So… I don’t even know where to start or what I’m entirely trying to say with all of this, but I’ll try.
Ok, so this thread is about discussing stats and the point of their existence in the first place. It has been something that I’ve always been thinking about ever since I started playing Choice of Games and I think that it would be nice to have a thread to talk about it.
I think that one of the main characteristics that distinguishes CoG games from others decision based games that I played before is the stats system. And I have mixed feelings about it, I can’t say that I hate them but… I can’t say I like them either.
One of the reasons might be that sometimes I feel that stats defeat the whole purpose of making the games based on the choice that the player makes, because most of the time I found out that stats encourage a type of gameplay that always consist in making the same kinds of choices through the whole game instead of making the player to deliberate about the decisions they make. It also makes me feel that Choice of Games are less part of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre, and more like strategy based games that consist in developing certain abilities in order to achieve a purpose. Besides, I don’t know if having indicators of how well are you doing and how developed are your skills can make the games a lot less difficult.
This is no meant to say that I don’t recognize how stats can also be useful. I mean, I know that they can present some of the themes of the game and making the character conscious of what are they choosing, usually with what I would consider personality stats. I mean I am more aware of what my decisions mean when I see that in games like Choice of Robots have stats such as Humanity or Empathy. And stats can also be useful to create a game that is less based in guessing a right choice, and more about creating games that can accomplish the same purposes in different ways.
And there is also a particular kind of stats that I have never liked at all. I’m talking about relationship stats. I mean I would get them if the games are heavily based in relationships, like a dating sim, in which case they are like more skill stats. But otherwise, I don’t like them because sometimes I like to be able to disagree with a character of be angry with them about certain things without feeling that I’m being punished for it, I don’t know it always make other characters feel less like characters or it makes me feel that I should make choices that go against my MC personality because I don’t want to upset an NPC.
I guess that stats are neither good nor bad, they are a tool. And every author is supposed to use the tools that they have at their disposal in order to tell a story and impart certain ideas in the most effective way possible, but that doesn’t mean that the tool itself can generate problems. I’m at a point where I’m starting to consider making a game of my own and I still don’t know if I want to include stats or not, and I f I do, then how I do know what stats to create? And what would be the whole purpose of them?
I don’t know… I would like to hear the thoughts of other forum members on this subject.
THIS. I feel the same way. I don’t like feeling like my MC can’t be in a relationship with a character unless they agree 100% on everything. It would be so fun to still romance someone who disagreed with the MC.
The one that I remember the most was A Study in Steampunk when Garret returned from being “dead” I so wanted to be mad at them but I was afraid if I did then the romance would be over and I didn’t want that.
Designing stats helps you design a game within a (realistic) scope, and gives you almost what you’d call guidelines. You know that you have these many traits and need to accommodate those (and only those) equally(?) throughout your game. It gives defined paths and a strong format, and really does help people structure their game sensibly, and keep track of “decisions” in a non explicit way.
It is much easier to write at will, and add evil+10 every time, and check for if (evil>30) than it is for you to later do if (evil1 evil2 evil3 and evil4 happened).
Often you might even want to use hidden stats, in order to achieve the above, without having the negative effects you describe (breaking immersion, indirectly pushing the player down a “path” etc.)
I’d love to see more games with less explicit stats, but they certainly serve their purpose. Some people just like keeping track of how they’re doing too.
I don’t really mind skill/attribute stats. They sort of remind me of real life, where if you make the choice to put work into a skill, you will be better at it when the time comes to use it (read: stat checks). You can minmax stats (just like real life, where you need different skills to be a ballet dancer vs. a chemical engineer), but in a COG, there are multiple paths to choose , and to fully experience all of them, you would need to make multiple builds of a character with different stats (for example: Lords of Aswick’s Crusade path requires you to make some very different choices and needs different stats than the more conventional Statesman path [which also has some unique choicesdepending on which monarch you support]).
Relationships, on the other hand, are a lot less binary. I could see hidden variables dictating romance/ flavor text in the stats screen saying that you’re dating/engaged/married to the character. But you shouldn’t lose points for saying that you disagree with a high-relationship character (the stronger the IRL relationship, the more likely it is to survive disagreements and even blunt statements such as “Your breath stinks”.
I personally enjoy the stat system. While it can be frustrating to corelate your decisions to achieve your goals, I feel it adds a necessary element of realism that gives your choices weight and impact.
