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Bartholomew is the writer monkey. All hail the writer monkey.


Defiance published on No Comments on Defiance

I’m ready to talk about Defiance in a meaningful way, I think. I wanted very dearly to love the show, because it fills the gap in both content and aesthetic left empty and gaping when Firefly was canceled. More than this, though, it sought this noble and wondrous joining of my two favorite media; TV and Video Game. But with the show’s utter dependence on the clichéd, I am left not with the organic thing I craved, and not with a show I can adore and a world I can escape into—literally, thanks to the elaborate game tie-in—but with a show I can merely watch.

I’ve not tried the video game; the show did not convince me to. Perhaps it is a worthy experience on its own; I do not know, and refuse to speculate based solely on internet hear-say.

Actor Grant Bowler does an admirable job of filling his role; I believe his lines, and he comports himself as I imagine a Lawkeeper must. I think very highly of him as Joshua Nolan. And I am a very big fan of the world he’s acting in—an Earth broken by war, alien terraforming, and dystopia. Moreso am I pleased at the positive messages behind the show’s portrayal of sexuality; for example, Defiance’s prostitutes are not only shown as being in a legitimate business, but as generally good people. I’m down with that liberal jibe, so long as it doesn’t become a moral truncheon disguised as a story—and so far, the balance is decent.

What breaks the show for me, though, is that I can usually call what’s going to happen two commercial breaks before it does. By itself, this isn’t bad—I loved Monk and I’m a fan of Castle and other such shows that necessarily suffer from being watched by people who know how to read foreshadowing. And since this show is, in many ways, the structural descendent of Eureka, this might not even be a legitimate complaint.

This predictability is coupled with a cast of incredibly unsympathetic characters, though; Irisa, The Lawkeeper’s teenaged ward, is a raging psychopath, which makes it really hard for me to care that she’s the chosen one, and in making it hard for me to care, makes it much more obvious and distracting that plots about chosen ones aren’t especially uncommon. The same applies in many ways to Datak Tarr; he’s everything that’s bad about Snape, without the stuff that made me root for Snape—which would be fine in some respects if he was actually the villain instead of a foil for The Lawkeeper. The show has villains, and they’re very good at cackling behind their black capes and twirling their waxen moustaches. The problem is that they’re cackling at people I don’t like very much.

Nothing says "Gripping Sci-Fi" like a bunch of folk who hate each other posing for a photo.
Nothing says “Gripping Sci-Fi” like a bunch of folk who hate each other posing for a photo.

The show’s overall arc promises something unpredictable and wild,  and this gives me a lot of hope for an improvement in season two. I think, given that Defiance will always be hard-pressed to perform well in the shadow of Firefly, just because of its aesthetics and themes. And a lot of the series I love had very rough first seasons—I’m looking at Star Trek: TNG when I say this, but there are others. With this in mind, I’m waiting patiently, with just a touch of eagerness for Defiance’s season finale.

Waiting and hoping.

Ch-ch-ch Changes!

Ch-ch-ch Changes! published on No Comments on Ch-ch-ch Changes!

So, good news. Very soon, we’re changing how Ramen Empire works. All the comics before a certain date are going into an archival that won’t be attached to the main comic. At this point, it’s pretty clear that we rebooted. We’re going to divide the comic up into stories of 8 or 16 strips (depending), complete with cover art, and with gag strips in between.

Once I get the technical problems associated with this out of the way, we’ll have two comics running concurrently, though neither of us are prepared to talk about that other comic. Mostly because it keeps coming to blows.

It’s okay, though–Zach hits like a big Marshmallow.

What? That? Oh.

I, uh. I fell down some stairs.

Project Wonderful: The Outbid, Feature #1

Project Wonderful: The Outbid, Feature #1 published on 4 Comments on Project Wonderful: The Outbid, Feature #1
Puck and Daphne

Project Wonderful is insanely cool; it’s not exactly a good source of revenue for us (We’ve made about $4 USD on it), but it exposes us to a lot of nifty stuff. We’ve had the same ad up for a sort of Ra-Ra Atheism poster for a while, and  while I’m tickled pink that someone is ostensibly making money selling indie posters, the winning bidder on a Project Wonderful ad is invariably the tip of an iceberg of fascinating things. We have the luxury of seeing everything that tries to win our ad space, and some of it is pretty darn cool. So every now and then, I want to take some of the niftier content from the “bid but didn’t make it” group and feature them.

