Ren'Py or: How I'm Deluding Myself Into Becoming A Developer

After playing a shitload of don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story the last few days, and reading into the development tools used by Catherine Love to code and write the game, I've started the arduous process of learning how to use the Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine. As someone who has never written code before, or even attempted to make a basic flash game, the tutorials from Ren'Py aren't helping much. Hopefully, I'll be able to grasp enough of it to create what I have in mind.


I've always had some delusions of becoming an author. As a kid, I read voraciously and still collect books more than anything else in my adult life, despite my attention span being shot to hell these days. The thing is, even if I brush up my rusty writing skills to a barely acceptable level and bang out a novel, I have a feeling not many people would read it. I don't know many readers... maybe I hang out with the wrong people. I do know plenty of gamers, though, and that's why I'm inspired by Ren'Py. Why not turn my ideas for novels into visual novels or text adventures? It's a genre underrepresented outside Japan and something that could reach people on a wider scale. I've been on a creative rush today, thinking of the possibilities. 

Given some time and obsession, I could be an indie developer. Sort of.

I don't know why I'm sharing this with the Giant Bomb community. I guess it's exciting to me to at least be learning the absolute basics of narrative structure and video game development, even if I crank out a failure in the end. 

tl:dr: Giant Bomb community, try to make a video game. It's exciting to learn some background knowledge into the industry we love. You'll thank me.
19 Comments
20 Comments
Posted by Kill

After playing a shitload of don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story the last few days, and reading into the development tools used by Catherine Love to code and write the game, I've started the arduous process of learning how to use the Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine. As someone who has never written code before, or even attempted to make a basic flash game, the tutorials from Ren'Py aren't helping much. Hopefully, I'll be able to grasp enough of it to create what I have in mind.


I've always had some delusions of becoming an author. As a kid, I read voraciously and still collect books more than anything else in my adult life, despite my attention span being shot to hell these days. The thing is, even if I brush up my rusty writing skills to a barely acceptable level and bang out a novel, I have a feeling not many people would read it. I don't know many readers... maybe I hang out with the wrong people. I do know plenty of gamers, though, and that's why I'm inspired by Ren'Py. Why not turn my ideas for novels into visual novels or text adventures? It's a genre underrepresented outside Japan and something that could reach people on a wider scale. I've been on a creative rush today, thinking of the possibilities. 

Given some time and obsession, I could be an indie developer. Sort of.

I don't know why I'm sharing this with the Giant Bomb community. I guess it's exciting to me to at least be learning the absolute basics of narrative structure and video game development, even if I crank out a failure in the end. 

tl:dr: Giant Bomb community, try to make a video game. It's exciting to learn some background knowledge into the industry we love. You'll thank me.
Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait, there's code for a visual novel? I can't imagine it being hard to learn. Isn't it just shit like "here's how the text works" and "why don't we fade to another picture or some shit"?

Edited by SirOptimusPrime

An aside: I officially hate the phrase "inside baseball". Don't know why, just rubs me the wrong way. 
Anyways, I as well have the delusion of being involved in video game development! Maybe we should work together as notreallydeveloperswholikegamesandstuff-developers? But, seriously I feel like "real world" work is going to be more of a hassle day in day out, and the stress inducing indie development world seems enticing...

But you're right, six or so months of learning programming languages and building a half-broken NWN campaign enlightened me, to say the least. 

EDIT: 


@Video_Game_King: It's not difficult in terms of the strings, but the looping is/can be incredibly time consuming. Trying to get six different pathways from one single option, out of many, to work can be a hassle. Repeat ad nauseam. Kind of like a less visual and broader Mass Effect 2/3; many variables you have to account for. Time consuming, I say, time consuming. 

Posted by Kill
@Video_Game_King said:
" Wait, there's code for a visual novel? I can't imagine it being hard to learn. Isn't it just shit like "here's how the text works" and "why don't we fade to another picture or some shit"? "
I failed the most basic programming class in high school. For all the time I spend staring into this screen, I'm pretty clueless at how all this stuff actually works. But yeah, it doesn't seem too difficult, which is a large part of the appeal.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@SirOptimusPrime said:
" @Video_Game_King: It's not difficult in terms of the strings, but the looping is/can be incredibly time consuming. Trying to get six different pathways from one single option, out of many, to work can be a hassle. Repeat ad nauseam. Kind of like a less visual and broader Mass Effect 2/3; many variables you have to account for. Time consuming, I say, time consuming.  "
What do you mean by looping? Do you mean getting text to appear on the next line, like how @Kill: 's message ends at "But yeah" and then continues at "it doesn't seem"? Or does it mean something different? Keep in mind that I don't really know a lot about programming.
Posted by Kill
@SirOptimusPrime: I removed the inside baseball line just for you, buddy! Thanks for your support, we'd probably make a great indie development team. I tend to crash and burn with all my crazy ideas, but this has been an entertaining night staring at a tutorial then moving back to a screen full of broken code over and over.
Edited by kitsunezeta
@Video_Game_King said:

" Wait, there's code for a visual novel? I can't imagine it being hard to learn. Isn't it just shit like "here's how the text works" and "why don't we fade to another picture or some shit"? "

From experience with the renpy engine (which, BTW, is python-based), I can tell you it's a bit more difficult than that. While your most basic (or, as some would say, most pure) Visual Novel basically consists exclusively of sequences of text and images with occasional branches analogous to a choose your own adventure book (e.g. "Give yourself Goosebumps" [and how the hell do I still remember those?]), a good portion of them actually have variable tracking and some actually enter loops and start getting further away from pure VNs and start edging towards the style of Dating/Raising Sims.

@Kill: Documentation is your friend. unfortunately, Screen Language is not that well documented (examples are very dry and barely useful, if at all), so you'll have to experiment from time to time. If in complete doubt, ask on the Lemmasoft forums for help (they're pretty much the go-to forum for Ren'Py support)
Posted by ashogo

I've messed with ren'py before, it's actually fairly accessible and easy to figure out. I've always wanted to make my own sprawling visual novel with it, but it somehow never happens. Part of it is the hurdle with artwork--you need a lot of it, and I'm not much of an artist.

There are a few pretty good free fanmade visual novels on the ren'py site though.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@kitsunezeta:

Again, I'm not quite sure what loops are. Now I'm guessing that they're behind-the-scenes formulas that determine where the story goes or whatever?
Posted by ArbitraryWater

That actually seems pretty cool, as someone who sucks at programming but still knows some stuff. Then again, the first uses I thought of for these tools would be to let people make their own amateurish hentai games or what have you. But maybe that's just me being cynical.

Posted by Kill
@ArbitraryWater said:
" That actually seems pretty cool, as someone who sucks at programming but still knows some stuff. Then again, the first uses I thought of for these tools would be to let people make their own amateurish hentai games or what have you. But maybe that's just me being cynical. "
If I could make an amateurish Hentai game at the end of the day, I'd be pretty pleased with myself! I'd like to do something with a more Western art style if I can suss out this coding. That's just my preference.
Posted by kitsunezeta
@Video_Game_King said:
" @kitsunezeta: Again, I'm not quite sure what loops are. Now I'm guessing that they're behind-the-scenes formulas that determine where the story goes or whatever? "
Let's take this:


Following this, after the "Night" block, there is a check to see if it's the end of the game (or VN or whatever). if it's not the end, it goes back to the start of the day ("Morning") and continues. This is obviously a gross oversimplification (some VNs have various loops going on at the same time), but I think it illustrates the basic idea.
(And those purple lines are Call and return paths)
Posted by LordAndrew
@Video_Game_King said:
" @kitsunezeta: Again, I'm not quite sure what loops are. Now I'm guessing that they're behind-the-scenes formulas that determine where the story goes or whatever? "
Loops are loops. You've got some code, right. You go through that code, reach the end, and then do it again. There you go, loops oversimplified. :P
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Kill: I'm not saying the actual creation of such a game wouldn't be impressive. It's just that I already have an aversion to creepy voyeuristic fanart, and making a porn game comprised entirely of that would be all kinds of creepy.
Posted by Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater said:
" That actually seems pretty cool, as someone who sucks at programming but still knows some stuff. Then again, the first uses I thought of for these tools would be to let people make their own amateurish hentai games or what have you. But maybe that's just me being cynical. "

Posted by SirOptimusPrime
@Video_Game_King: What this guy (kitsunezeta) said. 

It's essentially a system to manage how much progress you've achieved and whether or not to repeat that line. By loops, it usually centers around dialog choices and what dialog choices you've made previously. Repeat, by the way, is a middling term for this; resume is probably more characteristic since it assumes a similar situation rather than just loop completely (though you can't rule that out in a situation). 
Posted by LordAndrew

Meh, my explanation was more oversimplified and therefore better. :P

Posted by Rattle618

If the "Py" in Ren'Py has anything to do with python you might benefit from reading up on Python itself, there is a lot of reading and video material that assumes you have absolutely no prior knowledge, but if I were in your position I'd try to stick to one front at a time, tackling programming AND creative writing at once might be a bit much. There are tons of indie/noob projects you could attach yourself to as either a writer or a coder and learn a lot from.

Edited by Skald

If you don't care about the images, you could try making a text-based game with Inform. I mean, Zork is cool, right?

Posted by jeffrud

I've recently been bumping up some similar feelings myself. I've played through Digital and working through don't take it personally at present, and decided to throw my career plans off the rails by taking introductory Python and Java classes during grad school at the tender age of 24. How has your foray into game creating been?