Simulated Gambling?

EA and loot boxes sure opened a whole Pandora’s Box. The video and computer game industry has been dabbling on the edge with parental and gamble-help groups, but it was more or less time for the whole thing  to blow up at someone. While all this has become more or less mainstream in the current market, and people putting most blame to smart phone games’ microtransactions, the whole thing does lead back to EA in the first place.

To make long story short, EA implemented a virtual collectible card system in UEFA Championship League 2007, which replicated a real life CCG. The system was essential, as you got your characters via this system. It was all virtual at this point, as there was no need to exchange real money for these cards. This system was then later implemented into FIFA, when their UEFA license was up. Andrew Wilson implemented the same system into FIFA 2009: Ultimate Team, with the player now able to pay for these cards with real money. This is where it turned into gambling, as now it was necessary for the player to pay money for further progression, but that progression was up to chance. Chance that EA completely controlled in their closed system, where they could rig the game however way they saw fit. Of course, none of these cards had any value outside the game itself. Skill Up has a more complete history on this model he called Wilson lootbox, and it’s a highly recommended watch. Pay-2-Win model is more or less here to stay.

The game industry listens to what sells, just like any other. Numbers and data is what brings in the hard earned cash. On the occasion, a publisher puts outs a prestige game, a trophy piece, something they can call art. The rest, on the other hand, are all about the hard cash. Just like Hollywood in many ways, with the Marvel movies being Call of Duty of cinema. Sure, it’s fun to a lot of people and makes a lot of money, but is creatively bankrupt and doesn’t stand much closer inspection. It’s not hard to see the game industry wanting to grab whatever further profit they could, just like any other entertainment industry.

Hence, the expansion of Pay-2-Win model spreading far and wide. Sure, it’s easier to pay some buck or two for an in-game item, when the game is free. However, predatory tactics and abusing consumer weaknesses is part of the industry here, as these games more or less stifle your progression without additional purchases, sometimes to a point that you simply can’t proceed further due to in-game stats being against you. Few bucks here and there does stack up quickly, and a buck a day is already thirty bucks a month. With the occasional sales, you suddenly find yourself having paid more than fifty, or if you’re one of those whales these systems abuse, hundreds if not thousands.

The industry regulated itself according to the profits gained, and the statistics gained from various games have allowed the companies to find a sweet spot with the freemium, Pay-2-Win model.

This sort of regulation is lacking, as it completely ignores the consumer. Chris Lee, a Hawaii rep. has proposed a legislation to curb down predatory gaming practices. US is not the only one to take notice of the landslide Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)  has caused, as French senator Jérôme Durain has also issued a letter to the French online gambling regulator ARJEL, which addresses some key-note, like the lack of transparency in drop-rates. PEGI itself has already taken stance on virtual gambling, where a game with such elements automatically getting 12 as age rating, and can go easily up two 18. Pokémon games dropped their Game Corner due to change in this stance around 2006, as that would’ve meant the age rating would’ve shot upwards, limiting their main consumer base.

However, PEGI doesn’t regard loot boxes themselves as form of gambling as such, neither does ESBR. This may change in the future, as Belgium has taken a stance already on loot boxes being gambling due to mix of money  and addiction. Geens notes that the change he drives will take some time, as he needs to go through the rest of Europe in order to achieve his goal. If the issue is taken to larger European Union, and is being backed by a number of countries, things may get hot for game developers and publisher who rely on microtransactions and loot boxes.

There has already been some rippling effects. EA’s stock took a dive after the Battlefront II (2017) managed to garner all this negative attention, with the snowballing effect. While this probably won’t effect much, it is still a notable change. PUBG developers also have stated that they would not add anything that would affect the gameplay in terms of microtransactions or loot boxes. Bungie’s Destiny 2  and numerous other games have been under more specific scrutiny about their systems of progression, with Bungie even cancelling a stream to discuss their experience scaling fiasco.

