WatchNon-threaded

Forums » Writing Workshop » Read Thread

Toss around ideas and brainstorm your story.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Hey everyone!  I've finished the second main branch for Diplomat, my entry to the Culture Clash contest, and am preparing to republish it hopefully by February first.  First, however, I'd like to get a few people to read through it to make sure there aren't any obvious mistakes.

The game has already been swept for spelling, grammer errors, and bugs, so you shouldn't have to worry about those (though let me know if I missed any).  All I need is a quick, casual, read through and then some quick feedback on a few general areas.  I'm not in a hurry to republish this until february 1st, so you've got time if you need it, but I will be republishing it sooner if I can get enough feedback before then.

Additionally, feedback from any of the six people who already read and rated the first half would be greatly appreciated.

Here's the link:  Diplomat

 

For those of you able to do a read through, here are the specific questions I have:

1) Are there any obvious mistakes made or things that confused you?

2) Are the difficulty and maturity ratings appropriate?

 

Thanks a ton for your help!

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

I've read through only the Federation path. Here are my thoughts:

  • It’s mentioned twice on the first page that the stars are perfectly still. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but it’s fine if it is.

There’s always something a little eerie about traveling at sub-light speeds.  There’s really no sense that the ship is moving at all.

  • The phrase "sub-light speeds" is a bit confusing. In context, it seems to mean the ship is traveling really fast, close to the speed of light, but the fact that FTL travel exists in science fiction makes it seem slow on first reading.
  • Using a dash in the middle of the first page to indicate a time skip is a bit unconventional. It seemed a bit abrupt to me, but others might feel differently.
  • I’m impressed at how well previous negotiation results are remembered and incorporated into future negotiations. At first, I thought it was just going to be a series of unrelated negotiations tallying up to a total score for how many were “successful”. However, maybe most of the choices are dead ends that I was just lucky to avoid. In that case, the story wouldn't be as adaptive as I thought.
  • On the ruin planet, there’s no indication of a time skip, not even a dash, between receiving the transmission on the ship and the protagonist suddenly standing "in the ruins" on the surface of the planet.

However, you don’t see anybody there, and you don’t see any passageways leading to other rooms or the underground.

  • There’s no previous mention that we walked into the building. You should probably describe the entrance and the room we walked into.
  • The ending is incredibly abrupt and feels almost tacked on.
  • A couple points on scientific realism:
    • I don't think you fully appreciate the vastness of interstellar space. It takes light from the Sun 4.24 years to reach the closest star to our solar system, Alpha Centauri. It would take even longer at sub-light speeds. I doubt our protagonist is spending years traveling between his destinations.
    • The description says that humanity is just leaving the solar system, and all of a sudden it's encountering all sorts of alien species. It would make a bit more sense if there were aliens elsewhere in the galaxy, but we would have detected any spacefaring aliens close by already. It's never explained in the story why we didn't discover them sooner. 

Difficulty rating is fine; maturity rating could probably be lower. Overall, it felt a lot shorter than the play length would suggest, though what was there was certainly fun to play through.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Hey, thanks a ton for your review!  This is quite helpful, and I appreciate the time you took.

-The sub-light thing is correct, I meant to indicate that the ship was traveling at an extremely slow speed in order to reach a Selei ship that was parked nearby.  I'll go back and make that more obvious.  They travel at faster-than-light speeds most of the time.

-This game has 5 officials endings and is cave-of-time style.  Many choices lead to defeat endings, a few are rebranching.  I suspect that you probably just chose well, as the 5 branches are fairly linear.

-Gotcha, there should be a time skip on the ruin planet.  I'll go and add that in, and describe the building.  Thanks for pointing that out.  EDIT:  I checked, and it looks like there is a time skip there, though it's not immediately clear.  I went back and gave it more clarity.

-The ending is deliberately abrupt and open-ended, all 5 endings are similar.  It was intentional, but if you think it breaks reader immersion, I can go back and add more detail.

-The description about the "solar system" was written before I did most of my major writing and is out of date.  Thanks for pointing that out, I'll fix it.

Out of curiosity, what point rating would you give this game on the 8 point scale?  Any particular reason?

