Hardy Science Fiction

For the last decade or so I have seen a change how some consumers view science fiction and fundamentally misunderstanding it. The core argument is that something isn’t science fiction after all, despite being labelled so for numerous years, if not decades prior, because it’s not realistic, or the science that it supposes simply couldn’t happen. Sidelining Clarke’s law about Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, for now, this is a patently false view on science fiction. It does, however, fit hard science fiction, a sub-genre of science fiction that is all about diamond-hard fiction without breaking the current understanding of science. By their very nature, their view on science will be obsoleted in a few years as science advances, they’ll turn what some people call soft science fiction.

Haldeman’s Forever War is a personal choice of work if I need to recommend a book with power armours and time dilation

The audience knows that the science presented in a science fiction work is largely fictitious. It’s part of the silent agreement with the author, where the viewer has been presented more or less a world where some elements are more believable than others regarding science. Some stories, like The Andromeda strain, stick extremely close to the guns and doesn’t veer away from possible reality. The suspension of disbelief happens with the whole point about a virus coming from outer space and being able to evolve like it does in the book, the rest what science fiction is at its core; it asks the question What if… SF handles concepts more than straight fantasy does, though SF in itself is a branching genre from fantasy. While fantasy is about grand themes and builds upon those themes, SF explores concepts. For example, in Asimov’s short story Jokester a question was passed to Multivac, a Superintelligent computer, where do jokes come from as they seem to be something that everyone tells, but nobody truly invents. To spoil over this sixty-year-old short story, the end result Multivac ends up coming with is that all jokes humanity tells are by some other extraterrestrial power that is implementing jokes into humanity as a control device. It also came to the conclusion that when the first human figures this out, jokes and humour would cease to be implemented as the testing has now been sullied and a new factor would replace it. Multivac in itself isn’t the science fiction element in this short story, nor are the god-like extraterrestrials, but the concept of humanity being used as lab rats. Asimov took a look at the concept and wrote a small story around it with a humorous, even if dark, angle. Similarly, Haldeman’s sequel novel Forever Free to his masterpiece Forever War was ultimately about the same concept with completely different kind of approach and realisation.

Asimov’s Foundation follows this the same kind of path. To describe the works shortly, it is about how to shorten the Galactic Dark Age that follows after mankind’s Galactic Empire falls. How the Galactic Empire, or how it has formed, how people interact across the planets and so isn’t the science fiction part, neither is the fall itself. The fall, in actuality, is merely background material and is based on the fall of the Roman Empire. That parts historic, not SF. The part that makes the Foundation series pinnacle of science fiction literature, something that makes it practically unadaptable, is psychohistory; a fictional field of science that combines statistics and psychology. Through psychohistory, one can make accurate predictions on how large groups of people will act based on those people and surrounding events, as long as they remain unaware of the analysation. The modern field of Big Data largely follows the same ideas, but in practice, the two are very different entities. Psychohistory is the fictional science element that in itself is a concept worth exploring. It opened more doors for Asimov to explore from how one group of people could control others through representing technology as a kind of religion to how it all can be taken down by one element that isn’t in the calculations. Asimov is famous for setting rules and regulations to his works with Laws of Robotics being his most famous. What most people don’t realise is that Asimov extensively explores these concepts and their failings to the point that his works alone are the best arguments why the Laws of Robotics are flawed. Similarly in the Foundation series, he explored how one inhuman element, a mutant, can throw a monkey wrench to otherwise perfectly working system. He then proceeded to explore how such things could be prevented or perhaps even corrected. Space travel and all that is merely flavour and the background to which the main dish is served.

While many news has stated teleportation to be science fact, its practical uses are still extremely limited, if not completely impractical

Similarly, Star Trek is often seen as a science fiction show because there are people in space going swish in a space ship. A hard science fiction writer wouldn’t be placing any space vessels outside our own solar system, as the science we have now doesn’t give any realistic methods to achieve even proper portions of the speed of light. We’d run out of time if we’d begin to travel interstellar space, the distances are just too large to get across. Star Trek could be said to be the archetypical positive work of science fiction, asking what if humanity had socially evolved to be a benevolent entity. Much like Asimov, many episodes question the Federation of Planets’ standards and ways of living to creator Roddenberry’s chagrin. Star Trek as the wagon show set in space itself could be regarded as science fiction, though much like with other popular SF works of the time, it gathers science facts of the time and makes assumptions in order to build that veneer again. The science in itself may be spotty, yet the function of science was aimed to be valid. The writing team employed some NASA members to ask what was possible and what wasn’t, but as with anything, the story comes first. Captain Kirk fighting a giant green lizard may seem hacky and laughable, yet at the core, the episode is about two completely alien cultures being forced to face each other to the end. The episode takes the initial What if… about humanity being able to become a force of good and reach the stars, challenging it in face of death and destruction, then given the possibility to destroy this malevolent force. Little things in Star Trek have become reality in a way or another, like the whole thing about portable phones and communicators. In the same manner, Orwell’s 1984 is effectively the opposite of Star Trek‘s positive view and explores the possibility of the world becoming a totalitarian hellhole akin to the Soviet Union. The telescreen technology is a possibility, but that is simply a tool to be able to tell the story through, much like how thought policing is.

While Mobile Suits may be unrealistic, FLAG’s HAVWCs are probably the mos realistic depiction mechas to date with their own specific applications on the field

Mecha, giant robots, is often taken as a method to tell an SF story. However, just like Star Trek, mecha is the framing device for the main dish. It’s the flavour something is painted in. One of the best examples can be found in Mobile Suit Gundam, in which most people would coin mechas and space set to be the whole SF thing. However, the main SF element in Gundam is exploring the next step in human evolution; the Newtypes, humans with an extra sense of space and time that they are able to share among each other. The space setting is necessary, as the show asks What if humanity would need to evolve in space, and how it would proceed. Then it explores what political and social implications it would yield to mankind in the guise of a war story. You could change the mechas Gundam to something else, powered armour or space tanks, and it’d work just as well. However, remove Newtypes and the core structure that holds both the setting and show’s concept together falls apart wholesale. Much like how Asimov explored the faults of his concepts, Gundam has seen numerous entries questioning the validity of humanity being able to share their thoughts across space and time. Yes, everybody knows mechas like Mobile Suits are impossible, impractical at best. That doesn’t take away the fun and interest in building on the idea and enjoying the flavour, basking in the intricate designs and history built on the already set up fiction.

