Complexity and difficulty do not deter sales

Continuing from last week’s ex tempore Guilty Gear post, the concept of making something more accessible in video games should be looked at a bit closer. The myth is very clear cut; make a game’s play less demanding in order to attract consumers. For long running franchises, there already exists an installed consumer base, changing a series’ latest entry to be less whole than its predecessor usually isn’t met with the most positive reception. Fighting games are interesting in this regard, because they exhibit series-within-series mentality. All five mainline Street Fighter games series have their own unique approach to the core mechanics introduced in Street Fighter. Street Fighter II expanded on the cast and introduced combos by accident. Later Street Fighter II games would introduce speed modification, new input methods and the industry standard Super moves. Street Fighter III revamped the whole pace of the game and made Parrying an essential part of the game. Third Strike landed Ex Moves into the series, which have become more or less franchise standard. Street Fighter IV modified Super concept a bit more with Revenge Gauge as well as introducing Focus Attacks and Red Focus Attack would be introduced later. Street Fighter V is a platform for each and every update for the game. This sort of tweaking applies to Guilty Gear as well, where most of the sub-titled game outside the first game have iterative versions. X has X+, XX has its fair share of update to the point of some arguing Accent Core should be considered a sub-series on its own rights. Xrd of course had Sign first before Revelator, and then Rev.2 came around. With New Guilty Gear, we should expect them to take a step back toward the original game, as that’s the standard procedure with both Capcom and ArcSys, and build up from there. However, every time a developer announced they want their game to attract new customers, or that they want certain customer crowd, red flags are raised. However, not for the reason you’d think.

Games have always been complex and stupidly hard. Dark Souls is not any exception to the rule, but it the series is perhaps the best example of a game that mainstream has taken under its wing despite it being brutally difficult, requiring relatively high execution due to its relatively complex mechanics. Dark Souls is just modern equivalent of the NES era Castlevania anyhow. Both are based on Western horror and both are deemed brutally hard games. Both are very successful franchises. The NES era is very good example of games becoming more complex and the same time gaining more popularity and seeing increase sales. Castlevania is of course example of this, but so would Super Mario Bros. By modern standards the first game is archaic, extremely basic. When it first rolled out, it was one of the most technologically advanced game on consoles, the game to define cartridge games before Nintendo rolled out Disk System. We know how that went down. Super Mario Bros. 2 made more characters available with different properties, much longer stages with numerous tricks to them, and more demanding game overall. It may not be Lost Levels, but Lost Levels is just an update for the first game with new enemies and no mechanical changes. Super Mario Bros. 3 on the other hand wiped the slate clean with more demanding stages, more complexity with flying, more mechanics to play with new suits and options, stage gimmicks and so on. If complexity and difficulty would deter the customer, none of these aforementioned series would’ve been successful.

Modern video and computer game developers should look at the arcades’ success to learn a thing or two. Arcade games were often butt puckeringly difficult in order to make their earnings, but with that they also were required to deliver excellent burst of gameplay. Cabinets that didn’t were quickly empty, with customers slotting their quarters into something more worthwhile. The games needed to attract the customers first, and that’s why the cabinet design had to be excellent, eye-catching and sometimes extremely wild. The attract mode was integral to this, which either was pretty damn good or rather terrible. There was no real in-between. The standard was to start with some sort of video sequence that sets up the setting for the game, showcasing some of the characters before the title screen hits, often with a bang. After that it would move to gameplay, which would be either AI playing the game either via game’s own instructions or prerecorded inputs, or just have the player character being dumb and taking hits before dying. Show some scores from other players, maybe splash the title screen once more than then loop the whole thing, until a player throws a coin in. Later in the 1990’s, these attract modes would find themselves very sophisticated, like how Choukou Senki Kikaioh presented itself as an opening animation for a Saturday morning cartoon.

I’d also recommend checking out Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade gamesattract modes.

Presentation is all-important with games still. That is the first thing the consumer will see, from advertisement to in-game graphics. Graphical fidelity in itself is not as important as how those graphics are represented. ArcSys has always been able to pull this off, devising visual flavour that pulls in the audience. The main reason original Guilty Gear is a footnote in the series, and in fighting game history overall, is that it was just another game among others in a time when 2D fighting games were pushed away in favour of 3D. It didn’t make its mark because of being difficult or too complex, Tekken had more on it than Guilty Gear. Third Strike: Street Fighter III hit the scene years later, and you can guess which one of the two are is more complex and more played nowadays. Of course, SFIII wasn’t exactly a mass hit during that time either, but that was the era when arcades were dying. That, and SFIII a totally new cast that rubbed SFII fans the wrong way. Very few companies would be willing to completely replace their game’s cast nowadays, though SFIII‘s unique cast has been accepted retroactively as worthy successors and the initial reaction is seen rather overly drastic. Visuals is what the player will be looking at all the time, and if they’re up to par in terms of design and sheer quality of ’em, the game has to pull double duty on making the entry worthwhile.

