DDO Devilish new updates

Putting the follow-up my observations for veteran DDO players meant as a companion piece aimed towards newer players, i’m taking a moment as always to examine what’s coming up as shared in the most recent Producer’s Letter.

Current DDO Executive Producer Severlin posted on the forums today what the team at Turbine has been up to as well as what players can expect in the next few months.

ddo_logo

First up, and something that is perhaps the most frequent topic of discussion and concern for players, is tacking the chronic lag problems in DDO. For me personally, lag hasn’t been a major issue at the level throngs of others have experienced, which frankly sound exceedingly frustrating. Once in a while, i’ll lag out, freeze up or go through some jaggy movement, but not to the extent of 30 minute or more lockdowns and TPK situations.

Nevertheless, working to make improvements in stability and performance is never time wasted. Part of this work, which Severlin shared, is a project to transfer game servers and hardware to a new data center. Sounds scary – i have trouble keeping track of the cords coming out of my desktop now – but overall a genuine goal geared towards making the game run smoother for everyone, which is something i can stand behind.

There’s already a few comments portending DOOOOOooooooom! based on this announcement, and there’s certainly the possibility of a few snags during the process, but upgrading hardware is ultimately a good thing. More power to you, Turbine.

Last week, the forums got a new category that already shows a healthy amount of engagement: the Warlock forum. This new class has been talked about for quite some time, and the official news from today’s producer letter is that it will arrive in-game in June’s Update 26.

A new class to discover is always exciting. The monk, artificer, favored soul and druid were all post-launch added classes and remain popular so i’m sure the warlock will also find its place in players’ hearts. Another spellcaster class, the warlock brings a sixth class to that category, leaving four in each of the other two (melee and specialist). This is something i do find somewhat odd. Even though warlock is distinct enough in flavor and mix of abilities, it is in the end another spellcasting class. And still no psionics, something i’ve been advocating for years and years, often dismissed as just another spellcaster with different spell names. Perhaps the warlock will provide a new framework for approaching class design that will usher in the age of psions in the future. Fingers crossed.

A star pact warlock. Hey, maybe we're get tieflings as a playable race (if so, the cool-looking ones please, not the humans with weird horns)

A star pact warlock. Hey, maybe we’re get tieflings as a playable race (if so, the cool-looking ones please, not the humans with weird horns)

In the meantime, i will most certainly be creating a warlock myself, and there’s no question on which pact i’ll choose – the Great Old Ones. From what is already shared on the forums, these otherworldly warlocks will have a focus on acid spells and crowd control with a little insta-kill mixed in. i would like to have seen radiance as their focus instead of acid, since it represents the light of the stars from which they draw their power. Maybe that will be implemented by the time they release? If my own contribution to the official feedback thread had any impact (or this post right here – please forward to developer Vargouille!). As for that crowd control part, Evard’s Black Tentacles would be a much-appreciated new spell.

The standout news from the letter is that, following Update 26 in June is another one, Update 27 in July. Just one month apart! Severlin reveals much more about this update, which will include a new adventure pack that focuses on the very popular and well-liked Shavarath storyline. Eberron content ftw.

Ready to head back to the Plane of Battle?

Ready to head back to the Plane of Battle?

This time around, players will discover more about the Archon’s battle with the armies of Shavarath and take an active role in the drama. Mysterious Remnants are involved (maybe they’ll start dropping in greater numbers. Please!) and it turns out they come from the Plane of Battle, which is where the action from three new dungeons and a new raid takes place.

Aside from these two updates, Sev addresses player feedback about problems with the DDO Store, with an announcement that it’s getting an overhaul for an improved experience. Later this summer, players will find a streamlined DDO Store which i’m sure means among other things it would be unavailable as often. Although, if i’m honest, sometimes i like when the DDO Store is down because it saves me from impulse shopping.

Finally, there is more news about the long-awaited increase in level cap from 28 to 30. The plan has been to make 30 a hard cap, and i haven’t heard any different in this regard. That being said, it’s entirely possible that a year from now it’ll get raised to 40 for all i know. That’s pretty much what MMOs do. On the other hand…

…the other thing MMOs do at endgame is provide difficult crafting systems for top end gear. To that end, one of the things in the works is an epic and extended version of the ever popular Thirteenth Eclipse raid. Yes, that’s what it’s actually called but it’s more widely known and affectionately referred to as The Shroud. Along with it is an updated and epic version of green steel crafting, probably the most popular crafting system in the game. The stuff you can make from green steel is tremendous, and an epic version should keep players busy and happy for quite some time.

Along with the epic Shroud is another new adventure pack related to the Vale of Twilight, too. MOAR new content is never a bad thing.

