Inexperience and unforeseen accidents

I’ve been talking on and off about few Kickstarters as of late. Y’know, the one with the fox girl and the one that would make you a part of a self-publishing comic circle? This lead to some discussions how Kickstarter has become a sort of jinx to some, and to some it is something others veer far away due to it simply being Kickstarter. Looking back at the whole system, it’s really easy to see how Kickstarter can be abused, and have been numerous times, but at the same time how the backers constantly misunderstand what the service is about.

If we start with the latter, I still see people considering a Kickstarter backing the same as pre-ordering something off the net. This has never been the case, though it is understandable how the misconception can form. After all, your usual backer doesn’t exactly realise that they are effectively financiers of a business venture of some kind, but rather than having a stake in the business or similar, they instead are offered items as incentives for their funding. Truth to be told, backing a Kickstarter should never be made under assumption that you will gain anything back. As with any funding venture, there are chance that it all goes tits up and you’ll just lose money. This is part financial funding, where you have to decide yourself whether or not fund something or not. Difference is that Kickstarter is a softer form of funding someone’s venture, where you as a backer don’t really have any power a real financial backer would but get all the nice items you backed for. Intention is to realise a creator’s aim and wish, their desire to produce something and so on, rather than tie him down with Wallstreet-type bullshit. Not many seem to make this distinction however, and people just consider Kickstarter as that aforementioned pre-order service.

Your usual Kickstarter backer ultimately had to come to a conclusion that they need to vet people and organisations they fund. Check people’s histories and what sort of things they are able to truly pull off. If actual companies were involved, chances were that people with know-how and experience were included, and the only thing they really lacked was money. Even then it can be shooting the dark. As much a Kickstarter requires an experienced runner, the backer really has to make some educated guesses; even a man with best reputation can fuck things up royally, like it was with Mighty No.9. As a side-note, I never backed that game up. Why? Because nothing that was shown during the campaign equated to anything that might be in the final game and the footage shown was less than enticing. The music was bland, the concept seemed something that wouldn’t work and most of the people working on the title didn’t seem to have the best credits. Forward to years later, and the game gets shot the very moment people get their hands on it. Be it that it was supposed to be ported to every alive platform under the sun and that the staff were inexperienced with online multiplayer, plus the whole social media debacle, Mighty No.9 killed Inafune’s fame and whatever true story behind the game’s lacklustre development is, the media, backers and pretty much everyone in the industry has black listed him.

Backers can’t really tell sometimes if the person or a team behind a campaign has experience to handle what they intend to do. Often a Kickstarter fails either because money runs out for whatever reason, like the project leader being inept and inexperienced to the point of crashing the whole thing, or sometimes because producing something costs a lot more than expected. One of the major parts of doing a Kickstarter should be able to calculate expenses and project everything well enough to make a sensible estimation. The double that amount. This might be a personal interjection, but considering how many unforeseen events can hit the scene, you really need extra in the bank. While some might bark at this idea, consider what would happen if you get funding to buy a candy bar and share it with your friend. On the trip to the shop you get overrun or the candy melts on the way back. Without that safety net, you’re effectively screwed. With something extra in there, you can either deliver a bit more than promised, or you can recover from whatever mishap might’ve come across. However, all expenses really should be figured out beforehand to their best possible degree, so that money isn’t wasted by accident or surprise. There are stories I might tell you later how some companies and startups failed in this regard.

All that said, inexperience in itself should not be scoffed at. Asking for help or further information either from more experienced people or perhaps even asking backers’ feedback and such should not be something to be ashamed of. Openness with your backers, however, is absolutely vital. These aren’t your customers, these are the people who have given their money for you to work on something. If customers decide whether or not you succeed, your backers have made it even possible for you to have a shot. Never underestimate the value of giving some small update on anything. La-Mulana 2‘s Kickstarter was perhaps one of the best examples how I’ve seen a KS do it; every Friday there would be an update talking about some aspect of the game, be it lore, production, on-goings or overall development. Small and constant updates talking what’s going on are better than once-in-a-month or similar, as it keeps the backers enticed. Not only it makes for good PR, but also promotes the feeling of you caring for them, that you’re thankful for their money. Sure someone will call you an asshat hack and demand their money back, but as usual, you should always expect negative feedback. Negative feedback and criticism should always be noted with more care than positive, as positive feedback often is just stroking your dick and telling yer doing a good job. While spirit lifting, also absolutely worthless.

There is a night and day difference between people who have large experience, and those who don’t. Presentation is one of the major parts, but so is engagement with the backers. If you look at, for example, Anime Eigo’s Megazone23 Kickstarter, you can see that list of things are large and relatively detailed. If you browse the comments section, you can see Robert J. Woodhead, the project manager, replying across the board to relevant question, one being opening the KS for International backers. For example, when questioned about the soundtrack as a possible add-on, Woodhead replies that music licensing is both outside the scope of the project, but also outside their expertise. This kind of straight and transparent interaction is night must for a system like this, as it gives an idea what is possible and what isn’t. Anime Eigo has had numerous projects already, so they also have a history to back them up. This is similar to the fox girl Kickstarter going on at the moment, where a staff member from DLSite is handling the English side of things. While the developing circle, Megamisoft, don’t have history with Kickstarter, they’ve been selling merch of their titles in Comikets for some years now, thus have a very good handle how to get their items produced. The items they offer as backer rewards are largely the same, with additions of soundtracks and such. The only thing holding them back is international shipping, but that’s that isn’t all that different from sending a package in your own nation, overall. As a contrast, NijiGEN, the project to put up a shop for you to buy your own doujinshi, has rather lacklustre presentation with its video in comparison, zero comments, but has still crept halfway its funding. I’m guessing this is mostly because the people providing the comics are veterans and know how to set things up comic-side properly. All you need is the service, and then hope it’ll do good. Considering they list their corporation number gives them far more credibility than most as well.

