Questions on storytelling with choices [all opinions welcome]


#1

In order to write a good story in this kind of form [choice stories] I have some questions for the public about storytelling.

  1. Would a story be slowed or immersing if there was a lot of choices?
    -like story begins you waking up then you must choose to to do first, then the second and so forth or is it better just say you got up and do what you do in a paragraph.

  2. Is it better to give full control of the story to the reader? Or have a story laid out and followed?
    -having multiple stories in one book and you can branch anywhere, choosing what kind of power you can have, selecting the gender of other charcters, etc or havin a set story [powers, genders, setting all set up already].

  3. Will pictures in the story aid or hinder the reader?
    -like having a picture of the hero so you can imagine what he/she does or let imagination take control.

  4. If sex scene, how far can I write?

  5. Should the main character be allowed to be overpowered at some point in the story? Is it boring?
    -most stories have the protagonist struggle in some way or form, but never read one where the character just dominates.

  6. Are a choice story with a fight scene with hp points a good idea?
    -I find choice fight scenes where health is involved are hard cause you have to make the ‘right choice’ but die and have to restart, which get annoying. I prefer the ‘is you skill high enough then succeed’ kind of choice.


Older development thread (The Aegis Saga - Blood)
#2

These are only my opinions:

1 and 2. Giving the reader too much control of the plot is a bit like cheating. The idea of telling a story or creating a movie or game is that you are giving the viewer something albeit something they can control (in terms of a game). The reason people play your game is to gain something from your imagination that they don’t have themselves. After all there is nothing stopping any of us going and imagining our own story without ever sharing them with each other.

3 . Character pictures are a bad idea. Most of them clash with the reader’s vision and I would only consider this in the case of monsters or characters very difficult to imagine. If you describe an old man with a white beard, the imagination should be enough.

4 . Someone else can answer this better.

5 . You can have a OP protagonist (One Punch Man) but they must face some other struggle e.g. moral or mental. To have a perfect protagonist is pretty boring. E.g. Achilles was the greatest warrior, but had his conflict because he had to obey the King. And he still wasn’t as powerful as the Gods.

6 . I don’t think HP is a good idea. It would be worth considering something else in the same style e.g. your armour status changing from undamaged, to beaten, to broken, to completely ineffective.


#3

1 That depends on the choices. In my opinion it’s better to have a few meaningful choices rather than a lot of meaningless choices, and even better to have a bit of both. I personally tend to go for a few meaningful choices, purposely leaving out any possible smaller choices if I know in advance that those won’t really affect the overall story.

2 Definitely don’t go for the full control option!!! That’s one of the main reasons most work in progress’s tend to bleed out in a pretty early stage. Give the reader too much freedom, and you’ll end up having to write way too much. The link below is primarily a discussion about preferred gender options and orientations in games, so that might help answer some of your questions on that topic.

3 Please do not include a picture of the main character. People (me included) tend to prefer to be able to imagine what they look like for ourselves. Pictures of buildings, scenery or, if applicable, monsters, tend to be fine though. Just try to name them in such a way that any possibly visually impaired readers can get a good idea of what is depicted too. Pictures of characters other than the MC can be nice too, though I personally prefer those not to be included in the actual game, in part because I like imagining what I think they look like too, and in part because I have an ancient brick of a phone and pictures just take up a lot of space.

4 See link below

5 An overpowered main character tends to be boring, just because they can do pretty much everything they want. However, if you add some sort of glaring weakness or dark secret to such a character it might just add some meaning to their actions.

6 It’s a lot of work to code, but depending on the kind of story it could add a lot. As long as you implement save points every chapter or so the dieing part shouldn’t be too much of an issue either.


#4

Choices should be meaningful. Also, I’d avoid writing too many tedious choices. It’s a lot of work to write you had waffles today, or you had bacon and eggs and it doesn’t impact the story later… unless you want people to choose if they’re vegan or something like that.

That depends on the amount of work you as the writer are willing to commit to. It’s easier to write a story where you have the setting set up and the powers already laid out. (Experience here, my wip only has 5 powers atm and that takes forever to write). Unless you make the use of powers something that only happens every so often. <ost people are against gender lock, they like to form their own identities, but if the story needs to be locked then do it. It depends on the story you want to write. A very branched story will come off to the reader as a “shorter” story.

I wouldn’t put one in of the Main Character. People like to use their own imagination for themselves. You could use the pictures for other things in the story though.

Cecilia’s link should explain that well enough.

