I’ve gotta agree with @meltingpoints here. Although the HR stories are pretty good, I almost feel like the sheer abundance of pure fake choices (ones without stat changes or any unique text at all) and the way they’re used are almost insulting to the genre of interactive fiction.
As said somewhere else, HR suffers from the author not actually writing a CYOA novel, but a novella with a few alternate scenes in the appendix.
The story that is there, itself, is also pretty standard without any or if just few unique takes on standard tropes.
As said, there’s a lot of potential, especially for a really awesome dystopia, but the author, up to this day, does not seems interested in actually working with what he has.
Saddest bit? He’s not the only author out there.
The following thing pretty much hits bull’s eye when it comes to the kind of authors and their behavior:
I know from experience (and I doubt I’m alone) that I, much to my shame now, started out like that.
I learned better. But it takes the will to do so.
Many stories here (to come back on topic) ARE judged by their word-count. So it’s tempting to turn a 20-40k words novella into a 100k thing by adding fake choices, copypasting whole sections of text and changing only one or two words and call it a day.
While this is something that gives me frustration, it honestly comes down to both the degree and the skill with which it is used. Having a non-choice leading to the same result can be a good way to illustrate forces beyond your control, or a situation simply too overwhelming for the MC to handle. In the case of the opening of Community College Hero, and one of the key points in the first Choice of Vampire, I’d say both were well-used. It’s when the narrative is dominated by these choices that it becomes a problem.
Another problem: blatantly “better” routes. Unless the point of the game is to solve it, ala Paradox Factor or The Ascot, having a single set of choices lead to the most desirable result? Also infuriating
But there are some times where flavor choices can just add interest and prevent people from having to continue to click through sections where it starts to feel more like a book than interactive fiction. They can set variables which may or may not be hidden, or just provide a short different section of text. Even if “meaningless” it can allow people to play as they want, for example I often use fake choices if I’m going to let people choose what they want to eat pr drink. Not everyone likes the same thing, some people are vegetarian, some don’t drink alcohol, some hate brussel sprouts etc. So if you tell the player they’re going to sit down to a delicious glass of wine and hearty beef and sprout stew that’s not always so good.
Basically I think you’ve got to ask if it helps with the world building/immersion or moves the story along. If it does great. The kazoo example is an example of railroading rather than a proper fake choice and probably should never have been a choice at all. If you were going to use it as a fake choice, you should be able to play what you want, even if it has no long term effect on the story and is a choice like the food one.
It depends. If it changed nothing, like, not even maybe a few lines of the PC starting to do the laundry or gathering the ingredients for cookies or browsing through a few channels, then I’d wonder about it. You could even have the PC say later to another abductee “Hey, I just want to get back to Earth so I can [finish doing the thing]” which’d also be a cool point of continuity.
I think *fake_choices are a really good tool for both disguising the rails and investing players in their character. I used them in Paradigm City to establish the mindset and worldview of the protagonist due to them growing up where they did.
Similarly to @MeltingPenguins, it’s easiest for me to point to railroading by looking at Heroes Rise. It has numerous points where it offers you options like A, B or C but then, if you pick the ones it doesn’t want you to pick, it either ignores it entirely (with something like the UFO example coming out of nowhere) or half-heartedly says something like ‘You think about it, but you realise you shouldn’t’.
If you’re going to offer the option, part of your compact with the player is like, letting them choose it. I think you need to be very careful ever using ‘Choose… but decide not to’ or ‘Choose… but something makes the choice irrelevant’ because while it can be an extremely powerful storytelling tool, most of the time it’s going to look cheap.
Also CoG guidelines recommend having a choice of some kind every 400 words (iirc), and if those all have to be significant branching points things are going to get fractal pretty quickly
@Alexandra this is an interesting idea. IRL often very small forgotten details end up making big differences later. Misplacing one’s car keys is like that. Or doing or omitting some small thing that later proves to be monumental. And sometimes the big choices end up having less consequence than they seemed at the time. It would be interesting to work these ideas in without announcing them so directly as ‘choices’. Perhaps hiding them, making them incidental to other choices. What do you think?
Well, not significant, but the author should put a bit of work into it (you don’t wanna know how many of the choices in my thing are currently marked ‘needs polishing’ aka 'do something more with this)
If you overuse *fake_choice or make choices that are irrelevant (often just to up the wordcount) you should take a long, good look at what you are doing.
Cause in many of these cases it’s very simple to fix the problem and add actual content.
