Feb 27

Weekly Update #341: Writing The Visuals

Once again, my main focus has been on the writing this week and it’s been quite a rollercoaster of satisfying successes and frustrating roadblocks. Writing a visual novel sure isn’t easy, even if you’ve done it once before! So, today, I’d finally like to talk a little more about the challenges of writing one.

Although I made a very detailed outline for the entirety of GENBA no Kizuna last year, turning it into a full-fledged script isn’t as easy as it may seem. Sure, sometimes, I really just have to take my key notes and elaborate a little on them. In many cases, I’ve even fully written out the dialogues and can therefore save quite a bit of time. Nevertheless, despite the countless hours of planning and huge chunks of dialogues already being written… there are still new problems emerging every now and then, of all different kinds.

Sometimes, the flow just isn’t as great anymore, once something is fully written out. Other times, logic problems pop up, which didn’t occur to me before, or I notice an aspect of the mystery that completely flew under my radar. Then there is always the struggle of writing everything in an interesting, fun and concise way, rather than getting too wordy and throwing in too many details that ultimately don’t really matter. That, in particular, is something I’ve always had problems with, haha.

However, general writing problems aside, there is the whole “visual” aspect to consider.

When I sit down and write a scene, I’m not just writing the script. I’m also writing down coding instructions for Natsu, so that she knows which characters are supposed to be on screen, which variations and backgrounds are shown, or which BGM should play.

Things should be visually interesting, especially when you have a lengthy discussion between characters who keep staying in the same room for the entire duration of it. Just showing the same two sprites in front of the same background for 30 minutes, while the same music track keeps looping… can become real boring real fast.

Thus, I constantly try to think about how to freshen things up. Maybe, instead of a character explaining what they saw hours ago, you can actually show the whole thing in a flashback. Maybe, when the topic of discussion are the movements of various characters, you can bring up a map and have little icons move around it to better visualize things. When they talk about the body, why not fade to the CG of it? If they’re talking about a specific piece of evidence, why not show it as a cut-in on screen or something like that?

There are many ways and possibilities to make things visually interesting. However, things also need to stay within certain boundaries. Like, for example, if I do have a CG of the dead body, then sure… why not show it every now and then when the characters talk about it? However, if they talk about a different location, for example, a room that is otherwise completely irrelevant to the case and story… would it really make sense to draw an entire background for this one small part, just to have visual variation?

On that note, I also always need to keep in mind how many sprite variations I have at my disposal and carefully consider how many there should be in total. Sometimes, it would really help to have once specific expression for a line a character is saying. However, if that sprite would only be used one or two times throughout the entire game… then maybe it’s not worth drawing it. Maybe a different, already existing expression works just fine, or the line can be rewritten in a way that it better fits another expression.

I could go on and on about countless other things. Sound effects, music tracks, sprite movement… but the point I’m trying to make here is that, for me, writing a visual novel doesn’t just mean writing a novel. It also means “writing the visuals”. Or rather, instructions for Natsu on how to handle them.

To be honest, this can certainly be a lot of fun at times, but it also plays into dragging out the whole writing process.
Anyway, I’d like to talk a bit more about this some other time, but I guess, for today, I gotta come to a close.

Speaking of visuals, though… there is a new Patreon post available to all tiers now. So if you’re a patron and you’d like to help me out with a question regarding the GUI design, be sure to check it out and cast your vote in the poll!

Now, as always, please enjoy the rest of your weekend and, until next Saturday, take care! :3