The creator doesn’t matter, but the creator matters

One of the tenants this blog upholds is that The creator doesn’t matter, meaning that the consumer should not concern themselves over the product’s creator as long as the quality is up to standards. While we can only hope to fight brand loyalty, or even recognise we’re leashed by one, we nevertheless willingly recognise that as consumer we are willing to make illogical and outright stupid decision in regards of purchases as long as it is something we value. Like anything from a company that hasn’t produced anything noteworthy since 2007 or thirty years old comic books that would land you in jail in due to dated contents. Of course, the value may not be just on the product, but the prestige it delivers either vertically or horizontally, that our peers value these purchases in equal amount. It really sounds like bran loyalty ultimately is kind of secret dick measuring contest, sometimes a bit too practically.

Company products are always easy to see as mass of pieces anyone can produce, despite so many times a face is attached to certain brand or franchise for obvious reasons. Video game producers and directors are of course one of the best examples of this, as they have a full team underneath them, and in reality is that the actual work is done almost everyone else. It’s like having a model claiming the work for a painting. Overtly simplified and harshly reduced, but that needs to be done sometimes. Then again, as long as there is a clear models and blue prints how a game is designed and build, something like how a Super Mario Bros. or Metal Gear game works, others can easily surpass previous entries. This has happened time and time again with games, films, comics and so on, which really is the core where the take The creator doesn’t matter stems. While it would be a bit overzealous to claim “anyone could do it,” the reality is that anyone can’t really do it without proper experience, training, know-how and skills. All these can be attained, and sometimes it is worth getting someone with different sets of skills and experiences in order to gain a more improved product. I’m sure you can quote a story or two, or a game or three, where change of developer team, director or perhaps even company altogether resulted in a superior game in your opinion.

Within certain creative fields it isn’t rare to see people hired to replicate a style of visuals and/or writing. China, for example, is brimming with people who just plagiarise classic works for pay as close as possible. It’s pretty huge business. Asian countries overall seem to favour studying the visual arts via copying works of art, which then helps people to spin off to their own direction. This is rather apparent with Japanese comic industry, where assistants learn the ropes and ways to work from their boss, and often end up visually similar style before they begin to develop further. Sometimes they don’t. Of course, we have people who write, draw, colour, letter and do their whole comics themselves. Stan Sakai of Usagi Yojimbo fame is one of them, doing everything himself from the start, something the likes of Stan Lee were surprised and appreciated like no other. Don Rosa is another, though he is far more a victim of how Disney runs their comic business. Disney themselves has never produced comics as-is, they’ve always had some other company under the produce them for themselves. They’ve got companies for different markets, like Egmont that handles parts of Europe.

A competent illustrator/writer combo/individual could replicate either aforementioned man’s work just fine. In actuality it wouldn’t be the same, but at least the spirit of the work should be. Depending. It might end up being rather terrible, but the way images are drawn and stories told might be on the spot, but it might still end up being terrible for bad story overall or other factors. Hardcore fans might crucify such works, but as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has shown multiple times during its comic runs, people can make the core justice, even if it isn’t the same. Hell, that argument should apply to Don Rosa as well. Nevertheless, the point still stands; a creator can be replaced, it just matters with whom and what the results will be.

That’s half of but the creator matters from the title. The other half really is that despite the consumer shouldn’t need to concern himself with the creator (after all, the product should always be the best it could be [fat chance it ever being though]) the whole brand/creator loyalty thing aside, the industries and providers themselves really should care about them, but not in the manner the consumer does. To use Don Rosa further as an example, he is one of those comic creators who was, and still is, massively popular in Europe. He is known as the only true heir to Carl Bark’s legacy regarding Disney Duck comics, for his detailed and heavily worked illustrations, as well as incredibly well written stories standing atop historical accuracy and Bark’s legacy in comics. You’d imagine him and his works were treated like golden goose, a money printing machine, which they seemingly are considering Rosa’s Duck works constantly get reprinted. However, one of the many reasons why Rosa quit drawing in 2008, other being his heavily damaged vision, is because the comic industry, especially if you have to deal with anything with Disney, tends to fuck you in the ass. In his Don Rosa Collection Epilogue from 2013, Rosa tells how badly he has been treated by pretty much all the companies he has ever worked with regarding the Duck comics. His works gets published without permission, his name got abused without his consent to the point he had to trademark his name to prevent such thing, the sheer lousy money he was being paid per-page, a system as archaic that Carl Barks worked under it since the 1950’s and of course the stress all of it brought. Imagine if a musician would be paid per note or something, and the moment he gives the song to be pressed, he loses all rights to it and would never see a dime from further releases or any royalties from radio plays and the like. An archaic system like this, with work-for-hire and losing everything you do for the company, is one of the reasons why the Image team Marvel in 1990’s to form their own comic studios. We are talking about people not even getting their original comic pages back from the prints. If the editors felt like something would’ve been better changed, the author most likely found out only when he bought the magazine himself from the comic stand.

For a long a long time the creative industries have been struggling with the problem of giving the creators the respect they deserve as people who have made the products themselves, as people who have been the ones to rake in the money, and as people who work as the faces of these products and companies. It’s easy to say that it’s all the businessmen in the suits doing that, thinking only about money, which never really hits the nail properly. Creators themselves downplay other people they work with, their egos clashing and sometimes even running companies and businesses down to a rut. More often than not these artsy creators find themselves facing the reality of business themselves on the long, with George Lucas with the success of Star Wars facing completely new mind-shattering business decision during The Empire Strikes Back‘s filming and development, and Todd McFarlane becoming a hypocrite for not giving visiting creators the rights to the characters they created or respect over them, a thing that got him to leave Marvel. The rosy image of creators being oppressed by businessmen is apt only, after which the creators become oppressors themselves, or oppress other creators in the same house in various manners. Freelancers, despite having one helluva weight on their back, may be happier not being marred with built-in hell. Nevertheless, the least these could get, anyone in any given industry really, is respect from their peers and people they work for. The customer shouldn’t care, but too many times we have to ask if we want to pay for a product from a company who fucks with its consumers and own creators.

