Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

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Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#1 Post by Mama J » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:16 pm

So, I've always had trouble when it came to writing the part just before the common route ends and the individual route branches out because my team and I always have different views.

Personally, when I play a VN, I like being able to choose my own route and not let the game choose for me. That way, I don't have to waste time on a route that I don't find appealing. (Sorry.) My team thinks otherwise. I realize that there are pros and cons to being able to choose your own route and/or getting on a route that is based on the player's past choices.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#2 Post by Zelan » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:26 pm

I prefer to have the route be based on past choices in the story. It's more organic and integrated into the story, for one thing, and if the structure is good, it shouldn't be *too* difficult to figure out how to get your favorite route. Even if you make a mistake once or twice, you should be able to use the events of the story after each choice and the route that you ended up on to figure out which choices were the "wrong" choices. And even if the structure isn't easy to figure out... well, that's what walkthroughs are for.

Plus, I prefer to play every route anyway. I generally wouldn't recommend skipping a route just because you think you won't like it; I thought I wouldn't like Aaron much in Red String of Fate, but his route actually ended up being my favorite in the game.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#3 Post by Imperf3kt » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:31 pm

Sooner or later you need to let the user choose a path. Otherwise your visual novel is little more than a kinetic novel.

The progression until then is your common route.
Unless your novel presents the route choices through hidden decisions (Steins;Gate, for example - the true end route depends entirely on trivial phone messages. Admittedly, an integral part of the plot)

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#4 Post by PyTom » Mon Mar 06, 2017 6:45 pm

Mama J wrote:Personally, when I play a VN, I like being able to choose my own route and not let the game choose for me. That way, I don't have to waste time on a route that I don't find appealing. (Sorry.) My team thinks otherwise. I realize that there are pros and cons to being able to choose your own route and/or getting on a route that is based on the player's past choices.
In practice, non-trivial VNs will get a walkthrough written, which turns even the most complex games into just following the instructions. And you can always write one yourself and post it in the appropriate place So you can have the game choose for those who want that, and people who don't have time (like myself) can just read the instructions.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#5 Post by parttimestorier » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:05 pm

So what you want is to directly present the player with the choice of "start love interest A's route" or "start love interest B's route" at the end of the common route, rather than giving them several other less obvious decisions to make during the common route that determine the love interest for them?

Personally, I think it's more interesting to have the result of several choices determine my route - it makes me feel more like I'm actually interacting with and influencing the story. And if your common route had other choices in it but still just directly asked me which route I wanted at the end, I might be annoyed and feel like my earlier choices didn't mean anything. That being said, I pretty much always read every route in a VN, because I don't feel like I'm getting the full story otherwise. So if I accidentally end up on a route I wasn't going for I just shrug and say I'll do the other one next. But that might be partially because a lot of my favourite VNs are multiple route mysteries, which leads to me approaching other ones in the same way I do those. I can see how it might be different if you're more interested in the kind of straightforward romance VN where the routes branch out and aren't really related to each other anymore.

I think you can probably strike a compromise between both options, though, by having several choices that determine the route but making the results of them all fairly predictable. For instance, you could be really clear about how love interest A likes working out and love interest B likes reading, and then later ask the player if they want to hang out at the gym or the library. Something like that makes it pretty simple for the player to make sure they end up on the route they want, but also feels a bit more fun and meaningful than just directly asking them, in my opinion.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#6 Post by Limabaen » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:59 am

For me, it depends on the story. For example, if your vn is exclusively romance focused slice of life, then obviously its about exploring character personalities in relation to the choices you make, and thus it's more important that the route is an organic result. But if you write a say, an office vn where the protagonist chooses which section to enter (with love interest tied to each section), then it wouldn't really make sense for the choice to be "natural", as the protagonist themselves has to make a concrete decision that affects their "life" if that makes any sense.

Overall I do prefer to choose the route straight out, as long as there are plenty of opportunities for weaving and branching storylines otherwise. Of course the choice should be framed in a more subtle manner than "Pick love interest A or B" (which kind of reminds me of mid 2000s flash date-sims). Maybe something like "Join the occult club or join the gardening club"? I dunno :/

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#7 Post by Yunou » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:39 am

To be honest, I get really disappointed when I'm playing a VN and somehow my choices have made a tie between two characters and it has to ask me a really obvious tiebreaker question like:
"I look down at my phone and notice two missed calls--one from Alex and one from Matt. I decide to:

-Call Alex.
-Call Matt.
As much as I might really want to be on Alex's path, my favorite part of starting a new VN is finding out who I'm "really" compatible with. I try to play the first time as objective as possible for this reason and then if I'm not satisfied with the outcome, I'll just chase my favorite character the second time I play.

