Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Introducing the Sensational Character Find of 2019



Hey folks! It’s been quiet - Patreon readers have gotten an explanation, but I’ve been holding off on posting anything here. This is at least partly due to the recent death of my laptop, meaning the only internet appliance currently in my life is my phone. 

Guess which interface is really fucking awful when you have to do it on your phone? Thank you, Blogger. 

But I’m still here. And today for the first time ever I would like to put some of my fiction up here for y’all to try. Below you will find the opening chapters of Dan Magic, the fifth book in my fantasy series, The Array. 

Now, you should be able to hop right in - every volume is more or less independent of the other. Dan’s kind of a distinctive guy, he can speak for himself. (My god can he.) But if you like what you see here, you should know that I just put an Omnibus edition of the first three volumes up on my Patreon - that’s right, A Darkness in the Time of the First, The Book of the Loam, and Beyond the Farthest Star, all between two digital covers. It’s available instantly for the nominal price of a $2 subscription to my Patreon, alongside every extant chapter of Book Four, the ever tardy Balthasar Foeman, still appearing in every issue of The Hurting Gazette

Now, if you like what you see of Dan Magic? Well, you can read a little bit more in issue 12 of the aforementioned Gazette, also available now for $2 subscribers. It has a subscriber-exclusive essay on Captain Marvel entitled “A Few Words About Carol Danvers.” And if you really like it? The entirety of Dan Magic is available right this moment for $5 subscribers. 

(Also: Just $1 a month still gets you an ebook of Tomorrow Is Always The Best Day Of My Life, as well as collected editions of the first two sections of Galaxy of Zeroes and Whistling in the Dark: A (Very) Short Book About They Might Be Giants. And of course, The Hurting Sampler is always free.)

Every dollar helps and makes a difference. So does every reader, so if you like what I see pass it along and give your friends the hard sell on my behalf. Thank you so much for your patience, maybe I’ll put up a comic book review or something. 


Dan Magic

Preamble

Hi, I’m Dan Magic, and this is my grimoire. 
     
Bet you weren’t expecting that! 
     
First of all, let’s talk a minute about just what a grimoire is and what a grimoire isn’t. I mean, sure, you probably might think a grimoire is a book of magic spells and potions and various other bits of technique and lore. I’ve read a few of those. More than a few of those. I mean, basically – I’ve read all of them. That’s kind of the point. I’ve read every grimoire I can find. And I’ve found a lot. 
     
But it’s been a long time since I’ve bothered because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything new in the spell racket, at least anything I thought was more than just purely derivative. A few nice touches here and there, maybe. Some planets still have a pretty decent magical culture but the best minds are in archaeology. Obsessed with ruins. That’s sort of the mindset I’m trying to fight, I guess you could say. 
     
I recognize that I’m sitting here talking from a position of genuine privilege. I can tell you that most grimoires are terrible because I’ve had the pleasure of endless – often literally endless – afternoons cramming my eyes with every spell and rune I could find, gorging myself on the best libraries in the galaxy. 
     
But growing up I was also that kid who could only afford a crappy used spellbook that did a lot more harm than good in terms of things like proper form and psychic hygiene – I mean, if you have to teach yourself how to summon the wills you’re going to emerge with scars. People who had private tutors aren’t going to have those scars. I’ve come up from nothing. I’ve been nothing. 
     
I had to be nothing to want everything. And then once I had everything I realized the only thing of value I’d ever had was . . . nothing. 
     
Holy shit, I’m sorry, that probably sounds like completely useless metaphysical garbage. Trust me: it’s all going to make sense eventually. 
     
So here’s the thing: the thing is, this isn’t a grimoire with a bunch of spells in it. This is a grimoire dedicated to one spell. And not just any spell, mind, but the most difficult single spell I’ve ever attempted. It’s going to take pretty much everything I have to be able to pull it off. 
     
And if you’re paying attention in the course of performing this spell I will teach you everything you will ever need to know to successfully cast any kind of spell in your own practice. Any kind. 
     
More important than how, though, is what. If you want to know how to cast a spell, you need to understand what spells are. What magic is. All those big ideas that you’re just not supposed to think about when you’re learning the basics of – well, whatever magical practices are considered “basics” in your local culture. It changes. All these big ideas that you’re not supposed to think about when you’re a kid and, honestly, you’re not really encouraged to challenge as an adult, either. 
     
