Valve’s wake-up call for visual novel enthusiast and others

With Valve taking steps to remove numerous titles from Steam due to T&A, Mangagamer has decided to bring their titles to GOG. The last sentence in their post also mentions how Sekai Project, the infamous VN publisher, is joining them in this move.

Mangagamer questions Steam a retail platform for visual novels, and that has been an extremely good question from the start. Steam as a digital console has the exact same limitations as vast majority of other game consoles have had throughout the years when it has come to sexually mature content. The last console that allowed some sort of clothes-off action was the Sega Saturn with its R-18 rated gambling titles, though even then the titles were cleaned up from their arcade and PC counterparts. Whether or not it really is better to have violence than sex in media has always been brought to question, but that’s slightly outside the scope here.

The PR director for Mangagamer, John Picket, knows how to word this opening salvo towards GOG. There has been some friction why these titles have not appeared on GOG, mostly due to GOG having different set of guidelines than Valve, but calling this an opportunity rather than an option forced on them is standard marketing speech. Considering Steam has always been an unreliable publishing platform due to how Valve exercises their control over titles, developers, publishers and users, this movement should not have come out as a surprise to anyone. Valve’s customer support is legendarily terrible, and their ~30% cut of all sales, which yields less and less revenue to publishers down the line, especially when most users simply purchase everything from sales. In previous post about VN bans on Steam I mentioned how their policies went against EU legislation when it came to purchasing, resale and refunding titles, but what I didn’t mention was that Valve put in bit in their EULA before purchase where the consumer would waver their freedom for 14-day return period. Similarly, when Valve was in court in Australia over similar matter between 2014 and 2016, they stopped providing their financial information, which ended the judge giving them a middle finger in legalise form. All legal cases that they knew they couldn’t sensibly win has been elongated for PR reasons and to create proper backup whenever the inevitable end result comes to.

While EA is considered to be the Satan of game corporations, credit must be given where credit is due, and their did have refunding program as according to EU legislation two years prior to Valve, and even then Valve’s refunding program was in Steam credits, meaning they still keep your money. Valve’s policies get changed from time to time to reflect the pressure they’re under from outside forces, all to cover their own assets and revenues. That is ultimately the end goal of all corporations, after all.

Valve has the control over the PC side of game market like no other to the point of publishers and developers considering any other route a detriment to their product. After a company has partnered with Valve to get their titles to Steam, everything else gets so muddled down. Why would you want to publish games on other platforms when Steam has essentially become the Windows in terms of digital games publishing? We’re at a point where an anti-trust case about their monopoly could be made, but that won’t happen. Too many consumers and companies are tied to Steam both in terms of money and emotions. Only something that would break the glass would make them consider twice on Steam. Something like taking down titles for them having bare chests.

But Aalt, aren’t you the one always championing game exclusivity? Yes, with consoles. The PC is a different market than consoles and is based on user-end freedom, something that has been constantly eroding through the use programs like Steam, taking Operating System control away from the user and evermore increasing activity tracking to the point of end-user having no privacy. If consoles are tightly controlled platforms for single purpose only, the PC was its free counterpart, where everything from your hardware choice to how you modified your software was completely up to you. Now, if you modify software linked with Steam to any extent unsavory for them, you’re going to be banned.

Valve has no competition. GOG is a good second, but far behind Steam in terms of dedicated users, despite GOG always being the objectively better option for software. Japan has DLSite and DMM for both pornographic materials and normal titles, something that Nutaku reflects in the West. There are numerous smaller publishing platforms that do not tie the user to themselves, but due to lack of publishers on these platforms they’ve never reached the surface awareness.

There is a distinct lack of diverse competition on the PC currently and it is not because of exclusives. This has been case for a good decade now, with even vast majority of the small amount of physical titles needing to be connected to a service as a form of DRM. This had lead Valve to had an effective control over PC software when it comes to gaming and their like titles, like visual novels. It should come to no surprise to anyone when Valve decides to exert their control on anything that might be seen as unsavory for their own benefits.

Banning Adult Oriented material, again

Lewgamer has a nice article with sources and citations on Valve threading to take down on adult games on Steam, give it a look before we go further.

The whole issue really is all about having erotica CG within the titles. Doesn’t matter if its just left in the code, if its junk data somehow and completely inaccessible by normal means. If it is there, it counts. Sounds extremely pathetic and funny, but that is the reality. The case this is most compared to, going as far Steam’s own representative doing it as well, is the Hot Coffee case. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas exists a disabled minigame where the player character can bang their chosen girlfriend character. The reason why it was left in the game’s code is because the assets were used elsewhere as well.

This basically set the tone that if a software has any sort of pornographic content inside the code or assets, it’s automatically Adult Only, which further means certain shops will not carry it and places like Australia most likely will instantly ban it.

I also recall something about Valve considering on banning titles that have censorship removing patches from other sites, be it via addition of the content or unlocking. However, I found no solid sources on this, so take this as a rumour at best.

With most visual novels having some level of erotica in them at least, Valve’s probably going to gun them down if this keeps going. This also means that even Muv-Luv‘s Steam releases are under threat in the worst case scenario. Considering Manga-Gamer had their title with “earnest and tasteful exploration of sexuality” is about to get the boot, pretty much anything goes.

