The state of VNs and their future

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monele
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The state of VNs and their future

#1 Post by monele » Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:26 am

Please prove me wrong, but I have the feeling things have been going rather slow lately. Not only in releases but mostly in innovations. The original VN community is still young, it's still full of mysteries and possibilities to explore... and yet it seems people stick to the same old stuff. I know schoolgirls are cute, but is this all there is to life? ^^;. I'm not saying we should all drop this theme, since there is a lot to explore within it, too, but there are so many other themes that are barely touched upon...

Here are a few things that come randomly to my mind (some might have been done) : cooking, sports, medecine, tropical countries, northern countries. Basically, keeping to the romance VN is okay, but why not vary settings (both time and location) and themes? We've seen at least one space opera and a few medieval fantasy ones (two or three?). A lot of modern ones, mostly centered in Japan or lookalike countries. What about schools in a XVIII century setting (could be GxG)? What about steampunk settings àla Sakura Taisen? Actually, a medieval fantasy school setting could be fun too :).

Still sticking to the romance VN genre, what about a pirate story? You could still have girls! Rival female captains, girls in your own crew, a military officer, a voodoo lady... And heck, they can still be teenagers if it's really needed. I'm sure we can ignore the incoherence as long as it's fun.
What about a young coach training a female team of volleyball? What about an intern struggling both with his work and with keeping quiet when surrounded by a sexy chief of medecine, a clumsy cute nurse, a very timid patient and whatever else you could think of? (and it doesn't *have* to be hentai just because there are nurses, please! @_@) What about an explorer from the colonial times dealing with mosquitos as well as a young naive journalist but also a few natives from a previously undiscovered tribe?

And of course, we don't have to stick to romance VNs. We could have thrillers, comedies, adventures, action (Fate/Stay could be a good example). And we don't have to stick to modern days and Japan. We can have the cold Russia of the Tsar, medieval Japan (seen this), the french musketeers era, World War I & II (doesn't have to take place on the frontlines), medieval England (Robin Hood, King Arthur), colonial times (french, spanish, english, whatever), "old" America (farwest, natives), etc, etc... AND... fantasy settings from Tolkien to Star Trek and every kind of mix in-between (Final Fantasy and its modern fantasy, Sakura Taisen and its Steampunk, etc...). Could have cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic, too.

And finally, why stick to pure KNs and VNs? There *have* been hybrids already and I'm just hoping it'll go on. I think there is a possible future in there, even if it becomes a separate branch : games focusing on story and characters, yet different from point&click adventure games, RPGs (eastern and western) and IFs, and yet not *only* providing text and pictures but also some more game-ish element.

Nota bene : my memory is always hazy and I'm probably forgetting that many of these things have been done, and maybe numerously. I wouldn't mind a reminder if that's the case (I might have missed good games!).

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#2 Post by papillon » Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:08 am

Still sticking to the romance VN genre, what about a pirate story? You could still have girls!
I believe someone here is already doing a pirate girl VN... (At least, I assume they're pirates. Ships, at least.)

Which doesn't mean we can't have more. Pirates vs Ninjas, the dating game! :)

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#3 Post by Nebi » Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:11 am

I know schoolgirls are cute, but is this all there is to life?
If I were the devil's advocate I would tell you that no, life is not all about girls in school. I would tell you what I see on the news; the mortgage crisis, the war in Iraq, the Olympics in Beijing, inflation, starvation, obesity, Georgia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, human stem cells, gangs, drugs, refugees, piracy, global warming, economic recession, smuggling, human trafficking, sex offenders, militancy, terrorism, and that the weather tomorrow will be sunny with cloudy skies.

There is a lot more to life of course. It just depends on what your priorities are.

