Why I don’t play mobile games

The core purpose of mobile FTP games is getting you to make in-game purchases. Many of these use sophisticated psychological techniques to make you want to never stop playing, and to buy ever more upgrades and loot boxes.

Now we see that the same techniques are being used by the major game companies. Which is why I stick to historical operational level wargames — there’s very few places to build a DLC hook.

Well, OK, another reason is that I don’t have the twitch muscle skills to do well on any of them, mobile or console or desktop.

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Doki Doki Literature Club

OK, so it’s not a wargame. So shoot me. I’m branching out.

Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC, here’s the link) is a Visual Novel. As such, it falls at the intersection of books, anime, and comics. I’m normally not a fan of VNs, because I think they inherit the weaknesses of each of their components, and few of the strengths. Static backgrounds (of only a handful of locations, unlike comics), mostly static character figures that move across the backgrounds like cardboard cutouts, when they move at all (unlike anime), and words limited to what can fit in a banner across the bottom of the screen (unlike books). To the extent that it is a “game”, a VN will periodically allow the reader to make a choice between multiple options, and that choice can drive the happenings in the rest of the game, allowing a Good Ending or a Bad Ending. In the case of DDLC, I find that it’s possible to overcome those limitations and write a compelling story.

Not just another GalGame

DDLC is from the relatively new Team Salvato, and was released in September of 2017. It’s so new that the game store isn’t operating yet. The Monika twitter feed was established last February, the game went beta in June, and as of mid October there were about 8,000 followers.

Yeah, yeah, but what about the review?

Well, it’s hard to write a review of this game without spoiling the experience. It’s not just another gal game, where you romance each of the ladies in turn, finding a different happy ending for each run-through. It looks like one, it starts like one, but it soon moves in quite different directions.

Let’s put it this way, the warning at the bottom of the download page and on the first game screen is there for a reason:

This game is not suitable for children
or those who are easily disturbed.

Assuming you are an adult undisturbable, your best bet is to go in with no preconceived notions and play it like it was a sequel to Book Club Bikini Beauties. You will find that the game messes with your mind, your computer, and ultimately, your personality. One reviewer called it psychological horror, and I guess that’s not wrong.

There’s a couple of gameplay tips I can give you without giving too much away. Minor Tip: If you autoforward, and someone shows you a poem or other document, it’s a picture, not writing on a banner, and the game will autoforward right past it without giving you a chance to read it. Get out of auto mode a couple of steps beforehand (the only <back> capability is to reload from a save point). Major Tip: When you finish the first arc, go back and start a new game immediately, because it’s not really the end. Ignore (OK, admire) any screen effects and apparent font problems. The background processes will fix them shortly. Minor Tip: Due to the way it works with files, you will have to reinstall to start a totally new game. Just delete the DDLC PC game folder and re-extract from the .zip file.

The games is a free download, although $10 will get you some digital loot. It says it works on Win, Mac, and Linux, but the site seems to think that the same program will work on both Win and Linux. Maybe they’re hoping you have WINE or something.

My recommendation is to download and play the game. If it has you going “Oh, wow man” at the end, then go back and pay them money for the experience. Ten dollars isn’t too much, and you’ll get some nice wallpaper that will let you sneer at your cubical mate and say “It’s from a small, independent gaming house. You wouldn’t have heard of it.”

I’m pretty sure you’ll have a fun experience.


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Girls und Panzer, The Game, Part 2


A quick note on gameplay. Further exploration of what the joysticks do. The demo says that the right one controls the turret and the left one controls the tank.

Bottom Right: 砲塔旋回 - gun turret rotation Left Stick: 戦車操作 - tank operation

Right Stick: 砲塔旋回 – gun turret rotation
Left Stick: 戦車操作 – tank operation

That’s not totally accurate. Forward/Back on the left stick turns the tank to the direction the turret is pointing. If you are driving along and you turn the turret using the right joystick, the tank follows. Left/Right on the left joystick turns the tank, but the turret continues to point in the original direction.

As for combat, Forward/Back on the right joystick controls the elevation of the aiming reticle (you never see the gun). When you are pointed at the target, it goes from a circle () to a circle with a cross-hair (+). If you are close enough to do significant damage, it turns red. It takes three or four hits to knock out an opponent.

Actually, you never knock them out, they just run away, faster than you can follow, or track with the turret, or catch with a screenshot. They all say essentially the same thing, just tuned to the psychology of the particular team:

What do we do? We're going to lose. Let's make a temporary retreat.

What do we do? We’re going to lose.
Let’s make a temporary retreat.