Music of the Month; Just Begun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A franchise chilled

This and the two previous posts would’ve formed good ol’ fashioned Monthly Three I put into indefinite hiatus, though this time it’s more or less on an accident of sorts. All in all, these should’ve been one long post.

A franchise has to have quality that is expected of it or higher. A fluke here and there is expected, but overall speaking a title in a series has to deliver at least to its core fans. When it comes to games, each and every title seem to be important and a drop in sales will be taken seriously. Seeing how the game industry barely understands how to hit the Blue Ocean market (making games easy or dumbing them down for “accessibility” is laughably weak method,) it is understandable how a franchise can fail miserably when its quality is weakened by newly added elements that are supposedly aiming to expand some aspects of the franchise.

I’m not really sure how Mass Effect got where it is now. As a franchise it was hailed as one of the stronger new franchise introduced during the Seventh Console Generation. Overall, it had a good balance between hitting the census of the consumers of the era (economics have changed quite a bit during the last decade) to the extent of Mass Effect being considered as one of the bigger franchises in the industry on par of the likes of Metal Gear. These are of course up to contention, to my knowledge no Mass Effect game has not been perfect enough to be considered for pachislot conversion.

However, as things tend to be in the industry, game sequels seem to get more attention from those who put the money down on these things. Mass Effect 3‘s colour coded ending has become infamous, but if the rumours are to be believed, EA was the one that put their boot down with the deadlines and BioWare had to relocate the “real ending” to DLC. Whatever the case is, Mass Effect 3‘s ending (and some argue the whole game) is below the average quality the consumers expected from the franchise. The ending is just one of the examples why Mass Effect 3 was panned by the core fans, mostly regarding contradictions in the setting, and inconsistencies regarding BioWare’s statements during development and how the game ended up being.

And a franchise it really is. While here up North we barely get anything relating to the spin-offs or licensed products, Mass Effect 2 and 3 had a huge ad campaign in magazines, television and in stores. Comparatively speaking, game ads have all but dried out from the general media, telling more about how they’re marketed and what the targeted consumers are than about their success. However, pretty much all fans of the franchise I’ve known have talked me about the mobile games, books, comics and whatnot. Even a movie based on the franchise has been under works since 2010, but very little has come of it.

It’s no wonder Mass Effect would go to a small hiatus. The trilogy had come to its more or less natural conclusion and the final part didn’t exactly match up what was expected. At times like this companies tend to take a small break and return when there is renewed interest. However, it would seem the franchise has now been put in ice for the time being due to the lacklustre success of the latest game, Mass Effect: Andromeda. While we can debate the finer details why the game performed worse than expected, the first bit that sounded alarms bells with yours truly when with the announcement of the game running on a new engine, which means you will see, hear and feel Mass Effect like never before. That’s a direct quote too. Clearly they missed the part that games need to play better than any of these.

Andromeda took five years and forty million dollars to develop. That sort of money and time is expected to deliver higher profits and far better reception. Alas, they the developers couldn’t even put a gun the right way in. Then you have issues of gameplay being worse than its ten years older progenitor and animations being absolutely all over the place and the plot’s not all that good either. Effectively, pretty much everything that should make a game great is sub-par. Andromeda overall shows how lack of quality control and professionalism, opting for making whatever brew you think would work the best.

It’s no wonder after an abysmal entry, the games went under hiatus. Sadly, Andromeda is probably the best example of current Tripple A games in the industry. One has to wonder where did the money go during the development. It doesn’t show up in the final production. When a franchise’s fame has taken a hit two times in a row, with the second making pretty much everyone who was involved a laughingstock, it is a good idea to take a step back and put the things on hold.

To use an example with Godzilla, Toho has put the franchise into ice three times over. First one was after the second movie when they had no idea how to continue properly onwards, though I still want to see Bride of Godzilla? realised in some form. The second time was in the 1970’s when the movies stopped bringing in enough profits, though the quality had dropped a lot since then. 1995’s Godzilla VS Destoroyah was supposed to end the franchise in Japan and have Hollywood continue it, but alas that was not to be. Godzilla was brought back fast in 1999, after the American attempt failed, and then was put back into ice after Godzilla: Final Wars. 2014 saw a new American Godzilla, and 2016 showcased us what I’m going to call a the bets modern Godzilla made in form of Shin Godzilla.

When a notable franchise like Godzilla returns after a significant hiatus, it is usually with a new take that is intended to make an impact. If a new Mass Effect game would be done right now, it would carry the baggage of Andromeda for the worse. As much as fans would like to see a game made right away to remedy the situation, sometimes it’s better just to wait for things to settle down and let time give more perspective on things. Whatever was done, be it due to corporate or personal interests from the developers’, the game took a sledgehammer to the franchise and damaged it. A hiatus also allows the developers and publishers to look into other options and possibly put resources into new IPs, though my personal trust in EA or BioWare has never been worth mentioning.

What is apparent that whatever happened during production of Mass Effect: Andromeda, it’s clear that the no research was done on what the consumers really wanted or needed, and that’s probably the worst offence a provider can do; not giving a jack shit about the consumer.

