Cancer, Content Creators, and the Love of Craft

I want to tell you something important about myself, through talking about someone I’ve never met, and sadly never will.

So if you’re not someone who’s immersed in the Warcraft community, you might not have heard of a content creator named HayvenGames. The short version is that he was a young gentleman who had a big interest in illuminating the many mysteries that lay within the data files that made up the worlds that WoW took place in. Put another way, he was a very sophisticated creator of exploration videos, which is a particular brand of WoW machinima that centers on using various methods to show off places in the game that players weren’t normally supposed to see.

Unlike a lot of other exploration video makers, Hayven went out of his way to do this kind of exploration in the name of uncovering the architecture of the world’s design, and didn’t really waste a lot of breath slamming Blizzard. (Side note: many of the early exploration video makers capitalized on using exploits and bugs to access unintended areas. As Blizzard would plug these holes, many of these explorers took it as an affront, but Hayven never did.) Moreover, Hayven did a lot of work to show the evolution of locations in-game, including going back to the RTS games to show how they were presented in 2D.

The guy was an educator. He wanted to show people where the world came from as much as he wanted to show off places that players couldn’t access. And it never appeared to be so much about “five secret places Blizzard doesn’t want you to see” but instead more about “here are places that don’t exist in the game anymore, or were never implemented on player-accessible maps, let’s see how they look.

He struck me as honest, earnest, and heartfelt about showcasing the game, and not about touting his own skills or trying to rub Blizzard’s nose in the fact that the seams of the world could be revealed. He pointed out patterns, like how Farahlon (intended to be post-launch content for Warlords of Draenor, but never completed) ended up presaging how Thal’dranath (intended to be post-launch content for Legion) was eventually cut from the game. This was about helping people to understand that the world of the game didn’t magically come into being, but had to be BUILT, and that sometimes meant compromises or visual tricks or even just dropping areas completely. He never apologized for Blizzard, as he wasn’t an employee and it wouldn’t have been his place to do so, but he also didn’t roast them for those decisions either. They were just a fact of game development, and a fact that he helped bring to light with his work.

Hayven passed away last month, after struggling against epithelioid sarcoma. He was 26. Throughout treatment, he kept creating content, even if it wasn’t at the breakneck pace he’d become known for, and he did everything he could to keep his followers and patrons informed about how he was progressing. However, he went quiet in mid-March, and nothing happened until today, when a new video was posted announcing that he’d passed on.

I had precious few interactions with Hayven over Twitter, but what struck me most about him was that he was someone who had the same desire I had about all of this unused or phased-out content: why was it made? What was the inspiration? The intent? Could it ever see use elsewhere? What does seeing it teach us about the craft of the game world? These are things that are pretty close to the reasons why I’ve been so invested in Warcraft as a universe for so long, and part of why I’ve wanted to get inside Blizzard: I desperately want to show the craftsmanship that goes into this game (and all of their games, really), and showcase the people who made it, and try to teach the real world to understand that it is PEOPLE who makes these games for us, and even if we don’t like how a class got nerfed or how a character got written or how much trash there was or wasn’t in a raid dungeon, we’re all still players who want to play a game together.

Hayven was a kindred spirit in that respect.

There just aren’t enough people who want to speak lovingly of the craft, in order to drown out the people who yell out their hatred, or even their ambivalence. And that’s a sad echo of everything else in the world, is it not?

So raise a glass for this young man, and wish his spirit well.


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

Incoming OverHype: King’s Row, 4/11

Threw something down on BlizzPro today in response to this tweet from the official Overwatch feeds:

Overall, there’s a lot going on here: everything from a new outfit for Tracer to more hints about the ongoing narrative in Overwatch, plus shades of the real-world civil rights movement and the modern struggles of the LGBTQ community, including the legacy of Alan Turing.

Do check it out.

