Challenge and how it can be met - in text games

I am not Eiwynn, but as a reader, I will be very very pissed except that The game clearly specify is an open box with no importance of the story. Why? Because is forcing several skills upon the player without no story reason. Oh, you want to have better stuff and rewards well you have to always choose X and Y.

It is a common failure of Sandbox like Skyrim. It is so intrinsically flawed that serious role players , have to install a media of twenty mods to create logically storywise experiences. Stuff like the role a thief assassin with fashion sense imperial that hates mudding his clothes and heavy labor. In some much missions, you are forced to smith your own stuff to advance, go mining… When It have no sense. So you have to install mods to go one of the smiths to do the job for you (as it should lol. IT IS THEIR WORK) Same with mages and enchanters etc… Oblivion Morrowind… Have that from the beginning giving organic experiences that make the story richer. Not force everyone into have all skills or have X skills to have a reward.

The story should be a reward not a punishment for not having X skills.

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@Charles_Parkes Thanks for starting this thread. I’ve been thinking a lot about similar issues lately and the discussion here is really useful to me.

I don’t have much to add except one small personal example relevant to this category:

In my last game, I tried something that I hadn’t seen in CoG or Hosted games (please feel free to correct me if I’m missing any - would love to see some more examples) and used the *input_text command to make a puzzle that tested understanding more efficiently than I felt a multiple choice ever could. There was a situation where an NPC asked the player to guess at an inscription that only someone who had heard certain stories and fully made a connection between them and earlier events would know, but offering it as one of a list of options would have made it obvious. So I chose instead to make the player type in their answer (allowing for all variants of capitalisation and a number of misspellings).

I think puzzles like this would become frustrating if overrused, or if progress in important areas of the game were absolutely dependant on them, but I can report that this one seemed to go down very well with the majority of players. A good deal of the positive feedback I had concerned the satisfaction people felt when figuring out this particular puzzle.


Thanks @Wiwyums Great example! I’d also forgotten that the *input_text command is probably one of the few gateways in choicescript to more complex challenges. Hmm, inspiring! I’ll try to brainstorm further on the *input_text commands utility a bit here:

  • Your great comprehension puzzle example (and avoiding the multiple choice spoiler)
  • Parser based movement (linking in with map/room understanding and navigation.
  • Parser based combat mechanics (for example writing the name of spells and their targets, like ‘fireball goblin’)
  • Deepening customisation of challenge outputs. Like you breed a pokemon, or forge a sword and can name it something destiny-appropriate if you’d like too.
  • A tactical parser would be interesting. You could have a normally choice tree, but with one option might be “send a command”, which would present you with viable list of commands and regiments, then you could input an order- so regiment A advanced, and regiment B formed square for example.
  • *input_number would be helpful for a merchant challenge, offering a lower amount of gold for some goods for example. I recall Swamp Castle using it for the management mechanics, where challenge was derived from allocating scarce resources in a limited timeframe.

PS while I have the post open, @cup_half_empty your analysis was reeeally helpful, especially in its depth - and the poke battle example not only demonstrated the text limitations of combat challenges, but also indicated how successfully such a mechanic could be implemented (with the birth of a massive game franchise!)


In the Witcher 3, you can negotiate your payment with the people hiring you. But they used a slider. If you insist on asking for more than the npc is willing to pay they’ll just drop you. It was kind of a gamble, to see how much I could get for a job before losing the contract. :yum:


There’s a nice trick I don’t think I have seen anyone use yet. You can actually use the *stat_chart function outside the stats screen. I think it could be used during a fight like the pokemon example.

