Saturday, August 22, 2009

An Obituary for Australian Cricket...

It will take a miracle for Australia to keep the Ashes after a completely disastrous day at the Oval.

A horrid pitch and solid English bowlers, coupled with a reasonable performance by the English Batsmen yesterday have left this story well and truly in its final chapter. Indeed, how the mighty can fall. After a Five-Zero crushing in 2005-2006, the English may have finally exacted revenge for what happened in the last series.

After less than a day's play, Australia have been reduced to 8 for 133, chasing England's first inning's score of 332. With only two wickets in hand, and neither of them batsmen, it looks grim.

It will take an act of absolute divine intervention to save Australia, as it trails a miserable 200 runs behind the English. Another Adelaide? Unlikely. I can't even bring myself to watch.

The annoying thing is that I could suffer and accept defeat from the English in any other circumstances... barring one completely insufferable and mediocre player who is now destined to go down as a hero of English cricket. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the Queen knighted him when he retires after this match.

I am of course referring to Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff. A man with a more checkered career is hard to imagine. He's not broken any records to speak of, his form is seasonal at best, and he is - as a whole - potentially the most over-rated English cricketer that I've ever had to watch.

To hand over the Ashes to Flintoff is worse than defeat. Oh yes. It really does add insult to a grievous injury.

Alas, this is how it shall likely be. The condition of the pitch will only get worse, and England's competant line-up of spinners will have a hell of a fun time dispatching the meager Australian resistance, and as Ricky Ponting was foolish enough not to take any spinners of his own, I half expect England to post another 300-run innings before declaring and then once more dispatching Australia cheaply for a 500-run victory to the Barmy overtones of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".

Yes Keith, as I'm sure you're reading this, I will swallow my pride and say that England have played as the better team. You have one this one... But the next series is barely a year away, and now I really want to see if you can keep it!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An exercise in backward thinking

So, these two have just come out of maya.

It dawned on me yesterday that I have spent so long building ultra-modern submarines that do not yet exist, that I have never actually built a proper, real-world submarine.

This changes now.

Sometimes it's... refreshing to explore one's roots. Nathan has suggested that one of these should be come the SF-1337 "Turtle" class subfighter. I don't know whether to laugh or slap the man.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

All out for 102... Scores Tied.

Yep. England got thumped.

All out for 102 runs in the first innings of a five day test match? They were doomed after less than 20 overs. Horrid!

Australian victory was assured from that point on, really. Short of some kind of divine intervention (also known as Mike Hussey in Adelaide 2006...) there really wasn't anything England could do to save that game. I'll try not to gloat too much, Keith!

So, it's update time.

The Atlantis site has the specs for the Macronesian Lysander class subfighter. This was originally posted on the old site back when it still existed, but has been completely rebuilt.

And also... Another present.

Video Tutorial: Basic Texturing and UV Mapping
Right Click -> Save As to download.
(70mb, H.264 MPEG-4, playable in VLC, Windows Media, etc)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Subfighter Day.

Yep, it's update day.

Today we've uploaded the Seafire and Broadsword to the Atlantis website. You can find them in the site library.

Nathan has of course, predictably, found several problems with the design of the Seafire, so I imagine that this means you will eventually see one or two revisions of that fighter - much as the British did with the original Supermarine Spitfire.

Enjoy the updates.

As always - more to come...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Atlantis Ashes... continued.

I am sitting here right now staring at an unopened word file on my desktop, feeling a great sense of apprehension. Should I open it? Or should I get my customary morning pot of tea boiled and brewed to sooth my frayed nerves?

Every now and then, I have a new short story dropped in to my inbox by a fan, enthusiast or someone wanting to help. Not everything that is sent to me is a work of Hemmingway, mind you, but once in a while it does surprise me what you - the reader - can come up with. It is both a very rewarding and very terrifying experience to see Atlantis through someone else's eyes. Sometimes they nail it, other times... they need some direction.

To be candid for a moment, Atlantis has been a project of mine for over seven years. In that time, it's grown in to something bigger on its own, and I because of that, I care about what happens to it. Taking a leap of faith and letting someone else try and alter or expand on what you've created can be daunting, and while I love to allow this, the biggest challenge is trying to gently adjust this outside content to fit with what I see as being the world, look and feel of Atlantis DSV. It is much harder, of course, to get the persont that created to see Atlantis in the same way.

