Compete with two similar products, not with one same

Some time ago I read an article about why video streaming platforms like Netflix will go by the way of the Dodo soon some time ago. The main argument was IP and copyrights and how they strangle the system. Not in the way you’d think, but because they allow companies to have a monopoly over a single show and not allow it to spread around to other streaming services. This supposedly leads into a position the monopoly over a show leads into an unfair competition as other platforms don’t have the tool to compete, the same show. I wish I could remember where I read this, because its so goddamn dumb. I have to wonder at what point we dipped over that consumers think two different platforms can’t compete with each other unless they have the same product in the lineup. That is nothing less than misunderstanding how two competing companies compete with their products. This to stay relevant to the blog, we’re of course going to use games as an example.

Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive competed each other just fine without largely sharing the same library. While the SNES dedicated itself to be a role playing machine alongside other games with slower pace, MD was more about the arcade action, all the while PC Engine had loads of shooters and B-Tier action games. Despite their preference in genres being rather clear, especially in the US, where MD had a sort of infamy for sports games among certain circles, the three consoles did compete directly with different entries in the same genres. Sega had Alexx Kidd to counter Super Mario Bros. before Sonic the Hedgehog was around the corner, and PC Engine had titles like Shubibinman and Valis, though Valis is more known for its Mega Drive entry in the Overseas market. Nevertheless, the series’ halcyon days were on the PCE. All these offer a different kind of platforming experience with their own flavour of style and approach, with varying degrees of success.

On the RPG side, Sega had its Phantasy Star and Shining series of games, with Koei bringing its Uncharted Waters series to the table. PC Engine had Cosmic Fantasy, Cadash, Vasteel and such, though Far East of Eden was first largely a PC Engine game before it jumped the ship when PC Engine effectively died. SNES had its fair share of RPG most already know, ranging from Dragon Quest to Final Fantasy.

The point I’m trying to make with all that is that streaming services aren’t dying because one service has a monopoly over a show. While it is true that people don’t really want to subscribe to a service just because it has one or two shows they’d like to watch, and seemingly have gotten used to the idea of everything being one place, these companies compete with each other with their unique libraries and takes on the same base concepts. Any station or streaming service could have tackled Game of Thrones with their own high-budget, semi-realistic adult fantasy epic if they had chosen to do so. None of them even seemingly attempted this. The same can be said for Star Trek Discovery, though The Orville was its direct competitor, and by all means, did get far better reception and is the show with superior writing. Star Trek Discovery currently stands as the show with the stupidest writing among all shows we have now, which doesn’t exactly spell promising future for the upcoming Picard series, especially now that Amazon picked it up after Netflix supposedly doesn’t want anything to do with modern Star Trek. I can’t blame them.

Back when The Addams Family debuted in 1964 on ABC, it was followed by The Munsters six days later on a rivaling network CBS. It is often mentioned that Bewitched first aired at the same time as well, though on ABC. While this sort of pace of production probably will never be matched nowadays, shows also have longer pre-production and hype period before they ever come out should make it easy for different channels and streaming service to put up their competing shows. While The Munsters enjoyed better ratings, it has been criticised for relying more on elaborate make-up and special effects over creative writing and show content. Perhaps that why The Addams family has stuck harder to the global pop-cultural schema while The Munsters hasn’t seen as much growth or appreciation, despite that relaunch attempt with Mockingbird Lane, a serious horror take on the series, which got less than appreciative reception.

Two different providers rarely compete with each other with the same product; they compete with two products that offer the same baseline consumer experience. This is why console business has become more twisted, as both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 offer largely the exact same baseline experience with all the multiplatform games, which means most of the third party companies don’t really care which one might succeed more over the other. Well, unless the first party games manage to install a large userbase, then the third parties will follow in-suit. All the generation winning consoles had the largest library of games exclusive to them.

While television (streaming is just modern television) and gaming are two different kinds of medium and forms of entertainment, the comparison is still apt. A monopoly over a single product is not a problem in itself, as long as the product is not one single, all-encompassing product that allows no other to enter the market. That’d be true monopoly then. We can make jokes about Microsoft and Windows all we want now, but that’s effectively what people who wish there would be only one console, one streaming service or one provider for anything really. No company will be altruistic if they have the whole market in their hands, they will take as much control as possible and squeeze. Much like how Disney is doing by amassing larger and larger amount of media property and companies under their belt. Disney is already the largest media empire we have, and if things continue to move to this direction, we are going to end up with few extremely large corporations controlling the media landscape.

However, Disney still has competition with Warner-Brothers. Perhaps the most relevant competition is their Looney Tunes against Disney’s Merry Melodies, or in modern era, DC vs Marvel. Two isn’t exactly a healthy market and there are more comic labels out there, like Dynamite, but the Big Two are most well known across the world. It is far from a healthy market still, and the competition is questionable at best at times. On silver screen however, Disney has taken the lead in the Superhero movie department with better quality scripts, though the future can be questioned.

While these corporations have ownership over whatever they are legally owned, nothing can keep from other companies or individuals using these materials as a source of inspiration and create something to compete. However, fans will always be willing to make fan games or fiction instead of creating something new and original. One of the many reasons why original homebrew and indie scenes can be very fresh places to visit occasionally due to new ideas propping often up, independent of the major providers. DL Site isn’t good just for porn, but for for wholesome new games and other content as well. Sometimes both.

No, streaming services aren’t going bust anytime soon because they can’t compete with the same show. However, if they are not able to provide a quality alternative, like how The Orville is to Star Trek Discovery, then that’s problem either in the creative lead department, mismanagement, or simply because that section of the consumers is not their target audience.

For whom is the Switch Lite for?

While the Switch is a mobile device just fine, it is rather bulky in certain aspects. It has to be. After all, it must serve as both home console and as a takeaway handheld console. Some play it solely in handheld mode, some just keep it attached to a screen for larger resolution play. Both are valid options. The preference just seems to change according depending on the nation. With some little digging, it would seem that the West likes to have the Switch docked most of the time and then just separate it whenever someone’s on the go. This seems to be a bit different from Japan, where handheld consoles have always been the top dogs. Be it space or because its just so much easier to nab a small console out for a quick play, there’s something in the nation’s cultural schema that supports small portable devices like this. Flip phones are still a culturally iconic devices, despite them being completely overshadowed by iPhones in the current day. Its one of the many reasons Monster Hunter found its breakthrough on the PSP was because people could just whip it out, check if there were other players in the area and a have quick hunt or two. This does not really work most of Western world nations. You’ll most likely get ridiculed if you are seen playing a handheld in public if you’re over fifteen. It took long time for Monster Hunter to become popular in the West, and despite the success on the 3DS (Nintendo really, really wanted that PSP Monster Hunter money on the 3DS) the real Western market breakthrough wasn’t until Monster Hunter World. Just don’t play with the French.

Switch Lite probably has a two-fold aim, First is to provide the Japanese market a smaller, more portable device that functions as a dedicated handheld, especially now that the Vita’s dead long dead and finally buried, which has left Nintendo with no competition in the handheld market. While Nintendo always had largest sect of the handheld market to themselves, they flourished whenever they had competition. Hopefully there will come some competition from whatever company might want to tackle the market, so Nintendo’s monopoly won’t make them lazy. Despite Nintendo claiming that they don’t follow what their competition is doing, this is of course PR bullshit. No company would willingly stay ignorant how their competition is doing and why. The second reason is that the Switch is not exactly a child friendly device. The simple fact that the Joycons are removable device raises the system’s cost and kids can misplace them rather easily. I’ve heard few friends having to buy new Joycons because lil’ Jimmy misplaced one in the backyard. This sort of hybrid nature doesn’t really work, unless the machine is dedicated to stay in docked mode, but that’s wasting the Switch’s potential. The same can, and must, be said of Switch Lite, where now you can’t switch modes, but now kids have something that can have their mittens properly on. It is far from a perfect solution, but you won’t have perfect solution for a hybrid console like this at this moment. Perhaps if Switch Lite still supported the docking it would have some leverage, but as it stands now, for average adult, the Switch Lite is a weird choice to go for.

