What is Renpy?
Renpy is one of the many visual novel engines. It is free and open-source, you can download it at https://www.renpy.org/. Renpy stands for Renai (Japanese for love) and Python. So as the name suggests, the game engine uses python as its coding language, and you can create games like a lot of Japanese dating sims.
Why did I choose Renpy?
I knew about Renpy from my professor. I was looking for something that is free to use, has potential and does not require a lot of computer background. I notice that a lot of users of Renpy are newbies to coding like me, and in general it is said to be easy to use. After I know a lot of games I like use Renpy like Doki Doki Literature Club, Lady Killer in a Bind, and Sound of Drop, I decide to give Renpy a try.
Is it hard to learn Renpy?
Yes and No. It is not very hard to learn the basics of making visual novels on Renpy, and you can find a lot of youtube videos on this subject. Unlike unity or Unreal engine, once you get a hand of the method, it is super easy to pick up anytime. You do not need any refreshers or anytime. In addition, you ready don't need any coding background to understand how to make game in Renpy.
That being said. There is a thing about Renpy that would prevent me from recommending it to people who are absolutely brand new to game development or use it as a teaching tool for a game design class. Anything you want to change in your game, you have to do it in code. This is from creating a dialogue option in your game, to change the color of the text background. Remember that beautiful flow chart in twine that you always show your students when teaching narrative design in games? You don't have that. Want to change a line in the middle of your two hours long visual novel? Good luck with that. In general, it can be very intimidating to see hundreds of lines of code. Coding all your settings is not how we use the computer on our daily tasks, and it takes a lot to get used to doing this. My experience teaching workshops for high schoolers is that if I cannot catch their attention in the first 20 minutes, the task would become a lot harder.
However, after getting over the first phase. I find creating visual effects a lot easier in Renpy compared to other engines. While I don't think this would be my primary engine, I will definitely use this engine after this project on suitable projects, especially when I need to create games in game jams.