How long does it usually take to finish a WIP

Hey all

How long does it usually take you to finish your game, from writing it to coding it to submitting it and waiting for it to be reviewed and finished?

I’m curious to know the average time span in which other writers get theirs done.

I really am eager to throw Hunter Sky out there for the world to feast, but I just realized the road ahead may be long before the game reaches its destination. I :sleepy:like the others waiting for the game will just have to be patient.

I have in total about 90 chapters of the book which I’ve split into three volumes on the web novel version. Which would be turned into three different games continuing the same story.

The thing is I have 30+ chapters for the first volume and even though I’m currently at chapter three, I have a lot of txt files in my folder plus the other 30 chapters that will have their own individual txt files. So I’m wondering as well how do you guys organize your files so you don’t have too much.

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Some can take at least months or even years just to finish a WIP and send it in for publication. It all depends on your schedule allowing for time to write and even if you’re feeling up to it so there’s no solid timetable for such a thing.

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There is no “usual.” A 30K-word game might be completed in a few months, while a game over a million words could take several years. How much branching the story has, and whether there’s an intricate system of stats, makes a difference. Some writers are able to work every day, while some write only on weekends. Some have more conflicting obligations than others. Whether you have previous coding experience makes a difference. Whether your game requires special research makes a difference. Some writers do the writing first and convert to code later; some write the code first and fill out the words after; some write and code at the same time. Some writers just let the words flow, while some construct every sentence with meticulous care, and others do a little of both. Some writers engage in meticulous revision; some (to appearances, at least) submit their work without even skimming back over it for obvious typos.

Even after submission, the time it takes to go through the publishing process is variable. Your game will be reviewed for content, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, based on the length of your game. Then, if your game is judged a good fit for a release on Steam, it goes to a copyeditor. Then you get fit into the release schedule, which they usually have planned out several months in advance, major releases especially.

So there is no established “average,” and even if we calculated one, that would mean almost nothing for your particular circumstances. It all depends. That said, what you describe sounds like a pretty massive project, even if all those chapters are short. I’d figure on a couple years at least.


I think this is a separate issue, one that is worthy of a discussion on its own.

Chapter length is different for each of us, as well as the number of chapters, so as a metric, “chapter” may not work very well.

Personally, I try to keep a ceiling on my txt files … the more commands and variables involved, the lower the ceiling.

With that said, as time marches forward, the limitations (i.e. memory) in the platform devises that are used to read/play become less constraining. A phone from 2012 will handle the loading of each scene differently than one from 2022.


Wow thanks for the detailed explanation. You completely answered my question and clarified some other things I was pondering about.

I wish a good day/night Alethia. You always come through when I need some important answers.

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Awwwww, thank you, and you’re welcome!

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Can I make a small suggestion? It’s often a good idea to code as you go (or at least I find that) for future projects. Far less tedious than going back and having to insert code everywhere and making sure all your stat checks are matching up with the choices available all in one go. With what you’re describing with the 30+ chapters this sounds like it’s going to potentially be a major undertaking depending on how many variables and branches you’re trying to track. I actually don’t mind separate chapters being in separate files. I’d rather have more files to keep scenes contained and easy to debug if necessary, than huge text files containing multiple chapters that don’t interact with each other (but that comes down to personal preference.)

As others have said there’s no real time frame, everyone works differently and has different amounts of spare time available. What I will say is the amount of time needed to complete a game kind of gets exponentially larger the longer a game is. I’ve speed written short competition games in a few hours, and I’ve got longer games still unfinished after a year or more. You’ve also got to take into account beta testing, editing and bug squashing (how many people agree to help you will often change the time that takes as well.)

Edit: Oh I see you have been coding as you go I think? Sorry had missed your WIP and thought it sounded like you’d written the story then needed to code it all at once.


Hey thanks for responding to this. I am most definitely coding as I go by to get the process along faster, but a part of me just can’t wait to get finished and show the world my new invention. Like a kid who can’t wait until the next day of school so he can show his friends his new toy(do kids even play with toys anymore?)

