White Nights

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mikey
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White Nights

#1 Post by mikey » Wed Jul 18, 2007 1:04 pm

Hi everyone.

Well, I was forever thinking that it's not just the Russian writer Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) himself, but also very specifically his short novel "White Nights" that would go perfectly well with a visual novel (well, kinetic novel) adaptation. I've been thinking about this for so long now, and it always made sense:

- the novel is written in first person (visual-novel-style)
- a distinctively romantic atmosphere of the "white nights" (ren'ai)
- the eternal dreamer, detached from reality (so often reminiscent of otaku)
- the events are occuring over the course of five days, (a dating-sim-like structure)
- the story is entirely location- and conversation-based (BGs and sprites)
- and there is a girl... (it just fits so perfectly to the idealistic manga style)

Somehow though, nevermind the above biased analysis, this always FELT like a visual novel to me, even when at that time I had no idea that visual novels existed (or would exist), this story, in a way, I think it was just made for a VN. Hopefully, when reading it, you'll be able to notice, since the complete script is as it was written more than 150 years ago.

So, as stated, for this VN version, I kept the complete script intact, and the only thing I removed was a line describing the girl's clothing and a part of a sentence that described her hair. Otherwise I found two typos, which I corrected. But other than that, I just only adapted it to fit the format breaking the lines whenever the sentence would fill more than the screen - but absolutely none of the wording was changed, the script is exactly as it was written by Dostoyevsky, nothing added or removed.

One confession to make is that I used a scanned translation (much in the spirit of copyright infringement). There is currently no free WN translation available, even though I know for a fact that Constance Garnett has translated this work, and her other translations appear on Project Guttenberg, but regrettably, no White Nights. I therefore used a translation by the respected Alan Myers, actually quite a new one (1995), which I recently bought in a bookstore. I know it's still unauthorized usage, but hopefully at least an understandable decision. If worse comes to worst, I'll be forced to translate this myself, probably using the Czech and Slovak translations - but I hope I won't have to and this can be tolerated - from the legal, moral as well as ethical side. If anything can be, then let it be White Nights.

For the girl, I used ALICE (the forgotten doll making program that this community once made) and I hope I gave eclipse's Alice artwork a dignified role. It was a bit frustrating to see how it was never being used - but it's the other's loss now, because her art is so pretty. So thank you eclipse (credited as Rio) for the doll, it fits really nicely. I absolutely know that of course the doll's attire isn't quite 19-th century, but I still think it's a nice summer combination, that's kind of timeless. So...

For the backgrounds, we used genuine photographs from 19-th century St. Petersburg as a base, to give it a more authentic feeling, since the story takes place in that time (and I tried to use pictures of the locations mentioned in the story, whenever appropriate or possible). We also tried to recreate the atmosphere of the white nights a little with it. This is a meteorological phenomenon, when during a few weeks in the summer, the nights in St. Petersburg are "white", since due to the city's geographical position there is always a glow of light the whole night, so it's never really dark.

No music though - and I know people will complain, but... no. I didn't want to just rake the internet and harvest some free-to-use piano or strings tunes, which would have been the standard procedure.

Lastly, the engine. I used the "old" SoD/EbG type of Ren'Py mod that PyTom has done for us, and it works brilliantly - simple, clean and efficient. And I did it all by myself, for the first time no assistance from anyone. Makes me proud, really.

Development as such took one week from start to finish (the trigger was more or less the book that I bought - and the presence of a scanner at work made this completely irresistible). It's my form of relaxing from my main project, so I'll be back attending it soon, but this really helped me in getting a fresh mind. I was actually quite surprised how smoothly everything went.

