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CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 2:38:46 AM

Well, I'm really enjoying this little book club! there's some really great games in here that I probably never would've gotten around to reading if you guys hadn't recommended them to me. I liked the last game in particular.

For anyone who hasn't read it yet, the game is Edithe Zilonis by Mad Hatter's Daughter, and here's the link to the last thread: Go play it. It's fun!

Anyways... @mizal @castorgreatpoetguy @ninjapitka @TurnipBandit @Bill_Ingersoll @Cricket @Serpent @ghost11 @DarkSpawn

It's time to take a look at the next game! As always, those who haven't read the last book yet, feel free to read it and leave a review on the page any time. Also, anybody else who wants to join out little book club, just let me know and I'll add your name to the list.

So, it's Turnip Bandit's turn to pick a game this time. Looking forward to seeing what you choose. ^_^

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago

@TurnipBandit

I'm sure you'll pick a great one!

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago

I'm going to have to go with The Daemonologists by Pugpup. Despite being a very good story, it only has 14 ratings and hardly any comments. It is a long one, but it really is worth a read. I already wrote a review for it but I'll put my thoughts in this thread sometime this week. I hope you all like it as much as I did.

The Daemonologists

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago
Too many links between choices, which gives an illusion of linearity. Other than that it's pretty great stuff.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago

I was going to add that if most people have already read it or aren't interested I can pick another story. Or you can just skip me. Whatever works.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago

This is a story I've been wanting to read anyway, so maybe tonight is a good time to get started.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

11 days ago

Okey dokey! Length of 7/8, so not sure how long we'll need for this one... I'll give it a week and see how it goes. If most people need a little longer to read it then we can always extend it to two weeks. ^_^

CYS Book Club: Book Five

12 days ago
I've been planning to do a review for this one....but then I wanted to do that for Edithe too lol. I will keep attempting to catch up with these before I get too ridiculously behind.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

11 days ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/5/2019 4:46:27 PM

I started reading The Daemonologists last night, got as far as the first face-to-face meeting with the succubus, and then put it aside because of the time. I like what I've read so far, and I plan to continue tonight.

Obviously, I'm not ready to post a full review yet. But for this story, as well as Father Leofwine is Dead, it seems worthwhile to have a separate discussion about pupup1's use of branching, since that is the one thing that is routinely mentioned in every one of his(?) stories (or at least the two published this summer). FLiD was a "gauntlet"-style story to the core, and what I've read so far of The Daemonologists has an identical structure.

Many of the people who read storygames are attracted to them because of the challenge, and/or the multiple possibilities. So "gauntlet" stories, in which each choice is of an "advance or die" nature, tend to get ridiculed as being a cheap device to create the illusion of branching in what is really a linear story.

However, these two stories by pugpup1 have me thinking that "gauntlet" can be a perfectly valid structure in the hands of a skilled writer, and if the central story is strong enough to support it. In the case of Father Leofwine, I was so intrigued by the story and the almost seamless transfers between the two points of view, that excessive branching that led me out of that story down a long rabbit hole might have annoyed me. But at the same time, you could strip away all of those false endings and still have an excellent little novella.

I will say that some of the choices in pugpup1's stories are a little awkward — a little too obviously placed there to satisfy the requirements of the storygame format, and not necessarily because of a plot requirement. Pugpup (whoever he or she is) got a little burned in The Daemonologists for that long section in the beginning where there is nothing but next-page links, but to me this was nothing like Bestist Friend Jane (which I only now realized has a doubly misspelled word in its title). BFJ seems to be highly regarded, but the length of the beginning (before the branching began) was excessively long — hours of reading, it seemed, and it annoyed me greatly. Yet you would never know it by reading the mostly favorable reviews. On the other hand, The Daemonologists goes about 15 pages in the beginning before reaching the first meaningful choice, and this seems to be an issue for some people.

