Uncharted, Video Game Cinematography, and Focus

I want to talk about filmmaking in videogames for a second. Spoilers for a lot of the Uncharted games to follow, so be warned.

Something that I love about Naughty Dog is that the titles for the Uncharted games often have at least two interpretations that act as a lens through which you can examine the story of the game.  For Drake’s Fortune and Drake’s Deception, the easiest interpretations are that “Drake” refers to either Nathan or Sir Francis. In Among Thieves, it refers both literally to Nate being physically surrounded by thieves and to the adage about “honor among thieves”, a concept which is challenged repeatedly throughout the story. And A Thief’s End has literally dozens of different thieves that it could be referring to when it comes to the death of a thief when you consider everyone from St. Dismas to the pirate lords to Rafe, the game’s antagonist. It also refers to the end of Nate’s career as a thief, and since the beginning can also be “an end” of something, the epilogue where Nate and Elena’s daughter Cassie expresses qualities that might position her to take up that profession could be referring to her “end” as a thief.

With all that prelude, consider The Lost Legacy, the next (and potentially final) game in the Uncharted series from Naughty Dog, which stars Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross on an adventure to find the lost Tusk of Ganesh. One obvious interpretation for the title is that the “Lost Legacy” refers to that particular treasure, but there’s another interpretation, hinted at by this cinematic, that really has me excited for this game.

Chloe: Yeah, well. You can thank my dad for that; Hindu myths were his thing.
Nadine: Might have rubbed off. He must be proud.
Chloe: Sun's almost up.

Start the video particularly at the two-minute mark. Listen to Chloe when she mentions her dad, to the silence after Nadine suggests that Chloe’s father must be proud of her. Look at Chloe’s body language, the subtle shifts in her facial expression, which are hidden, to an extent, by the fact that she turns away from the camera, going out of focus in the foreground while Nadine is in focus.

This is a wonderful combination of Claudia Black’s performance as Chloe, Laura Bailey’s as Nadine, the cinematography of the scene itself, and even the dialogue as written. You get so many layers to Chloe’s relationship to her father, whom we otherwise know nothing about at this point, as well as Nadine’s perception of Chloe’s discomfort with her father. The cinematography drives home the notion that Chloe is concealing something about her father in her unspoken response to Nadine’s line about “he must be proud.”

But the thing that caught me most about this exchange, the thing that made me decide I needed to write all of this down and share it with you, is Chloe’s line. “Sun’s almost up.”

The fact that the game’s title is The Lost Legacy, and the part where “sun” and “son” are homophones gives that line an amazing bit of resonance in suggesting another interpretation of the game’s title, and hence another lens into the story. Consider if the line was “son’s almost up” instead: we’re skirting around the notion of Chloe’s father having a son, and that opens up a TON of possibilities. The one I like the most is this: Chloe’s discomfort with her father stems from her being born a girl rather than a boy. This drives home the notion of “the lost legacy” as Daddy Frazer feeling that he cannot properly leave his legacy to a daughter.

Now, yes, at first blush there’s a lot of misogyny rolled up into that, and it doesn’t do Chloe any favors to have a game that ostensibly explores her character and backstory center it around her relationship with a dude. But setting that aside for a moment, it helps to drive home the idea that this was a story that Naughty Dog wanted to tell that they really couldn’t tell with Nathan Drake; not just because they’d pretty handily retired him with A Thief’s End, but also because a) that game already doubled down on Nate’s relationship with his family and the overall absence of importance that the unnamed Daddy Drake had in that family, and b) the mechanism of Sullivan being Nate’s father-figure has already been played with a lot in the series, and this story about a father’s regret that the kid he’d sired didn’t live up to his expectations can’t really be done when there isn’t that sense of blood binding father and child together.

I already had a lot of reasons to want to play this game: a) like a lot of other Uncharted fans, I always loved bad-girl Chloe and wanted to see her make a return, so her getting her own game is great, b) Nadine was wonderful in A Thief’s End and I’m happy to see that she’s getting a second lease as a protagonist after she could have easily been written off as a midboss, and c) despite how wonderfully A Thief’s End tied off the Uncharted series as a whole, I have a lot of trouble saying no to more of it, so a side story of kickass women going off to do kickass things is basically the best possible outcome for me. But THIS scene, and the wonderful way that it’s assembled to insert meaning and narrative heft without spending any actual words on exposition, totally sells me on the game.

Taken on it’s own, this is the glorious offspring of the union of filmmaking and videogames, and it makes my film-nerd heart happy.

The Breakdown: Just Be Friends

(Header credit: alegria)

So the Internet is apparently still on fire about the notion that VP Pence doesn’t dine alone with women who aren’t his wife, and it’s spiraled into bigger questions about whether or not men can even be friends with women.

