Length of game influences buying?

Here are some of the longer games I didn’t like:
Choice of Cats: I realized while playing it that roleplaying animals just isn’t for me.
Magikiras: I think before including characters from other countries not so familiar for the author he should have consulted with people who know more about those countries. For me as a Hungarian that Balogh character was kinda annoying to read. Maybe I’m just nitpicking but it was obvious that the author just translated a word to Hungarian and used it in a way an english speaker would do it. Would he have asked someone who speaks Hungarian they could have recommended other expressions which would have worked better. Now idk if the same issue was there when he used other languages.
I, Cyborg: I don’t even know. Maybe it was just different from what I expected and spent so much time waiting for.
But none of this is an issue of the game actually being poorly written as opposed to some of the shorter games so I guess that means something.

It depends. If I have a solid outline, I can do about 1000 words an hour. However, if I’m trying to make a scene different (for a visual novel), then it could take 2-4 hours trying to make it somewhat different.

It can also vary if I’m doing some writing for another company. Pen and paper rpgs will often require rewrites, or even removal of whole sections/new ones if they don’t care for it in the early stages.


I do usually look for a word count before buying a game but that’s just to let me know how long a play through will be. The game description matters the most to me. The word count itself doesn’t affect my choice to buy the game but I might be more inclined to buy a 200k word game for $5 than a 100k word game for $5. For games with less than 70k words, I usually avoid them since they feel more like demos than full games most times.

I can write (and often do) 1000 words in an hour (earlier typo was funny, would be great to wire 1000k/he!). But then I have to re-read it. Then, debug it. The thoughts of testers have to be incorporated. Posts by testers have to be replied to (just to make it really clear, I really enjoy all of this!). Continuity errors solved. Then at the end I have to re-read the entire game (code and all). Plus, along the line I typically also play the game a few times myself. Thus, it’s not really the writing itself Eric and I are talking about, but the entire sun of all time put into each project. If you measure it we both seem to come to 3-4 hrs per 1000 words (sometimes it’s difficult to even quantify… Should the time I spent writing this very pretty be included? I’m enjoying this thread and all the opinions in it, learning a lot, but it’s still not time spent doing sports, or with family and friends… Blurred concepts of hobby/work/leisure… But… I digress!)


I can pump out 1k an hour if I’m working off a chapter outline or something that I’ve written beforehand, which is usually something I’ll do in the gym in between sets. I’m a bit of a bozo though so proof-reading and re-writes for grammar or general flow can take me much longer

I’ll buy most CoGs and HGs that come out, cos I want to support the company and the people who put time into producing content for it, but my preferred word-count is generally over 100k, including code


That is a fair point. I would argue that in this game you literally are playing God (the most powerful of power fantasies) so that concept wins regardless of the word count. More so, I would say the rating is teetering on the 4.1 marker and that’s primarily to do the fact that it’s so short. To be clear, of the first 5 reviews, only 1 doesn’t outright comment that it is too short (though the wording is suspect). Of those 5 reviews only 2 were perfect scores and 1 person gave it 3 out of 5, saying the amount of substance in the game wasn’t enough to warrant the $4 sticker price.

That shows that even interesting “eye catching” story concepts aren’t good enough on their own to guarantee a happy customer. I personally wasn’t a fan of Aether personally though that had to do with other factors with it.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying a shorter game won’t do well. What I’m saying is that the times where short games are the norm and a game of over 100k being seen as “large” are long gone.

While certainly long doesn’t automatically mean good, there is just a higher chance that it will. Like anything, I am making a gamble with my money and a longer game has higher odds of “paying” off, especially if the idea isn’t immediately interesting or I am unfamiliar with the author’s work. A perfect example of this is the recent Broadside game. I only played it because the author (the Infinity series) is amazing. The word count mattered less in that instance because, to me, the author had already “built up his cred”. If it was some unknown who made that exact same product, I wouldn’t have bought it and likely wouldn’t have even bothered downloading it. Now, you can say that’s harsh, but it is also reality.

That might be very well true. Personally that is why I always shoot for games that are in the 200k + realm. That way, even accounting for “bloated coding”, it’s still going to be a longer playthrough.

Honestly it really boils down to the simple fact that a longer word count means I’ll spend a longer time in the game. The longer I spend in the game, the more invested I am in the game. The more invested, the more I am enjoying myself. A perfect example of this is in the 700k WIP, “Breach”. The longer I played the game, the more I was enraptured into the story to the point where I was dreading each page since I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it and didn’t know when it would stop. It was an awesome game and one of the reasons is because it had space to breathe as well as suck me in via its large word count.

