Live and die by the library

While not exactly a Monthly Three, let’s continue from where we left with the previous post about trying to cater to a different audience via Auto Mode. In last console generation, something that has carried to this one, is the notion of casual and hardcore gamers, something that’s more or less a stupid idea when you start looking things into bit deeper.

The market of any product does not have a clear split like that. There exists a gradual level of complexity and price in the market that aims to fulfil desires of different groups. For example, in headphones most people are fine with twenty something bucks pieces that they’ll use for a time until they break down and they need to get a new pair. Sound quality may be all over the place, but it’s cheap and does what the tin says in most cases. Then you go up to hundreds bucks range, where built and sound quality is better, but the consumer who just wants to listen without giving a damn about the higher grades of quality will put their money into something else. Then you have the high-end stuff costing thousands of dollars.

If the high-end headphones are objectively better in-built and sound, why don’t all people put their money in them? That is because the lower tier headphones are satisfactory, not all people care about being an audiophile. Consumer may obtain more knowledge on audio equipment and sound quality, but that does not necessary mean the consumer will value that knowledge. The opposite of an audiophile. Then you have in-betweens, which fall in neither audiophile or general consumer range.

The same applies to games. You have games that strike with the general audience, the simpler and more straightforward games that are easy to get into and take relatively little of your time. When you move towards the upper end of the scale, where simulators, complex game mechanics and numerous other factors in regards of the game design and development begin to stack up, you begin to reach the high-end market. This does not mean a person in high-end market is necessarily hardcore, as games like Super Mario Bros. and Tetris reside in the common consumer end of the spectrum. Games like these are through which consoles live and die by.

The core design of Platinum’s games reside in the opposite niche crowd. It’s visual style and 3D action is something the common consumer doesn’t really care for, and putting in an Auto Mode won’t change this. The game may not be at the extreme end of complex design mechanics like with some tactical RPGs or ultra realistic simulations, and stands in the middle of the scale between consumer scale.

The thing however is, just like with headphones, when the consumer begins to yearn for better sound quality, so does the want to experience more games that expand in what already exists. If a consumer enjoys something like Dragon Quest or some other simple RPG, it can be assumed that they will look into something different and something that could offer a bit more in terms of game content. He may find himself tackling more complex and demanding titles, like Final Fantasy Tactics or even jump to PC and try out Vampire: The Masquerade. It is just as possible that he does not find these titles to his liking, and finds his sweet spots in the more straightforward and undiluted gameplay experience.

However, the current market and developers seem to aim only for games that have rising development and marketing costs combined want to make high-end games, but still open for the general market. This self contradicting dichotomy yields games that may sell well, but ultimately misses both of its intended target audiences.

The Tripple A games’ development is the core problem why console and their games tend to fail nowadays. The Wii U failed because it didn’t have the library the Wii had. So-called shovelware is which keeps a console alive, as it encourages competition at higher levels. On Wii or on any other generation “winning” console you had loads and loads of games that would be called casual nowadays, like the aforementioned Super Mario Bros., yet these games were the things that sold the console. However, modern game developers tend to put their Secondary or Tertiary teams working on these games nowadays, resulting on games that simply do not cut it.

Wii Sports won the generation for Nintendo single-handedly, as it was a game that appealed to the market that had left gaming be since it began to move towards the more complex end of the consumer goods spectrum. Wii Sports was a title that was handled by the First team in Nintendo, making a game that would aim to please and sell. Nowadays, despite the moaning and bitching it caused, the game is considered a definitive classic.

Casual games are not the destruction of gaming. They are its lifeline, and the developers in the industry currently simply can’t do games like Super Mario Bros. They are stuck with one extreme end of the spectrum, desperately trying to replicate success of the other end by producing gimmicky titles and even peripherals while missing the whole point.

Comparison between Flash games and smart phone games isn’t anything new, but it shows how these games, these lower tier market games if you will, have always been around and will always exist on any platform. It was never a new trend.

The higher end of games is arguably  more profitable, which is why publishers and developers push their money and workforce into those titles. However, the high end market in gaming tends to be fickle and the current trend of pushing in-game guides and modes to make the game easier tells us that the high end market is getting smaller.

The high-end market wouldn’t exist without the low-end market. By making yourself a name by releasing great titles in the lower market, you have the possibility to rise towards the other end. Remember the DS? Nintendo started the console by marketing it with N64 ports and other high end games like that. It sold poorly and it was called to be the second coming of the Virtual Boy. However, Nintendo began to release low-end games like Nintendogs. People who got DS for games like it then had the possibility to move to something like Mario Kart DS, and then to Pokémon, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy remakes. However, Nintendo did not keep the same pace with the Wii U, and it was failure.

The shovelware, as the industry wants to call their bread and butter, is the deciding factor. Hitting all the differences niches and tiers is important, as this casual gaming does not exclude passion. Someone may spend hundreds of hours on a Flash based Tower Defence game, minmaxing his defences and ripping the game a new hole.

A game that is made to be a hit to one tier can be successful with others, but it can’t be forced. A Metal Gear title won’t win any favours from the market that it isn’t aimed at. I guess I’ve made my point.


This is passion at its best, and it’s a lowly arcade game no less

Underestimating the player

Just recently SquEnix put out news that Nier: Automata will have an autoplay mode called Auto Mode. It essentially gives the player character an AI and the player can just sit back and let the game do the what the player is supposed to do.

