Artificial Intelligence in Muv-Luv

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

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

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

 

Tactical Surface Fighter learning computer, a rudimentary seed AI?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Whole Brain Emulation, 00 Unit and super intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

00 Unit waypoint to TSF machine intelligence?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Biological super intelligence

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

Muv-Luv: What is Exogularity?

Hoo boys, bronchitis is such fun. Every time I get it, the worse it hits. Please take care of your health, dear reader.

 

To save you time;

What Exogularity is; a source booklet series.

What Exogularity is not; name for a story or a setting within Muv-Luv franchise.

This should be relatively straightforward post, but considering the Muv-Luv fandom has a history if mislabeling titles with something else, with Before the Shimmering Time Ends constantly being referred as Altered Fable because Altered Fable is the name of the compilation disc it comes on, it’s no wonder the lack of language skills and information easily translates misconceptions that spread far and wide. Misconceptions, like with AF, that just can’t be uprooted anymore for whatever reasons.

Here’s Altered Fable’s main menu, with Before the Shimmering Time Ends being highlighted just under the disc’s title. Notice all the other good stuff that’s on Altered Fable

Exogularity is essentially rebranded Lunatic Dawn. Lunatic Dawn were a series of booklets or mooks self-published by âge at their Comic Market stands. LDs (not the confused with Laserdiscs in this context) have been collected into three larger books titled Allied Strike. Since 2017, Exogularity has taken LD‘s place as official source material for fans. If you consider this, both LD and Exogularity can be taken as sort of additions to Muv-Luv Alternative Intergral Works, which served as the core backbone for the Codex.

Sometimes Lunatic Dawns came with a name, like LD3  was titled Code: Rebellion. LD7 had a full title of Muv-Luv Alternative Lunatic Dawn 7 Total Eclipse, which is boring and unimaginative, but somehow fitting for Total Eclipse materials.

So, what can you exactly find in Lunatic Dawn? Each LD contains their own special illustrations, colour or not, with line arts of Declassified Tactical Surface Fighters. For example, LD3  showcased the Rafale and gave a blurp about it.

 

 

These books also consisted of staff interviews, rough sketches and designs, rough animation boards, jokes, short stories and such. At times, LDs covered future subjects or touched on titles in-development, though that was more what Agekunohate, âge’s official fan book, as for in general. Essentially, all these are major parts of the hype engine directed at the fans rather than any part of the larger public. It must be said, âge has some stupidly dedicated fans across the globe.

So, in what way is Exogularity rebranded Lunatic Dawn? Let’s take a look at contents of the first volume.


The first thirteen pages cover content regarding Strike Frontier, the mobile game DMM ran. The second part, starting from page 14 begin to cover plans for stories that would take place after Muv-Luv Alternative‘s, events. As these are merely plans and drafts, outlines at best, and should be taken as grain of salt to showcase that might come out in the future. Nothing is definitive before the actual product announcements and titles are rolling out, and knowing âge/anchor that’ll take some time.

That is not to say there is no validity here, as the first volume states, these are the Horizon of the next attempt. The depths of its creations. The latest material of âge. What we can assume with the first volume is framework, from posthuman characters to new generations of TSFs, from Operation Olympus and Moon War II to BETA striking back and TSF-like BETA being a thing, to the whole New Beginning with the idea of humanity going out there in space to meet the BETA creators with warp-capable TSF.

The tagline for the booklet is All converge points, and a new beginning. While we can overanalyse this and pull stuff from our collective asses, it would seem that âge/anchor are intending to do a sort of re-launch of the franchise. After Muv-Luv Alternative, âge/anchor (then ixtl) really haven’t managed to roll out anything that would’ve broken the bank. Total Eclipse as a side story failed rather hard, Schwarzesmarken tanked even worse. The Day After didn’t really see success in Japan and currently is left as is. Whether or not it’ll be collected in the future with some sort of definitive end is anyone’s guess, but seeing this is the timeline Takeru cancels with Alternative‘s events, the ending itself is more or less a moot point. Some would even argue that TDA in itself was a useless story.

