What do you look for in a visual novel?
I honestly don’t know the answer to this. Quality, well done writing, happy stuff, and thoughtful progression and dialogue certainly are very nice, and certain topics such as horror are usually dis-qualifiers, but they aren’t requirements in and of itself.
There are many ways to balance out the different topics in each work, the order in which they are read, and purpose of each work (you’re not going to watch dealing with evil when you want to relax, and you’re not going to read three straight works that deal heavily with thought often), so trying to place something worth your time into perfect slots doesn’t really matter. You never really know what it’s like until you are into it, but it’s either worth your time to try or it isn’t worth it. You have years to read it all anyway.
What’s the one thing you feel that visual novels need to have but most often don’t?
There is too much emphasis on how good it sells or looks over how good it is. There is also too much emphasis on how short it is to get the biggest audience possible. This is (EDIT: kind of) Nekopara’s world and we all are stuck living in it, except I’d rather read something that isn’t as shallow. Very short works usually don’t accomplish much if they can accomplish anything at all, but again that doesn’t disqualify anything in and of itself.
Speaking of shallow, there is some obsession with Japanese VNs being more highly regarded than Original English VNs and that makes no sense to me. To repeat this again, it’s either worth the time to try or it’s not worth it, and if the production values are the same then what or where is the big problem? Better yet, why are you wasting time complaining and comparing them in such a manner anyway?
What advice would you give to someone off starting their first visual novel or trying to make the best visual novel?
The first thing would be to start small and learn the process of writing and creating such an art form first. You want feedback even if you greatly dislike criticism, and you want to meet people and see if other ideas and inspirations come forward. Most people are filled with good ideas that never come into light, and you might be the person to do that if you find that light.
The second thing is simply this: the most important thing a smart person who is worth listening to knows is that they know nothing. You are guaranteed to be an overall dumbass. As you grow and learn and get better at your craft, you are still a dumbass but you are likely to have so much more to offer as long as you don’t act like a dumbass. Your abilities are a wondorous gift, but you are not the second coming of anyone. You may find that closing the world off to write or create is best for you or come up with all sorts of rituals or practices, and you will likely be treated poorly because most artists are treated terribly, but you either learn and adapt and are open to it or you just become a greater dumbass.
The final thing is that, for the most part, adding pr0n to your work is stupid. Some people can write sexual material well (most can’t) but it’s very hard to be taken seriously if you have something serious to say and have to pander or sound like a teenager to do so. This said, I would welcome the challenge of combining something like OCD/moderate to severe depression/bisexuality into a romance work more often if it’s done well, but most times it’s all about the lowest common denominator.
Most people don’t have a clue what good sex is anyway because they are…say it with me…dumbasses. It’s best to realize this beforehand.