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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Long Gap, But Not The End

Hey there,
Been a long time hasn't it?  Almost 2 years of nothing?!
My sites, stores and general content has been...let's say nonexistent the past almost 2 years and nothing here on our blog has been updated with much care or order for a while.  Well, that is hopefully going to start changing (hopefully not jinxing it).  
I'm finally settled enough in my home to begin what I wanted to do in the first place; grow/reboot my online presence, sites, content and business.  A ton has happened in the past few years.  It was like the life changes that should have happened all combined at once since 2015.  I got a very important job role in NYC as a Lead Developer, I got married to Danielle who's been a part of my life since 2002 and my fiancee since late 2007 and I bought our first home!  Heck, even just these past few months I became the voice of a famous online pup, Crusoe The Celebrity Dachshund, so my voice acting has been keeping me busy as well.  The downturn (and financial issues) my anime figure business suffered by the events of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are now gone and there is another store site in the works.  
The insane number of life changes, 24+ hour project sprints and tasks life threw at me these past few years was beyond tiring so Danielle and I took a week off to Disney in Orlando (the same place we went for our honeymoon). The vacation was exactly what I needed so it's time to get things back on track. 
First things first, hopefully more content and to get things going... I'm not going to keep the Anime Figure Bot  in it's "in dev state".  She will now answer questions and eventually move toward being a dynamic assistant to our anime store's revival.  
Also, moving forward we do wish to update the site/blog and all to be out of it's 2009 state as well as phase out Google Adsense as well a number of other Google services being used on this site.  Google over the past few years has made their platforms increasingly restrictive on free speech and with ever puritan-like prudish nature.  We are not fans of crazy non-related ads, Google's overall actions and honestly not into much advertising in general beyond what we need to keep the site afloat. 
Advertising on this site will for a time stay as I am talking to a number of people who wish advertise here (all anime related) so ads in general will change here.  Down the road we might just restrict advertising to a single Patreon pledge banner, mention of our anime store items and quick sponsors in online videos / podcasts.  This will allow us to keep making content and not worry that attractive, non-pornographic anime art will get flagged by a platform and people who will eventually die out in obscurity by then end of this decade when the next set of outrage culture fiends finds their next mindless topic to waste their efforts on.  
Ranting aside, we are not gone and if time stays my friend (and we are not jinxing ourselves yet again) we do have plans for more content and still being a part of the community we've been a part of since 2002. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Anime Shrine PodCast Episode 6: New Year, Google's Continued Prude Algorithm Garbage

After a year of silence...we are back and talking about how 2016 was NOT a bad year for us despite the internet still loving to hate 2016 as well as more ranting about the crappy Adsense censorship and Youtube algorithm that has been a bane to long time online content creators.

(Warning: Explicit Language)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Loss of A Friend and The Song of Our Return

2016 has been an interesting year.  It started on a promising note after a low point for me when I had to quit from the NYC job that originally freed me from a dead end job.  It was a horrid place to work for and a perfect example of the clueless world of the "posh" NYC elite.  Things changed for us when I got the position as a Unity developer for a smaller startup company that was in desperate need to finish a project for a beer company.  Without the efforts of me and my fellow devs, the company would have fell apart.  As stated in the prior posts, success came after working the longest consecutive hours I've ever had to do.  The rewards since have been wonderful.  2016, despite what is popular right now, was and will probably one of the greatest years in my life.  Danielle and I, after dating only a month after launching this site almost 15 years ago and being engaged since 2007...finally, finally got married in September.  Here's a picture of us...not too often do I show anything buy anime on the site but I do like shutting up the complainers of 2016...

Not everything was happy and wonderful for us in 2016.  This was stated a while back on our Facebook page but I also promised to talk more about this...

Just before our wedding in September, we lost a dear friend and somebody who was very important to us at Chuck's Anime Shrine.  Our main artist and probably one of our site's number one fans, Kenneos (real name, Victoria Chamizo)... tragically passed away.  It was real a shock for Danielle and I.  Her death and the fact that I've been extremely busy as the now lead developer of my current job... is why this blog and site was left dormant yet again for much of the year.

