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What is a newbie-friendly VN?

What do you think is more important to make a VN newbie-friendly?  

32 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you think is more important to make a VN newbie-friendly?

    • Accessibility
      11
    • Themes that don't scare most people away
      17
    • Text and mechanics that are easy to understand
      4


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So recently @Darklord Rooke raised a point on this thread about what it would mean for a VN to be called "newbie friendly" and just a few days ago there was some discussion on vndb about this. So I think it's a good idea to discuss this here. What's a VN you'd consider appropriate for starters? What requisites do you think matter the most when recommending VNs for the uninitiated?

Personally I'd say there are three "types" of newbie friendliness:

  • Accessibility
    "How much does it cost?", "What platforms is it in?" and "Do I have to use AppLocale and other kinds of arcane magic to install and play it?" are all pertinent questions. Any convoluted VN you can play in your browser is more accessible than even the simplest VN you have to import from Japan.
  • Themes
    "Would I recommend this VN to my mother?", "Would I recommend this VN to my daughter?" and "Would I mention this VN to a potential employer?" are all valid questions when it comes to VN newbie friendliness. Certain themes are more difficult to introduce to the average human being
  • Literacy and Mechanics
    "Does this VN have a complicated writing style?" "Does this VN adequately explain how it works?" and "Are there quality of life functions like Autosave and Backlog?" are questions pertaining to how difficult it is to get used to a certain VN. Older VNs, especially the ones that are heavy on gameplay systems, tend to assume you know things you may not know at first and are all harder to understand than a straightforward kinetic novel.

So what do you think constitutes a newbie-friendly VN? Which VNs do you think are good for people who have never read/played a VN? Is there any other criteria you think is important?

ᵀʰᶦˢ ᵐᵃʸ ᵒʳ ᵐᵃʸ ⁿᵒᵗ ᵇᵉ ᶦᵐᵖᵒʳᵗᵃⁿᵗ ᶠᵒʳ ᵃ ᶠᵘᵗᵘʳᵉ ᶠᵘʷᵃ ʳᵉᶜᵒᵐᵐᵉⁿᵈᵃᵗᶦᵒⁿ ˢᵉʳᵛᶦᶜᵉ

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10 minutes ago, Palas said:

So recently @Darklord Rooke raised a point on this thread about what it would mean for a VN to be called "newbie friendly" and just a few days ago there was some discussion on vndb about this. So I think it's a good idea to discuss this here. What's a VN you'd consider appropriate for starters? What requisites do you think matter the most when recommending VNs for the uninitiated?

Personally I'd say there are three "types" of newbie friendliness:

  • Accessibility
    "How much does it cost?", "What platforms is it in?" and "Do I have to use AppLocale and other kinds of arcane magic to install and play it?" are all pertinent questions. Any convoluted VN you can play in your browser is more accessible than even the simplest VN you have to import from Japan.
  • Themes
    "Would I recommend this VN to my mother?", "Would I recommend this VN to my daughter?" and "Would I mention this VN to a potential employer?" are all valid questions when it comes to VN newbie friendliness. Certain themes are more difficult to introduce to the average human being
  • Literacy and Mechanics
    "Does this VN have a complicated writing style?" "Does this VN adequately explain how it works?" and "Are there quality of life functions like Autosave and Backlog?" are questions pertaining to how difficult it is to get used to a certain VN. Older VNs, especially the ones that are heavy on gameplay systems, tend to assume you know things you may not know at first and are all harder to understand than a straightforward kinetic novel.

So what do you think constitutes a newbie-friendly VN? Which VNs do you think are good for people who have never read/played a VN? Is there any other criteria you think is important?

