CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

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CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#1 Post by Sonomi » Wed Nov 09, 2016 4:57 pm

In CG, you can get a better sense of the emotions portrayed in the moment, the positions of the characters, and how they interact with the environment.

I know that the primary purpose of using a CG is to emphasize an important part of the story, and over-saturation may affect its impact in the long run, but I'd like to know how you feel about seeing more CG sprinkled throughout your favorite VNs. Without taking budget into account, how much is too much?

To put the exact number into perspective, the visual novel that I'm working on has about 26 separate scenes right now. If I include about two for each scene, then I would end up with ~39 images.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#2 Post by RedOwl » Wed Nov 09, 2016 6:33 pm

Hmm, not that I'm an expert, but - I think it depends how long your scenes are exactly, and if every CG you are planning really adds anything to the story that you couldn't convey in other ways.

If your scenes are very long, there is definitely visual fatigue involved with staring at the same characters/BG for an extended period of time. It just gets boring, no matter how awesome your art is. And CGs can alleviate that boredom. But, simply moving the story to a different location, or making each scene shorter, can also be visually refreshing.

In general, I feel like CGs are great - for all the reasons you listed - but... 39 does sound like a lot to me. My script is 90,000 words (6-9 hrs of reading), and currently has 16 full-screen CGs (+many more smaller, special art snippets overlaid on the current scene/characters). Realistically, one or two more may be added during development - so we may end up with 18. While it doesn't sound like much, so far their frequency feels pretty balanced.

The other thing to think about is that depending on your story, an uneven distribution of CGs may be more appropriate than 2 per scene - for instance, if you have an epic ending sequence which requires several different CGs to really make the conclusion hit home - while other, less active or more self-explanatory scenes may not require CGs at all...
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#3 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Nov 09, 2016 7:28 pm

Without taking budget into account, 100% isn't too much. Budget is the primary factor limiting the use of CGs. It is the constraint of budget which causes CGs to be themselves constrained to particularly important moments that require an enhanced visual effect to leave a strong impression on the audience.

Because of this, there isn't really a set amount per wordcount or length. It depends on the budget, the type of VN, and the intended effect on the reader. Eroge will necessarily focus much of its CG budget on h-scenes (especially nukige), whereas non-h nakige will almost certainly have to dedicate CGs to closeup shots of characters who meet with tragic ends in their final moments. Very short VNs like Secret Agenda can get away with a 100% CG rate because of how uniquely they are set up, whereas very very long VNs like Fate/Stay Night (which is longer than The Bible) will have to reserve CGs for only the most critical climactic moments of certain conflicts - most are simply narrated and use sprites/backgrounds anyway, even when they result in dead or bad ends.

In general, the longer your VN, the smaller your ratio of CG-to-content will probably be. And whatever your main selling point is (sex, emotional impact, impressively-choreographed action, awe-inspiring scenery), that is where the focus of your CG budget should be allocated.

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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#4 Post by Caveat Lector » Wed Nov 09, 2016 7:30 pm

Whether a certain amount of CG's is too many or too few depends on one, simple factor: Will it break your budget? :lol:

Sorry, I know it's not a particularly deep point of view, but it does need to be said. CG's are not always the most expensive asset, but depending on the prices of the individual artists, how much detail is required, how many variations there are, etc., you may need to compromise this one part just a little bit. 39 in total, with two CG's for each scene, sounds like an awful lot to me, unless you make enough money off of KickStarter to afford it, and even then, you may still need a second KickStarter.

What I do is, I make a list of scenes I would like to have captured in CG. Then, I go through the list, cross off anything that's not absolutely necessary for "the vision", and try to aim for a precise number of CG's that can reasonably fit within the budget. At the moment, my highest priority project (Colette and Becca) has three CG's, with one of them having three variations. It's short, so it won't need a lot of CG's--just those for especially important moments in the titular characters' friendship. With a longer VN, that may be a different story, but you may be able to find ways to narrow down the selection and still remain on budget.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#5 Post by Selidor » Wed Nov 09, 2016 8:30 pm

Unless your scenes are really long, I don't think you really need two for each one. Some may not need any at all. You can keep players engaged by adding extra facial expressions and poses, which are much more versatile and affordable than CGs.

