Capcom to push forwards with online multiplayer

The title of this post is really self-evident, but sometimes its good to check some other invest relations information outside Nintendo. For whatever reason, I always go for Capcom’s. Too bad their latest Shareholders Q&A summary is very short, but there are points on interest.

The current state of Capcom is rather hard to estimate. Originally, they went from an arcade game provider to console game developer, with healthy licensing of their games to PC markets. For example, Ghost ‘n Goblins exist on pretty much every platform of its era, from Amstrad CPC to C64. Capcom has dropped the arcade side almost altogether due to their niche nature. They’re more or less the posterboy of a generic electronic games company at the moment, developing and publishing games across the platforms. This has been their modus operandi for some twenty years now, roughly speaking. However, it must be emphasized that Capcom still considers arcades as one of their main line of business, it being the first thing mentioned in their Company profile video, though for Japan only in form of Plaza Capcom arcade centers.

Fun fact; Capcom still producers PCBs for multiple companies to use in arcade games, pachinko and pachislot machines.

Again, all this is self-evident, as is Capcom’s lip-service that functionality and specifications of each platform differs. Nowadays only Nintendo platform/s have any special specification to it. Modern platforms can be counted with one hand anyway. It’s first a strange answer to a question how will Capcom think the ratio of sales per platform, but it’s not all that different from all other third party companies; one title, multiple platforms. Nothing new on this front, but is also means specialisation per platforms will be nil. Effectively, Capcom’s playing it safe.

Street Fighter will continue as Capcom esports flagship title in the future, for better or worse. They don’t specify Street Fighter V but the series in general. This rarely means anything special, but understanding how SFV has not been the most popular piece, there might be some motion to push the sixth entry into the series at some point SFV has run out of its steam. While SFIV was run in iterations, SFV was split into seasons and updates came to one title. This has cut costs, though it did backfire harshly, with the initial release extremely bare bones and online multiplayer was effectively the only thing going for it. An arcade mode for a game like this, which is effectively bred and born in the arcade halls, really needs to be closer to those roots in all respects than PC or console market demands. This approach has proven to make sales, and continues to make sales.

Capcom mentioning Monster Hunter specifically in the same breath gives a strong hint that the inside-view of the what esports can be split into two; the tournament community and online multiplayer. Effectively, SFV’s esport scene outside tournaments exists on the online multiplayer, and its by all means the same as any other multiplayer. Pointing this out seems like something self-evident again, but stopping for a moment and pondering that esports is effectively a step away from any sort of multiplayer must be made. Before the concept of esports, competitive playing was more than enough to encompass the same thing. However, for whatever reason competitive playing wasn’t enough and a more marketable term was coined. Esports, after all, is about the money it can generate rather than the competition itself. Just like sports in general.

This idea continues with the Switch question. The investors clearly would like to see more games on the Switch due to its sales, while Capcom itself would like to push for more esports, ie. competitive multiplayer games.

It is clear that Capcom wants to push Monster Hunter here, despite it being rather poor example for competitive gaming. However, its sales and the amount of players it has online exceeds pretty much everything similar Capcom has done, effectively making the example Capcom wants to push. Of course, it doesn’t fit the bill all that well, but it fits well enough when you consider the meaning behind either competitive or esports; the multiplayer aspect. People have a skill to make anything into a competition, and even co-op game like Monster Hunter is viewed in this light with hunting times, style and such. Competitive Monster Hunter wouldn’t be in the spirit of the franchise, though an asymmetric gameplay mode, where one of the players would control a major monster, would be an interesting idea, but in practice would probably yield less than optimum game session.

Effectively, Capcom’s future aim seems to be more online multiplayer, be it disguised as esports or not. Without a doubt this means social game on mobile devices and expanding on the online multiplayer aspects wherever possible. Online multiplayer is an old concept by now, but considering how many Capcom games ultimately lack one, it just might be that they find themselves designing more games towards dedicated multiplayer than one-player titles.

