Sam_Ursu, The Reader

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10/19/2021 9:56 AM

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I live in Tiraspol, PRM (don't look it up on Google)

Recent Posts

Choose Your Story Discord on 10/19/2021 9:56:16 AM

Are you sure you're not in a Chinese re-education camp?

CoG uses crypto currency for sex trafficking! on 10/19/2021 9:40:00 AM

Got to say, this is even crazier than their usual stuff.

As far as I can tell (and I squinted my way through all those screencaps), the objection seems to be partly that a) crypto uses a lot of energy and is therefore "warming up the planet" or whatever BS, but mostly b) that crypto "launders" money.

Perhaps those folks haven't seen "Office Space," but it's pretty clear that they have no idea what money laundering even IS.  In a nutshell, money laundering is just disguising or hiding the origin of money from the government.  That's it.  That's all it is.  It's akin to cheating on your taxes - the only "victim" is the government.

I never thought I'd live to see a day when kids are out there in the (digital) streets to stand up for the government's right to MONITOR ALL YOUR MONEY.  As if they file a 1099 form every time they babysit the neighbor's kid (oh wait, they're too lazy to leave the house).  Laughing my fargin' ass off.

I truly do wonder if they'd complain if CoG mailed envelopes of cash to artists via the postal service.  Yah, of course they would.

New here on 7/7/2021 4:15:42 AM

Lots of French players in IF!  In fact, I just got my French friend here in town hooked on IF thanks to the huge back catalog of games from the 1990s.  Great stuff.

How to Write A CYOA Story? on 7/7/2021 4:13:00 AM

I'm definitely glad to hear more things are not "allowed" - however, "branch and bottlenecks" must occur in some sense because I've seen them here aplenty.

Are there other ways to structure CYOA stories than "branch and bottleneck"?  Of course.  Several seminal posts have been written about it by people smarter than I, including outstanding examples such as Time Cave (branches at the beginning, then linear paths that never cross over other paths), circular paths (that evolve in relation to past choices) and fairly complex dialogue interactions ala "Blood and Laurels."

That being said, there are some HARD limitations on CYOA.  And I think it's well worth noting them before trying to push the envelope.

How to Write A CYOA Story? on 7/6/2021 5:13:30 AM

Traditionally, there is NOT much of a gap between a CYOA story and a "straight" novel.  The two main differences are that a) CYOA may let you somewhat customize the protagonist (via something called "flavor" text) and b) that CYOA needs branches that APPEAR to be leading to different stories but are, in reality, just brief intermissions before rejoining the "main" story path.

Crudely, CYOA also appears to "move" a lot faster to the reader, so things like breaks and plot points come along faster and more frequently than in linear writing.  Therefore, if you wanted to "translate" your novel to CYOA format, simply break up the text into key beats, add choices to each one, and then work to force the reader back onto the main path if they get shunted into a side one.

That being said, there are a LOT of weaknesses to the CYOA format:

1) The customization of the protagonist/flavor text stuff is a nice gimmick, but it can't carry a whole story

2) Too many "side branches" will exhaust the author (and most text will never get seen by the player), but too obviously forcing players to stain on the main route feels like "railroading" and defeats the point of it being interactive fiction

3) Standard (linear) plot arcs rely on standard chronology - a beginning, middle, and an end.  It is exceedingly difficult to create "standalone" arcs that aren't based on fixed chronology.  This makes it really hard for a story to "develop" without railroading the player.

4) Successful CYOA plotting, therefore, relies on either a) elegantly masking or disguising the "forcing the player to return to the main path" and/or b) creating lots of interesting and engaging stand-alone "mini" experiences that can be combined in different ways without breaking continuity.  

Basically, you either end up with a "branch and bottleneck" story that you like because its story arc was interesting and the "railroading" was elegantly disguised (a primarily linear story camouflaged as an "open world") OR a really experimental, sliding doors kind of experiential storytelling where you explore different snippets of text in different successions (each play through).  Which can be interesting and fun to read (play), but then becomes closer to something like poetry than true "fiction" in the classic sense of the word.  

That being said, if you really want to adapt your story idea to CYOA, here's my recommendation:

1) Find three major MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE endings that work for your story - this means any one playthrough will only result in ONE of the endings while being open and upfront about you not realizing the other endings.  This lets you write 90% of the story as (more or less) linear while only needing to branch out with alternative paths at the end.

2) Reality should always reward the player - if the player decides to shoot the villain, for instance, the story should LET THE PLAYER SHOOT THE VILLAIN, not pull it back at the last second with a "seeing the tears in his eyes, you just cannot bring yourself to pull the trigger" line of BS text.

3) Players react, not the writer - Don't tell the player how s/he feels about something, let the player determine that.  Instead, give your players the CHOICE of how to act/react.

4) Use "small" choices, too - These choices might not affect the story in major ways, but they do add impact for the player.  Something as simple as having three choices of what to eat for dinner can add a lot of interactivity to an otherwise boring passage.