To your immediate left, Puck and Daphne. Yes, Puck, as in Robin Goodfellow. It’s a fascinating comic; partway through the archive, ten in-comic years skip by, (and the blog posts go from Feb 20, 2000 to Feb 20 2013)  serving as a soft reboot for the series and highlighting a marked increase in the artist’s skill. The comic is regularly funny and the color choices serve his (or her–the name ElectricGecko doesn’t exactly make that clear.) comic really well. The highlight of the series? Puck beats the crap out of purple-headed Satan for calling her a crack whore, causing him to win a mayoral election.

Fun coincidence: I first found Puck on a web search for colored text bubbles, because Zach mentioned wanting to use fewer pure whites and pure blacks in the comic. I tucked Puck into my reference material a few days ago, and then checked Project Wonderful this morning to find that it was competing for our ad space.

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes Review

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes Review published on No Comments on Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes Review
A toll in blood! En Garde!

Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes was this week’s pleasant surprise. In the fashion of Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, this stands alone as its own product, so if you’re all about random maps with a more procedural sense of story, thirty bucks has you set in the 4X category for a good, long while. To be clear; now is the time to purchase this game. It’s fantastic.

As in Civ V, Fallen Enchantress has a wide / tall dichotomy, but the execution of it is much smoother, maintaining complexity of decision making without forcing the player to have a deep understanding of his tile count. There are three tile yields: essence, material, and grain. Essence powers and allows enchantments, materials improve construction time, and grain helps level the city up. You can add more grains and materials to a single city (building tall) by using outposts to claim more resources, or you can build more cities to claim the resources.

The decision to play wide or tall is fun, and dynamic from map to map. I’m really excited to see what sort of metagaming comes out of it.

Fire Staff + Meet
Fire Staff + Meat Shields = Dead Goblin-things.

If you’re coming into Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes from the Civilization series, know that the micromanagement is completely gone; you do not have to assign citizens to tiles, nor must you march workers endlessly across your terrain. The game’s focus is exclusively on your Sovereign (your main character), your heroes, and your armies.

Tactical combat feels about right, and has options for speeding up the animations if things start to drag. It pulls most of its inspiration from Master of Magic here, rather than Shadow Magic, with a few notable exceptions: spellcasters must be present in combat (and there are no wizard-tower gimmicks to let your Sovereign cast from afar, at least that I’ve found.) I miss the strategic elements from Age of Wonders, though; it always felt awesome to have six full stacks of units under as many allegiances in a single combat. I understand why that’s not in this game, but hopefully, Stardock isn’t done adding features.

Multiplayer is sorely absent. The in-depth unit customization that’s encouraged mid and late game begs to have human intellects pitted against one another. Alas.

Also, Fallen Enchantress does not have the strong aesthetic appeal that I want from a fantasy title. The 3D models, especially the close-ups of humans in the leader and unit designer are abysmal, though they look acceptable on the strategic and tactical map, and I get a kick watching my units’ looks change as their gear gets upgraded. The color palate for the main strategy map feels off to me. Kudos, though, to the very talented painter who made the 2D backgrounds that go behind units. Those are gorgeous, and in general, a better direction for this kind of game’s art.

And the “post to Facebook” button under every model in the design screen? It kills the mood, Stardock, if you’re reading.

The Sexy, Sexy Cloth Map

Zooming out far enough flips the game into an incredibly sexy cloth-map mode, though. And since the zoom distance that kicks off this mode is controllable, someone looking for a change of visual pace can just play in that mode.

