Crowdsourcing: Kagai! Design Assistance.

school-uniforms_00410775So Kagai! (which is my game of gory, Japanese B-Movie, ero-guro action) is just about done – it’s only a mini game – but I’d like to solicit some help.

I need to know what people would like to know about the setting and the game elements, if they were going to play or run it. What guidelines and assistance they would like to have. Here’s some basic info on the game, tell me the kinds of things you’d like/need to know so I can wrap this puppy up!

Elevator Pitch

The world has been invaded by monsters straight out of people’s nightmares and most of the world population is dead, or at war. One place is a little bit safer, a hyper-consumerist, high-tech Japanese arcology. Most of the remaining population is women and you’re a class of schoolgirls from the arcology who do a bit of vigilante monster hunting on the side, in a game styled after the hyper-kinetic, b-movie gorefests of Japanese B-list cinema. The system emphasises team tactics and differs from many games in that you roll first and then describe what you do from what you’ve rolled, rather than vice versa. You can also save dice for following turns, or push them into a pool for everyone to use.

Example Character

smoopIma Hasegawa – Age 18
Heterosexual.
Factory worker family.
Mother was killed by monsters, Father died in the war. Twin sister, Imako. Younger sister Ami – 16
She fights for kicks, getting a perverse excitement from it.
She fights with a baseball bat, Power +2, Accuracy -1.
Punk style.

Power: 3
Agility: 3
Coordination: 3
Fitness: 3
Social: 2
Beauty: 3
Awareness: 3
Smarts: 3
Health: OOOOOO
Defence: 2
Initiative: 6
Genki: OOOOO

Design & Technology: 1
English Language: 1
Geography: 1
Gym: 3
History: 1
Japanese Language: 1
Mathematics: 1
Science: 1
Social Studies: 1

Art: 0
Computing: 1
Home Economics: 3
Music: 4
Religious Studies: 0
Extracurricular Activities
Baseball: 4
Jiu-Jitsu: 2

Hand to hand attack: 5D, Power 3D.
Baseball bat attack: 6D, Power 5D.

tumblr_mrdlofu9sl1s4p4pro1_500Example Combat (Minion)

Ima is exploring a blood-stained contraception clinic in the lower levels when a pantsless zombie falls out of a cupboard and lurches at her, groaning ‘Booooobs…’

Ima only manages to roll one success for initiative, while the pantsless zombie she’s fighting manages to get 2.

It lunges forward, but it’s not pantsless exactly, they’re around its ankles, so with zero successes it fails to grab hold of her.

Backing away, Ima swings her bat and gets one success. That’s enough to hit a zombie (defence 1) but leaves her no extra dice. Rolling damage she gets two successes and decides to do that as damage, to make it easier to kill later on, if need be. It’s not a special hit, just a Health hit, a solid smash in the chest, fracturing a couple of ribs.

This time the zombie grabs hold of her, practically tripping over its own pants and tumbling into her, all stinking hands and foul, drooling mouth. The zombie barely hit and did one damage – rolling a 5. Rather than do any damage though, the Games Master pulls the zombie’s dice, saving it for another action.

Ima tries to get it off her, struggling using her jiu-jitsu. Neither her, nor the zombie, roll any successes but since she’s already grappled she remains grappled.

Pressing the attack the zombie gets two successes – enough to hit – and bites at her for 3D damage, getting one success. The Games Master decides to hold onto that two, giving the zombie two extra dice in his pool of pulled dice.

Ima strives to struggle free, getting one success – matched by the zombie. Spending Genki gets her an extra dice and a success. The zombie tries to use his own pool but fails to get any more successes and is thrown off, landing with a thump and immeditely scrabbling back at her but failing to get hold.

meh.ro9030Ima throws everything into her next attack and gets two successes, one more than she needed, which she throws into damage. With the bonus she rolls four successes for damage, but wants to get five so she can take out the zombie with a single stroke. Spending more Genki she fails – sadly – to get the success she needs and so banks the four successes with a pull action. The swing lashes out, over the head of the zombie, stalling it and giving her a great wind-up for her next attack.

Desperately the hunched over zombie makes a grab for her legs, but only gets one success – where it needed two. Its hands slip of her legs.

Ima swings down, dumping her previously banked dice into the attack. She gets four successes and banks three of them for damage after the one to hit. On the damage roll she finally gets five successes! Enough to damage the zombie’s smarts (1) and crush its skull.

“My bat strikes the top of the zombies head and smashes its skull open like a rotten gourd. Brains splash in all directions, staining my legs. A fragment of brain hits my cheek. I lick it up with my tongue and spit it out onto the zombie’s corpse.”

“Gross, regain one Genki.”

rape_zombie_ps201Sword-Fodder and Big Bads

Zombies aren’t the real point of the game, ‘big bads’ are. Tough and very dangerous monsters that require luck and friends to destroy. Being able to push dice means that characters can work together, help each other out and be good at things – like causing distractions – that aren’t directly combat, but which help everyone else.

