What I learned releasing my first visual novel

by | Blog

Visual novels combine text, images, sound, and choices to create an immersive experience. They are popular in Japan and have a loyal fanbase around the world. Inspired by watching Welcome to the NHK, I wanted to make one of my own.

In this blog post, I’m sharing what I learned making my first visual novel. I hope that this will be helpful or inspirational for anyone reading.

The Idea

The first step in making a visual novel is to come up with an idea for the story.

It should be something you are passionate about and can sustain your interest.

I wanted to make a visual novel that explores the themes of love and fate. Inspired by some of my favorite visual novels, such as Clannad, and Nekopara.

I decided to make a visual novel about a young man who is trying to make sense of the world around him. Nelson Summers. He enrolls in community college facing challenges and opportunities.

Play Nelsim here and leave a review!

Writing the script

The next step is to write the script for the visual novel.

The most important and time-consuming part of the project. It determines the quality and length of the visual novel.

The script consists of 2 main elements:

Dialogue: What the characters say to each other or to themselves.

Narration: Describes the scenes, actions, and emotions.

At first, I wrote the script for Nelsim in the python file. I even made the mistake of writing everything on paper then losing it in a move.

Do your future self a favor and write online in google docs or software that’s made for visual novels.

If I had to redo it from scratch I would use something like Twine, which is a tool for creating interactive stories. With Twine you create nodes that represent different scenes and link to choices. It makes it easy to visualize the structure and flow of the story, as well as test it.

You may also want to use a spreadsheet to keep track of characters personalities and motivations. This helped me to write consistent and believable dialogue for each character. As well as to avoid plot holes and inconsistencies in the logic of the story.

When writing the script for a visual novel is that planning is crucial. Before writing any dialogue, outline the main plot points, subplots, themes, and messages. This creates a clear vision and direction.

Another thing I learned about writing a script for a visual novel is that dialog writing is an art.

Writing natural and engaging dialogue is not easy.

Creating the art

Nelsim by Brabraden (itch.io)






The next step is to create the art for the visual novel. This includes the backgrounds, sprites, CGs (computer graphics), UI (user interface), and logo. The art is what gives the visual novel its aesthetic appeal and sets the tone and mood of the story.

To create the art, I used Photoshop. You need software to draw, edit, resize, crop and export images. I recommend using what you’re most comfortable with as long as it can do the job.

I also used some online resources to find free or royalty-free assets. For example, I used assets from Itch.io for inspiration and I’m UI elements that I customized.

Top free Visual Novel game assets — itch.io

I tried to create art that matches the style I was going for. I wanted a vapor wave aesthetic with retro looking characters. All paired with a minimalist UI.

Adding sound

The next step is to add sound to the visual novel. This includes music, sound effects (SFX), and voice acting (VA). The sound is what enhances the immersion and emotion of the visual novel.

Ren’Py has great built-in audio feature. There are online resources to find free or royalty-free sound assets that anyone can use. If you’re using music from someone else be sure to credit them in the game.

I used sound effects for actions and events like smoking to add to the atmosphere.

I did not add voice acting as I didn’t have the budget or skills to do so. However, voice acting can be a great addition to a visual novel.

Testing and debugging

The next step is to test and debug the visual novel. Check for any errors, bugs, glitches, typos, or inconsistencies in the visual novel. Get feedback from players.

Ren’Py has built-in features, such as the console, the log, and traceback.

I also asked friends and family members to play the visual novel and give me their honest feedback.

I asked them to tell me what they found confusing or unclear, what they found interesting or boring. I listened to their feedback and made some changes.

Start with something, and improve from there!

Marketing and distributing

To market and distribute the visual novel, I used itch.io, which is a website for hosting and selling indie games. It also allows me to embed my visual novel on other websites.

If I ever make it big enough I’ll release on steam too.

I plan to launch on the Google Play Store for Android soon. It allows me to use Google Play’s features such as badges, promotions, and analytics to optimize.

I will push for more social media presence. Using hashtags like #visualnovel to reach a wider audience.

After launch I will contact streamers and ask them to play and stream my game.

You may want to join Ludum Dare or join itch.io game jams when you’re making your first visual novel.


Making my first visual novel was a challenging but rewarding experience. I learned a lot about storytelling, art, sound, programming, and project management.

I also had a lot of fun creating something that I hope others will enjoy.

If this interested you in playing my first visual novel, you can play it for free onitch.io. I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. I would love to hear from you.

Until next time! 😊