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Today's TAYpic gender-bends Snooty Guy into a monster killer in a dress. Another terrifyingly good treatment from The_Real_Pan1da7.


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Ask a Game Developer Anything: Your Excellent Questions Answered.Hey Kotaku readers, I'm back at it again this month. Apparently things went well enough last month that Kotaku decided to keep me going… Well either that or they just forgot to revoke my press badge. Anyway, sorry if I'm a little late, my wife and I had a daughter this month! Our very first child.

To give you a quick recap, I'm the CEO and Creative Director at 5TH Cell; we're the people behind games like Scribblenauts, Run Roo Run and our newest upcoming IP: Hybrid for XBLA.

You have questions about what it's like inside the game industry, making games, working with publishers and hopefully I can give you answers. Got it? Ok good. We got a lot of great questions from the readers this month so let's get right to ‘em!

AttorneyAtMusic asked "As a director, if someone on your team has an idea to throw in, how easily can they make that become a reality in the grand scheme of the project? How often does this happen?"

Well it largely depends on the studio and the team itself. It's funny how vastly different game development is from studio to studio. At 5TH Cell we have an open door policy in regards to new ideas within a project. This means we encourage any employee to go to the owners or any leads with feedback on the project or on the company itself. It doesn't mean we'll necessarily act on the feedback, but the option is always there for people to speak their mind.

Ask a Game Developer Anything: Your Excellent Questions Answered.
About the Author Best known for his multi-million unit selling franchises, Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life, Jeremiah focuses on creation of innovative new titles. His latest project, Hybrid, is due out this summer on XBLA.

We've implemented all kinds of changes to both our games and the studio due to constructive employee feedback. From changes in our development pipeline (how, say, art assets go from the artists to inside the game) to work hours, vacation policy or even dress code and a bunch of other things.

When it comes to the game itself, usually the idea has to fit within the game's scope, key features, our schedule and budget. Sometimes the idea is good, but doesn't fit well for a number of reasons. For example, someone could come up and say "Hey, Scribblenauts should be a seamless world". That's a good idea, but on the DS that just wasn't technically possible. So we just couldn't have done it.

Rio-GT along with zsakul2 and Classic example of our failed educational system (Yes that's his commenter name) questioned "As a developer, once you've poured so much love and attention into building the perfect game; can you, after having shipped said game, enjoy playing it just as much as you enjoyed making it? Or when it's shipped do you take a sigh of relief and forget about it, knowing you don't need to worry about it anymore?"

This really depends on what you worked on for the game. On larger projects, you might spend most of your time on a smaller subset of the actual game, so playing from start to finish might still be a fresh experience. I think most developers do play through the games they make, but it's not the same as picking up another developer's title, and experiencing the magic of a new experience.

I learned a valuable lesson of quality over quantity. It's better to have a game with a few great hours than lots of mediocre hours.

But I'll tell you what, you know you've made something special when you're working on something for years and it's still fun to play. Scribblenauts always has some fresh new pairing you can mess around with and Hybrid has been in development for almost 2.5 years and we still have tons of fun playing it and owning each other.

Dasyat asked "Have you ever had to sacrifice a feature you REALLY, REALLY didn't want to give up to keep a game in budget or meet a deadline?"

Every single game. You're never truly satisfied with your work. As a programmer you could always have done something cleaner or more robust given the time, as an artist it could always make something look cooler and as a designer you could always come up with a ton of extra features that would make the game that much more awesome.

In Scribblenauts I really wanted adjectives, it was a really cool idea. But we decided against it simply because it took 10 months out of the 13 month schedule to get the basic idea of getting objects to interact with each other. We just couldn't fit it in time, so that feature came out in the sequel. Time is always a giant thorn in your side for game development. The original Scribblenauts levels—all 220—were built in the last 2 months because the objects didn't work until then. I learned a valuable lesson of quality over quantity. It's better to have a game with a few great hours than lots of mediocre hours.

