Going from writing VNs to RPGs

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Morhighan
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Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#1 Post by Morhighan » Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:59 pm

So I've worked on Visual Novels for a long time and I'm considering branching out into RPGs gradually. I'll probably start with RPG-VN hybrids at first, to ease into the process, but it's still pretty new to me.

My main concern is pacing and writing conventions. Writing a visual novel has its conventions that are different from say, writing a regular novel or poetry book or stage play. And I figure writing a RPG style game also has different conventions.

From what I've observed, most RPGs are predominately dialogue with the action being shown in animations or battle sequences.

I think also pacing with battles and such must be far different. I'd be interested to see exactly how.

If anyone here knows much about going from VNs to RPGs or the hybridization, I'd love to hear about it!

Now I'm off to go play some RPGs!

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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#2 Post by Tyrantauranox » Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:00 pm

I've worked on one iOS RPG, and it leaned heavily on VN-style dialogue sequences. It was pretty linear, in that it didn't have any branching choices, but there was a bit of free-roaming and side-quests in the world. Since some conversations could occur at many different possible times, keeping dialogue data organized was a bit tricky. We kept the side-quest dialogue in a different file, for that reason.

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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#3 Post by firecat » Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:02 pm

on renpy is going to be hard to implant the basic rpg battles and towns unless you planning to use RPG Maker. other than that many rpg can be story base where the characters do understand their goals and have gameplay on it. however don't think leveling its something every rpg enjoys or monsters that can kill you in 2-4 hits. you need to find balance for the characters and monsters.
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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#4 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Nov 02, 2016 6:21 pm

It depends on what you're aiming for specifically. RPGs have become a mixed bag since the days of tabletop. Console JRPGs from the 90s have very different conventions from WRPG sandbox PC games from the last ten or so years. Story-based games have split into a lot of categories since their inception, so the pacing conventions you should be looking for will have to follow which subgenre you're trying to emulate.

The classic console JRPG cycle, insofar as gameplay is concerned, is generally a three-point progression of Town -> Dungeon -> Boss. While the story itself can be delivered when and where it is needed in any of these phases, there are a few generalities that have formed into the standard for this formula. Each cycle can be considered a three-act arc within a larger story, and the same conventions as we see in the three-act format can be found here. Note that the names I've tossed out for each phase are not necessarily literal - the Town phase is just the jumping-off point where the important elements of a plot or sub-plot are established and the conflict begins, it doesn't have to actually take place in a town of any kind. For gameplay purposes, this is where the player is temporarily relieved from the stress of the previous cycle's Dungeon and Boss phases, learn about the premise of the new cycle they are in, and make preparations to meet the challenges in the approaching Dungeon and Boss phases. A dungeon doesn't have to actually be a dungeon, it just represents the second act where the conflict escalates and the plot unfolds. Similarly, the Boss phase doesn't so much have to contain a boss as it has to satisfy the requirements of the third act by bringing the conflict to a climax before drawing the tension level back down to its early low in the first act.

In terms of gameplay, the dungeon and the boss phases are tests of the player's competence - the dungeon tests a player's long-term planning and logistical skills by hitting them with a large number of small challenges designed to grind the player down before they reach the final phase, and it is the player's responsibility to demonstrate that they can defeat every challenge without exhausting themselves of the ability to defeat more of the same. The boss phase is the polar opposite of this - it is a sprint, where the player's ability to unleash the maximum potential of their abilities is what will see them through to the end of the current cycle and the beginning of the next one. The dungeon is about sustained challenge, and the boss is about burst challenge.

Since every cycle is pretty much just a three-act sub-plot within a likely three-act overall plot, all you have to really be able to do to keep players engaged is to keep the cycle rolling and maintain the ability to keep writing three-act story structures until you've carried your audience through your entire game. Once you get it down to a formula like this, developing it shouldn't be terribly difficult.

