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.

Music of the Month; Give it a Shot


Funny that, this is the best song on the album. Otherwise it’s extremely disappointing

Generally speaking, I don’t do music album reviews, but for this once I’ll do a short exception; Rockman X Anniversary Collection Soundtrack is not worth the price. Outside the two versions of Give it a Shot and RE;FUTURE, the album’s pretty bland. Spending track space and time to remix six first games’ Boss Battle themes. These were clearly chosen because they could been easily selected over stage themes. If we’re completely frank, the Boss Battle themes are not the best parts of Mega Man series’ soundtracks. Most of these songs simply end up being grey background noise. This is a far cry from previous releases’ quality, like Chiptuned Rockman.

Speaking of reviews, you got two last month. I’m not exactly happy how either of them turned out (though I never am with my posts) and I know the end result of the Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods did give rather negative view. However, that’s mostly due to how high standards I tend to use in my reviews. If there’s something I see that could or should have been included or improved, I aim to mention it. If there’s a point of comparison to be made for improvements, I always aim to make that comparison. In that, the aim often is to give constructive criticism, the kind of I’d want to have. It’s no use calling things shit or terrible, it ultimately ends up meaningless jabber. While improvement suggestions are always welcome, those should never be expected unless separately requested. This may sound harsh, but the reasons why something may be lacking don’t matter, as this can lead into further questions. Too many times I’ve seen and experienced people pointing the lack of experience for a reason why something is lacking in design, which always follows with questions like Why didn’t you hire a professional then? or Why didn’t you find professional to help? The reasons, ultimately, don’t matter. They can make interesting trivia though.

The JoyCon review was approached the same way. However, a controller review has to take into account ergonomics, and this breaks the whole Why isn’t necessary question thing into the air. There I tend to look for why certain shapes were made in the form they are, and often the answer is to conform to the general shapes of hands. It’s not exactly the same question or reason, but close enough for some people to bring the point up.

Pachislot Rockman got announced and we’ve got our first look at some the characters somewhat recently. I’ll be doing a comparative review of Mega Man’s redesign, just like how I did one on the Man of Action cartoon design. While we don’t have multiple angles to use, the one in the linked page is more or less enough to get a good feeling what elements were incorporated across the franchise. Pachislot and pachinko machines tend to redesign characters, sometimes to very large extents, but often do keep the core aspects intact. To use an example, CR Cutie Honey has designs that combine some previous series’ entries into one with healthy dose of detailing. People who handled this knew what they were doing as well, as the bunny girl form is named Cutie Bunny.

As for the rest of the month, I’m planning a short overview on what are Lunatic Dawn and Exogularity booklets âge is self-publishing at Comiket. I should not be surprised that the fandom seems to have taken Exogularity as the title for some story or setting, when in reality Exogularity is rebranded Lunatic Dawn. Well, I guess that’s it, they’re both source books with different names. The actual post will have examples, of course, but that’s the gist of it.

You’ve probably noticed how weekend posts have been appearing on Sundays recently rather than on Fridays. This is me moving towards the new schedule I mentioned a month ago or so. I’ll take this chance to also mention that there’s no post next weekend, as I’ll be away. Truth to be told, I intended to write this post for Friday, but thanks to rain I fell ill. My fever’s not going down, and I’m actually writing this on a phone. You can see the irony here, as I’m giving you a Why despite my arguments above stating the contradictory. Well, I do think there’s a wide gap between a KS and this blog.

Remember to sharpen and oil your kitchen knives and such. Cooking will be much safer and enjoyable afterwards.

 

Goodbye ixtl, welcome anchor

On July 6th, âge announced that ixtl, the company that was put up in 2011 to manage their copyrights and IPs, has now been renamed as anchor. Their website has also been revised accordingly. It would seem that anchor’s role is not just to manage âge’s rights, but also to design stories, i.e. story content creation of sorts. XR experience can be loosely equated to VR and other experiences that might come in future, e.g. themed hotel room or such.

This comes in the wake of Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl in 2017, ixtl having a survey for international and Japanese consumers what they’d like to see from them as well as Avex and Graphinica announcing they have established Flagship line, a company to produce goods, such as animation, games and VR titles.

