Showing posts with label Star Wars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Wars. Show all posts

Friday, January 7, 2022

Fennec Chard


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes Review

An acquaintance asked me to get in on Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and help their group of galactic rabble (aka "guild"). I've played it off and on for several months now, and I think I can safely say that thanks in large part to EA, this game has no soul.

Built on the free-to-play model, GoH to it's credit ties in closely with the Star Wars universe. Many of the classic heroes from the franchise are present; Darth Vader, Yoda, Emperor Palpatine, Luke Skywalker, the list goes on. Even the new characters from The Force Awakens and Rogue One make appearances in special limited-time game events, a trend likely to continue with future Star Wars movies.

A recent update brings in some of the iconic ships from Star Wars, including the X-Wing, TIE fighter, Star Destroyer, even the Millenium Falcon.


The characters and ships each have classes and unique abilities; tanks are damage sponges, attackers attack, support characters support, and so on. Abilities vary widely and the trick is to gather characters and ships whose abilities complement and augment each other. For example, Darth Vader, Yoda, Princess Leia, and other "legendary" characters possess so-called leadership abilities which enhance statistics or provide other benefits for your entire squad.

Some abilities are buffs that can positively affect your character or their teammates. Teebo, an ewok tank, has a percentage chance to have your characters acquire the stealth ability for a few turns. Luminara Unduli in addition to decent damage-doing potential has a potent heal ability.

Debuffs can have similar but detrimental effects, such as the Royal Guard's ability to stun a target or the irritatingly effective ability of Darth Sidious and others which prevents a character from being healed. Emperor Palpatine's lightning can deal damage to your entire squad in a single turn. 

A few exact a toll on their users, such as Talia's Water of Life ability which heals other squad mates at the cost of a percentage of her own health.

Ahsoka Tano (the plucky Jedi from the sadly unfinished
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
animated series) makes an appearance in GoH.

Gameplay involves turn-based combat with a squad of up to 6 characters you choose from among those available in your profile versus another squad controlled by the game, and battle consists of advancing through progressively challenging rounds of combat in various familiar Star Wars locales like Tatooine, the Death Star, Hoth, Endor, and others. 

Player-versus-player "arena" style combat with another character's squad is available, which really puts to the test your ability to create a squad that can handle the opposition. Helpfully prior to battle you can analyze the opposing squad's abilities and compose your squad accordingly. I really like the challenge of meshing character attributes and abilities.

Rewards in battle include in-game currency (used to train your characters, purchase and equip gear and mods (bolt-on devices which are unlocked when your character reaches level 50), arena, guild and cantina credits (used to buy stuff in the arena, guild and cantina stores, respectively) and crystals, which can be earned through completing achievements and certain battles or events, or by forking over real money.

The game, to EA's credit, is quite faithful to the Star Wars franchise. Visuals from the neon glow of light sabers to sparks as blaster bolts find their mark are wonderfully vivid and hearken to the movies. Sounds are similarly faithful, all that's missing are character voices as far as I'm concerned. Those players of Star Wars: Battlefront who appreciate its cinematic spectacle will probably be similarly pleased with this much smaller-scale game environment.

Here unfortunately is where the novelty of the game ends.  

The cantina (depicted below) is the game's lobby. The idea is that you're a patron and you play the different games at one of the various holo-tables. Every time you visit the cantina it's the same thing, time after time. The decor is dingy and the ambient light dim. The twi'lek bartender (aside from being your guide in your earliest levels as a player) has a never-ending one-sided conversation with some dude standing at the bar. Two guys perpetually smack the table as their arena combatants duke it out. A droid mounted with a tray full of drinks trundles among the tables.

Sound familiar? It reminds me of a divey Vegas casino, and the investment in time and effort unfortunately ends up being very similar to sitting at a slot machine.

EA is notorious for exploiting the free-to-play model (the mobile reboot of Dungeon Keeper is just one example). While GoH isn't as obviously greedy for cold, hard cash, it still can be tempting to shell out cash to get that juicy legendary character or ship or refresh one of the numerous time-limited events.

