This Week’s Topics:
- Natalie Rambles About Incest
buyingleasing the Tomb Raider IP
- The downfall of discourse in these modern times
- Three reasons why E3 2023 might be bad
- The end of Halo’s second era
- A (not so) great Xbox delisting spree
- The cancelation of the next Titanfall game
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
…Something that I have noticed while perusing assorted discourse in my usual circles is that some people really dislike incest. To the point where they consider its very presence to be, in and of itself, bad and detrimental to the quality of a work.
Why do they dislike it? Well, over the past decade, a growing number of people have adopted a belief system that if a work does something morally objectionable (in a specific way) then the work itself is bad. Now, this is a wrongheaded belief system that discourages creators from pursuing or exploring certain subjects out of concern of ridicule, and robs art of one of its greatest strengths. …But let’s remain focused on incest.
So, why is incest in particular seen as so bad or morally objectionable? Well, there are three core reasons I can think of. One, most people are in no way sexually attracted to their own family members. The very idea of having sex with their mother, father, or siblings is revolting to them. Two, if two people with similar DNA attempt to have an offspring, then there is a higher than average chance that the offspring will be born with a disability or congenital disorder.
As for number three, in real life, incest is often a medium for abuse. Most incest in the real world takes the form of parents sexually abusing their children, and due to the power dynamics at play, it is often impossible for consent to be given. This makes those at the receiving end of incest into victims, and they are often left with lifelong trust and sex-related psychological issues. Incest often destroys the dynamics of trust and power that goes into family, and results in psychological/physical harm. While it is possible for an incestuous to be consensual, healthy, and loving, the odds of that actually working out are very low.
I will openly admit that incest is almost always a bad idea in real life. …But I also use it fairly often in my work. In fact, here is a list of every incest story I have ever written!
- TSF Series #001: Grandpappy Pyrie
- TSF Series #006-3: OPPAI 3 – Let’s Go To Hell
- TSF Series #008: Project F – Final Chapter
- TSF Series #012: Boxfort – An Escapist Transsexual Fantasy
- TSF Series #016: Darling Lust
- Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth
- Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra
Why did I do this? Why did I repeatedly include incest as a recurring theme in my work? Well, part of it is that I am big into TSF, and one of the most common types of TSF transformations that I encountered throughout my teens involved family members. Brothers switching bodies with sisters, moms switching with their sons, and daughters switching with dads. And a lot of these transformations resulted in some sort of sexual activity. From masturbation, to incest by having sex while in a family member’s body, to a son in his mom’s body having sex with his dad. It is a pretty common concept in the world of body swap fiction in general, and it is a concept that I was, and still am, fond of.
Why am I fond of incest in TSF? Well, in most fiction, the relationships between family members are simplistic, pure, and self-explanatory. Everybody knows everyone else well, they generally trust each other, and while there might be friction or animosity between them, everybody ultimately loves each other. This is not reflective of reality as much as it is reflective of cultural propaganda that has been shoved in the face of people for generations to reinforce ‘family values,’ but that’s besides the point. The point is that family members in fiction often have a strong platonic relationship.
When characters have a strong platonic relationship, there exists a part of my mind that wants to see their relationship evolve from platonic to something romantic/sexual. Why do I think this? I’m not entirely sure. I could say this is something that I took from the shipping culture of the late 2000s and early 2010s. A culture that had a certain fixation on pairing every possible combination of characters together, and treated all of them as valid. (At least that was my interpretation at the time.) But that seems a bit… disingenuous.
The real reason why it appeals to me is probably because I’m an autistic asexual aromantic weirdo. I don’t personally understand what it means to romantically love someone or what it means to be sexually attracted to someone. So my conception of a romantic or sexual relationship is an extension of friendship. And I don’t view family and friendship to be that different. Friends come and go but your family is… just a bunch of friends you’re stuck with.
…Also, I just love the general dynamics of a family-wide body swap and think they’re hot as shit. Because not only are they a change of one’s sex and generation, but, in their purest most typical form, they all come with their own tradeoffs. Their own gains and losses.
Sons becoming mothers lose the freedom of being a younger man without major commitments in their life. Yet they also gain the position as the head of the household, the matriarch of the family, along with the body and beauty of a mature woman.
