Capcom’s future; more DLC and possible resurrection of sleeping IPs

I was supposed to do this one few weeks back, but work’s being hell as we come closer to the annual end of the business year for the company. Working like a dog has its downsides.

Anyway, Capcom Investors Relations, Annual report. Maybe we should note that in their statement of corporate philosophy, the core statement is to create entertainment culture. Video games may be Capcom’s main business for sure, but movies and arcades are part of that too. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’m dropping a tl;dr read version at the end.

Kenzo Tsujimoto, CEO of Capcom, makes a statement that what made Street Fighter a globally recognized brand was the movie they invested in, not the games themselves. This is an interesting point to take, and if taken as face value, further enforces Nintendo’s old tactics of cross-media advertising. All the Super Mario cereals, cartoons and the like were there to make the brand recognizable in order to have the main dish, the games, in the consumer head space. Hollywood may think they have the jackpot when it comes to entertainment, but when it comes to games, no other media can replicate the feeling of doing it yourself. This applies to sports as well.

The 4 billion yen Capcom invested into Street Fighter the Movie netted them 15 billion yen. That’s no slouch. Tsujimoto continues that despite movies only getting few weeks of attention in the theatres, each new home release and licensed showing, like on television, always extends the time public is being exposed to the brand. It’s easy to see why Capcom would continue to invest into the Resident Evil movies. While they may not be all that great, they’re further putting exposure to the brand.

The games are still the main point, and Tsujimoto’s take that having something else to exist along the games’ three years of development is important to keep consumer interest relevant. The reason why so many game franchises fail to garner expanded audience attention is because there is no expanded media around them. You can argue that games can makes great sales on themselves and having targeted audience is great, but that really doesn’t expand the market all that much.

Japan manages to keep its brands relevant through numerous comics that adapt the games. These comics can run anywhere between few specialised chapters to years. Considering how much Japan reads, this is relatively traditional way to keep things in the consumers’ minds. In the West this doesn’t work as well, despite the latest Mega Man comic being excellent. The problem of course was that there was no Mega Man game to make use of it.

While this multimedia approach seems like done deal and what most companies do to some extent, this isn’t so. Vast majority of companies are more or less ignoring the world wide stage when it comes to their IPs. The few game based movies we’ve getting here and there have been less about expanded media and trying to capitalise on the Comic book movie boom that’s been so successful. These have been more or less failures, but as said, the brand just has to be kept relevant in the consumers’ minds. Twitch and word of mouth are good ways to get into the core consumer market’s mind, but this does not expand the market itself. This is Red Ocean, where companies cannibalise each other. Electronic games industry has to expand their market in order to survive and advance, and Capcom’s approach to expand the awareness of its brands into movies series like Resident Evil is doing just that. This is why we are getting the Monster Hunter movie. The game has a strong brand recognition, part of Capcom’s Big Four million-sellers, share the title with Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Mega Man.

Capcom notes that during the last gives years since 2014, the operating costs have risen. Monster Hunter World‘s success has increased revenues, but overall the trend isn’t exactly healthy. Capcom had almost a ten-year slouch between 2005 and 2015, and it is noted that sales declined in 2010. With constant major releases since 2014 has seen raise in net sales and thus in income. All this really means that Capcom has to keep releasing new and well developed titles at a constant pace, something that applies to every game company out there. More importantly, this does no mean the games have to be high budget, but we’re going to get to that a bit later. With Capcom internally reforming itself since 2015, things have become more rosy. This would sign that Capcom has somewhat new internal direction, which has resulted in successful titles like Resident Evil 7. Of course, the cost and workload of new titles on new hardware has been on a rising trend, but that’s to be expected if the company intends to push graphical and interface boundaries in their usual pace.

Hauhiro Tsujimoto, the COO, mentions that he intends to continue on Single Content Multiple Usage strategy. For example, Street Fighter V is a title like this, where the the base game is expanded upon rather than creating creating an additional, new title. He also mentions changes in the mobile market and specifically uses the term over-reliant when mentioning gatcha. Using lottery in the same context however would signify that in countries where any form of lottery is considered gambling and require governmental approval, these titles may be breaking the law. Tsujimoto also mentions that he experts esports to still have a rising market, something I do not share with him, considering the aforementioned SFV and Marvel VS Capcom Infinity have not exactly being mass successes compared to their rivals like Dragon Ball FighterZ.

