Choices that affect NPCs- should there be emotional pressure?


I just finished like one and a half playthroughs of Dragon Age: Origins. Got me thinking a lot about making choices in these games. Will contain bits of spoilers, maybe, but I’ll try to keep it vague just in case.

Towards the end of the game, there’s a part where a companion character (Morrigan, if you’ve played it) asks something of you, and you can choose to help her or deny her. There are personal reasons for you character to help (it can benefit you greatly) but there are somewhat moral reasons why you would deny her.

My first playthrough, I denied her, and was almost surprised about how upset she was. The second playthrough, I helped her, and realized how important the whole thing was because of how pleased she was that you assisted her.

She’s kind of a guarded character, so even though she tells you that this is a big deal, the pressure is kind of seen as something of a choice you’re making for yourself and someone else involved, rather than something that effects her. Or at least that’s how I saw it. It got me thinking- should choices that directly effect NPCs have the emotional pressure from the knowledge of how it affects them?

It’s kind of a hard thing for me to decide. If there’s more pressure on you as the player, then it’s entirely up to how you see it. But if there’s emotional pressure from an NPC, knowing that you’ll be DIRECTLY affecting them with your choices, would that make it more difficult? I’m worried that it would be like a leading question. “Save npc’s life or don’t”, something like that. How does one make it so it’s actually a hard choice? How can you balance the importance, so that all choices have good reasons to be made?

Especially when it comes to purely emotional things. Like the choice between forgiving an NPC or not.


If you want to make a hard choice make it be like let the NPC die (one that you’ve gotten to know through the game) or save them which in return kills an innocent person(s)


Build a connection first and for most.
Mixed emotions are helpful.
It could be a character you have every reason to feel Ill toward say a monstrously powerful mass murdering supervillain offering to clear your path saving more lives than he takes but leaving the beast free to roam.

So something to regret on both sides of the coin flip is a direction to take if you’re so inclined.


I actually said something like this on the Best Of Us post.

I got into an idea of having a Villain who becomes obsessed with you and fall in love with you and you have a choice to show the same feelings. Then as a penultimate moment, the villain has a plot which would murder thousands of people and the only way to stop this is to end the villain’s life. A choice between head and heart if you will.

There needs to be more decisions that not only affect our MC’s feelings, but our feelings too. Something that we worked for our character to become or worked hard to achieve, then make a choice between the two.


Emotional involvement in choices is almost always a good thing.

The only time when I’d say no to emotional pressure would be a situation where the author hasn’t “earned it” – where the reader actually hasn’t gotten emotionally invested in the characters, so the attempt to pull emotional strings around some decision affecting them will fall flat.

But whoever can pull it off, should. :slight_smile:


I actually really like this idea. I hate when the game and the world it’s in seems to revolve entirely around the player. Showing that the player’s choices effect other characters–especially in an emotional way–makes the world seem more realistic.


Should choices that directly effect NPCs have the emotional pressure from the knowledge of how it affects them? In story-driven games, yes absolutely! If you’ve had an NPC in the story long enough to have any kind of investment in that character, I don’t think this is optional if you want to tell a good story.

And it shouldn’t just be heavy handed life-or-death stuff, either. If you like a character, really like a character, and you do something that makes them sad, you should feel bad about it. That’s not how you treat people you like.

The way you avoid making these choices into leading questions is to separate the NPC’s motivations from the author’s motivations. The author just has to be sympathetic to the player’s decisions, even when the NPCs are not.


In my opinion it should as long as it’s not forced.
A nice example of such emotional impact is what Telltale does with " X will remember that "


Telltale’s games just make it seem like the choices matter. In the Walking Dead, you pretty much decide who dies first, and it doesn’t matter much either way. The ending was especially awful. And that’s the recipe they use for most of their games.