Perhaps most importantly, anchor’s site specifically teases a new project coming soon, there is already something in the works. Considering Avex Pictures took notice of the million dollar Kickstarter, renewed interest to revamp a company branding and other changes, it should not be too hard to guess what they’re ramping up to.

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.

Music of the Month: 8-Bit Brave

Ah, what a month has it been. If you’ve noticed that the writing has been all over the place for during January, that’s because I’ve had much less time to given any emphasize toward quality (or whatever quality goes into making this blog) and just getting something out. Let’s stretch a bit, as usual for these posts.

We basically skipped the usual robot related design and a review post. The Virtual-On historicals have taken their slot, as they require comparatively a bit more research than what I have time now, especially considering I still need to play the games to give them a proper assessment rather than just going with the flow. I’m also planning an additional post about where VO has appeared outside of its own games, mostly mentioning Valgern-On and MARZ‘s Super Robot Wars entries. There’s quite a lot of to do with these upcoming three, and I can’t even begin to write properly about A Certain Magical Virtual-On as of now. I’ve also added the VO entries into Robot Related Materials you can access in the menu on the top of this page.

With VO posts doing relatively well for a niche topic, I’m considering of doing more of post of their sort. Not necessarily historical entries per se, but more series or franchise comprehensive series. Still, Muv-Luv and Guilty Gear related stuff still reign at the top of most hits, with few mecha and that NES region free post in the mix.

With my new work contract that I’ve gained via career change, I’ll be working a full day-job in five shifts. Whether or not I have time, or simple energy, to write something of worth nothing twice a week may become rather challenging. I’ve decided not to push myself with this, and will allow myself to pass on one of the posts, if deemed necessary. I’ll try to drag A9Doc, who did the neat Digimon post recently to cover my sorry ass, if he manages to come up with a neat topic. You may see more Digimon related posts than usual because of this, but all of them should touch on character designs or the like first and foremost to keep it according to the blog’s theme.

This also means I’ll be breaking the thousand word limit I’ve had for years now. This is to ensure that I can include all the things I’ve wanted to mention rather than splitting some topics. In some cases, I’ll forgive myself if I got well under that golden standard I’ve been living up to. If somebody is wondering why I had such a limit, it was because early on I got some feedback that I tended to write posts that were too long to read. Thus, cutting back and making them more palatable was the goal back then, but that was then.

To help with things overall, I will take last year’s Monthly Threes and combine them into one larger post per topic. Is this cheating, I hear someone ask. It partially is, but these posts have some of the best stuff I’ve done. With some encouragement from a certain Casp O’saurus, I’ll be picking some of my better posts and try to spread them around a bit more.

As for the ixtl/âge stuff, there hasn’t been much I’ve wanted to comment on. I never made any posts about Avex picture’s acquisition, because I never got a good picture what sort of company they are, in the end. There are less good sources to go through, and things being more or less standard Japanese corporate politics says things can go either ways. Either ixtl will stay as they are and be milked to the end, until they’re absorbed fully into avex as a whole, or they’ll manage to do some seriously impressive stuff that will make money. Knowing ixtl’s track record, despite the Kickstarter, things can go either way. At least the translation team has now moved to ixtl’s stables. We’ll just have to sit back and see when everything has been cleared out, as they’ll have to relaunch Muv-Luv on Steam under a new publisher now that Degica is no longer involved.

TSF comparison entries are still planned, but just as with the Guilty Gear comparisons, time is a commodity  that I don’t have too much. I’ll plan one of each for March, as February is still Virtual-On country.

I once said that I’d follow Yo-kai Watch‘s success in the West, but seeing its success was less than expected, it really did drop from my radar. I picked up the first game from sales recently, and I have to admit that I’m liking its semi-automatic battle system. I’ll have to play it a bit more to get a proper feeling, but all things all, I can understand well why the series got such a loud applaud in Japan. Maybe a review is coming out on it at some point, but not anytime soon. I’ll be giving some of the sequels a look too, and how they’re managed to change the formula.

And oh, the reason why Yuusha Oh Tanjou! got the spot this time around is that The King of Braves GaoGaiGar‘s final episode’s 20th anniversary was on the 31st of January.

 

Music of the Month; Through Random Selection

The rest of the year is going to be rather chaotic, but when it has not been? Hence, the music has been selected via random play. I may regret it, but here we go.


When life gives you melons and all that. Or was it lemons?

