Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV

To preface this review, I do have a bias for Schwarzesmarken as a fan of Muv-Luv overall. However, because of this bias I’ve decided to approach this series from the point of view that it is a singular entity without any ties to pre-existing franchises. This decision also stems from the fact Schwarzesmarken was marketed with that title alone without any naming connections to Muv-Luv. Within the fiction there is no pretence about the connection, and one can only guess why this decision was ultimately applied. Whatever the case may be, the show still needs to stand on its own and deliver a solid show for a positive review.

To expand upon the series needing to stand on its own, this review could compare Schwarzesmarken to the Light Novels and the Visual Novel, and to Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse. This wouldn’t allow the work to present itself as it is. A comparison between different versions of Schwarzesmarken is worthy of its own post altogether.

A television series is a different beast to literal works. Total Eclipse is a lot of people’s first experience with the franchise and Schwarzesmarken served the same role to some extent. Because of this, in this review, I won’t hold against the staff for the changes that were made during the adaptation. Whatever is on the screen and how it is conveyed to the viewer are the only things that matters, supplemental and source materials be damned.

This’ll  be more or less in-line with the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and Muv-Luv posts I’ve done. Expect a general outline of the whole series with commentary running along with it. Not the best way to make a review, but never thought I’d go over this episode-by-episode basis. Expect loads of terrible jokes to boot. If you want a short tl;dr version, you can slip straight to the end paragraphs.

Now that you know where this review will have its base stance on regarding the series, let’s start with the show.

Continue reading “Review of the Month; Schwarzesmarken TV”

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-5 Freedom Fighter

I’ll be blunt straight from the start; the F-5 series Tactical Surface Fighters are boring and blocky as hell. Their design takes only few elements from the fighters overall and mostly rely on being blocky to stand from the crowd. They are the antithesis of the TSF design rules I proposed, and the main argument why they are invalid across the board. I shouldn’t really be writing this with a fever, but now that I finally have access to my folders and books, I wanted to get this done away. However, let’s start with the real F-5 first and foremost before mentioning a thing about the TSF.

The F-5 was designed in the late 1950’s by Northrop to compete with its contemporaries, mainly the McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II. F-5 however became the more popular of the two for it being a versatile and a low-cost light weight supersonic fighter. Mainly designed to be an air superiority fighter, the fighter was also capable of air-to-ground attacks.
The initial run of F-5’s was around 800 units, as USAF didn’t have a need for a lightweight fighter such at the time. Nevertheless, the F-5E Tiger II was put into production for Americas’ allies after Northrop won the Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970. F-5E saw an overall improved design with more powerful engines with the J85-GE21 turbojets capable of 2 268kg of afterburning thrust, greater sing spanand other overall improvements. One of the places F-5E saw extensive use was in Vietnam due to its nature of being able to perform both air and ground attacks. Its two 20mm cannons in the nose could deliver new speed holes to the enemy units and the F-5-E was capable of carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs on its wingtips, plus around 3 175kg of mixed ordinance. By the mid-80’s, over 20 countries had imported the F-5E into their air forces, and while it may lack all-weather capabilities, it’s relative cheap price and operation was deemed more valuable. Taiwan, South Korea and Switzerland all produced F-5E under license, and while the production of the fighter stopped in 1987, manufacturers still offer a variety of upgrade options. It’s one of the more widespread fighters in the world, and countries like Mexico sill have some in service. The last evolution of F-5 series would have been the F-20 Tigershark, but the USAF declined the aircraft. However, the F-5 series served as the basis for the Northrop YF-17 and F/A-18 fighters. To be fair, there is so much history to the fighter due to its widespread nature that it’s better for you to check what interest you more, this is just a basic introduction to the fighter.

f-5There’s no imageboard variant this time around. The lack of any sort of good backside image or Jump Units for this particular version really shows how the further variants are more prevalent in the franchise

