Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The Four Leaf Studios wishes all a wonderfully merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Making of Mishabot

If you follow our twitter you'll have noticed this already, but Mishimmie has its own twitter account now to direct all the automatically generated spam tweets out of the main account. Mishimmie's twitter will be Mishabot-generated tweets only, so follow it only if you want to stay up to date with what's going on with Mishimmie specifically. We haven't been all that active on twitter otherwise, but Delta said he might tweet a bit more actively now, maybe I'll do too. We'll see.

- Aura

Friday, December 10, 2010

Secret Santa 2010

It's that time of the year again. For the third time, 4LS (plus a few irc regulars) ease into Christmas by getting together for the Katawa Shoujo Secret Santa. Like in the previous years, each participant got to make one gift request and had to complete one randomly assigned gift request. Us writers get to embarrass ourselves this year too with the "visual art only" rule, but it's all in the spirit of the holiday.

This year it was moekki's turn to organize the thing with (^ω^)-faces aplenty and delta gets extra special credit as Santa's little helper for building a new Secret Santa minisite. The gifts will be revealed on the minisite one at a time, once a day at 8am GMT until Christmas. Hope everyone has a nice time with this year's event.

- Aura
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Internal Struggles

Making a visual novel is a battle. Here at 4LS, it often is true both literally and figuratively. We have three contesting factions that constantly get into fights with each other when trying to cooperate: writing, art and directing. That's because making a VN is a game of resource control, and the only way to not lose is to not play. A VN is essentially a collection of pieces that we usually call "assets", assembled into a whole by the magic of code. Due to it being the most "expensive" asset to produce, art is treated as the finite resource. VNs are most often built around the idea of conserving art resources, reusing them where possible and cheating when you can. Everyone has to take into account the finiteness of art when working.

Thus, the bread and butter of any VN of KS's type are Two (or more) People Talking™ and the inner monologue of the protagonist. These are cheap to visualize: character sprites, backgrounds, you're done. However, whenever anything else than one of these happens (say, two characters kissing), there is a problem that has to be solved. Every line of the game script needs to be visualized, so it's up to the director to figure out the specific solution. The director can either bypass the issue, leaving the kiss to the reader's imagination (lame), or he could try to manipulate the existing art resources to create a passable representation of a kiss (uncanny), request a piece of art of the kiss drawn by the artists (expensive), or ask the writer to consider whether the kiss is really needed (problematic).

The necessity of resource-conservative visualization creates interesting problems to VN writers. We have to hold back ourselves with certain kinda of narrative description and place much more emphasis on dialogue and the protagonist's "inner monologue". As an inexperienced writer, I find this constraint very challenging to maneuver around and often end up making myself, our director, our artists or all three unhappy.

Now, directing emphasizes function over intrigue. An example from the development of KS: certain alternative outfit sprites that some characters get are drawn alternate poses as well, instead of drawing the outfit over the old sprite base. This was because drawing a new pose altogether was appealing to the artists. However, it made delta fly off the handle. The entire expression/pose palette, the "language" he had accustomed to using to the communicate the atmosphere, body language and mood of the characters was now unusable when they were in the alternate outfits. Similarly, artists might like to draw pictures of scenes or events that don't necessarily need them (in the opinion of the writers or director). This is always time not spent on drawing pictures that would be needed. And of course, sometimes the artists are just asked to do the impossible.

So, it's a battle. Writers want to do all kinds of quirky stuff, but then the director who wants to do all sorts of cool things with that will request bazillion pieces of art from the artists who want to draw altogether different quirky stuff and sooner or later, someone is driven to a panic attack, cursing everyone to the ninth hell or a week of heavy drinking. Essentially, this inherently conflicting setup solves itself in accordance to the attitudes and personalities of the creators, and their willingness to cause suffering to themselves and each others. Someone has to yield, either the writer who has to kill his brainchild, the artist who has to slave away more hours, the director who has to come up with alternative visualization or all three, when visualization is bypassed. I think we, when making KS, have a fairly high standard of visual representation, that is, we try to get as much stuff visualized as humanly possible (and often more). We also have a certain setup of personalities that amplifies this, leading us to often solve our own struggles in the way we do. We rarely lower the bar of our visualization standard, and usually prefer to either alter the script or get more art assets instead.

Now, this is not the only, and in my opinion, ultimately not even a very good way to go about making a VN. As with so many other things in this project, it just is the production model we ended up with and are sticking with. I think that a more experienced, a more functional team could have a better handle on how to deal with the problems I described. Meanwhile, we make do, and grind day after day with this project. At least when one of these arguments happen, it doesn't anymore lead to a catastrophic shitstorm like it used to. What do you know, even we learn.

- Aura

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Traduttore = traditore

That is, "translator = traitor". Hi everybody. It's Silentcook at the keyboard again, blogposting instead of editing. Forgive me for using this as an occasion to take a breather and avoid burnout: I'll get back to the grind right after, I swear.

We see an awful lot of translation lately in the VN scene. I was going to say "VN community" instead, but I changed my mind after remembering that the community, such as it is, has no requirements whatsoever for joining beyond "do related stuff". I mean, they let ME in.

Here are some of my thoughts on this somewhat prickly subject, then.

"Translation" means "you're going to fail".

No, I'm not kidding, get yourself in this frame of mind.

There are as many ways to translate a line of writing as there are people. You've decided on going literal, idiomatic, or free-form on a sentence? Regardless of which way you picked, there are two people out there who chose the other two ways and will in no uncertain terms inform you that you're wrong.

Then there are the readers who likewise prefer one style over another. Then the people who think as you do, but still not in quite the exact same way... then, you're gonna hit a line spoken by Rin, and you're going to start weeping.

This before we take into account actual translator skill. For sanity's sake, I'm going to assume the translator speaks one of the two languages - either source or target, preferably the latter - natively. If this is not the case, I don't wanna talk about it.

Even so, consider the possibility that while the translator is quite good, the source text is a translation itself, thus adding an extra filter to the whole mess.

While you're at it, add two - I've read some interesting things about writing being the attempt of the writer at "translating" the picture in his mind. Considering the amount of pain I've witnessed over this during the last few years of the project, I'd call it an imperfect process.

By the way, I'm blessed by being able to work with and ask questions of the original writers, as long as we're talking about translating KS, but getting access to, say, a Nasu or a Tanaka might prove a tiny bit problematic.

(Oi, you. You in the sidelines, saying I'm "cursed" - shush. I'll get to that... eventually.)

Long story short, you're setting out to grope around in pitch-black darkness, and disappoint a majority with the quality of your efforts in the bargain. Why even bother with translating VNs, then?

I only have two answers to this, and forgive me if they seem obvious: first, because you want to. Second, because you're going to expand an audience.

Wanting to is the more egoistic reason, but the most important for the VN translator. If I take the time and bother to translate something, I had better LIKE it. I'm not translating for a job, so if I end up feeling like unpaid slave work, the odds of me doing it well, or even finishing, drop sharply.

Expanding the audience happens whenever you translate anything, no matter how obscure. The default is for people to not know more than their native language, even in today's age of "connectivity" and information everywhere.