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

The sub-light thing is correct, I meant to indicate that the ship was traveling at an extremely slow speed in order to reach a Selei ship that was parked nearby.  I'll go back and make that more obvious.  They travel at faster-than-light speeds most of the time.

That makes sense. I think it's mainly the sentence

There’s really no sense that the ship is moving at all.

that throws me off. It suggests that the protagonist thinks there should be a sense that the ship is moving because it's moving so fast.

-Gotcha, there should be a time skip on the ruin planet.  I'll go and add that in, and describe the building.  Thanks for pointing that out.  EDIT:  I checked, and it looks like there is a time skip there, though it's not immediately clear.  I went back and gave it more clarity.

The clarification with the time skip helped. I originally thought it happened 4 paragraphs after it actually does. As for the building, I seem to have missed that it actually does say "you follow the signal into [the] structure". I think what confused me was that the pillar structure in the center of the building is also described using the words "structure" and "in the center", which were previously used to describe the building. I thought you were describing the building as a whole as pillar-shaped and being in the center of the city. Perhaps you can just call the pillar a pillar and not a pillar structure.

-The ending is deliberately abrupt and open-ended, all 5 endings are similar.  It was intentional, but if you think it breaks reader immersion, I can go back and add more detail.

I don't think it gives the sort of epic feeling I think you're going for. I think it might work better at the end of a movie but not in this medium. It might just be me though. I would wait for feedback from others before changing it.

 Out of curiosity, what point rating would you give this game on the 8 point scale?  Any particular reason?

 I would rate it 5/8. 8/8 is reserved for Eternal. 7/8 is for epics on the order of Rogues or Necromancer. 6/8 is for stories that are otherwise exceptional in some way. 5/8 is my baseline for a good, fun regular story.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

I've read some more and have some more feedback:

  • Minor consistency issue: In the path where you reject the AI’s help, it’s written that you negotiate with the Braethi in a neutral asteroid field, but when the Braethi bombard the negotiating location, it says your base is destroyed.
  • The Empire path does a really good job of giving a feeling of creeping dread and helplessness from the progressive effects of the Braethi technology.
  • It seems that your choice on whether or not to accept the Braethi surrender makes no difference. Is this purely a cosmetic choice?
  • I liked that Shathtar is less restrained in negotiations without Vai around in the path where you attack the Iridians (I haven't finished that one yet and might not get around to it before your republication date).

The Braethi ships, on the other hand, looked like someone had tried to superglue eight different models of ships together.  You later learned that in a few cases, that was actually true.

  • How did I learn that if they left after our initial negotiations?

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

-Got it, thanks for pointing that out.  I'll change it to a ship.

-Thanks!

-Yeah, I felt like that was a choice the player would logically get to make, but wouldn't have any effect over.  It's meant to add to the feeling of helplessness.  If it just comes across as irritating instead, let me know.

-Thanks, I'm glad that the differences in Shathtar's actions are apparent.

-You were on one of their ships in the first place, so that's the one you're judging is based off of.  Also, there's been a couple instances of Earth-Braethi contact, so you've probably seen photos.  Should I make that more clear?

Thanks again for all of your feedback, this is quite helpful.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

It's meant to add to the feeling of helplessness.  If it just comes across as irritating instead, let me know.

No, it does its job well.

You were on one of their ships in the first place, so that's the one you're judging is based off of.  Also, there's been a couple instances of Earth-Braethi contact, so you've probably seen photos.  Should I make that more clear?

Probably, yes. When you say I "later learned... that was actually true", it makes it sound very definitive, like if a Braethi directly told me or if I found a blueprint of their ship showing that it's an amalgamation of 8 different ship models. If I'm basing it off my judgment from seeing the ship in-person, it wouldn't make sense to say I learned about their ship design only later since "later" is based on the context of the previous sentence, which is when I "looked" at the ship.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Got it, I'll switch that to "you suspect" instead.  Thanks for pointing that out!

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Hey, I really liked what you did with this, really good writing and see why it won!

I'm actually really into space related stuff and games like Stellaris, so this is something that I really enjoyed to read. The pacing was nice on the first few pages as you set the background without too much of a info dump that gave us everything we needed to know which I always enjoy.

Usually story games involve a lot of combat related choices to see these set of choices are a nice change with the role set to one more peaceful. 

