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How can Visual Novels improve their storytelling?


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I've seen some people argue about how the "VN medium" is dying. The arguments on both sides on whether it's dying or not make sense but outside some companies closing or losing employees I can't really confirm either way.

What I can talk about, is how visual novels can improve their storytelling so the medium doesn't become too complacent, and I think applies to both Japanese-made VNs and any made outside it. I'd like to make a video about it but what wanted to get some feedback from other people in case I missed any major points below.

General Improvements

  • Narration/Monologue padding. I know one of the main reasons you read a visual novel is specifically so you can have narration, monologuing, and more time to build up to something. However, unless part of the is narration is specifically building up to something, I think a lot of this padding could easily be trimmed or removd to get to the point(s) a lot quicker.
  • Protagonist voice acting. I know there are many reasons why you wouldn't include it, whether it's costly, or you want to increase the "self-insert" factor. The self-insert factor would make more sense in a nukige or even a romance-heavy story. But if part of a story is to have some semblance of a story or even emotional drama parts, it would make sense for the protagonist to be voiced in the non-18+ content.
  • Protagonists with actual personality. The "plain" protagonist thing works in romance-heavy VNs where the focus is on the love interests. However, in anything with any semblance of plot or character development it would be nice if more characters had... any personality. I don't expect them all to be amazing, but I'd like more writers to at least try more. Some may complain they'd rather have a plain protag than an annoying/whiny protag, but I disagree, as I consider that a test that can go well depending on the story, or if not just a lesson learned and to try something different.
  • More post-high school settings. Some story-oriented visual novels have ventured into post-high school age characters. But a vast majority still at least have implied high school age characters at the same minimum. And moege very clearly uses 18 year old high school trope vast majority of the time. It says something when Making * Lovers is one of the most popular moege out there now, popular enough to get a sequel in name.

Moege/Charage

  • A better way to differentiate between the two. Part of why I put these these two together is because sometimes it can be difficult to categorize some VNs since they can have a mix of fluffy slice of life and character-development oriented drama. It can be fine to have a bit of some drama in moe VNs, and some fluff in character-development oriented ones, but from what I see the fans of either moege vs charage would prefer a focused experience.
  • For moege, more unique character archetypes or clubs. I know part of the appeal is just using archetypes of cute heroines and giving them different designs and making cute romantic stories. However, I think it would be good to either explore unique takes on character archetypes, or at least make more interesting, unique clubs to make characters have more interesting romantic motivations
  • For charage, a way to make most character development stick. So many character-development oriented visual novels are route based, so it can be disappointing to see some well-developed characters lose it when you decide to go to a new route. Part of why I love Sharin no Kuni is because they found a way to make character development stick for all characters canonically, no matter which heroine you choose to romance at the end. There is an option for more non-route based visual novels but those don't seem to get as popular.


Action/Chuuni

  • Have a way for the action parts to be more animated. I'm not asking for the VN devs to have fully animated fights for VNs, might as well just watch an action anime at that point. I do think a little animation in certain key moments would help since a lot of the time action scenes in visual novels are just 30+ page essays describing every single detail that happens a fight with a single CG can ruin the pacing.

Mystery

  • Make the endings worth all the buildup. A whole bunch of popular mystery visual novel series I see have endings that disappoint people in various ways. I think a lot of times the mystery parts are just set up so well that it can be hard to meet the expectations by the ending. I think more careful planning and having a clear endgoal of what the reader learns at the end will help set up the mystery parts to be both great and consistent, which will in turn make the ending good too.

Horror

  • Just more made in general. You would think this would be a great medium for visual novel writers to capitalize on. The few horror visual novels we have seem good and varied, I just don't think there's enough to give proper criticism.

Otomege

  • More genres. It's safe to say that visual novels with male protagonists have a much higher spread of genres. Meanwhile, at least from what I noticed, the amount of genres in otomege in general is limited. Admittedly, it doesn't help that the otomege in general are much lower.

