Short Games and Long Games - Incentives for Authors

As a reader I would go for the longer game. Why? Because I feel like I’m getting more bang for my buck. I understand that its in your best interest to split long games into smaller ones to get more money out of it… but at the end of the day you should look for a happy medium between what your costumers want as well as a healthy income for your work.

Keep in mind that people don’t like to be milked and spilting a game into tiny portions or variable quality can raise questions about your methods and intentions. I’m not too worried about most writers here but I know for a fact that when people start min-maxing their monetization some will try to find a way to push things to the limit, seeing how far they can go before people complain too much or stop buying. That’s what worries me.

If all comes down to it, I’d be willing to spend a little extra money if it meant getting the complete work in a bigger game.

Just my 2 cents.


I’ve sort of have arrived at the same conclusion as @Eric_Moser, that it’s better to go for something in the 150-200k range, as it would allow to get comments from readers, and that this is probably a nice “sweet spot” (for reference, the first harry potter book has 75,000 words, so 150,000 is twice that length, though in one playthrough probably each reader will see only around 30,000-50,000, depending on how much it branches).

There is also the crucial problem of writer fatigue. I felt that after 100,000 I started to lose motivation, and finishing the game (the next 44,000 words in my case) was a bit of a struggle (at the very end I was really tired, and my mind started to think about other projects). Thus, I reckon that (unless you are very persistent and motivated) it’s better to plan for “short” 150,000 games. However, I do appreciate that readers will always want bigger games, and that it’s better to respond well to their comments (hence the importance of beta-testing, to make sure people don’t feel the game is short and that it has a natural pace and structure…)

The Philosopher’s Stone was like 300 pages at least, if I recall correctly. 75,000 worda is only 150 pages.

Depends on text size. If you print a increase font size you can ramp up the page count for the same number of words.

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@Samuel_H_Young I got this from here

However, obviously the important thing is average playthrough read (I pay a lot of attention to this while writing, and I think anything under 20,000 prompts frequent “too short” comments, over 30,000 these seem to go down quite noticeably -though obviously some people still complain). At least that is my conclusion after reading and re-reading posts in forum, talking to people, and checking reviews for a variety of games on google play, itunes, etc… What is your own experience on this?

Remember that average reading speed is about 200 wpm. So…

A gamebook with 40k words read on a given readthrough would take the average person about 200 minutes, or 3 hours, 20 minutes to read, and that doesn’t include any breaks for checking the stats menu, agonizing over decisions, rereading a paragraph, etc, and it certainly doesn’t include any replays. So a gamebook priced around $3 or $4 is giving the reader entertainment for around $1/hr. It seems to be unreasonable to complain about value at that point. That’s a great value, assuming the story and choices are compelling.

30k words = 2 hours, 30 minutes
20k words = 1 hour, 40 minutes (I can see the “this is pretty short” objections coming around this point)


No, books pretty much always have the same order count. If the pages are smaller, the text is smaller, and if the pages are larger, the text is larger so that each copy has the same number of pages.

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I have to say that I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Fallen Hero is already up to 260 000 words, (maybe 59 000 in a playthrough) and I have not reached the end of what I picture as book one yet.

That said, this is will be a hosted game, and my first, and I want it to be solid and and give me a good rep for future games.

I am actually close to the point now where I could have broken off for book one. The first main arc is done,it is a natural stopping point. I won’t lie, I have been thinking about going back and filling things in (I have a lot that needs to be added to the start which I have avoided in order not to spoil people) which would bring it to around a total of 300 000 words or more. The reason why I have not done so is because one, I don’t want to be accused of being short (though looking at the length of games I am already pretty long), and two, I don’t want to risk people being mad because not enough is added in the for sale version.

It also complicates things that I like long games with replay value, but it looks like the price point might not be worth it…

Hmmm I really need to think about this…


I would guess that for a game with 300K total and 59K+ for a playthrough, you probably won’t be accused of brevity!

But yes, this exemplifies the issue–all things being equal, a longer game is usually better, and, as a Hosted Game, the financial incentive is there for you to make it so, but for a Choice Of, the incentive would be for you to cap it off and make it a “Part I.”

I’m looking forward to Fallen Hero, by the way.


FYI Unnatural was 250,000 words when it was released with a single playthrough anything between 45,000-70,000 and I got reviews saying it was too short. Im of the opinion to some people it’s the length of the playthrough that they look at almost as if they don’t understand the beauty is in replaying them making different choices.


Yes I look at length of playthrough. I don’t know how many words per run tin star is but thats the kind of length I enjoy for IF.

I think Unnatural could have done with being a bit longer but you’re spreading it across more than one game so I think when you finish the whole run it shouldn’t be too bad.

As I said in another thread though - I don’t necessarily re-play for variation but to enjoy the same path more than once.


Im of the opinion to some people it’s the length of the playthrough that they look at almost as if they don’t understand the beauty is in replaying them making different choices.

