How to avoid settling for mediocrity

1. Al Horford tried to downplay the concept of a “revenge game” following the Boston Celtics victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, but it was clear Horford had a little extra juice throughout the game. He started off by going right at Joel Embiid for a bucket:

A couple of plays later, Horford went up and over Tobias Harris for a similar shot:

Something important to note with both plays: Horford ran the floor hard to get in position to attack early in the clock.

On the next trip down on defense, Horford picked up one of his five blocks on the night:

Horford is probably fibbing about extra motivation, but Boston will happily deal with some white lies if it comes with this kind of production.

2. Robert Williams was back and drew praise from Ime Udoka, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum for his play and his importance to team. Williams brings an aspect of vertical spacing that no other Celtic can approach. This was the first play of the game:

Jayson Tatum gets in on the Rob Lob fun here:

No one loves throwing lobs to Williams more than Marcus Smart. The two catch the Sixers sleeping on this one:

3. Over the years, as Philadelphia has changed their defensive philosophy, Boston has changed how they attack Joel Embiid. When Embiid would regularly come to the level of the ball, the Celtics would look for a switch. Then they’d try to attack the big man off the bounce.

For a few years now, Embiid has played more in drop coverage. To beat him there, you have to have a good pullup jumper. Kemba Walker excelled at this, as did Gordon Hayward. With those two gone, it primarily falls to Jayson Tatum to create good looks like this:

In the second half, it was more of the same from Tatum, this time for a three-pointer:

Keep that second play in mind, as it helped pull Embiid out of the drop coverage for a key play later in the game.

4. On defense, Boston has had success against Embiid by varying the way they guard him. Sometimes they guard him straight up with size. Sometimes they put a smaller defender on Embiid and try to disrupt his face-up, off-the-dribble game. And other times they’ll put their biggest player on Embiid and just ask him to bang the Sixers star. And, of course, the Celtics mix in a healthy dose of double-teams as well.

With Al Horford back, he handled most of the first kind of defense. Jaylen Brown and Grant Williams handled the second style. And Enes Freedom was the designated banger. And when Boston doubled, it was usually with size, as Robert Williams was the floater who would double and then recover back to his assignment.

All of the approaches worked, as Embiid shot 3-of-17 for the game. It’s hard to truly stop Embiid, but the Celtics do a better job keeping the star center off-balance than most teams do.

5. It wasn’t exactly a picturesque offensive game for Boston, but they had an assist rate greater than 50% again. This is some good ball movement. Al Horford hits Jaylen Brown with the skip pass. Brown makes the extra pass to Dennis Schroder for the open three:

In this space, we harp on the ball hitting the paint as being the best offense, but we do it because it’s true. Schroder makes a nice pass to Marcus Smart to start this clip. Instead of settling for the jumper, Smart attacks the paint and kicks out to Jayson Tatum. Tatum doesn’t rush the shot or force a step-back. He dribbles past the closeout for the easy pullup:

6. It was a “revenge game” of sorts for Josh Richardson too. While he didn’t have the impact Al Horford did, Richardson was solid once again. During his minutes with Enes Freedom, Richardson has figured out how to use the big man as a natural screener:

We talked about the need to have pullup shooters. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Dennis Schroder are the best at this skill of the current Celtics. Richardson is a touch below them, because he doesn’t really have three-point range off the bounce. But when he gets to his spot inside the arc, Richardson’s pullup is pretty deadly:

7. Pregame Ime Udoka talked about how it was nice to have the entire roster available again, but cautioned that comes with some challenges. The main one Udoka called out was finding minutes for everyone. To this point, Udoka has preferred to run with a nine-man rotation. Going against Joel Embiid, Udoka opted for an additional big man and called upon Enes Freedom for 17 minutes.

Unfortunately, that left Romeo Langford on the outside looking in. It’s probably fair to assume this is a blip, as Boston won’t need to run with four bigs all that often. Look for Langford to reclaim his rotation spot as the Celtics head west for a week-and-a-half.

8. Dennis Schroder is a big-time give-and-take player. He can go from looking like a lifesaver to a dragging anchor, sometimes in a matter of possessions. This is great stuff in the clutch here. Remember when we said Boston pulled Embiid out of the drop coverage? Schroder works the two-man game with Al Horford to perfection here. He holds his dribble long enough for Horford to pull Joel Embiid fully to the arc. That opens up a path for the drive:

This disaster of a play falls on both Schroder and Ime Udoka. Udoka called a set designed to get Schroder an empty-side ISO against Tobias Harris. That’s not a bad call, as Schroder should be able to get by Harris with relative ease. But Harris does a good job staying in front of him and this is the shot Schroder takes:

Why is it on both of them? On Schroder’s side, he has to be able to beat Harris here. He’s too quick off the bounce to settle for a turnaround, fall-away jumper. For Udoka, it was pretty clear Harris had Schroder’s drive walled off. Boston was sitting on two timeouts. Udoka should have called one as things broke down to draw up a different shot.

9. The above didn’t end up mattering, because of Al Horford and Robert Williams. Look at this defense to clinch a win:

Horford locks up Tobias Harris off the dribble. Harris can’t get anything going towards the rim here. Harris does make a nice read to find Georges Niang in the corner. But in flies Williams with the perfect block. He gets the ball and, just as importantly, keeps his body wide of Niang to avoid a foul.

The Takeaways started with Horford and Williams making plays on offense, but their combined defensive effort saved a much-needed victory.

10. Why was this win much-needed? Throughout December, Boston will play 15 games, starting with this game. All 15 of those contests come against teams that are .500 or better. This starts with a very difficult west coast trip.