5) Balance your text to choices ratio - Reading 20 pages of text and then making one decision is a poor ratio.  Try making a choice appear every 9 paragraphs or so (or even more frequently).  

Everything else is mostly about avoiding the pitfalls learned over 50 years of writing CYOA texts which you can find here and elsewhere strewn across the internet.

Hi on 7/6/2021 4:39:02 AM

Welcome aboard!  Don't stress if this site is confusing to you or difficult to navigate.  Ask for help if you need it.

Obligatory CoG Rant on 7/6/2021 4:38:22 AM

Welcome aboard!  The forum here uses antiquated software, and it's easy as hell to get lost, but there are some mighty fine folks around here.  Best part is, you don't get banned simply for having an opinion.

New here on 7/6/2021 4:33:55 AM

Welcome aboard, SP

Sam's Big Adventure 2: The IFaggotry Archives on 7/1/2021 8:44:18 AM

Thank you!

That's exactly what I asked myself as well.  However, I don't think we'll ever get any real answers to that question.

Nonetheless, I am somewhat perversely proud that, after being on the internet full-time since 1992, I have now become a "troll" for the very first time. Might as well call me a "combat ace" and a "gold medal Olympian" too, if we're making things up :)

Sam Ursu's Big Adventure on 7/1/2021 8:37:10 AM

Thank you, and I'll use this opportunity to thank everyone else who said hello in this thread.

I'll just add here a couple of things that might elucidate on just why there's so much pushback against me despite the fact that I'm both a) a rather boring person and b) I am far, far too busy to get involved in online disputes with the energy that they seem to require.  

The first is that I say the truth.  We can get into philosophical arguments about what "the truth" is, or if it even exists, but whichever way you interpret it, I'm a person who leans towards telling the truth more often than telling a "polite lie" just to be polite and get along.  Not that I'm particularly confrontational about it or running around screaming "Santa isn't real" to kids - but I really am not the kind of person to "sugarcoat" reality.

Offline, I've had more jobs than I can count that all involved dealing with harsh truths such as hospice care and crimes such as rape and murder.  In these fields, understanding and telling the truth are valued, but not so much at cocktail parties and forums where writers are so sensitive that the moderators have to ban fans from asking for updates on new material.

Secondly, I am fairly late to the modern IF party, and so I never got the message that choice-based IF is supposed to be full of happy endings that even a cat clicking on random choices will get to. 

I don't want to get sidetracked on a lengthy discussion of what IF is/is not etc etc, but what I discovered to my surprise over at CoG is that there is a fundamental belief that only one KIND of choice-based (as opposed to parser) IF is permitted.  In my mind, playing "dress up" stories as a supernatural teen chasing werewolves is fun, but it isn't the ONLY kind of fun that you can have with IF. 

Sometimes, a game that makes you use your friggin' brain to win/survive/progress is also fun TOO, and nobody at CoG wanted to accept that!

Anyway, rewind to March of this year (2021), and all I had yet published in IF was one very lame story about a teenager getting a summer job that was structured and written like a novel (i.e. slow and not enough choices) and one half-finished game that I built in tribute to my childhood favorite IF ("Deathtrap Dungeon" in the FF series), so not much original or interesting output, making my philosophical differences on IF game structure eccentric but not particularly "threatening" to anyone.

And then, in March 2021, over on CoG, they announced a contest called CHOMP which basically had two requirements 1) the theme was "mischief" without specifying what that means and 2) you only had a month to write the thing.  Ok, challenge accepted!

An idea came to me in a bolt of inspiration on Day 1.  I then wrote down the outline and scoped the structure on Day 2.  And by Day 14, it was written, coded, and "alpha tested" by a couple of friends, so I uploaded it to the contest well ahead of the March 31 deadline.  It clocked in at around 40,000 words and involved a player "downloading" a mischief app and pulling pranks on citizens in town that progressively move from "mischief" to "malice" depending on the pranks that the player chose.  I also wrote what I thought was a pretty cool ending that had a nice twist (this game is online, btw, if anyone is interested).

Later, I realized that it could use a bit more fine-tuning, so I tinkered around with it and uploaded some revised sections well ahead of the deadline.  Cool.  My expectation at that point was that the organizers would immediately publish the links to the game so everyone could play them, and then somewhere down the line, the judges would deliver a score and thus determine the winners.

What actually happened was that they refused to publish the games for another 30-40 days until the judges made their scores.  Which felt a little bureaucratic and slow to me, but so be it.  Unfortunately, what ALSO happened was that I got a five-page email dripping with hostility and nastiness from one of the judges, and it was clear that they bitterly resented and hated my game on a level so bone-deep that I had to double-check that we didn't know each other in real life or had ever crossed paths before. 

Seriously, the vitriol was astounding, and some of the comments were things like "you're only tracking five variables with two progress bars on your stat chart" and "I hate the letter Z in the name of your game, so you should change it."  I wish I were making this up, but I'm not.

