Why the crap is Sine Mora so visually flat?

Okay, so Sine Mora is a 3d Shmup for XBL with some pretty high production values. The game lends it’s self beautifully to screen shots. But this has to be one of the flatter games I’ve seen of it’s production value. It’s a shame too, because I like a lot of the stylistic choices in the game. I love that everyone’s speaking Hungarian. I love the boss title cards and UI elements. But the game is flat as hell — flatter than even PS1 era games. Lets compare some “Level 1s”

Compared to…

or something a bit more modern.

Everything is flat and in a straight line. Not just the backgrounds, but even the enemies. Coming on screen in straight, simple boring lines with no energy. Einhander has tons of energy and visual pacing. Enemies come on screen form different angles or linger in or out of the foreground and background. The angle of motion and the speed you’re traveling at changes. Ikaruga uses the ‘scripted’ nature of shmups to throw screen after screen of beautiful compositions at you. You move through the background in dynamic ways. Very thing in Sine Mora, while beautiful on a screen shot level is flat and without energy, save maybe the bosses (which still doesn’t really compare to Einhander’s or, more so, Ikaruga’s first bosses).

I have to wonder why this is. When I first saw videos of the game, I didn’t write anything because I figured it was “work in progress” footage, but now I’m amazed that a shmup with such high production value didn’t put the time in to really make their assets sing, by really playing with the composition of the screen and the pacing of how the player moves through the background of the game. Am I missing something here? Perhaps someone might say that einhander and Ikaruga are too busy (I can understand someone hating on Einhander’s 3/4th views for example), but does anyone actually think Sine Mora wouldn’t be visually improved by taking lessons from these two games? I KNOW they’re aware of them. The ship in Sine Mora has the radiant sword, so I know they looked into Radiant Silvergun.

Now this also isn’t a comment on the overall quality of the game. It could still be loads of fun and I heard the difficulty scales quite well. I’m just befuddled that a bunch of people who obviously cared about their game a ton missed this one artistic facet that really has made some games before it sing. I really want to know what you guys think, because I could easily be missing something here.

Brave Earth Prologue: Small Changes

It’s been awhile, so lemme give some updates on Naomi and Sinlen!

Naomi


First change is one to Naomi’s attack animation. While original the game had more of a “Castlevania 1” vibe, the tone of the game has been different from that for quite awhile. At the time, a simple attack animation seemed appropriate, but over time it began to feel outdated. As such a much more ‘ribbony’, fluid attack felt more appropriate. I’m rather pleased with the results.


Naomi’s shield has also been changed. Unpowered, her shield can be held out indefinitely for a small energy cost. Damage is then redirected to your energy. It’s not efficient, but it’s almost impossible to screw up. The parry is similar to the old version, but with a larger window and lower cost. It’s hard to use, but exceedingly powerful.

Sinlen

Bomber

Sinlen’s Arsenal always seemed a little too small. With Gunner being the ‘boring default’, and the Forbidden Knife being an weapon many players will avoid, Sinlen was left with 2 ‘normal’ weapons. Sinlen also had a lot more design space to work with, so I figured “Sure, why not?”. Bomber is a slow firing, high powered spell that detonates when the fire button is released. While expensive and slow, Bomber can one shot most enemies in the game and can do massive damage to bosses if aimed right. The projectile can also bowl through multiple enemies in a row!


Magic Break: Barrage

Barrage’s homing projectiles helps balance out bomber’s slow speed. Barrage summons out 3 projectiles that, after a moment, rush toward the nearest enemy. They don’t do a lot of damage, but can clear out hard to enemies with ease.


Gunner and Renka have some updates too. Gunner not only gets a nicer sprite, but a slower projectile speed with higher damage. It makes it a little harder to spam, but all together more useful as it can do real damage now. While Gunner still scales with energy, the effect is much less severe. Renka’s spreading shots have had more projectiles added, but has a slower rate of fire and lower range.

I feel the balance is much better now, with Renka no longer being a clear upgrade from Gunner and Bomber being a fun new addition.

“Going the Extra Mile” and some other stuff.

With the Cross Assault stuff going on, I’ve read a number of pro-woman (though not always expressly feminist) pieces and it’s great to see this kinda of out pour of support. Classier, older members of the gaming community are starting to take a stand. That said, there are a number of poor arguments I’ve seen over the years that I want to address. The issue with most of these arguments as ‘laziness’, though I am not comfortable using that word when many of these people are going out of their way to try and help a cause. Instead, I think the problem is many people don’t go the extra mile in crafting their arguments. People make this mistake all the time in all sorts of fields, but this issue is important and the better the quality of argument, the better the result.

Let me also express before I begin that I am not an expert and I say this all while being perfectly willing to be wrong. These, in the very strongest sense of the word, are my opinions and only by sharing them can I refine them. I am not the guy with all the answers.

The “That’s not Anatomically Correct/Possible!” Argument

This is the argument where “Going the Extra Mile applies the most. Whenever I see this argument used wrong, it almost always could be corrected to be right. Generally the writers are properly identifying that something is wrong, they’re just articulating it incorrectly in my opinion.

First, I’m going to talk about art. I’ll admit that I’m a pretty bad artist (Though to some extent, that will be relevant to the discussion), but even at a low level of skill, something is clear. Illustration is not about accurately portraying reality. Depending on an artists style and skill, realism and anatomical accuracy can be all over the charts and not one configuration is ‘correct’. People stylize for various reasons. Aesthetic, ease of drawing, whatever. Sometimes parts of the anatomy do wacky stuff just to be distinct or because it’s part of the artist’s voice. Akagi has an impossible nose and the Knight from Dragon Crown has impossibly wide shoulders.

