Mixing Random Encounters With Reader Selected Choices

Morning, Everyone.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking into some other aspects of Choicescript’s engine. I’ve dived a bit into gobsub and rand commands, both of which were first highly confusing for me.

In order to understand how they work, I started a small side project where I’ve expiremented with those, but have, for the time being, starting focusing largely on random-based commands paired with Reader choices to try and see if I could create a scene that’s breathable and more lifelike.

More replayability, yeah?

And then I may have made the mistake to look the topic up, and now I’m questioning what I’m doing in the first place. I’ve seen a lot of comments about people not liking randomness in games/stories, whereas others are fine with it as long as there are still plenty of choices to go along with it so it can still be fun to go through.

As for a gist of the overall pet project I’m using to teach myself this:

It’s a ghost story. I like ghosts.

The MC is on their last night in a haunted estate (manor house with loads of property around it for lots of possible locations to visit later, once I decide to try the gosub_scene command once again). The overall “plot” is trying to stop the ghost from killing the family.

Which is wants to do very badly.

There’s four members – a mom and dad, and two kids from two different marriages.

And here’s where the randomness comes in – the ghost and the “machine” which the player interacts with. The ghost itself is set up with more of an “AI” feel, where it can change course at certain intervals. It can go after different family members or the MC, and the reader won’t know (unless it’s a more obvious, ‘oh shit, it’s coming at me!’ sort of thing).

So, it would be more…responding to the ghost as it pursues its targets or changes course, all which may, or may not, be in the reader’s favor?

When I first started looking into gosub and rand commands, that idea came up and I was, “That’d be a really cool mechanic! I’m gonna try and learn to do it!”

Now I’m about 10k in, and now unsure of myself cause I’m an idiot that reads up on things, and curious if that would be something you all might like to see later on?

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It sounds interesting.

What I think people dislike about random stuff in CoGs/HGs is when the random function makes it impossible to get a satisfying result.
E.g. there are games in the library in which, no matter how good a skill is, you can’t ‘win’ because the random function said ‘no’. Some defend it as realistic, but for the most part it’s frustrating when what you do before doesn’t matter because things boil down to the toss of a coin.

and that’s the tricky thing:
I have seen people who e.g. have not encountered certain paths in Heart of the House, despite multiple playthroughs because they simply got ‘unlucky’ with the random roll.

As for your story: How much would the ghosts and who they go after differ in terms of what stats are used to face them, and when are these stats build up.
Because the frustration level could get very high if someone sets up skills to fight ghost A from their previous playthrough only to encounter B against which the stats are useless.

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That’s what I’ve been working on, actually.

The ghost, in question, has three “modes.” It goes after its first target, goes passive/dormant, or changes target. However, with each, there’s plenty going on around this random event, and lots of choices throughout, where readers/players can still push through.

I’m not much of a “stat person,” as I like choices far more. It’s gaining information through conversation and investigation and implementing that information in the moments when the Ghost comes roaring down the hall. Or tries to make someone throw themselves over the rail on the fourth floor.

I don’t like the entire “you failed to win because you didn’t have a high enough stat” thing. I could never keep track of mine, in stories I played, cause I always forgot to check the Stat Menu cause I was too absorbed in the story overall.

I have thought about trying to implement a “Sanity” check for the MC and the family the readers would be trying to help, but I haven’t quite figured out how to work that in, as of yet. Knowing how many points to add, or take off, confuses me something firece. Hence my like of picking choices and having leeway to learn as I go so I know what is least likely to kill me in a game later on.

The modes could be a problem if they are random.

I might be pessimistic, but one negative scenario could go like this:

Ghost goes after first target, random decides second target, without the MC having time to get more input.

If you make it that the mc can always get enough input, whether or not the ghost goes dormant etc, i.e. does anything to give the mc space to breath, it can feel odd in consecutive playthroughs.

To use a different example:
There are games in which no matter what you do, no time seems to actually pass between two core events.
Like the MC can leave the house to go to the town square, but no matter what path they take, no matter what they encounter, the same amount of time will always pass whether or not they go to the square directly without stopping, or go the long way round to pick flowers and chat with the shepherd.

That is exactly why I’m writing each one separately, with that in mind.

The first “random” encounters are small ones. To give a feel for how that goes, while also hinting at how it can adapt later. When I first started this little project, I was thinking 5 or 6k before I’d be done with it. Learning curves, figuring out how to write it all, how to make it feel organic and give readers a way to react each time.