The TSF version of the F-5 bears some resemblance to the fighter in its history. Initially rolled out after the introduction Phantom II, the Freedom Fighter opted for lower armouring and superior mobility. Just like the F-5 fighter was used to train pilots, the Freedom Fighter TSF served first as a training machine that was converted into a full-fledged combat unit. We don’t know what this training TSF was named or looked like, but that doesn’t matter. Similar how the real life F-5 became an export extravaganza, so did the Freedom Fighter, with the US forces allowing to local productions of this lightweight surface fighter in order to take pressure off from American productions. This naturally gave the Europeans their own TSF push towards Kashgar and counter the invading BETA.The weapon loadout for the Freedom Fighter was simple; a WS-16 Assault Cannon and brass balls for the pilot. The FE85-GE15 engines allowed the TSF to have superior maneuverability over Phantom II, but the weapons technology was severely lacking during the early 1970’s, making the war against BETA more or less a futile attempt. However, it was because of its cheap price and low-maintenance why Freedom Fighter found success in the front lines. The Soviets and European forces found it worth to mix Phantom IIs and Freedom Fighters in a healthy mix to compensate each other’s lacking capabilities, which would yield further high-low mix troops in the future.F-5 itself influenced the Soviet’s MiG-series and would affect their design decisions in regards of close-combat capabilities. The French developed the Mirage III based on the Freedom Fighter, which would ultimately give birth European 3rd Generation TSFs such as EF-2000 Typhoon and the Rafale. The F-5 series of TSFs would continue to mirror the evolution of the real life fighters in a very similar fashion, giving birth to F-5G Tighershark Tactical Surface Fighter and other variants. Of course, Muv-Luv’s BETAverse differs in naming schemes and has some additional variations, but that’s par for the course.As for the design of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, it shares more design elements with the F-5 Phantom II than the real fighter it is supposed to be based on. Sure, the Jump Units (not pictured) share its normal resemblance with the fighter, but outside few overall similarities the core Freedom Fighter doesn’t have much going on for it. This is where the early consistency still kicks in hard, but the lack of further discerning elements in the TSF from the fighter makes this a boxy and boring unit.  Things would get any better, with F-5F Mirage III being essentially the same with a new chest, wider antennae and spikes on its knees. It wouldn’t be until Mirage 2000 before the European TSFs would start to carry further elements from the real life fighters. That’s a damn shame too.F-5 did offer elements to borrow from, but I guess one ways to show how low-tech 1st Gen TSFs are is to have lacking plane elements in the,
Just like with some other TSFs, what matters more is the history and intention of the rather than the design, resulting in a poor comparison point between the fighter and TSF, unless one wants to over analyse every single little bit on the unit. Frankly, that would be useless.From now on, I probably will have to resort to various other sources for images, most likely the use of CGs will see a rise.

Monthly Music: Giant mutated creature version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

face
I WILL DEVOUR YOUR SOUL

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

Music of the Month; CHALLENGER + Review of the Month; Star Trek Beyond

I tend to have music selected few weeks beforehand for these, but this time I had none. You could call it a rut or something similar, but it’s not really that. Let’s boot the ol’ ‘tube and see what we come across.

I don’t put much personal stuff on this blog. Here or there you might pick up something or I mention situations making typing things down somewhat erratic. I don’t have a release schedule, I never had. A post early in the week and one later has been the standard for few years now. Things have become more or less a routine in this sense, and while that is not a bad thing, I find myself wanting to touch upon subject after subject beyond the scope I want to explore them. However, As this is a hobby, there would be no sense for me to write an entry every other day about every single thing that I want to. You’re not reading this blog for stuff like that.

For example, I had planned the failure that is the Themes in Godzilla for some time now, and despite it getting the summer special slot, it’s something that should’ve been more meatier rather than few sentences per movie. I had planned much more for the entry, it to be more grandiose and in-depth than what it ended up being, but I’m guessing it was also a topic nobody cared about. Godzilla is passé, despite Shin Godzilla gaining positive reviews in Japan.

Another example would be the latest brouhaha about the Nintendo NX design, it possibly being a portable and a home console hybrid of sorts, something that I would personally embrace fully. Ever since the DS and PSP were launched, I questioned the point of designing, developing and producing two separates consoles when the hand held consoles could muster good enough graphics, gameplay and controls as is. I am a broken record with this, but it is about the software. Seeing population is moving towards portable solutions with each technological iteration, it would make sense to emphasize that to a certain degree. Traditional desktop computers have made way for laptops and pads for a time now, and while I still am headstrong in my decision to stick with a more traditional wired Internet connection and a desktop computer, I can’t argue with reality around me. Full portability is where we’re going, it’s just a matter of when.

Perhaps the third and most pressing example of my conscious aversion of not writing âge related. This is not a blog just for Muv-Luv and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. They certainly are a part of it and most likely the topics that have attracted most readers on the long run, but perhaps some of the 1990′ ideology of not-selling-out sticks to me at this point. The whole point of giving what the consumer wants fights against this, and I probably should start writing more about Muv-Luv in general not only for blog content, but for the simple raw reason to gain more views. I do intend to do a TSF comparison this month, as long as I can find good enough pictures of some TSF, F-16 Fighting Falcon being probably the strongest contender. This may be my own hubris, but I do see that there are topics and subjects that I am more equipped to discuss when it comes to Muv-Luv as a whole than others. Of course it’s my own hubris, both Type-94 (link on the right) and Chris Adamson do it better as is.

The only obstacle is that I don’t care about the views as much as I should. Perhaps an argument could be made that I am not as passionate as I should be about the topics, that I don’t care what makes people read the most or that I lack ambition. It doesn’t help that my current situation is still in the gutters, but you won’t see me explaining how dire my situation is or how in the gutters I am professionally speaking. It has no other relevancy for the blog outside whether or not I am able to write.