I’ll just say this, and I DO mean this with all respect. I’m currently about to embark on my own WIP, so please believe me that I have a small and growing reality on what you are saying… It is irrelevant to the customer what the author has to go through to put the product on the table. No job is easy and no job is simple. It’s not easy making 100 cold calls to random strangers to buy a product, it’s not easy running 10 miles a day, it’s not easy making political descions that could potentially put us in a world war. No job is easy. If you expect the customer to lower their expectations because it’s difficult, you aren’t being realistic. Again, I have seen some of the nightmare that is coding and it looks like hell, so much that I am a little afraid of even doing it. However that’s not on you. It’s on me and me saying that this deserves to be this price considering the hell I went through to make this.

I feel like the biggest issue that would make everyone “happy” is to raise their prices and trust that people who want to buy it will buy it at the increased price.

And if you juxtapose it with Vampire House or Aether where there are obvious lack of player agency, it becomes clear the issue some shorter games have. Sidenote while I liked I,Cyborg, I agree with your logic for Cats. It similarly gave me the exact same vibe.


I suppose, then, that whether or not a CoG is economical not only has to do with whether it sells well, but also (perhaps even more importantly) how the author allocated their time creating the story. If a 250k word game earns $13,000 in a year and took around 325 hours for the author to make, (like it might for authors like myself or @gower who write at relatively quick paces) that’s actually quite good. If that same game took the author 1500 hours to make, that’s another story entirely.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Every author works differently, and I don’t want to say that any certain way is correct. All I’m saying is that I don’t want everyone to think that writing these games is actually economically non-viable as some would make it seem. A single successful HG can’t replace a full time minimum wage job as far as total funds go, but that’s because no one is writing HGs 40 hours a week, every week. :wink: (For me, at least, I write my stories for about 10 hours a week, on average.)


I agree, genre definitely makes a difference. In many ways I’d say it seems to outweigh word count in importance. There’s a lot of contributing factors. There are short games that haven’t done well which actually had more to do with execution than length. If you have a game that is highly railroaded, you’ll have the same complaints whether it’s 30,000 or 100,000 words. Comedy is another genre which is hard for choice games. There’s a lot of variation in people’s sense of humour and they can be hit and miss on the stores for that reason. I also write short interactive stories and like them, so my feelings on length are probably skewed that way as well where I can enjoy very long and very short games as long as they appeal to me.

I actually really liked Aether, it was one of my favs this year. Like everything though personal preference for topics and writing style are going to influence what you like to read :slight_smile: .

Yeah, but you can see the same on games twice that size as well. I’m even starting to see too short comments on games upwards of 150k. But yes, that probably has affected the rating. I’d also say that anything from 4* and above would class as a good store rating for google so it’s definitely not doing badly in the ratings department!

I agree with that.

But I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that. I’d rather read something that’s been tightly edited to a lower word count ans moves quickly keeping my attention, rather than one that has a lot of unconnected or filler scenes to bump up the word count simply because it’s expected to be a longer length. (I’m not saying long games are all like this, of course they aren’t, but the danger is that if it’s seen that anything under 200k is bad, I suspect you’re going to end up with games containing filler scenes in to make the counts higher, rather than the game taking how ever many words it needs to be finished :slight_smile: .)

Just on that, at the moment in my currency Fallen hero which is 320k words more than Aether is only $1.50 more to buy ($4 to 5.50). If an author was trying to make a living out of making these games, think about that for a moment. I'm sure COG knows what they're doing with the pricing as they have all the info for sales and downloads. There's probably a threshold amount over which people start to become reluctant to buy games I’d imagine. A lot of HG authors are writing these primarily because they like to. (I’m one of them). I could earn more working extra hours at my job (and being a student that’s actually important as I need money to live on), but being able to get some money back for my time does give me the justification to put time aside and spend extra time trying to get the game as good as I can and adding extra storylines requested by beta testers before it goes out. So sales/time spent does factor in for the quality of the games that end up in the store for at least some authors out there. (And just as an aside, COG does pay their authors well, there’s no complaints there from me at all.)

