Thursday, May 21, 2015

Solving the disconnect between player and protagonist.

Something that I've been thinking about today, after playing through the VN "Starless".

Ignoring the fact that 80% of the H-content wasn't for me and was basically just skipped through, there was a key problem with it, and it's a problem that a lot of interactive media has.

Without spoiling too much, about 30% of the way through the story there's a moment where the protagonist is offered something, and he accepts it. Eventually, the protagonist's decision to accept the offer has consequences at the end of the game, and it's the cause of most of the game's Bad Ends unless you make the right decisions throughout the rest of it.



This would be fine, if not for the fact that at that by this point in time the protagonist should have known enough about the character making the offer to realize that accepting it would eventually lead to problems. I realized it, and I knew as much as he did about his circumstances, so why didn't he?

For me, moments like this are a huge problem, because it creates a disconnect between myself and the protagonist. And as long as there's such a disconnect, especially at such vital moments, it invalidates the resulting conflict and makes Bad-Ends feel unjustified. It makes it feel as if they were forced upon you, instead of feeling like they were a result of your choices. It's like a game with unresponsive controls, where you're character jumps into danger without your input.

So, how do you solve this? Obviously, the answer in most cases is simply "better writing". But how can you make sure that the player can act on their revelations once you've given them enough information, instead of waiting fot the in-game protagonist to do it themselves?

Phoenix Wright


The best execution I can think of are the cross examination scenes in the Phoenix Wright series.

The genius of them was that while you usually had theories: just like phoenix,  neither you nor he could prove that they were true without evidence. You had to press witness for clues and evidence, and in turn, you learned along with the protagonist.  Knowledge wasn't merely an item to be acquired by you for the protagonist to use on his own in a cutscene. Utilizing it required an understanding of the situation, and relied on your own intuition. As a result, solving problems was satisfying.

Of course, It had it's problems here and there. But when the cases were well executed, they were really well executed.

Choices in VNs, and the deceptive game.


Going back to choices in VNs, what makes a good decision?

For me, a good choice is one that relies on what you've learned from the story. How much were you paying attention to the characters? What do you know about the situation? Is this character lying? Does something seem off? In a good VN, making the right choice validates the game's conflicts, and makes the experience more satisfying, because solving a problem isn't as simple as a 50/50 chance. It's a puzzle to which you've already been given the pieces to solve, and utilizing those pieces is satisfying.

Even when you get them wrong, you should feel like "you" messed up. It should never feel like the VN itself deceived you. or gave you the wrong information. If a character deceives you and you fall for it, it should only be because you failed to utilize the information the game provided you with.

Comparing this to a normal game once again, consider the following scenarios,

1. You enter a dungeon knowing nothing about it. You enter a room, and above you is a spiked ceiling, and in the middle of the room is a chest with a bloodstain around it, Do you go open it?

2. An NPC you've never met before tells you to go get a chest in a dungeon, and assures you that he deactivated the traps. You enter the dungeon. Above you is a spike ceiling, and in the middle of the room is a chest with a bloodstain around it, Do you go open it?

3. The protagonist enters a dungeon. After seeing the trap, he goes elsewhere, and after a long section of fighting against enemies, he deactivates the trap. Once again he returns to the trap room. Do you open the chest?

Now to look back at these, Let's assume that in every one of those examples, opening the chest kills the player instantly.

1. Looking at the first choice, there are enough context clues for the player to realize that opening the chest is not a good idea.

2. In this example, while an NPC told the player that the trap is inactive, once again, it's up to the player to determine if he was lying. This depends more on execution of the NPC, or the state of the spike room.

3. In this example, the death would be inexcusable, as far as I'm concerned. The player was not deceived by a character, but by the game itself. The fact that they were paying attention to context clues and how the game worked was used against them, and invalidated their attention.

This is often done in VNs, but in a weird way. They'll take the most sensible option, and make it the wrong choice. To the point where after a while you're not accessing the situation anymore, but instead trying to guess if the VN is trying to trick you or not. It's hard to get invested in a story when the developer's arbitrary mind games are more relevant than paying attention to the world they created. The protagonist wouldn't been thinking "VNs like making the most obvious choices the wrong ones", so why should you?

Solving the disconnect.

Anyhow, Now that I've rambled on for way longer than I meant to, I'll pose the question I originally meant to. That is, how do you solve the disconnect between the player and the protagonist?

Using that previous scene in Starless as an example, how do you let the player utilize what they know in the story without bringing up a multiple choice? The thing is, not every player will realize it when something is off, and so presenting the choice itself could be seen as a disconnect. 


Well, I think Phoenix Wright's system got it....*cough*

Obviously it's not going to work to have such an involved system with evidence and whatnot throughout every game, but I think timing alone would be enough in some cases.

For example, you could have a simplified objection-esque system. One that can be activated at any time, but would only effect something if you activate it at the right moment. For this to work, the trick would be providing the player with enough information that they "Feel" as though something is off at the right moments.

Let's say that early in a story a character says,

 "The old dock? I've never been there myself, so I don't know much about it. However I know where it is so I suppose I could take you there"

And then later in the story, while at the dock, the character might say this, in the middle of a conversation,

"Look, I don't know more any more about this place than you, I haven't been here since I was a child! Unlike you, I have a job to do now."

During that line, and for a couple after it, the window would be open to trigger an event. Doing so might result in more information for the player for later events, a choice, or sometimes just a slight change in dialogue that reveals more of the story.

Of course it looks obvious when it's written side by side like that, but hints and event points would be sprinkled throughout normal dialogue, so in many cases the player wouldn't even notice if they weren't paying attention. It would also probably make sense to limit how many time the player can activate events, too, so that they can't just press it all the time.

The challenge here would be "designing" the writing so that the point of revelation and the window of opportunity is clear. That way, when the player presses the event button, they know exactly what they're pressing it for, and when to do it. (There would probably be a bit of a rewind function for dialogue)

Conditions


When timing isn't enough, in some cases you might need to make it so that the player cannot activate an event if they lack the information to do so. For example, if a character says,

"Luckily for us, no one in the company was involved in the attack, With the death of his daughter, I can't imagine how the CEO would take it. "

While the line may be an event point, you couldn't activate it unless you had encountered relevant information about it. It might be seeing a gun case in a room, talking to a character, or seeing someone go somewhere they aren't supposed to. You could also make it so that activating it at the right time without the condition has a result too, just to tell the player that there's something they could do if they can find evidence.

Of course, there would be events based on mere suspicion without conditions as well, as they would be more about timing, and paying attention to the events and characters around you. As long as it's well written, I think the player would be able to understand what using the function is going to do at any given time, the same way an "interact" button is obvious when you're in front of a door.


Anyhow, this is all just playing around with ideas. Who knows when I'll ever try such a feature. Certainly not in Noaika, as it isn't really complex enough to need it, assuming I add dialogue at all.


104 comments:

  1. You are Awesome! And i´m glad that I choosed you as my favourite! = )

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  2. Events like that always remind me of a bit in an mmo I played way back. You're doing a quest chain helping this guy yet bad things keep happening. Turns out he was using you to further his own plan, then turns against everyone. He acts like he had everyone fooled, yet I managed to figure it out early on. So while the npcs are acting surprised I'm sitting there wishing I could've stabbed him four quests ago and not have to deal with him anymore. Sadly games rarely let you deal with traitors when you want to, instead you have to wait for them to explain their plan while you sit there going, "I called this nonsense three quests ago dude, give it a rest."

