Two weeks ago, I took a list of the things that people from my April A to Z interviews had told me spoils a gamebook for them. This week, I list all the things that makes a gamebook stand out for them and ask what makes a gamebook stand out for YOU!?
No gamebook is going to be perfect, but to be considered great it needs to have something special about it. If the special thing is particularly good, then it may mean that any flaws in the book are forgivable. For example, Creature of Havoc is full of instant deaths, but it is still considered great for its detailed background, great characters and having the satisfaction that you can finally beat it. Lone Wolf can sometimes railroad you a bit, but its rich story more than makes up for that. In some cases what makes this book special could be seen to be a flaw, but it is done so well that no one cares For example, Fabled Lands doesn't have a narrative, but no one cares because there's a huge world to explore.
Also, trying to do too many special things in a gamebook will just spoil it. And in some cases, putting more docus on one aspect will have to take away from another aspect. No one gamebook can appeal to everyone, but if there are people who love it, it will do well. As Mark Rosewater says "If you make a game that everyone likes, yet no one loves it will fail."
Mark didn't mention anything about hate because it doesn't matter if someone hates something as long as there are people who also love it. That's the whole reason Marmite still sells.
So here are some things that make a gamebook special. Which ones do you think are most important?
Being meta and self aware.
Story and quality of writing
Balance between plot and puzzle
Strong central storyline and detailed setting
Plenty to explore
Getting into the characters
Having decisions that make a difference to the outcome
Depth and breadth of choices