Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

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LeonDaydreamer
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Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#1 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:16 pm

Hi guys, I've been doing a lot of writing about my project A Near Dawn (mostly about what it personally means to me).

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You can play the Prologue on Itch.io, Steam, or Google Play.

Now, we know this isn't the first commercial 'unconventional' VN. The Letter by Yangyang Mobile is an excellent example, and they spoke a lot about the difficulties they went through with their project, which I personally think is amazing. Not unlike them, I have been getting a mixed response from the VN community so far. You guys know that there is a strong aversion to anything that does not look expressly anime. I get that, I've been there. I love the anime style and I had my anime phase, as well. I used to not even watch 3D animation for a long time, and it was actually 3D anime like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts that got me to open my mind up to it more. These days, I love it. I know the amount of work that goes into it and being an animator myself I can completely appreciate the skill it takes and the decisions that are made (i.e. there are a hundred ways to do anything). My point is yes, it's different and unconventional, but is that a bad thing? :)

The project I've been working on is called A Near Dawn. It is many things - I started out calling it my "dark humorous psychological thriller point and click visual novel adventure game," and at this point it's just my "dark humorous adventure", because that was quite a mouthful. But that is what this project is - my main influences for it are Ace Attorney (a puzzle adventure VN), Steins;Gate (it does not become apparent until later on in the story, but let's just say things begin going progressively supernatural/sci-fi), and traditional adventure games like Broken Sword (one of my favorite things).

A little about me: I began working on A Near Dawn, because I really had to. I was an animator on many cartoons like Ugly Americans and Jimmy Two-Shoes. I thought that was what I wanted, but at some point I began to realize the most 'difference' I would be making if I kept going in this direction. I would always be working on somebody else's project (whatever the studio decides to produce), by the time my part comes in everything has already been planned out - seriously, it's all storyboarded, the audio is recorded. So everybody already knows what my contribution will be, before I even sit down at my desk. Don't get me wrong, it can be very interesting work and the studio environment is great, but my passion was telling stories, trying to make a difference in the world with them.

About A Near Dawn: I grew up on adventure games: Monkey Island, Indiana Jones - later Broken Sword, Ace Attorney. Those games inspire me, because of their clever writing and imaginative storylines. I always wanted to make an adventure like that. One key difference between them and most VNs is that they put you in control of every action and situation. If you look at something or speak to someone, that was your decision to do. To me that is something that is very powerful and immersive, and that was the concept behind A Near Dawn - if you strip an adventure game of the little character walking around, still allowing you to explore your environment and move from place to place, and you add these dramatic CG scenes to highlight the action in the story. What you get is a kind of interactive graphic novel adventure game that merges the Adventure and traditional Visual Novel genres together.

This is what that looks like:


I would love to hear some feedback on this, and I just launched this project on KickStarter, hoping to help get some support for it. Have a look at our campaign if you get a chance. And do let me know your thoughts if you check it out (whether here or on A Near Dawn WIP thread)!
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#2 Post by Zylinder » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:16 am

Personally, I don't mind unconventional VNs at all. As to the discussion on anime vs not anime, I think at the end of the day it boils down to whether the art style is appealing or not. I mostly work as a concept artist in a video game studio, so possibly my view is narrowed by it -- but IMO appealing sells, regardless of the style.

Now onto your VN -- I've seen it on-and-off as I explore the forums, and I think it's got a lot of potential. I'm personally intrigued by the point-and-click adventure style, since there's a lot of possibility with it that if written well, yields good gameplay. The only feedback I have for you is for your gameplay trailer -- perhaps including more of the 'hook' of your story might serve you better.

Having watched it, I came away with this information: it is a) point and click, and b)has an explorable environment.

That's good, but if you were to include footage of an incident or a mystery of some sort, it'd be much more memorable. A murder, for example, or something pivotal to your story. From exploring your story, I see mentions of psychological issues and an Evil Corp to battle, both scenes of which might be a better introduction to your game. If this trailer's scene is set at what your story is about, I will come away with the knowledge that it is point and click, explorable/interactive, and about one man's struggle with a mystery, for example. As it stands, the first minute is about the exploration of a diner and a child. It can be more informative.

I hope this makes sense and that it wasn't overly harsh! Best of luck with your work!

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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#3 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:28 pm

Zylinder wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:16 am
[ALL OF IT]
Haha! It was not harsh at all. I appreciate the feedback Zylinder! :)
This is actually a gameplay clip rather than a trailer... perhaps I should have made more of a gameplay trailer and that's the lesson.

The actual trailer is this:


It has the drama and mystery, but from what I've been told it's quite confusing. I probably should have worked more with people who don't know the story to get an outsider's perspective before finalizing it. And if I have time, I will see about making another version that at least tries to explain the story a little more.
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#4 Post by gekiganwing » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:46 pm

I looked at the art style of Near Dawn, and thought about whether I like it. My first reaction when I saw the drawings was "they look similar to Daniel Clowes' comics... I think?" (I could be way off.) My second reaction was "the characters seem depressed or anxious." If these are the predominant moods of your story, then that's fine.
LeonDaydreamer wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:16 pm
...I have been getting a mixed response from the VN community so far. You guys know that there is a strong aversion to anything that does not look expressly anime.
1. Can your game find an audience? Think about who will like the drawings, gameplay, characters, plot, etc. Consider who your demographics are, and whether they're ready and willing to purchase the game.