Now I did promise to use more images per post some time back, so let me be cheeky for a moment and present you a (lacklustre) gallery of items that foxgirl Kickstarter is offering. How’d I got my hands on these? Via their Campfire campaign, of course. Each image has a review of sorts attached, so if you’re interested to see how things are done in the orient, or what sort of stuff is part of the Kickstarter, do check em out. Mind you, they were taken in terrible light conditions, so quality has suffered.

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All this considered, it is amused to see people asking for refunds from projects they’ve backed. Despite many projects have seen its backers refund their money, the reality is that they’ve given their faith to see a project succeed, but as it sometimes (rather often actually) happens, the project is a failure. At that point its best to suck it up and write it off as a loss. If this was actual financial funding, you might be able to recover some money through some business deals or even stock trading, but that’s not a reality here. All that said, there is a certain skewed view on Kickstarter as a service. The service in itself is rather sound and solid, but you really need to make a call whether or not each individual project is trustworthy of your money. Nobody else can make the decision for you whether or not to put your money and faith into someone, and sometimes life just gives you lemons instead of Kyoto girlfriend pillows.

 

Kickstarter to print doujins

With the death and resurrection of sadpanda, the question that many had were about archiving and saving materials. While this is all nice and good on the surface, and yours truly considers the older material to be paramount in terms of pop-culture history, the fact is that the site is working under the gray label of piracy. The creators of these comics know that it exists, and sometimes they have despaired about the situation. Some of them have considered sadpanda’s existence as net loss of revenue due to their comics being there rather than every user buying their comics while others recognise that piracy does not equal loss of sales. Not every person pirating something would’ve bought any of it in the first place, though piracy does seem to work as a sort of free advertisement, where people who truly enjoy the work probably fork the money for the product they consumed.

However, with doujinshi this is somewhat difficult. Sites like DMM and DLSite offer some comics to buy and read, but the issue here is that half of them are under DRM, have low image quality and is digital only. These are Japanese services with English storefronts, though you can find English language stores like Project Hentai that offer purchases in physical form in English. However, with shops like these, there are usually very limited quantity of each item and the prices can be a bit high at times.

NijiGEN aims to alleviate this situation somewhat, a Kickstater that aims to allow more direct sales between the customer and the creator. NijiGEN’s model would be to sell you a high resolution version of the comic which you could then print. This approach would eliminate the problem of low-resolution files that are kicking around, even on official store sites, but they’d be in a timed format. The intention is that you’d be able to print your own physical copy of the comic via a printer. Ultimately, the cost of printing your own comic is relatively low, even when you pick up the proper paper and tools to do it. With the possibility of modifying and selling e.g. postcards and such, and then selling them forwards in a limited fashion.

This sounds really stupid, why would this be any success? The creators of this Kickstarter are aware of three things, which launched the idea; the existence of potential market for physical medium in Overseas market, the censorship that doujinshi and other adult material books have gone through in Japan in recent decade (especially when going toward the Olympics) and the issue of piracy. However, the market section for this Kickstarter is extremely niche. First you’d need to be a person who wants physical copies of these comics, and secondly you’d need to be in the mindset of taking part of the whole doujinshi creation. Part of self-publishing is either ordering your book made or printing and binding things at home. I have to say, binding your own book is extremely fun. This service would allow the user to bypass large amounts of problems that may arise through ordering, like possible customs or legal issues. By the end of the day, printing your own quality comic would cost less than buying one and having it shipped from an online shop.

You of course face few problems, which probably break this model. Not all people have a decent printer, opting for a cheap one instead. Secondly, not all people know how to print properly. While standard settings are usually fine, the reality is that printing is a rabbit hole of problems and options, proofing and sometimes even trial and error. The timed source files will also rub some people the wrong way, putting them under pressure to get the most out from their purchase before the files expire. Some people would rather just buy the high resolution files and be done with them and not bother with physical editions at all, something that most modern audiences that have never been part of self-creating circles would always opt for first. This is why I don’t see the Kickstarter becoming funded, outside the whole issue of this being a Kickstarter, but the core idea is still valid; the closest second the customer who can’t buy the books they want, self-printing. The customer that is most common nowadays expects to be readily catered without any much effort put in themselves. The same reason why model kits don’t sell nowadays outside niche audience and have become extremely easy to build and are readily built. Self-made, or handicrafts, is not in fashion currently.

I’d like a service like this. The concept of involving the customer as part of the circle as the person responsible for final edits, printing and binding, is great. Extremely niche, and that’ll probably be its doom.

While you’re looking stuff on Kickstarter, consider backing Your Everyday Life with Konko for some headpats and relaxing storytelling.

Review: Myst 25th Anniversary Kickstarter packaging is shit

The very first thing your customer notices about a product, be it on the store shelves, online pictures or when receiving the item in mail, is the packaging. Ignore the quality of the packaging and you lose the customer. It’s extremely easy to make a terrible packaging by making few low-effort choices, like choosing weak cardboard because its cheaper, unfitting box size because that allows items to rattle and be damaged during transit (be it from the store or via mail) or have no support for the item within the box.