Here are some pictures Kenneos made for us.

This picture was the last one she made.  Since our mascots matched the Pokemon Go Team colors so she was to draw all three with their respected teams; Fumi for Team Mystic, Demon for Team Valor and Angel Fumi for Team Instinct.. seen below.  This was the only one she was able to finish since she past away shortly after this image's completion.

Her death almost made it feel like it was time to pack our bags here with the site as well.  However... with everything going on the internet like the fact that many of the major gaming and "geek" blogs are now over ran by fan-hating marketing hipsters and the way Google, adsense and Youtube are screwing over the independent creator...there is a need for people of the "original internet" to step up.
Throughout the years we had a number of opportunities to be like many of the big names out there as we were the firsts in a number of things we either never cultivated or simply had inconveniently bad situations that prevented our progression.  We were one of the first to post AMVs online, before Youtube was a glimmer in anyone's eye.  We could have eventually moved to licenced anime streaming and been Crunchy Roll way before them.  We were one of the first indie "geek" blogs posting games and anime reviews after receiving actual review copies from the industry.  We could have been Kotaku before Kotaku...hell, before Kotaku went off the hipster/SJW deep end...we used to be one of their biggest supporters.  We were one of the first anime figure businesses in the US to be a legit distributor of Good Smile Company & Figma figures back in 2006/2007...long before Crunchy Roll took that market into their own as well.  We were one of the first sites to delve into Indie game development.

So many what ifs, so many missed chances.  Yet... things this year have never been better and I've been coming into this industry on a different angle.  I'm the lead dev to a rapidly growing startup that is all in the fields I love.  Despite being blackballed/gate-keeped by some from doing anime voice acting...I've done a fair share of various other voice acting projects/ genres with others in the pipeline as we speak.

Still...various questions arise...

Should I continue blogging?
Should I continue updating this site and anime.fm?
Should I continue the Tenshi-Oni game?
Should I bring turn the anime store back on?
Should I continue making content online despite being one of the earliest content creators on the internet yet being a nobody in comparison to other content creators after many years?

Yes, yes I should continue all of that.

Kenneos would have wanted that and just the other day I got a message on my old AMVs on Youtube from a few people.  They told me they were nostalgic about our AMVs and it was those videos that got them into anime, games and these hobbies that are now the forefront of popular culture... over 10 years ago.  There are music artists who are still wishing to see the Tenshi-Oni game come to fruition.  There are artists we support and others we would love to support by bringing their talents into our sites, our games and our content.  There is so much we can do even as old forgotten starters of the internet.  My job keeps me very, very busy but it's all doing the highest levels of development that is related or connected to these hobbies.  I might not be able to get in as many updates and be able to man the anime figure business constantly (that is still going through a php "white screen of death" issue), but I have a wonderful wife who has been here since a month after this site started in April of 2002.  You guys might hear more from here than me when I'm too busy to even post.

Since money is not as big of an issue as it used to be for this site and since I want to stick it to Google Adsense for trying to censor my blog posts...we'll be phasing out Adsense ads (I mean who views/clicks them anyways...I use adblock too).  We'll instead let the anime figure store (sorry, it's still down ^^;;) and donations on our new Patreon Page keep the site going.

We hope that we are indeed "back" again.  I did promise a song.  A bit weird and cheesy, I know, but this song is what got us through the end of 2015 and into the start of the life changing year of 2016.  It's honestly the song and cover version I want to licence in our Tenshi-oni game...granted it's from an anime too so who knows if I'd ever be able to licence the cover for use.

Happy end of 2016 and here's us moving on and moving forward.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Game Development is Science & Art...but Not Contemporary Art

Sounds weird, right?  Claiming that video game development is an art but not contemporary when video games have only been around for the past ~40-50 years.  Hear me out here because a lack of understanding this is positively ruining the game industry as well as the credibility of indie game development; possibly even game development as a whole.

