Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

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Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#1 Post by gekiganwing » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:25 am

If you have a whimsical or cynical mindset, Friendship is Magic could be described as "cute ponies doing cute things." It's slice of life with some adventure episodes, and definitely not a love triangle / polygon series. But I have made jokes about it being a secret harem show.

This is a roundabout way of mentioning that at several FIM fan projects are romance games, visual novels, or somewhere in between. Gentlecolts' Pony Amnesia doesn't update often, but as far as I know, they're still working on their demo. Harmony was definitely active for a while, but I'm not sure how it's going. For a more "gen" example, there's also the work in progress My Little Investigations which is about solving crimes. There's a few others here on Lemma Soft, and others have appeared on the Ponychan /collab/ board (which is usually worksafe).

Anyway... Zap Apple's project Starswirl Academy now has a trailer and a demo. They promise it will be a story with choices, and that it won't include gameplay. The characters are human, but still have their original pony names. They chose to cast Tom as the male protagonist (who is canonically a non-sentient rock), rather than a character with an established personality or an OC. I'm not sure what else will set it apart from other boy x girl stories.
Last edited by gekiganwing on Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#2 Post by Rainbow Wavedash » Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:18 am

I was planning on making a post once we fixed all the demo bugs, but I suppose this works.

I'm not quite sure what to add to this thread, so I'll just say that I am here and you can contact me here or at the website. Neither one is faster than the other.
Last edited by Rainbow Wavedash on Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#3 Post by gekiganwing » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:57 am

Thanks for posting... I didn't know whether anyone on the Starswirl team knew about this forum. I have removed the incorrect statement from my first message.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#4 Post by PyTom » Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:04 pm

I can kick this over to WiP, or you can create a new thread, or we can keep this here. Your choice.

Anyway, I played through the demo today.

I'd like to start with a disclaimer - I've never been able to make it through an episode of the modern MlP show. I have a vague idea of the basics of the fandom and the names and looks of the main characters - but I'm an outsider when it comes to brony matters.

What's really interesting is how much I enjoyed it. Despite many of the characters having names appropriate for the Kentucky Derby :-), this would be one of the more polished BxG game demos I've seen. I'm not going to say that it was a bad idea to target the brony niche - It's certainly brought a lot of interest to this game - but hopefully, when it's released, you'll promote this game to other portions of the community as well.

There are a lot of things I liked about this game, and I think that many VN developers should take a look at the in-game interface. Maybe my experience is a bit limited, but this is the first game I've seen that entirely omits character names in favor of side images, and I think that worked out really well. I'd expect more games to copy that decision. The click to continue indicators are also a nice, subtle touch.

I think that the story I've seen so far is also enjoyable - not only does it introduce a large fraction of the class, it starts to introduce concepts - like the
flair
that seem like they could move the story forward. The characters are all attractive and well rendered, with a lot of personality in the sprite. I'd also like to single out the large number of drawn backgrounds this game has.

There are a couple of minor quibbles - I'm not sure why "Depth of Field" and "Zoom" are options, as I don't think either effect is particularly expensive. I also think - as in most 16:9 games - the text is a bit too wide for my tastes. I'd suggest padding it on both sides, which would also have the benefit of preventing overlap with the side images.

But really, those are minor problems. If anything, I'd recommend this demo to VN makers, if only as an example of an in-game interface that is customized while still being quite subtle.
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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#5 Post by Rainbow Wavedash » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:00 pm

We can move this over to WiP, I suppose. Should I edit my first post with some info? Would it be cleaner to just make a new thread?
PyTom wrote:What's really interesting is how much I enjoyed it. Despite many of the characters having names appropriate for the Kentucky Derby
That there should probably go on the back of the box.

It means a lot to us that so many non-fans gave the demo a shot, and when they come out liking it, it really does make our day. I know you were following us on Twitter, but I have to admit I didn't expect you to play through it, let alone have some praise for our UI.

The DoF and zoom options were left in just in case. I had some problems with it one time during early testing and I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to be a widespread problem. It can probably get removed when we update the demo to fix some amazingly broken save states and grammar. I'm not sure why it never occurred to any of us to just make the text box smaller instead of trying to deal with portrait overlap. Maybe we did at one point. Who knows.

I'm glad the character portraits turned out well. It was a very heated debate among the staff, and I know a lot of potential fans were against it when they were seeing the first screenshots, but the response after the release has been almost universally positive. The exception to that being the heights of the characters in the portrait area. We thought it would be funny to see the height differences down there, especially Derpy. Didn't go over so well. More distracting than funny. Oh well. That's what betas are for.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#6 Post by gekiganwing » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:18 pm

PyTom wrote:... I've never been able to make it through an episode of the modern MlP show. I have a vague idea of the basics of the fandom and the names and looks of the main characters - but I'm an outsider when it comes to brony matters.
I've watched about 1/2 of FIM (all the season 1 episodes, parts of S2, and a bit of S3), mostly on DVD. Haven't given the first generation series a chance, or the mid-2000s shows ("G3" and "G3.5"). Though I should probably prioritize the other stuff that's currently shaping today's fan conventions, such as Homestuck, Adventure Time, Korra, Valve games, and Bioware games.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#7 Post by papillon » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:51 pm

Haven't given the first generation series a chance
Should you ever need someone to ramble at you about the merits of the original Ponies, I'm probably available. :)

(Back in my day, ponies had surprisingly dark plotlines, but fairly weak execution. I wouldn't actually recommend diving into it without a guide to show you the better bits.)

I know absolutely nothing about Tales or the G2-G3 stuff though.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#8 Post by PyTom » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:20 pm

Rainbow Wavedash wrote:We can move this over to WiP, I suppose. Should I edit my first post with some info? Would it be cleaner to just make a new thread?
I think it might be, since this way you'll be the first poster, which helps keep everything sorted out.
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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#9 Post by Dazed » Sun Nov 10, 2013 5:59 pm

Looking forward to this actually. Haven't gotten a chance to play the demo just yet, but I'm loving the art.
New to the forum. Good things to come!....erm, I hope.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#10 Post by Googaboga » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:33 pm

Wow this game looks so polished :0. And I love who you guys chose as the MC :lol:. I haven't played the demo but I'm sure I'll make time to play the full game once it's released.

Best of luck on your project~
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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#11 Post by Rainbow Wavedash » Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:14 am

Just an update since the thread got bumped. We've fixed all the bugs we were hearing about and did a bit of an overhaul on some of the UI display. Demo should be re-issued within a few days and I'll make a proper post then.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#12 Post by gekiganwing » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:21 am

Thank you for the update, Rainbow Wavedash. Hopefully the writing, coding, and so on will continue to go smoothly.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#13 Post by Der Tor » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:10 am

Haha... you play as "Tom Stone" and the girls are named: Tai Saito, Annabel-Jean Smith, Faith Summers, Roslyn “Rose” Montgomery, Paulina “Polly” Parks and Robin Douglas… (after they renamed them... originally they where just named Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash :mrgreen:
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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#14 Post by gekiganwing » Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:11 am

After receiving a message from Hasbro, the cast's names and a few details were changed. The story is still being written, but it's not really a fangame at this point. At the same time, you can still see a resemblance in graphics and personalities to canon characters. It's kind of like Season of the Sakura, except with characters being expies of one show.

For what it's worth, Pony Amnesia (which I referenced earlier) is also active.

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Re: Starswirl Academy [MLP:FIM fan VN]

#15 Post by Rainbow Wavedash » Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:52 pm

Yup. If you hadn't guessed, the Hasbro request is why we haven't made a proper thread yet. Just need to reissue the trailer first.

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