Every time something gets released, someone somewhere has a wider choice available - which could well be taken as the point of translating, all by itself. The other meaning "translator" originates from - "guide" - comes to the fore.

Notice how all this ALSO results in more people getting to try out your favorite stuff. My, my, what a fortunate coincidence.

And you know what, I think it all works out into a pretty okay deal for all involved in the end! I plan on perpetrating many of the sins I mentioned above in the future, one way or another.

Doing work knowing you'll fail, striving every time for an impossible perfection.

Guess that's all for the moment. Now then, that one path is done; back to work for me.

- Silentcook
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Crucible

Over the weekend a DeviantArt-originated meme swept over Four Leaf Studios: influence map. The concept is simple: fill a 5x6 chart with things you are influenced by, so that bigger influences also take up bigger space. We had 12 4LS members fill out the map and then compiled it into one huge megamap. It's not specific to KS project at all, but we discussed and thought about what things KS is separately influenced by too. It could fill another map of this size, easily.

At any rate, this was an extremely interesting exercise. It really made us think and learn about ourselves and each other. Especially a couple of the non-artists had a hilariously hard time getting this done. In a way, putting all our influences together like this is quite fitting, after all KS is a melting pot where we all chip in with our share of work, influencing each other in the progress too (as proof of that, you can find our studio logo somewhere in the map as well). There were definitely some surprises, as well as things we've talked about before. For fun and entertainment you can try to figure out which of the influences belong to whom.

A few friends over at IRC filled their own maps too, and I was genuinely surprised and awestruck to find "Katawa Shoujo" happily nudged between other things our friends draw inspiration from. Amazing. I think it was moekki or kamifish who wondered to me about the recursion of influences, how the things we're influenced by (and the things they have been influenced by in their time) are a second-hand influence to other people who in turn might make something that touches yet other people somewhere, sometime. This connectedness gave me a short pause, but then somehow, the strange feeling was as suddenly gone as it had come. I went back to considering the proposal to introduce motivational shock collars to 4LS as a means of improving productivity, faintly smiling just to myself.

What are you influenced by?

- Aura

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Friday, October 1, 2010

In the Case of Emi Ibarazaki

We've neglected the blog for quite a while, thanks to most of us grinding the tasks we have to do, so this makes the first blog post in a while. This time, it's about Emi and her associated art.

To illustrate the progression in Emi's design, here is a timeline of her changes from Raita's original sketch (Originally black and white, coloured by Syureria) to Ke^4's design, then Ambi's design, and finally, Emi's current in-game sprite:

As you can see, Emi's design has stayed relatively close to the original, with the exception of her prosthetics. Those shown in Raita's original page are rough adaptations of running blades, which are used mainly by disabled athletes for running. This being the case, running blades referenced from those used in the real world are used for her gym sprites, with Emi opting to use something a little less overt in her day to day life. Her gym outfit design and colour scheme were also decided on early in the development cycle, being designed by Ke^4 and modified only much later on.

Ambi, Emi's original artist, did the initial redesign and basic sprites somewhere around February 2008, which is why the style she was drawn in is somewhat different to the other girls and also the reason for her uniform having some minor discrepancies. Ambi decided to change her "pageboy" bangs into something more modern, as well as generally sprucing her up.

With Ambi leaving the project in mid 2009, there were major difficulties in keeping consistency with his established artstyle when drawing the CGs and other art assets, so another redesign took place in December of 2009. While differences from her previous design remained at a minimum, her hairstyle was slightly edited towards something a little easier for Pimmy and I to draw. The end result of this redesign can be seen in Act 1 V4.

Finally, as an extra, here is Emi's character sheet for her current design:

We're also looking to do these kinds of posts for the other characters in due time, so stay tuned.

- Moekki

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Manifest Panel Transcript

Lawls from our IRC channel made a transcript of the Manifest katawa Shoujo Panel, and I (Suriko) edited it. Many, many, many hours later, it's finally done.

Edit: And it's on the forums. Way too long to post here.

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The Sorrows of Young Climatic

Since the release of Act 1, we've added a new class of visualization to KS, called "cutin CGs". They are basically images somewhere between sprites and CGs, not full screen CGs but also not a part of the bg + sprites system. Artists like doing small, focused pics and they are useful to stick here and there, where script describes an object of particular interest, or something apart from "two people talking to each other" happens.

However, the fascination with these small flavourful pictures has its downsides too. Just because something can be a cutin CG, it doesn't mean it should be. Sometimes the cutin CGs end up causing conflicts with script or direction. Sometimes they are too superfluous. And sometimes... producing art can just become an unexpectedly difficult task, truly the opposite of the nice and refreshing breather that they are supposed to be for the artists. To showcase, here's the woeful story of that one time when Suriko asked climatic to draw a cutin CG. Delta had made a note in the script of a scene where Hanako plays chess against Lilly that it could be nice to have the chessboard depicted, so Suriko goes to climatic for it.

"I note that the chessboard they're using has holes in the middle of each square and pegs on the bottom of the pieces, and has each dark square slightly raised."

That's the description, from game script. It's the kind of chessboard that makes playing easier for blind people, something you'd expect to find at Yamaku. Climatic says "yeah sure, I'll do it", the five words he regrets saying the most this year, and sets out to work. This task proves to less simple than what it would seem to be. In fact, turns out it's very complex, one could even describe the effort required to make a chessboard that meets climatic's own standards "colossal" or perhaps "gargantuan". First, climatic quickly models the board in 3d because the raised squares make its geometry a bitch at the angle he's drawing.

<climatic> asdfasdga
<climatic> agfakfhgadrgra

However, once he moves to the painting phase, every single one of those raised squares still has to be drawn individually, and despite having the model helping, it's excruciatingly detailed and exhausting work.

<climatic> AAAAAAA

After the board is complete, it needs the set of pieces. 32 pieces of 12 different kinds, each has to be drawn individually. And now, every single of those pieces and every single one of those raised squares needs to be lighted (individually) and shaded, you guessed it, individually.

<climatic> there is no end in sight
<climatic> for this fucing cg
<climatic> askdjkj

All in all completing the chessboard takes almost three months (mostly because massive lack of motivation, understandably), and it's only completed because climatic finally gets so frustrated that he refuses to finish it.

<climatic> goddamn
<climatic> ahsdd
<climatic> adsnkljlgf
<climatic> I do not care anymore

Luckily the board itself is fine by now and moekki quickly adds some effect layers on it to finalize it and it's ready to be inserted in the game. However! At this stage we find out that there's been several critical communication breaks and incomplete information relayed to climatic. Turns out delta has meanwhile directed the scene so that the cutin is not really needed, but never removed the request. Also, not only the chessboard doesn't fit the description (it's missing the holes) but also is heavily inconsistent with another pic of the same chessboard that already is in the game. So now climatic has spent three months drawing a picture that doesn't fit its description in the game and doesn't fit the second image of it in the game. Also it doesn't fit in the game. This hopefully teaches you to check and doublecheck with everyone involved before you even cough in the direction of game files.

