Dysfunctional Systems

Dysfunctional Systems

Series title card
Genres Visual novel
Developers Dischan Media[1]
Publishers Dischan Media
Artists Saimon Ma (for Episode 1)[2]
Writers Terrence Smith
Composers Kristian Jensen
Platforms Microsoft Windows/macOS/Linux/iOS[1][3]
Platform of origin Microsoft Windows/macOS/Linux[1]
Year of inception 2012
First release Episode 1
April 4, 2013

Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel created by Dischan Media. The story follows Winter Harrison, a "mediator"-in-training, as she attempts to resolve chaotic situations in different worlds. The first of several planned episodes, Learning to Manage Chaos, was released on April 4, 2013[1][4][5] In February 2014, Dischan launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for another two episodes of the story.[2][6] Although the campaign met and exceeded its funding goals, the project was cancelled on January 2, 2015.[7]


Gameplay from Episode 1. Here, Cyrus (right) is speaking to Winter.

Dysfunctional Systems is a visual novel series, where the player reads text to progress the story. At certain points, the novel will present the player with a choice of different dialogue or actions for the series protagonist, Winter Harrison, which will affect events and their consequences. The novel includes a "codex" feature, where the reader can find background information on the current world, such as its geography and politics, as well as topics related to the problems the world is experiencing. The novel also implements a "profile" feature. The choices made during a play-through of an episode can be saved in a profile, such that their consequences can be carried over to the next episode.[8]


Setting and characters

In Dysfunctional Systems, Earth bears a utopian society with a school called "School Mediātōrum", composed of individuals called "mediators". Mediators are humans who resolve chaotic situations in other worlds. Though these worlds exist in different planes, and range in themes from "dystopian, to futuristic or fantastical", it is believed that the chaos of any one world can adversely affect Earth as well.[1]

The protagonist of the series, Winter Harrison, is a 14-year-old mediator-in-training. A moral individual, she still finds the concept of "other worlds" hard to grasp.[9] On her second mission (the focus of Episode 1) she is paired with Cyrus Addington, a tough and infamous senior mediator, to act as her guide and mentor.[10]

Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos

Dysfunctional Systems
Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos

Dischan Store item panel[11]
Developer(s) Dischan Media[1]
Publisher(s) Dischan Media
Director(s) Jeremy Miller
Terrance Smith
Saimon Ma (visual)
Programmer(s) Jeremy Miller
Terrance Smith
Anton Prydatko (iOS version)
Artist(s) Saimon Ma
Eric Tang
Juri Moon
Writer(s) Terrence Smith
Composer(s) Kristian Jensen
Series Dysfunctional Systems
Engine Ren'Py (Build, as of Version 1.0.1)[12]
Platform(s) PC/macOS/Linux/iOS[1]
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Visual novel
Having long become comfortable with her utopian society, Winter is surprised to learn that there are other worlds in other planes of existence. These worlds are quite different from hers, ranging from troubled, to dystopian, to futuristic or fantastical. However, they are all riddled with problems that, if not resolved, may adversely affect her home world. She is chosen to become a “mediator”, charged with the maintenance of order in these chaotic planes, and so enters a vocational school for training. Episode 1 details her second shadowing of a seasoned mediator, only a few weeks into her first year. She and her mentor enter a world seemingly much like their own, except for this issue of “poverty” with which Winter has difficulty understanding...
from the official website

In the first episode, Winter and Cyrus travel to Sule, a sporadically-progressing industrial planet. They arrive in Brighton, a poor and minor country on Sule.[16] There, the two find that the President of Brighton is attempting to negotiate his society's freedom from its oppressor, the wealthy state of Gabrea. The key object of his threat is an untested nuclear bomb, waiting to be launched at Gabrea via intercontinental ballistic missile.[17]

Cyrus devises a plan to contain the chaos: to assassinate the President and have him declared a martyr. Cyrus' plan horrifies Winter; at this point, the player can choose whether Winter will go along with Cyrus' plan, or to rebel against him and try to reason with the President instead.[18] If Cyrus' plan is taken, the President is killed and his government decides to launch the weapon at Gabrea. If Winter's plan is taken, she and Cyrus manage to convince the President to change his mind and fire his weapon into a nearby sea as a warning shot instead.

However, in both cases, the detonation of the weapon goes badly wrong, igniting the atmosphere and completely destroying Sule. Winter and Cyrus are teleported back to the school on Earth just in time, where they are immediately treated for radiation poisoning that they had obtained before Sule's destruction. Winter is carried back to her room, where she recounts to her room-mate Waverly of Sule's demise. The next day, Waverly fends off well-wishers from seeing Winter, then helps her to her debriefing, ending the episode.[16]


In Dischan's earlier work, Juniper's Knot, the player can unlock bonus art featuring the protagonists of the story with two other characters, Winter and Cyrus.

On January 5, 2013, Dischan leader Jeremy Miller announced the company's first series of visual novels, titled Dysfunctional Systems.[13][19] On June 5, 2013, Dischan posted Episode 1 of Dysfunctional Systems on Steam Greenlight.[8][20][21] On September 26, 2013, Episode 1 was released on Steam.[14][15]

Kickstarter campaign

Despite reporting "decent sales" of Episode 1, Dischan admitted that the project was not a financial success. Dischan turned to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise funds for the production of the second and third installments of the novel. The campaign was opened for funding in February 2014, with the goal of raising C$49,000. By the end of the campaign in March 2014, the campaign had successfully raised C$67,450. Because the original goal was exceeded, Dischan stated that it would add more characters and environments to the second and third episodes than they had originally intended, as well as producing a bonus visual novel depicting Winter's first week as a mediator-in-training.[22][23]

The project was cancelled in a January 2, 2015 announcement by Dischan and began issuing partial refunds through Kickstarter to backers.[7]


The soundtrack to Episode 1, written and performed by Kristian "CombatPlayer" Jensen, was released on 4 April 2013. It is distributed with Episode 1 and can also be played in the jukebox within the game.

