The future of CoG: my ideas

I love interactive fiction and ChoiceScript is an amazing tool to bring creativity to life. When I think of its possibilities, I can’t help but imagine a future that embraces this creative liberty even more. I’ve visualized and written down a few ideas for the future of Choice of Games. With a background in web development, I can safely say that the project scope is huge - possibly impossible - but maybe it can inspire something.

From label to platform
ChoiceScript is free for anyone to try, and I think this aspect could be greatly built upon. The popularity of user-generated content (see: dashingdon) really highlights the value of a platform specifically for user stories, similar to Webtoons Canvas. The whole web (and app) experience of CoG could be restructured into an app where officially released games (hosted and originals) and user games can both be enjoyed. It would be an omnibus not only for the CoG label, but for interactive fiction as a medium. User stories would be hosted in the cloud and accessible to everyone (like dashingdon).

Allowing user content on the platform has huge implications: it will require moderation, raise questions about monetization, and it will obfuscate the line between hosted and user WIPs. There’s no way to sugarcoat this. However, the success of platforms like webtoons and fanfiction sites showcase the merit of opening up the floodgates. I think CoG could fill the role as the future of CYOA fiction way better than apps like Choices or Maybe, which offer very basic interactive fanfiction/webtoons with some in-game choices requiring you to pay, even for things like outfits.

CoG ships standalone games to Steam, which is an important point: official releases still need to feel official, even in a shared omnibus. To separate originals from user-generated content, official works should be considered full games and all user content WIPs. This way, official releases can justify a better experience with more features: achievements, savestates (‘continue playing’), statistics (how many people have taken a route), cloud saves.

These are also ways to reestablish the ‘Games’ in CoG by making play more rewarding. Achievements could be greatly expanded, by adding global statistics and ways to flaunt them. Points gathered from achievements could be used for a global scoreboard, or perhaps to buy stickers/awards to give to interesting user-generated content (like Reddit). Tying achievements to artwork or additional lore that you can unlock - or any other way to tell the player what they’re missing out on - could be a great way to incentivize multiple playthroughs.

Still, the huge scope of a CYOA game means some user stories will never be finished. This can be accommodated in this new platform by allowing user stories to be published episodically (like what already happens on the forums). This will alleviate some of the work required to release a game and make even small releases feel fulfilling for aspiring writers, while keeping the readers engaged and constantly tickled with new chapters, similar to a webtoon release schedule but on a much larger scale.

From notepad to engine
ChoiceScript is perfect for interactive fiction, and highly intuitive once you get it. But getting it can be hard for newcomers and for writers with a painfully long script. If CoG is to be the hub for interactive fiction, its engine should be just as welcoming. I think a proper editor is the best way to modernize ChoiceScript - make it easier to understand, not necessarily easier to write (because the syntax is already so optimized).

  • An editor that renders the story as you write and catches problems on the fly much like an IDE for any other coding language will make CS games much easier to make. Imagine a panel that visualizes your chapter as a tree view, where you can tag certain points for reference and see which parts are linked (see the screenshot above, the panel in the middle). It would be web-based and tied to your CoG account, so that your WIPs are stored in the cloud and can be edited anywhere, like Google Docs.
  • If we can lower the entry barrier for writing a CS story, we can also give advanced users more complex features. For instance, allowing array and object manipulation and further text customization (such as tables, boxes and other ways to highlight content) could make games even more interactive and unique.
  • Obviously, an editor like this is not easy to develop - and although new frameworks simplify the development of IDEs, it is still a huge headache. There’s an unofficial ChoiceScript IDE, which is extremely impressive, and close to what I’m imagining.

Bringing it together
If you’re not seeing what I see just yet, imagine this with me: you open choiceofgames.com, browse the new titles, continue playing a chapter of the game you bought yesterday, check if your favorite user stories have updated and work on your own story in the editor. Except for the editor, there’s nothing new here - but right now, these all feel like separate experiences: you launch the game somewhere, check WIPs on the forum and edit in notepad. I would want the future of CoG to unify this experience in one app, so that all aspects of interactive fiction - full games by seasoned writers, creative expressions by players like you and I and creating your own art - feel accessible, encouraged and satisfying.

