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Everything posted by Darbury

  1. Fails #5 and #7 (and arguably #2). Yet somehow, it's still better than Sakura Beach.
  2. A couple blog posts back, I argued that the story exploration game Gone Home can be considered a visual novel. After some great discussion there, it seemed only logical to tackle the much bigger question: “What is a visual novel? Which is why I’m not going to. That’s a spike-filled, snake-infested pit of a question if I ever saw one — and I already had spikes and snakes for breakfast. Instead, we’re going to attempt to answer a more nuanced question: “What are the minimum requirements something must meet in order to be usefully discussed as a visual novel?” That’s a slightly different but way more useful angle. Just about anything can be used as a chair, but not everything is a “chair.” As a society, we’ve agreed on a certain set of characteristics that chairs share in common. This lets us discuss chairs with one another and be pretty sure we won't be given a pineapple to sit on. We’ll do the same here. But for the sake of brevity, we’ll shorthand that question back down to “What’s a visual novel?” It’ll be our little secret. The VNDB standard The most obvious place to start looking for answers would be The Visual Novel Database (VNDB), home to info on more than 18,000 VNs. Here’s their answer, found in the VNDB FAQ: As a working definition, this leaves a lot to be desired. There are an awful lot of cans, mays, typicals, and usuallys. Worse yet, you could easily dream up a VN that meets almost none of the assumptions laid out here — perhaps an extremely short text-based story in which the words run around the outside of a woodcut illustration. There’s absolutely no background music and the player answers no questions, which results in the same plot every time she plays. A somewhat more satisfying answer can be found in VNDB’s list of requirements that titles must meet before being added to their database. For something to qualify as a visual novel: Better, but still somewhat problematic. For one thing, it conflates the commonly accepted with the essential. What if someone wants to present a story in a manner other than ADV (text in box below image) or NVL (text overlaying image)? What if they thought of a more innovative configuration of text + art? Tough luck, Billy; go suck eggs in the corner. (They don't seem to strictly enforce this, by the way. Digital: A Love Story is on VNDB, even though it eschews both ADV and NVL for a diegetic presentation.) Moreover, these guidelines can’t seem to decide if no gameplay is allowed at all, as the first two sentences suggest, or if up to 1% simple gameplay is okay. A title can also be added to the database if it’s a “visual novel/game” hybrid that meets the following requirements: Again, problematic. The ADV/NVL issue is still there, of course, but now a new wrinkle’s been added: the privileging of narrative over dialogue. The assumption here is that a novel can’t consist entirely (or almost entirely) of dialogue, so a title that doesn’t “consistently” rely upon a formal narrator doesn’t qualify. In truth, there are any number of novels that take this form — The Awkward Age by Henry James, for one. Besides, if Key suddenly dropped a 50-hour all-dialogue school drama that looked and played exactly like Clannad, do you doubt for a second that we'd all consider it a VN? Or that FuwaReviews would give it one star? But I don’t blame VNDB. They’re not looking to define the visual novel. They’re just trying to set up some semi-reasonable guidelines to help streamline their submission process. Without this, every staffer there would probably be eating gun-barrel sandwiches for lunch. Fine. Let’s build something better. I’ve sketched out the beginnings of a more general-purpose test for discussing something as a visual novel. I don’t consider this to be at all authoritative, and in fact, I invite you to critique it and build upon it in the comments below. It’s a starting point, nothing more. A 7-point test for visual novels 1. It must be “read” on a digital device that outputs to a screen. Fairly self-explanatory. Computers, consoles, handhelds, phones, e-readers — hell, even a smart watch would qualify. A printed VN would be considered a graphic novel (or a choose-your-own-adventure book). An audio file of a VN would be an audiobook. 2. It must convey a recognizable narrative. Again, fairly self-explanatory. A VN must be a spoken or written account of connected events. In other words, it needs to tell a story, fictional or otherwise. The entirety of the Detroit phone book displayed in Ren’py is not a VN, even if it’s accompanied by a whole chorus line of catgirls. 