Blogger Blitz: Black Sheep Semifinal – Breaking the Broker (Xehanort vs. Frank Fontaine)

Greetings, fight fans! Anybody else fresh off of the Nintendo Direct? I’m writing this article a little while after watching all of the announcements and I’m quite excited for the games coming down the line! But today is not the day when I am Ian Shepard, Nintendo Nerd. No, today is the day when I am Ian Shepard, Host of the Blogger Blitz, and there were two incredible submissions this week that deserve the best article that I can manage. So let’s forget the goofy setup or ridiculous antics and jump right into showing some love to all the people who made this event possible!

First up, there’s the competitors themselves. Chris of Overthinker Y sponsored Xehanort, the mastermind behind the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and to tell his story this week Xehanort opted for the ultimate method of conveying information: a PowerPoint presentation! Meanwhile, Michael over at Git Gud at Life and his sponsored villain Frank Fontaine from BioShock got artsy and gave us a wicked screenplay with plenty of sweet, sweet violence. If you haven’t read their posts yet, I fully recommend you do it before moving ahead in these results!

But just having a couple of folks swing at each other with no one to determine who did the best wouldn’t be much of a competition, so we have a great panel of judges who pick a winner each round. There’s Pix from Shoot the Rookie, a fashionable master of top five lists who just got herself a PS4. Then there’s Kim of Later Levels, who was kind enough to step away from blog party planning to help with the Blitz this week. And finally, my wife Destiny represents Adventure Rules, and thanks to the Animal Crossing announcement she’s as excited about Nintendo stuff as I am for once. Blogger Blitz wouldn’t be possible without these ladies, so be sure to check out the links to their social media and go say thank you! With that, let’s jump into the competition!

Breaking the Broker Xehanort Start
Nobody ever appreciates the producer.

Let’s start things off by talking about Xehanort and Chris. It’s impossible to talk about either of the articles submitted this week without spending some time to discuss the formats the bloggers chose. Both Chris and Michael experimented with formatting in never-before-seen ways, so acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of each format is paramount in the judging. Xehanort wasn’t satisfied with Chris’s performance last week, so this time he decided to take matters into his own hands by creating a PowerPoint presentation describing in detail his plan for Blogger Blitz domination. Chris made that PowerPoint available for readers to click through in pace with the submission, but also made a video for those whose computers wouldn’t allow them to experience the presentation quite as intended.

While I’m not a judge, the fact that Xehanort used a PowerPoint put a wry smile on my face as I thought of the over-emphasis on PowerPoint as the main method of conveying information in my own workplace, and it’s something that had Kim rolling in the stands as well. “As someone who regularly suffers death-by-PowerPoint at work, Chris’s entry had me laughing all the way through. I appreciate his awareness that some readers may struggle to view the slides and so provided instructions along with a video version.” For Destiny, it wasn’t just about being hilarious – “I LOVED the Powerpoint. I have a lot of trouble focusing sometimes, and that was very helpful for me. Especially since I don’t know much about Kingdom Hearts.” The PowerPoint helped Chris’s article deliver the laughs as well as making it easier to digest than a wall of text, so he earned some major points in the format category.

Of course, the PowerPoint wasn’t his golden ticket to victory, either. “I’m kind of torn about this because although it is brilliant and hilarious and I love it, it is still a little unwieldy in a practical way,” Pix said. “In the first round he used a lot of pictures, and this one had the same reliance on multi-media for effect.” At the end of the day, the Blogger Blitz is a writing competition, so an over-reliance on visual media – while certainly not against the rules – can be a weak point if the judges don’t feel like the content is backed up by strong arguments. And the practical disadvantages of using the PowerPoint format perhaps made this post a bit more difficult to read. Even with my computer open instead of relying on my cell, switching tabs back and forth made the experience tough to digest at times. Still, Pix does go on to say that the PowerPoint is key to lending strength to Xehanort’s voice, so while Chris did lose a few points here the format ultimately helped him to make a strong positive impression!

