Review: Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods

The approach to this review will not be anything different from any other review I’ve done thus far. No special treatment, no kids gloves on; I will approach this as any product reviewed in this blog thus far. It’s only fair towards you, the readers, and the staff behind the Kickstarter. However, I won’t be reviewing all the KS goods. I’ll be concentrating on the main dish most people probably got through their backing; the Kickstarter physical package, the Codex and the Destroyer Class plush. This will strictly discuss the items themselves, not their translation or such.

Let’s start with the physical package.

This is also the image that was used on Alternative‘s original DVD release. It’s honestly the perfect choice for this

At first appearance, the package seems pretty on-par. Despite using thin cardboard, the appearance isn’t half bad. The decision to put the description and all copyright information to the bottom is an interesting take, as now its reversible to every other direction. This breaks how commercial boxes are designed, which some perfectionists might find jarring, as now the box doesn’t flow well with other software boxes.

However, visuals aren’t all. While the box still feel sturdy in hand, the contents inside are loose. The image above is just before I opened the box, and I could hear and feel the items inside rattling back and forth. This isn’t great to any extent. A box like this should have necessary support inside to keep items in their proper places during transit, as now no matter what sort of stuffing is used around it the items can be damaged. So, let’s open this one up and see what’s inside.

You could fit another booklet in there or something

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see; items rattling around in an oversized box. Because the box is made thinner cardboard, the same some DVDs have around them, it loses most of its structural integrity when opened. I can feel the CDs being lose inside their jewel case, let’s open that one up to see if they’re damaged. The case’s cover is nice choice though, but the back cover should have been revised. Maybe drop the song titles here completely and have them inside in an insert.

Oh. Ooooooohhh…

Luckily, only one of the CDs were loose, but the discs’ printing is not up to quality. While the chosen images are good in themselves, for whatever reason the images are lower resolution than the text, which itself is sharp. The typeface and font chosen for the CDs ends making these look like something printed at home. Furthermore, these discs should have been labelled as numbers, e.g. Muv-Luv Alternative Original Soundtrack Disc 1, not Volume 1. The fact that OST is used on the discs like this, and the fact that there is no kind of information who composed the songs, makes all this feel like a homebrew compilation.

As for the games themselves, the front covers are what you’d expect and look good. Nothing to say about these, but the back covers are another thing. There’s too much text on them. Even when these VNs are long, the descriptions should have been cut in half and with heavier emphasize on images. To use Sweet Home as an example, the flavour text is two whole sentences, being straight to the point. The word homebrew creeps back to my head with this, as things like Minimum Requirements should be on the box. Actually, they’re not seen anywhere on the packaging.

The discs however are rather standard, overall speaking. There’s nothing to mention about them, though I would’ve expected more legal text on all of these. Perhaps printing a monochrome image on the disc similar to âge’s Japanese releases should have been brought on to the table, as its much easier to make them look sharp rather than what might end up looking like a sticker on a disc.

I must mention that the disc I have for Muv-Luv seems to have been damaged somewhere along the way, as it has a strange arc on the underside. Despite this, the disc seems to be readable. There’s also a weird discoloration, as if something had spilled all over it inside. This might be a quality control issue, and I’ll be sure testing this disc further down the line.

The darker wavy line is easy to spot, the lighter arc near not so much., I have no idea what they are and I am slightly worried

The shikishi, a drawn image signed by the author, that came with the box is pretty great. Sumika doing a Drill Milky Punch is nice, even when it’s just a print and not a real thing in itself. The artbook uses similar typeface and font as the CDs, and doesn’t exactly look the greatest. Everything’s printed on a thin, glossy paper that in itself isn’t terrible, but the cover should have been heavier duty. The feeling the book gives is flimsy, plus it creases extremely easily. Corners will get damaged fast in normal use with this paper too. Because of the thinness, the pages are slightly transparent and the images on the other side bleed through. The images and character descriptions are on-point, though the complete lack of illustrator credits anywhere in the codex is a bit disheartening. Seeing the second and last to last pages under the covers are completely blank, these would have been great places to put them on.

