Inside Pulse 12

Review: TyranoBuilder Visual Novel Studio (PC)

TyranoBuilder Visual Novel StudioTyranoBuilder Visual Novel Studio
Publisher: Nyu Media
Developer: STRIKEWORKS
Genre: Software
Release Date: 03/27/2015

For people who want to make their own visual novel, there are a few options out there, most of which require some kind of scripting knowledge. Probably the most popular option, Ren’Py, requires you to learn their language, and their site offers a wide array of tutorials to help the budding novelist. There are other options, like Novelty and JS-ViNE, and each of these software have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are in beta, others do not allow you to publish to web browsers. TyranoBuilder Visual Novel Studio appears to want to solve all those issues by being a creation software that allows you to publish to Windows, Mac, various smartphones and tablets, and browser games. Creating a game requires no scripting knowledge, though the software does allow for people to add scripts if they want to add more advanced features to their games. People have been hailing it as being incredibly easy to learn, and I wanted to test this claim.

TyranoBuilder Visual Novel StudioI wanted to see how intuitive the software was before looking through the tutorial, so I opened up the program and was met immediately with the project list. I created a new game product (innovatively named “TestGame”), decided I did in fact want a title screen but did not want an in-game menu, and went on to create the project. It really did look simple: the screen was sectioned off into three parts: (1) a section where you could pick components to drag over to the (2) scene editor, and (3) a place for you to customize whatever it was you dragged over, be it a character entrance, a command to start playing music, or a text box. There’s also a small row of six icons near the top, above the customization area, which allows you to save, preview, manage characters, and a few other things.

Under the left-most tab, you can choose from three tabs: components, resources, and scenes. Components are things like story-related options (e.g. adding a branching button, labeling certain sections for branching, etc.), characters (joining and exiting the scene, changing expression), images (changing the background, etc.), effects (e.g. changing font styles, showing/hiding message windows), media (playing and stopping music and sound effects, adding movies), and script options (for more advanced users). Resources involve things like character images, backgrounds, music, sound effects; basically, things that you’ll use throughout your visual novel. Finally, scenes are basically how you split up your game. You control where you split them up, but I did see that in their tutorial they do offer suggestions on how best to do that.

TyranoBuilder Visual Novel StudioCreating a scene in TyranoBuilder is honestly as easy as dragging what you want from the left-most section and dropping it into the scene editor in the middle. While a few things, like positioning characters, take a little time to get used to, it’s really easy to preview your game, either from the beginning (by pressing the triangle in the top row) or from a specific section by right clicking that section and choosing to previous from there. It was really easy to change backgrounds and music, and I didn’t have any issues doing so. The only thing I needed the tutorial for was to figure out how to show who was speaking, and that was easy to add in: Just put “#name” in a separate line before the text you want attributed to them and you’ve got it. That actually ended up being the only thing I even needed the basic tutorial for, but your mileage may vary. Textboxes allow for non-Unicode characters, e.g. Japanese, Thai, Korean, Cyrillic.

The tutorial section of their site says that their tutorials are in the process of being updated, which hopefully means that there will be more than four advanced tutorials eventually. This will be especially useful for people who are new to scripting, but want to add a few more advanced features to their visual novels. They do have a list of tags for those who want to use them, but the tutorials may be able to explain things like “evaluate expression” to people who don’t know what that means. Even without the advanced tutorials, I think that most people can easily make a decent (features-wise–writing/visual quality will obviously vary from person/team to person/team) visual novel without touching any of the advanced features. I had absolutely no issues using TyranoBuilder other than the typical hiccups that come with learning a new software.

TyranoBuilder Visual Novel StudioTheir Steam discussions page has a pinned topic featuring various free resources for visual novel creators who don’t have the ability or money to create/buy their own assets, like backgrounds, characters, music, etc. One of the most important things about this software is that there are no royalty fees; that is, if you make a game, you can sell it without owing STRIKEWORKS anything. Additionally, there are no ads or watermarks on the games you export either. The software is about $15 on Steam and the developers say this comes with free upgrades, should they add any other features or modes to the software in the future. Their discussion page is pretty active and hopefully they continue to have a presence there as the software is released and people have questions. Sometime during this coming summer, they hope to have the game localized into German, French, and Spanish, which will increase the amount of people able to utilize this software.

I think this is a pretty neat package, and look forward to seeing what kinds of visual novels come from it. I have actually been working with someone on creating a set of research studies that use visual novels and was wondering how to teach people how to use Ren’Py and whether I would want to go that route since lab membership can change pretty quickly; with this, that may no longer be an issue, especially as they expand their tutorial base. There’s a lot of potential here, and I’m glad this is a low-cost option for people wanting to make games.

Short Attention Span Summary
This software is about $15 on Steam and the developers are saying this comes with free upgrades as features are potentially added. As it stands, this is a simple, intuitive way to create visual novels, and I recommend it for anyone, especially someone who may not feel comfortable learning a programming language. For those who are into adding more advanced features, there are ways to add scripts for them, and hopefully the tutorial section of the software’s website covers many of these options in the months to come. STRIKEWORKS is interested in helping their users through the Steam discussion forums, including curating free assets for people to use in their games, for those who are not artistically inclined and can’t afford to commission artists. I think this software has a lot of potential and look forward to seeing where it takes visual novel creators.