LordThayer writes "How many ideas have you had to abandon or drastically change because someone beat you to the punch? A situation I'm sure dozens of commenters here have experienced."

Great question! It happens all the time. But you shouldn't get bent out of shape if it does happen to you because you can just come up with something different. That's the amazing part about ideas; you can be inspired and come up with a new idea all the time… for free! And if you can't come up with something else, because you've only ever had one good idea, and someone else beat you too it, well maybe being the game designer isn't your thing. But there are plenty of other jobs in the industry that are creative and just as fulfilling.

With medium sized companies onward, the price of development rises to a point that Kickstarter doesn't really make a dent in the total development budget.

bbilbo1 questions "If you had the power to remove one trope/cliché from the entirety of the Video Game industry, what would it be?"

You know what's a stupid overlooked trope? Female breastplates that look like bras. You know why it's stupid? Not only is it crass but it actually helps direct the arrow or sword toward the middle of their chest into, you know, where your heart is, instead of deflecting the pointy object away to the sides like a normal breastplate would.

cowmilk9 wrote "Have you ever had to deal with multiple projects at any one time, and if so, what sort of priorities were put in place to make sure those projects were done on time? I know it's sort of a specific question, but I basically just want to know how your team deals with multiple projects at once."

Managing multiple projects is extremely difficult, especially if the development schedules and scope for both projects are similar. There are a lot of time consuming tasks that can't be shared across projects, specific resources, leaders, and sometimes your best talent needs to be focused completely on one title.

For example, with my role as a director, it's impossible to have a daily interaction with the people working on a project if you have to manage more than one. Another big issue is trying to maintain a company culture alongside the culture that develops on individual projects. Sharing resources between projects can be difficult, often a decision to help one project will impact the second project in a negative way.

Finally, if you have multiple external partners, there is dealing with the different cultures of the publishing partners.

It's very hard and only a few studios choose to tackle multiple projects of significance, and even less do it successfully. I wouldn't say that we're 100% successful either, but we keep on trying to listen to our employees and change for the better. Each project we do improves upon the last one.

romanmaroni "If you had a Kickstarter campaign, what kind of game would you seek to make with it?"

I haven't thought about it really and I'll tell you why… I think Kickstarter is a truly wonderful new alternative funding model for smaller companies, but with medium sized companies onward, the price of development rises to a point that Kickstarter doesn't really make a dent in the total development budget.

Even Tim Schafer's company can't be fully funded on the Kickstarter campaign alone. They have over 60 people, if you assume the average employee costs about $10,000 a month or more (this includes benefits and overheads), that 3 million dollars would only keep their studio afloat for about half a year. And they were only originally asking for $300,000. It would have been a very small project indeed. Of course they could have multiple projects going on to help offset the cost, but like I said above managing multiple projects is very tough. The fewer projects you have the less you are spread thin.

Many new designers think in terms of story or characters or specific scenes. But remember a game is about the moment-to-moment gameplay first!

Don't get me wrong, I welcome alternative funding models and I'm also very happy to see so many classic games and teams getting a second chance, but I'm not sure whether or not Kickstarter would be right for everyone, including 5TH Cell.

SteamPunkJin askes "What do you find is the best approach for starting a new project? Do you think about the story (or characters or style etc.) you want to get across or do you worry about mechanics and gameplay first?"

Everyone's method is different and so is every game. For me I think of a "hook", something that you can get excited about really quick. Sometimes that hook could be the story or art direction, but usually it's a gameplay mechanic.

Gameplay is a lot harder to prove than art or story because it requires play testing and actual code work to prove it out. Many new designers think in terms of story or characters or specific scenes. But remember a game is about the moment-to-moment gameplay first! If you're much more interested in writing stories or fleshing out characters try writing a book or a screenplay.

Roth of Kotaku's TAY fame questioned How do you pronounce "xyzzy"?

It sounds like success to me. I find that rolling your tongue helps a lot.

That's it for this month's Ask a Developer Anything. Keep those great questions coming. See you next month Kotaku!


