Being a Creator is Daunting These Days

So I’ve long wanted to write a book or draw a webcomic or something, and I have plenty of ideas… but the internet has… not exactly killed my enthusiasm, but it has significantly hurt it.

One problem is that everything is political now.

Most of my fiction involves (and in at least one case consists almost entirely of) female characters, usually in heroic roles. During my troper days I did a Batman fanfic where Batman was actually a girl (but still called “Bat MAN” to throw people off). That kind of thing isn’t unusual for me… and is one reason I laughed when certain Tropers tried to claim I was sexist for not seeing the rampant misogyny they claimed Sailor Moon had.

But these days, female characters are a political point. Look at Rey in the new Star Wars movies, or the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters. In both cases there was a political incentive to make “strong female characters” and it led to a backlash where people hated the characters, but the creators just accused the critics of hating women.

It makes me a little afraid that if I publish damn near anything with a woman character, especially any that might be powerful enough to fight Batman and win, I’d have either the Social Justice side on my back because “she fell in love at one point, SEXISM!” or else the competition saying “this is pandering to feminists!”

Fuck politics.

The other problem is, of course, the internet has revealed how stupid a lot of people are. The Age of Internet Reviewers showed that most people (at least, most people who make reviews) are incapable of following a storyline if you don’t explain everything to them in clear, concise terms… and sometimes, even if you do. Remember when Film Brain and Bennett the Sage both didn’t understand the significance of Penguin having papers that would implicate Max Schreck in wrongdoing in Batman Returns? Or the time CinemaSins claimed there wasn’t a gate anywhere in the Warcraft movie and it was right there in the scene they were showing? Or how about the time (which I made a video about) when Dom went on and on about a racist term in the book Goldfinger which was actually never in the book at all?

This wouldn’t be so bad if people weren’t prone to automatically believing everything a reviewer says.

So that’s the situation any creator finds themselves in. Their work is either political or its misunderstood by dumbass reviewers… possibly even dumbass reviewers who happen to have a political bent.

Frankly I almost sympathize with the fact that Hollywood doesn’t even try anymore.

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One Rule Every Internet Forum Needs to Have

“If you make a serious accusation–for example, claiming another member is guilty of a crime, has sexual deviancies such as pedophilia, or is a member of a hate organization like the Neo-Nazis (essentially if you accuse another forum member of being a criminal, pedo or Nazi) you must immediately back it up with proof. Standard of proof = a file of their actual arrest record, or a news account (from a news site that is not affiliated with the forum this accusation is taking place on) which links to said arrest record.”

“If you make the accusation but fail to back it up with proof, especially if you say ‘its obvious!’ or you rely on inferences such as ‘they defended an anime game, and only pedos would do that!’ then you get banned IMMEDIATELY.”

“Such accusations are very serious, and by throwing them around frivolously you’ve made a statement about your own competence and ability to work within any sort of discussion society, and demonstrated what lows you are willing to sink to. We don’t want your kind here.”

Seriously, this one rule being added to every internet forum ever–not to mention Twitter, Reddit, etc.–would go a long way to fix a lot of the problems we encounter on the internet today.

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Three Stories of Internet Stupidity

So far, 2018 has been a year of misery and boredom for me. Almost from the beginning it was marked with personal issues that got in the way of my ability to do pretty much anything, as well as me finding that just about everything I used to like now has started to either bore or irritate me in varying degrees. It’s possible I just need something new… or to rediscover something long since vanished from my life.

It’s also been a time of retrospect. For some reason, this year I’ve been thinking about things I used to do and places I used to go a lot. I don’t mean places I went to as a kid, either–in fact, most of the time the “places” aren’t physical at all.

I mean stuff like forums I used to frequent and websites I used to visit, and people I used to talk to and, sometimes, get into fights with. All the colorful characters I’ve met online who, for better or worse, shaped my view of humanity.

And man… some of those people sure were pretty effing stupid.

Story 1 – The Incident of the Laurie R. King Sherlock Holmes Books

One thing I’m sometimes accused of is treating everyone like they’re an idiot, with how I have a tendency to explain or over-explain things as if I expect I’m the only person who knows or “gets it” with regards to certain subjects. To be honest, half the reason for that is that whenever I do the exact opposite–that is, whenever I respect a person’s intelligence and thus think simple statements will suffice–it always backfires and I wind up having to scramble to correct a misconception that I couldn’t even imagine happening.

Here’s an example: in one forum discussion about Sherlock Holmes, I had once made an off-hand remark about having read the Holmes pastiches of Laurie R. King, which I described in terms such as “read like a bad self-insert fanfic” and “stretching credibility” (the books starred a character named Mary Russell who had blatantly 1990s feminist beliefs, yet took place in the years where Holmes had retired to becoming a beekeeper) and “being, at best, a good way to induce sleep.”

Pretty sure some of those are exact quotes.

Now, would you read a passage containing those quotes and ever imagine that I was somehow praising these novels or declaring myself a fan? Because someone did! Suddenly I had this girl get on my case for “liking” the Laurie King books, and she ranted on at length about how blasphemous they were and how utterly shocking it was that a Holmes fan would like them and blah blah blah.

My exact response was “Umm, I didn’t like them. I hated them.”

Even after putting it so bluntly, she still followed up and asked, “So you’re not saying they’re good?”

Just… this woman claimed to be in college. She had to be lying about that.

That’s just one case though, where I said something I assumed would be obvious and yet somehow was taken as the complete opposite. And no, that wasn’t at TV Tropes, although it would fit in perfectly there.

Story 2 – The Eternal Recurrence of A Garfield Christmas

This particular case sticks out to me because it happened twice, with two completely different sets of people who had never met each other (as far as I know).

Anyone who has ever taken a writing class has heard that all stories are driven by conflict, and that you can’t have a story without conflict.

So some time ago, I was in a discussion about writing and someone pointed that out. But thing is, I always had a problem with that belief because, and this is exactly what I said: “I mean, just look at A Garfield Christmas. There’s no conflict in that story, and yet not only is it still a story, its considered a classic Christmas special.”

A Garfield Christmas is literally about nothing more than Jon, Garfield, and Odie going out to visit Jon’s parents for Christmas. There’s no major villain or anything, its just a family get together and what they do during their stay, with a lot of sweet moments and family bonding. It’s pretty much concentrated dawwws and feels.

