Monday, June 27, 2016

Making Preparations For "The First Day (Of The End Of The World)"

As many of you already know by now, I've been working on my second novella in the Underworlders series, Paris Underworld. Looking back on it, I've become so disinterested with the plot that I've decided to skip it. Which I can most certainly do, as First Day doesn't actually require that backstory and perhaps it's better to leave a bit to the imagination. But don't worry, K's thoughts of life before the change will occur and you'll find out just as much about who she was, as you'll find out about who she is now. From looking at Deviant Art images, I've come across some rather good Cyberpunk pieces, one of which adorns the blog right now. This is more or less the direction I'm going for with First Day. Life inside the Ziggurat is very much inspired by the world of Cyberpunk and will feature augmented human-life forms as you might expect in a world where technology reigns supreme. Androids will also populate the place, as the reader learns about the kind of cyber-utopia that the world's most privileged and elite people will experience outside of the wasteland in which the first novel occurs.

In a way, it's going to be like writing the wasteland sections of WD2, but with a different character, One who has no real powers, and is mainly starving to death. There's a section where she'll try sand and dirt even, just to stay alive. The things that people will "eat" in this book are going to be a bit unnerving, but I wanted to make it a bit more realistic than the world of WD. I used WD2 for practice with this concept, even though First Day will be one of the shortest books I've ever written. I'm shooting for 150-200 pages as far as the manuscript is concerned, which is quite minuscule.

I know how this will open, and how this will end. I can say that much. I never planned a happy ending either, as it's a cautionary tale. I'd like to come right out and say that now, because I don't want to disappoint people expecting things to be all rosy. That's not what First Day is, nor does it represent what it will be. As a matter of fact, the ending sentence for the series is just two words long. But after reading the piece, those two words will speak volumes. One word of that is mainly the letter "I." I can also tell you that the second word is not "died" or anything related to death. It's going to hit a bit harder than that. It's going to be unexpected, like a sucker punch right to the sternum. Once you read those two words, the real work begins. The subconscious work, where you'll fill in the rest of the story.






Sunday, June 26, 2016

Oh, How The Mighty (No.9) Have Fallen!

Folks, the world at large has been so busy lately that I've put a couple of topics on hotplates and set them to the back. But that's because if you're a gamer (and I am) then chances are that you've heard about Keiji Inafune's Mighty No.9. The Kickstarter originally launched around two and a half years ago, with a price point of 900k. It was said to be a successor to the widely popular Mega Man franchise and would give us a new robot hero by the name of Beck. The main idea was “transformation” which would have the character transform using enemy powers, instead of just boss powers. It was an idea that hit hard with fans, which had finished right at a grand total of four million dollars. Unfortunately, that whole idea was scrapped due to “budget” concerns and replaced instead with a Xel system. Fans weren't entirely happy about that, but what they really weren't happy about is how startup company Comcept decided to handle their customer service. You know, I actually started laughing after I checked out some very old comments from a Giant Bomb article written around the beginning of this debacle, especially when people were trying to assure each other that “everything was taken out of context, and that it'll be just fine. The game won't disappoint.” It felt like the beginning of a great punchline, which we all received when the game finally released.

But what started the joke? Well, Comcept decided to hire the Arabian born Dina Abou Karam to manage their forums and social media accounts, which turned out to be a disaster. Dina was hired on the basis of Nepotism, which is mainly hiring a person on the basis of being acquainted with another person who already works there. Apparently she was either friends with, or was dating one of the Japanese developers recruited to the small team, which somehow made her a shoe-in for the company. I scratch my head in furious agony as I wonder as to why such a decision was made, especially considering that Dina not only wasn't a fan of Mega Man or any similar titles, she'd never even heard of him. An entire legacy, and she hadn't even played one title in the series. None. Zero. Nota. But the developers were still open to letting her in, where she soon began to inflict a rather toxic agenda onto the masses in ways that could hardly be described, or believed.

