Choice in Games:

Total posts: [24]
1 Ekuran7th Dec 2013 07:36:57 PM from somewhere. , Relationship Status: watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
Because that's what it's all about, and whatnot.
[Insert seemingly profound or amusing phrase here.]
Gunpla is amazing!
Probably need a better opening than that.

But as I was saying, I think that actual choices that affect the gameplay and diverge the path of the game are better than "squiggle lines" where you follow a linear path but ultimately play the same levels and story with minor differences like in The Walking Dead
3 VeryMelon7th Dec 2013 07:40:50 PM from United States , Relationship Status: In Spades with myself
What Thorn said.
Gunpla is amazing!
Heavy Rain may have had bad writing, but the use of 4 characters and their decisions affecting certain scenes and the final act was a good idea that Tell Tale should consider.

I think splitting their games into "episodes" hurts their ability to truly diverge from paths, as episodes require a sort of "foundation" to work off of instead of just going in wildly different directions.
5 Enlong7th Dec 2013 07:55:12 PM from The Underground Facility , Relationship Status: is commanded toŚ WANK!
Court Dragon
Though, if they still wanted to go episodically, it could still work.

First, you'd need some sort of save transfer feature, to inform Episode 2 of what you did in Episode 1. Then, efect the progression of Episode 2 in some way based on that. Have characters who died stay dead and characers who were alive stay alive, etc. Perhaps the avenues open to you in Episode 2 will depend on what you did in Episode 1 to some extent. Like, if you let Johnny Shoveldude die in episode 1, you don't have an option to dig under this barricade, but maybe you can solicit Emma Ownsaladder instead (to be exremely specific and boring of me).

Repeat the process for successive episodes. The last episode would have a variety of endings. Which ones are availible depending on he choices you made in the previous episodes. For example, you can't rally the town to fight off the horde with a rallying speech at the last minute if people have been losing faith in you all series for killing people when it suited you.
I have a message from another time...
6 Ekuran7th Dec 2013 08:23:34 PM from somewhere. , Relationship Status: watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
I feel this Extra Credits video is relevant.

I agree, though, that given a game with properly implemented Illusion of Choice and a Game with properly implemented Actual Choice, the later will almost always be the better game to me if they're otherwise equal in quality.
[Insert seemingly profound or amusing phrase here.]
7 Irene7th Dec 2013 08:28:39 PM from Friend Code: 1203-9265-8784 and 4571-1389-1915 , Relationship Status: It's complicated
I am a Real American
If I have choices that affect any part of the story, I don't feel there's a point to that(note, a special exception to me exists if the only thing is a slight bit of dialogue if you're male or female) if the ending is always the same.

The journey alone isn't enough for me. The ending feels just as important entirely. Even small differences matter to me.

For RPG's, I don't mind linearity, but I also like exploration. I do not like being blocked from exploring in general. Keep in mind things like a Beef Gate is fine with me, but other kinds of roadblocks feel pointless. I'll go through the game as normal if I want to. It's okay to do things out of order, because that's just catering to other kinds of players while allowing regular players to do things in order as well. Nothing wrong with the extra options, that you entirely can choose to take.

Action Adventure games, unless side-scrolling(as the main gameplay, not just having a few sections), should not be linear at all. While it's forgiveable if there is no actual Hub, anything with a Hub should have some more choices. Even if it's simply redoing a course or going back later for an item. I feel that the Sonic Adventure series perfected this idea, despite the linearity in story only. There's a lot to do. Later Mario games, especially Hubs that you can move around in(that aren't a direct Level Select, like, Super Mario Bros. 3 type-hubs, but hubs like Super Mario 64), have zero point to pure linearity. Exploration is the key. I liked it when Zelda games had ways to branch off from the key path. Even small branches is fine with me. As long as there's some way to differently do Dungeons out of order, I'm more preferenced towards that game. Sometimes the gameplay can help it enough to ignore this, however. But in general, I prefer Zelda 1-style progression. Going through it in order benefits you a lot, but doing things out of order is fine too.

