Questions on Romance VNs

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Questions on Romance VNs

#1 Post by sciencewarrior » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:01 pm

So, I'm plotting the VN equivalent of Tetris: one boy X two girls, high school uniforms, estimated word count around 15k, roughly one week of in-world time. Now, I have some semi-general questions:

1. How do you make two people fall in love in such a short time frame? In one of the pairings, I'm basically asking one of them to leave their whole life behind for them to be together. Even considering youth and naivete, that's a lot to ask.

2. Will players be angry if I decide that it simply isn't realistic and decide to only give this heroine a "bittersweet" ending? There are lots of stories with less than happy endings, but people expect to be able to "beat" the game, right?

3. When writing a story, do you worry about "balancing" the dateable characters? How do you make them all roughly equally interesting and appealing?
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#2 Post by OokamiKasumi » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:29 pm

sciencewarrior wrote:How do you make two people fall in love in such a short time frame?
Real love can be as instantaneous as a smile, or something that grows silently for decades before its even noticed. It all depends on the person in love.

In a visual novel situation, the more time the player spends with a particular selection, the more signs of 'affection' (or annoyance,) should show in the selection characters' behavior. Then, to tip the scale, have a climatic scene where the player character does something Significant for the selection character:
- a rescue
- a duel in their honor
- a gift
- keeping a promise
- breaking a promise
- repayment of a favor
- uncovering a mystery
- revealing a secret
- keeping a secret
- presenting proof of innocence
- presenting proof of guilt

Don't forget, your job as a game-maker is to:
- 1) Make the player 'Doubt' their first choice enough to explore the other avenues of your story.
- 2) Make the characters difficult for the player to catch through weighted questions and tricky situations.
sciencewarrior wrote:2. Will players be angry if I decide that it simply isn't realistic and decide to only give this heroine a "bittersweet" ending?
This depends on the Age of the player. The Younger the player, the more they'll want a "Happy" (hearts, flowers, wedding cake) ending. Mature players prefer more...interesting and realistic endings.
sciencewarrior wrote:3. How do you make them all roughly equally interesting and appealing?
The appearance of your character sprites will do all the 'appealing and interesting' for you.

The trick is to also give your characters personality quirks that seem cute at first glance, but are in fact LAND MINES; traits that can cause the player to blow it with the character if they're not handled carefully.

As an extreme example:
-- Instead of making the player choose between moderately attractive Nice girls, what if his choices are between absolutely stunning Psychos?

In this case, 'blowing it' can mean the player ends up in multiple plastic baggies in a freezer for later consumption, (she loves cooking exotic dishes,) hanging by the neck from a rafter in an abandoned warehouse, (she likes Urban Exploration,) or their feet tied to a cement block sunk at the bottom of a river, (she adores boating.)

Although with Psycho girls as candidates, Escaping them all might be a more desirable ending. :) However, even that choice of ending can be turned awry where the player character ends up voluntarily committing suicide, committing multiple Murders, or being in an asylum in the middle of nowhere wearing a strait-jacket.

Fun, ne?
Last edited by OokamiKasumi on Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:09 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#3 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:47 am

Sciencewarrior, it sounds like you're writing a slice of life story. If you are instead trying to write a story which emphasizes action or mystery, then be sure to say so.
sciencewarrior wrote:1. How do you make two people fall in love in such a short time frame?
That's a tough question. If they only interact for a few minutes each day, then it might be difficult to justify. And unless they're dealing with extraordinary problems or circumstances, it might seem implausible.

What if your characters end up in a situation where they have to cope with each other for more than a few minutes each day? For instance, they have to collaborate on a large school project. Or they have to live in the same house for a week. In situations like these, the three characters will constantly be reacting to each other.