Oh I agree the customer won’t lower expectations based on anything at our end but I think you’re kind of missing the point I was trying to make before. It’s not being lazy, it’s a combo of writer efficiency, enjoyment (which to me leads to better written scenes) and just plain logistics for getting out a game that is well made, bug free and polished.

If a writer can make a game that is well made at 150k, but has pacing, bug and editing problems due to the scale of it at 500k, which is going to be more enjoyable for the reader on average? They could put the same amount of effort into each, but it does get harder to make something that is larger as perfect as a game that is smaller. You’ve also got to remember that many HG authors are producing their first game through this label. I actually think it would almost be good to encourage a shorter game as the first one to get it well polished and actually finished, rather than embarking on something far longer that has a higher chance of being abandoned.

It doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, until you’re writing something over 100k. Coding isn’t really nightmare-ish but getting everything to tie up neatly and continue a good flow through the game can get progressively harder and more time consuming the longer and more branched it gets.

Anyway, just my thoughts on it. No disrespect intended either, everyone has their own thoughts and feelings on this :slight_smile:

COG does pay their authors well. If you want to write, they’re a good company to produce games for :slight_smile:


I think I’ve made this point before, but in my own experience (and Im not pretending to know everything, but I did work for a book publishing company briefly after uni, and I have also written a handful of academic books) the royalties offered by CoG are far above anything else offered in publishing elsewhere (if I’m wrong, please somebody correct me).

Obviously as pointed out in this thread expectations are ever increasing, given that games are constantly getting (on average) longer and better. Which eventually might lead to it all becoming uneconomical… For new authors anyway? Or those that are comparatively slower at writing/coding…


Yeah, CoG gives pretty incredible royalties, especially considering they gave it a bump to 27.5% in 2017. Traditional book publishing houses give more like 10%.


I wouldn’t buy a if shorter than 100k, beacause i don’t pay 3 or five dolars since dollar is not my currency i pay more, specially if i buy on google play, steam tends to be cheaper, but i use my phone way more, sorry, not saying that cgs bellow that word count can’t be good

Well, Choice of the Cat combines its cats-eye-view humor with an acutely drawn portrait of a marriage at high risk of disintegration, and allows the player to either rescue or destroy that relationship. Despite being a comedy, there’s a lot more serious stuff going on there than in 90% of CoGs. Tastes vary, and it’s futile to try to talk someone into liking something…but if “childish” is your main takeaway from CotC, I think you might be focusing on the tip of the iceberg instead of what’s there just beneath the surface. Still doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy what’s there under the surface, but it deserves to be noticed, and it’s not childish at all.

Trust me, it didn’t. :slight_smile: I was very mindful that Rebels came out right on the heels of three terrific games, one of which was longer when considering code efficiency.

(The CoG website also displays the games in reverse order of release, in case you ever want to check what order things got released in).

There’s a discussion of it further down on that thread I linked to. It’s possible to wirte a ChoiceScript game with a lot of cut-and-paste, so the same words (or nearly the same words) appear multiple times. Tin Star is legitimately a huge game, but if you looked at its code, you’d see a lot of repetition across different choices; it’s not really twice as long as Choice of Magics.

CS has some features (mostly added after Tin Star was written) that let you code without cut-and-paste repetition. *gosubs, notably, where instead of copying out the same text in multiple places, you just use a gosub command to repeat that text wherever it needs to appear. “Multireplace” can also be more efficient compared to older workarounds for e.g. plural pronouns. An efficiently coded game makes use of these tools.

Well, I was comparing three games of roughly equal word count. I’m sure word count is significant, but genre is also an important factor in driving game sales. It would be interesting to know how e.g. the Superlatives or Hero Unmasked sold compared to Choice of the Cat and Tally Ho – games that are (more than) twice as long, but in a less popular, less action-packed genre. They’re all in the same sales bracket on Google Play.

:slight_smile: For six or seven years, I’ve been reminding people that the forum != the market (usually in the context of pointing out that the market likes Zach Sergi’s games a lot more than the forums do). So I entirely agree with you that we’re a small, unrepresentative share of CoG’s base, and “helped somewhat” was all I was suggesting for Rebels’ devoted forum following. I hope we eventually get confirming evidence from other CoG authors who post their live WiPs on the forum as I did (though there are good reasons they might not).

Finally, I’m very glad you liked Rebels, and thanks for the kind words about it.

Completely variable. Depends on the words, depends on my mood. Sometimes it flies, sometimes it really doesn’t.


