How to make a KN appealing?

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How to make a KN appealing?

#1 Post by Caveat Lector » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:13 pm

(Apologies if there's already a topic on this elsewhere; if there is, or there are others, please say so!)

I was just wondering...if you had a VN idea in mind, but realized it could not work out with branches, and that it would be better to instead simply tell it as a story, how would you go about making sure it appealed to the prospective player/reader?
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#2 Post by Godline » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:34 pm

KNs are generally not appealing to me, but they do appeal to other people.

But the appeal would be the same way as a novel would be - because it's basically a novel or a short story with pictures. So the plot would have to be appealing and the art.

I don't think the formula for success gets any more complicated than that - right?

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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#3 Post by Mad Harlequin » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:37 pm

I don't really think that there are any particular "how-tos" concerning writing a KN that don't also apply to writing in general, except for the fact that while a standard novel requires the writer to describe scenery, character appearance, etc., a visual novel may employ art and audio to establish the same elements, so you'd want to cut out any description rendered superfluous by your assets. (That doesn't mean your narrative has to be spare, of course. It just means you ought to consider writing fewer sentences to describe birds singing than you might otherwise, since the sound won't need to be imagined.)
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#4 Post by RotGtIE » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:55 pm

The benefits of going kinetic are obvious - you don't have to write multiple parallel stories and keep them in continuity with each other, you don't need as many assets as you might in a VN with multiple routes or choices; generally it just comes down to having a lot less in the way of technical work in terms of plot structuring and writing. Naturally, the perspective of the audience is a simple one - if you are only going to be delivering one route or story to them, it had better damn well be a good one. It had better be worth foregoing the granting of any options to the player.

In other words, you had better be able to show a whole hell of a lot of quality in your work. Planetarian and Juniper's Knot are well-liked despite being both short and kinetic, and that's because in both cases, they are damn good. Anyone who came looking for high quality visual novels found what they were looking for in those titles. So if you want to appeal to a VN audience despite going kinetic, you need to show them, in all of your story's assets, that they can expect a very high level of quality. It's the only thing you have to offer, after all.

Your tagline better have one hell of a hook in it. You'd better be able to provide previews of stunning artwork during production. If you put out a trailer, it better be hot shit. Because going kinetic frees you up to pour all of your resources into a single story, prospective audiences will expect to see the results of that focus in your product. Apparent mediocrity is unlikely to be tolerated.

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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#5 Post by SundownKid » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:55 pm

I'd say a KN would be more appealing if it had some other gameplay element alongside it... if you consider it, stuff like Phoenix Wright and Danganronpa are all kinetic novels with additional gameplay. Well not entirely, but the main story is linear. Adventure games are usually linear.

Another way could be to make it exciting to look at (that is, more spectacular than your typical VN) so that the player wants to keep going through it. Comics and graphic novels are linear yet they use art to get the reader to stay engaged in it.

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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#6 Post by HiddenCreature » Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:22 pm

Whether it's kinetic, or has branches, a compelling story is always the most important factor.

It's easy to forget that visual novels are purely a storytelling device. This is just from my personal experience, but the idea of a "visual novel" tends to be synonymous with "dating game with multiple routes" to most people.

Anyways, I'd approach it like a regular novel. You can't compensate with graphics or gameplay. The story is what's most important. How you make that story is a whole different topic, though.

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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#7 Post by Green Glasses Girl » Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:36 pm

RotGtIE wrote:Apparent mediocrity is unlikely to be tolerated.
But...isn't Umineko a kinetic novel? And even with its first version where the original sprite work was poor, Umineko was wildly successful. Then again, I don't know how marketing strategies went about.

I'm adding that I don't think there's a one-way-works formula. Some people just won't play kinetic novels, which can't be helped. But what I find is true is that people come for the art, but stay for the story. You can bring people in with enticing visuals and pitch, but the story has to be engaging and well-written. I've played videogames that had bad art and writing with enjoyable gameplay, so the end result was okay at best. With KNs, you have to keep in mind that with no gameplay, all you have left are artwork and story. And in the end, the story trumps all.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#8 Post by Kailoto » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:06 am

Honestly, the way I'd make a kinetic novel appealing shares much with the way I'd make a branching one appealing. Quality writing, quality art, quality music, quality design. My point is that all the features that make a good linear experience also contribute to a good branching storyline, so it's not about what you have to do in addition, but rather what you don't have to worry about. There's no juggling alternate timelines or factoring in player intent, so you just have to focus on making the overall quality of the game better.