Western Made VNs / OELVNs / EVNs

  • Branching out more into their own. Admittedly a few of the most popular ones clearly take after Japanese VNs, but still mostly did their own thing. From the bunch I've looked around, I think most western made visual novels still try to attempt to copy the Japanese in terms of art style, settings, and story telling. I think they should just keep trying to do their own thing, eventually something will be big enough for other devs to be inspired from. This genre can't really rely on a Katawa / DDLC every 10 years.

Can't really comment on any more genres, anyone else have any input on this?

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5 hours ago, NowItsAngeTime said:

I've seen some people argue about how the "VN medium" is dying. The arguments on both sides on whether it's dying or not make sense but outside some companies closing or losing employees I can't really confirm either way.

What I can talk about, is how visual novels can improve their storytelling so the medium doesn't become too complacent, and I think applies to both Japanese-made VNs and any made outside it. I'd like to make a video about it but what wanted to get some feedback from other people in case I missed any major points below.

General Improvements

  • Narration/Monologue padding. I know one of the main reasons you read a visual novel is specifically so you can have narration, monologuing, and more time to build up to something. However, unless part of the is narration is specifically building up to something, I think a lot of this padding could easily be trimmed or removd to get to the point(s) a lot quicker.
  • Protagonist voice acting. I know there are many reasons why you wouldn't include it, whether it's costly, or you want to increase the "self-insert" factor. The self-insert factor would make more sense in a nukige or even a romance-heavy story. But if part of a story is to have some semblance of a story or even emotional drama parts, it would make sense for the protagonist to be voiced in the non-18+ content.
  • Protagonists with actual personality. The "plain" protagonist thing works in romance-heavy VNs where the focus is on the love interests. However, in anything with any semblance of plot or character development it would be nice if more characters had... any personality. I don't expect them all to be amazing, but I'd like more writers to at least try more. Some may complain they'd rather have a plain protag than an annoying/whiny protag, but I disagree, as I consider that a test that can go well depending on the story, or if not just a lesson learned and to try something different.
  • More post-high school settings. Some story-oriented visual novels have ventured into post-high school age characters. But a vast majority still at least have implied high school age characters at the same minimum. And moege very clearly uses 18 year old high school trope vast majority of the time. It says something when Making * Lovers is one of the most popular moege out there now, popular enough to get a sequel in name.

Moege/Charage

  • A better way to differentiate between the two. Part of why I put these these two together is because sometimes it can be difficult to categorize some VNs since they can have a mix of fluffy slice of life and character-development oriented drama. It can be fine to have a bit of some drama in moe VNs, and some fluff in character-development oriented ones, but from what I see the fans of either moege vs charage would prefer a focused experience.
  • For moege, more unique character archetypes or clubs. I know part of the appeal is just using archetypes of cute heroines and giving them different designs and making cute romantic stories. However, I think it would be good to either explore unique takes on character archetypes, or at least make more interesting, unique clubs to make characters have more interesting romantic motivations
  • For charage, a way to make most character development stick. So many character-development oriented visual novels are route based, so it can be disappointing to see some well-developed characters lose it when you decide to go to a new route. Part of why I love Sharin no Kuni is because they found a way to make character development stick for all characters canonically, no matter which heroine you choose to romance at the end. There is an option for more non-route based visual novels but those don't seem to get as popular.


Action/Chuuni

  • Have a way for the action parts to be more animated. I'm not asking for the VN devs to have fully animated fights for VNs, might as well just watch an action anime at that point. I do think a little animation in certain key moments would help since a lot of the time action scenes in visual novels are just 30+ page essays describing every single detail that happens a fight with a single CG can ruin the pacing.

Mystery

  • Make the endings worth all the buildup. A whole bunch of popular mystery visual novel series I see have endings that disappoint people in various ways. I think a lot of times the mystery parts are just set up so well that it can be hard to meet the expectations by the ending. I think more careful planning and having a clear endgoal of what the reader learns at the end will help set up the mystery parts to be both great and consistent, which will in turn make the ending good too.

