Shira Oka demo

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Ren

Re: Shira Oka demo

#16 Post by Ren » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:11 am

Samu-kun wrote:Also, wtf does that penguin in the OP have to do with the story? Is it somebody's pet? And does it live in a custom refrigerator with a recliner inside it and drink beer? XD...
I have absolutely no idea... I personally didn't like the idea for the OP at all. While it's great to see something like the last scene, where the characters all run towards the stone staircase, the rest of it was more of a put off for me than anything else - had I not been as curious and stubborn as I am, I'd have closed the window right there.
Samu-kun wrote: I don't think I'd pay money for it though... Would you? ._.;
Well... to be honest? No, especially not 20$. I'm not sure I'd spend any money or time on it at all. I found the whole thing to be trying too hard to look like a Japanese VN by taking the more shallow aspects of the aesthetics and the characterisation and story (from the little we see).
It seems to be a collection of characters I've seen a million times already, just without any interesting quirk to make them at least a bit interesting.

I've already said something about the art, so I'll just add that I found the colours used to be very dull, which didn't help the drawings at all.

Game-play-wise I found it quite frustrating: I seemed to basically be stuck with the activities whose related stats were decent enough already, and trying to do anything else just gave me an endless list of failures (two weeks of literature studying thrown in the bin, and no real visible improvement). As Jake pointed out to me, the stats go down during the couple of weeks in which you can't do anything but exercise, which means that you have to sit there looking at your stats going down without being able to do anything about it. It's annoying to say the least.
The idea of introducing the buttons bit by bit is good, as it lets me familiarise with them gradually, but then they should do the same for the stats, so I don't have to see my intelligence going down without having any say in it.

I found the layout to be confusing, too. The way the text is aligned in the screen where you choose your characteristics, for example, could use some work.

Also, I've seen this both on Mac and Windows: the lip movement is still too fast on Mac, but it's almost half the speed I saw on Windows. Same story for the checked sliding background - on Windows it's much faster.

It would have been great to be able to skip already read text like you can do on Renpy games... I can't imagine what it will be to play this 11 times to get all the endings, without it...

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#17 Post by Jake » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:48 am

Ren wrote: As Jake pointed out to me, the stats go down during the couple of weeks in which you can't do anything but exercise, which means that you have to sit there looking at your stats going down without being able to do anything about it. It's annoying to say the least.
To expand upon this: it seems to me that every time you don't spend time improving a stat, that stat atrophies a bit. This isn't in itself bad, and it's realistic enough... but since the game introduces the ability to actually improve stats with activities in a rather piecemeal manner, many of your stats are left to atrophy for a long time before you can improve them. I think near the beginning of the demo I had very similar sport and literature scores, for example, they were both 3 or 4 - but by the time I even had the chance to improve my literature score, it had decayed away to 1... and since sport was the first stat I had the chance to improve, with nothing to do for a week or two near the beginning of the game but sleep or exercise, my sport stat had ballooned to something like 12 or 13 through pretty much no choice of mine.

Coupled with this, it seems that your level in a particular stat determines how likely you are to succeed in it, which means that once your stats are imbalanced in one direction, it's even harder to reverse the trend; I tried 'fashion' when I first got the skill made available to me, and failed four times out of five; I got a measly +1 improvement that didn't even bump me to the next level... so I can expect that if I try fashion again, I'll get a similarly pathetic result, while all my other stats start to drop because I'm not exercising them. On the other hand, if I went swimming or exercised (I expect both of them depend heavily on the Sport stat) I got several great-successes and a success or two, and got a much better level-up.

The result is that once your stats are unbalanced in one direction it's very very hard to get them going in another direction, since it's a far less effective use of your time than just buffing the one or two stats you're already good at... and since the game starts out forcibly unbalancing your stats in one direction, this makes the whole stat-management experience pretty frustrating if you want to do anything else with your character. It's also rather annoying (and unrealistic - almost backwards) that it's harder to improve at an activity you're already worse at. If anything, beginners tend to make much faster, more drastic improvements than seasoned pros in most fields, simply because there's more low-hanging fruit.



