BRS Beast Figma & Artbook

It's black, blue, white, and a beast. It's the Black★Rock Shooter Beast Figma. I pre-ordered this limited figma and artbook set in September of last year and finally received it a couple weeks ago. It took me a bit of time to finally take photos, but here it is.

I really love the whole look and feel of the Black★Rock Shooter line. So far they make up the bulk of my figma collection. They're a great creative inspiration for me, but they also just look plain cool. When I saw this Black★Rock Shooter Beast figma, which is based off an image by the BRS creator, huke, I really wanted to get it. Unfortunately, it only comes in a limited set with the artbook. However, I'm glad I took the plunge and picked it up. She's definitely one of my favorite figmas thus far.

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It comes in this fairly unassuming brown box with only the logo and name on it to let you know what's inside.

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Inside is the artbook and another box that holds the figma.

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Here she is with all her bits and bobs along with a little card that has a cute illustration of the "beast" character. She comes with a fairly typical assortment of items. Only one optional face, but they included a couple sets of hands, a gun, sword, crown, optional hair piece with the iconic blue flame and a standard figma stand. Another face would have been nice, but still, it's a decent set.

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She has a lot of nice detail. The zippers are painted silver, the black and white stripes are clean and there is even some grunge detail on some of the armor bits on her legs. The arms, hands and some of the legs are glossy black while other parts, like the shirt and skirt, are matte. It makes for a nice contrast.

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Her back has a unique coat of arms emblem. The detail is really impressive at this scale. I also love the blue star on the zipper by her waist -- nice detailing.

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The sword is semi-transparent and I love the text on the back. It's actually in English and it isn't gibberish. This really impressed me. It reads like instructions on how to use the "device". Very cool!

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She features typical figma posability. The hands can't move due to the long sleeves. The feet also don't move much. She has transparent blue spikes on the back of her legs that fold out. The skirt/belt is a hard rubber, but it doesn't have much bending range due to the connected part in the middle. Everything else uses the typical figma joint, including the twin tails on her head.

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The artbook is very heavy and well made. It's full color and, as the title says, contains selected works by huke, the creator of Black★Rock Shooter. As a fan of his characters, I really like this book. It contains a lot of painted-style images of his characters as well as some design sheets.

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Black★Gold Saw, probably my favorite BRS character.

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All in all I'm really happy I got this set. I'm glad I was able to add this limited figma to my collection. She really stands out. If you can get your hands on one, I'd recommend it. Especially if you like artbooks and are a fan of the BRS characters.

What about you? What are your favorite figmas or characters? Do you have a large amount of just one character or series? Do you have any limited figmas? Leave a comment.

 

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Tera Online

One of my many addictions are MMORPGs, which, for the uninitiated, are online games that generally take place in a large virtual world that allow you to make a character, level that character, and play with other people. This is one that I've been looking forward to and I'd like to share along with the collector's edition game box.

I've played nearly every major MMO release since Anarchy Online in 2001. I like many of them for different reasons. None of them are perfect, and Tera is no exception, but only a handful usually can keep me playing for months on end. Graphics, explorability, and gameplay are probably the top three things that I look at, which I'll detail below, but first lets look at the collector's edition box.

Collector's Edition Box

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I love collector's edition game boxes. They tend to vary greatly with what you get and the quality, but they typically also include some unique "in-game" items that you can't get otherwise. For Tera they provide a fairly standard CE with some nice little touches.

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Inside the plastic case you have a nice brown box that opens to reveal a bevy of goodies. They even include a material "pull-tab" to help you get the items out. Nice touch. They include a "Letter of Marque", which is a story-based letter as if it was given to a character in the game world, a map of the game world, a "Handbook" that gives some information about the game story and world, the game discs, which also include a soundtrack, and a real metal compass.

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The compass is a nice touch. The outside is nicely embossed with some simple aging effects.  While the quality is certainly not grand, the compass is actually housed in a plastic shell with a sticker bottom, it, along with the letter and map, kinda help to make the game world feel more authentic. As for functionality, I wouldn't rely on it for a trip in the woods.

Overall it's a "fair" collector's edition. I've certainly seen better for the same price point, but I've also seen much worse.

