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Is it possible to play a visual novel on a basic mobile phone that is NOT a smartphone?


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In most cases no, unless you program the game exlusively for such devices or put a lot of effort into creating a heavily streamlined version of your game dedicated to them - usually those phones have brand-specific operating systems and very limited processing power, so they won't be able to run normal PC or Android apps. I also can't imagine reading VN text on those tiny screens would be a pleasant experience.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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Well, I never heard of somebody actually doing it. :blink: Well, technically it is possible, I think, if the VN is simple enough, but there are way too many problems with it. The main problem is that I really doubt that such VNs would sell. If you market them for a developing country where people still can't afford smartphones (I assume that the VN will be in the language generally spoken in that country), I really doubt that the same people would have enough money to spend on entertainment, and such ports would never sell well enough for the trouble to be worth it. Also, mobile phones have a lot of different OS's, while most smartphones use either android or ios, so porting that VN to different phone models would most likely be a nightmare.

Also, the information in this article seems a bit old. Here in Russia, for example, the market right now is dominated by affordable Chinese smartphones. I think, the most people who still use basic phones are elderly people who aren't very good with technology and aren't used to touch screens. And, I guess, the poorest people who can't really afford anything. And a small percentage of people who are too afraid of spyware. ^_^

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58 minutes ago, Dreamysyu said:

And, I guess, the poorest people who can't really afford anything. And a small percentage of people who are too afraid of spyware. ^_^

Last week I saw a homeless guy with a smartphone here in Warsaw. Access to information and possibility to leech on free wi-fi around the town are sometimes too attractive to skip even for those that theoretically have nothing. :>

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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You can, using Java - let's not forget we did have games on phones before the smartphones - but you'll have one hell of a hard time doing it. Games for pre-smartphone era phones needed to be ported to every system imaginable because there wasn't an Android OS that unified everything. We're talking about four or five target systems (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony) and multiple resolutions for each system because each model had different screen sizes and formats. So you'd have to put out like 20 versions of your game.

And even then you'll have to find a way to distribute it - back in the day, each system had its own store managed by the manufacturer and all of these were discontinued. Downloading the Java application from the internet was viable, but not nearly as streamlined (since you had to know your phone resolution and model), and since this is just about the only way you'd be able to distribute it nowadays, that's a pain.

Boy what a strange era that was.

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I have a little bit of experience with Symbian OS (the Nokia phone OS) and in theory you can port ren'py to it based on the linux port. However the OS was last updated in 2012 and odds are that all the libraries you need to make the port are discontinued as well. If you don't have access to the libraries you need to make a port, then you are in for a difficult time.

Another issue is screen resolution. Those old screens have so few pixels that just displaying all the text can be an issue. I have seen some creative ways to get around the pixel limitations when porting computer games to those small screens and none of them work well. It's not just the size of the screen, which would make me avoid a VN on such a phone, the number of pixels would also make it a horrible experience.

Java has been mentioned, but that would make the game engine more CPU hungry and it's not like there are plenty of CPU power to spare. This approach is also limited by the fact that there is no VN engine written in java (at least that I know of), meaning you would have to start over making your own from scratch.

Regardless of which approach you pick, if you have to pay a skill programmer (or group of programmers) to get VNs working on such old devices, it would most likely be way more expensive than buying a low end android device for each user. Realistically speaking, we are stuck without VNs for platforms not supported by ren'py.

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1 hour ago, tymmur said:

I have a little bit of experience with Symbian OS (the Nokia phone OS) and in theory you can port ren'py to it based on the linux port. However the OS was last updated in 2012 and odds are that all the libraries you need to make the port are discontinued as well. If you don't have access to the libraries you need to make a port, then you are in for a difficult time.

Another issue is screen resolution. Those old screens have so few pixels that just displaying all the text can be an issue. I have seen some creative ways to get around the pixel limitations when porting computer games to those small screens and none of them work well. It's not just the size of the screen, which would make me avoid a VN on such a phone, the number of pixels would also make it a horrible experience.

Java has been mentioned, but that would make the game engine more CPU hungry and it's not like there are plenty of CPU power to spare. This approach is also limited by the fact that there is no VN engine written in java (at least that I know of), meaning you would have to start over making your own from scratch.

Regardless of which approach you pick, if you have to pay a skill programmer (or group of programmers) to get VNs working on such old devices, it would most likely be way more expensive than buying a low end android device for each user. Realistically speaking, we are stuck without VNs for platforms not supported by ren'py.

I don't know what kind of resolution your phone has but VNs were okay to read on gba that has a resolution of 240×160

Also feature phone doesn't necessarily mean old. See new HMD Global Nokia phones.