One last (maybe personal) thing though - I really wanted to do a visual novel version of White Nights - but there is nothing more that I wanted to achieve with this. I didn't want to bring literature to the VN fandom, or be the first to "convert" something like this to a VN - or anything of that sort. Incidentally of course, Dostoyevsky is regarded as one of the greatest writers ever, but in all honesty, there is no such agenda behind this release. The fandom is the way it is and (maybe contrary to what some may believe) it does not need to prove anything to anyone. And it also means that there is no need to try to like it just because it's world literature. I like White Nights personally, because it's Dostoyevsky's work. But I made this VN version from it because I feel like it was always, somehow, secretly, in its soul, a visual novel.

Have a nice read.

http://atp.manga.sk/prod/wn/wn.htm
Windows version only

For your convenience, it's also here:
EDIT: Linux and Mac versions added
Last edited by mikey on Thu Jul 19, 2007 4:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: White Nights

#2 Post by Ayato Vu » Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:40 pm

O.O!!!
Is this the project you stated? regardless! I shall read, anyhting made by mikey is a favorite of mine!

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Re: White Nights

#3 Post by Ignosco » Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:33 am

Congratulations :D

Just a few thoughts on the presentation style:

I'm not too sure how well some bits come across in the VN context - I guess because the descriptions in the story are at times so detailed, the story doesn't engage with the imagination as much as most other VN's (which is probably merely saying that I haven't adjusted to the perspective of the story)... although considering it from the other side, most VN's wouldn't read very well just as a novel either.

The way you split up the sentences, paragraphs etc worked well in conveying the emotions (long 'breathless' paragraphs on the second night) - by retelling the story as a VN there's enough flexibility to completely change the meaning/impact of the story, even without using music (for example I guess the changing facial expressions might encourage a faster shift of emotions on the reader's part :?).

I guess as a whole I'm not quite sure how effective it is to replicate a story as a VN - but it was an interesting experience, and it was good to read White Nights for the first time :).
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Re: White Nights

#4 Post by mikey » Thu Jul 19, 2007 5:12 am

Ayato Vu wrote:O.O!!! Is this the project you stated? regardless! I shall read, anyhting made by mikey is a favorite of mine!
:oops: :oops: Ah, you make me blush. Thank you for so much support. This is not the scheduled project (I'm still working on that), this is a small one that I did in a week to relax from the original one.
And as I've noted the story isn't mine, so it's not filed under our original projects. Still, I did my best. :P
Ignosco wrote:I'm not too sure how well some bits come across in the VN context - I guess because the descriptions in the story are at times so detailed, the story doesn't engage with the imagination as much as most other VN's (which is probably merely saying that I haven't adjusted to the perspective of the story)... although considering it from the other side, most VN's wouldn't read very well just as a novel either.
About the VN format - I've seen (read) two editions of Czech White Nights in book format, both with about... well, 4 - 10 illustrations depending on the author, one colored and one b/w. I also believe to have read somewhere that there was a famous Russian White Nights illustrator, probably even more than just one ^_^. Anyway, several (Slavic-language) editions of this work are indeed illustrated (and I dare say it's the most frequently illustrated work of Dostoyevsky), and I found this somewhat interesting - but then it really makes sense, since the story is so tied to St. Petersburg. The options screen is a map of the centre with the Nevsky Prospekt and so on, which is also a tribute, since in many of the English editions of Dostoyevsky's works, there was a map of the city included - because again, Dostoyevsky's works have had a strong bond with the city. There are specific houses that are featured in many of his novels - indeed there is the house of Raskolnikov and famously I think also the stairway where the murder takes place is a real place you can vist. The image of the apartment where the White Nights hero is living is actually based on Dostoyevsky's own working room that is now a museum.

As for the "double impact" of the text describing the visuals and then the visuals themselves, I did my best not to make them clash - and it was really tempting at times to delete a part of a sentence or so, because the visual was there. But I wanted it to be primarily a VN version of the story - as opposed to refitting the text to work with the VN medium as such.

It's not my story, and I don't feel all too good tampering with other people's ideas, plus of course, it would have taken me a considerable amount of time to do it.

