Reach for the Stars

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Caesius
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Caesius » Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:25 pm

delta wrote:The terrible stilted and unnatural dialogue that still shows heavy traces of Japanese grammar and idioms most translated VNs end up with is another thing. I don't want to bash fan translators too much (pros have no excuse though) but it's really not something I want to read and I think at this point they're actually catering to people who think that that is what a "genuine" VN is supposed to read like, which is just sad. Though reportedly Nasu's writing is an acquired taste to say the least even in the original.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by pibby » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:59 am

After reading through most of the posts in this thread so far I've come to understand these following points are what would make a great VN.

What makes VNs a unique medium is that it's a sort of a hybrid of existing well used media. It has good focus on the story description (script) by word like a book, the sensation tingling aspect of a movie, and player-imersed interaction like that of video games. Depending on how the author/director wants his/her story to be executed and shown to his/her audience they would consider using of the three former mediums. If they can't pick between any of the three they should be able to have a forth choice, VNs, that's got a jack-of-all-trades type story telling (concerning the three aspects i mentioned).

Not only that but the best stories are often made by somebody who has already experienced what his/her characters go through in their story or has lots of knowledge about the encounters in the story. JRR Tolkien knew exactly how hard its is and how long it takes for his characters in The Lord of The Rings series to travel because he made Middle Earth the size of his country England which he has actually walked from coast to coast. Of course this might explain why there are a lot of school based anime/VNs.

The type of digital media also matters too. As much as I like hi-res VNs that I can only effectively run on my computer or game system because of how much (imo) rediculous space it takes up, I sure wish it was more portable. And I don't mean lugging around my expensive laptop just to read it briefly either. Because IPads, Galaxytabs, and NookColors now exist, VNs would be best shared and sold as Apple and Droid apps for such products (I belive droid apps either will or currently work on the Galaxy and Nook). If VNs were made for those digital mediums in addition to PCs and game consoles, VN devs would make crazy money.

VNs shouldn't be pressured with frequent releases like tv episodes and video games. There are a lot of good VNs out there that would have been that much better if the dev team just took that much more time on it. Of course the market doesn't like waiting and making VNs is a primary source of income for some but I feel as if they're being produced too fast for the dev teams. What initially attracted me to the Katawa Shoujo project was not fact that it was going to be an english based VN, it was the fact that it was going to be made for free, which I understood as the dev team was going to take their time in making their precious art. It's also the same reason why I like 7thExpansion VNs simply because they had the freedom to go at their own pace. That's what VNs need at the moment, to learn how to properly crawl better before they decide that they can run the 100m dash in the Olympics.

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Darlat » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:19 pm

Except that not everyone has a phone, some doesn't have one because they don't want/need one.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by f4bulous » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:47 pm

Heavy Rain. Enough said. If visual novels would follow it's example and start creating fully interactive, plot driven games maybe people'd actually start paying attention to the genre...

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Darlat » Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:37 pm

f4bulous wrote:Heavy Rain. Enough said. If visual novels would follow it's example and start creating fully interactive, plot driven games maybe people'd actually start paying attention to the genre...
Wait, so you're saying that visual novels aren't plot driven? How the hell do they even exist then? I can get the porn ones, but the ones that aren't i can't understand, and if they we're fully interactive they would just be normal video games not visual novels, but whatever, it might make them better.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Scarlet Fox » Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:12 pm

Darlat wrote: Wait, so you're saying that visual novels aren't plot driven? How the hell do they even exist then? I can get the porn ones, but the ones that aren't i can't understand, and if they we're fully interactive they would just be normal video games not visual novels, but whatever, it might make them better.
Fully interactive, plot driven games are better than merely fully interactive games, no?

That's true, though, about it becoming a normal video game. Some people considered Heavy Rain not to be a video game, but if it isn't I don't know what the fuck is. And yes, I played and beat it. They should have worked on voice actors and facial animations more, it felt awkward the entire time.

You know, I want to see a western developer try to take on a Visual Novel. Western game developers are generally much more diverse than Japanese ones, which are becoming stagnant and losing prominence in the industry. Though it might not be better, it would still be interesting to see what path they'll take.

