Digimon Design Evolution

What’s this? No Aaltomies? No! A guest post by some random internet dweeb. The name is A9 and I sometimes work behind the shadows to read some posts over from Aaltomies before they are published. A while ago he asked me to write my own thing, and after postponing it for a long time (sorry Aalt!) I finally wrote this down. I have probably forgotten a few elements, so please bear with me.

So, how did the design of Digimon evolve over the years? For that, let’s look at the very first one created, the famous Agumon (and also a little at the often overshadowed Tryannomon).

As is often the case with any project: it changes over time. Kenji Watanabe, the longtime designer of the Digimon franchise revealed a lot about the series roots in a recent interview. Just like how Pokémon was more a dinosaur catching game called Capsule Monsters, the Digimon franchise started as a dinosaur themed tamagotchi aimed at younger boys (first named Otokotchi and then Capsule Zaurus). However, since these names would infringe on other companies’ products the name was changed to Digital Monster, which was then shortened to Digimon. This also marked the shift from just dinosaurs to the literal digital monsters, a real genre shift. There was a bit of a hurdle to overcome though: Pokémon had really kicked off and they would really have to differentiate themselves. A lot of designs, mainly of cute creatures with elemental colourings had to go due to this and this caused to have Watanabe free reign over the new designs. His inspiration: American comics such as Spawn.

Since these were the first designs, they were fully drawn, converted to pixel art, and then the drawings were tweaked again. In the future releases, the pixel art would come first.

As an example, let’s start with Agumon, since he’s undoubtedly one of the most famous of our Digital Pets. In essence, it’s a tiny dinosaur with oversized claws.

Quite the different look than we’re used to and very close to the pixel art look. This makes sense as the sprites were used on a very small screen, so making it too detailed would give you a pix elated mess. Something that was important though, was that even if some Digimon were cute, they had to have an element of fearsomeness to it. Otherwise it would just be cute critters beating each other up, which felt a bit sad to the development team.

The Virtual Pet proved to be quite successful, as they made five series of these between 1997 and 1998. Because of this, it sprouted two mangas and eventually an anime.

The series first had a one-shot in the 1997 summer issue of Akamaru Jump as C’mon Digimon: The capering monster BUN, featuring the still-popular Greymon, but also two Digimon who made their debuts. Now, even though these two haven’t been seen again since, they were both important building blocks for other Digimon.

Comparison Digimon
Design elements from Deathmon can be found in Evilmon and Gran Kuwagamon.

Let’s start with Deathmon, looking kind of different than the Agumon we’ve seen before. Deathmon, well, his design just screams ‘super evil’. In all honesty, it reminds me of a Super Sentai villain.  Deathmon can be seen back in Evilmon when you compare their mouths and general head structure, plus some nice spiky hair. The body, but mostly the arms and claws can be found back in Gran Kuwagamon. Obviously, it’s possible that this is a coincidence (since there are many, many different Digimon) but even if that is the case, it shows that some designs stick with the series.

Bun
Bun the special baby.

The other new Digimon is Bun, a small character with baby features (huge eyes and head), weird antennae and a weird dinosaur shaped torso with tail. According to its designer it was supposed to look a little bit like a very weird dog. But where does his design return? The serialisation of a manga.

That manga being Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, a creation by the aforementioned Watanabe and the artist Tenya Yabuno. Although a lot of Digimon were already made for the Virtual Pet series, this manga introduced new Digimon as well through the joint effort of Watanabe and Yabuno. For example, the V-dramon line which stemmed from Bun.

Zeromaru
Zeromaru the V-dramon. The cutest fat fuck in the whole universe.

Now, I can’t lie, this manga made me appreciate V-dramon to such an extent it’s my personal favourite at this point. As its designer, Yabuno explains:

I did design [V-dramon] using C’mon Digimon as a base, so the keyword ‘pet dog’ still stuck with me. […] The Digimon Kenji-san (Watanabe) designs usually sport solid-looking legs, but I designed V-dramon with the image of a small, carnivorous dinosaur in mind. I had initially wanted to design it like a fluffy dog as well.

