Saturday, January 8, 2011
The Definitive Act
Edit: As a clarification when I say "Bandai" I am referring to the people on the Bandai forums, not the actual company and it's designers.

Fun Fact: The name "The Definitive Act" comes from the last album by Tsunami Bomb upon knowing their end. It was also my hope that people would pick some of their favorites over the past year and we could come up with a "Definitive" list of "Must Reads" for newer players who wanted to get brought up to speed on certain history lessons and topics.

But who really cares. Let's get to the topic at hand: the article writing staff essentially got shit canned.

While it pains me that I no longer will get to write on the main site, "The Perfect Curve" is a fine alternative to it. Mostly because I can say whatever I want here without any real fear, as evidenced by the above statement. It's a place where I can basically be "uncensored." When writing for Bandai, you have to realize that there are certain things you can and cannot say. For example, I tried to stray away from writing articles like the last few Gary (VSA) has written because usually it winds up with someone from Bandai asking me questions as to why I did something like that.

I decided to use this space to basically be as brutally honest as I can and answer some of the people in the thread "The Definitive Act" over at Bandai.

@Soviet: Please don't use my space to try to further promote your site. We get it. You're looking for writers. You've used every space on Bandai to point this out. There's just one problem with your idea: There aren't many qualified writers. At least if that's what you're to believe from reading the thread.

@Canti: I thank you for your kind words on the thread. People don't seem to realize how stupidly difficult and time consuming this project is.

Here's the scenario: I want you to build a deck of Naruto Cards to take to a local. Your job is to try to win said local with that deck. If you don't place within the top 50% at the end of every local, you are banned from ever going to a Naruto CCG tournament again. In addition, you can never use any of the same cards in a deck twice. You cannot ever build any of the decks that someone at the tournament is using either otherwise you automatically get DQ'd. If you win a tournament, you will receive no compensation for the next 4 tournaments.

That's the Bandai writing staff in a nutshell. I'm not saying I hated it, because I loved it, but you have to realize just how difficult it is to come up with a fresh topic every week and also make sure it has never been done before. And if your article is slated for tomorrow and someone covered your topic the day before, guess what? You have 12 hours to write something new. Imagine how it feels to be in the Friday slot. If at any point someone Monday - Thursday overlaps with your article, you have to rewrite it. Think you can do it? Every week for a year? And suppose even if you could do it, could you appease the masses? Think about how many other article writers have come and gone over the last year. . . the system is set up to fail you unless you can handle it. And even then, it's so easy to step on someone's toes and screw them over, which has happened many many times.

@Bunnyslayer: Glad you'll still be reading this. I know we don't always agree eye to eye and you think I'm too nice, but my goal has always been to elevate the player base as well as the design team. If that means I have to cater towards casuals and point out the positives of cards you think will never see the light of day, so be it. If you simply shut out all but the competitive, no new players will join the game. Ripping out a designer's still beating heart rather than showing them what was good and bad with the card only leads to infuriate them and have them squander future cards simply because they had no feedback from a "positive source." There's only so many times you can attack a designer before they just go rogue and not care about anyone's input. Trust me when I say the designers know who is "naughty" and who is "nice" when it comes to judging their card design. The "naughty" group? Yeah. Those are the guys they're not listening to anymore.

@Card-Trader: There's a reason article writers don't talk about decks that much, and you only saw that kind of content rarely. Early on the entire site destroyed any and all articles that were based around deck lists or deck archetypes (for something other than furthering the design). The website basically alienated that style of writing and killed it. That's why you never saw more of that style of article. I am also impressed that you and your local try not to copy each other. Originality is key and helps create a diverse meta (assuming the cards allow for it i.e. 1 Element is clearly superior to all others).

@Itachi Uchiha 62093: Thank you for your kind words.

@Jin: Thank you for being a constant supporter of our work.

@Juggernautonroids: That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes :/

@Amaroq: If you like it, demand that they bring it back. If enough people want it back, it'll happen. This is one battle though I'm not going to lead but I'd be willing to support.

@mwozer: Eat a dick. Seriously. Where are your credentials? It's much easier to be the one criticizing than the one being criticized. Guess what? Those players you want writing the articles: They don't care. Had a player like Joe Colon wanted to write for Bandai, he would have volunteered. There are only a handful of players in the game that are qualified to write for Bandai based on your criteria. One of those players, Bruce Jivens (Kage Winner, numerous tops), you guys voted him out. There was more than enough talent on the Writing Staff, trust me. The people who write the articles may not be the ones with all the credits but backing most of them up are Sannin, Kage, and Jonin Winners/Tops. Just cause Gary's name is on an article, don't assume that he hasn't talked to people like Eric (Squee), Andrew (Zero), or even Thomas (Pyrot). . . people with legitimate experience, tournament wins, and tops. Some of you who read this crap only take it at face value. You don't know how much time is spent sometimes verifying crap, calling up play groups and networks. It's baffling that you're so narrow sighted. To say that some of the articles where by players who didn't "grasp" the game might be true at some times but I personally take offense to that. Spreading "lamentable" ideas? Don't make me laugh. Actually read over a lot of the old articles: A few of them are actually implemented into the game now.