However, Capcom does seem to have enough sense to choose their battles properly and not force titles like Mega Man 11 have such modes. Please, don’t come up with some sort of forced multiplayer aspect in MM11.

It should be noted that Capcom’s stock has been a steady rise since Q2 of 2017. It has its usual dips and rises, though midway March it had it had a slight downwards trend. It would seem that Monster Hunter and multiple other titles that consumers seem to be keen on has raised their margin. Their analyst section also recommends buying stocks at a neutral range, outside Credit Suisse Securities JP ltd. considers Capcom to underperforming, and in terms of expanded electronics industries they probably are right. However, Capcom is in a spot where they are rather leveled out.

Remember when we checked Capcom’s sales data last time few years back? It hasn’t changed much since then, though it has an addition of Dragon’s Dogma. Resident Evil still reigns supreme, followed by Monster Hunter and Street Fighter. It’s still heartwarming to see some of their older, classic titles listed, despite them effectively being dead, like Commando and 1942. Wouldn’t seeing those revived as well, in a modern form or another.

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Asimovian Mega Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New faces of Mega Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gimmick Man

After all that Virtual-On, I decided to revisit Mega Man games for the kicks. Playing the games back to back reminded me why the series was such a hit. Great music, great controls from the third game onward, steady progression and evolution of the concepts and their implementation, and tight level design. Well, most part, at least.

I’m not sure at what point Mega Man saw a change. It’s not clear-cut as to say that a particular game had a definitive paradigm shift that changed the MM formula, as each game gave a new twist in some manner. 2 introduced 8 bosses, E-Tanks and classical help items, 3 introduced sliding and Rush, 4 introduced chargeable buster and slight branches in the stages, 5 expanded on in-stage collectables with Beat and backup tanks, 6 had Rush Adapters and colour changes to stages depending whether or not you have BEAT letters collected, 7 introduced the initial Robot Master split to four, included a lot more support items and took some parts from the Game Boy Mega Man games, and 8 revamped all the stages to have a specific gimmicks.

Perhaps the existence of these gimmicks rather than concentration on the core of Mega Man ultimately drove the sales down.

The best example of this is Mega Man 8. While Mega Man stages are all about a certain kind of theme to them, with a gimmick or two in there, they’re usually either harmless or practices in moderation. Mega Man 1‘s Guts Man stage is an example of an early exception for this, as its moving platform segment is infuriating, but luckily relatively short. With the PlayStation era, we began seeing the inclusion of automated driving stages becoming a thing, culminating to one of the worst stages in the whole series with Mega Man X7‘s Ride Boarski. Similarly, X8’s Gigabolt Man-O-War and Avalance Yeti have driving stages as well. Two out of eight main stages were effectively wasted for driving.

The increase of gimmicks like these, be it Rush Adapters or driving stages, really didn’t do good for the series overall. While some argue that Mega Man 9 and 10 returned to the core of the series, they concentrated on the wrong aspects in overall terms.

The evolution of the series core concepts has always been slight changes to the controls and what initial tools the player has. Sliding was a solution for quick evasions and increased movement, which also gave the developers more options with enemy and stage designs. (In DLC Proto Man has the slide, when he previously had a dash. Gotta earn that nerd cred.) Charging shots increased damage output per shot, but it’s not necessary in all cases. Still, it allows both the player and the designers to tackle certain aspects in enemy design differently than with just the lemon shooter. Rush’s inclusion, while stemming from the mobility Items from Mega Man 2, again is a tool for movement and stage design options.

These could be considered three core additions to the series since the first game, and should always be there. However, at some point the series began adding too much unnecessary stuff without really compensating, and then you lost most of the good stuff with Mega Man 8 and its two sequels.

It says a lot that Minakuchi Engineering, the company in charge of the Game Boy games (par the second one) really made additions and tweaks to the formula work well, and Capcom’s stuff took some of it and ran with them in MM7 without really understanding why they worked. Well, outside the Item Replicator, which allows player to produce support items for a cost, but they screwed that over with MM8 by limiting the amount of bolts in the game to build items, and the removal of support items in general.