First and foremost, Dina was a hardcore feminist. A hardcore radical extremist. Think if a member of ISIL was managing your game's PR department. If you disagreed with any of the beliefs that the PR person held, you would be blacklisted and forgotten about. Well, unfortunately for the millions of backers who put their hard-earned money into the game, this is EXACTLY what happened, and it's a big reason why the game failed as well. It's a real shame when you look at various comments from 2014 and 2015 that seem to already state the game's fate was sealed, purely due to this debacle, and an even worse shame when that's exactly what happened. Mega Man fans did not deserve this, especially since all that's been active right now is Fancom, wherein various members of the community have been pumping out various approaches (mostly 8-bit titles) to the series for a number of years, (we might as well say a decade now) with no sign of stopping. The nostalgia still burns within our hearts, as well as the love for the adventures of the Blue Bomber and all of his associations. As long as they're being made, they're being played. They're being streamed, they're being critiqued and passed around like bootleg tapes in the eighties. So we really wanted this game to be great, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. 

One of the community's main complaints was that Dina was deliberately banning people that didn't agree with her. But of course, this wasn't in regards to the game. For if you had an idea that might prove useful to the project, or a criticism that might have actually helped a better product to be released yet were at the same time a possible “misogynist” or associated with others that might be misogynistic in nature, there was a chance that you would be outright banned from the discussion altogether. This means not only that your idea or critique wouldn't have been heard, but also that you wouldn't be getting your copy of the game (which you paid for.) If you think I'm lying about this, I've come across several accounts around the netscape where people have had to get in touch with their credit card companies personally in order to have their money refunded and returned. Some of these people were throwing nearly three-hundred to a thousand dollars into the project altogether, meaning that there was some serious change being thrown around here and such a ridiculously foolish business decision will no doubt haunt this game forever. When people saw the Orwellian manner of control in which this one woman wielded, they soon stormed down the doors asking for refunds, of which the company would simply not give. Dina outright refused to return their money, which infuriated already scorned Mega Man fans to the breaking point.

So are you still with me here? Not only were ideas and critiques being outright shutdown over reasons that have nothing to do with board demeanor or the ideas given, but because of a completely out of left-field extremist viewpoint mentality which declared almost with a Nazi-like stance that all ideas coming out of the mouth of inferior people weren't good ideas to be considered. She did consider these people inferior as well, if you'll look at many of her captured tweets on such sites like Tech Raptor and the infamous Kotaku (just search for an archive, don't give them your money) which was making a literal fortune from this drama. Fans began to feel that Mega Man was in the hands of Stalin and I'm almost surprised to see that none of them committed suicide due to all of this madness.

Remember, this was during the GamerGate years as well as the rise of Social Justice and Third Wave Feminism in social media. There was an awful lot going on, with the Mighty No.9 debacle becoming so famous that it ended up on KnowYourMeme along with Dina's face, which will forever be plastered as the bitch that ruined Mighty No.9. One might ask, “why would you call her a bitch?” Because that's exactly what she was. Dina was 100% nothing more than a psychopathic, manipulative, and downright evil bitch who thought of this game as nothing more than a vehicle to push her own agendas. I will say that I do understand what it is like living in the Middle East however, and why she felt the way that she did. One of Dina's recent tweets stated, “It is like WW3 every day in my country.” I've heard similar stories from a friend who is also of middle-eastern descent. He used to live in Iran, where his family left to America before things became too terrible over there. He often tells me that people here don't realize exactly how many privileges they have, regardless of race, color or gender. You can be killed over there just for listening to certain kinds of music, and obviously the kind of shit I'm playing right now (some black metal stuff) would have sealed my fate.

This being said, she still had no right to use the game to push her politics, especially on the back of millions of dollars that were not hers to play with. I didn't give that money to her, I gave it to  Keiji Inafune in the promise that we would see a real Mega Man title after all of these years (I can actually hear Capcom's CEO laughing in the background) and instead it seems that the very opposite has happened. Not only did Dina wreck the communication between Comcept and the backers, (which is handled by snail mail, believe it or not. Japan apparently knows fuck all about what goes on in the US) she also moved from Community Manager to designing robots. 