And sometimes, the action the character takes is disproportionate to the choice presented to the reader. For instance, there was a choice in Father Leofwine where I could ask the cook more questions, or move on to something else. If I chose to ask the cook more questions, it turns out what I really meant was that I wanted to rough him up out in the back alley. This in turn gets the attention of the soldiers, and ultimately gets me killed. "But all I wanted to do was ask some questions... " I said to myself, bewildered by what had just happened.

In my first sitting with The Daemonologists, there was a similar moment in which the options are to take a walk or talk with your father. One sounds kind of random in context, the other potentially meaningful. But as it turns out, "talk with your father" means renouncing your desire to study daemonology in favor of participating in the family business.

These are the things that have been bothering more with pugpup1's stories, more than the "gauntlet" format or even the gaps between choices. I think we have a gifted writer here who is still working out the details, in terms of utilizing a branching structure to tell a story.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

7 days ago

Yeah, I'm generally not a fan of the "gauntlet" structure, but I'm enjoying the story so much that I don't really care. It only bothered me at the beginning when you got the choice of "Go for a walk" or "Talk to your father", where I was like... "Dude! I said "Talk to your father" not "Drop out of college and give up on all of your life's hopes, dreams and ambitions." Maybe be a little more specific next time?" :p

CYS Book Club: Book Five

6 days ago
I agree with your assessment, Bill. It would be hard to find a member on this site who prefers the Gauntlet format over a Time Cave because branching is so much more fun to play through. The Gauntlet sort of feels like the cheap approach to writing a CYOA story. It's easy to write a normal story and add a few "choice or die" links and call it a CYOA. There's a reason why linear stories tend to be rated lower. Once again, I agree that the superb writing quality makes it difficult to rate pugpup's stories low, even with the lack of branching. I tend to rate by the writing quality more than the overall branching (though some people on this site do the opposite). Single links are annoying unless they are setting the scene for major choices. I don't even mind "optional" links that don't progress the story, but give the ability to read lore or background. Not forcing someone to read an information dump is always a positive thing. On the flip-side, it's hard not to think about the potential of the story if heavily branched. Imagine pugpup's amazing writing with several paths to follow. With featured linear stories, a pugpup Time Cave would be incredible. As I've written two (mostly linear) storygames, I understand the danger of "letting the story get away from you". It's easy to throw in a few choices and all of a sudden find yourself lost in an ever-growing, unstructured story with no end in sight. The Gauntlet style helps keep the story on track and not deviate too far from your outline (which isn't always a bad thing if you can contain it).

CYS Book Club: Book Five

6 days ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 7:46:00 PM

Yes, it would be interesting to see what these stories would be like with more branching. Of the two I've read, Father Leofwine and Daemonologists, I think Time Cave would be difficult to pull off without radically changing the existing story — especially Father Leofwine. I'm trying to visualize what that might look like:

Let's say we want to keep Father Leofwine's main story path intact, and just develop all those dead ends into something more substantial. The problem is figuring out where all of those side branches should go. Should there be multiple ways to solve the murder mystery? Should the "quick death" endings just be extended into "prolonged death" endings? Maybe there should be some secondary plotlines with the heretics? Or maybe, in the "best" tradition of CYOA, some random alien abductions?

Any of these new branches would need to match the pacing of the main branch, as well as its level of detail; otherwise, there wouldn't be any consistency. And then, of course, there would have to be some secondary branching. Before you know it, the 33,000-word story would balloon to 200,000 words. Which would be cool, yes, but the evidence here seems to suggest that the average lurker is more likely to click on something short than invest the time to read something novel-length.

Then there is the challenge of writing a fully-branched-out Time Cave story with two POV characters.

When you're writing a linear story, the tendency is to think of all the cool scenes you want to include, and then line them all up in sequence. In a Time Cave story, you need to save all those ideas for the various branches — instead of lining them up, you need to scatter them like Easter eggs. That was my approach with "Grass Planet"; scenes like the mumpaq stampede and the Folvan "orgy" were early ideas, but I placed them at somewhat random places on the "tree" structure. And in other cases, I used secondary branches as an opportunity to provide details about the setting that would have bogged down the main path.

