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I think Jeff Vogel lives pretty close to me.  He’s the Spiderweb Software guy; if you like RPGs that feel like instant classics, like something unearthed, if you like the idea that there exists a kind of Strategic RPG Reserve from which our nation releases games in a time of crisis, you should try and catch up with his work.

He’s also a huge smartass, so I like it a lot if I’m doing some kind of yard shit and he rolls by.  This smartass quality is “strong with him,” like a Force Index, and it’s all over the things he writes.  Most recently, he penned - in the utterly pen-free digital sense - an article called “I Settle All Video Game Arguments, Part 1: Game Reviews.”  See?  Like I said.

He covers a few things in there, but one of them is simple though bears repeating: we can choose our reviewers.  I think there’s a danger in that, and I’ll always worry I’m missing an angle, but while the Internet still allows for such things we might as well avail ourselves of it.  And you can waste a lot of fucking time not being selective about this, as I’m about to now.

Marvel’s excursions on Netflix are incredibly uneven, but not great on the whole.  Daredevil had some good bits, but it mainly had an incredibly well executed villain who made the rest of the endeavor look like shit in comparison.  I rarely finished any of the others, and they’re free.  I didn’t have to pay anything except time, and I wasn’t willing to part with it.  They start out with the flavor and impact of an individual Pringle and then all you taste is whatever chemical they have on there masquerading as sour cream and onion.  It takes more than thirty letters to write it down, this chemical, and a not insignificant portion of them are the letter X.

I expected much the same from The Punisher.  There’s no reason this should be good if the other shows are any indication, even taking the source material into account.  This should be awful, veering - if it is very lucky and it benefits from some celestial conflux- into So Bad It’s Good.  But it’s not.  This is the best show they’ve done under the Red Mantle.  The lead is far, far better as a performer than belongs here.  The script is written by people who give a fuck, and I don’t mean that to suggest the bare minimum.  I mean they care about Frank Castle.  The secondary characters, who range in these shows from Merely Unwatchable to Hot Coals On Your Bare Eyeball, are people who make sense and who the script recognizes as entities with a vital task to nip and twist the social space around the protagonist.  It has a lot to say on a variety of topics, while also being a revenge story, a genre with its own contours.

If I see a review I don’t agree with, it’s my assumption generally that I’m an idiot and there’s something I’ve missed.  That’s not my problem with the review I read yesterday.  It’s that I don’t recognize the piece of media that’s being discussed anywhere in the review.  I don’t even think the review is about the piece of media.  I needed an excuse not to go there anymore, a fracture to catalyze a real break, and I appreciate such a crisp point of demarcation.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 3 days ago

Jesus!  I can’t fucking get it together today.  There is a tremendous amount of subconscious filing going on in the waxy, hive-like substructures of my consciousness and it’s interfering with attempts to do anything but lie in bed and watch The Punisher.  Is this a recognized condition?  Maybe it’s new.

It’s hard to imagine that, just a couple weeks ago, I was at a supremely delicious PAX Aus and now I’m trying to integrate the entirely new PAX Unplugged into my globetrotting lifestyle.  Here’s the strip from the Make-A-Strip panel, with a moist new variant on PAX East’s “Hot Dog Fairy” that is desperately in need of a paper towel or maybe even just a regular towel.

You aren’t supposed to have A Favorite Show of course; I created a nineties style rap beef between the convention formerly known as PAX Prime and PAX East inadvertently.  The understanding is usually that whatever the last PAX was is the best PAX, and that’s certainly how it feels now - but there’s something else going on here too.  We learned a lot from Year One, and we’re already figuring out how to deliver a 2.0 version of this show that works even better - but, out the gate?  You do stuff, and you hope people will come along with you.  But… holy shit. This is pretty clearly a thing.

We’ve got two live games of D&D out of this show for you, both the continuation of the Tomb of Annihilation arc in Acquisitions Incorporated as well as the Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team Holiday Special that I ran for my crew to tide you over until Season 2 starts up.  That date was announced at the show: it premieres, completely live, at PAX South and then the adventure continues right here on our own Twitch channel.  So…  there’s, like, six hours of stuff if you want to jump in.  I lose my sense of linear time the moment I get up there, but I’m told that these turned out pretty good.

Somebody last night was telling me cheesesteaks are for tourists, and that if you’re actually from this shit you get a roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe, whatever made up shit that is, and provolone.  So I’m going to do that.  But I feel like it would be wise to hedge with a secondary Whiz Wit lozenge, just for backup.  I’ve learned that the inside pocket of my jacket can hold a sandwich quite well - and that added warmth is a balm for the winter traveler.

(CW)TB out.

Happy Birthday Penny Arcade!

I think it’s worth mentioning that Penny Arcade turned 19 years old on Saturday. All this started on November 18th 1998 which seems like ancient history at this point. I can still remember sitting in a chinese restaurant in Spokane with Kara and Jerry as he and I wrote that very first strip. Penny Arcade has changed a lot over the years but I have to say I have never been happier to go to work than in the last year or so. I’m not sure how many people can say that after working at a job for nearly 20 years but I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to do this every day.

