Character Stats in a VN

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Pippix
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Character Stats in a VN

#1 Post by Pippix » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:51 pm

I'm kinda of new here and am working on experimenting with some VN mechanics for my first VN. I just wanted to have the opinions of some more experienced creators early on before I decided if this was a feature I want to put time into implementing.

I'm considering have character stats for the player character in my VN, something akin to DnD stats, or probably more closely the social stats of the persona games.

For certain choices in the game, some choice options would be locked unless you have a high enough stat. other choices would raise or lower certain stats. Some story branches would be easier to unlock, while the path to the true ending would be the hardest.

I'm wondering if people would find this engaging or just annoying. I've played "Long Live the Queen" and for that game i found the stat mechanics to be promising but ultimately annoying and tedious on multiple runs of the game (which i did end up playing quite a bit). I wouldn't want most of the game to be stat building, rather have it built right into the choices you make. I was also thinking the player could get a permanent stat increase for each ending they complete, making unlocking other branches easier on the replay.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I haven't played many VNs personally, much less ones that have any kind of stat system, so if there are any examples I could turn to for reference that would also be helpful.

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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#2 Post by gekiganwing » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:26 am

Pippix wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:51 pm
...some choice options would be locked unless you have a high enough stat. other choices would raise or lower certain stats.
Hatoful Boyfriend is a story with a small emphasis on the protagonist's stats. However, like quite a bit of the story, its stat management is played for absurd comedy. The protag starts with 1 wisdom, 800 vitality, and 5 charisma. The reader's choices can increase her stats only forty points at most.

Casual Romance Club is not safe for work, and I didn't like it all that much. That said, it has an interesting concept: the reader only has to manage the protagonist's schedule and decide when to use date coupons. It's a visual novel with simulation elements, but there are no statistics. I can't think of many other VNs which share this idea.

Heartache 101 qualifies as a visual novel, but its opening story is entirely skippable, and it doesn't emphasize plot or characterization. In any case, I liked how the protagonist's choices and stats would often lead to an obvious result. For instance, the protagonist could visit new locations or meet new people through his actions.

I played Persona 4 extensively. The player could not decrease the protagonist's statistics, but it had locked choices and stat increases. Like most of the game, I mostly enjoyed this idea. Though when I think about stats in P4, I'm not sure if they were necessary. Consider how else you would make it a challenge to visit the isolated shrine after dark, or what other method you would use so that the protagonist can apply for a tutoring job. (I have only dabbled in Persona 3, and I haven't started P5.)
Pippix wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:51 pm
...while the path to the true ending would be the hardest. ... I was also thinking the player could get a permanent stat increase for each ending they complete, making unlocking other branches easier on the replay.
That could be interesting. I think it might be logical if you're using a plot such as...

1) Groundhog Day loop: the protagonist is reliving a series of events. However, they can learn at least one new thing each time through. This can be expressed as being able to go to different places, or saying different things in conversations.

2) A mystery with no obvious cause or suspect. The reader acts as a detective. They get at least one new clue each time they read the story. And so they can unlock questions.

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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#3 Post by YonYonYon » Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:01 am

If you want examples of story driven games that implement stats, you always can check Choice of Games games. They’re not exactly visual novels since they lack visuals, but they’re still the same games as VNs, and all of them use the stat system you just described.

My personal favorite is Choice of Rebels, I felt their stat system was very impactful. Tho it was kinda heavy story wise. For more light experience I’d recommend Midsummer Night Dream, if I remember the name correctly, based on Shakespeare’s play. They’re all available on Steam.

Of course it depends on how you present the stats in your game, but I find them fun. They can keep the game interesting while having a 90% linear story. And I don’t think you need any in-story reason to add a permanent stat increase after finishing an ending, like, just call it New Game+ and people won’t have any problem with that.
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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#4 Post by Mammon » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:49 am

Stats, like any persistent in a VN, should make sense to the player. That's probably the hardest thing to do for a writer, because you won't know what does and doesn't make sense to the players. This is especially difficult when you're writing the options for your choices, and making these options comprehensible without losing immersion. Some questions for example might have an option suggesting something different, like how in a telltale game, you can select a compliment only for this choice to turn out to be a backhanded jab.

Some romance games show you what choice aids which love interest, for example Seduce me and Cinderella Phenomenon do this. Whenever you choose a choice needed for the good route, you're alerted that you made the right choice. I can tell you that without those alerts, certain good endings would be impossible to get without a walkthrough because the reader won't get the system that the author envisioned for the choices. (F.e. the headstrong choice is always the good one for one LI, even if this may seem like a rejecting and blunt choice that's wholly inappropriate from a roleplaying perspective.) For a more stat-based game, you could do something like adding little green and red hues or symbols by the stats once the player gets onto a route to show them which of their relevant stats are good (green) or now irrelevant (also green) and which ones they should probably put some points in to succeed checks in the near future. (red)

When comparing your ideal VN to Long Live the Queen, I think clarity of the routes and effectiveness of the stats is important. With LLTQ a lot of stats were sometimes completely useless for you during the entire game because you never got a (significant) use out of them with the route you took, some end choices required an unknown level for a certain stat that made you max out the stat just to be sure you'd get it, or trying to even things out would result in getting none of the checks right. I myself played the game with saves, just determining what I'd train based upon my next check. Seeing a sword-check for example and going a few days back to train that specific skill in the hopes of succeeding it this time. And you're right, that's no fun way to do it.