If you look at most English-language resources for Muv-Luv, like the Wiki, they’re mostly lacking in mentioning any of the Strike Frontier stuff when it comes to Exogularity Vol.1. This is because nobody has cared a bit about the Strike Frontier stuff, it really was rather unpopular in overall terms. The second volume, published in the upcoming Comiket #94, is supposed to concentrate more on cut Strike Frontier content, and content that they never had the chance to put in the game. Whether or not it’ll have anything on the numerous post-Alternative settings Vol.1t touched upon is currently unknown.

But you know what I don’t see people talk about too often? The storyboards at the back of the first volume where we have Meiya-lookalike fighting one of those BETA-TSFs.

Also no post this weekend, and even this is two days late because I’ve been mostly sleeping or coughing my lungs out. Stay healthy and eat your veggies, kids.

Ignorant parent is child’s worst enemy online

Recently a 15-yers old teenager committed a suicide after reading the Visual Novel Doki Doki Literature Club. The title’s rather infamous for starting out as a normal cute-as-button story, and then becomes rather nasty in its themes and content. The VN does state that its not for everyone and is not suitable for children, the usual warning for software of its nature.

The news reporting on the incident on the Sunderland Echo reflects how poorly entertainment software, VNs or electronic games, are understood. Age doesn’t really change this, only education does. For example, Sue Kirby, the author, makes her first mistake in the title calling it an online game. Even if we give the leeway that VNs are counted as games, Doki Doki Lit. Club certainly is not online and does not contain any other “players” characters outside the reader, another mistake that’s made in the article.

The article is really all that and not much as else. Some statement from a coroner warning parents to look after their children, something they should already be doing, and neither he or the author describes any rhyme or reason why this should be an issue. Great many who commit suicide have done something before their final deed, be it watching television, listening to music or other activities. Perhaps the title did serve as a some sort of trigger for the suicide, but then its not exactly the driving reason to do so. There must have been something there already, a thought and drive, which has been the true underlying reason. A software doesn’t simply brainwash you do commit suicide, neither do any other sort of media.

Few other sites, like Fatherly, has almost the exact same article up, with no expansion on the topic itself, no research done for better or worse. I’m not even going to go through The Sun’s article on the topic, as their opening thinks it’s somehow negative that Doki Doki Lit. Club doesn’t require any parental checks. Last time I checked, you had to set things up via Steam’s client in Family View rather than title-by-title basis. Then again, it’s available on other sites as well, so maybe this particular kid got it from there rather than using the most popular game platform on the PC. The Sun’s on a witch hunt mode on the title and it shows.

A common theme among all articles is how there’s criticism how the game doesn’t enforce the suggested. How would the game do that? Are we now in need of Adult Gamer license like with the UK’s fap license nonsense and all games need to have it separately or something? Absolute nonsense.

Manchester Evening News at least has some more meat on the platter, an interview with the parents. The father of gives a statement that the game wouldn’t leave the player alone, as it resembles real life through interactions. Perhaps this shows that the teenager didn’t have the best relations outside virtual environment, if he was looking something better in a virtual environment to cope with it.

Jude Holmes from the Public Protection Division urged parents to check websites their kids are using, effectively encouraging them to break their children’s privacy. Smart kid will be able to wipe their history away anyway, or set up different User Accounts. Firewall settings don’t help much, as they’re easily circumvented just as much. Furthermore, we are talking about a title that’s on Steam as well, meaning the parents should be aware of their kids’ Steam libraries to boot. That wouldn’t show up in the browsing history.

Holmes doesn’t seem to be the Sherlock of the bunch.

Credit where credit is due, Manchester Evening News at least does to the research to describe Doki Doki Literature Club as a visual novel and how it functions. Yet, much like other sites, the author describes the horror twist in the game in a negative tone, as if a story within a game, or any story driven media, couldn’t be gruesome and showcase hard topics straight up.

