Choice availability

I love fail and die endmaster style fells like old school rpg in real live your actions have consequences try to operate someone without have medical skills I hate when games allow me do things my character can’t do in a realistic sense you are fat and never run no matter you can runaway to a professional assassin…yeah sure.
I came from tablet rpg so my background it’s different it’s a polemical theme and sorry for the wall of text.
but in my game your skills and what you can do always have consequences… good or bad fate can you tell

People enjoy specifics in choice games, so I tend to make options that cater to different MCs based on what they have achieved, found, or some stat. I don’t restrict except in rare occasions but have found the more options the better.

Based on narrative, I try to give clues to what works for any given character, then base the results of a choice on the MC’s stats (strength, dex, int, etc.) or on other factors. For example if you want to get past a gate, you can:
#Lift it
#Climb it
#Dig under it
#Find another entrance

If you lift the gate, you need a certain strength to do so. If you climb it, you need dexterity. I try to have alternate ways so that those who lack strength and dexterity can still get past the gate but if they try to lift it, based on strength alone, they fail.

I also give options to raise stats, so people can customize their MCs. If you want to be a highly-intelligent, dexterous priest, so be it.

To clarify, I too am against limiting the choices of the player in the sense that “you can’t do this option cos your stat is too low.” Indeed, I would love to give the player as much options as possible. However, I am of the opinion that whether said choices succeed should be depending on the stats, on the choices that the player had made previously. To quote myself, stats should not limit choices, but keeps the outcomes reasonable and better justified.

As for the player being shoehorned into what the author thinks is stat mechanical choice, I shall try to use the example of the OP to elaborate my point.

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

Notice that I canceled out the ‘combat’. This is because I consider that combat, like you’ve stated above, can be won via various means, like coating your blade with poison. To put it in your words, there’s no reason why a scholar can’t be an amazing fighter based on some non-strength based techniques. Yes, strength does not equate combat. On the contrary, strength, to me, is a part of the few core/base attributes, that can affect many things. Such core attributes that are normally used in basic role-playing game would probably be strength ( physical strength and the ability to exert force whether to lift/carry/whatever), constitution (Health/endurance), intelligence and dexterity ( agility and perhaps speed). By utilizing these attributes in the choices presented to the player and changing the narration accordingly, one can alleviate the problem of ‘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’ since (well, in my opinion) these are pretty straight forward if used correctly.

The player should not be able to succeed in doing anything he/she likes without a certain limitation. They are a necessary evil to keep a bit of tension/ game-feel. If there’s no limitation at all, the player can just click any link and win and proceed, then encounter another problem, then click any link and win and proceed. There is fine line between freedom of choice and allowing the player to do everything, regardless of logic or trying to make sense. I find myself agreeing with what @JimD has posted that there should be options that cater to different characters based on what they achieved and that ‘If you lift the gate, you need a certain strength to do so. If you climb it, you need dexterity. I try to have alternate ways so that those who lack strength and dexterity can still get past the gate but if they try to lift it, based on strength alone, they fail.’

I also noticed that you mentioned ’ 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 is not what I had in mind, and I dislike that kind of situation as well. What I would like to see, like I’ve stated in a post waaaaay above, is to have the situation plays out differently according to the stats, which includes good/evil in some game. As to your point on the knowledge-test where people can be naturally intelligent, yes, I do agree. However, intelligences≠knowledge, just like strength≠combat. I am also of the opinion that good/evil-stats (I’m still against classifying people as good/evil!), if implemented, should in no way affect the intelligence-checks. So I’m not quite sure why did you bring up this point, I even checked my previous posts to make sure that I didn’t say or imply anything similar to ‘evil guy shouldn’t PASS his intelligence check’ Generally, I feel that our opinions aren’t exactly at odds, the core difference, unless I misunderstood, seems to be that I think that certain limitations are needed in order to make the game logic, challenging and fun at the same time.

