This is it! Thank you for joining me for the final Annihilation update. I am officially bringing the project to a close.
Click above for the story epilogues. This is also the final art update, with the three biggest pieces I had to draw for this entire thing. Behold, our final boss, Dark Desertman, in all his abominable glory. Then in this corner, the AXE squad, whose acronym makes slightly less sense than the one it came from. Finally, their arch nemeses, Tenebrosi, the picture that I came close to burning out on and had to call in some help. Much thanks to Crys (FlameChick) for the coloring assist with that last piece.
The Chip Database was also completed in time. It's still not perfect. It was probably not the best idea to combine the icons into a single image by family (it certainly made it harder to re-arrange the index), but somehow I don't think having over 700 separate little images loading on the page would have been any better, alignment aside. I'm just accepting it as it is.
My heartfelt thanks to the team members that stuck around all this time and supported me right to the end. Thanks to Letra for the brainstorming sessions and for giving me the name for the dark team in the end. Thanks to Crys for lending her artistry during the final stretch and for providing feedback on the writing for every part I posted ahead in the team forum. Thanks to Nijubu for adding to the story right to the end, his writing is always an inpsiration to mine. Thanks to Blackbelt, Alice Vulcan, SuperKoala, Jake Tan, Fishman, and Akutare for being around to revive the team back in 2008. I did my best to incorporate everyone's ideas regardless of how long they stuck around, and I don't blame anyone for dropping off. Thanks to Gauntlet for setting us up with the timeshare on Mechanical Maniacs and letting me basically take over the front page for the past six months. Thanks to Avi for letting me throw her character's likeness into the story for a purpose that never even saw realization. Thanks to Spark Mandrill for running with a lot of my ideas for how the EXE team universe worked, almost singlehandedly vindicating the entire collaborative aspect of the team community. Thanks to Havoc and Cifnas and all my old teammates for starting the EXE3 team and giving me a further outlet for the obsession I'd developed with Viral Infection, and thanks to Valcion for starting that team right when I was getting fascinated by Mega Man teams and thinking how much I would like to be a part of one.
For me, this really is the culmination of about 13 years of EXE teams. Back then I made some decisions I likely would not if I were a little older and wiser. We jumped into making the first EXE team before BN1 was even out, which was the kind of move I would relentlessly mock a few years later. Plus, the very premise of BN -- a shonen/card game/cellphone culture based re-imagining of Mega Man? It doesn't seem like the kind of thing I would be into normally. I think it was entirely because I wanted to be on an MM team and that was the first one available to me that I decided I was going to not just be into EXE, I was going to be the EXE expert.
I spent those first few years trying to be such an expert. It didn't quite work that way. I was never able to keep up with every aspect of the rapidly expanding franchise, but at least with the games I was exceedingly thorough. I'd buy every version of each game and play them beyond 100% completion, making exhaustive notes and analysis to turn into some kind of informative content for the site. I was so eager to become an expert on these games that I taught myself how to read Katakana just so I could play the Japanese versions in the gap between regional releases.
It was the team story that really motivated me though. What began as dumb, fun, little forum RPs that none of us took seriously somehow became a major creative playground. I would start writing my part of the story in my head far ahead of everybody else to the point that by the time Viral Infection ended with one RP completed and two more stalled midway through, I had already written an origin story and plotted out the remainder of the unfinished pieces, and conceived of eight more stories that would have spun out from them. Then we ended up tying that continuity to the new one in Annihilation and I just kept writing further ahead. It was a little ambitious.
The BN series itself ended in 2006, and stepping back, looking at the whole timeframe, it would have made more sense if AXE did as well. VI had folded with more active members present than AXE persevered with 8 years ago. If anyone was in denial, it was me. This is about where it stops being about a team and starts being all about my own hangups. I still didn't even want to let VI go. I didn't want to leave anything unfinished. It had become an obsession, like so many other things I get myself wrapped up in. I became more determined to bring the project some kind of closure even as growing up and graduating into the workforce meant I had less free time to accomplish that goal. It started as a team and I still wanted it to be a team, but it had increasingly become just one person trying in vain to corral some uninspired friends who had better sense of when it was time to move onto other interests.