At least nothing is said to directly connect the suicide to the visual novel, outside the parents’ words, but even the stupidest of readers can read the message between the lines. In truth, we probably will never know the real reason why the teen committed suicide, Doki Doki Lit. Club is just an easy target to put the blame on. Not knowing is the worst there is, and if parents aren’t up to their child’s life, there’s very little to go by.

Certain people are easy to be impressed and suggested by the media. The solution is not to cut out connections to websites or similar. There is no such easy solution for the safety so many parental and safety groups want. There are only hard and long solutions that would require parents to know the web environment well enough so that they’d be able to teach their children to become sensible users of the World Wide Web. An ignorant parent who doesn’t understand modern technology, and doesn’t want to learn anything about it, is probably a child’s worst enemy when it comes to the unsafe Internet. Even Andy Burrows, the Associate Head of Child Safety Online recognises this, imploring parents to have regular conversations with their kids, but what the hell are these parents going to talk about if they don’t know what to talk about? Don’t give your photo away online? Not applicable on the modern era of social media anymore, where everybody and their dogs have an account to post personal details for everyone to see.

There are lots of mays, maybes, coulds and mights. There is nothing definitive, but a mob doesn’t need solid proof to hang the accused. This won’t launch a new crusade against electronic games, or VNs for the matter, but it is part of the rising bad media and journalism that’s begun to permeate video games for the recent years, from calling game consumers are toxic to blame them to be reason for political downfalls. A moral panic over violence or adult subjects in games wouldn’t be nothing new, but it would be extremely pathetic.

After all, that makes better news than an objective view on the subject.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-29OVT Fulcrum

While we’re probably going to discuss the base MiG-29 Lastochka one of these days, the main reason we’re going to have MiG-29OVT variation on the table today is because it had a significant antagonist role in Total Eclipse, and that I had the pictures readily available and didn’t want to do Active Eagle.

To save most of real world MiG-29’s history for Lastochka, I’ll shorten it here and see what we have on the OVT model. Which isn’t much, but we’ll get to that later. One of the major differences between the real fighter and the TSF is that all MiG-29 variants are known as Fulcrum in the NATO designation. The Soviets and Russian pilots adopted this name later on. NATO just adds a letter and a number after the designation to denote which variant we’re talking about.

The Fulcrum has a long history behind it. The fighter was developed in early 1970’s as a hi-performance, hi-manoeuvre light-weight fighter to tackle whatever the West was cooking against the Soviet nations. Indeed, it’s not rare to see enthusiasts to decree the Fulcrum to be an equal to Western fighters, especially due to it incorporating numerous technological advantages not in its Western contemporaries, the F-16 Fighting Falcon for example. The base model, Fulcrum-A, became operational in the mid-80’s and had a very high manoeuvrability. It could track ten targets at the same time with its cohere pulse Doppler radar at a range of 69km. Combined with a laser range finder and infra-red search and track, which all where linked to Helmet Mount Sight, made the base Fulcrum a very dangerous enemy in a close-in fight. It should also be noted that the Fulcrum has LERXs, or leading-edge extensions on its mid-mount swept wings. These small extensions improve and control airflow at high angles of attack.

The 29M and OVT are both Second Generation fighters and have enhancements everywhere, including evolution to the overall airframe in order to increase its thrust-to-weight ratio. As OVT is essentially just Fulcrum-M with thrust vectoring RD-133 engines, it shares all the same advanced avionics its brother does. To go slightly into the history of the Fulcrum-M, it’s development began in the mid-80’s with a new need for a frontline fighter that would be able to carry out multi-role missions. Due to shift in Soviet military strategy, the Fulcrum-M design saw constant updates and variants before it eventually split into MiG-29M and M2, denoting whether or not its a two-seater. It should be noted that the MiG-29M, despite sharing its name with its original variant, is completely redesigned version. External differences may be sparse, pretty much everything else was improved beyond the Fulcrum-A.

MiG-29OVT is more or less an acrobatic performer that mainly showcases the modern MiG-29’s capabilities rather than being a frontline fighter.

