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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:36 am 
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Introduction
Culina is a series of games which contain elements of both visual novels and strategy games as you create your very own restaurant.

The prologue, The Spirit of Cooking, introduces the characters, the environment, and the overall goal of the second act. It will play much like a traditional visual novel and is free to play.

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Credits
Programming/Design/Story Concept:
John P. Doran

Story/Writing:
Stephanie Hata

Music:
Christopher Doran
Andrew Riley

Character Art:
archia

GUI/Additional Artwork:
ehcs

Background Artwork:
Auro-Cyanide

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:41 am 
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This is gorgeous. Downloading now, will provide feedback later. Congratulations on the release!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:54 am 
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Omigosh congrats on the release. I'll download and give feedback real soon n____n

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:25 am 
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Congratulation for the release !
I will give the feedback later ...


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:42 am 
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First of all, congratulations!

Now I'm going to download this and give feedback later...

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:52 am 
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The opening screen is absolutely gorgeous. Usually I'm not one for the ~elegant cooking~ aesthetic, but I'm in love with this opening screen. The fact that Credits was the last option threw me off a bit, though - I'm used to Quit being the last. The music is lovely. Usually I turn off music when playing VNs as I'm not a music person, but I listened to the music of the opening screen for a while because of how nice it is. The cursor is really cute too.

I like how the camera often zooms into certain characters, and while at first the sprites moving around hurt my eyes a bit, I got used to it.

This isn't a criticism of the quality of the VN, but I was a bit disappointed that everyone was white. I'm not trying to pull a social justice card or anything, but most VNs I've played are comprised of 100% white cast. We met five characters including the PC, I don't see why one of them couldn't have been a person of colour.

Emily seemed grounded and logical when the plot required it (see: proving herself to the PC's parents with her foresight), but she did a complete 360 when it came to the PC talking to girls that mentioned how much they wanted boyfriends and the money for the restaurant. Both the PC and Paul broke up with their girlfriends for the same reason after their girlfriends had the same attitude. I wasn't 100% sure why Lisa was included at all, seeing as she doesn't contribute to the plot. Maybe she will in later parts, though!


I like the statistics/aspects part of the game that is introduced to us at the end, it sounds really interesting.

Text issues:
+ The PC says he takes Emily back to her "dormroom", but I'm pretty sure it's just "dorm room".
+ "Mom" and "Dad" don't have ":" after their names like the other characters. Also, their text being black meant that I got super confused when my character spoke right after his father, seeing as I named the PC "Dave".
+ When
arguing with Emily
, the PC has two speech marks before their dialogue after laughing sarcastically.

I'll definitely download the next part, but I think the game could use a few more improvements, especially when it comes to more consistent characterisation. I'm looking forward to the cooking gameplay! I think you'd do better by just combining the series into one game - or maybe a game and a sequel - because VNs don't really lend themselves to episodic downloads, and it would be more immersive that way. That "game" felt more like a demo.


Last edited by Cadenza on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:49 am 
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Completed: Culina: The Spirit of Cooking
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Thanks so much for the messages so far guys, it makes me very happy to know that people are playing. Any and all feedback is appreciated!

Cadenza wrote:
The opening screen is absolutely gorgeous. Usually I'm not one for the ~elegant cooking~ aesthetic, but I'm in love with this opening screen. The fact that Credits was the last option threw me off a bit, though - I'm used to Quit being the last. The music is lovely. Usually I turn off music when playing VNs as I'm not a music person, but I listened to the music of the opening screen for a while because of how nice it is. The cursor is really cute too.

I'll have to let Chris know that. Thanks for the feedback!

Cadenza wrote:
I like how the camera often zooms into certain characters, and while at first the sprites moving around hurt my eyes a bit, I got used to it.

Well, I spent a lot of time going in there trying to act things out. In the first chapter there are a lot fewer art assets, so I tried to exploit them as much as I could to seem dynamic. I may slow down the movement times though to make it seem less hectic.

