Thursday, September 10, 2009

Opinion: Visual Novels

So since I started my project on Ren'Py, I've been introduced to another facet of the game creating community. Visual Novels.

My intention for the engine was something different than what it's usually used for...I think. I have seen a life sim created on this engine so I know it's possible. Visual Novels are a genre not very popular in the Western World. I used to wonder why...and now I get it.

Originally when I heard "visual novel" I imagined something a bit like "Hotel Dusk" where it was very interactive. Or even a choose your own adventure. However, I downloaded someone's free visual novel to check it out. I kept clicking (and not reading) wondering WTF I would get to make a choice. It was then that it dawned on me that perhaps I don't get to really MAKE a choice. OR it took a LOT longer before the player could make one.

And it was boring as hell. I could NOT believe how this was popular. Something on a computer or game system is interactive...there's no argument. The Visual Novel (VN) has an INTERFACE which suggests HUMAN INTERACTION. The only interaction I got was clicking to "turn the page" in a sense. Boring. SO BORING.

Now the community surrounding this engine are mostly making anime based games. Which is fine. And also why I'm going to use NOT anime art in my games. (I think it'd be hilarious if I threw in some 8-bit characters. XD) And there are a few things about anime the style that I like but many things that turn me off.

1) Everyone thinks it's easy to draw anime style - And there's very NICE looking anime style and very amateur looking anime style.

2) People write using anime/fanfic logic - which is bullshit. I call it. Anime has a tendency to not follow a pattern of sense.

3) The "weird Japan themes" - I wrote about this before in another blog post. Japan has some very...unusual fetishes. These are of course echoed in the themes of visual novels.

Sounds like I'm really talking down VN. It's true I think it could have lots of potential but I get frustrated when people call it a "game". Either that or the really "long" VNs really need to work on "pacing" that is giving the user a chance for input fairly early on so they know that there IS interaction. Many of the VNs I also played did have a LOT of choices to pick from making it feel more interactive and not having a lot of down time between choices. Or keeping the images interesting otherwise.

And that's really all I can say on the subject for now. I am le tired. :P

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Impressions: Avalon Code

You know it's actually pretty hard to find a decent DS RPG title. And even harder to find a DS game with controls that make sense. Recently, I got a game by Atlus (one of my fave companies) called Avalon Code. I had read reviews on about it and decided I liked the idea behind the game. It was worth checking out. Here is what I think so far...

Shoot me please. Why do DS titles insist on 3D graphics? They look TERRIBLE! The anti-aliasing is so HUGE it's like I'm looking at pixel sprites blown up to 4 times their actual size. It's one of those things where at a distance, yeah the sprites look okay. But they keep showing CLOSE UP shots of the character! And for me how graphics looks adds a whole lot to how I perceive a game. I would have been much happier if they went the same route as Disgaea where you had cut scenes where still shots of the character speaking (with different expressions) overlay the small sprite animations. Actually if I remember correctly, that is exactly what they did in Rune Factory. That was more acceptable.

It really is a shame because the illustration work of the characters (which made me want to buy the game) are beautiful. I was looking forward to seeing them play out in my game. No...blocky 3D graphics with really awful texturing...when you at them up close.

The cool thing though is that some "accessories" you get can be worn and SEEN on the character. So my character has this awesome hat right now. (It looks like one of MY hats.)

Actually I can't complain about the games controls too much. They work pretty well. It utilizes buttons for moving and basic fighting and the touch screen to manipulate things in the "Book of Prophecy". Now that I think about works and I can't fault it. Darn. :D

DS just sucks at sound...can't really fault the game too much for that when the hardware sucks ass. There is some limited voice acting but lord I wish I could turn it off.

Here is where I CAN get picky. The whole idea is that you are using a book interface to record things about the world. So you run around hitting things with this book. You get information about it and can manipulate it and therefore change the world around you. Like I concept. I still think they pull it off okay but the problem is this...


I've actually even opened up the manual to figure out things. And they're in there. :/ I KNOW right? Using the user manual? How absurd! Thank goodness I bought the game new! Sure it tells you where to go but the in game tutorials SUCK. For example, I stumble into a mini-game somehow and usually you get an in game explanation of what to do. Nope. They just threw me in the game. Somehow it kept score and I had no idea how! I had to read the manual (after losing and not wanting to play again) to learn how to score in the mini-game.

That's just a small example, but there is also an element where you can change the "code" of an item or person. There is a mini-tutorial how you do this to save an injured cat but no hints or clues on combination for other things. Even the recoding you do for the cat made NO sense and could not be deduced. I figured out how to make my weapons stronger and inherit a certain element just fine. And some monsters can be weakened.

It's just very lax on giving enough information to really learn the game. I'm just stumbling about blindly. Although on the plus side, it DOES tell you where to go next. So that part is all right.

I'm not really feeling very attached to the story. Partly because it's another END OF THE WORLD story and you are the CHOSEN ONE! Please. I've played this shtick before. Boring.

Like I said, I'm not quite sold on the game because it's not helping me understand its own mechanics. And that makes me frustrated. But Some things are easy enough to figure out so I'll keep playing. I haven't had to crack any online walkthroughs yet!