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Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
One thing that frustrates me about CYOAs as opposed to (vastly superior in every way) interactive fiction is that it's so difficult to add any kind of depth to the world or reward players who pay attention versus those who just charge blindly through.

One of the most straightforward concepts I can think of, adding a secret passage, is one I just can't figure out a good solution for. No matter what it doesn't require any logic or attention to detail on the player's part, it all boils down to a prominent blue link going CLICK THE THING.

I would love to be able to hide all kinds of secrets and books or just random little details in a storygame, but what are some thoughts on how to translate that over to a CYOA?

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago

Don’t all the coding tricks here (and places like CoG and Twine) allow you to do the whole “IF THEN THAT AND A BUNCH OF SHIT HAPPENS” type thing?

I thought that was the main reason for coding in the first place so if the character does/doesn’t do something 5 pages before, new options show up later (or don’t show up)

Saw it even done at low tech Infinite Story where someone put “hidden” links within the main text so it would jump to a normally inaccessible area of the story (or even a completely different story)

Obviously the only way I’ve ever bothered to hide something is through pure writing. Such as a character deliberately saying contradictory information and if you weren’t paying close attention to notice it, you’re probably going to pick the wrong choice.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
Possible methods (beyond End's brute force, which has its own appeal):

Ask for input. Inherently CYOAs give options, and ask the player's input on which one of these is the decision you want to take. A solution is to prevent access to the 'correct' link until criteria are met, which can be though-
/Giving them a quiz (OMS pulls this one), annoying but effective
/Asking them to choose which is the WRONG path (i.e. the only path the progresses is hidden amongst red herrings)
/Provide Interrupts: Think Mass Effect Paragon/Renegade interrupts, which require you to press LMB or RMB during a quick sequence, and if you're being lazy you'll miss these
/Make the passage accessible only when enough flags of the kind have been raised (e.g. require locations_visited to be > x, and in doing so force the player to visit places to reach the intended destination)
/Offer a dual solution puzzle to solve, as in Virtue's Last Reward - the Escape the Room puzzle has two solutions, one obvious which gets you out of the room, and a second one which is harder to find but gives you a plot coupon which moves the story ahead. By letting the player leave with just the one, they can feel they've move on, but you know they haven't found the secret reward/passage. Also used to lesser extent in the Steve Jackson's Sorcery games, where you have to enter a spell through selecting three letters in order, but you have a choice of letters (so if the solution is abc, you'll be offered asgkjh/oiubep/kmjch, and you have to select a, b, c from that mess. Hidden solutions such as g,e,m can give alternate paths)
/Hide the hyperlink in the text or within an image, and use formatting to make it look normal, but if the player clicks it, they get to the secret path (e.g. making the eye in the center of a spell circle clickable)
/Track how long the player's spent on a particular page - dubious and harmful to replays, but still a way of recording that the player's giving due time, and not blazing through (though if they do that, there should be a funny ending there)
/Hide the link somewhere, say force the player to talk to your NPCs and gain their approval (e.g. relationship > 80) to move ahead

I hope that gives some pointers

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
How do you track how long someone has been on a page or create interrupts in the AE?

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I haven't done it myself on CYS, but you have java inserts that track time spent on page, link that to a variable, and only trigger content if that variable exceeds a certain amount for certain pages as you need. Should work, otherwise ask around on the Editor forum

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
You could hide extra information in the source code using <(!)-- TEXT --> (without brackets cba to encode). It's a bit out of the way though, but you could subtly hint for players to look in the source on certain pages. Obviously not everyone will bother or understand or be able to (can you access source on phones??)

You could also hint/riddle at a secret link (make colour = transparent) in the text or the title of a page etc.

I also just like putting transparent text into my main story, which you could also hint at and use to give extra info/ solution to a puzzle.

That's all off the top of my head.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I get what you're saying -- enough clicks and the reader finds every path. So logically, the way to make that effectively impossible is to increase the number of combinations of clicks to a number so large that people won't find them by just clicking. I've seen this done in one or two stories here with objects. If you add just 5 objects and "hide" something that is only revealed by using a combination of three items, you have made that so difficult that just clicking randomly isn't going to find it. That's already nearly 120 possible combinations.

