Why isn't everyone writing fiction for choicescript?

Besides parser of course. What don’t you like about them? I’d say the revenue share percentage they keep for themselves is quite large compared to other platforms.

Probably because they already have a long queue of release…
IIRC ChoiceofGame is currently not looking for new authors, but they do publish through their HostedGames label every few weeks.


Choicescript also creates some structural approaches that don’t work for all choice-based IF (seems hard to do most “parser-like” stuff). Plus if you’re talking about trying to do commercial work, I think the audience expectations on things like customizable vs. characterized PCs might be a barrier to some kinds of games.

(I should say there are lots of great Choicescript games that are released independently, though - Turandot and At King Arthur’s Christmas Feast, off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many others I’m not immediately thinking of).


Given that you mention the revenue sharing, I assume you mean Choice of Games the platform, as opposed to Choicescript the authoring system, which people can use to produce things that aren’t hosted by CoG.

Some people are only interested in writing parser games. And even if you are interested in writing choice games, CoG has a very, very specific type of game it’s looking for. It’s a good platform if you want to write genre fiction that’s fairly light and fun, with a branch-and-bottleneck structure and stats-driven gameplay, with a heavily customizable PC that basically allows all players to roleplay as themselves and a fairly significant (but usually optional) romance component with a good number of romanceable NPCs to choose from. Not everyone is interested in writing this kind of thing.

Their Hosted Games platform allows a little more divergence from the formula, but the Hosted Games revenue share is worse, and to some extent the structure and gameplay of Choicescript games is dictated by what Choicescript is designed to do.

This consistency means that some people are never going to want to write for them and some people are never going to be interested in their products, but it’s also a huge factor in their success. A lot of people love having a steady source of entertainment where they always know what they’re getting. It’s sort of the Harlequin of IF, and I don’t mean that as an insult—romance readers play no small part in keeping the publishing industry afloat.


But if you want to release them commercially, you will need to pay the ChoiceScript licensing fee (since it’s not open-source/free to use), which costs quite a bit. Hence why most people will go through the ChoiceofGames lables.


They even have a special label for that one: Heart's Choice


There was a whole thread on Would you write IF for a living? and for some people the answer is “no”.


Yeah, well over half wouldn’t do it at all or only part-time even if making a living were viable.


Also, publishing for ChoiceofGames (or its labels) doesn’t mean you will receive enough income to sustain yourself as is. Many CoG authors also have a Patreon on the side (or multiple published project with CoG).


Cost of living factors heavily into it.

Years ago, I used to do transcription work for a number of sites, including rev.com . By the time I gave it up as no longer tenable, I was earning roughly $5/hour before taxes. I was doing it while working as an overnight private duty home health aide (basically watching people sleep and being there if they need anything, 99% of the time). So, if I managed to do 5 hours of transcription work while already earning $15/hr on my 8 hour shift, I basically managed to bump my pay up to $18.13/hr. Not terrible, but not worth doing on its own.

I get into the economics, because rev.com had an active transcribers forum were you could assist each other on various “inaudibles”. As a forum, it was active in many other ways, including a vibrant international discussion. On this forum, there was an individual who lived in Venezuela. At the time, you could choose which currency you wanted to be paid in, and she chose American dollars.

She wasn’t any faster than me and she didn’t earn any more than me, but she supported herself and her entire extended family from her transcription earnings. That is all she did. If I tried doing the same, I would have starved on $5/hr.

Her situation was really f*cked, to be honest. No one could find employment and anyone that could was being paid in currency that had no buying power. It stuck with me long after I stopped transcription work.


Choice of Games likes to spotlight the sheer heft of their games as a selling point. (When was the last time a CoG, not counting the hosted games, was less than 200 thousand words?)

That is a lot of words, and would have to dominate anyone’s creative output for a minimum of months, surely more than a year for many busy people. It would have to be something someone really, really wanted to do, more than all the other things they could possibly be investing all that creative time in.

I suspect the scales tip toward “I’d rather do a larger number of smaller projects that are whatever the heck I feel like” for a lot of people.


Reiterating what everyone has said. ChoiceScript and the Choice of Games brand produce games that are quite a bit different than text adventures or standard choice narratives.

[I have not written a CoG, but these are my impressions from second-hand info and researching the process; some of this may be different now.]

The process for being commissioned to write a branded Choice of Game is quite formal. Authors don’t just make a game and show it to them. You have to submit multiple pitches and they choose the one they believe would be the best fit and suggest changes they want, or they might like your writing but pitch you a different game to develop for them. There are expected milestones and a schedule, which can be a bit more intense than many hobbyist writers are used to. That said, they are reportedly very helpful with feedback and assistance during the writing process.

There’s also a “house style” for CoG branded games. They expect that the PC is in some way flexible enough and there are customization choices so that the PC can be a smooth “reader inhabitation” of the character and the story reacts appropriately and varies text to accommodate those choices - gender or non-gendered and often attributes or backgrounds or quasi-classes. Some games might offer 3-6 sort of ‘custom’ classes or backgrounds the player can assume, or be completely customized by the character with regard to appearance, demeanor, name, etc. Though I have played at least one where the only customization was gender (or not) and pronouns. Often NPCs might be romanceable and might also change based on the reader’s choices to accommodate the player’s preferences. If I choose to play a straight woman, the love-interest may be presented as a man. If I choose I’m a bisexual male, two love interests might be offered and one assumes the role at my choice, or the story might offer a character with an androgynous name which takes on traits to better fit my preferences and the story. Or the story might let me name and design the love interest in a “When I first saw them, they looked…[choice][choice][choice]…” type of situation. It’s more role-playing and character customization almost along the lines of improv where the game offers possibilities and you yes-and to play the game as the person you want to be.