At the time, most Digimon could digivolve to quite different forms regardless of initial form (Agumon to Devimon for example). During the run of the manga, many more Digimon were created such as Angemon and HolyAngemon. This kind of changed how some forms would really resemble the Digimon from it’s previous level.

While the manga was being serialized, the anime got the OK sign (Digimon Adventure) and was starting preproduction, just like its first video game for the PlayStation 1 (Digimon World). These media really needed references, final designs to base itself on.

Three pretty different forms. Two new versions with their own sets of restrictions. Digimon World was a PlayStation 1 game, so the amount of polygons was severely limited. It’s still quite close to the official art, except for the colour which I’ve always found very strange. Now, for the anime there is obviously a lot less detail as is usually the case. This did cause this version to have less muscle and veins, so it appears a lot cuter than the original design: much smoother and more flat.

So when the game released on January 28 1999 and the anime started airing on March 7 of the same year, merch started to be pumped out. Figures, plushes, a trading card game, you name it.

The TCG and most of the toys are based on the official Bandai art. As a kid this always surprised me, as I got interested into the franchise thanks to the anime. Nevertheless, I have always thought that the cards especially were very striking.

At this point, there are already a ton of Digimon – but Bandai won’t stop, oh no. Even with its quite low budget, the anime was a good hit, and a sequel was made. I’m thankful I don’t have to discuss Digimon Adventure 02.

Let’s start with Veemon, the first critter above. He is in many ways a redesign of Bun from the one-shot manga and designed by working back from V-dramon and creating a more cute version. Heresy I say, V-dramon is cute enough.

One of the main themes of Digimon Adventure 02 was that Rookie Digimon could not digivolve thanks to the evil Digimon Emperor. Enter armor-digivolving, which give the Digimon.. armor. Usually very literally. Let’s not call it mecha, lets call it ‘tacking on random pieces on lengthened Digimon’. Wait, that’s the usual digivolve process now, isn’t it? Take a few pieces of the Rookie, put them on the adult, put it into the blender and presto.

All joking aside (mostly) the armor-digivolve process gave a different feel to the show, even if the show itself wasn’t all that great. Later in the show, everyone can normal digivovle again and Veemon can turn into.. oh, it’s XV-mon. No, no, that’s fine. Sure. Take away the stumpy legs and the big belly. Another redesign of sorts, more cool, more muscle. More importantly, more slim, no fatso’s allowed.

Moving over to the movies with unique visuals, the originally named Digimon Adventure (1999) and Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! (2000).

Both deviate from the main anime in their own way. As can be seen in these screenshots, the first Agumon is a bit bigger than in the anime (and for reference, that’s a baby so he’s not huge) and generally has a more scary, feral look by using more linework for detail in his arms, chest and neck. This is the case for all Rookie level or above Digimon in this movie. Our War Game takes a different approach, as they go for a lighter colour palette with an orange outline.

Now, a rather famous (or infamous) aspect of Digimon is born, the waifumon. Some would argue it would start with Renamon, but they’re a bunch of furries and I don’t want to talk about no damn furries.

Shutumon

Remember how Angemon and Angewoman were humanoids in Digimon Adventure? Yeah, now almost everyone is a pseudo-human. Thanks Digimon Frontier (2002)! Humans changing into Digimon! Bi-pedal, two arms, two legs, some very mild animal features and some element worked through in their design. Oh, and if its a woman, they have big tits. This trend will sadly continue for a while. I’m sure someone made a neat list of them, sorted by breast size.

Omegamon 3D

Another unique look, here is Digital Monster X-evolution released in 2005. Fully 3D, keeping true to designs but very, very far away from the American influence from where they were born. Not that I can blame them, it is more difficult to keep that style in a 3D environment. Also, I doubt that most people at Toei even like that style.

Talking about X-evolution also means talking about redesigns. In the extensive lore of the Digimon world, at one point there were too many Digimon so God decided to kill 99% of them with a virus. Certain Digimon managed to resist though, through the X-antibody, causing them to change appearance and power up significantly.