Doing that with a story like Father Leofwine, however, would blow up the current story... which, frankly, is excellent. So rather than Time Cave, I think Branch & Bottleneck (a.k.a. "delayed branching") might work better for that story. However, I get the sense that Pugpup is like me, and is more insterested in writing stories than writing code; I used to write programs for my own computer games long ago, but that kind of thing strikes me as "applied algebra" and doesn't really inspire me today.

Which brings me to one last option: simply trim the branches and embrace the linearity of it all.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

6 days ago
Thank you for mentioning the word count. I meant to include that in my original reply. Linear stories tend to be seen as lazy approach to CYOA because there’s not much that separates it from a normal story other than a few “end game” links. A 33k word storygame is higher than most, especially if you take out the epics. I’m not so sure a 200K word pugpup story would dissuade a lurker from playing. Noobs read Eternal, Dead Man Walking, Rogues, Necromancer, etc. and join the site because of them. We’ve seen more than a few of them spiral downward in the Forums and the stories mentioned are all lengthy. Now I have to imagine the lack of edginess might not draw in some of the younger-aged lurkers, but overall the majority of (mature) readers would enjoy.

I agree, creating Father Leofwine with multiple branches would be heavily difficult. Scripting events might make it more manageable, but yeah, I don’t think forcing branches would make it a better read just for the sake of creating more links. I think we’ve come to the consensus that a linear story, if done well, is a completely acceptable way to write a CYOA story. Just don’t make several single link pages in a row. Goddamn, that’s annoying.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

6 days ago

Your analysis is much appreciated and seems spot on to me, as do most of your critiques on "The Damonologists." I think a mystery story, particularly a typical whodunit, is tricky to turn into the kind of truly open-ended Time Cave format a la Rogues that I and many others find most satisfying in a CYOA. If the point of the story is to learn who is behind the crimes, then it becomes much harder to achieve that sense of branching possibilities that makes those kinds of stories so fascinating. A whodunit is almost by definition a single story. If Wulf and Cynehelm leave Winchester and go to London to have adventures with the heretics, that might make for an interesting story in its own right, but then presumably they don't find the killer. If I had unlimited time (which, of course, I do now that the contest is over), I suppose I could have added these kinds of side or alternative adventures, but I think that would end up just distracting from the main point of the story as I originally envisioned it.

The initial reason for the linearity of both stories was the contest deadlines, but that limitation ended up influencing the stories' plots- for Father Leofwine and as I've said, the whodunit form lends itself to linear-ish storytelling. For the Daemonologists, once the protagonist is "marked" by the succubus, that limits the possibilities he can take- he can no longer just walk away from the adventure or decide to got to America, for example, since presumably she would follow and re-engage him in the main plot. But the Daemologists actually has quite a bit more branching than Father Leofwine, with one central choice that then leads to, in my mind at least, the four most satisfying endings. Leofwine really only has two endings, and the choice between them is very near the end of the story.

As I think I've mentioned before, I did consider further paths for both stories. For Leofwine, the "Don't trust Wulf" decision was going to lead to a path where he's thrown into prison and then escapes, but I had to cut it for time and replace it with the very unsatisfying immediate rejoining of the main story. I don't have much interest in scripting, but I did consider trying to make it possible to solve the mystery in different orders, or going from entirely different lines of evidence. My original idea for the Daemonologists was to include 3 other paths as long as the one I finished, which included failing the College entrance exam, getting expelled, and a half-formed idea of being conscripted to fight against the American revolution. Needless to say, everything good in these paths was incorporated into the final story, but pruning them away led to the long string of no choices near the beginning.

I probably won't revise or expand either of these stories, though I am musing over some ideas for a new project, this time without a deadline. Of course, the two deadlines were quite effective as motivators, so we'll see if I actually finish anything without them.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

7 days ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 2:38:42 AM

So here, at last, is my review of "The Daemonologists":

After reading and enjoying the virtuosic "Father Leofwine is Dead," which was published just weeks after "The Daemonologists" by the same author, I went into this story with high expectations. But in the end I found this to be a technically great story... with a problematic plot twist.

And since I can't review this story without addressing events that occur in the second half of the story, I'll just focus on the technical aspects of this story.

