The Teacup

General Category => Development Discussion => Topic started by: Vatina on January 16, 2011, 03:22:56 PM

Title: The question about good writing
Post by: Vatina on January 16, 2011, 03:22:56 PM
So here we go... I'm sure everyone has already seen this: http://forums.novelnews.net/showthread.php?t=35926
I thought it could be interesting to try and get a productive discussion out of it.

In terms of EVN's, do you have any good measuring point in terms of "good writing"? Is it a Hemingway or a Kinoko Nasu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinoko_Nasu)? How do think the evn's being created in this day and age fare in terms of writing?

When discussions about "polish" and "professionality" are brought up in evn creator circles, I feel they are often based mostly on presentation. That is the direction and visuals and how good those are. But as those parts of a vn have gradually increased in quality, the writing of the works often still get blamed for holding back the final product.

So... do you agree? Have the writings of EVN's really not changed at all?

I'm not sure that is the case. A lot of new creators keep entering the scene since it is still so 'young', so of course there is still loads to learn. Some stories have good writing with poor content, and others have great ideas with weak writing. But I also think that some really good ones appear from time to time too. Actually my biggest problem with evn's right now is the lack of themes that interest me, not necessarily the quality of writing itself.

Japanese VN's... the great stars that we 'contend' against. Commercial jvn's have wonderful artists on board and well-known writers. Some of them even have good writing. I'd say though, that many of those are pretty mediocre in that department as well. There are many titles that I believe would never have the following and popularity they have today, were it not for the shiny art and promotion. I am a big fan of jvn's and there are certainly gems among them, but there are several times in almost every one of them, where I have to stop and facepalm. Others take an eternity to trudge through due to fillers.


So my opinion at this point:
EVN vs general JVN -->  we're getting there.
EVN vs books --> still gotta work for it.



(Note: when comparing writing between evn and jvn, I mean the level of writing quality, not in terms of trying to 'make it like the Japanese do'.)
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: DaFool on January 17, 2011, 12:41:44 PM
Those guys complain about anything without offering any good suggestions for solutions, and it's not as if the works they're expecting are groundbreaking either -- just generic moe with generic plot.  They just want the equivalent of AAA art and writing, which a niche market cannot afford, since good western writers and artists don't come cheap. 

I can't really compare quality of writing between JVNs and EVNs because I've only been subjected to substandard translations, so the hell do I know?  And neither of them have touched me the way novels (or their adaptations) have.

If we're talking about production values, it's going to be at least a minimum of $10,000 in labor, and that's for a low-budget title with a few CGs -- there are people working on free projects, but the equivalent monetary value of their volunteer labor comes out roughly the same, if not more.  We don't have the Japanese work ethic to continually pursue perfection, but at least we're less likely to destroy our own lives in the process.  This is just a hobby (until economic circumstances force you to become a full-time indie). 

For those following Bakuman... I find the portrayal of the manga (and by association anime) industry ridiculous... all that effort, and the result is just another cookie-cutter manga.  Also, the general anime industry is in decline because the self-serving insular outlook is not attractive to a wider audience of non-otakus not interested in schoolgirls with shiny buttocks.  Even Yamakan has practically given up and is using Fractale as a litmus test,  but he at least is open to foreign input and collaborations.

All I can suggest is to continue to seek inspiration from decidedly non-anime works.  Utilize a distinctly local (or European in my case) comic style and write about themes no Japanese could ever possibly think up (because they didn't grow up your culture).  This is the 'Blue Ocean Strategy' shown by Nintendo to specifically avoid direct competition.  If the market is already being served by J-LIST, Mangagamer and fan translations, there is absolutely no point in trying to emulate the look/feel/theme of the typical eroge.  Whether it's to adapt more Adventure Game elements or traditional IF structure to attract a more western crowd, do so.  You do not have to mimic -- you have to be different.  That's the only way to get a new audience.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: F.I.A on January 20, 2011, 02:33:35 PM
For me, a good writing is sufficient and memorable. By the first point, I mean the writing is just enough for me to get the gist of the plot. Descriptive narrations are fine as long as it doesn't toil into mundane fillers. And by being memorable, it is cathartic that I will remember the characters and sometimes even replay it just to see certain events. Of course, by default, anything that yells fanworks is out of my systems, and yes, I spite anyone who rewrite a "tweaked" story with a copyrighted title. (Example: XXXth Jolly Gay Butter with Rum as your Sader, thinking up ways to play with marbles. Typo is intentional)

Quote
When discussions about "polish" and "professionality" are brought up in evn creator circles, I feel they are often based mostly on presentation. That is the direction and visuals and how good those are. But as those parts of a vn have gradually increased in quality, the writing of the works often still get blamed for holding back the final product.

If anything, the writing is still the utmost part of a story and cannot be neglected. A story still can be conveyed with writing and without visuals, while you can't vice-versa. (NOTE: Yes, this applies to even a series of linking textless images, for we still need to "write" its sequences.)

It's really hard to pinpoint the current state of writings in EVNs. While questionable works can be seen thanks to peeps putting up their short-lived test games as completed, it'll be cruel to pigeonhole any other makers out of the radar might be working slowly (but diligently).

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Actually my biggest problem with evn's right now is the lack of themes that interest me, not necessarily the quality of writing itself.

Pretty much this.



That said, it's wrong to even think we can take the opinions from the linked thread, though, even with a grain of salt. Chance is, they didn't even bother to play at least 10 of what they considered "mediocre" works, and most likely focused on commercials (Paying? I doubt so) and perhaps some with decent artworks, only to whine for the bad writings of a small portion of the archive. Sure, it's human's nature to pick out from what they see as "finest". And that's when 'Don't judge the book by the cover' comes in, though...
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Vatina on January 21, 2011, 10:10:46 AM
It is true that getting inspiration from more than just other visual novels is a step in the right direction. That is also one way of getting out of the trap that FIA mentioned - making stuff that feels like nothing but a rehash of what we have already seen. (As one poster said, 'read books'!)

