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Developer Diaries, chapter 19

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:44 pm
by Aura
When reading a book, one often imagines what the events of the story would look like, how the characters look like (raise your hand if you were surprised that Legolas had blonde hair in Jackson's movie trilogy) and so on. Visual novels skip a part of that process, and use someone else's imagination instead, leaving your brain only with the task to animate the static pictures shown on the computer screen.

Who is the person whose imagination is used to potray the script? It seems that it often is the writer, not the artist, because of a thing I call here "The Hegemony". The Hegemony is a phenomenon where the writers (or other equivalent) have a judo grip on the visual outlook of a visual novel, essentially having the script rule over the art. In name, visual novel has both aspects on equal standing, unless someone wants to argue the superiority of having one word before (or after) another. In practice however, they are often more like illustrated novels. The visual side is subjugated to only serve as support for the text instead of being a free-standing element. Still, most often the writer has an image of a character, an event, or so in his head and asks the artist to illustrate it. The end result will probably not look exactly like what the writer is thinking, it looks like what the artist is thinking, based on the descriptions he heard, or reading the script. So, will the writer try to bring the text closer to the visualization, or the artist the picture closer to the description? In most cases, the latter.

Now then, is that such a bad thing? No, The Hegemony is a healthy symbiosis after all. The pictures bring the text alive, giving it much more soul than just the words alone. The text gives the drawings a purpose to fulfill. Also it's only natural that the arrangement is made like this. After all, without the script there would be nothing to visualize (ignore for a moment that I am making a game using a single picture as the source), just like movies are filmed after script has been written. Not the best analogue ever, but to continue it we could talk about directors or animators of a movie or theatre production compared to VN artists. The screenwriters rarely participate in the actual production of a movie, leaving it to the director, the animators or the actors to do that kind of stuff. Of course, a VN is not a movie and it seems that The Hegemony is an essentiality for succesful VN creation. It's just that...

Can the visual artists be co-creators instead of just illustrating the writers' (or someone's) dirty dreams, and would it be a good thing? I'd answer yes to both, to an extent. I requested a design for one of the side characters in Rin's path from the artists a while ago. The end result doesn't look like anything I imagined the character to look like, but it's absolutely amazing and fits the character perfectly, so why would I complain? It's perfect. Obviously I, too support The Hegemony when talking about KS. It is the most natural way of working, and I too prefer most of the visual stuff in game to look at least somewhat like what I imagined when writing, but I fully support the artists giving their own flavour to the game (I'm surprised nobody raised a shitstorm about Misha's new eyecolour). As for us, the artists often ask for confirmation of their illustrations and all in all, I feel that we are working somewhat fluidly and loosely in that aspect. The place where to draw a line is the most important thing. If something looks good, is there a need to try fixing it?

Re: Developer Diaries, chapter 19

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 3:17 pm
by TcDohl
Just something to add to this.

I haven't really been in the limelight as of late, but when I do talk about the look and feel of the final product, I often talk about a balance between the "visual" and the "novel". I talk when the "visual" should have more emphasis and when the "novel" should have more emphasis. Overall, we've gotten to a point that the balance between the two becomes more apparent. This is what I keep in mind when I direct the game. Should I emphasize the "visual" part, like when the prose is flourishing and descriptive., or to emphasize the "novel" part when the dialogue is witty and entertainingI think of it like a sliding scale, whereas the amount of "visual novel" that you're dealing with stays more or less the same, but the "visual" and "novel" parts change with inverse relationship to each other. In this case, they are indeed symbiotic in the sense that one cannot exist without the other, and it often troubles me when a writer intends his part of the script to be able to stand alone and be able to be published in a book by itself. I say that defeats the "visual" part of "visual novel" and throws the balance out of whack. Prose is nice, but in this context, prose is one leg, visuals is another leg and music the third, (which makes it a tripod - music is another subject altogether, one that does not factor into the sliding scale) and the programming the thing that props it all up. Sometimes writers have to know when to emphasize the "visual" and when to emphasize the "novel" and make this intention known. I am always one who advocates balance of all sorts, and this is no difference. We have to know where the right balance is and when, and this is how we make our visual novel great.