I believe stories should also show the struggle and triumph of the main character. Let’s say you read a romance novel where you get to choose who to romance but apparently everyone just falls into that characters lap like they’re under some sort of love spell. There’s no challenge, no growth. Some people may enjoy a story like that. Some want that overpowered hero, but if the hero is overpowered give the hero some flaws or limitations to it.

From experience, this is not easy to keep track of. There would need to be so many variables to code. If it’s a straight forward fight, maybe one on one, you could go with maybe a 3 strike count but then you end up either needing to loop the choices again or write new choices for each part. Don’t get me wrong, a story with those things are interesting but if you plan to have the “you just died” endings quite frequently (those traditional choice book types) than I’d recommend a save system.

I also prefer the “skill checks” but keep in mind for every “successful skill check” you will need to write an “unsuccessful skill check”.


My advice is to plan your story out. No one knows more about your story than you do.


#5

It depends on the story - if it is @Lucid 's Lost Heir story it will be different than if it is @jeantown 's Guinevere story. Both of these authors are awesome writers and both have totally different health and fight systems in play. I am not skilled in scripting to make a complicated game; I’ve had to rethink my WiP because of this fact. You are going to need to plan and execute your system based on you and your story.

Good luck.


#6
  1. I’d say the opposite: having long pages of text without choices can make people impatient. I recommend cosmetic fake choices in these cases - either the PC’s inner reactions or just small changes like the order in which set sequence of events happen. It’s often easier to get invested in a PC when you have more control over them, even if this control is only an illusion .

  2. This is a question of preference, the gamebook vs the text adventure. Some hate railroading and want a story that branches out as much as possible, while others prefer a strong narrative with smaller changes. It really comes down to what you want to write, and where your strengths as author lies.

  3. While the freedom to imagine is the best part of written media, many people like images of scenery or fantasitcal elements that are hard to imagine.Showing characters is a hit-and-miss and showing the MC goes completely against the self-insert element many people enjoy in these games.

  4. I VERY STRONG suggest leaving sex scenes vague and focusing on feelings rather than mechanics. Erotica is a complicated genre that’s extremely hard to get right, especially since personal preference plays such a strong role.

  5. Conflict is the driving force of any narrative. An OP PC can totally work, but they must have other challenges to deal with, such as the impact of such power on the relationships they form with normal people.

  6. I think any complicated and fiddly mechanics in text games are tiresome and unnecessary. Choice games are not sims and trying to bend the script over sideways for such complex choices is a waste of time. Skill checks can be challenging and rewarding enough on their own, as many CoG games demonstrate.


#7

1 Choices should be relevant to the story, help define the character, or create a good flow between text and choice.

For example, a scene where the MC chooses their breakfast, clothing, and hairstyle consecutively, is bad if all the decisions have no impact on the story. However, writing that the MC ate bacon, eggs, and coffee can break immersion for vegetarians, vegans, or people who don’t like those items. The best way to deal with that and maintain the balance between choice and story may be to dump the MC into the action and have important and relevant choices available. So if the story is about an alien invasion and has nothing to do with breakfast, start with the invasion.

If the MC has to pack to go on a vaction and only a limited number of items can fit in the bag, a lot of choices in sequence about what to bring is fitting. But, if those choices have no impact, you could just write some text saying the MC packed.

In general, a lot of choices interspaced between text would be more immersive than a preset character. I like to choose my MC’s personality through interactions with the setting and characters. Try not to write what the MC is feeling; give them a choice instead. Let the MC choose if they are being nice because they are joking, being manipulative or being honest.

A lot of meaningless choices that are not separated by the text at the beginning can make the game seem slow and boring.

2 I like a mix between the two extremes. If it takes less than five minutes for me to finish the story, even if it has many branches, I won’t feel satisfied. However, if a story is long, but has little replayability, I would at least enjoy the first playthrough.

I like to choose my romance option’s gender, but if you find it difficult to write a character that has depth and is understadable and has a variable gender, make the character of one gender. You should prioritize having realistic and enjoyable characters first.

If it’s easy to write and code, you can make the setting, powers, or other features a choice as long as you are not trying to write two or more games in one. So, letting the MC choose their family background and having that impact the stats and not completely change the story is fine. Just Try not to be too ambitious or the game may never be finished.

3 Don’t have a picture of the MC because everyone’s MC looks different and that may break immersion. You can have pictures of the NPCs as long as the pictures are there initially. If there are no pictures initially, people will imagine how the characters look, but their immersion will be broken when the pictures are later introduced and don’t match their imagined version.