Short answer is “of course they can, why the fuck not?”

Everyone’s had thinkpieces about the VP already, and I don’t really want to delve into that any more. I just want to talk about this notion re: dinners, as someone who counts a lot more women as close friends than men.

The notion that men can’t be friends with women because of sexual tension or temptation is really fucked up, since it implies that men can’t control themselves and/or that women are all temptresses who want that dick, whether the man is in a relationship with someone or not. There are so many reasons why this is fucked up, but here’s just a few:

  1. If you’re a guy who claims that he can’t control himself around a woman, then you’re pretty much an animal at best and a rapist at worst. You need to be beaten about the head with sticks until you realize that resisting the urge to put your dick in someone is part of having a brain.
  2. If you’re a guy who claims that all women are temptresses, then a) you can fuck right off and b) no they’re not. Women deal with uninvited sexual advances all the time, because of entrenched toxic masculinity that insists on treating women as sexual objects and not as people. Part of recognizing someone is a person is recognizing that they have more purpose than being a place where you put your dick.
  3. If you’re a woman who refuses to trust her partner to keep it in his pants, then him having dinner with someone else isn’t really the problem you need to address.

Now I should stop for a moment and state that if a couple of people (husband and wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, dedicated partnerships of any kind) decide to set a boundary about this kind of thing, then that’s completely fine. I won’t shame Pence for making that decision with his wife, because adults get to make decisions for themselves; that’s what being an adult is about. Call it respect, call it avoiding appearances of impropriety, call it a restraint given prior instances of serial infidelity, call it whatever you want… but if you assert for an instant that there is some fundamental nature inherent to men and women that demands that any semi-private encounter between them is going to lead to sex as though neither person has any decision-making ability, I’m going to call bullshit and I’m going to beat you about the head with sticks, because PEOPLE have AGENCY and aren’t CONTROLLED by their GENITALIA.

There’s other parts about this notion that are troublesome, since it completely ignores folks who aren’t heterosexual. Gay men having female friends, lesbians having male friends, the whole spectrum of trans and genderqueer folk who don’t identify as male OR female… it would serve to focus on that angle for a moment. Because the whole gist of this notion appears to be this: if it is even PLAUSIBLE that you could have fuckings with someone you’re dining privately with, then it shouldn’t even matter what gender that someone identifies as, if any. If you extrapolate this notion to include everyone, no private dinner is safe. Which is exactly the reason why the notion is moronic at its very core.

So with all that in mind, why don’t we step back for a second and maybe just decide that we’re going to work at making the best decisions for ourselves, both regarding who we dine with and our relationships with our partners?

Bon appetit.

Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes”

I wanted to capture my Goodreads reviews here as well, and I promised to offer at least something about this one and the sequel.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

TL;DR: This is an excellent debut novel that is a wonderful blend of Middle Eastern mysticism and classical fantasy themes.

Mechanics. The story is told in first-person and switches between the perspectives of two primary characters: Laia, a young Scholar who witnesses her brother Darin being kidnapped by agents of the Martial Empire and sets out to rescue him, and Elias, a young Martial who has been planning to flee his brutal upbringing to seek his freedom elsewhere. Both face increasingly arduous odds and unexpected twists along the way.

Reaction. I’ve been dipping my toe into YA fantasy lately, and while I know that romance tends to be par for the course, I was pleasantly surprised at how it was handled in this book. Without giving anything away, there’s more than one love triangle in play, but all of the people involved have authentic feelings and authentic reactions. Nothing feels forced about these relationships, and moreover, it’s a big deal that Laia gets to own her agency throughout all of it, while Elias expresses a great deal of vulnerability that flies in the face of masculine expectations.

The story is clearly meant to begin a saga, but the way the story ends is pretty satisfying for the major elements of this first book. I had a ton of fun reading this, and just couldn’t put it down once I was fully committed to the heroes, and I’m proud to report that the second book (which I had to read before I could even sit down to review this) performs pretty well by comparison.

View all my reviews

Overmix: With the Sure Shot

Gonna be review 1 of 2 here today, since I missed yesterday and @Ventain‘s contest ends tomorrow! First up is @Lugger2‘s submission of the archer Enya:


Artwork and design credit: Lugger (Artstation)


  • (E-Ability): Enya deploys a rain from electric arrows that creates an electrified area. Enemies caught in that area are slowed and take damage; those who linger too long are paralyzed.
  • (Q-Ability): Enya creates a big arrow which travels and deals damage through the air in a line. That arrow knocks back the first enemy in the way and stuns it if the enemy hits a wall. It passes through any enemies in encounters.