3. It must use on-screen text as the primary avenue for conveying that narrative. At the heart of any VN is the act of reading — eyes looking at words and turning them into meaning. If any significant portion of the story is delivered as voice-over or action without on-screen text, it isn’t a visual novel. Watching Game of Thrones on your laptop with subtitles doesn’t suddenly turn it into a VN. 4. It must have visuals paired with that narrative. A visual novel must have visuals. Crazy talk, right? It doesn’t matter if those visuals are 8-bit pixel art, hand illustration, 3D renders, photography, or video. Ideally, these images would be germane to the narrative, but even that’s not technically necessary. Having unrelated images wouldn’t keep something from being a VN; it would just make it a *bad* VN. 5. It must be authored. In other words, the story must be an act of creative intention by its author(s). A VN cannot rely upon sandboxes, emergent gameplay, or similar mechanisms to generate its narrative arc (though they may be used to flavor it). Such experiences, while highly interesting, result in something other than a novel. 6. Reading must comprise the majority of one’s experience with the title. This one gets tricky, because it cuts deep to the heart of another unresolved question: “Is a visual novel a game?” For the purposes of this discussion, I’d suggest there’s a continuum that looks roughly like: not a VN >> game w/ some VN qualities >> game/VN hybrid >> VN w/ some game qualities >> VN Roughly past the halfway mark, we can usefully consider something to be a visual novel for terms of discussion. Below that, we can consider it a game but usefully discuss its VN-like elements (or lack thereof). 7. It must offer a deliberately framed reading experience. This one’s a little tricky. Here’s the problem: a plain old Word doc containing a short story + embedded images could technically satisfy requirements #1 through #6, but we’d be hard-pressed to call that a visual novel. I’m still tweaking the language for #7, but the general idea is that just as a film director frames a shot, controlling what the audience can see and hear at any given moment, so too does the creator of a visual novel. This is unlike our hypothetical Word doc, in which you could widen the window to see more text than intended, skip around the story out of order, scroll the window so that you can read a passage without seeing its associated art, etc. I briefly considered adding an eighth bullet point, but chose to leave it on the cutting room floor. Why did this get dropped? Well, I imagined a traditional novel that was rigged to turn its pages at pre-defined intervals. You can’t speed it up, you can’t slow it down; all you have is an on/off switch. Would that lack of agency suddenly keep this particular book from being a novel? I couldn’t think of a good reason why it would, so I removed the requirement. But I'm open to good arguments for bringing it back. Closing thoughts, for now You might note that I’ve avoided any mention of things like: story genre, branching narratives, art style, country of origin, sexual content, sound/music, etc. That’s by design. These things help inform what type of VN a title is, not whether it can be discussed as one. You might also note that my 7-point test would disqualify Gone Home from being considered a visual novel, invalidating my earlier argument. That’s also by design. Kill your darlings, amirite?
  3. Rejection rebutted. But I'm under an NDA.
  4. I’ll agree with you and disagree with you. The first line is not 100% identical to the second. An ellipsis can be (ab)used to slightly alter the tone of a sentence, but only when it appears sparingly in a text. When every other sentence ends in an ellipsis, however, you lose that ability. When you highlight 80% of the lines in a textbook, you’ve done the opposite of highlight. Building off Rooke’s point, that ellipsis then needs to be paired with tight writing to achieve a desired effect. Throwing an ellipsis at the end of a line is like putting glass to a furnace. You’ve loosened the voice and created something pliable, but unless you rework it with a craftsman’s eye, all you end up with is a directionless inflection — and a shapeless lump of glass. (Which I suppose would be useful for hucking at Rooke’s head, but not much else.)
  5. If I can also be honest, I wrote this post for the Bob and Joe stuff. The ellipses were just an excuse. Pretty much! Sadly, 99.9% of ellipses in VNs don't pass muster. I like to imagine those few that do wound up there by accident. Maybe the punctuation truck hit a bump in the road and they bounced out. Now they just lie there, serendipitous roadkill. English too! [Option] + [;] on a Mac gives you a tidy little ellipsis. I'm sure there's a way to do it in Windows too, but who's got time for that?
  6. You know how the laws of Newtonian physics break down at the quantum level? The same thing applies to the rules of grammar and punctuation in H-scenes. You just hold on tight and hope for the best.