A Necessary Higher Price?

Whenever you visit a craftsman’s workshop, be it an artisan, wood craftsman or whatever else, their shops usually have a decent range of items from something that may cost five to fifteen euros to the proper items costing from fifty euros up. It should not be any surprise that the most selling items are the little trinkets and jewellery, as their price most often are from the bottom up. The price is nevertheless higher compared to the production costs than on anything else in the workshop, and that is due to necessity.

Wait, isn’t this blog supposed to be pro-consumer? Is this a hundredth post? No, and this is pro-consumer. The more information the consumer has the better. Nevertheless, we must consider reality as well. The big item orders and their several hundred or thousand production costs and installation may not bring in large income in the end. Maximising profit is any business’ main goal, and an absolutely necessity for smaller companies or individual entrepreneurs. By minimising some production costs and maximising the price the consumers are willing to pay, a person can maybe gain a living.

For example, small full metal jewellery, like crosses and such, are of one or two millimetre thick steel. Their shape usually is either something slightly original or from the general consensus of what looks. When mass-produced, their production costs tend to me low, as you can get them laser or water cut at a very low price. Adding some of your own flavour, like hammering the surface and painting it black, often produces a look that looks like the jewellery was hand-made in a forge from a piece of steel. Production costs for an individual piece might be something like to two euros (perhaps five with modern cost of material, though I know cases laser cut jewellery has cost as low as 20 cents) and the final price tag on the item might be either fifteen or twenty euros.

An example of a hammered product with a failed paint application

The reason why small items of relatively high price in comparison to their production costs exists is because they sell the most. These trinkets are often gifts that fit in the pocket and might look a bit special, especially if they have some local flavour to them. They’re also great for impulse purchases, as the low-cost seems almost insignificant compared to a hundred euro candelabra next to it. If all the work is done locally, the price won’t even have big chunk of logistics in it.

Of course, the price wouldn’t be that high if people weren’t willing to pay. The consumer rarely considers the end-price their willing to pay in terms of logistics, raw materials and work put into the product. The perceived value of a product weighs more in the end over more practical and solid information. The fact is that we as consumers pay what we consider to be valuable to use (or to others depending how much you want to impression people with your new shit) and modify our purchasing behaviour accordingly. Trading card games are great example of this. While the cards themselves are practically worthless pieces of cardboard and ink, the perceived value of their rarity within their specific games or their usability in a given deck gives them a high market price. Rarely you see a card being high in price because it has exceptional artwork or the like. The value of these cards also tend to shift rather quick as formats change, something that yours truly is not keen on.

Another though a bit different example of maximising profits while cutting away production costs is the lack of headphone jack in smartphones. Even when some phones nowadays lack the jack for traditional headphone gear in favour of wireless pieces (that frankly tend to outright suck in utility), the end price of the phone is still the same. The Wirelesness doesn’t excuse the same price, as Bluetooth is a standard in modern phones across the board. In cases like this we can question whether or not it’s just or acceptable for big companies to keep the same sales price for their phones when their production costs have seen a cut. After all, we’re not talking about a trinket here, but a several hundreds of euros worth of money.

The question whether or not upping the price like this is ethical towards the consumer is somewhat a moot question. On one hand it is true that in an ideal world products wouldn’t cost much more than what their production costs, personnel salary included. In reality this doesn’t really work due to how life tends to kick us in the balls. Profit is also necessary in order to gather money for industry related projects, additional raw materials, new equipment and so on. Profit doesn’t magically end up in a bank account as a plus mark. I’m sure all of know the feeling of wanting, needing to expand on something that you directly need, but simply lack the budget for it.

This can turn into purchasing politics very easily. While voting with your wallet is essentially the best way to hurt a provider (even a 10-15% drop in sales with video game sequels sounds alarms in companies) but is also used as a way to show support for whatever reason. DLC, especially visual flavour DLC and the like, is like these trinkets. Producing them doesn’t cost much at all while their pricetag can be surprisingly high. Again, this is just minimising costs while maximising profits. A consumer may buy these trinkets just for such perceived values as they’re just cool to have within a game as options, or that the user has a “complete” game in their collection with all the extra stuff and thus feel satisfaction through this, or just because they happen to like the developers and wish to show some support by providing them with further sales. Not really sure how much I can personally encourage buying any DLC to a game,  but that’s something any and all individuals have to decide for themselves. It is a question of opinion in the end, and all of us have the right for our own.

Want to pay around 910€ for a game? Nintendo wants you to

A new game usually costs about 60€ nowadays or more. Add about fifty Amiibo statues to it at about 17€ per pop, that’s 850€ worth of stuff, and somebody out there will be buying all those.

Now, imagine if a company would sell you a full game and then allow you to access its contents on their whim rather than at your leisure. No, I don’t mean addons from the net or via physical means like Amiibo. I mean actually on disc, waiting time for them to be unlocked. No, not like with fighting games where you unlock characters by beating the game over and over again.

Nintendo actually wants you to wait nine days to fully access all the content on Mario Maker. If I pay a full price for a game, I well damn expect to be able to access the full game.

The whole DLC rumba CAPCOM had with Street Fighter X Tekken and some other of their fighting games was absolutely stupid for sure, but this is just downright offensive to the customer. Why should the customer wait nine days to access the whole game? What possible valid reasoning could they have? To let the consumer get used to the tools? That’s not Nintendo’s part in the deal, that’s up to the consumers themselves. This is artificial limitation at its worst, and whoever supports this sort of move should have a nut crushed.