For a secret passage, I could see a magical map as one item. Then maybe there's a wooden donut-shaped object and a gem. You have to use the gem on the donut-shaped object on the map, then the map reveals the secret passage (to which the link only appears when the completed map is in the possession of the reader). Add in 5 other items (that are useful or not) and suddenly there's over 40,000 ways to combine the items. Without reading, the reader just isn't going to randomly find that combination by just clicking.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago

Kind of a lazy, bypassable solution, but you can probably force a player to pay a little more attention with an item or two and maybe a few simple looping puzzles. Obviously something like The Maze in OotMS will be a turnoff, but if you frame the puzzle in a charming enough way, it'll be a simple "fuck you" for blind exploiters and a fun, brief engagement for readers who appreciate what you're doing.

Also, variables that track decisions is a good one. That's the classic method of adding New Game + paths after certain epilogues. Well, maybe not classic, but I sure did think about it for a long enough time that I think it is.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
This has gotten more responses than I expected for a phone post I made while waiting for a truck to unload.

I wouldn't want to rely meta tricks like making the player hunt for hidden links to let the character progress. But End's idea of conflicting information or clues feels the most natural way to integrate something like this, I guess if I combined it with other links that technically worked and still progressed the story to sort of disguise it.

There doesn't seem to be anyway to emulate that kind of 'A-ha!' feeling you get when exploring your environment in an IF game and realizing the scratches on the floor mean you can pull out a bed to reveal a trap door, but the various suggestions involving items were good ones. I prefer not to include an.inventory system in games, but that sort of thing could be tracked in variables too. It would mean figuring out how to structure a large part of the game around such scenarios though without making it feel like a puzzle tacked on solely to make the player's life difficult.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I suppose you could have that moment of realisation if you put in pictures with the kind of hints you mean and hide links on a part of the picture, so the player can progress if, say, they click on the bed. I don't know how to only make part of a picture a link, but it can't be hard. Suppose you could make a separate div and overlap I to the size of the thing in the image or something.

Then again, that'd take quite a lot of effort. Also, it's not accessible for blind members of the community (there might be a way to get round that. I'll think about it if I do use this).

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
Commended by BerkaZerka on 8/5/2017 3:12:44 PM

Generally I would advise NOT to do such things. There's not a good, or rather, not annoying, way of doing so.

I've seen a few people mention timers or hidden embedded links and both of those seem difficult to implement and, more importantly,  annoying, prompting players to wait on every single page for an arbitrary amount of time just in case there's a hidden time condition that could be met (which they of course want to meet in order to achieve the best play through), or in the case of embedded links, clicking on every word with the fear that if they don't they'll miss the best outcome for the scenario. 

Likewise, you'd have to mention to the player that these elements are a thing because otherwise they'll have no idea to expect them, given how strange and rare features they are, and that takes away from suprise and causes the previously mentioned behaviours.

It's like hidden walls in dark souls. Once you find one, you just got to go punching ALL the walls, JUST IN CASE you missed some super OP BS behind some wall, only your situation is way worse due to a lack of visual cues you can give players. 

I'd say just write your story assuming that the reader is invested. Obviously give them a hook at the start and give them a goal and a reason to be invested and all that, but don't assume you're audience isn't invested in you're writing (ie don't assume they're just skimming your work) halfway or at the end of your work.

If the reader wants to "charge blindly through" your work, either a) they personally don't car enough to read everything (time constraints, repeat reading, wanting to just post a comment, god forbid they enjoy speed-reading/skimming) in which case implementing features like that will only slow them to a crawl and serves as a deterrent more than a reward or b) your writing isn't engaging them, which you can't fix with gimmicks, only better writing. 

Alternatively, the people who are going to spot that stuff we're probs paying attention anyway and didn't need some gimmicks to entice them to do so, so it's a wasted effort.

Just focus on rewarding your readers' attention to detail by having them recall past information to overcome challenges (ie recalling the elemental weakness of an enemy and using the appropriate attack) whilst also offering something less effective for those who didn't pick up the finer details or aren't able to spot them/ don't want to go backtracking (ie Using inefficient attacks and expending more resources as a result) whilst still allowing progression (I hate game over screens in CYOA...). Choice of Games generally uses stats as a reward, so you could try something like that (ie picking the appropriate response gives charisma). I rather enjoy such things, AND they allow you to test the skill of the player and their knowledge of the game (The Lost Heir's hidden mastery classes are an awesome example of this).

tl;dr 1) Reward attention through scenarios where recalling information given previously allows the player to gain a gameplay advantage, 2) focus on strong writing rather than weird gimmicks, and 3) believe your audience will show an appropriate level of investment and attention if you've given them a reason to do so, and if you can't give them a reason, then improve your writing. 