A final disclaimer: these are just my personal opinions and although I might sound very passionate, some of the features I’m arguing for are simply impossible without a large team. I am in no way implying that CoG should do or should have done this. I’m perfectly fine with CoG not changing at all.

(The pictures in this topic were made by me)

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While a great idea in theory, most people on the forums don’t play as achievement hunters/getting 100% of the story completed. Additionally tying extraneous content to be unlockable doesn’t sound very appealing. Most people want to read the story because it’s a great story, not a great game.

The incentive for me to replay a game to get 100% of the achievements is based on stimulation and text games don’t offer way of much stimulation of the other senses besides sight. Based on how tough the story is (think Zombie Exodus), there’s very little incentive to grind my way through to unlock art or lore because at some point I’ll probably just take the easy way and find a shared resource where I can find that art/lore or just give up altogether.

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I think the same as a role player, not a meta gamer I am not interested in a supposed score or what is considered good route that and I don’t want to share the data of my playthroughts or having to play as a meta gamer to unlock what I have already payed for.

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Also some other things that slipped my mind while I go back and reread your post:

Your rendition of the website’s new look is appealing and I admire the effort you’ve put in to make that image.

There is one thing I will say that I think you missed in the following sentence:

Allowing user content on the platform has huge implications: it will require moderation, raise questions about monetization, and it will obfuscate the line between hosted and user WIPs.

Communication.

Based on your description of the app, it doesn’t sound like it has a way to ensure communication between the authors and the audience for things like giving content updates, ballpark estimates for updates, feedback loops, and setting expectations and boundaries on the author’s end.

No.

Absolutely not.

Given that these stories are text based, customization options like extra special weapons or clothing is meaningless IMO. I will never get to see my character move and see how those extra special weapons or clothing is worth the cost. I will never get to see the badass skin on my firearm or the cool cape with special effects as my character rolls around, leaping from cover to cover.

If you look at Vampire the Masquerade - Night Road and some of the GooglePlay reviews griped about the Usurpers and Outcasts and Secrets and Shadows DLC and had a fair amount of support from other reviewers via thumbs up, averaging at at least 10 thumbs up per reviews that griped about the DLC.

Night Road Reviews

One Star Rating: The price is already extremely high for this game, then there’s DLC you have to pay more for! It looked really interesting but I’m not supporting this. I shouldn’t have my choices locked behind a pay wall after already paying for the game!!

One Star Rating: Wanted to play a tremere. First thing i read is a dlc paywall. Now i wont bother with it at all. Bought and read 35 COG and HG games so far. Reason i liked them all is because every choice was open for me as I saw fit. I dont EVER want to see something like this happen with a cog or hg again. Its choose your own adventure, not paywall unlock your adventure, which is what made me love the publishing company beforehand. Make the full game a single higher price as usual and ill gladly pay for it.

Two Star Rating: It’s not for everybody. It looks like a lot of work has been put into it but the amount of lore, names and everything else is confusing to say the least. Also the low rating is due to microtransactions. I’ve never seen it in cog games before and this is such a disappointment. I will not be supporting this kind of practice. Sorry. Won’t be buying it.

Three Star Rating: Excellent writing. Captures the feel of old text adventures perfectly. If you miss books of this kind, you’ll love it. I’m taking a point off for some minor bugs (inventory not updating correctly, some UI stuff) and a pricing model that is hard to recommend. DLCs in a text adventure AFTER you’ve bought the thing? Come on. EDIT: Well, after two more playthroughs I have to tick another point off. There’s a lot more bugs than I realised. Some of which make progress impossible. Please fix em.

Three Star Rating: Have not played through the whole game yet but not bad so far. Although why are there microtransactions in the game when i have bought the game itself? I don’t mind supporting a creator if the game is good but if i paid for the full game I expected to have a full game. Not the game with some play aspects closed off due to paywalls.

