Demo the Trailer

There’s a rather lengthy writing on how there is no such a thing as a cinematic video game. It’s a good read, arguing largely on the same issues as this blog when it comes to storytelling in video games. If you can’t be arsed to read it, it essentially goes a long way to say that a game’s story ultimately is best when told through the medium itself; the game’s own play, not cutscenes or the like.

The question asked in the writing whether or not games need to be movies at all should be an outright No. Indeed, a player plays the game for the active play, and whenever he loses that active part e.g. in a pre-scripted sequence, the player’s interest wavers. Movies are different beasts altogether and have their own ways of doing things. Video game industry has relied too much on text and video in its storytelling, and the best thing coming from certain old school games is that they lacked both text and video to some extend and gameplay did tell the story. The game industry masturbates at their masterful storytelling never to realise most people seem to use Skip button more than anything else in these games. I’ve still yet to find a modern game that did storytelling better than The Legend of Zelda. Every step of that game is an adventure worth telling on its own.

PlayStation Expo was last weekend, and we saw a lot of trailers and some gameplay footage. There is an interesting disparity here, where the consumers get all hyped up because of pre-rendered footage that is aimed to make the game look as good as possible and often lacking in any sort of gameplay footage in itself. Game trailers, as much we might hate to admit it, are largely just about the cinematic flavour in the same sense as movie trailers are. Best bits picked into the trailer to show something nice to possibly track an interest. However, whereas with a movie trailer you may get the genuine idea what’s it all about, a trailer about a game lacks that punch as it has no interactive elements. It’s just footage of a game, or even worse, just footage of the videos inside the video.

To use The Legend of Zelda as an example again, a recent trailer for Breath of the Wild combines in-game videos with some gameplay footage with specifically selected sceneries. It’s also very boring to look at on every level. The direction isn’t anything to write home about, neither are the actual game content we get to see only a little bit of. All the enemies and NPC we see are boring as well. The music tries to hit your feelings, but only fanboys would falter at that point. Like if Mega Man X would just suddenly pop up as a Marvel VS Capcom character, same thing.

What the trailer does is that it shows you stuff that’s largely incoherent and has no context. The fantasy is represents isn’t classic Zelda, but Zelda games haven’t used their original source of fantasy for a long time now. It’s more like a Chinese knock-off now.

A trailer for a game does not meet the same qualifications as a trailer does for a movie. A game demo is to a game what a trailer is to a movie. However, for some years now a lot of people have been asking what has happened to game demos. All platforms seems to have less and less of them. There is no one concrete reason, thought the most common that gets mentioned is that a demo gives a straight and raw deal what the game is like, and seeing games’ overall quality has been stagnant, people simply aren’t interested in purchasing a game after trying out its demo. Jesse Schell argued in 2013 that games that have no demo sell better according to statistics. I don’t see a reason to argue otherwise three years later, seeing there is still a lack of demos.

If a demo cuts sales of a game, that means the game isn’t worthy in the eyes of the consumer to begin with. The less information the consumer gets, the better for the developer and publisher. Sucks to be the consumer who buys games without checking and double checking sources and Youtube videos how the game plays out, and even then there’s a lack of interactivity.

This is where raw gameplay footage serves a purpose, as do Let’s Plays. If trailers are made to simply sell you the game with the sleekest look possible only to fail you when you pop the game in and see how much everything has been downgraded from that spit spat shiny video, then raw gameplay and Let’s Plays are the opposite. Well, the opposite would be a game demo, but you get the point. The two showcase the game as it is in all of its naked glory and allows more direct and objective assessment on the quality of the product. Of course, no company really would prefer giving this sort of absolutely objective view on their game, unless the circumstances were controlled and hype would take over.

Hype and game trailers tend to go hand-in-hand with certain titles. Just as these trailers are made to hype us to hell and back, the hype keeps us from seeing possible flaws. Then you have ad people rising the fire even further and so on. Look how No Man’s Sky was hyped and how the product ended up being and you’ll see how much we need demos, but as consumer we can’t effect that point one bit. After all, we’re just money pouches to fund whatever personal glory trophy projects these innovative and creative gods of creation want to make.

I picked up Tokyo Xanadu eX+‘s demo recently and made the decision not to purchase the game until I can get it dirt cheap. The game does not stand up to Falcom’s brand overall. The demo’s content are largely boring and feels archaic, like something from a PS2 game. As a consumer I am glad I had the chance to personally assess the quality of the product to an extent before shoving my money into it. This should be a possibility for everyone when it comes to games, as developers couldn’t just dilly dally. The lack of demos is also one of the reasons why Steam allows consumers to return their games if they do not meet the expectations. Demos would have probably prevented this to a large degree.