I like how you made the story where you can't really go with the decisions the player might make in their own personality, and instead have to read how the races react and act accordingly to make these work, which is a cool touch that some authors don't do.

Wish there was a bit more branching to some choices and dialogue instead of end game, but given the time restraints you had for the contest and the nature of the story I feel that it doesn't detract to much.

I went through the federation path, and like I said before feel it to be really cool how you handled choices mid through, without using coding unless you did use it, still cool whichever way. 

I like that some true endings had epilogues even if short that told the future of how events turned out.

I see nothing wrong with the maturity and difficulty ratings honestly and feel that they are fine, and I feel that if you paid attention to the races you could easily get through the game.

Overall very cool short story that I enjoyed, 8/8!

 

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Thanks a ton for the feedback!  Glad you enjoyed it!

Glad to hear the storygame is touching on a less often covered area of the genre.

Glad to hear that the diplomacy-based options were enjooyable rather than irritating.  I wanted to include a combination of "challenge" diplomacy decisions as well as ones that drove the plot.

I'm glad that the two people so far both got the "federation" ending; that was the first path I wrote and I sort of consider it the base ending for the game, with the other pathes being deviations from it.

Thanks again for your feedback, this is quite helpful.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Diplomat, a Green review: 

First things first. This CYOA deserves more ratings and reviews. I assume it will receive them on February first, but until then let this review be my testement to the writing skill displayed here. 

Things to improve: 

Normally I'd place this as a secondary thing, but this section is what you're looking for and you're not a noob who needs their dick stroked before they get their ass beat. 

  • On the first page there are two spaces between ‘technical’ and ‘delay’.
  • On the first page you have a capital letter after a colon. Pretty sure that’s not right.

  • On the ‘months pass page’ where the shitty tech dwarf dudes leave, you put ‘continuation’ twice like this: ‘continuationcontinuation’.

  • On another ‘months pass’ page where Tan reveals the tribalistic truth about the devices you write ‘ivacuumnternational’.

  • On the ‘option A’ page near the first ending, you write ‘asses’ not ‘assess’. Assuming you don’t meant an arse here!

    Also on that page you write ‘scare resources’ instead of ‘scarce resources’.

  • On the “We should enter in support of the Iridians. This attack is completely unprovoked, and we can’t turn our back on our allies.” You use a capital letter after a colon for a non proper noun.

  • On the ‘continue to negotiate’ page with the Selei, one of the links has ‘certainly’ mispelled.

  • When you present the information about the Braethi to the AI, you miss a full stop between ‘internet access’ ‘as such’.

  • You use a lot of commas. It isn't distracting, just a comment that seemed appropriate for this section. I'd watch that habit, you don't, want, sentences, like, this, one, in future. I mean maybe you do, it could totally work in some circumstances (hell, I challenge anyone to write me a story with just a ton of commas). Jokes aside: this isn't an issue (and I do the same thing). 

  • While the narrative is very good, and will be praised later, there are some elements that I felt could be improved. I'll list them here (bear in mind I did not find the third ending, though not for lack of trying): 

  1. When I vote whether or not to accept the Bra-dudes surrender, it literally does not matter. I get the same ending either way. What COULD have been cool would be for Tan to come to you if you voted against going to war and someone from the more violent race coming to you if you voted for going to war. Or something similiar, the variables here are confusing.
     

  2. I was almost upset that there wasn't a 'utopia' ending, where I could make have a good diplomatic relationship with all of the races and caused a United Galaxy. Each of the races encountered is good at one part of the civil sector and with the Algorithm's help I'm sure they could have conquered the known universe. 

  3. The Balthians cannot be reasoned with nor allied with in any of the endings I came across which kind of sucks. Being able to ally with everyone in the setting was awesome and the fact they were left out makes me feel like I've missed something big. 

  4. Some of the races come across as somewhat superficial. I know you're not going to get thousands of words of lore into a story so short, but I'd find it cool if there were side pages where I could view information on them (they could even be presented like diplomatic briefings!). 

