To be a fan

Fallout 76 has split opinions, some really wanting to defend the game while others trash it to hell and back. Then you have the whole bag controversy, with Bethesda throwing a sixty five cent nylon bag instead of proper canvas bag as advertised, but to be fair, they did drop canvas versions to people with influence. That in itself should really tell a lot about the company, their priorities and how little they ultimately care about the common end-user, or about the core fans who aren’t million sub Youtubers or writers. In relation to this, I glimpsed a Youtube comment I can’t find anymore, telling a true fan wouldn’t leave a corporation or a series just because there are bad times, that being a fan means you’re there through the good days and bad days. Effectively describing a one-sided marriage where the other partner can abuse the other whatever way they want.

In a way, this comment is correct, as fanatical behaviour rarely follows common sense. There is some form of obsession in there, that keeps the fan tied to the product, person or corporation. In case of computer and video games, it’s a combination of all three. Companies want their consumers to be emotionally attached to them in order to secure stable profits. The product itself serves as the end-goal for the provider, which makes them money. In modern gaming, it helps if the consumer is attached enough to the franchise and characters to drop few hundred bucks to buy some DLC left and right, or microtransaction. That Fate smartphone game is making insane bank just by being a Fate product and having stupidloads of characters that serve as great wank material. The gameplay’s supposedly pretty good too, taking cues from Super Robot Wars if a developer interview I read long time ago when the game was released is to be believed. Similarly, you can accuse me of being âge’s fanboy for supporting shows relating to Muv-Luv and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, but even then I recognize how the quality has dropped alongise the sales with the franchise, and have argued that Muv-Luv is in need of franchise relaunch, especially now that we’ve got aNCHOR and Avex holding the reins in the end. We all are emotionally connected to something we for whatever reason, be it the people around it or just because you’ve grown up with it.

The emotional attachment the consumer makes and has with the product is of course enforced by the corporation’s own PR department. More often than not, you’re going to have someone to function as the face the consumer can relate to. Keiji Inafune, Shigeru Miyamoto, Todd Howard, Masahiro Sakurai and Satoru Iwata are all faces that people are or were connected with. Inafune might have fallen out of favour after Mighty No.9, but people where throwing boatloads of cash at his Kickstarter just because he had a face associated with Mega Man. Iwata might be dead, but his mannerism and enthusiasm sold Nintendo products to fans even outside fan circles. However, they’re all corporate men. The face is quite literally a mask that’s put on sell you the product you have an attachment for, and by that extension, an attachment to the corporation. Coca-Cola’s Santa ads have a strong nostalgia for some, and that’s a powerful emotional connection in itself. Hell, nostalgia has always been used as a strong tool to make profit. Just look at the 80’s nostalgia with colours and design we went through, and slowly moving towards 90’s. In twenty years, we’re going to have 00’as nostalgia and return of Apple’s terrible and plain black/white designs.

I’ve prattled enough on the side. Should a fan really stick to a company or product through everything? Well, that’s up to the individual, isn’t it? If they feel like they’re doing right by pitching money for everything a company puts out, good for them. You’re keeping that company afloat, but not giving any real feedback with your purchasing habits outside that you’re willing to buy anything they make. That’s how you get shit in a can, but I guess fanatics don’t really care about what they ultimately get, as longs as their emotional attachment is fulfilled. Some goes for politics in here, simply wanting to purchase products in order to showcase support towards a company, which again is like buying a pig in a sack. I’m looking at myself with this, being guilty of this kind of bad consumerism.

However, I would argue that a fan should also be critical of goods their favourite company pushes out into their favourite line. What use it is to buy sub-par products only to gain sub-par or worse on the long-term? I’d imagine a fan would care about the quality of the product as well, and would vote with their wallets or make their voice heard in a strong, clear way of their dissatisfaction, but seeing how Battlefield V‘s dev didn’t respond kindly to criticism and told people not to buy if they don’t like it, this doesn’t seem viable in all cases. It’s like some corporations, despite growing off from cult following, don’t exactly want to listen to their core audience. A million dollar corporation ultimately cares more about the profits than the fan feedback, mostly because they do have fans out there who keep them afloat. Imagine that.

I’m throwing this as a guess based on stuff I’ve read decade ago, but nobody becomes a fan through logic. It’s always a positive emotional connection consumers make with a product that drives them. The personality of the brand, the faces that sells you the product, the personal emotions towards the product, all these make a fan. Emotions, more often than not, tend to blind us.

ALESTE; a short series introduction

If there’s one genre of games that defines the arcades, it has to be the the shooting games. Be it space or otherwise, the genre has been there since Computer Space and kept evolving from title to title under different developers and publishers. The simple perfection of Space Invaders is a far cry from the modern bullet hells. Before the genre essentially became just all about the bullet patterns it seems to be now, the growing period of the 80’s was more pure to the form. Hudson’s Shooting Caravan games like Star Soldier and Starship Hector even had nationwide tournaments in Hudson All-Japan Caravan Festival, and had special versions of the games produced. Later on, Hudson would include Caravan mode in their games just for these events and as legacy after the boom was over. In retrospect, you could even call Hudsons Caravan events as one of the earliest form of eSports. After all, shooting games are all about scoring, mostly.

One of the series that competed in this highly saturated genre of time was Aleste. With the 30th anniversary of the series (and an upcoming revival) I’ve decided to take a moment and have a short coverage of the series.

Aleste‘s, by all intentions, is a sequel to 1986’s Zanac, a game that was famous for its adaptive AI, fast paced action and dynamic music that matched the pace of the game. This still keeps Zanac as one of the more interesting and unique shooting games out there, as the AI doesn’t just adapt to player’s weapons, but also to how well they are doing. Certain enemies and waves are triggered how much the player is shooting, moving, scoring and such. Considering how the game can be relenting, the AI ultimately encourages methodical approach and situation-by-situation basis gameplay that can, and often will, result in a completely different kind of playthrough each time. Bosses were also timed, and failing to defeat them would throw the player back into the stage with the penalty of higher number of enemy waves. Considering the original Zanac ran on the MSX, a machine known to have sprite and scrolling issues, it’s a game that shows that Compile was a company that knew how to code. I’d even go as far to say that at one point Compile was a company that made one of the best coded games around.

While longplays are terrible way to showcase a game as they’re often played with perfection, they are also a good way to showcase the whole game and get an idea of their overall length. The games just look easier than what they really are.

All this carried in 1988’s Aleste. To make it stand out from Zanac, parts of its weapon system was changed, but the core of AI being the player’s main opponent, both in gameplay and story, remained. The first Aleste is more or less forgotten in favour of Zanac because of this, but also because both Sega Master System and MSX versions suffer from massive amounts of flicker and slowdowns for whatever reason. Power Strike, the English title for the US and European SMS release might be something some readers might be more familiar with.