Overall, a pretty tidy new producer’s letter that seems to include a little something across the board. Performance-enhancing maintenance benefits everyone, and a new class will give builders something to tinker with, and slapdash players like me something to fumble through life with, too. Quote a bit of new content is on the horizon, all of it taking place in Eberron which gets two thumbs up in my book.

One thing i am curious about is Update 26. Other than the warlock, what else is there to this upcoming update? Severlin doesn’t mention anything, so i wonder if it’s just the new class and maybe some tweaks to enhancement trees and stuff? Perhaps there will be a new general tree or a third tree for the classes who have only had two for an overly long time. Or maybe a refinement pass on Cannith Crafting?

At least we won’t have long to wait to find out – June is just around the corner!

Advertisements

Temple of Elemental Evil in DDO

Temple of Elemental Evil in DDO

On Wednesday March 25, Severlin, Steelstar, Knockback, and Cordovan from the DDO team posted a video on YouTube to preview the upcoming Temple of Elemental Evil quest from Update 25, which should be coming out sometime in April.

The first thing i noticed while watching the video is that it looks phenomenal. Each new piece of content that gets released has more impressive graphics than the last. Better lighting effects and background details help keep this game fresh after nine years. i can tell you from personal experience, the look of DDO has developed a ton since those early days. While by comparison to new games that launch all the time, the graphics might not be up to their caliber, i still think it’s a great looking game with excellent gameplay.

One of the things they show early in the video, which i was a tad disappointed to see, was another new crafting system. This one involves using mushroom mats gathered in ToEE to customize new, unique weapons, armor and gear. Already in DDO, there are at least a dozen other crafting systems like green steel, alchemical, thunderforged, dragontouched, altar of insanity, Cannith crafting and so on. Years ago, i purchased a gargantuan ingredients bag and i fear even that may reach its limit.

In a forum thread, Steelstar offered some insight into the reasoning behind new crafting systems vs. expanding existing ones, and while he does make good sense, i can’t help but feel like there are better solutions to those issues. i’ve played a lot of MMOs, and they seem to be able to include crafting without having a dizzying array of different ways to do it. In DDO, since there are so many of these different systems, several of them have grown to be essentially useless over time, and yet still the mats drop and clutter your inventory. Take the altar of insanity stuff, for example. At the time it was introduced, there were some pretty nifty effects you could add to the various items from those quests. But anymore they’re just junk. Not only is there better lootgen stuff, but even if there weren’t you out-level their usefulness so quickly. What you end up with is a bag full of adhesive slimes and brain samples.

From the preview, ToEE looks to be a huge quest. In fact, it’s actually broken up into two quests, available in heroic levels at seven and epic at 30. Based on what i saw in the video, they look gigantic. i think this could be somewhat of a drawback, though. If they are a huge as they seem to be, it could take a significant amount of time to complete just one part of the quest, which i think could deter people from running it due to not having that much time to invest at once. On the other hand, it could also lead to parties splitting up, which in the tabletop version of D&D typically spells disaster. But DDO is a different animal altogether, and folks are used to soloing things a lot. i could envision a lot of “okay you take the air temple, i’ll hit the water temple…”

What i thought while watching the video was that it would be neat if they broke up the quest into several shorter quests. For example, the temple grounds, each of the four elemental temples, and then finally the main one with the BBEG fight at the end. That might have given more opportunity to create content, and it would be neat if there were named items in each quest flavored for their location.

One of the developers commenting on the preview video talked a bit about the lore of ToEE, and how it’s a place that is often utilized by various factions of evil that take up residence there. This made me imagine another sort of design scenario that would be really cool – if the inhabitants and goals of the quest changed over time depending on how many times you’d ran it, or possibly randomized between a list of different possibilities upon entering.

Like Haunted Halls of Eveningstar, ToEE is based upon a classic D&D module, something i really hope they continue to do in DDO. There’s tons of awesome, classic adventures that i would love to see in DDO, especially the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. A quest inside what turns out to be a crashed alien spaceship would fit nicely in the Eberron setting, i think. Unlike Haunted Halls, the map for ToEE looks like all the other content in DDO instead of appearing like a graph paper map. That is one of the coolest things about Haunted Halls, and i hope they change the map before U25 to be more like it.

Part of the story in ToEE involves “mysterious remnants,” which were introduced to the game when they tweaked the recent Champion Monster system to provide unique rewards for defeating them. In ToEE, a new faction called the Gatekeepers are collecting these fragments, as well as Falrinth, a major bad guy boss in the quest. i’m curious to see what the connection is between the remnants the players collect and ToEE, and i’m holding on to mine in case there’s a neat interaction with them inside the quest.

There’s also a new Monster Manual coming out with U25, which is awesome. i love the inclusion of Monster Manuals in DDO, and i hope they continue developing them. This new one has mindflayers added, along with mummies, orcs and a few others. In the video, i spotted a few new types of monsters for existing Monster Manual entries too, like gargoyles and earth elementals, so that will be fun to get closer to some of the benchmarks.

