A very long common route and late character introductions?

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
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Re: A very long common route and late character introductions?

#16 Post by Mutive » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:06 pm

Zelan wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:00 pm
Mutive wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:10 pm
I don't have any problems with a long common route (although I'll admit that it makes me MUCH less likely to want to replay the story since I'll be seeing 90% of the content again. So this is something to consider!)
It is important to consider this, but in my opinion this is when Ren'Py has a built-in skip function. ^_^ To each their own, of course, but if I'm marathoning all of the endings in a VN, I'll play it through the first time to get whichever ending my instinctive choices lead to, and then explore to find the other endings by skipping everything that I've already read. If I'm not marathoning the endings, I usually leave the game for long enough that by the time I come back to it I don't remember all of the details so I don't mind rereading it. So, assuming that your VN has a skip feature, I think the problem is less "will my audience be willing to read through this multiple times?" and more "will my audience be willing to read through this the first time?"
I'm well aware of the feature. With that said, I still don't tremendously like zooming through text. It's a personal thing, which other players may or may not share. But if I feel like 90% of the content will be the same in a game the second time around, I am very unlikely to replay it.
Enjoy Eidolon, my free to play game at: https://mutive.itch.io/eidolon or Minion! at: https://mutive.itch.io/minion

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Projects: Fractured Spirits- A war drama set in a fictional world with WW2/Cold War themes

Re: A very long common route and late character introductions?

#17 Post by jdhthegr8 » Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:57 am

parttimestorier wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:52 am
I'm not sure if I would actually agree with this approach. Of course, it's entirely subjective and will depend on the tastes of your audience, but I sometimes find it overwhelming if a VN has too many tiny little choices. And I don't feel like there's any "tedium" to just reading through part of the story that doesn't have choices yet - I read VNs because I like reading. If there are a ton of choices early on, I might start to get less immersed in the story because now I'm thinking too hard about whether these choices are important and whether maybe I should look up a guide because this seems complicated. And if they're all in a long common route that I'm going to have to eventually skip back through, then the second time around I'll probably have forgotten what the context was for the choices by the time I get to them again, and I'll definitely be looking up a guide rather than having fun experimenting myself. Personally, I would rather spend several hours reading a linear story with just a few important choices in it than have little dialogue options come up every fifteen minutes.
Interesting angle. I can see where you're coming from. There are indeed plenty of VNs that either lock you into a path based on unnecessarily trivial choices or present minor ones in such a way that implies greater significance than they really carry. In the case of my specific project, there will be a fair bit of structure as to when these small "opinion" conversations happen in such a manner that they are less likely to produce expectations of greater significance than necessary; To be more specific, many of these minor early conversations will happen between some characters in a school setting who are living peaceful lives before the main conflict that sweeps them all up. In the case of these characters, I personally feel comfortable that combining this with a visible "opinion bar" that is shown when change happens would minimize the chance of people worried about "tripping a flag" in a minor conversation.

That said, this admittedly does not apply to all of my planned first-half opinion choices- some characters who happen to be in more plot-significant positions at that point in the story could have minor changes in opinion between one another based on a few conversation choices amongst themselves. Ultimately those variables will matter as well, but they will be far more greatly influenced by second-half decisions. In this case, however, your post does make me see that I'll have to take special care in how I present such choices and conversations.

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Re: A very long common route and late character introductions?

#18 Post by Desertopa » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:32 am

There's one VN which comes to mind which I thought pulled off the the long common route/late character introductions well: Kono Oozora ni, Tsubasa o Hirogete/If My Heart Had Wings. The events of the common route take place over the course of more than a year, and at the beginning of the first school year in the common route, two of the route heroines aren't even attending the school yet. Ironically, I think the big weakness in that game isn't how much common route you have to replay in that game to see the different routes, since it's not that much trouble to skip through it, the weakness is in the similarity of the character routes themselves. They all take place against the backdrop of the same central plot, and hit very similar notes as they progress through it, so my interest steadily declined as I read through them.

If players get bored because there's so much common route to read through, I think the problem isn't the length of the common route, the problem is that it's not written to hold the players' attention. Some games, I've personally found much less interesting once they progressed from the common route to the individual romantic routes, because the writers narrow the focus onto the lead couple and lose a lot of the ensemble cast dynamics of the common route. The common route isn't a teaser for the romantic arcs, or a preamble which should be gotten out of the way as quickly as possible. Its an essential part of the game, and in some games, it's the best part. I think that any writer who treats it as setup, and not as part of the meat of the game, is really shortchanging the whole work.

Besides all that, by commercial standards, 2-4 hours for a common route really isn't all that long anyway. It's later than most games introduce central romantic interests, but there's no shortage of commercial VNs with common routes well over twice that length. If you do as good a job keeping the player engaged, you shouldn't need to move faster.

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