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Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
I've played some CYOA style games that tracked skills an relationships and so on that I enjoyed (PoF obviously, and a couple of games from that other site) but I know some people hate them, or at least hate when they're badly used.

I thought it'd be interesting to collect some opinions here, how you feel about stats in general and your thoughts on what good/bad uses are.

For me the major effect is that they turn a story from being about the story to being about the numbers. If you need a certain combination of numbers to unlock specific endings, then it becomes a puzzle to figure out. It doesn't matter what you think the character you're roleplaying would do anymore, because the numbers they must go up.

Now something that's set up more like a straightforward D&D adventure or other turned based thing I have no issue with, that's still fun because an understanding that number crunching and strategy is involved is built in from the start. I've been writing on and off on my fantasy epic and a big hurdle of the planning stage has been whether stats will play a role, how much of one and how they'll be presented. Because there's definitely a tabletop influence to the setting as I originally envisioned it, straight down in character acknowledgment of class levels.

I think I've finally got it sorted out, but I'm still willing to feign interest in all your opinions on this subject.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
It depends on the type of game. In many games they are pointless, putting there to change few flavour text. Then for many people ave 0stats maxed out is the only way to play to point the restart if a small problem appears. That for me cheapen the story value and the hard work of the author, each scene failure or not, it has to count to understand the entire game and worldbuilding.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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! >.<

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
There is a variety of purposes for using stats, but I don't think they would apply to typical games on this site. Some print CYOA games use stats to create "memory". For example keeping track of hitpoints allows for creating games in which the players can get away with some bad decisions, just not too many of them. But this site has scripting capabilities that allow to achieve the same effect more organically without keeping track of an abstract number.

Modern computer games use stats, because it makes it easier to allow for a broad variety of play styles and micro-decisions. But then the games I see on here don't allow for the same degree of freedom as, say 'Skyrim'. So basically I think most games on this site are at the degree of complexity, where numerical stats are not an ideal tool to create memory in a game.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
I like them, but I'm a nerd who likes stats. However, they really should be background info that helps dictate the flow of the story, but isn't the deciding factor unless its a specific instance.

Like, having high strength in your story in general won't change too much, aside from a couple of times where you can use that to your advantage to push the story in a certain direction.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
But that won't need to actually be a stat right? It does not need to be shown as a number. Likely there won't be too many different values in either case so the story could just tell you how strong you are, instead of telling you a number.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 7/18/2020 4:46:58 AM
I feel stats put the game above the story and cheapens the whole narrative. This writeup is mainly personal taste, but if I wanted to play a game, I'd be booting up my steam library, coincidentally free from any CYOA's. Although I get not everyone likes the sprawling tree branching style, and that some stats are necessary to implement meaningful results after a bottleneck.

That brings me to my entirely made up on the spot distinction: the one and only enterpride's guide into good and bad stats. Note that enterpride is a complete doofus most of the time and should not be treated as an expert on any occasion and topic; it'll go to his head, and nobody wants that.

My main gripe with stats is that it breaks immersion and dumbs down all subtlety. It takes the wonderful vague whiffs of grey mystery and turns them into solid blocks of white, off-white, grey, and black. That's boring. Take relationships, for example.

Try to look towards your own social life and rate every acquaintance, friend, and family on a relationshipbar that goes up to a hundred. Every time they say something you agree with, that bar goes up a few points, and every time they do something mildly annoying, it goes down. It'd be stupid, right? It completely dumbs interpersonal relationships into an 'either they're with me, or they're against me' metric. Where is the bro you love to hate, the teasing fun, or the gal that's wonderful in a professional setting, but atrocious several hours later at the bar? Has there been a true bro for life that you've never fought with?

Nevermind adding a second bar to track the 'love' metric. I wish it'd be as easy as making honey-sweet compliments until everyone falls in love with me. Or rather not. I am a man of culture and prefer a little bit of variation and personality, weird stuff. I get you want to fill your world with dialogue. But, at the very least, please track this under the hood, so it's less autistic and open to something more arcane that works better.

So relationships stats suck. What about your inner relationship? Your personality.

It sucks as well. Psychologists have been trying and failing to tie personalities into stats for centuries. Remember that flaming dumpster called the Myers-Briggs test? Yeah, that didn't work. Psychiatrists are grasping at straws, where after years of study, the following baseline remains the golden rule: if it works, it works.

Wait, enterpride, I want to give the protagonist a personality! But not like a set personality like the lazy douchebags like you do; I want a personality that evolves naturally throughout the game based on the actions and thoughts of the player. Why should you strawman psychiatrists and psychologists into the debate?

I'd say there is something you can track, that both works better and is more immersive. Instead of monitoring personality, track reputation, and preferably track reputation in different circles. Instead of blunt responses giving you direct points, locking you out of subtle remarks, have it so candid answers gives you a brusque reputation. People start to take your words at face value, and only those in the know may recognize any subtle remark you make. Adds for much better intrigue, no?

