This Week’s Topics:
- A recap of the happenings here at the brand new Natalie.TF
- Musings about visual novel presentation
- Trickles of gaming news before The Game Awards next week
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
The Straight Dope!
Oh cripes, I did a lot of stuff this week… Before we get into the news, let me take a moment to give a little recap:
Nigma Box is Now Natalie.TF: I explained why I changed the site’s name in the relevant post, and I have updated certain things across various pages and evergreen posts.
Student Transfer V7 Review: The review went live this past week, and it was far more negative than I would have liked. However, as a reviewer, I have a responsibility to call things out for being bad when they are bad.
Dragalia Lost is Dead: After 8 months of knowing it was going to die, Dragalia is dead, and I am so, so deeply upset about it. I have cried, I will continue to cry, and I don’t think I will ever be able to look at video games the same way ever again. I went on a final ramble, but I am not truly over. I still have every intention of spending dozens upon dozens of hours on a futile design document proposing how this game could be brought back and enhanced. When that will never happen.
Dragalia is Still Being Archived: I am still working on my archive for Dragalia Lost footage. I have uploaded all of my captured footage and am waiting for Archive.org to process these thousands of files so I can add proper descriptions. Afterwards, I will begin work on a custom and cumulative soundtrack based on music files extracted directly from the game. Because Dragalia’s soundtrack is excellent, and all of it should be preserved. However, there are a lot of duplicates and variations, and none of the converted files have any metadata. So it is my job to take care of that. …Because nobody else has done so yet.
Rundown Revisions: Rundowns are going to now be named after the date they go live instead of the date range they cover. And instead of having the topics listed following “Where I discuss:” The introductory phrase will be changed to “This Week’s Topics:” and the topics will be listed as bullet points. I planned on making these changes in January 2023, but why wait?
Visually Stimulating Novelties
(Natalie Rambles About Visual Novel Presentations)
While playing Student Transfer V7 this past week, I began musing about the matter of visual novel presentation. Hypothesizing a more stylish or creative way to display information without having designated ‘dead space.’ By dead space, I am referring mostly to large black background areas, the dialog box, and the space surrounding. It got me thinking about how visual novels deal with the dialog box in particular and how other VNs handle it.
You can dedicate the entire bottom of the screen to displaying information, as seen in titles like The House in Fata Morgana, Steins;Gate 0, and re:Dreamer. Some aim to have a semi-transparent gradient at the bottom, such as Lamunation, Max’s Big Bust, or Crimson Gray. While others have a UI that covers most of the bottom screen with a text box of varying levels of opacity, like Main Character Simulator, Lily’s Night Off, or… Student Transfer.
Yet those are all modern titles, and I have always loved the chunky highly detailed UI of a lot of PC-98 games, and would like to see more titles replicate that. This idea of dedicating a part of the screen to UI information, rather than overlaying or obscuring something behind the UI. It actually got me thinking about how much I would love to see a specific type of UI in a VN. One that involves a 16:9 display separated into two vertical sections.
Using 1080p resolutions for example purposes, the top one would be 810 by 1920, a 21:9 window, and this would be where the main action is displayed. While the bottom 270 by 1920 section would house all the UI elements. It is a nifty way to play with the idea of aspect ratios and resolutions, using a ‘cinematic aspect ratio’ for the action, while housing all the text and UI in its own dedicated zone. A zone for the dialog box, speaker names, and menu options (Save, Load, Quick Save, Quick Load, Auto, Skip, Fast Skip, History, and Settings). I am sure someone has done this, intentionally or not, but it has potential and I think it could be pretty slick if done right.
This is a maximalist approach though. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the minimalistic and cinematic UI of titles like Muv-Luv, which hide the user-interface and don’t even use dialog boxes. Instead, they use film-like subtitles of varying colors to make it easy to immediately identify the speaker, even without voice acting or speaker tags.
However, these approaches assume the traditional ‘visual novel ADV format’ is the best one, and I don’t necessarily agree with that, as I am reminded of NEO: The World Ends With You.
While not a visual novel, the story sequences definitely take a cue from the genre, and what I find fascinating about the presentation is its use of panels. Panels help work around one of the biggest shortcomings of a visual novel presentation, as a lot of the visual action is condensed around a small section of the screen. The expressions on characters’ faces. This can be avoided with zoom-ins, but I think there is something really powerful and dynamic to this comic-like presentation. It provides a frame and means of separating characters, can make better use of vertical space, and… just looks cool.
However… this is also a lot more work. So much more that I have to ask if it is economical for a VN developer to create this panel-based display, when a lot of VN fans have come to accept whatever a game has to offer.
…Do I have a point here? No, not really. Just that there are a lot of different ways that a VN can be presented, and I sometimes wish there were more attempts at breaking the established mold.
Also, these mockups took me WAY too long, but I am glad that I am slowly getting better at image editing, even if I am about 10 years behind where I should be…
Other Odds and Ends
(Natalie Searches for Stuff to Talk About and Finds Very Little)
Okay, what else do I have to talk about? Um… The former Switch exclusive Monster Hunter Rise is coming to other consoles. This is not too surprising, as the game released on PC this past January, and the porting process from PC to PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series is low cost enough to justify a port without any greater financial analysis. Also, Microsoft is paying for it to launch on Game Pass.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie got a second trailer, and it looks very… ‘standard modern animated film’ in many respects. However, it is also throwing in a lot of elements and references to the series as a whole, which is nice to see. Because the first film, second 1993 film, and the third and fourth Nintendo owned pornographic films all went pretty off brand. So, hopefully, fans will actually enjoy it. Like how they did with Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Not because I think the series especially needs a film adaptation or anything, but because Nintendorks are typically at their best when they are all smiles.
Next up… Honestly, I did all the stuff I mentioned in the preamble and wrote 10,000 words for my year end Ramble. I’m tired, and there is nothing much I want to add this week, so I’m just going to close things out and go back to Pokémon Violet. Have a nice day and stay warm!