What do you think about VR visual novels?

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What do you think about VR visual novels?

#1 Post by DanOrgan » Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:21 pm

Hi, everyone.
If you don't know, VR visual novels do exist. The most famous are Project Lux, Tokyo Chronos/Altdeud. And there are some short indie games too.

VR audience is very niche, and all those games are not very successful. But, on the other hand, the traditional VN market is very saturated in the last few years. I have a feeling that people are not interested in small low-budget steam games anymore because they have a lot of major Japanese titles localized and available on Steam. I don't know how is it in your country, but in mine (Russia), the indie scene is dying compared to what was 5 years ago.

So, is not it time to search for another market, that had not yet saturated? If true, then I see no other choices than VR. At least for small indie studios who can't afford to publish on mobile platforms or popular consoles. Don't you think so? Do you consider the VR market as an opportunity or not? Or, maybe VR is just a gimmick and it will die as a platform in few years?

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#2 Post by Elsa Kisiel » Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:51 pm

I like the idea of a VR VN, and I definitely think it would be worth exploring for game design sake. And if well implemented, it is indeed a way to be noticed and stand out.

However, there's two point to keep in mind : 1) Most visuals novels' players don't have a VR set
2) I don't know how much it cost/how accessible it is to develop a game in VR, but I doubt it would be more affordable than publishing on mobile platforms

So, for me, VR might be a nice advantage for a few games, but only for those who can afford it/have the necessary skills, and only if they have a project that have been designed with VR in mind
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#3 Post by felix » Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:03 am

It sounds like a horse hitched to an electric scooter. No offense, but this question is yet more proof that VR remains a solution in search of a problem. A hammer looking for nails in a world of screws. In fact it reminds me of the time when Myst moved from static backgrounds to free-movement 3D, thus missing a big part of what made the original formula appealing. For creators and players.

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#4 Post by Imperf3kt » Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:46 am

I have a VR setup. It has its target audience, but I'm just not seeing it as a VN medium.
Sure, it can be used to deliver a VN-esque experience, but it begins to move away from visual novel and into the territory of interactive experience.

As an additional note about VR in general, there are two kinds of VR game, static - games like beatsaber or job simulator, where the player is fixed and the environment moves around them, and locomotive, where the player is free to move around in the environment, like any other regular 3D AAA game.
A good majority of the population can't play locomotive VR games as it makes them sick. I am one of those people, and it severely limits what I can play.
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#5 Post by DanOrgan » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am

Elsa Kisiel wrote:
Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:51 pm
1) Most visuals novels' players don't have a VR set
Yeah, totally agree with it. Maybe only 5% of players have it at home. But now the VR is much more affordable. You can buy Oculus Quest for $300, if I remember correctly, and play it without a gaming PC.
Also, it is totally possible to create a simple VN playable with and without VR.
Elsa Kisiel wrote:
Tue Feb 09, 2021 8:51 pm
2) I don't know how much it cost/how accessible it is to develop a game in VR, but I doubt it would be more affordable than publishing on mobile platforms
The production cost is higher because of 3D. But Steam games are much cheaper to promote. If you want to publish a game on Apple/Google store then you have to buy traffic. I am not very familiar with it, but something like $10k just to remain visible for few days.

felix wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:03 am
It sounds like a horse hitched to an electric scooter. No offense, but this question is yet more proof that VR remains a solution in search of a problem.
Are you implying that the problem does not exist? Every article on Gamasutra/Reddit about the "Indie Apocalypsys" is proving that it does exist. And VNs are not an exception. Actually, the situation is even worse because of the superior quality of Japanese novels.

I am just proposing one of the possible solutions. I don't know if it is better or worse than others. You can make a VN with rpg elements or a roguelike VN, or a porn novel with kinks. But the time for normal visual novels is gone. They are just for hobby, they are not profitable anymore.

Imperf3kt wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 1:46 am
I have a VR setup. It has its target audience, but I'm just not seeing it as a VN medium.
Sure, it can be used to deliver a VN-esque experience, but it begins to move away from visual novel and into the territory of interactive experience.
I think, usually, those interactive elements are only good for advertising. 5-10 minutes of fun and it turns boring.
I prefer the story, it can last for 10-20 hours.
Try to compare Spice and Wolf 3D and Tokyo Chronos. The last one is as successful as the first, but without fancy graphics/animations, without interaction elements, and without a strong franchise behind it.

