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Friday, December 7, 2012

Saber Alter Beach Queen Figure

The beach queen line up by Wave has been picking and choosing at random who to add. I decided to pick up the saber alter version for one reason only to be honest, and that's the almost uninterested expression she seems to have as she sits around eating an ice popsicle.

Originally inspired by this image:

What we get is this:
The figure comes with a rough yellow colored base plate which I assume is going to be sand, but she can very well sit on most, if not all, flat surfaces without any support.

The very first thing I notice off the bat is how surprisingly small she is. I'm well aware that this figure is 1:10 scale of an already short character (154 cm which translates to about 60.6 inches aka 5 feet) but I admittedly wasn't expecting something THIS small. Here's a comparison between her, the super posable Saber Nendoroid, and a mini nendoroid that I recieved from comptiq:

As you can see, even with the bonus height from the difference in the base plates, Saber Alter is STILL shorter than Raging Saber and barely taller than Strike Witch Konata (who happens to have an additional base of her own). Admittedly she IS sitting which would account for much of the height difference, but she's surprisingly lean.

I'm not complaining though, there's some solid detail on the sculpture and paint that make up for it. Hands and feet are well done and there's even dots of a lighter shade of pink on the tips to indicate fingernails/toenails. Then there's her straight face as she consumes that popsicle that really add bonus points to the overall figure. I would've honestly preferred saber alter to have whiter hair just because I think it then accents the blue popsicle better. Also, her yellow eyes would strike a contrast with her hair but that's a bit of nitpicking on my end.

Overall it's a happy purchase, and another figure that'll sit comfortably on my shelf. (No pun intended).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Thoughts on Toonami

Toonami's been back for about two months now but at least among the people I come into regular contact with, it seems to have died down considerably. Perhaps it's because we are now the new members of today's working society that we no longer have time to dedicate to TV and rather rely on OnDemand and Streaming to be able to watch whenever we have the time to, but I also get the feeling that looking at how it is now, Cartoon Network (Adult Swim, or whoever is responsible) missed the point.

I don't know the exact specifics about how the programming worked but Adult Swim and Toonami seemed to be two seperate programs. Perhaps toonami was part of adult swim all along and I just didn't pay attention (having seen Yu-Yu Hakusho move from adult swim to toonami and censored and seeing Big O move from toonami to Adult Swim, this would make sense) but when I heard toonami was returning, this wasn't what I was expecting.

The first thing I noticed with the revival of Toonami would be the airing times. Starting at Midnight, it's a clear indication that it's breaking into Adult Swim territory (granted it WAS an adult swim prank) but I think that's where the biggest problem lies for me.
When I was a child, and going to my friend's home was the only way to be exposed to cable, we'd play on the n64 (or gamecube later on), and watch toonami and talk until one of us passed out. It was one of the entry points into anime besides the sporadic saturday morning cartoons that had popped up on UPN, WB and Fox. Toonami aired at a fairly ripe (and expensive now that I look back on it) time of 8:00-10:00 PM where I saw Gundam Wing, Pilot Candidate, Dragonball Z, Cyborg 009, Rave Master and Rurouni Kenshin. I also noticed that all the "good" shows were near the end and eventually pushed onto 11:00 PM to Midnight.

At that point though, I too was growing up and staying later which was fine with me and I didn't mind it starting later than usual. It was still within a time frame that was "comfortable" for a teen like myself. Then right after, there was a smooth transition into Adult Swim with Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Big O (which was also on Toonami), and Ghost in the Shell which would then shift over into the classic Adult Swim stuff such as Harvey Birdman, and Space Ghost.

While Toonami a form of nostalgia for others, the revival of Toonami, meant for me that there was hope that there could be another generation like me who was originally exposed to anime through programming blocks like Toonami and spent the effort to expand my views from there. Obviously, it can't be the same now with streaming sites like Cruncyroll actually being official, and other OnDemand channels being available. But even as a teen, I had torrented unlicensed anime about as much as I watched Toonami and Adult Swim. They acted as my major gateway into Japanese animation.

