First Look into AoS2 Multiplayer Options

We wanted to give everyone a quick update on the progress of Acceleration of SUGURI 2, as well as post some yummy new screenshots! We’re very excited to see the features clicking into place one by one.

This is the first official look into our new multiplayer options!

At this moment, the lobbies support 8 players. The players can freely challenge each other to matches, or use “Auto-Battle” to set themselves ready to battle anyone who challenges them. There are also various new additions on this screen, including avatar support, country and connection quality display, and reworked match options.

You can see the results of considerable effort on the character selection screen, in the modest form of an input delay setting. This lets you adjust your input delay to desired smoothness at any latency. Optimal delay is set automatically, and suggested range is color coded. We’ve had very good results with the solution in internal testing so far!

Kae shares some bonus words of wisdom! You can click on any of the screenshots for full 1920×1080 size. The Steam store page has also been updated with the new screenshots.

Two more bonus shots!

There are still a few major features missing, such as a list of active lobbies, but we’re confident the multiplayer beta won’t be far now!

Guide: How to Recognize a Review Key Scammer

To start with some background: we receive requests for review keys from scammers nigh daily, especially around new releases, so I figure there has to be a pretty substantial industry revolving around it. With hundreds if not thousands of small developers on PC, and more appearing all the time, there is probably always new prey to be found. As such, I figured sharing our experiences might help someone out, especially on the long term.

Why would anyone want to bother scamming a key from us?

I’ve often seen the opinion “the benefit of getting a review from a legit source outweigh the risk that it’s a scam” or “if someone goes to all that trouble just to get a free game, let them have it“. I’m here to show you otherwise.

It’s my belief that this attitude is exactly why the scammers are so abundant. Their motivation shouldn’t be underestimated, since most of them aren’t looking for “free games” for themselves, but rather money, plain and simple. One scammer often operates several fake accounts, and every key they receive (possibly from the same dev) will turn into real currency on the P2P key marked. I don’t have any estimates for how much money they are actually making off this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some were making more than a good living wage off it.

A real jackpot for them would be something like 4 review keys for an unreleased game, and being added on your reviewer mailing list to receive all of your future games too.

But I’m not getting fake review key requests,” you say? This may change very quickly. Or perhaps after reading to the end you realize that you have, in fact, been getting those already.

If you give a scammer a key, you may first realize you made a mistake when you almost immediately receive half a dozen similar requests from other fishy accounts. (If it’s a Steam key, I recommend revoking it at this point – this has recently been made possible in SteamWorks). You’ll however almost certainly stay on scammer hotlists ever after (and these lists are quite possibly shared/sold between scammers) and be subject to every new type of scam they come up with.

So, let’s get to the real meat of the topic.

How do you recognize a review key scammer?

If you were hoping for a simple mistake that marks all scam emails, I’m sorry to disappoint. However, there are a number of clear warning signals that you can evaluate. When in doubt, I would recommend taking an extra step to verify their business, or if you don’t have the time for that, just ignore them. If you’re a small developer, and not a full-time PR person, you should have better things to spend your time on. I’ll go into ways you can verify their identity later.

Tip #1, which will get you most of the way, is to have a healthy dose of skepticism. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If something looks a little fishy, it probably doesn’t stand the light of day.We all get these mails. There are countless variants depending on how brazen/stupid the scammer is, and some of them have enough effort to look legit. Some things to look out for:

They tell you they are sure to give you a very positive review. Read no further. A legitimate reviewer would never tell you this. Whether the contact is real or not, you don’t want anything to do with them.

They advertise in the mail how many subscribers they have. A real channel typically wouldn’t be so crass about it. They’re just trying to establish their importance and make it look like they’re doing you a favor by taking some keys off your hands.

You got several similar mails in a short period of time. This usually doesn’t mean you suddenly got popular. It means a single person entered your email onto their list and activated the automated scam accounts they operate. The emails may not be same word for word, but their structure (greeting, body, signature) is very similar, including how they for example link their channel and twitter account at the end of the mail.

Some text appears in a different font in the email. Usually your company’s name / game name. This doesn’t necessarily mean the email is a scam, but it does show it’s a copy-paste job at best, not someone writing you a personal email in their own words.

They have 3 million subscribers. These guys wouldn’t email you for a review copy. No harm in checking their contact info of course, but I’d put the odds any such mail is legit at roughly around zero.

They are requesting multiple keys for their “friends” to help review the game, or for “promotion”. Especially for streamers, unless you personally know the other party, you can just write all of these off as scammers. Legit review sites may occasionally ask for additional keys for giveaways, but they would never present it as a condition for reviewing the game.