Package illustration and text are a whole another dimension that add to the mix. Cheap printing will automatically spell how much the producer cares about the producer cares about the product overall. Some fanzines have better printing that some mainline comics nowadays. The logos, the catchphrases, the descriptions, everything that reads of the package has to be both up to legal standards and to attract and convince the customer that this is the product worthy of their money.

A worthy packaging takes money, time and skill. A package designer is well worth the money he gets paid and is a field of design that nobody really thinks about. It’s a thankless job that you only remember exists when you face a terrible packaging.

Of course you could ignore most of that and just throw some discs in a sleeve and call it a day.

Oh for fuck’s sake Cyan

The reason why Cyan Inc (and Incorporated they are) did this is because the higher tier backers on Kickstarter get a custom build book that houses the games. This is all fine and dandy, until you realise that these poor bastards will get their games in the same cheap bargain bin sleeves. Let’s get to the root why this packaging is shit to the core and nobody should do this, unless they’re releasing cheap shit to the market at the lowest possible price.

First of all, there is no protective support. Sure, the sleeves themselves support from some of the damage that dust or such could do, but that goes out of the window the moment you realise that everything will get in from the open side. There’s no mechanism to keep any of that out.

While these sleeves are an age-old way to house a disc, it’s also one of the worst ways. Compact discs like these have a tendency to moving and spinning inside their sleeves, unlike LPs and LDs that have some weight in them to keep them in place during transit. This causes chafing that will cause smudges, and sometimes with low quality rough cardboard, leave a permanent mark on the disc’s surfaces.

Then you have the fact that the sleeves can’t take any physical damage. These were delivered as you see now, in a stack with no protective box around them in a vacuum sealed bag. You can see the first sleeve has already given in and creased itself against the disc inside. The sleeve is already damaged by sheer act of being shipped. If it’s put on the shelf, the pressure from whatever is around it will continue to press the sleeve against the disc, further creasing it. It’s unusable as a long-term storing device, necessitating the customer to come up something on their own, like buying jewel cases for the discs. You don’t see it on the photo, but all the sleeves are also scuffed up already from chafing against each other, especially on the back.

This photo is intentionally bad with that lamp light on the left, because it shows how scuffed and creased the the backs are already just from shipping and sitting on my desk untouched for a day. Every back is the same, with the nice . There are scratches that are directly from the production, handling and packaging.

Actually, some of the sleeves are already damaged from the production. Whatever company made these didn’t make sure that when the prints are separated, the cut would be clean. Instead you have those rip nubs, also slightly visible on the left of on the sleeve.

Let’s check the disc design and leave the sleeves for the time being.

The disc design in itself is nice, but far from what looks like what Myst should have. It’s effectively giant C and some low-effort text thrown in there. Apparently advertising Cyan Inc. was more important than creating a fitting look for each of the disc, or re-using the existing designs. Ubisoft’s Myst Collection beats 25th Anniversary collection in design and sleeves 1 to zero. Plastic sleeves at least protect the discs properly. Notice also that the print is ever so hazy on the disc, meaning this is once more one of those points where money was pinched out. The Big C is sharp, the text not so much. It’s far from the worst, but with minimalist design like this you don’t have any room to screw up a single element. Also how the platform text, Windows in my case, has a terrible positioning. It would have looked far better midway down the black Myst text and the legal text down there. That C is just too governing and taking too much room.

To be fair, the sleeves have a nice artwork on them, which each one of them having its own frame texture with a window. It’s not much, but at least it goes with the theme

Cyan Inc. never stated how or in what sort of packaging their physical goods would be delivered in. This is something that any backer should make a note of in the future Kickstarters they may back and demand that the packaging must be up to standards. This isn’t. This is far from being what is expected from almost three million dollar Kickstarter. I might’ve given the Muv-Luv Kickstarter packaging some shit, but that’s a winner with platinum medal level of quality compared to to what Cyan has delivered with these.

This is the lowest and cheapest way to produce and pack their game collection, and if anyone wants any longevity from these, they are required to go out and purchase some kind of jewel case or one of those multi-disc packages, and then print their own sleeve to go with it.

Frankly, it’s shit.

Games on your wall

There’s a Kickstarter up called Linked to the Wall, which aims to create game cartridge wall mounts. The driving idea they have is that games are made into similar form as paintings, framed to the wall. The idea seems to be solid in principle, but there’s few problems, one logistic, that they are either side-stepping or haven’t thought about.

Looking at the prototypes they have, I have to question why do they need to create separate wall mounts to different cartridges. They want to streamline and eliminate all possible manufacturing problems by creating a solid piece of plastic, which is understandable and admirable to a point, but also tells me they want to produce these as cheaply and fast as possible. Designing a wall mount that would be adjustable according to a cartridge’s width isn’t terribly hard. Designing it well is somewhat challenging. Smaller cartridges, like the Game Boy, Game Gear and GB Advance carts would require a smaller solution, one they are also offering, but again with a different mounts for each cartridge. Their design is also lacking Famicom cart design.

Let’s take a look at the depth of the cartridge connectors’ grooves between a Famicom, NES, Mega Drive, Super NES and N64 game carts. To measure the depth, I am using metal ruler that starts from 0mm at its end and a caliper to measure the width of the connector groove.

The depth of a Famicom connector groove is just shy of 12mm
The depth of a Famicom connector groove is just shy of 12mm
The width of a Famicom cart is 85mm
The width of a Famicom cart is 85mm

Let’s put the NES images up before we compare the two.