I’m not sure how successful the Monthly Three series has been. I expected last month’s theme of Video game culture and history to go well, but it seems that it was something very few cared about, despite it being one of the core themes of this blog. I deemed those and Dizzy’s design comparison posts as one of the best examples of what I could write about and felt oddly good, almost proud, about them. Of course, reality sets in and none of them were really successful even in a limited fashion. The Guilty Gear design comparisons have been yet another views collecting topic, so I’ll most likely I’ll have to give those more weight in the future.

Usually I set some goals for the of the month in these opening rants, but this time all I’m going to say that bets are off for now. Despite being able to keep up reviews for a time now, I’d rather call off my reviews than resort on making a video game review nobody reads. Screw that, here’s a first impression review of Star Trek Beyond I wrote after I was asked how I felt about it via Twitter. That’ll serve well enough.

Perhaps, just perhaps I am at a burnout of sorts. I don’t feel that I am getting the best quality stuff I could, despite the aforementioned being something I feel good about. There are a lot of subjects that I want to touch upon, but there are no driving reasons for me to invest the time in them. Well, there are, but I have to reason on how I spend my time, and to be completely honest, I am not using my time well at the moment. I should either be polishing up what I know and what I can do rather than spent time on writing. Maybe the thing I need to do is to take some time off and get shit sorted out. Maybe try out a voiced version of this blog, discuss topics out loud rather than in text. You can vote here, if you’d care about a thing like that.

Maybe I need a break, but if I take one, it’s not this month. But I do need food, and because my kitchen equipment is unusable at the time, I guess I’m going to eat out today.

Let’s talk about Muv-Luv’s changes

By now those of you who’ve got the Steam release of Muv-Luv have most likely noticed changes in there. Most changes have been for the better, some out of necessity.

Before we go on, let’s re-iterate how the companies are related to each other. Degica is the company localising, they are in charge of translation and publishing, while ixtl is the rights holder and makes the final decisions what’s in and what’s out. âge’s the developer, and ixtl was put up to manage their IPs. Both âge and ixtl are under Acid Company Limited.

Degica may be the one in charge of the translation and publishing part, but whatever changes they do ultimately has to go through ixtl. If they decide to veto e.g. a translation title, Degica’s translation staff got nothing to say to it, unless they can provide some hefty evidence, as you may have noticed that both Takimekazuchi and Chizuru are properly romanised instead of using the more archaic forms Takemikaduchi and Chiduru. You can probably expect some bullshit things left in along the line anyway. I’m half expecting something along the lines of not using the official English title of  Sado Island. Hell, it’s even on the island’s own official tourist brochure. I don’t know how the hell Amaterasu missed this one, it’s not even an obscure tourist location. I can even pick up my 1970 World Atlas and take a photo of the page where Japan and its islands are showcased. Give me a moment, and I’ll take it!

DSC_4669
Page 70, Suuri Karttakirja, based on Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World, 1970

To be fair again, Sadogashima too is used (sometimes as Sado-ga-shima to boot), albeit not as common worldwide. Even on modern maps, like the one Google uses, lists it as Sado Island. Other languages seem to mainly use Sado, thou I admit Isla Sado sounds awesome.

The most clear cut changes are the new songs in the soundtrack, and music is almost always the hardest thing to license when it comes to Japanese products, especially TV-shows and movies. This is because a single show can include music from various different rights holders, and some may want their music be licensed episode-by-episode, which is why sometimes opening songs are replaced with instrumental versions in Western releases, like The Skull Man‘s or Mobile Suit Z Gundam. Sometimes music pays homage to other songs, and hits a bit close home. Metal Gear Solids theme is reminiscent to The Winter Road, and âge is known for their musical homages. Just like how Metal Gear Solid’s theme was essentially dropped after it was accused of plagiarism, and ixtl wants to avoid such controversies at all costs. They’ve dealt enough with plagiarism claims as is.

That said, while わるだくみ/Warudakumi had its own fans, Drama Bomb! isn’t really bad by any means. It and the other additional song are most likely leftovers from Schwarzesmarken‘s development, as both of them were composed by Evan Call. They have a distinctly different sound to them from the rest of the soundtrack, but like with most things, it’s really up to taste if you like them. It was probably the best for ixtl to replace the songs rather than risk accusations and possible lawsuit. That’s business for you.

This issue extend to Muv-Luv Alternative. One of its more iconic songs, Assault Landing, is similarly a direct homage to Basil Poledouris’ Kledanthu Drop from Starship Troopers. Then you have that pastiche of Buster Machine March and the other examples. You should be half-expecting their removal for the exact same reason.