Horror

  • Just more made in general. You would think this would be a great medium for visual novel writers to capitalize on. The few horror visual novels we have seem good and varied, I just don't think there's enough to give proper criticism.

Otomege

  • More genres. It's safe to say that visual novels with male protagonists have a much higher spread of genres. Meanwhile, at least from what I noticed, the amount of genres in otomege in general is limited. Admittedly, it doesn't help that the otomege in general are much lower.

Western Made VNs / OELVNs / EVNs

  • Branching out more into their own. Admittedly a few of the most popular ones clearly take after Japanese VNs, but still mostly did their own thing. From the bunch I've looked around, I think most western made visual novels still try to attempt to copy the Japanese in terms of art style, settings, and story telling. I think they should just keep trying to do their own thing, eventually something will be big enough for other devs to be inspired from. This genre can't really rely on a Katawa / DDLC every 10 years.

Can't really comment on any more genres, anyone else have any input on this?

With chuunige, that isn't the issue.  Rather, the more CG-reliant a chuunige is, the lower the quality.  To be blunt, the worst chuunige I've played in recent years, Ryakudatsusha no Raillore suffered precisely because it was 90% reliant on CGs and dialogue to tell the story.   I know some people have trouble with the reading aspect... but the question you need to ask yourself when you start complaining about having to read extensive narration is... why am I not watching anime?

Otomege need to get over DIDS (Damsel in Distress Syndrome).

I don't mind that western VNs imitate Japanese visual styles.  What I do mind is that they try to rehash Japanese writing styles and story types.  I also don't want my VNs to preach to me (for some reason, some EVNs that look good on the surface are trying to lobby the reader on social issues that I get enough of in the news).

Moege as in pure moege is a dead genre.  As an umbrella, it is almost entirely made up of charage in modern times.  Charage need stronger protagonists, and when they have a strong protagonist, they should stop nerfing them during the heroine paths to make the heroines stand out more (Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou 2 being a prime example of this type of massive fuckup, since the best part of the cast was the protagonist and he suddenly became a piffle in the heroine paths).

Let's be clear... Narration/Monologue padding almost never happens in JVNs.  Rather, the problem is 'meaningless SOL'.  There is a literal ton of meaningless SOL in JVNs and entire JVNs that have nothing but meaningless SOL that isn't even amusing or interesting.  

Protagonist VA is definitely something that should be universal in games with VA.   Self-insert being harmed by it is total BS.  It is an excuse not to have to pay for it.

I agree with the need to do away with high school settings.  It's been done and overdone ad infinitum.  

Protagonist personalities definitely need to be revamped.  If I wanted to self-insert into a moron or an average guy, I'd read 19th century literature.

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Weird you made this topic, as the past couple of days I've been working on a script for a video that in many ways is all about this. Ultimately though, I think the only real solution is for actual writers (the type of people who write novels) to start writing VNs. While I won't say I am exactly optimistic that this will start happening, there are a couple reasons why I think this might happen.

Simply, nobody really reads anymore. I mean that somewhat hyperbolically, but if you look at statistics the amount of people who read novels and short stories for entertainment has been dropping practically every year. I read a statistic a couple years ago that only around 20% of American's read more than 2 books in an entire year. The new media, notably video games and online videos have completely enthralled two generation (most millennials and the entirety of Gen Z). And lets not forget, that even boomers, many of whom qualify as being elderly, were the original TV generation.  

One of my favorite self-published books to come out in the past couple of years is false kotatsu. It's a great novella, and nobody knows about it. It has no reviews on Amazon, and on Smashwords the one review of it was actually written by a personal friend of mine (who recommended it to me in the first place). If you want people to read your novel these days, you need one of two things, and unfortunately talent isn't one of them. You need to already have a decent social media following, or you need to have a solid connection in the publishing industry. And even then, the amount of people who will read your work, compared to the amount of people playing the latest games, even indie games, is miniscule.