Five Star Review: Been playing WhiteWolf games since 94’ and this is an awesome expression of Vampire the Masquerade (Like V:tM meets the movie Drive). Multiple ways to problem solve, action, mystery, and undead politics. My only complaint is the price tag. This game should be 5 dollars tops and the dlc should be only 1 buck for both of them. As much as I love V:tM I almost did not buy this game because of the price. There are a ton of choose your own adventure books for free or only 3-4 dollars.


The problem with this lies in that people will make assumptions based on how much content is per update and how frequently updates will occur based on the average/their experiences.

We still have reviews claiming that these stories are too short despite clocking at over a half of a million words per story.

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure @sebby_bing wasn’t suggesting CoG should use this set up. That seems to have been a description of the model apps like Choices use, the whole point being it is not as user friendly.

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Good point. I think my 4 hours of sleep has me jumping the gun. Thanks for pointing it out and apologies @sebby_bing for jumping on you without giving a thorough read of what you wrote.

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I gotta say, seeing those reviews for Night Road is so frustrating and disappointing considering how much work, months and months of tireless writing and debugging, went into even the original, which was a complete and extremely thorough game, by the way, and didn’t “require” any extra purchases unless you felt the need to see “your” particular vision for a vampire in the American southwest.

Hundreds of thousands of words. An entire year of full-brained dedication, scores of hours of reading and replay value, and some people think it should only cost $3-$4, whereas the latest Feist novels go for $7-$15 on amazon, and they certainly didn’t need debugging.

A sobering reminder that some people really do value games lower than other kinds of entertainment, and expect other monetization avenues like ads and other microtransactions to make up the difference, but not without complaining about it.

Also a reminder that many people aren’t willing to pay for game words at all in proportion to the time it takes to make those words. Readers might blow through a single chapter in an hour or less. Would they keep paying $0.99 for single chapters, released months later?

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I’ll temper my previous statement to say that if you can write fairly short, fairly simple stories without much branching, where your choices are mostly pronouns and hair color and who you choose to romance, and a lot of sex, or promise thereof if you pay extra, you can probably hook em for multiple purchases and have it be worth it, but I’d rather not see CoG go down that road.

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This is literally what I absolutely loathe about games like Choices. They’re exclusively pay to “win”. I agree, ChoiceScript has the potential to lead the CYOA genre. The only tantalizing thing about Choices and its multiple variant apps are the art. I don’t mean to be so hateful against them, and this is just my personal opinion, but the stories are lackluster and too linear.

The problem with this is that most WIP gets cancelled or abandoned. And there would be an added pressure for the author to add new episodes to their work, especially since there’s a wider scope of audience than just the people in the forums. What I like about ChoiceScript games is that they’re complete. They may not exactly be a finished story (talking about a book series) but they’re fully fleshed individual books.

I think what people like about ChoiceScript games is their simplicity. You only pay once for the content and you have control. Apps like Choices don’t let you take more control of the story and is usually just about romance. COG is highly inclusive and that’s another major point for me.

There’s no pay to win and no unnecessary stuff - it’s just you and your imagination.

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The challenge of introducing platforms is that they need constant maintenance and improvement.

In the case of what CoG (and its equivalents), they would need a constant stream of people contributing which is unlikely to happen. Then there is the issue of pricing and that is just a nightmare on its own.

Interactive fiction suffers from the fact that people believe they are not well written enough to be considered books and, too simply designed to be considered games.

I would think that the future of CoG lies in the omnibus deisgns and establishing EU for their more popular games thus launching a franchise. Then you can sell fan items like artwork, and the like. The challenge here is that you need to have a dedicated fandom.

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Aye ,the major thrill comes in the immersion i.e. not being the mc exactly but channeling our real self through our mc through his choices .Very few CoGs have been able to do that so far but those who did are a class apart(chef’s kiss worthy).

The weight publishers and the gaming world in general put into reviews and metrics is a topic of continual discussion. A review or a metric should never be taken as a complete and final “picture” or “tell-all” for any released game. The various things you point out and many other factors should be taken in as part of a greater whole.

One thing I learned over the years regarding reviews: It is great to take constructive and actionable feedback from them, but we must leave the destructive and nonactionable feedback behind.

