Robotech vs Battletech vs Macross IP Fight

Someone people complained about Games Workshop’s refusal to let Damnatus be released. IP rights we were told. Want to see what kind of cluster [censored] you can get yourself into if you’re not careful about IP rights?

Here’s the deal. Bare in mind that the story isn’t very clear and a few lawsuits were settled privately so there are plenty of unclear details.

Warhammer

Some people call me the Warhammer. Yeah! Some call me the Tomahawk. Some people call me Excalibur, cause I speak of the pompatus of IP warfare…

Back in 1982, a Japanese animation company called Studio Nue came up with a little ol’ anime series called Macross. And it happened to be awesome. Awesome enough that Tatsunoko Productions, who financially supported Studio Nue, gave Harmony Gold the rights to distribute the show outside of Japan. Harmony Gold turned around and, in order to pass certain weird regulations about how long a show must be to be aired on television, tied Macross into two other anime shows Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. The combination was called Robotech.

Meanwhile, FASA Corporation sought to use the IP rights for various mecha originally created in several anime, Macross being the most prominent. It is said that Harmony Gold fired several cease and desist letters at FASA, but took no legal action until Gold partnered with Playmates Toys to produce a series of Robotech toys.

The results of this lawsuit ended with several anime-inspired mechs from BattleTech being removed. These fourteen designs were called the “Unseen”. They would eventually reappear with artistic changes, but remain controversial canonically if not legally. When you see fans discussing the Unseen and Reseen models, this is what they’re discussing.

But FASA weren’t the only guys who got the sharp end of the stick. Studio Nue also came out with a sequel to Macross called Macross 7 and a few other titles. Some managed to get passed Harmony Gold, like Macross Plus. Others, like 7, did not. Gold is trying to keep the rest of Macross out of the U.S.

More has happened since then, but I’m not entirely certain what is fan speculation versus what is fact. For more info, check out Chris Matthew’s view on it. And for goodness sake, guard your IP rights!

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Warhammer Movie Ideas

The old debate for a Warhammer movie felt put aside after the release of Ultramarines. The feeling I got was Games Workshop declaring, “We’re doing this only for the fans.”

It was not a gigantic attempt, like as a $50 million dollar summer blockbuster. A rumor over at DakkaDakka put the budget for it at around $14 million (£9 million). I gathered that it was not for those uninitiated into the 40k cult. But an idea had been boiling in my head to consider trying my hand at a fan made film someday.

But then I thought about Damnatus, the fan-made unofficial 40k movie that was… “unreleased” a few years back. Story goes that Damnatus was supposed to be a strictly fan made movie with respect to Games Workshop’s IP permissions. The problem came about when it was discovered that German IP laws would require that the movie and its content would belong to the creator of the movie. This loophole was cause enough for Games Workshop to deny permission for its release.

The ugly lesson learned is that time would have to be spent reviewing the differences between the IP laws of England and the United States before even attempting.

Putting aside the legal groundwork of such an endeavor, I began to think about a lot of the technical details to make a film possible. The first issue was choosing which of the two universes I would prefer, be it Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy.

Although there’s more excitement for 40k, I think that Fantasy would be easier to do overall. We can thank Tolkien for giving us a lot of the settings and concepts within WHF, although the Black Library has added its own ugly details, such as the politics and religions, various races both original and not. Still, I believe that the backstory would be easier to settle into over 40k.

Another reason for choosing WHF is the physical settings themselves. Both 40k and Fantasy call for urban settings and for backwater locations. Both Altdorf and any hive would be almost too much to reproduce on a limited budget, so an urban location is not preferable. And 40k often has the Imperial stamp over everything. Landing pads, the aquila, all the vehicles… it would be an awful lot to reproduce even if it takes place in a rural area.

I have recently started reading Brunner the Bounty Hunter, by C.L. Werner. As I ventured through the short stories, it quietly dawned on me that this would be good material to craft a movie from.

Not pictured: His marvelous singing voice.

Not pictured: His marvelous singing voice.

First, many of the stories started with some scholarly character who took down Brunner’s tales. This gives the director the option of using a narrator to fill in the details and explain any issues that may not be easily shown on the screen. These stories aren’t overwhelming with the details, and they are both faithful to the source material and easy to spoon feed to the uninitiated.

