Reach for the Stars

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Reach for the Stars

Postby Aura » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:55 pm

http://katawashoujo.blogspot.com/2011/0 ... stars.html

We basically need to convince the actually good writers and artists of the world to do VNs or something.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Goldilurks » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:09 pm

I liked this blog entry a lot, it was well thought out.

But can has Twitter alert plz?
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby coldacid » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:22 pm

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby killdream » Tue Jan 18, 2011 6:33 pm

First and most important, I would like to express all my hate towards your blog and your forums. Seriously, making me register an account on a forums and having to decipher some messed up image (for God's sake, at least use reCaptcha!) from a custom image security algorithm is just a bit too much.

HOWEVER, I really wanted to comment on Aura's post (albeit I'd rather use the Blogger comments for that...) :<

Well, I agree with your views on how Visual Novels aren't used to its fully extent, or at least if such a work exists, I haven't played it yet. Though I'm still hyped for some VN releases, the What A Beautiful series mostly, for the steampunk. Oh, and don't mind if my thread of thought seems too random — because it is.

Anyways, I feel like VNs could borrow a lot of other genres of game, as well as literature and visual media. The first game that comes to mind in this list of possible inspirations for pushing the current barriers of the genre is Heavy Rain, which concepts fits quite well in the Visual Novel flow and brings some new possibilities to the interactivity in the media.

Branching stories is obviously the wrong way to go, though, it gets overwhelming as soon as you story grows past a few forks, and on the other hand doesn't feel that much "Interactive". You often gets frustrated with the main character does things that you would never do and you're not able to interfere with that particular flow of the story. Which in turn, I believe breaks the immersion, which is all so important in a dramatic media as well.

The thing is that the Interactive Storytelling field is really recent. Despite the early effort of some groups of individuals (Façade is probably the most prominent of those), the big game development corporations haven't realized the important of the drama part of the game. Only recent some of the big games have attempted something or other towards more interaction with the narrative, from the ones I've played — not that much — I wasn't really impressed though.

There are, however, quite some material on the internet on theories and some proposed systems for building such interactivity. And I think the Visual Novel media is one of the best fit in the gaming genre for incorporating these systems. And while some are really complex (and awesome), like the one proposed by Randy Littlejohn on Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2789/agitating_for_dramatic_change.php), others are quite simple to integrate on a Visual Novel, and with some modifications have a potential in making the genre feel more interactive, like Thespis (http://www.markbernstein.org/talks/HT01.html).

I have some plans of developing an interactive storytelling system based on Thespis and giving more freedom to character interaction, but it'll take some time until I actually start working on it. It would be pretty interesting to see ideas and works of fellow VN makers into pushing the genre a bit though :3
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby anonymous of wisconsin » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:10 pm

How about Quarttet?

Also, your captchas are too fucking hard.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Wan-wanniche » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:35 pm

Killdream, anonymous. If you want to bitch about something on the site, go to the feedback forums, for the love of the OELVN gods. That's what it's there for, as the devs have told us repeatedly.

Besides that, the blog post was thought provoking. Although I personally would love to see 4LS stick together, I have long since resigned myself to the fact that there is no chance in hell that the devs will ever put up with each other longer than they have to.
But what I really seemed to think after reading the post is this:
No one has really figured out how to write a VN. VN's are just so radically different from all other written media that whoever writes the script usually gets stuck in the writing conventions of some other genre of media, because that is what is familiar to them. In the end that means it either turns into a pile of shit or a mediocre, acceptable script with some undeniable, somewhat pitiable, weaknesses. Not that there can't be great scripts, but I would say it's harder to turn out quality work when you don't know what the fuck quality work looks like.

Now, I can see what aura says about the importance of visualization playing a large role as well, but for me it boils down to that basic fact. On a lighter note, just over a hundred or so years ago, novels were being hailed as the straw the broke the camel's (for the sake of argument and a half amusing, over-used cliche', please label our poor camel- culture) back, and that no novel could ever be considered serious literature or even halfway decent reading. Something that has been disproved over and over again, I believe.
And before that we were crying about poetry which didn't fit 'the norm'. (the norm can also be known as 'overly stilted', 'stale', and 'wtf are they saying? I can't tell between all the thee's and thou's')

To sum up:
It's Always Worse Before It's Better
-or-
We Can Only Go Uphill From Here.

Evenutually, VN's will grow up. Now we just have to wait patiently and pray.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby McCool009 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:39 pm

Has the smartphone market really been tapped for VN's yet? I'd think that would be a nice fit, what with the being able to pause and/or save pretty much anywhere in most VN's. And you'd be reaching far beyond the stereotypical fanbase ( wonderful and interesting people perpetually entrenched in their battlestations who most likely have no need for phones.)

Also, when you were drawing broad pictures of possible directions for VN's to go or expand into, I wondered what you guys thought of adventure games. They're pretty much VN's with point and click puzzles added in.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby gekiganwing » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:42 pm

I figured I'd finally join the Katawa Shoujo forum in order to discuss this topic. Hopefully my reply won't be TL;DR, or a double post...

