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Digital Seclusion: A visual novel about visual novels [FREE]


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I would like to say before anything else, that this project is first and foremost an open love-letter to the visual novel medium. I've officially been reading visual novels (granted, on an on-and-off basis) for 10 years now. Hell, I've been posting on these forums for over 7 years. It's safe to say that visual novels are an ingrained part of me at this point. Whether across discussion threads here or blog posts, I've written a lot about my thoughts on visual novels, especially about those that I like. However, even with blog posts that I took lots of time to carefully write up and polish, I never felt like I was able to truly convey my genuine love for the medium. I think with this visual novel, Digital Seclusion, I've finally been able to do that to some respect.

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Plot Synopsis: Isolated in a room repurposed into a personal shrine to esoteric Japanese media. Our nameless protagonist has dedicated himself to a collection of retro Japanese computer games, with a particular fondness for early visual novels. Although decaying in a slovenly existence to the untrained eye, his retreat into digital life is enriched by the scripted interactions with various charming 2D girls. His one purpose in life is to chronicle his thoughts and reflections on each of the digital worlds he immerses himself in. However, one day while pulling out another visual novel to review, a girl leaps straight out of the cover art and begins interacting with him, face to face. But perhaps most shocking of all, in a completely unscripted manner.

Information: Digital Seclusion is completely free. In terms of its length, I would estimate it to be between 1.5 ~ 2 hours long. The current and most likely final version of this VN is version 1.20.

Download: https://thezalor.itch.io/digital-seclusion

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Well, I wrote you a PM, but I might as well share my thoughts on it here as well.

Quote

 

I loved it. The story proper, your writing, the atmosphere. You really have a knack for it -- not that we didn't know it. It just feels very comfortable and personal, to read Digital Seclusion. I was blown away before I even started, because using background noise and sampled voiceovers as the main manu theme really enraptured me right away.

There's something really magical about how you switch how the narration works back and forth between the protagonist's thoughts and the protagonist's own text, which is but his thoughts after all. The simple animations, the way they're completed with more sampled voiceovers, the way the outside world is more abstract than the inside, it does set the code to understand that VNs can be, for us, more real than anything else at times. So really, congratulations! Again: not that we didn't know, but you're incredibly talented, thoughtful and your writing is so pleasant. I'd really like to see more from you. I know this is a love letter, but it's also more than that. It's a great VN, through and through.

So I made a VNDB entry for it anyway. If you'd like, complete it with all the info I couldn't gather. You really deserve it, you know. The recognition for such an amazing work.

 

 

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...is this purposely written with a lot of typos and general fuckiness? The vibe a few screens in is good, the prose not so much

EDIT:
well, I got 1/1 ends, I guess
The prose gets better once you stop trying to be pretentious, though there are stil la few pain points probably partly caused by a lack of proofreading. The atmosphere is great, and I appreciated the history-of-vns part of it (it's certainly nostalgic to see titles I too have played...). The presentation is great, so my only real complaint is the unpolished writing.

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On 2/6/2021 at 5:43 AM, Zakamutt said:

...is this purposely written with a lot of typos and general fuckiness?

General fuckiness, probably yes. Typos, no (not intentionally for the most part). When you reread the same thing and constantly make small edits like a billion times your mind tends to gloss over the small mistakes. I had one person read it before release and they spotted a couple errors and I fixed those. Maybe I should have sent it to you since you edited my articles before lol. Purple prose was intentional, mostly because I believe that style of writing most accurately reflects the main character's mentality.   

Thanks for the feedback! And I'm glad you liked the atmosphere, as that was probably my biggest focus.

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12 hours ago, Palas said:

Well, I wrote you a PM, but I might as well share my thoughts on it here as well.

Thank you very much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. And thank you for making the vndb page!

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I think I have really high standards when it comes to purple prose. I want it to be tight as fuck, or it just makes me cringe ever so slightly. Overall, it just felt a lot like jamming unusual words where they did not quite fit, rather than using them as a valid alternative to something more pedestrian. There are also some more consistent phrasing issues like lack of commas, a fair bunch of inexplicable semicolons that should be colons or changed to something else, &c. I'm half inclined to actually try to edit this, though who knows if I'd complete anything. The sections that IMO need the most attention aren't that long, so it's at least plausible. I will say, the typo in this one definitely didn't help me take it seriously. XavxkBm.png

(I would instinctively go for a word that actually works with the physical image of a root, such a severed — though really, it would be cool to rephrase it like idk... Longing is easier to manage once its origin has been safely divorced from your reality.)

