Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rise of the Tomb Raider Petition Nets 10,000 Signatures in 24 Hours

Yesterday I posted a petition on Change.org urging the Tomb Raider developers to reconsider their exclusive agreement with Microsoft. More than 10,000 fans have signed on so far!

Earlier today at Gamescom Microsoft's Phil Spencer confirmed that the controversial exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider "has a duration," though he declined to say how long the timed exclusive will last. Spencer also announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be released on Xbox 360, which also bodes well for a possible future PS3 release.

I don't know whether our small effort made a difference in the timing of this announcement, but I'm sure it didn't hurt. Our efforts were mentioned in an article on the PC Gamer website, "Why Rise of the Tomb Raider's exclusivity deal is a prehistoric relic," and the petition gained a lot of traction on social media. Thanks again to everyone who supported us. Please continue to sign and spread the word, and perhaps the developers will think twice before signing future exclusives.

Rise of the Tomb Raider petition

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rise of the Tomb Raider Fan Petition for Multi-Platform Release

Earlier today at Gamescom, Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider  will be released exclusively on Xbox One. A follow-up post on the Official Tomb Raider Blog attempted to explain this decision to the fans, but has left many of us feeling angry, baffled, and betrayed. So far it is unclear whether this is a temporary, timed exclusive. The official announcement does not address that point.

I encourage fans to send feedback to Crystal Dynamics by commenting on their blog post and other official social media. Those of us who favor a cross-platform release have started a petition to that end. Please follow this link and sign if you agree: Rise of the Tomb Raider Petition.

As of this writing, we have collected more than 5,000 signatures in less than 12 hours. We realize that our request will not change whatever legal agreements Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have made with Microsoft, but our hope is that showing clear support for broader release will encourage the developers to reconsider such exclusive arrangements going forward.

Rise of the Tomb Raider petition

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Meet Saber-Scorpion and Win a Custom LEGO Minifigure

If, like me, you're a fan of both Tomb Raider and LEGO, you may already know today's special guest. Justin Stebbins, a.k.a. Saber-Scorpion, is an artist, writer, and maker specializing in LEGO creations. His work includes the fabulous Lara Croft minifigures shown here, as well as hundreds of other custom figures and decals, plus several original web comics and novels.

Check out our Q&A below. Be sure to read through to the end for a chance to win a custom LEGO minifigure from Saber-Scorpion's lair!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lara Croft Shark Escape - click to enlarge

Hi, Justin. Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to the Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones fans. Could you please give us a brief introduction for readers who aren't familiar with your work?

Hi! I'm Saber-Scorpion, also known occasionally as Justin Stebbins. I live in Virginia, USA, and enjoy building LEGO, writing, and drawing. I post my creations on my website, saber-scorpion.com. With a hyphen.

How did you first get into LEGO toys and, I assume somewhat later, LEGO customizations? And what were some of your first customization projects?

I've been playing with LEGO for pretty much as long as I can remember. My first LEGO toy was a yellow helicopter from a Froot Loops cereal box when I was five years old. My collection has been growing ever since then. My first attempt at LEGO customization was when my brother and I tried to start building Star Wars ships. This was before LEGO even made bricks in the color grey! We were thrilled when LEGO released the first official Star Wars sets some time later. With grey bricks. The first creation I posted online was an A-Wing Starfighter around 1999. In 2002, I posted my first custom models and minifigs inspired by a videogame, Metal Gear Solid. The minifig customization community was very small then, and I had never seen anyone make videogame LEGO creations before. My Halo creations in particular were extremely popular, and helped spark a flood of videogame-based creations in the LEGO fan community. Or at least, my ego likes to think they did.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Tank - click to enlarge

If you played with LEGO when you were a kid, did you follow the building instructions or go freestyle?

I have a policy of always following the instructions first. I learned a lot of new building techniques that way. And sometimes I would keep the models built and modify them. But few sets lasted for more than a week before they got "assimilated" into my color-sorted bins, to be made into something else later. Over the years my room pretty much filled up with LEGO.

LEGO Friends line: Fun for girls (and boys who like pink) or the devil's workshop? ;)

That line sparked some controversy when it was released, a lot of which struck me as unfounded. Say what you will about how they're marketed, they're not bad sets! They're not simplified from the "boys" sets, and the parts are completely interchangeable, making them a good source for unusual colors you can't find elsewhere. Some LEGO builders have shown their support for the line by building spaceships and tanks out of Friends sets, piloted by Friends figures wearing helmets and guns from other lines. Boys will be boys!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Most Saber-Scorpion minifigs are available in traditional yellow or flesh tones, which vary from character to character - click to enlarge

Based on the minifigures you design, I assume you're a big fan of videogames, science fiction and fantasy adventures. What are your favorite series or genres and why?

Absolutely. I've always been a sci-fi and fantasy geek. I grew up mainly with Star Wars, both the movies and the classic LucasArts videogames. I also love Lord of the Rings. My favorite videogames are RPG's, especially ones by Obsidian Entertainment and Bioware (and related companies that are no longer with us, like Black Isle and Troika). I'm a huge fanboy of those companies and their games, like Baldur's Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout, Mass Effect, and the rest.

[Black Isle fangirl squee from Stella!]

Do you play the LEGO videogames? If so, which are your favorites and why?

