Requesting some beginner's advice, and 'transition' from regular RP-players

Good day peeps just discovered the forum despite already playing several HG and CoG stuff.

Quick background, I absolutely adore Tin Star, the Heroes Rise series, Choice of Gaslight, and most recently the Fallen Hero: Rebirth. Haven’t been getting into the newer games as the theme hasn’t really gripped me so far, but I still replay Tin Star now and then, despite probably already exhausted the options. I’ve been writing unprofessionally (I guess that’s the word to use?) for several years now, but it’s mostly for RP stuff. For those who don’t know, RP is a form of co-operative writing method where people meet, usually on forums, and write a story together, but taking turns with each other, building upon each other’s reply and do both plot and character development, and the hook is that neither of the participants has to agree, or even aware of the ending of the story, so all of the participants have the capacity to steer the whole plot into perhaps what the other direction that another participant doesn’t like.

I love to write, but before this, the only outlet I’ve known to spill those writing itches is the RP, and nowadays, I can’t seem to find the right partner to RP with, either due theme conflict, style conflict, schedule/posting rate conflict, or just not getting any partner at all due to either too few users, or too many so the topic just gets buried over. After a considerable long in-between, I decided the writing itch was too much and decided to try out this outlet. I briefly considered Wattpad but decided to go the way of CoG/HG instead as it’s much more in-line with my other hobby, which is gaming and specifically visual novels. I also have tried the other Choices games, which are based on the android app Choices. Those were certainly, interesting, to say the least.

So while I’m consuming the how-to basic about ChoiceScript, I want to know several things that are considered the ‘acceptable’ things, as well as the adjustment I need to make to migrate from the RP style writing onto the CYA style writing. Do note that this is also a question on which one would be ‘easier’ to start with, considering that regardless of my preferences, I still have to write a story with options and branching stories, something that I haven’t really dabbled into before.

(I assume I need to have a certain post to be able to make a poll, which I’m currently unable to as there’s no option to on the gear icon, so please bear with the old styled poll)

First of, the characters, specifically the one you’re playing as. Which approach do you prefer when dealing with creating your character? In a way, I’m asking whether it’s better to write/read a story where you have a clear idea of your character, or where you can ‘tweak’ the image of your character depending on how fitting it would be with the storyline you’ve chosen so far.

  • Establish early on, so there’d essentially be a separate chapter where the game hashes out you and your history, and then building the story based on that, locking off certain routes from the start
  • Establish on the need to know basis, where you build the history, and perhaps your appearance, based on the stories that you’ve read so far, locking off routes proactively

0 voters

Then, on the topic of the depiction of other characters

  • A detailed written description of their appearance and personality, locking several few traits in so the further writing will assume those characteristic
  • A relatively blank slate where you can choose their appearance and personality, with the further story having callback to these choices, locking you to a certain responses/route depending on the characteristic of other characters

0 voters

The latter would’ve been much harder to write consistently, as you require a placeholder character to base the story, then flesh out two, or more, differing part of the story, which may just become a tangling mess of choices and plotline if not handled correctly

Speaking of choices

  • Choices that result in a relatively minor outcome
  • Choices that outright results in a different route

0 voters

From the VN background, I, of course, assume that the latter would be the norm, but several of the CoG/HG games that I played seems to be much more welcoming to a new writer, where the outcome is relatively minor, but it adds up an invisible point where it’ll decide the endings, which is where those differing stories were shown. Basically, should the story be like a root, or like a brush, where it’s relatively straight until the end where it branches out

On the invisible points tangent, which is probably my number 1 consideration before I start thinking about the story, and how should I approach the writing style

  • Stats, money, equipment, type of house, connections, allies, invisible stats, GIMME EVERY DETAIL
  • Just stories with the only thing barring you from getting to certain route/picking certain choices is the choices you made before

0 voters

I honestly don’t think I can make the former option workable, as the games with these options usually just end up making me do an ‘optimized run’. This is more about the existence of those ‘free time options’, where you’re able to work/train to build up your stats, and then pick certain choices based on the stat you build up, versus an option where you need to choose between doing A or B, where, for example doing A would let you into a hint/tips/knowledge that can make a certain option available, while doing B doesn’t.

