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Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Commended by BerkaZerka on 1/30/2020 12:08:51 PM
Storygames with Cave of Time style branching and set protagonists are the easiest to write and also the most entertaining to read.

Anyone want to try to argue otherwise?

I can still see the appeal of playing a more linear game with a bunch of variables, if it's really polished and done well you end up approaching it like a puzzle to make the correct choices from a stat/management standpoint to unlock the "best" ending. That can be a lot of fun and add a strategic element.

Still torture to write though.

Cave of Time works best when each major path has the character going to different locations and meeting new people, so it lends itself naturally to adventure stories. There is a loss I guess of some of the finer grained character details in the way such a plot typically develops, but I'm not convinced most readers will notice or care.

I'm really starting to think my plot ideas in the past have been way too limited to dealing with a specific set of circumstances and how a series of small decisions add up in subtle ways when in reality everyone just wants to read about Conan killing everything and fucking bitches.

Also that has meant I just don't finish things ever because it's tedious and I hate writing four variations of the same damn thing based on slight personality changes and how others react to the MC based on them.

Are there any real, practical downsides to the Conan Fucks Everything style?

The only exception being the sweet resource management game with random events that I'm totally going to write one day.

So maybe I'm more looking for thoughts on storygames vs more game-like games. With I suppose bottleneck structure being somewhere in between. How do you guys mentally categorize all this stuff anyway because I'm already confused

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Well that was... interesting...

Yes, I would agree that cave of time is the easiest to write. It also gives you the most flexibility -- you don't have to build the world, you can quite literally make anything happen at any time, no matter what else you've written. There is no requirement for continuity from one path to another because there's no point when the reader will ever cross those lines during a single read-through. I know some people don't like that, but I'm just pointing out that with cave of time, it's an option.

Of course the biggest drawback IMO of that style is the length of writing. Every time you branch, you are creating a section that a reader will not see on a single read through. While you can write in many directions at once, you have to write a substantially longer story to end up with a story of any length at all-- and you know that most readers are simply not going to read the vast majority of what you write! A 20,000-word story can easily end up with paths from start to finish that are a couple thousand words.


Are they the most entertaining to read? I would certainly say they are the closest to the original Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Those seemed to all be cave of time style. And they do allow the writer to go anywhere at any time. Of course, a writer could do that with any story, but a writer can do it much more often and easily in that style story.

Bottlenecks and small decisions are very different, and I'm honestly not sure how the reader sees them. I suspect unless a reader reads through the story as many times as they can, they might never notice small changes. At one level you can have small choices allow the reader a percentage chance to increase an event later, and I'm not sure anyone notices that (unless the writer tells them). Certainly on this platform the author can include dimmed out options that are not available if the reader made the "wrong" choices earlier in the story, but I'm not sure readers like that, and it does tend to take them out of the story.

I think bottlenecks are not too hard to write, but are hard to write in a way that's effective and useful. If the reader is going to get to point X no matter what choice they make in the story, it can be difficult to make the decision and the path significant. For (a very simple) example, if I can get to the backyard by walking through the house or around the house, how do you make each pathway interesting without making one the "correct" path and one the "wrong" path? And if there's not a significant difference, astute readers on this site in particular WILL notice and WILL point it out-- though I'm not sure the casual reader will notice.

And yes, resources and random numbers (especially on this site) can make for some fun games that are really games and not really stories at all. But they can still be fun and interesting (and will probably include zombies for some reason).

And Conan is awesome.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

It's not difficult to make the decision and the path significant if you use variables for delayed consequences. If I walk through the house and that gives me +1 to my "Direct" stat and I walk around the house and that gives me +1 to my "Sneaky" stat, they may both led to the same place, but then I can accrue these small stat increases and turn them into real consequences later in the game.  Then the astute reader can be happy.

I can certainly do that sort of thing Cave of Time style, but it would take *much* longer and I'm not convinced the results will be better enough to balance out the exponential workload in any game of great length.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Oh yes, I agree -- but then the question becomes how to display that? If you have a display with stats that are always there, have you moved more into a game setup than a story? Does seeing stats like that disturb the reading of the story? Does it make the reader worry more about stats than the characters in the story?

