TYPOCRYPHA – An Interview/Postmortem

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Typocrypha is an experimental typing JRPG visual novel about social and cultural alienation. Armed with the Typocrypha spellcasting device, a young member of the EVE-IRIS Counter-Demon Force confronts the demonic forces of the Evil Eye, an unknown enemy whose gaze is felt everywhere – including in themself.

I would have liked to write about it, but also, Hughe, the game’s lead developer, is also my friend, which would really cloud my judgement. I even made him fanart for his birthday, dangit. But I thought, hey, since I know him, I should hit him up to answer some questions on the game.

And so here we are today with an interview that’s also effectively a postmortem on the game and the experiences making it. Hughe’s responses are joined by James (producer, programmer, writer), Valentino/Tino (designer, programmer, writer), Herman (artist, animator) and Paige (artist). Many of these responses are pretty long, though I found them insightful and hopefully, you will too.

On the questions regarding the future of the game, please note that as the game is still in development, things may not be set in stone.

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We Know the Devil

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I’ve had We Know the Devil sitting around in my Steam library since 2016, which I probably got from the Halloween sale that year. I kept putting off playing it since that’s what anyone with a large Steam library does, but I thought, “hey, I’m doing this Pride Month thing, I should finally get around to playing it.”

We Know the Devil takes place at a summer camp dedicated to fighting the devil. The story follows the antics of Jupiter, Neptune and Venus as they get to learn about each other and themselves in a nice coming-of-age story. That also happens to be a horror. This story is brought to us by Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz, under Date Nighto (who was also behind Hustle Cat).

[As always, spoilered text is put through ROT13]

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Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates)

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Pride Month is still going on and I will not let work get in my way! I continue my coverage with Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates) by Nilson Carrol (or just “nilson” on itch.io). The game recommends playing this with somebody else, presumably to make choices together, but I have no one to hang out with. So anyway.

You are first confronted with a series of choices. While what you identify as is a cosmetic decision, the other choices build up to who you end up dating (though I don’t understand how the system works). Your three choices of dates are… Nilson, Nilson and Nilson. You date different versions of the game’s creator that mostly acts the same and they instead offer different situations to engage in. The artist Nilson shows off his office and takes you for a walk through an artsy park, the barista Nilson takes you out for drinks and the playful Nilson… dates you at a supermarket.

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The reason why these Nilsons are essentially the same is that the goal isn’t to date a dating sim archetype that you’re into, but to use the dates as a form of reflection. One of the main aims of the dating sim is to sorta act as a tool of self-reflection and it accomplishes this through the game’s choices. There are no branching paths to the game, there’s no secret date night to be found if you pick a certain combination of choices. Nilson generally acts the same no matter what or is written to work around your decisions. The choices you make are the choices you feel. You can express affection toward this weird geeky caricature or act cold. You can express your love for JRPGs and type out your favorite one. You can give your takes on pizza and Nilson will nod along. You are ultimately the only judge of your decisions (unless you’re playing with someone else) and they say more about you than the story.

Whether you find a connection or not is also dependent on you. After a date, you could choose to bail or go on another date. Maybe you didn’t like the first night and wanted to give it another shot, to see if you connect to this version of Nilson. Personally, the playful Nilson kinda reflects my actual relationship in some ways and honestly, I appreciate anyone that loves a good JRPG.

As one can clearly see, the visuals are photographs of Nilson and the environments themselves. I love it because it sorta recontextualizes standard visual novel stuff into a real world setting. Nilson does static poses like a visual novel character and it looks silly, yet endearing. Using photos of real locations also gives this sense of place, like, “hey, I can go out on a date with this person here.” This presentation feels personal, which again ties into the dating sim being a personal experience.

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Going through the dates lasts you an hour. In that hour, I confirmed stuff about myself like that I fucking love JRPGs and anime and that I hate cold days. It’s a simple game, but an interesting approach toward dating sims that acts as a self-portrait for the creator and yourself. It is normally $1.21, but I bought it for a price of $0.68 as part of itch’s summer sale, which is a sale I suggest checking out as an alternative to Steam’s monopoly as Valve continues its spiral into libertarianism.

Coming Out Simulator 2014

And so, we continue this pride month with Coming Out Simulator 2014. The game is by Nicky Chase, who at the time identified as a bisexual guy. It’s a personal, semi-autobiographical story of a guy trying to come out to his conservative Asian parents that you can play in your browser.

The game starts out with a meta narrative of you talking with the creator. It’s a bit silly, but it acts as a lighthearted prologue to the game’s serious subject matter. The narration is told through text message format and while I think it’s neat, I think the writing was generally too formal for the presentation. Then again, I’m writing this four years later where there’s more emojis and textspeak parlance, so what do I know? You are then thrown into the past, after Nicky and his then-boyfriend went on a date, with the boyfriend encouraging Nicky to come out.

Choices have some sway, with dialogue reflecting past choices like the mother character calling you out as a liar if you contradict yourself with your choices. However, the main story is the same. Nicky’s environment is controlling, the mother already having read his texts. The father is an even more controlling piece of shit and the only somewhat good outcome is to pretend that Nicky is as straight as possible, which also manages to be very uncomfortable. No matter what you do, coming out will be a failure.

But of course, the game is semi-autobiographical. You can’t exactly wish a good outcome on something that has already happened. And really, your choices not mattering much in the grand scheme of things is true to life. Coming out isn’t guaranteed to have a good outcome. In an abusive, conservative household, coming out may as well be a losing game, no matter how hard you wish for a different outcome. The game is an uncomfortable contrition with a ticking clock as background noise, keeping the moment as tense as it’d be in real life.