Now I’m closer to 14k (counting a few other scenes that aren’t part of the main one I’m working on, otherwise it’d be more around 9-10k). I intentionally added a “warning” regarding where the ghost is – there’s a TON of cameras throughout the manor house and the grounds and, when the MC isn’t manning them, an AI designed to help solo Ghost Hunters watches the camera feeds in the Readers place. The moment it notices the Ghost moving somewhere, or if it’s paused/disappeared, it informs the reader.

If it changes targets, it’ll also let the reader know which direction its heading and who could be the target. In a lot of Ghost Hunting shows, there’s usually a team involved. But I wanted a limited cast of characters to make it a bit more simple, but did need a second pair of eyes watching out for the MC.

I def want readers to have time to process.

Especially if the damned Ghost decides to be a dick and change targets. There’s the warning ahead of time, which is a way to let Readers be aware of the fact the Ghost is moving in a different direction which could mean its changed targets.

Modes are random, but there’s a warning.

And, yeah, there’s nothing quite as annoying as reading two scenes where one should take longer than the other…and have them take place over the exact same space of time. Long way takes more time. End of story.

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If you need any code examples for either using the die roller to affect outcomes or using it to choose entire scenes that the reader sees, The Parenting Simulator has both. I won’t pretend that it’s the most elaborate or streamlined way to pull it off; I am a writer first and a coder like twentieth. But it did work. Just mind the fact that going to the stat page changes the roller results, so you probably want some page breaks and such in there between when results are determined and when they are visible to readers.

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I implement the random events a “page or two” before they actually come into play. And I use a dice mechanic for it, too. Took me forever to figure out :

*rand dice 1 10
*page_break

That prevents the random event from changing. Read up on that through various forms and the online guide about that. Also read it up in a post you were part of (or wrote, not sure) when talking about random events with assassins. I bookmarked that page for reference, I believe, but it’s been awhile since I’ve gone back to it.

I use dice for random events. 1-10 or higher, as more numbers seem to make it choose different options far smoother than a shorter range of numbers would. From my own experience, anyway.

And I’m the same. Writer first. Coder? That’s the last thing I am.

The random events are written in to be as organic as possible, without interrupting the narrative. Trying to avoid jarring, sudden shifts that would pull the readers out of the narrative. I, personally, hate when that happens!

Haven’t read the Parenting Simulator, though. It’s being added to my list of “Future Reads”

And my own system for the random events is large and a tad unsightly, but it does make sense to me. As long as it functions as I want it to.

EDIT

I also learned THIS

*rand dice 1 10
*choice
#Choice1
#Choice2
#Choice3

Functions the same way as a *page_break

It’s lovely

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I feel like I need to give my take on it since my opinion is probably pretty unusual. As a kind of “people like me exist, even though that’s weird” kind of thing :rofl:

So, if I’m told an IF type game contains random elements, I won’t play it. Well, unless these are very minor flavor text elements.
Why is that? Well, it’s because of my unique playstyle. I actually don’t care at all about replayability, but about “my perfect canon playthrough”. A playthrough I perfect by replaying again and again even if I’m unsatisfied with a single small choice. I restart a game more than 20 times while playing, usually, since the damn things don’t have a save function.
And then, once I’m done, I replay the game, sure. But I have a notepad with all of my choices marked down, and I replay ONLY in the exact same way every time…
I think you can see the problem coming, right? If the game has major random elements, it would ruin my canon playthrough. So basically, it actually “kills the replayablility” for me, since I wouldn’t want to replay and risk it giving me a different result. And that is assuming I’d have the patience to actually finish the game, considering I’d have to restart even more since I’d be restarting if I make a mistake AND if the game loads a scenario I don’t want.

That would be okay if the games had a save function, but well, since that isn’t the case in finished games it would be unmanageable to me.
I already remember my suffering with Way Walkers University 1, that has a HUGE random thing at the end - an event that happens in the same way, but affects a random thing, which in turn will hugely impact the future of the MC. I had to restart the ENTIRE game a lot of times to get the specific result I had the first time around, because I had a bug and couldn’t export my character when reaching the end.
And that was only ONE thing. Having random elements all around the story would make it unplayable to me.

Now, I repeat, this is only ME!
Please don’t let that discourage you, as I’m sure a lot of people will actually enjoy the random factor. It’s just not for me.
Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone play the way I do, and that’s why I wanted to write this, so you know people like me can exist, even if we are a huuuuge minority I’m sure.

What I do agree with other people on is that the random elements shouldn’t prevent the players from reaching a good outcome.
For example, all MCs should be able to complete a “random selected path”. If the skill checks on the various paths are different and manageable for different stats, then it would be frustrating since on one path a player could overcome the obstacle, and not on another path.

