Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools: Announcement - Future Plans

So now that we are getting closer to game release it's maybe a time to talk about some of the things we've kept secret so far.

As anyone who has followed our development process knows, we are committed to releasing the entire game free of charge, and this will never change, since it is one of the incorruptible philosophical foundations of our group. However, it has come to our attention that the modern internet environment offers many opportunities for monetization, and we would be foolish not to take advantage of this. So, we are proudly announcing a subscriber model for people who really take Katawa Shoujo seriously and want to enjoy it to its fullest.

Players who want to go beyond the ordinary can sign up for an account, which instantly gives them access to extra features and also makes them eligible for expansion content.

So what are these extra features the subscribers get? Here are some of the more prominent ones:

1. Access to expansion stories

This is the big one. In addition to scenes unlockable through the extra options (see point number 2), we will be making bigger stories that feature characters not seen elsewhere in the game. They won't be quite as long as the main character paths, but will feature things like romanceable characters with full plotlines and multiple endings, just like the 5 main paths. These stories will be offered as downloadable patches through the subscription system, likely going online some time after the release of the full game. There are four such stories under production, and we're going to reveal the main characters of two of them here:

Rika Katayama

A second year student at Yamaku, Rika has heart condition not completely unlike Hisao's, called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The condition is fatal if untreated, but Rika has gone through a reconstructive heart surgery as a toddler. Even so, she still left physically weak and at a constant danger of complications. A string of hospitalizations has made Rika a loner, but not a lonely person. She is sometimes hard to get through to, and tends to get lost in thought even in crowds. People sometimes mistake this for shyness, but in reality Rika does get along with most people, although she rarely actively seeks social contact. Hisao meets Rika by chance at the school infirmary and the two find something to reflect themselves from in the other. Rika's aloof attitude and ostensible comfort with her condition might challenge Hisao to grow as a person, but trouble arises when unpredictable circumstances take their relationship to a surprising direction...

Rika's story is written by Silentcook and her character artist is moekki.

Saki Enomoto

Saki suffers from Spinocerebellar ataxia, a degenerative disease that makes her gradually lose muscle control, amongst other issues. She uses a crutch to help her balance, but is going to lose the ability to walk and eventually, all daily tasks and even eating and breathing. Fated to die with no hope of a cure, Saki is a conflicting figure. She has to live with a horrific, degenerative condition every day, yet she is outgoing and fashionable just like any high school girl. Saki takes the clumsiness caused by her condition in stride, even going against it by taking up activites that require fine motor control such as joining the Yamaku art club, where Hisao meets her. He finds Saki an engaging but troublesome person to deal with, due to her incredibly frank and complex personality. One moment she might be giggling about the new spring fashion line, the next, stating her bitterness for her crippling illness, yet never dropping her dazzling smile. But even Saki, for all her openness, holds things inside she would never tell anyone else...

Saki's story is written by Aura and her character artist is weee.

2. Bonus content

Some of the choices in KS will have options that are exclusively available to subscribers for a minor one-time fee. The unlockable options usually provide small changes to scenes, often extra event CG, sometimes extra scenes or background information that would not otherwise come up. Of course, they have no bearing whatsoever on the main storyline and are entirely optional.

3. Exclusive Merchandise

Simultaneously with the subscriber system we will open the Four Leaf Studios webstore, providing fans with Katawa Shoujo and Four Leaf Studios merchandise such as shirts, hug pillows, posters and more. Subscribers gain faster processing and access to freebies and items not available to others.

4. Premium features

The basic game will no longer offer saving/loading functionality. Instead, you can jump to scenes via the "Library" option. Both saving and loading will be available exclusively to subscribers through a micropayment system. Additionally, rolling back a line will be available for minor charge per line (of course, readback will remain available free of charge).

5. No advertising

Premium customers will not see "sponsored lines" that are inserted into the game text in random intervals. They also get the privilege to block a subset of the in-game product placement.

The KSPremium account will be available at the time of KS full release for most regions of the world for a very competitive monthly or one-time pricing, at various subscription levels. Extra features and the merchandise at 4LS webstore will be charged with Katawa Points associated with your account, available separately or through an automatic monthly fee. 100 Katawa Points is equivalent to approximately $5 (depending on your subscription level and location). This will all be made possible thanks to the cooperation of Valve, with Katawa Shoujo releasing on the Steam platform.

You might be wondering why we are making an about face with the deal about money and KS. This is because we finally have a good use for it. Many of us have found themselves in a good place in life to do something big, something cool, and that's exactly what's going to happen. Four Leaf Studios is going to become an actual studio, continuing with our adventures in the world of visual novels beyond Katawa Shoujo. We are planning to get ourselves a physical studio office in Copenhagen, Denmark, found a real company and move most of the devs there to work on further projects once KS is completed. That is to say, we are taking the big step forward and really going to make a splash in the indie game world. Stay tuned for further developments on this, both before and after KS is released. We have some pretty neat ideas in store for the future.

Thanks for reading and hope you are as excited about these news as we are.

» Discuss this post on the forums