V.A. Laurie December 4, 2020 More Than Sex – How to Make an Adult Game Satisfying

More Than Sex – How to Make an Adult Game Satisfying

A misconception about adult porn games is that they are the same as regular porn, just clickable. That may be part of the equation, but it’s not the only part of the equation. So what is it about porn games, other than the sex, that makes them entertaining?

If you’ve played any game, ever, of any kind, you either had a fun time or you did not. That’s a pretty obvious sentiment, right? Well, that’s the whole concept here.

Thanks for reading, bye now!

No, that is a joke, but it is the essence of the idea we’re going to explore today. Fun. It’s the core aspect of what makes a game enjoyable. Let’s remove the porn aspect of these games and break down what else there is to them.

For a visual novel, without the sex scenes, the common thread among them is the story being told. Pick any AVN that people seem to enjoy, and I guarantee that they are telling an entertaining story. Adult Visual Novels are exactly what the name says: Novels, but Visual. Without a story, what are you even doing making a VN? That’s a real question that you should be asking yourself. But, the more important question needs to be “what story am I trying to tell?”

The most popular AVNs out there could conceivably still be entertaining without the explicit sex scenes, albeit to a lesser degree in some cases. The developers behind these games took the time to consider where the story was going and/or hired writers to do so.

The main takeaway here is that if you’re writing a game that is going to be story driven, you better make damn sure your story can drive the player on in a compelling way.

Within VNs, there are a growing number of off-shoots, in that they introduce different elements of gameplay. Long Live The Princess for example, is semi-open world. As the player, you have a choice of locations to visit and actions to take, but they are entirely to drive the same story forward. You are unable to change, in a meaningful way, how the story plays out over the course of the game. That isn’t a detractor, though. In fact, for a lot of people, that’s appealing, and something that likely drew them in to check the game out. Despite being unable to change the story in a substantial way, you are able to play out the story according to how you’d like to. You can progress a single character’s story if you want, or try to minmax your way into completing all storylines at once. The important part is that the player is enjoying the time they are spending playing the game.

But you may be saying to yourself, “This V doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m just going to make a game with nice boobs and the story doesn’t matter.” — You can ignore all the advice I have and go about things your own way, and there’s every chance that you’d create something fantastic. But before you publish your first update of that game that’s entirely asses and pussies with no substance, take a look at other games out there that are actually successful. Not just games that exist, but games that have actually been successful. However, be careful not to fall into the Survivorship Bias trap.

If you are a creator, be that a programmer, artist, writer, or something else entirely, your focus should be to create something that brings joy, in some way, and for more than a solitary moment. Creating an adult game without substance is just that – a momentary joy and nothing more. Players will rarely stick around, and even more rarely support with money, for something that is just porn.

Even if you’re thinking that this is counterintuitive, or just wrong, consider the fact that over the last few years the amount of porn with “story” being created has increased dramatically. Sure, there was always the story driven erotica, but there was an issue among the early story-driven-porn of the 70s. What issue? They wanted to be porn but wanted to tell a full on sprawling story fit for a theatrical movie. Inherently, there is no problem with that, but those directors fell into the same traps I am warning you about. The story they told could not stand on its own without the pornographic aspect to it. When you removed the sex, those movies weren’t even good romance stories. They were trash. (Ok, mostly trash. There were a handful of movies that were legitimately alright back then.)

Yet over the last few years, there has been a change in how the story-driven-porn is developed. The scenes aren’t simply naked people fucking from the moment you press play, and they aren’t pretending to be some award worthy story either, but they are creating something that is entertaining even without the visual aspect. What I mean by this is that if you were to put on headphones and listen to a lot of the scenes being produced, you’d likely still find them sexy. They are written to appeal to our desires. The images enhance that, obviously, but if you watch a porn video without the sound the effect is not the same in reverse. You may find the video sexy, but the missing piece, the missing story, truly detracts from the product as a whole.

And that is, in essence, what you are creating when you ignore the story for your porn game. You’re creating something that may look sexy and arouse someone, but lacks something. To be someone who can actually profit from your creativity (or perversions), you need substance. You need something that is entertaining. You need to look at your project without the nudity, without the sex, and see how it would be fun to experience just like that. If you think you’re creating something worthwhile, even without the sex, then odds are good you’re already doing better than 75% of the devs out there.

Do your best, create something you’d be proud to show someone (maybe minus the porn), and know that if you’re feeling like this thing you’re making will actually be fun then keep going. Don’t quit when it gets hard either… but that’s a different topic to discuss another time.


Cover by Clark Tibbs via Unsplash.com: https://unsplash.com/photos/oqStl2L5oxI

V.A. Laurie

Erotic author and game developer with strong opinions on adult gaming and the adult industry as a whole.

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1 year ago

I thought something like that for a while but you writed better and expanse it. Great article, Congrats.