Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

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YossarianIII
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Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#1 Post by YossarianIII » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:46 pm

I've been thinking a lot recently about how to use Ren'Py to create something that's appealing to people who don't know what a visual novel is -- or even people who know about VNs but actively dislike them -- so I wrote a blog post about it (contains swearing): https://yossarianiii.wordpress.com/2017 ... al-novels/

While the post deals specifically with a project I'm working on, I think the general idea of it might apply to other people's work too. The main complaint I hear from people who dislike VNs is that there's too much "clicking" and not enough "doing," so I tried to come up with low-budget ideas for writing, art, and sound that can make a VN feel more dynamic.

As I mention in the post, the "rules" I suggest are challenges for myself, not me proclaiming the ONE TRUE PATH TO VN ENLIGHTENMENT. It's also definitely not intended to discourage anyone from creating more traditional VNs (which can be awesome!). I just think it's fun to create internal "rules" for a fictional world and was wondering if anyone else was thinking specifically of targeting players outside the core VN audience while keeping the budget low.


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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#2 Post by Mammon » Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:35 am

Good article, some points I will probably have to keep an eye on myself in future projects.

The accessibility thing is something I pondered upon quite a bit, with my first project just adding the word 'Yandere' to it already makes it inaccessible to any non-anime fans because it's simply a trope that demands familiarity. Maybe my next projects will be more everyone-targeted. But the simplest advice is indeed: Make it either more or less Japan (but not eroge fetish stuff) to attract more anime fans who're not into VN's yet or people who're into digital reading but not anime.


With the expressions, that might be an issue to be blamed to the structure between groups rather than an issue we can really focus on singlehandedly. The writer says to switch it up, but can the programmer do that when they're adding the expressions? In your case yes because you're both of those people. In a group, not really. While writing the writer may not know yet which expressions will be made by the artist, and the programmer may not know what mood/expression/situation the character is in to determine the expression that would fit best. Most likely, whether it's to play things safe or out of laziness (not just talking about the programmer but also the writer here), the programmer will probably go for the safest and simplest system of expressions. The vanilla version of expressing Happy-sad-happy-sad like you mentioned.

With my latest project Pervert&Yandere I was fortunately working with a team that I could really exploit for this. Me, Mammon the writer, just wrote without paying much heed to anthing and then demanded the artist and programmer to do it. The artist, some chump called Mammon, obliged to my most rediculous demands like making a character sprite for a girl with less than five lines and giving some of the characters new outfits for different days. And there were a whole bunch of expressions, trust me, plenty of combinations that were never even used. So I could create a great variety of expression changes and variations rather than being limited to the 4-8 standard minimalistic emotions.
The programmer, some lazy ass noob who wouldn't stop bitching about the rediculous workload (I forgot his name, but I recall it being something like 'Mammon'?) worked really slowly but he did maintain the system of complicated expression variations and implications. He was not happy with me writing new scenes while I was waiting for him to finish and thus adding to the workload, trust me. But he eventually got it done, although barely adhering to the minimal requirements. However, had he and I not shared a telepathic link sharing my knowledge of the story, he couldn't possibly have added more than the most vanilla expressions system.

The system I described above works for a one-man team. If you're all three of the basic needs, you know exactly what you can demand from yourself without making you shout 'Screw this, your demands are outrageous, I quit!' and end up with someone dropping out of the project halfway. And you can manage this amount of work much better, because the writer will know the strain they're placing on the artist when they add a prop while the artist knows what the writer wants and what they want it for. There can't be a system of someone asking too much of the other without realising this, or the other feeling that they're being asked too much of.

With the writer-programmer relation this is even more present and important, and coming back to your point of expressions: The writer can easily ask things of the programmer that they don't know. Very often the writer will write a script but not add in the expression changes. And the programmer may have misinterpretted the mood or be unaware of future/past events that have an effect on the expression (leading to 'Bioware face') For example my protagonist would subtely show the genuinity of his feelings through his eyebrows; angry for not truthful, sad for truthful, concerned for emotionally involved. If the programmer had to do this without proper instructions they'd never be able to do this, because this isn't even something most readers would pick up on when playing the game (thus seeing the expressions).