The first time this discussion came up, a guy tried to prove me wrong, and kept prodding me about the nature of the story… and eventually it slipped out that he had somehow never seen A Garfield Christmas. Despite this, he was convinced I must be wrong and it must actually have some conflict. At least he agreed to watch it sometime.

The second time was on TV Tropes, and I swear the events played out almost exactly the same, with me stating my case and bringing up Garfield Christmas as evidence. In this case though, two Tropers tried to argue against me, again admitting they hadn’t actually seen the show… but they instead cited the Wikipedia article. Because, you know, Wikipedia is always accurate. And like Tropers tend to do, they acted like they were all-knowing authorities on the special and somehow knew more about it than I did, even though watching it is a yearly tradition for me and they had never seen it at all.

Seriously, the first guy I could forgive because that was in an age where DVD didn’t exist yet and you basically had to catch the special on TV to see it, but the two Tropers lived in a world that had Youtube, they could’ve looked it up and freaking watched it, instead they read a Wikipedia article.

Story 3 – Basically Why I Don’t Trust Beta-Readers Anymore

I actually had something similar to the Garfield Christmas play out again, but this time, it was far more personal, because it involved a work of my own authorship.

Awhile ago I was working on a series of stories (actually, still working on them) which prominently featured a character named Surprise, who is best described as “nice but a little off her rocker” and she happened to also be a martial artist. I had written three stories about her, meant to be read in sequence.

For the third chapter I tried an experiment: introducing a situation where Surprise was actually the antagonist, due to a misunderstanding and also the story being told from the perspective of a newcomer named Gilda.

Problem: I hadn’t known at the time that the names “Surprise” and “Gilda” belonged to My Little Pony characters. So, a lot of the pre-readers I got went in assuming they were MLP fanfics. That was bad enough, but…

Well, the really “special” case was this one guy who, upon seeing the name and basic premise of the third chapter, not only read only that chapter (admitting he hadn’t read the previous two and had only just heard of the series) but then, again by his own admission, skipped to the ending because he wanted to see if the Gilda character really got killed.

Spoiler: She didn’t. The story ended with the two figuring out the misunderstanding and… not quite getting along but not holding any grudges either.

Somehow, that didn’t satisfy this particular Troper (and yes, this was on TV Tropes). He was still somehow offended that Gilda “almost died,” and went on to post that the series was about “Surprise being an axe-murderer who goes around brutally murdering the villains of MLP” (even though nobody died in the story he actually read).

Now, I objected to this, because he was making assumptions that were, of course, blatantly untrue, and I pointed out that by his own admission he didn’t even read the whole story, just the ending… and even that didn’t support his contentions.

Now here’s where this character gets really special: he had the ever-loving gall to turn around and say that his reaction was my fault for “not making the story more clear.” Well yeah, most stories are unclear if you don’t actually read them. Imagine someone skipping to a random chapter in The Wizard of Oz, reading only that chapter, and thinking the whole story is about Dorothy being a prisoner of a witch.

It says a lot about TV Tropes that its one of those forums where responding to criticism is always held against the author even if the criticism is unjust, and yet funnily enough I’ve told this story elsewhere (even to actual Bronies) and its always gotten a “wow, just wow” reaction. And when Bronies think you’re exceptional, you might as well apply for disability because that’s the only way you’ll ever make it through life.

In Conclusion

When I started out, I thought of making this focused on TV Tropes, because I experienced a lot of absolute stupidity in my time there… but then I remembered experiencing similar moments in times and places from before TV Tropes even existed, and anyway, a pure Trope-focused post wouldn’t have been able to include the Sherlock Holmes story.

It’s a sad endictment of the modern times that I’m probably going to be considered the bad guy for telling these stories. While the word “entitled” is thrown around a little too much, and has been for decades, there’s a layer of truth to it: So many people, especially online, think they have the right to never be contradicted or argued against, and they will take it as a personal attack even if you’re very polite about it. For that reason I don’t see much of a point being nice–what’s the point if they’re gonna start shit anyway?

I recently read an old topic on Vogons where… well, here’s the topic, but the thing is I honestly feel like the poster Scali is in the right here: this isn’t a matter of opinion, its a matter of facts, and he has them, and the people who keep saying he “needs to be nicer” and how people won’t listen because he’s being slightly insulting (and really, nobody over the age of six should be that offended by anything he’s said) don’t actually prove a point against Scali, they prove a point against the human race.

I mean, think about it: imagine if someone found the cure for cancer and was willing to give it out for free, but that person was also kind of an asshole. Would that make his discovery worthless? People from the 1960s or so would say “obviously not,” but the internet generation is a special kind of stupid and would indeed hold their personal feelings above a major medical breakthrough that will prevent millions of deaths.

That kind of attitude is wrong. It is an aberration, and should not be encouraged. Facts should never be conveniently ignored just because you don’t like the way they’re delivered. Imagine a soldier refusing to follow orders because he doesn’t like his commander: he’d be court-martialed and beaten, assuming he doesn’t die on the battlefield. And in a way, we’re all soldiers. We should start acting like it.

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My New PC, “Michel Delving”

Disclaimifyer:

So when I drafted this post, I had forgotten about my previous post. This is essentially a more detailed version of the last thing I posted. Hopefully there’s new information.

This summer has not been great for me, which is why I haven’t been blogging or vlogging as often–too much stuff going on, too many inconveniences, and less incentive to get online.

But here’s the real post

3… 2… 1…

So, there’s something special about this blog post:

It was typed on my latest retro PC.

But first, you might be asking, “What happened to Mazinkaiser?” Or at least, you should, because its actually related to why I have a new retro PC to begin with.

Part 1: Mazinkaiser Gets Sick

At the beginning of June, I somehow became addicted to a game I never thought I would: Unreal Tournament. Funny thing is I was playing it solo, on a PC with no internet capabilities. It was all botmatches. I didn’t care.

My copy was from the “Totally Unreal” collection, and for some reason Tournament had two discs… even though the entire game seemed installed from just Disc #1. So after awhile I wondered what was on Disc #2, and tried to install it.

Then I got a Blue Screen of Death. It was one of the most terrifying Blue Screen messages ever:

“Unable to write to Drive C:\
Files or Folders may be lost.”

Unable to.

Write to.

Drive C.