Speaking of monsters, though, ToEE doesn’t have any brand new monsters that i’m aware of; i think they flat out say there are no new monsters at all, which is a bummer.

A glaring omission are myconids, the fungal humanoids from D&D who feature prominently in ToEE. The devs in the video make mention of how they are not included, which is disappointing. Especially since they realize enough to address their absence, why not put some time into creating them? Even if they were just reskinned creatures of another sort with some different abilities, it would make a lot of players happy to discover some new monsters. The devs give a pretty weak answer to a viewer question about myconids and how they ought to be in there since the BBEG is Zuggtmoy, the Demon Queen of Fungi. They say she’s a demon queen, so that should give a clue as to the types of monsters that will accompany her. Nice try, devs, but us players want to fight mushroom people!

The end fight against Zuggtmoy looks to be rather exciting and somewhat raid-like. The chamber where the fight takes place is very large, and there are nice graphical effects of glowing motes floating through the air. But they’re deadly, too. The motes are actually spores of Zuggtmoy, which can cause continuous damage throughout the battle.

Overall, i’m definitely looking forward to U25 and Temple of Elemental Evil. Any new content is good, and this looks to be another terrific quest like Haunted Halls of Eveningstar. By the time it launches, i’m sure there will be other bells and whistles added, too. The location of the quest also lends itself to some intriguing possibilities as well, being neither in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron, if i understood the devs comment correctly. Could we be seeing yet another world to travel to, which i believe would be the World of Greyhawk?

Temple of Elemental Evil will be free to VIP players, and of course available for Turbine Points in the DDO store. Cordovan mentioned that the cost will be comparable to Haunted Halls, but no exact cost is available right now.

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for visiting The Long Shot!  If you liked what you read please click Follow at the top of the page and share/Tweet/repost your favorite articles. i’m getting close to 500 followers, a milestone i hope to reach this year. Thank you so much to everyone who already follows this blog, it means a ton and i appreciate each and every one.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen! One team of contributors will be going to Yuri’s Night Space Party at the Great Lakes Science Center, where they were asked to be judges for their official costume contest. So be sure to check back for coverage of that. If you are celebrating Yuri’s Night anywhere in the world (or off of it – looking at you International Space Station) please share your experiences and photos!

My Week in Geek column also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Yuri’s Night World Space Party

In my post-Wizard World Cleveland write-up i mentioned one of the cooler things i saw was the booth from Great Lakes Science Center, which attracted me with their huge sign that read “Space Party.”

The display was advertising their contribution to a 15-year tradition aimed at increasing public interest in space exploration and inspiring the next generation of explorers.

Yuri Night

Over half a century ago, humankind sent our first representative beyond the borders of our planet Earth. Yuri Gagarin, piloting the Vostok 1 spacecraft, became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. NASA’s inaugural space shuttle launch took place 20 years later to the day, on April 12, 1981.

Details of the mission were kept secret by the Soviet government due to their embroiled Space Race with the U.S., and reactions here in America were a mixed bag of fears of increased military power and appreciation of the incredible accomplishment.

Vostok 1 - the spacecraft that carried Yuri Gagarin, Earth's first human in space

Vostok 1 – the spacecraft that carried Yuri Gagarin, Earth’s first human in space

Regardless of how world powers viewed the breakthrough mission, the idea of human spaceflight captured the fascination and imagination of the world whose inhabitants previously only saw people in space through science fiction entertainment.

Perhaps most the most telling and compelling of perspectives on how we can view exploration beyond our atmosphere comes from cosmonaut Gagarin’s reactions to his single orbit of Earth, of which he said:

Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty – not destroy it!”

These sentiments are echoed still today by those brave folks who explore, perhaps not the final frontier, but certainly the next one. For evidence of this, look no farther than the new documentary “Planetary” which features interviews with those who have followed in Yuri’s footsteps and traveled to space and back again.

“The really wonderful thing that happened to me when I was in space was this feeling of belonging to the entire universe,” recounts NASA astronaut Mae Jemison in the film.

Much as how travel beyond our hometowns, states, regions or national borders helps broaden our perspective and gain deeper understanding of our connectedness with others, viewing the planet we all live on drives that point home even more.

So to honor these milestones in space exploration, we have a party!

Yuri’s Night – often called the World Space Party – first launched in 2000, now has celebrations in close to 60 countries around the globe.

In Cleveland, Yuri’s Night Space Party is held at Great Lakes Science Center  – the perfect venue for an event aimed at fans of science fiction and fact, space aficionados and socialites alike at the home of NASA Glenn Visitor Center.