I’m also a little disappointed in the writing. The world of Elemental feels flat—a mixture of clichéd story elements and originality that just veered the wrong way. The dichotomy between the two political has no power in it, unlike, say, the orc / human conflict from the earlier WarCraft games, or the superb and multifaceted racial tensions from Age of Wonders. The races all feel like subclasses of human, rather than fantasy races, and this, I think, diminishes the earliest decision a player makes: “Who should I be?” Rather than becoming draconian, or frostling, or klakon, and getting an immersive experience from the uniqueness of those identities, the player is just picking the humans with the stats they think will work better.Also, questing is hit or miss. Some of the quests are engaging and feel positively epic. Others are distracting, and bizarre—who asks the leader of a nation to go kill rats for them? This aspect of the game suffers a bit from World of Warcraft syndrome: skip the quest text, go kill the mobs, enjoy statistical reward.

The negatives are slight, and the positives are overwhelming. If you liked Master of Magic or Age of Wonders, buy this title immediately.


Wildstar published on No Comments on Wildstar

Cute Soul-less ginger is Wildstar's main marketing point.I love RPGs. I have for a long time now, but since I got out of World of Warcraft there hasn’t been much to excite me in the genre for a while, but that looks like it might change with Wildstar.

The game play doesn’t look to be anything new in the area of game play mechanics, but the crude and cartoony humor is right up my alley. The game kind of reminds me of a raunchy Ratchet and Clank. I can see one of my favorite artist’s work all over it, too; one Cory Loftis. He’s added a light-hearted, fun aesthetic to the whole project.

My only problem with it is that it’s an MMO. I already play Guild Wars 2, Vindictus, and Spiral Knights. I don’t play them in any kind of dedicated fashion; there is just no way I could play each of them the way I played WoW. I did my dailies, I raided, and it just burnt me out. I’m not looking for a game to obsess over anymore. The casual elements of GW2, Vindictus, and Spiral Knights is what drew me to them.

I love the look of Wildstar. I love the humor, but I don’t love the WoW interface that exists in more MMOs—like in GW2.  I can live with that interface though, so long as it doesn’t also borrow the design philosophy, which at its heart is meant to punish casual gamers like myself. I want to be able to play the game and hope it is built with players like me in mind.

My boredom was also broken with the news of the new Xbox One. It looks like this will be the first generation of gaming consoles where I won’t own one. There are so many great games out for my PC and phone I don’t see the point in putting up with console business practices. Games like Spiral Knights and Vindictus are a lot of fun and I never paid a penny. It’s hard to compete with that kind of value.

J. J. Abrams Wrote a Kick Ass Star Trek Fan Fic – Can He Do It Again?

J. J. Abrams Wrote a Kick Ass Star Trek Fan Fic – Can He Do It Again? published on No Comments on J. J. Abrams Wrote a Kick Ass Star Trek Fan Fic – Can He Do It Again?

First blog post from the artist—WOOOOOOOO!

The comic schedule should be picking up. I have finished this semester of college and should be able to dedicate more time to the comic. What does this mean? More updates, for starters. It also means we’re going to put some time into making the website more engaging, and for those who haven’t guessed, blog posts from me, the artist. The blog posts are an exciting and new part for me. I intend to talk about the comic’s art, art in general, and whatever I am thinking about at the moment. So let’s kick this off with some whatever I am thinking about at the moment.

I am a Trekkie—have been for as long as I can remember—and there is a new J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie coming out. I eventually liked his last Star Trek movie. It was hard though; my first reaction was “This is not Star Trek. It is a Sci-Fi action movie wearing Star Trek’s skin.” It was a fun and competent action movie, though and I do like the Star Trek skin. I decided I was looking at the movie wrong. It’s not a Star Trek movie, it is a big budget Star Trek fan fiction and it was pretty good. So what will the second movie be? They already expended almost all the original series Star Trek tropes… The long and the short of it is that Abrams never really knew what made Star Trek great and can’t just whip out all the tropes from the original series—so how will he make a Star Trek movie? I don’t think he knows how. I hope I am wrong. I hope Abrams gets Star Trek this time around. I would be thrilled to admit I was wrong and sing the praises of the new movie if it is good. A good Star Trek movie would be worth so much more than being right.

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