Btw, in the case of a secret passage, give them the ability to pick multiple actions, eg: In the grand master's quarters: 

a) Remove the blue book from the bookshelf

b) Pet the cat

c) Jump on the table

d) ect....

Establish in a previous chapter that the grand master loves cats, and then if the player picks the cat, boom, secret passage revealed. If not, game continues as normal. 

EDIT: End mentioned "Contradictory information". The application of that could work in the same way, so that's something else to consider.END EDIT

Obviously they can just "go back" and keep trying, but again, that's a limitation of Chooseyourstory and not something that can be changed. You have to trust in the audience to see their story through. Something that can go a long way to this is not making the secret passage the 100% objectively better choice. Have another, less optimal award down the other path (ie Secret tunnel gives sword, normal way gives potion of healing). Basically don't give them just one optimal path, b/c that path will then be abused on repeat playthroughs and a whole part of your story (the non-secret passage way of progress) will be ignored. EDIT: What I mean here is that a sword and a potion can both be useful, but a sword is more appealing and useful during maybe initial playthroughs when your reader doesn't fully understand intricacies of the game mechanics/story.END EDIT

GL with your story, and remember: First and foremost, it's a story, not a game. EDIT: Focus on writing, then gameplay, and I'd recomend not having a True End. Embrace a CYOA medium! END EDIT

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
There's some good stuff in here, but I think you're missing the point that it's not about forcing readers to pay attention, it's entirely about improving their experience with the good feeling of discovering a cool secret or solving a puzzle, or simply in discovering unexpected depth to a world in a thousand small ways. Something that is an integral part of interactive fiction, and that I often miss in a CYOA and yet have difficulty in emulating. And I'm not sure when I've ever given the impression I support the idea of using gimmicks to avoid engaging writing here or anywhere else on this forum, honestly.

Petting a cat to reveal a secret passage makes zero sense (This would be a pretty bad example of 'focusing on writing'...) but giving the option to examine various objects in a room combined with variable triggers and items might come close. It's just that this level of environment interaction would have to be available in multiple places throughout the game so as not to stick out like a sore thumb.

Agreed too that having one optimal path would be a bad idea, but that was never the plan or intention. Hiding secrets in a game isn't just about handing out items, and I don't use inventory systems anyhow. It could just as easily lead to your uncle's secret rape dungeon that you need to find to advance the plot, for that matter...

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago

The cat could say "Yo youre pretty cool here is the passage." Maybe he swallows the player into a pocket dimension. The examples themselves arent the point, just the idea they represent, an open exploration segment with a hidden extra for those who manage to "solve" the scenraio through opening the passage.

Like you just mentioned, puzzles would be great. Maybe optional ones that require a series of different actions performed in order and, depenending on if the player solves the puzzle, they get a reward. You could even have different degrees of failure and success.

Honestly puzzle rooms and character interactions (ie Ends whole spotting contradictions thing and acting acordingly) seem to be your only options.

Yeah you'd have to repeat it multiple times, but I don't see why you would want to include it as a one off. If you include a scenario which rewards a player for paying attention, it seems dumb to just never test them on it again. By doing it once, you set up an expectation and the audience will be expecting to be rewarded again for paying attention. Not doing so will probs just make them think they missed it or make them feel dissapointed.

I understand that you want the player to feel all smart about paying attention to their world and pulling of something other player's would have missed without thar knowledge, right? Well, I still think yiur best bet for such things is to do it through dialouge. Have a scenario where player has to reason with someone, with multiple approaches available, with the most effective choices having been foreshadowed by previous chapters (ie you learn about the characters values or that they're easily intimidated but hard to persuade with words). You could go one step further and have them find out this information through an exploration puzzle. Or maybe the player took an optional choice to read that characters journal earlier in the story and learned that way that they were easily intimidated. Then, when they get to the encounter, they can use what they've learnt to pick the most optimal choices. Maybe even lock the choice away if the player hasnt gone to the appropriate page of the storygame. Guess its up to you and wether you believe the player shouldnt be able to stumble onto the solution by pure luck.