Capcom’s further strategy to grow franchises as global brands is very similar to Sega’s on outer appearance. The major part of this is simultaneous launch of games across the world. Capcom has also taken steps to listen more to the consumer feedback, and uses how they approached Monster Hunter World‘s PC port’s problems solely based on user feedback. Beta testing was also important in making the title. All these have been more common among PC gaming, but considering how much modern consoles are dumbed down PCs, this only to be expected.

Another example with more robust examples is SFV. Server problems, continuing improvement of the game, expansion in esports scene and pricing strategies have all served the game more or less in a positive light, though the overall perception of the game is still questionable.

All this really amounts to Capcom aiming to iron out issues before launch and concentrate on consumer feedback whenever possible. The idea of One content Multiple Uses however does signify that Capcom will rely on digital distribution further, meaning future Capcom games of this caliber will be used as a base platform and you won’t be buying a full, one-package deal game, at least not on launch. SFV had an updated retail version with most additions included, but whether or not we can count that as a true new version of the game is somewhat an open question.

This also shows in Capcom’s financial strategy. Kenkichi Nomura, the CFO, mentions that Capcom intends to enhance their development environment and Digital Contents business. While this does not mean Capcom will cut production of physical goods, it does signify that the aforementioned plan most likely will be carried out with further titles in the future. However, digital titles do have longer lasting power thanks to them never really vanishing from digital stores, unless license runs out or the company goes down.

The most interesting bit of Nomura’s notions is in What is the status of Internal reserves and fund procurement?, where he states that game development has been on the rise since current-generation and multifunctional game consoles arrived. While it is natural for higher spec machines requiring higher development costs, singling this out is strange. Does this mean multifunctional consoles have some inherent in their nature that raises development costs?

Overall, it would seem Capcom wishes to further streamline their development process and eliminate  stuff that would only cause costs. Usual business, nothing special to see here. However, Digital Content will have further emphasize still.

Of course, Capcom can’t compete in the field without original content, and that’s something they wish to emphasize.

The three titles showcased are Devil May Cry 5, the remake of Resident Evil 2, and Mega Man 11. DMC5 is the weirdest example, mostly boasting about the RE Engine and how engaging the IP has been across mediums. It would seem that this is more a showcase piece towards the fans at its core over everything else. In contrast, Resident Evil 2 is used to showcase of constant releases of their flagship franchise. Both emphasize the level of realism in their own ways, making both of them graphical cornerstones in the presentation, and how proper utilisation of both recognized brands will make a mark on the industry.

Mega Man 11 however is the most interesting of the three. The foundation for Mega Man 11 was diversity; all the members had different histories, different views what Mega Man was and had a wide variety of experiences from young newcomers to industry veterans working on it. It is specifically mentioned that the game may not look technologically advanced, but is designed to play extremely well. Or as they out it, it is loaded with techniques that could be described as “master handicraft”.

Capcom has a thing for technologically advanced games and they’re not afraid to use it in their PR. Pushing boundaries has been their thing for a long time now as a company, but at some point this meant that games that could not really push boundaries were put on the back burner. Mega Man games do not require to push the hardware to the maximum anymore, and titles like Mega Man X8 arguably suffered from trying to make a big-budget Mega Man game. It would seem that the success of Mega Man 11 has made Capcom take notice of this, it being lower on the budget and relying on visual design and style over raw graphics power. Reawakening dormant IP is Capcom’s keyword for MM11, and if they were to follow in suite, Capcom could have a one-two punch strategy with high-end games accompanied by less costing games with higher emphasize on core design. Without a doubt the upcoming Capcom Beat-Em Up collection is testing waters whether or not they should dabble in that genre again.

This coincides with Yoichi Egawa’s foundation to produce World-Class quality and profitability. He puts Capcom’s thinking to simple words; first, if the game isn’t good, it won’t sell; second, if you don’t pursue global brands, you won’t survive in the game industry. Considering Capcom had a slouch where their game simply weren’t all that great, this would ring true. Capcom is also one of the few Japanese companies that truly try to keep itself on the global market, and ultimately modern Capcom has surprisingly low amount of Japanese exclusive titles. They were also publisher for titles like GTA in Japan, meaning they’ve been dabbling on trying to introduce Western games to the Japanese market as well.