I don't think that evn's should strive for absolute non-japanese-ness though, and that it is the only path to 'salvation'. While doing things that divert from the usual formula is good and can turn into just as much of a memorable experience, there is also the fact that not everyone makes their games "anime-like" just to cater to a certain audience. Visual novels are a mostly japanese thing, so the people who are exposed to them are typical to have a certain aesthetic preference to start with. Like me. My art is strongly influenced by it, simply because I like drawing that way.

As for writing... it's hard to say that writing is "too japanese", unless of course the writer uses a lot of typical anime cliches or wordings that are obviously derived from translations of japanese terms. Not having all your stories take place in a japanese highschool would be a good start I guess :P
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Hime on January 25, 2011, 04:33:44 PM
When talking about the writing quality of JVNs vs. that of EVNs, we have to note that the translation field has a bias for good, well-written JVNs (and rightly so, of course). If a Japanese VN is badly written and mediocre, it's highly unlikely it'll be translated with so many masterpieces still untranslated. Because of this, many of us, especially those who rely on translations to play JVNs, may not perceive the industry's average quality of writing realistically. It's said that VNs make up to 70% of Japan's PC game releases, so there's bound to be a ton of unsuccessful and shoddy releases as well, we just hardly ever come across them.

But even if the comparisons may be exaggerated because of this error in perception, I understand the concern for the quality of writing in EVNs. As Vatina said, a "good and polished" EVN has for very long meant "EVN with good graphics", and I believe this may have led people to forget the importance of the writing to some extent. To put it in other words, visual novels often mean visual novels, not visual novels, in the west. The very first thing people often comment on is the quality of the graphics, and it seems to me that the heroes and heroines of our industry tend to be artists rather than writers. This can also be seen in that critique is more often aimed at the visual side than the writing.

Another reason for my concern about the writing quality is that writers often aim to imitate JVN writers. As I mentioned before, the JVN industry is enormous. When a young amateur community of probably less than 200 active creators is trying to imitate a huge industry of almost 30 years of age that has thousands upon thousands of makers dedicating their life and career to it... the results will obviously pale in comparison, even more so when we note that the JVN industry is set in a culture very different from the ones we EVN makers live in. At the moment, most EVNs could be described as "like a JVN, but less". I'm not against Japanese influences at all, that is how most of us found VNs to begin with, but if we try to replicate and mimic JVNs in the creation of our works as whole, then our works will inevitably be inferior in quality. In trying to imitate JVNs, we EVN creators will be lacking two decades of industry age, millions of currency, a lifetime of cultural experience and last but not the least, an enermous number or fierce competitors. We need to do something more, something different and unique, if we want to make something more than lesser JVN copies.

Thus I would say that the measure of writing quality in EVNs should not be Kinoko Nasu, Romeo Tanaka or any other JVN star. If we collectively want to make something more than pale shadows and inferior imitations, we will have to make an unique EVN industry that has something to offer that JVNs don't. Maybe this means we should aim for Hemingway instead, maybe it means we should experiment with the VN medium for unique ways of storytelling, maybe it means we should write of new and interesting subject matters from refreshing cultural points of view, maybe all of that - I don't know, but I'm sure everyone has their own ideas of how this could be done. In any case, I doubt EVNs will ever be known for their good writing before our industry abandons its childhood dreams of being perfectly and completely like JVNs.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: MoonlightBomber on January 25, 2011, 08:05:44 PM
Another reason for my concern about the writing quality is that writers often aim to imitate JVN writers. As I mentioned before, the JVN industry is enormous. When a young amateur community of probably less than 200 active creators is trying to imitate a huge industry of almost 30 years of age that has thousands upon thousands of makers dedicating their life and career to it... the results will obviously pale in comparison, even more so when we note that the JVN industry is set in a culture very different from the ones we EVN makers live in. At the moment, most EVNs could be described as "like a JVN, but less". I'm not against Japanese influences at all, that is how most of us found VNs to begin with, but if we try to replicate and mimic JVNs in the creation of our works as whole, then our works will inevitably be inferior in quality. In trying to imitate JVNs, we EVN creators will be lacking two decades of industry age, millions of currency, a lifetime of cultural experience and last but not the least, an enermous number or fierce competitors. We need to do something more, something different and unique, if we want to make something more than lesser JVN copies.

Thus I would say that the measure of writing quality in EVNs should not be Kinoko Nasu, Romeo Tanaka or any other JVN star. If we collectively want to make something more than pale shadows and inferior imitations, we will have to make an unique EVN industry that has something to offer that JVNs don't. Maybe this means we should aim for Hemingway instead, maybe it means we should experiment with the VN medium for unique ways of storytelling, maybe it means we should write of new and interesting subject matters from refreshing cultural points of view, maybe all of that - I don't know, but I'm sure everyone has their own ideas of how this could be done. In any case, I doubt EVNs will ever be known for their good writing before our industry abandons its childhood dreams of being perfectly and completely like JVNs.

This I fully agree with. It reminds me of this article about landing a job in the Japanese game industry (http://"http://kotaku.com/5344934/want-to-work-in-the-japanese-gaming-industry-heres-how"), and one of the helpful reminders is this:

Quote
Otaku Need Not Apply
Many people think that being as Japanese as possible is going to help them get a job here. It is not.
No matter how much you love anime, j-pop, Japanese film, etc., there is a Japanese person who knows more about it than you. It is just common sense. They grew up surrounded by the stuff, absorbing the cultural influences of their parents and grandparents as well.
If your main selling point to a company is how you are going to bridge cultures and knowledge, bringing something new to a room full of people with similar backgrounds, you aren't going to do it by having a voluminous knowledge of Naruto, or presenting a portfolio filled with anime-style designs. You are going to do it by knowing how audiences connect with things differently based on their backgrounds, or having a portfolio that shows varied influences and range.