Another big change people have noticed is that the script has been completely revised to the point of it essentially having no traces of Amaterasu’s fantranslation. If we’re completely honest here, that translation had issues. At points it was incoherent with issues with language, outright missing cues and throwbacks to âge’s previous works and top it all, had inaccuracies to the point of changing some of the characterisations. One of the reasons I never felt strongly for Ayamine was because the English subtitles didn’t really reflect the Japanese, giving her a slightly but significantly different impression what sort of person she was. The same applies to Class Rep. Ixrec or however his nick is spelt has said that he himself didn’t care for Extra, and it shows in his script.

The new script basically does away all these issues, but it’s natural to complain about these changes. It is a normal psychological reaction to feel negatively towards a new translation you’ve grown with. One example would the the Finnish retranslation of Peter Pan. The original wasn’t exactly accurate and took a lot of liberties, translating the names in a more Disney-esque way than anything else. The new translation is more accurate and representative in what ideas the book holds, but people disliked it anyway because it was new and against what they were used to.

As for the cropped CGs, âge’s been doing that since 2007. This isn’t exactly anything new, and these complains are coming in about a decade too late. The reason again is corporate politics. It’d cost more to add more content to the CGs to fit in the new resolution than to crop them. For purists, it is bullshit, but hardcore purists wouldn’t want to play anything but the original CD release anyway. Gotta read it as originally intended. In addition, depending how the CG is stored in the files, ixtl shouldn’t have much problems showcasing the whole CG in the Gallery mode.

As for the lack of porn, Steam doesn’t allow adult content like that. Secondly, producing a patch on itself is its own thing, separate from the rest of the deal. It may sound bewildering, but as the Muv-Luv Steam Version is based on the All-Ages version, it takes work from ixtl’s side to even create a patch to put in the necessary scenes and their script.  My guess is that patch isn’t high on the task list, not by a long shot. A wild guess would be that we can expect to see some proper news about the patch closer to Alternative‘s release. Then again, most people tend to say erotica scenes don’t matter or add to the story, but as soon as they’re missing, people seem to go ballistic.

There is also the issue of them being porn. ixtl and âge have been trying to clean their image, despite their streams not showing that, and there’s also the issue of age, or rather, the assumed age of the characters. Miki’s not the most legal looking character out there, and such things will cause certain troubles if not handled properly.

Still, I’m willing to bet it’s mostly about the money that goes into developing patch, as it might possibly break game saves and the like. From what I’ve seen, even when âge showcases how powerful their editing software are, they’re barely able to anything complex. Every game they’ve developed, like Faraway Dawn and those minigames in Altered Fable‘s Before the Shimmering Time Ends  have been horrible. Hell, the beach ball minigame in bugged to the point winning and losing really is dependent on said bug. I doubt the current release of Muv-Luv would even be out now if they didn’t have outside help.

Outside these, all the rest are more or less in line with the usual updating that don’t require any special mention. Some don’t like how large the user interface is, but I bet these people forget it’s supposed to work on tablets too, hence the design. Some have complained about yakisoba sandwich not being yakisoba bread, when in all actuality it should be baguette with fried buckwheat noodle. There’s some corporate bullshit in the background as usual for Japanese companies, and if you’ve ever really looked into how ixtl and age handles stuff beside their publicity, there’s some rotten stuff in there. The same applies to all Japanese companies, but it’s sad to see that being a rule in their corporate culture than an exception.

If we’re completely fair, if you have complaints that are about the CGs, music and the like that does not concern the English script or Degica’s English publications and PR, you should throw a message to ixtl instead.

Muv-Luv is out on Steam

I feel like pointing this out, even thou most of my readers already are reading it. Muv-Luv’s out.

The question now is; will I be replacing my old screenshots in the previous posts? The answer is… maybe. Most likely a no, because of archival purposes.

If you’re interested to see what’s new and how it looks, I recommend checking the stream I did with Alternative Projects people under ARG podacst banner with some guests.

It’s a been journey. Now just to sit tight and wait for the physicals and Alternative.

Mecha design; manipulators

Consider your hand. You control all those 27 bones through muscles and tendons. The nerves give you feedback and send your commands down the like, commands that you are not even conscious of. Twist your hand, and you see it twisting. The large muscles come through the skin, but all the fine motion is lost unless we specifically look for it. It can grab and hold things in a wide variety of positions and ways, some that we don’t even know before someone else teaches that. These hands can build and destroy in equal amounts, they are our the tools of our creations.

Transferring that to a giant robot is a bit of a hassle.

Much like with a lot of other direct transfer elements with human body and giant robots, adapting hands 1:1 is an easy concept for sure. The idea of similar multi-use manipulator is attractive from the get go, but depending on the setting, human-like hands might not be the best option. A human-like hand requires far more parts, development, maintenance and simple tech than a say a pincer or more simple manipulator. Of course, the main argument for having a hand for a giant robot is its versatility, especially when it comes to weapons. However, that’s something that could be easily done with hardpoints where weapon is being mounted. We should also question how versatile does the hand of a giant mecha be, especially for a war machine.