There's a Perfectly Rational Explanation for Why I Was Doing Bourbon Shots Before Noon YesterdayAs the games media panel at the East Coast Games Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina kicked off yesterday, moderator and Epic PR manager Wes Phillips set shot glasses in front of each of the participants. Then he filled them with bourbon. Then came the cupcakes.

In the early planning stages of the "Game Media: From Fanboys to Fanning The Flames" panel, Wes and his crack team of organizers wrangled each of the participants — The Escapist's Steve Butts, Casey Lynch from IGN, Polygon's Russ Pitts, master freelancer Chris Morris and myself — into one epic email thread, asking us to help brainstorm content for the hour-long media spectacular.

This was a mistake.

My initial suggestion, "Southern Games Journalists: Is Taller Better" was quickly overturned in favor of a more Southern topic — bourbon. Well, bourbon and cupcakes, which as it turns out is a thing. Wendy Beasley and Ryan Morgan from TriplePoint PR were watching at this point, taking notes, making plans, and calling cupcake shops. (Note that I added this bit after the story was initially published, because TriplePoint is laser-focused on public relations and wanted to make sure this was related to the public.)

Eventually we settled on a non-bourbon-related topic, but the corn-based whiskey was never far from our minds. We had established a theme; a theme that might have backfired on us had we not all been at the top of our game.

Informing the audience (they already knew) that game journalists don't do anything without free booze, Wes popped open a bottle of particularly smooth spirits, filled our glasses, and told us that every time we used an acronym we would be taking a shot. Then came the cupcakes.

If you look closely at the picture, you'll notice a LEGO Scotsman floating in my glass. This is because I brought along an assortment of LEGO minifigs and sets to assemble and play with should the conversation slip towards matters of journalistic integrity, a subject I've found spins round and round in circles, gets dizzy and falls over, leaving everyone involved with a sore bottom. There's also a LEGO Captain America barely visible behind the glass. He was originally in the glass, but the Scotsman seemed more appropriate.

For the record, if you ran into me yesterday afternoon and I seemed a little tipsy, you can lay the blame squarely on PR, FPS and RPG. A tip of the hat to my colleagues, one of which deftly sidestepped a shot by saying "Personal Computer Gaming Magazine".

And sorry you couldn't make it, Chris. Get well soon. I hear bourbon helps.


You die and die and die. Load up another save, maybe. Finally, you emerge triumphant over the boss battle or end sequence you've been struggling with. Nowadays, you're likely to get a big shiny, fully-voiced cutscene topped off with swelling orchestral music. But that wasn't the case thirty years ago.

Back in the day, the games just stopped. You were lucky if you got an animated sprite mouthing words at you. But there was little in the way of fanfare or celebration. Instead, you got a pithy acknowledgment that essentially said "yes, you have in fact finished this game." We've assembled the best of these old-school sudden-stop endings in case you've forgotten their brusque games. Watch them and ponder how far games have come. And be glad that the word "congratulations" gets spelled correctly nowadays.


Owen really liked Prototype 2's James Heller. I can see why.

[YouTube - Thanks, Tim!]

When I first heard that a visual novel centered around dating girls with physical disabilities was being made, my first thought was "only in Japan." Of course, I was completely wrong. While made in the style of a typical Japanese visual novel—and even based on a Japanese sketch—Katawa Shoujo was created by a group of fans from all over the world who met on the message board 4chan. In case you are unaware of who and what one might encounter on 4chan, be forewarned as you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy on the internet than in the bowels of 4chan. So heading in, I was sure this would be at best a satire of visual novels and at worst a horribly insensitive, offensive, racist, sexist pile of irreverent hate. I never expected it to be the best visual novel I have ever played.

Good — A Slice of Life

Katawa Shoujo is the story of Hisao, your average high school senior, who suffers a major heart attack when his crush tells him she likes him. After months in the hospital, he finds himself attending a boarding school catering to students with physical disabilities. There he comes to terms with his new life and even finds love.

