Rundown (9/04-9/10) We Mustn’t Let Dragalia Be Lost!

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Wherein I discuss: My Dragalia Lost archival efforts. Tencent gobbling up IPs for China. A showcase from a company I couldn’t care less about. And the long-lived queen.

Preamble Rundown Ramble:
Dragalia Will Be Lost… and I Need to Do My Part to Save It!

Over the past year, I have been vocal about the end of service of Dragalia Lost. How the game is shutting down on November 30, how the whole situation upsets me, and how much I despise the industry for normalizing this practice. For normalizing the destruction of art. I initially considered the archival efforts by many members of this community to be ‘beyond me.’ However, this past week I looked over the status of the archive project and said “this is all you’ve done after over five months” before embarking on my own archive project.

My goal is to archive footage of every character story, every castle story, every dragon story, every campaign story sequence, and gameplay footage of almost every permanently available single-player quest. I say almost, as I do not intend on recording gameplay of the Hard and Very Hard Main Campaign quests.

The MAJORITY of this work has already been done for me, thanks to the public archive project, and I intend on taking advantage of what these people have collected. My general process involves several things: 

  • Downloading Google and MEGA links listed in the communal archive project
  • Recording gameplay footage using the built-in screen recorder function of my iPhone XS
  • Waiting on iCloud to process all recorded files
  • Downloading these disgustingly large MP4s from iCloud (and its disgusting UX)
  • Renaming files using a universal convention, because that is how filing should work
  • Converting all MP4 files to MKV (for compression purposes) using an FFmpeg batch converter (powershell and command line were not cutting it) with the parameters of “-c:v libx265 -c:a copy -x265-params crf=25”
  • Uploading all MKV files to a 2TB Google Drive directory associated with an archival account
  • Copying all uploaded MKV files onto an external 4TB HDD

Imagine trying to do several of these things at once, and you have a good idea of how I have spent the past few evenings, and how I will spend dozens more. Now that I have a process established and know what I am doing (sort of) this is something that I just need to invest time into in order to receive results. Because while I have gone through about 700 videos by Friday at 18:00, there are still… Ah crap.

  • Campaign is 230 gameplay recordings (To Capture), 265 story recordings (To Mirror), and 20 hybrid recordings (To Capture).
  • Events are 507 story recordings (70% Mirrored)
  • 52 Castle Stories (Already Mirrored)
  • 266 Dragon Stories (Already Mirrored)
  • 1480 Adventurer Stories (I need to record 130, there are 40 that I cannot record, the rest can be mirrored)
  • 258 Recordings of gameplay of “Standard Quests”
  • 45 Recordings of Enter the Kaleidoscape (one for each element/weapon combo, 15 for floors 1 to 60, 30 for floors 41 to 60)
  • A… couple hundred recordings of Special Event Quests and Event Compendium quests

So, um… I am going to be a little busy.

Do I have enough time to achieve these goals? Yes. Yes, I do. What I am doing is doable within two months, and while I am revving up for a crunch period at work, I will have a lot of downtime during late October and early November. (EOS is 11/30/22). I also have the tools needed to do this efficiently. Meaning a Ryzen 5 5600X CPU, 100Mbps download, 20Mbps upload, and enough income to invest $100/year into something like this. …And also pay $10/month on iCloud, and $7/month on a VPN, because MEGA has download limits.

Now, is what I am doing the best approach? NO! Of course not! But I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming to do something that I thought other people were doing… but they gave up part way through! I do not WANT to do this. But… I guess I have to!

Tencent & Guillemot – The Worst TG!
(Tencent Acquires 49.9% of Guillemot Bros)

Whispers about Ubisoft being bought out have been wafting through the ether for a few months now. Do I think it will happen? Well, anything is possible in this rapidly consolidating industry. However, it makes sense for a company like Tencent to maintain a not-insignificant interest in Ubisoft. Prior to this past week, Tencent held 4.5% in the multinational developer/publisher. But after acquiring 49.9% of Guillemot Brothers Limited, the largest shareholder of Ubisoft, Tencent Increased their interest to 9.99%. While this agreement comes with a caveat where Tencent cannot increase their interest for 8 years, this ownership does give Tencent access to several Ubisoft IPs and properties. This includes mobile titles, the Chinese versions of their PC offerings, and so forth.

To rephrase something I alluded to in prior weeks, Tencent is trying to effectively own the Chinese distribution rights for about as many IPs that it can get its hands on. Its goal is to become this expansive monolith with extensive control of the gaming industry, and I think that is quite worrisome. Megacorps are not good for just about anybody, and the more time goes on, the more I think that the concept of antitrust and breaking up massive corporations has been lost. Which, while upsetting, is not surprising.