In 2014, the Plain Dealer touted Yuri’s Night as one of the 15 hottest parties of the year, and 2015 aims to deliver once again.

Featuring live music from Cleveland bands like Abby Normal and DJ Justin Nyce, the 21-and-over party should keep attendees dancing and having a great time celebrating the past, present and future of spaceflight with beer, wine and cider along with hors d’oeuvres included with ticket purchases (there’s a cash bar for cocktails as well).

New to Yuri’s Night in 2015 is a Solar Fire Light Show, and weather permitting, an outdoor deck party with additional live music including a special appearance by rocker/writer/biker/geek Michael McFarland. The Solar Fire Light Show promises a cosmic trip, and although i’m not sure exactly what this means, in my imagination i’m picturing a mashup of the ending from The Black Hole, ’60s psychedelic rock music videos and the boat ride from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Attendees are encouraged to participate in the fun, too, with a space-themed costume contest. If any readers of The Long Shot attend Yuri’s Night in Cleveland – or anywhere in the world for that matter – please share your photos! i’d love to see what sorts of costumes people wear to the World Space Party and share them here. Bonus imaginary points for Star Trek TOS attire.

Professional cosplayers will be happy to note that the Great Lakes Base post of the Rebel Legion – a Star Wars-based costuming fan club – will be on hand. In addition to building a community of like-minded cosplayers, this international group puts effort into charity events as well with their “Rebel For A Cause” program.

XTend Technologies from Broadview Heights has partnered with Critical Hit Games from Cleveland Heights to bring a Kinect and tabletop game lounge to Yuri’s Night, too.

What this all amounts to is that Yuri’s Night World Space Part at Great Lakes Science Center is set to be a majorly awesome event. There’s something for all tastes, from music and dancing to cosplay and gaming, and all under the banner of celebrating human scientific achievement.

In an era where private enterprises are launching spacecraft every week, talk of establishing colonies on Mars are a real possibility in the not-too-distant future and the job of Space Lawyer is a real thing, Yuri’s Night reminds us how far we’ve come in just a few short decades while creating excitement for where we’re headed.

General admission tickets for this event are still on sale now online, by phone at 216.621.2400 or in person at Great Lakes Science Center. The cost for admission is $55 in advance, or $70 at the door the night of the party April 11.

Great Lakes Science Center has parking available in their attached garage for $7, or you can summon a ride with the handy Uber app, like i did for Wizard World Cleveland in February.

For an even greater experience, VIP tickets are available exclusively through Living Social for $85. The VIP Lounge is accessible only through this deal, a special area overlooking the party that has an open bar and food from some of Cleveland’s best restaurants – which is impressive indeed since this foodie town has several world-renowned restaurants. The lounge will be open to VIP ticket holders from 7-11 p.m. and this special offer also grants general admission to the party.

If you attend Yuri’s Night in Cleveland, please keep an eye out for the pair of correspondents for The Long Shot who will be on hand to provide you with the best firsthand experience write-up following the party as well as taking lots of photos to share here. The News-Herald will also be creating a photo gallery to showcase their pics from the party.

If you’d like to share your experience of Yuri’s Night, no matter where in the world you celebrate, why not Take a Shot and write something up yourself? i’ll be more than happy to share it here on The Long Shot.

*     *     *     *     *

If you enjoy what you read at The Long Shot, please click follow at the top of the page and sign up for email subscriptions so you never miss a post.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks as always for reading!

Week in Geek 3.13.15

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

This week, my duties as a reporter for The News-Herald kept me busy during the free time i typically put into following up on any of the multitude of story ideas which continue to accumulate on my desk. There was the big donkey basketball game at Cardinal High School in Middlefield, and a pair of profiles on National Historic Register buildings in Lake County for an upcoming special section.

Unfortunately i was unable to schedule time for a timely interview to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, but with any luck that will come together for next week.

On a side note, i was going to refer to my duties as a stringer, but that wasn’t quite accurate since i’m employed by the paper primarily as a copy editor, page designer and social media provocateur (that’s not what they call it, but it sounds more exciting that way). However, while looking into the term “stringer,” i discovered something called a superstringer that’s sort of the same thing except the writer is contracted with a news organization. It seems that with the collapse of the traditional newspaper model and the emergence of the Internet, stringers are fading away. But i am pleased to consider myself a superstringer, because it “super” is part of the word. Super cool.

Embracing life as a night owl means it's not unusual to make coffee at 3:00 a.m.

Embracing life as a night owl means it’s not unusual to make coffee at 3:00 a.m.

What free time i did enjoy this week came in the wee morning hours, which thanks to daylight savings time means the sun is coming up when my head is going down on the pillow. It’s a strange lifestyle that took some getting used to, coming to terms with not feeling lazy for sleeping in until noon because i was up all night at work.