This isn’t alcohol or drugs.With those things you have a limitation how much you and your body can handle before you crackle down. You can take too much of those and die, literally speaking. Games and food make excellent points of comparison because both are enjoyable pieces that require a master to make them the best possible pieces, and the only limit you really have with food is how much you go empty your bowls. However, games aren’t  important to life, like food is.

What Nintendo is doing here is absolutely stupid. They are giving you only bits and pieces of the meal you purchased. Why should anyone be required to pay a full price for a product they can only access a tiny bit at first, and have the rest of the content trickled down to them? Well, outside consumer stupidity, there’s no reason.

If you’re selling 1/9 of a game, you better expect people to pay only 1/9 for the game.

Then you have the Amiibo. People will argue that they add very little to games or content you won’t miss. That’s an awful excuse, and if we take with the face value like intended, the question still ends up being why the hell should we pay fifteen goddamn euro for an overpriced piece of plastic riddled with paint application errors, barely mediocre sculpting and constant factory errors in construction. With some fifty Amiibos out there with varying prices, and there’s no doubt more to come, the price to access all the content in Mario Maker will be around one thousand euro. Sure, you can unlock the costumes going through a challenge, but you don’t see the advertising telling you this.

It’s an absurd limitation. No matter how small the content is, the fact that it is behind a physical paywall and can’t be accessed by anyone who doesn’t own particular pieces of overpriced plastics.

Manufacturing costs are typically 50% less than the wholesale cost. In addition, retail price is around 150% more than the wholesale cost. If an Amiibo would sell at 20€ pricepoint, their wholesale price is 7,50€, and manufacturing an Amiibo would be 5€. However, it’s more probably that producing an Amiibo at this range would be closer to 2€.

You can estimate the production price properly by comparing it to similar products, but not with similar functions. Amiibos have a quality of a 7€ gachapon, the larger ones out there with similar size and complexity. Another point would be Skylanders at around 10€ the last time I checked, but even that is rather high price in the end. The NFC chip production goes from 15 to 30 cents per piece, thou a new method from 2011 could make that cost about two cents to produce.

There are other factors in the price you need to take into consideration as well, the above was solely concentrating on the very basics. The design and development time, the tooling costs, material costs and manufacturing costs as well as shipping and advertising. The amount of units you’d be producing, and in Amiibos case, it is well in hundreds of thousands of units, bringing the price down even more. The difference in price with high amounts of units can lower the production costs for the customer, Nintendo in this case, by a large margin with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Comparatively speaking, you may produce a prototype through 3D printing for some 7€, but by mass producing them in China in thousands of pieces, the price drops somewhere around 15 cents a piece if you’re lucky.

You’d think these would be high, and relatively speaking they can be. However, with modern production methods these costs have been cut down to the smallest possible price point, and that shows especially with Amiibos with pretty damn bad quality control overall. Hell, the Donkey Kong Amiibo looks like that shit weasel from Food Fight!

If we take all that above as is, the Amiibos also need to make money, thus the real price of an Amiibo is most likely lower than what there’s above. Whatever the real price is will most likely never be revealed, thus the comparative points.

Back to a point, somebody will say that missing the Amiibo content isn’t a big thing because it adds nothing of value to the game. If that would be the case, why was time dedicated for it? Because money, and having the possibility to play as Kirby in Mario Maker for 15€ is absurdly high price. Sure, Amiibos work with other games as well, but the only one that actually uses them to a larger extent seems to be that Skylanders crossover and Smash.

Back to the first point, the solution for Nintendo trickling down the content, we consumers should have the possibility to trickle down our payment in the same vain.

Only an idiot would play a full price for a product that’s missing pieces.

Game industry has a habit of dropping support, it seems

The video game industry is fond of pushing devices and addons to the customer that they don’t really want. There are numerous borderline cases, but overall when a device is pushed to the customer, it often fails. Overall, only a handful of addon devices have become highly popular and hit through the market barrier. Some even managed to become a sort of cultural icon. Nintendo Zapper, for example, is an example of an addon that was not only desired but also sought after outside the hardcore gamers. ROB was rather popular for first for novelty reasons, but Nintendo dropped the support for it. There are exactly two games ROB supports, and neither of them are good. However, it is a great thing Nintendo didn’t continue to push ROB further. This was the NES era after all, Nintendo had very little room to mess with the customers at this point.

Just by looking SEGA’s and Nintendo’s success with addons, to some extent with their consoles, we can see that even the most successful addons seem to die out either due to lack of software or lack of overall support. SEGA promoted Mega Drive’s CD and 32X addons quite a lot, and while 32X was the Kinect of its time, both addons failed. The games for either weren’t all too good and in too small amounts to warrant a purchase. Then you got the Saturn, a console that was put on sale too soon, leaving little software at launch and was dropped outright soon after in favour of the Dreamcast. Saturn in itself was rather badly designed console, having two separate CPUs which were hard to utilise. Games it had were not all too great either, even if there are numerous gems on the system. Then again, so does pretty much any other system.

It’s worth noting that SEGA continued the Master System support in form of the Power Base Converter, a move that a lot of Master System owners liked. That meant that adding the Power Base Converter you could free space from the living room. There were some issues, like a handful of games not working properly, but overall it was a good addon. It had a very specific customer group, but it also allowed people with the Converter to collect Master System games despite not owning the original system.

That is also exactly why all the current consoles, from Steam to PlayStation 4, have extremely interesting competition going on; they’re competing against games from the whole history of the industry. I would dread the idea of competing with giants like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Castlevania III.

