Can a CoG become TOO MUCH of a book?

I’ve noticed something as I write my first project for choice of games, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore as time goes on.

Is there such a thing as having too much book in these games?

Choices for me should alter stats or create branching paths, as I’m sure many of you would agree. The issue with this is that I also find it inconvenient to create these type of choices constantly while I’m in the groove of writing.

To further explain, I find myself writing for long periods of time without adding a choice. This is because I want to create a good lead up before my next planned major or relatively minor choice. The issue lies within the third or fourth page break, where I begin to feel it’s been too long since I’ve last given the reader a choice; I know the main point of choice of games is the choices and I don’t want this to become solely a novel.

However, creating empty choices for the sake of filler I’ve learned can bother readers. I also personally find it bothersome to force choices where they’re not meant to be; on a regular basis at the very least.

I suppose where I’m getting at is this: Is there a point where a CYOA game can lean too far to being a regular novel or am I just too worried about this since I’m viewing it from the writing perspective? If it’s the former then I’d appreciate tips I can use to get past this hurdle. Thank you!

10 Likes

Yes, it can be too much book. I reckon, however, that it’s more important for you to write what you want to write. Set expectations and attract the audience you want rather than fold to those who wouldn’t like your style anyway.

26 Likes

I’m personally not opposed to having choices that only alter flavour text — in my opinion, if well used, those can help you feel like the game world is reacting to you and your decisions.

Three to four page breaks (assuming there’s a full page of text for each, not just a paragraph or something) would definitely be enough for me to lose interest, especially if it’s something that happens very often in the story.

But, as will said, if you’re certain that this is what you want your game to be like, then more power to you. It might not be my cup of tea, but I’m sure that many others aren’t bothered by having more “book” than “game”.

36 Likes

I think it’s something you can’t avoid. If you gave choices for every little things possible, you wouldn’t be able to finish your game. If you didn’t, it becomes more like a regular novel. There’s a balance in between these two and that depends on what your goal is. Obviously, not everyone will be pleased by it, but don’t let that deter you. If you think you’ve found a perfect middle point where you can be comfortable as an author, keep on going.

Additionally, play-test. A lot. Play-test it yourself as a reader, get others to play-test it, take their feedbacks and see what you get. And then make adjustments accordingly, if needed.

11 Likes

I would say yes, solely because I imagine much of the appeal of these games is interactivity. If a game doesn’t have many choices, or ability to influence things, then it would probably be less of a game and ‘too much’ of a book.

The issue of filler choices can be annoying if there are too many of them, but choices can be small without having to be filler. Having different dialogue options can be a good way to increase interactivity, while also possibly affecting how other characters see the PC. Having choices on how to spend your time can also help, and might boost stats slightly.

That’s just my personal thought on it, though. I wouldn’t enjoy a CoG with scenes that left me wishing I could do something during them.

23 Likes

Yes. The point of these games is that they’re not just a novel—they’re an interactive fiction. Most readers will be especially put off by wall of text. But if the readers are invested and interested enough, they may not mind that much.

Yes, I agree. However, a fake choice can still make it a filler while also altering the stats in a seemingly “linear” yet not boring way. Fake choices for your MCs thoughts and comments are good examples. You can alter the personality stats (or basically any stats) in that way while also providing an “interactive” experience.

I think the best way is to ask your readers for feedback like “Did you feel like you wanted to react in a different way on this scene? Did you wish you could say something to someone on this part?” and whatnot. Let them tell you what they feel, but right now, write what you think is best.

14 Likes

I would examine exactly why there’s so much text without choices.

  • Are there long stretches of text where the PC aren’t doing or thinking anything?

  • Or does the narrative assume a lot on the PC’s behalf, without consulting the player?

  • Are they scenes from another pov, without the PC being present?

In general, it’s a warning sign for a lack of agency for the player, and you’ll risk them losing interest, or just skipping ahead without reading.

49 Likes

Yes, absolutely. The writing would have to be fantastic for me to stick with interactive fiction that didn’t feel interactive–and even then I’d still be yearning for something to do.

The Choice of Games Style Guide might be of service here:

  • After about 100–200 words of text in the main body, consider adding something for the player to do, even if it’s just a *fake_choice asking how the player feels about what’s happening.
  • Avoid 400 words or more between choices.

That’s a large part of why CoG titles are engaging right off the bat–their tight formatting makes them easier to read, and the frequency of choices engage me.

If there is such a point, I haven’t seen it. IF can offer things that traditional novels can’t, doubly so with features like stats. Why not take advantage of the medium?

13 Likes

Fake choice :slight_smile:
Seriously though, you don’t always need branches to make choices matter to the player. Even something that dosent mean much in the scheme if things to the overall story, but seems meaningful to the player by adding atmosphere can help. (Such as feedback on how the player is feeling or their current thoughts about something.) You can also set variables for this kind of thing and mention it later if appropriate which can show you haven’t been ignoring what the player said.

It’s not a good idea to go for long stretches without some kind of choice in there as it’ll seem more book like and less gamey which turns some readers off through lack of engagement.

21 Likes

You can literally have the PC answer “no” in different ways, without changing any stats or flavour-text, and a lot of players would still find that meaningful, for roleplaying. :smile:

24 Likes

I’m going to second this. There are always several ways of doing things changing the how or even the why of it. Allowing the player to set the tone of their character is a great way of letting them customise them more.

11 Likes

I personally believe Wayhaven is very successful in that regard.

