WIPs with huge lists of character details

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WIPs with huge lists of character details

#1 Post by papillon » Thu Dec 11, 2008 2:14 pm

(A discussion spawned by a WIP thread, but that really is more appropriate for non-game-specific stuff.)

What is the purpose of listing a complete character breakdown with all the height/weight/favorite-foods/etc details of a game that isn't even vaguely written yet?

I'm not sure where this trend comes from. Perhaps it's just because when most h-games are sold in English, their games pages contain a character listing. They have a reason for doing this - advertising. If any one character makes you say "Ooo, I want to bag HER!" then you might want to buy the game. (Usually, of course, the advertising focuses first on the picture and only then on the personality details...)

Many people, however, dump all this data out when they're only in the very earliest stages of putting a game together. It's not very useful to lure in the audience at that point, because you don't have a game to offer them. They'll get frustrated and wander off. Especially if you don't have pictures yet (admit it, many people have short attention spans and visual orientation). Their eyes will just glaze over. I know mine do.

Posting this HUGE list of details drowns out the most important parts of the post - the general concept and the request, if any, for help. It can also make your game feel very un-mysterious, if so much information is presented right up front. Why bother playing, if there's nothing left to discover?

I assume that people want to post all this stuff in order to show off that they've done deep thinking about the setting and the characters... To show that they've done some real work. That's perfectly understandable. A better way to do so and keep the readers excited about the upcoming product might be to post ONE character profile at a time, over a long period of time. (With picture, if possible). Only the most important characters, and not giving away TOO much information about them. Just enough to keep people curious and wanting to see more. This will give your project a feeling of life and momentum, instead of the 'castles in the sky' feeling engendered by so many of these huge-list-of-ideas.

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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#2 Post by x__sinister » Thu Dec 11, 2008 2:51 pm

I'm not really going to comment upon the conflict that brought this topic up, but I suppose I should say at least this, even if I'm still feeling a bit sour.

It's very hard to satisfy people.
You need to show them that you've put work into the game (and what is a game without their characters?), but then they complain that it's too long and full of extra things that don't really matter. In reality, the whole point of putting that extra stuff is to make the character as realistic as possible. At least, that's what I learned in creative writing.

And, on the other side of the coin, you don't put much about the character and they complain that there's nothing, that you're doing nothing with your story.

You show it - they complain.
You don't show it - they still complain.

Unfortunately, you cannot please everyone.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#3 Post by Deji » Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:11 pm

x__sinister wrote: In reality, the whole point of putting that extra stuff is to make the character as realistic as possible. At least, that's what I learned in creative writing.
Just a comment on this, regarding creative writting and such:
You, as the writer, are supposed to know everything that has to do with your characters, what they look like, what they like, what they don't, what they do believe in, where do they live, what do they do for a living, where did they grow up, how they become the person they are tday, etc. All this makes your character 3-dimensional and realistic.
BUT
All that information is not necessarily relevant on the narration. The Narration, the part of the story your're showing or telling you audience only needs to contain informatoion pertinent to the story and the main conflict and all that stuff. Random extra bits of information are fun to get to know the character a bit better during the story, but it's not really important.

Puting all that realistic but non-important information in a story summary doens't give the audience more material to elaborate on the game, because they can't see how is that the character like icecream and be a born in August affect their part on the story >_o; Unless it's a dating sim where you are deciding which character to pursue base don their personal stats and likings.

I think short summaries about the character personality and some little hints about who they are, where they come from, or a little hint about a fact that might affect the story development later are more effective to catch the audience's attention.
A very general description of their looks can help visualize the character if there's no picture as well.... like "short brow-eyed girl with long golden hair tied in a ponytail that likes to wear flowery dresses"
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#4 Post by x__sinister » Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:22 pm

I understand what you're saying, and (despite my earlier remark about not bringing the conflict up) the only extra information that I, specifically, put into their info was their height and weight, and what their names meant. The last one I can see being a bit out there, but height and weight seems a bit general for me.

Maybe, as a writer, I'm biased. It's always been drilled into my head "You need this. You need to put it!"