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Ampersandissimo » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:14 pm

Scarlet Fox wrote: You know, I want to see a western developer try to take on a Visual Novel. Western game developers are generally much more diverse than Japanese ones, which are becoming stagnant and losing prominence in the industry. Though it might not be better, it would still be interesting to see what path they'll take.
Doesn't 4LS count as a Western developer? I agree that it would be good to see more Western developers try tackle the medium, though. Or at least, I agree it would be interesting to see just how different a take on a visual novel you can arrive at if you really try hard enough.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by david » Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:13 am

This is all totally true. I'm glad you said it. I've always hated anime, but I got into visual novels about a year ago, and I absolutely love a small hand full of them. I agree that they have enormous potential, and I've always wanted to help bring this form of art to the western world. I happen to be a decent author as well. The only problem is that I'd never actually admit to enjoying these in public, because I absolutely despise 99% of the fanbase of this sort of thing. I... don't like nerds very much in general. (I don't mean that as an insult, I know that there are at least a small minority of people, like myself, who enjoy these, but aren't even considered nerdy, and that a lot of those of you who are considered as such don't necessarily fit every negative stereotype associated with the label, so please don't take this as a personal attack. I'd rather not bring this conversation crashing to a halt just because I'm coming off as a prick.) Anyway, for that reason, I've never been able to get a hold of an artist or programmer to put together a project like this, but I have gotten started on writing a few branches of a story I hope to someday make into a visual novel. I just wanted you to know that there are other people working toward fixing a few of these problems. At least one other guy.

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Art » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:08 pm

1. Get rid of the dependence on genre conventions
This is the biggest issue, so big that it could be cut into like four or five bullet points by itself, but that'd bore the crap out of anyone reading this
Actually, this is a topic of interest to me. I may be a bit behind the curve here, as I'm not well-acquainted with the current VN paradigm (KS Act 1 was my first VN experience outside the Gyakuten Saiban franchise, and the number of VNs I've read since then can be counted on a single hand). The only thing you mentioned here that really struck a chord with me is the concept of "Portraying sex pornographically," as I feel that all of the VNs I've read (most notably Saya no Uta and Yume Miru Kusuri) were really sullied by this. (You discussed this in one of your later posts.) The other stuff didn't really resonate with me as much, although it obviously matters to you a great deal, seeing as it was enough for you to declare it the "biggest issue." I'd be interested to hear exactly why you feel this way and expound upon the issue of genre conventions if you have the time to reply.

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Aura » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:45 pm

Why do I feel that way? Sticking to the anime/eroge conventions limits the potential audience of VNs and the potential expressive range of them. This is also a problem for anime and to a lesser extent, manga as well btw. (in west) Animation and comics are still seen as a medium for works meant for children, to some extent, but why is that? Because most animation and comics ARE material made for children. This makes some people disregard the entire medium. Similarly, almost all VNs are made for people who want cartoon porn and japanese highschool adventures or one of the other tiny handful of genres VNs cover. There are some great exceptions but I have the general gut feeling that VNs, like anime, is moving more and more to the otaku-pandering direction. I don't have a problem with them existing, but when there's no choice it becomes an issue.

I notice this in our own project too, which as said in the post, totally gets hit by all the points I mentioned. Not long ago there was a thread started on our forums by a parent who lamented that she couldn't give KS for her child to play because of the explicit sex in the full version. Also most of the mainstream attention we've got concentrates on the adult themes, mostly in a negative way.
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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Dollywitch » Mon May 09, 2011 10:22 pm

I am really interested in this discussion as I both strongly agree and disagree with points made in it, sorry for the necromancy.

First off, I have to disagree that VNs necessarily defy Sturgeon's Law more than anything else.

The reason I am interested in VNs is not just the medium, but because some of the best stories I've read have been VNs, or based on VNs. Tsukihimne, Fate Stay Night, Higurashi, Umineko, etc., most of the ones that are popular over here. To me, they were fantastic stories.

Whereas I find it hard for most books to catch my attention these days.

Why is this?

First off, when you're talking about the themes dealth with, I find the themes and over-all direction of VNs more interesting than a lot of western fiction. I like "non standard" fantasy and sci-fi, which doesn't tend to be all that popular over here. I've asked repeatedly on 4chan's /lit/ for western books that have a similar overall vibe to Fate/Stay Night, and the only suggestion I ever get is China Mieville.

I think perhaps the problem here is not as much you're underestimating VNs, but greatly overstating the artistic merit of most fiction outside of it. The fact is, that there are all kinds of annoying tropes in for example western Sci-Fi that are as bad are worse than what you find in VNs. So much Sci-Fi I've read has just felt "autistic", whereas I can't think of any VN or anime I've gone through that had that feel. Characters take a back seat to whatever plot device the book is about; this is true of so much western sci-fi and fantasy. Whereas VNs, which are largely associated with "Dating games" - are the opposite, they create characters, and go from there. Characters are not crated just to fit into a plot. I think for this reason, VNs are superior to me personally. Stories can be told and forgotten, but characters are something you take with you.

Katawa Shoujo, in of itself, is a fantastic example of this, as it started basically from character art. Would a western style novel have been the same? Probably not, no.

