Ren'Py specific questions should be posted in the Ren'Py Questions and Annoucements forum, not here.
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I think the issue is much clearly more clarified now, thanks to Greeny for clearing certain thing up. I would like to add some more clarification as well on how I interpret the issue of this thread (technically, I already said these in reply to some other people):
-This thread is about how to add replay value. That means the goal of adding replay value must be achieved regardless of cost. papillon already made this clarification.
-Once the goal is achieved, then quality of player experience is should still be as good as still possible. While trying to achieve the goal, constraint on the creator's resource should be respected.
-Under normal circumstance, if adding replay value is causing problem to player's experience, then player's experience take the priority. But under the premise of this thread, adding replay value take the priority, so my reply have always been made under that assumption. The thread after all never asked about the why, only the how. If what it take is dragging the player kicking and screaming through the old content, well then so be it, but avoid that as much as possible.
-I did not foresee the problem of disabling skipping cause to natural replay. It is only meant to be so that player cannot skip if they make different choice and want to just see the new scene. It is just some technical hurdle really, we can always add in some code to ensure that skipping mode is enabled as long as the player make essentially the same choice as before. Not a feature supported in Ren'Py (or any other VN maker I know of) of course, but we can certainly add one in.
-I stated "no or little effects" in my original post, which is strictly mechanical. I short-handed into "meaningless" later. Sorry for that confusion, so I did not realize that you were talking about a different meaning back then.
-If the player do not have to go through the same content again, then it does NOT count as REplay. Sure the player will definitely be more happy that way (I am agreeing with this point Sharm made, because I also hate the lack of skipping mode and text log/rollback), but whatever it is called, it is not REplay anymore, and thus is not a topics for this thread. That (a) is not better than (b) in term of player experience, but it is better in term of achieving the goal of adding REplay value.
-Many many games are able to force the players to go through the same content again and again and make them love it. Hence the reason why I suggest using method that work in other games and mold them into VN context. In many games you cannot skip long cutscene is it not? That is equivalent to forcing the player to read through the text again and again for each playthrough just to get that ending they want. In many RPG you have mandatory boss with 1000000HP that you have to fight every playthrough is it not? That is equivalent to unskippable long minigame. In a MMORPG you kill the same monster or those with slight variation again and again, hundred of times even long after they are an interesting challenge, to finish quest or level up, is it not? That is basically sprinkling in slight variation to dialogue and/or change a few variable in your minigame. Some RPG with 100% completion requirement for good ending, and it is very easy to miss out a point right from the start, so the player have to play the game many times to get all of them is it not? This is equivalent to make ending dependent on choice at beginning of the VN. Yet, despite seeing the same content again and again dozens to hundred time, players still love it and come back for more, which is why these games still remain popular. That means it should be possible to drag player through the same content multiple times in a VN, we just need to apply whatever tricks these games use correctly to keep the play happy.
-As Greeny said, I count the role of natural replay as a source of replay as well, but because it does not come from conscious effort by the creator to add replay value, it is not relevant to the thread.
-Actually, I do consider writing a totally new path, just as Lesleigh asked about at the start, another source of replay as well. I did not listed it, because: (a) it is already an obvious method that everyone know about; (b) it increases the cost much much more than the method I listed hence breaking the constraint on resource; and (c) if different paths are too different and have nothing to do with each other, it is no longer REplay. I already made these point in reply on Lesleigh in the first post.
Yeah I know that, hence I also made suggestion of tripping them over by hiding crucial new details among old content. I played a lot of Nancy Drew game (which are adventure game so text can't be skipped over already) and one big different between difficulty level is whether you get an in-game notebook that store crucial details or not, forcing you to pay attention in harder mode.
Since everyone else is criticizing the issue of making player going through the same old content again, while I think it is very much part of the definition of replay, I think the clarification would come in handy. If people thought that somehow doing a completely different content can count as replay as well, then well that explain a lot of the disagreement.
Yes I do in fact denounce directly arguing against the reviewer, because it is bad publicity. Rig your VN so that the reviewer accidentally make errors and thus allowing your players to discredit the reviewer out of their own volition is what I suggested.
