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Friday, August 22, 2014

TFcon 2014

Last month I went to TFcon 2014, once again held at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario. This year, the show was held a little bit earlier in the summer, on July 11-13 instead of towards the end of the month. As usual, TFcon promised a fantastic gathering of Transformers fans, with plenty of activities, a huge dealers' area to buy toys, and lots of fun connecting with old friends and making new ones.

In previous years I drew a comic to go along with the voice actors script reading, but it always took up so much time that I felt I shouldn't do one this year, having just graduated from college. It was the right decision, but since this was the first year in a long, long time that I have not contributed to TFcon in any way, it felt like something was missing for me. I kind of felt bad about that, so it was a different experience.

Also, my usual partner in crime, the infamous Guber, was not in attendance this year. He was stuck in Turkey as part of his strange globetrotting adventure. A TFcon without Guber is like a Tranformers toy missing its accessories. Its weird, rainbow-colored accessories. So, if only for that reason, it seemed like a much quieter, more subdued event.

That all said, I still had a good time. Here are some pictures.
The Transformers costumes seen at TFcon get more and more impressive with each new event.
Here is a close look at the winning costume. As I understand it. Prowl was made out of a Power Wheels car.
Knock out, Soundwave, and Shockwave.
Gary Chalk (Optimus Primal in Beast Wars and Optimus Prime in Armada/Energon/Cybertron) made his 3rd appearance at TFcon, and is always a fantastic guest. Making his first appearance was Neil Kaplan, who played Optimus Prime in Robots in Disguise. Neil and Gary had a panel together that was one of the nest voice actor's panels I'd ever seen. They were both really informative and absolutely hilarious. When the discussion turned towards how they had become "Budget Peter Cullens", they both started doing Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh as Optimus Prime. It was so incredibly funny that I had tears in my eyes.

That night at the bar, I got a chance to talk to Neil a bit and listen  is him go on about cartoons, movies, monsters, super heroes, and everything else that's awesome. He really gets the whole convention scene and is a totally cool dude. He even tweeted me while I was on the way home on Monday. It was like TFcon was still happening in the car.
One of the highlights of the show was the concert by The Cybertronic Spree, a rock band that dresses up as Transformers characters and plays music from the 1986 Transformers movie. They put on a great show that is totally unlike anything you'd ever seen but just as awesome as you'd hope. Unicron on the left plays guitar in the band.
Plenty of toys to buy. It had been awhile since I bought some toys, as I no longer live in a city with a Toys R Us. So, I had to take the opportunity.  Here's what I picked up.
Generations Sandstorm, Beast Hunters Optimus Prime, Generations Rhinox, Fall of Cybertron Sideswipe, Starscream, Air Raid, Jazz, and Ultra Magnus, Prime Rumble, Kup, and Hotshot, and finally, a Darth Vader with removable helmet. Nothing too special, really. No crazy exclusive Japanese recolors. Just some recent toys I didn't have and was able to get at decent prices.

Well, actually, there was one other toy that I picked up. Something very special. So special, in fact, I'll save it for its own post.

Of course, there is much more to TFcon than pictures can convey, and so much more than just buying toys. It's a great fan community experience that no other convention can match. To wrap this up, I'll say that, by this point, if you are are a Transformers fan in Canada, or are in close proximity to Ontario, and you have never been to TFcon, you are certainly missing out. The staff is always on the ball and the fans are a big part of why this convention is so memorable. It's like a big family reunion, except it's way better because there are also robots.

If you're not in Canada, and maybe even if you are, TFcon is now running a second show in Chicago. I'm not sure if I can make it to that one, but I definitely want to.

I used to go to several sci-fi/anime/comic/toy conventions in the Toronto area every year. I wish I could still do that, but I live too far away now. So, there's only enough room in my year for one. I'm glad I make that one TFcon.

Sayonara.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Annual Check-Up?

Well, I hope that this will become a more frequent occurrence than one a year from now on, but I am once again embarrassed by the fact that it has been almost one year since my last weblog post. I wish I could say that I was too busy to update here, but really, I just haven't felt up to it. Well, enough of that nonsense. Let's get this awkward first update after a long absence over with so I can get this blog back in order.


