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What to expect when starting a VN project

Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:41 pm
by merlinfire
I've been working on a choose-your-own-adventure type book for a while with commercial intent, and I've been slowly coming over to the VN way of thinking. Instead of trying to recreate the glory days of the CYOA-novel from back in the 70's and 80's, I thought maybe I'd move on over to VN and take advantage of all the innovation and overall better user experience. But I have some questions if you have a moment to give me your thoughts.

First of all, I commissioned a bunch of B&W art, but it was a) not in color and b) not in the right "format" you might say for a VN. So this means I will need to get new art, but I do not really know what the ballpark is for this. Ideally for me this would be a mixture of up-front cash plus a fair % royalty, but I don't know if people do that in this community or if that's not how it's done. I recognize numbers on this might be sensitive, maybe better to send that in a PM?

Second, I see among most published VN's there's a high occurrence of eastern anime-style animation. Not bashing that, I like a good anime, but I'm looking for a more western style of art, think Banner Saga, is that pretty hard to find in these parts?

Third, not being an artist I struggle to really understand the workflow and amount of time required to create art, I had initially thought to get about 90% complete on the story and about 75% complete with the development before consulting with an artist. Does that not leave enough time? Should I work with an artist from the very beginning? I thought one benefit of waiting until later in development is that the % royalties would be a more meaningful aspect if it was clear to everyone that this project was "going to get done" because it was already most of the way there. I want the artist to be treated fairly in this process and I recognize it is a very large part of the project.

Fourth, not being a connoisseur of VN's, I'm curious what your experience has been in terms of player wants/likes/dislikes. It is a very different format than what I'm used to, but it looks very exciting. What I mean by this is what are player expectations for what would be considered a "good" or even "exemplary" VN? A deep focus on story and compelling characters (what I want to spend most of my time on)? RPG Game mechanics (I want to go light on this, but I'm not sure what players are expecting, hence the question)?

Five, is it worth getting a VN localized?

Thanks for any advice you can give. This is my first attempt at dipping my toe in the VN pool. I know I'm possibly assuming a lot here, forgive me if I presume too much. I am sure I'll have a lot more questions down the road.

Re: What to expect when starting a VN project

Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:14 pm
by parttimestorier
I've only made a few short VNs myself, but I can try to answer some of your questions.

If you take a look at the "I am an Artist" section of the recruitment forums, you'll find a lot of artists who are open for commissions, and you can try to estimate a budget based on the average of what various different people are charging. And while anime style art may be popular, partially because VNs were more of a thing in Japan before other countries, I think you'll find a variety of styles are available. Typically in a VN you'll need backgrounds, character sprites, and "CGs" - which is what people tend to call illustrations of specific scenes that you might use instead of the sprites for important scenes. I think it's pretty common to have at least one background artist and one character artist - maybe more depending on how large the scale of your project is. Or if you have a bit of a lower budget, you could just commission a character artist and go looking for creative commons photographs you can use as backgrounds. Finding people who are interested in working for a share of the revenue might be difficult, especially if this is your first VN - there's no guarantee there will be any revenue to share - so it might be better to plan to just pay people entirely upfront.

In my personal experience, I find that it's helpful to get the writing done first, then get the programming done with placeholder art, and then go looking for artists to commission. This might be a less fun process than having an artist on board and working with nice art from the beginning, but I think it's a more practical one for me when I'm working on a limited budget. If I get everything except the art done first, I can figure out exactly what I need from artists in advance. If I'm still working on writing more scenes after paying for the art, I might get to a point where I realize it was a waste of money to commission that one sprite expression I barely use, and actually it would be better if I had this other different one which will now cost me more money, etc.

That's about all the advice that comes to mind right now. Good luck!

Re: What to expect when starting a VN project

Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:14 am
by merlinfire
Thanks for the response. Yes, I do think I'll try to get done or nearly done before approaching an artist. Also I think it's clear to me that I do not really know how much art I will need until I know how many scenes I will have, how many important characters, etc.

Re: What to expect when starting a VN project

Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2019 11:29 am
by Mutive
I'd echo the advice to wait until you know what art you'll need before commissioning.

With that said, I've heard the adage thrown around that you can get something quickly, cheaply, or well done...but not all three. (I'm sure there are exceptions and honestly, if you can get something cheaply and well done, good for you!)

Which is to say that you can sometimes trade schedule (e.g. how long you want to give the artist to complete the work) for cost, at least to an extent. (Think of it this way - if you can slide this job in between others when you have free time, you're likely to charge less than if you have to drop everything to meet the deadline.)

So in my opinion, as soon as you're both certain that this game will be completed *and* know the assets you're going to need, you're best off commissioning an artist as it gives them more time to plan around/work on your project.