Onto the style of writings

  • Less text, more choices, so much more minor choices that may not impact the story that much aside from little details
  • More text, fewer choices, so most of the choices would be a major one that’ll decide the endings

0 voters

Then

  • Shorter story, but with more routes to take to encourage replayability
  • Longer story, but with fewer routes, or just a single one with different endings

0 voters

Phew, I guess that’s all that I wanted to ask at this point in time. Sorry for the wall of text, nice to meet you all, and thank you in advance!

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Disclaimer that this is just my opinion as one reader. Also, a lot of this depends on the game. Different things work for different types of stories and it depends on what you’re trying to create overall.

I prefer when games establish things about the MC throughout the earlier parts of the story rather than a character creation screen at the beginning. I’m curious what you mean by locking off routes, though. I think most branches tend to be chosen by choices, not necessarily background info about the MC.

I’ve seen both done well, but I usually prefer a more established character. It’s nice to be able to choose their gender (if RO) or history with the MC if applicable, though.

Realistically, you need a good mix of both. I don’t want to read 10 pages without choosing anything, but there’s only so much you can branch the story without going insane as an author.

There are differing opinions on this, for sure. I prefer games where most major things depend on the story choices, but there still should be some stats and tracking of things in the background that have an effect. It’s okay to have a stat check that fails and still continue the story, and in some cases failing stat checks can be really entertaining.

Again, I really think you need a mix of both. Most players (I think) don’t want to read pages and pages of the story between each choice. They’ll start skimming and won’t actually read what’s there. Changes in small details is part of what makes rereading the games fun, in my opinion.

This forum tends to lean toward replayability and liking lots of options. I’ve heard, though, that most players won’t play through a game more than once and will just assume the game is too short and never play it again.

Overall, you mention locking off routes and barring choices a lot, and I’m curious if you could explain a little more about what you mean by that. I think an excessive amount of locking players out of choices would make them a bit upset. It’s fine to do sometimes, but people like to make their own choices about the routes for the most part.

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Welcome aboard! I’m from a RP background myself, and I will give you one HUGE bit of advice.

Search the forum. All the things you asked here have been discussed at length many times, it is well worth just taking a day or two and browse this place. You might get a dosen replies here, but there are hundreds and hundreds hiding here which has already talked about this.

You’ve already played more games than I had when I started out, but don’t let what other people do restrain you. You don’t have to add anything if you don’t want to, there’s no rules that says what stats you need or want. Start as narrow as possible, and then add things as you progress, you need less things than you think.

But first, check out the forum!

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Both blank slate and pre-established characters have their benefits and drawbacks. Personally I prefer to know enough ahead of time that I don’t feel overwhelmed when making choices that the author implies are important.

Personally, I’m against locking out. It can be a dealbreaker in some instances.

If I’m 80% Quiet that doesn’t mean I might want to actually speak out at a given point if I feel it’s important enough. Have personality traits add flavor text rather than determining what choices/options the readers can take.

It’s up to you. You’re the author. You’re going to be the one writing this possibly 150k or more story. Do what’s in your best interest. And if it doesn’t work the first time, you can always go back and edit.

Usually, I don’t like stat heavy games. The more stats an author has, the more they seem to have less impact. Tin Star has a lot of stats, but you only need like a couple of them to finish the game.

Even for stories that I do like that have quite a few stats (VtM - Night Road), I go with the stat load out I’m comfortable with whenever I replay it and don’t branch out.

I don’t mind having certain choices that I made previously lock me out of future choices.

That’s up to you.

You might want to read the contents of this thread.

And here’s a quote from a published author about his experiences with his stories:

Summary
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I’m curious what you mean by locking off routes, though. I think most branches tend to be chosen by choices, not necessarily background info about the MC.

