Rundown (12/19-12/25) Decentralize the W3.B Into the Metaverse for Phat Dochy

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Wherein I discuss the latest race for the future, one final acquisition flurry to cap off 2021, China ruining Christmas, and why mobile live services should not demand ALL my attention during the holidays!

After seeing the term Web 3.0, or Web3, crop up in my feeds over a dozen times, I decided to bite the bullet and figure out what that term actually means, and why people care enough to discuss it. What I found was a bunch of theorizing about what the idea could lead to, along with a slew of buzzwords including: Peer-to-peer, blockchain, cryptocurrency, open source, and AI personalization activity.

What annoys me about the handful of articles I perused discussing these concepts is how they always deflect any proper explanation of what things could look like in a Web3 world. They do not use practical examples, and insist that you cannot predict what the future of the web would look like, as ‘people could not predict what the modern internet would look like back in 2005.’ Which I disagree with. When looking into the future, when imagining what is going to take off, you need to be able to imagine how something would be used. How it would change normal people’s lives and why they would want to use it over existing tools and platforms. If you do not have a destination, if you are not aiming for something, then how can you call it a movement or an innovation? 

I have this same problem with all the discussions of the “Metaverse,” which is arguing that the next big leap in technology involves people interacting in this immersive persistent 3D space where everyone is represented using a digital avatar. First off, that is not something new. Second Life, VRChat, and 3D hangout places with an emphasis on player-made spaces, socialization, and avatar customization have been around for decades. Secondly, there is a good reason why these things never replaced or usurped the usual means of communicating to others via the web. It is not because this sort of thing lacked a widely accessible platform, but because it is just easier to use the three primary communication methods we currently have.

Text-based communication via email, Discord, Twitter, iMessage, What’s App, and so forth. Video-based communication via FaceTime, Zoom, and anything where two or more people have a discussion over video. And audio-based communications via phone calls and audio-only video communications. These methods all have their pros and cons, but I see no true benefit in using 3D spaces for more mundane activities other than hanging out with friends and treating the 3D hangout places as a… toy. 

I cannot imagine someone having a serious business discussion in a “Metaverse” when they could just hop on Zoom, voice their questions and responses, and share their screens to discuss matters. Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet have gone a long way to replace the standard office meeting, and I do not see how complicating this process, which is still a bit much for older folks to grasp, would improve things.

For these reasons and more, I wondered why anybody thought that 3D VR meetings were a good idea, but then I heard about digital land sale, zoning regulations, and realized that people are banking on the Metaverse becoming a virtual shopping mall, which is just… foolish. Shopping malls are on the decline because people prefer to buy things on their phone with one eye open, casually tapping away at things for someone to deliver within the next day or two. People do not like to go out on shopping trips anymore, and if they do, it is probably so they can feel, examine, and touch a product in person. People still go to clothing stores to try on clothes before buying their preferred size or style online. People still go to the grocery to inspect their produce before buying it. But neither of these things would truly translate to the Metaverse.

So, why are Metaverse and Web3 getting all this hype? Because people have become so obsessed with following and propping up the next big thing, so paralyzed by FOMO, that they are forgetting the quintessential feature that determines who wins in the digital arms race. Convenience and ease of use. People use Discord and What’s App because they are free, simple, region-free ways for them to talk to their friends via text, voice, or video. People use streaming services and YouTube for video content because it is (sometimes) less of a hassle than torrenting all your video content. And people use Spotify, Apple Music, and music streaming platforms because they just want to listen to music without putting too much thought into it.

Unless you make people’s lives easier or provide them with something new, they have no good reason to change platforms, join your revolution, or get all caught up in the hype of something that might just be a dead end. 

You know, I finished my upcoming year-end Ramble and thought that there wouldn’t be any stories I needed to squeeze in during this week, the week of Christmas. …But then Embracer Group had different ideas, as they announced yet another flurry of acquisitions, buying a total of 5 companies in one fell swoop.

Dark Horse Media, who are best known for being the third biggest name in the comics industry, and for their recent attempts at branching out their IP into film, television, and video games. Though, I’m guessing this acquisition has less to do with video games and was more of a way to acquire a large sum of intellectual properties, as Dark Horse has put out a lot of stuff over the years.

Digic Pictures, a 3D animation studio that specializes in creating CG cutscenes and trailers for video games, having been responsible for a lot over the years. I’ve probably complained about their work quite a lot in the past, as I dislike CG trailers for games, but that’s more because of managerial decisions over their craft. I doubt they will work exclusively with Embracer or anything, as Digic works on some pretty high-profile projects, ranging from Call of Duty to Assassin’s Creed, and I’m sure Activision and Ubisoft pay handsomely.

Perfect World Entertainment, the western branch of the Chinese game and media company, Perfect World. They put out a few ‘package titles’ including Torchlight, Hob, and Remnant: From Ashes, but their output is largely geared around online games such as Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, Champions Online, and more. They also seem to go by the name Arc Games, which made this acquisition fairly confusing to research.

