Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{May 17, 2007}   Ren’Py Visual Novel Engine in Debian

Ren’Py is an engine that supports the creation of visual novels and storytelling. I fell in love with it since I first saw it, almost two years ago, and some of my friends know how much work I’ve devoted to that package so that it’s finally in Debian in a proper state, including submitting many patches to upstream. Lots of thanks go to Ana for all her help and support with this package.

Ren’Py is designed to make writing complete visual novels as easy as possible. The engine supports, of course, conversations between the two characters, but also images, different transitions between pictures, music and sound, so playing a game can be a complete multimedia experience. The engine itself is based in Python and SDL (in fact, it is based in python-pygame). Anyway, ccording to the manual, you don’t need to know any programming, or be able to program, to use Ren’Py.

Even though right now there are a lot of games made with Ren’Py available for downloading, most of them are released pre-compiled (for a certain version of python, including the whole interpreter and libraries in the release), and usually targeted towards Windows (even though Ren’Py is supported on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and can be made to run on other platforms). Of course all the authors of the games are welcome if they want to publish them as Free Software, anyway my plans go towards using the engine for developing educative applications.

My only problem is that I need to draw the characters I’ll use throughout the tutorias, which is something I’m not especially good at. I’ve got myself a book on how to draw manga and anime characters, but it’s probably taking a while until I’m proficient enough at that. I’ll try to find someone to help me with that. In fact, it would be great to release a free set of characters that newbie creators of stories could use as a starting point. Lets see if I can find an artist for that.

The main drawback I see is that the dependencies might be too much to put the engine in a small embedded portable gadget to be able to play a visual novel anywhere. Who knows, maybe in the future.

Kevin Mark says:

Well what about the nokia 800 internet tablet?

Miry says:

I haven’t tried it either in the Nokia 800 nor in the previous model 770 yet, as I don’t own any of those. I guess that system should be enough for running the program anyway, I’ll have to ask someone to test it for me.

Thanks for the suggestion :)

Another gadget in which it might be nice to test it might be OLPC, but I don’t know almost anything about it.

Ewan Grantham says:

You’re welcome to throw my game “Senior Year” in the package if you want to have an example game. I already made a Linux version of the distribution (available at the bklovr.com website) that you could use.

I have a Nokia N800 tablet, but generally you have to load packages on it from maemo’s repositories (downloads.maemo.org), and I’m not sure how you would get them to add this to their repository. If you do, I’ll be happy to try it out.

In terms of your character graphics you could either try making your own from the CD that comes with “Manga Clip Art” – which has Photoshop/GiMP compatible characters that you can mix and match to make your own – or try the online HeroMachine (www.heromachine.com).

Hope this helps!

Miry says:

Thanks Ewan!

The problem I have with most of the games listed in Ren’Py page is that they’re almost often released pre-compiled, and thus will not work against any other version of Python than that. That’s no good, both for efficiency reasons (you’ll end up having as many versions of Python and Ren’Py as games), and for security reasons (If there’s a bug somewhere, it should have to be corrected in a lot of places, which is difficult). Of course those kind of releases are good for a universal target, such as distributing it from the web page, but for Debian’s repository, I think it’s better to do it properly. :)

The other problem I have with those games is license. Most of the games there do not say anything about what license they can be distributed under. For a package to be accepted into Debian, the license should be compliant with the Debian Free Software Guidelines ( http://www.debian.org/social_contract.en.html ), which more or less say that you give permission to use, redistribute and modify its contents. If it’s not, then, as long as it can be redistributes, it could be added to non-free.

Your game is really nice, even though it assumes that whoever is playing will be flirting with the girls, whether s/he is male or female, which might be quite funny at times. Not that it really matters, but it might be nice to have an alternative for heterosexual girls to play too.

Anyway, for packaging the game I’d need the source of the scripts, and the terms under both the game script itself and the game data (images, sounds, music) and be distributed. It is the MIT license ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_License ), Isn’t it? Also for the game data?
Greetings, and lots of thanks for your offer, I can email you about it if you want :)

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