Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#16 Post by gekiganwing » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:12 am

Amberbaum wrote:Funnily enough the first thing that comes to my mind is......dating sims. Yeah, the thing that VN-haters are sick of.
There are currently just over twenty thousand titles on the Visual Novel Database. 3820 of them are tagged with genre: romance. However, only 263 titles are tagged as a dating simulation. (In my opinion, some of the examples with less than a 3.0 score barely qualify as simulation titles -- for instance, Hatoful Boyfriend is about 95% story and 5% stat management.) Also, as far as I can tell, only 74 of the 263 were written in English.

In any case, think about what you want to accomplish with your visual novel. What factors will set it apart? What aspects will attract people who aren't active in fandom? A few examples...

* Pacing. Perhaps your story can start with proactive characters, or cut to the chase. In the first fifteen minutes of Sweet Fuse, the main villain appears, and the protagonist is angered by his hostage crisis. In the first ten minutes of Hakuoki, the protagonist meets a group of crazed soldiers (setting up its themes of war and madness), as well as the Shinsengumi.

* Characters older than twenty-five. Think about how you can portray an adult as a compelling individual. What have they achieved, and what do they still want to do? What conflicts do they deal with? Who are they alone, and who are they among other people?

* Genre. If you choose to write in a specific genre such as hard science fiction, then make sure that you what people expect from it. Also, you might benefit by not throwing in elements because they're considered popular or commercial. In other words, don't assume you need elves and dwarves in a fantasy novel, don't assume you need a love interest in an action story, don't assume you need songs in an animated movie...

* Conflict. What do your characters want, and what's keeping them from achieving their goals? Is there an antagonist? How do people deal with the conflict?

* Show, don't tell. How much story-relevant information can you convey through your illustrations?

* Tone. Do you want your story to lean more towards realism or absurdity? Would it be more accurate to call your story dour, goofy, or somewhere in between? Do heroic characters prosper in your story, or do only antiheroes survive?
Amberbaum wrote:As an adult European woman I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was happy to get away from the high school otome games. One would think some big company would pick it up considering all the romance novels and tv series that takes plays in that time period - but nah...
Think about whether your visual novel can find a new audience. Maybe there are people who would enjoy your story, but they're active in a different fandom. Consider whether people who might like your VN are hiding in the indie comics community, or whether they find entertainment in roleplaying characters on forums, or something else.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#17 Post by trooper6 » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:08 am

All this really depends on what sort of audience you are trying to get. There are a lot of different sorts of people "who hate visual novels."

I am a person who knew nothing about visual novels. And to this day I still don't play Japanese (or even really Japanese style) Visual Novels. I went to the visual novel reddit and realized that this was not a space for me.

But I play visual novels all the time and I'm converted. What did it? How did I find my way here?

First thing to note...that I'm old enough not to have grown up on First Person Shooters or whatever new-fangled things you young whipper-snappers thing a video game is. I grew up on Pong and Infogrames and text based adventures and Western games that weren't all that different from visual novels. And there was no doubt in our minds those were video games. Reading lots of text fell within the realm of video games for sure. So I have no immediate "if it ain't Halo, it ain't a game" prejudice.

Second thing to note...I found the genre through the indie/art game community. Christine Love being my first way in. There is a whole art game community that will play your art game visual novels. I probably am never going to be the sort of person who plays a bunch of the Japanese style video games. They aren't my thing. But luckily for me, that isn't the entirety of what visual novels are. I don't need extra "game play"--especially if it is just a gimmick. I don't mind it either...because I've played lots of adventure games with puzzles.

I don't know if you are ever going to convert the Halo and Madden folks. But there are people who do not currently like visual novels who would like your game if your game is aligned with and marketed to fans of connected genres. Like Adventure Games, IF, text adventures, etc.

And there have been some mass popular VNs. I can think of Cause of Death and Surviving High School. They were VNs. Put out weekly by EA. But they weren't the the Japanese style VNs. People are out there and there are really popular VNs. But they just aren't all anime-style.

Expand your mind to what VNs can be. And you'll get more fans.

