Could this kind of project work as a VN?

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vorgbardo
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Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#1 Post by vorgbardo » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:55 am

I couldn't figure out where I could ask about this, hopefully this is the right place.

Basically, I'm pondering whether my game concept would work as a Visual Novel / appeal to VN audience. I know the story I want to tell, I have the music I need, I can draw & render some of the graphics I need and am able to purchase the rest. The possible ways to tell the interactive story in game format would be the following:
  • Graphic adventure à la Telltale Games productions / Life Is Strange. BUT: This would require more resources than I can muster.
  • Text only game, created with the ChoiceScript by Choice Of Games. BUT: I want to supplement the story with music and graphics.
  • Visual novel. BUT: See below.
What the game would have:
  • Sci-fi themed story, but one that could actually happen (all concepts based on real science).
  • Characters that act realistically, not as mere tools to drive the story or puppets to cater to the needs of the protagonist, but following their own agendas.
  • Intertextuality (optional, not obligatory).
  • Choices that really affect the way story unfolds.
  • Multiple endings.
What the game would NOT have:
  • Anime influences (although I could purchase some of the graphics from an anime style artist).
  • Dating (albeit there would be at least one "romance option", but it definitely would not be the beef of the game).
  • Nudity.
So the question: would this kind of project interest anyone as a visual novel? Would it bore VN audience to death? After all, it arguably lacks most, if not all defining features of traditional VNs?
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#2 Post by mikolajspy » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:22 pm

If you just want to tell a story and don't need special mechanics, go for VN. Image, audio, choices, endings - checked. If that's all you need.

I think that kind of story can definitely be told as Visual Novel. Don't throw VNs into "simple anime for adults" category.

Art style is just a matter of personal choice, but I guess most people who even know what a VN is would prefer it to be more anime-style. Noone stops you to make VN with realistic drawings or even photos, although it might turn out as 'uncanny valley'. Or you can just try to market it as another indie game, not VN specifically.

You can have a realistic setting and heavily developed realistic characters and still keep it in typical anime style, there is no contradiction. It depends on the author.
The same goes for romance thing, who said it's a must-have in Visual Novel?

Visual Novel is just quite a bit different medium than mentioned games, but is much easier to do.
After all, everything depends on the story you want to tell. If the story is bland and uninteresting, even the most advanced graphics and mechanics won't save it.

You can take a look at 'Root Double' VN, it's kind of sci-fi with a bit darker setting than typical cutesy VNs.

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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#3 Post by ComputerArt.Club » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:32 pm

I am not representative of the VN community, but my main thoughts when reading your post were that you may be considering the wrong engine/format. What you are talking about sounds more like something that is more text based, more typical of interactive fiction, of something that might be made with ADRIFT, TADS or Quest (http://textadventures.co.uk/) (as well as many others, check the section on other visual novel areas).

I've tried ADRIFT and Quest, and they would work for what you are talking about. In my opinion text adventure games are niche areas, there are those that still have a large following, but its not easy to build such a following and it takes a long time. There are lots of example games out there, you can add art here and there, but you don't need it for every situation/scene/room and if you don't include any art then that is fine too. They also tend to be more driven by western influences rather than Asian influences.

Sorry, rushing this, it is late here and I have work in the morning. Good luck!
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#4 Post by Imperf3kt » Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:24 pm

Don't forget Ren'Py supports NVL (novel) mode as well. Not every VN has to be ADV (adventure)
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#5 Post by Gaudeamus » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:28 pm

so i understand and for the Vn that I played I think that what comes closest to your description is something like stain gates, if you do not know it looks for a gameplay of it and then it has public, enough so that has a new adaptation to the Anime, that is going to hit or not what you want because that is something else.

Stain gates wherever you look it looks like an indie product, the visual style is not even attractive, barely and there are sprites of the characters and they are very static, I do not even remember if they had VA (it's been a long time since I played it) but if I remember that it was quite text and it fulfills like visual novel since the thing of the appointments and the nudes apply to the galges and eroges not in general to the VN.
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#6 Post by vorgbardo » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:13 am

Thank you kindly for the insights, much appreciated!
mikolajspy wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:22 pm
You can have a realistic setting and heavily developed realistic characters and still keep it in typical anime style, there is no contradiction. It depends on the author.

