Month: September 2013

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2013

Wondering what that dragon’s head is doing over on the right? Well, I haven’t become a dragonslayer just yet, eager to show you the latest victim of my hunt. Nope, dear readers, it’s just a way of signaling my participation in this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative. Brought to life last year by Syp from Bio Break, NBI gives new video game bloggers a chance to bask in the glory and experience of experienced bloggers, while also receiving some extra attention from these grizzled veterans. It’s a win-win situation: the old ones get to show off their battle scars, while those “kids” get a soapbox to stand on, showing off their opinion.

Though this blog isn’t really new, I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to blogging, so the NBI seems like just the thing I need to learn from the big boys. So, expect a boost in posts the coming month, as I will be prepping for NaNoWriMo while also keeping up with the NBI.

October’s gonna be awesome. Busy, but awesome!

Pauper: stomping around with Stompy

rancor magic the gathering

Since the day I held my first Magic cards in my tiny, pre-pubescent hands, I had a weakness for the color green and big, bad creatures. Wait, let me correct the latter one: I had a love for seemingly tiny critters who would turn into unstoppable powerhouses at my command. Back then, I had assembled a Spike deck, revolving around the +1/+1 counters being moved from one Spike to another, creating some massive slug-like creatures. It was awesome when I stomped my brother with 8/8 monstrosities. Rancor helped making that possible and for that, it will forever have a special place in my heart.

Pauper allows me to give Rancor another go with the oh so popular Stompy deck. Playing Stompy revolves around playing tiny creatures and injecting them with stuff like the aforementioned Rancor or Shield of the Oversoul, turning them into formidable foes. However, it doesn’t stop there. Instants like Groundswell and Gather Courage give your servants that final boost, overrunning your enemy’s creatures with all the force green commons can muster.

When I put it like that, it sounds like playing Stompy doesn’t require much finesse. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a format where decks like Delver have ways to ignore your creatures completely, simply rushing for another way of winning, leading your mob to victory is tricky. The cards in your deck allow you only limited immunity against creature removal. Sure, you can pump up your creatures to survive removal like Lightning Bolt, but hexproofing them against anything else is hard. That’s why tactical use of Vines of Vastwood and your ever so handy Silhana Ledgewalker is so important. Buff up that Ledgewalker, annul your opponent’s removal and sweep in for some killing blows.

I’m still rounding out the deck, but so far, I’m satisfied with it. Granted, my lack of skill and control of this deck has resulted in quite some losses, but every game teaches me something new. Soon, I’ll stomp them. I’ll stomp them all.

Chin out!

NaNoWriMo: preparing for the madness

Hey kids, September’s almost over! You know what that means? Yes, October is almost upon us! And you know what that means? It’s almost November! November, the month of pre-Christmas madness, transitional shitty weather and, most importantly…NaNofrickingWriMo!

Last year, I participated in this month-long write-a-thon, blindly writing a story of at least 50,000 words. The end result, a sci-fi supernatural action story dubbed “Warlox” is still haunting my Google Drive, I haven’t done anything with, but the fact I got myself to write more than 50,000 worth in just four weeks is something I’m really proud of. This year, though, I want to raise the bar. This year, I’ll do this right. I won’t just blindly rush into the jungle that is writing. I will draw my map, set my course towards a firm plot, and fight my way through the constricting vines of plotholes, the dangerous Mary-Sue-Beasts, all the way to the hidden shrine of that total word count.

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Pauper: playing Magic without going broke

pauper magic vincent van gogh

“The Pauper, reimagined” by Vincent van Gogh and yours truly.

Some time ago, I wrote about my return to the hobby of Magic: the Gathering. Sadly, since my posts, the amount of games played has crashed to zero. The reasons? A lack of players and other financial priorities. Yep, guys and gals, Magic: the Gathering is a pretty expensive hobby if you want to keep up with other players, and I’d rather spend my money on things like food instead of cardboard. Though a few cards of Magic would probably fill my stomach as well, they are a pain to eat and not really nutritious.

Anyway, I still have the urge to throw down cards and pretend I’m a badass planeswalker, and so I found an outlet in Magic: the Gathering Online (or just MtGO). While that game allows me to play with a truckload of other players from all over the world any time I want to, I still have to pay money for the cards. This time, they aren’t even made of cardboard, but of bits and bytes! I can’t eat bits and bytes!

Luckily, a friend of mine introduced me to the funky format known as Pauper. In Pauper, you build a normal deck, but you can only use common cards. In other words: you can only use the cheap cards nobody wants (alright, that’s an exaggeration). Even better, the format has been recognized by Wizards of the Coast and boasts an active and ever-growing community of players. Playing Magic without going bankrupt? Can this be true?