I think the difficult part of this question is what you mean by singling out kinetic novels; are you asking about what specific things a kinetic novel should do differently than a branching one, or are you using it in the most broadest sense, as in "what makes people like kinetic novels?" Because I'd argue that, if you ignore anything related to player agency, people like branching VNs for the same reason they like kinetic ones. A quality story and memorable cast - something shared by other mediums, such as books and film - with memorable writing and artwork.

So if that's the case, you're basically asking "how do I create a good story and artwork and turn it all into a memorable experience?"... a question which, if there was a simple answer to it, we'd all know by now.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#9 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:22 am

Green Glasses Girl wrote: But...isn't Umineko a kinetic novel? And even with its first version where the original sprite work was poor, Umineko was wildly successful. Then again, I don't know how marketing strategies went about.
There's success, and then there's appeal. The typical reader is going to look at a VN with cruddy-looking screenshots and apply a healthy amount of skepticism to it. If they are somewhat open-minded, they might download a free copy of the VN in question and give it a chance. But without very good word-of-mouth reviews, you can't expect anyone to put down money for a VN that looks like very little effort went into it just from the first impressions given by the visuals, and if it looks really bad, you might not even be able to expect people to bother with the download even if it's free - there's tons of other things everyone could be doing with their spare time.

Now, if you're expecting the writing to carry itself and you are certain that a small number of early readers will praise your work well enough to generate interest from other readers, then you might be able to forego maximizing your appeal to first-time readers. But if what you're looking for is a way to generate initial appeal, and you don't have the option of advertising to the readers that they will have any input at all in your VN - no gameplay, no choices, no nothing - then the only thing you have left is to make them see, in an instant, that they can expect a high level of quality in what they're considering downloading. For that, you need a hook that is so well-written that it damn near drags a reader by the neck into your story, and you will need to show the reader with whatever other assets you're using that a great deal of effort was put into maximizing the quality of the product.

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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#10 Post by Green Glasses Girl » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:43 am

^Agreed. I guess what can be said all around is that KNs have to go a step further than traditional VNs.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#11 Post by trooper6 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 12:50 am

Caveat Lector wrote:(Apologies if there's already a topic on this elsewhere; if there is, or there are others, please say so!)

I was just wondering...if you had a VN idea in mind, but realized it could not work out with branches, and that it would be better to instead simply tell it as a story, how would you go about making sure it appealed to the prospective player/reader?
Which player/readers are we talking about?

Who you are aiming for matters. What sort of story you write matters. What platforms matter. For the marketing...which might be what you mean by appeal.

First off, of course, you have to make either a) something of quality and/or b) something that may not be high quality but serves an underserved fanbase.

First off, I am sure there are people who prefer KNs to VNs and who, considering the smaller number of KNs made, will check out your game just because it's a KN. So you just have to let them know you exist. On the other hand, I don't prefer KNs...unless I hear that they are phenomenal...which I generally have not found them to be. So you probably don't want to focus your energy on VN audiences like me. That said, I will give it a try if a) the VN is done by someone I already like with a proven track record of excellence, b) it is less than 15 minutes long, c) it is an experimental/art game rather than a traditional narrative story, or d) it fills an underserved niche I care about.

But if you are making a book (which KNs often aspire to be), you can think about ignoring VN fans and trying to appeal to book readers. If you are making a lesbian detective story that will be released on Kindle, you can hook into pre-existing marketing outlets for those who like lesbian detective stories. If you are making a Harry Potter fan fic KN, there are certainly outlets that you can hook into there. If you are making a Men's Rights Activist KN (really not my thing), there are blogs you should hook into. Etc.

Make quality and/or know your market.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#12 Post by Mad Harlequin » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:15 am

Green Glasses Girl wrote:^Agreed. I guess what can be said all around is that KNs have to go a step further than traditional VNs.
The question that this raises for me is, "Does the presence of gameplay or other elements contribute to a belief that choice-based VNs don't need to deliver quality writing?"

Sometimes I fear that consumers and developers alike are prone to answering "Yes."
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#13 Post by trooper6 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:44 am

Mad Harlequin wrote:
Green Glasses Girl wrote:^Agreed. I guess what can be said all around is that KNs have to go a step further than traditional VNs.
The question that this raises for me is, "Does the presence of gameplay or other elements contribute to a belief that choice-based VNs don't need to deliver quality writing?"

