You are about to add a new work into the newest medium of art! Romance-focused Visual Novels and Dating Sims do have similar plots, but the former is more akin to a novel while the latter is more akin to a RPG. While those works have their own section at SoYouWantTo. Write A Dating Sim , this section will cover visual novels in general regardless of the genre. Yes, there are Visual Novels of every genre. Regardless of the genre you plan to make the Visual Novel in, this guide's goal is to assist you.
So here we go! The Engine The first place to start is the engine for the Visual Novel itself. While it's certainly possible to handle all the technical stuff yourself from scratch, there is a wonderful open source Visual Novel engine known as Ren'Py. It's easily accessible to someone with almost no coding experience, and comes with numerous tutorials to get you started. But selecting an engine is just the foundation, and the process of creating a Visual Novel is still the process of creating a story.
Cloud Novel is also an easy way to get into making a visual novel. A Very Unusual Medium So visual novels are just electronic books with fancy anime pictures and music, right?
While many can undeniably be described as that, others like Muv-Luv Alternative have Visual Effects of Awesome so great they have action scenes akin to movies. Alternatively , there are those that are like interactive manga such as Quartett. Text and dialogue are undeniably the most important aspects of a Visual Novel , but do not neglect the visual or even audio aspects of them. Presentation is important, after all.
While many people don't care if you just take real pictures and use a watercolor filter to save money on backgrounds since it is a common tactic of many amateur visual novels, they are still important. It's a lot of work, but hand drawn sprites just look better on hand drawn backgrounds. Furthermore, with self-created backgrounds, you can create your own unique atmosphere. Just look at Sekien no Inganock with its fancy and artsy backgrounds which complement the text and the characters.
Each major character in your theoretical VN will need half a dozen sprites. While it's recommended for beginners of any kind of story to avoid using Loads and Loads of Characters , this is especially important for visual novel makers. Well, the When They Cry series can get away with its art because the facial expressions of the characters in the Umineko: When They Cry series are considered awesome.
Faces are what people focus on the most. Computer Graphics or CGs for short: These are still images made to appear when certain scenes occur.
These images are best used to convey events that cannot be shown accurately simply by moving the character sprites such as a First Kiss , a Dying Moment of Awesome , a Transformation Sequence , baking cookies, and of course, sex, or make the importance of a scene obvious such as a Moment of Awesome or a Plot Twist. Sure, they may not seem important, but a couple of well-placed special effects can go a long way.
Visual effects books cannot use can be used by visual novels. A flash here or falling snow there, can easily enhance the amount of emotion any given scene can enhance. Even something as simple as moving a sprite left or right or the way the text is shown on the screen is important!
Quartett is a great example of sublime visual presentation of the story text itself and use of visual effects to evoke emotion, and Umineko: When They Cry is a great example of using special effects to Paint The Medium and to use them as a plot point. Ways of presenting the text: There are advantages and disadvantages to both major styles. The more common style. Basically speaking, all the text of the visual novel is put into a dialog box in the bottom of the screen.
While this forces the writer to focus on a script-based format with minimal space to describe the setting or character actions, the background images or CGs can do that for you since a picture is worth a thousand words. This type of style leads to a visual novel with a large emphasis on the visual aspects of the Visual Novel , so it is a terrible style to use if you suck at drawing and are more used to writing in pure prose.
A common pitfall is for an amateur prose writer to attempt this style simply because it is the most common one and the default style of Ren'Py. The best format if you want less of a focus on the visual aspects and more on the actual writing since text covers the whole background and forces the reader to actually read rather than look at the background images.
Part of the reason why Umineko: When They Cry can get away with its lame art is because it uses this particular style. It is also the best style to use if you tend to be very descriptive in your writing or like Stream Of Consciousness style internal monologues like Kinoko Nasu. An interactive comic book style like Quartett, a minimalistic letter box style like Narcissu, a Diegetic Interface like Digital: A Love Story , or even one with vertically oriented text. The major reason why a visual novel can get away with a lower quality of wordsmithing than traditional novels is because of this.