The direction we’re going with video games regarding gambling is a two-bladed sword at best. One one hand, the industry has taken advantage of the weaker section of the their consumer base. Those who can’t handle themselves yet or understand the monetary values they’re putting into microtransactions and loo boxes have had it easy. Perhaps making payments has been streamlined a bit too much, with reports of kids spending thousands of dollars of their parents money being less than uncommon. While it is up to the parents to oversee their children, we should also look into the design of things.

On the flip side, more governmental control over any industry does lead to over-control easier. Furthermore, actual virtual gambling games may suffer from this for being put into a same slot, if legislation is not accurate enough in its description, or includes simulated gambling that does not include real life money. While mahjong simulations have rarely, if ever, managed to reach Western shores, games may seem these simulated gambling elements removed in favour of lower age ratings, or in worst cases, of they somehow become completely unacceptable. It also makes it so much more easier to put further restrictions on other aspects of games even further regarding whatever, be it violence or depictions of humans. German rules are already harsh, and it would be discouraging to see any similar legislation spreading about.

It’s a thin line the game industry is threading on, but as they say, The greedy has a shitty end.

 

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Mega Man 11

While I’m typing this, Capcom’s own 30th Anniversary stream is running on Twitch. I, and the steamers acknwledge that this is a bit early, but there’s really no better time to do this. I’m looking at this stream and thinking to myself Is this how we want to see it being celebrated? Without a doubt, this era of social media has made it easier for fans to gather and exchange ideas and experiences. Well, as well such can be realised in a fast paced Twitch discussion, where nobody really reads anyone’s comments either way. Nevertheless, here we are, watching four people in a brick studio with, surrounded with Mega Man merch.  Seeing Kazuhiro Tsuchiya taking the stage uplifts the whole deal, especially when he joined with another members of Capcom Japan’s staff to talk about Mega Man X particularly as an evolutionary step in the series.

A short, rather hammy video of the franchise’s history ends with the announcement of Mega Man 11.

 

This is the meat of the show; the developers talking about their own experience and work with the franchise with the emphasize moving to Mega Man 11  and how it’s been handled becoming the main bulk of the stream. There are a lot of good tidbits, like how different styles were tried out, but the constant use of nostalgia for pixels was deemed to have taken too far already. Hence, why the aim is to use 3D without creating 3D space. Most modern 2D action games want to obscure the ground somehow, either by adding grass to it or make it seem like it’s somehow a natural part of the scenery or the like. A 2D action game is by its nature rather abstract to begin with, as you already lost a whole wall and everything’s sorta cut into two dimensions. With titles like Mega Man, there is no reason to even remotely try to make things work realistically. Video games have always had the edge of showcasing abstract stages and nobody questions their sensibility, because the design is showcased as a part of a game and its challenge. This repeats everywhere, even in the most realistic game, where challenges are laid out by design where there should be none.

That said, everything gets a new lick of paint. Characters will get a redesign, but nothing major. It’s funny to see the above 30th Anniversary Trailer using an old design rather than the new one, hinting that they’re not putting their faith in the new design completely.

Is this a bad re-design? No, it’s not. Mega Man has always seen redesigns and tweaks with each new game when a new pair of hands have been given the task to bring the Blue Bomber back to life in visual terms. Rockman Memories even jokes about this by asking if Mega Man and Roll have grown up.

Roll’s redesign for Battle & Chase (rightmost Roll) was based on Sally the Witch‘s dress with additional sleeves and different coloured buttons on the bosom

The new design is sleeker with less mass on the arms and legs for sure. The blues have changed the hue a bit, but that’s nothing new. The proportions are less deformed, and follow more what a modern child heroes seem to have. While Mega Man was originally supposed to have a Super Deformed look, that was dropped rather fast due to technical limitations. Nevertheless, the proportions stuck the longest time, until Mega Man X 8 saw a complete cast-wide redesign and made everybody lanky and thin. There is something missing in Mega Man, if the character’s proportions are more “correct.”

