NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

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Charuru
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#76 Post by Charuru » Thu Jul 29, 2010 10:47 pm

@papillon and @Blue Lemma
Hey first of all thank you so much for providing this great place for everyone, and helping the VN community.

The two of you are totally right of course, any streaming, server hosted service has the issue of control for the readers. Well first just let me say that what I was saying was referring to my expected audience here of VN creators, and you're totally right just speaking from a reader's perspective, but from a publisher's perspective it's a totally different issue. I'll get to this in my reply to Jake.

As far as talking about cloud hosting in general, there are now thousands of companies who is advocating the principle and many large markets have sprung up behind this idea.

There's the Appstore, Google Marketplace, the Amazon Kindlestore, everything on Facebook, everything on any MMO, Xbox Live, Youtube, Hulu, etc.

I'm confident that consumers will recognize this as the path of the future.

@Jake
I don't see how you can say something like this without realizing that this is unfair:
The difference is that if BMT Micro goes under and I need to find a new payment processor and product host service, then I can do that quickly, upload the exact same product and quite plausibly be selling to customers again within a day; I could even stick a PayPal button up on my site to cover the interim. If NovelStream goes under I need to port my VN to a new engine before I can sell it again; it's quite a big difference in time and effort (and thus, ultimately, money).

If I'm really unlucky and something like that happens right when interest in my product is taking off, then this difference between less-than-a-day and probably-more-like-a-week-or-two could make all the difference to my profits.
You're using the most sunshine scenario for one side and the most catastrophic scenario for the other side. This is not a remotely okay assessment.

If your hard drive fails and you didn't store up to date backups you could potentially lose customer credentials and you might not be able to put up another website rapidly. If you screw up your security you can potentially leak customer information, if your payment processor finds out you're selling adult works then they can ban you and take your hundreds of your money. Like-wise, you can be losing thousands of dollars over months if your website design is not up to the standard of your VN. You might get too much traffic for your host to handle, or your host could go out of business and would you really be able to switch hosts that rapidly? If you talk about those risks, then it can be a balanced comparison.

If you want to make an equal weight analogy to what you said, you can say that NovelStream can mess up their payments and take less than a day to fix it.
Sure, I have to get the product into the customer's hands myself by some other means
You're treating this part so casually, like it's a cake walk. Naturally if you treat this as an after thought you'll get that result from your sales as well.
Ren'Py engine into which I have invested weeks or months of man-hours writing scripts and testing for - isn't going to pack up and leave me one day.
See with NovelStream you won't need weeks or months of man hours to test, :P. You can get a great output extremely quickly. But jokes aside, 1. you can always convert, and 2. if something happens to us we'll give away all our code (actually I suspect I should have said this a lot earlier). I actually think this is standard practice for a lot of web 2.0 companies now.

On Rollback:
okay, :)
(As it goes, is that VN supposed to end very abruptly when Anthy turns to look at the protagonist? Because it didn't seem like an end, but I couldn't get past that point...)
Right, there's nothing more written.
People remember words a lot more easily, in my experience.
Right, there's definitely a trade off. But if I have 10 pages of script it makes a definite difference to me whether I have to fill it in with ;s or with ;scene. I guess you just have to make an assumption about who's experience will be more common. :?
(Whether it's preferrable to quotes is a matter of preference; again, from a programming background, I personally far prefer quotes around my VN script dialogue. I also write.)
I'm also a programmer, and I adore strings, but when you're writing a story it makes more sense to treat the text as main and code as 'other'.

As for character choice, we immediately dismissed all characters that need 'shift'. Also, people frequently use / to mean and/or, and can cause other conflicts. Having ; at the beginning of the clause is actually not allowed in English, though I can't say for sure for other languages, and it's also the most easily accessible using standard typing on the keyboard, so that's why.

Also thanks for your advice on abuse and everything else, and just thank you in general for your feedback.

