Q. What in the world is happening in the Death Room???!!!
If you’ve played my English visual novel/simulation game, you may have found yourself dazzled by all the out-of-the-blue surprises. To many people, it seems very random and, dare I say it, bewildering.
I have been asked the above question several times in different ways, so let me answer it once and for all by telling you a secret.
Writing is my passion. I consider myself more of a writer than I am an artist (but words can be considered an art in its own right). I have crafted fictional worlds ever since I was young and spent more time with my heads in the clouds than I should. The medium of a visual novel should be a dream come true, right?
Well, maybe…if I hadn’t gone about it like this:
- I designed it more like a game than a story.
Don’t get me wrong. I have played a good number of visual novels, ranging from Fate/Stay Night to Higurashi to Heart no Kuni no Alice. I like trying different genres and opening my mind to new possibilities.
However, I have also gone through those old-fashioned Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’m also something of a gamer (mostly RPGs and action ones) but not so much recently. Lately, I’ve been more into visual novels. And books. I’m a huge reader, seriously.
- I went with the “Show, Don’t Tell” Route.
One sign of a good writer is the ability to show, not tell in a story. If you can get your reader to know what is happening without saying it explicitly, bravo! (Not that I’m saying you can’t be a good writer without accomplishing this. There’s more than one way to write a story.)
The thing is, I might have taken to this to a whole other confusing level. I’ll give you a few examples shortly, but first, let me clarify what you’re supposed to learn after playing the Death Room.
WARNING: There are spoilers past this point.
After playing the game, you should know this much:
- You can only escape the room by being the last person standing.
- Three of the people in the room with you come from different worlds. (Depending on your choices, that may include you.)
I believe most people get the first point after playing through it once or twice. (Assuming they haven’t given up in a rage if they face an untimely death.) It’s the second point that really throws your head for a spin.
As I said, I went with the Show, Don’t Tell rule. I let my characters speak for themselves.
Why didn’t Dev die? Why are Dominic and Ambrosia dressed like that?? Why are they talking to each other so calmly??? Whoa, Dominic has super powers???? Why does Ambrosia talk like she’s from some ancient century????!
Worse still, if Dominic and Evie decide to frame you for Dev’s murder. They’re not going to warn you about it beforehand because who announces a plan to murder someone? That’s just bad villainy. They’re going to pretend they didn’t concoct a secret plot to frame you and point the finger at you out of nowhere. Hence, the confusion.
Oh, and why are they so quick to come up with this wicked plan? Well, if you listen to Dominic’s introduction, he’ll tell you that he works with the department of defense in his world. He’s used to fighting. Evie? Work together with her to kill everyone and she’ll admit that she committed torture before. Not your average girl by far.
Realistically, if you were put into a chamber with four strangers and three of them came from different worlds/dimensions, I think there would be chaos. (Especially since these otherworldly people don’t explain anything. And why would they? It’s perfectly normal to them. If anything, you’re the weird one.)
So if you’re feeling confused, that’s perfectly normal. You’re kind of expected to feel that way.
Now, was turning this into a simulation really the best way to go about a visual novel? Probably not. Was it fun? Oh, yes.
It’s kind of like the first episode of Ga-Rei: Zero or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (but in a totally different vein). It’s madness, but there’s a method to that madness. If you came away with the understanding that only one person can leave the Death Room, that’s correct. The purpose of the game was to introduce you to that concept and the cast before I flesh them out in my following games.
After brewing a whirlwind of confusion that was the Death Room, I should probably stick with the tried-and-true VN formula. Make some choices, get on a character’s route, get an ending. Except…I’m not.
Yeah, the prologue to Ambrosia’s story is up next, and I’m taking another creative experiment. It focuses more on the narrative than the Death Room, but it still isn’t route-driven. The story guides your choices, not the love of a man.
There’s also a twist that has the potential to be mightily confusing. I try to give a lot of warnings beforehand by classing it as psychological and saying that it’s like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Is it enough? Maybe not. We’ll see. Either way, I expect it to be a thrilling ride for me.
And if that fails? Well, Ambrosia’s story will indeed be going down the old-fashioned otome (GxB) route. No pun intended. You’ll make some choices, get on a guy’s route, get your desired (or not) ending. It fits her tale, so I’m not going to add anything too crazy. (Maybe.) However, the story’s still going to be featured prominently.
I’m a writer. I can’t do without one or my heart wouldn’t be in it.