Compile set in stone how their weapon system overall works, reworking nine standard weapon types from Zanac. These include standard multi-directional shot, missiles and lasers. However, some more tactical weapons have been introduced. A Charge-shot weapon that functions as a shield directly in front of the ship before shot ranks among one of the best, which is further emphasized in a weapon that creates rolling balls around your ship. A controllable wave beam allows a more creative use of the weapon pool, and each of the eight weapons the game offers have their own use, but are all powered-up by grabbing floating P capsules. Be wary though, since the AI decides if you’ve been having an too easy time with your current set-up.

As a sidenote, Aleste is pronounced as Alesta [アレスタ] , because Japanese and English mix like crude oil and water sometimes.

Between Aleste and Aleste 2, Compile released some of their most famous titles of the time; Guardic Gaiden and Gunhed, known as The Guardian Legend on the NES and Blazing Lazers on the Turbografx-16 in the West.

Considering the shooting game genre is more or less about constant evolution of some kind with each entry (though we see how things degrade with others), 1989’s Aleste 2 is essentially what Aleste should have been. It might be more of the same, just better. Spanning three disks, Aleste 2 is probably the best vertically scrolling shooting game on MSX, having extremely smooth scrolling for the system, a pressing soundtrack and the return of Compile’s dynamic AI system. The difficulty’s been ramped up few notches as well, with Oni and God difficulties being absolutely maddeningly impossible.

The two first Aleste games tell more or less a complete story, both justifying the AI system in-universe. Aleste sees biological computer DIA 51 rebelling against mankind and extends its tendrils across the planet in plans to destroy all life. Ray Wizn is tasked to fly in and destroy DIA 51, something he is very much determined to do after DIA 51’s rampage sends his girlfriend Yuri into hospital. It’s not Shakespeare, but gets the job done. Aleste 2 takes place twenty years later, with appearance of Vagant, an alien species intending to destroy humanity. Ray, now a ranking officer, loses his life in the initial barrage. His daughter, Ellinor steps up to opposite Vagant’s techno-biological rampage on Earth, and sees herself being transported to sub-space dimension during her fight to destroy what seems like the final boss. With a revelation of this being a trap, she breaks out back to Earth, with three months having passed there due to time dilation. After the final assault and freeing Earth, Rosa, one of Vagant generals, recognises her leader’s mistakes and thus makes peace with Earth.

 

Aleste Gaiden was released two months after Aleste 2, and as the name implies, is a side-story. Released in Disc Station Special magazine, this minigame sees the return of Ray in a cybernetic ninja armour, aiming to defeat DIA 51 in a post-apocalyptic setting. The game’s intention was to create the vertical shooting game with the character walking on ground. Obstacles must be walk around and crevices need to be jumped over.

The title’s shorter, easily beaten in half the time the two previous games, and simpler in terms of weaponry and overall design, limiting the weapon options stage count. It’s more a curiosity, if we’re completely honest, probably the weakest entry in the series. However, it’s take on the visual design and robotic armours was the launch point of Compile’s most famous Aleste title aftewards, as well as for a whole series of games using the said robots over fighters.

 

 

Toaplan published Compile’s Musha Aleste in 1990 for the Sega Mega Drive and it has been considered a system classic and as one of the best shooting games to date, especially if you believe Classic Game Room. Musha Aleste started out as a project to port Aleste 2 to the MD, but at some point during the development they went into a completely new direction, meaning classic Aleste was more or less abandoned. Taking place in an alternative timeline in Tenryaku 91, the game’s setting is Ellinor jumping into her giant robot to take down the super computer Dire 51. We see her squad being taken down in the first seconds of the game, leaving her as the only one to tackle the enemy. Much like with Aleste Gaiden, Musha Aleste drops the standard formula with Compile’s weapons and opts for three sub-weapons of bombs, lasers and rotating balls. Emphasize on supplementary firepower from options named Arms is given, as as the player can change how they function on the fly. They can rotate the player, fix them into a position or fly around the screen with auto-shot enabled.

While much smaller game in scale compared to previous full-fledged Aleste titles, Musha Aleste comps this by being extremely fast paced and having overall great design. It’s not balls to the walls punishing in difficulty either, being optimised for a more relax play session. This makes Musha Aleste a title that’s easy to get into and have a blast with.

 

Galvanic Gunner Aleste hit the Game Gear in 1991, and takes the series back to its fighter roots. Between this Compile had done another semi-fantasy shooting game with NAXAT, Seireisenshi Spriggan, for the PC-Engine, which was essentially Musha Aleste 2 in design and play. Ellinor has become the series’ main character by this point, whichever kind of setting the game happens to take in. The standard weapon set returns with a vengeance GG Aleste and the game doesn’t stray too far from the comfortable framing the series is known for. However, it is somewhat hampered by the small screen, though this is made up for by the fact that the Game Gear’s screen is in colour. While I’d like to give some sort of idea what’s the game about, I’ve yet to see manual scans about, and the game itself mostly throws Ellinor against the enemy, only to showcase her coming out in a busted hip and almost gone in the end credits.

 

Super Aleste is the series’ only entry on the SNES, as Compile seemed to be comfortable with Mega Drive after Puyo Puyo became their greatest hit and Sega opted to publish load of their games. Known as Space Megaforce in the West, Super Aleste is removed from the other games in setting. A gigantic spaceship named Sphere attacks Earth. Earth’s only and last hope are Raz, the pilot of the fighter, and Thi, Sphere’s mysterious ex-prisoner with psychic powers. The manual goes deeper how all ships, including Aleste, were shot down. Raz however survives (hence the cover) and frees Thi, who uses her powers to repair and enhance the ship. Not that you’d know much about this, the Western release cut all of the scenes out with some extra stuff from the Options menu as well. It is very de-Japanised. The Cutting Room Floor has an entry on the game. If you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned the AI for some time, that’s because Compile more or less dropped it and concentrated on designing the enemy waves in a traditional way. Nevertheless, there’s something sombre and relaxing about the game, especially for a 1992 title, which allows the player to zone in in a relaxed manner, even during the more hectic moments.

This design shows itself in the game, as it is pretty much the opposite of Musha Aleste. It’s slower, more methodical but in no way just has you sit doing nothing. Weapon options have been increased and all weapons have more than one fire mode, making tackling the stages more interesting with each playthrough. It is also much longer game, taking about an hour to beat, but there’s a Short Mode that is only four stages long. There are multiple difficulty levels, each with their own endings. The SNES was never the go-to machine for shooting games, but Super Aleste should sate that craving more than the more famous titles like Axelay.

If you ever wanted to play as one of Nobunaga’s ninjas, Dennin Aleste has you covered. Hitting the Mega-CD the same year Super Aleste hit SNES, Dennin Aleste follows in the same steps as Musha Aleste and Spriggan, effectively solidifying Compile thematic split between historical fantasy with robots and futuristic shooting games when it came to the series. As usual, the game was renamed as Robo Aleste in the West. The player character Kagerou pilots the titular Electric Ninja Aleste in order to defeat Astaroth, the mysterious shadow figure controlling the rest of the warlords warring against Nobunaga.

