Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Why is Tencent never called out?

Check out this story:

Chinese company Tencent wants to see “no blacks” and “big boobs” in its films and games

Although they do use blacks in laundry detergent commercials:

Perhaps we should see a Tencent company party.

giphy.gif
Above: The girls must unscrew a bottle with their mouths.

Why is it that my neighbors in Texas get accused of the above, yet it isn’t acknowledged of what is going on in China?

When will China be taken to task? When will Tencent be called out?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Email: Where to put the weirdness matters

The other day I had the urge to play Warcraft II again, so I spun up DOSBox
and installed it again. This got me thinking about Warcraft and why it’s weird
and silly elements work while the weird and silly in many Japanese games does
not.

I think one very important difference is that in Western games the weirdness is
on the margin. You will never hear Medieval Man playing during the game. You
have to put your CD into a CD player, and even then in plays as the last
track, neither the first nor in the middle. Critters explode only if you keep
clicking them repeatedly, and units say funny things only if you keep poking
at them. The same holds true for Starcraft and Warcraft III as well. You have
to go out of the way to find the sillyness.

If the sillyness is front and center it does not gel with the rest of the
serious game. But if it is completely serious there is no room to breathe.
Putting the sillyness at the margin offer a form of stress relief (for lack of
a better term) without compromising the core. Japan used to understand this in
the past as well. In Zelda aLttP the game was serious for the most time, but
you could do silly things like attack the chicken until they swarmed you, or
sprinkle magic powder on things for funny effects. But something changed and
the sillyness started to take center stage more and more. Zelda LA could be
excused for being a GameBoy game, but there is no excuse for shit like Tingle.
Even the supposedly serious TP was fully of dumb shit like the mail man, the
baby who runs his own item shop or the weird deformed character design in
general.

Why did it happen? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s an ego thing, maybe the people
who do it think they are sooo hilarious. Maybe it’s a type of tone deafness
where you spend so much time inside the individual parts of the game that you
lose your sense of the actual whole.

I have an idea of why that is happening. Entertainment is about extremes. You can’t have ‘normal people running about’ as NPCs. That’s not interesting. It’s bland. It’s boring.

One example of this has to be the shop keepers in Secret of Mana. Just look at them!

I don’t need dancing shopkeepers. It’s a distraction *from* the game. It’s like you’re playing Batman, which is dark and grim, and then the 1960s Batman appears! It’s out of place.

The developers are trying to ham it up, to add some pizzazz in order to make it entertaining.

“What do you mean by ‘ham it up’?” asks the curious reader.

I’d share a link, but it’d get me banned. I would show some girls dancing. The dancers would do things like wink at you or wave in the middle of the dance. They’re hamming it up.

The problem with hamming it up is that you’re not letting the game speak for itself. It’s like the developers are so bored with their game, they think the ‘hamming it up’ is EXCITING!

One thing about a game developer is that they become ‘numb’ to their game after a time. They ham things up, in many ways, to entertain themselves.

The ‘hamming it up’ is coming from outside the gameplay… something like a Tingle. The gameplay needs to be entertaining. I believe that games that rely on ‘hamming it up’ do not trust their gameplay to be interesting enough.

Shigeru Miyamoto, in an interview in the early 1990s, declared that JRPGs transitioning to ‘story time’ were hamming it up.

“Miyamoto-san said ‘hamming it up’?”

No, but he might as well have. Consider Final Fantasy IV, the poster child of the JRPG genre. You can tell that the developers thought their genre was falling apart by two design decisions they did: the Action Turn Battle system and the emphasis of ‘story’. Today, Square Enix makes almost all their RPGs as ‘action games’ today. Anyway, Miyamoto said something that the story was pushed because the gameplay, itself, wasn’t interesting enough to hold on to the player. Miyamoto is ICE COLD in his analysis.

So, yes, I would say that a ‘story’ is ‘hamming it up’ in a RPG or any video game.