As mentioned earlier, science fiction will always grow old. If SF work emphasize is mainly in the science or how it works based on then-current understanding, it’ll always be out of date. Giving a fictitious explanation based on the scientific method will always age better. Simply leaving something important unanswered often leads to weak world-building. Jurassic Park is an example of a work with extremely detailed and well-maintained world-building and explanations for its science. It is also an example of a work that, despite being heavily rooted in science that was possible, it is now an example of a work where we know about dinosaurs and cloning so much that the book is out of date. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take anything away from the story itself, or from the question What if humans were able to bring dinosaurs back. It brings more than just that on the table and explores more than one concept, like certain applications of the Chaos Theory. SF Debris did an excellent series on Jurassic Park this summer, which I wholeheartedly recommend watching.

The Lens itself could be considered a true and tested SF trope in itself, it being a sort of shared supercomputer

Even older works of science fiction seem rather weird to our modern eyes. For example, the classic Lensman series of books by Doc Smith has no computers in them despite an extremely advanced form of space travel that can cross galaxies and even dimensions. Everything is done by a slide rule, which is an analogue calculator. Or if you want to use the term used for people who used to compute numbers, an analogue computer. Some of Asimov’s earlier works lack computers as we understand them as well. Some of Asimov’s works began to include the aforementioned Multivac supercomputer but described some of them taking the size of whole planets. This was as according to science as understood at a specific time when it was assumed that only a few computers would be built due to their sheer size. Nowadays we have computers in our pockets every day that would have been considered impossible half a century ago. If science doesn’t have answers at the time to a problem a writer has, fiction has to take its place. The writer has to come up with a fictional explanation to the issue that hasn’t been solved or doesn’t have an answer. We can imagine many things based on popular culture and relevant science, but if neither presents any relevant information, we can’t imagine such things existing. There are things we can’t imagine existing because they haven’t been invented yet, nor has the science they’re based on. To use Lensman as an example again, it plays with the concept of negative matter. Not anti-matter, but negative matter, which would react the opposite it as it was interacted with. For example, if you pushed it, it would move back towards you. Anti-matter would be detected only later and its properties were found to be wildly different, but Doc Smith had some foresight into a concept of opposing matter. Lack of any kind of knowledge on the papers, however, forced him to use his artistic license. Even things like warp drive have been suggested to be a possibility, namely with the Alcubierre drive, but even in this, some elements are missing. The drive would necessitate negative energy and anti-gravity, neither of which Einstein’s theory of relativity considers impossible. In practice, it may be, but there hasn’t been any conclusive evidence to either direction.

Science fiction expects the science found in the work to be fictitious. Unless it is hard science fiction, the science itself does not have to be real, merely consistent with itself and the established scientific method. However, it is always taking back seat the moment the story needs it to. Star Trek, despite its science mostly bullshit, is largely consistent with itself. Nevertheless, what the scientific concept ultimately truly is often isn’t all that clear. Spaceships, lasers and all that we consider as old tropes in the genre used to be new and cutting-edge ideas. A raygun was a valid concept in the form fiction often describes it, before further exploration in the technology ultimately deemed it more or less impossible due to materials and physics involved. Material science, science overall, evolves at its own pace, always improved by necessity in burst-like motions. Many times we don’t even consider small things in our lives to be the end result of massive leaps and bounds in technology and science. The fact that we have a small diode, smaller than the size of your fingernail, now being able to be brighter than the sun and lit up a whole room. I’m looking at an old lightbulb on my desk I found today in my mother’s storage and wondering how this more than twenty-year-old bulb can last less time than my LED bulb, how it eats more energy and yet gives less light. The concept of itty bitty lights in a torch from fifty years ago is now a reality. The way science fiction, in general, represents its impossible science doesn’t matter, but what it does with its concepts and how it tells its stories, is.

The continuing adventures of…

Imagine if they the Batman was taken out from his comics and replaced with someone who isn’t Batman. Sure, Francis there will say that’s happened multiple times and he’s right. Yet every single time we’ve always returned to read further adventures as Bruce Wayne as Batman. The status quo returns. Same with Peter Parker, who has been replaced by other Spider-Men for some time. Like by Ben Reilly, who happens to have the best iteration of the classical Spider-Man suit. Superman has died and has come back to life. In any given new entry to the Transformers with Optimus Prime, you can expect him to die. Hell, for Transformers to have the same basic cast with some changes to setting and characterisation, yet all the roles and core characters are the same. People make connections with characters and their stories and wish to continue follow their stories. It’s not just something to consume, it’s almost like following how an old friend is doing.

Comics have made introduction of new characters a finely tuned craft. You first have the original comic for character A that’s successful, in which you introduce character B. Character B makes an impact enough and gets spun out to his own comic book, now expanding both the world of the comic and the lineup. Valiant Comics in the 1990’s was well versed in this and managed to build an organic and cohesive world. Malibu Comics’ Ultraforce book, their version of The Avengers or Justice League, was planned year beforehand and every team member’s storyline would meld into the Ultraforce story. Best thing is, it was planned well enough that it’s only apparent in hindsight and the stories themselves weren’t hampered by this plan. To this day I find it sad that Ultraverse comics and characters are dead. Marvel bought Malibu Comics just to get their advanced colouring techniques in 1994, and after the comics were cancelled around a year later, none of the concepts or characters have made appearances, sitting in Marvel’s vault gathering dust. Still, new characters get introduced constantly, but not many stick around enough to get their own books. Some times it is the executive decision to drive in a new book based on a new character with no real connections established previously, though that doesn’t always go as hoped.