2. "What do you call it? Does the name make sense?" Take time to think about how to describe A New Dawn in a single sentence, as well as with just a couple words. Consider how to make the words seem compelling. If you describe it as an adventure game, will fans assume that it has frustrating puzzles? If you use a different term -- interactive comic? narrative game? -- then will fans have a difficult time comparing it to other media?

3. Animated series in Japan are often based on an existing IP: a comic, novel, game, etc. Of course there are exceptions. However, when I think about a personal favorite series such as Hikaru no Go, I'm reminded that it started as a comic, and that its creators were influenced by older comics and other art, which were in turn influenced by Disney and Fleischer cartoons...

4. It can be a challenge to find visual novels which aren't defined by 2D drawings which are relatively cute and not especially realistic or abstract. That said, I have spent a little too much time looking through descriptions of indie / freeware / untranslated / out-of-print titles on the VNDB, looking for something unusual or distinct. One example would be Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom. It was written more than thirty years ago. The game was an adventure story with no romance or sex. The same is true for Snatcher, which was first created almost thirty years ago.
LeonDaydreamer wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:16 pm
I grew up on adventure games: Monkey Island, Indiana Jones - later Broken Sword, Ace Attorney.
I got to experience a few graphic adventure games through NES adaptations. However, I had very limited access to computer games until the early 2000s. The PCs that I've owned since then have been 1) a few years behind the times and incapable of running most games, and 2) so fragile that they make the first edition of the XBox 360 look reliable by comparison.

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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#5 Post by Scribbles » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:24 pm

I love adventure games (I grew up on the King's Quest series), that aspect makes the game interesting to me. There isn't a whole lot to your game that draws me in but that's all personal preference, objectively your game seems fairly well thought out. Maybe you just need to work on finding your audience and marketing it to them? It might just be that you haven't quite found the audience for the game you're making yet (if you haven't been seeing a lot of interest). There are bound to be people who would just adore your game. you just gotta find them and tell them about it.
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#6 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:09 pm

Scribbles wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:24 pm
I love adventure games (I grew up on the King's Quest series), that aspect makes the game interesting to me. There isn't a whole lot to your game that draws me in but that's all personal preference, objectively your game seems fairly well thought out. Maybe you just need to work on finding your audience and marketing it to them? It might just be that you haven't quite found the audience for the game you're making yet (if you haven't been seeing a lot of interest). There are bound to be people who would just adore your game. you just gotta find them and tell them about it.
That's my dream, Scribbles! :) - to find the right audience for it.
This part has been tough going so far, especially since I'm pretty new on the scene.
gekiganwing wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:46 pm
(ALL OF IT)
I've been told my art style is similar to Charles Burns, Archer, and Daniel Clowes so far. :)
I don't know if people say it just to mention it or in asking if I was influenced by them. I wasn't influenced by any of these, but if I had to identify them, my influences evolved about like this to get here: Mid 90s-2000s Sunrise Anime > Fine Arts Life Drawing At University > Manga (I love Hikaru no Go as well, by the way, it's one of my favorites! :) ) > Being A Flash Animator For Almost A Decade > Picking Up Photoshop.

About the characters seeming to look depressed - the general mood of the story tends to be optimism in despair, and people trying to do their best when things are not going well, so they're not going to be too upbeat. It's a blend of humor and seriousness.

You make some really going points, Gekiganwing! I'll definitely take them into account. All I've been doing the past while is trying to find other communities that might take an interest in it.

Wow, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom sure is an unconvention VN...

Is your PC really that bad? :/ I'd totally recommend checking out classic adventure games, and they don't take much power to run (on account of having been made 15-20 years ago.
Last edited by LeonDaydreamer on Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:07 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#7 Post by trooper6 » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:53 am

In the English Language VN community there are lots and lots of games that don't have an anime aesthetic. I pretty much predominantly play games that I suppose you are calling unconventional...just don't market primarily to people who like Japanese VNs and you'll probably do better. Market to people who like indie games and adventure games.
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#8 Post by Steamgirl » Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:30 am

For what it's worth, I can tell you that the people who backed and bought BS5 had very little overlap with VNs as an interest, they were more likely to be interested in RPGs (their second choice by far) and puzzle games (a distant third). I think if you take the time to understand whom this game appeals most to, you'll find your niche. In terms of Broken Sword fans, perhaps approach the Order of the Goat (a group of kickstarter backers who became friends and set up their own Facebook page) and seek their opinion on it, to gauge if it's the sort of thing that clicks with BS fans. I think a lot of them will like the protagonists, haha! :)

For me personally, the art is not a slam dunk, but neither is it a deal breaker. Not because of the style, but it just seems a little inconsistent in terms of quality. I think if the game had rave reviews or came recommended from a friend, it would be the sort of thing I'd try despite reservations. But if I stumbled upon the project on Kickstarter or the Steam page, I probably would skip past it because the art doesn't sell it to me. It's on that funky borderline - good but not excellent - if you know what I mean. That's just my honest consumer impression - as a developer I can appreciate the effort that goes into making even a small game. This project is very ambitious and I admire you for doing it off your own back!!

