A delicate piece of hardware

Much like with other modern technology, we’ve managed to squeeze more into smaller space. The laptops or pads we have nowadays are engineered to a point that barely anyone can open up their cases and fix them without further studying on the subject. Game consoles aren’t any different, though the PlayStation 4 is almost as big as the original Xbox. It wasn’t until we began to have consoles that began to show easily damaged sections in the mainline consoles. While the PlayStation could take some hefty damage (personal experience tells me it can survive a trip in a lake), the PlayStation 2 could be damaged by having enough weight at the wrong spot. This was the time when PCBs started to become thinner and more packed up with components downsizing with almost each year. You could lob a NES or SNES outside a window have it working with a cracked case, and the same really for the PlayStation as well. Personal experience, don’t ask. PlayStation 2 however was the first truly delicate piece of hardware that in the end begun to have issues with reading the discs. Sometimes from the very beginning.


Goddamn, this video came out sometime early 2000’s. Takes me back

Nintendo’s consoles usually have been durable, especially their handheld consoles. There has even been discussion how Iwata drove the DS’ tech team mad by demanding the console to be able to withstand multiple drops from a standard height.

However, the more we pack delicate technology in a smaller place, the more easy it is to break it. While most people fellate companies over the hardware, it’s uncommon to see anyone appreciate the design and intentions of the design. The PSP was applauded for its higher raw power over the DS, and while it was snazzy to have in your hands, it was a delicate piece of hardware that could break down very easily. The console wasn’t meant for everybody, and much like how SEGA used to sell Mega Drive for more mature gamers, SONY’s western branches clearly had the more adult audience in mind. The PSP really couldn’t take much damage, I’ve had to fix a few. The same applies to the Vita to some extent, thought the Vita seems to be able to take a beating or two more than its elder sibling.

The Switch has been out only for a while, but it’s already showcasing very erratic behaviour. Some have it going completely mad in sound department, some consoles refuse to launch games, connection issues with the controllers, and the screen’s been scratched by the dock itself. I saw the dock scratching issue the very moment the whole thing was revealed (it had no guiding rails to keep the screen clear), but having a plastic screen is a necessity. Why wouldn’t you want to have a glass screen? They’re so much better! The reason for this is safety and durability design. See, when you have a plastic screen, the console can dissipate a fall impact by wobbling around rather move the energy directly into rigid parts, destroying them. The very reason your phone’s screen shatters so easily is because it can’t bent, and the energy from the is released by shattering. It’s a design decision between durability and looks.

To sidetrack a bit, this really applies to Muv-Luv‘s BETA as well. The Destoyer-Class has a shield hardness of Mohs-15, but because that’s hardness topping that of a diamond, their shields should shatter when shot at. They don’t flex when hit due to their hardness. Mohs scale is for mineral hardness after all and should never be applied outside jewellery.

Newly borked devices is nothing new, either. The 360 had firmware issues since day one, and the infamous Red Ring of Death haunted machines every which way. Hell, the 360 may be a good example overall how to fuck your console from time to time, as some of my friends have told me their 360 crapped out because of an update. For better or worse, my 360 hasn’t crapped out yet.

No modern console is truly finished at launch. Firmware and software issues are relevant and will be patched out at a later date. This is largely due to modern technology. A Mega Drive never needed firmware patches, because it was less a computer than the modern machines. Whatever problems with the firmware Switch has now will be patched at a later date. However, the hardware and design problems are harder to fix, and if Nintendo is anything to go by, they may revise some of the designs in later production versions.

Though there really isn’t any good excuses to use paint coating that peels off with stickers. That’s just terrible. Who puts stickers on their consoles any more? You’d be surprised.

The first wave of adopters will always have to go through the same pains with modern technology. New smart phones and tablets suffer from firmware issues to the point of most common consumers willingly buying last year’s model in order to get a properly functioning device. The price has already dropped at that point too. Apple has been infamous with some of their smart devices’ firmware problems, and sometimes they were removing basic utilities from the hardware alone. Nobody really expected iPhone 7 not to have a headphone jack.

