Author Topic: Things you wish you knew before you started.  (Read 6893 times)

sake-bento

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Things you wish you knew before you started.
« on: July 25, 2010, 04:50:42 am »
Hey all~ I have been invited to host a panel on making visual novels for a few local conventions. I have a few ideas of where I want I want to go with the panel, but I'd like to get your input as well.

Specifically, I'm most interested in things you wish someone had told you BEFORE you started making VNs. What did you learn the hard way that you wish you really knew ahead of time?

But do feel free to share other thoughts. What advice would you give a beginner? Things to do? Things to avoid?

This panel will be very much at a beginner's level. At this point in time, a lot of attendees won't even know what a VN is.

lordcloudx

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2010, 06:56:48 pm »
Yo, good to see you posting here again. :)
Well... let's see. Not a lot of things for me, personally. Just gonna list out a few things.

  • I wish someone had told me how to effectively use the pen tool in photoshop for lineart.
  • I learned the hard way that people won't always appreciate my stories in the way I want them to be appreciated, but, on the other hand, it's such a joy when they do.

I think beginners should avoid... well, joining a VN development community without having something substantial like a finished story or even an actual game ready. I'm going to be a detractor and say it's much more enjoyable for a first-time creator (or even veterans) to go solo or with a few trusted friends and just do what they feel is best for their game. On the other hand, I feel that it's counter-productive to join a VN development community since you could be easily lulled into thinking you're being productive when you're just wasting time writing walls of text on some abstract subject matter that everyone else is vehemently voicing out their opinions on. (I'm biased, yes.)

The most important thing for a beginner IMHO is to enjoy the experience of creating their own VN and to never forget that feeling even if they move on into creating more polished, professional works later. I think the spirit of creating games that you enjoy creating and that you believe will reach out to your target audience, should always be present in a creator who has pride in his/her work.

To expound on this: there were quite a few projects of mine, such as Dream Chasers, that gave me headaches of varying degrees at different points during its creation. Now that it's all behind me, I can honestly say that I actually enjoyed the process - headaches and all.

I personally believe that asking for critique on a public forum without having a substantial portion of your VN/story ready is a sign of insecurity. It just means that you're not confident in your own ability to reach out to your target audience in the first place. (this doesn't apply to commercial projects where a feasibility study might be in order, of course.)

On the practical side of things, it's always good to have a personal schedule of tasks to accomplish and to split these tasks in the way that works best for each individual. In my case, what works best for me is to get all the writing out of the way first, then move on to creating art and other assets and lastly, into the simple scripting/programming. This may not apply to everyone and it may vary with the type of project. In any case, it's always good to have a plan. If you can't visualize yourself completing the VN, you're probably chasing a pipe dream.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2010, 07:12:59 pm by lordcloudx »

mikey

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2010, 08:02:20 pm »
The single most important thing I can think of is that making a VN which will matter to you is fundamentally a solitary experience, and you should never forget that.

In other words, if you never felt the feeling of "just you and the game", if you never put anything personal in, ideas or feelings you hold dear, you will never feel a sense of accomplishment. This is regardless of whether you work in/with a team or not.

As lordcloudx said, the work doesn't have to be enjoyable, it can be hard, doubted by others and unrewarding, but once it's done, everything changes. Everyone who has created something that matters to them will confirm this - all the troubles, frustrations and problems are worth it a thousand times, if you are honest with what you do, because then you look at it and it's there, something you created and something genuinely yours.

If you come that far, you have (1) succeeded.

And then all you can do is hope that at least one other person will be touched by it.

If you come THAT far, you have not only succeeded, but are also (2) fortunate.

It may be that your work even becomes popular and you will be able to inspire or help others based on the respect you earned.

And if you come THAT far, you have not only succeeded, are not only fortunate, but are also (3) lucky.

For your work to go through the steps in any other order is wrong.

1. Personal accomplishment,
2. Reaching another person,
3. Respect / Recognition / Responsibility

It is the same principle as in any human interaction - first you find yourself (accomplishment), then you find a friend (fortune), and then you're ready to face others (recognition). You cannot jump the steps and if you do, it will always come back and take its toll.

sake-bento

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2010, 06:16:41 am »
Wow, thank you. This is very useful insight. Things like "how to be making codes" are easy to teach, but real experience is a little harder to quantify.