4 Less is more. Don’t go into too much detail, but you can subtly allude to things.

5 I’d like an overpowered MC. I like rpgs where I’m level 99 and dominate everything. There probably still needs to be some conflict or goals to keep things interesting. Team Zero has a powerful MC and it’s known that most of your team can’t die, but people still like it.

6 I don’t like constantly getting death ends, so I’d prefer the battles be based on stats or strategy like the Team Zero WIP.


#8

This is definitely a matter of taste, because I personally would be much less invested in keeping my invaded-MC alive if I didn’t know anything about them. Deciding what their appearances and tastes are like immediately makes me a bit more attached to the MC, because now they’re “mine” and have a bit more definition (rather than a faceless nobody running from an invasion, they are now a tall brunette who took a pack of bacon with her because she didn’t finish her breakfast.). Little things can make characters less generic, a good thing to keep in mind in regards to NPCs as well.

Conversely, choosing what an MC packs in a time of crisis is an excellent opportunity for characterization (do they take the family album or a good pair of shoes? Now you know if they’re sentimental or pragmatic!). But if the items are used later, the player has to meta-game and get the best items regardless of whether that makes sense in-character, possibly breaking immersion. Actually, any choice that is unbalanced and has an optimal answer is inherently less interesting to me, and it doesn’t reward replayability. Zombie Exodus had that problem, and I had to use a guide to get through much of the game because there was only one way to get through certain situations, and not all MCs would be equally viable.


#9

Hello @Mr_Suitz, looks like you got some interesting questions and a lot of interesting answers from some excellent contributors.

While I agree and would opt for most of what has been said already I thought it might be interesting to address your questions in a slightly different way for the sake of creative options:

1/ Would a story be slowed or immersing if there was a lot of choices?

  • firstly: fiction is found immersive and indescribably beautiful even when it is not choice based.
    You as an author need to balance how much you want to appeal to people on this forum (potentially reflected in readership and possibly sales) versus how your story feels it needs to be written.
    @Silverstone is right that eggs and bacon can be boring. But a great example of how mundanity can be entertaining can be found in Japanese ‘slice of life’ animation.

2/ Is it better to give full control of the story to the reader? Or have a story laid out and followed?
You must think about how much you can cope with. However, if we only consider your creativity - you should determine what a scene needs. Are you placing a second door in the room because the story needs one? Or are you forcing that door in for the wrong reason.

For many of us reading Cog publications choice IS the enjoyment of life - and is the single most important factor in our reading within this medium. BUT indecisiveness is also part of being human. Nobody likes to be forced to make a choice if they don’t want to - so consider the approach of removing a choice or broadening it, rather than relying on a weak one.

3/ Will pictures in the story aid or hinder the reader?
You should consider this in more detail if it interests you, even though as @Synapse says it can turn people off. But think - in other mediums people still engage well. With a blank-faced portrait for example.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/47183494/pics%20charles/portrait.jpg
by mark hanson (flickr)

4/ If sex scene, how far can I write?
Follow @Cecilia_Rosewood’s advice. Creatively though its a tough call. For some a CS without relationships that develop feels shallow. How deep you want to go into this can really hamper your reader’s ability to follow you. Don’t forget that if you aren’t willing to lose people along the way you still have some great tools, including innuendo, metaphor, love, flirtation, touch. All things that can support the readers enjoyment of the sexiness of a relationship, without actually using graphic description.

5/ Should the main character be allowed to be overpowered at some point in the story? Is it boring?

6/ Are choice stories with a fight scene with hp points a good idea?
Dying sucks. But so does not knowing what is going on. HP is a simple idea that lets a player know what is happening and it can lend a video game a lot of stimulating adrenaline. HP on a separate page full of stats = less adrenaline. If you want it, fine, but why don’t you experiment with health through your writing, rather than the stats page. Leave the HP stat behind the scenes at the controls to determine which bit of text the reader is seeing on the main page.

Enjoyed writing that :blush:


#10

@Mr_Suitz
1)Many choices are good, but in general they should have meaningful impact. Always asking the player how their MC does mundane things is just annoying, but letting them decide what the MC does during the course of an average day would be a good way to establish the initial stats.

  1. You can’t give full control of the story to the reader in a choicescript game. Even if you include many options for every choice with many different story branches and powers, the reader will still choose between things you have written.
    A game should have some kind of main plotline, because otherwise you’ll end up writing two or more games lumped together but you can include alternative sidestories that will converge to the main storyline or even different final chapters because this will increase replayability.
    Giving the player a choice on the NPC’s gender and/or sexuality has been discussed a lot in designated threads, @Cecilia_Rosewood has provided the link to one of them. If you want to have good, non-shallow ROs you can add this feature, but you still have to establish their personality, their relations with other NPCs.