Fun stuff.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

The CoG answer to that is to have a button that you can always press to see stats.  But you hardly need that.  Some  people like it, but I imagine others never look at it.

But whenever "stats" come up, people who care about stories always get worried because they hear "stat" and think "strength" or "constitution" and then think about the impact on game v. story.  Me too!  But "stat" is way more general than that, and can include really anything tracked, like, did you notice the poker player's three distinct tells (the "Tell_noticed" stat goes up) or were you a jerk to your parrot (the "animal_cruel" stat goes up) and so forth.  And you wouldn't want or need to track that visibly for the reader.

The reader *knows* they are being a jerk to animals.  So doing the delayed branching respects that by having a result later accounting for the stat (if animal_cruel >= 3, then blah). Cave of time can branch to do that, but that has the problem of being unable to deal well with slow accumulations of small changes that avalanche into big stuff, because it's so well-suited to big changes at every decision point.  Both are cool.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
If there are stats it just does something to my brain where the whole game is now a puzzle to figure out what checks I need to pass to unlock things, and then how to get to the correct stats for it. I don't dislike it, but it's a very different experience to just reading and guiding a story, and I cannot switch it off.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

I mean, my choose your own prompt contest entry was stat-reliant to make different outcomes. I don't think people were "stat focused" while reading it either... The key would be to have various branches still possible so that it wasn't just the "right" and "wrong" answer. My goal for that game was to make every outcome of the puzzles equally entertaining and long. Granted, you did die in some of the branches, but you lived in most. My game was also short; any of the complete branches could have continues though (unless you were dead).

Cave of time seems like the easiest and best type of game to write. Experimenting with crossing paths in a long game is difficult because the background information the character has either had to exactly match or not matter. Still, having variables is a nice flair, and they can be used in a long story to make something cool.

As for the "how do you alert readers of the stats" thing, making it obvious what choices affected where they are at seems like the way to go. Being too obvious could be a problem, but in the "walk through or around the house" example, you could have the main character find something in the house (no need to use items, they just find a flashlight or something) then later you either can see on the dark tunnel or can't. If you can't maybe adding a line like "maybe if I had looked on the house I would have found something to help!" To let the reader know where they went wrong. I don't have the most experience, but that sort of thing seems to work well...

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
I think your story could have benefitted a bit from expanding some of the branches to be a bit longer. (Perhaps by extending the 'canon' pathway in which Arthur is crowned King of Camelot, or adding a pathway where you somehow make it back to your own time). I really loved the setting / premise though, so it was still entertaining enough that I wanted to read through every route. You had a central theme and concept that extended across all the paths. Also, it was long enough that reading through any individual route took about 15 minutes or so, so it didn't come across as too abrupt. You did a really good job with your endings for the 'wrong' pathway as well. Those were interesting to read.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Am I correct in assuming that the “cave of time” style is one in which choices never loop back on each other, such that the reader is treated to a different adventure each time? I’m also assuming that each of the pathways are separate, instead of being connected through an overarching plot.

These types of stories seem the easiest to write, but I don’t enjoy reading them very much. This may just be a personal preference. The types of stories I like best are those in which there are a variety of different endings, with some being more important than others. Seeing a certain number of these endings is necessary to unlock better endings, and eventually, the true ending.

The reason I prefer this style is because each of the endings contribute to the plot, with the last ending giving the most satisfying resolution. I feel like with the ‘Cave of Time’ style, each pathway usually ends up being so short that it’s not as satisfying to read. There are, of course, exceptions. If you’ve written a 600 K - 1 million word masterpiece, you could have many endings where the player gets to experience a well-developed storyline each time. Usually, however, stories of this nature end up only taking me 5-10 minutes to read through each pathway. If there’s no larger mystery at stake connecting them all, I probably won’t be inclined to read through more, unless I particularly love the setting or themes of the story.

Of course, I’ve known others who particularly dislike ‘true endings’ and prefer the Cave of Time style, so this is simply my own opinion.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Honestly I despise the concept of "true ending." All I can think is: What kind of crap is that? Oh, since I didn't make the "right" choices, I didn't get the "true ending?" Well, why the hell were there choices if there was only one "true" ending? What are all the other endings, false endings? If one ending is more preferred than the others, why do the others exist?

