Disliked Elements, Mechanics, and Tropes

Yes, to a point. I’m not sure you need exactly the same writing style. Tripple a games use writing teams most of the time with a shared project, but allowing writers to implement their own style. In some cases, this can actually be a strength of the project, giving different areas their own flavor, for example.

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AAA games have writing teams, but their overall style is streamlined by the director. It’s fine having different styles, but know that it comes at the cost of consistency. We all know how that goes with plot twists.

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This has definitely also come from a push for longer games. The more you branch, the more complicated and longer it will take you to get the game done. Significantly branching games that tell more than a single main storyline tend to get heavily criticised for being too short unless they have a very large word count to go with it. Many players have said that only play CS games once. Unless that changes, it’s unlikely you’ll see many widely branching games.

It was great to be on that writing team, but for it to work, you have to have everyone complete the writing they’ve said they’d do and be on the same page so editing and putting the game together goes smoothly. It’s also with noting, both games used a modular approach. That was done very deliberately and helps projects like this work.

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I hope this doesn’t already exist as a topic - if it does, I apologize - but unless I hear otherwise, we’re forging ahead.

So, I got to thinking a little bit ago about some trends I noticed in the various WIPs and published stories here that kind of annoy me a bit, and I decided, why not have a little vent session about those things, just to clear the air about them? This isn’t intended to make anybody feel bad or force authors to change things in their writing - it’s your story, all I can do is talk about it - sometimes, you just need to get a little frustration off your chest. That’s all.

So let’s begin without a couple of my pet peeves:

Once again, for anybody who doesn’t know already, my orientation is ace/aro. This results in romance being a relatively meh topic for me, and talk of sex repulses me outright. Therefore, whenever I play IF games, if romance exists and it’s not central to the plot, then I treat it like the unimportant (and, personally, kinda boring) side story that it is. Whenever I actually engage any of the romance options on offer, it’s because they’re exceptionally well-written, and the characters intrigue me enough to see where that branch of the story shakes out.

Some stories, however, force the readers to choose a romance, even though it’s not a central plot point. In many of those cases, there’s a “no thanks” option that you can pick, and the story will sulk a little bit but ultimately move on. Where my pet peeve comes in, is when the story slams on the brakes, turns to me and goes, “Look pal, you’re gonna choose a romance, and you don’t get to say no!”

That drives me up a wall. In a game where I have to make a thousand and one other choices that hold significantly more weight to the plot, the hill we’re gonna die on is what girlfriend I’m interested in? You serious?

And when I say the game slams on the brakes, I mean it - the game halts at once, and will not proceed until you choose a romance. I see no reason for this to ever happen in IF writing.

Another pet peeve of mine is when characters have overly emotional reactions to things I do. I do some wholly innocent thing, like, say, turn on a flashlight, accidentally shine it in my buddy’s face, he flips his lid, cusses me out, and boom, -10% friendship. Really, bro? Just wait until the purple spots go away and quit being a baby about it, I said I was sorry. If one of my friends in real life did something like that, I’d tell them to their face to go be a bitch on their own time. That’s one of the things that makes me largely wary of new CoG releases, because there have been games in the past where it seemed like I could’ve sneezed and triggered a war. I think the most egregious example was in Choice of the Rockstar (I think I remember it being called that?) where my character’s brother had been a major part of the band from day one, and held roughly equal say in the band’s development as I did, but the second I chose to bring on an extra member, he outright quit the band and acted like I had never paid attention to any of his opinions from the start. ¿Que? Suggestion for you, Brodin, Lord of Brohalla: Grow up, how about?

So yeah, that’s my post. Take some time to let off some steam about things that bug you. Might make you feel a little bit better, who knows?

UPDATE: I heard otherwise, apparently this topic did exist already. Whoops.

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The thing that bugs me the most - that takes me right out of a game, makes me grit my teeth and contemplate just abandoning the thing entirely - is when I am blamed for being railroaded (beware, TVTropes will ruin your life). It’s bad enough when a game gives my character a bunch of terrible choices and tells me I must choose one to continue. When it goes on to try and make me feel guilty about that… no. Just no.

