Rundown (7/17-7/23) Conceptually Rich and Executionally Poor

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Wherein I discuss my disrespect for those cowardly ideas spitters, and why piracy is cool!

Something that’s been a years-old bugbear of mine is a fixation on concept. On introducing an idea to a group of people, have their imagination fill in the gaps, and never really make anything more substantive than a description. 

This is something I regularly see propagated amongst fan communities who latch onto vague ideas for what the future could hold. Video game likers who seem to enjoy theorizing about what games could be more than what they actually are. And artists who probably spend more time thinking about their OCs than creating anything involving their OCs.

The reason why this happens is twofold. One, coming up with ideas is easy. Good ideas are a dime a dozen, having one is nothing special, and once you have a creative groove established, it’s easy to spout off ideas like they’re nothing. Two, when you are thinking of something— when it is just an idea— it is as good as you want it to be. When something is in your mind, it has the potential to be the greatest thing ever. The pesky little details are glossed over, everything works as it should, and the only thing limiting the idea is the magnitude of one’s imagination. 

I am very much aware of this, so I tend to be apprehensive of sharing my ideas for a project unless the project has been completed or abandoned. And when I do share details about projects that are still in the conceptual phase, I’m very limited with the details. 

For example, I’ve mentioned that I have a project called Psycho Shatter 2000: Black Vice Mania on my to do list. And I’ve probably mentioned that I want it to be a period piece body swap story set in a Colorado mansion during Christmas. Beyond that though, I do not plan on sharing any details until the story is done and released, which should be sometime in December 2025.

This is a key difference that I have with a lot of creators I suppose. I create things as a hobby, and I have a strong fixation on dates, on getting things done by a specific time, and tend to be very… methodical in my approach. I get ideas, write them down, then dust them off after some time before writing a formal outline. And when I say formal outline, I mean a scene-by-scene breakdown. A condensed ~20% scale version of the story. I then start writing a story based on this outline, referencing it, while giving myself enough leniency to change things or improvise. To the point where I would say my finished works only follow about 80% of what was detailed in the outline.

I then spend several days, weeks, or months writing the actual story, with some breaks in between while writing longer projects. Then, only when I am 100% done with it, do I begin the editing process. Correcting grammatical mistakes, sprucing up dialogue, improving the flow of the writing, and correcting continuity errors. All with the help of Read Aloud. Which used to be significantly better, back when I had access to the Nicole TTS pack. But now I’m slumming it with Google US English Female. Afterward, I lightly massage things with my lifetime license to ProWritingAid. During that editing process, I produce the appropriate art assets, post it, and move on.

I consider this to be an efficient way to go about things, but I know that some creators struggle to maintain this level of ‘focus’ that I have. They might be satisfied with just an outline. They might lose interest part way through production. But I consider completing a narrative blueprint or doing some preliminary work or prototyping on a project to be an admirable cause. It helps a creator better understand their craft and their skills. While playing around with ideas in their head… really doesn’t do that.

Or in far, far fewer words, I don’t like it when people just theorize or throw ideas around, and I much rather they made something that features an idea. While I understand there is a certain catharsis to spouting off ideas and getting a rush of dopamine when people react positively to them, I think it is better and more rewarding to create something with substance. It is better to create something you can look back on and point out as an accomplishment. Such as my 6 novels, 10 (really bad) novellas, 19 short stories, and 3 fanfics. Which does not sound like a lot (it isn’t), but I’m gonna get there eventually, or die trying.

Also, I do not regret working on any project that never went anywhere. Such as Polymythy of the Preternatural Permutation Pod (2013), A Forlorn Fantasy (2014), or even Cyber Killer: Renegade Edgeboy (2020). Because failure is a part of growth, and you need to trash some projects if you want to start/keep making good stuff.

…Remember how Sony bought Evolution Championship Series back in March 2021? At the time, it was a rather peculiar move. Not that EVO was being sold— the CEO was outed for sexual misconduct and they were probably desperate for a new owner— but the fact that Sony wanted to be so invested in the world of eSports. Well, as it turns out, this was not just a one-off purchase, as Sony has further entrenched themselves into the world of competitive gaming by acquiring

With being a leaderboard and tournament interface for games like Fornite, League of Legends, Dota 2, PUBG Battlegrounds, and Call of Duty: Warzone. I have never heard of them, and they don’t seem particularly big based on their general site design and social media following. However, they have hosted over 100,000 tournaments and likely have a foundation that a major company, like Sony, would be interested in iterating upon. 

Perhaps will be incorporated as part of a system level tournament feature on PlayStation consoles, or act as the hub for future competitive PlayStation titles. It’s hard to say, but I’m going to keep this news story tucked away in the back of my brain, because it’s almost definitely going to amount to something.

