Friday, September 30, 2016

Icons and Miniatures

I've put together a little comparison between the color-icons and the miniatures (many are still unpainted). Both work well, but I love finally seeing miniatures for each of the Solar Echoes characters--they really bring the game to life!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Handbook for New Recruits (part 3)

The Union Guard Handbook for New Recruits also includes full-color character map icons for your battle scenarios. Union Guard agents are always practicing their tactics, and using a full-color avatar on the battlemap is second only to having your own painted miniature. These map icons can be easily cut out and folded to represent your movements and decisions on the battlefield, and are even used in the Union Guard war room when planning complex strategies. In the past, only black-and-white icons were used, but thanks to recent improvements and allowances in the ISU budget, the Union Guard is releasing these color icons to you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Union Guard Handbook release!

The Union Guard Handbook for New Recruits is now available at RPGnow! This booklet contains the amazing full-color art of John Fell for each of the alien character races, plus new emblems and full-color map icons.
Inside you'll find:
* 7 new works of full color art by John Fell for each of the alien character races
* Alien character details including cultural details and a list of physical traits and racial talents
* New emblem designs by John Fell for each alien character race, the UG and ISU, and 4 criminal organizations, with descriptions for each
* New border art by John Fell incorporating emblem designs
* Full-color map icons for each character race, ready to print for quick use
* Union Guard advice to help new recruits adjust to alien diversity
Preview the new handbook here: 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Handbook for New Recruits (part 2)

Knowing the racial emblems is one thing, but if you're going to serve as an agent in the Union Guard, you need to know the emblems of some of the biggest threats to the stability of the Union. The three most dominate criminal organizations in the universe are detailed in the handbook, and you would be wise to memorize their emblems--if you happen to spot someone tattooed with one of these, or if you see a criminal organization's insignia scrawled nearby, report in immediately. A quick-thinking agent can avert a potential disaster by recognizing the presence or involvement of one of society's most dangerous foes. The handbook even includes the emblem and details of the mysterious "Immortals" cult--a cult responsible for the disappearance of a number of civilians and several Union Guard agents!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Handbook for New Recruits (part 1)

Are you new to the Solar Echoes universe? The Union Guard is preparing a small handbook for new recruits which will help familiarize you with the seven alien races that are part of the Interstellar Union (ISU). This handbook includes full-color art of each alien race with information about their physical traits, abilities, and culture. Emblem designs for each race are also included for quick recognition--no longer will you mistakenly wander into a restaurant hoping for a vegetarian meal to find yourself surprised that it is a Krissethi establishment serving only meat. No longer will you commit an unintentional offense by asking about the strange honeycomb tattoo on someone's neck. You can even learn a little history through the cryptic words of the ancient Human language on their emblem. But there's even more included in the new handbook...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Miniatures and why we love them! (part 5/5)

Another benefit of 3D printing miniatures is the odd poses, shapes, and detail that is possible. Some of the limitations of traditional miniature production limit designs, and even require the assembly and gluing of pieces together. With 3D printing, supports can be printed to allow for extreme design options, and these supports can be easily cut away (Shapeways will do that for you and clean up the miniature before sending it.) Another bonus to using Shapeways is that I can print in different materials, and their more expensive and highly detailed material, “Frosted Ultra Detail Plastic,” is transparent. This was the perfect choice for the gelatinous, amoeba-like alien character, the Omul, and I designed the figure with this in mind. The pose of the insectoid Chiraktis would definitely require assembly and gluing with traditional casting methods, but with 3D printing, this amazing sculpt was done in a single piece, with fantastic results. In conclusion, 3D printing has enabled me to finally bring miniatures to the Solar Echoes game, and I hope everyone enjoys them, whether buying a full set of low-detail miniatures or ordering a high quality plastic print of your favorite Solar Echoes character for your very best paint job. The next time you play Solar Echoes, this miniature can be your in-game avatar!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Miniatures and why we love them! (part 4/5)

As I developed the Solar Echoes game, I originally looked into producing miniatures the traditional way, pricing companies that make casts and use a process called injection-molding, among other methods. For a small company like Corefun Studios, this method was far too expensive and required very large upfront costs. When an investor provided a 3D printer, I began to realize that making miniatures for Solar Echoes might actually be affordable, and looked into finding the best way to design the miniatures. At first, I thought a traditional sculptor would be the way to go—I planned to 3D-scan the physical sculpt and then input that data into a 3D printer. But after talking with people on various forums, I realized that going directly to an artist talented in 3D sculpting would produce the best detail. I found Jeremy Gosser at Time Portal Games, and he introduced me to Shapeways—a company that prints 3D sculpts that can be ordered online and then mailed directly to your doorstep. Jeremy worked with me in designing the 3D sculpts, and then I uploaded the data for each figure to Shapeways. I've been very pleased with the results, and the cost of the lower-resolution miniatures is the same that you would find for traditionally cast miniatures sold at Reaper Miniatures, averaging around $6 a figure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Miniatures and why we love them! (part 3/5)

