Replay value in a visual novel

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Lesleigh63
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Replay value in a visual novel

#1 Post by Lesleigh63 » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:27 pm

I'm wondering what people think enhances replay value in a visual novel. What gets you as a player to go back and try out another path and how much thought do you give to replay value when you are creating your game. Is it better if the paths are quite different to each other so you get a feeling of a new experience?
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#2 Post by papillon » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:34 pm

I can't see why anyone would bother playing again for a new path if the paths are really similar. In cases where they're similar because they're the same path that branches off near the end, many players will probably try to save near that branch point so they can minimise having to look at the same stuff all over again.

(Playing the same path again because it's your favoritest thing ever is somewhat different.)

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#3 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:36 pm

Not sure if I am qualified to respond, as I rarely play VNs, but I think differing paths would help. Especially if each path enhances the other.

Example: I have 2 protagonists in my VN. Originally they were going to have similar stories, with just a few changes. Ended up reworking it so there will be things that only one of them could know. If the player plays as both protagonists, they will have the full story, which will then allow them to unlock an extra chapter as a kind of reward, using information they got from the two playthroughs.

Pulp Fiction is perhaps a better example. There are many different stories, but each is enhanced by the others, because they are related, and give extra meaning to each other.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#4 Post by Sharm » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:43 pm

I don't think the paths need to be hugely different as long as there's something interesting and unique about each path. I've seen it done where each path is very divergent to the point where the information I get from one is untrue in the other paths but I hate that. I like to learn things that enhance what I know about the characters, story and world. Finding out more about the villain's motivation, learning how magic works, seeing a different side of someone I'd never see any other way, those are all interesting to me. I also like to see how other people react to the changes as well which is something I don't see nearly enough of in romance games. If I'm going to pick guy A I'd like to see how guy B handles it, you know? I don't think any of those things are going to get me the feeling of a new experience but I don't think that matters as long as it's fun.

Replay is something that I keep in the back of mind as I make my game, although mostly it happens naturally because I play my game over and over again as I build it. It's not a really high priority though, most people are just going to play it in one sitting so I focus more on making a game that's enjoyable no matter which path you choose.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#5 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:44 am

Lesleigh63 wrote:I'm wondering what people think enhances replay value in a visual novel. What gets you as a player to go back and try out another path and how much thought do you give to replay value when you are creating your game. Is it better if the paths are quite different to each other so you get a feeling of a new experience?
There are a lot of people with different playstyle. Some just play once in the way fit their style best. Some will start out with a walkthrough in-hand for golden ending straight away. Some will play the path they prefer, then once more with walkthrough to get the best ending of that path. Some will try to get all good endings. Some will try to get all endings, including the obscure and yet bad one. Some will try to see all single lines of dialogue available.
In other word, the more of a completionist the player is, the less work you need to do to add in replay value.
I don't think making the paths quite different from each other is better at all. It takes a lot more work to write a completely new path. Definitely a bunch of new CG too and they are never easy. Not to count possible extra BG, sprites and music.
papillon wrote:I can't see why anyone would bother playing again for a new path if the paths are really similar. In cases where they're similar because they're the same path that branches off near the end, many players will probably try to save near that branch point so they can minimise having to look at the same stuff all over again.
There are a lot of way to force the player to replay the whole game again with minimal extra effort on the creator's part. How effective they are depends on how much of a completionist the player is. Here is a few examples of such method that might be effective to players who is only slightly completionist:

1. Sort of hacking into the game, there are literally no way the player can know for sure how the mechanism for the game branching work. So simply not giving out the details of how many endings there are, don't use obvious and well known mechanics (such as affection points with predictable menu choice), drown the player in a sea of decision points (all or most of which have no or little significant effects), hinting at secret golden endings or secret characters with very stringent requirement.

2. Writing a completely new path is good and all, but take way more work. Simply make it so that after the branching point, the story still follow the same story, except that occasionally there is a small slight changes to the dialogue to acknowledge which branch are they on. Make these changes small but have very significant information. This also have the advantage of allowing you to have a lot more branching points with little work.

3. Sprinkle in unskippable long minigames. Make each various have various level of success: the player can beat the minigame performing well, or performing badly, or various in-between (all of which let the player continue with the story). Make the ending determine by the performance in these minigames. Make sure the player do not know when they finished whether they have performed at the best possible level - they might know it's best so far, but not necessarily best possible.

4. Make the branch point happen at the end, but determined by choices at the very beginning. Disable skipping mode.

5. Make one ending unlock another in a specific sequence. You can even make a whole bunch of endings that are just slightly different, but each need to be unlocked to be able to acquire the next one in order, and dangle a carrot at the end: a final golden ending which is significantly different just to make player slog through all the other one to get. Take a bit more coding work, but you can force the unlock to be applicable to new game only. If the player unlock an ending, then load a game that is started before that ending is unlocked, they still cannot get that ending from that save file.

