The protagonist

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#51 by sakurakoi
2017-06-10 at 19:04
Bad writing is the writer's fault, not the genre.
Well, unless it's a genre like Nakige but wait...

all those -ge are actually not genre (especially not Kamige), they are indeed just games which use specific set of techniques, designs and actual genre like how Nakige strictly use the flow from Slice of Life (no plot) Comedy into extreme Drama if not even Thriller (or Horror) and back to something happy&soothing (unless it is the Air-Anime, which turned the Nakige into an Utsuge, if that would have been written back ofc).

Sci-Fi, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Slice of Life... those are genre in fiction and if you just think a little about it: Each of them can be implemented with a single entity or lack thereof (Slice of Life=No Plot but simple everyday life) and does not require several ones to be applied, only repetitively to be significantly implemented (something still is primarily if not solely Horror even if there is one Comedy skit).

Genre indeed can not be inherently badly written because something can only be badly written when the technique used is inherently bad... or thought to be. I'd sure argue that Nakige are inherently bad because they exploit human emotions while works themselves become even worse when Fantasy is added to the mix... which it kinda always is and it is always some arbitrary magic. Meanwhile Utsuge are just weird for a simple reason: Why would one, oneself want to feel bad and helpless? I sure would just read them detached because there is nothing but unhappiness gained otherwise (ofc I know that some become happy when being made unhappy but that should be no norm)

Charage, Moege and heck, even Nukige, don't really do anything bad themselves and might actually be the most human since even when in some fantasy setting, the first two are still (at least trying to be, Sturgeon's Law) quite realistic (as in, not relying on so much that is neigh impossible to drive the plot where the author wants it to be. Magic is a very fickle thing and ofc, Sci-Fi tech is often but magic). In Nukige, well, anything goes and is kinda allowed which makes them just games with high sexual content and no (significant) plot.

In any event whoever thinks that lack of plot equals bad writing then I got very bad news for thee...
#52 by kazeno
2017-06-10 at 20:25
Meanwhile Utsuge are just weird for a simple reason: Why would one, oneself want to feel bad and helpless? I sure would just read them detached because there is nothing but unhappiness gained otherwise (ofc I know that some become happy when being made unhappy but that should be no norm)
But reading a utsuge to fell bad and helpless looks pretty normal considering how netorare is also popular... rs

btw,which VN are you talking about exactly?
Itaike na Kanojo. I was looking for a drama with a single and shy heroine and was willing to ignore the bad tags for this. But was expected, I can't stand be in the head of a detestable person like that protagonist. It's was just too tiresome to read hateful comments every narrative line.Last modified on 2017-06-10 at 20:34
#53 by kiru
2017-06-11 at 00:58
I don't think you necessarily read utsuge as in "I want to be depressed". Utsuge isn't that well defined anyway. There are even utsuge with a fair amount of comedy. Though of course, the overall mood will be kinda going against that.

I just looked at the tags here at vndb and realized that I've read some utsuge, and I'd even say it's rather accurate to call them that. But the image that literally everything is about pain or whatever is rather wrong. Keep in mind that there can be beauty as well as positive feelings in sadness. The way people learn to deal with an unfavorable situation and carry on can be quite nice in itself as well. Random happy endings on top of that just doesn't fit. (For example someone getting over the death of someone close, growing and moving on just to later on find out that someone is alive after all is really bad storytelling that just destroyed all the growth)

Now, everything has extremes and I'm sure you'll also find utsuge where there's literally "no fun allowed" and in the end simply everyone is dead or something, but I don't think that's normal and not necessarily very effective either. I suppose that always depends on how people end up dead of course.Last modified on 2017-06-11 at 00:59
#54 by desertopa
2017-06-11 at 02:11
there is also the fact that,if the protagonist is quite defined,you risk having the reader really dislike him that they drop the whole game(and not be interested in any future games/merch/etc) because of him no matter how interesting it is. that happened to me with G-Senjou No Maou for example. so the more you define a character in a non"nice average joe"way,the more you are at risk.

Only to the extent that the audience who buys VNs has mostly filtered out people who won't tolerate protagonists without any distinguishing character. This is the most common reason I've dropped VNs.