However, the real reason to buy a collector's edition is usually for the in-game items. While you will find the typical in-game accessories that your character will outgrow, the crowning item for this set is the Frostlion mount. A mount that is very unique to the typical horse mount in the game and it is also faster. I must say this mount is probably one of the most well made mounts I've seen in an MMO for a long time. It is superbly animated and modeled that really gives it a sense of life that is often missing from mounts. I think it is almost worth the cost of admission for the collector's edition alone if you plan to play the game for some time. As with all of the bonus in-game items, they can be claimed by all of your characters.

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The Game

So why is Tera an MMO that I enjoy? In a nutshell it's absolutely gorgeous, the world doesn't restrict where you can go, and its action-based combat doesn't get boring or tedious. Beyond that it is a very standard "post-WoW" MMO that is fairly feature rich from launch. So let's talk in a bit more detail about this MMO while I share some of my own in-game screenshots.

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Graphics

The first thing that will stand out about Tera are the graphics. Even some of the more critical gamers will agree it is a beautiful game. Because it is built on the Unreal 3 engine it is also amazingly optimized, being fairly forgiving of computer specs. Since it was created in Korea a lot of the design choices are not what you typically find in a "western-styled" title, which tend to be more medieval in design. Tera is very much a "high fantasy" world. The environments range from idyllic islands to barren wastelands with everything in between. The creatures that inhabit the world are also varied from creepy little sprites with large heads that giggle at you to fierce and massive beasts that will scare the crap out of you when they jump in the air only to land on top of you.

The world is a place I feel you can get lost in and brings back that sense of "what's around the corner" that has been missing from MMOs in recent years. While the gameplay (read "questing")  may follow the traditional quest hub to quest hub style, Tera hasn't forgotten that this is supposed to feel like a living world. Instead of finding a game world that is only purposefully designed to funnel the player from one area to the next, Tera actually has several areas that are just there for no other reason then to explore. There are several areas that are just open and empty. This may sound boring to some, but for me it's nice to actually have areas that you can explore without dodging monsters at every step. For example, outside of the main human city there is a large area that has some ruins, mountains and a large beach. There's nothing there, it's just a nice open area.

This is not to say that the game world is absolutely perfect. While they do give you the freedom to explore nearly everywhere, you will find several "unfinished" areas if you poke around -too- much. Still, just the fact that they give you that freedom to look around is still nice.

Let's talk about the cities in the game. Many MMOs seem to forget that the world is supposed to be filled with people, unless it's some post-apocalyptic setting. Many cities in MMOs feel too small to hold a sizable population. Not in Tera. The cities feel massive. While you can't explore every nook, they all have a large footprint on the land and feel layered. The game world overall does a great job of making your character feel small. There are three major cities and various towns and villages to explore. While I wouldn't say that Tera has perfected the feeling of enough living areas to house a sizable world population, it does do a better job than most.

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Finally I'd like to mention the most important aspect of the game world, the races. You can pick from one of seven races, each are fairly unique and some even unique to the fantasy genre. The characters are probably my favorite part of the game, graphically. They simply look amazing and range from massive and aggressive looking Aman to the overly cute and semi-controversial Elin. Not all races have both male and female choices and there are no body sliders for customization, but what it lacks there it makes up for in the rest of the customization choices. They provide you with a sizable selection of hair styles, hair colors, faces, face details, face sliders, and even voices. If you want you character's eyes to be always closed, you can do that. If you want them to smile more, you can choose that. The sliders give you enough control to twist the base faces so much to make you yell "QUICK, KILL IT!" While it may be extreme in some cases, having those options is still nice. It does lack some options, namely the choice of eye color, which is connected to face detail/makeup.

Each race has a very distinct personality in Tera. This is shown in their run, jump and emote animations as well as their combat animations. A larger race will wield a large sword with ease while a smaller one will show that extra weight as it swings. The armor is another one of my favorite graphical details. Each race and gender will look different in the same armor set. This is not just in shape but complete style. The same breastplate will look massive and bulky on a Baraka, but look, well, skimpy and erotic on a Castanic (my favorite race btw) each armor set is exquisitely modeled and textured to a level I've never seen in ANY game to date. This isn't just simple textures on a character body, these are each uniquely modeled PER race and gender. Something you rarely ever see in MMOs. To top it off there is a dying system and remodeling system in the game so that you can be sure your character always looks how you want. They even went through the trouble to automatically tie up long hair when an armor piece has a high collar. Really nice attention to detail.

I'll let the sceenshots I added here to speak for themselves. These have all been taken from my time in Tera with max graphic settings.

