I think I’ve figured it out.

Couldn’t be the only blog not to write something about the Wii, could I?

I think I’ve figured out the rationale behind the name. In Japanese, “we” is erroneously thought to be the English translation of the Japanese word “minna”, which actually means “everybody” (as in “Minna Daisuke Katamari Damacy”, which literally means “Everybody Loves Katamari Damacy” — hence the game’s theme of a world full of people who want to help the prince — but was released in the English-speaking world as “We Love Katamari Damacy”). The Japanese language actually does this a lot; misusing foreign words (like using the word “viking” to mean “buffet” or the word “mansion” to mean “condominium”), or even using made-up words that sound English (like “freeter” or “skinship“), the same way that English uses the Japanese word “hentai” specifically to describe anime/manga porn.

So, since “we” is mistranslated in Japan to literally mean “everybody”, it makes perfect sense in Japan for this to be the name of the console; it’s the console for everybody, and everyone in Japan will automatically think “everybody” and “community” when they hear/see the word “Wii”, just like Americans automatically think “anime porn” when they hear the word “hentai”. Unfortunately, we can only assume that Nintendo either didn’t do enough English-language market research, or only questioned American ex-pats who had lived in Japan so long that they’d forgotten English slang, since in the English-speaking world the word “wee” means “urine”, “penis”, or “small and weak”, depending on the context. Especially with the ambiguous spelling of “Wii”, these purile definitions are the first to spring to mind; in an informal poll I ran yesterday after the announcement of the new name, an equal number of people immediately thought “urine”, “penis”, or “small and weak” upon reading/hearing the word “Wii”, and absolutely zero people thought it meant “We” (incidentally, the most people just thought it was a typo of “Wifi”).

I hope that Nintendo’s hubris will not prevent them from changing the name of the system in the English-speaking market (after all, the Famicom and Super Famicom had different names outside of Japan, where the name “Famicom” was perceived as being kind of… “wee”). The fact that their marketing department has to keep telling people “‘Wii’ sounds bad initially, but once you go to our website and read the little blurb about how it really means ‘We’ and ‘togetherness’ it totally makes sense” should be a major indicator that something’s wrong, since the “everybody” market that they’re trying to reach isn’t going to go to their website and read their blurb, they’re just going to see the “Nintendo Wii” on the shelf at their local Walmart, laugh at it, and buy some other console whose name doesn’t conjure images of a tiny penis squirting urine instead.

Finally, it should be noted that this is not the most eggregious instance of English-language-market-research-failure in the video game industry; that honor goes to Sega’s “Seaman” which, to drive the point home, was released with a special, limited edition, semi-transparent-white, “Seaman”-colored Dreamcast. But then, “Seaman” was just one game (which, probably due to the name, didn’t do nearly as well in America as it had in Japan), while the “Wii” is an entire console.

Welcome to phantastique summer tea party!!

Back in August, insert credit (“the other IC”) posted about an amazing little doujin manic shooter called Hitogata Happa (ヒトガタハッパ, which translates to “person-shaped leaves”). I played it then and fell in love with it, but it was quickly buried under all the other doujin games I found around the same time (including Melty Blood ReACT and the works of Team Shanghai Alice). In February I dug it up again, fell in love with it even more, and endeavoured to buy the full version of the game. Yesterday, after two months and half a dozen different shops, it finally arrived, and I have to say that the full version was well worth the wait, and is even significantly better than the incredible two-level glimpse of gameplay offered by the demo.

“Bullet Hell” fans will dig it immediately; this game has the most gorgeous “screen filling patterns of colorful enemy bullets that are all trying to kill you” I’ve ever seen, which it compliments with a sort of Miyazaki-esque design to the enemy ships, and wonderfully catchy music. The player’s ships are “dolls”, cute little characters with plant names like “Leaf” and “Clover” and “Rooty”. Between levels, you spend your points to buy additional dolls (4 different kinds are available in the demo, 8 in the full game) each of which, naturally, has a different primary attack and special move. Something all the dolls have in common, however, is a sort of “kamikaze” ability that causes significant damage in exchange for sacrificing a doll, and is mandatory for beating most of the bosses (be sure to watch the demonstration game, which plays if you sit at the main menu long enough, to get a feel for how and when to use the “kamikaze” ability). The difficulty, which I’m told is standard for Murasame’s games, is very challenging; I was able to muscle my way through easy mode in about 3 hours, but I haven’t even gotten past the first boss yet on normal mode, which makes Do Don Pachi look like a cakewalk. And then there are two more difficulty modes after normal. The easy mode was near the upper limit of my shooter-skill, but I’m really not very good at shooters overall, so the subsequent difficulties should keep the game challenging for even the most hardcore players.

Greg, if you’re reading this (which you probably are, since I’m going to email you about it right after I post it), this is exactly the kind of game I had in mind when I suggested you look into “the doujin game scene” for Manifesto; it runs perfectly on an American PC with no special language-support trickery, everything is either in English or easily discerned from context, so no knowledge of Japanese is necessary, and (as far as I can tell) all of the characters are original, so there would be none of the licensing headache inherent in derivative doujin games. Once you get Manifesto up and running, I would be more than happy to fly to Japan on your dime to go to Comiket and convince the makers of this game to join up. :)X

For anyone who wants the game right now (and if you like shooting games at all you should want it right now), first download the demo, and then when you fall in love with that and start jonesing for the full version I recommend ordering it through HimeyaShop, a Japanese doujin soft carrier that I’ve found to be the easiest to order from outside of Japan. (Update: HimeyaShop is no longer carrying it, but probably will carry it again at some point in the near future. For some reason, this is how doujin soft works; it’s available, and then it isn’t, and you just have to wait until it shows up again.)