That’s how you cast the big spells, though: you understand how and why magic works the way it does. 
     
It’s not about formulae or math or ingredients, it’s about knowing where the levers of power in the universe are and how to push them. If you’re going to be more than a weekend warrior, if you ever really want to, ahem, “run with the big dogs” and cast real spells, you really need to understand all the stuff they usually try to gloss over in school.  
     
There’s a reason why they gloss all that stuff over. There’s a reason why most magic cultures teach magic very badly. Magic serves many uses but it’s also very dangerous and most stable societies work to limit its effect on public life. One of the best ways to do that is to teach kids wrong and harmful shortcuts that they will never be able to outgrow. The kids grow up thinking they are perfectly functional master wizards, barely able to do more than maintain seasonal rainfall for medium-sized agricultural basins. You know, genuinely useful things that don’t actually do a lot to upset the balance of power in world relations. 
     
I can’t honestly say that’s a bad thing. No one has a right to be a wizard. No one is born having more or less right to access magic than anyone else. People who want to learn magic – well, it is a privilege, and also dangerous. Stable societies usually figure out that the best way to remain stable societies is to heavily regulate magic use, with an eye towards eventually eradicating the practice altogether. I can’t honestly say that’s a bad thing. 
     
But this isn’t a book about magic policy. What this is, at least in part, is a book about magic ethics, because magic without ethics really is the most dangerous force in the universe. If you want to be a magician you probably think you’re doing it for all the right reasons – but I realize that’s an assumption –  
     
You may already be a rotten little shit. If that’s the case this book really isn’t going to offer you much. You’re welcome to keep reading, but do so at the risk of actually learning something about the universe in which you live. 
     
If you want to understand how to use magic well you need to understand first of all that magic is kind of terrible. It lets people do things they shouldn’t. It’s extraordinarily easy to use magic for unscrupulous ends. It becomes difficult at times to imagine a wholly scrupulous use for it. It makes good people bad and bad people worse.
     
Again, that’s my privilege to say that, because I’ve already made the mistakes. I’ve already read all the other (boring) grimoires and done all the things they explicitly say you shouldn’t do, and I can tell you in most instances that they’re right to do so. 
     
But now that we’ve acknowledged my privilege I think it’s also important to assert my experience: I promise you there are some things that it is not a privilege to have learned. There are lots of spells I wish I could uncast. Lots of decisions I wish I could have back. 
     
Now, of course, you might be thinking to yourself, “well, Dan, if you’re such a great magician, can’t you just undo your mistakes with magic?” To which I can only reply:  
     
Keep reading.
     
Now for the purpose of organizing this grimoire – such as it is – I suppose it would be best to approach the narrative in terms of the topic headings we’ll be covering along the way. So, for instance, the first section after this is about the significance of names to magic history and practice, so it’s called
    
Names

and it begins like this:
     
The significance of names to magic lore and practice has been historically overstated. 
     
It’s not that names aren’t important. The first rule of magic is that everything is important, and everything is always important. But names aren’t really important in the same way that most people think they are and the reason why has to do with a pretty basic misunderstanding of the way that magic operates. 
     
Magic is the means by which humans can coerce the universe to go against its own better judgment for our benefit. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. A magician is someone who learns, usually through years of study and practice and apprenticeship, how to bully the universe into doing what they want. And you can dress it up any way you like but that’s really all it is. Everyone has different ways of doing it, different ways, if you will, of expressing that bullying – but it’s still bullying. And it’s something that should only be done advisedly . . . 
     
. . . but if you’re reading this book I guess it’s probably too late for that! Anyway. If you want to know magic, essentially you want to know how to wield a certain degree of coercive authority over the basic building blocks of reality. That’s really scary. It should be scary. It should be something you do not undertake lightly. It really, really should. The consequences of magic put to frivolous ends are simply too great. 
     
Consequences are very important. The second rule of magic is that it is a lot easier to create something without cause than without consequence.  
     
So what does all this have to do with names? Well, I’m glad you asked! 
     
Magic is the means by which individuals can effect great change in the shape of the universe with nothing more than willpower. It’s very much centered in the individual practitioner and their understanding of reality. In a real way the practice of magic is the extension of the individual’s will into the universe by means of their aura, so they – we – are literally changing reality with our minds.  
     
