Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 21, 2021

The Future Won’t Match the Hype

How is everyone enjoying their crypto investments today? My point in asking that question is to point out that the future never matches the hype. When did the future ever match the hype? Never.

So let us look at another crystal ball vision of the world future. This is from Zeihan. It is about demographic prophecy.

…the inequality issue isn’t simply within the United States, but between the United States and the rest of the world. The United States will largely be finished with its vaccination program in about a month, enabling it to experience the fastest economic growth of its history. We’re talking in excess of 10% annually. That’s China-doping-statistics sort of growth. The United Kingdom and Israel are finishing their vaccinations on a similar timeframe. Vaccine diplomacy from Washington will soon flood Canada and Mexico with more than enough doses to enable them to join the party by the end of August. Europe is unlikely to join in until at least the fourth quarter. More likely year’s end.

And…that’s about it for now. The vaccine formulas that work and that the U.S. will soon have an excess of – Pfizer and Moderna – require two shots and primarily freezer storage, making both broadly unsuitable for the developing world. For most of the world’s population, mass vaccination cannot begin until 2022 and it will be at a much slower rate than what we have seen in America.

The wealthier nations will get back to normal more quickly. But I expect the rest of the nations to get back to normal far sooner than Zeihan predicts.

The timing of all this is beyond unfortunate. Most of the world’s investment capital comes from people who are on the cusp of retirement. They’re shoving every spare dollar, euro, pound or yen they have into their retirement savings. Once they flip into retirement, they never add to their nest egg again. Collectively the Boomer generation of the world is the largest generation our species has ever generated, and they, on average, retire next year. Capital has never been as easy to access or on cheaper terms as it will be in this calendar year.

The great demographic shift is occurring. Is the reader ready?

America, and a few other lucky countries, are experiencing this capital surge and record growth at the same time. Such a happy confluence of events is the sort of thing that enables firms and governments to lay down development efforts that will last for decades. I may have a boatload of reservations about all the new spending the Biden administration wants to launch, but I have to admit, if it is going to happen, the time is absolutely now.

These ‘lucky companies’ will have growth outpacing the others for many years to come.

For the rest of the world, they are missing the last global capital boom of our lives. Most of the global Boomer cadre did not have kids. Which means that as they age they will instead absorb capital from their respective systems in the form of higher health care and pensions costs, while never again paying into those systems. Those costs of capital won’t simply increase by end-2022, they’ll skyrocket. For those of you who don’t understand what “skyrocket” means, increasing the interest rate on your mortgage loan by just 1% means increasing your monthly payment by 20%. Now apply that to everything. Car loans. Credit card debt. Municipal bonds. The federal debt. Everything. By the time the rest of the world emerges from under the pall of coronavirus, it’ll be too late.

Boom!

The United States, France and New Zealand are the only exceptions to these patterns in the advanced world. The Boomers in those three countries had kids. They’re the people that we know as the Millennials, the oldest of which are now 42. Their consumption is keeping these three systems ticking on, and in about a decade American, French and Kiwi Millennials will become major savers and investors and they will bit by bit regenerate the capital stock in their respective countries. But there are not appreciable numbers of Millennials in any other advanced nation. Add in that the vast bulk of the developing world has experienced baby busts more traumatic than anything that’s happened in the developing world these past five decades and this is pretty much it for capital supplies globally.

A global depression with the excepted countries above. Not only are their populations shrinking, the ones alive will be more likely to be withdrawing from the public pot instead of putting more in. Older people require more care and are less productive.

Folks, this is it. Globalization is over. Even if the Americans decided that they wanted to continue to patrol the world, even if the Americans could keep making the world safe for international trade, global demographics and global capital tell us the page has already turned. Global aging meant that global consumption and investment was always going to collapse this decade, and then coronavirus moved the end forward. Most countries will never recover economically to where they were at the beginning of 2020 when the health crisis struck. And now countries must deal with the intertwined nightmares of a collapse in global consumption, rising economic nationalism in the small handful of countries that retain decent demographic structures, and a high inflation environment triggered by the American recovery.

Emphasis is mine.

I can find no ‘hype’ or message forum or comment board sing song saying anything like the above. It is always “America is finished” or “West is finished” or “China rising!” or such. China doesn’t have a good demographic future, and China’s geography isn’t that great. While America spent way too much money, China spent way more in relation to its smaller economy.

Never forget that the reason why the Wii was made was Nintendo trying to grapple with the older demographic population of Japan. There is a path forward for these demographic twilight countries, but I don’t think many will jump on it. Who wants to sell to old people?

The future may surprise us all.. even for Mr. Zeihan.

Sip the hype. Never swallow it.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 20, 2021

Email: What do you mean by equity?

Hello Sean,

what exactly do you mean by equity?

Company stocks? I don’t know much about
stocks, but from my understanding a stock is basically like a trading card: it
has a theoretical value, but you need to sell it in order to turn it into
actual money, and its value depends on the performance of the company. So
assuming that my understanding is correct, why not just ask for more money and
then buy stocks from whatever company I want? What is it that I’m missing?

Equity basically means ownership of the company.

You will never get wealthy through a ‘wage’.

Jeff Bezos didn’t get wealth through a wage.

Bill Gates didn’t get wealth through a wage.

Steve Jobs didn’t get wealth through a wage. (etc.)

As someone as famous as Shigeru Miyamoto is, there is very little information out there about how Nintendo responded to his successes. Since Miyamoto is on the Board, or was, it’s obvious he has equity. I assume everyone on the Board has significant equity.

