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.

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.

Three approaches in designing a mecha

The three approaches to mecha design this blog uses is based on their role and function within fiction rather than in-fiction. The first archetype is the Protagonist, a mecha that functions or acts like any human character and is treated as such within the narrative.

The Protagonist mecha as a character serves an integral role within the narrative. Initially they may seem like simple machines, like the eponymous Mazinger Z, yet they exhibit clear-cut human characteristics in actions and behaviour. Mazinger Z sunbathing in the original series Mazinger Z-series is this exact human-like behaviour the mechas are written with.

Here, the symbolic action of shaking hands is not represent the pilots themselves per se, but the relationship and role of the mechas

These type of mecha can also be explicit characters unto themselves, as it is with the The Transformers and Brave-series. These mecha are only separated from their human co-characters is their nature as giant mechanical beings. In cases like Beast Wars, there is no distinction between characters as such, all of them simply are the characters, but share the main characteristics of being human equivalent in different form.

The Protagonist has a unique role within the story. Not necessarily the main protagonist in itself, often sharing that role with another human character or another mecha. The same categories of heroes and villains apply to these as much as they apply to human characters.

In visual design, Protagonists more often than not share a humanoid body with strikingly human face. Heroman, by all intentions, shared all the previously mentioned points; a human-shaped mecha with human face and sits in a prominent role within the fiction as one of the main characters next to the main human protagonist.

American made in Japan

However, there is extremely wide variety of Protagonist mechas which toy with the concepts and ways to realise the main role. GaoGaigar, for example, in itself has no characters outside as it is an extension of Guy Shishioh; it less piloted as it is a giant piece of armour for Guy.

It must be mentioned that most Protagonist mechas are found in media aimed at younger audiences with healthy amounts of toys, and tend to have connections to the Super Robot side of mecha. This is not to degrade from the fiction itself, only an observation.

Naturally, the opposite of human-like characters would be the lack of humanity, as it tends to be the with the second archetype, the Machines.

The utilitarian approach to mecha design has always been there, though it gained most of its popularity in the 1980’s. While Mobile Suit Gundam certainly paved the way for Real Robot as a sub-genre, shows like Armored Trooper Votoms and FLAG have taken the concept to its more natural direction due to lack of needing to sell toys as much.

FLAG‘s HAVWC, High Agility Versatile Weapon Carrier, is equipment.

Unlike with the Protagonists, a Machine has no nature to speak of. To make a blunt comparison, they are toasters. Their use is largely utilitarian. The form is made and designed for a purpose first and foremost, following the necessities over flavour.

The mechanical design is far more industrial as opposed to organic contours, than anything else among the Machines. Take Heroman above for an example. Most of its shapes are round to further accommodate its humanoid visual. While at a first glace HAVWC would fit this as well, its shapes are equivalent that of a car, lines made to increase aerodynamics. Heroman is not exactly an aerodynamic character, and its not supposed to. That is a tertiary concern at best. In order for it to be more aerodynamic in its forward position, it would require some sort of wind-breaking apparatus around its chest to lessen drag.

However, FLAG is an example of the more more adhered end, similar to Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01, which has been described as equivalent of mechanical pornography due to its attention detailed opening.

The Machine comes in many varieties, all of which share multiple characteristics. Mass production is one, where the mecha can be or is mass produced. Scopedogs are a dime in a dozen in Votoms and are easily replaceable. Round Vernian Vifam is another example of a show, where mechas are tools, and the cast goes through numerous units during the course of the show.

Valkyries from Macross, despite often gaining a prominent role as a single unit or a customised main character vehicle, are all from a production line of similar units. While later entries in the series have made an effort to give most characters their own unique snowflake Valkyrie, in the end all of them are more or less faceless machines that showcase no human characteristics, outside the genre-defining four limbed humanoid shape.

Specialist roles are not exactly uncommon among Machines. Full Metal Panic!’s Arm Slaves, while mostly consisting of non-unique units, the units used by the protagonist Sousuke Sagara deviate from this mould in form of Lambda Driver, which allows the pilot to turn their willpower into physical force. This specialist position, be it due to extra equipment, prototype role or simply because the mecha is a protagonist’s unit, is a common trope. This position does not change them into Protagonists per se, unless human characteristics are applied. It is not uncommon for people, fictional or not, humanise their devices to a large degree and treat them accordingly.

Vehicles technically fulfill this spot,

However, it’s not uncommon to see the the aforementioned archetypes mixed either.

The Hybrid approach takes characteristics from both sides of the fence in a happy mid-ground. Perhaps the most well-known examples of this would be the Evangelion units of Neon Genesis Evangelion. While treated as equipment and something that can be mass-produced, each EVA-unit exhibits overt human-like characteristics from in-universe and in their role. EVA-01 is effectively one of the main characters while still serving the role of a toaster. Its design goes for utilitarian, but only in terms how the EVA-unit itself allows this in-fiction. The base design idea was, after all, a monster barely controlled by humanity.