As for coming up with new ideas, I'm sure creative writers have considered many of those you suggested. Trouble is, the more fancy you get, the more complicated things become. The majority of hobbyists/fans who enjoy creating OELVNs are probably not established authors that can dedicate the amount of time needed to flesh out fancy ideas, not to mention the sheer volume of research needed for ones with historical themes. Incorporating fictional romance into a story is complicated enough as it is! That's why a school setting works so well - and anyone who has tried to create an OELVN would agree, I think.

While we're on this topic why don't we all list a few ideas that we've considered but decided to put aside?

For example:
a. you are a "backup" grim reaper tasked to babysit for one of the gods of the underworld;
b. you are a public relations servant of a futuristic, floating carnival on your way to pick up a new employee when the foundation starts to collapse;
c. you are in a fishing village and stumble across an old Greek statue that was buried in the mud from a wreckage hundreds of years ago. It comes to life and beseeches you to help it retrieve the other statues inside a museum in France;
d. you are on the losing side of a war between one civilization that embraced nanotechnology and another that embraced bioengineering; both having given birth to monsters;
e. you are in a post-apocalyptic world where the average lifespan has been reduced to twenty years. You are second-in-command of a ship - possibly a warship - seeking new land for the future to settle in.
f. you are a recent graduate, a wannabe journalist living off one paycheck to the next. You discover that the person you are renting an apartment with is actually a superhero, but one day they commit suicide and in your anguish you set off to find out why.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#4 Post by tigerrenko » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:12 am

Hallo,

I'm new to the world of VN-making, so I am not sure that I can adequatly comment. Please take this just as a point of view...

As experienced game journalist I can notice the following - Modern games as well as the movies, suffer because ideas flow in the wrong way. Most of the (western) cartoons and almost all of the games are made by people with technical skills. Their control of the programming, or 3d modelling is superb, even their ideas are not bad. But people assume that just because they can read and write, they can also make a plausible scenario (script, fable). Most of the game making forums are filled with people who CAN make games (programmers, artists), but I rarely find dedicated editors or writers (scenarists).

As Nebi said, you need a lot of research, but not only that. You need to be versed in the subtle art of writing, dramaturgy and directing...

Let me toss some ideas:

a) The Last Valley: you are peace loving man who finds valley untouched by war. Ruthless mercenary band finds the same valley, and you are forced to negotiate between the peasants who fear mercs and distrust you, and mercs who despise you and want to invade the valley. Things can get further complicated by love affairs, dissent among peasants and mercs, greater threat from outer world, etc.

b) Crossover: Medieval Space Opera, something like Fading Suns. Stars are fading, the end of world is near. Humanity conquered the galaxy but in turn finally lost their soul. Young questing knight stumbles upon the path that will lead him, as unlikely hero, on a journey of redemption...

c) Local cultures: Medieval Serbian kingdom was forged through battle, intrigue and political marriage with the surrounding powers (Bulgarian Empire, Hungarian Kingdom, Venice, Byzanthine Empire). Noble Empire Dushan rises to unite all the southern slavic tribes and conquers as Orthodox Champion. There is plenty of material there, because history is the best scenarist...

In the end, I'd like to thank you all for making games and I apologize for my Engrish...

TigerRenko

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#5 Post by mikey » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:34 am

monele wrote:The original VN community is still young, it's still full of mysteries and possibilities to explore... and yet it seems people stick to the same old stuff. I know schoolgirls are cute, but is this all there is to life? ^^;. I'm not saying we should all drop this theme, since there is a lot to explore within it, too, but there are so many other themes that are barely touched upon...
What if schoolgirls and fantasy are simply the rock and pop of the VN genres? A jazz enthusiast will probably always feel his music underappreciated since it's not playing in every radio station like Madonna. So if you like VN comedies set in the sixties, there will be only so many titles (actually, none that I can think of at the moment).

The other thought is that the target groups for schoolgirls and fantasy are the most active ones on the internet, so you tend to see them because they WANT to talk and post pictures. Fans of other types of work may be content with e-mailing the maker privately, or just posting one comment without feeling the need to start a blog. This doesn't mean they enjoy it less, just that they don't feel like telling the internet.