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:, 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. ^_^

Overmix: Taste the Back of My Crystal Fist

Okay, brief backstory: my buddy @Ventain on Twitter decided to run a contest for folks to design their own heroes for Overwatch. Since I’d just spent a bunch of brainspace trying to suss out who the next hero was going to be based on the trickles of information during a brief social media campaign, my creative juices were flowing and I decided to submit. Another artist I follow, @Faebelina, entered as well, and tweeted out her entry, and because I really like this hobby of critiquing OW hero designs from a gameplay standpoint, I asked Faeb if I could post my thoughts up here.

So let’s get started!

Artwork and design credit: @Faebelina


  • Role: Support (Healer)
  • Shard Projectiles: Mira shoots shards from her crystal gauntlet that damage enemies.
  • Healing Aura: Mira’s crystal gauntlet heals allies in a cone in front of her.
  • Crystal Traps: Mira places a crystal trap that effects a small area, healing allies and slowing enemies (3 charges).
  • Diamond Skin: In difficult situations, Mira can coat herself in a shield of diamond to escape, making her immune to damage but also preventing her from using any other abilities.
  • (Ultimate) Prismatic Shield: Mira drops a large crystal creating a prismatic barrier reflecting incoming damage back to enemies for 4 seconds.


Shard Projectiles: Because of the range Mira will be sitting at, and because she doesn’t have any movement abilities, I’m initially thinking that Mira’s primary/secondary fire should allow her to have some ability to threaten targets at a distance. But when you consider that all of the other support-healers have got accurate long-distance threat abilities, there’s value in having a support-healer who is more dangerous up close, especially given her Diamond Skin escape.

So all that said, LMB feels like a crystal shot that fires a projectile similar to Mei’s alt-fire, but with less lead time, less accuracy, and faster reload. Since she will generally be facing her allies in order to heal them, she’s generally going to be spraying into the pack in order to get hits in. I imagine her having a fairly small clip and a moderate reload time, because the idea of her holding up that gauntlet and having it kinda accumulate energy that crystallizes around it sounds pretty awesome visually.

For her RMB, though, I really like the idea of it being a brutal punch with that crystal gauntlet that’s like shotgun damage at close range (consequently requiring her to reload more frequently). Her melee (Mouse4) would still be the slash with that crystal sliver in her left hand, but this RMB hit would just punish anyone who closes with her. Would really diversify her from other healer-supports (aside from Lucio’s boop).

Healing Aura: Depending on the dimensions of the cone, Mira is going to be a fairly mid-line support, which places her close to the pack (like Lucio) but generally not as close as Mercy or as far back as Ana (Zenyatta can be anywhere in LoS after he drops his orbs, so he’s a wildcard). Part of the challenge is going to be how well she can keep a moving pack healed when she needs to be aimed at her allies for her passive healing to work.

Crystal Traps: To an extent, I think you could drop the slow component and just amp up the healing aura around the trap. I say this because when you combine this trap with Symmetra’s turrets (which already slow a target) you’ve basically got a reason for allies to run into Symmetra’s turret nest to get healed (and draw in enemies looking for the kill who then get carwashed). What’s great about dropping these on the payload is that it’ll amp up the passive healing folks get from pushing the payload, which Mira would be sitting behind anyway for cover. It’s a perfect payload-focused build.

Diamond Skin: Part of me sees this as too similar to Reaper’s Wraith Form or Mei’s Ice Block, which makes me want to add a different component to it. Generally speaking, though, a Support who has a get-out-of-death-free card can be really sticky if she’s still got someone else around to heal when the effect ends. There’s probably a need to differentiate it more from Zenyatta’s ult, but it’s a great starting point for an ability. Off the cuff: shorten the immunity time frame, and give her an AoE damage explosion when the ability expires (b/c crystal shards are flying off of her). This doubles down on her being dangerous to have in melee range.

Prismatic Barrier: I love a damage-reflecting barrier, especially since it will straight-up murder folks like Roadhog, Reaper, or Pharah with big AoE damage ults that are hard to aim or cancel. I also love it because it’s a fresh mechanism and those are going to get harder to come by as more heroes get added to the game (though Orisa is a demonstration that you don’t need fresh mechanics to put together a hero, natch).