  7. Let’s not mince words here. The ellipsis is a blight upon English translations of visual novels. It must be uprooted and killed with fire. Before the slaughter begins, however, let’s review some basics. As the name suggests, the ellipsis represents an elision — that is to say, omitted content. It functions as the “yadda yadda” of the English language. It is the “Step 2: ???” before the all-important “Step 3: Profit!” A writer deploys those three little dots to indicate either the intentional removal of something that once was there, or the pointed absence of something that should have been there. That’s it. That’s what the ellipsis is supposed to do. You wouldn’t know this, however, by reading nearly any English translation of a Japanese visual novel. Ellipses are scattered across the text like so many rhinestones on the sweatshirt of a Midwestern mom. They’re at the beginning of sentences, the ends, stuck randomly in the middle — sometimes even chained end to end like a writhing Human Centipede of punctuation, each little dot in the chain crying, “Kill me now!” into the anus of the next. It’s an absolute abattoir in there. This particular road to hell is paved with good intentions, however. You see, all those ellipses are also present in the original Japanese and, in an attempt at faithful translation, the TL teams have left them all sitting there for you to enjoy. The original writer had a reason for putting them in, the reasoning goes, and it’s our job to offer the purest translation of his/her vision possible. This, of course, is bollocks. Punctuation operates differently in different languages. Japanese ellipses are used much more liberally than their Western forbearers, particularly in popular culture (e.g., manga. light novels, etc.) Want to indicate a pause? Ellipsis. Silence? Ellipsis. Passage of time? Ellipsis. Need to fill some empty space? Ellipsis. Is it Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis. When ported over to English, most of these usages look less like carefully crafted sentences and more like a transcript of a particularly drunken Snapchat session. Put simply, what works in one language doesn’t always work in another. When I’m translating a Line of Text from German, for Example, I don’t capitalize all the Nouns because that’s how it was in the Original. I normalize it for English. The same needs to be done in any VN translation. My current rule of thumb while editing — I’ll bold it for you in red here — is as follows: Remove/replace all ellipses in a line of Japanese text unless doing so irreparably breaks the sentence or significantly changes its meaning. Luckily for us, English has a toolbox full of punctuation to get the job done. Commas, semicolons, periods, dashes — they’re all your friends. So let’s discuss some common situations in VNs and how we might handle them. The trailing ellipsis You’ll see lots of these littering the ends of sentences and lines, mostly to little effect. More often than not, they indicate a thought closing on anything other than a 100% full and decisive stop. Since they don’t hold the place of omitted text, we can almost always replace these ellipses with periods. There are a handful of situations, however, where keeping a trailing ellipsis makes sense. These include: The Pregnant Pause: When something’s strongly implied at the end of a sentence/line, but left unsaid for dramatic effect. The ellipsis fills the place of the implied content, so it gets to stay. (Fun bonus fact: pauses are the only things that can get pregnant in VNs.) The “And So On”: When a statement is implied to continue for an unspecified length beyond the end of the sentence/line. The ellipsis here indicates there may have been a few more beers after Michelob, but the writer has decided to spare us and jump straight to Bob’s objection. Had this been more interruptive in nature, with Bob cutting Joe off immediately after “Michelob,” the ellipses would have replaced with an em-dash (—). The Trail-Off: Similar to the “And So On,” but with the character choosing to let a statement taper off into nothingness, rather than the author. The opening ellipsis You’ll see these slightly less often, but they’re by no means infrequent. Typically, they indicate some slight hesitation at the beginning of a line of dialogue. But again, the nuance ends up being so slight and the impact so watered down through overuse that you’re almost always better off removing these ungainly beasts. An exception can be made for: The Reverse Pregnant Pause: Just like the original Pregnant Pause, but it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Often holds the place of something a character doesn’t want to say. Rather than just pausing in passing, Joe is actively not admitting he thinks Joe is a jackass. That makes this line a strong candidate for an ellipsis. The mid-sentence ellipsis So, so many of these. You’ll close your eyes at night and they’ll haunt you. They’re almost always meant to indicate a slight pause in speech or thought, but trying to the read the resulting text is an exercise in frustration. There are... just so... many unnecessary... gaps. (Full disclosure: When writing scripts for TV, I’ll use ellipses like this a lot. But that’s for a very specific purpose: helping to communicate the particular rhythm of a line to the actor(s). I always avoid this in audience-facing text.) In almost all cases, unless there’s a marked pivot in thought, a comma will suffice. If the ellipsis is holding together two complete yet interwoven thoughts, a semicolon will do nicely. If