The channel they are linking to doesn’t list a contact email and the email doesn’t provide any other way to verify it’s their channel. How convenient. Don’t take a leap of faith, either ignore or take an extra step to verify (see later section). Any legit YouTuber who would take it upon themselves to email developers for keys ought to have their contact info on their channel’s ‘about’ page.

The linked channel’s ‘about’ page actually mentions that they will never mail you for a review key. This is because they’ve gotten contacts from other devs who were targeted, so it means someone is posing as this channel. It may even explicitly mention the fake email the scammer uses. Always worth reading the ‘about’ page.

The YouTube channel’s contact info matches the email, and their videos have a nice amount of views. This is where things start to get more interesting, let’s take it up a notch.

Tip #2 – A mail from a “YouTuber” requesting a key has a 90% chance to be a scam (not an actual statistic, but it doesn’t hurt to think so). Bear this in mind, and you may realize that the channel that looked OK at first glance has some glaring issues.

The channel’s last video is from a year ago. Probably not the original owner of the account, or even if they are, this channel is now only used for scamming devs.

The channel displays videos with a massive amount of views, but their more recent videos have only a handful of views. Something sketchy in the channel history. Maybe a few videos’ views were boosted with bots to make the channel appear more popular, but it doesn’t actually have any human subscribers.

The channel’s front page isn’t actually listing their own videos but favorites or some such. Just trying to bait people who only give it a cursory look.

The channel seems relatively active, but all the videos are F2P games / FPS footage / MOD reviews (and this has nothing to do with my game’s genre). Uploading generic videos to give the appearance of activity, possibly with views boosted by botnets.

The videos have 50k views but no comments. This isn’t normal activity. Probably a bot channel.

The email came from [channelname]@yahoo/hotmail/gmail.com. Just a statistical factor, most scammers use something like this for their email address. Exhibit more caution.

The channel’s in a non-English language. Obviously not exactly a sign in itself, but a very high number of these scammers use non-English channels to make it harder to look up information on the channel and get an idea of what it’s about. Usually combines with the features above, and is just an extra reason to discount the mail.

The channel doesn’t list an email address, how can I verify the mailer’s identity?

If the channel itself looks real and relevant enough that you’d want to be featured there, but you can’t verify the email address of the person who contacted you, and you want to go the extra mile to make sure, there are a few things you can do.

Use a social media profile for verifying them. If their ‘about’ page doesn’t list an email address, but does link to social media like Twitter, Facebook etc, and you have an account on one of those, email them back and tell them that to verify their identity you need them to follow your account on chosen social media with the associated official account. If they’re for real, they should have no problem doing this.

Use a 3rd party review key distributor. There are services such as Keymailer that do their own screening of streamers, and you need to only add your keys and send them to people requesting them at will. When in doubt, you can tell the person that you hand out review keys through this service, and direct them to the relevant page to request a key there. You will see whether the streamer they are claiming to be appears on the list. This saves you a lot of headache (and also allows you to reach other actual streamers).

Well, this section was mostly about streamers requesting keys, but what about review sites? Much of the same critical evaluation applies, but here are a few specific points to consider:

Recognizing a fake game review site

There are 2 general types of scammers, those impersonating a representative of an established site, and those faking the site itself.

It’s an established review site. Verify the email address from their contact information. Even if there isn’t an email listed, they should at least have a contact form where you can ask if this person really works for them. A larger site’s email address is unlikely to be “sitename@gmail.com” and more likely to have the same domain as the site itself.

It’s an unknown review site. Again, this is where things get juicier. The site may list a contact email that matches the one that approaches you, so it should be legit, right? Well, most likely it isn’t. Check against the following criteria:

The review site is based on a blog platform. You can tell these apart pretty easily by the simple scrolling design. Though this may change in the future, at the moment most fake review sites are built like this. Of course there are perfectly OK review sites that are hosted on blog platforms, but this is a strong warning sign.

There is no user interaction. The site doesn’t feature any kind of forums, and has no comments or other interaction on any of its articles.

The review articles are ripped off other review sites. Copy paste a bit from the middle of a review on the site into Google, and see if the same review pops up on an established review site. You might be surprised.

The site is in a foreign language. This is a pretty devious variation of the above. The whole site and reviews have been google translated into language X. If you speak that language, you will be able to tell right away, otherwise you can ask a friend who speaks that language. They will almost certainly tell you that the text is google translated. Of course there are review sites in all languages, but this is a very popular scamming tool since it obfuscates your attempts to verify the legitimacy of the site. When combined with other warning signs (especially getting several similar review requests for similar blog-hosted “review sites” in different languages within a day), you may just ignore these with a good conscience.