Mira’s got a wonderful kit to complement her art. She fills a niche of a melee support hero who’s got some tools to survive toe-to-toe against other brawlers, and her ult punishes heroes who fire blindly into it. Drawbacks are that her only escape is Diamond Skin and her ult can whiff if people get wise to the damage reflection, and if her allies are too spread out then her healing is more limited than Lucio’s and she’s got no way to catch up to them.

Overall, that’s exactly the kind of rock/paper/scissors design that works in Overwatch as a game (aka “easy to learn, difficult to master”). This is one of the more grounded and reasonable designs I’ve seen for hero concepts so far, and you can’t beat the kind of heart that Faeb is able to instill in her artwork. So count me as being reasonably pleased with this design; if my own entry in this contest ends up not winning because Mira wins the prize, I ain’t even gonna be mad. ^_^

More Reasons Why Med’an is Awful and Why I’m Glad He’s Gone

Something that emerged from the the WoW Q&A at BlizzCon 2016 was a statement from Alex Afrasiabi that Med’an’s tenure as the Guardian of Tirisfal is no longer canon.

Now I want to clarify a few things here:

  • This, on its own, doesn’t mean that Med’an as a character is no longer canon. Afrasiabi dances around this a bit, but the impression I get is that what’s being retconned here is ONLY Med’an becoming the Guardian, and nothing else. The broad strokes of the comic book story arc focusing on Med’an can still happen even if all of the story’s details don’t happen or happen in an as-yet-undisclosed manner.
  • However, a lot of information has come out since then to indicate that Med’an MIGHT be getting deleted from the canon. Which is why I’m here writing about it, natch.
  • Now, in addition, I’m revisiting this topic because the original is easily the most popular post out of everything I’ve written on this blog, and yes I think the Buzzfeed-esque clickbait title plays a role in that. Sorry not sorry.
  • Final note: yeah I got pretty bombastic and hyperbolic in the original, and while I haven’t really calmed down re: my feelings on Med’an, I still want to be a bit more sober in my speech about him now.

Reason #5: Khadgar

The best place to start with additional reasons why Med’an is awful is by talking about the guy who has most clearly usurped his place in the narrative: Medivh’s former apprentice Khadgar.

Khadgar, both in his original role from the WC2 and The Last Guardian narratives and his resurgence in Warlords of Draenor and Legion, is patently more interesting than Med’an. His past as a nervous young apprentice sent effectively as a pawn of the Kirin Tor to spy on Medivh is already more compelling than Med’an’s contrived childhood.

That’s not to say that Med’an’s background doesn’t have the potential to be a great story. The narrative of a child who is trapped between worlds by virtue of his heritage is a great starting point, but the problem is that a) it’s already been done better with Thrall, and b) the way Med’an was sequestered with only Meryl for contact with other sentient life completely defangs the narrative. If Med’an doesn’t really ever have to confront his nature as an outcast with no tribe to call his own, then it makes his mixed heritage a complete footnote. Put another way, it doesn’t matter that Medivh is his father and Garona is his mother, because his worldview isn’t impacted by his parents being those particular people.

Who are Khadgar’s parents? It doesn’t matter. They’re of no consequence to the story, so they never come up. The fact that Med’an’s parents are characters who are important to the narrative, but whose narratives hardly impact the arc of Med’an’s narrative (his parents could be literally anyone else and it would change his arc very little) just drives home an awful truth: Med’an’s parentage is used as a kludge to artificially make him appear more important to the narrative than he really is.

Khadgar becomes important to the narrative specifically because of what he does, not what he is. He becomes Medivh’s apprentice, learns that his master is responsible for the Dark Portal, and ultimately aids in killing Medivh. He gets his youth stolen from him specifically because Medivh/Sargeras is spiting him for his ingenuity.We care about Khadgar because he did the right thing but paid a price for it. Throughout the Second War and the Alliance expedition beyond the Dark Portal, this mechanism of Khadgar doing the right thing even when he has to give something up for it continues.