Yes, it can be true. Over the past weeks, I’ve been test-driving my first version of a green Stompy deck, and I’m surprised by how cool games with only commons can be. I’m getting my butt handed to me by some wicked awesome decks, and it’s good to see that Pauper recquires the same fine-tuning and tactical thinking as other, more famous formats. Also, playing this format saves my bankroll and allows me to take the lady out for dinner more ocassionally.

Thank you, Pauper, for not making me eat cardboard.

Legend of Korra Book Two Premiere: what worked and what did not

korra season 2 episode 1 2

WARNING: THIS POST HAS MASTERED ALL FOUR STYLES OF SPOILER-BENDING!

Being treated to not just one but two episodes at the start of a new season is somewhat standard procedure these days, but it still surprised me when Nick decided to give us that extra bit of material last Friday. Nevertheless, I’m here to talk about the opening episodes of season two of Legend of Korra. Previously, I wrote about my wishes for this season, and I’m glad to see that at least two things of my wish list have been adressed already. Still, I can’t just sing praise about the first chapters of the new book, so I’ll be telling you what worked and didn’t work so far (at least from my point of view).

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My wishes for the next season of Legend of Korra

korra

Friday is September 13. Friday the 13th…hmm, usually, that means bad things are gonna happen. It’s a day where you’re supposed to evade black cats, ladders and other bad omens. This year, though, it can’t be that bad, since it will be the day the second season (or “book”) of Legend of Korra will air on Nickelodeon!

I’m a big fan of everything related to Avatar, so you can imagine I’m hyped for the start of the new season. However, the first season had some issues. Minor issues, to be honest, but issues nonetheless. That’s why I’m giving you my top three wishes for Legend of Korra: Book Two – Spirits.

Number 3: An in-depth exploration of the Spirit World
The Last Airbender did have its share of scenes in the Spirit World, but for a job that involves keeping the balance between both worlds, Aang didn’t wander off that often into this weird land of dreams and illusions. A shame, since I love the entire art and design of it. Luckily, the name of Book Two of Korra’s tale is “Spirits”, so there’s got to be some action in the other world! Considering Korra’s rash and fiery nature, I’m curious to see how she interacts with the spirits, and if we might learn more about the origin of bending and the role the spirits play. It would surely give some depth to the setting, and take the story to another plane of existence.

Number 2: Less love triangle
Don’t get me wrong, I love drama and emotion as much as any other fan of a good story, but the love triangle between Mako, Asami and Korra felt rather annoying to me. It didn’t add that much to the characters, and felt more like the writers thought that it was just necessary to have Korra go through some “girly feelings”. The rushed pacing of the episodes didn’t help here either, and so I felt like the relationship between the three couldn’t receive the time it deserve. So when I say I want to see “less love triangle”, I actually mean “less cheap, boring love triangle without any meaning to the plot”.

Number 1: Comic relief Bolin
Okay, I get it, every show needs a comic relief character. The Last Airbender had Sokka and the animal sidekicks for that, and Legend of Korra is using Bolin. However, there’s a difference between a comic relief character that does something, and one you only have for shits and giggles. Bolin, sadly, belongs to the second category. Once you’re past the first three episodes, Bolin has devolved from a cool, somewhat awkward earth-bender to nothing but the amusing sidekick of the group. I might exaggerate a bit here, but occasionally, I could take Pabu more seriously than Bolin. Either Bolin has some major character development early in the second season, or I really wouldn’t mind if Amon would just blood-bend him out of the show.

So that’s my top three wishes for the upcoming season. You agree? You don’t agree? No matter, leave your comments below and geek out with me when the first episode of Book Two airs coming Friday!

Chin out.

P.S.: Though he didn’t make it into my top three, I hope we see some more of foaming mouth guy. The show would be nowhere without him.

foamy mouth guy avatar

The endgame that (possibly) is no endgame

Above is the tweet I received from ANet after tweeting about the fact that I’ve achieved level 80 on my brave Charr Elementalist Akinja. Though it might sound silly, hitting the level cap in a MMO that isn’t World of Warcraft is something entirely new for me. As the experience bar approached the end, I was feeling anticipation building up in me. Then, everything went so fast: I walked right into a chain of events, and while fighting together with four other people somewhere in the Bloodtide Coast, the golden bar reached the other end of the screen and I saw the words “Level Up!” appear above my character. I had finally made it. The leveling process was over, and I could start…

Hang on there…why am I already collecting experience for the next level? Is there a next level? The GW2 Wiki clearly states that the maximum level is 80. Why do I still gather experience?

