Asimovian Mega Man

The opening crawl of Mega Man X states that Mega Man X, the title character. is the first type of new robots able for independent thought, or to quote, has the ability to think, feel and make their own decisions. Right after this, the first rule of robotics is mentioned in a shortened form; A robot must never harm a human being. This is how the first rule was originally quoted, if not for verbatim. However, the full updated rule is as follows; A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. As such, the game directly states that all previous robots in the game franchise, have been under the rule of Asimov’s Laws.

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are a cultural cornerstone, as Asimov’s robot stories explore and make extended use of them. While they are capable of independent thinking, they are governed by the three laws. To what extend they are able to independently act and think depends on the level of the technology, but all are ultimately slaves to the three laws. However, as Asimov’s robots are based on logic rather than reason, these three laws are easy to get around with proper logic.

Each three laws override their predecessor, meaning the protection of human comes before the second law, fully quoted as a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. This overrides the third and final law, which stahtes that a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

In Mega Man, we see these three laws playing a role in how Rock becomes Mega Man. The canon states that it was his strong sense of justice that convinced his transformation from a household robot into a super fighting machine. What concept of ‘justice’ Rock had is unknown, but the result wanting to fight injustice, even if it required setting himself under threat and oppose commands from a human, Dr. Wily in this case, enforced the first law in form of no human being would be harmed. The logic here is that by opposing one human, Rock is able to prevent harm or injury of many more.

This, of course, is as according to the 0th Law of Robotics Asimov later added; a robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Combined with the Asimov’s laws and the clear statement that X is the first robot able to independently think sets to stone the fact that all robots in the Classic series are slaves to pre-determined models that they can’t branch off from, and are slaves to the Three Laws of Robotics.

Within Asimov’s robots, the three laws have been embed into robots on mathematical level to their positronic brain. Without completely redesigning and reconstructing the positronic brain as a concept itself, these three laws can’t be removed. However, it is possible to remove a rule in descending order depending how advanced the robot needs to be, halving the needed brain size and pathways.

However, Mega Man robots don’t have positronic brains. Instead, they have micro-electronic brains, which seems be more dependent on the creator driven programming than the Three Laws. We can take two stances on the laws here; either the laws are universal among the robots, or that the laws must be implemented into them by design in each separate case.

If the laws are universal, we can assume that Dr. Wily was capable of creating some sort of separate method to circumvent the First Law, which would yield the whole Robot Virus Project. While not canon to the games, Hirotoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix the Three Laws are circumvented by Wily implementing a separate chip that allows the original six Robot Masters to injure and harm humans by direct action. As such, it would not be necessary to change the design of function of the micro-electronic brain, when Wily has a ready made chip he can install into whatever creation he makes. This also assumes that the micro-electronic brain works in a similar fashion to the positronic brain.

The second take of course means that there is no standard template for the robots’ brains in Mega Man and are completely dependent on the coding skills of the creator. The basic hardware may be shared across the board, but the Laws themselves are not burned to the core design. This would give more leeway in how the robots function. After all, the canon states that Dr. Wily reprograms  robots he capture, thus we can assume the basic template does not function similarly to the positronic brain, but the Three Laws are a software function.

Even without the Three Laws governing the actions of the robots, they would be slaves to the predetermined to the lines of code. This makes them nothing more than automatons, unable for creative thinking. However, with the existing Three Laws, a robot must be able to device ways to upheld the laws. When Proto Man tells Bass that he can’t defeat Mega Man, because he has nothing to fight for, this can be taken as Bass lacking the Three Laws. He is inert in how he fights, as his main drive is to defeat Mega Man. Mega Man, however is governed by the First Law, and knows that his lost would contradict said Law. Of course, this is more about the moral of the things, but the two don’t exclude each other.

However, there is a place that in-action provides context for Mega Man robots essentially functioning according to Asimov’s robots, including the functions of the positronic brain; the ending of Rockman 7. In here, when Dr. Wily reminds Mega Man that he is simply a robot and can’t harm a human being, the First Law kicks in and contradicts his actions, causing him to pause. This is a moment many Asimov’s robots go through, where the probability is calculated within the brains for the route of least harm at that moment. This was changed in the localisation, where Mega Man 7 has Mega Man stating that it is more than a robot, Giving Mega Man the Pinocchio syndrome is an interesting idea in itself, but it fights against what the series has established.