While a new design was to be expected, it is disappointing to see the Smash Bros version having its influences in this one. The calves and the odd lines running down from shoulder to chest, connecting to the seams on the sides are something that’s rather unique to the Smash Mega Man, though overall that’s just playing with the winds of current taste in aesthetics. Can’t really say I like it, but here they make sense, assuming these are clothing seams. The few slots on his left arm and calves are additional details carried over from the back of his helmet, but the gloves he has are full-on Hitoshi Ariga. Even the neck padding, something that got carried over from various designs, is present.

The concept of Mega Man changing physically when using a new weapon is nothing new in itself. Supposedly, the square on his forehead was to change with weapon choice, but technical limitations prevented that.

The changes are limited to the head and arm while the rest of the body stays the same. The X-Series played with armours, while Legends and Battle Network furthered physical changes. This is a good medium form, renewing old with something new all the while keeping it recognisable. When doings something new, they seemed to have stumbled upon an old idea.

Cute as a button

Roll’s modern design fits her well. It follows the usual red dress idea, but the new cuts and zipper line, combined with a removable hood, does make her feel a lore more fresh. She looks a bit sharper, though the shoes could’ve used few more iterations. Currently they remind a bit too much Sonic’s shoes.

Rush and Beat got redesigned as well, but what they got was more modern touch-ups than anything else. We’ll get to these two whenever we them in motion.

In many ways, this Mega Man is a composition of many past designs in one. Perhaps What makes the “classic” Mega Man we see above next to the new one more iconic is nostalgia. Maybe it’s the fact that the lines are thicker and and more cartoon like. Detailing is fine, but what use are details if they’re just additional lines? Less is often more, and perhaps that’s why most modern redesigns of classic characters tend to go awry, because they really don’t know how to keep their hands off. One line too much can, often will, ruin otherwise perfect design.

 

You can stop at step two. Jesus Christ please stop at step two

 

Updating the build-in obsolescence

Sometimes I come across news that just feel stupid. Logitech announced that they will shut down all services for their Harmony Link, essentially bricking the device with an update. Why? Well, they’re out of certificate on technology that’s inside the lil’ smart device remote. This of course caused rather serious backlash on the usual Internet forums, to which Logitech responded that they’ll replace the obsoleted devices to a new one.

This is, sadly, par for the course in modern era. Licenses and certificates from every which way is being implemented in devices that are not though to last. Devices are not thought to last at all, with some companies expecting you to replace your phone yearly. Apple, for example, optimises all their latest updates to their newest models, the old ones be damned, meaning the old hardware gets sub-optimal OS update, which will cause things to slow down and requires more numbers to be crunched. Apple pulled back one of their iOS updates after they released it, as it made older systems inoperable due to inability to make phone calls or unresponsive fingerprint sensors.

Back in the day, obsolescence was designed in the product from the get go. Some film companies even wanted VCRs to wipe tapes slightly each time they were played. This meant, that after certain number of watches, the tape would be blank and the consumer would be forced to buy a new copy of the movie. Imagine if a DVD or Blu-Ray discs and their players would’ve been built so that after certain amount of watches, the player’s laser would burn a mark that would prevent any further playbacks. Apple’s products are full of planned obsolescence from hardware to software, with the customer being completely dependent on the company’s services when it comes to maintenance and repair.

While bricking updates are exactly nothing new, they’ve become more and more common at a steady pace. It has not been profitable to design and manufacture products that would last anymore. We have the technology to make phones and whatnot last a solid decade, but this would mean the companies wouldn’t get that steady stream of high revenue yearly. This may sound overtly dramatic or even anti-corporate, but this is more or less personal experience with numerous companies. The discussions I’ve had with professional from the industry who have worked in different fields of productions, from the cases to the software, all have said the same thing; it’s cheap. The outer shells cost barely anything to tool, the electronics manufactured and fabricated at a very low price in countries that don’t care about certain legislation issues, assembly is done in an area where pay is extremely low and people are prevented from doing suicides via nets. Shipping per unit costs absolutely jack shit, coding is done to drive the latest things up and probably is the second most costly bit after advertisement. It is the name that drives the price up. Hell, the lack of earphone jack and other physical properties in more modern phones nowadays is to drive the production price down while the sales price is jacked up.