So, what did i do with those precious hours, when there wasn’t anyone to Skype or speak with about Northeast Ohio tech and pop culture?

Discover new programs

Two new shows that break me away from my typical niche of serial killers and crime procedural dramas debuted recently.

The Last Man on Earth stars Will Forte as Phil Miller, in a delightful comedy about life on earth after every one on the planet but him is gone due to a devastating virus. Phil, like anyone can imagine, spends a couple of years searching the United States for other survivors before returning home to Tucson in a bus laden with artifacts from across the nation.

Resigned to life as the solitary human left on the planet, he proceeds to indulge in increasingly outrageous behavior while gradually loosening his grip on reality. Just as he reaches his lowest point, spending his days lounging in his margarita pool, he decides there is no reason in continuing and plans to commit suicide. But just as he’s about to go through with it, he spots a distant plume of smoke rising into the Arizona sky and rushes to discover another survivor.

The Last Man on Earth, Phil Miller spends his days immersed in a margarita pool

The Last Man on Earth, Phil Miller spends his days immersed in a margarita pool

And it’s a woman!

Carol, played by Kristen Schaal, quickly gets under Phil’s skin though, and what Phil desperately hoped for sours as the two of them learn to deal with each other.

Both of the show’s stars have been making me laugh for years, and this vehicle is a great opportunity for Will Forte to shine. It would be a disaster if either of the two characters didn’t allow for some kind of audience connection, and thankfully they both pull off an excellent blend of evoking some sympathy while at the same time remaining human enough in the sense that their actions border on the bizarre, irritating each other but not viewers. And, of course, both Forte and Schaal are very funny people who portray their characters terrifically. With only each other to play off of, timing is everything and each accomplish the comedic beats with aplomb.

Post-apocalyptic comedy doesn’t get any better than The Last Man on Earth, which airs Sunday nights on Fox.

In a similar vein, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt spins comedy out of a disturbing premise. This Netflix show, which in streaming program fashion dropped the entire first season at one time, stars Ellie Kemper as a former doomsday cult captive who decides to start a new life in NYC after being discovered and rescued.

Ellie Kemper is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Ellie Kemper is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

i’m really only familiar with Kemper’s work as Erin on The Office, a show that for me was must-see for its entire run. As Kimmy Schmidt, she brings the same sort of awkward naiveté that she did as Dunder Mifflin’s receptionist, except amped up to the Nth degree. i’ve read that the Erin character was originally supposed to be more sarcastic, but was altered by the writers to fit Kemper’s real personality more.

In an interview she did years ago regarding her role on The Office, she described Erin as “an exaggerated version of myself.” After watching a few episodes of Kimmy Schmidt, i get the feeling this new show is the perfect opportunity for Kemper to ramp up her comedic skills by exaggerating her personality even more.

There’s something almost magical about Kimmy the character, with Kemper’s body language and physical comedy matching her verbal delivery to spin out some really funny laughs. The absurdist alchemy she performs on the show transformed me into an instant fan, and i’m happy to discover there’s at least a second season planned.

What a Wednesday!

With a lifetime of interest in comic books distilled these days down to a selective few titles from Marvel Comics, there’s typically only one book per week on my digital pull list.

This past Wednesday, March 11, i opened up the Marvel Comics app to find there were five comics to add to my library!

Ant-Man #3 cover by Mark Brooks

Ant-Man #3 cover by Mark Brooks

First up was Ant-Man #3. Longtime Long Shot readers will know that new books get three issues to make a fan of me, and Ant-Man did it in just one back when Ant-Man #1 came out in January. When it comes to comics, i have pretty particular tastes. Classic superheroes are my favorite by far, but i’m just not interested in the standard sorts of stories about monthly superhero slugfests, big event crossovers and whatever villain is threatening mankind/the universe/whatever.

i’m more interested in what these colorful characters do when they’re not punching bad guys or each other, and Ant-Man delivers those stories. In this book, current Ant-Man Scott Lang (to be portrayed by Paul Rudd in the upcoming MCU film) is more concerned with being a good father and making a decent living than foiling nefarious schemes, with dramatic beats more about ties with his daughter and ex-wife than life-and-death struggles against supervillains.

Written by Nick Spencer, who also penned Superior Foes of Spider-Man – one of my favorite books that was of course canceled – brings the same brand of offbeat humor and breaking tradition to Ant-Man while still acknowledging the character’s place in the greater Marvel Universe.

As you can see from the cover to issue #3, Ant-Man runs into trouble with Taskmaster, a great Marvel villain who shows up to give our tiny hero a hard time. Like in earlier issues, Ant-Man uses his powers of both shrinking and communicating with ants to some clever effects against the guy with the photographic reflexes, and also manages to crack wise by about something i’ve long wondered myself:

“Your costume? It doesn’t make any sense! It’s like ghost-pirate-Captain America clone. With a cape!”