This would be stuff like social status, inherent power, education, all that kind of stuff, which would be determined early on, rather than something that you can build upon within the story.

There are differing opinions on this, for sure. I prefer games where most major things depend on the story choices, but there still should be some stats and tracking of things in the background that have an effect. It’s okay to have a stat check that fails and still continue the story, and in some cases failing stat checks can be really entertaining.

Yea, on some post, I also read that it’s less about the building up stats, but rather just as a tool for the author to make some branching story in further chapter while building it up from early chapter. On some games though, like the often cited Choices of Rebel, the game would mostly goes towards resources management rather than just a CYA.

Overall, you mention locking off routes and barring choices a lot, and I’m curious if you could explain a little more about what you mean by that. I think an excessive amount of locking players out of choices would make them a bit upset. It’s fine to do sometimes, but people like to make their own choices about the routes for the most part.

A better way to word it would be the wide or long story? I’m still not too in the know about the terminology, but it’s basically how the choices affect the story. Would it either branch you off on a completely different tangent of a same story, so a wider one, or it would just branch slightly, but then would diverge again in certain points.

My understanding is the latter would be the simpler to write and program, and would generally ends up with a longer story, while the former ends up offering a lot of replayability with unique playthrough on most of the runs, and probably ends up shorter to keep the author’s sanity, as you pointed out.

My one fear is that, while I would like to create the former, I’m afraid that I’ll prioritize one route over the other, and while in VN/RP that would be acceptable, since it’s their story, in CYA, the player’s experience would be one of the consideration within the writing. I don’t intend to be the author that creates a story that anyone would enjoy, no matter the choices is, as that would require a lot of writing experience, but on the same time, not the one that railroads the ‘true choice’ is.

Speaking from experience, my enjoyment on certain CYA really diminishes when I know the game/author desires you to follow a certain road. The most memorable one would be Diabolical, I know the game would want the player to ultimately the be redeemed villain, fighting for the greater good. I spent the entire game building my character a certain way, but ends up having to end the game a different way.

In the end, I guess I’m just afraid of this ‘player choice’ elements, which I never really considered before. I feel from the responses, that I shouldn’t really weigh this aspect too heavily, and just make a story that you like first, and assume that the one that picks it up generally would at least accept whatever ending the game offers (unlike in Diabolical where the initial concept doesn’t translate into the endings)

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Sorry for the double post, I’m still trying to understand how the forum works.

And yeah, I have been reading the other topics thanks to the forum’s suggested/similar topic bar on the bottom. It’s been very helpful so far, already got several bookmarks handy. Thanks for the welcome!

Though, as a RPer,

let what other people do restrain you

Is pretty much the whole game :smirk:

YES, this was the one that I stumbled upon after posting, but I also stumbled upon the tree root like as well. There’s still some discussion on which is better, but seems like the consensus on most threads, and on the one that you linked as well, is that it’s better to just keep it narrow, or give the illusion of choice, which is another thing that I need to learn.

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Hey there, I can give you my personal take on some of your points:

  • I have ‘locked off’ some flavor text depending on a bunch of choices I implemented at the start of my own wip–so if for example the player chooses to be more charismatic they will act (I hope) witty when interacting with NPCs, opposed to being soberer if the player chose to be more serious (think Hawke from DA 2 and how their personality changed depending on the responses the player picked: sarcastic, genuine, or intimidating). In my experience as both writer and player, people don’t like to get locked off in more substantial ways (not being able to romance a character, not being able to choose to talk instead of fight) in these type of games since choosing and shaping the story is what we are all here for :grin:

  • I’ve seen wips in which NPCs are completely different people depending on what type of personality the player chooses for them (and I was blown away by the amount of coding and writing this author was doing), but my personal advice is that it isn’t worth it. You’ll be investing time and energy on something that isn’t all that important and probably will come back later to bite you in the ass when your story inevitably balloons up (it always happens, believe me) and you want to move the plot along but you still have to write 5 scenes with 5 different characters that are the same one. Probably you will end up liking one personality over of the others and chances are 95% of your players will like that one too, so yeah, just avoid this headache.