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#6 Post by KillerQueen » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:56 am

DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am
They are just for hobby, they are not profitable anymore.
I think this might be a problem with your business model or approach to making visual novels, because I and plenty of other people do in fact make a living with "normal" visual novels.
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#7 Post by Elsa Kisiel » Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:27 pm

DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am

Yeah, totally agree with it. Maybe only 5% of players have it at home. But now the VR is much more affordable. You can buy Oculus Quest for $300, if I remember correctly, and play it without a gaming PC.
Also, it is totally possible to create a simple VN playable with and without VR.
It depend of your market, but I don't think the price is the only factor. A lot of visual novel player play more casually. (On a tablet, a smartphone, a switch or a computer.) There's perhaps a niche, but even if the VR set are more affordable than before (Though $300 is still a lot, I think.), I don't think you'll have more than 5% of the players. (And even 5% seems a LOT. I think it might be less than 1% actually.)
DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am
The production cost is higher because of 3D. But Steam games are much cheaper to promote. If you want to publish a game on Apple/Google store then you have to buy traffic. I am not very familiar with it, but something like $10k just to remain visible for few days.
Hm, I don't know about the apple store, but it's free to publish on the google store. As for attracting customers: I don't think you should do it by being "visible". Not for a VN. Perhaps for a big game that have a bigger market, but VN is more of a niche type of game.
DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am
But the time for normal visual novels is gone. They are just for hobby, they are not profitable anymore.
No, I don't think so. I'm always glad to see new experimentations, but that doesn't means classic visual novel doesn't sell anymore. (Though it always has been a difficult market. But that's the same for hybrids games, like VN+RPG.)

So, in conclusion, in my opinion : if you are looking for a way to revolutionize the VN market, it certainly won't be VR. But there will be a few very good VR VN, with interesting design ideas, and it might be an interesting path to experiment with.
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#8 Post by Imperf3kt » Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:59 pm

Elsa Kisiel wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:27 pm
Hm, I don't know about the apple store, but it's free to publish on the google store.
A small note about that, it's free to publish, but there is an initial buy-in and if you're selling your game, they charge a fee on each sale.
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#9 Post by puppetbomb » Wed Feb 10, 2021 5:39 pm

I believe what felix is trying to say is that people are trying to shoehorn VR into games that never had any problems VR could fix.

If you want to publish on the Apple App Store, it's about $100 USD a year.

Here's another perspective about the Indiepocaplyse: https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1025672/2 ... -The-Shape

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#10 Post by felix » Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:08 am

DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am
But now the VR is much more affordable. You can buy Oculus Quest for $300, [...]
$300 is still a lot of money in my neck of the woods. And in Romania we're basically rich compared to the average citizen of, say, India.
DanOrgan wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:32 am
Are you implying that the problem does not exist? Every article on Gamasutra/Reddit about the "Indie Apocalypsys" is proving that it does exist. And VNs are not an exception. Actually, the situation is even worse because of the superior quality of Japanese novels.

I am just proposing one of the possible solutions. I don't know if it is better or worse than others. You can make a VN with rpg elements or a roguelike VN, or a porn novel with kinks. But the time for normal visual novels is gone. They are just for hobby, they are not profitable anymore.
VNs are so popular on Itch.io that other creators complain all the time about being drowned out by them. What are you on about? Also, what puppetbomb said, but mostly: the "indiepocalypse" was always people who expected to get rich quick whining when it turned out to not be so easy. Never was, either. Even back in the 1980s, when anyone with a home computer and patience could get in on the ground floor and ride the gilded elevator straight to the top, only a lucky few managed it. We keep hearing about them due to a little something called survivor bias. Who lied to you that you were all but guaranteed to make it big? Pay attention to what they're trying to sell you.

And sure, you can make games that work with or without VR. But then I have to ask what exactly VR adds to them that's so important. Much like with 3D movies. Remember when those were hailed as the future of entertainment?

