List of all stories by word length

All games, even the most sand-box of sand-box games (minecraft, etc) have boundaries. The perception of those boundaries is what makes or breaks a particular gamer’s acceptance. We keep reinventing the railroad, in hopes that one design or another will find greater acceptance as we go along.

CS is still a relatively “new” engine - there are features and functions being introduced and expanded upon all the time - yet no matter what is done, gamer’s imagination will collide with the boundaries as they exist. We can only hope that CS provides us the flexibility to keep our audiences engaged and attached to the story.

Part of this is the developer/writer’s skill in using Choice Script and part of it is the gamer themselves.

When I first rode Space Mountain, the element of darkness added to the roller-coaster made the experience more unique and thus more enjoyable then the Matterhorn roller-coaster which was just “another” roller-coaster run in day-light. Yet the atmosphere of the Matterhorn was really well-done and its theme separated the ride from other more “normal” roller-coasters.

With our games here, people like @kgold can get into the code aspects and do wizardly things. This is adding the darkness above. Not everyone can add unique elements to their games the way that some of us can. Most of us (me included) have to make our game (roller-coaster) stand out from the others by adding atmosphere and theme-work.

*Fake_choices were developed for code-challenged writers like me who need to work at developing the game in ways that allow our audiences to connect and stay connected to our narrative. For a very long time in this community, fake_choices were really looked down on - even as late as 2015, after the script itself was expanded there was many people that disliked this feature.

“Choices that don’t matter” to the narrative may be the glue that holds your connection to the reader; done right, it adds immersion and believability. It allows the suspension of disbelief to be overcome, it is part of the illusion that is created by your game.

What we all create here may not be the Great (insert Nationality) Novel or the industry shaping video-game of the decade, we still create value entertainment that serves purpose - and perhaps if we are lucky or skilled enough we can create a game that will impact our audiences enough that they get more then momentary entertainment out of them.

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I’ve been thinking about this, because I’ve got a few, I guess, fake-out choices that are there to misdirect from plot twists. So the choices are offered as if thing A is going to happen, but then thing B does.

What are you going to do with the rest of the evening?
*fake_choice
       #Do the laundry.
       #Bake cookies.
       #Watch TV.
But no sooner have you made up your mind than you are abducted by a passing UFO!

Would you consider that irritating railroading or invalidating choices, or is it ok as long as it’s not overused?

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I think it can add to the storytelling. The problem, as with the kazoo example, is when you make a choice about what your character is going to do and then the game tells you your character does something else anyway. If it’s unavoidable external circumstances, like the UFO, a *fake_choice like that could misdirect, add to the reader’s perception of their character, or exacerbate a feeling of helplessness that’s part of the story.

For example, there’s a choice in @Interestedparty’s Blood Hunter right before something awful happens. This choice has absolutely no effect on the event following, but I think makes the tragedy even worse, because you immediately think oh no, this is my fault, I could’ve picked the other option, which is exactly what your character would be thinking.

I heard (haven’t played it myself yet) the latest Samurai of Hyuga book has a choice with two options that are always grayed out, no matter what you do, conveying this idea that you wish you could do something else, but can’t.

The Agent story in SWTOR has a few dialogue choices that make absolutely no difference (all that Chapter 2 tension!), but it fits perfectly with what the plot is doing, the whole conflict of the arc rising from not having a choice about certain actions. Imo, it made the story more personal than it would’ve been as a static medium (movie/book).

So, I think choices like this have a lot of potential to add to a story, done well. Even if, in-story, the choice has no effect on what happens next, it would have an effect on the mc’s mindset, and you can still reflect that in stat changes.

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If the laundry choices change your stats, and have some unique text - maybe some extra development of NPCs - then I wouldn’t see much wrong with it. The UFO abduction is a plot development, and if the way the PC deals with it can vary between playthroughs, it will have a very different feel.

Of course, if there isn’t much variation then it may feel stale upon later playthroughs, without the element of surprise.

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I would, again, say, if it somehow adds to the actual atmosphere, fake_choices (genuine fake choices) can work.
Set back is that they can frustrated quickly if it feels as if the other choices would have made a difference.

What doesn’t work, and laundry is a wonderful cue here:
Laundrylists of choices that make no difference.
Again a big negative example comes from HR:
When being at the headquarter of the hero group, you are given a long list of locations and are asked what interests you most.
What you pick doesn’t matter.
The following text is ALWAYS the same
The author did not even take the opportunity to ACTUALLY make the thing feel big by coming up with a bit of trivia about the various locations.
Nope. same dull, unspecific text each time.
That is lazy and only ups the wordcount through the list.
(Again, whatever can be f*cked up in terms of CYOA writing, be certain HR provides a negative example )

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 :dizzy_face:

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@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?

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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.

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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 :grin:) 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.

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Hero Unmasked! (a good superhero game in the library :wink: 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.

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@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?

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@Eiwynn @Alexandra @Jacic

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 :smile:

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I quite liked that choice, actually. :slight_smile: 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.” :slight_smile:

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.

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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. )

EDIT:
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…

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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.

That’s all.

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