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In my interactive novel, I'm trying to keep the word count between choice prompts fairly short and consistent, but that means sometimes breaking up longer text into a few sections….

I've been using a single choice to indicate when the story is linear, and 3 choices when there are actual non-linear branches. I have a few "false" 3-choice options that work in context of the story, but for most of the novel if there is no branching the reader is given a single "choice" to continue. Depending on the scene, there might be several single choice prompts in a row.

In a long dialog for instance, a single-choice linear prompt designed to break up the long text, might look like:

(text continues)

"I didn't know that. Go on."

(text continues)

"What do you mean by 'involved'…?"

(text continues)

"There's more to that story!"

(text continues)

In the same scene, a non-linear 3-choice prompt will branch to other dialog topics:

(text continues)

"What does Barbara Reed have against you?"

"Why are you being followed?"

"Tell me more about this temple."

I felt that I was communicating through design, but maybe from the reader POV it just feels arbitrary why they are seeing 1 or 3 choices… I have a scene that begins with many (6) linear "non-choices" in a row, before getting to a 3-choice menu.

Would it be better for me to disguise these non-choices with dummy questions? I could add a tiny bit of text to individualize each before segueing back to the linear flow….

My worry is that 'empty' choices (that don't effect the novel) may be more annoying than several consecutive non-choices. Too many 'empty' choices and I may loose reader's faith that their choices matter.

  • 1
    For the sake of clarity, an example scene can be viewed here: wetcircuit.itch.io/… – wetcircuit Mar 17 at 16:45
  • How long are these sections you are using these ‘click to continue ‘ prompts in? – Rasdashan Mar 17 at 16:46
  • The length of the long sections vary. Between the 3-choice branches there might be none, and as many as 6, 'click to continue' linear prompts. – wetcircuit Mar 17 at 16:52
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It depends on the medium. I just looked through the example you provided in the comment section and it seems to me like the non-choices basically do the same that the normally limited space in a text box would do: they give the reader a couple sentences at most before he has to proceed with the standard "progress" methos - in your example clicking on the next text "link" instead of pressing Enter or clicking with the mouse, which is the way I normally play visual novels. After clicking a couple of times I can just leave the mouse where it is to proceed in the text. I would fear that people are getting used to the "click to proceed after a couple sentences" and accidentally hit the last given choice sometimes if the current situation is not that interesting to them because there is no difference in the mechanics and no real distinction to the normal process of progressing.

But it depends on what would happen if there was too much text for a single page. Would it scroll so much that you couldn't see the first sentences anymore? In that case there is a clear need to have some kind of choice after some sentences.

From personal experience and the research I did so far about visual novels as opposed to the interactive novel you are using in general I'd say that single non-choices can be irritating or useful depending on how the author uses them. I've found that some visual novels will seemingly randomly add non-choices, which is weird because most of the time the mechanic for "choose an option" is different from "proceed in the text".

For example many visual novels will have a text box at the bottom of the screen and when there are options these are displayed above the normal text box. That means that suddenly my attention was directed from the normal reading area to the interactive "choose-an-option" area and I thought about the reason for this choice - Did I miss something? Was there a way to have more options at this point by deciding differently at previous choice intersections? Why am I suddenly asked to "actively" do something when in fact I can't do anything?

And then when I realized that the game was just designed the way to randomly have options pop up I found it frustrating. It felt like I missed something every time and it disrupted my own reading flow.

But I've also seen this used very effectively. Especially when the "mood" changes this can be important to signal to the player that something different is happening. For example if everything was normal everyday life and suddenly there is something important happening you can make the reader feel like the protagonist that doesn't really want to do something but has to do something. As a simplified example: if your protagonist watches someone getting robbed then in many games your protagonist is not the type to look and go away - instead they will try to help. But in reality many people don't really want to help because it's putting them in danger. They still might feel obliged to help. By giving the reader a non-choice and changing the audio and scenery you can evoke this feeling of "I have to do something even if I may be hesitating and don't really want to."

Disguising non-choices with dummy questions might work, but often people will figure this out sooner or later and it will diminish the real choices because they are now harder to identify.

It's best to only ask for a choice when there is a real choice to be made and if the choice really impacts something.

Obviously most games have paths that converge at some point. But two individual sentences rarely make a choice relevant enough to warrant a change in the current flow. It should be a longer section, though the exact length depends on your style, your audience, your genre, ... Personally I prefer to have at least a couple minutes difference and find out something about a character or background story that I wouldn't have found out any other way. In those cases the individual choices seem interesting and I am interested in doing more runs through the game to find out everything about everybody.

Visual novels are different from the interactive novel you showed there, but I'd say still similar enough that you might want to think about these things when designing your game.

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