Now, as for the Mass Effect choice and consequences, they are about subjective preferences and I can’t and shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying them. But that can’t stop me from thinking that it is a decline when compared to games like Arcanum/VtMB/Fallout:NV. These games can change quite a lot depending on player choices. By the way, I actually did complain about the Walking Dead Game some time ago in a certain Walking Dead Game thread on this very forum, so you can’t say I’m inconsistent :stuck_out_tongue: The Walking Dead Game and Mass Effect, ME 3 especially, uses more of what I would call the cosmetic choice and consequences, which does indeed has its own merits. But I believe they should be used in combination with choices that alters more of the story/gameplay. If you disagree, well yeah, let’s agree to disagree :slight_smile:

Also, it appears that I’m quite long-winded and am guilty of the wall of text problem myself…

@Ksu - I tend to reply at very late hours so it impacts on my being coherent, I apologize if I’m not making sense! :wink:

Anyway, my comments aren’t 100% directed at you, I pick at a point and just run with it. The ultimate point I was trying to put across is pretty much what you just said now, except I don’t think that is viable for CYOA writers on this site or elsewhere. I mean video games barely handle that amount of work, CYOA writers aren’t likely to be able to do it on that scale in the first place. Not to mention, in the ideal examples like you presented to me, that would take a lot of work for a writer to utilise, not to mention usually in video games there are options to improve your abilities in various ways, with the offerings I’ve seen on COG there hasn’t really been much in the way of giving a nice balance, it’s just a stat limitation excercise due to the limitations of the author (and that’s not meant as an insult to them).

Because they can’t hit those heights in terms of scale it’s likely that it will boil down to stat limitations, hence I stick to the original answer, “plot” the choices.

I suppose, in a way our agreeable interpretion of things only really differs via what you said about Mass Effect and TWD. I don’t have a problem with cosmetic choices, they’re tailored to the story which, in my view is how it should be. The best of story-games I’ve seen are those that have a core story with choices influencing it but not necessarily changing anything. A choice shouldn’t need to have an impact, a choice shouldn’t need to affect the story, alter it or shape it in any way. A choice is a choice and what comes from that could be nothing or everything that’s the beauty of it and so I’m not one of those who subscribe to the choice must/should alter story/gameplay camp.

Maybe my philosophy is from my heavy non-open world RPG background? My own story (in another topic on here), is very much story-driven, choice flavoured rather than player choice driven. One of my favourite games is EndMaster’s Eternal, a game that perhaps doesn’t really have much in terms of ‘choice’ per se, yet on the other hand I like Zombie Exodus which, kind of does have choices but at the end of day boils down to pathway choices.

While I haven’t played Arcanum et al, I’m hesitant to actually agree that any video game offers choices which will radically change a storyline or gameplay… That may be because I have such a heavy side-interest in visual novels and really you can boil down every choice that alters a plot or alters a mechanism in a game to be a simple pathway choice. Ultimately, at its core then you’re just picking route A over route B and storyline A over storyline B and while that has its merits it’s not any different from story with flavour A over B in the first place. This goes some way to explaining in a weird way why I’m not in the camp of being fussy about choices being “cosmetic” as you put it.

I note that’s probably a contradiction, I’m find with ‘cosmetic’ choices but not with stat based limitations. What can I say the human mind is a whacky thing and I’m off on a tangent again, but ultimately I really don’t think CYOA writers will have the resources or capability in general to pull off viable choices rooted in a stat system and I don’t think our opinions really differ that much on the broader side of things?

I’ll stop now, but I do look forward to your thoughts I enjoy these discussions even if I may not put myself forward very well. =D

I’m still on the buzz that its all about choices. it doesn’t have to be ones that change the storyline or plot, (although I do love these),simple ones that let get into the character,something as simple as “are you male or female” makes a big difference. My partner loves fable(Xbox) but refuses to play thee original just because your forced to to male- would having the option really of changed anything? No, so why not have it? Choices that allow you to get into the character(customises them to you) are the best, as these are reading games after all

Personally I mainly use the *selectable_if and *disable_reuse commands to grey out options that have already been selected in conversation trees and points where you get to re-use the same group of choices; for example if you’re having a conversation with someone then it doesn’t make sense to keep asking them their name, but other conversation options may become available or unavailable (based on player choice) as the conversation progresses.

I generally use percentage stats and, on any outcome involving them, I generate a random number from 1-100, if the number generated is equal or lower than the stat then the MC succeeds at their task, otherwise they fail; if the task is particularly difficult then I modify the effective stat used making it higher if it’s an easy task or lower if it’s more difficult (although this does not affect the actual permanent stat).