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Oh yeah, Love at Elevation was especially terrible about this. The game already feels like you don’t get to make any decisions, and then the narrator just beats you over the head about every choice you do make. It got really obnoxious for me, really fast.

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The thing that hate the most is that we can’t use the save and load system when the game is released. Like what? Games of choice are, surprise, made of choices, so only if you’re planning for your game be a single row, a game that you need to take the consequences etc etc, it’s ok. But make the us read the whole book again to only change one choice? It’s tiring and boring

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I really dislike blank MCs? Like I get it, they’re the player character, obviously should be customizable. But I think it adds so much to a MC and their relationships with other characters if they have a little backstory with some key points. Of course the player should be able to choose how their MC reacts to/does in such events to build the MC personality.

Also I don’t like the “MC stumbles into a secret world” plot, and almost every time a long narrative exposition about the secret world in question will follow the revelation. I vastly prefer more when the MC is already, at least, vaguely familiar with such world. Although this is a thing that i dislike in all forms of media tbh.

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I’m starting to get burned out on it a bit, myself, yeah. When I first saw it way back when the first Harry Potter movie happened, it was an enchanting idea, and Harry gradually learning more about the wizarding world through the course of the series was a good introduction to the concept of worldbuilding for me, but now it’s everywhere, and runs the gamut between well and poorly done. At this point, I get excited when a story advertises that your character has the option to just not bother with the secret world that’s all around them, whether they know it or not, because for God’s sake, not another hidden world plotline. Can’t my character just have a cool adventure in their own damn world?

It’s like how the isekai genre kind of exploded thanks to the popularity of Konosuba, and while I still like Konosuba, I can’t help but flip it off now because it sparked a landslide of other, decidedly less funny isekai stories that, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t stopped yet.

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Oh, another thing:

Conflicts that cannot stem from the world. Like, the narrative text etc goes on about what the society is like, what the world is like and then BAM a conflict to drive the story that should not be there.

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I wish games that are very romance-centric had more options than ‘shy or bold’ when it comes to flirting. Especially since choosing other options locks you out of a romance because ‘you didn’t show interest’.

I generally play as a character who is rude, stoic and confident, so the shy options throw me off when the main character needs to become a stuttering/blushing mess over a smile. Though it is the lesser of two evils because bold options tend to make main characters borderline sex offenders who touch and corner whoever they’re interested in.

It’s just… weird. Immersion breaking. A little disappointing if romance is the gist of the whole book. I really appreciate I, the Forgotten one for making a character who is confused about their feelings, The Soul Stone War for the oblivious ‘friendmance’ choices, and Wayhaven Book 2 (certainly not Book 1) for having the romantic interest still react to the main characters disinterested replies with banter because they know you like them.

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I agree with a lot of other people’s pet peeves, it would seem.

  1. Too many skills or traits. It can end up with every choice just being about trying to figure out which ‘choice’ matches your stats, rather than a real choice. I’m not saying that every choice should be equally available to every character. That would be pointless and make character development redundant. For instance a character who is weak physically, shouldn’t expect to be able to pick up a half ton weight. However too many stats, or stat checks with too high a requirement, turn many otherwise good games into a ‘guess which choice relates to which stat’ quiz. The worst are those where 2 or more stats/traits are required for each choice.

  2. Choices where it isn’t clear which stat or trait is required. This tends to be worse in games with a lot of stats and traits. Especially those with a whole long list of personality traits. It doesn’t have to be blatant but a reasonably clear indication is appreciated.