Listen, I'm guilty of being one of the many over the past decade who pushed for categorizing both anime and video games as art.  This is from decades of dealing with a usually right winged, religious conservative mentality that since the 80's tried to demonize our hobbies and games from either a position of ignorance or a position of envy that they have no discerning hobbies and dreams.  Since my early years of gaming in the 80's I've been told a number of times that I was "wasting my time" with my love for video games from those in my own social circle, on public news and even my academic sphere of influence in Computer Science during the early 00's.  Oddly, we are now seeing the same bullying from those on the far left.

Kid trying to talk to great aunt about Pokemon Go; who's desperately wanting to return to a life of no hobbies. Source 

It was a battle of creditability that many of us fought and still try to fight to this day.  Thing is something (mostly) great happened.  A few years after I finished left college in 2004-2005 a threshold was reached, games became bigger than Hollywood movies.  The "game" changed.  Video games pierced into the main stream media and has since only grown and expanded in the 10+ years since; maintained by the fact that we, the gamers, became adults and to the dismay of the past generations, didn't shed our supposedly childish love.  From that point on, game development & programming courses became a norm in many schools and eventually it was finally recognized as an art of both technology and design as oppose to some "childish fad" some hoped it was going only to be.

So the battle was won right?  We did it.  We, the gamers (and yes, even anime fans to some degree) didn't have to be shunned for liking a hobby that was scientifically proven to improve a number of our senses and expand our imagination; with the development of which encompassing the entirety of of Computer Science and also responsible for moving that field forward.  Trust me, the old hat enterprise apps being outsourced to India in the early 00's were in no way improving Computer Science.  Much of the mobile / smart phone revolution was due to gaming... as is the current revolution of VR and AR.   Games have and will always move tech forward.

Dark Souls 3: A game that is a work of art in addition to being a fun game

Depression Quest: A game created for the sake of being "artsy" 

Not so fast with the celebration, though...
With this great improvement of the field and hobby came some issues; one of which was a ghost of gaming's past that almost killed it before.  The main issue is that the popularity of games and thus the money that can be had from clinging onto it's coattails invited a feverish group of marketeers and later, non-tech contemporary "artists" into the field.  The prior, the marketers, where actually the group who almost killed games in the 1980's, whom shunned games after a crash they created, and whom their succesors today like to keep the indie game scene in some sort of clique.  If you are not a part of that clique, forget any preemptive rewards, accolades, blog posts and well... hype.  The "clique" now includes a bunch of well positioned non engineer contemporary "artists" who don't know what it takes to make / code a game but want to "change" the industry similar to how a contemporary artist wants to "change" art with a canvas full of literal, actual shit.

See the above example of two games; Depression Quest (DQ) and Dark Souls 3 (DS3).  First off, I initially honored Depression Quest's "doing something different" angle.  Though one was by one person and the other was by a big budgeted studio, the politically motivated gate keeping created by the maker & bloggers supporting DQ shows what is wrong with the Western Indie game dev scene.  Dark Souls was created by a person (Hidetaka Miyazaki) who, like me, was told he'd never be good enough for the industry.  The creator of DQ took the fame to her head, not looking for improvement of the craft while Miyazaki stays humble and always trying to do better with each game since Demon Souls.  If you are to be a true game designer, the latter is the way to go and how you make art out of the craft.  The other way is like being a cat who sprays the yard to keep others out while also letting the yard die from the abundance of urine.

Like Art, Game Development and Programming is a Craft & Skill
da Vinci's art vs...

...contemporary art.

