray to offset it from the warmer tones of the figure.  To keep it from being too "cold", I used a couple of coats of brown wash.

When I originally started painting the miniature, I thought she was wielding a whip.  It wasn't until I started getting the basecoat down that I realized it was a braid of hair (which explained the odd grip she has on it, which seemed too loose for a weapon).  This is another example of how sometimes you don't notice details on a figure until you get some paint on it!

Finally, for her eyes I decided to use straight black rather than painting whites and pupils.  I think it has an awesome effect of making her "alien" and driving home the fact that this is a soulless creature.  It's a little hard to see in the picture above; if I ever find some better lamps I'll upgrade my light box with some proper lighting!

Next week's figure is 77171 Stone Golem.  I'm looking forward to this one, as it will finish up my Golem set from Bones I.

- M:M

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reaper Bones: Vermin: Spiders

This week's Monday Miniatures (led by is a simple one (or two, as the case may be):  77126 Vermin: Spiders.  Thanksgiving was this week, and I've been recovering from my sickness from last weekend, so I was happy to have an "easy" week.

I went with a fairly basic color scheme, as I did not have any small spider miniatures and wanted to paint up some "stock" figures for future gaming use.  As such, I went with a brown scheme, but to keep them from being too bland I added some yellow markings to the backs.  I used a satin varnish to give them somewhat of a sheen, which unfortunately created some glare in the pictures and obscures the yellow markings.  Overall a quick job, and a very welcome figure to "recover" with.

Next week is 77067 Virina, Female Demon (77067).

- M:M