You couldn’t terrify me more if you tricked me into having a one-night stand with an octopus, and anyone who knows anything about PCs will understand why.

I tried everything, re-seating the cables, making sure everything was hooked up properly, I even formatted the drive and re-installed the operating system–only to wind up getting the same message now from the main Unreal Tournament disc!

Finally, I turned to the classic computing forum Vogons.

Amid various suggestions, someone said they looked up my particular motherboard (an Epox-8KTA model) and noticed that Epox used a brand of capacitors known for going bad, and that likely this was related to my problem, if not the cause outright.

After getting more information, I decided there was only one thing to do… I contacted a repair service (Badcaps.net) that focused on precisely this sort of thing, and arranged for Mazinkaiser’s motherboard to be sent off for repairs, a process that wound up taking over a month. I’m finally about to get Mazinkaiser back, and I can only hope that guy on Vogons diagnosed the problem correctly. Evidence seems to indicate he has.

Part 2: Michel Delving Fills the Void

Before sending off Mazinkaiser though, I had actually considered simply replacing the motherboard. This led to two purchases, one of which turned out to not be worth it, but the other one…

First, I bought an Epox-8KTA2, which was functionally identical to Mazinkaiser’s 8KTA+, but when I got it, its capacitors were in even worse shape than Mazin’s. I never even bothered hooking it up to see how it worked, and when I sent Mazin off for repairs, this motherboard was sent along with it.

So now I was obsessed with capacitor quality, and one night on Ebay I did a search for “recapped.” Just “recapped,” not limited to any specific field or anything. I wound up getting like 800 hits if I remember correctly, for all sorts of electronics and in one case, a Sega Genesis.

One that caught my eye immediately was the motherboard for a Dell GX260, which came with a 2ghz processor and 512mb of RAM. It was sixty dollars shipped.

Now, part of what inspired me was I had actually wanted to build a second PC to stand alongside Mazinkaiser anyway, because I kept finding games I wanted to play that Mazin couldn’t handle, like Doom 3, Warcraft III, or later games in the Myst series. I had made baby-steps towards this, securing a Geforce 4 ti4200 and two Soundblaster Audigy 2s (these were actually sold together in a listing for twenty bucks shipped), but it was only now that I was taking the next step and getting an actual motherboard.

Part 3: Bumps on the Road

This was a classic case, however, of leaping without looking.

Right now, I’m thankful for my impetuousness, as it all worked out and I’ve got a second fine desktop computer by my side. However, there were things I hadn’t known about the Dell GX260 motherboard that, if I had known beforehand, might’ve steered me away from it.

See, I went in thinking it was just gonna be like any other PC motherboard: you put it in a case, you hook it up to hard drives, disk drives, you plug in your video and sound cards, you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around and that’s what its all about, right?

Turns out, no, not all PC motherboards are the same. Especially not ones from Dell.

Dell, it turns out, likes (or at least, used to like) proprietary configurations. Their motherboards were not generic or made to fit in any old case, rather they were purpose-built to be used in specific configurations provided by Dell. The most obvious sign of this right off the bat for me was that the GX260 motherboard didn’t have the standard places to plug front panel connectors into, instead it had one big rectangular area simply labeled “frontpanel.” The motherboard itself also came attached to a metal mounting tray, which was designed specifically to fit a particular Dell-model tower case.

The “frontpanel” thing was a hiccup from the get-go as it meant there was no way to turn the computer on without the right connector.

Fortunately, someone in my family knew more about this stuff than I did: My dad used to work with computers and in fact used to own this exact model of Dell (one that had been scrapped by a place he used to work at, which he simply brought home since the business was throwing it out anyway), and had somehow come across various parts and pieces for it. One of these was the PCB that plugged into the “frontpanel” plug, which included a power switch!

A week later, it turned out Dad also had an actual GX260 complete with case that he hadn’t been using and which he had been about to junk, just like that business he got it from years ago. However, he instead gave me the case and the majority of the internals (including the original power supply and some IDE cables), allowing me to slide my motherboard in, perfectly snug, just the way I like it!

Part 4: As It Stands Right Now

So, after a week of running the comp as a motherboard sitting naked on a wooden shelf, it finally has a proper case and is a real PC.

I had, early on, given it the name “Michel Delving,” though I debated this internally as during the days of Mazinkaiser I had believed all my PCs henceforth would have a mecha-themed name (I very nearly named this comp “Megazord”). The name “Michel Delving” occured to me primarily because of the motherboard being a Dell, and the previously-mentioned issue of everything being designed around Dell-proprietary parts, so I just felt “Dell” or a variation thereof needed to be part of its name.

And yes, “Michel Delving” is a Middle-earth reference. You know I loves me some Tolkien!

Earlier today, I got in contact with the person repairing Mazinkaiser. The repairs are complete. I had to do some selling on Ebay to make payment, but now that is done. There are a few more things I’d like to have to make everything perfect, but, well… I’ve got a good “new” PC, I’m about to have my favorite old PC back, life is good.

Michel Delving’s Specs

So here’s the part I’m sure most people just skipped to.

Okay, first, the processor: Michel Delving was sold to me as being 2ghz, but in actual fact its 2.80ghz! It’s a Pentium 4 though, so single-core, though this was actually another thing I was specifically looking for because of the operating systems I intended to use.

The RAM is currently at 512mb, and I’ve read that it takes a special sort of ram specific to this motherboard (said special ram is easy enough to find, however). I’ve also read that this motherboard maxes out at 2gb (two 1gb sticks), and while I’m honestly tempted to do that (an investment of less than ten bucks), I’m still weighing the pros and cons.

The graphics card is an AGP Geforce 4 ti4200, with (I think) 128mb of video ram.

The sound card is a Soundblaster Audigy 2 (not a 2 ZS), in the PCI slot. This motherboard has no ISA slots, but for as fast as this comp is, I’m not worried about true DOS-mode compatibility–I’m sure its possible, but on a comp this fast I might as well just use Dosbox. True DOS is what Mazinkaiser is for.

The hard drive I’ve got in there is 120gb, which I divided into three partitions and have it set to dual-boot Windows XP and Windows 98SE.

Funny thing… when I was researching dual-boots, I got all sorts of mixed information. Some people said its impossible, others said it is possible but only if you do it on a harvest moon while offering blood to the Easter Bunny (pretty sure those are completely different times of the year, but hey, Microsoft products). Others said it could only be done with old, outdated commercial software.