Take a look at these Metal Garurumon. The original design stems from 1999 and the redesign was made in 2003. And what a difference! It was important to really set the X-antibody line apart from the originals and give them a more unique look. In my opinion, they really succeeded with this one causing it to feel a bit more gritty. Overall, dinosaurs look more like dinosaurs, robots look more like robots, beasts look more like beasts. I don’t want to call it more realistic, but they are definitely set apart from the rest.

Shoutmon X3

Honest acknowledgement: I never watched this series, I just really didn’t feel like it looked like Digimon. Did someone mentioned Gundam yet? No? Good, cause Xros Wars (2010) looks like Gundam. Whole lotta robots, man-shaped machines, bug-shaped machines, but Digimon. Look, I like me some Gundam as much as the next guy, but I’ve lost the Digimon aspect here.

Agumon had many forms, in many games. Usually they look like.. well, a normal Agumon. Either more styled towards the anime, or the Bandai design. But sometimes.. sometimes it just goes wrong. Enter the PSP title Digimon Re:Digitised (2012).

Agumon (Re:Digitize)
“Please kill me.”

I like the shading and it looks like the original design. But why, do tell me, WHY is he slouching like this? Bad posture! Bad! Dragging his claws across the floor. He poses no danger at all, he’s a slouch. A sloth. Sloth Agumon to the rescue. Good thing the game is pretty decent.

Agumon Tri

Did someone say another redesign? Because Digimon Tri (2015) brought us another redesign and a very welcome one I have to say. More faded colours than the original Adventure, more scrawny arms but bigger claws. Not quite as bulky as the original Bandai design, but closer than before. A faithful remake, but I wouldn’t mind him looking a bit less friendly. Still, I cannot deny that I just love that cute little dinosaur.

Updated on 20-01-2018 to add the Gran Kuwagamon similarity to Deathmon (thanks Casp) and a small bit about the X-antibody Digimon that I forgot.

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“Should any actions be disallowed within the seemingly consequence-free context of a video game? “

The question in the title of this post was pitched by Simon Parkin in his Gamasutra post Where next for the video game power fantasy? The answer to this, from the point of view of this blog, is Yes.

Video games are not reality. While it does affect us, like any other form of entertainment (or anything, if we get down to it), games are not art. Well, as much as mountain climbing racing, playing blackjack or children’s play is. Parkin starts with an assertion that games are art first and foremost, which is where his questions tumble around. Yes, no subject should be off-limits to art, if we are to keep art as a form of free expression. If we are to consider video games as art, the same rules apply. Then if we don’t, then there are subject off-limits from games? No, free market is to decide on that. Just like with the role-playing games you have in the bed, certain games are meant for adults only, and should have the freedom to touch on any subject the creator/s wish. They just need to present in a marketable form and offer good gameplay.

Without a doubt the paper Parkin refers to in the article, where Madary and Metsinger suggest a code for ethical conduct, has some relevance to how VR is handled. The human mind, and brain overall, are rather plastic and can be moulded in surprising ways. The nurture of environment is significant, though nature affects as well. Both sides play a significant part in who we become and how we change throughout our lifetime. Playing a game sure does affect us, be it enhancing out eye-hand coordination or something else. VR, as both Madary and Metzinger suggest with an assertion from Parkin, is not physical. While VR users “experience” the Virtual World, the fact it’s just a headset on your head doesn’t go away. Whatever level of graphics and whatnot you have, only certain kind of people who lose themselves into these software and mix them with reality.

Virtual Reality, as it is now, does not introduce any sort of emotions that could not be introduced outside other means of entertainment. Certainly, putting the user in the first-person experience of a horrible murder or becoming the murderer in a game has its effect, yet it still be audiovisual stimulation. VR is not at the level where it would be able to give full-body feedback or be used without the goggles.

The whole discussion about VR possibly having content that is not suited for everyone. Your standard information what a sofware or game includes and what is its target audience is enough. A consumer must be informed of the content type, and of his own condition. In case of parents, they should be able to follow their child’s growth and estimate what sort of material they should be able to consume at what age. Certain children may be to handle harder and more serious materials earlier on, while with others it may take a while longer.

