Author Topic: How a Visual Novel becomes a game.  (Read 3077 times)


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How a Visual Novel becomes a game.
« on: February 01, 2011, 09:30:22 am »
This was prompted by a poll on the sakevisual blog, which got me to thinking, and this is something I've been thinking about on-and-off for a while, about how visual novels are considered "games." If a visual novel is considered a game, then it makes sense to add other challenges like minigames, mix them with rpgs and all sorts of other things. On the other hand, though, you can take the viewpoint that a visual novel is not a game at all, but an artwork. More like a novel. I am more inclined to this latter outlook on it.

It is of course an enhanced novel, it's got a lot of things that a plain text novel does not have. And it branches, which certainly makes it seem that there is some element of a game in that you are trying to reach a particular goal. In dating sims, with stats and time allocation and all that it becomes more and more like a game than a simple story. A kinetic novel is again the complete opposite of this, it is really a novel that has been given life on a computer and not a "game" at all.

How is this relevant to us as creators of visual novels? Well, I think that it is an important question to cover when deciding what it is that you are trying to accomplish with the game you are creating. At the very least you need to know which side you are aiming at when you create your game, or else you risk adding elements that do not belong. If I think about games of other sorts that did the story right, it is more a case of the story and the gameplay running alongside each other seamlessly. In the case of vns we don't have this luxury, given that the core gameplay (picking what to say or do) is inextricably bound to the story.

I will try posing the question in a different way: Is the player deciding on his actions and so determining what happens to the protagonist in the future, or is he simply picking to view the story given that the protagonist were to take that action at that time. As a player, it becomes more and more difficult to take the former viewpoint the more times you play through the game. The former is a game where you decide the outcome, the latter is a novel composed of many intertwining possibilities.

I'm not proposing any course of action. I simply think that it is something to take into consideration when creating a game. Personally, I am most interested in seeing that my story gets conveyed correctly and most optimally. It's not so much a game to me as a medium for presenting a story.

What are others' thoughts on this matter?


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Re: How a Visual Novel becomes a game.
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2011, 11:46:32 am »
To be perfectly honest, I only got into visual novels because

- all the late-night ecchi anime were based on them
- I really wanted to play more JRPGs but didn't have a PS2

I don't know if my current project will qualify to be listed on vndb, because I've made a conscious decision to minimize the text to the bare minimum for plot exposition, and instead spend more effort on the battle systems.

No skipping for me.

Granted, with this move I thoroughly expect the game to alienate most of the female playerbase, despite having a realistic female protagonist.  But it's my game and I'm not going to make in any other way.


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Re: How a Visual Novel becomes a game.
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2011, 01:25:08 pm »
I did categorize games and VNs a lot in the past years and I have to say it's definitely possible to draw a sort of a map of when a VN stops becoming a VN and starts being a game, and when it's an illustrated e-book or how close it is to a comic or an animated film with subtitles. It's actually very fascinating from an "academic" point of view, and I think this systematic approach and categorizing is good for players / readers, so that they would be able to easily find those forms that interest them the most. If people could agree on some basic term, like what exactly constitutes a VN-RPG hybrid and so on, I think it would be very practical for when you discuss the works by other people, or try to position your game for a certain audience, or create a community around a certain mix of gameplay features (a VN-RPG hybrid is already a strong category I could see having its own fanbase).

For me personally, it depends on what I want to make. The more personal or important the project is, or the more intensively I want to show something specific in a certain way, the more I disregard other people's input - in this case it would mean I start caring less and less what the thing I create is going to be called by a theorist and whether it adheres to some proven mechanics. You have to be a "parent" to your game, so to speak. In my current project I have to in fact often be the "parent", which means imposing something on people and expecting them to go out of their way to appreciate it if it doesn't happen to suit their tastes immediately. I don't do this because I like giving people a hard time, but including some grueling gameplay feature or taking some comfort out of playing just because it philosophically fits into the work, well - sometimes it has to be done because it's the right thing to do.


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Re: How a Visual Novel becomes a game.
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2011, 07:38:25 pm »
Before answering this question, we must first look at the origins of visual novels. They are an offshoot of the Western adventure game, with puzzles that make them games by semantic definition. The VN's strip out those elements, yet they still retain the visuals and the text. With this, the current form of the VN is straddling between a traditional VN and a full-blown game.