  • If what you’re referring to is gender-locking or gender-flipping a RO, then I think 4 or 5 ROs is the magic number. You can have a guy, a girl, 2 non-binary people, or change it the way you want. If you have less I recommend making everyone gender-flips so players have more options. Oh, and please don’t make one RO the one true option and the other(s) the jerk that at the end steals all the player’s money and kicks them to the curve, that’s frustrating :sweat_smile:

  • Think about the core themes, plots, ideas you are really interested in writing and branch from that, your game will grow on its own.

Pretty much, yeah. Also don’t let fear grip you; the idea is thinking about different ways people would react to a certain event, and then lay them out for the player to choose. If someone wants a different option they’ll let you know and you can add it if you feel it makes sense (sort of like GMing). People here are super chill and most of the time will ask for something rather than demanding it.

Best of luck!

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First of all, the only advice i can give you is “Write what you would love to read.”

As @pimenita said, people around here - at least the majority - are pretty chill and supportive. So, it’s not about want we want but rather the vision of the story you have and your skill as the writer to realize it. For me, even tough i have specific kind of story i prefer, i’m pretty much OK with whatever kind of story i lay my hand on as long as the writing is good and the plot engaging.

There’s a proverb in my home country that say “C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.” It mean “It’s with practice that you get better at what you do.” In this case practice = reading and writing again and again; or so i think. So, don’t overthink it to much. Start writing your wip and everything will come along as you go forward (At least that’s how it turned out for me when i first started XD).

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The best option would be then, to regularly produce WIPs right? I was thinking of it before all the forums read up, and I was scared that there would just be too much input and demands, and ‘the right way of doing stuff’, hence why most of my question revolves around this.

And yeah, I have played several Bethesda games as well, though the feeling of ‘choosing the wrong option’ always haunts me after every ‘supposed’ mistake. I’ve been reading about fakechoices as well, which seems to be a really helpful way of providing these kinds of choices. Though hopefully, I would be able to balance the actual choice and the fake ones, before the reader caught on to the strings I’m pulling.

Thank you for the input though! Currently still trying out the ChoiceScript, which is quite the challenge as I never coded before.

I understand what you mean, but as always, it’s the first step that’s the most challenging >< With RPing, you only deal with at most 10 peoples who each have their own way of contributing to the story, now it’s all you who controls the story, and possibly hundreds of people reading it.

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More like people will ask for a choice in particular if they feel like their MC wouldn’t act the way you provided. In my game, for example, I’d given the player these options:


One user pointed out that her MC would be intimidating yet the only option to act like that made this NPC flee and she couldn’t talk to him after picking that one. So I added this choice,

Lately, people have been talking about making the ‘failed stat test’ entertaining to read as well so the player doesn’t feel like, well, a complete failure. The second book of Fallen Hero lets you have a special scene if you royally screw up while fighting Argent on the bridge. It’s a lot of work but I might implement something like that in future games.

Oh yeah, fake choices are great to keep the player engaged with the story when you feel like you’re giving them walls of text and not enough true choices. You’ll be alright, and if you end up relying on them too much (like too much) people will tell you and you can fix that accordingly, but I haven’t read a lot of comments about authors using too many fake choices tbh.

(In fact, the example I gave you is a fake choice, hah)

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In my opinion IF is not so different from RP. In the latter you always try to guess what your partner will come up with next right?

In IF it’s exactly the same. Think of it as an RP where you are the “rules” and a participant at the same time and the readers are the other participants, and it all take place inside your head. Then you just try to think choices that will fit every single one of the participant.

When i write, i always try to put myself in the shoes of readers and ask myself what would they do in this situation. From there i just establish a list of reasonnable choices that vary from 2 to 5.

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