19mm, perhaps just slightly over
19mm, perhaps just slightly over
10.5mm
10.5mm

The Famicom cart is shallower than its Western counterpart on either direction. The width is not a problem with either of these in the design they are currently using. The depth is a minor inconvenience, but 10mm is more than enough build a prong that holds  NES cart in place. The plastic thickness is not a problem either, as long as the prongs are not made of too rigid material, which is a given. An adjustable arm could allocate both FC and NES carts just fine, as their design currently places the cartridge on two prongs that supports both front and back with one additional support column going into the groove. This additional piece is what keeps the cart straight, whereas the main prongs take the carts’ weight.

Their prototypes have been 3D printed and it shows. All the larger cartridges they have are slightly slanted forwards. This means they don’t only need to invest into material research than just create injection moulds.

The Mega Drive carts' groove is different shape between Western and Japanese versions. However, their backs are the same width
The Mega Drive carts’ groove is different shape between Western and Japanese versions. However, their backs are the same width.
9mm
9mm
Just a shy of 91mm
Just a shy of 91mm

The Mega Drive carts’ groove depth is a bit shallower than either FC or NES carts’, but the width is between NES’ and FC’s. Because the MD cart is shallower, the support column would need to be 1mm shorter, but at this scale and weight that’s not an issue with the right material.

11mm in depth
11mm in depth
97mm, I most likely jammed the instrument a bit too hard in

Super NES/Famicom cartridges have the same width and depth across the board despite their different outer appearance between US and EUR/JPN region. The NES still has the widest groove, meaning SNES carts shouldn’t pose a problem with an adjustable arm.

11mm in depth
11mm in depth
71.5mm in width
71.5mm in width

The N64 has similar depth to the FC carts, but a Mega Drive cartridge still beats it. It’s width is the smallest, which means the adjustable hand should be at that size, minimum.

Let’s say that the adjustable arm is a design where there’s basically two tubes inside each other and you pull them out. If the minimum width is 70mm, it’s has enough room to spread at least 40mm either direction, adding a whopping extra 80mm to the total width, making the arm at 150mm at maximum, an unneeded amount. The needed width could be marked down with slots a peg slides into or with a small screw, both low in profile if done right. Another option is to position the adjuster the point where the mount is secured to the wall. Just have two slaps of plastic that you screw together at whatever distance from each you want. They wouldn’t even need to make large change in their current design to accommodate this.

If you have an access to a 3D printer, you could actually just use these measurements and do your own mounts if you wanted.

With Game Boy and GB Advance games, you have the exact same width and depth with both cartridges and there’s no good reason why to have separate mounts for both of them. Have the support wedged slightly into the connector groove and it would keep either GB or GBA carts in place.

A thing that I haven’t mentioned at all is thickness. For the record, here are the measurements for the carts used:
FC – 17mm

NES – 16.5mm

MD – 17mm

SFC/EUR SNES – 19.8mm in the middle, 17mm at screw point

US SNES – 20mm in the middle section, 17mm in outer sections

N64 – 18.9mm before tapering out

Having the main supports elongating to 18mm should be just fine, keeping the mount low profile. With the adjustable design, you could have the support prongs holding the cartridge in place with similar level of low profile.

The design given in the Kickstarter also leaves the cartridges’ connectors all open for further oxidation. While this is supposed to be a solution to problem of having games in boxes, which is really a non-problem to begin with, at least in these boxes the games were sealed from excess moisture and other unwanted materials floating in the air.

The problem of connectors being exposed is not really all that easy to solve without additional design tweaking. To keep the production as low as possible, you really can’t have luxuriously separate pieces that would seal the grooves, as they have a different height. The height with Nintendo’s cartridges’ are pretty solid 10-12mm, with N64 having the largest height, but also the thickest wall. Mega Drive’s height is same as N64’s; 12mm. The wall thickness is not the same across the board either. An adjustable solution for this would not be too low profile. A solution would be to have the lower support be thin enough but strong enough to be adjusted according the width and height, but as mentioned that’d skyrocket the costs both in design and production.

They also have basically opened some of the game boxes in their examples. These cardboard boxes are hard to come by as it is, and opening them as such ruins them. I hope they used a scan copy from the Internet.

I also have to question their advertisement slogan “Turn your games into unique wall art!” seeing there are thousands of these games out there.

Of course, you could also do what I did to throw some of my games to the wall and save some room while you’re at it. Just pick some shelves from Ikea and put your games on it. You can put more games on the wall that way, save some money and protect them from dust. Plus, when you’re tired with them you can use the shelves for whatever else than just stash the frames and mounts away.

Not saying this is the best solution, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best
Not saying this is the best solution or the prettiest, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best on the long run

Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works, Lunatic Dawn and the Codex

It’s the last week of Muv-Luv Kickstarter, and I’ve yet to write a single entry on it. However, I do feel a need to write about the Codex. Or rather, the elements the Codex would be build from; Integral Works and Lunatic Dawns.

Integral Works, a name referring to pieces of essential characteristics. For some time the name has been used in Japanese source books for some time, and when referring it in context of Muv-Luv, Integral Works is a 352 page book about the world history, technology, BETA, organisations, physics regarding in-universe exotic materials, war tactics and strategies and about certain key events that took place during the second visual novel. I’m sorry, I ended that sentence too soon. IW is not just about those, but also about sketches, glossary, interviews and small sides stories.

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There’s a clearer image of the cover in the book as well. The hologpraphic cover is so 90’s trick, but still pretty neat. Easy as hell to scratch.

In short, Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works is an essential sourcebook for the fans, as it expands all the concepts introduced in the main work. The book is not a series or production bible, but more like an extensive companion.

