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Zen: A Gay Sequel

A gay, planner-focused, stat-based, dating sim set in college. Also the sequel to Yearning: A Gay Story (YAGS). · By bobcgames

Secret Route Discussion (Spoilers Within) Sticky

A topic by bobcgames created Jul 05, 2021 Views: 7,114 Replies: 43
Viewing posts 1 to 17
Developer (3 edits)

Since I know there's going to be a lot of questions about the secret route, I wanted to start a topic for it

Please do not discuss the secret route outside of this topic to avoid spoiling things for anyone else

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As suggested by the existence of five "primary" stats in the game (plus Libido, corresponding to Dan), the secret route is influenced by your Fratiness stat. You'll need to stay committed to the house, including making sure you help clean after parties and hiding your sexuality where appropriate to not cause drama at the house.

As also suggested by the primary stats screen after a certain point in the game (if you're not dating anyone, and have had the appropriate conversations), you'll need to keep your friendships high with four crucial people: Adam, Eva, Steve, and Tom. (The game actually tracks your friendship with these four beyond the usual 100-point bar. You'll need to ensure you never make a decision that hurts your friendship with any of these four.)

The route is affected slightly by non-Hard mode, but only slightly. (Normal and Easy modes have the same requirements.) A new "Very Easy" mode unlocks after you've beaten all four standard routes, which makes the secret route much easier.

Once you complete the secret route, a Dev Process Item will unlock ("Unlockables Guide") that provides information on all 100 unlockables in the game.

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More explicit spoilers follow:

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If it wasn't obvious already, the secret route is Elliot. You need to talk to him over IM every week (you have slight leeway on Normal or Easy mode, if you need to masturbate), you'll need to attend all frat parties, and you'll need to make sure you volunteer your time at the house, including during Rush and in giving house tours.

Keeping your Confidence low, especially early on, is important so that Carlos can go along with things happening at the house. Be sure you don't let your Libido get out of control, since a high Libido will start overriding evening plans in the planner, and you must attend the weekly frat meetings on Tuesdays.

i was just about to post about a walkthrough, haha. Is there no other alternative to the unlockables guide, like a text guide or something? i was actually REALLY hoping for an Elliot route and I'd really like to go through it, but sadly these days I don't have the time to play as much as I'd like so figuring out the secret route by myself might take me forever :(

Developer

The game just came out yesterday, so I'd like to avoid walkthroughs for a while... but I'm sure someone will figure it out and post some sort of guide :)

Can I have the walkthrough i'm having trouble please if you can?

Developer

If you put the game on Very Easy mode, it should actually be fairly straightforward. Just make sure you spend time at the house, increase your friendship with Adam, Steve, Eva, and Tom, and talk to Elliot every opportunity you get.

Are you still having trouble with Very Easy?

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nope I figured it out thank you so much it’s much different that YAGS

Hi Bob,

According to you, who is the hardest guy to end with and who is the easiest one ?

Ended with Chris yesterday and I though he might be the easiest one to end with.

Have a nice day

Will

Developer

In order of easy to hard, I think it's Chris, Malik, Dan, Nate and Jake, Elliot

But the secret route is significantly harder than the other four routes

I feel like I'm close to getting this route, but I'm kind of struggling to get Eva points. I do everything I can with Tom & Eva and I'm doing the dancing with Eva, so I'm not sure.

Does stopping Tom from drinking affect it at all?

Developer

Dancing with Eva is the biggest thing... otherwise play foosball with her and just generally spend time with her and Tom. (The frat hangout activities will randomly feature her in the evenings.)

Eva appreciates when you back her up by helping to moderate Tom's drinking (but you have to be careful not to push too far and make Tom unhappy about it at the same time).

i'm finding my way through the secret route but i'm not sure what i'm doing wrong... i get Tom's invite to join them for spring break, but i never go. should i be able to join them, or no?

Developer(+1)

You can't join them for Spring Break

Is you failing at your exams affecting the secret route ?

I spent nearly 100% of my time at the house (went to meeting, led basketball games, danced with Eva, went to parties) and got close to Adam, Steve, Tom and Eva and talked to Elliot any possible time.

But that means I skipped a lot (nearly all) classes and studies.

So I failed at my exams...

I  kept a low profile for my sexuality.

And I ended up dating no one.

Are exams affecting the route ?