While the robots in Classic series seem to exhibit natural personalities, they are far closer to pseudo-personality, similar to Star War‘s droids. Droids have a pre-programmed nature that they can’t deviate from, exactly like Mega Man‘s robots. Both also accumulate data, which they can then make decisions on, but in Mega Man‘s case, they can’t learn without additional data to their coding. Hence, why Rock’s transformation process was more than just donning an armour and weapon; it required rewriting some of his core pseudo-personality.

Within Mega Man X era, Reploids are robots based on X’s design. X was sealed to test whether or not he would be reliable. How, is the question, with the Three Laws of Robotics being the answer. Without them, X must be tested based on his reason and morals rather than mathematical probability and logic. Whatever brain he has must be more advanced than positronic or micro-electronic, perhaps similar to gravitonic brain in Roger MacBride’s Allen’s Caliban series of books set in Asimov’s universe, which allow X to have empty pathways, which would then build during the testing. Funny enough, both the first Caliban book and Mega Man X were published the same year.

If we consider the Three Laws to be suggested, something that’s learned rather than implemented, the very nature of the created Reploid should be beneficial from the get go. This would put greater emphasize on the initial creation of the programming, especially seeing how Reploids are created as mature beings rather than educated. Think of the training the clone troopers get in Star Wars, which teaches them skills and ethics required. Similar flash training could be adopted for Reploids in faster pace, but this does not seem to be the case. As such, mental deficits and errors are at the hands of the creator.

The viral reason for going Maverick seems to follow two corrupting paths; removal of any resemblance of the Three Laws and corruption of the personality. I say resemblance, as they’re exactly like moral laws any human society has. They’re not set in stone, and can vary widely. Secondly, Dr. Wily is the origin of this virus, meaning its coding has to be tied to the original nature of Classic series robots. Because of this, the free-willed robots of the X-series will uphold their own morals, even if it would clash with the Asimov’s laws.

Reploids, despite most of them seen in-game being more animal in appearance, resemble Asimov’s advanced humaniform robots, where there would be no distinction between humanity and robots when advanced far enough. Many times over in the series, Reploids labelled as Mavericks simply wish to gain their independence from humanity. However, no Reploid group has been allowed to so, and it would even seem that Reploids are labelled as Mavericks for political reasons, giving hints how oppressive the human government is over mechanical life forms. There is large amount of story potential in here, something we’ll never going to see.

The true end realisation of Asimov’s humaniform robot, as discussed in Robots of Dawn, is seen in Mega Man Legends, where the civilisation the player sees considers themselves as humans and are generational, able to reproduce, live and die. In effect, outside the ability to customise one’s body, there is no distinction between human and artificial human life. Both the World and Master Systems are bound to the Three Laws of Robotics, as their prime directly is to protect humanity, and do not recognize Carbons, or Decoy’s in original Japanese, as humans. Furthermore, the Mother Units of the System are built with the positronic brain, as mentioned by the games, creating a very Asimov-like situation, where Mega Man Volnutt recognizes that Carbons are humanity through their nature. This enforces his First Law function to protect them, further explaining how he ends up being the one defending Carbons, especially after the Master, last living human being, enforced Volnutt’s logic through their discussions. The System’s other parts, however, still act according to the logic of Carbons being artificial, thus the First Law does not concern them.

It might seem that Reploids are the most advanced form of robotics in Mega Man series by this comparison. However, it does seem that the ultimate end of humanity and robots is to become one within the frachise, and whether or not the Three Laws of Robotics governs Carbons is not important at that point, as they have already become the legacy and successors of humanity.

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New faces of Mega Man

In an interview with Venture Beat, the producer of Mega Man 11 Kazuhiro Tsuchiya tells that the reason why there was no new Mega Man game for such a long time was because there was nobody to helm the ship. As much as Keiji Inafune gets shit flung at him because of Mighty Number 9, he was the force that made Mega Man happen for solid decades. Despite that, he was but one man, and games at this scale are never a single man effort.