That is only the start though, an ever-important one. Once you’ve gotten the customer’s attention, the best way is to engage the him to full possible extent with well designed and coded play. The answer to rope in new players is not in making game easier to play, that is the wrong way to make a game more accessible. Easy to learn, hard to master is the mantra of every great game out there, not just electronic. The best card games are easy to understand and learn, but stupidly hard to master due to other elements. Poker, for example, is simple enough to teach to a three-years old, but everything else calculating odds to reading other players takes time and effort. This isn’t an argument for people to get good at a game, but rather that by allowing the player to naturally learn what does what should be the priority rather than automate things. Automation and cutscenes take away control from the player, and though it helps early on and may give a cinematic effect, it should always be an option to remove automation once the player has learned enough. Autocombos as an element try to alleviate the execution barrier in fighting games, and while they do work as a first step helper, it should always be optional and the game should make an effort to encourage the player to abandon it rather than give them a safe tool they can roll with all the time. Its not a rare mindset to use the tool that’s the easiest and safest because it just works. Repeat it again and again until desired result is gained. The incentive of more damage with better combos doesn’t really sound appealing to general player if such tool exists.

Give a controller to a complete newcomer to fighting games and tell them what the buttons do, and then do things. They’ll be in complete awe what’s going on. There has been much discussion on mechanic complexity, but less so about inputs. Sure, methods of inputs is a big topic, pad vs stick and so on, but less so if there are too many single inputs. What I mean by this that, for example, Street Fighter has six buttons. Three for punches, three for kicks. King of Fighters has four, two punches and two kicks. Tekken has four, one for each limb. Melty Blood runs four as well, but with three attacks and a special. Virtua Fighter has three; punch, kick, guard. Which one of these would you say would make a newcomer most confident? Then consider which of these franchises has seen most revenue. Number of inputs is related to complex execution. More ways to input stuff, the more motor skills are required. Add the mechanics to this, and it becomes easy to see why some would argue lessening complexity is the way to go. Nothing keeps you from using all the buttons on the controller, but at the same time nothing says you should. All that said, the core fighting game design with the system starts with how many buttons there are. It might look intimidating to a complete novice who has never played a game, but this is something no game can really deal with. A player must start somewhere to work over the complex controllers, but a well designed game wins the player over with good design.

Not even kidding. Back when I was studying psychology and used games to run experiments, few of them were so completely bewildered by a SNES controller they might as well have used this

However, this design is hard to implement into a fighting game. The reason for this is that fighting games are pure one-screen games. There are no stages that the developer could design around for the player to intuitively learn controls and mechanics, like they can with Super Mario Bros. There are no attract modes anymore to show how the game flows. All you really can do is hit the Training mode and hope for the best. With the Internet, this shouldn’t be the case anymore. People learned how to play Street Fighter II by being there in the arcades, playing games with others and tradings tips and tricks. That wholesome interaction may be gone now, but online play could help. Have people play few matches against the CPU to measure how good they are and then throw them into online matches with equally ranked opponents. This doesn’t seem to be happening though. Often what seems to happen is that you just keep losing to people online and have to learn about things before you can match others.

The thing is that this happens with everything. You don’t get good at reading before you learn the alphabets and how language works. You don’t learn to drive right away. You don’t learn to draw a straight line until you’ve done it thousands of times. Playing soccer takes ages to get good. Building and painting model kits takes years to learn. Even something like Pokémon Go demands you to drag your ass out there to spin those stops and join the raids for the best Legendaries out there. This is not an issue of getting good at a game, though it does bloody sound like it. The issue is of genre. Fighting games, despite being one of the most readily accessible genre out there, is all about having that crazy shit happen on screen, but as always it should be the crazy shit the player is doing, not the game. Games are about user action, and the less user action there is, the less play a game has. While this post largely equates play with mechanics, the two are inseparable aspects. Fighting games are interesting in that everything is laid out right away in terms of mechanics and they’re easy to do. Making use of them, that’s something that can only come from repeated play. Call it a detriment of the genre or whatever else, but you can only really prepare for a match in a fighting game is to play the game. With RPGs you can get your noggin jogging and consider things in terms of elemental weaknesses and the like. While you can use this in fighting games with rock-paper-scissors elements, timing them right still takes some experience. With a game like Final Fantasy, the issue of getting good at the game is in understanding the mechanics, not really being able to execute them with some motor skill fidelity. Lowering the mechanics skill ceiling might sound attractive, yet it will lead with into more experienced players dominating over newcomers that much more. While Darkstalkers 3 is technically and mechanically very demanding game, it is an example of a game where you medium skill players are very rare. You’ll either be in less skilled floor, or someone who has spend years with the game and have broken through the ceiling. There really is no middle ground, and that probably will be the end result if a fighting game series decides to downgrade its play mechanics.

