Disclaimer: I have never written a choicescript game, and this is my very first time commenting on a WIP. I joined the forums yesterday, and I haven’t even read Planetary Quarantine. Feel free to take this with salt.
Second Disclaimer: Spoilers below. I don’t know how to do spoiler tags.
I’ve read a lot on these forums about the tension between story and game (i.e. writing a game with good story elements versus writing a good story with some interactive elements). I think the tone and point of view you are using puts this solidly in the latter category.
Two things made me look at this as a story and not a game. First, I was not in the driver’s seat. Dallas was. This is his story. Unlike a lot of choicescript games, the narration has a strong voice, conveying a personality that already seems well defined before the reader does anything. Second, you establish right away that a ship is going to explode. There is nothing the reader can do about that. Great way to set up a mystery. Not so good for conveying any sense of agency that would make me feel like I am a player rather than an onlooker.
The tone and the level of detail are spot on. This story feels like classic science fiction. Starting at the climax of the story, and having the rest occur in flashback makes the mystery much more intriguing. The pacing is excellent, with a good balance between exposition and action. The first person point-of-view is somewhat refreshing, and I did not mind being a little confused in places because I did not need to know all the relevant details all the time. Dallas was calling the shots.
The trick, unfortunately, is that the choices do not appear to add much to the experience. The first choice (“Take them down” vs “Leave them alone”) was practically meaningless to me. I chose “Take them down” because I had no idea what that meant. Was Dallas going to dismiss his officers because they were being useless? Was he about to attack them because he suspected they were enemy agents? Was he making a list of names? I was genuinely curious.
A couple of times, someone asked Dallas a question, and I was supposed to choose how he responded. This brought the action to a halt as I tried to guess what he was most likely to say, based on what I already knew of him (clever, not especially well-educated, a bit cynical, maybe too smart for his own good). I just met the guy, after all.
The choices that affected the world itself were a bit more meaningful because I could check the stats and see that I was affecting parameters that would not doubt come into play later, but I still had little to go on that made any one decision more immediate than the other.
(Exception: the scene where Dallas chooses whom to interview. I received adequate information on each option, selected the one I thought was most desirable, and received an outcome that was immediate and direct.)
This is all compounded by the fact that reading a choicescript game makes a person hypersensitive to any ambiguity. If the narrative is not 100% clear on what is going on, we lack confidence in making choices. You picked one of the hardest settings - space-age sci fi - to make that happen. The reader can’t take anything about the setting for granted. Contrast that with medieval fantasy, where you can tell the reader, “You are in an inn,” and they immediately have a clear picture of the environment.
This is an engaging story, but I’m not sure what the interactive element adds to it. If you can nail down the purpose of giving the reader choices, and make that purpose clear to us, I think it would be a lot stronger.
Just my two cents. Grain of salt.