Remember to click for a larger version

In Muv-Luv Alternative‘s BETAverse, the Fulcrum is a given name to the advanced MiG-29. Based on MiG-29 Lastochka and shared technology gained via Project Prominence, the MiG-29OVT is an advanced variant that is supposedly able to go toe-to-toe with the American F-15 ACT Active Eagle. Changes from the earlier MiG-29 variants include upgraded avionics, improved Jump Units, Light by Light and redesigned shoulder blade vanes.

To reflect the thrust-vectoring capabilities of the real world OVT, the TSF OVT now has added thrusters in the shoulders and hips. This supposedly gives it 3rd Generation level manoeuvrability. It carries Blade Motors from earlier MiG-29 variants in its arms and legs, as well as the A-97 Assault Gun. Being on the side of close-combat, Fulcrum pilots tend to favour brutish tactics and acute-angle attacks on the enemy. One might even assume that the Fulcrum showcases the changes in Soviet’s doctrine against BETA and human targets.

In terms of design, the MiG-29OVT shares more with its in-universe brethren than with the real fighter. It’s chunkier than blockier to keep in-tone with the rest of the MiG-29 series. Similarly, while the MiG-29 has rounded and smooth corners to it, the TSF design has opted to angularise itself in many cases, like with adding more corners to the wings and fins. There are surprising amount of included elements from the fighter in the TSF, albeit the TSF elements govern the overall look of the unit.

There would have been few points that the MiG-29 could have stood out overall. The fighters are unique in that their intakes and nozzles, indeed almost the whole department, resides under the fuselage. The pilot also sits very high in the cockpit. Neither these aspects carried into the MiG-29 line. However, perhaps the TSF elements again override the fighter design points in this case.

Music of the Month; Just Begun

Ah, summer. What a time to work. Time to let some of this steam out.

An issue with the current time schedule I have is that all the plans I usually do for the blog in advance will be made sometime next week, hopefully. This means what will be this month’s review will be set into stone at some later date (though the most likely candidate are the two Silver Hawks that came with Limited Run’s Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours‘ limited edition box due to them being essentially re-run of Shooting Game History’s mould,) what will be the mecha design post (though it will be about transforming mecha in order to continue the theme of the year) and I’m pretty sure I’m missing something that’s a monthly occurence. Ah, I’ve got no plans for the music. I need to pick something that would fit this season of heat.

I admit that the A-9 Intruder post from earlier this week was a bit hastily put together. However, I did see a need to take another take on the whole simpler transformation sequence. These are the building blocks after all, and when we understand the 101 basics, we should be able to move ourselves towards more robust designs. This on the other hand is a challenge, as I do see a need for examples that I’ve done myself and then use an existing example. The problem here of course is that in order to keep everything as simple in visuals, and that takes time I don’t really have. However, perhaps we could do a simple combiner next time, or discuss how Japanese media has distinctive different styles of combiners. Super Sentai to this day uses a very robust, very simple combiners due to the necessity of them being build as young children’s toys first and foremost, and thus tend to en up as being bricks with very limited articulation. This isn’t the case with Transformers, but there we see terrible body proportions every which way.

As for other âge related stuff, I’ll probably put up a smallish review on the decals that are being delivered to those who backed up the Muv-Luv Kickstarter. While the time between updates has become rather long, things are going towards the end. I agree with the notion some have made, that seeing updates on the quality of the translation in screencaps and going over what sort of translation issues the translation team have faced would be interesting. Hell, having a bigger post that is all about the translation and the inner workings how and why certain terms and approaches were selected would be beneficial for the sake of transparency towards the backers. That’s the crux; backers are funders of this project, and in the spirit of things, backers should have the right to see the inner workings of the project they’ve invested money into. However, I do acknowledge most people on either side of the fence don’t see it this way, and Japanese companies tend to want to keep tight wraps on what goes in the background. To tell the truth, I doubt most people would even want to know the shit that goes behind the scenes with these corporations. It’s nothing enjoyable and often ends up being massively disappointing and depressing.