I remember the old Blizzard cheat codes. You could tell what the developers were thinking! A Warcraft 3 cheat code was ‘Who is John Galt?’ Hahahahaha! Can you imagine any game studio putting that out today?

People say the West is ‘too serious’ and that the Japanese developers are ‘having fun’. I think it’s the opposite. The weird crap the Japanese developers are putting in seems like it is coming from a source of ‘being too serious’ about being entertaining. “Oh, you’re not entertained by this scene? Well, here is A GIANT PANADA! Ah hahahahaha!”

Amazon.com: CONTRA Rogue Corps - Nintendo Switch : Konami of America:  Everything Else
Above: Contra cried

Video games are entertainment, yes? Everyone agree that comedians are entertainment?

“Everyone does, Master Malstrom,” replies the reader.

Ever hear the phrase ‘reading the room’? Comedians have to do this.

Do developers ever ‘read the room’?

The only one I know that does is Miyamoto. He watches people’s faces as they play the game or watch the trailer. When Wind Waker trailer was shown, Miyamoto was very sad as he saw the bad reactions on people’s faces. That is what is called ‘reading the room’.

I wonder if the problem could also be the homogeneity of game developers. You have people of the same type, of the same personality, all in the same place. Blizzard tried to prevent this with the use of ‘Strike Teams’. A ‘strike team’ is a group of people from other parts of the company (or even family and friends I think) who are from different walks of life who play the game cold.

I remember the maker of the music for Wing Commander was a cop in Austin. Ultima: Martian Dreams had a writer who worked on oil rigs.

Has any game developer ever done blue collar work?

“Why does that matter?” asks the reader.

There is a saying with writing that to be the best writer is… to go outside. You don’t just sit in the room all day. You go out an live life.

Video games emerged before personal computers. The early developers of video games were very interesting people. Shigeru Miyamoto, for example, has a degree in Industrial Design.

One thing I think has changed greatly is that all video game developers are now virtually identical to software developers in habit, personality, and background. I find most software developers to be insufferable to be around. Their jokes are stupid, they are fat or a giant doofus, and the males barely resemble a man. They’re not really living life because their work never has them take real liability. They exist in some sort of bizarre digital lifestyle. The story of Shigeru Miyamoto expressing awe of going up a mountain and finding a lake there (which he replicated in the original Legend of Zelda) is completely lost on these people. “Why climb a mountain?” they’d respond. And if they saw a lake in the mountain, they wouldn’t notice it. They would put a Loch Ness Monster in that lake wearing a party hat. They wouldn’t see the lake in the mountain as ‘entertaining’ because they, themselves, do not seek entertainment from Earth experiences.

I can’t explain the Japanese weirdness except to say that it feels FORCED. Their intention is to make the game more ‘entertaining’ by hamming it up. But they don’t realize it is ham. And they don’t realize it is ham because developers have become so homogenous lately. They share the same exact jokes and probably eat the same exact food. They don’t get out of their social circle.

I know digital craftsmanship cannot be enough for a game developer. In order to make interesting things, you need to become an interesting person. And you can’t become interesting if you only associate with the same type of people.

“How do you know this?”

Because it is that way with every other entertainment medium. Why not gaming?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Email: Microsoft acquiring Activision

I have been through many acquisitions. 

The best ones have always had the same thing in common.  Leadership stays, and fights with the parent company about what and how things will be run and taking care of the staff. 

The worst ones have always had the same thing in common.  Leadership steps down or moves aside, and let’s the “hive mind” take over, dictating to the unprotected staff how things will be run.

Sure there are grey spaces and middle grounds in between, nothing is black and white.  What I can tell you is that with executive level leadership pre-announcing stepping down, it is an indicator of things to come for employees at Activision.

My gut tells me that the narrative will be “Microsoft is great, eliminating this problematic Activision leadership” instead of “Microsoft is horrible, removing leadership that could protect Activision staff”.

If I was part of this acquisition, I’d start finding contacts in Microsoft to try and jump ship into corporate, or dust off my resume and start looking around.  As the pandemic slows down, there’s going to be a lot of competition with other’s in Activision looking around.