The argument for autoplay is that allows the player to play the game through and through, from start to end. The question to this is why should he be able to do so if he lacks the skill? Games are designed to play within a set of rules and the players are expected to play after those rules. Breaking those rules is considered an offence, which gets you a sort of penalty. An automode elevates the player over the rules that apply to the gameplay, making them insignificant to a large degree. New Super Mario Bros. Wii had its own autoplay, where the player was prompted a possibility to let the AI slowly crawl a stage through, just without collecting any of the bonuses.

Does an autoplay remove what makes electronic games, especially console and PC games, stand apart from the movies and other passive media? When you distil games down to their core, nothing else but gameplay and their representative graphics stay. What you essentially get in an autoplay mode is the arcade machine’s demo screen.

Naturally, it’s just an option. You can choose not to use it, and that’s all fine and dandy. The consumer is supposed to enjoy the product they purchase fully, no? When it comes to game, they are able to, but it really depends on the game and their own life if they have enough time and will to invest into any game to fully exhaust its contents. That’s where we come into the point where autoplay could be regarded as a positive aspect, but that would ignore that the developers disregard the consumers and their own game design.

The stage design is New Super Mario Bros. Wii was a bit lacklustre all around, but 2D Mario was never hard in itself until the later levels. Super Mario Bros. is still a good example how the whole game is essentially relatively easy, but the people who challenged it, the pro players, played the game through stage by stage never using a Stage Warp. The design shines in the stages and it was no wonder how well Super Mario Bros. 3 was received as it was essentially a total expansion and revamp of the original game.

Platinum’s games have a certain niche. They certainly aren’t something the main mass consumers would go for simply because they don’t have a universal pull. Devil May Cry may have been one of Capcom’s most well-known franchise at one point, but that came from the industry itself as well. The Red Ocean market group in video games is the one that put it on the pedestal, while Mega Man Battle Network went to have six games, a cartoon, card game toys and whatever else a franchise could have. DMC got a cartoon a bit later, but it always a celebrated niche product.

This celebrated niche is what applies to most of Platinum’s products, and Nier itself being a cult classic rather than a mass success, makes a game that has a very specific audience installed to it already, and it can’t attract mass audience. Especially not in the West, because Nier: Automata has that anime flavour that the general consumer doesn’t really go for. That’s why Nier’s Western release had Father instead of Brother. The game itself didn’t change, and neither really did the plot. This audience that Nier: Automata already has because of its developer, writer and series fanbase is those who play action games as is. Especially Platinum fans, who rank up the difficulty to the highest possible and proceed to ram the game to the ground.

Nier: Automata does not need an autoplay mode to ease new players in. It needs a design that would allow the player, new or old, ease into the gameplay and learn its tricks properly as well as design those tricks to function as fluidly as possible. It is not the developers’ fault if the player simply can’t stand up to the task at hand, but it is their job to ease into the game. There is a need for certain games to be insanely hard just as there is a need for the exact opposite. The best of both worlds can be achieved in one game through difficulty selection and design that goes into it. Or even better, proper damn progression design, where the player is allowed to advance and build their strength to face the challenges in the game. The Legend of Zelda and Ultima are perfect examples of this, especially the first two Zelda. Goddamn I need to stop using those two examples, but never underestimate their influence, especially Ultima‘s, on how games now are.

The consumer is not as stupid as the industry likes to paint them as. Neither are they inept. Assuming that a game could sell better for newcomers if they had an option to allow the game to play itself is dumbfounding. It has, thus far, affected none to the sales of the games. Nintendo even included a How to Play DVD with Super Mario Galaxy 2 because they thought people didn’t get how to play the game, when in reality the mass market really wants a damn well made 2D Mario game. This sort of petty underestimation is absolutely retarded and nigh insulting.

The consumer can and will learn to play your game if they find it worth it. The various sports games, like Fifa, have surprisingly expansive and in-depth controls and gameplay, yet they see constantly good sales. Hell, Street Fighter II made a genre known of its relatively complex set-ups and executions a worldwide phenomena and it never dumbed itself down. Not until somebody had the brilliant idea of making autocombos a thing.

If you want people to enjoy your story, make it a movie or anything else. Games are meant to be played and people play games for the play, not to watch the game itself run on auto. That’s what movies are for.

Review of the Month; Vulkanus sharpener

The most serious problem when it comes to designing a sharpener for whatever kind of knife is that consumer are lazy bastards that would rather buy a new knife than learn to sharpen them. Thus, a design that would make sharpening a knife not only fast but an easy task while still giving at least a decently sharp blade has been the aim. The thing is, most traditional methods require learning sharpening a knife, the angles and whatnot. To be completely honest, I expect people to know how to sharpen a knife. However, I too am a lazy bastard and looking for any way to make things easier and faster while is something I tend to do.

Vulkanus sharpener seemed like what the doctor ordered. A sturdily built device that both sharpens and hones the blade in the same package without any stone changing. Seemed pretty decent, and further support came from various magazines and sites promoting it as their top choice sharpener. In my search for a comfortable and quick solution to battle my laziness I went and dropped 59€ for the Vulkanus in good hopes that the word on the street was valid.

