Choices - must they make a difference?

How does everyone feel about CoGs when there are choices that make no difference statistically nor in matters of where the story leads? You know, choices that are really just flavoring (but you probably wouldn’t know if you don’t play the same CoG more than once).

I prefer choices to have a consequence, myself. Just wondering how others feel.

They can, actually, be useful, in my view. Assuming that a) they are used sparingly, b) the context is appropriate, and c) they contribute something to the users immersion in that context, - then go for it.

Sabres of Infinity had one fake choice. I personally don’t subscribe to the opinion that there *has* to be a choice every 400 words or so, simply to break up the text. I’d honestly prefer that each choice had a consequence, either right away or further down the line. I certainly work under the assumption that someone will play through more than once, and I believe that making every choice worth something will keep the players engaged on a repeat playthrough.

I think fake choices can serve a purpose. They’re a tool that can be easily misused though and they can kill replayability. If there’s too many of them the players can pick up on them during the second playthrough. I think now and then it’s good, but in games like Choice of the Ninja, where no choices have an impact on the story, it’s bad.

I don’t think all choices need to have a consequence. I do think most should have a response of sorts though.

If they’re just flavoring, it depends how much flavor they add. Do you get a different paragraph or two depending on the choice – and does that let you see a new side of a character, or find out a little extra lore, or other such stuff that actually increases your appreciation of the game’s world? Or are they just page-break punctuation, yielding a single line of different text or none at all?

I like the former, even if they don’t affect any stats or future choices. I don’t like the latter very much. And that includes the “how do you feel about that?” choices in CoGs, which often make no difference in the text – they’re meant to lead to greater immersion by asking you to emotionally involve yourself, but they don’t usually accomplish that for me.

Edit: I like FG’s distinction between a consequence and a response. I’m also pro-response.

I like when they actually make a difference, otherwise it’s not actually interactive. Fake choices annoy me so badly.

I’m paraphrasing this from something I wrote a few months ago. Since it’s a frankensteined response to a specific question it might not all make sense. If not ask for clarification.

I think the use of fake choices is one of the huge differences between the official Choice of Games, and the Hosted games. Choice of Games tend to rely on them far more.

I’ve a few theories as to why that is. I know that one of the authors I asked about their use of fake choices said that they were on a deadline. Whereas those who write Hosted games have far more of a luxury of time.

I suspect that the writers who make their living from their writing, who have deadlines to hit, (be those imposed by Choice of Games or just themselves) have to be more economical in their writing. Fake choices let them push the story onwards and give the illusion of choice.

I generally dislike fake choices, especially if they’re obviously fake. They’re usually one of the things I pounce on while beta-testing. I would rather have those choices have a single line of response to differentiate it from the other responses than just lead to the same section of text as the others.

Most people won’t even look at the code. They won’t know which choices are fake. In that way fake choices do have an impact on the player. They let you fix in your mind what sort of person your character is, it’s part of the journey, part of the story, part of the whole experience. They let you set your style. By being there they do actually help the story, since the story exists not just in what’s actually written down, but the interaction between the reader and the writing.

I think the trick with fake choices is to use them for flavour, for things that don’t matter, to break up text and let the player interact and to perhaps let them have some insight into their own characters. They can serve a purpose there, they can add something to the story.

I think that fake choices do add value, however they’re a tool that it’s very easy to overuse and they become more obvious on each replay and lose their value.

I believe that you could write an entire story based on fake choices, where those choices completely change the meaning of that story. I think doing so would be an interesting thought-exercise.

Does the story exist just in the text written down on the screen, or is the story instead the interaction between the reader and the text. Fake choices may not change what is written down, but they can change the player perception.

Two people can read the same story and have an entirely different interpretation of it. They can watch the same movie and take something completely different away. I think fake choices are a tool of that to a certain extent.

Very well said, @FairyGodfeather. I completely agree.

One practical use of fake choices that I’ve found is to give Player Characters a voice, which I think adds to the interactivity and immersion of the game (no one likes to be Generic Protagonist, after all). Another use is to force a player to stop and actually consider a person, event, or circumstance.

I tend to use fake choices for dialogue trees, letting the player steer the direction of the conversation. Eventually some of the choices in there have major impacts, but to force every single one of them to is just absurd.

Also, one of my biggest peeves in games is having too much text between my choices. That tends to reduce the interactivity and lose a player’s interest. Somewhere in there, whether a fake or real choice, there should probably be a pause to… something.