Using a "nice average joe" protagonist also puts serious limits on your storytelling leeway, since there are a lot of stories which simply can't be driven by an average joe character. Personally, I was put off by the protagonist of G-Senjou for most of the game, but I still rated it highly when I finished on the strength of the ending. But an attempt to tell the story of G-Senjou with a nice average joe protagonist would have been useless; he simply couldn't have carried the story.
#55 by ffthewinner
2017-06-11 at 13:38
^the amount of people who "won't tolerate protagonists without any distinguishing character"is far far less than the amount of people who wont tolerate playing as an awful human being in a serious,non-nukige story. so it makes sense to appeal to the much larger amount.

also,the "story limitations"are easily lifted. simply,if you want to make a story with very defined characters,make it in the Saya No Uta way,so that the reader isnt expected to identify or play as anyone,but simply to observe the story and make different decisions on behalf of different characters instead of a particular one(like how in Saya the 1st choice set was on behalf of Fuminori while the 2nd choice set was on behalf of the other guy). that way far more people will tolerate reading it as it is made clear to them that they arent "playing as"this awful guy,but simply "watching" him.Last modified on 2017-06-11 at 13:39
#56 by pendelhaven
2017-06-11 at 13:45
this thread is why I support crowdfunding games/novels. because the traditional market has this obvious downside of only playing it safe aka will only work on what's tested to work. even if it gets to the point of blatant generic-ism. our dear MC is the prime example of the dead horse beaten problem.

inspirational works like from R07 (even if it gets many backlash) where it enters the untested realm are extremely rare. I doubt we'll get another of those who dare to plunge in the weird waters anytime soon.
#57 by desertopa
2017-06-11 at 18:31
the amount of people who "won't tolerate protagonists without any distinguishing character"is far far less than the amount of people who wont tolerate playing as an awful human being in a serious,non-nukige story. so it makes sense to appeal to the much larger amount.

Among the target audiences for visual novels today, probably. But the industry is in a lot of financial trouble because they've narrowed down on a small target audience and they've saturated the market with so many works for such a small audience pool that it's hard for them to make back their production costs. The business model isn't showing a lot of lasting power.
#58 by ffthewinner
2017-06-11 at 21:19
^among any gaming audience,actually. if we are talking about playing as a really bad guy,not in a comically exaggerated way(Like the Overlord series or Nukige stories),and not in a way that you can determine weather he is good or bad, but in a serious,detailed, story where that guy is legit an awful person and legit harms innocent people(like G-senjou) then yes,even if you take gaming as a whole,the amount of people who would rather play as such a guy than play as a "Nice average Joe" is way too small. if a player character isnt that defined then many people will complain but continue playing anyway for the other characters or the other features of the game. if a player character fits the above "awful person"criteria then far more people will drop the whole game,me included.Last modified on 2017-06-11 at 21:21
#59 by desertopa
2017-06-11 at 22:23
In most media, vaguely nice but indistinct protagonists are far more the exception than the rule. In television, "morally gray" protagonists who are basically terrible people are so much more the rule than the exception that I've gotten pretty sick of that as well. Most media aren't driven by delivering self-insert fantasies about romances with pretty girls, and if that's the model that most visual novel companies rely on these days, it certainly hasn't made theirs one of the more successful media industries.

G-Senjou was an uncommonly successful visual novel, not particularly consistent with a model in which a morally dubious protagonist will strictly limit the audience willing to play the game.
#60 by usagi
2017-06-11 at 22:50
Well, if we talk about not only vns but any media - judging by success of things like Death Note, Berserk, Hellsing, Code Geass etc. animes or serials like Game of Thrones - people likes bad guys a lot more than you think.Last modified on 2017-06-11 at 22:52
#61 by ffthewinner
2017-06-11 at 23:46
your argument isnt related to what i said.i didnt say all media. i said all GAMING audiances.

the HUGE difference between gaming and other media is that it is interactive role playing. you play a character,you drive that characters,and that makes you far more affected by this character's actions than non-interactive media like Films and TV. hence almost all games that have a story making you either the "Hero" or allowing you to choose how to act.

heck,i even clearly stated that the best solution to the issue is ",if you want to make a story with very defined characters,make it in the Saya No Uta way,so that the reader isnt expected to identify or play as anyone,but simply to observe the story and make different decisions on behalf of different characters instead of a particular one(like how in Saya the 1st choice set was on behalf of Fuminori while the 2nd choice set was on behalf of the other guy).". in movies you arent role playing and thus it affects you much less. so talking about what people like in any non-interactive media is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.Last modified on 2017-06-11 at 23:48
#62 by desertopa
2017-06-12 at 02:58
I agree there's a substantive difference, but then, if such a large proportion of players weren't okay with such protagonists, G-Senjou wouldn't be such a popular game. Its sales simply aren't consistent with a model where a morally dubious protagonist automatically limits you to a small audience.