This form of discussion whether or not VR software particular should have limitations for their content is the same discussion we’ve had about tabletop games causing kids to become devil worshipers or certain kind of music being bad for the youth, be it Rock or Heavy Metal. The terms and words have been changed around to sound more convincing and suitable, but in the end the discussion still ends up being This thing may be harmful for some, it must be banned for all.

Parkin quotes Scott Stephen about how VR users are careful not to collide with other scale models of humans, and this somehow shows the gaps being closer with brain, body and motor-skill. While I don’t want to stick with this point, it really sounds more like the players are have the same level of immersion than with First-person games overall. Any FPS has some sort of model of self, which has a hurtbox that interacts with the environment. Of course people who play VR game would be aware of their virtual avatar and try to avoid collision with others, just like they would do otherwise in a game. Collision with other characters usually slows you down, or in case of some games, hurt the character (or you, the player.)

I’m just going to slide Parkin’s comment on virtual crimes, because there is no such thing, because any crime committed would be a real crime.

I contest his assertion, and by that extend, Robo Recall‘s designer Shawn Patton’s definition, of power fantasy of something people wouldn’t have no means or ability to do in real life. If that would be the case, each and every daydream we have or similar would be counted as a power fantasy, making it far too broad and lacking in definition. In reality, what he describes is escapism, or people being able to do whatever they want without putting the everyday’s hard work into it. By Patton’s definition, Harvest Moon would be power fantasy, because so many people do not have the power or means to farm in real life. Hell, even Tetris can be fitted to this mould by saying it gives the players god-like control over falling blocks and sweep them into non-existence.

Parkin suggesting that developers should begin to implement punishment to people who would act in an unapproved ways is inane. If games, and VR software in particular, affect us in such major ways as Parkin suggested earlier, and now is suggesting developers would use that power to essentially influence the consumers’ behaviour to some, socially more acceptable direction shows that there is an agenda underneath here. To boil it down, games should steer away from the icky and serious stuff and slap your hand if you oogle a character’s ass too long. Give me a goddamn break.

And the coup de grâce of for Parkin’s post him comparing reading a book to a video game. He finds it weird that people talk about beating games, but not about beating Moby Dick. This comparison is like saying it’s weird how people always speak about watching a movie rather than reading it, or watching music rather then beating it. Games are meant to be defeated, ie. completed (or in case of earlier arcade games, to gain as high Score as possible) and it does not limit the medium. Parkin’s approach in this is that games are akin to literary works, not literal games. A video game, any  video game, has closer ties to soccer than Moby Dick. Here is why his take games as art fails, because he does not understand that games are not related to literary works or art as a whole. His inability to see that a fail state in a game is loss on the player’s part, and if you really want to get down to the whole story thing in games, there are buttloads of games that touch on failure, death, loss and pain. Hell, just look at how Metal Gear Solid 3 through V and Nier Automata handle serious topics. If we want to get on the meta-commentary train, failing in a game and gaining a Game Over screen or the like is real-time commentary on the failure of the player’s skills and inabilities to overcome a challenge.

The whole disempowerment fantasy is laugahble at best. Games where the system is gimped against you are not uncommon, and if realised unsuccessfully, just drag the experience and often seem to put the message and literary narrative over the gameplay and the narrative the player creates through action. Hell, the way Ian Bogost describes them sounds like they’re taking the game out of video games. They’re nothing new, but the way Parkin emphasizes their special place looks almost masochistic. I’ll leave it up to you if it tells about certain people’s want to lift helplessness and inability to take control of things to a high status.

The rest of the post really is going the points again with some paint slabbed on to it. I can’t help but admire how actions taken in a video game are compared to trafficking women or child slaves (apparently, trafficking men and adult salves is A-OK.) VR alone doesn’t have the question of psychological impact. Any form of media has to ask this, but in the end, it is the user who determines what he is willing to consume. Making a general sweep like this, assuming that an intended emotional reaction will affect people as expected, is outright stupidity. I’m sure Parkin intended something else than comedy with his Moby Dick comparison earlier on. Claiming that VR somehow is the first thing to put people in the middle of something as themselves echoes empty. VR tricks us to believe something is real as much as any movie or non-real entertainment. It’s called immersion. To reiterate what I said earlier; only people with mental problems would not be able to differentiate reality from fiction. VR boom has already passed, and we’re setting at its low-tide. Just like how 3D screens went.