A choice doesn’t necessarily have to be game-altering to be fun, but a choice should have a purpose. Stop and ask yourself if the text would have the same impact or be just as fun without the fake choice. If the answer is “no” leave it in. Otherwise, you might fall into the “too many fake choices” pit people detest so much.

I suppose in the long-run, I’m generally ok with it as long as its acknowledged, if not game-changing.

Fake choices can be nice to add flavor, but it does tend to stand out when you replay the game.

I think a fake choice can be a clever story tool though. For instance, in The Old Republic MMO, in one of the storylines, your character is being controlled and regardless of what response you pick, it’ll go with a predetermined choice. And at later points, it prevented your character from being able to tell anyone anything about it, even if you tried to select that option.

And sometimes the fake choice can be used humorously, like they did in Fallout 3 with the last question the test you had to take at one point in the intro, where all the answers were the same.

So, mostly, I like the fake choice when it’s acknowledged that it’s a fake choice, and is in fact part of the narrative, but I don’t mind it when it’s just used to help add flavor to a character’s personality.

I actually use *fake_choice a lot.
But not for it’s intended purpose. I use it because you’re not forced to use a *GOTO so despite the player’s choice they’re dropped straight into the text below (though I’ve usually set variables in that choice for later change).

As for the intended use of fake choices… That’s a tough one.
I think many use them as a crutch, overdo it and ruin a story’s replayability because of it.

Used correctly however I’m very much for them as @DaveDPF said, giving a character a voice is just one brilliant way to use them. It might not *matter* if you choose to scream at the executioner to stop, he’ll kill either way, but it will - in my opinion - increase reader satisfaction to do so.

I’m with @CJW on this one, for exactly the reasons he stated. The fact that regular *choice statements force you to use *goto’s or *gosub’s is one of my pet peeves. Most of the time I do not want to go somewhere else after a choice, I just want to continue onward from where it ends. And you can still set variables and print out specialized text blurbs in response to *fake_choice’s, making them not so fake.

As for choices that really are fake, where the results are the same regardless of what the player chooses, those need to be used sparingly and thoughtfully. Overusing them kills game replayability. The example @CJW gives of having the choice to scream at the executioner to stop is an example of a well-thought out fake choice however.

I use them the same way as CJW. Fake choices are a useful tool to let the player choose a path (and altering the variables) without having to use *goto nor straying from the storyline.

There’s fake choices and there’s fake choices.

I don’t actually consider the command, itself as being a fake choice.

I actually prefer *fake_choice to *choice for the same reason that other people state.

For me a fake choice (as opposed to a *fake_choice) is a choice that does not change the text or your stats in any way.

Slammed! uses a lot of them, but I think it does them effectively, since there’s also a lot of significant choice. I’d even argue that some of those fake choices, that don’t change a single thing are important.

Just grabbing an example from Slammed, stepping into the ring for the first time.

Before you can answer, you hear your theme-song begin to play, and Vinnie is giving you a thumbs up.

    #I take a deep breath, then walk through.
    #I give a shout, then walk through.
    #I smile, then walk through.

I will argue that which choice you choose gives you a better idea of your character. Are you relaxed, looking forward to this moment. Are you nervous? Are you pumped up with excitement? If anything, a response to your statement might distract from it.

For me I take a deep breath to calm myself, to give myself a moment to prepare myself, to steel myself for the upcoming match and settle my nerves. Someone else might take a deep breath for a different reason. I don’t need the text to tell me why I did it, I already know. I don’t need the text to tell me how I feel.

Wait, *fake_choice lets you set variables?

Yep, you can set variables in fake_choices just by doing

What stat would you like to increase?

        Woohoo! You are now stronger!
        *set strength +10
        Faster than a speeding bullet!
        *set dexterity +10
        Prince Charming
        *set charisma +10

And no need for any finish or gotos

They weren’t intended to work that way, I seem to recall. But they do.

Does a*fake_choice with variables still work with quicktest and randomtest, for those who use such things?

Hear that?

That is the sound of my mind being blown.

I wish I knew about this before I started on Sabres of Infinity.

@Havenstone I think I’d cry if it was ever “fixed” ^^
But yeah, I do seem to recall something about them not allowing commands inside at all?

I recall reading the opposite, something like “*fake_choice now accepts variables!” as a feature. But now I don’t even know if I ever even read that at all…