Rundown (4/25-5/01) Gallant Girls, Gambling, Gawking, and Glue – The Horse Woman GaidenZ

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Wherein I discuss the horse women, an assassination attempt, NFTs (again), a revenue turnaround, and the guns formerly known as toys.

Over the years, I have developed a fascination with the gacha game genre, and have made it a point to occasionally check out the latest hotness and offer a first-impressions style review. I do this mostly because the design behind gacha games fascinates me, and I always like to know why a popular/successful thing is popular while eking out the value for myself. And just this past week, I decided to look into this Uma Musume Pretty Derby thing, after I heard about it topping Japanese mobile game charts for several weeks straight.

For those unaware, Uma Musume is a game about horse girls. Girls who are the reincarnation of famous racehorses, and are identifiable from regular humans thanks to their horse ears, horse tails, and horse endurance. Because of these features, these girls are segregated from society and put into an ‘academy’ where they train to become both athletes and pop idols, who perform not only on the race track but on the stage as well. Meaning that not only can the people of the world— by which I mean Japan— gamble their savings on their favorite waifus, but they can purchase tat, CDs, and concert tickets for their favorite waifus.

It’s a weird concept, certainly… but it is also an example of marketing genius. It is a game that combines the Japanese cultural love of horse racing, the thrill of any sports media, cute girls, and the appeal of modern Japanese idols. The game is adorable, the production values are excellent for a mobile game, and the game goes in hard when it comes to story and characterization. It is Cygames taking everything that worked with Princess Connect Re:Dive and making something a generation beyond it.

Now, you could gather all of this just by looking at a promotional video, but what I was really curious about this game was what exactly players did, or how it handled the standard quest and gear systems emblematic of gacha games. As it turns out, Uma Musume Pretty Derby is a roguelike simulation gacha RPG. A game where players do not strictly upgrade their horse girls’ stats, but rather embark on a single campaign-style quest where they select one girl, select secondary girls who provide stat buffs, and then go about managing what this horse girl does on a daily basis while training to participate in the horse girl derbies. Select your daily activity, occasionally get a small dialogue scene or interaction, and watch numbers steadily grow while working up towards the periodic number check within X days.

At its core, this is a classic Japanese simulation game a la Tokimeki Memorial or Princess Maker, but instead of being a years-long campaign, the campaign lengths are more comparable to a run in a roguelike game with an emphasis on the like, as there is a persistent progression system, and with every new run, you can, in theory, get further and further as your horse girls gradually accumulate permanent bonuses by unlocking or earning passive abilities that help their performance in training and in races. Oh, and as for the races themselves… they are just these hype ass princess-looking-idol running videos that go on for way too long unless you fast-forward them.

There are other things to do, naturally, such as daily quests where you skip the campaign and just race one of the house girls in your collection and a passive PVP mode where you compare your horse girls to others, and whoever has the better horse girls wins… I think. However, the core of the gameplay loop is built around endearing the player to these horse girls, making their numbers go up, and doing better with nearly every passing run. And, overall, I think the game is… actually pretty fun. Admittedly, I could not truly enjoy the game because of the language barrier, but that did not stop me from powering through the tutorials and deciphering the quality UI design. But it did stop me from doing much more than that.

Something that confuses me about society is how few people willingly throw their lives away in the name of their passions. I grew up in an era of terrorist warnings, routine school shootings, and vividly remember doing active shooter drills on an annual basis starting at age 8. Because of this, I was under the impression that there were a lot of crazies in the world. And while my impression was completely right, as this past decade will show, I did overestimate the number of people who actually did something about it.

Most unhinged people are content with only sending death threats, ranting on social media, and never actually attempting to murder somebody… which has always baffled me. After the Kyoto Animation arson attack in July 2019, I was more or less convinced that somebody was going to attempt something similar on GameFreak’s offices as they were revving up for the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Simply because of how much hatred and vitriol those games were generating. But that thankfully did not happen, and it hopefully never will.

