As someone who has favored writing for my medium in the last several years, it has been an interesting adjustment to making RPGs – especially since we have limits on the type of “cut scenes” we can produce. I find myself wanting to narrate moments in the game. I want to tell how her eyes looked, or how he felt about them, or why they were feeling that way. Thinking those thoughts. Maybe it’s also a little carry over from all the poorly-translated, ultra-girly otome visual novels I’ve been playing. Or maybe there’s really something to it.
Perhaps one of the differences between a novel and an RPG is that a novel seeks to tell a story that happened to someone (at least in many cases). RPGs hope to tell a story that happened to you. So we don’t want to exactly spell out everything that’s running through the protagonist’s head. Ideally, we’d put your character in a situation – and therefore you in a certain mindset – and you can fill in the thoughts behind the protagonist.
Now, as I keep saying, Ren is a pretty developed character. The goal would be, then, to try and think of the most natural responses a player may have to a situation, and utilize them ourselves.
That, I feel, is one of the short-comings of some visual novels: sometimes, they go in a completely different direction than what the player is thinking. It makes me feel like the protagonist is stupid. And it makes me feel kind of stupid for playing the game. The conclusions the protagonist reach seem to be mere plot devices to advance the story in the direction the author needed, rather than true, natural responses to a situation.
However, a plus side to the visual novel is that since there is one story line and because of the audience understanding of the game play (read: limited freedom), it’s much easier to avoid repeating the same exchanges day in and day out. Many RPGs will have only a certain number of things that each character can talk about. It’s a constraint that, to be really honest, I haven’t found it avoided in any RPG I’ve played. After running out of new conversation options, Carth always ends up just repeating “Can I help you?” Even in Harvest Moon, which is completely relationship driven, the girls or townspeople always end up just saying “It sure is a swell day!” (or whatever HM characters say). However, due to a lack of an open-world, with visual novels, the creators can completely limit the conversations of each scene, and in many cases, this is very effective in driving relationship development.
We can map out an entire conversation for each day, or at least for each area you end up playing, planning it by which areas we will guide you toward chronologically. But in the end, you will run out of conversation options, and Taya will end up just repeating “That sure was nice of you” just like Riku and Yuna and Rinoa and Tifa before her. Still, the open-world format makes the repetition a small cost, don’t you agree?
Have you played any visual novels? How does your experience compare to an RPG? What are some virtues of both that you think could cross over?