In Psy High, I remember an instance where a single choice sabotaged my perfect playthrough, I was shooting for ultimate power and getting together with… Sam I think her name was, the girl next door. But just because I didn’t feel I could promise that anyone would’nt get hurt at the end, she called off our to-date perfect track record over that one measly thing. In the end, nobody ended up getting hurt after all, but it was still too late.
So don’t make that mistake, it is true that for a choice to be meaningful, both outcomes must be bad, but there should still be some leeway, a possibillity to fix things (up to a point at least) if stuff goes badly.

Not to mention when a game doesn’t offer you enough choices, and the character you’ve been playing up to that point should have been able to handle it differently. Don’t have a choice be binary, even if the odds are against you, trying to eat and keeping the cake at the same time should be possible. Like when you’re forced to choose between two love interests. Just don’t make it an automatic fail if the consequences are dire.


This is a really good point. Heroes Rise: The Hero Project was a really good example of this, and added to a lot of emotional turmoil and made decisions more difficult. You had the option to try to do something good for both ends of a situation, but it would end up with a sort of “halfway success” with both that was unsatisfying and that was the entire point. That you had to pick a side, even if it was difficult, because neutrality rarely wins points on both sides.


I didn’t like at all how it was handled in Heroes Rise. What you call a halfway success, I call failure on both ends. And if I recall the choice was between telling them and they getting mad, and keeping it secret which was an automatic failure, so really, it was the illusion of choice I would suspect.


Don’t get me started on Hero Project. I like to please everyone in CoGs but oh my goodness gracious Black Magic and Lucky’s little rivalry made it IMPOSSIBLE to do that. I help Black Magic and Lucky never sees the same way again, I help Lucky and Magic throws temper tantrums and dumps you, then tries to destroy the world. In the end I got so fed up with that squabble I just stuck with Jenny and pissed everyone else off.

Every character remembers the events that happened then in the third game (ESPECIALLY Magic.) which shows it had a prolonged effect. It works perfectly but I had the worst experience when it came to relationships with it :joy:


I was playing a guy so I didn’t have the choice of going with Jenny, another one of my pet peeves - gender locked romance. And yeah, while memorable, it’s more of a lasting bad taste. Like the ending in Mass Effect.


Were you trying to romance them both? (Black Magic and Lucky). If I recall right, in my one of my play through’s I had romanced Black Magic and had remained besties with Lucky I’m pretty sure I was also able to get it vice versa as well.


well, I feel like it has to be made by the player, it can’t really be forced, you just have to make the characters likable and real, but at the same time, it has to seem important like it will really effect something.


I was trying to remain with Magic and friends with Lucky, but Magic was trying to force me into choices which doesn’t agree with my character’s stats in the end I shunned Magic off and rejected the date with Lucky, the game became much easier after that


In relations to Hero Rise and the trilogy with its relationships and cause and effects.
It was well put together in the sense of the adage “Throw a rock in the river and it flows regardless as if the stone wasn’t there.” paraphrasing but same meaning Although there were minor differences in the romances but it felt like you still ended up in the same places. but with a story that large there isn’t much choice to make it more impactful.

Guess I’m saying that I’d like some choices to change the path of the river.


Oh yeah, I know what you mean with that too. I played that route as well. spoiler about hero rise trilogy -> going solo is okay. The path I hated most was when I had Lucky turning on me for back stabbing Jenny in one play through. - I just wanted to see what would happen - it made sense but i was still annoyed.


I could never betray Jenny and I’ve actually tried, she’s the only character forever loyal, the least I could do is watch her back. I ended up rekindled with Magic in the third game. For starters she was completely out of control without the MC and it reminded me how similar she is to my hero behind the selfishness, wanting to achieve the dream of a legend and been shot down by people behind the controls, the only difference between was her’s is deliberate. Then you have the choice to have her help the battle or conjoin powers and destroy the universe to rebuild together… Pretty different choices there…


I felt like that too the first few play throughs. Like I said, I was just curious as to what would happen. if you ever make jury your love interest, jenny will also get upset with your MC.