While it is a game based around dating, much of the plot focuses on how Hisao is acclimating to his new life. Anyone who ever changed schools as a child has felt some of Hisao's worries. But more than that, he has to come to terms with having a heart defect that makes it doubtful he'll live past 30. Then add on to that losing all parental support and being part of a school full of broken people (at least as he first sees it), and you can easily envision his mindset at the outset of the game.

What makes the story great is seeing how he comes to terms with all this—or in some cases, doesn't—as well as how falling in love alters his view on what's happened in the past and on his life to come.

Good — A Diverse and Human Cast

Other than Hisao, the main characters are the possible love interests: a blind girl, a girl with no legs, a girl with no arms, a girl covered in burn scars, and a deaf-mute. Of course, that's not how That Game About Dating Disabled Girls is Excellent (And You Should Play It)Hisao (or the writers) look at them. Rather, they are the polite girl, the track star, the tortured artist, the shy bookworm, and the driven student council president. These characters are not defined by their disabilities. They are characters that have disabilities they have largely overcome long before Hisao ever shows up. And what personal problems the girls may have are never due to their disabilities—though sometimes their personal problems and disabilities do share a common cause.

When it comes to dating them, each story is filled with ups and downs—with some relationships being healthy and normal, and others seeming more than a bit self-destructive. Overall, they are presented as normal people—because they are. They all have their own likes and dislikes—not to mention friends and enemies—and watching Hisao come to accept this is one of the best parts of the game.

Good — A Sense of Place

While like a digital "choose your own adventure" novel, there are really only five routes through Katawa Shoujo, one for each girl. What's surprising is how different each storyline is from the others. While some events—the school festival, the letter, etc.—happen in every playthrough, the way they're handled is always different. Interestingly, most of the storylines don't even share the That Game About Dating Disabled Girls is Excellent (And You Should Play It)same time span, with one taking place over a mere three months and another taking almost a full year.

Moreover, you will occasionally cross paths with the girls outside your chosen storyline. This is a real treat for anyone doing multiple playthroughs. These encounters give you a glimpse how the girls turn out if you don't choose their storylines. From this comes one of the most surprising revelations of the game: Your character's involvement in their lives does not always make their lives better, and in more than one case, it makes them decidedly worse. This is an excellent twist on this type of game as usually you are the white knight that saves the girl. In Katawa Shoujo, you discover that they get on just fine without you.

Mixed — A Soundtrack Lacking in Length, Not Quality

The music in Katawa Shoujo is exactly what it should be: emotionally charged when it needs to be, largely ignorable when it doesn't. None of the songs are annoying and more than a few are downright hummable. However, as good as the music is, I found it a bit grating by my fifth time through the game. Some more character/storyline specific music would have been welcome.

Mixed — Excellent Art Style, Uneven Polish

The visual style of the game is one of Katawa Shoujo's most interesting features. As Katawa Shoujo is a fan-made, freeware title, it was built not on a budget, but on talented people's free That Game About Dating Disabled Girls is Excellent (And You Should Play It)time. So instead of spending the considerable time and effort needed to draw the backgrounds of each and every location, they sent someone to take photos of numerous locations in Japan. Then they slightly blurred the images in Photoshop. The result is a neat little look at real world Japan as you play.

The main sprites of the game, especially the five females, are very well done, as are the special still frames of the game's most dramatic moments. Still, despite the general level of quality, some of the sprites of the background characters look a little rough around the edges and some of the still frames from less important moments could use a bit more polish as well.

But what most surprised me were the anime cutscenes that play at the end of the game's first act and foreshadow upcoming key moments in the story. If getting these amazing, well-directed scenes took polish away from other parts of the game, I for one call it a fair trade.

Mixed — Not Exactly "T" For "Teen"

That Game About Dating Disabled Girls is Excellent (And You Should Play It)I would be remiss if I didn't point out the sex scenes in Katawa Shoujo. While the game in general is far from pornographic in nature, each girl has at least one explicit sex scene in her storyline. While they do serve the plot—and are often more awkward than sexy—they do definitely make the game unsuitable to those under 18. Luckily, these scenes can be turned off in the options menu for anyone who would rather play the game without them.

