Friday, October 30, 2015

Announcement: Disbandment of Cardfight Pro's News Branch

Four years ago, I said in no uncertain terms on the Vanguard Rider forums that I would continue to play Cardfight!! Vanguard for as long as it continued to exist, and would see the game through to the end. This much has not changed.

Ideally, I would not be publishing this post at all. Everything would have gone as planned; coming off of the ARG national championships on August 14th I would have reported Matthew Day as the new national champion, distributed the finalists' decklists, and moved on. Making top 16, I should have been very happy with what I saw on those days. But the reality is that I, the editor in chief of Cardfight Pro, have not sat down in this office for two months. I believe that I have been avoiding writing this. In the end, there are things that even I fear to do. There is perhaps one man in the entire world that can persuade me not to go ahead with this decision, and I suspect that he wouldn't dare stop me after all this time.

I cannot go on with lying to my readers and to myself. I have wanted to resign ever since the onset of limit break format in April 2012, and I repeatedly persuaded both me and the world into believing in a ridiculous, false ideal that Cardfight!! Vanguard is a masterpiece game worthy of clinging to no matter how low it sinks. In truth, Bushiroad is a corrupt organization which has no interest in fostering a genuine professional environment for tournament play, and which actively works to sabotage the modes of play we establish for the game. Effectively immediately, all news functions of Cardfight!! Pro are disbanded. The website itself will remain functional, and our archives will be available for future generations to look back on. Various persons have asked me about this decision, both close friends and distant readers. There are three primary reasons that I am choosing to do this now;
  • The company's refusal to adopt best-of-three in tournament play, and of lesser importance an unmodified Swiss format. This year Jonathan Lee, sales manager for Bushiroad USA, brought a survey of more than five thousand cardfighters showing majority preference for best-of-three in tournament play to CEO Kidani Takaaki. Lee had previously tested the format at the 2015 Origins Game Fair, to mass positive reception. Kidani refused his request to use the tournament format in the world championship series. Bushiroad under Kidani is adamantly opposed to the professionalization of Cardfight!! Vanguard as a competitive TCG, advocating to maintain the paradox of casual tournament play when single cards cost $80 apiece. I am tired of fighting this uphill battle. I have been doing so for several years too many.
  • I have helped create a second Konami. My ardent support of Bushiroad has created an exploitative corporate force which seeks to milk its player base with increasingly-inflated rarities that force them to either buy multiple sixteen box cases or shell out to an incredibly expensive secondary market just to have functional decks. The evolution of the generation rare rarity from a glorified triple rare into an entirely separate brand of Golden Ticket has destroyed the game's economy and locked out both the young and the poor from succeeding at high level play. We are approaching the point where legendary fighters like Rikino Sakura could never even hold their ground in the modern game, much less repeatedly win national championships. I cannot continue to commit such a sin. Cardfight Pro condemns Bushiroad in its entirety.
  • The gameplay stalemate perpetuated by the Bushiroad R&D team. Cardfight!! Vanguard has been spinning its wheels since its second block. The game has increasingly become about arbitrary restrictions that increase both cardfighters' ability to stall one another rather than actually facilitate plays that modify game state, and the escalation of subclan supremacy in place of deck diversity. Limit break was one of the most redundant mechanics the game has ever introduced, as counterblast already specifically restricted one's ability to make plays. Legion was a very positive reform until the onset of stride format; at present the majority of the new card pool is unplayable as a direct result of needing the opponent to be at grade 3 to be active. Genericized support which should have revived older deck types and increased diversity within the clans themselves instead further vitalized the existing subclans--Revenger, Seeker, Liberator, et al.--making them disproportionately powerful in relation to their generic counterparts when they were already dominant to begin with. It is ridiculous how effective basic subclan attackers are in comparison to their genbreak counterparts just by virtue of being able to make 19000-base columns that force the opponent to ride a grade 3. The world needs fewer Balberiths and more Gattling Claw Dragons.
I don't necessarily share all of the community's grievances. Other cardfighters have levied complaints regarding the game's restricted list, but I'm not particularly concerned with it. I have many lesser reasons, like Bushiroad's refusal to address the Almeida Stewart cheating scandal, and the removal of key staff that advocated for the player community--head judge JD was fired earlier this year for going on stream in violation of his NDA--but the three given above are my primary reasons for stepping down.

The friends that I have made through my work for the community will be with me for a lifetime. The one feature which I wish to proceed with work on is the History of Professional Cardfight, my only genuine legacy. The game's history is dedicated to everyone that has looked up at the stars at night and wished to be the world champion; they are the ones who deserve it most. Work on the HPC will likely only be finished when the game itself is finished.

When I first began taking this website seriously, I believed that I could create a legacy in testament to the community that first took me in back in February 2011. We've lost so many people over the years; I wanted all the love they put into Cardfight!! Vanguard to be monumentalized. Whether the work I have done accomplishes that goal will be answered by the ages.

Reflecting on my work, I mismanaged this organization on many fronts. Though we had a strong social media push, it was only through Tumblr. I needed to adopt Twitter as a platform, and that needed to happen four years ago. I will go to my grave never understanding why anyone would want to use Facebook. Starting out, I had no concept of what form Cardfight Pro would eventually take, and in retrospect my original works on this website were juvenile and something of an embarrassment. Several pages were also practically abandoned in an incredibly unprofessional way, as the scope of the website quickly outgrew its number of editors. On that front, I needed to efficiently gather additional revenue sources sooner. I started doing that far too late, and hurt the website's sustainability in the process. That was an irresponsible mistake.

