The Game Name Name Game

Discuss how to use the Ren'Py engine to create visual novels and story-based games. New releases are announced in this section.
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The Game Name Name Game

#1 Post by PyTom » Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:58 pm

One thing that's been bugging me is that there's a general feeling around here (one I agree with) that by and large, visual novels are not games. Or at least, they're not necessarily games. This kinda goes back to mikey's article Visual Novels are not Games!, and also to some of the reviews on download.com (and the discussion thereof here). It also comes from the expectation that some of the future Ren'Py projects will be kinetic novels, and hence will certainly not be games.

(So what are they? I call them visual novels first, and then I describe that as a form of computer-mediates storytelling.)

I think a problem is that there are people downloading VNs and expecting it to be a game in the traditional sense... and they get frustrated because it's more of a storytelling experience then a gaming one.

So I think it makes sense to cut back on the use of the word "game", especially on public-facing websites and the like. Or perhaps I'm insane(er than usual), and this is all a waste of time. But I'm thinking it's probably better to call them "works" or "projects", as opposed to "games".

So with that in mind, I'm considering a new set of terminology for use in Ren'Py and it's documentation. I'll present it in three parts: menu changes, filesystem changes, and documentation changes.

Menu Changes

In general, the menus will be changed to eliminate the word "game".

So, for example, "Load Game" will be replaced with "Load", "Save Game" will be "Save", and so on. More tricky will be the prompts for quitting and restarting. I'm thinking of having them read:

"Are you sure you want to quit?"

and

"Are you sure you want to return to the main menu?\nThis will lose your place."

Although I don't totally like the "lose your place" formulation... "lose unsaved progress"? "lose your data"? Hm... any suggestions?

Filesystem Changes

Likewise, the filesystem layout will change. I'm thinking that we'll be renaming the game/ directory to data/, and then renaming run_game.py and run_game.exe to run.py and run.exe, respectively. (Or perhaps start.py/start.exe?)

The only problem with this is that there is some older documentation out there (for the Mac and for Linux) that tells the user to start run_game.py... so we'll need to update that to tell them to look for start.py or run_game.py.)

Documentation Changes

Finally, throughout the documentation, to be consistent, I'll need to do some renaming. So game directory would become data directory, and probably game would become project instead.

Once that's done, we can also talk about other things, like modifying the wording used on the archive and such.

So...

The question is, of course, is this necessary? Should I go through the trouble of making these changes. I think some of them, moving to the more generic language in Ren'Py itself, could be a good idea. This generic language (and filenames), I think, can only be a good thing. It keeps the door open to kinetic novels, as well as other totally-non-game projects. Visual Nonfiction, anyone?

I'm not sure if we want to make these changes publically, however... That may be overkill. I'm not sure.

Before I make any changes, however, I'd like to know what others think about it. I don't want to make major changes like this without consensus... or at least, lack of rejection. I'm especially interested in what established game-makers have to say.

Hm... game-maker... that will have to change... how about "visual novelist?"

Ren

#2 Post by Ren » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:37 pm

I like "unsaved progresses" better.
Am i allowed to say what i think even if i'm not a gamemaker?

(...visual novelist?XD)
I don't know how much time it would take to make these changes, so i don't have an information i would use to have a really clear opinion about this, but some things came to my mind...

Actually your program would be used by someone who already knows what Renais and kinetic novels are in my opinion.
I have the feeling that part of your concerns come from the post about M.B. and the review it had from someone who obviously isn't interested in this genre of games.

My point is that when you're looking for a game on download.com and you find a Renai among the other games you may feel "decieved" but i don't think that you should modify all these things on Ren'py.

Maybe it would be better for a site that lists games to download to have a section for kinetic novels and renais...but would it be necessary for your site to make it clear that they're different?

I read the article you mentioned, even so whenever i talk about a visual novel, i somply call them games.

It kinda irks me that anytime we want to be more specific we have to use a longer term, but that might be just me, i may be too lazy-_-;;
On the other hand, i don't really see why something that relies on a story and images can't be a game, if we wanted to be even more specific, we could just don't call a RPG a game because it's not like a FPS, or we couldn't shorten videogames to games because playing Metalgear Solid isn't like playing football?*_*

Or maybe i'm just talking too much.(more like ranting)
One last thing i would like to say is that the people you have on your site and here are different from those who browse other games sites.

In other places it might be good to be specific, but maybe here it's a little peaceful island where you don't have to change the way you talk t be understood:3

Nyah, i'll shutup now...