Right now, there is only a modest number of people reading and creating visual novels in English. Fandom is smaller than anime/manga fandom, and much smaller than general video game fandom. Creators are currently making quite a bit of freeware. A few brave individuals/groups are making content for sale through independent game services. This is certainly a change from when Tales of Lemma was written around 2003... back then, maybe two or three other people were creating VNs in English.

Also right now, the visual novel scene in Japan is still a niche. The days when companies could publish serious stories (such as Portopia Serial Murder Case, and a VN based on Fist of the North Star) seem to be over. There's quite a bit of overlap between visual novels, romance games, and H-games. Ever since Kanon and To Heart became huge in the late 90s, this has been especially true. It's rare to find an untranslated VN which is not a bishoujo game, an otome game, a BL game, a yuri game, or a bara game.

As the KS staff said, Sturgeon's Law can be frustrating. Especially when it's applied to a form of media which is struggling to succeed, and largely untranslated.

Also, the saying "Money talks, nobody walks" is frustrating. If people don't buy things, companies won't make them. If there is no monetary incentive to create diverse or unique visual novels, then don't expect companies or independent creators to sell them.

So yeah... perhaps the question should be "where do we go from here?" I have a few thoughts...

1. First, I often enjoy visual novels about relationships, and I have enjoyed a few adult VNs. But it will help fandom to create more stories about other topics. I believe that the categories of visual novels, romance games, and H-games could all benefit if there were more titles that did not overlap. In other words, more VNs about different subjects, and more varied gameplay for romance games and H-games.

If you look at page 22 of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, you'll see a variety of genres and art styles. There are two which are very common in VNs -- romance and erotica. Most of the other genres only have a few VN examples -- biography, surrealism, historical fiction, folk tales, etc. Also, even though I like visual art styles similar to modern anime/manga, I believe that VN fandom will benefit from a wider variety of art styles.

2. The KS post mentioned an interest in seeing more VNs that emphasize visuals. For visual artists and teams, this might be worth considering. As far as Japanese VNs that emphasize visuals Littlewitch's titles sound like good ideas... though I wish that more than one had even a partial translation. (In other words, the Littlewitch VN Period has a small translation patch, but none of the company's other works do.) Interactive comics are still an experimental idea, and they would require huge amounts of time and effort. But they might be worth creating.

3. The KS post also expressed an interest in short visual novels. This makes sense. I have seen some translated games which had slow pacing. From what I recall of Kira Kira, a lot of scenes seemed to go on and on. Perhaps the creators believed their fans would be absorbed in the story for hours. I kinda wanted the characters to stop brooding and get the band together...

That said, I haven't seen many visual novels written in English which seemed overly long. And I don't recall that the translated freeware/independent visual novels which I've read seemed too slow...

4. Finally, the KS post stated that there will be more diverse and unique visual novels when fans and professionals start creating them. I agree. In order for that to happen, fandom has to grow and be motivated. In order to do that, fans like us probably need to find other people who might like VNs, and help them become fellow fans. Therefore, go to relevant clubs and introduce people to quality VNs which they might enjoy. And go to relevant fan conventions, and do likewise.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby thewizardninja » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:29 pm

killdream wrote:There are, however, quite some material on the internet on theories and some proposed systems for building such interactivity. And I think the Visual Novel media is one of the best fit in the gaming genre for incorporating these systems. And while some are really complex (and awesome), like the one proposed by Randy Littlejohn on Gamasutra (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2789/agitating_for_dramatic_change.php), others are quite simple to integrate on a Visual Novel, and with some modifications have a potential in making the genre feel more interactive, like Thespis (http://www.markbernstein.org/talks/HT01.html).

I have some plans of developing an interactive storytelling system based on Thespis and giving more freedom to character interaction, but it'll take some time until I actually start working on it. It would be pretty interesting to see ideas and works of fellow VN makers into pushing the genre a bit though :3


I'm reading that Gamasutra article and all I'm thinking the entire time is "Kinect, Kinect, Kinect, Kinect". Just imagine a VN made to utilise the tech in that thing, it could single-handedly answer all of that guy's demands.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Paragon » Tue Jan 18, 2011 9:46 pm

I strongly disagree with the "wordiness" aspect of it. I actually really enjoy the fact that VNs don't rely on the visuals too much and are written more like a novel.

You know how they say that there are multiple kinds of learners? Well, there are also multiple kinds of media consumers! As much as I enjoy visuals and artwork and I definitely feel they add to the VN medium, a written description of a scene carries so much more weight through the use of various literary techniques. But at the same time, literary techniques only go so far, and the visuals make up for that.

