Smaller Project Struggles

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Smaller Project Struggles

#1 Post by inkbrush » Mon Jun 29, 2015 3:47 pm

Hello, lemmasoftians!

Today I'm asking my fellow visual novel community if they've ever tried to make a short visual novel, if they struggle with developing smaller ideas, and if they've completed any short games!

This thread idea was prompted by my designing of a short visual novel. I've been struggling with the outlining because my brain has an automatic default setting of "go big or go home" when I only want this game to last 15~20 play-through minutes! Thus, that has prompted this discussion!

So, what's your view on shorter visual and kinetic novels? Do you like them? Have you played any? Have you made any?
I think they're a great idea and a good place to start when starting out in game development, instead of going straight in a making a game that lasts an hour or even longer!

Do you struggle with writing shorter ideas? Or maybe you struggle with developing longer ideas!

Do you have any tips for anyone struggling with the creation of short games (or even just stories in general!)?
I personally find that even when I get stuck on writing or outlining, the best thing I can do is stick to a promise I give myself to not make the idea too long. I've also noticed that having another, BIGGER project in planning or production helps to keep the idea short. For me, it decreases the need I feel to make something as long as I can, lmao

So, what are your thoughts?

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#2 Post by SundownKid » Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:08 pm

I've made a couple short games. The one I like the most is a mini adventure game that was my first "finished" game ever.

I have played Digital: A Love Story which could be considered a short game and I really enjoyed it, probably more than the longer and commercial Analog: A Hate Story series, it just had a super original looking concept and felt really cohesive and fresh.

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#3 Post by firecat » Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:15 pm

15-20mins that sounds like the WAG challenge, most common problems are always trying to make it better than the story. stuff like mini-game(s), art, music, GUI and overload of work can wear you out. the main important thing is the story, nothing else should matter until you know what you want and what you need.


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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#4 Post by Nymbryxion » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:24 pm

I've been working on small indie games for quite some time and I feel that one of the most important is to have a realistic scope. That said one of the most important things isn't really the length but the impact.

So instead of having the game very long, keep it short and polish it as much as possible. That will keep the scope down and give you a good product at the end. :)

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#5 Post by HiddenCreature » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:03 pm

Longer stories don't necessarily equal better stories. I can enjoy a regular novel as much as a short story.

When making bigger projects, I don't even consider it unless I'm confident I have all the needed resources to do so. Otherwise, yeah, I might eventually finish it, but it's an unnecessary struggle along the way.

Basically, don't bite off more than you can chew. Better to stick with the scope of a project you know you can finish, and finish it well.

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#6 Post by Kailoto » Mon Jun 29, 2015 10:31 pm

One time, I set my sights too low - I planned for something that would be easily achievable and manageable. Only, I also made it so small that it was hardly interesting to me, and I never got around to actually finishing it. I think that happens to me a lot - I get afraid of a project becoming too small, too simple to be motivating, and so I stick with mid-sized projects.

Short VNs are nice, but it's really hard to make something outstanding with them. Which isn't a problem, really - I just find it hard to get motivated for projects where I know the product can never be exceptional, only great. I think that's just a personal thing, though. I have no problem playing them, either.

I think it's a good idea to have a balance; I too used to only view things as either big or small, but I've found that the most enduring and rewarding projects are often the ones where I bite off enough for it to be satisfying, but not enough to make it a slog to work on. VNs that only have a few hours of playtime, or serial stories that can be written in smaller episodes one at a time. Maybe that's also a personal preference, but I find that big projects take too long to get a steady payoff from, and short projects don't payoff enough.
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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#7 Post by noctos » Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:38 am

I also struggle with making something short! I have this monster of a VN that I'm developing, and I know it'll take me at least a year, maybe more to get it done. Lately I get anxious because I really want it to be a great VN, but I'm not confident enough with my skills to do it comfortably yet. My solution has been to test myself and get my feet wet with a smaller project first. I'll work on the big one like normal, but at the same time tinker with a VN I can finish within six months.
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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#8 Post by noeinan » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:55 pm

I have a hard time planning smaller stories as well... Somehow they end up getting bigger, or at least I'll develop the setting way more than is needed. (I'm a world building junkie.)