Those very same people you want writing the articles, do you even see them on Bandai? No. You know why? Cause they can't be bothered since no one will listen to them anyway. Come on. Name 1 GenCon winner who actually posts on Bandai frequently for something other than just "Trololololing" or telling you why you're wrong? If anything, the writers that were on Bandai write now are literally iron willed to have to deal with this crap.

@Elite: I learned to play the game from you. Attempting to perfect it with Andrew. :P

@Fuzzy-Lumpkins: Help you build your deck? We already went over this. . . people just chew you up and spit you out for these kinds of articles. Don't believe me? Read MJM's articles from that of yesteryear. Why do you think he's not on the staff anymore? Why do you think Bruce isn't on either? Cause suggesting cards that going into a deck or helping players fix decks alienates certain players, they neg you in refs, and then you're that much closer to getting thrown off the team. I know how they do things in "Magic" is different but in Naruto, a game that takes far less skill, hiding tech is very important at high level play sometimes. No high level player is going to spell it out for you. In fact, see Josh Lu's "Chidori Sabotage" from back in the Freedori meta or Joe Colon's "Shika [Flex)" power play in New York. If anything, a top player is going to tell you what NOT to do under the guise of what you should do so it makes it easier for them to win. The prizing in this game is very low in general so to make up for it, why not keep everything you know under lock in key to make it easier to win for yourself? I personally like elevating the player base, as does Andrew. I can't speak for him, but I love the thrill of a challenge. By elevating everyone else, it makes winning harder for me and I get the joy out of playing more and more difficult opponent's so that I can get better and better. It's the satisfaction of self improvement. If I were solely motivated on winning, why the fuck would I help you? It makes it harder for me to win and means my prizing is less and less. That's how the game used to be back in Sets 1~7 or so.

I think we've since evolved past that and some of us are trying to make this a more competitive and sophisticated game so that we can get the attention of high caliber players from other games, in an attempt to push it further, with better design, prizing, tournaments, and competition.

@Float Like a Bee: It's uncharacteristic of me to be so harsh, but Josh is allowed to say what ever he wants. He didn't go to a community college, he went to a pretty good university. And last I check he's got a good job that's got him set for years to come. He's done more for this game than almost anyone at this point save Andrew. And he has a ridiculous list of achievements to boot. He's earned the right to do whatever he damn well pleases since he's the reason so many of us are here in the first place. He helped raise the early generation and PlayTCG generation of the game. He is the model competitive player and is exactly what I was talking about before: someone who doesn't want to write on Bandai. He barely writes here but when he does you'll see it's one of the most insightful pieces ever written about the game or it's to prove how horribly wrong someone is.

@Yodaz: The content of the articles were useless? Care to make suggestions, as many of us writers have tried to ask for time and time again? People love to complain about what articles do lack but the second we ask what you'd like to see, everyone clams up? I don't even think some of you knew what you wanted to see. Yes some of Gary's last few articles have been awful bitch-fests, but what else is he going to post up there? The entirety of the boards is just a bitch fest over Water or Chikamatsu. . . he has nothing to drum off of. We can't repeat articles. We can't write about the state of the meta cause its just a snooze-fest. Design articles have been beaten to death. Pretty much every other idea is dead. . . or is a rehash of an old idea that people used to like (Read: Interviews).

You liked Zero's SJC article a lot. That article has also been done by several writers, but only after big events. Outside of NJ's Kage a few weeks back, there hasn't been anything big to write about. Where do you pull the material for an article like that week after week? News Flash: You can't. Our schedule is so cramped, you have to throw something out every week. . . if there's nothing going on in the game, you're often times left to do the "VSA Rant."

"Imo, articles should be about how to be a better player, how to build a better deck, or a "inside trick" to the meta that people may not see or know about (which goes under both headings). I can probably count on my fingers the amount of articles which did any of those."

