SeaBed Coming to Western Shores!

We’re very excited to reveal a new game acquisition: SeaBed, Paleontology’s highly anticipated psychological yuri visual novel is getting an English language release by us!

SeaBed was released in Japan in 2016 and quickly drew the attention of visual novel enthusiasts in both Japan and abroad.

Text-wise, SeaBed is one of our largest translation projects, in addition to being known for its unique, high level writing style. We expect translation to take longer than usual, since we want to bring it out in the highest quality possible to meet the fans’ expectations. The English PC version is currently expected to release in late 2017.

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Who is SeaBed for? Well, if you like yuri games, or just like a really well written story regardless of genre, this is a game you shouldn’t miss. SeaBed’s story is deeply psychological and beggars description, but here’s the official synopsis:

SeaBed is a critically acclaimed yuri-themed mystery visual novel told through the perspectives of three separate characters: Mizuno Sachiko, a designer plagued by hallucinations of her past lover; Narasaki Hibiki, Sachiko’s friend and a psychiatrist researching the workings of human memories; and Takako, Sachiko’s former lover who has been rapidly forgetting her past, including how or why the two women drifted apart despite being together since childhood.

All three live in different worlds, but seek the same goal. To separate truth from illusion. To make sense of their own lives.

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The Steam version of SeaBed is being updated to natively support 1440×1080 resolution. It will also include Steam achievements, Cloud support and Steam Trading Cards.

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You can see a full set of high resolution screenshots on SeaBed’s homepage and Steam page. The game is available for pre-order for the price of $19.99 from the Fruitbat Factory store with a -25% pre-order discount.

About Paleontology
Developer of original Japanese version (TwitterHomepage)
Paleontology is an independent Japanese game circle creating yuri-themed games. SeaBed is their first game release. It was developed based on the characters of a 4-koma manga series created by their illustrator, hide38.

We have even more exciting announcements coming out, so stay tuned!

Sora – A Development Story

It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, but we had a lot of fun working on Sora and making it look good on modern systems, so we decided to give a little blurb on the technical changes we’ve made to Sora during the localization. Without further ado I’ll give to floor to Tony, the man behind the code.

Sora-Logo

Tony: I had only played Sora briefly in our meeting with Orange Juice in May 2015, but when I actually got to spend more time with the game, it really clicked; the fast gameplay, setting, soundtrack and presentation were amazing. I was also aware of the fans’ wishes for a new release of Sora, and felt it very important to do a good job with our localized version.

When we start localizing a new game, we evaluate its customization options such as screen settings and discuss what technical improvements we could add to make it more enjoyable for the players. Basically we ask ourselves “What would I like to see in this as a gamer?” and then check how feasible it would be to add it. Sometimes the engine the game runs on makes this impossible, but usually we’re able to add fancy things like higher resolution support.

The first thing we wanted to improve with Sora was the game’s resolution. The original version of Sora runs at 640×480 resolution which feels rather small in modern HD era. Since the base resolution was so low, simply adding resolution options to upscale the graphics to a higher resolution would leave the screen looking blurry and pixelated. I had some concerns about changing the rendering resolution because in shooting games every single element’s positioning is very important, but there’s no harm in trying, right? I set up the necessary changes to launch the game in 720p as an experiment and we got this:

first720p

First higher res shot of Sora running at 720p (16:9 aspect ratio). Notice how the action is centered on the screen because the game area is supposed to be 4:3!

The first tests revealed that the essentials were already in place thanks to Orange Juice’s smart coding, but there was still a lot of work ahead. The view was too far, allowing the player to see more of the game area than they were supposed to, leading to problems like enemies appearing out of thin air. Some of the backgrounds and effects were broken, some boss positions were off, and of course all 2D elements were still happily in the 640×480 land.

Yet even with all the chaotic results, we could see that the game’s visuals got a noticeable improvement from the resolution increase. We went through the graphics assets we were given and found that many images had more detail than the original game resolution could show. Our graphics guys Ozhan and Yulay were on board for creating high-res versions of the menu elements. After some gameplay / image comparisons our minds were set.

As a side mention, we experimented with making Sora’s gameplay fully widescreen while deciding on the new target resolution. We had a lot of fun with it and even had some back and forth with OrangeJuice, sending different builds! However, it was clear from the onset that it would break the game too much. Let’s put aside the stage 1 opening cutscene continuing forever because the missiles never hit their target, and ignore enemies popping out of thin air, how about being able to move behind bosses like Nath and getting some free shots while she’s stuck firing at nothing? The amount of undesired behavior the change would generate was overwhelming.

I’m over here!

I’m over here!

We decided to set the resolution to 1280×960 which doubles the original dimensions, the main reason being that beyond that even the higher resolution graphics wouldn’t benefit much. While our previous attempts at full widescreen were doomed, we were able to add support for widescreen menus and cutscenes specifically. As an added bonus, since the fight against extra stage’s last boss is in a special type of area, we added widescreen support for that too!

