The main thing that prompted me to start writing with ChoiceScript is the opportunity to shape the story on the reader’s choices. When you write a novel, you’re forced to give a single direction to the story. With ChoiceScript, on the other hand, I’m very tempted to give different directions to my main, single idea.
Here comes the question. How much customization are you willing to accept for an immersive “gaming experience”?
In this story, you wake up in the middle of the apocalypse. In addition to the typical stats, I’m implementing some particular malus that can affect the MC. If, for example, MC is addicted to nicotine, he will need to smoke in order not to suffer from bad repercussions on his mental health, and at the same time his health will not be as good as that of a non-smoker. He will therefore need to find (and keep for himself) cigarettes for the whole book, under penalty of lower stats. If instead MC is a transgender person, they have two possibilities: they have started taking hormones, and therefore need to continue taking them; or they haven’t started their HRT, and in this case t hey may incur transphobic slurs from hostile people.
These are just a couple of examples, but the “customization part” has a lot more of stuff in it. Since it also requires a considerable amount of work, I’m interested to know if it is something appreciable from the point of view of the reader, or if it would be seen more as a nuisance than as an interesting thing.
Customization is always welcome in IF, having a multitude of options can be a good thing if done well. Zombie Exodus had something similar with the addictions if I recall. They can serve to make the MC feel more three dimensional. Some people appreciate lots of small details, others prefer larger more significant customization options, it might help to find a decent balance between the two perhaps.
I will mention one thing though, regarding your example of a Trans character, be careful including something like this, the mention of HRT in your post would automatically assume that this is something all Trans people choose to do, it isn’t. And if they haven’t they may be the victim of slurs? That’s another dangerous area I feel. It again implies that they need to go through HRT in order to not suffer abuse. I don’t want to get hung up on one point in particular, but be careful, there are plenty of threads that can help with this on the forums.
I would suggest that you take a look at Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, which has a similar immersion system to what you describe. It might possibly help you with that stuff.
As for my personal preferences, I would really appreciate it as a reader that I get to craft a character with such details and that they can influence the world around them in various ways. Makes the atmosphere feel more “alive” to me.
Although you might want to be a bit careful with those transphobic bits; it’s easier to mess up and cause a whole lot of drama if it’s not handled carefully. I would suggest getting someone who has experience in that subject matter to check the whole thing over, so that nobody’s offended.
In my opinion, some not only are a nuisance but are also offensive for the community that is supposed to be portrayed.
I am a cis woman and if a game decided that women had to had menstrual cycle and suffering pain and looking for Tampax I will never touch that game.
Realism… for the sake of realism, it is never a good idea. Or you play Cover your taxes real-time the game…Or looking paint dry the game.
The game has to have something fun on them.
I think it’s a good idea in theory (not all of it like the others have mentioned), but in practice? Mm.
For instance, I would probably say ‘yes’ I’d try out certain options (wearing contacts/glasses) but when I play the game. Probably not. Like @poison_mara said, people play/read these stories to have fun.
When I play Zombie Exodus Safe Haven I choose to have a dog because it’s fun. I don’t go for the other choices that reflect me IRL because they don’t sound fun to have during a zombie apocalypse scenario.
I have to agree with everyone else-- I think that for a kind of gritty/post-apocalyptic game, giving the MC a vice of choice which has some consequences can be really interesting (provided it opens story opportunities beyond it being kind of a pain to keep the MC in decent shape), but IMO it’s not great to have “being trans” as one of them-- in part because a nicotine addiction isn’t even comparable to Being Transgender, and in part because i think having to choose between two forms of suffering for playing a character who is not cis seems… unnecessarily punitive (who likes to be called real slurs that they might face IRL in a game they’re playing for fun?). Punishing trans players for being trans (or indeed, as @poison_mara pointed out, players who have menstrual cycles for having them, just for the sake of “realism” which makes the experience less enjoyable) just doesn’t sound like a fair or welcoming game environment.