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The Vulkanus is a neat device in that it’s something you could call zero-force device. Sharpening overall doesn’t require strength, just skill and time. The whole idea of the sharpener is that the cross-shaped gate holds two pieces both sides of the blade and gives the right angle when you pull the blade from the gate. Back and forth motion is not be done in this device. You can see the flakes from the blades on its base. Indeed, the sharpening does eat into your blade, but you don’t need to do this often. Only dull blades with rounded edges really need to be sharpened in order to create a new blade, the rest are to be honed.

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The way you sharpen with the Vulkanus is that you hold the blade towards the ground as imaged, then pull it from the gate. The blade’s own weight and motion will push the crossed sharpeners down the necessary amount. While I’ve seen some reports saying that you hold your hands too close to the knife while doing this, you don’t. The best place where to hold the sharpener is from one if its “horns.”  Holding it from the base seemed awkward, but I can see it being bolted to the tabletop or using something to squeeze it in place, eliminating the need for holding it in place altogether.

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Honing is done by holding the blade towards the sky, but as much as in the image. A more levelled position is enough. This changes the which part of the sharpener is in contact with the blade. Both sharpening and honing is quick, and I’ve noticed that you’ve honed enough when certain crunching resistance disappears. After that, just clean the blades with a cloth to remove all the excess metal waste and get using your newly sharpened knife.

You can also sharpen bread knives with their saw edge. You do this by pushing the blade towards one of the sides where it has been originally sharpened.

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This might take some effort, as the springs are surprisingly resilient

The sharpness it yields is, without a doubt, perfectly fit for household use. It’s designed to be used with Western blades, thus sharpening Japanese kitchen knifes should not be sharpened with the Vulkanus. You’d better get few good sets of Japanese whetstones with various grits and learn how to use them. I honestly would recommend that anyway.

As said, the sharpness is pretty good, serviceable even in forest knives I somewhat haphazardly collect here and there. It manages to give a generic, chromed pig steel faux Rambo knife from 1998 a pretty damn impressive and lasting sharpness too.

The problem with the Vulkanus is that it can oversharpen and end up making your blade jagged. I noticed this with one of my knives, where the Vulkanus didn’t cut the burr properly, but instead napped some of the material further down. Of course, this could be also because the blade’s metal and original blade geometry are different and don’t work with the Vulkanus, but I noticed something similar with a store-bought knife that retained its burr. To add to that, it just might be I kept honing the blades too long to the point that Vulkanus own capabilities just ran out.

That is most likely Vulkanus’ weakness; the blades don’t end up in the best possible condition, but I’m setting the bar stupidly high. Usually when I sharpen and hone by hand I aim for that mirror clean sheen. Vulkanus is designed for general kitchen use where that mirror surface doesn’t survive too long. Or in the forest, for the matter. As long as the blade is sharp enough that it cuts with no effort, it should be enough and in that Vulkanus does its job in a very commendable way.

Would I recommend the Vulkanus? If you’re not into learning ins and outs of blade sharpening and honing, want something quick and effective, Vulkanus is probably your safest bet, even when its pricepoint is a bit on the high side. It’s easy enough to use for everybody, and even one-handed people should be able to use it just fine. You’d need to be some sort of special snowflake with serious lack of eye-hand coordination not to be able to make your generic kitchen knife sharp with it. It just works as intended with good built quality.

That is something that you also need to consider when it comes to Vulkanus; the knife. Investing into a good, solid and  long-lasting knife is something that will pay its back as you prepare dinner or otherwise use a knife somewhere. Going for the cheapest shit will only give you gray hair and headache, so I would recommend everybody to first check whether or not your knife is a no-brand chrome stick, or a good and proper knife.

Chainsaw philosophy

I spend the latter part of the day with a chainsaw. It is something I consider fun, if you’re wondering, like trekking overall despite the overall content you read here. Chainsawing always gives a good moment to let your mind concentrate on something and be at ease. After all, the chainsaw is the one doing all the work. You just need to give it a direction and hold it steady.

That got me thinking how chainsaw is anything but that. It’s a tool that requires care and maintenance, from cleaning it from oils to sharpening the chain’s teeth. However, unlike something like a computer, which you can just dust off from time to time and be done with it, a chainsaw can’t be ignored all that much. The dirt and dust you ignore one time will always be there the next time, waiting for you and there is not real fast way to clean it just like that, especially if things get a bit oily. It’s not like with Windows, where you can roll up some program to defrag and clean your HDD and call it a day. No, you have to get hands down with a chainsaw, and that’s good. Chainsaw is not something everyone needs.

Chainsaw enthusiast I am not, but I do know those who have modified theirs to some extent. Larger tank, tweaked engine, custom chain and the usual. Hell, one even changed the start button and modified the pulley string to work with some sort of drill contraption of his own design.

Unlike some other tools, a chainsaw can kill you and here’s where its design usually shines. A chainsaw is a heavy contraption and weight just before your hands. The safety switch you press is usually placed where you have your best handle grip on the machine and the support grip sits just right. There are not many ways you can design a chainsaw to sit right in your hands, and whatever weight it has tends to become a non-issue when the chain sinks its teeth into the wood. Like with any saw, you don’t need to put any pressure on it.

That really is the fun part. That is not to say that the maintenance is not fun on itself, but admittedly it is something that not everyone might find enjoyable. Work thanks the worker goes the old proverb, and maintaining something like a chainsaw really brings it up. Having to use something to clean each crevice, wiping the fluids, checking the chain tensity and overall just keeping it clean. Perhaps this is sort of men’s romance kind of thing with machines, who knows.

