The Wings won yesterday. I'm starting to become cautiously optimistic about the Red Wings chances to advance now. It helps that they have a commanding 3-0 lead over the hated Avalanche. But, more importantly, the Av-Nots have been riddled with injuries lately - they've gotten Foppa Forsberg back and Theodore seems to be over his flu (Symptoms included an increased chance to see pucks suddenly appearing behind him.) but now they've lost Smyth. They'd have a hard time beating Detroit if they were completely healthy, now they're playing at a disadvantage.
The Pistons won, too. I'm less inclined to be optimistic here although last night was an encouraging sign. The reason? Billups finally went off. Chauncy is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink. When he's not playing well, the Pistons aren't playing well and he'd been having a horrible post-season so far. If he's back to form then my worries are over. If he's not, well, I still think they'll get past Philadelphia but I think the only way they get past Orlando (And, yes, I know I slighted them when calling for the Toronto upset. It was a longshot that didn't pan out, it happens, and I take back all the nasty things I said about them. There, happy?) is for Billups to have a strong series - he can pick them apart, it's just a question of if he will.
And the Tigers won as well. That leaves them a mere two games below .500! So, yeah, I'm not ready to get back on the bandwagon here yet. The Tigers still haven't won a game when they've scored less than four runs - they'll need to win those kind of games to do well. On the other hand, they have had 12 games where they've scored more than four. But all is not well in Tigertown yet.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Wings won yesterday. I'm starting to become cautiously optimistic about the Red Wings chances to advance now. It helps that they have a commanding 3-0 lead over the hated Avalanche. But, more importantly, the Av-Nots have been riddled with injuries lately - they've gotten Foppa Forsberg back and Theodore seems to be over his flu (Symptoms included an increased chance to see pucks suddenly appearing behind him.) but now they've lost Smyth. They'd have a hard time beating Detroit if they were completely healthy, now they're playing at a disadvantage.
It's over, it's done. Stick a fork in me. There are still a few more hours left in the day but I've reached a good milestone so I'm going to call it a month. And, having twelve full issues, a further six in roughed out stage, and sixteen four page back-ups done, I think I'll call it a good month, too.
Having converted my latest output to PDF form my grand total is 432 pages. That's 5 pages for each 4 page back-up and an average of around 27~29 for each issue. As I expected, my verbose writing style meant that I have far more pages of text than each issue would actually contain - by about 20%. I guestimate that I'd have to write another 75~100 pages to finish my maxi-series of a planned 18 issues that morphed into one a double sized issues and a special. In other words, the equivalent of 20 issues each 22 pages long. 440 pages of completed work which would take me about 528 if my 20% additional page rate held up. That's just no going to get done in the next several hours.
But what is done is a rough sketch of each issue, the last of which I just put to bed a short while ago. Not every issue is completely done but they all have enough that it wouldn't take me all that long to work the rest out. Same goes for the back-ups. And, at 432 pages, I'm close enough to that 440 mark that I can feel like I could.
Also, looking at the front page I see that there have been 129,000 pages submitted by nearly 8,000 writers. An impressive increase over yesterday's total - must be a wave of last-minute validation happening which is nice to see. But it also means that each writer has contribute an average of 16 pages. In other words, my 432 page total is 27 times the average. I'm making up for 26 slackers. I think that's doing my fair share.
It's been a wild, exhausting ride but one that I'm glad I decided to take. Because now, I can proudly display this:
But, now, it's time to hit the toggle switch and give it a rest. At least...until November.
So, the local paper has been full of yet more damning evidence in the Kwame Kilpatrick... I'm not even sure what to call it any more. Fiasco doesn't begin to describe the shame and disaster doesn't quite cover the outrage, so I think I'll go with disgrace. Basically, a judge ruled that the 18 page settlement that hizzoner and the police officers should be released to the public. It includes excerpts from the infamous text messages that are, well, you really just have to read them for yourself.
It's pretty clear now just why the Mayor and his team of lawyers fought so long and so hard to keep this deal from ever coming to the light. There's pretty much no way he can deny not only the affair but serious, serious tampering with the police. I don't even want to get into why his pet name for Beatty seems to be an incredibly offensive slur. It's just disgusting.
Ah, the draft.
First, the good news. Jason Jones went in the second round, pick #54 overall. My mother reports that his mother has been scheduled to be off of work for the past few days. So no pulling up in a massive Cadillac and a fur coat to tell off the boss yet. But, hey, mother's day is right around the corner. From what I've read, it was a bit of a reach for the Titans who've been slammed for a poor draft (Oddly enough because they didn't pick a wide receiver.) so we'll have to see how that turns out.
Second, the bad news. The Lions, in accordance with league rules, were actually allowed to make their picks. Really, at this point, there needs to be an intervention. Taking draft picks away from Matt Millen is like taking a highball out of an alcoholic's hand.
I should say that any attempt at deciding what happened over the weekend will have to wait until months if not years down the road. Grading a draft of unproven players who've yet to take a snap at the pro level is about as stupid as trying to predict it. You have to see how these players pan out before you can tell how teams did yesterday.
That said, I didn't have high expectations heading in - because, you know, it's Millen - and I'm displeased to say the Lions lived down to them wonderfully. They missed out on a lot of the players they targeted in the late rounds - where scouts really make their bones. But reaching to take Cherilius is just a microcosm of everything the Lions have done wrong in the draft over the years.
I'm not sure I follow the logic that says they needed to take Mendenhall. The back they picked up in the third might be serviceable enough and it's not like they didn't have a lot of holes to fix. But I do follow the logic that says Cherilius was predicted to go a lot later and they could have traded even further down, pocketing a few more late picks, if they really wanted him. And even if they did, there were better linesmen out there - the guy's a right tackle and, in the NFL, the money's over at left.
And I'm not exactly sold on Dizon being the second coming of Chris Spielman, either.
All in all, I'm glad I watched the Wings game instead.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I am dead tired now. But I have just written an issue which features an homage to the battle between Daredevil and the Sub-Mariner from Daredevil #7. God damn, I love the Frenzy.
And, yes, I am one of the 459 enjoying life in the winner's circle. I validated some time yesterday after finally figuring out how to convert from Celtx to a scrambled Open text and finally to a PDF (You have to input a PDF to the mystical counting device, instructions are right there in the profile - I used Freepdfconvert which worked quickly and painlessly in my browser. The scrambling is optional but, well, I'm paranoid so I went and did it anyway - hard to do in Celtx so I switched over to OpenOffice and did that whole wildcard replacement dealy.). Even though I'm not quite done gathered up enough to cross the finish line and put the official stamp on it - as expected, my page count was much higher than the number of pages in the issues I submitted. It was one of those "You just know that if I don't do this my computer is going to explode and I'm going to lose everything." things.
Anyhow, as I said I'm not quite ready to kick back and enjoy the highlife just yet. Not even to the point of blocking everything out - still a few issues left to hack into shape. But there are still a few hours left in the month and I'm going to keep typing to the biter end. Going to get some rest now, wake up in the morning, and see just how much of a dent I can put in the rest of my maxi-series before the final bell sounds.
And then? Then we will sleep the sleep of the just. And the very, very tired.
So, yeah, expect things to be spotty around here for at least a little while longer. Crunch time is almost over but I think I'm going to need at least a day or two to recover.
As if I didn't have enough to write already this month one of the many, many other things I've been working on is a term paper for one of those classes I'm taking but always seem to avoid talking about, due earlier today. Which is fine since I can churn out a five or ten page paper in my sleep. Literally - I sleep-type now (The sad part is I'm not sure that what I write in a drowsy stupor actually suffers any drop-off in quality from what I'm writing now...in a slightly less drowsy stupor.). The catch is that the papers had to be presented. Which is about the cruelest classroom activity that a sadistic teaching body has ever devised. Basically, you have to stand in front of class, read your paper, talk about your paper, and then answer questions about it - in order to make sure it's not been plagiarized more than evoke deep-seated adolescent fears, I guess.
And, well, it might not seem like it given the length and volume I go into around here but I hate public speaking. Always have, always will. Just not what I am built for at all. Give me a keyboard or a notepad and I'll put on a dog and pony show for you but ask me to recite a few lines and it's all fumbling awkwardness. It's not like I really care about the grade here - as long as I pass and can take the next class in the sequence I'm fine and it's not like I've dropped many points so far - so I was tempted - sorely - to just throw up my hands, skip the class or at least mail it in.
But, no, if only to challenge myself, I figured I was going to do my level best. Not only write a paper that I could be proud of instead of a half-assed, last minute affair, but give the kind of presentation I could be happy with as well. It's the Frenzy spirit, the death of my inner editor and the destruction of those self-created boundaries. I might not ever be a good speaker but, you know, maybe it's thinking that I have to be an awful one that's been holding me back. So, I went up there, I stood up there, and I spoke. And I spoke and I spoke until I was all out of things to say.
And I knocked that motherfucker out of the park.
I mean, I did it stuttering and stammering my way through, dropping and creating points on the fly (Seriously, you think I get tangential here you should here me try and explain this stuff out loud. There's no copy and paste in real life.), and fidgeting and doing everything else I probably shouldn't have done if I was a real, polished, effective speaker. But I got through it. And more than just by the seat of my pants, I think at least some of the class was genuinely interested in what I had to say and that still comes as a pleasant surprise to me.