The amount of material being produced behind the scenes as of late is staggering, and this will be underscored in the next day or so with another update for the Atlantis site. There are no less than five people at this moment working on things for Atlantis. These ranges from short stories to 3D work, and even technical concepts for a few planned projects.

For today however, here's a couple of developments that you can expect very soon.

First... the Broadsword.

This is the successor the SA-29 Lysander class commonly seen in Atlantis, and seaQuest 2032. It's a large fighter, and I've been sitting on the design for quite some time. She was designed and built by Luke Wrightson, and was based off the older Broadsword concept that began life as a design for the Nosferatu stealth fighter. I textured her recently and these are the results.

For a point of comparison - here is the original design.

Next up, we have the NSC's flagship fighter... The Seafire.

The Seafire is named for the Supermarine Seafire of the Second World War - essentially, the navalized variant of the famous Spitfire. Designed by Nathan Leong and Keith Carpenter, she was built by Keith last year and I spent almost all of yesterday texturing it.

Drawing from a multitude of other designs, including the SR71, SU27, Spitfire and even the SF38 Raptor, the Seafire is the NSC's answer to the UEO's own flagship fighter class - the SF-38 Raptor II.

Both of these are coming to the Atlantis site in the next couple of days. So while I witness the systematic annihilation of the Australian Cricket Team in England, I have to grudgingly give Round One of our own Atlantis Ashes series to Keith.

Monday, July 13, 2009

History demands rivalry.

Just a note to say that there is, unfortunately, going to be a delay in the release of the new Seafire class subfighter of the NSC. Some complications with the model have arisen that need it to be revised. With any luck, we'll have it back within a few days.

In the mean time, here's something that I'm working on between all these updates. I suspect it will make for the subject of a really, really big update at some point in the future - as it really is a labour of love.

In other news... I really do think that this is an appropriate time to post the NSC, and as I've had a few requests recently for more Macronesian material, I have a dastardly idea.

For those in the British Commonwealth, you are undoubtedly aware that this is a time of epic struggle between two titans of sport... (Ok, so maybe it's more of a David and Goliath relationship at this moment)

Yes, the Ashes is underway in England, with the first test last night being drawn for a level series between Australia and the home side. Last night's highlights, of course, saw a lot of British procrastination in trying to avoid a horrid defeat at the hands of the colonials, and some laugh-inducing moments of cowardice (literally) as English batsmen physically tried to hide from the fast bowling of Australian paceman Peter Siddle.

A century of sporting tradition between these two sides dictates that the rivalry must be fierce, and there can no surrender, retreat or quarter - this is a grudge unlike any other in world sport.

And so... While Keith continues the onslaught of NSC (English) ships, I'm going to respond by ramping up the Macronesians.

As I'm sure Keith is reading this, he can take it as a friendly challenge...

NSC vs. Macronesians... Blow for blow, for three weeks. It doesn't matter who wins, or even what the victory conditions are, but I'm propsing nearly a month of head-down, tail-up work in an attempt to get the entire fleets of Macronesia and the North Sea Confederation on the website and out of the way.

It's long overdue, and sure, it's a big task... And sure, I'm going to have to spend more time in Photoshop and Maya than I thought my already-wanting social life permitted...

I think it can be done.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Video: Photoshop compositing... And the mystery sub.

Well, here it is.

Apologies for the slight delay. Computers arent being very cooperative this evening

I won't say much, because as you can see - she's not my boat! Any questions you may have about it can be directed at her designer and builder... Which, I suppose you can pass through me.

(Video: 36 Megabytes, H.264. 1024x576. Right click-> Save as to download)

Content Inbound!

Yes, that's right.

It is July First, and that means it's approaching time for a significant update on the site. Over the next few days, you can expect to see around three new entries in the site's tech library, as well as a few more character biographies.

But what of that announcement?

Well, stay tuned, because at 8:00pm, Australian Eastern Standard, I will be making one more post that will put to rest this month's mystery sub.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The mystery deepens...

Well, look what the Office of Naval Intelligence just found.

I'm going to throw a cat amongst the pigeons.

Whatever could she be?

The big reveal, soon...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Live from Federation Square, Melbourne

(Photo: 1:53pm, Saturday, June 27th, 2009 in Federation Square...)

Hello from sunny Melbourne.

(Believe me I am as shocked as you are. Sun in Melbourne? Preposterous!)

I'm under pressure to throw this out as quickly as I can before this laptop's battery dies, but sufficed to say, MIAF goes well.