  3. Most, if not all, personality traits. Many are really hard to define accurately and many overlap, or have similar meanings. The worst is where certain traits are taken to be good or bad. I remember one game where ‘obedient’ was classed as good and ‘rebellious’ was seen as bad. I thought, ‘hang on. It depends on the situation’. This was true for this particular game world too, not just a general philosophical point. I think that for a lot of games, personality traits are unnecessary, even detrimental, but are included because it’s expected. If they must be included, only include those which are directly related to major plot points, clearly define them and make them distinct from each other. Have 3 or 4 maximum. Maybe 6 or 8, if they’re opposed pairs. If they’re not really necessary, don’t include them and let the reader’s choices define the pc’s personality.

  4. The lack of chapter saves or a back button. Even if they aren’t available on a first playthrough, it would make subsequent playthroughs much less of a chore. I’d personally prefer save points at the end of each chapter. A ‘back’ button could be overkill.

  5. The lack of cheat codes for most games. I don’t think they should be available on a first playthrough. It could even take a few playthroughs to get them all but they can definitely make subsequent playthroughs more fun, as long as they don’t make you stupidly overpowered. ‘God Mode’ like cheats kill my interest pretty quicly. Then again, others may enjoy it and I wouldn’t have to choose that cheat, so perhaps it wouldn’t be so terrible. :slight_smile:

  6. Games where there’s been little to no proofreading and/or testing. Especially when it’s obviously sorely needed. This one speaks for itself.

  7. A lack of meaningful choices. I don’t mind flavour choices but games where virtually every choice is a flavour choice, seem to contradict the very fundamentals of what real interactive fiction should be about.

  8. Lack of choice over character. I love reading novels, so I’m quite happy with set characters. With a CoG game however, I expect to be able to choose a few basic things about my character. It’s fine for games to exist that don’t give me those choices but I’m much less likely to play such games myself.

  9. Games full of ‘in’ references to anime, manga, a particular game/novel or other niche references.

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As people mentioned before, the way stats are defined is something tricky with opposing pairs. There’s logical pairs like impulsive versus calculated, but why that works for a game like say…Samurai of Hyuga is it doesn’t present any one personality trait as superior to the other. They’re all treated like valid interpretations of the character and it’s never really presented as “wrong” for the character having personality even if it proves problematic for a particular scene, it’s still never made out as they’re good or bad just based on whether or not, they smile enough.

On the one hand, blank slate MC’s are a little tiresome and seeing some quirks is nice to set them apart from standard stock characters, but trying to avoid having them contradict how a player wants to play can be difficult.

It can be kind of bothersome when some games want to present “evil” options just as…being kind of rude to someone or voicing objections, and the “good” answer is to be blindingly supportive. You certainly can have good and evil characters in a game and provide the player plenty of capacity to do malicious things, but a player should never be vilified for not wanting to behave in a certain way.

A character can be faulted for their actions. Other characters can react as not liking someone based on the player character’s personality, and you can certainly have “evil” and “good” variable meters, but the core ideas of morality should never be based on ideas like only evil people can ever be emotionally distant and you’re a bad person if you’re not willing to entirely trust someone you’ve never met before.

And at it’s core, much of morality can simply be defined as your choice of axioms. What’s a virtuous and likeable trait to one person, can be looked at as a negative trait by others. That’s a whole other discussion, but I will say there’s more than a few stories I read where the main character’s actions are allegedly sweet and likeable, but they just come off as selfish and unconcerned for the people around them, but the narration seems to insist that other people are bad for not being completely supportive of their selfishness.

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Apart from the problems around accurately defining traits and the false dichotomy of good-bad traits, the main problem I have is how shallow and unrealistic they make MCs. Even the most hardworking person wants an occasional lazy day. The most placid person can sometimes get angry or upset. The most tolerant of people can get jealous, offended etc. Even cruel people are capable of acts of kindness. Yet with personality traits you’re locked in, kept one dimensional. If you act differently you’re usually punished in some way. It’s very limiting and very unrealistic, psychologically and socially.

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I feel that personality traits can work as long as they’re only used to describe how other characters view the MC. If you always act in one specific way, then people will react to that, but you the player should still be free to act however they want without any consequences for deviating. (Obviously, consequences from the MC’s individual actions are still fine.)