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Gameplay

With overall gameplay in Tera (I'll get to combat below) you'll find a fairly typical questing system, gathering and crafting system, and dungeons. They don't break the mold here too much from other MMOs before it. All the quests are presented in a text-based format with a quest tracker. However, there are a couple different types of quests to help with organization and to give you a little bit of variety. First you have your basic random quests about the world. These range from kill quests to escorts. They offer experience and sometimes an item. The next type are story quests. These are unique since they tend to be chained in a series and often require a certain level or previous quest completion to be unlocked. They will also often lead to a dungeon at the end of a chain, usually requiring a group (five people) to complete. The game does include a dungeon and group finder to help with that. While I won't say that the story is award-winning, it's better than average MMOs, but most people will soon forget it or not even read it. It is also, at times, presented with per-rendered in-game cinematics to help move the story along. It has a repeating cast of characters that you follow all the way up as you level. Those are the two types of quests that will be your main bread and butter for leveling through the game, but they do offer some other options in the form of repeatable quests. The first is a regular repeatable quest that gives you experience and/or tokens that you can trade in for gear. The second is only available if you are in a guild. Guild quests are repeatable (level limited) quests that give you special tokens used to help level up the guild.

As a Korean made MMO, there is a stigma that Tera would be another "grinder". Basically meaning, a game that requires you to either level soley by repeatedly killing the same monster in the same area for hours before getting a level, being so slow to level and tedious that you want to stab yourself, and/or requiring you to group all the time to make any progress at all. I can tell you that Tera is in fact none of those. It is very similar to WoW's leveling speed, if not faster, and you will have solo quests, and sometimes too many, all the way to level cap. Of course this is considering that you don't think questing is a "grind" as well.

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Outside of questing you have factions (at end-game) that you can gain reputation with to claim rare items, 5-man dungeons at various levels throughout the game, some of which come in a "hard-mode" flavor, a "soon to be added" Nexus system for end-game (think "Rifts") and also "soon to be added" "revised" battlegrounds. There are two server types as well, PVE and PVP, for those that like to kill each other. Guilds can also wage war with other guilds (currently only on the PVP servers).

Of course, there is crafting. Unlike other MMOs, you can actually learn EVERY crafting skill on one character. Though, I wouldn't recommend it as it can be extremely expensive. However, if you are hardcore enough, it is there. Crafting in Tera is fairly typical with gathering nodes around the game world and crafting areas/tables in the major cities. You will need to have the materials and then purchase items from a vendor to make an item. There are chance rolls while crafting that can gain you more crafted items etc. Some harder items may require an item from BAMs, which I'll get into in a bit. There is also an item enchanting system that allows you to improve the power (stats) of a weapon or armor item. This is a random chance roll that requires another equal tier item and vendor material to accomplish. It can be pretty hard to get an item to +9 let alone +12 (the enchantment cap), but for those that do, they will have a certain edge.

Another unique feature to Tera is the "Vanarch" system. With this players are able to vie to be elected as "ruler" over certain regions in the game. With this power they can open up certain features in towns and cities, control taxes etc. While this may really only affect a small group of players, when you add the fact that this will require the help of a whole guild and guild alliances you may find a more vested interest in it if you are in one of these groups vying for Vanarch power. Even still, a political system like this just adds yet another layer of realism to the game overall. Just hearing others talk about political backstabbing etcetera around towns in the game should be something unique to Tera as a whole.

Finally there are BAMs. BAMs stands for Bad-Ass Monster, which are the closest equivalent to world bosses or elites in other MMOs, however, in Tera BAMs are a unique "beast" all their own. I'll get into this more in the next section, but I will say that BAMs really help complete the Tera gameplay package, offering another fun challenge for solo or group players that you won't often see in other MMOs.

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Combat

I left combat for last because many will agree that Tera's combat is its primary "trump-card." Combat in Tera is a real gem and a joy to play. If you've played other MMOs you will be used to the tried and true "tab-targeting" system where you "select" a monster (mob) to kill it, usually using a handful of static skills. By "static" I mean that your character will carry out an attack animation and your enemy will as well, often without much regard to each other. In the background the game is running random "dice rolls" to see who has successfully hit whom based on stats, skills and gear etcetera. This is NOT how Tera plays.