When I write, I try and make every ending as valid as every other ending (barring the insta-death ending, but that's a different concept entirely). If there is a "true" ending, that clearly implies that anyone who receives any other ending simply made the wrong choices.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Just out of curiosity, have you ever read the story titled "Through Time" on here? It's one of the most highly rated on the site (7.26 / 8), and it makes use of the 'true ending' idea that I talked about. It definitely is a personal preference, so I can understand why some people don't like the concept. I think it works best for slow-burn type stories, in which part of the mystery of the game is figuring out what's going on. That, or ones in which more convoluted endings reveal more twists to the story. The other endings aren't necessarily false endings. It's simply that they're less satisfying than the 'true path'. Let's say you're reading a murder mystery, and in one of the endings you finally see the face of the killer, but not their motivations, and you aren't able to bring them to justice. Now when you're replaying, you can use this knowledge from the previous playthrough to try and find evidence against them. This is something which you wouldn't have been able to do in your first run through the game, simply because you didn't have that knowledge. In other words, its actually necessary to see all the other main endings to see the true ending. That makes the other endings just as important, but they just don't tie up all the loose ends to the story. If you were able to see the true ending on your first playthrough, that would be unsatisfying. The whole point is that you need the knowledge from previous playthroughs in order to unlock it. Some people might think of this as too linear, but there's some amazing pieces with extremely complex branching that make use of this technique. I am glad that you try and make each of your endings as valid as every other ending, as it seems that offers a large degree of free choice which the reader would appreciate.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago
I have read that one, yes. And I can appreciate the type of story you've described: where you have to read all the paths to get to certain places. For lack of a better way to say it, I just don't want to have to work that hard at reading a story. Sure, if that's the story, I get it, but I'm just not a fan. Even with Through Time, for me, it gets to a point where I'm just clicking to find the ending -- which takes me out of the story more than I want to be taken out of it.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
And on the other hand I'm okay with "true endings", but only in the context of it being a puzzle to figure out how to get there. Even if it's a more organic sort of puzzle, like piecing information you learn on different branches together and using it effectively rather than something gated by stats or whatever.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
I agree with this. I think that the point of true endings is that you're only supposed to be able to reach them by gathering information from previous playthroughs. At least, that's the type I like best. Ideally, the choices which will allow you to progress to this ending will either be locked off or simply not visible until you've seen the pathways giving you the necessary information. Then again, most of the games which I've played that make use of true endings are mysteries / psychological thrillers, so perhaps it is different for games of other genres. I agree that Zero Escape was unique in the sense that it offered an explanation for the looping phenomenon. I particularly like games that do this, and that's what I'm going for with my game. And yeah, the room escapes were fun, although sometimes I felt like they detracted from the pacing. I can't comment too much on New Game + since the only game I've played that implemented that was Persona 5.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

You almost have to explain the looping for this to work, otherwise you character is inexplicably gaining meta knowledge from a story perspective. I agree that it can be really cool if done well, though.

 

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Yes, and this is the link we usually pass around that covers most of the branching styles and what they're called. Also, your opinion is pretty wrong, but you probably just haven't read enough Endmaster stories. My condolences. But I believe in your case it's your love of VNs that makes you think it's normal and good to click through the same text over and over and over for the payoff of a slight variation at the end. To me a Cave of Time approach should be a longer story and more epic in feel to play to the strengths of that style, but then again there's nothing saying the paths of whatever size can't be connected at all. Shared characters or at least the same setting and details being revealed path by path isn't that unusual really.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Would you say that you disliked the branching style used in the Zero Escape series? This is the type of branching style that I'm referring to. I agree that clicking through the same text over and over again to get slight variations would be monotonous. A story that makes good use of this style would offer the option to automatically skip previously seen text, either via fast-forwarding or via a flowchart that ensures any text you're seeing is always new. (Or some alternative option). I think a Cave of Time approach can also offer a satisfying story as long as each branch is long enough.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
That's just the thing, I played them some, but then I read an LP that trimmed out the repetition and got to point when I wanted to see everything. Although they had more actual gameplay and things to do than just clicking links so I'm not sure how good a comparison this is anyway.