After having spent nearly 6 hours drinking with a bunch of eccentric animators last night til about 4:00am, I have some new and very scary insights in to the workings of these people in the professional world. One of these people is Canadian filmmaker Chris Landreth, who the film-inclined may recognise as being the Academy Award-winning Director of the animated short, "Ryan."

Landreth is in Melbourne to screen his new film, "The Spine." It's a technically brilliant piece of work that brings justification to the statement that Landreth is nothing less than an unparalelled guru of CGI. (Indeed, he counts people such as John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton of Pixar Animation Studios among his immediate peerage.) His knowledge of 3D applications and methods is utterly intimidating, and I'm planning on spending a lot more time interrogating him on how to do this kind of thing.

It's rare that one has an opportunity to speak with such a person, let alone sit down in a bar with them for 6 hours over too many drinks!

As you probably guessed - I am in fact not going to reveal the identity of the secret submarine just yet. I'd much prefer to have access to my machine back in Wagga so I can finish refining a few things before I throw it up on the main site, but the speculation has been utterly fascinating to say the least... for reasons I won't yet explain.

Updates as they come.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The mystery sub... Continued.


In the last twenty four hours, between comments and emails, we've had a very strong response to the mystery sub I showed you all. There is a very strong theme amongst all of you that she is the new seaQuest DSV, and thus represents the Odyssey class...

This is an interesting little experiment for me. The identity of the sub isn't being revealed just yet. Let's see what happens there on Saturday. What I will say for now is that this is giving me some ideas about something special that I've been considering for a while.

Every now and then, a project comes up that I decide to pass on to someone else. The list of people who I generally have on this 'contact list' is small, and the reason I ask others to design subs for Atlantis is two-fold.

Firstly, I don't have time to do it myself because of other projects. It almost goes without saying that having someone else working on something else simultaneously drastically increases productivity.

Secondly, I leave many aspects of design to the builder, and seperate myself from the process as much as possible, because it usually brings a different design aesthetic that I otherwise don't consider. This could be because of personal technique or taste, but regardless, on a couple of ocassions, these other designers have greatly influenced the way Atlantis continues to develop in very positive ways.

I would like this to continue...

And so, some time soon, I'm going to start a little competition to solve a problem I've had for a couple of years. You can probably guess where this is going, and all I shall say for the time being is that you may wish to start thinking about your own designs, and that there will be rewards.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

MIAF 2009

Well folks, a few sneaky things have been happening at Atlantis in the last week or so, but here's the deal.

Tomorrow I drive south to Melbourne for the Melbourne International Animation Festival 2009. After the work I did on AIAF this year, I have a free pass in, so I'm not exactly staring the gifthorse in the mouth.

This said, from the 22nd to the 28th of this month, I'll be out of the loop, but you can still catch me by email.

When I return, this is what's going to be unveiled...

(First email with the correct guess of what this is gets bragging rights.

Catch you on the flipside!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Forward: From a friend.

Rarely do I feel compelled to post someone else's material on my own blog, but this one is particularly appropriate.

Peter Hanshaw is a friend and colleague of mine who graduated from the same course of Animation and Visual Effects and now works as an Environmental artist at Blue Tongue studios in Melbourne - a games studio under THQ most recently responsible for "de Blob" for the Nintendo Wii.

Truth be told, there isn't much I work on that doesn't go under his eyes and across his desk before it finally finds its way online. Indeed, not everything Peter has to say about my work may be full of praise, but more importantly his critiques are honest, constructive and helpful.

Yesterday he tagged this for me on Facebook.

Working in virtual space all day has its advantages, to be sure. You dont have to worry too much about budget, running out of paint is a non-issue, and there is always the off-hand chance that you can defy physics without making the universe implode, explode or turn into some weird mess of spaghetti*.

But all that aside, digital art lacks something vitally important. Its not the lack of stability, the mind numbingness of almost constant crashes (restart universe error) or the fact that you gradually earn yourself a monitor tan from constantly sitting infront of a computer.

What detracts from it the most is the fact that it is not tangible. You can't play with what you have just made. You can't walk around in those echoing coridors, you can't ever fly beside the massive star-ship.

What you see is essentially all there is to it. From one angle it looks like a complete world, but from any other angle it becomes clear that its all an illusion.

Those mountains in the background? Just a flat canvas, painted in photoshop. The walkers? Gemetric data rendered from a 3d application. Is any of it tangible? No. None of it is real.

