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Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

I hope everyone likes 1 and half finished epilogues.

Actually that brings up a question. Would @EndMaster 's branching style be considered linear if it were a one epilogue story. If so, how many epilogues would it take to shake of the linearity. 

Tagged because I'm curious about your opinion End.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago
Endmaster doesn't write linear stories.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

I realize. I'm asking if we were to dissect one of his stories ( say Eternal) and we were to take an epilogue path (say eternal Harbinger) and cut off every choice that leads to another epilogue, would that branch be considered linear. This is under the assumption that the Eternal Harbinger path would essentially be its own game. 

I butchered that explanation. If I need to re explain, then please say so. I'll attempt to word it better. 

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

Well one way around it, is don’t label any of the endings in the story as epilogues and it won’t be “linear.” It’ll just a be a story with a bunch of endings with some of them better than others.

I sort of have a slightly different mindset on what constitutes a linear story than most probably, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever really addressed it here since it doesn’t seem to matter as much (to the regular forum members at least, driveby guest subhumans opinions don’t matter)  I’ve addressed it on CoG since there’s been more bitching about it amongst themselves on there.

Anyway, here’s the long winded explanation.

As far as I’m concerned if the story is branching with some sort of major difference due to choice, then it isn’t linear.

If one of the choices leads to death and the other doesn’t, it’s still not linear, since the choice still had a consequence. A severe one, but it was still major.

Now one could say this is “railroading” and I can see that point of view, however there are a shitload of CYOAs that railroad with the “illusion of choice” by just changing up a bit of dialogue/description and it still ultimately leads you to the same following events. Personally I’m not fond of doing this. If anything I find it more dishonest than killing the protagonist every other page.

Bioware is infamous for doing this ALL the time and Bethesda did it to a pretty damn horrible degree in Fallout 4.

I’ll give an example of what I mean.

Play as any of the origin characters in the first Dragon Age and eventually you meet Duncan and he asks you to be a Gray Warden. In most cases your character is in a horrible situation, so you’d be wise to accept regardless of what you think of them.

Okay, makes sense. So why the hell are you even given the option to decline Duncan if he’s just going to conscript you anyway?

IF you’re going to give the choice to decline, then there should at least be a proper outcome for it, EVEN if it means death. If anything, it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting, if when you declined Duncan’s offer, he said “Okay, see you.” and then your character faced whatever came next as a non-warden.

The dwarf and elf commoners probably would have gotten executed. They could have had a whole little scene where your character goes before the executioner’s axe.

The dwarf noble could have continued on in endless tunnels fighting unlimited darkspawn until he gets killed. (Might have been fun to see how long you could last) The human noble probably would have had something similar with Howe’s men.

The wizard probably could have had the longest “non-warden” path depending on if he helped the bloodmage or not. If he did, he could have gotten lobotomized. If he didn’t, there could have been a whole mini-path where you’re directly fighting the demon invasion of the tower. You’d be doomed either way of course, either getting turned into an abomination or getting killed by a demon.

My point is, while all of those lead to death due to “choosing wrong” it still would have been a lot more interesting than Duncan just conscripting you and moving on to next scene. And better yet, there would have been a definite consequence of picking the wrong choice.

To me, dead end choices (death or not) are preferable to fake choices that give the illusion and railroad the story anyway.

Now I already know that I’m probably a dinosaur with this train of thought since back in the old days, death was around the corner all the damn time in adventure games and interactive fiction so I really don’t see the big deal of killing people off.

And yeah, I get that people don’t like to die nowadays and start all over, but really, you don’t even need to worry about starting all over since you can easily just click back page and pick the other choice.

Also this isn’t to say I’m completely against the whole fake choice thing, sometimes it’s inevitable. One or two isn’t going to bother me, especially when they’re spaced out, but I do tend to get annoyed when the whole game consists of them.

To give a better perspective of what probably influenced me, the first CYOA type books I got into weren’t the original CYOA books or even the old Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf books, it was a lesser known series called “Be an Interplanetary Spy!”

Virtually EVERY choice in those books was limited to 2 (though sometimes 3 or 4) and you had a puzzle you had to solve. Pick the wrong choice and you died. (99% of the time) There was usually only ever one correct choice and the times where they went easy on you and it just said something like “It took you longer than you thought to fix the engines” I actually felt cheated that I didn’t get killed for picking the wrong answer.

It helped of course that they had a lot cool death scenes (Every page of the Spy books were fully illustrated)

So to answer your question, if I cut off all the other major branches in Eternal and only had Eternal Harbinger as the epilogue, would it be linear?

To me, no it wouldn’t since I did that already with Death Song and Necromancer and I don’t consider those linear either. Everyone else, well they can think what they want obviously.

And in any case I’ve always said whatever ending you got and you liked the best, then go ahead consider that one to be “the true ending” if it makes you happy. Some people have liked where the Necro gives up world genocide and just lives quietly with Catalina for example and personally I like the unofficial “Eternal Bliss” epilogue the best where the Eternal winds up with Alison in the afterlife.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

Thanks for the long winded explanation. I'm in the same mindset as you, for the most part I think. I wouldn't really consider it linear for most of the same reasons, but to add on, I'd say that a major portion of whether that scenario is linear is largely supported by length of writing. For example, if instead of of writing a few word page documents per CYS page you wrote a paragraph per CYS page, then I may consider it linear. 

