Friday, April 21, 2006

Is it FRIDAY alREADY?! (then it must be time for STAR WARS stuff)!

Yeppers, it's that time again....FRIDAY STAR WARS stuff


What's the Story, Round 5
Here's the latest batch of fan-created inhabitants of the Star Wars galaxy, officially incorporated into continuity by inclusion in the databank.

These represent the creative efforts of members of Hyperspace: The Official Star Wars Fan Club.

Every other week, fans are challenged to create an interesting back-story for a character, vehicle, location, species or other element from the Star Wars galaxy that has yet to be fully defined.

It's called What's the Story, and it's your chance to leave a mark on the Star Wars universe.

Shessaun, Senator Silya

Silya Shessaun was the first native of her planet's working class to ever ascend to the position of Galactic Senator, and she carried the humbleness of her early days with her into that elevated office. Shessaun was a child prodigy on Thesme, the industrial and political capital of the Thesme sector. She was thrust into politics at a young age, and was passionately devoted to championing causes for the poor and underprivileged throughout her career.

She first met Padmé Amidala at a summit on Alderaan when both were Apprentice Legislators.

The elder by five years, Shessaun was paired with Amidala as a mentor during a week-long political workshop. She was impressed by the 12-year-old's quick mind, sharp intellect, and genuine care for the needs of others. After the workshop ended, the two remained in correspondence for years, and Shessaun was pleased to learn when Amidala became the Queen of Naboo.

When Shessaun was 20, she earned a position in the Senate, and became a key player in a wide variety of social programs to help those in need across the galaxy. The harshest criticism her office endured was that she spread herself too thin concentrating on the bigger picture, and perhaps paid too little attention on her native Thesme. When Amidala joined her in the Senate rotunda as representative of Naboo, the two would confer often.

In the years leading up to the Clone Wars, Silya was called back to her home planet on a more permanent basis to mediate several territorial disputes in the sector. Many worlds in the Thesme sector threatened to secede, and Shessaun took a personal interest in keeping these planets within the Republic.

She was one of the greatest Loyalist proponents outside of Coruscant. In the trying times of the Clone Wars, both Padmé and Silya missed the strength of the other that they had come to depend on. Though she was extended an invitation to the Delegation of 2,000, she declined. She felt that undermining the Supreme Chancellor during such trying times was tantamount to a Separatist act.

She felt the loss of Padmé Amidala deeply when word reached her that the Senator from Naboo had died in the Jedi uprising. Shessaun had her doubts about the circumstances of Amidala's death and pushed for a Senate investigation after attending Amidala's funeral. Little was accomplished in this regard due to opposition by the Emperor, citing "security concerns."

It was then that Shessaun realized that the Empire had gone too far. Shessaun hid her sympathies for the growing fledgling resistance groups that had sprung up in the wake of the Clone Wars, but her allegiance to Amidala and the more vocal Senators came back to haunt her.

Though she was never targeted for reprisal like some of the members of the Delegation, she was quietly forced to step down from office, to let a more Imperial-minded Senator take her place.

Shessaun lived out her early retirement on Alderaan, helping Bail Organa's efforts from deep behind the scenes. She also came to assist in the raising of young Leia Organa, Bail's adopted daughter. She eventually returned to Thesme to little fanfare.

Shessaun died peacefully on Thesme surrounded by her loved ones, including Princess Leia, shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star.

Grey, Ottegru

In a galaxy engulfed by a terrible civil war rife with spies and assassins, politicians began to rightly fear for their lives. After several close-calls involving vengeful Aqualish Separatists EDITOR'S NOTE: IF YOU LOOKED LIKE AN AQUALISH, IT'D MAKE YOU A VENGEFUL SEPARATIST TOO. hiding in Coruscant's underlevels, Chairman Tannon Praji of the Ministry of Ingress (CMoI) turned to Ottegru Grey, a trusted friend of the Praji family and special agent for the Bank of the Core.

Grey specialized in tracking down missing funds, embezzlers or other miscreants. Since Praji was a large investor in the bank, the BotC offered Grey's protection services for only a paltry service fee that Praji never noticed. Grey, also a capable accountant, handled Praji's finances as well as his protection.