Tera takes a much more "action game" approach to combat and this isn't some cheap gimmick either—this is a very refined and fluid system that is fairly balanced. In Tera you don't select a target, you have a crosshair in the center of the screen, similar to an FPS (first-person shooter) game. You don't click on your skills in Tera. Your mouse is locked to you camera and thus your crosshair. You can play with a controller (yes, a controller) or a mouse and keyboard. With a mouse, your left and right mouse buttons are for skills, usually a main attack and a dodge/block. From there you have to use whatever works best for you to execute your other skills, typically the 1-0 keys etc. If you are a melee class you would run up to your target, centering them with the crosshair, and swing your weapon with you left mouse button or use your other skills. If it is a group of monsters your swings will hit more than one around you depending on the weapon and skill. A ranged character would do similar, but at range (duh). It sounds simple, and in a way it is, which is the beauty of it. After playing Tera, tab-target-based games start to feel so clunky.

But there is more to it than just how you hit the target. Monsters in Tera are not dumb. While they they will sometimes do stupid things, they will also often surprise you. Monsters in Tera move, they will try to evade, they will "wind-up" to do a massive attack that if you don't move out of the way will hurt. Dodging and blocking are another big part of Tera combat. You are no longer just standing in one place while you fight, you are MOVING, you are TARGETING, it is very active. The monsters have a wide range of actions that result in no two fights being exactly the same, even with the same type of monster. I've had monsters actually evade area attacks, snare me and run away. They will almost taunt you by using a variety of tactics. Some like to run at you hitting you as they pass so that they end up behind you. This causes you to have to constantly turn around and be aware of their next move. They may pause, giving you an opening, only to hit you with a massive attack.

This very active combat rarely allows you to just "zone out" as you play, you have to pay attention. While death isn't harsh, regaining health can be slow, unless you're a healer. A nice touch in Tera is that to regen health you need to be near a campfire, again, unless you're a healer or have a healer with you. There are campfires in outposts around the game world, but there are also portable campfires that you tend to use often. The effect of a campfire can by used by anyone that stands near it almost creating a mini-meeting place for players. You can also use charms at a campfire to gain buffs.

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BAMs, I mentioned them a couple times before and now you might see how these guys really come into their own in Tera. BAMs are the kings of the monsters as far as challenge goes. Generally they are meant for a group, but with how Tera's combat is designed, if you are skilled enough you can solo these beasts for a real challenge. Their attacks hit hard and can be difficult to predict, unless you fight them a lot. A couple of good hits by these guys will typically kill an equal level character. You'll find your first BAMs around level 20, and while some at that point are fairly slow to attack, giving you a chance to hit them and move out of the way, others are fast and mean. Basilisks can jump in a wide pattern doing massive damage, or they may just swipe at you with their massive claws or do a breath attack. If you are not paying total attention you will die and fast. Groups obviously make this easier. From two people to five, you will easily notice how much easier they become with a group, but they are still always a challenge. And from level 20 onward they can be found all over. So there is no shortage.

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Believe it or not, but this was my attempt to keep this short. I can talk about MMOs for days. I glossed over a lot of details, but I hope you get a feel for the game overall. It's not perfect, it has its flaws, and for some, the traditional text-based questing will be a turn-off, but I think the rest of the game is something of a gem in the MMO game space and worth a try. Many gamers I've seen said they never gave Tera a thought, whether it be because they thought it was just another "Korean grinder" or because the graphic style was a "turn-off", but many that tried it said it really surprised them in the end. I think you can tell that I like it. Let me know what you think. Have you played Tera? Is there something about it you want to know? Have you played other MMOs? Let me know.

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Of course there's nothing like seeing it in action. Here are some official trailers to wet your pallet. These are all using in-game graphics (minus custom cinematic animations). The game actually looks like this.

What are you waiting for? Do you have what it takes? http://tera.enmasse.com

 

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Naturally Alexis

Alexis, my Dream of Doll Calla, was made a year ago today. I thought I should take some nice photos of her since I haven't done much with her since I got her.

Alexis is my second resin BJD (ball-jointed doll). Soon after I got her, though, I had received my two Dollfie Dreams. So, unfortunately, she didn't receive a lot of attention. She's such a great girl, though. These photos don't really do her justice.

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Alexis was a great model. I think they came out pretty good.

 

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HOTD: Full Color Edition

I'm always on the lookout for works that can inspire me and give me a kick in the behind to get moving on my own projects and ideas. In my ongoing attempt to get a new webcomic started, I've been looking for inspiration to help me get motivated.

While Highschool of the Dead itself might not be a groundbreaking story, it is fun in its own way. I actually rather enjoyed the anime, over-the-top situations included. It's just fun to watch. The manga, on the other hand, didn't have that same oomph.

