Thursday, March 18, 2004, 2:31:51 AM
On March 18th, I started “principal photography” for my SWG comic. At first, I really didn’t know where I was going to go with it, or what story I really wanted to tell… but I knew one thing the second I started compiling screenshots for the layout… this was going to be very well received. I knew just the effort alone would make SWG fans happy, so that was enough motivation for me. Oddly enough, I only released the comic on GAT’s forums, so I never got to find out how the general SWG masses would feel about it.
My only real goal was to put both Rodd and Vroflus into a comic together. This was a lot easier said then done. I had one of two options, either “fake” their interaction by a lot of cross server screenshots and subsequent Photoshopping, or find someone who was willing to let me use one of their accounts to “create” Vroflus on Tarq (or Rodd on Eclipse). In the end, I decided to do it all myself, which turned out to be a tedious process.
Before I took any of the screenshots for the comic itself, I decided to test out the process and create a “banner” that would be at the top of every “issue” that I would make. I took one of the screenshots from when Vro was grinding camp XP outside of the Ewok waterside village, and then cut Rodd out of a screenshot in front of GAT City Hall, and pasted him into the shot with Vro. I then cropped out most of the photo, leaving just the upper bodies of our heros… and dubbed the whole thing “When Servers Collide: The Ongoing Chronicles of Vroflus and Rodd Flanders.”
Thursday, March 18, 2004, 7:56:14 PM (ScreenShot1417)
This was the first screenshot that I took for the comic. Right from the start, I had a lot of ideas that I was employing into almost every shot. First, I had to consider things like “would I be resizing and using the entire picture?” Would I be cropping something out? Do I need to leave a lot of room for captions and dialog? Will this picture tell its own story, and not need a text treatment? Do I need to leave room for a cut & paste of Rodd or Vro? So there was a lot of technical issues that I was considering ahead of time, and it wasn’t always easy considering that I didn’t storyboard the idea, and generally went with a “make it up as I go along” rule-set. Also, screenshots would have to be taken out of order, the same way moves don’t shoot every scene in chronological order. I’d end up taking a shot from multiple angles and then when the actual layout was determined, I’d choose which shot was best for telling the story.
One thing that I wanted to make continuous use of was the Star Wars brand itself. While I wanted the comic to showcase its two main protagonists, I wanted to cram in as much “Star Warsyness” as I possibly could. So right from the start, the second pane in the comic shows Rodd standing next to a Scout Trooper, my personal favorite of any character in the Star Wars universe. I also wanted to include as many of my friends as possible, so I started name dropping right away. After a lot of Photoshopping and about 6+ hours of trial and error, the first page was complete…
Friday, March 19, 2004, 2:39:08 AM (Issue #1, Page 1)
When I finished the first page, I felt that I was really “onto something.” I posted it on the GAT forums at about 3am, and went to bed. When I checked the thread the next day, my expectations were met with a ton of positive feedback from anyone who posted in the thread, and I was really happy that my effort was met unanimously with positive feedback. The only negative feedback I ever received was that the font was hard to read.
The first page featured a conversation between Rodd and his trusty Scout Trooper (my faction pet). I considered a serious dialog, but almost immediately created a direction of sarcasm and inside jokes that only GAT City residents would really “get.” The first page needed to set the overall tone of the comic itself, plus it needed to spearhead the direction and plot. The first pane gives the setting, date and time, so the reader knows exactly where they are in the word. From there, we join a conversation already in progress, and Rodds Scout Trooper informs him that GAT City is in danger. This was more of a side plot that I wanted to establish, and at the same time, the very first words of the comic have a joke embedded… “Colonial Flanders” is already thrown out to the audience, which helps the reader view Rodd as more of a flawed hero then a feared Imperial character. Rodd in turn responds with a line about his “cargo,” and the reader is now introduced to the main plot… which was smuggling Vroflus onto the Tarquinas server from Eclipse.
The second pane starts to flesh out the logistics of exactly how Vro would get from one server to another (this was before the days of server transfers), while also referring to actual in game current events, such as <HATED> disbanding. A few panes down we get our fist glimpse into the relentless humor and inside jokes, as Rodd refers to his soldier as “NKOTB,” instead of his real acronymic moniker. Afterwards, we’re treated to the “real” Rodd, who is just totally fed up with dealing with noobs, as he rips his faction pet a new ass. The line “**** I just typed that into GAT Chat” was homage to an all too real circumstance, as I would commonly send mistells to all sorts of people due to my constant /tell hell. The last two panes end with the Corvette coming into focus, and the screenshot used was actually the first one I took, showing how I was able to take the shots out of order to build a better story.