So if you want to tell stories, and you actually want people to experience them, the one (false) option people think they have is to make a video game. Now this is going to be a point I will go into detail in my video, but while video games can certainly feature great writing, for a game to be good it is critical for its level of interaction to also be good. Interactivity is always at least slightly more important than writing in video games, even in plot focused ones. And if you disagree with me, please wait for my video because I go into much more detail in that (I already wrote that part of my script).

Visual Novels on the other hand, are a medium that function under a different system of poetics than games do. Visual Novels is where writing is top dog. A great story won't save a game with completely ass gameplay. But great writing, combined with at least mediocre visuals and audio, can make for a great VN. Because visual novels are multimedia, and in many respects close to video games, the coked out brains of a generation raised on the screen can appreciate them more naturally than many of them can stomach to read a conventional book.

Writers who want to share their stories would be wise imo, to start using that talent in making VNs. And likewise, visual novels would strongly benefit by having competent writers migrate over. Since it's a medium, that appreciates good writing above all else

 

Tl;DR: This is exactly why I'm planning to make a video about everything I just wrote, because it feels like in many cases nobody wants to read anything longer than a single paragraph

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20 minutes ago, Zalor said:

Weird you made this topic, as the past couple of days I've been working on a script for video that in many ways is all about this. Ultimately though, I think the only real solution is for actual writers (the type of people who write novels) to start writing VNs. While I won't say I am exactly optimistic that this will start happening, there are a couple reasons why I think this might happen.

Simply, nobody really reads anymore. I mean that somewhat hyperbolically, but if you look at statistics the amount of people who read novels and short stories for entertainment has been dropping practically every year. I read a statistic a couple years ago that only around 20% of American's read more than 2 books in an entire year. The new media, notably video games and online videos have completely enthralled two generation (most millennials and the entirety of Gen Z). And lets not forget, that even boomers, many of whom qualify as being elderly, were the original TV generation.  

One of my favorite self-published books to come out in the past couple of years is false kotatsu. It's a great novella, and nobody knows about it. It has no reviews on Amazon, and on Smashwords the one review of it was actually written by a personal friend of mine (who recommended it to me in the first place). If you want people to read your novel these days, you need one of two things, and unfortunately talent isn't one of them. You need to already have a decent social media following, or you need to have a solid connection in the publishing industry. And even then, the amount of people who will read your work, compared to the amount of people playing the latest games, even indie games, is miniscule.

So if you want to tell stories, and you actually want people to experience them, the one (false) option people think they have is to make a video game. Now this is going to be a point I will go into detail in my video, but while video games can certainly feature great writing, for a game to be good it is critical for its level of interaction to also be good. Interactivity is always at least slightly more important than writing in video games, even in plot focused ones. And if you disagree with me, please wait for my video because I go into much more detail in that (I already wrote that part of my script).

Visual Novels on the other hand, are a medium that function under a different system of poetics than games do. Visual Novels is where writing is top dog. A great story won't save a game with completely ass gameplay. But great writing, combined with at least mediocre visuals and audio, can make for a great VN. Because visual novels are multimedia, and in many respects close to video games, the coked out brains of a generation raised on the screen can appreciate them more naturally than many of them can stomach to read a conventional book.

Writers who want to share their stories would be wise imo, to start using that talent in making VNs. And likewise, visual novels would strongly benefit by having competent writers migrate over. Since it's a medium, that appreciates good writing above all else

 

Tl;DR: This is exactly why I'm planning to make a video about everything I just wrote, because it feels like in many cases nobody wants to read anything longer than a single paragraph

Where's your video gonna be posted so I can watch it when it's out?

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1 hour ago, NowItsAngeTime said:

Well I might still make one, but I'm kinda curious on other people's input first.

Well, ok ;) But could I perhaps ask you in the future to include at least some summary/abstract when you post your videos as thread starters? Some of the topics are interesting, but I really find it a chore to sit through video - unless it contains something that couldn't be written.