Music of the Month; Airport

What, did you expect something Christmas themed this year? I’ve been on a Gundam W mood lately, been popping this in from time to time

So, what should I discuss this time? Things haven’t changed since last Music of the Month, so there’s that. Busy, tightly scheduled and all that. On top of all that, my apartment saw a water damage from one of the new pipes they installed, meaning I had to move to a new place for the time being, thou luckily I didn’t have to move all of my stuff. Then again, all my books, materials and whatnot are now in the apartment in the middle of being fixed, meaning I don’t have access to planned things and so on. Sucks to be me, I know.

On the flip side, the Director’s Cut patch for Muv-Luv on Steam got released, and you non-backers can pick it up from Denpasoft, if you’re a dirty old pervert like me. Feels like I’ve been talking less and less about Muv-Luv in general, but not by choice, not completely. I would like to write more about the franchise, but I always want to use time to form up something worthwhile. However, time’s a luxury now. The same could be said of my certain mental facilities, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, because I can’t read Schwarzesmarken as I am now, the TV-show’s review has been delayed. Because it took me a year to roll out a review of sorts for Total Eclipse‘s TV version, I’ll aim to rewatch Schwarzesmarken during Christmas and new Year’s holidays and roll a similar entry out around January. Much like with Total Eclipse, it will be taken as-is as a separate entity without ties to the source light novels or the VN. We’ll see if I do anything about the VN yet, which is probable to some extent.

In terms of video games for the year, I’ve already compiled a list of preliminary Top 5 of 2016, like usual, but now that I’ve looked back, there’s a not a whole lot I could do a mini-review out of. However, there should be at least two surprising entries on the list.

Speaking of lists, I waged through The Game Awards and it was terrible. The show was terrible to begin with. They had dedicated more time towards ads and skits instead of talking about games themselves, the choices of award winners and categories were questionable at best, not to mention when people on the stage also had their hands in selection and creation of games, mobile and handheld games lumped in the same category and again all Japan-only games were ignored. The show has become terribly irrelevant to the consumers and is nothing less than industry wanking itself off.

There are no plans for this month, I’m afraid. That means pretty much all posts that you’ll get for the time being will be rather ex tempore, which might affect their coherence, I’m afraid. I do have few idea nuggets polishing in the back of my head, but nothing that could kick off a Monthly Three. Unless you want me to talk about welding. Perhaps for 2017 I’ll plan each month’s themed entries out beforehand and start working on them as soon as possible. Whether or not that would be preferable is something only the readers can answer. Then again, if I write around eight entries in a month, six of them would be themed; Monthly Music, three Monthly Threes, a review and a mecha design post. That’s not a lot of room for other stuff if I want to keep this two posts per week rhythm. A second pair of hands would probably do this blog some good.

This month’s proper review will probably the Dual Shock 4 controller, because I caved in a picked myself a PS4 for some of the upcoming games, including Super Robot Wars V. That reminds me that at least one subject reserved for this month is BanCo’s Asian English translations based on Super Robot Wars OG Moon Dwellers and SD Gundam G Generation Genesis.

And oh, Drill Juice is doing Getter Robo Pai, a mahjong themed Getter Robo comic. Being a fan of all three, I expect it to be titillatingly bombastic. Here’s hoping they will make a proper mahjong tile set based on the comic, I could use a new set.

Mecha design; made for production

Because I’m currently in a moment where I have no access to my books and most of my materials for a TSF comparison, I just have to pull this one out for now.

I have discussed mass production of mecha in some of the previous entries in the mecha tag posts, but never really touched upon the idea in itself and how it usually reflects back to designs. Usually in mecha stories, especially those from Japan, the prototype unit is usually stronger than its mass-produced counterpart for numerous reasons, be it higher output or better weapons. This, of course, makes little sense in real world to some extent. Often mass production models, or MPs from now on, are optimised versions of the prototypes. The cost of production has been taken down with material and design choices, unnecessary elements are removed due to them being too complex, or too complex elements have been streamlined for maintenance and production.

How this is reflected in design? Let’s take a look at RX-78-2 Gundam and its MP counterpart, RGM-79 GM.

The similarities between the two are instantly visible, outside the stance. The legs largely the same, with GM losing openings under its knees. The skirt armour is largely simplified due to the removal of front compartment and whatever those yellow squares were. The torso is largely the same, carrying that iconic shape with yellow vents on both sides of the cockpit. Shoulders are the same as are the arms. However, only one Beam Sabre is visible and the head has seen the largest overhaul in terms of the silhouette. GM lacks the V-fin and eyes have been replaced with a singular visor. There is no mouth guard or vents on the sides of the head either, so I’d assume it shows that GM has lower temperature inside its head than the Gundam. A lot of those little assumptions could be made on the GM based on the idea of streamlining a prototype.

Outside those, the dull gray and use of red is another cost saving measure, as there’s no need for white and blue, two colours that are iconic in Gundam design. White isn’t technically a colour, so take that as you will. For another example, that has more detail, let’s take a look at MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam and its MP variant, MSZ-013 Mass Production Type ZZ Gundam.

