Multi-disk/c

When looking back at these last few generations of gaming consoles, sometimes it seems like they have been exceptional in some ways. Not in terms of games, quality or the like, but the machines themselves. Outside Nintendo’s offerings, the HD Twins, as they were called, don’t really separate themselves too much anymore from what they do and how. Both Sony and Microsoft tend to push similar boundaries with their consoles without really doing anything special on the side. Microsoft has that whole Windows ecology to work with, and the Xbox brand has become their universal mark of gaming, more or less. Sony’s jumping the multiplatform cross-over play, for whatever reason, but I guess now that developers can make shit work across all major platforms is a positive thing to have in your back pocket. Then you have the whole upgraded systems thing, which hasn’t been a thing since the second generation of consoles, but came back rather hard with all the new upgraded consoles all the three major console companies have been pumping out. Guess the first modern example would be DSi.

One thing that seems to be making a comeback is games spanning multiple discs. Historically speaking this has always been a thing in gaming, with old PC games spanning multiples diskettes. I remember Beneath the Steel Sky coming on fifteen disks on the Amiga. X-Plane 10 supposedly spans eight DVDs. Everquest 2 was on ten CDs when it was released. Command and Conquer may have only come on two discs, one of each having campaign for the two respectable sides. Consoles didn’t have multi-cartridge games in similar manner due to how you can’t just yank the cart from the console without the danger of damaging both the console and the game. After all, there is a live current going through the cart, it is effectively part of the machine itself. Disk and discs are read and not part of the PCB, after all.

Not to say multi-disc games have been gone at any point really. The X360 used DVDs and many of its larger games came on multiple discs compared to their PlayStation 3 counterparts. Lords of Shadow is one, for example, and came on two discs. Blue Dragon supposedly required three. The Blu-Ray Disc, or BD, really allowed just to throw everything on the disc uncompressed. It’s sound files that most often take the space hungry spot, be it music or voices. Mostly voices nowadays. Because of practices like this, game filesizes have been increasing steadily to the point of stupid. Games that are several tens of gigabytes, or perhaps even hundreds, could be shaved down in size by compressing and packing things properly, but it seems that skill has been lost to modern game developers. Maybe it’s because all the tools and engines that are around are readily made and nobody really wants to tackle a problem nobody sees a problem, at least not in the industry itself. Consumers on the other hand tend to groan when they have to wait for several hours for their game to download when it’s a digital entry, not to mention shit has to be installed. I miss the days when I could throw a game inside a console and let ‘er rip, but nowadays I need to sit back and wait another thirty minutes it to install. There’s a damn good reason I keep playing Switch more than PS4 nowadays.

It’s strange to think that multiple discs per game would be a detriment in itself as it has been a standard practice, well, since the first floppy diskette couldn’t hold all the DnD characters some nerd had cooked up during his university days. Reading a bit around, I can’t really find any bonafide dislike toward multi-disc games, but there are some individuals here and there that seem to consider the industry is pushing for digital-only due to lack of space per disc, like Allie-RX, a Youtuber of some sorts. Should we consider multiple discs to be a valid reason to further a push for digital-only materials? Hard to say, but it might as well be one of the arguments, but with modern politics, the argument wouldn’t sway to the direction of lack of space. It’d be about how it is more environmentally more sound to have digital-only, that we’re going to save the planet by not printing all that plastic. Wording which is largely horse shit. As space limitation on the disc, BD XL has 128 Gb of space, and 4K Ultra HD BD discs offer some 100Gb. While we talk about terabytes and petabytes in modern computing as the standard large-scale units, we a game taking over 100Gb should raise an eyebrow and make you question what exactly is taking all that space. As mentioned, it’s largely the uncompressed data on the disc and the lack of know-how regarding compression and packing. We’re well past the era when developers had to develop new compression algorithms to shove everything to a disc or cut down the number of discs. For example, Capcom had to come up new effective ways to compress all sprite data of Mega Man X4 in order not to run out of space. The PlayStation really sucked for 2D sprite games with its limited RAM, and some companies had to come up clever ways to change the sprites in memory on the fly. Then you have companies that want to go for the flashy stuff, like Square and its FMVs in same era Final Fantasy games. Despite their quality and compression, these FMVs still took majority of the discs’ space. If you’d remove the FMVs from the games, each game would’ve fit into one CD just fine. That, I would argue, is where modern mindset comes from. It’s not that there isn’t enough space on modern discs, but that developers don’t need to concern themselves with limitation of space. Much like so many other aspects of game development, space is a thing that has lost its limitation and it is very easy just to let it bloat like a dead body in the water. So much rotten hot air inside, and the colour ain’t really healthy either.

Digital isn’t really a solution to the problem the industry supposedly faces. Not everyone has multiple terabytes of free space on their computers. Some people have the minimum required amount of space bloat on their PCs, some can’t even use external devices in of themselves to expand the memory. It’s a case where we may have all this space in our hands, yet there are surprising amount of consumers limited by it. An easy argument for streaming perhaps, but streaming anything has its own issues. It might be a solution for films, music, television and Visual Novels, but not for computer or console games. There is no real solution to any of this, though I guess HVD would be one if they ever managed to finalise this decade old tech and launch it commercially as BD’s successor, but BD still has life left to it. Still, 3.9 Tb of space on a single disc should be more than enough for all your needs regarding movies or games. I doubt people are willing to pay 100 bucks for a movie ever again, unlike what they did with VHS and LDs back in the day. Of course, the industry could also stop wasting space, but that ain’t happening.

Genre of “Healing”

Iyashi, 癒やし, stands for healing. It is a rather non-standard game genre that some Japanese small-time developers have been bringing up to the surface at Comiket and sites like DLSite. There isn’t any official description for it, which is why so many lump it with Visual Novels due to its connections with the media format, but in reality it’d be more accurate to describe Healing games as Dating sims. Most might remember how Dating sim wasa  term attached to many, if not all visual novels in the 1990’s because the gameplay and aim was to date when the play mechanics were broken down. Nowadays this doesn’t apply, so many VNs are static novels or route selections over managing stats and events. A VN fan might object to this, but VNs lack interactivity a Healing title must have.

To break down the overall play elements and setting, there are few rules that can be observed in these titles. First one is that even that the player is always inserted as the playing character. Characters, events and everything are directed to him, he is never second tier character or otherwise put in the background. The only time things stop, so to speak, is when the player simple wants to take in the atmosphere.

That would be the second; the atmosphere should be relaxing, non-confrontational and serve to ease out stress both with characters, events and design. Colours, music, characters, even shapes, should somehow reflect the idea of comfort and relaxation to some degrees. You could even say that all this should help for the player to escape harsh reality for the time being, which is part of the whole Healing thing. Nothing is pressing you on in these games, you do your pace and relax. There’s no need to be a control god or execution master. Slow pace, a slow burn, is inherent in the genre as one of is main pillars of design. While fast-paced action games can offer a rush and the high feeling you get after a successful play session and puzzle games can give you a large satisfaction after solving numerous hard puzzles that made your head hurt, Healing games really are about taking a break from the hectic everyday life.

Third element would be some level of simulation, which varies from simple route selections like with VNs, but at their most robust includes deciding character clothing, planning events, managing stats or Action Points via dedicated selections and most importantly, simulation of relationship. This relationship can be either with just someone close, but more often the idea dating and being with lover are used in order to convey the whole feeling of companionship and that someone is there with you. This where the whole aspect of sex comes in, and the reason most of Healing genre is R-18. Not that this should be any surprise, sex in itself is an important part of a romantic and intimate relationship, and simulating it somehow is part of Healing. After all, getting your rocks off is one way to relax.

 

1room Runaway Girl is an example of a relatively high-budget doujin game with full voice acting. The options on the right shows what you can enact, and all of them open sub.options to take. Currently grayed out, because I went through this day already, with only few options left. The title is a full, official English translation you can pick up from e.g. DLSite.

Fourth is sometimes used, sometimes isn’t, but never-ending play has become more common with time, and this element is why the genre has crept itself into my interest (regarding the blog.) While some titles simply present VN-like direct path from start to end with some deviation, the more popular Healing games that are on the surface, including the Kickstarter I’ve mentioned constantly to the point of detriment, have no end. This means that the game usually has a day-night cycle and the player has to manage points to engage with certain actions that trigger certain events. Depending on the title, only certain amount of actions can be taken and the player has to decide which actions they go for. Some might advance the relationship, some might increase stats, some might open new options later down the line and sometimes you have to forgo doing any action to save action points for later cycle.

 

Daily options the player has with Konko. There is four Action Points left, which means you can do only so many actions. Chatting costs one point, giving a headpat costs a point, having tea costs two and watching a period drama takes whopping three. Later on more options, meaning you’ll be pressed to choose more carefully as things progress to manage events and such. The player is in no hurry with Konko; the game is endless and there is shitloads of events and items to see and collect.

