V.A. Laurie November 2, 2020 The Right Use of Game Over in Visual Novels


The Right Use of Game Over in Visual Novels

Have you ever played a Visual Novel game that has a sudden “game over” screen after one bad choice? While it may be fine to have a Game Over screen if the player isn’t doing well, there are some things to consider about this. Let’s look at this idea in the context of a Visual Novel style game.

When it comes to Porn/Adult/Erotic video games (call them what you will), the point of the game is mostly to provide the player with some sort of sexy content in a format that is fun to play. What is less fun than losing the game immediately?
I can’t tell you exactly how to create your game, so these tips here are just things to think about. How you use these tips, if you use them at all, is ultimately up to you.

Don’t force a Game Over before the game really begins.

You see this fairly often in some Visual Novel games; often the player will be presented with a menu option, maybe even the first menu option in the game, and if the incorrect option is chosen, you lose. No warning, no backtracking, just Game Over. This is a fantastic way to make sure the player stops caring before they’ve even explored the game itself. The point of the start of the game is to entice the player into continuing.

Consider the best times to actually use a Game Over.

If you’re set on having Game Over screens in your game, consider when to implement them. As above, it’s no good to have it too soon, but also if the player is 5 hours into the game and then suddenly after one choice it’s game over, that could upset them also. Of course, they should have a save file to load and continue but that doesn’t guarantee they will be OK with the result they just received.

Consider how to use Game Over screens.

Perhaps your game has a number of points that are gained or lost for your player’s main love interest. In my opinion, this is the best way to use a Game Over. By taking into account the point system that your player should be building upon, you can set a threshold for when or where they lose.

Ask yourself why the player would be losing?

This actually goes hand in hand with the previous tip. In thinking about how to use the point systems, or whatever mechanic you choose, to implement Game Over in your adult game, also think about why you’re giving the player a game over? As I mentioned above, the point of these games (maybe even more than normal video games) is to please the player. But at the same time, these are still games. Even if your game lacks the ability for a player to move about freely using arrow keys/a controller, the idea should be maintained that this is a game and some interaction is necessary. So, why would your game give a game over? Think about it a bit before adding those in for a single “bad decision.”

Think about removing the Game Over entirely.

Like I have said, I can’t tell you how to make your game, and only you can decide if the Game Over option is right for your story. Yet, something I want to leave you with is the idea that a Visual Novel game is just what the name implies. It’s a Novel in a visual, interactive form. What would you think if you’re reading a book, get about halfway, when the main character chooses the wrong option, dies, and the book is over. The rest of the pages are blank. No resolution, no payoff, nothing at all. This is what a Game Over screen does to your Visual Novel. It cuts the story short, resolves nothing, and makes the player feel like they’ve wasted their time. So maybe your game can use the Game Over well, but maybe it doesn’t need to be there at all. Your decisions are your own and are meant to be a way to create a customized story for yourself. The choices, even if they aren’t intended to be the best choice that could be made, aren’t going to end the game. The story goes on and uses those choices to adjust the game to each person’s preferences.

These five tips are what I want to give to you today. I’m glad you’ve read through them and hopefully, you’ll take them into consideration as you begin to build or continue working on your game.

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 do not think that a quick game over screen is a problem in a visual novel where you can actually immediately backtrack and pick a different option. Of course, there must be some kind of carrot behind the bad choice, a funny or sexy death, or choices become frustrating.

Now a bad end that depends on multiple choices made over the course of the game can feel deserved, but still frustrating, since you can’t really go back and fix it. I like how games like Melody telegraph some of the bad ends by making the MC think about the choices they’ve made and highlight potential conflicts.

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