Perceived Quality

It’s time to go on a bit of a tangent!

So this should be the year where we get to see the original Higurashi digital novel released on Steam! There is still no date, but apparently the game is going through a re-translation before its final release to the mainstream masses.

I’m currently going through the second half of Higurashi myself, and a little shine on the script probably wouldn’t hurt, putting aside the faults that were probably in the original to begin with.

This is great (even if old) news to the vn crowd though. Lately, especially with the Greenlight program, visual novels have seen a small surge in places like Steam and the general gaming media. From the start with Analogue to japanese titles like World End Economica.

And that’s not all. Recently a wave of crowd-funded visual novels have appeared on Kickstarter, most of them very successful. And many of them very ambitious, such as the returned SunRider and Exogenesis, two of my favourites at the moment.

For me at least, it raises an interesting question though. Looking at the last two projects, and then back at Higurashi, there is a steep difference between the two when counting first impressions and glossy surfaces.

"I just want to be a real girl!"
“I just want to be a real girl!”

This is going to be a hard sell to people who don’t already know of the novel or the popular anime based on it. (There are un-official patches on the internet that replaces the original art with the art from the polished console ports, but because of copyright issues I wonder if these will be able to make it to the Steam Workshop?)

Looking past the visual impression, Higurashi also lacks another thing that visual novels have become known for – interaction. There are no choices or branching storylines in this novel. Past each chapter the game likes to tease you with “good or bad endings” and “difficulty” depending on what you as a reader has deducted on your own so far, but that is all. It is simply a linear textbook with added sound and pictures. (For those wondering, without patches the game also has no voice acting. It’s a true barebones doujin game).

For those who know and love Higurashi however, this doesn’t stop them. After all, to my knowledge it didn’t take much for this title to be greenlit in the first place. There are plenty of people who already got this from MangaGamer (me included), and more that want to make their first buy on Steam. For these people the shoddy art and simple UI doesn’t deter from what the game is really about. Some are willing to look past it, and for others this simple style is part of the story’s charm.

How much leeway does this give other non-japanese indie games? Will people be just as willing to look past the simplicities of the surface of similar games that are not from Japan, and find similar hidden gems?

It’s a difficult subject. With the increased focus on this part of the market, both “good” and even more “bad” are flooding through, and no one has the time or patience to look through it all. Without Higurashi’s reputation, something of similar looks and simplicity will probably find it difficult to find proper footing in the market. But the question of what people find “acceptable” in terms of art and presentation still intrigues me every time titles like these manage to make it through, when they have competition like this.


What are your thoughts on the subject?

(And speaking of Steam Greenlight, have you voted for Blue Rose yet?)

5 thoughts on “Perceived Quality

  1. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere before, but if you’re starting out as a total unknown, you have to bring your A game art to the table.

    Now if you’ve established yourself as a writer already, you are at least guaranteed a few followers to sample your work regardless of the art quality.

    There is just too many media nowadays… I see even A and AA Japanese games get criticized for minor lack of polish. Playing that game is a losing battle. So might as well go for something unique or different.

    I mean, just look at Goat Simulator.

    1. Yes, I think you’re completely right. I always find it interesting though, when some manage to go around this.

      Like Goat Simulator. Heh, it helps to always be the first to do something really out there 😛

      1. Goat Simulator already had become popular as a joke criticizing other weird simulator games (Euro Truck Simulator, for example) before it was fully developed. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the game itself but it at least had some substance in its criticism. Personally I find it all the more amazing that there is such high demand for games devoid of substance. For example, the abundance of low graphic quality fantasy games that are named Adventure Loot Quest or some other random grouping of typical fantasy roleplaying terms because they lack the depth to name themselves something more original. It’s not even hard to look to a single aspect of the setting, like what the area the game is set in is called, to pull out a name like Neverwinter Nights.

      2. @sinlinara: Ah yes. I’ve seen a good number of those games appear as well, and usually don’t even bother giving them a second glance. Trying to be witty by naming you game after your genre/trope got old quite a while ago in my opinion. And as you said, gives the opinion of just trying to cover over the fact that you just wanted to make another clone. I wonder how succesful they really are?

  2. @Vatina: While exact numbers aren’t exactly easy to find, it seems like their success largely depends on the game itself. Rogue Legacy, for example, became super popular after a short period of time (although it has fallen off in popularity since then). Meanwhile, you have a number of games that end up wallowing in the Greenlight process and a handful that get through but don’t seem to accrue any sort of interest.

    Although I am by no means an expert, if I had to say what makes the difference (besides overall game quality) it would be the publicity that these games get through online videos. Whether those videos be Let’s Plays or Reviews, it seems that once a big name gets their hands on it a crowd of people wanting to purchase the game is soon to follow. How successful any of these games are compared to a AAA game is hard to tell, though, as very few enter the list of most played games on Steam for very long.

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