2006 to the present has been a long string of instances where I would consider if it were best to quit, and that may have been the sensible approach, but instead I would just double-down. From finishing the first finale to the recruitment drive for the team's new iteration to writing the second finale, and several smaller things right up to earlier this week when I earnestly questioned the value of putting the finishing touches on the Chip Database vs. getting rid of the whole mess.
It really didn't help that the enthusiastic love I had for the Mega Man Battle Network series in the beginning had started to wane at this time. I really didn't like BN6 at all. It was a sour note to go out on. I was painfully reminded of how much I hated that game when I forced myself to revisit it in order to finish the Navi and Chip pages. So why would I continue to try to be the EXE guy for twice as long as the series' actually lasted?
Well, even if my original motivation was lost to time, I still liked writing this story. I liked building off all that history. I liked designing new characters and planting the seeds for later reveals. Wrapping it up this way has also been cathartic for me. It's not like I got to use all of my ideas, but I got to a point where I'm comfortable letting those ideas go or reworking them into something new. Everything on the site now is something I had fun putting together either on my own or collaborating with everyone else. I wish it all could have come together more quickly, like while any of us involved still cared about the BN series, but it came together in the end, so I'm satisfied.
Stay tuned to the Mechanical Maniacs where the team spirit lives on and my own attentions will be less divided in the future. Some leftover AXE stuff may even yet see the light of day as parts of Mechs projects eventually, but we've got our own Series 8 to polish off first.
Until then, this is Drillman for the Mega Man Battle Network 3 team, Annihilation.EXE, logging off.
It's time to pull out all the stops. The climax of Annihilation: The Dark Ages is here! This page is about three times bigger than the others, and there's still one more page worth of epilogue coming next week along with the last art update, so strap in. We're just about at the finish line.
I should have known better than to announce the Chip Library update last time, before it was done, because of course it turned out to be more work than I thought. I spent much of the weekend just reformatting the tables, re-assembling the Stars/MB data, and hammering out the order. All the chips are there now in a slightly prettier state, but descriptions are missing for most of the newer ones. By next week it will either be done completely, or left in whichever state it is by then. I don't consider it essential to the project.
Just when it looks like the fighting is over, it really gets started. We head towards the climax in this week's page of the AXE finale.
Also, I was originally going to include this in one of the art updates, but I ended up uploading everything over the course of last week anyway, so maybe you already noticed the Navi Database is complete! Well, as complete as it's ever going to be. You can forget about the mobile-only characters since bare minimum I'd need their sprites, translated dialogue, and video of all their moves if not the opportunity to play the games myself, and that doesn't seem to be in the cards any time soon. Everyone else is finally there though. It was a big mistake putting off the update for BN6 for about 7 years. At least back then it was still fresh in my mind. Starting back up now meant I had to go back and pretty much replay BN6 in its entirety (with lots of fast-forward and cheating on an emulator to compress the playthrough into two sittings) and remind myself why I hated BN6 so much the first time around (not that I needed any reminding). I don't have anything against the navi characters in that game though (aside from wasted potential) so the section is written as thoughtfully as the others, which have all been updated as well with typo fixes, new appearances, and new info.
I'll also probably finish and upload the even longer overdue update to the Battlechip Database this weekend. The missing data from that one goes back to BN4, plus I'm hoping I can make the table format less atrocious. If I didn't discover I already did some forgotten groundwork on this update back in 2009 I likely would have just abandoned that mess of a section.
Lyric arrives. Metalman awakens. Darklady fights. Alia schemes. There's a lot going on in today's AXE page. At least the picture keeps it simple this time.