Broadly speaking, all human-like hands with mecha follow the same basic idea, there isn’t much deviation. It’s either smooth or cubic. Using this example from a VF-19 serves as a good showcase.

VF-19 hand

While it looks complex, it’s more about the layered elements that make it look complex. Inner functions are of course barely thought, they’re not important. The fact that it looks like it could work and has plausible design elements, like the knuckle guard and fingers’ segments layer on top of each other when bent, is more than enough. Studio Nue has always preferred rounder elements to their design (sometimes dubbed as Bubble hands), especially with their older works. In Gundam, Sunrise and Bandai have preferred using more cubic hands, although exceptions are aplenty.

Gundam MS fed manipulator

The above generic Mobile Suit manipulator was designed for the models, but seeing how Bandai and Sunrise design their mechas models in mind nowadays, it’s a good example of a hand that’s more or less designed for wielding a gun and a beam sabre. It’s a bit more straightforward than VF-19’s, less well-rounded. The question of course is, if this hand is largely made for weapon carrying, why isn’t it designed as such?

The answer is, of course, because of Rule of Cool. When mechas are designed as characters, they’ve almost always given large amount of human characteristics in order to showcase dramatic events. Hands are no different in this. Beam sabre battles would be less dramatic and interesting if the manipulator would be specifically designed holder than a hand.

Controlling a hand like this has basically three options, direct 1:1 input, control macros or brain wave input. Variations and combinations do apply. While a “glove controller” would be idea, that’s pretty much what you do then with that arm. It’ dedicated for that arm, and the rest of the controls are either automatic or left other arm or legs. We discussed control macros previously, and this is most likely the best option overall, if brain wave scanning tech is not available in your setting.

Designing mecha’s hand really isn’t anything hard; just look at your own and mechanise it. Give it details for something to grab attention and some panels for easy access.

Giant robots don’t really have a need for similar level of sophistication when it comes to their hands, a simple grasping arm should be enough with some level of modification to suit the needed purpose. Hardpoints add a lot of versatility as well.

These take less maintenance and production costs would be lower too
These take less maintenance and production costs would be lower too

Of course, fiction doesn’t need to play by the rules of reality all that much, and if technology is advanced enough in a fiction to produce these things, why not? They could of course build better and simpler manipulators, but sometimes you do seek more complex solution for the sake of all the options it could give you. A gripping manipulator above doesn’t really offer many ways to grasp a thing.

Some franchises mix human-like hands with specifically designed manipulators, Muv-Luv popping to my mind foremost.

To be fair, this is complex for the sake of being complex, some of these steps could be dropped
To be fair, this is complex for the sake of being complex, some of these steps could be dropped. It’s a pretty good example of a very specific manipulator arm that works in junction of the main hand, something that I personally would like to see done more

Another one would Mobile Suit Z Gundam‘s The O with its assisting manipulators underneath its skirt. These manipulators question why would The O even need human-like hands, when the three-prong manipulator does everything they do. The answer to this is, of course, because the human design does not use that sort of hand. In a way, mecha in general should always be contrasted to armoured knights of legends, but that’s another topic.

Hands are ultimately something that Japanese inspired mecha design does. For giant robots, America has always preferred more built-in options. MegaBot’s Mark II is a good example of this.

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American vision usually attached the weaponry onto a pre-fixed arm that may have some freedom of motion to it, but is always more dependent on the movements of the main body. Compare this to Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s Kuratas and the difference in approach is notable.

The idea of having this built-in approach and lack of manipulators is just as valid.  While it lessens on-the-fly options and puts some limitations, it eliminates loads of moving parts that would require maintenance. The most prominent film example of this sort of thing would be our good old friend, ED-209.

I should probably write a whole entry on ED-209.
I should probably write a whole entry on ED-209.

Unlike with mechas with arms and manipulators, you can see ED-209 guns are its arms with no manipulators, as it needs none. It’s a robust little connector that looks sturdy and serves only to take the beating from the cannon’s recoil and swivel enough to shoot whoever full of holes.

Keep an eye to hands you see in mecha films and shows. Take notice how they are portrayed and how they function. Rarely you will see them doing things outside the capabilities of human hands, and showcasing how they are actually controlled is even rarer. Sometimes they take advantage of what a machine hand can do, like how Gundam washes clothes by rotating its wrist 360-degrees in repetition.

Washing machine Gundam

Harder they are, the better they shatter

Dick jokes aside, popular culture loves things being hard. This is the hardest sword around, this shield is so hard that it can stand any damage and so on. This is largely bullshit, to be honest. Popular culture just has the habit of buying the idea of diamonds being the hardest generally known substance to man and going with it, because it seems it is too hard to teach that hardness alone doesn’t add to anything worthwhile. You need toughness to go along.

