Unusual(?) Branching Routes

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Hoyuu
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Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#1 Post by Hoyuu » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:43 pm

So, I've been planning to write a VN for a while, and after I finished my outline I noticed that the way the story branches is a bit... Unusual. I, at least, have never played a VN with such structure, and wanted to know what other people will think about it.

The story is mostly set in a one week time loop where only the protagonist is aware that the loop is happening. For some reason, his two friends keep dying in strange and suspicious ways, like suicide withouth any apparent reason or just plain bizarre acidents. The objective of the story is mostly to understand wtf is happening and to possible stop the time loop with your friends alive.

At the beggining of the game the first choice you make is which character you want to help first. Choosing Character A will immediately put you in their route, where you can either get ending A or ending B. After you get an ending with Character A, that character will become unavaiable for plot reasons and you'll be put on Character B's route, where you can get either ending C or ending D.
After finishing an ending with Character A and Character B the player will be put on a true route, and the ending of the true route will change based on the two character endings the player got.
After you finish one of the true ends, the two characters will become avaiable again and the player will be able to try to get other ending to see different true ends. Rise and repeat.

I'm aware that my explanation is probably confusing, so I tried to make a diagram:
ends.png
something like this
I guess the structure could be a bit confusing, but I really think it'll work with the type of history I'm writing. The true end 1 is basically the protagonist learning about what it means to really care about other people, making sacrifices and putting their well being above his own. The second is the protagonist chosing to not change his ways, and continue to prioritize his wishes at the cost of the well being of others. The third one is the protagonist being indecisive about what he really wants, so he choses to try and live a lie withouth making choices.
I think all three true ends are valid based on the protagonist's personality, so there's no real true end, and no real good end, just, you know, different ends that have good and bad points that I plan to make interesting to read.

So, what do you guys say? Think this structure could work with a VN? If no, why not? And would you be interested in playing something in this style? (btw, there's no romance in this VN... Just saying, it's mostly mistery and friendship, with drama here and there).

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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#2 Post by indoneko » Wed Nov 02, 2016 12:31 am

Yes, I think it will work.

The lack of romance is not really a big deal, but it would be more interesting if you have antagonist character(s) who interferes with the protagonist's attempts to save his friend (instead of leaving it to random events). Maybe you could use this game as reference (beware of spoiler) : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Hollow
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#3 Post by NialGrenville » Wed Nov 02, 2016 12:58 am

Sounds like a BlazBlue Final Destination mix.

I hope you can do it!
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#4 Post by Hoyuu » Wed Nov 02, 2016 1:14 am

@indoneko: Well, in a way, there is an antagonist.
I probably didn't explain this part right, but I wouldn't say the events that kill the protagonist friends are random. There is something very, very wrong happening in the city, but the protagonist seems to be the only one aware of it, and thus, the only one capable of doing something against it. Trust me, his friends deaths are anything but a natural or a coincidental acident, something is making them commit suicide or causing the bizarre acidents, and your job is to try and keep them alive, if possible. It's mostly a character driven story, where you can heavily influence the person who the proganist is, or wants to be.

It's a story about death and understanding, about the consequences of your choices, about people who you can change, or people who sometimes can change you, a story where you either take resposability for your decisions or just run away. It's a story that is sometimes sad, but mostly is bittersweet. Above all else, I think, it's just a story about life.

@NialGrenville: I wouldn't say it's exactly like Blazblue, but we'll see xD Thanks for the interest!

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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#5 Post by NialGrenville » Wed Nov 02, 2016 1:24 am

*Totally forgetting to specify my post*
I meant BlazBlue's plot device: The continuum shift. While a continuum is certainly what you are describing. I guess I like to compare things to other things I know.

*Taking your approach on an "antagonist"
That is quite a special Idea. Unique to say the least. Similar to Steven King's Storm of the Century. The reason they were killed was for their sins, by their sins. As the plot unfolds, and the antagonist reveals he is legion. (A great memorable demon of religion.)

So to say there is a lurking issue within themselves, you have a platform so amazingly built. You may have built a high standard for yourself.
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#6 Post by Mammon » Wed Nov 02, 2016 5:01 am

Hm, I don't actually see where the unorthodox part of the VN is. A looping story with one of the characters being aware of the never-ending loop a la Groundhog day isn't that uncommon. Higurashi (the series) is essentially a loop where everything seems happy and normal only for something to suddenly go wrong and everyone ending up dead or traumatised, with one of the characters being aware of these repeats. In fact, one can almost say that every non-kinetic VN is a looping universe where every new playthrough of the reader is a new loop, but this will never play a role unless one of the characters remembers the previous loops. And the 'OMG-so sugoi animu of the year' Re:Zero also featured a similar plot I believe, I haven't seen it myself though.