The key point is letting the players do it how they want to do it. It's also alright to give glaring hints to the most fruitful(or how the story would naturally play out) order if it's not an RPG, of course. Since those are pretty obvious with hints, usually due to the story being shown.(and a few non-story-based hints are a good idea too, since cutscenes are skippable in many cases anyway)
8 Ramidel8th Dec 2013 05:07:45 AM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
One issue with choice is making the various choices all be interesting. A really broad game with a lot of possible paths increases replay value, but decreases the content value of a single playthrough. Der Langrisser, for example, had twenty maps per path, but a total of about twice that because of the three branching points.

That said, if well-done, it makes a game really feel alive as well as adding replay value. Der Langrisser is an example, where your choices pick both the path and the ending; so is Alpha Protocol, where almost all the missions are scripted and most are done in order...but the way you handle each mission affects the game and the ending.

Also, I may be the only one who thinks this way, but I absolutely hate the idea of a Golden Ending. There should be multiple valid choices for an ending if you're going to have an ending at all; Deus Ex and sequels are pretty good at this, but one of my favorites was the original Devil Survivor. In fact, I absolutely hate hate HATE Overclocked's 8th Day, because it removes the moral ambiguity from the endings and gives you a free pass to fix the consequences of the Bad Ending from the original game. Nonono, I liked it when the endings were a choice between possible solutions to the demon problem, all with their pros and cons.
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9 GeekCodeRed8th Dec 2013 06:39:15 PM from A, A, B, B, A , Relationship Status: TV Tropes ruined my love life
Did you know this section has a character limit?
The one game I've played where choices meant something in the narrative, did it in a strange way. They gave you choices, and it was plainly obvious, for the most part, where these choices were. They created narrative divergences, but they then ran parallel with the other option. It looked like these choices didn't affect much, but what it did stayed affected. Later in the game, these choices started to push away from each other, but still ran parallel for the most part. In the end, these choices decided on which of a small group of endings you received. These endings could be split by the last choice, and in general the last choice affected the tone of the ending, with differing shades of light and darkness being offered by the other choices you made.
A very simple system, but a nice start for a franchise's beginning experiment with choice systems.

edited 8th Dec '13 6:39:46 PM by GeekCodeRed

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10 Balmung8th Dec 2013 11:27:37 PM from Omaha, NE, Free American Empire , Relationship Status: GAR for Archer
Break the Chains
Speaking of interestingness of choices, there are also problems like when one choice is clearly good and one is clearly bad. Not even necessarily morally, but that one decision only hurts you and the other only rewards you, so that, at least rationally, it's not even a real choice. Crusader Kings II is really bad about this with its personality traits. If you have few enough personality traits, you can get an event that forces you to make a choice between a chance to get one trait and a chance to get another, conflicting trait. In some cases, each has some merit, as, for example, to become Honest or Deceitful, both have ups and downs (+diplomacy/-intrigue and the reverse), but if you get to choose between a Vice (Seven Deadly Sins) and a Virtue, (Seven Heavenly Virtues), with the exception of Pride/Humility (+prestige vs +piety) and Lust/Chastity, the Virtue is quite consistently better and has no future drawbacks whatsoever. For example, Gluttony gets you nothing but a stewardship hit and no benefit elsewhere, whatsoever. And Slothful only has one benefit: You're much less likely to become Stressed (which reduces your life span and is incredibly hard to lose), but that's mitigated by making you more likely to become Depressed, which also reduces your life expectancy (both directly and through allowing you to commit suicide).

edited 8th Dec '13 11:28:44 PM by Balmung

11 TobiasDrake9th Dec 2013 08:00:21 AM from Colorado, USA , Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Always watching, never seen
[up] Games often like dangling a carrot in front of your nose to encourage you to make Good choices, while Evil choices just hurt you and are dumb. Honestly, I find this silly, because it's a reversal of what the situation is supposed to be. Evil is all about self-gratifications, where Good is about giving of yourself. If any option should have an obvious prize to it, it's the Evil choice. Good is supposed to be its OWN reward; if you're only doing it because it has better perks, that's not Good, that's still selfishness.

A good moral choice is "Keep the money for yourself, or give it to the starving family." If you give it to the family, they're happy, but you don't have the money, and they don't pull a sword or something out of their ass that is awesome and totally better than money. Your reward for feeding them is that they get to eat, and nothing else. There might be an option to give them the money but have the eldest son work it off as your squire, but that is the Neutral option. Good is selfless, Evil is selfish, Neutral finds a solution that is beneficial to us both.