So, something like this:

*gosub generate_random_enemy

	percent (round((enemy_current_hp / enemy_max_hp) * 100)) $!!{random_big_enemy} @{(enemy_current_hp > (1.25 * pc_cur_hp)) ☠|}

The ${random_big_enemy} waves his club as he belches a war cry. The thing comes crashing upon you.
*if (dexterity > 30)
	At the last second, you jump aside! You feel the wind [i]wooshing[/i] inches from your head. This could have been nasty but you were quick enough.
	*set pc_cur_hp -10
	At the last second, you jump aside! You manage to escape the blunt force of the attack, but one of the club spikes gashes a wound across your shoulder. You can feel your arm becoming numb.

	percent (round((pc_cur_hp / pc_max_hp) * 100)) You

What do you do?
	# Fight.
		*goto attack_menu
	# Use item.
		*goto quick_inventory
	# Run!
		*goto retreat

Would become something like this in-game:



If my memory does not fail me, this is actually used during Hollywood Visionary : from time to time, your assistant will present you with the charts to track how your movie is progressing. I agree it’s pretty neat, especially for players like me that hardly ever glance at the stats screen on their own. :stuck_out_tongue:


I learned something new today and I LOVE it. Thanks @cup_half_empty that is amazing to know, so many uses!


Nice! I haven’t played that one yet. :yum:

@Wiwyums your game has been on my to try list for quite some time, and I’ve recommended it based on the demo to a lot of people but hadn’t bought it yet. Going to do that now. So glad you put puzzles in it. Or at least, a puzzle. Not sure if there are multiple ones or not.

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Seconded! I never even considered this - very exciting…

@tangerine_skies Thank you - I hope it doesn’t disappoint! There are a few management and memory puzzles but the one I mentioned above is the only one of that kind and probably the one of which I’m most proud. I’m planning on doing more along those lines in my next game.


While indeed classic turn-based combat is the most effective in choice-based games (heck, earliest video games are turn-based), I dislike the idea in CS games due to the limited interaction we can have in the engine. All options are arranged to a single list, choosing an option refreshes the entire page (instead of opening secondary page/window), and there’re 2 steps just to make a choice (select + NEXT, though this isn’t quite an issue on mobile with sweeping gesture).


Some links to other discussions and examples…

1/ Nice visual maze challenge from @choicehacker here: Randomized maze - now with graphical map!

2/ Lots of different challenges here,

from @Carlos.R Missing Wings

3/ Variable images (like a different combat pose for a monster dependent on a variable set on the previous page)

4/ Whole topic about death and challenge (I guess rogue-likes often draw on this kind of challenge to lend impact to your decisions) which I’m also categorising as part of the whole challenge intensity thing - how important is it that you suceed? What are the fail criteria and rewards/punishment of success and failure.

5/ Timer system. It doesn’t provide a forced page turn for that ‘ah I’m running out of time’ sensation, but might be helpful for a less pressured time management challenge (similar to the resource management challenge).
@JimD’s Zombie Exodus - Safe Haven has a really good passage of time mechanic that does sucessfully make you feel the pressure as you try to fit multiple actions into a limited day. Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven

6/ Think I’m also going to use Zombie Exodus - Safe Haven as an example of one of the more memorable inventory systems, and challenge reward systems, where exploration and combat challenges resulted in rewards for your home/camp.

7/ Relationship balancing. A social challenge where you try to appeal to one or other npc, or try to balance and mitigate the effects of your actions on your relationships with them (or their relationships with each other). Good example in The Superlatives: Aetherfall by Alice Ripley of conflict between a Venusian and a Martian character and if I recall correctly, ro.


Very interesting thread! Thanks @Charles_Parkes, I’m happy you like the maze!

A couple of comments:

  • Variable images seem to be supported now. You can simply do:

*image basename_${variable}.jpg

I actually use this in a different (hardwired) maze, where the maps are pre-rendered as images.

  • You can use a script command to force real-time choice, like I’ve done in the randomized maze. See that thread. The implementation is not ideal, but it may be a tool to be used in specific circumstance.

Also, kudos to @Carlos.R . The tech behind Missing wings is very sophisticated.


I was inspired, and implemented a memory challenge!