Now, it looks from the demo very much like this is going to be one of those games where each prospective partner has a single stat they're really interested in: Aya likes Sports, Rena (IIRC) likes Maths and Science, Alice likes Music... and so on. So maybe this gradual introduction of activities - and the order thereof - is an attempt to make it harder to pair up with some girls than with other girls, because your character is more inclined towards some skills than others, so it's harder to pair with Hiroshi (*shudder*) or maybe Satsuko than it is with Aya, because it's harder to build up your fashion stat compared to sports... but while this may be the case, I suspect there are ways to do it which don't frustrate the user so much. Maybe just have the requirements for some girls be higher?

As with Ren, I also thought it was nice that the game was easing me in and introducing the activities one at a time to avoid overloading me with too many options at once... but - for example - after recovering all my energy the first week, it was already annoying enough to be forced to sleep unnecessarily for a week and watch all my stats go down. If a particular stat weren't shown until it were properly introduced and only then started to vary, or perhaps if the character has a default baseline past which stats decay much more slowly (e.g. once stat-decay reaches level 2 or 3, it doesn't decay anywhere near as fast), it could be less annoying.

On the subject of stat mechanics... I don't know if I just didn't exhaust my guy enough in the game I played, but it seemed almost like two days resting was equally as good as a week resting, which didn't seem to make sense. And while having separate physical and mental exhaustion meters was a nice idea, it didn't seem like mechanically there was much difference between that and having a single meter; I was still reliably failing mental activities when I had a low physical energy meter, for example. One idea might be to have mental activities refill the physical energy bar a little and vice versa; this wouldn't just be a little more realistic, but would also encourage a more balanced approach to stat-building by default.

Ren wrote: I found the layout to be confusing, too. The way the text is aligned in the screen where you choose your characteristics, for example, could use some work.
This too - for example, when assigning points to stats, one slider label is underneath the plus/minus buttons for the stat values. It's a nice idea to discriminate between different types of (say) creativity, but it could probably have been done as a separate step.

I also found the stat-levels screen a bit confusing at first: it took me a little while to work out why one of my stats saying "1" had a larger bar than one saying "6", or why one of my stats went down after the last activity but the bar was more filled.





Aside from the annoying parts of stat-building, my main complaint with Shira Oka - at least from the demo - would be the complete lack of story, to be honest. I know it's not traditionally a strong point of dating sim games, and had the stat mechanic been interesting enough, it wouldn't need one (c.f. Magical Boutique), but it would be nice to have at least some set of character-driven stories that the protagonist can involve himself in, and short of the shy girl's shyness, there's not really anything like that even hinted at. The graphics are rather poor in some places (particular examples: when Kiku touches her chin it looks like she's pulling her face off; when Naoki looks down in a somewhat dejected manner her face is suddenly about a quarter the size and her forehead is huge) and there are some layout niggles and minor bugs, but the thing that puts me off spending money on it the most is the lack of anything interesting to do - the stat-building isn't that fun and there's apparently no story to hold my attention either.
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Re: Shira Oka demo

#18 Post by DaFool » Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:36 am

The ironic thing is that if this were released 3 years ago it would have been called 'revolutionary'.
Just look at ourselves here... we're the very same people who would have forgiven something amateur, now expecting a lot out of projects!

Somewhat related:

http://www.caffeinatedgames.com/profile ... die-is-aaa

Thanks to the general collapse in prices in the indie market, people expect absolute polish and only want to pay 5-10 dollars. And yet, even if devs do sweat out for more than 6 months or even years to create something on a grander scale, the free fart apps will still be more popular.

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#19 Post by Samu-kun » Wed Jul 21, 2010 3:21 am

Well, to clarify, maybe if I didn't have a backlog of three Japanese eroge and two Galaxy Angel games that I needed to clear first, and if I had already bought Princess Waltz, Yume Miru Kusuri, and Family Project from J-List and had nothing else to buy, then I might consider buying this. But unfortunately, I'm a little over saturated with bishojo games right now and seriously out of money (the two often seem to go hand in hand, hmm...), so I wouldn't buy it unless it looked really awesome.

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#20 Post by Jake » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:54 am

DaFool wrote:The ironic thing is that if this were released 3 years ago it would have been called 'revolutionary'.
Just look at ourselves here... we're the very same people who would have forgiven something amateur, now expecting a lot out of projects!
Two things to note:

- If it had been released three years ago, it would have had three fewer years' development. Okashi was founded in 2005 and Shira Oka is supposedly their first project. To be honest, the five-year development doesn't really show, especially when compared to notable projects like Magical Boutique (similar gameplay mode, more fun) or Katawa Shoujo (as I understand it shorter dev time, better polish).

