Choice Impact - Quality vs Quantity - What is More Important?

I’d say do whatever makes you feel comfortable, for me personally I’d opt to a quality script but nothing automated… I mean it’s a RPG otherwise I’d be reading a book… that’s why I hate books…
Anyways E_R. Had a valid point it’s the little things that set the tone… you don’t have to be descriptive all the time, just about the little things think ’ thriller ’ just enough to give us a layout, nothing out of sorts… keep it simple…
That being said I’d hate to encounter a scenario that limits a players’ movement cuz it didn’t fit with they’re persona… then a gain I love a challenge, nothing impossible hopefully :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.

Far as story choices go I personally consider it a better idea to instead of giving a ton of false choices to have fewer in total, but more deeply explore where those story affecting choices could lead you while using personality affecting choices sprinkle the flavor.

For character creation having fewer more general choices that are mentioned more often in a vague description allows readers to headcanon things more. Why state what shade of blond their hair is and stuff like that when readers can perfectly imagine it on their own.

Response to @MultipleChoice :

Then does it not fall back to the usual complaint of readers that choices ‘don’t matter’ when in reality that is a concession needed to be made for a story not to become needlessly work intensive for a writer who is uninterested in that aspect of things? Some choices will matter a whole lot, but if you limit user choice to those options than they will complain not enough choice, if you want to minimize work by not overly committing to the smaller choices than your choices ‘don’t matter.’ Feels like quite the pickle to find yourself in.

Response to @CavusRex :

Far as story choices go I personally consider it a better idea to instead of giving a ton of false choices to have fewer in total, but more deeply explore where those story affecting choices could lead you while using personality affecting choices sprinkle the flavor.

Part of me wonders if choosing a preset general personality for dialogue outside of choices then allowing for freedom when choices do arise would be a good concession. That way you don’t need a laborious amount of *if statements. SImilar to how it was done in Freak if I recall correctly.

For character creation having fewer more general choices that are mentioned more often in a vague description allows readers to headcanon things more. Why state what shade of blond their hair is and stuff like that when readers can perfectly imagine it on their own.

Instead of describing particulars, maybe using less direct description? Like, for example, an option to choose the impression your face gives instead of the direct look. [“A hallowed face that gives an impression of unapproachability” vs “you have a sharp nose, small ears, etc”] It leaves more open to interpretation to the reader while also giving a stronger impression, perhaps?


The way I am trying to handle personality elements right now is that I will give the player choices early, especially as they meet characters and establish relationships while as the main story goes on and the player defines their MC more that job is slowly taken over by their previous choices, while still leaving some wiggle room with how approach conversations when there is time to think without pressure.

Precisely. Don’t bother describing how exactly the character looks, but rather give more vague references (a tall MC dwarfing a shorter character instead of saying MC is 6’2) which will allow readers to build a character closer to their ideal than if you gave them a ready made one down to the shade of brown their hair is.


Nobody does their best writing three branches into a conversation sequence where an optional character introduces you to their boyfriend/girlfriend/flatmate inside their penthouse/cottage/mother’s basement. “Work intensity” is part of it, but this kind of stuff really just results in “mad libs” type copypasta.

Great for wordcounts, not so much for reading.

In my experience, the best approach is to have a constant stream of choices that don’t matter much beyond the next page, intermixed with a handful of ones that are much more significant. A good author will remind the player of those choices throughout the rest of the story/series.


Expressive choices:

I think it’s really important to include a variety of MC responses to events, whether or not they majorly branch the narrative. Self-expression and nuance in MC opinions is something that interactive fiction is very good at, especially compared to games where art or voicing is a consideration. And it really helps (though it’s not a panacea) if there are core static plot events.

Character customisation:

I don’t personally find super detailed choices about this very interesting (eye colour is one that I think about so rarely in life that I don’t tend to find it very satisfying; I also don’t love seeing a huge list of very similar hair colours because it bogs me down a bit) but although I didn’t use to include much customisation, I’ve incorporated more as I’ve done more games. I think it can slow things down, but there are ways of staggering it or embedding it in the story. (I’ve cashed in “looking in a mirror” once and my goal is to avoid using it again, though who knows).

I like character backgrounds a lot where relevant. I think they can add a lot of texture to the MC and flesh them out.

Major branching isn’t the only way to make a choice matter most players understand that games can’t be a total free for all sandbox. (Trying to make the equivalent of Skyrim is a good way to never finish a project.) Changing a stat, having a character respond differently, or recording a variable to reference later, are all valid ways of making the choice feel meaningful and are useful for creating the branch-and-bottleneck long IF structure and making the bottleneck moments feel more tailored to what the player has done previously.