Pages like this are treasure troves. Hell, that Shiranui image alone shows how TSFs have rather rare joints when it comes to mecha
Pages like this are treasure troves. Hell, that Shiranui image alone shows how TSFs have rather rare joints when it comes to mecha

Lunatic Dawn is a name of series Comic Market exclusive books that expand on what IW was. New Tactical Surface Fighters were introduced in them as Declassified. For example the F-35 Lighting II was introduced in Lunatic Dawn 7. These information pieces are not just your run of the mill splashtext, but rather extensive history and performance overviews. Lunatic Dawn 7 alone revealed eight never seen Tactical Surface Fighters. They have a slot in the IW TSF Tech tree, but had no visual representation. In addition, Lunatic Dawn books offer more detailed information on certain individual characters, setting, mechanics and organisations. Each instalment of Lunatic Dawn is like an additional piece to Integral Works, filling its gaps as new pieces to the franchise is released. Often an entry of Lunatic Dawn surrounds around some upcoming or new story, like The Day After or Total Eclipse, explaining bits and pieces of information that may never come through the actual work, but nevertheless applies to them. Lunatic Dawns also follow the Japanese mook format, a combination of magazine and book. Not really thick or hard enough to call a book, not really thin and flappy enough to call a magazine.

Lunatic Dawn 4 was more or less Chronicles centric entry
Lunatic Dawn 4 was more or less Chronicles centric entry

Combine Integral Works, and Lunatic Dawns, and you have an incredibly large and in-depth piece. That’s what the Codex of Muv-Luv Alternative is like. The Codex, as the Kickstarter calls it, is a combination of Integral Works and Lunatic Dawn Anthologies 1-3 in one piece.

The fan-favourite Tactical Surface Attacker A-10 Thunderbolt II was first revealed in Lunatic Dawn 3
The fan-favourite Tactical Surface Attacker A-10 Thunderbolt II was first revealed in Lunatic Dawn 3

At least, it could be. The Codex as a physical piece is Muv-Luv Kickstarter’s last stretchgoal at $900 000. That’s a lot of money, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s the reason for this post; Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works is the sole most important printed piece of Muv-Luv franchise. The sheer volume of primary information it offers is incredibly valuable to the overall franchise, and all of it is untranslated. There are bits and pieces of an item or two that’s translated, but the whole thing is still an unknown entity.

Charts like this are just a grain in the vast desert of untranslated pages
Charts like this are just a grain in the vast desert of untranslated pages

A digital piece would do no justice to this. I cannot emphasise enough how important it would be to have something like this in your hands, feel the covers and paper in your hands, smell the scent of a new book. See the print shine in the light, admire the layout and simply read the words. Would the digital piece hold all the same information? Without a doubt. That, however, is beside the point.

A physical piece is more expensive to produce. It requires more work to get to the consumer. It demands more. It would be a glorious piece to hold. To use a comparative piece, Mega Man & Mega Man X Official Complete Works 25th Anniversary book 432 pages long. The Codex would be larger piece than this, most likely hitting a sweetspot somewhere around  450 pages. A digital version is only ones and zeroes. This sort of book demands a high quality printed product. This needs to happen, there’s no reason not to have it realized.

Height and width are standard, but the depth/thickness is not. MM25 is about 1/5 thicker than IW. The Codex on the other hand would be around 1/5 thicker than MM25
Height and width are standard, but the depth/thickness is not. MM25 is about 1/5 thicker than IW. The Codex on the other hand would be thicker than MM25

Here is some stuff Integral Works and Lunatic Dawns consist of. Of course, everything is in Japanese. I busted out my second Integral Works from wraps to have this mediocre flipthrough to give a glimpse what the book is all about. This didn’t do it justice, but dammit the size of it should speak volumes alone.

While you’re at it, listen to our discussion sessions with Degica about the Kickstarter if you already haven’t. There’s some golden bits in there.

ARG Podcast #1; Muv-Luv Kickstarter interview with Degica

Here it is, the promised second interview with Degica on the Muv-Luv Kickstarter.

Without further adieu, tune in;

It’s always a pleasure to talk with Mitch and Jason. They’re always aiming to answer whatever question we have for them, and this time I have to admit that I went bonkers with them. The questions were way too big in size, several lines on paper instead of focusing on making point-hitting inquiries. That’s on me, but in my defence each question tried to combine things that the fan community has been discussing for some time now.

This interview is about as long as the last one we did during test ‘cast, and these really can’t go much longer due to the schedule Degica’s Muv-Luv team is running under. You do get answers about the Kickstarter itself, how the project is being handled and some  behind-the-scenes info.

On my end, we’re not going to see much more podcasts in this blog, as we’ve come to a conclusion that keeping it related to Muv-Luv works the best for people who already follow Alternative Projects’ blog. Some special episodes excluded.

Discussion on Muv-Luv and its Kickstarter for Western localisation, Part 2

From the last discussion I left out one bit that most of my readers probably realised I intentionally ignored. That point is whether or not there is any need to make this release an expensive one when we can already tell it will have a limited succession even if the Kickstarter actually manages to get off the ground.

To return to a previous example, The King of Braves GaoGaiGar was released with much fanfare and buzzle from the fans. However, the by the second collections sales had dropped and general interest wasn’t there. It was a clear threat that GaoGaiGar would not see a full release, but then Media Blasters cut voice acting out to please the niche audience they had.

