Advice and Opinions on Less Traditional Interactive Fiction

Hello! I’m making this thread for a few reasons, particularly to see different opinions and views on different genres and types of Interactive Fiction. I have had a few concepts for interactive fiction for quite awhile now; however, they all seem to differ from traditional paths interactive fiction seem to take. So I figure I might as well ask for some opinions: how do you guys feel about IF that doesn’t include romance, or really any significant relationships other than one or two side characters? What about IF with a set ending? Or IF with a set tragic/sad ending that’s unavoidable as part of the story? Would you view a story as true interactive fiction if it was set up more as a journey/experience you are brought on and allowed to make some choices in as opposed to choice driven? I’ve always noticed most IF is primarily or even entirely driven by player relationships and choices, so I was wondering about everyone’s perspective.

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Those are some good questions. I admit almost all of my IF experience is through CoG (and video games in general in what capacity they have for this) so that’s kind of where I’m coming from as far as what my idea of an IF is in the first place, if that makes sense.

-Romance: I’m personally okay without it. It can be nice, and I’ll usually follow a romance path if one exists unless I’m just really uninterested in any of the characters (in which case I’m probably not still reading anyway), but I don’t think it’s necessary at all. You might also check this thread out if you haven’t already.

-Endings: I’d be a bit leery of set endings, but it kind of depends on what you mean. In general, I want to feel like I had an impact on the world. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be from the ending - seeing the effects of my actions throughout the narrative can still be satisfying even if the ending proper is always the same. I would generally like at least some variance, even if the “core” of the ending is the same, but I’m not sure it would be a dealbreaker.

As for sad endings…that would probably depend on where I’m at in life at the time, so I don’t think I can properly answer that. I guess my short answer is I’d lean towards not having a guaranteed sad ending because that tends to undo what I was just talking about, make it feel like in the end nothing I did mattered, and in 2020 that’s just not a feeling I want to have to deal with. But I’ve also seen plenty of powerful and interesting sad endings, and I want to say I recently saw someone talking about IF and/or CoG games with sad endings that worked great (although I forget where, I’m afraid).

-I think there’s some definite merit to the idea of playing an IF as more of a passenger than the driver. I can’t think of an example off the top of my head, but if that’s sort of what you’re describing, then I think that could be a cool idea. I’m not sure about whether I’d consider it “true” interactive fiction or not, but that label wouldn’t make or break my decision to play it if it sounded interesting otherwise.

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Don’t care. Particularly when it comes to romance.

If you don’t want to include romance options, go for it. It’s your story.

Define ‘significant relationships’? Are these familial, platonic, etc.?

You could look at the SoH series and how each of those books have set endings. They’re pretty well received.

Without much context into the story itself, its hard to give a definitive answer.

Depends on how tragic.

Though by the sound that it’s unavoidable and the implication that carries (read: my choices don’t matter)… well I can’t say I’m too interested.

Again it’s hard to say definitely without the context of your story.

I think I know what you mean by journey type stories but if you could offer some examples (doesn’t necessarily have to be IFs) that would be helpful.

Generally, yes. I would say this depends on the genre of the story and my expectations based on the author’s summary.

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The general theme and nature of the story I have been developing most deeply has always, at least to me, seemed to suit bittersweet or tragic endings, as (without spoiling too much) a story with a premise of playing cat and mouse with a brutal serial killer does not lend itself well to ‘everyone lives happily ever after’ type endings; but I have began considering a ‘sliding scale’ of the tragedy to the ending, where it will adjust with the choices of the player, so if you do a good enough job you may manage to end on a more open ended or bittersweet note, whereas if you make less ideal choices, you may end up with a more tragic over happy ending. As to an example of the more ‘along for the ride’ style games involving choices, Deltarune is the most famous/obvious example I can think of at the moment, although it likely wouldn’t be so blatant or unforgiving in my own fiction.

Thanks for clarification.

Ah, I see.

Given the context, I am fine with that sort of compromise.

Bittersweet endings are quite lovely. And I do think the story/plot involving a serial killer doesn’t really have the option to end in a good way, especially if the player character is an ordinary and everyday person.

I’m not familiar with this, but giving the wiki a quick look and I say yes. I do think a story that follows a pre-set character where the reader is just someone tagging along for the ride is an IF.

The character and story is still functionally its own self but the player can make some small decisions here and there to alter some outcomes.

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Interactive Fiction is pretty varied - lot of people would debate if Reader Interactives (where the writer asks for reviews to vote on what happens next) or Who Will You Fall For (where the writer does a linear story but with a quiz to determine which romance suits the reader) are really that. But I think I would hope to decide the end of a story and what my character is like if nothing else.

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To my eyes, if you read an IF book from beginning to end and don’t replay it again, at the end it is just a book, with some details in form of choices, but you only have followed one line, and reached one ending, as any normal book.

So if you say beforehand that the book only portrays one ending it should be good. I mean good as in with some people want to replay and find out every branch and every possible remote corner of the book, they won’t rage against you because you only have one ending if you clarify before they start to read.

You may also want to have in mind that it could probably not be a widely accepted an popular book among the rest cause you capped it that way to say somehow. And I said it could, not that it will, as so it could also be a masterpiece and set the stepping stone for another variety of IF. Who knows…
That doesn’t means that you shouldn’t write it, by all means do it, just know the cons and perks.

I speak from my ignorance though, I haven’t published anything yet.

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Back in the day, when vn in english where long and far between, there were a lot of kinetic novels, which were pretty successful (or at least they seemed that way, since there wasn’t much competition). Kinetic novels were just visual novels that took you along for the ride. No to little player input, like an anime turned visual novel.