To the point of sorts. Chainsaw’s use is not just letting ‘er rip and go through matter. Sure, in a hurry a good chainsaw could probably start under water and cut a crocodile through if needed, but as it’s a machine that you don’t need in a modern city all that much, if at all, it’s philosophy has kept itself relatively challenging. It is without a doubt a dangerous machine, and those hedge saws you see people buzzing on Sundays are like toys compared to a proper wood-cutter. It’s better to keep a device like that just ever so slightly complex in its need of maintenance and various safety levers and switches. We know some guy would otherwise cut their own arm off or lodge it into their throat if it was easy.

The duality of any product being easy to use while requiring some in-depth knowledge is something that most designs want to steer away. The easier and simpler a design is, the easier and cheaper it should be to manufacture and end-user to put into practical use. If complexity is needed, e.g. for an engine,  a whole market will pop up just to take that headache from your hands. Most basic car troubles consumers go to the repair shop could be done by themselves, but they lack the knowhow and would rather pay someone else to do it than get their own hands dirty. That’s totally fine, not everybody has the interest to fix their own car while others enjoy such things to no end.

However, no matter how simple a product is, it would always be good to know its core functions and possible ways to fix and maintain it. It doesn’t take a genius or someone who has taught himself ins and outs of their product, just a common consumer who has the slightest of interest to make the best use of their purchase. It benefits the consumer the most, as that could possibly mean you don’t need to replace a product as soon as you thought or can open new possibilities. Or in case of Windows 7 and 8, protect your privacy to a larger degree and select what services and functions you want it tun in the background while you watch your chosen adult entertainment.

Learning to use and maintain should be on the to-do list of everybody, most agree I’d wager. However, you’d be surprised how many consumers out there simply don’t know the possibilities or the extents their purchased products can go. Elderly people using their computers is one example, as I’m sure all you are aware of how limited use computers see, sometimes just being for browsing news, Facebook and e-mail with the occasional session of Solitaire. There isn’t exactly anything wrong in that, but there are better devices for that, namely smartphones and different pads.

While maintaining a smart phone or a pad, especially Apple’s closed products, is a more challenging task than maintaining your vacuum cleaner, both deserve your attention. The chainsaw philosophy really is something that shouldn’t have any special mentioning, making this post largely pointless. Keep your shit in good condition, whatever it is, and it’ll have your back any time in the future. You bought that stuff, so you might as well keep it in a working condition. Doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes off from your day. While you’re at it, crack that PC of yours open and dust it off, you’ve been putting it off for too long now.

The screen is in your pocket

With the upcoming new updates to PS4 and Xbone, we’re seeing a trend where both Sony and Microsoft want to appeal to the hardcore gaming market. People are buzzing about their capabilities and all that, but in the end if the games are lacklustre, the console’s power really doesn’t matter at all. Look at PSVita, a damn nice little handheld, but its got nothing against the library on the 3DS.

As I’ve said numerous times before, PC is for hardware performance and cutting edge tech. Consoles used to stick with the philosophy of matured technology. The types of games and gameplays between PC and console are inherently different, but that line has been buried with the PC games entering console market. PlayStation was the most popular entry point, and never left. It may not have been the first console to utilise PC standpoint, but nevertheless it was something that stroke a deal. This has led consoles to be dumbed down PCs to a large extent, but at the same time everyone who plays games via Steam is playing those games via that digital game console on their PC.

Broken record, I know.

Microsoft has been synonymous with PC gaming at least since Windows 95. Other OS’ are enjoying the leftovers, for better or worse. The Xbox brand will be absorbed by the Windows platform at some point in the future, reabsorbed if you take into account that the Direct X box originally spun off from Windows itself. That will be good. The sooner Xbox as a console vanishes, the better. Nintendo will continue doing its thing. If the rumours about NX being a hybrid home/handheld console are true, this is the future where console gaming is going.

What will Sony do? They’re in deep shit, to be fair. Either they need to go the way of the dodo, or begin to emphasize something else. They have no place in the PC market, their televisions and other media equipment have been failing for some time now and they’re mostly known for PlayStation brand. If I were a dick, I’d say that PlayStation has been the thing that has killed Sony itself as a brand. They used to produce loads of new and dare I say innovative multimedia equipment. Their cassette and CD players were top-notch, their TV-sets were without a doubt cutting edge even at their cheapest and goddamn I still have a radio from the 1980’s that works better than most modern ones.

Sony has had their own little troubles. BetaMAX died in the war against VHS and Laserdisc, with VHS winning by the loads. The Blu-ray format has become more and more common, but it has not kicked DVD out from the race yet. Currently, the BD format is already competing against digital distribution. Whether or not digital distribution will end up being the main format over all else, BD and its successors will without a doubt continue the path Laserdisc paved as the collectors’ format.

Will Sony become just a publisher again? When Sony was a publisher in their pre-PlayStation days, they were known for lacklustre games. Whatever Sony will do, they can’t prevent evolution of the Screen. The Screen used to go by the name television, and before it was theatre and so on. Now, the Screen is in your pocket. It’s everywhere, you can watch and play games anywhere, anytime. The PlayStation is not. As PlayStation now, it is married to the Screen in the living rooms, to the TV. It can’t exist anywhere else, and Sony is clearly not willing to entertain handheld gaming. Sony can’t enter PC market, that’s Windows country. Perhaps, just perhaps, they can change the PlayStation into a true multimedia device for the home, except Microsoft already tried that and abandoned it very soon after.

