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A style of computer game, that's something like an interactive story.  Particularly used of one common style of Renai (romance) game, although VisualNovels? certainly range wider than just that.

Basically, characters appear on screen, dialogue and other text is shown and clicked through, and occasional choices are made.  But visual novels tend to have lots of text for each choice, thus making you feel like you're playing a ChooseYourOwnAdventure? book or watching an interactive anime.

The genre and name originate from Japan?, but there are a number of OELVN, Original EnglishLanguage VisualNovels?, such as:
RenPy is a language designed specifically for creating VisualNovels?, and the language in which all the above-mentioned OELVNs were written. Therefore all the blame for it can be attributed to the creator of RenPy PyTom.

There seem to be two common styles.  One will literally only give the "player" a few choices over the course of the game - from 6 to 30, ish.  The other provides a number of options at each junction, something like "Look -> at Reiko / at Mio / at Makoto; Talk -> to Makoto / to the girls; Think -> about my future / about today's events".  But it will often be the case that the scene will only advance upon selecting one of these, for example "Talk to the girls".  Kana ~Imouto~ is an example of the first kind; SeasonOfTheSakura? is an example of the second.
StuartFraser idly says "Myst" to point out that the Japanese don't have a monopoly on these games.
..to which MoonShadow also adds SCUMM, Psygnosis? and suchlike..
Ehh... Psygnosis?  I've played about 10 Psygnosis games, none of which I recall being particularly VisualNovel-like...  QuestionMark?  --AC
Psygnosis made lemmings? didn't they?  --Vitenka
Yep.  And NeverMind?, and ShadowOfTheBeast?, and all sorts of games in a variety of genres --AC
I was thinking of [this] in particular. - MoonShadow, who while he's at it fancies mentioning BeneathASteelSky - does anyone happen to have a copy? Oh, and the Discworld? games, of which MoonShadow has the first one.
[This site] will give you anything that isn't on sale, or tell you where it is, usually. Probably comes under CategoryTimeSink, though.
I don't know what the criterion is (there's almost certainly no hard-and-fast line).  But I'd have thought that SCUMM games had too many gameplay elements to qualify as a visual novel.  Any number and type of computer games can be strongly plot-driven, from RPGs like FF7 to even RTS like Homeworld.  I'd have thought the puzzles in MonkeyIsland and so on were why it was referred to as an "adventure" game, rather than a VisualNovel.  Not that I mind, certainly; I'm just trying to put my finger on the way the descriptions are generally used in writing about games.  --AC

To quote you, "The other provides a number of options at each junction, something like "Look -> at Reiko / at Mio / at Makoto; Talk -> to Makoto / to the girls; Think -> about my future / about today's events"." This seems to be a pretty decent description of a SCUMM game to me. The fact that you select Makoto by clicking on him rather than by choosing from a menu seems largely irrelevant. - MoonShadow
I'd agree with Alex here; LucasArts? adventures have a greater interactive element for two reasons; the puzzle element, and the non-linearity (you can solve some puzzles in different orders). --SF
I agree that the interface is irrelevant; my attempt at narrowing down the way the terms are used in game journalism wasn't meant to be of the interface, but of the presence of puzzles / fights / other gameplay elements, other than those *really* plot-related.  I would call FF8 plot-driven but not a VisualNovel, for example, despite the large chunks of conversation and dialog, due to the larger chunks of dungeon-exploration and combat.  Does that clarify? --AC
Fair enough ;) - MoonShadow

Nonlinearity is an interesting point.  AlexChurchill only knows of one or two VisualNovels? which use it in any nontrivial way, but those are apparently quite interesting: you can switch point of view between two or three main characters for large chunks of the story, and so work through several sections in parallel.  I don't know why more games haven't used nonlinearity - it would seem one obvious way to take advantage of the fact that your novel is no longer on paper but being interacted with on a computer screen.


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