I mean. I'm a Gone Home fan. There were a LOT of Gone Home fans. If you make Visual Novels that appeal to that audience? You'll get that audience.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#18 Post by Sonomi » Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:39 am

A poignant quote from the OP's article mentioned a reviewer who said that "visual novels are for people who like visual novels." I want to reword this to "visual novels are for people who like reading."

Gameplay mechanics are great, but I'm personally trying to move away from those things. Sometimes you just want to read, but not a book with lines of text on a page, and that's hard to find in AAA titles.

I don't know. I feel like visual novels are exactly what they say on the tin, and a lot of people might simply dislike the "novel" part of it...

But I didn't jump into this conversation to discourage gameplay in VNs. I say go for it if that's what you want to do and surely there's a target audience for that.

My avatar is probably indicative of which side of gaming I came from...consoles. As someone who played Beat-Em-Ups, FPS, RPG galore, and platformers as a child, the thing that brought me aboard the visual novel ship is story. I'm no expert at all when it comes to writing, but I can speak to a few things that would help someone who doesn't like reading want to read.

1) Limiting purple prose. OP talked about this in the article. It can be distracting if the writer takes the extended metaphor out too far and a casual reader might not like this in general.

2) No infodumping. I like to take in bite-sized pieces of backstory, character descriptions, what have you. If I haven't finished chewing on the last bit and another fork full of info is being thrust toward me, it's just too overwhelming. I can't swallow. (Callback to point #1 maybe :wink:)

So, only introduce information exactly when and where it's relevant. Honestly, I personally struggle with this too.

I read that the average adult attention span is about 30 seconds? Please don't quote me on that, but it's close enough to accentuate the point.

3) Avoid long descriptions of characters. Gekiganwing said "show, don't tell." This applies to visuals and the writing. When a new character is introduced, someone the MC knows already, I would rather him not tell me all about this person.

Instead, I want to watch these two interact and ascertain for myself what the newcomer is like. It's that moment of discovery...just like how a RPG player will search every corner of the map for hidden items. They can do the same in VNs, just in a different way.

Things I've seen:
A. "She had always been shy, ever since...backstory"
B. "She looked embarrassed."
C. "She blushed a bright shade of pink."
D. -character sprite shows her blushing-

For hardcore gamers who aren't into VNs, they might prefer to see D happen in lieu of an overly detailed description of the same, because it does feel more interactive...I'm not entirely sure.

4) Does the narration read like narration? This is something I just noticed, but I love reading what people write on forums like this. Because it's informal. Accessible. The voice you see in this thread alone changes from person to person, and I wonder why more visual novels aren't written so loosely, for lack of a better word (not talking about the ones here).

What I mean is, if I don't usually like reading books but can do social media for hours (just an example...I've never...ok, maybe reddit), the only difference between the mediums is diction, or choice of words. If a story reads like something your friends would say, it's more of a casual experience per se. To note a game on this forum: Romancin Dudes...yes.

I found Amberbaum's post especially educational on this topic. That comment is likely more insightful and on point than my own. I'm not quite sure where I went with this, but my point is that reading it should be as fun as playing a RTS, because storytelling is what this genre is at its core.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#19 Post by Donmai » Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:07 am

Amberbaum wrote:That went on longer then I thought and thank you for reading if you made it past my huge post.
Thank you. Each sentence was worth reading.
Sonomi wrote:A poignant quote from the OP's article mentioned a reviewer who said that "visual novels are for people who like visual novels." I want to reword this to "visual novels are for people who like reading."
I can't completely agree here. Some people who like reading (like myself) usually hate to be interrupted several times to answer some very obvious or stupid questions, or do some boring repetitive stats raising for the story to go on. Someone suggested here in these forums that a visual novel should include choices "at least once every 1500 words". Sorry, but that would mean hell to me. If I'm reading a good immersive story it may include choices, but only when they will really make sense. But as someone else once said, VNs "aim to provide an experience rather than a "story". Silly me, trying to read a VN like I was readind a coherent story.
BTW I agree VNs are not video games. They are... well, Visual Novels.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#20 Post by Lodratio » Sat Feb 18, 2017 11:01 am

From talking to some of my normie friends I'd say that for a more general audience the thing that's the most off-putting is how heavily influenced titles developed by western teams are by the japanese market. We have some great traditions in terms of visuals and storytelling. For instance, french comics have a really cool aesthetic and the detective novel transitions really well into a visual novel format (shoutout R07). But that's not the background most of us come from. We're making visual novels because we were inspired by visual novels, so many of the aesthetics and storytelling buildingblocks as well as the genres we emulate are, you guessed it, taken from other visual novels.