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  3. As someone who loves to pick interactive fiction to the bones, I'm glad to see someone else recognize this. Even in games where the player isn't a direct avatar, there's no excuse for having a disconnect between gameplay and story. The problem isn't that the player and protagonist think differently; the problem is that the gameplay doesn't accommodate the player, which it should.

    I completely agree with the part about many choices in VNs simply being a coin toss. Fate/stay night is a good example of an inversion of this, because the combat choices were always telegraphed ahead of time with information. When you made the wrong choice and died, the game would give you the reason why, and you'd go "oh yeah, shit I forgot about that" and realize your mistake.

    There's a strange unwritten rule in dating sim-type games, where if a love interest pursues you, it's a bad flag that needs to be avoided. It's so omnipresent (even Persona 4 did it) that it's simply part of the communal lexicon, but it requires proper context. If someone who has never played that type of game before sees the choice and hasn't been given a reason *why* the player should refuse, it's completely unfair.

    To use it as an example, Persona 4 did this with Ai Ebihara and did it well, because all indications of her personality, as well as the way she asked to go out, gives the player the proper information to make an educated choice. Without context it would be unfair.

    I honestly think games with a defined protagonist (not a player avatar) have it worse, because they have to reconcile gameplay and story. Sure, we suspend some of our autonomy when playing predefined protagonists, but if something isn't allowed in gameplay because of the story, the story gets blamed and it's just as bad. Games with player avatars are at least designed to have free-roaming narratives, but scripted games have to really make sure that the story never gets in the way of the gameplay.

    Sorry for the wall of text - I get very passionate about storytelling in interactive mediums. XD
    --Nathaniel

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    1. Well, FSN did it well sometimes (Better than most) However in some scenes, they were kind of 50/50. For example, (spoilers for anyone reading), the part where you're running from Rin and must choose to go upstairs or downstairs, the part where you have to choose to remove the nail instead of attacking, the part where you have to choose to help Rin instead of Saber. The part were you then have to follow Saber instead of Rin, etc.

      As I mentioned in the response below me, though, one thing I liked about FSN is that some of the bad-ends were actually pretty awesome. In particular I love the scene where you choose to cast aside your emotions, which basically leads to Shirou going down the same path as Archer. Even in the scene where they explain your mistakes, they act very solemn about your choice. Perfect.

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    2. I remember being really bothered by the stair one when I played it. I got it right the first time, but I actually went back to see what would happen if I chose the other option. Yep, I said to myself, utter bullshit. XD

      I agree about the bad end part, and FSN didn't pull any punches. They would go all the way with your choices, showing you all the consequences and ramifications. And if it was a death end, it would be perfectly descriptive with how you died. Yeah, you jumped out of the window like an idiot, fell, broke most of your bones, and slowly bled to death. But hey, at least you called Saber!

      What I liked more about how they handled bad ends was they treated them as a collectible. Each bad end had an associated Tiger Dojo which gave the minor characters a chance to shine and was lighthearted to take the edge off of the bad end. Watching all the Tiger Dojo scenes unlocked mini-theatres and a developer's commentary once you got them all. It was a nice touch.

      Speaking of VNs and eroge, do you have any recommendations? I've found a few (Homeward was one of the best OELVNs I've ever seen in general), but most of them are mediocre. Writing a good eroge requires not only the typical good storytelling and art talent, but also an understanding of how to write (and draw) sex scenes, and I haven't found many in the English language that can do them all.

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  4. I always enjoy reading your analyses of gaming, whether h-game related or not. Whether or not I agree, they always get me thinking, and that is a good thing.

    This one is particularly relevant, though, considering my current project is a VN. And it did get me thinking more about how I want to do the choices.

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    1. Well, if there's one piece of advice I'd give you beyond what I wrote here, it's that bad-ends can actually be satisfying too. For example, there are a lot of "ends" in Fate Stay Night that are bittersweet, and sad, and in some cases they were even more satisfying than the true ends.

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    2. A VN project, you say? I've worked on a few of those (and played a lot.) I'm Kailoto on the Lemma Soft Forums - PM me if you ever feel like getting advice, I'd love to help. :D

      Fate/Stay Night is a weird one, because it's undoubtedly branching, but it's actually fairly linear overall and half of the branching choices were instant (well, relatively instant) bad ends. The game also sequences the different arcs, so you can only view the second arc after completing the first, and the third arc after the second. There were also trivial choices that added flavor text, and some of the non-trivial ones masqueraded as them.

      Because F/SN was fairly linear, it benefited greatly through scripted sequences with great writing and artwork. There was less "make choices, have encounters, answer correctly, repeat" and more "scene, scene, scene, fight! (three ways to die), repeat," so the few bad ends that weren't Emiya dying a gruesome death were treated like alternate endings. In the example that Kyrieru gives above (spoilers there, not here), there's a certain end that doesn't result in death where Emiya makes a difficult choice... and if you pick the worse of the two choices, it'll show what happens to his character as a result. It wasn't "failure" so much as it was "an alternate ending that doesn't advance the story."

      I... was trying to make a point, wasn't I? I think it was something along the lines of "different narrative paths require different ending types," but its been a bit since I started writing. XD
      --Nathaniel

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    3. I only just recently heard of Lemma Soft Forums, but thanks for the offer of help. Don't want to push my work on Kyrieru's blog, but there is a demo out just now (albeit a very early one).

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  5. I probably shouldn't have written this when I'm tired; I hit the stupid character limit thrice-over. Here's the cliff notes version for the sanity of all involved:

    1. What is this "event system" actually supposed to bring to a game? Is it merely hints or would mandatory information be hidden away in puzzles?

    2. I agree fully with your complaints of VN choices. It's a major reason why I don't bother with them any more.

    3. Is the "event system" even needed in the face of good writing? My worry is that it can prove detrimental to a good author because of game mechanics. If your game isn't built around the very idea of language-based logic puzzles, then why is the system present at all?

    4. A lot of your recent posts really feels to me like wanting to add things for the sake of adding them. K-I-S-S.

    5. This kind of event-system works well in PW because it is episodic and short. Information is routinely disposed of. How much random information will players need to remember for longer or non-episodic games? At what point does "inconsistency-hunting" risk breaking the immersion of the dialogue?

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    1. 1. It depends on the game and situation, however, using the situation in Starless as an example, it would be used to activate a decision that the player wouldn't normally have if they just let things play out. Basically, the bigger a disconnect is, the more of a difference it would make to activate an event. In other words, if there's a subtle hint that causes a huge disconnect, then the event would make a big difference, whereas if there's a subtle hint that doesn't, the event would be minor. Big events based on very subtle hints would be few, though, as most events wouldn't be based on specific lines you heard but rather conclusions you come to after connecting the dots, or vibes you get from certain characters .

      3. Sure, it's not needed if the writing is good, but do I think it could add a lot. Unlike a logic puzzle, the event system would be designed around the way the player "feels", as opposed to having evidence all the time. As a result you wouldn't need to add a lot of mechanics to support it, just normal (but calculated) writing. It would also help because it lets the player come to a conclusion themselves, as opposed to being "shown" the conclusion in a multiple choice decision.

      4.Well, like I said, this isn't something I'd do in Noaika. And the previous stuff about H-content is because it makes it a better H-game. It isn't exactly just being added for the sake of being added.

      5. As I mentioned, it's more about the disconnect and how the player feels. In a normal game with this system, there wouldn't be a lot of inconsistency-hunting, and it would be focused more on how the player feels at key points. In Starless, I had the overwhelming reaction of "why the hell would he do that?", and it wasn't based on a single fact, but rather my entire experience to that point.