Let me say that one more time. Due to the company being very small, sometimes people would step out of their roles to take on other jobs. This meant that sometimes programmers would become designers and whatnot. This also opened the door for Dina to bring some of her ideas into the actual game (which should have never been allowed) even though by this time, most people were already considering the project a failure and had even gone to calling Inafune a scam artist and a conman. In any case, by knowing and/or fucking a developer, she managed to get some of her works into the project and more or less designed a few of the Mighty Numbers (I believe she designed Cryo and Dyna – but why not, Dyna = Dina and that pretty much puts her name in the fucking game) which I'm not all too happy about. There's also a possibility that she designed the game's unexpected final boss, a literal pink vagina monster called “Trinity” which either looks like a snake or a flower, depending on how you look at it. The ungodly gaudy shade of pink that consumes the screen when you fight this thing is obscene, and it doesn't even feel like it belongs in the Mega Man universe, or even in any related Mega Man universe. Wily had his death machines and Sigma always filled me with terror. Other villains in the series have always been rather devious, certainly making them abhorrences that you'd either wish to either battle or emulate, depending on the circumstances. There was a lot of thought behind the bosses in later titles, from Doppler's literal worship of Sigma (I still plan on getting a song about that very thing released) to robots being worshipped like gods at the beginning of the Mega Man Zero franchise. Here, we just get a gob of pink Tumblr goo with an angry visage. It's a literal insult to gamers and simply doesn't belong. Especially not as the main adversary. Not only is it lazy, but it seems as if one of the developers asked Dina to draw it. While she can draw rather well, (her new Patreon shows some art pieces and they're much better than mine) such an extremist should have never been handed a pen in this situation.

As for the game itself, well... what can you expect for a title where nearly all opinions and critiques were shut down completely by a madwoman who thought that she was going to make the game her own? I've no doubt that a lot of her ideas were put into the final product, which gives me a bad taste as it is. As it stands, Humble Bundle have been so ungodly busy rectifying these messes that I've still yet to receive an official download page for the game I purchased and like many others, have relegated to downloading a version that popped up on the internet. It's been about a week now, which is the longest I've ever waited for anything from the Humble Ninja Support team. They didn't even bother to update my Sonic comics on my purchase page, which shows just how busy they've been. Aside from all of this, the game is just plain bland. It has some interesting ideas here and there, but it just doesn't feel like the game it could've and should've been.

If Big Brother and The Ministry Of Truth hadn't been taking opinions and ripping them up as fuel for the incinerators, then there's a chance that this game might have been far more exciting and a great deal more interesting to play. But perhaps Dina wants us grown men to stop fawning over our nostalgia and become resources for other women instead, which might be why she killed Mighty No.9. 

Keep in mind that she originally wanted Beck to be a female, which sent a lot of fans into an uproar as you can expect. I feel that Dina saw that Inafune was the creator of Mega MAN and felt that she was going to tear the whole thing apart in the name of her insane feminist rhetoric. Well, congratulations Dina, because you did just that. You helped to make one of the worst games in the style, as well as one of the worst overall franchise debuts of all fucking time. You've completely trampled upon my flag, pissed on it and set it on fire. I no longer have to imagine Mega Man with all the fire snuffed from it, as you've delivered just that. Keiji Inafune and Comcept have a lot of work to do, as it would just be better to erase this, start over and pretend that none of it ever happened. Mighty No.9 was a weird fluke and should not be repeated.

That being said, aside from a cartoon and live action film (yes, I am not joking about the Mighty No.9 live action film we funded) several other projects came out of the four million dollars that we donated to Keiji Inafune and Comcept. They are namely, Re:Core, Red Ash, Mighty Gunvolt (released for free as an 8-bit title) and the most successful, Azure Striker Gunvolt. Azure Striker Gunvolt to me is a masterpiece. If my money went to that in any fashion, I am pleased with that. Though I absolutely hate the 3DS handheld system, a PC version was released (which doesn't run for me, but whatever) and it's blown away all of my expectations for a more mature and serious title in the vein of the Mega Man X and Zero series. As the Steam version comes uncut, some parts are even too mature (the tranny prostitute adept in the city's red light district - I'll never forget what he says about that wire) and kind of shocked me a bit. It features a lot of anime influence, which I feel works very well with the series. The boss patterns require a great deal of challenge, Gunvolt is customizable in a bunch of different ways, the shot is interchangeable and upgradeable and the whole thing is story driven. Some parts even become visual novel like, which I certainly won't pass up. As of right now, the game still has “Very Positive” critiques on Steam which are all well warranted. Inti Creates have also worked their butts off to make sure that the game works well with a slew of updates, as well as added features. The game actually did so well that we're actually getting another one this year. That's what you call a successful game franchise. 