As a player, I like having plenty of CGs, but I think adding too many could be a negative. CGs are good for highlighting key emotional and plot moments, and too many could diminish the impact. On top of that, sprites may be less special than CGs, but watching characters switch expressions and poses is fun and makes the game seem more alive. CGs, unless you have multiple variants, are static, and too many could even get boring, so personally I'd prefer not to see them packed in at every opportunity.

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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#6 Post by Taleweaver » Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:29 am

From a player's POV, there's no such thing as "too many CGs". A VN without any sprites and BG art and only (good!) CG would be the equivalent of an electronic graphic novel, and that's something I, as a player, would be very excited about.

From a developer's POV, too many CGs are hell. You can't really re-use them, so you need an insane amount of assets for your production. And you have nothing to reward your player with for making certain choices, too. So as a developer, a huge amount of CGs is a no-go to me.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#7 Post by sendo » Thu Nov 10, 2016 4:26 am

Selidor wrote:As a player, I like having plenty of CGs, but I think adding too many could be a negative. CGs are good for highlighting key emotional and plot moments, and too many could diminish the impact. On top of that, sprites may be less special than CGs, but watching characters switch expressions and poses is fun and makes the game seem more alive. CGs, unless you have multiple variants, are static, and too many could even get boring, so personally I'd prefer not to see them packed in at every opportunity.
This is how I feel about CG as well, as a player.

As a developer, I don't have the money budget limitation because I'm the artist for my own projects. However, it becomes a time budget limitation. As much as I want to draw a CG for every scene, it just takes so much more time and effort - which could be spent on equally important tasks such as Sprites and BGs.

Let's say I take at least 8 hours for 1 complete detailed CG and I need 10 detailed CGs for key story events. That's already at least 80 hours I have to allocate in my schedule. If I wanted 20 detailed CGs, it becomes at least 160 hours (which is the average amount of working hours for 1 month, assuming you work 40 hours a week). That's a lot of time. So even if I can draw CGs myself, I try to figure out what CGs are the most important and rely on some tricks to save time drawing CGs.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#8 Post by Mammon » Thu Nov 10, 2016 4:56 am

From what I've seen in other games, a VN that consists entirely out of CG isn't impossible but it will have to be short and suited for this idea. Don't ask me which VN are 100% CG though, I can't remember any of their names or general plots (which isn't foreboding anything good). A more common system would be a selection of the following:
-A (few) CG in the beginning to start of the story and convince the reader to keep reading.
-At least one CG per romanceable route prior to getting on their route
-A few CG per (romanceable) route
-A few CG of 'kinetic' scenes that will always happen regardless of routes or choices
-A CG of any action/fight scene to display action rather than a static sprite 'shouting' with vpunch
-A CG of tragedy to ensure you're not looking at a sprite with tears in their eyes 'going through emotions'
-One CG per ending.

Personally, I prefer to see points 3, 4 and 7 rather than the others. 3 to show me I'm on a new route, 4 because these will be used a plenty because they'll be there for every route, and 7 to allow me to look at the CG gallery and tell if I'm missing any endings.

As a developer, I tried maintaining this system (although I didn't make a CG gallery...) and added any CG where I deemed they'd work better than writing. This is a trickery slope because a good CG can set the right mood of make things seem even more static, and a dynamic CG can give the feeling that a dynamic scene is dragging on for too long.

Tricks I've seen around these problems:
-Chibi's. Much easier to draw because you can use a lower standard for them and get away with it. Works only in campy, happy, bubbly scenes though.
-CG that are made to be recycleable. In an action-oriented story for example, people make a CG for a character attacking rather than a more detailed and scene-oriented CG of them fighting with an opponent. You only show that CG for a line or two and keep switching between them and 'sword swing' CG, but they do allow for more dynamic scenes as long as the scenes themselves don't drag on for too long.
-CG made specifically to be applicable for all routes. NI a romance VN for example, they changing a small detail like the hair or a single character so it can be applied to all romances
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#9 Post by Fuseblower » Thu Nov 10, 2016 9:45 am

IMO When a CG breaks the flow of the story, then it was a CG too many. A player doesn't read and look at CGs at the same time (at least, not me). There should be a need for a CG, to illustrate the story. There's not a number you can attach to it, it's whether it's appropriate to make the player stop reading and look at a picture instead because that's what a CG does.

Bad example :

Mary : "I just found out who the killer is!".
Cut to CG of the group of people eagerly awaiting Mary to state her discovery.

As a player it would take me out of the story. I don't wanna look at a picture of the group listening to Mary. I wanna hear her say who the killer is. Also : the CG wouldn't show me anything that I didn't imagine already.