ᵀʰᶦˢ ᵐᵃʸ ᵒʳ ᵐᵃʸ ⁿᵒᵗ ᵇᵉ ᶦᵐᵖᵒʳᵗᵃⁿᵗ ᶠᵒʳ ᵃ ᶠᵘᵗᵘʳᵉ ᶠᵘʷᵃ ʳᵉᶜᵒᵐᵐᵉⁿᵈᵃᵗᶦᵒⁿ ˢᵉʳᵛᶦᶜᵉ

I pretty much agree with all of this. If you need to put your computer into Japanese locale to play the game in English it's not newbie friendly, but plug and play into your favourite handheld or PS4 would be. A Steam release would be accessible, having to import a VN into your country that might set customs officials with rubber gloves onto you (thank you Australian laws) wouldn't be. And an accessible VN would be a smooth read. It doesn't have to be fantastically translated, but a smooth read that makes sense. Themes is hard to define because sometimes it just comes down to taste.

I'd add one thing though, a route structure that doesn't require a walkthrough *looks at Clannad*

My go to otome VNs to recommend are things like Hakuouki, Norn 9, Amnesia. Phoenix Wright and Danganronpa are good in general because they're essentially adventure games and you can bridge the divide to VNs like Stein's Gate that way.

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Just now, solidbatman said:

Little Busters! It is as newbie friendly as it gets since its target audience are 12 year olds. 

What about IMHHW? I remember it was advertised as a game "12y old french girls would definitely read".

Jokes aside, from my experience, themes are the most important factor. A lot of vns dabble in content which is often difficult to approach - not because it's complicated - but because it's often aimed at otakus for various reasons. Visual novels are rarely universal; they usually fill in niches or represent simple, mindless entertainment in the likes of Nekopara or Sakura games. Games, which tend to be original - like Narcisuu or Planetarian -  but represent universal concepts, which are easily understood both by fans and non-fans of the genre are a rarity. The notion vns are mostly something of a closet pervert's hobby is still strong outside the community and new translated games aren't really helping to change that, either.

Newbie-friendly games should have both ease of accessibility, as well as ease of understanding. It's only when people can directly link with the story and feel emotionally invested with whatever that's going on inside - as well as it's characters - is where the author manages to convey his message to readers.

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I'd say, it very much depends on a person. The main question here is why they became interested in VNs in the first place? Considering how niche VNs are in general, people don't really start reading them just because. If they watched some anime that was based on a VN and wanted to get something similar, it makes sense to recommend them something similar to that anime, maybe created by the same company (basically, it's how I myself started reading VNs). If they came from gaming, it makes sense to recommend something low on all these weird anime tropes, but solid overall. If they love reading, but never played a non-casual game and don't watch anime... they are probably going to be disappointed, but then it may be a good idea to recommend something more similar to a book in a way it's written, and maybe something more "western" in tone.

Overall, I think "themes" is the most important factor. Generally, it makes sense to recommend something that's may be not considered a "kamige", but is overall a pretty smooth experience and doesn't have too many bad points that could scare the reader away. On the other hand, accessibility is also a pretty important factor. Come to think of it, pretty much all people who I could recommend reading a VN to would never do it unless they have an easy way to get it for free. :makina:

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I think themes are probably the most important thing to consider when trying to convince someone to play a VN. You know you don't want to try and get your mate to play something like Dick Stab Alert! Pig Pussy's For Cohabitive Entrenchment right off the bat. Nah, you gotta ease them into that by playing something light.

Usually a Vn with a well known anime adaption is usually a safe bet like Steins Gate or Clannad. Then, when they get comfortable you rip the rug from under them! Exposing them to horrors they never would have dreamed about!

Accessibility is also a good factor as well I mean Katawa Shoujo was many peoples gateway VN precisely because it was free and easy to get.

Edited by Ranzo

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12 minutes ago, Ranzo said:

I think themes are probably the most important thing to consider when trying to convince someone to play a VN. You know you don't want to try and get your mate to play something like Dick Stab Alert! Pig Pussy's For Cohabitive Entrenchment right off the bat. Nah, you gotta ease them into that by playing something light.