Final Thoughts

In all, Katawa Shoujo is an excellent visual novel. It takes a delicate issue and treats it with all the respect it deserves, while not tip-toeing around it. Moreover, it delivers a touching slice-of-life story—or five of them, as the case may be. It really is a testament to what a group of random netizens can do when they have the same goal. Best of all, it's free. So head on over to the Four Leaf Studio's webpage and give this one a play. You'll be happy you did.

That Game About Dating Disabled Girls is Excellent (And You Should Play It)

Romance With Disabled Girls: How (And Maybe Why) An Unusual Video Game Came To Be

About three years ago, one of the most notorious online message board communities decided to create an unusual video game. It would be a Japanese-style erotic dating simulator starring girls with disabilities, a topic not unfamiliar to the 4chan group.
The genesis of Katawa Shoujo, an erotic visual... More »

So PS Vita sales are nosediving. And Sony must be worried, because these are dark times for the Vita. Dark times.

But just as everyone is forgetting what an impressive piece of hardware the Vita is, Sony released the PlayStation Developer Suite to allow developers to create apps for the Vita and other PlayStation certified devices.

Here is a Suite-created physics demo, and wow, it looks quite nice.

PlayStation Suite SDKで三次元剛体シミュレーションもどきで遊ぶ [終わコン]

A Little Samurai Armor in the Living RoomMay 5 is Children's Day. Since my wife and I have, well, children, we get out a set of miniature "yoroi" (armor) so that our sons grow up healthy and strong.

I've posted about this before, so forgive me if you read that previous post! But, I absolutely love getting out this miniature set of samurai armor every year and setting it up. It's all quite intricate, and the armor actually comes with a feather duster to clean it and white gloves you are supposed to wear while setting it up.

Love the gloves. Love the feather duster. Love the armor.

Postcard is a regular peek behind the Kotaku East curtain, whether that be game-related or, most likely, not.

So, How Those Nintendo Machines Doing, Huh? Those Games?Throughout its history as a game company, Nintendo has released an impressive array of game machines. Have you ever thought, hrm, I wonder how said game machines are doing? Let's find out!

Nintendo recently released worldwide lifetime sale data for its game machines as well as for its games. The data is of March 31, so you'll have to image how Nintendo has done since them.

Hardware and Software Sales Units [Nintendo]

So, How Those Nintendo Machines Doing, Huh? Those Games?

When Mother-Daughter Relationships Appear Just AwfulThis week, Chinese model Gan Lulu once again raised eyebrows. She appeared at the Beijing Motor Show in a dress that was more skin than fabric. Right along with her, every step of the way was her mom, snapping photos of her daughter on her iPhone.

There's nothing wrong with close mother-daughter relationships. But their relationship seems to go beyond close to somewhere else entirely. It seems abusive and exploitive.

Gan Lulu has appeared in TV spots and movies, but really rattled the internet in 2011 when her mother filmed Lulu in the shower and then naked in bed. Her mother was supposedly trying to help Lulu get a boyfriend. The video went viral, and Chinese netizens cried foul, saying it was merely a stunt to increase Lulu's popularity. It not only raised her profile online (in China and abroad), but raised internet ire.

Lulu had to go online and plead that her mother meant well. But something was off—this didn't seem like a pushy mother. It was weird.

Likewise, Hollywood has also seen mother-daughter relationships that appear to be anything but healthy.

Later that summer, Lulu's mother physically attacked her daughter while appearing on a Chinese variety show. After getting hit and shoved by mom, Lulu told the camera crew, "My mother hits me because she loves me." As website China Smack pointed out at the time, it was unclear what provoked the attack.

It is crystal clear why earlier this week why Gan Lulu wore that revealing dress and why mom was there every step of the way.