The problem with taking issue that VNs stay very closely to anime "conventions" is that those conventions are much broader to begin with. Can you remember when you were younger, someone explaining Ranma 1/2, or Excel Saga, or Dragon Ball(especially t he original series), or EVA? Or some of the crazier anime out there, like much of what SHAFT puts out? The problem is that this craziness becomes "anime" in of itself. We start to see patterns, even though the patterns there are much less defined than what we're used to. It's not quite the same but similar in concept to how people of different races tend to look "the same" to us - we don't tend to focus on that as much, we are used to discerning differences between each other, but not between people we see less often.

Because of that, we project a lot into western language fiction that probably isn't there. Also, because it has a reptuation as being more artistic than a VN, possessing on average less "Juvenile" themes(at least in theory).

I don't think that visual novels need to be more interactive, more graphic heavy to be good. I agree that there SHOULD be more VNs like that, but once you make that the standard, it's going to put people off and we may never have gotten something like KS to begin with(and certain not VNs like Umineko).

It's related to something I've been wondering a lot lately. I don't consider the human race very happy, I think we're very limited in experience. Basically I think we need better "entertainment", experiences that deliver more positive qualia overall. Does that mean then, that nobody will want to play old video games, read old VNs? Maybe not. Perhaps new, wonderful experiences like flying around with your magic wings will give you a new insight to the world that will make you appreciate old things more. Maybe the "Life enhancing" features of new games are something you want to take a break from. For example, I enjoyed Shenmue overall more than any Retro game. Yet, I still liked playing Retro games to pass the time, within Shenmue itself. Is this weird? Maybe not.

So perhaps with VNs, it's not so much that they need to be more interactive, more beautiful in general, but that we need a few more to be that way to simulate our imaginations.

I don't think you should view Katawa Shoujo as somewhat as a disappointment. The thing is, even if you aren't making The Revolutionary VN, that doesn't make it a bad work. You don't have to be the one to make a good piece of entertainment. In fact, by making the observations while making this game, you have probably pushed someone towards making "The Revolutionary VN". I think that this is my issue with the theme of the blog post in general, yes, we do need better VNs, but that doesn't mean the VNs we have are bad. I don't think that VNs are bad compared to other mediums, it's just that while making a VN, you've become more aware of the flaws that yours and others have. If you were making movies, comics, anything, you'd feel the same way. You'd keep getting ideas for "Well why can't it be like this?"

I am involved in music, and making music, I hear more and more flaws in the music scene in general. I am tried of the lack of innovation in popular music. However, does that mean I'm going to go to a friend in a metal band and say "Hey guy, you're doing shitty music, do something more original?" Metal bands are a bit of a Cliché. But perhaps he's in a very good metal band, that pushes the envelope in ways that aren't immediately obvious.

It's hard to blame individuals for a trend. I hate the fact that most guys here cut their hair short, none of the guys I knew with long hair still have it really. This is at the end of the day down to gender roles, sexism, conformity - but can I blame any one of THEM for it? Probably not. Maybe they're all a little to blame, but you can't blame "everyone" since if it's "everyone" it can't really be a personal choice. Usually - there are some individuals, politicians, writers, celebrities who can influence and create these trends. There are individuals keeping these things going, and individuals who can change them. But knowing exactly who they are is difficult. To try and work with this, I won't blame someone for apparently conforming, but I will blame someone for celebrating conformity - i.e. if someone writes a fairly generic VN, I won't lambaste them for it, but if they start complaining about "weird" VNs, saying this is how to do a true VN and it's great, I will get pissed off at them.

Similarly it's hard to know who's to blame for a particular medium, like VNs, or music, being sub-par. Do we blame the readers, the industry, the developers, or some third party with influence in the matter?

It gets a bit of hate nowadays, but there are very few things I've read that have touched "that spot" as much as Umineko has. I think, to be fair, it's a bit of a step out of the normal VN fare too, aside from perhaps Higurashi before it(and Forest, which it supposedly nicks a few ideas from), it's not quite like most anime and the dodginess of it's anime adaption shows it. Even with the crappy art, I still enjoyed it. It was a great experience for me overall.

Another VN that touched me quite a bit was Planetarian. It was relatively short, was wordy even for it's length, possessed minimal art and no interactivity. Yet it is still seen as a "good" VN, and perhaps even a bit artsy. It's in many ways heading in the opposite direction. So why is it that it's regarded so highly? The existence of illustrated novels doesn't mean that regular books should contain illustrations. Beautiful works of art, in general, are not all that common, so having something with characters, ideas or a story that can touch you is very important. The fact that a game like Hotel Dusk exists, should not demean Planetarian for what it is. They may do a lot of things in a similar way, and be of the same or similar genre, but Planetarian should feel no pressure to be anything it isn't. Neither should Umineko, neither should Katawa Shoujo. For that reason, you can't blame it on the VNs, the ideas, themselves either.