More games need to remember that moral neutrality is its own thing, and not just "behaviorally inconsistent person who makes Good and Evil choices on a coin toss".

edited 9th Dec '13 8:04:31 AM by TobiasDrake

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[up] With the proviso that choosing the good choice should generally have various long term benefits, in terms of reputation. If you are regularly selfless and honorable, you should have an easier time gaining allies, persuading people to support you, and otherwise getting respect. . . though this should be a benefit that only really kicks in long term. If you want to benefit from being good, you should really have to *be good*, even when it hurts short term.
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13 Clarste9th Dec 2013 08:25:58 AM , Relationship Status: Non-Canon
One Winged Egret
Or you could be evil but with good PR. If your only motivation to be good is long term advantage then that's still selfish, just more farsighted. And plenty of gamers are farsighted, in terms of putting off short-term gain for long term gain. Ultimately what matters if you're trying to roleplay a "good" character is What You Are in the Dark.

As for choice itself, I don't like it. It makes games less fun to play. Theoretically it creates replay value, but I really don't have the time or patience to replay a game just to get a different ending, and the very nature of it means less time was spent on any given storyline. If the multiple paths are meant to supplement each other to create one true story from multiple perspectives or whatever then that's fine, but honestly I'd prefer to be playing a different character or something instead of reloading to a decision point and choosing the other option.
Choice in a game's story is something I love to see, but unfortunately it's not done very well very often. Either the choices have limited impact, the "right" decisions too obvious, or (in the case of Alpha Protocol, which probably had the best use of choice in any game I've played) too short.

There's a couple things I think might be important.

1. If you're going to nullify the choices, hide it as well as you can. The Walking Dead did a great job on this front; I didn't realize how linear it was until I looked up the alternate routes.

2. If the player is going to make a choice, make them feel involved and not like they're directing a sequence. I'm talking about games that have choices, but already have given the protagonist their own personality and motivations independent from the player - Stuff like Jensen's sour attitude in Human Revolution or Jodie adoring Ryan in Beyond Two Souls.

3. Offer choices that aren't black and white. They're not interesting, and since most players will be good or bad 100% of the time you're pretty much left with only two versions of the story.

5. Write the story with choice in mind. 99% of the time there's an obvious "true" path and the others don't really work as stand-alone stories. Don't make it so that the player's decisions can conflict with the themes of the plot; write it so that all the paths work as narratives.

edited 9th Dec '13 6:39:29 PM by RTaco

15 Noaqiyeum11th Dec 2013 08:31:05 AM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
[up] [cough why Star Control II is better than Mass Effect cough]
Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
As for choice itself, I don't like it. It makes games less fun to play.

Linearity definitely has appeal, a ton of people like having a clear goal and path to follow. More open-ended games tend to be more of a core gamer thing, except for maybe The Sims. That's why 2D Mario is so much more successful, and also why Super Mario 3D Land was such a huge success.

Still, there's definitely explorational-type games that have done well, like Pokemon, Tomb Raider, the Elder Scrolls, etc. I think Pokemon is pretty much the only game of that type that has mass-appeal though, and it does have some linearity.

One type of choice that I think is highly accessible though, is "Choose your character".
17 TobiasDrake11th Dec 2013 09:33:58 AM from Colorado, USA , Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Always watching, never seen
There will always be limits to the amount of choice you're given. You can't decide to have Commander Shepard flip off the Alliance and go become a space pirate. You can't choose to have the Grey Warden of Dragon Age: Origins decide, "Fuck this," and move to Antiva, leaving the Blight for someone else to deal with. You can't make Walking Dead's Lee butcher Clementine with an axe, or shoot Ben in the head the moment you meet him.

There are problems with how choice is implemented, but there are also problems with how it's received. Ultimately, no matter how much of your character is left for you to mold, there will always be choices you can't make. This is why I prefer characters who have their own sense of identity versus characters who are supposed to be a blank slate; the character will never BE a blank slate, and trying to make them such shackles what the writers can do with him. A blank slate is an empty character, and empty characters are boring no matter what medium you're in.

