Over the past four years, I’ve been developing a world and writing a bit of the story I want to tell in it. For the past couple months, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of maybe attempting a Choice prequel that would give some backstory to some of the characters, namely the main antagonist and a supporting protagonist. The problem is that this being a prequel to a pre-plotted story-arc, all the pieces must fall into place whether or not the PC wants them to or not. I fear that this would make a choice game a bit too linear and take away a lot of gravity in the choices. Sure, there would be some different routes, but they’ll all have to lead to the same place. Would this be a deal-breaker for most of you? Or could you be persuaded to play it?
Doing a prequel of a Choice game, huh?
Yeah, I suppose it would have a unique set of barriers as far as what choices you could do…
You can still do a proper game with multiple paths and multiple endings…
Ok, I think I’ve got it!
Why not think of it like the way Marvel does different Earths?
There’s hundreds of Earths (so there can be multiple, valid endings), but there is only one “Earth Prime” – Earth 616.
Similarly, you can have one “Prime” ending - the “true” ending what will fall perfectly into place with the existing Choice game.
It would be a prequel to what will hopefully one day be a published novel, but your points stand all the same.
The only issue I have with that is my personal experience. I was quite irritated when Choice of Romance’s sequel was only playable if you romanced the correct interest. It doesn’t seem fair to me to give someone an ending and then begin again, disregarding it. That said, this story as a game would stand alone, its sequel (should fortune find me) would be a novel.
So the idea would be that the prequel would be interactive, and then the story that you want to tell would not be? Like a traditional novel or series of some kind?
There’s already some things that have elements of this–most of these games that are part of a series include some element of “everything has to end on the same note”–the author of Community College Hero has stated that his first book is somewhat railroaded in terms of the ending to make sure it can link up with the next book, the first Heroes Rise game ends with the character in roughly the same situation regardless of what actions you take …
For a good example of a story where the MC doesn’t have much control over the larger actions of the world, Max Gladstone’s Choice of the Deathless is an excellent story where the MC really doesn’t make all that much of an impact on the world at large, but does have control over their own life. Maybe something like that?
I think the main issue that could come about is trying to give the illusion of choice, and whether that would be successful. I don’t mind playing a game where the overall world ends about the same no matter what, but if you want the MC to have interactions with the characters for the main story that you’re introducing, the game would feel really hollow if it did end up happening that nothing you do really matters. If they’re just cameos, or background characters, and your MC doesn’t have real, influential interaction with them, that wouldn’t really be an issue–but if they’re good friends and they run the whole gambit of the story together and then in the main arc that this is a prequel for your MC doesn’t come up in the slightest, it’ll feel odd and probably make the prequel feel irrelevant, like the player didn’t gain anything from playing it.
My main question is–why do you want to do the prequel as a choice game? What would the reader gain by making decisions? If your goal is to make the player feel more immersed in the world, and potentially make them care more about what’s happening in the novel, great, I think that could work well. But I’m not sure you could do something where the MC feels like an influential character without it ending up somewhat hollow and forced
It’s definitely a way to flesh out some characters and explain in depth the origins of the conflict, as well as a way to relieve writer’s block. The main antagonist of my novel must come off as sympathetic, as their views are entirely reasonable and valid. It’s not given much opportunity in the novels, as they’re very much a puppet master and rarely seen. The characters would feature rather prominently, but they would be quite young compared to their novel appearances. Nearly fifty years would have passed. I’m just not sure I’m a good enough writer to give that the proper weight.
Have you played the Dragon Age games? Your description sort of sounds a bit like it might be handled the same way Leliana was–however she might have developed through Origins, her characterization at the start of Inquisition is the same across the board due to off-screen events. So due to the time skip it would be plausible and likely that the characters could develop into their future selves, which are the same no matter the prequel choices, because they would lose the influence of the MC for whatever reason. That makes sense, and I’d get it as an explanation, but my concern would still be that the prequel would be unable to have distinct events that the novel would be able to reference–or, if it did it’d be very difficult. Since the novel will be the same for everyone, it won’t be able to have variables that can change with the events of the prequel, so the MC still would be either forced to feel pointless or relatively unimportant. They either need to have universal actions–every single MC Does The Important Thing, but then depending on your choices it’s for a different reason, or it comes about a different way–or you go the Star Wars route and everybody’s completely forgotten this person and who they were in the span of that fifty years.