If you were in the business side of Nintendo and a guy like Shigeru Miyamoto comes along, you’d want the guy to stay at the company. How to do that? Bonus? Bigger wage? Equity. How else did Miyamoto somehow get a gigantic dog ranch and become super wealthy?

When Apple was founded, Steve Jobs gave out equity. Obviously, Steve Wozniak got a ton of equity. He didn’t give Woz simply a ‘wage’. As Apple grew, Woz got wealthier than he ever could through a ‘wage’.

The focus on video game wages is all wrong. The focus should be on equity. I believe this discussion, or even ‘realization’, will be as transformative to game development as when the Atari Era developers demanded to have their names in credits.

The people who are sacrificing their lives to build games should be the ones to own, or partially own, the company. This would help ensure the company doesn’t remove the builders of the IP to be replaced with clowns who end up destroying the IP.

I don’t see why video game developers cannot also be the capitalists. That’s how video game developers started out after all.

Making games is more fun when you OWN it. You’re not just building a game, you’re building your own company.

I’m not sure how internal financial structures are for many game companies. But I’m fairly confident that the early people in, say, Blizzard all had equity of some kind with the company.

You may not be able to use money to buy stock since the company isn’t publicly traded. And that is missing the point. The game developer isn’t just building a game, he is building a company. His wage may even be zero. But that doesn’t matter as wages will not bring wealth. Equity is where the money is at.

Sean,

Read your Cowardly Lion article recently and thought I’d share some anecdotes with you, because I’ve seen cowardice in action all too often and it cost both me and several other people I know dearly, at least on the entrepreneurial scene.

Whenever cowardice rears its ugly head, excuses, finger pointing and procrastination follow. I used to be involved with a group that wanted to make “the most epic story ever!” (lol) which will “surpass Lord of the Rings!” (lol!) or whatnot. Ideas were had, drawings were shared, and many nights were spent fleshing it out…but more than a decade later, nothing came of it at all. So what happened?

It turned out that several of the key people involved in the project had massive issues, one of the most prominent being FEAR OF REJECTION. They were afraid of being criticized at every turn by detractors and being told that they’re not good enough, which led to them getting stuck in an endless cycle of self pity and procrastination.

One such person wasted more than 15 years of his life on self pity because of the fear that his talents weren’t “worthy” enough, which snowballed into other things like allowing himself to suffer from familial abuse (your comment on Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad and looking for a respectable mentor to help reprogram oneself out of bad parenting comes to mind). Where he could have become a respected craftsman with the amount of time he had, instead he hardly progressed and has to start from scratch. He’s figured a few things out and is trying to get his life back on track, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Another of these persons was far worse since he was the brains of the whole operation. He’d talk big about his dreams and goals and how they were “prophetic” (uh…), but then admit that he couldn’t do it alone and ask us for help. After years of collaboration, however, he ultimately backed down when presented with the chance to show his work to a body of professional artists and began blaming everybody but himself for his shortcomings, including the very people who helped him.

He turned out to be a massive narcissist, and within a year of us rebuffing him and leaving the project (he had more than 15 years to sort his crap out, we’re not wasting our time with it anymore) he broke down and lost almost all of his friends due to a highly toxic, passive aggressive attitude. What is worse here is that his family appears to have had the same attitude problems in the past and they may have imprinted themselves on him; we’ll never know. If this is true then hello again, Rich Dad and Poor Dad!

What does this have to do with cowardice? The above person also had the same problems regarding fear of rejection. He’d often immerse himself in watching “critique videos” about existing works of fiction–you know, those videos that often complain about some story being “unrealistic” or “illogical” or whatever–and then, for some reason, project his own work onto those criticisms which then leads to him overanalyzing every tiny detail and ends up causing him to procrastinate due to the supposed amount of work it would need to make everything “flawless”. The end result was him repeatedly giving up to go waste his time and money on video games instead, because it’s easier to tune the world out and press buttons on a controller.

At one point he asked me what the point of him writing a character drama about revenge would be if people would just end up laughing at it. I should have just up and told him “dude you haven’t even written anything yet, WTF are you worried about??”

Underneath all of this is a form of cowardice that refuses to expose oneself to the world for scrutiny. These people routinely overthink their own talents and output for fear of criticism and end up not getting anything done at all. They didn’t want to take the risk of being taken down a peg or two in public; it’s a form of pride. But the irony here is that this is how craftsmen grow in their abilities and as people.

The last of those persons was myself. I used to blame the whole world for not taking notice of me, but in hindsight this was a highly entitled way of thinking. What was I doing to let the world know that I could be of use, when I was being fearful and lazy and not producing anything of value to anyone? Long story short, the moment I dropped this attitude and began pulling my weight was when things began to turn around.

Today I’m making money off of my talents and supporting my family, but it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take the risk of showing the world what abilities I had to offer. Yes I get critics every now and then, some helpful and some unhelpful. But what I learned was that there was no real reason to be afraid and that the real problem was my own faulty, egotistical way of thinking.

I’m sorry for the long email but it’s interesting that you’re talking about the topic of courage now, it’s badly needed in our day and age. Thank you again.

Forget IQ/’smarts’/*knowledge*. Forget ideology/morality/religion/spirituality.

What is the MINDSET/PSYCHOLOGY of success?

It is NOT IQ/”smarts”/*knowledge*/religion/spirituality.

We’re looking at the psychology alone. So this brings up immoral people, stupid people, etc as people with the psychology of success. You can include Jesus Christ and Hitler under the same umbrella here. Whatever they were, they had a psychology of success. Same is true for Carnegie, Steve Jobs, to Stalin to Genghis Khan.