Conclusion: Writers working in a team should add expression statements to their scripts. Also the other points I made, I guess.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#3 Post by indoneko » Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:16 am

Nice reading. It makes me wonder if we can actually convert a lot of people outside of the regular VN reader demography by adding gimmicks into our game (instead of just using our resources to make better story/art/music). If it really is, then is there any guide on what has been proven as good "added value" for these people and how much should we add it (while still considering the resources limitation)?
Conclusion: Writers working in a team should add expression statements to their scripts.
Shouldn't this be the standard procedure already? (unless the VN is in NVL format) :roll:
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#4 Post by Mammon » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:00 am

indoneko wrote:
Conclusion: Writers working in a team should add expression statements to their scripts.
Shouldn't this be the standard procedure already? (unless the VN is in NVL format) :roll:
It should. How often do you think it will happen, especially when the programmer isn't experienced enough to know that it's something they may demand of the writer? :lol:
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#5 Post by YossarianIII » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:26 am

Mammon wrote:With the expressions, that might be an issue to be blamed to the structure between groups rather than an issue we can really focus on singlehandedly.

This is a good point, Mammon. Like you, I'm mostly working from the perspective of being a solo creator (although given how much I use Creative Commons/public domain resources and the forums here, it's hard to call any project I do truly "solo"). And yeah, like you said, when you're working solo that programmer can be a real pain to deal with :D

indoneko wrote:It makes me wonder if we can actually convert a lot of people outside of the regular VN reader demography by adding gimmicks into our game (instead of just using our resources to make better story/art/music). If it really is, then is there any guide on what has been proven as good "added value" for these people and how much should we add it (while still considering the resources limitation)?
Good question, indoneko. Up until now, I've released all my stuff for free, so I've mostly been measuring added value in terms of reader engagement (Let's Plays, Twitter mentions, etc.). I've noticed an increase in reader engagement with each thing I release, so I tried to work out what "rules" I've been following that might have led to the increase. But economically, the "rules" that work for me may not be the right fit for other projects, especially if you're paying freelancers to create assets. FWIW, I'd think the first step to determining good added value is probably to consider your own core audience and work from there.


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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#6 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:25 am

A few years ago, I attempted to read the English version of Moonstone's visual novel Gift. It was not enjoyable, mainly because it was a machine translation. If some effort had been put into the localization, then I might have understood more than half of the dialogue. Because of the low-effort translation, it seemed like the characters just stood around having long conversations about nothing.

A couple years ago, I started reading Otoboku. I didn't love the art, but I wanted to like the story. It had a quality translation, and the story had a conflict. However, it didn't hold my interest. The characters didn't seem especially interesting, and I was not hooked by the protagonist's plight (hide his identity in a girls' school). Maybe I was distracted at the time...

At this moment, I can't think of other commercial VNs that I've experienced in which I didn't care what happened to the characters. If you've attempted to read a slice of life VN in which you lost interest in the plot and characters, then be sure to mention it.
YossarianIII wrote:The following rules are designed to help create a faster-paced game for players who find traditional visual novels too slow, static, or meandering.
I can describe some of my favorite visual novels as stories told through words and pictures. Some integrate words and pictures and thus resemble comics. Though most of the VNs which I've experienced keep them separate, kind of like Hal Foster's vintage Prince Valiant series. Also, I usually associate the act of clicking a computer (mouse) button to advance dialogue with turning the page of a book, or pressing a console gamepad button. That said... if you want to think about visual novels in a different way, then consider the following:

* Graphic adventure game presentation. Create a story using Adventure Game Studio or a similar tool. Let the player character walk around the world if they want, and talk with NPCs if they want. If they'd rather advance to the next story event right away, then make it clear how they can proceed. Include puzzles if you wish.

* Use an RPG Maker program or Dungeon Craft to tell a story. Include complex gameplay if you wish.

* Use a moddable video game to tell a story.

* Think of visual novels which you enjoyed, and then ask yourself, "What did they do which is exceptional or different?" When I ask myself what I liked about Sakura Wars 5, I first think about the walking-around-town segments, and then the timed choices which seemed clever or easy to understand. When I ask myself why Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side is among my top five video games, I remember how it was interesting to shape the protagonist's stats, and how most of the relationship-building was relaxing.
YossarianIII wrote:Usually, it’s because the character looks too stiff and lifeless, although sometimes the problem is that a character is emoting too much or in the wrong way, and it just looks ridiculous.
Realistic illustrations can be entertaining, and can contribute to a work of fiction. However, if the drawing / 3D image is too close to photorealism, then I think it can lead to an uncanny valley problem.
indoneko wrote:It makes me wonder if we can actually convert a lot of people outside of the regular VN reader demography by adding gimmicks into our game...
If you add interactive elements to your visual novel, then they need to be enjoyable. The reader should not feel frustrated if they have to solve yet another puzzle in order to proceed. (Unfortunately, that's one reason why I did not enjoy Virtue's Last Reward.) Recruit playtesters in order to find out whether your VN's gameplay is too easy, difficult, obtuse, etc.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#7 Post by Mammon » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:58 am