The overall system is lifted from Musha Aleste, with an additional weapon thrown in. A charging mechanic was introduced to the game, though how useful that ended up being is up to question due to the raised difficulty ceiling. The game is also fast, but lacks polish compared to the previous entries. It’s also slower compared to Musha, and as usual for Mega-CD titles, has large amounts of cutscenes to tell the story. A sequel was planned, but ultimately abandoned due to the declining sales.

And here we are, 1993. GG Aleste II was the last song of the series. The title’s very much by the beats at this point, concentrating on a new protagonist fighting against an overwhelming enemy, now with 3D stages akin to Space Harrier. At this point, there’s not much that can be said that isn’t repetition from previous Aleste titles.

It pains not being able to say much about it, outside that it is the best shooting game on Game Gear, and the aftermarket prices are about as high as you’d expect.

 

 

 

 

While Aleste started out as a game series with fast paced and dynamic gameplay thanks to the AI, the series ultimately dropped that element and concentrated more on the setting and story. Compile pretty much ceased developing shooting games in 1993, with part of the staff still wanting to develop shooting games moved to Raizing. Puyo Puyo had the spotlight to no end, but ultimately the constant fall of sales and changes in the market that they couldn’t keep up, Compile’s last game was on the PlayStation in 2001, Zanac X Zanac, a direct sequel to the franchise that kicked Aleste off.

Zanac X Zanac consists of two games; the port of the original and Zanac Neo, which starts with the last stage of the original and directly kicks off from there. Neo has all the then-modern takes on the genre while staying true to the core; multiple ships to choose from, expansive arsenal of 32 weapons and extremely well polished gameplay and visuals, and a combo scoring system. However, the genre was done by that point, and bullet hells had taken over as the genre-defining standard. The story takes place right after the fist game, where the AI Zanac foresaw its destruction and moved itself to a new core, forcing the player to venture forth again to fight against it. It is much of the same as original Zanac, just more polished.

 

Compile folded in 2002, and saw the rest of their staff moving elsewhere, some putting up their own companies like Compile Heart and Milestone, while others joined Raizing, while others simply quit the industry. I hope that the upcoming revival will not be a remake, but a proper, full-fledged release with effort and resources behind it. Hopes for a Zanac X Zanac type release that would compile previous entries in the series into one, complete package alongside with Aleste 3 are far-fetched at best, but we can only sit tight on our asses and wait for Summer 2019 for the news.

Stan Lee, 1922-2018

When a person like Stan Lee passes away, there’s very little someone like yours truly can add to what’s already been said and written many times over. To some he has been an inspiration, to some a crook who has taken credit from someone else’s work. Nevertheless, he was one of the main instruments to create Marvel as a comic publishing powerhouse to rival any competition, and did have his hands in creating characters and stories that have turned into modern myths.

While Lee’s cameos in Marvel movies have been his probably the most visible appearances in terms of world wide exposure, the most exposure I got of him was in the comics’ pages themselves. Stan Lee Presents… almost served as a badge of quality. Lee’s voice in the NeverSoft’s Spider-Man game was made the game more legit, something that Lee’s voice lend itself for very well. Hell, he even appeared in-person in the 90’s Spider-man cartoon. Then again, his first appearance was in the 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, so he has a history with these, both in and out of Marvel related productions.

Even if all this was a facade, just a front to serve Stan Lee better as the company face, I can’t doubt his enthusiasm to be in almost everything he was part of. To take his own words at face value, Stan Lee ended up loving the fact he entertained people through the comics. They served as a basis to delight, scare and bring new worlds and experiences to the reader, sometimes just brightening up someone’s day, sometimes perhaps even pulling them away from the edge. Bringing joy to people just by being there seemed to be a lot for him, and probably the paycheck that it brought with it, but let that one slide for now.

He was a character that seemed to be full of life and joy, though at the later years of his life there had been some rumours that age had got to him, and how there were people in his close circles trying to swindle his property away from him. Of course, only few are privy how he really was for all those years, but as a legendary icon, it doesn’t really matter much. This is one of those cases, where the person has been eclipsed by his cultural status and has embraced it. I’d say we should too, at least for the time being before historians and nerds begin write biographies and True Stories of Stan Lee.

That’s where Stan Lee will stay for long time. The image people have in their heads about him vary somewhat, but often I see people drawing him with the heroes he created, next to a drawing table or otherwise entwined with then goings of comics and related phenomena. Always smiling in his trademark glasses and moustache, and that go-get ’em attitude. Dare I say, as an icon, Lee’s legacy could be called inspirational. Perhaps that’s why I returned making an entry about a celebrity’s death, despite stopped doing so after few early on in my blogging. In my head, I always reserved two more spots after Ralph McQuarrie; for Stan Lee and Go Nagai. While I can’t say I am sad at his departure, I can’t deny a part of me thinks that something that has been with me on the pages of comics has now left.

There will be someone to take his place, at some point. There won’t be another Stan Lee, but there is no need for that. If Lee was there to entertain us, there are and will be people who would take up on that mantle, and entertain us like there was no other, in their own fantastic and amazing ways.

Excelsior to eternity, Stan Lee.

An era of hamfisted franchises

Using very sources or examples is never really a proper thing to do, but recently I can’t help but to feel that as of late more and more companies have been trying to expand their franchises at the cost of the core audience. I don’t mean the usual memetic way, but at the expense of the franchise themselves.

Take both Star Trek and Star Wars as an example. Hell, throw in Ghostbusters in there for good measure. I’m not wondering what the hell happened, because we know what happened in both cases. With Star Trek, we first had the Abrams’ reboot films, which weren’t great to any degree. He didn’t care about the franchise, he didn’t get it. Whatever he did wasn’t in the spirit of Trek and it showed on-screen. The same applies to the second movie, revisiting the same beats for characters like Spock being essentially reset to his original form in the first movie. The PR team directly lying to the audiences about the villain disn’t do any favours. After all, trying to remake what is considered the best of Star Trek movies is a tall task, something the writers and directors weren’t up to. Into Darkness is considered the worst in the series for a good reason, even if it hamfists the usual Trek message in like a truck. Third film may be a fan favourite from the reboot timeline, bu that’s little worth when the movie itself made the least amount of revenues.

All this is really ramps up with Star Trek Discovery, the least viewed Trek if we go by what Midnight’s Edge’s latest Trek video. The overall reaction to it has been less than favourable, but this is not surprising. Les Moonves micromanaged the show to the point of failure. He didn’t care for the franchise, but saw the potential in it to make money. What he or the rest of CBS’ staff didn’t seem to realise that failure would mean further losses on the long run. Any person running a franchise with fifty years of history and a cultural position will tell you that you don’t play the game for short-term gains. The Next Generation‘s later seasons, and the subsequent series didn’t dabble in current politics too much. Instead, good storytelling was at the front with the occasional thematic comment, much like how the Original Series had gone. Deep Space 9 had few episodes that were about racism and culture, yet these were woven into the story in a significant way. The same can’t be said about Discovery, which sadly pushes the politics over the story to the point of the main character Michael Burnham being unable to do anything wrong and comes out the most unpleasant main spot character across the franchise. Pretty much everything was driven by political ideology, with Klingons being turned into representation of political views.

