Running Commentary 8/29/2022
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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
The second episode of the show was released Thursday, and it seems that the central plot is finally kicking off. Here are my notes:
- I’ve seen a lot of complaints that (so far) this show hasn’t had much action. And, yeah, it hasn’t had much action, but I’m not complaining. I’m sure we’ll get some action in this show, but the first episode was all about establishing the character. This episode was all about establishing the plot, which isn’t an action plot. It actually seems like a pretty interesting plot, the most interesting one we’ve had since Loki.
- I actually haven’t ever seen The Incredible Hulk, so I wasn’t sure if Blonsky had been recast or not. I know Hulk’s line about being a completely different person now was a nod to the character’s recasting, but Blonsky said somthing similar, so I wondered if he had been recast. He hadn’t.
- I hope we keep cutting away to the Hulk on some mission in space. That’d be a good running gag.
- I like this show so far. The idea of someone with an established career getting unsolicited superpowers is, for as much superhero media we’ve seen in recent years, an underexplored idea, and one that I think could make an interesting story. I’m really looking forward to the next episode to see where this all goes.
Skorpios comes off one of their best seasons to serve as the final fight of last Thursday’s Champions bracket, marking the first time I was pretty sure the gatekeeper bot would be the winner of the gatekeeper match. Let’s look at the fights:
- BIG DILL v BLOODSPORT - Gary Jin lent Big Dill some material to add some catches to their front wedges to protect its lifter, but it was all for nought as Bloodsport almost immediately severed Big Dill’s drive chain before lodging it under the arena screws. Bloodsport was the bot I had going up against Skorpios by the end, so I was unsurprised by a decisive win here.
- BLACKSMITH v DEADLIFT - Longtime readers will remember that I long described Blacksmith as the worst veteran bot in the field. After last season’s redesign, which brought a real weapon, is that still fair to say? Well, here they barely beat Deadlift, who would have been easy pickings for similar bots like Sawblaze or, indeed, Skorpios. Still, a win’s a win, and it was a win well earned by Blacksmith’s aggression through the fight.
- LUCKY v SWITCHBACK - Lucky, who did seem genuinely lucky during its surprisingly impressive run last season, saw their luck run out as they lost after one hit to Switchback. Now, you’ll remember Switchback as a bot debuting last season that I was really excited to see and later really disappointed by. But I never doubted that weapon of theirs, just their ability to weild it effectively. This fight really shows that, if they can ever get their weird design figured out Switchback will be a real threat.
- BLADE v KRAKEN - Blade, the famous Korean champion whose American debut was an embarrassing showcase of outclassed construction, came in with a different blade and left with a different result. Despite some drive impairment issues toward the end, Blade just continuously tore away at Kraken, even when they were trapped in Krakens jaws. Following a winless season and a first match loss here, a (mock?) tearfull Matt Spurk announced that Kraken would be retiring, and hinted that he had a new, more destructive bot design waiting in the wings for next seaon.
- BLADE v BLOODSPORT - Blade turned right around to fight Bloodsport, a much tougher matchup able to go weapon-to-weapon from any angle. Bloodsport got a lucky shot in during the fight’s fist seconds, knocking Blade high-centered. Still, it was a dignified loss this time.
- BLACKSMITH v SWITCHBACK - Is there such a thing as an evenly lopsided matchup? Blacksmith is a bot with hardly any punch in its weapon, but that can dominate a fight with its driving and attacks. Switchback can barely drive, but hits like a bus. So, going into it, I had no guess who was going to win this fight. As it happened, agility was the more important part of the equation. Al Kindle knew what he was doing in this fight.
- BLACKSMITH v BLOODSPORT - By this point I was sure Bloodsport would be the one to face Skorpios. The aggression Blacksmith ha displayed all night was all but gone as it hid behind a heavy wedge, waiting for too-few opportunities to strike while Bloodsport’s weapon wasn’t spun up. A final, desperate strike cost Blacksmith its weapon, but I think it had already lost the match. (Although Jason Bardis must’ve seen something I didn’t, as he scored the fight in Blacksmith’s favor.)
- BLOODSPORT v SKORPIOS - I’ve seen enough fights between Skorpios and a horizontal spinner to know to favor it to win here. Still, Bloodsport it no pushover; indeed, they’ve knocked Skorpios out before. Skorpios has improved since Season 5, and were able to go the distance here. Ironically, Bloodsport did the most damage when it’s weapon wasn’t running, and Skorpios broke their own weapon drive hammering away at a pinned opponent. Skorpios maintained control of the fight, which, despite their taking the heaviest damage, won them the judge’s decision.
DevStream 163 was the first one since TennoCon 2022, and the first one with the new Warframe leadership team: Rebecca Ford as Creative Director (of course an old face on DevStreams but now in Steve’s seat) along with Lead Game Designer Pablo Alonso (in Scott’s seat), Community Director Megan Everett (in Rebecca’s old seat), Art Director Kary Black (in Geoff’s seat), and Lead Character Artist Greg Tchjen (in Sheldon’s seat, which means he gets to read the plat winners’ embarrassing screen names.) At first I was confused that Sheldon wasn’t there, since his role at the company hasn’t changed, as far as I know, but honestly I and most of the rest of the Warframe playerbase are probably more interested in character design than studio operations anyway.
This stream was mostly concerning the upcoming “Veilbreaker” update, although we got very little information about the quest itself, other than it will bring some changes to the status quo of the Origin System. What we do know is that, after the quest, there will be weekly missions where we’ll play as Kahl-175, which sounds pretty fun. There will also be weekly “Archon Hunts”, which appear to be challenging endgame content that will reward “Archon Shards”, which we used to revive the Lotus and which apparently can also be used to semi-permanently buff our favorite ‘frames. Overall the new game systems seem like they should be fun, but, again, we’re low on details.