Yeah, this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, actually. One of the ‘limitations of choicescript as a medium’ (someday maybe I"ll contribute to that thread instead of just thinking about it ) is that you can’t hide choices as you can in other games. I can’t hide something in a corner of a room without clearly listing checking there as a choice, and then it’s not really hidden. How many people, given the choice ‘Take a closer look at your surroundings or Keep moving’ are going to rush ahead when there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to not looking for extra content?
The clearest fix is to make the choice look like it’s about something else, or emphasize possible consequences of investigating every detail. If, in context, the character is being pursued, stopping to look around might be a really bad idea. If you don’t, you’ll never know if you would’ve actually had time. But that’s still obviously an ‘important’ choice, and not quite the subtlety that’s so interesting (and true to life). Hmm, you could have choices that look like they’re more about the plot direction, where the big change is in how they make the npcs think of you…
Using omission to hide something has a lot of potential… Maybe your character has a few things to do, but (unknown to the reader), won’t have time for the last thing on the list, so the order you choose matters more than you’d think. Even more subtly, you could have the option to do everything or stop early, and it’s stopping early that gives you some extra content. Or an npc is walking through an area and you’d only meet them if you came to a room in a particular moment.
Hero Unmasked! (a good superhero game in the library put this to use:
At one point you are gathering evidence against a corrupt businessman/crime boss.You can only pick a handful of options before he’ll surprise you. Also, there’s a chance that you gorge yourself on cookies in his office… which are laced with something. If you don’t have a high enough stat to shake it off OR if you took too long this will result in him capturing you and all evidence is gone.
@Alexandra Good thoughts. There seems to be a style that everyone relies on. And yet
I think some of us can see limitations. Those limitations could also be useful if played correctly. You are right, choices just seem to holler out ‘important’, seemingly making it difficult to be subtle. (Do people want subtle?)
One possible answer might be in what I’ve heard magicians refer to as ‘misdirection’. To point to something else, to distract the audience, while actually performing the magic trick. To use my illustration of the lost keys. Maybe you could do something like this: At the beginning of the story you describe a character going off somewhere. He quickly grabs his jacket and hears a jingling inside, maybe it’s keys, maybe money. Don’t make it clear. Make it an early throw away comment. Then have the character do many things. Don’t mention the
jacket for a long time. As the result of a choice totally unrelated to the final goal, and a mistaken choice at that, he ends up in some place where a small fire breaks out. He uses his coat to smother it. It is ruined. He leaves it behind. Later it is revealed that the jingling was keys and he becomes seriously trapped a result. (These poor car keys are working awfully hard for the plot!) This was actually both omission and commission wasn’t it? But the point is this, the wrong choice leads him the wrong way. And this should have a serious effect upon him. But the real choice was hidden.
Maybe something like this. I’m new to CoG. You’ve probably had more experience trying to make these things work. I see you have a WIP. If you don’t mind maybe I’ll give it a look. (Although maybe I shouldn’t. I’m pretty honest with my comments. But constructively.) I’m coming at this IF idea more from a writing perspective. And I’m trying to figure out how it all works. I’m already noticing some gamer tropes that can probably be shelved. But I’m still thinking about it. I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to coding yet. Thanks for your thoughts
Alexandra. What do you think of my misdirection idea?
I agree that “Choice that doesn’t matter” to the outcome of the following event can actually add suspense, flavour and even mystery to the entire story-line , even though the ending is the same…
For example , let say that you have option A, B and C before the final conclusion where the villain reveal him/herself… in this case, no matter what you choose between A,B and C, the scene where the villain reveal him/herself is the same… but each of the choice A,B and C will give readers a hint, clue and motive regarding why he/she is the villain, it is like breaking the evidence into 3 pieces, where each piece is not sufficient enough to paint the whole picture of why the villain do it… it will give motivation for readers to read through all 3 choices again in order to get all the pieces together to understand what actually lead up to the final sequence…
I actually learn about this from Hearts of The House , where protagonist had been given choices where each choice leads him/her to a different Dream/memory/revelation, even though the sequence where he/she wake up is the same, but each choice give a different perspective of what actually happen in the past… hence readers tend to revisit those different choice again in order to understand the whole picture or to learn more about what happen in the past , since each playthrough only reveal us part of the mystery , it will be tempting to re-do those choices again even though the outcome may be the same…
another example is Community Hero college and Guardian of Sun and Moon (WIP) , where before the protagonist go for the test, there were multiple choices of activities such as revision , training or dating … while even though the following sequence is the test ultimately, but performing different choice leads to different consequence , such as revision will allow protagonist to “learn” about the answer for multiple choice question in the test, training will add combat stat and dating increase relationship …
so, the choicescript actually can perform wonderful story-telling with good maneuver and imagination of the so-called “fake choice” without making things complicated…
and true to the topic, it will certainly increase the word count as well
I quite liked that choice, actually. I read it as having only one purpose: to give a sense of the sheer scale of the HQ. It does that efficiently.