Maybe it's also that all the known large OELVN projects like Katawa Shoujo and Shira Oka are set in some kind of a school, and also that the best artists tend to draw schoolgirls and fantasy, so we are once again in the rock and pop world.

But this cannot be changed so easily. It's in those genres that the biggest profit is made, and so they become a standard much like those music genres, or in automotive terms the family hatchback car - they all look the same and every company makes one.

So, VNs are a niche. OELVNs are a niche within a niche. And non-schoolgirl, non-fantasy OELVNS are a... well, yet another level down. In theory. In practice, I think there is a lot of creativity and new ideas, and maybe the fact that if you go on the net, you see pretty much only these discussions about schoolgirl games, it makes you so overwhelmed that it's difficult to "zoom in" to OELVN level - because if you separate OELVNs from the rest of VNs and look at them separately (browsing the RAA for example), there is actually a huge variety of topics and themes.
Nebi wrote:The majority of hobbyists/fans who enjoy creating OELVNs are probably not established authors that can dedicate the amount of time needed to flesh out fancy ideas, not to mention the sheer volume of research needed for ones with historical themes. Incorporating fictional romance into a story is complicated enough as it is! That's why a school setting works so well - and anyone who has tried to create an OELVN would agree, I think.
Maybe the problem that monele suggests isn't one of where things end up (like that in the end there are many schoolgirl stories), but rather where it starts (there are many WIP threads on the forums).

Since a school setting seems to be the "default", people may be tempted to start thinking about "what will be special about my school", rather than "what will be special about my game". In McDonald's terms, you are coming up with the "Hungarian Burger", the defining feature being it that it has slightly more pepper and two rings of paprika. Well, it's still a burger. You could actually also cook soup, but somehow that isn't so obvious due to all the exposure to burgers.

When you are just starting to create a game and have this clean sheet of paper, the great thing is that you can think of *anything*. But often the exposure to so many schoolgirl and fantasy stories makes the mind think that this is how you write. That you have to start with thinking about the lead character (which you don't), or that you have to create a world with some history (which you don't have to do either). Duh, every game has to have a tsunderekko, otherwise it would be like a car with no wheels! So these are stereotypes and they often limit people without the people actually noticing that.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#6 Post by AlphaProspector » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:54 am

Monele, you answered yourself with the big post. Since the community is still young it'll take time to start seeing different settings as many are first emulating the things they like before proceeding to do something original and, as mentioned above, some ideas require 'juice' ($$$$) to be plausible considering the technical implications (and complications) of turning what started as a novel or a script and adapt it to the multimedia format.

Things that are given on a literary work or the mind sometimes need to be re-planned when thinking in text, images, animations and sound.

It'll take time and we won't get a Saya no Uta, Clannad, Higurashi, True Remembrance or Ever 17 so fast but stuff is already showing up.

And I'm hoping that, eventually, people would be able to make their games in the same fashion as the japanese fire ONScripter or other programs, go through all the VN making process, print and press 100 copies of their games, seal them and sell those in cons (usually Comiket) to promote their work.

Lastly, there is also the will to finish a project as stated above. It's easy to begin and a pain to finish for the obvious reasons that what seems simple at the beginning starts growing in complexity and not everyone manages to be up to the task. In fact, I've been procrastinating so much recently...
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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#7 Post by Vatina » Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:57 am

monele wrote:What about schools in a XVIII century setting (could be GxG)? What about steampunk settings àla Sakura Taisen? Actually, a medieval fantasy school setting could be fun too :).
Something like that would be awesome, but I'm afraid of making it, since people would beat me with sticks for being inaccurate afterwards xD

And don't worry! A game without schoolgirls is coming soon! Almost done....
What if schoolgirls and fantasy are simply the rock and pop of the VN genres?
That's a good way of putting it :P

Here something else that could be the reason. Among the few VN ideas I have lying around, one of them is what you could call "my epic". It stars a female protagonist, is without romance as the focus, and takes part in a special environment, and there is the possibility that I could put in some gameplay too if I wanted. But I'm afraid I could never create it, since I just don't have the resources. I will never be able to create the backgrounds needed, or some of the other parts that have to be there.