The question some have asked whether or not it’s worth buying a game console, or any modern smart device or computer component for the matter, if they require multiple updates months later down the line? We can’t see into the future, and it’s hard to say what device will go through a harsh update cycle. Essentially, you’ll need to look into history of a company and make a decision based on that. Just trusting that a company will update broken parts is strongly not recommended.

I guess releasing things partially unfinished and patching them up is an industry standard practice. Games get patched to hell and back, and while this isn’t much new for PC side of business, it’s one of those things that show how little of classic console business is in modern consoles. Not all games get patched though, even when they have console destroying bugs in them. NIS America’s track record with localised games that supposedly lock permanently and prevent you from finishing the game, break your console or generally have terrible translation would a perfect chance to use these patches to fix these issues. However, unlike with consoles and other devices, game developers can ignore these problems as the purchase has already been made and they probably are banking on hardcore fans.

Not that any product is final when it’s released. All products are good enough when released, but that good enough has seen a serious inflation with time.

Review of the Month; Dual Shock 4

These reviews are rarely well thought out. Well, this time I had a complete idea what to review, but the mail never delivered the item in time, so I’ll have to move the planned review to a later date and think up whatever I have at hand. The thing is, the poll I had on Twitter some time ago resulted in most people wanting me to review something video game related, and I’ll be sticking to that result to a larger extent. No more knife or sharpener reviews, unless something tight comes by. However, I’d still like steer away from the usual review-a-game model. Peculiarities are where it’s at, at least for me. Controllers, system designs, cartridge reviews and so on probably will be the more mainstay element. You’ll see more or less normal game reviews anyway by the end of the year with Top 5 entries.

All that said, I did mention I’d review PlayStation 4’s Dual Shock 4 some months ago. Think this as future proofing to have a point of comparison for the upcoming third-party controller review. I’m always looking for alternative controllers that are as good as the first-party controllers in their own way. Horipad 3 Mini is a good example what tickles my fancy when it comes to more budget price controllers. However, what personally bothered me was the question whether or not the review does justice to the controller if the reader has no idea what’s the take on the base controller. Controllers also have the problem of preference. The original Xbox controller may be huge, bulky piece designed for American hands. That’s not a jab at it, it’s just stating the fact. The Japanese tend to have smaller hands, Europeans tend to sit somewhere in the middle. While the second iteration of Xbox’s controller was met with applauds, there were those who preferred the original one. If we had something called Objectively best controller, we’d have no use for anything else. However, controllers are just like pasta sauce; there’s at least one flavour that’ll be to your liking.

The version I’ll be using for this review is the DS4 model New Model. Outside two points, it’s design is the exact same as Old Model.

I wiped the controller with anti-bacterial wipe just before taking the photos, and lo and behold it already had dust on it
I wiped the controller with anti-bacterial wipe just before taking the photos, and lo and behold it already had dust on it

Let’s cut the chase; the DS4 is the best PlayStation controller SONY has produced to date. It’s not perfect, but this controller shows that breaking your mould you’ve had for a decade usually works for the better. The thing with design is that it evolves along accumulated data and production technology. The DS4 is a proof of this in itself.

So let’s give the usual bits and spots what’s on the face of the controller. You’ve got the usual action buttons, them being more or less SONY standard in a positive sense, a pretty good D-Pad on the left, two concave sticks that are a step-up from the previous controllers (thou seemingly extremely prone to quick wear and tear), Share taking Select’s place and Options being’s stuck in Start’s place. This big slate in the middle of the controller, just above the PS button and speakers, works as a touchpad and a large button that rocks back and forth.