I'll hopefully get around to sharing some of those insights around here since it's exactly the kind of fascinating stuff I wish I wrote about more since it was all about the McLuhan. But we'll get around to that later, for the moment, I'm just happy to have that paper over and done with.
Friday, April 25, 2008
So, this week's challenge is to play the turn-based RPG battler Sonny. Which has been around, spreading doses of joy into the world for long enough that I hopefully don't need to go into any more detail than that.
This week's card is the Herbal Remedy. You can make up up your own jokes about that as I'll spare you my chronic attempts to craft the perfect pun. I'll also spare you from the still fermenting rant about the release schedule of these cards (Because, seriously, that's yet another item for a group of cards that I don't have. I mean, I am RANDOM4LYFE but, still... Grr!).
Beyond mentioning that it's a green bordered card which means it can only be slotted on cards with a similar border - namely Andromeda, Anex, Ashi, Helene, and Phoebe - I'm also going to skip any real analysis as with the past few cards since, you know, I must Frenzy and not just because Herbal Remedy is an underwhelming card. Not bad, mind, just not enough to convince me it's good - the simple explanation is that for a card like Herbal and its kissing cousin Healing Salve to be anything but a secondary option, at best, they need to recover enough health in relevant gameplay states to buy the character to which it is equiped an extra combat round. And I'm not sure that it does.
At the moment, anyway, and since the game is still under development that could change at any time, of course.
To gain a glimpse at the mediocrity that is Herbal Remedy and behold the awesomeness of recovering four health at the end of each round for yourself, you'll need to gain ten levels in Sonny.
Which, again, might take you a little while but isn't especially hard. You can always just grind out time in the training grounds if you get stuck.
Personally, I think the easiest to level with is the Assassin. Class doesn't really matter except for your attribute progression - which can be compensated with by gear anyways - since they all share the same abilities. Just head straight up the path towards Coup de Grace and don't look back except, perhaps, to get a spacer or two like Bleed or Master Strike. Just destroys those low-level foes.
Towards the end-game you'll want to switch to a stunlock strategy centered around Break and Shatter Bolt to keep your opponents from doing much of anything to you - that's pretty much how I got by the bosses. Except for the Doctor guy with health for days. He pretty much requires a timely Subversion to turn his jaw-dropping heal into a suicide pact.
You can go for the stuns straight away surrounding them with a bunch of other projectile spells - you'll probably want Gunslinger then - but I find it doesn't really work as well unless you can invest a lot of spare skill points in an energy engine like Re-Energize or Regenerate. Because while Veradux will occasionally reward you with awesome it's not exactly something you can rely on.
Since I beat the game already - breezing through all the bosses, yet again on yet another flash game site - I needed to level up again. Which wasn't exactly pleasant given my already vaunted level total. At least I got a bunch of points for all the new badges just for loading in. Oh, and the Herb Pack. Which, yeah, I can't use and I can't bring myself to care about.
The Cowgirl has entered my storyline and she has, in fact, brought the awesome with her. Yes, I have made the push to get through issue #12, which introduces the mercenary supervillain with the groan-inducing sobriquet of Cowgirl. I, uh, suck at names in case you hadn't noticed. But it doesn't matter because Cowgirl is such a great character. Easily my favorite so far. She's a breath of fresh air rushing into my script, energizing the entire process.
If I was doing this all over again, I'd try and figure out some way of getting her into the narrative much earlier on. As it is she shows up in the opening pages of the 3rd arc to set up her arc which follows but she doesn't really touch down until the end of that 4th segment. It's unfortunate, I think, looking back that my first few issues have to suck by design. They're the introductory issues that set up the central characters and themes of the book and they're necessary for everything that follows but I wish there was some way I could punch them up somehow - getting Cowgirl in there might just do the trick. But now that she's here we're flying through the story as I'm on to the parts that I'm actually excited by. Subplots are ticking over, dominoes are falling, ad the grand design I've been weaving is starting to take shape.
In other words, it's wonderfully crazy - I'm well over the page count mark, I'm insanely busy with other things, and I'm running a heavy sleep deficit already - but I'm going to keep on keeping on until the clock runs out.
Now, including today - and I seem to be suffering a case of the lazies - that leaves me with six days to finish six issues.
Including the next one which I've inadvertently discovered has to be a double-sized issue in order to cram everything I want to get done into it. It might seem like an innocent little diversion, a refreshingly simple tale of adventure and discovery, after my character suffers a humiliating defeat at the hands of Cowgirl in the last arc. A quick jaunt to a place I call the 18th Dimension and a wacky blend of retro 60s/pulp era Adam Strange/Doc Savage escapism. But it's actually rather central to the overall story - just not the one I'm telling right now. I need to hit this nail on the head for a lot of things to make sense down the line.
I'm going to take a bit of time to think about it now - and not just because I can't seem to write worth a damn at the minute (Seriously, cannot get anything done today. We're on revision three of this post and I'm still hovering over the delete key. That's usually a sign that I'm pressing too hard and I just need some time off.) - to figure it out. But I think I might have to take the cheap way out and just get the story blocked. Taking my outlined notes through to a rough stage just short of being done. A psuedo-script that's lacking a lot of detailed description and a sense of what goes where on the page but where the overall plot and dialog and the rest is fairly well sketched in. It's going that last yard and getting everything polished so that someone other than me can read it that takes the longest while being the hardest - I'm constantly having to shuffle pages and panels and even delete whole passages that I'm rather fond of in order to squeeze things in. But the Backspace key has no part in the Frenzy!
I don't know, I want to get it all done but something's going to have to give in order for me to have enough time, at this point.
On tap? Because it's the draft? Like beer? Yeah, well, I've got nothing.
Yes, well, it's that special day of the year when every team can feel like a winner. Except the Lions who, let's face it, continue to plumb new depths of futility. Pushing back the boundaries of failure for generations to come. It's really on draft day, when you look over the team's history of recent picks, that it slams home just how far off the mark they've been.
Their modest win total last year even means they don't get a pick in the top ten this year, too. That's probably a good thing since I'm sure they'd only wind up taking another wide receiver. Who'll be out of the league in three years.
Yeah, Draft Day for a Lion's Fan is sort of like going to the all you can eat buffet when you're on a diet. It's just a cruel glimpse at all the nice things we'll never have.
Still, at least the #1 pick will be a Wolverine. And some others who've worn the block M are expected to go early as well.
I can also live vicariously through another player. Jason Jones, out of Eastern. He's predicted to go late the first day or early the second, as far as I can tell. And I'm going to take a special interest in him because he's actually the son of someone who works with my mother. She's been asking me for months now about what's going to happen this weekend - in the way that only someone who has absolutely no interest in sports whatsoever can. And, you know, by now I'm pretty invested in a guy I've never met.
Pretty much sums up the draft, really.
Whew, the first game of the revival series lived up to the promise. And, really, that's exactly the way I think this tight match-up will play out: the Wings going up, the Avalanche coming back, but not quite havign enough to get past Detroit.
But last night is more cause for concern than celebration. The Wings won, true, and they did chase the opposing goalie who['d been looking as impressive as anyone in the playoffs so far. But Forsberg didn't play and word is that Theodore was sick during the game (And not, you know, pitching a fit in the visitor's locker room.). So...the Avalanche can get stronger. Which is not exactly a comforting thought.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I just wrote a script introducing four separate super groups, each of which has about seven members (Although not all made it on panel or had speaking roles), and sixteen different villains. Each of whom have detailed descriptions and backstories. Including the sensational new character find of 2008, the Mandingo - half man, half dingo, all racially insensitive (LILY TIGER: Why don't you call yourself something like Weredingo? MANDINGO: I'm a man, I'm a dingo, I'm Mandingo. It's simple, I like it. LILY TIGER: It's just a little offensive is all. MANDINGO: I don't get why you're so upset about this. LILY TIGER: Because I'm black, you racist mother fuh-- KRAKAGAR: Now, now, children, let's not fight in front of our guest.). All in under 18 pages. Frenzy on!
So, the Tigers won yesterday, giving Verlander his first win of the season. This is a bad thing since it comes over twenty games into the season and is his only win in the five games he's pitched - that's a .200 win percentage and that's many things but none of them what you want from your star pitcher.
What's odd is that the Tigers were destined to win the game. They, after all, scored four runs. So far, they're won every game so far this season when they've notched at least four times. And lost every time when they haven't. It's this simple: the Tigers score four run and they win.
Round 2 starts tomorrow with the Avalanche pouring into the Joe, thanks to the Sharks polishing off the Flames last night.
Well, I asked for it. Now I hope I just don't come to regret it.
Interestingly, though, in both conferences the exact same seeds survived. We have #1-#6 and #2-#5 match-ups in both East and West. Freaky.
Alright, here's the thing about tonight's game with the 76ers. The Pistons dropped Game 1, yeah, but that might have been the best thing to happen to them. They're only down one game with plenty left to play and, you know, they gave that game away down the stretch when they went ice cold. Philly is a beatable team and the Pistons can play much better.
The problem with the Pistons for years now has been that they're a veteran, confident team - this has also been their main advantage for some time so it's a bit of a double-edged sword. A team that expects to get into the playoffs and to do well and figures that they have a second gear they can shift into at any time because they've done so before. They play down to their opponent, in other words. And they can take plays and even whole games off, not work as hard as they need to in order to be fully competitive, and, instead, just do what it takes to skate by. It's a bad habit and one that I'd thought they'd put behind them with all the talk about how upset they were with the end of last year's season.