the ellipsis is holding together two complete and independent thoughts, a period should be used. If ellipses are used to indicate an interruptive thought, one that breaks the main flow of the sentence, em-dashes can be used. Again, there are a couple situations where these mid-sentence ellipses can remain: The Ta-Da: When a pause is used for obvious dramatic effect, the ellipsis should be kept. The Shatner: When halting or stilted speech is intended for dramatic/comedic effect, ellipses may be retained. The empty line ellipsis You’ll see a lot of these. Holdovers from manga and light novels, they are explicit indicators of silence, being at a loss for words, holding one’s tongue, etc. In English prose, these silences would normally be held with narration — e.g., “Baconator just sat there, dripping ketchup.” You’d never see a sentence such as: ‘Harry Potter said, “...” and continued looking out the window.’ That’s because, unlike most VNs, traditional novels don’t have the crutch of character sprites and name cards appearing alongside dialogue. Due to such VN conventions, along with the technical limitations of translation — it’s frequently impossible to replace character dialogue with unvoiced narration — you should almost always leave these ellipses in place. Based on your best judgement, you can also choose to leave such variants as the questioning silence ("...?") and the excited/alarmed silence ("...!"). It should be noted that such empty line ellipses can also be used outside of dialogue. Often, these will just indicate time passing. There’s also a long tradition in Japanese art of the “pillow” — a held moment of contemplative emptiness. It’s the bit of formal textual throat-clearing at the start of a poem. It’s the 10-second cutaway to a babbling brook that connects two scenes in a movie. In a VN, this pillow can evidence itself as a single line of narration, empty save for an ellipsis. There’s no good English alternative for this, so it should be kept wherever you encounter it. Extra credit: The multi-line ellipsis I saved this one for last, because it’s a bit of a special case. Against all my better instincts, it involves adding ellipses in places where the original text has none. It’s painful but it’s for a good cause. Sometimes, when editing or translating a VN, you’ll run across sentences that spill over onto two or more lines. Unlike in poetry, which uses line breaks to very deliberate effect, these multi-line monsters are almost always the result of the VN writer just running out of highway and choosing to keep on driving. Whenever possible, you should attempt to restructure such sentences so they don’t break across lines. Often, splitting an overly long sentence into two smaller ones will do the trick. If it resists your best efforts, however, maintain the break and indicate it with ellipses — one at the end of the first line, the other at the beginning of the second. How many dots? ALL THE DOTS! Another peculiarity of ellipses in Japanese VNs is that they don’t always have three dots. Depending on context and the arbitrary whims of the writer, you’ll typically see anywhere from two to six dots at a time. I’ve even seen 27 in a row once. I think it was a sex scene. Or a fight scene. Maybe both. Don’t let this worry you. If you’ve been following my advice, you’ve already purged most of the ellipses from the text. Of those that remain, almost all can be reduced down to familiar three-dot English ellipses. But as always, there’s at least one exception. Content-bearing pauses: In most cases, it’s of little concern to us whether an ellipsis consists of three, four, five, or even six dots. They’re all slight variations on the standard pause, but since English punctuation doesn’t make any such distinction, neither will we. An exception comes when the length of a pause not only adds flavor, but provides content. Consider the case of an ever-lengthening silence: The lengthening of the line suggests the passing of increasing amounts of time; the scene isn’t the same without it. Or consider an explosive outburst after a deafening silence: If you opt to stretch out an ellipsis like this, only do so in increments of three. If you’re musically inclined, think of three dots as a quarter note, six dots as a half note, etc., each one holding the silence just a bit longer than the last. Following the rule of threes keeps the text visually streamlined and helps if you ever need to convert a bunch of soft ellipses ( “...”) to hard ellipses (“…”) late in the translation process. A quick note about spacing I opt to keep things simple. If an ellipsis is at the start of a sentence or line, put one space between it and the first word. If it’s anywhere else, use no space before the ellipsis and one space after. If it’s a string of ellipses, it should be an uninterrupted series of dots with no spaces in between. There are also differing schools of thought as to whether an ellipsis at the end of a sentence should also be followed by a period, resulting in four dots total. Again, I opt for simplicity here and advise three dots in all cases. The mark of the beast It’s easy to tell professional translations from fan projects, it’s said; just count the number of dots. While not always true – plenty of slapdash commercial releases exist in the wild — there’s definitely something to this. More often than not, fewer ellipses are a sign that someone has taken the time to not just translate a text word for word, but thoughtfully localize it. Seriously, just dump the dots, folks. Your readers will thank you for it.