But combined together, in just the right way, for a brief moment they form the idea, feeling and tone of a world much larger than the individual ingredients. They pave the way for the audience's imagination to *create* the world that you want them to see. Just a brief flicker, and suddenly there is a swirling sandstorm, the grind of the worn gears in the machine's leg, the glint of sun lighting up the flank of the beast, its all there in the picture, it just needs a receptive audience to give it life.

Sometimes its hard to create things in the virtual world. You know from the start exactly how many polygons are in the model, how many points it is made out of. You can see each individual element that makes up the whole picture. You know exactly how fake it is, rather than how real it looks.

It isn't always like that. Sometimes you get swept up in the creation, almost as if what you are making is making itself, you are just pressing the buttons. Its times like that, when you look up and suprise yourself, that make digital art worth all the time and effort.

It almost makes up for the constant crashing too.

*I still havn't got the hang of string theory...

The reason I post this here is because I feel it very elegantly describes what it is that I - and others - do as 3D modellers and artists.



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Update at Atlantis DSV

You read correctly.

The main site has been updated and brought up to the current state of affairs. Go check it out here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The future of "Tides of War"

More musings from me today. About four years ago, myself and several university colleagues were tasked with creating a "multimedia project" - that is, a project entailing a combination of audio, text, video and/or interactivity - as part of our studies in Charles Sturt University's Bachelor of Arts (Multimedia - 3D Animation & Visual Effects) course. After some deliberation, this project became an Atlantis DSV-based modification ('mod') of the then-popular computer game, Command & Conquer: Generals.

As veterans amongst you would be aware, this modification didn't see a public release, although it was completed to an "Alpha" stage of production that served as a proof of concept. We proved it was quite possible to use a conventional 3D Real Time Strategy engine to turn Atlantis in to a game.

(Below: Screenshots and Assets from the 2006 Tides of War project...)

The future of this mod has been in question for some time. If it were not clear already, then I'll confirm now that the mod has halted production. It should be noted that not all the reasons for this decision were ours. Within three years of General's release in 2001, EA Games had already announced its successor, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. Based on the same engine that ran Generals, C&C3 was larger, more advanced and better in virtually every way. In the development of Tides of War, we counted in this fact quite strongly, as the mod had been broken down in to two stages of development.

The first stage, intended to be developed for Generals, covered the majority of the gameplay mechanics, models, texturing and particle generators. The second stage of the mod would then be ported to the more flexible engine of C&C3 where it would be further refined for a public release.

This is where things got difficult, as C&C3's developer-released Modification tools were not as comprehensive as those for Generals. Effectively, this limited C&C3's mod potential to simple unit additions or basic modification of mechanics. It did not, however, allow for a comprehensive total-conversion of the game in to an underwater strategy epic.

This is what halted development of Tides of War, but - it should be noted - does not mean the project is dead and buried.

What exists now is the simple problem of finding a new engine with which to continue development, and while there are literally a dozen possibilities, none of them are particularly appropriate.

The first consideration I have of any title for the purposes of a mod is the immediately available community support. The Command and Conquer series is an excellent example of this kind of support - with millions upon millions of copies of the games sold, its easy to find a wide, vibrant and very alive community of gamers who can support your project. If a mod lacks this kind of support, it's an utterly uphill battle to survive. Support also dwindles with a game's age. While Generals was excellent in 2006, only a couple of years after its release, the community has since moved on to far better titles.

This obviously narrows the possible titles of a mod considerably. Of the more notable ones to survive that which are on the PC platform, we're left with the following examples of possible titles, and the reasons they won't work.

Supreme Commander:

Early in considering new engines, Gas Powered Games' Supreme Commander was considered for its absolutely epic scale of combat, real-time physics model and ease of modification. The real problem is that the game is simply too epic, with too much emphasis on atmospheric physics for underwater combat to be a serious consideration. With a lack of mapping tools and no ability to change the game's basic lighting models, it was also next to impossible to replicate a water environment.

Dawn of War, Company of Heroes:

Both from developer Relic entertainment, these two titles were considered as they shared the same basic engine model. Both were rejected because of their lack of 'flight' mechanics that are necessary to represent subfighters and larger capital ships. On the positive side, the mapping tools and physics engines were excellent.