Holding on to your current consumer base is easier than making a new one. While as a creator it may seem dreadful to tweak an existing formula again and again, that is partially expected from a sequel. Street Fighter does break this mentality, but only if you go by number-by-number rather than iteration-by-iteration. Consumers expect a new numbered Street Fighter to mix things to some extend outside its core basics, but this is not the case with Guilty Gear. XX and Xrd set the expectation that while system tweaks and additions are to be expected, no major or drastic approach would be done in of themselves. The brand expectation for Guilty Gear is what it is, a high-speed fighting game with expansive and complex mechanics that support offensive play the most. Things like Burst, Instant Kills, Gatling Combos, Dust Attacks and the sheer way the games have played have become more or less as part of the core expectations because ArcSys has never given the series a significant system change after GGX. New Guilty Gear will most likely aim to cater with these ideas, but it as a game will have brand confusion. There have been different Guilty Gear experiences before, as Ishiwatari put it, with all the spin-off titles. It would serve the franchise better if the core fighting game line would continue as per standard, catering to both Red Ocean and shallow Blue Ocean customers, all the while the franchise would see a new spin-off that would give it a completely new spin. There is more room for Guilty Gear titles that do something different with the same core basics. From business perspective, you’d keep the interest of your current consumers with a new sub-title to the series all the while still catering to them with the core series, but also attracting newcomers with something they could get into.

Guilty Gear 2 is still a thing, and it changed the genre. ArcSys could do more things like this

It still bogs down to the content, not mechanics’ complexity. You have to have something to nab to consumer in with presentation, you have to have good play to keep the player interested and entertained so he is willing to spend more time, and what he spends his time on is content. When the player consumes a game’s content, he naturally learns the ropes. However, if the content is lacking doesn’t keep interest high. This is why Street Fighter V is a weird case study, as it discarded the idea of iteration in favour of constant content updates. Content for a fighting game would be characters and the various modes, though the main mean would always be the fighting itself. Xrd‘s movie story mode is an excellent example of utterly trash content for a game, whereas previous entries’ multiple paths storymode based on matches and player decisions in those matches is a great example. It keeps the player more engaged, and it gives him motivation to keep playing in order to see all the characters’ story paths. For 25 characters that would mean 50 different endings to unlock. Good online keeps all players along the ride too for some time, but there needs to be content. Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite failed at presentation the very moment trailers hit the scene. The mechanics were great and gameplay had autocombos too, but there was no content people were looking for. On the opposite, Marvel VS Capcom 3 had more complex controls than its predecessor, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, but obviously had more content that interested general audiences more outside Japan. It should not surprise that it saw more play by all and higher sales.

Video games are stupidly large entertainment industry now, but the true and tested way to expand to the Blue Ocean market still applies; disrupt the market with a new quality product that hits the current paradigm. A revamped Guilty Gear might be this product for sure, but only if it truly is able to pull off everything right. In other words, it would need to be the same kind of title as Street Fighter II was to previous fighting games. Its branding alone drags it down. It would serve ArcSys better if they’d launch a new, high-caliber series with the same energy, with the same effort and the same enthusiasm. They are playing with a marketing grenade in their hands at the moment. ArcSys could pull it off, but chances are consumer expectations are against them harder than Ishiwatari thinks.

New Guilty Gear and the expanded audience

Remember last year when I wrote a post about how complex mechanics were the appeal of Guilty Gear? Can’t really blame you, neither did the co-author on this site. With the that teaser trailer making some big hits and getting an overall positive reception, the fact is that it shows jack shit worth anything. We don’t really see anything outside few interesting tidbits like stage hazard transition. The teaser trailer, in itself, is nothing but proof of concept teaser, showcasing new designs, probable system additions and tweaks and such. As always, these things never represent the final product and getting your ass hyped doesn’t serve anyone. But hey, if you did get hyped and felt pumped, even a little bit, that’s the emotional connection with the brand working for you.

However, now we do have some information going on, and combining that information with the presentation of the teaser, we can pretty much say that Ishiwatari continues with his long lasting intentions to expand audience. In 2011 Ishiwatari, the man running the franchise, mentioned that Guilty Gear has become too hardcore for some people. Some people meaning to people who weren’t playing it. The people who weren’t the core audience or into fighting games overall. That the fans of the series are too old to pay games anymore. Ishiwatari has a history is misunderstanding his own franchise and its consumer base, with almost every iteration since Accent Core Plus getting first bad rap from the fans. Xrd was heavily criticised for dumbing down things. Timing became looser, Blitz Shield was added, something I’ve honestly never seen people use outside accidents and very few special cases and so forth. 3D seems to have the effect that the game plays slower, the same thing happened with King of Fighters XIV getting the same rap despite having the same game and movement speed. There’s something about 3D that just makes things look a bit dumb. 2D sprites snapping into animation looks natural, but 3D is expected to be smooth. I guess Ishiwatari agreed with New Guilty Gear and opted to use terrible motion smoothening effects to accentuate the action.

Also note in that 2011 article how Toshimichi Mori, the designer of BlazBlue, criticises Street Fighter IV 3DS Edition for implementing touch-screen special moves, and now autocombos and easy moves have genre standard for the worse.

