WatchNon-threaded

Forums » Writing Workshop » Read Message

Toss around ideas and brainstorm your story.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
... for the Perfect CYOA

So we can presumably all agree that 1) believable characters, 2) solid prose, and 3) a strong plot are key to a great story. But what aspects of a CYOA draw you to the genre that other mediums cannot provide?

So I ask, what does the perfect CYOA entail? Where do you stand on the breadth versus depth spectrum? Does the game trump the story? Or does the story have to exist to make the game entertaining? Etc. etc.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I like the part where you click the links and different text happens

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I like to click on things

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
Not when the item keeps saying that you can't use it now.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
One of the things that I like, and that little m will disagree with me on, is the idea of different worlds. In some of the "original" CYOA books, simply going through a door could take you to an alternative place that different from the other door -- a completely different and at times in conflict with the other door. I like the freedom of completely going out in different directions and different realities -- and then being able to read the story again, selecting the other door, and finding an entire different world and reality.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I also like real choices that have an effect on the story. I like to be able to see how making a certain decision changes the story as it moves on and then having the option to go back and read the story again and seeing how making the different choice changes the story.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
What are your thoughts on delayed choices? Choices that seemingly have no impact, but have a delayed effect later in the game. I think a lot of times people don't even realize these choices are affecting the game at all.

Would you appreciate such a choice more if its impact was explained in a walk-through after you completed one reading? Do people actually read walk-throughs?

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I do like delayed choices. I tend to prefer that there is some hint in there, even if it is quite delayed, that lets you know the effect. I have seen (and written) stories where there's no hint at all that the choice had an effect and you really only find that out when you read every path or get a clue from some other reader. I guess those are okay, but I do tend to miss them myself.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
Delayed consequences is probably the better term, and I love them. Not *just* because it prevents an easy fix with a back button, but that's part of it.

Everyone should learn IF/THEN/$DEST for this alone, it's such a small thing but it opens up so many possibilities and complexities in a plot.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
Oh, glad you brought that up. That leads me to a another question I've had. How do you feel about the back button option?

For example, CoG doesn't have one. The owners thinks it lessens the experience. I feel like a back button is a good thing. If you don't want to use it, then that's fine, it's not hurting you. But if you pick a choice and die, but like the general trajectory you were on, then you don't have to click a bunch of links to get back to where you were.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I love the back button as a reader. I do like the idea of stopping it from the point of an author. But I don't really see the big deal. When I read the CYOA books, I always had every finger I owned jammed into different pages so I could go back if I didn't like the choice!

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

The ability to go back is probably one of my favorite features of the games on CYS. I have had games that I never even finished from CoG because I went through hundreds of pages only to pick an option that leads to my death. I mean, if the game was good enough I'd probably slog through the choices again but it is extremely frustrating to spend an hour or more reading a story only for a fake choice or unclear stat check to lead to you having to restart the entire story. 

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
It's good to have it for the exact reason you mentioned. COG games also have you die less, if at all, because having to do so much clicking through the same story you already read really is a punishment for the player rather than any kind of interesting consequence for the character, and the games themselves are often designed around avoiding this. I'm sure they realize that most readers just wouldn't bother to continue.

And sometimes you just want to take a moment to try something off the wall and obviously stupid, just to see what happens. That shouldn't be discouraged for either writers or readers

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I adore the back button. Makes it easier to never miss a branch!

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

I do prefer having a back button... Except when it comes to random results. One of the games I'm working on has a lot of random results, and it's kind of annoying knowing that people can just go back and roll a better score. That's cheating! (I mean I totally do it, but that doesn't mean I want other people to.) cheeky

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

All other things equal, I prefer story over game. That's not to say I don't think choice is important, but when I read a story-game, I usually just want to click links and read rather than solve puzzles.
Branching style is something that means a lot to me too. I prefer the Cave of Time style rather heavily for various reasons. Reading a story and finding that every choice led to something new was the coolest thing ever when I first started reading CYOAs and a big reason I'm here right now. Additionally, it makes reading every page of the story way easier than some styles.
I don't want a story to finish in the first two links no matter what I do. Otherwise I have noticed no preference between broad and long. Either way, I'm probably reading all of it.

Readability is important too. If I have to stop and decipher what sentences are supposed to be, it takes away from the story, and I will probably start noticing other mistakes too.
Occasional paragraph breaks are a blessing that I often forget to be grateful for until I read something without them.

Also, I don't really care for delayed choices. It's not something you notice until you play through it again, and then I start wondering if I need to try different choice combinations, et cetera. They can be cool, I guess, but I wouldn't think it was a positive if someone was telling me about a story.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I do like the crazy cave of time stories -- but the only thing I don't like about writing them is that when you write that kind of story the vast majority of the story is never even seen on the first reading! So, to make a story of any length takes writing tens of thousands of words...that never get read!

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago

With the story that I am currently writing, I am hoping that readers will want to explore as many of the different story paths as possible. It's being structured in what this site calls the "Time Cave" format, and so far there will be at least 29 unique endings.

Some of the original CYOA books seem to have been written with the assumption that readers would read through multiple story paths; rather than writing one "main" story line that includes all the details and answers all the questions, these tidbits were spread out through multiple story paths with unsatisfactory endings. Those unsatisfactory endings--where you die, or fail to solve the mystery, or get side-tracked by a minor B-story--motivated the reader to backtrack and try again. If done well, the reader could see the connections between the various plotlines and piece together the overarching narrative.