GoH is faithful to the Star Wars universe in some very obvious ways, but I'd argue a distinct lack of detail reveals EA's true focus is getting a crack at players' wallets. Take light sabers versus blasters. Any Jedi or Sith worth their salt could easily deflect blaster bolts, but here the I think the game developers could've gone the extra mile but don't, because there's no sophisticated light saber technique used to deflect blaster fire akin to how "real" Jedi for example do in the films. Instead of elaborate animations showcasing the art of light saber combat, you're given text messages like DEFLECTED. Ho hum!

It's like EA delivers this game and says "Hey everybody, we have Star Wars characters! We have light sabers! We have visuals and sounds from the franchise!" Superficially yes, that's true, but it could be so much more. Similar to how the rebooted Battlefront compares to its old-school predecessor, there's a lot left to be desired here in terms of gameplay.

Speaking of which, for someone who never has (and never will) plunk down cash money for crystals in this game, here's how a typical day plays out.
  1. Check mail for arena or guild or other bonuses and friend requests.
  2. Challenges / arenas. Play / sim, repeat until daily limit reached.
  3. Cantina / light / dark / mod battles. Burn through daily energy to meet daily goals.
  4. Guild raid. If available (highly dependent on guild participation), ~5 battles.
  5. Galactic war. Play until victorious or character pool decimated.
  6. Redeem credits, buy character shards, gear, mods, levels.
  7. Close to a promoting a character or completing a gear level? Spend crystals to regain energy, repeat step 3 until energy exhausted.
  8. Check achievements, redeem any available.
  9. Done.
When your player level is under 50 or so, your game day is over in under an hour or less. As currently level 81, mine takes a little over an hour, with much of that time spent putting my tablet aside and finding something more productive to do while waiting for the game's timers to reset. 

At least it isn't as maddening as the new Dungeon Keeper and that game's absurdly long build timers, but it's still sadly lacking in fun. Certainly, by design it has replayability; there's always that little psychological rush of completing a battle tier or maxing a character's level, which at least serve to motivate one to complete the daily activities. There's also satisfaction in collaborating with your guild mates to share in raid and other rewards, as well as help lower-level players fill their gear requests. Aside from these it lacks substance, and for myself and I'd wager many other Star Wars fans the visuals and sounds while certainly satisfying in the short term quickly give way to boredom.
In the mainstream gaming market EA dwells (and sometimes takes a dump) in, this model of free-to-play is arguably the new normal, and that's sad. If and when I ever become a grandparent, I foresee myself wistfully sharing a tale with the grandkids about how many years ago you could pay for a game once and be provided hours and hours of fun, until the new normal and the almighty dollar helped free-to-play take hold, like cancer.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Samurai Sith

Lately I've been indulging myself in building a presence on Twitter. Part of this has involved creating an alter ego in the form of a Sith in the Star Wars universe with origins hearkening back to the samurai of some ancient time in a galaxy far, far away.

To this end, I wanted to set up a profile suited to such a character, an individual serving the Galactic Empire and the Dark side of the Force, yet at the same time having embraced the life of a samurai to some extent. I found my fictional muse in Yojimbo, a disenfranchised samurai (or ronin) played by the inimitable (though Nathaniel Lees of The Matrix: Revolutions fame comes close with his character aptly named Captain Mifune) Toshiro Mifune.
Movie poster for Yohimbo (1961).

I decided to create a representation of Jojimbo, the character, in a fictionalized alternative universe where, say, the political mastermind Emperor Palpatine managed to take hold of the formidable propaganda of the Empire and insinuate it into popular culture. To this end, I wanted to alter the original movie poster to give it a distinctive Imperial flavor, and hint that my Twitter persona aligned with this fictional manifestation of a great, individualistic, disenfranchised samurai.