In terms of Gundam design, the ZZ follows basic Gundam design; vents on both sides of the cockpit, a V-Fin and the three-colour scheme with the eponymous Gundam face. The MP variant here is a bit more clear how ZZ’s complexities were trimmed down. It lacks the Core Block System and all the transformation functions, so it drops all those extra wings from those. While technically being a Gundam, it lacks the V-Fin and now resembles head of a Nemo to an extent. The cockpit seems to be better armoured and has an extra cannon installed above it. The side skirt has something that looks like a  missile pack and the shoulders’ Beam Cannons are straight from the base ZZ itself. You can see your run of the mill sabres on the right side of the skirt armour. The thrusters’ sizes in the legs have been adjusted and the knee things have been adjusted in size.

These two examples show two ways that mecha seems to deal with its MP units. GM is very stripped down Gundam with worse weapons. MP ZZ, while still stripped down, is a formidable unit with comparatively as heavy weaponry as the base ZZ, just with more finesse in the design and weaker generator output. While Core Fighter gimmick is something that still persist in Gundam, and for a good reason, its removal does make sense in-universe when wanting to make cost cutting procedures.

Most MP units share the base core with each other. If you start looking for GM variants, you’ll find out that all of them use the same base GM and bolt shit on top of it or change some of the geometry to fit a new element to fit a niche need. There is about eleven or twelve base variants, that all have further variants and redesigns. Zaku II has three times that amount.

As it has become apparent, the MP models are more or less stripped down versions of the originals, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ZZ is a nightmare to maintain due to its Core Top and Core Base forms, not to mention its G-Fortress formation, not to mention the wear and tear its far larger surfaces would cause to the unit. The MP variant probably costs significantly less than the base ZZ, especially considering Anaheim had to roll out Full Armour parts to maintain structural integrity, but the question is whether or not there is a need for this sort of Heavy Assault Mobile Suit in-universe.

Both are still thick in build and design, making them a bit of a large target. Then there’s the FA-010A FAZZ, but that’s another story altogether whenever I get to discuss mechanics of Gundam Sentinel.

This really plays back to the idea game in designing a mecha; the purpose and role. If you follow this overused trope and intend to use MP units as your main designs, thinking back at the background and the world overall would serve you well.

Mobile Police Patlabor is an interesting piece, where we never see the prototypes, just the mass-produced labors, mainly the Ingrams. However, the idea of further developed piece being more streamlined is turned upside down in the first Patlabor movie, where the AV-X0 Type X-0 prototype model is more streamlined than its predecessors with sleeker silhouette and smoother surfaces with less angles.

While we could say that the AV-98 on the left might be cheaper to produce, we can also assume that by the time Zero was rolling out, the technological evolution both in labor tech and its production is at the point that their benefits outweight the rising costs.

A wholesome mecha design takes into account the world setting as well. A reason why giant robots prevail over other options needs to be sensible. Another show where you can see technological advancements between prototypes and MP units, and gives rather interesting explanation why there are invisible mechas jumping around, is Full Metal Panic, but that’s another can-o-worms I’d like to open later down the line.

Review of the Month; Klockis

You’re reviewing an alarm clock? I never had any set theme for these reviews, and nobody really cares for my game reviews. Thou it needs to be mentioned that next month’s review will most likely be Top 5 games of 2016. After all, this is a design blog of sorts at its heart, so taking a detour for something else on an occasion should do us some good.

Generally speaking, I don’t personally like IKEA products. Something about their construction and overall design puts me off, but here and there I can find a piece that overall pleases my needs in its simplicity. You’ve previously seen my wall of games that are held by simple IKEA shelves, but these are shelves that are not unique to them by large. They’re general shape and use shelves that any company could be putting out with different details. However, next to these I’ve found myself finding small fascination in their Klockis multi-clock product, that I’ve basically put into everyday use.

Klockis sadly comes from the Apple school of design, where a white box seems to be the top of the line product design. However, unlike with Apple, IKEA is selling Klockis at 4.99 dollaroos or your regional equivalent, which is perfectly fine price for this kind of product. Basically, it’s a combination of your everyday table clock, alarm clock, thermometer and timer.

The four sides correspond to one of the functions, each side has its own colour to differentiate them from each other. I would have preferred to have something else for the Alarm side, like orange or yellow instead of yet another blue, but beggars can’t be choosers. Anyway, the point that makes this multi-clock interesting in terms of use is how you select each function; by flipping it on its side. The clock recognizes the side that is upwards with some cheap chip tech inside and about half a second later you flip the clock, it’ll sound a beep and light up. The alarms are turned off by turning the clock to another side, which my muscles have learned to do a bit too well.

The surface is mainly very lightly textured, just enough for it to have a grip on most surfaces and some grip for you to grab unto. The main faceplate is soft transparent plastic, which will get scratched through time but is also surprising resilient. Alarm clocks at this size should have a faceplate that can stand some serious beating, seeing some people tend to fling their wake-up machines across the room or just back them hard. It doesn’t exactly give the best feeling in your hands, but it’s far from feeling like a cheap piece due to its build.