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However, now they have a full colored edition of the manga, and I must say, I'm pretty impressed. Not only is the book hardcover and weigh a ton, they didn't just do a simple color-over of the pages. They actually used the black and white line art to work from instead of just coloring over the toned images you seen in the original manga.

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It's printed on heavy semi-gloss stock with a smattering of extra pages with bonus images and information. They even include a nice full color image inside the dust cover. The dust cover has high-gloss markings on the outside for the blood print and others that look like fingerprints. It's also fairly large at about the same size of normal American comics, and two quarters (25 cents) thick! I'd say it's a very high quality product. In fact, it was actually cheaper to buy this edition than the four included volumes as separate b&w manga, shipping included.

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But see for yourself with these images. As for myself, this is a nice source of inspiration. Not only from a coloring perspective, but from page layouts as well.

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Even the hardcover itself is in full color.

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If you're a HOTD fan, or just like high-quality manga, I'd recommend this. It's not often you find a manga product of this caliber. It's certainly worth looking into.

 

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DDH-06 Finished Version

Earlier this week I received a nice little package filled with goodies. One of which is my new "Finished Version" Dollfie Dream 06 head that I had mentioned earlier this year. I have to thank a close friend of mine for getting this for me and spoiling me with extra, unexpected, treats.

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The finished 06 head, nicely protected in bubble-wrap.

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The "finished version" 06 head. The photo doesn't do her much justice (especially in that bag). Unfortunately, I don't have a body for her, or a wig, or eyes, or clothes... On top of that, the body I want to get her is out of stock at the moment. So it may be a while. Either way, this is the first piece for my third Dollfie Dream.

 

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Napping

It has been a while since I drew something, so I drew this image of a cute girl taking a nap! It was also a chance to try out some new techniques. What do you think?

The image was made completely in Paint Tools SAI using my Wacom Cintiq. I tried going for a more saturated look with the colors, compared to previous images, while still trying to keep it soft. There are some gradients in the image to help add depth. The lines were also colored to help keep it soft. The pillow and hair probably took me the longest time to color.

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The sketch took me a little while. There are always aspects of an image I draw that I'm not perfectly happy with, but at some point you have to decide to move on or else you could be sketching forever.

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As you can see I added the second hand after the sketch. It looked strange without seeing her other arm, but I didn't really realize that until I colored it. It's always good to make sure you account for things like that.

I think I'll use some of these techniques in future images.

 

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Computer Upgrade

My computer received a much needed upgrade this week. Besides the graphics card, LCD monitor and speakers, most of the computer was about four years old. As someone that is as dependent on a decent working computer as I am, an upgrade was overdue.

Overall my computer was starting to feel sluggish and temperamental in recent months even after defragging the hard drives and cleaning the system. Time is very precious, even more-so than money (at least in my opinion). A slow computer can really cut into your time to get work done. Even something as simple as how long it takes your computer to boot or launch an application can really add up. So while getting an upgrade is exciting and fun, it also serves a practical purpose. If I can work faster I'll have more time to do other things (like play games!).

From a more technical perspective, between the old motherboard (Nvidia 790i Ultra) and CPU (Core 2 Duo 3GHz) my computer couldn't keep up with the demands I and newer programs placed on it. Up to this point I've been running with a 32-bit operating system. This, unfortunately, limits you to about 3.5GB of ram. I've been really feeling this limitation with recent games as well as some 3D and graphics programs I use. The low amount of free ram and only two core CPU really hurt its performance. In many of these newer games, which are a good test of your computer's power, I was getting a lot of load-lag and low frame rates. My Radeon 5870 graphics card, while powerful, was bottle-necked by the CPU, ram and motherboard. On top of that, my hard drives were also too small to hold everything I need (games are HUGE these days! XD).

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For the upgrade I got an Intel i7 3.4GHz CPU (2600), a semi "future-proof" motherboard (Asus P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3), 8GB of 1600MHz Cas Latency 7 DDR3 Ram (Corsair Vengeance), a Western Digital 1.5TB 6GB/s Hard Drive (Caviar Black), a Zalman CPU fan, and a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. Unfortunately, with the recent tsunami in Thailand, hard drive prices are nearly double what they were months ago. so I was only able to get one new drive for now.

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I've been building my own computers for well over a decade now. This is probably my 6th or so computer build. Above was my old setup. It really held up well over the years. I certainly pushed it to its limits.