Hardness in Mohs is how well a material can resist penetration of other material, i.e. scratched. In all fairness, this is rather weak scale and is mostly useful with minerals Mohs scale is intended for. For geologists and craftsmen, the Mohs scale is still relevant. The higher the item is on Mohs scale, the better polish it can attain, with some exceptions.

The hardest naturally occurring material known to man is lonsdaleite, or hexagonal diamond. It was first identified in the late 1960’s from a Canyon Diablo meteorite, where specimens were found in microscopic size. If you checked the provided link there, you may notice that when actual stuff is talked, the Mohs scale was kicked to the curb. Mohs scale is essentially useless for industrial use.

In a more industrial meaning, hardness relates how much material resits compression and changing its shape. When we go up to superhard materials like diamond, their modulus of rigidity are very high as is their bulk modulus, the resistance to uniform compression. They do not deform plastically either.

Think it like this; when you strike wood with a hammer, it just dents. It deforms to form a spot where hammer was struck while leaving the rest of the wood intact. Strike glass and it’ll shatter without deformation,  sending shards flying about.

There are numerous tests in which material hardness is tested with. Vickers, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests are the most often used, followed by Mohs. Oustide the Mohs one, all the aforementioned use different methods to attain the scale of hardness and the results can be converted between each other. If you’re interested in reading further into this topic, I recommend giving this site a go.

But as said, hardness alone is of no real use when it comes to how popular culture wants to showcase it. Toughness is needed. As a general rule of thumb; The harder something is, the more fragile it is. For example,. despite diamonds being the hardest general substance, you can pick up your hammer and smash them to bits. They’re also common as hell, and nobody should be willing to pay the insane prices jewellery shops are selling them. You can put that on DeBeers.

Toughness is the ability of any said material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing. This is the opposite of hard materials that have low toughness, as they do not absorb energy or deform. They fracture, sometimes in an explosive ways. Toughness is after all a combination of both material strength and ductility.

Just like how hardness has its tests, the Charpy V-notch test and Izod impact strength tests are the most commonly used measured. While Charpy  is more about the fracturing the tested material, Izod tests impact power.

Ultimate tensile strength needs to be mentioned in this context, as it is effectively how much a material or structure can withstand elongation as opposed of compressive strength. Materials like diamond would have a very sharp breakage, called brittle failure. Other that are more ductile in nature would malform in plastic deformation before point of fracture. Something like glass has Mega Pascal of 33, depending on the glass variety and so on, while something like diamond having 2800 MPa, which still loses to multiple other materials, like graphene at 130 000 MPa.

How does all this come together with our topic? Let’s take the Destroyer-Class BETA as an example. It has a shield on top of it that is said to be Mohs 15 in hardness. That is to say, it is harder than diamond.  To follow the rule of thumb, this material then should be relatively easy to shatter, especially with the large surface area it has. However, as the BETA are biological mining machines, and the fact that their shield’s can withstand considerable stress before penetration, saying that it is Mohs 15 does not actually mean anything. It’s the same with any other fantasy sword or the like that gets called harder than anything else. It it to give an idea of a tough, unbreakable object, which is rather far from reality, all things considered. But Mohs scale is simple and easy and doesn’t require studying. Saying that something is harder than diamond is enough to give a certain mental image.

What the Destroyer-Class BETA has, and all those other fantasy things, is high toughness and resilience to deformation. A sword good sword should be able to bend itself and conform to stress without breaking, something that Japanese sword don’t actually do that well because they were made hard. They were probably the hardest sword made, and thus far more brittle than swords that conformed and bent. The hardness contributes to the sharpness without a doubt, but sharpness alone can’t win a fight. Skill aside, sword’s shape, material, balance and toughness are all factors. Katana being so hard, materials like bone could dull them fast. The idea of a sword being samurai’s soul is gross exaggeration, as the katana was the least used weapon during wars over spears and bows, and were discarded if a better sword was in vicinity. Later on you got guns that made close combat weapons largely obsolete. Japanese swords are most likely the most romanticized swords  there are, mostly thanks to movies and comics, but there are sources that put things right.

With shields or general tools, you do not want it to be hardest. You do not want a hammer shattering into your eyes or shield breaking down when an enemy hits it. With shields, you want it to malform and take the impact’s force instead of breaking it and allowing the opponent to advance. The worst idea you can have is shattering armouring or shield.

In giant robot series, it’s not uncommon to see armouring shattering like it was made of bricks or glass. It’s much easier to understand and is more dramatic, but a good armour doesn’t shatter. At best, it’s ripped apart into shreds under massive power. After all, most metals can be chipped like wood with proper tools, unlike something like diamond.