To those with their boots on the ground at Activision, I wish you all a safe landing no matter what your choice is!

There’s a guy I know who just recently left Blizzard (before all this Microsoft mess). He was at Blizzard since Starcraft 1. I asked him to tell me juicy stories about what was going on there. However, I think he is legally not allowed to say anything.

I do hear how people say, “This is good news. Imagine what Microsoft will do with these IPs.” But the generation who grew up with Warcraft and Starcraft and even World of Warcraft are in their mid thirties or older. They are in the event horizon and past the point of no return. Old. Almost as old as Master Malstrom!

Do old IPs ever come back? It’s been tried before.

Super Pitfall - Wikipedia
Above: Do not play this game

The Warcraft IP didn’t even have ‘sequels’ so much as ‘Complete Re-imaginings’. Warcraft 3 was TOTALLY different game from Warcraft 2! And World of Warcraft was clearly entirely different from Warcraft 3.

Outside of Warcraft, Blizzard couldn’t maintain their IPs. Diablo 3 was a fall from Diablo 2. Starcraft 2 was a fall from Starcraft 1. Overwatch was a new IP. Hearthstone was a new IP (OK, it was Warcraft as cards).

It would be an interesting post to look at all the game series and see which ones were maintained and why that was. You have the Dragon Quest model where the sequels make iterative changes while the main game is unchanged, and then you have the Final Fantasy model where every sequel is completely and radically different.

I don’t see the Blizzard IPs to be successfully maintained. The Blizzard culture is long dead.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Email: Why Microsoft keeps buying game companies

I think that the answer is pretty simple. It worked once with Bungie and Halo, and it worked so massively well that one can honestly question whether the XBOX brand would still exist today if it hadn’t happened. Pretty much all of their other acquisitions (Rare, FASA, Lionhead, Mojang) underperformed or failed, though.

I don’t think Microsoft’s track record is as bad as EA in the 90’s, but you’re correct in stating that there’s not a single creative bone in their body. Every product they’ve made, from the beginning of their existence, has been either a clone or a ripoff of an existing product. Excel was a ripoff of VisiCalc (a popular Apple II spreadsheet program), and Windows was such an obvious ripoff of MacOS that Apple unsuccessfully sued them. Can you think of anything that Microsoft has created, not bought, which was truly innovative and wasn’t just a response to the competition? Even the XBOX itself was a reaction to the PlayStation 2 being perceived as a threat to Windows, which is laughable in retrospect. The two times they tried doing something original (Windows 8, Surface) were massive, embarrassing failures, and arguably destroyed their consumer computing monopoly. It’s silly to expect a company whose MO was “embrace, extend, extinguish” to act in any way other than defensively.

The reason that Bungie and Halo worked so well for them is because in hindsight it truly was a revolutionary, ground-breaking game that made people want to buy the hardware to play it. I certainly scoffed at it at the time because I found PC shooters like Battlefield and UT to be far superior, but Halo might be as influential on the FPS genre as Doom was. You can neatly divide the past 30 years into the “Doom clone era” from 1992-2001 and the “Halo clone era” from 2001 to now. Every shooter made since Halo, except for the intentional throwbacks to the Doom era, has ripped off one or more of its mechanics.

I do wonder where they’re getting the money for this, though. Windows and Office are their biggest moneymakers, and they gave the last version away for free and turned Office into a subscription service. I guess pre-built PCs still pay the Windows tax, but are those still selling in any kind of volume outside of enterprise? Most of the younger people I work with use their tablets or phones for everything and don’t have a PC other than their company laptop. I also don’t think most consumers actually pay for Office.

It may be a race to buy the gaming companies before a Chinese company does. The Activision deal hit the US business headlines big, and I watched all the assholes on the business shows scratch their brow and ‘analyze’ the deal. They talked about ‘metaverse’ and all this other crap.