So even though Mighty No.9 bit the dust because of the tyrannical handlings of fan input, we still got something out of the deal. It's still an awful shame that this Mega Man successor was completely ruined by an even more fiendish scheme than anything that Dr. Wily would've ever concocted. But the truth is often stranger than fiction.

* But at least we're getting a Rosenkreutzstilette English localization release. For those who haven't played it, this mix of Mega Man and Castlevania will be just the thing to serve as a palette cleanser for the already sickened Mega Man fans out there. I'll have more updates on this as it happens, and will link you guys to the site where you can purchase a nice boxed version of the game. This was going to be Kickstarted, but WOMI decided to skip that and localize it anyway. On behalf of Mega Man fans everywhere, we thank you for that decision.


Edit: Komaki designed Cryo and Dyna. Inafune's Dyna is awesome. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Absurdity of Off-Brand Medication

Twisting the gears in a much different direction this week (I’ll talk about squares, ratchets and robot wifus later on in the month) I’m turning my attention towards something that I feel is a bit ridiculous. Yes, I’m talking about off-brand medication. The whole idea behind products and marketing is that name brands are generally seen as better and I could see something like that working insofar as pudding or cereal, perhaps even a soft drink, but when it comes to medication and health, why is the off-brand not considered over the name brand?

Read this back one more time and really soak it in: Are we literally telling people that one brand of medicine won’t work as well as the other? That in order to get a more pure and possibly better medication, we have to pay more money for it?

Why, that’s laughable. Are they selling sugar pills as off-brand medication? With that sort of logic, they’d have to. Most medicine is made in India, then brought over to the US and other parts of Europe where it is exorbitantly priced for sale over the counter or on the shelves. Might I mention that it’s ridiculously cheap over in India to begin with? Costs very little to make, literally just a plastic coating and a powder more often than not.

History lessons aside, it makes a man think that he must get a Prilosec to treat his heartburn, rather than just getting the store brand which should by all means, do the same thing. I mean, we’re not in the running for best taste and texture here – it’s a pill designed to cure your ails, whether that be an upset stomach, a headache or even diarrhea. Most people even subconsciously realize that most of these medicines do the exact same thing, but we’re taught to get the name brand stuff over anything else.
As we get smarter with age, we realize that the off-brand stuff is just as good, and it really ought to be. If you look at the active ingredient in most pain pills, it’s acetaminophen. Usually you get about 500-1000 mg of it per dose, more if your head is really doing a number on you. Some people take the prescribed amount (usually two tablets by mouth) while most will take three, four or more. Not good for the stomach (acetaminophen causes major stomach issues over time) but most people just want the damn pain to go away. In any case, it really doesn’t matter what brand you use (unless you’re paying for a higher dosage in each capsule, which is silly as you could just take another pill) because they all contain the same amount of acetaminophen despite whatever else is extra (assuming it’s also for other issues.) Unless they’re cutting it with coke these days, you’re getting the same effect no matter what you choose. Some people can’t take Aspirin, that’s pretty common. Some people can’t take Tylenol, that happens too. Even so, the off brand medicine still has just as much an effect as anything else. If you need more than that, please see a doctor for a stronger medicine in general.

It just feels to me quite silly that we’ve all been conditioned to the point where we’ll take the name brand medicine over the store brand stuff, just because we assume that it’ll be better. Just because of the shiny label or the nice packaging. Just because “Tylenol is a name you trust.” Or “Nothing stops pain faster than Bayer.” They’ve replaced all the smoking ads with cowboys with those for medications, and this is what we’re taught whenever we turn on the television. If a man had no TV, he wouldn’t even know or care what Bayer or Tylenol or Prilosec or Tums was. He’d go to the medicine aisle and pick the cheapest brand of medication he could get. What’s wrong with the store brand? It’s the same shit, made in the same factory. All beer is made in the same factory. All sunglasses are made in the same factory.