Hey Strum,
Yes we have the voice files, what we don't have is the script that references the voices. If you know how to reverse engineer those files, I would be extremely grateful.

On the Utena thing, oh sorry, it's this one: http://visualnoveldai.com/visualnovels/ ... wild-night

On options: Yes we'll be adding more options. Though as the case may be probably not all of those you listed will be present at initial release though.

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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#77 Post by Blue Lemma » Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:17 pm

Charuru wrote:There's the Appstore, Google Marketplace, the Amazon Kindlestore, everything on Facebook, everything on any MMO, Xbox Live, Youtube, Hulu, etc.

I'm confident that consumers will recognize this as the path of the future.
You are mostly right on this point, but there is a key difference between NovelStream and the Appstore, Kindlestore, XBox Live, etc: For the latter group to disappear, Apple, Amazon, or Microsoft would have to go under or pull the plug suddenly. Neither scenario is likely at all. On the other hand, for NovelStream to disappear.... Well, let's just say most people wouldn't be shocked if it happened. Having faith in the cloud and its services is predicated on having faith in the organizations providing those services. At this time, NovelStream does not have enough of a track record to warrant that faith for some people, and that is why it would be in your best interests to address that issue (in my humble opinion :) )

By the way, I tried a bit of the Crescendo demo and looked at the feature list again... Is there any way to skip text? I couldn't find one. This is a feature many people expect and will want.
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#78 Post by Wintermoon » Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:51 pm

Charuru wrote:I'm also a programmer, and I adore strings, but when you're writing a story it makes more sense to treat the text as main and code as 'other'.
I suspect this is less of a writer/programmer issue and more of a adv/nvl (or dialogue/other text) issue. When writing dialogue, it's natural to use quotes. It's also natural to switch speakers after every line, which is more convenient in Ren'Py (even with the quotes) than in NovelStream.

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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#79 Post by DaFool » Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:58 pm

Blue Lemma wrote:For the latter group to disappear, Apple, Amazon, or Microsoft would have to go under or pull the plug suddenly. Neither scenario is likely at all. On the other hand, for NovelStream to disappear.... Well, let's just say most people wouldn't be shocked if it happened. Having faith in the cloud and its services is predicated on having faith in the organizations providing those services. At this time, NovelStream does not have enough of a track record to warrant that faith for some people, and that is why it would be in your best interests to address that issue (in my humble opinion :) )
Have JAST USA take up majority stake in NovelStream and make it their primary web channel. Then it won't disappear, I can assure you :D

The trade-of would be that you're essentially licensing your creations to JAST USA, to compete with their future lineup of ever-increasing awesomeness.

As long as there's no conflict of interest, it's not that bad of a scenario.

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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#80 Post by jack_norton » Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:36 am

papillon wrote: Some exceptions. Jack's working on an online updater thing which may result in a game which stops working if he turns off the server.
Well no, that was the first version. Now it simply won't do the last update but you can still play the actual version.
I am really skeptical about those online things. The ONLY reason I see is for developers to avoid piracy. Nothing else. There are many online-only games but they're designed to do that (MMO, RPG, etc).
Visual Novels have really no benefit from being online, and generally people online won't pay for that kind of game.
Of course IMHO, and feel free to tell me I'm wrong posting some sales figures later :lol:
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#81 Post by LordShiranai » Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:08 am

jack_norton wrote:Visual Novels have really no benefit from being online, and generally people online won't pay for that kind of game.
Oh come on, you know we're all waiting for an MMOVN. Imagine the thrill of grinding mobs for rep items so that you can get exalted with the "Sons of Maeda." The epic mount they sell will really impress your dream girl on your next date! Just watch out, because the orcs are out to gank you and steal her from you!