6. Changes the dialogue slightly at many places after specific endings are unlocked, in which the changes reveal a bit of significant information about the story. Sprinkle the changes at various place throughout the game. Just as above, make sure the change is only applied if a new game is started. Add in small but obviously new scene at the beginning to give the player the feeling "this definitely did not happen before", and make small changes to the dialogue near the beginning too, forcing them to be on the edge to look out for small changes throughout the game. Make sure the game still treat those changed dialogue as "seen" nonetheless, making skipping a risky thing to do (or alternatively, make sure there is no options to skip only seen dialogue, it's always skipping everything).

7. Just as above, but now sprinkle in quiz throughout the game that ask about details available only in these changes. If the player get a single details wrong, continue the game as normal, but near the end branch off to a bad ending. Disable rollback.

8. Make extra events available at certain points in the story, that is only played under stringent requirement of correct choices made since the start. Ensure that the requirement for each event mutually contradict each other, so the player have to replay the whole game to see a new event.

9. Sprinkle small variation of dialogue throughout the game each reveal a small amount of information. Make which one you see completely random. Make sure the random choice are chosen when a new game is created, so player cannot just reload.

10. Make the ending so bad and is portrayed in such a way that make the player think it is because they made bad choice, forcing them to replay again. Add a lot of decision point throughout the game with no significant effect. Do not tell the player that the downer ending is unavoidable and is canon.

Of course, there are a lot of way to mix-and-match all of these.
Last edited by Elmiwisa on Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#6 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:56 am

Sorry, but it reads like a list of ways to annoy players.

The goal should be to decide how to provide the best experience with the available time and resources.
Trying to find ways to drag out a VN with a minimum of effort is not going to make a VN any better, and will only harm the creators' reputations.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#7 Post by chocojax » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:38 am

Having a plot twist/anything that's "unforeseeable" until the end would increase the replay value. More of, "Oh, I never noticed that hint before! That's crazy." or something. This goes towards anything, really, but works for a VN too.

As for routes/paths, I'm not sure. F/SN "forced" players to go to a different route, but it seems more like a story device? I read it a long time ago, but more information/back story/etc was added on each time. It was also "what if this happened instead of that," which made it entirely easy for me to go through all of it. :v

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#8 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:44 am

TrickWithAKnife wrote:Sorry, but it reads like a list of ways to annoy players.

The goal should be to decide how to provide the best experience with the available time and resources.
Trying to find ways to drag out a VN with a minimum of effort is not going to make a VN any better, and will only harm the creators' reputations.
Ah... :oops: sorry that the list sound that way to you. My wording is probably not the best, so I might have described these methods in such a way that make you think that I am condemning these methods. But I assure you that am not condemning them.

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#9 Post by TrickWithAKnife » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:09 am

It's not really that. It's more that many of them are often condemned, so I'm not sure if it's a good idea to encourage them. Here's how I understood the list:

1. Give the player a lot of meaningless choices.
This is something we are often told not to do when making a VN.

3. Have unskippable long minigames.
This is something that people tend to complain about.

4. Make the player have to play through the entire game again just to change one early choice.
Seems like a bit of a mean thing to do, especially if the majority of the game isn't much different in the second playthrough.

6. Possibly disable skipping of already seen dialogue.
You know that thing that you have already seen? Read it again.

7. Make it really easy to get a bad ending.
Nobody is perfect. This would just force players to find a guide online, or perhaps just rage quit.

10. Give them a bad ending, no matter what. And have plenty of meaningless choices.
Having a single ending that is bad is actually okay, but tricking them into thinking they have control over what happens when they don't is just mean. Look at the ending to Mass Effect 3, and the backlash that caused as a prime example.
And meaningless choices are a bit of an insult to the players' intelligence.
Last edited by TrickWithAKnife on Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#10 Post by Sharm » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:40 am

I agree with TrickWithAKnife, I'm a completionist player and I would ragequit any game that followed those guidelines and doubt the game creator's ability to do anything worthwhile. There's a lot of pretending to have more content when you actually don't or using the engine to give the illusion of meaning. Those all damage the thing I come to VN's for, a great story. Replay means nothing if you can't tell an interesting and involving story. If I'm always worried about some meaningless and random information or choice I won't be involved in the story and I won't care about your game.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#11 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:05 pm

@TrickWithAKnife: huh, so you are actually criticizing these methods? I thought that you supported them and were disagreeing with me because you thought that I denounce them. Which I why I tried to clarify myself. Well guess we are back to disagreement. Here is the counter defence:

-All of the points you made about how these can be annoying to the player are perfectly sensible, and in fact I agree with a lot of your point. Here is the thing: this is Creator Discussion, yet all of the point you made is from the point of view of a player. I am not a VN creator yet of course (not until my first debut), but I am making one, so I already have to need to take creator's side factors into account. The players are not going to take into account issue like time, cost and commitment to make what they want, or at least underestimate the amount needed. Your players ask for the moon and the stars, but if you only have a light bulb and glitter paper, the best you can do is to put them out of reach and hope that nobody take a closer look.

