Rundown (10/20-10/26) Double the Stamina, Half the Fun

Wherein I discuss the spookiest part of my favorite live service, the continuation of the saga of true love, the struggles of localizing niche hentai games, and the 76th fumble.

On October 18th, Dragalia Lost, that gacha game that I started playing back in August, began an event where the player’s stamina, the resource that is consumed in order to embark on quests/missions/stages/whatever had its regeneration rate doubled.  A concept that sounds appealing, as it gives the player more things to do and resources to accumulate.  But in actuality, it instills players with a sort of obligation to commit themselves to the game in more regular instances, lest they waste their stamina.  And while playing a game a bit every 8-12 hours is plausible and reasonable, playing it every 4-6 hours makes it feel far more like a chore or obligation.

Yes, you don’t need to do any of this, but the game is currently running an event to grind and doubled the drop rates for several quests, allowing players to get dramatically more materials than they usually do.  So by not playing, you are wasting potential resources, and will not be able to use these resources when they are needed in the future.  It all makes the game feel more manipulative and intrusive than it really should be… but I guess that’s just how this genre is at times

Anyhow, with the year coming to an end and people acting like 2019 is already over by publishing “top X games/films/whatever of the decade” lists, I’ve been thinking back on the games I’ve played this year, and one of my favorites would easily be Muv-Luv Alternative.  The title delivered an enthralling sci-fi epic that kept me entranced from beginning to end with its ability to play off of its predecessors and kick me square in the feelings time and time ago.  So imagine how excited I was when I heard that more projects in the series were announced at a recent 20th anniversary celebration event from series developer âge.

These included an anime adaptation of Alternative, something I find beyond perplexing as that title relies heavily on the player’s existing knowledge of Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited, the first two games in the series.  A sequel to Muv-Luv Unlimited: The Day After, which means that a sequel to the sequel is getting a sequel, because nothing about this series is simple or intuitive to outsiders.  Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, a title set in the game universe as Muv-Luv Extra and originally released in 2001, is getting a proposed reboot, but I think they mean a remake.  Project Mikhail is a mobile game that is based on the TSF action of Muv-Luv Unlimited and Alternative launching in English, Chinese, and Japanese markets in 2021, and while I am interested in the idea of a brutal mech action game based on the series, I doubt this will be it.

However, all these announcements pale in comparison with that of Muv-Luv Integrate, a full-on sequel to Alternative meant to collate and combine everything the series grew into over these past two decades into one, and possibly show us where humanity found themselves after the events of Alternative.  That idea alone is enough to excite me, but I highly doubt that I will have the opportunity to experience this story firsthand for a very long time.  I say this due to how no release window was given, and how the localization of these games is excessively backlogged. Photon Flowers just came out, and there’s still Photon Melodies, Total Eclipse, Schwarzesmarken, and The Day After to go through after that. 

I am very much excited to play through all of these games, as âge proved themselves to be a masterful developer with the original trilogy, but I am also a bit worried about whether or not all, or even most of them, will be localized.  I say this because Photon Flowers came out on August 2nd, and the title is currently on sale for 40% off, indicating that the game did not do too well.  I guess that is to be expected, as it is a collection of side stories, and was released with little fanfare.

I have a lot of sympathy for localization companies that are tasked with putting out projects like this, and can only imagine the stress caused by underperforming projects that you invested a lot of time, manpower, and resources into.  But as far as I can tell, there are few localization companies that have had less success than MangaGamer, at least based on a recent anecdote put out by Arunaru, a former MangaGamer translator who worked on the translation of a number of Alicesoft games, most notably the Rance series.  Though they evidently will not be working with MangaGamer again due to the way they were treated, and how thoroughly they burned their bridges with the company by disclosing details about their sales figures and payment practices.  

Firstly, the majority of games put out through MangaGamer’s store don’t sell well, with most titles coming in under a thousand copies on the store itself, but having the potential to sell somewhere around ten times as much if put on other platforms, namely Steam.  These low figures limit the amount that MangaGamer can pay their translators, skilled individuals who typically translate about 4,000 characters per day at a rate of 4 cents per character and more. Yet MangaGamer only pays a maximum rate of 1.75 cents per character, and incentivises them to translate far more per day.  But being equal opportunity, testers also get screwed over, and are normally paid a flat rate of %50 to $200 for what would amount to days of work.

MangaGamer is able to sustain these practices by hiring from the fan translation community, who are known for their lack of formal knowledge over the language they are translating to, youth, and passion that makes any type of compensation seem worthwhile.  Two factors that unsurprisingly lead to a loat of sloppy translations being pushed out at a fast rate, because otherwise these translators will not be able to make enough to live on. When I first heard about this story, I assumed this was the usual for localization companies, but apparently, no, MangaGamer is an exception to the rule, and has only subsisted for so long because they’ve been paying their workers like crap, expecting passion to make up for paltry wages, and firing people when they asked for industry standard rates. 

I highly doubt this is due to any true malice on behalf of the company, but rather incompetence, and an inability to pursue opportunities to bear greater sales.  Localization is a tough racket, it can be hard to find success when catering to a niche audience, the market is volatile, cluttered, and uncaring to how much effort you put into your products.  But if it simply is not economical to localize or do something even when trying to run as tight a ship as possible, then maybe you shouldn’t. I hate saying that, as I want everything ever to be translated into English, but you cannot run a company on passion and, as Arunaru says, if you cannot afford to pay your workers a living wage, then maybe you shouldn’t be in business.  

They really need to settle on a better direction and plan as far as I can tell, improve their marketing capabilities, invest in other platforms rather than putting titles out exclusively on their own store, and stay away from products that likely won’t justify the costs put into them.  But until they improve their business plan, all one can really do is weigh if they want to support a company that does not pay its workers due to a poor business plan. I mean, I will because they put out some stuff I like, and I like supporting the things I like. …Crap, I never got around to Higurashi Chapter 7 did I?

With the aroma of poor business decisions still wafting in the air, Fallout 76 is a disaster that keeps on giving and after nearly a year of bumbling incompetence Bethesda decided to outdo themselves with the release of Fallout 1st.  A $100 annual pass for Fallout 76 that gives players additional items, monthly increments of premium currency, and private worlds.  All of which are things the developer should probably give to players as a thank you for their dedication and continued engagement with their live service.  But no, it’s $100 for 12 months, and those who bought it, who showed such generosity and devotion, were given private worlds that weren’t actually private and an item box that destroyed whatever items players stored within it.  …I don’t even have words for that, just a relentless stream of laughter.  Hoarse, garish, insistent chuckles of mockery directed at the managers who approved this ludicrous idea, and allowed it to release in a hilariously broken state.

Header image, obviously, comes from Dragalia Lost.

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