People just want to play good games. All the companies really have to do is deliver them, but that, above all else, has seems to have become difficult within this world where those smaller groups with the loudest voice seem to be catered to. Be it the hardcore gamer or some women rallying against Dead or Alive.

Personally, I’m more or less stopped giving a damn where video games are going now. I’m just going with the flow, not really expecting any but still find myself being disappointed at times. However, I do find the constant push for 4K distasteful, as the screens meant for general consumers don’t achieve the desired quality and the prices are still high. Give it five years or so when the technology matures and prices come down. At that time those who want the bleeding edge tech will have already moved to 8K or 16K, but that’s how it always goes. Viewscreen technology moves so damn fast that’s it’s nearly pointless to keep up.

Mecha design; Artisanal mecha

Visual representation of giant robots widely vary, and they can’t be put into two or three distinct categories due to the amount of that very variety itself. Industrial design is very simple to grasp, just look at war industry. However, organic design is not as simple as I’ve previously showcased with Dunbine, because Dunbine, while more organic than a Scopedog, is not exactly organic per se. Sure, it smooth lines, but that doesn’t exactly make itself organic. It’s more like a handcrafted work, a unique piece that a master craftsman designed. Dunbine’s not the most stellar example of this, as it really mixes this artisanal and industrial in a nice combination, so let’s look at a design that’s more to the point.

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Escaflowne is a mecha that is without a doubt one of the better examples of handcrafted, artisanal mecha design. It’s ornate, smooth and royal in its design. Certain level of excessiveness is in there, and it being artisanal does not exclude means of war in there. Unlike some Five Star Stories mechas, which in reality have no sense of function, Escaflowne works in a nice balance.

If we want to get into the whole mecha thing, the best way to think of them really is as knights. In the end, a super robot story is about a person in armour, just in a more technical one. Especially when it comes to Japanese media. Fantasy mechas tend to emphasize this, as with Escaflowne above, and this really applies to all guymelefs in the series. None of them are organic, but neither are they industrial. You could say that artisanal is in-between the two extremes.

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Nabbed this Scheherazade off from Pixiv. While not as ornate as Escaflowne, it is nonetheless an example of artisan craftsmanship in mecha, especially with its head. After all, knight armours, especially those of in high position, were designed to be visually striking, a tradition pretty much all mecha follow. An armoured knight has stuck to our global consciousness and many of these artisanal mechas derive their core designs from that idea

What then is the main difference between organic and artisanal in mecha? The main difference of course really is all about the nature of the beast. Iczer Robo and Iczer Sigma are grown in an artificial womb with mechanical built into them. They are, in essence, biomechanical from the get go and largely wear an armour, that may or may not be their outer skin. The jury’s out on the still. Artisanal on the other hand would be fully or at least mostly mechanical in its nature from the grounds up.

For Western mecha the artisanal approach rarely applies. They are made to be machines of war, and even when they are crafted carefully as unique pieces of craftsmanship, they tend to look militaristic and industrial as all hell. I remember someone telling me how Battletech’s mechs were unique pieces for each of the faction or family, which they keep in priced condition and such, much like Mortar Headds in Five Star Stories.

It is not the shape curve that determines what the style is. Industrial mechas can have bulbous, very round parts to the  and still be completely inudstrial. An organic on the other hand can have cutting straight lines to them just as well. It is the nature of the line and overall shape that ultimately determines the look. Think the difference between a bone claw and a metal claw. Artisanal claw would be somewhere between the two, and be more ornate.

Ornate is the keyword in all this. Mamoru Nagano’s design are perhaps most known for their elaborate designs and details.

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While LED Mirage could be thrown into industrial design if we were to use just two categories. However, it doesn’t fit there completely because of its multitude of angles and complex natural shapes thrown into the mix. LED Mirage has a lot of numerous smooth curves to it, accented with harsh and sharp angles in combination to flat and curved surfaces. All this combines a very unique look and style that can’t be copied very easily at all, unlike say a Gundam design that’s somewhat genius in its simplicity. LED Mirage’s artisanal side is especially evident on the close-ups, which reveal further detail that’s painted on the Mortar Headd.

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You can see above that the detail here is not present is not included in the above. Nagano went through many revisions, some of which surely are lost to time by now. You can read all that at Gears Online.

As mentioned, these three classifications I’ve proposed don’t exclude each other. Often you can find elements of at least two different styles in a design, like in how Metal Gear Ray combines organic and industrial design together very well, but is not artisanal. To contrast to that, all the rest of main canon Metal Gears are outright industrial in their looks. Evangelion units and Iczer Robos share the same base idea of organic beings wearing an armour, which doesn’t exactly strike industrial in looks at first, but they are supposed to be form-fitting after all. Industrial mechas sometimes include artisanal effects to them, but generally machines of war don’t tend to do that. The most ornate spot a Gundam has, for example, is its V-fin, and the most crafted V-fin out of them sits on none other than RX-121-3C Gundam TR-1 Hyzenthlay.

It's less elaborate in-magazine
It’s less elaborate in-magazine

In the end, I would recommend reading further on all three aforementioned styles outside the mecha genre and from actual design literature for a better view of this. There is a fourth wild-card classification that I would like to coin out there, but that’ll be another entry.