If the Celtics can go even 2-3 on this five-game trip, that brings them home to Boston with a winning record. Anything better will be gravy. Brad Stevens said this upcoming stretch will tell us “even more about who the Celtics are” and he’s spot on. Come back with a winning record, and things might finally be looking up for Boston.

How to avoid settling for mediocrity

Amazon and Smilegate have dropped yet another video for the long-delayed Lost Ark, this time featuring the Sorceress class. She’s one of the 15 classes planned for the initial western launch, with a total over 20 that will eventually make it into the game, but the Sorceress dropped in Korea only last summer, so it’s still fairly new to the franchise overall.

“The Sorceress wields powerful magic based on three elements (fire, ice, and lightning) with spells that can deal area damage,” the studio says. “They can easily handle multiple enemies helping them dominate the battlefield.”

The devs did make a quick note about gender-locking in the blog today:

“From the earliest days of Lost Ark’s announcement in the West, we heard players’ feedback about gender locked classes loud and clear. While not every class in the game currently has a male and female counterpart available, we wanted to be sure to include those that do early on. In the future, Smilegate RPG will be creating more counterparts for classes that are still gender locked, and we will bring these to Arkesia in time.”

We’re still anticipating launch early next year, but in the meantime, we get pretty trailers, so that’s not so bad.

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How to avoid settling for mediocrity

Everyone says gender locks are to save time and money because creating a new gender version of the same class is like “creating an entirely new class.” I just don’t buy that argument. A new gender doesn’t need to have different animations and while the gear might need to be slightly different to fit a different body shape it’s not like you are starting from square one. Gender locking is very sad especially in an mmo that’s supposed to be at least partially about creating an immersive world.

Nice to see them address this gender flex ability.

I thought Lost Ark was about dinosaurs or something…

…yeah, I haven’t been paying much attention to this game since a regular sending us screens of riding stacked up mounts some years back. And thus my interests in this went poof. >.<

I don’t get why Asian game companies do the gender-locked thing.

To be fair, its not limited to just Asian game companies.

Diablo 2 was gender locked
Path of Exile is gender locked
Even the unreleased Last Epoch is gender locked.

Really, it comes down to time and resources. Not having full genders for each class is literally the company taking a shortcut to save on production time and money. Some would say getting to play sooner, than later, makes it ok.

With Lost Ark, however, its been released for 2 years now in the East, so there really isnt a good reason that they havent gone back and done it completely in that time. Or, adapted any new classes to have both from the start.

I thought about this when I played D2R and I think why D2 or POE doesn’t bother me is that in those games your gender doesn’t seem to matter much. There’s no super slut revealing outfits or shrill voice “Heeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaaaaa!” with every attack and all the other usual tropes that come out of Asian/KR games’ female characters. Like 99% of the time outfits I choose to wear in POE look virtually identical whether I’m playing a Duelist, Shadow, Scion or Witch and your character says almost nothing past leveling.

Diablo 2 is pretty much a hundred years old at this point and in Path of Exile your ‘class’ is largely cosmetic given how their skills system works.

Why does old excuse it? (answer: it doesnt)

as for PoE… there may have been a time long ago when class didnt matter… but now it absolutely does. Especially with ascendencies.

The most common excuse, and really it’s pretty reasonable, is that it takes just as much time to develop a new gender as it does a new class basically. The only thing that’s the same is the actual spell/skill effects where everything else character wise (animations, voice, wardrobe, etc) are all duplicate work.

There’s also likely statistics backing up like X% of people play female characters in SKR where X is so high that it makes little business sense for them to expend the development work. It’s only when they then decide to farm cash from the NA/EU audience by translating their game and releasing it over here that they run into it being an issue.

So in the end, it’s not as pretty reasonable as some would have us think…

If you think that it’s a corporation’s job to only care about the moolah and not deliver a good product and have a healthy relationship with it’s legacy and customers, then yeah, might be reasonable.

I find myself in the camp that any corporate that doesn’t give a shit about anything besides money-making will fail miserably down the road while enriching just a few lucky pricks. Not what i call good business acumen.

Sure it’s reasonable if your of a neoliberal mindset. But to us end users, it’s about mediocrity along gender lock classes we get out of it. To which are reasonably unacceptable to us.

I don’t disagree with anything you said.

However the part I’d point out is that personal bias doesn’t form reality. For example I don’t like the fact that Lost Ark doesn’t have a gender choice and won’t play it because of it. However that doesn’t mean it’s a bad product, the business only cares about cost cutting, or that they have bad business acumen because they failed to make me happy.

The reality is that Lost Ark, by all accounts, is pretty pretty darn successful in the multiple regions they’ve launched in now. That success isn’t just measured in trying to min-max money from a minority player base but rather in the general favorable game reviews it has and perception towards it (IE: the players).

When we look to explain that outcome we’ll note that by all reports the majority of players in SKR prefer playing female characters and those that don’t are likely satisfied by the other male character options. So gender locking isn’t an issue in those markets and thus doesn’t reflect poorly on them as a company meanwhile also serving as a cost cutting measure to avoid duplicating work. In that scenario, it’s a win-win and all too reasonable (I love saying that word cause my parrot will reply 5 times to other posts saying it too).

Now we put the game in a new scenario, where it’s being released in NA/EU where we have different social norms and standards and all of a sudden it’s not a win-win and thus we view it negatively. Which is why they address it up above in this news blast. Will they? Who knows. Will players who criticize the game for gender locks give it a chance if they spend time to add gender options for classes? Because if not then why should companies listen to us at all if them changing things doesn’t matter?