Ah crap, I forgot that in my first post!
Gekiganwing wrote:I usually associate the act of clicking a computer (mouse) button to advance dialogue with turning the page of a book, or pressing a console gamepad button.
I have no idea how to do it myself or how to how much work it would be to do this, but I've seen a VN that didn't require me to click: 'How Visual Novels changed my life' by Träumendes Mädchen. I remember just marvelling over how their auto-speed was actually able to make me read the VN without a single touch of the mouse. Where literally every other visual novel I played to this day was either too slow or too fast (or both) for autoread to work for me, this one actually did. I guess that looking into that usually ignored mechanic of Ren'py might be an answer to the 'I don't want to click' excuse.

I've seen a few games that are written so slowly and with short sentences that I could actually read them while holding in Ctrl. Now that's actually badass to do, ironically making these incredibly bad-paced and boring narratives hype by challenging myself. Although that would require you to write intentionally slow and boring, so... not a good option.
indoneko wrote:It makes me wonder if we can actually convert a lot of people outside of the regular VN reader demography by adding gimmicks into our game...
The NaNoRenO16 game Palette swap did something where they added a hidden point-and-click game to the story. it's essentially that there are slightly illuminated spots in the background you had to click, but you didn't have to do it unless you wanted the lore and the hidden end. Wouldn't call it a crowd-drawing mechanic though. And if you add other mechanics liek RPG or puzzles, it's quickly the problem of whether it's still a VN you want to make. Some people are going to say 'Too much story between the puzzles!' and some people will say 'Too much puzzles clogging up the story!'
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#8 Post by Zelan » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:49 pm

Mammon wrote:
indoneko wrote:
Conclusion: Writers working in a team should add expression statements to their scripts.
Shouldn't this be the standard procedure already? (unless the VN is in NVL format) :roll:
It should. How often do you think it will happen, especially when the programmer isn't experienced enough to know that it's something they may demand of the writer? :lol:
Pitching in as someone who has mostly writing experience but also a little programming:

I agree that writing expression statements ahead of time would be a huge help for the programmers. However, for me personally, doing so while writing the story would interrupt the flow of my writing. If I get to the point where I'm really in the zone, I'm practically thinking of the dialogue faster than I can type it, so it would really be a drag to put in the expression statements.

But obviously, the simplest thing to do would be to revisit the script and add in the expression statements afterward. This would of course not be that hard to do, but it's also where coordinating with the artist comes in. There's a good chance that the artist will have some limit of expressions/poses/additional anythings per character, so if the sprites haven't been made ahead of time a writer may have to later go back and adjust the expression commands based on the workload that the artist is willing to take on. (That, or the artist could be forced to draw more than anticipated.)

While this is a bit of a stumbling block, it's not a huge problem...unless you factor in any sort of time restraint. In a game jam, for example, a writer may not have time to go in and add expressions while trying to finish the script itself for the programmer. And even if the writer was able to do so, coordination with the artist might be a hold up, and then of course the artist has to get those sprites made so that they don't need the added complication of placeholder sprites, etc.

So basically, I do agree that it would be a huge help to the programmer, but it comes with its own drawbacks for the writer and possibly the artist, especially if the team is working under time constraints.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#9 Post by Amberbaum » Fri Feb 17, 2017 5:09 pm

Hm, I am a member of a few Greenlight watch groups and most of my fellow members dislike VNs for some of the following reasons I want to share and comment from a players standpoint, so please forgive me If I may have overstepped my bounds and if I am too brutal with my honesty. Lot's of anime rants incoming because I feel that it is important to address:

"It is not a game, since most are lacking in gameplay department. NO gameplay, NO game! Go to itch.io, Steam Greenlight is for GAMES."

I understand this one and it is a valid point many bring up when they leave a comment on the Greenlight pages. Most VNs are more like interactive novels and the only thing that slightly reminds one of some gameplay is to pick some choices that mostly have the purpose to get on a route. I grew up with RTS, Shooters, RPGs, Adventures and TBS. VNs a relatively late discovery for me. So I understand their concerns and mostly agree with this statement that you can't really call most VNs a game. Which is one of the reasons why I am ever so happy if VN creators move away from the classical format and add in some gameplay mechanics especially if they are RPG mechanics like for example stats.

