Pokémon Academy Life

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Pokémon Academy Life
Game Logo.png
Current logo
Organization Pokémon Visual
Release Date Under development
Lead Designer VisualJae
Producer(s) toriko09
VisualJae
zygarde
Lead Artist dmjh93
Writer(s) dmjh93
VisualJae
Jack "Skye" Rowsell
Soundwave
Tylor Kranyak
Programmer(s) VisualJae
OhJeezItsSteve
Jon A
Music Braxton Burks
FamilyJules
GlitchxCity
Engine Ren'Py
Genre(s) Visual novel, social simulator
Platform(s) Windows, Mac

Pokémon Academy Life is a non-profit, fan-made visual novel currently in development by Pokémon Visual. It will feature numerous in-game characters from the core series Pokémon games in a high school setting.

It officially began development on September 13, 2015. A playable demo showcasing the game's prologue was first released on the indie Game Jolt website on December 6, 2015. The most recent demo (version 1.0.3) was released on February 20, 2017 with expanded content.

Plot

Pokémon Academy Life is set in an alternate Pokémon universe where children are not expected to depart on unsupervised journeys with their Pokémon. Instead, they go through similar youthful days as modern-day people; they attend school, they sleep at home, they socialize with friends in their hometown, and so on.

The protagonist is a player character based on a teenage Red and the game will predominantly be played and narrated from his perspective. At the start of the game, the player gets off the bus after a long journey from Pallet Town to the Kobukan region. He faces the entrance of Relic Hall, one of the dormitories of Kobukan Academy.

After the prologue, the story revolves around the player living out the three years Red is enrolled in the academy, interacting with the numerous characters and different Pokémon that can appear during this time.

Gameplay

The player (Red) is faced with several possible responses during a conversation with Leaf and other characters.

Pokémon Academy Life is a social simulation game centered around slice of life concepts. As the setting is a school environment, players will be able to participate in class events, extracurricular activities, as well as real-world activities. Throughout the game, outcomes are dictated by player choices, with some decision results unapparent until much later in the game. The most straightforward progression for a single playthrough would be to perform well academically in the three years in order to graduate.

The game also features a simple traits system: Perception, Expression, Appeal, Dedication and Trainer's Insight. Players can increase or decrease each trait's level through conversations, events or certain activities. Traits are designed to aid players in an assortment of ways, such as navigating conversations (such as choosing a response best suited for the situation) or bonding with partner Pokémon.

While players can technically play at their own pace, there are set days in the school calendar. Some events are scripted and require players to interact with characters—or build relationship points and complete prerequisite activities—before certain points in time. Failing to do so may delay future events, character introductions, or outright change the course of the storyline. Players will have to decide how to best utilize a day's worth of time, which is separated into morning, afternoon and night. During weekdays, classes consisting of seven periods tend to take up the entirety of morning hours with the remainder of afternoon hours reserved for club activities or free exploration. Early in the game, players will be restricted from many exploration opportunities, such as wandering around campus at night or making trips off-campus. But as the game progresses, more options will be available, making it more difficult to decide which activities to prioritize.

The game will be designed to keep these options in mind, allowing players to figure out what are their personal preferences and play styles.

Pokémon catching and battling

Prior to demo version 1.0.3, a battle system was brought up in conversation but never implemented. A prototype was introduced in 1.0.3 with basic turn-based features. Traditional Pokémon battling elements such as type effectiveness, status effects, switching, amongst others, remained incomplete.

Programmers Jon A and OhJeezItsSteve were brought on board the team to help fully develop the battle system as well as the Pokémon catching system that will branch from it.

Development

Development on Pokémon Academy Life began on September 13, 2015. VisualJae, the lead developer and programmer, had no knowledge of coding prior to picking up the project. He immediately began learning how to use Ren'Py, a program specifically designed in the creation of visual novels, on the same day and has been working with the software ever since.

Toriko09 and zygarde, both Pokémon franchise enthusiasts, contributed initial funds and idea pitching. Collectively they chose the name "Pokémon Visual," which is used to represent the project. Dmjh93, an art student, soon became the main character designer and lead artist overall. Freelancer moonmachine was later appointed the lead background artist. VisualJae, himself trained in and inspired by classical music, had been a longtime fan of Braxton Burkes's music from Pokémon Reorchestrated. As a result, he made the suggestion and the music was later selected to accompany the majority of the visual novel's scenes.

In an online interview, the developers noted a key reason why the project was launched was because the visual novel medium is surprisingly devoid of any strong fan created content around the Pokémon universe, other than Twitch Dates Pokémon, which remains an incomplete fan parody project.

Timeline

September 13, 2015: Pokémon Academy Life begins development.
September 29, 2015: Dmjh93 begins working on early art concepts.
October 14, 2015: Moonmachine begins contributing background art.
December 6, 2015: The first public demo for Pokémon Academy Life was posted on Game Jolt.
February 8, 2016: The official Facebook page goes live.
February 27, 2016: Toriko09 and zygarde left on indefinite hiatus.
February 29, 2016: Demo version 1.0.2 was released to the public.
March 20, 2016: The official website for Pokémon Academy Life goes live.
July 16, 2016: Jack "Skye" Rowsell and Tylor Kranyak join as assistant writers.
September 1, 2016: Nintendo orders Game Jolt to remove all fan games from its site, including Pokémon Academy Life.
December 23, 2016: Jon A joins the development team as a programmer.
February 20, 2017: Demo version 1.0.3 was released to the public.
February 23, 2017: OhJeezItsSteve joins the development team as a programmer.
March 2, 2017: Longtime community member Soundwave joins as an assistant writer.

Reception

Fan feedback via Twitter.

Before a site-wide takedown of Nintendo fan games on Game Jolt on September 1, 2016, Pokémon Academy Life maintained a 4.7 out of 5 rating on indie site based on 900 user ratings from over 50,000 downloads since December 2015. It was listed as the "hottest game" during its first week on the indie game site and has been listed amongst the site's "all-time best games"—a sampling of the highest rated games—since the original demo was first released.

Despite being short (demo version 1.0.2 contained approximately three hours of content in a single playthrough), the game garnered widespread positive feedback for the giving the familiar franchise characters a fresh take on their personalities, especially the usually silent player characters—such as the player, Brendan, Hilbert, and so on—and particularly Leaf, who has become one of the visual novels most popular characters since her introduction. The character art was also frequently praised, with many players complimenting how the characters look older but still manage to retain their original designs.

Many older players have commented that they haven't kept up with the official core series games for many years. However, through playing the demo, many considered to buy the newer generation Pokémon games in order to get a better experience out of the visual novel. Similarly, many players who claimed to have had no interest in visual novels developed a liking for them after playing through the demo.

Conversely, other players criticized the visual novel's pacing, particularly the frequent use of monologue in the early portions of the game. The developers addressed this by overhauling the opening scenes in demo version 1.0.3, completely cutting out some parts of the narration while replacing them with more conversations with other characters. Other early criticisms include the inability to select a female player character and an alternative starter Pokémon. The former was explained by the development team to be impossible as it would require rewriting virtually the entire game. As for the latter, it was explained to be plot and theme related and no changes are planned.

External links