The only thing that ultimately costs is the brand. iPhone X costs a thousand bucks to buy, and it has nothing to justify its price outside the Apple logo and branding. The profit margin is extraordinarily high. I won’t even try to calculate the production price, but a good guess would be that the production costs are hundreds times less than the final sales price. But hey, if people will pay for it, then that’s the rule of the market.

That veered a bit off the topic, but it’s relevant. The core problem in updated obsolescence is that it will be everywhere. Smart homes are not all that common nowadays, but the more we will have such devices on our homes, from freezers and microwaves to simple light switches. If any of these devices use similarly certified technology that has been essentially licensed from outside, they will face a kill-update. All these smart devices will contain programs and services, which the companies see as the main sales. From a company’s point of view, they’re not really selling you an item, but the service the item will enable. In this sense, the consumer is purchasing a long lasting license to their service via this device. From the customer’s point of view, they’re paying for a device that enables a function, like the smart device control with Logitech’s Harmony Link.

This disparity is clear in gaming as well, where companies and some consumers argue that nobody is purchasing anything anymore. Rather, you are subscribing to a service with one-time payment. However, nobody can come to your home and tell disable your games. Unless you’re using Steam.

If we’re to believe this tight device cycle will stay for the foreseeable future, it will also cause another issue to build up. Apple alone is responsible for a huge pileup of e-waste, and if we count all other electronics companies with similar pace of new product introduction, we’re getting large quantities of products that will not last long. Africa probably feels the brute of the hit from this, with tons of e-waste being dumped in Ghana’s landfills.

The first step to fight this cycle would be sustainable development and design. However, the core principle of sustainable design is against most corporate interests, as it dictates that a product should be designed to last as long as possible. However, a phone that would last a decade would not be as profitable compared to a phone that gets the shaft after two years.

Logitech’s response to the outcry of their kill-update isn’t any solution. The Harmony Link will become obsoleted not because the devices have broken, but because the company chooses to terminate its function. The action is not a solution, but a pathetic way to weasel out of it. This is not sustainable design.

I’m not an Earth hugging hippie by any stretch of the imagination you may get from this post, but sustainable development and design are two key factors that need to become more relevant as the time goes by. We only got one Earth, and seeing we’re not getting off this world any time soon, we should take better care of it.

Different take on Customer: few centimeters of millimeter thickness

Every hundred posts on this blog I turn things around and take a good look at the customers and take the providers’ point of view. Y’know, for a change. There 809 posts on this blog currently, including this one,  so I’m slightly over the mark point. Nothing unusual, I sort of stopped following how many posts I have after the second hundred was fulfilled. Kinda laughable.

In recent weeks I’ve been wondering how little people care about others’ work. Without a doubt we care about the work our friends and close ones do, and tend to go our way out to agree that certain jobs are just undervalued and these workers get criminally low wages. Nothing new under the sun, we’re a selfish lot.

I’ve come across this more than once, especially from people who consider their job to be of utmost importance. The people at high places, if you will. Some who consider their work to be culturally significant to the point that society could not function, or that their contribution to how healthcare should be run (rather than working in healthcare itself) makes them somehow above some rotting welder.

Welder, who in the end, is responsible for your every day safety in cars, elevators, staircases and even to you home piping and certain structures. Or the cleaner who has to go through every nook and cranny when you leave the office and cleans your desk and windows, the same cleaner who has to deal with your shit you leave in the hallway. Or any other people who build and design the stuff you use every day and never give a thought about. Why should you, in the end? You never see them, you rarely interact with any of them. Perhaps it is this lack of contact and having no real information how terribly awful conditions some work places have, comparatively speaking. You’ll curse whoever it is who is responsible of taking care of your water running and keeping it clean, yet do we ever give any appreciation.

