How important is it for you/your audience to see all of the content?

Let’s say you have written a game. Do you write with the intention that the player see all or most of the content? Many visual novels have a “true ending” that is only viewable after all other endings have been discovered. I wonder how many players get this far? The mechanics of VNs facilitate seeing everything, with the ability to fast forward through already-seen content.

In A Mind Forever Voyaging, there is more viewable content than the player needs to see in order to complete the game, and it allows the player to return to set times and places. This convenience facilitates seeing more than the bare minimum. Hadean Lands has great features to enable players to quickly return to already-visited areas, though they are generally used to advance the player, not to explore alternate or optional content (I’m not sure how welcome a large quantity of optional content would be in such a large game. Someone correct me if I did, in fact, miss a lot of optional content!).

My WIP has what seems to be a lot of text that has nothing to do with the main throughline, though the scoring system encourages experimentation. What would be the best ballpark way to measure throughline to text? rooms/words? rooms/text? Things/text? I’m trying to think of an easy (though not always accurate) means of comparison.

Players, how much do you have to love a game before going back through it? Does the game have to clearly state that there is a lot of content to see? Thinking of a recent thread: it is all well and good to have a lot of content, but someone has to want to see it in the first place. This is likely a per game choice, right? Just because Moonmist and Cutthroats have multiple storylines doesn’t mean one ought to play them all. There are, I am sure, many reasons not to do so.

Authors, do you add much content outside of the main throughline? Or does it seem like a waste of time?


All you need is love. And a badges system.

People love the Eureka sensation of finding unrelated/extra things, I think.

With that, you will have all compulsive completist tied to your game, and ready to set fire at your home if any of your badges has a mistake and is not possible to find it.

A very cool Spanish game (available in English) has been retired from consoles these days due to a failure in badges system. It is on PC anyway, working right: Oniria Crimes (free demo available).


I have never replayed a game to see extra content, despite loving many of them dearly. I will choose options to see alternate endings if they are easy and don’t require reworking much of the game.

Something I might choose is an option at the end of the story to return to an area I missed entirely and see the content there, but unless the rest of the game took a different turn, I wouldn’t play through the rest of it again.

You know how some authors have “funny stuff you may have missed” sections at the end of a game? You could use something like this to allow players to see extra stuff if they choose.


Echoing @AmandaB ; I have also never replayed a game to see extra content.

For choice games, I play them and live with my choices. For parsers, I sometimes make a save file right before the endgame and see how else I could have solved it.

The only times I have replayed a game were more like rereading a beloved book. Not for extra content but for the joy of the experience. I replayed Worlds Apart, Photopia and Illuminismo Iniziato. I plan on replaying Lydia’s Heart.


That’s interesting, and I imagine this is the majority position. Replaying to find additional content is a common thing in other genres. Perhaps it is simply less interesting to revisit text. It may be that few games reward a second playthrough. Being able to jump around in the game world, perhaps possessing access to resources in a a sort of NG+ (new game plus) scenario might be a way to encourage further exploration. It might have been good for a few laughs to restart Zork II with the wand (well, with a fully implemented wand anyway) as a reward for beating it.

I am also curious about the extent to which players enjoy exploring content that does not directly contribute to reaching the game’s conclusion. This is optional and sometimes missable content. I cannot think of many IF games that have a lot of optional content (please suggest some! there’s a lot I don’t know). It sounds like Cragne Manor might be one such case, and people seem to enjoy discussing it, though I’m not sure of the extent (or how successfully it motivates players to seek that content out).

As an example: perhaps a game offers many opportunities to better understand its characters, but you don’t need to understand them in order to mechanically solve problems and advance the plot. Are things like character development and worldbuilding or even the author’s pretentious attempts at metatextual shenanigans worth the time? If you were otherwise enjoying yourself, would you investigate such things, given the chance? Would a badge/achievement/scoring system further encourage exploration?

Looking at it from an authorial perspective: investing in content that the player may never see is a risk. It might be better to apply focus and polish to features that every player will encounter. I’m interested in the thoughts of creators who have encountered this dilemma.


I put so much random extra stuff in my games. It’s fine if players don’t get to all of it because it amuses me, and I completely understand those who play one canonical experience. Mike Russo made me look up the word Brob·ding·nag·i·an. Even I am like “no possible person can possibly see everything here why am I doing this?.” Usually it’s because I’m amusing myself, and it’s happy when someone else gets wrapped up in it as well.

It actually is more surprising to me when I hear of people taking a completionism attitude - I was stunned when I read a review that someone played Final Girl enough times to see every ending - which was randomized and hard to collect-em all, so …


I am 41, so I have to confess that whenever I hear Millennials or Zoomers talking about their “personal brands”, my eyes roll very hard – but then I come across something like this, and it makes me smile and smile, and OK, I kinda get it.

On topic, I think there’s maybe a helpful distinction to draw about content that’s missable because of hard branches, vs. content that’s missable because the player doesn’t need to engage with it? I personally haven’t made, or wanted to make, many games with lots of hard branching where decisions the player makes lock them out of parts of the story – it’s totally respectable to do that, of course, and partially that’s because that’s more the norm on the choice-based side of things than on the parser side, which is where I’ve made games.

But I love to put in lots of tiny details and inessential interactions, which I’m also sure few players manage to see – the AMUSING list for my first game had 38 entries, and while my second game didn’t have an AMUSING entry because the ending vibe doesn’t really lend itself to that sort of thing, it’d probably be at least as long.

