Thursday, May 31, 2012

"To The Death"


As part of the comic book independent study I talked about in a previous post, I put a couple of the characters I created into action. Years later, I put them in my novel and gave them a story. At the time, I just liked how they looked and wanted them fighting.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

D3 Forum Fights Turn Into Generational Feud

While patch day comes to a close, supposedly, the forum fights over at Diablo 3 are as livid as ever and quite enjoyable. I just read a wonderful thread from a player that claimed youngsters (everyone under 40) are spoiled brats with entitlement issues. He referred to the community as a cesspit. After making assumptions about faceless, nameless players, their ages, and personalities, he closed his angry rant with an Edmund Burke quote about patience--absolutely delightful.

Responses like, "Get off my lawn!" gave me a laugh. It's good to see generational battles and cursing over video games, merely proving that old and young alike care about the state of our hobbies, good or ill depending who you ask. I can't say it proves much else. Unlike what the OP claimed, I don't think what a Diablo 3 poster says about the game on the Internet represents society as a whole.

It does leave me wondering if there has ever been a generation that didn't think less of youth. I'm sure the "Greatest Generation" was none too pleased with Baby Boomers while the Baby Boomers frowned at Generation X, and X hates Y. I'm part of Generation Y and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't annoyed by the young people at the bar on Saturday; one in particular that called me a gross, old man when I pointed out to my friend, who was hitting on her, that she was in diapers when we were in 7th grade. I thought it was a funny bit of truth. Also, my friend is six months younger than me with a girlfriend and child so take from that what you will...

Anyway, all the blame always seems to trickle down, which is ironic, when you consider each generation that follows is raised by the ones complaining about them. It does beg the question: will there ever be a time of mutual respect for old and young or are generational battles simply an integral part of society, something that has always happened and always will happen? My grandparents said youth had no respect for adults, referring to my father's generation. My parents say the same about my older brother and sister's generation and to a degree, my own, and I've caught myself saying the same already.

It might just be an unbreakable cycle.

Also, if anyone is interested in seeing true gamer rage, this is the thread to read:

http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/5271784549?page=1

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Merc"


Sketched this merc while drinking on Memorial weekend. I plan to draw him over in pencil...when I'm not hungover.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Leaf"


As an assignment for Drawing From Nature my sophomore year of college, we had to take a single leaf, use three parts of its composition, and turn it into an 18x20 drawing. This is what I ended up with, and what I find interesting is that this is prior to my usage of shading, so all the lines are crisp yet basic. Though I like the guy in the bottom righthand corner, if I drew him now he'd look a lot more detailed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

State of WoW (Spoiler Alert)

As World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion comes to end, I find myself not as interested in the game as I used to be. It really left a bad taste in mouth, and my continued playing of the game hinges on the enjoyment, if any, I get from the fourth installment, Mists of Pandaria.

While it's possible my lack of interest is because I've played for so many consecutive years and the game has run out of surprises, I think what really has me contemplating quitting, besides linear questing and forced or phased grinds, is the declining story.

For Mists to keep me as a subscriber, I'm going to need a major faction war with racial leaders on the front lines rather than hiding in their capitols. Class changes, talent/glyph revamps, fancy mounts, dailies, and new zones isn't going to cut it this time around. I need more than a few laughs and a handful of cutscenes. Part of the reason Wrathgate is my favorite scene in the game is the betrayal of the Forsaken.

While we've been told the final raid is going to be in Orgrimmar and the expansion is centered around the Horde/Alliance conflict, I haven't really seen it so far in Beta testing. There have been a couple of solid quest chains (scouting Jade forest with SI:7, which included controlling a sniper, setting up command posts in Kun-Lai Summit, and trying to keep an eye on Anduin Wrynn), but most of the questing is about the Pandaren.

I do enjoy what the Horde and Alliance presence has done to Pandaria: Sha and Mantid have returned in force after 10,000 years, Yaungol, a yak-like species of Tauren, as well as the Zandalari Tribe have invaded Kun-Lai. Lots of Pandaren die, some more poignantly than others, and their only defensive force is the Shadow-Pan's ninjas.