The lights themselves are rather bright and clear, unlike in the photos due to the angles. In the dark they are very visible, but not enough to blind you in the middle of the night. However, the clock runs on two AAA batteries, which is a shame. While nothing new, aiming to run on one AA or two AA batteries would be preferable. Setting the clock up is through a Set and arrow buttons, making the manual just a waste of paper. Shouldn’t take a wizard to figure out how this thing is set up, which is pretty great.

Simplicity is what governs this product and why it has become my main alarm and table clock. It has taken numerous falls already and at least one wall flinging in my personal use, so the built quality is good enough. However, the bit that recognizes the side it stands on will gradually break down and stop recognizing what its current side is, making this another product that has built-in obsolescence. The gimmick that Klockis has going for it is also its failure on the long time, I’d wager.

It’s a good enough clock for everyday use and is travel friendly in its palm size dimensions, but against more specialised items it tends to lose. It lacks some elements like Snooze function, and if you’re one to use radio alarm clocks, it lacks that too. As a timer, it takes comparatively more time to set up the right time than with dedicated pieces, and I’ve ultimately turned back using my wrist watches timer. The thermometer takes temperature only inside, and I find it rather useless, overall speaking. It also doesn’t stand in a good enough angle to view from higher viewpoint, and even when the viewing angle is rather large, you may lose some information in more extreme angles.

Why are you reviewing a clock like this? First praising it and then telling that there are better alternatives? The reason for this is because in its core design this multi-clock is solid. The designer had a peculiar idea, or saw one to steal, and went with it. Simple things like the curves on the edges serve the flipping idea and the surface serves this very well. It’s one of those gadgets that seem like a nice idea at first, but doesn’t ever really lose that on the long run.

So, should you purchase this? If you lack a dedicated piece for all the four functions and would use them separate from your phone or something else, or need more alarm clocks to wake up like yours truly, then dropping that fiver might not be the worst of ideas. Klockis is an adequate piece that does its idea well. It’s biggest failing really is the re-use of blue.

EXP

When you employ a craftsman or an artist to create a product for you, the basic idea is that you pay for the production of the product, the product itself and whatever else goes into delivery and so on. However, if we were to philosophically to consider this, we’d be paying for the creator’s experience as well. After all, a piece by a master craftsman does seem to fetch a higher price due to its quality than the same piece with somewhat less elegance by the master’s student.

It could be argued that the quality and finesse of a product has some relevancy to the amount of experience the creator has under his belt. In a modern production environment this may not be the case, as automated machines are able to produce a very even quality. To put that aside, the amount of experience a craftsman needs to learn to master his craft doesn’t end. In a way, to call someone a master is sort of oxymoron, as there is always room to improve one’s skill, but we just tend to use the term to nominate someone who has skill beyond the standard qualifications, if you will.

The experience we’re talking about here isn’t just few times working hands-on with something, or just few years. Ultimately, to be considered a master of a craft classically requires a small lifetime. What many seem to forget about other fields is that they contain the same seed from we all learn from; failure. Failure and the will to overcome that failure by solving whatever problem caused that failure to come true is what makes us learn. As an anecdote, I’ve seen people having a swell time in the workshop and haven’t seen much troubles. However, at some point they are just faced with a wall that they can’t overcome easily because they have lacked the challenges failure brings with it. I have to say that most, if not all of my experience really has been accumulated through numerous hardships that have sometimes required me to scrap numerous work hours due to a simple mistake or an unseen problem that could not have been avoided without a necessary experience.

As such, experience costs a lot of money, but we rarely see this in the product price itself. Then again, perhaps it should even be visible in there to any extent. Experience however does have an effect on the price in few ways. Like I discussed earlier this month, accuracy raises the price due to the sheer amount of time it takes for a craftsman to ensure the required dimensions are to a point. Thank God for standard tolerances, I tell you. Those things are a life saver in, money saver and time saver. Anyway, with experience gaining those accuracies is, in principle, easier as you have that knowhow to back unto. This sort of experience doesn’t really appear on a conscious mind all that much, you just have both the muscle memory and the gist of doing something right. It’s like opening a bottle. You instinctively know that lefty loosy and righty tighty and you twist the right way without thinking it too much.

And yet we all just stop thinking and wondering which was the direction on an occasion or seven.

For a moment, consider how much time and effort you’ve spent on your hobby or field of work and how much easier things just are nowadays for you, and how much you still require to learn new things and experience to be just that much better.

You know this already by hear, but it never ends. Perhaps the best way to put it would be that we can master something well enough at some point in our lives, but due to the nature of world, the evolving technology, changing tools, new requirements and numerous other things that can change a thing within a month, we can never truly master something. Perhaps that sort of search for perfect mastery of something is in vain, but it is without any shroud of doubt very admirable, whatever it is.

