Sunday, April 1, 2018

Provisional RKSF Developer Diary - Breaking Silence

"Every thought is a battle... Every breath is a war...
...and I don’t think I’m winning anymore."
Hi, everyone!  It's been a while!

I'm sorry for the lengthy silence these past few months.  There's a long story behind it - one that would fit better as the plot to a bad soap opera than the story of my life.  Lately, it feels like every minor internet celebrity has been opening up about their own battles with depression.  Seeing people I respect speak so candidly about their experiences has reassured me that the time is right for me to do the same.

Before we begin:  I'm well aware of the tradition behind today's date.  Unfortunately for all of us, this post is not an April Fool's joke.

Now, you might not know it from how I usually present myself, but I've been struggling with the notion of what it means to "be a man" for decades.  I grew up in a hyper-masculine household alongside my three physically-gifted younger brothers, raised by an abusive father and a well-meaning but deeply-superstitious mother.  My childhood memories were not happy ones, often involving me being beaten and ridiculed by my father, my brothers, and the people I naively thought were my friends (really, they were more like bullies who enjoyed having a naive airhead around).  I was trusting and sensitive - two significant liabilities in a culture that glorifies "manly men" who take what they want and get shit done.  I've lost track of how many times I've been called a "wuss", a "pansy", a "faggot", a "fucking crybaby", and countless variations of the idea that I'm "not man enough".  To top it off, I was often punished for things that I had nothing to do with because no one wanted to hear me out and no one tried to back me up.  Have you ever been crank-called by a "friend" pretending to be a collections agent for a video store, accusing you of racking up an inordinate amount in late fees for failing to return overdue porn... and have your father immediately start screaming at you, refusing to even consider that the caller might be making shit up?

As you can imagine, I hold a deep-seated hatred for scapegoating to this day.

Written by a sociopath who thought I was deluded
for wanting to start my own translation company.
I'm not looking to write a memoir at the moment, so I'll skip ahead to the recent past instead of walking you through my childhood.  Despite the many traumatic events I've been through (or, perhaps, because of them), I've made a point of living my life honestly, being kind and thoughtful to everyone I meet.  That philosophy has backfired on me in spectacular fashion on many occasions.  Once, I unwittingly became the only friend to a lazy, entitled, misanthropic shut-in with a persecution complex and a massive chip on his shoulder - a spoiled brat who was convinced that the only way this "rotten" world could get any better was with him ruling it as its "benevolent dictator".  Suffice to say, I stopped associating with him the moment I realized he was a bonafide monster.  His response?  He spent the next six months stalking me and harassing my coworkers like a psychotic ex-girlfriend.  He only stopped when I threatened to press charges against him and have him arrested.  The last I'd heard of him, he'd been committed...

In the past year or so, I've been taking stock of the relationships that have had the most influence in my life.  I've come to realize that my father may have ended the physical abuse ages ago, but he never stopped the emotional manipulation and mental abuse.  He would often ring me up, complain about my (very well-off) brother's promises to take care of him in his old age (which he never made good on), and bemoan having to live on a "fixed income" from his pension (make that pensions - he receives money every month from three different governments), guilt-tripping me into offering him money to fund his daily trips to the restaurant and casino.  This past August, it dawned on me that I was taking care of a deadbeat who actively antagonized me whenever I needed help, yet kept trying to wring money out of me like a stereotypical mobster (his latest voicemail actually included the "where's my money?!" cliché).  The next time he came to collect, I gave him a piece of my mind, called him on his bullshit, and, going forward, refused to give him another penny.

I haven't spoken to him since.

It kind of goes without saying that I haven't had much success with women over the years.  I spent my teens and all but the final month of my twenties single.  My female friends (many of whom I was attracted to) were shocked to find out that, in their own words, a sweet, selfless guy like me couldn't get a date, far less a girlfriend.  That sentiment frustrated me to no end.  After all, I'd asked some of them out before, and the "best" response I'd often received was some variation of "I don't know", "I've never thought about it", or "I've never looked at you that way before".  They knew the answer to their own question far better than I ever could; it was far more likely that they just didn't have the heart to come out and tell me why they didn't find me attractive.

Never underestimate the
healing power of a warm hug.
My luck began to turn around a little before my 30th birthday, when an attendee to a panel I had hosted the previous year emailed me out of the blue, asking to pick my brain for an essay she was writing.  We got to know each other and eventually met up in person, and hit it off far better than either of us expected.  Thus began the best year of my life, with me finally getting a girlfriend, moving out of my parents' basement,  getting my own place with a couple of good friends as my roommates, and RKS finally being licensed for English release (with our motley crew handling the translation).  My new girlfriend's mother often invited me out to lunch - even asking me to join them for family outings - always making sure that our relationship was free of problems.  I was a bit jealous; my father never showed this degree of interest or involvement in my life...  His motto, which he repeated quite often, was, "me, myself, and fuck you" (though, being the asshole he is, he always accused others of never considering his needs - classic projection there, folks).

The problem with romantic relationships is that, early on, you tend to turn a blind eye to your partner's faults, and those faults can often lead to a lot of heartache.  I don't think it's entirely appropriate to criticize my now-ex-girlfriend's flaws in public.  But, to give you an idea of her personality: when a friend of mine insisted I play through HuniePop, I could swear that the character of Nikki was based on my ex (right down to the specifics of her texting me in the middle of the night about being unable to sleep because of a creepypasta she'd chanced upon - the similarities were uncanny).  I reluctantly broke things off when I realized our values were completely incompatible.  Still, we remained very close for a solid year before trying to see other people.  Even then, we remained good friends, with her frequently asking me for advice regarding her new relationships and me lending a hand whenever she needed it.

Now, when a couple is no longer a couple, there are many things you used to do before that are no longer acceptable after you've stopped being intimate.  In the past two years or so, my ex has crossed the boundaries of acceptable behavior quite often.  One such transgression (which I won't describe in detail - sorry) led to me breaking off contact with her for nearly a year.  This past summer (before I gave my father a piece of my mind), she reached out to me, in similar fashion to how we first met, to pick my brain for a panel she was hosting at Otakuthon.  I decided to help her out after I'd made sure that she understood why I'd stopped talking to her.  And, seeing that she'd genuinely learned from her mistake, I formally forgave her on her birthday the following month, giving her the present I had planned on giving her the year prior (with a few other things I knew she would enjoy).

Let's skip ahead a few months.

In December, my ex-girlfriend texted me at three in the morning, getting worked into a frenzy about someone badmouthing a game she was looking forward to, and spiraled into a tirade about her needing to distance herself from every fanbase she was a part of that wasn't "manly".  Long story short, she has always been insecure about liking things that others frequently lambasted (even when their comments were without merit), and often ranted about praiseworthy characters needing to be badasses and not whiny emos with daddy issues.  She was a tomboy to the extreme and actively despised anything feminine (her obsession with "manliness" was just one of the reasons that I knew we weren't a good match for each other).  Despite my protests, she persisted in trash-talking her favorites, even those as acclaimed as Cowboy Bebop.  Even when I underscored how late at night it was and that I had work the next morning, she kept going.  When she refused to stop, I was justifiably angry.  So, I ended the conversation in no uncertain terms and stopped talking to her for several weeks.

In mid-January, a good friend of mine - one I hadn't seen in a long time - suddenly passed away.  His young death took me (and everyone else) by surprise.  He was the fourth person close to me to pass away in the last twelve months, but the first who was significantly younger than me.  I realized that there was no sense in continuing to give my ex the cold shoulder.  After all, she was still one of my best friends, and neither of us could know how much time we had left in this world.  So, I broke the news to her, and forgave her for her earlier tirade.

This was on a Monday.  Skip ahead to the Thursday of that same week...

I had the day off and was relaxing at home, idly chatting with my ex-girlfriend about her love life since she started talking about her latest ex.  After one of her typical tangents comparing the people she knows to anime and game characters, I asked if I could be totally honest with her for a moment.  Seemingly sensing what I was going to say, my ex asked me if I thought she had Asperger's Syndrome.  I already knew the truth of the matter: her mother had previously confessed to me that she was "special" during our regular lunch meetups, and that her invitations were her way of checking in with me to see if her daughter's condition was under control.  I figured, since we had been so close for five years now, it was about time for me to be fully honest with the most important girl in my life regarding herself.  So, I told her the truth...

Big mistake.

My ex-girlfriend freaked out, thinking I had just called her a monster.  I tried to calm her down, reassuring her that I'd always be there for her.  I tried to show her that many notable autistics, including Dan Aykroyd, Tim Burton, and Dan Harmon, were not looked down upon for their condition - in fact, it actually worked in their favor (Aykroyd has confessed, on the record, that his autism helped lead to the creation of Ghostbusters, and Harmon's condition inspired both the characters of Abed in Community and Rick in Rick & Morty).  But she wouldn't hear it.  She was a devoted member of the Fighting Game Community, where the term "aspie" was thrown around as a casual insult.  Then, she made bewildering a statement about needing to quit the FGC and kill herself.

I should note that my ex often made suicidal comments before, seemingly for dramatic effect.  My former roommate hated this about her, and called her on how ignorant, irresponsible, and disrespectful speaking so lightly about suicide is to the genuinely suicidal.  Still, this time seemed a bit different.  When she ended the conversation so she could head to class, I quickly Googled nearby suicide-prevention centers... and realized that I didn't know where she was at the time.  Hoping this was just my imagination running wild, I pushed the matter to the back of my mind and joined my roommates in the living room...

Again, big mistake.

The next time my ex-girlfriend texted me a couple of hours later was from the hospital.  On her way home from class, she had tried to jump into the subway tracks.  Thankfully, an onlooker saw her, stopped her, and called for help.  I didn't ask if she was alright since the answer was pretty damned obvious (of course she wasn't okay - she'd just tried to kill herself!).  My priority was on making sure that she was in good hands.  I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that that she had tried to do something so transparently stupid.  Once I was sure that she was getting the care she needed (which, as luck would have it, was about the time a nurse came by to confiscate her phone for the night), I said goodnight and immediately called her home to inform her family of the situation.  When I got the answering machine, I left a message, then reached out to her father on Facebook, hoping I could reach the family that way.

Three big mistakes in one day.  Not a record I'm proud of setting.

The moment I hit "Send", her mother returned my call.  To say she was furious would be the understatement of a lifetime.  She demanded that I listen to her every word, and asserted that my ex and I had broken up ages ago.  She then proceeded to throw all of her hate at me, begging to know why I wouldn't let her baby go - why I was trying to reel her in again (?) - and why I hated her so much (?!?).  Her voice went from seething rage to uncontrollable sobbing.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a word in.  After who-knows-how-long, her husband took the phone.  Once he had confirmed that it wasn't his daughter on the line, he hung up on me.

I'd like to know that myself.
I was dumbstruck.  The last time I'd seen the woman, I was proud of the fact that my breakup with her daughter had transitioned our relationship from a romantic one to a deeply-meaningful friendship.  My exact words at the time were, "if all breakups went this way, the world would be a much better place" (for comparison, my youngest brother and the mother of his now-teenage daughter are legally prohibited from being anywhere near each other).  She was happy for us that day; now, she utterly despised me.

For a long while, I didn't know who or what I was, or if anything I did ultimately had any redeeming value.

Something to keep in mind:  I'd recently come to terms with the fact that my father saw me as little more than a walking ATM.  My career in game localization didn't seem like it was going anywhere (more on that later) - it felt like my sociopath of a stalker might have been right about me deluding myself into thinking I could succeed.  My ex-girlfriend had been through two relationships since our breakup (one with an entitled Nice Guy™ who turned into a needy stalker himself), whereas I couldn't get a single date in the four years since our breakup.  A good friend of mine had just died a few days ago.  My father often insisted that I never appreciated anything - was that the truth?  Was I really a wimpy, unwanted, immature failure, wasting nine years of my life chasing an unreachable dream, stubbornly refusing to let go of the only intimate relationship I'd ever had?  And, by not letting it go, I'd pushed my ex-girlfriend to suicide?

It took a long while to realize that I'd been scapegoated yet again.  Mental gymnastics can really pull one over on you, especially when you're already emotionally vulnerable.  Cultists and televangelists exploit this all the time.  It took a long time, and the support and reassurance of the people who know me better than I know myself, to get my head on straight again.

I haven't heard a word from my ex-girlfriend or her family.  If any of them try to reach out to me, we'll see how things go.

I'm slowly rebuilding my confidence, and my real friends are doing what they can to help me out.  I'd like you to lend me a hand with the part of my life that you play the biggest part in:

It's been over a year since Rosenkreuzstilette was released on Steam, and half a year since Freudenstachel saw its English debut.  Despite reaching out to numerous gaming news sites and offering them review copies free-of-charge, the better-known outlets have given the games next to no coverage.  Neither game has a Metacritic score (a title needs four reviews from noteworthy sites to obtain one; RKS only has one, while RKSF has none), and articles specifically about Megaman fans creating their own spiritual successors written after Mighty No. 9 failed to live up to expectations didn't seem interested in acknowledging that the series even exists.  To think, we delayed our first release specifically to avoid undermining Mighty No. 9 success...