Let me give you an analogy to make my point. If you showed me a painting, the most I could say is that it looks pretty. I have no comprehension, in either amateur or technical terms, of what the various bits and pieces of the panting evoke. But an art major could give an explanation, and a novelist could convert it into flowing prose that really explains the image and gives it a lot more impact. The prose by itself is nice, the image by itself is nice, but combined they're so much better.

The way I see it, relying too much on the "visual" aspect takes away from the "novel" aspect of it. While you make comparisons to theater, visual novels are NOT theater. I greatly appreciate the way prose is used to describe what's being depicted on screen even when the visuals are right there in front of me.

Think of the scene where Hanako asks for a second game of chess. The game clearly shows her being shy and hesitant, but only the written word can say that she's asking for a game of chess "as if she's asking me to saw off my own arm."

Sticking with anime tropes/cliches is something that is not so much a problem for VNs as it is a problem for Japanese nerd-culture media in general -- anime, manga, video games, and light novels all suffer from this. This is more of an issue of "created by the Japanese and fans of Japanese media" than it is an issue specific to the medium. I think that as OELVNs grow, we will start to see more and more that adapt anime tropes while deviating from them, the way we've seen webcomics that are heavily anime-influenced but still doing their own thing.

As for interactivity, that's a tough nut to crack. I don't know how interactivity could really be done all that much more than it has been at least in some instances, because it's almost a staple of the genre to allow the story to begin one way but end multiple different ways depending on the reader's choices. The only other way I can see to do it would mean developing the story in nonsensical and terrible ways, for example having Shirou (in Fate/Stay Night) decide to switch sides and become evil for no apparent reason. I'd be interested in hearing an idea for how a story could develop without completely disconnecting from its setup.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Lawls » Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:05 am

"Eggs are not going to start spontaneously appearing, so what the scene needs is some chickens."

Yes I knew the chicken came first.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Csihar » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:00 am

Aura wrote:It's pretty safe to say that about half to two thirds of 4LS don't like KS much at all.

Certain corners of the internet that need not be named are probably going to have a field day with this sentence out of context.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Aura » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:56 am

Paragon wrote:I strongly disagree with the "wordiness" aspect of it. I actually really enjoy the fact that VNs don't rely on the visuals too much and are written more like a novel.

I'm not saying VNs are too long. I'm saying they are too long for their content and that even if you removed all the visuals, the writing is too bloated. Imagine, say, a 300 page book you enjoyed. Then imagine that book rewritten in 800 pages, with every single of those extra pages being completely superfluous, useless text. That's what reading VNs feels like more often than not, and while I occasionally encounter a book that's written too longwindedly too, in VNs it inexplicably seems to be a rule, not an exception.

There are no hard and clear answers for the visualization paradigm. A huge majority of VNs follow similar lines, but the medium offers room for a lot of variety. Just some existing and already mentioned examples of weightings: Eden* takes a lesson from movies, using one or both halves of the classic shot-reverse shot technique, Quartett goes for an approach that resembles a pseudoanimated comic, Katawa Shoujo heavily emphasizes the continuity in visualization, Narcissu goes for a highly supplemental and implicative style etc. It's all up to preferences. I appreciated Eden* and other Minori's games, but not as much as delta. He wasn't as impressed by Quartett as I was.

Also you, like a ton of other people, have fallen victim of the "VN is a genre" fallacy. I can name plenty of examples of Japanese comics, movies, literature, even some animation that are outside of the inbreeding otaku subculture. I can't name a single VN that would be. It's not a cultural problem, I have no real issues with the existence of otaku culture, but I have a problem with the fact that the entirety of the visual novel medium is inside of it (unlike these other media)
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby luinthoron » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:22 am

At any rate, this is the only area where western game developers (but not western VN developers) would actually make better VNs than their Japanese counterparts.


Ah, the one point I've sometimes brought up myself. It would really be quite interesting to see what they'd come up with, but with the VNs being stuck in the otaku culture, as Aura put it, and the reputation that comes with it, it's hard to imagine any western game developer considering doing this. :(
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Postby Mirage_GSM » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:33 am

I'd never even heard of any OELVNs besides KS before. Heck, when Crud and Suriko did that panel, I was surprised there was a seperate acronym for them. So I can't really comment on their quality compared to japanese ones.
I do agree that VNs could do a lot better if they got decent storylines. I recently browsed a list of VNs that are available with an english translation, and more than 80% of them are porn in various settings - not counting those that simply contain some sex-scenes in addition to a story.
So far the only VN I read that REALLY used its medium to tell a great story was Ever17. I'd really like to see more like that.

Also, when you were drawing broad pictures of possible directions for VN's to go or expand into, I wondered what you guys thought of adventure games. They're pretty much VN's with point and click puzzles added in.

Maybe that's why I like VNs. I do like Adventures, but I could do without the puzzles ;-)

Now if we were to continue as a team, trying to find our own voice and way to do these things, we might eventually manage to get something actually cool out.

I still hope that at least a part of your team will continue and put those experiences you gained while producing KS to good use.
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