Non-anime, non-romance VN?

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SinusPi
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Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#1 Post by SinusPi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:30 am

Two weeks ago, I was about to abandon my adventure game concept, since it was written as a mod for The Witcher I, which is pretty much dead now. However, I followed some friends' encouragement, went looking for narration-and-dialogue based adventure game engines, and ended up on Visual Novels and Ren'Py.

However, once in the area, I noticed that pretty much EVERY VN out there is anime-styled. Naturally, I realise Japan's where VNs came from, but is that a de facto standard that cannot be broken, lest my little game be shunned immediately?

Same goes with romantic plots: almost all VNs I've browsed through have some major romantic interest for the protagonist, and most even tailor endings to choosing one of available romance options - thus there are typically "Girl A ending", "Girl A bad ending", "Girl B ending", etc. Is that also in some unwritten "rules" of VNs?

The thing is, my game is a kind of paranormal detective story, with some minor romantic subplots, and definitely too gritty for anime art style. (Mind you, I've seen my share of very serious and dark anime, but the people I'll be targeting the story at might stick to the "cartoons are for kiddies" mindset.) How do you think something like that might fare, given that - luckily - Ren'Py VNs can easily be made standalone, stripped of any Japanese-ness so as not to irk any mangaphobes out there?

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#2 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:09 am

Go for it. VNs are just a medium, you can do whatever you want with them. The more breaking of cliches and bad conventions the better at this point.

By the way, have you ever played Hotel Dusk? It's mostly VN in format with some other elements, features a detective story and has an awesome scribbly black and white art style. It also had no romance paths at all. Non romance isn't terribly uncommon in VNs and anime styles are generally popular at the moment, there isn't an actual reason for them, especially if they don't suit your audience.
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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#3 Post by DaFool » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:20 am

Go for your vision.
But don't expect too much of an audience.

I think it's pretty easy to find non-romance-centric VNs, you just need to see the descriptions. They tend to be short and obscure, though.

I also think anime style can work for mature stories, you just need to have character designs that don't look like kids or teens. The game Catherine is a good example.

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#4 Post by gekiganwing » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:32 am

We need more diversity in western visual novels. And I say this admitting that I like moe-style romance games...

If you look around a bit, you can find some western VNs with distinctive art and themes. This seems to be Bento Smile's specialty -- the person is involved in the general indie games scene, and makes a number of unusual and deconstructionist stories. Likewise, while Christine Love's games tend to involve relationships, some of them have unique art (Digital: A Love Story is presented through an Amiga interface, Heart of Fire is presented through 8-bit sprites), and they usually feature realistic gay characters. There's a number of others which I'm probably forgetting.

Right now, the scene is fairly small. And if you want to *sell* an independent visual novel which lacks fictional relationships or a current anime/manga-esque art style, then it might be difficult... Jack_Norton has tried with the first two Vera Blanc games, but they didn't find much of an audience. Moacube is currently working on Cinders, which will hopefully be finished in the near future. Other people mentioned the commercial game Hotel Dusk. I don't know how it sold... its follow-up game Last Window did have an English version, but was only sold in the UK for some reason.

Also, here's a little secret: some of the first visual novels were serious mystery stories. If you haven't heard of The Portopia Serial Murder Case, then look into it. There's even some English patches available for the Famicom version. Likewise, there's a blurb on the Visual Novel Database which talks about how Chunsoft's vintage games use art which one might not expect -- pixel art, photographs, and even live stills.

In any media form, it helps to look at the history, so that you can see the not-so-commercial products that came before the current stuff that's selling squillions. If you haven't seen a non-superhero comic in a while, read Understanding Comics. If you can't remember an eastern RPG which had any adult protagonists, then look back at Final Fantasy 4, early Suikoden, or the first Shin Megami Tensei. If you look back on the history of comics which appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump, then you'll find ones which might seem shocking now, including Fist of the North Star, City Hunter, and Kazushi Hagiwara's series Bastard!

One more thing... I'm quite aware of the Animation Age Ghetto. Western cartoons have often been ignored, and treated as ephemera at best. It's taken many years to get more than one cartoon on prime time television. So yeah, we don't need a '90s style grimdark cartoon just to shake these things up. And while some of the stuff that Manga Entertainment sells is a good alternative to the current moe/harem/slice of life shows, storytelling is much better than shock value.