Btw, it seems I might have to be patient and just work on it whenever I can. Don’t wanna rush too much. As for the files I completely agree with you. I find it easier to organize stuff and make adjustments when everything is in its own lane rather than clumped together.


Haha yeah I know the feeling. Good luck getting it done quickly! (But yeah don’t rush or burn yourself out on it. Getting it done is the most important thing however long it takes.)


I’ll reiterate the earlier points that there is no meaningful average. Every author’s process, piece they’re working on, organization preference, and life situation is unique. Your game could be 150k words and take you 5 years to write from start to finish. It could be 750k words and take you 15 months. It could be started and never finished, or started, then discovered to have so many bugs and fundamental problems that you don’t think it’s worth the effort to fix them all. But if you enjoy your work and if the game stays important to you, you’ll find a way through eventually!

Most CoG games that I’ve edited (more than 10 but fewer than 20, I think, over the years) have been around 500k words after several rounds of beta testing (some slightly less, like around 350k, and some far more, like over 1 million words, but those are outliers), and have always taken the authors more than a year, or so I gather, to write, much less test and edit, which can easily take 6 months or more. Most have had between 8 and 12 chapters, ranging from 10k to 100k words per chapter, with some additional files for startup, stats, and sometimes atemporal scenes or calculations you’d rather keep outside of the chapters.

I recommend buying a few games you enjoy and doing some code diving to see how they’re structured, as it’s quite different from static fiction.

All I can tell you is strap in for a very long ride. From what I’ve seen, there is no “writing” apart from the coding. They are completely interwoven in every game I’ve read. Every line, every paragraph, almost always has some amount of code within it, and a code structure that it fits within to have it flow from previous choices and scenarios. If the player has flirted with the character who’s speaking, or told them to kick rocks, or if the character’s father is dead due to the player’s choices, or if the character themself is dead, those all affect the dialogue the player has with the character, and each of those scenarios need some code and some different text.

I’m glad you’re enthusiastic! Let that enthusiasm fuel you over the coming months.


This is definitely the case with CoG and HC games, but I can see how some HG writers are able to write first and code later. First of all, it’s pretty common for HG writers to have started their story as a traditional narrative, and later decided to convert it to a game. Then, HG writers aren’t subject to the same guidelines about how to construct a game. Some short games rely heavily on branching and chunks of text, like the CYOA books a lot of us grew up reading. Some have almost no stats or variables. Finally, HG writers in my experience are more likely to include several different versions of a paragraph or passage to account for variations, rather than one paragraph that makes efficient use of variables and multireplace. (In particular, most HG writers don’t use multireplace at all.)


I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, but I’ve never quite gotten why it would be an improvement over just setting variables?

Like with the wiki example:

@{var1 “The dragon is blue and ${var2}”|“The dragon is red and ${var2}”|“The dragon is green and ${var2}”}

Why would you not just set a colour and height variable? I’m not sure it’s always the more efficient way to do it.

“The dragon is ${colour} and ${height}.”

Anyways, not wanting to pull this off topic, but yeah amount of coding does make a difference, but I’d also say experience in coding and what you’re trying to do also does. My first game took a lot longer to code (and was less efficiently coded with a lot more bugs that needed sorting) because I was learning, while I can kind of code as I write now, and if I get odd error codes being thrown up I often know what they’re upset about. Just from my own experience, something like Dragon Chronicles is relatively short per playthough, but very code heavy with lots of branch and returns, so needs a lot more bug squishing, testing and making sure stat checks match up fairly, than say Oedipus which is relatively stat light overall and more story based. There is a however here, and that’s once you work out how code routines work in something like Dragon Chronicles, it’s easier to export the code into new scenarios and adapt it in the future so the time frame goes down again.