NONE of those assholes are aware of how gaming, as a medium, is treated outside the United States. They are COMPLETELY UNAWARE of E-sports or gaming in Asia. And most importantly, they are unaware how Asian governments see gaming. When a Chinese company buys a gaming company, I just assume it is the Chinese Communist Party doing it.

The reason why this site exists is because NONE of the ‘business analysists’ study gaming or look at gaming-as-a-business seriously. They have NO CLUE about Tencent or other big Asian companies. They just look at each other on these shows and wonder why on earth would Microsoft buy a big gaming company. Their mindsets are stuck in the 1980s when gaming wasn’t as big.

But if Apple buys a movie studio? Oh yeah! Brilliant Apple! Why? Because they understand movies. They don’t understand gaming. Hilariously, very few people do (that aren’t gamers).

Lately, though, I’ve noticed a distinct uptick in stigma against gaming. By ‘gamers’, they are referring to a ‘Negative Matrix’ which the PlayStation and Xbox represent. Nintendo or PC gaming still rarely gets lumped in, but sometimes does.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Email: Tetris with Hexagons

At this rate, I’m sure they’ll be adding “Hexagons!” to Tetris or Advanced Wars soon.

I realize you’re speaking from a place of frustration but “Tetris with Hexagons” has actually existed for decades. It’s called “Hextris”. I remember playing it on one of the early Macintosh models as a kid. I looked it up to make sure I was remembering it correctly, and apparently “Hextris” is still floating around enough to be available free online.


Based on what memories I have from the few times I played it, I can confirm that “Tetris with Hexagons” is at least as terrible an idea as I’m sure you imagine it to be.

Can someone explain to me this ‘hexagon craze’ in strategy games? I like the GRID because it aligns with my numbpad buttons on my keyboard. Why are ‘hexagons’ automatically assumed to be superior?

“It’s like the board games, Malstrom. Therefore, it’s better!”

Oh. I see.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 27, 2022

Email: Kirby 3D and Nintendo’s Next Major Hardware

Hey Master Malstrom,

Look, at this point Kirby in 3D ain’t so bad, check it out, -it doesn’t look like another Unity game, looks well produced and there’s absolutely nothing else going on out there.
Yeah, I bet this one’s been sitting on the shelf, but I felt that more acutely about Big Brain Academy.

As for the Next 20XX Nintendo hardware, it’s interesting because Nintendo has never been smack dab in the middle of an apocalypse before and there’s interesting questions here, like: 

Does Nintendo just keep working on next gen software indefinitely?
Is there a point in 20XX where Nintendo lets go of one hardware concept or technology node because it’s ageing out?

Next gen console concept art, remember when people used to still do that?

Sony may beat Nintendo to the punch, next-gen NX console not due until 2017  - ExtremeTech

Lordy.

The macro situation is not great and I look around and wonder if we’re really going to sustain this malaise and even break up out of it. No one can tell where we’re going at the moment (nowhere good I suspect), but I think it’s a shame if Nintendo never gets to show us what it was working on.

What’s your impression of things?

The Stoic Reader

Impression of what? That stupid console concept? Or of Nintendo?

Nintendo behaves with their business as a MOMENTUM BASED BUSINESS. Think of a roller coaster. When will Nintendo release cool new software? Right when new hardware comes out. When will Nintendo not release cool new software? At the tail end of old hardware. Lately, Nintendo has been porting tail end software as a launch software for the new hardware (see Zelda: Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild).

Splatoon 3’s release on Switch tells me that Nintendo wants Switch to have a long life cycle. The transition period can make or break Nintendo’s business. With only having one console, the transition period is riskier than ever. If the next console bombs like the Gamecube or Wii U, there will be no dedicated handheld to save it (though Nintendo would just throw something out).

I believe the best way to understand Nintendo’s direction is through their software. Usually, Nintendo experiments with different software before they jump all-in with the new hardware. The Donkey Kong Bongos for Gamecube was a pre-cursor to the new controller craze of Wii, for example.

I believe Breath of the Wild 2 will be the ‘groundhog’ for Nintendo’s direction. What this game does and how it does it will tell us where Nintendo’s priorities are and where the company is headed.