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The new components running (above) while I installed Windows 7. With the blue motherboard, red ram and golden fan, I named the computer "Supergirl". I think it's fitting.

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As with any new computer build, I was really worried there might be problems, but everything installed and booted up without issue. Here (above) is the first time I booted to Windows 7.

It took me several days to install my programs and move over files, but I quickly noticed how much faster the computer runs. It boots faster and programs launch quicker. 3D rendering is blazingly fast due to the 8 threads (4 cores) on the CPU. 3D animation might not be such an unrealistic idea for me now. And of course, (best of all) my games now run much better.

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My latest gaming addiction, Tera (currently in beta), ran poorly before the upgrade. Now I am able to hit high framerates with maximum settings, as you can see in the top left of the above picture. Simply lovely! This is a great example showing that the graphics card is not always the primary factor in a game's performance.

 

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BRS 2035 Figma

This is the BRS (Black Rock Shooter) 2035 Figma based on the PSP BRS game. She is my first pre-order item to come in this year that I previously mentioned in my New Years post. She is also the first "variant" figma of a figma character that I already have.

While I haven't actually played the PSP game this BRS version is based on, when I saw photos of it I really liked how it is a more aggressive version of the original BRS. I love her spiky hair, the blade added to her cannon, the tech wings on her back, and the more edgy style of her outfit.

From my understanding in the BRS PSP game she is an android and the last hope of mankind. It's a little different than how you see her in the OVA. Either way, I think she looks pretty awesome.

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In the box she comes with the standard figma assortment, stands, hands, different faces etc. She also comes with her cannon, a sword, a hair piece with her signature blue eye-flame. They were also nice enough to add a couple extra "grip" hands. I noticed that the grip hands seemed to be flexible and thin by the fingers. I had a hard time getting it to hold the gun. I assume these extras are in case you break one. Fortunately, I didn't need to use them, yet.

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Like most figma, this one is fairly flexible. Her coat is made of rubber, so it gives you some room. The wings on the back can be removed and they also have little wings that can fold up and down. They did tend to get in the way a lot when posing, though. The arms seem to be slightly restricted in movement up and down. The hood around her neck blocks them a bit and they can't seem to go all the way down to the sides either. Those minor remarks aside, I think she's a great addition to my growing figma collection. I have her in an action pose with her cannon and it looks great.

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Story Development

Today I want to talk about developing a story. During the process to create my next webcomic the biggest hurdle for me has been story development. For many months I've been stuck on the story, going through many ideas. I had a basic setting in mind and most of the primary characters were already created, I just needed a story.

My last couple of comics were weakest in the story department (among, probably, many other things). I was rushed to get them started and just went with the first thing that came to mind. This has proven to be a major oversight. It got to the point that I was developing the story page by page each week. This created a complete lack of consistency and plot development. Half the time "I" didn't even know where the story was going.

This time, however, I wanted to really plan things out and do it properly. But what started as, what was supposed to be, a simple and fun little story turned into a self-made trap. I became overly critical and for many months got stuck on the small details, keeping me from moving forward. New games didn't help me either. It's good to want to do something well and the "right way," but when it causes you to become overly-critical of the details you can lose the bigger picture and you won't be doing yourself any favors. You may become frustrated and give up.

GA_Sketches3Personally, I love to create characters. A lot of my ideas come from my sketches alone. I may have one thing in mind, but something else appears in a doodle that sparks a new idea. However, this can only get me so far. Eventually I need to sit down and actually plan out the whole thing.

So with a new year and the realization I wasn't making progress, I started to work on it again, but this time I tried a different approach. I took a step back and tried to look at the overall picture. I had a beginning in mind, something that I usually have an easy time with, but I needed an ending. So instead of trying to think really big for some grand ending, I tried to think smaller.

Taking the beginning that I had previously created, instead of starting over, I tried to think how the characters could have reached that point. What caused this event to begin? I erased some previous reasons and twisted things around. Whenever I ran into a dead-end I tried adding a new character to help move things forward. Characters or situations that try to stop a character from his/her goals is the core basis for a story plot. You need a character or event to start the "domino effect," so to speak.  Figuring out why that happened and how to change it or stop it can help you develop an ending. Before I knew it, by thinking of what triggered my beginning, I had a plot that could lead me to an ending.