It's not just another art update today. On top of the usual three pieces of character art (or in this case, one character, one location, one group), there's the long-awaited update to the Navi Marks Gallery! I thought I just had a few more to catch up on, but when I worked it all out there were 20. Seven you may have seen from Gauntlet's art for the navi forms of the PC Sinter Six plus General Cutman. I just sprited them. Eight more come from my own designs of characters from the AXE Chronicles. Much of them I thought I already made, but it turns out I only rendered them in the character art and never got around to the versions for the gallery. The other five are official designs gleaned from the Battle Network Official Complete Works artbook, three being from the couple of Japan-only EXE games that were released since the last update to this gallery.
The battle royale reaches a tipping point in today's AXE installment. Don't bother trying to decipher the picture for this one. I may have been a little tired from drawing a bunch of these one after another by the time I got to this one.
Things may look hopeless for our heroes, but the power of friendship brings a ray of hope in this week's AXE page.
I'm not kidding.
It's the beginning of the home stretch. The players arrive on the final battlegrounds in the Undernet in this week's AXE page.
My Valentine's gift to all of you is an especially weird AXE art update! Spider's design has been shrouded in mystery for the longest time, unless I posted the earlier sketch I made based on Alice's description elsewhere and forgot. I believe the earliest Spider scenes in the story were written before I had that description, and I don't think I've been any less vague about his appearance in writing since then. Well, this might help then. Continuing with operator artwork, we have Hoshiko. That's the first piece I drew using the new tablet and editing software I got for Christmas, which was as rewarding as it was frustrating. It was a jump from Photoshop Elements 1.0 to 8.0, so there was a bit of re-learning everything involved. Finally, and I'm hesitant to introduce this one because I still don't know what I was thinking with it, but...The Trailer Parkloids ... Yep.
It's technically Saturday here by now, but I haven't gone to bed yet so whatever, still counts. Check out the last page of Part 6, in which events converge on the final location.
Things couldn't get any worse over on the other side of the story, right? Okay so Shademan doesn't seem to be having a good day, but you can't read too much into the teaser images. Check out today's AXE page for good times and smiles maybe, who knows?
The battle for the Officials' home base comes to a shocking conclusion in this week's AXE page.
A special treat with today's batch of AXE art: a drawing from someone other than me! Our own Flamechick was kind enough to contribute a stunning pinup of Moe. It's quite provocative, in that he's clearly provoking someone to fight him right there in the Officials' locker room. Is that a scene that actually occurs in the story? Keep reading to find out! Meanwhile, I continue with operator artwork, this time featuring the wandering Nijubu and the shut-in scientist Alia.
Metal vs. Vengeance! Flame vs Archer! Dark vs. Dragoon! The battle royale sees adversaries face off seemingly at random! And what the heck is happening with Overdrive? That question will not be answered in this week's installment of the Annihilation finale!
In the first page of the new year, Bubbleman, Plantman, Beastman, and Burstgirl delve into the Darkloids' hidden sanctum.
Closing out 2013 with the start of Part 6. The Official navis come face-to-face with the full Children of Vengeance team, and grapple with the revelation that Magister wasn't what she appeared to be. I did mention there would be a lot of action scenes.
Some more AXE character art! Stuart and Smith follow along the lines of the other operator art I made last month, while Vengeance is a navi that appeared in the first storyline all those years ago but I believe this is the first art he's received. He's meant to appear generic, white, and unfinished, like a blank slate, but in designing him I felt like he needed the big plugs on the backpack as with a Custom Style, and since he's made to be an anti-Bass weapon, I put in a few cues from Bass' appearance too.
A massive attack and an inevitable betrayal mark the end of Chronicle 5 of Annihilation. There's a whole lot of action from here on out.
Shocking exposition is the name of the game as two shadowy manipulative jerks butt heads in today's AXE page!
Tense reunions in this week's AXE page.
The Annihilation story continues next week. Today, I have some character art. The pieces showcasing Lyric and Shou were all I was going to post originally, but in the meantime I had whipped up a simple design sheet for Moe, so I decided to throw it in here.