As an aspirant in that industry myself, I infuse my native Filipino influences with Western and Japanese sensibilities for my creations. Being culturally biased will lead you nowhere -- this is my battle cry against cultural racism of all types.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Yukipon on February 10, 2011, 10:31:31 PM
Good writing actually exists in EVN's?

Joking~ (^_^)

Aside from the whole focus on graphics and the attempt to stay away from JP related influences, it actually is quite useless if the writer(s) aren't experienced enough, or well-read (Like what Vatina said earlier). Unfortunately, I don't think any writer worth their salt is going to be spending their time writing for VN's unless they're really, really into this.

This leaves a whole group of amateurs with varying potential to write who will attempt to emulate Kinoko Nasu, Maeda Jun, or even Ernest Hemingway (as Hime brought up). This isn't a bad thing, but they're overestimating their ability. Once in a while, there'll be a successful or even an anticipated game (like Katawa Shoujo). However, most of the time, that isn't always the case.

Also, another point that the community loves to focus on, but annoys me now is this emphasis on the word "novel". A lot of people will disagree with me, so I'll say it: VN's are nowhere near novels. Not in their structure, or the complexity of language employed. They are similar to novels as T.V shows are: The only thing they have in common is the plot and the dialogue.

There is a reason why the Japanese refer to their VN writers as 「脚本家」 (Scriptwriters; Playwrights; Scenario Writers), because what they're writing isn't a novel, but a script/screenplay for their "actors" to act in. The only difference is that there's always a narrator who narrates what's going on, either the protagonist (soliloquy) or a third party, since everything isn't always illustrated; this distinction is very difficult to see, and it's why VN's are often construed as novels. So when companies like Overflow begin to use animation or animation-like techniques, this is why.

Of course, there are exceptions to this, like kinetic novels, and there are examples of visual novels whose writing "reads" a lot like a novel (typically, Japanese). But for a growing community in a new genre, writing in the mindset of a novel when it really isn't is bound to have a lot of... mixed results.

Finally, got all of that out~
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: lordcloudx on February 11, 2011, 02:53:06 AM
@Yukipon: The initial poke in your post was unnecessary, really. This serves as a warning. Please refrain from saying things that could be easily misinterpreted and lead to tension in the future.

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Unfortunately, I don't think any writer worth their salt is going to be spending their time writing for VN's unless they're really, really into this.
I think what is unfortunate is the fact that this is how you feel about it. There really might be nothing for you to look forward to in EVNs if this is the general attitude that you take. Not saying that it's wrong.

The emphasis on the word, "novel" is nothing more than a naming convention, within the EVN community, the way I see it. I don't think it necessarily means that people in the community in general believe that EVNs = novels. In any case, I disagree with the preconceived notion behind your statement and not the actual statement.

Finally, I'd just like to point out that the "EVN community" isn't really a closely-knit group but made up of individuals or subgroups operating on their own. There's really no reason to group everyone into a single "EVN community" as if it is the community and not the individuals behind it that create the products.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: mikey on February 11, 2011, 02:57:23 PM
About the medium:

If by "visual novel", regardless of a literal meaning I actually mean the "format" or "medium", i.e. static images and text presented together, where you progress by reading - well, by this definition (which I in fact use), the "quality" of the text, its format (play vs. narrative vs. poem vs ...) or its length doesn't really make a difference, because the medium is content agnostic.

So the "visual novel" computer program is like a "book". A book has some basic rules such as having pages, a cover and so on, but as for the content, there are no rules - it can contain a novel, a poem, essays, you name it. They can be interesting, boring, valuable or funny. It can even contain just pictures. It doesn't matter. It's still a book.

Similarly, the "visual novel", as a certain format or type of computer program that displays a flat static graphic, some text over it and sometimes some music, it doesn't care what content you put in it. Specifically, the fact that something is a visual novel, the fact that it's in this format, says nothing about (the value or quality of) the content. Much like saying that something is in the form of a book doesn't really say anything about its content either.

About the writing-specifics aspects of the medium:

You may argue that writing for a VN is different than writing for a book, and certainly there are limitations of both media and possible philosophical writing specifics of a certain format - the fact that a VN usually has pictures and sounds and some things can be said with those may have some impact on what the writer will want to say by using the text. So the writer, in theory, has to write a bit differently, always aware of what's on the screen.

But I don't know whether it makes such a big difference in practice. The outcome of the writing is still primarily written text (unlike only spoken, like in a TV show or in a theatre play). The strengths of text, like conveying thoughts, explaining circumstances - all the things that are well suited for a text to describe - are still being usually expressed by text. Descriptions of surroundings and partially also the flavor of dialogues may be typically "outsourced" to graphics and voices, but in my opinion in a VN, the displayed text will be still used for the same strengths it has in text-only novels, even in the "ideal" case when the other elements like pictures and music are used for their best suited purposes.

So I'd say the few unique things that the VN format has, I think a writer will instinctively see and work with and he doesn't really need to be a special "writer for VNs" - or at least I'd say it's not very difficult for a writer to get into a VN writing mindset - and vice versa, because the VN, even though it has its specifics, doesn't really go against the nature of (text-only) writing.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Hime on February 11, 2011, 03:15:51 PM
Also, another point that the community loves to focus on, but annoys me now is this emphasis on the word "novel". A lot of people will disagree with me, so I'll say it: VN's are nowhere near novels. Not in their structure, or the complexity of language employed. They are similar to novels as T.V shows are: The only thing they have in common is the plot and the dialogue.
It's true that VNs are nowhere near novels on very many levels, or at least a highly vast majority isn't. The question, I'd say, is whether or not they should be. In Japan, VNs are mostly light entertainment like most anime, manga and light novels, but particularly in the EVN field, where we are perhaps less bound to our short history, I think other approaches could be tried as well, including literarily ambitious ones. Could VNs be illustrated novels or short stories with atmospheric music, or like an interactive play? Could poetry be made into VN form, and what would it be like? How could words, visuals and audio be combined in more creative ways in this medium? What kinds of new narrative possibilities do choices create? The medium has a lot of potential that isn't exactly being put to use.

