Consumer control over titles coming to Steam?

In hindsight, this was to come. Developer named Love in Space has stated that Valve has halted their title’s submission in order to overhaul Steam to give more control to the consumer on what they see. This isn’t the standard Family friendly control centre Steam currently has, but something more robust.

This seems to indicate two things. First, Valve is taking their hands off as they’ve mentioned previously and accept pretty much anything legal on Steam. This would mean the end developers have to indicate elements in their software whilst submitting to Valve. This would tie directly into the second element, which is the user driven control.

How do you implement it? is the  question.The best, quickest way would probably be to use the pre-existing tags Steam already uses for its titles, but whether or not these would be fitting is an open question. Sometimes, how a tag works for a title is rather obscure, referring to some element that’s not a major part in the title. Then you have the occasional tag that has nothing to do with the title. There would be a need for a far more stricter set of rules in order have a properly functioning control device. While possible that they’ll just use these tags, it’s also probable that something completely new will be used, as the aforementioned developer mentions that there is going to be completely new features that their title requires before Valve accepts it for Steam.

Was there a reason for a system like this? As Steam functions as a sales platform as much as it is a digital console, there is a need to split adult-only material from the more kid-friendly content. The split is similar how kids’ magazines are in one section in store, while all the rest are moved on the side or above the their stand. Another example would be how family movies and adult movies had different sections on a VHS rental store. Wasn’t the Family View already like this? Apparently not, as it seems to only limit what games are shown in the Library section rather in Store.

Seeing how the Internet really likes to rile people up and enjoy the outrage culture for better or worse, these last few years (or rather, last decade or so) has seen movements to accuse games, game developers and consumers for pretty much anything from sexism and racism to political agendas and lack of them. Valve has seen a lot of shit flung at them concerning their new policy, to the point of Kotaku labeling Valve irresponsible for allowing free market to decide on products.

This new feature that is being worked on is a solution that allows the user to censor their own Store page. This all fine and dandy, as this means people should be able to see what they want, ignoring the rest of the marketplace they might deem less of worth or somehow damaging for them or their family. As long as system does not force limitation to anyone else, or even suggest that certain content might be considered inappropriate, it should be passable.

However, it would seem this is a solution coming along way down, as Sekai Project mentioned some of their titles need to be re-submitted, and that they need to fill-in additional information for already passed software once the system has been implemented. Considering Valve has stopped accepting some titles like this for the time being, I’d guess they’re in a bit of a hurry with the system before publishers like Sekai find new avenues to move into. Valve wanting to put accepting software on hold for the time being until they’ve finished the system may be understandable, but it’s not the best approach concerning the publishers and developers who have their titles in this limbo state.

You will hear that this won’t solve any problems. Games that sites like Kotaku considers problematic won’t go away and will be developed and published. However, this is as good as any mediating solution, as the upcoming feature should allow these people can ignore their hated titles as much as they wish.

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Goodbye ixtl, welcome anchor

On July 6th, âge announced that ixtl, the company that was put up in 2011 to manage their copyrights and IPs, has now been renamed as anchor. Their website has also been revised accordingly. It would seem that anchor’s role is not just to manage âge’s rights, but also to design stories, i.e. story content creation of sorts. XR experience can be loosely equated to VR and other experiences that might come in future, e.g. themed hotel room or such.

This comes in the wake of Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl in 2017, ixtl having a survey for international and Japanese consumers what they’d like to see from them as well as Avex and Graphinica announcing they have established Flagship line, a company to produce goods, such as animation, games and VR titles.

Perhaps most importantly, anchor’s site specifically teases a new project coming soon, there is already something in the works. Considering Avex Pictures took notice of the million dollar Kickstarter, renewed interest to revamp a company branding and other changes, it should not be too hard to guess what they’re ramping up to.

Disruptive pricing requires backing behind it

Here’s something I didn’t expect to see Shuhei Yoshida to use anytime soon; disruption. He jokes that that when the PlayStation 2 was released, it had no games to it, though Street Fighter EX 3 was published week before the console was launched.