I hope you understand just how dangerous that is. I hope your mind immediately jumped to whomever you believe the least responsible person on your planet to be. Imagine the worst person who ever lived, whatever genocidal dictator or cannibalistic serial killer is exalted on your world as the epitome of all evil, imagine what that guy (chances are good it was a guy, sorry fellow guys) would have done had he been able to bend the shape of reality with his will. Just for a second. I’m sure you’d rather not. 
     
If you happen to hail from one of those worlds where your epitome of evil could actually bend the shape of reality to his will – my most pressing sympathies. I don’t need to explain magic ethics to you. You could teach me, I am certain.
     
Names are actually a great example of this principle. Anyone can change reality directly with their mind simply by changing their name. People change their name every day for reasons both profoundly moving and deeply frivolous. It doesn’t matter why they do it so long as it’s a sincere change. Magic inheres to a person’s actual name, not their first name or given name or whatever bullshit some outdated source is telling you.
     
So there’s the answer to your implicit question: no, obviously Dan Magic isn’t the name mom gave me when I popped out the womb. Not only is it a fake name, it is the most explicitly fake name for a magician I could imagine. Which was the point. Because here’s the thing – and trust me on this, if you ever hear me say that you know I’m either about to blow your mind wide open or shovel a couple pounds of premium bullshit (or both) – I am all about telling you exactly what I want you to know. Nothing more and nothing less. My name is Dan and I do Magic. That’s literally my name. 
     
Magic is big on obfuscation and illusion, all in the service of distraction. A magician tells you to look over there so they can do something over here, presto change-o what the fuck-o there you go, here’s a rabbit. And certainly, I guess, that’s A Way of doing things. I don’t see the point. I don’t want to distract anyone. I’m kind of over trying to get anything over you. It’s not a healthy way to be or a good way to live. And I know that might sound kind of rich coming from someone named Dan Magic who is currently writing a book about just that thing – magic. But it’s the truth. Some magicians really like the power trip. That’s why they call it a trick in the first place, I suspect. 
     
It’s important that you know, first thing out of the gate, that your name is whatever you say it is. My name is Dan Magic because I say it is. My birth name doesn’t have any special power over me but I never particularly liked it. If you knew what it was I’d be fairly surprised, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to trap me in some kind of eldritch cage with the utterance or whatever you read about in a book once. So call yourself whatever the fuck you want. It’s up to you.
     
After traveling for a while I realized that Dan was a pretty common name on most planets. Also a pretty boring name in most languages, and there are lots of languages in the galaxy. Everyone knows a Dan . . .
     
And now you know one more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Announcing . . .


My Patreon subscriptions have been flat. That's actually really good considering I sometimes go over a month between uploading content, and then randomly upload 15,000 words in one go. It's a bipolar schedule for a bipolar writer, and I think by now if we've learned anything from this almost fifteen year experiment in terror called The Hurting it's that I work best when I accept the natural ebbs and flows of my writing schedule. As eccentric as that may be. 

I'm trying not to be so critical of myself because, by any measure, I have had a phenomenally productive year. If not a lot of that productivity has actually trickled down onto this, my long-standing personal blog, it's because much of it has been landing behind the paywall of my Patreon. Where my subscriptions have been flat and steady despite an erratic writing schedule that would sink just about anyone else, because literally no one has actually caught up to my writing yet just from this calendar year. I am writing four books at once and that's only because I just finished the first three I started this year. 

There's a lot of material behind the paywall, is what I'm saying. I actually have a little bit of backlist to flog. Considering you get pretty much everything for $2 a month I think that's beyond reasonable.
 
I barely wrote anything for a month because I was depressed, as happens in 2018. That became a blessing in disguise because a few people actually used my down time to catch up on the fiction. Since I began the Gazette I've been really hoping to build an audience to follow a story develop in real time. It's not like I don't have a few ideas about the structure and form of serial fiction . . . that a few people are finally on board makes me very happy to push forward.

So with that in mind I'd been casting around for an idea for another promotional giveaway that might bring new eyeballs to the Patreon heading into the end of the year. I've done a couple giveaways - the first and seventh issues of the Gazette, both giant sized, both still available right now. I'm looking to finish all outstanding projects before 2019 - that's the goal, at least. The first objective for this giveaway was to give people a direct opportunity to catch up on my fiction, now that there's actually a fair amount of it to catch up on. Accordingly, the opening chapters of my first four fantasy books were the first things included. When I thought about what else could go in I realized I'd done enough work in the last year to justify a rather more exhaustive survey. And when I thought about that I realized I could put another section in the back with a handful of my favorite pieces from the site's almost fifteen year history, maybe some rarities and B-sides . . . and the next thing you know I had a pretty thick volume.  