You can take a look at 'Root Double' VN, it's kind of sci-fi with a bit darker setting than typical cutesy VNs.
My worry with the characters is mainly that most VNs seem to have Anime-style characters, especially “-dere” archetypes. Compared to them, "realistic" characters may appear bland and boring, as the personality differences and characters' actions are much more subtle. "Normal" characters also lack the in-built familiarity and appeal that popular archetypes have.

"Root Double" is a new one to me, I'll check it out, thanks.
ComputerArt.Club wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:32 pm
What you are talking about sounds more like something that is more text based, more typical of interactive fiction, of something that might be made with ADRIFT, TADS or Quest (http://textadventures.co.uk/) (as well as many others, check the section on other visual novel areas).
ADRIFT, TADS and Quest are all new tools for me, thank you. I will study them further, but after a cursory look it seems that Ren'Py would probably be a better match for what I wish to achieve, as I hope to enhance the story with graphics and music as integral parts of the experience. (What you said about text adventure games in general rings very true. I'm a big fan of them myself, and some text-only games like Alter Ego are as impressive and entertaining as any game I have played.)
Imperf3kt wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 4:24 pm
Don't forget Ren'Py supports NVL (novel) mode as well. Not every VN has to be ADV (adventure)
Indeed, the most text-heavy sections of the story development could be told using this. Thanks for the tip.
Gaudeamus wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:28 pm
Stain gates wherever you look it looks like an indie product, the visual style is not even attractive, barely and there are sprites of the characters and they are very static, I do not even remember if they had VA (it's been a long time since I played it) but if I remember that it was quite text and it fulfills like visual novel since the thing of the appointments and the nudes apply to the galges and eroges not in general to the VN.
Steins;Gate does seem to be one of the most popular sci-fi themed VNs out there. Its writing and characters are very strongly anime-influenced, but your point about its visual style is very interesting. I have to play it through at some point (I have started it, but it failed to suck me in, whereas another sci-fi oriented title "Ever 17: The Out of Infinity" took my breath away from the get-go and is in my opinion an absolutely stunning writing achievement).

...So it seems that VN could be the way to go after all? I'll keep you posted. :)
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#7 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:12 am

vorgbardo wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:13 am
My worry with the characters is mainly that most VNs seem to have Anime-style characters, especially “-dere” archetypes. Compared to them, "realistic" characters may appear bland and boring, as the personality differences and characters' actions are much more subtle. "Normal" characters also lack the in-built familiarity and appeal that popular archetypes have.
I think you are looking at it wrong. Ren'Py is just an engine. It can be used for adventure-type games, mystery games, RPGs, choice-driven narratives, etc. Sure, if you call your project a 'Visual Novel', that is going to carry a certain baggage of expectations with it, but you don't have to do that.

Tell-tale makes games that are just branching stories with graphics where you make choices and see the outcome. That is EXACTLY a visual novel, but they don't call it that.

You'll often see games that don't want to be associated with anime aesthetics call their project an 'adventure game with a choice driven story'.

So just because you are using Ren'Py doesn't mean you have to call your game a visual novel.

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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#8 Post by vorgbardo » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:07 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:12 am
I think you are looking at it wrong. Ren'Py is just an engine. It can be used for adventure-type games, mystery games, RPGs, choice-driven narratives, etc. Sure, if you call your project a 'Visual Novel', that is going to carry a certain baggage of expectations with it, but you don't have to do that.

Tell-tale makes games that are just branching stories with graphics where you make choices and see the outcome. That is EXACTLY a visual novel, but they don't call it that.

You'll often see games that don't want to be associated with anime aesthetics call their project an 'adventure game with a choice driven story'.

