Ren’Py Review: Develop your first Visual Novel in 15 Minutes

in Game Dev

renpy visual novel maker

If you want to make your own Visual Novel, but you don’t think you have necessary programming skills, you’re simply wrong. It’s surprisingly easy with free Ren’py game maker. It’s the best tool for the job, allowing you to develop your own VNs from scratch with as little effort as possible. You can focus on dialogues, artwork and story, instead of wrapping your head around programming procedures. Take a look at what Ren’Py can do for you, and why you should start creating your Visual Novels now!

I’ve never programmed before! That must be so hard!

Not with Ren’Py, no. The script is editable in any text editor (Notepad++ in this case) and it looks like this:

renpy script

Scene – indicates start of a new scene or episode

With Fade – states that scene should start with screen fade effects

Play music – Plays music file from game directory. You can’t have easier commands than this!

mike – indicates that actor of this name should speak the phrase

“” – text to be displayed on screen

Everything else is handled internally. GUI is premade and you can choose among several templates or download more from the net, or just make yourself one if you wish.

As you can see, it’s extremely easy. It was built for VNs and it has trimmed all unnecessary commands, leaving only instructions important for the Visual Novel maker. Everyone can write a code like that.

It’s worth mentioning that Ren’Py packs demo game with tutorial, and there are plenty of tutorials available online, like the one below. Just follow the tutorial, modify the demo a bit and you’ll get hang of Ren’Py in an hour or so.

So how much it’ll cost me?

Despite all this treats, Ren’py is also totally free – actually it’s open source. You can develop big commercial titles or just indie game that you want to show your friends. It’s also not hard to imagine this software not only as a game maker, but also as an educational suite for learning programming, or maybe for creating some multimedia project for school. Embed some images, music or even videos, and you can make great presentation in no-time, with interactive component.

Deployment with Ren’Py

You’re not constrained to single platform, and you can quite easily port your VNs to other devices and OSes. While you’ll be developing for a Windows PC, Ren’Py has necessary modules for exporting your game into Android .apk files and iOS packages, so it’s easy to port the games to phones and tablets, not to mention MacOSX and Linux. Currently, there is even beta HTML5 support, which means you’re able to embed the game on the website. Game interface is supported for mobile devices and you don’t even need to do anything more with the game. Just export it, and that’s it. Though export to mobiles itself isn’t that straightforward, it’s not that hard either and it can be done in 20 minutes or so. Your game will support hardware buttons on your device, like go back and volume control.

This is by the way, also necessary to allow your game to be published in Google Play store. While Google has some quite strict requirements for developers to publish their titles in this world’s biggest app marketplace, Ren’Py passes them all. Which is another possibility to get your game known to the world – and even start selling it, if you want, making some money on your indie game!

Go beyond VNs

You can implement stat systems for games like RPG, item management, and add just any features you want that will make your game go beyond standard VN or kinetic novel. It’s not hard to make your game a dating sim or role playing game or even strategy, though obviously this requires more complex programming – which is still manageable even for a newbie.

make visual novel rpg

Loren the Amazon Princess by Winter Wolves is a commercial title that features battle system, RPG team development, strategic options, skill trees and lots more. All this made in Ren’Py alone, which highlights how powerful it can be, if you want to go beyond mere Visual Novel!

A few alternatives to Ren’py

Ren’py is simply the best Visual Novel maker. There are a few other similar dev engines, though none of them has the same wide range of features, portability and ease of use. Regardless, if you decide to pick other software, there is Tyranobuilder, available on Steam for about $15, which is basically a Ren’Py (uses the same base), but with graphical interface. I find it clunky, unintuitive and restraining, and despite having GUI, it actually makes deving your game more difficult and frustrating.

tyranobuilder visual novel maker

Tyranobuilder has user graphical UI, that supposedly speeds up development, tbut it’s definitely not my game maker of choice

Another alternative is Visual Novel Maker, which is even costlier at $60. It comes with a full suite of features, but it doesn’t look beginner friendly at all. Doesn’t look useful, though if you’re more experienced developer, you can take a look at its capabilities.

So in conclusion, why develop with Ren’py?

  • Very easy to get the hang of. You can make your first game (well, at least episode) in literally 15 minutes.
  • Your project can be expanded to more features, building more than simple VN.
  • Totally free for commercial or indie use
  • Games can be exported to almost all possible formats and can be published on Google Play or Steam.

In fact, both large AAA titles like excellent “No, thank you” were made in Ren’py and free indie games. It’s powerful tool in the right hands of seasoned developer, and at the same time its sheer simplicity makes it easy to work with even for a total newbie.

game made with renpy

“No, Thank You” and hundred other games were made in Ren’Py

So what are you waiting for – get your feet wet in developing visual novels and see how easy is to make one. Write script, add some graphics (there are plenty of free sprites and backgrounds), slap royalty free music (even easier to come by), and develop a game in Ren’py. It’s easier than you think and it’s a lot of fun!

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