I love the LEGO videogames. When I was a kid I played the early ones, so it's tempting to call LEGO Island (1997) my all-time favorite. But the movie-based games by Traveler's Tales are awesome too—they're ironically some of the best videogames you can find based on the movies they portray. I think the Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings games are my favorites. LEGO and Indy are just a fun match (Johnny Thunder, anyone?), and the Indy game added a lot of fun new features to the formula. I mostly loved LotR because of the big open world map of Middle Earth. I still need to try the LEGO Movie game—I hear the environments are entirely made out of bricks in that one, which is a great change.

What game, show, movie, etc., would you most like to see made into an official LEGO game and/or playsets?

My dream combo has already come true with the LEGO Lord of the Rings line. I was very upset to find out we might not get a third wave of LotR sets. We didn't even get a minifig of the Witch-King! I can't think of anything I wanted to see as much as LotR, but some sets based on a videogame series would be great. We can't let all the game licenses fall to the dread enemy, MegaBloks. (Disclaimer: I don't actually hate MegaBloks.)

It probably goes without saying, but my dream game would be LEGO Tomb Raider. Guess we'll have to wait and see about that.

You've also created several original universes, Wulfgard, Nova Refuge and G4M3: Shattered Reality, for which you not only have LEGO figures but comics and full-length novels as well. What inspired those creations and do you have other new worlds up your sleeve?

LEGO actually had a lot to do with the birth of those universes. While I've always enjoyed drawing and writing stories too, LEGO was a major outlet for my creativity as a kid, and some of the basic ideas for those universes came from the LEGO worlds I built when playing with my brother and sister. I can't say anything about new worlds in the works, since I'm currently putting all my effort into the fantasy universe, Wulfgard. My sister and I are working on the first Wulfgard books and comics together and plan to start a fundraiser soon (possibly through Kickstarter) to help pay for printing them. If anyone is interested in helping us out, keep an eye on wulfgard.net for updates!

In addition to the many lines of customized minifigures, decals and accessories, I notice you also take commissions. What are some of the coolest or most unusual requests you've had? Have you ever had to turn down a commission for any reason?

One of my biggest commission jobs (which also might count as one of the strangest) was creating decals based on several US Presidents for the book Assassination!by Brendan Powell Smith. It's one of those big illustrated "coffee table" type books, which describes and depicts historical Presidential assassination attempts in detail...using the medium of LEGO. It might sound bizarre, but he does a very good job of it! And yes, I've had to turn down a few commissions. Let's just say that I understand "Rule 34 of the Internet," but I didn't want to be the one to fulfill it with little plastic minifigures....

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Several Saber-Scorpion creations, including Abraham Lincoln, appear in the book Assassination!: The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents - click to enlarge

Tomb Raider fans want to know...do you prefer the classic games, Legend-Underworld, or the reboot and why?

I like both the classic games and Legend-Underworld. I grew up with the classics, and saw Legend as a sort of reboot when it came out, taking the series back to its fun adventuring roots. Legend was one of my favorite games at the time, and that's when I made most of my custom LEGO Lara figures. I have to admit, I still haven't played the reboot yet. When I saw the trailers, it just didn't look like Tomb Raider to me. But I've heard some good things about it, so I'll give it a try eventually.

Who would win in a fight: Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, or Nathan Drake?

My sister will probably kill me if I don't say Nathan Drake; she's a positively enormous Uncharted fan. (She made most of the LEGO Uncharted minifigs on my site.) But it's hard not to say Lara Croft, who can afford an arsenal of weapons and train all day in her huge mansion training course. Poor Nate and Indy are just outgunned in that regard!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Tomb Raider 2013 - click to enlarge

Do you have any tips for players who want to do their own LEGO customizations?

Buy stuff from my site! ...Okay, barring that, here are some tips for customizing minifigs: I recommend designing stickers on the computer and printing them on label or decal paper, which is what I do. There are a lot of minifig decal templates online, but I prefer to take my own measurements. Be sure to design your images at 300 ppi resolution or higher, or else use a vector art program like I do. Fiskars micro-tip scissorsare the best things you can possibly use for cutting out those tiny decals. The best place for buying the individual LEGO parts you need is a site called Bricklink, though it takes a bit of learning to find what you're looking for. If you need to paint a piece, I recommend Testors enamel paint. At least, that's what I've always used. Hope that helps get you started!

Where can fans go if they have questions for you?

I've got a Contact Me page. Basically you can email me through the site or contact me on my website forums. I've also got a Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, deviantArt, and some other things, which I try to check fairly regularly.

Thanks again! I really appreciate your taking the time to talk to us. :)

Thanks for having me! I appreciate it!

Win a Saber-Scorpion Custom Minifigure
Use the contest app below to enter our custom minifigure give-away. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, August 16, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (3:59 a.m. GMT Sunday). One lucky winner will be chosen and notified on Sunday the 17th. The winner can choose any of Saber-Scorpion's custom minifigures (valued up to $20). We'll cover the shipping, but if you live outside the USA, you will be responsible for any customs/duty/import fees.

If you have any questions about the give-away or problems with the entry form, please contact Stella. For questions about the minifigures, contact Justin.


P.S. It's fine to modify the tweets you send out, as long as they include a link to this blog post. Thanks and good luck! :D