Story vs. Game

First thing first to enjoy a “You died” screen I would need a saving system or at least a checkpoint system.

Then variety in tracks and options, like “I went left and I died, let’s try right this time…or forget this area, let’s go back to the previous area and let’s check that secondary route I left behind”.

Something CoG games don’t provide and I think are rather difficult to accomplish instead of the forward-like progression of a story.

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I prefer story-based COGs, and I tend to skip any that emphasize the mechanics / stats / resource-management side of things.

Basically I agree with what others have said about Choicescript being ill-suited to non-standard IF games: there’s no saves, there’s no visuals, etc. so that makes it much more tedious when all you have to go on are some stat numbers on a page. For instance, if the focus is going to be combat mechanics, I’d rather be playing a 3D shooter than a text version of one.

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To make an example.
If you were to propose me to play a game like The Age of Decadence as a CoG game I would say yes! The visual and sound department are somewhat secondary to the narrative and the skillchecks are really demanding, but could it be pulled off with ChoiceScript?

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This thread is emblematic “game theory” that often leads authors/developers astray.

Game genres are best defined by their mechanic structures and implementations. Platform games have a set of defined mechanic systems which defines the genre, as does any other “pure” genre that exists.

Cross-genre or multi-genre games have multiple mechanic systems that make the whole.

Story telling or “game writing” is often seen as separate and often opposed to mechanics by many, but the simple truth is that writing a story in a game is just another “system” that defines the game you are making.

Josef Fares from Hazelight, says it best (They just released a very popular “co-op” game):

A cohesive experience – I told @Brian_Rushton the other day that for the bulk of text-based choice games, mechanics are not the key that unlocks the kingdom.

Regardless, mechanics still do help to determine a text-based choice game’s success, because the ultimate goal to reach success is a cohesive experience.

A text-based choice game that has a “win/lose” mechanic needs to make sure that every other system in the game design creates a cohesive experience.

If one aspect of the game is emphasized over any other, the mix creating the user experience is going to be unable to provide the cohesion needed for a successful game.

If you are designing your own Hosted Game or if you are under contract for a COG game, please take this to heart.

A game designer’s ultimate goal should be to create a cohesive experience, utilizing every element used to build their game.

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I just don’t anticipate finding gameplay in a COG/HG fun like a video game, personally. When I’ve “won” at a video game, that’s because I (the player) became skilled enough at the game and its mechanics. I don’t think there’s a way to become real-life skilled at a COG/HG, because ChoiceScript is not that type of engine.

I can boss Assassin’s Creed, Crash, or FIFA, but it’s not (just) because I equipped the best armour/I knew when to jump/I picked the best players in every position. Even with a walkthrough, they’re hard to beat before I’ve learnt, in my hands, the physical gameplay. What actually would make a COG/HG hard to beat, other than not knowing which is the right button to effortlessly press?

The challenge of COG/HGs is balancing and getting what you want. I think “losing” is a state of mind, and relative to the genre/platform. Getting the ending I didn’t want here is a loss.

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An ‘arcade’ style text game sounds absolutely terrible. There is a reason why computer games moved forward with saves and similiar ways to enable more people to get to something of an end as soon as the tech was available.

Here is the thing. If you get a game over early, why would you replay? In an arcade-style game it might be because the graphics were cool, you liked the gameplay, you wanted to beat the high score or you wanted bragging rights. In a text game of the CoG style, only the last would apply, and in order for it to do so, it would need to be popular enough that others played it. I suspect most people would not get past the demo, and if they did but died immediately afterwards, the reviews would be a killer.

One of the draws with an arcade game is that it’s not the END that’s the draw (most people won’t get it) but the journey. The gameplay. The zoning out and getting in the grove. You’re not going to get that in a text game, people will skim the text, get frustrated, and have to reread the same thing over and over again. It is one of the WORST formats available for emulating that kind of experience.

This brings me to achievements. THAT is how you do it in interactive fiction. Have hard, weird outcomes that only a few players will hunt for, but the majority that won’t care will still be able to have a fulfilling experience. I have people who have replayed FH so many times, hunting for the ideal outcome. Everyone can finish, but finish it the way you want it? That takes skill.

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I’ll add that I think you have to consider the limitations and advantages of the platform.

The lack of major visual elements really hampers the 70%-ish of people who need them to engage with material in any medium. However, I’ve found the special effects for my project to be very affordable. I think it was Chuck P. who said that if you write, tell stories you can’t tell in other mediums, due to budget, scope, ratings approval. That is the main reason I broke away from screenplay, which I am more established in, to try an idea that no studio could budget for. Heart’s Choice is exploring that in the ratings sense. Visual RPGs touch on the erotic, but nothing quite focuses on it yet. Nothing big, anyway. There are a few oddities on Steam.

The unique value proposition of a CoG, to me, is the emotional impact of story elements (like a book) because of the way characters and events are instilled with meaning over time. As far as gaming goes, it’s a slow dosage. However, it is more co-creative/participatory than a novel. The writer promises delayed gratification, and the reader pays by suspending disbelief.

I worry that game-ier games will try to be a bad game, rather than a good book, if that makes any sense. Even creative use of ChoiceScript will struggle to make something as interesting as Number Munchers which is >20yrs old. I guess it could do an Oregon Trail, but I bet $10 that the bookish version in the right hands is 10x better.

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I think I lost you there (no pun ?). You’re using the word “lose” as not attaining an ending, but it seems you allude to losing at CS as some sort of difficult to get ending, which I assume done by “game over, try again”? edit: I reread your post and probably misread something, so just ignore this part that get crossed out.