This is one man’s crusade, though what Valve is doing here is covering their own asses for the worst case scenario for them. They don’t give a damn about the consumer or developer end due to their monopoly. Games with pornographic content is mere blip on the radar for them, the revenue Valve gains from them is microscopic for them. Worse, they’re a public corporation, and having erotica or pornography on their service in any form is often seen as a sort of stain. This probably also leads to some problems, just like how Steam’s terms of service had to be revised from “purchasing games” to “subscriptions” circa 2012, when Court of Justice of European Union decreed that it publishers can’t oppose of resale of used licenses. EULA ties you to nothing. However, publisher have more leverage if you don’t purchase anything from them, just subscribe to their product.

Valve, of course, never had clear rulings on the issue. They’ve been jumping back and forth regarding adult oriented material on their service in order not to even recognize the topic properly due to the stigma pornographic content still carries with it despite the fact that it’s all virtual.

The discussion about what constitutes as porn and what doesn’t should be made, but it doesn’t matter to Valve. Their view is pretty clear on the issue, even if they aren’t. If it has any kind of sexually explicit content under any kind of depiction, it is counted as porn. There is no room for nuances on the topic, which only tells how puritanical this issue is.

It is unfortunate that things have done this way, as this will probably cause further issues down the line for anyone willing to entertain the idea of having a more sexual title on Steam. It’s a slippery slope we’re in for here. There are numerous solutions, like moving these titles to Nutaku, but that also means raving Steam fans wouldn’t follow in suit.

Mature sexual content, be it pornography, erotica or whatever else similar will always limit your audience to adults and people who aren’t living in a medieval level culture. The approach of simply trying to clean it away is not the right step by any means and it will be met with opposition. However, what Valve could do here is to open a specific section for Adult Only audience, both expanding their market and guaranteeing that places competitors like GOG wouldn’t be tempted to open this sort of targeted service. Then again, this would encourage further competition, so perhaps it would be a chance for them. Muv-Luv on GOG would remove any of my reasons to use Steam.

What is the consumer to do here, if they oppose booting titles off Steam if they contain adult material? Wallet voting by purchasing these products, making your voice hard on social media and elsewhere at their representatives and showcasing support to devs who are inclining towards censoring their products.

I guess this is as good time as any to remind my readers that corporations are there to make money and keep their investors happy. That’s their main goal, and sometimes it is more favourable to enforce certain image and lack of products that could be harmful somehow to the younger audiences.

Funny that, this is pretty in-line with how the US is seen by most Europeans; a place where over-the-top and accurate depictions of hyper violence is awright, but a bare breast will make everyone flip their shit.

So you’ve finished Muv-Luv Alternative, and wondering what next

Due to circumstances, I haven’t had time to type out anything too wholesome to read for this Tuesday. Hence, I’ve prepared a small suggestion guide what to check next in the Muv-Luv franchise if you’ve finished Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative. This is a spoiler free listing, splitting between English and Japanese contents.

Official English language options

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse

Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse TV-series has been officially licensed and released by Sentai Filmworks. While Total Eclipse has rather negative reputation among the fans, it was the first Muv-Luv related product that reached the Western shores. It offers a new cast of characters, with questionable production values, and takes place before the events of Alternative. You can read a larger take on the series here. It doesn’t offer the best the franchise has, but is an expansion to the world Alternative has introduced. It stands as an independent story from the rest of the franchise, like most of these larger sidestories, and its two first episodes are probably the show’s best ones.

If your Japanese is good enough, the PC version of the Visual Novel is a definitive pick, though some argue that the anime is better due to it lacking certain significant revelation.

Schwarzesmarken

Schwarzesmarken was officially simulcasted by Crunchyroll, though for whatever reason they managed to misspell the title with a space. Set in the BETAverse’ 1980’s, the story is far removed from either Total Eclipse or Alternative. It has a more dreadful to it than Total Eclipse, with cold war between East and West still raging in Germany, all the while the BETA still push towards Western Europe. Half as short as Total Eclipse, Schwarzesmarken offers some look into earlier days of war against BETA, when not all tactics were put into stone yet and TSFs were heavy coffins. Opinions are split which one is worse, Total Eclipse or Schwarzesmarken, though I recommend watching both to make up your own mind. The two shows may have a connection through one certain character, though that has never been officially confirmed. If you want to read more about Schwarzesmarken, I have a full review of the series on the site.

The Visual Novel was split into two and didn’t sell all that well, but is a better piece of the two, if only by a margin. Only in Japanese though.

Rumbling Hearts

Rumbling Hearts AKA Kimi ga Nozomu Eien was localised by Funimation in the mid-2000’s and is available at their site for free to watch, though this is region locked. Nevertheless, the DVDs are common and cheap to pick up. Rumbling Hearts, while not exactly a prequel to Muv-Luv, shares the same setting as Extra, and certain character appear in their BETAverse versions in Alternative. However, unlike Extra, Rumbling Hearts is very much dead serious in its tone to relationships to the point of being probably one of the more realistic depictions of troubles in romantic relationships in Japanese cartoons. It is a fantastic adaptation, shrinking the core of the Visual Novel while still giving it some originality to it. It’s highly recommended if you haven’t seen it, regardless of your genre preferences. I have a podcast special with Invalidname, a huge fan of the series; Evan, one of the translators of Muv-Luv and all around pretty cool guy and Muv-Luv Alternative; and Doc who I dragged along because the show needed a third party opinion.