I refer to this as “co-authoring” - which is very different from an IF that has a fully-developed PC and you play that; CoG lets the reader/player be involved in creating the PC. Which can present authorial difficulty with the way a story is written. I always made the joke that I couldn’t write a CoG because I don’t have a story that allows the player to be either a Belgian nun or a werewolf. That’s of course exaggeration, but the type of structure an author needs to take account of. Unless planned well, writing one CoG can involve enough material to fill 3-5 standard non-interactive novels, so it can be a full-scale mammoth writing task that not everyone is up to or wants to take on.

Also as mentioned ChoiceScript is more suited to less-granular plot variation rather than fiddling with a word model with objects and keys and doors to unlock. The choices tend to be more “What did you study for four years at university?” “Which country do you choose to invade?” “Which NPC are you going to develop a relationship with?” which alters statistics and relationships - which are another unique element for such a prose-heavy choice engine: a major stats screen with progress bars. I think it’s a requirement that there are no one-move death ends, and ideally when someone reads one of these it is novel or novella-length commitment with a beginning, middle, and end, and you can’t just have the player walk into a closet and be eaten by a Grue.

That said, there is also Hosted Games where there are many fewer restrictions other than “the game must work, must be complete, and avoid typically troublesome subject matter”. That’s where an author writes the game they want, and if accepted, CoG will “host” the game on their site and share revenue with the author, which is not as lucrative as being commissioned to write for them.


From what I understand, authors can use ChoiceScript for free so long as they aren’t charging people for the games produced with it. If you intend to make money with their engine, you need to make a deal to revenue-share with them even if they don’t host the game.


There’s a few reasons in my case (even though I am writing a stats-significant, choice-based, narrative commercial game):

  • the Choicescript format restrictions make no sense for my story. There is an assumption that mainline Choicescript stories have the player as the main character. This would largely defeat the point of my game (which has the player helping out a predetermined character), since there is a very high chance that the player does not think like the protagonist and therefore have difficulty suspending disbelief in how the game goes. While it is possible to use the format independently, Choicescript players have had their expectations largely shaped by Choice of Games’ house style (which makes sense, given how many successful interactive fiction pieces are there). By using a different, perhaps less obvious engine, I get to set different expectations.

  • I’d like music, notably variable music, in my game. Choicescript might be able to do that but I find Ren’Py’s method of implementing it easy. This is reflective of a number of areas where I find Ren’Py makes more sense to me (this matters because my history with programming languages is sketchy - I even managed to break Scratch once). There are other matters where I have a different approach to accessibility than Choicescript does - both are viable, but one cannot do both in the same piece of IF. I’m writing a visual novel, but I consider the music to be important to the game I’m making in a way I don’t consider the visuals to be.

  • Translation difficulties, because the design expects a lot of internal variables within full sentences. If you are writing for one language, or all the languages you want the game to be available in handle number and plural similarly, it can be a good space-saving method of simplifying workload. However, if one is targeting multiple languages with very different grammar structures, the less space-efficient but more flexible whole-segment-technique becomes necessary.

  • The audience is also an issue. I know that some of the key people who I’m aiming to play the game don’t consider themselves gamers and don’t go to any of the established gaming locations. Thus, being tied to the game at a standard gaming location (I’ve seen CoG games at CoG and Steam but not elsewhere yet; the ones at independent locations were non-CoG using Choicescript) is a disadvantage for me, even though it would be an advantage to a lot of other people.

For the right game, Choice of Games and Choicescript are excellent. However, Interactive Fiction is too big for any platform or language to be one size fits all. One of the things that helps IF authors is to understand what fits best with their particular idea and way of working.


Hey, Choicescript author here (who slipped into the CoG stable during the transitional era before the house style really took shape). I wanted to note a minor but common misconception, in bold below:

CoG’s standard royalty rate is 25% either way. Commissioned authors do get an advance (and cover art, and copyediting), but unless your work doesn’t earn out its advance, you’ll end up with the same total royalty amount as you would with the “Hosted Games” deal. Most Hosted authors crowdsource their copyedit on the COG forums and use free or minimal-cost cover art, so the lucre gap ends up pretty minimal.

And while I’m here, another thought:

CS definitely isn’t well suited to stories where you achieve unique outcomes by manipulating inventory items in an explorable space – you can’t beat parser games for that kind of world model exploration.

But I can attest that you can use CS to plot some very granular variation in e.g. the state of a rebel band trying to survive ten hard weeks of winter through iterative tactical decisions. The emergent gameplay in that chapter of my game was (to my own surprise) complex enough to keep dedicated players going for literal years of replays to find the outcome they wanted.

As I work on the sequels, which are all about changing the world, with a few dozen rival factions and stats of magic-fuel and grain and state capacity and anarchy and population legibility all runnning around under the hood, I think a lot of it will be very well described as “fiddling with a world model” – albeit one that’s more sociology than inventory.