Some of the problems I'm seeing a couple months after Toonami's been back is primarily the viewer base. Everyone's basically over the age of 18 and watching this out of choice and not of chance. I think I can safely say most of the viewers watched it (or are now watching it) out of nostalgia and I don't think that's a safe demographic to bank on. Numbers are probably going to drop faster overtime than they will grow. While there are more people likely to have disposable income to purchase DVDs in the midnight timeslot, there's probably a less likely chance to get more people hooked on.

In today's industry where many TV companies are working on adapting to the "internet culture," a lot of those in power seem to be stuck on television being the only way to be profitable. From how I see it, Toonami could've been a perfect way to show anime companies that it is still possible to license and air anime on American televisions and maintain a solid viewership that could turn profits. Throughout all the panels I've been to and the discussions I've seen, there's always this obsession over an overblown dichotomy between the spoiled, "it's my right to see this" culture and the outdated "we refuse to use any other business model" companies. There are obviously many other groups that are more sensible but the most vocal ones are the two I've stated... well that and the group that then complains about how the state of the industry is where it is because of the spoiled groups. What my stance is and what my practices are now are currently irrelevant to this post. The point is, Toonami could have been used for other purposes.

I can't say why Toonami airs so late (besides it being when Adult Swim would start airing) but I feel as though the effort was wasted. For now, it's probably fine since it's still the summer and everyone who's in school is on break which more or less means their sleeping schedules are absolute wrecks and are more likely to watch Toonami, but I get the feeling that if they were to somehow pull back the time slot about 2 or 3 hours and have it start at around 9:00 to 10:00ish, some interesting data could pop up. Maybe it's the economist in me that's talking, but I feel like the revival of Toonami and all the hype it generated could have been put to use in something a bit more risky instead of something very safe, where it then has a subdued impact.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

VGHS Post Production Update Spoilers

So Freddie Wong decided to give an update regarding "Video Game Highschool" a series that was funded by kickstarter and they decided to be mean and give spoilers lasting 2 frames throughout the video. With a bit of magic, I've been able to extract all the images. No, it wasn't by pressing play really quickly.

Oddly enough, it was supposed to work by pressing the numbers, but for me (and probably a few other people) it was just off by a fraction of a second. Not sure why, but I found my way was still much easier.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

AeriaGames buys IJJI (What does that REALLY mean?)

I only just heard about this today (I know, I'm about a month late) and honestly, I've got mixed feelings. For those of you who don't know either company let me give a brief history.

Ijji, or NHN usa, is a direct subsidiary of NHN Corporation, a Korean company that owns Naver and Hangame.
For those of you unaware, naver would be korea's version of MSN or Yahoo in terms of popularity and various services. While it may have originated as a search engine, its services expanded greatly to provide blogs, and newsfeeds and more or less has now become a web portal. Many well known web comics will most likely have their origins from naver comics and you'll find many korean blogs to have come from naver.

Hangame is a Korean game portal that competes with Nexon Korea and used to compete against Netmarble (It used to be big but failed to hold many games with long lifetimes and didn't get enough new ones to replace the ones that died out). 

IJJI only really started gaining a foothold when it decided to host Maiet's GunZ and bought NA rights to Gunbound (which it later sold). Being a direct subsidiary has its advantages, particularly in licensing rights and the difficult of acquiring them, or rather lack thereof, since the parent company can simply extend its license into NA territory. Server maintenance, as well as bug fixes are also much more easily addressable and it shows in IJJI's games. Their most popular games generally had a two week gap between general maintenance and security checks. It's quality has waned substantially and admittedly their more recent investments were worrisome but I'll get to that later.

As for presence, their customer support was fairly solid but their forums needed work. Simply put, they may have had some infrastructure issues in terms of staff assignment because there were always not enough moderators, and it was quite obvious where the company's focus was based on the number of moderators and their activity in the respective game's forum. GM presence was average. Nothing spectacular but at least the player base could recognize them and name them without the help of a cheat sheet.

Aeria Games is a subsidiary of Aeria Inc. Japan. It was started by two entrepreneurs who had a bit of investment capital....That's about it.....
They're a developing company that's been picking a handful of Japanese and Chinese MMOs.

I heard about this company when they held only one game: Shaiya. How did it do? Honestly, I have no idea but clearly they had enough money and zealous marketing plaster ads everywhere. They are still picking up games and while I don't know of the status of each game, this constant slow growth should still indicate something.

