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August 17, 2019
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A Chronicle of Story Games: Part I

by Junxue Li on 06/04/19 10:26:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


 In the last decade, our team/as art contractor creates background art for various story games, which are developed by studios around the world. We have tackled so many genres and solved all sorts of problems. Now it’s interesting to enumerate different type of story games, just like showing off my precious household collections. In this series of posts, I would tell as much as I know about these types of story games: Visual Novels, Point & Click Games, Social and Premium Hidden Object Games.

Visual Novels:


For their name’s sake, the game play is like reading novels. The stories/game play is propelled forward by dialogs and choices (you can think of Shakespeare’s plays), and to make the reading experience immersive, the stories are visualized by accompanying background and character art.  

The key feature differentiate them from conventional novels, is CHOICES. Role playing in the games, the players are making choices all the time, for example, what to wear, go to a ball or not with certain guy. And these choices exert different degree of influence to the story direction.

Most common stories are about romance, and campus life. As most players of this game genre are young people especially females, love and passion is a selling point. You can see many hot screenshots in the Google Play and Apple Store:


For big titles from big developers, they may have long term strategy, so the stories only touch sex & passion mildly. And as nowadays social consciousness turns friendly toward gay/lesbian people, these apps often feature LGBT plots.       

Many visual novels are multiple story books apps. For example, Choices: Stories You Play (by Pixelberry). In this app, some books are about romance, some about criminal case, some campus stories and some fantasy stories, usually with characters play cameo among books.

  And a story book often features 20+ chapters, gradually adding to the app in the pace of 2~4 chapters per month. To make the players stick to the stories longer, the developers pay great attention to both plot and character development.

Famous titles:

Choices: Stories You Play (By Pixelberry), Episode(By Pocket Gems), Is It Love?(By UBI)


Mobile, Steam

Monetization Mode:

  All the above titles are free to play. While playing certain book, you can reach a default ending without spending a cent. More often than not, as players are so engaged in the stories, they are eager to see other better endings, that would require them buying a fancy dress in the game, to woo the affection of prince charming; Or simply pay for a better choice outright. There are no lack of players who would play certain chapters over and over again, exploring all kinds of possible endings, paving the way through by in-game currencies.


   Multiple story books apps are often mega games, which require an army of writers, artists, that they are often developed by companies with big budget (see above titles).

   There are also mini visual novels, with a short story and a few background art, they are mostly made by indie developers. 

Player Group:

   Young people especially females


   The art style is generally relaxing, romantic and stylized:

   The essential assets are background and character art, depending on budget and goal, the art assets could take a few forms:

  Background art:

  a) Simply painted art;

  b) richly painted art, or 3D render+2D overpainted scenes;

 Character art:

  a) Simply painted still characters;

  b) Richly painted still characters;

  c) Boned characters with rich animations;


 Choices: Stories You Play - Richly painted background art + Richly painted still characters;

 Episode (early books) -Simply painted background art + Boned characters with rich animations;

Anime Style Visual Novels:


   This type of apps are a branch of visual novels, they share a lot common features of regular visual novels, except for the Japanese settings and Anime style artworks.

   In this branch of visual novels, many more are made by small developers. To make quick money, some go near the bottom line, although not explicitly erotic. Due to different policies, there are more of these small games on Steam than mobile. There’s a tale that a Chinese publisher in this business, unease of the restrictions in China, resorts to go Steam and then makes big money.  

Famous titles:

  Hakuoki (By Idea Factory)


Mobile, Steam

Monetization Mode:

   Free to Play, Premium


   There’re many developers and publishers in Japan, no surprise. There are also many developers in China, Russia, and the US.

Player Group:

   Young people especially females


   The character art are mostly done by Japanese/Chinese studios and freelancers; Background art are done by studios/freelancers around the world, for there are Anime lovers everywhere.

   Traditionally anime environment are all hand/digital paintings. Now for efficiency and precision, many visual novels use 3D render then painted to Anime style.

In next post I would cover a few older form of story games: hidden object games and point & click games. See you next time!







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