I’ve read stories where the character can seemingly do anything and people just go along with it regardless of their background or personal interests. The writing is stale and the plot usually feels empty. In apex patrol I’m not particularly invested in my crew members because their opinions of me don’t really factor into the story end.
Depending on your interests the limiting effect of stats can be rewarding, adding a sense of challenge to build a character that can achieve their varied goals through the story. To those who enjoy roleplay it allows them to better define their character, embracing or defying stereotypes as they wish. It also helps authors give order to branching story paths, allowing the diverging narrative to form an immersive world.
I’ve heard a person comment before that they felt like the open world, no consequence world of Skyrim allowed them to create a more fleshed out, compelling character than they felt they could in more RP-heavy games like Mass Effect just because, when not given pressure to act consistently, it allowed them to develop their character, let them change and grow, instead of needing to keep their stats consistent, and tbh I think about that a lot. I still tend to prefer a game with a more defined storyline but I’m also a lot more conscious of the way games sort of force their characters into being either ineffective or static.
The first statless CoG that jumps into my mind is Creatures Such As We, which I think worked really well. It told an intimate, emotion driven story and by leaving out the stats I felt a lot more in the moment of the game. It was a choice that didn’t feel like it should be as impactful as it was, but it really added to the atmosphere. But that’s also a game that’s really unique among CoG titles, and I think a lot of the choices that the author made wouldn’t really work again, especially on a title that isn’t as slice of life as that one.
I understand saying “this is a strategy game” is … something of a criticism, when CS was designed for storytelling, but I also know there’s people on the forum who really love getting into the stat grinding parts of the games. Even if I do treat them as stories before games, and think of them that way, there’s also a lot of times where just within the story it makes a lot of sense to use something you know you’re good at–the alternative to stat checks is letting the character succeed at whatever they try, and while I’m not adamantly against that, I think it has potential to lead to a less satisfying experience. Succeeding at something because you and your character both worked for it is a good feeling–but I can also see the argument that it’s something more suited to traditional games than these narrative ones.
If all that sounded a little wishy-washy, it kind of is. I’ve never really had an opinion one way or another on skill stats in these games–except when I think they’re too steep of checks, because I just don’t pay that part of the game much mind until I’m asked to. I see why they’re there and I guess I’ve just accepted them as a given in these games.
As well, seconding @CJW, who posted a well-put defense of stats that’s a lot more eloquent than I’d be able to.
I think this is the only opinion you have in your post that I actually just disagree with. I understand it completely, but I think saying that relationship stats are only really fitting for a dating sim is a bit reductive? I’ll admit that a lot of the rel stats only seem to come into play when there’s a romance, but I can also think of a pretty decent handful of times it comes up platonically. And even if it didn’t, I think the romance aspect of these books is prominent enough to warrant rel stats–people enjoy their romances, I know I do, and I oftentimes track all the rel stats pretty closely.
In Tin Star (and probably other games), instead of a flat number statistic, the relationship stat is denoted with a short descriptive sentence (well, if you choose that option, you can see it as a number also), would you prefer that to a number statistic since it might feel less calculated and more natural?
This to me feels like less of an issue with rel stats as a concept, and more the way they’re often simplified in implementation, if that makes sense? @Snowflower pointed out that really, with a high rel stat it should be harder to lower it given how real relationships work, which is part of it I think–real relationships really just don’t work the way they do when it’s forced to be on a sliding scale of “I like you/I don’t like you”. But I also think that part of the reason they feel so dire is that, unlike in real life, when a conversation ends it doesn’t really come up again in a CoG? In real life, if you get in an argument with someone, maybe an hour later when you aren’t doing anything you get in contact to apologize, clarify, do something to deal with the argument, while in a CoG with limited time and space, I’ve never seen the option given after an interaction to talk again. There’s a sense of urgency in every conversation in these games because if you miss something in that scene, that’s it. If you get in a fight and lower your rel, you might get another chance later to raise it again, but it likely won’t be in dealing with the fight you already had, it’ll just be some other unrelated boost. I can’t fault the games too hard for having this drawback just because it’s part of the medium, but I also get how it can hurt a scene.
This feels like a really revealing conversation, because I think it highlights something that people feel is a little lacking in CoG conversations–the idea that you can disagree with someone, or be upset with them, and still feel strongly for them and have them still for you. Minor disagreements can cause some bristling but it doesn’t have to be anything that does tangible damage to a relationship the way it tends to in a CoG game. And a scene like that, where you can be upset with someone for something they did but still ultimately forgive them and be okay, doesn’t happen that often. It’s enough of a rarity in these games that people are afraid to take more honest options because they think they’ll be locked into that one reaction, instead of there consistently being enough freedom to express multiple emotions about what’s going on.
