I think Gryphon or some other reviewer has mentioned this before, but one of the main reasons why Rogues or Eternal works is that the main story branches are very satisfying to read separately while also complementing each other quite well. It's not really about the structure or the numbers, but more about the actual contents within these branches.
Characters that are featured in one branch are portrayed very differently in another, giving the reader on a reread another insight of them. It's been quite a while, but I think the best example is perhaps Gruz. During my first playthrough he was just one of the many colleagues you have in Allison's route. He didn't stand out too much aside from being a very amicable guy. He turns out to be one of the player's father figures if you made some other choices in the beginning. Reading that other branch made me change my view on him.
One way the branches are also very much connected to each other is that there's a theme or a central element binding them together and making the overall story more cohesive. For eternal it's the lawful nature of the Eternal (a constant thing in every route) and his relation with the Emperor. Ahum, also the many father figures that are featured in most of the branches and also are foils for one another. The Eternal himself, the Emperor and Gruz are the few that I can think of.
A classic counterpart is perhaps these lol random stories. In theory they offer many choices and lead the player to very different outcomes, but ultimately they don't really work because those branches don't form a fully cohesive narrative.
Branching and stuff on a technical level
What I've seen so far is that each author kind of has to balance narrative depth with the amount of branching. Well, you can actually do both, but then you'll be forced to write a million words long behemoth.
So with interactive fiction with little gamey aspects I've often seen authors having at maximum three main routes they want to explore in depth while sprinkling some short side branches along the way. In practice it's still a huge ass endeavor and time sinker, so most of the time I've seen narratives on this site strongly favoring and paying attention to one main branch (Enter's Brimstone or Wizzy's Godclock).
Stories that work with stats are often ones that are more linear storywise in my experience. The choices mostly involve on the HOW, not on the WHAT. So a less gamey IF would sooner pose the question whether you want to pick a fight with this robber, while a more stat heavy IF would sooner ask of you whether you want to use your strength to overpower the robber or your wisdom to outwit your opponent. The fun of your choices is mostly derived from doing the numbers game and min maxing your build. I guess the Lone Wolf and Magium series falls more in this category.
No method is worse than the other.
conclusion; the only thing worth reading
I think we have this kind of discussion several times now and honestly, what I've said is already spoken about multiple times and more eloquently by other people. Oh well, might as well forcibly resurrect a dead horse to beat it to death one more time. I dunno, I think that people worry about branching a little too much. Good writing can make up for a lack of branching, good branching will only spray some perfume on a rotten pile of shit.
Daemonologists (Bestist frend jane does it too but at the end it gets better) has one of the most piss poor half assed attempts at giving the player "choices" while railroading you so long that its length of real choice deprivation rivals the transsiberian rail. Still, people clearly like it enough to write positive reviews of it.
Btw. The only nitpick I had with Endmaster's older stories is the "optional" background and lore dumping pages. At worse they felt like homework, at best they felt very unnecessary (like the page explaining Suzy's entire fucked up family or the page summarizing all the circus freaks). The only time I felt they added to the story was in Death Song and even then those letters could have also be worked into the main story. So I really don't understand why you coat this particular element with such lavish praises, but oh well.
I mean it’s going to depend on the reader. There’s tons of people who don’t like Eternal due to the branching and feel it doesn’t give enough “choice” and have said it’s “linear.” I’m sure there’s some in the comments section somewhere.
In fact I’ve heard this complaint about even for something like Necromancer which is way shorter, though some people have believed it’s longer than it actually is due to the scope of the story itself.
The way I even write this stuff is more “old school” due to me being well old. I generally think nothing of killing the reader off even on the first choice if I feel like it. This is the way the old gamebooks from the 80s worked.
As such, this is why I don’t think of “Death/End choices” as “fake choices.” A Death/End choice still had a meaningful impact. You obviously chose wrong and got killed. That’s pretty meaningful. Just wasn’t in the way you probably wanted.
To me a “fake” choice is what you see all the time nowadays in video games where you might get some dialog difference, (Snarky, faggy, psycho, silent, etc) but nothing else happens and the story continues pretty much the same. (Re-branching)
Now I do believe this approach works better in video games since you’ve got more interaction in general (Fighting, driving, exploring dungeons etc). Meaningful dialog choice can take somewhat of a backseat if you’ve got other elements in the game doing the heavy lifting.
Even using a pretty terrible offender of this idea, Mass Effect 3, had combat to off set the shit dialog choices. (Not really enough to save it though) Fallout 4 would probably be a better example, since it still at least had 4 “meaningful choices” in the different factions to choose from and you had a whole wasteland to explore to offset the rest. (Dialog choices might as well not have fucking existed though)
However I don’t like this in choice based IF where choices are the only major element of interaction and I personally try to avoid it as much as possible. Sometimes it is unavoidable though even in those cases I try to keep it to a minimum.
Other people obviously feel differently though. I mean there’s a whole philosophy that for some baffling reason you’re not supposed to be killing off the reader so much (or even at all) Some people prefer to just play through something with fake choices as long it leads to waifus. I mean I hear there’s a company that seems to cater to such a crowd.
At the end of the day, the writing and storyline is what’s going to make you overlook whatever you think of as flaws in any particular IF. If you don’t give a shit about the storyline or you think the writing is shit, it’s not going to matter how branching or linear it is.
For example I just mentioned not too long ago there was a short IF where it constantly looped until you got the “winning” ending. Generally I hate that shit, but this one didn’t bother me and that was probably thanks to the writing and the premise. It might have also been a case where the short length of the IF helped. If it had been a longer IF, I probably would have gotten more annoyed with it.
As for the guy bitching about Rogues, well not sure what he was doing for 3 hours, but I’m guessing he missed all the paths where you become a crime lord, a serial killer, etc since those are all available. People are free to be fucktards though.