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#11 Post by DanOrgan » Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:44 am

KillerQueen wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:56 am
I think this might be a problem with your business model or approach to making visual novels, because I and plenty of other people do in fact make a living with "normal" visual novels.
The cost of living in Russia is $200-$300 per month. So, it is not actually my problem.
But I am searching for a market accessible for everyone, not only people from Russia/India/Philippines/... who are OK with such an income.
Elsa Kisiel wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:27 pm
No, I don't think so. I'm always glad to see new experimentations, but that doesn't means classic visual novel doesn't sell anymore. (Though it always has been a difficult market. But that's the same for hybrids games, like VN+RPG.)
The market was not so difficult 5 years ago.
If you have a time machine, you can go back to 2016 and publish a completely average visual novel on Steam. You don't even need to advertise it, the Steam algorithm shows your banner to millions of players and you can easily sell few thousands of copies.
Imperf3kt wrote:
Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:59 pm
A small note about that, it's free to publish, but there is an initial buy-in and if you're selling your game, they charge a fee on each sale.
I mean, how to show the game to customers in those stores? If I' am trying to search this way: https://play.google.com/store/search?q= ... vel&c=apps then I don't see a way to check for the most recent games only. Most successful games are on top and they are showing "more like this" too. My game would probably go down on this list. So, I need to buy a lot of traffic, if I want google algorithms to treat my game as a popular one.
felix wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:08 am
$300 is still a lot of money in my neck of the woods. And in Romania we're basically rich compared to the average citizen of, say, India.
VNs are so popular on Itch.io that other creators complain all the time about being drowned out by them.
From my Steam experience with normal (non-VR) games, the largest part of income is coming from customers living in USA/Japan/Germany. Countries like Russia/Romania/India are making less than 10% combined together. Of course, partly because of regional pricing and piracy.
felix wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 1:08 am
Who lied to you that you were all but guaranteed to make it big? Pay attention to what they're trying to sell you.

And sure, you can make games that work with or without VR. But then I have to ask what exactly VR adds to them that's so important. Much like with 3D movies. Remember when those were hailed as the future of entertainment?
No guarantees. But I think it is possible to make it big if you are among the "first one" at something. Just because you don't have to compete with thousands of others.

As for VR, it adds only one important thing. It is another level of immersion compared to traditional novels. You don't have to translate characters and environment from 2D images to your imagination, you can see all directly. VR is not just a monitor mounted in front of your face. It is making things look like they really appear before your eyes. If you have a chance, try it, it is much more impressive than 3D movies.

Is it enough for people to buy a $300 headset and bear with all VR troubles (such as motion sickness and so on)? I don't know. The only way to prove it is to make a game.

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#12 Post by felix » Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:09 am

DanOrgan wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:44 am
As for VR, it adds only one important thing. It is another level of immersion compared to traditional novels. You don't have to translate characters and environment from 2D images to your imagination, you can see all directly.
We've heard that when computer games moved from text to pictures. Then from 2D to 3D. Then from 3D to photorealism. And every time the result is more and more disappointing.

Using your imagination was the whole damn point, and half the fun. They're called books. Try one sometime. Your imagination can never be matched by a GPU, because you can also imagine what isn't there. Even what wasn't supposed to be there. Through imagination you can make the story your own better than through any amount of character customization or story paths.

And sure, graphics can help. That's what they're best at: giving your imagination a boost. And they do that better when they're artful 2D than over-modeled and over-animated photorealistic 3D that jumps feet-first into the uncanny valley. Style is a thing, no matter how much animators tried to make us forget that during the 1990s.

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#13 Post by Mutive » Thu Feb 11, 2021 12:09 pm

DanOrgan wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 5:44 am

From my Steam experience with normal (non-VR) games, the largest part of income is coming from customers living in USA/Japan/Germany. Countries like Russia/Romania/India are making less than 10% combined together. Of course, partly because of regional pricing and piracy.
Just answering this as from someone from the US who has considered purchasing VR...

1st, it's not just the $300 headset. It's also a computer that can power it. (Which is also pricey.) Is there a market? Yeah. Is it huge? No. Most of the people I know who have a VR are tech bros who both are pulling in > $200k/year and like having the best and shiniest of everything. Will that change? IDK. Probably somewhat? But at least for now, I'd argue that it's still faddish and not seen as something everyone has or even wants to have. (This is true even for hard core gamers who have $3K+ gaming rigs and are spending > $1,000 on a graphics card alone.) Your market is going to be much, MUCH smaller for VR than for, say, a game you can play on a cell phone. (Which pretty much everyone has.)

