Rundown (7/31-8/06) Blazing Edits!

  • Post category:Rundowns
  • Reading time:31 mins read
  • Post comments:3 Comments

Wherein I discuss the completion of a beta I’m releasing on time, the encroaching anime apocalypse, Ubisoft’s potential new owners, why Pokémon is bad, DiSCoBoMBs, a ruinous remaster, a Plain-o rename-o, and a new gothic metroidvania action platformer.

By the time last week’s Rundown went live, I was over 30% done with the editing of The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan. And as of this post’s publication, I am pleased to say that my edits are complete! I have already scheduled 19 chapter posts that will go live from August 15 to August 31st, with two chapters debuting on August 15th and August 31. 

I still need to create ALL the art assets. Meaning 19 160×90 chapter headers, 1 256×160 cover, and 1 160×90 ‘cover header.’ But the text itself is done, and I have to say… I’m shocked at how quickly I was able to write this novel.

The outline for The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan was written from March 7 to March 14 (8 days). I wrote the initial drafts for chapters 0 to 7 from May 22 to June 7 (17 days), after which, I put production on hold while I worked on other projects. From July 11 to July 28 (18 days), I wrote the first draft of chapters 8 to 18. And from July 29 to August 6 (9 days), I edited the 88,000 word manuscript. Meaning that the total production time for this story was 52 days.

Now, you might say that I’m cheating by not counting certain days. However, during the gaps in the figures I just recited, I did very little work on this novel. Maybe I added a sentence, a note, or, at most, revised a paragraph, but that’s it. And I barely even thought about the novel, because I was too busy with other stuff. So, yes, I am confident in saying that I wrote an 87k word novel within 52 days.

To me, that is a massively impressive achievement, and one that really makes me think of two things. How much more productive I have become in writing fiction, and how much more I can get done when I put aside everything else and focus on ONE project. I have experienced similar highs before, like how I wrote all of Oppai 3 (28k word novella) in 15 days and Satanica Intervention (15k word novella) in 7 days. The problem with this model is that it leaves sizeable gaps in my release schedule, but… I think I like it more. 

I enjoy throwing myself into a project and getting it done. I had a great time with AI: The Somnium Files 2 in no small part because I 100% cleared the game in 44 hours spread across 7 days. Same with playing through all of re:Dreamer in 3 days. Same with clearing Palladium in 4 days.

As such, I think this is the method I will take to content creation going forward. No more juggling a lot of different projects, but rather… focusing on one thing at a time. 

On that note, here is an updated schedule for what I have planned for 2022 on Nigma Box. This is all TENTATIVE and can change FOR ANY REASON! This is not a promise, this is just a goal, and goals ain’t worth nothin’!

  • August 15: The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan (Novel #07)
  • August 31: TSF Series #004-3: VoREEOS
  • September 07: Mice Tea review
  • September 14: Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra.0 (AU Short Story)
  • September 28: TBD Student Transfer Scenario review
  • October 19: Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra.1 (AU Short Story)
  • October 26: TBD Student Transfer Scenario review
  • November 09: TBD Student Transfer Scenario review
  • November 18: Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra.2 (AU Short Story)
  • December 01: Natalie Rambles About Dragalia Lost – THE FINAL
  • December 07: Pokémon Violet review
  • December 14: Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra.3 (AU Short Story)
  • December 21: TSF Series #005-2: Ghost Milky in… Genocide the G.O.D.S.
  • December 28: Natalie Rambles About 2022
  • ??? 2022: Cellular Shift review

But WAIT! There’s more!

  • January 20, 2023: The Malice of Abigale Quinlan – Encounter Unlimited (AU Short Story)
  • April 27, 2023: Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan – Episode Alternative (AU Short Story)
  • May 18, 2023: Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth – The Day After (Sequel Novella)
  • August 15, 2023: Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Bizarre Summer 2015 (Novel #08)
  • November 5, 2024: Psycho Shatter 1988: Black Vice X Weiss Vice – Apolitical Genocide (Novel #09)
  • December 11, 2025: Psycho Shatter 2000: Black Vice Mania (Novel #10)
  • December 21, 2026: Psycho Shatter 2001: Weiss Vice Omake (Sequel Novella)
  • March 15, 2027: Psycho Shatter Alternative: Kaede ♥ Senpai ~Kiwami~ (Novel #11)
  • (????): Illmalice (Visual Novel or novel trilogy???)
  • May 25, 2032: Psycho Shatter VN: Vice Novus (Visual Novel)

Is that all WAY too much information? Yes, yes it is!