So I just want to mark the date and say thank you to all the amazing people who work at PA. I am humbled by their hard work on my behalf and inspired by their talent every single day. I also want to thank all of you for supporting us all these years. I met so many people this weekend who told me they have been reading PA since it started. Kids who started reading the comic in middle school are now bringing their kids to PAX and introducing them to the community and the hobby that meant so much to them growing up. It’s very hard not to get misty eyed when someone tells me that our goofy strips got them through the hardest parts of their life. All I can do is tell you that you all have done the same for me.

I also want to thank Jerry who has somehow managed to remain my friend for 23 years despite all my worst tendencies. I am so proud of what we have managed to create and I don’t even think we’ve made our best stuff yet.

Finally I want to thank Kara for sticking with me through all of this. She married me just as I decided to quit my job and do this internet comic thing full time. We ate a lot of Top Ramen and lived in some pretty sketchy apartments but she always believed in the comic. Penny Arcade was by no means a sure thing and it’s had some rough times over the years, but she has always supported me and encouraged me even when I felt like giving up.

I don’t know what the next five or ten years looks like for PA but I do know that I have never been more excited to find out.

-Gabe Out

Tycho / 6 days ago

Gabe had grabbed some kind of a Starter Pack for a game called Skyforge, he didn’t know much about it but something about it had made him curious.  He’s been using the Xbox One X with some regularity, maybe it’s that.  If you have a new piece of hardware you’re always trying to test it out.

I opened the website for the game and saw a unique individual at the top.  I don’t know exactly what’s going on with this guy, let’s see if we can figure it out.  His stomach is… a mouth.  I think that’s the best way of putting it.  His neck and face also appear to be mouths, and his shoulders seem to be mouths as well. Something interesting to note: he doesn’t have a mouth where you’d expect.  It’s all surprise mouths with this guy.  The only way he could have been more extreme would be if someone were doing an ollie off his pauldron.

That’s all I know, that Gabe bought a starter pack for a free MMO and it may or may not feature a guy who is 90% mouth.  But I got very hung up on the idea of the location of the Skyforge, and somehow I was able to get him to draw it.  The Penny Arcade subgenres I advocate for, the ones I sit dutifully on and try desperately to hatch, are comics where people in games suffer under the nonsense worlds we create for them or comics that feature very large, one to two panel diagrams.  So a comic where Geralt of Rivia is being crushed beneath a pie chart is the sort of thing I advocate for and, in a moment of weakness, Gabriel accepts.  Relents?

Acquiesces, maybe.  I bet in the game, people know exactly where the Skyforge is.  There might even be a button that says “Go To The Skyforge.”  You probably see it during character creation!  My version has a more robust narrative arc.

Hey, I’m gonna walk over the Skybridge to the Philadelphia Convention Center and, along with Enforcers, attendees, and exhibitors, found a new PAX show.  See you there?

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 1 week ago

I was never going to buy Star Wars: Battlefront II.  First, the compliment: I honestly can’t believe the graphics.  In an era where good graphics are commonplace Battlefront has always been doing something nobody else was: a photorealistic take on the worlds and characters of the franchise.  It’s a stunning technical achievement which frosts a cake that I am not especially fond of.

The strip is a joke, obviously, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bearing the occasional globule of liquid truth.  Grob grabbed the game long before it was out because he’d read the novel tie in and really enjoyed it.  I haven’t read it.  But I do live in a world where tie in novels can be quite good: David Gaider was murdering those Dragon Age books, and Karen Traviss established a lot of really solid flavor for Star Wars I was sad to see burned away in the Great Synchronization that came from Disney’s apathy toward the EU.

So, since he owned the game, he wasn’t really in a position to be moral retroactively.  I didn’t really have a moral impetus for not buying it; I didn’t like the first one because rounds often felt like a real Star Wars blaster fight, which to me isn’t a good thing.  Battlefront feels even more abstract and decoupled from time than the Battlefield games do; I go to this engine for sim-tier visuals and scale but the individual moments always feel like mush to me.

Talking about the monetization scheme of a game I’m not gonna buy might carry with it a churl component; I definitely understand why it’s all people want to talk about though.  The backlash to EA’s pricing structure internal to the game caused them to shred a bunch of the values, but they also changed how many credits you receive from some activities - Arcade Mode now has freemium “energy” style mechanics that limit how much you can earn.  What’s funny is that unlocking that is the sort of thing you’d typically see in an F2P, but you aren’t supposed to unlock it.  You’re supposed to buy credits!

The link up there for “changed how many credits” goes to an article on GameInformer where the writer is like, listen.  They completely pulled the levers on these systems, and I don’t even know if my review is valid anymore.  I’ve suggested before that Free To Play should be considered a genre, because of how reliably it warps the experience; this game isn’t even F2P, but it has its blooming zygote within it, stretching and pulling it beyond nature.

(CW)TB out.

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