Once again, Vogons to the rescue, except this time I didn’t have to post a question–I simply searched their previous discussions and someone brought up a thing called Plop Boot Manager. I went to that thing’s home page, and it turned out to have example instructions for how to do an XP/Vista dual-boot. I simply followed these instructions, but installed 98SE instead of Vista (really the part about Vista amounted to “install Vista at this point”–there were no OS-specific instructions, so the substitution was easy to perform).

The way I’ve got it set up is this: There’s three partitions. Two for the Operating Systems which are deliberately set up (using Plop) so they can’t see each other–this is just good practice so both think they’re on the C: drive and thus you avoid headaches later down the line. The third partition is a “Storage” partition that both operating systems can see, and thus contains things beneficial to both, or for if I want to be able to access a file (like, say, this here blog entry) in both operating systems.

It’s been suggested to me that I should image the two install partitions, but at the moment I don’t really know how, nor am I sure of the potential benefits. Michel Delving, like Mazinkaiser before it, was never intended to get online and doesn’t even have a modem or any sort of internet drivers or capability, so its not like I’m ever gonna have to worry about viruses or things like that. The worst that could happen is my needing to reinstall an OS (which I actually had to do to the 98SE partition once already) but that’s honestly not such a bad deal, all things considered.

Digital Rights

The one thing I am concerned about is… well, now that I can play games from late-Win98SE or early-to-mid Windows XP, I’m also aware this is the period where DRM methods started getting obtrusive. Some games, including some of the afformentioned Myst sequels, have DRM such as SafeDisc or SecuROM. On Mazinkaiser I never had to worry about this, but on Michel Delving I now might.

Right now, I’m simply not installing any game that has SafeDisc, SecuROM, or StarForce on it (at least, not from the original disc… the Myst games all have DRM-less GOG releases thankfully), while I consider my options. I currently see two: one is to create a “Quarantine” boot partition (a second XP install, which would be unable to see either of the two existing operating systems) just for DRM-laced games… the other is to get a swappable hard drive bay (if those even came in IDE) and a second, small IDE hard drive, again for a quarantined environment.

I’ve started a topic on Vogons asking what they think. The consensus seems to be that I should have some kind of backup/means of protection, but that I shouldn’t live in fear of SafeDisc or SecuROM (StarForce, on the other hand, is the freaking devil).

In Conclusion

So…

… The hardest question, every time, is “what games should I play now?”

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A New Oldskool Comp Emerges!

So, as usual, I haven’t blogged lately.

Well, stuff has been on my mind.

Last month, my gaming PC “Mazinkaiser” had issues. It started with a weird thing where whenever I would install games it would suddenly give me a rather terrifying Blue Screen indicating that it could not write to the C:\ drive. For the non-computer literate… the C:\ drive is where the operating system is, and its very much the Windows PC equivalent of an NES blinking because it can’t locate the cartridge, except if it did that in the middle of active use (which I’ve seen NESes do that and that’s when I break out the screwdriver…)

After looking into it and asking on Vogons, the best answer anyone could come up with was that the board’s capacitors were going bad. I wanted to fix this myself, but I have… hand issues. Especially anything involving precision. My nerves are known to suddenly give way and I’ll just lose my grip, which is not something I wanna do while holding a soldering iron.

So I sent the board (Along with a duplicate which was in even worse condition) off to badcaps.org to be repaired. It’ll be costly but I’d rather do this than take a chance that another mobo off ebay will just develop the same problem.

… then I got another mobo off ebay anyway, except this one specifically said it had been recapped prior to being put up for sale.

This new motherboard is a Dell GX260, it came pre-equipped with an intel Pentium 4 2.80ghz processor an 512mb of ram (in the form of two 256mb sticks). From what I’ve read, this mobo’s max capacity is two gigabytes of RAM, which I’m thinking of updating it to, but… well, anyway…

So I stuck a Geforce 4 ti 4200 in this baby, and a Soundblaster Audigy 2… and first installed Windows XP on it.

It was no time at all before I was running XP and honestly, for someone who is so used to using a laptop to do things like watch anime, there’s almost something amazing about seeing a desktop do it.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. See, before I installed any OS at all there were weird issues because unfortunately I hadn’t known that Dell likes to make their stuff proprietary. While this motherboard works with standard power supplies, it has a unique front panel connector. Fortunately I had visited my dad that week and he happened to have parts from a similar Dell model that he was able to just toss at me, mainly just a bit cable of all the front panel stuff–most importantly an on-off switch.

The other thing is this board is designed for a specific case, so if you want to use a different case you gotta do some work. Right now I have the mobo just sitting naked and in the open, with an actual desk fan pointing at the heat sink (this, however, hasn’t prevented occasional overheating).

But I decided before I case it up, I see its capabilities. Since Windows XP worked fine, it was time to test Windows 98SE for the potential of dual-booting.

This, of course, was where I ran into hiccups.

My first problem was that Windows 98 wouldn’t let me install my Geforce’s drivers–even before I did, it would report that there was a resource conflict with the ACPI BIOS. Essentially they wanted to use the same I/O range… whatever that is.

Someone at Vogons gave me a solution that worked. It required a reinstall of windows, but when running setup (which in this case I have to run from a command prompt and not from a CD-boot, which fortunately Win98 makes easy to do) to use a command switch. So the command I should run is:

setup /p i

(This is, of course, Windows 98 SECOND Edition. Why would I run first edition? That’s just more headaches waiting to happen).

Anyway, this prevents windows from even looking at the Advanced Power Whatsit, so no resource conflict.

The next deal was installing my sound card drivers. I had one Audigy 2 install CD ISO (you can find these either at VOGONS or at Archive.org) but you couldn’t install drivers direct from the autorun. Instead you have to navigate to a directory called Audio\Drivers and run a program called ctzapxx.exe (or something like that).

I installed one set of drivers and they worked… kind of. The first I installed were WDM drivers, which I had seen a Phil’s Computer Lab video that mentioned these and noted they could cause compatibility issues and sound hiccups. Which, as soon as I installed and ran Unreal Tournament, I got an example of this.

Okay, Unreal Tournament (the original, no 2004 or Part III… though this IS the Game of the Year edition, the version included in the “Totally Unreal” pack) has this opening intro where after a moment, a lady narrates about how these corporations started a tournament.

