Too many choices / branches?


#1

TL;DR because I know I ramble: Is there such a thing as having too many branches in the story? Does it bother the reader to have so many paths they could take?

In 2012 started writing a novel, and couldn’t decide on an ending. Wrote up four drafts, about 40,000 words each, and then discovered CoG. So perfect! I can take each of those endings that I loved and make it into a CoG possibility!

So, like a year ago, I started typing. I absolutely love doing choicescript work–i love debugging and solving problems and feeling like I accomplished and overcame something. I love making minute choices, making the game as personalized as I can think of making it.

But I’m drowning in documents already and I’m not even out of the second chapter. I have so many options and stats and everything, it seems like it takes forever to get anywhere. And I’m thinking it’s because I have sooo many choices, so many branches. But, is there such a thing? Is it just a daunting project for the author, or will it start to bother the player/reader as well? Or is this type of depth just normal for a CoG document?


#2

I think… everyone who has begun work on a CS project understands what you mean. It’s always more work than it seems like it would be.

I think there’s a certain love for depth in a story. Or, width, perhaps I should say, in this context.

It’s hard on an author, though. Even when it’s a passion. I mean, I’m essentially in the same boat as you- I have a project not quite out of the second chapter, which is around 450k words. Avoiding burnout, or switching to a shiny new idea, and keeping a project rolling and manageable- they’re legitimate challenges. The struggle is real. I think for a reader, at least on the forums here, there’s always some concern that a project will remain unfinished. Of coming to love a story and not seeing it conclude. I guess as a reader, it might be said that the amount of unfinished projects is bothersome… but choices in projects? I think it might not be possible to see how much diversity an author is capable of handling. Only, how much progress gets made. And- sometimes authors have down-times or dry spells or get caught up for a while, but - the ones that see stories through are the patient ones. That realize it’ll probably take longer than expected. That can minimize their own overflow and know how to keep things within their own limits. I mean… a lot of choices and story diversity are really, really nice- but an author needs to be able to handle that. If a story has less diversity, but is still really good, I think an author is still doing good by that.

I do think it’s normal to realize, after the first chapter on a project, ‘just what have I gotten myself into’, with CoG projects. The more variation, the more work involved… but for the diehard fans, the more reward… so… I think it’s about an author figuring out what they can handle and delivering the best they can, as they’re able.


#3

Well first off I don’t think you can have too many choices, people who just want a good story can just play once, twice if they don’t get the “good” ending first time round, where as others(like me) have an opportunity to try all the different paths. However the width should be even to fully support replay value. By this I mean all parts of the story should have a good level of width, otherwise it can be tedius playing through a lot of the same content to get to something new/playing new content but getting a lot of the same content later on.

Have very little experience with choice script, just got my little yp :stuck_out_tongue: but before my hiatus I found it good to get get a balance of adding width whilst progressing the story forwards, otherwise the task of adding width just feels never ending :frowning: . Plus you can always come back and add to earlier parts, but anyhoo that’s just what helped me :stuck_out_tongue: .


#4

I believe the reader is supposed to go through a minimum amount of words per playthrough, so if there are too many options, then the words experienced per game might fall below par.

It’s a bit easier to get a feel for the word count per play if your story is divided up into chapters.

Also, without having to perform surgery on your novel, if you make a few main paths and then have smaller choices link back up to the main paths somehow, your problem should be additive, and not subtractive.


#5

This might interest you Word count vs branching


#6

Speaking as someone who has yet to finish any of his own ideas for CYOA or Choice games, I think the main philosophy is considering it like Chekov’s Gun… where you’ll need to think how many of those choices will matter in the long run and whether you’re comfortable writing them all and keeping tabs on them coding wise. I remember being told how crazy complex the original Zombie Exodus had to be in terms of coding by the final part.


#7

I’d say that it’s not so much the number of branches you have that’s important, but where they lead.

If all of these branches are going to lead to different meaningful storylines and take it in a different direction then that’s the best case scenario even if it means a lot of work for the author.

If you go the typical Bioware route of having 4 different choices and they all lead to the same outcome with just slightly different text then it’s all sort of a waste of time with fake choices really. Not that a few fake choices are going to bring down a story, but it shouldn’t be making up the entirety of it.

For me even a simplistic “one choice good, one choice bad” (Or just different not necessarily good or bad) is preferable since there is at least some real consequence involved even if it ultimately means death (To use an extreme example). Not a popular opinion of course, but I genuinely find it at least more meaningful if the character dies as opposed to just getting shuffled to the next part of the story with no real difference in their status regardless of the choice chosen.

One example I can think of that I would have liked to have seen this, is some of the prolog bits in DA: Origins. In most of those, you got the option to refuse to join the Gray Wardens, then of course Ducan goes “I’m sorry, I’m overriding your choice, you’re a Gray Warden.”

Which I’m fine with a little railroading, but why bother making it a choice at all? Just write the character agreeing with Duncan and be done with it.

Would have liked to have seen some short segments put in if you refused. (Dwarf/Elf commoners getting executed, Mage eventually getting killed by the demon invasion of the tower, etc.)

But ultimately, you as the writer has final say of how you want to go about it and how much work you want to put into all possible outcomes and decisions.