It's not the most popular visual novel ever, but the vast majority of visual novels don't approach its sales either. If you're going to use a game as an example of an artistic choice that will limit your business success by causing most people to drop the game, that example shouldn't be one of the most successful and acclaimed visual novels from the year of its release.
#63 by ffthewinner
2017-06-12 at 10:44
I used it as an example simply because of the effect it had on me,which is the exact effect i was talking about. i could mention other games,like Hitomi:My Step Sister(a nukige,but told in a way not exaggerated/cartoonish enough,so the main character becomes sickening to play as)and the aforementioned Itaike na Kanojo.

Also,there is no denying that the type of protagonist, while a big factor,is only one of many. for G-senjou,its sales were due to its quality writing,intrigue,mystery, and strong true route/ending creating a hype train so big that people bought it to see what the fuss is all about or because their friends(IRL or Online) kept recommending it to them. i think if there was a statistic that tells us how many of those that bought it actually finished it, and for those that didnt if they would have continued to play it if it had a non-scumbag protagonist,then that would have been far more informative. unfortunately,such a statistic doesnt exist.

look at all games of any kind that have a story,and tell me,in the 45 years that gaming has existed, how many games do you play as a villain that fits my above criteria? far less than 1 per thousand. that is because the developers themselves know what would happen if they made a game with such a protagonist: far fewer sales and far more gamers dropping the game.Last modified on 2017-06-12 at 10:46
#64 by praxis
2017-06-12 at 14:47
btw, how do you determine a 'good' protagonist?
his/her personality?
#65 by desertopa
2017-06-12 at 14:55
I used it as an example simply because of the effect it had on me,which is the exact effect i was talking about. i could mention other games,like Hitomi:My Step Sister(a nukige,but told in a way not exaggerated/cartoonish enough,so the main character becomes sickening to play as)and the aforementioned Itaike na Kanojo.

Also,there is no denying that the type of protagonist, while a big factor,is only one of many. for G-senjou,its sales were due to its quality writing,intrigue,mystery, and strong true route/ending creating a hype train so big that people bought it to see what the fuss is all about or because their friends(IRL or Online) kept recommending it to them. i think if there was a statistic that tells us how many of those that bought it actually finished it, and for those that didnt if they would have continued to play it if it had a non-scumbag protagonist,then that would have been far more informative. unfortunately,such a statistic doesnt exist.

It's highly rated in Japan as well as here. If anything, its critical acclaim weighs more heavily in its favor than its commercial success, but it's possible to be critically acclaimed without being commercially successful, and if morally dubious protagonists were consistent with critical success but not financial, it wouldn't be in companies' interests to write them.

Just because you personally don't enjoy works with morally dubious protagonists doesn't mean that it's bad business to write them. And while the protagonist obviously wasn't the sole key to the game's success, a wishy washy, vaguely nice but undistinguished protagonist wouldn't have been consistent with the qualities that made it successful. These things don't vary independently, what kind of story you're able to write depends heavily on the kind of protagonist you're using. Vaguely nice, undistinguished protagonists aren't a catch-all tool for writing any sort of story without alienating audiences, they're deeply limiting in terms of what kinds of stories you can write effectively. So while they're very common among visual novels as a whole (because they lend themselves to the specific formula many writers are trying to follow,) they're much rarer among the most successful and acclaimed visual novels.
#66 by pendelhaven
2017-06-12 at 14:58
@64 the thing is, it's subjective.

Majikoi protag is perhaps the most proactive MC I've seen in a VN for a while, and that... doesn't excuse that the VN can sometimes be a drag. prologue was the best I've read in that VN for sure.

and then you have MLA. not the most proactive of bunch, relies a lot on future events, but a lot of times goes in internal monologue mode which is great in itself.
#67 by pendelhaven
2017-06-12 at 15:07
but it's possible to be critically acclaimed without being commercially successful, and if morally dubious protagonists were consistent with critical success but not financial, it wouldn't be in companies' interests to write them.

YES! EXACTLY!

the current business model is quite frankly trash. and this is prominent in movie trailers. you see the trailer to be "good", you pay for it, only to find out that the whole thing is meh at best.

trailer-baiting 101 basically. the same can be said in a lot of trial VNs.
#68 by ffthewinner
2017-06-12 at 15:44
@64:Yes,when saying "Awful"i merely mean "Has an awful personality". same for "Good"and any other description about a personality i say.