One reason tabletop gamers like miniatures is because they serve as their avatars in the game world. Just like a character played in a video game, miniatures are an extension of the player, and in a tabletop game, a miniature allows the player to become more immersed in the imagined scenario. Another advantage of having a miniature is that it makes battle easier to visualize—physical positioning is a very important aspect of tabletop gaming, allowing for battle tactics to be planned, distances to be measured, and larger strategies to be formed. Some games, like Warhammer, revolve around the use of miniatures, and the Games Workshop company has stores that exclusively sell Warhammer miniatures. Their fan base is so huge that they can dedicate their stores to the sale of Warhammer-related products alone. These stores are lined with packaged miniatures, game materials, modeled terrain, and everything a miniature painter needs to get started. When looking at the incredibly detailed terrain models and figures of wargaming hobbyists, it reminds me of the detail seen in tabletop train modeling. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a large amount of cross-over among hobbyists interested in trains and wargaming. Miniature collecting is a massive hobby, supported by tabletop gamers worldwide.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Miniatures and why we love them! (part 2/5)

I obviously fall into the hobbyist, gamer, and collector category when it comes to miniatures, but there was a time that I also meticulously painted lead miniatures made by long-forgotten companies like Grenadier models. I still have over a hundred of those miniatures, some primed but never painted, others stored in the boxes they came in--boxes adorned with exciting fantasy or sci-fi scenes that are works of art I could never throw away. I've fit into all the categories of a miniature enthusiast that I can think of, but I never dreamed that I'd fit into the category I now find myself in: creator! Don't get me wrong, though, I'm not the artist who sculpted the new Solar Echoes miniatures--that honor belongs to 3D-Sculpting artist Jeremy Gosser at Time Portal Games. But I've been involved in the development, and being part of the artistic design process has been an incredible experience as a miniature enthusiast! Check out the newly finished Reln available at Shapeways. The Reln is a playable alien character in Solar Echoes that is a master con-artist, and we've affectionately named this miniature “The Harmless Reln.”


Monday, September 19, 2016

Miniatures and why we love them! (part 1/5)

Just what is it about those tiny sculptures we call miniatures that attracts so many people? Gamers, hobbyists, collectors, and artists are all drawn to miniatures for various reasons; some shared, and some entirely different. I've been a collector since the 80's, but it started for me with legos. One might argue that legos aren't miniatures, but for me, after the initial build was finished, I treated them in much the same way--I put them on display for others to see, and now I use them in Solar Echoes games for robot or starship props. Back in the early 2000's, I became addicted to D&D pre-painted miniatures, playing the miniatures wargame with them and using them for D&D campaigns I ran. I literally have giant garbage bags filled with hundreds of these things at home, because there just isn't enough space to put them all on display. Some of the models aren't so “miniature,” like the giant red dragon that is about 14” tall. If I had enough shelves to display everything, I'd have them out for everyone to see, but at least I've managed to display all my 80's lego sets You can see that I've always loved sci-fi!

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword (part 5/5)

What have I decided? It depends on what you're referring to. I self-publish my music, and I'm happy with that setup. I've self-published the Solar Echoes RPG books, and though I've sold most of my physical copies and a number of digital copies as well, I realize how difficult it is to advertise. Back when Solar Echoes released in 2012, I was under the naïve impression that a good product will sell itself. The response to the game at conventions has been great, and there is even an international following, but it has been really difficult to advertise and let people know about it beyond that. It seems that once they try the game, they usually go for it and really enjoy it (thanks everyone!) but to keep it all going, I need to reach more people. I post often, attend conventions, and advertise some online, but I rely almost entirely on word-of-mouth and social media for advertising--it's easy to get lost among all the other products out there (many of them with huge budgets for marketing!) I've learned from all this, and that's why I'm trying to find an agent or a publisher for my sci-fi novel. Hopefully, someone will give it a chance!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword (part 4/5)

The advantages of using a publisher are numerous, but one that appeals most to me is that they often have built-in marketing. And why wouldn't they? They want your product to sell so they can make money off it, too! Of course, the traditional 50/50 profit split is a bit of a deterrent to most creators, and they will have to decide if 100% of next to nothing is worth the tradeoff to sacrificing 50% for a whole lot of something. That's not guaranteed, though; there are self-published creators that hit it big, and it's awesome that they retain product control and don't have to give up 50% of their profits to a publisher. Either way, however, the creator still has to hope to be lucky enough to get hit by that rare lightning bolt that sparks massive success, whether self-published or traditionally published. A reputable publisher can't guarantee a hit, but they know the industry and can at least help market you towards success, probably much better than you can yourself.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword (part 3/5)