  5. A final narrative thing I wish was improved was how the diplomatic relationships played out. Ninety nine percent of the time I felt like I was simply selecting choices based on randomness and won via luck, not skill. That kinda sucks. It'd be so cool if how to converse effectively with each race was revealed subtextually. With the warrior-ork guys (who were my favourites) this was shown through brief descriptions of their tech and culture. I felt smart for figuring out how to diplomatically converse with them on the first try: if all of the races had something similar it'd be awesome. I feel this would be very little work for a lot of payoff. 

Things I liked: 

  • Apart from the things listed prior, all grammar is good. Your sentence structure is also varied and interesting. It's the little things like this that bring your writing up that extra level.
  • Characters in this are well written. I won't go through them all because there are so many (which is not actually an issue because of how distinct they are), but here are three and why I liked them:
  1. The narrator/2nd person. I think most story games struggle with making the narrator too distinct or too bland, but this Diplomat treads that tightrope like a pro. The narrator does have their own personality and feelings in the language they use, but it never felt like they were encroaching on my choices. 
  2. Victor. I loved his almost bureaucratic banality and how he seemed really happy with his promotions. When he becomes more important to future diplomatic relations I'm more inclined to take his side, because of this.
  3. Stranger. Not just because he gets a cool heading aid, but also because the concept of a one kind syndicate is cool (especially an optional one).
  • The lore, though there was only a small amount of it, was very consistent. I liked the idea that the crappy ship guys were always just on the edge of blowing everyone up, or that no matter what you did certain factions made certain choices that made sense based on what we know of them.
  • The fast pacing if the writing made it very enjoyable to read. This isn't a slow burner at all, it's oil on a gas stove. I read this in between my shifts at work and was constantly wondering what would happen next all shift. This is a hallmark of golden writing in my opinion. 

Final thoughts: 

Diplomat is a well written, well paced and incredibly branching narrative. More than that though, it's fun. It's enjoyable and exciting and deserves to be a top rated game. This review is over 1k words so I won't waste any more of your time: if you need clarification, ask!

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

First of all, I hugely appreciate your taking the time to read through the whole darn thing and give such detailed feedback.  Round of applause for Green!

And now, to business.

Things to improve:

-Thanks for all the grammatical feedback.  I'll try and get that all sorted out tomorrow.  Not sure how my spellcheck software missed the "ivaccumternational" one, lol.

If you need help finding the third ending (Warrior Nation), you need to fail your negotiations with the Selei, succeed with the Kaagar, and then choose to help the Kaagar attack and defeat the Iridians.  After that, it's a cave-of-time style path that leads to the third ending.  If you need any more help finding it, let me know.

Narrative feedback:

1) That was deliberate, which I talked about a bit in my response to Helpful Conisseur.  I felt as though not giving the player the opportunity to state their opinion would be off-putting, but that there was no way the other diplomats would vote in any other way.  It was also meant to escalate the sense of danger from the effect of the headsets.  If it just comes across as irritating instead, let me know.

2) The "Federation" ending is probably the closest you come to that, since you're allied with the Kaagar, Iridians, and Dek, and are on good terms with the Selei.  A true "Utopia" ending would exceed the scope of the story, since forming binding relationships with the Selei and Braethi (and Alliance) would probably take longer than the Diplomat's lifespan, given the existing cultural relationships.  If you think it would be a good idea, I can expand the scope of the "Federation" epilogue to show that the Galactic Confederation eventually forms stronger ties with the Braethi and Selei, since some of the epilogues already cover events beyond the protagonist's lifespan.

3) Yeah, since the Braethi's government and most of their population has already been affected by the headsets, I don't think negotiating peace with them would be possible until unaffected people came to power, which really couldn't happen within the timeframe of the story.  Hopefully this isn't too big of a disappointment.  Again, if you think it would help, I can add a positive reconciliation with the Braethi to the "Federation" epilogue.

4) Hmm.  This could be interesting, but I'm not sure I want to add side pages.  For one thing, it would mean I probably couldn't get this published by the time I wanted to, for another, I was trying to avoid side information pages so less worldbuilding-driven readers wouldn't feel like they were missing anything.  I might sweep through and add in a few cultural details here and there if you think that would help.  And yeah, the races are definitley on the superficial side, since there's only so much time to explore the various cultures.