If you can muster the language, I recommend reading the Visual Novel as well.

Whenever the Photon collections gets released on Steam thanks to the Kickstarter, this spot will be updated with multiple entries when applicable.

~Unofficial~English Language Options

These option require you to acquire the discs themselves for you to patch.

Before the Shimmering Time Ends

Before the Shimmering Tim Ends is a sequel to Muv-Luv Alternative. This story can be found in the Muv-Luv Altered Fable and Photon Melodies collections. It is a common misconception that the story’s name is Altered Fable, but that’s just the collection’s name it comes in alongside Faraway Dawn and Total Eclipse Mini-ADV . Those who have finished Alternative should be aware of the last events changing things a bit, and this story takes full advantage of them. Alternative Projects has translated three of the routes in the Visual Novel of the PC version, and the required patch can be picked up from their site. The three routes are highly recommended to read, as it soothes the pains lingering from Alternative. Or makes them more exaggerated, depending on you, dear reader.

Haruko Maniax

One of the shorter stories, Haruko Maniax gives you what’s in the title. One of Evan’s spot-on contributions around, before the Kickstarter hit the ‘hood. If you liked Haruko as a character during Alternative, this is a must read. It follows Haruko’s little brother, who seems to have some fixation to his older sister. Filled with comedy and fantasy segments of erotic kind, it’s a fun little read while you’re waiting for other stuff to come out. You can pick up the patch from Alternative Project.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01

Much like how Altered Fable is a collection, the Chronicles lineup of fandiscs (releases that are directed at the fans rather than as full-blown, Big Name releases) serves as a backbone to ixtl/âge’s expanding both Unlimited and Alternative through side stories. The Day After is a series that takes place after the events of Unlimited‘s end and offers a world that is very much gone to hell, with half of it turned into an ocean of salt, struggle against famine and BETA an everyday thing. Both Chicken Divers and Rain Dancers give further insight to the struggle against BETA from the viewpoint of your normal surface pilots. Once more, the patch can be picked up from Alternative Projects.

Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 02

Chronicles 02 continues where the previous one ended, though this time there are only two stories to read through; The Day After Episode 01 and MLA Chronicles Adoration. The Day After continues with the Unlimited timeline as previously mentioned, while Adoration having a lighter tone to it as it follows Imperial Royal Guard member Makabe Seijurou’s exchange in Euro Front’s Dover base. Not much need to be said about either one, except that Alternative Projects have a separate patches for TDA01 and Adoration.

Various Rumbling Hearts short stories

Evan, one of the Alternative Project’s translators I mentioned above, has a site up called Kiminozo Life, which contains his unofficial translations for numerous Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv related side stories. These include, for example, Melvina Maniax’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, which sees the two main characters between the two stories switching places, and True Lies, one of the more comedy filled entries in the KGNE/ML metaverse. There are no patches, as the translations are done through subtitled videos. You can also bother him on Twitter about anything.

Japanese options, for fun and language training

This is not intended as a complete list of all âge/ixtl’s products that have relations to Muv-Luv, but here are some specific picks for those hungry for more and have the language skills demanded.

Before the Cherry Trees Blossom -Muv-Luv After Episode-

A story set after Sumika’s Extra route, starting in February 2002. While having some janky writing, it is nevertheless the first direct continuation of an Extra route, and it’s a must read for those who want to see more Sumika, and how the cast graduates. If you absolutely hate her guts, you might as well skip this. Otherwise, it’s extra for those who like Extra. It can be found in Muv-Luv Supplement, alongside with rectal destroying card game Muv-Luv Duelist and few other stories.

Muv-Luv ~Another Episode Collection~

Stuffed to Muv-Luv Supplement, Another Episode Collection also goes under the name of Heroine Short Story collection. These stories are set in before and during Extra from other character’s perspective. Also in Photon Flowers, so you can dust off that PS3 of yours, or sit tight and wait.

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu

Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu is the whole shebang that started âge’s Kimi ga line of VNs, that lasted all two titles. Much like how Muv-Luv follows up on Rumbling Hearts, Rumbling Hearts follows on Kimi Ita. The title’s not anything special, if we’re honest, but does give an insight to certain characters that appear as their BETAverse counterparts in some Muv-Luv titles. There is also an updated version, if you find the late 1990’s style garish.

Chronicles 03 and 04

Chronicles 03 follows in the footsteps of Chronicles 02 and has two main titles: The Day After Episode 02 and MLA Chronicles Resurrection. Resurrection follows the exploits of one Silvio Orlandi. While the story opens up as a rather serious take on him praying in a church before he engages a mission, it quickly turns into a more light-hearted romp about him becoming a Six Million Dollar Man and is sent to infiltrate the Yokohama Base as a spy. It’s a rather lengthy story to boot, with multiple chapters and a change in visual style.

