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CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
So I'm working on my entry for the January contest. I've got some paths done, a maze, some deaths, etc. But I was thinking more about what I'm writing vs what I've read in the past.

For those that remember those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, they were quite silly. I'm not sure I ever saw one that had a real developed plot. It was often a "pick this door and end up in outer space or pick that door and end up in a dungeon" type of adventure. Yes, it did form a story, but it was always one-directional. You could "win" or "die" at different places in the book. But it was always forward. I don't ever remember a path that would take you back where you were before. Once you had made a decision, that was IT, there was no way back (and this is why when reading I would have my fingers stuck in all sorts of pages in case I did want to go back).

However, when I write many of the stories here, I find that I write it more like I want to read it -- there's very often a way back. In fact in many places I actually end up with a map so I can keep track of if you went a certain direction, I could provide a link to go back. For example, if you're walking through a spaceship, and you go down the hallway, I almost always ensure there's a link to go BACK down the hallway. After all, it only makes sense to me. Of course, there may not be anything additional to do there, but if you want, you can just go back and forth in the hallway forever if you want. Yes, there are occasions where you take actions and cannot go back, but only when it's logical (you take off in a space ship or fall in a hole).

So what are your thoughts, good reader, on the options described? If you are reading a story here and go down a hallway, is it important to you to be able to go back? Should the story only go forward at all times? Certainly writing would be easier if it were all forward and there were no take-backses. Do you even think about this at all? Do you find it odd when you CAN go back and forth forever? Do you think going back and forth only makes sense in some cases, like in a game-like atmosphere where you might need to traverse the same area more than once (maybe for items or something)?

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
There were other choose your own adventure books besides the actual, brand name CYOAs. Some of them had far more immersive stories and included more logical navigation and exploration.

What you describe is basically the standard for interactive fiction, just a little more difficult to structure in a CYOA.

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
So your thoughts on the different types of stories here and how they are written appears to be... A dump truck full of grapefruits?

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
I was in mid edit there.

https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3712882 - This was a story I happened to have bookmarked, it's more the sort of thing I think about when I think about CYOAs than the actual silly and kind of random kids books we all read that were the 'official' CYOAs.

CYS stories have sort of developed their own style (which is really just the style of the more popular authors here) but then CYOAs themselves were a wide variety even when they were still printed books.

So no, I don't think it's strange that you can navigate a map, if that's the only thing you cared to know. That's standard for a lot of CYOAs and pretty much all IF, and there are already examples of games written in that style on the site.

Now enjoy your grapefruit I guess. I'm sure others will have answers more along the lines of what you wanted. We're such a great community that way.

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
Ok, one more example to see if anyone has any thoughts:

So you're in the story. You have the car keys. You open the trunk and get whatever you like out of the trunk. Then you close the trunk. Would it bother you if the option to open the trunk has disappeared now? That sort of forces the story forward, but it also takes away the logical actions and options. As a reader of stories on this site, would you even notice that, or would it bother you immensely?

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
Disappearing links, or them turning unclickable, can be quite helpful in giving the player direction in the game ( when used right).

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago

The way I try to handle situations like that is: once someone has the item or has fully interacted with something in a way that they don't need access to it anymore, I'll use the STOP variable to prevent them from clicking it, to save them some clicks if there's already plenty of other things to do or explore. However I may also check the "Visible When Inactive" option, which will show the action link (such as "Open the trunk") but have it grayed out and non-clickable. 

If you're feeling ambitious and it makes sense for the flow of the storygame, you could even connect some on-page text that says something like "You already got X item from the trunk", in addition to graying out the link or making it disappear. 

That method mainly reminds the reader of what they've already accessed and obtained. Let's say you had a room with a dresser, a desk, a nightstand, a closet, and such with over a dozen different things to open. This combined with other rooms in a house, with their own objects to interact with. The reader can easily get disoriented if you have them randomly exploring too wide of an area for that one pesky thing they accidentally missed to progress forward. That could leave them backtracking and going in circles until they find it, which probably isn't enjoyable for some people. Using that house example, if you gray out any object they accessed (that was empty), and any drawer they got the item out of (but only after they grab the item), it'll help them navigate things better and easily know if they missed checking a spot or not. It does drop the difficulty though, so that's more of a design choice that could go either way. You can also combine the methods, and keep some things accessible, while removing access to others.

Personally speaking, if you have a lot of different locations to explore and the reader may have to backtrack in case they missed something, then either removing the trunk link or graying it out (as described above) would improve the quality-of-life. Just make sure to not accidentally remove access to something they may need to go back to. In general I wouldn't mind you doing what you described.

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
I'd be curious to see how well a situation like a game with each room having multiple objects to interact with went over, actually. It's the norm for interactive fiction, but would be an awful lot of clicking for a CYOA without making any kind of story progress. Having to load a separate page for a one line description of opening or closing a drawer, for instance.

Speaking as an author I'd not sure I'd ever attempt it, even as in love with the way IF handles discovery and exploration as I am. It'd take a lot of scripting to create the illusion of what would at best be an imitation of a very rudimentary IF game, minus the freedom and sense of immersion the parser gives. I'm way more into CYOAs than I used to be, but it's always going to be a limitation of the medium that any action on the player's part is always going to boil down to the game going, 'Here are your options. Now click one.'

CYOA vs. CYS

9 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/22/2017 9:31:15 PM

The way I'd probably approach something like that is to be descriptive of the contents of the drawers or other objects outside of what the reader would be looking for. Use it as a bit of optional world building, that would give them more insight into whoever was using that room. If it was a bedroom, a drawer could have some yarn and a few crochet hooks next to their socks for example, which would imply an interest crocheting. Doesn't need to be anything too fancy.