The same base concept applies to any entertainment media, be it books, movies or TV-shows. Take the show Cheers as an example. People loved and cared for these characters, and despite Frasier not being a main character initially, he proved popular enough to be spun out to his own namesake series for eleven seasons. James Bond movies have tried to spin some of the characters into their own movies, but there hasn’t been any luck in that for multiple reasons. Budget always being one of them. James Bond has seen more success with James Bond Jr. in book and in animated form, though that’s somewhat arguable as it seems majority of the current mainstream audience only knows Bond from the movies.

Nevertheless, the method of creating supplementary characters and expanding the world has proven to be both lucrative and consumer friendly. You can do whatever you want with a new character and his setting all the while keeping the originator intact. You can even make the same choice as Marvel did with the Ultimate Spider-Man ans introduce a new version of the classic character. What seems to be the opposite action of this is replacing old characters with completely new ones through whatever methods the writers employ. Sometimes its totally replacing these characters, sometimes its rewriting them to the extent that what made these characters themselves in the first place is no longer there.

There are of course examples when a total shift in a series works. Star Trek: The Next Generation is an example of this, despite it not appearing so at first. The discussion which series is better and which had the better cast is as old as the show itself, many considering it a worthwhile addition but never reaching the same cultural status as the original. After all, it’s the original cast people were attached to, not this new cast with a French bald guy as the captain. I would argue that time has proven that the TNG cast and their stories were worthwhile addition to Star Trek, which opened further possibilities to expand the franchise in much larger ways. While Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise are largely debated within their fandoms, the overall consumer doesn’t deem them as worthwhile. Star Trek hasn’t managed to capture the audience in the same manner since TNG went off the air. The rebooted Star Trek universe hasn’t reached the same level despite reusing old characters, but in these movies the characters were largely unrecognisable from their old selves and more like caricatures of themselves. It’s an example of using recognisable names and settings without taking advantage of them or telling further stories about these characters. They might as well be blank slates, something completely new.

Star Wars has of course always struggled with the old and new cast. The Golden Era of Star Wars comics was when Marvel originally licensed the comics, exploring all the adventures Luke, Leia and Han were having. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye largely falls into this category. Dark Horse began to expand the universe with new settings, cast and characters with little to no connection to the original cast, but nevertheless didn’t conflict with those characters. Even further, stories like the Shadows of the Empire were treated as if they were movie events without the movie. Nevertheless, new stories based on the universe were met with as much critical acclaim as stories based on the original cast of character. Whether or not Disney intentionally let down fan expectations is somewhat an open question. While it’s not uncommon to drastically change characters, it can backfire immensely if it’s not organic change and is completely untold. Disney Star Wars has the habbit of not expanding on events or reasons. Instead additional one-liners trying to function as exposition has been put in, which shows more how lacklustre the overall planning process and writing has been. Return of the Jedi left things off in a hopeful, bright manner, which was effectively killed by repeating A New Hope. Luke’s bright future was killed off by him becoming a murderous hermit, Han’s position as the husband of an heir of a dead planet was nulled and all the roles these characters had were removed in order to promote new characters. To lacking success, as Disney Star Wars has taken a profit plummet ever since their released their first entry. Incidentally, Mandalorian has been received in a better manner, mostly because it has expanded already familiar universe without infringing on the established characters, something the movies are at fault to a large degree.

Some writers will laugh at the audience for connecting with fiction. To some it’s a passionless job, something they do for money like any other office worker. Some creators do create a similar connection, while others simply come in to do whatever. Nowadays it’s not exactly a rarity for a recognised and already established brand to have a writer who want to do their own thing without any regards what’s already come. While we can argue over how much a writer needs to be slave to the past writing, what they can’t ignore is the customer expectations and wants. If they end up butchering the characters, the setting and overall overturn what the audience has come to love in a work, well, they can only take the heat. The continuity of these characters stories, even if they’re new stories with little connection, is the living flesh of the audience’s attention and love. Cut that away, and all you have is meat that can be consumed once, and all you’re left is bones and guts.

What are you going to do with a brand that is unrecognisable from what made it popular in the first place? Replace it with something completely new is the answer sometimes. Other times, the best method is just to reverse course and turn back.

Review: Muv-Luv Kickstarter goods

The approach to this review will not be anything different from any other review I’ve done thus far. No special treatment, no kids gloves on; I will approach this as any product reviewed in this blog thus far. It’s only fair towards you, the readers, and the staff behind the Kickstarter. However, I won’t be reviewing all the KS goods. I’ll be concentrating on the main dish most people probably got through their backing; the Kickstarter physical package, the Codex and the Destroyer Class plush. This will strictly discuss the items themselves, not their translation or such.

Let’s start with the physical package.

This is also the image that was used on Alternative‘s original DVD release. It’s honestly the perfect choice for this

At first appearance, the package seems pretty on-par. Despite using thin cardboard, the appearance isn’t half bad. The decision to put the description and all copyright information to the bottom is an interesting take, as now its reversible to every other direction. This breaks how commercial boxes are designed, which some perfectionists might find jarring, as now the box doesn’t flow well with other software boxes.

However, visuals aren’t all. While the box still feel sturdy in hand, the contents inside are loose. The image above is just before I opened the box, and I could hear and feel the items inside rattling back and forth. This isn’t great to any extent. A box like this should have necessary support inside to keep items in their proper places during transit, as now no matter what sort of stuffing is used around it the items can be damaged. So, let’s open this one up and see what’s inside.

You could fit another booklet in there or something

This is exactly what I didn’t want to see; items rattling around in an oversized box. Because the box is made thinner cardboard, the same some DVDs have around them, it loses most of its structural integrity when opened. I can feel the CDs being lose inside their jewel case, let’s open that one up to see if they’re damaged. The case’s cover is nice choice though, but the back cover should have been revised. Maybe drop the song titles here completely and have them inside in an insert.

Oh. Ooooooohhh…

Luckily, only one of the CDs were loose, but the discs’ printing is not up to quality. While the chosen images are good in themselves, for whatever reason the images are lower resolution than the text, which itself is sharp. The typeface and font chosen for the CDs ends making these look like something printed at home. Furthermore, these discs should have been labelled as numbers, e.g. Muv-Luv Alternative Original Soundtrack Disc 1, not Volume 1. The fact that OST is used on the discs like this, and the fact that there is no kind of information who composed the songs, makes all this feel like a homebrew compilation.

