Last time we talked about dynamic shots, let’s backtrack a bit to bring up polishing in general…and background animations in particular!
A simple rain animation
Most of you are probably very familiar with the standard visual novel presentation: there are sprites of characters on top of backgrounds and a textbox where all the juicy action happens: reading! It’s a very static genre that relies heavily on abstraction: you can only show the bare minimum on screen so the player has to imagine some parts of the story in their head. Which means that people who don’t appreciate reading that much will very likely find visual novel boring because of that. And that’s a shame because I think the genre is actually perfect to rekindle those people with the joy of reading!
Those bees were a pain to code but I really wanted to add some:
you can’t have a sunny weather without bees and flowers, after all!
That’s partly why I experimented a lot with Chronotopia (and because it’s fun): I tried to go beyond the usual visual novel presentation with little tricks here and there to make the game look as good and as unique as possible. One of my goals was to see if I could help some casual gamers warm up to the genre simply by using a slightly different presentation. I already evoked dynamic shots in a previous article but this is not the only trick at our disposal~
See those dead leaves falling gracefully? Those use the same system as the pollen particles, believe it or not.
On top of what the RenPy 3D camera plugin allows, we’ve added backgrounds animations to make Chronotopia’s world come alive. It’s actually rather sublte, a candle light flickering here, grass moving under the wind there, but it’s meant that way. After all, animations shouldn’t distract you from reading the story! In some cases, we even added some particles to have dead leaves and snow in the desired seasons. It’s nothing revolutionary but again, the devil is in the details, and it does build the atmosphere.
Same with the snowflakes here. The backgrounds look rather empty without them though.
It’s not winter without a bit of snow!
What I’m trying to say is that, even if programming a visual novel is very simple compared to other types of games, it’s still a pretty important task. You can focus on the technical part and call it scripting or you can focus on the creative part (which is actually quite close to what a director would do for a movie) and call it directing. But in the end, however you call it, the way you code is also what gives your visual novel personality through little things.