Homeworld 2:

A true benchmark in PC RTS games, Homeworld 2 - again by Relic Entertainment - comes annoyingly close to what is needed to continue Tides of War. Indeed, a previous modification by indie mod-team Drunken Pirates attempted to turn Homeworld 2 in to a naval combat game, but were confronted with the annoying reality that this is a space game - it's true 3D, and Aircraft Carriers look ridiculous when moving vertically.

Similarly, as this is a space game, there is no room for land environments that we would need to use to represent the expansive ocean floor... Homeworld is a truly excellent game if you want to create any universe in space, and modders have made fine attempts at this with Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars, and even Robotec.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3

All the benefits of C&C 3... with none of the mod support. Red Alert 3 is about the least mod-friendly title in the series to date.

A thousand other B-list titles exist, such as the recent Stormrise, Star Trek: Legacy, Battlestations Midway, Tom Clancy's EndWar, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos and even ancient titles that still survive such as Star Trek: Armada, yet all have the same problems as the games mentioned above, and some are compounded by the fact that they are just fundamentally bad games.

The reality is that asking for a Real Time Strategy game that supports underwater modification, physics and customizable GUIs is hard to do. Until someone comes out with an A-list strategy game that can be modded with all these things in mind, then its very likely that Tides of War will remain on the backburner.

At present, the thing I am considering is a different genre of title. RTS is only one form of Strategy, and there exists many other very mod-friendly turn-based strategy titles out there such as Civilization IV, Galactic Civilizations II, or even Star Wars: Empire at War, that all support a very wide range of modding possibilities. With so few titles on the horizon... a new Tides of War project may be much closer than you think.

In other news, here's what's sitting on my computer screen right now:

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Very Well, Thank You" - Author's Musings

The question of content is one that comes up fairly regularly with Atlantis. The most frequent question of course is "When will the next Episode be out?"

A good question, but not one with a simple answer.

Episode VI is a very difficult one to write. Episode 5 has left us with some very hard questions and problems to resolve, and while it's all well and good to go for the simplest, most direct solution... It never ends up being very satisfying. More bluntly, it's a 'cop-out.'

A complex plot with a simple, predictable resolution is never something to be rewarded, and usually reflects the half-baked planning that went in to the story. It's easy to appreciate, then, just how important it is for me to avoid this kind of resolution with Episode 6.

The last few months have provided a few revelations that have changed or challenged several key points in Episode 6, one particular point above all - what to do with the Atlantis herself. The series is called "Atlantis DSV", and the prospect of writing the story without the epynomous ship as the centerpiece of the plot is a daunting idea to say the least.

Nevertheless, the ramifications of what happened in Episode 5 cannot be underplayed, and Episode 6 has to respect that, even if it means making some very difficult decisions about the way things will continue to unfold. Further more - I have to get it right.

As I have been reminded so very recently on the New Cape Quest forums, writing Atlantis and expecting people to hold their suspension of disbelief is not something that I can take for granted. Indeed, I have worked on Science Fiction projects that claimed to be written for the "Average Joe", and I myself found the idea offensive. Science Fiction and literature in general should challenge the audience, and one particular post that was made on NCQ highlighted this point very succinctly.

The author of the post I had not spoken to before, but they asked the sorts of questions that a cynical author focused on an overall story can be tempted to brush aside. As a case in point, one of Star Trek's principal Art Director's, Michael Okuda, was once asked by Time Magazine how the USS Enterprise's Heisenberg Compensator worked in the operation of a Transporter. His answer was very blunt:

"Very well, thank you."

To be honest, at some level I sympathise with Okuda. When you're so busy focussing on the overall design, the last thing you need to do is get hung up on the smallest of details. If you focus on details before you've finished the structure, then it will never get finished. This is especially true if you are working on your own, without the aid of a creative team to offer suggestions. While I suspect Okuda's answer may be a reflection of a more cynical view of Star Trek fans' infamous enthusiasm, I've always tried to prevent myself from falling in to that sort of 'divorce' from the audience. For the most part, there is a reason Star Trek fans are so enthusiastic about their show, and those reasons can be strongly related to qualities that make the show work. Is there such a thing as over-enthusiasm? Certainly, I think there is, but to go back to my original point, I stated that I go to great pains to avoid cop-outs and simple solutions within the context of the story. It stands to reason that by extension, I should obey the same rules when dealing with the finer details.

