Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dwarf Organ Gun

Good day Fellow Fantasy Wargammers!

In spite of all the big hoohas about Games Workshop, I shall continue to feature all my fantasy miniatures I collect and paint up. I won't deny that in terms of wargaming, Warhammer is still up there and it is a prominent game in my local community. As such, I will continue to paint what miniatures I already have and expand my 4 armies to the minimum pointage of 2k to play. This is comparatively smaller to what I had planned before. However, I won't be buying directly from GW just to give myself some slight semblance of rebellion against their institution. Back to today's post, I shall be featuring my Dwarven Organ Cannon.

The Shooter of Great Balls of Fire

The Dwarf Organ Cannon is one of the reasons that compelled me to start a Dwarf army. It is a great war machine that complements the Dwarf Cannons. And with these war machines and a gun line, it would make for a great defense against the vanguard of the enemy.

One of the Three Dwarf Crew

Dwarf Loader

I am not sure, but after getting these guys, I realized that they have really huge ass muscular arms compared to the normal dwarves. I guess this is due to their constant manning of heavy machinery. And I must say, the Organ Gun is definitely a heavy machine as well as a heavy hitter.

Gunpowder and Heavy Steel.

Speaking of the Dwarf Organ Guns, when it comes to the realm of fantasy, more often than not, we see that Dwarves have the innate skills and traits to make superior weaponry, have mastery of gunpowder and the ability to develop high technology. This is also the case when it comes to the Warhammer World. (E.g Organ Gun, Gyrocopter, Dwarven Axe Thrower and more) However, much to my annoyance of the Warhammer World, The Empire and the College of Engineers seem to have one up against the Dwarves in technological research. Their masterpiece being the Steamtank, which is a horribly powerful war machine. Oh well, but then again, I guess the Human race innate ability is to be a Jack of all trades and have mastery over some skills.

Manly Dwarf is Manly.

Just look at his biceps and triceps.

Speaking of Dwarves, I believe many of you Fantasy fans out there have already watch the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Any opinions on the movie? I must say that I was quite happy when they were making the Hobbit as it showed more of the Dwarves than they did in Lord of the Rings. However, many of the dwarves in the party didn't have the manly Dwarf beard that they usually have.

We could argue that they are very young dwarves but Thorin Oakenshield's Beard was less than glowering and he is the King's Grandson. While my knowledge on the Hobbit is rusty and my knowledge of all the dwarves in the Hobbit adventure party horrifyingly rudimentary, it puzzles me that the Heir to Erebor has an embarrassingly short beard by Dwarven standards. So much so that, I am sure Gimli would frown upon too. The only acceptable beards by dwarven standard to me are Balin's and Dwalin's. (Pictured below from top left to right respectively)

Thankfully, I was able to get a detailed Hobbit folklore and possible explanation to Thorin's short beard in the movie from Rekyr who has a tumblr blog about these dwarves. Perhaps, you guys can give your take on the explanation too. Regardless, I still fine the lack of beards for the other dwarves rather unacceptable. :p

 However, the show was entertaining and stirring to say the least. While critics may point out that there is nothing new in terms of movie direction and the format is similar to the Lord of the Rings movie, I must retort that this is an indirect prequel to LOTR and because the audiences have been to Middle Earth, we can't apply something fresh to characters you have seen before. Furthermore, the book was way shorter than LOTR so the development of the story through the movie is surprisingly in-depth and vivid in comparison.

Finally, the Thorin's song was a real ear pleaser that display the sorrow he has and stirs one's heart for the dwarves finding a new home.

Till next post, take care fellow fantasy trekkers!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Iron Man: Extremis

Finally the long wait is over. After a gap in featuring my collectibles, I have returned. Speaking of returning, I am not sure about you, but I am totally psyched about the Iron Man 3 movie.

As such, I thought it would be quite apt to feature the Marvel Universe Iron Man Model 30 as Iron Man 3 opens for screening in THREE days time! Furthermore, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Iron Man. For those who do not know, Model 30 is also known as the Iron Man Extremis armor that was featured in the same titled comic book series.

 Iron Man Extremis (2005)

Written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Adi Granov, the Iron Man Extremis story arc was rated as one of the best modern interpretation of the Iron Man Story. Furthermore, many element of the story has been adapted into the Iron Man Movies culminating in Tony Stark having the ability to mentally command his Iron Man armor to suit him up. I am presuming that the Iron Man Mk XLII will function in a similar way to the Extremis Armor. Evidence of that can be shown on the trailer below.