So I guess I'm the exact oposite of that:

55 minutes ago, Zalor said:

nobody wants to read anything longer than a single paragraph

I prefer to read lots of paragraphs than to have to watch someone tell me the same thing on the video :P

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There's a VN called Aiyoku no Eustia which covers up most of what you're writting,

like a very deeply developed mc with voice, making him feels like an actual character instead of a voiceless self insert. a story that pulls you in right from the get-go, and there is rarely a boring moment throughout, making every section felt plot-relevant, and the plot itself is ripe with twists, revelations and events.

it's genre is a fantasy mystery with a very dark tone, and despite it's fantasy setting the theme tells a very human story with relatable/believable motives, it's not overly edgy like most anime that attempt to make a dark story, but these are just my opinion.

Also the music is very atmospheric especially the ones that has vocals in it, like the tone of the opening alone tells you what you're getting into let alone when you understand the lyrics

The music has a very medieval and somewhat nostalgic feel, despite me never hearing about this game before. the lack of synth and other modern instrument makes it felt soothing and organic, kinda reminds me of the dawn will come from dragon age inquisition. (Sorry for the gushing i'm a huge nerd for classical and strings)

In short the music is what caught my attention to this game, here's the link to one of the songs if you want to hear it

But unfortunately (and fotunately?) the game is still being translated by a small group of dedicated people in this very site

you can still use the partial patch which covers only 2 routes but i personally think it's better to wait for the full patch which is almost out

Here's the forum

If you're interested please give them some support, they're one of many people that deserved it 

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Most visual novels are definitely written by people who would never pass as authors, especially when it comes to repetition and redundant lines.

So many, including good ones have this mantra of:

---

"I thought that it sounded strange"

MC : "Doesn't that sound strange?"

Girl : "You're right, that does indeed sound strange"

"She agreed with me, also saying that she found it strange"

---

Another case of redundancy are scenes that could be skipped entirely without losing track of the plot. I can tolerate this with SoL novels, but there is no reason story-focused visual novels should waste people's time. Higurashi is a big culprit of this, while White Album 2 has near-perfect pacing.

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13 hours ago, Kennedy Krane said:

There's a VN called Aiyoku no Eustia which covers up most of what you're writting,

like a very deeply developed mc with voice, making him feels like an actual character instead of a voiceless self insert. a story that pulls you in right from the get-go, and there is rarely a boring moment throughout, making every section felt plot-relevant, and the plot itself is ripe with twists, revelations and events.

it's genre is a fantasy mystery with a very dark tone, and despite it's fantasy setting the theme tells a very human story with relatable/believable motives, it's not overly edgy like most anime that attempt to make a dark story, but these are just my opinion.

Also the music is very atmospheric especially the ones that has vocals in it, like the tone of the opening alone tells you what you're getting into let alone when you understand the lyrics

The music has a very medieval and somewhat nostalgic feel, despite me never hearing about this game before. the lack of synth and other modern instrument makes it felt soothing and organic, kinda reminds me of the dawn will come from dragon age inquisition. (Sorry for the gushing i'm a huge nerd for classical and strings)

In short the music is what caught my attention to this game, here's the link to one of the songs if you want to hear it

But unfortunately (and fotunately?) the game is still being translated by a small group of dedicated people in this very site

you can still use the partial patch which covers only 2 routes but i personally think it's better to wait for the full patch which is almost out

Here's the forum

If you're interested please give them some support, they're one of many people that deserved it 

I definitely plan on checking it out with all the hype around it

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14 hours ago, adamstan said:

Well, ok ;) But could I perhaps ask you in the future to include at least some summary/abstract when you post your videos as thread starters? Some of the topics are interesting, but I really find it a chore to sit through video - unless it contains something that couldn't be written.