They are dipping into a pool that's been fairly untouched which gives them the advantage I guess. A lot of these games are also actual MMOs involving worlds instead of instanced Peer-2-Peer dungeons or Peer-2-Peer action games which means that they are also buying out servers to support these games. There's also the problem that many of these games are quite bot friendly point and clicks but that's enough about that. I'm talking about the company and not the games.

Aeria games for certain knows how to support a game. They don't have the strict maintenance that IJJI used to have when it was about as hold as Aeria is now but that isn't to say they're bad. Important patches are done in a timely fashion and bug fixes are just slightly delayed.

They make up for this in a significantly stronger community presence. GMs are very vocal and are also fairly open. It may be because the community itself may be slightly smaller but it's very obvious that Aeria Games is well staffed. They're also very transparent which seems to help the company hold such a strong bond with its consumers. I can recall for a game that was fairly new, a GM was late in enabling an event by 30 minutes (I'm assuming server sided auto execution scripts weren't ready yet) and admitted his mistake and extended the event by an hour. Should this mistake have happened? Probably not, but its handling was surprisingly well done.

So let's get to the meat. What does Aeria Games buying IJJI mean?

The immediate effects:
Gunz, Soldier Front and AVA (Arguably IJJI's biggest games so far) are going to shift over which will mean there'll be an explosion in the size of the community over at aeria games. This may place a strain on the aforementioned community presence that aeria games has established.

There's going to be a community clash for sure. Every game forum has its established "VIPs" and trolls and merging two groups only places additional strain on the community that's moving. Especially considering the lax moderation IJJI has had, aeria games might be in for a bit of extra work.

NHN may be straight up dropping out of the NA market. The previously mentioned games will probably be updating more slowly than it's community is used to. Though most of the games have already dropped to once a month now....

Screenname hell is going to occur. I know for a fact my name was taken in aeria games resulting in me having to pick a different screen name to login with. It's a minor irritation but an irritation nonetheless especially since I could log in as "zerreth" over at IJJI.

The current games may see a large player base, which is always good. Consolidation also makes accounts much more easier to manage player-wise. 

The long term effects:
As I said before, maintenance, bug fixing and immediate game issues will take longer to fix. There's a "middle man" to go through which only delays communication.

Any NHN game that you may have had sights on has an even lesser chance of making it to NA shores. I was particularly looking forward to Fighter's Club but I may have to rely on Ntreev USA to pick it up now. Any games under NHN korea is going to have to require an additional cost to license rather than a extra small investment to hand down the territory license to a child company. Companies that buy games under NHN will have to turn profit quickly which means that there's a higher chance for more "pay-2-win" games appearing and an abuse in development to get micro-transaction systems up faster than the actual game foundation...

"New Toy" effects wear off and transferred games return to their old player base.

There's also a reduced chance of seeing more "creative" events. Since the company isn't in direct contact with the developer regarding content, seeing user based content appear in game will be much harder.

How the hell did this happen?
I don't know the specifics, but I have a good guess. About 1 or 2 years ago, IJJI licensed a bunch games that weren't under NHN korea to see how they would do in NA as an attempt to expand. The problem all the games IJJI had licensed already flopped in korea. One game I hadn't even heard of. Perhaps it was completely new. The point is, those games never made it past a 2nd closed beta, and one game went over to Aeria.

Then there are the handful of games that flopped on IJJI, which is, needless to say, NEVER a good sign. With a declining user base, and lack of new games that could increase cash flow, the parent company must've just decided to drop it. Guess that's the problem with every company once it hits peak and starts to decline.

Other things:
This is not a merger, this is one company swallowing another. Buy-outs/mergers have always indicated through history that the combined product is worse than either input on their own. In this case, you're seeing IJJI products now under Aeria Games management, which has its benefits and drawbacks.

As per contract, NHN is supposed to put a bit of investment into Aeria (probably to help the purchase of new servers and staff) but they're completely wiping their hands clean from the looks of it.

It's kind of sad. I was always hoping that IJJI would find some way to abuse it's position as a direct subsidiary to try and be able to compete with nexon like the korean version is doing. I despise Nexon with a hateful, hellish passion. The mere thought that they intend to continue operations in NA just sets a terrible example for other companies.