      Plus, even if the game was based around inconsistency hunting, I don't think it would be too difficult to do well so long as it was well written, and well presented. For example, you could highlight small inconsistencies in dialogue by presenting the scene in a way that will make the player remember it over other less important ones.

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  6. these essays on VG design are simply fascinating! who knew that *cough* making my normal rounds on the web would lead me to leaning so much about game mechanic implementation.

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  7. all i can think of when i think of player disconnect is metal of honor war fighter. the very first choice in the game forces you to shoot some poor bastard in the back of the head. no reason to shoot him established, just shoot him. i never wanted o shoot him but to continue in the game i had to shoot him.

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    1. Reminds me of Spec Ops The Line. There's a scene where you have to use artillery on some troops, but before you do it was obvious that there were civilians there. After forcing you to do it, the characters then start going "Ohhh! What have we done!". Needless to say, it didn't exactly have the impact it was supposed to.

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    2. well there is a difference between playing as a psychopath who sees dead people and a mindless drone who kills because he was told to

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    3. My point is, the player was supposed to feel bad for killing innocent people in battle. However I didn't feel bad because I saw what the game was trying to do before they did it, and it gave me no option to not kill them.

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  8. Mamono Assault ForceMay 23, 2015 at 3:15 AM

    The unfortunate issue with playing as another person in a Visual Novel or any sort of medium is that the game gives you indirect control over a different personality than your own. Their habits and their faults come into play to cause the story to proceed in a fairly straight direction, which makes writing way easier. Unfortunately, the Main Character is never perfectly tailored to suit the personality of the player. Decisions help the player try to get more comfortable, but in the end the Main Character of the story will be the one in true control. They'll make decisions or conversational exchanges that the Player won't agree with (I personally would prefer it if all MC's uppercut any tsundere that physically abuses them, for example. But I'll never get my wish).

    And sometimes, the faults of the MC are what causes the entire story to happen. So, it becomes a difficult question of how you tailor your story to the many different personalities that will play it. For example: If I see a character that you plan on being a traitor later on, and I recognize the untrustworthy nature of them, I'd more often than not want to quickly dispose of the traitor before they have the chance to do me harm. However, if you never give me the chance to do that, and the traitor is allowed to deal the damage I had a good feeling was coming, then a disconnect has formed.

    Another, very relevant example: In Monster Girl Quest, very early on, you meet with Grenberia. She's kicking everyone's ass and you've just graduated from beating up a plant. You're offered a choice to either confront her or hide from her. My choice (the incorrect one), was to hide from her due to the fact that the game made it abundantly clear that I didn't stand a single chance in hell against her. I was treated to a bad end. I was quite enraged about that. "Why was I punished for avoiding a fight I KNEW I was going to LOSE!?" The answer is simply that a person who thinks like I do would have a very different adventure than what Luka had. I have no problem killing monster girls that literally murder people for shits and giggles, yet Luka does. Two radically different mindsets like that will form a disconnect, and it's unavoidable unless you give the player full control over all events, which is a bit hard to do I imagine, while still trying to drive an amazing narrative.

    Don't even get me started on Sengoku Rance. I found it impossible to fill the shoes of a rampant rapist.

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    1. Yeah, but something like Sengoku Rance is meant for a very specific audience. Most works are, in fact, and that's a good thing. One of the most common mistakes I see in young writers is a desire to write something that appeals to everyone. It's much better to pick something highly specific that will please a certain subset of people and make it your goal to please those people the most.

      MGQ wasn't really branching, save for a few parts - the choices were mostly there to keep things engaging. The story was on rails, save for one or two parts that let you deviate from it (and didn't immediately result in "Luka's adventure ends here.") I didn't have as much of a problem with the dissonance because I never really expected full autonomy.

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    2. @Op: Well, Monster Girl Quest is an example of what I was talking about, where it's more about predicting the dev's mindgames, or trends in VNs. In the case of MGQ, I never made the wrong choice, but that's only because I'd played enough VNs before to realize that it was more about doing what was in-character for the protagonist, rather than what you would do. Based on the character of Luka, it was obvious to me that he was going to rush into any danger to help people. Like I said though, I don't like the idea of a choice being effected by how much a person understands a medium, or the dev.

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    3. Agreed, I just cannot like Rance. People praise him for being a best male character that gets things done but in all honesty, he is just a hypocrite. I like badass people too who get shit done but don't freaking act like an animal towards the opposite sex. I hate Rance and hence I detest those games.

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    4. I think in most cases Rance is a character you're meant to love to hate. I don't really think that they actually mean for you to identify with him much. Usually he behaves in a way that's intentionally over-the top for the sake of comedy, and he's this sort of unpredictable element that does what most sensible people wouldn't.

      That's why I can stomach Rance, but not the sort of "revenge rape" games you see every so often.

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  9. I'd like to approach this from a slightly different angle. Watching a protagonist make a horribly wrong decision can be grating--but it's much easier to swallow when you understand *why* they're doing it. If you give a player carte blanche to explore the world as they please, and a standard variety of dialogue options, then of course they're going to project themselves into the game, and suffer a disconnect when the protagonist does something way out of characrer--out of character for the PLAYER.

    A much better path is setting the player up from the get-go: introduce their alter ego, give the character plenty of chances to establish their identity and world-view, AND THEN REINFORCE IT with dialogue choices. If the main character is supposed to be a woman-hating drunk, there shouldn't be any nice dialogue options when talking with a woman, nor a choice that doesn't involve drinking. Even if the player knows an action is a bad idea, they should completely understand why the character is doing it anyway.

    If you wanted to get really fancy, of course, a perfect game would adjust all the dialogue and stories and events to match the player's style, as the game itself learned what kind of character the player wanted to play. :P

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    1. Oops. I meant to say, "a choice that involves *refusing* to drink."

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    2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I think the scene in Starless wouldn't have bothered me so much if the character had at least brought up the possibility I was foreseeing, but rationalized why he wasn't worried about it. The fact that it wasn't brought up and all made it feel like the writer thought it was going to be a twist, which just made it feel that much more forced.

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  10. You do realize that Eroico came out in May of 2013 right?

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  11. Once again I really enjoyed reading your post about game mechanics. I would really like to see this system In one of your future games.

    And to add my own two cents: I believe Noaika would be better of without dialogue. Maybe some logs that tell you about the history of the place you are in but no actual NPC conversation.

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  12. Clearly the solution is to make a hentai version of Phoenix Wright.

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    1. Rule 34 mate. I'd look for it, but I'm afraid.

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  13. VN's are like erotic novels with Game Over screens, and they really don't have to be that way. I think it may be due to the egos of the writers who think their story is interesting enough to keep players engaged who are more or less just along for the ride. Sometimes I think the developers made it a VN just to add more to the price tag, because CG sets don't sell as much as games go, and the only one who cares about the writing is the author himself.

    I'm not sure if that's a japanese thing or universal, I haven't read too many english-made VN's.

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    1. Well... there certainly are some that are like that, but I think a majority of the eroge in the Japanese market plays the same role as the less erotic galge and dating sims, in that they're designed to fill the gap of deep, interpersonal relationships; eroge just add in titillation and sex scenes as an extra incentive.

      I mean really, 90% of the eroge I've played is some variant of the "choose a love interest to pursue." It's a common format because it allows games to appeal to wider audiences and ties in with merchandising, like fan discs and plastic models. And despite the homogeneity of the content, it still holds worth - Shuffle! was predictable and unexceptional, but it was still fun.

      English eroge tend to follow the same rules and patterns, because most of the people writing them are using the Japanese ones they've played as reference. The writing tends to be a bit worse, but the content has the same value.

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    2. I know it sounds cliche, but when I play visual novels I tend to just skip sex scenes. Generally I'm there for the story, and I've played quite a few visual novels that were pretty engaging. It helps that I'm a sucker for cheesy love stories, but there are a lot of visual novels that are much more than that.

      Also, keep in mind that we only see a fraction of the VNs that actually exist, since we only see what gets translated,

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    3. There's some eroge that I play for the story, and some that I play for the sex. Usually you can tell the difference by the ratio of story to sex scenes; stuff like nukige, or simply games with a crapton of sex scenes, only hold worth as erotic material. The games that do have a story and narrative, I'll watch the sex scenes, but it's really more a consummation of the relationship between the characters, and I don't "get involved," so to speak.

      I'd agree with you on the translated part except that I've seen the release schedules for Japanese VNs and PC games, and believe me when I say yes, an incredible amount of games are the galge type.

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    4. Oh, of course a lot of them are. I'm just saying that even if it's something like 5% of 100, then you're still going to have more to choose from if it's 5% of 1000.

      I agree on the relationship part. To the point where when a sex scene comes out of left field for another reason, it's kind of awkward (though there are some stories where it makes sense).

      There haven't been many cases where I read the text during sex scenes, although there are some cases where there's a little bit of the story in them. Honestly, I actually found the sex scenes in Starless kind of interesting to read for about the first 30% of the game, since they sort of went hand in hand with the game's story. That didn't last long though -__-

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  14. I dunno man, Japanese games are just so derivative and English VN's are just anime geeks "trying to do more of the same". I wish someone would make a solid title like Ky described, that doesn't try to be a japanese VN.

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    1. Shit, that was supposed to be a reply to the guy above.

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    2. I don't think I'd call it derivative, per-se, it's more like they re-use character archetypes in certain genres in order to bring them a sense of familiarity, and from there it becomes more about what's beneath the surface. They can also use your expectations against you to do something you don't expect.

      As for VNs in general, it's like any other genre. If you compare one VN to another, there are a lot of nuances that can make one far superior to another. But if you look at them as a whole, it doesn't seem like there's much of a difference. Same tends to go for shooters, Mobas, MMORPGS, RPGs, etc. Development costs have a lot to do with trends in VNs, as well. Writing is one thing, but hiring Voice actors for a fully voiced game is something else entirely.

      I think it's fine to draw from Japanese VNs, it's just that not every VN has to try to be like a romance VN, because that's not going to work for every story. For example, I'd probably take a lot of cues from Thief and Sword, or Radical Dreamers on the Snes, if I were making a VN.

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    3. I know what you mean, but English VNs are finally starting to branch out... for a while, during the formative years, a vast majority of the stories were set in Japan, and featured typical Japanese characters and tropes. There's still a lot that do, but nowadays we're also starting to see people that aren't afraid to do away with the Japanese setting entirely, something that I more than welcome.

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    4. Got any examples? I've pretty much lost hope and would love to see what you mean.

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    5. Christine Love made some fantastic visual novels - Digital: A Love Story was the first one that gained popularity, but there's been a few others she's made in the same vein. If you're more for the dating sim type, there was Re: Alistair++, which was a well-polished otome that was expanded after the initial release.

      It's also worth noting that while there's been a lot of mediocre VNs set in Japan, there have been a few standout ones... most obvious is Katawa Shoujo, but Homeward was another good EVN. Oh, and I should mention that pretty much everything I've mentioned is freeware, so there's that.

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  15. I know the article became about something else, but at the start there you mentioned how you couldnt feel in-tune with the character because he wasn't made for you. The author tried to force you to be someone you didnt want to be and you could not enjoy the game because of it.

    I just want to say, welcome to how women feel every time we're forced to play a male character in a game, or in the case of porn games, are forced to play a female character that panders to straight males.

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    1. Uh oh, that sounds familiar.

      I very much disagree with the idea of self insereting as the protagonist unless the game is especifically designed like that (like skyrim), you're not being forced to self-insert in 90% of games, you are only "forced" to guide them through their own stories most of the time. Also, the vast majoriorty of porn games are targeted and purchased by men, it's no surprise the characters would be appealing to men.

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    2. It's not that they forced me to be someone I didn't want to be, it's that I felt the protagonist acted out of character based on what had been established in the story. There was a disconnect not only between myself and the character, but what I felt he should have known.

      As for being forced to play as a male, or a female character in a game that appeals to males, I think those are different matters entirely.

      To set the stage; For me at least, the traits that allow me to empathize with a character and put myself in their shoes aren't really based on gender. I read Shoujo, and in the case of VNs, I've played a few where you're romancing guys. Is the protagonist interesting? Does she make decisions that make sense? Is she well written? That's what matters to me. I can put myself in the shoes of a character who is attracted to guys (Even though I'm not), because that's who she is, and I empathize the traits that aren't gender specific. Of course, what would be annoying is if the protagonist was romancing a bland, poorly written character that was merely there as “the romance option of the opposite gender”, but I don't really think that's a matter of gender so much as bad writing. There are plenty of games I've played where the male protagonist loved a bland, undeveloped female character simply because he needed a love interest.

      In the case of playing as a female character in a game meant for guys, I think universal disconnect still applies. There's a disconnect if a character suddenly becomes submissive or weak in a way that's out of character. Even if you're a guy playing as a female character, not everybody wants the same thing. Is the character submissive, or strong willed? Is she the kind of person who would be sexually aggressive but would beat the living shit out of a rapist? If it feels like suddenly a character you empathized with is behaving differently just to appeal to someone else, there's going to be a disconnect regardless of your gender.

      Of course, this whole universal disconnect thing doesn't rule out simple differences in sexual preferences. The same way a girl may not want to play as a submissive female protagonist (and therefore feel a disconnect) , I don't like to play games where you play as a rapist, whether or not the protagonist is male or female, and in the case of a Shoujo or romance VN, I wouldn't want the protagonist to be submissive.

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    3. As much as I want to, I'm not going to comment on your "this is how women feel" stance because you got there by misunderstanding the point of the journal. A good tl;dr summary would be that "Ky is frustrated when the MC knows less than what an MC -should- know, and wishes there were more opportunities for the players to use what they know to help the MC figure it out. That way, if the player didn't know something, they won't feel bad if the MC doesn't know it. But when the MC has as much information as the player, yet the MC is an idiot and the player is left banging their head on the desk over it in frustration, it cheapens the experience and kills immersion."

      You read only part of what Ky said before posting. It happens, just try reading the whole thing first.

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. As an honorable mention you probably should try out 999 and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.

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  17. I want to add to the discussion by just bringing up something that I'm not sure I understand the reasons behind: why are Visual Novels considered games instead of books? I haven't played Starless myself (looks like an H-focused game with fetishes I'm not interested in and a bad story), so I'll talk about others instead.

    You need only go through a work like either of the No Naku Koro Ni novels, or Tsukihime, or Fate/Stay Night, or many others, to realize that there is little to nothing regarding being a game. There is a story that is being told, there are pre-established characters, including the main protagonist, with a personality of their own rather than being any sort of player avatar. All characters, including the protagonist, move on their own and make their own decisions. There is some small degree of interactivity in the sense that you can make choices (not all VNs have choices, though), but a branching narrative does not necessarily imply a game - it's a new age of books, where we can implement that kind of thing in the software rather than relying on clunky "if you X, turn to page 87" from the old CYOA books.

    The gameplay in a full VN is minimal. There is nothing to do but click forward to turn the page, and on occasion make a decision (that should provide a proper branching point or else be an attempt to allow the reader to better place himself in the PoV character's shoes). Higurashi is excellent, and there is not a single choice to be made - all you do is read, and maybe think about the mystery on your own. It's a book, no matter how I look at it.

    Now, there ARE games that are typically touted as VNs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is one you mentioned, 999 and Zero Escape, Dangan Ronpa, or Sengoku Rance, are all similar examples. These are clearly games - they have mostly gameplay, interspersed with speaking sections to advance the story. The story can be important, even good, but they have more than just a decision point to force the viewer into action. It has other things typically considered part of a game, like increasing challenge, or a 'failure state'.
    There are others that straddle the line a little more carefully. For instance, Princess Waltz was mostly just text, no decision points, and a card minigame used for battle sections. The minigame lacked depth (and challenge) seemed to be there more to provide an excuse at "gameplay" than to add in anyway to the story. Why not cut out the gameplay and make it a straight book(VN)? I see no reason to not consider these as 'mixed media' or 'multimedia' wherein a book is combined with a game. It even applies to more gameplay-focused examples like PW:AA above.

    So, no, the protagonist does not need to be you, the audience. It should connect with you, but I hardly think we all read Lord of the Rings and said "no I totally would have thrown away the ring first chance, fuck going to Mordor!" and then expected either 1. that Frodo necessarily acts or thinks the way I do, or 2. that he should be offered the option to do what I want to do. It should endeavour to make you understand why Frodo made the decision he did, and allow you to place yourself in his shoes.

    As for something like"it's that I felt the protagonist acted out of character based on what had been established in the story. There was a disconnect not only between myself and the character, but what I felt he should have known." That's not a fault of being a Visual Novel, or a fault of player engagement (or lack thereof). That's just bad writing. If the decision is necessary to the story, then there's no need to make it a choice (unless you want it to lead to a bad ending, a la Type-Moon, or multiple 'true' endings, a la dating VNs). If the decision does not make sense within the story itself, well, that's just bad writing.

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    1. Well, one way to look at it is,
      Is there a failure state?
      Is there challenge?
      Do you have some degree of control? (any at all)

      The kind of suspense you feel when going through a visual novel with a lot of bad ends isn't really something I've ever felt in a book. It's the sense of "did I do the right thing?" that makes it "feel" like a game, to me. That said, not every VN is like that, however with certain VNs they just feel more like something you're interacting with, however little, as opposed to something you're just reading,

      As for protagonists and such, I wasn't saying that the protagonist has to be you. What I'm saying is that if in LOTR Frodo establishes himself as a certain type of character, and I become invested in that character, then he shouldn't act in a way that irrationally contradicts that, because it's just as much of a disconnect. Even if a character does something I wouldn't, there isn't as much of a disconnect if they can at least rationalize what they were thinking, and in some cases you can utilize that by doing something that seems out of character but then makes sense later.

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    2. Oh boy. The flame war-inducing question that polarizes writers and gamers alike. Should a visual novel be considered a game?

      The first thing I'd like to say is that a VN is never a book. The fact that VNs do in fact have images and sound means that you cannot classify them as a book, or even a digital book, because they rely on completely different mediums to convey a story. Some VNs are linear like a book, but movies are also linear, as are TV shows. So no, they are definitely not books.

      But that's not the real question, is it? It’s whether VNs are more game-like than they are book-like. I think no one would argue with me if I called a visual novel "interactive fiction," but the moment I slap a label on one and call it a game, people start to get offended.

      And I can spout off as much biased bullshit as I want (because I love VNs), but that doesn't mean I'm right. It doesn't mean that I'm wrong, either. Rather, when we start to argue about whether or not VNs are games, we're no longer arguing about visual novels themselves - we're arguing over the definition of the word "game." And the easiest way to create a pointless argument is to argue over semantics.

      However, you've made a more specific claim, and one that I can actually refute with evidence. If VNs are so similar to books, why don't we treat characters in them the same way we do in books? If books can have unique protagonists and no one gets upset, why can't we do the same for visual novels? Well, as someone who writes visual novels, I can tell you.

      Most VNs have some degree of choices offered. (The ones that don't are called kinetic novels, and they are the exception to this rule.) The idea behind offering choices to the player is so that the player can feel like they have some amount of influence over the story, and also so that the story can explore different scenarios and endings depending on what choices you pick. It's important to remember that regardless of what protagonist exists on the screen, it is the player that is directly making the choices.

      Now note here that choices aren't simply splitting paths for the story - they're gameplay inputs. Whether or not you believe that VNs as a whole can be considered games, there's no arguing that the act of making a choice is gameplay-motivated. The player wants to see a certain ending, or a certain scene, or just wants to express themselves. And so choices have to be designed to not only make sense within the story, but to be effective as gameplay inputs. And the key to that is knowing when choices should be offered to the player, and what choices should be offered.

      So when writing a protagonist of a VN, you should make them unique and well-defined, just like in a book. But you also have to make allowances for when and how that character can deviate from your "ideal," as the player should be given the option to choose to do things that your perfectly scripted protagonist would not. Again, in VNs where there are no choices, or where wrong choices end in Game Over screens, this doesn't apply.

      To bring it back to the example that Kyrieru provided in the OP: there was a moment when Kyrieru felt that he should have input but did not. That is not just bad writing - that's bad VN writing, and it's something that a book author never has to deal with. Frodo was always written in a way that meshed with the story because Tolkien never had to consider whether or not the reader should be able to deviate from that path. It's a book, and that's how books work. Not visual novels, though.

      I'd also like to point out that as someone who has written both regular and visual novels, the difference between the two is night and day. From a writing perspective, VNs share a lot more in common with games than they do with books. I get that not everyone views them from that perspective, so I'm unwilling to push my definition onto others. I just feel like it's worth mentioning.
      --Nathaniel

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    3. This is the guy who wrote the original comment; thanks for your response Nathaniel.

      The original comment was to be honest a bit rushed (was almost late to work for it, too), so admittedly, I skipped over quite a bit and offered some almost unrelated examples as 'evidence' of sorts.

      I would agree with you when you say a visual novel is not, in fact, exactly a book. Rather, I was attempting to argue that it is more book-like than it is game-like. "Interactive Fiction" is a great label and all, but much too vague to define visual novels as separate from either games or books, and does carry the connotation that is closer to a game (which is interactive, and fictional) than a book (which is non-interactive, and on occasion mostly-nonfictional). The problem is definitely the fact that a "game" is so badly defined, as things stand, that there's plenty of arguments whether some things (outside VNs) are even games or not (e.g. Totalbiscuit's rant about Dear Esther not being a game - Kyrieru alludes to this same thing above with the idea of challenges and failure states).

      As someone who is not a writer, though I have attempted to begin writing a book novel, I defer to your experience regarding writing for VNs and books, and how they differ from each other. I particularly liked your note about bad VN writing where Kyrieru feels he should have been offered a choice and was not - certainly not something a book author needs to deal with, and a very interesting consideration.