But now they've been socked in the mouth by a desperate, young team that's dangerous enough to steal games from them. If that doesn't wake them up, nothing will.
One good thing about the long layoff between games in the NBA is that it means the Pistons have had plenty of time to sit and think, in their homes, in their practices, in the coaches offices, and more. To let the sting of defeat burn its way into their minds. While the 76ers have been robbed of the momentum of a quick turnaround and the comfort of just having a game to play. The Pistons have been brooding on this now. They've been sulking.
And don't forget, the Pistons were the #2 team in the league this year. They finished only a handful of games behind mighty mighty Boston. And if they'd really wanted to, they probably could have made a push to match their blistering pace. But they didn't, not because they couldn't, but because they'd already done it. In years before, they'd torn through the regular season, put up the best records, won 60 games, but, now, they understand that it doesn't matter if you don't do anything in the playoffs (Not that Boston is having any problems with this, delivering a statement game while Detroit was floundering). So, once they secured their spot in the playoffs, they rested their starters, they developed their bench and waited.
Now, the playoffs are here.
And, now, the Pistons are angry.
Angry that they lost. Upset that they got humiliated at home. Determined not to let it happen again. Hopefully.
I'm thinking they're going to come out swinging tonight. Mainly because if they don't they really are in trouble.
Yesterday, I went with the common wisdom and said that in the Pennslyvania primary that the more strongly Clinton regions would be reporting late. Meaning that her margin would only be growing as the night wore on. Seem that didn't happen after all. Whoops. Don't think it changed much in the final equation, really, but goes to show that no one really knows how these things are going to play out and we'd all be better off shutting up and letting them happen instead of trying to glimpse into our crystal balls.
Not that the vote itself changed anything. As Atrios says here, nothing's changed, yes. But not changing anything means that Clinton's even further in trouble since the clock keeps ticking and she's behind on points. The status quo is that Clinton is losing.
And, of course, playing out the string while hoping that Obama gets struck by a live boy or a dead girl on live television during the middle of one of his speaches. Or something.
It's like this: PA was a favorable state for Clinton. Almost perfectly ideal, sitting in that corridor of rust belt states like Ohio and Michigan that are shot through with that peculiar strain of blue-collar conservatism and deeply buried but not forgotten histories of racial tension. And Clinton carried the state by a healthy margin of the overall vote.
But thanks to solid returns in Philadelphia and elsewhere and the way the state awards its delegates, she's not going to be cut too deeply into Obama's lead. And she needs to keep that margin close or it's all over for her.
She didn't win big enough in a state that was tailor made for her to do well. She couldn't close the gap even with an impressive win. And her opportunities to do so in the future have just gotten smaller by the count of one primary.
Where is can she be expected to do better than she did in PA from now on in? Where can she make up the gap?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Bearing down on storyarc number four, the pivotal lead-up to and confrontation with the villain my hero has absolutely no hope against. It's a lot of fun, really, since I get to build her first and then have her crash headlong into the plot. Lot of foreshadowing going on. Lot of establishing her as a force to be reckoned with.
Lot of writing left to do.
In the brief spare time I've had I've managed to sketch out the next arc, figuring out what plot points from my vague outline are going to go where, which scenes I'm going to have to write, which ones I'm going to have to knuckle down and get done because they're going to be pains, which others are going to be a laughable delight to pad my page count (Ha, yeah, right.). And, unfortunately, based on my experience with the previous issues and the amount of space I've had to devote to each so far, I've discovered that I drastically undershot my issue count. I have enough material not for another six issues but two double sized issues and a few more additional besides.
In other words, at this point, I need to write an issue a day just to get through to the end.
If everything goes right.
Which isn't going to happen.
But, yes, I'm going to keep on keeping on. I'm past the point of caring about winning this thing, my page count is already overflowing. I'm past the point of wanting to do it justice because that meter is filled with page after page of solid stuff. I want this story done. I want it out of my head and down on the paper where it belongs. Trapped, flawed, torn and ripped to disfigured shreds like a beautiful butterfly pinned to a board or a struggling ant trapped in amber. But still fixed in place. A time, a moment, an accomplishment.
Frenzy? You might be flickering off but that just means it's time to refresh. Screw the double damage, the fires are burning fever hot and I'm about to go balls deep. Because it's now time for that final sprint and I refuse to toggle!
I see the networks have finally called the race in Pennsylvania. For, as expected, Clinton. What wasn't expected was how long the race stayed in the undecided column. Not really surprising given that the pro-Obama portions of what's, really, demographically an ideal state for Clinton to carry (It's a lot like Michigan, really, and if they were to run the election here over again, I think her impressive 55% showing against the field of nobody else might not hold up again, but it probably wouldn't be too far off.) were likely to report first while the more rural Clinton strongholds from what I'd seen of polling heading in tend to report their results later on. The result being a Clinton surge that gains momentum as the night goes on, which seems to be what's happening.
What's left to determine is the margin of victory and the all-important delegate count. Neither of which will really change the playing field all that much.
With the delegates, PA awards them based on some weird district proportional system that I have neither the time nor the inclination to comprehend. The basic upshot, though, is that Clinton would need to win overwhelmingly in a lot of places to come away with anything like a real net gain of pledged delegates. Since she won't, she'll pick up a handful but won't put a significant dent in Obama's lead.
More - or less, depending on your point of view - important is the margin of victory. A lot of the arguments made in Clinton's favor center around electability and a strong showing in a key battleground state would help to bolster her claims. There's been all sort of management of the expectation game heading in - talk about where, exactly, the spread has to be in order for Clinton to feel good about herself. The common "wisdom" (And I use scare quotes because it's the same pundit class that claims people like Gibson and Russert amongst its vaunted ranks of the worthy) seems to have settled around 10% - Clinton needs 55, Obama no more than 45. Anything less and Clinton has failed badly in a favorable environment. Anything more and she gets crowned Supreme Commissar of Authenticity or something I guess.
Personally, I think it's pretty incredible given that just a few weeks ago polling had her cruising to a fifteen or twenty point victory. Which, I think, speaks volumes towards the electability environment - Obama is a closer whose active campaigning drums up more votes.
Either way, it looks like this thing is going to drag out even further, to the next contest and the next, and then on to the convention. But, then, that's exactly the way it looked heading into the night, so, again, it's all been a big to-do about nothing much.
NHL Blogging: The Sweetest Words in Sports
Two, count 'em two game sevens tonight. More awesome than adding up A, W, and E.
As a Wings fan the one I care about is the one that takes place later tonight - the Sharks and Flames will determine who the Red Machine rolls over next. Although, make no mistake, as a fan of hockey I'm going to be watching the Caps and Flyers just as avidly as I took in the Habs and Bruins the other night. I'm psyched and it's even better since my team isn't involved.
For all the concern over the past week with how the teams looked against the Predators, I think things have actually worked out alright. Although it's nice to have time off to recover from injuries and recover for the next slog, I think a long layoff can be a bad thing. You want to have a few days off to re-energize but you don't want to be sitting around and gathering dust while other teams have their adrenaline pumping. The Wings will play again after only a few days and that, to me, sounds about right considering no one critical's out with an injury. None of their potential opponents really cruised through to the next round, either. And they've found their goaltender. Shakey Hasek's been replaced - likely for good - by steady Osgood. Take away that 6 on 5 goal in the closing minutes of regulation in game 5 and he's thrown a shutout for the postseason so far, seeing heavy time in three games. Granted, Hasek didn't play all that badly either except for melting down in Game 4 but, hey, I feel much better being backstopped by the Wizard and it seems the team does, too. But, heading into the next round, the team is healthy, the best players have been putting points on the boards, the roleplayers have been contributing, and, best of all, they've still got room to improve.
Because the Wings are the #1 overall seed, they'll match up against the lowest seed next round. If the Sharks win, that means a match against the hated Avalanche who, as #6 seed, polished off the #3 Wild. That means a series with Lidstrom and McCarty and Osgood against Forsberg and Foote and everything else that's going to revive what was a heated rivalry.
If the Sharks fall, on the other hand, that means slightly less hated Calgary. Who've pushed the Wings to the brink in the past, of course, being just like Nashville - an overachieving small market team with nothing to lose backed by an impassioned crowd - in other words, the sort of team that the Wings have had problems with dating back to the days of the white-out in Winnipeg. Playing Calgary means a lot of travel time, too. Not that Colorado is much better but those miles wear at this time of year.
The only teams they can't play next round are the Sharks, of course, and Dallas, who edged the Ducks before they could push their series to a game seven themselves.
So, it'll either be Wings-Lanche and Sharks-Stars or Wings-Flames and Stars-Avs. Either way, a tough but not impossible series. And a prospective match against yet another traditional opponent (At least, you know, from the past twenty odd years.) in the conference finals since it'll be another round with either the Sharks, Stars, or Avalanche, all of whom have shared memorable series with the Wings in the past.
Honestly, I'm not sure just which outcome I prefer. Rooting against the Sharks means a premature exit for a dangerous team. While rooting for them is asking a tough out to stay around for a potential slugfest down the line. But it also means, by transference, pulling for the Avs.
Aw, who am I kidding. There's a potential series against a hated rival on the line. I want the Sharks to win so the Wings can pound on Colorado, just like old times.
Oh, and, yes, we're not talking about the Pistons until they actually start playing. Which, based on visual evidence from recordings of this supposed game one they haven't actually yet.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
In case you missed the note, buried deep here, this next week is super busy for me so I'll have little time for things around here. Expect me to say little or nothing at all. But, then, you never know and I might just bust out with some stuff just to stay insane.