On Mazinkaiser’s Sound Blaster 16 in Windows 98SE, this played fine.

On this very same Audigy 2 on my new comp on Windows XP, it played fine.

On this same comp but on Windows 98SE but with these Audigy 2 WDM drivers? The voice either never starts, or is just static.

So I went to try and find a way to get VXD Drivers.

Turns out, I just needed a different disc.

Again, Vogons provided the answer–their driver library featured something labeled the “Audigy 2 Installation and Application CD,” which at first seemed no different from the ISO I already had… but this one let me install VXD drivers using the same ctzapxx program (the other didn’t give me the choice).

Since then, stuff has worked mostly fine. I once had an issue of no sound coming from one of the speakers but it was fixed after a reboot, and other times the comp overheated (a problem its only had in Windows 98SE). Just now, the comp weirdly powered on by itself when I was on the other side of the room… even though I checked the bios and had specifically disabled its ability to do that… (I mean, I guess it’s just eager to get back to Unreal Tournament).

The only real difficulty left is that as this is a Dell motherboard, it was all proprietary and thus designed specifically for a Dell case. I might be able to modify another style of case to fix this, but otherwise its looking like I might need to hunt down the kind of case actually meant for an Optiplex GX260.

My only other concern is, again, heating. My dad had a Dell fan meant for this kind of comp and he let me have it, and so the processor overheats. For the Geforce card I’mma looking into custom heat sinks.

And finally, there’s the name…

I haven’t finalized what I’ll call this comp yet. I previously thought of calling it Megazord, to go with the “Giant Robot” theme Mazinkaiser started, but since its a Dell I thought of also calling it Michel Delving. Or I could call it Gundam.

Eh, if anyone’s reading I’ll leave it to a vote in the comments.

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Computers Hate Change Too, I Guess

Sometimes I wonder if computers are symbiotic.

If you’re familiar with me at all then it should come as no surprise that I’m not big on change. I’m not totally against it, but change in general seems like one of those things where things get worse before they get better if you catch my meaning. Constantly having to get used to new things doesn’t help.

Apparently, Mazinkaiser feels the same way.

Mazinkaiser, as long-time readers will be aware, is my Windows 98 gaming PC. And one constant in my life is every time I get back into PC gaming tends to come with thoughts of “upgrading” Mazinkaiser somehow. These almost always end with me learning that its fine the way it is.

This time, it was the sound card.

A year or two ago, I had asked on VOGONS what the best soundcard that was Windows 98 compatible was. They said the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZX (though the non-ZX was fine too). I wound up buying two of them on ebay–I didn’t seek out two, just I saw a cheap listing (like twenty bucks or something) that happened to be for two of them, and I scooped it up.

At the time my plan was to use them for a Mazinkaiser pseudo-successor that would be more suited for games from circa 2006-ish, but then last night it occured to me that I might as well put one of them in Mazinkaiser, not strictly as a replacement for the Soundblaster 16 that is in there (that one would probably still be necessary for DOS compatibility) but just as something for the more later-ish games like Half-Life to use.

Turns out its not possible.

Not because of IRQ conflicts or anything like that… the motherboard itself seems to just not like the Audigy 2.

Admittedly, I sometimes wonder if getting a more powerful power supply would change anything (I think I have like 500 watts coming out of this one?) because what’s happening and the symptoms kinda lead me to think there’s just not enough juice going into the machine. But here’s the deal: Any time the Audigy 2 was plugged in, no data would be sent to the monitor–it was on, but blank. The comp never made any distressed noises or anything, just no video signal was being sent.

This was with just a Voodoo 3 and the Audigy 2 in there, by the by. I had figured it made the most sense to go ahead and test the Aud by itself before worrying about making two soundcards work in tandem. The only other thing I had in there was a PCI card that provided extra ps/2 ports (which are read as USB ports and basically just there to allow me to use an optical mouse, though I’ve thought of ditching this since I can only use it in windows and I have one of those oldstyle optical mice in a DOS-compatible serial port as well. The reason I’m not just using the ps/2 ports on the motherboard, by the way, is because they for some reason stopped working and I’m not tech guru enough to be able to fix them without worrying that I’ll mess something else up).

My motherboard is an Epox-8KTA (I believe its either a plus or a 2 at the end), and if anyone has a spare one and is willing to reinforce the onboard ps/2 ports so they’re not quite so fragile (mine went bad essentially because I kept unplugging the mouse and keyboard whenever I opened the case up) I might be willing to buy it from you. Onboard ps/2 ports allow me to use a modern-ish optical mouse in DOS and I quite prefer that over either old wheel mice (I never liked wheel mice) or old kinds of optical mice which all require special pads.

Anyway, back to the sound card.

So I tested, at a point where nothing but the Vood and the Aud were plugged in… if I took out the Aud, then the monitor would get data just fine. It was only when I plugged in the Aud that I had problems.

My next thought, since the Voodoo and the Aud were the only things in there, was that maybe the Voodoo doesn’t play nice with the Aud, so I took it out and replaced it with a Geforce I happened to have (a Geforce 4 ti4200, AGP whereas the Voodoo is PCI).

Unfortunately, it was exactly the same story there: No video output unless I took out the Aud.

I will mention here that what I forgot to try was the Aud by itself with only the onboard video drivers. Mostly because I’m not even sure if I had those enabled or anything, and by this point I was too frustrated to deal with anything that might involve a trip to the BIOS. Besides, I also reasoned, even if it worked, so what? I’d have improved sound… and no ability to play any game that required more than EGA graphics (which would eliminate the point of better sound anyway). I suppose its an option to look into, but I tend to always get frustrated with this stuff so ultimately I just wanted it done.

That’s actually kind of why I’m writing this entry really: because like I said, I always return to this “wanting to tweak” point, and it always results in me finding out that the changes are impossible (or not really worth it) and so I wind up going back to what I know works. My PC is basically a console now in that sense–at this point, I might as well build a second gaming PC and put the Audigy and Geforce in THAT rather than upgrade Mazinkaiser, and leave good old Maz to its intended purpose–computer games from the dawn of time up until 2001 or so.

I’m writing this largely to remind myself of that.