Howard the Duck #1 cover by Joe Quinones

Howard the Duck #1 cover by Joe Quinones

This was a surprise to see under new comics for the week: Howard the Duck #1 by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones with color artist Rico Renzi. A new title starring this talking duck who displays remarkable common sense in a world gone mad was not something i’d heard about, and i felt compelled to check it out.

Not surprisingly, this new series debut was funny and unusual, setting up Howard the Duck as a private investigator whose first case provides him and readers to an introduction into the Marvel Universe. His pursuit of the case brings him for a visit to She-Hulk’s law firm, which occupies space in the same building as Howard’s office, and from there he has a rooftop meeting with Spider-Man.

A one-page training montage that involves dodging laser pointers and somehow integrates D&D miniatures results in success when he and new mysterious new assistant, the tattooed Tara Tam, run afoul of Black Cat before the interstellar hunter shown in the book’s beginning pages comes back around to abduct the book’s star at the behest of The Collector – something those who stuck around for the after-credits scene from Guardians of the Galaxy will find familiar, along with an appearance by one of that team’s members on the final page that will presumably lead to an escape attempt in the next issue.

i’m curious to see where this series goes, and the first issue has me intrigued enough with the wonderfully colorful art, irreverent humor and nod to the character’s ties to Cleveland from the 1986 film that was set in my hometown. Also, i wonder if there’s potential for discussion at the Get Graphic! group at Cleveland Public Library since the series organizer Valentino Zullo mentioned his interest in intersections of character traits like gender, race and so forth. With Howard, we’re given an intersection of mankind and aquatic bird, a character traditionally used for satire and social commentary that i hope continues to do so in this new series.

Waugh!

Silver Surfer #10 cover by Mike and Laura Allred

Silver Surfer #10 cover by Mike and Laura Allred

Another installment of cosmic ginchiness arrived with Silver Surfer #10, written by Dan Slott with art from the incomparable Mike and Laura Allred.

This issue wrapper up a storyline that had earthling Dawn Greenwood discover Surfer’s past as a herald of Galactus responsible for the World Eater’s destruction of countless planets and their inhabitants.

Packed with pathos, Surfer won the trust of a planet populated by the only survivors from world already consumed by Galactus who initially hated and feared the skyrider of the spaceways (with good reason) as well as a building on the humanity of Norrin Radd when, in the midst of trying to fend off Galactus, he admits to himself as much as to Dawn that he loves her.

Awww!

The emotional core of Silver Surfer has always been one of the things i’ve most enjoyed about this character, who despite vast cosmic power and awareness still cleaves to the humanity he gave up to save his own planet long ago. Despite everything he has seen and endured, and his basically limitless power, he still understands the importance of individuals in the cosmic scheme of things.

One of the other things i’ve most enjoyed about this book during its run is the development of the Surfer’s board (dubbed Toomie by Dawn) as a supporting character. The ways in which the writer and artist give Toomie a personality are creative and fun.

The end of this issue has a lot of tears and heartache, but hope as well – a hallmark of great Silver Surfer stories. In a clever twist of the paradigm Galactus shares with those who seek out planets for him to consume, the Surfer declares himself a herald once more. But this time, he is a herald of those who survived, and vows to find them a new planet.

i’m a little surprised that this book hasn’t included a letters page yet, since most of the other Marvel books, at least the ones i read, have a page or two at the end for reader interaction. i sincerely hope they are receiving astronomical amounts of great feedback on this series, because frankly its one of the all around best comics out there right now and it would be sad indeed if it were to get canceled.

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the latest edition of  Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these are the ones that most caught my attention! If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

i’ve got to wrap things up prematurely today due to a work emergency, and i didn’t get a chance to go over a few other noteworthy things (and thereby clear a bit from the To Do List). i’ll also include the usual further reading links that no one ever clicks on because hey why not?

Please visit again soon (like, tomorrow) for a follow-up Week in Geek to cover two other books, a little gaming update and – thanks to a reply i just received – some NE Ohio news from the tech community.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back tomorrow, Saturday March 14, and i’d love to see you here!

Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!

Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).

Check out the articles i’ve written for The News-Herald.

Thanks for reading!

Help Wanted

Regular readers at The Long Shot may have taken note on Feb. 6 that my usual Week in Geek post did not materialize. So firstly, sincere apologies to anyone who looks forward to that for Northeast Ohio, national and global news and commentary about technology, science and pop culture.

Several other life demands have me scrambling around and the fourth dimension was not in my favor.