Grey was immensely qualified, having been in both physical and electronic security his whole career. He had served in the Coruscant Security Force as an undercover operative prior to being lured to the corporate world for better pay. Working for the Bank during the Clone Wars, he halted several Separatist attempts to steal funds from the bank, as well as an electronic break-in orchestrated by Givin slicers.

By the time of the Battle of Coruscant, Grey had trained 50 agents to work under him, and therefore felt comfortable leaving the institution to guard an important customer.

Once joining Praji, Grey shadowed him everywhere. Little did Praji suspect where Grey's loyalties ultimately were found. The protector secretly funneled some of Praji's funds into Palpatine's war chest. In turn, Palpatine used these funds to help cover the gambling debts of Romeo Treblanc, owner of the Galaxies Opera House. This accounting maneuver, all invisible to Praji's indifferent eyes, earned Grey a lifetime pass to the opera house as a guest in Treblanc's private viewing box, which Grey extended to Praji on behalf of the Bank. This would become such a favorite hideaway for Tannon Praji that the Chairman would conduct much of his business from there.

Following the Clone Wars, Grey used the Praji family to fund Imperial projects and provide work for non-human refugees. These refugees, unbeknownst to Praji, would become slaves and their budgeted salaries would instead be diverted into some of the Emperor's more sinister plots. EDITOR'S NOTE: SOMETIMES, I THINK IT WOULD WAY EASIER TO JUST KILL PEOPLE, YA KNOW? I MEAN, ALL THIS PLOTTING AND SCHEMING....IT GIVES ME A HEADACHE. (DOES THE DARK SIDE CAUSE MIGRAINES?)

Metonae, Corla

A member of the influential Antilles family serving the Royal House of Alderaan, Corla Metonae was assigned to the consular ship Tantive IV as bosun and petty officer in charge of the ship's deck crew and onboard craft, including escape pods. She served with her uncle, Captain Raymus Antilles. EDITOR'S NOTE: EARTH TRANSLATION, 'RAY SMITH'.

During the early years of the Empire, Chief Petty Officer Metonae was supervising test launches of the escape pods when a pirate group from the Karthakk system attacked, forcing the Tantive IV to abandon its jettisoned pods.

It was soon learned thereafter that two units from the ship's droid pool, R2-D2 and C-3PO, were unknowingly aboard one of the lost pods. Responsibility for the loss of such valuable property fell on Corla's shoulders, and she was reassigned. Bail Organa made finding these two droids of imperative priority.

However, Corla's reassignment was not a disciplinary action. Her organizational skills were needed in a leadership role for Project: Another Chance, the flagship program in Alderaan's voluntary disarmament effort following the devastating Clone Wars.

The project involved the conversion of a single massive war frigate, the Another Chance, into an automated armory ship that would hold all of Alderaan's weapons and, accompanied by three automated escort war ships, would perpetually jump through hyperspace until recalled by the Council of Elders.

Corla was instrumental in ensuring the four ships launched safely, despite a covert Imperial taskforce's attempt to intercept and claim the weapons cache. She deployed decoy craft carrying transponder signals matching the Another Chance's group to lure the Imperials away from their true targets.

Her effort were recognized by Bail, returning her to the Tantive IV in the position of Master Chief Petty Officer. She would note that the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO were recovered by Antilles, and both droids were instructed to never again enter an escape pod unless ordered.

Metonae would continue to serve the Organa family, including Bail's daughter, Leia Organa.

She was aboard the Tantive IV when it was captured and destroyed by Darth Vader.


Lufba, Wam "Blam"

Wam Lufba never knew the name of the poacher who captured him on Endor. Because of his comparatively small stature, Wam was ostracized in the Yuzzum hunting parties. He was often assigned to spot ruggers on the savannah floors but not allowed to hoist or throw the traditional Yuzzumi spear, despite his claims of great accuracy.

On one hunting expedition, he and four members of his tribe were kidnapped and woke up in the cargo hold of a starship. The poacher offered the Yuzzum to Jabba the Hutt in the hopes of paying off an old debt. Jabba was incensed, and threw the poacher and his quartet of Yuzzum into the rancor pit.