I want to quote Ishiwatari from 2018 regarding his intentions on the next Guilty Gear right after Dragon Ball FighterZ was thrown out; “One thing that we have to do in the next installment is to reduce the number of systems [mechanics]; it’s too complicated for everyone. You can expect that in the next game.” New Guilty Gear won’t be just a new Guilty Gear entry. If ArcSys and Ishiwatari had the intentions of keeping Guilty Gear rolling like it previously has, we’d know the full title of the game now. Back when GGXrd -SIGN- was announced in 2013, the trailer didn’t back off from showing the full title. Now, what we get is subpar quality and no full title. We know that this game has been in development for some time in different stages, and what we were shown is more or less the first results of ArcSys tweaking the formula. However, with Ishiwatari saying that New Guilty Gear will be about breaking the series’ into its core elements, to the pieces that make the franchise unique. Complexity, timing, high execution with equally high risk-and-reward with forced focus on offensive gameplay even with characters designed with defensive move sets. Fun fact; ArcSys already had a brand new Guilty Gear experience with Guilty Gear 2 and that pachislot game, both of which were rather mediocre. Isuka counts too, I’d say.

All that said, New Guilty Gear is probably going to be what Xrd already moved towards, what Dragon Ball FighterZ ended up being, and what Ishiwatari has been talking about almost a decade now; a nerfed fighting game, or as some people like to call it, a spectacle fighter. A fighting game that is more concerned about the cool look and effects outside the game’s core play. Stage transitions are these in effect. Sure, its nice to see things like that, but the question is at what cost. Ky’s hair falling open and music changing to Holy Orders III, that’s attention to detail, that’s flavour and flash. A spectacle is what modern games do all the time with Super moves, with long stop-time, zoom in, effects, move, then reset and with time it has gotten worse and worse. A spectacle is when the game’s core design is intended to show cool shit from the get go and hype you up, but is all about doing that rather than giving you tools to reach do those yourself. Street Fighter V gave Ryu an easy parry that everyone could do Daigo Parry themselves stupidly easily for the sake to replicate that moment. Dragon Ball FighterZ is all about the spectacle, and the game suffers from every single way. A spectacle fighter demands the game’s systems to be nerfed in order to favour all the showy bits.

Fighting game accessibility is a modern myth. You can not expand audience by taking two decades worth of game genre evolution to the trash. Modern fighting games have taken direction of lessening mechanics and taking player options out. You have to think and worry about things less and less. This does not work and has never worked. No fighting game in the genre’s history has managed to expand its audience through nerfing it down. All it leads to is the long-time players having easier time against new players, which causes the exact opposite effect, and the old players will end up calling the company out for intentionally failing to deliver a high-caliber game. For years now Ishiwatari has been saying negative things about Guilty Gear the long-time fans have loved. The complex mechanics are not, have never been, a problem with new players. Funny enough, mechanics are not a seller either. Look at the latest Smash Bros. and how it changed its mechanics toward more competitive nature. What made it sell like hotcakes was that it had every single character in the game and the most stages in a fighting game ever. Want a reverse example? Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite had excellent mechanics in the end, probably one of the best entries in the series, but its presentation was absolutely dogshit and its roster was woefully lacking. Its content was against consumer expectations and wants.

Was I wrong then to claim that complex mechanics are the appeal of Guilty Gear and that its the spectacle that sells? Consider the above, Guilty Gear is extremely appealing to people who have been playing fighting games for a long time, people who understand what the hell is going on and how to understand the play. Guilty Gear made its mark during an era when Capcom ceased producing fighting games, SNK was in the rut and there was effectively no competitors. It was a niche franchise still, because nobody knew who Sol Badguy or why there was a nun fighting with a yo-yo. Xrd’s main impact came from its legacy and core fans, but also because its presentation, music and the whole presentation won general audience over. When you play a Guilty Gear title, those complex mechanics come together in a very satisfying manner. It feels good to pull off a simple Gatling Combo, it feels great to run and dash, it feels good to Burst your opponent properly, it feel good to Dust somebody in the air and do a combo, it feels good to Roman Cancel to reset a combo and its absolutely great to use all the mechanics and options you have there. Content, presentation and complex mechanics that make the game feel great are ingredients for a great fighting game. The new Samurai Showdown is a great example of this; a game with absolutely pristine presentation, a great cast of characters and yet the mechanics are hardcore 1990’s high-octane adrenaline pumping complex that extremely satisfying. You just have to let the player to do all that themselves, the end goal that the mechanics serve. Not give automated options, not nerf how the game plays. Xbox One may not have many games to attract consumers per se, but Killer Instinct absolutely nailed how to make the initial entry easy and fun, and everything after was all about having absolute blast, the hype the game’s play causes. You won’t win audience over if the mechanics don’t allow all that, if it is just the same thing over and over, like with Street Fighter V. SFV is an eSport title, and how it looks, the spectacle it gives, ultimately drove it more than making it a great fighting game.

If I’m right in assessing the history of ArcSys’ developments and Ishiwatari’s statements and attitudes, New Guilty Gear will be more like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy: Versus rather than Guilty Gear XX. Rein the hype, wait and see what happens.To tell you my honest to God thoughts, Guilty Gear never came back with Xrd. What we have been playing since 2013 has been a facsimile of Guilty Gear. God this post probably reads like an incoherent ramble.