The D-Pad is SONY’s best to date. While it is their usual schtick, it is extremely responsive and hits all the extremes just fine. The concave section in the middle let’s your thumb know where to sit just about right. There’s very little resistance when rocking the D-Pad around, but there is just enough to give that good kind of tactile feedback from the rubber domes. However, this being usual SONY, the D-pad will hurt your thumb on the long run. It’s just hard enough with ever so slightly too sharp corners. However, this is partially a necessity in order to make the D-Pad flat while keeping the SONY look and not resorting on anything that could remind either Nintendo’s or SEGA’s pads.

Share and Option buttons are clicky, but they are unsatisfactory in use. For whatever reason, you have to put blind faith and visual input whether or not you’ve pushed the button down enough. The travel is not far, but the fact that the buttons are shallow and somewhat awkwardly placed. This placing is of course due to the plate, that functions both as a touchpad or general go-to button, opening menus and such. In New Model, there is a slit on top of the plate that allows light to come through that doesn’t exist in the Old Model.

Seriously, where do all this dust come from? Oh yeah, the amount of electronic and books I have...
The slit visible above, as is all the dust around the action buttons. Seriously, where do all this dust come from? Oh yeah, the amount of electronic and books I have…
And here's the top of the controller
And here’s the top of the controller

The plate wraps to the top of the controller. The shoulder buttons are always a mixed bag when it comes to controllers, and it seems they always change the most in trying to find something new or hitting the sweet spot of current trends. SONY dropped the angular design on them, and rounded the L1 and R1 buttons with ever so slight convex middle to set your fingers in the middle of them. The slight texture is similar to the previous controllers, but not as pronounced. A good feeling overall. L2 and R2 are triggers similar to DS3, except this time they don’t suck. Their elongated form with a curve doesn’t make your finger slip off so easily this time around, and the spring gives them a rather comfortable resistance on its long travel distance. The light bar is actually pretty bad and far too large, and in dimmer rooms it will colour surfaces and even reflect from the playscreen. It would have been better to do away with it completely, but SONY’s using it for some camera stuff based on Move Controllers’ tech. I would’ve preferred a larger USB slot here, it feels that I see more broken micro-USB leads and sockets than it should be normal.

[Insert a rant about dust here]

The angular design of the back of the controller doesn’t interfere with the player’s hands and fits hands rather comfortably. The handles are well-shaped to be grasped and held, so there’s nothing special to mention about them. However, the curve under the L2 and R2 buttons has a harsh angle to meet up with the buttons when they’re pressed down, and these can chafe against your fingers depending how you hold the controller. It would seem you’re supposed to have fingers on all shoulder buttons at all times to prevent the chafing. The area reserved in the back for fingers just isn’t large enough, or the harsh corner should have been changed to something else. The trigger’s underside also will collect some dead skin and other oddities to them due to the open edge.

Might as well talk about the controller’s two halves as well. The top is sleek, semi-matte plastic that will polish fast as you continue using the controller. It’s not the best choice, and makes the controller feel just a bit too cheap for its price point. However, the second half, that wraps to the front at the ends of the handles, has this every so slight texturing to it. The feeling of this texture does not intrude and is even pleasant to the touch. The texture is actually slightly raised flat circles.

Overall, as I’ve mentioned few times around, the DS4 is the best controller SONY has put out in their mainline consoles. It’s not without its own flaws, but this has been a definitive improvement. Whatever they decide to do in the future, I hope they continue to improve on DS4’s design, thou the next step might be for the worse without changing controller paradigm. I doubt SONY will do anything like that, they’ve always been following trends rather than making them. The New Model also works on PCs via a cable, something the first one didn’t do.

What else could I say? The DS4 is a fine base controller that serves its intended use.