If that's not awesome enough for you, wait until you try out the raid scenarios. The object of your affections is so hard to please that it takes a coordinated team effort just to get a date with her. Be sure to save up your DKP, or else a guild mate may end up going out with her instead of you!
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#82 Post by PyTom » Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:12 am

LordShiranai wrote:Oh come on, you know we're all waiting for an MMOVN.
No, we already have Ai Sp@ce.
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#83 Post by Wintermoon » Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:13 am

DaFool wrote:Have JAST USA take up majority stake in NovelStream and make it their primary web channel. Then it won't disappear, I can assure you :D
Bigger companies than JAST go under all the time. Also, services go under all the time even if the companies stick around. Microsoft is as big as they come, but they still shut down the XBox Live service for the original XBox.

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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#84 Post by Topagae » Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:33 am

@lord
That actually sounds kinda awesome

@Py
Wow that sounds a lot like Yoville and Habbo hotel, but like. Anime. Hmmm
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#85 Post by Jake » Fri Jul 30, 2010 3:47 am

Charuru wrote: You're using the most sunshine scenario for one side and the most catastrophic scenario for the other side. This is not a remotely okay assessment.
No, I'm just only considering the parts which are totally out of my control.

If my hard drive fails and I didn't make backups, it's my fault and I deserve the consequences.
If I screw up security and lose customer details, it's my fault and I deserve the consequences.
If I stupidly sell adult works through a payment processor which only allows 15-rated stuff then it's my fault and I deserve the consequences.
If I sign up with a host which doesn't allow me to purchase more data-usage on the fly, then it's my fault and I deserve the consequences.

If NovelStream goes under and completely disappears abruptly, there's nothing I could have done to avoid it. This particular scenario can't happen with Ren'Py, or any other desktop engine, so it's worth noting as a risk. All the things on my side, I can mitigate myself; this one I can't do anything about.

As I said before, it's a risk inherent to any web platform - or any platform for which you rely heavily on components which are outside of your control - not just NovelStream. In my day job we write a small-business payroll and HR application that's delivered over the web, and it's also fair to say that it's a potential risk for our clients that our company may go under and pull the plug one day, and then they'll have to find some CPA to do their payroll and reconstruct all the details of their accounts, tax and garnishment payments and stuff like that for the last year from whatever records they have lying around. The difference is that the company who runs this service is a Fortune 500 company with a 10-digit net income and (IIRC) billions in the bank, and you're a small startup whose finances I know nothing about, so you're that much more likely to disappear.


(And of course, if we're comparing worst-cases then we're just as badly off in both cases, because in the worst-case for NovelStream I also relied on your version-control system and media storage and don't have any of those files locally, so I lost everything and have to start again entirely from scratch. But those are risks I can mitigate, so I wasn't counting those.)
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#86 Post by Charuru » Sat Jul 31, 2010 10:43 pm

@Blue Lemma
We'll definitely discuss more about reader-facing issues when we release.
You can hold down ` or the enter key to fast forward. Is that sufficient?
Oh come on, you know we're all waiting for an MMOVN. Imagine the thrill of grinding mobs for rep items so that you can get exalted with the "Sons of Maeda." The epic mount they sell will really impress your dream girl on your next date!
I know you're being sarcastic, but something like this is on the roadmap, and with HTML5 a basic implementation is not very difficult. The design of it is currently being drafted. We'll post more about it once our real time services have been fully thought out. But Real Time MMO/MP VNs could work like this:

In a VN there are routes a reader currently takes, choices that are made, choices take you to different endings. But rather than have one person make all the choices, we split up different routes / possibilities to 2-3 players or maybe more. Every choice made by one person can change the persistent world and affect the story seen by the other players.

This can be done in a short-term kind of thing (if I choose to be mean to a girl then another reader might get a sob story of how her previous player boyfriend was mean to her), or you can create a 'big' world with time based limitations (only read 20 minutes each day max), and have these actions by players build up, perhaps over weeks or months, and craft a totally massive world story where readers will have to work together or maybe convince each other to strive for a singular outcome or have very different endings based on design.