Role: Given the properties of the hero being focused on area denial, it’s safe to say that Enya should be classed as a Defense hero and specifically also a Sniper.

LMB/RMB: I would assume that Enya’s primary fire is the light/fire arrows she’s depicted with. While they’re not specifically called out, the notion that they might deal damage over time when they hit would be a way to differentiate them from Hanzo’s standard arrows, but it’s also reasonable for them to just be stylish arrows. (However, damage-over-time arrows that deal aggravated damage on successive hits would contribute to mastery of the hero.)

E-Ability: At first blush, there needs to be a way to differentiate this from Mei’s Ultimate, which appears to do the same thing (area slow, ticking damage, eventual paralysis). One way to do it would be for the E to trigger an alternate arrow (much like Hanzo switches between Sonic and Scatter Arrows), which, when it lands, generates a damage and slowing aura around it. However, Enya can continuously fire these arrows (up to a maximum number of charges) in order to stack the effect on a single target (or target area) or hit different areas in order to cover different entrances to the area. The damage could be multiplicative (that is, the more arrows overlapping in a particular area, the greater the damage and slowing effect) but it likely should not be AS damaging as Mei’s Ultimate even at max stacks. (I would nominate calling the ability “Snare Arrows” in this case.)

As a starting point for an ability, it’s a great place to start, and the visual of Enya peppering an area in order to visibly deny it to the enemy is pretty unique. Moreover, if the arrows have a similar effect when she lands them on a target, it means that when Enya can land multiple shots on a target, she’s able to pin them down from a long distance. This contrasts well with Mei’s function of pinning people down at a close distance.

Q-Ability: This is a great subversion of Hanzo’s Dragon Strike, since instead of a huge, slow-moving damage field, it’s instead launching a mini-Reinhardt at a target and taking them out of the fight. (The fact that the art depicts a Reinhardt-shaped enemy being hit by it is wonderful irony ^_^ ). Moreover, it doubles down on Enya as an area denial specialist, since one ability punishes players for stepping into an area she’s prepared against them, while this ability removes them from the area completely without necessarily killing them.

Mechanically, it might be interesting to have the ability do more damage based on how far the struck hero travels. So if the hero is hit and then immediately hits a wall, they take a little bit of damage and are pinned (a la getting hit dead-on with Reinhardt’s charge) but if they go a longer distance before hitting a wall, they take much more damage and are THEN pinned. And in circumstances where the arrow hits them, they don’t hit a wall, AND they aren’t carried off the map, then it does enough damage to kill them.

The only thing I feel that Enya is missing is a movement ability of some kind. Hanzo has his wall-climb passive that lets him get up to perches. Widowmaker has her grappling hook to reach higher perches. Because the art depicts Enya on the same elevation as her targets, I like the notion of her being a sniper that stays on the ground (especially since that’s important for her to launch her Q into someone most effectively). What leaps to mind first is something like Disengage, like hunters have in World of Warcraft, where she’s propelled backwards a short distance. That would let her get out of hotspots quickly, and also combo well into her launching her Q into a nearby enemy. Learning how to control a backwards jump properly would contribute to the mastery of the hero.


In terms of providing an alternate to Hanzo that brings a number of different tools to the table, Enya really delivers. Probably the best thing about this design (aside from her art, which has exactly the kind of vibrant color to it that makes Overwatch so bright and hopeful) is that it helps to emphasize that different heroes are going to be more effective at performing certain tasks on maps. Looking specifically at Defense/Snipers, Widowmaker excels at taking advantage of very high positions and getting headshots at the furthest distances. Hanzo excels at taking advantage of mid-height positions, temporarily providing sight on blind spots, and can punish with Scatter Arrow at any range. Enya excels at denying entry at choke points, and aiding takedowns for fleeing enemies, all while being situated on the ground.

Overall, she’s a great design, both in terms of her kit and the wonderful art she’s depicted with. ^_^

Overmix: Timey-wimey spacey stuff

Another prominent art colleague on Twitter, @Frenone, has been kind enough to let me critique her submission for @Ventain‘s contest. So let’s dig in:


Artwork and design credit: @Frenone


  • Role: Defense
  • Quasar Jet: Cygna’s primary weapons are her bracers, which emit high-power jets in opposite directions with high accuracy at middle-long range.
  • Gamma Rays: Cygna emits short-range but high damaging gamma rays.
  • Wormhole: Cygna can briefly warp space-time, creating a wormhole for her team to travel a short distance.
  • Cosmic Cleanse: Cygna can absorb matter from nearby opponents, slowing their speed.
  • (Ultimate) Black Hole: Cygna turns into a black hole herself, pulling all nearby enemies towards her, trapping them in her Event Horizon. Those within short range will be torn apart by the strong gravity.

