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Balancing Choice With Irreversible Consequences In Games 352

The Moving Pixels blog has an article about the delicate balance within video games between giving players meaningful choices and consequences that cannot necessarily be changed if the player doesn't like her choice afterward. Quoting: "One of my more visceral experiences in gaming came recently while playing Mass Effect 2, in which a series of events led me to believe that I'd just indirectly murdered most of my crew. When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding, and as control was given over to me once more, I did the only thing that I thought was reasonable to do: I reset the game. This, of course, only led to the revelation that the event was preordained and the inference that (by BioWare's logic) a high degree of magical charisma and blue-colored decision making meant that I could get everything back to normal. ... Charitably, I could say BioWare at least did a good job of conditioning my expectations in such a way that the game could garner this response, but the fact remains: when confronted with a consequence that I couldn't handle, my immediate player's response was to stop and get a do-over. Inevitability was only something that I could accept once it was directly shown to me."
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Balancing Choice With Irreversible Consequences In Games

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  • by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:29AM (#34859692) Homepage

    Look, if I wanted my actions to have consequences, I'd be living real life, not playing video games!

    Just give me a good, linear narrative with lots of explosions.

    • Just give me a good, linear narrative with lots of explosions.

      That's what movies are for!

      Though having said that, I still love stuff like Half-Life and Uncharted, but the single player stuff only lasts for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks at most if you don't have a lot of time to play.

      The rest of the time, I much prefer more freeform stuff like GTA where the game world itself is just as entertaining as the story.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        the single player stuff only lasts for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks at most if you don't have a lot of time to play.

        At which point you're done with the game unless you can convince all your friends to buy a copy of the same game.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:03PM (#34862710) Homepage Journal

        This is the plot of 90% of action movies and games, isn't it? Everyone dies so the hero can take on an entire army by himself... In fact he might as well put them out of their misery himself so we don't have to hear about their stupid family and how they only have one day left in the Core and then the inevitable "tell Sarah and the kids I love them..." crap as they bleed to death.

        The only difference here is that this bit of the plot has moved from the cheezy FMV sequence to be part of the actual game. We have Call of Duty/Medal of Honour to thank for that where you hit the beech at Dunkirk, everyone on your side gets mown down and then you fight your way to Berlin single handedly only to find that the last boss (Hitler) realised the futility of resisting your one-man assault (even if he can shoot lasers out of his eyes) and shot himself. Either that or he was hoping one of his guys would go on a similar solo orgy of violence and destruction if all his team mates were wiped out leaving him as the last/only hope for victory.

        • It's "Corps" btw - as in corporation, and corpse. In this case Corps meaning a body of people rather than just a body.

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:54PM (#34864780) Journal

          Eh, it could be worse. E.g., another Bioware specialty, the impulsive turncoat who you _do_ get to put out of his/her misery yourself because he actually joins the bad guy and starts attacking you.

          I mean, my end battle of NWN2 went something like this. Mind you, not _literally_, but a decent "artist's impression":

          So you've spent countless hours gathering your team, solving their side quests, listening to their sob stories, and training and arming them for the final confrontation with the incarnation of supreme evil. Just as you're done listening to his mandatory gloating and command your team to draw your weapons, your druid interrupts:

          Druid: "Err, actually I'm joining him against you."
          You: "What the...? This is the guy who killed all your friends, desecrated your sacred grove, and tried to kill you. Repeatedly. And you're joining him?"
          Druid: "Err, yes, but you never bought me a pony!"
          You: "Lady, there are no ponies in this game."
          Druid: "Excuses, excuses. And you only listened to me sob about how mom loved my sister more than me 100 times, disregarding my emotional need to do that before and after each rest."
          You: "Lady, it's D&D. We've been hitting rest every 5 minutes so you can remember your spells. Far from me to suggest seeing a neurologist, but... anyway, there's no freaking way anyone'll start _that_ talk again every 5 minutes."
          Druid: "Hrmpf! That's just the kind of insensitivity I'm talking about! Well, I'm off!"
          You: "Damn! Ok, anyone else feel like sharing anything like that?"
          Paladin: "Actually, I'm switching sides too."
          You: "What the hell? Dude, why? I thought we were like brothers!"
          Paladin: "Your blatant disregard of the lawful good ethos, that's why. I counted no less than 5 cases of jay walking, 2 broken promises to find someone's lost kitten and respectively heirloom underpants, 4 cases of public drunkenness..."
          You: "Ok, ok, I get the idea. But that guy is chaotic evil and your sworn arch-enemy!"
          Paladin: "Eh, I'll just atone afterwards."
          You: "Fuck! Anyone else?"
          Rogue: "Me too."
          You: "But... but... didn't I buy you all that stuff, and go on all your silly quests to find your long lost puppy and chuck eggs at your ex-boyfriend's house, and all that?"
          Rogue: "Yeah, but you never read me bedtime stories, and made fun of my cap with cat ears, and seemed to enjoy telling me that there's no Santa."
          You: "Lady, you're twenty-eight years old. That's twenty years overdue to learn about Santa."
          Rogue: "Hrm. Meanie. Besides, just look at him. He's sooo dreamy with those bulging muscles and red glowing eyes..."
          Evil Boss: "I'LL RIP YOUR HEART OUT AND EAT IT!"
          Rogue: "Oooh, kinky!"