You know how I was hoping that the success of the QA union at Raven Software would inspire more game developers to launch unionization efforts? Well, the fine folks at Blizzard Albany, previously known as Vicarious Visions, have begun the process of establishing their own union. As I said two months ago, I am utterly sick of the workplace abuse, low pay, long hours, and just bad working conditions that are emblematic across the industry. And because managers are unwilling to budge, workers should seize the means of production and demand better conditions through a formalized union. 

Considering the precedent set by Raven, I would like to believe that the QA team at Albany will successfully form their own union. That being said, I also would expect some pushback from Activision Blizzard, as they don’t want any of their workers to unionize, so I’d imagine that the folks at Albany would face some resistance. No matter what happens though, this will be a months-long process, meaning this is less of a win and more of a statement of intent.

Trotting out another well beaten horse, Nintendo has announced the closure dates for the 3DS and Wii U eShops. With the date of funds suspension being August 29, 2022 and the proper closure date being March 27, 2023. 

This is a worryingly common theme in the games industry, and despite the facts and circumstances always being a bit different, it always divulges in the same collection of reactions. Most people view this as bad news, but generally accept the wills of their corporate masters. Diehard fans go on spending sprees in order to get games before they are gone ‘forever.’ Preservation pundits voice how this is erasing the history of the medium and how gaming desperately needs a proper means of archiving its past, rather than relying on piracy and a scattering of official collections. 

Meanwhile, cynical dastards like me use this as an opportunity to remind you that Citra and Cemu are pretty good emulators. That it is easy to find, download, store, and load ROMs. And that, once a game is made unavailable for purchase in a way that supports the publisher, then piracy kind of stops being an issue.

This is not a ‘legal’ way of looking at things, but I truly do not care what the law says about piracy. The law is written by corporations and appeals to their desires. The law hates preservation, so I say screw the law. It’s opinion doesn’t matter, and a life lost trying to fight it is a life lost well! 

If a fungible digital product, like a ROM, is not available for sale, then it cannot be stolen. Pirating software like this is still technically piracy, but it does not harm any parties. If anything, in entertainment mediums like video games, it leads to increased interest in specific products and intellectual properties. Just look at any old game that had a resurgence in popularity in the last 20 years, and the reason why is probably thanks, at least in part, to piracy.

Now, if Nintendo did the ‘right thing’ and made their entire back catalog available via a purchase model or subscription, then this would be a problem and translate to lost sales. Admittedly, they do have many older titles available via the Nintendo Switch Online service, but to call that a comprehensive library would be laughable. It is a mere pittance next to ROM collections you can download within 15 minutes, while the emulation itself lacks the same deluge of settings and options seen in unofficial emulators. And when you are getting styled on by a bunch of enthusiasts, then maybe… you don’t deserve to be supported, because your product sucks.

Now, those are my thoughts on pirating past Nintendo systems, but what about Switch piracy? Well, emulation technology for Switch games has advanced at a rapid pace— to the point where people have been able to emulate new Switch games at launch. Hell, thanks to retailers breaking street dates, many do so before launch

Emulation for Switch has remained fairly niche though… until the past few months, when the scene kind of exploded thanks to the Steam Deck. Valve’s chunky portable PC is powerful enough to emulate the vast majority of the Switch library and this has led many thought leaders to urge people to play Switch games on Steam Deck

So, is Switch emulation, or emulation of modern available-to-purchase games in general, okay in my book? Well… it depends on who is emulating the games and why, as there are generally three types of people who emulate Switch games, so let’s go through them one by one.

Owners Who Emulate: People who own a Switch and a library of Switch games, physical or digital, and choose to play these games via emulation. I 100% approve of this approach, as these people supported the official release and own a copy of the game. 

There is an argument that they should not be able to download ROMs of the games they already own, that they need to personally rip them from their device. But I consider the distinction between a copy of a game someone downloaded from a ROM site and a copy of a game someone ripped from a cartridge to be rather… pedantic. It is a fungible piece of software and I do not think it should matter where it came from. 

Broke Pirates: People who lack the economic means to purchase games. This includes people in poorer countries, who live in proximity of the poverty line, or lack a job where they make enough to regularly afford video games. …In addition to minors who lack the ability to generate income. For these people, I also say that it is 100% fine for them to pirate games.

The corporate argument here is that every illegal download represents a lost sale, but that simply is not true. There are people who are invested in or enjoy gaming but simply cannot afford to partake in the hobby or support the official release. This might be hard for people who have lived in monetary comfort for all their lives, but when you are struggling to pay rent, or afford groceries, it is hard to justify buying a $200 to $350 game system. Let alone a library where the average ‘must have’ game trails upwards to $60. And that’s before taking regional pricing into account.

The capitalist strawman might retort by saying that, ‘if they want to buy video games, they should work more or work harder.’ Which is a childish and narrow-minded argument that assumes that the world works like a video game— where there are always good paying, zero prerequisite, odd jobs that anyone can pursue. I hate to break your immersion, buddy, but real life doesn’t work that way.