      I will also, then, say that from a reader's perspective, and I say this as someone who has read his fair share of books, and played his fair share of games, but is hardly the end authority on either, I personally feel they are much closer to books. This is certainly something that might change if I attempted writing VNs, books, and games (but boy is that a lot of experience I need). Chances are if I wrote a VN, I would likely write a kinetic novel - maybe disguised as a regular one, maybe not, because I live for the story first and foremost (even in games, the story/world is only barely secondary to the gameplay/mechanics for me).
      I must assume this is also what makes me question the idea that choices are necessarily gameplay-motivated inputs. Maybe there's something I'm missing in what you tell me in that paragraph, but I don't feel that has to be true. I'll defer to your experience here, and give it some good thought later.

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    4. Well, I had originally written more on the topic of inputs, but I ran into the character limit, so I guess I'll try to explain what I meant here.

      First is to separate the player from the protagonist. It seems like an obvious distinction, but it's important to consider because what the protagonist wants and is thinking in a scene is far different from what a player wants and thinks. Sure, there are times when they overlap, but most of the time, the player is looking at things very differently than how the protagonist does.

      For example, say you are playing a galge and have an encounter with a female. The protagonist will be motivated by whatever makes sense for the scene - if he got ran over by the girl, then he's probably angry and trying to berate her. But the player is not. Rather, most players will realize that this female character is probably a heroine, and will start to look for a path to enter her arc. If a choice comes up, the player will pick whichever one they think will bring them closer to that goal - or further away, if they are trying to avoid it.

      Even flavor text has this meta level of decision-making. If it's a trivial choice that doesn't affect anything in the long run, and the player understands that, then he or she will pick whichever choice seems most interesting to them - maybe the one that features their favorite character, or the one that's the most funny. The point is that the player is acting on motivations that the protagonist does not have.

      Proper VN writing reconciles the two. In a good VN, a player choice is indistinguishable from a protagonist choice, because doing otherwise would lead to dissonance. That's why choices in dating sims are more obvious (spend time with character A or B?), while story-based games tend to be more obscure. In dating sims, the choice is how the player expresses their intent, and there is less reason to mask that intent (as it's a given that the intent is to pursue character A or B.) In a more story-based game, the writer wants to obfuscate the player choice, because if they acknowledge it it’ll break the immersion.

      That's why I say they're closer to games than any other medium - they have to design the player's intentions right into the script. Books, TV shows, movies, comics, manga, anime, music, paintings, spoken word - none of the other mediums through which stories are told have to take that into account. None except games, that is.

      And VNs are sort of a spectrum in and of themselves. A kinetic VN is closer to a book than a game, while dating sims with specific stats are clearly brethren to games. The ones that are in the middle - the ones that offer choices and different outcomes but aren't stat-based - sort of straddle the line, keeping the core of games (player agency) while discarding the rest.

      I can see what you mean by VNs feeling more like books than games, I really do. They're valid claims, and I won't pretend to have any sort of arbitration over the matter; heck, I don't really care one way or another if they're considered games, because the value of VNs isn't contingent on them fitting in to that category.

      Anyways, I'm glad to have this discussion; you bring up some valid points. It's always nice to have a real exchange over the internet.
      --Nathaniel

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  18. Simple question
    When will You ever release a game again?
    2020? 2030?

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  19. The post is very interesting and I get the idea you are trying to convey. I have to say that the majority of Japanese hgames including "starless" are like fast food to me. Their production cycle focuses on picture and voice. Player experience was rarely cared. On the other hand, games like PW are expected to deliver much better player experience judging from the production cost and the brand. If you want better quality VN games, you can check companies like Nitroplus and Innocent Grey.

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    1. Not a fan of Innocent Grey. The quality is there, but the stories are too dark/graphic for me. I played Kara No Shoujo, got to a point where a character is brutally killed with no way to prevent it, and was just like "Nope!". I can handle dark or depressing things if it's presented in a way that's bitter-sweet, or really dramatic, but otherwise it just leaves a bad taste.

      As for VNs in general, I try just about everything that get's translated.

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    2. The first innocent grey game I played was カルタグラ~ツキ狂イノ病~. There was a sweet girl, 凛, brutally killed. I tried every single possible route to save her but failed. Then, I stopped playing that game. One year later, I got bored and continued playing the game. After seeing the true end, I didn't feel bad anymore. This is life, you just cannot get everything you want no matter how hard you try. The most important thing is to figure out things worth trying and work through it. I played every IG game util Karo no shoujo 2. The ending is happy and satisfying. It filled many holes from the previous games.

      If you really don't want to see people die, there are some alternatives which I think is also pretty good, e.g. Devil on G string and other games from that company, white album 2 from elf. At least you can see significant amount of effort was made to polish the story.

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    3. I have no problem with characters dying, but it's all in how it's handled.

      In many visual novels and stories in general, when characters die, they’ll often focus more on “why” they died, and the impact it will have on the characters around them. Through text, and through the music, a death scene can make the player want to see something through until the end, because it feels like there’s something left for them there. Even if there are short bad-ends that are gruesome, they add suspense, and are more of an obstacle to overcome in pursuit of the best outcome. The outcome doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s up to the presentation to make you want to get there.

      Using an anime as an example, I once watched an anime where many key-characters died throughout the show. However, each death had emotional and cinematic impact, and acted as a sort of climax to that character’s arc, and served also as character development for the protagonist. It was sad every time, but in a way that was distinctly bittersweet, and made you want to keep watching.

      In the Kara No Shoujo, It's very graphic, and where one visual novel might focus on what's "sad", KNS focused on what was "horrific". In a way, it's a horror story, so of course it's meant to give the player a sense of dread, and that's fine. However, when my gut reaction to something is “fuck that”, and it leaves me with a bad taste. Why would I play it?

      You mentioned how we can’t always get what we want in life, but that’s sort of the beauty of fiction. We can play whatever we want, and stop whenever we want. Horror doesn’t need to be enjoyable for everyone, after all, why should it be? For some, the ending will be well worth the journey. However for me, I can’t help but fixate on the bad, and a bittersweet ending wouldn’t be enough for it to be worth what it took to get there.

      Again, it’s all about how it’s handled. Case-in-point, in that anime I mentioned; It was one of the best I had ever seen...up until the final episode, in which every character that was killed (brilliantly) was brought back to life, invalidating the whole thing. I’m not always looking for a happy ending, just one that leaves me satisfied.

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  20. ahhhhhhhhhhh been waiting years for your new games!

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  21. I was NEET many moons back on a MMORPG called Ultima Online. It was one of the first of the genre and was just one giant sandbox. It had a quest system but not really as elaborate as current standard, in my opinion it was actually a good thing because the game didn't rely on a fixed story and let players just make their own story right off the bat.

    To me this was the only time I could actually feel like the character was my "own".

    Anytime you create a linear story the player will be forced into playing along with the decision, dialog and personality that, that character makes for better or worse. It can't really be helped as AI is still in it's infancy, and creating a game so open ended would be epic in scale even if the idea is simple.

    It's not necessarily a bad thing that the player is forced into the characters skin. One of the good things about a linear story is that it puts you in a completely different situation in someone else shoes, taking you away form your own (boring) life and "experience" something different.

    The best way, in my opinion to prevent the player from getting frustrated and what not is to make the bad ends/choices elaborate enough to, at the very least keep the player engaged in the story enough not to care about making a "bad/unfamiliar" choice.

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  22. I don't understand what is taking you so darn long! What is taking you so long! You should be GLAD people have paid you in ADVANCE and even ANTICIPATE the release of your production! FEEL THE PRESSURE~! PERFORM AND PRODUCE THE GAME FOR US ALREADY!