That said, I expect the next 3d Mario to be like Breath of the Wild, e.g. Open World.

I bet Metroid Prime 4 WILL be Open World. Metroid Prime 1 and 2 were on the Gamecube and 3 was on the Wii (which might as well have been the Gamecube). Gamecube hardware intensely forced the Metroid Prime gameplay to be in those rooms and tunnels. Metroid Prime 4 could very well be the Breath of the Wild launch game (open world) for the new hardware and a showcase for the new hardware.

I don’t think a new hardware will launch for years. But I’m sure all the ducks are being put in a row for it.

I expect Hyrule Warriors: Calamity of Ganon will have a deluxe version with all DLC and be ported to the new hardware whenever it launches (though all the DLC has to be launched first). I expect the same for Smash Brothers Ultimate as that will be ported to the new system like Mario Kart 8 was to the Switch. But we’re due for a new Mario Kart. Maybe it is being worked on now.

Look at the family buying patterns. What do they buy? Yeah, the gamers all run out to buy Breath of the Wild. But families buy the heck out of Mario Kart. I can’t imagine a console launch window without Mario Kart (launch window = a year from launch).

Breath of the Wild 2 will be our groundhog of Nintendo’s direction. But Splatoon 3 tells me that Nintendo expects Switch to be around for another half decade.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 23, 2022

Email: Master of Magic DLC

Master of Magic Malstrom,

I was unaware of the DLC for Master of Magic until you mentioned it, so I had to go looking.

Here’s the information from the Steam page for the DLC Caster of Magic.

After 25 years Master of Magic gets a DLC! Explore new strategies and experience Master of Magic at its best with Caster of Magic, a new DLC that adds dozens of options and tons of content to the base game. Enjoy the unlimited replayability that Caster of Magic adds to the base game, thanks to hundreds of new settings and an improved wizard customization. Will you dominate your opponents with your new spells and units, or will you surrender?

Caster of Magic started out as a mod, championed by Seravy and building on top of the already popular community patch. Caster of Magic has been a fan favorite of the Master of Magic community and we are pleased to be able to work with Seravy to officially integrate Caster of Magic, giving him the recognition he deserves.
FEATURES
Improved wizard customization to provide maximal replayability
Improved diplomacy system
Extra emphasis on magic spells and fantastic creatures
Even more spells and units
New city buildings
New AI that provides a challenge for even veteran players
More difficulty levels
Many more map generation options
Building queue system for convenient and faster gameplay
It seems that the team (or at least Seravy) understands the original game to a deep degree, and I am at least hopeful that the DLC could be a solid addition to the original game.

A few notes that you are likely already away of.

  • The Caster of Magic DLC was developed and published by Slithering Ltd.
  • The Master of Magic Remake is Developed by MuHa Games and Eerie Forest Studio, and published by Slithering Ltd.
  • Nothing in the MuHa catalogue looks interesting or inspired to me, and the same can be said for Eerie Forest… both of which seem to work on the same titles, so why two different developers?
  • The move to hex appears to be due to reuse of existing hex based engine resources from Thea, and not any revolutionary change to MoM gameplay

Gut reaction just from poking around Steam is that this likely supports your initial assessment of cash grab based on brand name.

Even if the remake is a dumpster fire, I am curious what your thoughts are on the Caster of Magic DLC.

Thanks!

This snippet from a review over at GOG perhaps summarizes the Caster of Magic DLC, and likely concerns about the remake as well…

“Additions are great, changes are clearly made to accomodate the dev’s playstyle, as it seems to have streamlined the game into very limited ways of playing.”

Also a lot of people complaining about the launcher requiring the player to view ads.

This just smacks of what you consistently go after from developers. Make games for the players and not the developers. Players don’t want to be forced to play the game the way the developer wants, and players don’t want to be forced to see or watch ads to line the developer’s pocket.

Clearly, this is why we cannot have nice things.

I just played about 4 hours straight of the MoM DLC. I should have put difficulty on easy so I can snipe monsters (on easy you, you can flee with all your guys which is fun with armies of magicians).