A mystery with more revealed every time is fine in theory but less so when the MC's actions are meaningless and things just can't be figured out because the information is not provided unless they go through all the exact same motions two or three more times.

I know New Game+ and all that is a common thing Japanese games, but there's no actual valid reason for locking a plot behind X hours of tedious repetition. Not to say that a story can't develop in interesting ways with enough attention giving to pacing, but that seems to be something you're paying more attention to in your game than what's standard for the genre.

And yes, ways to help skip reading the same info are convenient. The flowchart in Virtue's Last Reward was appreciated and plots revolving around time fuckery have a more natural excuse....but without the latter and without something like "fun gameplay" attached you really have to stop and question just what the purpose is of testing the player's endurance threshhold. It's not a plot reason then but just a means of artificially padding a game's length, and that I'm pretty sure is just an artifact from a time before people were happy to pay a few bucks on a digital platform for a short game. If there was in fact only enough actual content for a short game.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Cave of time to me is extremely easy to write, but almost horribly so. Everytime I write a time cave I have to consciously stop myself from writing too much lest I risk it getting out of hand and getting burnt out on it; usually I just cut a branch off when I feel it's getting too long, leading to the branches feeling neutered. Meanwhile my other more linear stories feel like they have a cohesive plot with a defined beginning, middle, and end, but at the cost of the replayability that makes a time cave so fun. Plus they're much harder to write as you have to balance all the variables and the like and actually, you know, plan ahead instead of writing on a whim (see: my writing style). As for playing either or it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I want a story where I can be Conan going around killing everything and fucking bitches. Sometimes I want to be Conan going on a straightforward vacation through the Land of Rising Action, the Climax Island, and finally Falling Action Cove where my only choice is what hat he chooses from the souvenir shop and whether he eats at the shitty seafood place that's good but will totally give him the shits later or just gets cheap fast food that doesn't satisfy him but won't make him want to die. ... That really went off the rails. Uh I don't really have a point with this post, I just wanted to share some of my scatter-brained thoughts on the matter.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Every time I write a time cave I have to consciously stop myself from writing too much lest I risk it getting out of hand and getting burnt out on it; usually I just cut a branch off when I feel it's getting too long, leading to the branches feeling neutered.


Yes. This.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
If the path wants to sprawl, let is sprawl. Let it get out of hand. Just do like that Frozen song, be a beautiful and powerful storywriting princess in your heart!

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Branch and bottleneck is something I often don't like much, actually. If it also has stats, that can be nice, but since I like to read every page, it can get really tedious after a while. I know Steve's Prophesy is a story that I enjoyed less the more I read it.
A story that isn't Cave of Time can still have really high replay value. Gower's good at that. However, with Cave of Time, there's a lot more certainty that if I go back and read every path, I won't end up reading the same thing fifteen times in exchange for a two page difference.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
Branch and bottleneck of a sort can be unavoidable even in a Cave of Time story, if you're dealing with a conflict that's so big there's no getting around it no matter what the character does. You can have an infinite amount of things happening in a kingdom, but if that kingdom gets invaded two weeks after the story starts it would feel really weird to have other paths just never acknowledge that. All versions of the character that last that long will need to get through that, or fail to, and there's going to have to be some consistency there in what they're all facing or once again, it's just weird.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

There are ways to do this without bottle necking. If a game has fixed plot points that happen in order independently from player choices, then you just have to write each event from a different point of view in each path. For example, when your theoretical kingdom is invaded maybe you can be in one of three spots:

1. In the kingdom, tasked with defending it.

2. In the kingdom, but using the commotion to escape from prison

3. You left awhile ago and defected to the other side, so now you are leading the attack with intimate knowledge of the kingdom