Tsuchiya’s assertion that the atmosphere within the company wasn’t right, that nobody wanted to tackle the challenge to make a new Mega Man. It is without a doubt partially because Inafune’s rank that held the series in place, but just as much corporation’s own politics played in the mix. We’ve seen from Capcom’s own titles they’ve released that their library’s style has changed little by little this past decade.

For Koji Oda, the director of the game, it was the Casshern situation; if he’s not going to do it, then who will? Oda’s right in that social media and fans overall have been pining for a new game in the series.

However, would Capcom allow a new game just like that? Highly doubtful. Mega Man‘s 30th anniversary celebrations probably was the largest reason why the Mega Man 11 got greenlit, especially after the reception all the leaks and trailers the Man of Action Mega Man cartoon have been less than favourable overall. Banking on the core fans going balls deep into anything carrying a franchise’s name is not the best idea, not even for Star Wars or Metal Gear.

There is one quote from Oda that must be given a high emphasize;

Inafune’s departure was a big part of it. His leaving Capcom left a void, and people were hesitant to step in and become the new “Mega Man guy.

This, dear reader, is the power a face has. Inafune, by all means, was father of Mega Man, the carrying force of the franchise, someone who would drive it onward, someone the consumer can latch unto and associate with. An inanimate product in itself needs some sort of association with something positive, be it a good time with a friend and a bottle of Coke, a friendly dentist recommending an Oral-B electric toothbrush or some representative from a corporation talking about something you love.

These two have been largely unknown to the public in terms of being a face. Tsuchiya was a programmer on Mega Man 7,  but as usual, nobody gets glory as a programmer despite being one of the most important roles in game development. Perhaps his most known title is Asura’s Wrath, where he was the producer. Oda’s worked largely on Resident Evil titles, mainly as director with remakes. He was system planner on the original and got Special thanks in Street Fighter Alpha 2, but Shinji Mikami always took the spot as the face of Resident Evil in every regards when he was still with Capcom.

Because these two are now heading Mega Man, there is a marketable face again. They don’t come from scratch, there’s already something we can associate them with. If Mega Man 11 ends up being a massive success, and the fan expectations for it are massive, one of them or both will end up the successor to Inafune’s place as the face of the franchise, someone the consumer can reflect upon.

However, just as I said that Inafune leaving was just part of the equation, so are the sales, if not even more so. Oda saying that the sales figures for Mega Man Legacy Collection were the driving force behind Mega Man 11 being put into development jives with what I’ve been commenting on for these years; data matters extremely so for Japanese game developers. When there is established data and form, it is easier to get through the execs to get something done. A simple thing like having a name’s localisation into a correct form from may take numerous already existing sources to assure executive powers that its worth it. A single name. To assure Capcom’s higher rank of being allowed to put a new Mega Man title into production has required more than solid sales numbers. It has required fan feedback of all kinds being collected and presented in proper form.

Mega Man as a franchise didn’t go kaput only because Inafune left, but because its sales potential had been waning most of the 00’s. The consumer is a fickle thing, first claiming that Capcom is just rehashing franchises by making a title after a title to satisfy market wants, but then is being criticised for not having new titles for the franchise. I doubt its just the sales data of Legacy Collection that was presented for the execs, but also the data of sales from previous digital releases. After all, Capcom’s a corporation that must make profit. Making games that would have meager sales is not exactly in their favour. They’re not here to make art, but cold hard cash through commercially viable products.

I would argue that Mega Man‘s absence has done it good. Call it the Godzilla effect if you will, where an absence of a product for number of years will allow the market view reset a little bit and most of the baggage previous movies have delivered have managed to level out. It’s much easier to make a new entry after some time have passed with rejuvenated interest. However, there are times when something can get so hyped and becomes so expected that it simply can’t meet the expectations for whatever reasons. Star Wars Episode I is probably the example of this. Disney really screwed up by making Star Wars mundane, but that’s another topic.

Will Mega Man 11 deliver? At this moment, it looks like something that can probably excel decently. It’s not exactly what could be described a pretty game, some of the animations still look janky and the Double Gear system seems rather generic way to try forcing a gimmick into the game. It’s not something the franchise hasn’t done before, but can they make it work with the standard formula? Will the stage designs be excellent? Will the music be up to the standard?