Three big things impacting my experience with DLC:

Monsters seem much tougher! I don’t remember the magical nodes or towers being this tough. Lots of rampaging monsters too. Those unicorns are nasty!

Much more talking with the other wizards. They ask to trade spells, they like to make alliances, etc. They get angry when I explore near their cities with my boat. At one point, a wizard went to war over me because my ship was sailing past his city! Hahaha.

The third thing are the new units. I was playing High Elven because I like the magicians. Now they have High Elf Lords or something which is really cool. New buildings are cool too because I don’t run out of stuff to build. I thought the additions are pretty sweet.

Difficulty I’m playing on is Fair, I think, and the computer is just doing global wars against each other while ignoring me. The biggest block to my progress are the tough monsters at the tower and nodes. I was able to get one node on my little island. Tower is full of unicorns and angels which suck.

I am so out of date that all I knew was the Caster of Magic DLC. Apparently, the maker of that DLC remade Master of Magic for Windows with Caster of Magic! You can do crazy things like battle 14 wizards on a large world! I don’t know about all of that, but I am playing the Caster of Magic for the original game.

I think it is fun and interesting. I just can’t run around with all ranged units and go “I win!” to a confused computer. Now, the computer knows how to counter.

The DLC is only a few bucks, so I see it as decent value. I’d recommend it for MOM fans especially for a more challenging experience than in vanilla MOM. I don’t know anything about the Windows version.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 21, 2022

Email: High Art

What you said about art is true…compare the original Star Wars and Space Odyssey 2001, one was simple but had plenty of story and action, the other…well it had a good soundtrack.

The lack of noses is a stylistic choice from manga (makes them look like aliens to me), the same goes for the “split mouths” where a closed mouth will be disconnected in the middle.

Alot of the anime/manga that we get in the West is “shounen”, which is targeted to high schoolers, each manga genre has its own built in stylistic expectations and tropes so perhaps a different genre would be better for you.

Perhaps you could share some of what you’ve learned about Japanese craftsmanship. They seem to have a sharp eye to detail, and unlike the West they don’t seem insecure as to whats “art” and what isn’t, let alone getting caught up in politics that don’t matter to the customer.

I can only assume that Microsoft wants both the merchandising potential of ActiBlizzard and whatever revenue they’ll get from their games. Then you have the benefit of a built in audience.

My question is why keep Bobby Kotick on board? Its clear that gamers don’t like him, and whatever strategies he employed haven’t held up.

Kotick has made his money. Why would he want to stay?

I consider 2001: Space Odyssey and Star Wars to be very similar in the fact they’re not your typical Hollywood industry type junk.

For the longest, I’ve been wondering what type of gamer I was. I am not ‘hardcore’. I am not ‘casual’. I can’t be pinned to any genre since I play them all. Some games I love, some I hate. But there is a thread that goes through all those actions. I found out what type of gamer I was.

I’m a crusade gamer.

I am attracted to games pushing the gaming envelope. Note that I did not say ‘graphics’ envelope or ‘business model’ envelope. Only gaming.

To me, gaming is not entertainment. Gaming is THE revolution. You hear all that buzz about tech companies and crap? They’re not the revolutionaries. We are. All the ‘tech’ crap, e.g. computers and all, came from the vortex of gaming. What isn’t reported is that most of the ‘tech growth’ is actually cannibalization of older industries, e.g. Microsoft computer replacing airport terminals, Amazon replacing bookstores and other retail, and so on. But video games are literally ‘new’. They don’t replace books, television, or movies because video games do not activate the same part of the brain as those mediums do. Board games, cards, and crossword puzzles are the closest analog thing to video games.

You only have one life. You only have one trip on this Earth. Make it count. Make a dent in the Universe.

Or why else even be here?

