The Angel of Verdun and Drawing Styles

October 7, 2014 at 11:10 am | Posted in Art post, Article | Leave a comment

sketch-vrataskiI recently caught up to the rest of the world and watched Edge of Tomorrow, then promptly read the manga it was based on, All You Need is Kill (which I assume is a grammatically awkward yet appropriate play on “All You Need is Love”). I enjoyed both renditions of the story, although the manga’s ending kind of sticks with you longer because of the twist. In any case, I felt compelled to sketch up my interpretation of Rita Vrataski while on the train home from work. I preferred Emily Blunt’s older, toned-yet-graceful appearance as a believable basis for the character.

For most of you, I’m known for drawing hyper-cartoonish characters with big eyes and heads and stubby fingers and limbs. For some, it might surprise you to hear that I only started drawing this way when I started Durdling Around. I don’t know why I decided to stick with it, but I know it started with Tezzeret, Agent of Cups. That it got such a positive reception was likely no small factor, and despite how crude the artwork looks to me today, I’m still really happy with the execution of that comic.

My natural style is much more of this gritty, sketchy manga-ish look. If I’m drawing to pass the time on the subway or to unwind, I’ll sketch out character designs in this style. I never really see myself as an actual comic artist (i.e., an artist who draws comics), rather an artist who draws portraits and character designs in a comic-y style. That makes Durdling Around some kind of happy miracle, as I otherwise would never have drawn comics for this long.

The three-colour dilemma in cube (plus Khans hype!)

September 30, 2014 at 11:11 am | Posted in Article, cube, mtg | Leave a comment

I’m so hyped for Khans, I’m going to start this post with my top 5 hyped Khans cards for my cube:

Honourable mention: Wedge tri lands!

  1. Savage Knuckleblade: I have high hopes for this 3-drop. Good shard/wedge aggro cards are hard to find.
  2. Surrak Dragonclaw: For all the changes I’ve made to improve aggro, this guy is a gift for the control decks.
  3. Butcher of the Horde: Mardu isn’t drafted all that much; I hope cards like this guy will change that.
  4. Bloodsoaked Champion: Insane 1-drop for Bx aggro.
  5. Ankle Shanker: C’mon, it’s ANKLE SHANKER!

Now the meat of the post:

Frontier-Bivouac-MtG-Art-300x300Over the years spent refining the KaleidoCube, I’ve found the shards and wedges to be especially awkward to manage. In Constructed, hitting a Sprouting Thrinax or Sedraxis Specter on turn 3 wasn’t really an issue since you could run playsets of dual lands and tri lands to your heart’s content. It’s a little different in cube because your drafters are all scrabbling for singletons of multicolour-producing lands. Even in my cube, in which I’ve included a disproportionate number of multicolour lands, consistently hitting XYZ on turn 3 is not a firm reality, and my drafters value shard/wedge cards lower because of this (except the one player who consistently takes Cruel Ultimatum no matter what – you know who you are).

Even with the reduced power level of my cube compared to other cubes, CMC 3 cards costing XYZ are a luxury most players cannot afford to draft highly. None are really good enough to draft early over, say, a mana fixer or a sweeper, and so they are usually drafted late, or in the worst cases, not at all. I’ve found only the Woolly Thoctars and Rhox War Monks, the cards with massive upside, are even worth the effort. Charms have to provide enough utility or “punch” to be worth maindecking. Providing three sideboard-specific effects doesn’t really cut it.

surrakThe silver lining to the tricolour section is that I don’t feel beholden to adhere to strictly equal portions, because they will influence the construction of someone’s draft deck much less than guild cards. Some combinations, such as Jund, are clearly deeper than others, and so I don’t feel terrible about giving those deeper shards/wedges a little more room to play. It’s about giving people the cards they want to play.