And what if one of the three characters' lives is suddenly threatened? Even within the guidelines of a slice of life plot, it's possible that one of them might have an accident, or an unexpected disease. After an event like this, they might start taking their casual friendship a bit more seriously.
sciencewarrior wrote:2. Will players be angry if I decide that it simply isn't realistic and decide to only give this heroine a "bittersweet" ending? There are lots of stories with less than happy endings, but people expect to be able to "beat" the game, right?
After a week, a relationship might be just getting started. It's entirely possible that a good ending might be "we had our first date, and it wasn't a disaster." Your story does not have to end with the characters getting engaged or married.

It might be a good idea to write multiple endings, including at least one melancholy ending which is not a total failure. In other words, a path where the characters are trying to hook up, but where something goes wrong.

It's entirely possible that even if your characters want to fall in love, it won't work out. It's possible for there to be only one ending and it is not upbeat, or several downer endings. Just make sure you justify why it's necessary to end the story with the characters not in a relationship.
sciencewarrior wrote:3. When writing a story, do you worry about "balancing" the dateable characters? How do you make them all roughly equally interesting and appealing?
Perhaps one of the girls will seem like the ideal match at first -- and then the main character realizes she's not the perfect fit. Or perhaps the other girl does not seem exceptional until the main character learns more about her.

Be sure to read up on types of love triangles and possibly also balanced harems. Consider the ways in which the two girls will be similar and different.

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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#4 Post by sciencewarrior » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:32 am

OokamiKasumi wrote: - a rescue
- a duel in their honor
- a gift
- keeping a promise
- breaking a promise
- repayment of a favor
- uncovering a mystery
- revealing a secret
- keeping a secret
- presenting proof of innocence
- presenting proof of guilt
Nice list, thanks!
OokamiKasumi wrote:Don't forget, your job as a game-maker is to:
- 1) Make the player 'Doubt' their first choice enough to explore the other avenues of your story.
- 2) Make the characters difficult for the player to catch through weighted questions and tricky situations.
This makes sense. But how do I make sure a choice isn't too tricky and non-obvious? It may be easy to think that "I'll write using (A) Comic Sans (B) Helvetica (C) Garamond" is a perfectly obvious question, because Nana-chan is a typographer and would never date a bozo that uses Comic Sans in his Master's thesis, but some people may not catch that detail and think the game is punishing them for making the wrong choice in what seems essentially random.
gekiganwing wrote:Sciencewarrior, it sounds like you're writing a slice of life story. If you are instead trying to write a story which emphasizes action or mystery, then be sure to say so.
I had an eureka moment after thinking about this. At first I was planning to have a mystery; there was only one Girl from Elsewhere, that the protagonist would meet in special circumstances, and the challenge was discovering what was going on so they could end up together -- or at least, not with a terrible tragedy. Then, after a few iterations, a second character, the Childhood Friend, appeared to help the somewhat dense protagonist figure out was going on, but she kept gaining life and growing, so now I have to control her so she doesn't take over. :)

Anyway, my problem was the conflict in the story had changed. It became choosing between a more mellow love with the Childhood Friend, or a fiery romance with the Girl from Elsewhere, but I was still trying to be clever and hide the identity of this girl, and the fact that they would have to make immense sacrifices if they wanted to stay together, for more than half the story. Bringing the revelation closer to the beginning removed several head-banging moments and made it easier for them to connect: if you want to get something off your chest, an attractive member of the other sex from another world in even better than a priest or a shrink, right?
gekiganwing wrote:And what if one of the three characters' lives is suddenly threatened? Even within the guidelines of a slice of life plot, it's possible that one of them might have an accident, or an unexpected disease. After an event like this, they might start taking their casual friendship a bit more seriously.
Hmmm, cute girls in hospital beds. It never fails.
gekiganwing wrote:Be sure to read up on types of love triangles and possibly also balanced harems. Consider the ways in which the two girls will be similar and different.
Thanks! The only bad thing about TV Tropes is realizing that any idea that you may have has been done hundreds of times in all possible variations. :)
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#5 Post by OokamiKasumi » Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:54 pm

