BUILDING A GUI-BASED VISUAL NOVEL AUTHORING TOOL WITH by yangxichun

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									            THEORETICAL FOUNDATION & FRAMEWORKS



a. Visual Novels



   Generally, a visual novel is mostly described as an interactive fiction game,

whereupon the player takes control as a certain character, watch as the character

interact with the environment and story of the current world the character is set in. It

is mostly text based and requires a lot of reading, which can provide several language

problems, a very prevalent problem in the Visual Novel Genre since most of them

come in Japanese language, without supports of other language, unless there are other

independent teams that supply language patches, such as the Mirror-Moon group, best

known for their language patches of visual novels produced by TYPE-MOON (e.g

Tsukihime and Fate/stay night).

    Although many gamers often say that Visual Novels are dating sims, this is only

a misnomer created by the Western audience that are not aware of how the Visual

Novels truly work. In truth, Visual Novels may contain some dating sims elements

such as affection levels, or such, but they do not contribute the main premise of

Visual Novels. In fact, even in Japan, producers have been making distinction

towards the Visual Novel genre, one properly called Visual Novels; whereupon the

game focuses heavily on storytelling, with puzzles as minimum as possible; and the

last one is called Adventure Game, whereupon although storytelling is present, it is

balanced with other side-games to advance with the story. This is especially true to

the Ace Attorney series released in the States, because it combines the storytelling
element of Visual Novel, and the simulation of court house. What we will create here

is the first type of Visual Novel.

   As far as the general game play of Visual Novels, it is actually very simple. It is

like reading a novel presented in a rather interactive style. Typically, players only

need to keep clicking to make the texts advance; graphics interact and sounds coming

out, to advance with the story. This is why what was really required to enjoy Visual

Novels is the dedication to read. The success of a novel greatly lies within how the

story is conceived. This also applies for Visual Novels, but exclusively for it, how the

story is presented through the window, with the graphics and other features print

novels could not provide, plays a very big factor for the success. If a Visual Novel

only provides texts, without voices or other graphics, it would feel like reading a print

novel, only in computer.

   Another thing that visual novels differ from print novels is that in visual novels,

there are features such as multiple ending or branching story. The most common of

interaction provided by Visual Novels are that sometimes the decision of the main

character is decided by the player. And the choices made may affect the future of the

game itself, and could even lead into an immature end of the game, depending on the

story and the other characters presented there. While there are mostly one true ending,

sometimes the player is offered many routes to reach those ending, one that is

exclusive to each other. As they say, “There are many roads leading to Rome”.

Certain routes may also eventually reward a player to a different ending, whether

good or bad.
   And obviously, sometimes another element is added to create more interactivity.

The element is mostly added to match the current setting. For example, the

Symphonic Rain Visual Novel requires you to play some musical instruments to

advance with the game. Similarly, in the Ace Attorney games, the player is required

to talk to various people, back and forth, present evidences to the judge to find a

contradiction. Some Visual Novels, however, do not require interactivity at all, but

still manages to be a solid game. TYPE-MOON visual novels like Tsukihime and

Fate/stay night are mostly like this, depending heavily on the storytelling and

presentation, although they do present minimal interactivity with choice picking and

such. Despite such minimal presence of interactivity, they become the two magnus

opus of TYPE-MOON itself. Of some shorter works, decision making may be created

to be simpler, and not really having a long term effect.

   Visual novels are usually narrated in first person view, unlike print novels that

mostly uses third person narrating. Therefore, in Visual Novels, it is more likely to

encounter the words “I” as a method for narration to identify the main character,

because the narration is usually done by the main character. Some visual novels may

combine both first and third person narration styles, though. For instance, when the

focus shifts into the exploits of the secondary character, the narration goes to an

invisible third person instead the said secondary character. And sometimes, the said

secondary character in focus would also have their body seen, a feature usually

avoided for the primary main character.
   Usually in visual novels, the graphics are set to be static, mostly generic

backgrounds such as class room, etc. Depending on how the story advances, special

effects may be added to the background, such as how the background quakes

whenever an earthquake occur in-game, or whether it is to express that something

happened to the main protagonist. For example, when the protagonist got slapped by

another character, the background may shake sideways; to express how his/her head

was turning sideways as an effect of the said slap. In this kind of backgrounds,

character sprites make the background livelier. Many visual novels also put emphasis

in where the character sprites are located, giving a more depth imagination for the

players to imagine the current situation. There are other types of background display,

however. Sometimes, the background will be set into a not-so-generic picture, in a

more detailed fashion. Mostly these uses high quality CG pictures, and character

sprites will not be present in here. These CG pictures are more likely the rewards of

going certain routes, so players will have a replay value of the game, to understand

the story behind them as well as unlocking them into the game, as sometimes the

game allows the player to view any CGs that they came across from their previous

play through right from the start.