There has been some visible extensions of deadlines, to which the translation is probably the culprit. However, as this is a business in the end, there is a need of balance between quality, time and expenses. You can have two, but then you’ll lack the third. Cheap and quick with no quality and so on. While most high-end consumers and core fans of any field tends to say that they’d rather give a company time to finish their piece to perfection, this is stupidly unfeasible. Because these are products that in the end need to make profit, even a Kickstarted piece like Muv-Luv, there is a requirement for a definitive deadline for the translation in which the translation and code has to be brought to a point that is can be pushed out. Anyone in their field could fine-tune something to death if they were given the time, but resources are limited. We’re facing our good old friend Mr. Good Enough again here. It’s not a perfect solution, but a worker needs to be aware of the wants of the customer as well as the needs of the company he is working for, self-gratification be damned.

The exact same goes for any field. For a welder, one could spend a whole day by doing one seam the best way possible with pre-heating the contact points, welding in smaller sections, occasionally grinding and re-welding bits that didn’t go quite as well and overall spending time and money that nobody has. It needs to be up to the given requirements but also needs to be done fast and efficiently. That takes years of training and experience, a rookie can’t do it. Welding is, after all, part chemistry, part physics and part handicraft. It takes loads of experience in actual work to achieve the level where the aforementioned three can be balanced with each other properly.

To let that steam out now, I recently had to pick a new pair of spectacles due to change in my sight. But ‘lo and behold, a rogue spark managed to sneak past my safety goggles and burned itself on the surface. Had to purchase new ones, but at the same time picked up a subscription safety glasses for future work. This in itself shouldn’t be of any interest for you, but if you wear glasses, you should be painfully aware of the amount of money you’ll end up spending. A decent pair of frames usually got for 100€ to few hundred, depending on how much you want to put into the design. The lenses themselves add another hundred to the whole deal, but for whatever reason safety glasses always seem to be around 75€. This is a bit mind-boggling. Modern safety glasses are just as designed as any daily use pieces. Part of what keeps their cost down is that they have a set of pre-determined materials that need to be used and required to cover a larger surface area in order to be safe.

This pretty much begs me to question the profit margin eyewear companies are pulling from your average citizen. Much like with any medical field, these companies are providing a necessity, but at the same time are expected to deliver both fashion and function. While it could be argued that it is unethical to take a higher price from a consumer who is required to wear glasses, we are talking about corporations that aim to make money. Just as any, they’re not your friend, but an entity to create goods for your consumption in exchange of your hard-earned cash. The same really goes for any corporation out there.

There’s a distinct lack of video games in this post, so I’ll try remedy that next time around.

Mecha design: Straightened up A-6

To continue the theme of transforming mecha in a simple form, I’ve decided to take this chance to introduce another simple transformation, but one that isn’t a box and does alter its appearance quite a lot between its two forms. Furthermore, rather than choosing something that flies through the air, I’ve decided to pick one that makes some sense in its setting as well as is water bound; the A-6 Intruder, or the Tactical Surface Attacker Type 81, Wadatsumi.

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The unsung hero

Unlike Boxtron from one of the previous entries, A-6 Intruder requires some explanation about its role in-universe in Muv-Luv Unlimited/ Alternative. In a world where air superiority is not an option before a specialised enemy unit has been cleared off from the battlefield, an off-shoot branch has specialised on long-range combat and against enemy strains that are less armoured and smaller, but number in tens of thousands. The A-6 Intruder is the amphibious equivalent of A-10, another TSA. Both of them require to work in tandem, with Tactical Surface Fighters for effective warfare if they’re present. Furthermore, the A-6 has specialised in landing operations. These guys are the workhorse of things, able to take loads of damage and dish out about twice as much, reflecting the real world craft’s resilience. Effectively, they’re walking fortresses rising from the water and taking control of the beach, so the main force can move in.