3)Please don’t add an image of the MC, many people like to imagine themselves as the MC and will hate it if you force a “canon” image upon them. In general, the text should be self-sufficent and images should just illustrate what has been described. However, if the game is set in an exotic fantasy world or an alien planet it might be nice to include a couple of images showing he things the MC sees there in order to give the reader an impression of that strange world. And I’ve never seen anyone coplaining about maps in the stats section.

  1. That’s up to you to decide. As a rule of thumb, it should fit the style of the game. For example if you describe everything the MC does in great detail but just drop the curtain when they get intimate with a RO it would leave a very odd feeling and including a very detiled sex scene in an otherwise PG rated game would be disturbing.

  2. There are some people here who absolutely love overpowered MC and godmodding. Others will soon be bored by an overpowered MC who cannot fail so that any choice is between different ways to succeed. I don’t mind it if an MC has the possibility to become overpowered by the end of the game but they have to earn these powers through their previous deeds/choices.

6)Most games where the MC can be killed or injured use a hidden or visible health stat. But if you want to give the MC plot armor, you can do it, just explain why and how they survived. I don’t see what your example is supposed to mean, if the MC dies then the choice resulting in their death was obviously not the right one and the “if your skill is high enough then you succeed” approach is used in almost all choicescript games, both for fights and elsewhere.


#11

Would a story be slowed or immersing if there was a lot of choices?
-like story begins you waking up then you must choose to to do first, then the second and so forth or is it better just say you got up and do what you do in a paragraph.

I think choices do immerse the character, but I’d prefer a text wall to a fake choice that doesn’t amount to anything any day.


Is it better to give full control of the story to the reader? Or have a story laid out and followed?
-having multiple stories in one book and you can branch anywhere, choosing what kind of power you can have, selecting the gender of other charcters, etc or havin a set story [powers, genders, setting all set up already].

No, you should pick your npc’s gender always, and sometimes that applies to the pc as well. However most of the time for the pc, those options (powers, gender, ect) can be excellent so long as you can keep up with the variables and put out the extra text.


Will pictures in the story aid or hinder the reader?
-like having a picture of the hero so you can imagine what he/she does or let imagination take control.

Picture = word•1000, so jes, pictures are good.


If sex scene, how far can I write?

Just don’t blind children or small animals and refrain from brain-melting details.


Should the main character be allowed to be overpowered at some point in the story? Is it boring?
-most stories have the protagonist struggle in some way or form, but never read one where the character just dominates.

If you do go the OP path, either 1) don’t let it last long or 2) give it some huge drawbacks that almost make it an antagonist.


Are a choice story with a fight scene with hp points a good idea?
-I find choice fight scenes where health is involved are hard cause you have to make the ‘right choice’ but die and have to restart, which get annoying. I prefer the ‘is you skill high enough then succeed’ kind of choice.

Only in the sense that if you just got the chit beat out of you, you’d fair worse than if you just left the dojo. I wouldn’t go full RPG, but I’d let a “HP” bar guide the game some.


#12
  1. I would say that giving the player multiple choices and # 2 go hand-in-hand. #1 and #2 also take on a whole new role when you make #5 false, meaning your character cannot be overpowered. This can be done by giving your character D&D stat choices at the beginning and giving them a time limit to complete the plot.

If I make a game it won’t use the cliche (insert leadership/god role here) ruling (insert location/country here) as if every choice game needs to be about being a leader or a god.

Try making script for every choice within one day, every single one. Every *if, *elseif, and *else statement for every character and every sidequest and side activity. Once you’ve done that, copy/paste it 30 times to make a month of gameplay.

This concept works well in choice script game situations where you want time to be a core game mechanic, instead of choices. Just like most games today you could make escalated endings determined by overall completion and how you reached completion.

Example story - The year is 1650, you are Don Quixote, you have 365 days before you have to return to your village of La Mancha. Every do you can choose to raise stats, do sidequests, etc. At a certain point, lets say week 5, the plot takes an uppercut and instead you have to go to Italy to save a “princess”, now you have a main quest and side quests that can open up. Have five-6 variable locations, 4-6 stat raising choices, 4-6 relationships, 6-8 sidequests, etc.

Once you make all of the script once, copy/paste it. At the end make a new text document for endings and have 6-8 ending depending on the choices you made.

3 and 6 should only be done if the story/experience/immersion is improved, if it isn’t then it’s too much coding simply to make your game stand out when you could be spending your time making the script stand out.

