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Game Engines And Gamy Indies

Following my discovery that the YoYo Compiler (YYC) is not a reliable magic bullet for game performance, I stand by what I said earlier during my original game engine benchmark:
...many people (myself included) would be willing to humor a tougher learning curve [on GameMaker Studio] if it means getting performance power severalfold that of the alternatives
Well, that did not happen, so I am abandoning GameMaker once again.  Actually, GameMaker Studio's overall performance power is not bad, and I have no doubt it has the flexibility for me to figure out a way to realize my projects on it.  What causes my muse to abandon the studio, citing a refusal to work under these conditions, is that its GUI keeps getting in the way.  The way it presents events and room editing just feels so awkward!  I really don't feel like humoring that without the added incentive of severalfold power.
As I wanted power without having a fancy GUIs getting in the way, I considered going without a full game development environment, investigating MonkeyX and Cocos2D.  I eventually decided that is more than I want to commit to right now because, while I am not a rank novice at coding, I just do not want to have to code so many basic game behaviors because it is so time consuming!  Besides, their forums are quite slow, and this could be a major liability if I get stuck.

Since I have already disqualified Unity3D as having too much technical and professional overhead (though it is otherwise unmatched in the field) I am now down to two choices for 2D game engine:
  1. Construct 2 - Extremely easy to use, with many behaviors and plugins to choose from as well the ability to program even more if you are so inclined, and there is a large community repository of extensions.

    It only really has one downside, but it's a fair doozy: all its export targets run on a heart of JavaScript, making it very well optimized for a HTML5 target, but quite a bit slower than a native code on other targets.  In my earlier test, I put it at about 30% the speed of GameMaker on Windows 7. 

    Construct 2 has one of the more generous purchase models I have ever seen, giving you everything in the personal version that the professional version has for about $120 down, including all the export targets, but asks that you spend another $300 to upgrade to the professional version if you make over $5000 on it, which is a pretty reasonable request if you really made that much.
  2. Clickteam Fusion 2.5 - As its estranged grandpappy, the game building methodology here is very similar to Construct 2.  However, the GUI is less intuitive and there are less stock behaviors and plugins than Construct 2

    I would say this engine is less flexible but, like Construct 2, you can code your own extensions, it is just a bit more complicated this time because you will be working with platform-specific code.  Consequently, there is less community extensions available and they are platform-specific, so the conservation of its flexibility comes at a price.

    Like most products of its kind, Clickteam Fusion 2.5 has a less generous export target policy than Construct 2.  It is still far less expensive than Unity3D, but you are looking at about $100 per platform, give or take, and some very important features are removed in the "personal" version which may make this a $400 purchase if you really need those features.  It is a very similar model to GameMaker and Unity3D, although Unity3D offers the "personal" version for free and the professional version runs over $1,000.

    With all those downsides compared to Construct 2, why is it still a contender?  Because, with the exception of embarrassingly slow HTML5 performance (15% the speed of Construct 2), the games Clickteam Fusion builds have much better performance.  In my Windows 7 platform test, Clickteam Fusion was 150% faster than GameMaker, this is the inverse of the same "doozy" as Construct 2!
So it comes down to this: how important is performance to a 2D game?

Well, it depends on the type of game you intend to make.  If it is a puzzle game, the computer is probably going to sit idle most of the time anyway, so you do not need that much processor power brought to bear.  If it is an arcade game, a low performance will limit the number of objects you can have active at a time.  Often, it will come down to whether or not the frame per second rate is that important to your game design.

You can see the difference in the game libraries of the two platforms.   Construct 2's library has games with considerably less moving parts, whereas the Clickteam library has more fast arcade games.  Freedom Planet would not have been possible on Construct 2 due to the power differential involved.

Honestly, I can go either way at this point.  I think performance is important, but I also think having a wide degree of available behaviors is important.  Besides, if I decide I want to make HTML5 games, the one major advantage that Clickteam Fusion has goes away.  It may well come down to a matter of which engine goes on sale first.

What you all came here for...
This girl's encounter with constricting, clothes-dissolving slime that nevertheless protects her modesty is a pretty
apt description of Sakura Spirit in general: just a bunch of infeasible lewd encounters signifying nothing.
So, Steam was running a sale on Sakura Spirit for 66% off, and since I enjoyed the Ace Attorney series and Hatoful Boyfriend, I thought I would give another visual novel a spin... my review is as follows:
I am a gamer, but I can enjoy a visual novel if I feel involved enough. Along those lines, Sakura Spirit turns out to be utterly pathetic. You want to know how many branching paths you have in this entire game? ZERO. You get one choice, and apparently it results in little more than a few scenes with different flavor text, same ending. There are no "routes" or "flags" to worry about, just sit back, read the text, and look at the pictures. You have sixty-four slots to save your game, but you will only ever need one!

As for the erotic content, it's largely just a bunch of skin and cleavage, with neither nipple nor genitalia to be seen, just evocative poses and anime girls put in compromising situations. Textually, the most evocative content I have seen is frequent mentions of missing panties and flirting. Overall, it's no more intense than your the average sleazy shonen manga: our hero does not get laid, so the racy bits only serve to build sexual tension without catharsis. The average review score has been bolstered by an awful lot of hormones and glib exaggeration.

I guess the art is reasonably good and the story is... well, it's a serviceable mishmash of usual anime tropes, basically the typical Shinto tale of forest spirits at odds with humanity. Except this time the spirits are pretty much six ditzy girls and an immortal who can't get involved, while our primary representatives from humanity are two more ditzy girls from a medieval Japanese village. Take one guess why they would choose those kinds of characters to tell this story. Our protagonist is technically on neither side, as he is plucked out of his own world at the start of the story.

If that sounds worth the money to you, go for it. Otherwise, you can find better, as virtually everything this visual novel does has been done better elsewhere. Personally, I think completing the related Steam badge is probably more interesting than the game itself, but your mileage may vary.
TL;DR: Sakura Spirit is not a game I would recommend, mostly because I like to have choices in games and this one has none, but also because the story is a generally a bland example of typical anime tropes.  At least the art is alright.

If you want to see an example of something good that uses the Japanese word for cherry blossoms, go watch Cardcaptor Sakura on Crunchyroll.  It might be a kids monster-of-the-week magical girl show, but CLAMP has some genuine creative vision, it shows up in nearly every scene and prop, and this is probably why this anime ranks within the top 15% on the Anime News Network scale.

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