An intentionally endless game has to have large amount of unique content. Most of it also has to be behind some sort of barrier, where the player must make correct choices on the long run, and trial error doesn’t really end up in the game ending, just having that cycle end. This also makes the games somewhat repetitious, but unlike with most other games, or VNs, the intention of Healing games is not mass consumption in one go. Instead, the player should simmer in the atmosphere, take in the relaxing feeling and play these games little by little without any hurrying. This isn’t to cover game’s short length or the like, but is part of the whole healing thing that the genre is all about. Certainly, there might be a storyline that continues onward slowly but surely, like with 1room Runway Girl, or it might be largely static like with Konko. While 1room encourages player to slowly move and make the in-game life better slowly but surely, Konko on the other hand offers truckloads of unlockable content in form of clothing, accessories and event variations. While both of these titles aim for rather lengthy experience, especially if you only play a cycle or two per day, or do a cycle once per day, the other option would of course aim for a short burst of play.

 

NEVER EVER

Seismic’s Wolf Girl With You offers only three scenarios each cycle that have some slight variations to them, meaning that you’ll probably see them all in an hour if you just blow through them. However, this is a case of quality over quantity, as the game is fully voiced with all actions animated. The title took long-ass time to be developed, and promptly shot to #1 spot in DLSite sales and stayed there for a good damn time. Its delays and constant jokes of never happening made it popular among image board users, and is a rare case of game not failing expectations.

Seismic’s intention with this title, with all of his titles, is to convey the feeling of being together with someone, a homely feel with a girlfriend. While others succeed in this better than others, this is his intention, which probably explains why most of his titles are well received, though he has fully admitted that he wants to create original work next without resorting to existing characters. All these he has stated on his Youtube channel, where he sometimes streams his fish tanks or Street Fighter, of which he has few.

Perhaps that sort of approach is common with most of Healing games. It certainly reflects some of modern society, where there is a split between the sexes and certain interests and positions are simply scoffed at or outright disliked. While some would argue that Healing games are nothing but pathetic escapism for people who can’t get a real girlfriend, the issues why these titles exist much deeper than that. Then you have the issue of sexual depiction, to which some will have strong opinions on. If things continue as they are now in the global society at large, or worsen, it would not be impossible for Healing as a genre to find new venues and ways to push the genre forwards as the emotional gap between sexes become larger. That is where the interest regarding this blog lies; How do you design and develop a game with no end and yet have enough content for long-term play? Do you have that plot that runs alongside with each proper decision per cycle, do you insert lots and lots of collectables that require certain actions under hard limits, or do you simply ignore that and embrace repetition with quality?

Considering how limited budget most of these doujinshi (homebrew, indie, pick your poison) titles often have, things like full voice acting must make a large dent on resources. Then you have production of unique assets, most of which you probably can’t recycle all that easily outside recolors. Static images are always an easy way, though the more detail and time is put into them, the less images there will be, which might also mean planned content might be cut. While DLC and other forms of additional content are possible and even enacted (Konko for example added new pieces of clothing and content via updates) the base idea of leading the player along would go against the genre’s own intention and approach.

Setting itself of course would need to be carefully considered. Some would like a full blown fantasy setting, while others might want to the complete opposite with mundane life. Everyday home life or reliving best years seems to be the most popular setting, but considering school years before work seem to be the ideal time for Japanese, it’s not exactly hard to see why most things set in that period of life. Perhaps you could separate from this setting and have the player character set in adult life with an adult counterpart character. Maybe even have an option to choose when starting the game, but as mentioned, the more work there is, the more resources it takes.

While making a Healing game is relatively simple in terms of aim and concept, God lives in the details. With pretty much everything having to have some weight and be of worth, there’s not much free space to move around if something doesn’t work or just fails. It has to be fixed, it just can’t be one of the weaker parts of the game. Sure, there will always be something that doesn’t measure up to the rest, but with games with this relatively low amount of total content all that just has to matter and have the designed impact. An Action game can afford to have a stage with low quality design here and there, it’s passed through quick, and a RPG can have some bad sections that drag for a bit. A Healing game, not so much. It’s the slow burn nature that has to be dealt with some proper quality.

Looking back at the genre’s history, it has spun off from games like Princess Maker and other life/relationship simulations that were also counted as part of the whole Dating simulator label. However, Healing has been part of Japanese audio drama scene for much longer, again mostly produced by independent groups. Even Konko has two audio dramas that’s mostly about everyday healing, with some few more intimate scenes to boot.

Y’know, sometimes I wonder how in the hell I’ve ended up taking a liking on so many weird shit nobody gives a damn about

Audio dramas are still damn popular in Japan. Most popular, even less popular franchises, get an audio drama or two. Healing is easier to do in audio format. In principle it just needs someone to talk nice things into the listener’s ears, but that’s of course simplifying things to a fault. Some are as long as three hours from what I’ve seen, and that must take serious writing, pre-planning and multiple recording sessions. Props to these people who are working on things they love.

What’s the point really? I hear Jacksie asking. Some relax with beer, others at the gym. Some play hard games until their eyes bleed and others simple want something comfortable. It doesn’t, and sometimes shouldn’t, be real but something they can take individual, personal solace in. Introverts tend to be able to charge when they’re alone, but even then human is a pack animal. Offering some form of virtual interaction might just scratch that itch other people can’t. A good possibility to consider how expansive a game for that purpose could be.

Collections, collections, collections

So there’s a new Mega Man collection coming out, this time adding the Mega Man ZX games into the Mega Man Zero collection. I’m not sure how many remember, but the Zero games got a collection on the Nintendo DS, for better or worse, and they contained a mode that made the game easier across the board in order for the player to have an easier time so he’d see the story from start to finish. The original games were more or less intact, except with the connectivity thing with later Mega Man Battle Network games. Throw ZX games and you have a set of games people have been asking for some time.

What’s to write about this? Capcom has been collecting Mega Man games into bundles for a solid decade now, excluding the few earlier Anniversary collections that we got for PS2, GameCube and Xbawks. No, scrap that, let’s count them in. Ever since those collections, Capcom has been releasing old Mega Man games collected in each generation, except the Battle Network and Legends series. Legends is stuck with copyright hell thanks to Capcom using licensed drinks and labels in it, and due to Sony’s asinine Classics line rule, they can’t just remove these from the games and release as-in; they need to be as they were when they were first released on the PlayStation. Sure, we got the DASH games for the PSP, but only in Japan, hence the use of DASH instead of Legends. Without the two extra shoulder buttons, there’s some wonky controls about. We’ve never seen DASH since in a compilation, just as digital downloads, and Battle Network hasn’t been around at all. Maybe that series is stuck with license hell as well, considering the TV show and shitloads of other stuff regarding it were tightly wound together those (glorious) years. A compilation of sorts with online play would surely make many fans happy enough to blow their loads.

I bet your ass there are people who want that Zero bust just to hotglue it

Capcom Test is a term used when people assume Capcom is throwing something cheap out to test waters. While this has some credibility, the fact is that Mega Man doesn’t need its waters tested. They already know that there is demand, at least towards collections. Mega Man 11 showed that a game with relatively low budget compared to their hard, big hitters can and will make its money back as longs as it is competently made. Capcom hasn’t come out with any news whether or not they’re even considering developing Mega Man X9 despite teasing it in that one remix soundtrack CD (that was a letdown.) While some would argue that Evil May Cry 4‘s re-release was to test waters, we know from the director that he had made an ultimatum; he was given DMC5 or he’d walk out. At that point there were no waters to test, but perhaps what Capcom was testing was if there was enough demand for a higher budget. Game itself would’ve been made anyway. RE:make2  on the other hand needed to testing, after all Resident Evil is pretty much second only to Monster Hunter and even that is debatable after World, which in itself was carefully testing waters by dropping numeric from the title and opted for a subtitle instead, just in case if the game would crash and burn, meaning they could do a “real” Monster Hunter 5.

Let’s pose the question; if Capcom Test is a real thing, what are they testing with Mega Man Zero/ ZX Collection? The first answer might be that they testing whether or not there is enough demand for a new ZX game, as some would argue that the story needs to be concluded somehow in order to tie it properly to Legends. That really doesn’t hold much water, as Legends itself was left unfinished, and Capcom never greenlit Legends 3 despite all the public shit that was going on about it a decade ago. Theoretical ZX3 or whatever bullshit they add to the end (ZXA is ZX2 by all means) and would let the developers almost complete free reign to take the whole non-linear format to new directions. After all, these Montezuma’s Revenge-clones are still very popular. This collection won’t test how much demand there is for the Zero series, I doubt any of the fans would like to see Zero revived again for a fifth entry.

No, if they’re testing anything it is how much fans are willing to dish out, testing out how much pain carrying that loaded wallet causes. For this particular release Capcom Japan online store is going all out and releasing the previous Collections again in a box that has a separate space for Z/ZX collection. Y’know, get all the games (except Legends, spin-offs and Battle Network) in one major box.