If you were expecting a design comparison between this and the real life A-6, I’m not intending to do one due to the TSA effectively having no elements to go through. Well, outside the intakes that the 120mm guns were modelled after. The only real connections are the intention and relative role. The real world Grumman A-6 Intruder was a carrier-based attack craft that was designed around long-range and low-level tactical strikes. An interesting juxtapose is that the real world craft had no guns or internal bombing bay, whereas the TSA has nothing but build-in weapons. All the ordinance was mounted externally, and ranged from simple generic bombs to possibility of Mark 43 nuclear bomb. Fun fact, the A-6 delivered the most ordinance during Vietnam War than any other craft, including the B-52.

The design reflects the intended function. While not exactly apparent from its land mode, the whole transformation is made simple as possible while having interesting shapes to go around. Nevertheless, it still has some notably intricate, smaller form changing in its legs.

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How the feet are pulled in during submersible mode is rather interesting for the reason that it’s slightly over-engineered. The question whether or not you’d want sharp double-heels when you’re landing on a beach, or walk anywhere on the sea bottom where its muddy as hell,  is a good one and probably the only individual detail that I can complain about. If you disagree, you go walk on the beach with stilettos. Don’t ask why I’ve done that.

The transformation has four main elements that change form. The head, the arms, the legs and the crotch piece. Just like some older Transformers, what A-6 essentially does it that is stretches itself out, with some twisting and turning here and there. This transformation scheme is dependent on water, as its submersible mode wouldn’t function on land. Maybe is space. Luckily, we do have step-by-step CGs from the Visual novels themselves.

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Here we see the submersible mode with its head extended from the main body. This seems to be the first step in the whole thing. Overall speaking, we do see that the A-6 is pretty nice overall, though you can see sections on the arms that have crevices. Nothing major going here yet.

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The second step is to extend the shoulder and hip joints beyond the main body. This is the first thing that leads to the rest of the breakdown, but to be completely honest, this and extending the head should one and the same step.

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Here we see the hands extending forwards. These scene where this particular transformation takes place happens during a battle against a Tactical Surface Fighter. Hence, the arms are coming to grab something in-front of it. In order for the 120mm cannons to face forwards (as in the top image), they are required to twist 180-degrees forwards. The main shoulder pieces that keep the arms and 120mm cannons connected to the main body are still flat.

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The last phase  is extending the crotch piece forwards, twisting the 120mm cannons forward while turning the shoulder pieces out and straightening the legs and feet. At this point the A-6 Intruder would be ready to land ashore.

This transformation sequence uses the exact same core idea as Boxtron. The initial shape is mostly dictated by its function as an amphibious weapons platform, which on the other hand does limit how the humanoid form stands up. Well, semi-humanoid, as the A-6 does away with most human proportions.

While the transformation is simple, the main difference with its initial starfish form and Boxtron is not the shape or the sequence, but that it contains third dimension. While Boxtron was strictly a two-dimensional, A-6 needs to rotate and extend sections in the third dimension in order to achieve complete form change. As mentioned, the scheme of designed to work under water and only under water and ultimately the whole design works around this. The thrust is kept to the same direction at all times and the only bit that would seem to have any control over direction is the crotch piece.

Nevertheless, the good old tuck-and-cover method is practised here as well with, well, everything really. The amphibious mode is streamlined in most parts and doesn’t exactly have any hard corners for the water or currents to drag on. The geometry is overall sound. Outside the feet, anything more complex would be redundant.

In-universe the A-6 Intruder isn’t exactly a showpiece, and its transformation gimmick does give it a higher cost, but it’s specialised role makes it shine. While we can debate whether or not the design itself is something to admire, the A-6 is nevertheless a good example of a purpose-designed form changing mecha.

Music of the Month; Roundabout

I had idea what music to use this month. I honestly did. Then I completely forgot what the song was supposed to be. Not even a single note in my head. That music was supposed to be theme for this month, and you guessed it, I forgot what the theme was supposed to be. Well, I better gather something together. Ah screw it, it’s Yes time.

