VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games?

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VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games?

#1 Post by abscission » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:56 am

A pretty straightforward question.

I am rather surprised at the blatant lack of high-fantasy-based VNs with a heavy romance focus - most of what I see are RPGs that have romancing as an option. It doesn't need to be entirely high-fantasy, chock full of races and worldbuilding, either. The very setting of fantasy with magic and medieval-inspired things in my book is enough to quality for a sword and sorcery-themed VN.

Why is it that there are so little of them, and even if there are those, it's the MC-from-our-world-dropped-into-new-world trope, instead of someone native to that world?

Some questions:
- What would you like to see in such a VN with a heavy romance focus?
- Are there some character types that you would like to see?
- Are there storytelling pitfalls that are preventing VN dev teams from tackling this topic?
- Why does it seem to be unpopular?

I ask because I am planning one such VN and is surprised at the seeming lack of audience for such themes. Is it me, am I misreading the scene?

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#2 Post by Mammon » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:25 am

The genre isn't unpopular, rather than that you've probably been looking in the wrong place or not enough. They exist, but the modern ones taking place in high school are just WAY more common. I do think that people will be most receptive of fantasy projects like yours, however.

The reason around here is easy: high school students are easier to make and Uncle Mugen's backgrounds are available. It's a matter of ease, whereas your genre would probably require custom made BGs and characters that have an appearance that is a lot more complex. Leatherwork, swords, belts, outlandish hair... the general character design of a fantasy character is a lot more taxing than a simple ordinary teenage in uniform. Especially first-time developers will either opt for such a highschool story or tackle a fantasy project that will never see the light of day because of these factors and other fantasy-related issues. (Referring to how a lot of first time developers never finish their projects, and that any additional workload will increase the likelihood of this happening.)
Add to that how most fantasy will come with combat, which will require CGs in a VN. That's quite high-demanding in terms of production, which will make the project a lot harder than mundane stories like slice of life.

I can recall quite a few projects that have fantasy around here, but ironically they're all still under development or half-half take place in modern day with fantasy characters. There are a few projects I know that aren't, but I think (correction: know) that there are others around here much better in summing up VN titles with added links. I'll leave it to them.

The same reason I described above also explains the RPGs stuff. Unlike ren'py the RPG engines do tend to come with ready-to-
use fantasy settings and these engines with battle-mechanics and movement lend themselves better for the genre. Again, it's about that people can actually make a story easier this way. In this case, a highschool game and a fantasy game are about as easy in terms of assets. The amount of fantasy in this format do suggest that people are more enthusiastic about fantasy than slice-of-life. :wink:

If you're talking about the bigger names, the japanese commercial projects, they're probably going with the profit. And highschool stuff just seems to work better. Plus, because they're more verbose and less action-packed (thus, less costly production-packed with fight CGs and such) they're cheaper to make. But my understanding of that market is not too well, so take it with a grain of salt.

So don't worry about whether people will want to play your game. That it's fantasy will not affect it's reception negatively, probably the reverse is the case. Personally I care not about the genre but about the story and effort put in the game, but I too will probably play your game if you finish it.
Last edited by Mammon on Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#3 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:30 am

abscission wrote: Some questions:
- What would you like to see in such a VN with a heavy romance focus?
- Are there some character types that you would like to see?
- Are there storytelling pitfalls that are preventing VN dev teams from tackling this topic?
- Why does it seem to be unpopular?

I ask because I am planning one such VN and is surprised at the seeming lack of audience for such themes. Is it me, am I misreading the scene?
I think the sword and sorcery visual novel games are often combined with RPG elements because those are a natural fit for the thematic genre. Most (all?) sword and sorcery stories have quite a bit of combat. (It's in the name!) Most the time in the genre the hero is impressing the women he meets with his physical combat prowess - think Conan. So it would seem weird to fans of the genre if you didn't have that. And if you include combat WITHOUT gameplay, it can seem to lack teeth, or progression. Another staple of the genre is that the hero increases in ability or understanding and is better equipped to face the big evil at the end. Thus, RPG mechanics are a big compliment to that. If combat is resolved simply through menu choices, it can seem arbitrary or unfair to players, since it becomes 'choose correctly to avoid dying'.