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Jakke: After upgrading the resolution everywhere else, we were left with the game’s opening (at 640×480 resolution) looking strongly pixelated, not to mention all the Japanese text in it. Unsurprisingly, the original project files for the opening were gone from existence. Luckily, we received most of the original graphics used in the opening, and pieced them together with newly recorded gameplay footage to recreate the opening identically at a 1280×960 resolution with English texts. Our friends at Interweave Productions pulled some miracles with the video.

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Tony: We also changed the texture format. Sora uses a Japanese engine called Luna3D, which is also used by our earlier title 100% Orange Juice. The engine handles a lot of things well, but its texture handling has problems. There’s an issue with texture drawing that causes all textures to appear blurrier and the engine’s own texture format is somewhat slow and also takes up a lot of space. We changed 100% Orange Juice’s texture format some months ago and brought these changes to Sora as well. As result, our version should have faster load times despite having bigger images and the required hard drive space for textures is down to less than 100mb instead of the original’s 1gb.

As for input, the original game only supported DirectInput controllers, but similarly to what we did with QP Shooting – Dangerous!!, we added XInput support to support all types of controllers, as well as added keyboard bind options. Thanks to some helpful feedback from our testers / reviewers, we also added visible keybinds in the tutorial to help new players.

We had a lot of fun with making the achievements. When we started Sora, we were terrible at the game. Back in Japan, I couldn’t even get past the first stage! However as we kept playing we got gradually better and many “How am I supposed to beat this?” fights turned into satisfying victories. We think the game does a very good job at that and that’s why we had no qualms with making the achievements challenging.

Jakke: It took me well over 20 hours to clear the original Japanese version of Sora on easy difficulty. While playing and testing the game, gradually feats that had first seemed impossible, turned possible, then probable, and ultimately felt only fair. I’m not great at shooters myself, so I largely used myself as a guideline for deciding on the achievements – if I can do this, most people can be reasonably expected to be able to. My personal favorite is ‘Dance Like a Flower’, which drove me to near madness before I finally cleared it (with controller burns on my thumb).

 

Finally, go ahead and enjoy these screenshots of things gone horribly wrong during development!

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100% Orange Juice v2.0 ~The Poppoing~ Preview

After weeks of extensive testing, we are proud to finally introduce our upcoming patch 2.0 for 100% Orange Juice.

In many ways, as befits the version number, this build finally encompasses our vision of how we always wanted 100% Orange Juice to be.

Changes:

– Added a new boss character, Big Poppo. Big Poppo has a 10x Player Level chance of appearing for non-Poppo players in place of another boss when encountering one on any map. Any stars lost to Big Poppo will be distributed between Poppo players in the game.

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– Added a new map: Poppo Paradise. On Poppo Paradise, all CPU characters will be Poppos. Poppo Paradise replaces all previous starting maps.

– Added a new field effect: Poppogeddon. Every 6 turns, all non-Poppo players are assaulted by Big Poppo. Poppogeddon has a 50% chance to steal another field event’s place when not chosen for the map.

– Added a new panel: P-panel. If a Poppo lands on P-panel, they will cast Ubiquitous on all non-Poppo players in turn (they do not need to carry Ubiquitous). If a non-Poppo player lands on P-panel, all Poppos in the game cast Ubiquitous on them.

– Using Ubiquitous on Kai now steals their player’s credit card info, instead of their wallet as previously.

Fixes:

– Corrected the tooltip for Ubiquitous to reflect the actual effect. New description: “Move to target unit’s panel. In addition, steal 10% x their level of their player’s soul.”

Barring any technical difficulties, version 2.0 ~The Poppoing~ will roll out on Steam very shortly. We are very excited to see the reception.

 

100% Orange Juice Fan Art Contest Winners Announced!

The fan art contest gathered a total of 63 amazing entries, and the jury had a very hard time choosing the cream of the crop.  Because the top was so evenly matched, in the end we decided to expand our promised rewards.

In a tie for first place we have these two artworks (click for full size):

100% Orange Juice Idols by Kulastarol

100% Orange Juice Idols by Kulastarol

That Little Thief by Echo

That Little Thief by Echo

A QP Shooting – Dangerous!! Limited edition t-shirt goes out to the winners, together with a 4-pack of 100% Orange Juice and a copy of QP Shooting – Dangerous!!

And in shared second place we have these two entries:

Playing Fernet by Silicoid Ambassador

Playing Fernet by Silicoid Ambassador

My Neighbor Poppo by WUR

My Neighbor Poppo by WUR

A 4-pack of 100% Orange Juice will go out to the winners, together with a copy of QP Shooting – Dangerous!!