Of course, I did not "throw a tantrum" on the forum. My comments are all still there, available for viewing.  I said "watch out!  The judges are exacting super high standards on these games, so be prepared for some really in-depth criticism." 

Really, that's all I said.  At that point, I was still naive enough to think that everyone ELSE was getting the same line-by-line detailed feedback about their games, with every single misplaced comma noted and logged.  And considering how fragile most authors are on CoG, I figured giving them a warning about this level of feedback was the only humane thing to do.

When I got that stinging, line-by-line rebuke on April 1, I assumed the judges were well on their way to scoring all the games, and then the "public" could see and evaluate all the games for themselves.  Instead, it took them longer to review the games than for us participants to write them.  And what do you think I discovered in May when the results were finally published?  

You know the answer - games with NO stat screens, games riddled with comma errors, and vastly shorter games got high marks.  Furthermore, it was clear from personal correspondence that THEY never got the "full treatment" from the judges as I did.

The winner of the contest was a pretty cute and silly game, in my honest opinion.  It was written by a young girl and it was clear that she put a lot of heart and soul into her game, and she deserved that win.  Plus, it was about cats, and I've got a soft spot for cats (remember how I told you I'm a boring guy? I am). 

But the second-place winner?  Utter dreck.  Pure shit.  Furthermore, on all the "technical" scores, it and all the other (non-cat) entries were lower than mine.  It was obvious at that point that the AUTHORS were being judged, not the games, and no, I did not say a word about that on the forum.

However, simultaneous to all of this, I was going back and educating myself on all the aspects of IF that I had missed.  And I wanted to use my improving skills with ChoiceScript to write a game (or two) more appropriate to my philosophy of IF games.  I came across a website listing classic pen-and-paper games, so I set myself up a personal challenge to see if I could "port" it to CS format - and I did.  It's a game called "tennis" in which you move the ball by winning a series of bets.  

I wrote that game in two days.  It is extremely simple.  And I definitely did not invent that game or its rules, all of which I was 100% upfront about from the "jump."  It was just a test to see if my coding skills could handle challenges beyond "press 1 to go left, and press #2 to go right."  And despite it being ultra-simple, ultra pared down, and lasting maybe 10 minutes maximum for each play through, it got a lot of good responses on the forum.

From there, I started just really going to town, trying to challenge myself more and more each time to implement all the ideas I had been TALKING about and code them into games you could play.  Along the way, I took some inspiration from old IF games from the 1970s and 80s, some inspiration from games they play around here in bars and cafes, and mashed them together into ChoiceScript format. 

I did some card games, some more sports games, and a few other things, and I started getting more and more messages from people saying "I love these games - can't wait for the next one!"  Cool!  Exactly what every author wants to hear. 

In May and June of this year, I wrote, coded, and released no fewer than 12 of these "mini games" (since none were the full length of a typical CoG story).  The truth is that it was just a lot of FUN for me, and for the small number of "rebels" who were open-minded enough to try an IF game outside the typical mold.

This period is when I was doing a whole lot less talking and a lot more ACTION (writing, coding, and publishing games instead of posting on the forum), but it's also when, unbeknownst to me, a whole lot of people were getting angry that my games even EXISTED. 

I know, it's a really weird thing to say that, especially since none of my games involved sex, romance, race, gender status, or cruelty to animals.  This wasn't "grimdark" or "edge" stuff at ALL.  Furthermore, I was just doing this for my own amusement or delight, so why all the hate?  I wasn't stealing anyone's thunder or stepping on anyone else's stories. 

So yeah, it was dumb that a whole lot of people started hating me for making a few games that were structured differently.  Real dumb.  But that dumb turned into concrete action when the mods created a brand-new, secret category ("Hobby Games") on the forum and locked all of my games inside of it so that Google couldn't find 'em, and nobody except registered users could see them. And when I asked why, the mods refused to answer.

At that point, all the storylines converged so to speak, and I got banned for a thousand years.  And now people think that I'm some kind of rampaging troll who throws tantrums when I don't get my way.  Which is hilarious.  But so be it.  And if any of them knew the scope of what I will try to attempt NEXT, their brains would probably short-circuit.  But I truly do believe it will be the coolest thing anybody has seen come down the IF pike in a while, especially since it's text ONLY instead of "amplified text with images and sounds" like 80 Days or Kentucky Road Zero.

Quick summary:

  • I like to read
  • I like to write
  • My attention span is quite long, which seems like a superhuman skill to some folks these days
  • I like to challenge my brain

Other than that, I'm just a boring guy with a silly cartoon avatar that really does need replacing/updating, especially because I never once even had red/orange hair LOL

As for CYS format, I've had a preliminary look over it, and it seems pretty clumsy with handling things like variables and math, but I'm willing to give it a try, if only to challenge myself.  But I'm a slow learner, so it'll be a while before I get a game out there that's worth somebody else's time reading/playing.