Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos
From Dischan Media, creators of the highly acclaimed Juniper's Knot, comes Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos. Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel series featuring Winter Harrison, a student mediator from a utopian world. Learning to Manage Chaos is the first entry in the series. What is a mediator?
Release Date: Apr 4, 2013

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Recommended By Curators

"A short visual novel and the first of a planned episodic series. Beautiful art and an interesting story <3"

Reviews

“Learning to Manage Chaos is driven by an engaging story and lively dialogue.”
4/5 – Gamezebo

“Extraordinary story, writing, art, characters, and music. What more could you ask for?”
8.5/10 – Game Podunk

About This Game

From Dischan Media, creators of the highly acclaimed Juniper's Knot, comes Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos.

Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel series featuring Winter Harrison, a student mediator from a utopian world. Learning to Manage Chaos is the first entry in the series.

What is a mediator? A mediator is someone who travels to chaotic worlds, attempting to resolve the issues plaguing them. The first entry in the series follows Winter's second mediation, where she shadows the experienced and aloof mediator: Cyrus Addington.

Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos features two distinct endings, unlockable bonus art, an animated opening video, and a jukebox of in-game music.

What is a visual novel?


A visual novel is a mix of choose your own adventure books, comics and manga, music, and animation. Play through the story and make choices for the main character to change the outcome of the episode and the events of future episodes!

Soundtrack Included


All Steam purchases of Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos include the official soundtrack absolutely free! Enjoy a total of 18 tracks, including a full rendition of the Dysfunctional Systems opening theme, in both MP3 and FLAC. The album is included with the game files. To access, right click the "Dysfunctional Systems" entry in your library, click "properties", then go to the "local files" tab, and click the "browse local files" button.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP
    • Processor: 1.2 GHz Pentium 4
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Integrated Graphics
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7 or higher
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz Dual-Core
    • Memory: 3 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Dedicated Graphics Card
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    Minimum:
    • OS: OS X 10.6
    • Processor: Any 64 bit processor
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Integrated Graphics
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: OS X 10.8 or higher
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz+ Dual-Core
    • Memory: 3 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Dedicated Graphics Card
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    Minimum:
    • Processor: 1.2 GHz Pentium 4
    • Memory: 1 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Integrated Graphics
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: "ia32-libs" package required for 64-bit Linux users
    Recommended:
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz Dual-Core
    • Memory: 3 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Dedicated Graphics Card
    • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: "ia32-libs" package required for 64-bit Linux users
Helpful customer reviews
156 of 169 people (92%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 12
TL;DR: Since the developer has abandoned the project and the remaining episodes will not be made/released in the foreseeable future I wouldn't spend your money on this. Its story is incomplete and will probably never be completed. In the end by paying $5 for this you'll have 1.5 hours of prologue that is, in itself, not nearly enough to leave you satisfied.

Game review:

Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel about, as the title inclines, the managing of chaos. The premise of dysfunctional systems revolves around an organisation in some technological utopia that sends meddlers to other worlds to solve their problems and reclaim order. It's an interesting concept, but it's not too different from what we've seen before. That said, it doesn't mean dysfunctional systems has no potential, in fact it has loads of potential. Too bad none of that really matters.

The story is basically an introduction to the universe and it's characters. We get to see the main characters do their jobs as meddlers in a world that is having diplomatic problems. Things escalate, I won't spoil anything, I'll just say that: it's way too short to develop anything outside of a prologue to the other episodes. Yes, there is a story in it, no you're probably not going to cry over it. It isn't insanely good and it isn't bad. At best this will leave you wanting more, where the problem of an abandoned project reels in again.

Even if an incomplete story wouldn't bother you, this first episode leaves too much to be desired and too many questions to be asked. The game is way too short to accomplish any real world building, something that is so important when your game is literally about travelling and meddling in the affairs of other worlds.

The characters, focusing on the two main ones, consist of your basic grumpy teacher and stubborn student. That's not to say the characters aren't enjoyable or not well written, they share some funny and touching moments. It's just that the game is simply way too short to develop any character properly. Thus we are left with... again, nothing special.