They were playing to win, not playing ‘not-to-lose’. They knew how to pull the trigger.

Today, people do not pull the trigger. They keep trying ‘not-to-lose’. Since that is their imagination of them losing, they end up losing regardless. The more knowledge you have, the less chance of success you’ll have.

Why were early game developers so successful? Probably because they didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. Today, every game developer is ‘so smart’ and ‘knows everything’ which is why they keep failing.

Nintendo believes there is a link between the game developer and the game itself. If you bring in other developers, you might get another ‘game’ of that type, but it won’t *feel* like that game.

Certainly that is true with books. If you change authors, the book series will begin to be very different in small but nuanced ways the readers will FEEL.

I keep looking back at entertainment of the ‘great entertainers’ including Nintendo. How’d they do it?

Iwata gave the hypothesis that video games were more special because computers were more rare. But remember, Iwata also thought the Wii U and 3DS were ‘great ideas’. Iwata has been very wrong before.

What if there is another explanation why classic video games became classic?

“What is the definition of a classic video game?” asks the plucky reader.

It is the same as a classic book. It is a video game that everyone talks about but rarely plays. How often do people play Super Mario Brothers today? Or Legend of Zelda? Or Metroid? Or what about PONG or even Wii Sports?

“Novelty has to be the answer,” the reader says sternly. “It’s all about surprise.”

Is it? What if it is about something else.

“Whatever could that be?”

Look at the psychology of the common man. The common man can get surprises in many ways especially from his children. And children are young in this world…

“That cannot be denied.”

…so surprises await them at every corner.

So maybe there is something else in the SECRET DNA of the classics we haven’t realized.

“What could that be?”

Well, look at the psychology of the creator.

“And?”

What is different between that psychology and that of the consumer?

Reader begins saying all these things.

But there is one thing you didn’t say, reader.

“And what’s that?”

Courage.

The developer had the BALLS to make something and put it out there. The psychology of having BALLS is inside the game itself. The player cannot get enough of that psychology and absorbs it almost like osmosis.

“That is absurd.”

Is it? Check any author of a classic, and you will find someone having BALLS. Melville went THREE TOURS on a whaling ship which was unheard of at that time period. Perhaps that courage is the secret sauce in Moby Dick.

And I’m sure the reader has read many a biography or autobiography. In those cases, what is being consumed? The matters differ, but the psychology is the same, the psychology of success, the mindset for action.

As game budgets balloon, there is more risk aversion. Even in the indie scene, those guys are making games of already proven gameplay concepts (e.g. another Chrono Trigger). Perhaps the entertainment is not in the surprise but in the courage. It takes BALLS to make something different.

How do you separate from the herd? You don’t try to become better. You try to become DIFFERENT.

Most people cannot do this in real life. Every game developer today I meet is a ‘herd’ person, a PLEASER. The earlier ones, the pioneer ones, were not ‘herd’ people. They were laughed at, mocked, and made fun of. Video game development wasn’t a ‘real job’. And they didn’t give a damn about pleasing anyone. They were wanting to please themselves and their own circle of friends who were as eccentric as the developer.

I don’t know what’s true or not with the Miyamoto, but we are told he was a DREAMER and that he went on adventures as a kid. These are all traits of courage. And it shows up in his games. The games were doing things that were not simply done before. Link being the representation of the Triforce of Courage may mean more than we suspect.

Kids love video games. You can make mistake after mistake to MASTER the game and win. This is how it is in real life. In school, they teach you not to make mistakes, to be a pleaser, and it screws up the kids forever.

I think there is a link between the courageous parts of the developer and the final entertainment product. Yeah, it becomes ‘obsolete’ eventually, but people still hold it in high nostalgia. Think of the first iPhone or iPod or even Mac. Ballsy design. Nintendo was ballsy with the original NES and Gameboy which is why they still command so much respect.

We need less ‘knowledge’ and more ‘balls’ today in entertainment.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 16, 2021

Two ‘indie’ RPGs I’m looking at…

The first one is Jin Conception.

I noticed this game when it was first announced. It is just released for Steam and on Switch.

The engine being used is RPG Maker MV. The Chrono Trigger engine he’s using has to be from Moghunter.

A team made that game. I think it is at least four people. I have to laugh at the website as it has a ‘press kit’ available. I did not realize that game journalists have devolved to such a state where they need ‘kits’ to cover a game.

Now, I really like the sprites. I hear people say why is there such limited frames of animation and that is because of the engine.

The ‘choose-villain-from-your-characters’ is an interesting idea, but I’m not seeing anything come from it.

I’ve watched longer gameplay of Jin Conception (what a terrible name), and I find myself… extremely bored. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Chrono Trigger combat in the first place. I like the sprites, but… geez… everything else seems to fall flat. WTF is this game about, really? The world doesn’t make much sense.

The other RPG is OMORI. I’m not sure which engine it is. Looks like RPG Maker. Apparently, they did a kickstarter over half a decade ago and got 200k. Then the creator disappeared! hahaha.

It is one of those surreal RPGs like Earthbound. I didn’t like Earthbound when it was released, so I am at a loss why people like games like that and Undertale. But apparently someone likes Omori. I believe the programmer of Omori also works for the company that makes RPG Maker.

Clearly Omori is not for me. But if the reader is playing it, I’d love to hear your feedback on it.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 14, 2021

NES Review: Legend of Zelda

Legend of Zelda NES Prices
Released: 1986

What is this game? I wonder if anyone has heard of it. Do you want to return to it again and again? Does it deserve the Malstrom Award, the most prestigious award in all of gaming? Let’s find out!

