Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

Art Attack! Bow Chicka Bow Wow

As you may have heard from the most reputable news sources, it was my birthday yesterday. Out of the blue, someone sent me this beautiful son of a… ahem, the sunless world:

I think we can all guess who that is.

As presents from nowhere come, that’s a hell of a lovely thing to wake up to. I get sent quite a lot of art – often with “Please don’t post this as it’s not finished” warnings, as well as First Claw conversion images, but I think this might be my fave. The selfish reason of it being a birthday present may indeed be making me biased, but my answer to that is Bite Me, followed by Please Eat My Balls.

On a similar note, I was recently watching a bunch of Traitor Legion tribute videos on YouTube, and although it should’ve been obvious, I was still surprised to see my influence painted all over the Night Lords ones. It made me miss First Claw, not only because if I’d kept them in the game they’d have been a license to print money (teehee!), but because I loved those guys, heart and soul, and I think I’ll always miss them.  Sometimes I muse over adding them as a Chosen Squad to my Chaos Marine army, but even by my standards, that’s a whole spire of self-indulgent bullshit.

But I digress. Let’s discuss art, as I’m in the mood to do so.

A lot of WoW players get their characters artworked up at some point. I’m usually too embarrassed, as despite most of my WoW, uh, “career” spent playing undead, I’ve played a lot of trolls (their faux Rastafarian-ness makes me cringe with some pale shade of residual white guilt) and blood elves (who are the victims of endless “gay” / “girl” / “losers play elves to feel cool” jokes because they’re less muscled, hunched and hideous than the other Horde races). But getting your character inked – or at least, inked well – is usually a cause for “Oh, hell yes!” moments in an RP guild.

Also, often a cause for “These aren’t tears of jealousy, there’s just some hatred in my eye” moments.

Katie recently commissioned some artwork of her paladin, along with another guildie’s paladin, as the two characters are very close – with a sisterhood kinda deal going on. As a late Christmas present, I actually begged Neil Roberts (of Eldar Path and Horus Heresy Series cover fame) to do both of Katie’s main characters, as well as Ron Spencer (of Werewolf: the Apocalypse and WoW: TGC fame). Those are all in mid-scribble, so either me or Katie will show them when they roll in. Patience, grasshopper. Professional artists are busy people; they also suffer from the ire of Deadline Gods.

But I thought some of you might this interesting in the meantime. I’m sort of in love with it – not only does it look lush, it also captures them both to perfection.

Here’s the final piece of the two girls, with the usual “click to make it bigger” addendum:

Hmm.

Hmmmm.

Hmmmmmm…

August 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Wedding Countdown Begins (also, WoW talk)

I recently begged one of my editors for a short story / novella / project / “anything, man…” / to get some extra money together, so I could help my cousin Lisa haul her ass over from Canada and watch me get married. While that’s good for me – and, presumably, for her – it also spawned a project that I’ve been dying to write for ages. More on that towards the end of the year. The deadline’s tight, and I literally can’t miss this one.

Yes, it involves the Night Lords. That’s all I’m saying.

I’m working on getting the New York photos uploaded soon, as well as a few other things. It’s the last few weeks before the wedding, and everything has shifted gear. We’re pretty much ready now, but there’s still jazz to be done in the countdown.

Work-wise, I’m in the second half of The Emperor’s Gift, which is still over a year away from release. Next in line is Void Stalker, the final novel in the Night Lords trilogy. I keep getting asked if there’ll be another trilogy, and it’s not something I can answer with any reliability. If there is, it’ll be years away. It’s not on my radar, as I’m busy for the next 3 or 4 years with other things, and (hopefully) those projects will carry on even longer. I do have plans to do a very long-lasting Chaos series at some point, but it wouldn’t be about First Claw. That said, the elements of the series that I really like (which are thankfully the same elements that other people have really liked) will likely feature in that series, too. It’s just a thematic thing. I’m interested in X, Y and Z, so X, Y and Z will show up if there’s room for them in a realistic narrative.

A solid chunk of 2012 will be taken up by writing my next HH novel, which I’m immensely looking forward to. There’s some other stuff that still hasn’t been announced, but I can say I should be able to show the cover for Aurelian soon. I’ll just say this: it redefines the word Cool. It’s saturated with toxic badassery to the point where it now bleeds pure liquid radness from all the ruptures in its seams. In my less-than-humble opinion, it’s easily the best cover in the Horus Heresy series, including the covers of a couple that you guys haven’t seen yet.

I usually have a short story on the go as well as a novel. Right now, it’s an audio drama for the Horus Heresy. Other, more professional writers will say something like “Audio dramas always present me with a unique set of challenges”, but I’ll break that down a little more for you. I find them fucking weird. I was against the whole concept of them until I did one, and since then I’ve found them a lot of fun. Throne of Lies came out great, bar a couple of lines where I cringe and think “Oh, Holy God, that sentence wasn’t written to be spoken out loud.”