Dysfunctional Systems - Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos[24]
Soundtrack album by Kristian "CombatPlayer" Jensen[24]
Released April 4, 2013 (2013-04-04)[24]
Recorded [24]
Genre Video game soundtrack
Length 45:04[24]


Episode 1

Episode 1: Learning to Control Chaos
Aggregate score

Episode 1 has received very positive reviews from critics, being widely praised for its art and music, as well as its political and character-driven story.[4][25][26][27][28][29][30] Gamezebo criticised the novel for not striking a good balance between story and interaction, giving the user few options throughout gameplay. However, it stated that the novel did "give the audience a solid tale over lots of decision-making", which it considered favourably.[31] Nekoshiritori praised the presentation of the novel, noting that the interface was "very slick" and presented in 720p.[32] Game Podunk noted the novel's departure from traditional visual novels, stating that "it decides to try something other than the typical romance and slice of life visual novels that we’re accustomed to". It praised the science fantasy direction of the novel.[33]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Dysfunctional Systems". Dischan Media. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Dischan State of Affairs". Dischan Media. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  3. "**LEAKED** Dysfunctional Systems for iOS | Devblog". Dischan.org. 2013-07-21. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  4. 1 2 Priestman, Chris (January 6, 2013). "Dysfunctional Systems Explores Real Political Issues Through Sci-Fi Visual Novel Form". Indie Statik. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  5. Smith, Terrence. ""Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos" Released | Devblog". Dischan.org. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  6. Barker, Andrew (2014-03-01). "Visual Novel Series Dysfunctional Systems Gets Kickstarted". RPGFan. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  7. 1 2 "Kickstarter Episode 2 Cancellation". www.kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2015-01-02.
  8. 1 2 "Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos Gameplay". YouTube. Dischan Media. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
  9. Dischan Media (4 April 2013). Dysfunctional Systems - Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Dischan Media. Winter (internal monologue): That's right. I didn't really choose this. I didn't really choose anything. […] I couldn't pick a specialty school. I didn't know what I wanted. […] "School Mediātōrum"…huh?
  10. Pino, Kristina (25 April 2013). "Learning to Manage Chaos". Japanator. Japanator. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  11. "Dischan - Store". Dischan.org. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  12. Miller, Jeremy (2013-04-30). "Learning to Manage Bugfixes (DS: EP 1 – v1.0.1 Released) | Devblog". Dischan.org. Retrieved 2013-07-14.
  13. 1 2 Miller, Jeremy (January 5, 2013). "Dysfunctional Systems Announcement". Dischan. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  14. 1 2 "Dysfunctional Systems on Steam! | Devblog". Dischan.org. 2013-09-26. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  15. 1 2 "Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos on Steam". Store.steampowered.com. 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  16. 1 2 Dischan Media (April 4, 2013). Dysfunctional Systems - Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Dischan Media.
  17. Dischan Media (April 4, 2013). Dysfunctional Systems - Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Dischan Media. Level/area: Brighton - Bar. President Barnaby: [over the emergency broadcast channel] But I am not her to tell you the troubles of our state. I am not here to tell you the glory of our fathers. I am here to confirm the quiet whispers through the alleys and the worried murmers of Gabrean elite. / Winter (narration): Pardon? / President Barnaby: Consider this a threat. People of Gabrea, you have four ours to comply with our demands, or a nuclear weapon will be launched at your country. / Winter (narration): ...That can't be good.
  18. Dischan Media (April 4, 2013). Dysfunctional Systems - Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Dischan Media. Level/area: Brighton - Plaza. Cyrus: Alright, let's kill the President. [...] / Winter: What?!
  19. "Dysfunctional Systems | Jeremy Miller". Jeremyrmiller.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  20. "Discussions". Steam Community/Dischan Media. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  21. "Steam Greenlight :: Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos". Steamcommunity.com. Valve Corporation/Dischan Media. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  22. "Dysfunctional Systems by Dischan Media — Kickstarter". Kickstarter.com. 2014-03-01. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  23. "Dysfunctional Systems by Dischan Media » FUNDED — Kickstarter". Kickstarter.com. 2014-03-01. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 CombatPlayer (April 2013). "Dysfunctional Systems: Episode 1". Dischan Media. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  25. Weitz, Rose. "Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos". Operationrainfall.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  26. Weitz, Rose. "Building Character: Cyrus Addington | oprainfall". Operationrainfall.com. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  27. "Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos". GameSpot.com. Archived from the original on March 23, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  28. "Dysfunctional Systems: Episode 1". VNs Now!. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  29. Pennyfeather, Kevin. "Dysfunctional Systems: Episode 1: an emotional start to a universe of potentials « Kevin Pennyfeather". Kevinpennyfeather.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  30. "App Store Update: August 12". IGN. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  31. "Dysfunctional Systems: Episode 1 Review". Gamezebo. April 4, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  32. nekotea (April 23, 2013). "Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos | Neko's Shiritori". Nekoshiritori.wordpress.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  33. "Review: Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos". Gamepodunk.com. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
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