In terms of writing quality, this storygame is top-tier. Pugpup1 wowed us twice this summer with two great pieces of fiction, both with high word counts, intriguing characters, and compelling situations. This is high-caliber storytelling, despite my qualms with this story.

As a storygame, the structure is what we call a "gauntlet", meaning there are choices sprinkled conservatively throughout the narrative, but little actual branching until the very end. For the most part, if you choose poorly, you get a well-written death ending. This is usually annoying, but the main storyline is interesting enough here that I wasn't concerned. It's only in the final climactic sequence where the reader encounters some branching, with four almost equal endings.

My problem with this story comes during a major reveal late in the story. I can't discuss this in a review without giving too much of the story away, so I won't; if you must know, go and search the forums. But in short: actions are taken that are brutal in nature and disproportionate to the "crimes" that were supposedly committed. I kept waiting for a counter-reveal that never came, at which point I decided I didn't much care for two central characters the story required me to sympathize with.

Therefore I rated this one a 6/8, because the writing is great but the story is flawed.

Now here is the problem that I had:

I was biased against Seria on the basis of what a succubus is supposed to be: a demon who corrupts men and persuades them (through acts of sex) to take immoral actions. Therefore I assumed she was intended as an unreliable character, when in fact the author intended me to sympathize with her.

This story lost me at the patricide scene. For the first half of the story, the protag maintains a cool and distant relationship with his father, for various reasons, most going back to the fact that your mother died around the time of your birth. This is not an unusual family dynamic in literature, and the reader might expect a resolution that entails reconciliation of some kind. One of the false endings reveals the secret for gaining your father's favor, and it turns out not to be difficult: express an interest in the family's business.

But then there is the confrontation scene in which it is revealed that your mother was an angel... who was killed (angels can be killed?) in a case of mistaken identity by one of your professors at the daemonology school. Thus in a fit of "justice" you kill your father — for the crime of not telling you this story about your mother. And of course, in the same scene, you begin to plot the revenge killing of your beloved professor.

Much of this information about your mother comes from Seria, of course. The patricide was way out of proportion to the supposed crime, and the ONLY way it made sense to me was if the protag was being deluded by some succubus spell; he thought he was in control, but really wasn't, and Seria was manipulating him toward achieving some hidden goal on her behalf.

But no, the romance between the protag and Seria is intended to be genuine, and in the climactic scene at the school, he soberly takes ownership of everything he did, with little remorse.

I found this to be very disappointing and unsatisfying, as the protag is basically a murderer (or an accessory to the murder, if you chose to let Seria deal the death blow for you), and I found none of his justifications persuasive. Therefore the entire second half of the story fell apart for me, as the character motivations no longer made logical sense. It doesn't matter how good the grammar and spelling are if the characters cease to be believable.

So I fully expected to be wowed by this story, but the ending was a dud.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

4 days ago

Lol, yeah, that's exactly how I felt! I mean, their relationship was like,

Seria: I could kill you now, but instead, I'm going to mark you as mine for all eternity!

Me: Well... At least she didn't kill me. Maybe she's not so bad.

Seria: You know, with that new spell, we could pork without me taking complete control over you?

Me: Derp! Pretty lady make Mr Peepee hard! Me like pretty lady!

Seria: Now if you don't mind, I'm going to kill your father now.

Me: Meh, he was a dick anyway.

Seria: ... And we should totally kill your professor too!

Me: Well, I could just talk to him about what happened... ... ... But sure! Whatever you say dear!

Seria: Oh thanks honey... This is going to be great! Now,all I need you to do is summon a few teensy, weensy little demons for me.

Me: I don't see how this can possibly backfire!