I have to greatly respect Miyamoto and other developers who don’t just make iterative sequels. Miyamoto could have stopped after Donkey Kong or even Mario Brothers. But he didn’t. Super Mario Brothers was revolutionary. Legend of Zelda was revolutionary. Super Mario Brothers 2 and 3 were revolutionary. Super Mario World I wouldn’t call ‘revolutionary’, but it is the best launch title for any console (which wasn’t a port like Twilight and BOTW Zeldas).

I don’t understand indie game developers who keep trying to make a peanut butter sandwich of gaming. They’re like, “I like Metroid games and… Street Fighter 2!” So they ‘combine’ those two gameplays together and think they’ve made something ‘awesome’. But the haven’t made anything at all.

When you start new game on Seven Cities of Gold, it says, “Your computer is building the New World.” Is that not so true?

The reason why I wrote so many articles on Ultima wasn’t so much I was a fan of Ultima or think its gameplay is awesome. The reason why I wrote them was because each Ultima was revolutionary. This is not hyperbole. You like MMOs? Thank Ultima Online. You like FPS RPGs? Thank Ultima Underworld. You like Zelda, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy? Thank Ultima III. You like Witcher 3, Skyrim, or Divine Divinity? Thank Ultima VII. You like Chrono Trigger? Thank Ultima II. And on and on it goes.

When Wing Commander came out, I lost my goddamn mind. Most people did. No one knew the computer could do what it did. And they just upped it more with the sequels.

While Star Citizen does smell like development hell and a money black hole, I do love, love, love its ambition.

To me, a game is not just a box you put on the shelf. A product to sell. No. A game is to change the world. What I mean by that is to make a dent in the universe. A game is revolution and is exploring A New World. Not the fictional world of a metaverse, it is the New Continent of Culture and Technology.

Movie makers also once had that spark. There are movies, and then there are movies. Star Wars made a dent.

If you’re making a game, make something awesome. If not, then why are you even making it in the first place? Is it for ego? Is it for a stupid digital lifestyle? Fools.

Getting back to emailer’s topic, one reason why I play the ‘retro’ titles is because it clears all the bullshit away. I can clearly see what the Japanese are doing. Also, since I am a studio developer of one, I want to see how to leverage digital assets using very little. Look at what games like Final Fantasy VI were able to do with just a 16-bit cartridge!

One example of what the Japanese did was the shmup. Just like how we have Western and Japanese RPGs, we used to have Western and Japanese shmups. A Western shmup was an arena. Think of Asteroids, Defender, Star Control, or Atari’s Combat (the game that had the tanks). The Japanese shmup really came alive with Gradius. They made the shmup linear (as opposed to open arena). This allowed more immersive (Gradius design documents originally planned to make the game as immersive as possible).

You want an example of Japanese craftsmanship? Consider the RPG. The monsters in Western RPGs were drawn to be ugly as monsters are ugly. Consider the slime.

Slimeu4.gif
Above: Ultima slime
I feel guilty killing Slime in Dragon Quest Builders 2 - Polygon
Above: Dragon Quest slime

The Japanese like cute.

To this day, Western game developers keep making the same mistake. There was an article some doofus game journalist made praising the ‘creative monsters’ in a games.

Above: Terrible

The cuteness also ages so much better.

But I think Dragon Quest monsters are too iconic today and a little too cute. Is there a medium ground? I think Blizzard did this with their early games such as Warcraft 2.

Warcraft 2 gameplay as orcs.
Above: Cute? Ugly? Nah. ADORABLE. Yes.

The mobile games have a ‘schitck’ to them that is immediately noticeable and… immediately becomes ugly. They feel like puppets as if someone is using Spriter or Dragonbones. Gamers are going to notice the quality.

But, anyway, the ‘adorable’ orcs going ‘zug zug’ definitely made Warcraft 2 memorable. In Starcraft, even the Zerg are cute. Zerglings are hopping about and Hydralisks growl and wiggle around. Every unit has immense personality even if their destiny is to march forward and die.

Early Blizzard picked up that Japanese craftsmanship. It would explain why their games were able to break cultural barriers and sell in Asia (such as South Korea and Starcraft). When Blizzard changed the vibe of the game to ‘gritty, dark, HARDCORE’ in Starcraft 2, sales in South Korea fell off a cliff.