School stories and such are easier, since - if everything else fails - you can go take pictures of the school in your own town, and use stuff from yours and friends experiences whenever you get in a writing slump. With that, references are easier to find.
I'm not saying that's it for everyone, but I know that people like Samu-kun and Rocket have had trouble with this, right?

I'd still never write a typical school romance though.... my school experiences are incredibly dull, I want to write something else ;)

Edit: Forgot *with. Now I deserve the stick.
Last edited by Vatina on Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#8 Post by F.I.A » Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:10 am

I always believe that we are still seeing schoolgirls and stuff because they are tested and proved. Not to mention something totally new can either be a big success or a big failure...

As for lack of good ideas, I think this thread pretty much showed us not.
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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#9 Post by monele » Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:39 am

papillon : pirate girl VN sounds good :D. And Ninjas sound good too ;). I'm pretty sure there are projects in the making, secret or not, that would fulfill the need I described. May they reach completion!

Nebi : of course, the world is a terrible place and fluffy schoolgirls make up for that. But that's not what I meant. Just that schoolgirls are not the only "fun" thing or the only thing of interest out there. And I also don't mean that I don't want anymore schoolgirls, as I do like the topic. But my very personal feeling at the moment is : "gimme something new" :)

I suppose many of the topics I mentioned would required research to be done properly. But why not use fantasy settings? Personally, I suck at modern day settings because I'm not terribly interested in it and it's too easy to spot mistakes since everyone lives in it. Fantasy settings (and by "fantasy" I mean *any* kind of setting that is not 100% based on the real world) just give me the freedom I need to focus on what I know or can make up easily.
And while extensive research would be too much to ask, a little research here and there doesn't hurt. Research doesn't mean you have to follow what you learn to the letter. It's just another mean of inspiration.
While we're on this topic why don't we all list a few ideas that we've considered but decided to put aside?
I thought that's what the Ideas Dump thread was for, but maybe this is considered different?

Anyway... 'a' could be fun depending on how it goes, 'e' sounds somewhat familiar ô_o and 'f' very intriguing :).

tigerrenko : Oh, neat, a game journalist ^.^. I don't think we've ever had one here :).
What you say is interesting. I noticed *some* games suffered from this "coder goes writer" problem, but I thought movies were not impacted as such (unless you count games turned into movies). In any case, I can only agree since, as a coder by trade, I struggle the most with stories. If I could, I'd produce all the ideas I quoted, but it's true that most of them *sound* cool, but I can't say I have any idea how to tackle them.

And I don't know : do we really lack writers? Okay, maybe we lack *pure* writers. Or at least, most of them belong to their own team. What I've often wished for is a writer who could turn detailed ideas into stories. But maybe it's just asking someone to make all the work. I don't know at which point a designer/writer relationship could be created.

I really like your 'b' idea. Would it only retain the social structure or also mix old weapons and tools with modern apparatus? (because turning swords into laser swords would just end up being Star Wars, wouldn't it?)

Also, following my previous question : should we put other ideas in the Ideas Dump or is there really room for a different thread? Also, what about gathering such ideas in a more useable form? Maybe on the wiki?