Classics Collection, those X Collections, MM11 and free slot for Z/ZX. PS4 has its own as well, but Japan only, as usual with these

Capcom hasn’t really overstayed its welcome with these constant Collections yet, but they’re at the utmost limit now. If they were to publish a Legends Collections, they really should make it a complete package with all the missing titles, like Mega Man’s Soccer, Mega Man and Bass and its WonderSwan sequel, translated Rockboard and why the hell not throw that Chinese-only Rockman Strategy. I’m sure you can already tell that I’m not exactly looking for this particular release, but it does support the notion that Capcom is still riding on nostalgia wave instead of putting their goal to produce a new, high caliber Mega Man for whatever real reason. Inafune’s shadow can’t be that long, that there is nobody willing take the position and say We have a classic, long franchise with a ready install base we can easily expand by hitting some of the current trends all the while pushing the envelope on the franchise.

Mega Man innovated themselves from time to time. X, Legends, Battle Network, Z and ZX are all significantly different from the Classic series, and even then each sub-series changes the formats game-by-game basis. While I fully expect some kind of Mega Man game to be made based on the current cartoon, it seems Capcom is treating it like they treated Street Fighter The Movie in that it works as a promotional vessel rather than an adaptation. I would like to say that Capcom can’t coast on collections much longer, but the reality is that fans and consumers interested in the franchise will buy these collections every time a console generation shift hits around the corner, and if a special version like the above or the one with all the trinkets, there will be customers buying it. Fans find themselves in a vicious cycle of thinking that if they don’t show support, no more future entries in Mega Man will be made, but at the same time, you’ve already bought and played these games two or three times over and Capcom still isn’t putting out anything new. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The customer loyalty is still there and that probably is ultimately what will keep all these afloat for now. Special edition packages with craploads of stuff in them have always been a thing, slowly I have to question if that is becoming the only reason Mega Man collections are selling? Despite the franchise now lacking a face, the emotional contact is still there. Zero series has especially fanatic cult following, claiming it being the height of the franchise’s 2D game play design. They’ve been asking for ports of the series ever since the last collection on the DS came out, but apparently the originals and that port aren’t enough. Then again, maybe that goes to the other collections as well. Perhaps people really are just abandoning their old machines every single generation. Maybe Capcom should just start releasing collections every generation and never make a new game, as they seem to make a decent buck with each of them.

Capcom is coming out with Rockman X DiVE that’s making its rounds, but goddamn if people aren’t sick of beloved franchises getting a mobile game rather than a full-blown, big budget title. A proper entry, if you will. Just look at how happy Breath of Fire fans were about BoF6. While mobile titles can be massive successes, thus far none of them have been considered as “true” installments into a franchise. Then again, we did get that social mobile game Rockman Xover, which was less than ideal entry in the series, and was largely lambasted people who didn’t end up sucking on Capcom’s dick. Only so many companies have managed to strike true with their mobile games, and the Big C is not one of them. X DiVE has budget behind it, it has good assets and lots of work put to make it the best kind of mobile Mega Man X game it could be, which kinda says to us that the hinted new entry in the series rather than X9.

Capcom really lost the ball by not announcing a new Classic or X series game. They didn’t even need to have it released yet, just have the info out, some concept art and nothing else. Keep the heat going on, but often fans will just take anything they can grab and roll with those, but only for so long.

Inexperience and unforeseen accidents

I’ve been talking on and off about few Kickstarters as of late. Y’know, the one with the fox girl and the one that would make you a part of a self-publishing comic circle? This lead to some discussions how Kickstarter has become a sort of jinx to some, and to some it is something others veer far away due to it simply being Kickstarter. Looking back at the whole system, it’s really easy to see how Kickstarter can be abused, and have been numerous times, but at the same time how the backers constantly misunderstand what the service is about.

If we start with the latter, I still see people considering a Kickstarter backing the same as pre-ordering something off the net. This has never been the case, though it is understandable how the misconception can form. After all, your usual backer doesn’t exactly realise that they are effectively financiers of a business venture of some kind, but rather than having a stake in the business or similar, they instead are offered items as incentives for their funding. Truth to be told, backing a Kickstarter should never be made under assumption that you will gain anything back. As with any funding venture, there are chance that it all goes tits up and you’ll just lose money. This is part financial funding, where you have to decide yourself whether or not fund something or not. Difference is that Kickstarter is a softer form of funding someone’s venture, where you as a backer don’t really have any power a real financial backer would but get all the nice items you backed for. Intention is to realise a creator’s aim and wish, their desire to produce something and so on, rather than tie him down with Wallstreet-type bullshit. Not many seem to make this distinction however, and people just consider Kickstarter as that aforementioned pre-order service.

Your usual Kickstarter backer ultimately had to come to a conclusion that they need to vet people and organisations they fund. Check people’s histories and what sort of things they are able to truly pull off. If actual companies were involved, chances were that people with know-how and experience were included, and the only thing they really lacked was money. Even then it can be shooting the dark. As much a Kickstarter requires an experienced runner, the backer really has to make some educated guesses; even a man with best reputation can fuck things up royally, like it was with Mighty No.9. As a side-note, I never backed that game up. Why? Because nothing that was shown during the campaign equated to anything that might be in the final game and the footage shown was less than enticing. The music was bland, the concept seemed something that wouldn’t work and most of the people working on the title didn’t seem to have the best credits. Forward to years later, and the game gets shot the very moment people get their hands on it. Be it that it was supposed to be ported to every alive platform under the sun and that the staff were inexperienced with online multiplayer, plus the whole social media debacle, Mighty No.9 killed Inafune’s fame and whatever true story behind the game’s lacklustre development is, the media, backers and pretty much everyone in the industry has black listed him.

Backers can’t really tell sometimes if the person or a team behind a campaign has experience to handle what they intend to do. Often a Kickstarter fails either because money runs out for whatever reason, like the project leader being inept and inexperienced to the point of crashing the whole thing, or sometimes because producing something costs a lot more than expected. One of the major parts of doing a Kickstarter should be able to calculate expenses and project everything well enough to make a sensible estimation. The double that amount. This might be a personal interjection, but considering how many unforeseen events can hit the scene, you really need extra in the bank. While some might bark at this idea, consider what would happen if you get funding to buy a candy bar and share it with your friend. On the trip to the shop you get overrun or the candy melts on the way back. Without that safety net, you’re effectively screwed. With something extra in there, you can either deliver a bit more than promised, or you can recover from whatever mishap might’ve come across. However, all expenses really should be figured out beforehand to their best possible degree, so that money isn’t wasted by accident or surprise. There are stories I might tell you later how some companies and startups failed in this regard.

All that said, inexperience in itself should not be scoffed at. Asking for help or further information either from more experienced people or perhaps even asking backers’ feedback and such should not be something to be ashamed of. Openness with your backers, however, is absolutely vital. These aren’t your customers, these are the people who have given their money for you to work on something. If customers decide whether or not you succeed, your backers have made it even possible for you to have a shot. Never underestimate the value of giving some small update on anything. La-Mulana 2‘s Kickstarter was perhaps one of the best examples how I’ve seen a KS do it; every Friday there would be an update talking about some aspect of the game, be it lore, production, on-goings or overall development. Small and constant updates talking what’s going on are better than once-in-a-month or similar, as it keeps the backers enticed. Not only it makes for good PR, but also promotes the feeling of you caring for them, that you’re thankful for their money. Sure someone will call you an asshat hack and demand their money back, but as usual, you should always expect negative feedback. Negative feedback and criticism should always be noted with more care than positive, as positive feedback often is just stroking your dick and telling yer doing a good job. While spirit lifting, also absolutely worthless.

There is a night and day difference between people who have large experience, and those who don’t. Presentation is one of the major parts, but so is engagement with the backers. If you look at, for example, Anime Eigo’s Megazone23 Kickstarter, you can see that list of things are large and relatively detailed. If you browse the comments section, you can see Robert J. Woodhead, the project manager, replying across the board to relevant question, one being opening the KS for International backers. For example, when questioned about the soundtrack as a possible add-on, Woodhead replies that music licensing is both outside the scope of the project, but also outside their expertise. This kind of straight and transparent interaction is night must for a system like this, as it gives an idea what is possible and what isn’t. Anime Eigo has had numerous projects already, so they also have a history to back them up. This is similar to the fox girl Kickstarter going on at the moment, where a staff member from DLSite is handling the English side of things. While the developing circle, Megamisoft, don’t have history with Kickstarter, they’ve been selling merch of their titles in Comikets for some years now, thus have a very good handle how to get their items produced. The items they offer as backer rewards are largely the same, with additions of soundtracks and such. The only thing holding them back is international shipping, but that’s that isn’t all that different from sending a package in your own nation, overall. As a contrast, NijiGEN, the project to put up a shop for you to buy your own doujinshi, has rather lacklustre presentation with its video in comparison, zero comments, but has still crept halfway its funding. I’m guessing this is mostly because the people providing the comics are veterans and know how to set things up comic-side properly. All you need is the service, and then hope it’ll do good. Considering they list their corporation number gives them far more credibility than most as well.