Mothers becoming sons gain the youth and virility of a young man in addition to the opportunity to do their lives over again. While also losing out on what they had built, and being thrust into a world and culture they do not fully understand.
Fathers becoming daughters lose the strength and patriarchal power they had as the ‘man of the house’ and are interjected into a world that their life did precious little to prepare them for. Yet they are also given the opportunity to experience things well beyond their comprehension as they are forced to go through life as a young woman.
Daughters becoming fathers gain the power and authority of being a mature man, in addition to a body that is stronger and larger than their own… generally speaking. But they also lose the privilege they once had as they need to behave and act how society expects them to be.
And of course brothers and sisters switching around has its own spectrum shaped by age, relationship, and general personality. An older brother being forced to live as his bratty younger sister when he just wants to get on with his established life. A younger sister being both dazzled and overwhelmed by trying to live as her older brother. An older sister dealing with her younger brother’s friends as she is left to contemplate what she both gained and lost with this switch. And a younger brother winding up in his older sister’s body, gaining access to various ‘perks’ that come with age and the ‘freedoms’ specific to younger women. …Also everybody always learns something in the end, especially if they decide to stay this way. Which, for the record, they should.
There is so much stuff you can do with incest and TSF that it is a bit hard for me to articulate. And just spitting these off the dome is enough for me to become inundated with ideas for more TSF funsies.
…In editing this, I realized that I conflated ‘I like incest’ with ‘I like incest + TSF.’ Sorry. I tend to do that. I am not interested in most sexual things unless a girl winds up a boy, a boy winds up a girl, or shit’s just weird in general.
Outside of my specific narrow hyperfixation, I don’t care about incest in fiction. Let people fill stories and stuff with all sorts of incest, no matter how taboo. You might find it immoral, but media should not need to adhere to any moral guidelines. So long as it does not exist to spread hate, everything should be fair game. I literally talked about this last week under the context of anime pedophilia stuff, and I don’t feel like repeating myself.
Tomb Raiding In The Amazon – NOT An Acquisition
(Amazon Leases Tomb Raider IP for $600 Million)
Back in December, Amazon Games announced that they will be publishing the next Tomb Raider title developed by Crystal Dynamics. In my coverage of this story, I hypothesized that Amazon would likely license the TV rights for the Tomb Raider series in order to achieve some sort of synergy with the upcoming title. And, just this past week, a new live action adaptation was announced for Amazon Prime. This was a predictable turn of events, but a few hours later, articles were going around saying that Amazon actually bought the Tomb Raider IP from Embracer Group for $600 million.
…However, the original source of this story, Lord of the Rings fansite Fellowship of Fans, later updated their story to clarify that the IP was not sold to Amazon, but rather ‘leased.’
Now, part of me thinks it’s funny how this story did the rounds, and people accepted it as a fact because… $600 million does not sound like an unreasonable sum for the Tomb Raider IP. Especially after this IP, Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and dozens of other IPs were all sold for $300 million by Square Enix last year. However, Embracer is not the sort to sell their IPs to others in order to make a quick buck, and with Tomb Raider, I was adamant that Embracer would never sell the IP.
“Now, I don’t think that Amazon will manage to buy the Tomb Raider IP. There is absolutely no way Embracer, owner of Lord of the Rings and Dark Horse Comics, is giving that up.”
As such, I felt pretty vindicated when I dug deeper into this story and found out that I was right, and loads of other publications were wrong! So… three cheers for me!
E3 2023 – Without The Big Three
(Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox Will Not Attend E3 2023)
2023 is set to be the first real E3 since the convention went on a COVID-19 hiatus. However, over the past three years, the landscape around games media and announcements has changed dramatically. Publishers and games companies in general realized that they don’t need to hold an elaborate and costly live media event to drum up hype and retention from an audience of millions. They can just host a livestream or release a pre-recorded showcase of trailers with some light interstitials.
As such, I cannot say I am too surprised to hear that Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox are all skipping E3 2023. They will not host a conference, they will not have a place on the showfloor, and their games will not be playable to games media or a general audience.