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    1. Well He's smart
      He'll give You post b8 time to time to make sure He's still alive
      But as for the work progress
      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha , lol XD

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  23. This is taking long...

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  24. If the Noaika we all played in the demo got pregnant.

    She'd be about ready to give birth by now.

    No, really. Games are great, turnover not so much. You can do it :D

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    1. Uh oh.
      -How can I overlook this joke.
      -anyone interesting to draw this and share.

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  25. Normally I wouldn't have an issue with what's going on, as an indie developer myself I understand it can take a long time to work on a game and deadlines are pretty much an impossible concept with indie development; however, understand that you have taken peoples' money in advance. You are constantly posting irrelevant game essays and thoughts and playing other things instead of communicating with your fans who have not only supported you for so long, they paid you.

    I'll be blunt, you need to sort yourself out and get your act together and be more transparent with your fans. You're gonna be in super hot water if you don't end up reimbursing them soon as as far as anyone knows you gave up on your project. You could say otherwise, but there's nothing to show for it. There's no demos, visual updates, anything anymore. Just these essays every few weeks that have nothing to do with your game.

    Stop thinking so much, stop thinking about what will make your game better, and if you get any new fancy ideas, cut them out. What matters now is your current product. Save the thinking after your game is done and stop inflating it with so many ideas. Just get to work and get things done, or else you won't end up having a fanbase or support anymore.

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    1. I've talked about the game's content a few times, I just haven't shown much visually. Other than early on when I'm first putting together an idea/demo for a game, I've never been one to show off a game's graphics before the game is released.

      As for my posts about game development and whatnot, they're little more than what random thoughts are on my mind at the time and an attempt to come to a more cohesive conclusion. Calling them essays is giving them a bit too much credit. An hour or two every couple weeks to make a post is hardly something that's going to affect development, and there's no reason why I should limit my blog to progress reports and release info.

      As for reimbursing the 200 or so people who pre-ordered the game. I've already offered refunds to anybody who wants them, and pretty much anyone who pre-ordered is going to get (at least) one additional free game after Noaika is completed. From the get-go, I never gave a release date, an ETA, or even an estimate as to how much content I will add (Other than that it's more than my two previous games combined).

      In other words, it will be done when it's done. Until then, you can ask for a refund if you want, and I'll be happy to give it to you. If people eventually lose interest because it takes too long, or come to hate me because I’m not updating enough, then that's fine. I don't need players to be fans. Whether they buy the game day one, months later, or even pirate the game, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters to me is that they enjoy it when they play it.

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    2. Hi. I gave Ky double-payment when he first started taking money. Don't tell him what he "needs to do" for my sake. If we who have given payment start to have a problem with the delays, we'll talk to him about it. Personally speaking, I don't need some asshole like you hassling him on my behalf, especially if you never gave him money. I'm not asking him to rush because I paid, so don't tell him he needs to rush because I paid. Know your place and quit talking for other people.

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    3. I paid for this game when he asked for help because I know it'll be good, and more than anything I want to see it done. Would I like the game to be done now? Hell yeah I would, but $5 to pay for a game I want to see done, and I know will take some time, is totally worth it.

      I've spent more money on games I hardly play, and I've waited even longer for games that cost me a heck of a lot more.

      I always ask myself when waiting for games. Would you rather see it done now, or would you rather it be fantastic when it finally comes out?

      Also, there's no need to come in and be an ass when everyone already knows that the game will be done when it is done and they only paid for it early because they were given the choice and said hell yeah. If they didn't want to pay early then they didn't.

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    4. It's not a matter of rushing, it's a matter of not doing anything. If people want to asskiss and throw their money into a garbage bin, by all means you're more than welcome to. What's being asked is to be more transparent and show some actual work, like most developers. It's an all too common theme in development such as this that the moment a developer receives payment in advance, they get incredibly lazy and stop working. He can take as long as he wants, so long as he actually shows he's working on something, which I don't see happening.

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    5. There's no correlation between how much I show off, and how much content I'm making. Whether you accept it or not, the fact is that I don't like spoiling content, and I also don't like releasing extremely iterative demos. It messes with the player's perception of the game, as well as the difficulty curve. I want players to play my game not knowing what to expect.

      So..you can be annoyed with my progress all you want, but it's not going to effect my stance on previews, and it certainly isn't going to affect my current circumstances (Would be great if it did..). Trust me when I say I look forward to finishing this game more than anyone else.

      That said, while I gave no release date in the beginning, I still should have been more clear about the potential development time when I took pre-orders. Beyond that, however, at no point did paying me entitle people to total transparency about my life, or even the game's development. They paid for a product, and they'll get that and more.

      ------
      As for anyone else, don't take it personally when people get pissed at me. The game is taking forever and it's understandable that people get annoyed when "impatience" stops being a valid word to describe a perceived lack of progress.

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    6. It's not so much me disliking that fact that he's unhappy; it's that he's being an asshole to someone he never paid. He's being an altruistic dick and taking it upon himself to "shame you as a fellow indie game developer" for OUR sake, when we're just fine. And now he's doubling-back and calling us ass-kissers when we don't all jump up and agree with him. He's an idiot who thinks he's better than you or us by knowing what's best for you and us.

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    7. Well, I'm apathetic to the game at this point since there's never any progress but I understand where he's coming from. My hype died after the whole preorder mess but I'm happy to see that Kyrieru knows that people might pirate this game because of the development.

      A word of advice, saying that you're fine with people hating you and pirating the game, but in another post mentioning that you depend on sales is a problem. If you really need to sell to work in more games then consider leaving a screenshot or a random gif on your blog just to keep interest on the game without spoiling things, It won't kill the game for players as you say.

      You also mentioned having problems neglecting work, consider neglecting the public (or your fan base if that's what you want to call it) one of those problems too.

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    8. There's always progress, I'm just not showing it off. Stop equating inactivity on this blog to a lack of actual work.

      When I said it doesn't matter if some people pirate the game, it's also because it wouldn't be enough for working as an H-dev to be unprofitable. Even if every English player pirated the game because they were pissed off, I would still make enough from DLsite to make a good living.

      I don't neglect the public. I respond to most comments, and all emails. However, It's not my responsibility to do whatever the public wants. My responsibility is to deliver Noaika to those who have pre-ordered it, under the conditions that were laid out at the time.

      Other than that, it's my responsibility to support previous works, and make sure that anyone who has a problem get's either help, or a refund because it's a problem that I can't fix.

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    9. a bit of PR savvy doesn't hurt, though. There's a reason why other game companies do it - it works.

      if you are making games as a labor of love (and you probably are), then that's one thing - but when it comes to developing games as a profession, it behooves you to listen to the market.

      that is to say, people who come here and take the time out of their day to read your blog and post comments, and maybe even give you some of their money.

      Maybe you can't see it that way. Maybe you see yourself as the protagonist of, say, Denpa Kyoushi. But for your own sake don't try to re-invent the wheel. You may want to reconsider supporting yourself off of game development if you're not interested in the things that keep your customers happy.

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    10. I do want to make customers happy. However it's not my job to do whatever customers want. There are practical reasons why I don't constantly update demos, and there are practical reasons why I don't post previews past the demo. If you can't accept that, then you're out of luck.

      In terms of keeping customers happy otherwise, there are some things that I plan on doing in the future. For example, I want to try making some individual H-scenes weekly, and release them for free. Think Zone animations, except it's pixel art, with sounds and everything. I'll either put it down to a vote what the content is (could be based on a game, or anime, etc), or I'll just run through the list of fan content I'd like to make.