If you’re broke and can’t afford stuff, then I say pirate away, because you weren’t going to buy the game anyway.

Non-Broke Pirates: This is a camp that does not get talked about very often, but I think this is an important distinction. There is a small group of people who have the income needed to sustain gaming as a hobby, yet choose to enjoy games through less legal means. Jailbreaking their hardware, downloading pirated games instead of buying them, and doing all they can to avoid paying money for entertainment.

I can understand why someone would want to try a game prior to purchasing it— a not uncommon attitude in PC gaming— if someone plays a game from start to finish… they should purchase it. Maybe not at launch price, maybe only during a digital sale, but they should buy it eventually. If they don’t? Well, they’re not necessarily a ‘thief.’ They’re just an asshole.

There is, of course, more nuance to this issue, and there are gray areas in the categories I laid out. But this is the general rule I come back to. 

…Also, gaming is so darn big now that I would argue that piracy does not really matter as much as it used to. Steam helped cut down on that with regional pricing, and while Nintendo Switch game piracy might lead to reduced sales… the Switch has been the sales success of the generation as far as I’m concerned. Once you’re raking in the dough, you can afford to lose out on a few thousand sales.

On that note, I just learned that people have started running private servers for Genshin Impact! This is something that I think has been going on since May of this year, maybe earlier in smaller communities, and this is one of the best news stories I have heard all year!

As mentioned in my January 2021 review, I have a love-hate relationship with Genshin Impact. I love the gameplay, game loop, environments, aesthetic, character designs, and general vibe of the game. But I HATE that it is a live service. I hate the fact that it is a product, that it is designed to make money, and that its goal is to foster an obsessive relationship with players, that it is objectively worsened by its live service model. If you could surgically remove the garbage business model from Genshin Impact, you would be left with one of the finest open world games ever created and one of the grandest action RPGs ever made.

This image has no real relevance to the topic at hand. I just wanted to plug Vel’s Genshin Impact TSF Diary Series

So hearing that people have figured out how to extract the near-entirety of this game, and circumvented the whole gacha system? That makes me elated. Because this is a massive step toward both preserving Genshin Impact (which will undergo controversial changes as time goes on) and making an offline version of Genshin Impact. Which would teeter on dream game territory for me.

Now, this is good news for people like me, but bad news for MiHoYo, as this allows players to circumvent the monetization system and modify the game to their liking. You could argue that these private servers ‘hurt MiHoYo’ but my honest reaction to that is ‘who gives a crap, it’s Genshin Impact!’

Genshin Impact is raking in a billion dollars every 6 months. Not only has it caused significant financial harm to thousands of people through its egregious monetization practices, but it has set a precedent that the industry will attempt to replicate in the following years. It is one of the most successful video games of all time, and I do not care if it makes less money. Using just money made off of the game— not merch or licensing— they could sustain development on this game for at least a decade without taking another cent from players. 

However, this piece from Vel IS appropriate!

Plus, private server Genshin Impact seems like it would be an overall better game… so long as you avoid using the console commands to give you all the characters and endgame gear at the very start. That’s kind of defeating the appeal of progression.

I would say something about checking one of these servers out with a new burner account, but I don’t have time for that crap. I’ve got a novel to finish! …And like 6 other projects after that. Guh! 

…I swear, I’m more of a writer than I am a gamer at this point…

Cripes, I sure talked about piracy a lot this time, and I was widely supportive of it… I feel like I need to confess a bad thing I did in order to morally balance this piece.

Um… when I was 17, I went on a field trip with my US History class to visit various Chicago landmarks, and for lunch, we stopped by a nice Italian restaurant. Our teacher said we should bring $15 with us to cover lunch and snacks, but I spent $5 on a piece of cinnamon bread earlier in the morning, and I only had $10 to spend on my spaghetti. Except the spaghetti was $12. Meaning I underpaid for my good that day and did not leave a tip. Because I spent all the money I brought with me. To whatever restaurant that was, I’m sorry. I did a bad thing, and I would pay you back with ‘yakuza interest,’ but the statute of limitations on my $3.80 crime has passed, as this happened a decade ago.

Header image is my own abomination, but the first Genshin Impact image is a mesh up of Genshin TSF Diary by Vel. The second one is from Vel’s Twitter. By the way, I still consider Vel to be one of the TSF GOATs, even though I have not seen nearly enough people talk about him.

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  1. JJ97TSF

    Agree 100% about Vel! Wished more people knew about his TSF stuff… just a shame that his commissions are closed haha

    1. Natalie Neumann

      My memory is a bit hazy, but I think that, earlier this year, Vel was inundated with more commissions than he could handle, and considering how many personal projects he wants to do, I doubt he has time to work on commissions. He also does not seem very concerned with making money from his artwork, and he even closed his Pixiv Fanbox a few months ago.