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A Happy Life [Otome | Drama | Mystery] [Free]

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:06 pm
by Der Tor
So as a child I grew up in various (communist) Communes. They always vilified the outside world and that actually did make it pretty hard for me to manage in a normal environment, plus many people were actually pretty happy inside a community. So I had the idea to use it as an inspiration for a Visual Novel...
In particular I wanted to challenge the usual concept of a "good" and "bad" ending and show that a bad ending in the players mind can be "good" in the eyes of the protagonist and vice versa and I also wanted the player to influence the story - not so much by direct decisions, but instead having things change based on the players perception of it... because that's kinda how it was in real life... if you believe that the community is good, you perceive it as good and if you believe that the outside world is evil (and on top of that you are completely unprepared for it) you will perceive it as evil...

So that was my original idea for it... but before you say "well if it's just an idea you should move it in the ideas corner", well by now it has already gotten beyond being an idea and the story is already pretty much written, but because I kinda suck at writing, I had it written by a friend of mine who writes teenage novels.
She did an excellent job, though she kinda turned it into a "cult" and made that a bit too obvious (originally I wanted this to be the twist)... but it is okay because there are still two cults in it - the community the protagonist belongs to and the communities in the outside world, because a real "cult" is actually great at labelling all other communities a cult :-) Because I do after all want people to always look beyond labels and prejudice...

Anyway, I will attach the super early completely unfinished alpha test game that kostek00 helped me with:
(29.25 MiB) Downloaded 18 times
There is no art or music etc. yet, but I feel that if I don't upload it, my post gets thrown into the ideas corner :-) and besides, the whole point of the post is that right now I really need some feedback so that I know what direction to take it towards the end and also to iron out any inconsistencies, logical mistakes etc.. So bottom line; any and all feedback is greatly appreciated and in fact needed right now... after that I also need artwork, but right now it's mainly feedback...

Re: A Happy Life [Otome | Drama | Mystery] [Free]

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:26 am
by kostek00
At the beginning when I heard what the story is about I thought I will be fine at most. But when I was changing text to Ren'Py format I realized how much I was mistaken. While whole story is quite short Der Tor's friend did really great job writing it. Story was so interesting that I end up finished this quick demo in few hours as I wanted to read it farther.

Re: A Happy Life [Otome | Drama | Mystery] [Free]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:36 pm
by Preseva
That sounds like a difficult thing to have lived through, but what a powerful and unique insight to use as an inspiration. There's so much to explore there with the concepts of good and evil, and it sounds like you're doing interesting things with it. I will definitely read through this and be happy to give my thoughts on it.

Is the story finished? How much of it can or will be changed at this point? What level of feedback are you and the writer looking for? Broad strokes: ideas, direction, plot holes, general reactions? Details: word choice, grammar, general writing advice? I tend to invest hours reviewing stories, so it would help to know beforehand what kind of critique is wanted specifically and what wouldn't be used. Not much sense in going over word choice if the script will be rewritten, for example, or if the writer isn't open to those kinds of suggestions.

So far I'm enjoying it and it holds up well, even without images. I'll send a PM later.

Re: A Happy Life [Otome | Drama | Mystery] [Free]

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2018 6:38 pm
by Der Tor
Preseva wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:36 pm
Is the story finished?
No, it's only about 70 % done at this point - we are currently working on the choices and the different endings, both of which aren't written yet
Preseva wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:36 pm
How much of it can or will be changed at this point?
If there is a good reason to change something then it can and should of course be changed or corrected.
Preseva wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:36 pm
What level of feedback are you and the writer looking for?
Anything that comes to mind or that bothers you.

Re: A Happy Life [Otome | Drama | Mystery] [Free]

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 2:41 pm
by Preseva
This ended up without many spoilers, so I'll put it here. First of all, I enjoyed it and I am eager to find out about the mystery at the end. I didn’t see any inconsistencies in the plot. I thought there were a few dangling plot points but those ended up being resolved, which made them foreshadowing, which is great. What follows is all my opinion, of course!

I think the writer made the right choice by turning it into a cult story. A commune would have been the more sophisticated choice, but a cult is going to get more downloads. It’s a good hook. Few people know what a commune is, but everyone has preconceived ideas of cults. The player will go into the game with expectations, and that’s what you want to play with. To create ambiguity, you need to affirm those expectations, then disrupt them, and that is just what you’ve done. Keep doing that. As the story goes on, as the protagonist gets deeper into it, continue increasing that ambiguity, make the positives and negatives of the cult more extreme, the decision of choosing sides harder.

You have a strong protagonist. Her curiosity, in addition to getting across her youth, makes her involvement with the cult believable, because she’s not just getting talked at by a bunch of adults, but rather she’s seeking knowledge and that means she’s really internalizing and absorbing it, taking it to heart.

That last line in the demo? Wow! Powerful. I think that should be the last line of the game after the rest is written, because it answers the question at the heart of the story.

I do have some non-plot related advice: Right now this is a good story, and it needs to be turned into a script.

Visual novels are as much a visual medium as they are written, and they need a different approach than simple prose. The game has some great vivid descriptions that make it easy to read and imagine without visuals, but that same description will come across as tedious once the visuals are added. Rely more on dialogue and sound. Music and sound effects have been called “the invisible actor.” They can carry a lot of weight, so when it comes time to put them in, make sure you don’t just tack them on -- make some room in the story to exert their presence. With the right music, you won’t need to explicitly describe the tone of a conversation. With well timed sound effects, you can cut back on description of the physical movements of characters. That’s not to say you should cut all description, not at all. There are some brilliantly written images here, like a man moving like a grasshopper, syrupy liquid, a head shaken like an angry owl.

Because visual novels are scripts and not stories, rely on name tags to identify speaking characters. The sentence fragments of “She said sternly” are unsuited for VNs and come across as awkward. If you need to get the speaking character’s tone across, there are other methods.

One is dialogue. Take plays, for example. They almost never provide description of tone or the actor’s emotional state, yet they get those across with dialogue alone. Cutting other characters off and talking over them, speaking tersely, expressing excitement with exclamation marks (but not too many), speaking in an exaggerated fashion, or with sarcasm, are some examples of how to express tone without explicit description and adverbs.

Or, you could use physical description. Instead of saying “She said sternly,” for example, you could write, “Her arms were crossed and her mouth drawn into a thin line.”

Partially related to all of this, you might consider reducing the amount that is telegraphed in the story, and instead trust the player to make the connections rather than have the protagonist make them for them with internal narration. For example, when the kids
question her about the outside world and are horrified to learn about parents abandoning children
, the player is identifying with her, so they get the message. They are already thinking what she is thinking, which is, “They’ve got a point, maybe this place isn’t so bad,” so you don’t need to have the protagonist say that explicitly. Just give us enough information to affirm that she is indeed thinking that, which can be as simple as her saying something like, “Yeah…” or “Huh.”

Good luck, and I am looking forward to finding out how it ends!