Second, most VN themes and genres cater to niche markets. Stories and settings that players have difficulty getting from different, more mainstream sources. As you mentioned, there are lots of RPGs that cater to that genre itch and they have dating (and often anime aesthetics) to boot!

So, I guess it is an unpopular VN genre because it isn't underserved by gaming in general.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#4 Post by abscission » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:44 am

Thank you for the replies!

The mention of RPG elements going hand in hand with sword and sorcery themes did not quite occur to me, since there are plenty of feudal-themed Japanese VNs that feature fighting scenes (think of all the samurai stories and ninja stories and political intrigue and also the underworld stories) all handle their lack of combat pretty well with CGs.

I do agree that CGs are going to cost me something fierce, which is also why I am focusing mainly on writing and music for now - two things that I can do personally w/o spending money.

As for genre-specific niche markets, there must be something missing, then, for me to not be able to find games suited to my taste, haha.

But this is certainly heartening - it isn't that there's no market for it, it's simply that no one's been writing stuff like this.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#5 Post by TheUsernameIsTaken » Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:03 pm

Oh an interesting discussion, I dont have the whole picture either as well so I am curious as well.

I think I can recall about 3 fantasy VNs, tho their focus was more on the game aspect.
Agarest, Kamidori, Monster Girl Quest, Bunny Black
I can only assume the primary reasons are

-Since its fantasy, most people expect a fully fledged rpg or game. This might add to the number of assets as well as a long and risky development time. The story has to equal that amount of investment to profit so I cant imagine it being too simple. Then again there are exceptions
-Might be convenience that people prefer to keep it as writing rather than gamble. Also high quality lewds cost a lot. They wouldnt lose too much if its a hit or miss. So it really is a gamble.
-I did notice some that looked like they fit your bill, but they were in RPGMaker, I dont know if thats what you are looking for, I havent played those, im sure others do though.
-Requires a lot of thought actually. Like castle walls and magic, which then leads to explaining the magic system and its limitations as well as the technology that come with it. E.g. Luxury in fire magic has led to the lack of discovering electric lighting?
-Unique fantasy worlds I imagine would have a high background count to help create the setting for the story, you may have to commission a BG for every single type of shop your fantasy world has (unless its the fantasy world equivalent of Walmart and combines all). Not limited to shops but other various things as well. This could easily be abridged though if the hero never leaves the city or just in a simple town.
-Another reason could be, if the fantasy is 18+ and male-oriented, it could lead to problems. Though im sure the Japanese dont care (which is good). Dont think much of this reason though since it is your story and it seems like a waste to block off avenues others wanted to see.

To answer your questions
- What would you like to see in such a VN with a heavy romance focus?

Lots of CG, Gameplay to get me absorbed in its mechanics, Great artstyle, fulfilling plot, if its r-18 H: Lots of H to convince me that this game is full of rabbits on a spree, but keep it vanilla.
- Are there some character types that you would like to see?
Not particularly, go whatever you want. I was always interested in the characters found in fantasy games in anime. Even if they were short and small, its enough to get me interested in knowing more about them. Of course I would say to avoid the wimpy/overpowered protagonist. Elf girls are always nice.
- Are there storytelling pitfalls that are preventing VN dev teams from tackling this topic?
See above. Its mostly money, time, risk due to gaming mechanics.
- Why does it seem to be unpopular?
I actually like them, though I generally tend to stay away from fantasy genres in Steam that are in RPGMaker. Fanfictions based on my favourite MMOs might be nice, imagine a quan zhi quality hohohohoho, though prolly not aye.

And good luck if you are proceeding with the project.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#6 Post by fleet » Tue Jun 20, 2017 6:59 pm

"- Why does it seem to be unpopular?"

