Should the average play-through be included in descriptions? (Poll)

I included that in the text at the start of my game, as much info as I could, including the length of the demo, and total length with and without code.

Trying to stave off those 1 reviews…


Could be useful, but I’d like total word count to stay to give some indication of replayability. Number of distinct endings (not just minor txt variations) would also be kind of nice for that.

Yeah sea maiden has one of those near the begining. It has an epilogue and everything. I don’t mind early endings as long as they’re satisfying and there’ s not lots of “You turned left and fell down a well. You’re dead, the end” without an option to restart the chapter. It’d be a shame to cut them out if they add to the story rather than hinder it.

Here’s the thing I think people may not consider too much: Most of our readers are casual. They’ve never been on the forum, and they don’t really think about how ChoiceScript games are designed. In fact there is a good chance they’ve never even heard the term ChoiceScript. All they know is these two companies (or, in many’s perception, this one company), puts out these games, and the ones with bigger numbers are longer (and therefore usually better), and that’s that. Distinguishing replay value, degrees of separation in branching, number of endings versus details in endings, all of that is beyond the casual player.

Let me give you an example: Foraker is one of our lowest rated games in the past year. The biggest complaint? It’s length, compared to Broadsides. The confusing part? Most people complained that Foraker was too short, it’s categorically longer in every respect compared to Broadsides. Most people don’t actually know how long a game is, and more of how long it feels is more gut than brain.

For many casual users, having one word count is confusing. Having two word counts would not help that.

Continuing my thoughts here.


I saw that and thought is was weird that players were complaining it was shorter than Broadsides. Isn’t it two or three times as long word count wise? I wondered if it had more branching or customization than Broadsides and the issue was playthrough length rather than total. (Haven’t had a chance to finish reading Foraker yet so if not could just be a gut feeling or memory thing.)


It’s been long enough since I’ve played Broadsides I don’t really have a sense of how long it actually is, but Foraker’s length is definitely a lot more variable if you head directly for the final confrontation vs. chasing false leads and making preparations.

It also feels subjectively shorter because it’s a single cruise rather than multiple, and probably most people haven’t played Broadsides in years.

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So, continuing my thoughts:

Right so for the casual reader I believe play through word count is not useful as I’ve already outlined. As for the dedicated reader/writer, (i.e. most of us here) well there is what I want to call the “looping length problem”. That is, some games have intentional loops, repeating parts of text repeatedly or otherwise have various chunks doing work outside of the scope of what they might do without subroutines or loops. This is primarily an HG problem, but it’s not exactly unheard of with CoG.

To point a few HGs out as examples, The Great Tournament has a huge section of simulation game style wandering around from town to town to power up, My Day off Work is predicated on the idea of wandering around town finding things to interact with, and The Iron Destinies is entirely dedicated to the idea of replaying as a gameplay mechanic, to the point where large chunks of the game are locked off until you reach certain endings. Not one of these games provides a clean method of determining what “counts” when you start talking about gameplay word count.

Do you count every time it lists your HP in a fight in TGT? My Day off Work includes descriptions you can poke at, but not get into, and a lot of paths take a bit of dedication to reach, dedication that is possible with a real reader, but not really common if you just randomly mash buttons (as randomtest does). And what about The Iron Destinies? You’re meant to play through again, playing through just the one time is not a full game. What counts there?

To sum up my point, the random play through length is not a good indicator of the actual shape of a game without the proper context of how games are designed, which is why I don’t think listing playthough word counts if useful for the dedicated reader/writer either (at least in it being in game descriptions). If someone wants to see that, it really only becomes useful in a whole spreadsheet with notes on how the game structure may differ from the standard branching/delayed branching.

IIRC, average play through length (i.e. the length you get from running randomtest with word count on), was longer in Foraker. It was larger in every respect.

I believe you’re right, but the general point still stands. Most readers don’t actually have a good sense of the size or design of games.

And to the point that a long game can ‘feel’ short and a short game can ‘feel’ long by pulling the right emotional strings, well, I think that’s just another thing to throw on the pile of why I think average play through lengths being listed is not useful.


I definitely get your point about how listing the playthrough length for those games wouldn’t be very useful. Most of the games on here aren’t like those three, though. The Magician’s Burden and all of my WIPs, for example, are pretty balanced when it comes to the linear scenes and the branching scenes, so when a playthrough length is given, that’s gonna be pretty accurate probably 9/10 times.

I just think it’s useful because it gives readers an idea of how much replay ability they should expect, and it also means they won’t be shocked when the game suddenly ends, because they were told how long an average playthrough was. You’re probably right that a lot of casual readers would glaze over these details or just not understand them, but I also think it wouldn’t really hurt, and it could help with the more savvy readers’ expectations.

As I’m sure many of you have come to realize, bad reviews are often present not because something is necessarily bad, but because the reader expected something else. (I.e. a power fantasy instead of an underdog story, or a long story instead of a shorter one.)


