Unimportant NPCs in visual novels- how to portray them?

Vaena

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The title sums this up, but I am curious what all of your thoughts are on those extra NPCs. The ones with only a handful of dialogue. Does it change based on what type of game you are building/reading/playing? Do you have a different stance as a dev vs a gamer?

For example: I am building a simple VN for my stories currently and plan on using just silhouettes inside the frames for unimportant NPC dialogue, but I have circular character frames and personally I felt it the best balance between time and appearance for now.

I have seen some games use base character frames with alternate appearances, likely via some sort of generator. You can usually tell, as the faces and body shapes are the same but clothing, hair, and color choices are altered. While this would take ages to set up initially (a custom generator) I certainly see the appeal and have considered it.

There is also Live 2D, where making every single character in an epic fantasy tale would be... yikes. 2D is beautiful, but some stories can have hundreds of NPCs. It's just not practical for a solo dev without a full team, in my opinion. (Granted I have never tried this, perhaps there are short cuts here, too.)

What do all of you think? Have you seen various methods you loved? Used any tricks yourself that you don't mind sharing?
 

TheoAllen

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From a personal standpoint as a dev and as a player, at least the unimportant NPC should have a generic type of their type. For example, I don't mind a merchant NPC use the same visual graphic for the entire game. Elders use the same. children use the same. Generic town folks use the same. The "good" thing is that the generic-looking NPC can even be a meme in their franchise.

Granted, I don't play visual novels, but I probably said the same thing if I play/make one.
 

Vaena

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The "good" thing is that the generic-looking NPC can even be a meme in their franchise.

Lol, like those balloon guys in Legend of Zelda? Yeah, I see that. Could be made to be funny. Not sure it would work as well in a 'serious' toned game, like a horror or dark fantasy. Typical rpgs though, I agree it could work.
 

TheoAllen

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Not sure it would work as well in a 'serious' toned game, like a horror or dark fantasy.
For the more serious game, I'd prefer a silhouette. Probably a black figure with only mouth and eyes. Or probably a full-colored body but a shady face so that you don't see the eyes would work.
 

kairi_key

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If it's just some random NPC who won't be reappearing then I guess silhouette shadows are fine. It's VN so the game format kinda need to have some kind of visual representation.
 

Vaena

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kinda need to have some kind of visual representation
I have seen some people just switch to narration boxes and say something like

The waiter asked for my id and I realized I had totally forgotten it!

But that can get really tricky to do for some scenes as an author, unless the npc doesn't need spoken lines, like the example I just gave. But for a longer game it really is going to need some 'unimportant' npcs represented visually, I agree.
 

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