The PS2 essendtially broke the barrier between previous home media formats like the VHS, Beta and Laserdisc and the DVD by introducing an affordable, competent player to the mass markets. An overnight industry revolution, some had put it back in the day. Sony had a product that wasn’t just cheap, but decently competitive too. It wasn’t the cutting edge player many people nowadays seem to think it was, but it was good enough. In fact, it was pretty terrible, and using the PS2 as a DVD player would kill the laser unit incredibly fast. This was part due to how it worked, and part due to Sony using cheap lasers units for their consoles.

Sony never learned from this. While it can’t be denied that the PS2 gained its initial success from the DVD market, the games themselves later made the console what it was. They were hoping to replicate this with the PlayStation 3 with the newfangled Blu-ray, but that didn’t go as expected. The stupid high price was made fun out of and the BD format took years to mature. It did manage to kill off HD-DVD though, so one win for Sony there. First time they beat someone in a format war, though this was also the time when people said that in few years digital-only content will be taking physical format for a ride. It’s been a slow burn with digital taking over the physical media, more than a decade at this point.

Yoshida seems to be missing something that’s been going over and over in the video game industry with his remarks about the PS2’s launch. An affordable, good enough machine that does its job well, but bleeding edge, will eclipse its competitors. There’s no large science behind it, people just dislike investing into an expensive machine. DVD players around the change of the millennium were stupendously expensive at their highest quality. They were, however, still cheaper than the Laserdisc by that point.

When Nintendo says that they’re not interested in doing or knowing how their competitors do stuff, Sony seems to be ones that don’t really learn from the history of an industry they’re not part of. Yoshida saying that they wouldn’t know how industry manages shift from one console to another spells us that they didn’t look up anyone who had been working with Sega, Nintendo, Atari, Hudson or NEC for some information. It sounds more like they went in cockeyed and hoped for the best. After all, the PlayStation had been the victor of the previous generation, beating both of its two main competitors. On one hand, Sony was in pressure to deliver a proper successor to their maiden console, and on the other hand they knew they had build a consumer base in the video game market that would surely follow in suit. Sony’s history with home media and electronics after was strong at that point, but after that it seems like video games took its toll on the company and they couldn’t compete with the current marker forces.

The Blu-Ray was the only time Sony won a format war, and even then it was more because there were only one other competing format. HD-DVD didn’t market itself very boldly, and most of Toshiba’s pricing was lacklustre to say the least. While it got decent studio backing, that backing came in too late compared to BD. Sony managed to get Warner Bros. support BD in an exclusive manner, and WalMart seeing writing on the wall, stopped offering HD-DVD due to lack of sales. Furthermore, the whole support Microsoft gave to the format to fight Sony’s BD was incredibly poor and never went anywhere. It’s more likely that PS3 didn’t contribute to BD’s win streak one bit. Sony’s history with their formats like the DSD, AVCHD and MiniDisc weren’t all that successful, though I must say MiniDisc still saw some success that should not be understated. Nowhere near the standards of the compact cassette or CD, but still.

Reiterating that you can’t simply disrupt a market with a cheap price. Cheap price in itself doesn’t tell anything about the product outside that you can buy it for less money. Disruption requires meat behind, something more substantial that drives the consumer towards a product. A relatively competent product with lower price than its competitors would be more on point with this. Something that larger amount of consumers can get their hands on and experience the higher fidelity of things is that sort of sweet spot, but it’s not easily attainable. It’s much easier to produce either trash products you can sell for large profit margin even when the price is lower than most, just as it is easy to put all the bleeding edge components into polished designed shell and sell it to high-tier enthusiasts, like hifi snobs, to enjoy.

Ignorant parent is child’s worst enemy online

Recently a 15-yers old teenager committed a suicide after reading the Visual Novel Doki Doki Literature Club. The title’s rather infamous for starting out as a normal cute-as-button story, and then becomes rather nasty in its themes and content. The VN does state that its not for everyone and is not suitable for children, the usual warning for software of its nature.

The news reporting on the incident on the Sunderland Echo reflects how poorly entertainment software, VNs or electronic games, are understood. Age doesn’t really change this, only education does. For example, Sue Kirby, the author, makes her first mistake in the title calling it an online game. Even if we give the leeway that VNs are counted as games, Doki Doki Lit. Club certainly is not online and does not contain any other “players” characters outside the reader, another mistake that’s made in the article.