Lastly, #4, write as far as you feel comfortable. If someone doesn’t want to read it they can skip it. Just put a disclaimer in the description of your game.


#13

I’m really new to this whole interactive fiction thing (though I did read the books when I was a kid), but I’ll give a go at your questions. It may give people a different perspective seeing a newbie’s answers.

[quote=“Mr_Suitz, post:1, topic:16448”]
Would a story be slowed or immersing if there was a lot of choices?-like story begins you waking up then you must choose to to do first, then the second and so forth or is it better just say you got up and do what you do in a paragraph.[/quote]

I think a story with a lot of choice could be fun. The challenging part for the writer is having an enormous amount of story lines to write. To make it manageable, I would keep details to a minimum.

Perhaps just one sentence or one paragraph per page. You’ll be writing about as much as a story with fewer choices but your word count between choices will be much less.

In the end you’ll have a ton of short stories, all of them sharing a few things in common, some sharing less in common. It would be an interesting challenge.

Some of this relates to the first question. And as someone else said, it’s impossible to give full control.

The more choices you give the reader the more stats/variables you’ll have to use. Not necessarily a bad thing. Just a lot of work.

But it could pay off if done well. Having the reader choose the gender of other characters is an interesting idea, though it could limit how you write for those characters. I don’t have an opinion beyond that, though.

Several others have said don’t do it for the main character as it would block a reader’s imagination. Think about stand novels. What the author describes doesn’t always match what is chosen for the cover. This sometimes backfires, other times might be alright. Probably should shy away from it, though.

But with pictures in general, I wish COG products had more of them. I think pictures could enhance the experience of many stories/games. Though these producets are primarily text-based, I don’t see where a minor visual element would hurt.

And lots of pictures would add possbile genres and game styles to the catalog. Think children’s books or full RPG battle stories or other simulation games where the main role isn’t reading a story but managing an enviroment. In such cases, a story line or multiple story lines could be present, but it wouldn’t necessarily take over. I would be totally interested in playing such games.

Refer to other answers. Less is more, I say.

Having a character dominate every scene isn’t your standard formula for any story, but I think like anything novel, it would be interesting to see done well. Perhaps there are tons of choices and the fun part of reading it is seeing where you can get the character to go.

If someone did this, I think humor would be needed since there isn’t struggle as in a typical format.

Having ‘if your skill is high enough’ kind of choice you’ll need some stat in the background, but I would keep it to a minimum, just enough for you to track that choice.

The beauty of choicescript is that almost anything goes. It isn’t a full programming language, but it has enough that just about any writing style for text based stories and games is possible. And because of that, I don’t think it has reached its full potential.


#14

As a general preference, I prefer quality over property. I would rather make a few choices that are much more impactful on the world and the story than decide that color my hair is. Not that I don’t like these choices- th u allow for a player to build their main character. I just prefer more impactful choices.

[quote]Is it better to give full control of the story to the reader? Or have a story laid out and followed?
-having multiple stories in one book and you can branch anywhere, choosing what kind of power you can have, selecting the gender of other charcters, etc or havin a set story [powers, genders, setting all set up already].[/quote]

Choicescript wise, allowing the reader to have full control over a story would be coding hell(at least for me, because I’m a noob when it comes to CS). Also, without a concrete story, it’s hard for the readers to get a sense of what you’re writing your story for. I don’t know if it’s the same for me as for everybody else, but I like getting into an author’s brain.

[quote]Will pictures in the story aid or hinder the reader?
-like having a picture of the hero so you can imagine what he/she does or let imagination take control.[/quote]

Imagination all the way. Not only can a sudden picture break the immersion of a CS game, but putting in a picture of an MC can infuriate the reader, as others have already stated.

Sex scenes are not my forte…so I’ll leave this to the more experience.

[quote]Should the main character be allowed to be overpowered at some point in the story? Is it boring?
-most stories have the protagonist struggle in some way or form, but never read one where the character just dominates.[/quote]

Overpowered should never equal invincible. OP characters still have problems like any other characters…but they should be no less instense or exciting than the conflicts that regular characters face.

[quote]Are a choice story with a fight scene with hp points a good idea?
-I find choice fight scenes where health is involved are hard cause you have to make the ‘right choice’ but die and have to restart, which get annoying. I prefer the ‘is you skill high enough then succeed’ kind of choice.[/quote]

I don’t generally tend to look at the stat chart unless do something wrong, like fail a stat_check point. Like the pictures, it tends to break the immersion for me.