For this reason, I prefer games to have a good mixture between "chance-seeming"-type questions and obvious ones. I can't stand it when choices are always so very obviously favoring specific characters, but I don't mind them occasionally so that you can keep yourself grounded in that path if you want to. It's kind of a balance for me. I like the choices to be more organic. Instead of making the choice "Go visit Alex at the ice cream store," I prefer "Meet Anna at the mall for lunch," if Alex has mentioned prior that he works at the ice cream store in the mall. Then you will naturally see him there based on context clues without it seeming forced.

There are sometimes I like obvious choices, though, because if MC likes that character then they will obviously have opportunities to try and actively pursue him. Especially if you can choose to ignore or answer a call or text message from that character. This way you don't need a walk-through to get the character you want because you know you are adding points to this character and it's just a matter of making the correct choices at other times based on the context.

But on the note of true paths--I really do not like games that force you into one particular path first before you can pursue other routes. That feels too Kinetic for me and I get really bored really easily with that. I need my choices to count for something!

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#8 Post by Parataxis » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:15 am

I tend to like a mix, where based on earlier choices you've made you earn options at the end of the common route. That way I can leave a save there and not have to replay the whole game right away to get another route, but on the other hand it gives me the sense of organic progression from my own choices.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#9 Post by indoneko » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:16 am

I wonder if anyone has made a game with two mode : easy/kinetic/automatic & normal/vn/manual mode.

The Kinetic mode is for people who are too busy to try every choices in the game and just want to get the "default" (or canonical) ending of the game. In this mode, we read the story as if we're watching a movie... so either it won't have any choices to pick (an aggregate story), or the choices are put at the very beginning to directly select which route we want to read.

The VN mode is for people who really like the challenge to discover every ending of the game.... or maybe to collect hidden easter eggs.... :3
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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#10 Post by Shinoki » Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:51 pm

(I will be yabbering on for a pretty large chunk of text, so if you don't care for large chunks of text, well, skim, I guess?)

On the topic of choosing the route? Huh, I do agree that it is a bit annoying when you make choices that don't obviously point towards a route and accidentally end up on a character route that you don't want to play. (I'm looking at you, You-san, from Ever17...)

However, I think the biggest problem with accidentally dropping into a route is when the common route is long and has too many choices to keep track of. For the most part, there are walkthroughs, so I don't mind if the choices are a bit vague. However, when there are too many choices with too many repeating scenes, it gets frustrating going through and choosing the right ones.

I've played some games where the first choice you make decides which route you go on, but some of them did it well while others did them badly. Is a game where you can very simply enter a route--very straightforward, clearly your choice--what you mean that you want?

There's an SKE48 yuri fangame called Ai no Kazu (it's a Chinese fangame that I don't think is translated though). The first choice asks you where you want to go--ie. clubs, etc. And that is how your love interest is decided. It's very straightforward and sets you onto a route.

However, each route isn't just a kinetic novel to itself where you don't have any choices. Some visual novels do that--and I enjoy them very much, but I would say that for something with a straightforward way of route-deciding, it would seem like you don't have any choice in the story if it goes "kinetic" during the character route.

This particular game gave choices throughout the routes. There were small dialogue points where you could get easter egg type of jokes. There were choices that might get you a bad end. There were branches here and there, but it gave the player a feeling of choice and interaction, and that made the game fun.

It's clear that you're choosing what route you're going on. You're not forced to go through some maze of incoherent choices. But you also get to interact with the characters, the world, etc. and push your own decisions into the mix.

In comparison, there's a game called Shinigami no Kiss wa Wakare no Aji. As a note, it's an eroge that was kind of flimsy and the true route was a loli route (while I like lolis, well... eroge + loli is kind of meh), so I might have a slight bias against it.

There are two parts of it. The main story and the true story. For the main story, there's only one choice, and that choice decides what route you get on--the classmate or little sister route. Afterwards, it's just kinetic novel from there on. Not only that, it's basically the plot of any old eroge with fantasy aspects.

That wasn't too good. While a really great story might make a lack of choices okay, an average story isn't good. If it's originally marketed as a kinetic novel, that's fine. But, if it's an eroge with "choices," then the lack of choices besides the choice that puts you onto the route is kind of meh. There's a feeling of something lacking.

In addition, the true route was even flimsier about it. Basically, the only choice you get to make is to press a button that asks you if you want to play the loli route. Following that is all kinetic, eroge drama, which is fine and all if it was just marketed as a kinetic novel.
indoneko wrote:I wonder if anyone has made a game with two mode : easy/kinetic/automatic & normal/vn/manual mode.
That sounds like an interesting idea. I've seen quite a lot of games where there are two modes, but they're not usually like: easy mode and normal mode. It's usually more of part I to a story and then part II where part I is not kinetic and part II is.