Kicking off with an anime acquisition instead of a game acquisition, Sony has been aggressively trying to establish a monopoly over the western anime market over the past few years. They acquired Funimation in 2017, nabbed Crunchyroll from AT&T in 2021, and rapidly combined their services under the Crunchyroll banner. There are still alternatives, and other platforms like Netflix and Amazon still pick up anime licenses, but the two biggest distributors merged, which was all sorts of concerning for obvious reasons.

However, not content with just owning anime streaming in the west, they are also buying Right Stuf. That big old anime, manga, figure, and merch online shop. It’s the biggest of its sort in the world of anime dorks, and after 35 years of independent operation, it’s going to be a Sony subsidiary and another way for Crunchyroll to sell stuff to its growing user base. 

It goes without saying that it’s bad that so many of the biggest names in the western anime industry are now under one umbrella. It makes it harder for newer companies to spring up. It teaches the anime fandom to rely on a single company for a large amount of media. And it funnels everything under a unified platform that can go to shit at a moment’s notice.

I like to think that the anime fandom is pretty damn resilient to any corporate meddling, because of how accepted and necessary piracy is in the medium. However, it is important to note that there is an entire generation of anime fans who have learned to enjoy the medium based on what is offered by official channels. A lot of people got into anime via Crunchyroll and Netflix and view anime as something they watch on their PlayStation and phone. They haven’t torrented terabytes of obscure fan subs or migrated across a dozen-or-so streaming sites. They simply aren’t part of the piracy culture that anime thrived in for a good decade. Which makes me wonder just how big of an impact piracy would really have nowadays. 

Ever since the big sexual harassment and abuse controversy of 2020, there has been some pushback for the Guillemot family to step down from their controlling position at Ubisoft. Well, I was reminded of that when I saw a Reuters article about how Tencent wants to increase their stake in Ubisoft from the 5% they secured in 2018. With Tencent’s goal being to “boost its ownership and become the single-largest shareholder.”

While this is not finalized, discussions have gotten to the point where the public is hearing about this, and all I’ve got to say is yikes. I have made it painfully clear that I do not trust Tencent as a company due to both their size and their connections to the Chinese government. And seeing them go on an acquisition spree over these past few years has only filled me with less and less faith in whatever future they hope to forge for the games industry. 

Ubisoft is already a horrifically massive company with over 20,000 employees around the world. So the idea of them forming a partnership or alliance with Tencent strikes me as something that can only end badly.

After a two month break in official information, the next Pokémon Presents came out, offering a more in-depth look at Pokémon Scarlet and Violet in more detail. Normally, this would be a cause of speculation and excitement, but these past two months though, there have been a LOT of leaks, far too many for me to keep up with. From what I could tell though, most of them have been in the form of blurred screenshots, and details that I remember seeing collected in a PasteBin post. And while this trailer did not confirm all these details, it confirmed more than enough for this lump of leaks to pass the smell test.

As people have theorized since the initial character designs were released, the game will center around a group of academy students who are sent out to explore their home region, the Paldea region. Which is a big seamless open world filled with a dozen or so unique biomes, and hundreds of Pokémon to collect. But rather than rely on a bike or ride Pokémon to travel, players instead traverse using the box art legendaries, Koraidon and Miraidon, who can transform into motorcycles, scale up certain walls, and soar through the sky.

It all seems like an evolution and mingling of concepts that was set in place over the past few titles, and I like the approach. While cute, most ride Pokémon were contextual, and it would be a better design call to mix them all together into one super Pokémon, a la how the bike in Sword and Shield doubled as a boat. My only proper concern is that abilities like water traversal, flying, and wall climbing might be locked behind certain prerequisites. It sounds antithetical to the open world experience, but open world games can be like that sometimes.

On that note, the trailer mentioned how the game is split into three stories. The first being the quest to defeat all eight gym leaders, who can be battled in whatever order the player prefers. The other two are currently a mystery, but I’m guessing that one involves learning about the mysteries of this region by visiting several sights of intrigue and encountering people who want to use Pokémon for evil. While the other might involve investigating a temporal phenomenon, as the version differences heavily imply some sort of time travel stuff. …Also, the leaks support this theory.