Recently I have read a WIP that I really liked as far as randomness goes, because when starting the game, the player gets to select if they want randomness or not. So basically, if they do, all random elements will happen at random. And if they don’t, then when supposedly random things are to happen, a choice is actually presented and the player selects what happens. This is ideal in my opinion!

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Would you share and elaborate more on which things people dislike randomness?

I’m kind of the opposite — I like to see all possible variations from endings all the way to small details (I’m also an achievement hunter :sweat_smile:) so randomness might throw a wretch in my plans by making it hard to reach the particular outcome I’m going for (in replays, of course, in the first playthrough I’m pretty much fine with whatever I get since I don’t start with a specific goal in mind).

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nah man this is not weird at all, i do this myself, haha but sometimes i have to force myself to continue since i am so far in to the game :stuck_out_tongue:

i like that it is a save function in the WIP because then it is easyer to look for bugs and do testing

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There’s a lot to absorb in that post of yours.

And I understand your sentiments. Each of us have a playstyle. I’m very flexible. I’ll usually try a game a second time if I make it all the way through the first time around (and it’s rare when that happens – too many stats tend to throw me off the story cause I reach a choice I’d like and am unable to do it cause I picked a different strength. Like, why can’t a “nerdy” character also be stealthy when the situation calls for it? If the text is repetitive, it also turns me away.)

I’ve also been considering having two distinct “Story Modes,” as well.

One which is default, which is where the randomness comes in. Then a “Soft Mode,” where all the “random events” are re-scripted as options players can choose instead. I’ve tested a few areas for that, actually, and it’s doable. Just finding the right wording is the hard part.

I wasn’t aware there was a post about that, but it’s something I’ll look up. Or maybe I read it in a post, somewhere, but skimmed over it? That’s also a possibility.

I do want to ensure readers can enjoy my writing, random events or not. Adding in the Story Modes wouldn’t be that difficult, given I’ve done a soft-test on it as is. If that would also ensure some readers who wouldn’t read it otherwise would give it a try, then it’s worth it.

And the way I’m writing this little project is to ensure random events won’t prevent a reader from getting a “good” outcome. Unless they make a really stupid choice, which there will be a few in there. Cause, ya know, people make stupid choices in life, too.

And, as of right now, there aren’t any “stats.” Just a shit ton of booleans.

Like, it’s somewhat absurd with how many there are.

I have a habit of tying a boolean to every choice on the off-chance I may work that choice into the story at a later point. If I don’t, it’s not a big deal. But if I do need to reference a quote a character said after a certain choice, I have the measures in place to do it without having to make an adjustment later on that would likely confuse me.

Stats confuse me. So I tend to avoid them.

Konoi summed it up, pretty much.

There’s a lot of readers who aren’t overly fond of random events because of the lack of control. The unpredictability of a story can be offputting, especially going through and having a scene change, completely, cause a different route was selected can be frustrating.

I like those sort of things, tho, so I’m attempting to learn a way to write (and code) those very things in a way that would be enjoyable for all readers. There’s also the fact that some have discouraged it given all the extra writing that would go into it.

I’m not. At all.

Half the time, I forget achievements exist unless they pop up on my screen. Then I’m glaring at it cause it’s blocking part of the text at the bottom of the screen.

This, however, is me.

I like seeing how one choice alone can change the pace of the story or take it in a different direction. It’s interesting to come across a story where a choice doesn’t have a small body of text under it that links to a large portion of text that’s been linked to the other choices, too.

While writing all the small changes can be time-consuming, it’s something I’m more than willing to do. Cause that’s what I’d like to read, so I might as well write it. What’s the point in trying to write a story I, myself, wouldn’t read?

Seems counterproductive to me.

How? How can you make yourself continue a game if it loses your interest? Gods, I’ve tried. I really have. But there are certain points when the story loses credibility with me to the point I can’t force myself to continue.

Most of the time, I can get through one round. Rarely can I go through a second time because I’m essentially reading the exact same story over again with a few dialogue changes or a few extra scenes (if I’m going down a romance). For me, forcing myself to replay a story again just to see how a different romance works rarely happens cause I don’t like rereading the same content over again.

And the fact I’m a writer shocks me, with that in mind.

I often have to take long breaks from my writing because I’m getting annoyed rereading the same paragraph a hundred times over. You, my dear, are a saint if you can force yourself to keep going regardless.