Unfortunately, I don't think any writer worth their salt is going to be spending their time writing for VN's unless they're really, really into this.
I see your point here... I have read that good writers escaping from the VN industry to write actual books is quite common in Japan. It pays better, they have more creative freedom and it's obviously a more respectable profession.

In the EVN field, though, I think it's just that most creators are relatively young amateurs who find VNs through light entertainment, which aren't exactly conditions that tend to provide you with the greatest writers on Earth... though I think things are going in a better direction as we get more writers and more people taking VNs seriously (either as a hobby or a profession). The tradition of imitating JVNs is being questioned more and more often as the novelty of the format itself wears off, too, which will hopefully take our field in a more interesting direction.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Yukipon on February 11, 2011, 11:10:29 PM
Going to try and organize this for easy reading.

@lordcloudx
That general statement is actually not how I feel, but is a matter of fact. There is very little incentive for good writers to actually write a Visual Novel aside from intrinsic motivation, and it's something that I have to constantly question when I'm writing. It all comes down to this: Why am I making a VN when I can write a book/comic book/movie script, possibly get published/accepted by Hollywood, and potentially earn money/fame?

I'm practically writing a VN just for the sake of writing a VN, and am holding off on finishing my book because of this. The thing is, will other writers do the same thing? Are they willing to give up their time and work hard for a medium that doesn't carry the same prestige, monetary rewards, or reputation as the others, only to get mocked or ridiculed when it isn't up to the audience's expectations?

The term Visual Novel is a naming convention. But when the genre calls itself a visual "novel", other people who may not be familiar with it will expect a novel with pictures (moving or not) despite the fact it is not written like one. Choose Your Own Adventure books, or Interactive Fiction is closer to what it really is from a western standpoint.

The EVN community doesn't need to be a close-knit group to be a single community. It's going to be regarded as a community when like-minded individuals/organizations share similar interests, regardless of the members relationship to each other. It's either the community hates each other, or they work with each other; they're not considered separate.

@mikey
Yup, the medium doesn't make a difference. In theory, it's different. In practice, it ends up being similar; only the format and the look of the text changes. The end result ends up being similar, maybe identical. So, why is it that I'm so focused on that?

You probably already know this: Each medium has their own particular strength. Novels are able to feed the imagination and make whatever world they're in real for the reader. T.V shows are able to illustrate this through moving pictures and sound. Drama CD's are able to make that world using only sound. And Visual Novels straddle that line of the imagination and the reality of the senses.

So, yes, they are all the same, content-wise. The final product doesn't differ much in terms of story. However, the approach to writing in each medium is different; some might argue it makes no difference, while others might state it's difficult, like making a Sci-Fi author write a Romance Novel; this distinction is sometimes lost on amateur writers who may not even realize what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Visual Novels are both fortunate and unfortunate in that they are similar to T.V shows and plays, but have texts similar to a novel. They're nowhere near a novel in design, because they incorporate the visual and aural senses by design. So, the typical approach, depending on the writer, is to either write it like a novel (which is a mistake, I believe), or write it like a screenplay. And you're right, there doesn't need to be a special writer for VN's, but that writer has to know when to limit himself and know when to let the "visual" or "aural" aspect lead the story. This is, oddly enough, similar to what scriptwriters and playwrights do.

This is why I say it's nowhere near a novel because a novelist has greater freedom with the language in what they wish to express; it doesn't even need to be philosophical. You won't see words like, "The stars shone valiantly under the crippling veil of night's grasp," when there's a picture of it, or "Her voice reminded me of the ocean, deep and strong, yet faint and airy like the mist," when there are voices. It can be written in, but it's ultimately redundant when the meaning can be simplified with a picture or with sound. Unless it has a purpose. A really good purpose.

As for the specifics on the medium, I agree with you. It is content neutral regardless of the physical or digital container it's housed in.

@Hime
All those ideas sound really fun to do. An interactive VN version of Phantom of the Opera, or Shakespeare, or an original work by a new playwright would be fun to do. Some of them would be tricky, like poetry depending on how abstract it is, but all those ideas (and more) are possible. This leaves EVN's with a really good chance to separate themselves from the Japanese. The thing is, most of the people who have the potential to make this happen, aren't doing anything related to VN's, or simply don't care.

As for the EVN field, I really hope that happens. Imitating the Japanese is fine and all, but doing just that isn't really helpful. It would be nice if a well-known novelist or scriptwriter would consider, as a side thing, to write a Visual Novel. But until that happens, the field is left waiting for the next 4LS and Katawa-Shoujo, or someone willing to "artistically" interpret VN's differently to show up. And do that well.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: lordcloudx on February 12, 2011, 04:07:19 PM
@Yukipon: When you put it that way, yes, it is a fact that there are more incentives for competent writers to pursue in other media rather than in visual novels. What I disagreed with is the implication behind your original statement that "...no writer worth their salt is going to be spending their time writing for VN's..." actually, my eyes skipped over the last portion stating "...unless they're really, really into this." So I guess I misread your post. I apologize for that.