This is not something a prequel game would solve, and I think if the goal of the prequel game is to get to this end you’d be better off condensing it into a prologue or trying to make the whole story into prequel and sequel novels. Not every single reader is going to have played the game–and chances are, not every player of the game is going to then read the novel. So if you want your antagonist to be sympathetic to the readers of the novel, you’ll need to find a way to get that into the body of the novel itself. I don’t see an issue with something like “oh well they come off badly in the novel but if you played the prequel game and got that extra content you sympathize a lot more,” but if it’s necessary to the meat of your story that this character be sympathetic, you need to make sure that that’s in the story. Having a prequel novel is something that makes it into a series that’s expected to be consumed all together, but when you spread your story across different mediums it’s going to reach different audiences that may or may not overlap
The antagonist won’t come off as incredibly evil in the novels, especially looking at the issues on both sides of the war and what they want, but the methods used are questionable at best. This game would be meant to amplify rather than define the sympathy I’d want.
All stories have a start and an end, it is how you get there that is important. I see no issue with a branching story converging to set the stage for things to come.
Edit: Given your post prior to mine though I don’t think a choice game would be a good idea if you have a fixed MC in mind. A visual novel maybe.
Oh, no, I’ve no specific MC in mind for this particular endeavor. The novel that would follow is where I would and do have iron bound characters. This prequel would feature a character made by the player as they will, it is just my worry that the little effect they’d have on the events would discourage some.
Ah, then perhaps the prequel could tell the story of a standalone MC living in the world you’re building and showing their perspective on transpiring events leading up to the main story - much like you or I go about our daily lives while shaking our heads and mumbling about the daft decisions of our respective govenrments for example.
I don’t think it would bug me, I kinda like the idea of no matter what’s we choose, we kinda always seemed doom. I look at it as if our pro can choose all these different options and make decisions totally opposite of others but still come to that one conclusion.
Maybe you could do it like how Yoko Taro handled Nier: Automata
As in the prequel has multiple endings and the sequel takes place in one of them.
If that doesn’t work, having the paths converge shouldn’t be too much of a problem anyways since it’s a prequel.
Have readers make choices that determine how it got to that point.
(Any prequel is good news to me, especially if it shows the antagonist’s side of the story. I love antagonists you can sympathize with.)
What I would do is write the prequel as an extended “Origins” for the MC.
Make it so the choices involved all relate to future customization variables - male/female/NB, Rich/Poor, Superpower Flight/Superpower Strength - variables which you will then use in your main story.
Do this, so that the reader/gamer will be able to import their characters into your main story. This is a great way of increasing re-playability as well.
If you start the MC out as a child and allow the reader/gamer to shape that MC’s character (pun intended) without allowing them to shape the events they are a part of, this can work. Other such scenarios include “Seeing the Elephant” in war for the first time, experiencing the birth of your child that was against all odds and a Mother/Father/Grandparent dying.
For an example that is done well, look at how Jason Hill handles the young vampire growing up in Choice of the Vampire
Just make an entire story out of the Origins. The hard part is going to write something that is both deep and long enough to satisfy the brutal public in the app stores and STEAM if you get that far.
Edit: [quote=“DeltaWolfy, post:9, topic:25944”]
The novel that would follow is where I would and do have iron bound characters.
With this statement made, making a choice game for a set-in-stone novel would not be advisable. As @LordOfLA said - perhaps a stand-alone related but separated story for the If-game would be o.k. and supported by most who like choice-games.
Something like the future Moreytown game or Empeream game that are set in pre-made worlds with an ability to stand on their own stories.
Think of the Compendiums made by various authors to allow fan-fiction a place in their made worlds. (the 1776 time travel books and short-stories come to mind here).
I certainly won’t play it. If all is set on stone there is no choice. But I will like read it as a conventional story
If you’re very clear upfront about what sort of story it is, I see no problem. Some people will choose not to play it, of course. But then some people will choose not to read your novel – because it’s not their genre, or they don’t sympathize with the main character, or whatever. Not every game is right for every player. I really enjoyed the Choice of Romance sequels, for example.
Much of what you can accomplish depends on who your playable character is. If they are a bit player in the overall story, then there’s a great deal going on in their lives outside of the railroaded plot. The villain’s plot must always end in the same place, but their minor flunkie #4, for example, could be a turncoat for the other side. Or they could decide to get back together with their ex. Or get caught in the crossfire and die. You have a lot of leeway. It’s a little like writing historical fiction, like that.
Telltale Games like The Walking Dead are famous for having “the illusion of choice.” A choice with more impact than most may decide which of two characters lives; however, that one will die in a later chapter, re-converging at “both people died.”
Since your MC isn’t the focus of the main story, you have even more leeway here (no pun intended.) They can end up any number of ways, and just not have the power to affect the grand events that shape the book.
Read this while waking up from a nap and the “leeway” part made me put down my phone to laugh a bit, causing me to fall back asleep.
I don’t think there’s any problem at all with what you’re proposing. Most games, even ones that really focus on choice and consequences, end up in about the same place.
Satisfying endings are the hardest thing in the world to write. Great writers in every medium struggle with endings. If you’ve got a good one use it for as many paths as make sense.
Speaking just for me personally the choices that matter to me are the ones about who my character is.