Open ended CYOA… has anyone done this?

I've seen a few CYOA games where the authors come back and add alternative branches as they write them; if you reach a part that isn't finished, you would need to keep checking back to see if they completed it yet. And I've seen sites where anyone can add their own chapters where a story drops off; but that often means that there's a lot of variation in quality.

But I'm wondering, has anyone looked into using an open-ended story as a way to monetise a story/game? Like, when you see an "unwritten" chapter, there's probably some icon or colour change to let you know the story ends there. So you can see which chapters are done, and you can choose to follow one of those.

Or if you really want to see an option that isn't yet written, you can click on it and request an email notification when the page is written. Where there's an option to add some suggestions that the author will see when they come to write it, and another optional field where you can pay a small fee to bump this chapter to the front of the author's queue. For example, you could have a paypal or crypto link to send money, and have the transaction ID sent in with your request.

And now the game theory part of my mind has started thinking about how this could be implemented…

Click for one idea for a possible system

This uses a kind of virtual currency that I'm going to name § for no real reason.

  • When the story/game is created, the first chapter has a pool of §1000 placed on it.
  • When they are ready to write, the author runs a utility that updates the database
  • Every few minutes (calculated in bulk when the update script is run):
    • The script starts at the first page, and picks a random link from it
    • And carries on doing that until it reaches an unwritten page
    • Each page that route passes through gives ½% of its current pool to the next one along the chain
    • So the § flows from the start to the end of the story
  • After updating the values, the author writes the unwritten page with most § in its pool
  • The now-written page keeps its pool, plus a random amount between §30 and 30%
    • Each new unwritten page it links to gets an initial pool equal to 10% of the parent page's
    • This means that a page with a big pool will have a higher chance of the following page appearing soon as well
  • When a reader/player requests a notification for a specific page being updated:
    • The game includes the path they took to get there in the request
    • Each page they passed through passes a random amount between 2-10% of its pool to the next one
    • The first page they visited with an under-§25 pool also gains §1
    • This means that popular paths get extended sooner
    • If the player makes a paypal or crypto donation, they add an amount directly to the pool of the page they're requesting
    • The exchange rate for this could be set by the author
      • Or it could be based on the ratio of the donations-per-year to the total number of § in circulation

What do you think?

Hey, you could even extend this by allowing other writers to join in. When your page is approved, you earn some reward based on the amount in its pool. Presumably then you'd need some way to redeem them as well, and that's getting way more complicated.

But yeah… what do you think of the idea of…

  1. An open-ended CYOA where you can request an email notification when the chapter you're waiting for is added
  2. Giving the author of such a story tools to let them focus on the most-awaited chapters
  3. Allowing players/readers to leave a 'tip' to bump the page they want to the front of the queue

Could be an interesting way to fund interactive fiction… and make it easier to focus on the parts that people want to read


Clever, but the problem I see is that ALL for the story is kept on-line, and could not be downloaded. Well, it could, but you would need to download everything first to play it. AND, Quest's version of save only allows you to continue with your current version of the story. you would need to start over every time the story updated. AND, as for on-line, I don't think Quest would do any better there.
I think your best bet would be an on-line, maybe html, website setup using multiple webpages, one for each "room" in the story.
And each choice you make, or exit you take, would take you to a different webpage.
This could be created like a MUD, with several people moving around between pages.
Thinking about this, I think doable, but not with Quest.


Downloading the game would be fairly limited; probably only a good idea if it can auto-update in the background. But as the updates are just more text, I don't think that would be hard to do.

Not sure why you're making such a big deal about Quest. It wouldn't be an ideal engine, but would work fine for online play; the only interaction necessary would be submitting a form (probably submitting to a google forms database), and possibly hooking in a payment processor (for which there are existing client-side libraries). I already mentioned recording a log of pages visited, so you could easily put that in a cookie to resume play from the same point when upgrading to a later version.

A separate URI for each page might make bookmarking pages easier for the player, but I don't see the benefit in making them separate pages. Easier to use a simple db, maybe even preload pages to make it more responsive.

But I'm distracting myself again; this isn't an implementation post. The question was if you think the idea is a good one; and if people might play it.


Basically an interesting idea, but when it comes to paying...

Personally, I'm not a fan of episodic games. I wait until all parts are finished and then play through the game completely. I wouldn't pay money in between either, because I can't be sure what I'll get. Do I just get an extra page or a whole story arc? What if a lot of people want different parts expanded? How long do I then have to wait until it continues in my place?

I also imagine it to be difficult for the author. He always has to expand the scenes that the customer wants. Other scenes that might also have potential remain unconsidered.
In addition, the author loses some control over his story if he has to adapt to his customers. If he's only interested in making money, that's fine. If he wants to tell his story, then no.


I did something that smells like it before. We had a very simple game system and I started the story on a forum. I added much of the story as fast as I could write and then, at the branching points, there was a poll where the readers voted for rhe different choices, opening a branching. The good stuff about it was I never had to actually write all the unselected branhes.


Thanks for reminding me that I posted here :) I was just thinking about this yesterday, when I was playing with some of the code for it.

I've written a quick script to draw a map of the bits of the story I've already written… looks like it's quite densely packed already, but there's still a lot of options to add where the pink "unfinished" balloons are.

Don't ask me why the red 'end' balloon is at the right hand side instead of at the bottom; graphviz was being kind of weird with me. (Hopefully I've shrunk this down enough to make the text illegible.

I figured that having some kind of direction would help me focus on different parts of the story; giving a little focus while still letting me explore different parts of the map. A lot of the time with projects like this, a big part of the problem is that I don't know which options to work on first. So working on the ones that most people play seems like a good choice :-)


Are the red ballons endings? You have a lot of failures right in the begining of the game then, huh?


I think I already said, the pink balloons are incomplete paths that I haven't written yet. The ending is at the bottom right.


Oh, sorry. I assumed the "ufinished" meant unfinished quest, like a bad ending. I hate whenI look at one of my outlines and things are this way. I have a terrible time trying to reset my mind to the same state things were at the beginning of the game to do any unlinked part.


I've written a couple of games in Squiffy that randomize - you can play them over and over and they play different each time (I don't like the thought of putting all that work into something you can only play a few times). The thing is, doing that, I can add to them - put in more side paths and different adventures. One one site where I post up an unlisted game, I frequently ask users what other elements they'd like to see .Once you get the basic game working so that the play is defined and the goal is set, there is no end to the number of side adventures you add (especially if the side adventures have a degree of randomness to them too.


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