So, to return to the point. The best place where you can see quality and worth of your money is in whatever restaurant you frequent. The more open view to the kitchen, the better. There you can see that sometimes the more expensive price can fetch a more skilled chef. Watching a master chef working in his kitchen is a wonder. Applies to really everyone at their own work, really. Have you ever seen a master secretary? That’s a sight to behold in itself, especially when it comes to time and event management.

However, experience and mastering the craft can make a person a bit blind as well. I mentioned that changes can keep one from being a master of something, but it could be argued that mastering a craft in a version of sorts that turns archaic down the line. Traditional and digital painting being just one example that pops to my head. Sticking to one style and way and being its master may exclude tools and methods that would make things so much easier at times. This sounds like I’m talking about martial arts or something.

A good example of this really is how traditional metal and such craftsmen are becoming a sort of rare species due to how the same products can be largely made faster, easier and more efficiently. For example, if you were to employ a craftsman to make a ladle, surely you would get a fine and well made ladle with no second piece like that existing in the world. That is, if you don’t order multiple pieces and ask him to do a limited mass production. However, ordering some Chinese factory to produce ladles for a fraction of the price and gain so much more in quantity with the same quality is reality we must face.

But experience. Don’t underestimate it, and if you want to ensure something as it should be, don’t be afraid to ask for it too

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.

The 4K generation

During the last generation Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were dubbed the HD Twins. Not necessarily by the industry itself, but at least a small amount of people. While the current generation, that will be usurped by the Switch next year, started with HD as well. However, seeing we’re again at a point where companies do mid-generation upgrades instead of just mid-generation re-design, I’ll be dubbing PlayStation 4 Pro and Project Scorpio, whatever its finalised name will be, the 4K Twins. Technically, Xbox One S should be added there too, but the games are upscaled to 4K rather being native. Call me nitpicky.

The 4K is a bit of a problem, because most people don’t have 4K screens yet. Just like HD became a thing in the last generation, it’ll take some time before 4K becomes a standard. Scratch that, technically 4K is a standard already, but the standard is not widespread within the general population in the Western world like. It takes time for people to adopt the latest cutting edge technology, and that’s good. Why is that good, people are holding technology back! I’ve heard someone ask. The reason is that despite some technology not being able to sell well at first, the reasons can be many. The high price, the unnecessary complex nature and usage, quality and sometimes not being wanted often are the more pressing elements. LCD television technology itself is a good example of this as both LCD, Plasma and CRT television existed, and to some extent still exist, beside each other.

It would seem that the general population prefers to have mature technology in their hands instead of cutting edge.

The 4K and HD will exist beside each other at least to the end of the century, if not more. This is a guess on my part, but seeing how 8K is already making its first initial rounds, investing into a 4K screen might feel a bit off. Then again, that is the evolution of technology. Something new will always be waiting just around the corner. That’s why we always come to a point where we can pick something new up, or wait until things are ironed out and becomes more affordable.

That doesn’t really work with the 4K twins.

If these were redesigns of the existing consoles like what we’ve seen in the past, there would be no real contest which one to pick up. Usually. The last version of PS3 is just ugly. The issues with PS4 Pro and the upcoming Scorpio will have whole slew of new problems that have not yet been fixed. Mainly because we have don’t have an idea what those problems are, but most likely both companies are well aware of the issues with their machines prior to launch. The Red Ring of Death is still something that looms over Microsoft’s machines. I haven’t heard any major malfunctions from this generation, outside some people seemingly having a bricked Wii U thanks to Mighty Number 9, but at least one person has reported a molten PS4Pro. Take that as a grain of salt and do some research on the whole thing. Every thing’s possible, I guess. I’m no plastics expert. However, ever a single case like this usually rings the alarm bells in people’s heads.

The whole possibly molten PS4P aside, the issue that we should be more aware is the performance issues. Perhaps the hardware found in the PS4P is of higher calibre than the base PS4’s, but that should also mean that the games should run at a higher quality. Yet, if we take Digital Foundry‘s reports true, some games run worse on PS4P for whatever reason. Be it because of the new hardware or lack of optimisation (or the lack of experience in optimisation on PS4P) this is something I wouldn’t accept. But Aalt, aren’t you the one who says graphics and hardware doesn’t matter? Yes, yes I am and I’m getting to that.

The whole deal with mid-generation updates is, by all means, to allow the developers to put better looking stuff out there and have their games run better. In reality, this thought goes only halfway through. Devs most likely will push for better looking stuff, but will continue to ignore optimisation and 60fps lock if the game needs to be out. Some titles will sell with their name alone, damned be the quality of the title. The design quality of a game should not be dependent on the hardware. The controller a game is played with affects more the design than the hardware, thou we all can agree that simple number crunching power can allow some neat things overall. In the end, it’s the design that counts. What design, well, that’s another post.

