Choice availability

So, I’m just wondering, what types of choices do people like in games? Do they prefer that certain choices are only available when certain criteria is met, or do you prefer to have all choices available, and different outcomes based on your character’s abilities?

For example, in Mass Effect, there are certain responses that you can use in conversations, but only if you’re high enough in the renegade/paragon meter. Personally for me, this kind of annoys me, though I guess it encourages you to replay again.

I’m just at a point in my WIP where the character has some options to resolve a certain situation…and I was going to make options available only if the character passed a criteria check, but it occurred to me that this is exactly the type of thing that annoys me! So now I’m wondering if it’s worth letting people choose a method, and then potentially failing because they chose to try and resolve a situation by trying to utilise a skill they’re not that great in. So, for instance:

The player is being held captive.

The options are:

Obey instructions (no criteria)
Outwit their captor (high intelligence required)
Overpower their captor (high combat required)
Charm their captor (high charisma required)

Would you prefer to see only the options in which your character will succeed? Or would you rather have the choice to make a bad decision and face the consequences (although ‘failure’ almost never means death, just that you won’t have as much respect from your companions than if you succeeded). Personally I think the second option will probably mean work but more entertaining to play? On the other hand, I don’t want to annoy people. If I went with the second option, I’d probably include some clues in the actual options using criteria checks so…

The player is being held captive.

The options are:

#Obey instructions

*if combat > 5
#Overpower your captor. You think you can take them.

*if combat <= 5
#Overpower your captor. You might get lucky. Then again, you might not.

there it’s another way
if people don’t have the requirements use a rand die roll with 2 or 3 outcomes I use it in my game

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Plot!

In other words the choices succeed or fail as the plot demands and maybe gives a little mini-side story precisely because you picked that option giving the game a bit of a unique flavour to it.

More work required in a way, but I do so enjoy it when a game uses it.

In my opinion, the second option where there is a chance for the player to fail, is much better. I hate it when the skill-tags in rpg equals to the auto win awesome button.

I agree with RVallant. I’m partial to letting players make bad decisions. Occasionally. If there’s an interesting subplot involved with failing.

Really, I don’t think letting people fail over and over again is a good idea. It frustrates the player and is more work for the writer. So, I say, if you’ve got a good story for the results of the failure, go for it! If not, no real harm in avoiding it.

Personally i’m aiming for a mixture of the two at the moment; if there’s no chance of success or the option is not available for another reason (for example: if option 1 is to talk to the resident of a tower block, but the MC has not met them yet) then I generally disable it, if there is some chance of success then I use the random method described above. If the MC is pretty much guaranteed to succeed with their stat score then I generally just have them succeed and continue with the narrative.

I don’t think the objective is to make the player constantly fail, but to let the player think and choose the option that best caters to his or her stats. I.e. a character who constantly trains only in strength and uses brute force to solve a problem would have a lower, say, subtlety stats. The lower stats shouldn’t completely rule out the choice of a more subtle approach when encountering another problem, but said approach will most likely fail. This, in my opinion, will increase the importance of player choice in the game, and also encourages multiple play-through.

@Ksu - I disagree, stat based gaming may allow for different approaches to set problems but writers tend to allocate victory routes for each stat, meaning the general way to progress is to just pump in one stat and go with it.

There’s been discussions before about the limitations of stats restricting choices, and one of the core issues is that stats can sometimes be too restrictive for a player. In a lot of the works in progress the games seem to be based more around the stats than telling me a good story and giving me actual character defining choices. - For example, I might pump strength all the time and be a general horrible person and my stats will reflex that, but maybe I want to roleplay an ‘even evil has standards’ situation that’s cropped up in a game, stat based gaming prevents me doing a 180 and picking the good, smart option because I focused on strength and evil. It’s pure limitations.

So, I advocate that choice of games should be strong narrative stories or games where stats compliment the game but don’t direct it, so again, plot based choices are more beneficial and give more creative outlets and options for the creative writer (i.e. more work, better in theory pay off).

( @Bawpie notes Mass Effect, a bit flawed because ME had options paragon and renegade that had different flavours of resolving an issue but it required stat maxing, it was handled much better in 3 where I could pick and choose and ‘paragade’ without penalty.)

I believe that these limitations are necessary, and in fact, an important way to show that player choice does matter.

Also, plot-based choice does not necessary conflicts with stat-based choice. I think that in an ideal game, the player should be free to choose whichever way that he or she prefers, but such choices will not be always correct, which will results in different ways that the plot can play out.