As a creator and as a support person, you should never ever internalize and make any review “yours” … even the most well-meaning destructive feedback destroys and is something that should never be “allowed” to dictate a response – proactive on the next project or reactive in patches or future updates.

I suggest a review of the past discussion of this issue might be warrented from time to time for us all, to help us remember to treat reviews and the feedback they offer correctly.

As to the ideas and concepts presented in the OP – there is a lot to unpack, some of which I can tell I disagree with right away (eg monetizing character customization) and others which are not only redundant considering what is being done, but which involve much more than what is being said about them.

Personally, I feel the only people that should speak “authoritatively” about the “Future of CoG company” are the stakeholders.

Perhaps presenting the ideas one by one for a more precise and focused discussion would have been better.

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I’ll say I believe OP has good intentions. It’s clear they’re passionate about interactive fiction and CoG specifically. I share some frustration in that I believe CoG and ChoiceScript could be much more, but I can only cheer and observe from afar.

Some of what OP has presented, though nice concepts, would demand resources and people, and would hardly bring return to the investment. One thing I’ll say though, my opinion by the way, is that the app definitely could use an improvement. From the lack of the possibility to create reading list (you can favorite a game) and leaving written feedback to the terrible search engine that clears out once you visit an item in the search list (which forces you to retype the search term again and again every time you’re looking for a game) there’s a lot of improvements in order to offer a better user experience. The website is also, to keep it diplomatic, very outdated (not in content, but in style).

I hope this is actionable feedback.

CoG is a private company and they can’t endlessly invest in things that won’t bring them return. But it is good that the community let them know there are things in their power they can do to offer a better user experience.

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Why not create a topic where everyone can tell what they want to see improved on everything related to choicescript?

That way, they will gather ideas and see if they are doable or not.

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Sincerely, I don’t see the point as any of us is a shareholder of Cog; they are the ones that have to ask and decide was is competitive and economically viable for them. All this is just wishful thinking that doesn’t help anyone.

Cog is a private company not a democracy.

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Sorry but I think you misunderstood my reply. What I was suggesting through my answer is a topic where forum members can suggest ideas not for these ideas to be actualy realized or judged worthy or anything else but simply for the fact of discussing ideas… casually… With no ulterior motives… Just saying what we would love to see improved on our fav company. Now it would be up to the COG team to consider these ideas if they want to. After all, discussing ideas is the start to all great things (Or so i think.)

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I will say that from my experience among VTM and other oWoD fans (whose first interaction with CoG was Night Road), it was a big hit. I think adapting tabletop IPs into ChoiceScript games is a good model to move forward with, as the people who enjoy playing TTRPGs are used to using their minds eye to fill in the gaps left by narration.

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I second that.

Honestly, i really have to disagree with that. Even if COG is a private company, without us FANS they wouldn’t be where they are today and we certainly wouldn’t be here talking, so…

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Gentle reminder to try and stay on topic by discussing the ideas OP proposed. Thank you! :slightly_smiling_face: Any alternative discussions are welcome to continue either in PMs or in another thread!

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Sorry to bump the thread. I had meant to reply a while back, but got sidetracked by life. First of all I just wanted to say: great images. You’ve got a really good eye for design. I like them a lot!

Second, I wanted to weigh on the one part I feel comfortable/qualified to comment on.

Cloud WIP Development
This would be very cool. I think CSIDE already kinda does this with Dropbox, but it would be cool if it integrated with Google Drive too. Dashingdon also provides an API, which I’ve wanted to plug in to for a while.

I’m not quite sure if it would work the other way around though: I.e. CoG hosting and you being able to edit from other places. That seems counter intuitive.

Rendering as you type
I don’t think this is really practical. The problem is that your game is relying on variables to create its content. You could use default values, as set in startup.txt, but there’s no way of knowing if those values will always be appropriate for the part of the game you’re editing at that time.

Tree view
I think this is again somewhat tricky, because of the flexibility of the language, as I explain here:

Otherwise better error handling/code validation is definitely something we can, and are, working to improve across a few different tools. Very happy to hear suggestions on this front!

Thanks for sharing your ideas, it’s really good to see such enthusiasm.

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