Usagi team are bewildered.

Shit! Tactical withdrawal!

Shit! Tactical withdrawal!

The Hippo team are chagrined.

I wonder what the 36 strategies would do. Temporary retreat?

I wonder what the 36 strategies would do.
Temporary retreat?

And Kadotani Anzu, the Student Council President on the Turtle team, quotes ancient Chinese military literature that lists thirty-six possible tactics, the last one being to retreat.

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Girls und Panzer, The Game, Part 1

Last Summer saw the release, in Japan, of a PlayStation Vita game based on the Girls und Panzer anime. If you follow my other blog, you will know that I’m somewhat smitten with this series, because they do everything so well. This article is a brief look to get you started, translating just enough of the signage to give you an idea of what’s going on. As I progress, I’ll add more essays. After the usual splash screens, you have your first menu:

First Menu

Main Menu

Your choices are ストーリモードー    Story mode (where all the action takes place, so far); ベトルロイアル モードー   Battle Royal mode (which I can’t get into yet); ギャラリ    Gallery (with pictures of girls, and panzers); and オプション  Options (which controls background music and special effects volumes).

Mission Selection These are the first story matches

Mission Selection
These are the first story matches

Having selected Story Mode, we find ourselves at the scenario tree. The left hand side lists the five teams from ŌOarai High School. There’s a ten-entry tree, with a Prolog (ブロローグ) — a cut-scene that compresses the first episode and a half of the anime into a couple of minutes. Above the tree is a place for the letter-grade evaluation of how well you did on each scenario ( 評価 – Rating), and an indication of how long it took to do it (クリァタィム – Clear Time). The only mission available at the start is Mission 1 for the Ankou Team. The first column of games is based on the first practice session in the anime. The goal is to kill all the opposing tanks. The second column is similar, except that you also have to get to the bridge within the alloted time limit. When you clear both the Ankou team missions, you can move on to the second page, which has fifteen more missions, and a link to a third page, which I haven’t seen yet.

Your goal is to reach the specified point

Your goal is to reach the specified point
In this case, the bridge.

This is the standard map for all first page scenarios. The second page map is different. This one shows your location, and the location of the impenetrable forest. It doesn’t show the river the bridge crosses over, nor does it show the ford, further to the NW. Well, it shows fish, and a ladder, in the area where the river has vertical banks, and it notes the presence of the bridge and ford with little hand drawn arrows.

Unlike most games, this one doesn’t have a radar mode — it doesn’t show enemy units, so you have to run around and hunt for them.

Top Right: 射撃 - shooting Bottom Right: 砲塔旋回 - gun turret rotation Bottom Left: 戦車操作 - tank operation Nishizumi says: [the controls] are like this. Understand?

Top Right: 射撃 – shooting
Bottom Right: 砲塔旋回 – gun turret rotation
Bottom Left: 戦車操作 – tank operation
Nishizumi says: [the controls] are like this. Understand?

Gameplay is simple. The tank is controlled by the left joystick, and the turret rotation is controlled by the right joystick. Except that rotating the turret tends to move the tank in that direction, and the left joystick is mostly useful for going forwards and backwards. The vertical motion of the sight reticle is controlled by moving the right joystick forward and back. Be warned that it’s very sensitive, and has a pretty high acceleration rate. My reticle tended to hunt up and down, to the point that I found it easier to aim the reticle at the ground in front of the advancing enemy tank and let them drive into it. From discussions online, most US PlayStation Vita games use the (X) key to advance. This Japanese game uses the (O) to advance, and (X) to skip.

(X) Skip D Team, E Team, C Team, B Team All incapacitated

(X) Skip
D Team, E Team, C Team, B Team
All incapacitated

This summary is woefully incomplete, but I wanted to get something out in time for someone who wanted the game to be able to order it in time to take delivery before Christmas. As it is, I may be too late. I ordered the game through Amazon.com on the 17th of October, and the game arrived on the 19th of November. I like the game, despite the fact that it cost $75 plus shippinng. It’s totally in Japanese, but I am working on learning the language, so taking screen shots and translating them counts as study, and of course I have to play the game to get to each screen shot location, right? The gameplay is simple, and the early levels are easy to clear, and fun to refight. I’m glad I bought it, and I’d do it again. Stay tuned for more news on the topic.

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Coming Attractions

Sometime soon, hopefully over this Thanksgiving break, I’ll post a review of the PS Vita game Girls und Panzer. It’s a fun game, but it hasn’t been localized for the US yet, and I’m having to take screenshots and translate. When I’m done, this will be replaced with a proper review.