If we use the past portable consoles Nintendo has manufactured before, their modus operandi should be roughly as follows; produce original version, create a smaller version with some improvements here and there, then create an upgraded version that seems a standalone from the previous iterations. For original Game Boy, we have its Pocket version as the “lite” iteration and Color as its final upgrade. The GB Advance is the deviation, with SP being the lite model with backlit screen, but nobody really seems to think GB Micro as the end-all version of the system. The NDS follows this line just fine though, with Lite being a thing and DSi followed soon after. We also got the larger screen versions to go by. 3DS is pretty much the same, followed by lite and the New 3DS version.

We can also tell that the Switch has been a success from this line. The only consoles Nintendo has not done upgraded versions of are machines that weren’t a success enough. The N64 never had a clear visible new edition to it, despite the Famicom/NES gaining top loader model, and SNES having SNES Jr model. GameCube stuck to its cubic form, and we don’t count Panasonic Q as a proper variation due to it never being aimed at mass markets. The Wii had Mini, which apparently sold rather well if I’m top believe a friend who worked at retail at the time. The Wii U was a disaster and never saw similar treatment. Here we are, with the Switch. Nintendo can afford to treat it as both handheld and home console, and seeing upgraded hardware per generation has become a standard again rather than new case design, we should probably wait for the announcement for whatever souped up Switch Nintendo has been cooking for some time now. After that, Nintendo’s attention will move towards their next console generation, though it would be in their best interest to give the Switch as long lifespan as the original Game Boy had. There is no reason to cut their hardware short just because they or their third party developers would like to play with some new hardware and not be limited with almost decade old set. The hardware oriented mindset does not do favours in the console business, whereas software centric is very lifeline these machine run on. I will use the old mantra that system with weakest hardware in the end has sold the most each generation. Deep Red Ocean market can hate the Wii however much they want, but the sheer joy of Nintendo Sports was in pretty much every home possible at the time.

At least the Switch Lite doesn’t have brand confusion as the Wii U had. They’ve learned something from that shitshow.

Mecha design; Hard corners and round cylinders

The reason why soda pop cans are cylinders has three main reasons; it lacks the weak corners of a cube, has the same silhouette as a cube and a sphere depending whether you’re looking from the side or above, and its manufacturing hits a sweet spot between the two aforementioned shapes. For a mecha design, while a recognisable silhouette is important, and the thematic motif whether or not you want your look robot to look industrial war machine or hand crafted master piece, you should keep your setting in mind whether or not to use cubic or cylindrical shapes.

It is much cheaper to build an object that is shaped like a cube. It is relatively fast, cheap and easy, and by standard your cube’s can deviate few degree. However, no matter what material a cube is made of, its weakest spot will always be the corners. You can have it on its flat side, but if you were to hit its corner, all the force from the impact would be on that tip. The corners, while not as weak, too are weak spots, as they are thinner in material than the rest of the cube. When metal is bent, it stretches. The stretching is dependent on the material and the angle. A very rough rule of thumb is that steel 1mm thick has to be 1mm shorther than its intended measures, as the material will stretch 1mm during bending. This stretching naturally wears and stresses the metal down, and it now being thinner, is weaker. This can be countered by having additional material welded into the corners inside the cube, but this extends production time and adds mass.

Of course you could weld the material together by its corners, but that would introduce heat and additional material. As the rule of thumb goes, when you heat metal up, it hardens, tempers. This might introduce a weak point. This is why you often see the weld seam to be in the middle of a side, because then the corners won’t become tempered by the heat. Then again, welding in itself is kind of intentional mistake whenever it is done. It would always be best to have any and all pieces as one whole, but manufacturing such objects is often extremely expensive and nigh impossible. Mechanical and chemical bonding are also good options to consider, e.g. airplanes’ surfaces are nowadays glued together with epoxy adhesive rather than riveted.

Cylindrical shapes on the other hand don’t have similar weak spots as such, as the whole thing can rolled from one sheet. A robot can weld a large cylinder together rather quickly from its ends. Nevertheless, by standard creating a cylinder shape is somewhat more expensive to manufacture than a cube due to the sheer amount of control the rollers must be under at all times. Unless the process has been automated to a high degree, and the general shape is simple to manufacture in proper fast steps, producing a cylinder can become stupidly expensive. The history of soda can design has allowed the shape and the manufacturing to be extremely efficient and automated, something that is not probably possible in a mecha setting for giant robot limbs and body shapes.

While G1 animation largely ignored the whole issue of corners, the fact is that most mecha designs realise that having hard corners is not a good idea and camfer them down. It might add complexity to the work scheduling and design, but its a small price compared to the benefits

No fiction really concentrates on these things really. Its all about the visual flavour of the design. Mazinger Z has a body based on round torso and cylinder limbs, because that’s what Go Nagai went for in a comic that was quick to work on. Gundam in general uses flat, cubic surfaces because that is industrially more sensible to work with. If you look at the difference between The Federation and Zeon Mobile Suits during One Year War or, you should see that, in rough terms, Zeon has a high number of machines with round and bulbous shapes in their MS, which all are rather expensive to manufacture, while Fed’s mass produced units like the GM are very much made cheaply with cubic shapes governing the limbs and body. Knowing OYW’s setting and its technological level, no MS production is fully automated. Building just one MS takes hundreds of people, of which part simply work to shape the sheets into their proper shapes before a welder prepares the parts for a welding robot to make the final seams, before another person comes in to check how the welding robot has fucked up this time and how he has to fix. We can safely assume that one of the many reasons why GM’s production cycle is much shorter than Zaku II’s due to the geometry of its armouring.

Another benefit in GM’s overall shape and silhouette is that it has a smaller profile than the Zaku II. Much like with real world tanks, the GM seems to have balance between mobility and armouring. It has less mass to move around compared to the Zaku II, though the Zeon MS most likely has better armouring overall. Nevertheless, its silhouette has more room of error what to hit. However, in a world where you have particle weapons able to pierce armouring like its was butter, GM’s silhouette offers less a target to hit. While MS designs would grow in size with time, and get all kinds of shapes to them, these considerations really aren’t an integral part of Gundam‘s base design idea. After all, in real world all Gundam designs have to adhere to the fact that the franchise is model kit driven first and foremost. This dictates everything from colours base faction design differences.

Tanks are the best real world example of balance between silhouette and best of both worlds with shapes.

Thanks Wikipedia

The above PLA’s Type 99a has a showcase of three important bits; round shapes, flat shapes and angles. The design of the turret tapers at the front in order to direct bullets and other hits away from the front section. The same applies to the  front of the tank, where a hit in an angle has higher chances to bounce off. If you look at the GM above, its flat surface invite bullets to penetrate it. The humanoid form is not exactly the most bullet resisting shape, hence why some mecha design elongate the chest further forwards to create a sort of cone effect. The silhouette of the hull increases in size towards back for the same reason as the turret. While its side view might be rather flat, there’s nothing much that can be done there outside additional armouring, be reactive or just additional plating. You want to face your opponent face to face to offer them the smallest possible target with the best protection you can offer. Certain tanks can also lower their aim below the horizon, meaning they can stay behind a hill and offer even smaller target.