This is a good way to come up with ideas for just about anything. Something as simple as adding a new element to the mix or looking at all your elements from other angles can surprise you with new ideas. Even just sketching on paper can help. I've been able to add small details to my story due to random sketches. Say, I draw a watch on a character -- then I might think about how the character got that watch and is there a story behind it.

Once there is a beginning and ending in mind you can move to filling in the details and add events that happen in the middle. To break things down into managable chunks, I started thinking of story ideas in terms of "episodes". Another thing you can do is put ideas on index cards. To make things simple I planned for a 13 "episode" "season." With that in mind I just started to jot down random ideas for "episodes." I didn't limit myself at first, I just wrote down any idea that came to me. I continued this process for a couple days until I had a nice list. If it's easier for you to think in chapters, episode, or use index cards then do so. Any method that helps you organize your thoughts is a step forward. The worst thing you can do is stifle your progress by trying to do things a certain way.

From my list not all ideas stood out, so I started to pick my favorite ones and then arrange them in an order that seemed to make sense. Like I said before, this method works as well with index cards. You can write an idea for an "episode" or chapter on a card and then when you have several you can move them around and see how they might connect. New ideas might spark from the arrangement alone. An idea for one might be combined with another to make an even more interesting idea. I'm going to keep my old ideas as well. You should never throw out an idea. Keep it for later or for another story. You never know when it can come in handy.

From here you can think about an overall story flow keeping in mind things like "Introduction," "Transition," "Turn," and "Conclusion." This is the Chinese method of making stories and poetry, Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu. You could also think of it as "Introduction," "Development," "Climax," and "Conclusion." For my story, that will span several "episodes," I needed to think of a flow for each "episode" and one for the overall story that leads to the ending. So when arranging my individual story ideas (episodes) I placed the ideas that seemed more introduction-based towards the beginning and ones that could be a climax that could lead into the ending towards the end of the list.

These are just the very basic steps I've taken to help me develop my story. There are many ways to go about it and there are other things to consider such as character personalities and desires, the world/setting and its rules, subplots, and many more. Don't let yourself get too bogged down in the details or methods. That can be a quick path to idea-block. And always be on the look out for ideas from any location like books, sketches, TV, news, and music etc.

As I begin to narrow down my story I'm slowly gaining focus on the characters in it. Like I said before, just from sketching random ideas can crop up.

Have you ever created a story? What methods helped you develop it? What did you feel worked and didn't work?

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Desk Diary 1-21-2012

There are a couple small updates this time. Last week my dear set of computer speakers finally died on me. I've had them for well over a decade, but it was time to finally replace them.

I tried to hold on to my old Altec Lansing computer speakers for as long as I could. After several years of producing great sound and lasting through many computer upgrades, one of the bottom speakers in a satellite popped out. Eventually the bottom speaker of the second satellite also popped out. While they still worked they had some problems. Still, I continued to use them even after trying to replace them with another set of speakers that just sounded hollow and cheap.

However, last week the second speaker in the right satellite popped out. It was dead. This left me one half-working satellite speaker. It was finally time to replace them.

So I did what I always do... I searched online for a new set.

I decided on the highly regarded Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 set. As you can see in the first photo, the satellites are rather large. I had to move some things around on my desk just to fit them. But the important thing is the sound. While I'm no audiophile, I have to say the positive reviews are correct, for only $150 you really do get a high quality set of computer speakers that sound pretty amazing for their size.

They are 200 watts, which is insane for computer speakers. I haven't moved the volume dial above the 1/3 mark. So it gets plenty loud for me. The bass is also very solid with no distortion and it's nice that the subwoofer has its own volume control on the main satellite. They seem well built. The satellites are made of a thick plastic with metal feet and the subwoofer feels pretty solid with a large back-plate with real wire-based speaker connections. After making a couple adjustments on my soundcard, I'm fairly happy with them. I think they were a worthy upgrade.

Have you ever had something break on you that you didn't want to replace with something newer? Were you happy with the replacement?

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The other item I want to mention is that this week the launch date for Tera was announced. After a series of closed beta tests and an open beta, the game will launch in NA on May 1st. As I stated in my last post, I'm really looking forward to this one.

I also recently found out that not only am I getting the new limited DDH-06 head that I also mentioned in my last post (pictured below), but also the limited Natsuki wig (also pictured below). Again, thanks to my close friend. So my third Dollfie Dream may look very much like this picture.

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It looks like the next handful of months are shaping up to be pretty interesting. I also have another list of things I plan to post over the next month or so. So keep checking back.

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