That said, I do feel like exposition could have had a slightly better handling in the demo. A lot of the time, I felt like Kyousuke was just being used as a mouthpiece for basic character and plot points, when those things could have been just as easily been expressed through action. His introductions of the three brothers, for example, seemed unnecessary when the brothers went on to show off their personalities in their dialogue just moments later. I also found it a bit disappointing when he simply listed off a bunch of things that Yukinari did while he was tailing him, when I felt like seeing him do said things could be much more interesting. I hate to repeat a tired expression, but "Show, don't tell" is probably a good phrase to keep in mind. There's just little reason to keep the reader away from the action.
To be honest the "telling instead of showing" scenes came about mostly because I didn't have enough time to write. We didn't want to push back the release date of the demo, but we didn't decide to do totally new scenes until close to a week before the release date, so I quite literally had to stay up all night running on espresso for a few days in a row just to write the scenes in the demo now. XD; There's no introductions like that in the real game whatsoever (all Shuuki says is "Oh this is Hosokawa Yukinari, my brother's classmate" and leaves it at that, for example)
The other reason is that during the release of the demo, we only had so many BGs to use. The BGs you saw in the demo were the only ones we had at the time. (other than the love hotel one, which ... I didn't think would be good for this demo for a multitude of reasons) I didn't want the demo to show placeholders at all, so I wanted to write scenes that utilized only the BGs that Auro had finished. As such, we couldn't show Chiaki or Yukinari at their own homes, nor could we show scenes with any of the 5 at off-campus hangouts. This, too, will be solved in the actual game since we will have all the BGs and no such restriction. :3 Of course the problem in the game is that you're now getting scenes only from Natsume and Shuuki's point of view and unlike Kyousuke, they can't follow everyone around 24/7. But the differing POVs is a big part of the story--seeing how the two main characters react differently to the same things. Kyousuke really was just ... there. He gave us an excuse to follow the characters around without directly affecting the story, but more on that later.
The other main issue I had with the writing was really more of a pet peeve than anything, but I did find myself a bit put off by the frequency of Japanese terms in the dialogue. I'm a pretty longtime follower of Japanese pop culture, but several phrases used in this game went straight over my head. There was also the occasional moment where I feel like the Japanese references were a bit shallow and forced, such as the list of cooking options for Natsume, and the frequent mention of Japanese culture club. Though, perhaps these things have just been ruined for me by overexposure.
You think? D: I only really used Japanese words for honorifics, the two words for "brother" that Shuuki and Masaharu use for Natsume, and the aforementioned two food items... Unless I'm forgetting something. I remember once I used "goukon" in a BCM-related text and a friend chewed me out for it, so I was careful to call it a "group date" in the demo. xD For the food, I just happened to choose those two because they're two things that are easily made at home. (also Natsume really does only eat onigiri) The onigiri is later just referred to as riceballs anyway, and takoyaki... Well, calling it takoyaki is a lot easier and effective than calling it "octopus balls". A lot of food-related things, if I were to try to translate them directly into English, it'd just be a bit weird. Like how would I translate "yakiniku" or "yakisoba bread" or even "oden"?
The two words for "brother" can't be helped because they're part of the original uhh. Canon? BCM is based off of another story project that a group of friends and I came up with. The fact that Shuuki and Masaharu each call Natsume something different reflects the differing amount of respect they have for him. Shuuki calls Natsume "Ani-ue" which is a super-highly respectful term, whereas "Aniki" (via Masaharu) is much more casual, though still somewhat respectful. There really isn't an English equivalent for those, either, and to remove them would feel kind of weird to me.
Other than that, I have
actually been thinking about removing the honorifics and such. I've been working as an editor for Digital Manga Guild
where they mostly frown upon that sort of thing... I dunno, I personally feel like if a game is set in a certain country, you should try to keep to it a bit. But "sensei" became teacher and "goukon" became group date... I tried not to just randomly use Japanese words when there was an obvious English equivalent. Still, I understand that it's easy to oversaturate the text with Japanese terms (a lot of which I sort of overlook simply because I can speak/read Japanese at a fairly decent level so they're hardly foreign words to me anymore) so I'll try to be more careful about that in the future. :3 I have another friend who's very picky about that sort of thing that I'll get to proofread. XD Due to the aforementioned speed of and state under which I had to write the demo, I couldn't get it proofread at all. (in fact I think the only person who played it before it was released was my friend Kei/Natsumachi on LSF and that was like 15 minutes before xD)
There is one thing that confused the hell out of me. Why is it that when you make choices about what Kyousuke would expect people to do, they wind up doing it, no matter what it is? How is he managing to change people's actions despite being in stealth mode? All he's doing is thinking about things, and they wind up happening. He's changing people's very personalities with his thoughts. His trip back in time is creating entirely new versions of the people he knew, based entirely on his own expectations! Is he really time traveling at all, or is he just traversing an imaginary timeline inside of his mind, where people behave only in accordance to his expectations, with no free will at all!? Has he completely lost his connection with the timestream as we know it, and created his own flow of events that exist only in his own mind!? Has Kyousuke become God of his own world!? OH MY GOOOOOOOOD
Seriously though, I'm really confused.