Naturally, I understand entirely if those of you who have chosen to sponsor Cardfight Pro wish to cease your contributions on Patreon and PayPal. After all, this is about honesty. You were never paying us to be incompetent. Please withdraw your pledges and provide no further monetary support. You are under zero obligation to do so. In light of the organization's disbandment, in the time to come I intend to repurpose our former Patreon account to support a new endeavor on an up-and-coming site, though I want to finish working out exactly what that will look like before I propose it.

As for where I'm going next, I want to turn my attention to work that I can earnestly believe in. You will find me primarily reporting and writing at Tamer Union. On social media, you can find me @digimonworldneo on Twitter, as well as on digimon-world-next-order on Tumblr. I will be infrequently checking vanguardus. I have always wanted to pursue writing about media and video games more than I have Cardfight!! Vanguard. Perhaps this departure is long overdue. Since first engaging in it I have gotten nothing but love from the Digimon community. Certainly it's irresponsible for me to leave now; we are at a critical juncture in the game's history, when Cardfight!! Vanguard is just on the verge of professionalization. Cash tournaments are beginning to emerge as a new mode of funding professional cardfighters. By all rights, I should be providing extensive coverage at such an uncertain time in the game's evolution. Yet I cannot look at where the game and its management is now and support it. This is not the Vanguard Itou wrote about.

At this time I have no desire to quit the game. Despite what the list of grievances above may suggest, I am at heart an optimist. My favorite format is always the current one, and I am looking forward to the new direction the game is taking in designing new cards like Comic Booster 01's Alfred suppot that operate under few to no restrictions. Though the Shadow Paladin decks that I have cherished most--the first generation Phantom Blaster Dragon, and Claret Sword--have never gotten the support necessary to flourish at the apex of the metagame, there are niches I can try to fill. I am a competitive person by nature, and there is no time that I am more alive than when I am going full force against the greatest the world has to offer. My strongest desire is still to fight without end.

Before I close today, several apologies and final words are in order.
  • To our sponsors; I have acted irresponsibly and not responded to your messages in a timely manner. Moreover, today's announcement is bound to disappoint you. For this I am sorry. In the past year Cardfight Pro has been graciously supported by the likes of iDeal808, The Gaming Goat, Elgin IL., various donors on Patreon, and members of the fanguard community on Tumblr that have all supported our work. iDeal808 in particular has been an important sponsor since early 2014.
  • To Alter Reality Games; I have not kept my promises. Last winter out of the half dozen tournament organizers I contacted, CEO Jim McMahan was the only one to respond to my e-mail arranging to set up real tournaments for Cardfight!! Vanguard. Mr. McMahan has been an amazing and accommodating person who has done far more than could ever be reasonably expected from a small business like his. I urge everyone to continue to support ARG and their play community.
  • To Pitarui, Seishirou, Gungnir, and all of the other Japanese tournament organizers and cardfighters that have both helped contribute to creating a solid community in Japan, and who have so kindly cooperated with me in bringing this news to the west. I have failed to effectively and ethically report your works to the world. Because of my negligence, the world never saw things like a top 6 of entirely Raging Form decks, or of Bermuda Triangle making up 15% of tournament play at the end of every format. I wish that I could continue to tell your stories.
  • To fanguard; I can never repay what this community has given me. I have made friends that will be with me for a lifetime.
  • To all those who mentored me as a journalist; You taught me ethics, ruthlessness, discipline, and the strength necessary to survive in a competitive world. From you nothing was taken, only learned. I will continue to apply the skills you taught me.
  • To Itou Akira; I have failed to support your vision for Cardfight!! Vanguard, and that was the one thing that ever mattered to me. Your manga gave me hope when I had none, it gave me courage I never had before, and in a few short years it turned a weak boy into a proud man. To you I owe all the friendships I have made since I picked up that first volume of Yu-Gi-Oh! R in Borders. You created all of my favorite cards, and I still wish I could have gotten them signed.
Perhaps the day will come when I reopen our doors, but I would rather not hold anyone's breath over that idea. I am for the first time in years happy; I am free to fly higher, to pursue anything without restriction, to choose a path for myself rather than being tied down by my obligations. The abilities that I cultivated as the editor of Cardfight Pro will continue to serve me in the years to come. I will always cherish the memories I wove here, the friends I made, and the battles that I fought.

On the subject of succession, I will not name any one specific successor that readers should turn to in order to get their news. However, there are several individuals who have collectively kept the community informed over the years, and who are all very reliable and talented people. Neo Ark Cradle remains one of the foremost news and discussion sources for Cardfight!! Vanguard long after the fall of Janime, and of its users Siulzen and Ark have always stood out to me for their diligence and dedication.

If another individual wishes to rise up and become the premiere source for a professional voice in the community, then they will have to do so as I did, on their own merits, and by their own power. That individual should bear in mind that if they inherit my position in the community, they will also inherit my battle; my "war on Bushiroad" will be theirs to fight. When you reach the end of the path, you may no longer want the things you were fighting for, nor believe in the ideals you once did. Nothing I can write here will ever prepare you for that long, long road. To the strongest, the spoils.

Best regards,
Alexander "Touya" Fisher
Cardfight Pro
Editor in Chief