Cadenza wrote:
This isn't a criticism of the quality of the VN, but I was a bit disappointed that everyone was white. I'm not trying to pull a social justice card or anything, but most VNs I've played are comprised of 100% white cast. We met five characters including the PC, I don't see why one of them couldn't have been a person of colour.

Yeah, that's unfortunate. The sequel has a good number of characters of color, but as this chapter was just about college I didn't include them in yet.

Apparently quotes don't work in spoilers... so this is in response to the spoilers part.

I might suggest puting spoilers, as this stuff that happens in the game specifically. Sorry to hear that you felt Emily did a 180. I'll mention it to the writer to work on that for future releases. In the second game you can build relationships with all of the characters you met aside from Prof. Silver as well as those you meet in the second game which in term helps you in the cooking section of the game. So Lisa will pay just as much a role as everyone else in that regard. You haven't seen the last of her. At all.


Cadenza wrote:
I like the statistics/aspects part of the game that is introduced to us at the end, it sounds really interesting.

I'm glad you think so! The stats are very important in the next game. Partially because certain dialogue options open up based on it, as well as it affects the skill of dishes you make.

Quote:
Text issues:
+ The PC says he takes Emily back to her "dormroom", but I'm pretty sure it's just "dorm room".
+ "Mom" and "Dad" don't have ":" after their names like the other characters. Also, their text being black meant that I got super confused when my character spoke right after his father, seeing as I named the PC "Dave".
+ When arguing with Emily, the PC has two speech marks before their dialogue after laughing sarcastically.


Thanks so much! I'm fixing it now.

Quote:
I'll definitely download the next part, but I think the game could use a few more improvements, especially when it comes to more consistent characterisation. I'm looking forward to the cooking gameplay! I think you'd do better by just combining the series into one game - or maybe a game and a sequel - because VNs don't really lend themselves to episodic downloads, and it would be more immersive that way. That "game" felt more like a demo.

I agree that I'll eventually be putting both parts together into a single game eventually. However, as this is my first VN release I want to get as much feedback as I can, figure out the interest in the game, and iterate on stuff for future releases.

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Last edited by netravelr on Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:22 am 
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.............................. I don't know what to think.... I loved the game, its nice, characters were interesting enough, PC parents where funny, but cliche, mother old fashioned and father not approving. But as it started to get interesting... it ended, i need more :( it felt like a slap across face in the end. Okay, its only THE first ''episode''..... (i hate episodic games, thy take too long between games.)
Will have to wait to get the real meat....
........................
Good luck to you!
.........................
P.S.
BxB in next episode XD please!!! (just joking....not.....XD)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:37 am 
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netravelr wrote:
I might suggest puting spoilers, as this stuff that happens in the game specifically.


Ah, sorry! I totally forgot about that. Spoiler'd my post now c:
Thank you for your response.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:31 pm 
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I realize now that I posted in the wrong thread...! I just played through the game again and have some specific pieces of feedback. I'll spoiler plot-related stuff. :)

1. In the opening scene with Paul, the MC says "I look around the room for a moment to gather my thoughts", but it seems more like they're outside? Like at a market?

2. I like how the class begins with the professor asking if people are in the right room - it's one of those small details that makes it feel authentic.

3. When Emily talks about how it's management's job to make sure there are customers, and the chefs just make food... I'm not sure I understand this, really. Is this some sort of idea that you get drilled into you in culinary school? There seems to be a few points in the game where this chef / management dichotomy is talked about, but I think the average player needs a little more of a backgrounder on this. Maybe the MC could explain it quickly the first time it is brought up?

4. I feel a bit the same way when the two of them discuss 'fusion' - again, maybe there's some sort of way of explaining the things they are referring to. Maybe I'm just saying that this game could also be an interesting opportunity for people to learn about the culinary arts?