Discotek is a company who realised that there is a niche market to cater to. They have been licensing and releasing products without much bells and whistles with success enough to encourage them to release further niche products. The same story applies to Shout! Factory. These companies have been releasing such shows like Cutie Honey, Starzinger, Captain Harlock, Gaiking and Mazinger Z. Despite the fans knowing these by heart and probably have already seen their fansubbed versions, these releases are rather barebones to the lower quality DVD cases and rather poor cover images they come with. These are cost cutting measures these customers are willing to allow in order to get an official Western release they can pay for and show support, thus perhaps getting more of the same down the line. What matters is that they are out there, officially.

However, most if not all of these lack English language. As discussed how an English dub and proper localisation are expensive ventures to do and seen something that allows everybody to get into and enjoy the product by everyone except the core purists. There is a reason why most of these cartoons have English audio as the default option; it is expected by the common consumer. When we come to Europe, certain countries expect their language to be the default option or at least have a language selection before anything else actually starts playing, including the piracy warnings. France, Italy, Germany and Spain are good examples of nations that tend to favour local releases to the point of producing unique releases just for that nation, despite some releases being pressed for a certain larger area of nations with each having a different sleeve in the cover.

Thus, while I encourage and promote as full blown English release of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative as possible to maximise the amount of people who could possibly get into it, I also see the reasons and benefits on having a smaller scale release that would cater only to the fans. This is where we get to the whole discussion of what sort of approach the translation should have overall as we discussed in the previous post.

Mazinger Z DVD Volume 1 has a one star review that simply reads No in English. While the fans will laugh at this and purists will snicker Why would anyone want Mazinger in English?, the review does show that there are those who are willing to take the plunge even when a product is not marketed for them.

However, we can also take the discussion to another direction; whether or not the series needs or requires an English release. The fans in the West have already experiences the Visual Novels via fanpatch. Why should they feel need to purchase something they already read years ago?

We can discuss the issue of piracy and all that someday, but that’s something we need to face; there are those who will not put any money down for the English release due to the fact they’ve already read it all. However, the unofficial patch has been the best kind of advertisement for the franchise to a large extent to the point we could even argue that the current Western fandom would not exist in its current form without it.

If the core fans have already read the story through multiple times, what is there to push towards purchasing the English release? Basic consumer principle would dictate that we pay for what we consume, but this isn’t how things roll in reality. To say that all fans will fund the Kickstarter and/or purchase the English release would be naïve. If so, then striking true with the core fandom, which is rather split, becomes highly important if the larger possible audience is ignored, or raise the discussion whether or not the whole localisation should be done. The core fans have already paid for them and imported one the Japanese editions or bought them from DMM. Why bother try selling a product to a consumer base that either already has bought it elsewhere or is satisfied with the unofficial patch? Wouldn’t it be better to provide them with something they haven’t read before, like one of the sidestories or the upcoming Schwarzesmarken? After all, in Muv-Luv most Alternative timeline sidestories are able to stand on their own as separate pieces as long as the world setting is explained.

I will wage my personal opinion from here on.

I want this to happen, and I want this to have as massive release as possible all the doors open for the larger consumer crowd to step in. If it means stepping on some fans’ toes and having the company being called sellouts or whatever other names, then so be it. I am highly doubtful that the Kickstarter will go through just with the power of current fandom, but I am highly hopeful that I am proved absolutely wrong.

I am a fan and while I try to keep as objective view on issues at hand, it is highly difficult and something I can barely do. I am a fan who has bought Muv-Luv and Alternative two times around now; the original CD release for Muv.Luv and DVD release for Muv-Luv Alternative, and the Xbox 360 pack that came with Kagami Sumika figure. I have bought Kimi ga Nozomu Eien few times around, I have books and I have toys. I even have some Comiket materials. Hell, I have the Japanese Blu-Ray release of Total Eclipse and those cost me around 930€ out together. I’m not too fond of the sidestories themselves, but I’ve always been willing to give them a fair chance, just like I will give to Schwarzesmarken when it comes out.

A messy shelf out of...four, I think? I have âge materials spread all over the apartment. I even have some TSF prints on my walls, framed
A messy shelf out of…four, I think? I have âge materials spread all over the apartment. I even have some TSF prints on my walls, framed. I have an A3 F-22A hanging from the side of the bookshelf. A friend of mine who goes by the nick Daironeri jokingly calls this one shelf as the âge Altar

I can’t say that I want to see the Kickstarter and localisation done right, but I want it to be done so that there would be possibilities for future âge releases and that it would find new fans, and perhaps some of those who have never gotten into something like this before.

To put all that down here feels more or less a wrong thing to say as I break the character. Who am I, as a fan, to say how things should or should not be done?

Everything, in the end. Just like you have every right to say how you want to be catered. You are the customer, you are The God. Or perhaps in this case, you are the Creators.

Music of the Month tomorrow, I promise.

Discussion on Muv-Luv and its Kickstarter for Western localisation

When The King of Braves GaoGaiGar was licensed and localised by Media Blasters, it came out of nowhere. It was one of those things that you didn’t expect to happen due to highly niche audience in the West. It was almost suicidal attempt in terms of business, and ultimately after the first half was released the releases were put on hold. The series didn’t sell well, and when the second half was released, they dropped the English track.