As for the games themselves, the front covers are what you’d expect and look good. Nothing to say about these, but the back covers are another thing. There’s too much text on them. Even when these VNs are long, the descriptions should have been cut in half and with heavier emphasize on images. To use Sweet Home as an example, the flavour text is two whole sentences, being straight to the point. The word homebrew creeps back to my head with this, as things like Minimum Requirements should be on the box. Actually, they’re not seen anywhere on the packaging.

The discs however are rather standard, overall speaking. There’s nothing to mention about them, though I would’ve expected more legal text on all of these. Perhaps printing a monochrome image on the disc similar to âge’s Japanese releases should have been brought on to the table, as its much easier to make them look sharp rather than what might end up looking like a sticker on a disc.

I must mention that the disc I have for Muv-Luv seems to have been damaged somewhere along the way, as it has a strange arc on the underside. Despite this, the disc seems to be readable. There’s also a weird discoloration, as if something had spilled all over it inside. This might be a quality control issue, and I’ll be sure testing this disc further down the line.

The darker wavy line is easy to spot, the lighter arc near not so much., I have no idea what they are and I am slightly worried

The shikishi, a drawn image signed by the author, that came with the box is pretty great. Sumika doing a Drill Milky Punch is nice, even when it’s just a print and not a real thing in itself. The artbook uses similar typeface and font as the CDs, and doesn’t exactly look the greatest. Everything’s printed on a thin, glossy paper that in itself isn’t terrible, but the cover should have been heavier duty. The feeling the book gives is flimsy, plus it creases extremely easily. Corners will get damaged fast in normal use with this paper too. Because of the thinness, the pages are slightly transparent and the images on the other side bleed through. The images and character descriptions are on-point, though the complete lack of illustrator credits anywhere in the codex is a bit disheartening. Seeing the second and last to last pages under the covers are completely blank, these would have been great places to put them on.

Here’s how I solved the rattling the contents: I added two pieces of cardboard on both sides, and a support structure to keep the CD jewel case in place. To be completely honest, the outer box does feel like something you should throw away, as the package overall lacks any sort of premium feel to it. The added cardboard makes it feel more rigid and gives some extra heft. There shouldn’t be any reason for me to do this addition, but as things stand now, I had to. For comparison, here’s how Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal laid its contents. Notice the use of sturdier cardboard, how the items are laid and fit perfectly, and the use of supportive thinner cardboard at the bottom of the PS4 case.

 

Well, let’s move unto the second big thing, the long-time Holy Grail of Muv-Luv Alternative source of information translated and recompiled with Lunatic Dawn content; The Codex.

Like some majestic predatory bird

The first impression of the book is nothing short of impressive. I didn’t expect hardcover version of the book, especially considering the number of pages, but first looks can be deceiving. When you stop and look at the cover, it’s not pretty.

On the right, you see the scanned cover of the Muv-Luv Alternative CODEX. On its left you have the same illustration, scanned from Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works. I recommend opening them in Full View to fully see how badly the covers have been fucked up. Either someone forgot to pit High Resolution mode on in In-Design, or something seriously went awry during data process. Both covers have been printed in low resolution, while the cover text nice and crisp. While a book shouldn’t be judged by its covers, this piece can never be called high quality or premier product. A way to remedy this situation would be to create a dust jacket for the book with high resolution print on the cover.

However, the meat of the piece is on the pages. With some few hours looking through, there appears to be no real concern how accurately things have transferred during translation. There are also welcome changes, like changing Melee Halberds into Close Quarters Combat Melee Blade. While a mouthful, melee blade in itself is more than enough. Back in 2016 I wrote a post concerning the topic, which was comped with a review of TSF’s close combat weapons. I strongly recommend you to read them both if you haven’t. There is one fib that has leaked through, where BWS-8 Flugelberte is described to resemble a halberd, when in reality it resembles an axe. Or a bardiche.

The information itself is great stuff, but it shows that this is a book that’s glued together from multiple sources. The Lunatic Dawn content that’s in the latter part of the book is just bolted on, rather than taken and included into the book proper. The word on the street originally was that the book would need to be completely revised, but in the end it follows Integral Works‘ looks and design with the occasional change in order accommodate English.

Good ol’ Gekishit. Isn’t ‘Play Back’ one word though?

The paper used is similar glossy paper that’s in the artbook. It’s a level heavier, but creases still extremely easily. Despite being heavier and slightly thicker, it still isn’t near heavy matte paper in terms of preventing transparencies, as seen above. Fingerprints will be abound while reading this book. I’m rather surprised that this wasn’t a softcover book similar to Integral Works or Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works, to which I compared IW to back in the day as well. Codex‘s paper is nowhere as heavy and hefty as the two aforementioned, but the book is third thinner due to the new paper. It doesn’t allow the book to have any air to it either.

Because of the glossy surface and the sheer amount of text, people with poorer eyesight will have headaches while reading this. The typeface selected is just small enough to cause extra strain on the eye. As everything’s also packed very, very tightly in this small size, people who suffer from either vertical or horizontal dispersion in vision, meaning certain letters will lose lines, making reading a chore at best, extremely headache inducing at worst. This is easily alleviated with the use of different typeface or slightly larger font size.

The use of this sort of glossy paper can also be a double-edged sword. While Yakuza 6‘s artbook had the same paper, some copies were completely glued together, some were completely warped and some had ink smudges all over them. The feel of glossy paper works best for single leaflets and photos. When going for a book like this, its still best to consider heavy matter paper first and foremost, as it offers longer life and cuts down possible ink and paper problems down to mere percents.

All in all, the covers are just a damn travesty, sadly. Well, that and one of the pages, p. 353, get repeated on the following opening. While accidents like this sometimes happen, this does sting of lack of quality control.

Lastly, we have the Destroyer Class plushie, one of the things that was suggested very early on due to its role in the fandom. The plushie is based on a very certain background piece in Joshi Eishi Cryska EX.