All of my articles try to teach you to be a better player. There's only so many times though I can talk about playing to your outs, psyching out your opponents, or sideboard tech. The game isn't as deep as you're thinking. . . it literally is just out playing your opponent and having the best deck to help you do that. I can't teach you that in words. You need to sit down at a table, shuffle a deck, and play a game with a group of people using all sorts of variations and combinations of decks, aka PRACTICE A LOT. As for how to build a better deck, that comes through practice, too. You build the deck. If something doesn't help you win, you cut it. If something helps you win, you up the number. Deck building is literally just playing with a pile and swapping in and out cards repeatedly until you come up with a consistently working combination. Sideboarding is literally just the 10 cards that help you win matchups you can't consistently win on, an extension of deck building. And as I already said, the game is shallow...good players aren't going to give out their tricks to win the metagame. Naruto is on the complexity level of Street Fighter II. It's good enough to be competitive, but it's not nearly as complex as a game like Virtua Fighter (Magic the Gathering) or BlazBlue (L5R or whatever have you technical CCG). . . as such you need those tricks to win for yourself. If you have no interest in winning, then by all means, share your tech.

I just said in a paragraph all there is to say on such a subject. You want articles like that every week? Enjoy your snooze fest.

Oh and for the record, Zero doesn't want to write for Bandai. You know why? Putting up with this cycle. He already argues with a ton of people on Bandai and at the company already, why perpetuate the cycle and have to fight more people? See what I mean? If you want to write, you better be ready to fight. If you're already fighting or not into fighting, why bother? There's been tons of incentives for Zero to write for Bandai in the past. He's turned them all down. So sorry to see your dreams of him writing there crushed.

Re: @Fuzzy-Lumpkins: Zero doesn't know because he plays Magic. That's moronic. That's like saying "Clint Eastwood knows Comedy because he's an Actor." No. Zero knows what he's talking about because he simply has more experience playing CCGs than most of the people on the boards. It has nothing to do with what games he has or is currently playing. I could play Magic too... for like 3 weeks. By your statement that must mean I'm right. Andrew has close to 10 years experience with this stuff, where as the average Naruto player probably has maybe 1 to 3 years. He's been there. He's done that. He's seen that. That's why his opinions are usually right... he's seen the trends and knows what became of them and as such he can make the correct assessment so things don't happen again. Just from time to time, certain people don't want to listen to him for whatever reason, be it pride or what have you.

Which leads me to my final point:

@Tylar: Let me start by saying that you are my friend, but I'll be the first one to say that the writing system was flawed. Horribly flawed. And that's why I think we saw such low productivity. I know we've discussed this before and I never tried to push the issue for several reasons including not having a better solution, not wishing to anger you or place more stress upon you, and honestly me being a terrible leader in the past. The entire process, from the beginning, was flawed.

-5 Writers, each posts an article every weekday, for 5 articles a week, 20 a month, etc. The flaw comes in the fact that with this many writers and at this tempo, we've exhausted all topics on the current state of the game. This lead towards looking to the future by talking about previews and design space mechanics. Once we had exhausted that, the only thing left to do was back track into past experiences. After that, all that's left is to turn to others (interviews). The pace was far too great.

-The incentive. 1 Box a month, with more rewards based on your performance over the month, with the person receiving the most "Yes" votes getting the best prize. In addition, if your "Yes" votes fell below a certain percentage, you were ejected from the team. Considering voting wasn't initially "public", alt accounts simply allowed for easy manipulation of who was the winner and who wasn't. It allowed for who was allowed to stay and who left. I've always tried my best to monitor this and make sure everything was fair because the system is easily exploitable, which several newer members took note of as they joined, which would only further degrade the system after the already low quality of writing due to idea "exhausted" staff members.

Had the articles needed to be twice a month, the quality would have been much higher. Once a month? Even higher than that. Had a ridiculous ranking system not had us all at each others throats from day 1, that would have helped too. Finally, a vast majority of the readers not knowing what they want out of the writing (the game and/or Bandai too for that matter) and not realizing the rough position writers were actually in just lead to the whole things downfall.

I'm not saying Tylar is the reason for the death of the system (if anything, his only crime is not being to find a better system after acknowledging the current one was so damn flawed. He was at least smart enough to pull the plug). Nor am I saying the players are the reason for the death of the system. Nor am I saying it was the quality of the writing. When you combine every little piece together, bit by bit, it's very apparent to see why the thing fell apart. Compare my earlier pieces to my more recent ones. The quality is almost night and day, as I've become exhausted from the stress of work, the Bandai posters, having to rush out the articles every 2 or 3 days after barely having bounced back from the last one. . . you cannot do it. Even Matthew Low would be hard pressed to write 4 quality articles every month for a publication by Scrye.

Poor planning.

Poor writing.

Cutthroat environment.

Exhausted ideas.

A less than understanding readerbase.