Megacorps benefit the rich and powerful, the rich and powerful have influence over the laws, and the more the laws favor them, the more influence they get. It is all a vicious cycle and… something, something, late-stage capitalism is bad.

Automate Your Quality of Life
(Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Are Getting an Auto-Battle Feature)

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are ramping up for release, meaning that we are probably going to get a trailer or two every month to reveal more features and Pokémon coming to the title. And this past week, The Pokémon Company clarified what this game’s three main ‘questlines’ will be. 

The first, naturally, involves defeating all eight gym leaders, traveling through victory road, and becoming the league champion, as per usual. 

The second is a treasure hunt across the region, where the protagonist pairs up with a quirky fellow who wants to find a magical plant, known as Herba Mystica. However, the rarest plants in the region are all guarded by Totem Dynamax Alpha Titan Pokémon, and it is up to you to defeat them.

Meanwhile, the third task sees the player investigate a gang of delinquents who have been shirking their academic duties and formed a gang known as Team Star. Much like Team Skull and Team Yell before them, they are just a bunch of friends who want to hang out. Experiment with fashion, go against the grind, drive cool cars, and chill out with their Pokémon, rather than go to school. There is something to be said about this trend and why Game Freak keeps going back to it, but it honestly seems to be getting… weaker with every iteration.

The design of the grunts is what really kills it for me, as the only ‘punk’ thing about them are the star goggles. They look like a bunch of 13-year-olds from a 95% white suburb who want to be cool, but don’t have any cultural reference for what cool is. Except for their leaders. Such as Mela, Boss of the Schedar Squad, who is a fashion pioneer driving a vehicle so loud and ostentatious that it wouldn’t be allowed in a parade in most cities. I love it.

I also have to say that I am fond of the UI for this installment. Pokémon has been on a relatively good streak with UI over the past few entries, and I appreciate how experimental the UX team has been. The curved semi-transparent rectangles of the battle screen, cleanly holding all information. The decision to arrange Pokéball icons vertically instead of horizontally. And the chunky touch-screen friendly button commands. All of which is off to the side, letting players enjoy the combat as it plays out… even though it looks worse than it did in PLA. Oh parallel development. Thou art a foul vixen

However, the actual biggest nugget of news that I saw this past week was the introduction of Auto Battles. Or rather, the “Let’s Go!” feature, which allows the player to send their partner Pokémon into the wilderness, where they find items and can engage in “Auto Battles” with wild Pokémon. This is… honestly a pretty welcome change. While some bemoan auto-battle as being a ‘sign of a bad JRPG’ or some crap, auto-battles have been a mainstream concept since Dragon Quest IV, probably earlier.

It helps cut into the fatty grind that is the combat system of most Pokémon titles, gives the player supplemental rewards while exploring, and appears to be completely optional. I do not think this is strictly necessary, due to the modern EXP system, but I like seeing these QoL experiments.

Giant Enemy Crab CONFIRMED!!!

As a whole, I am liking what I am seeing with this title, as it seems to be looking better and better with each new trailer. However… I have also been so brain-poisoned that I cannot help but look at the ‘little things’ that will fuel ‘the discourse.’ Groups like the Pokémon fandom make me glad that I’m not strictly ‘part’ of any fandom. Because there are so many bad faith readings. …Mostly people want clicks and anger draws more attention than analysis or praise.

…Oh cripes. They are going with a treasure hunt motif, so of course they are going to have 100+ collectibles to find in the world. …At least I already have a two screen setup…

Disney Apparently Cares About Games Again
(Video Game Announcements from D23)

Disney’s involvement in the video game industry has this terrible habit of yo-yoing in and out of relevance. In my mind, they are still shying away from the industry after Disney Infinity flopped. But apparently they had enough to warrant a games showcase at their designated announcement event, D23. 

A WWII Marvel game featuring Captain America and Black Panther. Which is not a concept that I would typically expect a company like Disney to believe in enough to invest into its production. If only because it reeks of being a ‘spin-off’ and ‘not as important’ due to its period piece setting. Also, it is apparently being written by Amy Hennig, who earned a lot of kudos for her work on Legacy of Kain and Uncharted, so hopefully the story is at least more nuanced than what first comes to mind.

The 1995 Genesis game based on the Gargoyles cartoon series is being remastered. I never knew this game even existed, as it, for one reason or another, escaped the ‘16-bit gem’ discourse of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Though, it was a later life Genesis title based on a fairly niche show, so I guess its obscurity makes sense. Regardless, looking up a long play, it at least looks fairly promising. The sprite work is detailed, colors are bold, and animation is impressive for the time. Weird choice for a remaster, considering they are not continuing/rebooting the series or anything, but I’ll never say outright no to an attempt at preservation.