Whiskers against moustache

The thing with Pokémon design is that there are no rules to follow, outside the usual make them look strange and fantastic. It’s not like in Digimon, where everything goes and you are free to do essentially whatever you want. However, most of the time people tend to bring the argument that most Pokémon tend to be based on real life animals or mythical creatures. It’s a good one, and it could be argued further that most of the best designed Pokémon stick with real life approach in their sort of simplicity combined to the whole reality-is-strange approach, like with Bulbasaur. It’s a strange dinosaur like thing with a bulb on its back. It’s simple, rather cute and pretty damn neat design. Pokémon evolution is more like a metamorphose which expand on the concept. Bulbasaur grows in size as does the bulb when it turns into Ivysaur, and in Venusaur it gets this huge appearance with the leafs and flower on its back. It loses its cuteness and is somewhat grotesque in its original appearance, but this sort of ‘growing bigger’ is what Pokémon at their core do. Digimon are the ones that go to wildly different directions, sometimes having no connection to each other thematically or otherwise. That’s pretty great on its own right, allowing large amount of variety in somewhat small range of sample.

Original Pokémon design was restricted by the Game Boy itself. There’s only so much you can cram data on its screen and the colour, or the lack of thereof, puts up restrictions. Pokémon is a good example of a game series where you can see how the designs don’t get better when more freedom is given to the designers from the hardware side. Nowadays Pokémon come in all forms that make little to no sense, like ice cream and keychains. Vanillite and its forms are the most retarded Pokémon design out there, competed with Klefki, Rotom’s forms and Trubbish. They showcase the example of designers having the problems of coming up new Pokémon, and rather than basing them on real life animals and making variations of them. We could have shitloads of more Pokémon based on different breeds of animals rather than take some good shit and come up with bad shit like Binacle or Kling. A goddamn metal gear Pokémon for fuck’s sake.

The new Alolan form for Rattata is an interesting case study the mentality of modern Pokémon design in many ways, mainly how that certain simplicity is gone and things have to be more busy, more mean and extreme to satisfy the designers’ wants. The same applies to Mega evolutions, but they’re a whole another thing I could rant about. Let’s just stick with Rattata now.

Aloha ratattatataatatatatatatata

The changes are numerous. The posing is the same, but the silhouette has been changed. Rattata is just a rat with some peculiarities to it. It’s design is straightforward and just works, so to speak. Not!Hawaii Rattata on the other hand has revamps that don’t really mesh well. You can even see that the Alolan Rattata has lost its belly and its backside has a smoother curve. The pattern on its belly is not jagged rather than a smooth. Claws have been elongated and the fangs are less beaver like with a more taper to them. The tail is thicker and shorter with hair protrusion at the end for no reason. The ears share that protrusion , and they really add nothing to the design. Those, and the solid moustache, are good examples of how modern Pokémon designs just put on elements that add nothing to the design. They exist there solely to make designs more busy than what they need to be and they degrade those designs because of that. On top of that, the shading above Alolan Rattata’s head makes it look angrier. Gotta have them look more angry for the American audience, just like Kirby. It’s nose also is more on the front, with both holes visible. There’s a fan made comparison floating on the net how a modern Charizard would look with a supposed Generation 1 Garchomp next to it.

It can be understood why Alolan Rattata is like this. It’s supposed to be the Dark-Type to standard Rattata’s Normal. It’s supposed to look a bit meaner, but it ends up being DeviantArt tier edgy redesign. One could argue that Dark as a type is edgy in itself and the design matches it, let me remind Sableye, Scraggy, Sharpedo and others don’t fall into this trope. Pangoro the least, it being a damn bancho. That’s a whole another trope.

Some of the other Alolan Forms we’ve seen thus far do better or worse. Sandshrew is an igloo on two legs while Sandslash looks stupid with its spikes just being straight like that. Vulpix and Ninetails work the best of the bunch, striking a level of Marilyn Monroe like appearance in them. Alolan Exeguttor became a meme for a damn good reason, and Alolan Meowth is a sassy black woman. Marowack’s complete type change and new design is pretty laughable, but nothing can really compare how Alolan Raichu lacks any of the sharpness the original had. It looks like a Chinese knock-off now.

Alolan forms are designed the way they are for the sake of adding something new to the older Pokémon. Pokémon has always had a gimmick to it after the first game, and these Regional variants is Sun and Moon‘s. It pisses me off that Game Freak really doesn’t stack their gimmicks on top of each other. Day/Night and Seasonal cycle on top of Mega evolutions and these Regional variants, that I hope will stick and will be appearing in future games in various new forms to mess with the metagame, but just abandon them for what? Keeping each game unique? Perhaps, but obsoleting their older games would do them some good. Pokémon has barely changed in its twenty years of existence when it comes to gameplay, and revising the game play model they’re using would have an impact. The overall sense is that Pokémon hasn’t changed, and that may play in some part it losing to Yokai Watch in Japan. Pokémon Go‘s success is without a doubt part because it is Pokémon game, and that it breaks the usual mould. Then again, it has given the franchise certain recognizable stability, something that isn’t reflected in the creature designs.