This is what the audience excel at. As I writer I won't pretend to be all-knowing. I have to be educated in or aware of the material I'm writing about. In immediate instance, it would be stupid for me to write a story about submarines with absolutely no idea how a submarine works, but ocassionally I do go in to areas where my knowledge is not as thorough or reasonable, and the audience can and will point this out.

With a little embarrassment, I admit that the post made on NCQ highlighted some of this lack of knowledge. Where then, is the line between artistic integrity and admitting when you are wrong?

The answer is one that is contingent on the artist. Personally, I encourage people to ask questions, or to challenge decisions I've made throughout the stories I've written. If the audience does not understand or accept something, then I believe it's my responsibility to explain it to them or rationalize my decisions to a point that they can understand it. What the audience probably shouldn't do however (And again this is a personal matter of etiquette) is suggest changes on how to make it 'better' without first asking "Why?"

To look at this from my perspective, having sunk nearly a decade in to the development of an idea that I'm very passionate about, it can seem the height of arrogance for someone to come along and 'suggest' and 'implement' changes to that idea without first asking questions. I maintain that there is no such thing as a 'stupid question'. Indeed, if there is an answer that I have or have intended to provide at some point in the stories, then I can feel confidant that I am on the right track, and I know I'm doing things right. The question in that case is as rewarding to me as the answer is to the person who asked it.

Occasionally though, this discussion between the author and audience can stimulate thoughts or ideas that weren't previously considered, or weren't explored deep enough and in these cases, it can reveal oversights, technical gaffs and plot holes that could have (and should have) been corrected. This is entirely healthy, and at that point I have to look for ways to incorporate the audience's ideas in such a way that it's still respectful to my own work.

So, in summary - keep asking questions. I might not have all the answers, but it helps me more when I'm presented with feasible alternatives to problems that I didn't know I had. Atlantis has thrived off this in the past, and I would hate to see that stop now.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The New Star Trek.

Well, last night, I saw a renaissance.

J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film has left me with a lot to think about, so much, in fact, that I'll likely have to see it again if I want to really come to grips with how much has just changed.

I'll handle this in two parts; without spoilers, and with spoilers. Read on carefully.

I went in to Star Trek with a single thought: If I liked the film, I would hate myself. It took George Lucas 25 years to take a dump on my childhood adoration of Star Wars, and J.J. Abrams set out to do the same in barely two years with this new Trek film.

After the way he screwed the pooch with "Alias", and created the aptly-named "Lost", I have really grown to foster a serious grudge against J.J. Abrams for the way he stuffs up everything he touches. Given the fact my ultimate opinion here is that this is the best trek film since Wrath of Khan, you might have an inkling of the dilemma I have.

Star Trek as I know it, is over. This is Abrams' brave new world, and to be honest, I loved every minute of it. It was fast paced (In fact, I think it may have been too-fast, and felt the film could have easily last another half hour.), gritty and very, very bold. If you have not seen the film yet, then go and do yourself a favour and read the four issues of the Star Trek: Countdown comic that was released as a 'prequel' to the film. It explains nicely how the new film follows on from Nemesis, and provides a good deal of context to events that are only mentioned on screen.

The strongest aspects of the film were without doubt the new cast of the "Big Three" (Kirk, Spock and McCoy, for those unfamiliar,) the story direction, and even the art style. The villain, unfortunately, does not work anywhere near as well, reinforcing the point that you should really read Countdown before hand. To summarize, however, Nero is a Romulan, and without saying too much, he has come back in time from the era of Post-Nemesis to exact some very serious pay back against his ancestry. The ramifications of this in the film are utterly shocking, and when I said I expected the film to continue another half an hour, it's because I refused to believe that Abrams could have had to stones to finish the film in the manner he did.

As Paramount have already announced their plans to proceed with a sequel to this film, I can only say "bring it on," because I cannot fathom how much Abrams may yet completely change what I know about Star Trek.

Highlight below for a more in-depth (read: spoiler-ridden) analysis...

This is a new Star Trek timeline. I was so concerned about what happened in the film, and what it meant for everything else we have seen and loved in Star Trek, that I googled the idea of a "multiverse" setting for Star Trek to be completely certain. So, while The Next Generation continues as we have always known and understood it, this film takes place in an unapologetic "alternate timeline" where things are no doubt going to get a lot nastier before they get better.