- It's crossing a line away from "amateur", because it's a commercial project. People are often more forgiving of free things - and quite rightly so, since it's not unreasonable to ask to get a decent return on your investment of cash. Both of the above-mentioned projects are free!

To my mind, a lot of the reason to 'forgive' problems with amateur projects and to encourage their creators regardless of issues is to encourage people who show some promise to actually keep creating regardless of how good the stuff they're making now is, in order that they might make better stuff in the future - and I don't think the spirit of the LSF three years ago was really that much different to that. Okashi don't need encouraging, because they're already pretty committed to making Shira Oka - it's been in development for five years, and it's planned as a commercial project, they've set up a company for it and everything. But since they're selling it, it is in their best interest to try and make it as good a product that appeals to as large a number of people as possible, and for that they need any flaws we can see in it pointed out to them. To be blunt, if a community like LSF which can be notoriously uncritical and is by its nature interested in dating-sim-type games doesn't see much of worth in your game, then you're likely to have trouble selling it to anyone who isn't already a member of your forum.
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Re: Shira Oka demo

#21 Post by Voight-Kampff » Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:58 pm

Well, as they say, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression". And while I don't know how much value this will have, this is what I got from my first impression of Shira Oka. Keeping in mind, I've only had a chance to play through the first ten minutes...

Shira Oka is ambitious. Very ambitious. Unfortunately, the studio don't appear to have the requisite skill set to properly execute their vision.

The animated intro? Very ambitious. However, it was...not my favorite thing in the world. On the flip side, what little voice acting I've heard, I thought was very well done. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it is the one element that is befitting a "commercial" release. I'd go so far as to say that once I hear more voice acting, that is.

I appreciate the concept behind the "animated" sprites. However, I think it's more to the detriment of the artwork than anything else. By continually switching up sprites between poses, I'm less reminded of motion and "life" in the characters, as I'm reminded of how few poses the sprites actually have.

The stat system seems like a very interesting aspect of the game. Probably the most important aspect, actually. I've played my fair share of games that were lacking in many aspects but were still quite entertaining due to game mechanics. Unfortunately, based on what Jake has already reported, it appears as if that system still needs a lot of work.

Overall? I can only end as I began: Ambitious. Very ambitious.

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#22 Post by Jake » Thu Jul 22, 2010 7:24 am

Voight-Kampff wrote: I appreciate the concept behind the "animated" sprites. However, I think it's more to the detriment of the artwork than anything else. By continually switching up sprites between poses, I'm less reminded of motion and "life" in the characters, as I'm reminded of how few poses the sprites actually have.
To be honest, I quite liked the animation part of the sprites. It seemed to me that the problem wasn't that the sprites have few poses - they don't seem to have any more or fewer than most games - but that some of the poses that they hold for a long time are rather awkward. I'm sure I remember Aya spending whole scenes in her one-arm-up-one-eye-closed pose, which made me wonder whether she'd had a seizure more than it looked cute or 'genki' or anything. The fact that the poses have animated transitions makes the poses look more static in comparison, which makes the awkward poses look more awkward, IMO.
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Re: Shira Oka demo

#23 Post by Voight-Kampff » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:15 am

Jake wrote:- they don't seem to have any more or fewer than most games -
That's exactly my point.

Take an "ordinary" VN for instance, which doesn't use animated transitions. A sprite may hold on a pose for a minute. Maybe five minutes. Maybe longer. Then the sprite changes poses. And that sprite may hold for minutes-on-end before switching to the next pose.

During the intervening time, my mind gets distracted as I read the story and I forget about which poses a sprite has. Granted, I'll eventually commit all poses to memory. But that may take hours (depending on the length of the game). With the animated sprites in Shira Oka, I was made aware of all the sprite positions of the first character within the first five minutes of starting the game.

I suppose the point that I'm attempting to make is that, as a reader, I should be more aware of the story as I read it, rather than what sprite positions the artist chose to use. For some reason, my mind was more focused on the latter, rather than the former while playing the beginning of Shira Oka.

