A number of points were raised about Gotomomi by reviewers and in private. I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss some of the more frequently mentioned.
“Even though the game prints some exits in bold type, it doesn’t do so with all exits.”
This is very valid criticism. I was faced with the decision to a) not print any exits in bold, thereby hiding all of them in the long room descriptions, b) print all exits in bold, thereby turning away the player from examining anything, or c) print some in bold and hide some, thereby forcing the player to do his own exploration (and examining the beauty of my many scenery objects in the process) while making navigation of the map easy. I choose c), which seems to have been too manipulative for most people’s tastes. Players traversed all the rooms they could reach via the obvious exits many times, talking to everyone before they even started examining the scenery. This appears to have been more of a problem for those players who didn’t read the in-game help text.
“The haggling is much too random and tedious.”
This was another tough decision to make. I wanted to include some game-like elements, and the haggling seemed to fit the theme and setting perfectly. The problem with haggling is the following: either it takes place within such a narrow margin that it might as well not be included at all, or it is much more random and makes all the difference to the story. After some testing I discovered that there really is no middle ground here. The solution was twofold: Firstly, the player can choose to re-do the haggling any number of times. People used this excessively and then complained it was tedious (I admid this may have to do with the walkthrough recommending this course of action). Secondly it is possible to win the game after haggling badly, though this effectively closes off some branches. I gather nobody even noticed this. I am now convinced that haggling is not a good game mechanic in a single-player game. Maybe I’ll try some type of auction next time.
“It is difficult to act with agency without a lot of prior exploration.”
I should hope so. Solving any reasonably complicated problem should not be attempted without first formulating it precisely and then examining closely at least some possible courses of action. I think the predicament of the protagonist is such as to require a bit of exploration and thought. Anything else would strike me as not just a little unrealistic.
Now for some of the things I myself noticed.
Juding from the Transcripts (I read every single one) and reviews, people didn’t complain much about the labyrinth or the clothing puzzles. I had thought these would turn out to be more controversial. Most people seem to have used the walkthrough in the sewers and never put it down afterwards.
Of course there was this one guy who brute-forced the sewers without a flashlight, talked to the chinaman and had forgotten that he needed to get back into the boat to traverse the waterways. After fruitlessly trying to swim the sewers in every direction for a while, he restarted.
Some players (including some reviewers) liked to restart the game a lot. Some thought they had put the game into an unwinnable state. This was untrue in every single case.
In fact the only way to really get the game into an unwinnable state is to sell all your possessions, then sell all the accella and repeatedly give back the boat keys to the sea-bear, paying 950 yen every time you rent the boat again until you don’t have enough money left to give to the chinaman (He knows exactly how much you made dealing his drugs). This will prevent you from entering the mall.
There are a few more ways to solve some of the puzzles that I saw nobody try. There are also a lot of things to discover that add nothing to the protagonist’s wealth but might turn out to be entertaining to the player. Most of these were never discovered as far as I can tell.
One more thing I found interesting was that almost everyone preferred certain branches in the conversations with the artist.