And no - I loathe stat raising games. All you do is grinding stats so that you can unlock a better ending with character X. 7kpp, LLTQ and Magical Diary are the best examples on how you do it. What I mean with stats is that they give you something, make you stronger and let you pass checks or are used for some combat gamplay mechanics like some Winter Wolves TBS games. I love RPG and all the other stuff, so when a project that I watch decides to pick up some video game mechanics, I will do a little happy dance. I know that those mechanics are not for everyone, especially people who only play VNs, and that's why I like Winter Wolves approach on it with including a story mode next to the different difficulty settings. The appeal here is and always was for Winter Wolves games: "Games for different folks with different strokes" ;P

That being said, you cannot convert every regular video gamer into a VN player. Most gameplay mechanics are too easy and will give them nothing in return in terms of being a challenge. Some people will always value gameplay over story and will rather play a nice round of RTS or TBS then playing the campaign mode. All you can do is, especially if you're developing commercial projects, to pinpoint your desired target audience, created the things you are comfortable and know that you are good with. Then you can -maybe- experiment on something different (just make sure you have some willing lab rats before you put a "Now for sale!" label on it).

"What with those crappy visuals? Isn't the story and the visuals the main selling point of a Visual Novel? Just fuck off! No wants to buy this ugly ass shit!"

I think we once had a discussion on how important the visuals are for us and if it's an important buying factor. And lo and behold it really was super important. I skip games if I don't like the art. To be specific: I can overlook some imperfections and much more in free to play games such as art assets like backgrounds or the GUI. But when it comes to commercial VNs it all has to be consistent. That includes background, sprites, the GUI and some neat little graphic effects (glow effects, eye blinking). Nothing is more saddening then to have a really great story and even gameplay mechanics at hand but it gets devalued by lack of certain visuals and that also includes NOT providing the standard 1920x1080 screen resolution (forever crying over 7kpp lacking these things and finalising the backgrounds to such a small resolution).

I don't care how many of you work on Laptops. I don't want at this day and age some smallish resolution on my desktop PC. Let me visualize it for you you: I buy a VN and want to comfortable read it. Meaning, I will play it on my PC while sitting on my super comfy office chair and enjoying some nicely brewed tea that I drink out of my pretty tea cup. The last thing I want to see is some small resolution and mismatching art assets. I know that it will get more expensive with higher resolution art, but.....I don't care. It's the standard resolution for desktop PC gaming. If it's too pricey then try going to the mobile market where I won't buy it. The same applies for video gamers. They don't want games with small resolution and when someone of them decides to pick up a VN that has a small resolution, they ask: "What year was it made?" to which they may get the answer "Oh, it's from 2015." They will not be amused and will not buy it. If indie devs can create 3d models with complete landscapes and give us the standard resolution or some retro looking side-scroller or some other hand drawn and even animated (!!!!) games it will really look bad for a VN dev to say: "Ah sorry, those few backgrounds where just too pricey to get them for this resolution." Nobody will care about those technical issues from a consumer standpoint, because they will hold up those two gaming formats, compare them in their head and then will flip you the bird.

Now, why am I riding so much on this issue? Because that's a very important factor for a visual novel and it is often a deciding factor for people to buy it, even for people who never played one, but thought: "Oh, well. Let's try this one. It's looks pretty and I want something comfortable to play that doesn't require both hands and being constantly alert. I've never played one of those so let's see how it goes." Little visual details such as light effect, eye movements or moving background elements definitely enhance the visual experience. Gimme them. I want some nice rain effects. I want interesting art-styles that matches the story.

"Ugh, more anime bullshit. Can't you just read a manga? Look at those pedobait drawings."

This one is a tough, but also easy one. Just like mentioned above. Visuals are an important buying factor and the art style can make or break it for many people. Especially if we are talking about the western audience. I will draw two camps for this to make it easier to understand:

Group Anime (A) - Likes nearly everything anime related and probably already plays visual novels. Watches anime and reads mangas from different genres. Some like to collect fan merchandise.
Group Games (G) - Maybe watches an anime if it's good or reads a manga, but also has many people that loathe and avoid everything "weeb" related. Connects many negative things with everything anime related. The majority of them doesn't play visual novels and it's this group that mostly "hates" visual novels

You see, I belong to G even thought I do read mangas and watch anime - occasionally. The problem is that I have preferences like people from A and if those aren't met then I am out.
Things I noticed from my own experience and from others that also belong to G is that there are certain art-styles group G tends to like:

Semi-realistic, comic, caricature, quirky, old adventure games style, slightly anime or just realistic.

