I've never had a problem with abilities related stats, because, you know, they actually have a purpose. What I always really found really weird about "that other site" games is that they usually have personality related stats that don't seem to affect the game at all.
Like... "You have gained 10 Honesty points." ... Well, that's nice... What do honest points do? Absolutely nothing! >.<
I don't have a problem with stats or having them affect choices available in a story. The biggest issue I see is when I don't know how stats affect the game. It doesn't matter if different stats unlock different endings, or if they just change how you arrive at certain endings, but I think choices need to obviously relate to stats in a logical way and appear even when they aren't a viable option.
For example, if agility and strength are stats that you can choose between, then maybe there is a rock in your path one day. The author can either have an option to jump over or push aside the rock. The "wrong choice" needs to be there to make the decision feel satisfying, but ether character can get past the rock. There is also the option to have a path blocked by a rock and another lead to a steep climb up a cliff. This way, my character goes on a completely different journey based on the stat choice. Still, I want to be able to go the "wrong way" and perhaps die or get trapped. It just makes it feel more complete. I do feel like the second example where each stat leads to a specific story is the most ideal because each play through will be more different (that is also more work for the author though).
As to if stats take away from the story, I don't think that has to be the case. If it's well-written I enjoy it stats or no stats. Even if it becomes a puzzle to get certain numbers, I like puzzles. What no one wants to do is have to play through the same story word for word twelve times to get slightly different endings that aren't logical based on choice. That gets annoying. As long as the story changes somewhat significantly with my stats, the puzzle is fun. Also, there really needs to be some internal logic to choices so that if a reader thinks about it they can "figure out" the right choices.
By the way, Mizal, you get +50 to your fake caring stat! Congrats!
Stats bad or something.
I like stats when they are consequential and not just flavor. Trade-offs being a nice element to include.
I think stats are cool as long as they all serve a purpose at some point or another, unlike most of cogs flavor stats, and their flavor choices that also dont mean anything.
If the thing in question is going to offer multiple sets of consequences of varying degrees based off a stat, I could get behind stats. Maybe even if they can help drive the story forward in some way or serve as a way for the protagonist to solve various problems based off their skills or fail horribly for lacking the skill, or fail more or less horribly depending on the skill level. Which is one work around to consider.
So do you throw the character into social situations where they cant use their intimidation or strength stat and are forced to improve social stats, or let them awkwardly blunder through threatening everybody. Honestly the first sounds like it could tick the struggle and satisfaction part of someones brain. And you have a more fleshed out and well rounded character for it, perhaps even if they fail they have some minor success in the exchange and get a little stat boost because of it.
Usually stats takes the focus off the story and the importance of making the right choice. "Hey, it doesnt matter if I make a blunder in my choices because I can just muscle or charisma my way through it." So having a way to reconcile the two or fix that would be dope.
It sort of takes all the heart out of the characters struggle and upholding their ideals on a narrative level when done poorly. I think games that realize this tend not to get too wrapped up trying to take the plot too seriously and let people enjoy it for the number crunching thing it is, are generally the most successful storygames with stats. They sort of remove the chances for serious bulnders and are played for the funsies rather than emotional involvement.
And usually the goal of the game is to slay the big bad and take the treasure trove which will increase in game monies because its all about the numbers. Even though there isnt really much tension or suspense.
Otherwise failing to blend them would take the tension out of a scene, knowing you can get through it simply because the numbers are up. So thats something else that would require some kind of creativity to successfully merge.
However, if it was done well then it could actually be really satisfying. A character with heart and personality, and a story with scope and ambition that also works well with being an rpg.
Big narrative stories like Eternal focus more on the aspects that make a character memoriable in ways simply getting bigger numbers cant. If Eternal did go the route of using stats, for that particular style of storygame it would cheapen the experience (or perhaps not, I feel like End could also merge them well if he was inclined to use stats).
Yeah really the issue I am beginning to think isnt even with stats but the fact the majority of people that try to blend it all together fail because they put no effort and thought into it, and at a place like cog they are often rewarded and praised for their bland work.
Normally I would be tempted to say it should really just be either or when it comes to storygames (stats or no stats). I feel like you have a pretty good idea worked out for how to blend narrative and story with numbers together, having experience with both things.
I think as long as you make the choices AND the stats matter in a convincing way it should be good. Honestly its probably easier than it would seem. The only real difference being that it takes some effort to do, which not a lot of cog authors seem willing to do.
Anyways I am confident you would be willing to put in the effort and thought to make it all work and I cant wait to read your epic when its done.
Im not sure if Ive actually answered the question or not but to boil it down it all comes to the stats mattering, having a visible effect, and flowing seamlessly into the story.
Anyways, good luck on the epic and have fun with it.
I like stats in some stories and dislike them in others. I think my enjoyment or tolerance of visible statistics is correlated with the wuality of the writing and the story itself. They can sometimes get in the way and ruin immersion, so less is more as far as the stats the player can see. I really liked the end of chapter updates Gower gave for Tally Ho!, but I'm not sure if having constant updates after each choice would have been good.
I do think hidden stats can be useful so long as they add depth to the story. For The Book of Vanishing Tales there are a number of hidden stats that track what sort of experiences the main character has been facing (e.g. horror) or what type of tales he's fond of telling (e.g. humor.) These were used to increase the likelihood of an ending reached having a sensible psychological arc for the character, and so it wouldn't seem like the story took too abrupt of a turn. [Though tweaking these is planned for my edit that I still need to do, as some paths can reach 6 endings and ideally that would only be the 2-3 most relevant choices.) There were also a couple of hidden 'faction' stats, tracking the relationship with various groups in the world, and I think a stat for tracking if you'd met a specific character so he could help you later on.
For visible stats, I think I have the most enjoyment if they are in adventure or fantasy scenarios like an rpg. I'm not sure I would be crazy about them in a romance game, but I won't know until I play through a few, I guess. Here though, I would agree that it needs to be something organic to the character and future choices/paths and not just about getting 'perfect numbers' to win.
I always make all unavailable choices hidden, usually to a fault.
But that's how I would prefer them in a storygame. I think it breaks immersion to get that kind of view into something that could have been.
I like that point. It would be cool to see variable failure incorporated.
I like the idea of making the choice clickable. If your strength is too low, perhaps you just hurt yourself and lose HP. Why take away the choice? I love when people run into a door to break it down and collapse in a good comedy movie. This could work the same way.
I prefer ones where the player can try and fail rather than simply having it unavailable. Unless the player would definitively know it isn't an option.
This also gives the player a sense of accomplishment if they pick right according to their current stat build.
True, if it's too obvious it nerfs the feeling of accomplishment. If I'm a dextrous weakling and the options are 'pick the lock' and 'bash down the door,' of course I'll try for the non-strength option. I'd still rather the options, but it works best when there is a little more subtlety to which choice will be better.
Especially if the failed bash leads to something that a successful bash/pick wouldn't.
Like an old map or letter hidden inside the paneling itself? That would be an interesting twist.
I really liked Dreamtruder from my one playthrough, but I wasn't a particular fan of the meta-information on options.
For choices that require a skill, but you don't have to take, I prefer the choice itself doesn't call that out, and choices you can't take be hidden. E.g. just, "Lift the rock" vs. "If you have at least ten strength, you can try to lift the rock."