Anyway just one example of how you can do online but still have a reading based experience.

On NovelStream the technical implementation of such a VN could be simple, but designing a sensible VN based on these ideas would be challenging.
I suspect this is less of a writer/programmer issue and more of a adv/nvl (or dialogue/other text) issue. When writing dialogue, it's natural to use quotes. It's also natural to switch speakers after every line, which is more convenient in Ren'Py (even with the quotes) than in NovelStream.
Yes great point. NovelStream was optimized for NVL, and it seems like Ren'py is the other way around.

@Jake
In all cases catastrophic data loss is caused by lack of backups. To avoid such a situation, you need to have both a local copy and a remote copy (preferably more than this). This is true no matter what you're using. There's also a gradience of less severe issues that you may encounter when doing web delivery. NovelStream is not immune to problems, but at least there's a bunch of people that does this all day taking care of it for you.

You're also not addressing all of the issues that comes with self service. In many situations, a web platform that's being done by people who are singularly focused on doing it can be safer and less expensive than a self-made system. This is especially the argument made in enterprise and other real world cloud services, ie the idea that governments should be focused on governing not hosting email servers, etc. The same idea, letting NovelStream handle your visual novel delivery will allow you to concentrate on doing the things that you're really interested in, ie, creating visual novels (not to mention all the other related goodies like marketing, social, etc).

I understand that many people here have a lot of experience with webapps and related, so this might not be convincing for everyone, but this will be true for most people, and well, just can't please the world.

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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#87 Post by Jake » Sun Aug 01, 2010 7:33 am

Re: MMOVN: I think you're mad, but I'll be intrigued to see what you come up with.

(And again: as it goes, there's no technical reason you couldn't do something like this with Ren'Py as well. It'd require you to write some server code of your own, but Python is more than capable of talking to web services.)
Charuru wrote: You're also not addressing all of the issues that comes with self service.
Because I'm not talking about service. You're talking about service: I'm talking about the very existence of the platform.

If I write for NovelStream, there's a real chance that one day I'll wake up and your engine won't be there any more. If I write for Ren'Py, or KiriKiri, or NScripter, or whatever, that's never going to happen.


Yes, there are other concerns if you're talking about selling a product, but I can do something to mitigate each and every one of those other concerns. I can't do anything to mitigate the fact that your service might disappear from under my feet and even with complete backups I can't just drop everything I wrote for your service onto another system as-is. Right now there's a team of guys who know what they're doing keeping it up, but in a year's time maybe they've all had job offers from Google and they're off doing far more interesting things and have forgotten about NovelStream, leaving it in the hands of the intern you hired a few months previous, who runs the company into the ground and goes bankrupt. Most startups fail, so it's a serious concern for anyone thinking of writing a VN for your platform.

Your responses to this point only make vague statements about automatic conversion (which isn't guaranteed to exist and would still require complete re-testing) and releasing your code (which is a nice gesture but still has logistical problems, and your hypothetical creditors might not allow it).

It's not the end of the world, you're still providing a useful service and lots of people will no doubt see it as a fair trade off since they get to ignore the payment and hosting side of things - but it's still a risk, and telling people it's 'unfair' to bring it up is, to my mind, disingenuous.
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#88 Post by Strum » Sun Aug 01, 2010 10:37 am

The main concern people here have is when you go under, all their work invested on your platform goes up in smoke; simple as that. You're a new unheard of company. You may be offering a pioneering way of delivering visual novels to the public, but the simple fact is no one seem to wants to take the risk. Its frustrating to spend months or even years making a game then suddenly everything's gone.

Wouldn't it be better to sell your engine to developers in the form of developer kits? They can make their visual novels offline and when its done, they can pay you to host it or host it themselves. This way even if you go bankrupt and vanish, at least developers still have their game and can host the game themselves. There's no reason why it should only be you that hosts it.