For example, the character have a reputation as a horrible person( I am against evil-good stats, reputation seems to be a better option), and have ‘pump’ strength all the time. Now, even if he does a good deed, others would probably suspect him of ulterior motive. And since he spent most of his time training his strength, he would probably have less time to aquire knowledge, and would not have the necessary knowledge when directed tested. Conversely, a player that only focuses on the more scholarly skills should not be able to best a trained warrior in hand-to-hand combat. However, he should still be given the choice to do so, but the end result should plays out differently depending on the stats.

Stats should not limit choices, but keeps the outcomes reasonable and better justified. I suppose it is a different in preferences, I hated the newer bioware title’s fake choice and consequences mechanics.

I love good and evil alignament choices and the paragade crap of mass effect 3 it’s one of my worse issues against the game how can play a rpg without moral decisions? and your pass actions has to matter it’s like hitler suddenly save a cat and discover he loves humanity this thinks don’t happen I hate reputation mechanics I was bad with a x elf so now all the elfs in the universe put me in their black list because I stole the pendant to a random peasant?

The way I handle this is inspired by Fallout 1 and 2. When you have low intelligence, it changes the dialogue compared to high intelligence. You know what I mean? If not I recommend buying those games from GOG.

How does this relate to choicescript choices? Let’s say your character has high strength and low intelligence to keep it simple. Now let’s give this character two choices - one each for the strength and intelligence attribute.

If they pick strength, they will auto-pass. No problem here. What happens if they pick intelligence? Logic dictates they will auto-fail. This is what I have a problem with.

They’re not (personal opinion. I don’t want to dictate how others manage their games) ‘real’ choices.

You’re stuck playing what is essentially a stereotype.

I want the player to be able to have a chance of success with all actions regardless of attributes but then again, this could cause issues with how the player has set up his/her characters and how they roleplay their character.

Ok, enough talk. Here’s what I do.

High strength character picks the intelligence choice. A gosub command checks which attribute is the highest. At this point, it’s strength. This would normally be the ‘auto-fail’ option but instead - it now gives you a dice-roll (You can modify the allocation of the dice-roll easily enough). If you get lucky, you carry on. Sounds simple so far?

This is all game mechanics. Now it’s time to involve story mechanics.

Using the gosub command and the *if command, this will be referred to in the writing.

There’s a lot of ways to do this. Maybe it’s a NPC commenting on the fact that your muscle-bound hero is successfully arguing with a philosopher and is winning? Maybe it’s the look of shock on your foe when you use grace to defeat him? Or how about your wizard using his willpower to armwrestle a barbarian despite having low strength scores?

I will be honest - this works best when you have few attributes so that you can have a much easier time of writing out all the possible responses. But then again, it’s fun writing all those little tidbits.

To clarify, I am going to use your choices.

Obey instructions (no criteria)
Outwit their captor (high intelligence required)
Overpower their captor (high combat required)
Charm their captor (high charisma required)

Check which stat is the highest and set it using gosub. If the player chooses a stat that is not high enough to fulfil pass conditions, don’t auto-fail the player - give them a dice-roll. If they succeed, have it refer their highest stat and the choice they picked in the story in whatever way you wish.

This hides the transparent nature of how your stats affect your choices and gives the player a reason to try the other choices precisely because they know they will have a chance to succeed and not only that, it will be referred to in the story.

That’s the way I am doing it. Maybe this will help inspire you.

1 Like

Thanks all for the comments. @RVallant - what you say about stats being limiting is exactly what I was getting at. Just because I lack a certain stat, I don’t think I should be prevented from making a particular choice. Just because I tend to be horrible to people shouldn’t mean that once in a while I can’t make a ‘good’ choice.

I suppose the combination is the best choice - so sometimes a choice will be made available if it makes sense, but otherwise I’ll try and let the player decide which route to take regardless of their stats though stats could impact the outcome, and I’ll take the comments about making it about plot to heart. I’m guess I’m of the Lucasarts school of adventuring rather than the Sierra one (i.e. I don’t believe in punishing players for deviating from a certain ‘solution’).

I doing the same way but far more easily with use gosub hide and reuse and all this commandos @Marius pm if you want to know how I do

As you can see from my previous post, I fully agree that your pass decisions should matter. However, the world never is black and white, good and evil. This is why a simple good against evil stats is, in my opinion, inferior to a well executed reputation system. The example that you’ve given is, unfortunately, what I considered the reputation mechanics done wrongly. Ideally, if a character with horrible reputation character steals a pendant from a peasant elf, he will no doubt be the top suspect. However, if a character with a mostly charitable reputation steals the same pendant, the leader of the elf would probably believe the story told by that character, and not the peasant, allowing the character to freely walk away.


I just use a simple gosub command to check all that then *if for every responses. I wouldn’t mind learning how you manage that and if there’s a more efficient way! PM sent.