Now I did promise to use more images per post some time back, so let me be cheeky for a moment and present you a (lacklustre) gallery of items that foxgirl Kickstarter is offering. How’d I got my hands on these? Via their Campfire campaign, of course. Each image has a review of sorts attached, so if you’re interested to see how things are done in the orient, or what sort of stuff is part of the Kickstarter, do check em out. Mind you, they were taken in terrible light conditions, so quality has suffered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All this considered, it is amused to see people asking for refunds from projects they’ve backed. Despite many projects have seen its backers refund their money, the reality is that they’ve given their faith to see a project succeed, but as it sometimes (rather often actually) happens, the project is a failure. At that point its best to suck it up and write it off as a loss. If this was actual financial funding, you might be able to recover some money through some business deals or even stock trading, but that’s not a reality here. All that said, there is a certain skewed view on Kickstarter as a service. The service in itself is rather sound and solid, but you really need to make a call whether or not each individual project is trustworthy of your money. Nobody else can make the decision for you whether or not to put your money and faith into someone, and sometimes life just gives you lemons instead of Kyoto girlfriend pillows.

 

Review; Columbus Circle’s Gley Lancer re-release

Few years back I decided to pick up and review Battle Mania‘s Chinese knock-off/reproduction cart from eBay for cheap. Time hasn’t been all that kind to my views on the reproduction, and in hindsight it is just atrociously bad. Fast forward to 2019 and I’m sitting here with another new Mega Drive game cart in my hand. This time, a licensed re-realease of Advanced Busterhawk Gley Lancer. extreme has their hands on all of Masaya’s IPs, and apparently Columbus Circle saw it fit to license Gley Lancer and give it a quality rerun. This is review of the package and quality of the production, not a review of the game. The game’s 9/10 shooting game, go buy it. I would recommend reading the previously linked Battle Mania review for some comparison.

Completely new boxart

First impressions are important, and the packaging doesn’t falter. The box has the same feel as the original Mega Drive game boxes, that sort of somewhat cheap feel of plastic that could break anytime, but can still take a beating. The surface texture on the transparent plastic wrap is there and it gives the perfect kind of feel under your fingers. It looks and feels the part; a genuine Mega Drive game. The cover sleeve is thin matte paper, again just like the original MD games. The print quality is perfect without losing any details. Furthermore, if you don’t want to see two girls on a box of this game, you can always reverse the sleeve for the original boxart image.

 

This adds value, and collectors can have the original cover just fine. However, Columbus Circle did make certain that people would not be tricked, as they slapped their logo on the spine and contact information on the back. I should also point out the additional text at the bottom of the cover mentioning that this isn’t Sega Games endorsed product. This is sort of unofficialy official Mega Drive game, produced with the proper license from the IP holder, but without Sega’s involvement.

These first impressions on the outside of a product like this take a long way. Collectors who showcase their games want the appearance to be right. However, the insides need to be satisfying as well for those who will keep playing the game as normal, like yours truly.

Everything is, of course, new. While pretty much every and all MD carts out there are black, Columbus Circle used a semi-transparent smoke coloured one for Gley Lancer. While a personal preference says it looks like, it might’ve been better to go with the same solid black as standard MD cartridge. However, the texture around the label gives a nice grip. Again, this sort of tactile feedback takes a product a long way forward. Some Japanese cartridges did feel a bit cheap back in the day for whatever reason, Western carts just had better build overall. This one is somewhere in-between, having better plastic than the Japanese releases, but not as good as European or American. The mould used however has been excellent, as the shell halves fit together rather perfectly. The label print is top notch, nothing to bitch about here. It just has been applied too close to the bottom, meaning there’s a lot of empty space at the back, and that the on the lower left corner is taken some very minor damage. Not that this was all that rare back in the day, but whoever put these on probably didn’t really care.

At the back you see the main reason why this review won’t have PCB pictures; the screws are covered by a label. You can see the spot on the left where I’ve pressed the label is somewhat to expose the rims of the screw holes. Columbus Circle branded these carts with their own logo, which again makes it stand apart from original cartridges. Your mileage may vary whether or not you like this, but it nevertheless does give the whole deal a different feel. You won’t forget that this was produced in 2019. By that extension, you might not feel that this is “real” despite having licensed and all under its belt. Notice that the label is slightly peeled on the right there. This either means that the label is robust enough to start coming off by itself, or the applier just screwed this up as well. Heating the adhesive a bit and reapplying should remedy this well enough. In addition to this, there are some problems with the cartridge.

While original cartridges had the injection tabs in the same place, the quality assurance never left large, broken surfaces. This isn’t the case with this particular copy, and I don’t really think the manufacturer cared too much about the rest either. Rather than taking the time and effort to file or sand down the tabs completely, they’re largely left in their original state. The tabs rise some two millimeters off the inside surface, and while they don’t interfere with the game’s insertion into the console, they do look rather tacky. Taking a knife and cutting them even or otherwise leveling them isn’t a problem or a major task, but something that just degrades from the overall quality of the product. This probably is the largest gripe, which says a lot otherwise about the quality.

While I won’t be opening the cart for now, we can use the transparent plastic to our advantage. Here you can see how clean everything is, though just ignore the dust bit at the top. The PCB seems to be standard MD size, and there doesn’t seem to be anything extra, unlike 8Bit Music Power. Columbus Circle did improve their PCB design right after all the negative feedback after this. I’m betting they’re using flash memory to store the ROM, but unlike with the Chinese Battle Mania knock-off, this seems to utilise a full-sized PCB, similar to 8Bit Music Power FINAL. Columbus Circle has released a music title on the Mega Drive previously, one which I’ll probably pick up at a later date for comparison how this release compares to it. That smoke colour really comes to through nicely against light though.

The manual, however, does let you down a bit. Not much, but enough.

The manual’s printed on a good matte paper. This is seems to be clear cut difference between people who haven’t done project like this and those who have; experienced people use matte paper most of the time. If glossy paper is present, its used for an effect and even then the nature of the paper is selected carefully. Saying glossy and matte don’t really tell anything on themselves, but opening the can between paper qualities would take a whole blog in itself. That matter aside, the manual uses the new boxart slightly cropped, which is a good choice. You can reverse the cover sleeve to the original boxart while still keeping the new style look at hand. The rest though?

This one page really should tell it all. On one hand, the print quality is pretty good, nothing short of original Mega Drive runs. However, the characters on the left seem too dark. It is very likely that Columbus Circle had to resort to scanning the original manual rather than gain access to the original materials. This either means the original manual was this dark as well, the printing colours were off, or that something happened between scanning and printing. This seeming darker-than-intended issue of course is on every page, colours saturated and all. However, because most lines and text are sharp, I can’t help but this is was the original result. You can also see that the grid is not exactly straight, but if we’re completely honest, the grid like this is never completely straight. Neverthless, the manual feels off to drop a point off from the whole package.

Nevertheless, compared to the original Mega Drive games and packaging, this run of Gley Lancer is up to relative standards. There are some spots that should be improved, especially when an official license is in play, but this is far above any Chinese knock-off. Chinese can produce good stuff, as long as you put the money and skill in the production. Practically all repros and releases like this are made in China anyway, its just a question of picking the proper subcontractor to work with and all that. I would still recommend this release of Gley Lancer if you want to play games on your Mega Drive, as it is a complete, official package.

However, I would raise a question whether or not this should supersede the original release, if you had the possibility to choose one or the either. Perhaps it is because there is no license from Sega, or just to differentiate this release from the original, it is 2019 run of Gley Lancer and this will rub some people the wrong way.

Differences include the MD logo, genre classification icons, different Mega Drive text at the top, different cartridge materials and label. We can understand the lack of any Sega related logos and materials, but why change the cartridge label? Perhaps to unify the look of the packaging, to make the overall package look the same across the board. It an be argued that Columbus Circle should’ve stuck replicating the original release as much as possible, but at the same time this could’ve lead some people trying to sell the re-release as original release. An issue these releases always will have is the compatibility with original hardware. While I am a proponent of using modern PCBs and methods to deliver older games in more efficient manner, we’ve seen how haphazard it come become, like it did with 8bit Music Power. However, as said, these issues have been seemingly fixed, and the current method of making reproduction cartridges seems to be solid and without any real hitches. The game also lacks any reference to Sega when it boots up and has the updated Masaya logo alongside Columbus Circle’s own right after. Of course, because Nippon Computer System wasn’t involved in this release, extreme has replaced them in the credits. However, the game code and how it plays is still the same. Here’s a full playthrough of the game with a Mega Drive with sound modified for your enjoyment.

The image quality is much sharper than Columbus Circle’s own trailer, as Framemeister is still the best option to run old systems on modern televisions

Because of all the changes to the packaging and changes in credits, some will consider this as a good knock-off or a repro. Some will consider this release weaker for the same reason and the lower level of quality control. However, when put into context, a small independent circle re-releasing a cult-classic under official license from extreme and Masaya. While it is regrettable that few issues keep this from being an absolutely stellar release, the fact that this wasn’t their first MD release, and Columbus Circle is intending to publish more, they need to tighten up on quality control once more to achieve the same level of quality as original game releases. Neverthless, if you’d like to own a copy of Gley Lancer and can’t spot an original copy or don’t want to spend the money, I would recommend this re-release warmly despite its shortcomings.