Second, Brunner’s tales thus far (I’m three and a half stories in), have taken place more on along the frontier than anywhere near Altdorf. Finding a place to shoot hills and forests would be much easier than constructing huge keeps and streets, especially on a fan’s budget.

Third is the fact that the tales don’t have to be made into a full length movie. The short stories could probably be made into 30 minutes-to-an-hour in length. This reduces the investment of time and money. Rather than banking too much , the success or failure of it can be recognized on a bite-sized piece of film craft.

Fourth is the fact that Brunner himself is such a powerful, interesting character.

Rather than a tiring origin story or extreme development, Brunner simply is. His motivation is clear. His appeal obvious. That steely action-hero glare just draws you in, regardless of whether you have any idea what Warhammer is.

But despite these points, there are hang ups and considerations for a short movie. Of the three stories I’ve finished thus far, two of them involve non-humans. Beastmen and a werewolf. How would I make such monsters on the screen?

It’s possible to try CGI if I know the right people, but I’ve never been terrible impressed by that sheen that appears on the surface of digitally made objects. Besides, it would be more interesting to come up with the right costumes and the right camera work to create beastmen. CGI has its place, but I want that place to be as minimal as possible.

Although the frontier setting would be much easier to recreate, there are still medieval/colonial settings that would have to be made. This is where being an American on the east coast pays off, as there are many historic locations that might work for this effort. Indeed, I feel the setting is more a matter of research and creativity than stage construction.

Another concern is the sheer number of props. Some of it can be alleviated by contacting a group of local LARPers (Live Action Role Players). These guys buy and craft weapons and armor for their sessions, sometimes looking quite authentic and dirty. I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to put together a movie.

That would solve many of the problems, but not all. Brunner, for example, would need a well made costume. His sallet and armor would have to be carefully made. He’s also a walking arsenal, frequently described as having multiple throwing knives, a falchion, crossbows, a knife for combat and beheading and black powder pistols. Rather than a single special or weapon, Brunner comes equipped for almost any situation.

Another concern are horses. While a horse farm would be willing to provide horses for a price, many scenes involve horses being spooker or involved in combat. And there is absolutely no way I’m going to risk the safety of amateur actors around a large, scared animal.

Which brings me to my final concern for the moment. Finding good actors. Brunner has an advantage in that his face is frequently hidden by his helmet. All I’d need is someone capable of portraying a general badass for a few hours, no heavy emotional scenes or points of incredible drama.

I think there’s a part of me that would want to try it myself, but being a main actor/director has always struck me as a somewhat vain pursuit. And besides, for a first effort I think it would be best to try just the directing. And everyone else? Well, it depends on the role and whether or not I can find people skilled enough to fill it.

I think this Halloween, I’ll keep my eye out for particularly talented costume makers. Who knows? It may solve at least one of these issues.

An American Response

Antipope preparing to fire his laser eye.

Antipope preparing to fire his laser eye.

Over at the 122nd Cadian, writer Antipope mentioned an article written in the magazine Kathimerini, which is published in Greece. The article in question was basically a hit piece against Warhammer 40k and its fans.

Now in America, we’ve encountered this kind of journalistic garbage before. Back in 1982, an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons player named Irving Pulling committed suicide. His mother, Patricia Pulling, believed that her son’s roleplaying hobby had something to do with it, and this in turn started what some deem the “moral panic” of the roleplaying community. She started the Bothered about Dungeons and Dragons (BADD) group, which pretty much ended in 1997 after she passed away from cancer.

Nor was this the only controversy around gaming. Besides the short lived BADD, we still deal with activist (though no longer attorney) Jack Thompson, who continues to lead the charge against violence in the video game industry.

Kathimerini‘s charges against Warhammer 40k players range between questioning their intelligence and referring to them as social losers and and lack of female players to going so far as to suggest that they are influenced by the so-called “extreme right” of politics.

To the former charges of being nerds, I would simply respond with a lone middle that I’m sure the writers of Kathimerini can devise the meaning too. But to the latter charges, I feel it necessary to say more.

Let me start with the question of “there are no female players” to which I reply is incorrect and complete bull. Sarah Cawkwell is about to release her new novel from the Black Library. Our friend Dorian loves the psychology of the fluff, while Raye Raye does some amazing Night Lords miniature over on her blog.