Doesn't mean this story can't be unique or good, I'm not saying that. The protagonist struggling against faith, the way things slowly go awry, the way you can add a climactic ending in the middle of a story and then return to the goofy slice-of-life, each of these elements can be most enjoyable when done right. And honestly none of these anime/VN stories were what I first thought of when reading your description. My first thought was actually the movie 'The time machine', where a 19th century inventor loses his fiancee in a mugging gone bad and spends the next few years building a time machine to prevent this from ever happening. However, fate itself seems to disagree with this and kills his beloved every time he saves her, from making the mugger accidentally shooting her or having the gun go off spontaneously to just dropping a piano on her.

Anyway, I think there are three important factors to consider while making a story like this:
1) Especially the first loop needs to stand on its own, but they all need enough time to get the reader involved (again). Don't skim on the length of a loop because it's been done before, you'll need the character development and such to make a climactic ending work. If you see friend A die horribly but the reader isn't really emotionally involved yet because the story before it wasn't really that long, it won't work.

2) Make sure that the readers can skip through scenes they've already seen. If you make them read a scene from a previous loop again, make sure to use labels and such to ensure that they can skip through it without setting 'Skip seen messages' to 'Skip all messages'. If you don't, they can miss the sudden changed dialogue after a while, especially if it's just a single line or thought. This only applies if you do recycle old scenes, off course.

3) Keep a close eye on the protagonist's development. If they don't really change a lot the looping loses it's purpose, but if they change too much too drastically it can be even worse. A looping story where the protagonist is the one aware of this is the most difficult type because you'll need to actually write out all the psychological development.

Sorry if this sounded a bit preachy, I'm actually quite interested in your story but I'm always wary of people setting these difficult to accomplish goals for themselves.
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#7 Post by Parataxis » Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:51 am

The only issue I can see is a potential programming problem. If you just want to automatically dump them on the correct ending then assuming that a person plays A then B then C which ending do they get? True Ending 1 or True Ending 3?

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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#8 Post by Mammon » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:03 am

I think Hoyuu mentioned something about character A/B becoming unavailable after getting their first ending, meaning you'll always have to go with the other character during your second playthrough. And I don't think this is much of a problem code-wise, as long as you plan out the coding properly in advance.

So probably something like this (all of these are persistent.~ to prevent being reset when starting a new game):

First playthough:
Both A and B are still ==False, set one to ==True when choosing their route. You'll still get the choice which route to take, route_A or route_B

Second playthrough
if A== True: jump label route_B
if B== True: jump label route_A
you won't see the choice which route to take if either A or B is set to True.

Third playthrough
Somewhere before the choice (or at the choice):
if end1==True and end3==True: jump true_end1
<all other possible combinations as well>
if end1-4=False: jump regular route (the way you played the game the first two times)

(Not really the) Fourth playthrough
Somewhere before the third playthrough divergence or at the choice again:
if true_end1 or true_end2 == True: do something like seting all the non-true_end persistents back to False (make sure that all the changed monologue and dialogue from the protagonist reacting on the loops are catalogued under different persistents)

This is obviously not exactly a complete or (programming-wise) correct diagram (or a diagram at all) and skips through the last part with the true ends, but from what I can tell in just a few minutes the programming shouldn't be much of a problem.
Last edited by Mammon on Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:55 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#10 Post by NialGrenville » Wed Nov 02, 2016 9:47 am

Persistent data will be used within it. Marking flags for endings that go across all saves, and NG+s. I presume that would be the case if they want to remove the chance of ever getting the same ending 2 times.

*Thinking about the if statements*

However, the if statements would be quite hilarious. Think of looking at that code.

Code: Select all

label start:
    "[bunch of story]"
    if ending1 == True:
        "You seem to have already done this. Your brain cannot handle the amount of paradoxes, and it explodes."
        "Don't come back"
        "Plz"
Sounds very meta like Undertale, which was quite popular for its persistent data. Quite a unique take on playing a game to get a certain ending. I wanted to take that to my own project. So it would be nice to see that in a VN.
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Re: Unusual(?) Branching Routes

#11 Post by Kominara » Wed Nov 16, 2016 12:32 am

It's not that unusual. Kagetsu Tohya, Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, and Cross†Channel, among many others, have done this style. Visual novels are actually infamous for time loops among some circles, thought most Western writers don't use them.

To put it simply, you have a lot to write, and a lot of complex logic branching to set up. It'll be an interesting game to play, that's for certain.

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