Yeah, the servers at Kongregate are groaning under the collective weight of the players right now. Which is good, in one way - means the site is successful and growing and that's all to the good. But bad in another since the frequent slow-downs and disconnects make Kongai almost impossible to play - and incredibly frustrating when it actually does work long enough to get a match in. So, at least until they can finish upgrading their servers, I think it's time for me to take a break. On the bright side, not being able to play the game means I have the time to catch up on my writings about the game.
I can't even work up sputtering rage at this article. It's more a depressing confirmation of just how low we've sunk, as a society, because it hardly comes as a surprise that this sort of thing is goign on. This is the hidden legacy of the Bush administration, a weakening of our institutions and the public's confidence in them. And rooting it out is going to be both the most difficult and most important task of the next administration.
You know, in that last post when I wrote "Heck of a job, Brinny" I was doing so in a completely non-dickish manner.
I meant nothing to it beyond that Brin kinda sounds like Brown. This is what we call a punne of a play upon wordes. After which we all share a hearty laugh, sniff our brandy, and then inform our manservant to bring the horseless carriage about because we should like a jaunt about the countryside where we may scoff at the peasants at work in their fields. Also, crumpets fit in there somehow as well. What I didn't mean was for the context of that alusion and the self-negating irony of the original quote to apply to Brinstar who, I'm sure, is, in fact, doing a heck of a job.
But, I can see how it might be taken the other way especially after I took a closer look at the dev notes and saw the following:
"This month's update is unique. It is a "temporary tournament update" targeted at the final cash-prize tournament, which will take place at the end of April. The skill changes are temporary and will be in effect for only two weeks. They are all geared toward addressing the most immediate issues with Guild Battles.
In order to reduce the possible negative impact on PvE play, we will be reverting the changes on May 1st. For future tournaments, we aim to focus on changes that will not impact PvE play at all. ""
Time now for some of that thoughtful insight and well-reasoned commentary that discerning people have come to expect from me. My trademark rational and evenhanded approach to thoroughly, even exhaustively, covering a subject as well as I'm possibly able in my own iminitably wordy style.
What. The. Fuck.
Well, so much for Guild Wars. Looks like I got out of the game in time. That's pretty much the sixth seal opening right there and now the apocalypse draws ever nigh.
Look, it is one game. A commonality of rulesets is vital to the game working as a coherent whole instead of a lot of little gutters strung together by common art assets.
But instead of recognizing that, instead of sticking to their guns and keeping the game consistent through its variations, the developers have, instead, listened to the screaming of those people who are somehow offended that the skill bar they hadn't changed for 16 months was affected by a patch. I want to take those people into a back alley and beat them about the head with their Collectors Editions and mini-pets because they're playing the game wrong. That is not the game I cared about, worked for and with for so long, and devoted so much time to but a strange pervesion of it. Which was fine so long as it didn't touch upon me and my enjoyment of a flexible game, always changing and forcing me to adapt fueled by its system of quick and easy streamed content.
Now, it seems, the chasm between PvE and PvP is not only recognized but going to be reinforced by the game's makers. Instead of working to channel the dwindling pool of players back and forth across the divide, they're going to wall each off and let them get on with their own little games.
Sadly, this was a bridge we'd long since burned with the addition of PvE skills. But it's a move that leaves me deeply concerned. I've heard a lot of things about GW2, the game that's in development right now, and most of it has been getting further and further away from the sort of game I'd like to play. How it's going to be getting away from instances so I'll have to put up with the horde of clueless idiots I'd rather not deal with constantly getting in my way and stealing my kills or fouling up my quests. How the skills are going to be simplified and dumbed down. How there are going to be even more PvE only skills. The Asura. I'd been willing to give the developers the benefit of the doubt and at least try the game before recoiling in horror. But now? I'm not so sure.
The game that dare not speak its name was updated the other day, if you're the sort of silly person who cares about that sort of thing.
I think I'll refrain from any sort of detailed commentary this go-around since I'm so far out of touch, I forgot Hex Breaker had even been changed into a skill instead of a stance in the first place. Too wrapped up in other games and other projects at the moment.
This is also a temporary update, for the latest - and, I take it, last - tournament which will be rolled back at the start of last month. I suspect some of the changes that prove successful may stick around in some way, shape, or form but I wouldn't count on it.
Still, some quick hit impressions.
Dark Pact is insane now.
Wards no longer affecting GvG NPCs is huge. Along with the nerfs to Splinter Weapon and Ancestors' Rage and others they really hammered that whole VoD farming thing that I so despise.
Surge/Burn getting stronger along with Chaos Storm (probably really brutal in the Tombs these days) means e-denial makes a big comeback. You know, I've long thought that the best way to deal with the passive webs of defenses (Also hit with the changes to the Resto chants and Aegis.) that have so clogged the game is to give e-denial some teeth again so I like it.
And I like upping the cast time on skills like Harrier's and Ermite's. What that does is cut down on the damage compression that makes for wicked spikes in the middle of your pressure.
Cutting back on the efficiency of the frontline is probably why B-Surge got a slight nerf, too. It's now much more energy intensive to keep someone blindlocked - but easier to race removal - for long periods of time making it much more situationally tactical, so that's all to the good, too. It goes along the same lines as the change to Disarm - you want to be able to screw someone over but the developers don't want you to be able to do it for too long. Landing that disruption in the small window you have for it to be effective is one of, if not the, basis for skilled play.
Anyhow, that's enough for me, if you want more you can check out the developer's own notes. If I'm not mistaken they were written - or at least posted - by a certain new community manager. Let me just say, since I think that's exactly the kind of feedback the developers should be providing: Heck of a job, Brinny.
Right, after a game 5 win, the Boys in Red are up 3-2 with the series moving back to Nashville. I'm worried because it should never have gotten to this point but I feel a lot more comfortable with the Wizard of Oz in goal. The team just plays better in front of him, for whatever reason. And while he might not be as good as Hasek in his prime all the team needs to win, at this point, is a goalie who can be league average. Osgood is certainly more than that.
Best of all? The game is at 3, the Pistons start their run at 6, so even if the Wings fall on their faces again, there'll be something to cleanse my palet.l
I have mentioned, in my profile at least, that I consider my script to be not unlike a combination of Invincible and Tenchi Muyo. I hate that sort of thing, really, since it sells a work short by suggesting that it's simply the chopped up pieces of other scripts jammed into a blender, robbing it of any of the originality and creativity that it contains by being something unique on its own rights. But it's a little shorthand that makes sense to use - because it really isn't saying that my script is exactly like those two things, it's just using those pre-existing symbols, readily understood concepts that a listener can grab on to, to reduce its complexity down into something easier to transmit. Trading on the vocabulary of other works and the audience's expectations of them. It's just another way of saying "My script is about...".
If you know that my comic is about a young superhero struggling to adapt to college life then the reference to Invincible should become clear. It's a way of broadcasting that my character is new and inexperienced and he's on a journey to improve himself. It also speaks to the sort of tone I want to establish in my stories - a throwback to a time when comics were fun and didn't take themselves too seriously but without becoming a parody.
I like Incincible, it's a good book. And I don't think it takes anything away to call it a mix of Superman and Spider-Man.
But what about Tenchi? Well, I say that because, in the story, my hero is surrounded by a bunch of beautiful female leads. All of whom serve as romantic interests for that main and male character.
I'm sure there's a name for it out there somewhere, one much more japanafied than what I call it - which is a "harem show" where a central character is this powerful hero who becomes surrounded by a variety of attractive and quirky females - most of whom typically want nothing more out of life than to rip his clothes off and throw him to the floor. Basically, you have all these beautiful girls interested in the rather nondescript male lead who just happens to be super-powerful, the savior of the world, or otherwise bearing an incredible gift. The women follow him around, competing with one another for his favor while he fights off the opponent of the week (Or, occasionally, advances the overall storyline) and he never really manages to settle on one over any other.
It's the ultimate in wish-fulfillment. The reader, the viewer, is invited to compare themselves to that main character. To put themselves in their shows where they, too, being rather average but with something special that, maybe, hasn't been noticed yet, can be the focus of the universe. And the object of a lot of attractive girl's attention.
If it's a formula that sounds familiar, it's because it's not exactly a new one. Spider-Man was doing something pretty similar back in the 70s. Back when dorky Peter Parker was pinballing between Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane or ducking from Betty Brant or the Black Cat in-between fighting the Rhino or the Vulture with his hidden powers.
It's, I think, a good formula, one that's lasted through the years, not only for the prurient interests - there are after all a lot of male comic book readers who are, let's face it, big, huge dateless nerds like myself and, well, guys just like bewbs - but because it draws a reader into the story. It captures them with the soap opera - which girl is the guy going to wind up with? It allows them to identify, to invest - which girl would you pick, if it was you? Which one's your type?
And, above all, it's an easy vehicle for conflict. Whenever the story bogs down or there's a need for some tension, you can start up with the jealousy and misunderstandings and the general romantic angst.
In so many words, it's a solid base for a series that features a large cast of interesting characters with built-in sources of internal drama. The danger, though, is making the main character too bland by comparison to the vibrant cast around him. I'm not sure I've managed to do that myself although I hope my protagonist isn't just a bystander in his own story but I do think I've created a bunch of interesting women to surround him with.