However, what I find most enticing about this structure is that the whole of the game is centered around a treasure hunt. While I am lowkey dreading the mundanity of collecting 100+ doodads in a big open world where I’m not given a doodad radar, exploration and goodies are what make open worlds for me, so I’m totally behind this mentality. However, what I am less agreeable to is the new gimmick. 

Much like Z-moves and Dynamax from prior generations, Scarlet and Violet feature a way to power up your Pokémon via a process known as the Terastral phenomenon. In this region, every Pokémon has the ability to Terastallize, a process where the Pokémon develops a crystal sheen around their body and grows a goofy type-themed crown on their head. Presumably because the art team wanted fan artists to learn how to use crystallization filters or something.

Mechanically, it changes the Pokémon’s type to its ‘Tera Type’ and increases the power of STAB moves. However, not every Pokémon of the same species has the same Tera Type. For example, while most Eevees have a normal Tera Type, they can also have a water or grass Tera Types.

This leads back into an issue I’ve had with Pokémon for over a decade. The introduction of lateral layers that determine what a Pokémon can be. This was seen with egg moves, transfer only moves, hidden abilities, Gigantimax forms, and probably other things I’m forgetting. I have never been a fan of these approaches, as it adds another layer of collectibility and complexity to the game. It means you need to go scrounging for Pokémon with hidden abilities, breed them effectively so they are born with the best moves and best IVs, and put in so much worthless labor

I have always thought this process could better be streamlined, and the solution I always had was some sort of unlock system. Where, if the player does X, Y, and Z, then they can freely have every Pokémon of a set species learn every available move, switch between every ability, and do everything that other Pokémon of this species could do. 

Meaning that if you meet this X, Y, Z criteria with a Kingler, you can teach any Kingler Night Slash, change their ability to Sheer Force, and ‘unlock’ their Giangitmax form. What would these criteria be? Anything really. It could be as simple as ‘defeat the elite four with this Pokémon in your party’ to ‘max out friendship with this Pokémon, catch 5 of the same species, and see it use a specific move 50 times. Now, the latter option is just replacing one form of busywork with another, but it would be better than the current method of breeding the best or farming for the best.

Looking back, I think this is one of the subtler reasons why I loved Pokémon Legends Arceus so much. Because it didn’t have this crap! No egg moves, no abilities, no breeding, no nothing! By reintroducing so many worthless complexities into the experience, I have a feeling that Scarlet and Violet will feel like lesser games. Because when aware of all these complexities, it becomes hard not to adopt a eugenicist’s perspective. 

I don’t want to even THINK about min-maxing Pokémon. I just want to catch them, box them, and maybe make them a companion for the rest of my journey. But all of this bullcrap, this IV and EV manipulation, this nature farming and rare post-game nature-changing material hunting, gets in the way of this experience. It all makes Pokémon a more enjoyable game the less you know about its mechanics, and I consider that a massive design flaw.

However, there is a really simple solution to all of this. Just have a guy in a cabin in a post-game area who can max out the EVs and IVs for every Pokémon, change their moves to anything that Pokémon of that species could possibly learn, and switch up both their abilities and natures. Do not lock this guy’s services behind items or points, and stop wasting lifetimes with this anti-QoL inane fluff.  

I know that might sound hyperbolic, but it really hasn’t. Between all of its poor pacing, obtuse post-game progression, mini-maxing, and innumerous inefficiencies, I would say that the Pokémon series has wasted tens of thousands of lifetimes. And, quite frankly, I’m sick of it happening again and again. (Yes, I am serious when I say that I think 14 billion hours have been spent breeding Pokémon, manipulating EVs, learning moves, shiny hunting, and going through repetitive bullcrap that could be streamlined. Like visiting a Pokémon Center.)

…That being said, Scarlet and Violet are addressing the most worthless waste of time from Sword and Shield, the Max Raid Battles. 4v1 encounters you had to wait roughly a minute between each round, and wait 30 seconds for the catching animation to play at the end of the counter. Figures that are so absurd that I had to re-watch gameplay of Max Raid Battles, because I thought I was crazy. BUT I’M NOT!!! …YET!!!

The new Paldea equivalent, Tera Raid Battles, feature the same 4v1 encounters, but all four players can attack simultaneously— without taking turns. If they do this and change the catching animation time to something reasonable, then these encounters could offer comparable rewards while taking half as long. If that is the case, then something like the Dynamax Adventures from the Sword and Shield DLC actually sounds fun now! 