In addition to this, Egawa wishes to create hot mobile titles (in which manner is open to question) and address development of esports and long-term sales model. This would combine with his wanting to further enforce online-multiplayer. Long-term sales can be tied to the Digital Content method discussed previously, whole esports and multi-player is directly tied to competitive scene. He specifically mentions having artisan pride in developing games, something which further has emphasize on how Capcom wants to approach their titles at this moment in time. Capcom, however, is still a corporation intending to make profit, but it would seem that they are a corporation wanting to make profit with master craftsmanship level products, but they can’t do that without proper personal and budget. Thus, hiring and training has to be considered.

As for Social sections, Capcom has initiatives to hire more non-Japanese and women. They have installed a system that enables workers to have childcare leave and shortened work hours in order to allow them to spend more time with their child after birth. This also extends to men, and there a number of male employees who have taken up on this chance. Capcom states that 21% of their workforce and 10.3% of their manager staff are women. None of this should matter in terms of business, only that they drive business up. This is PR however, and part of this PR is that Capcom has follow the General Employer Action, which sees women consisting 20% of the newly graduated staff and have at least 15% manager women. While this would fight against the idea of best first, it is probable that Capcom’s training program will level the new workforce across the board. Successful business tends to run on pure meritocracy, but it nice to see Capcom extending its child leave program across the board. How Japanese corporate culture sees this is another issue altogether.

Part of the social strategies Capcom is enacting attempts at revitalization of areas across Japan. This includes helping with events and business by paying money to advertise on buses and such, using Capcom’s characters to promote regions and include arcades in given areas. Similarly, Capcom has managed to cut out environmental loads via Digital Content and further promoting power saving methods across the company, but the most important bit can be found in their aim to reduce environmental impact of their Pachislot machines. If you follow any pachislot manufacturer long enough, you will see parts and gimmicks being redressed and recycled. There has also been a slight trend to tone down the flashiness of pachislot machines, which would save power further.

With that all the way, Capcom’s risk management pretty much covers everything discussed thus far. Expanding market, making their IPs more global, developing regions, stabilise revenues and so on. The weirdest bit is to expand on VR, but this most likely coincides with Capcom’s wishes to cultivate a VR game market in amusement equipment business, meaning arcade-specific VR titles. This probably is better option than to dedicate workforce on home-use VR.

There are few statistics that are interesting relating to risk management; used game sales in Japan are on a downward trend, mostly likely due to longer development cycles and increase of digital content, and arcades have seen ever so slight increase in users. Is there a generation that wishes to be play more outside of their home in Japan? This would require further studies and statistics to say for sure.

Further risks and responses are Capcom usual; create sequels or remakes on obsolete games, expand market and boost brand recognition if core consumer disinterest becomes relevant, expand game sales periods with sluggish sales, and establish recurring cumulative revenue models and expand to different media if decrease in users is met for more boost brand recognition. Risk assessment section is probably one of the more important parts, as it has to be straightforward, cutting away most of PR bells and whistles.

Capcom’s analysis on the game market shows that they see console and PC market overlapping. This is due to the overlap of titles released across the two, whole mobile market is its separate thing. The continuing rapid growth of mobile market is still present, but Capcom hasn’t had the best success with their mobile games due to their over-reliance on gatcha and the way how smartphone gamers tends to jump between games. Furthermore, Capcom’s lack of know-how in the market is marked as one of the reason why they’ve been failing on mobile while PC and consoles have seen increased revenues.