Before even the 00's, to make a game was a mostly engineering feat that, once set up, could then be given a focus on art, gameplay and design.  You had to know Computer Science and programming first and foremost and create your own game engine.  The improvement of the game development field was moved along by people like John Carmack who understood the science of both light and what gets displayed on to the screen.  Even in the early 00's I read the insane details on how to code for the Game Boy Advance in C++.  Once you got a working game engine, you can then get to work on the "real" development.  This steep learning curve was why Flash and actionscript2 took off in the early 00's as much of the initial engine set up was done.  This lead to many game devs beginning in the field thanks to mainly Newgrounds.com.  in 2002-2003 it was either 1) Go to Computer Science in college and secretly do it for game development (since you'd have been shunned then) or 2) Self teach some action script and Flash and get posting on Newgrounds.  I did a little bit of both.  Later when IOS game development reached a peak in 2010, me and other devs had engines like Cocos2D, Cocos3D and later SpriteKit / SceneKit to get going on apps.  Today it's even easier with the Unity game engine taking the lead as Flash did then with others like Unreal Engine and other easily available engines at our disposal. To be a game dev now is like saying you were a blogger in 2008... it's not hard to be a game dev at the minimum... and that is fine.   

However, like good art, there are basics one should know before being able to do something truly great with the craft.  Even with great tools like Unity and Unreal Engine, a lack of understanding the science/coding behind it will become apparent to the masses of gamers, your real client, in the form of missing features, lag and overall bad execution.

For Da Vinci to have even begun his art, he had to study human anatomy and lighting.   Many artists know this and a good art school will train the artists with those two main keys to their teaching.  That scientific detail to the craft in art is no different when you learn the update loop cycle to a game, or understanding that you need to keep polygons, lighting and scripting lean on mobile devices or even on consoles.  No being a so-called "true" artist is the driving force to the tenants of contemporary art and also due to the paradox-like idea of the question of "what is art?" You can (sadly) get away with an empty canvas due to some weird artsy notion of "emptiness" or some drivel like that.  

To the dismay of bloggers posing as news companies and some indie devs...you can't pull the same crap in game development.  Your clients, the gamers, will see right through it.  It's a fragile foundation to build a game on and no amount of mass demonization of those who call this out will protect you from the obvious... that you'd need to get back to the drawing board. 

The issues of Over-Hyping By Marketers, Devs and Computer Illiterate Journalism 

The promised look of No Man's Sky at E3 2014

Back when a non gaming marketing-based company like Warner Bros took over a then new industry when they bought out Atari in the 80's, it echoed the current situations of when major blogs posing as news sites (blogs younger than even this blog) haphazardly promote or degrade individuals via political motives with the end goal of who gets the most clicks while awarding and promoting games that aren't even out in the market.  WB was an uptight, stuffy, suit-filled cubicle factory that saw the groups of free loving Atari devs, cabinet builders and it's former owner as a bunch of hooligans.  In what became a development hell for Yar's Revenge's creator Howard Scott Warshaw, the computer illiterate marketers / owners of WB tried to ride the hype of the E.T movie and rush out a game based on the movie.  This mistake and ignorance of what it takes for developers to make a good game was what lead to the crash of '83 (and not Warsaw's fault).

When you have people who are not familiar with the craft trying to sell the craft, you run into a big problem.  There have been a number of companies who have done this mistake over the years but the most recent example of this was with the game, No Man's Sky.  This one was a collision of two of the bad issues that arose in video games being in the mainstream.  Not only was this game over hyped by bloggers and game "journalists" who hardly know about the technology (just how to spin things for clicks) it also was over hyped by it's main designer, director and yes, the rare thing of also being a developer as well.. Sean Murray.  As a fellow dev who loves procedural computing, I really feel for why he was maybe a bit too excited about this.  To make a game even like the final output of No Man's Sky all procedurally is a feat of the science.  However, the current Indie culture does nothing but make insane expectations for upcoming games and applications.  Marketers are paid to do just that, market products and make them look good.  To a point we can see where they were coming from but we have to stop over selling something that isn't even out.  Even worse, when you look at games like Fez or No Man's Sky... the games were not even out, yet the creators were given awards and accolades for what was nothing but hot air at the time of the awards.  The indie "clique" is creating a hashtag leeching, gatekeeping "club" of people who are all high on themselves.  Instead of the humble attitudes we see from someone like Miyazaki, we see nothing but pats on the back, oddly synchronized well edited Youtube videos and blog posts for a select batch of games the "club" feels worth it.  Not only is this counter to what it means to be an indie dev, as all of these "indie" award conferences resemble the averous of the Oscars, but it also goes a few steps further in it's delusion by shunning and blackballing those who call them out.  It's awarding devs too early in what the Oscar equivalent would be like giving the Oscar away to a movie where only the trailer was shown.

