Thursday, August 5, 2010

Geek Rant Topic 08: The Water Level

When All Else Fails, you call Mousa the 14, that one ranting geek.

I told myself I would do less video games but someone brought the topic up in the Video Games forum and I was out of things to rant about. Don't worry, next post will be about M. Night Sham-ylan's (No, that was not a typo) The Last Airbender (shudders).

Now, Video games, especially ones that aren't for the faux hardcore gamers, tend to have a huge variety of worlds characters explore. There are forest levels, desert levels, lava levels, food levels, music levels, mountain levels, cloud levels, tornado levels, the list goes on and on and on and on and on and on. So with all these colorful and delicious flavors we inevitably have the water level.

The most infamous of them all is the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's Water Temple which has been known as that one level that makes you quit, cry, or resort to GameFAQs, Gamespot , and 3 brands of strategy guides. While it doesn't seem so bad nowadays to some, many gamers still dread it's existence and recount memories of it's difficulty, it's tediousness, it's ability to make you backtrack five times over so you can do everything necessary to face the boss. This probably wouldn't get such special mention if Nintendo didn't make a frikkin' tradition of it! That's right, in a majority of the Legend of Zelda games you are most likely to be faced an absurdly difficult underwater level that will drive you bonkers! The ones I've personally played in Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons were my first experience with the Zelda brand water levels and I've hated them ever since.

But that's not just it. That one level didn't scar me for life, I've always had an irrational fear and loathing of water in video games. Or is it irrational? Let's see the reasons why water levels should, by all means, scare the living daylights out of people....

1) Back in the good old days, before swimming mechanisms were implemented, and sometimes today, hopping into a body of water had the same effect as falling down a bottomless pit. Fun!

2) When you are swimming, you are a moving target, a slow moving one. In my first video game ever, Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64, the very second level was a Treasure Island and I thought swimming around looking for plot devices would be fun. Then the music plays and Cruncher the Shark makes food puns as he tries to catch up and eat you! I was 6. Never wanted to touch water in a video game again....

3)Just the very idea that your movements are now limited. You can't walk normally, your controls are now equal to that of a person floating around in space, only water is not frictionless which means you move slower, assuming you are allowed to do anything besides swim. Your aim is off, you can't move as fast as you want....

4)In quite a few games, you really can't fight, or fight efficiently because you're too busy using your arms are legs to SWIM and half your items wouldn't work under water like bombs or arrows. So we're back to numero 2 and 3.

5) You have TWO LIFE METERS. You know, instead of one, and the second one is more dangerous. Your "second life mater" is how long you can hold your breath before dying. Sometimes if you get injured it goes down quicker. And once you run out of air, you lost a life, and it's horrifying envisioning yourself drowning!. Which means you have to come up for air periodically or find bubbles, which means you're wasting time whilst trying to complete an objective, or if you go straight for the objective you're as good as dead.

So to people who like water levels, How in the good lord's name is this not scary? Oh whatever, like it matters, I'm not advocating their disappearance, just a thought on those dreaded water levels.

I thought this would be longer...

-Good Bye, Good Luck, and Imagination Is Your Greatest Power
Mousa the 14

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Geek Rant Topic 07: One Manga

When All Else Fails, You call Mousa the 14, that one ranting geek.

And I told myself I wasn't going to cry. It's finally happened. One Manga is finally dead. From a legal stand point it's about damn time. From a geek's standpoint it's a sad sad day.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Japanese comics and cartoons or many aspects of the geeky livelihood, One Manga was a website where scanlators (People who took time and money to scan and translate numerous Japanese comics to distribute on the net, mostly for free) uploaded translated versions of Japanese comics on a chapter-by-chapter basis for the general public to read for free. And immediately you can see the legal problems concerning copyright and the fact that the artist/writer is not making money off his product. I fully understand this viewpoint however I get the feeling that the argument against the take down of our precious free online graphic novels has not been well articulated.

That's why I'm here.

Look I know I'm basically endorsing something illegal here, but hear me out.

According to an axiom formulated by Theodore Sturgeon; "90% of everything is crud." 90% of movies made every year are bad, 90% of YouTube videos suck, 90% of conservatives are Tea Partiers or Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh, 90% of liberals are... Tree hugging, human rights advocating... uh... I dunno, Baby killers? Okay I suck at negatively straw manning my own party, but you get the point. I'm basically saying 90% of Manga and Anime also suck. Which means there is a 10% that was made by Jesus Christ himself. However not everything good gets popular so only the best of the best or the most popular of the best are taken up by Western translating studios because they have proven themselves to be able to make money in japan? So what about the 10% that didn't make the cut because nobody looked at it? or the 90% that isn't really that bad but enjoyable nonetheless? Those get shafted.

Scanlation hosting sites helped change that. People translated what they like and with such a wide variety of interests, the 90% and the 10% all got translated for people to read. I mean there are hundreds of manga that go through weekly/monthly magazines all the time in japan but only a small portion become popular enough to get an anime and e noticed by western companies. When yo think about it, sites like one manga are giving the smaller lesser known manga a chance for popularity and recognition. Unfortunately this has the downside that the artist is still getting nil but hype can help bring things to prominence all you have to do is believe.

Now that I think about it, I think I've just been posed with a wee bit of a conundrum. Nobody is winning here. Western companies will only import what sells so the low tier stuff that's actually good is ignored. Which means the artists are making less cash. Their sales in the their locality may or may not be fine. the people in the west are getting stuff later and they're not getting everything, good or bad. If we maintain scanlation sites we're basically endorsing stealing, which is not good. But then all the lesser guys aren't getting noticed which isn't necessarily fair. But they're not getting anything form their work anyway so why bother? Too many complications, too many variables...

What's more, we have to wait a long time for something that comes out in Japan to make it o the U.S. usually about 1-2 years if we're lucky and the anime or manga is popular enough, usually longer though. Scanlators practically have the stuff coming out at a similar time from the chapters are coming out monthly/weekly in Japan. If we had this in the west on a pay for subscription basis we wouldn't have this problem as much. Because while we're waiting for the final chapter of a story arc in the west, the next three story arcs are practically already finished i Japan. It's a hyperbole but that's how it is. We basically get into things almost after it's all over and it sucks.

The solution is for the translating companies like Funimation to keep doing what One Manga and other scanlation websites do but we have to pay a small fee to see the content, probably in the form of monthly payments and only through the official translating companies so that the money gets funneled to the artists.

There is one minor problem with that. Most geeks and anime fans are teens we tend not to have disposable income.

Oh the simple things. We can't fix everything I suppose.

I still miss One Manga though... Anybody know what happened next in One Piece and Soul Eater? I'm dying to find out here...

EDIT: Some things I forgot to cover. Obviously One Manga is not the end all to free online manga reading websites. Mangafox and Manga Reader still exist. While One Manga had less than the other two, it's Great to Goof ratio was higher on the Great side. what's more, One Manga was loved for it's simple and easy to use interface, while the other sites were a little clunky. It will probably not help much because of geeks' sense of entitlement I'll cover another day. While reading online is simplier and we are getting stuff immediately, we lack disposable income and more often than not we believe "Internet=Free." So official websites following scanlator's model is a good idea, especially if it's paid for, but like everything, has it's flaws. There is no simple solution or perhaps a solution at all.

-Good Bye, Good Luck, and Imagination is Your Greatest Power
Mousa the 14