Above: Now THIS is how you do an attract screen. Oh, that music! Those items! Press START reader, press START!!!

What always strikes me the most about Zelda is the title screen, music, and the crawl where it ends showing all the items. This is very clever because not only does the music and scene boldly establish the feel of the game, showing us all the items is a PROMISE to the player. It is ‘play this game to see all these things!’ Most games don’t do this even today.

This is back before Nintendo was scared of ruining ‘surprises’ by not showing us the items. The ‘promise’ is more important because it gives reason for the player to invest the time to see these items.

There’s two types of ways to experience Zelda. The first is with maps, the other is without maps. This was true of 1986 as it is in 2021. I would go with maps. Without maps is a waste of time and life as you start burning every bush and bombing every cliff. The maps eliminate all that crap.

And despite all that, people will find Zelda to be very challenging. I mean the FIRST quest. The Second Quest would blow most Zelda fans’ minds with its difficulty.

Even if you use a map and try to cheese the game, Zelda will STILL be challenging. When playing through it again, I was surprised how easily I was getting hit during the first dungeon. During the second dungeon, there is a room where you get the magic boomerang which is guarded by many boomerang guys. Let’s just say that is not the easiest room.

And if the player still thinks the game is a cakewalk, wait until dungeon six. Dungeon six is where the wizrobes appear. The blue ones are freaking nasty. Dungeon six of Zelda will teach you what ‘NES Hard’ is. And remember that this is a mainstream NES game that six year olds completed. You’re a better gamer than a six year old, aren’t you reader? [Laughs as the grown reader gets his ass handed to him in Zelda 1.]

The game is riddled with secrets, but I think the most novel thing about Zelda today is simply the grid-map combat. We don’t see this today. Your mind will strategically be using the tiles against the enemy. You will wait for the darknut to pass while you jab your sword into its side. You will stand on your step ladder in the river, laughing, while you chop enemies on the sides with safety (because apparently monsters can’t get on your step ladder!).

Above: Gameplay

The bosses are almost a joke. The catch is that the bosses are re-used again as normal dungeon enemies! Beware!

Dungeon 8 is almost as annoying as dungeon 6. It is Dark Nuts plus fireball statues. Fun! Not…  Still, my Old School Skills vanquished the evil Dark Nuts and conquered the palace. God, I’m awesome!

Dungeon 9, the final dungeon, is, of course, the most annoying dungeon. But that is OK since it is the last dungeon. What is so cool about Dungeon 9 is the new mini-boss named Patra (?). It is just a giant bug that kinda sits there. However, it has many little bugs that rotate around it! Other versions of it have the bugs go elliptical! Very cool! Totally forgot about this guy.

There’s not that many dark nuts in Dungeon 9 which surprised me. But there are tons of Wizzrobes combined with sword-eating-balls combined with like likes which, if they touch you, will EAT YOUR MAGICAL SHIELD.

Above: Obligatory ad for Legend of Zelda. “Intense!” A word that can never be described to Nintendo games today.

I was out of potions so I was worried to be at the final battle with Ganon. Oh noes! I was such a goner. Ganon turns invisible and throws fireballs at you! Of course, you can attack the darkness and this will stop him. Eventually, he turns brown. So I shot a silver arrow at him. One shot! Poof! He is dead. “Well, that was easier than expected.” Such a huge difference of final boss fight between this and Zelda 2 or Zelda 3.

I love how fires surround poor Zelda. Oh noes! It’d be cool if Link had to walk through fire to get to her. But no, you can just slash the fires to make them go away. Then once talking to Zelda, they turn toward the screen, hold up the Triforces, and emit seizing flashing at the screen! “You are hero of Hyrule.” Gee, thanks Zelda.

Then the Second Quest starts.

I died a total of 6 times. Most of those deaths were in Dungeon 1 until I stopped, turned on my OLD SCHOOL SKILLS, and died only one or two more times. I think the other times were in Dungeon 6, the dungeon of hell. My skills were a little rusty, reader. Remember, it’s been like a decade since I’ve done a full clear of Quest 1.

As we used to say in 1986, you haven’t truly beaten Zelda until you’ve beaten Quest 2! Most gamers today will struggle just to beat Quest 1. Quest 1 is actually challenging. Quest 2 will be challenging to the NES generation. To non-NES generation, Quest 2 will make Dark Souls look like a trip to Disney Land.

Historic

It’s the first game in the Zelda series.

It’s the first NES game with a battery where you can *save*.

I would argue this is the first true ‘console’ game. It can’t be played on the PC (controls are too twitchy), and it can’t be played in the arcade (game is too long). The console is where it belongs.

Best Selling

Zelda sold and sold and sold. Zelda was the GTA before the GTA. Zelda was the definitive ‘Open World Game’ back then.

Difficult

This game isn’t broken. It is merely difficult. “Get gud!” reader.

This game does have ‘gameplay skills’ which will be necessary in the later dungeons. Planning will be required too. Did you bring in a blue potion? If you didn’t, good luck in the last dungeon!

Fantastic Music

Legend of Zelda has incredible music which still sounds great today. The reader needs to listen.

Above: Overworld
Above: Dungeon music. SO GOOD!

Underrated

I actually think Legend of Zelda is underrated today. This game is doing many things, and much of it is unknown.

The Internet really spoils the secrets part of the game. But with so many games to play today, this isn’t an issue.

The tight grid-like arcade combat will shock many people in how precise you have to be.