Personally, I don’t care if there are large branching paths, as long as I get to feel like I have some agency on how the character acts, thinks and interacts with others. If you’re foregoing romance and ending variety, you have to shine in other areas. Do I have to do a certain thing? Give me the option of being excited, or perhaps angry at the idea and lash out because of it. Maybe offer a few ways in which events leading up to that fixed ending occur.

I have no issue with fixed endings, as I only go through one path, so sometimes I don’t even know if there is more than one ending. But maybe changing a few lines to reflect player choice would be nice, or a personalized epilogue.

There is an audience for everything, so I’m sure that there’ll be those that enjoy what you’re offering a lot.

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I’d like to say you can have a set ending where player choice still matter.

For example say we have a story where the player is dying. The end will always be them dying. But how they die or who they die with or the legacy they leave behind would depend on how the player handles their story.

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I mean, so far the main bittersweet ending I had in mind didn’t actually have the player ‘losing’, instead ending ambiguously where they survive; but only after killing the serial killer, and authorities end up finding out. So it’s the give/take of your player surviving and making sure everyone they love gets out okay, but there’s no guarantee of true justice for the player. Again, I will probably be adjusting the ‘tragedy meter’ of a few set endings to vary depending on the choices you make, but that would likely be the ‘best’ outcome for the player character.

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Ooo this is interesting! I’ll start with saying interactive fiction is my preferred method of reading period because it’s overall more engaging for me. Reading standard novels is too passive and just words on a page, even if I’m deeply engrossed. (Doesn’t help that I don’t imagine character voices, locations, etc. when I read.) If I’m able to make choices, even if insignificant, it’s an IF to me no matter what.

I don’t need romance but it’s definitely a nice addition, especially if I want to a live a little vicariously.

I’m perfectly fine with set/fixed endings as well! I read to have fun, pass the time, fall in love with characters, get inspired, etc. If it can do any of those things, that’s all I care about. Much like playing games, I’m just here to have fun and get that escapism. I don’t think there is/should be a fixed standard for what makes an IF… an IF.

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IF without romance? Who would ever write such a thing?

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I think this are interesting ideas! I feel like I have read IF like the ones you are describing before, though the kind of IF on COG tends to be more like the pick-a-path books my friend and I used to read on the bus in middle school–I believe that’s where the company founders got the idea from?

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I think it all sounds great. Paradox Factor, one of my favorite Hosted Games, does a lot of the things you’re talking about.

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“Interactive fiction” is such a loaded term! In other interactive fiction spaces, like ifdb, the CoG style is considered less traditional! Once upon a time, everything that wasn’t a puzzle-filled parser game was considered nontraditional!

Even only considering choice-based IF, I feel like there’s a huge amount of variety out there in the twine space. Check out 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonald’s, or Spy Intrigue, or Solarium, or Venus Meets Venus for some of my favorites, that exhibit some of the styles present in choice-based IF. The first is short and has a lot of different paths (16, to be exact). The latter three basically tell a linear story, but do so in what I think are quite interesting ways.

For an example of a nontraditional choicescript game, check out Writers Are Not Strangers. I liked it a lot.

As for market research, unfortunately, I feel like games that don’t fit the CoG style will probably sell and review worse among the CoG/HG audience than games that do. But of course there are exceptions.

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Very personal opinions incoming, and answering with CoG/HG titles in mind…

Fine, but I personally prefer ROs, and games lacking them make me less likely to buy them. I don’t always go for ROs, but having them around frequently means a greater replayability factor.

Similar answer as above–they’re not necessary, but I prefer them, especially if they make sense for the genre and setting.

I take it that this means a single ending that is coming no matter what I do? If so, I wouldn’t care for it very much. Games by nature mean–to me–that they have some level of interactivity. IF games in particular are ones that I tend to think of as having a high degree of choice. Frequently those choices impact endings.

Unless the sad ending was one among several, it’d feel more like fiction with some hair color choices than interactive fiction.

(All that said, good writing can mitigate a lot of the issues I’d have with the things listed above.)

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While the circumstances of this year have put many authors’ works on hold, you might benefit from taking a look at “Monsters” by @Shawn_Patrick_Reed.

From your description, it looks like you two share many approaches to story-telling and IF game making.



I’ve seen many games over the years that have broken ground with their innovations. In Bloodlines One, the quests involving the haunted sea-side mansion brought a different level of interaction that still influence designers today.

There are a lot of indie developers out there that have virtual novel formats of vn horror … some with and some without romance. Many of these are parody projects, but even then you can take valuable lessons away from them.

One of the projects I am personally working on can be said to fall into your parameters – it is mainly focused on survival, while a second has a main focus on solving the mystery of who is framing you for crimes.

The former project has relationships that can bloom into more (if the game is a success and warrants the follow-up games planned) while the latter is not going to have direct continuations

Most games and some movies and shows have some sort of interaction involved in them, so I never have felt there are set-in-concrete expectations or standards to follow when designing games.

Romance is a very popular subject to include in interactive games, but it is not the only.

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IF without romance is plentiful. Unavoidable endings are fine as long as the player feels their choices are doing something.

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Just write what you want.

I personally dont write a whole lot of romance.

But the branching or not is up to you. You could have a couple non canon early endings for bad decisions anyways.

If its interesting and well written people that dont mind a more linear story will stick through with it.

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I personally don’t mind! If I like a romanceable option, I might go down that route, if none is available, I won’t! I suppose if I am forced into that position it’s less enjoyable to me.

I’m a huge fan of just riding along for the journey though, no matter the ending. Sad endings are great if executed well, and I really enjoy seeing peoples takes on this!

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