WHY did I search VNDB for that (and promptly not find it)? A question not even science can answer :conspiracy:

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1 hour ago, r0xm2n said:

WHY did I search VNDB for that (and promptly not find it)? A question not even science can answer :conspiracy:

Because my completely plausible title excited your dirty mind into overdrive?

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I agree with your three points, especially the latter two. I'd love to recommend Kara no Shoujo to my mom, except it has sex scenes and sexual violence (tbh if Kara no Shoujo had no/minimal H content it'd be much better bc most of the scenes don't serve a purpose). 

I think a good starting point would be a VN that balances all three of those aspects. Something with a light theme (and, if you find you don't like that, there's always more to explore after), a reasonable, non-intimidating length (i.e. not 50+ hours long), and a straightforward UI. 

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No offence but a question that has plagued me: Do you wish to introduce people that are likely to be offended by adult content to the genre at all? I mean sure there is a large minority of VNs that do not have erotic content, but about 12 microseconds after learning about VNs most people discover they're usually 2D porn games. Do you really want to bother with that confrontation?

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9 minutes ago, ittaku said:

No offence but a question that has plagued me: Do you wish to introduce people that are likely to be offended by adult content to the genre at all? I mean sure there is a large minority of VNs that do not have erotic content, but about 12 microseconds after learning about VNs most people discover they're usually 2D porn games. Do you really want to bother with that confrontation?

Depends on how offended they are going to be about that. If the fact that the majority of the titles have porn is enough for them to not consider even the ones that don't, then yeah, it's not something that I'd recommend doing. :leecher: At the same time, some people may be neutral to sexual content in VNs, or even actively against it, but still like this way of telling the story. If you recommend something like Euphoria to them as the first VN, there's a good chance that they will simply be put off by all this extreme porn and drop it without ever picking up a VN again, while some other titles with low sexual content might make them interested.

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3 hours ago, ittaku said:

No offence but a question that has plagued me: Do you wish to introduce people that are likely to be offended by adult content to the genre at all? I mean sure there is a large minority of VNs that do not have erotic content, but about 12 microseconds after learning about VNs most people discover they're usually 2D porn games. Do you really want to bother with that confrontation?

I think there's a bit more to it. Obviously getting someone who is fundamentally anti-porn into VNs is pointless, but people in the West associate porn with many other things: poor production values, lack of proper plot, shallow characters. They might disregard VNs altogether if they first start seeing it as "fetish porn". Also, I've read dozens of VNs, have dozens more in my backlog and among those there were maybe a few (if any) where porn wasn't optional. You shouldn't lie to people about what VNs are, but you should also start by showing the best and most accessible ones - they aren't that much of an exception nowadays.

And going back to the main topic: accessibility + approachable themes are most important parts in my perspective. Porn being optional might also be crucial, many approach VNs because of porn rather than despite it being there, but having a choice means both sides can have their way (like in Katawa Shoujo). 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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12 hours ago, Ranzo said:

Usually a Vn with a well known anime adaption is usually a safe bet like Steins Gate or Clannad. Then, when they get comfortable you rip the rug from under them! Exposing them to horrors they never would have dreamed about!

I'd say yeah, this is a factor I completely ignored. The fact that there is derivative media alone isn't enough I guess, since it's pretty specific and doesn't say anything about the VN itself. But having seen Steins;Gate's anime does make it easier to soldier on through its first 15 hours or so.

About systems - I think it's an underrated aspect because even though there are walkthroughs and guides, sometimes the game just straight up assumes some pretty uh, some pretty eccentric things about the player.

Oblivious Garden, for example. I like it very much, but it has this tea brewing minigame that does have a tutorial, but simply... assumes you know the specifics of brewing tea in real life. You either know what's the appropriate temperature and infusion time for each combination of ingredients or you just... don't, and then have to go through an excruciating trial and error process. And normally it doesn't matter, but there's this specific plot point for a route that requires you to excel at it. My only hypothesis is that tea brewing is a widespread or at least pervasive cultural element in China (where the game is from) to the point the regular Chinese VN player can at least guess how to succeed, but I, a poor Brazilian coffee-dweller, absolutely don't - but I'd probably make similar kinds of assumptions if I wanted players to brew drip coffee (apparently brewed coffee isn't even normal in some countries, like S. Korea).