The freedom you have in this game will also surprise people. I expect modern gamers to play Legend of Zelda and say, “It’s like 8-bit Breath of the Wild!” hahahaha.

I also don’t think Zelda gets recognition for bringing SCALE to gaming. There is less abstraction. Everything is the same size. One screen size is equal to another screen size. Chris Roberts would see this, and he made Times of Lore where everything, town, dungeon, overworld, was on the same map and scaled. Origin saw this and made Ultima VI scaled on one map. Other RPGs followed suit. Thus ended the ‘overworld’ and ‘battle fields’ so the entire game ends up being on one map. This was the Zelda revolution.

There is much content in this game. You can replay it and go at it in different ways. Then there is the Second Quest which is like 100% more content. What a jam packed game! The only Nintendo game that comes close to rivaling this is Breath of the Wild.

Actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who plays ‘the most interesting man in the world’ in a popular series of Dos Equis beer commercials, is headlining an Obama fundraiser in Vermont next week.
Above: The ladies and I get excited when playing The Legend of Zelda

I doubt anyone will be surprised this game is getting the Malstrom Award. It’s still fun to play today, and you will keep coming back to it.

Loose Price During Review:

$30.30 [Zelda can only come in a GOLD cartridge.]

Score: 10
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Back To NES Reviews Table of Contents

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 14, 2021

NES Reviews: Mega Man

Mega Man NES Prices
Released: 1987

This game was pioneered with a new young producer and the maker of Ghosts and Goblins. This is why Mega Man has so much ‘Ghosts and Goblins’ gameplay in it.

This game is very unforgiving. Most of the level design revolves around timed jumps. Unlike the sequels, if you get bounced back due to a shot, you have no grace period. If you land on spikes while still flashing, you immediately die.

Luckily, you can stage select which gives your player time to sample the levels.

And you can luckily endlessly continue.

The real question is, would you want to continue through this dreck?

“But it’s Mega Man, it’s GOT to be good.”

Ridiculous. This game is seriously broken on so many levels. The level design is screwy. Does anyone think timed jumping puzzles is fun? No.

Above: Gameplay

The reason why Mega Man series succeeds as a series is that it allows player will over developer will. The player chooses the order of the stages, not the developer. The player chooses which ‘ability’ or ‘weapon’ to use against which enemy, not the developer. Even holes can be tackled in different ways due to the player having some tools.

Some of these elements are present in Mega Man, the first game. Most of them are not.

What Mega Man succeeds in, which WAS a big deal at the time, was creating a coherent robotic world complete with nefarious well-defined enemies: the robot masters. Mega Man was one of the most imaginative NES games out there during the time, and it’s imagination still captures wonder today. The Mega Man universe was cool, but the Ghosts and Goblins gameplay was *not* cool.

Broken

The game is not ‘challenging’. It is merely broken. This game either needed more time in the development oven, or it had an incorrect producer pushing an incorrect game design. I blame Ghosts and Goblins influence here. People who love Mega Man 1 are also those strange people who think Ghosts and Goblins is amazing and can never figure out what no one else buys it.

Good Music

Above: Mega Man 1’s music is still pretty good. Not as good as the sequels. And there seems to be a high degree of Spanish influence here.

Overrated

Fans of Ghosts and Goblins will rave over Mega Man.

Fans of the Mega Man series will rave over Mega Man.

The truth is that this game is poorly executed. The Mega Man philosophy hasn’t fully come into full realization here, but the problem is that it isn’t executed fully. For example, stage select represents player choice and freedom. However, the level design demands the player play only one way in a certain way. This often means timed jumping puzzles from literal puzzles of disappearing blocks to the hideous railed platforms of Gutsman’s stage.

Note how NO ONE recommends new-time Mega Man players to start with the first game. Why is that?

Capcom also cancelled on the idea of a Mega Man sequel. It’s because this game sold like shit.

“It was because of the box art, Malstrom!”

Or it was because the game really wasn’t that good.

Look, I was there when this game came out. I rented it IN 1987! I liked parts of it. I LOVED the stage select. But the game wasn’t that fun. I thought it was an OK rental, and I shelved it.

When I rented Mega Man 2, I went insanely crazy in love with the game. I immediately went out to buy the game, and then I PREORDERED Mega Man 3. Have you ever pre-ordered a classic, reader, from the 1980s? Anyway, I can tell you affirmatively that Mega Man 1 was never well regarded. Only through revisionist history by the hardcore gamers, those Ghouls and Ghosts boot lickers, that they think this is a ‘good game’ and a legit classic.

It is not a classic.

And it isn’t even a good game.

Inafune blames the box art for the poor sales of Mega Man in North America. But most box art of that time period was bad. No, the reason for the poor sales is that the game isn’t well made or particularly fun. I know. I was there.

Who played Mega Man during 1987? Hands please?

*crickets*

And you game journalists, who talk with authority on everything retro, did you play Mega Man in 1987?

*more crickets*

I thought so.

The truth is that Mega Man was only successful as a series with the SECOND game, not the first. The SECOND game fixed nearly all the problems the first game had (and still had bad box art!).

Don’t you guys get it? The gamers who PLAYED Mega Man in 1987 and REJECTED IT are the gamers responsible for the total shift in Mega Man 2. If Mega Man 1 sold well, Mega Man 2 would have been a very different game… and a much crappier one.

Does anyone write to me today and say, “Thank you, Malstrom. By rejecting the original Mega Man, you were part of the market reaction that forced the developers to fix the formula to bring us the wonderful Mega Man II.” But nooooo. I receive no thank you cards to this day.