Yeah: as we know from this thread,

How many times do you play through a CS game?[quote=“Nocturnal_Stillness, post:20, topic:22609”]

some people don’t want to play a game more than once: that’s how they like to experience this kind of writing, and that’s good, too. But 45k-70k per playthrough gets “too short” comments? That probably just means your game is well written and you left them wanting more. Tin Star has 80k words per playthrough. We can’t all write Tin Star-length games, and more to the point, if you are writing a Choice Of label game, you wouldn’t want to.


To you I say, if writing is your passion, and in that you’re creating a HG, write the very best creation that you can. I’m personally loving what you’ve got so far, and always amazed at the progress you make on it (how do you do it, seriously, you’re like a machiiiine!) - so whether it becomes longer or gets capped off… I guess I’m on board already either way. But I’d like to see the end product be the best you can produce. Like how I want to make Monsters the best I can produce, someday, even though I’m certain that it will be one massive project likely to be over a million words when finished. It’s already at about 450k (not even joking), and I haven’t yet finished chapter 2, of 10. But, a lot of that is poor coding, I’ll admit- *line_break usage and copy/pasted sections. It’s probably still about 300k though. To me, whether it produces more money because of its size or not is secondary to producing something considered to be superb quality. (Of course I’ll need to do a heckalot of testing and editing to make sure it all checks out) But in that case, it’s more about the passion than the money. Even though I’m incentivised by money, in tandem with my competitive streak it’s why I keep entering all the CS writing contests that come up. But yes- I want your game to be something that meets -your- standards. Because you seem to have the same sort of inner fire for your own story as I do for mine. I fully believe Monsters may be able to have a sequel made for it someday. But with what I want to do, I think it would be an injustice to break the game I’m writing up.

I do understand the incentive for more, shorter stories… for a series I think it works much better than for a standalone, but I think it’s the fantasy novel reader in me who deeply appreciates longer read-throughs on stories. But for a masterpiece- a work of passion intended to be the best story/game possible rather than the best selling (even if the latter follows the prior), don’t sell short on putting any work into it which you feel would improve it. I personally love playing through longer games better… but I still buy shorter games, too. I’m a fan of Cataphract’s games, and JimD’s games- because they’re -good-. They’re not getting further into my pocketbook- I’m not buying the games multiple times… but they’re some of the games first on my thoughts when I want to recommend CS games and provide word-of-mouth in support of. Same could go for Fallen Hero. I think it’s at that level. And I hope Monsters will be, one day, as well.


Heh 2/10 = 450k… I think “it ran away” is an understatement. I have visions now of you hanging off the back of the millenium falcon with a rope as it jumps to hyperspace :smiley:


reaching back My haaaat!!! XD


Readers will always complain about our games being too short. In a world with epic fantasy novels in the hundreds of thousands of words, and open-world games in the scores of hours of “content,” being at the crux of those two with interactive fiction will always be perceived as too short.

The solution that I strive for is to make choices hard. And by hard I mean, where the reader wants multiple things, and has to choose between those things, and spends time deciding. That anguish is how you dilate the perception of length for our works.


And I wonder if that promotes replaying, even for people who don’t replay much: if you can clearly perceive two or three really divergent paths, you are much more likely to return (as opposed to a lot of choices that just seem like different tools to solve the same problem). Of course, if you are making choices difficult, that problem in itself points to more words–difficult choices suggests serious branchiness.


raises hand I’m one of those people who doesn’t reread most of the games I play. Bad habit… (there’s always something new to do instead)

Anyway, looking through the list, I see about three CoG games that I’ve replayed. Choice of the Vampire, Slammed, and Choice of Kung Fu. In addition, I’ve played 28 other CoG games, in full or in part. In HG, I see… Fifteen games I’ve replayed. Not necessarily replayed to conclusion, but at least in part. Of 36 total HG that I’ve played in full or in part. I realize I’m only a demographic of one, and I don’t think I could really explain -why- I replay more HG than CoG, having owned nearly the same amount (until losing most of my HG collection with the mobile I lost several months ago)… but more HG do make me want to explore multiple routes, and I don’t really know why. I find myself curious if there were a way to survey replayability and overlay it to sales to see if there’s a correlation or not.


@Shawn_Patrick_Reed - Heh, I either write or I don’t, there’s no middle. So as long as I can handle it, I will push forward fast, then it is rest and recharge once more. It’s the aspie in me.

And I am planning to make this the best end product I can, but it was always meant to be a trilogy. The problem was that it was originally meant as books, and when you do it as a choice thing, it escalates. You need more groundwork and background and variants, thus it goes wide rather than deep, and in my opinion it makes for a better game that way.

What my problem here was is that I had an envisioned cut-off point from the start, but I have been filling in blanks as I go, so the time to get there has become much longer. Right now I think I am better off going back and adding all the things that’s been planned, because that alone should add 50 000 words or so in paths and chapters. I really do admire your conviction to keep it as a single book, but that was never on the table for me.

I think what makes me happy about a game if it it feels like it is a complete story, even if it is just an installment of Samurai of Hyuga.

Hmmm I have to think about this.


Actually it’ll probably be longer once the edits are finished. @Fiogan comes up with good points a lot with her edits and new scenes will no doubt bloom from quite a few of them.