Guilty Gear Design comparisons; Millia Rage

One of the cast members of the first Guilty Gear, Millia Rage has been a fan favourite and a mainstay in the series for her fast, close-combat mechanics with few options for ranged attacks. In this way, she’s similar to Jam, but does not need to rely on wall bouncing and card stocking for high damage. Her most prominent design feature is Forbidden Beast Angra, her hair, which takes all sorts of forms as she attacks. Millia is named after the band Meliah Rage, and the hair probably comes from their constant use of skeleton of Meliah tribe member with the iconic Indian chief headdress. However, her most prominent and famous musical reference is her Instant Kill, Iron Maiden. She’s essentially a rock and metal band reference package, Winger, Emerald Rain, and even Angra are all band names. Millia may be easy to handle, but just like her namesakes, she hits hard.

With the intro out of the way, let’s get on the design business.

Xrd, Original, X and XX designs

Continue reading “Guilty Gear Design comparisons; Millia Rage”

Complexity is the appeal of Guilty Gear

In a recent interview, ArcSys’ Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori were discussing the company’s different fighting games and what they’ve learned from them. What they see is that the less complex and easier to master mechanics of their two other big titles, Dragon Ball Fighters Z and BlazBlue, are selling more than Guilty Gear, and the next title will have less complex mechanics. Because, y’know, everyone is supposedly having hard time with them and everything.

Which isn’t the case.

Guilty Gear as a series found its place with the X and XX titles, something Ishawatari has historically being rather against, first trying to remove these games from his beloved story with Guilty Gear 2 Overture and then reinstating them back as side-stories due to fanbacklash. Let’s not forget him telling the fans that they’re too old for games, essentially doing a Shattner bit where he told Trekkies to get a life. Considering how BlazBlue helped him to regain Guilty Gear‘s license and was considered the fighting game franchise during the time when Capcom’s fighters were absent, Ishiwatari & co. really should reconsider their approach to the series if their first realisation is downgrading the game.

This lesson of theirs isn’t anything spectacularly special, both Mori and Ishiwatari have grown into businessmen first and businessmen tend to be reactionaries instead of trailblazers. They see certain kind of aspects selling well, wagering their bets and materials, and then changing existing products with an aim to cater for larger audiences. After all, once you’ve achieved a popularity within a niche, it’s much easier to expand outwards. The niche’s positive view on a product often travels outside this smaller section, and can catch on if the marketing and product meet with larger audience’s expectations.

The main problem with Guilty Gear being that the genre it is in itself has always been in the middle of being popular with the masses and being within a niche. As a franchise, Guilty Gear has a prestige spot of being recognised as damn good by most consumers into the genre and gained a small pop-culture status by the mid-2000’s.

In short, Guilty Gear as a franchise is a deluxe product. As a game it’s easy to get into despite its complex mechanics, but in the end they are hard to master. It may have generally lower consumer base as BlazBlue, which took GG‘s spot during its absence, yet neither series will never reach the popularity of Dragon Ball Fighters Z due to sheer amount of Dragon Ball fans out there.

Being a deluxe product with a limited consumer base isn’t anything bad, especially if the general view towards the product is highly regarded. ArcSys did a great job at building one of the best tutorial modes in fighting game history, but they can’t force consumers to get into said game. As mentioned, Guilty Gear‘s appeal is in its complexity, which really has been overstated. The sheer amount of options and unique methods to realize those options per character is rather unpresented in other fighting games, and by that extension does take a bit more time to learn. That goes for every fighting game, really. Games are, after all, all about learning the rules and trying to become the best you can. It has always been counter-intuitive for gaming for the games to hand-hold the player through them, as that’s essentially removing playing from the game. Some people just don’t want to play, they just want to spectate or walk around a house in search for a diary.

ArcSys would be doing damage to the franchise if they began to move against its established fame and history. Guilty Gear‘s complexity is not damaging the franchise, but as a businessman would rationalise it, it’s not for everyone. Naturally, the answer is to lessen those systems to make appeal the wider audience. Ishiwatari claims that it’s a difficult issue to balance with the controls and trying reduce the systems in the game, but in reality it isn’t. Keep Xrd as a series as it is, there’s no reason to muck around it. If they want capitalise on Guilty Gear while still appealing to the general audience, ArcSys should consider creating a sub-series. They actually have one they could re-use all the while poking fun at the fans and the franchise as a whole in good faith. Guilty Gear Petit is a thing.


You might want to turn the volume down, WonderSwan’s sound is rather spartan. The game looks better on a real screen, believe it or not

ArcSys won’t give two cents about this idea, because it is much easier just to recycle everything they have now rather than plan a new, more wider audience friendly entry in the franchise. Of course, a game like this would be considered a toned-down, dumbed down second rate entry by some, and because of this it would require a solid, well thought approach to make it competent. This being ArcSys, this will never happen in a million years, they’ll make more money on releasing most characters as DLC and concentrating on milking whatever they have left for now.