Frenone also provided a bit of additional context for her abilities on her Patreon.


Role: Assigning her to the Defense role is actually pretty key here, since the big thing about Defense heroes is their function as area-denial specialists. I just wanted to call that out in specific because I don’t think a lot of people grok the notion that punishing the enemy for being in the wrong place is 100% what Defense heroes are about.

Quasar Jets: I asked for a bit of clarification on how these work, since it wasn’t immediately evident from the ability description, and Frenone’s response was this:

So with that in mind, this makes Quasar Jets a VERY interesting skill since you don’t really get to aim the jets; they fire off perpendicular to Cygna, meaning they’re only going to directly hit enemies that are OUT of her field of view, unless they’re right on top of her. Given that they’re also supposed to be accurate at mid to long-range, that means that she’ll threaten more distant targets, but she won’t actually be able to aim at them directly.

Gamma Rays: The idea that Cygna emits a damage aura around herself really doubles down on her as a Defense character, because she specifically makes it bad to be close to her. It also makes it important for her to be closer to the frontline, which among Defense heroes is really only something that Mei does at the moment.

Wormhole: It feels like a big deal to give a hero an on-demand line-of-sight teleporter when Symmetra’s teleporter is still a thing, but if you constrain it to line-of-sight (meaning it would work like Reaper’s teleport) and you constrain it with a reasonably long cooldown (like 10-12 seconds) with a small window for usage (2-3 seconds for folks to run through it, and maybe Cygna doesn’t get to use it herself) then that helps to balance it out. Allowing other heroes on your team to get to places that they generally wouldn’t be able to get to (aka putting Ana on an actual sniper perch) was one of the perks with Mei’s icewall that doesn’t generally get used, so having something purpose-built for that could be awesome.

Cosmic Cleanse: The way the ability is written, I’m not 100% certain if this is intended to be a passive AoE slow or an activated ability. I’m going to angle for “activated ability” because that’s the more balanced option, but also because that’s where Cygna mastery will come into play: using CC on a nearby enemy, forcing them to stay in her gamma ray slow-death bubble, while she keeps murdering them with jet blasts and charging up her Black Hole is going to make her a very brutal Defense hero. To me, that means that Cosmic Cleanse needs to be somewhat difficult to land (or a very close range ability), because if successfully landing it gives Cygna a noticeable uptick in her ultimate charge, getting good at landing it and surviving long enough to pop the ult is going to be a big deal.

Black Hole: Part of the obvious concern with Black Hole is that it feels a LOT like Zarya’s Graviton Surge, since it would effectively draw nearby enemies to a centralized point and deal damage over time to them. A way to avoid that would be to flip the ability on its head: instead of Graviton Surge, Cygna’s Black Hole causes enemies within a wide area (e.g. the size of Mei’s Blizzard) to get snapped on top of Cygna after a short delay, and THEN take a hit of damage from the impact (like a much ruder version of Orisa’s Halt!). The further away an enemy is, the more damage they take.

The key is this: D.va, Winston, and other heroes with big movement abilities can escape Graviton Surge’s draw, avoiding the damage and all the focused fire coming with it. Black Hole would punish players trying to escape more harshly, in addition to drawing them into Cygna’s gamma ray bubble, and if you combine this with other ults that want people in one place at one time (High Noon, Self-Destruct, Graviton Surge, Earthshatter, look it’s a long list) it combos really well.


This is a great kit that draws on some fantastic science. That said, I feel like it almost might be too much: Quasar Jets make her a threat at mid to long range, while Gamma Rays and Cosmic Cleanse make her a big threat in close range, and Wormhole conceivably lets her either close the gap with a hero who has spent an escape already or send an ally after them. And all of this is capped off with Black Hole, which punishes people who are in her general area. She’s a bit TOO powerful in that respect, to the extent that at least one ability would have to get pared off or altered noticeably in order for her to get balanced out. If I had to nominate one, it would actually be Quasar Jets, since that concentrates her threatening range to the space around her, which would then emphasize the black hole motif that she’s all about to begin with.

That still presents some issues: as a Defense hero that focuses on this much area denial, Cygna REALLY makes herself a high priority target for the enemy team to try and take down just as a quality of life measure. Because she’s so concentrated on a short-range area, she won’t have any answers to snipers trying to take her down for exactly that reason (Mei, by contrast, can create cover for herself, has Ice Block as an instant escape/self-heal, and can at least use her RMB to threaten enemies at range). It might swing the pendulum too far in one direction, which is why even without Quasar Jets you’d still need to finesse the total design some more.

