Indicators on choice options

Having a marker like that draws a player’s attention to the mechanics/structure. If I see [narrative branch] on a choice, it makes me wonder where else the branches will happen, how many others there are at different times, etc. Which could work for some games but for others might feel distracting - or unintentionally make the choices that don’t have that marker feel less important.


This is something I’ve been thinking about (and flip-flopping between) a lot too. I largely agree with what you’re saying, but as someone who puts a lot of emphasis on branching and replayability in my work, I have no issues with players thinking about my game as a structure. If you’re willing to put the work into making your branches meaningfully different (which if you’re not, I almost want to ask why you’re writing IF), I can only see giving your players a little peek into how else the story could have unfolded as a positive for your game.

You’re spot on with the cons though, there’s definitely a delicate balance to be struck with these things between the “story” and “game” sides, and littering the script with indicators risks tilting that balance too far in favor of the game side.

Personally I’m leaning towards a middle-ground approach, where only choices with a stat requirement are labeled directly (e.g. “[Stealth] Sneak past the guard post”), and otherwise important branching points are signposted through the text itself where necessary. I think with this approach, as long as you design your choices so there are always a decent number of non-stat-gated options, and you make it clear to the player that picking the choice with a stat check will not necessarily always give them the best outcome, you can avoid the issue of players beelining towards certain choices too much.


I’m a strong proponent of stat indicators - not necessarily the VALUES, but definitely which stats (and also of romance choices, lest we end up with a romance because you were nice to a character three times or something - I don’t want to date you, I just don’t want to see you cry). Choices are, by necessity, very short form stuff, and you can’t get more detail on them until after you pick them, at which point it’s too late to change, and we don’t know what authors are thinking when they wrote them.

This is doubly true when checks also include personality stats. Does this test Determined or Agressive? Charming or Kind? Who knows? The author, presumably, but I am not them.

I’m less interested (as in, not at all) in narrative indicators.

You can tell people off the bat (during the intro screen or in the stats menu) that stuff that tests 2+ stats can result in partial successes. This is what the Pon Para series does.

Oh god, yes, more of this when applicable, please, or better yet, make it applicable less often.
Game: “So, what are you doing this afternoon?”
Me: “Oh, one of the options is to send a text to touch base with superiors/parents/whatever, I should definitely do that.”
G: “And what do you want to do tonight?”
Me: “What do you mean, TONIGHT? How long was that text message?!”

Second one.

Also second one. To me, low Forceful isn’t 20/80 F/S, it’s 53/47 F/S, i.e, a character that IS forceful but only slightly so. I don’t think you need the “high” qualifier there, though.


I’m really happy I asked about this, it was so helpful to hear people’s thoughts! Right now I’m going for this kind of thing (not these exact stats of course):

#I'm going to be forceful today. @{showstats [+Forceful]|}
#I'm going to be subtle today. @{showstats [+Subtle|}
#I'm going to be REALLY forceful today. @{showstats ++Forceful|}
#I'm going to be REALLY subtle today. @{showstats ++Subtle|}
#I need to be really forceful to solve this problem. @{showstats [Tests Forceful]|}
#Gosh, this looks like a situation where I need to be subtle. @{showstats [Tests Subtle|}
#Wow, I need to climb up high to fix that lightbulb. @{showstats [Tests Climbing and Electronics|}
#I want to keep a stiff upper lip about the amount of running I'm doing. @{showstats Tests Determination or Running|}

I’ll see how the feedback from playtesters shakes out as it’s obviously something that needs to be really clear and intuitive.


Oh, more on stat indicators: College Tennis: Origin Story (I still can’t believe I’m playing a game about SPORTS; goddamn you, allie) differentiates between testing stat totals (represented by [Stat1+Stat2]) and testing two stats ([Stat1 and Stat2]).

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I think such things can be made more understandable by clearly-written choices and stats being tight and simple system. I’ve never had a problem with picking stats in my Mecha Ace runs, neither did I have issues with romance or checks - it was obvious and relied on a simple and tight system.

I love indicators on choices – I think they’re vital, just because CoG’s lack of a save system is agonizing to me. I’ve resolved that on my own time, but when I’m on mobile, it feels awful when I choose an option and I find out that I’ve accidentally romanced someone or misinterpreted the choice and the MC says something mean.
Personally, I prefer indicators for stuff like initiating romance, but not indicators for skill increases or skill checks – preferably, the text itself would have enough information to negate an indicator. But, like someone else said, it could be helpful for non-native English speakers or folks who have difficulty with reading.
I also like indicators for when I’ve failed a skillcheck – so no indicator for what skill an option uses, but an indicator for if I’ve chosen poorly.
Even though I don’t want indicators for skill increases (or relationship increases), I do still want that information available in Stats, especially if you have indicators saying “Relationship > 30 = Fail” or “Combat Check = Fail.” So the information is still available, but you can decide if you want to use it on a more case-by-case basis than with the toggle.