          It may even seem palatable when it's, say, the immature nerd stereotype of a sorceress that does an impulsive jumping ship because she thinks you (as a male character) like the male mage more than her. It's more of a WTF when it's the mature, level headed mage guy who is on a mission to stop the Evil Boss deserts to him and fights you, because he thinks you like the sorceress more than him.

          I mean, fuck, I'm even all understanding about other lifestyles and orientations and all, but trying to kill me for liking the girl more is a bit extreme ;)

          Or like in KOTOR where, because Bastilla got kidnapped and tortured by Darth Malak, while I on the other hand am on a quest to save her, of course the next time I meet Bastilla, she tries to kill me for Malak. I mean, gee, Stockholm Syndrome is good and fine, but when you start killing people for the guy that kidnapped and tortured you, you're taking it a tad too far ;)

          • In fairness to the KOTOR plot, there does seem to be an awful lot of that mentality flying around the Star Wars universe.

          • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:19PM (#34865244)
            I call that kind of charater the Bioware woman. Bastila is a great example, as is Aribeth of Neverwinter Nights. In both cases they are staunchly good to the point of annoyance only to immediately succumb to absolute evil near the end of the game, deciding that the big bad's plan of destroying the world is A-okay.

            Bioware usually writes damn good characters but they love this kind of character so much that it's becoming a) formulaic and b) hard to take seriously anymore.

            Aribeth: "I have joined the bad guys because my lover was wrongfully executed! Oh the sorrow..."
            Player: "Well, of course you did."
            Aribeth: "...the pain, the-- what?"
            Player: "Yeah, you're female, you used to be lawful good and we're in a Bioware game. Of course you'd turn chaotic evil and join the bad guys. I saw this coming since chapter one."
            Aribeth: "I will not have you mock my hardship! Die, you--"
            Player: "Yeah, whatever. We both know you're just a tiny speed bump between my party of epic-level demigods and the final battle. Your new name is Mid-Boss."
            Mid-Boss: "I should've signed up with Nippon Ichi..."

            Of course in a Nippon Ichi game she'd face a party of level 9999 demigods.
            • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:44PM (#34865674) Journal

              Well, it's probably not a bad name for it, but in all fairness it's not just the women.

              E.g., I explicitly mentioned the Paladin, and he's not just a guy there, but one of the hardest cases to wrap my mind around. I mean, they spend the whole game characterizing him as the guy who does what's right for the people, and fights evil just because he's a Paladin... and then, bam, he'll refuse to fight the Ultimate Evil Boss (TM) because I talked to the Ranger more than to him. WTF? What kind of a two-year-old's reaction is that? And where's that whole paladin ethos now?

              And it's pretty much gotten worse recently. I mean, far from me to suggest it's because they were also selling a DLC with presents to improve the mood of party members, but in Dragon Age otherwise pretty much the only role you could actually role-play and have your party members stay with you was that of a sycophant. You had to pretend to be the good and honourable guy to one character, the might-makes-right insensitive prick/cunt to the other, while reassuring another that you too love backstabbing innocents and kicking puppies, while being the mopey goth who hates all humanity to a fourth, and so on, while also managing who's within earshot when you do that. Pretty much any having a consistent personality of your own is punished by the game swift and hard. And even then you get random unpredictable twists like the devout fundie party member throwing a fit and liking you less, if you bring some soldiers religious symbols to raise their morale before a fight. (She thinks real faith has to come from within, see?) So better save often and try with a different party when that happens.

              But yeah, you're right, that's my problem: I'm starting to find it difficult to take some characters seriously any more.

    • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:03AM (#34859874) Homepage

      Or playing nethack.

      No reset, no checkpoint, no turning back. Unless you cheat every decision is final and will result in you, the game or both changing somewhat.

      The only "reset" is to start from scratch which however will result in a completely different game.

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:15AM (#34859938) Homepage

        Nethack - even through it's considered obscure and lacks a user friendly interface is very much like life.

        Remember kids - Reality has no second life. What is done is done. And experience is gained. It's only when you are old you know how you should have done things.

        • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
          Well life doesn't feature unicorn, for one thing...

          Infinite lives is not the only feature request for life 2.0. Otherwise we would all be playing "Cubicle Programmer Online"
        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          it does have user friendly interfaces. they're not as good for playing fast and colored characters are actually easier to decode than a messy graphics trying to display a "dragon" that's the same size as a mouse.. so playing with them, you can sink even more time to it, but more of your brain time just goes into the interface, clicking here and there.

          it's just not considered very friendly a game when you have to remember 40+ memory rules and it still takes a LONG time to play to even get to the really annoy

          • the main plot [of Mass Effect 2] doesn't advance at all after the first 30 minutes of the game.

            Uh... what. Yes it does. In fact, the plot advances significantly over the course of the game.

            • I would have liked to see much more focus on the interaction with the Illusive Man in the story. I think it was kind of a casualty of the fact that the game can be played down two lines (broadly for or against IM, although in both cases you're stuck doing his missions when he tells you) that we didn't see more of this. Butting up against the council in the first game seemed much more involved. I understand what GP says, after you are "reborn" and find out evil characters X are behind everything, the game ma
              • broadly for or against IM, although in both cases you're stuck doing his missions when he tells you

                Interesting. I always viewed the two paths as 'using Cerberus' and 'working for Cerberus,' being paragon and renegade respectively. In my Paragon playthroughs, Cerberus was a handy source of personnel, materiel, and transport, and I was surprised that the IM never seemed to mind that I generally did the exact opposite of what he wanted.