Or you can put old information to use in a combat encounter, like for example with the player fighting a wight and having a multitude of strategies to use. If the player remembers that they,re easily seduced (or whatever, specifics dont matter) then the player could do a lude dance number and seduce the wraiths who would then pay him in pearl coins and thank him for the show. Later the player could craft the pearls into a special dagger, then be put into a situation where he has to lure some wraiths away from a location, remembering after an NPC remarks on the strange make of his dagger that the wraiths trade in pearl currency, and figure out to use some pearls to lure them away as a result.

My point is: give the player some interesting information. Optionally Remind them of this information later. Then put them into a situation where this becomes useful. I would suggest you do this through offering multiple choices to the player and having one be a bit more benefical, to reward them paying attention. An inventort system and use of items would make this WAY easier and effective, even if it requires more work. But hey, nothing good comes easy.

However, this is all really annoying, and doesnt work as well in a cyoa without stats or items (as mentioned) or game over screens. If your game lacks all of those, then id suggest just scrapping the idea of provoding physical rewards and going for jusy improving your story and writing instead. EDIT:the second example with the weights and pearls would fit into thsi, i think. END EDIT Yeah, finding something hidden sounds like something exciting for a player, but if there arent gameplay rewards (ie stat increase or informing a future choice of the player) for finding that secret, then theres no reason for the player to be excited. The Lost Heir trilogy did this very well, rewarding the players actions and wise investment of stats with more stats and cool epic gear. If youre not willing to use stats and items, then I think you should be focusing on rewarding the player for paying attention by allowing them to make more informed decisions throughout the game, or allowing them to resolve smaller branches of the cyoa in unique ways.

Maybe im not expressing this clearly, but i at least hope youre getting the gist of what im trying to say.

Either include puzzle sections with multiple links and reward the players with things they can use in future events, be it knowledge or items, or just make paying attention its own reward, ie knowing the best way to interact with npcs, creatures, and environments.

Just focus on good writing and giving the player information necessary to make informed choices. Thats all thats neccessary, and will be its own reward when the player gets in a difficult situation and manages to think their way out of it based on the information youve provided. Secrets and easter eggs just seem like a waste of time to me, unless youre planning on converting them into their own branches.

 

Anyhow, sorry about rambling on. I might come back later and delete this message and re write my response with something more focused.

Best of luck,

 

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I did get your PM this morning if you were wondering, it's just that that there were no paragraph breaks and I was on my phone. This version looks much easier to get through. :D

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago

Haha, ikr? :p

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
Hidden links don't have to be about making the player click every word to find Easter Eggs. You could less annoyingly implement them by hinting at the title of a page or a certain word or a section of a picture being the answer of a riddle or puzzle. This doesn't have to be essential to move the plot on. It can just be something extra to lead to another branch/ include the writing or stats that rewards player scrutiny. I agree with the thing with timing if it's used to see whether a player is skimming through though. I don't know the code used for timing, but I'm sure there are other ways of using time counting. Perhaps it could be that someone hints that if you wait until an old man falls asleep (wait 30 seconds on a page that would usually take 20 to read and click a choice), then you can steal a key to blah blah...

Using these features wouldn't slow down people who skim anyway. The whole point is that they can be used to get extra information to reward players who are invested. If people skim, they just miss the extra detail.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I probably wouldn't ever use a timer. People read at different speeds, leave things open in tabs, and above all, I have no idea how to do it.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I probably won't either, although I do want to cram in as many different features as I can into my main story so I might look into it for a few Easter Eggs.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago

You could have a 'search in depth' item, that when used can reveal a passageway. Since it's an item, it'll be on every page and it would be massively annoying to a reader to click on it every single page. And if you have a page you visit multiple times, you could have it only available after you reach it the second or third time, so if there is a person who uses it every page they probably won't used it on a page they've already used it on unless they see the hint in the text telling them too. Just little clues or implacation. The only bad part about this that I can think of is that it makes it obvious that there's a secret somewhere to find, and so people will be on the lookout. It could be offset by having two secrets, a slightly more obvious one that if people are looking for will get and isn't really all that great or anything, and then a more hidden one that's harder for those who REALLY look for it. 
 

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
"One of the most straightforward concepts I can think of, adding a secret passage, is one I just can't figure out a good solution for. "

How do you add a secret passage in other CYOA games?

For CYS just utilize items.

Concealing secrets in a CYOA?

5 months ago
I was talking about interactive fiction games in the OP.