Monday, December 12, 2011

fan art for Hamlet of the Elitist Jerks druid forums. Thanks for writing up all the guides this and last expansion. click the image for full view.

Also, Theocracy's new album came out last month, and it's pretty awesome. Some of the songs I don't quite agree with theologically however, but that's another story.
new powermetal album!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blizzcon 2011 Retrospective

Live in concert!

For being my first time attending a Blizzcon live, it is certainly the best Blizzcon for me to have attended. I had watched the via virtual ticket last year, and even then, it was a blast, with notable exception of there being no TAFKAL80ETC show at the closing ceremony. In preparation for this year's event, I purchased another virtual ticket, in addition to the charity dinner ticket, knowing that there would be so many things to see at this huge event. To see it all is impossible, but having the virtual ticket at least gave me VODs of critical panels and stage replays that I would have had to cut out in order to glean as much information and wisdom from the legendary Artist's Stage.

My trip began Thursday morning in the East Coast, in morning hustle and bustle of Richmond, Virginia. Steel birds ferried me from Richmond's tiny airport to Dallas's megalith, and again to LAX, where the transit arteries were ever clogged. My buddy Dan Zhang drove up from San Diego to meet me at the airport, but was delayed by the traffic. We made it to the convention center by around 7:15PM PDT. I was almost an hour late for the beginning of the charity dinner, and Dan had to wait out a huge queue for the standard badge pick-up.

The charity dinner was rather interesting in the most positive way. They had accidentally printed two badges for me (I wish I had known, I would've let my friend have that extra badge, haha) and when I entered the ballroom, I met none other than Greg Street, lead systems designer of WoW, at the cheese and crackers table. Some of the really cool Blizzard employees I got to meet with that night include Chris Sigaty (producer on SC2, also guitarist for the Chieftains), Dustin Browder (lead designer SC2), Mike Morhaime (President, co-founder), Frank Pearce (co-founder, and VP of executive production), John "JP" Polidora (Artist, creative development), Wendy Vetter (lead dungeon artist, WoW), and Chris Metzen (VP, Creative development). I said to Chris Metzen, "Hey I'm really looking forward to the Sons of the Storm signing tomorrow," to which he replied, "Oh cool, by the way when is that?"

"10:30," I answered, to which he then said "Oh damn, I have a panel at that time, no wonder they didn't invite me to the signing."

Chris Sigaty, Dustin Browder, JP Polidora, and Wendy Vetter gave some really good insight as far as breaking into the industry, and especially at Blizzard. Had a lot of fun speaking with Chris Sigaty also on the topic of heavy metal (I mentioned to both him and Mr. Morhaime that I looked forward to their performance on Saturday). I conferred with Dustin Browder on the issue of GOMTvT and also had a geek out session with him on the GSL October Finals and also the Global Invitational. Mr. Browder informed me that speaking with Day9, Tasteless, and Artosis, they had all said that IM_MVP was going to win, but reminded him that SlayerS_MMA had a thin chance, having beaten MVP in the GSPA finals.

Dan and I stayed over at his old RA's place for Thurs-Friday nights. Cool tidbit here is that his old RA's roommate is in fact a Blizzard employee, on the web team.

Day 1 begins with us scoping out the different stages, and deciding mostly to camp at the RTS stage and Artists' Stage. I took some pictures of the pro-gamers and even snagged one with Day9. I watched the opening ceremonies on the screen from the RTS stage. Pandaria was very exciting to me, as a long time Warcraft and Samwise fan familiar with the Pandaren, and the new trailers for Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm was very engrossing as well. I spent most of the day in Hall A, where the Developer stage and Artists Stage were located, easily bouncing back and forth between the two. It was very exciting to see the new units for HotS, the Blizzard Art Gallery, and to see Luke Mancini and Samwise Didier do live art demos. I even caught a picture of Rene Koiter costumed as Jim Raynor! I gave Samwise a print of my Elite Tauren Chieftains fan art, and he seemed to really like it.

The GSL October Finals that night was spectacular. I happened to sit right infront of renowned photographer Zemotion at the front row on the floor, where we were within 10 feet of Tastosis! It was hard getting out of the crowd when my friend called me to leave. Cheers to MMA for taking the win!

Day 2 began with us getting to the convention center late, because our host woke up a little too tired, and also my friend was not interested in most of the morning panels/matches. I missed the Sons of the Storm signing, so I planned out to try and stalk each individual Son to get their signatures (I had gotten Samwise's the day before, along with Luke Mancini's). At the WoW art panel, I got to meet Wendy Vetter again, Gary Platner (lead environment/level designer), and also Mark Gibbons (aka the Red Knuckle). Alas, no silver sharpie on hand, so I was unable to get his signature. By the end of the main activities of that day, I had managed to get Glenn Rane, Peter Lee, and John "JP" Polidora's (whom I had met at the charity dinner) signatures. I missed the Invitational finals, due to my quest to get signatures, and also due to my attendance at the realm meeting area (where I did get to meet long time internet comrades Vigaro, as well as an old guildmember from over 6 years ago).