Not the most season specific song, I admit, but hey, when it has been?  But let’s put the cards on the table.

Whatever this month’s mecha design post will be, it’ll be the last one that I try to make on a monthly basis, with transformation being the main emphasize again. The previous one about toys driving certain design consideration was part of the series, though for the sake of variety I wanted to cover its comparisons as well. After I’ve managed to collect few notable books, I’ll have to return to mecha design again. Next year’s theme is up in the air, and while I am extremely hesitant on showcasing any scribbles I may do, maybe doing a sort of showcase of personal approach on things would be best, refining be damned. If you want good looking mechas, visit ksen’s Twitter.

As for reviews, you’re in a luck. Remember that Laserdisc player I pent up for a whole year? Well, the player has now served its time and its power unit crapped on me. I’ve yet to track down why, but I have a new unit on the way. It’s a Pioneer LD-V4300D, if you want to check beforehand what it looks like. It’s an industrial player, not very high on the fidelity scale, weights almost thirteen kilos, but it has some good stuff going on for it I can make use of, for now. Most importantly, it runs both PAL and NTSC discs, the very reason I picked it. Not that I had much options, it was the only unit on sale at the moment that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and I had to make a special inquiry for international shipment.

I’ve enjoyed doing controller review, and though that would mean I’d need to find a new and an interesting controller each month, I think I’ll try to make it a theme for the next year. If I fail, well… that’s on me then. I’m still on the side that I shouldn’t do written game reviews, unless the game is somehow obscure and lacks scans or the like on the ‘web. That’s a though challenge, unless I somehow manage to find a well paying job and start importing PC88 and X68k stuff.

As for Muv-Luv side of things, we’re all pretty much sitting down and waiting things to happen. With avex pictures now having majority ownership over ixtl, the company that manages everything âge related, everything’s been more or less on ice. While I doubted there would be any initial changes, ixtl taking control over Kickstarter from Degica is a sign of sorts of things moving onward. For those who are in the dark, ixtl is a company that essentially handles everything that comes to âge, with âge essentially being a brand front company. You can be sure that avex wants to turn Muv-Luv into an anime, and if you ask me, it’s just a question of time when such an announcement will be made. The real question just is what sort of anime will it be. Will it be an adaptation or something completely else, taking advantage of the setting and make it some sort of Attack on Titan with giant robots? There is potential, but seeing how not even the original company has managed to churn out anything successful since original release of Alternative, they’ve got some work to do. I’m sure avex wants to see some of that money back, sooner or later.

One requested post that I’m going to make when I have the materials collected is how I built a couple of arcade sticks and what went into their making. It’ll probably end up as one long post for the sake of keeping it together, splitting it in parts would mean that people would have to scrounge the blog for each sections, even if linked. It’ll have few versions included, including a stainless steel variation with a hitbox included. Expect it to be ready sometime in Q1 of 2018.

Next year should see an entry about Adventure! Iczer-3‘s audiodrama, once I’ve transferred it from cassettes to digital form and given it a good listen or five. It’s a completely different deal from the OVA version, thus some comparing and comparison needs to be done, especially in the visual department.

As for other stuff, you may have noticed that I’ve lessened on commenting the game news as of late quite the bit. This is partially because I burned myself out with it, following dozens of different sites and trying to keep up with each and every news I could pick up, and due to how I pace myself, some entries never got out because they became irrelevant within a day or two. I would emphasize longer life for the posts as highest priority, but seeing I have no clue how to that as of now, I’ll just keep going as usual and see what comes of it.

I’m also trying to get another voice on the blog after such a long time, this time talking about visual and design progression in Digimon. Call it a late 20th anniversary celebration post from him. We haven’t discussed what’s the word count, but I’m guessing it’ll hit somewhere above 2000 words, with some very specific examples picked throughout the years. I’ve done few of these in the past, most notable being the evolution of Metal Gear designs. Not the game’s, but the robot’s themselves. If you’ve missed it, you can find the link at Robot Related Materials above. It should be an interesting read, especially if you’re fan of the franchise.

Maybe I should do more of those. All long-running franchises have visual and design evolution throughout the years, and maybe Mega Man would deserve of getting one. For now, remember to sharpen your kitchen knives and oil them. It’ll make cooking so much more enjoyable.