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.