The issue here is that you’re not giving an example. And because you aren’t giving an example, I can’t really connect with what you’re saying since, to me, there isn’t a game I can look to to concede or argue the point. If you just say, “I’d rather pay for a good short game than a bad long game.” I’d say “No shit. So would everyone else.” No one is buying long games BECAUSE their long. They are buying long games because they are more likely to be enjoyable due to having more options and character development.

A prime example for me is Tallyho. I honestly thought the game was enjoyable enough on some level but the stat arrangement was frustrating and I was tired of feeling like I had to play the game the way the author wanted me to and thus quit. The story itself was fine and the various characters were enjoyable and most people loved it. Point is, while I hear you saying that there are filler games with bloated word counts, I’d need to know an example to get what you mean.

That’s less the point. The issue is that if something is valued at a certain rate, that is what people will pay. Your annoyance shouldn’t be with people making larger games, skewing the expectations of readers. It should be with CoG not charging a higher rate. If they simply charged more, the root of this issue (money is always the root of an issue) would be resolved.

Unfortunately, as true as that may be, when I see a game that plays me as a cat, has a cartoony picture of a cat, and has a description talking about how silly it is to be a cat, that is going to come across as Childish. For kids. Now, if that is 4% of the game and the rest is “hard core” adult issues and content, then that’s a problem with the marketing.

Again, you shouldn’t be getting “mad” at me the reader. These issues I’m pointing out aren’t coming from a negative place. They are coming from a real and honest observation. And in this case, CoC came across from the opening aspect as something I’d give my 10 year old cousin before playing myself. I’d then argue that that is a reason why it is currently selling as many copies as CoM despite CoM being only a month old.

Unfortunately this further proves my point. I’m taking from this that you are the author of Rebels. The reality is, and I’m really not attacking the game; I’m making a specific point about reader perception, using myself as the example, the game made so little impact on me, I legitimately didn’t register when it came out. Again, while its a bit off topic, that shows that despite it potentially being an amazing game, it’s marketing was very poor in attracting an audience that was sizable enough to appreciate it. (It is also sitting at a 4.1)

If I’m reading this correctly, it’s possible to “bloat” your game via the coding being larger than it needs to be?
Ex. I claim a game has a word count of 500k words but 200k could be just the coding under the hood.

Fair point. I’d argue that a more accurate depiction of where word count comes into play is when comparing games of similar genres. Like I said, I disregarded CoC entirely because of its child-likd feel, so your certainly aren’t wrong about genres playing a factor.

I’d also argue that despite its childish appearance, it still managed to compete with games that are considerably more attractive to the average reader. I’d then argue that that was primarily because of their word count.

Definitely. I’ve gone on record many times that your game was the standard bearer for the longer more enthralling games. I truly believe that if Rebels hadn’t done what it did, many of these larger games out/coming out wouldn’t exist in the format that they are in. I couldn’t imagine not playing games like “Fallen Hero” or “Silveryworld” or “I,Cyborg” so, despite what you might say, you do deserve congrats for that, imo. :grin:


If you want to look at a game that supposedly has lots of filler in it, look no further than my newest HG, The Magician’s Burden. The story is 230k words and roughly 115k has to do with the MC going to their jobs and hobbies.

Now, I personally don’t consider this filler. At minimum, Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 accomplish a few different things: stat building, character development, and romance development. However, because of the very relaxed plot that the majority of my game has, I’ve had a vocal minority say that the game is boring filler, where it all could and should be thrown out in favor of more exciting plots. Whether that’s true or not is up to the tastes of the individual reader.


@Havenstone Havie I hope you don’t hate me for being one of the guilty of your long word account insisting in addition of more background … Now I feel guilty about how much work I give to authors that at the end they won’t be rewarded with money for it.

It is sad that Bad written stuff with racist and anti human (for me someone that mock trans , women gays etc… are anty humanity) sells a lot. There are certainly scary stuff out there in the app store …

Here at least you could be secure you will never read something machist or racist and the author are decent paid. Sadly, market makes people expect writers has to die by famine because everything has to be free.


While I myself have no knowledge of coding and what it takes to make a CoG game, I do feel that a minimum of 100k is required for me to consider purchasing

Funny enough, while I had my own issues with MB, I didn’t consider what you are talking about as “filler”. You also are somewhat missing the point, especially when you frame it as “vocal minority”.