The whole blockbuster comparison though is pretty spot on. The market decides what’s successful and what is not, and though in the more recent history of video games we’ve seen far less copying game elements from other successful titles and more sequels based on long-running franchises. And no, it’s not problematic to “flatter players through power fantasies.” If anything is the problem here, it’s the fact that people are trying to limit designers and developers from doing what they want all the while wanting to push their own influence through the same channels they criticise.

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.

Simulated Gambling?

EA and loot boxes sure opened a whole Pandora’s Box. The video and computer game industry has been dabbling on the edge with parental and gamble-help groups, but it was more or less time for the whole thing  to blow up at someone. While all this has become more or less mainstream in the current market, and people putting most blame to smart phone games’ microtransactions, the whole thing does lead back to EA in the first place.

To make long story short, EA implemented a virtual collectible card system in UEFA Championship League 2007, which replicated a real life CCG. The system was essential, as you got your characters via this system. It was all virtual at this point, as there was no need to exchange real money for these cards. This system was then later implemented into FIFA, when their UEFA license was up. Andrew Wilson implemented the same system into FIFA 2009: Ultimate Team, with the player now able to pay for these cards with real money. This is where it turned into gambling, as now it was necessary for the player to pay money for further progression, but that progression was up to chance. Chance that EA completely controlled in their closed system, where they could rig the game however way they saw fit. Of course, none of these cards had any value outside the game itself. Skill Up has a more complete history on this model he called Wilson lootbox, and it’s a highly recommended watch. Pay-2-Win model is more or less here to stay.

The game industry listens to what sells, just like any other. Numbers and data is what brings in the hard earned cash. On the occasion, a publisher puts outs a prestige game, a trophy piece, something they can call art. The rest, on the other hand, are all about the hard cash. Just like Hollywood in many ways, with the Marvel movies being Call of Duty of cinema. Sure, it’s fun to a lot of people and makes a lot of money, but is creatively bankrupt and doesn’t stand much closer inspection. It’s not hard to see the game industry wanting to grab whatever further profit they could, just like any other entertainment industry.

Hence, the expansion of Pay-2-Win model spreading far and wide. Sure, it’s easier to pay some buck or two for an in-game item, when the game is free. However, predatory tactics and abusing consumer weaknesses is part of the industry here, as these games more or less stifle your progression without additional purchases, sometimes to a point that you simply can’t proceed further due to in-game stats being against you. Few bucks here and there does stack up quickly, and a buck a day is already thirty bucks a month. With the occasional sales, you suddenly find yourself having paid more than fifty, or if you’re one of those whales these systems abuse, hundreds if not thousands.

The industry regulated itself according to the profits gained, and the statistics gained from various games have allowed the companies to find a sweet spot with the freemium, Pay-2-Win model.

This sort of regulation is lacking, as it completely ignores the consumer. Chris Lee, a Hawaii rep. has proposed a legislation to curb down predatory gaming practices. US is not the only one to take notice of the landslide Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)  has caused, as French senator Jérôme Durain has also issued a letter to the French online gambling regulator ARJEL, which addresses some key-note, like the lack of transparency in drop-rates. PEGI itself has already taken stance on virtual gambling, where a game with such elements automatically getting 12 as age rating, and can go easily up two 18. Pokémon games dropped their Game Corner due to change in this stance around 2006, as that would’ve meant the age rating would’ve shot upwards, limiting their main consumer base.

However, PEGI doesn’t regard loot boxes themselves as form of gambling as such, neither does ESBR. This may change in the future, as Belgium has taken a stance already on loot boxes being gambling due to mix of money  and addiction. Geens notes that the change he drives will take some time, as he needs to go through the rest of Europe in order to achieve his goal. If the issue is taken to larger European Union, and is being backed by a number of countries, things may get hot for game developers and publisher who rely on microtransactions and loot boxes.