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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#5 Post by firecat » Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:02 pm

RotGtIE wrote:It depends on what you're aiming for specifically. RPGs have become a mixed bag since the days of tabletop. Console JRPGs from the 90s have very different conventions from WRPG sandbox PC games from the last ten or so years. Story-based games have split into a lot of categories since their inception, so the pacing conventions you should be looking for will have to follow which subgenre you're trying to emulate.

The classic console JRPG cycle, insofar as gameplay is concerned, is generally a three-point progression of Town -> Dungeon -> Boss. While the story itself can be delivered when and where it is needed in any of these phases, there are a few generalities that have formed into the standard for this formula. Each cycle can be considered a three-act arc within a larger story, and the same conventions as we see in the three-act format can be found here. Note that the names I've tossed out for each phase are not necessarily literal - the Town phase is just the jumping-off point where the important elements of a plot or sub-plot are established and the conflict begins, it doesn't have to actually take place in a town of any kind. For gameplay purposes, this is where the player is temporarily relieved from the stress of the previous cycle's Dungeon and Boss phases, learn about the premise of the new cycle they are in, and make preparations to meet the challenges in the approaching Dungeon and Boss phases. A dungeon doesn't have to actually be a dungeon, it just represents the second act where the conflict escalates and the plot unfolds. Similarly, the Boss phase doesn't so much have to contain a boss as it has to satisfy the requirements of the third act by bringing the conflict to a climax before drawing the tension level back down to its early low in the first act.

In terms of gameplay, the dungeon and the boss phases are tests of the player's competence - the dungeon tests a player's long-term planning and logistical skills by hitting them with a large number of small challenges designed to grind the player down before they reach the final phase, and it is the player's responsibility to demonstrate that they can defeat every challenge without exhausting themselves of the ability to defeat more of the same. The boss phase is the polar opposite of this - it is a sprint, where the player's ability to unleash the maximum potential of their abilities is what will see them through to the end of the current cycle and the beginning of the next one. The dungeon is about sustained challenge, and the boss is about burst challenge.

Since every cycle is pretty much just a three-act sub-plot within a likely three-act overall plot, all you have to really be able to do to keep players engaged is to keep the cycle rolling and maintain the ability to keep writing three-act story structures until you've carried your audience through your entire game. Once you get it down to a formula like this, developing it shouldn't be terribly difficult.
There is no 3 step cycle, Final Fantasy broke that rule a long time ago. Forcing players into an endless cycle will be too easy, plus rpg have become more open world and more fun than it had before. This video should explain what im saying:

https://youtu.be/yxpW2ltDNow
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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#6 Post by Rossfellow » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:10 pm

Well, whatever formula has become the standard for game storytelling for the last two decades, it's pretty much melted away at this point. There are so, -so- many different RPGs and non-RPG story games doing different things that what OP really needs is a catalogue of options.

I can only provide based on games I've played. This mostly focuses on how the game tells its story:

Cutscene Heavy
Cutscenes. Cutscenes everywhere!
This is probably what I think of whenever I think of storytelling in a JRPG or action game, and is pretty much the dominant "standard" format. These use in-game models and sock-puppet them to act out scenes in-game, usually involving a locked camera. Examples: Pretty much everything ranging from classics like Lunar to more modern RPGs like Atelier, from massive budget games like Star Ocean to little indies like Undertale.
Image

Cinematic Cutscene Heavy
Perhaps most rampant in Square Enix games from FFX onwards. During checkpoints in the game, a movie file plays out, usually more HD than the rest of the game, then transitions back into gameplay. This is perhaps the most expensive type to produce, common in action adventure games like Metal Gear and Devil May Cry, but few RPG franchises do it.
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VN-esque Cutscene
The economic option, using 2D assets(though not limited to 2D) for sprites over a background, and then moved by narration text and dialogue. Since you have a long VN history, this is what you'll probably gravitate towards unless you plan to get started on 3D models and environments. (e.g. Hyperdimension Neptunia)
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Hybrid Cutscene
Why not both?
Instead of using a 2D background to put behind sprites, its overlaid into the game camera instead, combining the standard cutscenes with VN style cutscenes. (e.g. Persona 3 FES, Persona 4, Digimonstory Cyber Sleuth)
Image