(X) Skip D Team, E Team, C Team, B Team All incapacitated

(X) Skip
D Team, E Team, C Team, B Team
All incapacitated

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Under Re-Construction

Back, after eighteen months of neglect, which was preceded by at least a year of failure to post. I’ve decided to widen this game blog to include other things than Sky Crawlers. To that end, I’ve changed the name, and maybe soon the URL, and updated the About page. Stay tuned.

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Things I’d Like to See

I haven’t played through the entire game, and I haven’t played it at all in over a year. On those timescales, you lose your touch, and have to devote bags of time (what I don’t have) to getting back up to speed. So, until I can post on game completion, let me talk about the features and missions I’d like to see added in a future release (I know, there won’t be one. Indulge me).

PvP: Why not? You can run up to four controllers, and even if the ‘chuck counts, you can still get two people into the game, either as opponents or as lead and wing. Maybe they don’t do it because it would double the load on the chip.
Bomber: You are the bombardier/nose gunner on one of those big flying wings. Fight your way in, control the plane during the drop, fight your way out. This would be a perfect place to have a two player option that really means something. The existing one is a joke.
CAS: Ground troops are in contact with the enemy. You have to identify your side and bomb the bad guys.
FAC: A perfect job for the Senryu. You are a forward air controller, marking targets for other fighters. Maybe you get to use your guns against ground targets, or enemy air, but your real job is to lay down a smoke round.
Bridge Busting: You have to drop one span of each of several bridges. Heavy defenses, precise drop necessary.
Interceptor: A true interceptor mission. The enemy is flying a high-speed, high altitude reconnaissance and you have to zoom right up to the top of your performance envelope and complete the mission without stalling out. Maybe with salvo mode on your rocket pod.

Side View: I mentioned this in my original review. Right now, you are limited to a broad forward view, with or without your aircraft in the picture. Don’t even think about flying from inside the cockpit. What you can’t do is visually look to the side. Yes, there’s the camera function, and yes, it will give you an almost 360 spherical view. But it’s hard to work, and hard to point (you use the joystick), and you usually find you have somehow rolled into a dive while looking around. I’d like to have a quick way to glance out the side windows, to follow an enemy fighter, or to line up with a ground target. Maybe the L/R arms of the (+) button on the controller. Yes, I’d have to give up a couple of MCMs, but it would be worth it.

Improved MCMs: Two things wrong with the MCM setup as it now stands. First, the built-in recovery period is illogical and unrealistic. If I do an Immelmann, I am going slower, at a higher altitude, when done. There should be nothing to keep me from pulling a Split-S from that position — in fact, I should be better set up for it. If I can do a MCM after flying one of those aerobatic TCMs, I ought to be able to string a couple of MCMs together. Second, any pilot pulling out of one of those maneuvers will, in general, want to be more or less wings-level. If I fly into an Immelmann with my nose high, the MCM is going to end me up in a dive, not normally what I want.

Less Cheating 1 (Teleporting): This occurs when you are getting lined up (maybe even from a TCM), and your target suddenly translates sideways a hundred meters or so, then does an instantaneous 90 degree turn guaranteed to push their eyeballs down their throat. I know they need to cheat in several of the scenarios, to continue the mission until they can get some specific bit of information over, but I really would prefer that they didn’t do it egregiously. A few by Oroshina during the Mission 7 towel fight, and the Mission 8 defector soliloquy over Shikibo are OK, but most of those in Mission 16 are cheats.

Less Cheating 2 (Slowmedown): You know the feeling. You are way over on the ‘chuck, rolled 45 degrees, and pulling g’s as you follow a Lautern bird around in a circle. Suddenly, just as you are about to get him in your pipper, you roll back to 15 degrees and your turn rate drops in half, until he’s past you and spinning on a dime, or euro, or whatever. Given that at this point you can usually punch (A) and kill him with a TCM, what’s the reason for it?

Less Cheating 3 (Performance): I have spent a number of happy hours logging the performance characteristics of all the aircraft on both sides of the line, despite the fact that I know that they are bogus. Watch the radar and note how fast the Lautern fighters turn, and how fast they move, when they want to. If the game wants a Senryu to run down your Incident, it will happen. If it wants a Fission to climb half a kilometer above its service ceiling to take down your Suiga, you’re dead. The performance numbers only apply to you. Your opponents, no matter what they claim to be, are all one aircraft — it’s better than yours when it wants to be, and dumb when the scenario calls for it.

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