The only thing I really want changed or fixed now is regaining the ability to use ps/2-port optical mice in MS-DOS, which like I said was possible before the onboard ps/2 ports went kaput for unknown reasons. Even that tho isn’t exactly something that I’m scrambling to fix since I’ve got a workaround solution in the meantime.

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Ranma 1/2, Blu-Rays, and Nostalgia

Anime in the western world has a peculiar trait attached to it, at least for those of us who aren’t Bennett the Sage and actually did discover anime during the golden years where it was still niche.

That peculiarity is this: Sometimes we older fans tend to prefer–or be emotionally attached to–a certain adaptation rather than the uncut original.

An obvious case of this would be Samurai Pizza Cats, but for me it can sometimes be more subtle.

For example, I absolutely could not get used to “Robotech: Remastered.” It just… from the moment I watched it, everything about it was just wrong–mostly though the fact that conspicuous CGI credits and title cards had been inserted into a show obviously made in the 1980s. So I wound up sticking with the first run of ADV DVDs, which sure had crap video quality but also resembled the TV broadcasts a little more.

…..

So, about Ranma.

I’ve before said that as far as I’m concerned, Ranma 1/2 is the best anime (and especially manga) ever made and pretty much the only thing resembling “harem show” that even needs to exist. Some of that is undoubtably nostalgia as Ranma was what got me into anime, but its also stuck with me in a way other things from the time have not. In fact I’m trying to remember what all I used to rent from Hastings back in the day and I’m mostly drawing a blank. What exactly was Metal Fighter Miku about? or Genesis Survivor Gaiarth? Or Big Wars? There was an anime called Big Wars, right?

There’s a reason Ranma still holds up when other anime have come and gone. But first to lay out what it is.

Ranma 1/2 is a manga-turned-anime originally by Rumiko Takahashi, who you might know more for Inu-Yasha (which I have mixed-but-mostly-okay feelings about), and is a case of a premise that easily could have (and in fact, has in some executions) been completely retarded, but if Rumiko has anything going for her its that she finds ways to make this stuff work.

Ranma Saotome is a martial artist. Oh, so its a fighting manga, right? Ummm… kinda. Okay, so: There’s this guy named Soun Tendo who is worried about who will inherit his training hall, as he has three daughters but no son. His friend Genma Saotome made a deal with him long ago that Genma’s son will marry one of Soun’s daughters and will inherit the training hall to secure the legacy.

Only, when Ranma gets there… he’s a girl.

Except no, it turns out Ranma and Genma went to China and trained in something called the Training Ground of Cursed Springs, Jusenkyo. Someone or something drowned in each of the springs, and if you fall in the spring you get cursed… well, its more like gaining a shapeshifting ability: immersion in cold water turns you into whatever drowned in that spring, while hot water restores your normal form.

Ranma is betrothed to Soun’s youngest daughter, Akane, who… has issues with men (largely due to that a LOT of men want to date her and she seems to only attract insane people), but its not long before Ranma himself (in both male and female forms) is attracting suitors, or people who have a grudge, or getting caught up in schemes involving marriage or attempts to buy out the Tendo Dojo or even just challenges from people with weird styles…. that’s just the episodes where Ranma and/or Akane is the lead, which isn’t always the case.

Simply put… this is a show where pretty much anything can happen.

But here’s the thing: Ranma actually has a logic to it, in its own twisted way.

This is important because most anime are completely vacuous and that winds up being a major issue (as far as I’m concerned). Take fighting anime: How often do you see an anime where the bad guy has “bullshit anime invincibility” (where they just No Sell every single attack) and the hero only wins because of some nebulous concept of his “fighting spirit” being stronger?

In Ranma 1/2, the antagonist (nobody is ever truly evil in this show) might be hard to hit because, say… he’s exceptionally good at blocking with chopsticks. How does Ranma (or whoever the focus character of the day is) beat that guy? They might break the chopsticks, or hit him with something he can’t block… like air, or water. Characters who have “BS Anime Invincibility” are rare–there’s always some trick. Ironically this makes the logistics more like western superhero comics than what you normally see in anime.

Now, I said earlier Ranma has some high-school harem aspects, and there’s a lot that entails. Thing is, here they actually kinda make sense.

Take, for example, the timeless tired cliche of “always mistaking the guy for a pervert.” Yes, Akane Tendo does that. A lot. So what makes her different from Jane Schoolgirl From Some Other Anime? That Akane actually has a reason for this–its established right off the bat that she’s suffered a lifetime of what is basically sexual harassment due to boys liking her (and like I said, she seems to attract insane people–just watch the second episode, you’ll see). So on top of that, she’s suddenly forced into a marriage with someone she literally just met… though, its made clear very soon that she’s started to cool down, and her violent reactions are due to insecurity and because she’s picked up on the fact that Ranma actually kinda enjoys it. That Ranma is a martial artist, sometimes too arrogant for his own good, and sometimes legitimately deserves a beating makes his punishment easier to swallow.

Compare other anime where a male getting constantly accused of being a perv and slapped hard happens a lot. I’m remembering Love Hina (wow, does anyone but me remember that?) where Joe Highschooler got it a lot from Jane Highschooler (I don’t remember their names) and in that case, it actually came off as outright abuse. Sometimes when I read high school manga I think the writers just outright hate girls. I wonder if Ranma being written by an actual female had anything to do with it being different.

Speaking of which, I’m honestly a little glad there’s no “everyman” character in Ranma 1/2. Ranma comes closest only because his various psychoses are less pronounced than Ryoga Hibiki (no sense of direction but is also honest and naive to a fault) or Tatewaki Kuno (not sure I can sum him up without doing a full essay), but even Ranma is a little nuts–his fear of cats, for example, or how he’ll sometimes be ashamed of his female form and want to be cured of it but other times become upset or jealous if someone doesn’t think said female form is attractive.

Anyway, there’s no way to summarize Ranma 1/2. If you haven’t seen it yet, see it. One of its strengths is you can usually just jump into any episode and understand what’s going on. Ironically this yet again makes it more like western animation–most anime have a single continuous story, Ranma is usually “here is the thing that is happening today” (this is true even of the manga, by the by).

….

But the thing I wanted to talk about today was the blu-ray release and the nature of nostalgia.

See, Ranma is in a situation similar to Robotech, except kinda weirder.

Okay… for awhile, Viz Video would put out Ranma in basically a localized format. NOT censored, nor was it an extremely cut-up job comparable to say 4Kids (remember them?) or anything like that. Their version was pretty faithful to the original, all things considered.