Star Wars suffers from this same approach. Rather than tell a good story, a fitting story for the franchise, Episode VII gave us a terrible story that only got worse in the next mainline movie. The current Expanded Universe has seen vehicles for further one-sided agenda both in books and comics in a similar manner, and it all shows in the falling revenues.

There is no respect towards the franchises or the stories in either camp.

The best stories in either Trek or Wars have been fantastical character pieces. The comparisons of current politics have always been present, but largely in an allegorical method or as motif that is woven in to the overall fabric. You may not notice them, but your brain sure does. This is where so many modern stories fail. For example, the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire is an allegory to certain war with small and technologically weak group fighting a large and overpowering enemy, the Viet Cong against the United States. However, that isn’t emphasized to any degree within the Sequel Trilogy outside the setup.

The First Order from the new movies abandon this altogether and simply makes them sci-fi Nazi Germany, both in action and visuals. This lack of any sort of subtle approach undermines whatever the writer wanted to say to the point of making the First Order seem like Saturday morning cartoon villains, especially in Episode VIII.

The difference between the two isn’t just that Nazi Germany, or Nazis overall, aren’t just largely irrelevant nowadays as a political power, but also shows the fundamental misunderstanding of the franchise and its visuals. This applied to the older Expanded Universe as well, which explain clearly how the Third Reich marched into the cinemas. Abrams can tell us he is a fan of Star Wars how many times he wants, but the end result shows that he isn’t up to the task to write a good Star Wars movie like so many other before him. The same applies to largely almost every piece of SW fiction produced under Disney rule. It is understandable that Disney didn’t want to start making movies based off the Thrawn Trilogy or the like, as that would have meant they’d need to pone up some money for the original writers. The less they have to tie themselves to pre-existing stories and can make whatever the hell they can all the while milking fans’ affection towards characters like Thrawn, it’s all good to them.

Except when their movies are bombing and toys are barely selling. Disney is now trying to course correct the franchise with their next mainline movie, despite being adamant that nothing has been going wrong. Hollywood PR mandates a studio to keep their shit straight and tell nothing’s wrong, until sometime later they can just admit everything being gone to hell and silently try to fix stuff. It’d be better PR to admit they’ve gone wrong and are looking into ways to correct the matter. You’ll never see a studio do this though.

Trek is also taking a new direction, trying to capitalise on the success of The Orville of all things. ST Discovery‘s second season trailer already shows that they have a new direction, with emphasize on more adventure and fun, with Lower Decks being a straight out comedy from the writer of Rick and Morty. While we shouldn’t pass a judgement on series that haven’t even aired an episode yet, but an educated guess about their intentions isn’t hard to make. Discovery, by all means, has been a failure. Rather than looking at what makes a good Trek show and how to go on about it, CBS has opted to see what the direct competitor was doing and wants The Orville audience. Doing comedic Star Trek isn’t the way, doing proper Star Trek and not whatever Discovery ended up being should have been their first course of action, but that’s not how business is done when blind data is looked at without any consideration to the franchise.

Maybe all of these companies should look into making new IPs rather than bastardise existing ones to function as their vehicles. The Orville did it, against all the odds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March of the working robot

Ever since the industrial revolution revolutionaised the mass production of goods, machines have replaced manual labour slowly, but surely. The utopia where machines have taken over all manual labour is still currently a pipe a dream, but ultimately it may come to pass, if technology and all related fields keep advancing. The rudimentary tool AI that drives most current industrial robots may seem simple, but that too is mostly a question of time.

Hobbies and industries have evolved remarkably in the last hundred years, even more so in the last thirty or so years. If you wanted to make your own model kit from scratch, you needed to amass the materials and begin to cut and assemble them properly. Nowadays, that work has been relegated to a 3D printer, which simply accepts a model it needs to extrude from its nozzle. This is what essentially what’s at the core of this mechanisation of labour; one man and one machine. This is why some schools around the world have begun emphasizing skills relating to future-world jobs, like coding, in order to ensure that no child would lack the basic skills to survive in the thought modern world. Whether or not this is the best approach is up to the question, but it is undeniable that mechanical workforce is slowly but surely making their way in regions where you wouldn’t believe them fitting in. As is the case, these things usually stat out small and then build from that.

To use welding as an example, welding started out heating two objects and then adding third material to weld the objects together. It was revolutionised when modern welding via high current became a thing. Welding rods made things simpler. That evolved further into feeding a constant wire with protective gas. For some time now, in some cases the human element has been almost completely removed and a robot arm welds as instructed. The human element is there to correct the machine, maybe finalise the product, but not to work the seams the robot is responsible for. The 3D printer mentioned above is this exact same phenomena, and the same thing has been moving towards every field. Objectively speaking, we do not have a need for sculptors nowadays, when all you need is some 3D skills and an access to a CNC machine. A router with a fine tip will always be better than the human hand.

All this is more or less self-evident, but what about work places that require more human touch? Numerous stores have already installed self-service counters for customers to go through, needing to employ fewer workers. Phone service are a classical example, though not all of them work as well as they’re intended to. The issue is of intelligence, as machines don’t have general intelligence that would work and understand. Current AI can compute meanings from library of definitions, but none of them truly understand what’s told to them.

Human touch can be replaced, or at least mitigated to some extent. For example, Paro the Therapeutic Robot made its rounds few years back when every news source showcased how it helped old people with things like stress. The seal shaped robot would require some care to be given, like petting and talking sweet things to it. If left alone, it would begin to whine. Though according to the site, if you hit it, it will learn and cease repeating that action, something I doubt many people would want to be replicated with any living thing. In case of lack of contact with, well, pretty much anything when it comes to old people’s homes sometimes, a robot that responds to your actions does seem like a good alternative, at least for some time. It’s like how some people get a large pillow and put a picture of their cartoon wife on there. It might not be the same as hugging and sleeping with a real being, but human mind is plastic enough to convince itself about a lot of things, like communism being a good idea.

With time, the intelligence of machines might achieve the level high enough to at least understand limited topics. A robot cashier for example wouldn’t need to understand anything beyond what the consumer is bringing to it, scan the products and request a payment. Such robot should be relatively easy to build even with modern technology and would save companies money in salaries. Robots could even fill the shelves, given that numerous warehouses already run on automated vehicles that move things about without much human assistance.

The industrial revolution had its Luddite movement, and Neo-Luddites are a thing. Technology may make life easier and work cheaper, which often is the argument against it; it takes away jobs from the people. Car replaced the horse, and welding robot replaced the welder. This of course always opens new job fields; now somebody needs to make the cars, but the tech evolution has now machines building machines to work. The argument of course is easy to understand, but at the same time technology has always moved like this. Often a tool to make work easier and less strenuous is acceptable to most, but the idea of their job being replaced by something inanimate raises eyebrows. Sure, some fields like medical doctors won’t be replaced anytime soon, though as mentioned, as the fields evolve things won’t look the same. If we want to give all jobs like this the absolute back limit, it would be when general intelligence is created, that is AI which is one human level of intelligence. From there, nothing’s a limit anymore. At that point, not even coding needs to have a human input.