Game Addict by ninjatron on deviantART

Through most of the year, I was busy with my second and final year of College. I graduated from the Video Game Art program with distinction, which means 4.0 GPA. Not to brag or anything.  I actually don't really know why I got that mark. All I really did was show up and do the work. I made sure I did the projects as best as I could in the time I had, and I did everything the way I thought it should be done. That's just the way I operate.

I have mixed feelings on the program overall. I don't regret going through the experience, but there were several flaws in the course. Some were the result of things that were outside of anyone's control, like when one of the teachers got really sick and had to leave the program entirely, throwing everything into chaos. Other things simply could have been handled better, like the ridiculous workload resulting in a deluge of projects due at around the same time, and having to spend way too long on certain assignments that should not have been as important as they were. It was stressful, tiresome, and exhausting, so I am definitely glad that this stage of my life is behind me. But I met some great people, got some experience with software that I had never used before, and it was good to have something to do everyday that contributed towards my artistic development.

There is some artwork I did for the class up on my deviantArt page, so you can check out what's there now. More will be coming as I give them an extra bit of polish.

Since school has been over, I haven't really felt like doing much. I've been sick a few times, so it's hard to be productive. That's really why I haven't updated here yet. Other than being sick, I've mostly been spending my time trying to get organized. Cleaning out my hard drive, sorting out files from assignments, setting up reference images in appropriate folders, all that stuff. Not very exciting, but I might as well do it now while I have the chance. It's all about building towards the future.

But what was exciting was that I went to TFcon! I will talk about that next time.

Sayonara.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pikmin Power.

So far this year, I've really been getting into video game collecting. Well, I've always collected video games and kept everything in good shape, but that just seemed like normal to me. Now I'm really into the scene, trying to get the best prices I can on both new and classic titles. It's not simply that I want to play them, but I just think it's fun to collect them.

So, I've bought a lot of games. A lot of them I bought for $10 or $5 or even as low as 99 cents in a few cases. Let me tell you, it's hard to go back after that! Mostly, this means I buy used games, but I have bought a few brand new, sealed games if they're on sale or if the retail price isn't $50+. In fact, out of all the games I've bought over the past 2 years, there is only one game that I paid the full $60 retail price for, and I did so gladly, because that was Pikmin 3 on Wii U.
 Of course, I am a huge Nintendo fan, and obviously I love the Mario games, but among the various Nintendo franchises, the Pikmin series really stands out as being extra special to me. The gameplay is very unique. You control a tiny character who, in turn, commands a legion of tiny creatures called Pikmin, and you use these creatures to accomplish your tasks. There is really nothing else like it. But beyond the actual gameplay, there is a strange psychological element present. You are basically manipulating an entire species into doing your bidding. They seem incredibly eager to help, but really, they are just your tools. You throw them into battle against other, larger creatures as if their lives meant nothing to you, often to see several of them devoured or squashed. This is not really a big deal, as you can just go make more, and it's not like you ever interact with them on an individual basis. But when a Pikmin dies, it lets out a death scream that is full of just as much sorrow and disappointment as it is horror. Is it crying out in pain as its life expires, or is it sad that it failed you? Whatever it is, it creates complex feelings as you play, and you simply can not help but be drawn into it. The in-game text has a clever writing style that enriches the game's universe, adding a lot of humor and depth to the characters. It also raises interesting questions that add to the emotion of the game. While it may seem that you are exploiting the Pikmin, maybe they want to raise their status in the ecosystem and are actually exploiting you in order to get there!

I've been looking forward to Pikmin 3 since it was officially unveiled at e3 in 2012. In fact, I was so excited that I pulled out the original Pikmin for Gamecube and played it again. I still couldn't beat the very last boss though. Leading up to the long awaited (and unfortunately delayed) release date this summer, I played through both Pikmin and Pikmin 2, though this time with the Wii New Play control versions. I was able to complete both games, and the added motion control was a great way to play. I enjoyed playing them, but I was a bit worried that I'd be tired of playing Pikmin by the time Pikmin 3 came out.