When Bob Mackey of 1up pointed out that a character in DS2 had impossible upward slanting breasts, my thought was “So what?”, in regards to his argument. The image it’s self is pretty awful, but the fact that the breasts are wrong are not an argument in and of themselves. The whole “Chicken Psylocke” thing comes to mind to mind too. This awesome person writes a cool piece on the flaws with a traditional female pose from the perspective of a contortionist and martial artist. The blog is pretty great, but one problem is that the focus is too much on the realism. He successfully also points out that the poses are more so, overused to death at this point, but there are a lot of factors to consider. One argument I didn’t like was bringing up Avatar: The Last Airbender. Avatar traditionally exists as animation. Comics exist as still pictures. The whole concept of ‘dynamic’ poses are to instill energy into a motionless drawing. Also composition becomes much more of a factor. Realism is often a low priority in these situations. You’re TRADING realism to achieve other, more important things. Harping on realism just makes people yell at you for being too serious. I mean, it’s just a comic, right? Well, no. These Psylocke and Wonder Woman poses are still not beyond critique. The trade in of realism certainly is partially to impart energy into each piece, but they also want something else.

These poses (and most female comic book poses) exist to show off the characters chest and ass in one shot… and they do it ALL the time. Now, I like me some nice butt shots and honestly, I’ve done the same thing at points, but they do it all the time. They can barely show a female character without trying to fit tits and ass in a picture at the same time. So far so that they are willing to trade big chunks of reality and anatomy to do it. Now that’s okay for fun or for porn, but when you’re releasing a comic to the public, have some responsibility and don’t be booty-greedy! For those of you criticizing this stuff, go the extra mile and EXPLAIN why they’re doing it. Explain why pose, or anatomy or outfit in context is inappropriate (and remember, just because the men wear silly outfits too doesn’t mean there isn’t a case to be made. Similar is not necessarily equal!). You do NOT want to make it easy for people to blow you off for being a prude. This Comic does a good job explaining the absurdity of Miranda’s character from Mass Effect and the comic-comment under it shows the gratuitous lengths they went to to show her butt. It’s not that Miranda has a fine ass — because it certainly is fine — it’s that they put so much attention on it that it becomes downright comical and disrespectful. Don’t end your argument early — GO THERE. Most of the people who agree with you already know what ‘there’ is, but they don’t. If you stop without going there, your argument is basically fluff and style all building to an ultimate point that never comes. Give no refuge to those who you wish to enlighten, because if they can find a hole in your argument to hide in, they’ll hide in it.

Some more on Art

Art wise, breasts are hard. They’re also very fun! Also, you know what the easiest breasts to draw are? Big, stupid, bubble boobs. Amazingly, they’re even easier to draw than no boobs at all! They hide parts of the chest that can be hard to draw well! Some people also enjoy big goofy dumb bubble boobs (I admit I do as well to some degree!). Now, this doesn’t make them good, or acceptable (Though I don’t think they’re inherently unacceptable either, context depending), but having some clue why they might be that way can be enlightening to some degree. Also, impossible fabrics. Wonderful breast wrapping cloth that is almost as good as nudity! That too is also easier to draw and shade than more realistic breast drapings. In fact, drawing the faint impression of breasts through a shirt is hard as hell and can be thrown by the style of the piece as a whole.

Men on the other hand get drawn with missing/extra muscles and impossible bulbous chests (like the Liefeld example). The less realistic you are, the more leeway you get. Learning art favors unrealistic depictions. Now, you can simplify the female form in ways that are less sexual (IE, old fashion style expressional drawings), but copying and imitation is unfortunately also a stepping stone, even if the artist means the best. This doesn’t necessarily excuse anything or make it okay, but a lot of articles about media act like art manifests from out of nowhere, fully formed and it’s never that simple. A lot of disagreements I tend to have come from my perspective as a content creator.

Porn Games and Pervert Shaming

Battle Raper and Rapelay need to stop coming up in arguments. These in the battle against sexism in media are the least important things to fight (unless you’re anti porn in general, in which case I very much disagree with you, but that’s another argument). No one who isn’t already crazy is going to play Rapelay and think “Yeah, this is normal”. Porn is a fun indulgence and fantasy. The most dangerous media is the media that people take seriously. Nothing tells you that the depictions of females in comics or video games is inherently flawed. It invades the culture subtly and subversively. Most porn is self aware. Like watching a horrible slasher movie, you KNOW what it is. You can enjoy murdering people in a game without wanting to actually kill something, so why can’t you enjoy content about dubious consent, from either perspective, safely?

This gets into Pervert Shaming. People have fetishes. People enjoy them safely all the time (even rape fetishes, which rarely have any association with actual rape) and there is no shame in that. Or just enjoying sexual stuff in normal games in general. That isn’t wrong from a consumer standpoint, but instead from a producer standpoint. The argument should be that mainstream media is an inappropriate place to enjoy scantly clad women all over the place. It’s not the time or the place. We’re treating guilty pleasures as normal and that can be bad!

When you shame people for their sexual fetishes, you only make them hate you. It’s also not fair — women are perverts too! We all are and we shouldn’t pretend that we’re not. We just have to be adults about it. Even if it’s something like Lolicon in games — it doesn’t matter if the player enjoys it. He COULD be a pedophile or he might not be. He might be perfectly normal. Do not throw accusations at him without evidence! THROW THE ACCUSATIONS AT THE DEVELOPER.

That’s all, I hope this little writeup isn’t terrible.