First of all I want to thank everyone who supported the “Save the World” Kickstarter. After Bionic Heart and Planet Stronghold 2 I wasn’t sure I’d ever do a sci-fi story again but thanks to people’s support I was able to.
Today I want to talk about something that often comes up either as form of players’ comments or just as general discussions. The game (story) length and amount of love interests in visual novels.
Of course, if you ask players, they’ll want every visual novel to be 300,000 words long and have 10 love interests, minimum. Or maybe not – indeed recently many of my followers expressed interests in some shorter stories, claiming they never had the time to finish my longer games (like Planet Stronghold 2 for example, 330,000 words long).
I personally believe that word count can’t be the only parameter to judge whether a visual novel is worth it or not. Writing and story quality matters a lot more than length. A super boring but very long story isn’t better than a shorter but better-written and more interesting one. But that’s not all: it also depends on whether the story has a lot of branching or not.
I’ve never made “kinetic novels” or visual novels with very little choices because I think it would be weird, but in practice the more choices, branching and different ending you have, the less likely a single playthrough will consist of the full story length.
For obvious reasons, while many players just play the game once, some players might want to replay the game until they have seen all endings or even all possible paths. That’s why in my recent titles, I’ve started showing the ‘total amount of script seen’ statistic in percentage in the options screen so that players can get an idea of how much potential story they’re still missing.
(note that it counts every single word, so like even a variant depending on your personality or other small things. So if you see 96% of script done, you’ll surely have seen all the main story scenes!)
Pricing games and content
My recent Kickstarter for the game “Save the World” had a base pledge price of 8 eur (it’s always hard to me to find the right conversion since USD and EUR currencies change very often). Even when it will be out on regular stores (itchio and Steam) its price will likely be 7.99 usd.
It’s cheap and yes it’s going to be a short game, because I think will be enough to develop my game idea – if I start adding scenes just to reach a higher wordcount it’s similar to what tv series do with “filler episodes” and I honestly I hate that. Also, I have a sort of rule in my pricing, tied to wordcount and romances amount.
My “regular” games (Nicole, Heirs & Graces, etc) had a story between 120-140,000 words and four love interests. That was a formula I used for a long time and I still keep it as sort of reference, even if clearly it’s not a fixed rule. Those games costs around $19.99 fullprice.
Of course it’s impossible to always standardize prices based on contents. Sometimes there can be “better” or “worse” deals but it also depends on the game story. And that’s is really hard for me to judge, because I can’t even be sure myself if a story will be popular or not.
I mean, all the recent games I wrote myself (Planet Stronghold 2, Hazel, After Midnight) all have very positive review ratings on Steam, but I’m not so cocky to think that every story I’ll write will be so well received. Still I have to price the games somehow, and so if games with 120k words + 4 romances were priced $19.99, I think a game about half the length and half love interests should cost around $9.99. In the case of Save the World which will have those numbers, the price will be even less.
Last but not least artwork is also a big factor in VNs. I know some of my fans buy VN from other devs, even with mediocre writing, just because are fan of a certain artist or art-style. And that’s fine – sometimes I watch tv series just because I know that actor/actress is in it, and even if the story isn’t particularly good, I love their acting so much that I still watch them. So that’s another thing to consider.
I just wanted to share this to explain how difficult is sometimes to find the “right price” for a game. For example I’ve seen some porn games with zero plot but a lot of CG scenes selling for $15, and getting many positive reviews. So it’s hard to know what people really want!
Also, considering how quickly games get discounted (even 20-30% after 1 year or so) all this talk about price doesn’t even make much sense, since you can always wait to buy a game when it’s discounted, if you’re not sure it’s worth its full price.
I plan to continue trying to make my best in doing the stories I want to tell and hope people will be happy with it.