Annabelle’s Blood is slowly reaching the point where I can send it to an agent – and beyond – but I have even less time than ever to crack away at it. I’ve practically quit WoW (insert sad smiley here) because I’m so busy, and three weeks off-work with New York and Nottingham meetings really didn’t help. Time to nut up or shut up.

However, in the name of my intense devotion to slackerhood, here are some of the WoW vids I’ve been watching lately.

I like the funny ones. I like the cool ones. I like the ones with good production values.

I don’t like the ones that go on about being a loser in the real world, and a badass in a video game. I thought that was hilarious when I was a kid, but it’s wearing a little thin now. My issue comes from the bizarre assumption that video games are any different from books or movies. It’s not some desperate escapism, or some creepy empowerment, any more than reading a novel or watching a movie is done with some fierce need to Be Someone Else. You don’t play a game and think “I really am this zombie ninja”. So why are so many of the geek cultural references still playing to that bullshit? Even Jace Hall does it. I love him, but he should totally know better.

I’ll end this bromance, Jace. I’m not even kidding. I don’t care how rad your Street Fighter video is. I’ll cut you loose, like a clingy Titanic survivor in the night. You’ll freeze. You’ll drown. You’ll totally die without the warmth of my distant regard. Let that be a warning.

Anyway, if you actually understand WoW, you’ll know what these lyrics mean. If you don’t, you really won’t.

None of these are the ultra-professional ones (like the Guild or Jace Hall), or the Blizzard ones they do themselves. Still, they’re fearsome.

Behold the glories of “Don’t Trust a Rogue”. I admit, I’m biased, since I play a rogue. This is still adorable. It’s a parody of “Don’t Trust Me” by 3OH!3, who are already both excellently funny and totally rad.

“She wants to sap you, woah-oh… She wants to stab you, woah-oh…”

This is a decent insight into what it’s like to be a rogue, especially with people always asking you to pick locks for them. I find this especially melancholy, since they nerfed Tricks of the Trade, annihilating the Adrenaline Rush/Fan of Knives opener. Ahem. I can just imagine my non-WoW playing friends looking at me like I’m an idiot right there, but it had to be said.

—    —   —

This is “Ulduar”, based on the Titan’s fortress in Storm Peaks.

Please note, the best thing about Ulduar in the game is saying it out loud, as it’s one of those all-time great words, feeling like warm brandy in the mouth. Ooldooarr. Oh, yes. All the best words are at least 50% nouns. Words like… Aaron, for example. I’m just saying.

Anyway, this is a parody of “The Way I Are”, by yet another asshole who gets paid millions of dollars to mumble into auto-tune all the time. Wherever Timbaland is right now, I hope he’s proud of his part in killing music, as well as his fucking appalling grammar.

—   —   —

This is L70ETC’s “Rogues Do It From Behind”, which is one of their dead famous songs. However, this video got Second Place in the EU make-a-video contest a while back, and is especially notable because a) It’s awesome; b) it’s about rogues, and c) I was in a guild with this guy, and he was a really nice dude.

He was robbed.

—   —   —

This is “Horde for Life”, which is a parody of T.I. and Rihanna’s “Live your Life”. The production values aren’t perfect, and their voices run together a little, but it’s still a cute song. Gigi’s voice is always ace, anyway.

And remember kids, if it’s not For the Emperor, then it’s For the Horde.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 22 Comments

I’ll Stab You in the Face — An MMO Guide

I don’t know what happened a few days ago, but my agent is super-pissed at me. Whatever you said to Mr. Duckley has put him in a pretty bad mood, and he mentioned something about needing extra time to answer all of your (in his words) “skull-achingly cretinous queries”.

So I thought I’d put this up to pass the time. It’s an edited version of an article I did a while back, based around the various complexities of being an MMO player. In this case, it’s about having to deal with Tanks.

Note: As with all future I’ll Stab You in the Face instalments, this will make no sense to people who don’t play MMOs. Feel free to go elsewhere for lore on your erudite and urbane hobbies, whatever they may be.

Without further ado:

– A Guide to Working with Tanks –

“Sonic Boom. Sonic Boom. Sonic Boom.” — Guile, famous DPSer.

Three PvE roles exist in World of WarCraft, yet only one is played by mature, reasonable, intelligent, witty, handsome, charming and well-adjusted human beings. That role is called DPS, or Damage per Second. Even the name expresses an air of danger. A thrill-ride, a racing heart barely contained behind a mere mortal’s ribcage – a soul devoted not just to the application of pain; not simply the unleashing of injury upon other souls; but actually calculating how much agony it can inflict every single second.

The other two roles are populated by people who’ve dedicated many years of their lives to convincing everyone that they’re the valuable ones – that they’re the ones who have it so damn hard. These people would have you believe that they hold it all together in their stalwart, godly hands, while the rest of creation burns.

These people are liars.

The lyingest, most dishonestest role of them all is called the Tank. You’ll notice there’s no acronym for them, and it’s fairly obvious why: if their name needed more than one word, they’d likely just get confused trying to abbreviate it. That’s the kind of mind we’re dealing with, here.