Monthly Music: Giant mutated creature version

After you’ve lived more of less four months and then some in the midst of uncertainty, constant renovation buzz and the skull shattering clatter it produces on top of other things, you tend to get tired. Really, really tired. This has affected the quality and quantity of this blog rather visibly. But, I aim to persist. In the end, as long as I manage to produce something, even if it is sub-par, I can always aim for higher goals in the future. While I had high hopes for myself and for last month’s Three, I feel that it lacked certain something. Sure, I had planned the DVD-BD comparison to be nothing more than a bunch of pictures, but exhaustion is a bitch. I admit, my research and arguments have been lacking, the spirit has not been there and the heart has barely beaten. My drive is somewhat lacking.

That is the very reason why this month lacked two planned things; a new ARG podcast and that planned “pilot” of sorts for voiced blogging. Hell, I was intending to do one for this, but then I realised it’s worth jack shit if my throat is coarse and I can’t get a proper sound out of me. Thank you colder nights and no heating. But, at least I managed to throw out a TSF comparison entry, and the next one of the list would be one of the three; F-18, MiG-29 or F-5 Freedom Fighter. Then we’d be finished with the derivatives from image boards.

I counted the TSF entry as mecha design. While there are numerous matters I could touch upon, the basics are essentially out there. Now would be the time I start to go into more in-depth matters, like transforming mechas. However, that is a large topic with few entry points and should be a multi-part entry. For example, Super Sentai has its own approach to transformations and combinations, different from Transfromers and Brave series. Macross has its own, as does numerous other shows. Some just make it work, some want it to be show accurate and some just have them for the sake of being cool. I may end up purchasing few books before moving onwards these entries, because in-depth is in-depth. Most of those who have read those entries most likely already have noticed that they are not intended as guides how to design with a pen, but rather to work with the ideas and groundwork designs. That of course requires reading outside the robotics field and into industrial design as a whole.

The chosen music for the month has its relevancy. Going back to the roots and creating new from the base concepts. I’ve talked this before, and I’m pretty certain all I need to do is go back on writing about video game design. This may become rather forced thing to some extent, but there are loads of games to choose from when it comes to design, whatever design element we want to talk about. I do have a discussion surrounding the revamped Pokémon designs for the upcoming Sun and Moon, using Rattata as a case study. From there I guess games are the limit, and depending how my plans go, I may end up doing a review on something PS4 related this month.

I may drop Monthly Threes for the upcoming month, unless somebody has an idea for a theme or I come up with something worthwhile. Hell, maybe the whole mecha design thing could be one, comparing three iterations of some long running franchise like Gundam and discuss the main design elements that simply will not vanish. Call it a Gundam stereotype, if you will. Another would be to cover an obscure comic creator, Ken Kawasaki, but the information I have on him is… well, all I know is that he died in a motorcycle crash at a young age in the early 1990’s, with only two books collecting his works. Information is hard to come by, even in Japanese. Then again, perhaps it would be best to stray from these obscure, somewhat hardcore products of the orient for the time being altogether  and just concentrate on things that are on the surface and still relevant. Thou I still argue that even the obscure needs to be appreciated, at least by just one other person.

Then again, I have also planned to piss off people and discuss why games are or are not art, but from the arts’ perspective, not games’ as it usually is. This may seem a bit weird, as one could assume the two are largely exchangeable, and to some extent they are. The important difference between those two is that one observes whether or not games are art from the viewpoint of outside the game industry, while the other takes the viewpoint inside the industry. Without a doubt, the one that stands outside the industry is largely the majority, as that tends to include the common consumer who may just play the occasional slots. One of the points in art is that when it’s distilled to its very core aspect, it will always end up being more than what a game would be. We’ll discuss this more down the line, perhaps this would be great as the first voiceblog entry, with sources and such cited in-text.

The main reason why such discussion still needs to be had is because electronic games culture didn’t just pop into existence when you were a child. As I went through few months back with the penny arcades entries, the prototypical era for our current game culture is well over hundred years old or more.  While literature and music are largely clearly cut forms of media, movies have had about a hundred years to mature and gain what they are, though it could be argued that its roots in theatrical arts has given it its appreciation. The same should be applied to video games, and to understand what your PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendos are all about, we need to appreciate the history they stem from. I’m sure I will echo these in the future, it just may take some time.

As for now, go listen more of Shin Godzilla‘s soundtrack. I ended up picking it up myself, even when it has something like seven different variations of Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Decisive Battle’s drum beat.

Monthly three; Fight!! Iczer-1 DVD-BD image quality comparison

Looking at how well recent OVA BD remasters have gone through, Megazone 23 being absolutely beautiful, it was more or less just the question of time when Fight!! Iczer-1 would see its conversion. There were some fears about upscales, but gladly what we got is the definitive version of the series.

This is pretty much just a gallery post. The versions used here are Media Blasters’ Anime Works release from 2005 and the recent BD release. It would seem that whatever source Media Blasters’ is pretty bad, ranking below any of the Japanese Laserdisc releases. If we’re completely honest, the DVD is probably the worst release, on par with the VHS release. This remaster really something the series required, looking and sounding absolutely bomb. Whether or not it will see a Western release is an open question, but I would hope so. The Japanese release came with a memorial booklet and two CDs containing the series’ soundtrack.