Mega Man 8 is really a weird game, it tried something different, but failed pretty badly.

Stage gimmicks, the constant addition of option tools and lack of emphasize on the core aspects is probably why the series stagnated as hard as it did. Mega Man 11 has an uphill battle to re-instate all the best elements from the first eight games while trying to ignore the two last ones. Let’s be honest with them, unmaking a decade worth of design and evolution in favour of nostalgia pandering was the very first misstep Capcom made with them, but this was the era of retro-lookalikes being the hottest shit on the block. Can’t really fault them for striking that trend. (This is also why Mega Man 2 was used as the base to model MM9 and 10 after, because nostalgia was rampart and the game has a deified status [Despite certain later games being objectively better.])

Cuphead showcased that the stigma 2D action games had during the naughts is more or less over. However, I hope Capcom recognises that Mega Man has ten games doing the same thing, with varying success. If Mega man 11 is to succeed, it should not pander to nostalgia. It needs to find the proper way to evolve the formula and make the best use of it. It should be more like GameBoy’s Mega Man IV than Mega Man 8 (or 9 and 10) in how it doesn’t forget to balance the core and new.

Certainly the fans will appreciate it just fine, but if it’s just another throwback for these fans, Capcom might a well quit making the game mid-way through. The announcement trailer does give some glimpses, that the core elements established by the first four games are in there to some extent. Charged shots and Rush are in there, with no movement slipping. Sure, the animations could use some work, but that’s always the case. Bolts are back, so we can assume Item Replicator is being implemented. There seems to be some sort of overcharge shot as well, meaning we’re going to see additions to the core formula. We can just hope that their implementation is decent at least, and the staff do not negate the core aspects of good level design first and foremost.

Mighty Number 9 is a great example of all the core elements missing quality to them.

Monster Hunter’s streamlining

Quality of Life changes is pretty much just the latest buzzword that replaced streamlining when it comes to video games. Sometimes there are needs for it, as some games tend to have excess that that should be cut out to make the playing more enjoyable. Other times, streamlining or quality of life changes to a game series means cutting certain elements down that seemed too complex, or dumbing down, despite this not being the case. This has to be approached case by case, and with the latest entry in Monster Hunter series being released, looking at the changes to streamline the game might be in place.

I’m basing this post mostly to my own experiences with the series, and thus it is largely anecdotal. Starting with Monster Hunter Freedom, I’ve seen this series tweaking itself with each entry in some way, with Tri, 4 and Generations seeing the biggest changes to the overall systems. These included Tri’s swimming and underwater hunting, something that never made a return; 4’s emphasize on maps being more vertical, making ledge jumping, jump attacking and monster’s vertical movement an integral part; and with Generation introducing Hunter Arts, something that probably won’t be returning until another Best of All type of title comes out.

World is a large departure from previous entries with its single map approach rather than segmented areas per map, and almost a total overhaul to the pacing of the hunts. I’m using the term pacing here, as all the streamlining done seems to aim to make the hunts move all the time.

For example, when the player began gathering usable items from a plant previously, he had to pick up each individual item separately that could be obtained from said plant. If you got three items, you’d need to press a button three times. This was streamlined earlier already in the manner that you’d only need to keep pressing the button to complete said three item gathering. This would be a dedicated motion, which stops the flow of the hunt, as it the player stops. This seems completely natural thing to do, however, and was essential part of the game’s play overall. However, in World the player can now pass the same plant and gather those three items from it while running, without stopping.

The question I had with this, whether or not this sort of simple change impacts the game much. On one hand, it was more “real” in the sense that one had to stop to execute an action that in real life would cause you to stop for a moment. World‘s approach is very much what a video game would do, with gathering becoming very much similar to picking up a health item in Doom or the like; just walk over it.

This seems to be the approach in most places for the game, in that the sort of semi-realistic approach has been now replaced with seemingly more game-like approaches. The Scout flies are probably the best example of this, with them being completely bonkers when you think for it for a moment. They should’ve given the player a hunting hound or some other more natural option rather than blinking lights.