Suddenly what was conceived as just another loss leader for the Patreon (and which still is, obviously) became something a bit more fun, a chance not just to advertise the Patreon and my writing but also maybe give my most loyal readers an early anniversary present. Fifteen years in January! What a trip! Some of you have been following since the beginning, since even before then when I was just another mook in the Journal. I'm more grateful for that than words can convey.

It's a tough world out there. One of the things that gives me comfort and strength is that there are people who enjoy my writing and who are willing to spend money on it. I struggle mightily with monetizing my skills. Every attempt to sell my writing invariably falls flat. It has recently occurred to me, however, that I've got it precisely backwards: nothing good has ever happened in my career when I have tried to sell my writing. Every breakthrough I've seen these past few years - new connections, gigs, opportunities - has come as a result of trusting my writing to sell me.

So that's the story behind what you're about to download, enjoy, and disseminate to all your pals - please allow me to introduce . . .

The Hurting Sampler

Introduction

Nonfiction 
One Hundred and Sixty Four Days 
I Am Not A Good Person
Of Mos Espa 
If This Goes On - II
Jerk City, USA
Crisis in Time
Letter 4.5

Fiction
A Darkness in the Time of the First  
The Book of the Loam 
Beyond the Farthest Star 
Balthasar Foeman

Ice Cream for Bedwetters (Vol. 1)   
(Originally published on Medium.com)
Logan (2017)
Bernie Wrightson
"The Clone Conspiracy"

Highlights from the Wilderness
A Journal of the Plague Years (Previously only available in Australia!)
Excelsior 
There Are Two Silver Surfers 
San Diego Comicon News Wrap-Up 2011 
San Diego Comicon News Wrap-Up 2012
Pineapple 
The Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story (2015)
The Secret History 
Top Ten Things I Learned from David Letterman
He Ended Up Really, Really, Really Sad 
Blue Milk 

Lowlights for Children  
(Guest appearances in Tucker's Comics of the Weak from 2012)
From “An Alternative: Something That’s Actually An Artform, Like Housepainting”
From "Say Hello to Your Brother"  
From "Somebody Let the Monkey Out the Cage"  

Most of this stuff is still available freely online in various places (save for the fiction, obvs), but there are a few things you won't find anywhere else. "Letter 4.5" was only available behind the paywall previously (although I believe I may have used it as a giveaway once or twice), and stands as the only halfway decent survivor of my brief sojourn into punditry in Winter of 2017. "A Journal of the Plague Years" was previously only ever printed in issue five of Australian arts magazine The Lifted Brow, and that was over ten years ago, so I guess it qualifies as a genuine rarity. It's ten thousand words on the subject of the comics industry of the 1990s, which I know you love from me.

Anyway. It's a rough time in the history of the republic. Have one on me. Do me a solid and pass it along to the publishing industry executives in your life?

 




Monday, October 22, 2018

The Bad News Bears Go To Dantooine - 2



RAAAARGGRRRRRRGGRRRR


Hey! Before you dig in, did you know that subscribers to my Patreon can now read Galaxy of Zeroes every week-ish (cough) in the virtual pages of The Hurting Gazette?


The double-sized premiere issue, featuring “The First Star Wars Essay,” is still free here

Thank you for reading! 

*


So lets talk about Ships.

Everyone hates the Ships minigame. Everyone has also been pretty vocal about that since they introduced it. Let’s talk about why.
     
A normal Arena match is played with five characters against five other characters (unless you’re playing something like a raid and therefore attacking the computer). Ships started out that way as well, with five ships against five ships, with a carrier for each side. Every fleet needs a carrier – currently the most powerful and popular carrier, without question, is Thrawn. You do see Admiral Ackbar and Tarkin as well, but very rarely Mace Windu.
      
Poor Mace. Between Clones and Jedi, the Galactic Republic faction actually has a strong fleet – just not Thrawn strong.
     