The article is really all that and not much as else. Some statement from a coroner warning parents to look after their children, something they should already be doing, and neither he or the author describes any rhyme or reason why this should be an issue. Great many who commit suicide have done something before their final deed, be it watching television, listening to music or other activities. Perhaps the title did serve as a some sort of trigger for the suicide, but then its not exactly the driving reason to do so. There must have been something there already, a thought and drive, which has been the true underlying reason. A software doesn’t simply brainwash you do commit suicide, neither do any other sort of media.

Few other sites, like Fatherly, has almost the exact same article up, with no expansion on the topic itself, no research done for better or worse. I’m not even going to go through The Sun’s article on the topic, as their opening thinks it’s somehow negative that Doki Doki Lit. Club doesn’t require any parental checks. Last time I checked, you had to set things up via Steam’s client in Family View rather than title-by-title basis. Then again, it’s available on other sites as well, so maybe this particular kid got it from there rather than using the most popular game platform on the PC. The Sun’s on a witch hunt mode on the title and it shows.

A common theme among all articles is how there’s criticism how the game doesn’t enforce the suggested. How would the game do that? Are we now in need of Adult Gamer license like with the UK’s fap license nonsense and all games need to have it separately or something? Absolute nonsense.

Manchester Evening News at least has some more meat on the platter, an interview with the parents. The father of gives a statement that the game wouldn’t leave the player alone, as it resembles real life through interactions. Perhaps this shows that the teenager didn’t have the best relations outside virtual environment, if he was looking something better in a virtual environment to cope with it.

Jude Holmes from the Public Protection Division urged parents to check websites their kids are using, effectively encouraging them to break their children’s privacy. Smart kid will be able to wipe their history away anyway, or set up different User Accounts. Firewall settings don’t help much, as they’re easily circumvented just as much. Furthermore, we are talking about a title that’s on Steam as well, meaning the parents should be aware of their kids’ Steam libraries to boot. That wouldn’t show up in the browsing history.

Holmes doesn’t seem to be the Sherlock of the bunch.

Credit where credit is due, Manchester Evening News at least does to the research to describe Doki Doki Literature Club as a visual novel and how it functions. Yet, much like other sites, the author describes the horror twist in the game in a negative tone, as if a story within a game, or any story driven media, couldn’t be gruesome and showcase hard topics straight up.

At least nothing is said to directly connect the suicide to the visual novel, outside the parents’ words, but even the stupidest of readers can read the message between the lines. In truth, we probably will never know the real reason why the teen committed suicide, Doki Doki Lit. Club is just an easy target to put the blame on. Not knowing is the worst there is, and if parents aren’t up to their child’s life, there’s very little to go by.

Certain people are easy to be impressed and suggested by the media. The solution is not to cut out connections to websites or similar. There is no such easy solution for the safety so many parental and safety groups want. There are only hard and long solutions that would require parents to know the web environment well enough so that they’d be able to teach their children to become sensible users of the World Wide Web. An ignorant parent who doesn’t understand modern technology, and doesn’t want to learn anything about it, is probably a child’s worst enemy when it comes to the unsafe Internet. Even Andy Burrows, the Associate Head of Child Safety Online recognises this, imploring parents to have regular conversations with their kids, but what the hell are these parents going to talk about if they don’t know what to talk about? Don’t give your photo away online? Not applicable on the modern era of social media anymore, where everybody and their dogs have an account to post personal details for everyone to see.

There are lots of mays, maybes, coulds and mights. There is nothing definitive, but a mob doesn’t need solid proof to hang the accused. This won’t launch a new crusade against electronic games, or VNs for the matter, but it is part of the rising bad media and journalism that’s begun to permeate video games for the recent years, from calling game consumers are toxic to blame them to be reason for political downfalls. A moral panic over violence or adult subjects in games wouldn’t be nothing new, but it would be extremely pathetic.

After all, that makes better news than an objective view on the subject.

The continuing fall of Jurassic Park’s world

Might as well go full movie themed this week and discuss Jurassic Park. It’s a franchise that, much like so many other movie series out there, should have ended with the first movie. The follow-ups have not added much worth to the setting and story, as the first movie pretty much put everything into one nice package.

