Gotomomi postmortem

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.

Lol I was the one who brute-forced the sewer. I was playing for the second time to write up my IFDB review, and I wanted to see how far I could get without the walkthrough. I was surprised at how much easier it was than I thought it would be; the walkthrough made it seem so scary that I just stuck with it, but in practice the game has great cues on what to do.

By the way, I’d really be interested in seeing more of the ‘hidden content’ that noone ever noticed. Have you considered including an ‘advanced walkthrough’ in the AMUSING section after beating the game? I’ve played a lot of games that are 10+ years old whose easter eggs died with the author’s e-mail address (for instance, many people said there was a great easter egg with Excalibur in Avalon, but that’s never going to be found again). So it’d be great if the hidden content of your game was accessible somewhere.

Good game! I liked the ‘explore an interesting environment’ and the ‘sandboxy, but with interesting things to do and people to meet’ aspects of it.


How do you get the winning ending? Or for that matter, any ending apart from the one you can get at the police station in the first few moves? I used the walk-through, but ended up with nowhere near the required amount of money and I couldn’t find anything that would give me any new responses.

I didn’t know you could do this, but the easiest ‘quick’ method to get more room to breathe is to take your id out of your wallet before it gets stolen.

But the two other big things to do involve examining buildings in two different locations.

Yeah, I didn’t think of that trick at the start myself, but that might help.

Which buildings? I thought I had examined everything significant.

You may have already reached them: the boat rental shack and the used goods store.

I enjoyed the game and found the world large and interesting. I actually really enjoyed the haggling aspect of the game. There were a few things that didn’t seem to work for me, for instance, I didn’t get a strong sense of the protagonist’s identity (not really a problem in such a busy and puzzle-heavy game) and I found some of the conversations a bit clunky and unconvincing. I also wondered why you only seemed to be able to get hired at the fish factory right at the beginning of the game and whether the painter’s job offer ever leads to anything (though I was already really uncomfortable about where that encounter had gone so I’m probably relieved that we weren’t introduced to one of his clients)

I know this all sounds negative but I generally enjoyed the game and its puzzles and never lost motivation to finish it. I also had a good sense of the city as being a genuinely unsettling, unpleasant, seedy and dangerous place to be and that did make me worry for the protagonist and especially the girls she encounters in the bar. I’d also be interested in seeing an enhanced walkthrough that spells out other things to do as I’d like to explore Gotomomi further!

Some “did you try…?” messages at the end are a good idea. On the other hand, how many players would try these after having beaten the game?

You can work at the fish factory several times. The boss will offer you a job as long as your funds are less than 4000 yen. I added the whole factory scene quite late into the project to give players who were unsuccessfull at haggling a chance to restore their wealth. It turned out to eat up the time available to complete the game as I would have liked. So I cut some unfinished late-game scenes, thinking they wouldn’t be played much in any case because most players take the train as soon as they have the money to buy a ticket. The client-conersation with the painter is the last stub left of one of these, which I failed to eliminate. If I get around to do a post-comp release, I’ll include these scenes.

Due to popular demand, here are some suggestions for doing some of the less obvious things not in the walkthrough, some of them might even return some money. Mind you, there are many more “hidden” things to discover (mainly deeply implemented scenery objects and some references to literature and cinema), but I will limit myself here to things that actually implement some agency for the player:

If you ask Kei to help you get into the mall, she’ll write you a letter of reference to the chinaman. He’ll sell you the fake ID for 5.000 yen.

If you asked the chinaman for help first and got the drugs before doing the above, you can sell his drugs, get half of the profits and get the ID for 5.000. If you play your cards right, you’ll make an overall profit of several thousand yen. This is even better than taking the ID out of your wallet at the very beginning.

If you sell the chinaman’s accella in the streets, you can get caught by the police. They will take the drugs and let you go. You can go back to the chinaman, he’ll still give you half of the money you managed to make until then.

If you decided to be friendly to Wanja at the beginning of the first delivery, he will tell you the business secret of the bartender at the “Little China Girl” after you deliver the box of champagne to him near the end of the game. You can then blackmail the bartender into selling you drinks at a massive discount. Time to get wasted.

Examining the motor boat at any point in the game will open up a new conversation with the sea-bear about his boat and his missing daughter. Investigating this is definitely worth it. There is more info in the next spoiler, but it will really spoil everything.

The next two are massive.

She’s upstairs in the “Little China Girl”. You’ll have to get in through the loo window to speak to her, even if you got into the place through the front door first. She needs a complete outfit to wear, which you can buy at the floating market if you don’t have it with you. After freeing her, go to her father and get rewarded with 550.000 yen.

With the money you made in this way, you can buy an expensive kimono outfit at Utsunomiya Agnieska’s boutique in the mall. Sell all your possessions at the various shops to raise all the money you need to buy all she offers and the train ticket, too (It’s best to wear the yukata and hanhaba obi yourself and give the boiler suit and boots to Rachel). Wear the new outfit and get into the train.

I mentioned in my review (but I want to emphasize now) I couldn’t get the fish factory to work. I invested roughly 200 turns before giving up. I might try again and send a transcript, if you like.