                • by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... minus city> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:02PM (#34862700) Homepage

                  Both ME1 and ME2 do a pretty good job of railroading you along the plot while allowing you free choice.

                  They can do this because, fundamentally, you are 'good guy' either way, which is a hell of a lot easier then games that let you play as 'evil' and then try to have you save everyone for no explicable reason.

                  You just have the choice of saving the world as Captain Picard or Jack Bauer.

                  This extends to your bosses. You can either believe them and attempt to follow orders or you can just ignore whatever they say and either do what's 'right', or ignore them and do what's 'efficient'. And said orders can vary from reasonable to political asscovering nonsense in the first game, and from reasonable to clearly corporate corrupt in the second. But they are also both 'good guys', at least for the main goals they send you on. (Although you can get rather morally dubious side missions from both, although you can do whatever you want on them with no repercussions, because your bosses can't afford to 'punish' you in any way without risking your failure.)

                  It is a very well-designed alignment system.

        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:54AM (#34862554) Journal

          Yes, but going on about how it's like reality, is kinda silly in a thread where that's actually the whole complaint. If I wanted something that's exactly like reality, I'd be in reality, not in a computer game.

          What I want from a game is something _entertaining_. Realism or any other considerations are not the primary qualities there. They're only good if they help make a more entertaining experience, and should just get the fuck out of the way if not. It's that simple.

          In fact, I'd go on a limb and say that even those chanting the silly "but it's like REALITY" mantra, wouldn't really want a game that is exactly like reality. An actual true-to-reality simulation of a medieval adventure would probably be more like:

          You're not some noble adventurer, you're a serf (about 80% of the population was.) If you get off your master's demesne to explore anything, you're now a wanted fugitive. You'll likely spend the rest of your miserable life ploughing, reaping and helping maintain the castle and roads in the meantime. The most you'll contribute to a war is having your grain plundered by the enemy or "levied" by your own side. You'll probably die of a horrible disease before reaching 40 years old. Game over.

          Well, ok, that's not much fun. Let's try something else. *Flips through the list of Nethack classes*

          Ok, you're a knight. Most of the year you're supposed to manage 5 peasant families, and see to it that they produce enough to pay the taxes _and_ survive until next year, and maintain the roads, and pay for your horse and armour, etc. Most knights actually ploughed and reaped themselves too, to make ends meet, especially if they lost a battle differently and are still paying their own ransom. Think: like being saddled with a mortgage for life, except it's just for doing your duty to your king, not for buying a fancy car or house. In the only time when you're not doing that, you're supposed to be doing battle for your liege lord.

          Even a scratch during one of these battles can infect and kill you. But that's ok because on such campaigns you're more likely to die of some disease (even kings died of dysentery) than by the sword. And whatever doesn't kill you, will hurt like hell and make you less healthy, not stronger.

          The only time you'll actually have enough free time to go exploring dungeons is after 40, which even for most knights means you're a "senior citizen", basically. And probably by now thankful to _not_ risk your life every year. But that's ok, because there are no such dungeons to explore anyway.

          And if you do find one, see above: even a 1 inch deep poke with a sword can outright kill or disable you, not just lower your HP for a while. And even a scratch can infect and again kill you.

          Hmm, ok, maybe that's not it either... *Flips through the classes some more* Rogue. Well, that's easy, you'd be poor, do a couple of thefts and get hanged. You don't get to explore any dungeons either.

          Hmm, well, let's be generous and pretend the rogue is actually a mercenary, which is a more realistic medieval role, and we just decided we want realism:

          You're a mercenary, just by virtue that you were the second son and got kicked unceremoniously on the street when your elder brother inherited the family estate. You got treated like dirt by the knights all your life, and used as "wall fodder" in every single assault, before the more valuable troops. You're very unlikely to survive more than a couple of campaigns and causes of death include not just the enemy and disease, but also historically documented cases of the knights on your side charging through the mercenaries at the enemy. E.g., at Crecy, the French knights actually actively hacked down their own retreating crossbowmen mercenaries. In some battles you actually get to fight without pants so you can shit yourself while fighting. Yeah, dysentery was that bad. (See, Agincourt.) Each battle brings you a reminder that if captured, the nobles and knights will be ransomed, but your kind will get hanged. Y

      • by kainosnous ( 1753770 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:40AM (#34860060)

        When I first started playing nethack, I was frustrated by how almost everything was irreversible and game changing. I would quickly kill myself when sometihing didn't go the way I thought it should.

        I have since resolved to play out each game the best I can no matter how unlikely the odds seem to be. In the process, I've learned to be more careful with each choice that I make. This has the advantage of adding a more real sort of fear that gets the blood pumping. I get a real tingle up my spine when I "sense a wave of psychic energy" at the bottom of the Gnomish Mines.

        Another upside is that I find that I have more unique characters which sometimes require unusual tactics to get by. When you overcome these challenges, you have a story to tell that likely has never been experienced before.

      • Or playing nethack.

        Or for something a little more recent and a lot less complex (and less deadly) there's Minecraft. No saves, every change to the world is changed as and when it happens - if a creeper happens to blow the front of your house apart then you're going to need to rebuild it.

        Now they just need to enter an option for perma-death rather than having death just respawn you naked back on your starting square. Restart the world and it's randomly generated from scratch.

        I'd love to see minecraft

        • Wouldn't perma-death mean banning your account from that host (you died, you don't exist in that world anymore) or deleting the save files for a local game (once again, you died, you don't exist in that world)?