Chronicles 04 collects more stories than the two previous installments, with TDA 03 introducing a certain familiar face from the mainline trilogy. Let’s just say all those hours put into Valgern-On really paid off. Last Divers could be called a companion piece to Chicken Divers as the two share themes with each other, with the significant difference of Last Divers taking place in the Unlimited‘s TDA timeline. War Ensemble takes place in 1998, and unlike most other stories, it concentrates on the infantry. While we have TSF running around, the story’s main point is to show how inglorious it is to be a foot soldier, with few powered armours at your side, when a BETA assault lands on you.

And if you’re a fan of anthropomorphised BETA, Chronicles 04  has an episode of Haiburu.

Tactical Surface Figher in Action and other materials

Tactical Surface Fighter in Action, or TSFiA for short, is a series of short stories concentrating on the TSFs themselves and numerous events across Unlimited and Alternative timelines, crossing over with both Schwarzesmarken and Total Eclipse. These were essentially story advertisement for TSF toys and models, and dioramas were made using these. Some of them stories have been translated, but that was some years ago, with this being the latest version.

There are loads of books regarding Muv-Luv, from source books to comics. Some of the comics have been scanlated at least to some extent, and I’m sure you can locate some through use of a search engine. A special mention needs to be given to the Alternative comic, which has gotten a positive reception from those who have read it. Integral Works is also recommended, though its info is used in the upcoming Codex. TSF Cross Operation books are sort of expansions to Integral Works in that they contain expanded information and short stories, including numerous TSFiA ones.

Muv-Luv Alternative Faraway Dawn

Faraway Dawn are two sets of strategy games included with Altered Fable and Haruko Maniax. In essence, your job is to keep TSFs intact and their pilots alive through number of missions in rUGP powered STR. Expect high difficulty and lots of savescumming. The game plays on a field build on hexagons, and while all the menus are in Japanese, understanding them is a small matter of trial and error. It’s about as easy to get around them as it is with a standard Super Robot Wars, though there are more things to consider than in SRW titles.

Akane Maniax and AyuMayu Theatre

Akane Maniax is a name of a visual novel and a three-episode OVA. The OVA was meant to bridge Rumbling Hearts to Muv-Luv in animation form, but that came to naught. However, it is the first time we see Takeru & co. in animated form, and while it does lean on the comedy side of things, it’s a good fan service overall. You can pick the Japanese DVDs rather cheaply nowadays, or if you’ve got the dough, the BD set that comes with Rumbling Hearts, Akane Maniax and Next Season OVA with some other extras. You can freely apply fansubs to these versions, and there are specifically timed versions floating around the net. Next Season is effectively an optional end to the series, made to both advertise then-new Latest Edition of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien VN, and to appease raving Haruka fans.

AyuMayu Theatre, or AyuMayu Gekijouban if you’re so inclined, is an ONA based around making fun of both Rumbling Hearts and Muv-Luv, having cast from both series stepping and having comedy of their and the viewer’s expense. It’s really a recommended watch, and subtitles floating around can be put into good use as the DVD is dirt cheap nowadays. Seriously, it costs one yen if you know where to look and are willing to buy used. If you’ve grown fond of Ayu and Mayu, they got their own Alternative.

AyuMayu Alternative

The last entry on this short list is AyuMayu Alternative, a rather tongue-in-cheeck spin-off with more of the comedic characters from Rumbling Hearts and Akane Maniax getting a huge spotlight. It’s a fun read, especially if you’re a fan of old-school robot anime and Saint Seiya. However, if you’re in mood for something more serious, AyuMayu Alternative also hosts two Chronicles stories.

MLA Chronicles Atonement and Inheritance/Succession (it’s got two competing choices for a translation) follow a select two characters. In Atonement, we see Jinguuji Marimo‘s past when she was a cadet, at her Comprehensive Combat Eval. and her first sortie against the BETA. These expand on the character, and while I’ve seen some argue that it cheapens the character, others have countered that it expands and gives another meaning to the 7th chapter Muv-Luv Alternative; The Unforgiven. Inheritance concentrates on the immediate family of Captain herself, Isumi Michiru, specifically her little sister Akira. Set soon after the events on Sado Island, Akira meets with her sisters after a victory celebration, only to pass out due to PTSD flashbacks. Later, they learn about Captain’s faith. Towards the end, we see Akira taking part in Operation Sledgehammer in 2003, the third known successful Hive infiltration, and the first successful Hive capture for humanity without a need for weapons like G-Bombs.

There is lot more to Muv-Luv as a franchise than what’s on this list, especially if we take into account the rest of the expanded metaverse, but for now these should offer some ideas what to check out next. There is a lot more to come in the future.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-5 Freedom Fighter

I’ll be blunt straight from the start; the F-5 series Tactical Surface Fighters are boring and blocky as hell. Their design takes only few elements from the fighters overall and mostly rely on being blocky to stand from the crowd. They are the antithesis of the TSF design rules I proposed, and the main argument why they are invalid across the board. I shouldn’t really be writing this with a fever, but now that I finally have access to my folders and books, I wanted to get this done away. However, let’s start with the real F-5 first and foremost before mentioning a thing about the TSF.