However, it's not enough. If Mists is truly centered around the faction war, Blizzard needs to show it from the beginning and throughout. Known characters such as Mekkatorque, Velen, Sylvanas, Vol'Jin and company need to be active. Horde's story could easily start to resemble a Game of Thrones plot as the leaders vie for Warchief, and the unstable, disjointed Alliance could actually get their act together and stand their ground.

Scenarios would be the perfect opportunity to incorporate the faction leaders. They could be used to further the story in the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, trying to put an end to the power struggle within their own factions as well as the war, at all costs. There's no reason for Blizzard's writers to keep fan favorites as idle as they have, especially when each character is equally capable of valorous or sinister deeds.

By patch 5.1, if faction leaders aren't in scenarios or landing on the beaches of Pandaria, I will probably, though reluctantly, say goodbye to World of Warcraft.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Monkey"


Another sketch I found in my notebook from college. This might have been from my Animal Drawing class I took junior year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Jensen Hawke"


This is a sketch of my main character. I found him in an old notebook I had my senior year of college.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Bishop Glauss"


This is a foul-mouthed mercenary from the novel I've been writing. I drew this for an independent study I did in college, which involved creating comic book characters and then putting them in action/fighting poses. I liked the look of Bishop so much I stuck him in the fantasy/sci-fi stories I began writing.

Also, this is a recent lesson in why I no longer use ink. Ten years old, tucked in my portfolio, and the ink has turned yellow. I had to tinker with photoshop and exposure to get it back to the dark lines and shading it once had...as best I could.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Injured Wing

I finished my weekly routine of mowing the lawn, doing the trim, and raking, when I entered my garage and a bird flew by my head. The poor guy flew into the window on the door, dropped to the ground, and hopped away. From a short distance, I followed the bird to the end of the driveway as it skittered under a couple parked cars.

I really wanted to make sure it was okay, but when I got near, the bird squawked to high hell, and I probably looked silly trying to tell it to relax. I'm pretty sure my cougarish neighbor across the street, who watched from her porch, thought I was talking to myself.

Eventually, the bird scampered into a prickly hedge. I crouched and looked in, trying to gauge the bird's injury. Though flapping, I think its wing was injured but didn't seem to be broken. Upon inspection, the bird was young; its neck was a bit ruffled with small, gray feathers.

While a sunny day, it's a bit of a bummer to see an animal suffer an injury and not be able to do anything to relieve its pain. I'm just hoping the bird gets airborne before a neighborhood cat, dog, or the local fox I've seen in the yard catches wind of a potential meal.

The fox worries me the most. One time, I discovered the hind legs of a squirrel, still hairy, attached to a bare, gnawed spine. Come to think of it, the squirrels in the yard are nonexistant these days when there used to be several of them.

I guess in an instance like this, I just have to let nature run its course and hope the bird lives to fly another day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Early Thoughts On Diablo 3

Length and replayability is something I look for in a game, and Diablo 3 lacks neither. As a completionist that explores every corner of a map and repeats areas for as many achievements as possible, Act 1 of Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo 3 took me over 20 hours to complete. If all 4 acts take me as long, I'm looking at roughly 80 hours per class to finish the game (5 classes puts me at a total of 400 hours), though a person going from point A to point B could easily finish 6 to 10 hours, then take on nightmare, hell, inferno difficulty levels. Once reaching level 10 on a chartecter, they could also start hardcore mode, where dying is permanent. If you think about replay for loot, upcoming pvp, and achievement grinding, that's a lot of time.

While I've heard complaints in general chat about D3's graphics, I'm enjoying them. There are stylized, inky textures and scenery strewn with corpses. It's very atmospheric, whether in a pool of light with spiders of all sizes creeping around you in the dark or exploring a desert that kicks up sand. The two cinematics I've seen so far are amazingly detailed, to the point I stopped to wonder and be sure the rendered characters were not real actors. I must admit, however, graphics are not my main concern in a game; I still play Ms Pacman with as much enjoyment as I did growing up.