Then there are the choices, which are very important to get right when you make something in this medium. It is unfortunately something dysfunctional functions had a serious lack of. The entire game basically has 1 choice. 1 choice in the entire thing. After this one choice dysfunctional systems might (depending on what you choose) present you 2-or so more rather confusing choices. Too bad none of these matter. At all. The only difference is that you'll be getting a different achievement.

Something I can praise dysfunctional systems about is it's amazing art and music.
The art, although perhaps a bit repetitive at times, looks amazing, there isn't a whole lot of animation but that's alright, in the end I wasn't expecting there to be any. The UI is really good, everything fits together nicely and I actually enjoyed reading the few codex entries there were, as bland as they may be. As for the music, it was very nicely done. You won't have the same track looping every other sequence or anything like that here. Good stuff, Ill probably end up listening to it more in the future.

The real reason you shouldn't buy this:

After all that I do feel the need to honestly say that Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos is not a bad visual novel at all, at least, as a prologue. Sure, it doesn't hit all the good spots and the lack of choices is pretty disappointing. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily bad. It does it's job as a prologue - it gets you excited for more whilst giving a basic introduction of the universe.

The real reason you shouldn't buy this is because the developer abandoned the two sequels that were originally planned. Reason? Financial problems and a lack of motivation. The development team did a poor job of financing the funds received from the kickstarter campaign. People have lost a lot of their trust for the developers, and righteously so, it was one big mistake after another for the dev team and the death of Dysfunctional Systems as a result of that. It's a real shame, I would have liked to see more from this.

So, in the end Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos gives us a 1.5 hour prologue of a story that will probably never be made. Whether you are willing to spend $5 on that is your choice, but I personally wouldn't recommend it.
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43 of 56 people (77%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
5.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 2
Episode 1 left a pretty nice taste in my mouth. In the end I wanted more.
But alas, life sucks, and things die. Things like this, but it died early on, and probably won't be getting any sort of sequel until a miracle happens. Or the devs get more money, but that's probably not gonna happen.

But hey, if you're ok with settling with the cliff-hanger-tastic episode 1 for a measly five bucks, go right a head. If you're not, which is probably the majority, then wait for hell to freeze over, that's probably when this game get's finished and it's OK to buy. Unless episodes 2 and 3 end up sucking. Then they wont be ok to buy.
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14 of 15 people (93%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.5 hrs on record
Posted: March 18
The sad irony of Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos, is it comes so very close to standing alone but in a last minute effort, fully commits to setting up more episodes we’re all but certain never to see.

Let’s back up for a moment though. Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel following Winter and Cyrus, who play the part of mediators: peace keepers of sorts to the different distant worlds surrounding their own. It’s their job to step in when things become too extreme, and ensure a world doesn’t destroy itself in acts of war.

Learning to Manage Chaos then, is Winter training to learn how exactly someone is capable of keeping a world in check, especially in times of extreme turmoil. If anything though, this is more the story of Winter growing as a person than a mediator, her naivety and innocence being tested as she’s thrown into situations where there is no right decision and not everyone is going to come out alive.

It’s not uncommon for authors to craft ignorant protagonists or side characters so as to have an easy stepping off point for relaying important details to the reader, which characters should likely already know, but Dysfunctional System manages to very rarely fall into that trap of artificial stupidity. Winter feels authentic in her cluelessness about the larger world, being only fourteen but having her heart in the right place. Her actions and ways of thinking are often flawed, but her internal indecision and discomfort of wrestling between what she believes is right and what she’s being told is logical feel very relatable and sincere. She’s been living a life in a pristine society, where the concept of war is difficult to even imagine, so being flung into a far less peaceful and sustainable world comes at more than a small shock.

Cyrus, her mentor, is the counterpoint to Winter’s pleas for peaceful discussion and her fear at wandering into a world she doesn’t understand. He’s calculating and experienced, but also cold and seemingly worn down by the things he’s had to do for the sake of keeping worlds alive. His discussions with Winter are often full of frustration, but the glimpses of understanding that poke through give him the feeling of more than just an old, mean-spirited teacher. He’s smart and recognizes that Winter isn’t prepared for the role of a mediator, but he wants to ensure she gains the experience needed, which even if uncomfortable isn’t anything like what she’ll eventually have to face.