Anyway. When Ships started, the max time for any game was 7:30, up from the 5:00 of timed Arena combat. Between the carriers and reinforcements (something unavailable in any other part of the game), ships games naturally run longer. At the beginning, they ran so long that they had to nerf half the ships’ defensive capabilities and reduce the opening number of ships from five to three. They lowered the max time down to 5:00 at some point in there, and it plays better now but games still run a lot longer than Arena contests.
     
If I had to describe the experience, I’d say if the regular game was baseball, the ships minigame is baseball for people who really like sabermetrics. It’s the same game, roughly. Galaxy of Heroes is a wonky game in a lot of ways – by which I mean it encourages a wonkish mindset. It’s OK for things to be kind of boring or even kind of elaborately boring to an asinine degree, because what they’re trying to do is entice players to spend money. Much of the game, for me, and I imagine for the developers as well, consists of testing the patience of even the most committed free-to-play users, such as myself.
     
Ships takes the regular game and adds another layer of fiddly shit in order to scramble expectations. The presence of static carriers and the use of reinforcements does give combat its own distinctive feel, but it also makes for longer games. That’s only a bad thing if people aren’t having fun, but the fact is that the earliest incarnations of Ships were terrible. It was a slow game seemingly for no other reason that defenses relative to offensive capabilities were poorly balanced. People avoid Ships still because, frankly, it just wasn’t very fun for a very long time.
      
But something important regarding Ships, which I believe I’ve mentioned before: the Fleet Arena is the only source for Fleet Arena tokens, and those are the only tokens you can use to buy Zeta materials. And as I know I’ve mentioned Zeta abilities represent the most significant upgrade in the game.
      
So if you’re following along so far, let’s now talk about the game’s single biggest Achilles heel.
     
The developers manage a pretty tight grip on the metagame, and they do this primarily through making powerful new characters that lead the game precisely in the direction they want to go. Sith were dominant in the meta for a long time – and still are, as of this writing – but they’ve been putting a lot of effort into rebuilding Jedi the past few months. They’re not completely competitive yet. Twenty-two out of the top twenty-five teams on my Arena node are currently led by Darth Traya, with two led by Bastila Shan and one lonely team led by good ol’ Emperor Palpatine. 
       
Jedi have been on the receiving end of a concerted effort to reboot the faction for a few months, after being completely unplayable for most of the game’s existence. General Kenobi has always been good, but General Kenobi was also the only playable Jedi for long stretches of the game’s history. They started with goosing Grand Master Yoda’s stats to make both of his Zeta abilities more effective. His Leader ability still isn’t anyone’s favorite, but otherwise they succeeded in making him a lot more formidable. Actually kind of a tiny green cyclone of pain, which is probably what Yoda looks like to you if Yoda wants to beat your ass.
      
Beat your ass I will, but enjoy the exercise of violence I will not . . . much.
      
But, everyone already has Grand Master Yoda, and a lot of people even already had his Zeta abilities, so that one upgrade wasn’t going to push anyone to spend a lot of money. Which is why they introduced Bastila Shan right after, telegraphing her significance before putting her on sale for a month.    
     
And that makes sense. They want me to drop either crystals (which cost money) or, preferably, human money. There’s no way to get enough crystals to be able to afford to buy the latest character packs when they appear – and I will point out, the character packs in the store often do not include set amounts of shards. Right now the going rate is 1,299 crystals for anywhere from 5-330 character shards. And I probably don’t have to tell you the payoff for those isn’t always the best.

Or you can pay $19.99 American dollars for 30 shards, guaranteed, which is about the going rate. It varies a bit depending on how hot the character is. After the first month or so they start selling premium characters in the Shipments store for a slightly better freight – right now you can get 4 Bastila shards for 320 crystals, so you can do the math on that.
     
The only way to get that many crystals, the amount you would need to ever be able to justify actually buying new character shards in the store, is by winning in the Arena. First place in the Arena – which goes out every night at 7:00 PM – gets 500 crystals and 900 Squad Arena Tokens. (Squad Arena Tokens aren’t that valuable except for the fact that the Squad Arena Store is the only Store that sells the Prestige ability materials which you need to upgrade your Carriers for Ships – there was an old lady who swallowed the fly.)
      
By contrast, coming in First in Ships gets you only 400 crystals, along with 1,800 Fleet Arena tokens. (Remember, Zeta mats cost 2,000 Fleet Arena tokens and every Zeta ability requires twenty Zeta mats. See what I mean about the math starting to stack up?)
     