But if the mystery was fully explained in multiple "successful" endings, then the reader gets what s/he wants in the first or second try, and the book gets quietly put back on the shelf.

Some of the comments on my first story on this site, Marooned on Giri Minor, suggested that there could have been more development of the secondary characters. Yes, I agree I could have sprinkled in more details here and there, but at the same time I think those highlights need to be inserted into places where they are organic to the story, and not just written as exposition for exposition's sake.

For instance, the first choice in Giri Minor asks if you want to hang out on the bridge or go on a spacewalk. If you choose the first option, you get to hang out with Captain Siggo and interact with him, but if you go on the spacewalk you get to interact with Tira Indrian. Later in the story, if you pick the right path, you will find a good character moment where you learn about both Dionysya Andrade and "you" in a single passage of dialog. As in real life, if you choose not to interact with those characters, then you don't learn much about them; and because this is a "Time Cave" story no one plot line answers all questions.

The follow-up story to Giri Minor, with its 29-and-counting unique endings, will take this element up a notch. That story will be far more enjoyable if readers take the time to explore as many of the branching plotlines as possible--not necessarily all 29, but at least each of the four main branches. Going straight to the "win" ending will result in a very thin story, and therefore garner poor ratings and reviews. On the other hand, I worry that if the reader gets mired in one unsatisfactory ending after another--and don't worry, I am trying not to rely on cheap deaths as a way to inflate the ending count--they will just get frustrated and quit reading the story altogether.

So as the writer, I am being mindful of my obligation to create an intriguing world and populate it with compelling characters. For the readers, I will probably insert a disclaimer at the beginning reminding everyone that "Time Cave" stories were designed to be read multiple times. Don't base your rating or your comment on the very first read-through.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago
This sounds exactly like a story with all the elements I posted about in here just a bit ago, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm not sure how common it is to explore every possible choice, but when they affect obvious things and the writing is otherwise good I don't think most readers will stop at the very first ending they get. Recovering from a bad ending is just a matter of clicking the back button a few times and they're usually common enough (even the cheap deaths) not to put anybody off. Most of us get that true branching can get out of hand quickly and sometimes a certain amount of pruning is required. Thanks for the reminder by the way that I still need to go and see what happens when you go to check out the abandoned colony.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago
Not checking out every choice is gay.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago
Delayed consequences are great, you're just so tragically wrong here. If your whole party is snowed in and forced to resort to cannibalism in the mountains, maybe you should've packed more supplies or left a month earlier, you dumb shit. But it's not on the author to fast forward immediately to the point your food runs out and skip the rest of the trip where you get to know the people you'll be eating soon.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

We are in agreement with your initial three ingredients. I tend to prefer story over game as I find the use of second person POV (with a little help from my ego) draws me into the world. I also primarily browse the site at work, so a small window of text is a lot more inconspicuous than a series of images and abundance of links. I find that great world building can overshadow mediocre writing when it comes to CYOA stories since my mind is filling in the details making up for lack of description. The CYS site isn't visually impressive on its own, so a great story is definitely needed for the "game-focused" storygames as I don't find as much pleasure in clicking links as some of the other members here. I think most people tend to include branching and replayability as a criteria for a great storygame. I think it's a cool element, but I doesn't really affect my rating for a game. I'm just as happy navigating through a singular path, avoiding dead branches, and picking links that are actually meaningful for the story. To answer your question, a perfect storygame in my mind entails the three things you mentioned, an immersive world, and choices that matter/develop the story.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I can definitely say I look more favorably on lackluster prose in an otherwise interesting cyoa than I do in other mediums.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
How about this one: character names. Personally, I like it when the author gives the character a set name, and you play as the character, or otherwise the author gives the player a title that the character is referred to. Being able to pick a character name is almost a drawback to me. It's almost something I feel that is an obligation/entitlement of the author.

On the other hand, being able to name castles, ships, etc. is a neat feature. Things you acquire through your wise choices.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
I don't play as myself. I play as a character. So I agree.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

I play as myself and imagine I'm the main character. It definitely leaves me in a strange place after stories like Love SICK and Repression. 

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
So, uh, how's your family doing? Have you spent any quality tine with them lately?

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

Wrote a poem for my sister the other day. Made my mom jealous.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
So rom--such a good brother.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

Were you interrupted by Mormons and/or a girl scout? They really get in the way of writing nice poems for your sister, ya know?

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago

But you can always get them to sing for her. ^_^

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

10 days ago
In the perfect CYOA, the main character should have agency and the ability to make real changes. That doesn't necessarily mean that they need to be an ultra-powerful badass, a chosen one, or anything else like that, but a good CYOA should take advantage of the medium via good choices for the MC. I don't care if the MC is an audience stand-in or an already established character. Railroading sucks.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago
One element I've always found important is consistency and logic in the game world and timeline. I love stories where you might play through once, then play again using the knowledge you gained about the characters or situation you'll be up against for a better outcome. Or a scenario where you can pick sides and friends and enemies and learn things about each that completely change previous assumptions. Really just the whole experience of exploring the world from different angles, filling in the gaps as you go and getting a fuller picture of things is incredibly rewarding to me. It doesn't always have to involve complex choice tracking or anything like that, even something simple like hearing that one character you briefly met is off defending the castle walls at the east gate or whatever, and then on another path you wind up there with them, the 'aha!' moment of recognition feels the same.

A Discussion of Essential Ingredients ...

7 days ago
I approve of this assertion of dominance.