 

Complexity and difficulty do not deter sales

Continuing from last week’s ex tempore Guilty Gear post, the concept of making something more accessible in video games should be looked at a bit closer. The myth is very clear cut; make a game’s play less demanding in order to attract consumers. For long running franchises, there already exists an installed consumer base, changing a series’ latest entry to be less whole than its predecessor usually isn’t met with the most positive reception. Fighting games are interesting in this regard, because they exhibit series-within-series mentality. All five mainline Street Fighter games series have their own unique approach to the core mechanics introduced in Street Fighter. Street Fighter II expanded on the cast and introduced combos by accident. Later Street Fighter II games would introduce speed modification, new input methods and the industry standard Super moves. Street Fighter III revamped the whole pace of the game and made Parrying an essential part of the game. Third Strike landed Ex Moves into the series, which have become more or less franchise standard. Street Fighter IV modified Super concept a bit more with Revenge Gauge as well as introducing Focus Attacks and Red Focus Attack would be introduced later. Street Fighter V is a platform for each and every update for the game. This sort of tweaking applies to Guilty Gear as well, where most of the sub-titled game outside the first game have iterative versions. X has X+, XX has its fair share of update to the point of some arguing Accent Core should be considered a sub-series on its own rights. Xrd of course had Sign first before Revelator, and then Rev.2 came around. With New Guilty Gear, we should expect them to take a step back toward the original game, as that’s the standard procedure with both Capcom and ArcSys, and build up from there. However, every time a developer announced they want their game to attract new customers, or that they want certain customer crowd, red flags are raised. However, not for the reason you’d think.

Games have always been complex and stupidly hard. Dark Souls is not any exception to the rule, but it the series is perhaps the best example of a game that mainstream has taken under its wing despite it being brutally difficult, requiring relatively high execution due to its relatively complex mechanics. Dark Souls is just modern equivalent of the NES era Castlevania anyhow. Both are based on Western horror and both are deemed brutally hard games. Both are very successful franchises. The NES era is very good example of games becoming more complex and the same time gaining more popularity and seeing increase sales. Castlevania is of course example of this, but so would Super Mario Bros. By modern standards the first game is archaic, extremely basic. When it first rolled out, it was one of the most technologically advanced game on consoles, the game to define cartridge games before Nintendo rolled out Disk System. We know how that went down. Super Mario Bros. 2 made more characters available with different properties, much longer stages with numerous tricks to them, and more demanding game overall. It may not be Lost Levels, but Lost Levels is just an update for the first game with new enemies and no mechanical changes. Super Mario Bros. 3 on the other hand wiped the slate clean with more demanding stages, more complexity with flying, more mechanics to play with new suits and options, stage gimmicks and so on. If complexity and difficulty would deter the customer, none of these aforementioned series would’ve been successful.

Modern video and computer game developers should look at the arcades’ success to learn a thing or two. Arcade games were often butt puckeringly difficult in order to make their earnings, but with that they also were required to deliver excellent burst of gameplay. Cabinets that didn’t were quickly empty, with customers slotting their quarters into something more worthwhile. The games needed to attract the customers first, and that’s why the cabinet design had to be excellent, eye-catching and sometimes extremely wild. The attract mode was integral to this, which either was pretty damn good or rather terrible. There was no real in-between. The standard was to start with some sort of video sequence that sets up the setting for the game, showcasing some of the characters before the title screen hits, often with a bang. After that it would move to gameplay, which would be either AI playing the game either via game’s own instructions or prerecorded inputs, or just have the player character being dumb and taking hits before dying. Show some scores from other players, maybe splash the title screen once more than then loop the whole thing, until a player throws a coin in. Later in the 1990’s, these attract modes would find themselves very sophisticated, like how Choukou Senki Kikaioh presented itself as an opening animation for a Saturday morning cartoon.

I’d also recommend checking out Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade gamesattract modes.

Presentation is all-important with games still. That is the first thing the consumer will see, from advertisement to in-game graphics. Graphical fidelity in itself is not as important as how those graphics are represented. ArcSys has always been able to pull this off, devising visual flavour that pulls in the audience. The main reason original Guilty Gear is a footnote in the series, and in fighting game history overall, is that it was just another game among others in a time when 2D fighting games were pushed away in favour of 3D. It didn’t make its mark because of being difficult or too complex, Tekken had more on it than Guilty Gear. Third Strike: Street Fighter III hit the scene years later, and you can guess which one of the two are is more complex and more played nowadays. Of course, SFIII wasn’t exactly a mass hit during that time either, but that was the era when arcades were dying. That, and SFIII a totally new cast that rubbed SFII fans the wrong way. Very few companies would be willing to completely replace their game’s cast nowadays, though SFIII‘s unique cast has been accepted retroactively as worthy successors and the initial reaction is seen rather overly drastic. Visuals is what the player will be looking at all the time, and if they’re up to par in terms of design and sheer quality of ’em, the game has to pull double duty on making the entry worthwhile.

That is only the start though, an ever-important one. Once you’ve gotten the customer’s attention, the best way is to engage the him to full possible extent with well designed and coded play. The answer to rope in new players is not in making game easier to play, that is the wrong way to make a game more accessible. Easy to learn, hard to master is the mantra of every great game out there, not just electronic. The best card games are easy to understand and learn, but stupidly hard to master due to other elements. Poker, for example, is simple enough to teach to a three-years old, but everything else calculating odds to reading other players takes time and effort. This isn’t an argument for people to get good at a game, but rather that by allowing the player to naturally learn what does what should be the priority rather than automate things. Automation and cutscenes take away control from the player, and though it helps early on and may give a cinematic effect, it should always be an option to remove automation once the player has learned enough. Autocombos as an element try to alleviate the execution barrier in fighting games, and while they do work as a first step helper, it should always be optional and the game should make an effort to encourage the player to abandon it rather than give them a safe tool they can roll with all the time. Its not a rare mindset to use the tool that’s the easiest and safest because it just works. Repeat it again and again until desired result is gained. The incentive of more damage with better combos doesn’t really sound appealing to general player if such tool exists.

Give a controller to a complete newcomer to fighting games and tell them what the buttons do, and then do things. They’ll be in complete awe what’s going on. There has been much discussion on mechanic complexity, but less so about inputs. Sure, methods of inputs is a big topic, pad vs stick and so on, but less so if there are too many single inputs. What I mean by this that, for example, Street Fighter has six buttons. Three for punches, three for kicks. King of Fighters has four, two punches and two kicks. Tekken has four, one for each limb. Melty Blood runs four as well, but with three attacks and a special. Virtua Fighter has three; punch, kick, guard. Which one of these would you say would make a newcomer most confident? Then consider which of these franchises has seen most revenue. Number of inputs is related to complex execution. More ways to input stuff, the more motor skills are required. Add the mechanics to this, and it becomes easy to see why some would argue lessening complexity is the way to go. Nothing keeps you from using all the buttons on the controller, but at the same time nothing says you should. All that said, the core fighting game design with the system starts with how many buttons there are. It might look intimidating to a complete novice who has never played a game, but this is something no game can really deal with. A player must start somewhere to work over the complex controllers, but a well designed game wins the player over with good design.

Not even kidding. Back when I was studying psychology and used games to run experiments, few of them were so completely bewildered by a SNES controller they might as well have used this

However, this design is hard to implement into a fighting game. The reason for this is that fighting games are pure one-screen games. There are no stages that the developer could design around for the player to intuitively learn controls and mechanics, like they can with Super Mario Bros. There are no attract modes anymore to show how the game flows. All you really can do is hit the Training mode and hope for the best. With the Internet, this shouldn’t be the case anymore. People learned how to play Street Fighter II by being there in the arcades, playing games with others and tradings tips and tricks. That wholesome interaction may be gone now, but online play could help. Have people play few matches against the CPU to measure how good they are and then throw them into online matches with equally ranked opponents. This doesn’t seem to be happening though. Often what seems to happen is that you just keep losing to people online and have to learn about things before you can match others.

The thing is that this happens with everything. You don’t get good at reading before you learn the alphabets and how language works. You don’t learn to drive right away. You don’t learn to draw a straight line until you’ve done it thousands of times. Playing soccer takes ages to get good. Building and painting model kits takes years to learn. Even something like Pokémon Go demands you to drag your ass out there to spin those stops and join the raids for the best Legendaries out there. This is not an issue of getting good at a game, though it does bloody sound like it. The issue is of genre. Fighting games, despite being one of the most readily accessible genre out there, is all about having that crazy shit happen on screen, but as always it should be the crazy shit the player is doing, not the game. Games are about user action, and the less user action there is, the less play a game has. While this post largely equates play with mechanics, the two are inseparable aspects. Fighting games are interesting in that everything is laid out right away in terms of mechanics and they’re easy to do. Making use of them, that’s something that can only come from repeated play. Call it a detriment of the genre or whatever else, but you can only really prepare for a match in a fighting game is to play the game. With RPGs you can get your noggin jogging and consider things in terms of elemental weaknesses and the like. While you can use this in fighting games with rock-paper-scissors elements, timing them right still takes some experience. With a game like Final Fantasy, the issue of getting good at the game is in understanding the mechanics, not really being able to execute them with some motor skill fidelity. Lowering the mechanics skill ceiling might sound attractive, yet it will lead with into more experienced players dominating over newcomers that much more. While Darkstalkers 3 is technically and mechanically very demanding game, it is an example of a game where you medium skill players are very rare. You’ll either be in less skilled floor, or someone who has spend years with the game and have broken through the ceiling. There really is no middle ground, and that probably will be the end result if a fighting game series decides to downgrade its play mechanics.