Shiver Entertainment, developers of Scribblenauts Showdown, the Switch port of Mortal Kombat 11, and various other mobile projects. They’re a pretty tiny studio of 20 people, so I’m guessing they’ll function as a support studio under Embracer.

And lastly, Spotfilm Networx, a German “advertising-based video on demand channel” that distributes films, documentaries, and has its own streaming platform. It is a small company with a headcount under 30, a video count over 3,000, and it reminds me of an academic documentary distribution company that I do tax returns for.

As always, it is worrying when consolidation like this happens. Even though Embracer has not done anything too egregious since that 8chan AMA, they are amassing so many resources and clout that I am worrying about what they will be like in a decade, when they own thousands of IPs and have more employees than Ubisoft. 

I mean, just looking at this list of acquisitions by the Embracer Group is positively mind-boggling to me, because they are absolutely devouring the middle shelf of the games industry.

A Christmas disaster occurred this past week when China(‘s government) decided to be a ripe little bugger once more by banning the global version of Steam from all beyond the great firewall of China. Thereby blocking Chinese players from purchasing any game that is not part of the Chinese version of Steam. Meaning that that game developers, especially indie developers, will lose out on a significant amount of revenue. I only have conjecture from seemingly qualified people to go on, but if this estimated 20-30% revenue cut is real… then that could completely destroy developers. So thanks, China. Thank you for trying to destroy the video game industry!

Beyond that, this week was quite light on news. 

There were even more trademarks pointing at a Klonoa revival of some sort, meaning that it IS indeed happening.

Valhalla Game Studios, the people behind Devil’s Third, were absorbed into their parent company, Soleil, who is owned by Tencent.

The Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster looks like it is completely remaking some scenes using more modern technology, adding a new literal dimension to many of the game’s more iconic moments. Which makes me wish they were using the old sprites instead of ‘improving them for modern displays’ when I’m pretty sure more people played Final Fantasy VI on an LCD display than they did on a CRT. Don’t discount the number of people who played these games via emulation or GBA.

This is usually how it goes, as most industry news cools down as people are busy with year end and family stuff… though some games don’t appear to get that.

Let’s talk about Dragalia Lost! The mobile live service action RPG by Cygames and Nintendo! I love the game, I’ve invested more time into it than any other game I’ve ever played, and I have made it an annual tradition to compose an overly long review of it every year. I have sworn to play the game until it goes offline, it becomes hot shit, or I cannot afford the time investment the game requires.

And the reason I’m talking about it today is that the game has become a bit uncomfortably close to the latter point over the past few days.

Dragalia Lost, and many other live service games, have this problem where they release a lot of content all at once in a massive batch, instead of distributing it gradually over the span of a few weeks. This is an issue that crops up about every quarter in Dragalia, and it always creates a sense of FOMO and content overload for players. While part of me thought this would get better after the game announced a reduction in new content, that was not the case for their big Q4 update.

With the Version 2.15 update, and between December 24th and 27th, the following were added to Dragalia Lost:

Like, geeze, you think that’s enough? I get wanting to keep players entertained over a long period of time, but this just seems like it would breed animosity as players are pressured to engage with this game so much in such a short amount of time. Hell, this does not even cover all the announcements or the fact that they broke one adventurer’s AI, turning a great healer into a healer that does not know when to heal other adventurers. 

I am glad that the game is getting all of this support, but I have other things to do, game! Like edit a whole dang novel in… 5 weeks. DAMN IT!

Header image comes from Irekawari Appli ~Akogare no Ojou-sama wa Enkouchuu!~ or Body Swap App ~My Crush is a Prostitute!~ by Hiiragi Popura. Conceptually, this comic is not all that different from your usual dime a dozen TSF hentai comics that exist to get a guy into a girl’s body and have them experience ‘a woman’s pleasure’. But it struck me as remarkable for two things.

One, the expressions. The most important skill for a hentai artist is their ability to draw expressive faces and to visually capture emotions. It’s not about proportions, how big the genitals and titties are, or how accurate the sexual acts are to real life. No! It is all about how much character you can put into faces. And my goodness, does Hiiragi Popura excel on this front, with nearly every page bringing with it at least one A+ expression.

Two, the story is spread out over 33 pages, giving the work enough time to tell an actual story. I know how stupid it sounds to say that you read hentai for the story, but that, along with the art, is what draws me in. Some of the craziest and greatest ideas I have ever encountered came from comics. And while this story is pretty simple (you can assume the first half of the story just based on the title) it actually does something interesting with this concept by continuing after the initial sexy times and building upon its premise by establishing some character. They’re ultimately archetypical, but the two leads bounce off each other well, and I would be excited to see how their dynamic progresses if this story ever continues.

Hell, just the fact that the heroine’s actions come from self-loathing is a level of complexity beyond anything I expect when diving into the erotic well, and it actually makes sex scene #2 feel completely logical. And nothing makes sex better than logic!

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