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#3 Post by ozurr » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:41 pm

This is an excellent idea. I can't think of any reason against doing so.

edit:
It may be in the game category, but so is life, the universe and everything. Taking default mentions of 'game' out Ren'Py makes it more flexible for the visual novelist or game creator.
Last edited by ozurr on Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#4 Post by Piroshiki » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:44 pm

Maybe it's because visual novels are called games everywhere in japanese and I'm so used to seeing them being called so that anything else would feel weird, but I just can't see the use for such a change... I don't think it's worth the trouble. Myst was a game? Then I don't see why Gin'iro can't be one. As long as you can interact with it or have some kind of controle over the course of the story, then it's a game. Nevermind simulation games ala TokiMemo, which can also be done using Ren'Py...

Big companies call them games, we've been calling them games for as long as we've played them, they're refered to as games everywhere. What people should learn isn't that visual novels have minimal gameplay, what they should learn is that there are games that have minimal gameplay and *gasp* don't involve blowing up anything that moves.

Just my two cents. Of course, the situatiuon changes in the case of non-interactive visual novels...
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#5 Post by PyTom » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:53 pm

Ren wrote:I like "unsaved progresses" better.
Am i allowed to say what i think even if i'm not a gamemaker?
Sure. I'll accept any reasoned argument.
Actually your program would be used by someone who already knows what Renais and kinetic novels are in my opinion.
Well, yes and no. While only people really heavily in the know use Ren'Py to make things, most people just use Ren'Py to play works others have made. Bits of Ren'Py can make it through to those people... like the default names for the menu choices.

Oh, and since I deleted the quote, I'll just reply here... Difficulty isn't really an issue... It's easy to change the default names of things.

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#6 Post by mikey » Fri Dec 02, 2005 6:50 pm

Interesting thoughts...

One thing I did with the release of Idol/TYPE and the redesign of tha game's pages was I started to call *my* games "graphic text adventures", relating to the alternative name of a comic/manga = graphic novel, and pointing out the games are text emphasized with some choices = text adventure (a classic gaming term).

So yes, I still think of them as games, even though I won't be offended when someone calls them non-games. However, there are a few considerations in regard to kinetic novels or even presentations, FAQs, e-books, albums and whatever you can think of that Ren'Py can be used for.

A shift to a more generic language is in itself a neat idea, although not critically necessary. We used a CD Menu program for making a game, so someone can easily use a game-making program to make a photoalbum. Plus, you can always change the names yourself as the "programmer" of the thing.

A generic language then, is more of a "political" instrument than something practical as I see it. If Ren'Py is to become a flexible tool for many project types, it's logical that the names should be neutral (and the name should change to... Multi'Py? ^_^). In my opinion though, I would like Ren'Py to stay a game-oriented environment. I like its focus, but ultimately it's of course not up to me to decide on the future plans.

This will apply also to the filesystem and documentation. However, as far as the archives are concerned, I wouldn't change the name, or the fact that we call them games. And it kind of gets me to the beginning. While I personally acknowledge that they aren't games per se, I don't feel that there should be a new enigmatic term (for instance VN/KN) describing this unique form.

Not least because of the fact that the while archives might well host mostly VN/KNs, there's always Heikou, there's Idol/TYPE and there can be some new dating sim games coming. So, there isn't a term that actually describes them all better than the original - games. One more argument in favor of this is that more people who enjoy classic games will be inclined to give VNs a try than people who watch movies.

And finally, a visual novelist... ^_^ Well, I know that was just fun, but thinking about it I personally don't like the term "novel" in visual novels too much, it's technically more like a "visual shortstory" in our (and even commercial) cases.

In my time at the game-making company I was good friends with our lead graphics artist. And at first I couldn't understand why he always reacted so negatively when someone called him that, when I was priding myself in being called lead game designer. But because he had much more experience than I did at that time, I soon came to realize he was right. When you work on your project, it will not really matter how you are called, but what you do and how that makes you feel.

One novelist (I really have no idea who), when asked at what point one can consider himself a writer/novelist, answered that it was the moment you pick up the pen and start writing. And it wasn't really to encourage the ones who don't have published works yet, but to simply declare that it's the things you DO that matter, not how you call them (or yourself).

Whaaaa, a this was a longie! ^_^

In short:

As far as Ren'Py goes, I don't mind using more generic terms, even though I don't really see a pressing reason to change the naming (I wouldn't change it).

Concerning the terminology, I still, despite my article would call our projects games, because there is nothing that fits better without the need of lengthy explanations.

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#7 Post by PyTom » Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:21 pm

In response to mikey:

I don't plan on renaming Ren'Py itself, as at least to me it's taken on a life of its own. So even if people start making harem comedies with it, I don't have a problem with still calling it Ren'Py.

I may generate an incredibly similar release called VNE (for Visual Novel/Visual Nonfiction Engine).