Well, turns out that you’re never truly done leveling in this game. The moment you hit 80, nothing tells you to dive into some raid or high-level dungeon. If you want to, you can just continue what you’ve been doing for the past eighty levels: explore the world, help people and just be heroic. No ones forcing you to do anything new now. Relax, and choose what you want to do!

It’s hard to explain how this realization has blown my mind. I knew that Guild Wars 2 approaches the endgame differently, but knowing that I don’t have to participate in some gearing treadmill, running through the same dungeon every week while praying to the RNG gods, was a big relief, almost akin to an epiphany. Truly, I’ve been playing the endgame since I started playing the game, seeing how the two are not different from each other. But…does that mean that there is no endgame?

When ANet promised to deliver a different type of MMO, I thought it was just marketing bollocks. Seeing how I’m enjoying this non-existent endgame right now, I think they might have been telling the truth.

Damn you, ANet, for making me enjoy an endgame that might not even exist!

About teachers

zenpencils teacher

Art by ZenPencils

I’m not a teacher.  I tried to be one. A year of my life, I spent trying to become a history teacher. I loved the historical part of it, but I found out that teaching teenagers is hard. Really hard.

Really, really hard.

Since then, I’ve lived with the feeling that teachers do not receive the respect they should get. Many people live under the impression that teachers simply sit in front of a classroom, work through their plan and enjoy long holidays. When I listen to some people who know nothing about the profession, it sounds like only lazy or unambitious people decide to take up the educating mantle. Such words often come from the lips of those who have never seen a classroom from the other side of the desk, and who see their own office jobs as far superior.

As a non-teacher, and inspired by this brilliant comic over at ZenPencils, I want to voice my support for all the teachers out there. Whoever you are: thank you.

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Knowing your limits

A week ago, I went to the doctor because I thought I was having a heart attack.

Woah, calm down! I’ m fine! Really! It turned out to be a strained muscle in my chest, combined with dizziness caused by the weather swings we had back then. What was even more interesting than my trip to the doctor’s office that day was the talk I had with the doctor’s assistant. Since the doctor herself was far too busy with other patients, her assistant was taking my blood pressure and ECG. Once it turned out those were fine, she asked me a few questions about my life.

Do I work? Well yeah, fortunately enough I’m full-time employed, doing a job I really enjoy.

Do I work out? Sure, three times, sometimes even four times a week at my BJJ dojo, with the odd running session in between.

Do I have other hobbies?  I told her about my blog, my gaming habits and my need to stay on top of the info-iceberg related to all my interests.

Am I in a relationship? Yes, since more than a year with the greatest girl on Earth.

By this point, I was starting to wonder about all these questions. I could understand her interest in my physical activities, but her verbal barrage was starting to delve into more private things. Granted, I do not mind telling my doctor’s assistant about such matters, but I was getting curious about it. So, when the assistant gave me a moment in between her questions, I asked her why she was so interested.

Apparently, she thought that the chances that I would be the victim of a heart attack were really low. However, judging from what I told her, she felt that I might just be working myself towards a physical and mental burnout. Though she noticed my smile when the word “burnout” was dropped, she advised me to take her warning seriously. I would not be the first Twentysomething who thought he could take on the world, just to hit the wall a few years later. Given the serious look on her face, I nodded and told her I would ponder her advice. I thanked her for her help, thanked my body for not getting me into the hospital, and left.

Well, the assistant got me thinking. Maybe it is a problem of us young, ambitious people that we do not know our limits. We like to do as much as we can, savouring every minute of our life to the fullest. We’re young, have an income and start to realize that we’re growing up. We’re not yet ready to be really mature, so we do keep on living like we’re fifteen without a care in the world. And that might just be the problem.

It’s hard to grasp, but being 24 is different from being 18. Though I don’t feel like I have much weight on my shoulders, I have a lot more on there than when I was a teenager. I guess I’m not the only young adult who underestimates the duties and tasks that come with being independent. Among all these fine bloggers here, I think there are many more like me who try to combine a full-time job and family with their writing ambitions. To all you great people I say: know your limits.

Really, just know your limits. It’s okay to surpass them once in a while, but know when enough is enough. Take care of yourself.

I’m thankful that my body decided to send me to the doctor’s for this little lesson. I’ll surely keep an eye on my limits, so this won’t be my last post. Oh no, this will surely not be my last post…

Signed,

Chin