All in all, this was a very long and convoluted way to that hardness is almost a fetish in popular culture and is far too often depicted in a very uneducated manner, especially when Mohs scale is mentioned. But hey, all of that is fiction. Let’s just say this sword is Mohs 25 and has intrinsic tensile strength 500 Giga Pascals and tell it’s made of bullshittium and all would be well.

The thing is, in the end, that you can’t have a material that’s soft and hard at the same time, in general sense. A diamond like material can’t elongate itself and will experience fracturing instead. As such, in a case of Destroyer-Class BETA example, without any further information we can assume that the Mohs 15 hardness of indicative of other material strengths, making its shield very brittle. You don’t want your shuffle to be shatter the first time you hit a stone, you want it to be able to take the force from the impact. Of course, in-fiction it’s hard to penetrate with any weapon, where the whole deal with bullshittium steps in again.

Hard fiction often tends to step around these issues most of the time, as there are things like flexural strength and multiple others when it comes to material sciences, and simply relies on general terms and points of comparisons. General fiction on the other hand will simply play it safe and pull a diamond from its pocket and tell that this shit is hard, and that’s all you need to know.

Now let’s end this post with some great machining in slow motions.


“Almost sexual, isn’t it Smithers?”

Plane Elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle was designed to be successor to the F-4. As such, the F-15 needed to be an all-weather, high manoeuvrable fighter that would keep the US Air Force at the top in air superiority. The F-15 had a legacy to stand up to.

F-15A made its first flight in 1972, and two years later the first USAF F-15B Eagle was delivered for service. Early 1976 saw the first front-line combat squadron delivery, and things carried on from there. However, the F-15’s first fight was not with USAF, but with exporter Israel who shot down four Syrian MiG-21s in June 1977.

The F-15 is probably fighter with the best combat record, with 100.5 victories over zero losses. This record is mostly due to the fighter’s maneuverability combined with high acceleration, work range, advanced avionics and range of weapons.

With two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100 turbofans that allow 11 340kg of afterburner thrust, the F-15 is a nimble and relatively low profile fighter with maximum take-off weight at 25 402kg, achieving maximum speed of 2 655km/h rather easily. Mainly armed with the N61A1 20mm Vulcan cannon in the fuselage, the F-15 can carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs and loads of other options up to 7 267kg ranging from rockets, missiles and bombs with its five hardpoints. With a range of 966km and ceiling of 19.2km that can be climbed in 15.25km/s, the F-15 was extremely well equipped.

It also helped that the F-15 had a low wing load and with the low weight-to-thrust ratio, the fighter is capable of doing sharp turns without losing airspeed. Another thing that helped was that the D-15’s avionics were superb for their time and are still serviceable. HUD on the windscreen displayed all necessary information and was visible in any light conditions. Due to its position, the fighter had no need to look down to the instruments for additional information. The radar that would provide the information was a versatile pulse-Doppler radar capable of doing pretty much any sort of tracking the fighter needs. The electronic warfare with the F-15 provided both threat warning as well as automatic countermeasures against selected threats.

The F-15 was initially a single-seat fighter with a TF-15 as the twin-seat variant, and these designations were changed to F-15A and F-15B after the first flight. In 1978, single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered production. Furthermore, F-15 Multistage Improvement Programme was enacted in early 1983, with first F-15Cs produced in 1985. Upgrades included a new central computer for new versions of AIM-7, AIM-9 and AIM-120A missiles, and expanded radar functions. Existing Eagles were retrofitted with these improvements, unifying the fleet as a whole.

During the Gulf War, the F-15 Eagles were the deadliest thing in the air. When Operation Desert Shield was put into action, U.S. Central Command deployed F-15C/D Eagles into air within hours, and forty-eight Eagles made the longest fighter deployment in history between 14-17 hours of nonstop flight from Langley to Dhahran. When the situation went from defence to offence to remove Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, the air was effectively dominated by Colonel Richard Parsons’ 58th Tactical Squadron The Gorrillas, which were running on Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 low-bypass turbofans at this point, further pushing the fighter’s speed. On the first night of the war, USAF F-15s kept shooting down numerous MiGs, including MiG-29 Fulcrums. It bears to repeat; during all of Gulf War’s operations, F-15 simply dominated the air.

The F-15 saw an upgraded version with F-15E Strike Eagle. The F-15E was envisioned to be a replacement to F-111 Aardvark and to support the existing F-15. To oppose the F-15 role as air superiority fighter, the F-15E was a ground attacker. Its basic airframe is the same with internals changed for what is essentially a multi-role fighter. It can fight its way into enemy lines, bombs its target and fight its way back. Just like how the F-15 has been imported, the F-15E has seen exported by the different countries.

It would seem that the story of F-15 is about to end. In 2015, the F-15C faces cuts or retirement due to sequestration, and the willingness to push the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II as its successor. It is proposed that the F-15C fleet would remain at 51 aircraft even with the introduction of the aforementioned advanced fighters. Here’s a list what F-15 might need to go through in order to be completely viable in the future.