The demand for more is not exactly the problem here, but how the movies themselves are ultimately formed up. The lack of scientific accuracy is a non-issue with these particular dinosaurs, as they’re cloned hybrid monsters to begin with, modeled after how the perception of the dinosaurs were. For some, it still gets weird to think that dinosaurs had feathers. What is the problem with these movies is that they’re not terribly interesting or well written. Lost World is the most interesting one of the four sequels, despite putting a new island in. The setting makes it interesting if for nothing else, a good juxtaposition to mirror against the first movie.

However, there’s an element in Jurassic Park that has loomed behind its story for years now, and with the World that’s being realised; genetics. One of the first Jurassic Park III script suggestions were about some kind of SWAT team using modified Velociraptors that would behave like dogs and had been trained for operations. This didn’t come to pass with with the third movie, which honestly was for the better. As much hate as JPIII gets, it’s more or less a side-story as Trespasser was. Which in itself is pretty telling, concerning both JPIII and Trespasser had similar story premise. You can’t tell the story of people being stranded on a dinosaur island too many times over.

Then again, Lost World told the same story as some of the comics and sequel games were going for, where dinosaurs were being lifted off the island and being taken elsewhere. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom uses this same premise, and is as much a remake of Lost World as World was of Park. It’s like they aren’t really keen on trying think of new ways of utilising the islands themselves properly, but concentrate on the same themes and topics that most Jurassic Park has already explored. Even the hybrids dinosaurs from the World movies was already an old concept, as the Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect toyline had nothing but hybrid dinosaurs. It’s rather clear that someone at Universal loves the idea of spreading the dinosaurs across the world and using in warfware in a time where a drone strike is one of single most effective method currently used next to information warfare.

As discussed with previous entry about Star Wars, there is no room for phenomena movies any more. Jurassic Park was most definitely one of them, with TV specials, hardcover making-of books, comics, toys, candies, games on multiple systems and God only knows what else. All of this was possible only because it’s a great movie and everybody wanted to cash on in its wake. Special effects are by the numbers with nothing special to tell about, and when special effects have become not only mundane, but expected, the story and actors need to be exceptional. Something neither World movies, and arguably none of the sequels overall, have managed to do.

The reasons why Jurassic Park as a franchise has been in constant decline are many, mostly the same ones as with Star Wars. Maybe Jurassic Park doesn’t lend itself to wider variety of stories to be told, and despite the original was partially a monster movie, that was its least of roles. However, we’ve seen people being dumb and chased by dinosaurs multiple times over now, do we really need another movies of people yelling and screaming as a Raptor runs and claws them? Well, clearly the movie directors of the past two movies wanted to throw in lots and lots of visual references to the past movies to the point of Fallen Kingdom replicating scenes one-to-one for the sake of nostalgia. Having a dinosaur winking at the crowd that it was faking its tranqed state was pathetic at best. We can always go for nostalgia when trying to have a consistent new brand, right?

There are stories that you can find within Jurassic Park, but these stories would be less about the monster horror these movies tend to go now. Jurassic World should have been a movie about building the new park, how the idea came together, how exactly Masrani came into buying Hammon’s legacy and InGen, how the dinosaurs were re-captured and penned up, what were the setbacks, how were they able to build it and so on. Have the movie end with Jurassic World a park opening up, with promises of greater futures. You can have those chases and moments of terror just as fine without taking anything from it all the while having something new. Then again, re-opening the park on the original island was explored in the Topps Comics, so maybe just remaking everything from scratch or making a new park somewhere else in the world would have been the better option.

Unlike with Star Wars, the only real reason why new Jurassic Park entries are made is because its still reasonably lucrative. At least Star Wars had a whole galaxy to explore and stories to set in there that would allow a worldy series be set in. Jurassic Park has become a fascimile of itself in franchising. Ian Malcom’s speech about stamping and selling things for profit without first considering what people have in their hands resonates throughout the every merch based on these movies, even the first one. This isn’t to say that merchandising is bad in itself, just that are these movies anything else at this point but cash cows for extended materials to be sold?

I can’t but to live in hope that the next movie in the franchise will aim to have a script that’s not stupid and about dinosaur horror. Long shot hopes, I know, but the franchise has run its course. If we’re going to have dinosaurs roaming the Earth and used as bioweapons, we’re finally in Saturday morning cartoon area and there’s no return from that. I always wanted a Jurassic Park cartoon, so maybe there’s something in there. Have Owen lead a group of Dinosaur Savers to oppose the evil terrorists who use dinosaurs for evil. Go balls deep into it all and disregard everything else. Cut the last thin line the series has been teetering on.