So, how do we fix this?  How do we, the gamers and game devs stop the over hype?  It's unfair to the gamers who are already tired of the now over two years of being demonized by people "in the industry" who don't even represent the end clients.  It's also not fair to developers who work hard to get a game out but have to feverishly try to match the extra hype that might not have matched the scope of the work they had to do; an extra scope brought on by the blindly passed accolades & overzealous, uninformed bloggers.

To fix this, we have to realize that great game development is the combination of both great science and great art.  Flimsy contemporary art methodology could maybe work on the most abstract, upper level...an after thought after the presentation, but won't fly as the foundation of the development.  Secondly, in addition to gamers (and some devs) speaking out against the collusion in the game journalism and the indie scene, we have to also let it be known that journalists have to know at least some of the technology before they go out and hashtag bomb the hell out of social media about some "industry changing game."  We need less business people and marketers behind the voice of games and more gamers and game devs being that voice.  If you are a game dev like me, get blogging and though I've be a "dev" technically for over 15 years, I'm not some amazing dev, I'm always improving and learning. Yes, the blogs that spawned a few years after this one became huge and yes, they love to blackball devs and gamers who go against their marketing campaigns or political agendas (things that have no place in this field) but your voice can matter.  Gamers still love it when a dev is open and honest about the hard work that it takes to make even a basic game. It might drown out the marketers who are only writing about games because it's a hot topic is just a feather in withered cap of journalism.

In the case of No Man's Sky, it was also much to the fault of it's director. So studios, indie or not, need to find that median between what they are delivering and representing it in a good promotional fashion to the gamers.  Basically, under promise, over deliver.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

So About Our Long Blog Post Hiatus...

Well... it's been some time.  Our last blog post (not including the previously sponsored one) was back 9 months ago in November.  Simply tons of things have happened in that time and it's about damn time to get this site (and the anime figure store) back in gear.  There is just too much going on not to talk about and with a number of anime, gaming and pop culture blogs/sites, most much younger than this site getting too much lime light (and some falling off the deep end of selling out)....I think it's about time we keep our hands game....or am I just talking to myself here?

Where the hell have we been? (wait, didn't I ask this in the last post?!?)

The last post talked about something that finally happened in the 16+ years I've been working a job and something sadly most of us today might never experience... 1) being treated like a human being and equal at the job 2) being in the field / job you wanted to.

To somewhat summarize..I was trying to get out of a dead end "web dev" job.  I almost did that with the anime figure business and voice acting when Hurricane Sandy wiped much of that away (well, much of the figure business that is; voice acting helped a bit after).  Since the late 90's and after many years of being told of how stupid I was for doing it by "professionals" in Computer Science, I was always looking to be a game / app developer.  The forever unfinished game Tenshi-Oni and the characters from it whom are the mascots of this site came from a flash game idea I started in 2003.   Then I moved to IOS native and almost got Tenshi-Oni rolling out on IOS in 2012; yet another victim of that storm's aftermath.  This later turned to Unity development.