Is this post about personal fears regarding the job market? No, but the observations and discussions I’ve been making during the last seven years alone shows that industries with reliance on hard manual labour probably will see drastic changes in short period of time in the near future. It all depends on the worldwide macro-economics, as such change would need a driving force behind it. As much as some people hate to admit it, both World Wars advanced sciences and technologies in leaps and bounds, and we’ve been enjoying fruits of those labours for some time now. The Cold War drove space tech another set of steps, but after that there hasn’t been much driving us forwards. Well, outside the information warfare that’s constantly raging without us knowing or seeing it. I doubt we’re ever going to achieve post-scarcity world like in Star Trek,

The robot work revolution is not all that relevant in our time, but it’ll get there at some point, if we’re lucky. With all the cuts in education and downgrading everything surrounding it, it’s more likely that future workforce may be able to dabble with their phones more than to calculate how much grams of drugs you should get.

Artificial Intelligence in Muv-Luv

I feel this post needs some prefacing. The topic of artificial intelligence is well discussed across all media in all possible forms. The subject’s rather dry if you want to get technical with it, rather than just touch the surface with throwaway philosophical concepts. As a topic it’s part mathematics and part economics, as AI requires both strong scientific and engineering to succeed, but these two require running budgets and political decisions to be feasible. There has been a few AI winters, where the interest had become extremely low due to lack of progress. In truth, we have multiple functioning AI in our current era, ranging from dedicated chess computers to whatever Google’s cooking up. The AI science fiction often employs and what most people seem to regard as the end-product of AI is a machine intelligence superior to human, a super intelligence. That might be one world, but I’d rather not have the spellcheck to shit on me every time I type it. AI research is still ongoing, though it would seem that most prominent research is directed at tool AI rather than general intelligence. It is hard to predict when superhuman intelligence will come to existence, but depending in what form it’ll be in, it might be the last invention mankind needs to make for obvious reasons.

This post will concentrate on discussing three different AI in Muv-Luv franchise, all three which are distinctly separate from each other. There are more in the background we’re never told about, but clearly exist. I will also go the unconventional route and disregard some of the depictions in the narrative in favour of larger discussion, and touch on this wherever relevant, e.g. how TSF AI autopilot should be more autodrone-like rather than weak AI autopilot it has. To spoil some of the latter discussion, how AI is treated in the setting is rather generic and follows SF conventions very closely to the point of not really adding anything new to it. At the same time, how AI is presented in BETAverse setting, a term I use for the world that Unlimited, Alternative and most of the spin-off take place in, is rather unconvincing and even unrealistic on closer look, even when you take into account that the main weapon used again the BETA are giant robots piloted by people in high-tech latex suits. I’m no professional in Artificial Intelligence or the like, so consider this post as musings of a fan.

This post also assumed that you are at least familiar with the overall concepts and world of Muv-Luv, as I will not offer any expanding explanations on topics like Moorcock-Lechte Drive. Sources used for this post are the VNs themselves, as well as The Codex, hence Superordinate replacing the nomenclature for Superior.

 

Tactical Surface Fighter learning computer, a rudimentary seed AI?

A problem with fiction and AI is that it has coloured the whole concept. The aforementioned chess computer is perfect example of something that was thought to be incredibly hard to attain, simply because it was thought that beating a chess master required to have some sort of nebulous part of humanity with it. When Deep Blue, the successor of Deep Thought chess-computer, beat the chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997, it was deemed a pinnacle of AI, but relatively soon after Deep Blue was considered only a sophisticated piece of hardware dedicated on one task only. It would seem that once intended AI functions as originally intended, the goalpost moves automatically and previous breakthroughs are merely results of clever programming. Kasparov’s loss at the hands of Deep Blue has been downplayed for years, citing Kasparov having unsightly bad play on his part or generally downplaying the value of chess as a game as a measure of human intelligence, something that had been culturally significant part across the globe for at least few centuries already. The same of course can be attributed to the Chinese game of Go, where Google’s AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, the 18-time world champion, in 2016. Deep Blue was, and still is, a rather weak artificial intelligence, intended for a single task. We’ve yet to achieve any level of general or super intelligence to compare to. However, it would appear that even weak artificial intelligence bests mankind at our own games.

The AI in TSFs is a sort of learning computer, a tool approached weak AI that’s intended to both assist the pilot as well as take take control whenever necessary. Just like Deep Blue, it is not a general intelligence capable of making aware decisions. It is an input/output AI through and though. Pilots are required to train and drill movements and patters to a memory unit within the Fortified Pilot Suit, which this pilot data can be transfers from TSF to TSF with the pilot. This would lead the AI to react to events and situations as indicated by the data, seemingly allowing the TSF to predict the pilot’s actions based on the thought interface based on the changes in the pilots thought pattern and muscle voltage. However, by default this would lead into each pilot data being usable only for certain TSFs with comparable performance and weapon layouts. and mixing data from e.g. F-4 to Phantom to F-16 Fighting Falcon should produce incompatibilities. This would mean the pilots would have to drill new pilot data in the simulators, or at least refine existing pilot data, for newer generation machines rather than directly jumping into them. The pilot data seems to be gathered relatively fast due to the thought control interface the TSFs utilise for faster man-machine interface. It should also be noted that TSF itself accumulates pilot data, meaning a new pilot needs to override the machine’s existing patterns with his own, or is newly rolled out, the pilot will have hard time piloting the TSF due to the AI expecting different input. This canon system is somewhat backwards, as it would make more sense for TSFs have a standard base AI, to which pilot data is applied to as the pilot enters the TSF. This would prevent pilots being tied down to one TSF for effective operation.

In-universe, a TSF at autopilot will have less reaction time and is weaker at close combat manoeuvres than human pilots. This seems to be a schizophrenic hardware limitation. Considering the pilot data is created to assist the pilots in their actions at any given time, from walking to close-quarter combat, the AI of the TSF is required to react to a threat faster than the human pilot in order to assist. If TSF already has the ability to avoid Laser Class’ shots faster than the pilot, then the narrative is faulty at some point. Let us assume that that the AI in the TSF requires input both from the perceived threat and the pilot in order to act, meaning that the pilot data would make the TSF’s actions smoother during the actions themselves. The pilot data then would serve to smooth out TSF motions, but this is largely countered by the fact that TSF base AI requires positional resets and can not accept overlapping commands to for a chain of actions.