In Muv-Luv, the F-15 is dubbed the strongest 2nd generation TSF due to its performance and track record.

The initial need for superior TSF to fight the BETA comes from the failure of Operation Palaiologos, where NATO and Warsaw Pact tried to attack the Minks Hive, but after numerous attempts at capturing it during the following months, the BETA amassed a counter attack after Soviet’s failed 43rd Tactical Armoured Division’s failure to assault the Hive, leading both NATO’s and Warsaw Pact’s lines to be completely broken and allowing the BETA to advance further into Europe. The combat data and Volk Data gathered from this didn’t just launch the F-15 series, but also the Rafale and EF-2000.

The US department saw that the largest threat to the TSFs was the Laser-class, as over half of the units were lost to their fire. Increasing armour would not be an option, as the rest of the strains would simply destroy the units if they were heavier. Mobility and manoeuvrability   became the goals of the new TSF-X project as opposed to F-4’s armour. The F-15 mirrors its real world counterpart in having great weight-to-thrust ratio, advanced avionics and pioneered Operation by Wire further. It’s build is simple with optional hardpoints or weapon bays allows it to care spare ammo magazines or CIWS-1As in Blade Sheaths.

Unlike the real world counterpart, TSF F-15A entered service in 1984, which was rushed out rather than wait for the technology to mature. Only few years later the F-15 series saw its proper performance with upgraded fuel cells and Jump Unit engines, and upgraded avionics with F-15C. It wouldn’t take much to assume all existing F-15s went through these upgrades, much like how they did in real life.

Japan has its own F-15 variant in the F-15J, or Type-89 Kagerou. On the outside, nothing changed, but under the hood, the Kagerou saw large changes in order to accommodate Japan’s close combat doctrine.

F-15E on the other hand essentially an upgrade to F-15C instead a supplementing fighter. F-15E had completely overhauled insides, meaning that it looks the same from the outside, but out-performs its previous variants to the point of standing up to a Type-94 Shiranui without any problems.

Generally speaking, F-15s have basic armaments that all TSFs carry in their respective armies during respective time periods. This includes the Type-74 PB Blade for the Japanese variant. Outside the F-15 ACTV Active Eagle, all F-15 variants share the same basic outer frame (i.e. they all share the same sprites and CG resources), and as such in this comparison will use TSF F-15E Strike Eagle and base F-15 Eagle fighter. If we ever see the base F-15, then I’ll just rework this one.

Let’s get to the meat. You’re not here to read my ramblings on fighter history, you’re here for the design comparison.

 

F-15 EAgle
And the image board variant as per usual. We’re starting to run out of these. Click for larger size

The F-15 seems to be a repetition of the Tomcat in terms of what was lifted from the fighter itself is lacking. There are no real soft and curved shapes like on the fighter’s back, as most of the shapes in the torso and shoulders are straight. The nozzles on the shoulders would’ve been an excellent spot to curve things up a bit, but straight lines were used to make a hexagon casing. You can see that they have a slight slope to them on the back-view image, but most of the time it’s almost like they just straightened it out.

The torso really is a missed opportunity, as nothing has been lifted from the fighter itself. It is largely original, and the only thing that remotely resembles anything from the fighter are those round bits near the shoulder joints. Their general position looks like that of the fans in the intakes, relative to the head if it was the cockpit.

The arms have a softer look to them, but re really just straight lines. They’re generic TSF arms with no real elements from the fighter. Just like the legs, they’re more or less inspired by the fighter in some ways. The strangest bit out of them all is the vaguely hourglass shaped knees under the kneeguards. Unlike the sideskirt armour that’s just the top of the intake, the knees have no place in the fighter. Most likely they were done for the sake of the design.

Speaking of the legs, they display simplicity the fighter also carries. There’s nothing out-of-place or special about them. Just straightforward legs with no bells and whistles. The F-15 is supposed to be no-bullshit design after all, so maybe this sort of slightly angular simplistic look is supposed to drive that idea in. And of course, you have the fighter’s nose as the ischium, as per usual.

However, the must unusual thing about this is the Jump Units. They’re run-of-the-mill most of the time, but the nozzles it has looks like they’re from a pre-production F-15 STOL/MTD that has 2D nozzles. The usual nozzles are round, but these are flat. This would’ve been a really nice spot to use further from the base F-15, especially with the round shapes, but no dice.

There’s nothing much else to say. It’s the idea and role that carried over the real life F-15 rather than its sleek and aggressive shapes. This TSF just went lanky instead of those. It would seem that America’s TSFs are governed by straight lines most of the time and it shows. Maybe I’ll change to Japanese TSFs next time and go over how Mitsubishi F-2 served as a sort of inspiration for XJF-01a Shiranui 2nd Phase 2.