Nintendo had less direct console addons like SEGA, a decision that many regard a good move. Whether or not the Super Nintendo CD addon would have become a success would have depended on the games the system. However, the Super Scope was all sort of awful, even if it was pushed as the successor to the Zapper. Nintendo dropped its support just like that, and only very few games supported it. Interestingly, I remember the Hunt for Red October having a special stage that supported it. Then you have games that could have supported it, like Wild Guns, but opted for a better control scheme because the Super Scope is a shit product. I have one, bought it from sale years back.

GameBoy saw few well remembered addons, but we all know that both GameBoy Camera and Printer were released, and then effectively dropped. In about a year, the GameBoy Camera saw huge price drops. If my American friend is correct, some places sold new units for five damn dollars.

Nintendo also seemed to love the idea of connectivity between their handheld and home console systems, but only few games ever supported this. The Nintendo 64 has two games that come to people’s mind, one being sum of the Pokémon games and Perfect Dark. It’s a nice idea and could work, but goddamn this thing saw no support. You also need to remember that often the connectivity kept accessing some of the content from either portable or home console game, and this then kept the developers from including any significant connectivity. Pokémon was the only one that truly benefitted of this, but that’s simply because Pokémon Stadium games were built for the connectivity from the ground up.

It’s a similar tale with the GameBoy Advance and GameCube. I’m sure some people enjoyed playing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles or Four Swords, but everybody I’ve known personally testify these games destroying friendships. Well, seriously speaking the connectivity with GBA and GC was plagued with the exact same causes the GB and N64 connectivity was, and ultimately Nintendo seems to have dropped pushing this with the Wii and WiiU, par Pokémon.

N64DD is another addon Nintendo just dropped. The 64DD effectively mirrored the fates of 32X and SEGA-CD, but Nintendo handled the games, the device, marketing and the whole deal so badly that pretty much all games that weren’t at the very end of the development cycle were dropped dead, or in Nintendo’s case, moved to the GameCube. The 64DD original games weren’t all too good, so perhaps it was for the best Nintendo not to push this ill fated addon.

There’s few special addons that can named, but they were doomed from the start because they simply had no other use outside one mechanic; the e-Reader for the GBA, the Kongas and Microphones for the GC.

With Wii Nintendo seemed to realize how to play the game again properly. Well, not exactly. Nintendo came with the Wii Speak, an addon that was support about three games; Animal Crossing City Folk, The Conduit and Monster Hunter Tri. There is one or two more games that had Wii Speak support, but it would be a total waste of time to even Google it up.

SONY has their own little addons, like the Move controller. Move was SONY’s way to counter the Wiimote, much like how Microsoft kept pushing the Kinect until as of late.

The reason why I am concentrating with Nintendo in this post, outside the fact they had the most addons and stinkers like Virtual Boy, is that the upcoming Super Smash Bros for a console won’t support the Circle Pad Pro, but will support the upcoming N3DS Flanders’ C-Nub. I would call this as cold business calculation if it wasn’t such a stupid move. Nintendo is dropping their support on an addon they’ve been trying to push to customers, even thou they’ve themselves or any of the devs have shown very little support for it. Now that they would be able to show some sense and add the support, they’d rather see the base 3DS and its addons dead. While on surface it makes sense to support the new device more, this isn’t the case. The Flanders is not a new device. Its status is comparable to Wii Mini or AV Famicom than to SNES or GameCube. While the Slide Pad Pro was done mainly for the Monster Hunter series, it had potential. However, much like all addons, that potential has been largely wasted. I feel bad for anyone who has the Slide Pad Pro and was expecting further amount of support.

The issue game industry doesn’t seem to realize that once you’ve released an addon you’re largely promoting, and then you essentially drop its support, the customer loses its trust. It’s no wonder there is a group of people refusing to purchase any of the 3DS iterations. At least not until the machines’ region lock is removed in a way or another.

It would great if the addons these companies keep making would be optional, but after production and release they would continue to see further support. It’s a waste of resources and time from both the companies’ and customers’ part. It appears that the companies only care for short term revenue rather than keeping up with longer plan that would also allow heightened profits.

Take a step back sometimes

The Metal Gear Rising review I’m still working on has few surprising challenges; on one hand I  have a lot of stuff I should put in the review, but on the other hand all that stuff is more or less subjective from my point of view. I don’t want to treat my readers as mindless sheep, and because of this I do state when I’m talking from my own point of view and setting my own personal subjective opinions in the text. I aim for a degree of objectivity, which makes me write about points that I do not completely agree with (or at all) but I can’t disagree that there is objective logic in there. It is true that nobody can completely separate their point of view from the overall subject, thus all of my attempts at objectivity are still clouded in a level of bias. Nevertheless, I still aim at looking things from other points of views other than my own, especially with reviews. This has caused a lot of problems to me, as I have noticed that I might not have an opinion of my own on a subject, but nevertheless I voice an opposing one. It’s the Another man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist thing.

When I notice that I am getting too close to something, I consciously take a step back (except when it’s a woman.) For example, if I were to design a car chassis I would first make sketches and drawings based on what the customer would seek. Then I would step back and go to square one and think whether or not this approach works and how it is out there in the absolute truth rather than how it should be from anyone’s point of view.

I hate to return to Ducktales Remastered, but the points I’ve made about it and nostalgia are not completely my personal point of view. I agree with them, and ultimately I will most likely purchase the product. I am one of the customers targeted with it, after all. Nevertheless, the major big picture really makes me question the reasons why such a product would be made and what is its basis. Personally, I do not wish Ducktales Remastered to succeed. I love the original NES games, and I am eager to see how they remix it, but I really would love to see something new, something that has not been done yet. In this cases, a new 2D Ducktales game with new stages, new music, new mechanic, new worlds and so on.