   Another feature seen in Visual Novels regarding on backgrounds was how the

background changes, depending on the setting. This is especially true in novels that

put emphasis in actions or battles, such as Fate/stay night. Usually when a character is

moving from one place to another, the background will change normally, in a fashion

of transitions in picture shows. However, in the middle of fast-paced actions, picture

may change in a different manner. For example in a battle scene Fate/stay night, the
screen may go instantly into black and an animation of a sword slash trail may be

displayed. Or sometimes, the background receives a zooming feature, to put emphasis

into certain events, such as the main character looking into a monster that gives out a

monstrous roar.

   It is also noted that most stories presented in Visual Novels has the element of

romance in it. However, this is not always a requirement to make a Visual Novel. In

the end, the inclusion of romance, as well as the main setting of the story, whether it

is science fiction, horror or high school life will depend on the story writer.

   Also notably, most Visual Novels usually have an ecchi (or sex. Ecchi means

‘pervert’ in Japan) scene somewhere in the story. This is usually contained in the PC

versions, and when the said Visual Novel receives a port in consoles such as Sony

Playstation 2, they would cut the ecchi scenes, cementing the port as a ‘family

version’, whereas underaged children with no knowledge of sex can play the game

without having a moral dissonance. Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons where

Visual Novels are popular mostly in Japan. Different countries have different

toleration towards such explicit sex scenes, especially when they come not only in

graphics, but also texts.

   Thus far, there are a lot of Visual Novel games unknown to many gamers. In fact,

some Visual Novels become widely known after it was turned into anime (for

instance, the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, or School Days). But this is by no means

that the Visual Novel itself is boring. In fact, while the Visual Novel offers many

endings, an anime adaptation will usually choose one of the many endings. This is

why the genre is somewhat exciting, but for some reason, it does not catch as many
fanbase as it quite deserves. And once again, the main key of making a successful

Visual Novel is the story flow and how they present it, visually, in more than just

texts.

    Below are some examples of Visual Novels:

    •      Tsukihime

    •      Fate/stay night

    •      School Days

    •      Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

    •      Symphonic Rain (combined with musical instrument playing)

    •      Narcissu

    •      Ace Attorney (combined with courthouse simulation)

    Between all those examples, the Ace Attorney series is probably the most

successful in both Japan and other areas, crediting mostly on its simplified courthouse

simulation feature. However, in this thesis, we are not trying to build an authoring

tool to make such Visual Novel with high interaction level. We are trying to make

one to produce a simpler style novels, but with easy user interface.



b. Authoring Tools



    In theory, an authoring tool is a software package used by developers to create

and package content deliverable to end users. [7] It is sometimes called ‘authorware’,

and it helps people write up hypertexts and multimedia applications. [8] However, we

will find no such thing as software explicitly named ‘Authoring Tool’ because
different tools produce different type of files. An example of an authoring tool is the

Java Eclipse, which produces Java based files, or Microsoft Word, which produces

.doc files, or Macromedia Dreamweaver, which produces web-based file types like

HTML. It should be noted that Authoring tools differ from Programming tools.

Authoring tools mixes texts, graphics and audio data, in comparison with

Programming tools, which compromises of texts. But it is undeniable that authoring

tools are built on programming tools, such as Java, Python, C++, etc.

   Authoring tools are not limited to standalone software like those, though.

Sometimes, a game comes with an authoring tool, which enables the end user to

invest their creativity and create their own levels and rendition. Take example of the

World Edit feature by Warcraft 3. The popular fangame DoTA was not built from

scratch by the company that created Warcraft 3 (Blizzard), but by fans that have

understood the aspects of World Edit. The products of World Edit may differ from

plain unplayable by players, or massively enjoyable, but the fact is the products from

World Edit are files that can be run in the Warcraft 3 Custom games. Such is an

example of an authoring tool which has its products run on software outside

Windows.

   However, by that definition, even a Notepad can be called an authoring tool for

Java, as it can save .java files and had its products compiled. That is wrong. For some

authoring tools, they provide helps to us that will make the product files more

readable. Take Dreamweaver for example. In its Coding section, when we type

something relevant, it will provide options that may fit our intention. For instance, if

we type “<FORM “ in the right place, a scroll down window will pop up and provide
selections of the HTML language that may follow after the type, and still be readable,

even though it may not produce what we intended.

   Authoring tools may come with GUI interface to help navigating with the tools, or

come with minimum GUI interface. For instance, the Visual Novel builder engine

Ren’py [9] has menu selection for the GUI, but for the coding menu, it only contains

minimum GUI for probably options to set the user preference, not helping to build the

Visual Novel easier. This thesis, however, will strive to build a Visual Novel with

decent or rich amount of GUI, which will make Visual Novel making easier and not

heavy text-based.



c. Theoretical Frameworks


   This project is run by one man only. It’s currently small, but will grow if it’s

continually taken care of. The scope, however, as of now, is just for the smaller

problem: To make the core program of the authoring tool. For that, the software

engineering model that is used for this project is the Waterfall Model. The progress is

done systematically from Requirement Gathering, Designing, Implementation,

Verifying, Maintenance. Since the project is run only by one man, and considering

the current small scope of the project, it is the ideal model, despite its glaring flaws.

								
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