How a game plays is more important to me, and vaulting on my Demon Hunter over zombies while shooting midair is a seamless enjoyment. Creatures burst from walls and out of the ground, some crawl out of molten vents and remain on fire; they explode and splatter, sometimes spilling guts that include more monsters to kill. They hiss and die with gurgles. The appearance of carnage matches the speed of the controls. Walking around, you can expect to be jumped by a horde of evil beings at any moment, and maneuver around easily as you put them down in droves.

The controls are basic with attacks bound to the mouse as well as numbers 1-4 on your keyboard. Normally, a categorized type of attack is lock to a specific key, but in elective mode (I recommend this), you can bind any attack to any button, giving you the freedom of deciding how you want to play your class. With each level gained, you unlock more and more abilities, runestones to change those abilities, and passive abilities, and you can also equip and train a follower (templar, enchantress, scoundrel) in a similar, minimized manner. I find myself debating what abilities to choose and their bonuses every time I level, because every choice literally alters the tactics for taking out monsters, and the higher level you are, the more choices you have.

If I have any complaints, it's been the occasional lag that has resulted in death. I have an older PC and multiplayer is so choppy I prefer to solo. I can't imagine attempting hardcore either, until the servers are a bit more stable. Dying because of a mistake is a lot easier to deal with than dying because the game froze while besieged by hell's minions.

Also, my monitor is small. It's 20" and even if I wear my glasses, I have to squint to read chat. It gave me a headache last night, and I have yet to find an option to increase its size (that's what she said). It seems a minor complaint, but I find it almost inexcusable to not have UI preferences as varied as talent options at this stage of online gaming, especially a dungeon crawler centered around player interaction that makes chat necessary.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Forum Squabbles Over Diablo 3

Over the past couple days I've done a bit of gaming, more than usual, because of the release of Diablo 3. I received my copy for free as part of the World of Warcraft Annual Pass. Having past experience with the release of other online games/expansions, I knew what to expect at launch: a lot of crashes and server downtime. It's to be expected with millions of gamers around the world logging in simultaneously.

While D3 is offline this morning for maintenance I flipped through a few threads on its forum. I'm pretty entertained by grown men throwing tantrums publicly, and there's over 500 pages of it to go through. There's a lot of rants, cursing, threats to quit/boycott/sue Blizzard Entertainment. The best part is that it's divided into complainers and people complaining about the complainers, which makes everyone angrier.

For some gamers, Diablo 3 is everything to them right now. It's consuming every waking thought. They've been thinking about playing for years, awaited its released, and are chomping at the bit to level their character, explore, or start hardcore mode, where you create a character and if that character dies, you can never use it again.

Basically, for some Diablo fans that hold this franchise above the rest, this is their Avengers, and you can imagine what would happen if you went to see the Avengers movie and it cut out every five minutes or you were asked to wait in the lobby for a day. While I see both sides of the argument about this release (I think it was butchered) I'm also not one to start yelling that the sky is falling or making threats. Diablo 2 came out over a decade ago and is still played today. If that stands true for its successor, then I believe there's plenty of time left to enjoy myself and for Blizzard to fix the game's flaws.

In the meantime, I'll sip my coffee and keep an eye on the forum fights.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Pino"


Pino is a character from the novel I've been working on for a few years. He's a Tengu in raven form (notice the beak).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stir Crazy


My daily routine has been the same for over a year now; I roll out of bed around at 7am, huff a cigarette, brew coffee, and spend hours upon hours job searching, applying, writing, submitting stories and queries, drawing, reading, pacing, babbling at my guinea pig as music plays on my dying computer, do some yard work, wash dishes, or cook, if only to keep my mind occupied. Around 4 or 5 I turn to video games/television for the evening, then attempt sleep between 11 and 3.

I sometimes think things are going to change. I press send on a short story submission, novel query, or job application, and assure myself, "This is it. This will get things rolling." More often than not I am hopeful, confident in the few skills I have and dreaming of where they might one day take me.

After my interview with Walmart, I was convinced my return to full-time employment was imminent and that I'd soon be living on my own again...something I've craved since my humiliating return from Denver. However, Walmart was not interested in hiring a college graduate, which was evident when the woman repeatedly asked, "Are you sure this is the right job for you?"