The F-5 was designed in the late 1950’s by Northrop to compete with its contemporaries, mainly the McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II. F-5 however became the more popular of the two for it being a versatile and a low-cost light weight supersonic fighter. Mainly designed to be an air superiority fighter, the fighter was also capable of air-to-ground attacks.
The initial run of F-5’s was around 800 units, as USAF didn’t have a need for a lightweight fighter such at the time. Nevertheless, the F-5E Tiger II was put into production for Americas’ allies after Northrop won the Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970. F-5E saw an overall improved design with more powerful engines with the J85-GE21 turbojets capable of 2 268kg of afterburning thrust, greater sing spanand other overall improvements. One of the places F-5E saw extensive use was in Vietnam due to its nature of being able to perform both air and ground attacks. Its two 20mm cannons in the nose could deliver new speed holes to the enemy units and the F-5-E was capable of carrying two AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs on its wingtips, plus around 3 175kg of mixed ordinance. By the mid-80’s, over 20 countries had imported the F-5E into their air forces, and while it may lack all-weather capabilities, it’s relative cheap price and operation was deemed more valuable. Taiwan, South Korea and Switzerland all produced F-5E under license, and while the production of the fighter stopped in 1987, manufacturers still offer a variety of upgrade options. It’s one of the more widespread fighters in the world, and countries like Mexico sill have some in service. The last evolution of F-5 series would have been the F-20 Tigershark, but the USAF declined the aircraft. However, the F-5 series served as the basis for the Northrop YF-17 and F/A-18 fighters. To be fair, there is so much history to the fighter due to its widespread nature that it’s better for you to check what interest you more, this is just a basic introduction to the fighter.

f-5There’s no imageboard variant this time around. The lack of any sort of good backside image or Jump Units for this particular version really shows how the further variants are more prevalent in the franchise

The TSF version of the F-5 bears some resemblance to the fighter in its history. Initially rolled out after the introduction Phantom II, the Freedom Fighter opted for lower armouring and superior mobility. Just like the F-5 fighter was used to train pilots, the Freedom Fighter TSF served first as a training machine that was converted into a full-fledged combat unit. We don’t know what this training TSF was named or looked like, but that doesn’t matter. Similar how the real life F-5 became an export extravaganza, so did the Freedom Fighter, with the US forces allowing to local productions of this lightweight surface fighter in order to take pressure off from American productions. This naturally gave the Europeans their own TSF push towards Kashgar and counter the invading BETA.The weapon loadout for the Freedom Fighter was simple; a WS-16 Assault Cannon and brass balls for the pilot. The FE85-GE15 engines allowed the TSF to have superior maneuverability over Phantom II, but the weapons technology was severely lacking during the early 1970’s, making the war against BETA more or less a futile attempt. However, it was because of its cheap price and low-maintenance why Freedom Fighter found success in the front lines. The Soviets and European forces found it worth to mix Phantom IIs and Freedom Fighters in a healthy mix to compensate each other’s lacking capabilities, which would yield further high-low mix troops in the future.F-5 itself influenced the Soviet’s MiG-series and would affect their design decisions in regards of close-combat capabilities. The French developed the Mirage III based on the Freedom Fighter, which would ultimately give birth European 3rd Generation TSFs such as EF-2000 Typhoon and the Rafale. The F-5 series of TSFs would continue to mirror the evolution of the real life fighters in a very similar fashion, giving birth to F-5G Tighershark Tactical Surface Fighter and other variants. Of course, Muv-Luv’s BETAverse differs in naming schemes and has some additional variations, but that’s par for the course.As for the design of the F-5 Freedom Fighter, it shares more design elements with the F-5 Phantom II than the real fighter it is supposed to be based on. Sure, the Jump Units (not pictured) share its normal resemblance with the fighter, but outside few overall similarities the core Freedom Fighter doesn’t have much going on for it. This is where the early consistency still kicks in hard, but the lack of further discerning elements in the TSF from the fighter makes this a boxy and boring unit.  Things would get any better, with F-5F Mirage III being essentially the same with a new chest, wider antennae and spikes on its knees. It wouldn’t be until Mirage 2000 before the European TSFs would start to carry further elements from the real life fighters. That’s a damn shame too.F-5 did offer elements to borrow from, but I guess one ways to show how low-tech 1st Gen TSFs are is to have lacking plane elements in the,
Just like with some other TSFs, what matters more is the history and intention of the rather than the design, resulting in a poor comparison point between the fighter and TSF, unless one wants to over analyse every single little bit on the unit. Frankly, that would be useless.From now on, I probably will have to resort to various other sources for images, most likely the use of CGs will see a rise.

Review of the month; TSF Close Combat weapons overview

Fantasy weapons are rarely useful. They’re overdesigned pieces of trash that use excuse of magic or other bullshit to make them plausible. While Japan has produced some fine examples and utter bullshit, like the Final Fantasy 8 Gunblade or Clouds Buster Sword, the West is no stranger to absolutely batshit stupid designs. Skyrim’s Red Eagles Fury and Daedric Sword are good examples of awful design as is the Frostmourne from World of Warcraft.