So in short, write what you want, and use whatever art you want. Good luck.

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#5 Post by fleet » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:16 pm

In my opinion. making a visual novel with a non-manga art style will be probably get little attention here (see reference to Jack_Norton's Vera Blanc games). :cry: If you're writing a VN hoping to get tons of praise and wide acceptance here at LSF, go with a manga or cutesy anime art style. :roll:

If you're writing because you have a story you want to tell, follow your heart and make it your way. :wink:

Regarding your other question, non-romance visual novels are gaining more acceptance.
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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#6 Post by redeyesblackpanda » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:17 pm

You certainly won't get shunned for making a VN in a different style. It might not be popular among the people who generally play the typical VN, but it doesn't sound like you're targeting those people anyway. :)
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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#7 Post by sake-bento » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:11 pm

Please do! We'd be happy to have you. I've seen all sorts of genres and styles of visual novels, even ones made up entirely of photographs.

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#8 Post by PyTom » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:28 pm

SinusPi wrote:The thing is, my game is a kind of paranormal detective story, with some minor romantic subplots, and definitely too gritty for anime art style. (Mind you, I've seen my share of very serious and dark anime, but the people I'll be targeting the story at might stick to the "cartoons are for kiddies" mindset.) How do you think something like that might fare, given that - luckily - Ren'Py VNs can easily be made standalone, stripped of any Japanese-ness so as not to irk any mangaphobes out there?
I think this is perfectly fine.

The one issue to be careful about is that - for various reasons - this forum tends to have a lot of people that like the Japanese styles. So it's possible your game won't get as much attention here for that reason, and you'll have to work a little harder to reach your target audience. But you seem to have a target audience in mind, and I'm assuming you already have plans to reach them. Go for it.

(And if that brings more diversity of style into the vn-making fold, that's probably a good thing.)
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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#9 Post by Pyonkotchi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:10 pm

Anime is not an art style. :<

that being said, there are plenty of non-romance games and art styles that aren't influenced by manga
most people aren't going to get angry or throw a fit and shun your work because it isn't a kawaii nippon dating sim =P
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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#10 Post by Percon » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:21 pm

I was going to wait until my project was ready to launch to register for these forums, but I felt compelled to chime in.

I've been lurking these forums for a while and yes, at a glance, it would appear that romance games with a Japanese-inspired aesthetic experience more popularity and hype. It certainly is the safest thing to do if all you want is to receive praise in a WIP post. Even though most people here seem to prefer manga-style dating sims, they are generally supportive of anyone with a more offbeat project, which I am thankful for.

I personally hope that some more people are willing to take the risk and try to westernize their games a bit as there may be an untapped market in the west for interactive fiction.

From what I've been able to surmise, there are three main groups of people in the west that play these types of games:

1. The first is a group of tight-knit people who believe that only games from Japan are worthy of their time. These people are both impossible to cater to and few in number, so I would not recommend making a game for them.

2. The second group includes most of the frequenters of LSF. These people are more open minded when it comes to VNs and are very interested in projects that are made by western developers, mainly because a lot of them have their own aspirations to make them. Generally, they appear to prefer dating sims, especially ones catered at girls. Mystery games are the (distant) second most popular after romance, it seems.

3. The third group is the more traditional western gamer, who will usually only play interactive fiction if there is another draw to the game, such as Phoenix Wright's courtroom/detective gameplay or Professor Layton's puzzles. Some of them are not particularly fond of manga or anime, though it is usually not a complete turn-off. For the most part, not into dating sims, stat raising, or erotic games. I consider myself part of this group.

Now, when developing a game, you obviously need a target audience. But should you develop for group 2 or group 3?

If you develop for group 2, your game will get a lot of attention by merely posting on these forums, and so long as your idea follows certain customs of the medium and had at least average quality, you'll safely find an audience.

However, group 3 is the largest audience. Though LSF and similar communities have grown a bit in recent years, I still think that Japanese-styled interactive fiction games are a niche in the western world. You can find success, and even some profit, in making games for group 2, but you might not get the audience you want and you'll never be a massive hit.