The memory challenge is also a good example of

  • experimenting with sound within a challenge
  • the workarounds to accommodate repeated sounds and the length of time they take to play :slight_smile:
  • use of simultaneous images to simulate graphics (here a button lighting up with the tone sound)
  • also, I imagine the use of sound prohibits the use of multiple choices on the same page due to the need to trigger the individual sounds? I’m guessing - I haven’t actually tested two sounds on the same page before… Multiple choices on the same page here:
    How do I put multiple choices on one page? - #2 by Fiogan
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What did you have in mind with multiple choices and sounds? Chords? I imagine you could make it work if you pre-record all possible combinations, so that you can have one *sound command to play both notes.

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Some interesting stuff on balancing a mix of challenges for pacing here. I think this is quite relevant for the CG/HG audiences, who seem to want their challenges to be well integrated within the narrative. There must be lots of good ways of doing it!

We’ve been looking a lot at challenges that require a specific input for a specific output - like a specific key is needed for a specific door.

Here’s another take on inputs and outputs for systemic game design, where you redirect the focus away from specific items, mechanics etc to achieve a specific output - placing a common, more general input between your challenge/puzzle and a range of specific inputs. This is promoting non-linearity in challenge solving:

@choicehacker - your lights puzzle is amazing! With the keyboard numbers instruction (which I didn’t think was posible) you’ve created the impression of a persistent session within a visual puzzle, which is completely contrary to most of our experiences of pages of text behind turn-page decisions. That’s pretty inspiring! Shame it only works for keyboards - how is that done? That seamless transition between pages would be pretty valuable functionality if it stretched across devices.

Regarding what I was thinking regarding the multiple choices on the same page, if you imagine your light puzzle, a reader could be asked to turn multiple switches on the same page (so yes, combinations - which can get a bit messy to code if your provide too many possible combinations).
When I mentioned sound in that context, I was thinking that with your game of simon sound game, rather than waiting for each page turn to press another sound in the sequence, you could put three choices on the page (where there will be 3 sounds in the sequence, the reader can make their choices, then you can play the three sounds they picked after the page turn. Just speculation about the ease of experience really! I was guessing that the problem with such a set up is that sounds must play on the following page, because there is no input until the player selects their multiple choices and then turns the page?

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Hi @Charles_Parkes, thanks so much! I added a few notes on the tech in my other post. See here:

About the multiple choices, you could make three choices and play them in a sequence, the same way Simon plays its sequence automatically. Or you could enter a string (“1343431”) in an input box and play that, one character at a time.

In any case, I have updated the UI there too, so you can just use the keyboard - do you like it? I think it feels very immediate and responsive.

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@choicehacker I think that game of simon update actually works really well:) It feels really fluid. And while the appearance of the numbers may make the puzzle feel easier - I think the boost in accessibility really helps unravel with the marmite love/hate relationship a lot of people have with puzzles. For example, I actually find puzzles do break my immersion and I find myself reaching for google sometimes to progress to narrative elements. However, this puzzle just went from barrier challenge to fun for me, as I found remembering the visual appearance of the numbers in conjunction with the sounds far more memorable. So - better access for different minds = in my opinion, a better puzzle in this text game!

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Yes more of this would be quite appreciated

If the game has a “journal” system where things you “learn” are sort of kept for reference purposes, then this could be a nice direction to go, otherwise the player might lose track of key pieces of information

I think a mix of both usually works best. For example a game where perhaps you play as a soldier, instead of having stat checks that promote sole metagaming where you have to build “just right” to go through, you could have checks that maybe go “strength>50 or strength>30 plus environment advantage”

While I do not always enjoy min-maxing characters, I also feel there should be penalties for creating unviable builds. For example in “Magium” (Another text IF game) while there are lots of different ways to progress through the game (even an achievement for never “leveling up”) your failure to build in the right way can cause some rather very serious consequences in game

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Trails in Tainted Space or Monster Girl Dreams have fun combat in text form but not sure if they’d transition to these type of games too well.

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