It’s a good idea to expand a company’s market, sure. However, it’s not a good idea to do this at the expense of your product. The market where most fighting games are, and all but one ArcSys games are in, is in the Red Ocean. You can’t expect to expand within this limited area, you’ll end up cannilibizing. The best option often is to offer more alternatives. A Metroid to Mario and Zelda, all three sharing different sections of the overall market, all offering different play. Expansion means you need to expand the lineup as well and maintain it, not take an existing piece and mangle it up for general markets that were not interested in it in the first place. Keeping your current consumers market is easier than trying to appeal to a new one, especially if you’re using the same damn product, just not even trying to keep it the same anymore.

20 out of 40

Sometimes I just have to sit down and look at my game library and think how many of these games I can play as they are without bothering with online connectivity, updating or needing to consider whether or not I want a character to have a five dollar add-on to power up. Most of my games are complete packages, sold as they were finished. No product is ever truly finished, there are always things that should be tweaked, fixed, added or so on. Perhaps it betrays my stance on how games should be sold as (or rather, anything) where options can be bolted on, but are not necessary as such.

A discussion with a younger friend noted that this line of thought is exactly what I should consider DLC as. The core software is purchased, and it can be enjoyed as is. If I want to get the nice bells and whistles, then I can throw some money at it to add those optional components on. Otherwise, I can always just ignore the content and concentrate on enjoying what is on the table in front of me.

I had to argue against this, of course. While my comparison did turn against me, I had to note to him that modern DLC is not just about trinkets that would serve as optional, like costumes in Dead or Alive  games or Oblivion‘s horse armour. No, modern DLC has changed from being additional content to the game and have become more like expansion packs that exist from the get-go. Even that comparison is rather weak, as expansion packs were new content that added to the game rather than being designed to be part of the main package. It’s like if you would need to buy Red Alert: Aftermath to gain access to the units and maps in the game proper. Or as it was in case of Mass Effect 3, the game’s real ending was part of DLC.

While it is true that the production costs have risen in the game industry, they have not risen the way the big names overall want to paint it as. It has been largely chosen by these developers to push technological and graphical elements to the limits while employing celebrities and writers to work on their games. This is weird, considering games with less emphasize on these things tend to succeed just as well, if not better in some cases. Look at the latest Super Mario game and consider its resource expends compared to whatever was EA’s latest big Tripple A title. While graphics do make an impact on the sales, the industry forgets that this is an element of computer game culture, much less part of console gaming, where visual design over graphical fidelity matters more.

Perhaps thanks to Capcom, fighting  games and their DLC are not in favourable light, overall. With Street Fighter X Tekken, all the DLC characters were found on-disc, and the purchase was just to unlock them from disc. Calling this DLC was a stretch at best. Similarly, Marvel VS Capcom Infinity had all of its most interesting cast members in the DLC section as well most work put into them. It didn’t help that these characters were present in the game otherwise, telling that pretty much the same deal had happened. Street Fighter V was made to be a platform that Capcom tweaked and expanded upon with Seasons, and they dropped new characters unto it as time went by. Maybe this was a way to keep the players interested on the long term without releasing a completely new title, but it hurt the sales quite a lot. It didn’t help that SFV wasn’t received all that well on the game play department either, which really just made people to wait Capcom to release further versions of the game, like they all always do. Well, Arcade Edition is coming out, but still has the seasonal bullshit welded to it,

Arc Systems Works have been more transparent with their practices to a point, where they’ve recently announced intentions to make additional characters for Dragon Ball Fighters Z DLC, as well as adding DLC characters into BlazBlue‘s and Guilty Gear Xrd‘s later iterations, making it largely unnecessary to purchase them, if you’re willing to wait.

However, ArcSys has dropped the ball with BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, as they announced that half of the cast will be DLC. 20 characters out of 40 will be treated as additional content for you to download. Sure, buy the collector’s box the get download code for All-in-One pack, but if you’re a lowly peasant, be prepared to dish out the dough for twenty characters if you want a complete package. I am using the term “complete” here as it is clear that everything’s planned beforehand and intended as the core package. Certainly it is cheaper and easier to develop DLC as the game’s proper development goes toward the end, which betrays the mentality in which game development nowadays aims to maximise profits at the expense of the consumer. It’s like buying a chicken sandwich, and then hearing that the second half of the chicken needs to be purchased separately, though it is cut from the same piece of meat.

Despite the transparency, this sort of approach really drains the juices. There are consumers who have already stated that they will skip the Dragon Ball Fighters Z just to wait its second version, which will fix bugs, make balance better, add new characters and moves, because that’s how things seem to work. I am glad to see that no other fighting game has gone Street Fighter V‘s platform approach, where you purchase a very weak base, unto which everything else needs to buy bought for. Though free versions of full price games with limited characters and content have been a thing with DoA and Tekken.

The big question is, especially with fighting games, at which point we will cease from seeing complete, fully realised releases in favour of each element being sold as a separate, “optional” addition. At that point, we’re probably pretty screwed, and so would be the industry.

Music of the Month; Radio Allergy

Welcome to 2018. I hope you’ll have fun. All things considered, last year wasn’t all that bad.