I can endure certain art style that I am not fond off if I can get sucked into the story and if there is an interesting gameplay mechanic that keeps me going. Thought, this is rarely the case. Like nearly all of group G - and myself included - they really hate the Moe-style (with a few exceptions). Many call it pedobait or weeb-crap. I like to think of myself as a person that doesn't judge people on their preference and I mostly do so, but for the love of all what's good I cannot wrap my mind around why anyone would like that.....that abomination. Those girls (yeah, most of the time this art style is used for games that sorely target the male audience) mostly look like freaks and you can easily swap one out with another. Most look near identical if it weren't for bigger boobs or their hairstyle and colouring. Too much lolicon pandering and heavy sexualization of childlike characteristics. There is a reason why the western audience finds it so foul to do that even if it's just drawn. Anyone that wants to keep their non-otaku friends will stay clear of even owning one of those VNs. This art-style is a big factor that alienates the majority of the western audience and is one of the reasons why VNs have a bad rep on Steam. People see it, then leave a nasty comment on the greenlight page and hope that all those shitty VNs will disappear. Anime = VNs, meaning VN = "Fuck Off!" I know how this sounds to you, but this type of medium gets heavily associated with anime and it's "less then great qualities" from many non-VN players.

Group A on the other hand.........well, there are some people that flail around and whine like little kids if they can't get their animu-fix in a VN and will not buy anything that doesn't contain some anime-aesthetics. And again, who do want as your audience or maybe you can find a middle-ground that doesn't alienate too many people.

"More anime-related issues. Keep your tropes and those space-high-school-loli-dating-sim to yourself."
If it reeks too much like anime, group G will most likely not touch it. That contains certain tropes, ffffu.... *cough* anime character archetypes such as anything that end up with a -dere. In most cases you will loose people by mention those weird ass animu vocabulary. The story is one of the main selling points of a VN and if you fill it with fetishistic crap and cliches, people will be turned off. I asked multiple non-VN player on that and they all gave me the same answer as the things I previous mentioned. VNs are text-based games that are enhanced by additional visuals and should be therefore at least be above the average story-teller level then some video game. If the story won't grab you then what else? Gameplay? Nah, most don't have it unlike video games. And if it does, It won't warrant you buying this VN over your next video game. LLTQ might be an exception to that. Truth to be told, I haven't played all VNs and many aren't even translated. Still, I hold games like Baldur's Gate over Neverwinter Night too a much higher regard then VNs. Both games give me what a Vn does in in much higher quantity that I shamefully will compare them to VNs that are made by a small group of people.

Now that I think about it, RPG maker games face the same stigmas especially on Steam. The cliche "hero saving the world" is getting awful stale....as do rpg maker assets. In any case, dating sims often fall under the category VN and will also turn people off, especially all the hentai games. People ask "Why would I want to play this if I can watch porn, you weeb-pedo-virgins. I don't like seeing (underage) schoolgirls getting fucked in the ass just to see the cum and blood squirting out of her anus. It makes me feel icky and disgusted. Don't fuck little girls, you sickos!"

I think western audience is very receptive towards romance and text-based sex scenes that are woven into the story and won't be the centre of the story or the ultimate goal of it. It isn't required, but you can read it if you want. Just like Bioware romances. And if it has to be graphical sex scenes - it can be slightly hinted at or something sexy, sensual, fun and interesting => Don't worry, no penises or vaginas. It's the best example I can come up with right now. If you are interested, please read the next 4 pages from here on. The points I mentioned above are also relevant for romance or dating sim games with exception that it is much more the centre of the story. It's just that I wouldn't go for that VN genre if I would try to coax VN-haters into playing one.