Here’s how I solved the rattling the contents: I added two pieces of cardboard on both sides, and a support structure to keep the CD jewel case in place. To be completely honest, the outer box does feel like something you should throw away, as the package overall lacks any sort of premium feel to it. The added cardboard makes it feel more rigid and gives some extra heft. There shouldn’t be any reason for me to do this addition, but as things stand now, I had to. For comparison, here’s how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal laid its contents. Notice the use of sturdier cardboard, how the items are laid and fit perfectly, and the use of supportive thinner cardboard at the bottom of the PS4 case.

 

Well, let’s move unto the second big thing, the long-time Holy Grail of Muv-Luv Alternative source of information translated and recompiled with Lunatic Dawn content; The Codex.

Like some majestic predatory bird

The first impression of the book is nothing short of impressive. I didn’t expect hardcover version of the book, especially considering the number of pages, but first looks can be deceiving. When you stop and look at the cover, it’s not pretty.

On the right, you see the scanned cover of the Muv-Luv Alternative CODEX. On its left you have the same illustration, scanned from Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works. I recommend opening them in Full View to fully see how badly the covers have been fucked up. Either someone forgot to pit High Resolution mode on in In-Design, or something seriously went awry during data process. Both covers have been printed in low resolution, while the cover text nice and crisp. While a book shouldn’t be judged by its covers, this piece can never be called high quality or premier product. A way to remedy this situation would be to create a dust jacket for the book with high resolution print on the cover.

However, the meat of the piece is on the pages. With some few hours looking through, there appears to be no real concern how accurately things have transferred during translation. There are also welcome changes, like changing Melee Halberds into Close Quarters Combat Melee Blade. While a mouthful, melee blade in itself is more than enough. Back in 2016 I wrote a post concerning the topic, which was comped with a review of TSF’s close combat weapons. I strongly recommend you to read them both if you haven’t. There is one fib that has leaked through, where BWS-8 Flugelberte is described to resemble a halberd, when in reality it resembles an axe. Or a bardiche.

The information itself is great stuff, but it shows that this is a book that’s glued together from multiple sources. The Lunatic Dawn content that’s in the latter part of the book is just bolted on, rather than taken and included into the book proper. The word on the street originally was that the book would need to be completely revised, but in the end it follows Integral Works‘ looks and design with the occasional change in order accommodate English.

Good ol’ Gekishit. Isn’t ‘Play Back’ one word though?

The paper used is similar glossy paper that’s in the artbook. It’s a level heavier, but creases still extremely easily. Despite being heavier and slightly thicker, it still isn’t near heavy matte paper in terms of preventing transparencies, as seen above. Fingerprints will be abound while reading this book. I’m rather surprised that this wasn’t a softcover book similar to Integral Works or Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works, to which I compared IW to back in the day as well. Codex‘s paper is nowhere as heavy and hefty as the two aforementioned, but the book is third thinner due to the new paper. It doesn’t allow the book to have any air to it either.

Because of the glossy surface and the sheer amount of text, people with poorer eyesight will have headaches while reading this. The typeface selected is just small enough to cause extra strain on the eye. As everything’s also packed very, very tightly in this small size, people who suffer from either vertical or horizontal dispersion in vision, meaning certain letters will lose lines, making reading a chore at best, extremely headache inducing at worst. This is easily alleviated with the use of different typeface or slightly larger font size.

The use of this sort of glossy paper can also be a double-edged sword. While Yakuza 6‘s artbook had the same paper, some copies were completely glued together, some were completely warped and some had ink smudges all over them. The feel of glossy paper works best for single leaflets and photos. When going for a book like this, its still best to consider heavy matter paper first and foremost, as it offers longer life and cuts down possible ink and paper problems down to mere percents.

All in all, the covers are just a damn travesty, sadly. Well, that and one of the pages, p. 353, get repeated on the following opening. While accidents like this sometimes happen, this does sting of lack of quality control.

