Thursday, August 30, 2012

I hate doing this again

Another non-update.  It's annoying, but my work schedule (and a trip to the New York State Fair) has burned me out this week.  I'll be back next week with a two part Wild Webcomic Review.  Why two parts?  You'll see.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Game Changing

I'm fully recovered and ready for another article, finally.

Comics, both in newspaper and book form, generally don't change too much.  Garfield, as a character and comic, hasn't changed much in the last 30 years.  Peanuts has changed so little that reruns from 30 years ago go completely unnoticed.  Even comic book characters like Batman don't really change in any dramatic way, and if they do, it's never for long.  The great reset button eventually takes hold and the universe goes back to how it had always been.  Why?  Well I'll get to that in a bit.  The point is they don't change because they can't, or can't easily.  Webcomics, however, CAN radically change their stripes, and sometimes they do with a game changing event.

Game changers radically alter the fabric of a comic, changing it forever, either in tone, direction or even structure.  They can be very obvious, highlighted by a single act, or a gradual change, but one that can be pointed to having a start point.  Changing the game can either be very good for a comic, revitalizing a floundering strip, or bury an otherwise good strip.

The most recent one I can recall occurred in Girls with Slingshots.  Hazel (main character) and her beau (Zach) broke up.  Now one might not think this is much of a game changer, but the effects of this event are still just being felt, specifically in Hazel going dry.  Let's be clear that the "slingshot" part of the title is an alcoholic drink, and Hazel's nickname in the cast page is "The Lush."  Yeah, this is a big change for the character and will have repercussions for some time.

A comic a bit further along in it's game changer was the same thing, a break up.  Punch 'n Pie's main characters, Heather and Angela had been dating and living together for sometime prior to the comic starting, and sometime into the strip (relatively early) they broke up, in a dramatic fashion that needed full color for a normally black and white comic.  The result is that Punch 'n Pie is now actually two comics, one following Angela and the other following Heather, and neither ever quite meeting.  Oh there are characters that move between the two stories, but Heather and Angela have yet to cross each other.  I was of the opinion when it happened that they would be getting back together, however, I'm not so sure that's the case.  That game changer has changed both characters so much, when they do finally meet again, they may not get back together at all.  And that would be perfectly natural for them.  Neither is the same person they were at the beginning, so for them to come together in the end, it may not fit, at least not yet.

The last game changer is actually the one whose changer is the most subtle, most stand out, and most far reaching.  After years of setting up certain relationships and ideals, Tatsuya finally flipped the first domino down on his comic Sinfest and things changed throughout the comic.  From Monique abandoning her It Girl ways, to Fuchsia leaving the devil for her bookworm boyfriend.  These events, and more, all kind of happened at the same time, changing the landscape of the comic and while it still retains many of the old elements, they are looked at under a new light or with different characters involved.  It's a different comic now, but at the same time, still very familiar.

So why can these comics get away with such major changes?  Oh that's easy, and I will do this by pointing to a comic that had the opportunity to do a game changer, but didn't:  Sluggy Freelance, once again.  At the end of the 4U City storyline, there was the distinct possibility that Zoe would be left "dead" at the end.  Tangent, whom I've mentioned before, bemoaned when it when she was returned very much alive, as it was a game changer if she died.  Such a change would have radically altered the comic, but Abrams didn't do it.  Why?  Because he likes to eat.

Unlike the other 3 comics, Abrams LIVES off the money his comic brings in, and raises a family on it.  Killing Zoe, a very, VERY popular character, could have hurt his bottom line.  From his Defenders of Nifty subscription program, to the basic ad revenue on the main page, the fans would have revolted and he'd be out of green in a very short amount of time.  Yes, killing Zoe would have changed the very nature of the comic, forever, and would have been a bold move, but bold moves are not always the best moves.  It's why none of those other comics make changes like that, or keep them for very long:  People want the same old thing over and over again.  Remove it, and they stop buying.  Zoe lives because Abrams wants to continue to eat, and if some people, like Tangent, bemoan that he didn't do it, I'm sure there are a hundred people for each Tangent that applauded quite loudly when she appeared again.

Game changers are chancy.  Knowing when to change things up and when not to is important, if not vital, to the long term survival of a comic.  One day I might write an article on when it should happen, but today is not that day.  So until next time kiddies.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Like I said, nothing

Still recovering from the trip.  It wouldn't be so bad, but I had to go to work the day after getting back, so I'm kind of wiped.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Next two weeks will be nothing

The reason is two fisted.  One, stupid work schedule is eating time.  Two, going to Cedar Point.  If you've never been, and love rollercoasters, GO!  It's completely worth it.  So the next couple of weeks will be a bit blank, I'm afraid.

Until then kiddies.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Eishtmo vs Need for Speed World

NOTE:  I don't have any ideas for a webcomic article this week, so instead, I'll repost a review I did elsewhere.  Enjoy.

I've been playing a lot of MMOs recently. Champions Online, Star Trek Online, World of Fucking Tanks, as well as an old slew of browser based MMOs (Look up, but don't play, Astro Empires sometime). All of those games, though, I downloaded and played on my lonesome. Need for Speed World, however, was something others had to convince me to try because, well, I'm not much of a racing game fan. Just outside of my wheelhouse, as it were. Still, it's not a bad game, and I do play it despite it being about 6 months later. Just not as much as other games.

I will clear up something about this game: It isn't STRICTLY pay-to-win. Oh, do not doubt that buying, with real cash, high end cars and parts will give you one hell of an edge in this game, but it won't mean you'll WIN anything. This game takes some skill and practice to get anywhere. I've beaten much faster cars because the drivers were reckless or stupid or both with my free-to-play cars on a number of occasions. I have also been completely blown out and outclassed by those same cars with different drivers, leaving me in the dust very easily.

