Episodic IF's, Thoughts?

I’ve played with the idea of making the IF I’m working on episodic, since the save systems are quite elaborate now I can imagine that there is some pretty in-depth stuff that you can carry over between episodes. We have a solid world, and some interesting stories and themes we want to explore that we belive could work in an episodic format, but i don’t know what the temperature is for that sort of content.

Disclaimer; I’m a massive greenhorn to the IF community, so this might be a tired subject, but indulge a sweet innocent newbie.

The reason I’m asking is that as a reader i often find myself eager to just get a drop of content to let me immerse myself back into my favorite world (Looking at you Infinity saga :index_pointing_at_the_viewer:), but due to the nature of IF’s it takes ages to get the next installment.

The bonus is that you can explore different character angles, and have some “episodes” that try a different vibe or approach to experiment. The biggest connective thread is the world state and PC character(s). Heck, maybe it is a world that MULTIPLE IF writers expand on, where actions from one book/episode can directly affect another. (This is why I’m interested in it since i love collaboration)

Let’s not kid ourselves, writing IFs can be a monumental undertaking where you spend ages before you get something complete out the door. I notice there is already a trend of doing WIPs as semi-episodic content where chapters are released as they are completed, but these don’t get the full “release” treatment of polish and publishing.

I’ve expanded on this theory in a Tumblr post.

So let us see with a poll what people’s vibes are regarding Episodic content.

  • Hell yes! Drip feed me that content!
  • Sure as long as the episodes were at least 20k+ word length.
  • Maybe, but it would need to be long enough… (200k+)
  • Eh, I like to fully immerse myself, complete a story, and put it away.
  • I refuse to even start a series until it’s entire story is complete.
0 voters
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Episodic story-telling is a great way to break up the writing burden— Telltale games used this approach to good effect. Just having and sticking to a regular release schedule might be enough to establish trust that you’ll actually deliver the whole thing.

14 Likes

I would be all over this. I’m even fine with it being drip-fed to me. In fact, I’d rather have a bunch of $1-$2 games that build into one big story than having to pay $10 for something I had to wait years to get. And this comes from someone who, typically, despises microtransactions. It’s different with IF, as far as I’m concerned.

Shoot me a PM, as I have some input on this kind of thing. My writing partner and I actually started our “universe” in an online RP, then stopped that and starting making webisodes that built on each other, with different writers for each 'sode (it was three other writers, with he and I kind of overseeing it and giving the writer of each webisode a basic idea of what needed to happen). It actually worked well, though we had to do a lot of editing for one writer in particular, in order to keep characters consistent.

Tl;dr: It’s fun to do that way, but you have to make sure you have compatible writers, work well together, and kind of keep characters segregated (a single writer assigned to certain important characters, to make sure they don’t become unrecognizable). Also fun is that you can resort to RPing certain scenes when trying to work out how they go with characters assigned to other writers.

Agree with this. As soon as you start missing scheduled points, it can all go to hell, especially when working with other people to write.

9 Likes

PM sent. It’s great to hear someone else is vibing with the whole slow and steady content drip. :blush:
My theory is that episodic is a niche that not everyone would enjoy, i guess this poll will see if that is correct and how big that niche is :smiley:

1 Like

I have to say, I’m not exactly sure what kind of structure you’re envisioning here. What does episodic IF mean in this context?

I envision looking a little like this:

Vanguard; The sinking island
The first story of the superhero Argus as they rush to foil the escaped A-class villain Quaker before they can sink Avalon island. Start to define what kind of hero Argus is, get to know Vanguard and explore your relationship with your powers.
Word count: 20k

In 2 months, the next episode is released; Vanguard: Dead water, this continues the story where it left off, but with another self-contained story that helps develop the world, character, and overarching plot. My guess is this only works with certain genres and in specific configurations, but under the right circumstances, I think it could work quite well!

I have seen some IFs stray close to this format, just not completely committing to it as far as i know.

5 Likes

But would you automatically go to episode 2 from episode 1, or would you go to main screen and need to start over? Could you play episode 2 without playing episode 1, if you’re so inclined?