At the heart of the series is a love triangle. Like the Gwen-Mary Jane dilemma, my main character has two girls in his life, both of which he'd be with in a heartbeat but both of whom he's kept from being with for various reasons.
In one corner, we have the girl known as Deidre. She and the main character grew up in the same town, blocks from one another, and have been friends since they were little children. Friends with more than a few benefits. In the storyline, the main character develops super-powers in high-school and Deidre is always there to help him out - and to record the proceedings. She's used the footage of him, in costume, to land herself a spot at a prestigious journalism school and an internship on an important news program. She wants to be a reporter, after all, but that means she's separated from the main hero who's going to a different school - not separated enough that she can't call or stop by for a visit every now and then, of course, but distant. But she's less Lois Lane than she is, say, Juno with a notepad. She's wry and sardonic but still a little awed by what she's found herself involved in. Knowing the hero's secret identity, she functions as a confidant, a comfort, and, romantically, she's that friend he's interested in (And vice versa) but afraid to take things to the next level with. She's either the girl he's always been meant to be with but he's never really realized or, perhaps, the baggage of his past that's holding him back that he should really move past to grow as a person.
In the other is the vivacious Susie (Who, just to let you know where she's coming from is called Susie Creamcheesecake in my notes) who lives just down the hall in the main character's co-ed dorm. She's on the track team, bringing along a whole cast of characters into the story. And she's sort of energetic and confident and anything but a damsel to be put in distress - if a bad guy grabs her he's going to be getting kneed in the crotch. Susie is an ass-kicker who's not going to let her lack of super-powers keep her from being involved. Which she'd really like to be since she has something of a fascination with all the super-heroing going on and more than a bit of a crush on the alter-ego of my main character. But it's his activities as a costumed crime-fighter that keep getting in the way of a relationship with her. Unlike Deidre who's sort of a feminist model of the modern, independent, self-actualized woman, Susie operates on a post-feminist level where she'd be surprised that there'd be any consideration of her not being equal to a man. She represents temptation - she's always urging the main character to head out and party, to forget about his troubles, to cut corners and otherwise compromise his heroic ideals. Not because she's a bad person herself but because she's a young woman out to have some fun. The main character is taken with her at first sight and while she might be just a fun ride while she lasts there might also be some hidden depths to her as well.
But it doesn't stop there because while those might be the two that the story - at the moment - focuses on competing for the hero's affections, there are plenty of others he could wind up with as well.
There's also Lana, the main character's high school sweetheart. She's followed him to the same school and he keeps bumping into her in unexpected places or getting help from her just when he needs it the most. In the backstory, she and Deidre formed a triangle of their own back in high school so, in many ways, Lana is set up in contrast to Deidre. Whereas Deidre is brash and alternative, Lana is demure and retro. She dresses like Jackie-O, she's always polite, and while she's not exactly a shrinking violet - there are some hidden depths to her - I will say that in a lot of the back-up strips - which take place during the character's high school days - she winds up being kidnapped and tied to the train tracks a lot. But what she is, romantically, is the good girl. The kind of girl that your mother would want you to wind up with, helpful, nurturing, and supportive. And the idea is that the story makes it seem like the two are fated to be together.
Then, there are some of the main characters super-powered companions. Like, for example, the girl known as Cerulean. In terms of the story, she's the older, more experienced, more powerful hero who teams up with my hero from time to time. There's a bit of complicated backstory to her as well that I won't go into - suffice to say that she's not all that she seems, at first - but, well, when she's in costume she's a bit of a wild woman. If this were a movie, I'd be casting Cameron Diaz in her role, in so many words because she's manic and flirtatious and more than a little crazy - sometimes in a cute, charming way, sometimes in a "uh....she does have a nuclear reactor strapped to her back and she's now flying off the deep end" kind of way. She's unpredictable, in other words. She represents inhibition. Freedom. Letting go of consequences and living for the moment - grabbing that chance for romance when you have it.
And there's the woman known as the Remnant. She doesn't appear much in the issues I'm writing now - they're pretty much leading to her first appearance - but once she does, she quickly becomes a fixture in the hero's life and, really, a counterpoint to Cerulean. Where Cerulean is all manic energy and thrill-crazed excitement, where Cerulean is light, Remnant is shadow, dark depression and quiet suffering. She's kinda my token goth chick. But with swords. The story goes that Remnant isn't really herself, she's the ghost of a murdered woman possessing the corpse of another victim. And, as you can imagine, that makes her a bit of a downer at parties. She's time-displaced and out of place and the only thing she has left is her revenge. It's what she's been living for and when she gets it she doesn't know what to do. So she broods and she snarls and everything else someone does when they're hurt and angry. Romantically, she's there to be the character for my hero to support. The love that he has to help before it's returned, because she's in a bad place and doesn't want anything to do with anything like feeling good about - even though she knows it's the best thing for her. Sometimes, being in a relationship means you go the extra mile for the other person, because they'll eventually do so for you so she's there to be the wounded character the protagonist has to help prop back up.
In a similar vein is the cast's bad girl, the Rider. A character I'm introducing into the text now and who will just hang around for now before eventually becoming important. She's a mercenary - one of those "code of honor" villains - who crosses paths with the hero from time to time. She's a major player, big time powers, and he's nothing but an annoyance to her. But rather than seeing him as a pest, she thinks his persistance is rather cute - he just needs to learn how to play the cape and tights game, that's all, and so she starts offering him some tips. Eventually, as the story progresses past what I'm writing now she'll reform - although other characters, especially the other women are always going to think her motives are suspect - and take up a place in the supporting cast as yet another love interest. She there to represent the unexpected love - the one you find when you're looking for anything but.
That six beauties already. Each with their own stories to tell, their own arcs to follow, and many complete with a supporting cast to further extend the text into new areas - which, really, is the point of the exercise. And I haven't even mentioned some of the more peripheral characters and red herrings like the Captain America analog by way of the ROTC. Susie's brainy, bleeding heart roommate. Or the morals twisting cat burglar. And there are more in the wings who don't even show up until after the issues I'm writing.
There are now a little less than 10 days left in the Frenzy. I'm just about to wrap up my third story storyarc which will put my page count at a staggering 198. But leaves me only in the middle of the pack of the 18 issues of my comic that I planned to write. On top of that, we're entering Hell Week where a bunch of other things I've been putting off come past due.
It's going to be difficult but, once I put the last few touches on issues #7~9, I'm going to jump straight into the next storyarc, in issues #10~12. If you'll look at the psuedo-outline I've posted, what I'm about done with is the series of issues known as Home for the Holidays.
This arc features our college aged protagonist making a return trip to his hometown accompanied by a pair of love interests. He's there for winter break and the storyline leads up to a confrontation with an old foe and a few revelations. I think it's some of my strongest work yet - although, no, you can't see any of it yet.
I think issue #8 is the one where I really nailed the tone of the series, where the characters stopped feeling like pieces I was shuffling about and starting becoming real (Which is weird because it's usually around page 8~9 that I figure out what each issue is about. That's - through no particular planning on my part - where the hook or the twist or the theme and often all three keeps landing.). And then there's issue #9 which I call the Horror Issue not because it's particularly creepy or scary. But because during the home invasion by the villain I use tricks and techniques from horror films, from slasher pics, and I think the shift in style is effective without being jarring. It was also pretty fun to write. And that's really the important thing, at this point.
But, by getting my characters out of their familiar environment and shoving them on a road trip, I discovered a lot about what makes them tick while having an opportunity to display facets of their personality that I knew about but weren't really coming through the page yet. The result is that they're much more three-dimensional and rounded.
I think I also figured out why I was having such a hard time with the set pieces in the previous arc. I don't do decompression. Normally, my issues are chock full of characters and plots and, if anything, I'm cramming way too much in and it's all lacking the air to breathe. While set pieces are all about focusing the majority of an issue's running time on one, single event. It feels off to me because there's not enough going on - they stand out from the rest of the series. But, with the frentic grind house pace of issue #9, I think I did much better.
Now, I want to head right into the next arc with all the momentum I've built up. It's, if you'll recall, entitled A Rider Approaches. The Rider - also known as the Cowgirl - is a character I'm really fond of. She's a superpowered mercenary who's way out of the main character's league. And the arc is all about putting her on a collision course with him and it's something I've been building to since issue #6. And I really want to do her justice.
If I can get the next batch of issues done sometime this week then I think I can make a last minute mad dash towards the finish line and reach my ultimate goal of a full 18 issues. I might have to skip the back-up strip for now - which is a shame because the back-ups for #9~12 are some of the more intriguing ones for me - and I might only be able to get thins blocked out rather than in a state of finished readiness. But if I can't, well, issue #12 is as good a point to leave off as any. Not only is that a full year's worth of monthly comics, it's also a good midpoint to the story. Sort of the Empire Strikes Back of my trilogy of three volumes.
So, yeah, I'm about to put my comfy bathrobe back on and slip into my fuzzy slippers because I've reserved a slot on the crazy train for the next several days. Expect blogging to be sporadic.
Friday, April 18, 2008
The annual call for funding for the Script Frenzy has gone out. It's an event put on by a non-profit, after all, and requires the support of its participants to function. Well, I've already contributed as much as I can and still, you know, eat this month - which while I find takes away from my writing time it certainly seems to improve its quality. So let me once again recommend that even if you can't throw a few bucks their way that there's always GoodSearch. I've been using it as one of the many search engines I regularly turn to year-round, myself - ever since the first Frenzy last year - and I've had no complaints as of yet. It's simple, easy to use, and you can help out your favorite charity just by going about your daily business on the net.
