What are the requirements for writing a CoG game? I’m not asking about the requirements to become a writer for CoG, but rather what the requirements are for what they write. I want to be able to write a good game, so I thought that perhaps knowing what CoG authors are required to do might help give me some idea of what I should strive to accomplish. Assuming there are requirements?
Not as many specific ones as you’d think. You do have to have gender choice for the Choice Of line.
Aside from that, each game is individually developed with an editor from initial blurb to outline to draft to polished version. There’s no particular blueprint. Sometimes I see, when people talk about “the difference between Hosted Games and Choice of Games” that Choice of authors “have a more specific formula and structure that authors have to follow” (https://www.reddit.com/r/choiceofgames/comments/mb9p5e/choices_vs_hosted_games/).
But that’s not really true. There’s no specific formula and no specific structure.
I recommend reading through the COG contest thread and guidelines from 2016. Although it was five years ago and some things may be outdated or obsolete, there are some documents discussing the COG “house style” and design requirements—entries in the contest had to follow these guidelines to be published as an official COG game! However, as Gower said, I don’t think there’s necessarily a hard and fast “strict formula” that has to be followed—these are basic requirements like gender choice or wordcount and some game philosophy, but I believe authors get a lot of leeway and freedom to develop their creative projects in directions they like!
Thanks for posting these.
Reading through them again, I am reminded once more just how odd I always find it when the text for choices includes punctuation, yet I see it is/was mandatory for CoG.
Any thoughts or insights as to why this is/was so?
The CS choices themselves render as a kind of “button” on the screen, and most (other, non-CS) apps do NOT include punctuation in button text, which is why I’m asking and why I always find it a little jarring.
UPDATE: In other words, I find this odd:
When this looks more like button style to me:
Yes, you’re right–there are style guide requirements as well! I was thinking of narrative formula requirements, but that’s a good point.
I love punctuation at the end of a choice. When I don’t see it, it looks odd and unfinished to me. I would guess the reasoning is that the text of the choice is part of the story as well, and therefore must be punctuated appropriately.
From what I’ve seen, choices are generally used in 1 of 3 ways:
1 - Completing the Sentence
Your father looks down at you with tears in his eyes, overjoyed to have a…
2 - Choosing an Action
You come to a fork in the path.
3 - Choosing a pre-written verbal reply
Don slaps you in the face with his glove. “I challenge you to a duel!”
#“The duel is on, you rascal!”
#“You cannot provoke me into breaking the law.”
For #1, I understand the need for standard punctuation. Likewise, for #3, since it is a reply that is a full sentence, standard punctuation makes sense.
It’s really only #2 when you’re choosing an action that the buttons having punctuation starts to look odd.
In fact, I was just browsing my bank’s website, and I noticed that NONE of their button text has any punctuation.
I’m not saying that I like their buttons or anything, but putting “Open Now.” in that orange-brown button would look really, really weird.
I agree with:
A choice represents a complete thought and using punctuation allows the reader to correctly understand how to read the thought and makes the meaning clear.
Also, from a development point of view, having a consistent style makes the most sense – writers and their individual styles vary too much to allow free reign when designing choices.
Without punctuation, the writer can leave ambiguity, and it can change how the reader interprets the choice being made.
A choice in the form of a question leads to a different reading from the audience than one in the form of a statement (period) and not having either opens the door to ambiguity… which will only grow with each choice without punctuation.
As a copyeditor, I believe that consistency is key, and a style guide should have clear, consistent rules that are easy to apply. Opening the door to sometimes not including punctuation in some choices in some syntactic situations makes me want to cry.
But, beyond my personal pain, I believe punctuation helps cement the second person / first person call and response that choices should follow. The text before the choices is generally voiced in second person (“The path forks off in front of you. Which path do you choose?”) and the choices are first person (“I go left.” “I go right.” etc). I think this helps preserve the narrative structure as well, and keeps it from being too gamey and removed, with button-like, almost second-person imperatives (“Go left.” “Go right.” “Jump.” “Shoot.”)
I agree wholeheartedly that a style guide should be consistent, and I grok that CoG’s house style is very clear about “body text = second person, choice text = first person,” in which case, punctuating choice text makes sense.
And if that’s how CoG wants it that way, then all power to 'em. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen a “call and response” format like that literally anywhere else.