Thursday, March 18, 2004, 7:57:20 PM (ScreenShot1422)
One thing that I quickly learned was that the shots that included both Vro and Rodd would be the most complex and time consuming, and I quickly decided that I would try to avoid them as much as I could. The process was very time consuming indeed as illustrated by Rodd and Vro first meeting in the Theed Starport. For the first close up shot, I took a picture of Rodd with his back to the camera, facing the Corvettes ramp.
Thursday, March 18, 2004, 8:11:48 PM (ScreenShot1427)
Then, I logged into Eclipse, and tried to get the exact same angle, but this time I got Vro in front of the ramp with his face towards the camera. Then it was off to Photoshop to meticulously figure out which would be cut and pasted into the other shot. In the end, Rodd was cut and moved into Vro’s shot,but if you notice there is only a few shots of them on screen together. I realized that I had already spend hours on just a few shots, and I hadn’t even gotten into all the chat bubbles and dialog, or even the rest of the picture layout for that matter. It was just too much, and this page would go on to be the longest in production time.
Saturday, March 20, 2004, 5:54:12 PM (Issue #1, Page 2)
Page 2 picks up right where page one left off, with the Corvette landing in the Theed Starport. Through the dialog, we learn that Rodd and Vro somehow learned a method of getting a character to hop servers, and already we see Rodd say “if the devs figure out what we pulled off,” letting the reader know right away that the characters are at odds with the developers of their world… obviously a comment on how the real players felt about the devs at the time. Soon Vroflus mentions “cross-server tells,” something that I was using a whole lot of to keep in touch with the server I was not currently inhabiting, as well as a fictitious “exploit” that I created for the sake of the story which explained the method of which Vro was able to jump servers. Ironically, more then one GATer thought that I really found some kind of an exploit and later asked how to do it. The second page ends with more slapstick comedy and a setup for page three, Vros journey to GAT City.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004, 2:15:13 AM (Issue #1, Page 3)
After a few days went by, I finally was able to churn out page 3. Here I learned that the story itself was very hard to pull off time wise, because unlike page 1 which was all shot on Tarq, I would have to log in and out of both servers multiple times and shoot both characters in the exact same locations. One of the hardest parts was making sure that I didn’t get Eclipse specific background details in Vro’s shots that would be out of place considering that he was supposed to be on Tarq. If there was a city on Eclipse that didn’t exist on Tarq, obviously I couldn’t get that city in the shot for example. The waterfall jump was interesting to shoot, as the picture of Vro riding Homer flipped over was actually a screenshot of him right side up, which I then rotated and cropped in Photoshop to give the illusion that he was spinning on his way down into the lake.
The page also makes references to the newly implemented “Imperial Crackdown” which was not really something that anyone gave a **** about (Imperial NPC’s would stop players, but the player would just burst run away from the scene to avoid dealing with it). I also brought up the topic of ****ty pet pathing, which was me giving a shout out to all the disgruntled CH’s who have dealt with that piece of crap code since day one. Page two ends with Vro getting pwnt by Gungens and Rodd trying to catch up to him after causing a distraction in Theed to make sure Vro got out of the city without drawing attention.
Friday, March 19, 2004, 7:02:51 PM ( (ScreenShot1463)
Another thing I had to be conscious of with Vro’s screenshots was making sure to get familiar GAT City locations involved to give the illusion that Vro was really on Tarq. The Droidaka and broken down shield generator outside of GAT City was something that everyone in the city knew about, it was almost a cult icon that represented the city itself, so I very deliberately put it into the comic as soon as Vro got to GAT City. This was one of the cases where the picture told it’s own story, and saved me the trouble of inserting any actual dialog.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004, 1:29:27 AM (Issue #1, Page 4)
Page four was thrown up on Wednesday, and was the first page to showcase other GATers. When I logged on I would post into GAT Chat “if you wanna be in the comic, goto “location x.” The turnout was always good, as most GATers really enjoyed the comic and wanted to see themselves in it. This also turned out to be kind of time consuming, because people would not shut the **** up, and their chat bubbles would constantly ruin the shots. I kept trying to explain that I was going to give them dialog and nothing they said was going to be put in print… but you try censoring a GATer and see where it gets you…
In the end I had to find things that looked like they belonged on Tarq and crop close ups so Vro appeared to be at locations like “Rodds house” for example, although I had the benefit of things like the Droidaka and our “Gungen Railroad” being on both servers to help with the farce. This page was fun to shoot because it forever immortalizes GAT Citys civic buildings and faction bases, which eventually crumbled to dust. I’m sure most GATers agree that this is the way we all remember our city…