That's how you kill what should have been a triumphant brainchild to elevate the game's masses.

Alas, there's always fanmade blogs.

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Blogger Zero said...
Mr. Furious, it's good to see you again.

Blogger Canti said...
I always thought that 5 articles a week was too much. 3 or less with 3 or less writers would of been more than enough.
I can't even guess how bad the show would be if we had to host it everyday of the week.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
MJM said...

Alas, the Naruto CCG is in a slump. In every aspect of Naruto, no matter how you can look at it, it's all going downhill.

The Boards have only 3 things.

1. Previews

2. Stupid Players

3. Trolling

That's it. The previews are the best thing there, we all check them out. However, these aren't always the best because it leads to great controversy or overpowered effects that lead to controversy. This controversy then leads to...

Stupid players that think they know everything or think everything is broken, I.E. Hydro-pump. People are idiots. They don't know ANYTHING yet complain about EVERYTHING. After the better or renown players get fed up, they just go...

Troll. Pretty much, what else can you do besides this?

But since the writers got cut, Bandai should at least give more prizing.

Anonymous Mega said...
Bandai, like always, has given us more disappointments than approvals. Sadly, nothing has changed :/

Anonymous Anonymous said...
mwozer has more creds than you bro, just sayin


Anonymous Matthew Low said...
Once I was established at Scrye, I would write 2-4 articles a month. The difference would be that I would write on different games, and it's often that I wouldn't write on a game in successive months, especially if there wasn't anything going on. When there really wasn't anything going on, sometimes I got the "generic" article, which usually came out as a horrible pile.

But if you really decided to go back and look at all my articles, you'd realize most of them are cut from the same cloth and are the same-old same-old format. It became really formulaic because I'm not all that creative, and my editor was fine with my rehashed ideas. I had expansion reviews (either starter deck or booster set), tournament reports (with deck analysis), how-to-build a deck (which I'm really bad at since I usually only play one deck, so what do I know?), new game previews, and new game reviews. And periodically, meta articles which I struggled with writing since I often had little clue what I was writing about.

But why? Simple. There's just not enough to write about, and that's even going MONTH to MONTH. At the height of writing for Scrye while starting to teach, and actually was very close to my breaking point and quitting. It wasn't about the money by any stretch of the imagination; a couple hundred dollars extra a month didn't cover the added stress that I didn't need. I love writing, but the stress involved wasn't quite worth it, especially since a lot of that work was not as inspiring as I really believe it should have been.

Outside of lack of time, one of the many reasons I didn't join the writing team was due to the stress involved. I read a lot of the unnecessary and unfounded complaints on the boards. Of course I know in professional writing a lot of people are jerks, and you have to not let it bother you. But in the flawed system, there wasn't an option. The jerks had power over you. At Scrye, the only people I had to please were my editor, the companies I wrote about their games, and myself. I still got paid either way. If no one bought Scrye, well... the magazine's gone, so that's a foregone conclusion. I rarely ever saw negative critique of my work, but even I knew it wasn't as good as it could be. Everything just became formulaic after a while, and I'm not really sure when. That likely happened after the novelty wore off, and it became more of a job.

Anyway, I know I've said it before and I'll say it again: I still think you're a much more creative and inspiring writer than I was. You have some grammar issues and things like that, but those can be taught and creativity not as much. Most of your pieces I read were ones that I could only dream of writing or even coming up with the idea in the first place.

Blogger Josh said...
There's a reason I don't write very often - if you're going to write something, you might as well make sure it's something worth reading.

fyi, list of stuff worth reading on Bandai:
1. Click on user JDragon/Elite/Mr. Giggles/the_M_man
2. View all posts

Anonymous yodaz said...
I agree with you, system seemed terrible and it was obviously why the quality of the articles wasn't as good as it could be. That still means that most of the articles were uninteresting. Not saying it was your fault, but that I agree with them pulling the plug. The boards have also been terrible since as long as I can remember. You could offer them free money and they would complain your not giving them more.

For the record, i'm not a zero fanboy. Read his article expecting to get nothing out of it and found it to be insightful. Just giving credit where its due.

I happen to enjoy the technical. The game isn't as complicated as others but there is some depth to it. While I agree that any deck building is just play testing and swapping out bad cards for cards that work, there's also logic behind why those cards are better that can often be generalized and is useful for outplaying your opponent. If such insights were limited as you seem to be implying the game would have gone stale after the first few sets and we wouldn't see as much momentum within sets as we do (no need to change decks after the first week or so). I realize that this sort of thing may not be what you want to write about, but personally its what I look for when reading articles on tcg's and tbh i'm not sure what else one would look for in an article on tcg's.

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