Ren'Py specific questions should be posted in the Ren'Py Questions and Annoucements forum, not here.
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How can this be presented tastefully in a VN without being long-winded? Do people use multiple CG's, full AMV's etc? Or just basically narrating what happens as usual and putting some sound effects and shakes? Should I consider putting some gameplay in it (time-based commands or press a certain button to attack a certain way.. etc.) Or will this just annoy players?
Any opinions can help. Thanks everyone!
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If you're going to add gameplay, the gameplay needs to be at least somewhat entertaining in itself. Quicktime events are not entertaining. A full RPG or card-battle system or something can be, but it's a lot of extra work if that's not the main thrust of your game. If you do design a great gameplay system, it'll then be a waste if it only gets used once or twice in the game. Generally this sort of thing needs to be designed pretty early on.
Full animations would be awesome, but sort of out of the reach of most producers here.
Most VNs I'm familiar with handle fight scenes by a small number of CGs, some visual effects, careful camera direction, sound effects, and great music. If you haven't played Princess Waltz, there's a video here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szP2N4mNbFQ The first half of the video is the actual gameplay system they use, but in the second half the fight continues into a cutscene and you can see what they do with a handful of CGs and effects.
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1. click fate - its most common but easy as well, the fate of the world rest with one click.
2. quick click - its a timer button attack, not used often but still works.
3. cutscenes - aks the easy way out of doing 1 and 2.
4. menu time/stock event - this idea is to add menu within a menu within a menu until you reach the ending. this also is risky since the whole fight can lead to a bad ending or game over.
5. your characters fight by (something) - give your game a system that makes your characters fight without the player needing to do anything. good example would be "Long live the queen" "fate stay night" and other fighting novel games that become popular.
i hope that helps
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Slightly harder is mixing one or more CGs into it to make it more exciting.
More complicated, you could make the CGs pan around with ATL.
Most complicated... making a cutscene like a motion comic in some external editor and playing it as a movie.
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And if they're rare, they're probably quite plot relevant.
People have mentioned animated cutscenes or multiple CGs with some effects and ATL and shaking, and those are good options, but I haven't seen anyone mention this third option:
You might think it quite a lot of work to make full cutscenes, but maybe you could do something where- in an example of a villain fighting the main character- there's an animated CG that shows the villain swinging their sword viciously toward the protagonist before stopping at a dynamic looking, still CG of them in mid-swing.
Then over the still CG, there's some text describing what's going on, and a new animated CG ending in a still CG will come up when something changes in the fight, just like moving to a regular CG.
You could have short animated segments- or long ones- or whatever you want while being able to stop at a still CG whenever you want to to describe the scene.
I think these slightly animated CGs would create a level of immersion to fights that you might not get with normal CGs, while still taking less effort than full out animating cutscenes.
Also, in a fight, characters probably don't have the luxury of thinking in depth.
And you can simulate the kind of speed your characters are going through through your text.They're quick on their feet- dodging daggers and taking lunges toward their pray.
Their hearts are racing.
Everything happens in the blink of an eye as adrenaline pounds through their blood. Through their minds.
And with a single strike-
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Kinda like this:
The above GIF file has 6 frames of animation)
And if you want to be really creative, each "fighting stance" animation should suit each character's personality (highly trained fighters should have more confident stances, a boxing stance is different from a swordfighter stance, knights are different from samurai, etc).
I know this is an old post, but if you see this, there is no wrong option, only poor presentation.
It's just down to the quality of your assets as to how effective this is, writing, music, and art. It's worth noting that unlike certain other genres of video game that VNs are not a cinematic experience. Sudden extra layers of gameplay or animated cut scenes can feel out of place if not handled well.
Especially in dramatic scenes though, music is very important. You can have the same art and text, but with different bits of music playing the scene will feel totally different. The art and text may be very energetic, but the music could be somber, giving the whole scene a melancholic feel. Likewise, the art and text could be dark or sad but the music could be happy-go-lucky - if the attacker was a previously sympathetic character or disturbed in some way this could have a variety of effects.
Ultimately I'd suggest only adding extra features like QTEs (Actually, if you want my honest opinion - never use QTEs) or animated cutscenes if you think they are necessary or enriching. If you're just trying to fill some imaginary hole, these things may not fit.
If two people talk long enough they can explain how they feel, maybe.
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