Breaking the Broker Xehanort PowerPoint Difficulties
I feel you man, reformatting your perfectly-designed online content to work on a mobile screen is THE WORST.

Each competitor in this round also chose to implement a plan to eliminate their competition. For Chris, this was clearly motivated by learning from the judges, and he even mentions in the text of his submission that they specifically called him out for not having a solution planned last time! It’s a great technique that further emphasizes the fourth-wall-breaking meta-ridiculousness of the Blogger Blitz. And speaking of ridiculous, don’t even get us started on Xehanort’s plan to simply let Frank Fontaine’s flawed philosophy bring about the destruction of society in order to defeat the villain.

“Using philosophy as a means for defeating Fontaine was difficult to deal with when I initially read this at 9am on a Monday morning after about 4 hours sleep,” Pix said, “but on a re-read it works really well and is extremely funny.” What’s interesting about Chris’s submission here is that Xehanort waffles back and forth for quite some time about how he will ultimately defeat Fontaine. When Chris’s skepticism convinces Xehanort that waiting for the collapse of society might be a bad idea, he instead proposes to send 1000 Nobodies after him, and that plan worked pretty well in Destiny’s mind. The thing is, she would have liked to see less emphasis on Fontaine and more on the Shadow Broker – we’ll dive into that more later. Because even after 1000 Nobodies, Xehanort still has one more trick up his sleeve for defeating Fontaine: giving him bad real estate.

Kim and Pix both loved this final solution to the Frank Fontaine problem. “His eventual change of heart and resorting to cunningly selling Fontaine some bad property was brilliant and seems to suit Xehanort really well!” Pix said. Kim felt the same way: “I love that he was initially going to use Rapture’s failings against his opponent (although this solution would obviously take a very long time to come about), but then decided to leave him alive so he could suffer inadequate accommodation. Devious.” If I’ve learned anything about our judges from this event, it’s that they love to see some quality villainy, and Xehanort certainly demonstrates that – once he can settle on a single course of action – he is more than capable of delivering villainy in spades!

Breaking the Broker Xehanort Poor Housing
Hey, it’s not that bad – it even comes with a friend!

Finally, perhaps the most important part of each submission was how they defeated the Shadow Broker himself. Chris’s plan involved three steps: locating the Broker, convincing him to invite Xehanort to his ship, and then stealing his heart to make him one of Xehanort’s many manifestations of himself. After being “norted,” the Shadow Broker would share his information freely and Xehanort would have access to all the affordable housing he could ever desire.

Kim enjoyed Xehanort’s scheme and particularly liked how he cleverly circumvented one entire piece of the problem by tricking the Shadow Broker into coming to him. She also enjoyed the humor element that Chris wove into this scene when “he criticised his villain for ‘pulling that trick again’ before Xehanort explained why his solution would be more useful to him in the future.” Pix appreciated that Xehanort’s plan had multiple phases – the man is known for his contingencies, after all! The long-term benefits of Xehanort’s strategy are hard to deny, but would his plan actually work? Destiny wasn’t particularly convinced.

“I do think that he should have spent time on actually finding the Broker and dealing with him in the post,” Destiny said. “For all we know, it could have gone horribly wrong for him. He should have spent more time on how to defeat the Broker and less on how to beat his opponent.” Xehanort’s detailed plan to defeat Fontaine – and the not-insignificant amount of time he spent building it up – may have been great for laughs, but it took away from his presentation when it came to the meat of the problem. It seems in his efforts to learn from the judges comments, he may have over-corrected somewhat! While Chris does use the example of Terra-Xehanort to show that the whole removing the heart trick is effective, we don’t know how easy it would actually be to utilize that plan on the Shadow Broker. This’ll be a chink in Chris’s armor – can he overcome it to claim victory when the day is over? Let’s read about Frank Fontaine and find out!

Breaking the Broker Fontaine Start
Gotta love that dramatic lighting!

