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VN presentation take: mix between puppet plays and comic books?


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When it comes to presentation in VNs, one discussion that i've seen is that VNs are more like plays than novels. I'd agree with this take because authors that become overly descriptive with every action as if writing a novel makes the reading more tiresome than if a visual or sound effect was used. Thinking about it a bit more, i went a step further and now i think that sprite presentation in VNs may be akin to puppet plays, because the art limitations make it to that the characters can't have the same amount of expressions as regular plays do. Add that to my tiny experience with messing with VN engines where if you're making a conceptual script beforehand, making it in a play format feels more confortable than in a novel format. Finally, the way CGs and sprites are combined work similarly to comic books, where the cooldown moments make more use of certain angles and tricks that the present medium has to make the scenes more interesting while the big key moments have more complex imagery, with the definition of a big key moment being up to the narrative genre.

I'd like to know more thoughts about it. What storytelling media would you compare VNs to from a presentation standpoint?

Edited by onorub
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 Closest would be to compare them to a digitalized light novel if you added sound effects and voices in, in most cases.  Calling VNs close to plays is a bit ridiculous, because 1) it isn't live entertainment 2) reading is a large part of the medium, 3) Visual aspects are mostly static except when a company is willing to pour ridiculous amounts of money into emote systems, and 4)the only actors are voice actors.  It also cheapens the efforts of actual play actors and the non-VA members of a VN-making staff to a ridiculous degree.  

Very few VN writers ever go in for the description of every individual action... to be frank, even Masada (Dies Irae) didn't do that.  Though, if you find reading tedious, you should probably find another medium, since 80% of VNs is reading.  Writing in a good VN is more involved in the 'situation', as well as the emotions and thoughts of the characters.  The details of an action are rarely described, though the action itself is often done so in a straightforward fashion.  Exceptions are rare (Muramasa, which has a lot of swordsmanship infodumps, comes to mind).  Where stuff like Silverio or the aforementioned Dies Irae tend to bury you in details is the complex interactions during combat scenes and the twistier characters and situations.  The fact is, if you can't revel in the details of a character's motivations and the results of their actions, you are probably reading the wrong VN in that case.

On the flip side, it is hard to compare any given VN to a novel by a first-class author.  The reason I compared them to LNs is because LNs are written with the expectation that illustrations will be used to fill in some of the gaps in the writing (or the writer's skills).  As a result, most LNs are both easier to read and more limited than a true novel or even some VNs.

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It's like a play with (mostly static) avatars instead of live people. Putting quality aside, the difference between novels is that it's much more distinct when a character enters/exits the scene. That and the locations are more defined because they can't be vague like in a novel.

I mean a play still has music, sfx, script, and choreography (scripting in case of a vn). I'd say it translates pretty well.

Edited by Chronopolis
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Great topic, its been a while since we had a thread contemplating the nature of VNs as a medium. I've thought about this a fair bit myself, and I'm inclined to agree. VNs that use sprites (pretty much 99.9% of them), I think can be compared to puppet theater. Especially in how you direct things. VNs that abandon the usage of sprites (Narcissu for example), I think are a different beast and I wouldn't know how to classify them.  

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At first glance, a puppet play feels like a good analogy for an average VN... I can't help to think of it primarily from the perspective of the writing process, but let's assume for now that the analogy works both ways. Writing a puppet play doesn't seem that distinct from writing a "real" one, but it forces you to compensate for additional limitations. Less in expressiveness of the characters and more in their capability to actually do things and present complex events to the audience. You have to rely more on narration (which you shouldn't overdo to not kill the pacing) and dialogue, as you're heavily limited in stuff that can be genuinely shown. Even the static backgrounds and many CGs are more like scenography that characters build the narrative over, populating them with people and action that would be too cumbersome to visually place there.

But then, it would be easy to argue this whole comparison is a fallacy, as you basically never get a VN read to you in full. Which makes it a primarily literary experience, but also a multimedia one that can neither be directly compared to reading a play nor to watching one. This makes comic books a more reasonable point of reference, but I feel like they operate with a completely opposite set of limitations. You can show a lot in them, despite the missing links between scenes that the reader has to fill with his imagination, but you can't tell much without bloating it with text. So, ultimately I'd land in a similar place as Clephas – the closest analogue to VN, from the perspective of the reader, is probably a Light Novel, with a bit of puppet play mixed in.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
I've edited this like 10 times now, but this is really interesting... I changed my mind like three times since I've started writing, thinking about all the possible analogies. :p
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Isn't the presentation closer to point and click games or rpgs with story elements rather than any written or live action media? You have a static background and every time you click, you get a new piece of information, often accompanied by a line read, reaction shot or sprite or whatever. The soundtrack keeps on playing continuously until you reach a cue where it's supposed to change, and if you reload a point in the middle of a scene, the music starts over from the beginning, and not from the point you left it at when you saved. Also, you can't just revisit scenes at will unless you want to go through the whole thing again or the VN's creator purposefully decides to give you that option.

Edited by alpacaman
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