It’s great to see you here, @Left4Bed thanks for chiming in and clarifying. (And for asking such a great question in the first place.)
I’d argue, that instead Interactive Fiction, is actually the perfect blend of story vs gameplay. I think there’s a general tendency to dismiss interactive fiction as not real games. (You see similar sentiments directed towards casual games especially those played on phones and by women, but I won’t touch on that here.) Since interactive fiction is not real games, then similarly what might be considered innovative gameplay elements aren’t considered valid.
I think, it depends on how we’re defining gameplay.
Choicescript does actually have a command that allows for randomness. It’s one that Hosted Games authors tend to use more frequently than the official Choice of Games authors do.
The one example I can think of where randomness is used well is in Choice of Romance 2. One of the major plot points is that you want a life mage child, and there’s a lot of scheming you can do to achieve that end. If you don’t succeed in your scheming, or if you choose not to scheme, you still have a 1 in 100 chance to get the child you want. But at no point does your fate ever rely solely on a random dice roll, your choices always matter more, and I like that. (Of course I cheated the random generator.)
Other games use it to randomise the gender of characters. (I don’t like that either.) I’ve used the random generator to randomise pieces of a puzzle to make it replayable. Havenstone gets asked, every so often, to randomise the traitor in his game, which I’m mentioning just because it’s relevant. Curse of the Black Cat does it delightfully, there’s an ending where you fail, and the death ending is random. But for me, that fitted, and they’re all humourous, and it does play in with the whole curse theme.
I’m not fond of randomness, it can steal away the significance of choices. I remember back in my tabletop days how I’d carefully craft a character, only to have them killed off by a bad dice roll and an unsympathetic GM. I hated that. I also hated spending hours saying “I hit that” and rolling dice after dice.
I don’t think randomness is needed. I like being free of the curse of bad luck, and my characters actually being able to do what I intended for them to do. On a roleplaying game I’m currently playing (online not tabletop but similar) my character with high combat skills fails to win any fights, and yet strangely excels at dancing, despite not being at all skilled in it. If I’d wanted a character who was useless at fighting, and skilled at dancing, then those are the skills I’d have taken, you know? And I feel somewhat similarly about games that rely overly on randomness. The randomness renders my choices insignificant, it doesn’t matter if I’ve spent the entire game training to be the greatest swordsman in the known world, for the dice are fickle, and they’d have it that I’m far more successful if I challenge the big bad to a dance off.
It can be nice for flavour, for things that don’t matter, but I actually love that Choice of Games have removed the random element. It’s not like I ever played gamebooks with dice anyway, I’d always cheat.
There is interactive fiction with RPG elements. I don’t actually think that would add anything to what we’re doing here at Choice of Games. I don’t actually see that as innovative at all, treading where has already been tread before. Also, I love that Choice of Games removes the boring stuff. No more monster grinding, no more getting lost, no more wandering around maps, back and forth in the same areas, killing lots of pointless stuff. The things I kill, they can matter, or better yet I can be a pacifist and not kill anything at all.
I actually think casting aside the reliance on dice is something innovative that Choice of Games has done. That there is still a system of checks, a chance of success and failure, but one which provides greater reward to the player. I also think the lack of randomness makes future playthroughs far more satisfying since you can explore alternative paths without worrying that a bad dice roll will mean you have to restart all over again to get to the section you want.
I love Choice of Games. I do think that they have some creative gameplay, but it’s not really appreciated enough, because we expect ‘creative gameplay’ to be all sorts of flash and gimmicks. Story is game. Achievements have added an extra element of gamification. But, you know I actually love that they’ve stripped away everything down to its core. All the things you speak of adding on, I’m glad that they’re gone and not there to distract me from what matters. It makes things so much more accessible and enjoyable.
Take Choice of the Dragon, for instance, which I loved, and how your stats aren’t the traditional roleplaying game stats. They’re interesting, creative and they’re personality based, influenced by your actions. You don’t have strength and dexterity, you have Brutality and Finesse, and that’s a subtle but importance difference, especially when you’re telling a story. Not only that but they’re opposed stats, which I think is such a clever system and one that introduces something of a balancing act as opposed to a push to excel.
And I loved the whole gender-flip aspects of both Broadsides and Romance, and I will say that’s a creative and innovative gameplay mechanic too. And I will say it’s a gameplay mechanic, for all that it’s mostly playing with perception as opposed to concretely changing parts of the game.
I want to add something about Choice of Robots and all its complexities. It’s an amazing game, it’s filled with so much choice. I don’t think it needs anything added on to improve it. I think that’d be a distraction.
Sorry if this is a bit jumbled, I’ve been editing and rewriting what I’ve written and it’s something of a Frankenstein’s Monster of my two previous attempts to reply.