It’s also worth noting that I think it can periodically be unclear whether the rel stat is just how that character feels about the MC, or whether it is/also is how the MC feels about that character. I can think of a handful of times in games where I was given a non-dialogue option about how I felt about a character and then had it change the rel stat–when I didn’t really do anything tangible that would make that character like mine any less. So it’s possible some of the minor stat changes from disagreements aren’t just intended to be about that character liking you less, but from a flawed assumption on the part of the author that the choice that you made as a player meant YOU liked THEM less
OOOH ohh oh! A thread where I can spill my terrible philosophy at
Well, for starter, indeed stats is such a "minefield."
Treat it wrong, and your story will turn into standard RPG (altough it’s not a bad thing per se, cue on The Great Tournament)
But for now, let’s talk about how to make our story more “story” rather more “gamey”
They give IF the privilege of non-linearity and customization, unlike other text mediums.
Indeed you can make a CYOA game without stats at all (and it still counts as CYOA!). But remember, adding stats also allows your player/reader the customization aspect of their MC (or other NPCs. Basically anyone the author allows to).
That being said, I’ll divide stats into 2 categories:
Name, Favorite food, and Eye color usually fall into this category.
They don’t affect the “branching” of the story. In fact, if pulled well, you can make a totally linear story without the reader realizing that the story is actually railroaded.
Did the NPC refers to you as “Hey, Bob! Over here!” and not “Hey, over here!”? That is the doing of the Flavor stats.
They make your story feel livelier and more believable.
Oh! The king forgot if you’re a lefty and he awkwardly pull his right arm, frantically switch to his left arm for a handshake!
Strength, HP, and Mana. Pretty self-explanatory.
If you have a lot of Strength, you can throw the boulder away from the road.
Low of HP? You’re dying.
Those 2 are the basics, but keep in mind that certain stats can have their characteristic (and functions) overlap between the two.
Oh, you’re silver-haired girl. You’re a witch! Enjoy the power of the moon. MP++
Oh, you’re in relationship with that tall black guy with a cool scar on his face. Now, you can ask him to accompany you on your every journey and flirt with him.
Oh, you have a black eye, you’re the demon!
Now, you have your stats. But how do you use them?
Know your story.
It’s pointless to add HP to a youtube-simulator game.
It’s pointless to add Favorite Weapon to a story about basketball.
But, is it worth it to add Gender to a story about being a lampshade?
Is it worth it to add Name to a story about being a mute protagonist solving mysterious case?
Add the stats which are required by your story, consider the stats which are optional, and avoid having too much stats for fillers (unless you know what you are doing)
Aand… that’s pretty much it, for this topic at least.
Of course, there’re still some interesting topics that I not discussed at there (such as stats balancing, stats introducing, and stats naming), but I think they deserve their own comment slot. Or even their own topic/thread.
But for now, I’ll leave it at here
BTW, here’s a reply which have a quite radical view regarding stats.
I’ll just leave the link 'cuz it’s quite a textwall (but it’s a worthy read) A reply on Balancing Stats
●It’s okay for me to sometimes have clashing ideals with the love interest as long as there is a balanced chance to be able to continue the relationship (well, you can do this on not too many characters, maybe just one to make him/her unique). So it’s not always a 100% to get a relationship kindling.
●I don’t like a love interest that I made up from the very beginning of the story who does not even culture an appropriate personality to support the story or I don’t want to be forced on a relationship with someone that I know (based on the story) but do not know anything about (because like, he was a childhood friend, what even happened between us?)
●Following the last one, I want to meet my love interests on the way as the story progresses and I want to at least be virgin at the beginning of the story. So the stats begin fresh from 0.
●Each love interest has a different approach in the relationship: (Sim dating strategy)
*Like I said back on the first one, clashing ideals are still okay.
*Character who doesn’t love you when you don’t like his/her path.
*Easy to romance character
*Character who can only be romanceable if you choose a certain path (evil/good, human/non-human…)
I don’t know if I just rambled but I hope it might have helped, what I think about stats on love interests but I have to say, romance options are very important to readers like me so yeah.