I don't think it's so much that high fantasy visual novels are unpopular; it's just that there are so many other types of visual novels that they (the high fantasy ones) get lost in the crowd. I've written several Sword and sorcery type VNs, two of which are in the adult section here at LSF.
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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#7 Post by Katy133 » Tue Jun 20, 2017 7:29 pm

abscission wrote:- Are there storytelling pitfalls that are preventing VN dev teams from tackling this topic?
I think a big pitfall with high fantasy in general is that these types of stories need to take a large amount of time to world-build (explaining to the reader what the setting is like, the "rules" of magic, etc.), which can cause writers to focus more on that, and not enough on other important aspects, like keeping the story focused on just one character, or a small group of characters.

High fantasy evokes big, sweeping landscapes and high stakes (the fate of the world, powerful villains taking over), with lots of characters, so the danger is to lose track of how important it is to just focus on the main character's personal journey through that world.

If you look at high fantasy Medieval films that were poorly received by critics, a noticeable reoccurring criticism is a lack of focus and/or a boring main character.

Also, at the risk of blatant self-promotion, I'd like to direct you to a romance/fantasy visual novel I'm currently working on, The Heart of Tales. :wink:
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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#8 Post by YonYonYon » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:15 pm

Huh? When you said it, I realized that it was indeed long time since I played high fantasy visual novel. I love high fantasy! And I'd love to play your game. And Katy's too.

You know, I think others are right. When I think about high fantasy, I imagine something epic and grand, which requires lots of work. Lots and lots of it. There were some fantasy VNs on lemmasoft, but they weren't quite the high ones.

The only interactive story with a focus on romance i know that can be classified as high fantasy is Guinevere from Choice of Games, and it's still a WIP. It's been WIP for years, but it's worth waiting. Even though it has stats, everything's done in text, even battles, so it is possible to not have RPG mechanics
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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#9 Post by jack_norton » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:12 am

I've made 6 fantasy-themed games, 3 RPG, 1 crafting sim, 1 life sim and 1 plain dating sim (if you're curious just check the link in my signature).
I think they're more rare because you need to do a lot of world-building.
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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#10 Post by papillon » Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:03 am

I don't think they're that rare, they're just drowned out because high school is MORE common.

Both Swordbreaker and Sword Daughter are pure fantasy VNs with no RPG elements, and both are kind of more inspired by gamebooks than by visual novels. Neither has a fish-out-of-water PC, either. Blue Rose, Memoirs of an Angel? Sacred Sand has people in armor at least, does it count? (I haven't played.)

There are many 'fantasy' VNs that aren't quite sword-wielding fantasy. Cinderella Phenomenon was a recent release.

This is just me pulling up the games that come most quickly to mind, not a comprehensive overview. Iirc azuretwilight has a whole fantasy series but it did start with a modern PC, I think? (Sorry, my memory's fuzzy on the subject.) Many more small fantasy games that I've played on LSF at some point but can't remember the names of right now.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#11 Post by gekiganwing » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:37 pm

As I've probably said before, I have been a fantasy fiction fanboy. I grew up near a library, and read every personally appealing book in the genre which I could find. A year after I became a video game enthusiast, I spent many hours with the early Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. Likewise, I spent a few years enjoying tabletop RPGs.
abscission wrote: - What would you like to see in such a VN with a heavy romance focus?
- Are there some character types that you would like to see?
- Are there storytelling pitfalls that are preventing VN dev teams from tackling this topic?
- Why does it seem to be unpopular?
1. If you want to blend fantasy and relationships, that's fine. Think about how they would work in a fictional universe. (Can adventurers have lasting relationships with ordinary people? Are healers equated with priests, and stay single?) However, if you want to focus on a general plot of politics, action, or mystery, that's also fine.

2. As for characters, consider reading the TV Tropes article So You Want to Write a High Fantasy and perhaps also ...Write a Heroic Fantasy. Another source for inspiration is 50 Fantasy Plot Ideas, which I found by looking for "fantasy writing prompt."

3. One issue that fantasy writers have to confront is "Does it read like a Tolkien hand-me-down?" There are important works of fantasy other than Lord of the Rings. However, I think that the novel still casts a huge shadow over the genre. To keep a 2010s fantasy story from seeming like Tolkien fanfic, be sure to experience entertainment from other genres. Mix and match -- bring in elements from different types of stories.