Other than Grammar Nazis , nobody cares if a phrase is a tiny bit awkward if Awesome Music is playing in the background. The background music has to complement and enhance the text it is behind.
Describing a soothing Slice of Life scene? Then use calming music! Heavy Metal , of course! If you are a professional who can hire professional voice actors or have good amateur voice actors then please you can add voice acting.
Good voice acting can enhance a Visual Novel. If not, skip to the major bullet point. If, for whatever reason, you do, then read on. Make the gameplay reflect the Genre of the Visual Novel as a whole. For example, if the Visual Novel is in the horror genre, then give it some gameplay that involves running away from Eldritch Abominations such as in Shikkoku no Sharnoth. If you want to make a mystery genre VN, Adventure Game elements would go well with it like in the Ace Attorney series. If it's a Porn Without Plot game and you feel like adding gameplay then You get the idea.
If you're going to have gameplay, then it better be fun. No one cares how symbolic the Mini-Game is if it's not fun. Yes, you can hijack the player's control of the reading speed and force him to read at your own pace such as in Deardrops or in certain Moment of Awesome concert scenes or in certain Muv-Luv Alternative fight scenes.
It gives you, the maker, more control over how you want the player to experience a certain scene. Just don't use them too much because it can break the immersion of some players. However, the first question that must be asked is "Do you even want your Visual Novel to have multiple routes? There's nothing wrong with focusing all of your effort onto one plotline and making it good.
Muv-Luv Alternative is one of the most highly rated visual novels despite being a Linear Visual Novel. How will the routes tie together? Will you use a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot like Remember11? Have them all lead up to a climactic final route with the True Ending like in Little Busters! Share the same fundamental Aesop like in Katawa Shoujo?
Of course, you could make them have no relation to each other at all like in Kira-Kira , but they all better be individually good. Just please don't tack on the routes just for the sake of making all the girls date-able like in G-Senjou no Maou. It goes without saying that you'll need one to contain the choices that will decide which of the multiple routes a player will go on, but what type of length do you want to make it?
The upside is that you will have plenty of time to develop all of the characters at once through their interactions and establish the setting. The downside is that a few of the individual character routes may suffer because you don't get enough time to focus and develop on a single character and make up good plot related to that person. Hoshizora no Memoria in particular suffers from this problem. The upside is that you have plenty of time to make up unique conflicts for each route by giving yourself enough time to add build-up within the diverging routes themselves and only leaving small tiny hints within the common route itself.
Tsukihime has this problem to some degree even though it has a recommended route playing order. A common way to split them is by centering the individual plotlines around a specific Romantic Interest.
You need some, but not too much. Furthermore, make them intuitive or at least solvable with some thinking. Kara no Shoujo is known for Guide Dang It!
You could just add a short event where the protagonist dies or falls into despair before showing a Game Over screen, but you know that you're better than that. Why don't you try punishing the player by forcing him to read a emotional Tear Jerker or some scarring Nightmare Fuel.
School Days has such potent bad endings that it is generally believed that while School Days is decent on its own, the bad endings are what make the game a classic.
If you decided to have one of these, that means you stored Up to Eleven amounts of pure build up. Just because Visual Novel readers are more lenient on wordsmithing because of Background Music doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to have good wordsmithing.
Incidentally, the Japanese version of Sekien no Inganock uses very poetic writing, but its fan translator had to use prose for the Fan Translation. Let's break down various archetypes, from the sliding scale of morality.
Pick one that fits your story best. Your visual novel will be most likely in first person point of view, and thus Nice Guy archetype is the sensible choice. And he has his own unique flaws as well. Common for Romance Visual Novels. Similar to the nice guy, but with flaws, they may have some hidden things about them that are unsavory or make them somewhat unlikable.