-As I said before, if you don't make meaningless choice obvious, then short of hacking into the game, the player simply CANNOT know whether the choice are meaningless or not. Maybe the choice just have very subtle and obscure effect. It is not an insult to the player's intelligence really, it just take advantage of their ignorance. If someone realize the truth, what are they going to do about it? Call you out? Write a scathing review? Spread their displeasure on various game forum? There will be people who don't realize that, and if they like your game for some other reasons, they will defend for you. And it will work because it is a plausible denial: there is no way to truly prove that they are meaningless choices without hacking into the game. And just as a safety measure, you can simply make a little bit of extra effort to add content that allow you to trip these people up and cause them to lose credibility and perhaps even doubt themselves when they try to claim that the choices are meaningless. For example, let's say your game consist of a lot of meaningless decision points, and among them there are 10 meaningless decision points, each give 2 options. Then there is a total of 2^10=1024 possible way to make these 10 choices. Pick one possible way out, and add in an extra scene at the ending if that exact sequence of choices is made, and make sure there is no significant clues that will clue people in on which one is the correct one. That of course won't take much work. However, if some reviewer, or some disillusioned player, try to claim that your game is full of meaningless decision point, guess what would happen? They are unlikely to have found the hidden scene, and would cite these 10 decision points as example. If you have 1000 fans each player the game multiple time, a few of your fan would have stumble upon that extra scene. And they will of course point that out to show that these decision points are not meaningless. This will cast doubt on the credibility of the reviewer, perhaps even to the point they will doubt themselves, because after all, they make judgment before they have experience the full game. And to an outsider, the whole review will be invalidated and sound like it is written by some ignorant hater who have not really played the game. Add a few of these trap in and you can pretty much cast doubt on every scathing review people made about the game.

-Player complain about anything that does not match their expectation. So if they looks for a pure VN and get one with long minigame, they will complain. If they look for VN with puzzle minigame and get trading cards minigame, they will also complain. There is no ends to that.

-One source of complain you could reasonable handle though is bad and repetitive minigame. Make the minigame interesting. Vary some parameters randomly. Sure it would take some extra works to design them, but when it come down to it, a bit of extra puzzle design work and programming is still less effort than hours of drawing extra art and writing dialogue. But forcing the player to go through them again greatly increase the playthrough time, increasing replay value a lot more.

-It is not about making it easy to get a bad ending. It is about forcing them to read dialogue really carefully. The quiz could be something really easy, like asking about some fact about the game world that is already explicitly stated in a dialogue. This way nobody can fail if they were to read the dialogue. Yet it is a more effective way to ensure the player to read the whole game again than just disabling skipping, because if you disable skipping player will just keep tabbing the Enter key to quickly get through dialogue. Disabling skipping is just to ensure that player can't just rely on the skipping only seen dialogue feature to skip through stuff they already read and look at only new information.

-When all is say and done, then sure, sometimes it is a mean and cruel thing to do to the player, but you have limited resources, so you just have to choose between either being nice, or increasing replay value. Which one do you choose depend a lot of what you are trying to do:

(a) If you are commercial, you want people to get around to lost interest in your game by the time the next one come around, so replay value that take a lot of effort to do work against you, and that's not counting the resource spent on adding the content; but...you want to have something that is still replay value that allowing you to advertise on which would increase sale, which is why the above methods would be very useful in making both of them happen. Make slight variation on CG rack up CG count greatly; copy and paste dialogue and make some variations bump up the word count; add in a lot of abrupt game over ending increase ending count; and you can count one path for each obtainable character even though each path is only slightly different from each other. Oh and you can even sell walkthrough too if you drowned the players in a sea of decision points, netting you some extra profit.

(b) If you are free, and want your work to be admired by as many people as possible, then think about this. There are plenty of players who play through the game very few times. And what they did not see, is what they will never see, and thus that part of the work is never going to be admired by them. Do you rather increase replay value by adding in extra contents, which make most of your work unseen by a large amount of players, or would you make all the content available easily in one playthrough, which would make the whole thing have very low replay value? The answer is obvious here: the above methods give you the best of both world.