…Cripes, I am such a chatterbox when it comes to Pokémon. And I haven’t even gotten around to my concerns about whether certain quality of life improvements from Pokémon Legends Arceus seemingly aren’t carried over into these games. Three steps forward, two steps back. Same as usual…

Something that sucks about the rising costs of game development is that you see fewer oddball spin-off titles involving major IPs. Back in the SD-era of the PS2, it was common for even B-tier IPs to get strategy game spin-offs, kart racers, or miscellaneous experiments that played with an established property. You still get the occasional spin-off like this, ranging from Cadence of Hyrule to whatever action-flavored Resident Evil excursions Capcom greenlights, but publishers are a lot more cagey about their IPs nowadays.

One of the unspoken kings of ‘throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks’ was the Bomberman series, which is home to enough games to warrant an 8-hour-long documentary. The series was home to no less than dozens of spin-offs over the decades, meaning that there is a historical precedent for doing whatever

I bring this up because, on August 5th, Konami and Apple launched a new Apple Arcade exclusive in the form of Amazing Bomberman. A Bomberman multiplayer rhythm game that, based on a 20 minute gameplay snippet I watched, looks to be a fairly minimalistic Bomberman game with a really cool aesthetic. The chill homely vibes of the main menu, the bopping J-POP and EDM that plays during the stages, how sound effects complement the score, and the colorful music video backgrounds. 

That being said, when you divorce the game from its added aesthetics, it really is just another Bomberman game on a gray 13 by 13 grid with wireframe boxes and the same darn power ups from prior games. However… that might actually be fine. It has been years since the last mobile Bomberman game went offline and just having a new one, even if it is a fairly basic experience, is a good thing. The series’ gameplay is eternal, and now there is one more way that people can play it in an accessible format.

Also, this soundtrack absolutely slaps. I hope someone dumps it sooner or later, as I can primo defo vibe with this fly ish. 

…Also, when I say things like that, I’m not frontin’ or nothin’. My brain’s just rockin’ a major rot.

Almost two months ago, Tactics Ogre: Reborn appeared on PSN, and in the intervening months, more details about the game were revealed. While Square Enix could have announced it at any time, especially since the game has apparently already gone gold, they waited until this past week to drop a trailer, press release, and release date.

As I previously theorized, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a remake of the 2010 PSP title, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. One that features a bevy of mechanical changes to leveling, crafting, enemy AI, and other factors, but retains the same core of the PSP original. At a glance, it looks like a solid upgrade, adding in HD character art, a revised UI, voice acting, live recorded music, and other extras. …Then I looked at the screenshots in detail and saw what they did to the character sprites.

The official website states that “[t]he detailed pixel art that gives the game its unique feel has also been preserved and enhanced to look great on modern HD displays.” And I have to ask… what the hell are you talking about, Square Enix? You butchered the pixel art by throwing it through a garish filter. 

I don’t even know how something like this happens. How did the company that put out the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, HD-2D series, and the recent remaster of Legend of Mana allow something like this to be approved? Someone, at some point, had to tell the development leads, to their face, that this looks like ass, but they did it anyway. They knew this was a bad idea, and they did it anyway.

Now, you might try to form an argument that this is what the game was ‘always supposed to look like.’ That the original sprite artists wanted the sprites to look like this. One, that’s bullshit, no sprite artist with an iota of dignity would want their original work to be butchered by filters. Two, this was a PSP game, and you know what the PSP didn’t have? Scanlines. The PSP had an LCD display, and you could see every pixel, crisp and clear, on that thing. 

I’m sorry if I am getting long-winded here, but I have a deep love for sprite art. I grew up collecting and looking through sprite sheets, and played a bunch of sprite-based games on GBA and DS. I poured over maps for games like Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, the 2D Metroid games, the Pokémon games, and more. I even used to visit Spriters Resource every week just to look at the art! Don’t even get me started on the expansive offerings of Mystical Forest Zone and… whatever that Mega Man sprite art place used to be called. Was it Sprites Inc? I think it was…

Anyway, the point is that I value and admire the skill and effort that goes into creating worlds from bits and blocks, but I feel that so many other people don’t. So many people try to ‘fix’ it with filters and crap, try to remove the ‘jagged edges’ or reinforce that ‘sprite art is supposed to be seen on a CRT,’ and it just makes me angry at this point.