While Chris formatted his post for maximum goofiness by choosing a PowerPoint, Michael formatted his submission for maximum intensity by choosing to write a screenplay. As someone whose background is in theater, this brought back some great memories for me and I got a special joy from reading the script. Interesting, too, was the much darker tone taken by Michael compared to the usual fare we see in Blogger Blitz. Most of the villains we see are played for laughs, and there is a sort of grim humor to the wordplay of Michael’s post. But Fontaine is deadly serious in this submission, and the violence he inflicts on the Shadow Broker is easily the most gruesome we’ve seen yet!

Pix had only good things to say about the format Michael chose for his post. “It is just so imaginative, and yet works perfectly to tell the story. Like Chris’s, I feel that GGAL’s piece gives his villain a really strong voice – his character really comes across.” Destiny, too, felt that the screenplay approach had good qualities. “I appreciate that he tried something different, because we haven’t seen a screenplay yet. It was a really cool idea and executed pretty well. I think this is a huge step up from his first submission.” Unfortunately, the screenplay style had some clear weak points as well, particularly when it comes to how the story was conveyed.

“I think that the back and forth was a little too much,” Destiny said. “It made sense, but there was too much of it.” Kim also found the jump-cuts from present to future and back again to be rather disorienting. Still, although the format proved confusing at first read, once it sunk in it left a positive impression on everyone. “I had to read GGAL’s post a couple of times to fully understand the jump-cuts,” Kim said, “but once I got there I thought the script layout worked very well. Fontaine is exactly the sort of villain to star in his own gangster movie so the format really brought out his character. Good choice!”

Breaking the Broker Fontaine When is This
“To be or not to be?” “I am your angel of music?” “Hell is other people?” “Crud.”

While Fontaine’s method of dealing with the Shadow Broker is very hands on, he gives little time to his opponent Xehanort. This is in contrast to Chris’s post, where a lot of time is given to how Frank Fontaine would be defeated. What’s interesting about how Michael chooses to deal with his competition is everything that’s left unsaid. What we know for sure is that Fontaine has convinced Xehanort that he is Sora, but there’s also an implication that the entire idea of Sora and his Disney companions is a fabrication by Fontaine. If that’s the case, then Fontaine’s solution to Xehanort is the entirety of Kingdom Hearts canon. Talk about big plans!

This is certainly how Kim interpreted the idea, and she loved it. “The line about ‘a rat, a duck and a dumb talking dog’ from GGAL was genius, implying Xehanort’s world was a figment of his imagination that Fontaine had crafted using BioShock plasmids.” Pix, too, enjoyed how he “combines references to both Bioshock and Kingdom Hearts.” She was particularly impressed about how Fontaine then leverages his defeat of Xehanort against the Shadow Broker. “To me it also seems like he uses this info to put the Shadow Broker on the back foot, which I thought was clever.”

However, while the full impact of Fontaine’s plan resonated for our other judges immediately, Destiny found that her unfamiliarity with BioShock proved a bit of a barrier here. “I think he should have explained it better. I haven’t played Bioshock so I wasn’t 100% sure what all that meant.” If Kim’s interpretation of Fontaine’s ploy isn’t correct, and Sora is a separate entity that Fontaine simply pretended to be, then there’s some explaining that needs to happen which simply isn’t there. “I’m also curious how the character would have known about Sora,” Destiny said. Despite this lack of clarity around whether Fontaine created the idea of Sora or was simply using outside knowledge to his advantage, Destiny did feel that Michael spent the appropriate amount of time on his opponent, leaving the bulk of his word count to deal with the Shadow Broker himself.

Breaking the Broker Fontaine Sora Costume
Actually, Sora being Fontaine at some point in the series would explain some things.

And that brings us to the Shadow Broker himself, the mighty alien being who controls the flow of real estate information all across the galaxy! Because of the flash-forward format of Michael’s submission, we see the whole scenario play out almost backwards. It’s not until almost the end of the post that we learn the way in which Fontaine ultimately subdued the Shadow Broker, but once you see it everything clicks pretty well into place. It takes some serious mind control to pull this plan off, and while Destiny found Fontaine’s antics unconvincing last time around, she felt he more convincingly explained his mind control methods in this post.