Mecha design; From cube to humanoid

The previous post about mecha design was all about the basic ideas that yours truly tends to use when it comes to transforming or shape changing robots. As mentioned, they are not definitive and many would probably contest them, but they work just as well. However, all transforming mecha follow one essential thought pattern most of the time; from inhuman shape to humanoid shape. This shape can be whatever. Cars, planes, guns, dinosaurs, trains… pretty much everything has been turned into a robot. Hell, there used to be a saying on imageboards that the Japanese can transform anything into a mecha if they just want to. Of course, there are those that simply change utility shape between modes and never become humanoid. These are relatively rarer in scale of things, but the overall discussion follows the same pattern overall. You have a shape that you want to force into another.

The title of this post is misleading. The term that I should be using is cuboid. However, I am going to break any and all good language practices and keep mixing cube and cuboid to label any cuboid shapes. This would an example of marketing of sorts when you get down to it, as many companies want to use cube in a similar sense. Nintendo’s Game Cube being one, with it being a cuboid even when the Game Boy player is attached.

As with any matter like this, there is no one correct way to do anything. The examples here are simply just for the sake of examples and being as simple as possible. Expanding on basics and building on them is really the only way to get around.

The core idea is to take a cube and “spread” it to the similar breakdown as human would be, if we’d draw human with simple geometric shapes.

Continue reading “Mecha design; From cube to humanoid”

Three approaches to transforming mecha designs

Unfolding, folding, opening, twisting, turning, exposing areas and revealing hidden parts is basically what mecha transformation is all about. There is no one way to do it, and the sheer amount of examples there exists eclipses the scope I’m willing to work for free. To tackle transformation schemes in general requires part problem solving and part puzzle making in a nice balance, where a irregular shapes can be turned into e.g. a humanoid and vice versa. By first introducing this sort of base idea of categorizing transforming mechas into will give some foresight how I’ll tackle the subject down the line.

Much like Three approaches in mecha design (which will be rewritten at some point this year,) I tend to employ a similar template for transforming mechas specifically. These three are not necessarily connected to the three initial approaches as some sort of rule, but they do work under them if you’d wish to make a transforming mecha. These might help you to lock down your approach better. This post can barely scratch the surface of it all with the given limit I’ve set to myself.

The three approaches in transforming mecha design are Fantastic, Toyetic and Realistic. As with previous, there are overlapping elements with each of the three and can be even split into sub-categories if necessary. Examples of Fantastic transforming robots are all the outright impossible ones in any form outside animation and movies. Getter Robo and Gurren Lagann are probably the best examples, where thing just fall into their place and morph into new shapes. Mass shifting is nothing short of expected and even mandatory.

Continue reading “Three approaches to transforming mecha designs”

Guilty Gear design comparison; Johnny

Johnny Sfondi didn’t enter the series until Guilty Gear X, but what I remember from that time he quickly became the favourite on many feminine guys who played the game. To some Johnny has always been part of the series, if you jumped in during the XX craze. Of course this was to be expected from an adolescent audience, but it does tell volumes of Johnny’s design overall. It may be rather simple without huge as hell belt buckle thrown into the mix, but his shades combined with that self-confident as hell attitude just works and has a balance to it. Johnny is, after all, an eye candy that works both in visual flavour and in gameplay.

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparison; Johnny”

On retro throwbacks

Double Dragon is one of those classic game franchises that a generation grew up. Not just on the NES, but in arcades and whole slew of home computers as well, including the likes of Atari 520ST. With time other franchises came along and did things better than Double Dragon, namely Final Fight and Streets of Rage, not to forget all the belt-scrolling-action games Konami put out. There is a huge legacy for Double Dragon, which has been tapped on an occasion after the disaster that was the 1990’s. These range from extremely poor to absolutely incredible. In hindsight, Double Dragon Neon is a terrible game, only beaten by that Korean Double Dragon II title nobody ever played. The best game in the franchise, and one of the best games on GameBoy Advance no less, is Double Dragon Advance. That game didn’t just aim to push the game to its possible peaks without compromising much with what the series had already built up, but also expanded what the series could be. Every game that have upheld the Double Dragon name since then have been utter trash in comparison. Oh yes, this’ll be one of those more personal posts again.