Back to the topic of Crescendo, I'm sure the main script file has the information you need since it controls everything. From what line of dialogue to display to what music to play at certain points. You just need to find the main script file and decompile it so it becomes readable.
Last edited by Strum on Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#89 Post by kinougames » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:02 am

I might've skimmed and missed this, but if someone chooses to take their own precautions, both as far as acknowledgment of those who want downloads as well as protection of the game itself, can they have a back-up, already programmed copy in something like Ren'py, or do you require being the sole seller?
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Re: NovelStream: Revolutionary visual novel platform

#90 Post by Spiky Caterpillar » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:58 pm

Charuru wrote:
Spiky Caterpillar wrote:It doesn't appear to work on Konqueror 4.4.4 (no Flash) and Iceweasel/Firefox 3.5.10 (GNU Flash player) - http://visualnoveldai.com/visualnovels/crescendo , http://visualnoveldai.com/node/add/visualnovel , and http://visualnoveldai.com/visualnovels/kotomine all give error messages instructing me to update Flash. Both browsers are stock versions from Debian's testing distribution (which tends to be more up-to-date than stable and less insanely crashy than unstable.) And it's my understanding that non-jailbroken iPad/iPhone devices do not support Flash at all. http://visualnoveldai.com/novelstream is a completely innavigable mess in Konqueror 4.4.4.
Sorry about the problems in regards to Flash. I guess you version of flash doesn't validate with what I need. You can try using the Linux version of Chrome (which should, I think, not require Flash), but it will be a while before I can work on Konqueror support.
*shudders* I fear and mistrust Chrome, for it is New and google-provided software tends to be disturbingly invasive on those Winboxes I've seen with it. (Also, I can't see how 800 megs of source could possibly NOT contain severe security holes hiding somewhere).

Ah well, I suppose I should compile the thing. (And should probably not use the fact that compilation takes more memory than I have as an excuse to upgrade my computer, even if it would be a good excuse.)
Font use in Ren'Py is better than in any web platform I've ever seen. To use a font in a game, I need a license to redistribute, and Ren'Py needs to be able to draw it. To use a font on a website, I need one of: a license to redistribute, the font to be preinstalled on the user's machine, or to turn all my text into images before transmission.
This is not true. http://www.alistapart.com/articles/cssatten
Webfonts are an excellent way to seamlessly redistribute the font file to the user's machine. They don't bypass the need for a license to redistribute the file. (Well, I suppose you could hotlink off someone else's site - but some countries consider linking to be redistribution, and there's always the risk that a third-party host will take exception to a mid-traffic commercial game using their font, spurring the development of the world's first all-goatse font.). I'd recommend NOT allowing games to hotlink fonts (or other resources) off non-Novelstream servers - goatses would be embarassing, but a cracker picking up a webfont host from a domain scalper and setting it up to exploit a security hole in some browser could be catastrophic to some users.
How much of the game logic is in the server? At a minimum, anyone who plays the game to complete-unlock-everything status will wind up downloading a full copy of all clientside resources in the process, so unless the serverside logic contains things both critical to gameplay and difficult to replicate/deduce, the warezd00dz aren't likely to find it much harder to repackage than they do standalone games.
There's quite a lot of server side logic. I disagree that it's not much harder, no it is much harder. If you're good enough of a hacker of course nothing's impossible, but it's much harder.
Don't forget, warezd00dz don't necessarily need *or want* the parts of server-side code that handle things like smooth precaching, browser detection, quirk countermeasures, bandwidth optimization, image transfer ordering, branch prediction, etcetera - none of this is critical for a standalone desktop game.
You're relying on licensed codecs for media distribution; do your licenses require that the initial media be produced using an approved encoder, or do you have the requisite encoder licenses to convert them yourself?
Yes you should use a legal encoder. ATM we do not handle any encoding. We might in the future.
I think that that rules out all open-source encoders until the patents expire, since AFAIK they're not paying royalties.

