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Hi! I hope it's not too late for me to post this. I was following your devlog thread throughout the jam, and I apologize for never having commented on it – your ideas and mockups looked so good that I think I was intimidated. I like the game itself even more than I expected! You've created something really impressive and charming.

SPOILERS BELOW if anyone hasn't played it yet!

The ingredient puzzles mostly weren't hard for me, but I did have trouble with choosing the liquid for the Cat Thief's fog sprite. Magic rainwater creates clouds, which become fog when they're close to the ground, and the dark smoke in the illustration for Dragonflame ale also seemed to fit the Familiar's suggested keywords of "hiding" and "dark." Jeweled honey was actually the choice that seemed least likely to me! If the player was supposed to pick up on the association of jewels with thievery, the Familiar's suggestions don't point to that; if the idea was that the amber crystals "hide" in the honey, then the Familiar puts the player on the right track, but it was a little confusing for me because I thought the answer would relate to fog imagery.

I guess that's related to another note I have about the sprite recipes: they're ostensibly weather spells, but sometimes the right ingredient has less to do with weather than with something about the client. The pussywillow in the Cat Thief's recipe is the example that the Cloud Mage comments on (and that made me smile), but what puzzled me is that the Gryphon Gunner's recipe ends up being about courage and flight more than it is about sunny weather, which is what she had requested.

I didn't find the puzzles very difficult other than my trouble with connecting the associations. There were relatively few ingredients to combine (this isn't a criticism; it felt just right for the length of the game) and I realized after a while that the first three clients' recipe ingredients were mutually exclusive. Having the Plant Tamer's recipe break away from that pattern felt like a neat way of elevating the challenge a little, since it meant I couldn't just eliminate ingredients I'd used for previous clients, but it was still straightforward. I don't feel like the puzzles were too easy, because it didn't seem like challenge was really the point of this game. You said in your devlog that you wanted to depict how failure isn't the end of everything, and I think you accomplished that. (As a side note, I really appreciate that message, since I strongly identify with the Boo Boo Sprite.)

Just as a side note, I love that the spell formula consists of a plant for life energy, a liquid catalyst, and a sweet to feed the sprite. It makes sense in magical terms (if that's not a contradiction), while being distinct enough from other depictions of witchcraft that it's a great worldbuilding element, too.

I liked the characters a lot! I think my favorite was the Familiar – their* visual design is not only cute but also a neat way of depicting that they were made from the Cloud Mage's own energy, and I found them really endearing right from the introductory flyer-distribution conversation. The clients were all charming in unique ways, too. On the other hand, I feel like I didn't get a very good read on the Cloud Mage herself. She seems very business-minded, but she says "oh, fine, ruin my fun" when the Gryphon Gunner tries to bring her attention back to the spell; she jokes around with the Merserker after getting over her initial intimidation, but her attitude toward the Plant Tamer is completely serious and very accommodating, and I didn't know if I was meant to interpret that as her having a little crush on him or what. I get that she tends toward sarcasm and is more guarded about expressing sincerity, but I think what threw me off was that she seemed flippant about her business just as often as she seemed like a hard-working entrepreneur. This might all just be my own difficulties with character analysis showing, though, and her relationship with her Familiar felt sweet and authentic.

*I apologize if you used pronouns for the Familiar and I just missed them or forgot what they were!

A couple miscellaneous things:

  • On the first night, there's a line in the "Talk about being yourself" sequence where the Familiar says that the Cloud Mage failed a spell, even if the player succeeded at their spell that day. (Conversely, I did notice and appreciate that their night 4 conversation about underwater society changes a little if you first talk about the client.)
  • I love the music stopping when the Cat Thief makes his pun, but I think it'd be even more effective if it stopped right on that line, rather than on the next one.
  • Near the end of day 4, the Merserker's sprite is supposed to flip, but doesn't, and an error message appears on the bottom of the Ren'Py window (sorry if you already noticed this one).
Again, I'm sorry for how late this post is, and I also want to apologize to everyone in this forum topic for long this post is. Thank you again for making this game!

Thank you for your response, and I'm so glad you appreciated the critique!