sciencewarrior wrote:Nice list, thanks!
My pleasure.
sciencewarrior wrote:...how do I make sure a choice isn't too tricky and non-obvious? It may be easy to think that "I'll write using (A) Comic Sans (B) Helvetica (C) Garamond" is a perfectly obvious question, because Nana-chan is a typographer and would never date a bozo that uses Comic Sans in his Master's thesis, but some people may not catch that detail and think the game is punishing them for making the wrong choice in what seems essentially random.
By using an example first. SHOW in the story that this would be a mistake by having the player witness Nana-chan scolding (or complaining about) someone for using Comic Sans on their thesis, then much later in the game, present the question.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#6 Post by Aoyama Ryuu » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:37 pm

sciencewarrior wrote: 1. How do you make two people fall in love in such a short time frame? In one of the pairings, I'm basically asking one of them to leave their whole life behind for them to be together. Even considering youth and naivete, that's a lot to ask.
I'll make a relatively bold statement and say that shocking and traumatic experiences tend to bind people together faster than happy ones. I'm not basing that on anything but speculation, so feel free to contradict me. If I am right, however, it is possible to create an event in which they experience something they need to rely on each other in order to overcome. That should skip a few months of bonding.
sciencewarrior wrote: 2. Will players be angry if I decide that it simply isn't realistic and decide to only give this heroine a "bittersweet" ending? There are lots of stories with less than happy endings, but people expect to be able to "beat" the game, right?
That depends on personal preference, but I assume that as long as it's well written and it fits well into the story there won't be any problem.
sciencewarrior wrote: 3. When writing a story, do you worry about "balancing" the dateable characters? How do you make them all roughly equally interesting and appealing?
I don't think you can make them equally interesting and appealing. I believe each character caters to a different type of player, so they have to be fundamentally different. For example an extravert and an introvert. It's difficult to compare different types of characters. I think that the most I do to balance my characters is regarding plot; I think every route should be equally engaging, regardless of genre.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#7 Post by Applegate » Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:02 pm

Someone once said that, "You start loving someone the moment they tell you 'I love you'." Or I read that somewhere, anyway.

I think a week is definitely too little to develop a meaningful and deep relationship. If you're worried about portraying a realistic relationship, you may consider leaving the ending 'open': perhaps, say, the main character confesses to her, and she doesn't immediately turn him down. It hints that the relationship will begin, however rocky or swell it starts. I think gekigan said it already, but it bears repeating.
Nana-chan is a typographer and would never date a bozo that uses Comic Sans in his Master's thesis
A completely reasonable sentiment. I wouldn't date a person that uses Comic Sans in their Master's thesis.

The idea to make choices intuitive is by presenting the options and explaining what the result may be. For example, suppose the main character is prompted with the choice of what font to use. You may write it as this:
All right. A love letter it is. As anyone knows, even someone as hopelessly inept at love as I am, the most important part of a letter is looks. Well, for a love letter, anyway.
Things like what colour paper, what colour font... heck, even the font type.
Speaking of, what font should I use? Nana-chan's a typographer, so maybe using the default font isn't such a good idea... on the other hand, I don't really have experience with fontology. I may somehow pick a disastrous font. Wasn't there some saying that 'love letters in Garamond never lead to anything'?
-> Go with the default.
-> Garamond's never failed me before.
-> Let's do daring: Lucida Handwriting.
Okay, it's not perfect, but the narrator has already explained the considerations for making a choice. It may be an idea to rather involve Nana-chan's typography in some earlier scene, so the reader is encouraged to take interest in the girl and actually remember things about her. In any case, a choice becomes meaningful when the reader understands the impact it have and can more-or-less understand the result of making that choice.

"Going left or right" without knowing anything about either choice makes it a crapshoot, and that's much less interesting: you don't have a specific method to work towards the ending you like.
Hmmm, cute girls in hospital beds. It never fails.
Cute girls doing _____, fill in the blanks. Instant success. :lol:

As for on balancing characters... consider the audience. If you're writing for otaku, you know there are a few character archetypes that're popular. If you specifically aim for, say, the maid-loving otakus and the tomboy-loving otakus, put in a tomboy and a maido. Add characters based on audience, and cater to that specific audience... and you'll find that a lot of audiences aren't aimed towards only one character.