In the scramble to escape certain death, Wam grabbed a hunting rifle that had fallen into the pit. While the rancor feasted on its victims, Wam fled into its holding pen, and fired his rifle, killing three guards with the utmost precision. Before the rancor could make its way to Wam, the Skrilling Pote Snitkin made his way into the pen and seized the scrawny alien in his powerful hands.

Jabba agreed to Snitkin's plea to spare the feisty creature's life. The Yuzzum displayed remarkable skill with a rifle, and Snitkin said he could use an extra hand in his business.

The Czerka 84-U hunting rifle rarely left the Yuzzum's side. Because of his marksmanship, Snitkin nicknamed the Yuzzum "Blam." Wam regularly accompanied Snitkin on his smuggling runs. During his trips to Jabba's palace, the Yuzzum was often found hunting rodents in the dungeons or keeping an eye on Snitkin's main rival, Hermi Odle.

One day, Wam was surprised and delighted to see another diminutive Yuzzum, Joh Yowza, arrive at the palace. The rhythmic and almost musical conversations of the two Yuzzums were often heard as intermezzos between performances of the bands that visited the palace.

Wam didn't care to join the execution party in its trip to the Pit of Carkoon. In fact, he sympathized with one of the prisoners for killing the rancor beast. When word of what happened at the Sarlacc reached Wam -- including news of Pote Snitkin's death -- he realized that he was free to do whatever he desired.

After accompanying Yowza on a tour of the Outer Rim and the Centrality, Wam returned to Tatooine and began a small business as an exterminator of womp rats and other vermin.

Shadow troopers

The brainchild of Armand Isard, Director of Republic Intelligence and Director-General of the Senate Bureau of Intelligence, EDITOR'S NOTE: RUMSFELD ANALOG? the shadow trooper division was created mainly as a reconnaissance tool. Designed to augment the dwindling number of ARC troopers, shadow troopers operate singly or in pairs. They operate covertly, yet still in armor, posing as mercenaries or bounty hunters to slip quietly in and out of locations while quietly gathering intelligence.

Shadow trooper armor is based on standard Phase II clone armor. Strategically placed magseals allow the attachment of deceptive plating that alters the appearance of a shadow trooper.

Different styles allow the shadow trooper to appear to be Hutt-hired mercenaries, Black Sun operatives, or independent bounty hunters. The plating is primarily cosmetic; it does disguise a clone trooper's sensor signature, confusing life form indicators to read presences other than human if desired. The plating also alters regular movement, preventing observers from recognizing the characteristic "clone gait."

If discovered, a single jaw switch within the helmet disengages the magseals, allowing the shadow trooper to regain full use of their armor.

The armor has a special sensor reflective coating that absorbs active scans. Thermal dampers and EM hardening prevent passive sensor from picking up the telltale signatures of standard armor. A high powered omni-directional jammer further adds to the shadow trooper's shroud of invisibility, ensuring they remain undetectable. Such costly jamming systems affect the helmet systems of standard clone troopers also, ensuring that most shadow troopers do not operate with the regular infantry.

The standard DC-15 carbine has been replaced by the DC-19 "Stealth" carbine. This weapon is equipped with a sound suppressor for silent operation, and has an optional mode that uses an expensively refined tibanna gas mixture that makes a bolt invisible to the regular visual spectrum. This mode comes at a high cost, though; the mixture must be reloaded after 10 shots, and the weapon must cool down after each blast to prevent damage to the dampeners. Shadow trooper snipers use the invisible beam to great effect.

When the Confederacy of Independent Systems stronghold was discovered on Utapau as General Grievous' hideout, a platoon of shadow troopers was assigned to infiltrate six sinkhole cities and place jammers that would allow the Republic army to invade without notice.

Success of the shadow trooper division led to the creation of the Storm Commandos, as well as Blackhole's elite stormtrooper forces.

DC0052 speeder

In the waning days of the Republic, the DC0052 Intergalactic speeder was a short-ranged repulsorcraft used exclusively by the Jedi order. Though found on other worlds, the speeder model was used most prominently on Coruscant, to ferry a single Jedi Councilor from the Jedi Temple to other sites on the planet.

Manufactured by Daystar Craft, this speeder had a mid-altitude ceiling of 170 kilometers, and a top speed of 800 kilometers per hour. The DC0052 made use of aerodynamic surfaces and a robust powerplant to rocket the tiny craft over urban areas. With twin Sono-class thrust pods and four stable but light Daystar Craft repulsorlift generators, the DC0052 provided swift, cheap, and reliable point A-to-B transportation.