While tank battles and their function is not directly relatable to giant robots, a Realistic setting would take into notion the cost of designing and producing shapes that make a mecha. It’s alright to want to design a super sports car for more unrealistic setting, where cost of production is no issue, but a serious take on mecha warfare is required to recognise that shape must not only be dictated by use and utility, but also by material and cost. Tanks give some idea for good utility of industrially probable shapes, while fighter jets can be used as reference point for aerodynamics.

Makes you wonder how the hell did Kouji’s grandfather manage to build Mazinger Z in his basement.

How does all this affect the design you might have in your mind? Depending on your angle you take within the fiction, the overall governing surfaces are dictated by the intention. If they’re intended to be slow walking tanks, consider what direction is intended to be against the enemy fire and add proper slants or curved surfaces. Even if the angles around GM’s cockpit are laughably small, the fact that they are there gives some idea where the design was going. Sure, in reality it probably was just to conform to the humanoid shape, but we can assume the angles were calculated somewhat to encourage ricocheting. Zaku II armour seems to have designed under notion of heavy armour to withstand firepower overall, though as mentioned, particle beam weapons don’t really care unless you have a repelling surface. Consider the production angle as well; a highly mass-produced mecha wouldn’t necessarily have many separate armour segments and these segments would be whole pieces, like a car’s hood. Cars’ hoods and frames are designed to deform on impact, and rounder shapes are safer for this rather than straight surfaces with angles. There’s something on certain lines and shapes that are naturally “safer” to our sensibilities, be it from experience or otherwise, and often using decent logic and “what looks good” attitude with an intended function can yield a design that works well.

While you can completely ignore the realities of manufacturing and process of it, it would add a touch of realism if there is some consideration whether or not certain shapes and angles are probable within the fiction.

Music of the Month; East Coast Summer

Y’know, after you’ve worked through the dark of winter and managed to nab some vacation during summer, it all feels so good. Nevertheless, four weeks off from work goes by so very fast. Even when there will be days when you hope to get back to the work bench and burn yourself five times over just to get shit done properly. Sacrificing your skin for perfection that was not asked for, but dammit I do wish to do work well enough to be satisfied at my handiwork.

I think I had an idea for a solid plan what to do for this summer’s long-form post, but I guess that whisky I drank washed it all away. Not that I can keep up with my plans anyway at this point, life’s getting a bit busier again for no good reason. At least I have plums to eat. If you wonder what the hell am I talking about, I had a tradition to write one longer post about a topic, like a read through of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Latest Edition or Themes of Godzilla, which will get that sequel post at some point with Shin Godzilla. I’ll just have to take my time with that, because a part of the discussion will be about whether or not it rips of Kami no Kemono tl. as Beast of God, a 1992 giant monster comic by Tomoe Keisuke. It’s pretty damn well illustrated and written. Just look ho w spiffy the cover is.

Yes, the official English title is Ogre: The Geo-Monster. We don’t talk about the English title much

While I could’ve used some Internet resources to skim over what are and what aren’t, I find it much easier just to get the original material in hand and see myself what’s on the paper. I don’t need to rely on second hand information or translation guesses from or rumours. Remember how Mega Man fandom used to discuss how Sergess was confirmed as Dr. Wily in Rockman X2 comic? Never happened, I had to make a live-reading of the comic years back to confirm the rumour false.

I can’t recall all that clearly if I ever write about the difference of being influenced, ripping off or just subconsciously inserting sources of inspirations into your work properly, but I did make a post how Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is a sum of multiple sources of inspiration to the point of basically each episode serving few new more or less apparent additions. Like how Cui Yifei is effectively Shampoo from Ranma ½. Things like that. Hatsuke Miku isn’t exactly her main source, though that probably got changed around after she got the nickname ‘Chinese Miku’. Probably would be worthwhile to make a whole post on how much MLA TE just “recycles” inspiration into itself.

The whole story really is Top Gun mixed with Gundam 0083 with a good dash of Macross Plus in MLA setting, so that’s always something to the show. ML overall is like an otaku dreamhouse, filled with references and jokes left and right. Kinda like Gekisatsu! Uchuuken just not as overt and direct about it, and far less IP infringing.

I’ll also take some liberties and might skip a post during the upcoming four weeks or so if it looks like there’s something else I could spend my time on. Be it washing the carpets I have or screwing around with people I know, I’m going to treat this summer as a possibility to take a break of the routine I’ve been having for a good while now. A chance to get back to promised projects, like getting a gallery of CGs via emulation or scanning stuff I’ve promised. If I get time for that. Knowing the usual way vacations and such go, you end up being busier than during work. Maybe I just suck at scheduling.

Before I call quits on this post, I’d still like to touch a bit on the whole games streaming services. Yes, I’ve pretty much beaten that horse to the ground and given it few good kicks, but the more time passes the more I see some people doubting its success. Thus far it has not been a success as such, but very few tech steps like this are during their decade. People often forget how big VR was in the early 90’s with gaming. 3D boom came and went. Streaming games to players hasn’t been exactly a smooth experience thus far, but perhaps Google can make it a mainstream success during 2020’s. We are moving towards media experience where the consumer has no control over the media itself after all. Google making the console experience effectively just the controller is more or less natural simplification of the whole concept technology allows. I’m not their target audience, but their current setup seems to be aimed to shallow Red Ocean market. Whether or not it will work as intended, and even if it doesn’t, we’ll have to sit and wait to see if it’ll become mass market success.

The price of digital freedom

Just as I put out last post about how Stadia will be pushing game streaming further, Google’s Phil Harrison was interviewed about the price of games at Eurogamer. In addition to a subscription fee, with free model coming out sometime 2020, games would cost your normal game price. He is right in questioning why the games should be cheaper on Stadia compared to any other digital console platform. Streaming games is not the same thing as streaming video. Forcing television or movie model unto games has never been all that successful, and this applies doubly on the whole market side of things. While it is easy to use Netflix as a point of comparison while talking with Stadia, it is also relatively inaccurate. It should be compared to other games streaming services, and seeing only Sony’s has some moderate success with it despite having issues outside PS4, there really isn’t any reason for streamable games to be any less expensive than their other digital counterparts. Google’s PR department just uses this as a point of comparison, because game streaming has not been mainstream consumer product before.

After all, in both scenarios you’re paying for bits and bytes and only. With streaming, you don’y even need to put money into building high-end rig. Just stream it to your Android phone or similar, and you’re good to go. Harrison’s theory isn’t all that applicable about the quality of their games. I have serious doubt any Stadia version of any multiplatform game will be the highest possible quality. Let the PR do its job there though.

Xbox Game Pass and Sony’s PS Now are more like Netflix model, where you pay a monthly free to access slew of games. The consumers who use these two have already gotten used to the idea, as has other markets with Netflix’s style subscription model. However, it is more apparent that Stadia has been modelled after Steam, if anything. After all, with gaming Valve has been the one to push the digital-only model further and further with Steam. Stadia is mostly just the next natural next step in this. First consumer didn’t have to own the physical item, owning the digital data was fine. Then it moved to subscription license, no need to own anything. With Stadia, even needing space for that digital data is unnecessary. While people applaud moving towards digital-only environment, most of them have ignored the loss of ownership in all of its forms. With Stadia, you’re giving all control to Google on the data you’ve purchased, i.e. subscribed to.