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14 minutes ago, Zakamutt said:

I'm half inclined to actually try to edit this, though who knows if I'd complete anything. The sections that IMO need the most attention aren't that long, so it's at least plausible. I will say, the typo in this one definitely didn't help me take it seriously.

First of all thanks for that catch (something like that is the definition of a mistake that I don't notice when I reread something too much). I already fixed it, but before I update the downloads I think it would probably be more efficient to fix up the other typos as well. If you really wouldn't mind helping me with that, I would be really appreciative.  

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UPDATE: Just updated all the files, lets call this version 1.10. Zakamutt kindly did some work as a proofreader, and I've fixed various typos for this version. There may still be some typos that stubbornly escaped attention, but at least the majority of them should have been taken care of in this release.  

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Update: Version 1.20. is now out. @Zakamutt was the editor for this version and he helped a lot. This will likely be the final update to the VN. And if not the final, it is certainly the most significant update. The script has been thoroughly examined and polished of any errors. If any errors do remain they were either intentionally left in as a design decision, or my subconscious just really wants them there lol. 

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I only read like the initial 20 mins before RL interrupted me, but I have to say, the visual style and music are spot-on. I love how thematic all the screams are, along with the ambience and sampled visuals and voices it really transports you to this eerie hikikomori world. I will comment more on the story when I get further into it. :)

One technical comment I have is the flickering screen in the blog sections... I know it's for authenticity's sake, but it low-key gave me a headache and I'm usually not very susceptible to such stuff. I wonder if it would be complicated to create an option to toggle it off? It might just be me overdosing on coffee or something though. 

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Huh, well... Now after finishing the game, I wonder what can I add over what Palas already said. I very much agree with him when it goes to the quality of the writing and the presentation. They are superb and while knowing you for quite some times through Fuwa and realizing how personal some of the fragments and protagonist's opinions are distracted me slightly, I think average reader will have an even better time with it. :)

The horror subplot however, I can't fully make up my mind on...

Spoiler

I like the concept itself and most of it was quite interesting, but the ending... I don't mean it as an insult to you, but it has this uncomfortable vibe of an incel fever-dream. I guess with your main idea around it there was no place for alternative endings or generally a window to some less blackpilled reality, but I really wish it didn't ignore the possibility that other powerful tool of VNs, choices, creates. I'm not one to complain about a game being kinetic just because, but I also don't feel comfortable with a game that doesn't offset this kind of ending with some alternative. Whether you take that scenario literally or as a metaphor, I just can't help but dislike it and I don't think it even has the shock value of something like the ending of Lynne. The abruptness of that at least left me in a daze, this was just alienating in a bad way. It doesn't ruin the experience for me – far from it to be honest – but if you would like me to write an honest and detailed review of the VN, I will bitch about this part. 😛

 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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On 2/16/2021 at 4:02 AM, Plk_Lesiak said:

Huh, well... Now after finishing the game, I wonder what can I add over what Palas already said. I very much agree with him when it goes to the quality of the writing and the presentation. They are superb and while knowing you for quite some times through Fuwa and realizing how personal some of the fragments and protagonist's opinions are distracted me slightly, I think average reader will have an even better time with it. :)

The horror subplot however, I can't fully make up my mind on...

  Reveal hidden contents

I like the concept itself and most of it was quite interesting, but the ending... I don't mean it as an insult to you, but it has this uncomfortable vibe of an incel fever-dream. I guess with your main idea around it there was no place for alternative endings or generally a window to some less blackpilled reality, but I really wish it didn't ignore the possibility that other powerful tool of VNs, choices, creates. I'm not one to complain about a game being kinetic just because, but I also don't feel comfortable with a game that doesn't offset this kind of ending with some alternative. Whether you take that scenario literally or as a metaphor, I just can't help but dislike it and I don't think it even has the shock value of something like the ending of Lynne. The abruptness of that at least left me in a daze, this was just alienating in a bad way. It doesn't ruin the experience for me – far from it to be honest – but if you would like me to write an honest and detailed review of the VN, I will bitch about this part. 😛

 

First of all, thank you very much for having read it! And I'm glad you found many aspects of it pleasurable. Your criticism of the ending isn't something I myself even disagree with. Way back when it was only in the form of a script, I personally felt it was one of the weaker aspects of the story. I can at least explain why I ultimately went with it, for any curious:

Spoiler

There is a concept explored by an Internet-intellectual and YouTube channel called MemeAnalysis, who is very intrigued by this thing he calls the "Digital Anima". While I didn't know who he was when I originally wrote this story, it was engaging with his ideas which ultimately motivated me to keep the ending, as I think one of the central characters in the story could be seen as a manifestation of a Digital Anima. The ending portrays symbolically what I think the end result will be for anyone who dedicates that much effort to shut out reality, and who gets too close to the Digital Anima. Stuff we now see with incels, was stuff I already saw 10 years ago on imageboards like Tohno-chan. A website where people genuinely took the whole waifu concept eerily too seriously. Not to mentioned that most users of the site described themselves (still do, but compared to 10 years ago the site is basically dead) as hikikomori. When I was 14 I spent a couple of months browsing that site, and it so quickly poisoned and demoralized my mentality in so many ways, that I ultimately swore to myself never to lurk or post there again. This whole concept of the Digital Anima (which MemeAnalysis interprets somewhat differently than I do), was something I saw manifest there. With people who would constantly brew in misery and isolation, and genuinely worshipped 'waifus'. Their most common wish was to die in their sleep so that they could "spend eternity with their waifu". Well, from that last sentence alone I suppose you could see why I went with this ending. But the horror aspect of it is because I don't think in any way, "dying to spend eternity with your waifu" would be a good thing. 

I did consider putting in some sort of option for a good ending, but what I ultimately realized is that there would be no way to do it without fundamentally rewriting a completely different story (or having the good-ending feel completely forced). The way I see it, the moment he first met that shapeshifter and was relatively unfazed and accepting of it, was the first sign that he was psychologically already gone past the point of no return. To just passively accept a phenomenon that bizarre without questioning it, I think shows how indifferent he was to his own wellbeing. He was already past the event horizon, and the rest of the story is seeing the process unfold.

As for the flickering screens, what you mentioned was also a concern of mine. I think the effect can add a nice touch, but I'm also aware some people might be sensitive to it. I'm sure if I looked into it I could figure out how to add an option to have it on or off. Or I might just get rid of it all together, since I'm not sure if it adds that much to the overall atmosphere. Out of curiosity, did you have trouble with the flickering screen for both the half-screen computer, and the full screen one? Or was it one more than the other? Because my suspicion is that the full screen one is likely the more annoying one.   

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28 minutes ago, Zalor said:

As for the flickering screens, what you mentioned was also a concern of mine. I think the effect can add a nice touch, but I'm also aware some people might be sensitive to it. I'm sure if I looked into it I could figure out how to add an option to have it on or off. Or I might just get rid of it all together, since I'm not sure if it adds that much to the overall atmosphere. Out of curiosity, did you have trouble with the flickering screen for both the half-screen computer, and the full screen one? Or was it one more than the other? Because my suspicion is that the full screen one is likely the more annoying one.   

The bigger one was definitely more grating, but I also remember the smaller one getting to me a bit when I was reading later in the evening and with less backlight in my room. So it's probably not completely detached from my bad reading habits, but like I said, I usually don't get that effect much.

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  • 2 weeks later...
11 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

Well, Digital Seclusion is now officially Fuwa-endorsed: https://fuwanovel.net/reviews/2021/02/27/digital-seclusion/ ;)

Those that didn't read it yet, shame on you, but consider checking out both the review and the VN itself. Also, further discussion is encouraged. :3

I really appreciate the review and the fuwa-endorsement! Thank you for spending time to write up your thoughts!

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8 hours ago, Funnerific said:

It was interesting but I dropped it since I find the English fairly unreadable. There are some good parts courtesy of zaka, but they don't salvage the whole thing. And why would I ever read a short EVN if not for good English? https://imgur.com/a/QIf7GFs

Originally I didn't have much to say about this, other than that tastes are somewhat subjective and after strong evaluation I standby most of my writing decisions (even if some disapprove). But, I do appreciate all the effort you spent into pointing out all the parts you had problems with. So if nothing else, thank you for the constructive feedback and giving it a try. 

EDIT: I should add, when I say I standby the writing I don't mean to imply that I think the writing is free from fault. But personally, I'm done modifying this work and ready to move on with my life to other things. Most of the remaining flaws regarding the writing are either very pedantic technical details, or simply subjective disagreements.

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