If I encourage myself to step back and look at both pictures in play, as well as observe things from an outside perspective, why aren’t the game devs, convention organizers, musician, writers and directors doing the same thing? It is because such thing discourages creativity and encourages actually working on their products.

I used Star Trek II; The Wrath of Khan as an example of a product, where the creators had an objective view on the subject and because of this managed not only make a great Star Trek film, but also a great film overall. When people with completely different schema outside the realms of the product being made are brought in, all the errors and ugly things that would hamper the product to a large degree suddenly spring out. This is because often the aforementioned people are far too close to what they’re doing and become blind to the errors. It happens to me frequently with this blog as well, and this is one reason I do not read my posts afterwards, because I know that the me tomorrow would slap the me now. I do read through some of my posts after an extended period of time, which allows me to look at the things I’ve written about and wager whether or not the post has value. Naturally, when creating a product this is impossible; we can’t travel in time. However, because of this we need to take that step back.

Then again, if we had this thing...
Then again, if we had this thing…

This is why taking that step back is so important; so that the product won’t end up being seen so miniscule in value. It is rather hard to take that step back, because in that we are judging not just the work we’ve done, but also ourselves. A lot of people simply can’t stand in other people’s shoes and see what they see and how they see. It’s not selfish as much as it is humane, but seeing things only from one perspective locks a person in one view and does not allow them to understand. It might even be that this person might realize that he has been in the wrong, and that would be a tragedy. You’d think that everybody would try to take that step back, but ultimately so few do and that’s where the true tragedy begins.
It is impossible for a person to truly and completely understand another, but not even trying is just stupid. Not even trying to see things from another person’s perspective is moronic behaviour.

I really want to ask from game developers if they really think the things they are making are art or creative pieces. I want to know how deep in delusion they really are. Looking at the indie developers it’s clear that a lot of myths and erroneous ideologies are rampart. Same goes for any other person with delusions, especially with a set of people organizing things locally.

Ultimately, one needs life experience to be able to take that step back. It’s clear that people who call themselves as artists working on creative things lack experience outside their own expertise. For example, Miyamoto’s early games on the NES/Famicom were such hits because they were based on his experiences that anyone could have. Same with Satoshi Tajiri’s Pokémon. When Miyamoto started to create, that’s when his works started to go downhill. He has never taken that one step back and observed his creations from anyone else’s point of view, or if he has, he hasn’t thought of the customer one bit.

I really wish people wouldn’t say that business people ruin what they don’t understand. Stupid people do that, but they really can’t ruin a product any worse than a person who can’t see the woods from that one tree.

Coding over hardware

While I was eating a mandarin just a moment ago and reading up on the Wii U, something struck me; why would either HD company want to replace their respective console now that the Wii U is of no contest in terms of hardware?

Because these things are delicious!
Because these things are delicious!

SONY is in monetary trouble, so sticking with the PS3 is their best option. Many developers have already said that in in terms of hardware the potential of the machine is yet to be tapped completely. I don’t know how much of this is true, but what I do know is that what the developers are doing is nothing short of everything else except optimizing and working on the code. When I say that video game developers are not doing any real work, I do not say it out of spite; I’m saying this out of frustration. They play around the hardware and abuse it as they see fit. They just toy with it rather than understand it, bend it under their will and make it do things thought impossible. This used to be the case, especially with the 8-bit computers where the developers were mathematicians who didn’t want to have a real job. To them it was fun to defeat limitations of the Apple II and make the computer do whatever they mustered out of it with masterful coding. The Second Video Game crash was a direct result of people not doing proper coding, and ignoring quality. If you ever wondered how the crash looked back in the day, take a look at how many modern games arejust mediocre or outright bad. That’s how an industry crash looks like.

It’s true that every console gets the prettiest looking games at the end of their life. Overall that means that it takes three to six years to master the machine, right? No, not really. While it does experience with trial and error, you can get impressive looking games early in any console. It just takes attention to the detail. It’s true that every console launch has no games worth mentioning. NES had a library of Japanese games to choose from when it was released in the West, and the fact that Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt compilation was chosen wasn’t a fluke. Famicom mostly rode on Popeye long with other Nintendo games that were not Super Mario. Nowadays you can’t do that. Imagine if Wii U had been released in Japan, but both US and Europe would have to wait two to three years to get it. At that point the launch games could be chosen from an existing library that represents the console in a more positive light. People would be pissed off like a rhino shot in the ass.

Very few developers tackle the coding as they should. It’s seen as a necessary evil in the game development rather than one of the main things. It’s all about the mechanics and how things play. Someone else can do the coding. Because of this I wish to out from the game business, unless I’m hired to do item designs or hardware cases. If you’re into graphics, I tell you that all the consoles thus far could pull out far better graphics if the developers would’ve wanted to push them to the extreme. This would’ve actually meant to learn coding and bend the rules of the console, which is hard and game developers wish to avoid hard work.

Is there untapped potential in the modern consoles? Yes, and when we take the current economics into the equation, it would seem to be best idea to stick with them and tell the developers to do their job with the games rather than asking for new toys. With this they may actually start making some profit!

It’s nothing personal?

A heated discussion about modern animation and animation from twenty years ago yielded an argument of The company doesn’t need to cater your needs, just the core audience’s. This kind of argument always stops me, and makes me wonder who is this idiot I’m discussing with. With Internet’s anonymity, it’s a valid question.

It’s true to an extent that it’s nothing personal when a company doesn’t wish to cater my wishes. Then again, it’s nothing but personal when it’s my money on the line. There’s a fused line within the companies between being strictly business and being personal. However, companies that treat their customers on strictly business have not really succeeded well asthe companies that at least appear to care about their customers on a personal level.