On more extreme ends, Raishall started as a short but functioning speed written game (writing/coding finished in only a few hours). To extend it out by ~7x length (or maybe a bit more, can’t quite remember how many words the original was) and create changeable images, character creation, alternate paths requiring an entirely new set of stats and menus etc has taken months worth of work (and the time frame is longer than that again due to RL creating pauses in writing time.) So yep, I find that however long you think a game will take to write, unless you have a really strict time frame to stick to (like for the original comp entry) it’ll take you longer than you expect due to IRL delays, fickle muses causing writer’s blocks, debugging issues and scope creep :stuck_out_tongue:


For a simple thing like color or height, it does make more sense to use variables, so far as I understand. Where multireplace is useful is in flavoring text that’s responsive to stats or variables. Let’s say there’s a character who is either your enemy, your acquaintance, your friend, or your love interest, and this character is going to show you where the secret hideout is. You could have something like @{c_rel She sighs with annoyance as she beckons you to follow her.|“It’s this way,” she says, beckoning you to follow.|“I can’t wait to show you around,” she says, smiling warmly as she beckons you forward.|She laces her fingers through yours and gives your hand a little squeeze as she leads you forward.} Even for something like height, it would make more sense to use a variable in a sentence like “Your new outfit hangs perfectly on your ${height} frame,” but if you want to show the effects of height on your character’s subjective experience, you could do something like @{stature You tilt your head up to meet his eyes.|You face him straight on and look him in the eye.|He tilts his head up to meet your gaze.} The same could be done with variables and *if, but that seems unnecessarily complicated to me.


Ok, that makes sense :slight_smile: . I guess it just seems clearer in my mind for editing purposes when I use if statements what’s going on with each category, but that could just be me.

*if (relationship = 1)
    She sighs with annoyance as she beckons you to follow her.

*if (relationship = 2)
    “It’s this way,” she says, beckoning you to follow.


It’s definitely not just you, of course. Some of the best-selling and best-regarded HG releases are written that way. And multireplace introduces complications of its own. @Khipsky can confirm they make for tricky copyediting.


Is terrible, with apologies to whoever did it. That’s an example of coding inefficiency using multireplace.

I use it all the time now with Booleans, especially for small variations. Super convenient compared to writing out lots of if/if(not) lines just to e.g. shift dialogue tone slightly if the NPC is in love with you.

I felt the same way for a good while, and it’s why I still mostly use multireplace for binaries-- like the aristo/helot binary in my game, or whether or not a given character is present (and can thus be given a line of dialogue or wordless reaction). Those are super easy to parse, and also easier to type, now that I’ve got a macro in Notepad++ that spits out the @{|} for me faster than I can type *if variable.

For really long multi-option variables, I slowly eased into using multireplace. I also initially found it easier to mentally parse a broken-up set of options rather than a huge paragraph punctuated with pipes. As I got more comfortable, I started using multireplace more, until in my last update I actually used a 16-option multireplace block. Still have mixed feelings about that one, and I imagine my editors will have even more. :grinning:


Fascinating! I didn’t realize there was such variety in coding stye. It makes sense that some authors would prefer to just copy-paste a paragraph and change the elements within it rather than use multireplace, which can be tough to keep track of if you don’t structure it consistently. And I can see why multireplace is strongly encouraged in CoG games to avoid a bloated word count. Thanks for the perspective!


Right, I’ve finally given in to the years-old urge to change the wiki examples for multireplace away from the blue/red/green dragon. Other wiki editors should feel free to amend what I’ve thrown up there where it could be clearer (or if I’ve got anything wrong).

I think the function that really cuts down on word count is *gosub. Even more than multireplace, it’s what lets you shift from lot of repeated text to only using it once.

But both *gosub and multireplace share the issue that they take practice for non-coders to read. It certainly took me a lot of practice before I could follow my own writing easily when I started using them more consistently.

I’ve argued for years that making CS accessible to non-coders should be top priority over word count or code efficiency policing. As helpful as I’ve personally found multireplace, I wouldn’t push anyone to use it if it slows them down or makes it harder for them to follow the flow of their writing when they’re checking/re-reading it.


Totally! Even after copy editing umpteen games, it still takes me a ton of time and effort to check every *label, *goto, and *gosub. It’s usually the first thing I do in a chapter after a spellcheck, since it’s one of my least favorite things to do. But spotting an error there feels really satisfying because it usually has an outsized effect on the played text.


And we as readers appreciate it. Okay, maybe not consciously in most cases, especially since the better you do it, the less visible it is what you’ve done. But your diligence goes a long way to contribute to the magic of a seamless, immersive read.