          If you can respawn into the same world you may not have your inventory (immediately) but you have knowledge from the last character that is still a resource so it's not really perma-death, especially since there's no soul bound gear or levels to grind for. The new you can find the corpse or base of th

        • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:27PM (#34863222) Journal

          I played Nethack with perma-death! The first time I played i was killed by one of the stupid cheap ways that game can kill you. I deleted the game and have never played it again. I don't even play games with checkpoint-only saves. I have enough tedium in real life; I'm not at all interesting in repeating game content over and over.

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        Sometimes I'd love to reintroduce that kind of gameplay. No save-restore, but infinite replayability.

        One game I hope to be able to make one day, is a CRPG that's filled with hurricane-causing butterflies. Tiny changes can have huge dramatic effects on how the story will unfold, what stories will be unfolding at all, what role you'll be playing in those stories, etc. And no going back to check what else could have happened (because the answer is: anything! You'd never get anywhere if you keep going back, so

    • I don't believe that games teach children to be violent in real life. I do wonder, however, whether they teach children to look for the reset button.

      • If kids are expecting a reset button in real life because of video games they need more parenting time and a lot less Halo. Being unable to tell the difference between expectations and rewards in video games and real life means there's something seriously missing from their early education.

        That goes for everything: movies, friends, even the internet. Parents don't even have to be experts, just caring enough to teach what to get out of an experience. Not to say it would be awesome to one day school my teenag

      • I do wonder, however, whether they teach children to look for the reset button.

        Players who reset in any Animal Crossing game are in for a sort of harassment [] that's far worse than the "You forgot to shut down; now wait for a ScanDisk" in Windows 98.

      • Imagine if we could have a reset button.
        Imagine a world where, physically at least, most decisions could be undone, and the only lasting consequences of a poor choice were social.
        No more: crippled by that car accident; freak fall that took out your friend's eye; paraplegic after the top rope snapped; blinded after the pressure cooker exploded.

        We should, as a society, be aiming to conquer death and injury. Technology can be our saviour. Physical misery through misfortune, or through the sheer arbitrarine

        • I'm sorry, but I'm glad we don't have a "reset" button. I'm the person I am today, because of the experiences I've had. Had I made different choices, I'd be a different person than I am today.

          The StarTrek Episode with Q giving Picard a second chance at life gives a good illustration of this point. Picard, choosing the "safe" choices as he went through life ended up not at a Captain of the Flagship, but rather as no-named Red Shirt Lieutenant stuck in the bowels of the ship.

          The choices we make have consequen

    • I'd tempted to agree. A compelling story is infinitely more important than 'choices'.

      Let's take bioshock. It's a great environment and a great story... but the game play itself... a regular shooter. The choices you get to make don't really affect your game play in any significant way. They just affect the outcome of a cut scene at the end. These days, once I'm done a game like this, I just go on youtube and see the alternate endings.

      Then you have the bioware world of choice. Choose your class of chara

    • Then you'll hate One Chance: []

      Of course there are ways of resetting, like Chrome's incognito mode, and I just had to use it. I think what we like the most in open ended games is exploring the world in all its four dimensions. We want to see all the possibilities. That, coupled with laziness, just make we abuse save states and whatnot.

      • Came here for this, and I'm not leaving disappointed. Bravo /.
        I played it once, saved me and my girl, and that's simply that. Ultimately, I think it's an artsy piece specifically made to draw out that feeling of "what if I had done something differently", and then like a bastard, leaving that question unanswered.

        Yeah, I agree, a big open world full of possibilities is an awesome place to explore. That's tempered by idea that it's not fun if there's no point. So ideally I think you want an open sandbox w
    • Can't believe no one has mentioned the Kobayashi Maru [].

      Unless you cheat (like Kirk), sometimes real life doesn't give you good choices. I personally think that this adds to the immersion quality of a game, making it a better escape. Bioshock and Fallout are two good examples of games that make you pay a price for your choices, without it being overbearing.

  • I lost Kain at the end on my first play-through, but then on second play-through I just didn't send him through the vents and all survived. But I think you're talking about the fact you didn't upgrade your ship before entering the jump gate, which is where a lot of players fail first time out. The thing is, there aren't any irreversible choices in games these days; most of them have check-points or a save facility, which a lot of players use constantly. With judicious loading and saving, you can effectiv
  • by Burnhard ( 1031106 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:43AM (#34859760)
    Anyway, the real question is whether you virtually boned Jack or Miranda...
  • It's OK. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Woy ( 606550 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:43AM (#34859762)
    All it means is that you are a pussy. Seriously.
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      it just means also that the ending sequence in mass effect 2 is very badly written. in fact, the whole structure of the game sucks ******* soooooooo badly. ultima 6 had more choices, more dialogue, more routes. more items. more varied npc's and actual cities to explore.

      plenty of pseudo choices though and obvious "which character you prefer to play" conflicts. it's no fun that you don't see the whole dialogue option before choosing either, it feels very much like in futurama that viewers choice movie, choose

    • Re:It's OK. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by inviolet ( 797804 ) <slashdot.ideasmatter@org> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:21AM (#34861112) Journal

      All it means is that you are a pussy. Seriously.


      The greatest moment in my FPS career occurred in Half-Life 1. About 15% through the game, there is a level that contains many heavy blast doors. A sensor near the door responds to fire and explosions by lowering the door, with accompanying sirens and flashing lights. Once the door comes down, it stays down, forever. Even if that means the player is stuck on the wrong side of it with no other way to proceed.