It’s important for companies that you as a customer feel that you can trust the company; that you wish to purchase their products with your money. If a company loses that trust, they lose money to the competing camp. So, it is personal, but on a different level than on daily basis with another person. Actually, most companies would wish that you’d see them as some sort of benevolent entity rather than as a company.

So, when a company you’ve supported for years, perhaps even decades *coughnintendocough* decides that they stop producing products for you and still wish for you to purchase them, it’s a personal attack alright. It’s about business, but this kind of change nowadays usually stems from the company workers wanting to do their own thing and disregarding the customers. It is rather difficult to determine what customers want through advertising and research, but combining that with historical research of what has sold well in the past, you can’t go too wrong.

Whenever I hear a company aiming to broaden their customer base, I become very careful. When they say this, the most probable thing they’re saying is that We made this product according to our ideas on what the general populace wants rather than actually do something that the general audience would like. This doesn’t just apply to video games, but this can be seen in film and music industries as well. It’s really a common problem, and when a company decides to revamp their products like this, either by “rebooting” it or just changing it on the fly, the results are usually catastrophic.

Just as simple product as a milk can be spoiled this way. Not really the product itself in this case, but the overall image of the product. Some of the Finnish dairy product companies revamp the image of their milk containers at certain intervals, and very few times customers have found themselves repulsed by a revamp. This is because these companies have a very clear image and on what kind of values they represent. This is personal to the customer just as the companies wish them to be. One represents pure Finnish milk, the second represents more pure agriculture and its values with traditions, and the third is pretty much the good and cheap solution. Each of the three have their own loyal customers, and when the image of the product is changed, the loyalty may weaken if not done correctly.

Whenever somebody tells you that companies do not need to cater to your interests, please tell this person that yes, if they ever want your money and thus more business, they better cater your needs. If a company doesn’t want your money, something is seriously wrong in the company structure. Not wanting tosucceed more, or at all, is a huge red flag for investors and employees alike. It’s better to bail from a company like this rather than sit and watch it wither. This might sound harsh, but there is no value in company that doesn’t want to do monetary business and profit.

It is completely possible to cater these so-called mainstream audience while keeping the core customers. What this takes is to create the best possible product that would sell. It doesn’t necessary need to be something new, but it would help. However, it just needs to be extremely good, a game changer if possible. Creating such a product doesn’t mean dumbing down anything or taking something from the overall product. On the contrary, to make such a product you need to work more to refine those elements and perfect the details. It’s more common that elements are taken off and toned down for the core audience, as they’re known to purchase the product anyway regardless of its quality. Naturally, the things that the core audience likes most are added as the time goes by, but these things most likely won’t meet with the general audience. Which is pretty sad, considering that there are loads of potential customers ignored.

It’s the Red Ocean Vs. Blue Ocean argument again. Why would a company knowingly wish to limit the amount of customers they could have? I’d love to say that it’s entertaining to hear people defending their favourite company with such zeal, but it just gives me a headache. None of the companies are there for the customer. If they’re smart, the companies are there for the money and that also means to cater your wishes and needs with near perfection. A stupid company would only cater their own interests and needs, or would only listen to the loudmouthed minority.

So yes, there are a lot of personal things going on when a company stops catering my wants. I can only vote with my wallet and wish them to stop being jerks and notice that competing where other companies compete as well is not the healthiest business model. There are always alternatives, they just need to be weeded out and dug up beneath all the Red. Sometimes it happens naturally, sometimes you might need to ask around. Game industry offers older games on their modern services, which is a great alternative for new games, and the same can be said of films and music services as well. It’s really a bad sign when the customers are looking back at the past because they keep hearing about these great things that once were and barely notice the new things that are coming in the horizon.

We can always go back to the old things, but that just means that it’s money from the currently new products that truly support the industries. By purchasing products that you wish to support the most, you can make a large impact. After all, it’s about your money and who gets it. It’s pretty damn personal.

To end this in a bit lighter mood, let’s just put this on and let the beat take us away. It’s Christmas time anyway, thou that’s no reason to have your service getting weaker. You’ve got a whole year to get ready for the season…

Take on design

There are few questions that I do ask myself on a daily basis. Questions like what does a designer do, what is a designer’s job, what is design… that kind of questions. They’re not out of place, as if I just start seeing them as something obvious, I’ll fail my customers. Yes, customers are half of design, and the other half is rest.

Design, at its core, is craftsmanship. All of it.

As with any profession, there isn’t just one thing that designer is. For example, we all know that there arevarious doctors and not just one. Similarly there arevarious kind of drivers. With designers we have industrial designers, graphic designers, service designers and so forth, and to top everything of the aforementioned have their own sub-categories as well. Yet all of them still are stillservice people, aiming to fill the needs of the people.

While I’ve been mostly going over how game designers fail to see what their customers want, this is very microscopic view of the whole deal. A designer should not just pay attention to the product nor to the customer, but the world at large. Green values have been in steady rise across the globe for a reason, and more traditional craftsmen do not really pay attention to this. Correction; artists do not pay attention to these values.

When designing a chair, a designer needs to attention to large amount of factors, but at the moment the largest factor is recycling. Only recently we’ve started to see chairs that have been designed to be completely recyclable. Traditionally you’d imagine the materials being reused through some sort of treatment, where metals are melted down as well as plastics into one black mess. This usually just reduces the use of the plastic on the long run. The recycling I mean is about creating a product which has parts that can be reused in other products as well without further modifications. This kind of use of existing parts is nothing new, but on the long run it has more green values than dissecting the materials and rebuilding them into something else. Naturally, to have this kind of products would mean that we’d need further standardisation across various designs, but not necessarily that all chairs would start look the same.