  8. Perfect world? There's no reason not to, especially with tools like the one you've been working on. But I imagine a lot of teams are stretched thin as it is. They're fortunate if they have the manpower to get the TL out at all, never mind hacking optional soft subs into the opening/closing themes. It ends up being relatively high work, low reward. When we did KoiRizo, it was basically a last minute decision to include song subs. I ended up just timing the whole thing out in After Effects and hard subbing it along with the title translations. The patched movies were included as optional downloads and, honestly, it ended up feeling like way more work than it was worth. I would have killed for a better option. Which is to say, you're doing God's work.
  9. Now that's the kind of post I like, Rooke! I love how much thought went into this. Qualifications 1 and 3 mostly make sense, but I question whether #2 is necessary. Most sources (VNDB, Wikipedia) categorize kinetic novels as a sub-category of VNs, rather than a similar but distinct category of its own, as you do here. If so, then #2 should be omitted. So, staying in devil's advocate mode, if we strike #2 and use that broader definition of a visual novel, Gone Home qualifies as a VN — or at least "a game which contains VN storytelling techniques," which, as you say, "does not make it any less of a VN." It (1) is written as a novel of the epistolary type, and (3) contains images which depict the settings of the story. If we keep #2, then Gone Home still remains a kinetic novel under your definition. (Again, playing devil's advocate.)
  10. Thanks for some very thoughtful points made by some very thoughtful folks — Palas, Zakamutt, maefdomn, Decay, etc. (But not Rooke. Never Rooke. ) If it wasn’t already clear, the above blog post was 70% me playing devil’s advocate, 10% me being serious, and 20% me just wanting to talk about hot dogs. I’ll happily admit I have Gone Home tagged as adventure in my personal games database, and that’s exactly the genre I’d expect to find it under were I looking for it in a store. But after I finally got around to playing Gone Home — backlog ahoy! — it occurred to me to ask, “Well, why couldn’t this be considered a visual novel?” The meat of it was inherently literary, and the extratextual gameplay almost non-existent. Then I realized almost all the obvious counter-arguments I could think of stemmed not from a positive definition of what VNs are, but from a negative definition of what VNs shouldn’t be. “Gone Home lets me explore in a way that VNs don’t.” “Gone Home gives me a sense of immersion and agency that VNs don’t.” It’s akin to arguing that tomatoes must be vegetables because fruit stands don’t sell tomatoes. And that’s the part that really interests me. There’s a pervasive sameyness among VNs; maefdomn does a good job addressing some of the reasons why. The answer to “What’s a visual novel?” ends up being, “It’s something that’s like the visual novels I’ve played,” rather than a more useful discussion about what the essential elements of a VN are and aren’t. (Chronopolis’s VNBD definition is a good start, but only a start.) Without knowing where the outer edges of the art form are, both mechanically and creatively, we can’t fruitfully explore those edges. And that leaves us with wave after wave of lookalike kickstarted VNs whose main selling points are the number of romanceable characters they have and whether or not they feature imoutos. There will always be a place for that, of course, but there's room for so much more.
  11. I'll agree to disagree with you on that one. Both sides have merit, but I tend to fall in the reader response camp — e.g., "death of the author" and all that. I consider extratextual info (such as authorial intent) to be interesting, yet ultimately irrelevant to a critical evaluation of the text. After all, intent frequently fails to align with results. For instance, did you know that Atlas Shrugged wasn't originally intended to be a comedy? For shame. You didn't read to the end of the post. No delicious hot dog sandwich for you. As I suggested, it's not a slippery slope. Being a story-heavy exploration/adventure game doesn't automatically qualify something as a visual novel. What makes Gone Home special is that it's built around an already existing literary form, and the whole point of the gameplay is carry the reader through it. If nothing else, it’s worth taking time to consider what else visual novels can be, not just what they are. That’s how any art form grows. Otherwise, we’ll be locked in a perpetual ouroboros loop of big-chested high schoolers eating their own slice-of-life tails. (Oh god. That’s probably an actual thing in some VN. I just know it is. Euphoria, most likely.)
