Coming Out on Top: The Second Demo Review

This post might not be safe for work. You have been warned.

I want to be reviewing the finished version of Coming Out on Top, the gay dating sim from Obscurasoft. I really want the game now. I’m super psyched for it. And the demo has only whetted my yearning for it.

So, what is Coming Out on Top? It is a gay dating sim that follows Mark Matthews, a newly out gay man beginning his final semester at Oberlin College. From coming out to his two roommates, Mark must navigate a dizzying and nerves inducing dating scene with five romantic possibilities. It is a dating sim, after all.

The game is played through scroll text and decision making. At various times during play, the player is given several options to chose from. Some of those choices lead to increased chances of dating the romantic possibilities and others lessen those chances.

Gameplay isn’t without its flaws. The narrative text is at times repetitive and slows down the action. And at times, the narration seems to have a decided preference for Mark to act in a certain way. This is best illustrated when players compare the narrative takes on interactions with Alex and Jed. The narrative indicates there is a strong infatuation towards Alex, the first possible romantic interest. (So he may have the benefit of time). But, Jed is the first (I suspect) romantic interest that Mark can have sex with. However, the narrative text doesn’t seem as touched or affected by that event as one should expect.

I don’t know if this is a narrative bias or the demo still being (slightly) geared towards Alex (as he is the sole romantic interest introduced in the first demo). Hopefully, the narrative text will show a greater range of adaptiveness as Mark’s character changes based on his romantic choices.

Another issue is the interrupted jacking off sessions. I know these scenes are intended for humor, but they are more troublesome unless they serve the plot (like the introduction of Jed).

A final concern, as pointed out by Gaymer, is the fact that Obscurasoft is a woman creating a game featuring a gay man as the protagonist. The concerns raised are valid. The five romantic possibilities do tend to conform to some stereotypes of gay men. And I’ve expressed some concerns about Mark’s characterization. Whether or not these stereotypes will evolve into fully functioning characters will have to wait until the game is finished and released. (Gaymer also raises the point that Obscurasoft, as a woman, might have added more women to the cast when a gay man creating the same game might not have. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. But until we see a similar game created by a gay man, the question will remain unresolved.)

So, who are Mark’s romantic interests?

Alex is an attractive older man Mark meets at the only gay bar in town. They hit it off, but Alex is the professor of Mark’s anatomy class.

Jed is the hot upstairs neighbor. He’s a “bad boy” that forces Mark outside his comfort zone. (He’s also the easiest to have sex with, I think).

Phil is Penny’s (one of Mark’s rommates) cousin. He is in the military. Penny tries to set them up.

Brad is a football player who Mark is hired to tutor.

And finally Ian, Mark’s other roommate, who may not be so straight himself.

When I played the demo, I found Alex, Jed, and Ian the most likeable of the five. Phil and Brad don’t come off as exactly likeable in their first meetings with Mark, but it is entirely possible that they will grow on the player as the game progresses.

Outside of the five romantic possibilities and Penny, several other characters are introduced. What role they play in the game remains to be seen, but I have some guesses. Mr. Bluetooth, I suspect< is either investigating Alex or the football team. Zoe will be a roadblock to a possible Mark/ Ian relationship (she is Ian’s ex-girlfriend). And the football team will likely cause trouble for Mark and Brad (if his doucheness doesn’t scare Mark off first).

Despite my criticisms of the game, I’m passionate about it. I want the game now. And that is all that matters.

(These criticisms aren’t the negative kind. They’re the positive kind. They’re the kind of criticism that wants to see a project be the best it can be. And it is also the fuel that can light the fire for one’s own projects. Tempting. . . )

 

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Posted on April 25, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. “The five romantic possibilities do tend to conform to some stereotypes of gay men. And I’ve expressed some concerns about Mark’s characterization.” Oh, and I forgot to ask, can you tell me what you see as stereotypical? I’m always concerned about stereotypes, so it would be helpful if you tell me specifically what you mean. Thank you!

    • Thinking over it again, maybe steretype isn’t quite the right term. Maybe archetype that could become either fully fleshed out characters or stereotypes. In many ways, it is still too early, especially with Jed, Phil, and Brad. But here is what I’ve noticed: Alex is the ideal boyfriend who mixes hot professor and hot nerd. He’s perfect. He needs a flaw of some sort. Jed is the ideal fuck buddy/ promiscuous gay guy. But in many ways Jed’s character is problematic in current representations of gay men. Please make him awesome and don’t dilute him to make him more palatable. Phil is the military man. He needs to be more than just a Marine. And Brad is the dumb jock. Again, he needs to be more than a meat head.
      The core cast have their own concerns over stereotyping. Ian is trending towards being almost running gag level bi-curious. The whole dildo thing might be a bit much, though it does make for some humorous scenes. Penny, perhaps, is the one to be most careful of. She pretty much is a stereotype of the “hag” with her badgering and prominent interest in Mark’s love life.
      Finally, Mark still bugs me in ways similar to when I played the first demo. I’m not certain why he waited so long to come out. His coming out story is, frankly, typical of what one gets in most representations of the coming out process. Especially his nervousness (which may be more appropriate for a younger character).
      I hope this helps. The best advice I can give is to make the characters as fully fleshed out as possible. That is the best way to prevent stereotypes.
      Now, I think I’ll go play the demo again.

      • I see, thanks for explaining. I’ll just say at this stage the characters have already been written, and I’ve made them as real and as interesting as I’ve could possibly make them. It’s hard to tell these things from a demo, however, so I understand your concerns. Hope you enjoy the full game. 🙂

  2. Thank you very much for your review! A couple of things you accurately described (like the tendency to Alex-crush) are indeed things that are the result of being “artifacts” left from the original game (the complete Alex storyline) that I made nearly 2 years ago. I appreciate your comments about that. I can’t guarantee what will be changed or unchanged as I finish up development, since things are continually in flux, but it’s good to have your concerns in the back of my mind. Thank you again for the fine critique. 🙂

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