Yes, by framing it as a choice Sergi disappoints anyone who hoped that you’d actually have the chance to explore the vastness. He creates a negative possibility space, at least for some readers. He could have partly filled in that space by giving two lines of trivia after each option, as you suggest–though of course a critic of a slightly different bent would consider that to be equally “lazy and only ups the wordcount.”
But it’s always worth recalling when we talk about Heroes Rise: it’s a CoG bestseller, their first, with sales and a fan base that other games lack. So whlie the things it does may legitimately fall under “what I don’t like,” I’m not sure “what doesn’t work” is an accurate heading unless it’s immediately followed with “for me.”
And I’ve never agreed that fake_choices are an insult to the genre, in any quantity. But then, as I’ve probably said ad nauseam, that’s because the story I’m interested in sits in between the reader’s ears, not on a stats screen, and any fake_choice that can add meaningfully to that imagined story is fine by me.
I still say its absurdly lazy and thus fails to create an idea of vastness. It would NOT have hurt sergi to come up with one or two sentences of trivia about the locations.
THAT would have given a sense of vastness. Like this? Its just padding.
He can spent page after page writing about 60+ latex dominas in his games, but a short bit on which villains are currently locked up in the prison ward of the HQ is asking too much?
(Also… lbr HR going by todays standards wouldn’t fly anymore. )
Yeah, every author has their own little things, but with HR it’s especially grating cause, as said elsewhere, it’s not a CYOA and I doubt Sergi ever had or has any interest in making it on.
He barely meets the guidelines, the story is extremely railroading etc.
He’d have done better with just writing the thing and going for vanity publishing.
And to get back on topic:
It’s honestly an advice to every writer: If you hold no interest in turning your writing into a CYOA, just write the plain story and put it on Ao3 or go for self-publishing.
I know it can be hard writing those other paths, allowing the MC to do stuff you wouldn’t pick had someone else written the game, but…
Things are getting a bit too negative for my taste, although I’ll freely admit I opened this particular can of worms…
I’ll just sum up my feelings here without any particular callout:
If a choice isn’t particularly significant, like choosing what to have for dinner in Keeper of the Sun and Moon? Perfectly okay for a choice like that to not have any more than a mention, maybe a few bits of trivia attached to it. If a choice presents the opportunity to explore? Give some means of exploring, even if it’s only a token amount of words, it’s better than nothing. If a choice shows off your internal feelings? Honor that choice. You don’t have to have it branch off into a new subplot. Again, it could simply be a few lines reinforcing said choice. Present a diverging point in the story, which is treated as important or even dire? Treat the consequences with as much seriousness as the buildup. Even if all you can affect is a minor change, change something.
I’m not asking for a sprawling epic wherein every choice branches of into one of a multiverse of choices. Simply having your choices have tangible weight is enough. Respecting your player enough to acknowledge their choices is enough.
Yeah, apparently most of us “diehard” folks on the forum don’t like Heroes’ Rise and its sequels and spinoffs all that much but I believe Jason has told us multiple times now that they apparently sell really well.
Perhaps it would be better to view them less as games and more as novels.
Sadly true. So many missed opportunities there. In all honesty I would have settled for Lucky getting the same care and attention put into his romance as Black Magic or even just Jury.
It certainly disappointed me.
I dare say you’ve got your own fan base now @Havenstone.
Heroes Rise still railroads me far too much for my liking, my mc is forced to be a bratty petulant kid in it for the quick fame. However the only time I actually wanted to be a bratty petulant kid and read Rebellion and the Major the proverbial and possible literal riot act at the end the only options given are to be curt and polite or slightly more long-winded and polite. Where I was like screw politeness at that point.
Now the fake choices I am most likely to like are character defining ones, like hair and eye colour even if the game does little with them.