Lastly, we have the Destroyer Class plushie, one of the things that was suggested very early on due to its role in the fandom. The plushie is based on a very certain background piece in Joshi Eishi Cryska EX.

While the plushie is clearly different from it CG original, this is due to difference in reality and fiction. The overall quality is damn nice, chosen materials feel sturdy enough to give this to a child to play with. Interestingly, the back end has a sack that’s filled with grains rather than fluff the plushie is filled with otherwise.

The grain section is about one-third from the back, starting from the tag on its arse

It’s just a joy to see and have, maybe even the best part of the package in terms of quality. This thing really should see mass production. Clearly, there is a market for BETA plushies.

I’m sure that at this point it’s rather clear what’s the end verdict is. The Kickstarter original products are largely a disappointment in terms of quality. I’m not going to mull over whys or hows, that doesn’t net anything. They are what they are, now’s too late to do anything about it. Other items, like the ones in Yuuko’s Gift bag, have higher quality. Stickers are hard to screw up as are postcards (though mine are rather warped, requiring me to straighten them down.) It must be also mentioned that Valkylies has been corrected into Valkyries with the patches.

Those patches were produced by Cospa, company that produces cosplay goods, including the jackets and shirts that were on the Kickstarter. The pilot jacket may be 100% polyester, but I can’t expect a cosplay clothes company to manufacture clothes like they were actual military wear. The Drill Milky Punch T-shirt is at 100% cotton and I’m wearing it while typing this review. This extends to the dakimakura, which is of standard Japanese productions for items like it, I expected no less.


The experience with the Kickstarter goods, delays and pretty much everything including the end results of the goods probably affected negatively both backers and staff. It would not be surprising if this was the first and last Kickstarter we see, and the rest are done away with less fanfare, which would also mean no physical products would be produced. However, in cases like this, I would always strongly recommend companies and people looking into Limited Run Games, a company that specialises in doing limited physical run on goods. At the time of Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, the company wasn’t relevant, but now it has managed to establish itself just fine. For example, they are delivering Shantae: ½ Genie Hero‘s Kickstarter goods. But all this is academic at best. I can only hope that lessons have been learned, but have not allowed to snuff the staff’s spirit.

I’ve got no good end for this review. Shit happens, we will probably never know what, but the end results are in our hands.

 

Consumer control over titles coming to Steam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disruptive pricing requires backing behind it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A single whole through many

There are some things consumers tend to take for granted, but never really stop consider for a significant length of time, unless it becomes relevant due to necessity of circumstances. One of these things is that no product we have is made of one thing. The more complex an item is, the more parts it has. Duh, I hear Jimmy go. However, does Jimmy stop to consider how many different manufacturers are required to produce parts to, for example, a car? A car manufacturing plant, or about any other manufacturing plant overall, does not produce all of the materials they require to build a finished car. More of than not, major elements are produced elsewhere and then delivered to the main producer for final assembly. Windows, wheels, electrical components, and numerous other parts are build elsewhere before being added to the final product. A single car ultimately becomes a finished piece of numerous different hands putting their effort and time into building something that’s at least up to standards. Very few of these people are ever heard or seen outside their own workplace, if even there.

To use another example, you’re using some sort of screen to read this text from, be it a smartphone, tablet or a computer screen. The screen itself was probably assembled by another corporation altogether from the one that assembled the casing now before you, which contains components and PCB produced by another set of corporations. The concept is subcontractors isn’t anything new to an adult, we all know these corporations work and to what extent, yet only at few times we consider how much hell these subcontractors go through to appease the final, larger corporation at the top end of the ladder.

This is also why Kickstarters sometimes meet up with sudden unexpected difficulties when trying to produce rewards to the backers. Printable goods like shirts is easy enough, it require very little hands in the middle, but when you need to produce metallic goods, large books, decal sheets and other items, juggling between subcontractors, prices and budget becomes a rather gruesome task, especially if the Kickstarters don’t have prior experience with producing goods. Sometimes, even the pros may get their share of difficulties, especially with the global market offering all sorts of possibilities, some in lesser quality than others. As such, if you’re considering a Kickstarter of your own, it is always a good idea to set everything into stone according to possible expends at a good, early time and calculate how much surplus you could possibly have, when something inevitably goes to south. Never kid yourself, it’s a rare thing to see something going 100% right with these things.