An example:

or…

The site actually posts unique reviews, but they are completely generic. This final point is a bit tricky and somewhat a gray area. The site may have real interaction with you, and they will write a review for the game, but when you read it, it only uses stock screenshots, and only speaks in generalities, without citing any detail that wouldn’t be obvious from a few minutes of research into the game. In other words, it does not appear they used the review key you sent for writing the article. I’m not sure if I should include this as a scam, but beyond lazy writing it’s possible they do not act honestly either. The end-game for them may be to give you a review that will satisfy you, and be included on your reviewer mailing lists to receive all of your future games. They will keep writing generic reviews to avoid suspicion, all the while selling your review keys. This behavior can be hard to even identify, but if you suspect this is happening, you can try to track the activation of the review key you sent from SteamWorks (if it’s a Steam key, obviously).

This turned into a longer article than I expected when I set out to write it, but I hope I was able to give you some good tools for recognizing scammers. I may update this later if I run into some especially interesting or innovative scam attempts. Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments.

If this article was able to turn your bubbling excitement over receiving a review request into brooding cynicism, good. Instead of hoping for reviewers and streamers to approach you, you need to actively look for new contacts yourself. Because all review requests you receive are more likely to be scams than not. Sad but true.

Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation Coming to the West Through Kickstarter

Fruitbat Factory is bringing you Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation

We’re  happy to be announcing a highly anticipated new title: Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation: Time After Time is heading to the west via Kickstarter.

Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation is a new all-ages visual novel by Studio Beast, famous for the cult classic “J.Q.V Jinrui Kyuusai-bu ~With Love from Isotope~“. It was released in Japan in August 2016 as an HD wide-screen release.

Chuusotsu is a fun, colorful story of three girls brought by their individual circumstances to live under the same roof and being forced to tackle existential questions to win their place in society.

Fruitbat Factory is now bringing Chuusotsu to fans all over the world in dual language (English and Japanese text, characters fully voiced in Japanese). We are committed to making the release the best it can be, and with your support we will be able to do many exciting things that we otherwise could not.

We are working closely together with Studio Beast on the project, and hope to hear from you what you’d like to see added to this campaign before launching it on Kickstarter.

Please head over to our Prefundia page to see the campaign we are pitching for Chuusotsu, and to give us feedback!

Let’s do philosophy!

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!

100% Orange Juice – Popularity Games

We just recently made an internal summary of 2016 player stats in 100% Orange Juice, and I figured it’d be fun to do a breakdown of some popularity stats for the year.

It’s a long post, so prepare to scroll down!

Before writing this post, I also made some polls on Twitter for some of the categories, to see if people can guess which character was most popular. The community answers will be included where relevant.

Starting with the big one:

Most popular starter character – the winner is… Suguri! (Community guessed correctly!)
suguri

Least popular starter character – the winner(?) is Kai!
kai

Most popular non-starter character – the winner is Star Breaker! (Community guessed Sora)
starbreaker

Most popular non-starter FRB character – the winner is Sherry (who gets a bottle of wine)! (Community guessed correctly!)
sherry

Most popular non-starter male character – the winner is Peat!
peat

Most popular campaign unlock character – the winner is Yuki!
yuki

Most popular bonus character – the winner is Mixed Poppo! (community overwhelmingly guessed Sora (Military))
poppo

Most popular bunny – the winner is… Aru! Congratulations!
aru

Most popular NPC character – the happy winner is Chicken!
chicken

And last, the answer (at least for 2016) to the question, which one is more popular – Saki or Sham? The numbers don’t lie, the winner this time around was… Sham! (Community guessed Saki)
sham-saki

We have a lot of cool stuff planned for 2017 too, so stay tuned!

Status Update

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since our last post where we talk about the status of our various projects. Since we have an extraordinary amount of games in the works at the moment, I figured it’d be good to give a bit of an update on them all.
So if that interests you, buckle up and read on.

100% Orange Juice
100orange
I’ll start with a game that’s not coming out any time soon. In fact, it’s been out for 3 years now. Still, it’s our best-selling title, and we’re constantly working to keep improving it, so it feels natural to talk about it first.

We employ a full-time programmer, and most of his time goes to developing 100% Orange Juice, it being the most technically demanding of our games. Over the months and years we’ve kept improving the infrastructure of the game to the point that if you watch the Steam trailer for it now, you’d be hard pressed to find a single detail that hasn’t changed in some way since making the trailer (and yes, we have a new trailer in the works!).