As both a fan of the Warhammer 40k tabletop game and the novels they produce, I am quite cross with the journalists not only for the insults to Warhammer 40k fans, but also for the underhanded stab at America and its players as well. In this case, Kathimerini‘s editors chose to take a response from a lone player who claimed to have seen swastikas tattooed on the body of an American player. I had absolutely no idea that the poor body art choices of one player automatically condemn the entire American fan community.

I find it even more amusing that a tabletop game about a completely fictional universe, which some could argue traces its roots to fascism or even Nazism, is cause for any alarm. Have you seen Hollywood and the entertainment industry? We have dozens if not hundreds of movies, books, comics and games directly about Nazis, fascism and World War II.

Just because he looks like a member of the gestapo doesn't mean I'm his number one fan. Just ask the Guardsmen.

Just because he looks like a member of the gestapo doesn't mean he's popular. Just ask the Guardsmen he executed.

There’s Saving Private Ryan, The Dirty Dozen Schindler’s List and Inglourious Basterds just to give you a start. Both the movie and especially the graphic novel V for Vendetta used themes of fascism. David Fincher himself admitted that Fight Club involved the use of fascism. There’s Day of Defeat and some of the Call of Duty titles.

It sometimes feels like much of the entertainment industry is desperate to prove itself the quintessential expert on fascism and Nazism, or at least on killing them. So just why the hell these writers feel the need to pick on us in particular is beyond me.

And non-fictionally speaking, scholars, politicians, pundits and talking heads go on and on about what fascism is and who is basically a Nazi. And some scholars admit that plenty of first world countries have embraced certain aspects of fascism either economically or in public policy (or both), even if they reject the entire package. And yes, some claim that even America has become fascist.

But I digress. The fact is that the writer and editors of this particular piece over at Kathimerini were determined to find the latest outrage or topic for the 2 minutes of hate.  It was a sad attempt to create nontroversy, slandering Games Workshop, The Black Library and their fans not just in Greece but all over the globe.

Perhaps the last thing I have to say about this is the coincidence, the beating heart of Warhammer 40k has to do with the inherent strong of a centralized, monotheistic religion against varying forms paganism. And these pagan religions just happen to be followers of daemons, a Greek term for nature spirits, which is a frequent source of contention within the stories depending upon ones view at the time.

I just find it amusing that this author’s piece just happens to skip over the fluff despite its distant relation to Greek classical mythology, in their rush to bash us.

If the writer and editors could find time in their busy schedules of inoculating Warhammer 40k fans from ever reading their magazine again to notice this blog post, then I hope they’d take me up on the offer to buy them a copy of Horus Rising. I would relish an opportunity for them to join a few nerds in understanding the pain staking details they work upon to make their figures incredible to look at. And perhaps a few moments to actually play the game.

And when they finish, perhaps recognize that they, in a mean spirited sense, chose to step on a harmless and fun hobby. And feel it necessary to apologize to Antipope, Games Workshop, The Black Library and the Warhammer fans across the world.

And perhaps having learned from this lesson, recognize that a good journalist wouldn’t stoop to cheap shots like what they pulled here.

Oh and PS, Antipope has asked me to air our grievances to Kathimerini. I have done so,  I invite you all to help us. Read Antipope’s article and respond to Kathimerini at syntaxi@kathimerini.gr or pistoles@kathimerini.gr. Thanks!

Space Marine

Expect a few oil tankers worth of blood.

Expect a few oil tankers worth of blood.

For some time now, THQ has been teasing and teasing Warhammer fans with the chance to step into the shoes of a Space Marine. We’ve seen all manner of trailers, talk and ideas spun about what we’re going to get. But this month, Games Workshop fans finally got a reward for their faith.

The game is good. Not perfect, but damn good.

Let’s start with what we see. The game is a marvel, the characters detailed and amazing to behold. There are these tiny details, ranging from the streaming purity seals to the variety of armor components. The scars across their faces and especially Captain Titus, whose hair is parted by a nice scalp wound. Part of me wants to point out that there seem to be a general lack of facial expressions before I remind myself that Space Marines, being the perfect soldiers, are effectively psychopaths. Why they would need to smile is not even worth asking.