Daystar had built upon previous success with their civilian issue DC0040, which their marketing department touted as "Intergalactic" in a series of ad campaigns that highlighted its starship-like design cues and heady power-to-weight ratios. Though that name was never formally applied to the DC0052, the sobriquet nonetheless stuck to the Jedi model.

The Jedi Council maintained a small fleet of 16 of the inexpensive craft to provide them with a means of traveling relatively quickly throughout the capital world without relying on public transport or pressing expensive Jedi starfighters into cross-world commutes. The Intergalactic had a range of 2,000 kilometers, which gave the Jedi quick access to many points on the planet while still remaining suborbital.

Its unique feature is a "drop-deployment" panel, which would allow a Jedi in need of immediate debarkation in an emergency to set the craft on autopilot to land while a hatch below the cockpit would drop away. The Jedi would then drop directly into the heat of the emergency, ready for action


At LucasArts, No Playing Around in Quest to Be No. 1
SAN FRANCISCO — In September 2004, Jim Ward met with the director George Lucas at his office at Skywalker Ranch near here. At the time, LucasArts, the video game company created by Mr. Lucas in 1982 and run by Mr. Ward, was in disarray. The division was making too many mediocre "Star Wars" games, it was rife with internal rivalries and it was in such lackluster financial shape that bonuses for employees were scrapped that year.

Mr. Ward, a veteran Lucasfilm marketing executive who had been named president of LucasArts only four months earlier, was there to present Mr. Lucas with a business plan, but he had a few questions of his own. Most important, did Mr. Lucas have the desire to turn LucasArts into one of the top five video game publishers? Indeed, Mr. Lucas said, he did.

"We can do this ourselves," Mr. Ward recalled Mr. Lucas telling him. "We will put our resources behind this."

LucasArts is not No. 5 yet. But last year it ranked No. 8 in sales, up from No. 13 a year earlier, according to the NPD Group. And, Mr. Ward, 46, is being credited with a turnaround. While No. 8 may seem low in an industry obsessed with No. 1, LucasArts got there selling a fraction of the games its competitors did.

The success was buoyed by two new "Star Wars" games, Star Wars Battlefront II and Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, which were the second- and third-top-selling games last year, after Madden N.F.L. 2006, according to NPD. And LucasArts had a hit with Mercenaries, a war game published by LucasArts and developed by Pandemic Studios that became the best seller based on a new property. And there are more non-"Star Wars" games on the way, including one based on the Indiana Jones character. EDITORS' NOTE: AND MORE NEW STAR WARS GAMES TOO, I HOPE? (I AM A DEDICATED, FOCUSED QOTD).

Analysts and others in the industry agree it is a promising turn for LucasArts and, in particular, Mr. Ward. But his most challenging days may be ahead. The video game industry has been in the doldrums for months; video game sales are lagging as consumers wait to buy the next generation of consoles, including the PlayStation 3.

And perhaps most important, Mr. Lucas has no plans to make any more "Star Wars" movies.

That means LucasArts will have to work that much harder to come up with ideas of its own.

"We are not the 'Star Wars' game company," said Micheline Chau, president of Lucasfilm. "And Jim knows what he has to do."

While the games division makes up about 25 percent of overall revenue for Lucasfilm, Ms. Chau said, it accounts for only 10 percent of the company's operating profit. This is why one of Mr. Ward's main goals is to create original franchises.

"The 'Star Wars' brand is a massive advantage, but they are going to have to market new innovation," said John Riccitiello, a partner at the video game investor Elevation Partners, who has known Mr. Ward for several years. "It's early. It may take another five years for their story to develop, but it is going to be interesting."

Sitting in his office overlooking the San Francisco Bay one recent morning, Mr. Ward reflected on what he and his team had done so far. It was at a town hall meeting in August 2004, the month before he met with Mr. Lucas, that he outlined his strategy in an auditorium filled with staff members. It seemed simple: LucasArts would make high-quality games, and deliver them on time and on budget.