Now to counter your point. I do not assume that review are not bright, but I do assume that they do not have time to see everything. Unlike a book or a movie, a VN can have so much nooks and crannies that they can miss out and thus making wrong opinions because they simply don't have time to see everything. Of course, they also have opinion that are valid even without having to see everything (such as art quality, frequency of typos, etc.), and that you can't really avoid. The hope here is bait them into making invalid opinion that look valid to them because they have not seen everything, so that their opinion are discredited in the eyes of those who know better:
-If the reviewer think your story is full of plot hole, but it is not and they simply did not get to the part that explain them, should the reviewer change their opinion once he know these? If the answer is no, then they are stubborn.
-As I stated above, do not engage directly with the reviewer. They will win the PR war if you do, no matter what. Even if the "reviewer" is someone who hate you and just shout random unsupported opinion, you still should not engage them.
-Now I am talking about machanically-meaningless here, in case that is causing misunderstanding. My original post said that "no or little effects" which is clearer. Assuming that there are no hackers among the players, then yes you can do that, because people can't really know if something have effect or not without looking into the code.
-Oh yes you can. Look at like literally almost all MMORPG out there. People grind through loads and loads of monsters they have no interest in fighting, and loudly complain about that, yet they still come back aren't they? Now just need to figure out how to make it work for a VN.
In the end, as a creator, one of the goal should still be to make player happy. Regardless of how happiness is achieved. Whether the happiness come from playing a truly awesome VN, or being tricked into thinking the VN they already played is well-crafted, or being woefully ignorance of its flaws, it is still happiness all the same. When you watch a magician's show, would you rather seeing the illusionist performing the trick and not knowing how they managed that or would you rather have someone spoil you the method? The scathing reviewers are the one who point out the flaws you tried to hide, the flaws your players would rather not notice because they want to believe they just played a perfect VN. Is it not your duty as a creator to ensure that your players never believe these reviewers even if your players hear something from these reviewers?
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If there are problems with a VN, I'd hope that play testers would point them out, and the devs would do what they can to fix, remove or replace that problem.
Reviewers are not our enemies. They are very hard to please players who will bring your VN to the attention of people who may not have known about it, or who people who are unsure about a VN may check to get a better idea on whether it's worth playing. The majority of people who check reviews also check other reviews from the same place to know how critical they usually are. If a very popular reviewer who trashes all games does a scathing review of my VN, I'd be over the moon. Free advertising, and their fans will know not to take the criticisms so seriously.
I can't see how you can rig a VN so the reviewers make errors, unless you send them a different version to what other players will play. It seems like wasted effort just to annoy the reviewers.
If the annoyances are in all versions, then something went horribly wrong in the development process.
If the plot had annoying holes that were not filled in a playthrough, then that is the failure of the writer.
MMORPGs are very different to VNs, so they can get away with some things that people wouldn't put up with in VNs. The expectations are different too.
They tend to have far more indepth development systems, that can be used to alter gameplay. There is a strong competitive elect, as well as teamwork.
In VNs, character development is more suitable. No one wants to grind for affection points. There is no multiplayer element, except perhaps in a few exceptions.
Grinding in a MMORPG means doing a lot of missions, and experiencing a lot of combat. Grinding in a VN would basically mean reading the same text over and over, or playing the same mini game over and over until it's part of your nightmares.
Overall, I think trying to make the best VN that your abilities and resources will allow is far better than using trickery to try and cover up the flaws.
If you'd like to view or use any code from my VN PM me. All code is freely available without restriction, but also without warranty or (much) support.
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Game-like visual novels tend to use the choice structure to provide challenge to the user. If getting a good ending is hard, players will feel like the accomplished something by making it to the end.
On the other hand, adaptive stories use choices to change the story the player sees. If the player isn't treating the VN as a game, then he shouldn't be punished for not playing the game.
The important thing is that the visual novel make clear early on what kind it is. If it's going to be a game-like VN, make it easy to get a bad ending early on - so the player knows that saving is important, and that he has to carefully consider his choice, and so that he goes into game-player mode. Limit how much time a player can invest in a bad path - it's one thing to ask the player to spend a few minutes on a bad ending, and quite different to ask him to spend hours or days.