      When I realized all this, triggering a blast door became a heart-pounding moment.

      Eventually I figured out I could use the doors tactically, by triggering them as I came near, and slipping under just in time, such that the enemies chasing me couldn't follow.

      Years later I ended up dating a videogame level designer. In his group it is a sin for a level to contain any "player cannot progress" situations like those blast doors. I patiently explained over and over to him (without success) that such a thing actually improves a videogame, because it makes it feel more real and less like a ride on a monorail train.

      We aren't dating any more.

      • Re:It's OK. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by uncledrax ( 112438 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:37AM (#34861358) Homepage

        I happened to dabble in video game level design, and wholly support the idea of irreparable harm coming from just simply dumb player choices.. and alot of the older (circa 2000 and before) games let you fsck over yourself like that.... so you just reload from your last save and call it good.. Also I know alot of gamers now that have to have everything -perfect-.. when I was playing FO3, if I locked out a computer or broke a lock, I moved on... rarely was there anything game-breaking behind those barriers anyway, but I know several people that quick-save/load every 30s just to make sure they did it just perfect.. Perfect is no fun, at least to me. :/

        Somewhere after Y2K, the industry started focusing more on 'what players wanted' and making sure their games only were 'difficult' by giving the bad guys more hit-points. The good: larger then ever video game sales and number of 'gamers'.. the bad.. most of the games are cranked out white-washed sequels and (this has been since the dawn of time) many companies are just simply too afraid to try something new.. and I think this is where the rise of the smaller/indie game developer will come about.. I'm not saying Tripwire or Introversion will end up sinking EA or Nintendo, but rather, many gamers that are true gamers will end up latching on to the niche that each is developing and enjoy their titles.

      • Re:It's OK. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Late Adopter ( 1492849 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:23PM (#34863154)
        If a game is going to do that, then it should make it very clear that you're screwed, so you don't spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to find a way forward that doesn't exist. But if it does it right, then it's no different from dying IMO: just another reason to reload. And the Half-life series does it right with auto-saving at checkpoints, so you don't even have to go that far back when you die.

        It should be a requirement for a modern game to isolate its challenges and auto-save. You can still build a successful narrative, but the gameplay prevents itself from getting unnecessarily redundant. The Gears of War and Half-life series are great examples of doing it right.
      • Re:It's OK. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:25PM (#34863178) Journal

        There is a reason for that rule that the videogame level designer proposed. If you made it through each door the first time, you're one of the lucky 20% of players who did not have to revert to an older save to retry that section. And the major part you fail to realize is that about 20% of players will not make that first door, not realize what that means, and is trapped, looking for a way out, can't, and gets frustrated.

        The arguement that you think it makes it a better game for reason x is moot because if it were such an incredibly good game mechanic, you'd see a lot more of it. Valve has spent a lot of time researching how players enjoy their games - and the scenario you described is one every level designer tends to avoid for the very reasons I described: the same amount of players who enjoy it will roughly equal the amount of players who will HATE it. If players are already having fun, omitting that section of the game doesn't hurt, because you won't be frustrating a portion of your audience to please another.

        I guarantee more people would enjoy a blast door sequence if the blast doors could be re-opened through a relatively punishing mechanic (like heading back to the utility room to reset the sequence) - but not one that literally forces you to stop where you are and restart from an earlier section of the game.

        You think a monorail makes a game feel unrealistic? Try reloading from a save point. How does THAT feel real?

      • Re:It's OK. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:30PM (#34863290)

        The reason why inescapable traps are a no-no in game design is that players may not realize they're trapped. If you've ever run around a level for hours, looking for an item that you think will solve a puzzle but doesn't actually exist, you know that these events totally kill a game. If there are inescapable traps in a game and the player can no longer proceed, then the game should inform the player of that fact somehow, e.g. by causing the character to get killed within a short time of the mistake.

  • Successful game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mvar ( 1386987 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:45AM (#34859776)

    When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding

    I call that a successful RPG game/experience & I wish most cRPG's were like this. If I want linear storyline, I'll pick an FPS

    • Well said. Although linear storylines can still give you an emotional response like that. The end of Bioshock and Bioshock 2 brought a tear to my eye, for example.
    • by wisty ( 1335733 )

      Most RPG games don't allow a lot of choice. If they do, it's usually a choice between such varied fates as "Evil half-daemon wizard saves the world", "Noble barbarian warrior saves the world", and "Silver tounged theif saves the world". Oh, and you can choose to do a few side quests, some of which are unfortunately mutually exclusive.

      Sometimes there's also an option to destroy the world instead, at the last possible minute, if you happen to have the right evilness rating.

    • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

      When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding

      I call that a successful RPG game/experience & I wish most cRPG's were like this. If I want linear storyline, I'll pick an FPS

      If I understand correctly, the event was unavoidable, so this part of the storyline is indeed linear.

  • Back when I still had enough time to play games, I used to play FPS on hardest mode, tried to use as little ammo as possible and re-started from the latest save game when I lost a single health point. That one time in Half Life where you walk along a pipe which crumbles and you fall onto a table cost me a week to master.

    That poison gas in Doom 3 had me running around for ages, trying to find a hazmat suit before I resorted to running through it as fast as possible.

    Weird? Yes. Rewarding as a hobby for me per

  • Unforgivable games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:49AM (#34859800) Homepage

    I've played some really unforgivable games in the past, one of them being Elvira II. The game always players to create spells based upon objects that they find. One of these objects is a prayer book, but there are 2 of them in the game, one that personally belongs to a priest and the other that is just a regular object.