Now to the things you have mentioned in your article that caught my interest:
Use lots of sound effects, but be lazy about finding new ones.
I love sound-effects. I especially love new sound-effects that I don't recognize and that isn't used by everyone. Why bother with this type of medium when you don't try to get the best out of it. You can replace the soundtrack in certain scenes with ambient background noises. To a certain extend it's much more effective then music. Sound effects are not excluded from making the game feel consistent. Don't put your average comedic slap sound in your noir and gritty VN that wants to be realistic. VNs have the power to create a moving visual landscape for a story. Restricting it only on the visual part, but neglecting to create the matching audio landscape is almost sad. If you want to make me feel like I am standing in a magical forest then please give my brain the necessary audio impulses.
Don’t let the characters just stand there like assholes.
Heheh, that is almost a given and makes your VN much livelier.

Lastly, I want to share a comment from someone that read Winter Wolves article on "Making and selling visual novels and dating sims":
I've played a few, Sunrider Academy being the most recent. I don't recommend it. Always Remember Me was okay. Love Plus was probably the best of the bunch. The rest aren't worth mentioning. As far as that goes, making various encounters feel meaningful seems to be what sets them apart. Just as an example, Love Plus did this well, Sunrider Academy did not.

I'm with Rui Mota here in that the art style can be off-putting. I'll add to that the settings. Japanese high school [in space | with robots | for pigeons] is tiring. I'd look to the hidden objects genera for inspiration there, with its great variety of settings and scenarios.

I also agree that there's lots of room for innovation. Of the few I've played, each did something different. I can also see the mainstream appeal for a western audience, if the genera could be properly adapted.

Navigation seems important here. With Telltale's The Walking Dead, the focus was on navigating a narrative space, not a virtual physical space. In other games, you seem to bumble about aimlessly, trying to stumble in to a person for a chance to influence your relationship with them. With TWD, what you do is central. In other games, all that seems to matter is how much face-time the RNG gives up.

tl;dr - For western audiences, drop the tropes and look to other successful western story-focused games for inspiration.
That went on longer then I thought and thank you for reading if you made it past my huge post.

Edit: One thing I forgot to mention is the accessibility:
Some people just don't want to read too much. They don't get any enjoyment out of it and if you create a too huge information dump, especially right at the beginning, you will create a barrier that keeps people off. Even the people who are not averse towards reading. Gently lower them in and keep some gameplay mechanics or visuals that let's them play and explore.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#10 Post by Mammon » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:05 pm

Amberbaum wrote:so please forgive me If I may have overstepped my bounds and if I am too brutal with my honesty. Lot's of anime rants incoming
Nah, the more brutally honest one's critique is, the more useful it will be to the people who want to improve. Reviewing things with satin gloves will get you nowhere, although hate for the sake of hate is even more pointless. Though I am a bit jealous of your wall of text, I can't tell if I ever made one this long... :shock:
Amberbaum wrote:"What with those crappy visuals? Isn't the story and the visuals the main selling point of a Visual Novel? Just fuck off! No wants to buy this ugly ass shit!"
I'll get to a three(maybe four) digit audience first before I start worrying about this, and many others too I assume. Limits by reality.
Amberbaum wrote:"Ugh, more anime bullshit. Can't you just read a manga? Look at those pedobait drawings."
This is going a lot in the direction of one/a few specific anime styles, blame the anime fans who made those popular rather than the artists. Those artists had little choice after the producers saw them profits of Moe compared to the investment, they're just having to pay their bills.
Amberbaum wrote:"More anime-related issues. Keep your tropes and those space-high-school-loli-dating-sim to yourself."
Guilty of this one, but I knew what I got into when I made Pervert&Yandere. I will not apologise for making a yandere story. :lol:
Amberbaum wrote:Baldur's Gate over Neverwinter Night too a much higher regard then VNs.
Can't really expect such quality around these parts though, have you seen the price rates and project failure rates around here? So,
Amberbaum wrote:I love sound-effects. I especially love new sound-effects that I don't recognize and that isn't used by everyone.
This is something you can't really expect from a place where most people use creative common sound effects. (not even the sound effects you've got to pay for, but CC.) And that actually goes for a lot of comments that say 'It has to be better!' of course it comes down to the price being reasonable or not, and the people not skimming on certain parts, but you can't expect console game quality of a loose band of indie people communicating through Skype. There are more professional teams around here, but a lot of games including the ones by the people posting here aren't.


