Friday, 25 July 2014

Artix Entertainment review, Part 5.0

Previous section: Click here.
First section: Click here.

5.0 Conclusion and Recommendations
AE should attempt to be less informal in their interactions, as this gives the impression that they are weak and incapable of laying down the law. The staff should also consider running proper background checks on their staff members to ensure that none of them will sour the reputation of AE.

Some of the staff members have been hired based on their talent alone, but lack the people skills required to communicate properly with consumers. Fortunately, not all the volunteers who are hired by AE will tarnish the company's reputation.

The company should also avoid using outdated techniques to attract players, such as forcing female players into revealing armour or making all female characters wear barely anything. This is because the revealing armour technique is used so often by almost all game companies that AE will not be unique if they do this. Instead, AE will look like a company that blindly follows trends, instead of one capable of innovation.

AE must consider the fact that focusing on a character's appearance is not good enough for character development. Especially not when the aforementioned physical appearance is nothing more than fanservice and previous events in the story do not agree with the new look.

The company should pay more attention to their other games, instead of just focusing on AQWorlds and its celebrity events, which the author will refer to as BroadwayQuest from now on until the situation changes. However, things may change as AE isn't letting a potential online Friday 13th concert distract them from completing the Chaos story, for once.

Because AE's resources will run out one day, the company should consider putting their expansion plans on hold until all the games are completely stable or they manage to hire enough people to keep all of their games online.

If you would like to read further commentary that isn't added here, check the following links:
"Are players solely to blame for abandonment?"
The Great Subscription Unplug. (AE Version)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Artix Entertainment review, Part 4.2

Previous section: Click here.
First section: Click here.

Still not safe for work due to images of Gravelyn later in the post. Nothing explicit, regardless.

4.2 Fanservice in Other AE Games
While there are plenty of other characters at Artix Entertainment who are designed with fanservice in mind, they are relatively tame compared to AQWorlds' formerly mandatory skimpy clothes. One other example of a major NPC's fanservice in AE's MMORPGs that is not too explicit is Demolicious from Herosmash. She is an “alternative” girl with an unusual attire of a dark purple leotard, tall boots, and an executioner's mask. Her attire stands out because she is one of only two of the female NPCs to wear leotards, and one out of three who dresses relatively skimpily.

Demolicious in HeroSmash
Electina, the other leotard-wearer

Hottica in a small robe

It is not how much skin a woman or girl has to show to make an impression, but how the character is presented. Demolicious' impression on viewers may include “superhuman,” “dominatrix,” and “executioner,” words associated with power. Electina might give off the impression of a gymnast or a storm-bringer, and Hottica a fire-brand. Being "sexy" would be secondary, due to the art style and the rare appearance of skimpy clothes in HeroSmash.

In HeroSmash, Demolicious is a heroine who prefers to be a lone ranger, and she verbally abuses the player. The tables are turned when she is captured and mocked by her worst enemy, Luigi daVinci. She breaks down and lowers her head in shame when Luigi criticises her for wanting to sell a valuable artifact they were fighting over. Demolicious is finally revealed to be a filial daughter, as she wanted to sell the artifact to pay for her father's medical treatment. From this, viewers gather that she is overemotional and loving, despite acting tough.

Gravelyn, in contrast, is viewed as little more than a fantasy for young men in the audience, partly because portrayals of her before or after her makeover do not show her doing much for her dead father's legacy. There are few portrayals of Gravelyn being emotional, compared to the plentiful showcasing of her new assets, both ingame and outside the game.

Diozz's original makeover of Grave
Diozz's later Grave sketch, for an artbook

It is quite sad that villains are fawned over, to the point that their physical assets are the sole important feature; while heroes are overlooked, fanservice or no. This echoes the cynical sentiment that looks are the only worth a woman has.

My personal opinion on fanservice is that one should not forget everything established in the story in favor of giving a character a new look. I doubt that Gravelyn would have changed into a tube top and commando loin cloth, if it hadn't been for Diozz's redesign of her, mostly because she was forced to expose herself to Noxus (a necromancer lich) when HE took over her kingdom for a while. As AQWorlds formerly had compulsory revealing clothes, Gravelyn's makeover makes her look generic and more like a bland imitation of Jessica Rabbit.

While it is possible to have a character who wears revealing clothes, it would be stale, cliche, and boring to have every single character do so unless there is a justifiable reason, and not just one gender is forced into it. HeroSmash stands out among other superhuman media due to its relatively rare and optional revealing outfits, unlike what may be see in mass media adaptations in the likes of Marvel or DC tales.

Next section: A conclusion and recommendations, for now.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Artix Entertainment review, Extra 1.1

Previous Extra: Click here.

On the HeroSmash Subscription Unplug.

The decision to cancel memberships or subscriptions to the online game HeroSmash was very abrupt and rushed, in my opinion. This is because the announcement was made after the fact, without giving players any notice.

There was absolutely no warning that memberships would be canceled before the act was carried out on the 7th of July 2014. The announcement that is linked was posted on 9th July.