Holding on to your current consumer base is easier than making a new one. While as a creator it may seem dreadful to tweak an existing formula again and again, that is partially expected from a sequel. Street Fighter does break this mentality, but only if you go by number-by-number rather than iteration-by-iteration. Consumers expect a new numbered Street Fighter to mix things to some extend outside its core basics, but this is not the case with Guilty Gear. XX and Xrd set the expectation that while system tweaks and additions are to be expected, no major or drastic approach would be done in of themselves. The brand expectation for Guilty Gear is what it is, a high-speed fighting game with expansive and complex mechanics that support offensive play the most. Things like Burst, Instant Kills, Gatling Combos, Dust Attacks and the sheer way the games have played have become more or less as part of the core expectations because ArcSys has never given the series a significant system change after GGX. New Guilty Gear will most likely aim to cater with these ideas, but it as a game will have brand confusion. There have been different Guilty Gear experiences before, as Ishiwatari put it, with all the spin-off titles. It would serve the franchise better if the core fighting game line would continue as per standard, catering to both Red Ocean and shallow Blue Ocean customers, all the while the franchise would see a new spin-off that would give it a completely new spin. There is more room for Guilty Gear titles that do something different with the same core basics. From business perspective, you’d keep the interest of your current consumers with a new sub-title to the series all the while still catering to them with the core series, but also attracting newcomers with something they could get into.

Guilty Gear 2 is still a thing, and it changed the genre. ArcSys could do more things like this

It still bogs down to the content, not mechanics’ complexity. You have to have something to nab to consumer in with presentation, you have to have good play to keep the player interested and entertained so he is willing to spend more time, and what he spends his time on is content. When the player consumes a game’s content, he naturally learns the ropes. However, if the content is lacking doesn’t keep interest high. This is why Street Fighter V is a weird case study, as it discarded the idea of iteration in favour of constant content updates. Content for a fighting game would be characters and the various modes, though the main mean would always be the fighting itself. Xrd‘s movie story mode is an excellent example of utterly trash content for a game, whereas previous entries’ multiple paths storymode based on matches and player decisions in those matches is a great example. It keeps the player more engaged, and it gives him motivation to keep playing in order to see all the characters’ story paths. For 25 characters that would mean 50 different endings to unlock. Good online keeps all players along the ride too for some time, but there needs to be content. Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite failed at presentation the very moment trailers hit the scene. The mechanics were great and gameplay had autocombos too, but there was no content people were looking for. On the opposite, Marvel VS Capcom 3 had more complex controls than its predecessor, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, but obviously had more content that interested general audiences more outside Japan. It should not surprise that it saw more play by all and higher sales.

Video games are stupidly large entertainment industry now, but the true and tested way to expand to the Blue Ocean market still applies; disrupt the market with a new quality product that hits the current paradigm. A revamped Guilty Gear might be this product for sure, but only if it truly is able to pull off everything right. In other words, it would need to be the same kind of title as Street Fighter II was to previous fighting games. Its branding alone drags it down. It would serve ArcSys better if they’d launch a new, high-caliber series with the same energy, with the same effort and the same enthusiasm. They are playing with a marketing grenade in their hands at the moment. ArcSys could pull it off, but chances are consumer expectations are against them harder than Ishiwatari thinks.

New Guilty Gear and the expanded audience

Remember last year when I wrote a post about how complex mechanics were the appeal of Guilty Gear? Can’t really blame you, neither did the co-author on this site. With the that teaser trailer making some big hits and getting an overall positive reception, the fact is that it shows jack shit worth anything. We don’t really see anything outside few interesting tidbits like stage hazard transition. The teaser trailer, in itself, is nothing but proof of concept teaser, showcasing new designs, probable system additions and tweaks and such. As always, these things never represent the final product and getting your ass hyped doesn’t serve anyone. But hey, if you did get hyped and felt pumped, even a little bit, that’s the emotional connection with the brand working for you.

However, now we do have some information going on, and combining that information with the presentation of the teaser, we can pretty much say that Ishiwatari continues with his long lasting intentions to expand audience. In 2011 Ishiwatari, the man running the franchise, mentioned that Guilty Gear has become too hardcore for some people. Some people meaning to people who weren’t playing it. The people who weren’t the core audience or into fighting games overall. That the fans of the series are too old to pay games anymore. Ishiwatari has a history is misunderstanding his own franchise and its consumer base, with almost every iteration since Accent Core Plus getting first bad rap from the fans. Xrd was heavily criticised for dumbing down things. Timing became looser, Blitz Shield was added, something I’ve honestly never seen people use outside accidents and very few special cases and so forth. 3D seems to have the effect that the game plays slower, the same thing happened with King of Fighters XIV getting the same rap despite having the same game and movement speed. There’s something about 3D that just makes things look a bit dumb. 2D sprites snapping into animation looks natural, but 3D is expected to be smooth. I guess Ishiwatari agreed with New Guilty Gear and opted to use terrible motion smoothening effects to accentuate the action.

Also note in that 2011 article how Toshimichi Mori, the designer of BlazBlue, criticises Street Fighter IV 3DS Edition for implementing touch-screen special moves, and now autocombos and easy moves have genre standard for the worse.

I want to quote Ishiwatari from 2018 regarding his intentions on the next Guilty Gear right after Dragon Ball FighterZ was thrown out; “One thing that we have to do in the next installment is to reduce the number of systems [mechanics]; it’s too complicated for everyone. You can expect that in the next game.” New Guilty Gear won’t be just a new Guilty Gear entry. If ArcSys and Ishiwatari had the intentions of keeping Guilty Gear rolling like it previously has, we’d know the full title of the game now. Back when GGXrd -SIGN- was announced in 2013, the trailer didn’t back off from showing the full title. Now, what we get is subpar quality and no full title. We know that this game has been in development for some time in different stages, and what we were shown is more or less the first results of ArcSys tweaking the formula. However, with Ishiwatari saying that New Guilty Gear will be about breaking the series’ into its core elements, to the pieces that make the franchise unique. Complexity, timing, high execution with equally high risk-and-reward with forced focus on offensive gameplay even with characters designed with defensive move sets. Fun fact; ArcSys already had a brand new Guilty Gear experience with Guilty Gear 2 and that pachislot game, both of which were rather mediocre. Isuka counts too, I’d say.

All that said, New Guilty Gear is probably going to be what Xrd already moved towards, what Dragon Ball FighterZ ended up being, and what Ishiwatari has been talking about almost a decade now; a nerfed fighting game, or as some people like to call it, a spectacle fighter. A fighting game that is more concerned about the cool look and effects outside the game’s core play. Stage transitions are these in effect. Sure, its nice to see things like that, but the question is at what cost. Ky’s hair falling open and music changing to Holy Orders III, that’s attention to detail, that’s flavour and flash. A spectacle is what modern games do all the time with Super moves, with long stop-time, zoom in, effects, move, then reset and with time it has gotten worse and worse. A spectacle is when the game’s core design is intended to show cool shit from the get go and hype you up, but is all about doing that rather than giving you tools to reach do those yourself. Street Fighter V gave Ryu an easy parry that everyone could do Daigo Parry themselves stupidly easily for the sake to replicate that moment. Dragon Ball FighterZ is all about the spectacle, and the game suffers from every single way. A spectacle fighter demands the game’s systems to be nerfed in order to favour all the showy bits.

Fighting game accessibility is a modern myth. You can not expand audience by taking two decades worth of game genre evolution to the trash. Modern fighting games have taken direction of lessening mechanics and taking player options out. You have to think and worry about things less and less. This does not work and has never worked. No fighting game in the genre’s history has managed to expand its audience through nerfing it down. All it leads to is the long-time players having easier time against new players, which causes the exact opposite effect, and the old players will end up calling the company out for intentionally failing to deliver a high-caliber game. For years now Ishiwatari has been saying negative things about Guilty Gear the long-time fans have loved. The complex mechanics are not, have never been, a problem with new players. Funny enough, mechanics are not a seller either. Look at the latest Smash Bros. and how it changed its mechanics toward more competitive nature. What made it sell like hotcakes was that it had every single character in the game and the most stages in a fighting game ever. Want a reverse example? Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite had excellent mechanics in the end, probably one of the best entries in the series, but its presentation was absolutely dogshit and its roster was woefully lacking. Its content was against consumer expectations and wants.