Because when you apply a filter to artwork like this, you are destroying the artistry of the original work. If you don’t like the sprites and want something that looks ‘better’… just have somebody redraw them instead.

Maybe I’m overreacting about an optional visual effect, but I guess we’ll just need to wait for when Tactics Ogre: Reborn launches on November 11 for PS4, PS5, Switch, and PC.

The Embracer Group has rapidly become this murky flowchart of subsidiaries and parent companies, and it is easy to forget what certain companies do and what their relationship between others are. Koch Media is one of their bigger divisions, but they rarely make public announcements as ‘Koch Media’ and mostly use the labels Deep Silver, Prime Matter, and Ravenscourt when putting out titles.

As such, it was a bit… strange to see them suddenly announce a name change from the generic old company name ‘Koch Media’ to the generic modern app developer name Plaion. You get it? Because it sounds like ‘play on’ and they (mostly) put out video games? 

Anyway, the reasons stated for this name change were that people had difficulties pronouncing the old name, and now was a good time for a rebranding. Though, I think the actual reason might be because people kept assuming that Koch Media was affiliated with the Koch Brothers. Who have spent decades lobbying for oil companies, funding right wing propaganda (including PragerU), and a bunch of other nasty stuff.

Next up, we have an announcement that made me super excited… for about three minutes. Inti Creates is continuing their trend of making sprite-based 2D action games and this time they’re tackling a Castlevania homage… again! But instead of doing another 8-Bit throwback a la Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, they are aiming for something more akin to the… 2D Castlevania titles from 1997 to 2008.

Anyway, this new title, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge, is a 2D action game about a pair of sisters, one armed with a gun and the other with a naginata, who traverse a demon’s castle together in order to save their homeland. With the player being able to switch between the two protagonists, or run through the game with a friend in a 2-player mode, as they fight through an expected series of monsters, creeps, and armored baddies.

While the trailer implies this is merely a showcase of a ‘vertical slice’ prepared by Inti Creates, it looks to be off to a solid start, with excellent sprite work, flashy effects, and solid game feel. Not that any of those are surprising considering the history of the developer.

However, what made me basically lose interest in the game was when I realized what this game would actually be. Even though this looks like the 2D Castlevania games from 1997 to 2008 in regards to pixel art style and environmental aesthetic, this probably won’t be a metroidvania. While Inti Creates has debatably created metroidvanias before with the Mega Man ZX games, straightforward action games are their bread and butter. While I would try to make room for an Igarashi Castlevania successor, I truly do not have the bandwidth for a straightforward 2D action game like this. Hell, I barely have time for any games nowadays, because I decided to pick up the keyboard instead of the controller.

…Wait, that doesn’t work because people can play loads of games with just the keyboard. I would have said pen, but a keyboard is not a pen. And I don’t like pens, because I always make mistakes when using them. From when I vote to when I note!

Anyway, Grim Guardians: Demon Purge is currently in development for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, and Steam.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dark Phoenix

    “The official website states that “[t]he detailed pixel art that gives the game its unique feel has also been preserved and enhanced to look great on modern HD displays.” And I have to ask… what the hell are you talking about, Square Enix? You butchered the pixel art by throwing it through a garish filter. ”

    What really drives me about this is that every time the damned companies decide to do this, it’s ALWAYS a bilinear filter. Bilinear filters SUCK for pixel art and always have, but the filters that are tuned for pixel art? Well, they’re related to emulation, and the companies can’t touch that. So terrible bilinear filter it is!

    If it’s anything like every other SE game like this released on PC, there’ll be a patch to remove the filtering within a day.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      I remember seeing some comment theorizing that Tactics Orge Reborn actually used a combination of two different filters, not just bilinear. But yes, I agree that bilinear filtering is terrible for pixel art. However, I don’t think that the filters that are ‘tuned for pixel art’ are necessarily related to emulation itself. I’m pretty sure they’re just used by emulators. I mean, just about every basic art program has nearest neighbor upscaling, or something similar, and that’s not related to emulation.

      I’m sure that people will correct this with a patch on PC, but that does not help the people who buy the game on PS or Switch. I thought about adding a comment to that effect, but that bit was already getting a bit rambly.

      1. Dark Phoenix

        What I meant was, the upscaling algorithms that do REALLY well on pixel art, like the HQnx series, xBR and xBRZ, were developed for emulators first and thus the big publishers tend to act like they don’t exist at all.