... So the whole time I figured, "Well, she is a succubus after all. I guess the protagonist couldn't help falling under her spell after being so close to her for such a long period of time." Then at the end I was just like, "Oh... You mean he wasn't under her spell? ... Okay... I guess he's just a fucking idiot?" ^_^

CYS Book Club: Book Five

2 days ago

I should emphasize, "Father Leofwine is Dead" (which was published just couple weeks after "Daemonologists") is excellent. If you liked this story, you'd love that one.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

4 days ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/11/2019 5:57:00 PM

All done! Gave it a 7, because I think it's a shame that the game is currently rated in the upper 5s, and think it desrves to be at least a 6 overall. Anyways, thanks Turnip for recommending this! Here's the review I wrote:
 

Extremely well written story! Really enjoyed it. Very well done. Definitely not perfect, but considering it was written in like a month, I’m extremely impressed.

First, let’s start with the bad stuff. This obviously wasn’t proof read… Like at all. I mean I understand it was rushed, and I kind of expect games to have the odd spelling mistake here and there, but the main problem I kept seeing was quite a few instances where the writing would just stop, mid-sentence. What I’m guessing happened is that you accidentally deleted large chunks of text and didn’t notice. (To be fair, I do that all the time. Hate it when that happens.) So yeah, always proof read your own games before publishing.

Second, I’m really, really, REALLY not a fan of the gauntlet structure in text-based games, where every now and then you’ll get a choice, but making the wrong choice will just lead to your death. It’s usually pointless and makes it feel like you’re reading a shirt story instead of playing a game… That said, I didn’t actually mind so much with this game. I enjoyed the story enough that the fact it didn’t branch hardly bothered me. More importantly, you only had like a month to write this, and I think it turned out a lot better as a long, extremely linear story than it would’ve done if you’d made a branching story with lots of short paths.

Third… The protagonist was a fucking moron. I think I spent the last third of the game banging my head against the computer screen, waiting for the game to give me a choice where I get the option not to be a brain-dead bloody idiot, and it takes the guy sprouting a pair of fucking wings before he finally figures out… “Duuuuuuuuh… Maybe letting myself get seduced by a soul draining succubus, twiddling my thumbs while she bashes my father’s brains in, going along with her plan to brutally murder my teacher and then summoning a whole bunch of blood-thirsty demons and setting them loose on my school wasn’t such a good idea?” … … … No fucking shit, Sherlock! Then when he sees that the blood-thirsty demons are killing all his classmates and teachers, he’s like, “Oh my God! You’re telling me the literal demonic, hell-spawn weren’t attacking the school for selfless and benevolent reasons? Why, I am shocked and appalled! And they seemed like such nice guys, too.” I mean… I get it’s kind of essential to the story that the protagonist is heavily influenced by the succubus. Still, the kind was just too much of a drooling idiot for me to feel any kind of sympathy for him at the end… In fact, he get let off bloody easy. I’d have said setting an army of demons loose on your school should warrant a good, old-fashioned hang, draw and quatering. ^_^

And lastly (and this is just me being nitpicky) there were a lot of characters in that game… And most of them were so forgettable I could barely remember which name went with character. I actually think it bothered me most because the characters that were fleshed out were really good. I liked Peter! His friendship with the protagonist felt really genuine. Like the Ron to my Harry! (… Well, let’s be honest here, Peter was probably the Harry.) Mrs Littlethwaite was adorable and I liked Dr. Hopkins and his terrible dad jokes… Other than that, I don’t think I had a clue who any of them were. So, I spent a lot of time reading names and trying to remember who the fuck everybody was. At the end, it mentions that Dr. Thewliss is dead, and I was just like… Oh no!!! Not… That guy… Which one was he again? … I hope he wasn’t the one with the funny accent.

So, now that I’m done ranting for several paragraphs about how much this game sucked… I’ll sum up by saying that I REALLY liked it! Sure, it had it’s flaws, but that’s understandable considering that you only had a month to write it. I certainly wish I could be this productive in a month. The characters that I do remember, I absolutely loved! The story was really gripping, the setting was very inventive and interesting, and all together, just a really, really enjoyable read. Great work! ^_^

CYS Book Club: Book Five

4 days ago

lmao.

This was terrible, I loved it.

CYS Book Club: Book Five

4 days ago

Also, just want to check if anyone else is currently reading the game and want a little longer to finish it? I'd be pretty happy to extend this book club entry to two weeks, since it's a long one. ^_^