As far as “it’s impossible to get stuck”, well… first off it’s impossible to follow your walkthrough as written if you mess it up (which I think is a downfall of walkthroughs in open-world IF).

Second, even in a case where I knew I could go back and try again, that would take so many turns I was better off restoring or restarting. One time I tried to do an “in-world” reboot and it was actually more annoying than a hard game reset.

Also, the ID card trick at the beginning bothers me to no end. It’s a prior knowledge puzzle. Now, it is more certainly possible to play without, but when it is harder and adds many more turns for most people it will be faster to restart and save the card. I’d rather have a.) the card get stolen no matter what or b.) have the card never get stolen. If it’s option A I think you should give a little more slack on the money requirement for certain things to make the overall game easier.

In my experience, if you allow players a boring but reliable way of achieving a game goal, they will inevitably grind… and then resent you for letting them. I would expect people to do this even if the walkthrough hadn’t said anything about it.

What if the haggling were deterministic rather than random, though? So there might be some advantage to rejecting the first offer, but whether or not the other accepted your terms would depend partly on other factors. I Think The Waves Are Watching Me does something roughly similar, in that you’re directly trading people’s good opinion of you for tangible rewards. In Gotomomi, I could imagine people responding better to haggling if you seem to share their social class, or if they already like you because you’ve talked to them more, or something else that reinforced the rest of the world model you’re already building.

To expand a bit on this view: I don’t think exploration-before-agency is necessarily the kiss of death, design-wise, and I understand that in this case you want to set up something quite complicated. Koustrea’s Contentment worked that way, too. But I do think that this is a challenging format of game because it requires the player to stick with you for quite a while before things start paying off. It can work, but it’s less immediately and obviously hook-y than some of the alternatives. And I think it’s especially tricky to put this form of game into the competition, because it means that the player is likely to spend most or all of their two hours of play time scoping things out rather than actually having time to develop, let alone execute, any kind of plan.

A thousand times yes. I don’t know how many here have played Sunless Sea or kept an eye on the reactions it elicited from players, but this was such an issue. At least when I was active, the situation was: you play a scrappy greenhorn of a sea-captain in an extremely dangerous, mystery-shrouded world; you try to survive as you go in search of a (player-chosen) personal goal.

You could do this by dying a few times as you learn the ropes, exploring and finding stories and slowly, eventually gaining enough resources to get the sidegrades or upgrades that best fit your sailing style. Or you could read online guides and make a beeline to the biggest farmable source of money in the game and repeatedly hit it like a rat with a pleasure-stimulating shock-lever until you have enough cash to buy everything in the game in one go.

Guess which one rose to the forefront of attention?

I think letting people earn money by:

working at the fish factory even if they have more cash might be a good idea – I got to the end, was just a bit short on the ticket, due to poor haggling/luck with the accella and couldn’t do the fish factory again, and gave up. I thought initially it was due to arguing with the fish manager way back at the beginning, so I reset, played again, and came up only a few dollars short, and still couldn’t work at the factory, at which point I ragequit.

I didn’t get any of the big optional funding options, although I’d figured out part of one and then after resetting couldn’t figure out how I’d done it before.

I heard about the boat-rental guy’s daughter on playthrough 1, but didn’t find her; on playthrough 2 I found her but couldn’t figure out how I’d triggered him to talk about her.

I also didn’t catch that:

The key Kei gave me was some sort of universal key – I spent a lot of time looking for the key to the sewers, when I had it.

First of all, I loved Gotomomi and thought it was one of three games that were particularly underrated by the final rankings. At the same time, its ranking is not terribly shocking because, like my game, some design choices do not lend themselves to success in the IFComp. Here’s the most major example:

I think if you had made all the exits obvious at all times, this game would have easily made the top 5. Playing a game within the Comp setting is just different. The sheer depth of this game allows you to make the puzzles easier to find without making anything seem trivial. In the Comp setting, I would have loved to romp around the map more easily. As it was, I found myself often looking for a new place to go, once I discovered that some exits weren’t listed, and it was just tedious (kinda like my game).

On the other hand, outside of the Comp, I would consider not listing any exits in bold. It’s a wonderfully long, difficult thinker, and I could see it doing well in the future if you emphasize that.

I’d mercifully almost forgotten about your review and now you’ve come to haunt me in my own thread [emote];)[/emote]

You’re not the only one who spend some time in the factory trying to figure out what to do. In my opinion (formed by decade-long studies in comparative transcriptology) this has mostly to do with the chronic kleptomania so prevalent in the adventure player population.
Without knowing what you did for 200 turns, it is difficult to give hints without spoiling all the fun. I’ll try anyway.

The boss tells you to „carry the buckets between the gutting and the tinning room and make sure the machine doesn’t stop“.
When you go to the tinning room, it is a good idea not to pick up the bucket straight away but to watch what happens for three or four turns. Don’t pick it up now either, if you don’t want to get yelled at (which is meant as a hint, by the way). Instead, go to the gutting room and observe similarly. You should know what you have to do now.