While the plushie is clearly different from it CG original, this is due to difference in reality and fiction. The overall quality is damn nice, chosen materials feel sturdy enough to give this to a child to play with. Interestingly, the back end has a sack that’s filled with grains rather than fluff the plushie is filled with otherwise.

The grain section is about one-third from the back, starting from the tag on its arse

It’s just a joy to see and have, maybe even the best part of the package in terms of quality. This thing really should see mass production. Clearly, there is a market for BETA plushies.

I’m sure that at this point it’s rather clear what’s the end verdict is. The Kickstarter original products are largely a disappointment in terms of quality. I’m not going to mull over whys or hows, that doesn’t net anything. They are what they are, now’s too late to do anything about it. Other items, like the ones in Yuuko’s Gift bag, have higher quality. Stickers are hard to screw up as are postcards (though mine are rather warped, requiring me to straighten them down.) It must be also mentioned that Valkylies has been corrected into Valkyries with the patches.

Those patches were produced by Cospa, company that produces cosplay goods, including the jackets and shirts that were on the Kickstarter. The pilot jacket may be 100% polyester, but I can’t expect a cosplay clothes company to manufacture clothes like they were actual military wear. The Drill Milky Punch T-shirt is at 100% cotton and I’m wearing it while typing this review. This extends to the dakimakura, which is of standard Japanese productions for items like it, I expected no less.


The experience with the Kickstarter goods, delays and pretty much everything including the end results of the goods probably affected negatively both backers and staff. It would not be surprising if this was the first and last Kickstarter we see, and the rest are done away with less fanfare, which would also mean no physical products would be produced. However, in cases like this, I would always strongly recommend companies and people looking into Limited Run Games, a company that specialises in doing limited physical run on goods. At the time of Muv-Luv‘s Kickstarter, the company wasn’t relevant, but now it has managed to establish itself just fine. For example, they are delivering Shantae: ½ Genie Hero‘s Kickstarter goods. But all this is academic at best. I can only hope that lessons have been learned, but have not allowed to snuff the staff’s spirit.

I’ve got no good end for this review. Shit happens, we will probably never know what, but the end results are in our hands.

 

Death of a World

I have been enjoying reading as of late. Not Visual Novels mind you, but books. I used to spend lot of time with books and used the library quite often, but nowadays I feel that I’d rather than something of my own in my hands, so I can do whatever I please with it. A creased page or cover (one of the many reasons I prefer hardcover) won’t bother when it’s fixed properly, something I couldn’t do to a loaned booked. While my bookshelf has its share of books outside comics, guides and other random assortments, I do have a wish to give something new a proper shot. This seems to be turning into a more personal post than intended, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing once in a while.

After some discussion with a book reviewer I across the pond I am familiar with, she came to a conclusion that I should go outside my field of preference, at least for a duration of few titles, and give Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books a go. I come to these things late, as usual. I can’t say I like Pratchett’s works, though the opposite is true as well. I simply have no relationship with Discworld to speak of, less anything to Pratchett himself. How I approach his works, or anyone else’s for the matter, is through neglect of the author. Pratchett doesn’t matter when it comes to his work, the works are enough on themselves. Just as I discourage idol worship with game developers, I extend this to directors, actors and writers. Though I must admit writers do gain a bit more respect from my part on how solitary their work is, but even then the best writers work with their editors or professionals in the field to build their book’s contents the best possible way. While pretty much all Pratchett fans I know have recommend to start elsewhere than from the beginning, I have always preferred to do so. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, for better or worse, shall serve my entry to the Discworld.

World that has, for all intents and purposes, died with its author.

Pratchett’s daughter has no intention of continuing his father’s work in any way or form. Licensing existing works are another thing altogether, but no new stories are to be written. All this seems a terrible waste. Discworld has been such an influence that even someone like me, who has never opened a book in the series, knows something about the disc-shaped world through cultural osmosis. Things like the world sitting on top of four elephants (one of which has to lift his leg to allow the sun to continue its cycle due to how complex it is), which sit atop A’Tuin, a giant turtle that is swimming across the space. The world has its own rules and magic is much a thing as anything, and bananas don’t grow on trees.

It is of course understandable. A lifework like Discworld garners respect on its own and expectations for each entry were astronomical, from an outsider’s view. Sales numbers probably talk for themselves when it comes to the success and popularity of the Discworld novels, though this would where the argument that it has succeeded because the series just has been that good steps in (and would not be applied elsewhere due to dislike.) Pratchett probably had incredible load on his back with each entry to meet up with the expectations and (apparent) level of quality of his works in general, and we could assume that only he could write what many would consider a true Discworld novel. This, of course, would be bull, as the probability says there is a writer who could match his level and could deliver a proper Discworld title, perhaps even better. It would be a tall order and difficult any way you’d look at it, especially considering how harshly fans of any franchise  with singular creator treat outsiders. Pratchett as a creator will probably stay a a unique writer in the history fantasy novels, but all in all he isn’t the only one, nor he will be the last one of his caliber. It’s largely a matter of time before his niche is fulfilled, though that may not be anytime soon.

Whether or not a world should be laid to rest with its author is a debatable subject with no one true answer. Star Wars, for example, did find better stories when it was outside Lucas’ hands, though Disney’s run with the franchise has left me a cold turkey. Similarly, while the original Star Trek is still a superb show, it was other writers like D.C. Fontana who made Trek more what it became than Roddenberry himself in the end. Then again, Roddenberry and Lucas were able to create worlds, but not write in them very well. That didn’t seem to be the case with Pratchett.

To take this into direction games, just to keep things more in-line with the blog’s tone, using a game’s main director as a comparison point would do. Much like people expect writers to deliver great novels after another, a star director is expected to deliver high-quality games. The most recent example of a complete outsider beating the original creators at their own game would be Sonic Mania, which some have argued to be the best 2D Sonic to date, though I’d give it few years to set in before supporting or opposing such a claim. Retro Studios’ Metroid Prime is another example, where a third-party beat the original creators, and the latest Metroid II remake shows further how Nintendo does not understand the franchise.

