I am trying out Visual Novel engines. I got on this kick about 2 months ago. First, I bought Smith Micro’s MotionArtist. I like it a lot, BUT, it only publishes to HTML5. HTML5 is not fully implemented yet, the stuff runs on my tablet. But I want to publish direct to Android. So, waitin on a update. It’s a comic book creator. Which is the same as a visual novel, almost. SmithMicro seems to be dragging it’s feet on developing it. I like MotionArtist, but it is limited on file format, and I am not using it now.
Then, I found out about Madefire Motion Book engine. Well, that is the most pro stuff out there I have found to date. On DeviantArt, and on GooglePlay you can find their stuff. They make the slickest online comics I have seen. Only trouble is, to sell them, you pay a hefty percentage. It is 60 for Madefire, 40 for the user. So.. I keep looking. The stuff people are making with MadeFire is very impressive. The slickest out there. This one is Online. You just make a account, free. The MadeFire tool, the software, is online. MadeFire runs off of commissions. So far, it’s probably the best one.
Kindle Comic Creator. Well, it is free. Publishes to Kindle, which is kind of a pain in the ass. Many Ebook softwares have trouble with Kindle formatting. Kindle Comic Creator is limited. No sound, not too many whippy things to do with graphics. It is the easiest by far to use. But it’s not that whippy. It is very simple. You created a comic page layout, then load that into Kindle. Kindle automatically finds the panels, with some tweaking optios from you. Then, the user taps the panel, and it enlarges. But that is pretty much all it will do- for now. Comic Book creator pretty much.
Novelty Visual Novel Maker In it’s early stages, pretty GOOD actually! BUT.. no output to Android or iOS or Kindle. Next.
Ren’Py- the one I am using now. Free, and exports to Android. The oldest one, well maybe with the exceptions of the Japanese OTOME engines. OTOME is visual novel, with many different engines. REN’PY is the best developed of them all, with many updates, a active community and it is TRULY FREE. It is/was developed at MIT. Uses as script language, but it is easy, about as difficult as old MS DOS batch files. It has by far, the best community. It is constantly being upgraded, and I mean nightly. FREE (paid for by MIT grants. Paid for by donations.)
CoronaLabs Looks very good, uses LUA scripting language. A visual engine is forthcoming. This will make it about like GameSalad. GameSalad is a game engine. BUT.. it costs $180 or so for the license, plus the fees to export to GooglePlay, Android, and Kindle. As far as formats, this is the best one. But it costs money, so I am not using it, as of this date. This is more a game engine, than a Graphic Novel engine. I like it, but can’t afford it.
GameSalad One of the easiest to use, if not THE easiest. Drawback is the fees, $299 for the license, then you must pay the fees to Google, Apple, and Kindle. It is geared for games, but could make the Visual Novel or Motion Comic easily.
There are quite a few others. Stencyl, which I studied for the longest time, is $199 a year for the license, and exports to FLASH..but it is not viable. It is good though, you can make good stuff with it. There is Construct 2, which exports to HTML5. Tried it out, not as easy as Stencyl. Popular, but not “free”.
Get it through your head.. NOTHIN’ is FREE. Ren’Py is free because the public paid for it. The “Free” versions of all these softwares are limited, usually in the format you can publish to, which is crucial. Ain’t no free lunch, everyone has to pay their bills.
There are others out there, other engines. My strategy is to develop my content, my story, my drawings, my sounds, then I will match them up to whatever engine is most useful. I work constantly with RenPy now, and it is very good.
The file format thing is the jinx on these. RenPy outputs to Android, a major plus, but not to HTML5. HTML5 output is often limited in some way. The browers are uneven in their support of HTML5. Kindle? I don’t even know what format that is. Amazon is Android based, and Apple iOS you have to pay $99 to get in the Apple Store.
HTML5 was supposed to be the cat’s meow, but it has turned into a can of worms. Ludei makes a HTML5 wrapper, that will let you create for Android, but it is not quite.. there yet. There is PhoneGap, which is free, which helps you publish to Android, iOS, and many other Phone platforms. To be honest have not studied these options.
“What was impossible today, can become possible tomorrow.”- Marc and Angel The priceless gems of philosophy are the greatest things of all!
There are many other Visual Novel engines popping up, but these are the best ones I know of. So develop your graphics and animations! Develop your story, because a solution that fits you is out there. If there is not one now, it will surely be created. Even if you have to abandon your Visual Novel engine because of some sort of bug, you will have your story and the assets you make, and that is what counts.