The continuing fall of Star Wars

I’ve started this post few times during these pasts months, even before the Solo movies was out. However, that movie solidifed all the missteps Disney has managed to make with Star Wars. It’s not even funny in hindsight, as we did make educated guess how things would go down.

Star Wars has become mundane.

Way back when Disney announced they’d have Lucasfilm produce a Star Wars movie on a yearly basis, I mentioned that they’ll be risking making it all too mundane. Now, the movies are falling, the merch are warming the shelves and people are have become more or less apathetic towards the franchise.

Just like so many other before me now have said, the decline in the movies series’ quality has put people off. While movie snobs and wannabe intellectuals can muse themselves over Episode VIII turning Star Wars inside out, but the main audience, that is everyone else, deemed the movie a major step towards the wrong direction. For numerous good reasons, one of which is bullshit turning around how Hyperspace works. Good job at making any and all weapons completely and utterly worthless. How?    hear Jimmy asking. For example, strap a droid to a hyperdrive vessel and let ‘er rip. Doesn’t even need to be a full ship. Unlike what Wikipedia’s entry on hyperspace wants to you to believe, the franchise has always treated it as an alternative dimension to travel through, though objects with enough mass could interact with said ship and pull ship out of it. It wasn’t just go-fast gear.

An audience can’t keep up a yearly hype, it’s too taxing on the nerves and on the wallet. The absolute core fans of the franchise probably would give their left kidney and right lung to spend cash on anything related to Star Wars, but not the general audiences. The Marvel movies can do multiple movies per year, as that’s expected from them. They’re dime in the dozen action splashes, and different movies offer different things. They’re good for that. Star Wars, as much as it may be hard to believe, should be treated carefully as a phenomena. Each movie previously was a phenomena on themselves, and while Episode I may have a bad rap, that’s exactly what Disney more or less hopes from the franchise with each major entry.

If Lucasfilm was using Star Wars as a cashcow, Disney has been whoring it to everyone and everything. You can do this on an occasion, with bit event movies, but that’s not working anymore. Major event movie phenomena is dead as a concept. Mainly because of Marvel movies, incidentally. Each movie and cross over in the series is hyped and expected, and Infinity War broke box office records, largely signing that it works. We can discuss about the quality of the movies, but they make money for sure. Star Wars has lost its luster as that one series with high emphasize on both story and special effects. Ever since the first Star Wars, Hollywood has constantly upped its ante towards it, and we’ve ended up in a situation where Star Wars as a whole is rather dated as a concept.

Of course, you have the constant politics pushed in, with Kathleen Kennedy, the person spearheading Star Wars currently, has been rather vocal on her stances to the point of them getting injected into the movies themselves as well as in her staff. This is very much apparent in Episode VIII as well, with the Resistance leader, whose name I can’t bother looking up, forcing other’s hands to act against her, because she’s a terrible leader. She’s written like one of the worst Janeway episodes in Star Trek Voyager, where her actions have no true reason outside her role as the boss, and you don’t question the boss. She’s always right.

As you might’ve guesses, people don’t go to watch Star Wars for discussion about current politics. The original certainly was some commentary on Vietnam war, but in a way where it commented on how it is evil for a larger power to oppress the smaller ones. Star Wars is simple in this manner, with stark contrast between good and evil. I’m not going to play that it is some sort of complex storytelling at its finest, but I would argue that the first trilogy is, in overall terms, well crafted storytelling. The same can’t be said of the new trilogy, however. Whether or not it is because modern Hollywood writing simply produces homogeneous scripts that all end up having the exact same beats with the lines and timing, though that’s not exactly a new thing. However, if you look at Marvel movies and Star Wars, the similarities are more than skin deep.

Lucas sold Star Wars at a good time, when taxation was being renewed and now that what the franchise is has become just another in the mix. I’m rather sure that he misses Star Wars, it was something he’s build his whole life. He probably was doing the right thing for the franchise to try get that live-action series off the ground and explore the universe from other perspectives in Young Indiana Jones -fashion, something Disney clearly missed. Why probably? While the production would have been expensive, it would still have been on a smaller scale, but also something that could have been franchised better. Considering Netflix and other streaming services now have large amounts of shows that attract consumers to watch them, a Star Wars live-action show would’ve hit the market consensus pretty spot on. It’s a missed chance now, with the brand recognition losing its value with each new entry.