4. I think that an issue that visual novels have to confront is the "fandom ghetto." It's kind of like difficulties that comics writers continue to deal with. I believe there are still expectations that the story won't sell unless it's PG-rated superheroes or G-rated funnies, that there might not be a definitive ending, and that it will be frustratingly obscure until it receives a live action adaptation. The fandom ghetto problem with VNs is somewhat different. From my perspective, it's the assumptions that a visual novel will be a slice of life story featuring romance with at least one character, that it will have a relatively slow and calm pace, and that it will include somewhat cute and somewhat realistic 2D drawings.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#12 Post by abscission » Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:02 pm

hmm all very interesting comments!

perhaps I'd better get a synopsis and character sheet out for my VN then, at which point more constructive criticism and specific advice can be handed out.

but the gist I'm getting here is that sword and sorcery just seems to big of a topic to tackle with a 'simple' VN and it hampers people. there's also fandom stereotypes of what a sword and sorcery story should include.

still mostly it seems to be the idea of creating a world that needs to be detailed in a VN that miffs people.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#13 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:16 pm

abscission wrote: still mostly it seems to be the idea of creating a world that needs to be detailed in a VN that miffs people.
I wouldn't say the idea of doing detailed world-building miffs people - players love detailed worlds, and developers love making them. It's just that they are a lot of work, and a long term investment that makes game production take much longer, requires more art assets, and requires more nuanced writing to convey needed world information to readers. Where as if the game is set in a modern setting - you pretty much don't need to tell the player anything about the world and can take a lot for granted.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#14 Post by ludeshka » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:14 pm

There are quite a bit of Fantasy Vns and I think a lot of them are very good. (It's my favourite genre, okay? :D )

I get that Loren: Amazon Princess (I'm a big fan of that one) falls more on the RPG category for you, but how about The Royal Trap? Queen at Arms? They're good, and as far as I know, quite popular.

There are also several upcoming fantasy projects that look pretty awesome...(I'm really looking forward to Beauty and the War, it seems huge and distinctive!)

If you'd like to try a couple freeware games, then the Fantasia games by Azure Twilight (the first one's MC comes from "our world" but the second is "a native", so to speak). Or how about Reflections on the River (it's more Asian than European flavored, but still very much fantasy), and Line of Heroes (this one was more Arabian Nights flavored, very cute, they had a dungeon minigame that was quite well thought out!) or another big classic fave, Winter Shard?
You could also try the hierofanía games, there, I've said it XD.

So, as for the questions:

I don't think the genre is unpopular, particularly not unpopular at all if you put a lot of romance in there.
And what others said before me is probably true, when people start worldbuilding, things sometimes get out of hand as you keep adding details...a bigger project is less likely to be finished. If you want your fantasy world to look unique, you've gotta do your graphics yourself, can't rely on photographs very much...A highschool setting is easier, much to my sorrow. I don't think there are storytelling pitfalls per se. There are probably more "The story I wrote is too big!" problems. But that is not unique to visual novels. Fantasy writers of, y'know, books have that problem too.

As to what kind of characters I would like to see? I'm terrible at those questions because I can like any stereotype if written well. I can't give "fantasy specific" advice that wouldn't apply to any other genre. My basic preference in vns is that I always prefer playing a specific character over an "everyman" type. I don't know the exact term, I mean, the characters you're supposed to "insert yourself" as, unless you give me a BAZILLION choices to customize myself/my dialogue, then the character is never "me" , they're just "Generic MC" whom I usually dislike XD.

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Re: VN thematic matter - the lack of sword and sorcery games

#15 Post by SundownKid » Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:44 pm

I definitely think the matter of worldbuilding trips people up when trying to make a fantasy game. I think it's because romance writers aren't necessarily the best loremasters. So, they of course default to a setting that they are more familiar with. Especially because a fantasy VN that is commercial can't just be fanfiction - they have to create an entire fantastic UNIVERSE from scratch and if they fail the game ends up looking worse.

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