  12. This past weekend marked the unofficial start of summer here in the States, and to celebrate, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster threw down the gauntlet in a major way. The hot dog, it declared, is a sandwich. It consists of bread (the bun) holding some filling (a plump, juicy hot dog). It meets the textbook definition of a sandwich. Therefore, it’s a sandwich. The reaction from Team Hot Dog was swift. “Nooo! That’s not true!” they Luke Skywalkered across the Twiterverse. “Hot dogs are hot dogs! Shuttuuuuuhp!” Whereas Team Sandwich raised nary a peep. “Cool,” they said. “We like sandwiches. Welcome to the club.” And why was that? Maybe a look at similar sort of statement can help us try to figure it out: Gone Home is a visual novel. Nooo! That’s not true! Gone Home isn’t a VN! Shuttuuuuhp! Very light spoilers to follow. If you don’t know, Gone Home is a game that came out in 2013, created by a handful of former BioShock devs. In it, you assume the role of an American college student who comes home from a year abroad only to find her parents’ house deserted, a cryptic note from her sister taped to the front door. The rest of the game is spent finding out just what happened. Except it’s not a “game” as such. And you don’t really “play.” You simply wander the house using FPS controls, going from room to room and reading/hearing scattered bits of documentary evidence – letters, journal entries, crumpled-up notes, etc. – that help you unravel the mystery. That’s it. Some gamers have dismissively called it a “walking simulator,” but there’s clearly more to it than that. Gone Home is a digital experience that exists primarily to convey an authored text, one that shares structural similarities with traditional novels/short stories. That text is then given strong support by on-screen visual elements to form a cohesive whole. While there’s no hard and fast definition of “visual novel” that I’m aware of, the above seems to do the job pretty well. And by that definition, Gone Home is a visual novel. Nooo! It’s not a VN! It doesn’t take the form of a written novel! Sure it does – an epistolary novel, to be specific. Here, I’ll even save you the trip to Wikipedia: Some well-known entries in this genre include Frankenstein, Dracula, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and World War Z. In Gone Home’s case, the main narrative thread is told via your sister’s journal entries, which are penned as letters in absentia to you. Additional plot is introduced via other letters, newspaper clippings, and historical documents. Sound familiar? Yup. In fact, if you printed the collected documents of Gone Home in paperback, it would hold up extremely well as an example of the epistolary form. Gone Home is a visual novel. Deal with it. Nooo! It’s not a VN! You walk around in a 3D environment! So what? Macbeth is a play; we can all agree on that. Sleep No More is a highly regarded re-contextualizing of that play as performance spaces meant to be walked through and experienced. The fact that you sit on your ass through one and physically traverse the other doesn’t change the fact that both are plays. They both have actors, scenes, and staging. And besides, several other VN titles use the exploration of 3D environments to frame their textual elements – Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, Danganronpa, etc. Gone Home is a visual novel. Deal with it. Nooo! It’s not a VN! It’s a game that just happens to have text! There’s almost zero “gameplay” in Gone Home. Seriously. Most of one’s time in so-called “narrative-driven” games like BioShock or Final Fantasy [n] or Persona is spent doing non-narrative things – fighting, more often than not. In Gone Home, if you’re not reading/listening to documents, you’re usually (a) walking, (b) turning on lamps, or (c) opening cupboards and looking at cans of soup. The “game,” such as it is, exists solely to deliver the narrative. Baldr Sky, Aselia, the Rance VNs – all have far more gameplay than Gone Home could ever dream of. Gone Home is a visual novel. Deal with it. Nooo! It’s not a VN! You can finish the game without reading most of it! While Gone Home definitely gives you a great deal of leeway in what you choose to read, and in what order, there are still certain key documents that act as plot gateways. These help ensure there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end with an identifiable narrative arc in between. Anyway, I can also “finish” a more traditional VN without reading most of it. Maybe I get an early bad ending. Or I can read one route to completion and decide to stop, missing most of the content. Gone Home is a visual novel. Deal with it. Nooo! It’s not a VN! If it is, then any game can claim the same! Nope. Slippery slope denied. Just because Gone Home can be considered a VN, that doesn’t mean Tetris or Call of Duty: Jackalope can; it’s still a fairly high bar. Take The Walking Dead series by Telltale, for example. A number of people have argued that these games could (and should) be considered VNs, but I’d disagree. That could be a whole blog post by