As to your difficulties with the boots: From your transcript snippet I honestly have no idea what stoped you from buying them for 2350 yen.

You are right, this requires prior knowledge (or the kind of exploration that comes with desperation, but why should anyone do this on the first turn?). I like to think of it as an obscure alternative solution to a puzzle (well, obstacle, anyway). It’s not required, and while it is the quickest solution, it is not the best solution. One more thing: if I take away this possibility, wouldn’t there surely be a reviewer complaining about the fact that he tried to save his ID and the game wouldn’t allow it? „What a spoilsport this author is! He’s most likely just too lazy to implement such an obvious course of action.“

Personally, I believe my greatest failure is the walkthrough, not the game itself. In the walkthrough I intentionally left out large portions of the game, opting to nudge the readers gently towards some exploration of their own. The route I chose for them involves greedily and stingily scraping together every penny. This sets up the player into a completely different mindset than that which I intended for the protagonist.
The main character is not supposed to be disheartened by pecuniary need. She believes herself above such worries. And not without reason. Her real assets are her upbringing and learning. She seemingly speaks every language. She can distinguish early qing from ming furniture. She carries a fan in the ancient style with a hand-painted seasonal motive. She knows how to tie an obi in several different ways and quotes Plato, Confucius, Thomas Aquinas, Walter Benjamin and Jean Baudrillard from memory. That may all seem terribly out of date and many people might seriously be irritated by it (maybe even herself, there must be a reason she is on the run, after all) but if she has no cultural and symbolic capital in a society with such obvious glass ceilings as the japanese, what else remains for a 16 years old girl?
The answer to that question can be seen at every street corner in Gotomomi, where everything that is not physical and immediate seems worthless. The real quest, as I intended, was actually to escape this place without compromising her ideals. But many players opted to follow the walkthrough sooner or later and all they saw there were ways to make money. No wonder a lot of them found it difficult to connect with the protagonist.

I think a dynamic hint system might be a worthwhile investment (I don’t normally say this, but Gotomomi has special status).

Thank you for your review and your comments here, I appreciate the feedback.

So true. How stupid of me to expect otherwise. Interestingly this seems to hold true even in IF, a medium that’s trying to define itself far away from gaming mainstream and which many people would like to see as some kind of literature instead.

That’s certainly a servicable idea. I played with the thought of doing something like this as the deadline was closing in. Alas, I had the current system in place and time was getting short. By the way: Does that still constitute an economic simulation? If not, why not remove it altogether in favour of fixed prices that can be manipulated in the way you suggested? That is exactly the kind of thing I implemented with other NPCs.

I agree. I tried to limit the openness in the beginning and end via the use of locked doors (boring, but again, time was getting short). Like you wrote in your review, the aesthetics of Gotomomi rely in no small part on it being a big place, so my options were limited.

I found Gotomomi a pretty good game. Very atmospheric. I played a version downloaded on Oct. 6th, so there were some bugs in it which I understand have since been fixed (eg, the infinite money thing).

Was I the only one who liked the slightly randomized bargaining? Because I did.

Couple things that bothered me:

[spoiler]If you get caught selling drugs in the rave club, and the redhead kicks you out, how are you supposed to finish the game?

I discovered that even if I brought the drug dealer enough money for the fake ID, I couldn’t talk to him again until I’d sold all 5 of his drugs. Which seems illogical.

I love playing specific PCs, but it’s disappointing when I don’t get to learn much about my character. I’d really like to know more about Ayako (if that is even her name; it wasn’t mentioned until several minutes of play had elapsed, and when she told someone her name I couldn’t figure out whether it was her real name or a fake name). Why she’s running away from home, especially dressed like that. And how she came to know 4 or 5 languages at the age of what, 15?[/spoiler]

The ending also seemed really abrupt, given everything I had to go through to get to it. The story needs to be thickened up a little, but like I said, it’s a good game, just needs one more draft to be awesome.

AvB, is there a way to win without buying or selling anything, just using conversation?

I’m glad you took the time to almost finish the game even though you ragequit.

I’ll just let Emily Short answer this one:

So if I left this way of earning money open all the time, there would have been players working day and night in the fish factory until they had their 70.345 yen.

You didn’t. The sewer lock opens on its own when you have to go there. It also closes when you have no more business in the sewers. If you like, you can think of it this way: The room where the chinaman sits in his chair must have been build with some function in mind. Maybe it holds the mechanism to open the doors? In fact, I should make this more explicit in the game.

[spoiler]My assumption is that she’s from a very wealthy family, possibly politically connected. That would explain her fluency in many languages, if she’s moving in rich international circles. Probably has tons of education. Also, it’s not uncommon whatsoever for people to walk around in traditional clothing in Japan. And if Gotomomi’s protagonist is indeed filthy rich, then it makes even more sense that she’d have fancy, expensive clothes.

Actually, my interpretation of her being wealthy and educated was a big part of the story for me. You have this rich girl running away from home, clueless about how to survive in the real world, and she gets robbed and reduced to performing grimy manual labor just to scrape up enough change for a train ticket.[/spoiler]