    Towards the end of the game, you ask the priest to perform a task for you, which he'll only do if you can find his prayer book. Surprise surprise, you created a spell from his prayer book and he won't accept the other one as it's not his.

    These are the kind of game breaking events that I really don't like. I don't mind games where you can miss a secret in a game and after a certain point you can't access it anymore (I've put several into my game), but you should always be able to finish the main quest.

    • by W2k ( 540424 )
      Sadly traps like these are a time-honoured ingredient in adventure games... you reminded me of this ancient E2 node, well worth a read. []
    • by Syberz ( 1170343 )

      I've had a similar WTF moment in Phantasmagoria. The very last puzzle/challenge before finishing the game requires an item that should have been picked up near the beginning of the game, if you don't have it then you can't beat the puzzle or the game and you die.

      Let's just say that after spending countless hours playing through it, I was rather miffed that I had to start all over, and I never did.

      I'm ok with consequences (I was kinda sad to see my helicopter pilot explode in Deus Ex) but I'm not ok with gam

      • Hey, it's a sierra game, you should have expected it. They've had issues with items that you can miss in the very first 3 minutes of the game that only get used near the very end since at least the very first Space Quest.

    • by curare19 ( 1339937 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:56AM (#34861642)
      The worst adventure game I've ever played like this is "Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender". Now, this was a fun game (as you can probably tell by the title). The dialog and concept was clever. You start the game by crashing into the ocean in your spaceship. In true adventure-game style, you search the ship for items. In a small, almost invisible drawer on the ship is a tube of superglue. After you leave the ship and swim to shore, you can never return to it.

      In the final moments of the game, you have to borrow a broken-down spaceship to leave the planet. The spaceship has a crack in the windshield, repairable only by...get ready for it....SUPERGLUE! Without the superglue, the ship has no integrity and your head explodes when you take off. There is no alternative item to the superglue, and it is never otherwise mentioned in the game.

      You should have seen the look on my face when I realized, after dozens of hours of gameplay, I forgot to grab the superglue from the ship in the first scene. I was ready to hunt down the game developers, one by one, Rambo-style.

  • Seriously (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:53AM (#34859812)

    Seriously? You were that involved in the game that the only thing you could consider was a reset to make sure it didn't happen?

    I have been pretty heavily invested in games but never had an emotional reaction like this one.

    As for choices in games... Very few offer any real choices at all. All too many appear to offer a choice, but the outcome is the same either way. A few offer choice that has a different immediate outcome, but you can put in some work to make it come out the same in the end. That last of them give choices that actually make a difference.

    Mass Effect 2 is actually a good example of that. Towards the end, there's a time when you can choose to head to the end-game. Do so too early and you risk losing members of your crew along the way. Too late and you lose other crew members. And then they make you choose crew members to do perilous tasks. Again, if you choose the wrong ones, or fail to do your job well enough, others die. And the ending itself has choices that will affect the next game, since the ME games import from the previous game's save.

    The choices in ME 2 were strong enough to make me think about actually playing again.

    Fallout New Vegas also has serious choices. The choices you make will shape the city's present and future. They matter immediately and in the long-run both.

    DragonRealms (a MUD) has a long history that has been shaped by players' actions. They once failed to protect the Warmage's guild and it now lies in a smoking ruin, and a new guildhall had to be constructed. They once failed to prevent an invasion and their towns were held hostage... They were forced to obey the laws of their captors or be arrested and sentenced to death.

    Playing those games, even though I haven't -really- done anything that matters, I feel like I have. And that makes the game more fun.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      it's also stupid to reset at that point since.. you couldn't be able to play with them anyways. the game is practically over at that point. none of the locations depend on who you got with you and the plot is cut in the middle anyways.

      basically I interpreted the killing of the npc's as an endgame listing of which q's you did and which you didn't. the sub quests don't offer that much, really, sadly.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Fallout New Vegas also has serious choices. The choices you make will shape the city's present and future. They matter immediately and in the long-run both.

      Fallout NV had a very good way of integrating a linear story in with choices. You had minor choices which changed attitudes towards you and then presented with a few massive choices. Then there was the faction and karma systems. Personally I found Fallout NV a lot more engaging, on my first play-through I thought siding with the NCR would be a good cho

      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

        AC is right. You could talk your way through that one.

        So many of the situation had multiple solutions that it was amazing.

        My 1 complaint was that some of the solutions had unintended consequences. At one point, I was exploring a vault and ended up destroying something that was key to the storyline I was trying to follow. I ended up having to complete the game in another way. It was rather annoying, but I fully intend to play through again anyhow, so I just lived with it.

    • Re:Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:35AM (#34861322)

      My issue with ME2 is that some of the decisions were very random: For example, if you don't do the loyalty mission of a specific crew member, then you can't get a ship upgrade that saves a different crew member from death. Therefore, doing the loyalty mission of the second without doing that of the first makes all the effort spent on the second to be wasted. Now, if those crew members were related in any way, or if something made it very obvious that some crew member's missions are more important, it'd make sense. Instead, they happened to give that important mission to a character that is flat and boring, so if people just start doing missions for the characters they like the best first, that mission will be missed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:59AM (#34859842)

    I think this is the most potentially dangerous aspect of games. You can't re-load from a save, or do-over in life. Once you're dead, you're dead. I work at a university, and sometimes it seems like people don't really grasp that if you make a stupid choice, it might be permanent. I sometimes worry that video games might contribute to this attitude.