In any event, I've already collected the material for my next RKSF Developer Diary.  I'll roll that out once I have a bit more time to spare.  In the meantime, I'd like to ask you to contact your favorite gaming websites, your favorite YouTube personalities, and your favorite streamers, especially outspoken Megaman fans.  Jim Sterling recently noted in his "Steam Isn't Fine" video that indie developers have a truly hard time being noticed on Steam, and I can confirm firsthand that this is true.  Do what you can to spread the word about the game.  Share Hadriex's smarmy trailer.  Suggest a topic like "Top Ten Megaman Clones" to ScrewAttack, MojoPlays and other YouTube gaming channels.  Let the world know that Megaman has had a pair of worthy spiritual successors for years, but very few people are interested in giving them a fair shake.

Let them know what those who played it think:
"This game is what Mighty No. 9 wishes it had been."
"Keiji Inafune - Take Notes!"
- "This is where all the anime fans on prom night went after being rejected by M#9."

A number of people decided to check out RKS after Alpharad's "Not Mega Man: The Anime Adventure" video hit YouTube.  That means that our target audience is there.  But, I'm afraid that, once Megaman 11 is released, Rosenkreuzstilette will fade into obscurity.

I've done what I can to try and promote RKS.  I need you, the true fans, to do your part and help the games reach their audience.  Emails, videos, artwork, cosplay...  Do what you can to spread the word on these underrated gems.  Show me that the last nine years of my life were well-spent, investing in a community that is far more than it appears to be.

Thank you for lending this April Fool your ear.  My thirty-fifth birthday is only four days away, and I'm ready to finally put an end to this third-life crisis...

8 comments:

  1. I was touched after reading this diary.
    My personal thought, the reason why the RKS games didn't get attention of the more "mainstream" online media is because they are not even retail sale-able games at first place, and both games came out a long period ago before indie games actually get their deserved mainstream attention. It just needs time to prove the direction of original developer was actually done right if the mainstream voices are not drunk.

    You did a outstandingly well job for further introducing the RKS games to English speaking players and Steam community environment, and the returning RKS games, with slightly newer faces, brought me a much more exciting joy time in the year 2017 than I ever expected. You have my thanks!

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  2. I don't claim to have any understanding of what you have been through but I can simply say that I will support this game as much as I can.

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  3. I think making RKS more popular is a lost cause, especially with Mega Man 11 on the horizon, hell WOMI doesn't even care enough to do an April Fools joke anymore.

    Also take into consideration that attempts to make RKS more popular tend to backfire horribly like Flashman85's live stream where he died so much his fans decided the game was worse than Mighty Number 9. Probably the reason RKS didn't even get so much as a nod in MAGMML 2.

    RKS's fate is to rot in obscurity alongside the other Mega Man clones on Steam like Meta Gal, Mibibil's Quest and Magnetta, it's sad but there's not much that can be done to change that.

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  4. Hey, for what is worth, you guys did a great job. I look forward to your next work.

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  5. Okay, so recently I played Freudenstachel, and I couldn't help but notice Clyde Mandelin (of MOTHER 3 Fan Translation fame) in the Special Thanks credits. Did he actually partake in the project (even if it was a small part), or was he just an inspiration you couldn't leave out?

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  6. Making RKS more popular probably won't happen, but I'm definitely glad you guys localized it. It gave me quite a few hours of fun.

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  7. Hey TDOMMX. Not sure where else to post this, but do you still accept bug reports? Because I think I might have a bug to report regarding Pamela's magic circles in Rosenkreuzstilette Freudenstachel (the bug apparently has already been exploited in speedruns). This bug is where the magic circles don't damage Freudia at all when she's in front of Pamela and the magic circles come back towards Pamela. A better view of this would through this video: https://youtu.be/1lKoSiuUtzk?t=12m18s

    Apparently, this bug has been in existence ever since the game was first released. And since you guys have been fixing some bugs in Freudenstachel, maybe you can fix this (unless this "bug" is intentional).

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  8. I discovered about this series when a brazillian let's player started to upload videos about this game, and it had already caught up my attention on the first episode of his let's play. I bought both the first game and Freudenstachel some days ago, and while playing these games I could do nothing but be amazed about how much effort was put onto them. I reviewed it as user score today on Metacritic and will do later with Freudenstachel. If you are the creator of the series, congratulations, the positive reviews on these games were very well deserved.

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