Instead, we’re just told that Mega Man is a ‘classic’ which we have to force ourselves to understand. It is no classic. It is a shitty game then, and it is a shitty game today. Instead of realizing this, Capcom goes and remakes the game and watches it bomb ultra hard. Gee, I wonder why?

That said, I like the game for its imaginary aspects but not its gameplay aspects.

A square video game screenshot that depicts a blue character sprite firing a shot toward a vertical brick wall. Other sprites surround the character and a score are visible at the top of the screenshot.
Above: Great visuals and world. Gameplay is crap. WHY DO YOU THINK THE GAME DIDN’T SELL THEN, READER? It’s because what I’m saying here is true.

Due to the explosive success of the sequels, renewed interest came to the original Mega Man. Everyone tries to twist this game in such a way that it is ‘good’ so it can fit in the pantheon of the Mega Man series.

These rose colored ‘series’ goggles need to stop. Let’s examine this game exactly for what it is, and not as part of some series continuum.

Is this game FUN?

Not really.

Will you come back to it?

The only reason people are coming back to this shitty game is because it is the first in the ‘series’ of Mega Man. If you take that away, which was the case before Mega Man II came out, no one came back to this game.

This game’s art, music, and stage select was really, really innovative and cool for its time. The level design was trash.

The entire game is very, very short, and most of it revolves around instant-kill timing jumps. This hurts replayability.

If I had to sum up Mega Man, the word I’d use is ‘inconsistent’. This game is the poster-child of ‘inconsistent’. There are parts of the game that are truly fun, but BAM, then you hit a broken design part which zaps all the fun away.

Let’s end the lies, fanboys. Mega Man is not a great game. It doesn’t even deserve the ‘classic’ tag.

Great graphics, sound, music, personality, and villains. Terrible level design. Inconsistent gameplay. Unforgiving mechanics.

The level select saves this game from the abyss of the ‘no-go zone of 5 and below’. This was true back when it came out, and it is true today.

Loose Price During Review

$79.47

Score: 6

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Back To NES Reviews Table of Contents

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 13, 2021

There is more to the Colonial Pipeline issue

A company is not willing to admit it has screwed up. And the government doesn’t want to admit that a critical infrastructure has screwed up. If there is an internal issue, the government and the company will likely be colluding together.

I can’t believe anything I hear about the Colonial Pipeline being ‘hacked’. Not that it didn’t get hacked, but I don’t trust anything I’m hearing.

This industry is corrupt to the core. For all I know, some worker’s retarded nephew did something wrong and spilled hundreds of gallons of gasoline so a cover story is made to hide it. “Russia! Russia! Russia!” will be said.

Again, I don’t know what the truth is on this pipeline. I just don’t trust anything being said about it. I do know someone fucked up royally. The more blame that is cast externally, the more I suspect the problem is internal.

Now I hear that the company paid 5 million dollars to the terrorists as ransom payment. But the payment was in crypto. Is this true or not? For all I know, it could be a lie which also has the benefit for the government to go after crypto. Crypto then becomes a ‘national threat’. Who knows.

I don’t believe in conspiracy, but I do believe in stupidity. Some of the people who work at these places are incompetent as hell. Rampant nepotism does this. And when screw ups occur, everyone circles the wagons.

Look at the investors of these oil and gas companies. They go straight to the politicians of both parties. Many Americans cannot get gas, and there is no transparency over this issue.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 13, 2021

Email: Wages vs Equity

Ah Master Malstrom, at it again with another great post.

Without really saying it, you’ve also excellently broken down the risk vs reward discussion in the wage vs equity space. 

A worker who is only worried about wages, is a worker who is willing to take no risk.  They frequently provide a bare minimum of effort for the company, and the company compensates them the bare minimum to get their work done.  Now some of your readers may take this as a race to the bottom, and sometimes it is, but from experience it frequently means that to some extent you are roughly compensated for the job you are doing and the risk you are taking.  When taking just a wage, the only risk you are taking is that the company may stop paying you, but you can also leave your job at any time.  While the company may wield a bit more power in this area, the worker is generally not terribly obligated to the company.  Low risk gives you a fixed reward.

On the other hand, a worker who is worried gaining equity, is taking a commensurate risk.  While a company to do everything they can to frame this as something above and beyond for a good job, or similar to the average employee, this is also now an additional factor for your income.  I know plenty of people who take it as a perk, but you’re foolish to treat it that way.  Once you’ve got equity in the company, your income is now attached to the performance of the company to some extent.  Certainly if 1% of your income is generated by the performance of the company you might choose to not pay attention so much, but what about if this is one third of your income, half your income, or double your income?  The more equity you have in the company, and while you work there, you not only have a vested interest in the company’s outcome, but also some amount of control and leverage to make the company more successful.

For about five years I ran a fifty person global team, and wages, equity, and bonuses were a very consistent topic with the managers that reported to me.  A frequent misconception was that we would give equity to the top performers, and I would have to explain to the managers on my team that we give wage increases and bonuses for performance.  So what did we use equity for?  This was for the people who had skills that we could not replace, or in other words people we could not afford to lose.  Now sometimes the performance overlapped with whether we could afford to lose somebody, but just as often it did not.  For the people that did get equity though, I would hyper focus on them, it was not uncommon for me to have a handful of people ranging from 50%-200% of their salary in equity.  They were just that valuable.  I suspect a lot of other companies use equity as a “golden handcuffs” retention strategy.