Quote
The term Visual Novel is a naming convention. But when the genre calls itself a visual "novel", other people who may not be familiar with it will expect a novel with pictures (moving or not) despite the fact it is not written like one. Choose Your Own Adventure books, or Interactive Fiction is closer to what it really is from a western standpoint.

I agree with the fact that it does produce some preconceived notions for the uninitiated, but at this point it seems there's really nothing that can be done about that because the EVN community has already assimilated the term "visual novel" for the particular pieces that they produce. One of the things that an independent game maker can do is to simply disassociate himself with the term "visual novel" in particular by using another label. This also brings up the question of whether people will still continue to label a game that looks/plays like a visual novel a "visual novel," even if it doesn't call itself one - and if the different label actually makes any positive difference on the general reception of the game by removing the apparently negative mental biases attached to the tags OELVNs or EVNs in particular. It depends on the game and a number of other factors, but it is an idea worth entertaining.

As to the EVN community: It's going to be regarded as a community, but it doesn't necessarily have to be regarded as a single VN-making entity, because like I said, it's the individuals and groups within the community that actually produce the games. As an individual member of the EVN community, I'd like to advocate this type of mentality for makers as well as consumers within the community, at the very least.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: DaFool on February 19, 2011, 07:04:34 AM
This piece was inspirational:

http://kotaku.com/#!5763974/braving-the-xbox-live-indie-wasteland-one-game-at-a-time

We used to have one or two brave souls who tried to review EVNs but their blogs faded into oblivion.

The main thing that VNs have against them is that the work is not considered significant until you spend 5 years writing 500,000 words.  Even with multiple choice paths, a VN is still mostly linear in gameplay and doesn't have the advantage of arcade games that can go on ad infinitum through addictive game mechanics -- when a story is over, it's over.  And rare is a short story that truly impresses (compared to a novel).

Both XBLIG and LSF scene suffer from the impression of "most is crap" even though for someone who has been keeping up, the releases (not counting WIPs) have actually been steadily improving, even if the releases slowed down.  This brought about a change in attitude from me in recent years.

Before I wondered why PyTom didn't release any games beyond Moonlight Walks... just to release something.  Now I know why.  Unless an idea really screams at you to get itself made, don't make it since it will only waste your time.  Thus... unless you don't have the experience and need practice making games (which doesn't apply to us here)... don't embark on a project unless it's really something that begs to be unleashed upon the world.  It's basically the same advice Studio Ghibli gave to Pixar:  please don't saturate the market.. take your time to make your masterpiece.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Hime on February 19, 2011, 09:04:36 AM
@Hime
All those ideas sound really fun to do. An interactive VN version of Phantom of the Opera, or Shakespeare, or an original work by a new playwright would be fun to do. Some of them would be tricky, like poetry depending on how abstract it is, but all those ideas (and more) are possible. This leaves EVN's with a really good chance to separate themselves from the Japanese. The thing is, most of the people who have the potential to make this happen, aren't doing anything related to VN's, or simply don't care.
I don't think it's necessarily that people don't have potential to do something like this, though, but that most people don't even consider possibilities like this. When people stick with the conservative idea of VNs as JVNs are, how can we know what they could do if they tried? Even the greatest writers can't write anything if they aren't trying to begin with.

A part of this may be that the EVN scene has a history of low self-confidence, which has encouraged us to stick to the JVN model instead of taking the medium into new, fresh directions. If you do something that follows the basic idea of VNs as light, Japan-inspired entertainment, you know your work will surely be accepted, while if you do something completely new and weird, the chance that your work will bring out mixed reactions is much higher. It's easy to see why the many makers in our scene who are sensitive to audience reactions are afraid to experiment.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: mikey on February 19, 2011, 10:28:04 AM
Makers have different motives for releasing games, so the advice that DaFool mentioned, to only make something if you really believe in it works for me, and truth be told I am very proud to be able to look back at my VNs and feel that every one of them has this spirit.

But then there are people who'll just want to "try something out", who maybe want to "do something people will like", but also other people who may want to "require their audience to work with them" or other motivations or goals which makes me arrive at what Hime mentioned about acceptance:

What I feel happens is that none of these motivations or goals are really considered when you have a big place where all these games are featured alongside one another, or when someone speaks very generally about an oelvn scene. You then end up with "natural grouping and filtering" which means popularity decides what gets to the top and motives or goals are never really taken into that equation - and of course what people like is pretty much never what is good for them. Like pizza is not the best food in the world just because it's the most popular.

But if you have a room full of people and you want to agree on some food, you're obviously going to get a pizza, because it's the most popular one. And if you have many people having to agree what's the best vn, you're going to get the eye-candy ones based on the same principle - you cannot consider individual tastes, so you look for common patterns and agree on the taste that everyone enjoys, the "common denominator", so to speak, which is usually going to be the most detailed graphics with a relatively neutral story.

It's why I don't really know how much the term "oelvn scene" even says. Personally, I don't feel like I am a part of this "scene", meaning that for example when people criticize writing in oelvns, I don't feel like they are also criticizing my games (which would have been the case a few years ago, when I would feel connected and take comment against the "community" as a comment  against myself). I don't know whether this is a good or a bad development (probably neither), but maybe it can explain my (current) indifferent attitude towards the oelvn vs jvn topic.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: DaFool on February 20, 2011, 07:35:17 AM
We're actually in a good position, frankly speaking.  Everyone has low expectations (or no expectations, or don't even give a crap), so we are free to do whatever the heck we want using this medium.

We just have to swallow and accept the fact that unlike more JVN-like works, there's no ready audience yet so we'll just have to hope for the best.  Just look at jack's thread complaining that nobody bought Vera Blanc, even though it follows the bullet-point list of suggestions on how to make VNs that are different.