The game is about hunting, after all, and despite the Scout flies being partially optional in their use, their inclusion does tell that the developers want the player to “get to the good stuff” faster. Having a literal lighted up trail that shows the way after few foot prints and scratches on the walls have been identified doesn’t example mesh well, but it’s all easy to use. You can run by these tracks and pick their info up, making the tracking element very uninteresting. If there was a game element to them, something that would be tied to Skills for example, and asking the player to take an active role to do majority of the tracking themselves would not have introduced fat to the game, but meat to play.

On the other hand, in a lot of things World still sticks with the old mould all the while introducing some new problems. The item, armour and weapons management is about as tedious as always, the center hub area has been expanded to be a multi-level town, where you either need to traverse to your destination or use quick-travel via map, which necessitates a separate area load screen. With the game being in online all the time, the game treats single-player experience no different, with you “Posting” new quests online despite you going for the hunt alone. As a side note, single-player hunts seem to be balanced towards the easy side.

However, some of the changes are sensible, at least. For example, certain item that used to be consumables now exist in your inventory from the get-go and don’t vanish. A whetstone just doesn’t vanish when its being used. Pickaxes follow this same pattern, and don’t exist in your inventory anymore as a separate item entity. Despite this may look like some of the preparedness has been removed from the game, the rest of the item management is more or less the same. Then again, it does cut out some of collecting and gathering elements that existed in previous games, but perhaps this is to cut out some of the elements that did not surround the hunts directly. I would like to see a Gathering area like in Monster Hunter Freedom return at some point in the future, rather than just paying someone to increase your items.

That’s the crux of streamlining with Monster Hunter World. Lot of the changes has been made to make the hunting itself more about the forwards momentum, with everything around it being cut back. Except the plot. From the ten hours or so I managed to drop into the game, all the changes really are to make the huntings more about the scene rather than the game, perhaps hinting that the game indeed was streamlined and quality of life changes were made to make the game more accessible to the larger market. World has been the fastest selling title in the series thus far in the West, so maybe in the end they’re doing something right. We’ll have to see a year later or so to see how it has been doing and whether or not its userbase is still there.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary collection and then some

Ever since Street Fighter turned 20, I’ve been making some insignificant noise to see proper recognition for the original Street Fighter, as janky as the game is. It is one of those games that would deserve a complete remake. Capcom has been dropping bits and bobs about the first game here and in form of optional outfits and such, but a straight remake is still a pipe dream.

The 30th Anniversary Collection is a step towards right direction in many ways. Not only it makes titles like Street Fighter III New Generation and 2nd Impact accessible to those who don’t have a CPS3 or Dreamcast, but collects all the main titles under one umbrella title. It would be great if all the games had online to them, but companies can put only so much money and effort into celebratory collections like these. I don’t mind using my Dreamcast, but many don’t have access to a DC. Similarly, it would be perfect if there was online for all the titles, but that’s not really happening, is it? Online is important for modern games, without a doubt, despite yours truly still regarding couch coop the best form of multiplayer.

I’m not surprised that the EX games are missing from this collection. They never were mainline SF titles, but the first two did enjoy success on the PlayStation. Capcom would have to pay royalties for the original characters, as ARIKA owns their rights. Not that would be a bad idea overall, with ARIKA’s upcoming unnamed fighting game project  (which carries the title of Fighting EX Layer for now) coming along and making some buzz in the fighting game scene. It would have been good cross promotion for ARIKA as well, but I never held my breath for their re-release. Might as well pick up the original PlayStation discs if you’re interested, they don’t go for too much. If I’m honest, I’ve been following this one closely. Graphically and mechanically the game is sound, even at this early state, but ARIKA does need to rework the sound department at some point.

Of course, the collection is not limited to one system. Not many things are nowadays, but perhaps that’s OK for this sort of celebratory game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sales numbers for the Switch version go high, as Ultra Street Fighter II sold rather well. This collection makes a good addition. Shinkiro was employed to illustrate the key art for the game, and all in all it’s an improvement over the aforementioned USFII.