When a character is written to be as interesting as possible to its intended audience, people outside of that audience will see the effort and will be able to care about that character as well.

Lastly... I wouldn't worry too much over whether readers will be angry, or feel cheated out, or whatever. You should write a story that you think is worth telling, in a way that you think it is worth telling. There is no "wrong" way to write a story; a specific audience may not like it, but then that is not your target audience.

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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#8 Post by OokamiKasumi » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:40 pm

Applegate wrote: You should write a story that you think is worth telling, in a way that you think it is worth telling.
Excellent piece of advice right there.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#9 Post by Starshine » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:01 pm

What's the difference between romance and dating games?
I thought they were the same thing.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#10 Post by gekiganwing » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:34 pm

Starshine wrote:What's the difference between romance and dating games?
I thought they were the same thing.
Hmm, good question. I think it depends on the gameplay, but only in context. Let me try to explain what I mean.

For instance, you can accurately use the term "dating simulation" in regards to a number of complex games, such as the Tokimeki Memorial series and Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo. Both of these are centered around simulation gameplay. There are a few conversations and story sequences, but much of the player's time is spent building stats.

The term "romance game" doesn't have a clear definition. There is no mention of simulation gameplay, and there is no indication that the game will focus on a narrative. It can be used to describe any type of entertainment software which focuses on the relationships of fictional characters. So if you're discussing a game/VN about characters and their love lives, I believe you can describe it as a romance game even if it does not have simulation gameplay.

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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#11 Post by Tsundere Lightning » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:04 pm

OokamiKasumi wrote:The trick is to also give your characters personality quirks that seem cute at first glance, but are in fact LAND MINES; traits that can cause the player to blow it with the character if they're not handled carefully.
For a prime example of this technique, see Katawa Shoujo. Holy hell, is this the mode of operation of the Katawa Shoujo writers, Jesus Christ. Hanako's shy streak, Emi's 'gotta go fast' philosophy, Rin's introspection...
She's sun and rain: She's fire and ice. A little crazy, but it's nice.
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#12 Post by Starshine » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:50 pm

gekiganwing wrote:
Starshine wrote:What's the difference between romance and dating games?
I thought they were the same thing.
Hmm, good question. I think it depends on the gameplay, but only in context. Let me try to explain what I mean.

For instance, you can accurately use the term "dating simulation" in regards to a number of complex games, such as the Tokimeki Memorial series and Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo. Both of these are centered around simulation gameplay. There are a few conversations and story sequences, but much of the player's time is spent building stats.

The term "romance game" doesn't have a clear definition. There is no mention of simulation gameplay, and there is no indication that the game will focus on a narrative. It can be used to describe any type of entertainment software which focuses on the relationships of fictional characters. So if you're discussing a game/VN about characters and their love lives, I believe you can describe it as a romance game even if it does not have simulation gameplay.

Thanks, i think i now get the gist of it. :D
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Re: Questions on Romance VNs

#13 Post by Dakishimete » Sun Mar 18, 2012 4:19 pm

1. Don't make them. Falling in a true love in a week is very, very unrealistic. There are various kind of feelings, similiar to love, but not as strong.
2. They will be angry. But they'll also won't be pleased if the story is naive. I feel bad with bittersweet endings, but when I started to write myself, I understood the point of them. It's not to make the player angry, it's to make the story as good as possible. It depends of what do you want, make people feel good, or create a story that makes them think.
3. Balancing is a funny word. I make it simple - I like them almost equally. When you like the character, you write him/her the way, that the others will too. But when I notice that someone is falling behind, I just give him a little bit more screen time. Usually it's enough. The moment I focus just on him, it puts him in the spotlight and automatically makes people more interested in him. Also, a lot depends on players' tastes. The character that falls behind in my story is my sisters favourite.

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