There are certain physical attributes that make a Sith stand out from the inferior, frumpy Jedi. Being wracked by the powers of the Dark side, Sith experience increasingly drastic physical as well as mental changes. The irises of their eyes acquire an angry yellow glow; over time their flesh might wrinkle and fester thanks to their intimate embrace with the darkness.

Importantly, the weapon of Sith and Jedi alike, the lightsaber, acquires unique characteristics depending upon the user. TheStupendousWave provides a great explanation of the canon surrounding lightsabers and how the color those glowing weapons emit relates to their wielder. In the case of the Sith, they forego crystals found and refined from natural sources in favor of synthetic ones, which result in an angry red blade rather than the more tranquil-seeming blue or green typical of the Jedi.

To exemplify this in my version of the poster, I wanted to give my Yojimbo an angry red lightsaber blade, yet still have it retain the shape of the katana, the traditional weapon of the samurai. Further, I wanted to give his katana a hamon, a characteristic pattern along the leading edge of the blade. This site (natively in French) gives a number of examples of the different hamon in ancient Japan, some of which are depicted below.

Here (using Paint.NET, a great and free Photoshop alternative) all that needs to happen is to pick your hamon of choice (here I pick the Sukehiro hamon as it has a relatively tight and distinctive pattern), and crop it so just the blade remains:
Cropping the katana blade and copying it to the clipboard.

Then I paste it into the image as a new layer:

Pasting the katana as a new layer onto the poster, then rotating it to take the place of the original.

Finally, I paste another copy of the blade as another new layer into the image, and use levels to adjust the coloration of the layers along with glow effects and blend modes between layers to add a glow effect to this katana-slash-lightsaber. Of course, I use the superior, synthetic red glow of the Sith lightsaber here; use other, inferior colors at your peril!

The end result, with a few added elements (our glorious Emperor Palpatine, the Imperial logo, and the Sith's distinctive yellow irises) to make the poster a bit more relevant to the Star Wars universe, turned out nicely.

Nice addition to my Twitter profile, and perhaps speaks of an alternate reality where perhaps the Galactic Empire visited our world, insinuated itself into our culture, and happened to create a film about a Sith (with appropriate Imperial propaganda added to the mix, of course). 😈


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Adventures in Customizing

A certain provider of custom stickers abruptly cancelled an order of mine commissioning a certain design (featuring the face paint of Ahsoka Tano, former Jedi) I'd found online. 

The abruptness of the cancellation was too swift to be by a humanoid hand. This indicated to me that, akin to YouTube identifying and acting upon what some computer algorithm determines to be proprietary video, the scrutinized the original image and flagged it as copyrighted material. 

Completely understandable, but mildly irritating.

I decided to test the algorithm's limitations. This was the result; an image meant for a round sticker, but rotated some 120 degrees counter-clockwise, and the background color changed just a few shades more toward the red.
"Falling Skull", slightly modified face paint for the Ahsoka Tano character in Star Wars: Rebels.

Then, just a
matter of days later, what arrived in the mail, but this:

Arrived without incident, no copyright strike, no hassle.

Interesting how fortunes can turn to one's favor... 😉

To make their application as car decals easier and less permanent, I obtained some
vinyl magnetic sheeting and applied each of the stickers to it. I then used some spray enamel clear coat (normally for helping keep the surface of plastic car headlight lenses clear) and evenly sprayed a few coats across the sheet and allowed it to dry overnight.

The following day I carefully cut out one sticker-slash-magnet with an extremely sharp X-Acto knife.

Oh, custom sticker manufacturer, I'm afraid your algorithm won't prevent me from fulfilling the true destiny of this design, as a #TanoTuesday-suitable magnetic car decal!

One might wonder, why is a Sith so intrigued by a former Jedi, that they would adorn their vehicle with her iconic imagery? Well, once, this particular Togruta knew full well the power of the Dark side. It may, yet, happen again, and with permanence... this time!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Monday, August 20, 2012

Those Bitches!

Classic scene I captured in animated GIF form in homage to the hilarious parody trailer, Star Wars Episode III: A Lost Hope.