If I'm using your line of reasoning and saying that a it isn't linear so long as it has major choices, then I would be less inclined to think that a paragraph per page is linear. Mostly because I doubt a paragraph per page is really enough for me to connect with the character, so if I'm not able to do so then it results in me not particularly caring if I die or not. Therefore deaths wouldn't be a major choice, and the story would be considered much more linear. 

Of course this is all a hypothetical process for me. It's definitely not me wondering if a paragraph per page would be fine with the lot of Cystians reading my contest entry. 

 

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

There is an additional bit of where I start considering stuff as linear too. That’s when someone puts like four pages with a single choice right after one another.

I do understand that sometimes you really have to break up text (Again sometimes unavoidable), but if you’re doing that on multiple pages in succession along with combining it with fake choices then it’s pretty damn linear.

This makes even less sense when someone is writing a single paragraph per page and still doing it since they could have easily combined those same single paragraph pages into one full page.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

It was an example and a joke. Probably didn't pull off the joke very well. No my story isn't going to be a paragraph per page. I'd have to throw  myself into the pit of SHAME if that ever happened. 

Yeah it doesn't make very much sense, but neither did it when the WC stories were big. People will probably do it regardless of whether it makes much sense tbh. 

I haven't run into that too often, so it hasn't really been a problem for me. Most of the stories I read on this sight aren't very linear to begin with. I'm mostly just curious on what to not avoid in terms of linearity, but that's pretty much covered. All I have to do now is actually put forth the writing it takes to finish it off.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago
The biggest place where I end up with just a paragraph per page is when I'm manipulating variables. Sometimes, depending on how I do it, I don't have the values until AFTER the next page, so I end up with an "extra" page in the middle just to do calculations and things. Hopefully those only end up mildly annoying, and never on consecutive pages.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

As much as I expressed dislike for paragraph long pages, it's really only if it's a classic story. (Well, usually at least) If variables are involved, then that's a whole other story. No pun intended. If it can be pulled off, then it's fine, but unfortunately there are sure to be some people that do not pull it off.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago
So End, what do you think of splits with rejoining but with an effect?

In other words, a story where you get to choose your path. You can choose to be a mage, fighter, or some other thing. You do some stuff (different depending on which choice). At some point, you reach a junction, no matter which choice you took, like when the bandits attack the town. Then, you have different options on how to defend the town, depending on which path you took (different skills, possessions, or something like that).

So your choice changed the story and gave you a different story, but you still ended up having to defend the town.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

So basically what I did in Legend with the inevitable “home coming” chapter where you go back home and there’s an attack on your home village.

Well again, I didn’t consider that linear either since as you pointed out there were genuine differences based on your choices that had a real effect even if the event was the same.

Those differences were mainly due to the poor man’s stat system I had set up. Depending on the different things you did, your chances of beating the orc raiders was higher or lower. The choices available during the fight were also dependent on which class you picked. (Rogues had an easier time of sabotaging their camp, warriors had a better chance of just using brute force, etc)

Plus you had the option to just abandon the town and not defend it at all, (can’t remember if you only got that option if your alignment was low enough, though I know the rogue got the option regardless) leading to a completely different escape path and the priest had a completely different experience when he returned home, as did the demon possessed character.

In any case, I’m fine with it as long it feels like there’s a real difference due to the choices going on.

Choices, branching and endings

24 days ago

I've never actually written a story game, but I figured that a good place to start building skills would be to frequent this forum and pick the brain of those better than I. Holy crap. So much of what Endmaster said resonated. The one thing that frustrates me in any story game is a false feeling of agency. The idea that you're really making choices but all choices are really just different ways of skinning the same poor cat. I wonder how much of it comes from people writing out the entire story first and then just adapting at as CYOA. Not every story is better as a game and it leads to situtations where the writers have to force certain things to happen in order for the overall plotline to make sense.

The thing that I would consider the most important thing in terms of branching choices is flow and coherence. If I make a poor choice and it results in death, then I would like to see that progression make sense. If I rip off a criminal underboss and it results in him murdering me, that's perfectly fine. That's a consquence of something I did that would be ill-advised. What I see a lot in terms of deaths is people shoehorning in a quick death scene on every choice but one as a way of saying "wrong answer!". To me that reeks of lazy writing. Sometimes the consquence of what you do is immediate. You try to disarm the bomb, it blows up in your face. Other times the consquences of your actions ought not to be so immediate. CYOAs aren't multiple choice tests.

Now in response to ogre11, I may not be Endmaster but I hope I'm welcome to respond all the same. Splits with a rejoining aren't a bad idea, provided you do them right. I wouldn't consider it to be terribly linear to have multiple branching storylines that converge in a certain place as long as it makes sense for the story. For example, if the biggest threat or source of conflict in your game is some necromancer who is about to destroy the world, it would make sense for people who have taken multiple paths to end up at the place that poses the greatest threat to their existence. Giving each person something different that is representative of their struggles, skills, and choices is a nice touch. I think the most important part is to write the story in a way that everything flows to that point without making the reader feel railroaded. 

That all being said, I honestly love Endmaster's idea about allowing the protagonist to reach the climax or something and say "Screw it. Not my problem." or offer to legitimately join the bad guy in destroying/taking over the world. A reader should always have a legitimate choice, even if it doesn't always turn out like they'd imagined it. I hope that helps!

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago
I have so much to say on this topic, but I will not fall into this trap. Any words I type today are for one thing only.

Choices, branching and endings

one month ago

No please don't hold back. Go ahead and give in, for your story can wait. It's only one day.

Further information will be appreciated.