It would not be a stretch to assume that despite being able to assist the pilot in some manner through pilot data, it would seem apparent that the TSF’s computational centre is not fast enough to actually use the the data by itself, hence why its autopilot functions are extremely lacking. Despite being able to perceive threats and assist the pilot, whatever CPU equivalent it has seems to be incapable of reacting and making proper decisions based on the taught data. Considering modern TSFs are OBL (Operation By Light) the input the TSF AI gains is effectively immediate. Thus, the bottleneck of the system has to be the CPU, and this is something XM3 can’t affect, meaning XM3’s most notable element isn’t that it uses Shirogane Takeru’s pilot data as its basis or allows chaining inputs, but that it has been optimised to the point of the CPU having enough time to make a decision based on the situation rather than dedicating the pilot to a manoeuvre. This is also why all XM3 equipped TSFs have revamped computing hardware, running parallel-computing computers in order to allow XM3 to function at all. However, if we assume that the CPU bottleneck was the reason why TSF autopilot had lower response time than pilot, the new parallel-computing hardware should also increase the old OS’ functions to a very large degree, allowing autopilot to use pilot data for far faster action. The main core difference between thus ends up being not just the smoother and more action-reinforcing AI, but the sheer hardware advantage parallel-computing has over the old hardware.

Assuming that with the advent of further hardware innovations other than parallel-computing, it should be relatively straightforward to create a drone-like TSF, where its functions are based on existing pilot data and environmental input. Considering the BETA on Earth are stuck on simple action patterns, even after then Alternative‘s events changed them to a degree, it should not be out of question to have these learning computers to learn directly on the field and choose the most proper output in a given situation. This learning would be extremely fast, as XM3 shares data across all the units, meaning all TSFs would share the end results of both successful and failed manoeuvres. This sort of dynamic learning would easily lead into autopilot TSFs easily matching, and then overcoming both their human and BETA opponents. With hundreds of hours logged into pilot data files, a TSF could in principle adopt the pilots manoeuvres and use that as the core base library, be it against BETA or humans. This might end up making the TSFs relatively predictable at first, but as data accumulates, the seed AI should learn to variate or even faint against human opponents.

The core function of TSF OS is effectively that of a seed AI that is being taught how to move and function as dictated by intention as a weak artificial intelligence tool, which in-universe seemed to have hit a stop-gap caused by computational technology hitting a snag. However, pretty much everything else around it is ready for the step to AI driven TSFs, as input/output technology is clearly miles ahead. Artificial muscles and fiber-optics allow at least near light-speed input from environment to be received, but decisions and sending commands back seems to be the issue. This is not the case with artificial limbs in their current iteration. Suzumiya Haruka had some troubles with her pair of limbs, whereas the 00 Unit full-body prosthetic had no obvious problems acting and moving like a natural human being.

 

Whole Brain Emulation, 00 Unit and super intelligence

Whole Brain Emulation is how the initial 00 Unit is gained its intelligence. The concept is solid; scan a brain from a given moment and use machine to replicate brain’s functions on some level to gain general intelligence. The level the brain must be replicated in order to have it properly function is not known, though in principle it should be enough to replicate the general function of the synapses rather than emulate the brain below cellular level. The advantage of successfully emulating brain functions is that we don’t exactly need to know the deeper functions as long as the brain’s state can be successfully emulated. As long as the emulation is low-level enough, the emulated synapses and other functions should take over by themselves. The hardware doesn’t have a control over them.

Another benefit in this is that the emulated intelligence can be tweaked to function faster, e.g. make the synapses shoot faster. As such, accurate emulation is not the intended end result if the end result is super intelligence, but whole brain emulation can be the first step towards to it. Emulated brains with tweaked functions would be able to think faster and more efficiently than normal brains as well as able to absorb far more information for further use. It is clear that the emulated brain within 00 Unit is not vanilla variety, but has hardware modifications applied. These include a level of ESP and general control over machinery either via ESP or unknown means. Furthermore, 00 Unit’s control and calculation abilities have greatly been boosted over her source brain abilities as per the intended usage as a communicator between the BETA and humanity. As such the Whole Brain Emulation we see in Muv-Luv Alternative and in the assumed future counts as super intelligence. Needless to say, 00 Unit is strong intelligence to TSF’s weak intelligence.

The emulation hardware the 00 Unit has is far superior than what TSFs use for their OS and functions, as if they were similar, it’d mean 00 Unit’s brain emulation would be pathetically slow. This of course is solved by having the solution brought from EXTRAverse, by having fifteen billion semi-conductors working in parallel to create an artificial brain build of material able to super conduct as room temperature called Grey Nine. This artificial brain is effectively a quantum computer in itself, and is able to quantum conduct. Effectively, it is a cross-dimensional quantum computer able to link itself to other worlds where 00 Units exists, effectively creating a pan-dimensional computing network. This is hilariously over the top in terms of processing power and science magic, well within the reach of accurately emulating every and all functions of a brain even at atomic level. The rest of the emulation, in order to cause disassociation with the emulated brain, is the body. 00 Unit is relatively traditional SF cyborg body, emulating all surface functions of a human, from breathing to function of sexual organs. Birth is apparently impossible, but with medical technology being this far, artificial wombs would be in the range of possibility. The egg might need to be donated elsewhere and inserted within the womb either through traditional means or already fertilised. The donor may be some other person, or perhaps the eggs have been harvested and frozen prior brain scanning.

The technology of brain scanning in Muv-Luv is destructive. The principle is that a brain is harvested at some point, probably frozen to some extent and then cut into extremely thin parts slices. These slices are dyed properly to map out each and every cell and their position, which in itself is an incredibly daunting task that required relatively advanced medical and analytical technology to replica in a virtual environment. It is probable that the same hardware that emulates the brain running 00 Unit was also necessary to even begin with the task of analysing the brain and its state. Considering we have the technology that are superior to our own eyes and ears, it would not be impossible to assume that perfect sight and hearing are a package deal here. It would also be completely possible to add strength and speed to the body, but the difference between the emulation’s original body and the artificial one would be more pronounced. Seeing that the emulation is perfect, as in it functions as the driving force rather than as a framework further software is run through, the emulated personality would have a relatively difficult period to accustom to their superhuman body compared if the cybernetic body would be human-like. Further upgrades of course can apply further post-human additions, from multiple arms to completely inhuman body.

Whole Brain Scanning and its successful application in perfect personality replication opens some hard questions. If the personality emulation is perfect, and there is no dissonance between the human and artificial body, can be say that the 00 Unit is simply a machine continuation of the brain donor? After all, the experiences of the donor continue directly where the brain’s functions were stopped. Booting up for the first time might be a similar experience to waking up from a sleep. This can be contrasted to Star Trek‘s teleportation dilemma, which asks if the person who comes out from the porter is the same person who entered it, as Trek‘s technology requires destruction of the original particles in order to record them, and then an assembly of this data at the other end. Effectively, the person needs to die in order to be teleported. Few times in the show’s history old data has been used to reconstruct previous states a ship member had been to reverse some ailments. Additionally, the transporter can remove or add elements from the data. It would not hard to assume that tweaking the data it would be possible to further modify the pattern. Consider also that about every seven years a human has renewed their cell structure, effectively replacing all the old there was. This sort of idea of at what point a ship is a new ship, if all of its parts are replaced one by one in time. At some point, nothing of the old ship exists any more.