With voice acting picking up and getting the honor to write my own published IOS development book, I somehow broke free from the IT recruiter purgatory and got a Unity developer job in NYC for a major production company.  They sadly were wolves in sheep's clothing and I actually flat out quit them for the sake of my sanity and to not give such terribly ran places the satisfaction of having developers at 1/4th the pay and 4x the workload/stress.   During that time, my anime figure store's php code got nerfed by some .htaccess hack that I to this day haven't had the chance to undo. (just frontend stuff, nothing else in terms of logins and whatnot)

There was a silver lining in me quitting as within that week I got scooped up by a smaller yet much more awesome group of developers in NYC who were in desperate need for a Unity developer who worked with game and particularly non game work; something I did exclusively for the few months I was with that horrid & vapid production company.  Working with non game applications in Unity was (and still kind of is) something almost nobody is doing so I instantly became a need asset for this and other companies.  This was ALL without the help from IT recruiters who now more than ever come to me with roles, to which I gladly say, "sorry, I'm taken."  It's seriously like relationships...the moment you are taken, people want you.

Speaking of relationships.  I started this site only a month before I met my fiancee Danielle in April of 2002 and we got engaged..get this.. Xmas eve 2007.  The various trials of life always kept the wedding and a chance to move on in life far away.  Thing is, in about 3 weeks, Danielle and I will be finally married...FINALLY!  The wedding ceremony was officially signed for back in January....near the beginning of this long blog hiatus.

Up until now, the Unity work was indeed rather grueling with any all nighters and weeks of crazy debugging and fixes.  The app was for an awesome famous beer company who made the process much easier to bare (unlike the jewelry client I had the misfortune to work with under that production company).

However, to think I've abandoned this blog, the site, the figure store, Tenshi-Oni and the voice acting you are completely wrong ^_^

This crazy 2016 year:

So... if there aren't many posts after the one.. soon after the wedding on Sept 10th and the much needed 2 week honeymoon vacation, we will be hard at work to get back to regular posts, finally get the store back up, back to Tenshi-Oni work and maybe upgrade the look and feel of our sites as well. (feeling very 2007 around here).

This year has been the most insane, eventful year I have ever witnessed in my almost 33 years alive; not just for me personally but in terms of public news and events.. from the insanity brought on by Pokemon GO last month, to the anime and gaming news, to the wonderful and much needed death of Gawker and to the explosion in new emerging tech.  There is just too much to talk about and we should have been talking about more.  The internet moves fast and forgets fast but as always, we are still here and will soon catch the next wave back into the fray.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Anime Invades Las Vegas

 Use anime on almost anything and it will become an instant hit due to its vast global appeal. Today its popularity has made it where our favorite series can be seen on clothes, shoes, bags, video games, and now, even slot machines in Las Vegas casinos.

 Anime is appreciated by both children and adults nowadays - the latter growing up watching Dragonball's Goku to Naruto. Now, it seems that anime's appeal has transcended to the grandest of casinos, as its artwork is being utilized as core themes on a slew of gaming machines. Even online slot machines have started incorporating anime. Spin Genie was one of the first portals to showcase the groundbreaking Koi Princess game which has garnered mainstream success among anime fans.

 Slot makers are even partnering up with triple-a game publishers to draw and animate character designs for slot machines in order to attract people who adore them. Konami, in particular, has created several titles with anime themes such as Pretty Devil and Sakura Lady. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until other video game companies follow Konami's lead, as the market for these kinds of games are huge. A quick glance at Play Store or iTunes' casino game genre and you’ll see just how many people play these kinds of games. And that's just the free-to-play games. Right now, apart from anime, there's an ongoing trend where slot machines are using commercially licensed themes from pop culture and superheroes from both Marvel and DC. For instance, the Superman slot is extremely cool given its animations and realistic sounds – a far cry from the traditional slot machines that only feature bars, 7s, and cherries on their reels. There's also a Star Trek slot machine now, which presents players with awesome graphics as well as snippets from classic Star Trek episodes whenever players hit the jackpot.

 It looks inevitable that we’ll see more anime-themed slots in the near future what with the popularity of the genre. What are your favorite anime titles? Let us know in the comments section below.
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