Whooo...played an epic match today. 3-Card game that went real long, filled with tense moments.
Me on a random deck with Juju with General's, Zina with Coward's Rock, and Le Morte with the Vial (Which, yeah, ouch. Bad draw.).
My opponent constructed with Candled Helene, Rumicans with...I forget, probably Crane, and Amaya with the Pimp Cup.
I knew as soon as the first swap that I was in trouble because Amaya is one of those connoisseur's cards. People who know the game know that he's a good character and will use him. People who don't think he sucks and forget about him. That right there told me that my opponent knew what he was doing and I was in for a good fight.
Saddled with a bunch of random crap it would have been easy to give up and wallow in dismay but, no, that's exactly the kind of match that I live for. The one where I'm going to have to use every trick at my disposal to put the polish on the turds the RNG has handed me. Because, at the moment, I'm not playing for a good record and even to earn a reputation among the other players. I'm playing to test. To familiarize myself with the game. To figure out the different characters, to learn the various match-ups, and to find myself in situations that I need to work my way out of. Honestly, I could care less about my win-loss record at this point, what matters is the experience. The number of games I've played. The scenarios I've dealt with along the way. I'm not playing at all. I'm training. And the best games to learn from are those against a good player where I'm at something of a disadvantage.
He fronted Helene who was up against Juju. He was smart enough to push off the start to pass the Touch of Doom test. That left him at range against Hex to which he had no defenses. I figured I had even odds of him switching out but since I like to sucker my opponents into thinking I won't intercept and my energy meant I could chain a few Hex shots together before I was in trouble. So, I chanced one which, of course, went down the switching hole.
That's when Amaya hit the deck.
Amaya is a bad, bad match-up for Juju because he has a ton of dark resist that makes Hex useless. And Hex is about all Juju has. Beyond, of course, being an annoyingly hard character to get rid of - he's very resilient his problem is that you can't really do anything with it, of course, given that he slings ToD that's probably a good thing. He was also packing the Pimp Cup, the intercept champion's trophy that made any attempt on my part to switch out suicidal at best - besides it's not like anyone else in my deck was going to fare much better. Zina was too likely to have something important Xed out by Amaya's innate and while Le Morte was better, it was still risky since he could spiked out by Dark Chi if I was unlucky.
But the one saving grace I had was General's on Juju. It didn't do much - except turn my Staff Strike into an actually effective albeit low-priority attack. Especially against a character with low physical resist and only 55 health. The only problem? It had a lower priority than his Ninja-port so any time I could close he could just whomp me with that and skate away before I could land my blows. Meanwhile, bled of his energy, he couldn't fire a deadly Chi Blast up my behind and had to settle for Wrathing (Curse could work, too, but it's not likely to stick against Juju Bean's innate.). And Healing Touch could easily wipe that away. We went back and forth in a slapfight for a while until he finally pulled his Amaya back and sent Rumiko in.
And that's when the match was on.
After a parting blast against her 0 dark with Hex, I tried Le Morte against his Rumiko. She got semi-lucky with Eviscerate procs and polished me off before I could land the Touch that would finish her off.
I sent out Zina, he brought back Amaya. He got lucky again with his innate and locked out the critical Command I was counting on. So I closed and Pounced and swapped away to Juju again.
This is when I started to take over the match.
First, I masterfully worked his Amaya. Playing the same game before and poaching on him to take the opportunity to switch. Waited, waited, while we went back and forth and his Wrath kept bringing Zina lower and lower. Waited until I was sure. And, hit the intercept button. CRUNCH. One dead Amaya.
He brought back Rumiko and I polished her off with Hex.
That left him with the mighty Helene up against my depleted Juju and a weakened Zina. Helene's a strong card but she actually doesn't match as well against Juju as she does with others - it's his large light and dark resist values, they really take the teeth out of her Frenzies. But she can pretty well stop everything he can do to her since her Bash can take out any of his skills and Slash can dice him up since he lacks any physical resist.
She hadn't seen play since the start of the match and I was dreading when she came back. My opponent must have been holding her in reserve, something I've done myself with a particularly advantageous card. But she didn't have a scratch on her and a full bar of energy while my Juju was down to only 80 while we were at full range.
While I might have chanced letting her push close and zonking her with Touch of Doom I rejected that plan as soon as I thought of it - she was sure to Bash after stepping close, leaving me with nothing to show for my efforts. And even if she hadn't, it would have taken 4 turns to kill her off and I didn't think either Juju or Zina had enough health to last that long.
So, instead, I clicked the Far button, assuring that the range would stay the same. Using my last 30 energy, I hit her with a Hex. That took a full 40 health from her, leaving her with 45. But emptied my bar so I'd have to rest or live off regeneration.
The next round she stepped close and with her 40 energy had no choice but to attack with Slash - Frenzied wouldn't work, there was no point to Enchanting since it still wouldn't work, and she lacked the 50 for Bash. So that left me free to bonk her with my staff - at 20 energy I could keep it up forever. Helene has 8 physical resist which meant my Insignia was wiped out and more. But hat still left me doing 16 damage to her. With my low health, I had one, maybe two hits before she killed me off.
That was all right by me. All I wanted was to bring her under 30 health.
Because I had Zina with a full bar of energy sitting on deck.
Eye of the Tiger deals 40 physical damage and normally hits any random foe. But when your opponent has only one card left, it only has one target. All I needed for the Tiger bomb to go off in her face was to make sure she didn't have enough energy to attack.
I brought in Zina and my opponent couldn't do anything but watch while I finished him off.
Great game. Just goes to show that even underrated cards can be effective if you stick with them.
Well, with the way the Wings postseason is headed and the continued mediocrity of the Tigers, it seems Detroit will have to pin its championship hopes on the Pistons instead.
It's not exactly a bad bet, either, since Detroit is pretty solid this year. Over the off-season I wondered why the team didn't make a big move, to shake up a squad that couldn't make it back to the finals and was only going to be another year older and, therefore since it's a veteran team, another year worse. But I guess I underestimated the front office's savy - which was a mistake because the team is as strong as it's ever been. And is one of the teams with a better than average shot at winning the title this year. The secret is a drastically improved bench which makes the Pistons deep and strong. They still lack that go-to player down the stretch. And if someone like Billups or Sheed goes out then they're in trouble - but, then, you could say that about a lot of teams. But the Pistons are all-around strong and are going to be a tough out for any of their potential opponents.
And those opponents look lined up nicely. Boston took the top seed which means they're bracketed in with the #2 spot out of Detroit's division - Cleveland. That means, likely, that Boston is going to have to face two tough opponents to get out of the East while Detroit only has Boston to really worry about - and, yeah, it's a big worry but not as much of one as they'd have with Cleveland and, while not exactly pushovers, Orlando and Philadelphia just aren't in that same league. That legitimate title contender league that, really, in the east to which only Detroit, Boston, and the Cavs belong.
Anyhow, here are my picks (Home team in caps):
- BOSTON over Atlanta
- DETROIT over Philadelphia
- Toronto over ORLANDO
- CLEVELAND over Washington
- BOSTON over Cleveland
- DETROIT over Toronto
- BOSTON over Detroit
- LOS ANGELES over Denver
- NEW ORLEANS over Dallas
- SAN ANTONIO over Phoenix
- UTAH over Houston
- LOS ANGELES over Utah
- San Antonio over NEW ORLEANS
- San Antonio over LOS ANGELES
- BOSTON over San Antonio
In the East, I expect Boston and Detroit to hold serve. I think Detroit matches up extremely well with Philly who just doesn't have enough to push the series to dangerous territory. Likewise with the Celts and Hawks.
But Cleveland/Washington looks like a close match-up. The Wizards have played the Cavs very well over the past few years and I don't expect that to change this year. I think this is the series in the first round most likely to head to six or seven games. But, ultimately, I think the LeBron factor is in play here. He's just too good and he'll will his team to victory enough to get them past Washington.
While in Orland/Toronto you have the least deserving of the top three seeds - the champion of the weakest division in what's arguably the weakest conference - up against a team that made a late season surge. The Raptors are a team that relies on the long ball and if they get hot, they can easily steal this series so I'm going to call for the upset.
In the second round, Toronto scares me enough that I was glad the Pistons didn't draw them in the first round. But I think they'll be pushing their luck winning just the first round and Detroit's depth will tell, so they take that series, too.
Meanwhile, Boston/Cleveland could be a nailbiter but while I think James can propel them, will them to victory I don't think he'll be enough against the Green Machine. The Cavs will steal a game or two but they won't be able to sustain it over the long haul.
That sets up an epic showdown in the Eastern Finals. A revival of the old Detroit-Boston rivalry of the Bird/Bad Boys days. I expect this series, if it happens, to be tough and tightly contested. Headed to seven games from the time the ball is first tipped. A slog, a battle, that's going to push both teams to the limit. Boston should, if things play out the way I think they will, come limping into this series after a tough fight with the Cavaliers. While Detroit should be relatively fresh. But as much as I'm a homer, as much as I'm going to root for my Pistons to win, Boston has just been so good this year. PPG, points differential, efficiency, by whatever metric you look at they're the class of the league. And while I think the Pistons have as good a shot at getting past them as any team does, I don't think it's big enough. They'll go down. It'll take 7 games. It'll be brutal and, perhaps, memorable. But I don't think it's a series the Pistons will win.