12 Likes

Bluntly,

no. Do that which you want to do- if you like it, someone else will too. Whether the majority of people do or do not is a different matter- but, keep in mind that the CoG community is used to a certain framework. Which is, slowly, branching out a little bit, but still tends heavily towards certain trends. Keep also in mind that the CoG community is not the world at large. People buy novels - no choices involved, and fully enjoy them. People buy VNs which have a couple dozen choices through the entirety and enjoy them. There’s an intangible factor regarding writing that people are either going to jive with or not, and you’re never going to be able to please everyone. Do your thing- if you do your way well, vocal minority protests won’t matter. If you do your thing poorly, bits of praise won’t help.

9 Likes

This I think is the absolutely best way someone has put it for me. Kudos. As someone who goes far more interactive fiction than game book, a lot of my choices are just dialog or thoughts. It still serves to build character and further the story, no stats or branching needed. It’s those bits above you need to pay attention to in order to have a PC being present in the story.

29 Likes

Thank you everyone for the feedback! There’s been some great answers and while I did expect the general consensus, the different view points and suggestions have helped a ton!

After reading the replies, I believe the best course of action for me is to write comfortably first then worry about adding choices in blank spots afterwards based off feedback here if necessary. Part of my game does have “open world” where you can do and go where ever you want once a chapter so maybe the other scenes could be seen as cutscenes or something along those lines. I’ll just have to go with the flow, test stuff out, and listen to feedback.

Anyhow, definitely a big help looking through these so thank you very much to everyone who responded!

Ah so you’ve read my mind, huh? Haha, definitely something I’m guilty of and I have to work on in my story as I find the right mix between interesting MC but also still the player character for hundreds of people who are insanely different. Thanks for bringing this up :joy:

Appreciate this!

Didn’t get quite as many likes as some of the other replies, but I still love the response. I have to remind myself sometimes to find a middle ground where I obviously write for reader enjoyment but it also helps to avoid wanting to tear my hair out in the process. This can definitely be a reason why finishing projects can be a difficult task sometimes so thanks for pointing this out!

5 Likes

Yes most readers of cog/hg games read them because the choices that affect the story if it’s too much of a book then i know i would lose interest in it

I agree completely with this statement

2 Likes

Like others have said.

It’s a balance.

Most - if not all - authors use some form of the branch and return model.

Even in Dragon Age Origins, there are certain plot points that always play out regardless of player choices. The army will always lose at Ostagar so the Warden will have to recruit allies to replace the army they lost. The choice comes in depending on who is in your army (Prince Bhelen vs Lord Harrowmont, Dalish Clan vs Werewolves, Mages vs Templars).

I’ve said this before because it bears repeating. At a certain point the reader has to accept where the author is taking them otherwise there would be no story.

Certainly books like Samurai of Hyuga and Wayhaven are more linear than say other books, but they’re still successful. So ultimately, write what you want to write and write what you enjoy. And remember you can always go back and edit your script at a later point.

16 Likes

I’d suggest that for your first story, no it doesn’t matter.

Most WIPs don’t get finished, however well balanced they may be choice/novel-wise.

So it may be better to focus on finishing your story.

Once you’ve proved to yourself you can finish a story, then you can focus on writing better ones!

As @will said - write what you want to write.
That’s the fuel that will get you over the finish line :slight_smile: It was for me anyway

11 Likes

I think even if you’re in a section of the story where the plot has to be fairly fixed, in order to keep the structure of the game from being completely derailed, it’s still helpful to check in with the player about how they feel. It’s a different experience playing a game where the MC is (for example) reluctantly being dragged into saving the world, versus a game where “your” MC is shown agreeing with things or making statements that you wouldn’t want them to make.

On the spectrum of fixed personality MCs to completely black slate, I fall more than a bit on the fixed side, but all the same, allowing the players to decide how the MC feels about a certain necessary plot railroad goes a long way towards making the character feel owned.

I have a similar problem, but for me it’s less plot events and more that my style of prose is really too dense and descriptive for interactive fiction. I’m used to drawing very rich descriptions, and that tends to lead to long stretches of “setting the scene” before the player gets to the juicy bits. It’s a problem I haven’t quite solved yet, but I believe it’s possible to find a happy medium that gives richness and a sense of (artificial) control.

4 Likes

I was refraining from posting in this thread, but I felt I had something (or multiple somethings) to add to the discussion:



1st: Is there such a thing as having too much book in these games?

My response:

The official CoG style guide states the following:

You can find the Style Guide here:

This is an excellent source when looking for answers – CoG has been using this for over 10 years to successfully publish games. While HG authors are not required to use this, it should help a lot.

Thank you @Mary_Duffy for providing such a valuable resource to help us.

Edit 1: It seems the style guide was mentioned before, and I am just mentioning this part again.



Most writers and developers use a draft/pass approach to writing and developing a game.

They will use the first draft to get a “completed” draft of the story on paper or in code.

Then the author or developer will make 2nd, 3rd or even many more “passes” or “drafts” of their game.

Often the 2nd draft will be for “editing” and the 3rd draft will be for “bug hunting.”

Some authors have specific needs that they design customized “passes” that they use to fix issues with.

What I do, is: I use a “choice-body” pass in my process that focuses on the specific possible issues dealing with choices. I look for blocks of text of 400 or more words without a choice and I mark those for revision.

I then use another pass to look for blocks of text of 200 or more words to see if I could add fake choices into.

The way you write may benefit from utilizing this “pass” system.

16 Likes