I really want to call out Quasar Jets for a moment, because on the one hand, it’s an ability that looks great when you’re looking at Cygna. If she runs up and starts spinning around while spamming that, it just amplifies the notion of her being the center of a ball of death who will ruin the day of anyone who comes up to her. It’s beautiful, and I think it would just be a wondrous site to behold.

What I’m unfortunately stumbling over is the part where a) spinning around while in first person is not going to be something players can sustain and still move with precision on a map in order to avoid incoming fire or effects (aside from whether or not players get sick trying to do it quickly), b) not being able to aim where the shots actually land won’t give the player the visceral feeling of successfully landing shots on targets, and c) as cool as the ability is going to look for other players, I just don’t think it’s going to look good to the Cygna player personally.

Now, all of that being said, this is still a fantastic starting point in terms of developing a kit for a character and getting a sense for what she brings to the cast of existing heroes. I think there’s a way to make Quasar Jets work (perhaps she has a weapon that fires rounds that spawn quasar vortexes on the ground, so the visual of the jets is retained but she still gets the visceraliy of landing shots), but I also think that editing down Cygna’s breadth of abilities would help to concentrate what makes her awesome.

Big kudos to Frenone for giving me permission to critique the design. ^_^

Uniformity and (Un)skilled Labor

It occurred to me while ordering my Sausage McMuffins this morning. The looping video on the menu showed an egg being cracked into a circular frame on a hot griddle to form the egg portion of the sandwich. This wasn’t much of a realization on its own; I’d seen the process and even done it a few times myself. What it connected to, unexpectedly, was the notion of how foolproof it is, and how devious.

The bakery provides sliced muffins, which sit at room temperature in a breadbox. The halves get warmed up in a toaster, or perhaps on the griddle. Stylistic choice, really.

You’re provided a frozen sausage patty, along with a purpose-built microwave that warms the whole thing in a short window of time to a very heavily-researched temperature that a) ensures there are no dangerous microbes, b) will melt the slice of processed cheese to a pleasing degree, and c) will be warm enough to be appetizing to the average consumer.

You’re then tasked with the straightforward duty of cracking an egg into a frame on a pre-oiled griddle, waiting a specified amount of time, and then scooping this cooked egg puck into the prescribed stack of ingredients (muffin bottom, freshly-cooked egg puck, warmed-up sausage patty, melt-ready cheese slice, muffin top) before wrapping it up in paper and dropping it onto the heat racks to maintain that pleasing temperature before the front-side staff package the order and pass it off to the waiting customer.

Once you’ve done this specific procedure a few times, it becomes rote. Automated. The reason machines don’t do the whole job is because it’s cheaper to pay a teenager minimum wage then it is to develop and refine the machine. If it weren’t for child labor laws, you could probably get toddlers to do the work if you were okay putting them in front of a hot griddle, and you could pay the toddler less than the teenager.

The process is so simple because it requires no skill. All it requires is the attention to place Tab A into Slot B, wait X seconds, and then assemble the parts in the right sequence. It is straightforward to teach, and to execute, but most importantly it creates uniformity in the delivered product.

[Now, yes, what complicates the job for line cooks in fast food is that they’re not responsible for making only one sandwich over and over. There are dozens of items on the menu with differing complexities, and then you get into customers making special orders, which drives the complexity up even further. The skill isn’t in the act itself, but the agility of the line cook to call up and execute the right procedure (with the right modifications if necessary) with minimal time wasted. And under no circumstances do I want to get into the debate about how much money this line cook should be compensated for this agility, because that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.]

I want to establish the process to describe its simplicity so that I comment on the uniformity that such a process produces.

You can walk into any McDonald’s anywhere in the US, and the Sausage McMuffin you ask for will be effectively identical. Which in turn means that you can always rely on a McDonald’s to deliver a product with no surprises. You, as the customer walking into a McDonald’s, know what you want, and you will be able to reliably get it.

You don’t have to think about whether the restaurant has something you like on the menu, because you already know the menu. The decision fatigue of the menu is a non-factor.

At the end of the day, fast food restaurants create an environment where you don’t have to think, or more importantly, you can reserve the resources you’d spend on thinking about what to eat for thinking about other stuff instead. But the way that they do this is they remove the innovations involved in the art of cooking SO FAR from the act of cooking that the people creating your product don’t have to think either. The people making your food invest the barest effort they’re allowed to deploy.

In a world where what we eat has such an impact on our wellness, shouldn’t we be thinking MORE about what we eat, not less? If that consequently creates a demand for more people who can spend time innovating in the kitchen, does that not elevate the art and science of cooking?


Lotta thoughts from a bad breakfast.


The Rundown

something something long hiatus, something something new plan. Let’s skip all this for now and focus on what’s up at the moment.