Of course, a designer has to mind all this while designing, at least on a surface level. For example, if a designer wins a design contest for a bracelet or similar, it is generally expected that the designer would also have readied information and plans how the bracelet could be best mass produced. A simple prototype might be handcrafted in a garage or 3D printed, but the finalised design that would end up in the store shelves would have to have a solid and a direct line from the manufacturers to the stands. It just may end being impossible to produce that bracelet with speedy manufacturing due to its geometry requiring specialised craftsmen working on it, or that it simply can’t be mass produced through general means. Sometimes, a product simply has to be made by hands from start to finish, though that’s increasingly rare.

Jewellery overall could be counted as one of the few fields where subcontractors are used to procure materials rather than readily made parts. Unless you count all the different kind of locks and readily made sockets and adapters, but to keep the more romanticised view, a jeweller would obtain the materials he needs, and does the rest by hand. Turning the wire into separate links to form a chain, cutting and polishing the stones into their shinier and more aesthetically pleasing versions and making all those interesting and beautiful shapes jewellery are known for. It just might happen that, in the end, even those are mass produced in a factory somewhere.

Nevertheless, this is a reality designers seem to forget at times. It is all well and good draw nice lines on the paper and then let engineers figure out how to implement the forms into a finalised piece, or the designer could cut most of that middleman out of the way and consider these elements from the get go. Conceptual designers of course live in the world of their own, as they are not expected to take reality into notion in any significant way outside the item having to be able to exist. Even then, that’s sometimes given a leeway when it comes to certain vehicular products.

This is where the skill of being able to calculate the end-price comes in handy, as a designer has to calculate the material costs, how much the production itself will cost, how much the transportation will cost, what’s the share the end-sales maker will take and add their own hourly pay into the mix. At this point the initial price is far less than the third. You’d think in digital world this would mean that the prices would be considerably cheaper due to some of the middlemen being cut out, like physical pressings and the like, but somehow titles on Steam always start at the same price-range as physical products.

Nevertheless, when does Jimmy considering the multi-partnership manufacturing? Probably when he is looking for new bulbs for his car, or some other part that’s easily replaceable, or when he hears that the part he is looking for is no longer in production, because for some reason the manufacturing has been stopped, and nobody is making that part anymore. Even then, Jimmy probably will only curse Volvo for not making that certain little thingamajig any longer, when in reality, Volvo just had another subcontractor to manufacture the part, or bought readily designed and in production part from somewhere else. In the end, no matter how much subcontractors they have, it’s only Volvo that the consumers see.

Inspirational changes, Dead or Alive

Seems like every time we get a new Dead or Alive, something about it gets a rise from people to whatever direction.  For better or worse, DoA gets decent amount of press whenever a new entry gets announced, but mostly always for the wrong reasons. DoA Extreme 3 got marred in the press for both having cheesecake and for not being published in the Western regions, making it the best selling title Play-Asia ever had.

With the announcement of DoA6, you’d think things would’e been gone as usual. Well, in a way they did, with part of the consumers wondering what the hell was going on, and part celebrating titillation getting toned down significantly.  Because of eSports, of course.

Yohei Shimbori of Tecmo had an interview, where he states that the new DoA was inspired by American comics and movies. He wants people who play the game feel proud, as he puts it, while playing the game. Sidestepping the issue why should people feel proud while playing a game, the reason why things are changing in the first place is because during EVO tournament 2017 some of the DoA fans felt embarrassed. Whether or not these fans were the players or not is not mentioned.

The issue, of course, is how sexy the characters are. These fans they interviewed wanted the game to be cooler. The problem of course is, the game already looks cool.

