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


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

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!)
There Are Two Silver Surfers 
San Diego Comicon News Wrap-Up 2011 
San Diego Comicon News Wrap-Up 2012
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


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


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