That illusion of choice gets smaller and smaller and smaller as we learn that the same company that printed Slipknot CD’s also printed CD’s for Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Surely Tool has some metaphysical printing process for their records that defies human explanation and wouldn’t be made in the same factory with Lil’ Wayne and Taylor Swift, right? Surely Amon Amarth is so metal and forged in the fires of Surtur that they’re CD’s and little plastic viking boats wouldn’t be printed in the same factory as Jason Derulo and Maroon 5, right? Wrong. It all gets printed in the same damn factory, as it has for years. Unless you know a local or independent printer, or print these records yourself, it all comes out of the same factory. So do all of the games, toys, stuffed animals, popcorn, crackers, boats, bowflexes, snow shoes, snow plows, basketballs, ovens, frisbees, frying pans, computers, coconuts (okay, so maybe not that one) and everything else that you can imagine.

So once we’ve accrued this information, why would we ever bother to think that a name brand medication is really better? Most often that not, your mind subconsciously plays tricks on you, much like a placebo. “That pill didn’t work for me when it wasn’t the name brand. Didn’t feel as a strong, so I’m going to have to go buy the real stuff next time.” Then you go and buy the real stuff, lo and behold it works. Like a charm. Like a charm that you yourself have charmed, if you want to know the facts. Alan Moore always said that the real magicians are the advertisers, and he’s definitely right about that. If you can make a pile of shit look flashy enough, someone’s going to buy it. There’s a sucker every minute, so they say.

Who else can make millions of people all want the same thing at the same time? Advertisers. “Look at how rich I am, you can be rich too if you buy my album, wear my clothes, talk like I do, get breast implants like I do, remove your ribs like I did, get butt injections like I did, and look how much I can squat. You’ll be able to do the same too if you follow me.” I’m not one to paraphrase the Bible often, but Jesus himself said something to the tune of, “sell all of your shit and follow me.” If it’s not him, it’s everyone else. The question I want to know, is where in the hell am I following you to? The answer to that is nowhere. You can follow all of the people in your life that you wish to follow (and thanks to Twitter, you can quite literally follow them) but in the end, all you’ll lose is sense of self. Which most people have already lost. They develop so many masks over the course of time and experience that they tend to forget who it is that they are to begin with. Like the old Who song, “Who are you? Who? Who?” Yeah, I really want to know. Do you know who you are? If you don’t, then that’s why we have so many celebrities out there to show you the way.

Why be yourself, when you can be them? Why have a normal car, when you can have a gas-guzzling hot rod? Why have a normal house, when you can have a mansion with servants. Why have a decent sized television set, when you can have a screen that fills an entire wall of your fucking house? What will all this shit mean in the end? You can’t take it with you when you’re dead. Yet all of this beats around the bush to say, yes – yes you – are being fooled by names, labels and fancy pictures in a very important matter as health.

We already neglect the hell out of our bodies here in the US, with people visiting fast food more now than ever. I eat the stuff more than I should, but more people are outright skipping lunch and dinner to eat fast food, so they won’t have to cook at home. The funny thing is that most of these celebrities are actually not eating fast food. They have their own chefs, which prepare mostly healthy home-cooked meals with the finest of ingredients. So keep believing the lies when a model takes a bite out of a cheeseburger. Off camera she probably spits it back out and runs to the bathroom to purge herself.

It is very easy to be played a fool by the world itself. Politicians claim to change the way things are, while celebrities seek to enrich your life by allowing you to worship theirs. Which is also a facade. It’s all one big sham over a facade covering a farce. But what you can do is to be a bit more mindful and open about your surroundings. Is it really better because it says “Tylenol” instead of “Pain Reliever?” Is it really better because it says “Pepcid AC” rather than “Heartburn Relief?” You know what it does, so why be so picky about it? Off-brand medication is quite absurd to begin with, because of the sheer fact that medicine in the end, should be medicine. Companies should not be battling companies over the health of people. Isn’t the health and well-being of a human life more important than making a profit? That’s what should be important. It just doesn’t make any sense, like so many other things in this world. But I’ll get to some of those other things next time.