Right, the polygraph aspect – I admit that I forgot about it after the explanation, because my focus shifted to just looking for suspicious statements. But I do remember feeling uneasy when the polygraph was mentioned, because they're so often misrepresented as true "lie detectors," and then being happy to see that you acknowledged the way they actually work. (Maybe this is a weird thing to fixate on, but I have very high anxiety and know I would probably set off a polygraph immediately, so that's on my mind.) Considering that makes me like the ! system more, since it makes narrative sense: SAM is a robot/program, so it's plausible for them to have that kind of mechanism built in, and they're an AI, so differentiating human emotional responses probably isn't intuitive for them but it's something they can learn. That even seems like something that could mirror the player's process of learning when not to press someone, once you add statements that set off "false alarms" on the polygraph.

I'd definitely be willing to go over all the writing stuff I noticed! I can do that in another comment here if you'd like, but I'm very long-winded, as you saw. I could also DM you on Twitter to make it less public, if you don't mind having big blocks of text coming at you there.

I really enjoyed this! It's an effective demo: the player gets a good solid sample of gameplay, then uncovers something about the game world that makes them want to learn the whole story.

SPOILER WARNING below here (just in case anyone reading this hasn't played it yet!)

It took me a little while to understand how the "press suspicious statements" puzzle mechanic worked, since Gema's self-introduction has two lines marked with a ! and the player has the option to press her on each of them. It made me think there would be a one-to-one correlation of ! marks to suspicious statements, but then more ! marks showed up on lines in the "Ask about ___" branches and didn't add any new options to the list of statements to press her on. After getting that the marks are general indicators that something is suspicious, I realized that they essentially tell the player "here's some evidence you might want," which diminishes my enjoyment of the puzzles. The contradiction-finding puzzles in the Phoenix Wright games made the player really look through all the text to find something relevant, so identifying the right piece of information was really satisfying. I know a lot of people find that frustrating, though. Maybe consider having a hint setting that can be turned on to show the ! marks and turned off to hide them?

I liked that when I tried to call Gema on her lie about being a medical officer before I'd asked her about her family, I didn't have the option to point out that she didn't go to medical school, only to say that she looked too counter-culture to be a doctor. It wasn't my first playthrough, so I knew she was lying, but this playthrough's SAM didn't have a good reason to suspect that, just a very flimsy reason. (Gema's response to that option is great, by the way.) That made it feel like I couldn't just pick from the choices at random until I got the right one, something I'm ashamed to admit I did occasionally in Phoenix Wright. This isn't consistently the case, though: at the point where the player can guess Gema's occupation, the roboticist option appears even in a playthrough where Gema hasn't talked about her interest in robots.

Incidentally, I did like the lack of consistency between the sets of options. What I mean is that it would have been easy to always have there be a right choice and a wrong choice, as in "robots"/"software" and "not alien"/"not raised on Earth," but then there's the case of "not a doctor"/"not in space," where either option is viable if you have the evidence to back it up. This is a pretty short demo, but I got the feeling that being able to solve puzzles from multiple angles might feature more in the full game.

The one mystery element that felt awkward to me was that SAM always questions whether or not they're really in space. Gema's lines to the effect of "it sure is something to be on the S.S. Vision, in space, where we are" all have ! marks, and I was confused as to why until I got to the end of my first playthrough. SAM figured it out before I did; they even ask Gema about it with no player input, whereas in every other case, the player directs SAM's questions to Gema. It felt like the game prioritized getting the plot twist information across instead of letting me solve that mystery by myself. I can see how that would be more effective for a demo, though, since that information is the main hook for getting the player intrigued.

Gema is a great character! I already really like her and want to see more of her. The artist did a terrific job on her, and she has a distinct voice that comes through even in this relatively short scene. Something I also appreciate about her is that she has anxiety and ADD, as the player learns right off the bat, and that's not presented as inherently funny or tragic or otherwise weird. That feels like a low standard to set for writing characters with mental illness(es), but a lot of works don't manage that, especially video games, so it's a pleasant surprise.

I'd be glad to point out spelling, grammar, and general language flow issues if you want (I apologize for bringing it up if not), but otherwise, that's all. Sorry this post is grotesquely long. Thank you for sharing your demo!

Well, here's the situation: I spent a lot of time planning, right up through today (day 14), and ultimately I did not do a lot of actual game-making. I couldn't decide whether I should just give up on meeting the deadline, work on my game more, and upload something decent in a few days, or whether I should upload something for the deadline even though it'd be the most minimal thing that could possibly qualify as a "game." I chose the second option, which I'm not at all sure was the better choice.