Over in the West, well, I think contrary to the way the season played out the postseason is going to be pretty boring with the high seeds winning out. Tough to see the Lakers losing to the Nugget and I think the Hornets are for real while Dallas mortgaged their future to get worse this season. I'm one of those people who think the Shaq trade was a disaster and I think it's going to tell against the Spurs. While Houston/Utah is a bit of a toss-up but I think the Jazz are solid if unsexy. LA is the hot choice to make the finals but, personally, I think they need a healthy Bynum to do it. And, I suspect, they're not going to get him. So, I think the Spurs are going to have one last shot at a title as their window starts to shut.
That sets up a San Antonio/Boston finals where, again, I think Boston is just too strong to beat this year.
Of course, I'm never right about these things. But, then, that's why they play the games.
Sigh, the Wings are tied 2-2 with the Preds again. This is what happened last year when they managed to rattle off two wins in a row and close out the series. And, really, it's still their series to lose.
But, well, it's hard not to feel that acrid twinge of nervousness deep in my stomach. If not about this series then their continued success down the line. And the reason is the same concern that I've had with the team all year long - goaltending.
Tonight, it's going to be Osgood in goal. And that's good because Hasek hasn't looking very impressive so far. Either way, the backstop requires the team to play well in front of him and that hasn't been happening, either. So, I'll be watching but I'm going to have my eyes closed becuase I'm sure it's going to be a roller coaster ride.
As I mentioned yesterday, the challenge card this week is Ambrosia Thorn. If she'd been released last week, I would have been disappointed and ready to complain about the glut of character cards we've been getting lately without the item releases to support them (Seriously, at the moment I have 7 character cards and 14 items, 2 of which are duplicated. To the best of my knowledge, I've pretty much gotten every challenge card since the new year. I have 4 of the 5 Ninja purple cards - only one of whom is a starter - but absolutely no purple bordered items. I have all five brown bordered items but only one Village mud card to slot them on. Plenty of Amazon items have been released lately which is great because they're awesome - but I don't have a single Amazon. Remind me to rant about it later but the current card release system isn't going to work past release for very long - not the least because the schedule is so arbitrary.) But the card we get this week is the brand new Ambrosia Thorn fresh from a revamp. One that transformed the Blood Worshiper from a middling card at best to an extremely effective opponent.
And that change was one single thing: Her old buff, Blood Ritual, which took away her physical resist to add 10 dark resist (Giving her first 0/1/15. It could be stacked, though, so you could make that value ridiculous.) was removed. And in her place she gained a debuff - also named Bleeding Ritual - which causes the opponent to bleed and take damage over time. The key to that new skill, though, and the reason why it makes her bar pop is that it works from range.
Formerly, like Ashi and Onimaru and Helene and...Le Morte and...yeah, there are a lot of these kind of cards... Ambrosia was a close-only character. All of her attacks only worked up in close. As anyone who has played the game will tell you that means you'd spend a lot of time working to get in range and then hoping you had enough energy to attack while your opponent constantly tries to shift away. As one of the more poorly defended close-only bangers Ambrosia couldn't really stand up to a lot of punishment while doing so. And with her expensive skills she often had energy problems when you did manage to get her in range.
In the right situations she was deadly effective but, now, with a ranged attack an opponent can't play the keep-away game with her without taking a lot of pain. At the same time, Thorn can step back herself and play the DOT game instead of trying to go toe-to-toe with other close-onlies - while still having some nasty damage when they step close to her. Since her main damage type is dark which most of those characters are weak against the net effect is that Ambrosia is the kind of card who should be able to tear through the heavy hitters like Ashi and Oni.
We'll get to how to do that in a little bit but, first, take a look at her card text:
Ambrosia Thorn, the Blood Worshiper
- Necro (Black)
- Ambrosia Thorn is immune to poison and burn effects.
- Vamp Kiss. 40en, 3spd, 25dmg(Dark). 90hit, 100proc. Drains the life essence of the victim and heals you. Close.
- Spectral Choke. 50en, 5spd, 10x4dmg(Dark). 100hit, 100proc. Chokes even a fleeing opponent. Close.
- Bleeding Ritual. Bleeding Ritual. 30en, 2sp, Dark. 100hit, 100proc. Deep wounds bleed the opponent for 8 damage each turn for 3 turns (24). Both.
- Spiked Boots. 10en, 7spd, 12dmg(Phys). 100hit, 30proc. Chance to stun the enemy for 1 turn. Close.
Her innate is a bit underwhelming. You get to avoid some DOT effects which, compared to what some other characters get isn't exactly game breaking. You'll note that Bleeding itself isn't included - this was pre-existing but it's good since it keeps a Thorn/Thorn match-up from devolving into a slap fight. There's also a bit of a bug where certain effects like Deadly Poison aren't prevented. Against some characters it's not going to do anything. But against some, like Popo or Tafari, it's really going to kneecap their damage engines. So, it's definitely useful it's just not super amazingly good like, say, Higashi or Popo's innate.
She's got 3/1/5 for resists which is pretty solid. 3 phys is above average and while it's not going to stop, say, Helene, it definitely hurts other characters. While 5 is on the high side for dark resist (I know the highest value is 10 but the median value for dark resist is 2.5. It's the most common resist but Ambrosia still has a lot of it.) which actually does give a Helen pause - at least for a turn while she buffs up with Enchant. Her health, though, is a strictly average 70. And that means she needs to rely on her life draining to stay in the fight as long as certain tank-like characters.
But it doesn't matter because the real meat to Ambrosia is in her skill bar. Which is full of nice, chewy skills that you can use to destroy an opponent.
There's her new ranged DOT, Bleeding Ritual. That causes 8 damage every turn for 3 turns for a grand total of 24 damage that ignores your opponent's resists completely. At only 30 energy you can afford to keep casting it for a while, even when you're switching ranges. You only burn 10 energy each round using it and even stepping to far on the first round to avoid a hit that's still you can still use it three times in a row (Or once, followed by Kiss when they close. And more, its low cost makes it very versatile and, as you should know by now, I always consider that useful.). It's slow acting but remember that most buffs/debuffs in this game can be stacked to the high heavens so if you opponent is foolish enough to stick around for 5 rounds, they'll soon be bleed for 72 - enough to kill most characters - and taking 16~24 damage each round. Better yet, that damage isn't going to stop if they withdraw that character from the field - DOTs keep working on a card when it's in hand - making it very, very nasty.
And, I think, that ties in nicely with another of Ambrosia's attacks which also gives her a way of destroying people who like to switch out - just in a different way. That's her big nuke-stick, Spectral Choke. It's costly at 50 energy. And it only works at close range. So, you only get one shot with it if you have to step from range, even at full energy - and that's if you're lucky and your opponent is out of enough energy to keep from burning more of yours off with a desperation push. But that's okay, because Choke is a powerful, powerful nuke. Forget that it says 10x4 damage which is a mighty 40 dark gutpunch to an unprotected foe. The bit that makes Choke so deadly is the "hits even a fleeing foe" modifier. What that means is that, normally, when your opponent switches out one of their cards if you've queued up an attack for that turn you won't carve off a chunk of their life meter, you'll suffer an embarrassing whiff and be out the energy of your useless attack instead. A skill that hits fleeing cards - and there are several out there, Andromeda, Yoshiro, and Anex have them also off the top of my head - will connect even if that card is swapping out. So, when you use Spectral Choke there's no way for the opponent to avoid it, the way they can sometimes gamble on a quick switch-dodge against other heavy attacks - it's going to hit no matter what. And it's going to hurt when it does. The only way to stop it - once Thorn is in range with enough energy - is with an interrupt which is certainly possible given its low priority but not every character packs the stun that's going to save them.
I mentioned that Ambrosia is a kind of life-draining tank earlier. Like Le Morte, her shorter health bar can be made up for by stealing away pieces of her opponent's. The way she does that is with her next skill, Vamp Kiss. For 40 energy you deal 25 dark damage and recover health equal to that amount. A recent update lowered its priority from 5 to 3 and that's - as the man says - actually a buff. Hitting later in the round means that your opponent has more time to hit you. They whack you for their damage and then your Kiss goes off, wiping most if not all of it out. With a higher speed, your Kiss might act first in which case that health wouldn't be added to your bar. What Vamp Kiss does is to extend Thorn's life even as she's hacking away at her opponent's. The average attack does 20~25 damage and while a lot of characters are going to be doing more than that, consider what happens when Ambrosia goes up against Ashi.
Let's be really reductive here and say there's no trickery like switching and range-play, no randomness from misses or critical hits, and no thinking beyond push-button mashing of each player's most favorite skill - All Ashi is goign to do is bomb away with Bleeding Slice, all Ambrosia is going to do is counter with Vamp Kiss. Now, Bleeding does 36 light damage which turns into 35 against Ambrosia. That's enough to kill Thorn in two hits. While A.Thorn's Vamp Kiss does only 24 damage against Ashi's 1 dark resist and will take 4 turns to kill her. On the surface, that looks like a race that Ambrosia is destined to lose. Even considering that the Blood Worshipper is going to be sucking up health she's still losing more than she gets back. But, because Vamp Kiss acts second what happens is that Ashi attacks, slices off 35 damage, then Ambrosia attacks, rips out 24 of her own and recovers that much herself. Ashi's attack winds up doing only 11 damage - and Ambrosia's not in any danger unless her health is low enough for the damage to spike her out before her drain goes off. At the end of the first round the health picture is 56Ashi/59Ambrosia. After two it's 32/48. By the end of the four rounds it's going to take to polish Ashi off Ambrosia is going to be limping with only 26 health - and likely suffering several Bleeding DOTs given that the Slice should proc a 9 over 3 bleed every other hit, on average - but Ashi is going to be stone-cold dead so it's not actually a losing match-up for Torn. And, remember, she has skills that can crank out a lot more damage than Vamp Kiss, too.