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that ArcSys was going to release Double Dragon IV early next year. What possibilities had opened up. ArcSys could do even better than what Million did in 2003.

Of course, if I had not just taken triangle pills to kill down my fever and chugged down a bottle or two, I would have remembered that ArcSys has been milking the Kunio-kun franchise as a retro dot graphics throwback for number of years now. Even the opening text announcing the 30th year anniversary looks lazy and thrown in there by a six years old.

These throwbakcs work once in a blue moon when there has been sufficient time between releases. Hell, people flocked New Super Mario Bros. because it was a new 2D Mario game decades and New Super Mario Bros. Wii outsold Super Mario Galaxy just by the fact Nintendo brought back the Koopalings. However, the main reason why these two titles succeeded was because consumers fucking love 2D Mario boatloads more than 3D Mario. The same happened with Mega Man 9 and 10. Mega Man 9 saw some success because it was the original Mega Man back in action in a title that was based on a survey… that the hardcore fans had filled out. No wonder the game played into perceived tropes the series has instead to the ones it actually has. Mega Man 10  didn’t just have worse design overall, but at that point these dot graphics games were dime in a dozen. Hell, most indie titles seem to go for faux-old school look or use Minecraft‘s voxels.

The Kunio-kun warm ups were fun little games, I can’t argue against that. Nevertheless they still feel disappointing in how they look and play, because the cutesy dot graphics don’t carry the impact the game should have. It’s playing on the nostalgia of the consumers while ignoring to advance the game franchise further. Even the silliness the new Kunio-kun titles had worked for their favour, because those games were inherently silly… after the first arcade title, at least. Nevertheless they had an air of seriousness about them and each new title in the franchise tried to push a little bit farther.

Double Dragon Advance is still a retro throwback on its own rights, utilising pretty much the same overall visual design, just upgraded to be more detailed and fluid than the original games, whatever system you want to pick Double Dragon from. Perhaps this has been deemed to sell less than using the same fucking sprites they made thirty years ago. Who am I to judge a business decision that’ll make a company more money? Well, everything really, as it’s my damn money I want to spend that hard-earned cash for something else than just another rehash of 8-bit sprites with a new overlay.

Even 2D Mario saw declining sales with New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi  U, partly because nobody owns a Wii U, but mostly because the New Super Mario Bros. had run its course. There was nothing new in the games and the production values were laughable compared to its 3D sisters. If the same care would have been put in the 2D games, given the same orchestral treatment and not the WAH WAH music, Nintendo wouldn’t bat an eye at a suggestion of a new 2D Mario game. At the surface, it would seem the same thing happened with the new Kunio-kun titles, except the nostalgic cashgrab element they had going on. As mentioned, Mega Man met the same faith.

I don’t expect anything major from Double Dragon IV and no way in Hell I’m willing to put money down on it. Personally, I’m sick and tired of 8-bit graphics on old franchises. I would have expected game developers to want increase the potential of their games with new hardware and find ways to breathe new life franchises of bygone years. All I’m getting now is sprites from thirty years ago with terrible remixes. Somebody tell ArcSys to hire Vertexguy to remix their music rather than using shitty synth.

Perhaps the current hardware and retroware worship has made developers lazy, and kids and nostalgia blinded forty years old still eat up these titles. Just gimme new entries in these old franchises that aim to be their own thing with the aim of pushing the envelope.

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

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

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

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

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

Switch the talk from hardware

I really do sound like a broken record at this point. With the leaks about Switch being less powerful than the PlayStation 4, things have gotten on the overdrive again with calling it a failure on the launch. None of Nintendo’s more powerful consoles have been a success. As Yamauchi said, a game console is just a box to play games on.

