Free roam versus guided story


I’ve noticed that by default I focus heavily on creating rooms or maps with areas and then make the scene’s setting exploreable, but most games follow a more novel-traditional line of letting you make choices within a set storyline. Is the latter preferable? Is the former too much of an attempt to create a sandbox world in a limited environment?



Personally I wouldn’t mind a mixture of the two, having the option to follow a set story but getting time to do what I want in between.


I liked how Vendetta did it… which is what I think Noc is saying so, I second what he said.



yeah having a main story then getting the choice to other stuff inbetween, Which is what Vendetta was doing with his game.


Linear stories are far less work for a single person to write and debug. It’s also easier to set a good pace in a linear story. Sandboxes are wonderful when done well, but they take far, far more effort to produce, and virtually none of the sandbox WIP’s started here ever get completed.

And speaking of Vendetta, I absolutely -love- it. I pray the author returns soon and the story eventually gets completed.


I don’t mind free roam, but sometimes I get the feeling that I’m wandering around lost waiting for some random event to happen. Free roam could work out well in a story as long as it gives the player a hint at what to do or is like a life sim.

Example of bad free roam: You lost your shoes. You look in 15 different rooms and find nothing. In the last room you look in, you find your shoes. The End.

Example of good free roam: An assassin has just broken into your house; find a place to hide while avoiding the assassin. The loudness of his footsteps alerts the player to how close the killer is. The player can hide in a variety of spots to stay unseen while sometimes going out in the open to find a phone or try to escape the house.

A life sim is always good. The player’s decision to leave the house without bathing could cause other people to not talk to the player Etc. It would have to have some set story to it, so it’s not too random.


I absolutely detest free roam games. I get dropped into a sandbox environment, and my reaction is not “Ooh, look at this! An adventure! I shall begin exploring immediately!”; rather, I think: “What is this? Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? I’m confused. I’m thirsty. I’m going to go get a drink.” - and then I close down the game.


I don’t think Choicescript is the best language for a free roam game. I think it lends itself far better to more focused, guided stories. I think that there’s other, better languages for open world free roam stories, where you can wander around and look at everything, experience everything, interact with it all to your heart’s content.

That sort of freedom is actually one of the reasons I find text-adventures (or whatever they’re being called nowadays) tough. Being able to wander around aimlessly and explore the world without much direction is frustrating to me. The only ones I’ve managed to finish have been very short and focused with limited commands.


I agree with @FairyGodfeather that CoG doesn’t lend itself as a good medium for free roam style. For something like a table top game that’s the quintessential free roam storytelling medium. Video games can also pull it off very well (I mean, I friggin’ love just running around doing crazy crap in Saints Row 2 and 3 as an example). But a CoG–not so much, because both the author and reader/player is still confined to a limited amount of selections that the author dictates to the reader/player. The reader/player maybe free to choose amongst those choices, but nevertheless, they understandably confined to very select choices often with little information to go on narrative-wise by the author.

Personally for CoGs, I’ve prefer a more novel-esque or storytelling method of divulging the plot line and exploring/learning the setting giving more of a direction of where the story itself is going.


The CYOA format in general isn’t sandbox friendly. I only ever attempted it once and it wasn’t really fun to write after a certain point and became more of a chore. And even then, it was only semi-free roam since while their were “hubs” where you could do several things before moving on with the story, it still pushed forward eventually since there wasn’t any backtracking.

However, making a completely free roam CYOA can be done if you’re really dedicated to such a mad plan.

One good example is the old Fabled Lands series. It was a gamebook series that had a completely free roam nature. The books were even connected so if you went to a different area, you went to the appropriate number in one of the other books and you could go back and forth between them and your actions permanently altered things.

There was no overall goal, though each book had major quests that could be completed, like one area was undergoing a civil war where you could join a side, another book was set in a kingdom where you could do missions for the queen of the land, etc.

Basically, think Skyrim in book format.

The problem of course is you needed all the books to get the full experience and unfortunately they only ever made 6 of the 12 they had planned. They were trying to resurrect the series on the iPad, but they only got as far as the first two books (so far). Still pretty fun and has a lot of content though.


i didn’t like the what was it called the prisonbreaking game in the user games category because there is way too much free roam


It is really, very hard to go completely sandbox in a CoG game, although I guess I can’t say much since I’ve only started to write as well. However, in my short experience, it really is hard to code and write a lot of what-if situations for the freeroam situations.

Instead, I’ve been writing a kind-of linear story that can be affected by the players’ choices (as expected from a CoG game, of course), but I’ve also been trying to do a bit of a freeroam as well here and there. Key word there ‘trying’. But it’s not much freeroam, of course, really exploring the city whenever you get to one or something like that. But nothing much else, I’m not daring to go too far off yet, especially since this is my first story and I don’t have that much experience yet.

So, I guess, best of both worlds is what really attracts me more over linear or freeroam. But coding and writing it is (as always) the hardest part in it.


I have been thinking about doing text heavy browser based games, that includes roaming from one place to another solving puzzles but it’s in PHP, not sure if people on CoG would even been interested in something like that


Creating a true sandbox game is rather painful. Been work in one close to a year and still not much to show for it. Hench taking a break from it. The Ghost in the Library will be a mix. You will be able roam free but in a confined space. Not sure if a true sandbox type story is really worth the effort it takes to make. I do believe it would be great to play as long as it had a great story with it.


I’m with @Drazen to a point, @FairyGodfeather and @EndMaster cover the main issues though.

I think CYOA’s are better served with a guided plot. Branching choices and/or hubs are one way of varying things. At least I think so anyway.


Our very own @heather wrote a lovely piece on this topic.


Well that was a good read over lunch. Now we need the “how the heck do you build the awesome little railroad?” guide.


Aside: Don’t you always find something in the last place you look?



I’ll have to read this, I like “awesome little railroad”…I’m guessing it’s the concept where the author firmly guides the story while still giving the illusion of free will?