Sometimes, if a Tank is feeling particularly witty and up to the task of stringing more than five words together, they’ll take time from placing brightly-coloured icons above monsters’ heads to tell you how they’ve “graduated” from your role because “DPS just wasn’t interesting enough”.

That’s funny, right?

They’re funny guys.

When dealing with a Tank, you’ve got to be careful. They’re not like me and you.

A Tank, communicating with his guild.

So what is a Tank? Good question.

Because of game mechanics, one character in an adventuring party needs to be the one to take all the damage from the bad guys. That’s the Tank. The Tank is healed by the Healer, leaving the DPS to actually do all the damage to the enemies while the Tank keeps them busy. The Tank itself does next to no damage.

And this leads to an intriguing situation.

I ask again: So what is a Tank?

Put simply, a Tank is someone who is categorically, objectively unable to win any of the fights they start.

Tanks will charge headlong into battles of absolutely unwinnable odds, and they’ll genuinely think they’ve got it covered. After several seconds, the light of truth will start to shine in their eyes – which is about the same time their heads get cracked open and the lion’s share of their blood is on the wrong side of their skin.

It’s at that point you need to come save them again.

A tank against one of the many raid bosses in WoW.

I’m not even kidding. I do this basically 800 times per dungeon.

The most famous example of a tank’s skill in warfare is also the classic example of a pedantic child who gets in over his head and needs his friends to come and save him: Luke Skywalker. Although Luke eventually respecs DPS and kills his own dad for a laugh, he’s still a typical tank back in The Empire Strikes Back. It was his job to keep the bad guys busy while his friends ran around and got the real shit done.

Take the climactic scene of Empire, where Luke’s friends have either already escaped under their own power, or have been captured and shipped away to a space slug’s house before Luke can actually do anything about it. He runs in, lightsaber swinging, with hilarious results. He fails to save his friends, starts a fight he can’t win, then demands that his chums come back to save him after his excellent plan of falling of a bridge turns out to be pointless.

HEAL PLZ

If Tanks were just overconfident and stupid, that would be enough for us to sigh in their presence, and wisely avoid them whenever we could. But it’s not even the worst thing. Not by miles.

Tanks are the worst kind of friend to have because they don’t even realise how needy they are. They think they’re righteously awesome. Seriously, they do. It’s the attitude that sucks, man.

Imagine you have a friend that borrows money from you all the time; who begs you to come to bars with him to play wingman, since here’s too shy to meet women without help; who comes to you with all his personal problems and demands that you solve them.

Now imagine that every single day (even as you help him), he gives you a line about how dependent you are on his wonderful company, and about how hopeless you are without him, even as he’s starting another fight he can’t win.

And if you stand there, if you try to let them learn their lesson by watching them actually take the bruises their own actions have earned, then Tanks believe that makes you the dick.

Not them. You.

We’re talking about the kind of friend who’ll start a fight in a bar, then run back to you with nine screaming guys armed with pool cues. Your buddy expects you to, y’know, “maybe just beat up seven or eight of them, okay?” while he’s “totally got this one guy, right here.”

Despite all of this, a Tank will still act like he’s the M to the Otherfucker.

Testicron of <Poonstabbers>, only moments before typing "/rw LAST STAND USED"

The most confusing thing about tanks is that they beg you to hit something for them, and then get mad when you hit it too hard.

The concept of Aggro (or Threat) is a tried and tested mechanic in MMO battles. Monsters deal with whichever character has accrued the most Threat in the group. In an ideal world, that would be the Tank. The problem is, a Tank will tell you to kill a monster as fast as possible, little realising that while he’s Tabbed out and checking Facebook for how fat the hot girls in college have become, all the time you’re stabbing the bad guy in the spine, you’re generating a lot of Threat.

This is known as the Pain Paradox.

A Tank’s cowardly laziness runs along specific needs. He wants to be the centre of attention at all times, taunting the bad guys like some kind of wankery-fuelled jester capering across the battlefield – and yet he wants you to kill every single bastard in the enemy army without even being seen. So… kill everyone… but don’t cause them enough pain to actually notice you’re killing them.

Amazing. That’s Tank logic, right there.

Han Solo: Cool, calm, collected, and getting shit done. The Patron Saint of DPS.

And it’s not always easy. I’m given to understand this is the kind of thing ninjas train their whole lives to achieve.

Worse still, this can lead to the most preeningly bum-facedly annoying comment in all of gaming: “You spank it, you tank it LOL”.

Tanks love saying that. Probably because it rhymes. Little things like that let them feel creative.

What they mean by this insipid phrase is that it’s cool for them to start nine million fights they can’t win, but if you ever do it, you’re on your own. Nope, don’t even think of asking for help. You started the fight. You dared to act without the Tank’s permission. You deal with it on your own. You spanked it, you tank it. LOL.

Most Tanks I know couldn’t even spell “inequality”, let alone grasp the fundamentals of why this concept is unfair. I tried to explain it to a Tank once, but he just got annoyed I was interrupting a song he was singing about himself over Skype while we were going through the undead citadel of Naxxramas.

Of course, none of this applies to the Tanks in my guild, because Heather and Sander are both lovely.

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 29 Comments