Tomorrow I think I'm going to write about my experiences with the game jam, what I learned, etc., but right now I just want to thank everyone who encouraged me. I feel like I let you down, and I sincerely apologize for that; someday, when I make these ideas into an actual game, I hope I can make up for it.

Having to balance game dev with full-time work isn't a sign of being bad at time management, imo - that's a really tough thing to do!

I'd like to pull an all-nighter, but I'm still recovering from a bad cold and don't have any of the caffeinated drinks I like, so I may not be able to. I'm definitely also going to be working right up to the deadline, though! I'm genuinely bad at time management and have done embarrassingly little work on the final assets of my game.

Best wishes to you and everyone else who's in crunch time! We can do it!

I couldn't figure out how to erase cleanly (i.e. directly from color to transparency), so some lines in this are anti-aliased and others aren't, and I hate it a little more every time I look at it:

But yeah, it's still coming along! Art is honestly not my highest priority at this point, since I still have a lot of writing to do, so please forgive those hands. I also have an actual title, based on the idea that "The End of Summer" is what I'd call the full game.

Update: I've been sick, and with that and my motivation trouble combined, this is going to have to be an even smaller, less impressive "game" than I had planned. Honestly, I feel like it might be more of a letdown for me to submit a teeny-tiny first draft than to submit nothing at all, but I'm committed to making something, if only to prove to myself that I can be not-a-quitter.

Sorry for airing my big emotion problems in what was supposed to be a game dev thread! Here's the first sketch I ever did of Judith. At some point in the future I want to make a game with pixel sprites, because they're fun.

(Edited 1 time)

Thank you for your support! I'm still moving slowly, but here are the rough draft sprites for the other two characters I have planned:

Hobby: fashion, choral singing
Aspiration: veterinarian
Talent: studying/memorization

Judith's neighbor and friend, although they're the kind of friends who seem like they don't actually get along. She's leaving for her first year of graduate school in about a week. I couldn't decide on her hairstyle, but now I think I prefer the bun.

Hobby: video games, cryptozoology
Aspiration: historian/folklorist?
Talent: swimming

At the start of the story, Judith doesn't know her, but thinks she's seen her around. I don't feel like I have a very good handle on how to write her yet, so she probably won't appear much in this release of the game.

I haven't started drawing the final sprites, but I did figure out how to make transparent images in GIMP, and I've started learning basic Ren'Py functions:

Sorry these are so small! Also, sorry I used my mouse to draw that bunny.

Ohhh thank you very much! I'll be rooting for you, too!

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Hey, everyone! I've really enjoyed looking at all the devlogs posted here, although I put off starting my own until now. I feel sheepish for making this thread when 1) the jam is already past its halfway point and 2) I don't have much to show yet, but I'm hoping it'll be a good way to motivate myself.

I'm making a visual novel in Ren'Py. Because of my problems with motivation and time management, it will be a short game, probably more of a proof-of-concept thing or a "first chapter" than a complete game - my scope has to be pretty small for this jam, but I've gotten attached enough to this project that I hope to expand on it in the future.

The story takes place on a small island just off the US east coast, far enough south to be a popular beach vacation destination in the height of summer. It's late August, though, and local directionless semi-adult Judith can't shake the feeling that everyone is leaving town except her. Even her parents are off to the west coast for a few days, which means Judith gets the house to herself. It's a perfect opportunity for her to exert some control over her life. This is quietly terrifying.

Here are some rough drafts/mockups of character sprites. (Please pardon the jpeg artifacts; I drew these in a program for the 3DS, which unfortunately can't save images at very good quality. The actual sprites will be drawn in GIMP.)

Hobby: beachcombing, aesthetic blogging
Aspiration: ???
Talent: none

A sad, sweaty so-and-so. Not wholly autobiographical, but similar enough to me that I might have a hard time being kind to her. In the actual sprites, she'll be facing the right side of the screen, which means I didn't really practice drawing her side ponytail from the correct angle. Oh well.

Hobby: acting, set design
Aspiration: writer/director
Talent: painting

Judith's former best friend, former girlfriend, current probably-best-friend-again-but-it's-different. She's the character who feels the most fleshed-out to me so far, so she's the only one who I can definitively say will have a "route" (or at least the beginnings of one) in this version of the game. The eye in the second one is more like what I'll use for the finished sprites.

I have a few more things to put here, but that's enough for now. Thank you very much for reading!