[Crafting] LotRO Stream Team Banner

There is a banner hanging in the Standing Stone Games studio, a gift from the LotRO Stream Team to the developers for the launch of Lord of the Rings Online‘s Mordor expansion. This is a blog detailing its creation for those who might be curious.

So, far too close to launch time, I had an idea. Back during the 10-year anniversary stream, Gussymoose had arranged for a pizza delivery to the studio as a thank you for the team’s hard work. Considering how much of a big deal the expansion would be and knowing that some of the devs at Standing Stone have been working on this story culmination for an entire decade, I felt that a launch gift needed to be a little bit more permanent. However, I didn’t want it to be something from just me, I wanted to organize a collective gift to let the dev team know that a number of their players were appreciative of their hard work in creating the game we all love to play. I reached out to my fellow streamers on the official LotRO channel and asked for their input and was very much gratified by their responses.

Inspired by the standard that Arwen crafted for Aragorn that was first visible as he led the Corsair ships to the Harlond and turned the tide of battle on the Pelennor, I thought a banner that the devs could hang up would be nice. I was also inspired by a High Elf banner that’s now visible in-game during their racial starting area and elsewhere in game, as well as the new Alliance themed cloak available in the Collector’s and Ultimate Fan editions of Mordor. The initial idea was to feature the Two Trees with the Moon and Sun as a central motif just like the cloak and then array headshots of each streamer’s main around them like stars, with the main message in the middle and the list of regular viewers’ names arranged below. Thus, I started sketching in Photoshop.

My methods are to start with a pink rendition, very rough workings of the basic design, to decide where I want things. I didn’t want to directly copy either Arwen’s standard or the High Elf banners, because this was going to be a gift to the team. Also, it was important not to copy the in-game cloak cos quite frankly, copying is boring. But, for those who remember the elven-themed kilt I made back in February and March, you might recall that I love filigree. So, the base banner would be shaped like a shield with filigree outlining the shapes at the bottom and framing the top. Naturally, because this was a gift I was crafting, there was no question about using my signature blue and silver colors for the main design.

As I was working on this, I asked the streamers to submit headshots of their main, their main’s name, and a list of regulars they would like to see added to the viewer section of the banner. It was intended to promote the positive and constructive members of our stream community, so the list of names would never be comprehensive. It is a mild sorrow to me to know that there are deserving folks who didn’t make the list despite my best efforts to Pokemon this and get all the good’uns, as it were. You have my apologies for any oversights.

Now, the basic design of Trees and filigree were drawn by hand in Photoshop, but there was a very basic sketch on paper first. However, I’ll admit to using Photoshop trickery once I started the actual drawing. I’m pretty bad at keeping things symmetrical when I’m sketching, so I drew half of the design and then mirrored it once I had it to where I liked it. Then I added filters to the layers so that it gave everything a raised embossed look, making it really deep for the Trees to give them an illusion of being 3D. I know some dork on Facebook called the design lame, but I was going for a stylized graphics-art sort of image, so it’s doing what I want it to do and that guy missed the damned point.

Next, I composed a nice congratulatory message for the dev team, and I had to have a little fun with it. Originally, I wanted to have the word Mordor in the center, drawn in red and orange much like the official logo with the Eye of Sauron as the first O. Well, in the timeframe I was working in, and the way the message was being composed, as well as the space I had to work with, I said to hell with it and went with a simpler form of text editing that worked for the space and just made the word Mordor red to stand out. For the font, I went and picked up the very nice Aniron font created by Pete Klassen. You can download it and the also-cool Ringbearer font for free from his personal website.

So, once more inspired by the Gondorian banners and Aragorn’s crafted by Arwen, I decided to place the headshots of the streamers’ mains in an array around the trees, then realized it would be cooler to have them actually printed on top of stars themselves, but hopefully not in a creepy Teletubbies way. After some hours futzing with positioning and sizing, we got everyone in there. This is where I had to edit the headshots I was given and make them look pretty. I also had to take the time to review the streams of those streamers who hadn’t had a chance to get a headshot submitted in time and made my best attempts at getting something good, so many thanks to those streamers who unwittingly lingered on the character select screen or had turned the camera around so I could nab a good headshot.

I also wanted to ensure that every streamer had a proper credit of the name of their character like in movie credits. In the cases where a streamer used their main’s name as the Twitch name, I invented a title, so this is why Feclez is listed as ‘Queen of Coffins’ or Bludborn is ‘Lord of the Shing-shing’, and I let BigEdMustafa troll AllupEnya by using ‘Lord of Rhubarb’ as the latter’s title.