There were some differences though.

One was, their version used digitally-inserted english credits.

Also, for Season 2, they made it so the second opening segment was at the beginning of every episode–originally only five episodes began with it, while a bunch of others just started with this short “Meet Ranma” bit briefly explaining the whole forced-marriage and changing-into-a-girl thing.

The seasons thing is another dealie… because they originally released the show two eps at a time (remember this started on VHS) and also to have even-numbered seasons, sometimes they would rearrange episodes and change which opening and ending they have. This is something that threw me for a loop when I watched the blu-ray version of episode that introduced Ukyo (which in the Hastings days, always began with “So Many Memories” and ended with “Lambada Ranma”) and suddenly it began with this sequence I had never seen before of various character jumping out of a manga page, and ended with “Lai-lai Boy!”

See, Viz’s blu-rays use the original Japanese master copies, I think the exact same ones used for Japan’s blurays.

THIS IS A GOOD THING.

But it can be a bit of a problem if you’re watching Ranma to indulge in nostalgia, because it’ll bother you that some stuff just doesn’t match up.

Those who are new to Ranma, I suggest getting the blu-rays and getting used to how they do things. People like me aren’t screwed, however.

See, the older season set DVDs from the early 2000s are exactly the same as the VHS tapes, using Viz’s minimal digital alterations and everything. Watch those and it’ll be the version you grew up with.

Even better… thanks to the blu-ray release, the early versions have plummetted in price on the secondhand.

So, like, Ranma’s actually in a better position than a lot of anime. There are some where if you want an earlier dub or something, you have to look for a VHS release, if there even is one.

Us Ranma fans, we are lucky.

Anyway, I’m gonna go practice my Martial Arts Secret Technique of Indescriminate Posting, so I’ll see you later.

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I still like (and sympathize with) The Spoony One

Most of this was originally posted as, of all things, a Youtube comment, but I had wanted to speak about Spoony for awhile now and realized I probably couldn’t say it any better than I originally had, so copypaste time…

Honestly, the thing that always gets me (and one reason I still sympathize with Spoony) is people tend to not mention that he wound up involved in a kinda shit environment once he became a Youtuber. I’m speaking of course of Channel Awesome–nearly everybody there was various degrees of unprofessional, basically it was like a children’s hang out but somehow making money. None of these people had their heads on straight.

I imagine if Spoony had been in an environment more capable of setting him straight then that might’ve curbed his worse tendencies. Instead however they got exacerbated.

Just look at his attitude. Now watch ANY Channel Awesome video–pretty much the entire site REWARDED that kind of attitude (indeed, the “Betrayal” thing was considered awesome by Spoony’s fans, who had no idea of consequences any more than Spoony did). Can you really blame him for winding up as he did when the very things he’s being criticized for now were being rewarded and even encouraged at the time?

It’s like hanging around a video game forum. It starts out okay, then you meet the headcases and through constant exposure to them, you become a headcase yourself, and then its throwing tantrums, stalking across topics or forums, attempted doxxing, all because you told somebody you didn’t think Ninja Gaiden was that good a game.

Spoony’s life and mental state would’ve gone a lot differently if video making had stayed a hobby for him and not gotten him involved with Channel Awesome. I’m not saying he would’ve been a saint, but he wouldn’t be the person he’s turned into.

I know I’ve already written a novel there, but I wanna add something:

I’ve seen people say on the interwebs that they can’t watch Spoony’s older content anymore, knowing what kind of person he’s become.

I honestly can not understand that perspective. I mean, do these people also hate Disney movies because Walt wasn’t exactly a saint either? Can they not read the old Conan the Barbarian stories because Robert E. Howard was a massive racist who committed suicide? Can they not stand Sherlock Holmes because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was kind of crazy and into all sorts of pseudoscience? Can they no longer enjoy Alice in Wonderland because Lewis Carroll tried to romance a ten year old girl?

Any media you enjoy, there’s a chance that someone connected to it had something wrong with them. But as Bravestarr once said: its best to remember people for what they did RIGHT, not what they did wrong. The wrong ultimately does not invalidate the right.

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The Most F___ked Up Flash Story I’ve Ever Read

So now I’ve perused more of those comic volumes I mentioned getting in a previous post, and I’m starting to understand why the “Silver Age” is treated as if it was, well, a silver age for comic books.

I want to start off by mentioning the most f___ed up premise I’ve seen in a superhero book. The story is in Flash Chronicles Volume 3 and its called “The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds.” The title is not the effed up part.

The effed up part is it began with Gorilla Grodd killing himself.

Not. Making. This. Up.

The deal was Gorilla Grodd was in a prison he could only escape by dying. I don’t mean faking his death, either: his plan was to literally die and be reborn as someone else. He even admits in a thought bubble that he has no idea who–or what–he will be reborn as, but anything is preferable to prison, so he takes a pill he made from natural elements in the Earth beneath him and… dies. So he somehow made an instadeath pill out of dirt and grass. I mean eating dirt will kill most things, so…

Reincarnation is weird in Silver Age DC though, because he’s not born as a baby. Instead he basically possesses some balding dude–and again, he had no idea who he was gonna get. He has to check the man’s pockets to find out who he became–some dude named Dawson.

Now, here’s a question: Who was Dawson before Gorilla Grodd assumed direct control? There’s fanfic fuel there, but most “comic fans” haven’t read anything from before Crisis on Infinite Earths (just look at TV Tropes page on The Flash, which never mentions anything pre-Crisis except vague acknowledgements that Barry Allen exists) so actual interesting stuff is never gonna get explored, simply because most “fans” don’t even know its there. I guess it’s more important to invent a new throwaway villain and talk about how drunk and abusive his dad was, because clearly that’s what’s most interesting about superhero fantasy.

Not to mention the metaphysics of a world where dying means you might just randomly take over someone else’s life. Like, is that just gorillas, is Grodd a special case, or would Barry dying have caused him to spontaneously jump into someone else’s body too? Oh, and the story implies that the Dawson human body is beginning to become more gorilla-like now that Grodd is in it (he remarks that hair keeps growing back faster), which he’s trying to prevent because he wants Flash to think he’s dead.

