I don’t entirely know the best way to phrase this. But it weighed a little bit on my mind for one reason or another. And that’s how does one keep the pacing as well as just general investment good enough for your average player to tolerate playing a full-length project all the way to the end? Reading the story and all.
The way I’m thinking currently is that achieving this is very nuanced and doesn’t have a simple answer to it whatsoever so what’s your perspective on it? How long can you tolerate reading a wordy or not-so-wordy story over a smaller amount of chapters vs a larger amount of chapters? Are there perhaps some methods that romhacks don’t make use of that contributes to the project being a little bit of a slog to play through even if individual maps take a fairly normal amount of time to take? Can good flow make someone forget how much time or turns it took to finish a map?
I’m throwing too many questions at the wall. But this is the sort of place to ask such things. But it’s all in the name of what steps someone can take to achieve balance in a project that is perhaps over 30 chapters long.
In general, the reason why a player would drop a game is more due game/level design than the story itself, even though an engaging story and characters can help to keep the player invested (and the contrary is also true).
A good thing to avoid loss of investment is to diversify chapters: for example if chapter 14 of your game is a long and hard map, it’s better that the following chapter is a shorter map, this way the player can breathe a bit after a very engaging moments. If you always keep the player in hard levels, it will be taxing mentally for him, and the exhaustion can easily make people drop a game. In general, smaller is better, and long maps should be keep for special occasion, so that they feel impactful. If your project is full of maps that take a long time to finish (without counting potentials reset), it will be hard to keep most of players engaged.
Also, having different kinds of objectives in different chapters, having varied environments (cities, plains, forests, fort, etc.), and making good level-design gimmick can helps in this regards. Because, to take an extreme example, if in your project 10 successive chapters are fort missions where the objective is to “kill the boss” on his throne, it can lead to the player being bored of doing always the same things. Especially if the difficulty is not well handled: if you are always doing the same things, but the game is very hard/very easy, it will be frustrating or feel not very fulfilling.
Then, when it come to difficulty, avoid unfair mechanics (like ambush spawns or too much ballista and long-distance magic), they are the worse way to build up frustration
Don’t make it wordy. Instead of dumping all the lore in a single scene, show bits of it to the player throughout the course of the whole game, in supports, item descriptions, visits to villages/houses, etc… I particularly like the last ones because it makes the lore “optional”, which is a plus if you want to please both players that care about lore and players who don’t.
In a normal, written story, the way to keep interest is to add stakes. If the characters do not do something, something very real will happen. And don’t be the cartoons where they have stakes, but not really since everything is always resolved without a problem. Make the stakes real. Secondly, for long dialogue, make the dialogue necessary. If something has no purpose other than just being there, then take it out. Finally, make your characters real and flawed. Don’t have the typical FE protagonist who is all good all the time. A real person makes mistakes and flounders sometimes. Avoid what I call “Nametag Broomsticks” being characters that could be replaced with a named broomstick and nothing would change. Though this is mostly resolved through supports.