I don't blame anyone for trying to imitate what they already know of course, but it still feels like the western devs haven't been able to find their own voice yet. There are some interesting titles being developed though, and with steam opening up the market I think it's just a matter of one or two really distinctive visual novels going viral to push the creative ambitions of people already invested in the medium in a different direction, and for creators from a different background to become aware of the potential of the medium and want to contribute to it.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#21 Post by Sonomi » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:44 pm

Donmai wrote:
Sonomi wrote:A poignant quote from the OP's article mentioned a reviewer who said that "visual novels are for people who like visual novels." I want to reword this to "visual novels are for people who like reading."
I can't completely agree here. Some people who like reading (like myself) usually hate to be interrupted several times to answer some very obvious or stupid questions, or do some boring repetitive stats raising for the story to go on. Someone suggested here in these forums that a visual novel should include choices "at least once every 1500 words". Sorry, but that would mean hell to me. If I'm reading a good immersive story it may include choices, but only when they will really make sense. But as someone else once said, VNs "aim to provide an experience rather than a "story". Silly me, trying to read a VN like I was reading a coherent story.
BTW I agree VNs are not video games. They are... well, Visual Novels.
I wouldn't say we clash there. When I mentioned that I was trying to get away from gameplay to focus on the story, mechanics like stat raising and random battles (staples of the RPG) are what I was talking about. I'm totally with you on not wanting to stop to make superfluous choices. Katawa Shoujo is a shining example of choices done right.

Every 1500 words...too frequent, in my opinion. Visual novels are supposed to convey an experience, but it's less confusing for me when the story branches right then and there, leading to a particular ending so I know exactly which choice gets where. Obviously that's not a catch all approach to take, because it depends on how your game is set up and what it's about (the gameplay in Steins;Gate worked well, my favorite VN of all time), but it's best not to overdo anything if the game doesn't necessarily call for it.
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#22 Post by Fuseblower » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:30 pm

Apologies upfront for a long post (vertical-wise) but I do side with Lodratio on this one. Why not go for Western art style instead of copying the Japanese manga style? The European comics are very rich and varied. Moreover : when doing it manga style then you're fishing in a pond that everybody else is already fishing in. I also read in this thread that the manga style isn't that popular in the West and I believe that's where the audience is. Here's a small sample of the many different styles European comics come in (kudos if you recognize all of the series 8) ):

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#23 Post by RotGtIE » Sat Feb 18, 2017 1:49 pm

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#24 Post by Rossfellow » Sat Feb 18, 2017 7:29 pm

Not here, not now, RG.

On topic, I think the root of this is the fact that VN readers/creators now share platforms with other gamers. The mentality that we have to somehow appeal to a broader audience is hard to apply here, if not impossible. Just because people end up enjoying a game with VN elements doesnt mean they're into VNs. People who get into Ace Attorney don't (usually) suddenly end up with a copy of Love Plus or Katawa Shoujo or Code Realize the next day. They'd be looking for other investigation or adventure games... With VN elements.

So I think "reaching out" to an audience who dont want your work is a noble, but wasteful pursuit. "I'll make you like VNs" is as terrible a sales pitch as it is a terrible plot hook.

On the subject of shared platforms, theres some musings I'd like to share.

I believe that the steady rise of VN releases in various gaming platforms, where it shares the shelf space with other kinds of games (Steam, PSN, etc.) has two direct effects to what kind of receptions VNs get.