The idea is that there is quite a bit of corporate or governmental training material that might benefit from being in visual novel form. For example, today I saw that the DoD was preparing training material that taught soldiers how to negotiate with Iraqi civilians for intelligence information. Another example was the anti-terrorist training I once took. (AKA, what to do until the delta force comes and rescues you.)

I'm thinking a visual component, along with a line-by-line presentation of dialogue, could be interesting as a way of presenting such training materials.

So I'm considering making a second build of Ren'Py, called VNE, that targets this market. (And I will probably be able to do this automagically, with some scripts that rename and auto-replace things.)

The idea is that while the name Ren'Py requires a bit of uncomfortable explaining (when in non-otaku company), VNE consists of three manly letters. :-)

But Ren'Py proper will always exist as such. Heck, since it's open source, even if I get run over by a bus someone can take it up and keep developing it.

Update: This isn't to say I won't focus on making games... that's the main focus of Ren'Py, and why I do this. I just want to make the option there to have other people do other things with it. Since I do think this form has alot of unexploited potential.
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#8 Post by Xarbia » Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:34 pm

I personally think it is a good idea to remove the word "game" from menu's and such in visual novels.

I think the experience of playing a visual novel is more similar to reading a book or watching a movie, than it is to playing a game of most other genres. Therefore, I always find it rather awkward to see options like "save game", although you get used to it quickly enough. I think the word "game" is indeed misleading and I always prefer not to use it when talking about a visual novel to someone who isn't used to them.

That being said, I do think that visual novels technically are games, and are a valid game genre. If I would ever make a visual novel I would put it among my other games, and use the word "game" to talk about the entire group including the visual novel. But I don't think I would use the word "game" when talking only about the visual novel.

When explicit naming is not neccesary (such as in menu's, "save" tells you just as much as "save game"), I think it is better not to use the word.

Well, that's just my opinion.

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#9 Post by monele » Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:01 am

Going for more neutral words should be good. Leave the "is it a game ?" question up to the author. He only knows how to present his project to the world :)

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#10 Post by Quin » Sat Dec 03, 2005 12:21 pm

Before I went to bed, I considered writing a post to the effect of "Show me where the criticism of using the word game is coming from. I want to see if it's even valid", etc., etc. I just woke up and read your most recent post, PyTom, and that's put things in a whole new light.

Ren'Py is a tool, something that is more important for what can be done with it than for what it is -- just like a screwdriver or a plastic jug or a chat program. And sometimes these tools get used in ways the inventor didn't intend or even fathom.
– A screwdriver is an exceptionally good tool for installing and removing screws, but it's also super for prying lids off paint cans.
– The makers of a certain two-gallon plastic jug certainly never expected me to cut off the top and plant a houseplant in it, but I did.
– And when the first Internet chat program was being written, I don't imagine anyone foresaw that decades later, a friend and I would be using a similar program to play an impromptu game where you treat random strings of letters as acronyms and make up what they stand for.

And while Ren'Py was originally designed specifically to aid in ren'ai game creation, there's no reason it can't be used to create other things like training systems -- or full-blown dating sims, or educational software, or business presentations, or even a shopping "advisor" at an in-store kiosk. (Just imagine interacting with your favorite ren'ai character as if you were having a conversation, using a touch screen to select choices, as s/he helps you pick between a variety of jeans.)

If you go through the Ren'Ai Archives, some of the entries there are more game-like than others -- and here I'm using "game" in its traditional sense, where players place themselves in a controlled environment and, through varying combinations of luck and skill, try to achieve victory conditions. As examples (and I know these aren't all Ren'Py games), Gakuen Redux is perhaps the least game-like in that sense, since the "player" can't do anything to affect the outcome of the story. Heikou, on the other hand, is an all-out game in that sense, with a strong reliance on both skill and luck to navigate battles and make decisions to progress in the story (though I have to admit I haven't played it enough to know how linear it is or isn't).

As far as whether to call a kinetic novel a "game", I'll leave that discussion to the true philosophers among you. But as far as removing the references to "game" from Ren'Py, I can support it. Even though I personally only intend to use it to make games, that's not true for everyone who might benefit from using it.