A some sort of purple mom bot

Another method to give mecha character is by keeping the core mechanics itself intact in terms of its role though the use of Artificial Intelligence. Jehuty from Konami’s Zone of the Enders series of games is exactly this.

Jehuty in itself has no conscience or awareness within fiction, no character to speak of. Its actions and behaviour are determined by its pilot and support AI, A.D.A. In principle, A.D.A. could be embed into whatever Orbital Frame would support the addition.

These three approaches are more or less starting points, more or less. While at first it may seem arbitrary to make a category of three, one of which is effectively just combining the first two, they serve their role in setting the proper mindset for design work. That is, the nature of the mecha rather than the end-visual the designer ends up making. That is up to the designer’s own style and research into the subject materials.

For further reading on expanded subjects, such as combiners, basic design tips, controls and similar, please visit the Robot Related Materials section.

Review: Rev-O-Mate

When I purchased the Huion tablet for digital drawing and painting last year, an uncomfortable reality did set in; my large keyboard was more or less unusable due to the position of the tablet itself in front of it. Sure, I rearranged by table few times over to find new ways to access the keys, but ultimately the size of things simply didn’t allow much leeway, especially due to the screen size of the tablet itself. Hence, I had a need for something I could use as a helping device whenever I would draw, which I haven’t had much time for due to my dayjob. Learning something like this from scratch while having a lifetime of ways mixing with everything is hard to say the least.

Bit Trade One’s Rev-O-Mate’s Kickstarter thus came out at a good time. The device had the things I personally was looking for. Certainly a number of game keypads would’ve been an option, though everything about them seemed off. Extremely high price at points, unnecessary design elements everywhere, large size and lacking software at times, I was more than hesitant on purchasing one. Rev-O-Mate seemed to be all that I was looking for, a small device with complete freedom to customise its buttons to my heart’s content. All things considered, its simplicity should be enough to meet expectations. I ended up backing the base version with none of the bells or whistles added.

A small device that fits your palm, around 64mm in base diameter and 41mm height, or 2 33/64 inch w and 1 39/64 inch h. The weight is pretty spot on at 180g, when you take into consideration the extra 20-30g the cord pulls

First things first, the design and construction. It’s what you’d expect from a tightly constructed piece, with one exception; the wheel. While all the buttons feel extremely sturdy with their one-click nature, the large wheel on the top has designed looseness to it. It wobbles back and forth a bit. Most wheels of its nature have this wobble, but it does feel slightly cheap at first. When in proper use, its goes unnoticed, but its still there.

The wheel surface itself is machined, with the swirls on top and on the side. This gives it a nice texture, though the edges of the chamfer could have used ever so slight rounding, but this would have extended the machining cost unnecessarily. The base has a kind of spattered texture on it, giving it a distinct touch from the wheel. The base has a translucent bottom to allow lights shine on the sides, while having a cut spot for a good grip base. Just remember to take the plastic film off first. This surface will keep Rev-O-Mate decently positioned, unless the bottom is unclean or you exert further force on it.

The camera picks the light in a very different way from actuality

The cord gets a special mention for using being braided and being rather sturdy, it is something that companies usually save money in, but Rev-O-Mate’s cord is better than the standard.

There are ten buttons around the wheel, all which need to be customised before the device does anything. With three different sets of profiles, this brings the total number of buttons on the device to 33. The wheel itself is a button as well, which probably contributes to the whole wobbling bit. If we dedicate one button from profile change in each profile, that gives us thirty buttons for quick access, which is quite a lot. Each button have a damn fine tactile feeling to them, and the wheel’s button has a very satisfactory ‘thump’ to it.

The round nature of the device has a surprising benefit. It can essentially function in any position, the cord being the only obstacle. Whether or not by design or chance, its revolving nature allows the user to find the most suitable angle for the buttons for themselves, something game keypads don’t really allow. The buttons themselves are hard plastic, something that some may find slightly uncomfortable, especially with the two marked buttons. However, this is a better solution than rubber buttons on the long run, as they’re now sturdy and can take some beating.

I’ve dedicated the wheel button for profile change in each profile iteration

I always dread setting up these things, because I have no idea what I have need for, thus I end up setting buttons as I go along. These, however, are the initial buttons I set up from the very beginning. Each button, and the wheel itself, can be changed to whatever function.

As you can see, there are currently preset functions for the three most popular programs for illustrators and digital painters, or fuckups like me

This how the binding window currently looks like from presets. Bit Trade One is working on updating the software and firmware, and have rolled new versions already. Just make sure you’re using USB 2.0 or USB 1.1. Type A to connect, as it doesn’t seem to like USB 3.0 connection. Of course, creating a macro for your use has a separate selection.

As you can see, I currently lack any macros. If we were to make a macro of CTRL+Z, the recording would appear as such.

 

Seeing how the program records even the time span an input was held is unexpected but wholly welcome. This is as powerful macro creation tool as you’d expect and works with games as well.