The issue is time, budget, and skill.  Exchange one for any of the others. But one of them will always be lacking.  Those who are extremely skilled in art can probably making a living on commissions (concept art, etc.) or comics.  Those who are extremely skilled at writing can find better fulfillment in writing prose.   As is often the case, the best VN writing came from novels or novelists.  Since the VN medium is straddling the fine line of jack-of-all-trades position, it's hard to grab the best talent when there are more establised mediums where they will receive better recognition.

I've mentioned this many times but I chose this medium because it's the low-hanging fruit for untalented hacks like myself.  I can approach the cinematic pace of a movie, but not quite... the immersion of a book, but not quite... and the interactivity of a video game, but not quite.  I still credit this medium because prior to discovering the EVN scene I never wrote anything that spanned more than 10 pages that wasn't a technical manual, and I never seriously tried to draw as well.  Just like working on short flash or iphone arcade games is the gateway to western-style game development, I am convinced that working on VNs, sims, and RPGs is the gateway to Japanese-style game development, which focuses more on character and atmosphere than mechanics.

I said in the other forum that the Japanese game industry is withering... the response of many companies is to become even more inward and insular, only pandering to the otaku crowd (since they were convinced that they failed in attempting to court a more international audience).  They don't have fresh blood compared to foreigners.  I'm actually serious when I say that OELs do have a chance of grabbing a bigger market of English anime-style games, if no other reason that the Japanese fans prefer to support moe-pandering companies such as Kyoto Animation over those that reach out and touch that international beat such as Gonzo (in its early years).
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Yukipon on February 23, 2011, 10:04:46 PM
@Hime

It also depends on personal experience. For some of the examples I mentioned, it all came from my experiences in performing on stage, either in music or drama. So, I think, the fact that people don't consider possibilities and that they don't try, they probably also don't know how to approach those new possibilities based on their backgrounds.

Though, what I'm seeing in commercial and amateur EVN's is actually depressing me a fair bit. Es-node, though, makes me wish I could read Japanese fluently.

@Mikey

That's, unfortunately, how life works. Same thing with books: Publishers and agents don't care if it's taken months or years to write a book; motivations and goals are put on the wayside, ignored, and trampled on. To them, it's a product that they can sell to the public.

To the fanbase, EVN's are just that.

As for popularity deciding which is the best, that's how it is. Though there are exceptions to that, like Fading Hearts which had really good art, but horrible writing. Japan, though, tends to be a different: story-based VN's are the more popular ones, compared to the porn- or the fetish-based games.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: mikey on February 24, 2011, 12:09:31 AM
Let's say then, that the best VNs are Japanese. This is a very general statement, but I'd go with it much like it's fine with me when someone says the best wines are French, the best ballets Russian, the best composers Austrian. It's always the most well known association, almost stereotype, which then makes people enjoy the added "snob value" of whatever it is they associate with a particular country or culture of origin.

And that's fine by me, in fact I will often be a snob in many areas of my life, including art. For example, I will not read fiction other than from the 19th century because that was the peak of literature and everything else present or future will never be so good. I also prefer my contemporary music to come from Sweden, because they are the most creative and accessible. And for poetic wisdom, I will have nothing less than Chinese pieces.

Yes, they are completely biased preferences, and yes, you could have endless arguments about them. But the thing is, sometimes this bit of snobbishness is nice, it makes you enjoy your picks and relieves you of the duty to have to be objective. It's really very nice to come to a restaurant and order a wine with a French name. Never mind the taste, that's not the point. Even a very average taste is good enough, because the snob aura will make it feel more than special.

And if people do this, subconsciously or not, with VNs, it's fine, because even though as a maker who isn't Japanese, I'm at the receiving end of the snobbishness, I understand the allure. It's especially apparent when people try to reason - trying to prove logically that French wines aren't superior to others. Or that Japanese VNs aren't superior to VNs in other languages. It's trying to rationally overcome a behavior (snobbishness) that is by its nature a bias, i.e. not rational. It can never work.

Obviously, the snobbish areas are never the underdogs, but always the established entities. French wines, Brazilian football, Italian fashion designers. Their unattainable status and aura is the whole point and it really works both ways, so whenever it's frustrating to think that no matter what someone who is not Japanese does with VNs, he will never be truly recognized by the majority of audience which enjoys the traditions, I'm always thinking of what the other side must feel.

Take a Japanese boy, interested in classical music. Now, no matter what he does, no matter how great he plays, he will always be judged differently than a boy of the same skill, but who was born in Austria - and attended the famous music schools in Salzburg. Because obviously, it's only in Europe where the spirit of classical music truly exists, and if nothing else, snobs will use this intangible association to justify their irrational preferences.

I just wanted to point out this particular factor, because it often comes back to that - being partial to a certain culture is raising self-worth, because by being snobbish here and there you allow yourself to be irrational and to be a part of the "strong" ones, rather than having to defend the (perceived) underdog.

So of course I don't agree with someone saying in general EVNs "aren't as far along" as JVNs and/or that their writing is not up there with the Japanese quality. But I just need to think about how I couldn't care less about any other ballet than Russian, and how I am ready to produce an endless supply of arguments to "prove" that point  in a discussion that will be more than anything enjoyable to me - to see that I am no more objective than those I "accuse" of being irrational. 

This, then, would be my "snob theory" on the writing topic.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Yukipon on February 26, 2011, 04:37:16 AM
The word "elitist" is probably close to the "snob theory" you explained regarding the prestige and reputation of certain things and their associated value. So, I'll just use that.

To an extent, EVN's typically don't reach Japanese standards because the majority of EVN's are below the average of what the majority of JVN's are, both doujin and commercially made. So, the whole preconception of EVN's being terrible is marked by both their reputation for mediocrity, and the fact that (arguably) the best EVN has had to copy Japanese culture--which again, highlights the cultural bias and elitist attitudes presented by VN players.

