One-Shot or Trilogy?


I have this story pitch in mind that I’m planning on turning into a CoG game, however I’m still currently indecisive over whether it should be written as a one-shot or a trilogy.

You see, I have the general story laid out in mind, I know that with trilogies revenue can be potentially higher but the first two installments tend to be kind of linear but the last one is the most open branched (like the Heroes Rise trilogy).

I know that good games here contain plenty of choices with various outcomes, so how does a trilogy work to keep the readers satisfied with its generally linear plotlines until the final installment?


Hmm…I think if the story is really great, people won’t mind the linearity so much (as shown by Heroes Rise.) And I’d say a series is the wisest choice, but it also depends on how long you want the whole thing to be.


Were one-shots like Tin Star successful?


It’s important to think practically. While a trilogy may seem like the best option, it’s a lot of work. You have to consider whether or not you have the time and if you are willing to expend so much effort into one idea. I think that the best choice would be to write one game and give it an ending that hints at a sequel but is still a complete story in itself. Then you can see the reception the game gets, and if it’s generally positive and you’re still enthusiastic about the idea you can write the next game. That’s just my take on it.


Tin Star was very successful. But it was also very under priced.

Trial of the Demon Hunter is a part of a six volume saga, and it’s been pounded pretty badly on the ratings for being shorter. Ideally, I think we would all like to make titles as long as Tin Star, but it’s just not possible for most of us. I’m content with releasing several relatively short titles under a large series.


In general people expect each game in a series to have a certain minimum amount of content, so if you make a one shot that still covers the same basic ground as a trilogy, you’ll probably end up doing less work overall. Of course those shorter games that the trilogy will be made out of means that you can release something sooner before the other parts are finished.

As much as I like @Samuel_H_Young’s Demon Hunter series I really don’t think that there’s much in a series that actually benefits the end user versus a longer single game. Most of the benefits go straight to the maker, possibly at the user’s expense. That may be something to think about when making this decision. Of course you can always come up with a way to mitigate that.


I would love to just make it all one big 700k story, but I wanted to be published before I got out of high school. :stuck_out_tongue:

One good thing that a series can do for a reader is that it can provide suspense. Another is that the author could take suggestions or advice from the reader between volumes. But yeah, generally I’d agree that most readers would prefer one massive story, or at least a few really big ones like Mecha Ace or Slammed! Unfortunately, I have to look at things from an economical standpoint for now.


This thread is very interesting to me, because I’m working on my first trilogy:

I wanted to try a multi-episodic project for a few reasons. I liked the idea of building fans of the story that I saw happening with ZE, Waywalkers and Heroes Rise. Basically, to be able to tell a larger story with characters that would continue forward and be looked forward to. To have a little suspense and mystery as people guessed what was going to happen next.

My games seem to naturally fall around the 130k mark, and the first part of The Lost Heir is hovering over that mark as I conclude the first draft. I don’t aim for that number, it just seems to happen. But Lost Heir is bigger and there’s lots to go. I have a good outline of the next two parts and I intend to write a good chunk of part 2 before I even beta test part 1, to make sure I have a good flow set up.

It seems like a bit of a risk though. What if nobody likes the first or second game? Will you push through with it? What if you lose interest yourself? Or what if you don’t like how the story is going or concluding?

As for branching, I abhor false choices and choices with no meaning. :slight_smile: So yes, I think your decisions should matter in the first 2 games.

One last thing to keep in mind. The success rate of seeing WIPs become finished games is very low. Unfortunately, my guess is that a trilogy would have even longer odds of finishing. So, I’d suggest that you make a single shot game @Harian, and if it ends up becoming a monster of a game, consider splitting it up after the fact. :slight_smile:


Well, it all depends. A 300k story split into three 100k stories would have a much higher chance of being finished.



I see… I’m also aiming for at least 100,000 words for my WIP if I intend to make it the first installment of a trilogy, though 130,000 would be quite ideal.

The challenges I face with integrating a story into a trilogy are related to the plot line, as I’d like to give each installment a plentiful supply of choices leading to different consequences, though this leaves me baffled over the ending of an installment, since the second part can only begin being left off with a more or less fixed ending… its only in the final installment when the story is the most branched out and leading to several different epilogues.