Of course I absolutely love what @Snoe is doing with “Freak amidst the Neon Lights” and those character creation choices occasionally briefly pop back into the game and the npc’s remark on some of them and they even cause minor plot deviations, but I like many of them even if that isn’t the case, because they help me flesh out and define my character.
I enjoy fake choices that cause me agony because, thanks to the deftness of the writing, I don’t yet know they’re fake choices—sometimes not even upon a second play-through. Study in Steampunk is masterful at this, I think. There was one particular place where I spent a good five minutes agonising over how to explain something to Woodward. It wasn’t until my third play-through (and a quick glance at the code) that I was sure it was as fake as a *fake_choice could get, no stats, no extra lines, nothing. The
*fake_choice here was absolutely stellar, in my opinion, not just for the thought it made me put into my character, but even more so for the five minutes of worry it gave me as the reader.
I do feel that CS games can be less about the amount of choice and more about how well the illusion of amount of choice is maintained, so ‘does this craft a convincing illusion’ is at least as important a question as ‘how much does this actually branch’, I think, depending of course on the style of game and goals of the author.
To me, a fake choice can be one of two things.
It’s extremely infuriating when the choice pretends to matter. It’s pretty much always painfully obvious when this is the case.
It’s very meaningful when it gives purpose. Context is the king of fake choices. It is the embodiment of player-creator narrative. I’ll point out what I mean in the example below.
While it isn’t a fake choice, in Tin Star you can choose what you leave behind before you travel west. It doesn’t matter as far as anything except the immediate line from the Marshall is concerned. Yet the amount of choices are many and they anchor the narrative very efficiently. Whether you leave behind a family or a plot of land has no bearing on any other choice, but it gives a very different view of the story as a whole. If you left behind a family, then pursuing a romantic interest tells a great deal more about your character than if you had none. If you had a lot of land back east, then staking out a claim and building a house in the west tells a great deal about your character’s desire to stay.
This is a case where a pure fake choice would’ve been fine. The essential point isn’t a question of branching content as such, but one of branching imagination on the player’s part. Tin Star is full of that kind of stuff, where(I assume) a lot of time there are fake choices on how you respond to something(whether you say “Yes indeed.” or “Sure.” or just nod your head, or such). It fleshes out how you view your own character, which in my opinion is pretty valuable. Essentially it allows the dialogue to remain inert and thus saves a lot of effort on the part of the creator, while still giving value to the experience. (although they’re not as such fake choices since they usually lead to one of two real choices(yes or no), but essentially if there are four ways of saying yes, three of those are fake choices in practice even if they aren’t labeled as such in code)
What matters is that I, as the player, created the context for the story to follow. Even if nothing really changes, everything changes. The lens by which I examine the narrative is different. Of course it’d be great if there were some references to such choices, but realistically that’s a bit too much to hope for in many cases.
So are War of Infinity and Masters of Infinity the working titles of books 4 and 5, or final titles? They imply some interesting things, like Tierra challenging Takara and/or Kian and it leading to a massive war, and them possibly succeeding based on your choices?
Here i would like to add that , “Fake Choice” within Tin Star is very limited for my opinion … the so called “fake choice” only appear at the beginning and end of story , but the ending choices allow me to forge my own legacy as well as my own romantic life in the end … having a love triangle with both Carrie and Maria with an official marriage with one of them was most satisfying .
In addition, with different choices in Tin Star… we could have an entirely different story plot or scenes , thus enhancing it with a different reading experience, example If we ask about the ex-Marshall’s grave with Ben first, we could only visit the grave ourselves, but if we ask about it with Carrie, we could have Carrie accompany us to the grave and there will be a further backstory about Carrie , accommodate with her mourn to a friend who she once tried to save
and we also have choices of who we bring to the theater depending on who we visit, bringing Maria or Carrie will have a total different romantic scene , most importantly we also will receive a secondary romantic scene with the RO who we don’t bring to the theater , i Brought Maria to the Theater , so i will receive a chance to make bullets with Carrie next … If i brought carrie, i will have a secondary scene with Maria instead
these may seems not affecting the general outcome of the main plot . but it gives a different romantic journey along the way… even the mission of overcoming the flood will bear significant achievement within the “history” of the story line
These all are a good examples of how word length matter in a story
Edit: I just remember that we must ensure the lead antagonist survive ( a choice) , in order to have a true happy ending with both Maria and Carrie , even so we must also select the choice of becoming the Mexico Governor in order to marry Maria or ensuring Carrie have a lavish life there