Perhaps it would be better the leave Discworld at it is as a monument to its creator after all.

I may come late to popular things, but if the two first novels manage to caught my fancy, there are forty-five other books for me to read. I can understand my friend never wanting to finish the last book in the series, as then she would have to face that there is anywhere to go afterwards. She may read a page or two per year, but even that pace would slow down as she reads on. Indeed, it is a sad thing to see something you love coming to an end.

Reconstructing history

This week has been a busy one, so this will most likely be the only update for the week, but perhaps that’s good. The last few days have been rather busy and awful overall, but then I just had to hear about yet another small, but camel’s back breaking, news about the Swedish national television and radio censoring the 1969 Pippi Longstocking television series. You may be asking what in the world would such a body of work have to censor, and the answer would be nothing, unless you’re uncultured.

In the original version Pippi speaks of his father as the negro king and plays Chinese by pulling her eyes back. There’s nothing wrong with these as they are, as the series is a window to its time. There is no hatred or malice behind these scenes, words or deeds. They simply are there and to extent one could argue that they are essential part in portraying the time. These two scenes have been more or less hacked now, as Pippi just speaks of his father as king and the whole playing Chinese scene is removed.

This isn’t just censorship for no good reason, this is also historical reconstruction in order to portray bodies of works in more political correct manner for the modern day. It would seem that the people spearheading this sort of thing think they’re driving understanding and tolerance, but this is essentially the very opposite of those. This is akin to hiding the black sheep from the flock under a sheet and acting like it doesn’t exist, which does not promote understanding or tolerance. It promotes censorship above all else.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn had the exact same thing done to them. All the instances of words injun and nigger were replaced with something less offensive. One needs to realize that both Lingdren and Twain use the terms as they were used in their time. It doesn’t take a genius how these elements can and should be explained to anyone. The people with power grossly underestimate children in this case, as time after time I’ve seen with my own eyes how simply explaining the differences in times and how things were is more than enough. Children do have understanding of passage of time, and under five years old don’t even recognize the terms properly. Even then the parents should do their damn jobs and raise the kids properly to realize this sort of things my themselves.

However, I’m afraid this is just another event in modern Sweden. The country has infamy regarding their immigration and how their own culture has changed. It’s no wonder the Swedish national television and radio personal would be afraid, because hurting some people’s feelings is far more horrible than staying true to the work and the time it was produced in. People should grow tougher skin and practice tolerance.

This isn’t even the first time Pippi Longstocking has seen issues with racial depiction. Pippi Longstocking theme part used to sell old curtains depicting her with her negro king father and few black kids waving leaves over her head. Rather than taking the curtain pattern with the understanding in which time the illustration was made, as well as noting that this would be very normal for a king and his family, a Swedish mother basically rioted how the curtain pattern depicted racist colonialism, where the children are Pippi’s slaves. Context check here; Pippi’s father, the Captain Ephraim Longstocking, is no colonist. He was lost at sea, found ashore in South Sea island Kurrekurredutt Isle, where he was made a fat white chief by the natives. The reason is never given, but seeing how Pippi is the world’s strongest girl and inherited her strength from the Captain, it’s safe to say that Ephraim did something remarkable enough to warrant his place. Of course, one could analyze this in many ways and I assume many people will start poking at the racist elements in there where there aren’t any. There’s a story where Pippi takes a travel to the Kurrekurredutt Isle with her friends, where she is admitted to be Princess Pippilotta, but not straight away. Her friends don’t really gain any position. With this context, the illustration becomes far less racist. One can argue, that despite the time and context, the illustration is still racist. I can’t fully agree with that notion, as there is no malice behind it. Changing Ephraim status from negro king to just king doesn’t change the fact that he is the chosen to be a king by the natives.

The outrage the Swedish mother had showed her own ignorance and intolerance. Because of her, the production of the curtains has ceased.

Hell, German theologian found Pippi Longstocking books racist. I’m not going to pull out the Nazi card here, but seeing how Tintin is called a Catholic hero but the Vatican, I see no basis to call Pippi anything but normal children’s book, that is a bit out of its time.

However, I do understand the reasons both sides had for pulling out these bits from Pippi’s history. Nevertheless, they’re driving forces are in wrong in both cases. All that said, Astrig Lidngren herself didn’t really oppose changing her works to fit the times, but seeing how many times Pippi has been refilmed and animated, there’s no reason to touch the past works anymore. If one doesn’t want the references for negro kings and Pippi playing Chinese, the more modern cartoons would fit the bill better.

Political correctness and overprotection has gone far too overboard within the last decade. It’s far too common to see people analysing events, scenes, objects and things. Often these things are driven by an agenda and profit, much like how the whole GamerGate has shown how certain sites and journalists are willing to use minorities in order to create clickbait articles and content berading matters. One example of this when Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2’s scene, where weak Dracula attacks a family to regain his strength, was judged as rape by usgamer. The accusation is still baseless and highly biased. First, vampires have always been depicted rather violent creatures without remorse, and secondly there’s no traces of rape. Just a fictional supernatural being sucking blood from his victims. Yes, there is a level of eroticism in there as with any neck licking stuff, but it’s far from being a sexual assault or trivializing it. It’s just how the writer wanted to take it,  because the topic would bring in clicks and revenue.Much like how the censorship with Pippi Longstocking, the scene was overly analysed with an intention to drive an agenda.

It’s not really enough people to grow thicker skin. Tolerance goes both ways, and if you’re being intolerant and unwilling to understand or even research behind why something is done or said they way they were, you’re doing the exact same thing you accuse opposition for doing. In equal world, the same requirements would apply to everybody in equal amounts. If you would demand me to understand your position, the same applies just as much to you. Censorship promotes the very opposition of this, and that is horrible. Tampering with history is very dangerous and often can end in disastrous results. When that censored and suppressed history gets out, and it will eventually get out, things will blow up. Gorbachev can testify on that.