So, the Mega Man 2017 is now 2018. I’m not going to retroactively change that in the previous posts, because that’s how the date was announced then. Now is now, and from now on I’ll be referring the sub-franchise as Mega Man 2018. Maybe it’s the main franchise, because it’s pretty much the only thing Mega Man has going for now. His design also went well with the whole transforming mecha thing we have this year. Y’know, weapon changing and all that. A bit of a stretch, but I needed a slight break from the whole thing due to the amount of hours I’ve been putting in the workshop. I should be sleeping buy in reality I’m typing this out for you.

As for this month’s design thing, I may discuss the design og A-6 Intruder from Muv-Luv Alternative. Why? Because it’s a shape changing mecha, of course. Now getting some of the linearts or general images is a bitch, so I’ll have to resort what I have. Which probably is most than what others have due to my own devices.

Speaking of âge related stuff, Evan from the official translation side of things has translated one of the crack-head funniest bit âge’s produced, True Lies. Check it on his webzone. True Lies is a story of aliens, humans and antennoids and all the truths and lies that surround their existence. There’s a lot of love in there, and a hero we all don’t want but probably will get in the end. It’s a good bit and will entertain a solid hour, even when it starts to drag towards the end. Melvina Maniax was also pushed out and there’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, a product that’s been coming out since forever. I guess good things are worth the wait, though personally I’ll have to wait for it myself a bit longer due to circumastances. Not that I have time to read anything currently, I still haven’t touched Schwarzesmarken properly.

As for reviews, this month will see release of new 8Bit Music Power Final, and because I love you marvelous bastards so much, I decided to go with the version that comes with an attachment that supposedly puts out higher quality music. Seeing their build quality got better with Kira Kira DX, I’m hoping that they’ll step up the quality once more with this one. I don’t expect any gameplay from them as this really is just a digital album released on a Famicom cartridge. If’ you’re a Touhou fan, you might want to pick it up as Zun has a piece in there. Not really sure what I should aim for the next review, but I guess I’ll find out later down the line this month. I’ll just need to dig up something a bit strange and game related, as that seems to be in-demand. Well, as in demand as anything can be relating to this blog.

I haven’t commented on game news recently much due to nothing too much of interest being out there. The Switch has sold over five million units, which is damn good number. Especially when you consider that we are not in holiday season. A console selling five million during Christmas or such season is nothing out of normal, but selling that well in March raises an eyebrow. The system launch library though is atrocious, but seems like it has found its spot in the niche. Now if the software would just keep rolling in.

That reminds that I should discuss the emphasize of game design over technological design now that it seems we’re in an era where each new generation doesn’t marvel with its leaps in technology. All consoles can output great graphics, but now it’s put to the design of the graphics and gameplay to make due. Graphics whoring is for PC side, after all. I don’t remember anyone going full gaga over a game in decades anymore due to its graphics, Crysis was the last one I remember having such an effect on people. Well, if you exclude Illusion’s titles, but I’m not here to talk about porn games. Not yet at least.

Perhaps discussing game collecting might be a topic worth visiting. That would be an anecdotal post, mostly form a personal point of view and as such I doubt that it would do well in grand scheme of things (though there isn’t one.) Perhaps something less serious for a change might be in place, though emphasizing on topics that get the most hits via search engines would be the logical things to do. As Spock noticed oh so many times, humans tend to be illogical beings.

Speaking of Star Trek, whenever we get to see stuff from Discovery in a more transparent way than just leaked shots, I’ll do a comment on the designs. I did so with Star Wars (and I’ve bitched about them quite a lot) and Trek will get the same treatment. However, the rumour mill has been saying that the behind-the-screen events have been pretty terrible and handled terribly. For example, despite the show being a prequel series to the original Star Trek series, the designers and showrunners were forced to make it look the most advanced series in the franchise due to executive meddling. Midnight’s Edge has a video on the whole thing. Honestly, I’m not terribly excited about Discovery, prequels tend to be terrible (just look at Enterprise) and apparently it’s going to have more sex, which is one to the things that killed Enterprise. Is it echoing here? It’s not looking good for the series, but maybe some series do require extended periods of staying away from the general view and stay within the fandom in order to renew themselves completely.