Next up, there was Disney Illusion Island. A Switch-exclusive 2D co-op platformer featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. This is one of those ‘no-brainer’ things that Disney really has not done in about 20 years or so. It is a game that appeals to kids, families, and most adults, due to how timeless the characters are, and what snippets of gameplay were shown… look like Rayman Origins. The movement speed, the camera angles, wall-jumping, sliding, swimming, swinging, it all clearly takes at least some cues from the two UbiArt Rayman games. (For the record, those are some of my favorite platformers of all time.) 

However, by drawing such a comparison, it also makes me realize how flat the environments look. The color choices, lack of texture to the background, and lack of non-flat lighting all give the game a fairly… cheap look. Like the game was crafted with care and love by the artists, but they had to cut corners to get things done within budget. 

Everything has a very flat look to it, there is no real sense of depth in how the environmental layers are placed, and there is a lack of detail or texture to the overall work. Though, I do like the colored trail behind the characters. That probably will not help colorblind people, unless they are really smart with the shades they are using, but it is a nice built-in accessibility feature for kids. Anyway, the title is due sometime in 2023.

Tron is one of those IPs that gets trotted out every decade or so, and I’m not really sure why. The original 1982 film was a technical achievement at the time, and spawned its share of games, but it was not a huge hit. However, it got a… weird trickle of revivals in the 2000s. The Monolith-developed Tron 2.0 in 2003 just sort of happened. Tron: Legacy and Tron: Evolution in 2010, with the Tron: Uprising series running in 2012. Now a new film is apparently in development, likely just as an attempt to keep the IP relevant. And there is no better way to keep an IP relevant than… to make a visual novel based on it? …What?

Tron: Identity is a 2023 visual novel being developed by Bithell Games and Mike Bithell, developer of Thomas Was Alone (2012), Subsurface Circular (2017), and The Solitaire Conspiracy (2020). The people behind this title have a little over a decade of experience with messing around with game narratives, and I’m sure that they will be able to use this setting to tell an interesting story. However, I have to ask how something like this even came about. As in, who contacted who and how did they reach this conclusion? …I actually care more about that than the actual game…

The Queen Lived Long
(Queen Elizabeth II Passed Away at 96 on September 8th)

On Thursday, the queen of England for the past 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away at age 96. This basically caused all UK media to pause to recognize this cultural event, likely leading to the delay of many press releases. And due to the linguistic bridge between the UK and US, I’m guessing certain press releases have been delayed until a later date.

I really have nothing to say about this, as I am not from the UK, nor do I have any particular fondness for the nation. A 96-year-old passed away and… I just view that as normal. As a matter of fact. People get old, they die. I have personally accepted that my 99-year-old great grandmother could die any day now. It might not be glamorous or ideal, but that is how humans work and have worked for millennia.

I suppose I could comment on how her legacy as a ruler was not… the most glorious. How monarchs are a dated concept, as is the myth about the significance of a royal bloodline. And the… propagandization of the British royal family. 

…But I’m just going to make note of it and end things off with something completely different.

Ends & Updates: Winter Hiatus

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been in the process of scheduling bottom surgery for quite a while, since November or December. First it took me three months to get the medical and mental health letters I needed. Then I had to try to communicate with the doctor’s office while they were undergoing a move to a different hospital, which took another three months. Then I called them to discover that one of my mental health letters was not signed, so I had to spend another month getting it signed and processed. 

It has been a frustratingly slow ordeal, but it is almost over. On Tuesday morning, right after Labor Day weekend, I received a call from the doctor’s office. They talked to my insurance about covering the procedure and were ready to schedule my appointment. After doing two minutes of logistics, I now have a surgery scheduled for December 19, 2022. 

So… three takeaways here:

  • After about 6.5 years, I am at the penultimate stage in my transition, with the final stage being to update my birth certificate and such. I know that one never truly finishes their transition, but… this is my final objective. After this, I just need to keep taking my estrogen supplements and I should be good for… the rest of my life, pretty much.
  • I will no longer need to pay for a gold-tier $400/month health insurance plan, and in 2023, I can switch to a bronze-tier $200 plan. Which is good, as my job is going to stop offering health insurance at the start of the year, because I’d be the only non-Medicare employee.
  • I will be going on a winter hiatus in late December and early January. I might release Rundowns and Natalie Rambles About 2022 during their intended times, but I will make no promises. Because my recovery is more important than putting out content.

That’s all for now. Until next time, seeya!

Also, I know the header image is pretty low effort— I whipped it up in 5 minutes, because I had other stuff to do!

Also also, I know Ubisoft had an event this past Saturday, but I am sticking to my decision to not regurgitate Ubisoft PR.

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