Friday, October 4, 2013

And here's the reason I call these maps "fast-food" maps.

The osu! society seems it's come to accept a general standard for maps - of course, maps they think are very good, maps they think they deserve the praise. This standard... well, I can't say it's bad they want to play good stuff, but... the way I see it, they seem to think it's awesome to play the same map over and over again. I think people have started to reject maps that aren't in this standard because they seem weird, just because they're not mapped the way they expected to. Weird stuff is often considered by popular culture as ugly because it's not understood; it's just not fair.

The process repeats over and over again, from mapping that anime song, getting modders, getting it ranked... god, it's become so incredibly repetitive. I've complained in the past how people seem to map the same thing again and again, and now I'm complaining about how they map it the same way again and again. The sad thing is, people over at osu! enjoy it this way and don't complain.

But first, an important question has come to mind: why is it I think this way? Is it just because I have a stick in the ass, because I hate the new generation of osu! mappers, or...? It might be because I think so highly of my own maps, then I present myself with other maps and I think "this is nowhere near as good as I thought it would be", and I admit that's then just a matter of ego. But I believe I have legitimate reasons to think lowly of these other maps, reasons I'm about to present here.

Ever since I heard it from Egoraptor (awesome video, I recommend you watch it if you haven't), I have always remembered the metaphor where... one compares fast-food to high-quality food. He uses it to compare videogames, but it can also be applied to many other things, one of those things being beatmaps.
The heart of this metaphor is, there exist two kinds of quality, the fast food one and the high quality one. People can enjoy both, but they're really very different: the fast food quality centers its focus on quantity, effectiveness to produce and time used to consume, while the refined quality doesn't. The refined quality will always be better though; even though it's harder to produce, even though there might be less, and even though it might not last much, this one will always leave you a bigger satisfaction feeling, while the fast quality always makes you reach for more.

It might have been just me, but somewhere between 2008 and 2009 I started to recognize in some maps what I started to call "chinese style". I admit, that's silly, but honest, that's what I called it, and it's because I believed those maps were always created by chinese or asian people. The thing was, they looked kinda the same. And then it started to become more popular, with also affecting the hitsounding and stuff like that. You can almost be sure you can press Random Beatmap in osu! and you'll get a map that looks chinese. And this "chinese style" is what I'm calling now "fast-food style", because mappers from other regions have started to imitate this style too.

First of all: why? Well, basically, what I said earlier becomes true: these maps are easier to produce and easier to play. That's why.

Why do I say it's easier to produce? Basically, these chinese maps all go similarly: similar flow, similar spacing, you get me. They all started to get very fast pacing as recently, but it's still the same. And how are these maps built? I presume it goes something like this:
"Okay, I'll place a beat here. The next beat must go here. The next one here, and then I'll use a triple here, because it sounds nice. Oh, oh! An intense phrase is coming up! Let's create a stream then~ oh, and I guess I'll increase the distance snap multiplier while I'm at it." Let's keep in mind this is, of course, using distance snap. All mappers love distance snap, and while it's a very useful tool, using it this way is not right.

What do I think is the problem here? Basically, I presume all mappers think this on the fly. And they decide the general direction of sliders and the flow very randomly; like, there's really no solid, recognizable shapes around. While the mapper may have the necessary skill to hitsound the map in a good way, and give it a solid structure, spacing and flow... it's not the same as a high quality beatmap.

Let's also keep in mind, most asian mappers don't follow the lyrics; they prefer to map the drumline, which means it's even easier to produce - you don't have to listen as many times to the song to learn the proper drumming rhythm. And this means using triples everywhere, which reduces the originality even more.

Now, why do I say it's easier to play too? Building on what I just said, these maps look the same and follow almost the same rhythm. By just understanding how one is built, you can play several; you don't need to listen or know the song beforehand, because you can read the similar spacing and play the similar rhythm. If you have a fast-pace style dominated, you can almost always get S on any of these maps.
This easy playability was accepted back then because farming was the main factor of ranking up; now it's just accepted because it's what everyone else does, so it's become the main standard to make maps people like.

Okay, so this wise-ass is blabbering a lot about my favorite maps; if that's not a quality map, then what is?  A high-quality beatmap is the contrary of this; it's a well thought beatmap, with thought-of beforehand and well designed shapes. A beatmap that follows the most unique attribute of a song: the vocal line. A beatmap that represents this vocal line in the most creative way possible. That's what I say.
Why do I say this? Because the other maps are very forgettable, because the other maps may feel messy (because they lack design), because the other maps don't give you that satisfaction feeling. All these maps rely on their song and structure to provide fun, but they lack the most important artistic aspect, creativity. Often, I feel those maps don't do justice to the songs, because they represent the song as "whatever". Creating well-thought out beatmaps, instead of doing it on-the-fly, is what true beatmap design is about.

There are very few creative mappers out there now, but there still are. I often attribute myself as creative, even though I may lack heavily on other technical aspects like flow or spacing, so it's like I'm the contrary of chinese. Well, I encourage you to be the judge, whether creativity is better or you prefer fast-food!

God, I always manage to write a lot about these kind of things. And I just realized this probably should be on my other blog... but well, this is more like a formal complaint rather than a mapping lesson. Teehee.

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