The levels are huge, but are completely dominated with Imperial iconography. THQ has gone above and beyond to truly and fully bring the intellectual property of Games Workshop to the home screen. They’ve done this very well before in the Dawn of War series and even when viewing the world from the eyes of a single Astartes, they do not stop.

Speaking of levels, I noticed two flaws. The first is technical and the problem is probably unique only to my situation. My experience with the game comes from Windows XP SP3 on a solid machine. Compared to the other platform options, which include XBox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows 7 PCs, this is well on the lower end. Every time the screen shakes considerably, a black skeleton of the architecture can be seen. I doubt others will experience this.

The second problem is the lack of choices. I am a PC gamer, my time on the console is behind me. Many of the games I play, like Fallout, tend to spoil me with the options and choices of destinations being at my discretion. To its credit, Space Marine does a bang up job of guiding the player to the next objective by pointing them out. You do not spend an hour looking for some switch to activate a bridge, like you did in the second stage of the original Halo. Yes, I still remember that. But it doesn’t give you any paths to choose from. I’m sure fans will rise to Space Marine‘s defense regarding this, but I think even they will agree they would like to see such choices in future installments.

"Come, join us. We have tacos." ... My, only weakness...

"Come, join Chaos. We have tacos."

The game play is solid, successfully combining hack and slash melee action with cool and composed gun battles. Many a times I’ve charged into the fray, before pulling back to pop the heads of a few Ork Shoota Boyz with my Stalker pattern Bolter. I was very worried about the game folding into a pattern of wash, rinse and repeat, but the weapon and enemy varieties have avoided that boring problem. Though I was glad to finally see Chaos when they popped up.

Speaking of Chaos, I have to apologize to my readers. My earlier insinuation of Chaos being the Iron Warriors was wrong. I was misled by the color scheme and emblem designs, but the Chaos Space Marines belong to some unusual chapter called the Chosen of Nemeroth. It was my fault for spreading misinformation.

Anyway, besides fighting the other object is simply staying alive. The first survival metric is against your armor’s power rating, and the second is your health. Armor recovers on its own if you stay out of combat. Health doesn’t in single player. Captain Titus recovers health by either unleashing fury or delivering executions. Executions are amazing to watch, but you’re very vulnerable while performing them. In multiplayer, players recover their health as they do their shields, but it takes a little longer.

The single player game has enough content to merit at least a replay. Beside the list of achievements and challenges to attempt, there are also servo-skulls scattered through the stages to find and collect. The medium difficult has thus far proven challenging enough, but I will want to try my hand at the hard setting.

But the multiplayer is where it’s at. THQ knew exactly how to rope players in with an addictive, reward based leveling system. There are 41 levels to earn, and perks and equipment are unlocked as you do so. These perks can start to give significant benefits to players. For new guys, this can be discouraging, but THQ thought ahead. When you die, you can “copy the loadout” of the guy who killed you for a single life when you respawn. This lets you fight on equal terms for much of the game if you desire.

Overall, Space Marine is a great game for the casual player or violent action junkie, but more importantly is what the fans have been waiting for. It may seem greedy to ask for more but if I didn’t, THQ could very well rest their laurels. Still, the game is an evolutionary step of what I’ve been wanting to see for a very, very long time…

My Eye…

This makes me so happy...

This randomly makes me so happy...

The review for Nemesis is 80% complete. Sadly, I scratched my eye a touch too hard. It hurts and is sensitive to light, so I got to give it a rest. All I’ve got for you is a short update today.

If you haven’t heard this month old news, Dawn of War III is on the way and according to a few sources, they’re looking to make it somewhat MMO-ish as well as allowing the player to collect and build their own armies. The developers are looking for something to make it vastly different from Starcraft II, whose expansions will make new content appear for the next 3 to 4 years at this rate.

Blizzard and Games Workshop have some history, if I’ve heard correctly. Supposedly, Blizzard originally wanted to do games for Games Workshop but after the dealings fell through, they ventured out to do their own thing. Thus, there are similarities between the two, especially early on. But since then, Blizzard has apparently moved away from visual similarities between GW’s intellectual property.