<climatic> thank you for wasting several hours of my life, suriko
<climatic> I need to go stick my head in an oven

Not to worry! Moekki edits the second image of the chessboard to fit climatic's cutin CG (she has to redo it twice because she forgets to save), weee adds the holes in the cutin itself and delta tweaks the scene direction so that everything plays more or less together.

And the end result after all this blood, sweat and tears?

Wow! All that effort paid off tenfold. There's a bunch of other cut in CGs in the game, such as this cute plushie Hisao wins for Shizune at the school festival (I call it the Eggplant Cat)...

... or this mysterious box!

...I guess if development always went smoothly there would be nothing to blog about.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Katawa Shoujo Panel at Manifest (Now in TechniAudio!)

As most of you probably know by now Suriko and I attended the Manifest Anime Convention this weekend, where Cemex asked us to come and do a panel.

I'll admit, judging on previous panels that I've been on, I wasn't expecting much. Considering that KS is a niche market of a niche market of a niche market I figured that there would be all of about 3 people that were going to show up.

So when people started piling IN to the panels room as Suriko and I were setting up I was just a little surprised (Suriko edit: And all the more surprised when a good 90% of people there already knew about KS).

Full Disclosure: Neither Suriko or I really bothered practicing for the panel. Well, at least I didn't (Suriko edit: I didn't either). Thankfully a good half of the audience knew what I was talking about from the get-go, and that made it easy.

I won't go into the details of the panel too much; all of that is there in cold, hard, MP3-encoded 1's and 0's, however I would like to say a couple of things.

Firstly, thanks to Manifest for inviting and hosting us. They even went to the trouble of getting the presentation past the Australian Censorship Board (quite possibly the strictest Board outside of China). We were rated "MA" (15 years) but were told that we were "Quite Tame". Woot.

The number of people was quite inspiring, really. And thanks to you all too; it was good to see a couple of you getting vocal and no-one falling asleep. One thing that threw me was a couple of questions about the game that were a bit further reaching than "What's Misha's Disability?" (although I had an answer for that prepared).

To the guys that wanted copies of the game I will get those out to you next week. To the guys that gave us thumbs-up, that's cool too.

All in all it was fun. Actually meeting a couple of you has inspired me a little, and hopefully the other devs that are listening will be a little inspired (and entertained). And for those of you that listen to this online I hope it gives you a bit of an insight to the way we work (as if the blog post up to today weren't enough).

In addition to listening the recording here, you can also download it for your iPod or whatever.

Here's the presentation. Please note it's in Powerpoint 2007 format (if you don't have Office 2007, you can download a free Powerpoint Viewer 2007 from Microsoft's site).

- Crud (and Suriko)

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Katawa Shoujo Manifest Trailer: Spin

Crud and Suriko held their KS panel at the Manifest anime convention in Melbourne, Australia today. First impressions were that it went "all right, I guess", good job! A part of the panel was this snazzy video trailer, and there's an audio recording incoming later along with the panel report. Enjoy.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

What exactly are we making here?

I don't remember who brought it up first yesterday, but we were discussing the tricky problem of immersion in the dev channel yesterday which led into a bigger discussion about what exactly we'd classify a visual novel as.  This came from one of our favorite topics of conversation, which is what in the world is wrong with visual novels--or rather, why they can't seem to become a pop culture sensation (spoilers: they will probably never be a pop culture sensation).

The problem is that Visual Novels seem to be caught between being games and being novels.  Looking at some of the debates surrounding other developments on the VN scene (specifically some of the commentary about that novelstream thing that I refuse to have an opinion on) you can see would-be developers listing things they want their VNs to do while remaining blissfully ignorant that what they're describing isn't a VN at all and is more like an RPG.  Part of the problem comes, I think, from not having a definition of a VN, so let's lay that one on the table right now:

Presenting The Hivemind's Definition of Visual Novel:  A standalone form of electronic literature (that is, not requiring the internet), characterized by a combination of text and  sprites, photographs, or animation to tell stories (i.e. a visual element combined with text to tell a story).

This is a pretty wide definition, and leaves a lot of how the story is told up for interpretation.  The problem with narrowing it down would be to sacrifice room for innovation.  It also would introduce a bias--I had to say 'not requiring' the internet because while there are web-based VNs out there, they aren't the only VNs.  You might also notice I said nothing about any sort of reader control over the narrative, because that is also not a part of what is necessary.  The only two core components of the medium are right there in the name: the visual aspect has to be there, and the textual aspect has to be there.  Adding game elements makes it something else, not a visual novel, but maybe a different form of electronic literature.

While I'm defining things I guess I should define electronic literature--I'm gonna actually cheat and just use some other academic's definition (although they call it 'digital fiction' the definition works for electronic literature so I'm using it here): 'fiction written for and read on a computer screen that pursues its verbal, discursive and/or conceptual complexity through the digital medium, and would lose something of its aesthetic and semiotic function if it were removed from that medium.'  Visual Novels would lose the movement of sprites, or the addition of music--some VNs wouldn't lose anything at all if they were presented as a book with pictures, but the fact that some would is enough.

Right.  That's got our definitions sorted out, so let's go a little deeper.  Let's examine what happens when we read something like Katawa Shoujo.

What are we presented with?  Well, KS is a story told in first person.  Not only that, but the reader is able to choose how they want Hisao to respond to particular situations, which in turn will result in different stories being told--just like a CYOA novel (remember the Apollo 13 CYOA?  Anyone?).  Does this make KS a 'game?'  Again, it comes down to definitions.  Games generally have conditions for something they define as 'victory.'  The player achieves victory by acting within the rules that the game has set out.  KS has no such victory condition--some endings are 'happy' endings and some are 'sad,' but we do not define any one such ending as the 'right' ending.  Hisao either winds up with a girl or he doesn't.  The 'sad' endings in KS are no more than the bad endings in a CYOA.  You go back and make a different choice and see where that gets you.  However, the first-person narration coupled with the ability to choose some of Hisao's responses makes a reader of Katawa Shoujo feel more like they are Hisao (an effect that climatic refers to as the 'IT'S LIKE I'M REALLY _______' effect).  This does not make KS a dating simulation, however, because you don't actually have to work within any set of rules to get the girls to like you beyond choosing the branches of the story that we as developers have decided will lead to a happy ending rather than a sad ending.

So VNs are not games--and those that market themselves as such are either not actually visual novels or are misrepresenting themselves.  Furthermore, VNs (and I feel like this is stating the painfully obvious) do not have to be romantic at all.  It is a more story-heavy bit of electronic literature rather than game-heavy.  Game-heavy examples of electronic literature would be something like Mass Effect, which also tells a branching narrative (this is a bit of an oversimplification but to really get into things would make this even longer than it already is) while also having skill-based challenges for the player to overcome (as well as all the character building and equipment selection that has no effect on the story but does make the skill-based challenges easier or harder).  Personally I'd love to see more VNs told in the third person, or VNs that tell stories that aren't in some way romantic.  The thing that is holding back VNs (apart from the stubborn insistence that they are games, which they are not) is a lack of experimentation with the stories.  We're still finding our feet--and I lump KS in with a rather ignoble list of derivative VNs that rely too heavily on romance and anime cliches (we have tried very hard to avoid this, but the setting itself is so heavily played out that the chances of it being original were crippled from the get-go).