There has already been some rippling effects. EA’s stock took a dive after the Battlefront II (2017) managed to garner all this negative attention, with the snowballing effect. While this probably won’t effect much, it is still a notable change. PUBG developers also have stated that they would not add anything that would affect the gameplay in terms of microtransactions or loot boxes. Bungie’s Destiny 2  and numerous other games have been under more specific scrutiny about their systems of progression, with Bungie even cancelling a stream to discuss their experience scaling fiasco.

The direction we’re going with video games regarding gambling is a two-bladed sword at best. One one hand, the industry has taken advantage of the weaker section of the their consumer base. Those who can’t handle themselves yet or understand the monetary values they’re putting into microtransactions and loo boxes have had it easy. Perhaps making payments has been streamlined a bit too much, with reports of kids spending thousands of dollars of their parents money being less than uncommon. While it is up to the parents to oversee their children, we should also look into the design of things.

On the flip side, more governmental control over any industry does lead to over-control easier. Furthermore, actual virtual gambling games may suffer from this for being put into a same slot, if legislation is not accurate enough in its description, or includes simulated gambling that does not include real life money. While mahjong simulations have rarely, if ever, managed to reach Western shores, games may seem these simulated gambling elements removed in favour of lower age ratings, or in worst cases, of they somehow become completely unacceptable. It also makes it so much more easier to put further restrictions on other aspects of games even further regarding whatever, be it violence or depictions of humans. German rules are already harsh, and it would be discouraging to see any similar legislation spreading about.

It’s a thin line the game industry is threading on, but as they say, The greedy has a shitty end.

 

Review of the Month; original Xbox Controller

The original Xbox controller is infamous for being on the large side. It was originally named the Fatty or Fatso, it later got nicknamed more favourably as The Duke. I had my chance to test it when Xbox originally came out, but never after that. The Xbox Controller S, nicknamed as Akebono, was designed for the Japanese iteration of the console and later was adopted worldwide as the new standard, for few damn good reasons. That said, this review is written from standard sized hand perspective.

Well shit, there goes the center symbol

Continue reading “Review of the Month; original Xbox Controller”

Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY

May’s one of those characters that were there from the beginning. Not really sure how to describe her but as the Dan of Guilty Gear, where she puts the joke where others are dead serious, except she’s actually viable character to use.

Some say May’s design hasn’t really changed. It’s true that her overall silhouette hasn’t changed, but the design of her costume went through rather significant design overhaul when Xrd hit around. It’s not a total change of outfit, but it is the little bits a total sum is build upon. She’s a pirate, and that’s what her design reflects. There isn’t too much anything deeper to it, though her name, May, is probably an allusion to Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen.

X, Isuka and Xrd

While the above omits original and XX‘s designs, May’s one of those characters that didn’t exactly change during the Midnight Carnival haydays. Interestingly, she has few takes in the original, with slight tweaks to her design, one of which is probably an earlier picture that got used.

The two above May’s are different in tones and details. While the one of the left has two clips on both sides of her front flat, the right one does not. The skull on her hat doesn’t have a nose on the left one either. The belt is also shorter, as we can see it flapping much freer on the right one. It also lacks the metal end cap on the right card. This is the level of things we’re talking about when it comes to May’s details, but if you’ve read any of my previous comparisons, you know this is par for the course.

From head to toes, here we go.

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY”

More first-party Microsoft titles in the horizon

Why do people buy game consoles? To play games that are on them, there is very little reason to buy a console in themselves. Each company who puts out a console needs to have a library of games to waver the customers’ decision towards their product. The only way is to offer a product that the competition does not. The very core reason why Nintendo’s consoles sell is that people wish to consume Nintendo’s games. If games are not up to the task, the consoles won’t sell well. The opposite also applies.