Unlike how the far too many people seem to think, English dubbing and localisation is not about destroying the sanctity of the original product. It is not about disrespect. It is the very opposite. Local language dub, especially English dub in Americas, has two things to go for it. One is that it open the product to a far larger series than previously. For GaoGaiGar, if the series had been released in the late 90’s or early 00’s on TV with dub, it could’ve been relative hit. It is a children’s cartoon, and including a localised language serves this as most kids can’t read subtitles and it often takes then until second grade to be able to read fast enough to follow subtitles. It is also a cultural thing, where the language of the local is preferred. Japanese a funny language in many ways, but more importantly a foreign one that is just as impenetrable as a gray stone wall. The syntax, the vocalisations and everything is so different from English that it would take some learning to get into it.

Second thing is that an English language localisation means the product is deemed valuable enough to have one. The original 1956 and its original English release are good examples where the original product was taken, and then stepped up for the American release. It wasn’t a matter of thinking the product needed tampering or changing. It was because the product was seen as such a good movie that everybody should be able to get into it. Dubbing a new voiceover is incredibly expensive, and not to be done lightly. With low budget voice acting and tight schedule, you will get only bad results and even that takes money. Time is money, literally in this case. Renting a recording studio is very expensive and often a dub can fall short because there simply isn’t any money left to take new takes on the lines.

The American Godzilla is an excellent showcase for an adaptation that adds scenes only to emphasize a new viewpoint character for the new audience and takes nothing away from the core of the movie. The same can’t be said of Robotech, but at its core we are able to see the same thing happening. While purists will see both original American Godzilla and Robotech as butchered pieces, both of these products opened a whole new world to an audience who would absolutely love these. Robotect was a hit with children, and while the current animation fandom seems to hate it due to Harmony Gold’s Macross blocking, the older generation that was there then has the best view how much impact it had. The exact same applies to American Godzilla. It is easy to look at hindsight at these and laugh off them as half-assed attempts at bringing some product to the lowest level to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

This, of course, is bullshit. At its core it’s about language and accessibility, two things that can make or kill a product.

With Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative getting a Kickstarter in order to aim for official English language release, language becomes something that needs to be balanced carefully. The question whether or not translation team should listen to the fans on what words they like the best is something that should be avoided, the question is how well the they are able to translate and localise the terms and names so that Muv-Luv can become something even more wider audience can enjoy. Luckily, âge has official English translations on most of their more incomprehensible terms. Senjutsuhokousentouki or Senjutsuki is Tactical Surface Fighter. For Eishi we have Surface Pilot, and variants around that. There are numerous other terms and names, and you can check those from Integral Works and other materials for overall Alternative universe for further reference, but as of now Integral Works has one of the better Glossaries on subjects and terms in the series.

Another example of IW giving a direct translation for a term, this time for Senjutsuhokousentouki
Example of Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works giving a direct translation for a term, here for Senjutsuhokousentouki

What use it would be to release these just for the fans?, some have asked. They do have a point. With the unofficial patch, more people have been enjoying the story in its English form and that release has set certain bars to the fandom and established certain terminology. However, now with official release looming about, things can be done, arguably, correctly to the letter.

Let’s use the Surface Pilot as an example. There are two options; stick with Eishi, and to stick with form of the letter and call it Surface Pilot.

For Eishi it would make sense for a Japanese character to use that term, but not for an American or French. In-universe it has intricate value to it and stands slightly separate from the overall meaning of Surface Pilot. Eishi means more or less a bodyguard, and we can argue that this term stands for all the Japanese pilots that guard the humanity. Thus, it would be logical for the Japanese characters in the franchise to use that term in their speech.

However, that’s where sticking with Surface pilot comes in. As the VNs are not dubbed into English, something that would be absolutely awesome, the translation text is that; a translation of the language. Thus, while the character may be speaking of Eishi, the translation for that particular word, in and out of universe, is Surface Pilot. Surface Pilot is also far more sensible use, as after seeing what a Tactical Surface Fighter is we can immediately see the connection between fighter pilots and surface pilots in terms of profession.

The full title of the Fortified Suit is also Surface Pilot Fortified Suit
The full title of the Fortified Suit is also Surface Pilot Fortified Suit. Notice that the Japanese text describes Eishi as a pilot of a Tactifal Surface Fighter, further giving an indication to the meaning of the Japanes word. There is also a mention of the 8 minutes of death.  Taken from Integral Works p.331

On another hand, that is an issue for a person who is aware of these issues. A personal going straight into the story has no clue of the underlying meanings of the names and terms used. Perhaps the best translation here would be idiomatic, something that conveys the core meaning of Eishi combined with the Surface Pilot. Of course, we can argue that after the term is established in the story, then there’s no problems with it. This doesn’t apply to promotional materials or such, where the term has no weight or carries no meaning without further research.

There is another dimension that the fandom brings with it; the pre-established terminology. I have seen the term pilot used far more than any other. It seems like I among few other people tend to use Surface Pilot, but as a whole simple pilot has become a standard when speaking in context. When a separation between what sort of machine is being used, then we see some using TSF pilot, Surface pilot and so forth. Thus, in English, we can say that pilot is enough in context, and when further accuracy is needed, the prefix TSF or Surface is added. In similar manner in real life we have pilots, a person who flies, pilots or controls a (flying) craft.

It should be noted that âge themselves have also established the terminology in English to a large extent. It’s another issue whether or not fans are aware of these, as most of them are found in Japanese language source books.

What I use is not indicative of what should be used. Neither is it the job of the fans to say how things should be done, thou it has to be said that at this moment 50.4% of the voters have said that they’d prefer using the term Eishi, whole the rest would use an English term or anything that works. It’s down in the middle, and I would argue that the results don’t give too strong result what to use. Yes, the half of the voters would like to use Eishi as the term, but the other half would rather see something else. We’re not going to discuss about who is the best girl or best TSF, because we all know that those are subjective matters.