In-universe, there are two takes. Kouzuki Yuuko having no connection to the brain donor largely treats the 00 Unit as an intended machine, despite 00 Unit having its own agency and persona. Shirogane Takeru on the other hand takes the approach that as long as the memories and personality are Kagami Sumika’s, the 00 Unit and her are one and the same. The continuation of the personality, the awareness and consciousness, is what defines her as over the fact that she is artificial. It would also seem impossible to replicate Kagami Sumika’s brain pattern to a new body. Despite the fact that her body functions on extraterrestrial G-elements, it should be possible to record her brain pattern off from her body and upload it to a new body. However, the fiction seems to indicate that this is not possible, either due to lack of technology like having multiple hardware builds to house further 00 Units, or that the scanning and pattern upload procedures are simultaneous, effectively hard coding the pattern to the hardware. We can then assume that tampering of the hardware could lead into large damage or total shutdown, or that 00 Unit’s body works similar to some arcade hardware that require constant power to be fed in order to keep the data in memory. We can also assume that the brain emulation is completely dependent on the artificial brain itself, and would require another where to record the pattern to. It might be that in the end there were not enough resources to create another artificial brain at that point in time. All this seems to be driven by the narrative’s need to have drama over that practicality of whole brain emulation.

Considering the momentary existence of the 00 Unit, Japan was the only nation in the world with super intelligence, meaning their edge over other nation in terms of sheer computational power was unmatched. In-fiction, the 00 Unit was capable enough to fool sensory readings of large amount of TSFs all the while controlling the Moorcock-Lechte Drive and its Rutherford Field. If 00 Unit was to used for intelligence gathering from neighbouring nations, or nations with stranglehold on world economics like the US, Japan would have decisive strategical advantage. Instead, 00 Unit was used to spy and map out BETA structures, though for unknown reasons this spy connecting via a BETA Reactor, a Brain Class, was more or less bidirectional.

 

00 Unit waypoint to TSF machine intelligence?

As mentioned, even if normal human mind can’t create general machine intelligence, Whole Brain Emulated AI would easily have access to the necessary power to solve the equations. In Muv-Luv, 00 Unit’s extremely efficient quantum network would be able to create the necessary theories and solution in order to create general machine intelligence. This could be then applied to each sector that relies on AI support, such as TSFs. While I’ve painted a picture that even in-fiction TSF driven by tool super intelligence is not far, similar stories have been told in our real world. Since the 1940’s the advent of AI has been expected to take place within the next two decades, but it has been moved forwards with each win and failure, as the AI goalpost is being moved each time a successful weak AI has been implemented. Such is the case of Deep Blue.

TSF super intelligence would not need to be general AI. Quite the opposite, despite being super intelligence, it could be created to lack agency of its own. The solution to create new 00 Units exists and is being taken advantage of by 2040’s, meaning that general machine intelligence should be a thing to some extent. If we take this into account, it would be possible to downgrade the artificial brains to only emulate standard human brains without the quantum connection and install these as TSF’s on-board computers. This of course means you’d be giving a giant robot access to its own agency, which might end up badly. To take this even further, perhaps with enough materials and scanned brains it would be possible to excise cockpits as such from TSFs altogether and simply have pilots move have their conscious temporarily moved into the TSF shell. This would be a temporary upload, which would then upload itself back to the pilot body when TSF returns to its hangar. Death of a pilot would only mean that an iteration that was uploaded to the TSF would cease to exist, whilst the originator of that thought pattern would still be safe and could be used for further action. With XM3 sharing data across the TSFs, further developments might even be able to return the uploaded pattern back to the pilot’s body before destruction due to the sheer speed fiber optics allow.

This of course raises numerous ethical and existential questions about treatment of humanity and how we define what is to be human or alive. Though who knows, maybe F-47 Ishkur has some sort of on-board AI assisting the pilot.

The described AI TSF exists within the setting, though in somewhat different from and function. In MLA Total Eclipse, there exists a device that has a shape like a rounded coffin, which houses a live esper. When activated, a red aura emanates from inside of it, and engulfs the TSF in a similar aura. This red aura seems to denote malicious presence, as opposed to the blue aura other espers can envelope TSFs with. This aura is called the Nastroyka Effect, and its overall brightness and effect is linked to the esper’s Prafka, an effect which induces esper with a state that increases their ability to pilot. The П3 Plan, fully titled as Polnoye Zatmeniye Plan or Total Eclipse Plan, aimed to create TSFs driven by these esper pods for more efficient operations. By triggering the Prafka on these pods, each TSF equipped with them would have superior operational efficiency over other TSFs. A human pilot was still necessary to be present for command and control over the overall actions.

Because the esper pods would control the TSF via their psychic linkage, they could be counted as AI driven by biological compuers, the espers themselves. However, whether or not we should count living humans appropriated for such task as AI is an open question. However, it could also be possible that these espers were modified to function only in this manner via brainwashing or other memory alteration techniques, and the rest of their humanity was retarded to non-existence. This would mean they would not function in any other form. Considering the Soviet Union doesn’t think espers as nothing else but dolls to be used and discarded when their usefulness end, it would sound apt they’d remove all the “unnecessary” elements from their autopilots. The ethics of this plan are highly dubious, as birthing and raising humans to function as nothing else but biological AI effectively does seem to break numerous human rights.

 

Biological super intelligence

The fact that BETA are artificial beings mean their intelligence is also artificial, engineered by their creators to function in intended ways. Due to their alien origin, assuming anything on how BETA AI works can only be surmised from their actions. All the smaller strains, if not all other strains outside the Heavy Brain Class that sits at the core of Original Hive, seem to function on tool general intelligence. No other strain exhibits creative thinking or change in behaviour patterns despite few decades of warring. They are to serve a role in a larger function, and their behaviour is set up by the Superordinate a.k.a the Heavy Brain Class. Considering BETA tactics had no reason the change after the initial aerial barrages up until the first unknown contact with the 00 Unit via a Reactor a.k.a Brain Class. The reason for this is rather obvious, as BETA on Earth are resource collectors, recycling all materials they need for production. They have AI that has agency. It is assumed these refined materials are send to the BETA creator’s home world.

The fact that only Heavy Brain Class BETA can modify the AI of any other BETA, meaning change their original intended function like using the Laser Class as anti-air weaponry, the lower tier BETA follow very strict AI pattern that does not allow them to veer off course. While on the surface this code seems to be relatively simple and strict, BETA have exhibited large range of actions to achieve their goals, like a Tank Class BETA jumping in the air to land on a tank rather than the usual swarming. This sort of leeway allows the BETA to have dynamic actions on the battlefield in their point of view, while in comparison to human battle doctrines they have essentially no deviation. New BETA can only be designed at the Original Hive or in a Hive where a Heavy Brain Class exists, meaning there is a strict and archaic hierarchy within the BETA command structure. The Super Heavy Laser Class seen towards the end of Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse is the most prominent example of Heavy Brain Class creating new Class to fight an opponent, though Soldier Class strain is most likely Earth-exclusive due to its resemblance to the human form.