mikey :
What if schoolgirls and fantasy are simply the rock and pop of the VN genres? A jazz enthusiast will probably always feel his music underappreciated since it's not playing in every radio station like Madonna. So if you like VN comedies set in the sixties, there will be only so many titles (actually, none that I can think of at the moment).
So, basically, our schoolgirls VN would be similar to how most young creators start by making a Final Fantasy / Pokemon / Castlevania / Super Mario clone ? (it's a stretch as there's no actual *cloning*, but there's a familiar and comforting base that everyone goes for)
The other thought is that the target groups for schoolgirls and fantasy are the most active ones on the internet, so you tend to see them because they WANT to talk and post pictures.
I'm really focusing on VNs (or at least strongly story-based games) and on what makers create, more than what fans gush about.
Maybe it's also that all the known large OELVN projects like Katawa Shoujo and Shira Oka are set in some kind of a school, and also that the best artists tend to draw schoolgirls and fantasy, so we are once again in the rock and pop world.
I can totally understand why the big projects go for the popular trend. But aren't smaller teams tempted to experiment? I'm tempted to compare to the IF community where experiments abound, but I'm conscious that IFs are way older than VNs and I find IF authors experimenting a *bit* too much for my taste ^^; (though some of them have pulled off wonderful things in trying so hard).

I think there should always be regular/wide-audience games and VNs, because it ensures a continued interest with proven values. But just as many people think the general game industry is going stale and only indies are coming up with fun ideas, I'm concerned this is happening with VNs already... and *we* are the indies ^^;
So, VNs are a niche. OELVNs are a niche within a niche. And non-schoolgirl, non-fantasy OELVNS are a... well, yet another level down.
Mmm... does that mean people who play schoolgirl OELVNs are not likely to try games with other themes? I don't know, maybe that's how it is, but it seems strange. I mean, people who like schoolgirl animes do watch other things, right? Or is it always "schoolgirl" themed, whatever the medium? o_O
if you go on the net, you see pretty much only these discussions about schoolgirl games, it makes you so overwhelmed that it's difficult to "zoom in" to OELVN level
I'll note here that I don't really look at commercial games and their reception, but just OELVNs in this topic. I've pretty much dropped commercial games as they tend to be H-only (ohh, generalizing :D).

(side note : I have the feeling I'm not getting your point, so apologies if I'm totally off ^^;...)
Since a school setting seems to be the "default", people may be tempted to start thinking about "what will be special about my school", rather than "what will be special about my game". In McDonald's terms, you are coming up with the "Hungarian Burger", the defining feature being it that it has slightly more pepper and two rings of paprika. Well, it's still a burger. You could actually also cook soup, but somehow that isn't so obvious due to all the exposure to burgers.
Haha, that's pretty close ^^. C'mon, people, make nuggets! :D
When you are just starting to create a game and have this clean sheet of paper, the great thing is that you can think of *anything*. But often the exposure to so many schoolgirl and fantasy stories makes the mind think that this is how you write.
In that regard, would it help if writers in search of inspiration had a list.... even a wishlist of sorts? Maybe we just need someone to tell us not to just see the school, but also the town in which it is?
Monele, you answered yourself with the big post. Since the community is still young it'll take time to start seeing different settings as many are first emulating the things they like before proceeding to do something original and, as mentioned above, some ideas require 'juice' ($$$$) to be plausible considering the technical implications (and complications) of turning what started as a novel or a script and adapt it to the multimedia format.
It might be too young :/. But is money really a problem here? There have been fantasy VNs and sci-fi VNs and other types. How was it done? Was it really that different from making the schoolgirl ones?
Is it about not having photographed backgrounds at the ready? Is it about having experienced school and not a medieval castle or a space ship?
Lastly, there is also the will to finish a project as stated above. It's easy to begin and a pain to finish for the obvious reasons that what seems simple at the beginning starts growing in complexity and not everyone manages to be up to the task. In fact, I've been procrastinating so much recently...
I'm all with you here, but again, aren't schoolgirl-story authors also struggling the same?
Something like that would be awesome, but I'm afraid of making it, since people would beat me sticks for being inaccurate afterwards xD
So okay, maybe here's a reason why we don't see more of these :/. Maybe accuracy is not *that* important? Story is king. Fun is king. If you have to distort reality to make it happen, I think it's worth it :)
And don't worry! A game without schoolgirls is coming soon! Almost done....
Yay! :D *lil dance*
Here something else that could be the reason. Among the few VN ideas I have lying around, one of them is what you could call "my epic".
Ah yes... the eternal "epic" problem ^^;... I'm a big client of that one ^^;;... I agree that such projects are probably better kept for later times, bigger teams and maybe even some "official" status (moneys!). But it's still sad to strike off some settings just because they're usually linked to epic stuff.