Tbh I’m not actually that convinced that putting wordcount per playthrough on the screen would really help with that unless the person was familiar with the larger CS library, and a majority of games had wpp listed. Like, as a person who frequents the forums, knows bits and pieces about coding, has talked a lot with CS authors, if I see a game is 100K words with coding, and in an average playthrough I read 50K words … I don’t really know what that means for the story. I mean just right off the bat, I know some of that 100K is coding, but I honestly have no idea what proportion it is. So I don’t really know how many of the “readable” words those 50K words are. And even aside from that, while I know what the total wordcount is for a lot of the games I like, I don’t know what the general wpp for any of them are. Like, just cause I’m seeing discussion about what a casual fan would get out of it, I wanna add that as a dedicated CoG/HG fan, I don’t think having that number would do me very much good either

Well, the cool thing is that playthrough lengths made by Random Test don’t include code, or even the text for other options not chosen. So when it says you’ll read 50k words, that’s an accurate estimate.


I mean specifically about using it to judge replay value/branching–sorry, I should’ve been more precise with my quote-replying.

Without a frame of reference, I just don’t really know what kind of effect different branches have on a wordcount, and so I would disagree with the idea that putting a per-playthrough word count in the game description would give me tangible information about how wide the story is

Gonna take my own WiP as example:

My maingame stands at 110k words with code now, with an wpp of 31k. If we say that a tenth or close of a game (averagely) is code, this is about 1/3 of the available text per playthrough. This is with as of now minor branches. (we’ll see where this ends up with the major plotbranches)
The bonus meanwhile is 30k with code, 3k wpp, due to some massive mini-branching due to powers and gender stuff (it makes sense in context I swear).

So, all in all I think the most informative would be to, in addition say, maybe, how many possible endings are there and how many main branches.
Yeah, I’m making this more complicated than it could/should be, sorry.

Ultimately what I’m interested in is basically how many playthroughs I’ll have and how long each will be. This is of course pretty hard to reduce to numbers, because I’m not going to explore every branch or a predictable percentage, but knowing the ratio between total and average would give me some vague impression of how different repeat playthroughs would be. I’d rather have a game with four highly distinct 20K routes than basically one 80K route.

As it is, I automatically skip over the total wordcount; it is a completely meaningless value that tells me nothing about how many times I’ll play or how long they’d be.

To get a useful average, it’d need to basically be calculated like the total for a game that only has the path taken, so the values are meaningfully comparable.

Average wordcount doesn’t tell you how the branching is implemented though. You could have a 200k word game where it’s 90% the same text until it splits into many distinct end branches, or a 100k word game where the variation is woven evenly through.


Yes, but I’d be much more likely to enjoy repeat playthroughs of both of those than one that has less total branching. Also less annoyed it’s taking up space in the summary that could be devoted to other information instead.

Mhn… did we have a thread about what defines a branch? And what sets it apart from flavor-text? And what qualities flavor text should have to affect replay value compared to being ‘just’ a bit of fill-in-the-blanks?

Well, you could compare the total length to the playthrough length. If a game is 230k and you see 60k, that tells you it has considerable replay ability. If it’s 100k and you see 50k, that tells you it has very little replay ability.

I would not expect we’d get a proper definition that could be algorithmically implemented. Generally I’d expect a text variable to be fill-in-the blanks and an *if to be meaningful enough to count as branching, but of course you could implement the same words with either.

The wordcount algorithm I’d expect would basically play through the game and it’d count each word displayed by a line in the file the first time it hit that line in a playthrough, more or less. That’d reasonably approximate unique words; it’d be imperfect for looping scenes but ultimately there’s only so much an automated algorithm can do

I’m not speaking of any algorithm. Just… an author knows how far branches go, before they come back together if they do so at all.
So they could say
"Hey, this is 150k total, 50k wpp with 3 major branches that come together at the climax

I’m not sure about adding average play-through length, mostly because looking at an average play-through length seems so short compared to the length of the entire game. Most people would buy and try a 100,000+ word game, but many would be put off at the thought of a game with an average play-through length of 30,000 words. I actually think it might lose players, since the large difference might give the impression of “not getting their money’s worth.”

I’d also like to add that 30,000 words in a CS game feels a lot different from 30,000 words in a novel. Since decisions break up the narrative, it’s not like turning a page in a book where you don’t have to think about the consequences your page-turning has on the narrative. It’s also harder to pin down how much text is in one screen of a CS game at any given time. While pages usually have a set number of words on them, CS games can vary wildly in the number of words and paragraphs per page, which makes the word count even more of a nebulous thing.

I must say I can’t follow that logic.
Wouldn’t people who pay for 100k words and ‘only’ get 30k be as put off?
Or people who know the wordcount in the description means ‘with code’, but who buy a 100k game and get 50k words with little to no branching and replayvalue because the coding is shoddy?