Mass Effect's Commander Shepard is a good example. He is not a blank slate. He has his own goal that he is determined to follow through, and you cannot choose to shirk it. You choose which members of his crew to take with you on missions, but he decides who gets to be on the ship in the first place. You influence the choices he makes; you don't directly control every thought and process in his head. The end result is a very strong character who is very flexible in how he can develop, but is still has a very solid identity. He is not you, he will never be you, but you still have the agency of choice in how he operates.

By contrast, the main character of the Elder Scrolls series is always an empty character. From Arena to Skyrim, your character is the least interesting part of the entire story, with the plot revolving around WHAT you are, because WHO you are is a shell. Who you are - your motivations, your personality, your history - is irrelevant. You don't have a past. You sprang into existence fully-formed from the moment you turned on the game. Your character has no identity, and the only reason anyone cares that s/he exists is because of things you're going to do.

Regarding the illusion of choice: I don't have a problem with it. I like it when it's done well. The writers do need to stop making a clear Right Answer when doing so, however. There is no point in giving a choice to the player when it's Mother Theresa or baby eating. Be more creative than that, or don't bother making the choice at all.

I would really like it if the writers and the players could make an agreement that the writers would stop making bland, hackneyed binary moral choices if the players will stop bitching that they can't make Hawke assassinate the Viscount in Act I, enslave the Arishok, and conquer the world with an army of qunari sex slaves, or whatever other ideas just spontaneously jumped into their mind.
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18 onyhow11th Dec 2013 09:36:14 AM , Relationship Status: Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Too much adorableness
^ Then again isn't that has to do a lot with the limitation of the medium itself? As in, ALL medium that's not tabletop RPG/LARP?
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19 TobiasDrake11th Dec 2013 09:43:19 AM from Colorado, USA , Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Always watching, never seen
Yes, it does.

If you want a game that has absolute 100% freedom of choice, you're looking for a game with a live Game Master. Even then, many of those situations still fall prey to the fact that the Game Master only has so much prepared, and asking him to improvise a whole new story on the spot because you decided to shirk the obvious plot hook and go see what's on the other side of that mountain that he offhandedly mentioned in a description is probably going to significantly reduce the quality of the game's content.

Basically: any player who looks at the game's story and decides, "LOL NO, screw that plot," is going to be significantly disappointed when it turns out the game was created with that story in mind. Even in the Elder Scrolls, it's still there. You can ignore Skyrim's storyline all you want, but you're still going to be accosted by dragons at every turn.

edited 11th Dec '13 9:46:54 AM by TobiasDrake

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@Toby: I think undefined characters are perfectly fine for most types of video games. Even for some RPGs it works great. You say it's "boring", but those types of playable characters were never really meant to be "characters" in the first place, just avatars. Of course you can't have 100% choice, but that's not really the point of those either.

Basically: any player who looks at the game's story and decides, "LOL NO, screw that plot, " is going to be significantly disappointed when it turns out the game was created with that story in mind. Even in the Elder Scrolls, it's still there. You can ignore Skyrim's storyline all you want, but you're still going to be accosted by dragons at every turn.

Except no, dragon encounters are pretty infrequent, and it's not really "story", just an ordinary enemy. Skyrim was actually designed so you wander around aimlessly and do shit.

Yes, if you want to "complete" the game you have to do the main quest, but you can completely ignore it both before and afterwards.

And aside from that, other Bethesda games like New Vegas have no equivalent of dragons, which aren't really plot in the first place.

edited 11th Dec '13 10:17:09 AM by CassidyTheDevil

21 Tarsen11th Dec 2013 10:19:16 AM from FC: 2165-5763-7629 , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
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last i checked, if you want to do the civil war questline you have to kill milmurnir and start off the main quest proper by being acknowledged as the dragonborn. otherwise balgruuf wont have the time to deal with you and your message.

the bane of a non-dragonborn run, but whatever. easy enough to do and then ignore.

edited 11th Dec '13 10:19:26 AM by Tarsen

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23 Noaqiyeum11th Dec 2013 11:00:50 AM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
I think it helps if the central plot is something that any sane person would do. In the cases of Mass Effect, The Walking Dead, or Alpha Protocol, the plot works with pretty much any type of player (except apathetic or suicidal ones, but those people probably wouldn't be playing the game in the first place) because they're all fights for survival.

It's a bad idea to give the player some choice but still force them to pursue a goal that they wouldn't choose to on their own.
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Total posts: 24