The value of replayability?

I have browsed the wiki and a few threads which have discussed the fact that writing a ‘wide’ game (which has lots of choices and branches) is not particularly worthwhile. Apparently most readers do not replay a game. This was mentioned specifically in the random section of the choice script documentation.

This struck me as highly unusual as the point of a story with meaningful choices is that it is meant to be replayed. So I was wondering if CoG have published any stats on this? I’d especially be interested to see if there’s significant variation by game. I think of Choice of Rebels and I find it hard to believe that most players only have 1 or 2 goes at it.

If there are stats generated in the backend, are these visible to authors?

And is it possible to harvest and output data from individual players games? Nothing personal of course, but just the ability to see how many times people play and what choices they make.

Is there a consensus that readers prefer interactive fiction with simple choices?
I’m not a novelist and will never write one, but I would like a go at a more classical choose your own adventure where there’s a lot of replayability.

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Hey I made a poll for this! (sorta)

It doesn’t directly answer your question, but it’s something worth exploring. Obviously the people on this forum are not representative of the wider audiences found in the Google Playstore, Apple iTunes store, Steam, and so on.

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I cant speak for others, but I play games that I buy at least 4-5 times, the better/longer ones closer to 10.

I guess the downside to a wide story is that the author may not put the same amount of work into other branches? I’ve never found that issue though :sweat_smile:

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Another downside might be readers complaining to have bought a 1 million words book and the game was “too short” (obviously because they don’t replay it), I’ve read some author commenting something like that, don’t remember where.

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I’d caution you from assuming that replayability = complex choices and non-replayability = simple choices. Take a digital game like Pillars of Eternity for example- it’s famous for its branching choices and incredibly intricate and responsive plots. Like all Obsidian games, if you want to do something, chances are, you can. By all accounts, it’s a massive game- but a lot of people have only played it once. Why? Because the choices in the game aren’t meant to branch so you can go back and do something else later- they’re there so you can roleplay the way you want to the first time. There aren’t seven different choices for one scene because the game expects you to play through all of those seven choices in your next seven playthroughs, but so you have the option to craft a game and main character that you enjoy.

Yes, it ends up being a lot of extra work for the author. But ultimately, what you want is for a lot of people to play your game- not for a few people to play your game a hundred times.

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From a practical note, people pay to play however many times they want. They don’t pay to play game by game. So from a financial standpoint, it’s better to just make something that’s good for playing once, though that disregards word-of-mouth margins.

If you want to be even more predatory, you can make an incredibly complex and intricate game before the paywall and just railroad through after the player buys the title.

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Speaking only for myself. I rarely play more than once. I think the reasons are:

  1. I don’t have a lot of free time and there’s just a lot out there, movies, books, videogames, friends, etc. It’s nothing personal, I’m the same with other pieces of entertainment.
  2. I always choose what I deem the best option in any given situation. If I played again (as I have) I would, for the most part, choose the same options over and over. I’m never really curious about “how it could have turned out”. Also, I don’t self-insert, but there’s this character I play more or less consistently as far as the game options allow. So in the end, each playthrough is very close or exactly the same.
  3. If I’m reaaaally curious I tend to just peek into the code.

Ironically, the games that made me play again were the ones that frustrated me because they killed me off with a premature ending in the second half of the game for some stupid choice. That’s because then I’m already too involved to not see it through. :joy::joy::joy: I hate premature endings. And even then I was playing to get to the real ending and not because I wanted to explore different paths. I just felt cheated.

That being said, two games I’ve played more than once because I genuinely enjoyed them are The ORPHEUS Ruse and The Soul Stone War.

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I also rarely replay a story, even if I really liked it. If I do, it’s because I was interested in multiple ROs and wanted to see how interactions changed relationship depending, or maybe it was more stat focused so I wanted to see how combat changed based on said stats, or it has multiple endings, OR choice consequence. Personally, replayability doesn’t determine how good or bad an IF is. If I lost track of time, liked the characters and/or plot, and had fun? Then that’s all that matters. I will say, however, that I have replayed a route nearly the exact same way solely because I was sad it ended or I just liked it THAT much.

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From a gamer standpoint, I unfortunately tend to only play once through stuff. However that isn’t because I don’t want to play through stuff more than once most of the time, it’s just a lack of free time now.

Back in the younger days, I could play through stuff like Baldur’s Gate 2 several times just to see all the dialogue between different party members, or play Fallout 1 over and over to see the different epilogues. Not so much much anymore.