Developer

Failing exams does not affect the route

(2 edits)

okay, so.. while in theory, I admire the concept of a hard route for a secret character, I think the manner it's been implemented here is pretty lacking. what I enjoy most about ZAGS (as with most other visual novels) is the writing & characters, and, to be honest, i was excited to start this route to get the chance to know Tom and Eva (and Steve, even though interactions with him are very limited) after kind of ignoring them & the frat house overall while chasing the other routes. however I do feel these characters were kind of done dirty by putting them on the secret route since it's getting very hard for me not to start disliking them when I'm constantly rolling back dialogue or reloading saves to dance around their invisible sensibilities without any way to tell if I'm even doing it the right way. after a good amount of attempts and ending the game with all 4 of the secret route characters at 100 friendship several times, I still haven't gotten it, and those last few playthroughs I haven't been focusing on what's going on with the story at all; just doing trial and error over and over again with the ctrl key held down, which I'm not sure was the desired direction; if it was, I don't feel like it's a particularly engaging or effective design decision, but that might just be me.

I'm not looking to turn this reply into a review because I do have mixed feeling on ZAGS on a number of things but my feelings about the game are mostly positive. I think its highs are definitely interacting with its characters and getting to know them and see how they help shape Carlos' newfound awareness of himself on each route, and the lows... well, it's definitely the planner. it's completely forgettable and honestly feels more like a chore that you have to slog through every in game week to get to the fun bits before you figure out a good default and just put it out of your mind, so I definitely appreciated the option for an easy mode right from the get go because (in my experience)  it makes the planner barely matter at all, which imo is a great thing! the secret route though... basically feels like the whole game is planner-fied, and locking story content behind it, especially content that matters a lot if you played YAGS, I honestly think that's not great. I'm frustrated enough where I've just given up and waiting for someone to post a walkthrough for it, or just keeping my fingers crossed you decide to patch it to be more accessible for easy/standard, which I'm not sure you're planning on. sorry for the rant, and it kinda sucks to be parting with the game on these feelings, but.. it is what it is

Developer

Thanks for the detailed thoughts, and what you've written is totally fair!

I like creating hard games that require a (arguably excessive) amount of effort to beat. My testers are good at reining in this instinct by making me add difficulty settings (see: YAGS, Over The Moon), but the secret route in YAGS (and ZAGS) are where I reserve the right to keep my original fiendish designs.

If you're approaching Tom and Eva from the mindset of "I have to get Elliot's route", I understand why it would get annoying, fast.  My intent was that players would explore the frat house and its characters for the sake of the story, without even knowing there was a route there, much like you'd befriend Adam in YAGS without realizing he was romancible.

Which is not to write off your concerns at all...  I'll look into further simplifying the route on easy mode in the next build. Because while I want the route to be a puzzle, I don't want it to turn into a slog.


As far as the planner goes, you're actually the first negative feedback I've gotten about it, and that's really good to know! In YAGS there were a lot of week skips (especially toward the end) where you had very little control, and that seemed to confuse players. ZAGS attempted to make this a bit more customizable via the planner, but I absolutely understand if it's not your thing.

Unfortunately, I there's not much I can do about that piece, since it's pretty fundamental to how the game is designed, but I'm glad you feel you can mostly kick it out of the way in most of the routes, at least.


Sorry if this isn't quite the answer you wanted. I really do appreciate the feedback though. I think, in my mind, the secret route has always been more of a "bonus" than a thing players would need to hit, but I've also been bad at that since there are achievements and unlocks associated with it. But the fact that you relate enough to the characters to find this important does mean a lot to me. :)

Developer

dominicosoba, would you be interested in trying out a new build of the game with a potential fix? I've added a new "very easy" difficulty setting (that unlocks once you've completed the four standard routes on any difficulty) which significantly lowers the requirement for the secret route: It now relies only on the visible friendship bars, many of the hidden checks are gone, and you have a bit more leeway with Tom.

I totally understand if you don't want to be a guinea pig, and just want to wait until someone else tests it and/or a walkthrough exists. But if you're interested, send me an email at bobcgames(at)gmail ?

hey there! I'd love to test out the very easy setting, if it helps! I'll shoot you an email when I get the chance. thanks for doing this! I really appreciate it a lot that you're taking the time to accommodate one random comment and take time from your day to add this in :)

I think my dislike of the planner is just due to the way I usually approach visual novels; like I mentioned before, I'm way more interested in the characters & world building than the actual 'game' side of the, well, game! that's not to say I can't enjoy a different visual novel experience than the classic just-click-through-text shtick, but rather that when the more gameified aspects get in the way or cut off access from story beats I care about, I'm quick to lose interest. It might be because VNs are so clearly delineated in my mind as story-based games first and foremost; for management simulator type gameplay, I'd rather just play something else and focus on that, haha. that's not to say that I think you should stop experimenting with systems when/if you make more visual novels in the future; if anything, I'm excited to see what you put out next!

