This weeks PC Zone scan is issue 46. It’s lengthy enough clocking in at nearly 200 pages but doesn’t actually cover any games that interest me particularly. Presumably all the really big hitters made it out before Xmas. It’s another off the list anyway and can be downloaded here along with all the others that have been scanned so far.
The one scan a week schedule appears to be working out so far. I’m reasonably confident I’ll keep this up until I run out of issues which will be late in the year. I’m missing issue 48 so the usual call goes out if anyone has that one.
Voyager Dragon has been hard at work on another version of the Ultima 3 Upgrade. Aside from bug fixes and a start new game option, this latest version adds in an intriguing new Sosaria mod. This alters the map to match the one from Ultima 1 for consistency. Apparently Ultima 2 is to follow in due course. This was originally moved to Earth to give the time travel some context and never did exactly sit all that well in the Ultima canon.
We’ll have to wait for Ultima 2 but I’ve added the latest Ultima 3 patch into the Ultima Patcher which can be downloaded here. It should be OK with existing installations but is probably best used with a freshly installed copy of Ultima 3.
Back around the mid 90’s, Origin took to using “standee” advertisements in stores to plug their latest and greatest. These were 3 of these that I’m aware of for Wing Comander 4, Bioforge and also Crusader – No Remorse. I own one of the Bioforge ones which I’ve stuck up on a wall rather than standing it up and I’ve quite fancied the idea of reuniting with it’s compatriots for some time. The odds are against me though, especially given as these things were primarily used in the USA. Even if I did ever find one, I really, really don’t want to ship it over.
So instead I thought I’d have a go at making my own. Echo Sector has long held an archive of Crusader CD’s one of which contains the original files used to create these things. The naming format used in the files on these CD’s wasn’t entirely helpful. They are all TGA09, TGA10, etc. for the versions on the CD. They aren’t actually TGA files though and are really PSD (Paintshop Pro) format. Once figured out, I fed it into an online convertor and got out a nice crisp JPG. The artwork is surprisingly basic on this actually with no real background other than a cityscape + a great big explosion.
I had a bit of a look around online for someone to print this. I thought to try the local printers initially, then got a quote of £200 and quickly changed my mind. Instead I went to mycutouts.co.uk who blow up family photos to life size for birthdays and the like which is near enough what I was after. They were keen enough to take the job and at 1/4 of the price.
There is also the issue of where to cut the image as it’s not all that obvious. There were some files on the CD that looked to deal with this but they weren’t in any format I could use. So instead the cut is based on the low-res image above taken from wcnews back when an original standee was auctioned off many years ago.
I sent all this through to the printers and got this proof back. In hindsight the cut is slightly different around the bottom left but it’s close enough for me anyway.
And about a week later the real thing has arrived. I was worried that with modern printing, the pixels could be too obvious on this but it looks great. I would say that in real life the colours aren’t quite as deep as they could be so the original would be slightly nicer. No doubt if I’d gone for the £200 option it would be perfect but this will still look fantastic on the wall somewhere. I haven’t as of yet figured out where but it will find a home somewhere in here. Now if I can just track down that Mark Hamill Wing Commander cutout, I’ll have the set…
I’ve a bad habit of backing gaming Kickstarters and then if and when the final product actually arrives I never get around to playing/reading it. I’ve yet to play Wasteland 2, Pillars Of Eternity, the new Elite, etc.. all of which delivered years back. One more Kickstarter on that list was Mike Winterbauer’s book on his life creating video game covers.
The Origin connection here is that Mike created the artwork for the SNES Wing Commander port, not to mention the two Xeen Might & Magic games which is certainly what drew my attention in the first place. The book covers both of these and Mike’s work on loads of other game covers and concept art. All the people in his paintings were based on photos of Mike, his friends + associates with some often comical shots included of these in the book. When you start to look for it, Mike has personally starred on quite a few game boxes over the years. He also had a line in covers for VHS movies which he includes in here. Lots of these appear to be B movies and I really want to watch The Brain now.
The picture he paints throughout the book is that being an artist isn’t a great way to get rich with getting a paycheck often being as much effort as actually doing the work. He basically did it for the love of it but it sounds like his work is finally finding a market these days. He held onto his original paintings for years until starting to sell them on Ebay some years back. I don’t have any of those but the Kickstarter did include some Wing Commander and Xeen prints at certain levels which I really have to find some wallspace in the games room for.
Some of Mike’s artwork appeals to me more than others. It can fall into that uncanny valley where it’s not quite realistic or cartoony enough in my eyes. He could do photo-realistic when he wanted though and clearly has a real talent. There are some of these paintings I would honestly have thought were photos. The book is a fun, if brief, journey through the life of a jobbing artist and the good news is you can download it for free at Mike’s website. He is also running another Kickstarter for an illustrated children’s book which is already funded but has a few days left to run if you want to get in on it.
I’ll be busy next week so you get two issues of PC Zone this week from April and July 1997. I’m missing issue 51 so if you want to lend a hand filling the gap let me know. Highlights in these two issues include a pre Daikatana John Romero interview and reviews of X-Com 3, Theme Hospital, X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter and Wipeout 2097. As ever, all issues can be found here