itself, but suffice to say their narrative form is much closer to that of a TV script than a novel or story. All kings are men, but not all men are kings. Just because VNs prioritize narrative doesn’t mean all games that prioritize narrative are VNs. Nooo! It’s not a VN! It doesn’t have sprites against a background! So what? Go tell that to Narcissu. Nooo! It’s not a VN! It doesn’t have hand-drawn art! So what? Go tell that to any recent VN using 3D character models/backdrops. Nooo! It’s not a VN! It doesn’t have routes! And heroines! Are we seriously having this conversation? Nooo! It’s not a VN! Its creators don’t even call it that! So what? Authorial intent means nothing. All the audience can judge is what’s on the page/screen. And what’s there is a visual novel. (For the record, the devs call it a "story exploration" game.) Okay, class. What have we learned? Our Gone Home experiment, interestingly enough, is the reverse of the hot dog situation. Visual novel fans (a.k.a., Team Sandwich) tend to be the ones arguing against Gone Home (a.k.a., Team Hot Dog) being considered part of the genre, rather than the other way around. Larger resists smaller, rather than smaller resisting larger. And why is that? For Team Hot Dog, the object of its affection is more than a tube-shaped piece of meat on a bun. It’s the whole emotional experience surrounding the idea of “hot dog” – the childhood ballgames, the smell of charcoal in the backyard grill. There’s a good reason I can watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on TV next month, but not the Boar’s Head Ham and Cheese on Rye Eating Contest. To admit that a hot dog is just a sandwich is to risk making it less special somehow, to blur the lines of its magic. And for members of Team VN, a “visual novel” is more than just any old game that combines textual narrative with computer graphics. It’s also the emotional experience of all the VNs they’ve played until now – experiences that are often colored by very specific art styles and narrative conceits. To admit that a “game” like Gone Home can be a visual novel is to risk making the genre seem less special somehow, to blur the lines of its magic. In both cases, the emotional experience of a thing proves to be just as true and just as powerful as the dictionary definition of that thing. And unless your name happens to be Merriam or Webster, there’s very little to be done about the latter. But the former is a matter of personal interpretation; personal interpretation remains a hill that one can choose to defend and, indeed, die upon. In other words, it’s possible for the statements “Gone Home is a visual novel,” and “I don’t consider Gone Home to be a visual novel,” to both be true simultaneously. But if you put ketchup on your hot dog sandwich, you’re just a bloody idiot. Update #1: Now watch as I argue that Gone Home really isn't a visual novel. Proof you can have your cake and piss on it too.
  13. No pictures, but I have lots of awful jokes. Where did Napoleon keep his armies?
  14. On behalf of parents — yes. We'll happily accept the appearance of civility if nothing else is available. We're not proud of this, but parenting is often less about success than survival. We're sorry.
  15. Some more quick opinions on how these samples might get edited down. (Guessing at the missing portions, of course.) ORIGINAL And... ... since the clock tower looks very misterious and beautiful looking at it from a distance, I wouldn't like to get disappointed by ruining m(y impression of it?)EDIT And seen from a distance, the clock tower is mysterious, beautiful. I'd hate to ruin that impression. Much of the meaning is already implicit in the bones of the sentence. Paring down is fairly painless. ORIGINAL She's very self-assured and significantly popular with boys and girls (mostly boys, of course) because she kindly gives you advice if you ask for her (help?) EDITShe's confident and always has a kind word of advice when asked. As a result, she's quite popular — mostly with the boys, of course. This just needs a little shortening to fit. Plus, reordering cleans up the ambiguous cause/effect relationship — i.e., she's not self-assured because she gives advice. ORIGINALTheir first family head was obsessed with education, he even hired architectural professionals in order to reproduce an ancient greek building on this (plot of land?) EDITTheir first family head was obsessed with education. He even hired architects to recreate an ancient Greek building on the grounds. This one just needed superfluous words cut, as others have pointed out. ORIGINAL I haven't been thrilled about the visit, but her comments let me down a little bit. It's just like hearing negative reviews about a tourist spot that (is supposed to be great?) EDITI was already down about the visit, and her comments aren't helping. It's like hearing bad reviews of a supposedly great tourist spot. I think Rooke's got the right of this one re: context, but I took a stab at keeping "comments" anyway. "But" is also an odd conjunction here, since her words amplify matters rather than contradict them.