However, there will always be terrible VN's and it applies to the Japanese. It's just that, in Japan, sheer numbers tend to masks those, um, really bad ones from foreign sight, further skewing the bar against EVN's. Just a glance at the Visual Novel Database (http://vndb.org/v/all) or Erogamescape (http://erogamescape.dyndns.org/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/kensaku.php?category=game&word_category=name&word=%A4%A2&mode=normal) will show that, among the good or the great JVN's, there are really, really bad ones. Some of which will make you want to pull your hair out. Not to mention, there's also this "standard" that every JVN has to attain, or they risk being ousted/outsold by the others.

For EVN's, it's much more accessible for anyone in the western hemisphere to see the really bad and the really good side by side, and make an unfair assumption that EVN's, for lack of a better word, "suck" compared to JVN's. But because of how relatively new the genre is, the standard is set much lower (nonexistent some might argue) which is a good thing for developers, but not for VN players. Maybe in a decade, there will be a change in attitude and, hopefully, a change in the quality of EVN's being produced. And maybe EVN's will finally make a name for itself other than, "It's an EVN, it must suck."

So, although the general western VN player tend to lack information about JVN's and be misinformed about their quality, they can easily assess every EVN and make a generalized statement which holds true for the majority. Sure, there's one or two that are good, but it's the majority that dictates the image presented by EVN's. And frankly, no single team of writers or developers are going to completely overturn that. Their VN or game might avoid being labelled that way, but it will not improve an EVN's overall image...

Unless it was an EVN that completely stomped the competition, both domestic and international, to the point where it would be known as one of the quintessential VN's. So maybe, just maybe, it might convince the community to try harder and the western VN fanbase to be more tolerant.

As for writing in EVN's, the writer of your "average" EVN tends to be someone who has English as their second language with the "average" VN being around fanfiction quality, writing-wise. There are always exceptions though.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: lordcloudx on February 27, 2011, 05:39:28 AM
Hmm... I'd say the gist of the discussion can be summed up into two or more points, these being:

-People think that EVNs are mediocre and we shouldn't care about it.
-EVNs are mediocre in actuality as well as in the general perception of the masses and there's nothing we can do about it.

This is an opinion, so treat it as such, but I'd like to advance another perspective, and this would be:

-EVNs aren't necessarily mediocre even if the whole world thinks so because I know better than the rest of the world.

Note: "Mediocre" is being used as a euphemism for "suck" here. You can interchange the two if you feel like it.

This doesn't really come into conflict with either of the previous two points. In any case, this is the way I feel about the whole issue.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: mikey on February 28, 2011, 04:15:31 PM
When I see that a problem was attempted to be solved for too long a time by too many people, I like to question the problem's core premise - so, for example, countless thinkers and people, over countless years, were trying to figure out the meaning of life. Some came up with conclusions, but none of those really established themselves as the correct one, that would be accepted by everyone. Furthermore, everyone seems not to be happy with the already established findings and keeps on looking for their version of what the meaning of life is.

So in these cases, I question the actual premise - if so many people were not able to find it, is there a meaning of life at all? It's like you imply its existence in the question, but just because it's implied, doesn't mean it's really there. It's like asking "what's the funniest joke"? First you have to believe there IS such a thing as the funniest joke.

Anyway, back to the topic - lordcloudx has pointed out the two directions: "ignore" and "accept" - and added a third one, let's call it "insist", hopefully that's about right. But just to apply that method like with the meaning of life - the basic question about the quality of writing and its perception - it seems to assume that there is a correlation or connection between the quality of art and its popularity.

I say this, because we talk about balance, different approaches and so on. My favorite comparison is food - it's the same as assuming there is a correlation or connection between the quality of the food and its taste. I think it's clear to which extent the arguments can go - in my opinion it's very similar to art and popularity, because you are also trying to find some connection or algorithm between what's generally good and what people like. But the question is, is there such a thing, and if there isn't, isn't it then also partially the responsibility of the people to challenge themselves and make the effort to enjoy something even though it doesn't come naturally? Like a raw vegetable, or an unorthodox book?

The thinking goes like this: If there was some (positive) connection between what people like and what's beneficial for them, they could assume that if they just do what they like, that by doing what they like they also consume things that are beneficial to them because since they are connected, they are bound to exist in the things they like, i.e. "if I like it so much, there has to be something good in it", or even worse - "it's not my fault if you can't make the things that are good for me also TASTE good (to me).".

That "not my fault" is I think the problem. If the correlation did exist (and by assuming its existence), people wouldn't need to have responsibility for their experiences (or health in the example with food). It would be all theoretically blame-able on the people who make things for them.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: number473 on March 01, 2011, 08:13:22 AM
-People think that EVNs are mediocre and we shouldn't care about it.
-EVNs are mediocre in actuality as well as in the general perception of the masses and there's nothing we can do about it.
-EVNs aren't necessarily mediocre even if the whole world thinks so because I know better than the rest of the world.
I would like to propose another option:

-EVNs are mediocre, but not necessarily, and we'd better fight to make them better if we ever expect them to be more widely accepted.

I used the word 'fight' for a very good reason. It requires some amount of real effort, not just a bit. There are plenty of 'nice' EVNs, but we need to up our game if we are going to make something really impressive. A couple of games that really blow people away will go a long way towards changing perceptions. You can argue with someone as much as you like and you'll never get anywhere. It's more effective to just say, "Play game X," and let them see for themselves what sort of quality there is.

From there, a few people get to know of these games, the games spread and become more well know, and at the same time EVNs become more well thought of. It is also a question of PR, and I don't mean arguing with and refuting any negative statements about EVNs. I think it would be much better to stand on the quality of our products.
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: lordcloudx on March 03, 2011, 03:39:51 PM
@number473: I agree and I'd like to say that my proposed option is not necessarily incompatible with yours, either.