The same happed to Twilight Princess in Japan. Nintendo knew the West didn’t like Wind Waker cute and that Japan didn’t like Twilight Princess gritty. So Nintendo went with a cartoon-like approach with Breath of the Wild. It is an excellent example of the West and Japan realizing their instincts tend to go too far. Trying to sell to both markets tempers the art to something universal.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 20, 2022

Blast from the past: let’s go back in time fourteen years

Here comes the Malstrom Mobile!

Back to the Future - We explore the Cars featured in film — SANDSTONE  Productions
Above: The Malstrom Mobile!

Get in, reader.

“Where are we going?”

WHEN are we going.

“WHEN are we going, Master Malstrom?”

We are going to the year July 10, 2008. Ready? Let’s goooooooooooooo!

*goes back in time*

“Oh, wow!” squeals the reader. “There is HUGE GAMING NEWS! It’s like an earthquake!”

What is the news, reader?

It is the announcement that Activision is completing its merger with Blizzard!

Let’s read it.

René Pénisson, Chairman of Activision Blizzard, added: “We are delighted that the merger has been completed. We are very excited about the opportunity for Activision Blizzard to create a broader entertainment software platform. We are leaders across North America and Europe and are creating a substantial footprint in the rapidly growing Asian market. We are determined to ‘think big’!”

Such excitement! Such hopes!

In addition to World of Warcraft®, the #1 subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, the transaction brings together some of the world’s leading interactive entertainment franchises including Guitar Hero®, the #1 family entertainment and 1 music-based franchise; Call of Duty®, the #1 first-person action franchise;

Tony Hawk, the #1 action sports franchise; Spider-Man™, the #1 Super Hero franchise; Cabela’s®, the #1 sports hunting franchise; and two of the top-ten kids movie-based franchises, Shrek® and Madagascar™, for calendar year 2005 through 2007 according to the NPD Group, Chart Track and The GFK Group.

Where are these franchises today?

Hello? Anyone?

Now, reader…

“Yes, Malstrom.”

Did the fruit from Blizzard get better or worse after the Activision merger?

“Oh, much definitely worse. Diablo 3 was worse than Diablo 2. Starcraft 2 was worse than Starcraft 1. World of Warcraft fell apart…”

So why would another merger change anything? It’s not like any of the original developers are there anymore.

Much of the press releases are BLAH, BLAH, BLAH which could be re-inserted in the LAST merger. The difference is that some of the IPs mentioned… are completely destroyed or forgotten.

There is ONE very interesting similarity behind the merger then and of that of Microsoft’s buyout today. A very scary similarity.

“What is that?”

Both mergers happened right before the great financial crash.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 20, 2022

Disney to flush wokeness from company

I have to laugh at the online celebrities trying to say that Microsoft buying Activision is “good”. Microsoft is a ‘woke company’ that will put its ideas of what is right in everything you do… including productivity software. Gizmondo’s story here is on Microsoft’s spell checking now will correct for the woke.

“Look at what Microsoft did for Age of Empires, Malstrom,” some dimwit will probably write to me. Yes, let’s look at how they retcon all the colonization from Age of Empires 3 and other stuff they do. They’re literally changing the content of old games.

If you do not own the game (because it is in “cloud”), then it will constantly shift and change on you.

But look at what Disney is doing. A Malstrom type character for movies and TV shows is incredibly named Doomcock who has some sort of contacts in these Hollywood companies. Listen to what he is saying:

Above: Disney is going to ban the ‘wokeness’ from its company!

We don’t NEED entertainment. Attacking or displeasing customers is very, very bad idea in entertainment.

Microsoft exists because of one reason: “Make them need you.” But we don’t NEED any entertainment at all! Microsoft’s foray into video game entertainment has been so laughable because it is like a black hole. Microsoft keeps doing accounting tricks to hide the massive losses and how their entertainment divisions are subsidized.

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