@Marius, I use dice rolls as well whenever there’s an opportunity, regardless of how high the stats are, so that it gets a more lifelike feel (regardless of how good you are at something, there may still be a chance of failing).

@Marajade - Hitler liked dogs and had a surprising ease of handling himself with children. A stat based game wouldn’t usually give a Hitler type player that ability, if it restricted itself to the ‘choices’ that are stat limited.

@Ksu - Limitations aren’t choice though, they’re the opposite in that they restrict choice. I’m all for my choices limiting consequences but I’m not for having to choose to be shoehorned by the author into doing what he considers a stat mechanical choice. What one author thinks is a strength based action I might think is a completely irrelevant common sense action or one that is agility or intellect based.

The amount of times I’ve seen “you can’t do this option cos your stat is too low” is infuriating especially in any game where I don’t conform and one-stat max the pump. There’s no reason why a strong warrior cannot be intelligent, there’s no reason why a scholar can’t be an amazing fighter based on some non-strength based techniques. Restricting choices based on stats tend to be (for me) an indication of lack of imagination on the author’s part, especially if I were to take your two examples literally.

That evil guy doing a good deed for once, he wouldn’t have that choice and wouldn’t get that opportunity to have his motives questioned, because the stats would usually restrict it. That strength warrior, he would fail his tested knowledge at some point in the story because he ‘didn’t have time to train it’ but the author will usually fail to account for other factors, for example, you don’t need to train to understand certain things and on a second level sometimes people are just naturally intelligent in the first place. On a third level, who is to say that the aforementioned evil guy shouldn’t PASS his intelligence checks because in an argument based on ‘intelligence’ and logic he will succeed every single time because, well he’s evil! He’s a psychopath, he’ll reason his arguments in such a way that logically and intellectually it makes absolute sense to his mind set and his entire conviction of his argument even though logically fragile and perhaps a chewbacca defense type of argument (to the good guys) will convince tons of the uneducated (and the intellectuals of high society) to sway his way purely because of his passionate belief as a demonague (as happened with most ‘evil’ modern historical examples in the first place.)

An author generally won’t take those into consideration in stat based gaming, a stat based game won’t generally allow for those options, it will ‘restrict’ rather than free. I don’t have a problem with false choices and false consequences (everyone says this about Mass Effect, I disagree entirely, the consequences are very visable and tangible in the sense of affecting the story and the tone rather than X = Y therefore A occurs - plus The Walking Dead is effectively a similar issue but less people whinge about it!) but at the end of the day they have to be, for me, very well written and it simply has to make sense without hamstringing me on some arbitrary stats = the path motives.

We’ll agree to disagree I suppose, and I apologize for the wall of text. >.>

I think its all about options, I like the idea of seeing all the options available, wether you fail or not, because at least I wasn’t push into something- like the maps in the newer final fantasy games, your made to go a direction without really feeling like you’ve explored the game, where the older games let you roam around the map. I think that’s why sand boxes games, even with less of a storyline are so popular, Choices.

Some really interesting comments here, and it’s interesting to see some massive differences in opinion. I think I’m more with @RVallant though - I think the Walking Dead is a good example - ultimately your choices don’t change the course of the story, but they do subtly change elements of the story - how certain people react to you, and whether they’ll go out of their way to help you or not. Of course, you can be nice as anything to some characters and they’ll still treat you badly, but that’s realistic I think.

I think there was a discussion on here previously about random outcomes - and again, it was something that split opinion. I may use random outcomes for choices where you have a lower chance of succeeding (i.e. the player gets lucky) but I don’t think it’s something I’d want to use a lot.

Just a very quick point:

In a game about a player’s choices, if you limit the
player’s choices, you’ll find you’re somewhat railroading the game and it quickly becomes less of a game and more of a story.

The same goes for both hidden options and ‘fail’ options.

You have four options:

The guard pulls you up and refuses to let you pass.

#Persuade the Guard (Charisma Choice)
#Overpower the Guard (Strength Choice)
#Bribe the Guard (Gold > 50)
#Try to find another way into the city.

There are four choices here… However depending on how the player has been playing so far it could actually become but one choice.

Even if you allow them all but merely make them ‘fail’ - It’s railroading, you’re robbing the player of subsequent choices.

This is why I’ve preferred to use mostly only narrative options i.e.

#Turn Left
#Turn Right
#Make Camp

You can’t really fail or pick the wrong choice - I don’t recall a single time playing these games when I enjoyed dying or failing a choice.

Look at Mass Effect - when does it ever directly punish you or kill you for making a wrong choice? It doesn’t, the choices affect the world and the people around the MC, not the MC themselves.
I think this is just how it should be.