But, I can understand where you all are coming from.
Like I said, I'm a bit sour about how that person 'wrote' at me.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#5 Post by Enerccio » Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:27 pm

x__sinister wrote:what their names meant. The last one I can see being a bit out there, but height and weight seems a bit general for me.
BTW: This is not something you should say, this is something that should imply from their actions (if you named them on purpose) and we have to find that. You basically spoiled thing which is interesting when game is done, but not spoiled even a bit of what is needed when game is still in work.
Maybe, as a writer, I'm biased. It's always been drilled into my head "You need this. You need to put it!"
Both that person and you are writers...
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#6 Post by PyTom » Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:38 pm

You know, I've mostly been ignoring WIP as well, except for my usual scans for people violating forum common law.

Thinking about this, I think the problem is that many of the WIP threads aren't really written in a very actionable way. If I was asking for help, I would probably provide the following information.

- An "elevator talk".

An elevator talk is a short speech that you use to convince people that your idea is interesting enough to be worth pursuing. The name comes from the idea that it's the sort of presentation you can give during an elevator ride to convince people that they should pay more attention.

For Moonlight Walks, I would probably write something like: "It's a fantasy tale about a guy who forms a relationship with a girl who only appears on the night of the full moon."

This shouldn't be longer than a paragraph, and a line or two could often suffice. It's a tough balance... you don't want to give away the whole story, but rather get potential project members interested enough to recruit you. You can (and should) spoil them in project.

- A list of resources that the project has.

It's first important to establish how much skin you have in the game. So it's important to mention things like you have the basic story mapped out, and 10,000 words (about half the game) written. These give people the confidence that this is a real project, and at the same time a sense of the scale of the game.

I wouldn't post the actual story, character descriptions, etc publically, so as not to spoil the story. It's important to make them available to potential collaborators upon request.

- A list of resources the project needs.

And here, it's important to be specific about content and quantities of resources... or at least in the right ballpark. So one might say something like:

Character art:
- 2 high school girls, each with 3 poses.
- 1 little sister, a single pose.
- 1 creepy old neighbor, a single pose.

Background art:

- Classroom
- Hallway
- Cafeteria
- POV's bedroom.
- House hallway.
- Front yard, facing neighbor's house.

and so on. It's probably also okay to give counts and basic descriptions (3 indoor school scenes) if you don't want to spoiler too muich.

The idea is to give people an idea of what they're signing up for. I don't want to speak for our artists, but I'd imagine many people are reluctant to sign up when they have no idea of the amount of work involved.

Finally, it's important to treat collaborators as collaborators, and leave them a large amount of creative input. From a writer's perspective, it's best not to overspecify things like character designs. Instead, give the impression that the character needs to convey, and the really story-important things about the character... and let the artist have a wide berth.

Something like:

"An assertive rich girl type. The school president, with a customized uniform just to show off the authority she took. She should have a barely-visible scar on one of her hands."

I'll pose a question to the artists here... is this something you could come up with a good character design from, given someone who isn't going to second-guess your decisions?

Music and so on is similar... distill what's needed down to the essence, and ask for that. It's been my experience that when I've asked for something, I've often been pleasantly surprised. (It's important that if you reject an asset, which happens from time to time, it's for a story-based reason, rather than just because it doesn't match your internal vision.)
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#7 Post by papillon » Thu Dec 11, 2008 3:54 pm

In reality, the whole point of putting that extra stuff is to make the character as realistic as possible. At least, that's what I learned in creative writing.
It's very useful for you the author to know those extra details. This helps you flesh out the character and affects the way they are written in the story. I'm not trying to say you shouldn't have piles of character notes somewhere!

But I don't see what the purpose is of posting all that data in the WIP thread. Particularly in the first post of the thread, where people are looking curiously to find out what you're up to. All this data drowns out the important parts.

The average viewer doesn't need access to all of your notes. They'll discover these details by playing the game. Your collaborators may need access to all of your notes, but only after they've expressed interest in working with you.