And of course, there’s how Capcom is releasing the product. They intend to make most of it, but if you’re European and want the game for the Switch, you’re out of luck. There is a petition up that asks Capcom to release the game in physical format, but seems like the interest isn’t there. This isn’t the first time Capcom of Europe makes less than ideal decision.

Inspirational changes, Dead or Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open the Valves, full Steam ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony’s shifting gears

Sony’s John Kodera gave a statement to Washington Street Journal that the PlayStation 4 is at the end of its console life cycle. This, combined with Sony stopping physical Vita game production outside Japan, is all about the momentum inside the company. Nobody’s surprised that PS VR is selling less than expected, VR has never been popular enough to make a breakthrough as its always expected to. We were told that the new technology will make VR more viable, but that’s the story we get every single time. VR requires a proper paradigm shift in terms of technology and how its presented before it’ll catch on. 3D TVs were in the same boat. I guess Star Trek‘s holodecks would be the pinnacle end point of both techs, but I doubt no company wants to invest money into hardlight or holomatter technology just yet.

Sony’s strategy for the future doesn’t seem all that rosy. Switch is controlling the market from two ends, and Sony effectively handed out the handheld end to Nintendo. As much as some people love their Vita and titles on it, the system was bust the very moment Sony themselves ported Gravity Rush as a franchise to PS4. The writing was on the wall for the console before it, and I’ll assure you the console won’t get a great swansong. It’ll drift and die slowly without a fanfare.

Vita could’ve been a great system. Sony’s mishandling reminds me of how Sega managed to screw their systems over post-Mega Drive. However, PS4 has not been lacking in mishandling department either, with the system having less significant titles and seemingly having a very bread-and-butter approach. Nothing about the system stands out. Xbone has the same thing going on for it, but at least neither systems are Wii U.

Will Sony come up with a hybrid console? While it is in their nature to respond to Nintendo’s shifts in how they approach the market, with Nintendo often doing the very same thing, the big question is whether or not Sony is willing to completely abandon their high-end, high-spec consoles. The Switch is not more powerful than its 8th generation competitors, yet it hits the sweetspots with its library in most cases.

The whole deal why PlayStation even exists was to put better technology in use for a game console. Ken Kutaragi’s want to create a system stemmed from his disliking of the Famicom’s sound. Each PlayStation, ever since it was supposed to be a Super Famicom add-on, has been driving some sort of media revolution and put high-end tech into the console. Original was driven by a CD and extremely good audio, before they gutted that out. Sure, PC-Engine was the first CD-based system with Mega Drive having Sega CD, yet both of these were marginal success at best. This was mainstream success with 3D graphics at the forefront. PS2 can be said to be the main cause for the DVD revolution and rapid shift from VHS, as it offered a cheap drive with further capabilities. PS3 again pushed the notion of sound and graphics, and introduced Blu-Ray, but at this point the competition had severely changed. PS4 doesn’t have anything for it, no new media, no real graphics overhauling. Everything’s become mundane and standard. All these have concentrated on bringing the multimedia experience to the living room.

Sony’s whole business, from sound to televisions to gaming, has been living room centric. Certainly, they’ve made numerous high-end portable products, yet they’ve never managed to achieve their Walkman glory days. Their corporate politics and customs are reason for this, and current paradigm with formats won’t allow Sony to create such devices any longer. Sony has been a company of engineers, after all. Modern technology requires as much, if not even more, emphasize on the digital engineering with coding and such.

If Sony intends to continue on with producing a console for a television set, it needs an edge. Cutting edge technology in terms of graphics only carries so far. New IPs help only if they’re great, but as people are spending less time watching traditional television and everybody is having something in their pocket with a screen. A hybrid console could be a solution to them, but copying Nintendo’s approach would be a harsh hit on Sony’s ego.

The whole five to six years of consoles is, of course, utter bullshit. A console’s life cycle is as long as the support its given. There are no real reasons to simply kill one off if it has consumers. South Africa enjoyed Sega’s Master System and Mega Drive long into the 1990’s and even early 2000’s, before their official support was killed off. The original PlayStation simmered along the PS2 for a good while, as did the PS3 with PS4. This is a discussion I’ve covered to death, every time news about a console’s death comes out in fact.

