Wide, Deep, or Long?

I’ve really been thinking lately about IF structure and the amazing diversity we have in Hosted Games, in particular. I’ve found myself enjoying all sorts of different game structures, and I honestly don’t know if I have a favorite (as a consumer). The way I see it, we see these three types pop up pretty often:

Wide Games that allow for a multitude of choices for almost any situation and amazing replayability. The narrative may advance more slowly as a result, or be less detailed in general.

Deep Games that delve into the premise, might cover a shorter period of time, and focus more on character development. They are likely more linear, with a ‘core’ story that may not change much. Probably the most “book like.”

Long Games that cover epic durations, perhaps years or even the MC’s entire life. Settings can change, side characters can come and go, the MC may have more freedom and agency as a result, but character interactions and development may not be as deep.

Yes, many of our games straddle several of these categories, and many will say, “I’d love Wide, Deep, and Long, please!” but I think many fit pretty well within a single category. For whatever reason, I find myself generally writing Deep instead of Wide or Long (even though I like playing all three types).

So I figured I’d ask you fine folks which of these structures do you generally enjoy the most when it comes to Hosted Games? And why? I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on this.

If you can only pick one. Just one, I say!
  • Wide
  • Deep
  • Long

0 voters


I can’t vote. In my humble view, every game is a composite of what you are calling “wide, deep or long.”

There is no separation and issues will arise, even fatally, if you try to do so.

Nice topic, but it truly is a false conflation in my development ethos.


I have to agree with @Eiwynn and hedge my bets terribly, because if these end up unbalanced they can go wrong - especially I think with ChoiceScript games whose structures tend towards use of stats, delayed branching, and player personalisation.

That said, if someone said I had to choose one over all the others, as a player I would choose Deep, sacrificing some playthrough-to-playthrough variation for the sake of a rich play experience. Even if my experience is similar on more playthroughs, if it’s well put together it will still be satisfying.


I cannot vote either because it all depends really. Short games can be as much fun as long games, it all depends on the story, the plot, and where you’re trying to take the reader.

Some long games can gear the reader into boredom if the plot or story is just dragging, and the reader is waiting for something to happen.

But I will say that you can never go wrong with character development either short or long because that how the reader gets attached to the character and gets pulled into the story.


Deep Games are much better than either wide or long games.


I think I tend to like games that are Deep with a decent Width to them. For example, games that have interesting and distinct ROs (Depth) while also having a decent variety of them to choose from (Width). That’s what I’m trying to go for in my current WIP (with mixed results::sweat_smile:)


Deep, then wide. Just don’t try to do both… trust me. That’s how you breed monsters. :sweat_smile:


I don’t think many readers are specifically looking for a Wide game vs. a Deep game vs. a Long game, they’ll usually just express what additional content they’d personally like to see (even if that content would necessitate an absurdly wide, deep, and/or long game to accomplish).

Like, “I don’t need a Werewolf game that’s a million words long, but why can’t my werewolf have purple fur and arachnophobia and fall in love with a mild-mannered insurance adjuster from Dubuque, with many meaningful and unique conversations, and have children and grow old together? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”



And Deep.


Brutally honest. What a writer and developer should ask him/her/themself :

What is the best way to express the emotions and story that I want my readers to experience?

What is good for a game will be terrible for others. The author’s business is to figure out their craft.

A poll over this is not very useful, in my opinion. There is no magic formula to figure out. Writing is not a science. It is an art.


Are we not doing phrasing anymore?? :stuck_out_tongue: (by the way, if you loved Archer, check out Hit-Monkey… the ghost guy reminds me of Archer in a huge way!).

On topic… I prefer deep, then wide. Like @malinryden said, though, don’t do both or it’ll be an out-of-control monster.

I’m not a fan of long games, because I need depth and games that are longer tend to get boring pretty quickly. In video games, it’s more tolerable. Like, I found most of the Fallout games to be lacking in depth (save for New Vegas, but most of Bethesda’s games suffer from that, IMO), and made up my own additional stories for the NPCs and MC as I went along, but when translated into an IF, I would’ve gotten bored after about 50K words and quit. That happens to me with a lot of IFs that are more focused on stats and are set in a “can’t see the trees for the forest” view of the game’s world.


I favor “long” games, as seeing my machinations and choices bear fruit over a long time is super satisfying.


I bet you would. :smirk:

I don’t really go for replayability, so “wide” is meh for me. I prefer “deep” over “long”.


@EvilChani @MisterJB Oh, we’re always doing phrasing. Sploosh!

One thing I will say: I think wide is more popular for a standalone title. It’s less desirable as part of a series, however. We’ve seen several sequels on both labels that were wide to begin with and thus either had to ignore or outright invalidate a lot of the numerous end states or pathways from their predecessor out of sheer necessity, only to be met with outsized amounts of reader unhappiness and a subsequent drop in sales compared to the previous effort. So which one you want with your story may depend on whether you see it as a standalone offering or not.


It’s hard to really state a preference, because different styles and themes seem to necessitate different “dimensions,” and obviously what’s most important is how well any particular game succeeds at what the author is trying to do. As you note, there are amazing games of all types.


I agree with you. I don’t think I’ve actually written anything that would be “Wide,” but it strikes me as the toughest type of structure to incorporate into a series, for the reasons you state. I would say that @JimD 's ZE is probably a great example of a Wide series that works (but the amount of work he puts into it is…not something most people can replicate, IMO).

I’m going through this with Talon City beta testing right now. Feedback is like 50/50. Half say “The somewhat railroaded ending is fine, there are enough end-state variations and you are set up for a sequel,” while the other half say, “I’d prefer a more robust, wider set of end-state options at the end of the story, sequel be damned.”

That is actually what made me start thinking about the specific question for the thread. But I definitely think many players, especially the super fans, recognize what Wide, Long, and Deep games are, and they are aware of their preferences.


You can always widen the end-state options, with the understanding that not all of them carry over into the sequel. Although of course, people will complain about that too.

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I’m curious about balancing the threefold complaints of “this was too short” (not enough Long) vs “I wanted to do XYZ and the game didn’t let me” (not enough Wide) Vs “my choices didn’t matter” (not enough Deep). Is it always that players simply want more of all axes (probably, in general)? Can not-enough-Long be mitigated by better pacing? Can not-enough-Wide be mitigated by making sure choices are followed up on frequently even if they are within narrower parameters? Can authors incorporate plenty of all three and actually release a completed game in good time?

Ultimately though I think this quote is the essence of it:

Some stories may work as a longer but less varied structure. Some work better going wider. But I’m often thinking about juggling and tweaking and figuring out what I want to bring to the forefront in each project.


Yeah, Matt mentioned that a few posts up. I won’t mention specific game titles, but it seems like trying to limp along with a sequel when the original game didn’t end in a “sequel friendly” way is…problematic at best.


If I remember your thread posting in Talon City, this game was meant to be an exploratory one-of …

Despite feedback, I feel the best bet is to stick with the original scope of this game.

This does not mean you can not revisit the Talon City world, characters, or even plot-lines in the future.

As an experiment, as I remember your original intent, I do believe the one-of would provide you with the best results.

This type of signaling is always ignored by your audience at best or actively campaigned against at worse. I would not suggest doing this at all.

That very well might be the case, but it is falling out of the scope of the original project.

Projects change all the time, and with the skill of the writer here, I’m sure a sequel, or a prequel or even just a revisit of this would be feasible and viable.

The focus of the project is what the issue is. If it has changed, so be it, but if it hasn’t, trying to chart a future course now would be something I’d only do once this particular title was finished.