The TSF close combat weapons don’t get a free pass from me just because it’s Muv-Luv. The problem with giant robot weapons is that they’re pretty much always made of bullshittium or the like. In case of TSF’s close combat weapons, they’re most likely made of some sort of derivative of supercarbon to give them high resistance to damage and light weight rather than made straight up same type the TSF’s are made of. Outside the fact that close combat is not the best idea when it comes to fighting the BETA, these close combat weaponry range from night retarded to plausible.

To add to the discussion whether or not these should be called Melee Halberds or something else, I’m sticking with my grounds and refusing to call these halberds despite me finally finding some materials having the term in plain English. Furthermore, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse World Guidance, or just TEWG, splits Melee Halberds into types; halberds and claymores. This can be countered with two arguments; 1) there are no halberds in Muv-Luv and 2) there are no claymores in Muv-Luv. This is largely a case where the writers have just thrown in cool sounding terms they no jack shit about. You might as well start calling a gun a longsword while you’re at it and missiles as Volkswagens. I may  need to read up on fighters and jet planes with each TSF comparison, but I know my way around blade weapons pretty well.

The Type-74 PB Blade is the sword we see the most in the franchise as it is used by the Japanese. It’s not really modelled after any real life sword, and while most people will see it modelled after a katana, the closes analogue would be the Chinese changdao as all of them are named after this particular type of sword. Tachi or nodachi would be the closest Japanese equivalent. Maybe the back carrying is taken from nodachi due to their huge size, but the grip with Type-74 is too short to be one.

Incidentally, the Type-74 PB Blade bears resamblence toa changdao in blade curvature. As a sidenote, changdao directly translates as long knife
Re-using this one from my previous entry

Continue reading “Review of the month; TSF Close Combat weapons overview”

Further discussion on the Muv-Luv Alternative Codex

I was supposed to do a TSF/fighter jet comparison this weekend, but I’m sure fans of Muv-Luv will find this one a bit more of interest for the time being.

The reported amount characters in Muv-Luv Alternative Integral Works was around 500k characters. That’s a large amount of Japanese characters in 351 pages or so, and when translated text will expand the page count a lot, at least to 400 page region. Add in the Lunatic Dawn 1-9/ Allied Strategy 1-3 translation in there and you will get a piece that should hit around 500 pages and more. This isn’t the problem in itself. The problem that has popped up is that IW’s character count hits closer to 600-700k region.

Combined with the LDs, the new count would push the translation well over the 450-500 pages limit into 550-600 pages region.

The book dreams were made of, until it's translation become a reality
The book dreams were made of, until it’s translation become a reality. This will also be the last time I take my IW from wraps

To reiterate what Integral Works is, it is a source and guidebook for Muv-Luv Alternative, its fictional world history, organisations, mechanical designs and the like. It is not an artbook. I should have not compared IW to Mega Man 25th Anniversary Book…

Dimensions-wise, MM25 is about the same size as IW
Dimensions-wise, MM25 is about the same size as IW

…when in reality I should’ve probably compared IW to a book that’s more or less similar content-wise. Just with a chapter or two about fictional fighters-turned-mecha.

Like this one here. It's an excellent book you should read. I should update my own, it's over decade old at this point and missing some new key events
Like this one here. It’s an excellent book you should read. I should update my own, it’s over decade old at this point and missing some new key events

Lunatic Dawns/ Allied Strategy are magazine books (mooks) sold at Comic Market. Their content varies from serious additional information about in-world matters in very similar fashion to Integral Works’. However, there are numerous other subjects that LDs have, far more comedic, tongue-in-cheek in tone as well as topics that have no relation to Muv-Luv in form of advertisements and other similar stuff.

I'm not too keen on collecting LD's at the moment, but perhaps later in this year I may have something else in mind
I’m not too keen on collecting LD’s at the moment, but perhaps later in this year I may have something else in mind
Why in the depth of seven hells I have a pane of glass next my computer and where the hell did it come from?
Why in the depths of seven hells I have a pane of glass next my computer and where the hell did it come from? Why didn’t I clean it before taking the photo? Can I use this to take photos in the future?

Much like IW, LDs contain interviews, sketches, behind the scenes information and short stories. They’re like  bits of IW additions next to humour and advertisements.

What I’m going to touch upon in the rest of the post applies only to the physical version of the Muv-Luv Alternative Codex; something needs to be cut.

IW is the backbone of the Codex, there is no doubt about it. Contents of LD’s will be integrated amidst IW’s translated text, hopefully seamlessly.

After discussions with Jason, the Muv-Luv Kickstarter’s community manager, it became apparent that there needs to be cuts made in both IW and LDs in order to accommodate the pre-set page limit. The page limit is more or less absolute, as pressing a book of this size has to have carefully calculated budget. There’s not much room to fidget around. That’s a reality we’ve have to face and there’s really no way to get around it.

I have taken a point of view that the Codex needs to in-line with the tone and content IW has. Cutting materials from LD was previously known, and as such about half of LDs’ contents are cut straight away. These contents are the humour stuff and unrelated to Muv-Luv in general terms. As LDs are advertising for (then) upcoming âge products, they have materials on Chronicles’ series, like The Day After, Joshin Eishi Cryska and the like. As IW is a companion to Alternative, we have an establishes context for the Codex. The Day After belongs to Unlimited timeline, thus The Day After related material has no reason to be Codex, or rather, it has does not have the highest priority. It is not impossible to have future booklets that would concentrate on these The Day After and other materials.