That is not to say all invisible jobs are out of the way. Cleaners are an example of people who we do see, but do we even say hello to them or wish them a good day? Small gestures like this do matter and make people feel worthwhile.

As astonishing it may sound, but there are so many people who don’t know how to clean. While having a coffee break, I had a chance to listen an old veteran giving a lesson to few new aspiring professional members of the cleaning industry. An extensive knowledge on chemicals is required and how they react not only with each other, but with oh so many materials that’s it not even fun. Especially when the Western standards of cleanliness are at their historical high. That, and the fact everybody seems to wait the work be done in record time without cutting any corners, really should make anyone appreciate these poor bastards a bit more. A documentary film Bread and Roses gives some insight how little cleaners are valued, and while it does concentrate on the situation in change of the millennia Los Angeles, things aren’t much brighter elsewhere.

But the customer is always right and providers should fulfill the customer demands. Well, until the provider points out how stupid the customer is and how he is unwilling to pay enough for the work and materials required, or demands a work that could not be done with the equipment and facilities at hand. And of course, they just insist on at least trying, for them. Anecdote be damned, but again a good example would be a random customer who brought his supposedly aluminium built oil base from his Volvo. The very moment he produced it in front of our staff, we could say it could not be done. The shine and colour was not that of aluminium and we would only fuck it further, if we tried fixing it. I don’t know what the hell it was, but it was magnetised alloy for sure. Working on a material you have no idea what it is composed of most likely will ruin the piece, and naturally said he was well aware of this. Well, when he came back and we showed how his piece had gone to hell thanks to the metal structure collapsing under normal TIG welding, he went on the usual customer rant on ruining what was his.

Again, how could have he known? Nobody gives a damn about what their furniture or cars are made of, as long as they’re sturdy, safe and look good enough. Damned be any worthwhile values. That is a customer’s right of course, and providers can bamboozle customers as much as they want. An informed customer wouldn’t let that happen, but who gives a damn if we’re screwed over little if we seemingly get what we want.

I had a series of posts some time ago on how we really should start appreciating each other’s works a whole lot more. We could go in a circle how one field of profession requires another set of multiple fields to exist right beside it, but that’s rather useless. Anyone with some brain cells left should already know that one man can’t do everything. The simple fact that the screen you’re reading this from requires multiple production lines to produce the plastics, glass, electronics, metals, someone to make the moulds, producing the pieces, someone to design it, someone to test build it and so on and so on.

All this goes for all customers. We’re all woefully ignorant on other fields. Sometimes out of simply not knowing they exist, or just don’t give a damn about them. However, just remember this little bit next time you think you’re undervalued; your life hangs on few centimeters of welding of few millimeters thick each day in multiple occasions, and nobody around you who is dependent on those same small seams never even realise these welding exist in the first place. You’re blindly trusting that the man who never gets thanks from anyone else but his boss, if even then, to do a job enough to keep you safe.

And this guy was probably drunk or had a terrible headache from night long drinking. Makes you hope he didn’t fuck up. Better not look at the seams at all, on the second thought.

Games need to fit their own culture, not to be fitted into another

What are the most generic girls’ games you can think of? The term itself may not get much use nowadays, but it was all the hotness during the 1990’s and even in the 2000’s. It used to baffle me back in the day, much like edutainment did.  Girls’ games never had a good reputation to speak of and had a tendency to be lacklustre at best, something you’d find in a bargain bin, or at a stupidly high price because of their unique place among games like Duke Nukem 3D or Quake.

The sort of games we most often associate with girls’ games are the Barbie games, dress-up titles or non-violent adventure games like Chop Suey. You have the occasional 2D action game that concentrates on puzzles rather than mechanical skills, like Mary-Kate and Ashley: Get a Clue for the Game Boy Colour. It’s not uncommon to see a girls’ franchises to be adopted into games, just like the opposite is true for boys’ franchises. With boys being historically the larger consumers base for video and computer games, girls’ games usually got shafted.