I'm not saying such VNs don't already exist--I can think of a few off the top of my head, and I'm sure that you all can come up with a hell of a lot more than I can--but certainly they don't appear to be the norm.  Until then, VNs are doomed to be little more than occasional curiosities, eclipsed by stories that take more advantage of their formats.  The strength of a VN is that it can tell a complex narrative as well as blend it with impressive art.  Unfortunately, the format has so much baggage attached to it that it can really only thrive by making a clean break with its roots and spinning itself as something else.  'Electronic novel' has a ring to it, don't you think?

--The Hivemind

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Day in the Life

This is kind of a sequel to the previous blog post. I'm going to record one full day of KS development and make a blog post of it. I'm going to present it in a single timeline, intertwining the events in different channels (colour coded for your convenience). All times are my local time and the timeline goes from 0:00am to 11:59pm on August 1st, 2010.

0:00am: The date changes. It's now August!
0:12am IRC: delta ran into a problem with directing scene L20. It's supposed to be visualized with a single CG ("ltrni.png"), but the image assets we have are completely inadequate for the scene (it has too much dialogue for a static image direction). The situation is a clusterfuck and he's miffed that nobody foresaw the problem. He and I discuss briefly about possible solutions and Silentcook joins as he logs on IRC in the middle of it. We have three options: requesting more art, moving the dialogue to another scene or trying to get a new background so delta can use sprite directing in the scene. SC comes up with a fourth idea about outsourcing pseudoCGs to a friend of his but as it's highly uncharacteristical of KS it would probably not be used and the idea is dropped. We end up with a creative mix of the first option and some sleight of hand.
0:46am SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2100 by delta: Delta edited "ltrni.png" to fit a daytime version of the same image better. Part of the solution mentioned above.
0:49am IRC: delta expresses satisfaction at the asset status of Lilly path Act 3, and hustles climatic to complete a CG he was supposed to be working on. Climatic claims that delta approved a version of it already (he says he did not). We laugh at a certain CG that has been in production for two and a half months and the discussion segues into a more general commentary about the asset situation, with frowns all around at the Emi path (it's a bit of a problem).
0:56am IRC: While I'm reading through the script of scene L20 trying to get a grasp of delta's dire situation, delta mentions a certain word choice and challenges its usage (<Delta_Kurshiva> does anyone ever say "perverted" IRL?).
1:05am IRC: I ask for a round of feedback for [classified information] because it's close to being completed and because of its curious nature it's very important that nobody comes up with a critical clusterfuck flaw AFTER it's called final. Delta and climatic give feedback and I make note of it.
1:20am IRC: I, being the writingminded person I am, latch onto delta's earlier remark about "perverted" and open a discussion about the general word choice paradigm, specifically the usage of phrases that are easy to latch onto and instantly recognizable to people marinated in the anime subculture. All four people active on the channel participate. Delta is heavily on the side of getting rid of any "animeisms" as he calls them, climatic kind of agrees, and considers them pandering of fanbase (after SC brings up the point that they are more satisfactory to the reader than the writer) and I just can't decide (<Aura-> the artist in me tells me to destroy everything, but at the same time I like it if people are entertained). Everyone tells me the best line I've wrote for KS I wrote 2 years and 4 months ago so I become depressed and go to sleep, leaving delta to wrestle with directing and Silentcook with editing.
2:31am SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2101 by delta: In the past two hours moekki had drawn some additional upgrades to "ltrni.png" so delta uploads the fix and 11 H CG variations for Lilly path that he had lying around.
2:32am IRC: Suriko logs on, and obviously being sweettalked into it by the artist girls, asks delta about installing an oekaki application on our server. Delta tells him to go fuck himself, refusing to have anything to do with the idea, then asks why on earth we even need an oekaki application. Not daunted by the mildly negative response, Suriko goes on to install it himself.
3:44am SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2102 by Silentcook: SC has edited a part of scene R18 so he uploads the changes for the other editors and me to see.
4:12am IRC: delta is horrified at the huge filesize "ltrni.png" and wants to compress it to make it more sensible. He also tells Suriko that two lines in his text make no sense when you add directing and is told to just remove the offending lines.
4:37am SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2103 by delta: Delta directed scene L20 and uploads the script cues plus the related event CG variations of "ltrni.png" for everyone to see. A completed scene direction is a pretty big event, because it basically makes the scene "final", and you will see something very much like what delta committed here in the final game.
4:40am IRC: commentary on the direction of L20 from the devs active on IRC. 
4:42am SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2104 by delta: Delta uploads a version of "ltrni.png" compressed with pngcrush for L20. It's not really that much smaller and he's not satisfied.
8:23am IRC: A22 and Suriko discuss about getting a third dev to work harder
11:58am forum: Suriko makes a thread about the oekaki application
0:23pm IRC: Suriko finishes installing the oekaki application. A22 asks why on earth we got one.
0:32pm forum: Suriko makes a public thread about the oekaki application
2:32pm IRC: I log on and ask why on earth we got an oekaki application now.
2:38pm IRC: While I've been away, [classified information] first version is completed. I think it's pretty great and discuss it briefly with Suriko. While rummaging through our ftp, I find our server logs. The numbers in there seem too big to be real. Throughout the afternoon I try to make sense of them, to some success. Apparently KS website is a great deal busier than we thought, and the game has gotten a lot more downloads than we thought.
2:42pm shimmie: Shimmie image 1758 uploaded by Aura. I received a fanart picture in a forum PM, apparently from a 4chan original art thread. It's a crossover picture of Emi and Poplar from Working!!
3:09 pm forum: I make a post in the development thread for [classified information].
3:10pm IRC: Three discussions intertwine: A22 continues talking to Suriko about the dev they were discussing earlier, I realize I need to do some groundwork for [the son of classified information] and we discuss about [classified information], with feedback from Suriko and A22.
4:18pm IRC: I'm really struggling to get my work for [the son of classified information] done, but delta logs on conveniently and tells me he will help after he finishes an idea he got, a new way to compress "ltrni.png".
4:20pm forum: delta replies to my post about [classified information] and we exchange a few forum posts about it
4:42pm SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2105 by delta: Delta uploads the new version of "ltrni.png" now a great deal smaller filesize. Success!
4:43pm IRC: delta and me discuss [the son of classified information] at length, brainstorming a lot of stuff that I pick and compress further until I'm satisfied with what I got and write it up. I also check out the direction of L20 that delta finished last night after I went to sleep and tell him I like it.
5:37pm SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2106 by delta: Delta uploads a new sound effect file and its implementation in the script files. He was pestered into this by weee, apparently to his dislike (revision comment has the >: | emoticon)
5:43pm public IRC: Novelstream is mentioned and the public IRC channel starts a loose and lengthy discussion about VN distribution, various VN engines, alternative development models, development communities and shit flinging.
6:04pm IRC: climatic logs on and I ask him to paint a new artwork for Rin path. We briefly discuss the specifics (most of the time, climatic just does what he wants. It works really well) and he sets out to work.
7:38 public IRC: the discussion mentioned above finally ends.
8:26pm IRC: I float the idea for this blog post to general but unenthusiastic approval and start writing it.
9:20pm SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2107 by Silentcook: SC has finished editing scene R18.
10:45pm SVN: Katawa Shoujo revision 2108 by delta: delta prepares to direct a Lilly path H scene by sorting its art assets (the ones he uploaded in revision 2101) and making preliminary entries for them in script and code files.
10:56pm shimmie: Shimmie image 1759 uploaded by climatic. Instead of working on the artpiece I asked him to, it seems climatic was drawing boobs.
11:13pm IRC: [classified information] is going through finishing touches so we discuss it with delta and climatic as well as act title cards. Climatic reads the draft of this blog post and says its funny.
11:14pm forum: I make a post about the progress with [classified information], asking for comments to an issue from Pimmy.
11:38pm IRC: brief discussions about a variety of topics such as Rin act 2, Act title cards, cold hands and working harder.  Climatic shows a work-in-progress of the artwork he started earlier, and moekki shows a work-in-progress of an Emi path event CG she's working on. There is a critical flaw in the CG and we ponder how to best fix it. The issue with [classified information] is left unresolved because Pimmy is not online, to my annoyance since I'd want to keep pushing it as hard as possible.
2nd Aug, 0:03am: I notice the date has changed, write this line and post this blog post.

