Any tips for setting up branching story paths and meaningful stats?

Does anyone have any good tips for setting up the massive tree needed for a decent Choice game, and any others for making stat progression meaningful and spaced correctly?

I’ve been messing around with a graphing program to plan out the branches, but i wanted outside opinions.
And i’m not really sure how i’d properly manage stats.

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  1. Only make branches as much as you can handle.
  2. All the branchings must make sense in your story.
  3. No filler. If you can remove a branching and your story didn’t get affected, it’s a filler. Same as other story contents.

These are my take on branching the paths. On stats, there might be more.

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There was a series of blogs posted on the main site outlining what ChoiceOfGames looks for or suggests for a game. Its really handy.

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what if im already having a hard time on 2?

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Well, don’t branch.
Otherwise… git gud, I guess?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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just gotta push through i guess sigh

Enjoy the process of doing it. Once you push through, it’ll be done, and then you’ll be thinking about what to do next. Enjoy all of the little steps as you craft, and do your very best to ignore how long you think it should or shouldn’t take.

It does take a very long time to do it right, but that’s lucky in a way. You can spend a long time enjoying being in the thick of it. It’s a good place to be.

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I am finding this to be very true.

I just pushed through learning something I had not consciously tried before and while it took longer than I had hoped, every step of the way I found I was learning ways to improve my writing.

I’m still not done with the process but I’m learning a lot on each step I’m taking and I can see improvements already.

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I’m going to again recommend the following Writing Tools thread. It has an updated and current listing of programs that are in use by the community.

I also recommend: Ben Serviss’ Six Steps To Writing Interactive Fiction. Ben is a veteran author here and his blogs and posts are great resources for the beginner to learn from (including myself).

He must get tired of me linking him but this stuff should be required reading for anyone trying to make their own game/CS story.

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Yep, don’t feel burdened by it.
To me, writing is a joy in itself, or rather storytelling is a joy in itself.

I think I’ve said it somewhere, but a work of passion is a reward in itself (although it can’t necessarily feed your hunger).

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Okay, awake and have had a cup of tea now so here we go.

First of all, planning is nice. Planning is cool. Also, planning a massive tree in advance as a first thing sets you up for failure. (In my experience, people are different so…)

1 - First, what I would do is to work on the trunk of the tree. A single, solid path, that leads you through the game from start to finish. You need to know what each chapter is about, and why it’s there and how it leads into the next chapter. Think of it as a book in this stage. Why? I’ll tell you in a little.

2 - Then you need to focus on your character and stats. I think of it like three kinds of stats:

  • Visual stats that rarely are used but show up in the character screen (appearance, gender, things for show or certain moments) as well as other oddities. Here you can go wide and wild, it helps with immersion.

  • Flavor stats that you either have or don’t. These are used with the true/false code. Either you can sing, or you can’t. Either you have criminal connections or you don’t. Numbers don’t matter here, it’s a simple yes/no check. These stats are great, and you can have a lot of them. They are easy to use and helps with character building, while not overwhelming you in code. If you can transform a % stat into one of these and don’t feel like you’re losing anything, do.

  • Main stats. These are the % stats, the things you level up. In a first game, I would advice you to stick to maybe four or five (not including relationship stats with other characters). They can be opposed personality stats, power stats, weapon skills or whatever the core of your game is. Just don’t go too wide, make sure that each and every one of them have a use.

So why go narrow with % stats? Because you need to use them. People are going to see % stats as important, and work to raise them. If there is one that gets used a lot more than the others, people that invested in the others will feel annoyed and like there is only one viable character build. The more gamey your interactive fiction is, the more conscious you need to be of this. Fewer stats are easier to deal with.

3 - Now start writing. Yep, that’s what I said. You need to write the first chapter now, because until you do you have no idea how to handle branching. As you sit down and write, focus on the minor branching first. That’s the one where a choice meanders out for a different paragraph, then goes back again. Like different paths in a discussion, or the different paths in a fight scene. It is all contained in the same scene, but it makes the scene different depending on your choices/stats.

As you write your first chapter (which will be the hardest, and most linear because of stat setting and character creation) keep your mind open for those little moments of ‘what if?’. That is where your first mid branches will happen, the ones that goes to different scenes but still end up at the same chapter end. What if you stormed out after the argument with your mum instead of making up? What if you ran when your village was attacked instead of staying to fight? Note down those what-ifs, if you feel the inspiration, write them right away, if not, make notes that you want a tiny branch here.

Trust me, you are going to have these ideas as the game progresses, and they will be a lot more grounded in what you’re writing if you go on your instinct rather than pre-plan it.

Another thing, you will go back and rewrite/fix a lot of the start once you’ve reached the end, no need to make it perfect. Just make it good enough and move on.

4 - After two or three chapters, now you sit back down and think about major branches. By now you have a feel for the character, a feel for the stats, and a feel for the work that goes into each choice. Now, if you want to, you can start thinking about those big branches. That being said, I would advice having many that makes the game go in completely different directions. Especially for a first game, I would save major branching to nearing the end. Think palm tree and not oak. The consequences gets easier to handle, and you can focus on making a coherent, immersive story with well-rounded choices.

5 - Final stat balance. Don’t overthink this, if you are publishing a wip on here, and playtesting, there will be a lot of people pointing out your issues for you. Go easy, fairmath has its drawbacks, but it saves you a lot of thinking. If you plan to have many small increases/decreases that’s a good way to go. If you have milestone chunks, then keep a running tally of the max and min stats people can have. It will help.

Any specific questions, feel free to ask!

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Oh, super agree with the stats.

Just wanted to point that out, for now. Waiting for mum finishing her shopping.


Alright, let’s go with my take on stats.

  1. Simple number is easier to handle than percent. Why? Because percent doesn’t really tell you anything while 1 is absolutely smaller than 2. What I mean by this is that players can’t really tell the difference when they upgraded their charisma from 60% to 65%.
    Might as well go with checkpoints in your story that up your charisma from suck (1), to not-so-suck (2).
  2. Depth vs Versatility. Roleplaying vs Metagaming. Which one should I go with?
    The one that gives you the most fun.
  3. So when do I use percent?
    When it’s about progress. IMHO.
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I get the work of passion.

i think i can work through it although it will be slow. thank you btw.

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