One of the side projects that’s kept me busy lately is creating a sample visual novel project to teach myself Ren’Py. Ren’Py is a cross-platform storytelling engine built on Python, and the standard for visual novel creators working outside Japan.
What’s a visual novel? It may combine gameplay elements or branching storytelling (like that of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books my generation is familiar with) with text, graphics, music, and even animation in order to tell a story.
Like all my projects, my visual novel, tentatively titled “50/50 Hindsight,” started small and simple and sprang out in all directions like a hyperactive slime mold. However, working in this format, even given my relative unfamiliarity with Ren’Py, is lightning fast compared to illustrating comics. After only a few hours of work, spread over three days, I’ve managed to bring two of an estimated ten branches to completion. When I’ve finished writing, there are many graphics remaining to be drawn– multiple environments and many alternate expressions for the four major characters. Most important, though, is learning to use code to add interesting dimensions to the audiences’ experience. Visual novels, as a medium, exist in a space somewhere between anime, book, and game. If I finish mine, I feel I’ll have started to learn the foundations of game making.