The additional goodies are a sprite viewer and a music player mode. Street Fighter sprites have always been popular on the ‘net, for better or worse, but having this sort of access does allow closer inspection without any hurries for those, who don’t want to resort to emulation or looking up sprite sheets. It may be a bit insignificant addition, but this sort of little things go add a lot. The music player is a neat addition, though the one that would’ve broken the bank would’ve been a colour edit mode.

Capcom’s going to the right direction with this. Street Fighter V has been a sales and success disappointment all around. With its Arcade Edition coming out, alongside its Season 3, Sakura and bunch of other characters are confirmed to join the final roster. However, these two titles are at odds with each other. SFV was developed with the eSports scene in mind, and that’s where it has seen its limited success. The assumption that Capcom will release further versions of the game is more or less based on the fact that ever since SFII  this has been the case. However, as we’ve seen examples with Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) publishers and developers are trying to make each title pay off more on the long run. DLC is a practice on itself, with Season passes essentially being planned additional content on the base title. Arcade Edition got some negative feedback from the users that got unto the ship from the start and have supported the base game, but from general audience, it’s been all but positive.

Street Fighter V is an example, where Capcom took its gold egg laying goose to a wrong direction. While some games can be fitted into a modern mould, Street Fighter V showcased that you can’t beat an arcade roots from an arcade game. The necessities must be met; a complete game from the start, Arcade mode, a full roster and (surprisingly to some) less emphasize on the tournament scene. SFV should have been a safe game for Capcom to publish, but just like Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, it’s full of decisive flaws in the core design and structure department. Capcom’s competitors are in a far better position nowadays, with all the big houses having at least two decades of experience under their belt and have been pushing out better fighting games than what Capcom has. ArcSys even has a popular license under their belt now with Dragon Ball Fighter Z, which probably sells more than SFV during its lifetime by name recognition alone.

Capcom is one of those companies with rather clear periods. 1980’s Capcom saw its first change with Resident Evil, and the company changed its direction around the mid-90’s. 2000’s Capcom saw a paradigm change around 2006, something that Capcom has been moving away now slowly, but surely. These changes are not immediate, but take slowly place until something significant is showcased. Capcom’s arcade essentially being ran down in favour of console development, classic titles all but missing and ignored, emphasize on Western games, the DLC tactics that consumers didn’t like, and now, nostalgia. While Mega Man Collection games should’ve been just one disc, collecting all the Classic-series games, including Rock Board, those and SF 30th Anniversary Collection are an indication that Capcom wants to serve their long time fans, albeit with pre-existing products most of them already own. With Mega Man X games coming to modern platforms, it would seem that Capcom is testing waters for resurrections, even with some of the newer franchises like Devil May Cry getting its HD collection ported to current systems. Of course, we can’t ignore the rumours for DMC 5 being in development, which became more plausible with the reveal of Mega Man 11.

All that said, Inafune separating himself from Capcom did leave the franchise in a hard place. Just like how he was the face of the franchise to the consumers, he was also responsible inside the company. Kazuhiro Tsuchiya does not necessarily need to become a new face to carry the franchise onward, but that might be inevitable.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s going on at Capcom currently. Keep an eye what’s reading between the lines, as all the interesting bits are there.

Mega Man 11

While I’m typing this, Capcom’s own 30th Anniversary stream is running on Twitch. I, and the steamers acknwledge that this is a bit early, but there’s really no better time to do this. I’m looking at this stream and thinking to myself Is this how we want to see it being celebrated? Without a doubt, this era of social media has made it easier for fans to gather and exchange ideas and experiences. Well, as well such can be realised in a fast paced Twitch discussion, where nobody really reads anyone’s comments either way. Nevertheless, here we are, watching four people in a brick studio with, surrounded with Mega Man merch.  Seeing Kazuhiro Tsuchiya taking the stage uplifts the whole deal, especially when he joined with another members of Capcom Japan’s staff to talk about Mega Man X particularly as an evolutionary step in the series.