The personal highlight of the event however, was being able to see TAFKAL80ETC-- i mean L90ETC, live in concert. To be honest, I am not as familiar with Foo Fighters as maybe 90% of the people filling the main stage for the closing ceremonies were. But I was more than geeked out over Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. Halfway through their set, two drunk dudes helped me get to the front of the section of the standing pit, even almost picking fights to do so. They declared me "hardcore" and "deserving" of a front row standing spot because I was actively fist pumping and singing loudly along to all of the songs. I am very grateful to these two drunk guys, because I have some awesome pics to show for it. They're mostly of Samwise though.

full picture gallery can be found here

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

work in progress. He's not wielding a sword, it's just a guideline for the rest of his [Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings].

it's Hamlet from the Mal'Ganis US server, known for his awesome guides on how to play Balance and Restoration Druids on the Elitist Jerks forum boards.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

so much problems with the drawing to get fixed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jason Momoa is the Cimmerian

Jason Momoa is Conan the barbarian, but damn it all to Crom's gates because the rest of the actors were not as convincing.

I rolled into the movie theater 10 minutes late, trying to catch the matinee showing, one of the two only show times today for this movie. I got in the theater just as the last preview was ending, to find that no one else was in the theater. As far as movie going experiences go, this was probably the best it gets as far as seating is concerned. Oh I got to scream and holler at the screen all I wanted to with no one to stop me.

As a fan of the franchise, I was rather eager to go see the movie, either to see it succeed or to lament its failure. I will thus analyze the film from a couple of angles, the first, as a fan of Robert E. Howard's northron barbarian.

When it comes to films sticking close to source material, this one comes pretty close, making full use of it's Restricted rating. There was a gratuitous amount of violence and blood, and other R-rated material, including topless wenches and a sex scene. In the context of Conan, it made sense to me-- it was there in the literature, it was there in the comics, and it was there in Frazetta's paintings. I geeked out so hard at the beginning, almost saying the words along with the narrator, "born in battle" (actually I wanted to say "born on the battlefield," but I'll get on this later). Momoa's performance as the dark haired sullen-eyed Cimmerian was visually the best representation of the barbarian, a lot closer to the Frazetta paintings of Conan than ol' Ahnold. For the most part they even got most of Conan's rough mannerisms right.

To my delight, they even made reference to one of Conan's actual short stories and accomplishments in the first bar scene (the reference was to the Tower of the Elephant).

The costumer-makers, leatherworkers, carpenters, set designers, and make-up artists did an excellent job bringing Hyboria to life. The concept artists and matte-painters did excellent work, as they should have (honestly there is no lack of reference for this franchise). Combat choreography was pretty excellent too. For the most part, the compositing was unnoticeable except for a few instances where the camera panning made it pretty clear there was a green screen with a matte painting. The one fight scene with the sand warriors was rather well done (I had anticipated this scene being cheesy having seen a clip of it in the previews) but I felt that the segment dragged on too long.

That was the good. Now the bad:

The acting: Jason Momoa and Stephen Lang aside, everyone else was just terrible (one other exception is Bob Sapp, who plays Conan's friend/fellow pirate) . I don't believe this to be the actors' fault directly, as I believe the casting director and the scriptwriter also share some blame. Hyboria should have been populated by more people with accents. In this sense, I think Gerrard Butler would've made for a better choice for the role of Conan's father. Ron Perlman, who did have that role, didn't do a bad job, but the fact that he delivered all his lines in plain American English (this goes for a lot of the other actors) really killed the mood for me. The Zingaran thief who helps Conan used an accent, but it was obviously a faked accent (which made it annoying to listen to). Bob Sapp, and some of the minor villains did this accent thing pretty well.

It also did not help the actors that some lines of dialogue were just written terribly.

Nichols, who played Tamara, probably had to deliver some of the worst lines in the movie, and it was pretty dry and unconvincing (imo they probably should've gotten Gemma Arterton to play this character). From an art direction standpoint, they probably could've just left Nichol have her natural blond hair for her character in the movie, as this would've been a good visual tag for her character to stand out from the rest. And for Hyborian lore nerds, they could've re-written the script to have her come from Aquilonia instead of Hyrkania, which I can't recall if Hyrkanian women had blonde or dark hair. Also despite the awesome matte-painting at the end, Hyrkania looked like an abandoned civilization as opposed to a thriving city.

Now for the main plot itself, it did feel like something out of Conan's adventures. But something felt off, probably the character of Tamara having no clue what's going on-- usually the women in Conan stories are rather knowledgeable about the sorcery they have to fight or at least why they're being chased after. I understand that the reason they rewrote most of his origin story (as far as the village getting sacked) was so they could set up the revenge scheme against Khalar Zym. But then why would they even have the narrator mention Venarium for the time skip? He originally sacked Venarium right before he left his village, so there's a continuity issue here. (I'd like to point out here that I also found the narrator's delivery to be sub-par and emotionless after the initial intro).

There was one scene where the girl was getting chased, and Conan was not far behind the rider chasing the girl--- I was yelling at the screen for Conan to just throw his sword into the rider, but alas, no impaling sword. However, Conan later strapped the villain's lackey into a catapult (reminiscent of this to "deliver" a message-- and while the compositing for that was pretty bad, I felt that the gesture was pure Conan-the-Barbarian, and for that I cheered.

One last highlight of the film for me was final sword fight between Conan and Khalar Zym-- not sure how much Momoa did without doubles in this last scene, but he definitely looked good dual-wielding broadswords so fluidly.

Ending credits weren't particularly designed enough, and felt very bland for a movie like this. The other things that bothered me were certain camera shots that just felt mega-cheesy (weird zoom-ins and unsmooth panning).

Overall i found the movie enjoyable despite its shortcomings, and it definitely felt like the Conan franchise to me. However, its flaws will probably end up being the director's bane since opening weekend reports are showing that it isn't recouping all the costs to make and market the movie :(
Maybe it'll do better once it goes to DVD and Netflix insta-queue.