Then lastly, there’s the fact that Disney had no plans, no cohesive story to tell. Star Wars was always been under one man’s rule before Disney. Without a vision to drive a the movies through, they’ll end up being, well, as they are now; completely separate pieces that do whatever they want without any consideration for the next or what comes out at the end. Star Wars may not have been designed The Empire Strikes Back in mind, but as the series grew towards that, it changed and evolved into the storyline, which Lucas later would put on paper. New Star Wars has none of that, it has separate writers doing separate things with separate directors. Disney didn’t take care of the franchise, and now they’re in a bit of a crisis to fix things up.

Music of the Month; Metal Squad

You should go play some Thunderforce

If you’ve noticed the weird scheduling with these post as of late, it’s because I’ve been ill for the last few weeks, trying to push through work and other stuff all the while trying to keep myself on time with writing and all. Not that really matters in the end, though that did keep me from doing anything any reviews or robot related stuff this month, outside the Asimov Mega Man post.

Speaking of health, the game industry might be having yet another moral panic in its hands in the future, as the World Health Organisation has now officially released a diagnosis for what they call “gaming disorder.” I’ve discussed the ICD-11 previously, and the points still hold water. As Chris Ferguson says in his The Hill article, this is the first time WHO has marked a hobby as a disease. The most largest problem with the diagnosis is that it lacks clinical values and research itself was in poor science. When you have a diagnosis with no basis to it, you risk everyone’s health. Gaming addiction is a symptom of underlying problems, but it’s always easier to remove the tools rather than the root cause. A diagnosis like this will cause harm, especially to people who have found games as a hobby to cope with their mental issues. Sometimes, a good hobby is all it takes to keep a man straight.

As Ferguson mentions that WHO has been under pressure from Asian countries to solidify this diagnosis. Even without Ferguson’s examples, we can make an educated guess how China and South-Korea have been the spearheads in this.

While this isn’t the first time a medical diagnosis has been made public based on quackery and politics, it hurts three different fields at the same time. First, it makes WHO a laughable organisation that can’t keep with proper science or standards. They’re discrediting themselves and what they stand for with this. Secondly, it reduces the further confidence in psychology overall. Psychology has always been under fire about its science. It’s not rare to see people argue that psychology is not a science, outside the hard evidence biological psychology can yield. With this, psychology as a field can be ridiculed even further and puts mental illness classifications under question even more. Thirdly, WHO has damaged a hobby and has opened the door for further quacks to prey on patients, not to mention how hobbyists can now be treated as mentally addicted.

This is absolutely pathetic from WHO, and really puts them in a bad light. The topic really requires more writing on the subject, so we may return to video game addiction at a later date. May is a strong word here.

E3 also came and went earlier, and outside few interesting bits and bobs it was the usual show of ads for the audience. Devil May Cry 5 was probably the jawdropper of the show in overall terms. While expected, seeing it on the stage itself was bliss to the fans. However, like with any event like this, it’s good to remind ourselves that E3 is ultimately just a huge advertisement showcase. All the companies involved there are not for the benefit of the audience, but for the PR and fame. Self-evident for sure, maybe even a bit cynical, but it has become a sort of cornerstone in game marketing, where the biggest and best titles are revealed for the most effect possible. You can’t beat the PR you get from a stage show millions of people are watching at the same time around the globe, unhindered.

The relationship between the providers and consumers is pretty weird compared to other industries, as the general view seems to be that the developers and publishers are doing games for the consumer as some sort of favour, sacrificing themselves for the good of the game, when in reality it’s about the profit. Certainly, some developers have put themselves on a pedestal over things and do consider themselves as some sort of gift to the industry. I guess that’s human nature for you.

Human nature is also to be stupid, as EU is being with the upcoming Internet legislation. If you’re living inside the European Union, is do strongly hope you’ll check this site with some time and scribble an email for your MEPs to prevent widespread censorship. Hell, even this blog would go down if the legislation passes, and I like doing this shit.