Although there’s totally room for styles where a player doesn’t make a choice for several pages in a row, I prefer playing when I have more frequent choices, whether or not it results in big branches. When I’m playing through my games to test, I often spot points where flow can be improved by adding choices. In terms of reduced workload, I would rather see less significant branching than fewer choices overall.


One of the things that I loved about Dragon Age: Origins that I have yet to find used well in an IF (maybe it exists, but not in what I’ve played thus far), is how there are different backgrounds for the Warden and they are included in the prologue of the game. All Wardens basically go the same route, but where they come from is different. And, on various occasions, those backgrounds come into play in-game.

To me, something like that enriches a game far more than whether my MC is tall, short, blond, red-haired, etc. The MC’s background is woven into the story without causing too much disruption. A prologue to set that up in an IF wouldn’t even need to be added, but rather, the history could be sprinkled throughout the game, using the sharing of it as a way to get closer to the NPCs surrounding the MC (mutual sharing, so it gets the NPCs to open up some, too) and a way to use the MC’s past within the story’s framework to spice things up a bit.

I’m like you, preferring to have more frequent choices. I don’t care if it results in a huge branch, but I like having more control of what my character is feeling, saying, and thinking, rather than rely on the author to get a generic text that fits. And not every choice has to alter the MC’s personality stats, either. Sometimes the choices can just result in a couple of sentences changing in the next scene. Or, maybe, none, save for the choice itself.


I like the way A Crown of Sorcery and Steel does it! The first chapter feels very Dragon Age Origins to me. On a smaller scale, I also really like the varied backgrounds in Asteroid Run - Fay did a great job using stat combinations to inform the MC backstories.


That seems to be the complaint of a vocal minority, active on various fan forums but not representative of the market. A large share of the CoG readership will only read each game once, maybe twice. From that perspective, the illusion of choice is as good as the real thing; they’ll never know which of their choices mattered. They will know if they had to wait for pages and pages before they got a choice, though.

Most choices don’t need to matter for a game to sell well. Samurai of Hyuga and Zach Sergi’s work are ChoiceScript bestsellers in which the story is pretty linear and most choices don’t have consequence.

I write what I like to read, which is a story where more than the usual share of choices do “matter” and readers need to go through it at least four times to see a reasonable range of the story possibilities – but Rebels still has plenty of choices that don’t affect stats and thus are only remembered (if at all) by the player, not the game.

So do I think quantity is more important than quality? Definitely not when it comes to character customization; I don’t care about it, so I definitely don’t want to have to click through a dozen long lists of possible features. But yes when it comes to breaking up text and keeping choices frequent throughout the game.


linear-ish game with defined plot points but diverse set of choices > branchy game with lots of paths but little story engagement


For me the whole “choices don’t matter” debate hits weird. Like, meaningless choices aren’t a deal breaker because I don’t really mind reading a good book. Like, its a guilty pleasure, but sometimes I enjoy mediocre self-insert fanfiction. Samurai of Hyuuga never bothered me because if it was just a book, I’d probably still buy it. There are a lot of Choicescript games that I’d still play if they were just books.

I also don’t mind “pick your best of x, y, z stat, pass or fail” choices to either pad the number of choices or to break up the story, as long as its made clear (either in the choice itself or the text leading up to it) which stat is being tested. I get a rush of happy brain chemicals from being “right” and having accomplished something even if it ultimately is just a super easy check to continue the story.

My main hang-ups with choices are when they pretend there’s a choice when there’s not. Like if there’s a choice offered to do one of three actions but it goes “no actually you do [“correct” answer]”. Or if there’s clearly a “correct” route to take or stat/personality to have and if you don’t do that, the author makes it clear your playing “wrong”.

I don’t think every choice needs to have consequences or be super impactful beyond maybe a line or two of flavor. I just think theres a difference between a choice (which has consequences for later down), a “choice” which uses the select a choice coding but doesn’t really matter beyond a differing stat check/line and a not-choice (where it pretends to be the first but if you pick anything except the “canon” path, you’re wrong). If you’re an author trying to inflate the number of choices to break up the story, without adding work, I vastly prefer the second to the third.


Well it should be balanced. If i want just content, there are, I am sure, a ton of books which would cater to that need of mine, but the only reason that I’m as regular here as I am is because I love having the control over the character in the story, giving me an effect of essentially experiencing a story like harry potter, but instead of watching or reading it, I am in it. Its really the first person perspective that these games give that I enjoy so much and which keeps me tied to the amazing books and wips.