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  26. so...how much is done now?

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    1. More than the last time someone asked me that question -__-

      Easily more content than both of my previous games combined is "done", however there's also a lot of stuff that's only partially complete, or not done yet, since I'm sort of jumping from task to task. Music in particular leaves me with a lot of incomplete work that's difficult to finish.

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    2. Krecksterino,

      I realize you aren't reliant on these creations to pay your bills (or are you?, you have posted on it previously but it's a bit ambiguous and none of our business i guess), but I would suggest you consider some rigidity and self-rule-setting to better achieve your aims.

      You easily have the potential to turn this into a full-time and succesful venture; your games are the gold standard of quality in terms of polish and gameplay-quality. You, however, probably do lose a great number of fans/buyers out of your supremely apathetic and lackadaisical(sp?) approach to deadlines and timeframes.

      I'm not complaining, nor am I in the camp of people 'calling you out' on your slow progress.

      I'm speaking from a business solubility perspective. You have a great product. Have you considered / you should consider having an actual business plan and/or enforcing timing standards on yourself. With the quality of product you are capable of putting out, it's a shame to see you so in shambles in terms of PR and actual financial viability, purely due to poor time management and general artist-block.

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    3. I am reliant on my games to pay my bills. Sometimes I'll do small commissions, but that's not very often. (Though I will have to do some more side work soon)

      As for my plans; Don't worry, I won't be moving at this pace forever. I just want to finish a normal sized game (not short like Kuro) for once without burning myself out before it's finished. Thus why I'm taking it so slow, and doing some of the things I've been neglecting over the past two years. People hate hearing that, but that’s how it is.

      After Noaika, there are a few things I plan on doing.

      The first thing I need to do is become more consistent, both financially and in terms of work ethic. For that, I want to make a game series that's designed from the beginning to be iterative (like how megaman handles sequels).

      With previous games, I started from scratch every time, and so there was always a degree of unpredictability. I’d start a game like Noaika with one intention, and it would become something entirely different within a month. I need a series that I can return to with confidence and work on without worrying about the underlying mechanics. Something I can use to improve the design process itself. Of course, the other point of an iterative game is that it would act as a sort of form of financial stability, filling the gap between more unpredictable projects.

      With the first game of it’s kind, I’d be focusing on adopting a more consistent work schedule. In the beginning, I’d work slowly (though faster than I am now), and then gradually increase the number of hours I work per day, until I’m working full time again. After that game is complete, if all goes well, I’ll begin the sequel immediately, again, with the goal of becoming more consistent.

      After that point, I’m not sure. After Noaika I’ll be fine, financially, but even if it takes a year to make the two iterative games, money would be a non-issue at that point. I have dozens of ideas for games, so chances are I’ll work on whatever feels right at the time.

      If I’m able to become consistent, once I have more money I’ll start thinking about hiring other people. Until then, however, I still want to focus on improving myself first.

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  27. Noaika bug found, appears to have been caused by squid attack hitting after sex scene ended getting player up immediately. Next enemy attack looks to have been a player down grapple instead of the normal attack/knock-down causing two players to be on screen camera went back and forward between the two both would shoot neither would punch and movement was slowed. One showed signs of trying to start the H-animation but being over written by character stand animation. Looked to be soft locked so I closed out. I can email the screen shot to you if you want it.

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    1. Ah yes, the good-ol two player glitch -__-

      Seems like I always run into that one sooner or later. I think it's probably fixed at this point though, since it doesn't work exactly the same way anymore. It should be impossible for there to be two player objects. (it's still possible on the demo here, of course.)

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  28. Hey, Kyrieru? I sent an email to the address on the sidebar, but I read that you've had some trouble with email in the past so I thought it might be smart to to comment here where I know you're active.

    I would very much like to speak with you. Assuming you haven't, please check your email. I think we can help one another.

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    1. This ought to be rich. Please tell us as well what services you can offer.

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    2. He just wanted to write an article about something >_>

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    3. I accept my title of presumptuous asshole then.

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    4. Not an asshole, just presumptuous -__-

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    5. Clearly your two previous games don't mean dick about your ability as a game dev, and you need people to tell you how to work harder and manage your time better (by posting more often on a blog). Maybe after your fifth game they'll realize that bigger games take longer to make, but I wouldn't count on it.

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    6. Not sure why my post went here. This belongs elsewhere. With the people telling you that you need to work harder and manage your time better because they're not getting enough blog posts.

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  29. Hey Kyrieru, are you ever going to upload those unreleased sprites that you talked about in the previous post? also keep up the good work!

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  30. hey please help me! = ( I resently tried to enter Noaika but more that the Menue/Intro (That where is written Start+Continue+Options etc.) I couldn´t see = (
    And the game is not reacting to any Actions I do! >.< please what should I do to play Noaika? = /

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    1. Hmm.. I don't know what to tell you, other than the typical "update all your graphics drivers" bit.
      You mentioned before that you had problems with controls, and that can be caused by things like joy2key, but other than that I don't know, especially if you cant see anything.

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    2. Well all what i see is a cute girl in a Crystak ^.^ (the menue) but nothing more = /

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    3. I don't mean to insult your intelligence, just trying to help, but with some games in my experience having a controller plugged in will prevent any input from the keyboard, so maybe you have a controller plugged in but set aside or something?

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    4. The game can use both at once, however Noaika did have weird behavior back then, so it might be a good idea to try removing the controller.

      Alternatively, use different drivers. I use SCP, to use a PS3 controller.

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  31. I eagerly await Noaika and news on future projects. I'm going to be on vacation for a while, so hopefully when I come back, there's something new to read!

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    1. Unless you'll be gone for a month or two...

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  32. hey Kyrieru, not sure how much my stance would mean to you but i think youre one of the best american devs to make H games, been around this blog for 2 years now and played and payed for your games (something i rarely do, meh)

    you make quality work, and while yes indecisions and change of heart slowed this one down (not too productive) i know that you will deliver a great game, one that may keep me playing for 2 or 3 days solid, so i will wait till the game is released to play it again, since the demo is totes different than the finished product

    i rather have a game that have few annoyances (as you mentioned in your last posts) and a much more robust experience than whatever you had in mind a year ago for this game, and you as we all hope is good enough to make 3 or 4 games using the same templates like the megaman series

    yall peeps that are itching to play Noaika, look for lists for sprite H games, theres loads of them, i dare say a good 100+ of them are actually worth finishing it (theres like, 300+ that are worth any attention)

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    1. While technically right if we're talking continents, Kyrieru is Canadian if I recall correctly.

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    2. should have said occidental i guess heh, non asian! details details

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    3. Western dev, yeah. Ky is certainly a good one, great attitude, great quality, and I stand by the claim of great work ethic. He's very smart about game design and philosophy and his love for game development seeps through with every game he releases.

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  33. So much positive comments,but I must shoot in the face of truth again...
    You will gain very good amount of money from this game and you know it..
    Almost fukin year passed man.If you was working everyday for 1-2 hours(except ilness of course),u'l already finished it.But ur lasy ass working for 1-2 hours per week as I think.
    You Mr.,making a god-level H-games and we.poor humans,your fans have only 1 life to play them and pay u money,All this is very sad and unlogical

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    1. Aren't you people tired of complaining yet?

      He already offered a refund to those of us that pre-orderd.

      Even if he is a "lasy ass working for 1-2 hours per week", so be it. 1-2 hours per week is still better than 0 hours per week (even though I'm pretty sure he works a lot longer than that).

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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