While I understand the decision to end the tradition of E3 conferences, as they just don’t make much economic sense, I am surprised that none of the three will host any booths. For decades, companies have heavily relied on previews, write-ups, and first impressions to help drum up excitement for future releases. Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox are all big enough that they can facilitate private previews, but it is still odd that none of them are going to have any show floor presence.
This might be because the three are not happy with the ESA and how they have been handling E3 in the past. This might be because the three are not certain as to how E3 2023 will function and don’t want to invest resources into an unproven convention. …Or maybe they just don’t want to pay the related fees.
Whatever the answer is, it does not build much confidence for E3 2023, but I suppose we will just need to wait until June 13th to see how the convention will play out.
Halo: Unreal Arena
(Update on 343 Industries’ ‘Reorganization’)
Two weeks ago, I talked about how the Halo series was in hot water after the layoffs at 343 Industries, and mused about what the future of the series could be, based on rampant rumors. Now that the dust has settled, to an extent, another Bloomberg article came out to shed some light on the situation, and it provided four nuggets of particularly pertinent information.
- Roughly 95 people were laid off from 343, so rumors stating that 343 lost a third of its staff are accurate.
- 343 will continue to develop multiplayer Halo titles, and is currently working with Certain Affinity on a project codenamed Tanaka. Which was originally meant to be a Halo battle royale game, but it may evolve into something more.
- Rather than continue to develop games using the custom Slipspace engine, future Halo games from 343, including Tanaka, will use Unreal. This is due to the many issues the developers encountered with Slipspace, which have delayed the release of several modes in Halo Infinite.
- No Halo Infinite campaign content was ever in development. Developers were instead making prototypes and pitching ideas for future games.
I genuinely believe that we are nearing an end where custom engines are the right way for AAA game developers to go. Engine issues are a highly common problem throughout game development, but it is rarely a vocal issue with stuff like Unreal and Unity. So, it only makes sense for Halo to ditch its inefficient engine and switch to Unreal. That is, to me, a very good decision.
However, this course correction does not justify these massive layoffs, which were done almost entirely for cost-cutting reasons, nor do I think it will fix the actual problem with Halo over the past decade. As much as people like to point at 343 as the issue, they aren’t. They are just the developer, the workhorse. The problem is the people who decide the direction of the series, the managers and executives.
Management is a highly misunderstood field in many industries, but especially the games industry. To be a good manager, one needs great communication skills, to be receptive to new ideas and voices, a firm understanding of their industry, and an intimate familiarity with the production process. It is a genuinely hard job, and one that Microsoft is notoriously bad at staffing for.
What evidence do I have to prove this? Well, just look at their graveyard of canceled titles over the past decade: Fable Legends, the Phantom Dust reboot, Scalebound, Stormlands, and Project: Knoxville. Or look at how rarely their AAA first-party titles stuck the landing over the past… decade. Sure, the Ori and Forza games both received great reviews, but when you compare the critical reception of Xbox exclusives to PlayStation or Nintendo exclusives, it’s just no comparison.
Microsoft has been struggling with their first-party output for a solid decade now, and the problem is not with the thousands of people who are making the games. As is so often the case, the actual problem is the people on the top.
46 Xbox 360 Games Are Getting Delisted!
(But You can still Play 44 of them on Xbox One and Xbox Series)
Something that I appreciate about Microsoft’s digital storefront is that, in addition to backwards compatibility, they have only shut down one storefront— the ill-fated Xbox Live Indie Games storefront. But they have kept their Xbox 360 storefront up for nearly two decades, and you can still buy these games… or at least that was the case until this story popped up on my news feed.
Now, this sounds super bad at first, but here are three important facts here:
- You will still be able to download these games if you previously bought them.
- These games, if backwards compatible, will remain on the Xbox One and Xbox Series storefronts.
- Only two games on this list are not backwards compatible on Xbox One or Xbox Series. Eets: Chowdown, which has been delisted from Steam since 2015, but you can still find PC versions available for download. And The Raven Episode 1, which was later bundled and remastered as The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief in 2018, when it came out for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
…With these three factors in mind, this story is not that bad. Xbox 360 players are few and far between nowadays, and most people who would want to buy these games for Xbox probably own an Xbox One or Xbox Series. So long as a game can still be easily played and accessed, I am not too bothered by delistings. Especially when compared to the excessive quantities of games that are outright killed once the servers go down.