If you're self-publishing, the problem of distinguishing yourself without a publisher rests squarely on you. Building up a fanbase takes time, and sometimes it slips because we live in a fast-paced world where something shiny and new is always just around the corner. Indie video-game developers know that the first week their product releases is most likely going to be the best week of their sales, because the very next week, an entirely new line-up of games will release and steal their thunder. I've seen price drops on games appear sometimes within a month of release, which sadly suggests the desperation of a developer trying to squeeze out a few more sales before fading to obscurity. I remember decades ago before self-publishing became so easy. Did I have more of an attention span back then, or was it that there were just fewer choices, so I valued the products I bought that much more? The easier it is to self-publish and put products out there, the more saturated the market becomes, which makes it harder for consumers to choose and it is much less likely that they will commit with any kind of product loyalty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword (part 2/5)

There are actually several downsides to self-publishing. The first is that you have to do your own marketing. The second directly relates to that problem, and it is that because it has become so easy to self-publish, there is a major surplus of content to wade through and try to distinguish yourself from. Another downside is that, because it is so easy to self-publish, there is a huge range of quality out there, with excellent products mixed among products that...well...aren't. Quality control is something publishers can help sort out. But, it all depends on the industry. If you have inroads to a particular music audience, for instance, then spreading your work among them through concerts and conventions isn't impossible, and honestly, you'll probably do better on your own than having a publisher who rarely interfaces directly with the fans. But in other instances, reputable publishers in any industry already have a built-in following, and sometimes accessing that “fanbase” will vault you far beyond your own network.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword (part 1/5)

We live in an era where most of the former obstacles to business have begun to erode, if they haven't disappeared entirely. No longer does a musician have to find a label to produce a CD, nor does a writer have to find a publisher to make his work available to the public. Indie game developers can put new gaming apps up with relative ease, or can approach indie-friendly organizations like Steam or Sony to get their product featured on a digital storefront. With some money, time, and a dose of courage, just about anyone can put their work out there for others to find. Music students can easily record and burn their own CD's and upload their work to i-tunes, and unestablished writers with any range of experience can get their books on Amazon. Yet, there is a downside to all this...

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Human Drifter 3D Sculpt!

Another sculpt is nearly ready to go online for 3D printing at Shapeways: introducing the iconic human, as seen on the original Player's Guide front cover, this time holding different weapons. This human is depicted as a drifter--a space cowboy--who has the marks of experience, the weapons and the attitude to prove that he's not to be messed with. He totes an R-44 rifle and a Phoenix Pistol, wearing boots, a duster, a boonie hat, and a bandolier. The sculptor, Jeremy Gosser, did a great job at giving the human a casual but threatening attitude in this detailed miniature, and he's captured the image of the human on the Player's Guide quite well. Humans may not seem as exciting when compared to the other 6 alien races in Solar Echoes, but they are resilient, versatile, adaptable, and can hold their own against any of the races in the Interstellar Union!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Help Expand Solar Echoes!

One of the projects I'm working on is the creation of dangerous alien lifeforms (sci-fi monsters) for characters to encounter. I've already been working with an excellent artist, John Fell, to create several of these, but I'd like to continue working with him and I need your help to do that. However, I'd also like your opinions. What kind of creature would you be interested in, something insectoid found on the Chiraktis homeworld, or maybe something aquatic found in the deep oceans of the Archaeloid homeworld? Or, it could be something completely unrelated to the character races—something dangerous that is out there on an uncolonized planet, just waiting to be discovered so it can find its way to civilization. I could either present the information voted on to John for the artistic design, or I could post the artwork of a lifeform he and I already designed and patrons could vote on its characteristics: how does it attack, how does it defend itself, what weaknesses or unusual behaviors does it have? Together, we could decide what this strange organism is like. Once decided, I'd put together all the details and release it to patrons so they could use it in their games. Later, this same lifeform might appear in a mission, and hopefully, in a larger archive of lifeforms if I can design enough of them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Upcoming release: "The Harmless Reln"

3D sculptor Jeremy Gosser has been working with Corefun Studios on designing miniatures based on the alien character races in Solar Echoes. The Reln is the closest race to human, but they have a few distinct differences. In appearance, they have dark black, obsidian-like skin to help them survive the radiation of their resonance-locked sun, a star that keeps one side of their planet in an almost perpetual state of daylight. The Reln have bat-like ears and very sensitive hearing, but can use echo-location. In Solar Echoes, one of the things Reln are known to be best at is word-smithing--they are some of the best diplomats and con-artists in the universe. In the design of the miniature that Jeremy and I worked on, we wanted to capture this side of the Reln, so we designed him to be offering a peaceful gesture while hiding a readied pistol behind his leg. We hope you like the "Harmless Reln," which will be available on Shapeways for 3D-printing very soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Help Expand Solar Echoes! (part 2)

Solar Echoes is a community-driven game, so I want to hear from the gaming community. Through Patreon, people can let me know what they want me to work on that month, and I'll share my progress with them as I work. For example, suppose that the majority of patrons vote for me to work on a new, low-level mission during the month of September. I'll share with them details of the plot development, the characters involved, and post pictures of how things are coming together. During that process, they can comment and share their opinions. Some patrons at higher contribution levels can even email me directly and talk it over with me. I'll try to shape the mission in a way that reflects the preferences that have been shared. Some patrons will even get their names listed as contributors in the credits of the mission!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Help Expand Solar Echoes!

There is a lot going on with Solar Echoes, but you have a chance to influence the course of this game universe! At Patreon, I'm running a crowd-funding campaign where contributors (patrons) have a say in what gets developed, and in what direction it goes. Your support helps me pay for the development time of artists and writers working on Solar Echoes products, but it also gives you the option to vote on which product you'd like to see us work on next. You'll gain access to inside-info, development progress, get sneak peeks at unreleased products, and, for some contributor levels, you'll even get products early, before they release to the public. Plus, you'll receive lots of exclusive monthly releases, like new NPC's, new full-color maps, a set of unreleased full-color character icons, and even your own unique emblem for your Solar Echoes team!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Archived Artwork for Patreon campaign

No Man's Sky (5/5)

The more you play the game and soak in the infinite emptiness of the massive universe, you'll feel smaller and smaller with each star system you explore. You may encounter a single alien or two at an outpost or on an isolated space station, but the language barrier and the bizarre nature of the alien somehow makes you feel even lonelier--there's not a human to be found, nor anyone that speaks your language. Sometimes, the aliens want something from you and you will have several choices for your response. Once, an alien looked angry and concerned as he pointed at my multitool/boltcaster and said something unintelligible in his alien tongue. I was worried that he didn't want me to have my weapons on the space station, so I picked the choice that offered it to him—I thought he was some kind of security guard and he was going to hold it for me. He seemed very satisfied with my response, and handed me his lower-grade multitool, which didn't even have the boltcaster weapon function yet. I couldn't get mine back (he wouldn't talk with me again), so I was stuck with his piece of junk. Choosing wisely in “conversation” will often earn a blueprint for a new piece of technology that will help you on your journey—clearly, I chose poorly.

You can sell and buy items with aliens that occasionally land at outposts, and if you have enough money (and I mean a LOT of money), you can buy their ship, which might have better technology and more slots available for expansion. In space, you may bump into hostiles, so don't neglect to keep your shielding upgraded and your photon cannons primed. Earning money is done by selling the resources you've gathered, or by adding your discoveries to the galactic network. You can even name the planets, locations, vegetation, and lifeforms you've discovered, and someone else online might come across them, though the chances in such a vast universe are extremely low that anyone will ever find the Clowndog, Frankenlope, Hannumweed, or Spideetle I named (if you do, watch out for those Spideetles, they're very nasty!) No Man's Sky is a different approach to gaming, but for me, it has been quite an experience so far. I'm not sure I'll make it to the center of the universe, but each time I play, I find that I lose myself in the experience and the hours easily slip by. I'm not sure if I'm playing because of my discoveries when exploring, the desire to achieve the next upgrade, or the hope of finding purpose in an enormous universe that makes me and all that I do feel very, very insignificant.
This guy took my multi-tool / boltcaster!

Watch out for the Spideetles!

Uhh, yeah, I don't know what that stuff is, but if you touch it, it moves away slowly on "thousands of tiny cilia." Yuck!

Thankfully, these guys are harmless, though they sure don't look it!
Is it just me, or do they kind of remind you of the Solar Echoes Chiraktis?
Very mantis-like.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

No Man's Sky (4/5)

Survival in itself is something one obviously must do to continue playing the game, but that begs the existential question, "What is the point of surviving?" It's easy to start questioning the point of surviving because this quickly becomes a circular argument if you're playing a survival game just to survive. The second fundamental goal of No Man's Sky is to journey to the center of the universe for answers to these questions. This creates countless goals, because to make this journey, you must harvest resources, discover and gather blueprints, craft and upgrade your gear and starship, and uncover the mysteries of alien languages to help you with trading and deciphering alien text. Along the way, you'll find alien monoliths with hints from "Atlas," the ancient something that is calling you to the center of the universe. Some gamers might not care to ask "Why?", but others will be compelled to know the reason for their existence, and why they have been called to find answers. Everything you do in the game does ultimately feel like it's aiming towards answering questions about why you are there and what purpose you have. Are your actions significant, and do they have an effect upon the vast universe? If they do, your actions might be unnoticeable and of no consequence to everyone except you.