Games I’m Playing

  • World of Warcraft: LEGION – Just joined up with a cool new guild called <smol pupper> on US-Proudmoore-A. Casual raiding with a bunch of ex-hardcore raiders, chill environment, cool people.
  • Final Fantasy Record Keeper – Mobile gacha-style game, totally an indulgence of my Final Fantasy nostalgia. Sadly keeping me from other mobile games right now.
  • Fire Emblem Fates [IN PROGRESS] – I’ve got a lot to say about this game, but I think I need to write a post talking about the FE series here. Bottom line is that I REALLY want to have more knowledge about this series, but it takes some time investment.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End [COMPLETE] – Review forthcoming, even though I know it’s a pretty old game by this point.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn [COMING SOON] – Picked it up, haven’t started it yet, prolly should. ^_^
  • Overwatch (S4 Rank 1862) – Orisa is such a joy to play, but when she’s not working, I can always fall back to D.va. Crow r murdertank. ^_^

Books I’m Reading

  • Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes [COMPLETE] – Again, review is on the way. Easily 9.5/10 though, it was such a pleasure to read.
  • Sabaa Tahir, A Torch in the Darkness [COMING SOON] – The sequel to the above, and planning to eat through it pretty quickly if the first book was any indication.
  • Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows [QUEUED] – Loved the first lines, loved the title, fits with my initiative on reading YA written by women and POC this year, and really looks promising.
  • World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 2 [COMPLETE] – Lots to say about this entry, but it does everything that the first volume did last year with stuff that’s more relevant to the more recent history of the game. Which is fantastic.

Movies & TV

  • Iron Fist [QUEUED] – Been hearing a ton about this that doesn’t fill me with lots of hope, but after Daredevil S1/S2, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, I think something that was less than stellar was kinda due up.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 [DELAYED] – Basically missed the third episode of the season and was never able to catch up with it, so I guess I’m waiting until the season will be fully streamable before we get to pick it up. But dude: GHOST RIDER.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender [IN PROGRESS] – Man this show is a pleasure. Trying to stretch the experience out a bit, even with the second season now available, because I’m remembering how awful it felt to wait on subsequent seasons of Legend of Korra. But MAN is this a great show.
  • Logan: I’ve got a lot to say about this film and the X-men franchise as a whole, but short of all that, this is an excellent, excellent film. Wonderfully acted, invisible effects, and I really want to see Dafne Keen murder people in the future.

Reddit Remix: 3/24/17, Jediwatch

My response:

Reflecting beams: the reason why Genji’s bullet deflection works from a design standpoint is because the trajectory of the projectile is changed from one value to another. That logic doesn’t work for the beam weapons, because they don’t adhere to the same logic. Specifically, Zarya’s beam has a fixed endpoint (reflecting that endpoint somewhere else would just read VERY weird visually), while Symm and Winston’s beams latch onto a nearby target and deal damage while that target is in range.

I could see an ability that spawns an energy singularity that acts as a decoy target for Symm/Winston’s beams and maybe draws Zarya’s beam into it while in range, but that doesn’t mesh with the Jedi kit you’re prescribing here. TL;DR: There’s no way to do a Jedi trick that duplicates Genji’s deflect for beam weapons.

Force Push: I don’t see this being functionally different from Lucio’s RMB or Pharah’s E. It matches the kit, but it’s not particularly unique.

Force Lightning: This could be pretty visually spectacular, and fits the kit. I could see a mechanism where the damage dealt is distributed across enemy targets (aka: the fewer enemy targets, the more damage they take) and perhaps an additional part where allies get a temporary lightning aura that acts like Winston’s beam weapon for a brief period after leaving the Ult area.

Force Jump: I like the idea of being able to do an enhanced jump, but I don’t think it needs to be Genji’s double jump. Maybe holding down SPACE lets you charge up a jump, and releasing it launches you up?

Saber Slash: Short range, fast melee attack, no ammo… nothing wrong with this if you can build the rest of the kit to support it.

Saber Toss: Medium range, deals damage in both directions… I don’t get the self-damage component, that doesn’t make any sense if the weapon flies back to you anyway.

So to review: yeah, all of the abilities generally match a complete kit of replicating a Jedi-like character, but mechanically some of the abilities range from flat-out not working to simply not really bringing anything interesting to the table.

What role were you thinking of? Offense? Defense? That might give some more guidelines on what you want the hero to, which could influence the abilities.

For example, let’s kit this hero out for Defense, meaning that the greater objective is denying an area to the enemy.