A common theme among the judgment this time around is that Fontaine might be a bit of a one-trick pony. We saw him using basically the same tools he utilized to win the Parking Panic in the form of an army of splicers and Big Daddies, with some manipulation sprinkled in for effect. None of the judges chose to hold it against him, though. “I was interested to see how GGAL was going to handle this round because he’d already pulled Fontaine’s biggest attack out of the bag during the first match,” Kim says. “He may have once again used Splicers and a Big Daddy but these are the tools at his disposal.” Pix agreed: “Some of his tools were seen in the previous round but I don’t think this detracts from it, as like Kim says, they are the tools Frank Fontaine has.”

Also a concern was the violence on display here. While Kim felt that this was quite in-keeping with Fontaine’s character, Pix couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps this post would be hard to digest for those with a weaker stomach. Not that it impacted her enjoyment at all. “I think people’s enjoyment of this might depend on their stomach for extreme violence. I personally thought it was great though, and as it makes so many Bioshock references, it seems justified.” While Fontaine’s violence might have been a bit much and the elements of Frank’s strategy seemed a tad familiar, no one can argue that he didn’t prove his ability to put the Shadow Broker in his place!

Breaking the Broker Xehanorts Plan
This is why I don’t trust PowerPoint.

And so it comes to this, the comparison between the two submissions. Chris and Michael created very different competition posts this week. One is a lighthearted romp through the presentation of a very dorky, weirdly endearing Xehanort. The other is a gritty, dark portrayal of Frank Fontaine’s cunning and wickedness. The fact that both submissions were so different and yet so good gave the judges quite the difficult time this week. Destiny put it this way: “It’s hard to compare them because they did it in such different ways! I did like the difference in tone between the two. Usually they’re both kind of silly and kind of serious, but this time one was very serious and the other was much sillier. It was fun reading posts that had different feels to them.”

For Pix, the dark and gritty feel created by Michael for Frank Fontaine was a huge selling point that made it unique from other submissions. “GGAL presented a thoroughly immersive display of his villain’s evil nature. The original format suited the situation perfectly, and I came away from it feeling as if I had a new understanding of Fontaine’s character, despite never having played Bioshock.” She described his work as dark and compelling, and it was for all of these reasons why Pix cast her vote in favor of Michael and Frank Fontaine.

Kim preferred the more lighthearted, humorous approach chosen by Chris and Xehanort. “His entry had me laughing all the way through and the portrayal of his relationship with Xehanort was the source of many comedy moments. I liked that he used the judges comments from his previous round to craft a solution for his villain – and wickedly left Fontaine alive to deal with inadequate accommodation!” Chris learned his lesson from the last match while also building on the strengths that made his original submission shine. That brings it all down to Destiny to determine the winner with her vote. The biggest factor in Destiny’s judgment was to look at what she considered to be the most significant of the three categories that were judged this time: the method of defeating the Shadow Broker himself. And that led her to vote for the winner of this week’s competition:

Breaking the Broker Fontaine Wins
Congratulations to Michael of GGAL!

Both posts this week brought some great new concepts to the table, but in Destiny’s view only one made a convincing argument about defeating the Shadow Broker. “I feel like Chris did a better job of coming up with a fullproof plan to defeat Frank Fontaine,” she says, “but I think Michael did a better job of actually dealing with the Shadow Broker and getting the information that he wanted.” What turned out to be Chris’s ultimate weakness was the fact that Xehanort explained his plan very well, but there was no execution in the substance of the blog post and some pieces appeared to be missing entirely. “He only explained how he’d deal with [the Shadow Broker] rather than action the solution,” Kim said. And Pix pointed out that “the only thing I wasn’t sure about was whether or not he really dealt with the Shadow Broker’s henchmen.” None of these are game-changing errors by themselves, but all added together – and then compared against a post which presented a very concrete and effective solution to the Shadow Broker problem – they became the weakness that ultimately resulted in Xehanort’s downfall.