Or if it was a mystery story, you could even use it as a way to scatter some subtle clues that'll make solving the mystery easier. If it was a murder mystery, mix those subtle clues with some world building elements. Then even once the murderer is figured out, it'll help paint a broader picture of what type of person the killer is past their raw motivation and their act of killing. Maybe they have unique hobbies, or their true love died many years ago (you could find an old letter in a drawer), or they might not be such a bad person in general, but felt pressured to the point of thinking murder was the only solution.

Still wouldn't go past 3-4 lines for each description if possible though, to make the text easier to digest and to not break up the pace of exploration too much. But to still make it more engaging than simply opening up random drawers and getting generic descriptions.

In regards to your last few comments, I agree with that for the most part. I'll just add, the project I'm working on for the contest does have a lot of exploration-driven mechanics, since I was really intent on making that work out. It's not perfect by any means, but I think it'll offer a different look at how exploring combined with freedom can be handled in a CYOA type setting. When it's published I'll send you a link if you want, since you might be interested in the approach of it.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago

One solution to that design limitation in CYoAs is to dynamically limit which options (hyperlinks) are available based on previous information / random rolls / both. Combined with masking outcomes (e.g. have three different 'outcome' pages ready, but which one is shown to the user is contingent on a rule), the otherwise simple looking decision making can become far more nuanced and replayable / unpredictable. However, it will require properly communicating with the player which factors can affect outcomes (game developers rarely ever use pure randomness in design, and for good reason).

I'm not a fan of IF because it creates a ton of other problems while trying to solve one (trading off simplicity in understanding affordances in favor of a questionable sense of discovery that can become extremely laborious or clumsy to walk through). There have been a few hybrid models, e.g. otherwise Visual Novel gameplay interspersed with interacting with clues in 3D space to find specific hidden information points (best example for this is how Ace Attorney's later versions have a visual novel format to get to cases, but an investigative detective style to examine evidence once found)

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago
I'm not sure how often or how recently you've played IF, but it's come a long way as far as fairness and communication with the player goes. It's still possible to get a hold of something old and clunky or an amateurish mess just because there's so many archived out there and anyone can drop anything in the IFDB (see: the never-ending plague of crappy Twine games), but if you know what to look for there's an extremely dedicated and talented community that's been making these games for decades.

IF is always a balancing act between giving the player freedom to explore at their own pace and keeping the plot moving when they're ready to progress, and above all keeping them immersed in a world that's responsive to as many things they might conceivably try as possible. Some authors have really honed this to an art and a science.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago

Hmm. In that case could you recommend a few good modern IFs? I'm curious to see how they'd be able to move the medium forward, and through what interventions.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago
City of Secrets, by Emily Short, is usually my automatic recommendation to newbies. You mostly progress the plot by exploring and talking to people.

Savoir-Faire is by the same author, more of a classic puzzle heavy type of game.

I see Shade, by Andrew Plotkin, get recommended a lot because it's a short piece and it's basically just there to be experienced.

Counterfeit Monkey is amazing for fans of wordplay

Really, it's difficult to go wrong with anything by Emily Short. Some of her posts and essays and things I always found a little pretentious, but as far as polished, professional quality games go hers are always reliable.

I started out with Anchorhead myself and I'd still recommend it to any Lovecraft fans, but it's considered a little unforgiving by today's standards, so I only mention it now with the caveat to keep a walk-through handy.

Christminster and Slouching Towards Bedlam are two other older games that are still my favorites, but it's been over a decade (two in Christminster's case...) so it's hard to say how they hold up.

Anyway, on my phone now so links are hard, but all of these can be found at ifdb.tads.org

And keep in mind is been a few years since I've followed the main IF community very closely aside from skimming the best games off their annual IFComp, so I'm sure there may be plenty of must play games I'm missing. Though they've definitely moved very far from their roots and it's a matter of opinion whether that's been completely for the better.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago

Thank you for the extensive list! Will go through them and check out IFComp submissions as well

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago

My only experiences with CYOA has been those Club Penguin pick your path books, and Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy books. Steve Jackson's books had a lot of exploration and rpg elements, and many paths would? take you back to a place where you were before. Especially in ones like Forest of Doom and Sorcery. So my experience with CYOA is pretty different from yours. ?But the Club Penguin books I used to read would only be one way, just like you said, except they were like 80 pages long and with 15 or so endings so backtracking wasn't too hard.

So to answer: I don't think it's too important to have a link to go back on a fairly short Storygame like a 4/8 length. But on a really long one, like with a length of 6 or higher, it wouldn't be a bad idea to implement one where logical. Then again, there's always the Go Back button.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago
If the idea is that you're exploring a physical space and each page is a section of it, then the option to explore or backtrack at your own pace makes sense and will likely be expected, yes, even if not for every little detail like opening and closing a trunk.

There are games with sections like this here already (Inepta Academy comes to mind as a semi-recent one), though the norm for CYS is having each page drive the plot forward.

Which I guess is why we're having this discussion in the first place--being able to navigate a set of locations freely isn't really unusual in CYOAs as a whole, but might be odd to those who've mostly experienced them playing the games here.

CYOA vs. CYS

8 months ago

I guess CYS makes it easier to explore some really complex environments with many smaller things to look at or examine because it's all digital. Imagine having to flip to a certain page in a book just to see three sentences describing said thing, not to mention the waste of paper, making the book dozens of extra pages longer than it needs to be. So, in my opinion, those kinds of explorable environments should remain digital.