Now, the question I have about the PS4P, and Scorpio by that extent, if we should be an early adopter or sit back and wait the kinks being ironed out. Honestly, that’s up to you. Some places recommend getting the base version for normal 1080 screens and some say go for Pro anyway. I’d recommend just checking the facts out and making a decision on those.

But, there’s another quick thing; should we all just jump in with the latest tech and keep things rolling around at the speed of sound? No, because that’s impossible. As said, most prefer mature technology and even tech that’s half a decade old can feel the most wondrous when properly designed and put into use. Those who didn’t experience Laserdisc’s abilities to have multiple languages on the disc were in awe by  DVD’s ability to house such things. There’s also the point that not all people simply have the money to keep up with the pace. As such, expecting companies to have things living beside each other is to be expected and that is exactly why  SONY has not yet moved the base PS4 from the market. People will simply pick it up for its price alone and might have rationale reasons not to go for the more expensive piece.

You can future proof your technological choices only so far. At some point, all your equipment will be old and replaced with new standards. Old does not mean obsoleted, and old can be of service years more than the newfangled piece of tech with all the problems still laying in the shadows.

I admit that this post was, to some extent, me putting my own struggle with the current generation down and to try make sense how to proceed in purchasing a console, or if I should even make a purchase overall.

A multimedia Mega franchise

Haven’t written anything about Mega Man in a long time. With the announcement of new Mega Man toys and Mega Man games being included with the NES Mini console, a small freefall post about the Blue Bomber is in place.

The question whether or not Mega Man is back is not a question that never needed asking. The franchise has potential for expansions of all sorts. Breaking the mould is nothing new, CAPCOM has been doing it since Wily & Light’s Rock Board. The games had constant evolution of content and gameplay mechanics, the most drastic standard deviation probably being X series’ RPG elements with hidden Energy Tanks and Armour parts. The most drastic deviation in the franchise are in Legends and Battle Network, but these are what each major game series goes through. Well, Mega Man is not major any more, just a relic of sorts. It pains me to write that down.

As a successful game franchise, it’s weird to look back and see how little third-party franchising there has been in the history of the franchise. Before Battle Network became the hottest shit on the block for the first half of the 00’s, most toys were Japan-only models from Bandai. The Ruby-Spears cartoon, which is still pretty good show, was the first major step outside and stand from the games. Captain N‘s Mega Man was largely part of the cast and the show used the NES as a whole as its source theme, so it’s not exactly what Mega Man could’ve used. If we get down to it, the Ruby-Spears Mega Man is a sort of rarity. Not many  games got a show based on them like this. It tells something about the popularity of the franchise when its contemporaries like Castlevania never got one. Nowadays they are more common and almost dime in the dozen as the industry has grown to stupidly large heights.

Despite its seeming popularity, Mega Man’s franchising has been less than expanded. Outside Ruby-Spears cartoon, we had that three-shot OVA Wish Upon a Star, which more or less are educational bits above all else. Mega Man didn’t see cereals or the like, and after the Classic bits ended, there was a long silence until the aforementioned Battle Network. After that, franchising slowly but surely began rising in amount. Nowadays, we have somewhat healthy amount of material to choose from. Mega Man soundtracks, toys, more books, all sorts of tapes and whatnot are available for you to purchase. Whether or not purchasing these show that there is an interest in the franchise is another question altogether, as sometimes companies find better revenues in selling third-party franchise instead of producing the main product itself. Think Star Wars and how it has an immense amount of goods produced of when it only has seven movies and few TV-shows across decades. Originally all these third-party goods CAPCOM had for Mega Man served as advertising for the games themselves. However, when the sales of the games went to a decline, franchising saw a change. Now, Mega Man toys and whatnot are sold mainly to the core audience that have been fans of the franchise for a long time. Yours truly included, I’m afraid. The upside is that current Mega Man goods are of higher standard than what they used to be.

The decline of the games’ sales can be attributed to decline of the games themselves and the internal matters at CAPCOM. Mega Man was always a children’s franchise, and the while the X series is nowadays often cited as an edgy 1990’s edition, we can also see that the Zero series is a grim and dark future of already darker future. Like it or not, there is no levity in Zero that you could find in the Classic and X. Battle Network on the other hand stroke a chord almost perfectly, at least during its three first games. I expect the upcoming television series to have a lieu of toys and other goods to purchase. Time will tell whether or not they will be a success.

The thing is, CAPCOM has a point of comparison how well a new 2D Mega Man could sell with Mega Man 9 and 10. If the franchising rights bring them about the same amount money than what the games could, why put the money down for the development? After all, the current branding of CAPCOM doesn’t exactly have a fitting slot for Mega Man, despite the character being an unofficial mascot of the company still, next to Street Fighters‘  Ryu. Whether or not the 2017 Mega Man will fit that image, or if CAPCOM will loosen up their hard cased face to facilitate the franchise more than just re-releasing the same NES games for the Nth time. It’d be nice if they’d see the trouble of porting the rest over as a collection as well and not just circlejerking over the NES titles and trickle the rest through digital services.