How would you address this issue?

By the way, I am a big fan of all your published games!


Good point… I could just try to write it all in one go, then split it into 3 parts… the release date for each installment would certainly come quicker then… I think that’s a good factor, is it?


Yeah, that’s the way I think of it: like it’s just one big story split into volumes.

And I plan on making the journeys in each volume have a lot of replay ability, but volumes 1-5 will always end in the same way, and then volume 6 will have a ton of different endings depending on various previous choices. This makes it easier to keep track of, and it only makes sense; there are always going to be set points, anyways.


I vaguely remember this scene at the end of the first installment of Heroes Rise, where the MC had to choose between killing Prodigal and saving the city from this nuclear attack, or keeping their moral code and not killing Prodigal at the cost of not stopping the nuclear holocaust, and the third option of finding another way using your infini powers.

From what I remember, I used my infini powers to stop the nuclear attack and didn’t have to ‘kill’ Prodigal, who got sent to a mental asylum.

Yet in the later installments the plot makes it pretty clear that the deathwave still happened or so I think… I haven’t played the whole trilogy over again, currently replaying HeroFall quite frequently.

Did this happen in the Heroes Rise series, where no matter which choice was made in the last installment the deathwave still happened in the canon of the following installment? So would that mean retconning is allowed when writing a trilogy?

Or am I just not recalling properly?


I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve never picked anything but “try to find another way to stop the wave” though, so I wouldn’t know.

But having a volume end in the same way regardless doesn’t mean disregarding a reader’s choice; just think of it like a point in the story where it’s set. Every CoG has many of those points.


@Harian I personally would say that Heroes Rise is a really bad example to follow. It does so many many things wrong, and I just don’t get why it’s so popular.


Lol xD. I’m rereading it, and it’s a good story. It’s just way too linear for an interactive novel.


@Samuel_H_Young Yeah, it seemed pretty good, until you realize that you’re expected to accept that everything that happened was orchestrated by a psychotic woman, and you really think about it…


The Prodiy is pretty contrived, but The Hero Project has a conspiracy that I actually think is gripping. The series gets better as it goes.


Hmmm… so if Heroes Rise isn’t the best example to follow plot structure wise in writing a trilogy what material reference is there?

Choice of Vampires isn’t yet a trilogy and besides if you survive the first book no matter what your adventures you’ll always end up in Memphis by the next book…

Affairs of the Court… you couldn’t progress to the next installment without developing a romantic relationship with the monarch, so they added a certain entry requirement for the progress of continuing the story, I’m not sure if that’s a good model to follow.

Heroes Rise was pretty linear when you think about it… yet it was a major success nevertheless… it somehow made an incredibly linear plot work and stick through with 3 installments… is there a better way to structure a trilogy plot line?

Beginning, Middle and End… just how much can one branch out in each piece…

Obviously the final installment presents itself with the most branched out plot line… the other two really just steer you into the basic premise of the final installment and remain sadly linear themselves to allow for that much desired several possible ending scenarios in the final installment, which basically means you have to somehow keep 2 linear installments awesome enough to get to the best part in the final installment…

Though I suppose the premise of the 2nd installment can vary slightly but not too heavily as in to deviate from the planned climax of the final installment…which then itself should have somewhat varied premises (mainly altered details) until the ultimate point of divergence arrives from the final installment…


The whole idea of a trilogy is a goofy and overdone construct anyway. The main reason people make so many trilogies is because people make so many trilogies.



I struggle with your questions too. A previous thread suggested that maybe the parts of a trilogy could have a few “non-canon” endings, sort of like alternative time lines or just the “what if” type stories from comic books. I might use that approach.

I’m working in my first WiP and I do plan to make a trilogy but the realty is true that most WIPs die and making a trilogy is a much higher hurdle in terms of time spent, opportunity cost and emotional/creative investment. The ending to my first Part will have lots of unanswered questions but will “wrap up” the plot sufficiently (I hope) to satisfy readers.