Anyway, the actual story I am building up to is how one man attempted to assassinate the founders of miHoYo (developers of Genshin Impact) intending to commit suicide afterward. Before this unnamed individual could assault the founders, he was apprehended and arrested. When questioned what inspired him to go out on this bout of attempted murder, the culprit revealed that it was because of something MiHoYo recently did with Honkai Impact 3rd.

Honkai Impact 3rd recently featured a series of bunny girl outfits for several characters, but these outfits were not permitted in the Chinese version of the game, because China’s government is a bag of old dog turds. So a mixture of lust, entitlement, and nationalist furor over how his waifus would be ogled by the deplorable gweilo and not the true Sapiens, such as himself, all helped spur this bout of attempted murder… which he directed at the game developers, not the censorship board.

I think the biggest takeaways from this story are, one, gamers can be entitled little shits, and this applies worldwide. And two, stories like this remind me of the truly chaotic nature of humanity and the old saying of, “You cannot predict the actions of a madman. That is what makes him a madman.”

In less troubling, but still bad news, Sega recently announced a collaboration with Double Jump.Tokyo to sell NFTs based on classic, modern, and upcoming Sega IPs… Oh boy, where to begin?

I’m going to ditch the misleading textbook crap and cut to the heart of what things actually are. Simply put, an NFT is a URL. A link to an image, video, audio, or other media file. This link is secured with the use of cryptocurrency, which helps ensure that only the person who purchased this NFT can access this file. Or at least that’s how it should work. But in reality, there is nothing stopping people from extracting the NFT file from the storefront where it is sold. And there is nothing preventing anyone from copying and reselling an NFT they purchased. Hell, there is nothing stopping anyone from stealing someone else’s work and selling it as NFTs.

You might wonder why anybody would actually want NFTs and what good they serve. The answer is that people want them for clout and as an investment. The people buying them now are speculators who think NFTs will take off similar to how crypto did a few years ago. However, NFTs do not do anybody any good, and what they do can be done better and more efficiently using a bog-standard account system. This would make them a moronic curiosity if that’s all they were, but NFTs actively harm the environment because most NFTs are powered by the cryptocurrency Ethereum. And when a single Ethereum transaction is made, it leaves a carbon footprint greater than the average US household does in a day.

This has rightfully earned NFTs a lot of ire from creators or just people in general. However, many of them seem to think that all cryptocurrency is inherently harmful to the environment… when that really isn’t true. I talked about cryptocurrency a few weeks ago by explaining the difference between Proof of Work (POW) and Proof of Stake (POS), but I’ll re-explain this, since lots of people are still confused. 

Proof of Work is a costly and dated method of validating and maintaining a cryptocurrency where complex calculations must be performed to verify transactions. Most cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, are powered by POW. And this is the reason why cryptocurrency has a reputation for being bad for the environment. Because if a cryptocurrency is powered by POW, then it is HORRIBLE for the environment.

However, the Proof of Stake method was introduced around 2017 as a more reliable way of maintaining a cryptocurrency that cuts the power consumption down to just about nothing by comparison. I’m not super sure of the exact math here, but I can confidently say that POS crypto uses somewhere between a ‘small fraction’ and one millionth of the power of POW crypto. This is because POS crypto completely eliminates the need for crypto mining. No mining, no use of powerful computers, no screwing over the consumer GPU market for years, nothing. 

You might hear this and ask: “Why don’t all cryptocurrencies use POS if it is so much more energy efficient?” And that is a wonderful question… with a woeful answer. Because crypto miners do not want things to change, do not care about the environment, and do not want the equipment they purchased to be rendered worthless. And the people who are running these cryptocurrencies do not want to put in the work needed to change the method of their crypto. Or in more blunt terms: The crypto community has the power to reduce power consumption to an insignificant fraction, but they don’t want to, because things are really good for them at the moment. Hm… why does that sentiment sound so familiar?

Anyway, I did some light research and found that some of the bigger cryptocurrencies do use the POS method, such as Binance Coin, Cardano, Polkadot, and Stellar, but the bottom line is that something like 20% of crypto transactions use POS method and 80% use POW method. Now, this will change significantly once Ethereum upgrades to POS, which they have been hyping for over 2 years, dragging their asses while the world burns. But until all major cryptocurrency shifts to a POS method… we are going to have problems. 

