The Length and/or Pacing of Published Stories

Hopefully this isn’t an existing topic, sorry if it is :I
Also sorry for the weird title. I wanted to do one of those charmingly awkward 1800s two titles thing, but I don’t remember the appropriate formatting/punctuation (I feel like it’s “Blah Blah, or; Blah Blah Blah”, but that looks wrong).

So this is something I’ve noticed, and just now felt the urge to bring up (basically no reason) to see if I’m alone in this. Does anyone else feel that published stories (especially CoG stories, as opposed to Hosted Games) tend to be kinda short, or at least very rushed feeling in the latter half? I know consciously that by wordcount most stories here outsize full novels, at times massively, and while part of it is obviously incorporating choices, I think the average length is still around the same as a normal novel. I haven’t read normal books in quite a long time so my frame of reference is pretty fucked and I don’t know if it’s just me not remembering how short normal books could feel. So is that a me thing?

To add on a bit, thinking it over I feel like it tends to be a pacing thing. Like, the demo portion plus some tends to feel really good (usually), with shit being introduced at a good consistent pace, and the story beats hitting at the right time, but like towards the latter half it seems to often fall apart. Like, “okay we met everyone, main storyline kicks in, QUICK CHOOSE AN RO CLIMAXCLIMAXCLIMAX book over”. I’m don’t really have any specific examples since it’s been a while since I’ve read a published thing, but Rent-A-Vice comes to mind as one I felt has such a strong start and then suddenly ended before the story began (not hating on the story or anything, I loved it but it ended so abruptly [to my memory] that it left a bit of a saddened sour taste). As said, CoG stories seem to be way worse about that than Hosted Games, but I have a bias against them due to how they’re edited/put together in general that I may be unfairly misrepresenting them.

(pls no one take this badly, i dont mean anything bad by it) Just a thought I had, maybe it’s all just a thing where the barrier to entry is a bit lower and as such authors here just don’t have the experience or whatever to get that part perfectly? Or, it’s all just a me thing and no one else has a problem :I. I know part of it is, since I’ve realized semi-recently that I prefer the feeling of the beginning of stuff more than the end (with introductions and building things up, instead of seeing the completion and wrap-up of things). There’s probably some sort of fun psychoanalysis you can do with that, but I’m half awake so I can’t really do any myself at the moment.

Is this good enough for a topic? I dunno. I feel like it is?

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I’d go with “Blah Blah, or Blah Blah Blah.” Some style manuals prefer “Blah Blah; or, Blah Blah Blah.” So basically, you reversed the comma and the semicolon, which is why it didn’t look quite right.

To speak to your actual subject, I think for the most part, a single playthrough of a CoG game is supposed to be about the length of a short novel. There are exceptions - the shorter ones are more like a substantial short story, while there are a few truly massive games that probably amount to a medium-length novel.

I’ve noticed too that many of them do seem a bit rushed in the end, but it’s rarely enough to bother me. I see it as more or less a natural consequence of the amount of complexity that goes into those endings. If you look at the code, later chapters tend to be absolutely massive compared to earlier ones. There’s just so much going on: significant branching, dozens of variables and stats to be accounted for (often in ways far more nuanced than a simple pass/fail). It’s a lot to keep in hand, and I see a somewhat streamlined reader experience as an acceptable byproduct of that tremendous juggling act behind the scenes.

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Fuck. I knew it was something stupid like that >:/

Yeah, I fully understand the reasoning, it’s just amounts to everything being a ton of work and continually getting ever moreso towards the end. I don’t fault that, not at all

Your comment of length isn’t something I thought of. I was thinking in a dumb broad “a novel is only X pages long” way. As I said, haven’t read normal things in a while. I probably feel the difference in length more than some might since I generally read pretty decently sized books, like 400 or 500 pages or thereabouts, and it would make sense for most of the stuff here to be comparable more to like 200 pages or something. So, thanks for getting that into my dumb head :slight_smile:

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There aren’t very many games I’ve played in full, but I would definitely say several of the games I have played in full feel exactly as you described. The general pacing throughout feels normal and natural, but then the ending is extremely rushed. Like there is no denouement whatsoever, just a climax then an epilogue. However, most of these are actually Heart’s Choice, since all of those can be played in full for free. I think the reason for this is that they are designed as romance games, so once you pick your romance, the purpose of the game is served. I would say the most drastic example of it I’ve experienced is Never Date Werewolves, which at least on my playthrough ended with several loose threads when I sort of unknowingly ran out of time to make a decision. (The game thought I decided to be a single mother, when in fact, I just didn’t make a decision. Why would I when I’m anticipating the father’s return? I’m kinda waiting for that event that you said would happen and never does.)

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It’s probably a combination of factors, two of which I believe to be consistent to all games.

  1. Story endings are harder to pull off than beginnings. No matter the medium.

  2. CoG authors have to keep more or less to a schedule if I understand it right. They have milestones they need to achieve to unlock payment as per contract. So, after months working on the project it’s understandable the ending would be rushed.

HG authors mainly work on their projects in their free time and as a hobby, and they’ll take special care to guarantee the best story.

Also, they usually spend more time on the forums, interacting with players and collecting feedback. As opposed to CoG games which undergoes a sprint beta test when the game is already finished, and there’s only so much any author will change at that stage.

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I’ve definitely read printed books where the ending feels rushed (or just underwhelming).

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…huh. You know, that’s a good point. SSotD has about 328k in it right now, but the last chapter alone is 108k of that. It’s genuinely difficult to make every single playthrough of that chapter (with every possible result for every possible choice within it) feel smooth and well-paced compared to every possible playthrough sequence leading up to it. Especially without letting any of those last chapter playthroughs feel like they’re just the same sequence as all the other options with slightly different flavor.

But from the writing side of things, I’ve definitely been thinking about how to handle pacing issues. It’s hard! Even in novels, it can be tricky to get the pacing right, and there any given reader will read the exact same sequence of events with the same length in wordcount as every other. I’m not sure yet how to make it work elegantly (rather than adequately) in IF.

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I’m not sure pacing issues in IF are something that can be worked out in the planning stages, or even in the initial writing. There’s really no way to feel how it flows without actually playing it.

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Yeah, very true. There’s no real way to hold all the possible experiences leading to a particular ending sequence in your head at once, while assessing them all for pacing in the abstract. And the longer/more varied the leadup options get, the harder it is to keep even the gist in your head.

I also know from more linear prose experience that there’s a lot of difficulty in talking about pacing with much detail in, well, jargon. There are a lot of useful words/phrases for discussing prose style, or characterization, or setting development, but it’s hard to discuss pacing in more detail than broad terms like something being ‘rough’ or ‘smooth’, ‘rushed’ or ‘slow’ or ‘steady’.

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It is possible to learn this power. But not from a Jedi.

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Am I the only one who plans to play through every possible route before publicly releasing, even the demo?

… Probably yes, actually…

I think there’s something charming about that though. There is a price for interactivity, after all, and it is that when you “choose your own adventure”, that adventure may end up shorter, less fulfilling, and making you regret all of your previous decisions. Just like real life! ^_^.

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I had a long talk about pacing issues from a writing standpoint a while back. It is a lot more complicated than people think.

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