So I guess I'm the exact oposite of that:

I prefer to read lots of paragraphs than to have to watch someone tell me the same thing on the video :P

While I understand, I have a (very small) business to run, so by the time I write scripts, record, and edit. Last thing I wanna do is writeup a long ass paragraph for something Ive been talking and editing hours for.

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Why not add more diversity in Protagonist types to ensure storytelling gets refreshing and innovative ? Black protagonists, Extraterrestrial protagonists, good Orc protagonists, etc. You name it. I for one would love so much to read an Isekai VN with a Black Protagonist.

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One of the cardinal mistakes of most VN's is the severe lack of support characters and different locations, because that automatically limits the scope of the story a lot. There's just so much you can do with only character interactions between a moe blob. This is particularly puzzling since this shouldn't even be a financial problem. Usually sprites require much less effort than full CG's, especially if they aren't main characters. They also don't even need to bother their main artist with it, since they can be done by assistant artists. Similar situation for the backgrounds.

You don't really need a whole lot of event CG's for a story, just a good bunch of support characters and locations. If I want to know about the story scope of a VN, it's usually enough to just check out the character section. If the character count is less than 10, there's usually not more in it than a slice of life moege. Exceptions exist like the 9-nine series, which uses their main cast very efficiently, but those are pretty rare.

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20 hours ago, frogstat said:

Most visual novels are definitely written by people who would never pass as authors, especially when it comes to repetition and redundant lines.

So many, including good ones have this mantra of:

---

"I thought that it sounded strange"

MC : "Doesn't that sound strange?"

Girl : "You're right, that does indeed sound strange"

"She agreed with me, also saying that she found it strange"

---

Another case of redundancy are scenes that could be skipped entirely without losing track of the plot. I can tolerate this with SoL novels, but there is no reason story-focused visual novels should waste people's time. Higurashi is a big culprit of this, while White Album 2 has near-perfect pacing.

There was also one vn which i can't for the life of me remember the name of, the MC would think the same crap he just said almost every damn time, so you had to read it twice. 

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7 hours ago, ChaosRaven said:

One of the cardinal mistakes of most VN's is the severe lack of support characters and different locations, because that automatically limits the scope of the story a lot. There's just so much you can do with only character interactions between a moe blob. This is particularly puzzling since this shouldn't even be a financial problem. Usually sprites require much less effort than full CG's, especially if they aren't main characters. They also don't even need to bother their main artist with it, since they can be done by assistant artists. Similar situation for the backgrounds.

You don't really need a whole lot of event CG's for a story, just a good bunch of support characters and locations. If I want to know about the story scope of a VN, it's usually enough to just check out the character section. If the character count is less than 10, there's usually not more in it than a slice of life moege. Exceptions exist like the 9-nine series, which uses their main cast very efficiently, but those are pretty rare.

While one doesn't necessarily need dozens of characters, just having twelve solid ones can make for a rich story even if the writer is only moderately talented.  The problem is that every person has a different degree of 'social memory', and recalling all the characters of large casts and their roles becomes very difficult.  This can be seen in book series like the Malazan Book of the Fallen, where there are literally over a hundred major characters and keeping them straight is a task in and of itself.  

Locations I fully agree on.  Most JVNs, in particular, will restrict themselves to 5 or fewer locations (usually a high school and home being two of them).  If you'll notice, most good chuunige will have at least twice that many, often more.  Dies Irae had well over ten locations (all the swastikas; Ren's home; Reinhardt's castle; inner realms of Reinhardt, Ren, and Wilhelm; the false throne; and the true throne).  

I'd say if the characters with sprites number less than seven, the game is more likely to have no real depth (protagonist plus faceless parents equaling ten, lol).  That's not to say character numbers define depth.  I've played VNs with only two or three characters that have been ridiculously deep and emotionally powerful, but that's an issue with writing talent more than anything else.  

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1 hour ago, Clephas said:

While one doesn't necessarily need dozens of characters, just having twelve solid ones can make for a rich story even if the writer is only moderately talented.  The problem is that every person has a different degree of 'social memory', and recalling all the characters of large casts and their roles becomes very difficult.  This can be seen in book series like the Malazan Book of the Fallen, where there are literally over a hundred major characters and keeping them straight is a task in and of itself.  