As a tangential question, would you like me to plug The Teacup at my panels? I know that when I'm looking for insight from other VN makers, this is my forum of choice. Do you want me to encourage newcomers to join the ranks here as well?

lordcloudx

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2010, 12:32:10 pm »
@sake-bento: That'd be nice. We have been talking about how to get new people to notice this place, actually... with no clear consensus reached.

I don't see any problem with plugging The Teacup at your VN panels at all. (I don't think anyone else here would disagree.)

Hime

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2010, 02:33:28 pm »
I agree with cloudy; please feel free to plug Teacup, we would be happy if you did that. Have a piece of promotional art here in case you want to use something: you may crop the image and play with it to make it fit your presentation etc. if you want to.

I think many of the things a new creator should know are universal, not only limited to visual novels. Things like having confidence in your own work, being realistic about your goals and distinguishing between good and bad critique are very important, especially when you are planning on releasing your own work to larger masses.

Have confidence in your work.
If you are not going to believe in your story and characters, who is - and even more importantly, will you be able to complete your work if you do not? It tends to be that at the start of your project you see it as the most awesome thing ever, but your confidence wears off as time goes on, and it is this phase where many projects die. You got to love your project and have the confidence not to mind its flaws.

Your work is not going to be the most perfect masterpiece ever made since the dawn of time, and that is the truth, but if you have made it with love and care, it is sure to give someone something valuable. It is not always easy to appreciate these valuable things, since we take the virtues in ourselves and our works for granted, but what may seem trivial to you can be a treasure to many of your readers.

Personally, I go as far as to say that love is the most important thing in a visual novel project. If you do not give your project any, you are very unlikely to succeed (in the meaning of mikey's post).

Be realistic.
Your game is going to be just as long and just as good as you make it. If you think you are going to make a 500 000 word epic with a quality that surpasses the Japanese bestsellers of the year, then you are going to have to write all those words and do it all that well.

You should first and foremost aim to create visual novels that you want to and can create, not visual novels you want to play. Of course, I am not trying to say that you should create visual novels you do not want to play - and who would think that way about a project they have love for? - but things like "playability", "appeal to masses" and "awesomeness" are bad criteria to base your plans for a visual project on, because very often we cannot reach the technical level of the works we admire, and because our own virtues can be very different from the things we enjoy the most in other people's works.

For example, someone might love mystery visual novels because they cannot weave complex tales of crime, and it thus appears great to them: if they attempted to write a mystery visual novel, it probably would be a waste of their potential. They might be more optimal for writing something different; maybe this writer understands humal relations and emotions very well and could create a good slice-of-life or drama story, even if that is not their favourite genre. If the writer chooses the mindset of what they can write instead of what they would want to read here, not only the process of making the visual novel will be easier for them, but the results might be more skillful as well.

The work involved in the creation of a visual novel is also easy to underestimate. Because of this, it is usually better to opt for a "small project" as your first one. When you get to the actual writing, the small project might suddenly feel a lot larger. If you are a writer and you are not on a schedule, it is also recommended you do not try to get an artist before the script is complete. Realistically speaking, without the script, the graphics are no use, not to mention the consenquences if your project does fail. People who make the art of others go to waste are viewed highly negatively in the visual novel community.

Learn to evaluate feedback.
This is the Internet. If you release here, it is more than likely someone who had a very bad day stumbles upon you and your work and gives you a piece of their mind, even if you do not truly deserve it. When this happens, you should know well enough not to care for them. On the other hand, there are many helpful people out there who put a lot of care into reviewing your work and whose advice you should listen to. If you want to survive as a visual novel maker and improve your work, you should learn to distinguish between good and bad critique.

Generally, a good way to differentiate between the two is to ask yourself the following: does the reviewer care about my work? If they care about your work, they care about you enough to be polite, to try to note the work's good sides and give some suggestions on how to make your next visual novel even better, and keep it all in moderation. If the other person is using simple, offensive words like the verb to suck to take their feelings out on you, it is highly unlikely (though possible, since some people have awkward ways of expressing themselves) that their critique is worth caring about. On the other hand, if someone writes an essay-length, eloquent text about the faults of your 5-minute practice game, chances are those words were inspired not by your visual novel, but by something else.

