Style Savvy’s Fashion Limitations

A screenshot from Style Savvy Trendsetters. It shows a woman with long black hair and a thoughtful expression in a shop. The text box reads, Maybe what I need is... something... with an edgy kind of feel to it.

I’ve borrowed a 3DS and have been playing Style Savvy: Trendsetters, the sequel to the 2009 DS game Style Savvy. They are both fashion games that are part business sim: players take on the role of a manager of a fashion boutique and are tasked with picking out items for customers according to their taste and keeping the store stocked. With these two elements, the game combines strategy with creativity in a fresh way. A customer will come in and ask for, say, a bold shirt, and if the player picks a shirt of that taste, the customer will buy it, adding funds to the shop, which the player then use to buy more stock. Customers will often ask for entire outfits in a certain style, or if the player puts together a good outfit on her window mannequin, someone will buy the entire thing. That’s the creative part. The strategy part comes in when the player heads to the buyer’s center to stock up on items. There are a number of brands in different styles, and the player needs to decide which items will best meet her customers’ needs. Trendsetters is different from the original in that it adds men’s fashion, a slightly creepier art style as far as faces are concerned, and 3D.

I enjoy both games a lot, and yet there’s also something deeply limiting about them. Items in the game have a number of different attributes, but the most important are brand and taste, which are related. There’s an edgy brand, a gothic lolita brand, a pop brand, a preppy brand, an athletic brand. So when someone comes in asking for a pop t-shirt, the player just looks for the Mint Sprinkles brand and the customer will be all over it. In the original game, the player had to memorize which brand was which (most were obvious, but some were less so), but Trendsetters adds the ability to search the shop inventory based on any number of factors, including brand and taste, which are separate. In the sequel, if someone asks for bold pants, but the shop doesn’t have anything from the bold brand, AZ USA, something from the edgy brand Stage Dive may do.

So there’s a little more freedom this time around, but it still doesn’t quite capture what’s fun about fashion, which is putting together an outfit with unexpected combinations that somehow totally work, or combining styles that balance each other out. In the world of Style Savvy, only the expected is allowed. Successful outfits generally mean dressing head-to-toe in a specific brand. My favorite kind of outfit is to mix girly dresses with tough boots, jackets, and accessories, but in the game, that would be fashion blasphemy. You can’t mix Stage Dive and Cantata Modo! That’s just ridiculous!

But in the real world of fashion, rules are made to be broken. Traditional rules like “don’t pair brown and black” just don’t hold any more. But I’m a programmer, I know how computers work, and computers need hard and fast rules. A computer can’t judge something as subjective as style (not yet, anyway). So unless a game is purely creative, there are going to be these limitations. I don’t fault Style Savvy for having those limitations; after all, it does quite a good job of making the player feel like a boutique manager within them. But I can’t help wishing that the game gave the player a bit more freedom to mix things up, to create something unexpected.

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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13 Responses to Style Savvy’s Fashion Limitations

  1. Maverynthia says:

    It’s good they finally included men’s fashions. Women get enough people tearing them apart for their fashion choices, now it’s the men’s turn!

    • Alex says:

      A cool thing about Style Savvy is it’s very positive. No one tears anyone else apart, ever. Even if you put together an outfit in a completely different style than what the customer asked for, the worst you get is “Well, that outfit is okay, but it’s not what I’m looking for, I’m sorry…” It’s not about being judgmental, it’s about having fun with clothes.

      • KA101 says:

        I’m uncomfortable with that non-hostile denial. It does avoid tearing anyone down–and that’s good–but on the other hand it feels like the sort of non-assertiveness that patriarchal cultures train into women. :-(E>

        I’d be more comfortable with a customer reacting to a clearly-incompatible outfit along the lines of “No, that’s not what I wanted.” In the absence of clothing with bigoted messages or otherwise *-ist options, one’s fashion preferences shouldn’t be anything to be “sorry” about.

  2. Lenore says:

    I think this is where fashion games could benefit from a social element. While a computer may not be good at judging creativity, other fashion literate players might be. There could be an element to the game where you dress models in outfits you think are unique and creative, and submit them to be scored by other players. Then you could receive rewards in-game from outfits that get high scores. I believe there are a few casual games that already do something like this.

    • KA101 says:

      Hmm. Here’s hoping that the raters for such an online group are reasonable.

      (I can imagine such a group having problems of either excess tolerance…or literal Fashion Policing. Either seems problematic.)

      who thinks something along the lines of these or more specifically this needs to be in the game before he would show interest

      • KA101 says:

        And so my HTML is half-working. Don’t use it that often. Sorry about that.

      • Alex says:

        I haven’t gotten to the men’s fashion yet, but the women’s fashion has sweet lolita and gothic lolita styles (they are referred to as “princess” and “gothic princess” in-game), I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some kind of equivalent style for men.

    • Alex says:

      Great idea. I think you could have a combination of upvoting and user-submitted reviews that are chosen by moderators to keep trolling and negativity to a minimum. This is something I’d love to see!

  3. Doug S. says:

    PaRappa the Rapper and its sequels would give you points for “freestyling”, but I never understood the system by which it gave you credit for some kinds of improvising and penalized others as mistakes.

  4. marco says:

    I’m really looking forward to Trendsetters, and the first demo was a lot of fun (still need to play the second). Recently, some of the people that worked on the game (from the studio dev part and fashion dev part) brought up interesting stuff about the game, and it seems one of the fashion devs is interested in trying to create more of that diversity and what really makes fashion fun. I certainly hope that they’ll get to~.

  5. K-W says:

    This definitely sounds interesting, but I too feel fashion games should be more life-like. In my own real life, I do things that many people may consider blasphemy, just because I can and it works. Hopefully this will eventually translate into fashion games, as I like dressing up virtual people as well as real people. It sounds like they’re getting a start, as you can choose something from another line that fits the taste of the customer. Here’s to hoping for improved fashion games.

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