Capcom’s constant move towards more DLC in their One Content Multiple Uses philosophy comes from sheer sales data; DLC has taken over package game sales as of 2017 and is estimated to increase with time. Mobile market is estimated to rise on a similar manner, though it should be noted how fierce the competition ultimately is; vast majority of smartphone users that make revenue for the company reside in Asia. However, in terms of best growth was seen in PC market, mainly in China and other Asian regions, but unlike with smartphones, the rate of growth is estimated to slow down. The Western view of markets are a bit skewed, and what we see in Capcom’s analysis’ that Asian PC and smartphone markets are on the rise and making more profits than their bread and butter console games consumer market. Furthermore, Capcom intends to capitalise on esports’ rising popularity and they are intending to see it to rise as a valid new form of sports in order to further their sales in competitive titles like Street Fighter V. In addition, Monster Hunter World is effectively cornerstone in current mindset Capcom has, despite their initial hesitation whether or not it would be a success. The same level of emphasize on graphics and polish should be seen in future titles, like the remake of Resident Evil 2, though clearly Mega Man 11 is buckling this trend a bit.

The SWOT analysis is pretty much everything we’ve covered thus far; Capcom’s main strength is in strong quality development of titles and their own IPs, but at the same their weakness is reliance on specific genres. Overall, Capcom mainline library of current games has a limited scope in these terms, and they are more known for their action titles than anything else. Another weakness is of course the lack of any major success in the mobile market. However, the opportunities Capcom sees is in the decrease of competition, meaning that the titles they put out like Monster Hunter World have no direct competition. There are no games like MH that would be on the surface. Expansion of esports and VR are soon a market possibilities, though with the lacklustre expansion of VR market overall puts this into question. Main threat is noted as the diminishing consumer presence due to the increased presence of entertainment in general. The ways we entertain ourselves nowadays has changed since two or three decades ago, something the electronic games industry should consider a threat in terms of general market. Of course, in mobile gaming the sheer amount of firms and titles released is Capcom’s main concern, especially with them lacking in software and skills in the market.

tl;dr version

Capcom intends to increase brand recognition via movies and other forms of entertainment. There’s going to be more DLC in the future, as Capcom has taken the philosophy of One Content Multiple Uses. The success of Mega Man 11 has made Capcom aware of the their sleeping IPs’ values. Monster Hunter World will be used as an example how to go onward with business in the near future. They also intend to expand in esports scene to promote their games and wish to see esports recognized as legit sport. They suck at mobile market and still want a nice slice of that pie. They have an upwards trend in profits since 2015, and they intend to keep it going with titles they consider to be high-end and have a high-cost.

 

 

Sega’s Mania effect

So after couple of decades of failed starts, concepts thrown around and DMCA’d fan titles, Streets of Rage 4 is a thing that’s coming out. Finally, might I add. Sega and Streets of Rage fans, rejoice.

 

I have to say, these redesigns are pretty damn nice

There are three companies involved with the game, outside Sega as the licensee; Lizardcube, who were in charge of the recent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap; Guard Crush Games who have a history with beat-em-ups (or belt-scrolling action games if you’re Japanese) like Streets of Fury; Dotemu, who function as a publisher. Lizardcube is in charge of graphics, while Guard Crush Games handles the programming, though Dotemu has the handle on game design. This is pretty nice package, as Lizardcube has a pretty nice, French comics style that fits so many of these older titles’ revival, and Guard Crush Games seems to have a handle on programming just fine. Y’know, the hardest part of making a game.

I’m probably going to make a comparative post regarding the character designs, because both Axel and Blaze got a real nice new lick of paint.

There is exactly two things this game needs to do in order to be accepted by long time fans and be at least a relative hit with the general audience; faithfully replicate the Streets of Rage formula, and expand on it. This is effectively what Sonic Mania did, and it has been hailed as the best Sonic the Hedhehog game to date, which isn’t too hard to accept.

Which raises the question; did Sonic Mania‘s success kick this title off the ground? Both it and the new Wonder Boy were well received and raised new interest in certain section of older titles. Both of them function as data to further the idea putting the money and effort to realise a Streets of Rage title in its proper 2D mould rather than take the Final Fight route with Streetwise. After all, game genres don’t just die because new technology makes new genres possible with extra dimensions or additional gimmicks like VR. Despite how 90’s marketing wants you to believe, 2D hasn’t gone anywhere at any point. Sure, you the newfangled thing always gets pushed, but you can’t deny the customers the things they want. Just look at how well 2D Mario sells over 3D titles. That’s another dead horse I need to stop kicking.