Looking down the year, and how I failed miserably to keep up a theme during last twelve months, I won’t be doing a monthly themed posts for now. Partially because single posts seem to do so much better when they’re not tied to anything. However, the usual stuff will return in more or less the same shape; Muv-Luv‘s TSF comparisons I’ve yet to cover (there are still few of them on the table), Guilty Gear character design comparisons (those always seem to do rather well) and the occasional mecha design thing, which will have no running theme or the like. Unless someone just pops in and gives me twelve points per theme to talk about. These aren’t New Year’s resolutions, I made none this year, but these are something you can look forwards.

However, looking at the reviews I’ve done, with some feedback from a poll I did a month back or so, it would seem that there is some demand for game reviews. However, these won’t be taking any precedence over other stuff (I still aim to do weird peripheral or other reviews if I can),  but I will review the more esoteric titles that may not see Western releases, like the upcoming A Certain Magical Virtual On. I actually got into the A Certain Magical Index/ Scientific Railgun series because of this upcoming Virtual On crossover, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised on its quality. I had a chance to try and observe how I went from not giving a single damn about the license to actively looking forward how things get combined. That’s a post on its own.

You may have noticed that the Top 5 of 2017 was filled with modern games as opposed to NES or SNES games, and I kinda expect this sort of trend to continue, at least for the first half of the year. There are numerous games coming out this year that I am interested in, and that new VO title really is the one I’m looking for the most. It should give me some material to discuss the differences in the series overall, as I aim to gain the PS2 SEGA Ages release of the first game as well as Virtual On Force. I guess that’s a series of posts on itself, and now that I think about it, I should start writing this series this month, so I can write about A Certain Magical Virtual On right after Oratorio Tangram, as that seems to be the most popular and well-known title in the series. Marz is pretty terrible, but just how terrible? Well, we’ll see.

Which leads to something I’ve been considering doing for a while now; moving slightly away from the writer persona while doing these posts and aiming to do few more personal things… like what I just said about the A Certain X series. That is not to say it’s being abandoned, but long time readers know how I’ve lamented the fact that me and the writer persona have become more or less the same thing. I probably will add a new tag to denote which post has been written from which point of view, but they should be clear. For example, if I were to write how hardback books are superior to paperbacks, that’s a completely subjective view and lacks the writer persona’s view. Whether or not this will cause the quality of the blog drop is another thing entirely, but it’s not like this blog has high standards to begin with, right? Not that these would become the main thing on the blog. Knowing me, I won’t even go through with this at all, but at least its out there.

As for the Digimon design evolution post that was supposed to come up last year, A9Doc hasn’t gotten around finishing it yet, probably due to sheer amount of examples and other stuff that he needs to go over and double-check. I should do one of these as well at some point, the subject is what I should decide on. The Metal Gear  posts are a great example of this sort of thing, so something similar that has a single running object being updated would be great. Something like the design evolution of Pikachu, if it wasn’t something bigger fans have already covered.

As for Muv-Luv, well, there really isn’t anything to go by. With ixtl taking charge of the Kickstarter, backers and fans can only cross their fingers and hope that nothing gets screwed up. I haven’t found enough good sources to comment on whether or not avex pictures acquiring ixtl/âge will be a good thing on the long run, but I’d argue we’ve already seen large shifts within ixtl, with things being rather silent, Kickstarter being taken over (I keep using taken over, because I guarantee you a company like Degica didn’t want to see others meddling in their affairs, even when ixtl is the rights owner) and the lacking news and such. Not that I can blame anyone in charge of these, Japanese corporate politics are such horseshit at times.

As for personal things that might matter for the blog, in some two to three months I’ll be finalising my career change, if all things go as they should. Due to me and my personal life not actually mattering jack shit, all I’ll be saying that depending on the workload and hours I’ll be putting into it, posts may decrease or increase. I keep saying variations of this, because things haven’t been exactly stable for me for number of years now, but maybe this year I’ll be able to have a job that doesn’t require me to screw with the timetables

All that said, have a good one and enjoy your day.

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”

Guilty Gear design comparison; Johnny

Johnny Sfondi didn’t enter the series until Guilty Gear X, but what I remember from that time he quickly became the favourite on many feminine guys who played the game. To some Johnny has always been part of the series, if you jumped in during the XX craze. Of course this was to be expected from an adolescent audience, but it does tell volumes of Johnny’s design overall. It may be rather simple without huge as hell belt buckle thrown into the mix, but his shades combined with that self-confident as hell attitude just works and has a balance to it. Johnny is, after all, an eye candy that works both in visual flavour and in gameplay.

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparison; Johnny”

Music of the Month; CHALLENGER + Review of the Month; Star Trek Beyond

I tend to have music selected few weeks beforehand for these, but this time I had none. You could call it a rut or something similar, but it’s not really that. Let’s boot the ol’ ‘tube and see what we come across.