While subscribers and former subscribers have been given compensation by having 50 years worth of membership and extra secondary currency depending on how much time subscribers have purchased, this brings to mind similar decisions made by some big name companies before closing down their games for good. One example is the Walt Disney games, as explained below.

Walt Disney Games
According to Wikipedia, Disney hosted various games over the years, including Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Both of these games have been closed in 2013 in favor of expanding on Club Penguin, which was originally an independent project that got bought up by Disney.

When Toontown Online was canceled, every player was made a subscriber, and one could no longer buy subscriptions nor create new accounts. Fans were understandably upset.

For "Pirates of the Caribbean Online," all members were given unlimited subscription a month before the game closed, and received double gold and plunder when playing.

Sony Online Entertainment
Another company that compensated its players before closing down their games. As of current writing, Wizardy Online players will receive a full subscription that allows them to access Sony's other games that require a subscription.

Electronic Arts
Unlike the companies mentioned above, Electronic Arts did not compensate players before closing their online games. For Sims Social, players were merely advised to use up their ingame currencies before the game ended, and no benefits were given. Before that, Electronic Arts had ignored most of the bug reports for Sims Social. After the game closed, the related forums were shut down as well, along with Playfish, the "publisher."

This set of decisions upset fans even more.

The only company that still thrives on a mostly-subscription model seems to be Jagex with their Runescape property. The reason why will be examined in a later blog post.

In short, offering compensation to players in games is a decision not usually taken by game companies, be they large or small ones. Although HeroSmash has not quite done away with their secondary currency, the decision to stop offering subscriptions may shake any confidence that anyone had in the game as it is a case of deja vu for most gamers. This coming from an ex-subscriber of HeroSmash.

P.S. Watch this blog for another post on why The Sims never succeeded as an online property, and an opinion on whether the age of browser/lightweight-download games with subscriptions is over.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Artix Entertainment review, Part 4.0 (NSFW)

Previous section: Click here.
First section: Click here.

Disclaimer: This post (and the next) might not be safe for work. Nothing explicit in the images or links, though.

4.0 Fanservice and Its Overuse in AE
This section describes fanservice as used in two Artix Entertainment Games, AQWorlds and OverSoul. Fanservice refers to content that is added to please fans. This includes random musicals to pander to audience members that would like a Broadway  experience. In common parlance however, it refers to erotic content such as skimpy clothing or suggestive scenes, regardless of whether it is appropriate for the situation or character in question.

4.1 “Sacrifice personality for looks? Sure.”
AQWorlds has been a vehicle for fanservice since its creation in 2008. The main reason is because the former lead artist, Miltonius a.k.a. Nulgath, had made an explicit web series before being hired by AE. His style of drawing young women as very young girls with large breasts and no hips was accepted at first, along with his revealing designs.

2008 male Mage.
2008 female Mage.

Where men had full coverage in their armors from neck to knees, women had to make do with skirts that exposed their legs, leotards that emphasized their lordosis and too-childish-physiques, and contend with drag-queen makeup. It wasn't until several players protested the portrayal of women in the game that AE finally decided to do something about it. For a few years after 2010, armors were less skimpy compared to the previous standards set by the game.

Although AQWorlds has been slightly better at armor coverage in recent years, Nulgath chose to continue his drag-queen look in OverSoul, believing that the game's mature rating would allow him to indulge in distorted fantasies. Examples include a Light Fairy and a tutor NPC. Below is a typical face with Nulgath as the makeup artist:

Too much: a) eyebrow penciling, b) dark lip liner, c) eyeshadow, d) mascara.
The first change in AQWorlds' attitude towards fanservice after 2010 comes in the form of Gravelyn's makeover by Diozz, a recently hired artist as of this post. Gravelyn is a major character in the game, being the new leader of the Shadowscythe and holding opposing views to Alteon, the king of Swordhaven. Her makeover reduced her armor from a long-sleeved bodysuit with armor plates and thigh high boots to an armored tube top, a loincloth (possibly without undergarments), and plenty of exposed flesh for the weakest of reasons.

Casual Grave
"Do we really have to remove this much?"

The game claims that Gravelyn currently dresses like a club dancer in order to appear weak, but this simply looks like AE forgot that female villains do not necessarily have to dress like strip dancers in order to be strong or attractive, nor to put on an act. Even Diozz's explanation that Gravelyn's armor can transform into a full bodysuit in combat appears to be a last minute excuse. Under the assumption that neither version of the new armor provides a padded layer to cushion the metal, Gravelyn would be feeling pinched in a number of places!

There was also a time in the Doomwood storyline when Noxus made sexually-charged advances towards Gravelyn, reaching its peak when he forced her to wear an outfit that directly referenced Leia's slave outfit.

Other AQWorlds non-player characters (NPCs) have been revamped, but none to the borderline explicit appearance of Gravelyn. The so-called justification that Gravelyn grew up still looks like a double standard where women have to be sexually enticing and bare a lot to be attractive, especially for female villains.

Next section: Fanservice in another AE game.