While the game is Nicky’s story, if you’re LGBT, you may end up relating to it. With my own life situation, wow, did this game make me feel awful. I mean that in a good way, but damn.  This was a very tense experience for me and had me thinking about it when I went to sleep. The game can last up to twenty minutes, but it’s an impactful twenty minutes. Just know to expect some homophobia and abusive situations going into the game.

Hustle Cat

I originally planned to write about a smaller game, but that’s when I noticed the post-count. This post right here is the 100th post for Indie Hell Zone! Wow! A real milestone! To commemorate this, I felt that a larger game would be more appropriate for the occasion!

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Hustle Cat is a visual novel by Date Nighto. I’m pretty sure I got the game a year or so ago from a Humble Bundle. I originally got it because I’m a sucker for cat people – turns out the game isn’t about cat people but people that could turn into cats. Close enough.

[All bracketed, gibberish text are spoilers that you can re-translate through ROT13 if you wish.]

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We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream

It’s June, the month of gaymers for being Pride Month and for E3. Last year I spent half of Pride Month dedicated to covering stuff from Dream Diary Jam because I’m a fucking Yume Nikki nerd. This year, I decided that I should focus on stuff befitting the occasion, so I’m spending this month looking at games by LGBT devs.

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The first game I’m looking at is We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream, by Metaparadox. It is a visual novel made in Ren’py for Accessajam, a game jam with accessibility as a focus.

Okay, so first off, I dig the setting and the premise of the game. In the game, the characters are immortal, but it isn’t a big deal in itself. The game doesn’t try to look at the big picture of the whole thing like the logistics of resources in a world of immortality nor does the story’s conflict have a big impact where the world or the state of eternal life is at stake. The story instead focuses on characters who are minor in the grand scheme of things and how they’re affected by the whole immortality shtick. I always kinda live for when background things get more focus over bigger picture stuff, it’s relatable and it kinda leaves room for you to wonder about the daily lives of other people in the world.

You are Amberlynn, a girl who is 671-years-old who has long given up keeping track of her own history. However, her interest in the journals she wrote renews when a girl named Gemma moves in next door. While immortality is sweet, it does have an awful side effect in that people that don’t actively record their histories wind up forgetting decades to centuries of stuff since the brain can’t handle holding all those memories. Amberlynn, however, faintly remembers her.

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Amberlynn could hang out with Gemma and ignore the journals, eventually hitting it off naturally. If you want fully happy lesbians, stop right here. You can then choose to ruin this by reading the journals and going through her old memories. Ignorance is bliss, as you’re pretty much doomed to have a gray ending the moment you start reading those books. Eternal life may have the curse of making you forget your past, but sometimes, there are things worth forgetting. Much like the endings, immortality is a gray concept with regards to memory, holding the ability to make you forget those you care about while allowing your sins to be forgotten.

I kinda wish that there was more, because I feel the story moves a bit too fast. However, as something made in a week, it’s pretty neat for something made within that timeframe.

And speaking of that jam, let’s look at the accessibility options. You can change the font to OpenDyslexic, a free font dedicated to mitigating reading problems caused by dyslexia. If you’re generally hard at reading, you can enable a voice over option that reads the text boxes and choices that you hover over. While that’s a good addition, it is flawed if you have “auto” enabled, as the game will often move to the next box before the voice over is done reading.

We Met Once, Perhaps in a Dream is a nice examination on the trope of immortality and how it plays into memory and relationships. Art is serviceable but isn’t a big focus of the visual novel. The game is pretty short and you can probably see all the ending variants within an hour. Metaparadox is working on other games, with three demos up on her itch.io, so check those out if you’re interested in her work and in gay stuff.

sacraments i and iv

It’s almost the end of spring semester and I’m real tired. I got four projects to finish within the next two weeks and one of them is a ten page research paper. I’m in hell. So, because of that, I decided to look at some short stuff that I had on my backlog, since I don’t have the time to play anything longer.

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Sacrament I and Sacrament IV are games by melessthanthree and they’re meant to act as a lead-up toward his bigger upcoming action game, LUCAH.

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A Few Hours with Visual Novel Maker

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The past weekend, Degica, the company that publishes the RPG Maker engine line, had a free period where you could try RPG Maker MV and their recent in-house release, Visual Novel Maker. I’ve been curious about Visual Novel Maker ever since I heard of it. I don’t have much experience in visual novels. I played around with Ren’py for a bit and made something, but I’m no expert in it. However, Visual Novel Maker, like the RPG Maker line, promises an accessible game making experience, so, I thought that I should check it out.

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Jisei

A drifter wakes up from a nap in a coffee shop, suddenly feeling ill. As he heads to the restroom, he stumbles upon the body of a dead woman. His sickness is connected to this, as for whatever reason, he can sense whenever somebody nearby dies and he can feel what victims felt in their last moments. In feeling her last moments, he discovers that the woman had not died in a way that the crime scene suggests, which adds to the mystery that begins to unfold.

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My visual novel kick from playing Zero Escape continues, so I decided to check out one called Jisei. Jisei is published under Sakevisual, the writing by Ayu Sakata, art by M. Beatriz Garcia, music by Marc Conrad Tabula and a bunch of other fellas providing voice work. The game normally goes for an asking price of $9.99. However, the game will be for pay-what-you-want on itch.io (with suggested price of $6.99) for a short period, with all proceeds being donated to efforts in Harvey.

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