So that's a relevant factor. Not always, but sometimes the game expects you to understand how a particular system works, and you just don't.

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I think accessibility is the most important universal factor. If someone is on the fence about playing an VN, having to apply patches and fiddling with your operating system to even make that VN work is a good way to make sure they will never even try.

Themes are also important, but they are really dependent on the person. Some people want romance or mystery or action. Without knowing the persons interests it becomes difficult. The examples (mother, daughter & employer) would rule out sexual content in most cases. But with a close friend that doesn't mind sexual content that could be less of a problem. I guess the context is important here. Do you know the person or is it some stranger on the internet? Does the person at least have an idea what VNs are or is he complete new to this medium? Does he like anime/mangas or you would that be a turn of for him? And so on. I guess the less you know about him the safer it would be to recommend something without sexual content (like an all Ages version).

Edited by Formlose Gestalt

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Basically my number 1 criteria for most newbie recommendations are no H-scenes. Sometimes I will recommend VNs with H-scenes, but I always warn them about it. Its one of the things that makes recommending Suba Hibi to newbies difficult =/ (The god damn H-scenes in Subahibi)

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It's obviously a combination of things. Interesting written story, likable cast, protagonist which isn't a complete bonehead and themes that, as you say don't scare people away. That doesn't mean it has to be moege, just that they don't have to start with titles such as Kara no shoujo or Saya no uta. 

A entry level VN should not be too long either. Little busters, Clannad and Rewrite (i wonder if i'm biased here) should all be good entry level Vn's. Problem is their length. People need to warm up to the medium first, and reading slogs of SoL is not a great start.

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41 minutes ago, Stormwolf said:

Rewrite

Well, I started with Rewrite, and I would argue that it's actually a pretty good VN for a complete beginner. The fact that it basically combines all major VN genres in one work and doesn't royally fuck up any of them makes it a pretty good introductory VN, imo. If a person is used to reading in general, then reading a long VN shouldn't be that much of a challenge.

1 hour ago, Zalor said:

Its one of the things that makes recommending Suba Hibi to newbies difficult

Well, Sibahibi is the next level in "not beginner friendly". :makina:

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Themes. Easy to sell "A group of weirdo friends accidentally make a time machine out of a microwave in the summer of 2010" compared to "Disillusioned university student is left trapped in a hellscape of his own mind's making after a car accident, and his only salvation is a 10-year-old looking girl as they both descend into madness and depravity". I've found that many people don't look favorably upon the idea of visual novels based upon the medium and mechanics alone- too nerdy/not mature or serious enough for avid book readers, and too restrictive and boring for most gamers. On top of that, consider the heavily anime art style of most visual novels, the tropes from anime and general Japanese media present in the genre (not to mention the genre's own tropes), and the genre's reputation for having porn in the majority of high profile (and in the overall genre) releases, often with characters that look like adolescents at best. It's no wonder that VNs attract few people who aren't already deeply invested into anime and/or gaming circles.

There are enough VNs released on Steam now so that it's not necessarily an immediate drawback for the VN industry. However, just about every other entertainment/art medium is just as easily available, so there's competition. A VN being easily available is far from meaning it's appealing.

As for text and mechanics, unless you're talking to some gamer to whom the very mention of a walkthrough gives conniptions, I don't think they should be much of a drawback. Danganronpa's class trials or 999's puzzles might help hook an open-minded reader, but ultimately just about anybody will drop a VN if the gamey parts aren't the by and large focus. I can think of few VNs if any where the mechanics or the choice system is my primary reason for recommendation.

 

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