@65:an outlier doesnt make a rule. and i have given you other,not so successful, examples.
and,generally speaking,it certainly isnt"in companies' interests to write them." that is why the vast majority dont.

the problem is that you keep talking as if what you call the "Current buisness model"is exclusive to Visual Novels,when it isnt. it applies to all of gaming. a very very very tiny number of games in any genre allow you to play as a villain that fits my aforementioned qualifications. that is a fact. why? because,at its core(with the exception of the horror genre),games with stories are mostly interactive role playing with the purpose of wish fulfillment. of living out your dreams as a a guy who,in some way,becomes a hero/a great fighter/a king etc. no body dreams of being a corrupted awful person who makes others miserable.

again,simple game statistics for gaming as a whole proves that almost no one wants to play as a true,non exaggerated or comedic,forced upon you,villain.Last modified on 2017-06-12 at 15:47
#69 by sakurakoi
2017-06-12 at 16:17
btw, how do you determine a 'good' protagonist?
his/her personality?
'good' as in "good" ethics? Well, if you view it like e.g that Kant, deontologically, then I suppose kinda but more kinda not considering that most personality traits do not really have a specific intention that can be solely seen as bad, even if it is something like Money Lover or Selfish, rather just the likes of "Kind" would inherently always intend well however...

that does not matter if you are utilitarian and consider just the results of the protagonists actions so that even kind protags can do something bad and then be "bad". This could make clumsy characters seen as inherently bad or at least worse since the trait is derived from the results of their actions. This ofc goes quite against what was previously said about one knowing the protags possibly horrible thoughts that of course rather affects their actions but not necessarily.

Personally I'd take teachings from both schools into consideration when judging a character. I would not judge someone clumsy as bad, if they are not stupid enough to invite and force disaster, meanwhile someone kind would be usually good on its own but they can be still useless, dull or, again, so stupid to disregard their weaknesses and be wrongfully confident. An idiot can actually be quite likable and personally, those who are the right kind of stupid I love the most (namely Matsushima Michiru (Grisaia VN) who is and is not stupid as well as Minami Kana (Minami-ke Manga&especially Anime) who are literary professional idiots, both are very inspirational (raison d'être, wherefore are we) apart from the usual cute&fun/soothing to be around) but those who lack self-awareness quickly can become those, with the addition of other traits, which are so bad and obnoxious that one simply would not want to interact with them at all.

but well, for any work, a good protag, as in suitable, likable or well-written would just be that and nothing more, while not just subjective, it is heavily dependent on not only the genre but the many plenty circumstances which defines the work. Merely "consistency" could be named to cover all from heroes over villains to idiots and cats but then again, maybe hypocrites could actually be... nah, no one would want to know oneself to be one since that is different to being deliberately "evil".
#70 by desertopa
2017-06-12 at 21:42
@65:an outlier doesnt make a rule. and i have given you other,not so successful, examples.
and,generally speaking,it certainly isnt"in companies' interests to write them." that is why the vast majority dont.

And we could name examples of unsuccessful VNs with wishy washy, undistinguished protagonists all day. An outlier doesn't make a rule, but it can disprove one. If the supposed rule is that a morally dubious protagonist will seriously limit your audience, more so than a bland non-distinguished protagonist, and morally dubious protagonists are much rarer than bland ones, you absolutely shouldn't expect to see a game with a morally dubious protagonist beating out all the games with bland non-distinguished protagonists in terms of success, because it should be both systematically and numerically disadvantaged.

There's more to what game companies choose to write than what customers want. There are also issues such as what they have the skills to write, what they have the creativity to think of, what the producers are daring enough to try, etc. There are ideas which have no traction for decades because producers are convinced audiences won't go for them, until someone else is successful with something similar and it becomes the next "in" thing.

