Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town hires new writers to address concerns about in-game dialogue

Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2021-04-07 00:12 (JST)
Translated by. Ari Clark

On April 6, Marvelous released the new Ver.1.0.4 update for Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. The update shortened the load times that had given rise to complaints among players, as well as fixing save file corruption issues and bugs that had made it impossible to progress through the game.

A third “Letter From the Producer” (link in Japanese), which was published simultaneously with the release of this update, reported on the progress being made on content for future game updates, and announced plans to adjust and add to the in-game dialogue, as well as change the functionality of all makers. Regarding the former goal, the letter stated that new scenario writers were being hired, with plans to have them make adjustments and additions to the everyday dialogue with NPCs.

Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a relaxing farm-management sim game that was released on February 25 for the Nintendo Switch. Players can enjoy the simple life, cycling through various encounters and discoveries while managing their farm and breaking new ground in a vast forest.

The game came out in 2021 as the newest release in the Story of Seasons series, which has run for 25 years, and it was seen as a commemorative celebration of the series’ anniversary. (Known as Bokujo Monogatari in Japanese, the series was localized into English under the title of Harvest Moon until Marvelous discontinued their relationship with American publisher Natsume Inc. in 2012.)

However, after its release, a lot of problem areas within the game systems were pointed out, including poor performance involving recurrent long load times and framerate drops, poor balance of the number of items produced by the maker machines, and unpleasantly fiddly controls.

The situation led to producer Dai Takemura publishing an apology on the official website on March 3 (see related article, in Japanese). The decision to hire new scriptwriters could also be seen as a response to complaints about several lines in the script, which players said were out of step with the cheerfully engaging worldbuilding on which the Story of Seasons series has built its reputation.

Complaints about the script claimed that it had strayed from the classic atmosphere of a heartwarming life sim that is considered part and parcel of the genre, and that several of the events felt a bit mean-spirited. Some cited examples include a conversation event where a villager mentions breeding a huge number of calico cats in hopes of profiting off the birth of a rare and valuable male kitten, and an event where an NPC suggests feeding a diet of curry to your cows to make them produce curry-flavored cheese.

These events might have been acceptable gallows humor in a different game setting with a looser approach to morality, rather than the Story of Seasons series. However, the content of these events is directly connected to serious issues in the real world: the former to animal hoarding on the part of breeders, and the latter to animal cruelty. In the end, there was a storm of complaints that these events were just plain inappropriate for the Story of Seasons series, which strives to produce heartwarming life-sims set on farms where the player takes good care of their livestock.

Although the latest announcement stated that the bachelor/bachelorette characters would be the main focus of the dialogue adjustments and additions, the list of potential future updates also included “adjust(ing) some of the residents’ existing dialogue and add(ing) new dialogue”, so there’s a good chance that the controversial events will also be reworked.

According to the staff credits for the game, credit for the scenario writing goes to Nobuyuki Inoue and SAYONARAOYASUMI Co., Ltd., a company for which Mr. Inoue serves as managing director. Mr. Inoue is known for providing scenarios for games such as Live a Live (the prehistoric and near-future chapters), Legend of Mana (the Escad storyline), and Magical Vacation.

All of his scenarios tend to be a bit dark in tone, which gives the impression that his work is of a slightly different breed from the cozy, heartwarming atmosphere preferred by most longtime fans of Story of Seasons. Although it’s unclear which writer was responsible for which lines, it seems likely that the decision to hire new writers is tied to certain dialogue having spoiled the peaceful mood of the game.

Announcing the hiring of new scenario writers for an already-released game and swapping out the existing text is an extraordinary move for Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. The previously-maligned system issues are also in the process of being gradually fixed, and we look forward to a more pleasant gameplay experience, one step at a time.