About the emotion and facial expressions, even when reading it as a book, I had a strange feeling about Nastenka - she is changing moods very abruptly, or at least that's what comes out from the text - I guess it has something to do with the very expressive style of writing, the time in which this was written 1848 (I think, but I'm too proud to go and verify it on Wikipedia :)), and I know it took me several books to adjust my perception, so that really Nastenka didn't feel so... unfocused or I don't know how to put it. Most critics will also agree that she is by far not the best-written woman that Dostoyevsky has done, but not everyone can be Sonya Marmeladova, or the women of TBK or The Idiot - and not every story needs them. In any case, I've grown to like her (although that may hav been caused by having to read through the story a hundred million times ^_^), and I've really become a fan of...
her relationship (with the lodger). In many ways it reminds me of Natasha's relationship (to Vanya and Alyosha) from Insulted And Injured, which is probably my favorite novel by Dostoyevsky (chiefly because it has depth, but without philosophy ^_^).
Well, I like Dostoyevsky's early works because of this - a lot of people usually overlook them, saying they were only preparations for his real ones - but then I do remember that very nice part of The Idiot (I think it was The Idiot) that said that beauty will save the world, and I'm just thinking that actually the beauty can be found in these early works.

Ugh, blah blah... anyway - I'm glad to have done it and it's great that it works - even though it isn't perfect - but I hope that the VN-ish feel of the original could be carried across....

It's actually (grrr, I can't stop) interesting to know that Dostoyevsky was publishing something called "Diary of a writer" - it was quite a unique thing, a periodical where Dostoyevsky would comment on a variety of the time's issues and sometimes write a short story or so. To be honest, it was the old-day blog ^_^. So really, you can say that he worked in such formats and well, today, he would have had a blog. And it's probably this "logic" that sort of led me to believe, well, if he had to make White Nights, he would have used the VN format. :P

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Re: White Nights

#5 Post by Ignosco » Thu Jul 19, 2007 8:21 am

I think is the first of Dostoyevsky's works I've read, so the above post was very interesting - there's a lot more justification (of sorts) for VN-ing White Nights than I would have guessed. [Just a thought, but it feels like the protagonist's character personality 'flaws' are amplified in the VN format, because of the first person presentation used - a few times I felt like hitting the protagonist over the head ... I guess that could also create a kind of tension on the reader's behalf, with the clashes between a 3rd person perspective and the first person feel of a VN - but that's not exactly on topic]

One other thing that really stood out was the similarity between White Nights and some of your VN's. Ignoring the differences in writing style and
the lack of a happy ending,
this could almost be an ATP projects' game, particularly because of the characters and the overall mood/emotions expressed.
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Re: White Nights

#6 Post by mikey » Fri Jul 20, 2007 6:30 am

Ignosco wrote:[Just a thought, but it feels like the protagonist's character personality 'flaws' are amplified in the VN format, because of the first person presentation used - a few times I felt like hitting the protagonist over the head ... I guess that could also create a kind of tension on the reader's behalf, with the clashes between a 3rd person perspective and the first person feel of a VN - but that's not exactly on topic]
Ummm, this novel IS written in the first person (as I said I did not alter the text at all). Indeed making a VN version of something written in the third person would probably not be so immediate - the first person really is the strength of the VN. AFAIK there are a few more novels that Dostoyevsky has written in the first person, most notably The Insulted And Injured, which is simply too long (it's a regular novel), even though it's really ren'ai-ish, but without the sweetness (which isn't to say it's bitter). And the second candidate would be Netochka Nezvanova, which is actually quite GxG :P :oops: No really, it is. It's not nearly as long as TIAI, but still much larger than WN.