  • E: Singularity – Spawns a black hole (fixed location) that draws nearby enemy fire (including beam weapons) into it for 2s. (It’s like a fixed Defense Matrix, but has a shorter duration and can eat beam weapons.)
  • Shift: Vortex – Spawns a wind tunnel in the direction you’re aiming for 5s. Heroes in the path of the tunnel are pushed in the tunnel’s direction. (So aim it up and it can work as a launchpad to move friendly heroes to a higher location, but aim it along the ground and it will push heroes who walk into it away from the source.)
  • LMB: Saber Slash – Melee range, deals aggravated damage to energy shields.
  • RMB: Saber Toss – Mid range, deals damage to targets while in flight.
  • Q: Lightning Field – Short range area around hero deals lightning damage to enemy heroes. Ally heroes in the field gain a lightning damage attack that strikes a nearby enemy within 3s from leaving the field.

This hero operates on area denial by being able to absorb fire using E, move enemies (and/or allies) using Shift, threaten enemies with LMB/RMB at short/midrange, and can turn a chokepoint into a very deadly area using Q. The aggravated damage to energy shields makes the hero especially dangerous to Symmetra and Zarya, but also to Winston’s bubble, Reinhardt’s shield, Orisa’s shield, and enemies defended by Symmetra’s Shield Generator, Zarya’s bubble or Lucio’s ult.

Taken from a high level, it’s like a defense version of OG D.va with a few tweaks and a modified version of Mei’s Ice Wall.

The Lost Drafts: Sheralya and Gram

So way back in the day, I played a lot of Earthdawn with my friends. I came across this piece that I haven’t looked at in years, and realized that it actually tells something of a complete story. As in it’s a complete scene in and of itself. 

That it, y’know, kinda doesn’t suck. So yeah, something decidedly different from the Warcraft stuff that’s usually here, but maybe you’ll enjoy it. ^_^

Gram’s blond hair was held back with a scrap of cloth as he hammered away at the unruly steel. Someday it would be a sword, but Gram knew it would take a lot of work to get it there.

His magic tickled the nape of his neck with the sense that someone bearing steel was drawing close. He looked over his shoulder to see Sheralya pulling aside the canvas that covered the entrance to the makeshift forge. The sound of flapping wings, barely audible over the crackling fire, told Gram that the beastmaster’s owl didn’t like the idea of an enclosed, hot space.

“Everything all right, Sheralya?” He drew an arm across his face to rid himself of sweat, streaking his cheeks with soot.

“All is well. I came to ask a question or two of you, if I may.”

“At your service, m’lady,” Gram said with what he hoped was a charming grin. He hefted the steel hulk from the anvil and made for his cooling trough. ”Let me just put this pig-iron away and…”

“No, please,” she said, “I’ve never seen an Adept of your Discipline work his skill before. Might I watch?”

Gram blinked, but then grinned amiably in response. “Oh, certainly…” He lay the unshaped steel back on the anvil and struck true with his hammer. For some reason, the sound of his tool striking the metal felt infinitely louder. He winced and looked back at the elfin woman, who had found a stool to sit on. “Sorry for, well, the noise…”

She waved a hand to dismiss his words. “Do not worry yourself. Please! I do not wish to distract you!”

Gram nodded sheepishly and set back to hammering.  His growing frustration about the obstinate metal soon absorbed his attention again, as every strike he made seemed to sour the shape of it more than what he intended. After some time, he finally muttered a curse or two and thrust the metal back into the forge.

“The metal troubles you?” Sheralya said from the stool as Gram pulled up another and sat across from her, drawing the scrap of cloth across his forehead. He nodded in reply, trying not to voice his frustration too loudly. He was about to open his mouth to speak to that effect when Sheralya spoke again:

“What does the metal say to you?”

Gram’s head tilted, like when a cat is confused. Sheralya must have understood, as she sat up and continued.

“As a beastmaster, I speak with animals. They do not speak in a language that only beastmasters can hear, but their thoughts, their feelings… I can read those. I think many Adepts speak with their Discipline: Sabree speaks with spirits, Atsuko speaks with the hearts of those who hear him, Seiryuu and Chi speak with the elements. Does a weaponsmith not speak with the material that makes up his weapons?”

Gram shook his head. “I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t believe it works for all kinds of Adepts. What does a thief like John speak with? Ultimately, metal doesn’t have thoughts for me to read. Even an animal has a mind, and has a will, even if it doesn’t have speech. Metal doesn’t have a desire.”

“It doesn’t?” Sheralya looked pensive for a moment. “Part of what a beastmaster does is train animals to perform tricks or tasks. Obviously some animals will be better at certain tasks than others.”

“Well, of course,” said Gram. “You’d send an owl to scout ahead, but you’d ride the thundra beast into battle.”

“But perhaps you might find that unique thundra beast that is skilled with scouting. Or an owl who is fearless and doesn’t shy away from battle. Every animal has a nature of their own, just as people do, just as the world has varied places of varied natures. Why is metal so different? Perhaps you have found metal that does not wish to be a sword, so it resists you.”