However, as I said, something needs to be cut from IW. Chapter 9 is fourteen page short story concentrating on Tsukiji Tae. You may remember certain cat scene from Muv-Luv to which she is related to. While I would personally want this short story to be included, a fourteen page cut is a godsend, and I will argue for it getting cut simply on that it doesn’t add raw data into the book. It adds world building for sure, but it is slightly too personal.

Second piece that I would expect to be axed is in Chapter 3. Towards the end there is a seven page short story about a TSF mechanic, and while the story would be great to have for further personal world building, I also argue for its removal on the same basis as Tsukiji Tae’s short story.

Chapters 11 and 12 are interviews whereas the 13th final chapter is the Glossary. These interviews are something I would hate to see the axe as they contain information on the creation of the franchise and a little bit around of it. What I like about Chapter 11’s interview is that around the pages there are information boxes of the matters the text is referencing to. For example, it has small explanation boxes for Mospeada, the Andromeda from Space Battleship Yamato, the influence of James P. Hogan‘s SF works, Asimov’s I, Robot, Devilman, Spriggan Mk2, Raster Scroll, and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion. These bits are interesting for sure, but with the whole library of the world at the tips of our fingers, they can be excised to gain more room.

If you’re worried about the translation quality, all I can say is that don’t be. There is a competent translator working on it.

Expect the Codex look different from IW as well. The reason for this is that ixtl doesn’t own the layout for the book. They own all the content for sure, text and images, but Enterbrain, which is a brand company under Kadokawa Corporation, owns the layout itself. They also publish magazines like TechGIAN and other game related materials. They’ve also dabbled into software front in form of RPG Maker and its relatives, plus they’ve got some actual games alongside some VNs. Tabletop RPGs too, some of which I should buy for my friend.

The person who will be in charge of Codex’s layout will have a goddamn riot day with all the materials and page limit he’ll have to work with.

Currently, the physical Codex is the main concern. The digital Codex will be made afterwards, and it has been mentioned that at the base idea it should be updated. This would mean that the content that would need to be excised from the Codex for tone and space might appear in Digital Codex later down the line.

Muv-Luv as a franchise is experiencing a sort of renaissance thanks to the Kickstarter. Schwarzesmarken is on the television, second VN being released after it has run its course and certain future plans I don’t have any freedom to talk about. Things are looking rosy, for all the fans around the world.

Music of the Month; Crusader

This one will be short. For a while now I’ve been emphasizing on these Music of the Month bits how I’ve been living in a period of change and how I have been busy with work. Well, let’s just say that work business has now died down, and I will be busy with other matters. That said, I will not put the blog down and will continue to do two posts per week, more if possible.

This week we recorded a podcast with Evan from the Alternative Projects and few other special guests. This is one of those special podcasts that will appear on this site, but it’s a long one and as such will take some time to edit down. It was supposed to be ready today, but I had a two-day gig again, which took all of my time.

All previous ideas from last month are still valid and on paper. I tend to play the long game. You might remember it took almost two years to make that laserdisc player review. To continue from that on, there’s is nothing new on the Muv-Luv front. Sure, Schwarzesmarken first part was just released and I have read it a bit, but it’s less relevant for the Western fan that doesn’t understand the language. What I mean is that currently the Kickstarter is at production phase, where some products are going through final revisions whereas others, like the reworked translations, are under being worked on. As such, this is pretty much the storm’s eye moment, where we went through the first part of the storm with the Kickstarter, but we still need to go through last gusts of winds.

And that spot is was worries me quite a lot. Recently you have seen some news of game companies refusing to release games in the West if they have sexy characters. Dead or Alive Extreme has been on the news for this and Koei Tecmo made an official announcement on the issue. Next to them, Idea Factory and Compile Heart have stated that they will follow the suit. This is pretty fat bullshit, and we all know it. Here’s the thing; no company or no person should be forced to censor their product for a foreign audience, especially if this product is already for teens or older.

I do understand why these companies want to avoid localisation. It’s not just about the bad press they would get, even if it really would be from limited sources like Gawker. It’s amusing to see how the US has become a hugbox where nobody’s feelings can be hurt in any way, and France is the nation that is picking up a fight. There’s also a monetary aspect, and just not having to deal with bullshit expenses is always welcomed.

Companies like XSEED have been treating their products and customers well. Degica, while a company that doesn’t put itself too much in the front, really need to be noticed. Not only they handled Muv-Luv’s Kickasterter incredibly well, but they’ve been pushing out games like Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours. Hell, Degica has been digitally publishing large numbers of shooting games, including a bit obscure titles like Judgement Silversword. Now if they could just partner with GOG to the same extent. However, I am expecting to see some level of shitstorm brewing about when Muv-Luv’s release draws near. I know NeoGAF already had issues with it, and whenever they release the patch that adds the ‘important bits’ back, things may get a bit heated. The best thing for Degica in this case would not to back on their word. After all, it’s a million dollar Kickstarter, breaking promises will affect their possible future fund raisers.