Her final skill, Spiked Boots, might seem underwhelming. It's a 10 energy skill that deals a paltry 12 physical damage, after all. But, personally, I think it's incredibly useful. It is, after all, Ambrosia's Open Palm. You don't care about the damage here, what you do care about is the 30% chance to stun your opponent for a full round. With a high priority of 7, stomping on someone with your boots can push someone over the edge with that last little bit of damage but it might also just save you by stunning them before they can get their lick in. It's a risky move but at 10 energy, sometimes it's all you're going to have left and, as desperation blows go, that's not a bad option.
Think about it this way; say you want to Choke the life out of your opponents. You start off at far range against a weakened foe - a lot of health but not a lot of energy to work with. Someone you're pretty sure is going to switch out and who, against another character, might send you into a fit trying to figure out whether to attack or intercept. But with Ambrosia you don't have to worry about that. You've just swapped in yourself so you're topped off while they don't have enough energy to stop you. You rush in, burning 50 energy to get close. You slam them with Spectral, burning another 50 energy to take close to 40 of their health. They - knowing they had enough health to survive and that they'd get slammed anyway - elected not to swap and, instead, rested up to have energy for the next round. You, on the other hand, have only the 20 from your natural regeneration. The only thing you can do is Boot them or switch out. But, if you boot them and it works - which should happen over a quarter of the time - you'll buy yourself another round during which you can slap them with the Bleeding Ritual which should finish them off. Or rest up so they're staring down the barrel of another Choke the next round.
Boots is what you can use as a spaced, what can buy you the time and energy you need, even when it doesn't proc, while still being able to do something to your opponent.
Now, all is not perfect in Ambrosia land. As I've mentioned she's a bit light on health. While she might win a race against Bleeding Slice that's not going to happen if Ashi gets smart and starts using Signature Slice. Heavy damage skills can bomb Thorn out in two rounds, sometimes less with a lucky critical hit. Her other problem is that her skills are expensive. Why do Ashi players like Bleeding Slice so much? Because it costs 30 energy (while, you know, being an effective attack. That's pretty important, too. But they wouldn't care how efficient it was if it cost 40 energy and there was another skill on that bar that cost 30.) because that's the butter zone for a skill that you can use multiple times when playing the range game. As it is, Thorn can blow through her energy pool in short order and those high-cost skills can be useless if an opponent burns their pool away by constantly pushing to far range. It's much less of a concern now that Ambrosia can do something from range and that something happens to be pretty energy efficient but it's still there if you want to do something other than bleeding them dry - if, say, you're up against Juju or someone with a Candle who will zap most of your debuffs.
But, overall, Ambrosia is a dangerous card. One who combines a lot of nasty attacks and has excellent ways of controlling the field - swapping out isn't much of a defense against a lot of the things she can do, so opposing players can be disinclined to use that option. Unlike Tafair who, again, is just dumb she doesn't stop them from doing so, she just exerts an influence on how they play the game by altering the way they deal with moving characters on and off the field. It's a really strong effect that, I think, is only going to get stronger as the game matures and players start to understand what's important. And close-range bangers like Ashi and Oni and the like are pretty popular right now so having a card that can destroy them - if played right - is a good thing.
In so many words, I think the v1.5 patch that brought us the new Bleeding Ritual was wonderful for Ambrosia. However, I don't think she's completely perfect just yet - as if any card ever could be. At the moment, though, I don't think there's any pressing need to change her since I'd like to let the sweeping change we have had play out for a little while and see what the problems with her might be. My concern is that she's going to suffer from Ashi syndrome - the disadvantage of having a wealth of options. Ashi, if you'll care to check, is a card that, like Ambrosia, has four strong attacks. Each of them distinct with their own particular niche on her bar. But as these things go, it's too many since one or two are always going to be overshadowed and underused. You simply can't balance them finely enough that they're all going to be useful and fair. Realistically, at least one of them is going to be over/underpowered and you can spend a lot of time trying to tinker with her bar or you can accept the fact that she's going to be working with less than a full set of skills in most relevant gameplay states.
It's, I think, a minor concern and certainly not as pressing a dilemma as those some other cards pose. But it's there. And the trick, I think, is to minimize its influence by making sure each skill has a clearly defined role and is doing everything it can to work towards that - Ashi's bar is pretty good about that and so, really, is Ambrosia's. But since it's a long-standing one previous post long tradition for me to propose a new bar during these things, and since there are some other tweaks I'd like to see happen, here's what I think Ambrosia should look like:
Ambrosia Thorn, the Blood Worshiper
- Necro (Black)
- Ambrosia Thorn is immune to poison and burn effects.
- Vamp Kiss. 30en, 3spd, 25dmg(Dark). 90hit, 100proc. Drains the life essence of the victim and heals you. Close.
- Spectral Choke. 50en, 4spd, 10x5dmg(Dark). 90hit, 100proc. Chokes even a fleeing opponent. Close.
- Bleeding Ritual. 30en, 2sp, Dark. 100hit, 100proc. Deep wounds bleed the opponent for 10 damage each turn for 3 turns (24). Both.
- Sharpened Claws. 0en, 3spd, Dark. 100hit, 100proc. For 4 turns, when Ambrosia strikes a bleeding opponent for damage, she steals 10 health. Both.
Okay, well, the big change is the new buff I'd give. A beefier version - which should cost some energy - could give her some +damage like Enchant does. I say "strikes...for damage" because I don't want his to work with Bleeding Ritual which isn't actually an attack, just with Choke and Kiss. What this does is give her an on demand Necronomic Tomes and increase the power of her attacks while also giving her some additional life-stealing to help her stick around longer. At 0 energy, it cheap and can serve as a spacer, something she can put up when she doesn't have anything better to do. An Ambrosia who totally burns away her energy in one round can use this on the next and then head straight into an improved Kiss to recover more health to make up for the downtime (If Choke were to stay at 10x4 it also turns Kiss into a kill-shot. With the extra 10 life stolen that's 75 raw damage instead of 65. With my 10x5 version, it's 85/75. Realistically, it's going to be lower since Choke will get hit by resist but making Thorn into a viable threat over 3 rounds when up close is, I think, important.). Four rounds might be excessive but I want it to last a little while while people play range games with Ambrosia.
I'm a bit sad to see Spike Boots go since it's the kind of skill I have a soft-spot for but it's the weak sister of the current line-up. And I like the idea of Ambrosia having a buff somewhere on her bar - I just didn't think the original Blood Ritual was living up to its promise - while now that she can range push, an interrupt/stun isn't matched as nicely with the rest of what she can do. My idea for Ambrosia is that she's the magic-tank. The one who uses her arcane powers and bloodsucking to stand up to the big, physical types. I could see a different version - something more like a more certain Tackle - where it's a low cost interrupt with a moderate to high failure rate. Say, "10en, 8spd, 12dmg. 75hit, 75proc. If this attack hits first, target's action has a chance to be interrupted." It's just I feel that the stun chance on Boots isn't enough to warrant using it except when you absolutely have to but it's hard to make it better without upping the price and completely ruining the skill's niche on Thorny's bar. I think if you had more of a certain pay-off you might actually use it when you had a bar full of energy. Making it an interrupt gives it more tactical flexibility whil making it happen more than half the time means, on average, you'll be better off for having used it while that miss chance means you're going to have to gamble.
I've upped the damage on Bleeding Ritual - which is really, really dangerous, by the way - to 30 over 3 because I want to be certain it's going to kill off Onimaru. At 24 over 3, it's only 72 damage and you'll need that 4th application before he - and other cards with above average health are goners. In the 9~10 range, though, those cards have the same problem that everyone else has when trying to push the new-model Ambrosia to far - they will die, eventually, if they don't do something quick. And it's the cards like Oni and Helen that I want Ambrosia to be threatening the most, so I'll put up with making cards like Amaya and Popo even weaker against card Ramrod than they already are.
I also up Choke a bit, too, by adding a fifth multiplier. It's not really all that much since it's a skill that gets hammered by resistance. And it's just there to make Choke - which should only rarely get pulled off - that little bit more deadly. To pay for it, though, and perhaps just to prove I'm not all about the buffs, I've lowered the hit rate on it, so that there's a slightly less slim chance that cards can slip away from it. And by lowering its priority which means it's more likely to be interrupted - Higashi can nail it with his Sweep now, for one.
And, finally, I've cut the cost on Vamp Kiss. It might be too strong at 25 damage considering it's a 50 health swing for only 30 energy. But two things. First, Ambrosia needs a mid-range cost attack that she can use as her staple when she's getting pushed around in range. That skill needs to be 30 energy and I'd much rather it be Kiss instead of Choke. And, two, I think when evaluating life-draining skills you can't value health stolen as the equivalent of damage done. It's less valuable since it might not matter. If Vamp Kiss is a skill to heal with then it's a different matter but since I think it's something to kill with, that's what I'm going with and that means making it efficient as a damage dealing skill with that life drain as a nice bonus.
So, yeah, that's a lot of changes for a card that's as close to being set as any other but, hey, I'm nuts.