When I first saw this Marvel Universe Iron Man Action Figure, I wasn't too impressed. As mentioned in my Thor post, I realized that Marvel Universe Figures are not very consistent in terms of their paint job and quality. As such, like the Thor Figure, it took me a while before I was able to find the right one. The Iron Man Extremis Armor design is one of the coolest I have seen.

Iron Man Extremis in Front of the Extremis Graphic Novel.

The Mk 30.

I would have to rate it among the top 4 I have come across. The other two being the Iron Man Movie Franchise Design, the Armor from the 1994 Season 2 Iron Man and the Bleeding Edge Armor. Regardless of my opinion, the Iron Man armors' designs have been generally catchy enough to attract many fan boys over the many decades (including me.)

The 1994 Iron Man and War Machine

Iron Man Firing a Photon Laser

 A Super Impose of my figure on the Extreme Novel.

Looking back at my first Iron Man post featuring the Iron Man Mk III from the 2nd Iron Man movie, I can't believe how much time has passed. Now here we are, three years later, anticipating the next Iron Man show. Last time round, I asked for predictions on how big a hit would the movie be and would it falter like many sequels of good movies do. However, looking at the trailer, and the things Marvel and Disney have been doing for the past 3 years, I have no doubt that I need not ask that question again.
 Power On. All systems functional.

Super Hero. Technologist. All Human

So Apparently when Iron Man dons his Armor, he is suppose to be same height as Thor. I guess this doesn't really scale up.

However, I have overheard how some exceptional few are getting tired of Iron Man but I have no doubt that these are the greatest of exceptions. What do you guys think? Are you sick of Robert Downey Jr and Iron Man?

Aside from that, in my previous Iron Man post, i was reminiscing about how I was into Marvel Heroes and had a small collection of Marvel Figures that disappeared with my growing interests in Modern Military models and Warhammer. However, as Marvel continues to sweep the movie scene, I am getting back into it and being a comic and action figure geek I once was. All these being done without compromising my other collections and collectibles. In retrospect, I got to give credit to this long running Movie Franchise. Without it, I would not have been drawn back to the Marvel Universe. I would not have gotten back to reading Iron Man Extremis or the Marvel Civil War series. I can safely say by the end of the year or so, I would have spent quite a huge amount on collectible figures from Marvel and DC. In addition to that, I will be getting various comics to read.

I can easily say that same goes for my brother from another mother, Josh. So you would be seeing a lot more of Marvel and DC collectibles soon enough. So stay tune for it!

For now, get your nerd on and enjoy Iron Man 3!!!!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Forward

Good day to all my fellow geeks and distinguished nerds,

I must apologize for my long absence. Regardless, I must thank Josh for keeping Toyconstruct updated with a few major events. I have kept up with these ongoing events that have been happening in the realm of nerds and geeks and it is great to see you readers get involved in Josh's posts. Feeling connected to the issues that have been raised, I thought I put in a forward to the current predicaments that have occurred in Games Workshop (GW) and LucasArt respectively.

As mentioned in Joshua's "GW: new Policies Kill Online Retailers" post, GW has taken highly unfavorable measures in increasing their profit margin. Furthermore, their approach on PR has caused much stir in the wargaming community. In view of Miniwargaming closing down due to the changes in GW online retailer policy, I am saddened by GW corporate actions. While I can comprehend the corporate objectives of GW in trying to achieve direct distribution to customers to increase profit margins, I cannot see how the repercussions won't affect them in the long term. PR wise, they have given themselves a negative reputation to their hardcore fan base and the wargaming community alike. I would not be exaggerating that rage is on the streets and opinions on the company are pretty negative.

One of the Many Angry Warhammer Collectors :p

While the sentiments of disappointment, anger and sadness were expressed by veterans, die-hard collectors and wargamers alike, there has been no empathy on the part of GW. It is almost as if GW has purposefully detached itself from the community. As a collector and gamer of Warhammer fantasy, I begin to notice that GW has transition from a warm community-based wargaming company into a cold profit mongering corporate identity. And while it is inevitable for companies that grow bigger to become more corporate in its organizational structure, I feel like GW has become more alienated from its customers. While GW could relate to the fellow "nerd" back in the hay days of Tabletop gaming, they seem far from it now. The feeling I get when I walk into a few GW retail shops is filled more with awkwardness and a subtle dread that you would be conned out of your money compared to before. There is a lack of sincerity in the way they connect their customers and their reasons for increasing profit margins are more ludicrous as the days go by. You can't help but think that GW has gone ape shit and are killing themselves.