When someone says “I’d rather play a good short game over a bad long game.” That implies there are a large enough number of bad long games to warrant that point. When you bring up a game, by your own admission, isn’t widely viewed as bad, as a bad, it kind of doesn’t go with the issue.

Is there a long game (200k+ words) that is currently not good? I personally didn’t like MB but that had to do with my personal views about how the characters were portrayed. The ground work was done well enough and while I’d have liked the meat to have a bit more substance, I understood where you were going so that helped.

To keep from getting off topic, my only point is that long games simply add more than shorter games and give the author more chances to sway a reader.
Rebels, a game I just finished praising, was unbearable during the first half of the first chapter. I had to slog through that and get into the lore before falling in love with it. Now, imagine if the lore wasn’t there because they wanted a smaller word count? The game would factually have had less stakes because there would be less outcomes (No getting sick or having most your men nearly die from an ambush you were too stupid to see coming). This would have directly translated to me:

  1. Lamenting my purchase
  2. Making a decision not to buy anything from them again
  3. Actively ignoring all future games from that author

My post was in response to this:

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Thank you, that’s a really good way to talk about Cat, which I edited, which was I think the second game I got under contract, and which was our first CoG over 600,000 (fairly efficiently coded) words. The more you look at that game, the more subtle and interesting I think it really is. Childish is the exact thing it is not, though there is humor in roleplaying a cat, of course. Humor I liked and I think many of our players did too.

I want to add a couple of things about it, as well as about game length and commercial success, though you’ve addressed a lot of the misconceptions of @ChristandJackel already.

First, let’s talk about the history of long games. Yes, Tin Star, sure. I’m not going to talk about HG games.

For a long time, the longest game was Choice of the Vampire: The Fall of Memphis, aka Vampire 2, published in August 2013. That was 306k words.

Robots is 307k words, published in December 2014. (My first day was around July 1, 2015.) The next game to beat Robots’ record was Kyle Marquis’ Empyrean, at 324,000 words, in December of 2016. (Though the week before Empyrean’s release was Saga of the North Wind, a respectable 304k.)

After Empyrean came Choice of the Cat, 607k words in September 2017. Now, classing 600k word games in a league of their own, we can drop back down to earth and give the nod to Heart of the House, October 2017 and 365k words.

Finally, Rebels is published in November 2017 and is 638k, our longest game ever.* It is immediately followed in December by Tally Ho at 640k words, which is where the record stands. I didn’t code read Tally Ho, though I did copyedit Rebels but my guess is you can shave a couple thousand words off of either game in coding inefficiencies. So they’re fairly equal in my mind. I am also a bit of a martinet in terms of coding efficiency, down to eliminating unnecessary *gotos, as my colleagues and authors will tell you (right, @HannahPS? :D)

Again, dropping down from the lofty heights of 600k, @Cataphrak finished calendar 2017 with Cryptkeepers at a respectable 394k.


I want to believe that excitement about a game during beta/lead up/posting the author interview, trailer, and demo on the forum lead to sales. I want to think that our upcoming games post makes folks interested in games months ahead of time. The forum does something to sales. I don’t know what. I can’t quantify that.

OTOH some really nice little (i.e., short) games we’ve put out in 2017/2018 haven’t done as well as other short games we’ve put out. When I was first starting, three years ago, we had some very successful games that were 150k or under. Now. Was it genre? Maybe. Are players “spoiled” for shorter games by the rash of very long games we’ve published, such that they now turn up their noses at 150k word games? Mayyyybe. Has the Omnibus impacted things? Probably somewhat. But I will point out that our game design has frankly only gotten better in that time period, and the demands we place on authors for quality in both design, prose, and creativity in genre has gotten more and more stringent and selective. So what I’m saying is, I don’t know. I think it’s a lot of things.

But, moving on, I am eager to see what happens with both @HannahPS’ developer diary as well as a game I’m currently cooking on, that the author is considering posting openly as a WIP on the forum once we get to around Chapter 3 or 4. (We’re currently at Chapter 2.)

How long does it take an author to write 1000 words? Completely variable, but surprise surprise I have the data. But some of the fastest guns in the west, doing over 1000 words per day on a game include: @Cataphrak, Jordan Reyne author of Cat, and @gower.

*I’m not talking about HG games, and so don’t @ me with TIn Star and Magikiras.


I’m aware. I’m saying that using a game you yourself don’t even view as bad isn’t fair to my point. I think I’m just going to stop talking since it feels like I’m not being taken seriously.