Dettlaff: a Vampire follow-up

Ever have a great idea for an all encompassing post on a topic then forget several major things from said topic?

In my last post I talked about my own personal experience with the vampire myth, highlighting my favorite portrayals, films and even games. And yet I left out possibly one of the most defining recent examples of a vampire story-line, one that had me once again rooting for the vampire: Blood and Wine, the expansion to The Witcher 3. This is all the more egregious because it was one of the prime examples of a case where the vampire was the tragic hero in my eyes. So let me make up for leaving this out by telling you the story of how I met Dettlaff in The Witcher 3, and the impression he left me with. Spoilers ahead, you have been warned!

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The Witcher is a story about a mutant monster-hunter, in a fantasy world, named Geralt. He wonders the land killing dangerous creatures nobody else is willing to face in exchange for coin. Every now and again though he is sought out by more wealthy and powerful people, even kings and queens. One such event takes Geralt to the land of Toussaint, where the local duchess asks him for help finding out what kind of monster is killing her knights. As the title of the expansion suggests, it is not hard to guess that the creature in question is a vampire, a man by the name of Dettlaff, as Geralt finds out from a friendly vampire he knows, who shows up to help track him down. But the thing about the Witcher is that nothing is as it seems. The writers of the series love to frame situations with clear heroes and villains, that would be totally straight-forward situations in other stories, then toss a few twists in along the way. Good and evil are completely subjective terms here, and as with most Witcher story-lines, this one too is far from as simple as it seems.

marcin-blaszczak-thumbVampires in the world of the Witcher operate by somewhat different rules than in most other versions. They do not burn up in sunlight, for instance, nor are they repelled by garlic or religious symbols. Their transformation abilities are restricted to a single, massive, bestial human-bat hybrid form. But by far the greatest departure from the common rule-set is that vampires do not require blood to sustain themselves. Blood is like alcohol to them, a substance they can survive without, but one they love and crave despite that. So there is nothing other than cruelty and greed behind those vampires who choose to hunt humans for their blood. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure they count as undead in this world.

Geralt’s vampire friend describes Dettlaff as one who does not partake in the addictive behavior of blood consumption, and through magical means we even get to see Dettlaff execute one of his murders, all the while showing great regret both before and after the deed. Almost as though he is not in control of his own actions. The answer ends up being quite close. As it turns out Dettlaff was being blackmailed. A woman he fell in love with had been taken hostage by criminals who were using her as leverage to force him to kill the duchess’ knights. This kind of moral gray area is pretty much standard for The Witcher. Was he wrong to do it or not? I’m not just being leading when I say “you be the judge”, because I honestly can’t be sure myself.

Giving the monsters human sides is another thing the Witcher does often, so sympathizing with Dettlaff was not surprising to me, hell, I was kind of expecting it. But this would not be a main quest story for a Witcher game without at least one more big twist, and huge moral choice at the end. Geralt goes to rescue the captive lover to free Dettlaff of the blackmail, only to find out that the woman in question was the one leading the bandits. She is the duchess’ sister, and she is out for revenge for her childhood banishment for being born under a bad omen. And as you can imagine, when Dettlaff finds out he goes mad with anger, demanding that the woman be handed over to her or he will wreak devastation on the city until she is. And he follows through. Despite the fact that the sister wanted desperately to murder her, the duchess is entirely unwilling to hand her over to Dettlaff, so Geralt has to take matters into his own hands. As the result of a series of end game choices as to whether to lure out Dettlaff or kidnap the sister, one of several things happens. So let me try to be as systematic as I can with how I approached the endgame. Trust me, this is important.

Based on the interactions I had with the sister (I know, I forgot her name and am too lazy to look it up, sue me) I had absolutely no qualms about handing her over to Dettlaff. Her backstory ends up being something along the lines of being banished from her home for being born under a bad omen, then being abused by the knights quite badly. I don’t know many of the details because when prompted to inquire further about her past I simply told her I didn’t care. Geralt, who speaks more from his own hearth than mine most times, did take the words right from my mouth when he told her she was less interesting than she thought she was. I’m not denying that she has the right to be angry for what was done to her, I’m not even going to argue that the knights didn’t deserve death since even though they never acted as anything other than perfect gentlemen to me she may have known a side of them they didn’t put on display. Where I drew the line at the time was what she did to Dettlaff. He loved her. He loved her enough to murder people he considered honorable men to keep her safe. To a vampire struggling day after day to keep his evil urges in check, to force him to kill, turning him into an accessory… that was more or less the point where I thought to myself: Fuck her. I would hand her over to him, and if he ended up killing her I would say she had it coming. Alas, this is the point where I expected too much of the game.

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Due to my gamer tendency to complete everything I possible can, I ended up helping the sister retrieve an item of sentimental value to her. I did this not because I cared about her feelings in any way, just because it was a task and I wanted to tick it off. However, when I went through with my plan to hand her over to Dettlaff it came into play. I was expecting Dettlaff to prepare to murder her, at which point I would be given the opportunity to interfere or let him (as it happened in a previous expansion in a similar situation). Instead the item in question teleported her away to a place of safety. Dettlaff was furious. He was convinced I had tricked him, and would listen to nothing I said. In his rage I had no choice but to kill Dettlaff, and because I earlier ignored the finer bits of the sister’s backstory, I was missing key information for a certain line of dialog. As a result I received the bad ending, where the naiv duchess tried to forgive her sister, who ends up killing her with a hairpin just before getting shot herself by a crossbow bolt. Fuck me, right? To then make matters worse, the friendly vampire – whose name I do remember: Regis – I mentioned earlier ends up hated and hunted by his kindred for aiding in the death of a fellow vampire, so literally all my intentions went to shit, everyone I cared about died or ended up otherwise for the worse.

tesham-mutna-syanna-is-deadAnd the irony here is, that if this was all a result of wanting to hand over the woman to the vampire, if it was some cruel act of karma come to teach me a lesson and punish me for being bad, I wouldn’t be making such a fuss about it. But it was an act of compassion that ruined the whole thing, namely me going the extra mile to get the sister her keepsake. I know this, because I naturally reloaded my save game from before that event and ignored it. The events change in the following way: Dettlaff kills the sister; I was given the choice to let Dettlaff go, which I immediately took without a second of thought; the vampire swarm attacking the city disperses; the duchess has Geralt thrown into prison for a bit, until she has her mind changed by on old friend of the witcher’s; the duchess lives; Regis is not hunted by the other vampires. And the ending I got still seemed to try and convince me that this was the wrong choice.

Out of curiosity I looked up the other ending, the one the game considers to be the “Happy ending”. Basically imagine the original scenario I got playing out, except if you talk more to the sister, you can eventually convince her to forgive the duchess. In the same scene, where the two got killed for me, they end up hugging it out, and they all lived happily ever after. You know, except the two vampires. One is dead, the other now ostracized by his kind. But who cares about them, I guess? This was not the first time The Witcher’s sense of the correct conclusion to a plot-line was very far from mine, but this one really stuck with me. Specifically because the game made damn sure we saw how much Dettlaff hated to kill, so I assumed he would get some redemption in the end. Yet what the game considers to be the good ending ends up with him dead.

Anyway, that is the beauty of games like these: they are open to interpretation. Each player has their own experience, and what you expect or hope for will likely be very different from what I do. I am pleased that my version of the story ended in a way I was happy with, even if the game did its damnedest to make me feel bad about it. After all, who hasn’t felt so betrayed by a woman, who tricked them into murdering her enemies, that they later unleashed a swarm of angry vampires on humanity until they handed her over to them to execute themselves? … No one? Just me? Well… pretend you didn’t hear that. Later!

An essay on Vampires

Good evening. I’m Lemorack, and I bid you welcome to my site.

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Video games have allowed me to thoroughly examine my own personality from multiple angles. I know that “evil play-throughs” of video games are popular, that is a play-through of an RPG style video game (or similar one where player choice impacts story) where the player role-plays an evil character. Murder, steal, betray, rule the world as an evil overlord and the like. I get the concept. Sometimes it’s just fun to be bad, to let loose and allow all the inhibitions to give way to the built up frustration. It’s make-believe, after all. I have tried multiple times to play an evil character and never finished, because my fragile soul couldn’t handle it. This makes me feel both good an bad. Good, because it means my parents did a good job of raising me to be compassionate by nature, but bad because I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on some good fun. I did, however, find a loophole in the workings of my conscience: I can easily play evil characters, as long as they’re Vampires.

It is said that everyone is the hero of they’re own story. The key to being truly evil is to start seeing yourself as a hero while you do. I’ve liked vampires for quite a while as effective villains, and I’ve been trying to pinpoint when and why they recently started to turn into heroes to me, if that is actually the case.

Thus far I have three self-portraits where I depict myself as a vampire. The first was an attempt to sort of theme my profile pictures across social media to Halloween, even going as far as to change my twitter display name to Lemorac-ula, in an objectively hilarious play on the name Dracula. I strongly dislike the first picture in retrospect. The goofy grin was a result of me wanting to show of the fangs, just so all who look at the picture can easily identify the mythical creature. The second time around I chose to go more subtle. Of all the profile pictures I had the second Lemorac-ula is likely my favorite (close tie between that and Medivh). The third I never used as a profile picture, as that was never my intent with it. But of all my self-portraits, not just the ones I used as profile pictures, the Vampire Lord takes an easy first place, though that is largely due to the company he keeps.

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I went through most of my youth not having seen a single Dracula film. The only vampire movies I saw were by chance during random flips of TV channels. Most of them were garbage, or sub-par at best. I encountered far more vampires in games. Off the top of my head I’d have to say the first ones had to be from Heroes of Might and Magic III, and the very similar game Disciples II. The first time I played as a vampire in a game was in The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim, and it wasn’t really much to write home about. I had a random throwaway character who would do all the things my main character would not: missions for the thieves guild, the dark brotherhood and eventually the court of Harkon. That is where things started to turn. Skyrim’s legendary modding community turned the game’s mediocre, uninspired vampire experience into possibly the best existing gaming example, on the count of how customizable it is.

This was right around the time the Twilight series became a popular film franchise, as well as becoming the Justin Bieber of cinema: a movie for which there were no centrist feelings, they were either adored or despised. You can easily guess which camp I was in. Simultaneously I recall there being a TV series also featuring vampires called True Blood, which I will confess knowing absolutely nothing about. But vampires had something of a golden age. Rather than the villainous predators they are they received a conversion to sympathetic pretty boys. And I want to say: I get it. I do not approve, but I understand. Vampires are attractive for numerous reasons. They have elegance, they have charm, they are inherently mystical and seductive. But more than just that, they are dangerous. Dangerous is exciting, especially when it’s just fantasy. It’s the reason such poorly written garbage as 50 Shades of Gray was popular, and it’s also part of the appeal of say Amazons. Elegance and beauty, with just the right amount of danger mixed in. Who doesn’t like a bad boy? And no, you can be sure it’s not just a female preference. I know I’ve had my fair share of villainess crushes in the past. But I like them because of their evil side, and I can accept that. I don’t need to turn them into sympathetic characters to justify my attraction and resolve the cognitive dissonance.

Nevertheless, I felt the vampire mythos come under attack and a desire to rush to it’s defense, to protect the vampire image from this, what I considered slander it was receiving. I was motivated to preserve my vision of what the real vampire was like, and she was not sympathetic. Vampires are predators. They are wolves in a world of sheep. They feel the same amount of sympathy for mortals as we do for cows: they don’t care, for to them we are just food. Since then I have read Dracula by Bram Stoker and seen every major Dracula film, not including the most recent Dracula: Untold (2014), because I was told it tries to turn Dracula sympathetic again. The movies had their ups and downs. I consider Nosferatu and the 1931 Dracula an obvious high point, though surprisingly both the Francis Ford Coppola version and the Hammer films to be confusing at best, and just disappointing at worst. As much as I adore the portrayal by Lugosi Béla (Bela Lugosi for everyone not born Hungarian) my favorite Dracula might be looked upon as a controversial pick: Dracula: Dead and Loving it. I just have a soft spot for Leslie Nielsen, and despite him being a parody of the character, I actually find him to be a better Dracula than any other I can think of.

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“Renfield, if I am discovered we must flee.”

“Yes. I’ll escape and meet you at Carfax.”

“No, that would be to dangerous. They will search there first.” says Leslie Nielsen’s Dracula, shamelessly pointing out a major plot hole from the 1931 movie. “I have moved my coffin to the abandoned chapel at the top of the cliff. When you come make sure you are not followed.”

To then put the cherry on the cake, I recently also watched the Netflix Anime: Castlevania, and loved every second of it. This was the first time I found myself actively rooting for both sides: the vampires and the hunters. Dracula was sympathetic without being good, he was an evil tyrant, but one still felt for him, understood why he chose to wipe out humans. Still it was also clear why the heroes had to end him. The only real villains here were the church, and boy did they get what was coming to them!

So why do I like vampires as much as I do? I have several theories. For one I might be at odds with my own mortality and find the idea of living forever to be very appealing. More likely is that I relate to them on a level. For what vampires mostly are is an elegant, beautiful facade hiding base, vicious desires. Maybe I see them as liberators from outdated human morals, kind of like what the zombie apocalypse means for society. When you consider how appropriately sexist the original book is (I say appropriate, because it was written in 1897) you can even make an argument for Dracula being the tragic hero of the story. A man who liberates women from the society that chains them down and keeps them from reaching their full potential, and gives them the opportunity to let their desires free and overcome those who tried to keep them down.

“Even if she be not harmed, her heart may fail her in so much and so many horrors; and hereafter she may suffer–both in waking, from her nerves, and in sleep, from her dreams.” 

uta_refsonOr maybe vampires are just cool. Maybe I’m just putting far too much energy into answering a pointless question. But I like to know the reasons for things, and I enjoy discussing theories that are on my mind. So to conclude let me just say:

“Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men´s eyes, because they know -or think they know- some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.”

Deviantart links:

Vampire count; Lemorac-ula I; Lemorac-ula II; Centuria Sanguinis; Ancient Vampire;

Tyrande’s Senitnels

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Activision Blizzard has come up among the topics of my blog posts quite a few times. As of the past decade or so, give or take, I have had very little good to say. As a matter of fact my opinion on the company is just straight up terrible. For the most part I don’t like drying attention to Things I Hate. On the internet the opposite of love is, after all, not hate but apathy. I make a constant exception in the case of Activision Blizzard for one reason and one reason only: Very few companies I can think of have been this consistently responsible for creating some of the most defining works of entertainment that I experienced as a child. To put it simply: Blizzard’s games defined my childhood, and it breaks my heart to see what they have become.

Warcraft. I imagine many people have that one specific story that changed everything. As children we were told fairy tales. Evil creatures would do evil things, and valorous heroes would perform heroic acts to put a stop to them. But at some point the lines became blurred, heroes could become villains, and good deeds would not always go rewarded. For me that story was Warcraft. I was too young to understand the story of StarCraft back when I first played it, my deep appreciation for the storyline of that game would not develop until much after I had finished Warcraft 3. But Warcraft was the video game that shook the foundations, the story told to me that turned Fairy Tail into Fantasy.

Anyone who knows even just a little bit about me or my work knows how important powerful female characters are to me. Being able to play such a character in a video game has actually become an important selling point when I shop for games. This was also the period where that started to mature, where the women in the games that I played began shaping my perception into what it is today. A while ago I had done a series of tribute drawings to those women in video games who stuck with me as the most prevalent, the ones who had the strongest influence. Warcraft, even just Warcraft 3, has no shortage of such characters. Ladies search is Jaina Proudmoore, or Sylvanas Windrunner stand out as such. And while I am fond of both of those characters, as far as I’m concerned neither can hold a torch to Tyrande.

“Women! They’re women!”

“Yes. They almost look like elves, but they’re far too tall, and far too savage.” said Grom Hellscream when the night elves were encountered for the first time, for the Orcs were on edge as the whispering voices in the woods gave them a haunted feeling. Indeed there were spirits among those ancient trees, but they were not the danger. The sentinels were. While literally all than night elf men spent centuries sleeping, the protection of the forest was left in the hands of the sentinels, Night elven warrior women, who’s prowess in battle and fearsome tactics were enough to keep even orcs on their toes. Common Tolkien fantasy would have us thinking of elves as peace-loving Forest dwellers, who welcome guests with open arms, warm fires and leafy food. Not these elves. If you do not respect nature then the only greeting you will receive from a Sentinel is an arrow to the chest. One can imagine what an elf must be like, if an orc would characterize them as “too savage”.

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Priestess of the Night Elf goddess Elune, Tyrande is the leader of the sentinels. Despite the previously mentioned numerous other prominent women in the campaign of Warcraft 3, Tyrande still stuck out the most to me. When I think Warcraft 3 it is her face I see. She is both a powerful priestess, and a cunning warrior, though not without her own flaws. Many millennia of protecting the forest clearly made her weary of outlanders, she would not give her trust easily. These all perfectly complemented by her love, arch-druid Furion Stormrage, and his softer more peaceful perspective make for possibly the only fictional couple you make me question my thoughts on relationships.

 “You realize that we will age as these mortals do. Our powers over nature will wane in time. “

“If pride gives us pause, my love, then perhaps we have lived long enough already. I will proceed to the summit and prepare our defenses there. Whatever comes, my love, remember… Our bond is eternal.”

I stopped following the Warcraft storyline after Cataclysm. Any and all semblance of interesting writing has completely surrendered to the games Alliance vs Horde mentality, which in my cynical opinion, is a despicable attempt to profit off of a fanbase of rivaling groups. As such, my interests in any further developments have long since evaporated. But as I have probably mentioned before, I have chosen not to let the company Activision Blizzard has become to Taint the fond memories they gave me as a child.  I acknowledge, that the game is nowhere near the masterpiece it appears through nostalgia goggles in terms of storytelling, but that will never make it any less special to me.

Post on DeviantArt here!

Undyne to the rescue

Undyne from the video game Undertale has been on my shortlist for a while now. I have yet to make a list of my favorite video game women from current games as opposed to those of my childhood, but if I did, this fish-lady would easily make the cut. Determined and headstrong, as well as the true hero when you need one most. Among others, she saved me from my slump.

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As someone who is not a professional artist I lose my confidence like I lose my TV remote: all the bloody time. I am 90% self taught. I took just a year and a half of professional training in classical art at the end of high-school, other than that my only teacher has been practice. I don’t have the drive to look up and watch videos, I don’t even have the willpower to convert to another art software. My only means of improvement has been drawing. Just drawing, drawing and drawing again. I need to finish pictures in order to keep myself motivated, the method of producing page after page of posed hands just doesn’t work for me, even though it would really do me some good. My drawings are far from masterful, but often I end up with a finished drawing that doesn’t even meet my own standards. It is times like these when I lose most of my confidence in my ability to draw, and that sends me into a slump.

If I convince my self that I can’t pose a figure, then for the next few attempts I am guaranteed to mess up all my poses. If I get the sense that I cant compose a picture, I will be unsatisfied with anything that comes out of my pen. This will then lead to several sketches I start doing and then give up on less than half way through. That then leads to weeks or even months without a finished drawing, without something uploaded to my site or my DeviantArt. My recent addition of making timelapse videos also has a tendency to hold me back. When I know I’m going to record my process it gives me the need to have the composition ready in my head, so that the start of the video doesn’t contain the many minutes of me messing around with the starting sketch before I get the final one. But if I just draw without recording it, that’s another drawing that doesn’t get uploaded to Youtube. The need to go all out, combined with the unwanted extra pressure has the effect of keeping me from sitting down and starting to draw.

There is only one way I have ever been able to combat this problem. When I get stuck like this, the picture I do finish has to restore my sense of ability, and make all the pressure pay off. Simply put, I have produce a kick-ass drawing, and that means I have to draw something that really inspires me. It is always some awesome, badass woman who comes to my rescue in such a case, one even more so than the ones I draw regularly. Below are a few examples of the women who restored my faith in myself at such times in the past.

This time it was Undyne.undyne_casual

Undertale is as close to a timeless game as I can think of. It has a simple but appealing visual style, amazing soundtrack, engaging story with a cast of wonderfully written characters, and a method of storytelling that touches beautifully on video games as a medium. Without being overly explicit, the events within the game world make subtle comments on concepts like player agency, choice and consequence, persistence in the face of adversity, and even watching video games played on video or live-stream. To say anything more is to spoil the game, so beyond that I shall only say a few words about Undyne.

Now I know you aren’t just some wimpy loser. You’re a wimpy loser with a big heart!undyne_the_undying

Tough and relentless on the outside, but warm and fuzzy on the inside with a heart of gold. She can come off as hard and overly aggressive, but when push comes to shove you can count on her to put her life on the line to protect others, and no danger of any size will get her to give up. She is the perfect character to help inspire me not to back down from the things I love and, above all else, to stay determined.

You’re going to have to try a little harder than that!

Link to the drawing on DeviantArt here: Armored, Casual, Undying.

The Queen of Blades

I still have Starcraft on the brain. As such I feel like talking about Sarah Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades.

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A while ago, before this website existed, I did a number of tribute drawings for my personal five most influential female characters in gaming when I was young. Kerrigan was one of them.

Starcraft is a sci-fi story that takes place in a far future setting, where certain human colonies in space had broken off from the home world, and taken on lives of their own. The Terrans share that sector of space with two other alien species: the insectoid, hive-minded Zerg; and the ancient, far advanced Protoss. Their are no real good guys in this story, nor any single, world threatening villains. Almost all factions in the sector are full of jerks, and all you can do is try to stay alive while being as little of a jerk yourself as you can. For this reason, Starcraft was probably the most mature story in a video game I experienced as a child.

Sarah Kerrigan was a psychic special-ops soldier, known as a Ghost, fighting for a militant rebel group known as the Sons of Korhal. Arcturus Mengsk, the group’s leader was set on overthrowing the Confederacy, the ruling power of the sector. He helped rescue Sarah from a life of being experimented on by the Confederacy, and so earned her loyalty. Later Mengsk would lure hordes of Zerg to ravage Confederate planets, and leave Kerrigan behind to die. His methods would earn him the position of Emperor. However, Kerrigan did not die at the hands of the Zerg. Rather they transfigured her into a Zerg-Human hybrid, unshackled her psychic powers, and tied her to the Zerg Overmind’s will. When the Protoss forces later destroyed the Overmind, Kerrigan was released, free to get revenge on all who wronged her.

No matter how hard the writers of Starcraft II would later try, Sarah Kerrigan is not a redeemable character, nor is she a tragic hero. She is a villain, plain and simple. While under Zerg control the Protoss Templar, Tassadar used her predictability against her. “You are your own worst enemy.” he told her. And she took that lesson to heart. Once freed she hatched a plan to destroy the Overmind for good, and get vengeance on Mengsk. She united the Terran and Protoss factions of the sector against the recently arrived United Earth Directorate forces, only to whirl around and betray her pawns once they had outlived their use. She killed Mengsk’s best military leader, and left him to rule what little rubble there was left of his old empire.

Kerrigan

Oh, come on, Arcturus. Did you really think I’d allow you to come into power again? You practically fed me to the Zerg on Tarsonis! You’re directly responsible for the hell I’ve been through! Did you honestly think I’d let you get away with that?

But you said revenge was secondary to defeating the UED!

I lied. I liberated this planet because it was the UED’s primary staging point, not because I was under any obligation to you. I used you to destroy the Psi Disrupter. And now that I’ve got my Broods back, you’re no longer necessary for my plans. I think I’ll leave you here, Arcturus, among the ashes of your precious Dominion. I want you to live to see me rise to power. And I want you to remember in your most private moments that it was you who turned me loose in the first place.

In the same day she would also kill Fenix, a Protoss warrior who fell in battle, and was placed into a mechanical body, called a Dragoon, so he could continue to fight. He had proven to be a resourceful warrior, even in his weaker state. So he too needed to be dealt with.

kerrigan2This is a betrayal, most foul, Kerrigan! We were fools to have gone along with this charade!

You’re right Fenix. I used you to get the job done, and you played along just like I knew you would. You Protoss are all so headstrong and predictable, you’re your own worst enemies.

That’s ironic. I can remember Tassadar teaching you a very similar lesson on Char.

I took that lesson to heart, Praetor. Now, are you ready to die a second time?

The Khala awaits me, Kerrigan. And although I am prepared to face my destiny, you’ll not find me easy prey!

Than that shall be your epitaph!

With Fenix dead, Mengsk’s empire in ruin, the UED fleet crumbling, and her former close friend, Jim Raynor swearing revenge, the Queen of Blades had insured her position.

It is done, Cerebrate. They’ve all been destroyed. Let us return to Tarsonis to rest. For the first time since my transfiguration I am wearied of the slaughter.

As I mentioned, Starcraft II would continue to try and strip Kerrigan of her complexity, her independence, her character, and any clothes she wore previously. She was retconned into being in a romantic relationship with Raynor, who would go on a mission to cleanse her of her Zerg transfusion and her evil intent simultaneously. But as far as I am concerned none of that happened. It could not. No magic artifact could undo the Queen of Blades, because no one made her either. She may have been betrayed by Mengsk and infested by the Zerg, but all she did after, she did of her own free will. She slaughtered millions, ravaged worlds, used and betrayed those once close to her, and all without the slightest sign of regret (excluding perhaps that one line above).

She is no hero. But she is easily one of the most influential female character in gaming from my childhood, and I maintain: in my eyes the most badass villaness, strike that, villan in gaming to this day. The heroines of my childhood showed me the good that strong women had within them. Kerrigan is a constant reminder to me of the power they have at their disposal, should they ever give in to their own lust for power and payback.

You see, at this point… I’m pretty much the Queen Bitch of the Universe. And not all your little soldiers or space ships will stand in my way again.

DeviantArt link here!

Remastered Marine and an essay on StarCraft

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I was a huge fan of the internet personality Totalbiscuit (John Bain). He passed away this spring due to cancer. In his absence his Youtube and Twitch activities are being carried on by his widow, Genna. She had appeared in several of his gaming videos before (E.G. WTF is … Octodad), and they were always my favorites. The whole situation has obviously left her in a great deal of stress, so as a fan of the channel, and of her, I decided to show my support the only way I know how: by making a drawing. Keep it up, Genna!

Let’s now talk about StarCraft. Yet again we are talking about one of my favorite games, and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s a Blizzard game… My love-hate relationship with Blizzard stems from the dissonance between what the company gave me in the past, and what it has become nowadays. I know this can sound a lot like a “back in my day” argument, but personal taste aside, there are plenty of objective reasons to dislike the modern day Activision-Blizzard.

But that is off topic. I want to talk about StarCraft. A real- time strategy game that became one of the most prominent esports of its time. The expansion of the game, Brood War, is still touted to be one of the, if not the best competitive video game to date. I’ll leave the truth about that statement up to the experts, StarCraft was never that to me. I never competed in the online scene, I was there for its story.

Oh, yes! There was in fact a time when Blizzard wrote really compelling, mature stories, rather than the Saturday morning cartoons they create nowadays. StarCraft took place in the distant future, where societies of humans had broken off from Earth and created factions out in the farther sectors of space. Also inhabiting this area of space were the hive-minded Zerg, a race of giant, insect-like creatures bent on spreading all across the galaxy; and the Protoss, an ancient race of highly advanced aliens who saw themselves as superior to all others. There were no good guys here. The Zerg just wanted to consume all, the Protoss were bent on eradicating all life on Zerg infested planets indiscriminately, and the several Terran factions were just as bad as the others. Indeed, the Terran story of the game has you leaving the corrupt and incompetent Confederacy to join a militant group called the Sons of Korhal, only to find out that they too are just as vile as the ones before. This is why I found this game so intriguing. There was no single big galactic evil to overcome, just you and your buddy Jim Raynor trying to not be bad in a world of bad guys.

Not the first game, nor the expansion had any happy endings. Victory in the first game came only through the self sacrifice of the Protoss hero Tassadar. In the aftermath, the betrayed ghost operative turned infested Zerg psychic, Sarah Kerrigan enacted a plot to wipe out all other factions. Heroes like Alexei Stukov and Fenix lost there lives to betrayal. And if you have never played any of the games, than none of these names mean anything to you, but to me every mention of them brings back feelings. And the treatment of this beautifully dark and tragic story in the second game and its expansions invokes anger. I won’t go into detail here, know only that it was new Blizzard working on the story now. Characterizations were radically changed, what was once mature and interesting became dumbed down, and formulaic, relationships were altered to fit a simpler revenge story, and overall the whole thing just sucked. The game play was loved by everyone, and the multiplayer scene was huge, but as I said, the game was never that for me. But the truth is Activision Blizzard just doesn’t make games for people like me any more.

StarCraft did give me many things. Awesome gaming memories, one of the my favorite female characters in video games, beautiful music, and a fantastic story.

DeviantArt link here.

Space Amazons

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Picture, if you will, and alternative history, where the mythological Amazon society is real, and existed all the way to present day.
In 1969 the United States landed the first human on the Moon. With the race to the Moon all but lost, the Soviet Union abandoned its failing lunar manned spaceflight missions. In 1972 the last American manned lunar mission was completed, and further ambitious plans to send people back there and to Mars were set aside in favor of the Space Shuttle program, the ISS and other mucking about in low-earth orbit. With no international competition it seemed like humanity’s exploration of other worlds would come to a swift halt.
What the world didn’t count on was the Themysciran Space Program. The Amazons had always been quick to adapt to new ways of war, and when the race for rockets became the new arms race, they wasted no time in catching up. Just as in the USA and USSR, the greatest rocket scientist in Themyscira had dreams greater than just launching warheads on other countries. Inspired by Verne and Méliés, she dreamed of sending women into space. And like Korolev and von Braun, the Amazons got an idealistic dreamer to lift them to the stars.
In 1964 Themyscira launched the second woman out into orbit. Following that the missions in space continued, always trailing behind their larger US and Russian counterparts, but nevertheless keeping the pace just behind. A crew of two women flew around the Moon in 1971, and in 1974 woman set foot on the Moon for the first time in history. While other nations abandoned their lunar programs in favor of low-earth orbit and un-crewed deep space probes, the Themysciran Program kept returning to the Moon, performing a new landing once every year, creating a small orbital outpost by 1982, and the first functional surface base by 1991. Today, the Amazons operate the only spacecraft capable of performing returning lunar flights, and became the number one way to get to space after the Space Shuttle was discontinued in 2011, with private companies only now starting to catch up. The Amazons are currently performing annual test flights of their interplanetary vessel, aimed at making a return trip to Mars next year.
This picture shows one of the reusable Moonships, the Telepyleia (Τελεπψλεια) on its way to the Moon. The ship has a crew capacity of 10, and is equipped to land on the Moon and return without the need for refueling in orbit. Two of the four astronauts visible in this image are on their first trip, while the other two are experienced spacewomen, one of whom is about to complete her third lunar landing. Can you guess which is which? 😀
Link on DeviantArt here.