Digital-only solution like Steam took nice roots because of its easy availability and unnecessary bells and whistles. Well, there aren’t much compared to it and buying a game from a store, but people are really goddamn lazy at their core when it comes things like this. Having a digital option is just more convenient at the cost of ownership and freedom. That’s where Stadia wants to compete in. Spell doom and gloom for Stadia, but as long as it has ease of use and convenience, people will pay that money for Google’s service. Steam, Bandcamp, GOG, Netflix, and so on and so on. The main reason they’ve become success is because they’re convenient and easy to use.

Of course, some games are going to be free to play and some games will have lower subscription fee. There’s no “buying” as such in digital systems like Steam and Stadia, despite the term used there. Valve could’ve already overtaken this market by making moves towards using streaming for some titles, but as envelope pushing as Steam was, it now has become more or less the tried and tested example to use as a basis rather than anything else. Much like how the NES or Atari could be described for consoles. There is, nevertheless, an overlapping market between Steam and possible Stadia users. Some people who are enthusiastic about the whole streaming thing will jump on the wagon as soon as possible, and the rest of the consumers who find enough value in theoretically fully mobile super computer via Stadia with them all the time. I admit, the idea of throwing a small device to a television on a trip to play a large library of games akin to Steam’s does sound attractive, but the principle of ownership removes me as a possible consumer for Stadia.

Stadia is one of the next steps in digital-only gaming. We’re on full-course to a world where consumers have very little control over their purchased goods withing the digital landscape. Maybe the service model in itself completely acceptable, but the delivery still isn’t. You know my old song at this point already; the ‘net infrastructure to deliver the promised high-end content isn’t there yet, or is available to extremely limited amount of consumers in comparison. High-end Internet connections are still relatively costly outside large population centers, but maybe that’s an issue that doesn’t matter. Perhaps the convenience just beats the slight lag and drop in visual quality will trump the need to have a gaming computer or a console to play these games.

I don’t predict doom and gloom, or success, for Stadia. No system has been great at the start, though NES had Super Mario Bros. in the US and Europe. No, it is far more likely that if Stadia will become success, it will be after a period of hardship and adjusting to the market demands and needs. People want to play the games, those are there. Now the rest just has to find its niche to expand from.

Convenience will either kill the living room, or let it live

There has been some buzz on the Yotube and  with few of the bloggers and news sources I follow about how traditional consoles are going the way of the dodo, and how the PC and console markets are going to merge and die in their traditional form ever since Google’s Playdia… no that was a Bandai console. …Ever since Google Stadia started making rolls in the media. I had to wonder how this has become a thing just recently, when we can pin point the two moments in gaming history where the difference between console and PC became blurred permanently, and when the home consoles, and even the PC itself, began to lose their status and position. Slowly for sure, just as I’ve been told that physical media will be gone and everything will be digital for some fifteen years now. It’ll probably happen, but unlike physical media being replaced, decentralisation of the home’s living room has been working its magic for a long damn time now.

When the DS hit the market, I questioned why do we even need home consoles at this point. It was like a portable home console. When the PSP hit the market, and had the support to play the games on a home telly, I further questioned the need for any home consoles when you could just plug-n-play wherever you wanted. While this wasn’t PSP most advertised element, you could make an argument that PSP did work as a hybrid of sorts as well, though it lacked the whole separate controllers thing. You had to attach the cables to the bottom of the system and be tethered all the time to the television itself. Still, worth noting. We were on a good road to making the first genuine hybrid that would physically function in both standalone and portable forms with the Switch. The Big N just took few steps with the Wii U, which is still one of their major failures despite making pretty sweet DS emulator machine. and Sony effectively not learning jack shit from the PSP and repeated all the mistakes they made with the Vita and then some new ones. The Vita might have a rabid fanbase defending it like the console was their Hive Queen, but the reality is that despite the initial promises and its ergonomics, the system has woefully poor library, especially when majority of its games were ported to other systems. The first, and in many ways the definitive deathblow to the system was when Gravity Rush jumped to PS4, effectively telling everybody who had Vita that its time was over.  The rest of the system’s lifespan was artificial at best with the minimum of support from its own makers. No wonder Nintendo managed to turn 3DS into a small success despite the extremely rough first years. A good showcase how a rubbish library breaks a console, but it can be saved by improving the library.

That’s where the whole mixing PC and console really steps in. While modern gaming media and  through this many of the consumers want to see these two rough ecosystems as the same, they’re two separate markets that are not in direct competitions with each other. PC VS Console fights are very much just a cultural phenomena, and if we’re completely frank, the games were at their core completely different. Were. PC always excelled with slow as hell strategic games that required tons of reading and were more like chess. IN the 80’s and even early 90’s you couldn’t have fast paced games with good scrolling, because computers just couldn’t do it properly. Screen-by-screen games were the thing, like Prince of Persia. No, not Sands of Timei, the very original. That game might have good animation, but everything happens in one screen at a time. It wasn’t really until Super Mario Bros. made it widely achievable. It was developed as the ultimate Famicom cartridge game anyway. Consoles and arcades where the places where you could find smooth scrolling due to the hardware, and PCs just stuttered behind, not really knowing how to achieve the same level of smooth scrolling. Smooth being the keyword, there were many PC action games with atrocious scrolling, and MSX even had a cultural thing surrounding it about its choppy scrolling. It wasn’t really until the 1990’s when PCs could do as smooth scrolling as Super Mario Bros., and that alone limited a lot of the designs. Consoles and arcades were the places where things happened now and instantly, where you had to rely on your senses and guts on how to act in that very moment in game’s play. For PC, you mostly could take it back and just enjoy the slower pace. PC games, the culture around them, is like a methodical board game with time to spare. Arcades on the other hand were the opposite, more like sports events with tight time limits and challenges that required both physical and mental action to be fast and accurate. With consoles, we have and excellent golden middle path. The Legend of Zelda is, by all means, a mix of Ultima with Robotron. A hybrid of RPG and Action.

We don’t have that triumvirate nowadays, and the distinction between console and PC games is long dead. A rough starting point, where we could see no real difference in games between platforms, would have its roots in Europe, where loads of Amiga games got ported to the Sega Mega Drive. The whole European Platformer or Action genre that was a thing at the time was because most, if not all of them, where designed to be played on an Atari or Amiga computer first. Things trickle a bit, and you can argue shit was ported even before that, but before this point it was almost impossible on practical terms due to the sheer difference in controls and hardware. It was easier to port an arcade game to a PC, seeing everything was made from the scratch to fit that platform, but not as easy to backwards. The Mega Drive had enough oomph to it.Of course, the two main points where we further lost the middle ground between PC and consoles are the PlayStation and the Xbox. PlayStation for offering enough storage space for FMV shit and Xbox for effectively being a Direct X PC in a consolified form. Like how a Steam Machine is effectively a physical version of Valve’s digital game console.