Ren

Re: Shira Oka demo

#24 Post by Ren » Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:35 am

I suppose the point that I'm attempting to make is that, as a reader, I should be more aware of the story as I read it, rather than what sprite positions the artist chose to use. For some reason, my mind was more focused on the latter, rather than the former while playing the beginning of Shira Oka.
Really, I think the reason is (or anyway, it was for me) the choice of having some characters in very awkward poses for longer periods of time. The example Jake made was the most obvious one, for me. Aya's neutral pose should be her default whenever she'd speaking, for example.
Image
She kept this and another couple of very unnatural poses for several screens of dialogue, some times. She's not the only example either, just the easier to remember. For me, had they used their poses more wisely, by keeping this and other poses for just the first line of dialogue and then reverting to a more inconspicuous one, would have solved the problem entirely. As it was, I kept wondering whether she had a stroke or something, every now and then.

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#25 Post by Voight-Kampff » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:52 am

I seem to recall a similar issue in Shuffle!

Image

Who stands like that?!

So in short: I can certainly see your point. :lol:

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#26 Post by Ren » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:02 pm

Well, if her heating is broken and it's Winter, with that light dress... :P

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#27 Post by Voight-Kampff » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:26 pm

Ren wrote:Well, if her heating is broken and it's Winter, with that light dress... :P
Believe me, I tried to use just such rationale to make the ridiculousness go away.

It...didn't last long. :D

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#28 Post by IceD » Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:47 pm

Isn't she just a bit embarassed? :D Anyway, you've got a point. Many visual novels support such incredible character posing I hardly find it believable, but I don't recall a situation when it got to such extent, it was hard for me to focus on the story. I usually treat the screen as pictures in book, looking at it from time to time and mostly listen and read the text.

Some artists like to exaggerate from time to time ;p

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#29 Post by Muse » Tue Jul 27, 2010 7:00 am

I'm looking forward to this game. Maybe I'm overly optimistic but *Shrugs* It looks exciting for me.

One thing I don't understand is the art comparisons: it is much more difficult to do moving artwork than a still picture. So I find some of these comparisons unfair; to me, what the game lacks in refining the artwork more it makes up for in movements. Then again, my biggest problem in Visual Novels is that I focus solely on the text, and don't notice a tiny shift in sprites, so I miss out on all of the poses. I use the movement as a way to look up and knew they changed. I guess my point was; I felt the art style fit the feel of the game. It's more relaxed.

The system did take getting used to. But I'm a huge fan of Princess Maker and other such games, and the weekly schedule worked well there. Since both PM and Shira Oka take place over several in-game years (mentioned on the forums in a few spots), I think it's a safer bet than something like RE:Alistair++, where it only takes place over thirty days. (Not that I'm saying Alistair isn't epic; it is, but it is also shorter.)

I noticed in the Demo I had a hard time with skills, doing badly at everything. But I had the same problem in Princess Maker. (Ugh stupid girl spent all of her cooking lessons for the first two years chasing turkeys, honestly!) So I would guess that Shira Oka takes a similar approach to things like that; it takes a while.

All that being said... It's still clearly in processing stages; after all the demo may be out, but the game itself is still in beta. It still needs a lot of work, and a lot of what is happening is simply speculation, because the full game isn't out yet, and we only have the demo to judge off of it. (A demo that came out during beta, not after the game was all the way polished and ready for release.)

Overall I think this game has a lot of promise; but I think it's also one that people need to not take so seriously. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be done well, or taken seriously from a publishing aspect, just saying you tend to play a game like say, Yo-Jin-Bo (or my guess, Shira Oka) with a different mindset than say, Katawa Shoujo or Fate/Stay Night.

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Re: Shira Oka demo

#30 Post by Counter Arts » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:12 pm

For me it's hard to gauge what the market standards are since I am exposed to a lot of visual novels and do a lot of research on various game features. The wider market doesn't do that. If the current visual novel/dating-sim/bishoujo market is small then that's a lot of people who don't have that standard set yet.

I know that Tokimeki Memorial 4 has 90+ skills like conversationalist, aerobic, motorcycle license. The skills does stuff like reduces the rate that you get stressed, increases general stats, or gives trades offs. So far no one but me has pointed out something like this.

And I'm pretty much dying for a dating sim of Shira-oka's length. Preferably one I haven't designed myself.
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