Advice on Game Mechanics and Start Menu Options

For my WIP (paranormal romance), I’ve decided on a bunch of optional toggles and mechanics which should, in theory, improve my players’ experiences.

However, I’m a little concerned about how much time I’ve spent in my echo chamber (obviously the grand council of ME happily cosigns whatever decision I make) by now and whether the mechanics I’ve created will be beneficial to my game in the long-run.

I thought I’d ask the good people of the forum for your thoughts seeing as I won’t be doing a public beta for a while and I’d like to address this now because by the time I release a demo, I could have sunk days of work into implementing a mechanic only for people to hate it.

What my start menu currently looks like:

  • Character creation (leads onto character creation with the game starting at the end)
  • Explanation of mechanics (leads onto separate headings for each core game mechanic)
  • Appearance toggles (leads onto more niche customisation such as glasses, acne, freckles, facial hair etc.,)
  • Mechanic toggles (leads onto a page with mechanic toggles - what I’d primarily like feedback on)
  • Character art gallery (leads onto portraits and headshots of the characters)
  • Information on main ROs (leads onto basic or spoiler information, as well as silhouette versions of the art)
  • Random character (randomises everything from name, gender, sexuality, RO genders etc., - for adventurous spirits)
  • Testing toggles (just for me to skip ahead to different parts of the game - not planned for the final product)

This is already a lot more on the “start menu” than what most games and WIPs usually have, and then there’s even more with the extra appearance and mechanic toggles. I’m quite attached to the appearance toggles so I’ll probably end up keeping them all, maybe even adding a few, but the mechanic ones are a bit more up-in-the-air.

The current mechanic toggles I have:

  • Explicit content - Gets rid of explicit sex scenes. Perhaps a little redundant since there’ll also be fade-to-black options?
  • NPC initiative - ROs will explicitly ask before initiating most physical contact.
  • Asexuality [sex-repulsed kind] - Not going to touch this one since it’s part of the core mechanic of sexuality.
  • Polyamory - Same as above.
  • Sexual and romantic experience - The idea with this one is you can decide if your character has had their first kiss, had has sex at all, is sexually experienced and if they’ve been in a relationship all independently. Then scenes/text in the game will reflect you having your first kiss with an RO, or being in your first relationship. This is tracked in the stat page too, and I thought it’d be cute to see "You have had your first kiss with NPC there. It would be a good amount of extra work, though, and maybe people would prefer to just headcanon for their character, in which case I can just avoid mentioning past experience at all.
  • Archetypes - A bit of a silly mechanic which is essentially a nickname based on your overall appearance. Some of them aren’t flattering (“The Bitch” or “The Loser”) but they aren’t meant to be taken too seriously (there’s “The Short King” and “The Vin Diesel”), more as a way to tell you how your character is generally seen by the world at first glance. Archetypes appear on the stat page and are automatically on but if you’d rather not see them, this turns them off. I could do it the other way around or just scrap them completely (this would make me a bit sad just because I spent fudging forever coding and coming up with all the variations).
  • Hide stats - Kind of an immersion mode where stat and relationship bars are hidden since I know some people dislike seeing them. Not sure what else I could do for this one, to be honest, but if you have ideas I’m all ears.
  • God Mode - Since the bread and butter of this game will be customisation and there will be so much flavour text and additional scenes based on it, I thought this would be a good idea for players who just want to see a variation of one single scene without having to create a character specifically for that goal. If you turn this on, you can access a new option in the stat page and change anything about your character mid-game, as well as RO genders and all of the aforementioned mechanic toggles. My main worry about this is it could create bugs.
  • Game Mode - As I’m designing this game to be highly replay-able, I thought this could work as a “guide” for players who just want to see all the content available. Turning this on means whenever you’re not seeing additional content you get a notification like This interaction differs if you have type 3 or type 4 hair or This NPC can ask you out here if you had higher relationship. Of course, this would be very immersion-breaking, but I figure the only people who will use this are people who won’t care or are willing to make the trade-off for the hints. If you think this is a bad idea, I’d rather know now since it’ll be a good amount of effort to do implement this for the full game.

So, my main questions are:

  1. Is this too cluttered for the start menu? Should I move some of them to the stat menu? I just thought they might be missed by a first-time player there. Scrap some options entirely?
  2. Do you feel any of the mechanic toggles are an overall bad idea? A good idea but bad implementation? An okay idea but not really worth it in the long-run?
  3. Is there a mechanic or toggle I should have or would be good to include for a more player-friendly experience?

I think Character Art and RO Info for sure can go on stats page. Explanation of Mechanics would probably be better to scrap and have the explanation on the mechanic’s specific toggle menu. So they can be clicked for explanation, changed if desired, and it’s all in one place + less stuff on your start up because it is a lot of stuff rn.

I think wrt to fade to black/sexual experience, if the options will exist narratively in the game, you’re making extra work for yourself where you don’t need to. I’d personally suggest having the options in the narrative rather than in the start up just because there are already so many things in the start up and players can get (and have gotten) frustrated at not getting to a quick start in games. I’m not really sure what you mean by implementing a toggle-able sex repulsed/poly mechanic? If it’s literally just “I don’t like or want to interact with sex”/“x and y characters have an optional poly route” then I’d again suggest just tackling that in the narrative, but I may just be misunderstanding what you’re going for.

I think God Mode (as described here) and Game Mode are ok ideas but possibly not worth it in the long run. If the game is good, it will be replayable because, variation or no, people will enjoy the experience. Don’t give yourself hella extra work that will lead to your game intentionally not being replayed. If a player wants to see all variations without replaying, they can (and will) just look at the code.

Hide Stats could be cool and is honestly not going to be particularly time consuming so.