Considering all this, the BETA are effectively super intelligence side in the war on Earth against them. The sheer raw computational power and ability to create new BETA strains to counter human tactics is even more significant than just their larger numbers. With enough input, the Superordinate would be capable of producing a single strain that would be end of mankind, with or without relative strategies. Of course, because BETA don’t have a tactic, they aren’t war machines after all, such devices would only be utilised at extreme situations. If the Superordinate would assess mankind a life form, and accept that it was with only one side surviving, it would most likely alter its largely inert behaviour and become an active participant.

Calling BETA biological machines would not be all that incorrect, considering the Superordinate requests Shirogane Takeru to reactivate then torso-shredded Tamase Miki. Machines can be re-activated even after some damage, something BETA seem to consider themselves capable of doing, hence they consider themselves as non-lifeforms. This definition carries to humans, as revealed by a psychic contact during Alternative 3 procedures, and can be assumed to extend to all other lifeforms based on carbon. This naturally means that the BETA aren’t exactly hostile from their point of view, but rather carrying out pre-ordered function to gather materials. They are effectively as much as a machine to their creators as cars and trucks are to us.

Ultimately, the fight between humanity and the BETA is effectively a story of humanity fighting AI. Similar how TSFs have a weak tool AI, so have the smaller strains. Similarly, 00 Unit being the humanoid quantum computer in silicon the Superordinate is a biological quantum computer, which probably explains why it has to sit atop a mushroom shaped reactor. However, for all intents and purposes, the BETA AI is somewhat humanised, for the lack of better word. While it seems alien and first, the fact that the whole functions similar to archaic computers. Even with human made general AI, not to mention super intelligence, there should be little reason to assume that it would function similar to human patterns or restricts itself to hardware routes, especially if it has any capabilities of self-enhancement. It is highly possible that the Heavy Brain Class is able to do this, as it was able to comprehend human speech and mind at staggering speed. Despite this, its innate programming may not have allowed it to expand further, unless necessary input was presented. The probability of a human being able to do this are largely nil.


 

The AI elements in Muv-Luv should be considered as standard SF fare. It is not the main focus or the point of the franchise. Yes, the BETA are effectively AI and cyborgs and what are successors of 00 Unit will appear later in the franchise, if the roadmap indicated by Exogularity Volume 1 is anything to go by. There probably won’t be any sort of fully AI driven TSFs despite the path now being completely open for them, though the BETA AI will probably be touched to some extent depending whether or not the Heartless One is human or BETA agent. While AI is more or less an afterthought, a sidestepped issue in all of the current stories released thus far, the current setup does allow the staff discuss the philosophy and concepts of Artificial Intelligence down the line, especially when the intention is to showcase mankind in a state where it is natural, posthuman and transhuman at the same time.

Music of the Month; Queen in the Dark

Well, it’s that time of the year. Bats, pumpkins and other scary things like Russian bots telling The Last Jedi was a bad movie, Halloween’s around the corner and it won’t affect this blog one bit. I’m not sure if I’ve ever done anything seasonal outside the occasional Christmas and New Year’s greetings, but I’m not about to start. Unless I get a stroke or something else that forces me to stay at home for extended period of time.

The above music is from Rusty, a NEC PC-98 game that was heavily inspired by Castelvania. It got a translation few years back, which I recommend checking out if you’re into Castlevania and haven’t experienced much of the golden system of classic Japanese PC gaming. That’s a topic worth considering getting into, as classic Japanese PC gaming was a very much its own thing, which most people tend to ignore in favour of consoles of the era. The US had its Macs, UK had ZX Speccy, Finland had C64, France had Amstrad and Japan and NEC PC-88 series.

Anyway, the month came to an abrupt end. I didn’t have time to do that promised Integral Works and Codex comparisons for those who were looking for some new Muv-Luv stuff on the blog, but we’re getting there. Hopefully this month too, before I lose all the sunlight. The SNES controller comparative review was sort of a stop-gag while waiting for the Switch stand parts to arrive, though they should arrive within the next few weeks. For whatever reason the post has been extremely slow as of late. However, it did serve its purpose, considering these SNES-styled USB controllers are dime in the dozen. There are so many different kind of cheapo USB controllers out there that it has stopped being funny seven years ago. Far too often people spend some ten bucks on a controller and then complain that it is nothing but crap. No shit. There’s a magical point with controllers where any new controller above twenty euro tend to be of decent quality. The Hori controllers I’ve reviewed thus far have been relatively cheap and above that price point, for example. Numerous other controllers I own, like few USB Logitech ones, also go above this threshold. You could say that under twenty you get just trash, and proper budget tier range for controller is between 20-35€. From above that we’re getting to the mid-tier range well enough. There should be no reason to start going into why controllers are so expensive nowadays, with the materials and shit going into them and companies trying to gain certain revenue marks off them. A cheapo USB controller that costs a dollar to make will always be inferior to a controller that costs ten bucks to make. If you’re interested in how to calculate a product’s true production value, I have that in a blog post somewhere around here.

On the other side of things, I need to get a new computer. No, this is not trying to shill some sort of Patreon-like service to you, just giving you a notice that at some point I’ll most likely miss a post because I’ll be trouble shooting and testing stuff before fully having a system in use. While I’m not a hardcore computer upgrader or the like, I do like to take my sweet time to pick up all the parts and then go with something good, and then spend a week or so just to get things right before taking things into normal use. I’ll be going AMD route this time, as Intel politicised their company few years back and never looked back. I don’t exactly care about companies and brands getting into politics per se, but many consumers do. Personally I don’t really care if companies get political, unless it clearly begins to affect the quality of the product. Few times this blog has gone dangerously close of being about politics, but that’s never the intention. However, don’t expect to hear much about the computer in itself once it is in use, though there is something I’d like to say about picking new PC parts if you’re building your own rig. Things are just so much simpler if you don’t really give a damn and just get a pre-build set, or want to think differently and get a Mac. Considering they botched iPhone XS’s charging and nobody knows if its hardware or software issue, I’m not putting my trust into Apple’s care.

This being a whole new month, especially the season where some people cook and cut things more often thanks to Halloween, I duly recommend sharpening your knives and oiling them with mineral oil or similar. Sharper knives are safer to use, as blunt knives will not properly and most likely will slip and cut the user instead. A sharp knife is easy to control and handle. Oiling them will also extend their live and keep rust from collecting to any extent. Honing should be done each time a knife is used, if we want to go there, but sharpening once per month should be enough. he difference between sharpening and honing is that sharpening is removal of material to give it an edge, while honing is to fine tune the edge. Both are integral part of keeping your edged tools in good shape, and basic kitchen skills everybody should know.