 


This, racist? Nah, all I see is a mid-1900’s kid explaining Chinese people to her friends. It’s stereotypical for sure, but that’s all it is. Nothing more, nothing less

Music of the Month; Lotus Turbo Challenge 2

Lately I have had some discussions with numerous people about the nature of realism in our entertainment. Some feel that realism, in many ways, is the sole best option with anything, be it portrayal of science or character design. Somehow I feel that the word fiction is lost nowadays to some extent to certain people the same way others wish to remove the cartoon element from their animations altogether. This isn’t distressing as much as it is depressing.

Hard science fiction is a self-contradicting genre to a large extent. It idolises the realism to the fullest length and practically demands the author to stick with what can be proved with scientific methods. Sounds all good and fine, until we get to the point that the genre itself allows to stray path from the realism and allows some plot device to be used despite whether or not it’s plausible or possible. Faster than light travel is the most commonly used device, yet it is by all means physically impossible task and only theories of it are about.

This is interesting as there are numerous things can be made to fall into the whole ‘one allowed device’ approach the hard SF has, which basically undermined the whole premise of the genre; why would you call yourself rooted in realism if you’re allowing complete fiction, even pure fantasy, to be used in the work?

With this speculative approach, a lot of series could fall under the flag of harsh SF. There are number of fantastic franchises that are completely logical within their world while allowing that one device. Something like Dunbine could be described as hard SF, as we could say that the one device it uses is the alternate world of Byston Well. This is playing within the boundaries, even if this is deliberately stretching the boundaries the way the authors won’t admit should be possible.

However, harsh SF mainly loves harsh, realistic science. The portrayal of human interactions and characters can be anything but real in some occasions, and many times I have found myself reading an interesting SF book with a premise holding numerous possibilities to be great, and putting the book down because the characters are idiots and act like puppets for the author to play with rather than normal humans. Sometimes they’re merely named archetypes, and certain events are forced on them simply because certain things ‘need’ to be there, like romance. Romance is, in the end, perhaps the most complained matter on the long and the most forced thing in fiction. Not to say that a SF works don’t usually have well written characters, however the juxtaposition between the science and humans often do clash, and sometimes in a very favourable way too.

Ultimately, hard SF is as much fiction, a fantasy formed in the human mind, as Moomins or FOX News.

Ah, but a Monthly Music post shouldn’t be this heavy handed. These are supposed to be more lighthearted than the usual stuff.

This months has been rather tight with my schedules and I don’t doubt it won’t let go any until the end, so some of the updates may be spastic and come out at an irregular interval. This is, of course, because of the interval where things start and end. Prioritising first things first is something we all have to juggle with. There’s some interesting stuff coming up, namely Muv-Luv Photon Melodies, of which I’d like to do a comparative package review with Photon Flowers. There’s a lot of neat little stuff that both of them design-wise, and that also gives me an excuse to scan most of the stuff for my own archives. Total Eclipse PC saw that pushback, and we can flip a coin if it’s getting another pushback at some point. Perhaps âge will step up their game with this and start working on Kimi nozo Muv-Luv again at some point.

Other stuff that are coming this way are some game releases. Ultra Street Fighter IV was released last Friday, and we really do need to ask whether or not this model of releases CAPCOM uses works nowadays anymore to the same extent. It should be also noted that CAPCOM has been making some updates for the Rockman Xover, which doesn’t amount of anything. The most high-profile thing regarding Mega Man as of late has been the upcoming release of Ruby-Spears’ Mega Man Complete Series DVD set. The Virtual Console releases barely amount to anything on the long run; they’re still the same old games released again.

In better news, the  2014 Godzilla is estimated to have grossed $507 663 953 worldwide at the moment. That’s slightly better than the 1998’s Godzilla  at $379 014 294. I expect the sequels to hit similar numbers.

Limitations are your friend

So you’ll make a stool.
As ordered, sure.
And you’re only allowed to use these steel pipes and piece of wood for the seat. You up to that?

But of course. Now let’s sit down and discuss what kind of piece it will be.
No need to, just make the best you can while avoiding anything that’s done before and do something unique. Tootles!
And the customer storms off…

Limitations are a godsend gift to mankind. Without limitations everything would be goalless and lacking in quality. Quality control is the most important limitation we have, as everything else can be traced back to it. The example above is a way how to get yourself in trouble; you have no clear goals or aims, and the end result will end up messy because of this.

A stool made of pipes and piece of wood can look pretty much anything you want it to look. The question always is how to do it. With pipe there’s a lot options; you can cut open the pipe and have curved squares pieces; you can bend it into shape; you can stack them together and so on. The question of course is why you should do it this way. It takes more time to cut the pipe this way rather than cut the pieces from pre-banded metal sheet, for example. The shapes wanted might be much easier to do with any other way with different materials. This is why the right kind of limitations are important; rather than limiting materials or tools, limiting the aims and goals should be the way to go.

Limiting materials is usually way to test how well a person can use his wits and creativity. However, because if this the test is flawed from the very beginning, as creativity isn’t what a craftsman should aim for. For an artist this kind of test would be OK, it’s their bread and butter after all.

Now, imagine the customer coming back and checks the finished stool. Sure, it looks rather unique and certainly there’s no other like it in the world. However, because of the limited material and my own imagination it is not what the customer wanted. There was no quality control, only control of resources, and lousy resources at that.

Lack of resources is not necessarily a bad thing, as too much resources is just as negative as lack of them. When you’re offered too vast resources one becomes blind and can’t really see the trees from the forest. Golden middle road is the best option, as always, with some leeway to either add or deduct needed said resources.

In writing the most important limitation by far is a good editor. You can see from the quality of my writing that I have none, thou one of my friend has said that he would be willing to check these posts if needed. I haven’t really taken on his offer yet. Still, behind every successful and good writer is equally good editor. In most cases even better. You don’t get proper books if you don’t have an editor who is able to weed out all the rot from the living text. Your friend may be able to tell what’s the strongest and the weakest parts of your text, but he can’t really tell you what is needed to make the text stronger and more appealing. That comes with experience as an editor. An experiences editor can make the worst text into a shining example of literature, as well as force the writer grow as a craftsman.