Questions

So what would you want to know about the setting, the rules, the background? What tools would you like to help you run games? A random monster generator? Some example monsters? How in depth would the background need to be? What could I do to make it cool and to sell you on the idea?

Review: HuniePop

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:09:48

(Disclosure: I got a copy in order to support the producers and show willing against fuss, censorship and wild and crazy missing-the-point that was going on. I am absolutely biased in favour of supporting adult material being available and against prudery).

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:10:36

Ladies, ladies, one at a time!

The Game

HuniePop (Hunie to rhyme with Honey) is a strange hybrid of a game, part ‘Dating Simulator’ and part ‘Puzzle Game’. It combines a cast of characters that you are trying to seduce by giving them gifts, learning about them and taking them on dates with a match-three game in the style of Bejewelled. Its a peculiar sort of mix and given that there are plenty of free, pirated or dubbed dating sims and erotic games out there (courtesy of Japan and teams of dedicated western perverts) why would you buy one?

Story

In one of a great many knowing winks to the audience and the stereotypes of the genre, HuniePop starts you out as a hopeless loser with all the sexual charisma of a dugong in a blue rave wig. You have the lucky stroke of haphazardly hitting on what turns out to be a Love Fairy from the magical land of Sky Garden and she sets out to straighten you up and unleash your inner stud.

This consists of teaching you how to tell women what they want to hear, to give them gifts, to remember details about them when they ‘test’ you, and to play the match-three game as an abstract representation of your conduct and capability on dates. Play the games well, say the right things and you’ll impress them. Eventually you’ll impress them enough to get them into bed and with persistence and skill you can bed every character in the game and unlock new characters to seduce in turn.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:13:00

All your panties are belong to me.

The game does lack an ‘ending’. Some of these sorts of games have you choosing a particular girl at the end to settle down with and to end your ‘playa’ days. That might have been a good cap to the game story, even though story in these games is most often just a veneer to supply a reason for sexyfuntimes, and that’s fine. When you’re paying for a game like this you might want a little more.

Gameplay

Talking to the girls is mostly a matter of figuring out their stereotype and understanding what answer is best to give them. The game has taken a bit of flak for its stereotyping, especially when it is playing up to national stereotypes, but it is done with a nod and a wink and in terms of gameplay it gives the player a decent ‘in’ into figuring out what to say to them.

Gifts cost money and you get money for completing dates. You can also up your skill in things like ‘sexuality’ or ‘romance’ by earning points in conversation with the girls and giving them gifts. The more gifts you can give, the more points you can get to make your skill better and that, in turn, makes the match-three game easier to complete.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:13:55

Beli is my waifu.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:15:28

Outfit and hair customisation is a nice touch.

You’ll also get gifts in return, special items that you can use during the match-three game for special effects like extra turns, removing bobbles of different types (they’re thematic and different characters are more impressed by different types) and so forth.

You can also buy food and drink which lets you talk to your date longer or get her tipsy, which lets you be more charming and earn more points. After you’ve finished talking you can invite the girl onto a date and once you’ve succeeded on a date four or five times you can angle for a night date, which if you succeed on lets you take the girl to bed.

In the bedroom you play a different version of the match-three game where it’s really all about speed. You get a bar that constantly decreases and you’re trying to match bobbles as fast as you can to push the bar all the way up to the top – at which point you’re rewarded with the ‘pay off’. A bare booby shot in the censored version, a money-shot in the uncensored version. There’s no fail-state on this game and that makes it more frustrating than rewarding, a separate mini-game with a fail-state might have made this part more interesting and given the game greater longevity.

Gifts and dating success also unlock other, more innocent, images which the girls text to you – a nod to modern dating – as well as unlocking customisation options for the girls – hairstyle and clothing.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:16:27

The dating screen.

 

Presentation

The art is done in an anime-ish style, part of the weird circle of influence from the US to Japan and back. It’s pretty good and well executed. The girls have a distinctive look and the voice acting is a nice touch, making the game more charming and fun (even when you’re being sworn at by the megabitch) than its free alternatives.

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:21:10

The sexy fun-times screen.

 

The writing isn’t fantastic, but you do get a sense of the personalities of the different girls. Much of the reason for the writing issues, such as they are, is as a result of playing up to the expectations of the genre. What girl would really be impressed at you asking her bust size, let alone remembering it? (Unless you were buying her lingerie as a gift).

Screenshot from 2015-01-27 20:23:19

Beats the hell out of unsolicited dick pics.

 

The game’s well done, it runs on linux as well as PC and Mac, which is nice. The lock-out of the adult content on Steam is annoying, but fairly easily fixed. It’s just a pointless, needless, roundabout way of doing things and you really might as well just have the full-on adult version available on the platform.