    • I... partly agree. But only partly.

      There have certainly been times when I have thought that a game is going too far to cushion the player from consequences. You might remember Full Spectrum Warrior, which was released for the original Xbox somewhere around the mid-point of the console's life-span. It was essentially a military training simulator designed to teach infantry tactics which had been repurposed into a game (indeed, there were cheat codes to strip out the game elements and access the simulator its

      • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
        Another aspect to this is that brains are planning machines, and they evaluate both positive and negative plans. It is useful to have a larger set of both positive and negative outcomes to be able to plan better. Videogames, by allowing the "do-over", help to amass this larger set. (In fact, most games, actually most play activity, has a significant learning component, generally due to a similar reason; while you may not get a "do-over" in every game, you are usually alive when the game finishes and can
    • It's called suspension of disbelief. The important word there is disbelief.
  • Decisions in games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:04AM (#34859886) Homepage
    The post certainly fits with the contradicting feelings I have on this issue. I have found the issue even more pronounced with some of the decisions in Fallout 3 & Fallout: New Vegas. I love the comparative level of choice the games present, but rarely end up taking too much advantage of it.

    To give a spoiler based example from Fallout 3. I worked to get a snobby hotel to accept a bunch of Ghouls as residents. I avoided requests to kill of the Ghouls, to help the Ghouls break in instead and negotiated their admittance. Next time I visit the Ghouls had murdered the original residents. Obviously this wasn't the outcome I had intended, and my desire to go back and alter my decision nearly got the better of me. I still admire Bethesda for putting all those decisions, and the potentially unexpected consequences in there. It was a well crafted kick in the balls showing me that I was playing god and got it wrong.
  • by Fixer40000 ( 1921598 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:18AM (#34859946)
    I love Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 even moreso. However when it came to the consequences of my actions I took two different approaches and for different reasons. Spoilers ahead gentlemen! At the end of the first game I let the council die. It was for all the right reasons, there was a giant spaceship Cthulu about to destroy all life as we knew it and I didn't want to lose vital military assets and threaten the survival of the Galaxy for some symbolic gesture. Turned out to be the 'wrong decision' in the overall theme of being the good guy and uniting all races in mass Effect 2 but I stuck with it because I would always have made that decision with the knowledge I had to hand and it also made the storyline and reactions to you on the citadel more interesting in the 2nd game. In the 2nd game though at the end there was one thing I had to change. It was the 'you have to respond to the capture of your crew instantly' part. When the crew was captured my first reaction was to finish the one mission I was in the middle of anyway because due to standard RPG meta-gaming I figured that the rescue would wait for me. When I turned up a little too late and half the crew was turned into mulch because of it I felt cheated because there wasn't any clue given that this would be the result of my actions. Even the 'crew kidnapping' event was kicked off by completing another mission meaning that you could only finish all the side-quests by leaving the important 'must do' thing until the end. With that I had to go back and correct my choice. It's easier to sit with the consequence of an action if there a good indication before-hand what that consequence is. In the case of Dragon Age there was no problem though. Want salt on your fries? SALT GOLEMS ATTACK THE CITY IN REVENGE! No salt? NOTHING CAN STOP THE GIANT SLUG DEMONS! Yes, the consequence of every decision you make will be bad regardless :)
    • I feel cheated by the decision in that one DLC (I forget which it was) for ME1, where you storm the lair of a guy holding several people hostage. At the end, you're given the choice to kill him, but the hostages will die, or let him go and save the hostages. I chose to kill him, figuring that letting him go saves more lives in the short term, but costs many more in the long run. And then I got evil points for it. WTF?

      I also felt pretty cheated by the decision at the end of the quest for the Arl's manor. I g

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:28AM (#34859990) Journal
    A world where your choices have essentially no effect is just a rail shooter, with slightly greater or lesser twistiness in the rails. The "shooter" mechanic(whether it be literal shooting, RPG, or whatever) had better be compelling. If it is, great, you've got a game that is perfectly decent, if probably not the most emotionally involving of all time. If the mechanic sucks, you've just created another game to put on the pile of examples of why "rail shooter" is practically a four letter word in gaming circles...

    On the other hand, there are some Really. Fucking. Annoying. ways to do "consequences"(many of them mirror life; but if I wanted that I wouldn't buy your damn game). The worst is probably "one true path(we just aren't telling)": this unwholesome bastard abomination is what you get when the only winnable path is, in fact, as linear as the rail shooter scenario; but the world is enough of a sandbox that you can easily deviate from that one true path in myriad illogical ways. Punishments for stupidity are fine; punishments for failure to use your telepathic powers to intuit, during level one, which apparently useless bits of scene clutter you'll need to have on level ten is bullshit. Also annoying are the "completionist heaven" ones. Homeworld, an otherwise pretty brilliant game, suffered from this. Since each level started you out with what you had accumulated the level before, you were quickly led to realize that after "beating" a given level you were semi-required to set your harvesters to work and wait until every RU in the entire level was in your coffers(extra credit for telepathically knowing which ships you should pre-build so as to not die early in the next level, and which you should avoid building because some deus ex machina is going to give you the superior replacement...)