However, writing also requires absolutely insane amounts of work and knowledge outside writing and your own field. It’s never just dependant on the editor.

In music the instruments are naturally one of the limitations. Add too many instruments and you’ll have nothing but cacophony. A kind of editor here is needed as well, who would weed out the bad from the good. Lyrics especially need someone to check through. Usually experienced composers themselves are able to say whether or not their pieces work. They still need to know a lot outside their own field of expertise, just like everyone else.

Every project needs schedules, resources and goals. Without these projects are doomed to fail; they’ll never get finished if there’s no schedule, too much resources cause shifts and changes in their use and the end product will suffer because of this, whereas the lack of resources might make the product far too miniscule in comparison; and goals which are not just the important part but the one that has to be set from the very beginning. A goal is like a shotgun shell, that has multiple goals inside of it. Shoot it at good distance and the pellets will hit the target. Shoot it too far away and the pellets will be spread too thin. Shoot it too close and pellets are far too tight. The project manager has a huge responsibility to keep the goals realistic and within grasp in any project of any scale.

In making the stool there was no goals. There was schedule and there was limited resources. Ok, there was a goal, but the goal and everything else in the project was at odds with each other. Only a crafty project manager would be able to make proper sense of it all and make a stool worth giving away to a customer.

Limiting yourself just the right amount in your daily life is a good idea as well. Going 100% every day isn’t recommended.

What happened to the stool? If you’re interested, I’ll return to that point in six months time.

But have some jazz for now.

Video games should be made from caftsmanship, not from books

I’m not fan of the idea of adapting games from existing media. Some people are and completely forget the deep chasm between the types of media. I can assure you that when a came is crafted around the game itself it will have the most powerful way of expressing whatever the game might be about. It’s a moot point whether or not written media can express things better than films.

Books could barely work as a source for video games, because most of them have very little that that players could play on them. The Lord of the Rings is a good example of this; the only proper points that can be turned into games are the battles and few roaming sections. All other parts of the books would become walls of text or video scenes. Adaptations of films barely work as video games, and there’s only few ways that book adaptations could work. Let’s take a look at some of the few most successful game adaptations. Duck Tales, for example. Duck Tales is a bad adaptation of anything Duck Tales related. What CAPCOM did with the adaptation is that they took he basic idea, ie. wacky treasure hunting adventures and turned that into a game. What makes Duck Tales so good isn’t about the source material, thou it plays a part in it, but the simple fact that the game is just so well made. Similar method was used to turn Chip & Dales into a game. Darkwing Duck suffered a bit for being a Mega Man clone, but it’s still a good game.

Above: Another license based game saved by NOT following the film

Good source material for game material is both comics and films with action. Both of them usually contain large scenes of action and overly blown plots surrounding whatnot they’re about. You’d think that there exists more than handful of actually good Marvel games out there, but there isn’t. Same goes for the DC and film based games in general. If you take a look at the Hunt of the Red October you’ll soon notice that the game pretty much does everything to go against the message of the film just because the gameplay mechanics. It could’ve been good game, but the source material didn’t lend itself for good gameplay. While you would think that both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings games would be good sword & sorcery games, they fall into the “generic license game” category because they rely on the film’s scenes and actual game content is scarce. This scarcity is because the games are far too tied to their source material. But then you’ll as me what kind of game should The Lord of the Rings be? Top-view action RPG? Third-person hack&slasher? Massive Multiplayer Online game? Perhaps the best way to make The Lord of the Rings is to make it an adventure game. Books loan themselves into this form of game play far better than to anything else. As adventure games filled with text and beautiful backgrounds already, it’s just natural option to choose. All the battles scenes could be done away with small arcade-action sequences or in form of small problem solving. Books also loan themselves to Visual Novels, but those aren’t games. We’ll leave that for later discussion.

PC games in general work better for adapting slower pace stories. PC gamers want you to believe have all the cerebral games from Leisure Suit Larry to Fallout to Forklift Simulator 2000 and everything in between. The fact is that PC games generally are more slower and require more brainwork, at least they used to be. Even now PC games have stood down to copy more speedy action of consoles and arcades than before. Compare Mega Man and Duke Nukem and you’ll see that Mega Man not only is more hectic, but also a lot harder. CD-Man is a poor and slow version of Pac-Man. However, console ports of PC games usually have been pretty good, like Shadow Gate. Of course, games with high system requirements (for their time) usually fared worse on consoles, like Doom. Because of this I’d like to see Fallout styled The Lord of the Rings, but multiple paths and optional endings. Games can change the story and add their own as much as they want. Adapting book into a film or vice versa is completely different thing than adapting either of them into a game.
I am painfully aware that film studios never want games to deviate too much from the given material, which bogs the games down a lot. The only film based game I can recall that has alternate ending is Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith where you can actually kill Obi-Wan Kenobi and become Darth Vader without the armour part. Of course it helped a lot that LucasArts was making their own Star Wars back then. I have little doubts that the The Avengers film will have a shoddy third person action game like all the other films had. I wonder how long it takes them to realize that one of the most successful Marvel games has been the X-MEN arcade game? Marvel should just ask SEGA to make The Avengers into Streets of Rage styled beat-em-up with all the characters as playable options with notable differences. Make Captain America the standard character, Thor the heavy hitter, Hawkeye the long range specialist, Iron Man less powerful but sturdier ranged attacker, and the Hulk would fit into slow, heavy and simple part. Throw Loki in there for fun when the game is beaten without deaths.
We’ll never have this game.

If you’re adamant about making a book into a game you have to make it around the gameplay and not the book’s story. In The Lord of the Rings make Frodo battle against enemies even if in the book they merely travelled; In Starship Troopers add more campaigns on different planets as the Troopers close on enemy baseplanets; Make the player switch switch from character to character in the Forever War. To put it short, add gameplay where there wouldn’t be any according to the source material, and let the gameplay be the basis while you structure the story around it. Not the other way around. Sadly, not even good intentions cab save a game that has no craftsmanship in it.

Above; Game that I tried to play so much only give up because the game has poor craftsmanship