Most of Learning to Manage Chaos takes place between only these two characters, and the back and forth between them is surprisingly compelling. Their dialogues can get heated, but developer Dischan Media does a fantastic job leveraging this between brief moments of humor (such as Winter trying her first bear) to create a very personal, relatable feeling to every interaction. The core plot holds no great weight in all of this, being a tool to spark conversation but without much depth in and of itself, but it’s a short outing that manages a great amount of character development before then closing in a scene that while not perfectly finite, feels complete.

But then the screen comes back and here is where Dysfunctional Systems unfortunately suffers as at the time the first episode was being developed it was still believed future episodes were on the way. The fact is that development has been put on perpetual hiatus, dying after internal troubles caused the project to fall through and any hope of seeing the series completed along with it. This wouldn’t factor in nearly as heavily to Learning to Manage Chaos if it wasn’t for the extended epilogue that comes after the credits. It’s a series of exchanges which don’t exactly propel the plot forward, but leave it in an awkward state of uncompleted development. It disrupts the finality the episode originally ends with, and itself feels rather unpolished, with an abundance of useless dialogue and very limited artwork (most of the epilogue takes place in a sort of text only terminal)

So there’s the clincher. Dysfunctional Systems is an engaging visual novel, with a wonderful art style and a brilliant score, but it’s a story you have to commit at the start to being left hanging with. It’s hard for me to say then if I recommend giving it a chance. I’m caught between my enjoyment of what it is, and disappointment at what it will never become. It’s a weird place to find a game, and it’s not a judgement call I’d be able to make for anyone else.

You can read more of my writing on Kritiqal.
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7 of 8 people (88%) found this review helpful
3.2 hrs on record
Posted: February 15
I just finished this first episode and I must say it was absolutely fantastic! It's been a long time since a VN I've played had a story that was so engaging and held my interest so much. I mean, the art is very well done, the music is excellent and the story itself is something that's rather unique and it was very well written to top everything off.

I could go on and on about how great this visual novel is. But like others, I can't, in good conscience, recommend anyone purchase this game.

You see, after finishing this first episode, I raced to the forums to see when I could expect the next installment to show up. Alas, I found the message, dated over a month ago, stating that Dysfunctional Systems was no more and that future episodes would most likely not see the light of day. I still hold a small hope for that one miracle to happen though.

So, while you may feel free to ignore my (and others') non-recommendation and purchase this game, you will still be receiving an excellent piece of writing and an excellent game in general. Just don't expect any more, at least for the time being.
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8 of 10 people (80%) found this review helpful
3.3 hrs on record
Posted: March 7
It's a short game for sure, but the game introduces a lot of nifty concepts about the world of "Dysfunctional Systems". Get it for the story as well as the anticipated sequel to this. Recommended to get it in a bundle since its around 1-2 hours long.
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11 of 16 people (69%) found this review helpful
2.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 17
Let me preface this by saying that I really, really enjoyed Dysfunctional Systems. However, I cannot in good conscience recommend this for many people. Let me explain.

Firstly, what I did like about Dysfunctional Systems. While very short, the story is extremely compelling in terms of the writing, and especially the premise, which is very unique and one of my favorite aspects. The interface is very slick and polished, and the art and character design is fantastic. I absolubtely loved my short romp through the world(s) of Dysfunctional Systems, and I sincerely wish I could spend more time in that world.

Unfortunately, this brings me to why I ultimately cannot recommend Dysfunctional Systems despite its fantastic setting, storywriting, and art direction. Dysfunctional Systems was originally created with the intent of being a 3 episode series, which was funded through kickstarter. However, Dischan, the creators of Dysfunctional Systems have confirmed the cancellation of the release of the next installment of Dysfunctional Systems, and have put the entire series on indefinite hiatus, and most likely permanent cancellation.

I cannot recommend Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos because the entire VN was clearly centered around the notion that it fit into a greater story, and the endings of Learning to Manage Chaos are clearly structered around this assumption. While Learning to Manage Chaos is a great story for what it is, it does not work very well as a standalone story.

If you are willing to play what was suppossed to be the opening for a greater story, then go ahead and get Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos. If you feel like you will be dissapointed by the notion the story is incomplete, then please avoid this title.