Shimbori’s logic and source is sound. American mainstream cape comics certainly have moved away from showcasing the human physique in demigod form in favour of more realistic depictions and detailed suits, though at the same time the sales of these comics have tanked thanks to low quality of the comics themselves in general. Shimbori wanting to take inspiration from these comics, following similar path seems to be the right way, emphasizing on the suit fashion. While Shimbori emphasises on female characters, this is true across the board, especially with Marvel comics.

A major attraction for Dead or Alive has been its visuals and fun factor not found anywhere else. Taking that visual side away and replacing, for example, Kasumi’s now iconic outfit with an extremely generic blue-black full-body outfit looks lazy, detracts from her unique look in the gaming market and clashes with her intended original design. The cherry blossom petals and other moves don’t fit the character anymore, now that she’s wearing a supposedly more combat-sensible suit.  Let’s make a look at her DoA5 and DoA6 versions.

Wait, they gave DoA6 outfit high heeled sandals? While I may be talking about her iconic outfit, it was not her initial default outfit. It’s from completely different design perspective from the DoA6 design, and a direct comparison would be like apples and oranges. The iconic design doesn’t exactly render well in the modern style DoA is going for, as its intention originally was to be semi-cartoony to begin with. It clashes with the semi-realistic take. It would have been better to update that design rather than going completely away with it, as now we’re getting what’s supposed to be cool. Funny enough, if DoA6 is supposed to be less about the curvatures of a woman’s body shape, they failed. With skintight leather, it’s all about the curves. It may not be as sexy, but you might as well have her fight in black and blue body paint. It’s not exactly cool either in the sense Shimbori’s intention are.

Furthermore, majority of the DoA fans like the series’ aesthetics. DoA5 had a slight backlash against its style and take, but the dev team took this to their heart and tweaked things a little. Character models have been an issue with fighting games recently anyway, from banana hair and punched face Ken in Street Fighter V to pretty much everyone in Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, especially potato faced Chun-Li. However, DoA has always aimed follow the Virtua Fighter route with simple yet striking design, with their own flavour of fan service and certain level of risque that’s unique to it. In essence, one of DoA‘s winning elements has been its visual design that gives just enough glimpses with rather anything more. The sheer amount of outfits in previous titles has kept the players busy unlocking stuff as well.

The end problem of course is that DoA‘s fame and money has been made with Japanese influences, something the fans and core audience are attracted towards to. The loss of Soft Engine, an element that was part of the visual nature of Dead or Alive, feels cheap at best. Dev team’s emphasize on trying to make sweat and damage to be more a thing sounds more what you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat title. The audience that is there doesn’t want the game to look brutal, but to look beautiful. I doubt many Japanese fans want to see Kasumi’s face pummeled into mush, outside ryona fans.

There’s also the magical words of making the game more accessible, as mentioned in this IGN Live E3, with one-button combos to be a thing. DoA and VF controls have been the simplest out of all mainline fighting games, and simplifying them to this point seems like gimping it. Devs can claim that it simply adds a layer to the game, but that’s never been the case. It’s just to make one or two combos a constant.

This seems like a major step away from the series roots and nature. All this is ultimately to attract the expanded audience, or the audiene that considers the series problematic, sexist or otherwise offensive in content. The idea of expanding market is all good and fine, but not at the expense of the brand and franchise itself. At this rate, they should’ve rebranded the franchise altogether, or even better, start another fighting game franchise to run along Dead or Alive, much like how Tekken has Soul Calibur.

In the end, the devs are going to do whatever they want, eSports interviews and all. Perhaps the end battle of DoA5, where tacticafully black clad Kasumi fights her iconically clothed clone was a prelude to come. Forget exciting and interesting new design, we’re in an age of homogeneous coolness.

They could do better, but in the end, they’re bucking on already past trends.

Open the Valves, full Steam ahead

Sometimes, Valve manages to surprise the cynic in me. Just as I mentioned that they should open the doors for free market, it seems that’s exactly what Valve did. Of course, it was received with both positive and negative press, with negative pretty much calling out Valve for allowing games that could have offensive content. Kotaku, for example, takes their usual stance all about wanting to keep games with gross content, as they put it, out of Steam. Furthermore, Kotaku’s beef with Valve being a reactionary corporation when it comes to controversies is old song by this point. Most corporations may go their way to appease sections of the consumers, but in this day and age where practically everything can cause an uproar and everything is offensive to someone in some myriad way, corporations can’t exactly be but reactionary.