Just as long as the military doesn't acquire exclusive rights to it. ^_^

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#11 Post by Megaman Z » Sat Dec 03, 2005 3:20 pm

if there's an official statement (from, for instance, the ESRB ) declaring visual novels to NOT be games, hypothetically there would be a little bit of confusion and a few problems.

first off, Love Hina Advance falls into the visual novel catagory no matter how you try to argue that it isn't. (and don't say the part where you have an overhead view makes it not a visual novel, because that only occurs in two points and only for 30 seconds tops if you have a clue what you're doing.) Love Hina Advance also happens to be classified as a game.

secondly (and I hesitate to say this), there are numerous adult visual novel games (little my maid, True Love, etc.) that are out there.

thirdly, The Movies is, technically, less of a game than most of the visual novels out there (emphasis on MOST) because 99% of people (including me) would probably jump straight to the movie maker (sandbox) mode to make some simple movies.

fourthly, what about all those "games" we end up playing when we're bored to no end, have no electricity, and rely solely on audio communication?

so such a statement would probably shatter the current definition of "game" as we know it.

(also, does anyone happen to know some good stores or internet sites to get a decent video card around here? I have a copy of "The Movies" but I need a better video card [I have a GeForce2 right now...])
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#12 Post by monele » Sat Dec 03, 2005 7:40 pm

A game is a recreational activity involving one or more players. This can be defined by A) a goal that the players try to reach, B) some set of rules that determines what the players can or can not do. Games are played primarily for entertainment or enjoyment, but may also serve an educational or simulational role.
What could we pull out of this ? VN are obviously for a single player/reader... Is there a goal to reach ? The end of the story. But the rules dictate wether or not you reach it.
I think "interaction" might have a part in all this. But clicking, even though an interaction, doesn't make something a game. It can be assimilated to turning a page... and reading a regular book is not playing a game :).
There's the case of these adventure books in which you're given choices and go to a particular paragraph number depending on your choice. That's just how most VNs work. If these books are considered games, then most VN are too.
Basically, as long as there's a choice at some point that leads to seeing different things, it could be considered a game. But in my personal opinion, I'd add that it should have at least two endings (game over included).

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#13 Post by musical74 » Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:39 pm

I've been giving this a lot of thought...I wouldn't really classify a VN as a *game* per se. With a VN, there is almost always just the one person playing, and while there are branches, it still doesn'ty have a *feel* that a true game does. Generally speaking, I view VNs as adventures, but if someone says that their particular VN is a game, I won't argue...I guess it really depends on the author but if they don't care, I'd call them adventures as opposed to games.
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#14 Post by PyTom » Sat Dec 03, 2005 9:55 pm

In general, I consider a VN a game, albeit one that many "gamers" will not recognize as such. It's also a form of storytelling. A KN is a form of storytelling, but not a game.

My plan that I will attempt to reduce the emphasis on game in Ren'Py's public messages, files, and documentation. I don't think it's necessary to change it elsewhere, like on b.us or r.us.

The tutorial will need to be updated when the new filenames are known.
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#15 Post by Quin » Sat Dec 03, 2005 10:48 pm

monele wrote:There's the case of these adventure books in which you're given choices and go to a particular paragraph number depending on your choice. That's just how most VNs work. If these books are considered games, then most VN are too.
That opens another can of worms, though. There's a whole spectrum of books in this style; I used to collect them when I was younger.
– Some, like the Choose Your Own Adventure series itself, were strictly reading experiences where you would often be asked to make choices, but all you would do was read.
– The Time Machine series contained multi-path single-ending books that often required you to pick a number of items from an inventory list before starting; your choices before and while reading would make the ending easier or harder to reach.
– The Escape from Tenopia series was similar to CYOA, although the books included puzzles to help guide you toward the correct path. I believe they were also multi-path, single-ending.
– Some were slightly more complex, like the Be an Interplanetary Spy series, which contained puzzles (mazes, codes, etc.) that you needed to solve to progress through the book. They were largely single-path, I believe, but with lots of instant "game over" branches when you solved the puzzles incorrectly.
– Then there's the whole range of adventure books with combat systems, inventory management and such. Most seem to be multi-path with a single good ending (and occasionally one or more less-good endings) plus a number of "game over" branches and the possibility of having your game end due to bad rolls in combat. Examples: Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Super Endless Quest.
– And taking the previous theme multiplayer, 1-on-1 Adventure Gamebooks let two players each use a book at the same time, with the added inevitable showdown between the two players.
– Finally, consider the solo adventures made for various role-playing game systems (Car Wars, D&D, etc.).

I think it's just an exercise in semantics to try to draw a line and say "Anything on this side of the line is a true game; anything on that side isn't."

As I work on the plot and pathing for my current visual novel (which I consistently seem to call a "ren'ai game" in any context beyond this thread), I'm finding that it's turning into more of a story and less of a game. Structure-wise, it seems similar to Garden Society: Kykuit in that there are many choices to make but the effects of choices are subtle and not always immediately apparent. I would half-jokingly state that the first time through my VN, it's a story; on further play-throughs, it becomes a game as you try to swerve the story toward the ending you really want. ^_^

I've got to stop it with these long posts! ó_Ò

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