Author: R. Hall

A UoW PhD student, looking at games, making games, and why we make games.

Middleware: Design Notes

Unicorn Dispatches

You might have noticed during the semester I was working in a small notebook. As it happens, I finished it today, almost on the last day of class – so I figured I’d sit down, cut out the content that relates to Middleware and Transfer San, and share it.

This is a lot of disjointed, confusing notes. Some of these ideas are just drawings, some are considerations of different ways to handle a card. Some are notes on card types, with a very structured approach!

Hopefully this is interesting to you!

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transfer-san Download

Unicorn Dispatches

transferTransfer-San is a short (10-15 minutes) Renpy videogame made as a class project made by Grifflon and myself. The game is a very simple science-fiction story that uses the framing device of a school-age visual novel set in a Japanese school to talk about the untranslateable nature of honorifics in Japanese and the ambiguity they can introduce in communication with non-Japanese speakers.

The game is free, and you can download it here:

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Middleware – Characters #2

Unicorn Dispatches

After yesterday’s showing, here are the last two starter characters for Middleware. Now, I plan on making it so characters are expandable, and therefore, these characters don’t represent all the game will potentially have. But these are a starting place and I can use them to inform and elaborate on mechanics.

The Shut-In

char splash (1)

The air outside’s not clean. The feeling of a crowd around me makes my chest tighten. I can’t breathe out there. I can’t fit in those places they tell me to be in. The only time I can function is when I can shut the door and breathe. I can take care of myself,as long as you don’t try to make me take care of myself like I’m just like you.

Who Are They? The Shut-in is an example of a Hikikomoricharacter, influenced by examples of western society’s socially-anxious remote-working liquid labour force…

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Middleware – Characters #1

Unicorn Dispatches

If you’ve been paying close attention you might notice that these blogs can be read in sequenceshowing the development of Middleware but that I also try to tie them to that day’s lecture. Today, no lecture. Technically, no need to do any work at all today, because I can be laaazy. But no!

Today we’re talking about characters. Tomorrow we’re going to talk a bit more, and the divide is going to be between the two characters who interest me most in terms of the values they reflect and tomorrow, we’ll deal with the most J-style.

Names are as always, stand-ins.

The Cop

char splash (1)

It started as a security force coalition. Corporate interests and police activities. Then it became invested, corporations spending money on financing her augmentations. Then came the blackout codes. The restrictions on her movements. She’d been built with the power of a tank to hunt someone

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Do You Know Hatsune Miku?

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Hey, check out this Dominos pizza promotion.

I’ll just give you a moment to adjust.

Okay, some things real quick. First things first, if this guy’s English language sounds a bit arch, that’s partly because he’s stating things so they can be optimally and easily translated into Japanese. It’s going to seem a bit odd to native speakers, but that’s a function of – well, of trying to make his language compatible with Japanese. Think of it as a Japanese script, translated into English. And that translation is more important than you think, because the Vocaloid phenomenon, from whence we get Hatsune Miku is a byproduct of Japanese’s language as a structure.

Without going into super detailed linguistics to explain these terms, Japanese is a fixed pronunciation syllabary. That is to say, Japanese words* are composed of syllables** rather than letters***, and those syllables always**** are pronounced the same…

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Standing Apart With Our Eyes Closed

Unicorn Dispatches

In my first piece examining Gojira I tried to look at the movie as a movie, and then react to what I saw. In my second piece, I was meant to examine that first piece and consider just what I was referencing, what I spoke about, the epiphanies and the personal experience of that media and how they illuminated things I did not necessarily understand about Asian cultures. That’s what I was meant to do.

But in the first piece, I talked about how Gojira connected to Japanese culture and things in Japanese history that it referenced. In my second piece I talked about how we put cultural distance between ourselves and Asian cultures, othering for some reason. And right now I guess, since I picked this up, I have to put it down somewhere.

Eventually this comes down to my reaction to being asked to react to Gojira as…

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Looking At Looking At Gojira

Unicorn Dispatches

Okay let’s pull this stuff apart, shall we?

When I wrote my first piece about Gojira, I treated it the way I treated every experience I have of looking at media. I sat there and tried to focus on what I could talk about. I thought about anchoring details, about ways to put that piece of media in a meaningful context. It seemed to me, natural, to look at Japanese history (World War 2) and the media history that followed Gojira to consider ideas emergent in one shifted through the years.

Thing is, I went straight to Japanese media that had things in common with Gojira (which is, really, almost all of them). I didn’t try to contextualise this media in light of my own experience, and provide some big glaring east-vs-west dynamic the way that autoethnography is usually useful for uncovering. Referencing Japanese media, in a language I…

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It starts, stark black, white text. A slightly primal shape to the characters, hard lines and stonelike edges.A text crawl creep up, unreadable. You have to peer down at the bottom of the screen to understand it, the characters sliding off high, explaining the context, the background. And then, a shot of the ocean. A story about coastguards, about missing boats, about frantic and terrified family members spirals around these special effects. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait –

because you know what’s coming.



Godzilla’s an amazing movie. It’s intense and edgy in a way that these days those words completely fail to hit. Cinema nerds study it. Videogame nerds study it. Dinosaur nerds study it. General Japanophiles study it. Every piece of media out of Japan in my lifetime has been made by people where Gojira was part of their media…

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