Otherwise, including a “vice” or disadvantage the character has to tend to could be fun - but, like I said, it’s something I only enjoy if it… spurs the story in some way, I guess? Like triggering scenes and interactions which wouldn’t happen if the character hadn’t, say, needed to scavenge cigarettes from a store (or made the choice to endure a little flavour-suffering in order to help somebody else, as preferred). That is - it’s fun until you get mechanically punished for making use of options the game gives you. If that makes sense.
(As for wildly branching storylines, I’m all for it - I’m in the middle of suffering through working on something which will eventually have an unwise number of branching paths myself)
Regarding the transgender MC: you don’t have a particular choice for HRT, but when you have the choice to pick a specific object, you can choose the option “take your meds”, and if your MC is transgender, you have a sub-choice where the “meds” are the HRT ones. In that case, the game knows that MC has started hormone replacement therapy, but it’s not a mandatory thing: it’s just part of the whole “you have to keep assuming your meds, otherwise you’ll suffer a malus” mechanic.
Regarding the slurs part: it’s not a “you’re not on HRT so you’ll be name-called” thing, obviously. There will be enemies that could call you slurs depending on your choices and characteristics. Even if you’re cisgender, male, white and fit, you still have to pick at least ONE malus, so it wouldn’t be “unfair” towards a minority, if it makes a sense. It simply adds depth to the post-apocalyptic world (have you ever read/watched Kenshiro, or Mad Max? )
I recommend not calling it malus. Because being transgender or a woman or something like that is not Bad or an illness. People would complain hard if you use that word.
I mean, no offence, but I am transgender myself, and I can’t see how it would be offensive to give you the opportunity to have HRT meds.
The fun is different depending from the kind of book you’re reading/playing. Since it would be a drama/horror/post-apocalyptic one, you’re supposed to be in a difficult world with bad people surrounding you.
It depends on the definition of bad. I am a cis woman and I will not play a game that reminds me that because I am one bandit men will try to rape me continuously, I don’t think that adds anything to any storyline or any game. Because it is a game, not a reality check. But people find fun different things.
also, there’s literally nothing you can say to a cis, het, able-bodied white man which is the same as using slurs on a minority… I think that it’s a good idea to add things that give depth and grit to a post-apocalyptic game! but I also think there are ways of achieving that without using, like, actual real traumatic things as sort of “set dressing” (‘it’s just there to show that things are bad and there’s nothing you can do about it’)
(also WRT the HRT thing - I read your initial post as implying that the meds would be difficult to come by, since you compared it to the nicotine addiction and talked about procuring cigarettes-- but if the game just assumes you have them, then… yeah, you’re totally right, I don’t see a problem there either. I would say, though, that it sort of feels like a bit of a “you have to specify you’re breathing” moment-- ie, a bit redundant when taking your medication could easily be coded into the flavour text rather than having to be actively chosen each time)
I’m sorry, I think I’ve explained myself pretty bad. They’re not called “malus” in game, in fact, they’re not even in the same chapter to be chosen as things. You pick your gender at the start of the game, and going on, you’ll have to pick up some stuff from your room. Some of them will apport you a bonus or a malus, and among the malus ones, you can pick glasses, hearing aid, painkillers, etc. Among them, IF your MC is transgender, you COULD pick HRT meds. If you don’t chose them (but you chose, let’s say, glasses) your MC will have issues while looking around without glasses, but being trans will not be a “malus” in any way. IF the MC choose to out themselves to a bad character (as trans, or as gay, or as color-blind, or as whatever other option of “trust” you give to the bad character), they could name-call MC.
Those are, obviously, small examples. The bonus and the malus would influence the game in different ways, otherwise, why even bother writing about them?
Yes, you have the meds in the beginning, like you can have the painkillers, the cigarettes and so on. But you need to scavenge to keep having them throughout the game, and that goes for any kind of medicine.
EDIT: I forgot to repeat that no MC in the game can be perfectly in the norm, that’s why I called them “malus”. Whatever you choose, MC will always be balanced in relation to malus / bonus.