Usually I have an easier time if I already know the start and the end of the story. That at least gives me some direction, and then I can fill in the middle. Usually, I start with just a very boring, basic common sense middle (logically from this to this) but after I have something to work off of, I tend to get better ideas which I can add in.

The original outline/framework is the hardest part, so I try to get it out of the way, even if the first few drafts are of poor quality.


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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#9 Post by Aviala » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:58 pm

I'm currently working on a game jam VN, so there was 4 days in total to finish the game (now only two left). It's interesting and fun to be able to work on something that doesn't need to be the greatest thing ever since it's "just" a jam game. So I can experiment and work how I like. I can just write without planning much - I only have the beginning written, and I know how it will end, so I just write towards that final scene. No plans or outlines. It's really, really refreshing, and I can also have fun with the art and not stress about it looking super polished.

The biggest struggle for me has been research. There is very little time to finish the game, but I chose some touchy subjects so I really need to read a bit about them. I think I should research even more but there just isn't enough time.
Another struggle is "how to make the plot interesting". My current method isn't very good for writing intricate plots; what I currently have is an action scene at the beginning and then mostly just dialogue. I hope the slice-of-life approach is enough to keep readers entertained...

If anyone wants to make a small game, I really recommend jams though. They really force you to keep the scope small.

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#10 Post by truefaiterman » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:50 pm

Literally 90% of my scrapped projects are because I got too damn ambitious. Hell, the book I'm writing was supposed to be a short story to enjoy my travels in train, and now it's a +120.000 words novel.
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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#11 Post by YossarianIII » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:06 pm

inkbrush wrote:
So, what's your view on shorter visual and kinetic novels? Do you like them? Have you played any? Have you made any?
This is 100% personal preference, but I'd imagine it's not unusual:

For an unfamiliar VN by an unfamiliar creator, short is better. It's not that I dislike long stories -- just that I'm hesitant to put in that amount of effort into a new story unless I see a great review or know a writer's previous work.

That was my rationale behind keeping my first (released) project at 20 min., which in hindsight, might've even been a tad long.

If you do plan on telling a long story, one idea could be to break it up into separate releases to keep things more manageable. Most well-structured long stories still have chapters, scenes, acts, parts, or other divisions that could make logical stopping points. The common view seems to be to treat VNs like video games or novels, but you could also treat them like comics or webcomics, and release a long story in separate "issues."

Look at Jeff Smith's Bone -- it's one of the longest continuous stories in comics and has lots of world-building, but rather than saving everything until the end, the author released it initially in issues. And it worked, both as a serial story and as a bigass graphic novel.

Not saying no one should attempt long projects -- just offering some alternatives for those who want to maintain their sanity. :D

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#12 Post by DrivenByTheWind » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:58 pm

I actually prefer the shorter games. Re:Alistair is a good example. It's short, sweet, and still my favorite otome game that I have played ever. While longer games can be fun and awesome if you have the resources, the shorter games tend to have more effort put into the story. And that's how it should always be! Writing consists of 90% of the game, that is where the most care should be placed.

I don't play visual novels for the graphics, I play them for the story. If the writing isn't good, I will stop playing the game no matter what the visual aesthetics are like. If the writing is good and the story is interesting then the length wouldn't matter. :)

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#13 Post by Lesleigh63 » Wed Jul 01, 2015 3:12 am

I use to write short stories - usually the number of characters is limited and the situation you're writing about fits the scope.
For a short VN, possibly have just one branch occur at the climax by giving the focal character two alternate courses of action to achieve their goal.
More characters you introduce the bigger the word count since those characters have goals you need to address.

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Re: Smaller Project Struggles

#14 Post by AsHLeX » Thu Jul 02, 2015 3:01 am

I used to have problem writing short stories as it always got longer and longer xP.
But what I found out like if you want to make it short, keep it simple and don't create something too complicated (with plot twists and all that). Not to say that it's bad or anything, but usually I find that if I try to do more complicated stuff the story just gets longer and longer xP.
I've written quite a few short KN's (around 1k-3k word length) and usually I did them in a very short span of time.
(It's just me, but I find out that if I think too much about the story, I'll start adding bits and pieces here so yeah.)
I suppose giving yourself a very limited amount of time (eg. Game jams) help keep the story short ^^

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