That being said, when it comes to writing a story, I’ll design as many different branches and endings as I want. Doesn’t bother or even matter to me if someone plays through and doesn’t see most of it. I know it’s there.

Plus, if you’re writing something captivating enough, some are definitely going to replay it anyway.

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I don’t replay games often anymore, mostly because I don’t have much time. However, some of the most fun I’ve had with IF, is playing it through once and then talking to my friends about the different ways we played, and the different choices we made.

I like my choices to matter, or at least feel like they do, even if I don’t reply the game.

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Honestly when it comes to replay for me it’s “how much did I like the story” because I’ll play the exact same choices, over and over and if that’s Heroes Rise or Mass Effect it doesn’t matter. I rarely change my romance and I rarely change my other choices, I’m happy with playing the same thing if it’s a good enough story.

I built my game wider than the hoover dam. People seemed to like it well enough.

That said, I wrote the game assuming that people play it once. It’s wide in the sense that a short story collection is wide – just read the stories that appeal to you and ignore the rest. There’s no special catch, no secret option, no requirement to do things in a special order – pursue the characters you like and don’t bother with the rest.

From a player’s perspective, if there’s a game that markets itself with having a tonne of choices, I’ll still probably just play it once. The reason for that is this:

People say they want branching narratives, but what they really want is reactivity.

As an example, I added some small details to the end of one the stories in my game to sell the effect that the players’ actions made a difference. Even though all of the choices were the same (and even though the narrative still didn’t branch that much, to be honest) players told me that they felt like their choices mattered more. And in every respect they did.

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I’m also the type to rarely replay a game more than once, with a few notable exceptions.

If I do replay, it’s either because I want to try out a different RO, or play a different character personality-wise to see how that changes the interactions with the RO in question.

I care about different branches in the sense that when playing, I look for my personal ‘perfect’ playthrough and what choices I need to pick to get the ‘perfect’ ending.

When replaying, I stick to those same choices for the most part.

If it turns out I picked a choice that didn’t lead to an outcome I like, I won’t replay - I’ll just immediately restart.

Notable exceptions to the ‘no replay’ rule are Wayhaven and similiar romance games like TSS and TSSW because of the RO thing I mentioned, as well as Tally Ho and all of Gower’s other games because those have so many great possibilities when it comes to what kind of personalits/stats my MC has.

If I really enjoyed a game, I’ll often replay it again some time later. Just…probably still with the same choices.

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Been thinking about this a lot, since my first game was rather narrow, but the second one goes wide. I seldom replay games myself (lack of time) but the ones I like, I do. But then it’s rarely to try to explore different endings (A study in Steampunk being the exception), but to relive the enjoyment of the first playthrough, with minor variations.

In fact, for every person replaying FH to have different mc’s/pick different paths, there is one replaying it just as many times with the exact same character/path trying to craft the perfect playthrough. So replayability is not necessarily variation.

I never wrote FH for replayability, but they ended up being that because I tried to write them as responsive to the story the reader want to have.

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I feel like these threads might be relevant to this discussion:

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I do replay games, but when I do I often go down the same path :’)

But the main reason I don’t really enjoy replaying CoG/HG is actually, because there is no safe system. I hate having to reread sections I already did only bc I want to try out a new RO with the same MC. Often there’s a major branch in the middle of the game, so if I could just save from there and explore both that would be great.
Also playing games that are over 500.000 words where you can explore so much without the chance to load… It’s just frustrating. I still do it sometimes tho.

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This is the best.

I’m the exact opposite. I’m always thinking about making different play-thus feel different.

I try to give lots of options/choices/combinations and hearing this thread reminds me that many players will only play once. But similar to @malinryden I figure that those extra options give the player more agency in the story.

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Thanks for all the replies. Really interesting to see the different views on replayability.

I’m guessing then that there are no official stats (or harvestable stats) that evidence how many people replay a game, how many times they replay and whether their choices change?

So we just have the anecdotal feedback from readers and reviews to judge whether people did/wanted to replay a game?

Yes. I don’t think CoG had statistics on this nor they even had the system to collect it in the first place. Authors could create one for their works if they wish, but I don’t think I’ve seen someone did it.

Personally, I will continuously replay a game I like, even though I rarely deviate from my initial path—I treat it like rereading a book or rewatching a movie.

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