There you have it. 24 hours of Katawa Shoujo time. I think it's pretty representative, although today was a somewhat more active day than average. Then again a dead day would've made for a super boring blog post. It was Sunday so no work/school for anyone, SVN was active because delta was directing today (it is the single biggest activity contributor), Suriko installed that oekaki thing and IRC was somewhat active as well. Public IRC channel had obviously a lot of offtopic conversation that was not worth recording here and if someone did work they didn't talk about, it doesn't show up either.


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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Katawa Shoujo at Babycastles indie game arcade

Next month in New York City, the indie game arcade Babycastles will host Hardcore Feelings, a show featuring a selection of playable indie titles picked out by video games journalist Matt "Fort90" Hawkins. What makes this awesome is that Katawa Shoujo Act 1 has been chosen as one of the exhibits, so you definitely should go check it out if you live in the area.

Opening night party featuring the chiptune artist GLOMAG and the 3D puzzle game Super Hypercube is on 5th of August but the games except for Super Hypercube will be on display for all month for the slowpokes.

Featured titles:

Kokoromi and Polytron

Hellen Jo / Calvin Wong / Derek Yu

Deth P Sun / Cactus

16 x 16

Four Leaf Studios

TYO / Seitron & Art Inc

Silent Barn
915 Wyckoff Avenue
Queens, NY

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Four Leaf Studios, how does it work?

How does KS actually get made? What is the everyday developement work like? I've tried to write about this topic before, but honestly, it's extremely difficult to concisely express the way our team works in this project. We are an extremely organic, dynamic and free-form group, while at the same time it often feels we are too stagnant, too ass-backwards, too carefree. It is a little bit paradoxal and I can't (and indeed, am not even going to try to) explore all the intricacies and quirks that we ourselves have grown to accept a fundamental part of this team. But will talk about some things, for you, and maybe for myself to better understand who we are. Here we go:

The two primary challenges with our work is the gigantic scope of our project, and managing the large amount of people working on it. I think we all freely admit that we are basically completely unqualified to handle something this big. Still, we manage to get things done, it's just not all that easy. Our method of working is mostly without strict hierarchy (maybe we just lack a dev of the type required for that). Everyone has very clearly defined assignments, and they work towards completing them largely by themselves. We have a few slavedriver types who do take more global responsibility, and periodically prod the lazybutts into working harder, but imposing hard deadlines is obviously not possible in a project like this. Without a concrete motivator, it's really tough to stay on target sometimes. Duty, camaraderie, passion and such are good things and they drive us, but in the middle of the sea of developement hell, the faraway shore sometimes feels too distant. Anyway, everyone has their own job and they work towards completing it at their own pace.

That is the theory. In reality we spend an awful lot of time discussing about KS, our ideas, methods, giving and taking feedback about various parts of the game and so on.

Ideas and theories are the most open discussions, often leading to unexpected insights and new approaches that improve the game a lot. They are also the most stress-free discussions and often pretty fun. At this stage we often put a lot more stress to practicality and feasibility than other values, regardless of how cool an idea someone comes up with. We basically have a very strong picture of what the finished game will be like. Discussing work in progress is optional and sporadic. Usually it happens when someone is uncertain of how to proceed, or there is a disagreement of ideas between two or more people. Often interested parties have a general discussion, and either a consensus is formed or the ones with most stake or most compelling arguments bend others to their will. We also have a couple of options to solve complete deadlock situations (they are rare). Because art is much easier to grasp even when incomplete, it gets discussed much more often in the WIP stage than other areas. When an asset (means an element of the game, such as a bit of writing, a production art piece, a bgm track, a directed scene) is completed, it goes through  round of commentary from everyone who is interested. Sometimes you really have to force people to give feedback, especially the less vocal devs. This feedback ranges from appraisal and approval to nitpicking on details to full-blown, brutal critiquestorm, at worst from multiple people at the same time. More work is done and when everyone relevant feels happy, it's approved as final(nothing is actually ever approved, it just means that nobody disagrees anymore, at least not enough to raise an issue). Generally, nothing that ends up in game is done by a single person only, but everything gets touched on by others, such as artists doing colouring and tweaking for each other, editors editing all script, writers helping each other, direction affecting absolutely everything and so on. An important thing here is that nothing ever satisfies everyone. There is a very intricate pattern of what must be according to whose standards, but every one of us has learned that working on something like KS is a game of give and take. It's sometimes okay to accept that not everything has to be exactly like you want. Sometimes you have to understand that something you want done is, in practical terms, impossible. In general, everyone has equal creative freedom, and this creativity we try to direct into a collective direction through our developement discussions. We hope that KS will end up looking and feeling like a game made by 15 clearly separate people, who share one unified idea about the game.

So how does all of this get done? We have five primary developement "tools", basically just methods of managing game data, information and communication: forums, IRC, MSN, SVN and Trac.

Unlike the rather... free-form public IRC channel, the developement IRC channel is strictly business-only. Sometimes some discussions that are not directly related to KS are held, for example often we discuss VN developement in a general sense, and a lot of meta discussion is held as well, but random banter and derailing is not tolerated. From this it follows that the channel is completely dead unless someone has some issue they want to bring up, in which case everyone who is around usually activates to throw in their two cents. The IRC is easily the most brutal, the most honest, the most direct and the most useful tool this project has. Right this moment, as I'm writing this, I'm also idly following and occasionally participating in a 50-minute long discussion about Hisao's penis in one of the Lilly path H CGs.

