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The Last Birdling: How to handle perspective shifts




My upcoming project, The Last Birdling, alternates between Bimonia and Tayo’s perspectives. Today, I would like to explore some of the details behind this system. Your feedback is most welcome, and if you know of other visual novels that handle multiple viewpoints in a fresh way, please let me know!

The Last Birdling is written from a first person perspective, so the viewpoint character’s personality will come through in everything she observes. Her inner thoughts, reactions, they are all distinctly her own. On paper, or on screen in our case, this means different word choices as well as sentence structures.

That said, I dislike making characters act a certain way just to showcase their uniqueness. If you study writing books, you will often be advised to make every character sound different, to a point where you can tell who is speaking even without dialogue tags. Now, imagine a group of your friends. If you closed your eyes, and they all had the same voice, would you be able to tell them apart? I for one would have a hard time. For me, being truthful takes priority above all rules.

Since we are in a visual medium, we may as well take advantage of that when it comes to perspective shifts. Notice how the UI changes to green in the screenshot below:


This means we have switched to Tayo’s perspective in chapter two. The same concept applies to decision points:



In the world of traditional novels, shifting perspectives mid-scene is ill advised. To avoid disorienting readers, we want to jump into different heads during a scene or chapter break. The Last Birdling does not feature chapter titles, but there are end of scene cards to signal a perspective change:


This introduces several concerns in terms of programming. For instance, if players return to the previous scene, will the UI switch back as expected?


What about loading another saved game mid-session? I hope all the common scenarios have been addressed. We will see if players spot any edge cases after the game’s release.

So why would we alternate between perspectives? Once readers recognize the pattern, it is no longer something they need to worry about, which makes for an ideal reading experience. If the view changes went as follows:

Bimonia, Bimonia, Tayo, Tayo, Tayo, Tayo, Bimonia, Tayo, Bimonia, Bimonia

And so on, gamers would stumble every time we reached a new scene. We want to set up roadblocks for our characters, not our players.

To round things off, The Last Birdling follows the journeys of Bimonia and Tayo from childhood to adolescence. By the time these two reach their teens, they have suffered through an awful lot. To reflect both their physical and mental shifts, the UI will also update accordingly:


Find out more about The Last Birdling via:


The website contains a demo version, which illustrates how the perspective changes work. Please feel free to have a look.

To finish things off, I am happy to say The Last Birdling has been approved for publication on Steam several hours ago. Thank you so much for your support!

Hope to see you again soon :vinty:.


Recommended Comments

9 hours ago, InvertMouse said:

Thank you Narcosis! Yeah, just simple color changes, yet that alone has brought about so many complications in terms of code. Really appreciate your comment ^_^.

I'd actually go as far as to say the bottom image is a serious spoiler of sorts, even with the blurred out text; that's how powerful of a message it conveys. If only images are capable of that, just imagine how good it can be accompanied by great writing.

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Yeah, that's fair :). I thought about not sharing those because I had the same thought. With Unhack 2, I showed next to nothing because most of that game contains heavy spoilers. This made promotion difficult, so with The Last Birdling, I hope to toe the line more. If I end up crossing it, I will then take that feedback and adjust accordingly in the future.


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I remember Swan Song using title cards with the POV character's name on it; given that it had like five perspectives total and how the story went, keeping it as a consistent rotation probably wasn't an organic option. With that said, I do think shifting perspectives for every scene is a good thing, especially if you write each with a characteristically different voice - gives you a fresh feel every now and then. On a meta level I'm dying to see you break the formula at some point for effect, but I'm not sure if you'll hit that kinda spot in your actual writing :P

One random thing I'm noting about the UI is that the choice popups seem to obscure the characters' faces in a bit of an offputting way. I'm not sure if there's a better design for it, but just a minor nitpick.

Edit: looking back on it, I wonder if the choice of completely shifting color for the grown versions of the characters is the best representation. You could keep the same color but add some kind of ornamentation, maybe? Sort of a continuity nod. I guess if they really change drastically what you have now might fit, though.

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Thank you Zakamutt ^_^! For writing, as long as I am judged by gamers with a neutral mind and not written off based on where I am from or hype level, I can live with whatever. Everyone has different styles and tastes man. Kills me how art isn't like sports where there are stats no one can argue against.

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I suggest investing in a superior Japanese method whereby the screen goes black, followed by three lines with the following text:





This strategy will also inflate the total line count of your visual novel, convincing potential buyers that they will get more bang for their buck.


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