It's a party in everyone's favorite mysterious corner of the net in today's AXE page.
Today's page features writing by Nijubu from years before the rest of this chapter was started. It wasn't too easy to work it in considering how much the ideas shifted in that time, but I knew all along we'd fit it all together eventually.
Time to return to the saga of Annihilation. In the first installment after our two year hiatus, we finally meet a couple of characters that have been waiting in the wings since the beginning.
Today, October 25th is the fifth anniversary of Annihilation's first update on this site.
The significance of that milestone is somewhat lost considering our fourth year was non-existant, as was our fifth as far as most people know. Just over five years ago, AXE was in a similar situation. We were close to the end of our ongoing storyline, but we lacked the momentum to get there. I had a clear vision of how I wanted it to end though, so I was determined to finish it even if I had to do all the writing myself. After that, I wondered if that finale should serve as the team's sendoff. It could have been, but we decided to give the team one more shot. We recruited some new members with new ideas for a fresh start and it worked. The spirit of the team was rejuvenated...at least for the first year and a half before the same decay of interest and inspiration started to affect the update schedule.
So once again I found myself in a situation where the ongoing story was closer to the end than it was to the beginning and there were plenty of cool ideas for where it should end up and beyond, but we lacked the free time to realize all those ideas. In February 2013 I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to at least finish this storyline, I'd have to take over and do it completely. Since then I've been writing fairly consistently, finishing the overdue fifth and sixth parts, and even extending to a seventh. It was all leading up to this, the return of updates to this page, and the guarantee that those updates will be regular weekly for the next six months.
It's not a revival, it's more of an extended sendoff. Starting next Friday, I'll be posting the end of Annihilation's Dark Ages storyline one page at a time. Every fourth week will be an update for art and miscellaneous content. Once it's all over, that's when we close up shop. It's not that there hasn't been interest in continuing the team. There are even at least three more storylines in the planning stage. I just won't be able to do anything with it alone. Last time I hoped it would help to share the burden of keeping the team active by recruiting some eager new members, and today the Mega Man Team community is stretched more thin, so I don't think another membership drive is in the cards. It's time to exit gracefully.
My teammates haven't all vanished off the face of the earth. I've been chatting with some of them over the last 8 months regarding this plan, and we're in agreement this is the way to go. They're generally glad that I was even willing to do all that writing, and I'm grateful that they were available to discuss their ideas for their characters even when they weren't able to write themselves. I hope everyone can read and enjoy how the seeds we planted 5 years ago have grown.
There's the slight problem of getting caught up, though. Whenever I want to get someone interested in the newest part of the story, the usual response is some variation of the phrase, "I just have to go back and get caught up." They might as well be saying "I am embarking on a dangerous journey. I don't know when, but I promise to return someday." and I wish them luck, but deep down I know I shall never see them again.
I blame only myself for that. AXE is the beast I made it into. It comes from an early fascination with the soap opera writing format as a fan of Marvel comics, Saturday morning cartoons, and game series like Mega Man Battle Network. I always liked the idea of creating a fictional universe with characters and settings I would continue to build on indefinitely. I never really grasped the nuance of accessibility that makes stories like this compelling to new or lapsed readers though. If someone wants to get into my stories, they don't know where to start. If they start with the latest installment, they immediately feel lost, so they look back to see how much reading they have to do to (maybe) be caught up, and then get overwhelmed because even the first part of Season 2 perhaps relies a little too much on the resolution of Season 1, and if you're bold enough to venture back to Season 1 you might start noticing references to Viral Infection stories that don't even exist. Reading up on AXE backstory is a time-consuming and thankless job. I don't blame anyone for avoiding it. If anything, I would rather someone ignore the references to things they missed and keep reading forward instead of looking back. With that in mind, for the first update of this final stretch, I've prepared a recap of events. If you get lost, please refer to these notes. No excuses for when Part 5 begins next week.
Stay tuned. The end is just beginning.