The question whether or not sport games fall into either slot has never been raised as such, but maybe it’s a moot point to begin with. I used to have a discussion whether or not NHL games were neutral in their audience with few friends. One of them was adamant that the userbase of any sports game didn’t matter itself, as the games were solely based on real world sports and reflected it. The other argued that because the NHL titles didn’t include National Women’s Hockey League, and the main set of players were boys and men, the game was a boys’ game. The question I always posed was naturally Why didn’t they include NWHL into NHL games? The answer I got was the women didn’t buy NHL all that much.

Considering Super Mario Bros. seemed to be the game that had most equal split in a study done with Finnish students around 1999, the idea of needing your playable character to be the same sex or gender as the player does seem largely unnecessary. Mariosofia (2002) has a chart on the rest of the titles on page 119. The discussion about women needing more representation in video games thus seem to be a bit moot, as the character itself is often a blank state outside RPGs. This is an act of playing after all, and the avatar the player controls is merely an extension of the player; the true actor is the player, not the avatar.

Despite this, the idea of girls’ games stuck around. While in reality it was more than enough to make competent games that bring in excellent gameplay and content, these specific games got separated from the bunch and fitted into the framework of girls’ play culture. This sort of framework fitting doesn’t exactly fit all that right, because this can lead into games that look like something girls might want to play on the surface, but are not anything of interest. Part of this is because of the aforementioned lacking gamplay, and other is that the industry barely has any idea what they are to do with girls’ games. The answer of course is not to do any and concentrate on making good games. We can’t force a readily set media and culture to fit another.

That is not to say games push a certain section out. Electronic games, like any other play-related medium, expects competency from the consumer. It’s the only kind of medium where you can not advance without playing, much like a child’s play like Cop and Robber can’t advance if you don’t play your part actively.

There are also variety of games that generally can fit girls’ play culture despite not being designed around that, at least not initially. The Sims is a virtual doll house. Will Wright even described it as such after losing his home in 1991. Doll houses are associated with girls’ plays far more than with boys, though castle sets and such are essentially the exact same thing, just with a different theme.  Castle Grayskull is essentially a doll house just any Barbie Dreamhouse is. Because the The Sims allows choice what the player can do and with what sort of characters, it avoids the girls/boys issue. It’s not exactly a continuation of either play cultures per se, despite taking notions from both, but it is fully part of electronic game culture.

One thing that defines electronic games as a whole is a set of rules and the play they require. This is shared with all play cultures across the broad and nobody wants to deviate from this. While most of the competitive rules have been inherited what are generally seen as boys’ sports and plays, majority of these sports and plays have their girl equivalent or an outright version. In electronic gaming the differences dissipate even further if we concentrate on what the game culture is in itself. Perhaps a truly neutral game, if you will, is something like a Super Mario title, where the main character can be whatever sort of fellow who appeals across the board and the game content, and the world for the matter, does not weight to any other direction but to the game’s own visual design. Mario titles do not ooze masculinity or femininity. You can argue however much you want about the need to save the Princess, but that always gets tossed on the sideways because that is only a reason for the adventure itself. Like in any play, the act of playing is more important than finishing the play. Hell, the game’s play and its flow should be enough to warrant player wanting to continue.

Games are still a young medium, relatively speaking. Despite this, certain certainties have been solidified already. One of them is the slow dismissal of unnecessary divisions. While boys’ and girls’ games will always exist in terms of targeted market, the genres themselves seem to have gone underground. It would seem the winning formula is to allow the players to step into world of electronic games rather than trying it the other way around. Games are, after all, about the freedom of play and there exists more games than anyone of us knows. We just need to find the ones we like the most rather than try fitting existing ones into a framework we’d like to see them in.

Of course, there is an issue of game culture being a sub-culture under the overall culture, but that’s another post altogether.