The spike in my busy-ness has created an opportunity for you to step in and maybe score yourself some loot for the effort!

bill_murry

Sharp-eyed readers might have caught some of the instances when I’ve appealed to other writers to Take a Shot and add their own content to The Long Shot. Over time, a couple of people have done so, and in one case their work has become one of the most-viewed items in the archives here.

During this particularly hectic period for me, i’d like to redouble my efforts to expand and include content from anyone else who has something to say about the things they geek out about. i hope a few people are inspired to follow the link and create content of their own to share.

If you are unsure what to write about, i can help you there – items cross my desk pretty often that i simply can’t cover. So if you’re into the same sorts of things as me, let me know and i’ll point you in a direction.

Or, write about whatever topics interest you. If you need help developing some ideas, drop me a line and i’ll do what i can – there are tons of stories everywhere waiting to be told. Previews, reviews, commentary or enterprising stories engage you and your readers and help discover more about the world around us.

Need help with editing? i’m a grammar, punctuation and style nerd and i’d be happy to help there too.

And once your work is ready, getting the word out will be my pleasure. Always be hustling!

Need an incentive?

The first six writers to create great content can choose from a grab bag of geeky loot! The Long Shot (and by extension, me) doesn’t make any money off this blog. My compensation comes in the form of reader interaction, audience growth and personal improvement, and i hope you will be able to say the same. And if things ever take off, well…you can say you were there in the early days.

i’m looking for thoughtful, well-written pieces that show initiative and passion for the subject matter. To start this incentive, the first selected piece will get their choice of items from those pictured below, and so on until all six have been awarded.

The first batch of items comes from Loot Crate, which sends subscribers a monthly package of exclusive themed geeky goodies. In the future, more Loot Crate exclusives may become available. There’s also several unique shops near where i live so you never know what might be in later grab bags.

8-bit themed sunglasses that you will not find anywhere else. Retro stuff is cool right?

8-bit themed sunglasses that you will not find anywhere else. Retro stuff is cool right?

This innocuous-looking cartridge replica is actually an anthropomorphic figure with pop-on legs and arms that wields a classic 8-bit Ninendo gun. Tell me you don't want that defending your desk.

This innocuous-looking cartridge replica is actually an anthropomorphic figure with pop-on legs and arms that wields a classic 8-bit Ninendo gun. Tell me you don’t want that defending your desk.

Each page of this comic book notebook has pre-drawn comic panels, so you can create your own epic comic book.

Each page of this comic book notebook has pre-drawn comic panels, so you can create your own epic comic book.

Widely considered the best item in the crate, inside this box is a skinny tie featuring a Space Invaders pattern of row upon row of alien swarms.

Widely considered the best item in the crate, inside this box is a skinny tie featuring a Space Invaders pattern of row upon row of alien swarms.

An exclusive, variant cover issue of Marvel Comics' Star Wars #1 that sold a million copies. This cover features Han Solo and Chewbacca. Exclusive comic book variant cover. Even better if your piece is Star Wars related.

An exclusive, variant cover issue of Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #1 that sold a million copies. This cover features Han Solo and Chewbacca. Exclusive comic book variant cover. Even better if your piece is Star Wars related.

T-shirt featuring a blueprint design of everyone's favorite robotic lions that combine to form a giant sword-wielding robot. This medium-sized Voltron t-shirt can be yours!

T-shirt featuring a blueprint design of everyone’s favorite robotic lions that combine to form a giant sword-wielding robot. This medium-sized Voltron t-shirt can be yours!

Pretty nifty stuff, amiright?

Now get out there and get some stories! Even if these items get snatched up, i sincerely hope that writers out there will take a shot on some ideas and see what comes about. i started this blog a few years ago without much direction or experience as a way to get extra practice while studying journalism in college. Since then, it’s given me opportunities to interview some really great people, discover exciting things happening in my hometown and build some credibility along with a portfolio of work, some of which has been published elsewhere.

i hope that other writers out there will get inspired to find stories and get in touch with interesting people behind the things they love, and i’d be honored to provide the space for you to share your work.

Feel free to fill out the form or shoot me an email to get started. If you have that desire to be a writer like i have since childhood, now is as good a time as any to take a shot.

Content analysis

Friday night, ice tinkles in the glass. The shape of downtown is visible through the negative space where there are no office lights on at this hour. Some shapes and lights move out there – a car on the shoreway, a train just up the block from Clifton Boulevard. Shapes made of light move across the screen, too. i’m organizing some files and come across a content analysis of The Onion. The bulk of work in a course frequently spoken of dread beforehand and relief after. A wild Friday night.

cleveland-skyline-at-nightjpg-40c37272a71eb3df_large

i didn’t find it to be so. To an analytical mind, learning to understand the underlying logic in content messages held no small amount of appeal. Plus, we got to design a scientific inquiry into any subject we chose. The professor made it very clear that some of the material potentially included things like colorful language or other socially uncomfortable content, and that was okay. The project was to be factually honest, both technically and ethically.