As for VR, it adds only one important thing. It is another level of immersion compared to traditional novels. You don't have to translate characters and environment from 2D images to your imagination, you can see all directly. VR is not just a monitor mounted in front of your face. It is making things look like they really appear before your eyes. If you have a chance, try it, it is much more impressive than 3D movies.

Is it enough for people to buy a $300 headset and bear with all VR troubles (such as motion sickness and so on)? I don't know. The only way to prove it is to make a game.


Now from a VR perspective (which I've played with a fair amount, even though I don't *own* one...)

In addition, I'd argue that seeing 2D characters in 3D would be highly undesirable. (At least for me.) It would probably be vertigo inducing + like the uncanny valley on steroids. I would NOT want it. Walking around someone and having them clip out would be precisely the opposite of why I'm playing VR (immersion).

Now, if there were 3D models of anime characters/surroundings? IDK. It could be interesting.

If it was exceptionally well done (think lavishly rendered 3D environments that I could "walk" through, full audio, etc.) that might be novel enough that I would consider buying it. (Because it truly *would* be immersive to wander through a lavish cartoon world, talk to people, etc. Porn also comes to mind as something with a potential market.) But...it also wouldn't be a cheap thing to do. And skimping out on any aspect would, to me at least, ruin the immersion to where it just wasn't worth it.

(An example might be not having full voice acting. If I had to jerk my head around to read subtitles just to figure out what the person in front of me was saying, it would ruin immersion sufficiently that any benefits to VR would be eliminated. A character just wouldn't feel "real" in VR if I had to read what they were saying, while reading in a VN is something I expect to do because the level of immersion *isn't* as extreme.)
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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#14 Post by DanOrgan » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:49 pm

felix wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:09 am
We've heard that when computer games moved from text to pictures. Then from 2D to 3D. Then from 3D to photorealism. And every time the result is more and more disappointing.

Through imagination you can make the story your own better than through any amount of character customization or story paths.
From an artistic perspective, I agree with you. Classic visual novels such as Narcissu or Tsukihime are brilliant because they rely on the power of imagination.
From the business perspective - no. I am not young anymore, I don't have a chance to make a really great story such as those from above. My maximum is an average game, for average players who don't want to strain their brain with this imagination thing. Also, take a look at the most popular novels on Steam now. They are a mile away from Tsukihime art standards. They usually are hi-resolution, with very detailed characters and backgrounds. You know, things like Nekopara.
felix wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 10:09 am
And sure, graphics can help. That's what they're best at: giving your imagination a boost. And they do that better when they're artful 2D than over-modeled and over-animated photorealistic 3D that jumps feet-first into the uncanny valley. Style is a thing, no matter how much animators tried to make us forget that during the 1990s.
In VR stylized 3D is the best choice. Also, it is kinda impossible to run photorealistic 3D on Oculus Quest because of its limited GPU power.

Mutive wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 12:09 pm
1st, it's not just the $300 headset. It's also a computer that can power it.
You can play it without PC. The game is running on the device itself.
Of course, only mobile-type games such as Altdeus. You can't run AAA shooters on the Quest.
If it was exceptionally well done (think lavishly rendered 3D environments that I could "walk" through, full audio, etc.) that might be novel enough that I would consider buying it.
Again, you can do it right now by buying Oculus Quest + Spice and Wolf VR.
I don't really like such games. The experience is so great, but it is also too short. Is it worth paying $40 to play 30 minutes? Definitely not for me.
If I had to jerk my head around to read subtitles just to figure out what the person in front of me was saying, it would ruin immersion sufficiently that any benefits to VR would be eliminated.
Yeah, it is a huge problem.
I prefer fully voiced novels too. But not every voice is acceptable for me. I had tried Angels & Demigods and the whole experience was pretty frustrating because of the poor voice acting. Subtitles are better than low-quality voice acting.

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Re: What do you think about VR visual novels?

#15 Post by Imperf3kt » Thu Feb 11, 2021 4:34 pm

Reading through this topic, one game keeps coming to mind.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/3774 ... s_Obscure/

Now, I don't know if this is VR supported (it isn't listed as such and it wasn't when I played it when it came out), but this is how I imagine a VRVN would be made.
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