[One], VNs are being put to the same standards as other games, whether its Indie or AAA. You submit a CC mashed together VN and your assets will be compared to games like Long Live the Queen or Valkyria Chronicles or Odin's Sphere. Your laziest writing will be compared to narrative powerhouses like Undertale or Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Final Fantasy. It sounds unfair, but this is a good thing. Competition drives creators to make not just acceptable products, but great ones. We are way past the point where a new VN release gets celebrated just for being a decent VN(thriving on novelty of being a rare media), now we want them to be as good at what it does like all the other games we play. Again, this is a good thing, though not to the individual creator, but to VNs as a whole.

[Two], audiences are being subjected to drivel and shovelware just like the rest of the game industry. Its so easy to get published on major platforms now. It means a lot of substandard work is getting through and it gives VNs a bad image like what we've done to the Simulator genre. We cant do much about that. Its just another side effect of the VN boom.

I'll have to end this with a quote trooper uses in pretty much every discussion it applies to, because its always right. "Do whatever. Just do it well."
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#25 Post by YossarianIII » Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:04 am

Wow, this thread grew a lot faster than I expected! A lot of good points I thought I'd add my 2 cents to:

trooper6 wrote:I don't know if you are ever going to convert the Halo and Madden folks. But there are people who do not currently like visual novels who would like your game if your game is aligned with and marketed to fans of connected genres. Like Adventure Games, IF, text adventures, etc.

...

I mean. I'm a Gone Home fan. There were a LOT of Gone Home fans. If you make Visual Novels that appeal to that audience? You'll get that audience.

Yeah, I was exaggerating a bit when I used "hate" in the title -- in that particular blog post, I was mostly talking about low-budget ways to work within Ren'Py to create something a little more similar to Gone Home, To The Moon, Kentucky Route Zero, and that sort of stuff in adjacent genres. For example, I know, trooper, that you've talked in other threads about adding some sort of time mechanic to a visual novel, which sounds like another possible idea that might make a VN more interesting for the indie art games crowd.

Sonomi wrote:A poignant quote from the OP's article mentioned a reviewer who said that "visual novels are for people who like visual novels."

FWIW, I half-disagree with the extreme wording of the quote (even though I quoted it!). I think it's totally possible to convert new people to playing VNs -- but like trooper said, you're probably not going to convert the Halo crowd anytime soon.


Fuseblower wrote:Apologies upfront for a long post (vertical-wise) but I do side with Lodratio on this one. Why not go for Western art style instead of copying the Japanese manga style?
Yeah, I probably should've mentioned in the original post that I'm coming from the perspective of someone already using a Western aesthetic, who is looking for other simple ways to extend an olive branch to the Western indie comics/videogame crowd.

I know that Jason Shiga is someone who has been pretty successful making choose-your-own-adventure comics that are basically visual novels in paper form -- there's definitely a market in the space between comics and visual novels, if you can figure out how to reach it.

Donmai wrote: BTW I agree VNs are not video games. They are... well, Visual Novels.
Rossfellow wrote:On topic, I think the root of this is the fact that VN readers/creators now share platforms with other gamers.
I think these two quotes sum up the essential contradiction of visual novels. They're not really videogames... but they're sold in the same places, they're covered on the same websites, and they (sometimes) have significant audience overlap.

I think how much you market your VN as a game depends on the intended audience. In terms of fundamental "gameplay" and format, there's not a huge difference between, say, Katawa Shoujo, Ladykiller In A Bind, and Phoenix Wright, and they all have fans in the visual novel community. But if you look at the way they overlap with gaming culture, Phoenix Wright gets written about on gaming sites that cover Call of Duty, LKIAB gets written about on gaming sites that cover Hyper Light Drifter, and Katawa Shoujo is mostly ignored by videogame sites (but is written about extensively elsewhere on the web).

So what are the practical implications of this? If you look at the Steam page for Ladykiller In A Bind, its short description totally avoids any VN jargon. (Its long description does use the phrase "visual novel," but nothing more jargon-y than that.) Meanwhile, the About page for Katawa Shoujo describes it on the first line as "a bishoujo-style visual novel" and includes technical phrases like "ADV textbox." Neither approach is right or wrong -- it just highlights how the latter is doubling down on targeting the core VN audience, while the former is trying to pick up some players who like indie games but aren't familiar with the basics of visual novels.