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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#9 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:37 pm

trooper6 wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:53 am
In the English Language VN community there are lots and lots of games that don't have an anime aesthetic. I pretty much predominantly play games that I suppose you are calling unconventional...just don't market primarily to people who like Japanese VNs and you'll probably do better. Market to people who like indie games and adventure games.
Yeah, that's what I've been trying to do. :)
Steamgirl wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:30 am
(things...) Order of the Goat ... (things)
Wow! Order of the Goat, I didn't even know about that! :)
Thanks Steamgirl, I'll definitely reach out to them... maybe I'll even join them! (are you secretly an OotG member?)

As for the art,... hm, well if you're basing your impression on the actual game that's totally fair - this is my art and I can only do my best. But, if you mean it's inconsistent from the characters that appear in the Prologue to the other characters, I haven't gotten around to finalizing most of them yet. :) - Only Sam, Ally, Harry, the Kid, and Don Juan are final at this point. The art style for this game went through a bit of an evolutionary process (actually going from no art, through these....)

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And I think I personally improved a lot as an artist working on this project. Definitely, some of my earlier designs like Janet and Zack can use some improvement, but I see problems with Mei, Morgan, and the "????" dude as well.
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#10 Post by Steamgirl » Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:33 pm

LeonDaydreamer wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:37 pm
(are you secretly an OotG member?)
Technically speaking, I secretly am, but not sure I fully count being one of the devs. :wink:
LeonDaydreamer wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:37 pm
And I think I personally improved a lot as an artist working on this project.
It's funny, because that's kind of the feeling I got. Like some of the artwork was drawn by the same artist but with less/more experience. It's no surprise with the sheer amount of artwork games require! But it feels like your accelerated growth as an artist resulted in some inconsistency within the project. To some extent it happens to all artists, but it's less noticeable in those who already have a lot of experience and whose style is fully developed.

The other thing is that the backgrounds are a different art style and colour pallette to the characters. For example, the shadows on the characters look like they're done using black or maybe the dodge tool, whereas the backgrounds use colour for shadows. This results in different kinds of saturation levels. It's not a bad thing necessarily, but I find it a little jarring personally.

I should qualify that I'm basing this off the two videos and the screenshots. I haven't actually had the chance to play the prologue yet! :oops:

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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#11 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:04 pm

Steamgirl wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:33 pm
Technically speaking, I secretly am, but not sure I fully count being one of the devs. :wink:
Well, your secret is safe with me. Wait, you're one of the Broken Sword 5 .... DEVS? *-*
How do you officially become a goat-ee, anyway (is that what you call yourselves)? :)
Steamgirl wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:33 pm
It's funny, because that's kind of the feeling I got. Like some of the artwork was drawn by the same artist but with less/more experience. It's no surprise with the sheer amount of artwork games require! But it feels like your accelerated growth as an artist resulted in some inconsistency within the project. To some extent it happens to all artists, but it's less noticeable in those who already have a lot of experience and whose style is fully developed.

The other thing is that the backgrounds are a different art style and colour pallette to the characters. For example, the shadows on the characters look like they're done using black or maybe the dodge tool, whereas the backgrounds use colour for shadows. This results in different kinds of saturation levels. It's not a bad thing necessarily, but I find it a little jarring personally.

I should qualify that I'm basing this off the two videos and the screenshots. I haven't actually had the chance to play the prologue yet! :oops:
Yeah, that was bound to happen. :) - I kept going back and revising older designs that I finalized earlier. Like that second Sam from the left even, he was the first character I drew and that was final (for my text-based version of the game anyway), but then I kept pushing the designs. And yes, I used to use black for shading (I don't anymore and never will again... I hate black now :P ). Actually, someone either on this forum or on TIG mentioned it and I changed my shading from black to a dark shade and my art became so much nicer. But you can still see the black on those earlier designs, I figured I'd get to them when I need to finalize them. As for the BGs... actually I think I may have in part influenced my BG artist to stop using black in his work. I'm a perfectionist with these things anyway, so I'll go in and adjust the colours in his work as well (if I have time for it).

The screenshots are in-game, so they should be showing the artwork fairly accurately.
No worries, but let me know your thoughts if you get around to checking it out some time. :)
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Re: Unconventional Commercial VNs? (... like mine)

#12 Post by LeonDaydreamer » Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:53 pm

Operation Rainfall wrote a really nice article about my project. :)

http://www.operationrainfall.com/2017/1 ... near-dawn/

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