Yet sometimes, I'm not hopeful. Sometimes, I sink low to the ground, claw out a hole, and slip inside. I cover myself in dirt and beg the universe to play whack-a-mole on my skull with a pickaxe. It's not a place I want to be, yet it's a place I often find myself when left alone with doubt, and every time I drag myself down, I stay a little bit longer. I start to believe there's no escape.

My depression, not unlike other's, stems from an overwhelming sense of failure that I habitually list in my head and scrutinize. I can admit that not everything on my list is real; some are a fabrication of my mind from tainted perception, but I'm often incapable of differentiating truth from fiction within my own memories. While some people live with rosy-colored glasses mine are murky, and if I wasn't so stubborn, I would have offed myself long ago.

Rejection is a challenge flag, not a deterrent. It's a test of one's resolve, a way to root out the weak and craven. To prove one's worth, we must sweat and bleed, we must endure ridicule and pain and keep swinging till the lights go out forever--even if our stories end in tragedy.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Untitled"


This was a college assignment, 8 or 9 years old. We had to draw our hands with pastels or charcoal; I used both, then added some of my own ideas to make it a little surreal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Sybil"


I did this for the cover of Elmira College's "Sybil" magazine. I cut off the lettering in the photo because I don't like it. It's an old drawing, but it has some things I enjoy and don't totally hate: my Learner Wizard, the lines on the Sybil's arm, my self portrait leaning on the mushroom, the rockers in the background.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Avengers Review (Spoiler Alert)

Though my local theater greeted me with a face full of cobwebs when I took my seat, I was excited to be there. I was also a little apprehensive. I've often found movies rarely stand up to the hype. Avatar and Inception, while entertaining, come to mind. I went into them expecting to be blown away. Instead, I left unfulfilled.

Avengers did not fail me. A vast majority of the movie centers around the Avengers' inability to work together. The heroes argue and smash each other's skulls. They spy on and undermine each other. They doubt themselves (except Tony Stark who remains a narcist) as much as they doubt Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.

As I've come to expect from Joss Whedon, the dialogue in Avengers is clever, quirky, and laugh out loud funny, and it carries what could have easily been a campy onslaught of one-liners and cliched zingers. That's not to say there weren't one-liners, but they were delivered wonderfully. Case in point, Captain America barked detailed orders, turned to the Hulk, and said, "Hulk...smash."

In several ways, the dialogue was the shining star of Avengers. It gave us the dark and poignant backstory of Hawkeye and Black Widow, as well as recapped each hero for those that might not have seen the other films leading into Avengers. It demonstrated Thor's persistent desire to reach Loki and save his brother from himself, even when Thor quips, "He's adopted." It showed Loki's true madness when he vowed to sic Hawkeye on Black Widow and connected the colorful genius of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as they bantered about science, Nick Fury's true intentions, and Hulk's role as a hero, not a monster.

Stark and Banner's relationship was a highpoint for me--a glimpse of remarkable humans being human. In fact, these two heroes, in street clothes or green skin, carried Avengers on their shoulders. In terms of story, action, and development, theirs was the most dynamic. I should note, Captain America's was not far off. We find him still coping with the modern world. Over the course of the movie, he slowly grows into the leader he was prior to being a, "Capsicle."

Not to imply the other action sequences were not fantastic, the Avengers in Manhattan was riveting. I mouthed, "Awesome," when Iron Man bounced his photon beam off Captain America's shield in midflight, laughed when Hulk gave Thor a swat, and chuckled with glee when Hulk interrupted a Loki rant (Whedon never allowed his villain to revel in his exploits in the presence of an Avenger) to mop the floor with him. Those are just a few of many, many pieces of eye candy offered.

Then came one of the biggest thrills of all: Thanos. His scene was tucked away in the end credits, and when that purple, wrinkled profile turned to the camera with an elongated grin, having heard, "Attacking earth is to court death," I cheered in a crowded movie theater for the first time in my life.

I can only hope this stellar cast and director return to give Thanos, the brains and malice behind Loki's scheme, his proper due in the sequel...or the finale of what is no doubtedly a trilogy, in the least. He is by far one of the most lethal, devious characters in the Marvel Universe. Since the day I picked up Infinity Gauntlet as a child and saw him lay waste to my beloved heroes, he has been a personal favorite.