And lastly, because we were so thoroughly impressed by the art entries, instead of a single third place entry, everyone who entered a valid entry to the contest will be receiving  a copy of QP Shooting – Dangerous!! once it is released!

A full gallery of all the fan art submissions can be seen here as well as in the Artwork section on Steam! What’s your favorite?

For the purpose of handing out the rewards, we would ask all participants (with an image in the gallery above) to add echoMateria[Fruitbat Factory] to their friend list on Steam and message him to get sorted.

The Devil’s in the Details

A while back we started working on 100% Orange Juice’s Steam features. It all started with adding achievements.

Tony, our programmer, is head over heels for Steam API, so after that he started getting some weird ideas.

The game’s entire multiplayer system has been reworked now to use Steam’s servers and a lobby system. It’s already fully playable, and supports many features we didn’t dare wish for before, such as player timeouts, leaving the lobby and rejoining it. Tony’s working on the lobbies now, and we’re discussing a possible system for multiplayer levels and perks. We’ll have to see how feasible that is to add.

At some point someone got the bright idea to bring 100% Orange Juice up to HD resolution as well. So now we’re doing that too.

For reference, this is where we started from:

100% Orange Juice sample screen

100% Orange Juice default screen (click for full size)

The screen’s considerably less cramped at 720p, and the cards started to stand out as just a bit small and unclear for their purpose.

Now that we had more space available, we tried rendering the cards in higher resolution also, and the difference is quite amazing.

This is where we are now:

100% Orange Juice 720p

100% Orange Juice in 720p, and cards rendered in higher resolution (click for full size)

Please don’t give us any more ideas.

99 Spirits and a New Font

And now for some development news.

As I began editing the 99 Spirits scripts, I found I wasn’t very happy with the font the game used; in English it looked rather clunky for the theme and feel of the game.

After discussing it with the developer, TORaIKI, we found it’s possible to redeem this, and after careful evaluation the font used in the game’s story segments has been changed into one which I believe captures the spirit of the game much, much better, making the text more colorful while retaining full readability.

You can see the outcome in the shots below.

99 Spirits merchant girl Saki 99 Spirits - Hanabusa's journey

Our whole team is extremely happy with the new looks, but more importantly, what do you think?

Those Who Hunt Tsukumogami

In answer to a popular request, today we’ll walk you over the basic gameplay in 99 Spirits. We’re calling it a Puzzle RPG, but what does that mean exactly?

Read on to find out! (Note: all images are still very much a work in progress.)

The combat in 99 Spirits revolves around a puzzle mechanic wherein you work out the true identity of the enemy Tsukumogami, ordinary objects that, as per the Japanese legend, have come alive on their 100th birthday.

At the beginning of each battle, you face an enemy shrouded in an impenetrable mist which signifies the concealment of their true nature, and no attacks performed on them can cause lasting damage. All you can do is simply exchange blows with them until they run away. The battle itself is kind of turn based, you have a set number of strikes every ‘turn’ – or ‘clash’ as we call them, and you either defend or attack as long as they last – but the enemy can interrupt you with their own attack, and with good reflexes you can parry that and counterattack.

99 Spirits - Combat 01

Now, when you obtain the Gokon sword, you gain two new abilities in the form of the gems you can see at the bottom:

99 Spirits - Combat 02

You fill the two gems by attacking and defending, respectively. Once the first gem’s gauge fills up from your attacks, it allows you to read a part of the essence of the enemy Tsukumogami.
These hints come in the form of either a keyword related to the item in question, or part of the name of the actual artifact:

99 Spirits - Combat 03
99 Spirits - Combat 04

Once you have gathered enough hints for that ’eureka’ moment when it all clicks, you can use the sword’s second gem to make a guess at the item that is the essence of the Tsukumogami you are fighting.

99 Spirits - Combat 05
Activating the gem brings up a new menu, where you enter your guess:
99 Spirits - Combat 06
99 Spirits - Combat 07

And if it’s correct…

99 Spirits - Combat 08

The enemy’s true form is revealed!

Each Tsukumogami is unique from their hand-drawn artwork to their fingerprint-like combat hints, so an experienced spirit-hunter might be able to identify a familiar prey from a single hint. Based on early testing sessions with family, I can already tell this part can also be great fun with friends trying to outdo each other to puzzle out the correct answer as fast as possible.

99 Spirits - Combat 09

From this point you can unleash all of your skills to vanquish the enemy.

99 Spirits - Combat 10

If all goes well, you’ll defeat the Tsukumogami and continue your journey.

99 Spirits - Combat 11

A keen reader might’ve picked up on there being more than two gems in the sword, but that’s a story for another day.

The game has nearly 100 different Tsukumogami with dozens of different skills to conquer, and you can eventually capture them to learn their skills, making the battles increasingly more complex and tons of fun.

In closing, don’t forget to support 99 Spirits in the Indie Dev Grant voting at http://bundle-in-a-box.com/!