Yeah, I tried to read Game of Thrones before it got the TV series and pretty much gave up inbetween the first book because the number of different characters was just too overwhelming. Though I usually can handle large character casts in movies and VN's much easier because they have an actual face there. Human face recognition is pretty powerful. I therefore liked the GoT TV series a lot more than the books.

I haven't seen too much VN's yet that actually managed to have too much characters. I think Kami no Rhapsody and Shin Koihime (Kakumei) are probably the only ones that come to mind. But the perfect number of characters certainly depends on the type of VN. You can certainly already do a lot with 15 - 20 characters in a VN with a more narrow scope like a slice of life or urban story VN. But for a VN with a more epic scope in a fantasy or historic setting, I'd expect at least 20 - 40 characters to make it work.

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Maybe the degrading of VN comes in the lack of innovation or evolvement, most other game genre evolve overtime like, action games having prettier graphics, adding new mechanics, and other technical evolvement.

Some devs tried to innovate the genre by adding new mechanics that correnpond with the story like Danganronpa, ace attorney, zero escape, etc which is a huge success compare to other VN who stays on a more traditional path of simply just telling stories with minimal interactions

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3 hours ago, Kennedy Krane said:

Maybe the degrading of VN comes in the lack of innovation or evolvement, most other game genre evolve overtime like, action games having prettier graphics, adding new mechanics, and other technical evolvement.

Some devs tried to innovate the genre by adding new mechanics that correnpond with the story like Danganronpa, ace attorney, zero escape, etc which is a huge success compare to other VN who stays on a more traditional path of simply just telling stories with minimal interactions

Something I noticed over the past ten years is that the best writers in the industry have mostly left it, with no one really replacing them.

Higashide Yuuichirou, Shumon Yuu, Kinoko Nasu, etc etc

The fact is, as SOL took over VNs, fewer serious writers remained.  Those who replaced them were, to be frank, low-level LN writers rather than people with skill or talent.  Occasionally, one of the 'great talents' of the industry will pop in and write a new game... but that just makes the difference in quality between those games and every other game released in a given year even more obvious.

Edit: There are a few bright lights like Fujisaki Ryuuta or Mikage still hanging around, but even their contributions become fewer with every year.  Even Takaya Aya hasn't released anything serious since 2018.

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One of the biggest problem to me is : creators tries too hard to please their (Japanese) audience by following their trends and opinions.

 - People like tsundere ? Let's put them everywhere.

 - They like red headed tsundere ? Power to them.

 - Only one swing from tsun to dere ? Let's change the principle and make her go dere from tsun multiple times throughout the story.

 - People like superficial and cute things ? Let's go to moe-land.

 - Gone to moe-land seems a bit void now.... ? Let's put some more moe to feel the emptiness.

Well now, this is simplistic and of course there are a lot of other problems. But to me, it's quite similar to cutting-edge industry development : you can't really succeed if you give only what your customers want. You have to anticipate what they will want and take a minimum of risk. It's natural to do everything one can to please and sell, but doing that only can't be the rule to success.

Another big problem to me : the beta protagonist in almost all aspects, but especially in its contact to the opposite sex. To me, it is linked to a lot of other problems (included the aforementioned one). The industry can't please normal (in the sense not already conquered 'otakus') customers durably with this kind of protagonist : that's not saying that one can't write a good story with trash beta protagonists, but humans like interesting humans, and interesting humans have more chances to produce interesting stories. And then we get bland (sometimes to the point of being revolting) stories everywhere... bah.

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I can agree with most of what has been said here, though, personally, I always saw routes as the key element for VNs to differentiate and surpass other forms of the literature. In my opinion, more VNs should use these routes not only for heroines/romance but rather for greater plot itself, similarly to what Baldr Sky Dives did.

 

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