Sometimes I fear that consumers and developers alike are prone to answering "Yes."
But that isn't necessarily a problem...it depends on what the game is trying to do. I mean, Pac Man doesn't have "quality writing"...but that isn't the point of the game.

I don't think Halo has the best writing, but again, not the point of the game.

The whole point of a KN is the writing...there isn't much else...so it has to do it well. A point-and-click adventure that focuses on puzzles and does that well? That would be the point of that game. I won't judge it harshly for having average writing, if the energy is spent on amazing puzzles. I will judge it for bad writing, but average writing is okay if it has excellent something else.

So does a VN have to have quality writing? That depends on what the point of that VN is. I was playing a VN that I thought had the worst writing. I couldn't even finish it. But this game is quite popular and well liked...it's a harem style game. And for the people who like it, its fidelity to certain tropes is clearly more important than excellent writing.

There are people who critiqued Dragon Age 2 for not having amazing graphics or for re-using small instance dungeons...but that wasn't the point of that game...instead that game focused on writing. I forgive them reuse of dungeons because the writer no was so good. I forgive Knights of the Old Republic for average visuals because the writing is excellent.

I think it is important to judge a game by what the game is focused on...what it is doing. And for sone games writing isn't the most important...while for others it is.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#14 Post by Kailoto » Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:05 am

trooper6 wrote:
Mad Harlequin wrote:The question that this raises for me is, "Does the presence of gameplay or other elements contribute to a belief that choice-based VNs don't need to deliver quality writing?"

Sometimes I fear that consumers and developers alike are prone to answering "Yes."
But that isn't necessarily a problem...it depends on what the game is trying to do. I mean, Pac Man doesn't have "quality writing"...but that isn't the point of the game.

I don't think Halo has the best writing, but again, not the point of the game.

The whole point of a KN is the writing...there isn't much else...so it has to do it well.
Exactly. When all you have to judge quality by is the strength of the writing and artwork, then that writing and artwork has to pull all the weight. With games that involve player agency, the load is distributed more evenly across all aspects of design.

Take for instance dating sims: the writing is usually simplistic, since the main draw of the game isn't exploring specific characters, but rather balancing daily activities and increasing key stats to successfully woo a love interest. And the further you get away from pure storytelling - the more you start adding spectacle or mechanics or strategy - the less the writing has to carry the experience. Yes, writing in AAA games can still be done as well as in classical novels, but it doesn't have to. And that's not a problem, it's just a symptom of having other stuff going on as well.
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Re: How to make a KN appealing?

#15 Post by Kinjo » Wed Jun 10, 2015 5:12 am

Green Glasses Girl wrote:But...isn't Umineko a kinetic novel? And even with its first version where the original sprite work was poor, Umineko was wildly successful. Then again, I don't know how marketing strategies went about.
I think Umineko's success was largely because of Higurashi's popularity. Ryukishi had established a fanbase from both the Higurashi VN and from the anime. The reason I personally found Umineko was from watching the anime and finding out Ryukishi had made another work. I liked Higurashi, and so I wanted to check it out.

The reason for Higurashi's popularity was a lot of different things, and one reason was mentioned recently at his ACEN panel. Originally each episode was sold commercially, but then they decided to make a trial version -- a free version of the first episode -- to get more sales. However, the trial version actually included all of the story for the three arcs that were out, and because some programmers looked into the code (I'm sure I would have done the same) they found it and read the first three story arcs for free. But this actually increased Higurashi's popularity because people liked what they were reading.

Now, just looking at Higurashi and Umineko -- they are both sound novels. Ryukishi focuses a lot on music and writing to make up for the amateur art. But they're both also games, with choices, more like a metagame. It's a game between Ryukishi and the reader of the story. He introduces questions and the reader has to come up with answers on their own, in between episodes, and Ryukishi writes the next one directly as a response. So while the novels themselves are entirely linear, their content is somewhat dictated by the fanbase, which is sort of a strange form of choice and interactivity.

I would also say that KNs can include minigame segments and/or "pseudo-choices" that don't influence routes or branching but simply add more to the story. But I guess that depends on whether you consider the definition of kinetic to be "one route" or "no choices". Rose Guns Days, another 07th Expansion work (which has professionally drawn art this time) actually makes use of both of these, for the fighting scenes and exploration parts.

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