The funny thing is this. I have been hearing so many disgruntled comments about GW. On top of that, there have been many calls to boycott their products. I have personally felt that in the long run, this continuous impersonal approach to their customers would be their demise. And yet, when I went into my nearest local hobby store the other day, I was shock to find that the recent release of Warriors and Daemons of Chaos Army Boos were completely sold out. And then an interesting thought went through my mind: "What if this was the way to go to sustain their company and increase their market capitalization?"

The 2 Newest Hardcover Fantasy Army Books. At an average of 65 SGD, it gives an painful extravagantly expensive after taste for two 'colour' books.

On the surface level, while we, "old timers" are grumbling about how GW has spit on the faces of their fans, they are still reaping in great profits. The army books cost 65-75 dollars (SGD). A great increase from their previous army books that ranged from 35-45 dollars (SGD). Despite the increase, they have sold out faster than I can roll the dice. The apparent demand seems to be elastic. And then, I proceeded to question myself that perhaps their corporate moves are necessary to compete in a world where video games rule kids' lives.

Don't get me wrong here. I do not condone the actions taken by GW. Neither do I have any sympathies for the way they have been and are behaving. In fact, Josh and I hardly buy from GW directly. Either we go to our local hobby store or ebay what miniature we would need. In fact, after hearing about GW online retailer policy, who is to say that GW wont change their "brick and mortar" retailer policy that could see the demise of all of the local hobby stores in my country? I am already compelled in wanting to collect a few more Warhammer Fantasy stuff before I completely cut off from buying GW minis. However, perhaps this is a necessary evil that the management in GW think they must do in order to grow as a company and get an inflow of new customers. Clearly, their target segment now is young kids with parents willing to splurge on them and keep minds occupied. There is only so much I can speculate. But the bottom line is this, if their financial books are showing growth using this tactic, nothing is going to change. We would still be seeing a trend of increase in prices from GW. I foresee that local hobby stores will eventually not be allowed to sell their products unless there are no presences of GW stores in that country. Perhaps there will be some who will boycott them (inclusive of me) but I don't think they will be pretty much affected by it. I am sure they have taken into consideration about their action and have deduced that since they hold the monopoly in this sector, they have a large enough following to lose a handful of old followers to take in a whole bunch of new ones.

"It's nothing personal, just business" is an annoying adage but it seems to ring in true in the GW business model. It is my deduction that unless Privateer Press comes in and becomes more viably competitive in terms of market capitalization, the tabletop gaming world would still be  a GW one. And if you wanna still be playing Warhammer, you would have to roll with GW's way of business. The calls for boycotts have been somewhat insignificant to say the least. Clearly, it seems GW does not give two hoots about our ramblings or our small semblance of defiance. And unless the whole community inclusive of the new target segment refuses to give GW their demand, it would fall upon deaf ears. Harsh as it may sound, "It is either get with the times or get out."

"It's nothing personal, just business", a phrase used often in the Apprentice starring Mr. Rich Douchebag, Donald Trump and made famous from the Godfather.

On another hand, the closing of LucasArts is also another example of corporate action in the interest of profitability and risk minimization. LucasArts has been famous for producing many Star Wars games that were successful. Despite these successes that have gave much enjoyment to the Star Wars Community, the recent acquisition of LucasArts by Disney lead to LucasArts being shutdown. This action was taken as it was deduced that the new business model would minimize Disney's risk while licensing the Star Wars Franchise would give Disney a broad portfolio of quality Star Wars fame and increase profits. Furthermore, as Josh stated previously, it isn't like LucasArts was producing ground-breaking popular hits like Modern Warfare 3, Bioshock and Mass Effect type of games. As such, taking into consideration development costs, Disney is shelving potential games like Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault from LucasArts. This action done to concentrate focus on making the new Star Wars Trilogy movies.

In conclusion, there are corporate decisions that are made that come in contrary to our common understanding. In my opinion though, when you begin to look at these situation from a corporate perspective, you can seem to grasp the decisions being made. Nevertheless, I along with many gamers who patronized the GW franchise do not like to be taken as mindless lapdogs that would continue to submit to GW's outrageous sales tactics. My sentiments are equally as strong as Josh on GW's corporate actions but this is but one example of the consequences of having a free market economy.

It is a scary world out there in which corporations who monopolize their industry are able to render consumers powerless from preventing horrifying profit making tactics. My only salvation is that there are still many good companies that in spite of such a business climate, emit passion for their business in a deeper way aside from the sole objective of increasing profits. Companies like Bioware, GHQ, Hot Toys and Valve base their business model on a continual connection with the community. At the same time, they are able to generate profits and have great sustainability.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Corporate Decisions...