It's also a given that your personality is different around different people and in different situations. Who behaves exactly the same at their work, and their friends? Different friend groups evolve differently, making you act differently too. The 'black box' approach works best. Don't track what's going on inside, but its effect in the broader world. Hand the inside over to the empathy and imagination of the reader.

Also, evolving naturally does not mean setting in stone.

So personality stats suck. What about skills. Skills are quantifiable, right?

Yeah, mostly. I won't talk shit here, saying sword mastery is not a real thing and untrackable. Still, I don't like the bars, turning the game into a rush to get the highest score on as many bars as possible. Especially when I know I'll be 'tested' on those stats. Instead of immersing myself like the weirdo I am, I am plucked out of the world and try to solve it as a puzzle. I don't like puzzles; I like jumping into the mist and finding my way by feel, often losing my footing in the process.

So don't show the stats as a number. Instead of saying your strength is 85, confirm that your power is unusually high, giving you the possibility to compete into amateur strongman competitions. Now I'm picturing myself having the strength of an Eddie Shaw on a terrible day. I know if there's lifting to be done, I'm the guy.

So what about stat checks? As a tree guy, I don't like those as well. You've probably guessed it by now, the above points and mentality apply here as well. There's either failing or succeeding. It doesn't matter if you're one point shy of the required amount, or if you're a complete novice. Eddie Shaw, on a terrible day, would probably be more successful than a stick figure in breaking a tree, even though at the end of the effort, my glorious, sprawling tree remains standing.

It also turns all critical thinking into a choice in choosing your best bar, your second highest bar, or something entirely dumb. Bonus points if that choice gives points to the chosen bar, turning the whole 'game' into repeating the exact same methodology over and over.

So enterpride hates stats, I get it. But I hate trees and all the oxygen they provide. Breathing sucks and is tiring! What would you want me to track if not the honesty stat, or the flirt stat?

Track things that are exact, critical choices, for example. Is your deceitful ally dead, or alive? Have you delivered all your troops safely to the keep, or did you lose most of them due to an ambush? Things that my character knows. To stay within the medieval ruler example, what would the king know? Mostly things his advisors told him, based on his reputation. Otherwise, I'd boot up Crusader Kings, instead of playing a cheap copy of that.

Rant over. Enjoy the read. And choose the sprawling tree, also known as cave of time style branching.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

tl;dr

Stats bad or something. 

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Very bad. Unless good. But most bad.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Congratulations on having the most opinions!

Hoping I get to reply to some of the posts in this thread soon. It was some good reading but I've been extra non focused and scatterbrained ever since.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Big opinions are the hallmark of a big mind... in my opinion.

Also, stop being scatterbrained; this was a fun thread that deserves more than neglect!

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

I like stats when they are consequential and not just flavor.   Trade-offs being a nice element to include.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Good for stories that lean more gamelike and have clear lose endings and multiple ways to "win." Terrible 97% of other cases. If there's no way to really lose in a Game Over way, the stats usually feel tacked on and pointless. If there aren't a lot of ways to NOT get a Game Over losing end (and the Game Over losing ends are not just as entertaining as a winning end), then it makes trying to find the other branches annoying because you can't just hit the back button every time you finish a path in order to work through them all, so everything becomes about trying to get the stats just right instead of enjoying the game, win or lose.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Related to that, how would people see the stats playing out if they are implemented? In other words, the strength example: you do things that gain strength. Later in the story there are two ways to get past a door and one of them involves a minimum strength. Would you want to see that option, but have it dimmed because your strength is too low (so you could work on that next play through); or would you want that option to be invisible because it takes away from the story if it's dim?

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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. 

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
I am inclined to agree; having a dimmed option may result in meta-gaming where a player decides they must have missed something (and goes back), thereby rendering the current available path obsolete.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Why not have it as an option either way? I don't see any reason to protect the player from trying things that fail.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

I like that point. It would be cool to see variable failure incorporated. 

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of these situations where there's always only one 'correct' choice, and it's always the obvious one that matches whatever you have the highest number in. But it's preferable to hiding or refusing to let you try an action altogether.

My hotspot renews tonight so I'll soon be able to write my own text wall to rival Enter's.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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.

 

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

Especially if the failed bash leads to something that a successful bash/pick wouldn't. 

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

Like an old map or letter hidden inside the paneling itself? That would be an interesting twist.

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Try and fail (gracefully) is good if the player is aware that an action can be done, as in the door example. Otherwise the player might just wonder why there is not an option.

Hiding or disabling works if the player lacks the information that an option exists. In that case the question is what style of game you want to make. I agree that disabling breaks immersion, but if you want to do a more light-hearted puzzle then the disabled option could tease the player to explore the game more deeply. (Dreamtruder is a nice example of that)

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
Excellent points, thank you all!

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago

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."

Stats: Annoying or Just Pointless?

3 months ago
I don't know how to do stats, which is why I know in my heart that they are bad and I don't want them anyway.