Wide or deep? The journey into creative process

Hey there!

While I am finishing another part of my ChoiceScript project, I’ve been thinking about different things connected to writing. Among them is the following question: which way of strongly non-linear text game development is more appropriate (meaning, better for progress): choosing a branch and following it for quite some time, maybe even to the end, before moving on to another, or trying to more evenly push forward each storyline at once?

Of course, as always, the answer depends on the person asked and unlikely is one of these opposite options, but I would love to hear about your experience with this problem.

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It depends on the story you are telling.
Some stories work best if the player is ‘locked’ into a path, others work better when you can switch at will.

Compare it to this:
Some stories are like standing at a station and picking a method to get to another place. If you pick train A you wont be able to pick taxi B to your destination, nor would you be able to pick if taxi b should bring you there or only to the airport to board plane C.
All means of travel will end at the same destionation and continue the story there, but the between differes.

Other stories are like having a digital museum. At any given time can you change to a different piece.


I personally have the main plot set up first. This is not necessarily when the protagonist chooses a certain actions given to them, rather “this is how the world is going to be,” at least in my process.

From there, I work on the worldbuilding. Cultures, places, powers, magics, metal ingots, geographies; gimmicks like that. Of course, going 100% worldbuilding won’t lead me anywhere realistic soon, so as I worldbuild, I write.

I start with the player character, the protagonist. Write the scenes, create the options, and flesh out the possible iterations of “what if they do this.” Obviously, I can’t stray too far from the main plot I have previously set up, so outlining helps a lot.

As I write, I worldbuild. As I worldbuild, I plot out the writing. It’s a two-way feedback and process. Mostly because I got bored so easily when I write too much, or when I lost inside the rabbit hole that is the worldbuilding.

I suppose, I’m a bit more on both Wide and Deep :stuck_out_tongue:

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This is actually something frequently discussed on other sites that I used to write for.

The general point being how deep a story goes isn’t a good indicator for length. There can be a thousand and a half micro choices of just things like hair color and skin tone and absolutely no content other than just options to make your character but it will still read as something like “25 chapters deep.”

The issue with that system is it doesn’t recognize how many branches there are either and often leads to people assuming something with only about “5 chapters long” is just that, when there could be dozens of other branching routes.

How that applies here, is most audiences prefer deep stories IF there is content to them. Usually what works is two or three large branches, and then smaller choices of how events play out within the story, while keeping the overall route mostly intact.

I can’t imagine the Internet is that vastly different wherever you go, so I will assume it applies similarly in theory to here. Mind you CHOICE is an important thing. It’s kind of in the name.

Those are just my thoughts though. I’m not necessarily right. I’m just relaying what I’ve already heard more experienced writers than myself mention.


I think most of you misunderstood the question. He/she’s a choicescript writer and is wondering whether it is better for them to write out a particular branch in full before moving on to the next one or working on them equally.


Well, the core of the given answers remain.

It depends what story they are writing. If there’s a lot of isolated paths, it might be best to go from story-spot to story-spot (the bits that’ll appear in each possible course of the story).
If there aren’t, it’s up to them.

The main danger is (as you sadly have in some games both under the CoG and the HG label) that one might not feel like writing ‘the other paths’ after finishing their ‘core’ one, leading to railroading and half-hearted bits to usher the player from a to b.


Thank you for your opinions, your advice is much appreciated.

Special thanks to @BigBoss6121

for clarifying my interest.

Currently, I personally use the block structure, where I have big chunks of story (“chapters”) divided into smaller chunks (“situations”). Inside those I write paths simultaneously, but I prefer to finish one situation fully before moving to another.

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Both of course is preferable for the overall story, though if you’re specifically asking about the best approach to writing the CYOA, it’s going to depend on what works best for you in terms of efficiency and organization.

Personally, I tend to focus on writing an entire major branch from beginning to end and then go back and fill out all the minor paths of that major branch before moving on to the next major branch. So I guess I go “deep” as opposed to “wide” first.

It’s just easier for me to keep track of all my notes and plot outlines that I’ve already written out doing it this way. The writing on a particular story branch goes faster if I focus on one of them at a time.