Hey Everyone

Hope you all are doing well and the weather is starting to warm up! Winter has come and gone, and I am game for some good sunshine!

Today's post will be focused on the video-gaming world, and how corporations (to many of us) still make decisions that defy common understanding.

LucasArts's Demise

If you haven't heard, the video game arm of LucasArts has recently announced its closure after months of speculation, and all video game development has been canned. Sadly, Disney decided to close the video game studio, which messes up the development of a couple of games that lots of people were looking forward to: Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313. These games will remain in limbo and LucasArts would be limited to external licensing.

LucasArts has been around for a long long time, and have released many classics that gamers will gladly reminisce about. The Secret of Monkey Island, the TIE-Fighter/X-Wing franchise, Republic Commando, and Dark Forces are among the masterpieces this venerable studio has crafted. Granted, LucasArts has not recently released games to critical acclaim or financial success, such as the Kinect Star Wars atrocity, and The Force Unleashed II which underperformed in sales. The Knights of the Old Republic franchise was jointly created with Bioware and Obsidian, and I don't think the current MMO by Bioware will be affected by LucasArts's closing.

While I can see the logic in closing down a studio that didn't meet financial expectation, the one tidbit I find difficult to digest is this - the fate of Star Wars 1313 was always in doubt. It is sad that Star Wars 1313 is one of the casualties of this corporate shuffle, the one game that got everyone excited about, looked headed into an awesome direction, especially with the fans who have clamoured for a darker/grittier Star Wars. (Apparently, George Lucas was shown the game and thought it should focus on Boba Fett instead, which has divided opinions between Star Wars fans.)

Before we jump to the conclusion that Disney has totally mis-understood Star Wars 1313, it's worthwhile to remember that the company serves its shareholders, who are in it for their portfolio. Video-game production is an expensive gamble and it seems that CoD style FPSes are what execs like, and a game based on bounty hunting doesn't seem to hold the same mass appeal (Prey 2 has been indefinitely delayed). Plus, we have never seen what else the studio has showed to the Disney execs, which could have been horribly bad for all we know, but I find that doubtful.

My hunch is that Disney is trying to run Star Wars on its own terms with minimal risk. Disney has their own videogaming unit, but their reputation is not exactly stellar (Epic Mickey series has been a flop)...and perhaps Disney has lost stomach for more video game development, and may see external licensing as the safe option to get some profit and avoid space-station sized costs. Closing LucasArts is corporate spring cleaning, and it is sad that games of great potential have fallen victim.

External licensing is our only hope. Who knows if a reputable game developer could come around and acquire the rights to Star Wars 1313?

Xbox 720: Always Online?

I'm not a Xbox gamer, but I find recent news rather troubling.

News has emerged that the Xbox 720 would require an online connection to play, and it will automatically stop the game if the console was brought offline for more than 3 minutes. This rumored feature was "confirmed" when Adam Orth, Microsoft's Creative Director, brashly tweeted his disbelief over doubts on the always-online feature (even using #dealwithit). Microsoft has since apologized for his behavior, but have avoided dealing with the always-online issue.

Wifi and broadband have greatly expanded the digital frontier, but always online features have not been popular in the gaming world. Diablo 3 (and perhaps SimCity) is the archetype of online DRM done poorly, but still managed to sell like hot cakes and apparently still has a million regular players. As a gamer, I feel extremely uncomfortable that my ability to play a game is governed by my access to the internet, a factor that is external to my own person. Server overloads/crashes, server maintenance, internet disconnections, bandwidth issues, moving houses, router malfunction...these factors are outside of our control and should not govern if I can play a product I have bought.

Sadly, always-online gaming looks set to be the future. The sales performances of always-online games have not been disappointing, with Diablo 3 and SimCity as fine examples. Also, the sales of single-player only games have been a mixed bag. While Skyrim continues to enjoy a wide fan-base, Square Enix has experienced poor sales from Sleeping Dogs, Hitman Resolution and Tomb Raider. Although the games listed here may have succeeded/failed to reasons unrelated to online-DRM, sales figures do not suggest that having always-online will damage profits as long as mass appeal is maintained.

And again, corporations make decisions that ensure cashflow. The always-online feature would allow them to obtain a captive audience, who would be ripe to purchasing for digital services you provide exclusively through your distribution system. Also, as long as the Xbox 720 has strong video game releases and capable hardware, it is hard to see it failing just due to its internet connection requirement. (at least Microsoft won't be getting my money)

Did Microsoft wisely decide on an always-online Xbox 720? Or are we on the cusp of an event where offline gaming would prevail? Or would we see a bifurcation of the gaming audience into the online/offline groups?

Time will tell.