So just because you are using Ren'Py doesn't mean you have to call your game a visual novel.
Thanks for the feedback! I was originally indeed pondering whether I should create a Visual Novel or go for some other format. The way I see it, Ren'Py is best suited for VNs, and if I'm going to select VN as the format I will definitely be using Ren'Py. By "Visual Novel" I mean a game of interactive fiction, with graphics and music, where emphasis is on the plot and characterization instead of any sort of action scenes.

Telltale Games' productions have a lot of things that typical Visual Novels do not have: the biggest difference is that everything is animated instead of having simple sprites over backgrounds. That sort of stuff requires much more work, skills, and a completely different engine than a typical VN. It is beyond the scope of what I could do, hence the segregation.

('Adventure game with a choice driven story' is an interesting genre naming option indeed. However, 'adventure game' could perhaps be interpreted to mean a game that contains puzzles, instead of a mere interactive narrative.)
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#9 Post by Imperf3kt » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:14 pm

On the contrary, the Ren'Py engine is perfectly capable of presenting a 100% animated visual novel in the style of a tell tale games work.
The additional work to implement that won't come from Ren'Py but from a 3rd party animation software which you would require even if you chose a different engine.
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#10 Post by gekiganwing » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:50 pm

vorgbardo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:55 am
Basically, I'm pondering whether my game concept would work as a Visual Novel / appeal to VN audience.
Will people buy your story? Will it get noticed on iTunes or Steam or some other platform? I don't know. You might have to aggressive market your content. Search for fans who will enjoy the art, writing, interactive elements, etc. I don't have much insight on marketing, but you may benefit by emphasizing what your story does well, rather than what it averts. (I have thought about this after listening to School of Movies' podcast about Justice League.)

I'm sure there are some potential fans who are looking for hard sci-fi with complex characters. One thing which I've hoped to see in visual novel fandom is increased separation of art, themes, and content. Over the last decade and a half that I've spent in fandom, I've noticed major overlaps in the following: 1) deliberately paced slice of life fiction, 2) romance with two or more potential love interests, 3) porn without plot, and 4) drawn 2D art which lingers around the lower-right section of Scott McCloud's pyramid of comics art. I have been looking for titles which have less than two of the above traits. If the story has a reasonable number of points of difference, I will remember it, and perhaps enjoy it.
vorgbardo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:55 am
Sci-fi themed story, but one that could actually happen (all concepts based on real science).
Characters that act realistically, not as mere tools to drive the story or puppets to cater to the needs of the protagonist, but following their own agendas.
Intertextuality (optional, not obligatory).
Choices that really affect the way story unfolds.
These are good goals. Strive to achieve as many as you can handle. If an element in your story leans toward soft sci-fi, then don't give up.

Think about specific stories you've experienced and enjoyed in which characters follow their own agendas. In which ways did the writer succeed at conveying this? In which ways could they have done better? Make a list of examples. Then write down a second list, detailing your goals for characterization.
vorgbardo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:55 am
Would it bore VN audience to death?
Every fan is different, and many fans change as they age. There was a time when I looked for introspective, melancholy dramas. That time ended around 2004, and I have focused on upbeat, amusing stories since then. Especially ones with art which isn't too realistic or abstract. I'll use one specific example. In the recent past, I've been reading Code Realize and enjoying it. The story incorporates a lot of fantastic elements. It's not a farce, but I think that it has enough humor to keep the story from becoming dour and unpleasant. I like how the characters seem competent at their jobs, as well as reasonably proactive -- they make plans rather than talk about trivia. Finally, I like how the protagonist deals with social isolation, and how she's received irrational hatred from other people. After just a few minutes, I found the protagonist relatable.
vorgbardo wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:55 am
Steins;Gate does seem to be one of the most popular sci-fi themed VNs out there. Its writing and characters are very strongly anime-influenced, but your point about its visual style is very interesting. I have to play it through at some point (I have started it, but it failed to suck me in, whereas another sci-fi oriented title "Ever 17: The Out of Infinity" took my breath away from the get-go and is in my opinion an absolutely stunning writing achievement).
I tried to read both of the titles that you mentioned. After about an hour, I set both of them down. And I am aware that both Steins;Gate and Ever17 routinely show up on recommendation lists created by people on r/visualnovels, such as this one from July 2015. Maybe it's because I've experienced hype aversion in multiple fandoms. (Lately, I've tried Undertale for the first time, trying not to set my expectations too high -- and I'm struggling with its difficulty. During college, I paid full retail price for all eight Evangelion DVDs, but didn't especially care about the story. I routinely see trade paperbacks of Watchmen in libraries, but haven't read it due to what seems like a morose tone and about two decades of fan-generated hype.)

