Let me try make an estimation of playthrough length and replayability based on personal experience with the games (those I’ve played)
3: Long gameplay time, various random bits that change from playthrough to playthrough, various paths and endings that require a great variety of approaches.
10: Middle to long gameplay time. No random bits, various endings and sub-endings, great variety of approaches.
15: Like 3 (minus the random bits), three books in one with the last one being split in four paths, possible to die before the definite ending.
16: Middle gameplay time, albeit it can be a bit confusing in terms of what is happened. Various endings, struck me as a little very stats-tied to get a good one.
17: Middle to long gameplay time, couple of endings (not much variety, though)
28: Middle to long gameplay time, various endings for various approaches.
Can the (awesome) writers posting HUGE word counts elaborate a bit about why they chose that route?
Was it simply because you thought the story demanded it? Was it an intentional decision to go wider? Did you feel a longer, wider story would be reviewed more positively? Did you figure that a bigger word count would equate to a higher per unit sales price? Or something else entirely?
I guess I just struggle with the economics. CCH2 will probably be in the 200k word range, and I’ve slaved for almost 2 years writing it. When I run the numbers, even if it sells well, I’m still earning mayyyybe minimum wage for the hours spent on it.
So I’m curious to hear other writers’ mindsets on this.
Let me start by saying I am so looking forward to it (also remind me to screenshot a bug I found in the first one Dx I keep forgetting)
Now, while I don’t even have a demo for my thing out yet (shame on me) I know that usually my main reason for the wordcount increasing is trying to either make a scene smoother, cut back on the stretching the suspension of disbelief or having a sudden idea of ‘yeah, it’d make sense to have this thing happen now’.
In the bit I just finished writing the story gained about 2k words (well 6k, seeing it’s three different paths) all because I realized the protag might easily arrive at the post-office a few minutes too late.
The worst case i had was trying to remove a literal divine intervention in a non-interactive novel, which ended with a 30k word flashback which in turn opened up at least 2 new plotthreads and turned one character’s motives upside down.
It’s partly a reaction to fan feedback, and partly what I like writing. The single thing people say they like most about Choice of Robots is how diverse and personalized the stories are. That’s one of a few things I thought I was doing with Choice of Robots, so with Choice of Magics I decided to really concentrate on that branchiness aspect and see what happened. Combined with fantasy’s tendency to need a lot of words to explain itself, that created a big word count.
The editors also once told me they did a regression on some games that came out around Choice of Robots and game size seemed to be correlated with sales*, but I always thought Choice of Robots had other things going for it, too, and I disliked that idea enough to write a shorter game after, partly just to show that wasn’t the whole story. But I do feel like I’m a fan of wide games, not necessarily long ones - those where it really feels like you’re having an impact on the story. So that’s what I’m going for with my latest game. I’m sure people have other reasons for writing long, too.
*edit: Or was it popularity in a poll? My memory’s actually fuzzy on this point, but it was certainly a regression that implied longer word count was more popular.
I don’t know why Tally Ho ended up quite as long as it did. I think part of the reason is because so much of it is about detailed relationships, and the option to spend a lot of quality time with characters. I wanted you to be able to talk to your love interest, to make your choice of love interest deeply shape the feeling of the game and give you lots of different scenes. I wanted people to feel like there was so much to do.
Mostly I think the ghost of P.G. Wodehouse possessed me. He wrote almost a hundred novels and dozens and dozens of plays and a billion short stories. So I mostly blame him.
Guns of Infinity was only supposed to be about 100k words long, if you believe it. The first act actually conformed to that pretty well, but as the story went on, more and more branches and consequences led to more and more case results which demanded more and more paths. In addition, I was also soliciting feedback from the fans, and a good chunk of that feedback was “why can’t I do ”. While a lot of these requests were unrealistic or had perfectly good Watsonian reasons for not being implemented, a lot of them didn’t, that not only meant more words for options, but also more add-on consequences for those decisions later down the line, just to make sure the players know their decisions had long-term results.
Add to that the fact that Guns of Infinity was a sequel which had to account for all the consequences of major decisions made in Sabres of Infinity, and 440k words is really what I should have expected. At this point, I’m expecting Lords of Infinity to easily break 500k words, though I’m also killing enough characters and burning enough cities to the ground making plans to ensure that War of Infinity and Masters of Infinity don’t balloon too far past that.
I assume it depends on whether they fall under the colloquial definition of “novel”, but my gut says no. I think there’s a distinction between “book” in the usual sense and “game-book”, but I could be wrong.
Checked it, definition of a novel is “a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.” the prose is the main part cog would worry about since the books are multi story based and not a singular story like a normal novel
Granted this may not be that big of a problem considering some books have gotten past this before(can’t remember the name but it was litteratly just the nigh-insane writings of a horribly schizophrenic man) and it still became a novel
Let me start off by saying that when I wrote my first two HGs, Trial of the Demon Hunter and Captive of Fortune, I was 17-18 years old with no novel writing experience. The stories ended up being decent, in my opinion, but they lacked character development overall, they were short, and they only had decent replay values.
TotDH clocks in at 80k and it was torn apart for being too short, which is something that I actually agree with now. I tried to learn my lesson, and made CoF much longer at 140k, but it recieved just as many “too short” reviews and comments. The third HG in the series, Foundation of Nightmares, has much more character development and better writing, in my opinion, but at this point, it’s a bit too late as the first two gamebooks saw little success.
