Dysfunctional Systems is a series of episodic visual novels being developed by indie game studio Dischan Media, who also produced Juniper's Knot. The series uses a slightly modified version of Ren'Py, a visual novel engine. Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos was released on April 4, 2013, available on Dischan's online store. A Steam Greenlight campaign was launched on June 12, 2013. On February 22, 2014, a successful Kickstarter was created to help fund the next two episodes.
The main viewpoint protagonist so far is Winter Harrison, a young girl raised in a utopian near-future society who is training to become a "mediator". Mediators in Winter's world are agents tasked with maintaining order in societies on other "planes" (parallel universes). The first episode follows Winter on her second outing, shadowing hard-bitten mediator Cyrus Addington.
On January 2, 2015, Dischan Media announced that they were halting full-time development of Dysfunctional Systems and offering partial refunds to anyone who pledged over $5 to the Kickstarter. The team's leader, Jeremy, was criticized for his refusal to release any part of the remaining games in the series, despite the prologue, Episode 0, being nearly complete. Episode 1 was later released for free.
In 2017, Dischan Media announced that they were reviving the series; Episode 0, now titled "Dyfunctional Systems: Orientation", was released on Steam on July 24, 2017. Episode 2 is now under development, with original artist Doomfest returning to the project.
This work provides examples of:
- Actual Pacifist: Winter tries to resort to the most peaceful course of action possible, even opting to go against her mentor in one ending to save the President's life.
- Alcoholic Parent: A large part of Winter's negative reaction to alcohol is implied to be related to her mother being a drunk.
- Alternate Universe: A mediator's duty is to travel between these to control the level of chaos there. Winter's assignment in Episode 1 is to shadow Cyrus as he deals with political troubles in Sule.
- Apocalypse How: Among the data in the Codex is an entry on "True Fusion", describing cases where entire solar systems were destroyed when such technology was used to try to revive a dying star. This concern comes up in Episode 1 when Brighton's true-fusion bomb sets off a chain reaction in Sule's entire atmosphere, wiping out (at minimum) all terrestrial life.
- Blunt "Yes": After Cyrus tells her that war is imminent, when Winter asks, "Shouldn't I go home?", Cyrus's reply is, "Yeah."
- Cynical Mentor: Cyrus has very little patience with Wide-Eyed Idealism, being deeply jaded by years of using whatever methods were available to fix the problem.
- Downer Ending: The possible endings of Episode 1 include two different major paths: Brighton launching its bomb at Gabrea as a first strike or at the North Sea as a warning shot. When this happens, the bomb ignites the entire atmosphere of Sule, immolating an entire world full of people, leaving Cyrus and Winter injured and traumatized in the aftermath.
- Drinking on Duty: The first place Cyrus goes on Brighton is a bar — both to find people more willing to talk about their troubles and for the relaxation of having a drink.
- Emergency Broadcast: The President of Brighton makes one early on in the story. If you go along with Cyrus' plan, a second one is made following his death, announcing the nuke's launch.
- Foreshadowing: Near the end of Episode 0, Winter and Margaret (a Mediator and one of her teachers) discuss about euthanasia and the complex morals that surround it. This foretells how Winter and Cyrus get an entire planet annihilated despite their actions in Episode 1. Episode 0's epilogue even emphasizes this by showing Margaret killing a person after extracting valuable information from him.
- I Was Just Joking: When Cyrus forces Winter to come up with some explanation of why Gabrea might ignore President Barnaby's ultimatum, and she makes something up to yell at him.Cyrus: That's—
Winter: Nonsensical! I know! Keep pointing out how I'm like a fish attempting to walk!
Cyrus: That's right, Winter. You're right about why they wouldn't respond.
- Multiple Endings: The variety of options you have in the second half of Episode 1 lead to two of these: Winter can either let Cyrus kill President Barnaby or persuade Cyrus to talk Barnaby out of bombing Gabrea instead. Significantly, whichever you choose, the planet is still destroyed by the bomb.
- Naïve Newcomer: At the beginning Winter knows very little about the world outside her country — or, indeed, her room and her books — and so her shadowing of Cyrus is pretty shocking for her even before President Barnaby issues the nuclear ultimatum.
- No Poverty: Winter, Cyrus, and the other Mediators come from a world that has reached this state. This is one reason why Winter struggles to understand the significance of Brighton's poverty.
- Origins Episode: Episode 0. This discusses the ins and outs of training to become a Mediator, in a specialized school.
- Order Versus Chaos: The characters are more or less on the side of order, but as Cyrus tells Winter, their job is to keep chaos in check, not eradicate it.
- Perpetual Poverty: The citizens of Brighton, under Gabrea's rule, work for very little pay.
- Pragmatic Hero: By the time of Episode 1, Cyrus has taken a distinctly "whatever works" policy towards bringing order to chaos — however unhappy he is doing so.
- Precision F-Strike or Cluster F-Bomb: Waverly has a knack for doing either.(after Winter looks like she passed out after throwing up on the true fusion blast)
Waverly: Whoa! Shit, seriously already! [beat] I mean, hey! You alright!
- Wham Line: In Episode 1, right after Cyrus has roused Winter from her despair and the two of them are ready to go do the impossible, the music halts as he tells her the next step in his plan for dealing with Barnaby's threat to fire a nuclear weapon at Gabrea.Cyrus: Alright, let's kill the President.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Winter starts talking about how stupid she is next to the fountain in Episode 1, Cyrus tells her that she may be hard-headed, but she's smart and she's strong and she'll survive the crisis they're facing and be better for it. If you choose the "Show him your determination" option in the dialogue tree, he will elaborate a bit upon this.