The problem is that if you're developing for group 3, there's no way to guarantee you'll even find a little bit of success. There isn't a safe way to ensure that your game will arrive in the hands of your target audience. Essentially, your chances of "failing" (whatever your definition of failing may be) are much greater, though the potential for success is much greater.

I would recommend trying something that might cater to a "Group 2.75", which is the approach I am taking with my project. Make it more western oriented and follow your original vision for your story, try and remove as many barriers to entry for interactive fiction as you can, make it a free project if possible, and make it as digestible and accessible as you can for western gamers. However, consider keeping a few maxims of the more traditional Japanese visual novel just in case your project doesn't take off as intended, so that you can always fall back to group 2 and ensure that your game has an audience. I think a mystery game would be the best genre to satisfy both group 2 and group 3, so it sounds like your project might fit the bill.

Whatever path you chose with your story, I wish you the best of luck. Personally, I would like to see fewer people adhere to the Japanese way of handling interactive fiction.

Sorry if my post seemed a little abrasive. Oh, and I might be totally off with my analysis of the different groups of players, but that's just what I've observed as an outsider.

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#11 Post by wingzofdarkness » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:51 pm

I agree! Anime is NOT an art style, it is a form of art (a.k.a animation).

By all means, do it! I would love to play something that revolves little around romance and more about the problem at hand. Don't be discourage because there are plenty of people who will play the type of game you are trying to make :]

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#12 Post by SinusPi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:11 pm

Actually, I'm not STRICTLY looking for an audience. I was just wondering IF some audience might receive my project well, it being what it is. I can't make it anime-ish (oh come on, an "animated" character portrait, drawn in full-color manga style, can - to convey the idea easily - be called "anime-styled", let's not be picky :P) as it wouldn't fit my genre well, I definitely won't cram more romance into it, and the scenario is mostly advanced dialogue and a little bit of choice-making, so it's destined to be a VN. How well received is another matter - the goal is to just get the thing out the door :P

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#13 Post by Meinos Kaen » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:29 pm

I think there needs to be more than romance and/or smut in Visual Novels. Sometimes the best parts are overlooked to make space for that in case of a fixed game length. The blatant example is the latest VN I've played, Princess Waltz. The best parts of that Eroge were the fighting scenes but they were too few. One that promised to be pretty epic was completely shunned over.

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#14 Post by Auro-Cyanide » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:50 pm

SinusPi wrote: I can't make it anime-ish (oh come on, an "animated" character portrait, drawn in full-color manga style, can - to convey the idea easily - be called "anime-styled", let's not be picky :P)
Incorrect. A style is a style. You don't say 'graphic novel style' or 'cartoon style' since those are not definitive and encompass a very large range of styles. In the same way, 'anime' and 'manga' encompasses a huge number of styles. Ghost in the Shell is different from Fullmetal Alchemist which is different from Lucky Star (and difference tend to be even more defined in manga). Have you ever seen the manga 'Until Death Do Us Part'? A style like that might suit.

I think people are more accepting of, for lack of a better word, 'weaker' anime-inspired styled drawings. If you are looking in going for some other types of styles, they will have to be competent, more so than if they were in the manga and anime ranges. I think this has a lot to do both with exposure and also how close a style is to realsim (the closer a style is to realism, the more technically correct it has to be to look good).

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Re: Non-anime, non-romance VN?

#15 Post by SinusPi » Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:10 pm

What short term would you opt for, then, Auro-Cyanide, to describe fully colored (optionally: shaded) hand-drawn illustrations of characters, featuring bodily and facial proportions most commonly found in Asian animated features? As opposed to drawings featured in American or European comics, technically similar, but differing in proportions. And as opposed to drawings featured in manga, which do tend to adhere to Japanese body proportion drawing rules, but are either black-and-white and raster-shaded, or pastel- or watercolored. And as opposed to typical (mostly) realistic "fantasy paintings".

Not to be a rules lawyer or a troll, but I usually call the first kind "anime style", the second kind "western comic style", the third "manga style", and the last "fantasy style" or "realistic style". Most of the forum avatars here would be "anime-styled", since they could easily come from anime cels.

If my naming would be confusing to people in this forum, please, point me to terms that I should be using :]

As for the graphic style I'll be aspiring to - well, I'm lucky to have http://ailinon.deviantart.com offering her services. Shouldn't leave much to be desired, I guess.

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