You can do whatever you like as a writer, though it’s important to know a lot of readers can be put off by lacking a sense of control in a story. Even if you are orchestrating the primary events, letting an MC choose how they feel about those events can help.
IF is interactive first and foremost afterall. If you aren’t letting the reader interact with the story, then it might result in frustration.
It might be a good idea to start with a story that doesn’t already have a clearly designed path in your head, full of characters with precisely envisioned arcs. A concept you want to explore, rather than a story you want to tell, so that it naturally evolves along multiple paths.
And to some extent, it’s actually not terrible to have something of a trajectory in mind. I don’t know if there’s a term for this - if not, I think “guardrailing” would work for the nonce - but it is necessary to keep the story within bounds while doing a minimum of actual railroading.
I assume you’ve studied the delayed branching model? It’s okay if your story hits at least some of the same major plot points each time. If you want your character to start at point A and finish at point F, passing through points B-E on the way, you can do that. So instead of thinking too long-term at first, just think about getting your character from point A to point B. How many ways can you think of to do that? You can walk, take the bus, hijack a car, or buy a plane ticket. Then think about how each of these choices might might a difference to the story as a whole. Walking is free but you’re exhausted when you arrive. Taking the bus costs money, but it just so happens the only available seat is next to a character you won’t otherwise meet until Chapter 5. Driving would be the most efficient choice, but hijacking a car will make it impossible to cooperate with the police when it might be to your advantage in the future. Flying is super expensive, but it gets you to point B a day early, which may allow you to start networking or scope out the competition so you have more of an advantage at a decisive moment.
Then proceed to point C, setting up guardrails where necessary to keep the story within manageable limits.
The plot overall is a rather railroaded story, but still give the reader ̶c̶h̶o̶i̶c̶e̶s̶ quizzes.
I stopped playing that game because, despite having a few choices here and there, they don’t seem to have any effect on the story. They certainly don’t affect your character at all, because the character feels, thinks, and behaves how the author wants them to most times. But you can take quizzes about stuff in prior books!
SoH is the most railroaded story I’ve ever seen, with a MC that the reader doesn’t really control much, and it’s wildly popular with seemingly everyone but me.
So I wouldn’t worry about it. Write what you want, and if the story is good enough (which, the plot of SoH is very good, overall, despite everything else), then people will play it.
@Rinnegato Come for the smut, stay for the story. Sounds like a different kind of game.
I ran into this with one of my other stories. It’s set in the modern day, and as I was writing I realized that I know pretty much nothing about geography. That is a pretty big issue with that story because it takes place in many differenct locations, so I have to really know what I’m doing.
Just to give my two cent, being railroaded is a hit or miss for me but SoH is an exception. There might be bias on my part since it’s the first titles that I have read when I got introduced to CoG/HG and if you have noticed, East Asian (Although, it is mainly from anime/manga inspired) settings are far in between in CoG/HG titles.
In the end though, you can write what you want and try it out and research thoroughly if you are going to based on real life people or culture. There will be a Hobby Project to test waters but putting your work out there will get you to test what you can manage and decide from there.
The latter two Witcher games were a bit more than this, especially W3. Your choices made significant differences in the course of the ride, even though Geralt remained recognizably himself down any path.
A set-protag series has greater hurdles to hop for success as a HG, but that doesn’t mean (a) that you shouldn’t write it or (b) that there’s no way you’d clear those hurdles. As long as there are interesting variations on the path, and the story itself is good enough, you’ll likely find an audience.
I almost look at it more as slight puzzles/memory checks but otherwise it is rather close to a standard novel instead of an IF.
This is why I recommended it. An example of how you can make a linear story work is to make it captivating and rich. This is not easy with IF stories. I would recommend to have more variation, but if you want linear then you should reflect on how SOH made it work.