Even so, when a test is failed, I am trying to avoid instant death situations, at least giving players a chance to back out; for example, at the moment in my game, the MC can make an enemy of a criminal boss, if the player then tries visiting an establishment run by the boss he will be beaten and thrown out in the streets. If this happens twice then the criminal boss tells the MC “Next time I see you, you won’t be so lucky” and it’s only if he goes back for a third time that he’ll be killed.


To be honest, I am not entirely sure what do you mean by not being a viable choice for CYOA writers. While I do agree that more effort will be required from the author in order to implement a decent stat-based game play, I trust that the actual amount of work required is by no means exorbitant, especially when most of the games are already tracking the stats. Allow me to bring out that example again! (;

The player’s stats
INT : 25
STR : 15
CHA: 36
Situation A : The player is being held captive.

Obey instructions (No criteria) ----> Situation B, player remain captured
Outwit their captor (Intelligence > 30) ---->Greyed out, unable to choose
Overpower their captor (Strength >30) ---->Greyed out, unable to choose
Charm their captor (Charisma > 30) ---->Situation C, player escaped

Yes, in certain games, the ‘Overpower their captor’ and ‘Outwit their captor’ would be greyed out, preventing the player from choosing them. Let me just summarize what I would do. I would write another situation, situation D. Situation D can have two variations, D1 and D2, which are sliiiightly different from each other.

                           Situation A : The player is being held captive. 

Obey instructions (No criteria) ----> Situation B, player remain captured
Outwit their captor (Intelligence > 30) ---->Situation D1
Overpower their captor (Strength >30) ---->Situation D2
Charm their captor (Charisma > 30) ---->Situation C, player escaped

In D1, the guard found out about the escape plan and the player was captured again.
In D2, the player failed to overpower the guard, and was captured again.

As a result of the attempted escape, the security was increased. This time round, if the player chooses the wrong option again, it will lead back to Situation B, and the plot will continue from there. But if the player chooses ‘Charm their captor’ which he/she can pass the skill-check, it will lead to Situation C.

                           Situation D1/D2 : The player is still being held captive. 

Obey instructions (No criteria) ----> Situation B, player remain captured
Outwit their captor (Intelligence > 35) ----> Situation B, player remain captured
Overpower their captor (Strength > 35) ----> Situation B, player remain captured
Charm their captor (Charisma > 35) ----> Situation C, player escaped

Arghh, I can’t believe I took up so much space just to elaborate on a single point. What I wanted to point out is that adding Situation D1/D2 is not that much work actually. There are essentially only two points to follow in this example, which are Situation C and Situation B. By adding D1/D2, I feel that the player can be better ‘involved’ (for lack of a better word) in the story.

Moreover, I feel that this particular type of game play is actually more viable in ChoiceScript(CS) game than in a standard video game. The most obvious reason is that CS game does not need to have flashy graphics, decent physics et cetera, which are pretty much expected from a main-stream high budget game. Besides, CS game has a much smaller scope, creative freedom, and no publisher deadline or meddling. Lastly, this type of situation (Difficult skill-check) will probably not appear frequently (in my dream game!), as most of the choices are about shaping the personality of the main character. Talking about choices to shape personality of the PC, I feel that I should take the chance to commend Obsidian and Bioware, they did really well in this aspect.

As for letting the choices succeed or fail as the plot demands, wouldn’t that be rail-roading the player? Sure, it will be good for a single play through if the writing is good and the story is enticing. However, when the player tries for a second time, the player will realize that no matter what he/she chooses, the end result will be the same. Personally, I haven’t played Hero Rise, but judging from the comments, I think that it was one of the aspects that the player didn’t like as much. Of course, there will be people who enjoy such game. As a matter of fact, I really enjoyed EndMaster’s Eternal, and it is still one of my favourite story game. Perhaps that’s because EndMaster’s Eternal has an epic scope and an intriguing storyline. Also, it does have choice (Especially in the Shadow path), just not the type that we usually see in a ChoiceScript game. I also remembered his other game, Ground Zero (Another one of my favourite), had quite a number of choice that completely changes the course of the story ( That would be what you called pathway choices, I suppose) I find that EndMaster’s game (Honestly, I think they are more story than game) are great despite, and not because of the lack of more choices. I’m not too sure about the Visual Novels though, as I haven’t played any of them. Do you think I would like them? I won’t really mind the lack of choice if the story is good. I would really appreciate a good starting point. I’m currently running out of CYOA to play…