The problem arises when personality traits are used to force the player to make decisions, either by taking the choice away from them, or by penalising “acting out of character”; by treating personality traits as trainable stats, which they really shouldn’t be.

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I am a staunch believer that personality stats should mainly be used to personalize the flavour text, make the narrative and characters react to who the PC is persistently, and not just their latest choice.
The game reacting to a PC acting differently than usual is awesome, and you should have the option to do just that, instead of being restricted from choices because of your personality.

A personality trait (or challenge, advantage, or whatever you want to call it) that restricts your choices, or drastically changes how the game responds to your character, should be an opt-in thing, not an opposed stat.
(But I love them, and more author’s should have them in their games.)

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Second-person POV. I’m already used to it, but games with first-person POV will always be favored by me.

Schemes like:

  • MC is completely ordinary and leads an ordinary life, until suddenly they are thrown into a magical, amazing world, meet a group of amazing ROs and it turns out that the MC is also extraordinary and has powers and must save the world or something + Being ignorant, while everyone around knows the truth.
  • Starting the game with: MC being in some creepy, weird situation where they fight for their lives, get excruciating pain, eventually get killed, and it turns out to be a nightmare. MC wakes up terrified and panicked.

It doesn’t mean that these things bother me a lot. Some games have a great story and are well written (Wayhaven which I absolutely love). I’m just a person who gets bored quickly when something is often seen in interactive games. I have a great need for something unconventional, original… something that will surprise me or even embarrass and confuse (in ‘positive way’ :sweat_smile:).

ROs that hate MC because MC exist. Haha. Ok… Some authors come up with pretty good reasons. Unfortunately, often RO is written in such a way that they are incredibly annoying to me. They behave immaturely, reminding me of a pouting child…They are rude to MC even though they have known them for a few minutes. I have no patience for such characters and striving for this thing “from enemy to lover”.

When the game forces me to be nice, noble and play the hero.

Pointless bad endings. I’ve seen something like this recently (although it wasn’t a CoG game). At some point, MC will find himself in a situation where they must be saved by one of ROs. If MC has no relationship with anyone, they will die because no one will come to save them. WTF? I was pretty pissed off after that. I understand the game is mostly about romance, but why can’t MC have a chance to survive by relying on their own intelligence and cunning?

When I have to ask all available questions to go ahead and there is no option to get past it.

I have to choose an option that doesn’t fit MC’s personality to develop romantic relationships. For example, MC overly admires RO’s looks (They are obviously above average beautiful) becomes shy or unnaturally flirty etc. Or something else: I used to play quite a flirtatious MC and chose these options on a certain RO a few times (because their reactions were funny), and shortly after it turned out that MC is in love with this RO and is starting to have serious intentions towards them. They didn’t even know each other for too long! :expressionless:

Imposing on a player things like name or gender because the MC is based on existing character from books, movies, stories. It’s not actually a big thing and sometimes it probably has justification, but I have to admit it - stings me a bit.
The author of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - An affair of the heart did a good thing. We are still a brilliant detective, but we are not forced that our name be Sherlock Holmes.

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I feel that while all skills should stay roughly as equally as useful…I don’t really like the idea that all skills work in all possible situations. Feeling the motivation to write again, I’m working on the narrative with that in mind, that the idea is that while the player can be good at some things, not everything should universally function as a “I win” button under all possible circumstances.

Like what…do you intend to seduce the lock to open it? There’s a horde of skeletons demanding a virgin sacrifice? Don’t worry, I know how to knit! This guy’s bleeding to death? What if I punch him like really hard?

Maybe it’s just my own thoughts and other people don’t agree, but I feel like there’s a lot of people who want stats to actually just make sense instead of they somehow always succeed and equally successful to each other even when they really, really shouldn’t.

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Taking careful notes for game ideas.

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I agree, but I think it’s important to note that this works best if the game has more than a handful of skills, and it’s possible for the PC to be proficient in a good selection of them.

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