All this data of revival games doing at least decently well is most probable reason Streets of Rage 4 got greenlit. Add Mega Man 11‘s upcoming release to the mix and we’re entering an interesting era, where old franchises are getting new releases in more budget range, but with none of the lacking elements. Hopefully more companies realise this; you don’t need AAA budget to make great damn games. Pretty much all of these classic franchises could be revived and developed at a fraction of the cost with modern tools. Easier to make profits. The only real problem is to deliver a wanted product, which didn’t really happen with the New SMB series after the first few entries. Once a franchise is revived, it needs to move forwards. Mega Man 10 failed in this term by simply being same thing again. We now have three Mega Man 2 games and that’s two too much.

Sega of course wouldn’t develop this themselves. They don’t care about the IP. Sega hasn’t given two shits about Streets of Rage since the mid-90’s, when they essentially gave the middle finger to the Western consumers. Eternal Champions used to be a big thing, but then Sega just neutered it. You can’t treat Japanese, American and European markets the same. Hell, you have to treat Europe as multiple market zones if you want to do it right. This was clear how Sega’s tactics with the Genesis in the US region only kicked off after the US branch pushed through their tactics of including a game with the console and marketing Sonic the Hedgehog their own way. If most of the data is to be believed, Sonic‘s been the most popular in the US. Sadly, Sega of Japan’s management killed all the motion their American and European sections had going on, effectively beginning their own downfall from grace. Westerners do classic Sega better than Sega themselves.

Streets of Rage 4 probably won’t be as large a success as Sonic Mania. If the game gets a physical release afterwards its initial digital showcase, we can deem it successful enough. If it gets a physical release from the very beginning, even if it was a Limited Run title, then the developers and publisher have boatloads of trust towards their targeted consumers. There are enough Sega fans that would purchase this title in an instant.

While Sonic Mania was clearly an international title, a game that didn’t have any specific region in mind, the same can’t be said about Streets of Rage 4. Both Guard Crush Games and Lizardcube are European companies, and that flavours oozes through in a very positive manner. Hell, even Dotemu is based on France. I hope they shower more than the average French. However, that probably will rub some people off, as Streets of Rage originally had a very American atmosphere to it, especially considering it was inspired partially by Streets of Fire. Hell, Blaze’s design is essentially Ellen Aim with more streetwise to her. The bits about Sega not giving a damn about the IP still stands, and their actions towards Western markets have been changing only during the last years. The Yakuza franchise is a good line to follow modern Sega in this. English dubbing usually drives sales, but there are titles where this isn’t case. Yakuza dropped this in favour of cheaper releases and simply because the fans didn’t like it. Despite Sega censoring and removing elements from some of the games, the audience kept growing. Despite this, none of the spin-offs outside the zombie romp got localised. Now that the Western audience has grown far greater, Sega’s taken the series’ position in the market into notion with better releases, and now is even considering publishing further remasters and spin-offs in the Overseas regions. Sega of Japan is slowly but surely taking a notion of Western markets.

If we’re going to go down this path, it’s relatively easy to see Sega considering the wants and needs of the Western markets to some extent. The IPs they’ve been giving up and ignoring still have a strong consumer base with nothing to fill that niche. A high quality title here and there goes long way in making profits and keeping your fans happy. I would say Altered Beast and Golden Axe could be next on the list of revivals, but seeing how terrible their last titles were, there’d be a lot of work to fix those damages in the eyes of Sega themselves.

Music of the Month; Give it a Shot


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s Mega Time?

This week has seen slight avalanche of Mega Man related news. We’ve seen more gameplay and stages revealed from Mega Man 11, some  footage of the cartoon has been made available, a Rockman pachinko was announced and Rockman X Mega Mission is getting a States-side released.

To start with Mega Man 11, the one thing I mentioned early on was that it looked like it’d hit the spots with controls and add some neat new controls. To use an official source, check this gameplay in Fuse Man’s stage. Early on there is a showcase for change in the sliding mechanics that gives more control to the player, where previously sliding was more or less dedication motion to a direction. Now, you can change direction mid-slide. This is accompanied with slight yellow sparking and a sound effect. The reason why I’m pointing this separately is because this is detail quality is build on.

Should I also mention that enemy explosions are very 1980’s?