Take a look at Nintendo’s history with consoles. NES was underpowered compared to its competitors, yet it came on the top. Well, except in Europe, where Nintendo fucked their marketing and Europeans had their computer games. SNES was ultimately weaker than the Mega Drive thanks to the addons and despite them still came to the top, not to mention the other competitors of the time. N64 failed despite having more powerful hardware than the PlayStation or Saturn. GameCube too was ultimately a failure despite topping the PS2. The Wii was a massive hit despite being weaker. The Wii U on the other hand had jack shit when it came to software (just like the N64) and had that huge controller nobody wanted. The same can be seen in the handheld market. The Game Boy slaughtered all of its competition as did the DS. The Vita could have trumped the 3DS if it had any software worth shit, but SONY repeated the exact same travesty they did with the PSP.

The common consumer doesn’t give jack shit about how strong a console is. Why? Because they know hardware does not mean better games. People absolutely hate paying for new hardware, because it’s the games that matter. The hardware race has always been part of the PC culture, not console. Consoles have been about software race. Tech fans no need to apply for console gaming, if we’re being brutally blunt here.

Because Super Mario Bros. was such a success, you saw a lieu of games trying to replicate its success, most notably Sonic the Hedgehog. The developers just need to do their job and optimise the games, and even better, design games from the ground up for the Switch and all is golden. Of course, because everything just runs on the same engine as everything else and nobody bothers doing any extensive optimisation to ensure the smoothest possible experience (or even know how to do that at worst case) we’ll just get sad and hastily put together ports.

Consumers never bought Nintendo consoles for them being Nintendo consoles. Not outside fanboys. People bought them for the software, for Mario and Zelda. People bought PlayStation for the same reason; it had games they wanted to play, not because the hardware. Nintendo is not a niche as some would assume because of their approach. No, on the contrary. Their consoles tended to be cheaper and smaller than the competitors’ because of matured technology. This is again one of those things we’ve gone over so many times, but seems like people are still ignoring the fact when Nintendo uses Gunpei Yokoi’s philosophy alongside Yamauchi’s, they strike gold. Nintendo, when they are at their best (NES, Game Boy, Wii) Nintendo is far from being a niche. Electronic games isn’t just a hobby of selected group of people, but something all can enjoy, and striking that Blue Ocean should be expected and even wanted, not the opposite. Losing hope over lack of hardware prowess is useless. Your life doesn’t depend on a game console, go outside camping sometimes.

Switch has few points going for it that most seem to ignore. One is the cartridges. This needs more fanfare, as it means the games themselves will be far more longlasting than the optical media. The lack of long loading times helps too. Oh now you care about hardware? Oh you. Secondly, the fact that the Switch is a hybrid also means the games are not required to be connected to the Internet all the damn time.

The biggest problem the Switch currently has is the fact that Nintendo isn’t showcasing any of that software. This is the sole reason why people are talking about Switch’s hardware to the extent they currently are and each and every bit of information is torn apart. There’s nothing else to talk about the Switch, and I haven’t seen anyone else to discuss its design either. The latest The Legend of Zelda got pushed back too, so the media can’t discuss that either. So, hardware it is for them to keep the clicks up. I guess I’m no better, commenting on the fact. Unless Nintendo rolls something significant on the software side with the Switch, there’s no valid reason for me to discuss it any further.

One of my New Year’s promises should be to throw this broken record to trash and just re-blog the sentence Software matters more than hardware whenever applicable.

Appreciate each others’ work

How things have been rolling as of late has reminded me of Ralph McQuarrie’s quote A real artist wakes up and does what he wants, instead of what the client wants, the agent wants, the gallery wants, etc. I consider myself a craftsman, a draughstaman. The reason for this is standards.

To use the product design industry as an example, consider your main chair back home. It may be wooden, plastic or combination of multitude of materials to create a cohesive whole that fits your taste. How many times have you given that chair a thought after your first purchase and impressions outside the few times you felt uncomfortable in it?