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Seems similar to the thing I have mentionned at the end of my post then, and it’s something I like a lot!

I think that WIP wasn’t actually posted on the forums, but only avaible through DashingDon. Someone suggested it to me and linked to DashingDon directly.

And now I love you for that!
Stats are my bane, as I like to say. I can manage if a game isn’t too heavily stat focused, but I like what you’re saying waaaay more!

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Love ya too, sweatheart. :slight_smile:

Stats are my waking nightmares. I don’t understand them, nor how to implement them in a story. So I said “screw that,” threw that idea out the window, and focused on everything be strickly boolean-based. If I do need a “stat,” I do it based on a point system.

So, if there’s a stealth option, I’ll add +1 to every stat there is. And when that part comes up, I’ll do a huge coding section going through every stealth option, starting from the highest point at that point in the story, and work down from there.

If the stealth part doesn’t have a “pass,” I’ll work in a different route which addresses the lack of stealth at that point and have the characters go a different way cause I’m not the kind of lady to kill the main character off in the middle of a story because of stats. Just…no.

In general, though, I avoid stats like they’re the plague.

Cause, ya know, simpler.

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I wouldn’t worry about that. You’re writing a GAME game and not a STORY game. The focus is on trying to stop the ghost, not building a character and enjoying a story. Random sounds perfect for what you are trying to do.

Also, Breach had random in fights, and that seems to be pretty popular anyway.

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That is, indeed, true.

The story’s core is centered on stopping the Ghost, which is a Troll in every way I can of it in terms of doing things which players might not like. And it also have a large number of ways it can kill the various people in the family. Which, really, isn’t all that nice.

But, yes, the focus is stopping the dead tyrant from being a dead tyrant.

And I never thought I’d write that line. Might add that into the story :smiley:

However, I do like to adding in a story into the background with all the chaos. There isn’t much focus on character building outside of gender and name. Appearance and everything else is up to the reader’s imagination.

And, when I first started thinking of this idea, I thought the random events would be perfect. When I paly a video game where I’m running from the AI-controlled antagonist, I like it to be able to adabpt and counter me as I flee from it.

Makes it a lot scarier and more fun to play.

I haven’t played Breach, but I’ve eyed it. Have been eyeing it. Seems to be a fairly popular game, given the ratings on it. I may try it out officially, which would make that another game and/or story to add to my reading list.

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This is true, and in that game it worked really well!
i would recomend having a talk with the author of that game :slight_smile:
@TheChaosArchivist

i dont know its brutal sometimes x)

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I’ll def look them up and get some input from them, that’s for sure!

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I think you can split randomness into ‘randomness of outcome’ and ‘randomness of opportunity’.

It’s the first that I think most people have an issue with. This is where you pick your actions and the outcome is then randomised. Particularly annoying if it’s a straight pass/fail and even more so if you have an opportunity cost where you have invested into one route which gets slammed shut by chance.

Personally I would avoid randomness of outcome like the plague. It’s a device used to make games ‘harder’ and ‘replayable’ but usually just annoys the player by being unfair.

Randomness of opportunity means that a variety of thints can happen and the player can respond accordingly. As you have already mentioned, giving players warning and information about the ghosts intentions allow them to respond.

The balance to strike is giving the players enough warning and agency and not accidentally penalising a particular playstyle. This sort of Randomness is great for generating replayability and tension.

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Those are the stories I dislike. The random “pass/fail” is a nightmare, especially if you do have the stats where you should be able to pass. Played a few demos like that, and I was beyond infuriated because I knew my character should have gotten by just fine. Maybe a few bumps or brusies, but nothing as series as having to restart the ruddy game!

This sort, I agree, should be avoided.

That, there, is my aim. With each “random event,” there are three to four different things that can happen. All these random events come with a narrated, but clear, warning. The readers will know (I hope) to be prepared for a possible shift in the narrative.

Finding the balance is the key, I think.

And for those few who do abhore the random events, I’ll leave in the Soft Story Mode (which I had originally intended to use for people testing through the story and wanting to check through various routes for inconsistencies or errors I might not pick up myself).

But after talking with Konoi, I think I’m gonna leave the Soft Story Mode in as an actual function of the game itself so readers who like more control over the story and the events (as in being able to go through each and everyone, to see it all unfold and the variations) will have that option.

Though, naturally, I’ll recommend those playing for the first time to go with the Default Mode simply for the sake of experiencing the story as it was originally intended to be enjoyed. That, and then they could go through the Soft Story Mode and see where all the Random Events came in, which would be something I’d enjoy.

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