Abrams pulled no punches with this. Before the film even started, the comics (which are canon) set the stage by destroying Nero's home world. That's right: the Romulan Empire is dust, destroyed in 2287 by a supernova that the crew of the Enterprise-E was unable to stop. An elderly Ambassador Spock had planned to destroy the star with a black hole, thus saving what was left of the Alpha Quadrant. While the star was stopped by this black hole, it was too late to save Romulus... And so Nero got to watch Rome burn, all the while feeling somewhat vengeful for our pointy-eared hero.

Unexpectedly, his ship was pulled in to the singularity and thrown back through time where for 25 years he started on a course that would alter the course of Star Trek history radically.

His ultimate revenge? The destruction of Vulcan.

There was of course much conjecture leading up to the film's release as to the identity of the dusty, brown planet that we saw being consumed by Nero's weapon. Many of the rumours postulated that the planet was Vulcan...

Well, with the conjecture how settled, it becomes very clear why this is a new Star Trek, and I am forced to wonder just how differently the Federation will evolve without one of the most important founding members. J.J. Abrams has made a clear statement in this act: no one is safe. For all we know, Kirk may die in the second film, and Earth may be reduced to a ball of ash.

Who knows!

This, more than anything else, is what has given Star Trek such a new, radical lease on life. What's even more impressive about is how Abrams has done it without re-writing canon. The first event in the film begins to change the course of Star Trek history, and in the twenty five years it takes James Kirk to grow up, it's easy to understand how in that time Nero could have drastically altered the mechanics of everything we've seen to date, including the design of the Enterprise.

This is a revelation... And this time I feel only luck that I was here to see it start.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reverence Progress Log... Part 4 (Interiors)

Some time ago now I posted some early work in progress shots on NCQ for the command center of the UEO's Reverence class submarines.

Well, in an attempt to make penance with the lack of updates since February, I thought I'd do the show and tell a bit differently this time. If you guys like it, then we'll do them like this more often.

In the mean time, have a look at two and a half minutes of "video blog" from yours-truly, and let me know what you think.

Right click and "Save as" on the crest below to Download video
(H.264 codec, .MP4 - Use VLC, Quicktime or Windows Media Player. 41.3MB)

In the workshop right now:

Reverence Bridge - Maya
Ares Fleetyards & DSV Construction - Maya
Atlantis DSV Episode VI: Captain's Honour
Seafire Subfighter Texturing - Maya/Photoshop

Monday, January 26, 2009

CAG Mugs - Orders Closed.

Hey all,

Well, the deadline for ordering mugs has now come and gone (for now) and, I have to say, the reception this little experiment received was extremely positive!

To be exact my first order was not large enough, and I had to make a few more orders today to satisfy demand. I really didn't expect this, so to all those who dropped me a line - thank you very much! Because of you, it is entirely likely that you will see more things like this in the not-too-distant future.

For those who missed out this time around, don't fret too much - because I will make them available again later next month when I've settled back in at University to resume study for 2009.



Friday, January 23, 2009

NCQ and Atlantis site outtage

Just a head's up.

Yes, we're aware of the site downtime, and we're dealing with it... Just hang in there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CAG mugs, Ramblings

Hey all.

I ordered an initial lot of Rapiers and Dark Angels coffee mugs yesterday, and the supplier tells me that they will be ready for pickup in 14 days, or, for those reaching for their calendars - February 4th. For those of you who have already confirmed your orders with me, you can expect updates on this as they come.

I head back to University for 2009 on February 1st, but I'll be visiting Sydney briefly between the 6th and 8th to see Top Gear Live, during which time I will pick up this order and have it shipped to you all first thing on Monday.

It's still not too late for me to order more. Remember the deadline for the first lot is January 25, so if you're interested - drop me an email and I'll let you know more details.

Now, some news on the Atlantis front.

Episode VI

Oh, yes, it's being written - the story has been sent to the other Atlantis staff, and has been finalized. Any further tweaks are being made only as it progresses. If Keith's reaction was any indication to how this one will be received, I don't think I'm going too far to say that I'm going to have more fun writing this than I did writing Rising Thunder.

On a related note, for the past several months, Keith has been working on the ships of the North Sea Confederation, from the old Polaris-class ESVs to the all-new Le Attaque-class cruisers. When he started, Keith had no working knowledge of Maya at all and to his credit, with very little instruction, he has produced some truly excellent work.