  16. I tend to think most translations benefit by being edited to fit, so I voted shorter. Besides, I'm old and do most of my reading on an 8" tablet, so I'll always opt for larger type when given the choice.
  17. Aw shucks, I guess? I'll do my best to disappoint.
  18. Confirmed: Old Man Rooke has an artificial hip.
  19. Airtable. It's an online spreadsheet/relational database hybrid that's great for these kinds of tasks, especially if you have a large collection to sort through. (Not as pretty as LaunchBox, of course...)
  20. A strange game, this Calvinball. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?
  21. Your original example was about Mitsubishi suing someone. Pokemon protecting their IP from fan use is an even closer analog. But to your point, no fan TL suit that I know of has gone to trial; most teams abide by the C&D. That's a major misconception about copyright law (or at least the U.S. version of it). Damage isn't based on whether or not the infringer profits by their actions, but whether such actions diminish the potential lawful value of the original work to the copyright holder. If a VN company has the rights to produce a translated version of a work, an unlicensed translation reduces the potential sales and can be considered financial harm. This is the same logic that the MPAA and RIAA has used to successfully sue filesharers (who don't profit from their actions) in court. And for the most part, courts have upheld the (outrageous) awarded damages. Imagine the amount is much bigger — $220,000 in this case. That's enough to a ruin a life. She'll be paying that money back for decades, allowed to keep nothing save the barest living expenses. She won't even have the credit to buy a home or a car. Is it worth the risk of defying a C&D? Not to me. I've got a spouse and kids, a job and a home. I'd like to keep them. But other people's circumstances are different, of course, and I won't begrudge them their own choices.
  22. I’m not sure if you realize you’re doing it, but you keep moving the goalposts of your own argument. First you said translation w/o a distributable binary is safe because it isn’t copyright infringement. We showed you that it is. Then you said a big Japanese company would never sue a small fry an ocean away over copyright issues. (You used Mitsubishi in your example, which as a non-VN company, opens the door somewhat wider.) We showed you they have, moreover in a case where the legal costs far outweighed the damages they collected. Then you said it’s a non-issue anyway because every translation team should be operating in complete Mr. Robot stealth mode, leaving no digital trail. And even if they don’t, it’s okay, because TL teams don't have enough money to be worth suing, which the previous Pokemon example would tend to contradict. Can we just pick one patch of logical ground and stick to it for a while? P.S. - Most copyright cases are civil rather than criminal. They don't involve the police — just lots and lots of lawyers.
  23. It's true. That sort of stuff never happens. Typically, this sort of rightsholder isn't looking for a financial windfall; they're hoping to make a public example of someone to discourage future infringement. Is it likely to happen to you? Probably not. Is it possible? Absolutely.
  24. Of course it can. "Right of translation" is explicitly granted to the creator of a work under Japanese copyright law. Depending where you live and what trade agreements your home country has entered into, you always expose yourself to some small amount of risk by releasing an unsanctioned translation of a recent work — even if it's just a text file. You expose yourself to far more risk by releasing a translation after receiving a formal C&D.
  25. It’s absolutely possible. And, done well — expressive CGs with a smart use of pacing, framing, music, and silence — it could be quite interesting. I’d sure as heck “read” it. As Makudomi pointed out, there’s already a whole body of wordless novels. There have been any number of wordless plays, most notably “The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other.” And there are long stretches of Tarkovsky's films that don't have a lick of dialogue. These are artistic works that succeed in conveying meaning despite their apparent “emptiness.” (Whereas something like John Cage’s 4’33” of silence, I’d argue, is all conceit and no content.) I also think you could have a visual novel without any images at all — i.e., typography as art — but that’s a different ball of wax entirely.
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