There are those who would like to keep the franchise away from the children and newbies and only have CAPCOM catering to their wants. However, that’s not a healthy model, and to CAPCOM, it’s just not making the cut. It’s the same dilemma with every long running franchise; balancing with the core audience while trying to expand. Often companies get called selling out or the like when they try to get their titles to break some new ground when it comes to consumers, and while sometimes they fail, sometimes they manage to push the envelope a bit further. To go back to start, CAPCOM has always been breaking the mould Mega Man has been sitting in from time to time with variety of results. The franchise took its time to grow to a full multimedia franchise, thou still more limited in its scope than some others, thou I’m not sure how many game based franchises have a Settlers of Catan version after them.

So don’t think that purchasing third-party Mega Man merch will signal CAPCOM to return making some of the older titles. However, keep purchasing them if you feel that Mega Man should have more items outside its games, and  the whole buyer-provider game gets some sort of revamp when the 2017 cartoon hits with its merch. I’m still wagering for a CAPCOM published title to hit the stores at some point.

The killer of handheld gaming has no fangs

I admit, the title is misleading, but it works for the post. For a long time now I’ve been told that the mobile gaming is the killer of consoles and that all the handheld consoles will die out because mobile (phone) gaming makes so much money. Well, as I’ve previously discussed, the data isn’t there and this time I’m going to talk about personal experiences with mobile games now that I had to upgrade from an old Nokia to an Android smartie.

The thing is, this post may again be an old record playing the same song. The mobile game market is not in the same category as handheld console gaming. I would argue that this stems from three points; controls, physicality and devices themselves.

The controls of a mobile device, be a pad or a smart phone, are dependant on the screen. This is something that can be gotten around with external controllers, but native games can’t be designed this in mind to a large extent. Games have to use the screen as the main input device anyway, and that creates its own difficulties. Your hand and finger will always be in the way when you use the device to some extent, accuracy is always a question and there’s only so many variations you can do with them. Most games are about tapping or swiping, or are menu driven. Sometimes even combining all of them to some extent. These are limited by the amount of inputs a screen can recognize, which mostly is two in modern devices. Some devices can recognize more, but you if you want maximum user count, you’d optimally design the game to use the lowest mainstream setting to some extent. Let’s not forget that they need to be intuitive, fast to learn and simple.

The whole physical thing is really an extension of lack of separate controllers. Physical button that gives you a feedback when pressed always trumps over an image of a button that reacts visually to your finger. Eye-hand coordination works here just fine, especially if there’s a sound effect to go with. Some applications will also make the phone rumble, but even with that something always feels off. You’re not all that sure if the button was pressed or if the application registered the press until you see some of results on the screen. Everything happens on the screen and outside rumble there is no other option to physically interact with the software to any degree, outside hard resetting when a game locks your whole phone down. Don’t underestimate the power of touching something real. That’s why people buy statues of their waifus.

The third bit is the device themselves. Mobile phones are not dedicated gaming devices and function more like the classic palm computers would. By that extension, the games on smart phones follows the same natural pattern as Flash games do. The only difference is that some Flash games can be controlled with your keyboard, not just with your mouse. The devices themselves lend themselves for gaming, but they are not even the secondary function. Despite modern phones being shit for calling because of their boring slate design and wide as fuck screens, calling is their main idea.

Apps being compared to Flash games isn’t anything negative. It’s just natural. Seeing people still spend numerous hours playing browser games on Facebook and elsewhere, they’re no laughing matter. Sure, the golden age of Flash games and videos are long gone and that certain kind of nearly majestic freedom to do whatever you wanted can’t be realized any more thanks to certain sites pandering to the loud minorities rather than to their userbase and brand.

All that taken into account, a game like Monster Hunter would simply not work on a mobile device. It does not have the input options to work within the game’s design, and changing the game to fit the hardware of a phone would completely revise its gameplay. The same goes the other way as well, despite modern handheld consoles could house the touch controls and all. The content in mobile games rarely manages to stand up to similar level game on a handheld device. Granblue Fantasy, probably the most popular RPG on mobile devices, is ultimately very lacklustre in how much the player plays it. The game’s completely menu driven and story bits are delivered in Visual Novel style. The only actual gameplay is turn-based fighting, which compared to something like Bravely Default falls short in direct comparison between the titles.

However, that sort of comparison would be like comparing to apples to sausages. Sure, both are edibles, but compete in a different fields. The same difference exists between handheld and mobile gaming. I can see myself keep playing mobile games here and there, they’re a good time sink to kill a minute or two. However, when I need to kill more time on the go, like on a train or on the way to the hospital, I’d rather bust out a Vita or something to play something that can deliver a bit more than just few minutes of gameplay. However, the nature of these games are not in the same field as arcade games, despite them sounding like that. Arcade games were their own thing again, something you had to dedicate a coin or two for with some time. For a mobile game, all you really need to dedicate is some finger tapping and you’re golden. In essence, mobile gaming is computer gaming on the go with the closest thing being Flash games.