My experiences as a fan will always be different from others' experiences. For instance, during the time when I was most active in animation fandom, one of my best experiences was watching Kodomo no Omocha on VHS fansubs. I laughed and cried through the first forty episodes. People who watched the legit R1 version a few years later had a different experience. (It's a long story.) That version has been out of print for several years, and some fans may have forgotten about the show.

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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#11 Post by vorgbardo » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:36 am

Imperf3kt wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:14 pm
On the contrary, the Ren'Py engine is perfectly capable of presenting a 100% animated visual novel in the style of a tell tale games work.
The additional work to implement that won't come from Ren'Py but from a 3rd party animation software which you would require even if you chose a different engine.
Even if the animation would be created elsewhere and only played in Ren'Py, Telltale Games type of gameplay would require interactive videos (as one can directly interact with the game world in them in several ways -- by selecting where the character moves to, what the character picks up or looks at, and via quicktime events); is Ren'Py really capable of that? But regardless, a fully animated game would be way beyond my capabilities / resources.
gekiganwing wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:50 pm
Will people buy your story? Will it get noticed on iTunes or Steam or some other platform? I don't know. You might have to aggressive market your content. Search for fans who will enjoy the art, writing, interactive elements, etc. I don't have much insight on marketing, but you may benefit by emphasizing what your story does well, rather than what it averts.
This was a very inspiring reply as a whole, lots of good points, thank you. -- Regarding marketing / getting noticed: when it comes to marketing, I know I am clueless, I couldn't sell a dollar for 50 cents. I am probably subconsciously harboring the naïve idea that if I manage to make something good enough, it will get noticed, although I do know that will not be the case. But if I think of it too much at this point, I will become discouraged and drop the project outright, so for now I simply try to figure out how to make something that would even have the potential, something that would be interesting & worthwhile.

(I checked the "Code Realize" out at VNDB; it seems very interesting, sadly it is not available on any platform I have. -- "Watchmen" is indeed morose and depressing, and even though it tells of an alternative history one can argue it was only really topical in the 80s. However, many details and the interplay of writing and art are extraordinary in it; stylistically it is one of the most impressive comics ever created, so it could be worth checking out even if the contents as a whole would not feel appealing.)
Last edited by vorgbardo on Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#12 Post by Imperf3kt » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:47 am

vorgbardo wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:36 am
Imperf3kt wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:14 pm
On the contrary, the Ren'Py engine is perfectly capable of presenting a 100% animated visual novel in the style of a tell tale games work.
The additional work to implement that won't come from Ren'Py but from a 3rd party animation software which you would require even if you chose a different engine.
Even if the animation would be created elsewhere and only played in Ren'Py, Telltale Games type of gameplay would require interactive videos (as one can directly interact with the game world in them in several ways -- by selecting where the character moves to, what the character picks up or looks at, and via quicktime events); is Ren'Py really capable of that? But regardless, a fully animated game would be way beyond my capabilities / resources.
Not in 3D where the player can move their character about, but everything else can, including the 3D animations that change depending on your answers (or silence)
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#13 Post by vorgbardo » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:08 am

Imperf3kt wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:47 am
Not in 3D where the player can move their character about, but everything else can, including the 3D animations that change depending on your answers (or silence)
Ah, OK. That's quite impressive.
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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#14 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:16 am

gekiganwing wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:50 pm
And I am aware that both Steins;Gate and Ever17 routinely show up on recommendation lists created by people on r/visualnovels, such as this one from July 2015. Maybe it's because I've experienced hype aversion in multiple fandoms. (Lately, I've tried Undertale for the first time, trying not to set my expectations too high -- and I'm struggling with its difficulty. During college, I paid full retail price for all eight Evangelion DVDs, but didn't especially care about the story. I routinely see trade paperbacks of Watchmen in libraries, but haven't read it due to what seems like a morose tone and about two decades of fan-generated hype.)
I agree with Steins;Gate - I tried it. I actually gave it a good 6-7 hours and was reasonably impressed with some of the things it did, but ultimately it was too kinetic, and the story was dragging on far too long with what felt like little progression. And the main character was kind of insufferable....