Developer(+1)

That's totally fair! The planner was very much an experiment, but I understand how that distracts from the flow of the game... it pulls you out of the narrative-based events and makes you do something very different for a while before you can continue again.

On the plus side, that means you're able to really get into my writing and the story otherwise, so that's actually a good thing, from my perspective.

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I have to agree about the planner not being great... Maybe in future games (Another Gay Sequel???) you could have a planner as an extra for those who like it, or just give a general "I did blah-blah-blah for the next x amount of days/weeks"

I like that we can save and load a default at least, I just wish we could save our initial preference for the planner rather than the entire thing be "frat leisure"(I hardly have him hang out at the frat except trying to get Elliot's route).

I had to play YAGS a few times from scratch to really get into it because it's a slow start.. but Adam was the saving grace for me honestly and I was SO GLAD you could romance him. I really liked the way it was done, even the time skips were fine.  I honestly hoped he was romanceable here too but I understand seeing Carlos as a brother.

The writing and characters are still amazing, but I still prefer YAGS.

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As someone who loves games but doesn't look for a challenge . . . you can always cheat? It's not that hard. I mean for the secret ending you would have to set several variables (looking at the file you need to set the values of 14 variables (since excess friendship for adam, steve and tom are separate) which you can do in game with a dev console or just get to last day without dating anyone (since that flag would be checked first) and then save edit that save.

If you want I can post what exactly to do (can we do PMs or do spoiler text here?)

Always play the game at least once as the dev intended since it is their vision but if you still can't get what you want out of it, get creative:) That's my stance on (non-competitive) gaming anyway.

Developer

I kind of love that stance. :)

Yeah, normally I would discourage this mechanism of obtaining the ending, but the replies in this thread are clearly showing this has gone beyond my intent of "a bit of a puzzle" and well into "this is a dubious slog that requires unreasonable amounts of replaying of a very long game"

Apologies for that... I swear I thought this route was comparable in difficulty to Adam (but time has repeatedly shown I am bad at gauging difficulty of things)

You can't PM or spoiler text, but since this entire thread is a spoiler, I'm fine if you want to post instructions in this thread. You can also outright share a save file, if you want.

(That said, I reserve the right to remove the instructions later, for example once I push a build with a Very Easy difficulty and there's a better way to do it that doesn't involve messing with renpy.)

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haha, I hope you're not beating yourself up too much over this! I'm sure there's a lot of people who are just having fun with decoding the secret route and not posting in here because they're enjoying the challenge! I think this would've been less divisive if it were for unlocking an achievement or like an accessory for Carlos to show off that you did it, but yeah, because people are so engaged with the story and want to see everything we end up pestering you about the difficulty :P

this route is really hard! having their points be above 100 makes it even more difficult. i don't know what i am doing wrong! you've said on other routes you sometimes have to deviate from the obvious path to advance. is there anything like that on this path? not hanging out at the house, or not hanging out with Tom and Adam, or not dancing with Eva? I have so many saves and can't even tell when the secret route might deviate before the wrap-up montage begins. has anyone gotten it to activate yet? (other than Bob, haha sorry Bob)

Developer

There's no deviation required here... you need to hang out at the house, and you need to dance with Eva, and you need to help out at the house whenever you can (including cleaning after parties, helping with a house tour over parents' weekend, and attending frat meetings)

The "only" weirdness is that Adam isn't always a fan of you including Tom in activities, and Tom doesn't like it when you encroach on his time with Eva. So there are a few opportunities to hang out with more than one of them that you actually have to turn down (for example, don't have dinner with Eva and Tom after the dance event)

The secret route here also actually triggers after the usual ending montage (I believe YAGS' Adam route was before the montage?), since it replaces the usual "Elliot had a crush on you blah blah" part at the end, which maybe makes it even harder to realize you've gotten it

Apologies again... I didn't intend this to be so fiendishly difficult. A new build will be coming (probably next week?) with a Super Easy mode (unlocked once you complete the other four routes) specifically to address Elliot's route

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Thanks for the hints.

This route is really tough. I'm trying to do all routes in hard mode.

And I'm really doing all my best to find this last one.

And even if takes weeks or months, I'll try to find it. That's a real challenge and I love it.