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pretty simple actually
 

  1. put the basic phone up on craigslist, or in the trash, no one wants that shit anyways
  2. buy a cheap android tablet/smartphone, a kindle works decently if you know how to get the play store on it and its also cheap af
  3. find a visual novel/ visual novel player
  4. enjoy
Edited by Akimoto Masato
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Even though it may be possible if we can read VN on 240×160 screen, I think nowadays nobody want to do that because the screen was too small. As for the question, basic phone is designed only to have some basic function like messaging and phone and only have small screen to boot not to mention there's no touch screen. So my answer is you can't play VN on the basic phone and even if we can make it to be possible, it would be more trouble than it's worth.

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7 hours ago, littleshogun said:

Even though it may be possible if we can read VN on 240×160 screen, I think nowadays nobody want to do that because the screen was too small.

Pay attention to who made which claim. It isn't possible to put a decent amount of text on such a small screen. If you are to add BG and sprites as well, the screen resolution for the text is like 240x60. For comparison here is a screenshot of text in 320x200.

Spoiler

vizawrite.png

Sure you can make room for more text if you don't use a monospace font, but still we are talking something like 5 words per line on 4-5 lines, which is even a high estimate. Sure you can split the text into such short lines, but the resolution will make it a rather poor reading experience even before we get to the screen size.

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10 hours ago, tymmur said:

Pay attention to who made which claim. It isn't possible to put a decent amount of text on such a small screen. If you are to add BG and sprites as well, the screen resolution for the text is like 240x60. For comparison here is a screenshot of text in 320x200.

  Reveal hidden contents

vizawrite.png

Sure you can make room for more text if you don't use a monospace font, but still we are talking something like 5 words per line on 4-5 lines, which is even a high estimate. Sure you can split the text into such short lines, but the resolution will make it a rather poor reading experience even before we get to the screen size.

This is from Cross Channel GBA release. Seems fine for me.

RcPr7na.png

Edited by Kiriririri
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8 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

This is from Cross Channel GBA release. Seems fine for me.

RcPr7na.png

That's fine, but that's a) Japanese text, which can normally fit more information in fewer characters b) a GBA, which has landscape orientation not always available in old phones. I remember there being a lot (and I mean a LOT) less text in mobile games back then.

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3 minutes ago, Palas said:

That's fine, but that's a) Japanese text, which can normally fit more information in fewer characters b) a GBA, which has landscape orientation not always available in old phones. I remember there being a lot (and I mean a LOT) less text in mobile games back then.

I don't think language was specified anywhere. Only if it is possible or not.
Why do you also say old phones when there is new feature phones too. The new 3310 also has a resolution of 240x320 which seems fine for this.

Edited by Kiriririri
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4 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

I don't think language was specified anywhere.

The question was asked in English. It's fair to assume the goal is a language using Latin characters. You do not want to read a VN using latin characters on such a resolution.

Another problem not mentioned yet is that the smaller the text, the higher the resolution is needed for readability. Low resolution and low screen size is a horrible combination for extended reading sessions.

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16 minutes ago, tymmur said:

The question was asked in English. It's fair to assume the goal is a language using Latin characters. You do not want to read a VN using latin characters on such a resolution.

Another problem not mentioned yet is that the smaller the text, the higher the resolution is needed for readability. Low resolution and low screen size is a horrible combination for extended reading sessions.

However it is possible. Like with any development you work within the device's limitations. If you have a low resolution feature phone maybe you should not write a 100 hour visual novel with long-ass lines. Something like pokemon on GBA has a fine looking text box.
GBA-Pokemon-Adventure-Red-Chapter-beta-7

I think you can make a visual novel work just fine with that size of a box or maybe move to NVL format instead of ADV if not.
I also don't think that anyone would read a visual novel for many hours on a phone but it would be every now and then and the visual novel should be adapted to a format that makes it work.
Do not think how the CURRENT visual novels are but how the visual novels COULD BE DEVELOPED for a feature phone.

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19 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

I think you can make a visual novel work just fine with that size of a box or maybe move to NVL format instead of ADV if not.
I also don't think that anyone would read a visual novel for many hours on a phone but it would be every now and then and the visual novel should be adapted to a format that makes it work.
Do not think how the CURRENT visual novels are but how the visual novels COULD BE DEVELOPED for a feature phone.

Hey that's a pretty good point. 

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I see. In that case then I'm sorry about my mistaken assumption in regard of people didn't want to play VN on 230x160 screen, because turned out that there's also GBA with that resolution and we have some VNs in GBA as well. Or like Kiriririri said it was possible to develop ADV VN because we have Pokemon as the example, and not to mention we have some GBA games that was able to add some sprite and CG like Riviera.