With the introduction of Power and Speed Gear the game’s core play has changed to a significant degree. Previously this sort of elements would’ve been relegated to supportive role and mostly as gimmick function. In Mega Man 11, the Gears are part of the core design to make stages and enemies easier. It would appear that neither of them are not required to complete the stages, but are used to make them significantly easier at places. This is an extremely welcome decision, as it means the core Mega Man play design is left untouched for those who would rather have purist approach to the game.

This doesn’t seem to extend to the bosses to certain extent. The Fuse Man Boss fight we see around 13 minute mark, the normal pattern is something that’s easy to deal with. Its power attack is specifically designed to be taken advantage of with the Speed Gear, though without a doubt a player can beat the boss without the use of it. However, saying that you don’t need to use it doesn’t null the fact that the bosses patterns and attacks are designed around the Gears to a degree, effectively making them additional weakness to the normal Rock-Paper-Scissor weapon cycle. This isn’t a negative in itself, as all this means the Gears are more or less completely integrated to the overall design rather than bolted on top of standard Mega Man design. On one hand, hopefully this won’t mean that future Mega Man games all share different important gimmicks jammed on top of them, but on the other hand, can the Gears be recycled into future titles with revisions to it? Is the Classic series to become like the X-series, where each game has a new gameplay mechanic in form of Gears to X‘s armours? We’ll have to see.

Otherwise, the game seems to be coming together just fine. The run cycle’s still a bit jarring and visuals are still rather plastic, but overall Mega Man 11 looks like its been carefully crafted to be a good entry in the series. You don’t need a million dollar budget for that.

To stick with “base” Mega Man for a bit, the whole thing with Pachislot Rockman came pretty much out of nowhere outside the rumours, but for Western audience this means jack shit. You’ll be playing this only in Japan, and we don’t even have a cabinet pictures, just few low-quality magazine scans and an announcement pdf. The designs are all over the place with this, combining elements from all the mainline series into one. This is easiest to see with Blues/ Proto Man there, as he has that hair from his Battle Network version and glasses look like Star Force‘s Rogue dropped them by, with the Life Gem on his forehead and chest being something that’s prevalent in the X-series. I’m interested in seeing how they’ll include Mega Man series’ elements into pachislot, and how garish the machine will end up being.

Speaking of Mega Man X, Capcom has hinted that Mega Man X9 will be a thing. With the X Legacy Collection hitting store shelves early in Japan, the manual mentions that the story isn’t over yet. Mega Man 11  was teased in a similar manner. It’s good that Capcom decided to pack all the X games into one package, as there’s less nostalgia for the newer games in the series to pull in the audience. Mega Man Legacy Collection should’ve been one package as well, with the Game Boy titles with it, but those won’t be re-released anytime soon outside Virtual Console. Hopefully they’ll drop most, if not all pretenses that there’s some sort of deep and meaningful story in the series and concentrate on making a damn fine game with Sigma as the final boss.

Udon has also procured the license for Mega Man X: Mega Mission, a one-shot Hitoshi Ariga adaptation of the Carddass series of the same name. Sadly, it’s in full colour, so we’re going to miss the intended gray scale. I’m guessing they’re doing this because the previously coloured Ariga Mega Man comics sold more than their untouched originals. If you’re interested in checking what the original story was about, The Reploid Research Lavatory has you covered.

Then we have the cartoon, fully titled as Mega Man: Fully Charged. While it looks slicker than previously and this particular trailer drops all of Mini-Mega, who we see more in the US region only preview, the show’s pretty much Cubix remade. It says Mega Man on the tin, they’re forcing sprite graphics to tell a story, they’re even using cues from Wily Castle I theme from Mega Man 2, and yet it doesn’t look or feel what you’d expect from a Mega Man cartoon. Then again, like a broken record I am, this isn’t exactly an adaptation. This takes the idea of a good boy robot fighting evil robots with some general resemblance to its namesake. However, the more there’s footage, the less impressive the whole show looks. Neither the 3D or the designs look impressive, but seeing this isn’t supposed to be anything groundbreaking, it’ll get the pass by the viewers.

All in all, Capcom is gearing Mega Man for the next few years, and depending how all this goes, the franchise may become relevant again. It won’t happen overnight, but maybe in few years if things keep at a steady pace and all good things are taken advantage of.

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.

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.