Death of a World

I have been enjoying reading as of late. Not Visual Novels mind you, but books. I used to spend lot of time with books and used the library quite often, but nowadays I feel that I’d rather than something of my own in my hands, so I can do whatever I please with it. A creased page or cover (one of the many reasons I prefer hardcover) won’t bother when it’s fixed properly, something I couldn’t do to a loaned booked. While my bookshelf has its share of books outside comics, guides and other random assortments, I do have a wish to give something new a proper shot. This seems to be turning into a more personal post than intended, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing once in a while.

After some discussion with a book reviewer I across the pond I am familiar with, she came to a conclusion that I should go outside my field of preference, at least for a duration of few titles, and give Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books a go. I come to these things late, as usual. I can’t say I like Pratchett’s works, though the opposite is true as well. I simply have no relationship with Discworld to speak of, less anything to Pratchett himself. How I approach his works, or anyone else’s for the matter, is through neglect of the author. Pratchett doesn’t matter when it comes to his work, the works are enough on themselves. Just as I discourage idol worship with game developers, I extend this to directors, actors and writers. Though I must admit writers do gain a bit more respect from my part on how solitary their work is, but even then the best writers work with their editors or professionals in the field to build their book’s contents the best possible way. While pretty much all Pratchett fans I know have recommend to start elsewhere than from the beginning, I have always preferred to do so. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, for better or worse, shall serve my entry to the Discworld.

World that has, for all intents and purposes, died with its author.

Pratchett’s daughter has no intention of continuing his father’s work in any way or form. Licensing existing works are another thing altogether, but no new stories are to be written. All this seems a terrible waste. Discworld has been such an influence that even someone like me, who has never opened a book in the series, knows something about the disc-shaped world through cultural osmosis. Things like the world sitting on top of four elephants (one of which has to lift his leg to allow the sun to continue its cycle due to how complex it is), which sit atop A’Tuin, a giant turtle that is swimming across the space. The world has its own rules and magic is much a thing as anything, and bananas don’t grow on trees.

It is of course understandable. A lifework like Discworld garners respect on its own and expectations for each entry were astronomical, from an outsider’s view. Sales numbers probably talk for themselves when it comes to the success and popularity of the Discworld novels, though this would where the argument that it has succeeded because the series just has been that good steps in (and would not be applied elsewhere due to dislike.) Pratchett probably had incredible load on his back with each entry to meet up with the expectations and (apparent) level of quality of his works in general, and we could assume that only he could write what many would consider a true Discworld novel. This, of course, would be bull, as the probability says there is a writer who could match his level and could deliver a proper Discworld title, perhaps even better. It would be a tall order and difficult any way you’d look at it, especially considering how harshly fans of any franchise  with singular creator treat outsiders. Pratchett as a creator will probably stay a a unique writer in the history fantasy novels, but all in all he isn’t the only one, nor he will be the last one of his caliber. It’s largely a matter of time before his niche is fulfilled, though that may not be anytime soon.

Whether or not a world should be laid to rest with its author is a debatable subject with no one true answer. Star Wars, for example, did find better stories when it was outside Lucas’ hands, though Disney’s run with the franchise has left me a cold turkey. Similarly, while the original Star Trek is still a superb show, it was other writers like D.C. Fontana who made Trek more what it became than Roddenberry himself in the end. Then again, Roddenberry and Lucas were able to create worlds, but not write in them very well. That didn’t seem to be the case with Pratchett.

To take this into direction games, just to keep things more in-line with the blog’s tone, using a game’s main director as a comparison point would do. Much like people expect writers to deliver great novels after another, a star director is expected to deliver high-quality games. The most recent example of a complete outsider beating the original creators at their own game would be Sonic Mania, which some have argued to be the best 2D Sonic to date, though I’d give it few years to set in before supporting or opposing such a claim. Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime is another example, where a third-party beat the original creators, and the latest Metroid II remake shows further how Nintendo does not understand the franchise.