I don’t put much personal stuff on this blog. Here or there you might pick up something or I mention situations making typing things down somewhat erratic. I don’t have a release schedule, I never had. A post early in the week and one later has been the standard for few years now. Things have become more or less a routine in this sense, and while that is not a bad thing, I find myself wanting to touch upon subject after subject beyond the scope I want to explore them. However, As this is a hobby, there would be no sense for me to write an entry every other day about every single thing that I want to. You’re not reading this blog for stuff like that.

For example, I had planned the failure that is the Themes in Godzilla for some time now, and despite it getting the summer special slot, it’s something that should’ve been more meatier rather than few sentences per movie. I had planned much more for the entry, it to be more grandiose and in-depth than what it ended up being, but I’m guessing it was also a topic nobody cared about. Godzilla is passé, despite Shin Godzilla gaining positive reviews in Japan.

Another example would be the latest brouhaha about the Nintendo NX design, it possibly being a portable and a home console hybrid of sorts, something that I would personally embrace fully. Ever since the DS and PSP were launched, I questioned the point of designing, developing and producing two separates consoles when the hand held consoles could muster good enough graphics, gameplay and controls as is. I am a broken record with this, but it is about the software. Seeing population is moving towards portable solutions with each technological iteration, it would make sense to emphasize that to a certain degree. Traditional desktop computers have made way for laptops and pads for a time now, and while I still am headstrong in my decision to stick with a more traditional wired Internet connection and a desktop computer, I can’t argue with reality around me. Full portability is where we’re going, it’s just a matter of when.

Perhaps the third and most pressing example of my conscious aversion of not writing âge related. This is not a blog just for Muv-Luv and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. They certainly are a part of it and most likely the topics that have attracted most readers on the long run, but perhaps some of the 1990′ ideology of not-selling-out sticks to me at this point. The whole point of giving what the consumer wants fights against this, and I probably should start writing more about Muv-Luv in general not only for blog content, but for the simple raw reason to gain more views. I do intend to do a TSF comparison this month, as long as I can find good enough pictures of some TSF, F-16 Fighting Falcon being probably the strongest contender. This may be my own hubris, but I do see that there are topics and subjects that I am more equipped to discuss when it comes to Muv-Luv as a whole than others. Of course it’s my own hubris, both Type-94 (link on the right) and Chris Adamson do it better as is.

The only obstacle is that I don’t care about the views as much as I should. Perhaps an argument could be made that I am not as passionate as I should be about the topics, that I don’t care what makes people read the most or that I lack ambition. It doesn’t help that my current situation is still in the gutters, but you won’t see me explaining how dire my situation is or how in the gutters I am professionally speaking. It has no other relevancy for the blog outside whether or not I am able to write.

I’m not sure how successful the Monthly Three series has been. I expected last month’s theme of Video game culture and history to go well, but it seems that it was something very few cared about, despite it being one of the core themes of this blog. I deemed those and Dizzy’s design comparison posts as one of the best examples of what I could write about and felt oddly good, almost proud, about them. Of course, reality sets in and none of them were really successful even in a limited fashion. The Guilty Gear design comparisons have been yet another views collecting topic, so I’ll most likely I’ll have to give those more weight in the future.

Usually I set some goals for the of the month in these opening rants, but this time all I’m going to say that bets are off for now. Despite being able to keep up reviews for a time now, I’d rather call off my reviews than resort on making a video game review nobody reads. Screw that, here’s a first impression review of Star Trek Beyond I wrote after I was asked how I felt about it via Twitter. That’ll serve well enough.

Perhaps, just perhaps I am at a burnout of sorts. I don’t feel that I am getting the best quality stuff I could, despite the aforementioned being something I feel good about. There are a lot of subjects that I want to touch upon, but there are no driving reasons for me to invest the time in them. Well, there are, but I have to reason on how I spend my time, and to be completely honest, I am not using my time well at the moment. I should either be polishing up what I know and what I can do rather than spent time on writing. Maybe the thing I need to do is to take some time off and get shit sorted out. Maybe try out a voiced version of this blog, discuss topics out loud rather than in text. You can vote here, if you’d care about a thing like that.

Maybe I need a break, but if I take one, it’s not this month. But I do need food, and because my kitchen equipment is unusable at the time, I guess I’m going to eat out today.

Guilty Gear design comparisons; DIZZY

The reason why both Dizzy and Jam get so much attention from me is that they were the characters I mained. Seeing them back is great, and I got to pay my respects to ArcSys for going through and respecting the poll they had about what should be the character to be added.

This is gonna be an image heavy entry.

Dizzy as a character was set up to be a tragic one. Born from one of the most hated Gears in history, fathered by a hellhound roaming the Earth and being targeted for the sake of being a Gear, most stories would’ve end up her hating humanity or have her meet a bloody end. Instead, Dizzy was shown compassion by numerous different characters who couldn’t give less a damn about the world history and the fact that she’s probably one of the strongest Gears in the story. She was allowed to have a chance at a normal life as an air-pirate alongside May, until she had an accident due to an enemy and met Ky. Now, she’s probably one of the best mother’s out there, despite that one situation where she needed to seal herself.

Xrd, AC and X respectively
Xrd, X and AC respectively. Remember to click for full-sized versions

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparisons; DIZZY”