So, what’s store for us? I’ll be finishing year’s last TSF comparison, I wanted to do some more reading on it, but I feel all of it was for nothing. There’s that aforementioned podcast and then… something I need to check, I have a horrible memory. One thing I require to do is to take time for myself and make myself better at things. There most likely will be a personal entry, haven’t done one of those in a long time. Let’s have some more Keldian to lighten up the mood, shall we?

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 helmet is to protect, even in fiction

Often fiction tries to make something cool with the expense of coherent realism. There’s a lot of small things here and there that require slightly larger suspense of disbelief than others, and then there’s just things that make little to no sense in-universe either.

The latest releases of Muv-Luv franchises have given way for helmets for the surface pilots. The helmetless pilots were one of the gripes people used to have, but then again the VNs never made it a big deal to begin with and was consistent with itself. Perhaps it doesn’t make much sense not to have helmets for the pilots, but consistency is preferred over retcons.

Retcons like this do not usually bother me. It can be played in various ways, like saying that certain groups do not use the helmets for whatever reason or something like that. What bothers me in this that the helmets’ design simply doesn’t fit the setting.

Visually speaking, the helmets do fit the bill just fine. That’s not enough, thou
Visually speaking, the helmets do fit the bill just fine. That’s not enough, thou

The problem with the helmet designs that are introduced into Muv-Luv’s BETAverse is that they don’t function as proper helmets. They’re more like glass domes, even if they were some sort of highly resistant super science plastic. It’s more like they’re made for high-end cosplay than for high-speed tactical surface fighter piloting.

A helmet’s job is to protect the wearer’s head. We know that this helmets really doesn’t do that from the top as it’s just a dome. I assume that the sides are well protected because of the shell being there. The top, however, is not. I’ve seen some arguments for the point that increased area of clarity increases the field of vision above. I don’t support or even take this argument all that well, as TSF pilots use indirect ‘Laservision’ to see outside their units.

I still regard this a really neat idea
I still regard this a really neat idea

The pilots do need normal vision outside the cockpits, that’s a given. In some manner, we could actually have completely shut helmets that simply run on battery and give the pilots feedback via Laservision all the time, and the pilot could switch between visions at will. This would give them access to the TSF’s camera view even outside the cockpit, but this would cumbersome to use overall.

However, the increased vision doesn’t stand with the dome. Human eye doesn’t see all that high, and having a clear dome on top of your head is just design for the sake of visuals rather than actual use. It’s not protective. You could actually just cut the clear part from those extended bits over her eyes and the helmet would suddenly have more protective area as well as padding inside. That’s sort of important as well; there’s no padding in the clear parts of the helmet, and that’s highly dangerous. Then again, we all know that no amount of armouring can save your head from a BETA.

It's a bit bulbous, but form follows use
It’s a bit bulbous, but form follows use

The F-35 pilot helmet has a lot of stuff going on for that âge’s designers could have used. First of all, the helmet is fully protective. There’s extra layer of visor there for sure, but it’s far from the surface pilot helmet’s overhead dome. As the F-35’s helmet uses augmented reality to give extra feedback to the pilot, the pilot could look down at his feet and practically see through the plane. This is, by all means, the same function the Laservision gives to the surface pilot. It is pretty clear that the retcon helmet is designed to sit more on the surface pilot’s shoulders than on his head, much like an astronaut’s helmet. As such, the surface pilot’s head does not move the helmet, which is a problem when you have all that material on the sides. The F-35 helmet is on top of the pilot’s head and allows full vision that comes with the head motion.

It should be noted that the surface pilot helmet may do is that it holds its own  separate atmosphere. This is something that fiction does often and is as often just assumed. For example, Iron Man’s suit has its own atmosphere that keep Stark alive during high altitude flights, not to mention space travel. Muv-Luv, and mecha genre in general, work on comic book logic so that’s not a true issue. One could argue that the design of the helmet and its existence is an application of comic book logic, but then you’d also have to remember that the lack of helmets follows that as well, meaning that the setting is in contradiction with itself.

Then suddenly, real training helmets
Then suddenly, real training helmets

The surface pilot helmet design is also the worst helmet design in-universe. The training helmet that’s being retconned into the story showcase that âge is able to design very practical and usable looking gear and helmets. The helmet above could easily be the surface pilot helmet with some changes. Add a visor and close the exposed area on top of the head and you would have a pretty damn nifty design. Of course, the visuals would need to be changed a little bit to go with the Fortified suit’s design.

I admit that the surface pilot helmets grind my gears as they are retcons. However, the helmets have not appeared in every installation of the franchise since their appearance. That’s the contradiction, and the Total Eclipse visual novel’s PC edition will clearly use the helmets, at least in one or two scenes.

What decides when the surface pilot helmets are used? Why they’re not used by everybody? Why were they even retconned into the franchise if only selected amount of pilots ever use them?

The helmets are a minor thing on the grand scale for sure. However, it does stand out as a negative flicker in the world building âge and ixtl have been doing. To be blunt, it doesn’t make any sense how these helmets are handled. That, or I’m a person who takes this far too seriously.

Even then I do like the design, in the end.