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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#26 Post by Lodratio » Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:38 am

YossarianIII wrote: Yeah, I probably should've mentioned in the original post that I'm coming from the perspective of someone already using a Western aesthetic, who is looking for other simple ways to extend an olive branch to the Western indie comics/videogame crowd.

I know that Jason Shiga is someone who has been pretty successful making choose-your-own-adventure comics that are basically visual novels in paper form -- there's definitely a market in the space between comics and visual novels, if you can figure out how to reach it.

I think these two quotes sum up the essential contradiction of visual novels. They're not really videogames... but they're sold in the same places, they're covered on the same websites, and they (sometimes) have significant audience overlap.

I think how much you market your VN as a game depends on the intended audience. In terms of fundamental "gameplay" and format, there's not a huge difference between, say, Katawa Shoujo, Ladykiller In A Bind, and Phoenix Wright, and they all have fans in the visual novel community. But if you look at the way they overlap with gaming culture, Phoenix Wright gets written about on gaming sites that cover Call of Duty, LKIAB gets written about on gaming sites that cover Hyper Light Drifter, and Katawa Shoujo is mostly ignored by videogame sites (but is written about extensively elsewhere on the web).

So what are the practical implications of this? If you look at the Steam page for Ladykiller In A Bind, its short description totally avoids any VN jargon. (Its long description does use the phrase "visual novel," but nothing more jargon-y than that.) Meanwhile, the About page for Katawa Shoujo describes it on the first line as "a bishoujo-style visual novel" and includes technical phrases like "ADV textbox." Neither approach is right or wrong -- it just highlights how the latter is doubling down on targeting the core VN audience, while the former is trying to pick up some players who like indie games but aren't familiar with the basics of visual novels.
Well, if you're already doing your own thing all it comes down to is 1) the raw quality of your ideas and your ability to execute them 2) polish and 3) marketing. From my understanding those three kind of multiply eachother and if you do well enough in two of those areas while having the remaining one be at least passable things will generally work out. There's still a pretty noteable rng element though.

Like I said, The fight of pushing boundaries and breaking new ground in a medium isn't a battle of "each dev for themselves", but of a creative community. This is a process of self-transformation that takes place in any movement so long as it is "alive" so to speak. Whether you're talking about art, music or literature, once the rules of a genre are in place and everyone is just reproducing the memes passed down to them you're dealing with a dead artform.

The question whether a creative comminity is alive is rooted much more deeply in the community aspect than most people realize. The world of fiction isn't something that comes into existence seperately in each persons mind. It feeds off the ground of a common mythos, which, as variations, subversions and re-immaginings of existing ideas emerge transforms itself into something new time and time again. Unless you're a genius you will not be able to achieve that kind of complete transformation in a vacuum, so creative innovation is at its strongest when people take an interest in eachothers creations and play off of eachother. That's why the one-sided relationship of western devs emulating the vn market is not a creative one. it's not dialectic, so there is nowhere near as much potential for emergence as in a community where there is a creative discourse.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#27 Post by YossarianIII » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:20 pm

Lodratio wrote:Like I said, The fight of pushing boundaries and breaking new ground in a medium isn't a battle of "each dev for themselves", but of a creative community.

Good point -- I probably should've touched on this idea more in my previous posts. The success of one VN in any audience makes it easier for others to follow the same path.

Rightly or wrongly, people often compare indie games to punk rock. The book This Band Could Be Your Life mentions how in the 80s the punk band Black Flag toured across the country on practically zero budget -- staying at peoples houses, sleeping on couches, playing shows at DIY venues, etc. They were a large-ish punk band in terms of popularity, but once they created that network of people across the country it allowed smaller bands to follow a similar path. I could see something similar happening within the world of VNs, where big-name releases make it easier for the rest of the creative community to reach new audiences.