In no case disable features people expect, like saving and rollback - that's a good way to annoy people. (I think many players are able to load from a save or skip through the game without losing much - and doing so is a good way to begin another playthrough.)
(When was the last time you backed up your game?)
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I even have good examples.
For the game-like VNs, you can just take pretty much every dating game ever.
Some people are of course happy with getting that one character that they like. You will almost NEVER get them to replay ANYTHING. They play as far as they like and then quit.
Anyway, some people (like me xD) are more or less perfectionists. They play the game again and again and again. They try to make every person fall for you, they collect the CGs as if they would be worth cash. There are unlockables? Oh man, gotta unlock each and every of those.
It is easy to satisfy those players, as they replay almost everything, only to feel satisfied with being able to say "I played that game 100%!"
Outside of VNs, there would be games like "Skies of Arcadia" (with a thief guild to destroy, bounty from ten criminals to collect and 100 objects to discover) and Legend of Zelda (x heart pieces, collect all golden bugs in Twilight Princess or make a photo of every person and monster in Wind Waker). You don't HAVE to do that, you can finish the game perfectly fine without and there are player that stop or not even try to do those things. But there are players that do and maybe even restart, if some of the things can't be done after event X and they can't get 100% anymore.
The adaptive games are more difficult, but usually very awesome AND make you curious, if not forced to replay.
The literally BEST game as an example for that would be "The Stanley Parable". It has AT LEAST 15 endings, 10 achievements and 19 things that will get you a reaction in-game.
Believe it or not, but I haven't heard of even one person that has played the game and not at least ONCE replayed it. Not everyone got all endings, but most played at least four to five of the routes and enjoyed it a lot.
The thing with this game and every other adaptive game is, that it gives you CHOICES that MATTER.
It is pretty simple in that game as the first obvious choice is "The narrator tells you to take the left door". Do you do it? Or will you disobey? IT MATTERS. EVERYTHING will change on your decision. The things being said, the places you go.
Sometimes the game even changes its design after ending X, just to make you go "Wtf, did I not yet get the ending or is the game fucking with me?".
Just as a very little spoiler: There is a broom chamber. Whenever you go in there, the narrator will comment on it (it changes with each re-run). After about five plays where you went inside it, you will find that the broom chamber has been NAILED SHUT. You can't ever enter it again, as the narrator is annoyed with you going in there. So your choice to enter that room again and again despite the narrator not wanting it actually mattered.
I personally like both kinds and replay both kinds a lot.
But yeah, the first one is more likely to make me just skip a lot of dialogue and take a guide, as it might not really feel natural and instinctive to get certain endings.
"The Dreaming" from Taleweaver made me almost BEG for a guide, as I just couldn't get ending 6.
It was not exactly obvious how to get it, so it was just trying around until I am either lucky or frustrated.
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What I thought about initially was; what attracts me to visual novels over traditional mediums such as books? Of course, it's the choice involved and the ability to shape the flow and direction of the game. To force a player into completing certain actions just to increase the longevity of a game is totally counterproductive and can ruin the most important thing about a visual novel for me. I actually didn't realise this until I had a discussion like this because I was too caught up in purposefully shaping a players experience - probably too much so.
I've decided to make all endings available from the start of the game, so that if people play through the route one it's possible to get the good ending if you make the right choices, for the players who do play the game through ones. But there is value in all endings and plenty of unlockables for those that do want to play it multiple times, and they will be prompted to do so even if they get the 'True' ending the first time as they are all pretty unique.
Another thing I decided to do, that I haven't seen done yet, is only display a stats screen that shows the influence of player choice on the second playthrough - I kind of wanted opinions on that if possible. The stats screen shows your level of affection or allegiance to a country; if I make it unlockable on the second playthrough it will enable people who are aiming for an ending to do so more easily on a second playthrough, but will also allow players to play the game naturally without the temptation of engineering the experience too much the first time. Still not 100% about it, but for me it seems like a good middle ground, because I feel like if a player sees a stats screen that influences their decisions in a way that I don't think desirable until the second playthrough.
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