What is losing here? An unbreakable ouroboros loop that must be broken? Getting the bad ending? Or bored out you drop the game?


I think a better descriptor is to compare CoG as a single-player TTRPG adventure. It’s clearer and easier to describe “A GM wrote a campaign and anyone can play that campaign single-player.”


My own thoughts on the topic.

It doesn’t matter whether a game is hard or not. What is is if the game (story) is fun to play (read). Doesn’t necessarily means that there’s no place for hard games in CS, but I think it’s a mistake to think of “how to make this game hard” first rather “how to make a fun game”.

Just as how Eiwynn put it: a cohesive experience, but non-gamer/designer might more familiar with the word “fun” better.

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No, I would not. No saves means that losing is going alll the way back into the start, reading all the same stuff I already read once, just to choose a different point at the same place and hope not to die. The cog engine is just not build for it.

Also COGs and Hosted are not sandbox games??? At least not sandbox by the definition most uses. I think that has been one or two attempt to make a sandbox version of a game, but they have never been finished.

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@Sam_Ursu I’m pretty sure there are actually several choice games that have permadeath. I’m not a fan personally, but clearly some people are. Some have combat systems where if you lose it’s game over, whereas others have certain choices that’ll just kill you instantly and cause a game over. All of which is doubly annoying in games that use randomization, so you could be completely stacked and playing smart, but the game just decides you should die and there’s nothing you can do. I feel like the lack of a dedicated save system has prevented these from being more prevalent, but they are out there.

The Great Tournament is an example: if you die in the combat (hard to do), game over. There’s a certain choice later on where you can explore something, 50/50 chance of killing you, game over.

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Thank you one and all for your comments and opinions both here on this thread as well as in PM to me about this topic.

I really appreciate your feedback!

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I think there are games where you can lose? Also some that are definitely not safe space. It feels like we played very different text games.
As for a question: I’m all for a bad end situation like it was for example in Fate Stay Night, where they were in narrative

So, keep in mind this is personal opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt, I enjoy challenging games. I love games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, etc but those games, even with limited options, have saves. Yeah sure I might have to redo like an hour of gameplay, but that gameplay changes, that gameplay is slightly different, ultimately that gameplay is unique even if I’ve replayed the last hour up to the boss several times.

Thats where an issue with CoG by its very nature has its biggest flaw. The lack of save options and the unchanging nature of the narrative. Even choosing different choices will get old, unless each choice has very different outcomes, games like Wayhaven do this, and the risk of losing what could be hours of progress because of the lack of saves is just devastating. I don’t miss the days of Castlevania on NES. If I had to restart an hours long game because a string of choices were the absolutely worse outcome in the mind of the author, I think I would legitimately just not pick it up again out of frustration unless it had a Choice of Rebels chapter save option.

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It is a popular opinion.

I difference between a return button to a save system. A save system can be useful for return to play in each chapter. But, still not allowing to player spamming choices to the point where they break the variables (with that gating many scenes out of the playthrough. And then they complain about that game has no content)

What I don’t like is the return button. That will destroy Cog scenes as damage continuity of variables and damage the story. Causing unintended errors.

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That’s an interesting topic and it’s funny that I came across it right after a small fight in one of the communities I’m in. Originally I’m from the CIS region and our history was never really bright. If you ever heard of Dostoevsky or Tolstoy or any other great Russian authors you might know one of the main topics they usually put in their novels is ‘a small man against the cruel world order’.
So basically people from my part of the world are used to suffering and tragic or dramatic story endings. I never really expect to win the game without losing it a couple of times. I never really expect myself to become a hero and save everyone. Both in real life and in the game. Funny enough it’s not just me, I think I can say that about most of my fellow Russian-speaking players.
On the other hand, I see a lot of negative comments about some tough games from English-speaking players and I can’t help but wonder if it’s a sort of a cultural difference. When you grew up reading comic books about superheroes doesn’t it really affect how you see yourself in video games (and maybe even in real life)?

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As a russian, totally agree with everything. We love our suffering lol

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Clearly we need some stern Germanic or Northern sagas where you are certain to lose, and the only question is what you will make of yourself before the inevitable and bitter end. “Fighting the long defeat,” to take a phrase from Galadriel.

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Well, and they are coming! I see more and more games based on nordic folklore (not just Valheim, but others). Also, I love that Polish-based studios and Russian games studios are making some hits like Werewolf and The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante and actively use their local folktales in a core storyline. It’s dark, even depressing, but I absolutely adore it.
Sadly, most of these games are not mobile-friendly (or at least yet) and obviously, language is one of the biggest barriers to effectively promote such games, but fingers crossed world will see more tragic/dark text-based games soon.

There’s another thing that I think affects most of the players and their preferences nowadays - media buzz. When you turn on your TV or open your FB feed all you see is pain, suffering, wars, pandemics, deaths, etc. Because it makes money. So you’re sick and tired of it and just want to experience ‘fast and positive’ emotions when playing games. That’s the games industry standard, sadly everything is like Netflix now.

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This game is one of the few modern RPG text-based games which follow many old-school development processes and implementation of core systems that challenge the players.

It is one of the few recent releases that has surprised me greatly and (not coincidently) one of the few recent releases I felt was under promised while over delivering.

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That game was fantastic. I felt like I got shafted a bit at the end during a key moment because a choice that I was expecting to be there was nonexistent. It kinda ruined the ending for me, but still, it’s a great game.

That one definitely felt more like a game than a story, but I mostly attribute that to how meticulously you have to manage your stats. That’s often how I determine if a choice game is more game or story. “How often do I have to take myself out of the story to manage something that affects the story?”

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