The lights themselves can be customised from the top row with RGB values, giving them whatever colour you wish for. The teal I have there comes out as rather cold blue, as you can see. The lights change as they are being customised though, so you get an immediate response. You can also determine how long they’re lit up and at what point, or completely turn them off. There are three levels or brightness to choose from, and the images you see here are for the the medium, standard brightness.

 

The LEDs used run on unknown frequency, which you notice when you move the device around and observe the base. This frequency does not sync up with a camera at normal 23 to 30 FPS, making it look like the the base is on fire or trying to launch itself.

You can also have fun with an additional source of LED lights and cause further flicker

While I’m not very keen on unboxing, the box really came just with the device and few slips. Not even a preliminary version of the software on disc. Everything had to be downloaded from their website. While a solid cost cutting measure for sure, this does make the package overall feel a bit cheap. Maybe the retailer version will have an updated software bundled with it. The manual itself is very short, which is understandable as there isn’t much to talk about the device itself. The lack of different keyboard support is expected, though unfortunate. Most of the world will do just fine by having the US keyboard set up, though French AZERTY users probably will find it a nuisance.

The back of the box has some slight Engrish on it

All in all, Rev-O-Mate is what perfect in what its set up to be; a rotary device with macro buttons. I’ve also used it as a paddle controller with few Breakout clones, and it does its job in this part decently as well.

Review of the Month; Yakuza 6 Whisky Glasses

Yakuza 6 is out and its After Hours Premium Edition came with whisky glasses. The Internet’s full of reviews of the box already and what’s inside, most of which is a disappointment, I tell you. The book was absolutely terrible in quality, bound too early, causing the papers to be wrinkled and even glued together due to wet ink. Not worth your time or money. Unless if you want whisky glasses, maybe.

This review will go through all three aspects of the set; the coasters, the rocks and the glasses.

The coasters are pretty terrible. They may have a cork bottom, but each layer that goes to the top has low-quality adhesive, which means they’ll peel off pretty soon if they’re in-use. It’d be almost better to allow them to peel off, then re-layer them back with some proper adhesive. You get what you see above, which is jack shit. With that done, let’s move unto the rocks.

The rocks are honestly the most interesting bit of this set, mostly because it allows me to go on a tangent a bit later on. Anyway, each facet is 20.25 mm in width and length (that’s 0.797 inches). These are, of course, quick measurements with a caliper, and you’d probably get slightly different results with your pieces due to tolerances.

The set comes with two pieces, one for each glass. The material is black soap stone, meaning the hardness is around Mohs 2  and up. Depending how soapstone is treated, it can go up to 6.5 at best, but without knowing what soapstone this is and from where, it’s impossible to say what’s the exact hardness. Nevertheless, these will scratch rather easy, so treat them right and with a careful touch. Hardness does not equal toughness, which is why we get laughable stuff like Mohs 15 shield in Destroyer Classes in Muv-Luv Alternative, which just means they’re really, really hard to scratch, but that does not mean they’re tough. Generally, the harder something is, the more fragile it is.

Before taking them into use, I’d recommend washing them with a neutral soap and rinsing them in as hot water as possible, then quickly wrap in a towel. Due to amount of talc and the structure of soapstone, the hot water will evaporate due to the stone’s hotness and its own heat, drying the soapstone in a second. Works with any soapstone item out there, give it a go.

Anyway, the stones don’t really work. They’re too small to actually make a proper difference. Soapstone is great at keeping temperature, which is why they generally make good heat or cold plates. They do keep chilled whisky chilled slightly longer than usual, but against room temperature whisky the stones do jack shit. Waste of stone. Even the sandblasting is just skin deep. Considering how large the glasses are, the stones should’ve been at least twice as large with twice as deep sandblasting. Surely the glasses will be the set saver, right?

Oh for fuck’s sake

The thing I expect from a box that says Premium on the label is premium. What I’m getting is two-dollar custom prints on a mid-grade glass with a printed surface instead of sandblasted.  Kiryu’s dragon should have been laser printed unto to the surface at least, but a print? That’s just lazy, and just like with the coasters, the print will wear off in use. In time for sure, but this is really a bad first impression.

Well, it doesn’t help that the two glasses are not of same quality. You’d expect these glasses to be relatively straight, but one of the two have slightly collapsed surface and has a slight wave-like pattern towards the bottom, meaning it’ll screw with the flow of spirit. Not much mind you, but at this point Sega’s quality control and whoever was in lead with this package has completely lost me. There’s nothing premium in this package. Deli, whatever company you are, you should’ve convinced Sega to put more effort in this.

That said, Yakuza 6‘s glasses can at least hold more spirit than the one I bought from Scotland years back, or the Monster Hunter one I got from the Netherlands. I’m not saying I’ve been drinking before writing this post, but I have before writing. Gotta test the glasses with more than one spirit, y’know. It’s pretty good size for a milk glass as well, and it’s not too fragile. Its still cheap glass, can’t get around that.

As you probably surmised, the whole After Hours edition of Yakuza 6 is not up to the usual premium standards. The game’s damn solid and worth your time, but going above the standard edition is not worth it.