Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Visual Novels

I don't expect many of you know what a Visual Novel is.  I've found it hard to describe what it is, so I'll just use the definition from the Ren'Py website.
Visual novels are computer-based stories that are told through words, images, sounds, and music. Many visual novels also present the player with menu choices that allow the player to control how the story is told.
 On the one side, it's a complex storytelling medium, on the other it's a very simple game format.  Usually what you see on screen is a background, a bust view of a character and text at the bottom.  The only commercial games I've played in this style are the Phoenix Wright series.

I've been meaning to make a game in this style for a while.  More specifically, I want to make an Otome game.  This is a game where the player character a girl who is introduced to some guys and the end is a romantic pairing with one of them depending on what choices the player makes.  I've played a few of this kind, and while some of them have been fun I haven't been completely happy with any of them.  The only option is to make the game I've been wanting to play.

There are some great engines out there for making VN's.  The one I've chosen for myself is Ren'Py, a python based engine.  The other english based engine, Novelty, is much easier to work it, but doesn't have as much flexibility.  I haven't been having much troubles understanding what I need to do for Ren'Py (just problems finding where the right tutorial is hiding) so I figure it isn't a big deal to just do it right the first time and do a game with the more flexible engine.  There's a really active community at Lemma Soft Forums, which helps a lot with motivation for a big project like this.

I've started on what I thought was a small project which I've titled Twin Crowns.

This is the most polished bit of the game so far.  My outline needs work, I'm going very slowly on my character art, and the only background I have is an unfinished Sketchup image.  So far I have managed to keep it short, but my perfectionist side is making progress slow going.  It will also be paused for another project.

Now, normally I try very hard not to start another project at this phase of production.  The likelihood of the first project getting forgotten or boring is very high right now.  This time, though, I just couldn't resist.  A forum member at Lemma Soft issued a challenge to make the worst VN they could in a months time.  While I have no intention of making a bad game, the idea of doing something quickly without caring much about quality was very appealing.

The game will be called Weather Wizard and will be put together in only a few weeks.  So far I have two backgrounds, a character with three expressions and everything scripted up to the first choice.  Considering I just started last night, this is very good progress.

It won't ever look amazing, but I don't think it looks bad either.

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