It's a pity really because I really did like the premise and setting of Dysfunctional Systems.
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: February 24
This game is an interactive book but there isn't a lot of interacting until one part of the game, the rest is just reading a lot. But the outcome of the story depends on what you choose at that one point in the game where you actually get to choose how it all plays out. The graphics are anime looking and the story is clever and well done. I really enjoyed this game and all it had to offer. I beat it a couple of times to get all the achievements and to see how many different ways the story can play out differently. if you grinded through the story with alot of clicks or using a macro you can easily get all the achievements in about 30 minutes easily. I really liked this book. I highly recommend getting this game if you would like a good read.
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7 of 11 people (64%) found this review helpful
3.2 hrs on record
Posted: December 22, 2014
This Visual Novel is very short, but THE MUSIC. I fell in love with the music and am glad it came with the soundtrack. I already have it on my itunes and occasionally listen to it while i'm playing League of Legends. This is worth picking up if you're feeling lazy and want to slow things down and enjoy a story. I would say its worth the $5, but if it ever goes on sale, then it becomes a must buy.
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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
3.9 hrs on record
Posted: December 30, 2014
Now, i have no idea how to review a visual novel seeing as this is the second one i've played in my entire lifetime. But what i will say though is that it gave me a pretty good idea of how visual novels work and makes me want to play other ones in the future. So that is a good sign. However, i felt that the storytelling was a bit amateurish and disjointed at times. and that the pacing varied between being either too slow or too fast. But the story and subject matter was compelling enough for me to stick with it until the end.

Speaking of the ending, it leaves many questions unanswered and isn't very satisfying, this is because there will be future episodes to tie it all together. But i am a bit vary, seeing as the sequel has been delayed and even abandoned by the developers until they made a kickstarter. And in my mind, kickstarter often means trouble, there are few things that have come out of kickstarter and been exactly as good as promised. I've been disappointed, ripped off, and lied to thanks to the "early access/kickstarter culture" and i've learnt the hard way that you should never ever buy works-in-progress or pre-order things if you don't have a damn good reason to do so.

But in the end, i think i would recommend this visual novel. Because it seems to be the best one available on steam currently. And because it combines cute and lighthearted themes with dark and philosophical ones. Touching topics such as ethics or politics.
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5 of 8 people (63%) found this review helpful
2.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 17
This is basically a prologue. It's a very well done prologue. Unfortunately, it's also abandoned, no further episodes are forthcoming. Sadly, i must recomend you not waste your money.
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5 of 8 people (63%) found this review helpful
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 26
Do you like interactive, engaging visual novels? Don't buy this.
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11 of 20 people (55%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: January 1
Throughout the entire playthrough I was only given the option to make one decision. One. In an hour and a half. And apparently it was the wrong one which was spoiled for me immediately based on the condescending achievement it unlocked.

Beyond the lack of any actual gameplay in this game, I can't even recommend it as a visual novel. It's got lazy artwork, There were only a handful of backgrounds used, only 5 characters drawn (a few others had lines but the conversations took place out in a hall or something so you are left staring at an empty background for 10 minutes).

The 'animation' was nothing more than moving static images around a few pixels. The entire thing just screamed 'LAZY'. I don't understand all the good reviews this has been getting. Have those reviewers never read a real book or played a game where they had meaningful decisions?

I think I paid $5 for this garbage. If I knew what I was getting I wouldn't have paid anything for it. But even if you are REALLY into crappy visual novels with stupid teenager angsty ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ I don't think you should pay more than $0.25 for something this weak.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
0.5 hrs on record
Posted: May 6
Try on your own accord

The game isn't finished. It's beed dropped.

Check the forum before buying.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 25, 2014
I'll admit, I didn't have high hopes for this VN, seeing as this is only the second VN I've ever experienced. At first, I felt that the characters were dull and that I was going to have to drop it out of boredom early on. It didn't take long for my opinion to change as the story picked up. Not that many decisions to make, but hopefully everything becomes more complex as the story continues. The art style is pretty good, as it accurately represents the tone of the story. The ambient sounds are fantastic! Easy to dismiss, but really add to the immersion of the setting. The musical choices seemed right for each situation and only further improved the tone and setting. The bottom line is that I don't regret the purchase so far. I look forward to continuing the story.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: January 1
Overall, I think this was a good game experience. This was my first attempt at a visual novel, and it's definitely not for everybody. It didn't take me too long to beat the game, and I'm going to get episode 2 when that comes out to see where the story goes. I think that the biggest downfall to this game was that it took a while before you could really experience the game and make any decisions. After you make your first decision, it's smart to save the game, so you can go back and make different decisions without having to restart the entire game.