Better example :

Mary : "I just found out who the killer is!".
Janet : "My God! Who is it?".
Tina : "Tell us!".
Mary : "IT'S ME!!!! NOW YOU'RE GONNA DIE!".

Cut to CG of Mary cutting through her group of friends with a chainsaw, showing limbs flying and blood spraying all over the place. Such an action not only warrants a CG, it demands a CG. If there's not a CG at a spot in the story where a visual is way better than a verbal description then it's a CG too few.

In "The Doomed Diner" there's a scene where the girls discover a door behind a cabinet. That's a visual discovery and a point in the story where you really need an illustration.

I think CGs should be handled as illustrations in a book. Which parts of the story would you illustrate? You can rank parts of the story in order of their need to have an illustration and then work in that order until you run out of time or money.

I wrote that you can't attach an exact number to the CGs but I think that if you're going to use them then there should be at least 6 of them. Any number below that seems too few to me. If you decide to make CGs then there should be a decent number of them and 6 sounds about like the minimum to me.

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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#10 Post by Sonomi » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:32 pm

After reading everyone's thoughts on this, I came to a somewhat irrational but interesting idea (especially considering Taleweaver's mention of electronic graphic novels and Selidor's point about changing sprites).

Here goes...

What if I did create a visual novel entirely with dynamic CGs? To answer your questions about length, no this is not really a short VN. It's planned to be at least 100K words (also, I will more than likely have more than 26 scenes as I continue working on it).

The primary concern that I've noticed here is that a scene can become entirely too static with CG, and using too many can diminish the impact of the moment. I agree that it's more fun to instead watch the characters change poses and facial expressions. After pondering this thought for a while, I think it may be possible to capture those things with dynamic CG.

What if I didn't use them to highlight a moment, but to tell the story on a scene by scene basis? Considering a given scene in a VN, the characters have a given expression and position, as well as a background indicating the location. So what if instead of using backgrounds, I use composed image of the specific scenes that I'm showing. Technically speaking, I would still be using sprites, but they would be specific to the location (consider anime screenshots).

There is no guarantee that I'll actually take such an approach, though.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#11 Post by guzy » Thu Nov 10, 2016 6:36 pm

[quote="Sonomi"][/quote]


To tell you the truth, the sprite's changing expression in a static background, "FOR ME", is one of the most fun things in a visual novel. Change everything to CG's it's kind of... I don't know, man... maybe you're overusing a tool that doesn't really need to be oversued

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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#12 Post by Sonomi » Thu Nov 10, 2016 7:40 pm

@guzy

You're probably right. Coming from anime and manga, I just personally love those sorts of graphics... If more people will play it with fewer CG, then the bottom line is that I want others to enjoy it. At this point, I'm finding visual novels far more fun to play than other types of video games, so I decided to make one myself and contribute to the medium.

I suppose I was just unsure of how to approach the art in general, because it's the only thing I haven't really worked on yet beyond placeholders (most of my time has gone toward music and writing).
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#13 Post by Laniessa » Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:01 pm

I think you should check out minori games - eden* and ef, for example. They’re not 100% CG but there are a lot of variations on the sprites, different framing and sizes. tons of alternate lighting versions, parts in-game where the sprites interact with backgrounds and just simply lots of art. All of these have small variations within themselves (expressions.) Not 100% CG but very pretty.

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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#14 Post by Sonomi » Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:10 am

@Laniessa

Ah, yes! Thanks. This is similar to the style that I was trying to describe. It's helpful to see an example of it having already been done, and quite well I might add.
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Re: CG in visual novels - Too many or too few?

#15 Post by Mammon » Fri Nov 11, 2016 7:29 am

It really depends on your project. If you can really display a scene as a single CG without making it seem like there are things about the CG that should change based upon the conversation, it can work. Let me turn two movies into VN:

-My Dinner with Andre. A movie that is just two people talking about stuff in one place. It would be very much possible to incapsulate this into CG and it would actually work better this way than Backgrounds and Sprites.
-Any other movie. Doesn't really work.

It's all about the story you have. I tend to categorise ideas for stories in my head as 'VN' and 'not VN' as well, considering anything that requires too much visuals to be at least manga format (if not movie or anime) and deem it undoable in a VN format. Even if the story is complete and I feel like I could make it, if it's not VN material it's not VN material.
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