As for why this is happening? I dunno. It is probably some quirk related to payment processing and an updated system that is rolling out on February 7th. I do not like this, and I think a one week notice like this is unacceptably short, but this is far less bad than Nintendo’s scheduled murder of the 3DS and Wii U eShops this March.
Titans Fall, and Fall, and Fall…
(Respawn and EA Cancel Single-Player Titanfall Project)
The Titanfall series is a deeply unfortunate one. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, a studio founded by ex-Infinity Ward devs, the series was promoted as one of the first true ‘next gen’ FPS throughout 2013. However, there were two problems with this title leading up to its launch in March 2014.
One, the game would not have any single-player content to speak of. This might seem like a trite exclusion, but prior to the popularity of games like Overwatch, people expected every console multiplayer FPS to include a campaign. …Even if that campaign is crap.
Two, the game was exclusive to Xbox One and PC. That does not sound like a big deal… but it was. This was during an era where the gaming community still viewed Xbox as the ‘enemy of consumer rights,’ and for good reason. Xbox had tried to change the gaming ecosystem by effectively banning the use of used games and ushering in an online-only era of console gaming. Now it’s the games that are online-only. As for the PC release, the game required players to use Origin, an often derided DRM platform used by EA throughout the 2010s to avoid fees and funnel EA game players into other EA titles.
This prevented Titanfall from being as big of a hit as EA was hoping for, and support for the game died off prematurely. This eventually led to rampant cheating throughout the game starting in 2019, and rather than address these issues, EA chose to remove the game from sale in 2022.
Respawn was given a second chance— as if it was ever their fault the game failed to meet EA’s expectations— which took the form of Titanfall 2. Now, any FPS fan will tell you that Titanfall 2 is one of the best shooters of its generation. Its campaign was lauded as one of the all time-greats thanks to its inventiveness, tight runtime, overall spectacle, and empowering mechanics, among other reasons. Its multiplayer is fast and frantic in a way that seems like a logical extension of 90s arena shooters, but infused with a selection of the innovations introduced in the ‘golden’ era of Call of Duty. And the game’s critical reception was excellent.
However… Titanfall 2 had its own pair of problems. One was the fact that the game was released on October 28, 2016. One week after EA’s Battlefield 1 and one week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Also known as the literal worst time to release an FPS. And two is… the 2 at the end of the game’s name. Some people are only interested in a series if they can fully grasp and understand it, and this definitely affected wider interest in Titanfall 2. The fact that it was a sequel to a multiplayer-only game that a lot of people didn’t play… or couldn’t play.
Titanfall 2’s predictable underperformance basically made EA tepid about ever touching the series again, despite the fact that its failure to succeed was due strictly to poor managerial decisions. As such, projects were scrapped and the Titanfall series was placed on the backburner. Respawn later sold themselves to EA, where they shifted resources into their highly successful live service, Apex Legends, 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Despite this, there have been persistent rumors about a new Titanfall game being in development throughout the years and… they were true. According to a recent Bloomberg report, a single-player game set in the Titanfall universe was being developed… and then it was canceled on January 31, 2023. In fact, it was canceled along with the cancelation of an Apex Legends mobile game, the cancelation of a mobile Battlefield game, and the shuttering of its developer, Industrial Toys.
You know, I thought the decision-making skills of the management team at EA had improved over the past few years, but I was clearly wrong. Their management team is still exceptional when it comes to making bad decisions and killing dreams.
Hot Takes and Discarding Discourse
(Natalie Rambles about Something Petty a Few Years Too Late)
Something that I have never been a fan of is the ‘hot take.’ A controversial opinion that is delivered without context or justification, and thrown out onto social media for the sake of driving up engagement and attracting negative attention. The purpose is not to stir discussion about merits, or explain the reasons why one has an opinion… it is just the expression of an opinion as fact.
If someone has a controversial or strong opinion about something I care about, chances are I want to know their perspective and why they like or dislike something. Hell, the entire reason why I started Natalie.TF and started doing these Rundowns is because I like expressing opinions and explaining why I hold those opinions. Because an opinion without an explanation is just… noise.