If the VN industry exhibited ideally rational behavior in terms of making successful games, it wouldn't be in such bad financial straits now.
#71 by kiru
2017-06-12 at 22:19
As long as Yuzusoft sells as much as they do with their kind of games, a lot will try to emulate it. Simply because it looks rather easy to copy. (Although it's not really that easy as sales of most moege show)

Then there's also that not everyone produces VNs to land a hit. It's to earn money. This is obviously mostly true for established devs like Pulltop and whatnot of course, but yeah. So the standard works here alright.Last modified on 2017-06-12 at 22:21
#72 by ffthewinner
2017-06-13 at 00:01
@70: actually,no. an outlier can neither make a rule nor debunk one. All rules have exceptions and outliers. what happens in the vast majority of cases constitutes a rule. an outlier or two is to be expected.

also, G-Senjou was released all the way back in 2008 and was successful(although LOL at it "beating up all the others with bland protagonists"yeah right. it was successful, but you are acting like it was in the top 10 selling VNs ever or something). care to tell me why VNs with awful protagonists didnt become the "in"thing?why we didnt see tons of stories with awful protagonists?why absolutely no one jumped on the bandwagon? the answer is because the developers,who btw have been developing for years and know far more about making games than you or me,knew that this was the exception to the rule and that making awful protagonists is far more likely to backfire than to work.

and i would love to hear you explain how all of gaming is apparently"In dire financial straits",since i have proven that all of gaming doesnt want awful protagonists not just VNs.Last modified on 2017-06-13 at 00:11
#73 by desertopa
2017-06-13 at 01:01
@70: actually,no. an outlier can neither make a rule nor debunk one. All rules have exceptions and outliers. what happens in the vast majority of cases constitutes a rule. an outlier or two is to be expected.

An "outlier" can debunk a supposed rule depending on how unlikely the model says it is.

If human height is determined by multiple factors, but most prominently by human growth hormone, then an "outlier" would be a person with low human growth hormone levels, but normal height. A person with low human growth hormone being one of the tallest people in the world would disprove the model outright.

But visual novels with bland protagonists, despite being very common, systematically fail to become top sellers or critically acclaimed. If their protagonists were less of a limitation than "awful" protagonists as you describe them, we wouldn't see this.

There's a simple reason why these protagonists occur so frequently even though the most popular games don't use them. They're easy to write. Using them demands extremely little of a writing staff.

Most VN teams are simply not very good. They're never going to be in competition for top accolades. If they're going to copy something other teams have done, it'll be something easy, not something difficult which ruins your game if you screw it up.

and i would love to hear you explain how all of gaming is apparently"In dire financial straits",since i have proven that all of gaming doesnt want awful protagonists not just VNs.

The mainstream video game industry as well is increasingly afraid to take risks or venture outside established formulas, because the cost of making a game for modern hardware has gone up tremendously over the years, while the price of games hasn't gone up accordingly. Lots of players want less cookie cutter games, but the industry doesn't want to risk them, because any failure is far more costly and hard to absorb than it used to be, so they prefer to stick to repetitions of what they've already done. But, they're doing a lot better than the visual novel industry, where expected sales per game have gone way down

But it's not even really true that "awful protagonists" aren't common in mainstream gaming. The God of War series has a protagonist who's practically a flat out villain, for instance, and that series has sold tens of millions. The Grand Theft Auto games all focus on criminal protagonists causing mayhem, cumulative sales on that series are over 200 million. There are plenty of others of various levels of success and villainy. Wishy washy, vaguely nice but undistinguished protagonists are far less common in mainstream gaming than morally reprehensible protagonists, although plenty of games will use blank slate characters whose personality the player is free to create or imagine.
#74 by pendelhaven
2017-06-13 at 03:49
The mainstream video game industry as well is increasingly afraid to take risks or venture outside established formulas, because the cost of making a game for modern hardware has gone up tremendously over the years, while the price of games hasn't gone up accordingly.

when game creators listen to fake news like a Certain Nationalist News and fake game journalists like, I dunno, Kotaku?

if there's a game that really puts everyone else to shame and it looks as though they didn't really put that much effort in the first place, then look no else than Mario Maker. the premise is very simple, you either create a level or play levels that other people designed. what made it so unusually successful is the community. for example, there wasn't any forum of that game, and yet there's tons of reddit threads of it discussing about level design, removing unintentional soft locks which is kinda similar to removing minor bugs, following someone that is about to upload a level and would race for it once uploaded and of course discussing who make good levels from trash levels. Over time the game itself gets repetitive but never boring as there will always be new uploads more than you could possibly play.
#75 by kzel
2017-06-13 at 07:39
@73 : But visual novels with bland protagonists, despite being very common, systematically fail to become top sellers or critically acclaimed. If their protagonists were less of a limitation than "awful" protagonists as you describe them, we wouldn't see this.

There's a simple reason why these protagonists occur so frequently even though the most popular games don't use them. They're easy to write. Using them demands extremely little of a writing staff.
I'm curious as to your sources for this claim. What are recent years top-selling, popular and critically acclaimed VNs according to them?

Hint : Yuzusoft

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