Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Bullshit

I find myself pleased in belatedly realizing that during Katawa Shoujo's development, we managed to completely avoid bullshit so far.

...Well now, let me clarify that before my fellow devs, random strangers from the Web and probably people off the street that happen to be walking by me all start pointing and laughing, with good reason too.

KS doesn't contain any entirely fictional element in its makeup. Oh sure, there are some amazing coincidences in there, but we don't have bridge trolls, little green men from Mars, psychic powers, anthropomorphs, ghosts, intelligent self-aware computers, talking animals, drop bears, therianthropes, FTL engines... the list can go on and on.
Considering our chosen setting that might look like a given, but I think it's really not. It's a very large trend in VNs to introduce one or more elements wholly born of the writer's or of humanity's imagination, and to worldbuild around those, exploring the "what if". No points for guessing whether I'm talking about your favorite author, software house, or title - odds overwhelmingly favor that I am, nowadays.
So is that a bad thing, or a good one? Neither, really, as long as it's done well. We're all writing fiction, not documentary - as long as the tale gets its point across, is enjoyable, and keeps the reader engrossed until the end, I'm not going to sneer at "fairytale hacks" or "unimaginative slicey bores". I reserve the right to quibble about the category a piece belongs in, but that's another story.
I do, however, draw the line at bullshitting the reader out of nowhere. When the author pulls out what is politely called "deus ex machina", or more commonly "plothax", it's time to raise eyebrows. And with completely made-up story elements, there is a constant temptation to just up the ante, up the stakes, step on the pedal, and call it a day.

"Because I made up my mind that reality worked that way, and since it's my fantasy, nobody can say otherwise."
I mean, who'd complain, or even notice, right?

If the response to KS is anything to go by, YOU would. The amount of details in the demo that got reported to us as feeling odd, pushing hard on coincidence, or being just plain wrong was staggering. Some of those we knew about and couldn't/wouldn't correct (the dreaded "artistic license"), some of them were false positives, but some made me facepalm and wonder why I never thought of THAT before.
Which brings me to the flip side of the coin: having to do your homework. If you can just decide how things work, you save yourself a whole lot of trouble, because you don't have to check if your idea is actually possible in the day and age you set your story in.
Like raspberry flavoured popsicles in Japan. No, I'm not kidding. But that's a story for next time.