Edit: I know the bold sentences are from others, I'm using them as the topic titles as opposed to quoting the entire topic.
Last edited by Mammon on Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#11 Post by Amberbaum » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:52 pm

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the bold sentences where actually the comments from my fellow greenlight watch-group members and greenlight regulars who got very annoyed with VN no.X appearing on greenlight. I know they are very extreme examples, but I saw many similar comments like those on different Visual novel greenlight submission.
Mammon wrote:
Amberbaum wrote:Baldur's Gate over Neverwinter Night too a much higher regard then VNs.
Can't really expect such quality around these parts though, have you seen the price rates and project failure rates around here? So,
Amberbaum wrote:I love sound-effects. I especially love new sound-effects that I don't recognize and that isn't used by everyone.
This is something you can't really expect from a place where most people use creative common sound effects. (not even the sound effects you've got to pay for, but CC.) And that actually goes for a lot of comments that say 'It has to be better!' of course it comes down to the price being reasonable or not, and the people not skimming on certain parts, but you can't expect console game quality of a loose band of indie people communicating through Skype. There are more professional teams around here, but a lot of games including the ones by the people posting here aren't.
Hence why I said that "....I will shamefully compare them to a VN made by a small group of people." I am talking from the perspective of a consumer and if a consumer who comes from a similar gaming background like mine sees that BG2 for example is less then 10 bucks, what would they buy? The VN or Baldur's Gate?

It sadly doesn't matter then how much trouble you have with the cost or are a one-person team. The VN-hater will pick BG especially if they are an RPG-fan, except if the VN does really have something BG cannot give them or the VN absolutely piques their interest and makes them think: "I really want to buy this one even thought I can get much more play hours with investing the money on an even cheaper game."

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#12 Post by indoneko » Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:29 pm

except if the VN does really have something BG cannot give them or the VN absolutely piques their interest...
@Amberbaum : do you (by any chance) have good examples of what a (low budget) indie-VN can offer that your regular AAA games can't ?
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#13 Post by KittyWills » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:37 pm

Amberbaum wrote:Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the bold sentences where actually the comments from my fellow greenlight watch-group members and greenlight regulars who got very annoyed with VN no.X appearing on greenlight. I know they are very extreme examples, but I saw many similar comments like those on different Visual novel greenlight submission.
Mammon wrote:
Amberbaum wrote:Baldur's Gate over Neverwinter Night too a much higher regard then VNs.
Can't really expect such quality around these parts though, have you seen the price rates and project failure rates around here? So,
Amberbaum wrote:I love sound-effects. I especially love new sound-effects that I don't recognize and that isn't used by everyone.
This is something you can't really expect from a place where most people use creative common sound effects. (not even the sound effects you've got to pay for, but CC.) And that actually goes for a lot of comments that say 'It has to be better!' of course it comes down to the price being reasonable or not, and the people not skimming on certain parts, but you can't expect console game quality of a loose band of indie people communicating through Skype. There are more professional teams around here, but a lot of games including the ones by the people posting here aren't.
Hence why I said that "....I will shamefully compare them to a VN made by a small group of people." I am talking from the perspective of a consumer and if a consumer who comes from a similar gaming background like mine sees that BG2 for example is less then 10 bucks, what would they buy? The VN or Baldur's Gate?

It sadly doesn't matter then how much trouble you have with the cost or are a one-person team. The VN-hater will pick BG especially if they are an RPG-fan, except if the VN does really have something BG cannot give them or the VN absolutely piques their interest and makes them think: "I really want to buy this one even thought I can get much more play hours with investing the money on an even cheaper game."

Making games is expensive. Making good games even more. If you want to do this professionally you need to be willing to put the money into it. If I only have $10 on me, I'm going to skip the game using CC assets and buy the one with all original, high quality assets. Plus, your average consumer has zero idea how much work and money games take to make. They are going to buy the pretty one. People like to say they don't judge books by their covers, but everyone knows that's a lie.

I don't think this is a trend only for VN-haters, you can be a huge VN fan and still fall into that trap. Look around here. What threads the most popular. The nicer looking games with extra gameplay elements. You need to stand out from the crowd and it's hard to say whats going to be the thing to do that sometimes.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#14 Post by Amberbaum » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:45 pm

I am sorry if I cause more confusion, then give you all some answers. I hope that I can give you an accurate account on why some people will choose the next video game over the VN title and why some people will never read a VN. Hopefully that helps you get a clearer image of your target audience and what they like.