5) I was trying to do that with all the negotiations, so either A) You picked up on it subconsciously, or B) I'm not making it nearly obvious enough.  (For example: I tried to foreshadow the Braethi's deception by showing the internal disagreements and tensions between Hessan and Neb, and I tried to show how paranoid and suspicious the Dek were so that the player could determine giving them space and offering them military aid would get the best results.  The Selei were a bit tougher, all the options and their outcomes had a specific outcome and rationale that I could explain, but since the Selei are so reserved, I couldn't think of a way to explain it in the narrative.)  I'll see how I can work that in with some of the other races, but since you're actually present for many of the first contact situations, I'll have to think of a different approach.  I'll give it some thought.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Things you liked:

1) I'm glad to hear that worked out.  I was working hard to give them a distinctive voice, but I also didn't want to cramp the player's style.

2) Victor was probably the most fun to write.  He didn't appear in my brainstorms at all, but I when I sat down to start writing, I realized the main character needed a boss.  The fact that he's the only non-player character who stays in a major role in all the major pathes also made his various roles fun to explore.  I'm glad he turned out well.

3) Stranger was a lot of fun too.  I liked exploring the idea of a hive mind in a non-evil way, since most sci-fi tends to potray them as being evil and expansionist.  He was both fun and challenging to write because he's speaking with all the intelligence, memory, and personality of an entire collective, but is also deliberately trying to come across as normal to humans.

-I'm glad that the concept of the Braethi was a positive.  I liked the idea of the villains being the ones with crazy reckless technology, since in many works (at least, the ones I've read), it's the protagonists who operate in this matter.

-Glad to hear that worked out.  I was really trying to avoid dragging the story, so it's good to hear it worked.

 

Once again, thanks a ton for all your feedback.  This is immensely helpful, and I appreciate the time you've taken.

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

I shall bow deeply, but not too deep to cause offence, and thank you for the applause before continuing to buisness. 
 

Things to improve:

  • I managed to get that ending literally just after posting the review. It didn't really change my perception of the story hugely and had no discernible spelling mistakes so you have a thumbs up from me
  • No this definitely did not come off as irritating, I thought it was far better than just a simple 'yes or no' binary choice.
  • That would actually be pretty cool. I know not every story needs a perfect ending, but it's always nice and makes me feel smart when I finally get them if they do.
  • The headsets are a pretty cool mystery I think, they sort of give me an 'Angron's nails' vibe. Did you have particular inspiration for them?
  • Looking over it, I think I discerned that information subconsciously later on in the story, as that point was made when I hadn't got all the endings. Something more concrete for the Selei would be cool though, although I did like that they responded positively to not being fucked about with flowery language and just being told it how it is in some of the endings.

Things I enjoyed:

  • It worked well in my humble opinion.
  • Victor deserves the world and is potential the best boss one could fathom. Everyone gets two promotions! 
  • Straight onto the Braethi, they're definitely somewhat Orky in nature, though I pictured them more as dwarves.

It's not an issue, it was fun to read and you've done the same for me! Can't wait to see this get featured. 

Read-through Request on Diplomat

8 months ago

Lol

Things to improve:

-Fixed the grammar mistakes.  I googled it, and the capitalization-after-colon thing is an American/British difference.  I'll stop changing all your colons in GSR, lol.

-Ok good, glad that worked out.

-Great.  I'll go back to the "Federation" ending, and throw in a line about opening relations with the Braethi in the more distant future.

-Nothing in particular, no.  I don't remember what I was thinking when I decided to use them, but I don't think there was any specific inspiration, other than the general sci-fi concept.  What's Angron's nails?

-Alright, that's good news.  I'll skim over the Selei's pages and see if I can work in any more clarification about why they choose how they do.  A couple of times the Selei respond to flattery and appealing to their more advanced technology, so throwing in a line on one of the first pages about how the Selei can be a little proud or vain might do the trick.

Things you enjoyed:

-I wasn't thinking of anything specific for the Braethi (though the Kaagar are definitely orc-like) but I can definitely see the dwarviness of the Braethi now that you mention it.

 

Unless you've got anything else to add, I'll be publishing this later today.  Thanks a ton for your help!

 

EDIT:  Changes made, I tried to throw some foreshadowing in for the Selei at the bottom of the first page, and added a line about the Braethi to the Federation epilogue.