Street Fighter 30th Anniversary collection and then some

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mega Man 11

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cute as a button

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

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

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

 

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

 

Review of the Month; original Xbox Controller

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

Well shit, there goes the center symbol

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Industrial bloat

EA is the thing everybody likes to kick whenever its relevant. EA deserves it too, as the company has a long history of taking franchises and developer studios and running them to the ground. Very few have any love toward them, except sports gamers who buy the latest NHL and FIFA release each year. We can understand the mindset. They’re a corporation just like any other, and aim to do everything for profit. The methods just don’t seem to sit with some consumers, while others just don’t care.

That said, microtransactions and loot boxes have been talked to death a lot as of late, thanks to them taking more presence in the mainline games. The model can be said to come from mobile games, where it has essentially become the lifeline of many games, where games are offered free, but their larger content has to be paid for, or at least to succeed further requires putting some money in.

From psychological point, microtransaction is a well selling term. It give an idea of a transaction of miniscule size, almost something that doesn’t matter. The effect on the consumer is interesting, and these small transactions often can pile up when you can’t keep track on physical money. It is far easier to spend what you don’t see, and then suffer the consequences later on.

Loot boxes are another can-o-worms, especially when they’re the kind that are tied to promotional events or otherwise to something that forces the consumer to consume their time with the game’s event or related. Considering many games offer loot boxes to be bought with real money, or in-game money you can buy with real money, it is gambling. It is very much comparable to a lottery ticket where each ticket has some sort of win. While some make an arbitrary difference between loot boxes and gachas, the concept is largely the same. Here we could argue that loot boxes are similar to vending machine toys, and these are not counted as a form of gambling. However, the difference is of course that a vending machine does not insist you on a purchase, unlike the constant reinforcement video and mobile games tend to do with seasons, events and the like. The concept of gambling and video games is something I’ve touched before, with the argument that video and computer games themselves are not gambling, but can contain simulation of gambling, but loot boxes and gachas touch upon real world and games are designed to work with them as a core element, then we’re talking about a form of digital gambling.

However, the whole debacle of Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) is a whole another thing. While it has seemed to be a PR nightmare to EA due to all the negativity its microtransactions and  how long it’ll take to open up new characters within the game, EA has managed to make use all of this and seem like a company that listens to their consumers. Buying whatever in-game money it is they use to unlock characters will be enabled at a later date.

There’s the rub though; Battlefront II (2017) and other games like it that offer purchased random goods already cost money. Essentially, the game companies have become bloated to each direction in how much higher ups get salary to production values and development time that they need to find new ways to make more revenues. In order to make the revenues go up, EA has opted to concentrate all their efforts on a whale of a game that should snag the most players. All this after you’ve payed the full price for the game, of course, and you can’t open things up through sheer effort and skill. The game has cool down periods, where you can’t acquire in-game money. Hell, you can expect only 1-3% of the game’s players to carry these microtransactions. These are the trouble consumers that may need serious help. Gamers, while saying one thing, often seem to do the exact opposite.

This isn’t exactly putting all your eggs into one basket. This is more like putting trying to sap out everything from the consumer through one product. What I mean by this is that EA has opted to get as much revenue out of the game as possible outside the sales of the game. There is no equivalent in other entertainment media due to the nature of games. This isn’t a subscription to digital service or the like.

All this is a symptom. The cause, if we’re to believe companies, is the rising development costs. Unlike what these corporations want to tell the consumer via their PR, consumers at large don’t expect cutting edge graphics or the like. The game design has always been the number one factor. The only game culture that has concerned themselves with highest possible graphical fidelity is the computer game culture. However, with the cross pollination and consoles becoming dumbed down PCs, with Steam serving as a digital game console platform, it’s no wonder this skewed sense has crept into game development. Much like how Hollywood execs are becoming further moved away from the common consumer, the same is happening in game industry. There are too many large houses doing far too large projects, there is only three consoles on the market, with Steam effectively being a fourth addition that play the bit part of everything. Uniqueness has been replaced with ports everywhere, and now that ports seemingly not making enough money, the consumer is expected to dosh out more for the product they purchased.

EA and other developers need to look inside of their own house and cut down on the overtly expensive development cycles.

The argument that games can’t cost over 60€ is also bullshit. Currently, the medium price for a game is lower than what it has been at their highest. Ultima games cost around 120 dollars, with some N64 games costing locally around 120€ when transferred to current currency. If there is a need to raise games’ prices to meet the production costs, so be it. The market will decide if that was the right call. That, or drop the development costs outside salaries. It’s not the consumer’s fault if the products are not meeting with expectations and incredibly over-estimated sales figures.

Tapping people who may have gambling tendencies though is not the way to go.

Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY

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

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

X, Isuka and Xrd

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

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

From head to toes, here we go.

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY”

More first-party Microsoft titles in the horizon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death of an element in the game industry

How stupidly vague title. That is because for as long as game industry has existed in its modern form, there have been predictions and expectations for certain things to happen. Trip Hawkins is somewhat infamous for expecting Nintendo to die out in the 80’s, something long time gamers probably remember hearing each generation. Yet, it’s consistently been The Big N that seems to push video game innovation forwards in the grand scheme of things. In reality, everything they launch or new things they introduce already exists on the market in some form, Nintendo just manages to make use of old technology and represents it in a new manner. I’ve discussed the fact that I’ve been hearing that physical games will vanish in the next five years or so since 2005, which still hasn’t taken place. Certainly digital downloads and distribution has taken hold and has allowed far more smaller developers to pitch in, though they have not replaced physical games, especially on the video game market. The computer game market on the other hand has been consolised by Steam to the point of being unrecognisable from its former, free self.

The claim that single-player games are dying out at some speed is, to be completely frank, laughable. The Switch may have been Zelda the Console for some time now, with some other good titles sprinkled here and there, though that just shows how much people appreciate single-player games. With Super Mario Odyssey hitting two million units sold in three days, and the amount of single-player games mobile devices offer, not to mention the odd Facebook browser game and Cuphead going platinum in few weeks, it seems the idea of single-player games being a dying breed is hot air.

The classic electronic games trinity was the arcade machine, home video game console and personal computer. With the death of the arcades, this trinity has become more or less obsolete. However, it was never replaced with anything, as consoles have become increasingly dumbed-down computers all the while consolification of PC has been taking place. The trinity was supported by duality of both single-player and multi.player games, and the mix of the two.

To make it a bit more clear, the game industry has always stood on the idea of games you can play with or against the computer, and games that allow you to play with your friends. The two do not exclude each other in any way, as many single-player games also offer multiplayer mode. While I’ve seen some forums claim that single-player games are relics of old time, when you couldn’t have people playing together, this is bullshit. Both Tennis for Two from 1958 and Spacewar! from 1962 required two players to properly function.

If we were to go further back in game culture, we would find that there has always been a healthy split between games and game-like devices that were designed around single person to use. The phénakisticope is an example of a game-like device that was reserved for only one to use. Pinball machines and their predecessors like the bagatelle or Billard japonais, while able to support sequential multi-player, ultimately were one person devices. Hell, even in card games you have single-player variants, and some card games can only be played by one person properly. Solitaire is most famous for its single-player variant, with the multi-player one being relegated to curiosity.

Where I’m getting at here is that throughout the history, games and plays have always had a need for specific games that allow action done with a group, or action done alone.

If I were to turn this completely around for a moment, in many ways true single-player games have already died. Most, if not all, modern games already require something to run the game’s script and AI, meaning the player is actively playing with a non-human being, as limited as it may be. The fact that most modern games could not function without some level AI, like Nier Automata, means that every time we are playing such a game, we are playing against and with something. The only games that still are truly single-player are games like Breakout, which have no AI element to them.

That’s not what people mean by single-player game though.

The fact that there are cultural and historical reasons why games for one exist is nothing anyone should overlook. The fact that most modern games have a multi-player element to them is simply due to the fact that modern information technology allows it. We are in an era where we can mix the single-player experience with interactions with others without it being its completely own mode does not mean single-player games are dead. The traditional way of thinking the split between single- and multi-player games has to be reexamined with the advent of new technology. The godforsaken fact we’re connected to each other 24/7 also allows means to enhance these single-player experiences. The aforementioned Nier Automata does this by introducing other players’ dead characters on the field you can either pilfer or revive. Similarly, Gravity Rush 2 used player taken pictures as hints for others in treasure hunts. These methods do not change a game to become single-player, it uses the connectivity to enhance and give it more flavour, much like how base infiltration did in Metal Gear Solid V.

Lastly, there is still an immense market for single-player games. Despite online connectivity being what it is nowadays, multi-player games require specific sort of marketing, design on the cooperation or competitive side and expansion to keep the user base happy. The emphasize is laid differently for single-player games, where the challenge comes largely from the designers setting things up for the player, rather than expecting other players to make use of existing tools.

A good game will be in demand, be it single-player or not. Unless we experience a very deep shift in how human psyche works, there is a place for games we can play for ourselves. Electronic games, like everything else, evolves. Both single- and multi-player games need to evolve to meet with new demands and probably will end up taking elements from each other further.

Then again, Japan still pushes out fuckloads of single-player games so I don’t know what the hell people are jabbering about. Get off my lawn.