Update: I forgot to mention that, when I first ran the full version of the game, the screen was off-center in full-screen mode. To fix it, I just went into “Options” and changed “Frame Control” from “Timer” to “VSynch”, and now all is hunky-dory. So… do that if you’re experiencing the same problem.

From a recent IM conversation…

friend: So I was looking into that Tokimemo MMO, and discovered an interesting thing. PCs can *only* date designated NPCs. There is *no* PC-PC romantic interaction.

me: That is strange; maybe they’re just following the mold of all other MMORPGs, and sort of shoe-horning the “date-ables” into the role usually filled by monsters. You start out dating the really ugly girls, and once you grind on them for a while you move up to the slightly less ugly girls. Eventually you can get high enough to do “team raids” on legendary girls, for epic loot!

friend: See, I knew you were going to go there.

And you thought Doom 3 was dark!

I’ve done it again. This time, inspired by the audio-only “Space Invaders style” game Sonic Invaders, I’ve created my own audio-only “stealth action” game, In The Pit, for The Experimental Gameplay Project’s “CONSUME” competition.

The only caveat is that it requires a wired XBox360 controller to play, because scalable vibration is integral to the gameplay, and the 360’s implementation was the easiest to program for in the short time that I had to make a game. This means, unfortunately, that some people will not be properly equipped to play it, but hopefully those people who DO have wired 360 controllers will enjoy it and talk about it so much, that those without will be willing to shell out the $30 for the controller just to see what all the fuss is about.

Dear Christophe Gans,

In the possible but unlikely event that you, like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, were first brought here by the famous upskirt fighting game post, then kept reading because of all the nice things I said about the Silent Hill movie, and are reading this right now, I’d just like to humbly demand that, at some point in the special features of the Silent Hill movie DVD, you film Sean Bean saying “One does not simply walk into Silent Hill”. That would be the most awesomest thing ever.



The Nintendo Homebrew Conundrum

When people think of homebrew software, they usually think of it running on a PC, and not a dedicated handheld console. It’s also common knowledge that Nintendo is the hardest of the “big three” to get a license to develop for; if you’re an indie company, there’s no bar at all to developing for the PC, and you have a fair shot at getting licensed by Microsoft or Sony (heck, Sony even released the Yaroze, and the Playstation 2 Linux kit), but if you show up at Nintendo asking for a license without half a dozen triple-A titles under your belt, the receptionist presses the “silent emergency” button under her desk, and a Club Nintendo Special Forces team rapelles down from the ceiling, rolls you up in an old Power Pad, and throws you in Lake Washington.

It therefore makes no goddamned sense that, while the PSP appears to be the handheld of choice for emulation, it’s on Nintendo’s handhelds, over ANY console, that the most strides are being made in homebrew and amateur game development. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:

France appears to be the hotbed of DS homebrew. Omalone, a colorful and challenging port of the board game Abalone, was the first homebrew game for the DS I heard of. Every ExteNDS is, naturally, a port of Every Extend, which is still in development but looks and sounds perfect since O-MEGA used common formats for his models and sounds, and made no attempt to obfuscate them.

The Gameboy Advance is where development has really taken off, though, due to a huge development and support community (link link), robust programming environments like HAM and DevkitPro, and the fact that Gameboy Advance cartridge burners are incredibly easy to find and use. Games of note include Blast Arena Advance, an original “bullet dodger” that the creator distributed in a small run on cartridges (probably inspired by gbadev.org’s 2004 competition, the winning games from which were distributed on cartridges), a Lumines port named Gleam, and my own (in more ways than one, ahem) personal favorite, Season Stacker, the first Gameboy Advance game submitted to the Independent Games Festival. Suprisingly, the Japanese doujin community has only just recently jumped on the GBA homebrew bandwagon; most notably Chinchilla Soft’s Ayu Ayu Panic, featuring the omnipresent Tsukimiya Ayu and Takayama Fumihiko’s BulletGBA, a program for practicing bullet-hell-pattern-dodging.

Despite all the “Blue Oceans” talk, and although there are a few 3rd-party Nintendo-licensed publishers that will sort of “sneak” polished homebrew games into the market, there’s no way that Nintendo’s going to ease up on their licensing, continuing the bizarre conundrum that, although Nintendo probably has the largest number of active and innovative developers, they have significantly less licensed developers than either Sony or Microsoft.

The most fun you can have with a belly full of parasites

I mentioned the Experimental Gameplay Project website in my last post, but should probably fill in more details. The project started out as a class assignment in CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, and got lots of press not because all of the games were “experimental”, but because they were each created by one person in less than a week. Once the class was over, the department decided to turn the project public, create the Experimental Gameplay Project website, use it to distribute all of the games made for the class, and invite the rest of the world to submit their own damn experimental-games-made-in-less-than-a-week (cough cough).

Many of the games are more “toy” than “game” (i.e. they are interactive, but don’t really have any “goals” or “risks”) but most of them are certainly “experimental”. (The admins are doing a good job of enforcing the “experimentality”, and booted a generic sudoku implementation a couple days after it was submitted.)

One of the most notable, almost-a-game experiments is Super Tummy Bubble, one of the original set of games created for the class by Kyle Gabler. Created under the “addictive puzzle” theme, the gameplay’s a little random and there is no risk/reward beyond accidentally creating huge combos. Somehow it still manages to be very addictive, though, with its colorful, Hertzfeldt-esque graphics, its simplistic gameplay, its kooky music, and its mildly disturbing theme. Go check it out, and get inspired to make your own damn experimental-game-made-in-less-than-a-week!