The above is the new Seafire "TV5", as used by the North Sea Confederation. This subfighter is Europe's answer to the UEO's SF-37 Raptor series and in Atlantis is the eventual replacement for the Tornado class subfighters previously mentioned in the series. The fighter's name comes from the Supermarine Seafire that many nations - particularly Britain - employed during the second world war was a navalized version of the more commonly known Spitfire. Keith's principle work on this model is finished, and now it's my (admitedly painful) job of UV mapping and texturing it.

Without saying too much, I will say that there is a Rapiers scheme for this fighter in the works, in addition to the standard sea-grey NSC livery that will come to be the ,most commonly-known image of the fighter.


So, the new Battlestar Galactica is out. For those who do not watch Battlestar Galactica, I can only say this.

What are you doing here reading this blog!? Go away! You're missing out

I was a late-comer to the "nu-BSG" party a couple of years ago, as I was definitely not a fan of the original 1978 series (oh the tack...) and when I had heard that Ronald D. Moore (writing credits include Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Generations) was re-imagining the series back in 2003, I was... sceptical. How could something so tragically bad be turned in to something worth watching?

I was wrong. While respectful to the original series, this BSG is all-new and all-improved, although I suspected while watching the mini-series a couple of years ago that the writers might have been fans of the game Homeworld. The art style and cinematic direction of space combat was very, very familiar, from the way fighters pitched and rolled in combat to the sound of the cannon fire, and even the way carriers performed. You reading this, Ron? I'm on to you...

Regardless, the new episode's big revelation - I hate to say - came as no surprise. Those who are fans will appeciate it when I say that from Baltar's initial "I'll never tell" to D'Anna's last "The fifth is not in the fleet", the writing was on the wall as to who was the last of the Final Five cylons. Alex? If you're reading this - you frakking called it.

As for Dee... Brilliant, is all I will say.

Now will someone please tell me what the hell is going on with Starbuck?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Postage questions: mug shipping

Hey guys,

I've had a few questions about shipping costs for the mugs, and after doing some reading, I've got figures on how much it will cost to ship them. I've covered a few countries, so if yours isn't listed here, let me know and I'll give you exact details.

All prices given are in Australian dollars and indicate a package weighing between 500 and 750 grams.

United States of America & Canada
Registered International - $25.65
Air mail - $20.65
Sea mail - $14.45

British Isles & Europe
Registered International - $30.60
Air mail - $25.60
Sea mail - $14.45

Registered International - $22.35
Air mail - $17.35

New Zealand
Registered International - $19.05
Air mail - $14.05

Australia (Domestic - Metropolitan areas)
Parcel Post: $11.60
Express Parcel Post: $20.20
Parcel Post: $7.20
Express Parcel Post: $9.90
Parcel Post: $9.75
Express Parcel Post: $14.50
Parcel Post: $9.75
Express Parcel Post: $14.50
Parcel Post: $10.05
Express Parcel Post: $15.70
Parcel Post: $10.05
Express Parcel Post: $15.70
Parcel Post: $10.95
Express Parcel Post: $14.50

So, if you would like one of these mugs, let me know, and please indicate which method of shipment you would prefer. All shipments will be sent after payment is received. Insurance is guaranteed within Australia (as per Australia Post's requirements) and any international shipments that you would like insured must be sent as "registered", for which prices are indicated here.

If you would like to see more postage rates - please visit Australia Post's website here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Atlantis DSV C.A.G. mugs available!

I said we were going to do 2009 right, and to all high heavens I mean it!

To kick us off this year, I've got an offer for all you folk who keep track of the site and this blog.

I recently posted on NCQ with an open-offer to the community asking if they would like Atlantis DSV mugs made, and the reaction has been quite positive to say the least. I figure if I am going to do this, I may as well make the most of it and throw it out there to the rest of you as well.

Last year I had a couple of coffee mugs made up with the crest of the VF-107 Rapiers printed on each side and the letters "CAG" swung under the sword pommels. They turned out really well, and after over a year of use, it's still held its colour and print.

Over the course of January and February, I'll be taking orders for a new set of these mugs.

The above is the design that will be printed. Each mug will be done in white ceramic, with the crest printed on the two facing sides. The price is $20 (Australian), plus shipping and handling from Australia, payable with paypal or direct deposit if you live in Australia.

Payment has to be made before shipping, and all postage will be insured to protect you and your goods from damage or loss.

The first order will be made on 25 January, 2009, so if you would like one of these mugs, please contact me before then.

Orders can be sent to my email address at and I will confirm your order by providing you with paypal details. Please indicate how many mugs you would like (if applicable) and to where/whom you would like it shipped.