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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#28 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:43 pm

Fuseblower wrote:Apologies upfront for a long post (vertical-wise) but I do side with Lodratio on this one. Why not go for Western art style instead of copying the Japanese manga style? The European comics are very rich and varied. Moreover : when doing it manga style then you're fishing in a pond that everybody else is already fishing in.
I don't know. Jack Norton (who runs Winter Wolves Games) has done a lot of research on the subject, including investigations with his community and the community here, and crunching his sales numbers on all his games, and come to the conclusion that his games with Western-style art sell worse than those with more anime-styled art. I don't want to put words in Jack's mouth (and he may chime in here), but I believe he stated on his own forums that he would be very reluctant to release a game with Western-style artwork in the future.
Lodratio wrote:From talking to some of my normie friends I'd say that for a more general audience the thing that's the most off-putting is how heavily influenced titles developed by western teams are by the japanese market. [...] I don't blame anyone for trying to imitate what they already know of course, but it still feels like the western devs haven't been able to find their own voice yet.
This I whole-heartedly agree with. I'd love to see more Western VN developers break away from the genre restrictions seen in Japanese Visual Novels. I'm tired of the standard Japanese high school setting, but it might be very interesting for me to read a VN set in a Brazilian high school. We've got developers from all kinds of different countries here on Lemmasoft, and yet sometimes it can seem as if everyone is trying to just recreate their favorite VN from Japan.

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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#29 Post by trooper6 » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:54 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote: I don't know. Jack Norton (who runs Winter Wolves Games) has done a lot of research on the subject, including investigations with his community and the community here, and crunching his sales numbers on all his games, and come to the conclusion that his games with Western-style art sell worse than those with more anime-styled art. I don't want to put words in Jack's mouth (and he may chime in here), but I believe he stated on his own forums that he would be very reluctant to release a game with Western-style artwork in the future.
I have heard this from Jack Norton. On the other hand, I suspect EA's Cause of Death sold way more than anything Winter Wolves have done...and that was all Western Art. I think if you are marketing to the existing VN market, you'll probably want anime art...because the majority of the existing audience are primarily Japanese VN fans. But if you want a different audience...then you might want different art.
LateWhiteRabbit wrote: This I whole-heartedly agree with. I'd love to see more Western VN developers break away from the genre restrictions seen in Japanese Visual Novels. I'm tired of the standard Japanese high school setting, but it might be very interesting for me to read a VN set in a Brazilian high school. We've got developers from all kinds of different countries here on Lemmasoft, and yet sometimes it can seem as if everyone is trying to just recreate their favorite VN from Japan.
I'd like more games not set in a high school at all.
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*Other Thing to Do: Do SFX and Score (maybe think about eye blinks?)
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LateWhiteRabbit
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Re: Making Visual Novels (For People Who Hate Visual Novels)

#30 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:36 pm

trooper6 wrote:
LateWhiteRabbit wrote: I don't know. Jack Norton (who runs Winter Wolves Games) has done a lot of research on the subject, including investigations with his community and the community here, and crunching his sales numbers on all his games, and come to the conclusion that his games with Western-style art sell worse than those with more anime-styled art. I don't want to put words in Jack's mouth (and he may chime in here), but I believe he stated on his own forums that he would be very reluctant to release a game with Western-style artwork in the future.
I have heard this from Jack Norton. On the other hand, I suspect EA's Cause of Death sold way more than anything Winter Wolves have done...and that was all Western Art. I think if you are marketing to the existing VN market, you'll probably want anime art...because the majority of the existing audience are primarily Japanese VN fans. But if you want a different audience...then you might want different art.
Fair point. I suspect much of Jack's audience is the already existing VN market, which skews his results. Though it is a relevant piece of information - if you are releasing a VN and wish to attract an audience from existing genre fans anime-style art is a safer (i.e. more profitable) bet.
trooper6 wrote:I'd like more games not set in a high school at all.
Well, yes. I don't want more games set in a high school myself, but I thought it was a pertinent example, since high schools are different all around the world, yet most developers never set a game in their own country's high school system, instead choosing the 'exotic' setting of a Japanese high school. I'll admit, 25 years ago I found the Japanese high school setting unique, interesting, and exotic, but, as they say, "familiarity breeds contempt".

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