Back on topic. I admit that if the author were to have real branching storyline for each and every choice, the amount of work required would be insane. What works best, in my opinion, is to again have a combination of plot-based choices and stat-based choices. So, what I am trying to do in my game (yes, I’m trying to make a game too! ;D) is to have hidden variables which ultimately affect the branching of storyline. If the variable reaches a certain value, the plot will advance in one direction, and if said value is not reached, the plot advances in another direction. Let me give a simple example, let’s say there’s this weird traveling merchant in town, I would give the player several chances to interact with the trader. If the outcome is favourable in the sense that the merchant is happy with you, Relationship>15, plots advance to A, the merchant become a temporary companion, on a quest to find a magical artifact. If the merchant is not impressed, 15>Relationship>5, plots advances to B, the merchant continues to sell his items to you. If the merchant is extremely angry, Relationship<0, plot advances to C, the merchant refuses to sell you anything and threatens to report you to the authority if you continue to pester him.

To make it even more entertaining/interesting, I would try to make these choices overlap and intersect with each other, so the plot advances in more like ‘web’ than ‘wheat’. Another example! The previously mentioned merchant had a rival. The rival would approach player if the relationship with the mysterious merchant<0. The rival would then become a temporary companion, conspiring with to, say, steal the magical artifact from the merchant (The rival doesn’t know the merchant doesn’t has the artifact yet) The player can, of course, choose to report the rival to the merchant, increasing the relationship variable, and links back the plot to A, where the player goes on a quest to find the artifact. This would allow the different choices made by the player to shape his/her game play experience without increasing the workload significantly.

That’s all for now.

I’m also enjoying this discussion, it is always nice to be able to discuss with people of different opinions. By the way, English isn’t my first language, too!

@ksu - What you described in the example seems to me to be a minor circle route, where x fail resets to scene a (modified). Whereas I’m thinking that, unless the guards are genre-blind/dumb, you’d be killed much less get a second chance to escape. But the main thing is, you’ve presented four options. So four success, four failures, four slightly modified outcomes. That’s a lot of work for the average writer. They will most likely skimp on the writing and present the outcome as is. What about failures with flavours for the different/various ways you’ve built a character?

That’s what I’m getting at, most writers/coders in my mind aren’t going to put that effort in especially if you want a web of overlapping consequences. Furthermore, it’s not just the one off scenes like in your example but of various other scenes that may be affected (in theory) by multiple choices made throughout the game. Taken in isolation each choice can be tackled like you say, but accumulating them and linking them can be a nightmare, especially if like you say you ‘web’ the story together. I know some people have voiced their difficulty at making it all work without causing a headache and I reckon even the best of writers have this difficulty, unless they’re naturally talented with this type of thing, in which case, joy(!) I’m jealous :wink:

Plot choices failing or succeeding as the plot demands can be railroady. I think the best writers would probably have to consider how to make each choice have a flavour and impact on the immediate surroundings and then consider any longer term consequences if any. But also, plot based choices can be very handy for splitting the path of the story taking you down a different ‘route’ - something that’s quite common in visual novels I suppose.

I agree with you about EndMaster and his works, Eternal especially just made me all weak knee’d, it rivals any visual novel I’ve had a go with! But the choices within are in some routes very much A = win and B = eventual death, nothing wrong with that though. Ground Zero was fantastic as well, I’ve played that a few times heh.

As for visual novels, the ones I play tend to be eroge novels - so they’re 18+ graphical sexual content so, it is up to you if you want to try them, most people tend to immediately get put off by that sort of thing. I can understand it but I was introduced to eroge and other type of visual novels when I was 13(!!) because I went to High School with a guy who was from Hong Kong and he used to bring pirated disk versions of the Japanese works!

If you do want to try them, I can list some recommendations here but I’ll understand if that kind of thing is offputting.

In any event, I’ll keep an eye out for your game as I’m already certain it’ll be an interesting one already! :slight_smile: