Thursday, March 29, 2012
I knew Abel Gutierrez. He was a good man, and a good soldier. We called him "Guty". He never complained about what was going on, no matter how stupid the brass was getting. He never caused any confrontations; he was always polite. He was a good athlete, a good shot, and possessed both a sound tactical mind and a strong work ethic. Whenever some lousy detail cropped up, he was the first to volunteer to take care of it, without complaint, regardless of the fact that his rank would allow him to slide that work onto the newer soldiers. He always pulled more than his share of the load. Every unit he served in was a better place while Guty was there. He was not the first friend that I lost, not in a warzone, but to the stresses of returning to life at home. It is my most profound fear that he might not be the last.
I know this is a cliche, but unlike the rest of the world, that is how I will remember him. For all my cynicism and arrogance, I can't let whatever darkness claimed his final hours to obscure the years of great service that he gave this country, and my unit. I couldn't live with my self if I was the kind of person who could.
Being an infantryman in wartime is the most difficult job in the world. The country asks these men to bear a burden that no one should have to shoulder. We do it because someone has to, but we should never do it alone. The Army, and the nation at large, owes it to these soldiers to do everything within its power to help them deal with the inevitable wounds that wartime service inflicts, both the physical trauma that a soldier suffers when his limbs are torn away by the enemy's bombs, and the mental trauma that comes from coping with such a drastic change from the mundane existence of a citizen in a first world nation. We all struggle with our demons; we all fight that invisible enemy; there is no shame in that struggle.
However, something is amiss. Before Guty came to my unit, he served with the 2nd Infantry Division on Fort Lewis. As I'm sure anyone who watched the news can attest, that's the same posting as SSG Robert Bales, the man accused of the recent massacre of Afghani civilians. For those with a sharper memory, the troubles pile up. The Afghanistan "kill team" a few years back were also soldiers on Fort Lewis. A Mount Rainier Park Ranger was killed by a Ft. Lewis Soldier a couple months ago. A recently discharged Ft. Lewis veteran shot and killed a police officer in Utah. There's a string of suicides, murders, and abuses that have taken place on Ft. Lewis.
While there has been an increase in suicides and crime rates on bases across the country, rightfully attributed to the increased stress of a wartime operating tempo and the relaxed standards of entry allowing soldiers who would have otherwise never made it through MEPS into the military, not only does Fort Lewis stand out among its fellow Active Duty postings, but when you begin to factor in events involving the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho National Guard, it begins to seem like the Pacific Northwest has become the epicenter of post deployment tragedies.
These events have involved soldiers from nearly every unit in the region, from 2ID, to 2nd Ranger Battalion, to the 41st Brigade Combat Team in Oregon. They're too disparate to pin the blame on unit leadership. There is, however, one common denominator linking each of these tragic acts.
Every soldier in the region routes through Madigan Army Medical Center for their health evaluation to determine what level of treatment they require, and weather or not they're capable of continued service, and if not, what level of disability they're accorded. They are the front line for America's responsibility to the troops, and they are failing, inexcusably so.
There's something rotten at Madigan. William Keppler, the Chief of the Department of Mental Health at Madigan has been quoted as advising his subordinates to "be good stewards of the public's money" and informed them that a diagnosis of PTSD would cost the government $1.5 million dollars in treatment and disability over the course of the service member's life. The mental health team at Madigan overturned 285 confirmed diagnoses of PTSD. Soldiers with 100% disability, who were living in inpatient programs to attempt to control their wounds were turned out with the stroke of a pen, and then couldn't even secure a face to face appointment with the physician who denies them the treatment that they need, that they deserve, that they are owed. Lives have been destroyed by this, not just soldiers, but the lives of their families, and even those of people who had nothing to do with this situation. Park rangers, and police officers, and children. But hey, at least they saved 427.5 million dollars! I've never been ashamed of my service, of what the uniform I wear represents, but this disgusts me.
To my fellow infantrymen, you beautiful sons of bitches, know this: You are not alone. No matter how dark things feel, no matter how bad things seem, you are never alone. Your enemies mass against you. The guilt that gnaws at the back of your mind. The anger that drives you against your will. The despair that seems like it will swallow you whole. Your courage will stand with you. Hope will illuminate the darkest nights. Your pride will push you to victory. Although, be mindful of that last one. Use your pride to keep you beholden to a higher standard. Do not allow it to drive away those that would help you. You need everyone weapon you can get in this fight, but pride has two edges.
The Army has taught us to attack the enemy with overwhelming force, both with superior firepower, and superior numbers. This fight is no different. Your friends will stand with you. Your family is there for you. Your brothers in arms will watch over you. Don't turn them away.
The fight is long. That invisible enemy is patient. He will strike when you are feeling at your weakest. But you will always have resources. If you're feeling particularly low, the VA will help you. The Vet Center will help you. There are councilors waiting 24/7 in every state to help you through your crisis. Win this fight.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
If the raid devolves into "Help Thrall defeat Garrosh!" for Alliance players, then it would be, as I said earlier, the death knell for the Alliance as a interesting faction, they'd be nothing more than foils to help propel Green Jesus to greater glory. It's an incredibly demoralizing prospect.This was something that Blizzard seemed to have picked up upon during the massive discontent at the direction of the story during patch 4.2. Dave Kosak wrote a blog post attempting to address the discontent, writing most of it off as a byproduct of good storytelling *snicker* There was one thing that made me thing that they had at least an inkling of the actual root of the problem.
If you’re a die-hard Alliance player, I can understand if you feel left out of Thrall’s story arc. Thrall feels like “their guy,” and Thrall’s journey over the last couple of years may not feel like “your” story, even if his mistakes are about to send the whole world into a potential death spiral. Fair enough. Stick with Thrall as he fulfills his destiny at the end of Cataclysm, and I promise we’ll catch up with other characters -- from both factions -- as we pick up the pieces in the aftermath.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
I'm going to revisit the concept of neutral factions here. With the emphasis on Horde vs
Neutral factions do not live in a vacuum. They exist in a tenuous position that is defined by the actions of the superpowers of their time, in this case, the Horde and the
During WWII, both
Ultimately, in a fictional world, characters are expressed through two methods, narration and demonstration. Narration is being told what attributes a character has. Demonstration is being shown those attributes in action. In the majority of cases, to create a believable character, the two attributes must match. A character who is stated to be dangerously unhinged needs to do unhinged things. A character who cowers in the face of danger can't be built up as a brave man.
This is where Blizzard has failed spectacularly with regards to neutral factions thus far. Nearly every neutral faction has more or less acted in a vacuum. Despite a host of previously introduced factions being updated and brought into the current timeline, every neutral entity acts as if they existed within a bubble, completely oblivious to anything that happens outside of their demesnes. It doesn't matter if you murdered their god, murdered members of their organization, or are engaging in actions so foul to their beliefs that they were previously willing to travel across the world to hunt someone like you down, the neutral factions don't even so much as express their displeasure with a strongly worded letter.
Particularly egregious are the failures of the
There were a couple neutral organization that I thought was handled well in the Cataclysm story, the Knights of the Ebon Blade and the Zandalari Tribe.
The Knights of the Ebon Blade had one purpose, to bring ruin to the Lich King by whatever means necessary. Come Cataclysm, the Scourge has been by and large neutralized, and the death knights of Acherus find themselves without a purpose. When previously in this situation, Blizzard would leave them to rot in their expansion, *cough*Shattered Sun Offensive*cough*, but this time, Blizzard decided to come back to them. Rather than taking a side in the conflict, the Ebon Blade tore itself apart, with individual death knights taking sides in the conflict, as shown with Thassarian and Koltira in the conflict at Andorhal. There they brought the characters full circle when their previous associations began to color their actions in the battle, leading to Sylvanas taking Koltira down, and Thassarian, rather than stay in Andorhal to try and rally the Alliance forces, deserts the battlefield in an attempt to find his friend.
The Zandalari Tribe was introduced in Vanilla as a group of Trolls who sought to prevent the summoning of Hakkar the Soulflayer by the Gurubashi Trolls in Zul'Gurub. Once Hakkar was banished, they lay fallow for the next two expansions, until their return in patch 4.1. Seeing the threat that the increased belligerence of larger factions would devour the troll tribes piecemeal, the Zandalari sought to unite the troll tribes and establish a new troll empire that could stand against groups like the Horde,
Both those factions were incorporated into the fabric of the storyline, they saw opportunity, or lost purpose, and shifted their actions accordingly. Other factions, however, were not so lucky. As a paladin main, I find the treatment the Argent Crusade got to be particularly egregious. Rather than reacting to new threats, they just sit in their town and ignore everything going on. While I truly enjoyed the role that the Argent Crusade and their offshoot, the Brotherhood of Light had in Eastern Plaguelands, in Western Plaguelands, where the story is defined by the battle at Andorhal, the Argent Crusade is overshadowed by the Ebon Blade and the Forsaken. After pushing through Andorhal, the segment of quests in Hearthglen seem less like an actual part of the story, and more like a cameo that hung around too long. All the T9 gear floating around, and the huge statue of Tirion, with no real substance just comes off as going "Hey! Remember ToC? Wasn't that awesome?" Did being frozen in a block of ice at Icecrown give Tirion such a brain freeze that he doesn't notice that his neighborhood is being engulfed in a necromantic war that threatens to undo all the work that Tirion has put into reclaiming the Plaguelands from the plague and blight that afflicts it?
Complacency has its place in the arsenal of characterization, but only when given justification. It would have been better if they had left Tirion in Northrend. Inaction due to non inclusion in the story is irritating, but it doesn't savage the flow of the narrative like inaction against character type does. Tirion has been built up as a man of action, both in the narrative, and through demonstration. His inactivity in this situation makes absolutely no sense.
If I were writing the script, I would have thrown out the Argent Crusade questing as it stood, it's not necessarily a bad questing area, but it serves no purpose within the larger narrative, and that fact makes it stand out like a white quarter panel on a red car. I would questing line along factional lines at this point. The Alliance players go to Hearthglen to demand an explanation from the Argent Crusade as to why they permit Val'kyr to run wild so close to their seat of power. There they meet with the Brotherhood of Light, one of the more reactionary subsets of the Argent Crusade.
Horde players would travel to Hearthglen for a different reason. Garrosh, knowing that there was going to be a confrontation between the Horde and the Alliance at Andorhal, and knowing that the Argent Crusade's might could turn the tide of battle if they discovered the questionable methods being employed by the Forsaken in the area, Garrosh took steps to keep Highlord Fordring's men off the table. To accomplish this end, he commands Eitrigg, a close friend of Highlord Fordring, to keep the crusade from deploying in opposition of the Horde.
This sort of storyline could end several different ways, and hinges on the development of several characters. Depending on the wording of the orders, Eitrigg may or may not be aware of the extent of the crimes the Forsaken are committing, and what initially seemed like an innocuous request to keep Crusade forces clear of a conflict that did not concern them might come to shock Eitrigg. Or he might view the unity of the Horde as paramount to their survival, and place those concerns above all others. The Horde players might be successful in concealing their actions from Fordring, or the