As a fan of comic books, it's a great era for superheroes on film, and if anything, Avengers is a fitting tribute to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's work at Marvel. The bar has been raised.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

"Booty Bay Sweat"


I drew this about a year ago as a submission for the World of Warcraft comics section. As you can probably tell, it's a spoof on Alpa Chino's Booty Sweat from the movie Tropic Thunder. It was ultimately rejected but gives me a laugh now and again, as I love the movie almost as much as goblins.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What if Aliens Struck Earth Tomorrow?

H.G. Wells' alien invasion story is the most accurate scenario that I've come across. Unlike Hollywood's recent portrayals of aerial, naval, and ground battles (I'm still going to fork over cash for Battleship), any species that can traverse the universe would have technology far superior to our own. It'd be like attacking a stealth bomber from the ground with sticks and stones.

While I believe an intelligent being would recon a planet for biological threats like the common cold, a desperate species, which the Martians were in War of the Worlds, might not be as inclined. Ultimately, humans would suffer from biochemicals and diseases, not the aliens. Like their technology, their understanding of organisms, even if unfamiliar, would outweigh our own. They would cure and repair themselves faster than us, physically and mechanically, and if germ warfare is their tactic, they would probably design a super flu with our names written all over it.

In all likelihood, we wouldn't even see the aliens. They would not personally land. They'd park a great distance from our planet, out of range of any missile or shuttle we conjure, and send in drones or automatons. There would be no need to risk their own lives to take ours. Since we have drones and are currently working on robots/automatons, it's safe to assume a species in an intergalactic vessel would have them as well, for technological evolution is a hundred times faster than biological (rough estimate).

This is why I agree with Stephen Hawking about not even attempting to find another intelligent species or make contact. With what little we know about the universe, we have no clue whether or not the resources on Earth are rare. At this stage, it's debatable that liquid water is even needed for living organisms. If our planet's contents are unique, we're discovered, and a species is willing to cross the universe for them, we're doomed.

Let's not kid ourselves either. There's a whole lot of real estate in the cosmos. On earth alone, we have trillions of species ranging from single cell organisms to humans, and our planet, in the overall scheme, is young. It's only taken humanity half a million years to get where we are today. Think about the complexity of a species that evolves equally or faster than us, one that has been around for a hundred million years.

We can also forget a peaceful alien making contact with us any time soon. Aside from mass panic and the implosion of religion, we can't even coincide with each other. Imagine what would happen if a species that doesn't resemble us landed on Earth--it'd be shot or killed within an hour.

Would we have anything to offer an alien that they don't already know? I doubt it. If aware of our existence, spying on satellites, radio and television broadcasts leaked into space would provide them everything. Peaceful or curious aliens might study us like a field biologist, but I doubt it would go further. At best, we might stumble across an unmanned (lack of better word) probe.

Take all those theories into consideration and there's only one conclusion: we are probably not alone, yet it's best we stay alone. Unless, of course, you're into annihilation or servitude.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Anxiety Is King

After securing my baseball hat to retrieve the mail, a walk to the end of the driveway that leaves me sweaty and breathless (I'm thin, and this is not a weight issue), I thought about what a former friend once told me. When I disclosed I was receiving treatment for anxiety, he responded, "Keep that shit to yourself, dude. Everybody has that."

People fail to understand that anxiety, especially when it is as severe as my own, is physical. My head shakes and jerks in the middle of conversations. My hands tremble. My heart races. Eye contact is brief. I move my legs incessantly, scratch, fidget, touch my cheek, chin, ear, nose, forearms. I tuck my hands in my pockets, fold my arms, tap, tap, tap my fingers. Sometimes, I get so nervous I look away, my head gets stuck in that position, and the only comfortable way to correct myself is to touch the opposite side of my face. Every movement tries to alleviate the anxiety. Every movement exasperates the problem until I'm in a state of panic.