Perhaps it would be better the leave Discworld at it is as a monument to its creator after all.

I may come late to popular things, but if the two first novels manage to caught my fancy, there are forty-five other books for me to read. I can understand my friend never wanting to finish the last book in the series, as then she would have to face that there is anywhere to go afterwards. She may read a page or two per year, but even that pace would slow down as she reads on. Indeed, it is a sad thing to see something you love coming to an end.

Music of the Month; Captain Blood


So, let’s take it from the top

I do think these Monthly Musics have become too formulaic, yes. Rather than laying out what’s planned for the month, which still amounts I don’t know yet, I’ll just try to return to the form and write about whatever rather than trying to make an honest to God quality post. But you never do.

The selection of this month’s music isn’t really for anything. While I did say the chosen music would reflect something that’s going to pass on during the months, that’s become less a thing and more a memory. Much like aiming for a theme for the months, because such things never go well in the long run. An occasional special even is alright, but not a constant renovation where there is no need for it.

The original music for the post Top Man’s stage theme from a remixed album, but in the end I decided to switch that up. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned how the Monthly Music started as a sort of carbon copy of Game Soundtrack You Might Don’t Know, but stood apart from that source the very next month. However, in spirit of the original intent of posting video game music you may not know about, I’ve picked a track that’s partially nostalgic for yours truly, partially just kinda out there. Perhaps not really unknown track, seeing Captain Blood‘s opening tends to pop here and there. Then again, it is a version of Ethnicolor by Jean Michel Derre. Honestly, not a bad song. I remember playing this game once or twice at a friend’s place, and it’s very, very strange titles to say the least. Well, at least at the time, nobody had any head how to actually play the damn thing. If you’re interested in a game that uses iconographic communication between different alien species with some flying elements thrown in there, give it a look. It’s an interesting title to say the least, and represents some of the more fascinating titles the European PC gaming had to offer at the time.

Somebody really should write a book about the differences in PC gaming in the 1980’s between Europe, Japan and America.

Remembering all this really makes me laugh at myself. I started playing games on an Atari ST, and now that I look back at things a bit more accurately, we had loads of games with load times and load-in screens going on. All the multi-disc games had those, with Indiana Jones and the last Crusade being a terrible game, yet one that I always wanted to play. Because it’s Indiana Jones dammit. At some point with the NES I got far too used to titles that had no loading times whatsoever. Now, it feels like all games require a patch to install, installing to the HDD, trophy data installation and then something else for whatever reason. Then you get to few minutes of logos before you even get into the main menu. Shows you much consoles have moved away from their roots and have become more and more like computers.

Nostalgia carries only so far, and I do feel that despite all the good memories and things have from our own childhoods, it would serve the future generations better if we wouldn’t force our interest on them.

With all the political bullshit going on left and right, some things will become vessels to messages and intentions. Nothing’s sacred in this, everything’s a fair game. I just wish cartoons for kids would at least be left alone, but seeing how some cartoons are almost made as a political statement from the get-go, it’s no wonder if someone else puts a blatant, direct jab as a joke about something they oppose. It’s disappointing to see some cartoon to have a direct message shoved into it rather build it naturally within the fiction. It’s incredibly easy and direct, but such name dropping takes one out of the story. It’s like pausing a show for a drug PSA.

One of the marks of a great children’s cartoon is when a moral play is embed into the story. Kids aren’t as stupid as people want to make them to be. While He-Man and the Masters of the Universe might get laughs from a modern audience for its end-show lessons, but these were handled extremely well for their time. Furthermore, the moral lesson itself was already embed into the episode itself, making the lesson really more or less a moot point. This, however, did not detract from the quality of the show, even when it had to fight against the remnant anti-violence stance and rules from the 1970’s.

But whatchya gonna do? I just want well written cartoons that I can enjoy with my nephews that don’t shove it to our faces. Let’s wait for few more years before I start watching Gundam with them. That’s the most political this blog mostly gets.