Saturday, December 27, 2014

Branching Methods for Romance VNs

"What are the different methods of branching a romantic visual novel / otome game?"
 -- Interested in Otome
 Branching Methods for
Romance Visual Novels 

There are many, many variations for VN storyline plotting, but these are some extremely basic breakdowns of the most common forms. Feel free to use or abuse as you like. 

The "Point Of View" storyline.  
Technically it's One story merely told from opposite points of view. This one isn't seen very often, but there are a few games that do this.  

The "One Romantic Interest (at a time)" storyline. 
This is most commonly found in the Pay to Play visual novels.  The opening story that introduces all of the Romantic Interests is usually offered for free, but to read about any particular interest means coughing up cash first.

The "Dating Frenzy" storyline.
In this one can play with more than one Romantic Interest. A point system decides how much a chosen Love Interest likes the main character, and whether or not they'll accept a date invitation.

The  "Choose Your Own Adventure" storyline.
Just for comparison. This type of storyline is used for simple Adventures and/or Mystery stories.

For those interested, the diagrams were created in FreePlane, a free mind-mapping program. It's what I use to plot out all my games.


My First Game: Should I Hire a Professional?

My First Game:
"Should I Hire a Professional?"
"This is my first VN... I'm not sure if my writing is good enough for a VN, let alone a commercial one, but I worry that a hired writer might not understand everything the way I do."
-- Eager Beginner
I am a professional writer, and my advice is:

Write your first Game
Write your first several games yourself. You'll learn far more about the process of story crafting, and game-making if you use your own hands. Just ask lots of questions. Sure, the process will be slower, and the first games you produce will be small, but that's how you build Experience -- and Creativity.

Just for the record...
Creativity isn't how far your imagination can explode. 
Creativity is how cleverly you deal with
the Limits of your tools and skills.

If all you have is a pair of scissors, a roll of tape, and a cardboard box what can you make with it?

Quite a lot actually.

If Writing is Not your strongest skill,
What IS your strongest Skill?
That's where you Begin.

Seriously, what are you Good at?
  • coding tricks?
  • character design?
  • background illustrations?
  • making interface graphics?
  • plotting out branches?
  • writing dialog?
  • bad jokes?

Whatever it is, that should be the Core of your game's design.

The next step is to realize
What you Can't do.

The trick to dealing with what you Can't do is either by figuring out a way to avoid needing that skill, or find another way to do the same thing. For example, if you don't know how to code ATL well enough to do an animated fight scene, either find a way to use Simple Animations to convey the scene, or use a Static Image and Text to describe the scene.

There's a reason why Experienced
game creators --and Novelists-- say: 
"Start Small!"

Small projects encourage new creators to Experiment; to stretch their imaginations by learning to find ways around their limitations. A clever creator can make something incredible with only a few resources. Most of all, a finished game (no matter how small,) gives the creator a sense of Accomplishment. This is what encourages a creator to try again and perhaps make something bigger and fancier.

If all you have is a pair of scissors, a roll of tape, a cardboard box, and Experience using such tools what then can you make with it?

Quite a lot actually.

Just keep in mind that bigger and fancier does NOT always mean Better -- especially if you're New to game-making.

The biggest danger to new creators is
Ego and Impatience.

Impatience and Pride often encourages new creators to start projects that are much too big for their skill and experience levels. 

Sure, you can Buy skilled help, but that is no guarantee that the project will turn out good enough for people to pay money for it. There are literally thousands of games made by highly skilled people with extremely expensive resources that No One Will Buy because despite all the pretty graphics, they're Crap. Just ask the gamers around you. I assure you, they'll be able to list at least six professionally made Crap games just off the tops of their heads.  

The key to Success is
NOT trying to Do it ALL!
Especially, the First time.

If you want to make successful (read: popular) games, FIRST you need to learn different ways to get around your Limitations, preferably in small, easily digestible, bite-sized chunks (read: small individual games,) that you Build upon.

In short:
One Step at a Time.


If all you have is RenPy, some free graphics software (GIMP,) a few images swiped from a free image site (WikiMedia Commons,) and some music borrowed from a free music site (,) what can you make with it?

Quite a lot actually.

But if you want to make something the players will Pay Money For you'll also need Time and Experience.