(SIDENOTE: I’ve especially found 1XYZ cost cards to be even more awkward to cast and play. The extra turn up from 3 gives the player more time to hit all three colours, but oftentimes the cards are far below the expected power level in comparison to the hoops you have to jump to cast them. Even when you have a mana dork, mana ramp spell or Signet on turn 2, there are few of these cards worth powering out opposed to a 2XY spell like Falkenrath Aristocrat or Loxodon Hierarch. Or Huntmaster of the Fells. Or Exava. You get the picture.)

In a perfect world for my cube, aggro, control and midrange would all be equally viable to play and comparable in power to one another. Aggro, however, requires low-casting cards, and the multicolour ones are just simply harder to play early on. I think once I solve the problem of mana fixing for aggro without incidentally making control even stronger by offering them the same fixing, I think I’ll have hit a happy medium.

Path of Exile and the Worst Barrier Ever

September 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Article, gaming | Leave a comment

poeAs a Filthy Casual, I’ve been playing Path of Exile (POE) on and off since it went into open beta a couple years ago. Back then, I thought the game was fun but not really more fun than Diablo 3, and over time, as the game developed and became more polished, it grew on me.

For the world-weary D3 veteran, the philosophy of creator Grinding Gear Games is a breath of fresh air. The intricacies of character building and development, and skill gem management, with all its unforgiving glory, resemble Diablo 2 more than D3 does. Twice-monthly patches, regular expansions and periodic ladder races are all things that the D3 player wanted, but never got. These guys got it. It made things fun.

Despite this, my Filthy Casual nature ensured that up until a few weeks ago, none of my characters ever got past level 50 (endgame characters usually run around the 75-85 mark). This changed when the latest expansion, Forsaken Masters, was released. You can now create a hideout! And decorate it! And have buddies that can help you craft gear! For a game that’s free to play, this is a wealth of content. (The game is funded by cosmetic and utilitarian microtransactions such as glowy sword effects and increased inventory space.)

My newest character, a Witch named Tesserai, is now top dog in my roster at level 67. She’s at the very end of the final act of the hardest difficulty, which means she’s on the cusp of starting endgame content. And here is where the barrier arises.

I’ve been playing solo pretty much the entire time, using only gear I’ve found or crafted myself. While I am still progressing, I’m doing so at a much slower rate, due to me dying more than before (like in Diablo 2, you lose 10% XP with every death on the hardest difficulty). Part of this is me occasionally brain farting; the other part is that my gear is woefully outdated.

Enter the POE economy. There is no gold in POE; only crafting materials that double as commodities in a worldwide barter-style market. Some are rarer than others; you can trade up or down, but there is no standardized currency and the market values are constantly fluctuating. As well, there is no true in-game market for easy access to people who have what you want. There are external websites that attempt to fill this void, but it is a clunky and unintuitive process to get involved.

Some people obviously love this. You can get “rich” by playing this market the same way you can turn a profit by flipping cards in MTG. But I, being a Filthy Casual, have no time or inclination to take part. I want to trade for better gear to progress faster, but I have to jump through so many hurdles to do so.

The highlight of the now-defunct D3 auction house was the power of its search system – you can find whatever you want through a series of (albeit clumsily-implemented) parameters. There is an external website for POE traders, but it’s not nearly the same as an in-game system. If I could find traders and listings in-game for items I wanted, that would be the cash-money. But I can’t. And although it is clever and challenging, the POE endgame is intimidating and esoteric enough without requiring a significant time investment just to find new gear upgrades.

140912 POE assetsMaybe what I’m getting at is that the POE endgame is too casual-unfriendly. Or, as an aspiring curmudgeon, I don’t like interacting with people in-game. As my progress continues to slow, so will my interest in the game. Grinding safe zones just to not die because my gear is subpar isn’t my ideal scenario of fun.

Progression or not, I will likely still play POE on and off. There’s a roguelike aspect to the game in trying to see just how far your characters can level before POE just crushes you with its endgame, and trying new characters to do so – this, I find, is something that Diablo 3 lacks.

Or maybe I just need to pray extra hard to RNGsus for new gear. Maybe that will work best.

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