Apart from that, there would be a few other works in first person, but they are largely quite heavy in that they already have the signs of what was to come from Dostoyevsky later - very deep-going psychological impact of various philosophies (like the famous killing of one to benefit thousands in Crime And Punishment), but that's not really my territory.
Ignosco wrote:... this could almost be an ATP projects' game,...
I thought it really fitted well. It doesn't philosophise too much, and focuses on emotions or dreams... well, yes, it kind of fits into the ATP family. Though the wordings are really too complicated for my taste and of course, there is that what you mentioned in the spoiler. I was also wondering how this would turn out if others would do it - it will probably have a lot to do with who is behind the wheel I suppose - if DaFool made it, or eclipse, or lordcloudx, we would probably see different outcomes, since the visuals, the form of text or other things would be different - in fact I'm sure of it, one time I wondered how it would be if I was to make Tales Of Lemma - I'd probably end up with a survival-oriented accounting of being in a forest that's inhabitated by deadly fungus. And of course Miko would wear glasses and be a scientist who was just leading the camp for schoolchildren when the incidents started to happen. I'm a one-trick pony, really ^_^'

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Re: White Nights

#7 Post by Ignosco » Fri Jul 20, 2007 6:59 am

mikey wrote: Ummm, this novel IS written in the first person (as I said I did not alter the text at all).
Gah... I'm an idiot :oops:, sorry about that - that's what I get for not double-checking things before I post.

That's an interesting point you raise about other people retelling the same/similar story... I think there are already a few VN's where you can see a different approach taken to the same subject - one that comes to mind is the different approaches taken to the Pygmalion myth in Mr. E's Pygmalion and
Ever 17
... I'm not sure if that's quite the same thing as you mentioned though...
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Re: White Nights

#8 Post by Jake » Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:35 am

mikey wrote: I was also wondering how this would turn out if others would do it - it will probably have a lot to do with who is behind the wheel I suppose - if DaFool made it, or eclipse, or lordcloudx, we would probably see different outcomes, since the visuals, the form of text or other things would be different
...you know, I don't have the time right now, but... having not had the chance to have a look at this yet, it's really tempting all of a sudden to have a go at the same story in the same format, and see how it turns out...
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Re: White Nights

#9 Post by mikey » Sat Jul 21, 2007 4:28 am

Ignosco >> ^_^ that's fine - the post was quite long. As for the other thing, the way it stands now, I still haven't fully player the mentioned game (just Pygmalion), so... Well, I know I know, I should play it, but I'm really waiting for the right moment.

Jake >> The translation is copyrighted though, so I don't know how much you'd like to be involved with something like that. But I did not throw away the scan.

As I said, I could (have) translated it myself, but it's quite time-consuming, and most of all, I wouldn't be able to feel so good by leaving the script untouched and adding the VN elements. One of the reasons that I decided to do this was that the original writing felt so much like a VN.

It's complicated and I knew that when I decided to scan the book. No RAA for White Nights either. But I don't want to make this into some agenda point or something, it's okay. :P

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Re: White Nights

#10 Post by Jake » Sat Jul 21, 2007 8:22 am

mikey wrote:Jake >> The translation is copyrighted though
Oh well; I had presumed without checking that it would probably have been translated long enough ago to be out of copyright by now, since I was under the impression Dostoyevsky had been fairly well-known across Europe in his own time... but hey, like I said I don't have the time right now anyway, so it would have had to have waited; like this I get to play your version sooner. ;-)

I still think it's an interesting exercise, though; around the time that we were discussing NaNoRenO there were some suggestions that it might be fun to have a group-project where everyone started off with the same art and music assets and had to make a game with the same blocks; it seems like working on adapting the same short story to the medium would probably be equally fun. (I used to spend a lot of my time building model kits, and one thing that's popular on modelling forums is 'group build' projects, where everyone starts off with the same kit and builds it in the same month. It's often quite amazing how different two people's construction of the same set of parts into the same shape can be.)
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Re: White Nights

#11 Post by Ayato Vu » Sun Jul 22, 2007 2:41 am

I get the feeling of the 18th~early 20th century time...
I found it a pretty good read, and enjoyable, though the speech made me feel as if that "im a little lad who likes berries and creeeaaaaammm" lad was talking o.o

Over all, another finely made sidestory ;)

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Re: White Nights

#12 Post by F.I.A » Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:35 am

Just finished with it. I have to agree though. It cries to be made into a vn. Of course, the main character might be a little too flowery in words for me(Takes time for me to decipher every words he said). :)
Speaking of which, while we only know of Nastenka's name. What about the main character? And even the guy she promised to?