Important issues, especially ones where it's important to have a permanent recording, are handled on forum. Our spread across timezones and the necessity to make the posts more formal and concise than a freely flowing dialogue on IRC make having actual discussion on forum very clunky. One could say that forum is for longevity and IRC is for dynamic discussion. Many one-on-one conversations are held with instant messenging over MSN, often mixed with bantering about unrelated things, as many of us like just chatting with each other too. A key thing to understand here is that we all are unique. Some devs are way more passive than others, some talk only about certain things, and everyone has their own unique personality. Over time, devs have managed more or less to learn the best ways to communicate with others, but I can't say that we have it perfect by any means. Often there are conflicts of personality, misunderstandings and friction. There are some devs who barely ever talk to some other devs. In short, the network we form is not a perfect one, where everyone is connected to everyone else, rather everyone is connected to the devs they need to be, and to the devs they want to be connected to (Perhaps someone should do a 4LS relationship chart, hahaha). This also is a case of organic growth, evolution and adaptation. Everyone has managed to find their own niche in the dev team.

SVN is a version control system that allows all 15+ of 4LS devs to work on the same project simultaneously. Basically, it holds the master version of KS (as well as a memory of all previous versions, called revisions) and makes sure that all devs are kept up to date when new work is done. We average around 60-80 revisions per month, which means that new material or improvements/fixes on the KS project happen about two or three times every day. Naturally this is not an even distribution, sometimes nothing is changed for a week or so, and on the other hand for instance the week before Act 1 was released we were working at around 15-20 revisions per day.

Trac is a tool that is used by far the least, but it's invaluable near releases. It's a tool that keeps track of assignments, bugs, issues and problems, basically a huge TO DO-list. We feed it with everything that bothers us and needs fixing, and it tells us what everyone has to do before KS is done and can be released. It also has a wiki, but we barely use it, because of an interesting (and totally horrible, never ever do this on your own project) aspect of KS project: its documentation. A vast, vast majority of information of how the setting, characters, working methods, how ANYTHING works is not written down anywhere, in some neat documentation files. Instead all of that knowledge is shared between us devs, in a hivemind of sorts that has been growing for years now. As an example, there is not a single character with an official, written biography, but the devs to whom that information is relevant have it memorized, somewhere in their heads.

I looked at what I just wrote, and heaved a sigh. Once again, I think I ended up just talking about the superficial aspects, the mechanical way of how everything happens, and completely failed to really grasp the essence of this group. Maybe it's just proper. In reality, every day is different, every week something new comes up, every month something goes wrong in a catastrophic and spectacular way. But we go with the flow in our own way, holding ourselves together, working together, laughing together, mocking each other, getting angry at each other, because this is the only way we know.


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog comments disabled for the time being

Since there has been a streak of Chinese spam on this blog that I have grown very tired of deleting, I'm turning comments on the blog off. From now on, please refer to the forum. I hope all blog posters will start a thread in the new appropriate subforum.

— delta

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The (International) Katawa Conspiracy

We seem to have gotten quite a few translations now, so it's probably time to talk about that for a moment (at least Aura has been prodding me to do so). Problem is, there isn't much to say - apart from the actual translation work being a lot of work, which is a given, the process itself is relatively painless. The KS engine extensions have been built from the start to make translations possible. The reason is that before I started working on KS, I was active in the VN translation scene and less than amused with how hard it can be to make Japanese engines work with non-Japanese text. So more or less out of spite (and because I don't just want Japanese-only thinking replaced with English-only thinking), I toyed with the idea of internationalizations from the beginning, and made it so that potential translators would at least have an easy time technology-wise. Of course, another reason for having an integrated multi-language engine is that we can keep closer to the translation effort and have at least some input on what happens, even though we obviously can't understand most of the actual translation. But at least translations don't depend on unauthorized patches, which we would have a hard time ignoring. It seems to have worked out alright, and I hope the French translation of Act 1 won't be the last. Of course, translation effort on the full game will be another thing entirely. But we'll tackle that problem when it's actually done.

By the way, besides Japan Expo in Paris, there is another con date that might be of interest: Our staffer pimmy and IRC/fanart regulars VCR and Doomfest have artist tables at Anime Expo from July 1st in Los Angeles. If you're there, say hello and maybe get one of VCR's limited edition pins. And get them signed by Nabeshin. Yeah, I really like the idea of KS-related things getting signed by completely unrelated Japanese nerd celebrities.

– delta

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Eh bien, eh bien" is the new "ara ara": A1v4 is out

Katawa Shoujo Act 1 v4 has been released. The biggest change is the addition of a French localization, courtesy of Kawa Soft. Kawa Soft will be officially presenting this at their table at Japan Expo (Hall 5A, Z457) in Paris on July 1st. If you're in the vicinity you may want to pay them a visit, and also check out their French translation of the quite excellent True Remembrance, to be released at the same time. They will have hardcopies available, and if you want to make my day, get a KS CD signed by Hideo "2mnywrd" Kojima, who is at the con. Take photos if you do.

V4 has no other new game content so if you have played v3 and can't read French, it's not the most exciting thing. However, the patch 3.0.1 for Chinese is included as are several system/UI improvements. For a list see the Changelog.

If Paris seems a little far, download Act 1 v4 from one of these links:

As always, this release supersedes the previous ones, so please help seed these new torrents if you can.

– delta

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Katawa Shoujo Panel at Manifest

Hey everyone. Crud and Suriko are going to be attending the Manifest anime convention, and will be doing a Katawa Shoujo panel there. We'd like to thank Cemex for inviting us to do the panel.

The convention will be held in Melbourne, Australia (at the Melbourne Showgrounds) on August the 20th to the 22nd, and the panel itself is on Sunday the 22nd of August.

Much more information about the convention can be found at their site, here:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Loss and Loneliness

An advice often given to a fledgling writer is "write what you know about". Well, I don't know disability. I am not disabled. Nobody I know is. Writing about disability is difficult. Even if I were to spend the rest of my life doing research on it, I can only approximately imagine what it might be like. So, it's easier to write about other things, and that's what I do. There are plenty of other things I write about when I write about Rin and Hisao, eventually even some things I actually do know. But still, I have to imagine loss, I have to imagine loneliness. I have to imagine disability.

Disability has certain characteristics. It's the lack of ability, the loss of limb, it categorizes of people whose bodies don't fill the qualifications of a complete human being. A harsh and unfair expression, sadly true yet not quite the truth. How big part of a human is defined by the body? It is an old problem.

Writing about how people experience this is a challenge. Even if they don't directly confront the issue, it slowly seeps out of the character. Entire time it's balancing on a rope. The characters certainly must be conscious about their disabilities, yet it seems too much if that's all they think about. The characters have extra trouble with various everyday things because of disabilities, but they should not prevent these activities completely. The characters are shaped by their disabilites, but not defined by them. Hisao lost something, but it's on a rather abstract level. You can't see his disability. He doesn't have much in the way of physical impediments as long as he remembers his limits. But he experiences great trouble adjusting to his new situation. He becomes depressed, anxious. His mood changes a lot as exhibited by some scenes that surprised a lot of readers in act 1. I also write one of the characters who have been disabled since birth. She never had arms or hands in the first place and doesn't seem to be particularly bothered about it. Her tranquility is an almost complete foil to Hisao. This is my problem: to what extent Rin experiences the loss of her limbs that never were there?

It's very hard to express the absence of something.