This type of story sprawls out of control and almost has to be long... My long fantasy WIP is based around 4 major plot events. Based on your previous choices you are in different locations and different things happen, but the same 4 events do happen. You can be good or evil, and fighting with or against almost any character. The result is something like 16 full length endings to accommodate all of the options. That is why the game is also looking to be around 150,000-200,000 words minimum.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
There's a difference between that and having everything become near identical though. If the kingdom gets invaded, you can still have very different stories depending on what your position is then at that point. Like in Ground Zero. The same event sets the plot off no matter what you do, but there are still a wide variety of ways the story goes. It doesn't have to be that anything past the second replay involves skimming through a bunch of the exact same stuff.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago
I can't make a cave of time game, it doesn't make sense for me it is not how I plan the stories and how I feel my stories should be. I just don't understand how to make the branches so wildly different from each other. For me, that breaks cohesion, it is no longer one story with several outcomes; it is several stories with a shared beginning. That is not bad, There are masterpieces designed as a cave of time. However, I see my game as one story each choice and branches are like different possibilities in a multiverse that each player makes real or not in the base of choice. For me, there is not good endings, bad endings or real ones. All are part of the same story and same experience. Maybe it is because I starting first design a universe itself, and then the character story within that universe. So far, nobody has complained to me that I offered few choices, or that the choices don't matter.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago
I do setting first and then characters too, I'd actually say that's extremely necessary for Cave of Time. It's sort of like a D&D campaign, it can go all over the place depending on the character choices but you have to have a consistent world for the adventure to take place in and established characters and factions who will react to what the PCs do in realistic ways.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

8 months ago

Cave of Time is dope as heck, but I'm not quite used to writing it. Most of my stories seem to be a bit more linear and use the bottleneck and gauntlet method and such, with most side branches being the same way.

I have like, possibly one true Cave of Time style storygame planned for...some point in time.

Altho I think I will like writing large branches that reconnect later on eith smaller choices and quick branchings in between

 Also to avoid the plague of writing similar things multiple times.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago
That's always been my problem in the past. I'm still naturally wanting to design a story like it's a novel. Maybe that's not necessarily always a bad approach, but it doesn't use the strengths of the medium which is still first and foremost branching stories. As in, like, a tree. And so my goal this year is to break away from the line of thinking that produces only one story with small variations. Of course the other nice thing about Cave of Time is that even if you plan big and fail, if you complete even one or two branches you still have a valid story that readers won't necessarily know was meant to be much bigger and more amazing even as your failure taunts you and haunts your every waking thought.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago
Iwould like to do that but so farI am incapable of thinking with a cave time perspective I always end thinking how branches will join or if the endings are shared or based on the branches I suppose that with time I would gain confidence with it. But so far, I am not used to it

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago

I'm still figuring out what sort of style I like best, but I think I gravitate towards branch and collapse (gauntlet?) stories that have the same or similar key scenes. Although my last story was literally a pilgrimage with a set destination, so sort of had to be. But even the one I did on Infinite Story had some scenes identical or near identical in different branches.

I'm working on a poetry one that is more Cave of Time (I think it might join up in a couple spots, but not many) - but I need to make a flowchart for it before I add any more, as it's already hard to keep track of.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago

What you are describing is (I believe) the style known as a "funnel." A gauntlet is a linear story where a "wrong" choice leads to a instant death/ending.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago

I reread the big article on branch types, it's branch and bottleneck. My Book of Vanishing Tales rejoined up at cities/ports and at the destination, though there were different routes one could take. Blade of the Hollow was far more branchy, but essentially collapsed down at a few key scenes back into 2-4 branches if I recall.

Cave of Time vs Everything Else

7 months ago

I can certainly confirm that writing a Cave of Time style story is more fun than a game-like story.  Planning for every single combination of choices a reader could make is often tedious and sometimes I get into my own head, wondering about the implausibility of the number of people reading the story coming across a specific piece that I'm writing.  Even if your game-like story has only a few variables, it can get pretty outrageous.

Whether or not it's more fun to read relies heavily on whether the person who wrote it took care to heed to game mechanics, rather than just the writing portion.  Instead of just writing a cohesive series of storylines, you now have to start thinking about how to direct the reader to the fun.  Game-like stories without this can easily be seen as dull, when perhaps you didn't play the game the author intended for it to be played.