And I agree with you @KittyWills. Most people have no idea about game development and the costs behind it. And we all love pretty stuff. We may look lovingly at some imperfect things but that's about it.
indoneko wrote:
except if the VN does really have something BG cannot give them or the VN absolutely piques their interest...
@Amberbaum : do you (by any chance) have good examples of what a (low budget) indie-VN can offer that your regular AAA games can't ?
Haha, that's a hard one. Funnily enough the first thing that comes to my mind is......dating sims. Yeah, the thing that VN-haters are sick off. The only way you can get your romance-fix via not reading a book or watching a chick-flick is by either playing a Bioware game or playing a visual novel. Dating sims seems also to be the most popular genre out of the VNs on the LSF. Combine it with a good story and people who are already take a liking in reading romantic stories might give it a go. Female audience -> emotions and the build-up of the relationship should be the focus. Something meaningful and charming. It doesn't necessarily needs to have a happy ending. Life-lessons are also good elements for a romance. Character-arcs and a different theme sets. And for the love of all good things - the main characters should absolutely not suck and be your average blushing overdrawn damsel | Male audience -> what applies to the female crowd can be used here. I think we should slightly lean away from the sex sells, which is the general approach for it.

Another thing that I can come up is character customization and decisions that matter. VNs already have a heavy leaning making decisions via text-based input. It's core strength therein lies with being able to create huge thought-out branching that would be impossible for an AAA company to animate or making cut-scenes for every thing. Problem is, this takes time, you'll need a program to keep track of those branching and you really don't want to be aversive toward writing - a lot of writing. Decisions which outcome are easy to predict are boring, thought in some cases necessary. If they stack and create something different depending on what decision combination you'll make, that would be a huge selling point (but also tiresome to write. Either you have the skills and the energy to come up and write something like that or you don't). As for character customization, if the personality can be shaped and set before playing that would be cool. You don't necessarily need a sprite for the main char. Many people like to project themselves into the MC especially if it's written out of first perspective. CGs can be centred towards the scene or the characters you interact with. To be honest, the opinions are divided on this issue. Either you create a fixed MC appearance or you leave it out. Think of what you want kind of VN you want to create and then decide.

I hate to say this, but pretty things sell. That is the sad reality. If the art direction is consistent and you have your unique art then that will be a big plus. Problem is, what about the writing. I have no clue how the writing is on first glance. That's why demos matter. I would have never bought Planet Stronghold: Colonial Defence if it weren't for the demo. It allowed me to get a feel of the flow of the story and it's writing style. I do not regret my purchase.

Interesting gameplay mechanics that you won't find in an AAA title are cool, too. Quantum Conscience from Woodsy Studios is a good example. It was a bit experimental and people where divide whether it was a good novel or not (thought their main complaint was the art). The game gave you feedback in form of the main character acting upon you reading minds which is a skill that the main character acquired at the beginning. To be precise, how much are you using the skill and when are you using it decides the outcome of the story. There were very few traditional decision making in form of dialogue options. Needlessly to say, It was a sci-fi espionage drama. A very good choice for an idea like that.

I general, I would try to pick up those things that the AAA companies don't want to do or ignore. May it be theme, gameplay mechanics or unique artstyles that lure people in that are already acquainted with the indie-game crowd and their quirky or artsy little games. There is the this VN called the Lady's choice - it combined romance, with being able to express yourself in different ways with historical aspects. The time period and the target audience is just about right. Yeah, I've read Pride & Prejudice. So I drolled all over it. As an adult European woman I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was happy to get away from the high school otome games. One would think some big company would pick it up considering all the romance novels and tv series that takes plays in that time period - but nah.... Maybe assassins creed, but that ain't exactly about romance and the stupid class system. I need to think more about this and what AAA titles are currently lacking and what could make the general video game audience pick the VN instead the AAA title. ( hahah...it's 4:40 am in the morning and I am getting a headache..... need some sleep.....maybe then I will remember more and list my favourite VNs that you can show non-VN players)

In the end it's hard to say. Either play it safe and make your established VN audience happy or try out something new that might alienate some traditional Vn players but also might pique the interest of non-Vn player or Vn regulars that love unique VNs.

On the side note, people who love to read, but didn't grew up with video games and are having therefore trouble with the controls will probably find VNs very delightful. If their English is rusty then it's even better. My mother loves the general idea of VNs and likes the fact that she can play at her own pace and is therefore able to look up the words she doesn't understand.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#15 Post by indoneko » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:31 am

@Amberbaum : Ah... I see. Thanks for your insight!
And I'm looking forward to check your "favourite VN for Non-VN-player" list. Maybe I could get some inspiration from there... :3

Btw, sorry to keep you awake while you're about to sleep... :D
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