I’m agree with your sentiment about “semi-set” character.
But, first I wanted to talk about:
⚠️ TLDR warning, I just completed my degree with this essay and now I'm graduated ⚠️
Some of IFs I’ve played lacked clear direction, because most of the events unfold are mere filler and fan service. It’s like wanting to go crossing a bridge, but everything is just BRIDGE, you never fully go to the other side because the other side is also a BRIDGE (I’m still working on my skill to do metaphor).
This is mostly just a writing skill problem and pacing issues.
Actually, it’s justified because most of the authors are non-profesional writer, especially the platform itself (as an interactive fiction) is still hard to hold right, I think the author wants the audience felt like they’re inside the story with making filler to swell them down slowly?—by sacrificing the actual story itself.
Hey, talk about “roleplay” in this particular genre, I find most of the authors are put in dilemma to balancing whether the “interactive/roleplay” aspect or the “fiction/story” aspect first.
I hope I could get my point across, it’s been long since I have this thought and never fully phrase it in coherent words than just floating in my mind as a mere cluttered abstract idea! Broken grammar be damned.
Side note, the term “IF” and “community” I will said here is refers not just for CoG/HG, but also Twine (that mostly from itch…io if you want to check it out)
Not trying to generalize that all IF authors are put in the exact case, It’s just my take away with the result game and this community (IF community) as a whole. And as a whole, IF community can be very “demanding.”
“Demanding” in a sense that the audience is so caught up into the roleplay—they’re trying to change direction of your own writing and demand you to change your artistic choice to met their each individuals playthrough!
I can’t remember what WiP was that, or which IF forum it was, but people had a debate because they wanted the WiP to have exact choice they want and really mad with the author’s artistic decision to make the plot go forward.
Oh, I think that’s the problem. Like what the comments above had said, some IFs are lacking complex character, backstory, motivation, and the MC feels like a blank slate—I think because authors are trying to satisfy every audience’s playthrough at once, they sacrify the plot, the story, the characters. They are trying to satisfy the roleplay aspect, the self-insert aspect—to the point the IF just became dress up Niki (no hate towards Dress Up Niki, it’s only another bad metaphor by me).
I personally doesn’t mind with predetermined backstory, predetermined background, or even—predetermined character trait. As long as we still can make key decisions in the story forward.
I share the same sentiment with the poster about this “semi-set” character.
And one example of IF I can think—that give complex MC with character development, good pacing, plot that make me hooked up, predetermined everything but yet still give us sense of free will, clear theme, it’s none than:
Samurai of Hyuga
Now, listen! This wouldn’t be a fangirling post of Samurai of Hyuga series whatsoever!
The fact is, I think we can’t never have fully customizable MC along with complex character and neat story—while ceasing predetermined aspect at all if our main goal is to insert ourself. Unless one of them must be in lesser portion.
Other IFs usually make the character become you, in Samurai of Hyuga however—YOU are become the character.
The thing I like about SoH, even tho some of the character traits are predetermined we can still choose how the MC react that affect the personality stat. It’s not fully a personality stat, but more at how the MC conduct themselves. For example, it’s clear our Ronin is a gruff person, but we can decide whether they are conduct themselves in charismatic, playful, gruff archetype, or in stoic, cold, gruff archetype. It goes the same with each other personality stat.
I can understand if people will hate this idea because it’s clearly losing the “interactive” element of this genre, it will be no different than an usual novel. SoH fandom often criticized like this, but hey, if it’s really bad, then why it got sold till 5th books? Where all the fans came from?
However, I’m admit like customizations for roleplay, but if the customization meant nothing the why bother? This isn’t applied with SoH, even tho the result is same, the flavor text really help to added immersion. You are still going and need to kill this guy, but your personality stat: Brutal/Finesse is adding difference, you might be kill him in gruesome way or in quick and clean way possible.
I mean, I’m of course still wants to able choosing how the MC will react, whether to kill A instead of B, going left than right, or anything like that. But, for the backstory and the character itself, I will follow wherever the writer took me.