Dawson as it happens was going to train chimps for a carnival act, and… he actually is fine with that for awhile, but then he gets bored (yes, seriously) and decides its time to be a criminal again. When Flash shows up he fires a ray at him that causes Flash to suck in excess moisture from the air and thus grow fat, and as an extra touch, Grodd still has mental powers and uses them to give Flash amnesia. Then he uses this fat-guy-in-a-Flash-suit as a freakshow attraction. (Flash regains his memory after seeing himself in a funhouse mirror, then goes to a potato drying plant to thin himself, but sneak attacks Dawson-Grodd by showing up with an inflated suit so he’ll still look fat and using the momentary confusion to suckerpunch the guy).

Oh, at the beginnning, Solivar of the Gorillas uses a special phone which can call Flash anywhere in the world by… tuning in to his personal frequency? to inform him of Grodd’s death. While Barry does comment on how odd it is that chimp crimes started happening soon after said call, even Barry isn’t so far gone as to think Grodd has come back to life via what amounts to literally stealing someone else’s life.

….

So, ummm, why don’t they write stories like this anymore?

Seriously, right here, they’ve got a very interesting premise… and yet I’m betting its something the DC Universe never touches on again.

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Final Fantasy VII – What It Means to Me

At the risk of sounding like a hipster, I hated Final Fantasy VII even when it was the hot new kid on the block.

That really never changed. I played through it twice on the PS1, and recently tried again on PC (making use of the “Beacause” fan retranslation) which didn’t get far before I just got sick of the game.

Ironically part of it is I’m just not a big fan of Final Fantasy in general. Yes, the two North American SNES releases (retitlings of IV and VI) basically got me into RPGs and are nostalgic, but recently I was replaying those and the NES original after having devoured Dragon Warrior 1 and 2, and they wound up making me bored of RPGs. Final Fantasy has just always had something irritating about it that I can’t put my finger on. By contrast, when I replayed Dragon Warrior 1, 2, and Earthbound, I was hooked and was able to overlook their flaws because they were so damn fun… I even began replaying Dragon Warrior 1 just to test a theory.

I’m not sure what this says about me or my taste in games, because I’m not able to latch onto what makes other RPGs work but then Final Fantasy–even the ones I like–get on my nerves a little.

But let’s talk about FF7 in particular.

For me personally, FF7’s biggest legacy is as a point of comparison. In discussions I’ve used the term “FF7 Syndrome” to refer to a work of fiction which was highly regarded upon release, even held up as being of exemplary artistic standards, but which eventually wound up either derided or forgotten by all save a few hardcores.

Works that could be said to fall victim to FF7 Syndrome include (but are not limited to) The Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson, the Matrix trilogy of movies, the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore, or the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

There’s a thing though, that I’ve come to notice: most works that fall victim to FF7 Syndrome (including FF7 itself) tend to be things that do things which are unique within a particular field. Even then, sometimes things that are only percieved as unique due to public ignorance.

For example, one thing I remember being a big deal was the fact that (SPOILER) Aeris dies. For a long time held up as one of the most emotional scenes in gaming, and had people talking about games telling serious stories with true artistic depth.

Which… step back and think about it: Someone dying is unique and novel enough to warrant respect? Really? Because novels and film had been doing this for years. No, it was only unique for it to be a video game doing it. And what made some gamers guffaw even more was that FF7 was far from the first to ever do so, either–it was simply the first that the wider public knew about. Anyone who had ever played RPGs, Adventure Games, or anything with a focus on a compelling narrative had likely seen far more emotional deaths than Aeris’ dozens of times over. FF7 was basically a video game that got big only because video games were still in a state of being seen as just toys for kids, defined for most as Mario jumping on goombas or a space ship shooting at aliens, much the same way Watchmen was impressive for a comic book simply because the popular consciousness associated comics with stuff like the Adam West Batman.

FF7 had the same sort of legacy too: For a long time, RPGs were the hot-ticket item, and every company was hoping to create the next FF7. This began an era where a lot of big-ticket games tried hard to be art (and we’re still seeing this today–just watch adverts for a lot of recent games, which look more like movie trailers than anything) while certain sources (usually mainstream non-gaming press) would deride any game that didn’t have lofty goals as being throwbacks. I recall even seeing a review of Metroid Prime of all things which described it as “arcadey”–and said that as if its a bad thing.

Nowadays, we’re starting to see pushback, what with all these retro revivals, and even by the time of the PS2, people were more interested in the likes of God of War or Devil May Cry than the latest Final Fantasy offerings. Square is trying to recapture their glory days by remaking Final Fantasy VII, which is just kinda laughable to me… and sadly, kinda reminds me of how Gainax recently tried to milk Neon Genesis Evangelion with a trilogy of anime movies.

The thing about Eva is I actually like the original TV series. I’m not so sure I like End of Evangelion, but anything past that has this feeling about it of being insincere. Eva worked because, among other things, Hideaki Anno was legitimately a little crazy. When other anime, like Gasaraki, tried to copy Eva, their understanding was just “its a mecha show that has a lot of weirdness” without really understanding it–similar to what the Dark Age of Comics did to Watchmen, copying the superficial without understanding the core. And then it came full circle–Watchmen got the “Before Watchmen” comics and Eva got the “Rebuild” trilogy, both being obvious cynical cash-grabs riding on name recognition, and possibly misunderstanding what made the original work just as much as the various clones did. In fact, I almost suspect they’ll be really fan-nish, similar in ways to how Yahtzee described the later Silent Hill games, filled with fanservice such as Pyramid Head while completely missing what those creatures and elements were about and why they were done the way they were. I’ve never seen Rebuild of Evangelion, but my suspicion is it plays up the angsty aspects to the exclusion of all the other parts of Eva’s identity, much like how some Silver Age comic throwback play up the goofy parts forgetting that that’s not the whole picture.

That’s kind of what I suspect the FF7 Remake is/will be–it’ll play up stuff that FF7 is “known for” but will forget the total package. Imagine remaking Earthbound, and deciding that because the original was known to be quirky, the remake will be full of IN YOUR FACE LOLZ RANDOMNESS forgetting that this was only a part of the whole package (and probably turning Giygas into a pink bunny or something), and you have basically what I think the remake will do to Final Fantasy VII. Modern creators, even those who were there at the time, tend to forget why the originals work. You simply can’t go back to the person you used to be, and as such any story you tell now will be fundamentally different even if its a remake.

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