GDC 2017: lessons learned, and the state of visual novel development

Last week, we attended GDC to meet with press, publishers, platform holders, and generally represent Necrobarista.  Of course, when you get a bunch of game developers in the same city together, a lot of shenanigans ensue, sometimes fun, sometimes useful, and oftentimes both.

It was a packed and productive week, and as a relatively young studio, one of the most important things we did at GDC was learn from the experience, so here’s a recap of some of the most important lessons we took away.

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How visual novel writing is different

Recently, I got into a message board discussion about writing, and the subject of visual novel writing (and how it differs from prose and other more traditional forms of writing) came up. This seems to be a fairly common inquiry from “traditional” writers peering into the world of visual novel development, so with that audience in mind, I thought I’d proffer a writer’s perspective on how visual novel writing is different from other forms of fiction writing. Continue reading “How visual novel writing is different”

How do you explain “visual novels” in a fundraising pitch to investors who don’t know what VNs are?

Last fall, we succeeded in securing funding from RMIT’s NEIF (New Enterprise Investment Fund) for our upcoming visual novel Necrobarista. In my talk at Visual;Conference earlier this month, I presented some components of what made our fundraising pitch a success.  One specific component that seems essential to any fundraising pitch is how you articulate exactly what it is that you’re doing with the money, so I thought I’d explain how we did this in a bit more detail.

Part of our pitch last fall included a bit of analysis of the current market for visual novels, and as part of that, we presented this infographic:

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How is Winged Cloud’s “Sakura” franchise doing?

In the process of developing our own commercial project, one of the things that we’ve done is look at how current games have performed.  Because Route 59 is focused mainly on visual novels, we tend to restrict our search to other visual novels, and a few games that exist within the niche of “experimental narrative games” (a phrase which we’ve used to refer to games like Gone Home, To the Moon, and Kentucky Route Zero, to name a few). Continue reading “How is Winged Cloud’s “Sakura” franchise doing?”

What is NaNoRenO

Since 2005, every March, visual novel veterans and novices alike have come together to create games from scratch within a 31-day period.

Where does the name come from? NaNoRenO doesn’t really stand for anything; it just happens to bear a phonetic similarity to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a “month long writing project” that takes place every november (think of it as a game jam for writers). “Ren” is a callout to Ren’py, the free visual novel software that serves as the engine for most NaNoRenO projects, which itself is a callout to Ren’ai, Japanese for “falling in love,” and a common term for Japanese dating sims. NaNoRenO started on (and continues to be organized on) the Lemmasoft forums, which serve as the de-facto discussion board for the Ren’py visual novel software.

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