Even though FoN ended up being 100k words, whic his right in between its prequels, each playthrough is as long as both of the other ones combined. Although I think that will help in regards to the "too short reviews, I had to sacrifice some replay ability to do that. You may be wondering why I’m babbling about all this…well, long story short, writing these three HGs gave me years of experience and helped me learn the hard way how to write a higher quality story that was better in all regards.
I’m currently working on a high fantasy romance HG, The Magician’s Task. As I type this, the word count is roughly 150k, making it the biggest individual gamebook I’ve written yet. And that’s not including the other 50k words that are still to come. The demo on my beta thread has 104k words, which is half of the story; despite that, it seems to be the consensus of all my testers that this is my best work yet. Now, this finally brings me to why I think TMT has done well so far, and similarly, why I chose to make these CS novels much longer than my previous titles. (TMT’s sequel, The Magician’s Enigma, will likely be a bare minimum of 300k words.)
Basically, I wanted TMT to have a large cast of engaging, three dimensional characters that my readers could grow attached to. I also wanted to have tons of replay ability, and several different romance options for people to choose from. As it stands, there are 4 romance options in TMT (2 females and 2 males) and there will be 4 more in TME (2 males and 2 females, of course.) I’ve also put a huge emphasis on replay ability.
Not only can you choose between 3 different kinds of magic (light, stealth, destruction) that will give you different choices throughout the whole series) but I included several different mini scenes in the story, half of which you won’t be able to get to in one playthrough. (This includes stuff like exploring necromantic caves and playing in a chess club, as well as choosing between four different jobs: thief, scribe, farmer, and guard.)
So my point is that doing all of this necessitates writing a longer story; it would pretty much be impossible to cram all of that into 100k words and still do it justice. Plus, it seems like stories that are generally longer (like 200k plus) almost invariably see more success than much shorter stories (like 100k or below.) CoG fans seem to really love longer stories and be allergic to shorter ones, and I actually think that it’s more fulfilling and fun to write longer stories (now that I’m actually in the process of doing that), though obviously it’s more demanding.
It seems that CCH has done a spectacular job, so I’m surprised it would have only rounded out to making minimum wage. (Though obviously the time you’re factoring into that is a huge factor.) My hypothetical numbers seem to be a lot different. I’m going to be generous and predict that The Magician’s Task will earn me around $10,000 in its first year. (I’m not crazy, right?)
Now, TMT will end up being about 200k long, and it takes me roughly an hour per 1k, so that would mean it would take me about 200 hours to write the full story. I’ll also add like another 50 for stuff like hardcore brainstorming, proofreading, and bug fixing. If I finish TMT in January, according to plan, it will have taken me 7 months to complete the story. But at 250 hours of work total, that would equate to $40/hr, and considering I’m a 22 year old coming from poverty, that would blow my mind. Let’s play the devil’s advocate and say TMT doesn’t do as well as I expect it to, and it earns $5,000 in the first year. That’s still $20/hr, which is pretty damn good in my eyes.
Anyways, sorry for ranting, guys. Hopefully there’s something at least somewhat interesting in that text wall.
I think that’s kind of deceptive of wikipedia in the way it’s phrased, although technically correct. It’s the number of words in a single published manuscript, rather than the total words in the entire story. As most books are still published on paper, there’s a limit to how many words you would want to put in a paper book. It’d just get too large to carry around. What usually happens is they get broken up into sequels instead. You’ll notice one of them says it’s a single novel in “ten parts published over a few years.” Not sure how that differs from your standard series (like wheel of time for example) where the books obviously continue straight on from where the previous book left off as part of the same story.
Actually, I was wondering about that, and so checked the History and Talk pages. Apparently Wheel of Time, together with Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter were on the page at an earlier date, but were then removed, although the Talk page did seem to say that both of the first two should be legitimate entries. (Harry Potter being considered more a series of connected standalones than a multi-volume story.)
Yeah it’s odd. Like there’s another one there that seems to be pooled from years worth of penny dreadful stories.
The only think that seems to count for this list at least, is they’re the same publisher and published as “one book”. So if you published something as My story volume 1, 2, 3. It’d get counted as 1 book. But if you published as My story book 1: the early years, My story book 2: school years, My story book 3: Working life. It’d then get classed as 3 different books. I could have it wrong, but it kind of seems to be splitting hairs that way.
Most of XoR’s design decisions boil down to “I wrote what I like to read.” That ended up being a story that at almost every point either offers space to explore or is rolling out consequences linked in some detail to your earlier decisions. It ended up coding-inefficient, following story threads I found interesting into sections that few readers will ever see (even for the bits that have achievements pointing the way – and not all of them do). It ended up being, well, LOOOONG.
Rebels would I think have to gross close to $200,000 before I made California minimum wage for the time I put into it. There’s simply no business justification for writing a game like this. It’s a game I wrote (and am writing) first and last for the creative pleasure of it. And of course, it still attracts the “Why can’t it be FREEEEEEEE???” one-star reviews.
I recognize I’m contributing to the problem of expectation inflation that Jason memorably mentioned to Cataphrak three and a half years ago:
and for that I feel kind of bad. But I have good company in Choice of the Cat and Tally Ho! at least.