So congratulations are due to Michael of Git Gud at Life, who will now go on to the championship round to face Teri Mae and her sponsored villain, Ganondorf! I’ll be announcing the championship event, the match date, and the results date all on Monday, September 17th, so be sure to come back to Adventure Rules then so you don’t miss one minute of the championship action. Thanks again to Michael, Chris, Kim, Pix, and Destiny for working to make this event amazing, and thank YOU fight fans for reading! See you at the championship!

9 thoughts on “Blogger Blitz: Black Sheep Semifinal – Breaking the Broker (Xehanort vs. Frank Fontaine)

Add yours

  1. ‘Old dude!’ I call, wandering through the halls of the now-pretty-much-empty Castle That Never Was. I guess Xehanort didn’t manage to find a new lair after all, so he must still be around here somewhere.
    ‘In here!’ he shouts back, sounding almost pleased to see me.
    I follow the voice and find him in the Toy Room That Most Likely Wasn’t Here Yesterday, busily arranging clay figurines in a variety of odd positions.
    ‘Er… what are you doing?’ I ask.
    ‘I’m doing my submission for the Blogger Blitz final!’ he declares, giddy with excitement. ‘I thought this contest would be so banal, so beneath me, but it transpires it’s the perfect way to tell the world about my villainy!’
    ‘What, er… what was your submission gonna be?’
    ‘Stop-motion video!’ he pronounces, gesturing magnificently at the array of figurines and props surrounded by cameras. ‘I’ll play the magnificent hero, solving any problems that Ian can throw at me!’
    ‘Oh, boy,’ I sigh.
    ‘Why, what -‘ He pauses, and his nose twitches. ‘You said “what WAS my submission going to be”.’
    ‘Yyyeeeeeaaaah.’
    ‘I… I lost?’
    ‘Well, you didn’t manage to find the Broker; you spent too long explaining your plans and being goofy as all heck!’
    ‘GOOFY? That accursed man-dog, I’ll -!’ He catches himself and forces himself to breathe calmly. ‘Well, then. I suppose there’s no need for THIS -‘ he summons his Keyblade and smashes up his claymation stuff ‘- or THIS -‘ a Corridor of Darkness opens and swallows his recording equipment ‘- or YOU, for that matter!’
    WILL CHRIS SURVIVE? FIND OUT NEVER, BECAUSE HIS TIME IN THE BLITZ IS OVER!

    ***

    Seriously, though, major congrats to GGAL. I knew as soon as I saw his entry that I was going out, and I could not have asked to die in a bigger blaze of glory! We’ll forever be the guys who put together possibly the weirdest and most experimental round of the Blitz ever, so I’m OK with going down in history as the loser of that epic battle!

    Now to watch the final, then wait for next year! (Will I return? WHO KNOWS!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Xehanort presents: Claydom Hearts III! Directed by Tim Burton!”

      You submitted an excellent post, and your portrayal of Xehanort added so much fun and character to the competition this year. And as you said, this was one heck of a match to go out in!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic round up! A joy to read as always Ian, I know you said on Twitter you had a bit of writer’s block but you have definitely overcome it with this!

    I just want to congratulate both competitors in putting forward two of the best Blogger Blitz entries I’ve had the pleasure of reading. This was the toughest event for me to pick who to vote for from, and despite my vote I feel genuinely sad to see Xehanort go out – I felt quite guilty about having to cast a vote for this one! I know Frank Fontaine Vs Ganondorf will be absolutely EPIC and I can’t wait to read their submissions.

    In reply to Chris’s comment above – you’d better come back next year! I need to see how you go about telling a story using only a spreadsheet 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh man, a spreadsheet Blogger Blitz entry appeals so strongly to my weirdly niche preferences for both well-organized data and video game characters. Like, if there’s some good filters on there and maybe a nice highlight table, that’d be my jam!

      On a more relevant note, you’re totally right about the qualities of these posts. Definitely one of the tougher matches we’ve seen in Black Sheep – I can only imagine what’s coming in the championship!

      Liked by 1 person

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