This may sound strange to your readers, but as a manager you really have to understand what makes people tick.  Some people just wanted a wage, some wanted a bonus, some wanted equity, some wanted to be compensated for overtime, some wanted flexible work schedules, and some just wanted new experiences.  It definitely takes all kinds, but I can tell you as a manager, I frequently take far more notice of people who are interested in equity.  Why?  Because these are people who are likely to want to tie their own personal income to that of my team, and by extension that of the company.  These are the people who are willing to put themselves in riskier positions and willing to take obtuse risks for the success of their boss, themselves, the team and the company.

I know it’s a long way to get there, but for those of you who have equity, consider what it is that you are doing that is so valuable for the company.  For those of you who want equity, consider what risks you are willing to take to make yourself indispensable and valuable.  And I don’t mean valuable in the “I don’t document my work”, I mean in the “I document everything so that anybody can do this work.  The person who doesn’t document anything is only temporarily valuable, the person who enables others to do work is taking a personal risk of job security to help the company be able to hire cheaper talent to do the same job.  For me at least, I’m going to do whatever I can to reward the person putting the company first, and punish the person who puts themselves before the company.

Peace…

Too bad you can’t tell that to my boss [regarding documenting work]. I always set everything up so a co-worker can walk in and immediately be on track to what was left off. Our true jobs are to make sure the company makes money. I see employees as replaceable cogs. What if I get sick and can’t come in? A co-worker can resume my work with no issue. Or what if something else happens? You get the idea.

I despise the employee who intentionally burns the bridges behind them. They won’t document anything to mask the trail of anyone trying to follow them.

I never fear job security because I never assume there is such a thing as job security. Besides, I’m eager to compete. Now, the place where I cannot compete in is nepotism. I’m not going to buy a ‘big damn truck’ just because the boss likes that brand of truck. I’m not going to drink your favorite beer either. Fuck that.

High performance individuals have sense of self. They don’t give a damn if you don’t eat the same food they like or watch the same movies they do. A high performance individual cares about the company having high performance. People of so fragile sense of self who care about what vehicle you drive, what beer you drink, what sports you like, etc. are low performance individuals.

High performance people normally don’t have much of an outside life anyway.

I’m in Oil and Gas. It is a high tech business (though many people don’t realize that). It can reward high performers. But the nepotism is rampant. So many of their kids are on drugs and can’t even hold a retail job, yet daddy or uncle pulls strings to give them a high paying job. If I was the big boss, I’d fire people who did that. But, alas, that is not my position.

I’m not sure what industry you’re from, emailer, but I doubt it is Oil and Gas. It’s so corrupt. It’s important to remember that fracking and other recent innovations didn’t come from the big companies, it came from the small ones. This is why big Oil and Gas companies love more regulations: it removes their competition.

Anyway, not sure how to respond to this excellent email except to tell people to read it. Real wealth comes from equity, not wages. If you create value to the company, you’ll always have ‘job security’. And the company leaders will want you to stick around so they might offer equity.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 12, 2021

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Coined by Klaus Schwab, the founder and president of the World Economic Forum, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was a popular buzzword before the pandemic, and I expect it to return as a buzzword in some form. If the reader hasn’t heard of this term, here is a brief summary:

The First Industrial Revolution was the invention of the steam engine and the creation of factories. Remember that the steam engine didn’t just create factories, it allowed steamboats and railroads which revolutionized transportation.

The Second Industrial Revolution was mass production (Ford) along with the invention of the light bulb and telephone that revolutionized our daily lives.

The Third Industrial Revolution is electrons with the invention and mass adoption of computers and the Internet. Even someone as young as forty can see how much our lives have changed due to it.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is supposed to be similar to the second. It will be utilizing the Third Industrial Era tech to create and do things that haven’t been done before.

“What does that mean?” asks the quizzical reader.

It means that if you take a map and scan it digitally, that is a very ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ way of thinking. Now you have a digital map. Hooray.

A Fourth Industrial Revolution way of thinking would be to have cars electronically talk to other cars so when you ask for a route, it doesn’t just use the map. It would be pinging all the cars on the road. It’d see the traffic. It would be able to, on the spot, create a new route for you.

Fourth Industrial Revolution is not automation. There’s always been automation. Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking existing tech and doing completely new things. The steam engine is glorious, but what about the gas powered engine? Same principle, but very refined with the gas powered engine. A train is amazing, but a car is something else. That similar jump is what is said to come from the third to fourth industrial revolution.

Now, I only sip the kool-aid, I do not gulp it. Much of this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ stuff is plutocrat cocktail party porn. But let’s just accept it for the purpose of this post.

With this definition, Nintendo is not only a ‘Fourth Industrial Age’ company, they could have been the first one. In fact, games have been the prelude to these industrial revolutions especially video games with the computer revolution. Anyone remember the ‘gambler’ steam boats from history?

Nintendo is interesting because their products are not just ‘faster computers’ slammed into a box. That is not Nintendo’s history at all! Other console companies follow that model. Sony clearly follows that model as does Microsoft.

Let me put it in perspective. The NES was such a shock to the American gaming population for many reasons. One of the major reasons, and ask anyone alive during that time period who will readily back me up on this, was the revolution of the D-pad. The D-pad changed gaming in ways gamers today cannot understand.

In fact, many Atari veterans refused the D-pad. This is why Nintendo put out the NES Advantage and why games marketed to advanced skilled gamers always had the commercial person using a NES Advantage. Advanced gamers used joysticks. Why? It’s because they grew up with them in the arcades and with Atari.