If I can't completely relate to my characters, could they possibly relate to each other? Technically that is a part of why the imaginary school our story takes place in exists. Is there loneliness in that place? I think there must be. And because our characters are teenagers, becuase they are human, there must also be weltschmerz, there must be the heaviness of existence. And this is something I can't avoid imagining: that these characters experience it in a more pure, stronger way than I do. I imagine the silence of dormitories of Yamaku at night. It's the absolute prime time to be melodramatically depressed by yourself. Moonlight illuminates a dorm room and its inhabitant, wrestling with dark thoughts and insomnia. In the next room, another watches the same moon, perhaps thinking about the same thoughts. In the room next to that, another. A hundred tiny rooms, a hundred tiny souls. All connected yet apart. It hits me that I might already have fallen off the rope with thoughts like these, and that maybe the true answer is that there was no rope at all. Maybe there are no disabilities. Maybe it's all a big metaphor of the hardships of life and the feeling of loneliness everyone experiences sooner or later.

"So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing thats's stolen from us - that's snatched right out of our hands - even if we are left completely changed people with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable loneliness."

- Aura

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Miracle of the Universe II

Emi path's second draft, like Lilly's, is now complete. As per Hivemind, the path's writer:
It took longer to do than I thought it would, but the end result is something that everyone ought to like, I hope. The path's not completely finished (revisions will doubtlessly occur), but it is nice to see a finished product of any sort. All downhill from here.
In other news, our Folding @ Home team has broken rank 250, being at rank 247 as of the writing of this post. Congratulations, guys.

As celebration for both, here is a sketch from Moekki of Emi folding:

Monday, May 31, 2010

Motivational Speech

I read an interesting article in the newest issue of the Wired magazine. The article is available on their website as well (it might be slightly cut, or not. Didn't check). Go read it.

Ok, now that you're back, you can maybe figure why its relevant to us. These dudes are talking about stuff that pierces KS straight through its black and rotten heart. KS represents an insane amount of manhours, time that us devs have spent on making it. On a personal level, we can't expect to get much anything out of it, nor is there any negative consequence if we just one day would decide to call it quits. Í mean, at most I have become somewhat better at English, and collected some questionable e-fame. I might as well disappear into the depths of 'net, never to be seen again. So why on earth are we still here? What drives us on?

Obviously the answer is something like the two authors try to suggest in their dialogue. There is a third motivator, something that is neither carrot nor stick, nor anything in between. I don't really like reading visual novels. But I find making one fascinating. I find it satisfying. I find it absolutely exhilarating talking with 15 or so other people about our common vision, figuring out problems, trashing their work and getting mine trashed, beaming words straight from my brain to my fingertips and every word means something to someone out there. Even when we are down in the dumps and things are not going well, the electrifying feeling is somewhere under all that. The article is right, I wouldn't want to do this for money. I wouldn't want to do this as some sort of mandatory exercise either. I do it because it's interesting.

What motivates us for passive consumerism, of entertainment or otherwise? Nothing, really. That's what passive means, you don't need much to watch TV (culturally appropriate here would be to mention anime, manga and visual novels I guess?). Is there satisfaction? I guess some, but it might not be comparable. It sure feels good to beat a hard video game, or immerse into Buffyverse (not sure about the latter). But years from now, do you remember that time you beat your hiscore? Do you remember season four of that TV series you used to like? Media has a tendency of drowning under... more and more of the same. Active participation will always stay with you, be it administerating a website or editing your pet tvtropes article.

The Internet, as it is, is largely built on this third motivator. For every commercial site there are dozens that are free, from wiki to sourceforge to all the deep and invisible undercurrents where 5 people are quietly working on a full rebuild of a 15-year old classic videogame or a translating a love story about disabled kids into a language that less than 0.6% of the world's population speak. Of all our fans, the ones I love the most are the ones who have been inspired to create something of their own. Fanfiction, fanart, translation project (how crazy is that huh? I love the translators), trying your own hand at making a visual novel, cosplay, whatever. There is a connection there, something that does not emerge between a TV show producer and a couch potato with glazed eyes and a bag of chips (though arguably, I'm sure there are lots of steamy LOST fanfiction too). Everyone really should try to find their "thing", something that can hold their interest and open up a way to do something they enjoy more than watching reruns. At this point anyone who says "but I have no skills in anything" will get spankings, because that's too weakass for me to tolerate. Learn by doing. That's what we did. First attempt sucks? Throw it away, restart. That's what we did, too.

I remember when I started working on KS. There were no great visions. There was no fanbase. There was no concept of any kind of how a visual novel is made. In retrospect, there was no perceptible reason why I should pick that time, that project as something I'd spend a considerable chunk of my time on for the next howevermany years. I just thought it would be interesting. I traded a lot of time spent on consuming media to creating some, talking about it and getting yelled at by people whose names I don't know. Worth it? Yes. Because it's just too interesting to have missed any of this.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

There, I fixed it.

In the released version of Act 1 v3, the Friday script for the Chinese translation is corrupted, which leads to English text being displayed instead. This can be fixed with a patch:

Mac OS X
Linux / people willing to change the files by hand on any platform

Once again, this only affects the Chinese translation; if you are not interested in that language or not a perfectionist, you don't need this. There will probably be a fixed complete release eventually.

In an attempt to mask our error with moe, here is some related art from moekki:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Katawa Shoujo Act 1 version 3 released!

Four Leaf Studios is officially announcing the release of Katawa Shoujo Act1 version 3. This update adds two main items: a full translation to Japanese and new art sets for Emi and Yuuko, as well as a number of minor improvements and corrections.

You can download v3 as a standalone package from links below. Old savegames from v1 or v2 might not be functional after installing v3. As always, we are thankful for torrent seeding help, in lieu of earlier versions.

Linux torrent
Mac torrent
Windows torrent

Direct download from our mirror providers has been added to the download page.

-Japanese translation and manual
-New art set for Emi
-New art set for Yuuko
-New 4LS splash movie
-New act title card graphic
-several music tracks rerendered
-several script adjustments
-a choice clarification
-fixed a game flow bug

As with v2 release, this release is not recommended for those who have played an earlier version. You may want to check out the new art sets, but the changes to the English/Italian/Chinese scripts are very minor. Naturally, new players are recommended to choose v3 over older versions. We hope everyone will enjoy this release and looks forward to the full game, and extend our warm congratulations to the Japanese translation team for completing their project.

In a related note, the first anniversary of Katawa Shoujo Act1 release passed a while back. We would like to thank everyone who has become a part of this silly, funny, improbable project during this time. Everyone who has given feedback, participated in discussion on forum or IRC, written fanfiction or drawn art, fallen hopelessly in love with one of the girls, given a word of encouragement, laughed and cried when reading our words, dazed by our pictures and music, everyone who has jumped down the rabbit hole into our world: Thank you so much. We are very fortunate to have so many people support us in this project.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Even though it's a cliche by now, I'm perpetually astonished by not only the popularity of our release, but even more by some of the side effects. Specifically, fandom. Fans are awesome and scary and weird. Fans like to talk a lot, and think about stuff a lot. Where there are fans, there is speculation and truly, people are reading really deep into the story and the characters, even though there is only Act 1 to draw info from. On the other hand, the characters tend to get reduced to one-dimensional archetypes. Rin is random, Emi is childish, Hanako is reclusive, Lilly is refined and so on. Initially it made me feel depressed, that maybe we sucked terribly to make so simple characters, but then I realized that a lot of the depth comes from knowing all the stories and motivations and things that just are not present in Act 1. So, I thought a little about how I view the characters, and how the fans do (on average... but I don't want to generalize the fanbase any more than I want them to generalize the characters).

