Absolutely. There are some games in the various Choice catalogues where there have been way too many words between choices. There have also been a few that spend too much time telling me things before establishing why I should care. I remember one which expected me to pick between three people for a certain role and it gave me all this information to read through, but no reason to care.
Writing an interactive novel isn’t like writing a traditional novel.I think you can get away with a lot more exposition in the latter.
Similar to the writer of that article, I try to avoid being too hard on other creators. Being creative is difficult and it does hurt to have something you put time and effort in ripped on. However, I had high hopes for PoE and had them dashed upon the rocks of its writing. A friend once put it as something like this: when you meet a character in PoE, everything is front-loaded.
A man, long in limb and broad in shoulder, walks over to you. His skin is the red of a setting sun and dirt clouds his face. “Hail, friend. I am Lord Glabberwhych of the Ghulfigorn people. Fifteen hundred years ago, we had an epic battle with the Hulifogorch, which I will now relay to you across multiple paragraphs. Please don’t interrupt me by clicking ahead, I have a lot to say, and it is of vital importance that I impart all of this knowledge upon you immediately.”
Tyranny was a step up – primarily with a much more intriguing world – but it still had that problem.
What PoE suffers from is an excess of worldbuilding.
Worldbuilding is fine and good. It’s necessary to tell a story. But too much worldbuilding chokes your story before it gets moving. Instead of being a foundation it becomes a prison. Only give the player what they need, whether that is to make a choice, to immediately understand some world context, or to set some atmosphere.
I think when it comes to IF, you’ll turn people off your work by bombarding them with prose they’re not sure they want to read. It’s one of the reasons behind the most common critique I get of Paradigm City: the plot moves too fast and nothing breathes. Because I cut away so much fat with the scalpel, concerned that too much prose would turn people off, and maybe nicked some of the bone in the process.
On the other hand, if your work is a bit lean and people enjoy it, they’ll want to dive into more of the lore.
An author friend of mine said, to paraphrase: a lot of writers are too busy thinking about the systems of their world instead of wondering about the central character and the struggles she might face. A story isn’t a world, a story is a narrative.
(And it shows when an author does a lot of world-building and planning and begins a story with those ‘rules’ but then, for whatever reason, decides the rules work differently. Meanwhile, if the author hadn’t had characters explain the worldbuilding, you likely never would have noticed.)
I’ve played a lot of games and read a lot of stories, here and elsewhere, where – like PoE – all the worldbuilding is front-loaded.
But I’m not reading a history book. I do that for my day job! When I want to read a story, I want to learn with the characters. This doesn’t mean you need a fish out of water protagonist or a young untested hero, although that is easiest, because having a grudging protagonist who is unimpressed by these things can say just as much as someone who gapes at them.
Like a lot of things in fiction, you can probably lay this one at Tolkein’s feet. The guy was a professor of history and linguistics before he was an author and it shows.
I’m a history teacher, so, I tend to write things with a focus towards systems (much like how Tolkein focused on histories and languages). But it’s about how those systems create conflict between each other and the people within them. It’s important to keep the perspective on that it is about how those systems affect the characters and how, affected by those systems, the characters choose to act and the struggles they then face from those systems and from others. Because that’s what history is, just writers trying to explain individuals and systems.