If you’re thinking, wait a minute, 400 really isn’t a lot less than 500, well . . . that’s a very good point. Because the thing with the Ships minigame, it’s simply a much smaller game. Ships didn’t start until the game had already been going for a while, and there just aren’t as many ships in the game as characters. Even once they started releasing ships at a steady pace alongside characters, there are just fewer ships in the Star Wars universe than characters. Around the time of the release of Rogue One they added nine Rebel characters to the game, but only two Rebel ships, to give you the idea. Now, you needed many of those characters to fly their ships, but fewer than nine.

 
*



Galaxy of Zeroes









If This Goes On - II






The Bad News Bears Go To Dantooine

1
2
3

Next week's installment should now be up on the Patreon! 

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dude the Order of Saint Dumas called and they want their stuff back


Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Bad News Bears Go To Dantooine




My large son, he is not so bright but he makes up for it in anger

Hey! Before you dig in, did you know that subscribers to my Patreon can now read Galaxy of Zeroes every week-ish (cough) in the virtual pages of The Hurting Gazette?


The double-sized premiere issue, featuring “The First Star Wars Essay,” is still free here

Thank you for reading! 

*

So let’s talk about how I got decent at this damn game.

Notice I didn’t say “good,” I said “decent.”

There is a great deal of humility in learning how to do something not well, but decently, and being aware at all times of just how large the gap remains between decent and well. Perhaps I aspire one day to reach beyond mere mediocrity – but you’ve got to pay your dues before you can pay the rent.

Something about video games that I never appreciated before is that they present a windows into worlds where actions have consequences. Things make sense because players have to be able to depend on some degree of consistency. Even given the element of randomness inherent in the game system for something like Galaxy of Heroes, the randomness is predictable. You can set your watch by it. I know that every different kind of item to be farmed is meted out according to odds that range from “parsimonious” to “grim.” And it sucks, sometimes, to do something like drop 200 Cantina Energy in one fell swoop – which buys 12 shots at node 8-F at the Cantina Battles table, at 16 points a pop, with half of one left over – and get one measly Veteran Smuggler Chewbacca shard for my trouble. But I know the next time I have just enough for three shards – 48 points – I could just as easily get all three shards from all three chances.

It’s consistent enough that I can make reasonable common-sense estimates regarding how long certain things are going to take. In the case of Veteran Smuggler Chewbacca – well, I didn’t pick just any random character. Right now as of this writing the biggest question mark on my horizon is whether or not I am going to be able to get the aforementioned Veteran Snuggler up to the requisite seven stars by the next time the event comes around for Jedi Training Rey, currently one of the most powerful characters in the game. He’s one of the five characters you need to finish the mission to unlock her . . . and he’s the last one I need, incidentally.

(I should point out that I literally just now picked up the game, saw that I had 21 Cantina Points, and bought one go at 8-F – and got one snuggly shard for my trouble. So it’s just luck. And algorithms.)

Perhaps I should back up a bit here . . . it’s easy to get lost in the weeds because long-term plans for this game tend to metastasize, as they generally follow the story logic of the “swallowed the spider to catch the fly” type. The important thing to remember is that the most powerful character in the game is currently Darth Traya.

Yeah, her.
 
So powerful is she that the all but two of the top twenty Arena teams in my node have Traya, and some of them don’t even have her all the way up to seven stars yet. If you recall, there’s only one way to get Traya, and that’s the Heroic level of the Sith Temple Raid. And it so happens that the absolute best character for getting past the most punishingly difficult level of the temple – that’s right, our boy Captain Tryhard himself, Darth Nihilus – the character who does it best is none other than Jedi Training Rey.
 
Please don’t ask me how. The reason why Nihilus is so damn annoying in the first place is that he has 
some kind of weird protection regeneration ability that deflects the vast majority of damage – unless, that is, you know how to slide your damage under the protection, and the character who can do that the absolute best is Rey with a dedicated Resistance team. The most common team I see when I look is usually Rey (“JTR”), with the game’s other Rey (“Scavenger”), BB-8, R2-D2, and the powerful generic Resistance Trooper.