Emi and Rin:

Emi is not Rin's servant, nor does she need one. You'd be surprised what (real) people who've never had arms can do with their feet and toes. Rin can do the following things perfectly without any aid: dress up, take her clothes off, personal hygieny stuff, school work, eat (she prefers a fork or a spoon over chopsticks) and so on. I've actually had try hard to think what really is impossible or too impractical for her. Emi does stuff for Rin yes, but it's not because Rin needs it, it's because Emi likes doing things like that. Motherly instinct? Usually Emi is deemed childish rather than motherly but if you think about it for a moment, she is a very diligent and responsible person for her age.

Rin suffers pretty heavily from the reduction to her most obvious character trait, the rather spacy way she interacts with most other people. I think it's fun too, but I didn't really want her to be a comic relief character. She used to be even more random before though. I shall work hard to make her a bit more multidimensional.

Shizune, Misha and Hisao:

Misha is not Shizune's sole connection to people who don't know sign. Even though literacy is not a given for deafmute people just like some people can only speak their native language, Shizune can read and write. So, even if Hisao doesn't learn sign, it's somewhat silly to think that Misha would be required to be present in intimate situations (or at all).

Reader reaction to Shizune's behaviour and actions were something I was expecting with great anxiety before the release. It was me who decided to make her a very central character in Act 1 (something A22 didn't fancy that much) and also the closest that the act has to an antagonist (something he liked even less, but he wrote the scenes diligently anyway). The risk there was that people would be turned off by her strongwilled character, as it's portrayed rather controversially in several places. Luckily this didn't happen, and Shizune seems to be one of the more popular characters and many fans really seem to "get" her.


Is Hanako's disability really one? Does she "belong" to Yamaku? While the burns of her severity do have lasting consequences, it's always good to remember that Yamaku is not a hospital. Even non-disabled kids can attend, and Hanako probably is better off in an environment where she's less likely to strike out in a crowd. Hanako, along with Shizune, is a character where I feel we "got it right", and the reader response has been exactly what we anticipated and hoped for.

Ara ara ufufu:

Hahaha oh boy, Lilly. In her very first incarnation, she actually acted precisely as her character stereotype: a refined, cultured ojousama who is almost superhuman in her angelic glory. After a horrific realization that she was the most cliched Mary Sue character ever, Suriko has kept trying hard to drag Lilly away from that image.

Misha's Disability:

Yeah I bet you thought I was going to spill the beans. Sorry but no. I just wanted to give extra credit to the completely absurd speculation about her disability. People come up with these incredibly complex theories, based on some offhand remarks one of the writers has made in the script, or her general behaviour. It's amazing. Maybe everyone is just missing the real hints...

Speaking of offhand remarks, some of them have become really popular in ways we never expected. Hanako's jumping game is one, it really resonated in a huge amount of people, but to tell you the truth we just kinda threw it in there. I wonder why it is so popular? Another throwaway thing is the painting in one of the hallway backgrounds, which became somewhat of a meme. Also the cameos in the classroom CG, oh my god we did not expect everyone to latch onto that as if they've never seen a cameo before. Maybe a polite snicker in passing as you recognize a character or something, but not this. Not this.

Four Leaf Studios:

We are not heartless assholes, but in fact care a great deal about the fans of KS. I mean, how could we not? It's great to have so many people experience and talk and wonder about something we did. However, we'd still be making this game even if it was just the 20 of us who cared, and that's also the way we think about KS when we keep working on it.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Lilly path second draft is now complete. All scenes are now completely written for her. I had planned to write more here about it but damned if I can do it.

Now to go drink myself into a stupor. By which I mean go to work.

 - Suriko

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raspberry Flavoured Popsicles

"If one of the editors makes a fact check and comes telling me they don't sell raspberry flavoured popsicles in Japan, I swear I am going to come to your houses at night and stab you."

Hello all, Silentcook here. It's again time for me to bore everybody to death, except maybe for the two persons or so which actually read my previous blogpost, by actually talking a bit about the tribulations of editing this time around.

So, those raspberry flavoured popsicles. That's an actual quote, if a dead one, from one of our writers. It serves as a decent example of the extremes you may have to reach when you're editing other people's stuff, and research rears its ugly head.

I have the (dubious) honor of being the medical advisor for KS; it was the main reason why I was allowed into the project in the first place. I imagine when you're writing about a schoolful of kids where most everyone is afflicted by some gruesome condition or other, you can get a little nervous about contemporary medicine, its advances and capabilities, and the possibility of screwing up something somewhere in the plot.

So it does make perfect sense to find a professional and ask questions about stuff you want to write; you'll get steered away from glaring mistakes at least, and a little feedback will provide verisimilitude to your work.

Now guess: what happens when you get the exalted position of head editor in a VN?

Right the first time. You get to go over everybody's writing with a fine sieve, getting paranoid about every single little detail.

Aside from doing common spelling and grammar corrections, rearrangement of sentences so that narration sounds better, occasional liaison duty between writers artists and directors, ghost writing for interstitial script, continuity checks, and other various odd jobs, you get to try being an everythingologist. Thank God for Internet search engines.

Unfortunately, not everything is documented, or at least not in a way that can be accessed easily. And some things you just don't think about, until someone wanders by and lets you know some tidbit of information.

Did you know, for example, that Americans smile for passport photos, while Europeans don't? Or that in some cities in Japan, you have to show proof that you have a free parking space before you can own a car? Would you think to look for this kind of information, without knowing it exists?

Yeah paranoia, feel free to get comfortable: we'll keep company for a while.

Oh, about those popsicles? I asked a friend who was travelling to Japan to buy one, AND BRING BACK THE WRAPPER. Our writer didn't follow through with his threat (yet), so I guess I'm in the clear for now.

Next time I'll prattle on about translation, I think. Now, those Act 3 scripts...

- Silentcook

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools: Katawa Shoujo Anime Officially Announced

As per the title, we've been discussing this matter with a certain animation studio for some time, and now with their green light can finally give some details as to what's been going on behind the scenes.

Although they do say a picture says a thousand words, so I'll just post one of the letters we've recieved first:

As you can see, we were contacted by Studio DEEN with an expression of interest in licensing Katawa Shoujo for distribution as an animation , which all in the project agreed to in fairly short measure. In the months of negotiation that followed, we worked out a licensing scheme that suited both our interests and production of the first character sheets and scriptment material began.

We were all suitably impressed with Studio DEEN's artistic quality and style, and with a minimum of fuss production began on a short pilot preview to be used as advertising material. While we do not currently have permission to distribute this, here are some still frames we've gained permission to show.

We hope you'll all be as excited as we are to see a Katawa Shoujo anime produced, and while we work both on the game and with Studio DEEN to assure the very best quality anime that can be made, we'll continue to provide our usual updates and announcements.

Thank you.

 - Suriko