The latest major undertaking was changing the rendering of the game so that almost every text in the game is now stored as plain text instead of graphics, allowing us to support multiple languages in a rapidly changing game. It was the wish of Orange Juice to add support for Japanese, and with the most recent update, we can now also support any number of custom languages. It’s cool to see many people working to translate 100% Orange Juice into their native language!

On our recent trip to Japan, we sat down for a good chat with Orange Juice about the game’s current development, and the things we’d like to do with it in the future. It was heartening how they were completely on board with all of them, so we have a ton of exciting news in store for 100% Orange Juice in the coming winter. A keen observer may have observed some spoilers for some of them on the Internet already, but we also have some ideas that we’re confident will surprise everyone.
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Moving onto our upcoming releases…

ENIGMA:
enigma
Although our background in the industry comes strongly from visual novel translation, Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish was the first pure visual novel we released as a company (putting aside the two 99 Spirits fan disc stories). However, it won’t be the only one. With all likelihood the next one will be Uzumeya’s mysterious fantasy ENIGMA:, which has an interesting narration style and tons of endings.

The translation, courtesy of Conjueror, is now at 100%, and the game is moving into editing. The project’s slated for release this winter, either late this year or early next year.

Lionheart
lionheart
This cool new RPG comes from Shiisanmei, and is packed full of cute character art and tongue-in-cheek humor. As a fairly massive RPG, there’s a lot to QA in Lionheart, and I can foresee that process taking a while.

Translation itself is at 95%, and same for editing. What remains is mostly combat data. Although it’s possible we’ll be able to release the game this year, it’s more likely to happen early next year, since playtesting is expected to take some time.

Miniature Garden
miniature-garden
Translation is now beginning on Muzintou’s dark mystery visual novel Miniature Garden. Not much else to say about it yet, but look forward to the finished game! The production values (including Korie Riko‘s art and the top of the line anime voice actors) are pretty amazing. We’re aiming for a release around Spring 2017.

Dungeon Girl
dungeon-girl
Inu to Neko is a hard-line developer who’s been making gameplay-heavy games for well over ten years, a major feat in itself. Dungeon Girl is our first release from them, and we’re looking forward to bringing many new fans to the game universe. Did you know that all Inu to Neko games share the same world and many characters? Working on Dungeon Girl has been fun so far, and there’s a ton of depth to the gameplay mechanics.

Translation of Dungeon Girl is currently at 78%, and editing at 72%.

Acceleration of SUGURI 2
aos2
We had a slightly unusual reveal for Acceleration of SUGURI 2 this summer, and one that was a ton of fun for us. Since then, we’ve received countless requests for status updates. Well, I’m happy to say that the translation and editing of AoS2 is 100% complete. However, the biggest challenge we’re tackling for its release is programming, since we want to handle its multiplayer right. As with 100% Orange Juice and 200% Mixed Juice, we plan to support Steam lobbies and possibly add some extra multiplayer features.

We will start the Steam programming shortly, but it will likely take several months, so I can almost guarantee it’s not coming out in 2016.

Seven Days
seven-days
While not really an ongoing project on our part, those who follow our social media, or visited our booth at Tokyo Game Show, saw us promoting LIFE0‘s upcoming visual novel, Seven Days, and made the correct assumption that we have the rights to an English release.

Seven Days is currently raising funding on CAMPFIRE, a Japanese crowdfunding platform, and has so far raised a hefty 4.2 million yen out of its 2 million goal. There’s still a few days left if you want to support it, though please note that CAMPFIRE is for Japanese users only. We are also co-funding the game’s production, so naturally our expectations are high.

Seven Days is coming out in late 2017 and we’ll have more updates and an official reveal closer to that time.

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…And more?
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That’s the end of this status update. You should take any release estimates with a grain of salt, as you may note that we don’t list an actual release date for any of them yet. There’s always a chance that some aspect of a game takes longer than expected, or that we run into an unforeseen issue somewhere along the way. Or conversely, we may finish our work on a game a month earlier than initially estimated. That’s why we avoid committing to any dates until a game is virtually ready to release, and the estimates you see here are just that, rough estimates.

Tokyo Game Show 2016 Guest Schedule

Hello everyone!
With Tokyo Game Show 2016 (September 15-18.) rapidly approaching, we’re happy to announce the final list of guest appearances at our booth. The full list of guests includes Yakiniku Banzai, Orange Juice, LIFE0, Tazigen Clock, Inu to Neko, Muzintou and Shiisanmei!

timetable

You can meet representatives of the circles at our booth, 7-N01 at the above times. Our star guest, Poppo, will also be giving signatures whenever she’s not out and about.

Poppo_TGS

We also have some super limited badges from various games available at our booth, for those quick enough to visit us each day.

TGS Badges

Hope to see you there!