Me? I have no animosity towards either company. I enjoy most of their products. Blizzard’s lore is interesting, but the reason I buy their games is simply because they’re fun. When I say most however, it may surprise you to learn that I don’t like World of Warcraft or Warcraft in general. Sure, I loved Warcraft II. But the third installment got a touch too cartoony for me. I am much more a Starcraft and Diablo fan, Diablo especially for its dark tones.

I’ll probably write a more sourced article on it later this week, or next pending how long it takes my eye to heal. That’s all for now. Post tomorrow.

5 Modelling Ideas to Save Money

I like 40k’s modelling aspect. There’s something incredibly rewarding about putting together an amazing looking tanks or commander. On the flip side, it’s expensive. The current going rate for a Force Commander is $20, while the price of a Space Marine Tactical Squad is $37.25. Multiply the squad’s price by two and factor in taxes and possibly shipping, and you’ve spent $100 on just the core army. And that doesn’t include the cost of tools, paint and the codex.

Needless to say, these costs can be restrictive for some younger players who want to break in but are slowed down by waiting on their allowance. But do not fear, for here’s are five ideas to help you save some money in building your army, as well as links to guides to help you out if you don’t know how.

Although, Leonidas of the Angry Marines maybe an exception to the "No Pre-painted Purchases" rule.

Although, Leonidas of the Angry Marines maybe an exception to the "No Pre-painted Purchases" rule.

1. Use eBay
Buying from hobby stores is not the cheapest option. Very often, I’ve found that I could buy troop sets for well near $10 less on eBay. Shop around, check back regularly. If you find a seller you trust, look them up regularly. Don’t be afraid to ‘buy now’ if you see a bargain.

It’s also cheaper to buy just the part than a whole new model just to get that one option you want. Say you want to create a Space Marine Sergeant with a power sword and have most of the parts except the sword itself. Well, if someone has assembled a Force Commander and didn’t need the Power sword, putting it on sale on eBay can make both people happier.

A word of caution though. Think twice before buying any already painted models, because they’re either over priced, aren’t the army you want or can be poor quality.

2. Save your Bitz
Usually by the time you finish building a basic troop choice, you have tons of left over weapons and arms and maybe some heads. Believe it or not, some sellers on eBay sell only the missing parts. Bases, bodies and legs (and possibly backpacks) would be all you need to use up your bitz and bolster your army’s numbers or give you special weapon options. As of this writing, I see 10 Space Marine torsos (both front and back) on sale for $1.

It also pays to keep bitz around for repairs to existing models, or for making special models that may would as stand-ins for other models. For example, the Imperial Guard Basilisk and Leman Russ both come with components to assemble a makeshift Master of Ordinance character if you can get a spare base. Or whatever else your imagination allows for.

3. Use Spray Cans
When assembling a massive army you can either painstakingly slather Chaos Black paint all over each individual model for its base coat. And you do that while telling yourself that it is worth the lost time and several pots of paint. Or, you could use some Chaos Black Spray.

The price is currently $15.75 but shop around and you could probably find it cheaper. But the real joy is that hours that would otherwise be lost putting a thick coat of paint on dozens (if not hundreds) models are reduced to about 15 minutes and a nice, incredibly thin coat that preserves details. And this may save on buying several pots of Chaos Black, usually leaving you with plenty to use again later.

4. Buddy up with your Hobby Store

I stopped going to my first hobby store after I got tired of the poor manners of the staff. Not long after I find out about a new hobby store, one that was way better and the staff were nice guys. One day, I walk in and I get frustrated I can’t seem to find much 40k stuff there. “Hey,” I ask the manager I sometimes chat it up with, “What happened to the Chaos Marine stuff?”

“Oh,” he says, looking a bit guilty, “You missed the spring sale. Guys were lining up out the door to buy 40k stuff.”

Yes, my friends. Hobby stores indeed do sales. Keep your ear to the ground and find out when they occur. And then stock up a bit. It’s not like models decay with time or anything.

5. Buy your own Tools
Oh sure, I’m certain that the Games Workshop paint brush set and tools are fine quality. But then again, it’s just a paint brush. Let’s face it. For the same price as buying a single brush, you could probably get five at a local hobby store. Games Workshop does not have a monopoly on the high quality paint brush business, either.

So keep on modelling guys. And uh, I don’t mean the Zoolander kind of modelling…