Once assembled like the Avengers, I added the names of the stream regulars at the bottom and had a bit of fun trying to organize them so that they were not precisely symmetrical, for that sort of line justification is for the birds, but at least was reasonably so. It amused me to try to type each person’s name exactly as they do in Twitch, so Coldfellswarden is in all-caps for example. But by this point, I wasn’t hard-pressed to be exact about it, so I didn’t check everything 100%. Still, I did a bit of grouping up of names. On the right-hand panel, the first bunch of names are the folks nominated from the Department of Holbyt Security, followed by the nominees from Mythgard. Again, the list of names and their placements aren’t comprehensive, but I did my best with what I was given.

However, I do have to say that one of my favorite parts of all the text is the use of emoji for a few select entries, both streamer and viewer. Of course BigEd’s headshot was going to have fishing involved, and his character’s name had the fishing emoji. And I went and dug up archery and pants emoji for Gussymoose’s infamous Ranger pants. Finally, I put a little heart between the names of my dear kinmates SouthernBelle0927 and Pratzter, because I adore them and they’re a couple IRL because of the game. In the letter I wrote to the devs that went along with the banner, I gave a brief version of their story and what LotRO meant to them, so the team at Standing Stone could see how the game brought about real-world good.

At this point, it was time to get it printed and shipped. I don’t mind saying that I used signs.com for their turnaround time and the fact they do fabric banners suitable for an inside option. Unfortunately, they don’t do custom shapes such as the shield-shape like I wanted. I chose to have it printed with no formal hem or pocket at the top for a pole so I could cut it to the shape I wanted and hem it myself and create a pole pocket at the top.

I’ll admit that the first run was not well-executed. I found out to my chagrin that I had misspelled a couple of names (damned dyslexia) and when I got the original banner back from the printer, it had printed far too dark, so dark that some of the streamer headshots were hardly discernible against the background. So, I had the names proofread by SouthernBelle0927 and redid all of the headshots that were in need of brightening and also brightened the colors of the filigree, Trees, Moon, and Sun, so that everything would print properly this time.

In the meantime, it was nearly past our time. Launch was coming up far too soon, so I made the call to cut and hem the version I now call the prototype, bundle it up neatly with a swatch of my favorite fabric and some ribbons, the letter that I chose to let my printer do instead of hand-calligraphing (sealed with wax like in the old school), and send it off via FedEx. Then I was on tenterhooks all weekend until I saw that QuartermasterU had signed for the package that Monday – even tho the launch had by then been delayed to Wednesday and I could have saved a good deal on shipping if I had only known – and then waited to see how the team reacted.

The final version is off to the printer. Currently, as of this writing, the original banner is hanging in the Standing Stone office so that the devs walk past it every day as they go to work and can see that there are those who appreciate their time and effort. When I get the new banner and get it properly hemmed, I’ll hand it over to Cordovan to hang in its stead. It pleases me to be able to present these names and faces as part of the best gaming community out there to the folks whose work gives us a place to play and argue, discuss lore and fall in love, and hang out and whatever, to let them know that their work is appreciated and loved by even this small fraction of our much larger community.  And I can’t express how humbled and honored I am to know that a piece of art I made is hanging in the studio that makes the game I love so much.

I would like to stress that yes, while I did the heavy lifting of getting this project made, it wouldn’t have happened at all if not for the input, support, and honestly the simple existence of the LotRO Stream Team and its community. It truly was a team effort.

As a footnote, in case the screenshots are hard to discern, here are the names on the banner:

Official LotROStream Streamers:

Regular Viewers Nominated:

Left Panel: TheBuddhaFist, RowanofGondor1961, Glamdryng, Saintjoan777, dethman42, Megreader, LordXabbu, Kudithi, GamerGramp, Radarwave, Halfpint_Hurricane, Tesander, Dyfydd, Veelonor, Clemcancook, LadyGunn, COLDFELLSWARDEN, Talyrion1003, Hobbitlocked, Bacondonutbuttbanditt, TheLotRORanger, NinthPawn, Ski0624, Delarfin, KatrianaND, Bumble232, BumblesBounce13, Beardoin, Zyngor, Arahothlien, Merryrose1, Kikilaa, Stages541, ChromiteSwiftpaw, HarmlessArmlessOctopus, TallWindowEnvelope, Gtrakl, ElderJames, Hoyabella

Right Panel: Waterlady_of_Windfola, Bavelbella, SouthernBelle0927, Pratzter, Zinnelle, Sam_Burke, Hunzinator, JessieD_91, Findalar, Bellandora, Aravilui, Melindrien, Taffetabear, ZoeytheFirst, Hologro, PineleafNeedles, PhilBoswell, Teriadwyn, LotROMaven, Mishibug, Gravidy_42, Dmae_the_Real, mdmnmdllr, TonyMeade, Rosiebug21, Faervenen, Zeusadeus939, Aljbookworm, Hollyberye, Nettlebrew, AndangYT, AuroraEmber, PontinFinnberry, Ashigaru, Kryles, CPofLandroval, XanThor00, Findecuthalion, Toanstation, Ranger9427, Strideru22, Balviel, Cableknitdragon

Thank you all for being awesome.