I was in a grocery store recently, intent on buying Starburst Jelly Beans. As usual, I walked with my head down. When I bumped into a lady on my way to the counter, I apologized, stuck my jelly beans on the nearest shelf, and fled to my car.

Granted, I've been without medication and insurance since losing my job almost two years ago (anxiety is disastrous during interviews), but even when I was seeing a therapist, learning breathing techniques, on medication, and exercising, anxiety was present, tucked away like a coiled serpent waiting to strike. Some days were worse than others, usually resulting in a phone call to work that I wouldn't be coming in so I could remain indoors on the couch, at my computer, or sitting on the toilet. Vacation days went as fast as I earned them.

The first doctor to diagnose me said, "You're lucky to seek help. Most people with this problem become alcoholics," and the reason for that is simple: alcohol, though temporary, squashes anxiety better than any designer pharmaceutical on the market.

When an anxious person drinks it's much like being a cannonball. They've been quiet and compact, silent in a dark tunnel. Bang--they're loose. There's an incredible feeling as if soaring, all is clear and serene, worries are a thing of the past, and then they descend, see themselves dropping, and are helpless against the impact. They explode through family and friends, ripping chunks away from relationships as they roll to an abrupt stop. The thoughts of the devastation they caused lingers for days, rousing worse anxiety, and drinking again can make it all go away.

It's a horrible cycle I'm quite familiar with and occasionally adore. After all, anxiety is king, and I am its lowly peasant. Going into public, whether a store, the movies, a restaurant, or a family function, is exhausting. The things I say and do keep me awake at night; they make me cringe years after the fact.

I propose only this: before you laugh, scowl, or look down upon the odd behavior of a stranger, consider they might only have one hand on the wheel, and if you share my affliction, I recommend to keep doing what you fear, even if you fear everything.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Iron Man 3 Speculation

When I learned Guy Pearce was cast as Aldrich Killian for the third installment of the Iron Man series, I had to ask myself, "Who the hell is Aldrich Killian?" I had no recollection of him.

As it turns out, Aldrich Killian is a scientist that develops the Extremis Enhancile with Maya Hansen, who, presumably, will be played by Jessica Chastain. Similar to the Super-Soldier Serum that transformed feeble Steve Rogers into Captain America, the extremis virus reprograms a brain and body with bioelectronics. The results are faster and stronger than Iron Man's suit.

There's a chance we might see Aldrich, enhanced by extremis, go toe-to-toe with Iron Man rather than Mallen, but it's doubtful. A part of me, the part that watches the Count of Monte Cristo and Memento whenever they're on TV, is rooting for Aldrich (Guy Pearce) to be more than a small tragedy, but Andy Lau has recently signed on for Iron Man 3. It's more than likely he will be Mallen.

Also, if the rumors of Ben Kingsley playing the Mandarin are true, I have to assume the story will involve him trying to release extremis into the world and reshape the human race. While it sounds like every nerd's dream to have super healing and strength, myself included, there's a catch: about 98% of the population can't survive exposure to the virus.

I do think Kingsley is an actor that feeds off the talent of those around him (he must have starved while filming Prince of Persia), and that could make for some memorable scenes with Robert Downey Jr, who continues his role as, "genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist."

Cross your fingers and pray Gweneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts doesn't have another damsel in distress moment. I'm tired of women needing rescue in superhero movies; it's an overused, simplistic device in storytelling. Her character needs to grow a spine as much as Rhodey (Don Cheadle) needs a dilemma greater than corralling Tony Stark's behavior. Iron Man 3 would be as good a time as any to develop Rhodey's paranoia, aggression, and headaches from wearing a suit not designed for him, and Cheadle has the talent to do so.

Regardless of the plot and players, I have a feeling Tony Stark, as well as his suit, will be seeing an upgrade during the film. It will also be interesting to see whether or not Mandarin, assuming he's included, will have his rings: will they be somewhat realistic and made in a lab or will they be like they are in the comics and harness Makluan power akin to magic?

There's plenty of time before Iron Man 3 is released for debate and conjecture. Until trailers are released, I have The Avengers, The Rise of the Dark Knight, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation to occupy my summer. I expect great things from at least two of those films. I'll leave it up to you to guess which two.