From my current project:

  *selectable_if (social) # [SOCIAL] "I'll try and talk one of them down!" @{class=3 [Dandy +]|}
    *set dandy +10
    *if (statview)
      Dandy +10

*selectable_if (social) means you can see the choice always but can only select if you have the social tag.

# [SOCIAL] means the indicator for the social tag is always visible; you know what tag you need for this choice. If you replay the game, maybe you’ll grab the social tag earlier on to see what happens in this choice.

@{class=3 [Dandy +]|} means that if you’re a certain class (chosen at the beginning of the game) you’ll be able to see that this choice will raise your relationship with the character Dandy. It just looks like “[Dandy +]”. Otherwise, this doesn’t appear.

*if (statview) means that if you’ve got statview enabled (a toggle at the beginning of the game) you’ll be notified that your relationship with Dandy has changed after making the choice, and by how much.


I was enjoying… the translator one, uh, Ensible Station? so I’m interested in seeing what else you put out. Do you have a WIP thread for this new project yet?


There is one, yes. It’s in the same setting as his earlier book, A Kiss from Death.


Let’s illustrate this with a scenario in Maverick Hunter: You are trying to jump across a lava pit in, say Mattrex’s stage. You test for Speed/Poise and get a mixed success. The key word is mixed success. You have to choose: do you let the lava hurt you and lose some of your Life Energy, or do you briefly snuff out the lava with a Water Balloon, thus using up some of of your Weapon Energy for Water Balloon? If you choose the latter, you (and your partner, depending on other choices) do make it safely across, your armor (if any) is safe and you use up a certain amount of Weapon Energy for Water Balloon to keep the fire down just long enough to make it across.

As a reader of IF and player of video games, if I see that stats are used at all I treat the story as a game. A game that can be strategized and “won” in the way I try to have the story play out. Over the years, I’ve also learned that sometimes trying to get a “perfect” run takes all the fun out of it. Sometimes, just sitting back and enjoying how things unfold is more rewarding. Since stats in story games are gamifying to me, I don’t mind seeing stat indicators where necessary.

There are two IF stories I’ve read recently that didn’t employ any stats. They were character and narrative driven and because they were interesting and well-written, not having any stats didn’t matter. I think those stories would have been worse off for it. This probably mostly matters to the kind of story the writer is trying to tell.

The first story had a singular starting scene that branched into two major starting points (that had additional branching options from there) then converged to a single point. That converged point played out differently, of course, depending on which major path the reader chose. The rest of the game was mostly about choosing which NPC to be around while the plot unfolded, with sprinkles of having the MC choose how they wanted to respond to situations. Eventually, the choice to lock in certain character routes was given and had a choice indicator for these moments.

The second game had a linear plotline but the main draw was how the MC responded to the other characters as the plot unfolded. Both stories worked really well for not having any kind of stat check at all.

The least-stat story I’ve seen here on CoG/HG is Blood Moon, having only a health meter. It works great for that game and makes it feel more like a guided narrative where the reader/player is free to roam around and choose whatever they want. More open-world, I guess?

The most gamified story I’ve seen here is Donor. It has playable mini-games like black jack and tic-tac-toe and has choice ramification notifications similar to how TellTale used them in their titles (loved this).

Granted, my CoG/HG library is small (working on it!) so there are probably more low-stat and high-gamified stories out there.

I like this approach. It’s particularly useful in “building” the MC if a choice increases multiple skill stats at once. I feel like knowing a certain choice is going to lock into a particular path is nice to know about, too. But, again, it probably comes down to the type of story being told. Not all stories would benefit from having these indicators shown, like in @Gower’s example. For simpler stat increases, these kind of indicators probably work better.

Having a toggle option is probably the best of both worlds.


Yes, even for my Maverick Hunter project.

Which begs the question: what makes an “open-world” game open-world?

I wonder how to pull that one off…

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Maybe that’s my wrongly interpreted interpretation? In a ChoiceScript game when the player doesn’t have to worry about succeeding in a stat check and the choices just guide the story forward, that feels more open-world, I guess.

I meant more low-stat OR high-gamified. Not AND. Sorry about that.