This is also why I suggested different school settings. I think it's one of those "tips" you learn at some point about plots and stories : settings are rarely directly linked to them. A story about love could technically happen at any time period in any sort of setting. All the big thematics should work and be adaptable. Actually, some books and movies do that trick of using an existing story/fable and putting it in an unexpected setting.


In the end, I'm really just looking for "why"s, so a possible solution can be found. Maybe it's just about shaking the bowl to make good things come up. Maybe it's about getting the right people together. I wish I knew ^^;...

F.I.A : actually, this thread makes it all confusing, and yet I realize what happens when I read through it : I think "oh, cool idea! but no way I'm the one making that" ^^;... Ideas tend to be best manipulated by their own creators...

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#10 Post by Nafai » Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:48 am

*On the Popularity of Certain Genres: Well, it could be simply because a lot of the game creators aren't trying to push the boundaries of the art so much as to re-create/refine an enjoyable experience they've had playing someone else's game, or experiencing an anime/comic etc.
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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#11 Post by mikey » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:05 am

monele wrote:(side note : I have the feeling I'm not getting your point, so apologies if I'm totally off ^^;...)
What I wanted to say is that one can be frustrated from seeing people talk predominantly about schoolgirls, it gets so tiring that from a certain point any mention of schoolgirls triggers all of the previously experienced - meaning: someone says he is making a game set in a school and I think "not again" and my mind has the impression that much more games with schoolgirls have been made than what is actually true. If you're exposed to anime and popular VNs, even if not playing them, I think the overload of schoolgirls is definitely there, so my point was that this overload makes it seem like there is less innovation that there actually is - much like if you watch the news regularly you may think after a while that the whole world is going to kill itself and all people want to rob you. So my suggestion was to sort of take a second look - and even though there is a large proportion of schoolgirl OELVNs, it isn't as huge as it seems, and at second glance the games are very diverse. So it was kind of an optimistic thought :)

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#12 Post by monele » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:06 am

Nafai : good point :). I'll start a new rant about how anime and games are always the same stuff! ;)

(offtopic but not totally : how is the Elect doing? :D)

== Oops-edit ==
mikey : okay, I didn't get that but you make a good point :) I am tired of seeing it everywhere ^^;
Last edited by monele on Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#13 Post by Mikan » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:18 am

I didn't read everything, but I think the community is so tiny that there isn't really a need for off-beat games.

School girls is an overdone area, sure, but it's probably the most standard setting to any dating sim game besides working at a company or working as a doctor with a large staff of pretty nurses because it's so easy to introduce new characters in those settings.

There's such a tiny demand for games of our kind anyway, and there's an even smaller audience for a game that specifies in one genre, such as a game about electrical engineering or a game about breeding turtles. It's hard to make a game that no one can related to. Fortunately, everyone has attended school, so most people can relate to it.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#14 Post by DaFool » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:31 am

This is a fast-moving thread and I just wanted to chip in with what I've read so far before going home...

ah, it's out there... it's just the planning in research, like what people said, that takes time and effort, and in the end unless you have real life experience yourself it's kinda hard to ground the idea so it won't just be vaporware.

Actually, just take a quick look at the RAA right now, and count the 'schoolgirl' stories (even the ones with atypical settings) against the non-schoolgirl ones. You'd be surprised.

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Re: The state of VNs and their future

#15 Post by monele » Tue Aug 26, 2008 12:03 pm

DaFool : Gyah o_o... true enough, they're not that numerous! I guess mikey was right : seeing schoolgirl themes being discussed just made me somehow think it was more proeminent than it really was ^^;... *feels dumb*

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