(c) If you are free, and want to get the fame and admiration from other people, then think about this. Does it worth years of work just to get a moment (few months perhaps, maybe 1-2 years) of admiration? If your game have high replay value, people will talk about your game for years down the road, and it might become a legend. But YOU...will be FORGOTTEN...

(d) If you want to make a VN with best replay value ever, doing it just for the love of art, story, or replayability, no matters how much it hurt, then, uh...do you even exist?

================================

@Sharm: great story and replay value are two completely independent quality really, neither have effect on the other, so I don't think claiming that adding in illusion of extra content will somehow compromise good story make much sense. Here is a thought experiment:
Take your favourite KN with masterful story and imagine that you can edit it and add in stuff. Looks for scene where you can add pretty much meaningless choices in that have nothing to do with the story. Add in a lot of them in, each with lots of options. Now add in a few hidden scene or small variation to dialogue, each can only be seen by a very specific and obscure combination of choices associated with each scene, and these scene have mutually exclusive requirement. Make these scene or variation reveal some information that have nothing to do with the plot. If player like a character, they want to know information about the character no matter how irrelevant, do they not? That's why we have character profile that have blood type, zodiac sign, height, weight, favourite colour, favourite quote, likes and dislikes, etc. Just make these hidden scene and variation reveal a little bit of these information. Add subtle hint to the story line to give a sense that these choices would somehow give you extra information.
In the end, you got yourself a VN that is pretty much just the original KN, with the same wonderful story. But now you can force player to go through the game many many times, each only reveal a bit more of the contents, assuming that they even manage to stumble on the correct requirement to unlock a new scene. To ensure maximum replayability, use mainly variation to dialogue, sprinkle it into off handed comments and place where people might try to skip manually, to ensure they will not want to use the skip through anything; disable the option to skip only seen dialogue too.

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#12 Post by Greeny » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:36 pm

Elimwisa, you're forgetting one important point: The replay value is always 0 if players don't want to replay.
I gave up on completing Taleweaver's Adrift, and that is an example of an excellently written VN. So if it's so good, why did I give up? I kept getting forced to replay/retry instead of getting a satisfying ending. Eventually I just got bored of trying. Never even got a good ending.

I'd rather focus on giving the player a flowing, coherent and satisfying experience on their first playthrough. If that means making a more linear experience, so be it, but in my ongoing VN project I aim to give the player a complete story no matter their choices or ending.

I'm here to entertain, not to keep you busy for as many hours as possible.

In my opinion, if a player hits an ending and thinks: "no, this isn't good enough. I have to get back and get a different ending." then you're doing it wrong.

Of course it really depends on the tone of your story.
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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#13 Post by AxemRed » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:37 pm

"Everyone will think your game is shit, but they'll never be able to prove it without reading the source code"

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#14 Post by Elmiwisa » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:52 pm

Greeny wrote:Elimwisa, you're forgetting one important point: The replay value is always 0 if players don't want to replay.
I gave up on completing Taleweaver's Adrift, and that is an example of an excellently written VN. So if it's so good, why did I give up? I kept getting forced to replay/retry instead of getting a satisfying ending. Eventually I just got bored of trying. Never even got a good ending.
Uh no I mentioned it right in the post where I replied to the first post - there are just players who will give up. Which make it even more sensible to add replay value in in a way that involve minimum effort, so it won't be wasted on those who don't replay.
AxemRed wrote:"Everyone will think your game is shit, but they'll never be able to prove it without reading the source code"

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Of course it should not be the case that whole game that is a problem, just the replay part with meaningless choice. And not everyone. Those few who realized that the choice are meaningless can go on and believe it, but they cannot convince the rest of that without reading the source code. And as I mentioned above, add in several trap just to actively undermine their credibility further can even make they doubt themselves.
P.S. what is that letters at the end? I can't translate it...

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Re: Replay value in a visual novel

#15 Post by Greeny » Fri Sep 13, 2013 4:58 pm

Elmiwisa wrote:
Greeny wrote:Elimwisa, you're forgetting one important point: The replay value is always 0 if players don't want to replay.
I gave up on completing Taleweaver's Adrift, and that is an example of an excellently written VN. So if it's so good, why did I give up? I kept getting forced to replay/retry instead of getting a satisfying ending. Eventually I just got bored of trying. Never even got a good ending.
Uh no I mentioned it right in the post where I replied to the first post - there are just players who will give up. Which make it even more sensible to add replay value in in a way that involve minimum effort, so it won't be wasted on those who don't replay.
That will only further decrease the entertainment value of your product, and reduce the number of people who will replay.

If you're banking on those who will keep replaying out of sole compulsion, even though they don't enjoy it, how do you expect to achieve fame? Nobody's going to praise a game for replay value alone.
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