But if they are polite, care about your work and seem honest, take their words to heart. Everyone's work has some shortcomings, but if you mind the advice of these helpful people, you can attempt to overcome your current weak spots. It is usually the same people who know what stands out in your work, so you know what points in your work are worth keeping and emphasising in your next work.

But most importantly, really: love your projects for what they are.


I must say, this has developed into quite a delicious thread indeed. I enjoyed reading other people's ideas about this too, thanks for writing them, and I hope we will get more.
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Kikered

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2010, 03:31:18 pm »
Unfortunately, my contribution might be more on the practical side than insightful.

Cloud and Hime touched upon this a bit, but I'd like to add that making VNs is a serious time commitment that newcomers tend to underestimate. The importance of time management is a pretty easy to expound here, and its significance rises when you have commitments to other team members as well. But what many people don't realize is that in addition to the man-hour cost of the work involved, there is an opportunity cost - you have to really enjoy writing stories, hacking code, making art, and/or composing music in order to set aside time for doing them instead of indulging in other hobbies. Tying into the love that previous members have emphasized, you'll need to love your project at least as much as you love anime, video games, etc. to keep coming back to it. That and/or a great deal of discipline.

Starting solo is a suggestion that I would also second for a few reasons, preferably creating as much of the needed resources as you can on your own even if they are outside your realms of expertise. Firstly, it is a valuable opportunity to learn about yourself. Your first work helps you identify and solidify your work habits as well as your strengths and weaknesses in creative endeavors. Secondly, you will be avoiding causing inconsiderate inconvenience to others should the project fail - the only person that you'll be letting down is yourself. Finally, you'll (hopefully) gain greater appreciation and respect for the works and skills of others once you've had to attempt it yourself. That appreciation and respect would go quite a ways to making you a better teammate should you choose to cooperate with others for future endeavors.

Hope this helps!

Vatina

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2010, 12:35:32 pm »
I've been thinking of what to write in this for a couple of days... but my first project was so experimental and "let's-see-how-it-goes" that I barely remember what I wish I knew ^^; So I'll try with some general advice instead.


1) You may need more tracks of music than you think. Sometimes I still get surprised when I play a vn and feel like there were only a few tracks, and then look at the track list and realise there were many more than that.

2) Try to organize workflow so that each task doesn't get seperated too much. Like, doing a few sprites and a cg early in the process and then going back to writing the script for a while. Doing this can result in rgeat inconsistency in art which results in things like "Argh! I have to redo these!"xInfinity.

DisenchantedDollVN

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2010, 05:29:34 pm »
From making visual novels (or rather, failing to make several) I have learned that I personally need a team to make a high quality work of art. I need writer to help me through the writing process. I hadn't realized that I couldn't finish my stories (or had a difficult time) on my own until I had written 30+ chapters in a matter of days with a friend. In 19 days we had over fifty chapters written. I can do art, but I discovered that I can swallow my pride and hire an artist that can do professional level work--and illustrate my story far better than I can at this time. I have also discovered that I don't have to compose every piece, but can use other pieces of music that have free distribution rights. (Yes, I'm a Renaissance woman.)

In short, you don't have to do everything by yourself.  If you do, don't have too high expectations. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to reach out to others.

sake-bento

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2010, 06:26:30 am »
Well, I sorta had a chance to practice the "making VNs" speech recently on a family visit to the Philippines. One of my family members works for a school there, and she heard that I like to make VNs, so I was pulled in to teach a high school class on game making. You guys are seriously lifesavers. I had pretty much one day to distill all of this and make a vaguely interesting lesson.

We talked about the basic foundation, starting solo, and learning to start small. The students caught on pretty quickly, and there were a couple small VNs done by the end of class. While most of the students didn't seem too interested, a few really did show a spark and a love for creation. Most of them wanted to start out very ambitiously making fighting games or long stories. I wish I had had more than one day, but I'll only be getting one hour at most conventions, anyway (and with a less attentive audience).

I also plugged Teacup, but I encouraged them to work on their own or with IRL friends before seeking an online community.

Vatina

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Re: Things you wish you knew before you started.
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2010, 06:35:03 pm »
A class? That was an interesting challenge :)

I hope you'll do well with the panel btw. Feel free to post your results here afterwards, I'd like to hear how it went.