Revolutionary ideas are not always so obvious, and something apparently rather normal could contain the seed to sprout something new. A lot of people watch the new My Little Pony cartoon, and "don't get it", and put it's popularity down to 4chan trolling. However, when you make the realisation that this is a young girls' cartoon, the perspective changes entirely. Similarly, a lot of VNs have context that people don't always get immediately, especially being of a western audience. My Little Pony by it's own doesn't necessarily push the envelope, but it suggests a lot of ideas that could lead to more prominent celebration of feminism, diversity, and acceptance in children's cartoons. You could be building part of a whole new VN experience of story telling without even realising it. Just look at how it evolved from a drawing of 5 disabled girls! This alone should prove the power of simple, apparently subtle ideas.

OELVNs are so rare to begin with, well, good ones, that Katawa Shoujo's existence is a revolution. It has touched the hearts of many people, especially the disabled even if you insist "that's not what it's about". It's celebration of humans in all kinds of conditions is a revolution for storytelling in a visual novel. It's popularity is a revolution for western visual novels. It even has a novel new rollback feature. What's not to like? No, you don't go a minigame with Rin driving tanks or something seamlessly integrated into the reading experience, or the most DEEP writing in existence. That does not make it a bad work, does not mean it's a missed opportunity. It is a great experience, and great experiences are not so simple as adding new features, cutting down on wordiness, hiring pro writers. I wish I was better at music theory, as I feel it greatly limits what I can do. But it doesn't mean what I have done so far isn't original and interesting; and throwing in weird time signatures and micro-tonal tunings doesn't guarantee it'll be made better, even if it works for someone like Wendy Carlos. Punk was a musical uprising despite being very simple. It led to post punk, which led to goth rock, alternative rock, some of the most diverse and interesting music.

I think what we need in general, are more great experiences. The revolutionary ideas you're talking about, as well as more traditionally talented writer and artists are a means to this end, or possibly a way of unlocking a whole new level. But nobody should feel bad about making something like Katawa Shoujo, because it is a work of art at the end of the day, and you should not only be proud but enjoy the fruits of your labour. Not everyone can or should be a revolutionary. By recognising the fact that we need a revolution, and feeling some amount of guilt that you didn't help bring about it, to me, that's enough. There are people out there that can do more than you guys and refuse to. But I still think you're being unfair on VNs as a whole - even if they are limited within a certain spectrum of genres in general, I don't think that means the works within or bad, or diverse in their own way. While it's a problem with "VNs", I don't think it should put you off VNs in the way it's doing.

Sorry, I really wanted to word this better... gotta stop saying Revolution.

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Re: Reach for the Stars

Post by Rocket Royal » Tue May 10, 2011 11:36 am

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Your feelings are valid, but I pretty much agree with all that was said on this topic in the blog.

A good vn needs to be well written. For most of them, take out the pictures and and the descriptions of their surroundings and the people's appearances, and you have a decent book.
The appeal of the vns are that
1. There are images
2. There are choices
3. There can be gameplay

Look at Alan Moore, writter of the Watchmen series. He opposed a movie greatly, even signing away his share of profits from the movie to the artist of the comic series. The art and writting was planned extensively. There was a lot of symbolism, and the panels were carefully laid out so that there was a symmetry through out the series. The first half had a mirrored format of the second format. The story ends as it began. The art and writing was carefully planned out. The comic was presented in a way that the pacing was important. The criticism Alan Moore had for the movie and the movie genre as a whole, is that you cannot control the pace in which you take in the material. A frame focusing on graffiti scrawled on the wall with the message "Who watches the Watchmen" Is different than a close up shot of it in a movie. You could focus on that panel for five whole minutes if you like, taking care to absorb every last detail. In a movie, you could miss it completely, or not even manage to read the whole thing.

Vn's are very similar to comics. Actually, they are too similar.Visual novels are more like what digital comics could be, if done very poorly. Literature is seen as a superior model of media compared to comics, which is why they are called visual novels or why the Watchmen is called a graphic novel series, but comics and visual novels both use the cooperation of images and text to tell a story.

Right now, the way most vn are made, the art is fairly minimalist. This is insulting to the artists at first, but I don't mean it negatively. Tetris is fairly minimalist and it's a HUGE deal as a game. Complexity for the sake of complexity is meaningless.

What direction can the vn take? Fully animated, but with text rather than audio? This would give control away from the user to go at their own pace, making it like movies. Perhaps making it like a movie with multiple choices would make it different enough from a movie or show that it would still be viable? Or would movies just take the concept of multiple choices into their own medium? Should we get 12 minute cut scenes like Metal Gear 4? It isn't an easy decision, and not one that should be consistent or uniform. Still, the fact that all these things COULD be attempted shows there is still progress to be made.

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