Also coming in the next update is the 50th Warframe, Styanax the Hoplite. In celebration of this milestone, DE’s just gonna give Styanax away to anyone who logs into the game for the first two weeks. (Everyone who comes along later will be able to farm him through Kahl missions.) We got a full demo of his ability kit, which seems to be prioritizing versitility. All the abilities seem useful: his 1 will group up enemies, his 2 will strip enemy armor, his 3 will buff the squad’s energy and shields, and his 4 will do damage to whoever’s in front of him. The 4 seems like it might be the least useful; it seems most like Vauban’s 3: cool looking, but probably not worth using over a weapon with splash damage.
Speaking of weapons with splash damage, though, they’re about to get nerfed. Now, they aren’t getting nerfed directly; a few mods focused on improving the performance of AoE weapons will improve their performance a little less, and splash damage won’t count for headshots anymore (although if you hit an enemy in the face with a rocket, that will still count as a headshot.) Headshots from precision weapons will deal 3x damage, up from the current 2x, which should make precision weapons a little more attractive. But the big change is coming in from the side, through the ammo system. The current rifle/shotgun/sniper/pistol ammo drops will be replaced with simplified primary/secondary ammo drops. Ammo drops will drop at half the rate but will restore twice the ammo, compared to currently. This won’t make much of a difference to players wielding machine guns or shotguns, or other high-ammo-reserve weapons, but those wielding low-ammo-reserve weapons (like the rocket launchers DE’s trying to keep players from spamming everywhere) are probably going to actually run out of ammo unless they’re judicious about when they shoot, only targeting enemies that are all grouped up.
Now, I haven’t noticed a huge issue with explosive weapons, anecdotally, but DE has the stats on weapon usage, and they never have liked a handful of weapons dominating players’ choices, so these changes are unsurprising; honestly I think trying to tighten the ammo economy is a pretty creative solution. I do think that, one way or another, AoE will remain the meta over precision. Warframe is a horde fighter, and AoE fights hordes better than non-AoE. But these changes will reduce cheesing, and I don’t think will ruin the game for anyone, so they seem fine.
There was a lot in this DevStream, more than I really care to cover. There are changes coming to Wukong (mostly focusing on reducing his clone’s ability to automatically complete missions) as well as to the three starter frames (no real changes to ability kits, but some re-balancing). There will be some new weapons and skins. Crossplay is still in the works, as are raids, but neither will be released this year.
Bird of the Week
This week, we’re going to a new country for Bird of the Week. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I’ve featured a bird from the Philippines. Even the cosmopolitan distribution of the Barn Owl doesn’t include the Philippines. But this week’s bird, the aptly-named Philippine Eagle, is found exclusively in the Philippines, where it serves as the national bird.
The Philippine eagle is the largest species of eagle in the world, measuring over three feel long from beak to tail and with a wingspan of seven feet or more. It is also likely the rarest eagle in the world; its remote habitat makes accurate counts difficult, but there may be as few as 180 adult specimens in the wild, fewer than the number of adult Madagascar Fish Eagle, the only other critically endangered eagle. While they were never especially numerous, Philippine eagles have suffered an incredible amount of habitat loss in the last century. They live and nest deep in the montane rainforests of large Philippine islands, and these forests are often clear-cut to provide exotic hardwood exports and land for agriculture. Conservationists (including famous aviator Charles Lindbergh) became very interested in the eagle during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and organized captive breeding programs, such as were performed on the even rarer California Condor, are ongoing. The Philippine government has outlawed the killing of eagles, though the forests continue to be cut down.
When it was first described by the English naturalist and explorer John Whitehead, who called it the “monkey-eating eagle”, having been told the bird ate monkeys by people local to the bird’s home islands. While they do eat the occasional monkey, the eagles also feed on a variety of small-to-midsized animals. In 1978, Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos issued an official declaration that the monkey-eating eagle henceforth be re-named the Philippine eagle, a move he hoped would make the bird more popular. To science, the bird Pithecophaga jefferyi, its genus name deriving from the Greek for “monkey-eater” and its species honoring stockbroker Jeffrey Whitehead, who funded his son’s expeditions. “Philippine”, as it pertains to the archipelago nation, is a reference to Philip II, who was King of Spain when the Spanish claimed the islands. This makes the second time a bird has been named for King Philip (the first being the Northern Lapwing, called “little Philip” by the Irish.)
How the Physics of Nothing Underlies Everything | Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine
“As modern physicists have grappled with more sophisticated candidates for the ultimate theory of nature, they have encountered a growing multitude of types of nothing. Each has its own behavior, as if it’s a different phase of a substance. Increasingly, it seems that the key to understanding the origin and fate of the universe may be a careful accounting of these proliferating varieties of absence.”
Bird of Prey | Eric Liner & The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
[VIDEO] Feature-length documentary documenting efforts to observe and conserve the Philippine Eagle (94 minutes)
Mutual Benefit | Adam Smith, Lapham’s Quarterly
“From The Wealth of Nations. In Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, the author argues that mankind is not so selfish: ‘There are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others.’ Seven years later Smith published this treatise, which Thomas Jefferson called ‘the best book to be read’ on ‘the subjects of money and commerce’—unless one could find Jean-Baptiste Say’s Treatise on Political Economy, which Jefferson felt had ‘a shorter compass and more lucid manner.’”
A Drop of Salt | Christopher Impiglia, Nowhere
[FICTION] A girl and her father, the last two inhabitants of their home valley, face an uncertain move to a city by the ocean.
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