Nope! I love it! Pikmin 3 is the most enjoyable and robust entry in the series.
Gorgeous HD graphics, rich sound effects, smart dialoged, and absolutely perfect controls with Wii Motion Plus which prove that motion controls are not just a gimmick. It's one of Nintendo's most polished games. The only down side to the game is that it ends, and even though it's about twice as long as the original Pikmin, I still wish it was longer just so I could enjoy playing it more. But even after completing the Story mode, I'm still playing it though the endlessly replayable Mission mode, where it's all about getting the highest score you can in a short time limit.

Pikmin is kind of an underrated series for Nintendo. It's been a long time since a new entry has been released, and the franchise doesn't have the same exposure as Zelda or Metroid. Now that the Wii U is starting to come into its own with some great upcoming titles and a lower price,  I am hoping that people who are looking into the system and are looking into what games are worth playing will give Pikmin 3 a try. It works perfectly as an introduction to the world of Pikmin even if you've never played a Pikmin game before.

There's never been much doubt that Pikmin 3 would be a great game, but I can safely say that if it could get a cheapskate like me to pay the entire $60 plus tax retail price and not regret a single penny, then it must be freaking spectacular!

Sayonara.

Friday, August 02, 2013

TFcon 2013 Wrap Up.

Finally recovered from TFcon last weekend (and from all that other stuff I was doing leading up to it). It was another excellent show that was tons of fun. Here are just a few of the highlights.
There were a lot of costumes this year. This trio is actually a band that plays Transformers music and they've got a show in Toronto on Fan Expo weekend.
Here's my comic projected on the screen for the Script Reading. People really dug the comic and were telling me that I did a great job on it all weekend. This will probably be the last time I am able to work on something that extensive for TFcon, so we'll have to see what happens next year.
Here I am holding some artwork from the comic along with guests Marilyn Lightstone and Venus Terzo. They both had a great time at the show and were fantastic during their panels and the script reading.
Bumblebee and Prowl were parked outside.
Here's Internet Personality Vangelus and everyone's wacky buddy Guber. I am also in there, doing what I do best: filling in the negative space. Guber is a staple of TFcon, but he was actually not going to come at all this year as he was traveling in Indonesia. But he changed his mind at the last minute. Only myself and one other person knew that he was actually going to make it, so his appearance was quite a shock! It just would not have been the same without him.
Breakdown and Knockout are in the house.
IDW style Rodimus is here and ready to party. Pretty amazing to see so many costumes these days. It doesn't seem like that long ago when Transformers costumes were not even thought to be a possibility.
Here's the cool stuff I bought. Generations Deluxe Shockwave, Cliffjumper, Wheelie, Springer, Swerve, and Tank Megatron, Generation 2 style Fall of Cybertron Bruticus, Transformers Prime Ultra Magnus and First Edition Optimus Prime, and Generations Blaster along with Eject and Ramhorn to go with him. Also, in the non-Transformers front, I got a Marvel Universe Wolverine figure. Prices were fairly good this year, if you were willing to walk around and look.

All in all it was a super-fun weekend with many memories. Good times with good friends, trivia, late night Slurpee runs, poutine, karaoke, and a whole lot more. I wouldn't miss it for the world, and I can't wait for next year. See you then!

Sayonara.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

TFCon 2013!

The Canadian Transformers convention is here again! TFcon is absolutely the best time of year. In a way, its seems like it hasn't been very long since last year's show. Mostly because it also seems like I've barely done any artwork since then. I have done a lot though, it was just all for school. But after I was finished with my extended period of school assignments, I went straight into working on the TFcon script reading comic.


TFcon 2013 - Van-Guardian's Gang by *ninjatron on deviantART

Here is the last page of the comic, featuring the convention exclusive Heroic "Gobits" Van-Guardian and Roswell teaming up with a few new friends from another universe! Ultra Magnus, Rodimus Prime, and Blackarachnia join forces to take down the forces of evil.

You can read the entire 6 page story, with artwork by me, and find out more about TFcon on the TFcon Website. The conclusion will be revealed during the live script reading, featuring voice actors Jack Angel, Dick Gautier, Venus Terzo and Marilyn Lightstone as well as members of the audience.

Even though it doesn't seem like TFCon 2012 was that long ago, it feels like ages since I've been to the Toronto area. It's been way too long and I miss it dearly. Can't wait to see all my buddies and buy all the toys. Hope to see you there too!

Sayonara.