The Queen Bee in Freeblade

How did the Queen Bee end up as a livery in Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade

Freeblade_Logo_web_Size_600As some of you are well aware, I’ve been excited about this game since it was first announced. I’ve written up a brief review to go along with this article, but I wanted to focus for a moment on just how my Imperial Knight, The Queen Bee, ended up in Pixel Toys’ hot new mobile game, Freeblade.

My Twitter network was instrumental

I can easily say that, without the help of #warmongers on Twitter, this never would have happened. Let’s break down the chain of events over the course of just a few days.

It all started with the announcement, for me. As soon as I saw the first trailer, I thought about my own Knight stomping around in the game.

I followed that up right away with this one, while it was on my mind: 

  Scott Ferguson (@ryglore), one of my Twitter pals, replied that he’d play the game if the Queen Bee was in it. That really got the ball rolling for me. At this point I began posting thoughts along the same line on the Bolter & Chainsword forums (where the Queen was born and raised, as it were). People seemed really into the idea, as her “fan club” is quite dedicated. I posted this tweet the next day:

We were working out different ideas for Twitter hashtags on the forum, including things like #longlivethequeenbee or #allhailthequeenbee, when Kraut Scientist suggested #ilovequeenbees as a reference with some video game roots. I’m a sucker for layers of nuance, so the next day I put out the cry again with his hashtag included.

The two tweets got almost 60 retweets (plus lots of replies), and it didn’t fall on deaf ears. On the 17th, Pixel Toys tweeted this to me:


The network was larger than Twitter, however…

While Twitter surely made the biggest splash, my friends from across the world rallied to her cause. Kraut Scientist even dedicated a blog post to the Queen on his very popular website, Khorne’s Eternal Hunt. Members of the Bolter & Chainsword emailed the developers directly and started a Facebook campaign as well.  I was truly honored and, frankly, floored by the level of dedication and support everyone showed for the project.

I’ve said before that I believe the Queen Bee to be something of a community project, since I’ve relied on the truly excellent feedback I’ve gotten from my peers throughout every step of the build and painting process. Every weathering technique I’ve tried, every conversion and every recovery from disaster has been filtered through my friends online. It’s safe to say her fans are just as enthusiastic about her as I am, as they can see little bits of their advice all over her. A great many of them followed my project from the very beginning, over the year and half of very stop-go work that went into it. To see them all rally to her cause was personally gratifying. If nothing else ever came from it, I really felt like that was wonderful in and of itself.

All that work was not in vain.

At this point, you know my Knight is in the game. What you don’t know is how much work went into it in the background. First of all, I wasn’t actually done with the model when I launched the campaign. I received an email from Pixel Toys, to the effect they were interested in getting her added as a livery to unlock. I knew that meant a lot of work for me, so I got to it and finished up the final details. I ordered a tripod and phone mount from Amazon in preparation for the big photo shoot. I then built a lightbox and proceeded to take a ridiculous amount of photos on both light and dark backgrounds. I describe it as almost porn-like, because there were so many closeups and odd angles, since I wanted to make sure the studio had plenty of reference material to work with. I then revisited the photos after I got a new iPhone, with an updated camera. From there I had to do a lot of color correction in Photoshop to make sure the detail was easily visible.

I sent all these pics to them and then I waited. In the meantime, they told me they were working on some things and I signed a bit of paperwork to make sure everything was legal and above board. I was very nervous because, while Pixel Toys were making the game itself, everything needed to go back to Games Workshop for final approval. It was very possible my skin would never make it into the game, and we all know “hope is the first step on the road to despair.”

You may not know or care, but I’m a big fan of Apple and I always watch the new product keynote presentations. Imagine my surprise when Pixel Toys came onstage during the iPhone 6S announcement to show off their new game, Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade. Two things I geek out about were coming together in a way I never could have seen coming, and it upped the ante for me in many ways. Being featured in this way all but guaranteed the game would see tons of downloads, and therefore many would potentially be exposed to my Knight’s design in the game.

I loved the idea that other people would be stomping around with the Queen Bee, or maybe some would even be inspired to paint their own Knight in her colors! Amazing.  Imperial Knight Queen Bee liveryI went a while without hearing much about it, and then out of the blue they sent me this awesome preview. Most of the key elements were in place and I was tickled. Yellow and black that were very accurate to my colors, my brass ws just perfect, the subtle honeycomb, and her shield! The customization engine they used in-game didn’t allow for a full half/half split, but they absolutely nailed the general look, in my opinion. I was (and am) really pleased to see that but even so, this was still not officially approved so I made sure I didn’t get too excited.

The Queen Bee in-game

Warhammer 40,000: FreebladeIt turns out there was nothing to worry about. The studio knew I was really excited, and they kindly emailed me the day of release to let me know Freeblade was ready for iOS platforms. I downloaded the game on my phone right from bed, and after playing through the prologue (to the consternation of my slumbering wife) I looked at the liveries in the game. There she was, listed right along with big names from the canon like The Obsidian Knight, Gerantius, the White Warden and many, many more. Of course, she was still locked behind a Level 15 wall, and that gave me all the incentive I needed to dive in. As you can see they made a couple tweaks to the design again, but with all the game filters in effect she was looking better than ever to my eyes.

Take a look at The Queen Bee yourself

Never one to shy away from a wall of pics, here goes!

There’s another view with different lighting, so I captured some images from there as well.

Imperial Knight 360

Click it to see the animation

And I threw together an animated 360 view, because I can’t get enough of this! I love the atmospheric lighting and reflection in this view. I really do think they captured her essence quite well.

Side by side comparisonI’ll leave you with this image, showing the Queen Bee side-by-side with her model in-game. I know the colors are off a bit, but you get the idea. Now I need to work on recording some video of her stomping around in the game as well. It’s a thing of beauty.

I unlocked the Queen Bee on November 22nd

And you can watch! I happened to be streaming on Twitch when I unlocked her, and if you’re interested you can watch the replay on my channel. I geek out, of course, taking a look at all different angles and whatnot. After that, I had to run a mission with her as well. Watch the Queen Bee stomping around, walking backwards, swiveling all over and taking out orks LIKE A BOSS! It helps when you replay early levels with way better equipment…

Thank you!

And that leaves just one thing. I’d like to take a moment to thank the folks who helped make this dream a reality. From a cocky little joke to actually getting my Knight added to the Warhammer 40,000 canon, this has been a humbling and eye-opening journey. Each and every one of the #warmongers on Twitter, my Bolter & Chainsword family, and everyone else who has given me so much encouragement and support it actually makes me tear up a little. Thank you K-Sci, Scott, Greggles, Rory, Son of Carnelian, NafNaf, Batty, Lex (thanks for the beer!), Excessus, Jolemai, Kilofix, Dantay, Olis, GreyCrow, Roland, NinjaSuperSpy, Flint, Augustus, Subtle, Fish and many, many more… There are way too many to list here. You are the best group of hobby pals a guy could ever ask for. I can’t really take credit for the Knight itself, let alone the achievement of getting her in the game. That’s all you, guys and gals. We can be proud together.

I’d appreciate it if everyone who has been touched by this project in one way or another left a simple comment below, as an addendum to the illustrious litany of Lady Aurelia Tibbetts and her Queen Bee’s glory, long may it reign.