In summation, POW crypto is the bad crypto that kills the Earth. But POS is the good crypto that barely scratches the Earth. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the bad crypto. Ethereum might become a good crypto in… I don’t know, a few years? And if you are selling NFTs of your work, you are selling people URLs to files, and harming the environment by doing so. On an individual level, it is not terrible. But when you have 100,000 people making 10,000 trades a year, then you have a massive problem! 

Since digital game platforms opened the floodgates and stopped truly curating what goes on their platform, many developers and publishers have been voicing their objections to the percentage cut that platform holders get on every sale. The industry standard has been 30% for years, but as storefronts get more cluttered and visibility becomes more of an issue, developers have been voicing that the platform holders should only get a smaller chunk of every sale. This was a major conceit behind the Epic Games Store but has not been adopted by another major storefront… until this past week.

In an update regarding their PC gaming ventures, Microsoft slyly announced that they will only take a 12% cut on games purchased on the Microsoft Store, as opposed to the previous 30%. This is great for developers and publishers who use the platform, a good incentive for others to sell their games there, and an incentive for customers to switch their preferred storefront. Unfortunately… the Microsoft Store still kinda sucks. I simply could not get it to work on my PC back when I picked up a trial of Game Pass, and it still doesn’t work! I spent a full day troubleshooting the issue, but it just does not work. I tried all I could Microsoft. Honest. But your infernal contraption refuses to do its job.

Speaking of somebody who refused to do their job, Activision Blizzard did a rather crap job of promoting their big revival of the Crash Bandicoot series, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time. This led to lower sales, and because the game underperformed, some not-so-good things have been stirring in the air about the future of the developer Toys for Bob. And now, about 7 months away from the release of Crash 4, the Twitter account for Toys for Bob announced they are now working on Call of Duty: Warzone.

This announcement was followed with casual statements from many former employees of Toys for Bob, who claim to have been laid off from the studio earlier this year. And while this does not explicitly state what happened at the studio, it’s fairly easy to connect the dots, as this is something Activision has been doing for the past 7 or so years. 

Activision is notorious for milking its cash cows, and it has no cow more succulent and generous than the Call of Duty franchise. They raked in a disgusting amount of money and mindshare during the 7th generation, but they have never strayed from their established model of releasing one Call of Duty title a year… even though that’s been getting more difficult than ever as every new title needs to innovate, refine, and update what was done previously while establishing a platform for the publisher to grow with DLC and microtransactions after launch. 

Activision realized this model was not sustainable sometime in the early 2010s when they lost a boatload of Infinity Ward staff and added Sledgehammer Games as the third pillar in the Call of Duty empire. They knew they could not expect these studios to ship and maintain games of this caliber even on a three-year cycle, so instead of shutting down studios with games that ‘underperform,’ they instead started putting them to work as support studios. This is the fate that befell Raven Software, High Moon Studios, Beenox, and DemonWare Ltd. All of which were, at one time, developers of their own projects and ones who proved themselves by making something within absurd deadlines. But over the past few years, all they’ve really worked on are Call of Duty titles, where they have little if any creative control.

Now Toys for Bob, as people know them, is basically no more, and is just another cog in the CoD machine. It sucks, but… I guess this is better than a studio closure because some people are keeping their jobs. I mean, screw Activision for dedicating themselves to this self-fulfilling prophecy and for milking their cash cows so hard, but… getting mad at Activision is like getting mad at any publicly traded corporation. Their purpose is not to benefit the public. Their purpose is to make money in whatever ways they can get away with so they give it to their executives and shareholders. 

Which is why you should get an investment in a diversified stock portfolio that includes shares from many greedy and underhanded corporations! So that way corporations actually serve you… while also screwing over the government, the environment, and the human race in general. 

Anyways, my sickle, hammer, and cat ears are showing, so I’m going to bow out for now. Or should I say, for nya… No, I shouldn’t. That pun’s too low, even for my subterranean standards.

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