The main change between Classic Era of Electronic Games, from 1970’s to mid-1990’s and the Modern Era of Gaming from that Mid-1990’s to current date of whatever date this post goes online, the biggest change is the lack of third in the triumvirate and constant movement to change the video game console into something else and melding PC and console software into one boiling pot. Yet the user cultures have been kept separate to this date by the sheer fact that PC and console gaming are not the same thing. Oh you have your Halos and Call of Duties on pretty much every platform there is, meaning Steam, Xbox and PlayStation, but everyone will tell you that playing a FPS on a controller is retarded. It will never have the same feeling or ease as keyboard and mouse. This is right, of course. You can get skilled with a controller, but its just so much better with KB+M because how the genre was practically designed from the grounds up for them.  Similarly, however, you’re seen as an idiot of you are using KB to play a game of Super Mario Bros. or any other console game. KB+M will never have the same tactile feedback as a good controller does, not even with the most expensive springs and shit under your key. After all, gaming on PC is an afterthought. A keyboard is a device for inputting text first and foremost. This is why you have to concentrate on having all sorts of Gamer peripherals and specific input devices made, because a keyboard really is pretty shitty for gaming that wasn’t designed around it. One of the many reasons why PC gaming culture likes stuff like Civilization and console culture bends more toward Devil May Cry.

If you have a game like Devil May Cry or Nier Automata on a PC, you’re still playing a console game. Then again you need Steam for both, so you’re running a digital console anyway on your PC so there’s that.

So where are we going with this rabbit hole? I’ve said it a thousand words ago; to the death of the living room.

While the Xbox as a console won’t die out, as much as I used to say so, Microsoft is taking the more sensible route and diversifying where Xbox as a brand is going. Halo collection is coming to Steam among other platforms, because why not. The general acceptance seems to be that everything should be available on every platform so the consumer could choose whatever fuck they play with whatever hell hardware they own, and we effectively make the concept of having any consoles or specified hardware moot. Except with Nintendo, because Nintendo sees that they will be able to stay afloat, because they recognise the fact that a unique library is a console’s lifeline. You say its anti-consumer not to have everything on everything, I say that’s bullshit and you know it as well. Competition is the key, and if we lack from the very foundations of consoles, we might as well kill both Xbox and PlayStation. Have everything on Steam and GOG. A PC is enough to be the very core of the living room nowadays, it can only do everything. Except be decentralised.

Hence content streaming.

Streaming games will not be third in the triumvirate. It is mobile console gaming once again. Stadia and pretty much everything else that has been in the mainline advertisements as the definitive game streaming experience have always showcased a gaming controller. I bet you are able to use KB with many of them and so on, but even Google recognises how PC gaming is dead despite its culture and habits still persist and offer that controller. While few people are probably nerdy enough lug a keyboard of sorts with whatever mouse controls you can to play Stadia on the go, most people will be satisfied with a controller. Most, if not all showcased Stadia games, are either arthouse shit or downright designed for a controller first, then adapted to a KB. That’s what modern ports really are, just seeing how you can change controls from KB to a controller or vice versa. Long gone are the days of ports like Section Z. The game industry has become too bloated, has been for two decades now. The chasing of higher fidelity graphics, real world actors modelled in, more and more useless power under the hood to run unoptimised games because the mathematical skills and creative drives have been effectively culled because everything’s too big to fail. Except Nintendo. When they lose, they lose a little. When they win, they tend to win big. Ever since the 1980’s Nintendo has been prophetised to fall and die, especially people like Trips Hawkins who simply don’t understand the console gaming economy. The fact that the Wii and the DS are one of the most selling consoles in the gaming history shows what the consumers value in a console. Yeah bit the Wii has shit games. And that would matter worth jack shit when the console and its library had great value. We don’t have any real rules for the mythical good game but we have everything to determine games of value, and the Wii was a console with shittons of games with value. Cold hard sales numbers trump over subjective opinions.

What does this have to do with the living room dying? If you remove the console and the more powerful computers, you lessen the price the consumer have to pay to access their wanted products. Just have him to buy a subscription account and then a price for the games for him to stream. Most people who are in good area for reception will probably enjoy streaming whatever games they like despite the lag. Buying a new console is an investment after all, and it would not be terribly unpredictable if Sony and Microsoft would allow streaming each others’ content to another’s platform, with Steam and the rest of PC ecosystem being in the play. Nintendo, on the other hand, will be in a position to leverage their own library however they want against their competition.

It is kinda pathetic if MS and Sony would begin to cross-stream their contents. It would only show that their libraries have so little to offer apart from each other that they can’t convince consumers to the other direction, despite we can assume the deepest of the Red Ocean market probably already owns all three consoles. PC gamers of course are on that pathetic high horse due to their cultural background, so they’re excused for this. They spend on upgrading a PC worth few consoles every other year anyway.

We have a screen on our pocket, on a device that can be used to stream those games. If the future is in streaming content, we’ll be playing games everywhere wherever we can access that account, have a controller of any kind and a screen. While I highly doubt consoles will die outright, streaming content might become one more way to play the amalgamised electronic games we have now. PC people with phones will be happy, people who want mobile gaming with their big AAA titles will be happy, people who want a portable console that isn’t the Switch will be happy, and people who don’t lug a laptop with them but still want something else but gacha will be happy. Maybe.

Streaming game content will take its place among mainstream media forms to consume. Google’s push will make that happen, at least for a time being. Only when it has been a success for some years we can make proper and definitive estimations whether or not it will replace dedicated systems, or even PCs, as the main form of game consumption. However, as long as Nintendo is around to sticking their guns in what they know best, there will always be at least one physical manifestation of a console, and if it doesn’t have any competition in the same form factor, it might lead to a very hard split between Microsoft and Sony, and Nintendo. Even larger than what we have now. That’s all speculation and bullshitting really. Time will tell, just like time has now told me I’ve run out of whisky form my glass.

What we do know is that convenience will make the difference. It doesn’t need to be the best or the bleeding edge, it just needs to work well enough at a convenient price point. Whether or not the game streaming technology has matured enough to become mass entertainment is yet to be seen. Will it be more convenient to stream games with some lag than have a physical console? Currently an open question with no real answer. Just like how modern TVs forced a slight game design in how games are designed control-wise, as CRT tellies have effectively instant response time while every modern flat screen lags behind and thus animation management has become a key to many games to get around this, games can be designed to work with the lag from streaming. It just takes a bit of work. Nevertheless, the issue of only sections of the global market being able to play streamed games at any sensible rate will stay an issue, in which the whole point of having a dedicated machine that sits in your desk, console or whatnot, is the best and most convenient solution. It is more probable that streaming games, specifically Google Stadia, will take Sega’s spot in the “hardware” market. They’re not Sega, and whatever unique games Google will have, they won’t be pushing the envelope as much or innovating as Sega’s titles used to be. That’s multiplatform gaming for you.

Fans expect big franchises to have a plan

If there’s something Hollywood and whatever entertainment industry you like to fellate should learn from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is that you need a solid plan to follow from the get-go, or at least after its proven that you have something worthwhile in your hands. At this point, its not just recommended, the consumers expect it. We’ve come to a point where cinematic universes have become its own thing, despite stories continuing from entry to entry in TV and film have been nothing new since the early film serials. Hell, someone like me could even make an argument that Marvel’s films and series are nothing more than overblown, high budget film serials, but they had to have a more marketable name.