5. I have no idea why I'm numbering this continuous rambling... What if every time a concept that the player could use background info on came up, a little button appeared top-left that opens a relevant entry in a 'Culinopedia' or something?

6. Once Lisa is introduced, I realize that I don't actually know if her and Paul are in the culinary school as well. I think Paul is, because there's a quick reference made to it earlier on, but maybe it would make the whole thing feel cohesive if all of the characters talked a bit of shop?

7. "Neatening" may be a word, but it's so uncommon that I think it's a bit jarring. :)

8. I really like the character art for Lisa... She has that inherently serious look about her, and this supports her character well.

9. In Paul and Lisa's fight, I think one thing that could make it stronger is if a specific incident had sparked her sudden concern over her future. I mean, she shows up and just starts to flip out. Maybe she just got informed that she didn't get a job she wanted because she didn't have any previous experience from the summer prior? And that would be the summer that she spent all her free time with Paul? Something like that would connect all of the dots.


10. If Paul is going to take over and one day own his family's business, I'm not sure why Lisa characterizes the whole thing in terms of poverty. Is it not relatively prosperous to own a vegetable store? And if Paul wants to take it over and grow it, couldn't it potentially be very lucrative? Maybe the MC could add in something like, "Paul has big dreams, but the reality is that his family's business is tiny, and big grocery stores have been making it smaller and smaller."


11. Again, when they are talking about Americanos and Espressos and soy milk, it would be cool to understand the nuances of the jokes they are making... Some sort of explainer.

12. Part of this feedback is definitely just wanting to see more great artwork, but I think you should consider doing illustrations for the MC's mom and dad. I just find it hard to connect with them without seeing them, and I feel like the effectiveness of the entire scene sorts of depends on that.

13. I get that MC's parents are supposed to represent a sort of traditional perspective on gender roles, but I think it would actually be more effective if it were less heavy-handed. Just having the mom mention how wonderful it is that she is an amazing cook would be enough to make the atmosphere clear, I think - having her come right out and say that women should be 'focusing on their husbands and their homes' seems like overdoing it a bit. It makes their characters seem very two-dimensional compared to Emily and the MC... And it makes the revelation of their softer attitudes later in the conversation feel less believable.

14. There's something about Emily's desire to use the MC's parents money to open the restaurant that seems like it could be stronger. I think you should consider establishing somewhere earlier in the game that not only is the MC's family upper middle class, but that Emily's family is actually quite poor. Maybe she's at culinary school on some sort of scholarship. And I think maybe you treat that revelation with some type of twisty reveal that shows the developing trust between Emily and the MC... Like at first people think she's on scholarship because of her talent, but she privately admits to the MC that it's because of her economic position. I think you need to do more to make it clear that she's not some cold-blooded gold digger, because I definitely don't think she is, but the whole desire to use the MC's money feels like it comes out of nowhere a bit.


All that being said, the whole package is really strong, and I really dig it. Great job! Looking forward to playing more as it develops...
I hope that one of the later episodes gives the MC the opportunity to reconcile with Emily
.

EDIT: Fixed so many typos and errors. Late and intoxicated night, obviously. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:16 pm 
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Edit:
That was fun. Definitely left me wanting more, so looking forward to what comes next. The art is clean and attractive, the setup is interesting (especially with the way the stats work), and I adore the GUI. I don't know if it's just because I have an old computer, but the custom cursor really slowed down on the main menu screen. O_o Also, the sound effects are significantly quieter than the music. Both minor things, but I figured I'd pass them on.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:52 pm 
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Interactive Ratatouille here I come. =D

Congrats on the release! Can't wait to play this. ^^ (<3 food)

Looking forward to Hands in the Kitchen. You have my support.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:46 am 
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Wow. Thanks so much for the feedback guys, this has been really great. It's really helped me to get pumped up about everything again. Now, I'd love to talk about it with you as well. Please keep the feedback coming, it helps me to make better games.

DreamDragonHatchling wrote:
.............................. I don't know what to think.... I loved the game, its nice, characters were interesting enough, PC parents where funny, but cliche, mother old fashioned and father not approving. But as it started to get interesting... it ended, i need more :( it felt like a slap across face in the end. Okay, its only THE first ''episode''..... (i hate episodic games, thy take too long between games.)
Will have to wait to get the real meat....
........................
Good luck to you!
.........................
P.S.
BxB in next episode XD please!!! (just joking....not.....XD)

I'm glad to hear that you loved it. Like I said before, this is my first release and I wanted to make sure that there is in fact an interest in seeing this completed. It would be very hard for me to want to work on another VN if this one flopped. :-P I'll see what I can do for you with Dante.

NeonCowboy wrote:
I realize now that I posted in the wrong thread...! I just played through the game again and have some specific pieces of feedback. I'll spoiler plot-related stuff. :)

1. In the opening scene with Paul, the MC says "I look around the room for a moment to gather my thoughts", but it seems more like they're outside? Like at a market?

They are indeed at a market, but it's an indoor one. A little confusing though, I may change it later.

NeonCowboy wrote:
2. I like how the class begins with the professor asking if people are in the right room - it's one of those small details that makes it feel authentic.


Thanks!

Quote:
3. When Emily talks about how it's management's job to make sure there are customers, and the chefs just make food... I'm not sure I understand this, really. Is this some sort of idea that you get drilled into you in culinary school? There seems to be a few points in the game where this chef / management dichotomy is talked about, but I think the average player needs a little more of a backgrounder on this. Maybe the MC could explain it quickly the first time it is brought up?

It's partially due to the fact that in the next game, you're managing the restaurant and creating recipes, and you have a chef that actually cooks it for you.


Quote:
4. I feel a bit the same way when the two of them discuss 'fusion' - again, maybe there's some sort of way of explaining the things they are referring to. Maybe I'm just saying that this game could also be an interesting opportunity for people to learn about the culinary arts?

5. I have no idea why I'm numbering this continuous rambling... What if every time a concept that the player could use background info on came up, a little button appeared top-left that opens a relevant entry in a 'Culinopedia' or something?

11. Again, when they are talking about Americanos and Espressos and soy milk, it would be cool to understand the nuances of the jokes they are making... Some sort of explainer.

That is a good idea, I'll probably do something like that in the full version.

Quote:
6. Once Lisa is introduced, I realize that I don't actually know if her and Paul are in the culinary school as well. I think Paul is, because there's a quick reference made to it earlier on, but maybe it would make the whole thing feel cohesive if all of the characters talked a bit of shop?

Paul and Lisa go to the same college, yeah but they both work on other things. I think this will be clarified more later.

Quote:
7. "Neatening" may be a word, but it's so uncommon that I think it's a bit jarring. :)

Noted! :-)

Quote:
8. I really like the character art for Lisa... She has that inherently serious look about her, and this supports her character well.

Thanks!

9. In Paul and Lisa's fight, I think one thing that could make it stronger is if a specific incident had sparked her sudden concern over her future. I mean, she shows up and just starts to flip out. Maybe she just got informed that she didn't get a job she wanted because she didn't have any previous experience from the summer prior? And that would be the summer that she spent all her free time with Paul? Something like that would connect all of the dots.

You'll be seeing more of Lisa in the next game (a lot more if you choose to) and I'm sure there she'll explain herself.

10. If Paul is going to take over and one day own his family's business, I'm not sure why Lisa characterizes the whole thing in terms of poverty. Is it not relatively prosperous to own a vegetable store? And if Paul wants to take it over and grow it, couldn't it potentially be very lucrative? Maybe the MC could add in something like, "Paul has big dreams, but the reality is that his family's business is tiny, and big grocery stores have been making it smaller and smaller."

Also good points.