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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#8 Post by Kikered » Thu Dec 11, 2008 4:16 pm

Hehe, you've beaten me to the punch in creating this thread, Papillon. :P

I have some beef with WIPs with large character detail lists. Unfortunately, my ire extends beyond them and into the formulaic list format taken by the threads in general:
VN of Great Win? wrote:[Brief Teaser]
[Brief Summary]
[Characters]
[Features]
[Call to Arms - er, Recruitment]
Since when has such a format been the de facto standard? Is the purpose of the thread to build hype for the game? To ask for help with the game? Quite frankly, most of them read more like specification lists than exciting previews for the game. While the format categorizes the different aspect of the game for easier perusal, there are certainly more creative ways to get these items across. For example, rather than having information dumps for each character, how about a short paragraph of bio as the characters themselves would write them? It gives readers a glimpse at the characters' personalities, what they think stand out about themselves, and their attitudes and manners of speech. Marginally more engaging and interesting than a list of characteristics, yes?

I might be mistaken in thinking that there's relatively little value in these types of threads in such a format. But in a sea of WIP threads that all convey the same information in the same manner, approaching the threads in a creative manner can really make your work stand out to potential players and possible volunteers alike. Perhaps something that might be valuable to discuss would be creative ways to present WIPs in general, rather than covering just our grievances with huge lists of character detail.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#9 Post by x__sinister » Thu Dec 11, 2008 4:23 pm

Kikered wrote:how about a short paragraph of bio as the characters themselves would write them?
I think that's a really cool idea. It would be a lot more personal. Even if, let's say, a character thought they were something that they're not, the reader would be able to tell by the way it's phrased. That's really creative.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#10 Post by Alessio » Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:39 pm

papillon wrote:But I don't see what the purpose is of posting all that data in the WIP thread.
Easy answer: Instant gratification. Finishing a VN is hard, and reward/recognition (if any) awaits at the end of a very tedious process. Whereas it's easy to whip up a 5-minute WIP post with character descriptions to get some "Oh wow that sounds great" replies. Unfortunately, I think most WIP get announced while enthusiasm abounds, and then die a quiet death when it turns out to be more work than expected.

Then again - what is the purpose of the WIP thread? I'm not sure we have one clear answer to that. For some it may be a place where to post a development log, others might use it to search for collaborators, and some maybe as a means to force themselves to keep working on it.

Some people post to show what a cool game they would make if they could although they can't. If that is despicable or does annoy the community (note I'm not saying that it is), make up a more restrictive policy for the WIP forum. Or create a new IIP forum (Ideas In Progress) where all the cool vaporware ideas may be posted.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#11 Post by DaFool » Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:46 pm

PyTom wrote:
"An assertive rich girl type. The school president, with a customized uniform just to show off the authority she took. She should have a barely-visible scar on one of her hands."

I'll pose a question to the artists here... is this something you could come up with a good character design from, given someone who isn't going to second-guess your decisions?
Now THAT's the point where the nitty-gritty details are required and appreciated... is she blond or brunette? Does she wear her hair in 'ojou-sama' twirly locks? What are her typical mannerisms which may be shown in her usual poses? But see, ONLY the character artist will need this information at that point. All other collaborators can be spared the details.

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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#12 Post by Deji » Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:01 pm

PyTom wrote:You know, I've mostly been ignoring WIP as well, except for my usual scans for people violating forum common law.

Thinking about this, I think the problem is that many of the WIP threads aren't really written in a very actionable way. If I was asking for help, I would probably provide the following information.

- An "elevator talk".

An elevator talk is a short speech that you use to convince people that your idea is interesting enough to be worth pursuing. The name comes from the idea that it's the sort of presentation you can give during an elevator ride to convince people that they should pay more attention.

For Moonlight Walks, I would probably write something like: "It's a fantasy tale about a guy who forms a relationship with a girl who only appears on the night of the full moon."

This shouldn't be longer than a paragraph, and a line or two could often suffice. It's a tough balance... you don't want to give away the whole story, but rather get potential project members interested enough to recruit you. You can (and should) spoil them in project.

- A list of resources that the project has.

It's first important to establish how much skin you have in the game. So it's important to mention things like you have the basic story mapped out, and 10,000 words (about half the game) written. These give people the confidence that this is a real project, and at the same time a sense of the scale of the game.