(An aside about generics: faceless characters like Resistance Trooper, Resistance Pilot, Hoth Rebel Scout, and Hoth Rebel Soldier are actually important, even though it really hurts to have to allocate resources to get my Resistance Trooper up to Gear Level XII when other, cooler characters who are also significantly less important languish. I’m looking at you, seven-star General Grievous. Perhaps the most useless rare character in the game, but I love him perhaps not despite but because of his uselessness. He tries his best. I’m proud I got my angry son up to seven stars even though there was literally no reason to do so except my vague suspicion that he will one day be a Fleet Commander in the Ships minigame, same as Holdo. Presumably either Hux or Snoke will one day also be a Fleet Commander for the First Order, since they already have a lot of ships but still no carrier. Neither Snoke nor Hux are playable yet, and one must assume the developers are aware of the absences.)

(“Holy shit,” the developer gasps, “you realize we could do . . . Snoke! He’s in that movie too, we could make him a playable character!”

“Let me see if I understand you correctly,” the other developer answers, “Snoke . . . from that movie we saw?”

“Yeah! I was just reading – did you know that was a Star Wars movie?" 
  
“I suspected as much,” the second developer mused. “Call it a hunch. But this – this changes everything.”)

So anyway. JTR does something really quite clever but very complicated and leads her team to a considerable amount of damage against that punk Nihilus.

This is an example of everything I hate about the game, by the way. They designed an essential challenge such that there is really only one viable option, meaning that you’re stuck playing the game at their pace. Which, I mean, fair enough, it is their game. But I hate being siloed into a very specific set of actions, especially when it’s a multi-step process that forces me to build my entire medium-term plan around accomplishing just this one thing.

There’s not a lot of creativity in that kind of game play. In fact, there’s quite a bit of white-knuckle grim determination.
 
Here we see a big difference between the game play in Galaxy of Heroes and the kind of game you’d buy (hopefully as much as possible) all at once and play in its completed form at home on your TV. My game playing experience is free, yes. Never paid a single dime. But the game is obviously not designed to help players like me in ways that discourage us from spending money. There are always opportunities to get ahead if you’re willing to part with actual hard-earned currency.

So it’s not as if long stretches of boring languor are going to get me to rage-quit the game. I mean, they might in theory. But whereas another type of game might put a premium on never consciously trying to frustrate players through sheer tedium, Galaxy of Heroes has such tedium structured as part of the experience. They always play fair with free-to-play players – by which I mean, everything is available if you have the patience. They’re counting on people not having that much patience. 

But over the long term? As of this writing they have just introduced a maddeningly fiddly new system for mod enhancements, one that introduces yet another currency into the game economy. Doesn’t look as if they have any plans to stop expanding the game anytime soon. There’s just a lot to keep up with. In lieu of being an oil tycoon the only way to stay competitive in the long term is just to show up and do the damn farming. 
 
With that said, there’s really no way for me to be competitive in the Arena anytime soon. I’m stuck around one hundred on any given day – on a good day I can maybe beat a team in the seventies, and on a day I don’t pay any attention my team on auto will tend to settle somewhere around the one-teens. Pretty consistently.

So they’re not a good team. Not even close. Every character in it is good, but ultimately they’re a team of utility players without much direction – Emperor Palpatine on lead, with Vader, Thrawn, Tarkin, and right now, the generic TIE Fighter pilot in the fifth slot. Even if my team is maxed-out there’s still only so much that set of characters can do in Arena. Not compared to the wall of Trayas at the top, or the Jedi and Resistance teams scattered among the Sith for most of the rest of the Top 50 on any given day.          

It’s a placeholder, basically, because I know I’m not competitive in that realm. The problem is that the game doesn’t sit still. Traya is on the top now, but as sure as the sun rises, in a few months it’ll be someone else. Traya will undoubtedly still be important but will in her turn recede into precisely the kind of utility player represented by the likes of . . . Emperor Palpatine, Vader, Thrawn, and Tarkin. 
 
Because, I mean, I finally got my General Kenobi up to seven stars. Remember him? It’s been an eventful summer. He’s still very playable, especially since they’re slowly building Jedi into a competitive faction – all the Jedi teams in the Top 50 are led by Bastila Shan, another Old Republic character, about whom I know only that she whomps ass.

It took a couple years for me to get that General Kenobi. They introduced him, and the original Tank Raid, when I was just fresh out of my nervous breakdown rushing like a freight train towards the climactic end of 2016. A different world ago. I was patient.

The long and the short of it is that I don’t anticipate being competitive in Arena anytime soon.

I am, however, quite competitive in Ships. And that might be almost as good.      

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Galaxy of Zeroes









If This Goes On - II



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