My research question was:

Does the inclusion of profanity, referential material, and visuals with traditional journalism combine to make “The Onion” an effective satirical news source?

After a lot of counting swear words intellectual debate with myself over things like if a lion lamenting its own slow death counted as real people (the lion is real), a mythical being, maybe even just “other,” the results showed that The Onion is pretty true-to-form when it comes to traditional inverted pyramid style. Much more often than not are references to real people and things. Also there were enough ticks in the “other”  category that further tests should expand the possible choices.

The articles from The Onion that have been cited elsewhere as credible sources contained no contextual profanity. There had been 17 times where that happened at the time of the research.

So basically, if they cut out the profanity, they could easily be mistaken for real – if not absurd – stories.

As a heads up, here’s one of my all-time favorite stores from The Onion. If you ever hear them report this on the nightly news, you’ll know it’s a fake. The original piece has artists renderings of the stunning discovery.

AL JIZAH, EGYPT—A team of British and Egyptian archaeologists made a stunning discovery Monday, unearthing several intact specimens of “skeleton people”—skinless, organless humans who populated the Nile delta region an estimated 6,000 years ago.

An archaeologist examines the intact remains of a spooky “skeleton person.”

“This is an incredible find,” said Dr. Christian Hutchins, Oxford University archaeologist and head of the dig team. “Imagine: At one time, this entire area was filled with spooky, bony, walking skeletons.”

“The implications are staggering,” Hutchins continued. “We now know that the skeletons we see in horror films and on Halloween are not mere products of the imagination, but actually lived on Earth.”

Standing at the excavation site, a 20-by-20-foot square pit along the Nile River, Hutchins noted key elements of the find. “The skeletons lived in this mud-brick structure, which, based on what we know of these people, was probably haunted,” he said. “Although we found crude cooking utensils in the area, as well as evidence of crafts like pottery and weaving, we are inclined to believe that the skeletons’ chief activity was jumping out at nearby humans and scaring them. And though we know little of their language and means of communication, it is likely that they said ‘boogedy-boogedy’ a lot.”

Approximately 200 yards west of the excavation site, the archaeologists also found evidence of farming.

“What’s puzzling about this,” Cambridge University archaeologist Sir Ian Edmund-White said, “is that skeletons would not benefit from harvested crops, as any food taken orally would immediately fall through the hole behind the jaw and down through the rib cage, eventually hitting the ground. Our best guess is that they scared away a group of human farmers, then remained behind to haunt the dwelling. Or perhaps they bartered goods in a nearby city to acquire skeleton accessories, such as chains, coffins and tattered, dirty clothing.”

Continued Edmund-White: “The hole in that theory, however, is that a 1997 excavation of this area which yielded extensive records of local clans and merchants made no mention of even one animated mass of bones coming to town for the purpose of trade. But we are taking great pains to recover as much of the site as possible, while also being extremely careful not to fall victim to some kind of spooky skeleton curse.”

As for what led to the extinction of the skeletons, Edmund-White offered a theory.

“Perhaps an Egyptian priest or king broke the curse of the skeletons, either by defeating the head skeleton in combat or by discovering the magic words needed to send their spirits back to Hell,” Edmund-White said. “In any case, there is strong evidence that the Power of Greyskull played a significant role in the defeat of the skeleton people.”

According to Hutchins, the skeletons bear numerous similarities to humans, leading him to suspect that there may be an evolutionary link between the two species.

“Like humans, these creatures walked upright on two legs and possessed highly developed opposable thumbs,” Edmund-White said. “These and many other similarities lend credence to the theory that hundreds of thousands of years ago, human development passed through a skeletal stage. These skeletons may, in fact, be ancestors of us all.”

“Any of us could be part skeleton,” he added.

Other experts disagreed.

“The evidence of an evolutionary link between humans and skeletons is sparse at best,” said Dr. Terrance Schneider of the University of Chicago. “Furthermore, it is downright unscientific to theorize that skeleton life originated in Egypt merely because mummies, another species of monster, are indigenous to the area. Spooky creatures are found all over the world, from the vampires of Transylvania to the headless horsemen of Sleepy Hollow.”

OSU winning the national championship was only 96-pt.

And i couldn’t leave you without the best headline in the history of news journalism. This news is so big…

News so big you have to turn to the jump just to get the whole headline.

News so big you have to turn to the jump just to get the whole headline.

Then there’s me, and the Onion Project.

Speaking of satirical news, the guy who first introduced me to The Onion has been keeping up with his own satirical news site for many years now. The Morning After Post is that site, and it’s time- space- and reality-warped news articles are densely woven to create a place you can get lost at for a while in its dizzying volumes.