None of these are a blemish or a negative comment on mobile gaming. It’s just the nature of the beast. It’s no wonder not many apps can stand out from the app stores to any degree. The same applies to games and software on desktop computers. There are more software lost to time than what you can find archived or on sale.

The tales of mobile gaming killing handheld consoles are largely exaggerated.

Divided by six thousand

Time is money, and accuracy demands time. This may not sound like a thought that we don’t know, but yet most often than not fail to realize that we live in a world where most things are not at not perfectly accurate. No, I’m not talking about journalism, I’m talking parts making and design.

In production we have four levels of tolerances ranging from very rough to very fine. Very rough is essentially things just done to get them finished without any care about the end quality as the maximum tolerances are around ±1mm. 1mm does not sound a lot, yet depending on the spot that margin of error can really make all the differences. For something like tractor, where you have a lot of parts that are under dire stress, the accuracy isn’t all that vital. As long as it works. Certain medical equipment on the other hand are required to be at certain size to the thousandth of a millimetre at most for the sake of the patient.

A craftsman who works with machines by hand has to gain rather large amount of experience before he has the skill to truly work within the finer points of accuracy. Experience is a major factor, as the machines we work with are not accurate themselves to a degree. Double checking levels and re-adjusting alignments as needed doesn’t really cut it, that needs to be done almost every time a work is being started to make sure things are straight. Accuracy starts with prepping and planning.

Of course, the modern CNC production has made accuracy more or less self-evident to most. The machines’ movement accuracy is nearly perfect and dependent on the systems’ own measurements inside, and the setting the user’s input. A designer has his workload here to design an item that can be machined properly and consider the dimensions of the objects.

Nevertheless, even with CNC machining, the amount of steps the machine has to make to ensure proper surface with proper tolerances can go two-way. A rough milling will leave the surface with a surface that most wouldn’t like and the corners and cuts may be nearly or even outside the tolerances. Even from a machine it takes time to properly finish the item to a finer degree. Often much less than what it would take from a craftsman, and more of than not factories don’t even have individual lathes or milling machines for mass production, just for parts repairs and prototyping.

Just like when design is at its best when you don’t really notice it, accurate tolerances are something that you may notice one in a while, but take it for granted most of the time. Things just have to fit in order for them to work, and that’s how it should be.

And yes, I totally agree. However, it also has to be valued. Object accuracy, to make sure that parts just fit together, is so self-evident that we barely give any thought how important it is to our lives. It’s natural, yet the challenge to have accurate objects rises as the required accuracy goes up. Almost exponentially so. Sure, we could always finish up an item with a sandpaper and a very fine file, but that’s not really doable in modern world. Speed and efficiency have to be considered, and we don’t have the time to dilly dally to get something just perfect. This may sting your ear a bit, but good enough is satisfactory more often than not.

However, it’s also interesting to notice that most modern designers work with absolute measures rather than within tolerances to some degree. Personally I always rally for designers to work with production tools their designs will be realized with to understand the steps and methods needed to produce their design. A craftsman tends to design within or just slightly beyond his skill set to push himself just a bit further down.

If you read into this entry a bit deeper, you might notice that this is part of a theme I’ve popped up here and there; the change of traditional design and craftsmanship being more or less replaced by modern technology. That is not a negative thing in itself, that’s change and evolution. Creating a crown is traditionally thought to be work for the artisans and jewellery makers, but nowadays we have designers and machines that can objectively make better products at a lower cost than the traditional craftsmen.

However, the work these traditional craftsmen do is barely visible and only certain fields are valued to any significant extent. I’m not even sure how well people are informed what sort of job a machinist, for example, has in his hands when he gets the plans.

We live in an age where we can substitute a traditional craft with one person with one machine. Not only is it more effective and faster, but also cheaper for those very reasons. I started this post about accuracy and how it costs money, but here I’m starting to end with a thought that in the future we might not even have the requirement for those traditional crafts and accuracy has become even more mundane that what it already is.

Each craft tends to think theirs isn’t valued enough, but perhaps that’s true. Everybody should be appreciated other fields of work just as much as they value theirs. Nevertheless, a thing like being an artisan might be one of the more useless jobs in the world, in the end, as their niche of being able to produce and design products is becoming a mundane every day thing with the advent of 3D printers and machines far superior to men.

It’s not a thought I amuse lightly. The fact is that the world demands further production and better prices, and work by hand costs. Machining may not have the same spirit and individuality, but it gets things done helluva lot faster and more efficient. New tools replace the old, names and professions change, but the demands and needs don’t change too much. Work can become obsoleted by progression, unless we consciously keep it alive.