Continue reading “Monthly three; Fight!! Iczer-1 DVD-BD image quality comparison”

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 Fighting Falcon has proven itself to be highly manoeuvrable air-to-air and air-to-surface fighter that during its reveal was nothing less than a quantum leap in fighter design. After all, it was the first fly-by-wire electric combat aircraft. F-16 is a low-cost and high-performance machine that for a reason became a classic on its own rights and was imported to numerous other nations like Belgium.

F-16A saw its first flight in late 1976, and stepped into United States Air Force’s service in 1979. F-16B was a two-seat variant of the machine and engineered the path for F-16s to have built-in structural and wiring provisions and systems architecture that would allow expansions in multiple roles since 1981. These expansions vary from precision strike ability to night attacks and beyond-visual-range interception missions. This lead into F-16C and D variants that are single- and two-seat variants of the aforementioned while incorporating new technology. All current USAF units are converted to these models, while Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve still holds some A and B variants.

In comparison to its contemporary fighter aircrafts, the F-16 is a serious threat to the point F-35 losing to it in a direct dog fight. The comparison between the two is not as apt as it would seem. F-35 is mainly a stealth fighter meant to destroy the enemy before it is even spotted. Discussion whether or not manned fighters are the future with the advent of cutting edge drone technology is another discussion that we should have one of these days. Nevertheless, the F-16 is a beast that with an operation radius that exceeds many other fighters and is an all-weather fighter. In an air-to-ground missions the F-16 can fly more than 860km, deliver a pin-point strike to the object and return to base, visual or not. It’s weight, small size and well designed fuselage allows it to fly 2 125km/h with its afterburning F100-PW-100 turbofan engine and can take up 9Gs, which is helluva lot of thrust. It’s dryweight is 6 607kg, and maximum take-off peaks around 14 968kg, allowing it to carry numerous weapons with its nine hard points.  Internally, the F-16 has a M61 A1 20mm gatling gun system, which had some installation difficulties at first.

Rather than going on about the F-16, I recommend checking the F-16.net for a full coverage on the fighter, including full listing of its armaments, variants and its operational history in the Persian Gulf War and in Operation Desert Storm.

In Muv-Luv‘s BETAverse, the F-16 mirrors the real world fighter in that it’s a lightweight Tactical Surface Fighter with superior mobility and range, operating in junction to its weightier siblings F-14 and F-15. Similarly how the fighter has a long-range of operation in multitude of roles, the TSF has a long operation time on the field, derived from the Lightweight Tactical Surface Fighter competition, which aimed to create highly manoeuvrable and cost-effective unit to change tactics against the BETA. This cost effectiveness allowed the US to produce more units, as they could not completely replace their ageing first generation TSFs with the two aforementioned heavier models.

Just like in real world, the F-16 TSF was imported to numerous other countries, replacing their F-4Es and F-5s. The Benelux union has its own variant as a result of import, the F-16AM, which more or less has the usual mid-life upgrade with overall technological improvements. The same applies to F-16C, mostly used by the US and UN, with improvement Jump Units.

Due to F-16s being everywhere, they were seen in action in numerous places like Yukon base, Battle of Rhodes and during Operation Cherry Blossom in Muv-Luv Alternative. TSFs don’t tend to vary in armament a whole lot, and F-16 is not really an exception. WS-16 Assault Cannon has been TSF bread and butter since F-4 Phantom, thou later F-16 were updated to handle the AMWS-21. CIWS-1 Close Combat Knife is the choice F-14’s for combat, a good choice for a TSF that should excel in close combat. F-14 is also capable carrying MGM-140 ATACMS missile containers, which reflects the real world fighter’s multirole function.

Historically and in idea, the TSF hits close to the fighter, but the design is more derived from the in-universe sources. This is best seen in the idea that most of the TSF’s design is that of angles rather than smooth curves like with the fighter. This is because almost none of the TSFs have what could be called smooth lines. That in mind, common points between the TSF and the fighter can be made, e.g. the intake in the TSFs abdomen is the same as the fighter’s, just more angular.

As usual, here's the original imageboard version
As usual, here’s the original imageboard version

After you get use to the idea of looking at certain aspects in the F-16 TSF, you end up noticing common points. It seems like the gatling gun and loads of sections on the fuselage’s back made some of the TSF’s detailing. It’s interesting to note that the thighs didn’t see any additional details, while otherwise you see a lot of red dots downwards. Shoulders are interesting, to say the least, as they incorporate F-16 rising parabola silhouette, just with wings cut off. The arms follow this idea to some extent, but are surprisingly clean of any needles detail

The groin guard on the other hand is a flip of the coin; either it is inspired by that parabola silhouette, or was thrown in there just because. While I’m not a fan of the knees American TSFs have, they have their function in housing the CIWS-1.

Happy to see they're free of this switch blade bullshit
Happy to see they’re free of this switch blade bullshit

The knees however do make the TSF look a bit cumbersome. Despite the F-16 being the lightweight unit, it doesn’t really look like it. The shoulders look far too ornate for that, and shaving down the skirt’s and kneeguard’s sizes would’ve done good. Maybe even take elements of the shoes too. It does resemble the fighter while not really pushing those elements forwards enough. A slimmer version of the this design would’ve probably been the best middle-ground in tying it down to the TSF tech tree while pushing the idea of these being in-universe versions of the fighters.

And on top of all that, it has a face on back of its head.

face
I WILL DEVOUR YOUR SOUL

And while we’re discussing things from âge, today’s the 27th of August. Happy birthday, Hayase Mitsuki.