I’m no expert on how games are published or how saves are done practically, but I would assume each episode was its own separate release and that you imported your save from earlier episodes (The latest you played). Kind of like how a book series is handled right now, i guess the closest i have gotten to an episodic series is the Samurai of Hyuga series since there are like 5 books in that series that each have their arc, but also follow into each other.

In theory yes; you should be able to start on episode 3 if you want. Or there should be standalone episodes that let you play other characters or see other perspectives.

Okay, but how is that different from just calling it a series then?

I personally hate episodic anything. I still remember Life is Strange, being released 1 episode at a time then having to wait…

You gonna say but that’s no different than waiting for a book series like Wayhaven or Samurai of Hyuuga? Actually it is different.

Because in those series, they are BOOKS series. Episode, more often they kinda cut content and released in episode.

As it is, for example in the series of Samurai of Hyuuga I stopped following after the 2nd book.

In an episode thing, the content often is smaller. You get what? Something like 1/3 or half a story?

I’m willing to wait, but when I get the final product I don’t want Episode 3 in my hand lol I want the full story to play.

Regardless, Good luck with this idea. You gonna need it.

Because you will need dedicated writers, but also dedicated coders.

And writing alone can be a pain in the ass.

5 Likes

You can call it a series if you want since each episode could feasibly be called a book in a larger series, even though it’s only 20k words. To me, it’s more about setting the correct expectations and communicating intent, the intent here being to release something more bite-sized that necessarily is part of a larger text.

People are used to the concept of Episodic content from other media, so it effectively communicates what they can expect.

1 Like

I mean, I understand episodic (if you need to state it as such, as opposed to assuming a series does consist of episodes) as a single book with an episodic structure, so :sweat_smile:

Good episodic content starts with character and finds themes within them, then builds a plot around those themes. This means as a writer you have a lot more freedom to play with those characters and themes to create more nuanced and self contained stories without having to worry about building momentum to a larger climactic ending.

Series build momentum forward to an end, episodic less so.

This might all be a bit “Not seeing the forest for the trees” on my part, but i just think that there is some novelty in approaching this type of content from an episodic format.

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Not… necessarily? I’ve read quite a few of book series without an overreaching plot in my time. Or at least I think they’re series. I’ve never heard of books being called episodes.

Then again, maybe I’m just losing something in translation, and should simply admit I’m not going to understand anything today. (I’m having a very “exact words” day for some reason. It happens.)

5 Likes

You can definitely do it; there are a lot of great pieces of IF that already have. It’s not really a new idea. IF with an episodic narrative structure already exists. Commercial IF with a rapid episodic release cycle already exists; that’s basically Episodes, Choices, et. al.'s entire business model. Fallen London has an Exceptional Stories subscription service that works very similarly to what you’re describing.

It’s not “the future of interactive fiction”, it’s happening right now.

However, I’m not sure about it happening through Hosted Games, unless you get them to work with you. Hosted Games need to be 30,000 words minimum and they’re released on the company’s schedule.

3 Likes

Numberedentity and I are experimenting with a few of the ideas you mentioned at the moment. We’ve found shared content over the course of multiple IFs can be quite an enjoyable thing. That said after a previous experience with building an episodic franchise, I would recommend avoiding it if you do not plan on experimenting with relatively nuanced and different styles or creating something absolutely massive. However, if you do want to do those things it can be a fantastic idea!

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I did vote for this option, but I think 100k would be enough. 200k could already be a full choicescript game of fairly substantial length.

Of course, if a writer could produce interesting episodes each with a 200k word count on a regular basis, that’d be great too.

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I think I’ve read at least one series that had a more episodic approach in the past and I really liked how it was structured, so reading something like that on a smaller scale sounds interesting. Though I would prefer the episodes to be longer than 20k words, especially if they have more branching. I just think it’s easier to immerse myself in a story if there’s more content available.

its already been said here but i think i could only get behind the project if you could keep up with a regular release date and if it was priced per episode it would have to be pretty low.

Zombie Exodus: New Haven is close enough to what you’re envisioning. Ideally you’d want to write half of it ahead of time & drop each episode monthly. 6-12 episodes with mid season finale to write the second half.
$1 if an episode is 20-40k words
$3 if 100k+

In my head it could work.

1 Like