A short, rather hammy video of the franchise’s history ends with the announcement of Mega Man 11.

 

This is the meat of the show; the developers talking about their own experience and work with the franchise with the emphasize moving to Mega Man 11  and how it’s been handled becoming the main bulk of the stream. There are a lot of good tidbits, like how different styles were tried out, but the constant use of nostalgia for pixels was deemed to have taken too far already. Hence, why the aim is to use 3D without creating 3D space. Most modern 2D action games want to obscure the ground somehow, either by adding grass to it or make it seem like it’s somehow a natural part of the scenery or the like. A 2D action game is by its nature rather abstract to begin with, as you already lost a whole wall and everything’s sorta cut into two dimensions. With titles like Mega Man, there is no reason to even remotely try to make things work realistically. Video games have always had the edge of showcasing abstract stages and nobody questions their sensibility, because the design is showcased as a part of a game and its challenge. This repeats everywhere, even in the most realistic game, where challenges are laid out by design where there should be none.

That said, everything gets a new lick of paint. Characters will get a redesign, but nothing major. It’s funny to see the above 30th Anniversary Trailer using an old design rather than the new one, hinting that they’re not putting their faith in the new design completely.

Is this a bad re-design? No, it’s not. Mega Man has always seen redesigns and tweaks with each new game when a new pair of hands have been given the task to bring the Blue Bomber back to life in visual terms. Rockman Memories even jokes about this by asking if Mega Man and Roll have grown up.

Roll’s redesign for Battle & Chase (rightmost Roll) was based on Sally the Witch‘s dress with additional sleeves and different coloured buttons on the bosom

The new design is sleeker with less mass on the arms and legs for sure. The blues have changed the hue a bit, but that’s nothing new. The proportions are less deformed, and follow more what a modern child heroes seem to have. While Mega Man was originally supposed to have a Super Deformed look, that was dropped rather fast due to technical limitations. Nevertheless, the proportions stuck the longest time, until Mega Man X 8 saw a complete cast-wide redesign and made everybody lanky and thin. There is something missing in Mega Man, if the character’s proportions are more “correct.”

While a new design was to be expected, it is disappointing to see the Smash Bros version having its influences in this one. The calves and the odd lines running down from shoulder to chest, connecting to the seams on the sides are something that’s rather unique to the Smash Mega Man, though overall that’s just playing with the winds of current taste in aesthetics. Can’t really say I like it, but here they make sense, assuming these are clothing seams. The few slots on his left arm and calves are additional details carried over from the back of his helmet, but the gloves he has are full-on Hitoshi Ariga. Even the neck padding, something that got carried over from various designs, is present.

The concept of Mega Man changing physically when using a new weapon is nothing new in itself. Supposedly, the square on his forehead was to change with weapon choice, but technical limitations prevented that.

The changes are limited to the head and arm while the rest of the body stays the same. The X-Series played with armours, while Legends and Battle Network furthered physical changes. This is a good medium form, renewing old with something new all the while keeping it recognisable. When doings something new, they seemed to have stumbled upon an old idea.

Cute as a button

Roll’s modern design fits her well. It follows the usual red dress idea, but the new cuts and zipper line, combined with a removable hood, does make her feel a lore more fresh. She looks a bit sharper, though the shoes could’ve used few more iterations. Currently they remind a bit too much Sonic’s shoes.

Rush and Beat got redesigned as well, but what they got was more modern touch-ups than anything else. We’ll get to these two whenever we them in motion.

In many ways, this Mega Man is a composition of many past designs in one. Perhaps What makes the “classic” Mega Man we see above next to the new one more iconic is nostalgia. Maybe it’s the fact that the lines are thicker and and more cartoon like. Detailing is fine, but what use are details if they’re just additional lines? Less is often more, and perhaps that’s why most modern redesigns of classic characters tend to go awry, because they really don’t know how to keep their hands off. One line too much can, often will, ruin otherwise perfect design.

 

You can stop at step two. Jesus Christ please stop at step two