As such, designing is not to design for people, but for the larger world as well. Traditionally craftsmen have kept to themselves, trading methods and few tools around but not really unifying their overall philosophies on how things should be for the better of all. When we all can agree that it’s our job to take care of making things more friendly not just to the user, but the world as well, then perhaps we’re getting  where we’re at balance with all of it.

This does not necessarily  mean that all products would or should be the same in shape and appearance; in outer design. We have many different cultures that in themselves contain their own unique shapes and forms. We have multiple products that have the same function, but that are different in shape. Most likely your TV is different from mine, unless you have a 42″ Bravia.  As such the unified philosophies should not keep the designers from designing beautiful items with great detail, or sleek and clean outlook. Only the function should be the limit. Nobody wishes to have products that have shapes that take away from their function.

Enough with this green values lecturing. Design isn’t about saving the world, thou we can always help in that task.

Let’s go over some of those mentioned sub-designer “classes.” Graphic designer is a rather large area, as these people design everything from web pages to logos, from poster artwork to whatever you see inadvertising. Designers have been steadily replacing traditional artists in this regard as it should be. Artists can stay making paintings. Selfishness is not a virtue.

Industrial designers is even wider region, ranging from furniture designs to machine parts and so on. These people are much closer to the traditional craftsmen, as they need to know the materials, the ergonomics, the shapes and all those in order to work. Keep in mind that these people are working on designs that are aimed at mass production over everything else. Unique works are artisans’ field, and should stay there.

As such, the first prototype that is made will always be different, which then will be allowed to be produced in a limited fashion. After this production run further changes may be made until the final mass production model is made. Granted, limited production runs are more rare nowadays.

Service designer is where we diverge a lot from the traditional craftsman mould. Service design at its core is aiming to streamline services, to make them more efficient both to the customer and to the company while still having both sides’ interests appeased. In the best situation, a service designer manages to lower the costs that the service takes from the company and boostthe sales at the same time, and streamlines the experience for the customer for the better. Modern day technology is a wonderful thing that allows various kinds of use, and the best example I can think of are wireless library cards that register what book the card owner takes out. This idea has been put in use, but it’s been some time I heard about this, so you need to trust my word here. The idea is that a Wi-Fi system is used with the books and the library cards. The books have their own small Wi-Fi ID tag in them that gets scanned alongside the Wi-Fi tag in the customer’s library card. When they step out, the system automatically registers that this person has loaned this book. Fast, easy and simple. Removing the human element is rather unfortunate, but this way the customer has less hassle and the company can allocate their resources for gaining new books or restoring certain elements in the service they might have removed previously. These elements might include such small things as using allocated budget for new books to replace more broken ones, or simply creating more comprehensive archive.

Designers are many, and their work can be seen everywhere. The coda of beinga designer is from the people, to the people. This is the reason I’m so strict at making a clear distinction between the artists and craftsmen. An artist has a freedom to do what he wishes; they’re rock stars. Craftsmen do not have that luxury, and to become a craftsman is, or rather should be, the aim of all designers. This is why I get so worked up when these game designers act like rock stars rather than craftsmen. They’re not only doing disservice to the product, but to the world at large.

Design does stem from fine arts. Bauhaus, the first design school in Germany and to large extent in the world, was ledby artists that had that aforementioned coda as their philosophy. Ultimately designers need to understand arts in order to craft. Designer’s aim is just to take that knowledge and apply it so that it serves the use and people rather than art itself. Artists are the people who make political statements and criticize the society. Designers in this sense should take a colder approach to these matters, as ergonomics have no politics in them. Job’s a job, even if it is about making a poster about the communist party and how glorious they are. It’s designer’s job to take his knowledge and make it the best damn pro-communist poster he can muster. There’s nothing more to it.

Just like waiters, a designer is there to cater you. What we cater are chairs, tables, posters, bags, shells, vibrators, clocks, glasses, services, cover art and pretty much everything you have next to you. The appearance of the screen you’ve been reading this text from has been designed by someone. The keyboard as well. There’s a thought behind those items in order to make them work for your pleasure the best you can hope. We’re just people who take pride in our ability to create products that can make your life a bit easier and perhaps even more exciting. After all, if we didn’t then we’d be failing at our task and wouldn’t get paid.

Design is service of creating a product to the people as they see fit. This is not just my own personal opinion, but what design is. I do not wish to proclaim all other views inherently wrong. All views have their point, but what design is not is art. This is a clear distinction that needs to made of. Designers themselves, especially the older generation who have been living in the same light as artists should enforce this distinction as well.

I do admit that I might be completely wrong person to tell you what design is and what it is about. I personally see myself as an artisan first. Designer is nothing short of secondary position to me. I enjoy far more actually getting my hands there and working rather than sitting in a meeting and talking over with my co-workers about a logo design. I find it boring. It’s selfishness on my part, and I admit it completely. Nevertheless I still strive for the product my customer would like to see. Be it a simple logo made in a group, or a chair that I need to weld fourteen meters of square pipes into eight hexagons. As an artisan I’ve learned to design and do it, as a designer I’m merely learning to design and do a prototype. It’s a sort of contradiction, even thou the goals are the same.  Still, the artist in me is tied down, and my search for the perfect solution between getting my hands dirty and living in a business suit is still going on. Perhaps I’ll start studying law one day.

I have a request to my readers; please do no consider designers as any kind of artists or rock stars. Demand more from them, and regard them as people who are there to serve you and nothing more.