If anything, sob. Crushes hurt. I feel for the main character. :cry:
「通りすがりのメーカだ。覚えとけ。」

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Re: White Nights

#13 Post by mikey » Thu Jul 26, 2007 7:11 am

F.I.A wrote:Of course, the main character might be a little too flowery in words for me(Takes time for me to decipher every words he said)
It's not my style either. Really, I prefer simple and clear sentences... I even dislike using synonyms. :P

Then again, it does establish that 19th-century feel. One remark about the style is that it's a known fact that Dostoyevsky used extremely long paragraphs, and his books were rather difficult to read - the saying goes that unlike his contemporary Tolstoy, who often reworked and fine-tuned his manuscripts, Dostoyevsky, having the pressure of bills to pay etc,... could not. AFAIK he was always under some sort of pressure if not financial, then it was his health. So really, if you switch to Dostoyevsky from say Tolstoy, the style is kind of barbarian, not polished at all, it doesn't flow smoothly and there are no page-long atmospheric descriptions.
F.I.A wrote:
Speaking of which, while we only know of Nastenka's name. What about the main character? And even the guy she promised to?
Well, that's the full text right there in the VN, so that information mentioned above isn't really there. There are a few mails that Dostoyevsky has been exchanging with other people where he sometimes mentioned his works, but I don't think you could find that there either.

And thanks for reading!

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Re: White Nights

#14 Post by Watercolorheart » Mon Jul 30, 2007 12:59 pm

I played it.

I found the writing to be a bit stuffy, and the character portraits so poorly-drawn as to be inadequate to me in displaying the emotions ... (sigh) ... but this is a personal quirk of mine, that I have difficulty overlooking bad art. I still like the filtered backgrounds, though; I think if it only had those, I could get through it.

I'm sorry, I couldn't get past the third night. I like the stories I read to be clear and to do what they do without any needless long descriptions. It doesn't have the perfect clarity and shortness of form of Ursula Le Guin (arguably one of the best short-story/novella authors I've read) and I've been reading those for the last week, so I just couldn't stomach the meandering prose ...

Sorry. Can someone tell me the ending?
I'm not even the same person anymore

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Re: White Nights

#15 Post by mikey » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:02 pm

BCS wrote:I'm sorry, I couldn't get past the third night. I like the stories I read to be clear and to do what they do without any needless long descriptions. It doesn't have the perfect clarity and shortness of form of Ursula Le Guin (arguably one of the best short-story/novella authors I've read) and I've been reading those for the last week, so I just couldn't stomach the meandering prose ...

Sorry. Can someone tell me the ending?
It's probably best to try to get into the historical context - compared to short stories by other authors of that time, this was actually quite to the point, without too many needless descriptions (even though this was one of the more flowery styles of the author, to illustrate a point - see below).

The other thing would be that this is not about the story - surely it's more or less clear how it ends
(it's all romantic and all, but the second Nastenkka sees her lodger again, she runs back to him, leaving the hero)
- but the emphasis is on the portrayal of the dreamer and all that he thinks and thinks about, his escapist nature and symbiosis with the city (well, at least in his view). Nastenka acts as reality (a normal person, without any distinctive characteristic), and you can often see how brutal her words are to the dreamer. Now, of course the protagonist
falls in love with Nastenka, but when she rejects him, it not only shatters his world of possible love, but also his romantic views and "melancholic" attitude. You then have the last scene, where he comes home and all of the sudden he sees the real texture of the walls, the dirt and everything sort of instantly ages in front of his eyes, disillusion.
So it's not really a plot-based story, even though it's not really metaphorical either. It's one of the first works featuring something for which Dostoyevsky became famous (he was more or less the first) - the psychological narrative.

So that's the official literary world's explanation :)

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