4 Common Mistakes in Interactive Novels
Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)
Are you writing an interactive novel using ChoiceScript? Don’t make these common mistakes!
- Not Enough Delayed Branching
In “By the Numbers: How to Write a Long Interactive Novel That Doesn’t Suck“, we draw a distinction between choices that branch the story immediately and choices that cause the story to branch in a later chapter. It’s impossible to write a story with lots of choices if all choices branch the story immediately; delayed branching solves that problem nicely.
When authors try to write a linear story without delayed branching, the result is a game where the player makes minor choices that don’t affect the plot.
Fix: Use “if” sections. Put some lines in each chapter that describe how earlier chapters affect the current events.
- Bad Mix of Stats
In “7 Rules for Designing Great Stats” we distinguish between different types of stats: skills, personality traits, morality traits, world stats, resources, and goals.
A good game should probably have a mix of all of those. A particularly common mistake is to offer only skills, like Strength and Intelligence.
Fix: Add at least one stat from each category.
- Easy Choices
In 5 Rules for Writing Interesting Choices in Multiple-Choice Games we talk about how to design interesting choices. One particularly common mistake is to tell a story where most choices have one “right” answer, and all of the others are wrong. (That can be OK in some cases, but it should be the exception, not the rule.)
Interesting choices should be “hard” because all of the choices are compelling.
Fix: Make sure each option is worth choosing. Even “wrong” answers should be fun. (Never include a boring “death” ending. If the main character dies, make it an awesome death scene, to encourage players to try again.)
- Too Many Words per Choice
We call this problem the “wall of text,” when the author goes on for pages and pages at a time, without giving the player an opportunity to interact with the story by making a choice.
Fix: After about 100-200 words of text in the main body, consider adding something for the player to do, even if it’s just a *fake_choice asking how the player feels about what’s happening. Avoid 400 words or more between player choices.