In order to prevent something like this, have only the most relevant skills and assume the reader won't know what they'll be for at all. Or make it clear what they'd be for. F.e. you can have 12 skills and they'll have no idea what and where this will come in handy, like LLTQ. Bad design. However, categorise these skills further in 4 classes (Warrior, mage, rogue, diplomat) and tell the reader to spread between the three skills within the class without bothering with the other 9 skills, that might work. There's still some freedom of choice within these three skills, but the reader won't have to try the rogue route a dozen times until he finally gets the good ending for it.

Another possibility would be to split your stats between 'relevant' and 'roleplay', or something alike. You still have a stat system where the player doesn't know what stat does what and why, but you as the writer can guide them to at least not fail too miserably. You give them 2 points per level, but unlike free distribution you say one of them can only be used on these specific stats you'll eventually use for the route and good ending, and the others are for checks that don't really matter during downtime or spending free time with NPCs roleplaying and relaxing.
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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#5 Post by Empish » Sun Jan 21, 2018 10:08 am

If you want to have stats but not have the gameplay focused on them, you can always make them not explicit. For example, most ones where you have separate LI routes will have points for each LI, but most of the time they don't show what the value is to you, it's implicit based on what results you get. The gameplay instead is focused on the choices you make and how that impacts the story, rather than how that impacts the stats which will then impact the story.

To give another example of this, in my upcoming game It Ends With Graduation the protagonist has a number of stats, but none of them are displayed to the player. All the player has to keep track of is which events to attend and when. Hiding the stats like this can give the player a smoother, more story-oriented gameplay experience, while still allowing you the level of control you want.

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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#6 Post by Pippix » Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:09 pm

gekiganwing wrote:That could be interesting. I think it might be logical if you're using a plot such as...

1) Groundhog Day loop: the protagonist is reliving a series of events. However, they can learn at least one new thing each time through. This can be expressed as being able to go to different places, or saying different things in conversations.

2) A mystery with no obvious cause or suspect. The reader acts as a detective. They get at least one new clue each time they read the story. And so they can unlock questions.
YonYonYon wrote:Of course it depends on how you present the stats in your game, but I find them fun. They can keep the game interesting while having a 90% linear story. And I don’t think you need any in-story reason to add a permanent stat increase after finishing an ending, like, just call it New Game+ and people won’t have any problem with that.
Since my story is more of a fantasy/adventure story, I'm hoping just labeling it as new game+ will be enough haha. Although the idea of a mystery or groundhog day stories would make more sense, and are something for me to think about. It hadn't occurred to me to include a logical reason for the mechanic, with is a newb move on my part.

Mammon wrote:Some questions for example might have an option suggesting something different, like how in a telltale game, you can select a compliment only for this choice to turn out to be a backhanded jab.
I'm definitely wanting to avoid something like this. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine, really and I kinda think it's an out for a story to kick start some conflict they couldn't think of another way to introduce. I dunno it feels cheap to me.

You're whole post was very helpful. The class idea is really interesting, and making skill relevant and clear is something I'll keep in mind. This is something I'm hoping would be helped by permanent stat increases with every completed route, that way you're not starting with 0 every time, hopefully meaning less memorization in general.
Empish wrote:To give another example of this, in my upcoming game It Ends With Graduation the protagonist has a number of stats, but none of them are displayed to the player. All the player has to keep track of is which events to attend and when. Hiding the stats like this can give the player a smoother, more story-oriented gameplay experience, while still allowing you the level of control you want.
hmmm, I'll have to check out the game you're referring to, but I have seen games where each LI has a hidden stat that counts towards their route at the split point, like Mystic Messenger. Mine isn't a romance, and none of the routes are looking to be that straightforward, so I'm not sure if I can go this way without it becoming frustrating for players. Thanks for the input though!

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Re: Character Stats in a VN

#7 Post by Mammon » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:26 pm

Pippix wrote:The class idea is really interesting, and making skill relevant and clear is something I'll keep in mind. This is something I'm hoping would be helped by permanent stat increases with every completed route, that way you're not starting with 0 every time, hopefully meaning less memorization in general.
The permanent stat thing did sound quite interesting indeed, like a way to make the story easier to play when you're just skipping anyway and increase the replay value but not ruining the initial play-through. I forgot to comment on that before, sorry. I do however wonder which of these general ways you intend to use them in:

-Collect all the permanent boosts to be capable of maxxing out all stats within one playthrough (F.e. making the permanent perks a multiplier), and requiring for all the stats to be maxxed out to get the 'perfect good ending'. All the other endings are one small play or route within the big plot where the baddy wins in the end, but once you've got all the persistents you'll be a prodigy capable of taking him down in time. And all the previous routes aid to that. Certainly a good technique if done right, as this will allow you to make the reader know all the side-characters through their own route before bundling all of these into a big one, without making one verrry long story of filler.

-Completing the route will allow you to avoid the route or several scenes of the route for in-game reasons, giving you more time and points to spend on the other routes. (f.e. not having to come to the teacher after class and be assigned to a study group over a terrible test score, because you aced the test thanks to your stat. Don't know if this story even takes place in a school, just something from the top of my head.) Instead of making it actual stats, it's all in-game immersion where the player becomes a bit more OP and awesome with every route (or repeat the same one in a Groundhog Day loop like others already suggested.)

-A much simpler plan that just involves giving them a +5 at the start. (Not judging or saying this is a bad/lazy thing, a lot of work can go into the two options above. As in, so much work that the project might never end, making it better to choose this more rational approach.)
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