To expound, I personally have no interest in writing stories that are any "better" than the ones I have already written and I'm content in "wallowing in mediocrity" in my works; using the words of our critics, because I haven't lost hope that there are still untapped audiences out there who will not necessarily perceive them as such. Of course, this shouldn't be interpreted as being "unwilling to improve." I'm always actively seeking to improve in my works, but not in the ways that the critics or even my co-creators would usually prescribe.

I guess what I'm saying is that having the tenacity to continue creating and treading your own path towards success and to believe that there is  an audience for your works is also an option besides actively seeking the approval of an already adverse audience. This mainly applies to those who aren't seeking instant gratification or are literally trying to sell their games.
 
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: mikey on March 04, 2011, 02:21:27 PM

For me, it's perfectly acceptable when I stay at a certain level with my skills. I can compare this to skiing - I can ski well enough to enjoy any mountatin. Obviously there are skiers who are quicker and have better skiing techniques. But I don't try to improve just because it's possible or because someone is better than I am or overtakes me on the track. In fact I have no interest to improve at all and I don't really try to, because you can have a perfectly good time when you stay at a certain level.

This is very similar to the "recreational" approach I have for making VNs. It's good enough for me when I can express with it whatever it is I want to show. It doesn't need to have any further appeal beyond that, or be more accessible or attractive to people (like having higher production values). Artistic pursuits are similar to sports in this aspect - you have some who are in it for the competition and pushing the envelope, and some who just enjoy the action without any grand-scale ambition.

The thought here is that it's a waste of time to put extra effort or energy into a project (e.g. really push for high production values), because to go from this "good enough" level to a level where there is already some recognition ("impressive"), the amount of effort is often a multiple of the original effort. Say for a VN to do its job you need 4 months - for the same VN to be impressive and talked about, you'd have to spend well over a year, year and a half. That's a year extra, and it's not exaggerated when you think about hand-drawing backgrounds, animating sprites and custom programming or adding extra RPG elements.

And for me, this doesn't add up. I can't justify spending a year extra on something that already is what I wanted it to be, and so I would leave this kind of approach to those who actually want to do it - much like competitive skiers, there are people who truly want to make impressive VNs, ones that would perhaps change the perceptions of others about the medium - the task of consciously pursuing the creation of such VNs is on them.

Of course, whether you do your artistic pursuits the one way or the other, has nothing to do with their artistic value. I don't feel that my VN which was played by 7 people is inferior in what it conveys to a bestseller VN from Japan. It's less popular, of course, but as I proposed in the previous post, these aren't really connected in my opinion.

So, to add to our pool of options I'd say "let someone else do the ground-breaking".
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: DaFool on March 08, 2011, 10:14:47 AM
Agree with what mikey said.

You may think that i'm one of those really "pushing the envelope" for the sake of pushing the envelope, but in reality I'm just doing the barebones effort necessary in the respective genre.

For example, I'm making an RPG.  But the cream of the crop of RPGs right now is the multimillion-dollar franchise of Dragon Age.  In comparison I'm just making a shitty little SRPG like what many niche Japanese devs make.

But I'm doing this because I prefer Japanese-style console RPGs compared to plain visual novels.  "Do your thing" is the mantra, even if it means you change to a different fandom.  I'm probably pushing the envelope for what the Ren'Py engine is capable of, though (Right now I believe the most advanced game made in Ren'Py is Planet Stronghold).

So I'm leaning towards pushing an experimental execution / technological innovation rather then, say, making something like Quartett! but with crispy graphics and lasting for 50 hours.  Even if there were such a game, frankly, I won't even give a shit anymore.

I'm also making a 3D game since it's more of a learning experience for me knowing what it takes to make even a really simple barebones 3D game -- I don't mean 2D gameplay with pretty 3D graphics, but something that really requires 3D gameplay.  So far it's costing me a few grand just for a few meager assets.  With that money I could have commissioned hundreds of gorgeous 2D CGs to make an epic VN, but no.  My priority has always been to dip my feet in a medium, learn the ins and outs, and declare "Ok, I now know how it's put together, I can make one too, but it's gonna cost me X man-hours!"

I used to be proud of crazy people who were able to make something spending many years handpainting and programming, etc.  Now, I'll just be like "Why?"  E.g. 2D looks nice and all, but I'd rather save time and effort and just rig 3D models than "lovingly handpaint every frame out of 100,000 frames".  At least should my work totally bomb, the wasted effort is easier to swallow.  (That's another reason why I insist on paying collaborators from now on.  With a free project, should the project fail to reach completion, you just wasted other people's valuable time.  But with paid effort, you can be proud of being an employer and contributing to the weakened global economy.)
Title: Re: The question about good writing
Post by: Hime on March 09, 2011, 09:03:32 AM
I think the crude language in your post was unneccessary, DaFool. For the comfort of everyone, please refrain from using profanity needlessly. It's better to keep the atmosphere of the conversation civil and polite. One of the goals of Teacup is to help everyone materialise what they want, and even if you don't care for graphically crispy, 50-hour Quartett!s, someone else might, so it'd be the best not to express open disdain towards what may be someone else's prefrence and ambition. As an admin, I'd appreciate if you edited your post into a more respectful tone.

And just overall, I don't think it makes sense for us EVN makers to condemn and belittle each other's ideas and projects. While everyone has preferences and it's obviously alright to express those, "my project is better than your project" is a discourse that I wish could be avoided in the Teacup. Every idea, be it 50-hour Quartett!s or carefully hand-drawn 2D graphics or whatever, has its sides. If something is not your cup of tea, please word it politely or just leave yourself out of the conversation instead of fighting over questions of taste. Fellow makers are fellow makers and should be treated with respect and understanding, even if they make something you wouldn't enjoy making or experiencing.