I wouldn't post the actual story, character descriptions, etc publically, so as not to spoil the story. It's important to make them available to potential collaborators upon request.
That sounds like what I'd expect from a WIP thread!
- A list of resources the project needs.

And here, it's important to be specific about content and quantities of resources... or at least in the right ballpark. So one might say something like:

Character art:
- 2 high school girls, each with 3 poses.
- 1 little sister, a single pose.
- 1 creepy old neighbor, a single pose.

Background art:

- Classroom
- Hallway
- Cafeteria
- POV's bedroom.
- House hallway.
- Front yard, facing neighbor's house.

and so on. It's probably also okay to give counts and basic descriptions (3 indoor school scenes) if you don't want to spoiler too muich.

The idea is to give people an idea of what they're signing up for. I don't want to speak for our artists, but I'd imagine many people are reluctant to sign up when they have no idea of the amount of work involved.
I think that's more of a "Recruiting!" post than "thsi is what i'm working on, get hyped! :D" thread, but it's awesome for a recruiting thread. The problem s that the list of assets themselves might spoil part of the game for certain stories, so a less deltailed list of assets could be better in that case.
Like...
- 4 main characters qith 3 poses and 3 outfits each. 6 secondary characters with one outfit and one pose each.
They're all fantasy-rpg kind of characters. Character age ranges from 8 to 75. Main characters are between 15-20.
- 10 backgrounds, including indoors, and outdoors; medieval fantasy setting. Variations needed in 4 of them.
(references will be provided at request)
Finally, it's important to treat collaborators as collaborators, and leave them a large amount of creative input. From a writer's perspective, it's best not to overspecify things like character designs. Instead, give the impression that the character needs to convey, and the really story-important things about the character... and let the artist have a wide berth.

Something like:

"An assertive rich girl type. The school president, with a customized uniform just to show off the authority she took. She should have a barely-visible scar on one of her hands."

I'll pose a question to the artists here... is this something you could come up with a good character design from, given someone who isn't going to second-guess your decisions?
That's always welcome <3
Detailing every visual trait the charatcer has is frustrating half of the time. At least in my experience, it's really nice when you get to give the character your own design (based on a brief description provided, fo course); it makes you feel the character "belongs to you" in a way.

That description sounds awesome to let the imagination fly and throw some sketches around for a character design.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#13 Post by lordcloudx » Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:16 pm

Ahem! I'm also one of those persons who have been actively discussing the disdainfulness of the formulaic look of the generic EVN WIP.

In fact, I've made two mockeries of such WIP threads in a span of a few hours just to show you how easy it is to construct such a WIP and then forget all about it.

I'm not saying this is true of all WIPs, but it does give me (and perhaps my fellow interlocutors of the insular society of VN creators :wink:) that negative impression by default.

Example 1: http://www.geocities.com/extended_blast
(like the logo? :twisted: )

Example 2: http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... f=4&t=4185
Last edited by lordcloudx on Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#14 Post by MoonlightBomber » Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:27 pm

As someone who's aiming for a mainstream game creator career, all I can say is: Bring out substantial info, but don't spoil too much. The LSF WIP thread is not the only avenue for posting development logs and such. Setting up a dev blog is chicken feed nowadays.

And yeah, ignore the unpleaseable fanbase. Only pay attention to the sane fans. And don't be like Uwe Boll, either.
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Re: WIPs with huge lists of character details

#15 Post by musical74 » Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:14 am

As someone who did such a thing - years ago, before I joined the forums - there's something I'd like to add here...

Giving out lots od details gives the IMPRESSION that you really thought things out and are already deep in the development of the game. My friend and I had this huge list of details for the characters and made it sound like we were deep in development and almost ready to go. Guess what? It fell to the wayside, partially BECAUSE we had such vivid detais. When it came time to try and make the graphics for the game...we fell flat on our faces - imagine a pair of guys both over 6 feet falling flat because we bit off more than we could chew, but didn't realize it until we started trying to add graphics - would have been GREAT as a text only game, but we wanted graphics...and therein we realized, too late, "uh, we can't follow through with this..."

Having learned that the hard way, I would rather have a short blurb of details, enough to give me the hook to want me to continue watching the thread.
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