While the providers are there to provide the consumers, the fans are not only the ones. Muv-Luv has possibility to be a larger hit than just with the fans it already has. However, in the West it are multiple elements that will hold it back.

One is that it is very Japanese and that alone is something that will keep people away from it. A proper, easy to approach translation and localisation drops the bar quite well, as discussed above. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is a Visual Novel. Visual Novels are a form of entertainment and software that are not really games, but aren’t really books or plays either. They usually need a considerable investment of time, and suffer from the stigmata of being nothing but vessels for porn. The latter isn’t really wrong either, as VNs historically were born from the need to show graphics with as little animation as possible while holding high amount of detail and quality on NEC’s PC line. At some point I read that in the 80’s people who owned PC-88 at their home were seen as dirty people who do nothing but play those porno games on their computers. As such, it understandable for anyone to want to release the All-Ages versions of the VNs. I would do that myself as well in order to maximise the possible customer base.

There’s also the issue of âge’s Engrish. I won’t hold back on any of this and directly say that all of it has to go. All of it. From the opening narration in Alternative, where they find HUMAN BRAINS to the patches saying Valkylies. While I recognize that this is an issue they can’t help to some extent, the fact is that these points just don’t fly when doing a proper translation and localisation. âge is able to modify these to the extent in fixing these, and making the changes should not be too hard or time consuming. However, they are a detail that everyone and their mothers will notice and it needs to be taken into account. The fans will laugh and take them as a nice joke and so forth, but the larger consumer group will only see these bits as large flaws that could have been corrected.

IW p.225; All members of the Valkylies group in as seen in Alternative. The whole L and R thing is known in Japanese and should be corrected in the CGs as well
IW p.225; All members of the Valkylies group in as seen in Alternative. The whole L and R thing is known in Japanese and should be corrected in the CGs as well

With that we come to the point where the fans really need to sit back and watch. Whenever something like this with a strong cult following may have its chance, the community may be a detrimental value. Or rather, the communities. For Muv-Luv there doesn’t exist one large wholesome family of fans, but separate sects. 4chan is a microcosm example of this, with the /m/echa, /a/nime and /jp/ boards having widely different nature of discussion and points of view. When you jump to different site altogether, you get completely different views on what should be and should not be.

With Japanese language we of course have the argument whether or not honorifics should be used. At the baseline, a good translation will not use them, and adding nonsensical words in English makes little to no sense. A person with no knowledge on Japanese will have no idea why the hell people are called senpais or kuns, and there are proper guidelines how to translate these. Some creativity needs to be used to convey the more exotic pet honorifics, but that’s not the largest challenge when it comes to translation.

When Mega Man X8 was being made, CAPCOM wanted the fans to be involved with its development. There were polls, discussion and questions what should and shouldn’t be. I never saw any results in any of it in the final product, but I need to question the validity in there. With Legends 3 a whole new level of transparency was added to the development, but in the end the game was never made and can’t say how much the fans would’ve had to say about the end product outside selected enemy designs and polls for character designs.

There are other examples where things have been less than successful when a provider has directly asked What you want. Tomato sauce Ragu and Pepsi are another examples of this. It is always better to observe and see what the consumer really wants, and more importantly, what they need.

Lastly, the issue of Kickstarter and Steam. Long time readers know my stance on Steam and on Valve’s practices. However, I fully recognize that digital release is the only proper way to get any of âge’s products localised nowadays. GOG version has been said to be on the to-do list, a thing that is greatly welcomed. However, all this discussion may be for nothing if the Kickstarter fails, and Kickstarter is a thing a lot of people simply hate. Some fans have already mentioned how this will be their first Kickstarter. They are willing to support the product, and I find that very heart warming. However, depending on how much money they require for the localisation and release is something that may ultimately doom this. Muv-Luv and Alternative, after all, are products many has already enjoyed and may not be willing to give money for an actual release. Then again, with Kickstarter there is a possibility to offer physical copies of the Visual Novels to those who have funded certain tier. I will be honest with you; if such tier exist, I will be putting money down for it.

This post reflects more or less how I feel about the possibility of getting Muv-Luv release here in the West as an observer and as a fan. There is validity to all sides of arguments I’ve tried to cover here, and I’ve most likely missed a whole lot more. I may spin this off into a separate series of its own and use a new page for future âge related stuff to categorise things better. For some time I’ve been having a feeling for a need to separate fan content from the actual content of the blog, despite the two overlapping each other to a large degree.

I don’t know what the future holds. It’s apparent that âge has recognized the Western, non-Japanese fandom in a way they never have before, and that’s a new page on the history of the franchise. Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was a story that had no growth possibilities, but it still stands their best story. Muv-Luv Alternative on the other hand is all about pontetial growth and expansion. Let’s hope it’ll expand to the West and support that as much as possible.

 As a sidenote, this was supposed to be Music of the Month post, but it got way too long for to be one. We’ll get back to that later on.

A new producer for Mega Man?

Whether or not this is true needs to wait a little bit. According to the Mega Man boardgame developers on Kickstarter, it seems that CAPCOM has hired a new producer for Mega Man. Whether or not this is the case is still an open question as this isn’t from CAPCOM themselves, and even here the word used is apparently.

If there is a new producer, that could mean CAPCOM is gearing up for something. Something’s brewing up nevertheless with the cartoon, so only time will tell. As my friend said, it seems Mega Man is going down the Pac-Man road, and I wouldn’t mind that.