Unfortunately, humans are ultimately shaped by their tools, and gradually have trained themselves to respond and interact using these punchy, spicy, and hot takes. To me, this is an anti-intellectual and incurious form of communication, and one that does not lead to people learning much of anything. It is reducing discourse into an exchange of harsh feelings and robs it of nuance, becoming little more than a way for people to fuel and vent frustration.
It discourages people from changing or challenging their opinion, encourages binaries of pro and anti, and is… honestly, just a waste of freaking time. It bothers me because I like to think there was a time when it was better, when people in forums and the like would engage in paragraphs-long responses. But with most web traffic coming from mobile, a platform not conducive to long-form communication in general, I cannot say that I am surprised by this turn of events.
However, what upsets me the most is the complacency. How more people do not highlight this as a major issue with communication, or try to fight against it. How many people empty-headedly spread out half-formed thoughts just for a dopamine kick.
It all makes me wonder if I am actually the wrong one here, for choosing to stick to what I have been doing for nearly a decade or so. If I am just getting older and losing my patience for the ways of the shifting world, and the manner in which ‘the youth’ interact. …I say that, but many people who do this could very well be older than me. I still can barely tell the difference between an 18-year-old and a 38-year-old…
Anyway, that’s my hot take on hot takes. They’re not very good, and I would rather have people write longer, more developed, opinions. Brevity is seen as a virtue in many respects, but if you are too brief, you’ll just confuse and anger people.
The Header Image Was Actually 100% Incest Free!
(Natalie Summarizes Body Swapper by Mukigurikobo)
This week’s header image comes from Body Swapper by Mukigurikobo.
The comic follows Tanaka, a 35-year-old NEET who gains access to a body swapping app. After using it to swap bodies with some lady on the street, he realizes the true power of this app, but rather than go on a sexual escapade— a sexcapade if you will— he has a far better plan. Become an agent, sell his body swapping services to women, use their bodies for sexcapades, and then get paid!
Following six months of helping out idols, sex workers, and disgruntled housewives, Tanaka is asked by Mika, a busty young woman, to break up with her boyfriend, Hiroshi. It seems simple enough, but Hiroshi is not only a yakuza, but he really wants to experience sex while in Mika’s body. Tanaka is not sure about this, but he’s dealing with a yakuza, so he complies anyway. After swapping, Hiroshi is thrilled by the idea of screwing his own body, calls Tanaka brother, for some reason, and the two have sex.
That is standard so far, but what makes this comic special is the ending. Right after cumming a bucket’s worth of cum in Hiroshi’s body, Tanaka is apprehended by the police for sexually assaulting ‘Mika.’ Tanaka tries to explain the situation, only to see his body, with Mika inside it, hugging Hiroshi in Mika. It is then that Tanaka realizes that this was all a ploy by Mika and Hiroshi to steal the body swapper app from him, while ditching Hiroshi’s body in the process. Which is… kind of brilliant.
The protagonist had the swapper stolen from him, got stuck in the body of a known criminal who probably has a lot of enemies, and is going to jail! It is a ruthlessly dark turn for this story to take, but it also makes it far more memorable and interesting than it otherwise would be.
As a whole, I found Body Swapper to be a pretty good time. It has a good flow, a lot of wonderfully exaggerated expressions, and a surprising amount of energy considering how crude the art can be in places. There is enough creativity to make it feel far more unique than its boring title implies. And despite the official translation being a bit spotty… it works. Sometimes manga is better with a worse translation, and I cannot articulate why.
Also, Body Swapper has absolutely nothing to do with incest… but when I arranged these three panels together, it sure as hell looked like it was!
Ends and Updates:
To end this week’s Rundown, I want to make some scheduling announcements for February:
- TSF Series #016: Darling Lust will be released on February 6th
- My review of Cellular Shift will be released on February 10th
- My review of Mice Tea will be released in late February
This is not what I originally planned for February, but I misread a Patreon update, changed some things, and the delayed retail release of Mice Tea came out earlier than I thought. So you’re getting two TSF visual novel reviews from me this month!
…But I’m going to put off playing Mice Tea for another week, because I really need to make an outline for Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp.