Gamebook with no (apparent) links?


I find that one of the main problems with CYOA type adventure games is that you will usually be presented with one of two things; a block of text with highlighted links, or a block of text and then a list of highlighted links. Either way I find it very difficult to resist just randomly hitting these links to see what happens. In other words, nothing really encourages me to read the descriptions.

Now you could argue that to get anything from a game you need to invest a little of your own time, but I've hit upon a simple idea which might just offer a nudge of an incentive, and was wondering what others thought.

My idea is to have the links indiscernible from the rest of the text. In other words not highlighted. I think stopping the cursor changing to a pointing finger might be a step too far, but at least this encourages the player to read the descriptions. Or does it?

If the wording is clever enough the clues will be there. For instance, a passage which describes a forest with dead twigs and branches littering the floor, and a disused firepit nearby, doesn't require Sherlock Holmes to work out that clicking 'twigs and branches' might mean you can then light the fire.

I've not seen this done and would like to hear others views.


You haven't seen it done because it's a terrible idea. Remember when graphical adventure games used to suffer from a problem called "hunt the pixel"? It's the graphical equivalent of "guess the verb", only worse because you don't even know if there's something to click until you carefully comb every pixel on the screen with the mouse -- which isn't even possible at all with a touchscreen (not a problem in the 1990s, a huge one nowadays).

Players want to know what they can do in a game. If they'd rather click at random than read to figure out the context, it's their problem. Your duty as an author is giving them the options and clues as to the consequences of each. What they do with that is beyond your control.


Have a look at Jay's game Spondre! There is a command bar with relevant words but you can just play it finding the right words in the text. One of the most interesting games done with the Quest engine.

You haven't seen it done because it's a terrible idea.

I have to say, felix, that you do seem to have a very closed mind when it comes to these games. That's not being said because you've dissed my idea, and I did say I wanted opinions and you've given me yours, but you seem very reluctant to ideas that suggest these type of games deviate even slightly from the status quo. Can you not agree, at least, that having the links highlighted is like holding the player's hand? Where's the thought process if all they have to do is click the obvious links?

As for the danger the player won't even realise there is links, that can be fixed with a single, introductory sentence before the game starts.

Pertex, I played Jay's game many years ago and agree it is very good game.


Hahaha! OurJud, I'm infamous as an iconoclast in the community. I was ranting and raving against the uniformity of traditional interactive fiction when nobody else saw a thing wrong with it. I wrote an article arguing in favor of CYOA when Twine was hardly on anyone's radar (myself included). I argued that keyword-driven parser games are isomorphic with CYOA and proved it when nobody would agree.

But there's experimentation, and then there are just plain bad ideas. And this is an example. I have to ask how much IF you've played, because you jumped feet first into authoring, with little to no experience, and immediately started to fight your tools, blaming the screwdriver for being a poor hammer, and trying to do something very unusual outright instead of starting with a more traditional (and more importantly simpler) piece that people could help you with more readily. There's a reason why all painters start out by copying the classics.

Just try it. Making links blend into the text is one line of CSS. Easy to put in, easy to take out again. See how players react. It could even be argued that the very minimal text you favor might alleviate the discovery problem. My bet is they'll just be frustrated; go ahead and prove me wrong. It could work out, if nearly any word you can think to click has some interesting effect, and there's no narrative to actually progress with. But it would be a very specific type of game; is that what you want to make?


Well, like you say, easy enough to do and what's the harm throwing it out there to see how it's received? I have absolutely nothing to lose.

If I was one of these who makes every location a novella, I would concede you probably have a point, but like you say with my minimalist descriptions I'm hoping it won't be the frustrating experience you're imagining.

Let's wait and see.


Whilst it's nice to see people experimenting with ideas, I'm inclined to agree with felixp7 that most players will find this extremely frustrating. The problem is, what's obvious to the developer is rarely obvious to the player and I think I would very quickly just start randomly clicking words in a desperate bid to progress the story.

I generally don't play parser based text adventures anymore because, for me, trying to guess the required verb isn't much fun and completely kills the immersion. I much prefer gamebooks as they let me focus on the story and my choices, rather than having to fight the design. Again, for me at least, this would be a step in the wrong direction.

I'll be honest, the thing I really wish people here would focus on is making their games look a little less awful. I am so sick of playing games where no thought has been given to the UI. Worse still, the fact that half the games here don't work on mobiles or tablets is bonkers, given that this is the way most people consume web-based content nowadays. rant over


Well, that's two thumbs down. Maybe I'll release two versions and let the player decide.


It might just about work if there is hardly any text (like in the demo you uploaded the other day). As someone else said, it's just a few lines of CSS, so just make the game and see which version people prefer.

The Pixie

How about if there was a (reverse) fade effect, and the links started like normal text, but changed over say 30 seconds to become obvious?

The Pixie said:
How about if there was a (reverse) fade effect, and the links started like normal text, but changed over say 30 seconds to become obvious?

Yes, I love that! Perhaps not 30 seconds as it wouldn't take that long to read, but yes, I'll look into this if it's not too complicated.


This was a great idea, TP. It's like the best of both worlds.

I've gone for a slightly different effect, though. When the room loads the links fade in from zero opacity to full opacity over 7 seconds, giving the player a quick memory log of where the links were (there's never any more than three in any one passage)

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