Medan, however, becomes important to the narrative specifically because of what he is: a macguffin spawned from two significant characters, someone “foretold by prophecy” to be important. He is pursued specifically because he’s the Special, and he ultimately only succeeds because he’s the Special.

Reason #6: Garona

Something notable about the second volume of the Blizzard/Dark Horse collaboration called Chronicle is that it gives us a pretty good picture of what was going on with Garona, in addition to some clarifications about her nature.

  • She is no longer the daughter of Maraad’s sister. The timeline of Garona’s birth and childhood, and the capture and death of Leran (Maraad’s sister) doesn’t allow her to be born and grow up in time to join the Shadow Council’s shenanigans prior to the First War. So the filial connection with Maraad (used in the comic as a way to give Maraad a reason to drop science on Garona’s origins and guide Med’an) is basically wiped out at this point.
  • While Garona still spends time at Karazhan with Medivh, nothing is mentioned about the notion of a budding romance between them. The omniscient narration of Chronicles allows for information to be skipped over, so there’s room for the two of them to have possibly coupled up at some point, but nothing about Garona producing a child shows up at any point later in the narrative, and her role in the background of the Second War is greatly expanded.
  • Meryl, a key individual for Med’an’s upbringing in the comic, doesn’t warrant a mention in this volume. Khadgar is specified to be the only person Garona trusts, however, so it seems more likely that if Garona DID bear Medivh’s child but didn’t feel confident in caring for that child, it’s Khadgar who most likely would have been trusted with the baby. If this happened, it would likely have impacted Khadgar’s motivations in the later Second War and the Draenor campaign, but nothing about that is changed.

Now again, just because Med’an’s birth isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Principally, what his exclusion most likely means is that he wasn’t relevant to the narratives being told in Vol. 2. Could he become relevant in a later volume? It’s possible, because the narrative space still exists for his conception to take place. But critical details of his background and childhood are missing, which fundamentally alter his interactions with particular characters in the comic.

Reason #7: LEGION & Harbingers

The introduction of the class order halls in Legion brought a veritable TON of supporting characters from the lore of the game out of the woodwork to play supporting roles for the player. Med’an is notably absent from all of these order halls. It could be argued that because his narrative was based on him taking on the magical paths of a bunch of different classes, he doesn’t really fit into one versus another. However, it could also be argued that Med’an, as a cross-class, cross-factional character, would have made perfect sense to involve in the class campaigns or even the Light’s Heart campaign, and yet he’s completely absent.

For an expansion that really plumbed the depths of the game’s history to bring in characters for the class narratives, Med’an’s absence speaks volumes. He’s a character that SHOULD be involved if Blizzard wants him to have any relevance going forward, and yet he’s nowhere to be seen.

What’s more, you’ve got the Harbingers animated short that focuses on Khadgar, which was released as part of the lead-up to Legion‘s release.

Something specifically called out by Khadgar during his interactions with “Medivh” is that the Council of Tirisfal shut down the Guardian role following Medivh’s downfall, specifically because that much power residing in one person was a terrible risk. This position would essentially undo the entire Guardian narrative that was the foundation of Med’an’s powercreep in the comic: namely, that his nature as Medivh’s son and his heritage as an orc/draenei/human hybrid made him well-suited to wielding all the various colors of magic that he got from the New Council of Tirisfal, which Khadgar condoned but did not join.

Why I’m Glad This Kid Is Out

When you put all of these details together, combined with all of the glaring flaws of the World of Warcraft comic series that I called out in the original, what you’ve got is a situation where Blizzard seems to be very quietly shuffling Med’an off the canon history of Warcraft.

I, for one, am most pleased. This whole project has been about discussing that Med’an is superfluous at best and damaging to the canon’s integrity at the worst. While I always struggle with situations where a piece of work has to be decanonized, I think in this case I’m okay with cutting off the warped, unrecoverable branch that Med’an represents on the overall tree of Warcraft lore.

Of course, if anything about Med’an shows up (either cementing his removal from the canon or the unlikely event that he shows up again) I’m certain to write more about it here, so stay tuned. ^_^

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.