What’s one of the most common complaint you hear about the new Star Wars movies? At least one of them is that Disney and Lucasfilm had no clear plan how the story would advance, they had nothing planned in advance. Sure, the original trilogy didn’t have one either, but we’re not in the 1970’s and 1980’s anymore. The very rough outline of the Prequel movies did exist in Lucas’ head though, something that can’t be said about these Sequel movies. J.J. Abrams is infamous for making plots and stories with no planned advancement or end result. Stuff are just mystery boxes you figure out as you go along without any care. Who cares if it makes sense if it can create suspension and shit like that. It makes poor storytelling, and at worst, breaks immersion. No, not immersion, but sense. Disney had a chance to write sequel series to the most popular science fiction franchise in the history of global entertainment, the series that made their Marvel movies possible at all (Episode I effectively created the modern computer driven digital movie making everyone and their mothers use in Hollywood for all big bang budget event movies) and yet they just don’t plan ahead. Oh they planned ahead how many movies how many times a decade they’ll be making, make no mistake about that, but the content of these movies and what they were going to be about was unknown. Of course, this being Disney, adapting any existing work from the previous Expanded Universe was out of question. That’d mean they’d have to pay royalties. Don’t think for a moment that Disney didn’t abandon old EU just to abandon all needs to pay anyone anything. Now that they can make their own little canon, worse than what it was with the Sequel movies, they don’t need to pay anyone for their stories.

Take a look at Star Trek at this moment for a parallel comparison. Its in the trash at the moment. Netflix doesn’t want the third season of Discovery and is now forcing CBS balls deep into action if they want that series to continue. The Picard series was passed on to Amazon, and Amazon supposedly wants to back out from that series due to terrible pre-screening reception. I don’t blame them, if the rumours are true. There was a plan for Trek, and that plan was the Arbams movies to succeed. Well that plan got fucked when all three blew. Discovery clearly had no long-term plan, and got changed multiple times in direction and plot to the point of the Season 2 of the show having very different tone to it, and the goddamn Enterprise had to be shoved in there. I bet your ass that they took the whole thing into the future at the end of the Season 2 just to appease down people who kept saying that the technology looked too advanced for the time period, so now its in the future. Should work for you, eh? Not that canon matters anyway, but goddamn if its not one of the bet PR things they can market to audiences and core fans.

Of course, if your plan sucks and is failing, you should abort it and straighten the direction. This being billion dollar companies throwing money left and right inside their own little bubbles with no real contact with the grass root level consumers where all their money comes from, nobody should be surprised that they only realise how bad things can go afterwards. If there’s one thing we common folk should learn from Hollywood is that self-PR and bullshitting your way through everything makes big bucks. Just put the blame on everyone else and diplomatically tell anyone consuming your products to go fuck themselves. Pay PR firms to put out articles on sites how fans are in the wrong and how your product is for better fans who value superior products. Then you never really get them, or the money. Licensees don’t want to license your new show’s designs and other small things that eat away your profit all the damn time.

They say longform storytelling is the new TV-standard, but from all the Netflix shows and such, it doesn’t really show. Sure there’s a plot going through episode to episode, but vast majority of shows that use longform stories are still extremely episodic. You can skip a boring episode over and lose nothing. All you need to have is three episode, effectively; where the plot starts, where the twist happens, and the end. All others are inconsequential filler at best. Or in Discovery‘s case, have a two-parter that is worse than the worst episode of Star Trek to date about mushroom macrovirus living your brain and people coming back to life in mushroom dimension. No, it is even more retarded than it sounds.

If you want to make a cohesive long story that jumps from movie to movie, from series to series, in a given time when you’re making these movies and series by the dozens, it’d be a good idea to sit down with someone who wants to spend decade of their lifetime keeping things in leash.

Sure, many stories are very successful when told in parts, episodic and piece by piece rather than planned out. The thing is, they were planned as mostly self-confined pieces that allowed things to organically expand and grow from rather then deliberately set up something, or in most cases, planned to have seven movies right after year-by-year basis. Maybe its just these people running these franchises can’t do their jobs properly as providers and do whatever they want. Well, the result is as it is now, and things keep going south.

Quality and Value

Whenever I hear discussion, or discuss about games, the generic term of good game comes out very, very often. It is as if there is some sort of silently agreed myriad qualification that a game has to achieve in order to be considered a good game. Of course, this is rather absurd and ultimately rarely serves its purpose outside circles that have a similar taste in titles. A shut group of RPG fans, especially the Japanese console variant ones, would have a common basis for a similar taste and values in titles they’d label as good games. The opposite would be true with equally shut group of European retro-action enthusiasts, who might consider the aforementioned RPGs as waste of time, money and effort. Yes both sides have good games, in which we can always argue that they’re good for different reasons.

Using the word good to describe something is rather lacklustre, unimaginative and at best, juvenile. In many ways, its the most common denominator in discussion to set any barriers, but even then its obtuse. As a descriptor, its terrible. Yet, because of standards we share across different cultures and are able to understand how some thing’s value is determined, we can attach good as a usual, generic throwaway term as an attachment. When we call a burger good, what we really are saying is something like This hamburger fulfills the minimum requirements of what makes a burger, with the expected greens at certain size and taste with proper meat patty that is not too dry or juicy to complement the overall flavour in minimally expected manner. The term is also the best way to avoid answering any direct questions about quality of any given product, like your wife’s terrible cooking. Better just say its good and eat it.

We have rather clear outlines how to determine whether or not, for example, a film is a good one by standards laid down by academics, popularity, post-perception and such. We can determine whether or not the film’s script is well written depending how well structured it is, how clear it is and how much new content it has compared to past stories. How well the film is filmed, in what lighting, how the angles have been used, are the actors convincing in their roles, are they able to convey the characters’ feelings and presence on the silver screen. How well the music has been composed, how fitting is the music for each scene, has the recording been done properly, have any of the player screwed up during the session. These are matters that are self-evident, something we all can see and hear, assess ourselves. Hell, schools even teach us to be critical readers and consider multiple points of views and approaches when consuming media, be it entertainment or not. If your reaction to that was School never taught me that, I wish you had gone to a better school.

We can apply most of these how to determine what makes a good games. Nice music and pretty pictures only take us so far however, as the whole aspect of game and play is something that is more or less completely ignored in standard education. Sure you have some, but how many of us are taught to consider rules of a game or allowed to change them to fit a better purpose? For example, did your gym teacher ever simply change the rules of the game to make it more interesting, or ask you if you’d like to build a new kind of game to play during gym hours based on existing models? Did you make your own board games and such during native language or arts classes? Surely you made up your own play rules during recess or when you became nerd enough to play Dungeons and Dragons to live through your geek fantasies, but all that’s is worked through yourself. Nothing wrong in that, but it shows that there is very small, if any, academical approach in early teaching regarding play.

In university or college you probably have played enough games to know what makes a good one. After all, you’ve spend more than few nights playing Halo and Minecraft to know how a good game is structured. Maybe even try to make a revolutionary RPG with RPG maker. We can apply some of rules from other fields to determine what makes a game a quality product, yet there are numerous things that are mostly for games only. Some reviewers, especially on the PC game side, put rather large emphasise on things like resolution of textures, fidelity of things and other more graphics heavy aspects of the game. However, all this is mostly appearance. In films and such we do see under the visible layer most of the time as it has to be present at all times on the screen. With games, we can’t really tell if the coding of the game has been competent, or if its completely bonkers. We only get to see and feel the end result, and often here the play design often steps in as well. For example, in some games moving your character is immediate, while in others there is a small pause as the character gets his legs in moving. Other might be more realistic for sure, all the while the other can be more usable and suit play better.

This is of course something I’ve discussed previously in some post from some five years ago. We can and should have academics determinants what makes a game a well made product, and coding is the backbone of it all. Nowadays with almost everyone using ready made engines this might be a bit moot, but even then we can discuss how those have been adapted for a given title. We should discuss not just how well graphics have been realised and what their fidelity is, but also the designs themselves and the well these designs have been realised. That is, after all, the core of the graphics first and foremost. The visual style, if you will, will always trump over how the graphics are. You can have a game with low graphics with great style, and it will always beat a game with great graphics but utterly boring and dull visual style. Brown and Bloom comes to mind from this very easily, doesn’t it?