I think these are different because to create hard branching as in case one, I’d need to feel sufficiently invested in several theories of the plot, such that they feel comparably satisfying and rich for the player to experience – and getting even one branch to that point is hard enough! But stuff in column B is really just about fleshing out the experience and, as Hanon says, amusing myself; if even one or two players stumble across that stuff, it’s more than worth it.


Doesn’t “Millennial” typically mean born 1981 to 1996? I have bad news for you…


12/3/1980 birthday, baby!

(But yeah, in most ways I’m more a Millennial than a GenXer. The media calls us “Geriatric Millennials”, I believe, though I prefer Millenni-old).


Yes, yes and no. All of them resounding.


On a related note, there’s a certain type of implementation (Suveh Nux, Hadean Lands, The Wand, Counterfeit Monkey) that makes me want to explore all the nooks and crannies of the system and see what strange things I can find; I spent quite a while after beating HL trying to do every possible permutation of every ritual just for the heck of it. This tends to push me to completionism much more than multiple endings or extensive dialogue trees do.


Just a question for you oldish people there:

did your “youngers you” replay your gamebooks (you know, Choose Your Own Adventure, Fighting Fantasy, …) once, and once, and once, searching all the possible endings and treasures, with many fingers between pages to go back and forth?

Would this “never replay a game to see extra content” be a matter of your age while playing, the so different times with less things to do then in your childhood, or even depending on paper vs electronic entertainment?

Oh, I made two questions. Never rely on me : /


Iliza Shlesinger (born 1983) calls herself Elder Millennial but you are on the cusp, so you might also be a baby Gen-X’r!


I noticed that people really responded when I put an ending screen in robotsexpartymurder that explained “You did this and this happened, this is ending A, there is a “full” ending which is C+D+E…” I imagine that kind of prompt is catnip to completionists.

But one of the things I also tend to do in some games which are timed is have an “idle” ending which occurs if the player doesn’t engage with any of the main plot. RSPM did this since it was easy to be distracted, and Fair had a hard time limit (which could be gamed if done right.) That may be one way to encourage replay - make the game short but “dense and wide.” Ryan Veeder’s Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder is a great example of this.

I usually don’t like punishing the player for non-participation, nor stopping the gameplay cold if they freeze in place. The game just does what it does whether the player chooses to engage or not.

If it’s a much longer story like a CoG, I am more likely to decide one play through is my canon experience - those don’t generally end abruptly, but will eventually funnel you to some ending even if you play them “wrong”.


Agree totally.

I do make an effort to see what there is to see and exhaust the content of an area of a game. Sometimes, of course, if the action in a game gets hot, I get swept up in solving puzzles and moving forward, so I miss content. But that doesn’t bother me. Not all players will see all content, and that’s why IF is different from a novel.

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That’s what it comes down to for me, too. I write first for myself and second to be read. I like having both, of course.

Instead of exclusively considering branching plots, I am thinking of one-way trips. I don’t want anyone to spend 10-20 hours on my game, only to discover, “Oh, well, you got the bad ending.” Instead, a hero’s journey might consist of leaving their home region, travelling to the gas station region, then proceeding to the railroad museum region. Each is an area to explore, but once the player is done with it, they leave.

I imagine a game where there is a baseline good ending that can reward a certain amount of exploration/experimentation or gently admonish a lack of curiosity. But everyone gets the same happy ending regardless.

The SCORE command could encourage exploring, but perhaps a message at the end stating you found 13 out of 100 frobs (I realize this specific phrase will not motivate anyone, it’s just a prop) might do something.

I would never call it pretentious (that word choice is my own attempt at self-deprecation), but Fairest contained some enjoyable metatext, didn’t it?

edit: I read every ending, too.

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Speaking as an oldish person :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Nope. I read a lot of Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf gamebooks as a teenager in the 1980s. I would only replay if I failed the first time and needed another go. So replay to reach the successful ending. But definitely not replaying to see more. Though multiple fingers in the book at once was mandatory whatever!

As for computer interactive fiction I have only replayed a couple of pieces to see other endings. Eg there was a branching narrative one a comp or two back with 16 endings I believe. Quick to play, so OCD me had to try to get them all! But with normal choice based games and also traditional parser I don’t generally replay.

I’d suggest that if people seeing all your content is important for you then interactive fiction might not be the best format for you to use …

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Indeedy it did. And because I did a crap job of integrating it well, you could go through the whole game without ever using the mirror and you’d miss a lot of the work I did and a lot of backstory. And I’m OK with that. Either people want to milk it for every drop, or they just want to play through as speedily as they can, and that’s out of my hands. For a hot second I considered forcing the player to use the mirror, but that would require restricting player agency too much.

(and I’m sure that despite my editing process, some pretentious, finger-wagging preachiness remained in the game!)


The focus of the thread, or at least my intended focus, is giving players the experience of finding things.

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Ok that’s a bit different from seeing all of the content. Because finding things can be lots of fun. A more open world narrative structure to explore can be fun. More things to explore as you go through the story can be fun. I definitely recommend adding side things because you can’t predict how people will want to explore the piece. However that’s about adding variety, and increasing the range of things people might see. It’s not the same as replaying to see it all. I like exploring, I like finding things. I do not like replaying. So yup, please make your piece rich and varied, so people can have different experiences going through it. Also satisfying experiences that reward their curiosity. But don’t expect replays, or for people to see all of it. Because that’s not how many interactive fiction players play.

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