What is a Visual Novel

What is a Visual Novel
What is a visual novel? Is it a novel or is it a game? Well, some say it's both. And since 2010, when the first book apps were added to the App Store, the visual novel has come a long way.

I fell in love with the interactive book app in 2010, when I bought Alice for the iPad by Oceanhouse Media. At that time, an interactive book that took advantage of the new iPad mobile touch and screen orientation features was an exciting new thing. With the book app's animated and interactive scenes, or pages, it made the original text and illustrations of the Lewis Carroll classic come to life on the screen.

Because at that time making interactive book apps was a new technology, it was very expensive for an indie developer to create one. However, much has changed. We now have the visual novel, which is a combination of a storybook and a game. And the technology has become much easier and cheaper.

There are numerous game engines, both free and commercial, available today. A game engine is a software framework for creating video games. Why am I talking about game engines when the topic is a visual novel. Well, even back in 2010, the technology needed to create a book app was more about creating a game than a book.

So just what is a visual novel. It's a special type of video game. What makes it special is what drives the visual novel. A video game, such as Pacman or Angry Birds, is gameplay driven, because it is the decisions made by the player that determines the outcome of the game.

However a visual novel is not gameplay driven. There is very little gameplay and it is the narrative of the story that drives the interaction. Instead of clicking on a gun in a shooter game, a visual novel has a different type of interaction. The user will click on certain hot areas on the page to initiate an animated sprite, sound or effect that brings the book to life on the page. It is the narrative of the story that is most important in a visual novel.

There is also a difference in the art in a visual novel and a video game. The art in a visual novel is related to the storyline. The backdrop for the page usually reflects the text on the page. Also there is much more text on the page.

If you are interested in developing a visual novel, check out Scratch and MIT App Inventor. They are both open source and free.


MIT App Inventor

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