Integrated into Game Elements
Quiet, sometimes even textless narration where you figure out a story and lore by observing things you find in the game. These are rare, and it's even rarer that they're done well. These are games like Hotaru no Nikki and ICO, and while they are not RPGs in the strictest sense of the term, they're worth learning from.
Image

Overlayed into Gameplay
A story plays out while you go about doing your business in-game. A notable title of this description is Bastion, though there are probably a lot more of these out there. Common in "Walk simulators" like The Park and Vanishing of Ethan Carter. (bonus example: The narration of dungeons in The Secret World.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3bVlVOyWgI

______

I don't think this is a complete list, just ones I have already observed. As far as mechanical pacing goes, I agree with RotGtIE. Sanctuary -> Dungeon -> Boss is like the Fried Eggs of RPGs. It's perhaps the most basic effective format in the book.
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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#7 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:37 pm

firecat wrote:There is no 3 step cycle, Final Fantasy broke that rule a long time ago. Forcing players into an endless cycle will be too easy, plus rpg have become more open world and more fun than it had before. This video should explain what im saying:

https://youtu.be/yxpW2ltDNow
There I was, all ready to take you seriously, and then you posted Extra Credits.

Got me good. Stay classy.

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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#8 Post by Rossfellow » Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:14 am

Well, Extra Credits has nice things to say about game design and game theory---- Whenever they're not trying to push an agenda.

It's the wrong EC episode for this topic anyway. I doubt OP is trying to make an MMORPG, which eliminates two of four archetypes listed.
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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#9 Post by KittyWills » Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:37 am

Biggest thing that I've found helps me, is just playing the types of games I want to make. You want to make an indie RPG, go play a lot of other indie RPGs. Play them and pay close attention to them, note what works and what doesn't. Like many others have said there are too many "types" of RPGs to give a step-by-step.

And remember, people are there for the game first, the story second. If your game isn't fun to play or have a bad balance/level curve they are going to get discouraged pretty fast regardless of how good the story is. And honestly, that's just a lot of trial and error to figure that one out. lol

What engine do you plan to work in? If I may ask.

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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#10 Post by Mammon » Thu Nov 03, 2016 7:37 am

I myself have no experience in working with RPG's, but from what I can tell after playing them:
1) RPG characters don't need as much filler and character development written out as VN ones. The fighting and grinding does this for you. Having a tank actually act as a good tank in the fights removes the need for them to be fleshed out as a tank in the novel part. And making an important character's stats weak or unbalanced can actively ruin the player's oppinion of them.

2) Following up on 1), the story can be much more highlights and active plot scenes without having to worry about the path to it. No need to describe the journey to a faraway place, the player witnessed it firsthand. In fact, the level before can actually allow you more liberties with the novel part because the player can feel a sense of earning these new scenes after playing the RPG elements for an hour or so. I take Sunrider as an example, I liked the story a lot more because I had to work for those scenes by beating difficult battles. And the characters saying what a tough battle that was or saying how awesome you were works better because you actually fought many battles. The legendary reputation you build up over time feels earned, while setting the difficulty to 'Waifu mode' actually decreased the overall feel of the game because the game part was reduced to little more than required clicking without thinking.

3) Be sure that the format suits your game. RPG's lend themselves better for fight scenes by showing people running towards eachother, and horror for well... just play any horror RPG and you'll know why. However, adding RPG parts can also really damage a game feel if done incorrectly, just look at the latest addition of 'Corpse party', where the chibi characters nullified the gruesome horror of the game. (Oh no! That ghost chibi is attacking me! This is as scary as Luigi's haunted mansion!)

If you want some good RPG's in a format you might be able to reach yourself, I suggest to check out the games translated by vgperson.
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Re: Going from writing VNs to RPGs

#11 Post by kistnerelizabeth » Sun Nov 27, 2016 2:45 am

Since we're on the topic of RPGs, I thought I'd mention that growing a love for certain types or games will really help with your writing.

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