The best of designs tend to go unnoticed in many ways. That chair you use is most likely built to human body standards and it is made to support your back just the right way. After slight adjusting here and there, of course. Maybe it even has a headrest and an armrest pair that allows you a more supportive and comfortable positions. You may find them nice and appeasing your needs, but sweet hell does it take a forever to find that right spot during the design phase.

Design is a source of life enhancement was the motto of the late Kenji Ekuan, best known as the designer of the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, which probably stands as the best design of the previous century. It is without a doubt a bottle that has a nice curves and size that fits your hand just right. How it’s used and it functions is even more impressive and took Ekuan long enough to fine tune it. If we were to talk about high standards, the Kikkoman bottle is up there in regards how an everyday item should be.

That’s not exactly the standards that has been muddling my mind, but they’re part of it all in the end. To return to your chair, if it is one of the workstation chairs with combination of multiple materials, you can bet your ass that each connected section has sub-millimetre standard that the producer has to adhere to in order to make a satisfactory product that will not break down, can withstand certain loads and stresses and still be economically feasible to produce. Each section has required some bit of machining at some point in the production, be it when making the moulds for the plastic or some bolt, these are within third of a millimetre standard deviation in size, and that’s not even the finest allowed standard deviation.

The welded parts of that chair of yours have standards of their own as well. If you start taking notice of welded parts, you should notice the same thing repeating in most cases; uniform look, uniform thickness and uniform methods. The common consumer most likely doesn’t give one flying fuck about this, as it is something they are never concerned with in their lives. Welding is just something that a worker does and it keeps shit together. Nevertheless it is an arduous work to gain experience in and requires both hands on training and theory studying. Credit is where credit is due, and it would seem everybody thinks that their work is least appreciated out of the bunch.

If your chair is wood and not made by your local craftsman, you can be sure that in the factory it came out they have similar standards when it comes to joint manufacturing and so on. If you picked something from IKEA and had to build it yourself, each of the part is made with standards.

This combines somewhat to the previous issue with Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations, making this a possible Monthly Three in retrospect. Translation has standards as well, yet especially companies and corporations are very willing to simply force through the translation process instead. However, imagine if companies would do the same thing with your chair. It’s good enough if it just manages to hold together and sells, the consumer be damned. The reason why consumer would not find this satisfactory is because things would break down or bend out of shape due to out of standards cheap black iron parts, terrible fragile plastics used and the most rough deviation machining used. The design itself would be somewhere out there and wouldn’t support your back or contour accordingly. That’s what Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations are, with the only difference that we don’t have any other options to choose from outside Japanese. Honestly, the scripts would look loads more polished if they were just edited properly. I can almost see some fans taking the existing English scripts and just doing that. Currently, they’re just waste of space and resources, and support further detrimentation of not just English translations, but translations overall.

To return to McQuarry’s quote, the one thing an artist doesn’t need to bother himself with is standards. That could be seen as one of the things that separate art and other fields. For example, in design you still need to adhere to standards and conventions to achieve certain desired results. Within art, there are no standards as such what you can or how. This becomes more muddles when we take into notice classical paintings that adhere to a puristic style like realism and were ordered pieces. However, art has always been about selling your piece, and the modern take on being something that shouldn’t be “sold-out” is largely laughable. Just like dada.

To assume this is valid, it is one more argument for things like literacy and movies not being largely art in themselves. For exactly that reason we have art movies that encompass that whole thing of doing whatever the hell they want however they want, sometimes even changing the concept of how a movie is played in a theatre. Books too have these takes, as some books make a statement by having hundred blank pages or a poem collection with just one word per opening. Seems like a waste of material, but who am I to judge what people buy?

We tend to not give a damn about standards unless they directly apply to us and rarely even realize how strictly standards play out in our daily lives. We don’t appreciate them to a certain degree, and while we want shit to work like it should, we also give in far too often and far too much in certain things like translations where these standards should be hold up as almost sacred things. Not just because it will create a better product, but for both culture and appreciation of each and every field of work there is, art or not.

Mecha design; made for production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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