"I learned this from George," said Mr. Ward. "There are these countless meetings where he is rational, laid back. But then he sets the bar so high you begin to think, like, this guy is out of his mind."

To illustrate the point, Mr. Ward raised his right arm in the air, higher than the left. "I said, 'Gang, this is what we are doing,' " said Mr. Ward, slowly raising his left arm to meet the right. "Now they've learned that if they come remotely close to this, they can do amazing things."

Before joining Lucasfilm in 1997, Mr. Ward had distinguished himself for 13 years as an aggressive advertising executive working with the likes of Apple Computer, Nike and Microsoft. While working at the advertising firm of Wieden & Kennedy, he was involved in the introduction of Windows 95 for Microsoft. He and his colleagues recommended that Microsoft use the Rolling Stone's hit "Start Me Up" in its now famous campaign.

Later, he was Wieden's global account director for Nike and part of the team that introduced Tiger Woods as a brand. Mr. Ward was recruited to Lucasfilm in 1997 to oversee the worldwide marketing of the last three movies in the "Star Wars" series, as well as all of Lucasfilm's DVD library. But by November 2003, Mr. Ward wanted more responsibility. Mr. Lucas and Ms. Chau agreed to let Mr. Ward "try out" at LucasArts even though he had no experience making video games.

"When he talked to us we were thinking maybe, maybe not," said Ms. Chau. "But if he surrounded himself with people who knew the business, and he listened, this could be great." Mr. Ward was named president at LucasArts in May 2004.

Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division at Microsoft, who has known Mr. Ward since the start of Windows 95, said Mr. Ward sought advice from others on how best to revive LucasArts. "He did listen to a lot of people, but once he made a decision, he didn't waste time getting it done," said Mr. Bach.

Along the way, he also developed a reputation for directness that could be a little rough. Mr. Riccitiello said that Mr. Ward "can run certain people over" with his big voice and strong point of view.

"My sense is if you took the average executive with a 50- to 80-hour workweek, they spend about 50 percent of their time just being nice," said Mr. Riccitiello. "Jim doesn't deal with that. He picks up half a week right there."

In 2004, about one-quarter of nearly 400 employees at LucasArts lost their jobs, said several former employees. (Mr. Ward declined to discuss the layoffs. Currently there are 252 employees in the division.)

He quickly sought to shake up the culture. "I needed to free them up and get rid of the politics so I could institute a team," said Mr. Ward. "I told them they either get on board or they don't."

He began weekly meetings to encourage department heads to talk. He said he separated the quality-control department from product development to create "healthy tension," giving staff members more freedom to express their views.

Mr. Ward took a different approach to video game advertising. For example, he participated last November in "The Apprentice" to promote not only the DVD release of "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" but the Star Wars Battlefront II game as well.

And he is openly critical of Electronic Arts, a competitor, for not being able to deliver its Godfather video game to consumers on time. "It is absolutely a sin," he proclaimed.

(Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Electronic Arts, said, "Delaying the Godfather wasn't an easy decision, but getting it right was crucial to the future of the franchise.")

Still, Mr. Ward is willing to change his opinion if an opportunity presents itself. In 1981, when he was a graduate student in Arizona, he said he spurned a classmate, Dawne Cotton, because she was late for their first French class. Three years later, he married her.

Mr. Ward said he had successfully worked with creative people his entire career, and former LucasArts employees said he sought to inspire. But even Mr. Ward conceded that LucasArts developers were suspicious at first. "You've never run a video game company before," he said many of them told him. As a result he knew he needed someone to help who knew how to make games. So he promoted Peter Hirschmann, 34, to be vice president of product development. "The linchpin was to find a creative partner," Mr. Ward said.

A former production assistant who worked with Steven Spielberg, Mr. Hirschmann was involved in developing that director's widely acclaimed Medal of Honor video games before joining LucasArts in 2002 as a producer. Mr. Ward got to know Mr. Hirschmann in early 2004, when he would pad down the hall to his office late at night to check on the progress of Star Wars: Battlefront, which Mr. Hirschmann was overseeing.

Both men said late-night conversations about "Star Wars" turned to personal interests: World War II and Disneyland. Born in 1959, the youngest of three siblings, and brought up in Rockford, Ill., Mr. Ward said he used to watch "The Wonderful World of Disney" every Sunday night. (The Pirates of the Caribbean is his favorite ride at Disneyland.) Mr. Hirschmann keeps a model of the monorail from Disneyland in his office.