Worse, looking at mp3licensing.com, I'm not sure whether NovelStream would, legally, be considered to meet their definition of a music service (I *think* it would, but I'd feel more comfortable seeing a real lawyer's opinion on that one first) or a means of distributing games - their license terms for music streaming are nice and indie-friendly and don't kick in until you make $100K, their license terms for *games* are $2500/title and kick in when 5,000 copies are distributed. This also affects possible future distribution means - if you come up with a player that caches entire games for offline use, that would almost certainly be game distribution rather than music streaming.

I haven't looked into h264 or WebM licensing terms, though I suspect that h264 will have generally similar problems to mp3.

You probably should have a page outlining what the exact sets of royalties that need to be paid to use various aspects of your system are and who is responsible, as well as what country's laws that determination was made under. (As for all I know, you're running in some country where furriners' patents are unenforceable, or where there are some other anomalies that might make your interpretation different than what would wind up being applied to me.)
What security measures are in place to protect against inadvertant purchases (say, triggered by a web accelerator or on-hover preview plugin following the 'buy' link?).
A refund. If it turns out that that's a bigger problem than originally thought we'll rethink this.
*nod* If accidental purchase turns out to be commonplace, one technical fix would probably be to put points-of-no-return a few server calls after the purchase point and permit players to give themselves refunds if they spent a token but didn't pass a relevant point-of-no-return.
I'm pleased to see that there aren't any ads on the site. Are there any plans to add them on the future?
Nope.
Yay!
Jake wrote:OK, but that doesn't prevent scams. Some guy writes a slapdash VN and charges a high-but-not-totally-out-of-order price to it; maybe he's even just ripped the text and graphics out from an existing VN which you just happen to never have seen, so you don't notice and authorise the payment option.

Once it's authorised, he finds out what communication with the server is necessary for a player to authorise the payment, and writes a bit of JS or whatever to spoof that communication. Or if you really do have no security holes in your app (and seriously, nobody ever wrote a webapp with no security holes of any kind) then he just sets up on visualnoveldao.com or writes a 'helpful' browser toolbar or utilises any one of a number of other tried-and-tested methods to just steal user's login details, then log into their accounts at his leisure and buy his own VN with their money.

If you have a significant number of users, this or something like it will happen, because people are scum. So you need to work out what you're going to do when that does happen well in advance, so you don't drop the ball. It may be too many customers to sit there and manually give refunds to every single one, and that could end up costing you too much money.
I suspect that if there's a high enough fraud rate for individual refunds to be Too Much Work, it shouldn't be all that difficult to bulk-refund all tokens spent on a scammer's VN(s). (And if their transaction-handling system doesn't currently store the data necessary for a bulk revert to be practical, they should probably change it so that it does - if scamming NovelStream leads to a quick and efficient smackdown, it won't be profitable for the scammer and the next few weasels considering it will likely go after softer targets instead.)
Strum wrote:Back to the topic of Crescendo, I'm sure the main script file has the information you need since it controls everything. From what line of dialogue to display to what music to play at certain points. You just need to find the main script file and decompile it so it becomes readable.
I'm pretty sure they can hack the information they'd need for voicing out of the Crescendo datafiles, but I'm not entirely sure that that should be a high priority for them. (And there may be some contractual limitations getting in the way of it even if it's technically simple.)
Charuru wrote:
Counter Arts wrote:In general I think VNs have a longer shelf-life when compared to a lot of video games in general. Now having that platform as something you can release a demo on is something that would be very interesting.
Fanfastic idea. This way you can get at least some of the benefits of NovelStream but avoid paying the fees.
Wait, you LIKE the idea of demos for downloadables being released on NovelStream? Awesome. (And a good low-risk way for developers to get their feet wet - I suspect that once I got a VN demo running on NovelStream, there wouldn't be much reason not to plow ahead and port the full game)
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