I think for now you’re solid. I’d honestly focus just on writing the story and getting the code to functional + adding stats required to make it work, and maybe a short list of content warnings, if needed, and get the demo up. Then you’ll have actual feedback about this with context, which will be more useful. And it’s way too easy to get so focused on building mechanical stuff that you distract yourself from actually making the game–it’s like the worldbuilding trap. Just start with the minimum viable product, then add or change as needed because the big priority needs to be the first draft.

Thank you for the response!

Mm, I don’t mind moving the art and RO info to the stat page. I’ve seen some games do that and I think it’s an advantage for people to be able to access them at any point if they’d like.

Oh, this is actually referring to the main mechanics of the game, like the romance system (romantic, platonic, rivalmance, how your customisation affects interactions etc.,), personality sets and demon/human affinity. The mechanic toggles do have a short explanation for each of them with the option to turn them on.

Right, I was always planning to have the fade-to-black available so it did feel a bit like overkill to have an entirely toggle just to get rid of the explicit choice entirely.

This is basically just a way to make things a bit more streamlined for players who are ace/poly or not when creating their characters, and then simpler when it comes to writing and coding those routes for me. Because sexuality will play a big part of gameplay too - if the asexual/poly toggle is on, you’ll have different flavour text in a lot of areas, some completely unique scenes with characters etc., I could have had them in the sexuality portion of character creation but then I thought it could make that part too busy-looking or messy to code so better to have them in the start menu so people who will use them can access them outright and people who don’t won’t have it affect character creation at all.

I already have God Mode fully implemented so my question was more is this something worth keeping available to players or just for me and testers. I shouldn’t have to do any more work with it except for possibly a narrative Easter Egg about it. I’ll reconsider game mode, though, since as you said it is a lot more work. I suppose my idea for it was for those players who want to replay a lot but want to do it “more naturally” instead of looking through the code. So, they don’t have to just replay a scene five times with the different appearance builds in case there’s a change. Instead, with game mode, they’ll know “oh, here I get a different scene specifically if I’m intimidating-looking. I can try that out next time.” It’s probably something I’ll pause implementation of for now and then if people want it when I post the public demo, I’ll work on it then,

Haha, I’ve definitely already started the writing. Currently at 200k words and everything I’ve mentioned has been properly (well, not as properly as I’ll get from a non-coding background) coded and implemented in some way. Still a long ways to go before I can finish chapter 1 and post the demo, though. :smiling_face_with_tear:

Thanks again!


I like god modes because they don’t force stat calculations via special pathways. Other than that, it sounds pretty solid.

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It’s not a stat-heavy game anyway, but any stats there are will obviously be included in God Mode. I’m a fan of cheat menus myself, if only for when I want a more relaxed gaming experience.

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I’ve recognised that the council has made a decision …

I think they should have more. Why not customise the experience? Isn’t that the whole point?

Haha, that’s true. I just don’t want to overwhelm people with the first thing they see coming into the demo being a million options, some of which they have no idea what they do. At least, if I get to the point people have to scroll on the start menu, even the grand council will probably admit they might have gone overboard.

You have a lot of toggles; I will share my design decisions and you can take from them what you want, as I try to answer your questions.

My start menu is designed to be as streamlined as it can be. The reasoning behind this is that decision is to provide the quickest and easiest way forward for my audience and not overwhelm them with choice paralysis.

Even for new readers, the goal of most is to jump right into the game. In my experience, questions about mechanics, stats and systems only arise as the reader experiences them and it is at that point that they go looking for answers. I’ll be more specific further down the post.

What I said about the menu toggles applies here as well. Of those you list, under my design, all but the last two would be in the stats page or under their own scene for the sub-routines used.

Both game mode and God mode toggles are something that your audience most likely will want to choose before beginning, so it makes sense to have those in the start menu.

The others, depending on how you desire their use can be set within the game or within the stats page… I’d need more info and knowledge of your purposes before going into more details here on what would be within my design.

You already have more toggles than I do, so I don’t have any suggestions here, other than a “triggers” warning toggle.

Now back to how I would structure each of your toggles in my design:

Character creation – This seems how your game starts, so this would be equivalent to my “start game” button.

Explanation of mechanics – In my design this would be in the Codex, part of the stats pages.

Appearance toggles – This would be placed in the stats pages.

Mechanic toggles – with the exceptions talked about above (God Mode and Game mode) all of these would be in stat pages within the Codex

Character art gallery – Within the Codex

Information on main ROs – Within the Codex

Random character – in my design this would be part of the character creation process, so I’d put this in the start menu

Testing toggles – these would only be in the alpha/beta versions and would be in the start menu.

I hope all of this helps you and I’d like to close with the following: My design decisions are not going to work for everyone, so always keep your design principles in mind when reviewing everything above.

Good luck with your project.

Hello Eiwynn,

Thanks for your great advice - I always admire your comments on other topics so it’s nice to get to reply to you.

I’m going to take your advice on moving explanation of mechanics and mechanic toggles (excluding God and Game Mode) to the stat page. I’ll probably move the polyamory and asexual ones to the sexuality part of character creation so people definitely won’t miss them the first time (if I had them freely accessible in the stat menu too, I’d be a bit worried about continuity).

I have the same concerns with continuity and being missed for the appearance toggles in the stat page, so I’ll probably leave them as is or maybe make it a single choice during character creation to access them.

I’ve moved the art gallery and RO info to the stat page too.

For the random character option, I’ll leave them in the start menu right now I think. I just already have some randomisation options during character creation so it’d kind of feel like being hit with ten different randomisation choices at once which feels like a bit much. The randomisation offered at the start is completely random whereas the one offered during character creation gives you control over name, gender, sexuality which is why they’re separate options.

Thanks again!

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