@poison_mara I’m sorry but I don’t understand how having a bad character doing name calling to the MC before you kill him can be compared to descriptions of rape throughout a story arc. As I said, it’s not a romantic story, but it’s not a gore fetish either.
Ah, I see now.
Like @darling_stars I thought these attributes were called ‘maluses’ in the game itself.
Yeah I think it’s got potential for people who want a realistic experience or to see how customizable they can get. Me personally? Eh, I could go either way with having certain factors added on to the MC that would add flavor later on.
oh, okay, i think i take your point a little better now (though personally i wouldn’t want to play a game where just playing certain kinds of person would open my character to being called racist slurs; there’s bad things that are fun to play, and there’s bad things that just suck to read, and experiencing bigotry based on real things that I actually experience is… really not fun).
Absolutely! So I guess what I’d find “fun” influences are, like… if the MC loses their glasses, the scene where they look for them contains content that doesn’t otherwise come up / a scene with the other characters / some character defining choices, whereas, like. “not fun” consequences would be. The MC loses their glasses, and now they’re just kind of worse at all of their skills because they can’t see
as for this one my Worry is just like. if scavenging for medication a character Needs takes time away from things that might be more fun, and not succeeding at getting it makes the experience of playing as that character less enjoyable, then IMO it’s a little punitive and not rly worth it (like opening up some people to experiencing dysphoria while playing as an MC who no longer has access to HRT for the most painful example I can think of, while more like just “annoying” examples would be “oh, my character has no more painkillers, they’re constantly in pain And It Makes Them Worse At Stuff”)
also yeah @poison_mara i think rape is a bit more extreme than what Daleko is talking about here HOWEVER i do also think that if you use, like, actual slurs then it can also be really off-putting and painful to read? Which is why I’m like. Maybe it would be a good idea to think about other ways this particular “people can be shitty and hostile” thing could be implemented
Yes, that’s the meaning of the “malus”. Same thing with the meds: if MC has pain problems (you can have fibromyalgia in the game) or anxiety you can’t scavenge for very long, if MC has depression problems the Constitution stat goes down (and the Health stat is connected to the Constitution one), and so on. As long as MC has their meds, or their glasses, or their hearing aid, they have no problems. But in order to continue to have no problems they must also find new meds (if MC takes them), or tools to clean / repair glasses, and things like that.
Perhaps you missed the detail that the slurs are not mandatory throughout the game, but they COULD happen by choosing certain options, and would be well signaled in advance. Kind of like you would expect a nude scene if your MC went to a nudist beach: nothing unexpected or forced on the reader.
About the scavenging part: as I said, it’s all very balanced, so it’s a “take this, trade that” situation. The choice is more about representation than real necessity: I could simply write that MC needs “whatever object” for “whatever condition”, and therefore needs to find it throughout the game. But being able to choose what is that whatever object is, in short, more immersive - at least in my opinion.
I think Mara’s concerned about the amount of fantastical realism your project might contain.
Reality can often be…disappointing and most of the time, people would just like to take a reprieve from that. IF happens to be an unique tool to provide that. It has the potential to immerse you in its world like almost no other medium out there and while most of the stories found here are not power fantasies by any means, they do contain a common idea in them; to provide readers with a break from the real world, how short it might be.
So it’s kind of easy to understand why Mara’s concerned; while many of us would like to read a story giving us a hard reality check, there are plenty others who wouldn’t like it, due to it potentially hitting too close to home for comfort. That’s what she is concerned with, I believe. That it would be too “real” to be enjoyable for a reader. You know, the thing it was supposed to do.
Or I completely misinterpreted her intentions. That’s possible too. Please forgive me if that happens, Mara. I’m completely devoid of sleep right now and I have another eight pages of an assignment to complete.
Well when playing a cog/hg game i like to play it how i want to but if certain choices affect stats negativity in a major way then that means that you might have to play the game on one path to win and if that’s the case doesn’t that make it a novel instead of a cyoa game?
Every choice affect stats negatively or positively in some way, there’s no correct path to win