Controls are another thing that probably will always raise issues. For some, A jumps and B shoots. To some, its the other way around. To some, there are no A or B, just geometrical shapes. The logic of well made controls is one third of button layout and two thirds of coding. A well placed control layout is key for intuitive and direct controls that should not take long time to learn, but long time to master. Coding requires how well the game recognises button presses and delays, and how that is translated as action on the screen. While this seems like dead simple procedure, and often is, I am completely sure you can name multiple games where the design of the game fights the controls. Be it through physics, overt animation or just broken controls themselves, we can determine the quality of controls in an objective manner with relative ease.

All that is of course academical. You know what you like and if someone with a similar taste says a game is good, you can more or less just jump in and be done with it.

However, this is just looking at the game in a sort of vacuum. While we can do this, and dare I say should, we should also consider games in their proper environmental context. For example, is something like Mega Man 11 a good value game? Perhaps not on the HD Twins and PC. The market for similar titles is rather full. However, on the Switch its always with you, portable, and easily started and stopped. The portable nature of the console, and the game itself, adds value. Of course you get value from game being perceived as of high quality production overall, that its a wanted game and so on. The value of the game is not the same as its determinant quality, but in terms of reviews, should that not be a significant part of whether or not the title is good? Not if the port has been well made, not if there are any additional content from platform to another or anything like that. Many mobile games are not seen as good games and berated for their nature. They may not meet unspoken goals of a good game, but very many of them meet the requirements of a game of value. They are, after all, always portable, always available, surprisingly often free or cheap (Muse Dash is like 4€ on the Android app store and contains 40 songs from the get go) with some DLC or in-game purchases or gacha.

It would seem that games that have better value seem to do better than good games themselves. The two are not exclusive, of course, but very rarely you you see any source discussing this topic. Everything is minimising loss and maximising gain after all, so you can trust the game industry knows how to deal with their consumers regarding perceived value of a game over how good it actually is. Otherwise certain big names would’ve already fell out of favour long time ago.

 

Enough time for popularity and fans

Much like Hollywood has been rewarming and remaking old classics, it seems the electronic game industry has been loving to do the same thing for some ten years and then some now. While remakes and remasters have always existed, seeing ports used to be effectively build from the ground up for another platforms using same or similar assets. Mostly during the 1980’s and early 90’s. For example, Capcom’s Section Z on the NES is very different game from its arcade original, just like their Troy. Just compare them for a moment.

Good old CPS-I

Good ol’ FC

I really need to make an entry about the history of character shooting games like this.

The two games are different enough to be called completely different. The NES Section Z could be called to be strongly inspired by and be sourced from the arcade game. There’s no plagiarism in play here. While the two games are counted as separate titles, do remind yourself that every port of a game is counted as a single entry, e.g. Mega Man X4 is as three different titles depending on the platform; PlayStation, Saturn and PC. Anyway, Section Z could be considered a remake of the CPS-I title, as its effectively takes the core of the arcade game and puts it into a form that fits the hardware the best. Capcom used to do this a lot, when it was necessary.

Despite the NES game’s nature as a complete remake to the point of being completely different game, its still called a port. That’s probably change in paradigm how we consider ports. Now we expect every port to be the exact same across the board, while that was, quite literally, impossible with old hardware. I’m repeating things here, aren’t I? The point is, a remake /port like this of a semi-popular arcade title made a great title on its own rights despite it being in all actuality different game altogether. Get on with it!

So I’ve wondered why games that failed due to some lacking qualities don’t get remakes that make them better (there are few posts about that), but at the same time I know its about money and budget. The reality is that something like Final Fantasy VII is able to get a million dollar budget, highly hyped and completely revamped mechanics to the point of game genre being changed to reflect what’s currently more popular (SquEnix has been moving away from traditional RPG format ever since the merger with Final Fantasy now that Dragon Quest is under the same roof) is because the game was so massively popular and impacted gaming culture, especially in the Overseas market. Now I’ll always remind that Phantasy Star II did the whole prominent party waifu death far better way, as did one of the Dragon Quest titles with death of the player character’s father, but all that’s academical at best.

However, that point sort of lose a bit of credibility when something like Grandia, a niche title with no entries in the series bible since 2006 (outside ports), gets remastered ports of its first two games. Grandia has always been a niche title, a cult classic, and these games don’t usually get much in terms of remaster love. Ports and upcsales for sure, PSN is full of some them. However, in Grandia‘s case its more or less a souped up port rather than true remaster. After all, the lack of popularity doesn’t really warrant the money, just like how the Final Fantasy VIII isn’t getting full blown remake like its older sibling, but rather what we used call as HD port. That’s what Grandia’s remaster seems to be at its core too. Sometimes they tweak some things on the way, but ultimately they touch very little.

However, why would Grandia even get this port? It’s not like the series has ever been a massive success. Time is probably the best answer, as mentioned in the title. There are numerous games that are not simply all what they could be, but were made well enough to gather a cult following. Wait a decade or two for the word to get around, Internet hype things up further, look for information how well people regard your title, and you know you already have an installed consumer group you can hit with semi-competent remake. Better take steps easy first, not blow your budget and just give enough for all the old and new fans to play their beloved title on modern platforms, despite everyone and their mother swearing in the name of emulation nowadays.

Imagine if the upcoming Grandia would have been a full-blown remake, with everything made from the scratch with modern day knowhow and tech. No reused assets or such, everything made as good as it could be. While that will never happen, should consumers be satisfied with these remaster-type ports? There are numerous games that could use the same treatment, pretty much every decent game out there, while games with less quality to the originally will be left to be completely alone rather than remade into something better. Even in a case like Grandia, popularity and sales dictate how the series is approached, with time being here the crucial element that has given the series’ first games a golden status that can be exploited. Will it sell well enough to ensure future of the franchise? Probably not, it most likely will make its money back, but history has shown that in cases like this there needs to be far more money coming in to convince the execs to put their minds and effort into developing a new, high-quality entry rather than continue with safe bets. Hey, maybe it’ll sell well enough to warrant a pachislot machine with Konami as the licensee.

The same can be said about Panzer Dragoon. While the situation is a bit different with that game, as the original Sega Saturn source code is lost and the PS2 remake was based on the Windows code, the upcoming remake had to be an actual remake rather than just a remaster. The series has always had a positive reputation, and pretty much everyone who has had the chance to play the games makes a statement for some future entry in the series. Digital Foundry called the game series legendary in their tech analysis even. Though they belittle rail shooters as a genre a bit there, the point stands; even people who value technology and hardware the most value these relatively low-selling titles. Some games simply leave an impact, be it for their quality of game play or otherwise, the word gets around slowly, but surely. This builds both individual fans, separate groups of fans and some fan communities even.

I really hope the poles making this game won’t fuck it up. While the graphics are rather different in style, reminding me a lot of Zelda BoTW, I still ahve hope for it, as stupid as it may be

Still, it’s not exactly a safe bet for SquEnix to make Final Fantasy VII Remake, but safe enough that they know existing fans and cultural osmosis will make it sell well enough. Not so with FFVIII though, and something like Grandia is far behind either of them. Then again, I’m not seeing Sega putting any effort to properly remake any of their older titles, but they are making something new. That’s honestly a lot better. Remaking something like Panzer Dragoon? A close 1:1 remake of the original Panzer Dragoon is not exactly difficult nowadays. Hell, its almost like those ground-up reworked ports, like Section Z. 