It was not easy and even alien to use the D-pad at first. A phenomenon known as ‘Nintendo thumb’ emerged where complaints of kids having ‘sore thumbs’. But we didn’t go back to the joystick. Like many, I bought numerous NES controllers. The joysticks kinda sucked. Even the NES Advantage couldn’t provide the precise control the D-pad brought. The joystick could be played well for some games such as shmups. But a game like Super Mario Brothers 3 could only be played with a D-pad.

Eventually, the D-Pad began to appear everywhere including consumer electronics to industrial electronics.

“What is the point of this diatribe?” asks the reader.

The point, dear reader, is to point out that Nintendo created something new with the technology at the time. It wasn’t just an overclocked chip put into a box. The NES was an EXTREMELY primitive machine even when it launched in Japan in 1983. The NES was given stiff competition from Hudson’s PC-Engine which was popular in Japan.

“But then Nintendo came out with the SNES which was more powerful chip than the NES. Durrrr….”

No. Ever heard of Blast Processing? (Yes, I know its a marketing term.) SNES had issues such as its infamous slowdown. Genesis could come in and market itself as a faster, cooler thing because of this weakness.

You come to the N64. Forget the crazy ass 3d for a moment, know that Nintendo did make the analog stick. But Nintendo also put in rumble (I do remember PC games using rumble too). Rumble then found its way as standard in every console controller. Would our smartphones vibrate if Nintendo hadn’t have included rumble? Unknown.

With the problem of wired controllers, Microsoft’s solution was to create ‘break away’ wires so the wire would ‘detach’ if someone tripped over it. For the Gamecube, Nintendo got rid of wires completely with the Wavebird. The next generation, Sony and Microsoft followed suit.

But did Nintendo just have a wireless controller with their Gamecube successor? No. Did they just throw in a more powerful chip into their console and call it a day? No. They used the technology of wireless to create something truly novel: motion controls. Wii’s success story doesn’t need to be rehashed.

The DS had a touch screen. Today, it is very primitive. But it is a precursor to the touch screens smartphones would all have. (Yes, I know there were touch pads with styluses back then.)

My point is that the touch screen allowed NEW games that couldn’t have been done with a standard controller. Nintendogs and Brain Age to name a couple.

What I’m trying to highlight is that the ‘Nintendo way of game design’ is the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ way of thinking. Nintendo isn’t going to make a better something. Nintendo wants to merge new tech, as it gets cheap enough, to make new forms of entertainment.

When you look at PlayStation, it is just a dumbed down subsidized gaming PC.

Microsoft is now betting on ‘The Cloud’ for its future. Microsoft can’t handle the hardware market.

“I do not understand why this matters,” says the poor reader. “What are you saying exactly, Master Malstrom?”

I am saying that the future is not going to be what YOU think or even what PLUTOCRATS like Klauss thinks.

“But the future will be what you think, is that right?”

Absolutely. That is why you’re reading this blog. People want to know the future.

Consider again the example of Microsoft’s breakaway controllers versus Nintendo making the wires go away. Microsoft has very smart people working for the company, but they didn’t think in the context Nintendo was doing.

In the 1980s, it was widely predicted that a personal computer would control every part of our home. For example, the washing machine would be controlled by the personal computer.

This was completely wrong. What the people in the 1980s couldn’t predict was that computers would become so cheap, so widespread, that the washing machine would have a computer built inside it all to itself!

As recently as 2006 when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were released, these two giant companies of Sony and Microsoft were battling over the TV. Sony was betting on Blu-ray. Microsoft was betting on HD-DVD. Either way, both companies wanted to control the TV which meant that they would control the living room.

What they never anticipated or imagined was that electronic displays would become so cheap, so plentiful, that there would be endless screens everywhere. A game console can’t control the TV because there is now a screen on your phone, a screen on your tablet, let alone other computers. There are screens EVERYWHERE.

Today, you hear about ‘automated cars’. Forget the issue of unresolved liability to ‘automatic cars’, everyone is running around that this is the ‘future’ and no further discussion is warranted.

“Cars have to be automatic, Malstrom,” the tech companies say. “It has to be done. Therefore, it will be done. It is the future. End of discussion.”

The actual future is not having cars at all. Why would we need automated cars if so many people can work from home? Sure, we’d have cars, but we wouldn’t need to use them as often. This completely eliminates the issue for automating cars.

These tech companies are stubborn because they think they are smarter than everyone else. They will not admit they were thinking in a BACKWARDS way. It’s like Microsoft’s breakable wires where Nintendo got rid of the wires entirely. An automated car is not necessary when a car isn’t necessary. If you can do your work from home, there will be much less use for any cars at all!

“But what about delivery and freight?”

Those could never be automated anyway. You’re not going to automate an 18-wheeler. The liability is crazy with it.

So I laugh at these ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ that makes all these predictions especially the ‘changing Humans’ ones. The future is going to be different than what they suspect.

It was predicted that airplanes would exist. And it was true they did emerge. But the discoverer of flight did not come from the usual suspects or from ‘brainiacs’ of the age, but from bicycle shopkeepers who tested on the soft ground of Kittyhawk. The bicycle was rather novel, but its true ingenuity was how light the material was.

If the past is any prelude to the future, it is that those who make bold predictions are rarely correct.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 11, 2021

Calculator for Switch

Just exactly who is this software for? Who’s the market?

A separate calculator costs LESS than this $9 digital app. Even your smart phone can do it.

Am I going to take my Switch to engineering meetings now?

Who is this software for, exactly?

Note how we get calculators on Switch but no true communication system. How about Discord for Switch, Nintendo?

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