But my point in regard of not able to play VN on basic phone is still stand though, because the old phone that allow us to play GBA is N-Gage and N-Gage is could be treated as smartphone. As for new Nokia 3310, while it did have small screen it still treated as the smartphone by using android so it's possible to play VN in that phone as well, small screen issue for some people aside. I may be wrong in regard of this one though.

Edited by littleshogun
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16 hours ago, Kiriririri said:

I think you can make a visual novel work just fine with that size of a box or maybe move to NVL format instead of ADV if not.
I also don't think that anyone would read a visual novel for many hours on a phone but it would be every now and then and the visual novel should be adapted to a format that makes it work.
Do not think how the CURRENT visual novels are but how the visual novels COULD BE DEVELOPED for a feature phone.

You can put two bikes together side by side. That won't make it a car even though it has 4 wheels. Likewise if we start to accept the limitations you talk about, we will have to argue how many limitations we can accept while still calling it a VN. NVL at such a resolution is just a novel, which shows a picture whenever the text is hidden. It's also a topic how little text you can accept at once and still classify it in the novel genre.

9 hours ago, littleshogun said:

But my point in regard of not able to play VN on basic phone is still stand though, because the phone that allow us to play GBA is N-Gage and N-Gage is could be treated as smartphone. As for Nokia 3310, while it did have small screen it still treated as the smartphone by using android so it's possible to play VN in that phone as well, small screen issue for some people aside. I may be wrong in regard of this one though.

This is another good question. What is a smartphone and what is a basic phone? If you look at a phone, what criteria would you use to decide if it's a smartphone or not? If it is able to install and run a VN, it could be argued that it is in the smartphone category. A basic phone can be as simple as only being able to make phone calls and send SMS using a monochrome display. Obviously anything which could be considered a VN would require a lot more than that.

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40 minutes ago, tymmur said:

You can put two bikes together side by side. That won't make it a car even though it has 4 wheels. Likewise if we start to accept the limitations you talk about, we will have to argue how many limitations we can accept while still calling it a VN. NVL at such a resolution is just a novel, which shows a picture whenever the text is hidden. It's also a topic how little text you can accept at once and still classify it in the novel genre.

Are you a fucking retard? (mods you can ban me btw i dont care)

If it has text in NVL format over transparent textbox and has backgrounds + music, how the fuck isn't it a VN? Are you saying that VNs are defined by screen resolution??? I don't even know what you mean. You seriously can't see a picture of normal NVL VN with just a lower resolution and less text on the screen at once??? But I guess it might be too much to handle for your poor brain that can't take GIFs. VNs already take time for writers to get used to because of their short line format compared to real novels.

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C64_holo_vn_final.pngC64_holo_vn_final_truesize.png

This is an experiment I did for a C64 a while ago. It showcases a vn-like game format with a text window large enough to fit in a character name and two lines for characters, as well as a command prompt below, all of that along with graphics. All of this is running in 320x200 (actually 160x200, since the program runs in multicolor mode which doubles the size of each pixel horizontally in order to fit in more colours, in this case 16 displayed on-screen at once from 8). NVL is clearly possible and will fit even more text at the cost of background visibility (translucency is something which is too much for C64 to handle realistically). This runs on a hardware that has a 1mhz CPU and 64 kilobytes of shared RAM. Even certain very old feature phones are capable of more.

Fite me.

Edited by Narcosis
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4 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

I only do this for him dont worry

If you pick a single person to verbally assault like that without warning, how is that different from bullying?

Besides you make no sense in what you are saying when compared with my actual experience working with either text length limitations or pixel limitations. You have to make compromises to get it to work and it will hurt the quality of the end product. Reading a VN (or VN like game) on such a resolution will be a poor experience judged by normal VN standards and that is before the issues of the screen size is taken into account.

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35 minutes ago, Kiriririri said:

Are you a fucking retard? (mods you can ban me btw i dont care)

Explain exactly how this was necessary? You're turning into @Aniki more and more with pretty much every new post you make lately and man, you never want to go full Aniki.

And as much as I might agree with you on specifics, there's one merit in what Tynmur said - even if you make a functional VN on a feature phone is will, most likely, be barely functional. While the question of the OP might've been about whether making a VN like that is possible (although it's hard to tell with how broad the question was), whether there's any reason to do so is also important. I'm still pretty sure reading a VN on an old Nokia would be a miserable experience - just like I would never want to read one on a GBA. This whole conversation is pretty pointless, and throwing insults around because of it could be described through that impolite word you yourself used.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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2 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I'm still pretty sure reading a VN on an old Nokia would be a miserable experience - just like I would never want to read one on a GBA.

And you two are judging something before even trying it. Just saying that maybe one of us has been a game dev at Nokia and other has been not. Of course you can't make it work better than some 4k screen but maybe you shouldn't even compare it to one in this case when the question is if it is possible or not.

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