This whole deal is interesting and dumbfounding, to say the least. For number of years, gaming snobs have wanted the electronic games industry to grow and mature. No medium is free of the growing pains of vast, endless multiple points of views and political leanings. For a rough comparison, banned games equate to banned books. This is especially important if we are to take games as an art, as simply banning or removing art because the subject is something you dislike or disagree with infringes the free expression of the artist.

Of course, the opposition of Valve’s new policies take the business view on things whenever it pleases them. Steam having games with content other developers don’t like shouldn’t matter to them. If their product is superior, they should be at ease of mind. The free market will tell what’s more demanded. Of course, it could always turn out that doing politically or otherwise controversial topically charged games might not sell well in overall terms. If the developer and/or publisher wishes to move their games off the platform because Valve has allowed games with offensive content in their mind, they can always move away to GOG.

After all, censorship and limited freedom of speech is something that can be easily expanded to serve only one master.

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Brands, such as Steam, should not partake in politics of any sorts. Valve’s stance of keeping trolling titles (how in the fuck would you even define that properly in hard-down legal form) and illegal content off their service is enough. The market will handle the rest. Simply because content exist for consumption does not mean one has to go their way and consume it.

Is it immoral to allow content that might be considered offensive on Steam, politically or otherwise? The question is No, considering Steam already has games with content that does offense someone. Valve’s Weik Johnson has the right stance; they’re not the one to decide what developers make. If we are to promote equal treatment of all, it is required to mean equal treatment in all terms, including games that have offensive content of any kind. It is up to you as the consumer to decide whether or not it is consumed, not by a committee, a busybody soccer mom or another developer.

Another criticism Valve has got is that this means they do not stand up to values, or more accurately, the values of the critics have set up. Just as morals, values are up to each person. Cultural values and morals set up by the society are ultimately what matter the most, not the ones sections of the Internet want to be upheld. In effect, it is equally morally reprehensible to allow one offensive content but not the other. Valve’s ultimate morals lay in what makes the most profit, and free market is the best way to make a buck.

Whether or not Valve is finished with underestimating their consumers with this is an open question. It can be expected them to flip flop on the matter in the future, especially when take into notion how vague their new stance is. What is illegal changes country by country, and there is always the remote possibility they’ll simplify things and use all of them. Somewhat unlikely, seeing Valve has always tried to stick with the US legislation and have a history of arguing against foreign laws to an extent. What is acceptable varies wildly, especially in places like China.

Secondly, trolling, as mentioned above, doesn’t exactly hold water. It is extremely subjective and sounds like a scapegoat wording that they can enact on a title whenever they find it applicable. Titles like Hatred may get hated out of the platform due to its content, as it was removed from Steam Greenlight. It took Gabe to get it back. The title’s developer certainly did use trolling as part of the marketing campaign, yet the title is nothing short of fully fledged isometric shooter.

For better or worse, Valve’s announcement on the subject does touch upon this. To quote the post; we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. While this could be viewed as slightly concerning, this sort of extension of corporation’s own decision making is expected. This allows Valve to cover their asses whenever its applicable while supporting the freedom of game development and publishing, as weird as it sounds, considering anyone could do that outside Steam on PC already.

In the end, all of Valve’s announcement ends up being PR speech. It’s not exactly virtue signaling either as much as itch.io’s Leaf’s tweet on the matter. How things will go down in practice will probably be a very different story, though only time will tell. Claiming that Valve has dropped any responsibility or the like is childish bitching, as the responsibility has always been with the developers and publishers, and even then to the extent of the law.

The consumers within the market will make their voice heard on the matter, and that is ultimately what matters, despite what different sociopolitical factions like to think. Let capitalism function as intended.

Then there’s the point that none of that matter jack shit if the gameplay is not up to the level. That is what matters the most after all.