Anyway, something for me to think about endlessly for a few more hours
Thanks for helping clarify that. It’s given me a lot to think about
Another requirement from CoG is that authors always include at least 3 viable choices at every branch, which is sometimes harder than it sounds. I’ve gotten used to it since I started writing for CoG in 2016, but I remember it was quite a lot to wrap my mind around at first.
I was actually wondering about this. Why is this the chosen style? I’ve never understood why the perspectives change in this way.
To create an extra burst of immersion at the choices, I’d guess.
If it gives more immersion, why isn’t that the consistent perspective throughout the entire game?
Making choices first person is a way to reinforce that the gamer/reader is making the choices for the MC character and it hooks them into a stronger connection.
The perspective of the MC may not always align with that of the reader… for instance when there are foreshadowing elements or “outside knowledge” provided through writing mechanics like flashbacks.
My take is that the rationale is “narrative in second person maximize immersion during the reading; choices in first person maximize immersion during the choosing.” I’m don’t know that that style decision is based on peer-reviewed research or anything, and it certainly is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it definitely works for me as a reader.
Originally, there were two styles of IF - the CYOA paperback books and the Zork-style parser games on the computer.
CYOA - Body text is all “you go here, you see this.” But the “choice text” at the bottom was “To go left, flip to page 128.”
Parser/Zork - Body text is “Here are the objects you can see.” Choice text is pure commands like “go left” or “take lantern”.
CoG choice text, on the other hand, says “I go left.”
In other words, CS is closer to Zork/parser than it is to CYOA in how choices are described despite the fact that CS reads a lot more like a CYOA book.
I guess the underlying question is “Is the MC a homunculus being remote-controlled by the reader? Or is the reader along for a ride with the MC with occasional suggestions about what the MC should do?”
CoG’s style guide clearly indicates that the reader must be both a) in full control and b) aware of the control they possess (i.e. the reader knows sneaky_stat will rise if they go to ninja school).
This leads one to think that the CoG style is firmly in the “reader controls the MC” camp, especially with the “I go left” style of choice text.
But what I’ve seen (and my apologies if I am mistaken due to lack of experience) is that this over-emphasis on the reader being in control actually results in a much more CYOA experience where the reader is much more “along for the ride” because everything is spelled out in advance, plus it’s almost impossible NOT to get to some kind of “successful” ending.
Even shorter: if your cat started randomly tapping on CoG choices, the final “printout” would be a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end. Whereas if your cat started randomly tapping on the keyboard for a Zork/parser game, the story would never progress, and you would definitely never get to a successful ending.
Interestingly enough, I’ve seen a lot of ChoiceScript WIPs deliberately challenge this “always get to a successful ending” head-on, so it’s not something minor.
Clearly, there is a monumental difference between “ride along with the MC” and “the MC won’t get anywhere without careful reader input”. And it all hinges on how choices are presented, so it’s something that I think about a lot.
Perhaps another way to think about Interactive Fiction is the point of the game/story. Is it to give the reader a customized text story (CoG)? Or is it a text game that can be lost (and won)?
My apologies if I’ve hijacked this thread!
The best practices for CoG as sent to me back when I started writing is “always get to an awesome ending” where “awesome” can be a spectacular failure or a hilarious debacle.
On another note, while it’s probably good to signal to the reader that if they train with that guy, sneaky_stat will rise, it’s perfectly reasonable to have all sorts of other stats moving around that you don’t talk about–if you train with the master thief, you are lowering your respectability or putting wear and tear on your poor Achilles tendon. So signalling which primary stat you are dealing with doesn’t necessarily = full control.
This thread has a bit of discussion on the subject.
About second and first perspectives, I always saw it as a dialog between the story and the reader. To me it is as if there is someone on the other side of the screen telling me a story, narrating the experiences. The ‘you’ makes it feel like the story is its own thing, whispered in your ear. Occasionally there is a question, and you answer back “I go left”.
I have really come to love that dialogue between story and reader, I’ve never really come across it anywhere else.
Ever since the first IF games came out, they were incredibly popular with blind and vision-impaired people, and it’s easy to see why.
CoG games especially are written as though the player/reader is blind, with a sighted narrator saying “Here’s what’s happening around you” and the choice text being the reader telling the sighted narrator how to respond.