Gram looked thoughtful for a moment as the thought rolled about his mind. With a grin, he looked back up at Sheralya and said, “Funny, I thought I was teaching you about my Discipline, but I think you might have told me something even Cesus didn’t know!”

“You have shown me much, my friend.” She rose from the stool, gripping Gram’s shoulder as she did so, and pushed aside the canvas to re-enter the day outside the forge. Gram stood and watched her go, holding the canvas up. He saw the owl flit down and land on her shoulder gingerly.

He chuckled as he let the canvas drop back into the place. Pulling his heavy gloves back on, he picked up the red-hot metal from the coals and set it back on the anvil. With a smile spreading over his face, he regarded the twisted, misshappen steel and said, “so then. What do you want to be?”

Remixing Draenor’s History Part 3

Wanted to call out Cho’gall in particular here. Enjoy.

Cho’gall and the Twilight’s Hammer

The Forgers shaped a great ball of fire and made it into the world. From the clay of that world, they made the ogres, and gave them power over stone and earth. All of the strength and authority of the ogre dynasties throughout the world’s history stem from this single idea: they were crafted in order to rule. It’s something that draws power from the creation of the world itself.

It makes perfect sense that you’d see a counter-culture movement arise that draws power from the end of the world that ogres were intended to rule. It also makes sense that one of the primary tools involved with creation, a hammer, is also closely associated with destruction since it can be employed as a weapon. So to a great extent, the concept of the Twilight’s Hammer existing as a nihilistic fringe group within the great culture of Gorian society makes sense.

(As a side note, it’s notable to point out that the influence of ogre society on the orcs can be easily identified by looking at the Doomhammer. Even if the prophecy around the weapon never turned out to be true, or gets constantly reinterpreted whenever the Doomhammer changes hands, the fact that the apocalypse legends of Draenor center around a hammer, and that orcs would create a legend about a hammer that brings doom, is no coincidence.)

Of course, the Twilight’s Hammer would naturally have to be something that the the ogre dynasties would attempt to quash. Cells would rise up, convinced that they had found access to whatever trigger would bring about the end of the world, and the empire would destroy it. Cho’gall, then, is the latest in a long line of ogre magisters who delved too deep into the maddening secrets of the cult and came out the other side convinced that it was all true. Cho’gall, as a result, turned out to be much more cunning and capable than many of his predecessors, which you can see from his long career.

The key is this: Cho’gall predicted correctly that whatever Gul’dan was doing with his campaign to butcher the draenei, it had something to do with destroying the world. It’s part of why Mar’gok and the rest of “proper” ogre society considered Cho’gall a traitor: he willingly aligned himself with the orcs and essentially advertised that they were going to merrily destroy the world that the Gorians claimed ownership over.

Now the problem is that it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall was working for the Old Gods on Draenor, since he clearly transitioned into working for them on Azeroth after the Second War. Aside from the “ancient and powerful evil” that the Sketh’lon were trying to summon in SMV during BC, and the part where the Pale are speaking something that sounds similar to Shath’yar, we don’t really have overt evidence of the Old Gods on Draenor itself. Volume One of Chronicles helps to explain the diaspora of the Old Gods across the Great Dark Beyond as agents of the Void Lords, but the repeated notions that Draenor is younger than Azeroth and that it hadn’t been struck by any living asteroids of meat make one question how close they got to the planet.

That leaves us in a weird position where yeah, we expect that Cho’gall is working for the Old Gods because that’s what he did all through Cataclysm and the WoW comic series, and because working for Gul’dan’s Horde in the First/Second Wars serves the objective of destroying at least one world… but without any direct evidence to indicate that the Old Gods are actually on Draenor, it’s hard to tell exactly how Cho’gall ends up getting these marching orders in the first place.

The bottom line? Cho’gall was only willing to work for Gul’dan so long as a) it let Cho’gall remain alive to fulfill his goal of destroying everything and b) it granted access to a feasible scenario where Cho’gall got to be at least partly responsible for destroying everything. His cooperation with Deathwing during Cataclysm echoes this sentiment. The fact that he was willing to betray Gul’dan once Cho’gall had gained control of K’ure and the Pale drives the point home that the Shadow Council was always only a stepping stone for him. But what makes Cho’gall wily is the part where he was able to convince Gul’dan that he was loyal and dedicated to Gul’dan and Gul’dan’s goals for years.

Yeah, I know Warlords is old hat at this point but I’m holding out hope that it’s something we go back to someday. And there are a lot of ways to do that, which is why I’m writing all this down. So let me know what you think in the comments.