Was I wrong then to claim that complex mechanics are the appeal of Guilty Gear and that its the spectacle that sells? Consider the above, Guilty Gear is extremely appealing to people who have been playing fighting games for a long time, people who understand what the hell is going on and how to understand the play. Guilty Gear made its mark during an era when Capcom ceased producing fighting games, SNK was in the rut and there was effectively no competitors. It was a niche franchise still, because nobody knew who Sol Badguy or why there was a nun fighting with a yo-yo. Xrd’s main impact came from its legacy and core fans, but also because its presentation, music and the whole presentation won general audience over. When you play a Guilty Gear title, those complex mechanics come together in a very satisfying manner. It feels good to pull off a simple Gatling Combo, it feels great to run and dash, it feels good to Burst your opponent properly, it feel good to Dust somebody in the air and do a combo, it feels good to Roman Cancel to reset a combo and its absolutely great to use all the mechanics and options you have there. Content, presentation and complex mechanics that make the game feel great are ingredients for a great fighting game. The new Samurai Showdown is a great example of this; a game with absolutely pristine presentation, a great cast of characters and yet the mechanics are hardcore 1990’s high-octane adrenaline pumping complex that extremely satisfying. You just have to let the player to do all that themselves, the end goal that the mechanics serve. Not give automated options, not nerf how the game plays. Xbox One may not have many games to attract consumers per se, but Killer Instinct absolutely nailed how to make the initial entry easy and fun, and everything after was all about having absolute blast, the hype the game’s play causes. You won’t win audience over if the mechanics don’t allow all that, if it is just the same thing over and over, like with Street Fighter V. SFV is an eSport title, and how it looks, the spectacle it gives, ultimately drove it more than making it a great fighting game.

If I’m right in assessing the history of ArcSys’ developments and Ishiwatari’s statements and attitudes, New Guilty Gear will be more like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy: Versus rather than Guilty Gear XX. Rein the hype, wait and see what happens.To tell you my honest to God thoughts, Guilty Gear never came back with Xrd. What we have been playing since 2013 has been a facsimile of Guilty Gear. God this post probably reads like an incoherent ramble.

Another Epic PR disaster

When the Epic Game Store came around the first time, I considered it an addition to the whole economy of digital games stores. There’s always more room to challenge Valve, GOG and the rest as long as the service is right, the price it tight and products stand out. The last bit Epic has been working on overtime, but not the way most consumers would want. Its not that Epic has put studios to work for unique games, but they’ve been doshing dough around like no other, picking up games off from developers from Patreon, Kickstarted products and such. Kickstarted products is the sore point, as many were promised either physical PC release or a Steam key, but with Epic bringing its bang to the table, these promises turn empty and they’re given Epic codes instead. While Kickstarter is not a store and changes are always going to happen, keeping tight on your delivered products. When things are like this, you need some good PR management skills to handle the situation. Ok, let’s be realistic; you need someone with excellent PR skill and background to manage the consumers and dampen all the possible damage. You never go in head first yourself, because you don’t have the skills or knowhow. You’d be an idiot to assume that consumers of any sort are a kind bunch. Outside already promised products e.g. via Kickstarter changing their form and direction, in principle there’s nothing wrong in Epic’s way of making exclusives. Personal opinion doesn’t exactly matter, when the majority has made their negative view on the platform rather vocal.

Consider why each and every successful corporation, company or individual businessman has a front while everything happens behind the curtains. That is to keep the consumer at an arm’s length away to keep some details behind the curtain while having proper discourse with the customer.

You probably already know ins and outs how Ben and his wife Rebecca have been working on a game titled Ooblets and how it became a timed-exclusive for Epic Store. I didn’t know about them two days ago, and apparently not many others had either. Still, Ben doesn’t mention his last name or sign with full title, so I’m going to call him just Ben, uncharacteristically. Sorry Benjamin, don’t mean to mix you with this Ben. After Ben announced the situation, he and his wife got some heavy backlash, which should have been completely expected considering how negative reception Epic has. Of course, being Ben he went on to Medium and wrote a long response. Archived version for your pleasure. We’re mostly going to concentrate on this, but you can jump on their Discord if you want to read how easily Ben is willing to take a shot at people for whatever reason. OneAngryGamer has some of them archived, just like his article is.

It really is largely trite to read through, as anyone who have followed any standard events regarding production of games from the start within the indie scene should know, especially the title has been Kickstarted. Most interaction with fans is positive, until you fuck up somehow. When you fuck up, that brings in the rest of your silent backers and other potential customers in like a lightning rod. Ben describes how their style has been jolly and non-serious all this time, which is the first error most of these independent creators do, because that means nobody can never really trust their info without analysing through the bullshit you’re spouting. Having a joke here or there to break the ice is great, but being tongue-in-cheek as your standard style of interaction is about as welcome as a rash on your ass. Sure its colourful and gives you attention, but in the end you want that clear and fresh feeling instead.

The Internet is nothing new when it comes to mad people. It is a misconception that the Internet brought us some sort of new era of hate messages or the like. No, hate mail has always existed. Before direct messaging and emails, people used letters published in news papers or sent directly to the provider, or simply calling by phone. The Internet just has democratised who and how they are able to voice their opinion. Ben listing some examples of people going over the board does show that there are people either genuinely mad, or that there are just people wanting to pitch in for good time’s sake. Neither really is constructive, but emotions tend to take over people very easily.

Ben makes clear that he doesn’t consider anyone a customer. He or his wife hasn’t sold anything to anyone, so there isn’t a provider-consumer relationship. He’d be wrong. The relationship that exists between the two and their audience is potential consumer base, which has effectively become their fanbase that they were nurturing. In the face of law this is the case, he can argue that. However, considering he team has a Patreon that is directly about funding the game. Still, they don’t offer any of the game there, just some merch when they begin to produce it. Maybe.

However, when you have a fanbase and interact with and constantly update them on your progress, you have a group of people you have cultivated as your main consumer base. There is a certain silent agreement between you and this group of people about a transaction and this has been going on for three years. If Ben thought for a moment that there wasn’t meta-transaction on an emotional level going on, he has been sorely mistaken. He can call people entitled all he wants or whatnot, but do remember that when you are promising a product to fans, and have given your word (despite this not being a binding contract), you’ve already made emotional connections and managed to tie the future consumer of your future product to your brand. That tongue-in-cheek nature nature of messages and updates is an element that backfires twice as worse in situation like these, as that tone is often seen as facetious and deceptive. At best it’ll be regarded as condescending, though often that’s the underlying tone. There has been implied promises going on for three years. Morally speaking, Ben and his wife do owe to these people. Furthermore, they owe their very current monetary situation and success to their fans and especially to their patrons.

Ben admits he has a PR disaster in his hands. Yet he blames this on a portion of gaming community rather than acknowledging  his own fuck-up. His business sense overrode the work he had done with his PR, where Epic’s offer for a timed-exclusive seemed a better option over long-term positive feedback. Even my sorry ass has heard enough tales of consumers and fans getting riled up over developers and publishers being swayed by Epic’s bucks. Any and all devs at this very moment should ask themselves Is my fame more worth than the money I’m currently offered? Hell, I’ll even argue that if a dev now would make a bold announcement that they have rejected Epic’s offer for exclusivity in favour if fans’ and consumers’ preference in a proper way, they’d be hailed, in words of an Australian, as fucking heroes.

If you screw your PR like this and make widely unpopular move all the while taking a good shit on people who could have been customers, then still proceed to take numerous dumps on people, belittling people, don’t go cry over a massive backlash. While regrettable, it is also the harsh truth of business and maintaining your image. Ben’s and Rebecca’s first ride on the PR train and it getting off the tracks was, ultimately, their own doing. A reaction always requires something to start it going. Just to make sure, I didn’t say they deserve getting the worst of the rap that’s raining on them, but they are the source of this reaction, which could have been mostly avoided. Not the way Ben and his folks were maintaining their interactions though.

This whole deal shows basic lack of consumer research and expectations evaluation. Both PC and console consumers have been vocal about Epic’s misgivings and even more about how the developers and publishers seem to have lost all contact with the people who buy their stuff. I shouldn’t underline the bottom line with this repetition, but as a provider, albeit as one who has not yet delivered one product, everything hangs on the people who are willing give you money. Now, with their decision to handle things like this, not practicing good sense and proper manners when interacting with audience and not clowning around, they’ll probably see less success and a very tarnished reputation. That’ll take some polishing to fix.

Providers aren’t your friend. They’re in the field to get paid. Directly interacting with them won’t change this, no matter what sort of relationship and emotional connection you have with them.

Compete with two similar products, not with one same

Some time ago I read an article about why video streaming platforms like Netflix will go by the way of the Dodo soon some time ago. The main argument was IP and copyrights and how they strangle the system. Not in the way you’d think, but because they allow companies to have a monopoly over a single show and not allow it to spread around to other streaming services. This supposedly leads into a position the monopoly over a show leads into an unfair competition as other platforms don’t have the tool to compete, the same show. I wish I could remember where I read this, because its so goddamn dumb. I have to wonder at what point we dipped over that consumers think two different platforms can’t compete with each other unless they have the same product in the lineup. That is nothing less than misunderstanding how two competing companies compete with their products. This to stay relevant to the blog, we’re of course going to use games as an example.

Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive competed each other just fine without largely sharing the same library. While the SNES dedicated itself to be a role playing machine alongside other games with slower pace, MD was more about the arcade action, all the while PC Engine had loads of shooters and B-Tier action games. Despite their preference in genres being rather clear, especially in the US, where MD had a sort of infamy for sports games among certain circles, the three consoles did compete directly with different entries in the same genres. Sega had Alexx Kidd to counter Super Mario Bros. before Sonic the Hedgehog was around the corner, and PC Engine had titles like Shubibinman and Valis, though Valis is more known for its Mega Drive entry in the Overseas market. Nevertheless, the series’ halcyon days were on the PCE. All these offer a different kind of platforming experience with their own flavour of style and approach, with varying degrees of success.

On the RPG side, Sega had its Phantasy Star and Shining series of games, with Koei bringing its Uncharted Waters series to the table. PC Engine had Cosmic Fantasy, Cadash, Vasteel and such, though Far East of Eden was first largely a PC Engine game before it jumped the ship when PC Engine effectively died. SNES had its fair share of RPG most already know, ranging from Dragon Quest to Final Fantasy.

The point I’m trying to make with all that is that streaming services aren’t dying because one service has a monopoly over a show. While it is true that people don’t really want to subscribe to a service just because it has one or two shows they’d like to watch, and seemingly have gotten used to the idea of everything being one place, these companies compete with each other with their unique libraries and takes on the same base concepts. Any station or streaming service could have tackled Game of Thrones with their own high-budget, semi-realistic adult fantasy epic if they had chosen to do so. None of them even seemingly attempted this. The same can be said for Star Trek Discovery, though The Orville was its direct competitor, and by all means, did get far better reception and is the show with superior writing. Star Trek Discovery currently stands as the show with the stupidest writing among all shows we have now, which doesn’t exactly spell promising future for the upcoming Picard series, especially now that Amazon picked it up after Netflix supposedly doesn’t want anything to do with modern Star Trek. I can’t blame them.

Back when The Addams Family debuted in 1964 on ABC, it was followed by The Munsters six days later on a rivaling network CBS. It is often mentioned that Bewitched first aired at the same time as well, though on ABC. While this sort of pace of production probably will never be matched nowadays, shows also have longer pre-production and hype period before they ever come out should make it easy for different channels and streaming service to put up their competing shows. While The Munsters enjoyed better ratings, it has been criticised for relying more on elaborate make-up and special effects over creative writing and show content. Perhaps that why The Addams family has stuck harder to the global pop-cultural schema while The Munsters hasn’t seen as much growth or appreciation, despite that relaunch attempt with Mockingbird Lane, a serious horror take on the series, which got less than appreciative reception.

Two different providers rarely compete with each other with the same product; they compete with two products that offer the same baseline consumer experience. This is why console business has become more twisted, as both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 offer largely the exact same baseline experience with all the multiplatform games, which means most of the third party companies don’t really care which one might succeed more over the other. Well, unless the first party games manage to install a large userbase, then the third parties will follow in-suit. All the generation winning consoles had the largest library of games exclusive to them.

While television (streaming is just modern television) and gaming are two different kinds of medium and forms of entertainment, the comparison is still apt. A monopoly over a single product is not a problem in itself, as long as the product is not one single, all-encompassing product that allows no other to enter the market. That’d be true monopoly then. We can make jokes about Microsoft and Windows all we want now, but that’s effectively what people who wish there would be only one console, one streaming service or one provider for anything really. No company will be altruistic if they have the whole market in their hands, they will take as much control as possible and squeeze. Much like how Disney is doing by amassing larger and larger amount of media property and companies under their belt. Disney is already the largest media empire we have, and if things continue to move to this direction, we are going to end up with few extremely large corporations controlling the media landscape.

However, Disney still has competition with Warner-Brothers. Perhaps the most relevant competition is their Looney Tunes against Disney’s Merry Melodies, or in modern era, DC vs Marvel. Two isn’t exactly a healthy market and there are more comic labels out there, like Dynamite, but the Big Two are most well known across the world. It is far from a healthy market still, and the competition is questionable at best at times. On silver screen however, Disney has taken the lead in the Superhero movie department with better quality scripts, though the future can be questioned.

While these corporations have ownership over whatever they are legally owned, nothing can keep from other companies or individuals using these materials as a source of inspiration and create something to compete. However, fans will always be willing to make fan games or fiction instead of creating something new and original. One of the many reasons why original homebrew and indie scenes can be very fresh places to visit occasionally due to new ideas propping often up, independent of the major providers. DL Site isn’t good just for porn, but for for wholesome new games and other content as well. Sometimes both.

No, streaming services aren’t going bust anytime soon because they can’t compete with the same show. However, if they are not able to provide a quality alternative, like how The Orville is to Star Trek Discovery, then that’s problem either in the creative lead department, mismanagement, or simply because that section of the consumers is not their target audience.

For whom is the Switch Lite for?

While the Switch is a mobile device just fine, it is rather bulky in certain aspects. It has to be. After all, it must serve as both home console and as a takeaway handheld console. Some play it solely in handheld mode, some just keep it attached to a screen for larger resolution play. Both are valid options. The preference just seems to change according depending on the nation. With some little digging, it would seem that the West likes to have the Switch docked most of the time and then just separate it whenever someone’s on the go. This seems to be a bit different from Japan, where handheld consoles have always been the top dogs. Be it space or because its just so much easier to nab a small console out for a quick play, there’s something in the nation’s cultural schema that supports small portable devices like this. Flip phones are still a culturally iconic devices, despite them being completely overshadowed by iPhones in the current day. Its one of the many reasons Monster Hunter found its breakthrough on the PSP was because people could just whip it out, check if there were other players in the area and a have quick hunt or two. This does not really work most of Western world nations. You’ll most likely get ridiculed if you are seen playing a handheld in public if you’re over fifteen. It took long time for Monster Hunter to become popular in the West, and despite the success on the 3DS (Nintendo really, really wanted that PSP Monster Hunter money on the 3DS) the real Western market breakthrough wasn’t until Monster Hunter World. Just don’t play with the French.

Switch Lite probably has a two-fold aim, First is to provide the Japanese market a smaller, more portable device that functions as a dedicated handheld, especially now that the Vita’s dead long dead and finally buried, which has left Nintendo with no competition in the handheld market. While Nintendo always had largest sect of the handheld market to themselves, they flourished whenever they had competition. Hopefully there will come some competition from whatever company might want to tackle the market, so Nintendo’s monopoly won’t make them lazy. Despite Nintendo claiming that they don’t follow what their competition is doing, this is of course PR bullshit. No company would willingly stay ignorant how their competition is doing and why. The second reason is that the Switch is not exactly a child friendly device. The simple fact that the Joycons are removable device raises the system’s cost and kids can misplace them rather easily. I’ve heard few friends having to buy new Joycons because lil’ Jimmy misplaced one in the backyard. This sort of hybrid nature doesn’t really work, unless the machine is dedicated to stay in docked mode, but that’s wasting the Switch’s potential. The same can, and must, be said of Switch Lite, where now you can’t switch modes, but now kids have something that can have their mittens properly on. It is far from a perfect solution, but you won’t have perfect solution for a hybrid console like this at this moment. Perhaps if Switch Lite still supported the docking it would have some leverage, but as it stands now, for average adult, the Switch Lite is a weird choice to go for.

If we use the past portable consoles Nintendo has manufactured before, their modus operandi should be roughly as follows; produce original version, create a smaller version with some improvements here and there, then create an upgraded version that seems a standalone from the previous iterations. For original Game Boy, we have its Pocket version as the “lite” iteration and Color as its final upgrade. The GB Advance is the deviation, with SP being the lite model with backlit screen, but nobody really seems to think GB Micro as the end-all version of the system. The NDS follows this line just fine though, with Lite being a thing and DSi followed soon after. We also got the larger screen versions to go by. 3DS is pretty much the same, followed by lite and the New 3DS version.

We can also tell that the Switch has been a success from this line. The only consoles Nintendo has not done upgraded versions of are machines that weren’t a success enough. The N64 never had a clear visible new edition to it, despite the Famicom/NES gaining top loader model, and SNES having SNES Jr model. GameCube stuck to its cubic form, and we don’t count Panasonic Q as a proper variation due to it never being aimed at mass markets. The Wii had Mini, which apparently sold rather well if I’m top believe a friend who worked at retail at the time. The Wii U was a disaster and never saw similar treatment. Here we are, with the Switch. Nintendo can afford to treat it as both handheld and home console, and seeing upgraded hardware per generation has become a standard again rather than new case design, we should probably wait for the announcement for whatever souped up Switch Nintendo has been cooking for some time now. After that, Nintendo’s attention will move towards their next console generation, though it would be in their best interest to give the Switch as long lifespan as the original Game Boy had. There is no reason to cut their hardware short just because they or their third party developers would like to play with some new hardware and not be limited with almost decade old set. The hardware oriented mindset does not do favours in the console business, whereas software centric is very lifeline these machine run on. I will use the old mantra that system with weakest hardware in the end has sold the most each generation. Deep Red Ocean market can hate the Wii however much they want, but the sheer joy of Nintendo Sports was in pretty much every home possible at the time.

At least the Switch Lite doesn’t have brand confusion as the Wii U had. They’ve learned something from that shitshow.