What makes a "Custom" Side Story?
If we're playing the semantics game, then it's any Side Story. Unless someone's been going around copying and pasting segments from MGQ verbatim and releasing them as a Side Story, then all the ones currently out there have custom elements in it.
By elements, I don't just mean artwork (such as sprites or CGs) or battles... the script itself, be it the dialogue or story, are custom.
As someone who has written/cobbled together a few Scenarios/Side Stories, I have a feeling that some people who play/read them often find themselves thinking "Well if there's no brand new CGs/Artwork/Battles included, then what's the point of playing this?"
Well, my answer to that imaginary question is "Hopefully you'll find some enjoyment out of one of the aspects". While the sprites aren't custom, the story and setting is. I also feel that a Side Story is nothing but Fanfiction, at its barest parts. You can toss on a few custom pieces of artwork or code on top of it, but in the end it doesn't change the following facts:
- It's not been made by someone in Torotoro.
- It's not canon.
But that's not a bad thing. It doesn't immediately make Side Stories bad. They can still be enjoyable to read and even create.
I make these scenarios because I get some ideas, and think they'd be enjoyable to write. And in a way, these Side Stories provide a nicer medium to write these non-canon ideas. You can have the character sprites emote properly at certain points, instead of having to leave it up to the reader's imagination, or explicitly write "Tamamo's face crumples in sorrow, as she realises the last piece of tofu has been eaten by Alice. Again." You can use music or sound effects to help establish moods or atmospheres - OldSlashFriend managed to use a variety of sound effects in his Chrome scenario to create a fantastic sense of dread... at least, that's what I thought.
And if you're skilled enough to draw custom artwork, or have deciphered the coding of battles (or even been a smart enough cookie to edit MGQ's Nscript - go you!) then go mad! You can exploit your imagination even further to add to your Side Story.
Believe me, I'd love to include some battles in my current Scenarios. But I take one good look at the massive chunk of code I've got to recobble, and I lose motivation. "I don't have time for this! I'm working in the morning!". So yes, blame my severe ineptitude for the lack of battles. That, and I have no idea how to implement a battle in the middle of the story, then have the story continue as normal after the battle instead of ending the game. (Use of the 'goto' command? Answers on a postcard.)
But what I'm trying to do with this long-winded Blog post is to dispel the notion that any Scenario without custom art/coding is balls, and has no merits by itself. Fair enough - it's different strokes for different folks. Some people look for different niches to be filled in these scenarios, which is all very fine. But I don't believe that's grounds enough to tar and feather all Side Stories out there lacking in those areas. If you must despise them, despise them for corny writing, blatant wish fulfillment and toe-curlingly awful erotic dialogue featuring tails. But, riddle me this... a Scenario could have the best-looking artwork in the world... but with poor writing accompanying it, would you really go through the effort of playing?
Maybe. That artwork might be really hot.