I guess this should be expected given the nature of the game, which is about collecting and racing cars you will NEVER own in real life. EVER. The cars they have available runs the gambit from classic cars, to modern super cars. There's even a bloody SUV in there somewhere, though why you'd want such a thing in a racing game is beyond me. The F2P cars available are a good mix and there are some really good cars there, but you have to grind in game cash to get them. A LOT of in game cash in some cases. Millions in game dollars cars are available but you'll maybe make a 1000 bucks a race, so it might take a little while to save up for them. Oh, and you have a limited number of garage slots, and you have to pay for more of them. Honestly, it's about as restricted as the other MMOs I play, so no big deal.

Graphically the game is, well, beautiful. Gorgeous in fact. Even at medium settings (which mine is at by default) it's just amazing to look at. The map, based on a previous NSF game (I don't know which one, sorry), offers a wide variety of different locations, each based on real world cities and neighborhoods. There's a region that looks like Vegas, another that looks LA and NY, and other classic settings. There's a golf course, an amusement park, a farm area, docks, you can even drive through a docked aircraft carrier. And all of it looks wonderful.

Which is funny when you'll be spending most of your time buzzing past at 170 mph. The real issue is, to me, is how DEAD everything feels. There are NO pedestrians (probably to prevent Carmeggedon). Oh, there are a few NPC cars, but even you're bolted to your car, unable to exit, with a stiff person in the driver seat who gives not a fuck if his convertible flips over at 150 miles per hour and rolls around the ground. It also means you can't get out of your car to really LOOK at the various landmarks and structures. This is especially annoying when sections that a car COULD go through, are blocked off by unmovable cones of impassibility. I will say they FINALLY added a free camera view (V key) so you can look around a bit. But only a bit, I'm afraid.

The cars look beautiful as well. As I said, you can get a wide variety of cars ranging from a 70's Dodge Charger to various Lamborghinis. Each one can have their paint done in a variety of ways, and have various parts added to it. Change the wheels, add a lowering kit, tint the windows, put on various pinstripes, numbers and other things, making your car, well, your car. That said, some stuff is hidden behind a pay wall (window tints cost money unless you randomly get them as prizes for races), but most of the basic stuff is available to F2P players. That said, I did have some odd graphical glitches with the Dodge Charger, but it only ever seemed to effect it, and I sold it off for another car, so I don't know if it's still there.

The gameplay has three modes. Freeform allows you to putter around the overall map. It's great for getting to know the lay of the land, looking at the pretty buildings, and that's about it. The only real gameplay there is the Treasure Hunt daily game, which is probably the main thing I play at the moment. The hunt is restricted to a particular region of the map, and you must find 15 "Gems" to complete it. Once found, the you get a random prize, which increases in quality the more days you chain in a row, and resets if you miss one. You can PAY to continue the chain, but it's honestly not worth it. You do, however, get experience and cash from doing the Treasure Hunt, and most of my 30 levels have come from this.

Races are the most common and easy event. There are two, Sprint and Circuit. Sprint goes from point A to point B as fast as humanly possible. Circuit buzzes you around a defined course for 2 or 3 laps. These can either be against the AI for lower prizes but better chance of winning (unless you're me, I suck against the AI for some reason), or other players in game. As you level up more courses are opened up, and the tracks become tougher and longer. So much so, you'll find yourself using the various consumables to get ahead, but these are really limited in supply, and you either get more from the random card you get at the end of a race, or by buying card packs (which are random) so it's almost not worth using them. Otherwise it's a lot of fun playing these, but it seems people prefer the lower ranked tracks for some reason. I have no preference here, as both have their fun aspects.

Finally there's Pursuit, which also comes in two forms: Pursuit and Team Escape. Standard Pursuits are single player only and involve running from the cops in various forms. There's no end goal besides getting your cool down bar to full strength. While it's fun to cause mayhem in Pursuit, honestly I never got that excited about it and don't do them much. Team Escape is multiplayer only, and there is an end goal. I don't do these often because they really do need teamwork to pull off. I've done it once, I think, and generally avoid it otherwise. It's the hardest challenge in the game, I think. Like the races, more open up as you level up, but at a much lower rate.

The game seems to play well enough, but there are a LOT of bugs in this game I've noticed. From login bugs that lock up your experience (sorry, Reputation) bar, to that weird graphic bug. Weird things happen with this game, and I don't often know why. When things are running smooth, it runs great. When it doesn't, well, it doesn't. Worse, I think the game has a lot of cheaters in it. Not just the wallet warriors (they're playing the game as designed after all), I mean people actually cheating to get more Boost (pay currency). Before it was taken down for "maintenance" (about 5 months ago), the freeform global chat was FULL of scammers, spammers and cheat advertisers. This drowned out the community so badly they took down the global chat entirely and still haven't returned it. Yeah, it was THAT bad. Once I got spam messages from a cheater guy, and I couldn't BLOCK HIM. That's right, the ignore function flat out didn't work on him. Buggy game is buggy, and without the freeform chat, there's basically no community within the game itself, or none that I've really seen.

Overall, if you like racing games, this is probably the best one you'll find for free. It is very responsive (you can use a gamepad, just plug it in, triggers run acceleration and break FYI), and each car feels different in how it handles and moves. It might take a while to find a favorite, but once you do, you'll be happy. Best yet, the game, despite being from EA, doesn't seem to require Origin, at all, so download and go. I putter around with it, and they have reasonably frequent give aways (I've gotten two cars in the last two months, for free, for example), and they do cycle the pay cars in and out, encouraging people to buy whatever is new and fashionable. It's a fun game, and while I like other games better, I like starting my morning to the sound of engines.

Until next time kiddies.