Valve’s wake-up call for visual novel enthusiast and others

With Valve taking steps to remove numerous titles from Steam due to T&A, Mangagamer has decided to bring their titles to GOG. The last sentence in their post also mentions how Sekai Project, the infamous VN publisher, is joining them in this move.

Mangagamer questions Steam a retail platform for visual novels, and that has been an extremely good question from the start. Steam as a digital console has the exact same limitations as vast majority of other game consoles have had throughout the years when it has come to sexually mature content. The last console that allowed some sort of clothes-off action was the Sega Saturn with its R-18 rated gambling titles, though even then the titles were cleaned up from their arcade and PC counterparts. Whether or not it really is better to have violence than sex in media has always been brought to question, but that’s slightly outside the scope here.

The PR director for Mangagamer, John Picket, knows how to word this opening salvo towards GOG. There has been some friction why these titles have not appeared on GOG, mostly due to GOG having different set of guidelines than Valve, but calling this an opportunity rather than an option forced on them is standard marketing speech. Considering Steam has always been an unreliable publishing platform due to how Valve exercises their control over titles, developers, publishers and users, this movement should not have come out as a surprise to anyone. Valve’s customer support is legendarily terrible, and their ~30% cut of all sales, which yields less and less revenue to publishers down the line, especially when most users simply purchase everything from sales. In previous post about VN bans on Steam I mentioned how their policies went against EU legislation when it came to purchasing, resale and refunding titles, but what I didn’t mention was that Valve put in bit in their EULA before purchase where the consumer would waver their freedom for 14-day return period. Similarly, when Valve was in court in Australia over similar matter between 2014 and 2016, they stopped providing their financial information, which ended the judge giving them a middle finger in legalise form. All legal cases that they knew they couldn’t sensibly win has been elongated for PR reasons and to create proper backup whenever the inevitable end result comes to.

While EA is considered to be the Satan of game corporations, credit must be given where credit is due, and their did have refunding program as according to EU legislation two years prior to Valve, and even then Valve’s refunding program was in Steam credits, meaning they still keep your money. Valve’s policies get changed from time to time to reflect the pressure they’re under from outside forces, all to cover their own assets and revenues. That is ultimately the end goal of all corporations, after all.

Valve has the control over the PC side of game market like no other to the point of publishers and developers considering any other route a detriment to their product. After a company has partnered with Valve to get their titles to Steam, everything else gets so muddled down. Why would you want to publish games on other platforms when Steam has essentially become the Windows in terms of digital games publishing? We’re at a point where an anti-trust case about their monopoly could be made, but that won’t happen. Too many consumers and companies are tied to Steam both in terms of money and emotions. Only something that would break the glass would make them consider twice on Steam. Something like taking down titles for them having bare chests.

But Aalt, aren’t you the one always championing game exclusivity? Yes, with consoles. The PC is a different market than consoles and is based on user-end freedom, something that has been constantly eroding through the use programs like Steam, taking Operating System control away from the user and evermore increasing activity tracking to the point of end-user having no privacy. If consoles are tightly controlled platforms for single purpose only, the PC was its free counterpart, where everything from your hardware choice to how you modified your software was completely up to you. Now, if you modify software linked with Steam to any extent unsavory for them, you’re going to be banned.

Valve has no competition. GOG is a good second, but far behind Steam in terms of dedicated users, despite GOG always being the objectively better option for software. Japan has DLSite and DMM for both pornographic materials and normal titles, something that Nutaku reflects in the West. There are numerous smaller publishing platforms that do not tie the user to themselves, but due to lack of publishers on these platforms they’ve never reached the surface awareness.

There is a distinct lack of diverse competition on the PC currently and it is not because of exclusives. This has been case for a good decade now, with even vast majority of the small amount of physical titles needing to be connected to a service as a form of DRM. This had lead Valve to had an effective control over PC software when it comes to gaming and their like titles, like visual novels. It should come to no surprise to anyone when Valve decides to exert their control on anything that might be seen as unsavory for their own benefits.