While Mr. Ward can be forceful, Mr. Hirschmann is more relaxed. He once hired an ice cream truck to deliver gelato to the staff. "Peter is a perfect counter to me," said Mr. Ward.

At first Mr. Hirschmann was not interested in the job. "I saw a lot of baggage with it," said Mr. Hirschmann. "But Jim said, 'We are going to hit the reset button. We are going to reboot.' Then I thought, maybe this was doable."

Their excitement was palpable on a recent afternoon, when Mr. Ward, Mr. Hirschmann and Haden Blackman, the project leader of a forthcoming "Star Wars" game, reviewed all of the company's recent projects. Mr. Blackman outlined a new storyline that delved deeper into Darth Vader's history.

Mr. Hirschmann later demonstrated a test game, shouting and jumping each time a storm trooper tumbled onscreen, the character barely catching his fingers on the pixel ledge. And he gleefully explained how researchers had tracked down images of San Francisco buildings from 1915 for the future Indiana Jones game.

Soon it was back to work.

"There's a lot of pressure," said Mr. Ward. "I mean we're taking $20 million out of George's pocket," he said, tapping Mr. Hirschmann on the shoulder while referring to the potential cost of a video game for the next generation of consoles.

Mr. Hirschmann and Mr. Blackman shot each other a knowing glance. "We feel the pressure, all right," Mr. Hirschmann said, laughing.

Star Wars Weekends Merchandise For 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: WHIMPER....I WANNA GO TO THIS...SNIFFLE..... have posted a great checklist of sorts and a good handful of images showing what will be available at the Star Wars Weekends.

From plush toys to pin sets, there is somehting for all ages in this great assortment of new collectibles!

Check it all out!
As reported last week, Disney's Star Wars Weekends is ramping up for the 2006 summer season at the Disney-MGM Studios in Florida, bringing with it a great new assortment of exclusives for Star Wars and/or Disney collectors.

What follows is a checklist of what fans can expect to find at the park starting May 19:

Skagen Darth Vader watch with resin helmet box, limited to 500

SWW 2006 embroidered logo baseball cap with Imperial emblem

SWW 2006 embroidered logo baseball cap with Darth Vader

Messenger bag with Star Wars Weekends logo appliqué

Rubber bracelet with
Rebel Alliance logo icon EDITOR'S NOTE: REALLY NEED THIS!

Rubber bracelet with Imperial logo icon

Keychain with 2006 SWW poster art

Magnet with 2006 SWW poster art EDITOR'S NOTE: NEED THIS!

Ceramic mug with 2006 SWW poster art

SWW 2006 logo tumbler

Darth Vader Goofy Beanie EDITOR'S NOTE: MUST HAVE!

Hero/Villain with
lightsaber boxed pin set of 8, limited to 500

Pin-on-pin saga scenes with SWW 2006 logo; eight different, sold separately

Yoda vs. Vader main logo SWW 2006 pin-on-pin

Framed set of nine pins, including eight saga scene pin-on-pins and Yoda vs. Vader pin-on-pin; limited to 100

Star Wars saga jumbo pin-on-pin, limited to 750

SWW 2006 logo t-shirt, adult and youth sizes

SWW 2006 polo with poster art appliqué

SWW 2006 jacket with poster art appliqué

SWW 2006 ladies t-shirt with glitter poster art

SWW 2006 artwork poster by Russell Walks EDITOR'S NOTE: COOL!

SWW 2006 coins; nickel, bronze, silver-plate, and gold-plate, sold individually

SWW 2006 bundled coin set, consisting of coins listed above

SWW 2006 pure silver coin

Crystal Magic laser-engraved crystal presentation, 2006 SWW poster art; edition size of 50-75


A close-up view of the ancient frieze that hangs in
Palpatine's office, as sculpted by ILMs Richard Miller.

Ralph McQuarrie's illustration of an Imperial Royal Guard looks much more medieval than the finished form.

Terryl Whitlatch illustrates a number of key lip sync positions for Sebulba in this series of illustrations.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker pilot their agile Jedi starfighters into the heart of an explosive battle.


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