Quote:
12. Part of this feedback is definitely just wanting to see more great artwork, but I think you should consider doing illustrations for the MC's mom and dad. I just find it hard to connect with them without seeing them, and I feel like the effectiveness of the entire scene sorts of depends on that.

The reason that I didn't do that is that I wanted the player to feel as if they actually are the player and having parents that didn't look like you may hurt that. I also didn't want to show the player at all so it didn't matter what skin color or race you were that you could see feel as if it was you that was playing. I may rethink that though for the future release especially when CGs come into play.

13. I get that MC's parents are supposed to represent a sort of traditional perspective on gender roles, but I think it would actually be more effective if it were less heavy-handed. Just having the mom mention how wonderful it is that she is an amazing cook would be enough to make the atmosphere clear, I think - having her come right out and say that women should be 'focusing on their husbands and their homes' seems like overdoing it a bit. It makes their characters seem very two-dimensional compared to Emily and the MC... And it makes the revelation of their softer attitudes later in the conversation feel less believable.

Yeah, I feel you; we tried to make the parents as believable as possible and in the second game you'll be working with them a lot too so we'll see what we can do.

14. There's something about Emily's desire to use the MC's parents money to open the restaurant that seems like it could be stronger. I think you should consider establishing somewhere earlier in the game that not only is the MC's family upper middle class, but that Emily's family is actually quite poor. Maybe she's at culinary school on some sort of scholarship. And I think maybe you treat that revelation with some type of twisty reveal that shows the developing trust between Emily and the MC... Like at first people think she's on scholarship because of her talent, but she privately admits to the MC that it's because of her economic position. I think you need to do more to make it clear that she's not some cold-blooded gold digger, because I definitely don't think she is, but the whole desire to use the MC's money feels like it comes out of nowhere a bit.

Actually, if you argue with Emily beforehand you learn about it. The "twisty reveal" should only happen if you made it clear that you didn't want to upset her. That being said, also a good idea.

---

All that being said, the whole package is really strong, and I really dig it. Great job! Looking forward to playing more as it develops...
I hope that one of the later episodes gives the MC the opportunity to reconcile with Emily
.

Yes, you will have an opportunity to do that and more. :-)

sake-bento wrote:
Edit:
That was fun. Definitely left me wanting more, so looking forward to what comes next. The art is clean and attractive, the setup is interesting (especially with the way the stats work), and I adore the GUI. I don't know if it's just because I have an old computer, but the custom cursor really slowed down on the main menu screen. O_o Also, the sound effects are significantly quieter than the music. Both minor things, but I figured I'd pass them on.

Thanks for the kind words! Hmmmm... I'll have to look into the slowdown. The sound effects were added very late in the game's development so I think my custom preferences were already set when I was adjusting everything. I'll go back in and adjust things later.

KittyKatStar wrote:
Interactive Ratatouille here I come. =D

Congrats on the release! Can't wait to play this. ^^ (<3 food)

Looking forward to Hands in the Kitchen. You have my support. 

Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:30 pm 
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NeonCowboy wrote:
Part of this feedback is definitely just wanting to see more great artwork, but I think you should consider doing illustrations for the MC's mom and dad. I just find it hard to connect with them without seeing them, and I feel like the effectiveness of the entire scene sorts of depends on that.


netravelr wrote:
The reason that I didn't do that is that I wanted the player to feel as if they actually are the player and having parents that didn't look like you may hurt that. I also didn't want to show the player at all so it didn't matter what skin color or race you were that you could see feel as if it was you that was playing. I may rethink that though for the future release especially when CGs come into play.


I was in a very similar position recently while working on my game, but in the end I felt like the gain wasn't worth the damage, and after I took the plunge I definitely found it was the right decision.

When I asked myself why I really wanted my character to be such a 'Man X' type, I realized that the answer was really only that I wanted to make him more sympathetic - ironically, this was exactly what I was preventing by failing to define him and the people in his life with just enough precision to make it clear who they are without it becoming burdensome.