There were also a couple of times, such as when you had to choose between people to follow and when you had to choose a dish to cook as Natsume (Or Kyousuke subconsciously deciding the actions of imaginary Natsume), when the choices just felt random and meaningless to choose between. There's really no way to predict what's going to happen if you choose to bake a cake rather than make onigiri.
Because it's a demo and since it's from the POV of someone who has no presence whatsoever in the current timestream, we had to improvise a little bit. I mean, would you have preferred a kinetic demo? XD; Which I was actually also considering, but then thought it wouldn't be that much fun. I don't think any of the choices were really personality-altering. The biggest choice was whether Shuuki was going to wait or not for his (now) ex-boyfriend, but that choice is really only there because it's a demo and as such, Shuuki's personality hasn't developed enough yet. I think most choices in VNs are kind of like that, though... I mean, sometimes you have the choice of SAVE THIS PERSON or LEAVE THEM TO DIE, you know? Still, either of those choices would have been something Shuuki is capable of doing. True, he is a very punctual person so he'd be more likely to just leave after five minutes, but if he was in a certain mood, he might also be inclined to wait. Sometimes humans do things that are somewhat "out of character" if they're "in the mood" or influenced by other factors.
In the end, I figured anyone interested enough in BCM would end up picking all the choices in order to see all the scenes, anyway. Since there's no end to the demo, the choices themselves don't really matter; they're just ways you can see different scenes. As for not being able to predict what will happen, that's what save/load and rollback is for. I try not to have too many choices like that (it's unfortunate that the demo had quite a few), but sometimes it's just sort of necessary. Life itself is like that--it's not always obvious what will happen when you decide on something. I think most VNs (especially the dating sims) are even more vague than this. XD; At least here when Kyousuke goes "Should I follow Shuuki or should I follow Masaharu?" it's fairly obvious what will happen should you choose one.
It probably wouldn't hurt to have a short explanation about how to work the time machine at the time jump screen. Since it happens on a separate screen, complete with an interface, it wouldn't really break immersion to do so. On a similar note, maybe have a message appear if you don't have any BCMs? Something like "You do not have an BCMs, and cannot travel at this time." to make it clear what you need to make it work. When I first played, I thought it was buggy because I couldn't get the machine to do anything.
Actually the time machine wasn't supposed to show up when you didn't have any BCMs, so that really was
a bug. ^^; (someone reported it on one of the previous pages in this thread and I was really confused at first, but basically I forgot to put a "return" somewhere and it threw off the whole thing
) There's an explanation on how to use the time machine in the help file of the demo (that's why it says in bold letters on the demo page to read the help file before you play the demo); the actual game has a tutorial that I'm still annoyed at because I haven't figured out how to have everything show the way I want it to. I figured since this version of the time machine is veeeeery umm--restricted?--compared to the real thing that people would probably be able to figure it out and I didn't want to put my buggy-as-heck tutorial from the real game into the demo, so... Not a good choice, I suppose. D: But yeah there's a tutorial in the actual game, so all the complicated stuff will be explained.
The blinking without any mouth movement creates the odd effect of knowing that the characters should be able to move because, again, they're blinking, but for some reason seem to be incapable of moving their mouths when they speak. It's a bit creepy. I strongly suggest adding mouth movement in the final version, if you're not already.
I think quite a lot of games have sprites blinking without mouth-moving, though. (in fact I find it's much more common to have only-blinking sprites compared to other kinds) We thought it'd be weirder for their mouths to move without any voicing coming out. ^^; The blinking was a little bit of an experiment, but if it's that jarring, I suppose I can just take it out altogether. I think most people liked it, though, based on the survey responses and whatnot. It's something for Auro and I to discuss and think about some more. D: It wouldn't be that hard to code the blinks out or code mouth-movements in, I suppose.
The demo never actually explains what a BCM is, which, while not confusing to anyone who has read the topic, would be confusing to anyone who played the game without reading up on all the details first.
Yeah, because they don't really matter in the demo. They are thoroughly explained in the actual game. In hindsight, I suppose that wasn't a very good decision. D: As a few have said, the weak time travel in the demo is really only there to unlock two extra scenes and so people can see what the time machine GUI looks like. You don't get to look for BCMs or use them like you do in the real game, so I didn't think it was necessary to have an explanation of something that didn't really matter at that point in time. (no pun intended) Again, all the complicated stuff will be explained in the actual game. :3 Above everything, the demo was really just a way for people to see the characters in action, as well as preview the UI and some of the other art. It wasn't very good at showing what the real gameplay will be like. XD; Given more time, there's a lot of things that I would have done differently, but then a friend of mine said something along the lines of "Quit worrying and just get the demo out so you can get your butt back to working on the real game", so that's pretty much what I did, haha.
Anyway we both really appreciate the feedback. You've given us a lot of things to think about and consider. *__* I hope I didn't come off as defensive or anything, because you did bring up many good points that I have to ponder for a while. Luckily there's still (at least) half a year before the real game's release. I'm glad that, overall, you enjoyed it. XD It would've been a serious problem if you were bogged down by all these things you didn't like and weren't able to enjoy the demo at all. ;_;Edit;
Whoops also in response to this
That title screen is a truly sexy beast. Auro deserves many a high five.
While Auro did do the logo, the title screen and other GUIs were designed by Lazcht
and coded/tweaked/etc by me.