Ren'Py specific questions should be posted in the Ren'Py Questions and Annoucements forum, not here.
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Who knows, though, you could even turn game overs into an entire mechanic, maybe you'd want the player to be searching for ways to lose!
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For example, right now I'm doing my own VN and it has many game overs, which in the game are called "common endings". These common endings are the many dangers that can kill you, but at the same time it is (I hope) way too obvious to realize when you're doing something dangerous... I mean, let's say that you suddenly hear weird noises coming from the basement, so you decide to check what's going on, but you forget to pick a flashlight before getting in there... You're obviously gonna get killed.
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For example, Long Live the Queen is more game-y than many other VN's. The whole point of it is trying to stay alive, so it wouldn't make sense to not have deaths/game overs.
I my project, Skyfish, I'm planning to include Game Overs, but only in the more game-like sections. For example if you get caught sneaking in a stealth section of the game, it will result in a game over. Choices that you make in the more story-driven Visual Novel parts of the game generally affect the story but don't result in a Game Over.
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Visual novels, and all story based games like adventure games, should be especially careful, since it can be exceptionally frustrating, moreso than in a game where such a state is almost (wrongly) expected. Rereading/replaying the same part twice in a story based game only breaks the pace and the immersion, without adding anything to the gameplay. I don't recall of any situation in 20+ years where a game over screen in such a game was a good choice.
I think that if a choice in a VN could either follow the story or create an artificial stonewall to the progress, then I think it should be given more though. Do you really need a choice right there? Players want a choice when they know it will affect the world of the story, not to be told they choose the wrong path. Of course this increases the workload on the writers, which is why it is such an hard balance, and most of the time developers prefer to go for the easier path.
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I'll list a few examples here. Warning: Unmarked spoilers below.
- The Curse of Monkey Island: One of the puzzles involves the player character, Guybrush Threepwood, needing to fake his own death. He does this by mixing alcohol with medicine. He drinks it, collapses, and the credits even start to play... before Guybrush yells that he's not really dead. Here is a video clip of it. It's pretty funny.
- The Cat Lady: After the player character is given immortality, she is given a puzzle that requires her to die. The player expects her to come back to life immediately after. But instead, when she dies, the words "Game Over" appear on the screen... but then the camera slowly crossfades, revealing that the "Game Over title card" is actually a poster in a bedroom. It's then revealed that the plot has transitioned to a scene that happens days after Susan "died." Here is a video clip of it.
- Nancy Drew Games: In the Nancy Drew games, every time the titular main character dies, the player is sent to the main menu. One of the options they are given is the Second Chance option, which sends the player back to the point in time just before they made the action/inaction that led to their death. The "Second Chance" term and game mechanic is so iconic for the Nancy Drew series that it's arguably reached meme status:
I wrote more about this here. Also, later games in the series also included humorous epilogues of what happened after Nancy died/gets fired, before displaying the Second Chance option.
- Undertale: During the "pacifist run" boss fight, the player is killed. The player expects the game's typical death animation (the image of a heart breaking in half and then shattering into a million pieces), followed by the text, "Game Over... stay determined". But instead, the heart breaks in half... and then mends itself whole again, followed by the text, "But it refused." The player is then sent back into the boss fight, fully-healed.
Hope this helps!
Doubleplusgood point. Game over isn't just a bad ending, it's "you cannot play the game well enough, try harder" kind of thing. Since regular VN doesn't really have that much gameplay, it cannot punish players for the lack of skill. You didn't manage to get a girl in a romance VN? You may have to embrace your inner hikikomori, but it's a different thing: a bad ending. Basically, the branch more or less arbitrarily defined by the creator as 'bad'.I think it has to do with how "game-y" the game is.
Gameovers, on the other hand, are not creator-supplied, they arise automatically from the game mechanics. That goblin stabbed you one time more than he should've? Esc-Load Game. You went to the week-long expedition with two days' worth of fuel? Esc-Load Game. You obvously cannot have those in the absence of game mechanics.
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