The issue for me is neither quality nor quantity of choices (as defined by branching vs. linear), but the quantity of well-written choices.

A choice that is written superbly adds a lot to the story. A choice that is sub-par will detract from the story.

It doesn’t matter if these are in-depth dives or if they are surface-level cosmetic choices. For me, a well executed choice will increase my enjoyment of the story, and a poorly executed choice will detract from the story.

Expectations are set by the choice itself, but how those choices play out will determine whether my expectations are met or not. This is why, offering a way to back out of the choice made is sometimes needed.

The impact of a choice, no matter the nature of the choice, will be amplified by well-written choices, just as the impact of poorly written choices will be lessened.

This is one thing that an author should get focused feedback on. Ask specifically: “Are there choices that need to be improved? If so, how would you improve them?”

Now for a slight sidebar:

I am attempting to do this in my Emigre game. If my final copy fills my vision, I believe it will be filling this void, at least for one game.

This is remarkable in theory, but executing this is not as simple as it seems on the face of it. I have three backgrounds of this nature, and without the multi-replace tool it is very cumbersome and awkward to execute. Even with multireplace, the coding and writing is daunting and harder to work with. Bug-finding and copy-editing are complicated enough as it is.


That talk about angst really made me want to see an existentialist IF. I mean, I have no idea what it would look like, but I’d want to.

I’m also playing with that idea for one of my projects; we’ll see how well that goes.


For me, it depends on what the choice is affecting. For dialogue I want as many options as possible, even if they only slightly change the NPC’s response and the story itself. It’s painful to have to pick between three things my character would really, really not say.

For stat related choices, I like a medium amount. Juggling too many stats is difficult and cumbersome, I prefer heavily flavored but limited stats compared to a barrage of 10 generic traits like “strength” “charisma” etc. etc. The whopping 17 stats in Sword of Rhivenia didn’t add a huge amount of flavor, but Nikola Tesla’s 8 felt weighty. Similarly, stat related choices don’t have to be super numerous to feel impactful, or to let you show off your character’s skills.

The choices I want to have very sparse options are quick combat ones. Feint left or right, tackle or flee. It meets the pace of the story realistically- when facing a split-second decision, nobody has the time to consider a big scrolling laundry list of all the ways the issue could be approached. Scarcity of options conveys the sense of urgency much better.


cough Shameless self promotion of my WIP cough My WIP has different career paths that have a mix of sprinkled in text and several whole chapters that change depending on it. While it is not quite a background I think it is on similar footing.

1 Like

The Lawless Ones does something like this with six different origin stories to choose from before the main plot happens.


I agree with this so much! To me, I need a character creator to truly imagine characters. And preferably sooner rather than later, or I might start to fill in the blanks with things that will later either be non-canon or not quite as I tried to picture it.

And I adore such little details that refer back to my choices. It increases my immersion and enjoyment a lot!

I have a reason for why one might do this, though others might not feel it is important enough. But the more specificity we can give the MC that the writer can determine while writing—without ruining RPing—the more specific and creative the author can get with these types of things. If I know that the MC has straw-coloured hair, the RO could play on the piano the girl with the flaxen hair in their honour. Ok, that’s very specific… but it does easier allow for synonyms of colour, for example, rather than only using text replacement. If I know someone has blue eyes, I can’t assume they are bright or dark or vibrant–technically. But if I know it is bright vibrant blue, I could call it aquamarine, and I can reference it in more detail without making the reader go “that was just a text replacement, now the illusion is broken”.

I like “impression” based character creator choices—I don’t necessarily think one has to have only one of them though—but I do think they add fun things to IF games! It can add a lot of interesting flavour to interactions and reactions :smiling_face:


That is a very good argument. If one is able to create a reference for each possible variation (or just the few that would be relevant at that time) it would definitely increase immersion. But when one isn’t confident in their skills it would require a lot of time and effort to be redirected from other aspects of the story or the writer’s time in general. And trying to appeal to include every possibility might just turn into a Sisyphean task. It is in the end a very subjective thing that should depend on what the writer thinks they’re more effective at rather than what the reader expects. In short include as much as you feel comfortable with writing rather than force it in and deliver a substandard result or hurt other elements you consider more important is what I think people should do. I just personally prefer the vague approach as someone with a rather good visual imagination.


As someone who’s weaned on visual novels, I am on the side of quality. Being drowned in choices means the narrative will most likely be messed up, not to mention being a nightmare to code. I want the player to experience the long-term results and consequences of their actions.

1 Like