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Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Beta available]

Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:54 pm
by enkiv2
Our protagonist dies unexpectedly on her way home from school, and finds her consciousness transported into her body from that morning. She must negotiate with her past self & investigate the many shady goings-on in her home town in order to discover why she keeps dying and why she goes back in time whenever she dies.

Unbeknownst to our protagonist, most of her friends are involved in at least one of the various conspiracies happening in this town (ranging from government psi experiments & illegal biomedical programs to occult rituals).
I've been working on this on and off for a year and a half, based on an idea I pitched a couple years ago. It's on github and I have periodic demo releases on Thus far, I have a couple hours worth of content.

Currently, I'm handling everything (from art assets to writing to music and sfx), but I've commissioned new character art (and I'll update this post once that's done).

The philosophical basis of this game idea is: many VNs expect players to save-scum and play through many routes in order to unlock canonical plot details; however, aside from leaning on the fourth wall, these habits are rarely integrated into the story completely. The most natural match for that play style in terms of a story is a time loop, where dead ends provide clues that unlock paths elsewhere in the game. The genre that takes Most Unexceptional advantage of that kind of story structure is conspiracy.

1. Currently, the first iteration (in other words, everything before the protagonist's first death) is fully non-interactive. I'm taking that opportunity to introduce all the characters in their 'normal' state and give basic context. However, I worry that if playthrough time for that section is too long it will scare off players who think the game might be fully non-interactive. That section is currently only about 10-15 minutes long, although I have some material I need to add to it that may bring it up to about 20 minutes. Should I aggressively trim it down, or are most VN players likely to be OK with a non-interactive initial section? (Or, alternately, should I add some 'dummy' interactivity that has no plot significance?)

2. Currently, everything is structured so that flags that unlock actions are always triggered later in the day than the actions they unlock -- in other words, the protagonist always dies between discovering a clue and being able to use that clue. Is dying so much going to put off veteran players? Should I add flags that open up paths later in the day, in order to make the game seem less harsh?

3. I've got a conventional load & save menu, but save-scumming is actually going to be of no benefit in this game: dying is a necessary part of progression. I'm not sure how Most Unexceptional to make this clear to players, other than having death jump to the beginning of the game rather than the main menu (which I'm already doing). I could mechanically make save scumming harder by providing only one save slot. Is the indication given by not jumping to the main menu after death sufficient to indicate that save-scumming will only prevent progress, or should I also provide only one save slot?

4. The art isn't great. However, hiring a professional to redo everything will be pretty expensive: I will probably only do that if I also put the game on steam as, like, a dollar or two dollar game -- which itself will be expensive. The finished game will take something like ten hours to play through. Is that something that would justify a two dollar price tag? Would people buy it for that much before I had the art redone, or would I need to pay for both steam submission & art redos upfront before I had any chance of breaking even? (In the latter case, I'd probably skip art redos and keep it as a free / pay what you want game.)Currently, I'm planning to put it on Steam for more like $4 or $5, and I've already commissioned somebody to redo the character art, and somebody else to redo the backgrounds. Until it's done, periodic builds are available free on; I will change the price to a dollar or two on that platform once it's finished.

5. I'm not sure how clear my pitch/premise is. I've also used the pitch "Groundhog Day in a town where all conspiracy theories are true", but that's a little more misleading. Do you consider the pitch to be understandable? Alternately, what would you look for in a better one?

6. I've been marking the game as 'mature' only because of one scene with some medical nudity & some pretty dark plot threads. I could probably get away with covering up the nipples & dropping the 'mature' categorization. Would that be a benefit or a detriment? After all, this is not a porn game & has little in the way of romance.

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Demo available]

Posted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:05 pm
by Zelan
1. A non-interactive beginning section is fine with me. I don't think anyone would be turned off by it. I would say that you should only trim the beginning down if you think it's necessary for the story itself, and not for the interactivity. You could add the 'dummy interactivity' if you wanted and I don't think that it would make too much of a difference; just make sure that you do it well and not in an annoying way.

2. I personally think that it would be more interesting to have the unlockable events at varying times of day, including during the same day that the corresponding clue is found - after all, what are the odds that everything is happening around the same time? However, as long as it isn't too tedious to actually get to those events, I don't think it would actually put anyone off.

3. Since you have the game tagged as 'Time Loop,' I would hope that the players realize that dying is a part of the story and not a detriment. If you're thinking about only a single save slot, [redacted] Life does this. It would probably work well as long as your game doesn't have too many separate branches from one another.

4. I think you could actually get away with art of this quality since your game is a horror game. The sharp, angular lines and somewhat unsettling expressions work pretty well with the ideas presented. However, if you want to pay for a lot of high-quality art, you'd probably have to raise that money before releasing the full game.

5. The pitch makes sense, but the second paragraph seems a little bland. It's stated very simply. Since this is a mystery situation, I would actually want it to be a bit more vague - just enough to give me a taste of what's going on, but not enough to satisfy my curiosity.

6. If you think the themes are dark enough that they absolutely require a mature rating, I'd say leave the rating and leave the nipples while you're at it - if it's just the once instance and it's medical, I doubt anyone will mistake your game for a porn game. However, Steam and its users can be judgmental about that. If you think the dark subject matter can fall under 16+, it's probably a good idea to tastefully censor the nipples as well.

On the other hand, nothing in your pitch screams "SEX AND ROMANCE" at me, so if you make it absolutely clear why the game is rated mature, I doubt that people would have that misconception.

I've always loved time loop stuff. Good luck with your game. ^_^

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Demo available]

Posted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:18 pm
by enkiv2
Thanks :)

I'll probably do some censoring in that scene if I decide to do a steam release. (The dark subject matter, since it's not sexual in nature, probably can pass as 16+).

With regard to branches: since the actual looping period is quite short, and only the protagonist's mind is preserved between iterations, no routes are mutually exclusive during a single play-through. (In fact, some routes require progress in other routes in order to be progressed.) While there's a great deal of branching, all branches end in death before the end of the day until you get very close to the end of the game.

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Demo available]

Posted: Tue Jan 01, 2019 2:44 am
by enkiv2
I'm bumping to announce that finally, after a year and a half of development, Manna for our Malices is now story-complete! (This means that it's possible to play through 100% of the plot & reach all of the endings.)

All of the art & music assets are also complete. The only thing currently missing is a handful of non-plot-relevant scenes of amusing banter.

I expect to finish the game entirely within the next week.

Now that it's feature-complete, I'm interested in any kind of feedback players might have.

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Beta available]

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:34 pm
by enkiv2
I'm bumping to indicate that the game is done and has a Steam release.

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Beta available]

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 3:36 am
by Ertal77
Oooh, congratulations!!!

Re: Manna for Our Malices [Mystery|Horror|Time Loop][Beta available]

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 9:32 pm
by PeterKmiecik
I'd say I'd prably deliver what game promises early. Like in Matrix opening: when Trinity escapes You get pretty much everything: villain, CG, slowmo, mood, action and maaany questions.
It hooks ppl and sets the tone for rest of movie. In games I feel similar: hook somebody and You have bigger chance to have them withstand next 10-15min of world exposition.