Sometimes, it's that you clear all the routes in the normal visual novel format with all the choices and stuff. Then, when you're redirected to the home screen, a final "true" route-esque thing is unlocked, and the true route is completely kinetic, no choices, put separately from the visual novel part. (ie. on the menu: [Start] [Refrain/al Fine/True Route/etc.] two different buttons]

An example would be Shinigami no Kiss (mentioned above), but I don't consider it a good example.

Amaranto (a Japanese yuri indie game) was originally just a normal visual novel--choose em choices and get onto the route. However, a year or so (maybe) after its release, the creators released a patch. The patch was basically a "true" route type of thing that didn't focus much on the romance and was completely kinetic (though the choices from the original game were still there, but they didn't do anything to decide the route, so I would call it kinetic). After patching the game, whether or not you played through the original routes, you could still play the "true" kinetic part.

The main thing about both of the things I brought up is that: the kinetic routes are the "true" routes, but they're not really a default ending that could be gotten by choosing choices in the visual novel part. Rather, they're the finisher "true" routes to all the branches of the visual novel--they are the overarching explanation that takes in everything from all the 'timelines' you could have gone through in your visual novel choices to explain the story.

...Ah, I yabbered on for too long. Well, I hope someone understands? This is just my two-cents.

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#11 Post by Kokoro Hane » Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:08 pm

Personally, I do find it more fun when the choices in the past affect what route you go on. It makes a game more challenging, and since a visual novel already lack gameplay, those of us who are gamers naturally kinda want that challenging and surprising experience. It makes a game feel more replayable, too. HOWEVER, I am not opposed to being able to choose your own route either. I mainly advise that, even if in the end I can choose, that some of the previous choices I made before landing my route creates some subtle differences on the path. Let's say while you chose to go on Bob's route you had spent a lot of time with Jim. Perhaps this will cause you to be close and encounter Jim in some instances, even though primarily you will be on Bob's story. I think what is neat is to kinda incorporate both--perhaps if you play your cards right, you are presented with the choice of choosing but alternatively, if you had chosen certain choices that activated particular flags, maybe otherwise the route is a surprise.

So yeah, I am OK with either. I think being able to choose your route is like an "easy mode" while being unable to choose is where there is challenge. I am naturally more prone to enjoy the challenges, but the ease of choosing it doesn't bother me so long as it doesn't seem forced or unnatural. I think there are ways of naturally being able to choose it without being too direct. Just sort of obvious choices you know will have you run into said characters, or if for a very good reason they're not sure who they want to spend time with that day and you can pick.

Haha yeah, that was quite a waffling mess but... while I do lean for choices of challenge, I am OK with route-choice too if done right. As long as my previous choices do seem to have at least a subtle effect on how the route I chose will unfold--maybe we get a few scene differences, etc. It really comes down to a matter of preference--shorter games I understand do not have time for a lot of choices but longer games have so much room for challenge and development. And in the end, if I am frustrated I can go find a walkthrough.
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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#12 Post by seasons » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:52 pm

Personally I don't really like it when the opening act feels only like a quiz to determine the next. To me that feels too linear and transparent and usually means the next act is one big chunk without meaningful choices, because you've already selected them to determine your path. I prefer (though it is a lot more work) to have interweaving narratives and choices that flow naturally where you can dip in and out and mean you don't particularly get locked out of any one but each choice you make tallies up towards the impact of big moments. There's no reason why you should only be able to get entirely distinct Scene X or entirely distinct Scene Y when you can take into account all (relevant) choices and add unique sentences in a scene to reference those and bring it all together, while the core of the scenes are still the same.

That said I do think all choices should be clear and obviously meaningful. There's nothing more annoying than a bad choice description and then your character turns into an a-hole, which is never what you intended. And of course it does depend on the game. A clear, simple choice is like a Hollywood spectacle movie where the only reason you're watching it is for goofs, while more integrated, narratively focused choices are like a genuinely good film with a point. :P

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Re: Route Choices: Free Will vs. Force

#13 Post by TheJerminator15 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:50 pm

Honestly, as you have said both contain pros and cons. For example, Fate/Stay Night works so well because it has a forced playing order. However other games work just as well because the route choice is based entirely on the choice of the player and feels organic (an example is Katawa Shoujo, where each choice in the common route seems rational and understandable given Hisao's personality and who he's interacted with).

Personally, I prefer past choices you have made leading to the route on which you are set. It gives the player agency. Not to mention most players will go through all routes anyway so forcing a route order is pretty redundant unless the narrative is purposefully built on taking advantage of it.

I do like a mixture of obvious and not so obvious choices in games though. Once again, using Fate as an example, there are times where the choices to make are outright obvious if you want to avoid a bad end, but other ones are only very subtle, changing a line or two of dialogue yet affecting the relationship between the characters through flags.
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