What first party titles can you name from either Microsoft or Sony for their consoles? To many, they can name titles either company has published, like Halo or Gears of War, with Sony having Ape Escape and Gravity Rush listed. However, Microsoft mainly utilises second or third-party studios to develop their titles they have either exclusive deals with or employ to develop a game for them. Rather than having their own in-house development, Microsoft has numerous studios under their belt; Turn 10, Rare, the closed Lionhead Studios and such. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary, as both Nintendo and Sony have similar ownerships as well, but one never really could say that Halo was a Microsoft game like we can say Super Mario is a Nintendo game.

Whatever the relationship happens to be with the developer and with the people who pays them, be it an in-house team or an employed outside studio, the core intention in the end is to produce a game that you won’t have on another platform. The third-party houses can do whatever they want, to certain degrees, but the games the console manufacturer puts out have to be great. This is due to how much weight the first-party has, in the end. If they can’t build an initial user base well enough, third-party will join the platform much later, only with ports, or in some cases not at all. While it is the first-party’s job to deliver impacting titles to open the market, initial ports can be a third-party’s way to test the waters a bit before taking the full dive. It is, of course, cheap to take an existing product and shove it unto another platform nowadays, seeing you don’t have to build the port from scratch.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer intends to move Microsoft’s Xbox plans towards games. Games have never been Microsoft’s main front, despite the what the article wants to imply, though their emphasize when it comes to gaming used to reside on the computer market. There is where Microsoft used to shine like no other, but with the advent of the original Xbox, it fell to the wayside. If Microsoft had emphasized their computer gaming divisions like they did in the 90’s, Steam probably would not have taken root in exactly the same way it did.

This is why it is proper for Microsoft to utilise outside studios they may or may not own for their library of games. Microsoft, as it stands as an individual company, should always give emphasize to the operating system market and whatever needs personal computers may have nowadays. Perhaps spinning Xbox to its own company with practical in-house ties to the parent company should be considered, but this won’t ever happen for practical and political reasons.

What is true, however, is that Sony outsells Microsoft on the console game market. The only things that have any proper saying on this are the games. Microsoft only demerits their console if they continue to port their games to Windows, though in the end Microsoft is the company that would get the money from both ends. However, this line of thought doesn’t help when it comes to Xbox. While both Microsoft and Sony enjoy a rather healthy amount of third-party titles on their systems to the point of those games being the main reason to purchase their consoles rather than the first party ones. Sony has, for example, the Ryu ga Gotoku/ Yakuza series going on for them, and while the series has always been a bit niche, it has found its audience and has managed to expand its fanbase with constant releases. However, much like other Sony-only titles, e.g. most of Senran Kagura, Yakuza is a very Japanese game series that certain fringe groups find distasteful.

Microsoft also is expanding on software and services, whatever that ultimately means for Xbox brand. If Spencer is right about Microsoft probably rolling out a streaming service that doesn’t require the console, then there might be something working against Xbox as a console in the background. Perhaps not directly or even intentionally, but common logic would state that bot putting all your eggs in one basked it the best way to go. This doesn’t apply if you want to have a product like a game console survive on the market. It requires putting effort into it with almost all-or-nothing attitude and making it as unique in software library as possible. Look at Nintendo for a good example; it may not be an electronics company that makes the most money, but it is also pretty much the top company when it comes to making money on games and consoles alone. The mindset is completely different, you can’t have a dry rut too often.

The sort of services and software outside gaming Microsoft develops in the near future will have some impact on Xbox as a brand. While emphasising games has been in need for a long time now, it’s better later than never. There would also be some need to rework Xbox’s image, if we’re completely frank, as outside the US its image is rather redneck-y at places. The best place to show the brand’s lower quality is in Japan, and how little success it has there. Perhaps what Microsoft should do with this would be to customise the brand to an extent. The NES and SNES would be a good example what I’m after with this. You can’t really help with the American kusoge image though, that can only be done with getting more Japanese developers getting on-board and making games for Japanese to consume on Xbox. Of course, other realities then come into play, like how Japanese don’t really play home consoles like they used to, with portable consoles taking the top spots most of the time.

Still, if Spencer’s plans to make Xbox more game emphasised that before, that’d be great.