I think one of the main problems with stat-heavy games is that they often end up being more about the stats than the story, where every choice has to be aligned with your highest stat. Stat-heavy games can work, but only if they’re both well-written, and have enough different stats that it’s more like a proper RPG than a typical CYOA game (@JimD’s ZE:SH is a good example). Also, if one particular stat is needed to progress the game, don’t make it a stat; I don’t want to have to replay the entire game just because I trained stat X instead of stat Y.
That said, stats can be very useful, since they are basically distillations of multiple choices the player has made over the course of the game, including how much other characters like the MC, and so on. I think that the most important thing to remember, though, is that a player should be able to reach a good ending no matter what their stats are. Not necessarily the best ending, and I’m not saying there can’t be bad endings if they mess up a lot, but this shouldn’t be determined solely by stats.
Would these really count as stats? I’d say they were more “attributes”, while stats were specifically the numeric ones.
I disagree. 0 should be “they despise you beyond all reason”. Relationships would make more sense starting at a neutral 40–50% for people you just meet.
I’ll have to agree with @ParrotWatcher on that. If those are considered stats, they’re not what I had in mind when I started this thread.
Anyway, a lot of great comments so far, I think that hearing other people’s perspective has helped me to feel more comfortable about choosing to use the stat system or not, depending on what I would be trying to do.
When I really think about it, the system itself has never prevented me from enjoying a game, not really. It’s only that sometimes I have problems with it and it has been the source of many criticisms I’ve heard about Choice of Games. I guess it’s more a matter of finding a right balance.
By the way, trying to find midpoint between hidden stats and letting the players check out their progress, Is there a way to make the players only be able to check out the stats at certain points in the game? Like at the end of each chapter only? I think it would be an interesting idea that doesn’t let the players know the immediate consequences that each choice have on the stats.
I like to think of CoG games as… single player DnD campaigns. It’s about the choice but it’s also about the player making a character and exploring a world that someone else invented. So stats for things like strength and dexterity and charisma don’t bother me (unless there’s more than, oh, 10 different stats, that’s a bit overwhelming).
It’s personality stats that can be a mixed bag for me. I like the way games like Samuri of Hyuga handle those. It will give you flavor text based on the stats you favor (if you have a high stoic you’ll reply to somethings stoically) which makes the character feel more alive and part of the world but you can also make choices that goes against it with only a pretty minor punishment. And I don’t mind the punishment for it. If your going to still succeed at being charming when your normally stoic yeah there should be something that goes wrong besides that.
As a writer, I always saw the stats as a way for me to try to tailor the game to the kind of character the player is playing. I’m a lot less interested in the whole ‘you need X stat high to succeed’ than ‘if you have high X stat you get different text than a low X stat.’
But then again, I tend to write more of a ‘variable story’ than a game.
I guess you could have a “running stat”, which keeps the actual value, and a “display stat” which displays the value, and which you change only at the start or end of each chapter. That way, the player can always see the stat, but only what it was at the start of the chapter.
This is pretty much how I see the “games” on this site.
While some games are generally better about it than others (Mecha Ace, for instance, sets gameplay-affecting stats at character creation and only shifts them in a few extraordinary circumstances afterwards), stats, particularly “opposing-poles” stats that reduce every time the player chooses the other option, both go up when the player choices of a particular type and offer a higher success rate for a higher stat. While this theoretically keeps the player “in character,” making the choices consistent with a character’s personality, in practice it also encourages a very uniform set of choices throughout the game, since choosing anything else could permanently gimp the character, discouraging any Character Development or changing mindsets.
On a less-meta level, picking the option in line with the highest “stats” is almost always the best choice, whether it’s sticking to ranged combat with a high Perception in Mecha Ace or using “acrobatic” moves with high Technique in Slammed!
With my first play through on any CoG I never even look at the stats… I play making choices that reflect my personality which tend to teeter the line of neutral good and chaotic good. For abilities I choose ones that I actually possess or the ones that I wish I did. For the most I get the endings that fit my character. However romances are bit more tricky because I rarely agree with any other character 100% of the time. Or I’ll choose an option that I best fit the storyline instead of advancing the relationship. This means romances don’t always work out for me on the first play. Which is okay…because I feel like that mimics life better.
Now on my subsequent plays I use the stats to help build different characters to earn different achievements and romance options… especially if I know there are scenes that can only be unlocked through certain actions. For this I do like having the stats because it helps me to out figuring out which choices I should make.