Watchman (the trade paperback) is absolutely worthy of the hype in my opinion. I too had been subjected to years of fan hype over it, and decided to read it when they announced it would become a movie. I sat down with it in the early evening and became so engrossed I was genuinely surprised to look up and find it was 4 AM in the morning. It truly is one of the few example of comics where the writer and artist are working so closely in concert that there a usually multiple significant things in the background of each panel.
vorgbardo wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:36 am
"Watchmen" is indeed morose and depressing, and even though it tells of an alternative history one can argue it was only really topical in the 80s. However, many details and the interplay of writing and art are extraordinary in it; stylistically it is one of the most impressive comics ever created, so it could be worth checking out even if the contents as a whole would not feel appealing.)
I would say it was topical for the 80s, became less topical over time, and now, as of late 2017 - early 2018, has become EXTREMELY topical again.
vorgbardo wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:08 am
Imperf3kt wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:47 am
Not in 3D where the player can move their character about, but everything else can, including the 3D animations that change depending on your answers (or silence)
Ah, OK. That's quite impressive.
Yeah, Ren'Py can do some amazing stuff, and it is only getting better. PyTom's focus on the engine going forward is going to be performance enhancements and eventually supporting 4K.

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Re: Could this kind of project work as a VN?

#15 Post by Gaudeamus » Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:58 pm

the term of visual novels is applied to the narrative form in which it is used in addition to text, images, sound and video, if you want to tell you want to bring these multimedia elements is a visual novel , the galges and eroges are referring to the genres of the Japanese visual novels does not mean that the VN in general have these stereotypes i clarify it because I see that you still have doubts about whether to use this type of narrative and the stereotypes of it are exclusively Japanese.

Now going to the fact that you want to have more interactive elements such as 3d. . . I do not doubt that you can use Ren py but I think it would take a long time to find the improvements to do it, although you should know that most of the biggest studios that are dedicated to making games in general take longer to create the engines in which they go to program their games which can take 2 to 5 years, they can be less or more but I'll leave that to you so you can think about what you should do.

You have 2 options that you would have at this point would be to first move forward and try to finish with your script and then see what you can do with respect to the programming in ren py, finds improvements or find who can help you in what you are looking for in specific thing.

The other option is that if you need to know if you can make use of those interactive 3D or video features to be able to advance in your script, you would try Godot engine, the open source option of unity and in which animating is much easier than in anime studio and allows you to animate and it is not difficult to learn to use (in fact many use it more to animate than to program games) besides the advantage it has in animating in that engine is that your projects are lighter although his programming language is C ++

Now that if you are going to be successful I mentioned it before but that until you launch it you will not know it is not a magic recipe for success.
a few months ago I took a talk that was part of a course for video game creation and they talked about it that no magic recipes sometimes depends more on the tastes of the players and based on the numbers you get from your games is that you can modify both your marketing and things within your game to attract more people in it.
Of the things that I remember from that talk for marketing, I remember that they said that

first was to know if your project was for PCs or smartphones

Second to know if it would be free, of micropayments or payment.

third to know the type of audience to which it is directed, whether casual, core or hardcore players.

Fourth demography and location.

with those 4 you can planing your strategy either in social networks and if you were to pay to promote.

in fact they are many things but I think that for now you should worry more about your script and do something that you like, instead of worrying if you are going to be successful, you can see both steam or itchio that there are projects that are modestly there and people not only play them but pay for them so for now forget about marketing.
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