    Unguessable insta-death is also extremely irksome. The original Alone in the Dark suffered from it in a bad way. Hey, I'm in a scary house. I have to go around opening doors... Woops, opening that door immediately drops me to a cutscene of my dying horribly, with no possible clues by which I could have inferred that it was different than any other door. I guess it is time to save-and-check my way around the entire damn place...
    • by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <(samwyse) (at) (> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:09AM (#34860238) Homepage Journal

      Unguessable insta-death is also extremely irksome.

      Unless, of course, you're playing Nethack, where it's just one more feature. ;-)

      The truth is that, unless they read a lot of spoilers before going in, Nethack kills newbies with delightful regularity. And even reading the spoilers doesn't always help, because you may not remember something crucial until it's killed you once of twice. The trick is to understand that you're really playing meta-Nethack, where each of those deaths teaches you something new about the world.

    • Unguessable insta-death is also extremely irksome. The original Alone in the Dark suffered from it in a bad way. Hey, I'm in a scary house. I have to go around opening doors... Woops, opening that door immediately drops me to a cutscene of my dying horribly, with no possible clues by which I could have inferred that it was different than any other door. I guess it is time to save-and-check my way around the entire damn place...

      This is the key bit right here. The choices given in a game should affect the outcome due to some moral and conscious choice of the user. I had no problem with losing a character in Mass Effect 2, he wasn't loyal, wasn't leveled up, and frankly I picked him because I figured the other characters gave me a better chance of finishing the game. In Mass effect 1 I also shot the Kronan on my team because frankly he gave me the shits.

      What I couldn't take however was the complete loss of my crew in Mass Effect

  • by Andtalath ( 1074376 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:33AM (#34860018)

    Both the first and second fallout gave you an opportunity to kill EVERYONE.
    Even essential characters.

    You even gained reasonable profit for it.

    However, the problem was that you never knew when someone you killed was actually important for something later on.

    So, in the end, killing people was risky business.

    I hated fallout for that.

  • Heavy Rain for the PS3 is all about the coices you make. You end up playing as 4 different characters throughout the game, and if you are careless, some of them will die. The game auto-saves though, so you are forced to continue playing to see the outcome that you have created. It give you quite a bit of those "aww crap! I should have done that differently!" moments.
    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Yeah, been reading about it at [] . Pretty intrigued by it, even went so far as to purchase one of the guy's earlier games on PC (Indigo Prophecy). I like playing through alternate endings.

      And then of course there's a the brief flash game, One Chance [] that they enjoyed, since it tries hard to prevent you from playing again on your computer and altering your outcome. It's a bit heavy-handed, since there's really just one "win" ending (sort of). I prefer the games that give you a vari

  • All this talk of choices and no one has mentioned Alpha Protocol? Egads, that's a damned travesty.
    If you want a game where choices matter, where the conversations are interesting and also how you conduct them matter, where even your play style impacts the game, then get Alpha Protocol. There are so many variables in that game that I'm on my 3rd playthrough and I'm still having a blast. The writing and voice acting is consistently fantastic and it's a shame that more people haven't played it. It's easil
    • by sp1nny ( 1350037 )

      Sure their games are glitchy but...

      Every single aspect of Alpha Protocol apart from the choices/consequences system is utterly mediocre.

  • Does anyone remember the old days of Everquest? Now THERE were consequences. You've played played the character for YEARS as opposed to a measly 50 hours, and you kill one random fish and "Feel the hatred of an entire race"... Or part of your epic quest requires you to sacrifice being able to enter your home city without being attacked. So people worrying about small forks in a game where you can always just start over make me chuckle inside. Oh, how soft we've gotten... and I'm sure the Barbarians of Hal
  • You cant reset other people memories about what you did.
  • If you are faced with such dramatic and irrevocable choices, clearly you are not so much playing a game as "following a script".

    In a game - like say chess, Oblivion or EVE Online, the real firm choices are made at the beginning - what color do you want to play? What race do you want to be?

    The rest of the experience is a cumulative result of many little decisions that have minor consequences but are not necessarily game changing in themselves.

    Taking a pawn or losing a pawn will usually not cost you the game.

  • by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:34AM (#34860474)

    Real-time strategy games have lots of irreversible consequences. It's the fact that you take them all the time which makes it easy. The clock is running, and your enemy is building an army too. No choice is also a choice. To construct that new base means you take a risk. Not to build it is also a risk. Those are all make-or-break moments.

    The only difference is perhaps that a single game doesn't last all that long, and therefore a failure is not too bad. Also, it's often possible to hit pause and save the game before making an important decision in a big game against AI.

  • I played my first play of New Vegas without making a save except for when finishing the game session (and the autosaves). The only times I loaded a save other than at the start of a session was when the game crashed (which happened a fair bit nearer the end so I played shorter sessions). If I died I was going to start all over (without such a limit on myself most likely) but didn't need to.

    It did make for some "oh shit" moments though fewer than I was hoping (Boone getting himself killed was the biggest one

  • by DontScotty ( 978874 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @02:54PM (#34865860) Homepage Journal

    "Joe's Bar, Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Earth

    You begin the game in this, er, fine establishment. The urge you feel is the urge to urinate. Pick one of the bathrooms (women northeast, men northwest); this will determine your character's sex for the game"


    Plus, you can use the scratch and sniff card to smell pizza!

    "For Your Amusement:
    Don't go to the bathroom.
    Buy a beer before relieving yourself.
    Play as a man if you are a woman, or vice versa.
    After selecting one bathroom, try entering the other.
    Urinate somewhere other than in the toilet (e.g., the sink).
    Flush the toilet.
    Eat the pizza. Then vomit. "

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!