Visual Novels have recently begun to attract attention in the West, thanks to various successful Kickstarter localization campaigns. However, few visual novels have experimented with VR technologies, despite the fact visual novels replicate VR via psychological manipulation; users have their feelings toyed with, as opposed to their senses. This suggests that there is something about this multi-linear, text-based genre that cannot translate into VR, despite VR’s immersive potential. Moreover, despite being an RPG that gives the player power over potential endings, visual novels have yet to effectively exploit VR’s storytelling capabilities. While the failed Kickstarter campaign for Angels & Demigods contrasts the successful campaign of the acclaimed ‘interactive’ VR ‘visual novel’ narrative game Technolust, it also suggests that VR can be used to tell immersive stories, but potentially not with the typical visual novel format. Successfully crowdfunded visual novels like ＜/reality＞deal with VR themes in their narratives, while JRPGs (Japanese Roleplay Games) with VN elements are set in fictional VR worlds, like Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment. This suggests that visual novel fans are intrigued by fictional VR settings and are open to the potential of VR.Interactive fiction and hypertext attracted attention at the latter end of the 20th century for their potential storytelling capabilities, but were criticised for their flimsy narratives. While these multi-linear stories remain in the forms of competitions, these genres were replaced by video games with better graphics and storytelling. Other branching-path narratives continue to reappear in various modern formats like children’s books, games, television, content streaming, hypercomics and visual novels. They also have the potential to appear in VR stories. As interactivity has become more important in art in other areas, freeware software like Twine and Ren’Py allow for the development of modern interactive Fiction (IF) by programmers, writers, artists and developers. Visual novels - often created using Unity or Ren’Py - are text and image based games that involve user agency, IF/branching-path narratives and anime/manga-like character sprites. Visual novel games like Angels & Demigods experiment with VR and IF in their exploration of text and graphic storytelling. While spin-off titles, from games with visual novel elements, like Cyber Danganronpa VR: The Class Trial and Megadimension Neptunia VIIR have taken advantage of the form, with emphasis on gameplay over visual novel story elements in their VR content.For developers to potentially exploit VR, the visual novel will need to be more flexible in its form. Instead of relying on 2D sprites with extremely limited animation and static backgrounds, visual novels should be more open to 3D worlds and animated characters. Just like how digital comics have adapted from print to the include animation in webtoons or comics apps like MadeFire Motion Books, VR visual novels will need to use more animation and interactivity in their design. If they fail to do so, just like IF and hypertext, visual novels will be replaced by other games that successfully adapt to advances in technology.
|Title of host publication||2017 23rd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 23 Oct 2017|
Crawford, R., & Chen, Y. (Accepted/In press). From Hypertext to Hyperdimension Neptunia:The Future of VR Visual Novels. In 2017 23rd International Conference on Virtual System & Multimedia (VSMM) https://doi.org/10.1109/VSMM.2017.8346298