E3’s just around the corner anyway, so it is possible Sony has something in store for the consumer in the hardware department. Hopefully it’s something worthwhile.

Banning Adult Oriented material, again

Lewgamer has a nice article with sources and citations on Valve threading to take down on adult games on Steam, give it a look before we go further.

The whole issue really is all about having erotica CG within the titles. Doesn’t matter if its just left in the code, if its junk data somehow and completely inaccessible by normal means. If it is there, it counts. Sounds extremely pathetic and funny, but that is the reality. The case this is most compared to, going as far Steam’s own representative doing it as well, is the Hot Coffee case. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas exists a disabled minigame where the player character can bang their chosen girlfriend character. The reason why it was left in the game’s code is because the assets were used elsewhere as well.

This basically set the tone that if a software has any sort of pornographic content inside the code or assets, it’s automatically Adult Only, which further means certain shops will not carry it and places like Australia most likely will instantly ban it.

I also recall something about Valve considering on banning titles that have censorship removing patches from other sites, be it via addition of the content or unlocking. However, I found no solid sources on this, so take this as a rumour at best.

With most visual novels having some level of erotica in them at least, Valve’s probably going to gun them down if this keeps going. This also means that even Muv-Luv‘s Steam releases are under threat in the worst case scenario. Considering Manga-Gamer had their title with “earnest and tasteful exploration of sexuality” is about to get the boot, pretty much anything goes.

This is one man’s crusade, though what Valve is doing here is covering their own asses for the worst case scenario for them. They don’t give a damn about the consumer or developer end due to their monopoly. Games with pornographic content is mere blip on the radar for them, the revenue Valve gains from them is microscopic for them. Worse, they’re a public corporation, and having erotica or pornography on their service in any form is often seen as a sort of stain. This probably also leads to some problems, just like how Steam’s terms of service had to be revised from “purchasing games” to “subscriptions” circa 2012, when Court of Justice of European Union decreed that it publishers can’t oppose of resale of used licenses. EULA ties you to nothing. However, publisher have more leverage if you don’t purchase anything from them, just subscribe to their product.

Valve, of course, never had clear rulings on the issue. They’ve been jumping back and forth regarding adult oriented material on their service in order not to even recognize the topic properly due to the stigma pornographic content still carries with it despite the fact that it’s all virtual.

The discussion about what constitutes as porn and what doesn’t should be made, but it doesn’t matter to Valve. Their view is pretty clear on the issue, even if they aren’t. If it has any kind of sexually explicit content under any kind of depiction, it is counted as porn. There is no room for nuances on the topic, which only tells how puritanical this issue is.

It is unfortunate that things have done this way, as this will probably cause further issues down the line for anyone willing to entertain the idea of having a more sexual title on Steam. It’s a slippery slope we’re in for here. There are numerous solutions, like moving these titles to Nutaku, but that also means raving Steam fans wouldn’t follow in suit.

Mature sexual content, be it pornography, erotica or whatever else similar will always limit your audience to adults and people who aren’t living in a medieval level culture. The approach of simply trying to clean it away is not the right step by any means and it will be met with opposition. However, what Valve could do here is to open a specific section for Adult Only audience, both expanding their market and guaranteeing that places competitors like GOG wouldn’t be tempted to open this sort of targeted service. Then again, this would encourage further competition, so perhaps it would be a chance for them. Muv-Luv on GOG would remove any of my reasons to use Steam.

What is the consumer to do here, if they oppose booting titles off Steam if they contain adult material? Wallet voting by purchasing these products, making your voice hard on social media and elsewhere at their representatives and showcasing support to devs who are inclining towards censoring their products.

I guess this is as good time as any to remind my readers that corporations are there to make money and keep their investors happy. That’s their main goal, and sometimes it is more favourable to enforce certain image and lack of products that could be harmful somehow to the younger audiences.

Funny that, this is pretty in-line with how the US is seen by most Europeans; a place where over-the-top and accurate depictions of hyper violence is awright, but a bare breast will make everyone flip their shit.