There’s barely any animation, something that would have been nice to see and would have helped the characterisation some more.

All in all you don’t need great presentation for these kinds of games, but by the standards of these games this is very nicely done.

Score
Please note that typical magazine/site scores are biased upwards. On my scale 3 is truly average – and that’s not to say anything bad. A 3 is a perfectly worthwhile and fun game, it’s just not outstanding.
Style:
4 (Nicely presented, fun, charming characterisation).
Substance:
3 (There could easily have been more depth, more options in conversation and some more spins on the game. A decent end to the storyline and a bit more writing and ambition could have improved this massively).
Overall:
3.5 (Worth buying in order to stick-it-to-the-man and to see if the studio can do even better).

Commentary

There’s the review. Here’s the opinion:

Dating Sims Vs Bioware

The dating sim is a weird subgenre of games and one I’d likely not have heard of if it hadn’t been for being an early-adopter on the anime front back in the 80s and 90s or my fascination with sexuality in media and games. HuniePop definitely plays up to the expectations of the genre and they’re not particularly flattering to men or women (lie and buy your way into people’s pants and be shallow enough to be fooled by that, respectively).

Dating sims, especially the erotic ones, get a lot of flak. Partially because any and all pornography and erotica does but also because of the reasons I gave above. There’s an element of taking it too seriously when you’re talking about a wank-game, but there’s also an element of truth. I give HuniePop props for understanding the ridiculousness of the genre and making fun of itself (one of the characters even calls you racist – with a laugh – for giving stereotyped gifts) but the next step is probably to go beyond parody and to try and improve the genre.

People who criticise games like HuniePop as being shallow, but praise Bioware’s games such as Mass Effect or Dragon Age for their romantic and sexual components are, frankly, being hypocrites. To bed a Bioware hottie you do exactly the same things that you do in HuniePop. You tell them what they want to hear and you give them gifts (sometimes in the form of quests). Indeed, you could see Dragon Age Inquisition is simply being a really, really over-bloated dating sim.

The success of both Bioware and HuniePop dating sims definitely shows there’s an audience for romantic and sexual material, beyond the bounds of the ring-fenced niche of the porno-game.

Steam & Censorship

Steam – in the form of Dread Lord Gaben himself no less – recently stepped in to reverse a decision to censor the game Hatred. A rather graphic game of mass murder. This was the right decision, absolutely to make. However, in order to unlock HuniePop’s truly adult version you have to dick around with adding a small file to your install to remove the restrictions.

This is pointless.

This is especially pointless when there’s a thread on the Steam forum itself, with Steam’s blessing, telling everyone how to get around it.

What may be going on here may be a problem relating to payment processing, advertisers and some of the other companies selling via steam. Some of these services are weirdly touchy about adult material, don’t want to be associated with it or use the shaming that adult material encounters as an excuse to add surcharges.

HuniePop’s fix to this issue might be a pointless and needless workaround, but it also might be a way for Steam itself to hold up the middle finger to censors. There’s no real way of knowing, but it’s a frustrating situation. Adult material should have access to the same markets and points of sale as anyone else.

Ambitions for Adult Games

The idea of treating adult material in a mature and integrated manner is one I’m somewhat obsessive over. HuniePop and others make me want to work on adult material more and make me want to move forward on erotica versions of Choose Your Own Adventure books. The form needs to be more ambitious though, to go beyond eye-candy to engage the mind in the way that the best written erotica, a very few films and experiments with erotic ASMR have been going. Equally, it would be nice to see the big development studios truly commit to the half-hearted efforts in Bioware games or The Witcher.

The rise of the indie is an opportunity to do it right and to aim a little bit higher.

Tentacles? I’m Getting Deja Vu

So… THIS popped up on my stream today.

I was, shall we say, nonplussed.

I was also nonplussed, but not surprised, to see the RAAAAAGE going on HERE and HERE about it.

From what I can see this game is really, tame as anything. There’s no graphic depictions here, it’s pretty much suggestive and there’s certainly no ‘Carrots’ cards amongst this lot, and yet RAGE.

Personally? Well, I suppose I’m a little upset that someone else is taking my idea commercial. Over it’s lifespan the rights to Hentacle have been negotiated with three separate companies, all of whom chickened out at one hurdle or another. Now, not only have Soda Pop made tens of thousands of dollars from a crowdsourcing, but they’re going to make a shitpile more money from a much tamer execution of a game idea that’s so damn close to mine it’s painful.

Do I begrudge ’em? No. Not really. I’m just annoyed at seeing another success story go past with ideas stemming from or similar to mine. It’s happened before (Munchkin) and I’m sure it’ll happen again. I’m just one unlucky motherfucker apparently.

I’ve backed ’em and best of luck to ’em.

They’re still idea-stealing bastards though.

Give a washed up old game designer a break and BUY Hentacle or Cthentacle while you’re at it, eh?