This is a short story, and it's obvious that there will be more games out there, as the story line leads to a sequel. I enjoyed the art in the game, as it's visually appealing, but I think the characters could use some work and not be quite as dull. Even though the characters seemed a little dull at times, the storyline was great.

I think it was well worth the money if you are into visual novels, but just know that you are going to be paying for a game that is a little short.
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2 of 3 people (67%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: April 3
A VERY enjoyable prologue to a series that'll probably never be finished. The successful kickstarter campaign for the rest of the series has been abandoned, so don't hold your breath on future games.
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3 of 5 people (60%) found this review helpful
3.6 hrs on record
Posted: December 27, 2014
Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel that tells of a story about individuals dealing with problems of other worlds. The protagonist, Winter, is one of such individuals - a mediator - who tries to keep a world in proper order. As with most visual novels, you direct Winter to decide on different choices presented throughout the game, ultimately deciding the story's ending.

The story itself is a quick one, and I do wish it was a bit longer (a playthrough can be done within an hour or so, if you read through it quickly), though it's a bit understandable since this is the first episode in the series - there're a couple more episodes after this one, and I believe there's a prequel in the works as well (you can check out their website to find out more about them). Given the short story, there weren't really a lot of choices. I liked the plot and I'm quite eager to know how it turns out.

The artwork and soundtrack are pretty good too - the visuals are drawn beautifully, and the soundtrack complements the various events in the game. Kudos for including the soundtrack along with the game and not as a separate purchase (I have it on my playlist to listen to on the go, loved the title theme song). It'd be a nice touch to have some character voices though, which should make it even more engaging.

Overall, it's a pretty good title - it has an good and interesting storyline, but is rather short that it's like a teaser for the succeeding episodes. A bit pricey for the length of the story, though the inclusion of the soundtrack more or less offsets this point. Everything else is pretty good - 3.5 out of 5 stars for me.

Postscript: Considering the story and all(and the fact that it has some kind of an anime opening sequence!), they should try producing an animation for this one after all the episodes have been released. It certainly has potential in my opinion - hope you can make it happen Dischan! =)
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3 of 5 people (60%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: April 25
It doesn't have many boobs but it still gets an uprating from me
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4 of 7 people (57%) found this review helpful
5.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 5
As much as I'd loved the game and its concept, the developers have recently announced that they stopped making the rest of the game completely. For 5$ you will get what basically is a demo of a game that will never be released.
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1 of 2 people (50%) found this review helpful
3.1 hrs on record
Posted: January 5
The story centers around a mentor and a protégé, and their mission is to go around worlds to prevent catastrophic crisis. At first, It does sound quite interesting and somewhat unique background setting for a story. But I was disappointed, nothing seems to get it right in this game.

I have played some visual novels before, and I know it's mostly like reading a book with some interaction. For this type of visual novel, if it doesn't have a good and interesting story; it is vital that they have at least something that can make us like the game, i.e., likeable characters, nice artwork, or even just decent voice acting. Unfortunately, it has none of that. Everything seems so dull, and the game doesn't even have dubbed voices.

Even with just a handful of characters in this story, I find none of them likeable. Basically we have this clueless protégé and a cynical mentor. The mentor seems to have a dark past, but lack of proper character development for us to really empathize with him.

This game does give the player choices at different point in the game, so you can get somewhat different endings; that's probably the only good thing about this game. But to get to those turning point choices, you'd have to do a lot of saving and reloading. And you probably have to start from the start at least once, and choose skipping text till the point they have those choices. I just wish they would somehow categorize the whole game chapter by chapter where you can load at certain chapter from the start.

It seems a bit unfair to not recommend a game that is supposedly an episodic game. But the game just did not have a good start, and I just don't see how much better it can get.
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