It's sometimes so disappointing because you believe you've done everything that seemed right (both according to the hints and the story and links with the characters)... and no... it's still not right...

But I know that the day I find the route, it will be a universe of emotions :-)

And that's worth it!

Deleted 3 years ago

I think that's you misinterpreting the dynamic between Adam and Carlos. most of the 'flirty' dialogue is just banter between friends; I talk that way to my straight girl friends but it's not like we mean anything by it. it's just us being confident enough about our sexualities that we can feel comfortable  having that type of banter.

Developer

Thank you for the comment! I agree that the secret route is too difficult at the moment, and a fix for that (in the form of another difficulty setting) will be coming in the next release

The planner (and similar mechanisms) are a bit more common in stat-building games, which this kind of is, but someone else also said it interrupted the flow of the game. I think there's not much I can do about it at this point, since it's so integral to the gameplay, but if there are things I can do to make it more obvious which actions do what, let me know!

Adam isn't flirting with you... he's just very comfortable around you, including physical affection. He is not a route, and you can't date him.

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Many thanks for your reply! My first comment was when I was a bit angry, so I apologize.
I fully understand that. And after all, it's just my personal impression, not necesserily the truth. And I need to add, that you are one of very few game designers/programmers that actually cares about the people playing, so thanks for that!

Thanks for your comment with Adam, I misinterpreted him being very comfortable and nice to being flirty.


Edit: I've deleted my original post, because it was too harsh.

Developer

It wasn't harsh at all! I think it was a very fair criticism. :)

It's probably the wrong topic, but I don't want to open another one unneccesarily.
Do you have tips for getting Malik at hard difficulty (on normal difficulty it's no problem). Is there anything specific that has to be done only in hard mode to achieve a good ending with Malik?
Many thanks in advance,

Developer

To start dating him? You need to get a camera from either Mike or Chris. (On standard and easy, it's a bit easier to get one.)

For a good ending, you need to keep friendship and fitness high, but you also need high friendship with Mark (his best friend).

Thank you, the problem was the friendship with Mark. (At least I assume so, as I've started another try and got a higher friendship with Mark and the good ending).

A question about Eva's dance. Is there a minimum number of moves you must do?

Developer

Minigames don't affect the story in any way... they're completely optional

So however many moves you do is up to you!

Twice in the game, when you have to organize your planner, it is mentionned that you do not want to be around the house because of what has happened.

Yet, Elliot would be sad if Carlos avoided the frat house.

Are those two planner choices affecting the secret route?

(Please, do not tell what to do. Just tell us if choosing wrongly would affect the secret route :-) )

Developer

It's hard to answer this without a bit of "telling what to do"

But in those sad weeks, not really

Developer

The new game build with the "Very Easy" difficulty is now available!

To unlock the new difficulty setting, you'll have to complete all four standard routes (Chris, Malik, Dan, and Nate and Jake) on any difficulty first. If you've already done so, you'll need to complete the game again (any ending; just loading a save near the end of the game and skipping through everything will work).

The new difficulty should make the secret ending much simpler to obtain

Thanks Bob :-)

(3 edits)

Wowwwwwwwwwwwwww. What an ending filled with emotions!

Maybe because I've been looking for it for so many days.

My heart skipped a beat when the black screen appeared just before the Elliot ending.

Elliot had been one of my favorite character from my first step in YAGS.

And having this final scene with him is just wonderful!

Thanks for those amazing games Bob

PS: I've got to admit that I had to use the very easy difficulty for Elliot.

But now that I've experienced it, I'll try in harder modes... And hopefully do it in hard mode some day :-)


EDIT : ohhhhhh, the guide is unlocked !! Wowwww

(1 edit)

Hi I was just wondering is Adam an option to date in this one too or not, I know he was really only gay for the MC in YAGS, but he's so perfect.

*Edit* sorry I just read a comment above, where you said that he's not, still, the dream where Adam and James are going at it, a very hot, but b its amazing writing, because I think I slightly went in to shock my heart sank and I felt sick, like I'd just found out I was being cheated on or something is is crazy as Carlos doesn't really have a right to fell that way, and as for me, its a damn game I should not logically be having that sort of instinctual level autonomic reaction, so amazing writing, seriously.

Developer

Adam is not a route

But if you press him enough, you might unlock a CG

I accidently stayed up till 7:15 in the morning trying to find it, but he just gets mad at me or end up best friends but no CG

Developer

The trick is to get him really mad at you, and also have agreed to live with him the following year, and also be hooking up with Dan