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Author Topic: The question about good writing  (Read 12618 times)

DaFool

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #15 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).

Yukipon

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #16 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.

mikey

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #17 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.

Yukipon

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #18 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 or Erogamescape 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.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2011, 05:16:32 am by Yukipon »

lordcloudx

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #19 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.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2011, 05:44:17 am by lordcloudx »

mikey

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #20 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.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2011, 04:23:50 pm by mikey »

number473

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #21 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.

lordcloudx

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #22 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.
 
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 03:42:43 pm by lordcloudx »

mikey

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #23 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".

DaFool

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #24 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.)

Hime

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Re: The question about good writing
« Reply #25 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.
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