There’s more worth in making something like Final Fantasy VII Remake than just a heated up remaster. It may be retreading same steps, but at least it is trying to do something new. We can always go back and play one of the many ports of the original title after all. That is not the case with many other titles, so there’s a golden middle-way we can tread. Hell, I’d take completely new remakes of old games that might be interesting to revisit in a new form, all the while titles with less popularity behind them could always use these souped up ports like the Panzer Dragoon remake or home port of Section Z.

Battletoads is British Punk

I said I’d skip E3 this year and write nothing about it, but when something goes so wrong like Battletoads is being made into a modern Nickeledeon cartoon inspired style, something is really, really gone to the extreme wrong end. You know at what moment I got worried? Right from the start. Let’s just link the damn trailer and let’s continue from there.

 

Oh God. That’s chromatic aberration in the logo

Chromatic aberration is an error introduced by film in older animation and movies. In recent years it has made a resurgence in modern digital media as an effect, despite decades of work being done to eliminate it completely. Not only it looks distracting when overused, but its become a trope on its own already. It can be found almost everywhere and it almost never looks the part it was intended to. On top of that, it doesn’t help people with poorer eyesight or sight that gets crossed. It fucks ’em up even worse. Credit where credit is due, you can barely see it in the logo, but goddamn this leads into some hot neon pink shit I can already tell.

That’s a flipped double bird to the old guard in form of a fish

And this was the point where my first thought was They missed the cultural starting point for Battletoads and many of the fans will outright hate it. At this moment on the official Xbox Youtube video, it has 8,4k dislikes vs. 4,7k likes. However, what do I mean that the developers missed the cultural starting point with Battletoads? While everyone always touts and mentions how Battletoads is mostly a Teenage Mutant  Ninja Turtles knock-off with green skinned fighting frogs, the fact is that’s nothing unique. Late 1980’s and early-to-mid 1990’s saw numerous anthropomorphic animal mascots and franchises across the board, from Sonic the Hedgehog to The Mighty Ducks! and Bucky O’Hare. Biker Mice from Mars was pretty goddamn rad, and its Finnish dub made mediocre show into a masterpiece. It would be error to simply coincide Battletoads with its contemporaries just for convenience. TMNT might be seen as the starting point for the humanimal trend, but for Battletoads’ style, the roots are not across the pond, but in late 70’s and 80’s British pop- and punk-culture and tripzines.

Let’s use this Battletoads key art as a reference point. And oh, the main enemy mooks are goddamn punk rats

Much like many other NES game, Battletoads‘ art is amateurish, but at the same time so damn fine. It’s free, original and rough. Rough is the key here, as that serves as the main link to the tripzines. It might be rough looking, but that’s part of the charm. It’s not overly cute, is full of that early 90’s attitude and everyone’s pretty much colour coded how they’d appear in the game. The NES colour palette was limited, so designing character that in mind always helps. You can also tell the ‘toads apart from each other easily with little things like shades on Rash, dark eyeshade, belt and gloves on Zitz and Pimple just being bigass dude. Note how the names are part of the whole boys’ shock culture with their grossout names. All part of the charm.

The roughness of course comes from British cartoons like Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. This roughness is not exactly intended in itself, but unlike their American competitors, British animation houses had to work with tighter budgets and the end result often ended up being rougher than intended. This includes such shows as SuperTed as well, though at this point the Rare wasn’t bunch of kids anymore. Where the edge for Battletoads comes from are the numerous hard hitting tripzines, self-published comic strips analogous to Japanese doujinshi scene. UK Underground Comix! has numerous scanned copies, sometimes originals even. Some of them are rough, some of them are even great, and all of them are rowdy. Of course, I would be dismissive if I didn’t mention 2000 AD, the British science fiction comic from the British. Robo Magnus there in the middle, with its looming posture and metallic mask he wears.

Battletoads would fit with these guys just fine

I would also do a small crime against British comic publication if I didn’t mention The Beano, a Scottish children’s comic magazine that’s been running from 1938 to this very day. The Beano in many ways defined the British comic style for the century alongside with the aforementioned SF comic.

But of course, where would be in if we didn’t start with the royalty? The original Dark Queen was based on Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and it shows.

 

This being the UK, I bet having a small potshot at the royalty was there in the back of the head somewhere. The whole point of a design like this isn’t to objectify women, but rather give the dominant role over the ruled ones. The whole Dark Queen motif invites the ideas of things forbidden and evil pleasures. It’s a pretty generic but solid design, unlike her modern version.

And this one? This one looks like shit and here’s why; that it a dull outfit with a dull facial expression with dull colours. Sure, black suit isn’t exactly colourful in itself, yet it pops up better in a game that isn’t filled with pink and purple like the 2019 Battletoads’ trailer is. There’s nothing royal about her, she has no aura to rule with under that design. She looks more like some kind of communist general or a mad scientist than a Queen. To put it simply, this design has no power.

At least they kept her gloves.

Then again, the combat amphibians themselves don’t fare much better.

Hoo boy. Sure, the original Battletoads cast didn’t have the most dynamic idle stance, but Rash just standing there like some lanky bitch simply irritates. You’ll also notice that the ‘toads are of different colour than in the keyart above, and that’s because they went through colour changes until they set with these colours. Though why the hell they messed otherwise perfectly good designs to make them worse is anyone’s guess.

However, the visual history is of American comics and cartoons, which does not fit the already established visual style of the franchise. It goes to the opposite direction, choosing to be family safe and effectively disregards what the previous games wanted to convey. Killer Instinct may have brought Rash into 3D, but holy shit it shows respect towards the series and its spirit in every single way this new game doesn’t.

You know what makes this incarnation of a Battletoad so damn great? It’s fun and cartoony, its mischeavous, it showcases childish humour and yet its rough, raw and has edge to it. There are no flip flopping with a goddamn fish, what you get is massive fisting and spiky booting. There are actual spikes, not whatever shit green shit Pimple’s redesign has on its wrists and belt.

They also use flipped sprites in an era where memory should not be a goddamn problem. This is best seen with Zitz’s, the middle one’s, arm thingies

That’s all good Aalt, but Battletoads was always kiddy stuff. That’s what many may want to think, but the arcade Battletoads showcases what Rare would do if they had pretty much no limitations regarding censorship.

This game shows perhaps the best what sort of core Battletoads have in terms of visual themes. Visceral violence and hard hitting head bashing with nothing held back. You smash your enemies heads in, you cut them off with an Axe kick, you split them with a spiky slam or kick them off the screen as they scurry off. It’s everything your mother would hate in games that look like they’re for kids. All that is lacking from the new Battletoads game and that is why there is a large portion disliking it. Rather than looking and feeling like a Battletoads game, it looks like a cheap knock-off.

It’s also so goddamn purple. It’s more or less clear that the game is being made for the new retro audience rather than to the people who played the originals and have been rooting for a new game for few decades. And what we get? A game that looks, and I echo so many others, like a bad FLASH game.

Credit given where deserved, the graphics look slick  in their intended way, animation is pretty good and all that, but it doesn’t look the part. The gameplay looks like an incoherent mess with plastic, cartoony deformation everywhere. Of course, can’t say much about the game play without playing it first, but this being Xbox One exclusive means that chances are I’ll never play it.

It’s really pathetic a game this awaited, especially by its fans, ends up looking nothing like it should have. That is not say that a more cartoony version of a classic belt scrolling action game could work, it just needs to be made in the same spirit with some damn respect for the source material. Like Streets of Rage 4.