Here's an idea: Maybe their character art is one image of the two of them together... It will save screen space, and it will have a subtle effect of reinforcing their characters as inseparable, for better or for worse. It informs how the MC views them, supports the inherent tension that you talk about with dad having no choice but to go along with mom once her mind is made, gives a contrasting sense of dread and hope for what may be in the wings for the MC and Emily, etc.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 4:34 pm 
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I-I feel bad if I'm the only person who expected more. I mean, I knew this was only the first chapter and I was waiting to get sad at the fact I probably wouldn't be able to buy the second part of the game, but... that didn't happen? The game felt like it ended abruptly and without much of an incentive to buy the second half to resolve things.

I think it was mainly due to the quality of the writing. I was expecting something like a VN version of Good Eats or something with the characters going on long spiels about how great the combination of these two ingredients are, the difference that occurs when you substitute margarine for butter, how using canned or dry ingredients compares to fresh stuff, etc. You know, that kind of thing only food geeks would notice and get really fired up over.
Instead, I got Wacky College Life Adventures: The Game (Also Bad Pizza). Yes, you have your story. Chris (whom I did name something else) is rebelling against his parents by pursuing his dream of running a restaurant, and he hangs out with his friends along the way. Also snags himself a cute girlfriend.
Then they break up over their differences.
By itself that's not bad, but the way it was executed wasn't anything remarkable. I could replace their major with anything else and it wouldn't affect the story much. There were plenty of times when the narration felt shoehorned in for the sake of increasing wordcount and towards the end there are a lot of typos. "Noone" for example, and then there's some spaces between the quotation mark and the text, even an extra quotation mark just for kicks. Minor grammatical errors aside, the characters were just too distant to sympathize with.
Here's Paul your friend and he's a cool guy, had a girlfriend, lost his girl, doing all right but still trying to get over the break-up. Here's Emily your cute lab partner. She wants to do something different. Other than that I don't know. Lisa really didn't get enough screen time, but her ideas about romance are meh. I'm really sad I didn't get to interact with Professor Silver :C
If that's how the characters are, that's totally fine; what didn't happen is depth though. All the characters felt flat for me and they changed topics on a dime as if they were trying to stall for time. They talk about one thing and suddenly they get into arguments, and they're all pretty stubborn. It's like they don't really hear each other to begin with.
The narration was also kinda meh. Instead of going into how the MC thought about stuff, we get "I ruffled her hair" kind of stuff the majority of the time. Actions, and not enough thought. Sometimes it felt redundant, like "He looks at me with a frown" because I can already see that in the sprite. I know you wanted to make it so the MC wasn't defined and the player could step into the game, but I dunno :/
Random thing: Thanksgiving with the parents pissed me off a lot, and if that was the intention then it really worked. They were coming on really strong with all that "Emily will be your wife and stay home because women shouldn't work and they need to take care of the family" speech.

Artwise, it's clean and simple. I don't think the expressions were noticeable enough, but it might be the style. The whole zooming in on sprites was a little awkward sometimes because going from knees-up to waist-up implies that the player is getting closer to the speaker. This scene was very very awkward, especially with them looking at you ಠ_ಠ Did they want me to join them or were they rubbing my single status in my face A few times it worked though and it was a nice touch. IDK if anyone else had this problem, but when I noticed that the sprites blinked I got creeped out. It's cool but at the same time a little unnerving, like they're waiting for me to keep reading. I have no idea if it'd be worth it to program an option to toggle blinking on and off, but it could just be me >_> GUI was also nice, but you might want to consider making the textbox a bit taller by default since it was distracting to see it go up and down constantly.

All in all, it wasn't bad per se but it wasn't what I was expecting from a game with a culinary setting. I'd need a demo of the Hands in the Kitchen to convince me to buy it as if I could in the first place, when am I ever going to get a PayPal? Are you going to get extra poses for the sprites? It'd be sweet to get an updated version of this later if there is.


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